10 days in South Africa on a budget

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Mar 13th, 2012, 11:12 AM
  #1
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10 days in South Africa on a budget

Hello,
I am planning a trip to South Africa in late April. While I know 10 days/9 nights is hardly enough to do the country justice, it is all we have to work with. I travel to SA frequently for work but my boyfriend who joining me for this holiday has never been to Africa and I have only traveled a little during my business trips. We are looking to have fun and see and experience as much as possible in the short time, but also to be able to relax and enjoy the activities.

I had thought to do 2-3 nights in Kruger, 2-3 nights Blyde River Canyon, and then 2-3 nights either on the beach in Mozambique or in Cape Town.

I had been told by SA friends that Cape Town was not worth it if traveling with someone who has never seen Africa as it has a "more European, less African vibe", but after reading through other threads I am reconsidering.

My questions are:
- Where to stay/safari in Kruger? I am willing to spend some money here to stay in a 3-4 star lodge

- Thoughts on Blyde River Canyon? worth going?

- Cape Town vs Mozambique?

Any other comments or advice would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks!
lizloo is offline  
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Mar 13th, 2012, 05:00 PM
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There's Kruger and then there is Kruger. When I hear "Kruger" I think Kruger National Park. Others think the general Kruger area. A nice hut/bungalow in KNP will cost you $120 a night (for bungalow, 2 persons). You drive yourself around KNP, rent a car. Have a look at - http://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger

Or you go to a private safari camp adjacent to KNP in the Sabi Sand or Timbavati reserves. There are some "rooms" at $250 per -person- per night but more generally in the $400-$600 per person per night. Check out camps MalaMala or Kings Camp.

Blyde River Canyon, nice, but if you've seen European mountains or the SouthWest USA, BRC is ho-hum.

Cape Town etc - well, I go to South Africa for safari, only safari.

regards - tom
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Mar 13th, 2012, 06:19 PM
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BRC on a 9 night trip would not be a priority for me. Neither would beach time. I can go to any beach - where else can you see lions and elephants in the wild? Safari and CT (or just safari) would be my choice. You say on a budget, but that's it. Self driving? Private reserve or Kruger NP? 3-4 star range for accommodations run $250 - $800 (and more) a night per person. KNP has very nice accommodations for $75 - $150 per night for two.

Flights are expensive. CT - Kruger is not easily drivable with just 9 nights. If you are driving, you could visit St Lucia and Durban for the beach and city. Still not easy, but doable.
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Mar 13th, 2012, 10:33 PM
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Hey lizloo,

I think you want to do too much in too little time. You'll spend more time en route than actually enjoying south Africa. Don't forget "three nights" = "two days". By the time you're settled in, you need to pack again!

If I were you, I'd fly to Jo'Burg (indeed CT has got a more western feel to it), and then fly straight on to Hoedspruit (HDS). Why HDS and not Nelspruit? Because then you're 15 minutes away from lodges offering great safari opportunities for a very competitive price. These are located in Klaserie reserve and Timbavati Reserve. From Nelspruit, you lose about three hours (iow; one gamedrive, lol) before getting to Sabi Sands reserve. And lodgs there are on average more expensive (so I assume most will be out of your budget range).

I'm doing about the same trip at the end of April, and my cost is approx 3000$ per person, excluding international flights. This is for for twelve (!) nights, and all (!) in private safari lodges. So I assume if you would only go for two camps (ic 6 nights) and rent a car from HDS to visit the Drakensbergen, that you will be closer to 2000$ pp. Perhaps even under it.

My trip is arranged by Sun Safaris, a South-African TA with a very good reputation. I started working with them some years ago because I found out that non-African TA's can be considerably more expensive sometimes.

Here's a few lodges with very good prices;
- Africa On Foot, Klaserie; 220$ pppn
- nThambo, Klaserie; 240$ pppn
- Shindzela, Timbavati; 210$ pppn

AOF & nThambo are sister camps. They both got very decent traversing rights with lodges around them (like Gomo Gomo) and with lodges further north). But AOF does walking safaris in the morning, nThambo does not.

