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18 day trip: Overwhelmed w/info! Where do you suggest we go from Baltimore-Capetown-? to see animals and not pay Singita prices?

18 day trip: Overwhelmed w/info! Where do you suggest we go from Baltimore-Capetown-? to see animals and not pay Singita prices?

Dec 25th, 2004, 06:10 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 965
18 day trip: Overwhelmed w/info! Where do you suggest we go from Baltimore-Capetown-? to see animals and not pay Singita prices?

Thanks in advance! I did a search, but the more I search, the more confused I am as to where to go and for how long. Our idea was to plan a trip in 2006 (I know we're early but we have to have something to look forward to) to mighty Africa. My wife is worried that she doesn't want to be on Safari all day as she gets tired towards the end of the day - how long do they typically last? Also, she worries about finding a bathroom if she has diarrhea (I know this is gross, but she has irritable bowel syndrome and once a week she has to take laxative thus producing this condition (.) Where are the bathrooms in the wilderness, behind a bush? Might be an embarrassingly stupid q on her part, but this could be the deal killer for her! Not good for me as I want to go there.

OK - so those are her weird questions. Mine are these: We want to see animals (who doesn't) and we want to go to the beach (Capetown?). Is a good trip - to fly from Baltimore (or DC) into Capetown, spend 4 days there or so (we don't drink - some had said in a previous post that if you don't drink wine, 3 days is enough?) and then we want to travel to see animals and other beautiful things in South Africa. It doesn't have to be perfect, but we usually stay at the level of Sheraton hotels. When we saw the listing for Singita Game Preserve - Ebony Lodge/Boulders, we thought - Great! We'll stay there. Perfect. NOT! Then we saw the prices. I'm guessing that they are about $2300+ a day with food? My g*d - why so much? I don't get it. That's more than 3X as much as the Four Seasons Hualalai Hawaii ($560 a night) we're staying at next Sept. It just doesn't compute for me. I guess it's just market pricing. Ughhh. That counts us out. I've heard from friends that Kruger Nat Pk is the place to go... we don't want totally rustic, but pretty nice! Any recommendations for a ~20 day trip that would be fairly relaxing and also semi-adventurous? She LOVES the beach, and I love to be on the go, seeing everything I can. We're not very compatible that way, but I compromise to make it work. We're 43 y.o.

I hear Botswana this, Kruger that, this falls, this tent camp, this game preserve... I know you're not travel agents, but HELP if you can! Could we do a trip like this on $300-$500 a day with food and safari now and then? We'd like to spend as little as possible, but we'd also like to stay at a place that mimicks the Singita experience to a degree (impossible?)... even if it's only a few days at the end of the trip.

What say you folks? You'd be a big help if you could draw up a sample itinerary from your enormous volume of experiences!

Sorry if it's been done a million times before, but I DID a search and am still confused. If we can't figure this all out, then we'll probably just give up and go to Australia and New Zealand for 3 weeks instead as we've never been there either I just figured while we're still young, we should try Afica. It seems kind of scary to us, being so far from home and around wild animals in the middle of nowhere. That's why we want to give it a shot. We travel alot and everytime we meet people we like, we ask them "where's the best 3 places you've ever been?". I love that question! Invariably they say, if they've been... "We LOVED Africa best by far and we really didn't have to spend THAT much as we went on an organized tour out of this place in NY!"

I'm not much of a tour person, but, could that be the way to go for us?

Grateful for any help you can offer... Happy Holidays.

Steve and Julia
Silver Spring MD
stever is offline  
Dec 25th, 2004, 12:10 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 3,501
Hello Steve and Julia,

Yes, I believe what you want is available, and at the price you want.

To set your mind at rest, it is not the norm to go on safari all day. At a private game lodge you go out for morning and evening game drives and relax back at the lodge for several hours in the middle of the day.

You don't have to go on every game drive. Guest numbers are small, and staff usually are very accommodating to each guest's wants and needs. For example, even if no special health concern exists, one partner might want to go for a morning game drive and another partner might want to sleep in. No big deal.

But, yes, going to the bathroom during a game drive does mean finding an anthill to hide behind, or something like that. However, it sounds as if your wife is able to control events up to a point, in that she knows when she has taken her medication, so she can use her discretion when it comes to going or not going on a game drive on the appointed day.

You have asked several questions (all valid questions, but there are quite a few of them), and I don't have time to answer them now. I suspect many other Fodorites also are immersed in Christmas celebrations. However, you're only planning to go in 2006, so another couple of days won't make or break your trip.

