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Which camp combo?

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After doing much research and talking with travel consultants I'm having trouble with my decision. Within our budget we can do either Mala Mala and Tanda Tula. OR....Kirkmans and Ngala. Our intention is for one lodge and one tented camp. Any thoughts??

Also can't decide between Knysna or Plettenberg for 2 nights. Please help!

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    We stayed at Mala Mala main camp and loved it At Mala Mala you will see the Big 5 and have a relatively calm experience. There aren't tons of other vehicles trying to see the same thing. The guides stay in communication with each other to avoid the crowd. We stayed at Mala Mala for 3 nights and then went to Duma Tau, Chitabe and Knysna all Wilderness Safari camps. We loved them all.

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    Ooh - those are tough combos! MM is probably the best wildlife viewing in the area, but Tanda Tula is in Kruger so minimal off road and night drives are early. Kirkmans is a very close comparison to MM, maybe a tiny notch below and (I'm guessing Ngala Tented, not Lodge) is in Timbavati where I have had terrible luck with viewing. I seem to be the only one, though. We have always had high winds when in Timbavati, creating terrible conditions for the creatures to be out and about. Ngala Tented gets great reviews, though - I was at the Lodge and can't recommend, but Tented is much better.

    Sorry - I can't tell you which combo is better. You will be thrilled with both. If Tanda Tula follows MM, I would definitely go with the the Kirkmans combo. If Tanda Tula before MM, it's a toss up. Why? Because you will be frustrated with the game drive restrictions at TT after being able to do whatever the ranger wants to do on private land.

    One of my favorite experiences was listening to lions roaring while I was brushing my teeth in a tent right before our morning game drive. I wish you could go to Mashatu Tented - it's a spectacular reserve. Although it's not as swanky have you considered Shindzela? It's a casual tented camp that is in the affordable range that most American agents don't consider. We loved the "casual vibe" there and they have a tree house if you get lucky enough to book to sleep out!

    Can't help with the Garden Route, but if you have time to go to Addo, highly recommended.

    Have fun making your final arrangements. Honestly, you can't go wrong with your choices.

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    Thanks for your responses. I did want to go to Mashatu but neither agent I talked to incorporated that camp. Maybe it was cost prohibitive. Actually both agents are in South Africa and neither mentioned
    Shindzela. I wonder why.

    My only problem with Kirkmans was that I read they host tour groups and there's lots of jeeps in the same area at the same time. Did you find this to be true?

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    If you want to go to Mashatu, bring it up. Go to and click on combo packages to see if it's in your price range. They post the price of MM, Mashatu and transportation. Mashatu Tented is also not one of the "preferred camps", though Mashatu Main is. You could also contact Angela at MM (MM and Mashatu are owned by same co) - she can give you any info you want. She's lovely. Agents, generally, just do similar trips for everyone. They don't go outside the box they know. Shindzela is a small camp that doesn't have the resources to market to agents and relies on word of mouth and Internet searches. It's a shame, but also keeps it affordable and intimate. On our second S Africa trip I dictated to my agent which camps I wanted to visit and they flawlessly arranged it. They were not comfortable with two of my choices - Arathusa and Mashatu Tented - probably because neither are high end or owned by big conglomerates. (Less money to be made?) Simbavati might be tented, too. Check on that.

    Check them all out and then tell the agents to give you a package price. Then you can compare what might work for you with more information.

    They rarely allow more than three vehicles (Toyota Land Rovers) at any sighting. Having more vehicles on the property might not be a bad thing - they are all in radio contact so the rangers hear of all interesting sightings. I've never heard that about Kirkmans or any &Beyond camp. It doesn't sound like them.

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    I had already contacted Angela. The price for both camps plus air transport was really expensive. If I recall it was about $8,000 for that alone. Too rich for our blood. I did tell the two agents pretty much where I wanted to go, but I guess keeping within my budget didn't allow. I don't know what a "typical" South Africa trip should cost, but with 4 days in Cape Town, 4 days driving the garden route and then 6 doing safari it was difficult to keep it around $12,000. Seems like a lot of money which doesn't include our international flight costs. Am I on the right track?

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    I am sorry - I mixed up TT with another camp. It's in Timbavati, like Ngala. Simbavati is also in Timbavati, but at a much more reasonable cost. They also do "complementary" transfers to/from HDS airport.

    The quote you got for Angela is a little more than expected, but might include flights/transfers to JNB. It might be a little high for tented camp, especially with the exchange rate right now. Our quote, from 2012 for three people, was R28.000 pp, plus a single supplement for one, three nights each at Mashatu Main Camp and MM without the JNB legs which can be pricey, too. We did Mashatu Tented in 2009 with Arathusa and Pafuri (now OutPost) with driving transfers in between to save money. It's more expensive now but the exchange rate should make it comparable (but doesn't). That charter between MM and Mashatu is a budget killer.