Shindzela is a "solo player" in Timbavati. If you want a lodge with very good traversing rights, giving you an experience that's about equal as in Sabi Sands, your cheapest option is Simbavati River Lodge. THat one is 370$ pppn, but they have a "pay 3 stay 4" special that lasts until the 26th of April.

Lodges outside game reserves (ic in the drakensbergen) are generally much cheaper. Count about 150$ pppn.

Ciao,

J.
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Mar 14th, 2012, 01:02 PM
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Hey J all sounds good. (And agree that only 3 camps nights is a waste of travel time).

$3000 for 12 nights is good rate, $250 night. Which camps may I ask?? I also will find myself at JNB first week of May until end of May. Got good BA flights using flyer miles and so trying to keep budget down. You worked with Sun Safaris, have you ever tried booking directly with SA camps?? (You certainly know your way around SA, so don't need TA for details). I thought perhaps mid April I would call Timbavati and Sabi Sand camps, tell them I'll be there two weeks and can they make any deals. It is only that we are talking May, off season, that I think this might work. What do you think??

regards - tom
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Mar 14th, 2012, 11:56 PM
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Hey Tom,

The camps I go to this time are nThambo (Klaserie), Shindzela (Timbavati) and Umkumbe (Sabi Sands).

Actually, the first time I went to Kruger, I booked ALL my camps directly, and then spent a lot of time looking for a transfer company that's not too pricy. One of those camps was Africa On Foot, and while there I found out that this camp is co-owned by Sun Safaris ...so in part I booked with a TA after all!

Anyway, I have learned a lot since then. And the most important thing I learned is that booking directly with camps is actually more expensive. The reason for this is that no lodge will undercut the prices of TA's, as these TA's fill up 60 to 70% of their beds.

So if you see on a website of a lodge that the price is, say, 300$ pppn, then you can be sure that, if you ask a TA for the same, the price will invariably be 5 to 10% less. Say about 280$ pppn or so. It gets even better with companies that handle transfers. Seems that they ask a lot if you work directly with them, but via a TA the prices are significantly less.

Now, I must stress again, the above is the case with LOCAL TA's like Sun Safaris. It certainly isn't the case with TA's over here (I'm in Europe). I think it must be the same in US.
My guess is that EU/US based TA's don't contact camps directly, but simply work with an African TA. IOW; their final bill contains an uplift for not one but TWO TA's.

Don't know about your plan to contact the lodges directly, at the last moment. Not sure what the result will be. It could be that some lodges will give you a discount. But something tells me you will get idem results via a local TA. For example; if there's a "stay 4 pay 3" deal on the lodge website then you can be sure the TA will offer the same. Plus you'll have the advantage of getting cheaper transfers via that TA.

There's also a risk of lodges being full if you book at the latest moment, but I admit that chance is not that high, since it's low season.

Ciao,

J.
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Mar 15th, 2012, 08:37 AM
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Thanks again J. I'm not sure what you mean by a "transfer company"? This a company that arranges/handles your transfers between camps? If so, would not flying SAA, FedAir, etc or using the camp shuttle van work as well? (Like I typically do).

Like I'm guessing you're flying SAA from JNB to HDS and camp van is taking you to camp (nThambo?). Then their vehicle taking you to next camp. Then you have charter flight down to Sabi Sand the old Skukuza airport where Umkumbe will take you into camp. Then Umkumbe drive you back to Skukuza for FedAir back to JNB. Or am I missing something that "transfer company", or Sun Safaris, does?? Gets you all this (transfers) for less $$$?

I know what you mean by "sellers" (camps) not undercutting their "best customers" (TAs). There's also places like mtbeds which I've thought about contacting once I get to JNB.