Something that will help other Fodorites when they mull over a potential itinerary for you is whether or not you have timing limitations. That is, can you go any time of the year, or are you limited to certain months?

In the meantime, to keep you meaningfully occupied, do a word search here at Fodors for Zambia.

On a side note, my husband surprised me with a stick of real biltong this morning. Yay! Yay! Yay! Steve and Julia, you probably don't know what that is, but many others on the Fodors Africa forum do. It's an African version of jerky. My Christmas is complete.

Anyway, my family members won't think their Christmas is complete if I don't add those potatoes to the roast now.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Dec 25th, 2004, 06:10 PM
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Thanks Judy in Calgary. You've demystified some of my questions. I searched under Zambia as you suggested and read some more trip reports that open my eyes and also complicate my initial question! As to when we can go, truly anytime in 2006. My slowest months at work (I'm in sales) are February and January so it's good to take off then, but we typically like to take our trips in May or June or Sept or Oct when the kids are back in school.

Our next big trip will be Sept 2005 and we like to space them out so going in Jan or Feb is too close to Sept! Our big 2005 trip will be 2 1/2 weeks in Oahu, Maui and the Big Island.

I'm so confused as to how to do this next trip to Africa and where to go and for how long. Parts of people's trip reports make it sound really rough, like the road trips in between camps for 4 hours or so at a time. I DO have a bad back and it sometimes acts up on trips. We went to Costa Rica once and had a drive that drove us 6 hours one day to the top of the Monteverde (?) cloud forest from San Jose and it was the day from he**. The roads were g*d awful, the worst we'd ever been on, and when we got there it was so cold and there was no heat, we told our driver to just take us all the way downt the same bloody mtn we were tortured going up and went to the beach that wasn't supposed to be till much later on our trip, on our own dime. We payed alot extra for him to get us out of there! It was then that we realized that for us, tours suck, as you're kind of stuck having to do what you signed up for and any change of plans was all out of pocket.

We ended up traveling 12 hours that day and we were so frazzled, we basically just stayed by the beach the next 3 days to recoup our minds and bodies. I hate really bad roads as it kills my back. I'm not sure we'll be up for a terribly rough trip to Africa after all...

Guess I need to rethink all this.

Steve and Julia
Silver Spring MD
stever is offline  
Dec 26th, 2004, 05:39 AM
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Stever - First, take a deep breath; let it out, and know that you can do this. Then break out what you've read into the places to visit/things to do that are of interest to you. You've already indicated you prefer not to do a group tour, so it's easy to do independent travel in Southern Africa - there will always someone to meet you and get you where you have to be... no need to be thumbing a ride.

As to why the prices for lodges/camps on private reserves are so high - it's the lousy exchange rate between the USD and ZAR - currently about USD$1 = ZAR5.85, so while we paid $600/pn/pp at Singita in '01 when the exchange was twice that (USD$1=ZAR10.5), nowadays the price is the reverse and twice as high. But you don't necessarily have to stay at Singita, nor other accommodations on private reserves. You can do a self-drive thru Kruger Park on your own, and find more moderately priced accommodations and even some more lux properties. There are a number of threads here on Fodors regarding self-drive safaris. And doing self-drive you can go at your own speed and consider your wife's delicate tummy.

There are safari opportunities other then at Kruger, as well. While I haven't visited the parks along the Garden Route north of Capetown, there are a number of smaller reserves here for visiting - you can find threads re Addo Camp and Garden Route options with a "search" on this board.

Regarding Capetown, you will find a wealth of information about visits here on threads/posts made by "Selwyn" from Capetown. Selwyn has excellent ideas and suggestions for people traveling to this area. And even though you might not be "into wine" you can still visit the winelands for the lovely scenery, architecture, restaurants - half a day is fine. And you can arrange other tours (City Tour, Cape Point, Kirstenosch Gardens, Table Mountain, others) thru your hotel or with Selwyn whom everyone raves about for the quality of service he provides.

You might want to contact a few of the in-country safari operators that receive excellent reviews here and offer better prices then working thru a US-based company:

Taga Safaris
Pulse Travel

From their sites, you can email them with what you're looking for, time of travel, for how long, your budget - and see what they can put together for you. Then feel free to come back here with questions.

As to time spent on safari - they're done early morning and late afternoon (into evening)... I don't ordinarily do "early" - it's against my constitution to be up at the crack of dawn when I'm on vacation. That's not to say I've never gone out early, but you can decide for yourself how you wish to spend your day. And it's rare that you're out more then 3-4 hours per game drive (unless you specifically request full days, and pay for these accordingly). So your wife can schedule her time based on how she's feeling any given day. And if your wife is looking for beach time, remember the season are opposite ours - January/February is summer; May/June will be winter, a bit chilly for the beach; September/October are heading into the southern spring.