    Nothing is "typical". Our first safari was, even a decade ago, well over $20,000 pp for three weeks. Our cheapest was $6000 total for three weeks. All were fun and all had high- and low-lights. You could go to Nottens, Arathusa or Cheetah Plains in Sabi Sand and Simbavati or Shindzela (both Tented) in Timbavati and have a great trip for less. When you say $12,000, an agent will spend every penny plus some. It's too bad because a great safari doesn't have to break the bank. If you choose to mix a higher end camp with one of the lower end camps, do the higher end one last.

    So here is my guess:
    Fly into CT, someone meets and greets, get to hotel by private transfer. A private guide for Cape of Good Hope. Private guide for winelands. One day for Table Mtn and something else - no guide required, get a taxi. Robben Island and something else another day - no guide required, get a taxi or walk. The Hop on, Hop off bus is useful to get off when you see something fun and get back on to see more, and it stays on the tourist areas. V&A Hotel is nice and right in waterfront, Cape Grace is exceptional and expensive, Camps Bay for ocean view hotels, tons of options in every price range.

    Rent car, drive GR. Four days doesn't really do it justice, but enough to see it. Day four, drop off rental, fly from Port Eliz to HDS, get ground transfer to Timbavati camp, something tented.

    Three nights Timbavati, ground transfer to Sabi Sand camp or MM.

    Three nights SS or MM, ground transfer to nearest airport, fly JNB. Fly home.

    That "typical" itinerary can be anywhere from $4,000 to $20,000 per person or much more. If you haven't already, contact Wild Wings and/or Sun Safaris, both in SA. Both have wide ranges of safari camps on their websites. Wild Wings just got a glowing review from kawh.

    Sorry, again for the TT mess up.

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    I think I may be settled with...
    4 days Cape Town, 1 day private guide
    4 days garden route, 1 night wine country, 1 day whale watching, 2 nights Knysa/plettenberg
    3 night safari Kirkmans
    3 night safari Ngala
    Includes car, flights, transfers
    Total $10,500
    What do u think?

    Are there any costs that may be hidden like park entry fees?
    Obviously gratuities and meals are on us.

    Thanks for working this thru with me!!

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    Sounds perfect to me. It's exactly what you want and within your budget. Assuming it's Ngala Tented, not Ngala Lodge. They are very different.

    Are you renting a car in the Kruger area? If so, get one with high clearance - the road to Ngala (right next to Shindzela) is awful. An SUV without 4x4 is fine. Gas is expensive compared to the U.S. so be prepared. They also pump your gas - good for me because I don't know how - but some of us are surprised. A small tip is always appreciated, especially if they wash the windows (are you old enough to remember when attendants did that?), check the oil or check the air in the tires. They drive on the other side than we do. Almost all rentals are manuals.

    You will pay cash at the Timbavati and Sabi Sand gates. They may be a little higher now due to rhino protection costs and you may be charged an additional fee at each lodge for that as well. There is nowhere to get cash when on safari so have enough for tips before you get on the flight to Kirkmans. Don't tip on credit cards as some have suggested in the past - I just think cash and a thank you note is better for the great service you will get. I bring thank you notes from home for tips. It's more personal. (Ranger - $20pppn, tracker - $10pppn, staff - $10pppn, more if service is excellent. Drivers/guides are similar.). Tips in rands may be preferable so they don't have to pay to exchange. Just use a decent exchange rate (it's close to 12.5 today!) when using rand to tip.

    Some drinks, like my husband's ridiculously expensive imported scotch, may not be included, but most should be. Great local wines will be available at both camps. Please try Amarula - straight up, in your coffee on your morning game drive or over ice. Yum! Just so you know, most SA wines can be ordered when you get home through any good liquor store. Don't pay the premium to ship it from a winery.

    Once you get on safari, you should have no expenses except tips and park fees. At those camps, everything should be included, even laundry!

    While you are in CT, buy a cheap little cooler for cold drinks and snacks for on the road. It's just nice to have. You can leave it at the last hotel on the GR - the staff will be happy to have it. I also but water in big jugs and pour them into travel mugs that I bring to save on waste. i drink tap water (I know! Blasphemy!) when on safari if they say it's safe. They process/filter it half to death to make sure it's safe for us sensitive Americans.

    If you have time on the day you have a guide, ask to do a township tour outside CT. Some of the guides are from those neighborhoods and may want to. Others are not comfortable. It's quite an experience.

    So, I'm a freak - I actually figured out how much the Mala Mala - Mashatu trip should cost. $10,000. Like I said - freak.

    Happy to help. I wish I was going. I wish this forum was busier so you got more feedback. I can't believe no one blasted me about the Tanda Tula thing! Most posters left in the last year and few have joined. I don't like the format so I don't visit often, but safari talk has a much more active forum. If you are unsure, maybe post over there.

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