Agree, there is risk of no camp availability by waiting so close, but low season, so I thought might be worth the chance. Will know more in just a few weeks!!! Thanks again.

regards - tom
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Mar 15th, 2012, 10:47 AM
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Hey Tom,

I do indeed mean a company that arranges/handles transfers.

Yes, sometimes camps can do it, and charge nothing or very little for it (for example; from nThambo to Shindzela).

But if you need a ride from Klaserie/Timbavati to Sabi Sands; it takes about three hours so camps can"t do this (icluding the drive back it would take them almost the whole day).

Yes you could get a flight from HDS to Skukuza but that's even more expensive and not even faster (given that you have to be at HDS at least half an hour before departing, and that Umkumbe has to come get you and drive back to camp. Umkumbe will most certainly also charge for that: two hours of driving/waiting for them; they can't do that for free.

Idem for everyone who starts their trip from Nelspruit airport; again, it's three hours to Sabi Sands as well. So in practice, there's a lot of these transfer companies doing good business. And if Sun contacts these, it seems they're a lot cheaper than working with them directly. I guess it's all about "volume".

Mtbeds is cool, but as I said; there's always a chance the place you wanted is full. You have to pick something that's available, and it seems only the most expensive places are always are. More affordable places are mostly missing, ans IF they are on, they are "full". I did a few checks. Thing is that I know they're not.
Another thing I've always wondered about; how do you arrange all transfers if you only know the lodges when you're already on SA soil?
Conclusion for me is that mtbeds is nice if you have plenty of time. But if you have only two weeks or less, it would be a pity to lose one or even two days on booking lodges via mtbeds, getting transfers arranged, and booking local flights etc.

Ciao,

J.
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Mar 15th, 2012, 12:13 PM
  #9
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Thanks for all of the input! I have modified my plans to take your comments into account. I stay part time in Durban for work travel but your advice has been most helpful.

I have put in inquiries with Elephant Plains, Mala Mala, and Cheetah Plains lodges in Sabi Sands at Kruger and also with the Sun Safaris TA for our dates.

The new plan is to travel from Joburg to either HDS or Nelspruit (I have asked the lodges which airport they service). Stay 3 nights in Kruger then use lodge transport to go back to the airport and then drive to Blyde River Canyon. I know you said it can be ho-hum, but my friends in SA say it's beautiful and it's fits well with our budget and time available Staying 3 nights in BRC and then back to Joburg area to spend one day/night at the Ukuthula lion lodge (http://www.ukutula.com/). Some might say it's too much like a zoo, but I have been there once before and found it to be a fun experience.

We are trying to keep the budget somewhere around $1,000-1,500 per person excluding international flights. I think this plan may nearly work.

Let me know if you have any other comments or recommendations. Thanks again!

Liza
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Mar 15th, 2012, 04:41 PM
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Thanks again J for your effort and patience in answering all my little detailed questions. I have flown charter from Timbavati airstrip to Sabi Sand airstrip (Chillipepper and FedAir), was quick, about an hour total I think, but was expensive $300 because by myself. I don't know, but I feel such charter flights can be arranged with a couple days notice.

My impression on mtbeds the same as yours, not much to really offer. I will have 20 days (May 8-28) in SA so if I have to 'waste" a day or two no big thing. Since time is easier for me to come by than money .

regards - tom
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Mar 15th, 2012, 08:27 PM
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BRC is pretty. But three nights is overkill. Why not a couple of nights in Kruger NP? Best value ever! And very pretty, too, plus eles and lions.
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Mar 16th, 2012, 05:26 AM
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I agree with Christabir; Blyde River Canyon is pretty, but not three days pretty. I too would spend a couple of those nights in Kruger National Park instead. But South Africa has so much in addition to safari, Liza, enjoy whatever appeals to you. I know you'll love it.

Celia
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Mar 27th, 2012, 11:36 AM
  #13
 
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I'll echo a lot that has been said above. BLC is stunning and really worth it in my opinion but I would only stay a maximum of 1 night as most of the sights there can be seen in 1,5 days. Rather spend more time at Kruger.

Regards
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