With 18-days you have more then enough time to visit a good portion of South Africa, even fly up to Victoria Falls, and maybe even Botswana. You'll have to decide based on the information the safari outfitters mentioned above can work out for you. It's doable, and you have time to work on this if not traveling till '06. You'll do just fine putting it together.

Dec 26th, 2004, 09:41 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 3,501
Hello Steve and Julia,

I just wanted to comment on the prices that private safari lodges charge.

I have never seen an official explanation of their rates, but I can guess at the factors that contribute to them.

First of all, a private wildlife preserve may consist of many thousands of hectares that have been set aside so that wild animals can live in the natural ecosystem. The owners are forgoing the opportunity to grow crops or build factories or mine minerals or engage in some other financially productive activity on the land. I'm guessing that part of the rate that one pays compensates them for their "lost opportunity."

Next, the private lodges are small establishments in remote areas. Many of them consist of half a dozen to a dozen guest rooms. There are people who post at this forum who refuse to stay at Mala Mala, although it has an excellent track record when it comes to wildlife sightings, because they consider 50 guests to be too large a crowd. So a private lodge essentially is a boutique hotel, and often a very small one at that.

Add to that the fact that the published rates include three gourmet meals a day, and they often include alcoholic beverages and services like laundry as well.

Then there is the small staff : guest ratio during game drives. At most, 6 guests accompany a driver / guide on a game drive.

Next, place this entire establishment in a remote location that does not have municipal electricity and water supplies and to which all groceries, beverages, gasoline, diesel and propane have to be trucked long distances. In some cases, supplies cannot be trucked in, but have to be flown in.

Imagine a situation in which there is no automobile service station just around the block. The lodge has to maintain its own fleet of vehicles.

Running a luxury tourist establishment under those conditions is labour intensive.

(The currency exchange rate comes into the picture too of course, as Sandi has indicated. At the moment Zambian currency is more favourable for Americans than South African currency is.)

I'm not saying all this to scare you off a safari. As Sandi has said, there is great variety when it comes to safari offerings. If you do some research you will be able to create a lovely safari itinerary for the price you want. I just feel that, when you quote the bed and breakfast rate for the 243-room Four Seasons Hualalai Hawaii and then quote the all-inclusive rate for a 9-room safari lodge, you are not comparing apples and apples.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Dec 27th, 2004, 06:30 PM
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Thanks Judy - I had no idea about any of the info you just posted! What an endeavor to put all that together for "rich" foreign tourists. No wonder the prices are so high. When we went to Bali a couple of years ago (it was our first time in that part of the world) we were blown away by the richness of the fabulous hotels compared to the living conditions of the Balinese. In a way, it made me sick, but they seemed to be some of the happiest, self assured, content, religious people we had ever met. When I walked through their villages and noted that sometimes 25 people lived in these tiny "homes". I saw this and realized that what I thought makes people happy and comfortable certainly isn't universally felt!

Back to topic: We still have no idea of where to go, how long to stay, and a general itinerary which is kind of simple and not too much moving around. Does anyone have a sample itinerary for us if we want to visit for 18 -19 days, staying at a max of $350-450 a night (but preferable less at parts to spend more at other parts?

Steve and Julia
Silver Spring MD
stever is offline  
Dec 27th, 2004, 11:17 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,097
Steve and Julia,

I have been reading this thread with great interest and have come to the conclusion that radical measures are now becoming necesarry, relative to all that has been said in this thread, to "save" part of the SA tourism industry. Read on....

As I see matters one of your planning stumble blocks would be as to what the cost of accommodations, car hire etc as well as what the value of the Rand vs the US$ will be in May 2006. As a matter of fact I believe this will be a problem that you will come up against no matter where you visit when planning so far ahead.

With that said I have tried to do the following so as to help you:

1. Guestimated accommodation prices as well as car hire prices by adding 10% to their present day value in the below costed itinerary.

2. Assumed the Rand vs US$ exchange rate to be R5.50 to the Dollar in May 2006 (Nothing other than a thumbsuck on my behalf)

3. Tried to suggest an itinerary that I believe will suit your personal needs.

4. Most important is the fact that I have assumed that I would be able to help you by trying to obtain tour operator rates (which I am entitled to due to my position) for your whole journey especially taking accommodation and car hire into account when doing my calculations. As radical a move as this seems I would be happy to help you or for that matter any Fodorite in this regard as I believe that this is now becoming an important function to implement to improve tourism in SA

With the above said the below would be an accommodation itinerary that I would suggest to you over 18 days.

Day 1 Arrive Cape Town
Day 2 Cape Town
Day 3 Cape Town
Day 4 Stellenbosch
Day 5 Stellenbosch
Day 6 Sanbona
Day 7 Sanbona
Day 8 CV
Day 9 CV
Day 10 Botlierskop
Day 11 Botlierskop
Day 12 Outdshoorn
Day 13 Outdshoorn
Day 14 Knysna
Day 15 Knysna
Day 16 Schotia
Day 17 Schotia
Day 18 Leave PE

Suggested websites to the above places would be:

Cape Town - Avanti or Craigrownie



Cathbert Country Inn


CV (My own special secret)



Overmeer Guesthouse

Schotia Game Farm

With the above said I took into account that you would spend about R300/day on meals for 2 and that car hire would cost you a total of R8500 (based on an Avis quote on webpage at http://avis.car-rental-south-africa.net/ less 5% which I figure is a discount I might be able to obtain for you.

I then costed this itinerary in todays terms and thereafter added an annual inflation surcharge as well as deducted discounts that I reckon I could obtain for you as a tour operator

The final figure comes to a cost of about ZAR54000 which after discounts could probably land up with a final figure of approxiamately ZAR50000 which represents a TOTAL journey cost of about $9000 or $500/day for 2 people.

What I am trying to say is that with a bit of effort in planning and help with some discounts your target price that you have in mind certainly makes South Africa a potential destination for you. I know that you would probably say well there are discounts involved that one does not normally obtain and you would be correct in making this statement. With that said I am a tourism professional in SA who is truly worried about the state of tourism in my country due to a strong currency and will do anything to help promote great, reasonably priced visits to my land, The above plan is one of those methods imho.


Please see this mail in the correct light and consider carefully the possibility of an itinerary such as the above which you can quite easily plan yourself. If you do so your reward will be that you will find out why everybody raves about visiting my great country.

Dont give up on South Africa as a destination as there is so much to be gained from visiting us.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa

Selwyn_Davidowitz is offline  
Dec 28th, 2004, 02:31 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 669
Well, here I was all ready to share tips for budget travellers - that's how I interpreted your original post. But $350 a night isn't budget.

So in case it helps - you know, S. Africa isn't the only place to go. Zambia has been mentioned which I find quite fascinating as it's one of the more difficult countries to travel in independently.

For first timers I would suggest Kenya.
And I know you are not "group" people - but sometimes it is the way to go.

Pls tell your wife that shitting behind a bush is OK - just remember to bury the loo paper.
alice13 is offline  
Dec 28th, 2004, 04:54 AM
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To Alice 13 and especially Selwyn: Thanks so much for the excellent advice and info. I'm rushing to work now so I don't have time to fully contemplate the ramifications of what you typed, but I will delve deeply into it when I'm relaxing at home tonight after seeing a preview showing of the new Clint Eastwood thriller!

I guess a group trip MAY not be too bad for us, but we'll just have to look into it more...

Selwyn, your wonderful trip itinerary looks like a foreign language to me! I'm going to have to spend some time dissecting it and figuring out what all those acronyms or places I've never heard of are


Steve and Julia
stever is offline  
Dec 28th, 2004, 05:31 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
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Steve, I see you live in Maryland. I am currently in Northern Virginia. I am from South Africa (Cape Town & MosselBay) and know all these places very well. If you want, we can talk on the phone.

From an itinerary point of view, I would not bother too much with places such as Botlierskop, etc. These are very small private game farms with very few animals (that were transported in from other areas). You can see all in one game drive over a short afternoon. You will also see fences and such and this is a distraction.

There is much to see in Cape Town and environment and the Kruger area has many options for all budgets. The Garden Route has much better attractions than the small game farms. Leave the wildlife for Kruger.

climbhighsleeplow is offline  
Dec 28th, 2004, 05:54 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Firstly, let me tell you that I totally identify with how overwhelming you are finding this stage of the planning process. Once you have settled on a rough itinerary it becomes much easier but that first stab at said itinerary can be so difficult. There's soooo much to choose from! But you're definitely posting in a forum where there are so many friendly and helpful people who love travelling to Africa and who enjoy helping others to get the most from their trips, as I'm sure you can already tell from the responses above.

Let me add my two pence and see if I can help too.

Firstly, I too suffer from IBS. Mine doesn't require taking any laxative but means I always have a supply of loperamide/ immodium. Although IBS is a very minor thing in the scheme of health problems that people deal with, those who do not have it sometimes don't appreciate how draining it can be to worry about something as mundane as toilet issues day in and day out. It can be very stressful. Without wishing to probe into personal issues - if your wife only suffers from diarrhoeae on taking laxatives can she discuss with her doctor the possibility of not taking these for the duration of the trip or of taking a smaller dose than normal. Would this be an option to reduce the likelihood of diarrhoeae without creating too many problems in the other direction? As many of you know, including those of you who don't suffer from IBS, diarrhoeae demands instant reaction - the worry for your wife will no doubt be how quickly the guide will be able to find somewhere for her to go to the toilet should she need to urgently. I found that our guides were always very responsive to urgent toilet requests. However, keep in mind that if you are following predators such as cheetah, lion, leopard or other dangerous animals, your guide is going to need to put some distance between them and you before letting you out. This might also upset other guests who are keen to stay with the excellent sighting. It may be the case that you need to pay extra and book a private guide/ vehicle for you and your wife - not a cheap option. Alternatively, if your wife takes the laxative once a week and generally only suffers diarrhoaea following that medication, I'd suggest she either skip the game drives that day (shame to pay for something you don't use though) or that you plan your itinerary so as NOT to be in high cost safari camps on those days when she's most likely to suffer this symptom. That won't be easy but might work.

OK another thought I had - in terms of cost you certainly don't have to do the Singita type camps. But Kruger wouldn't be my recommendation unless you opt for one of the private camps within the region. I much preferred parks such as Ithala and Hluhluwe Imfolozi and also Ndumo. These offer self-catering options and self-drive and are much less crowded than Kruger. In Kruger one could not easily find a quiet stretch to take a toilet break (actual facilities very few and far between). In other parks, there were fewer people and it was easier to find an isolated spot and take a comfort stop.

If I had your budget and time I think I'd play it a little differently - I'd spend only half the trip in/ around Cape Town/ Garden Route (and I'd stick to the lowest budget I could without sacrificing enjoyment which is easier in this region of fantastic guest houses than it is in private safari camp land) and then spend as much as I could afford on the safari portion - perhaps opting for a flying safari in Zambia, Botswana or eastern South Africa. I love flying safaris firstly because I love the experience of travelling in teeny tiny planes and secondly because I also have a bad back and dodgy hip and can't stand long car trips on bumpy roads.

That's just a data dump of my initial thoughts, will try and come back to this soon with other thoughts, if I have any.
Kavey is offline  
Dec 28th, 2004, 10:01 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Another Marylander here -- (live in Montgomery Co, work in Columbia) and you are in for the year of your life! Planning a trip to Africa is almost as much fun as going -- and having done that ourselves just this past May, you will be blown away as it will exceed your expectations exponentially!!!!

Go to the website www.portfoliocollection.com and order their B&B listings. It gives you a good idea of costs and distances, etc. Also, invest in a couple of travel books -- spend some time in Borders. I must go do some family stuff -- will post more later
uhoh_busted is offline  
Dec 28th, 2004, 08:06 PM
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Thanks again helpful Fodorites. As to my wife's IBS, embarrassing as it is to talk about - here goes: she get's constipated, can't go for days due to the IBS, eventually has to take laxatives in order to go, cramps up for a few hours and is miserable, then has diarrhea for a day. Yuck, I know. I'm pretty sure she can kind of plan this around the safari days so I don't think this is going to be a problem.

That gross stuff out of the way... I think the plane trips sound better than bumpy 4 hours drives from park to park. Now, which ones! Really - why are there so many alternatives for newbies like us? How much more confusing does this have to be!? We don't mind B and B's (Capetown) as long as they're quiet. Quiet is our #1 thing as we're light sleepers. We'd actually prefer large, anonymous hotels, but B and B's are OK if they're really nice

I wish someone would appear out of the air, put together a great itinerary for us to do, and then present us with the perfect trip. I know - it probably isn't going to happen. I just remembered that one of my step daughter's friends dad is a kind guy from Capetown and he had mentioned some ideas once. Maybe I should talk to him next time we see him about where to stay and for how long. We barely know him, but I truly need to sit down with someone who's really familiar with that area and has no monetary interest involved with our plans and hash out a trip.

The odd thing is that I mentioned to a couple of friends that we were considering going to Africa instead of a "relaxation trip" like to an island, or a European trip and they mostly said - "Africa? WHY? It sounds hard, not very relaxing, and potentially dangerous." They were saying things like "you work so hard, why would you want to subject yourself like a hardship trip to Africa for your one big vacation for the year?"

To climbhighsleeplow - I WOULD love to talk with you about the trip, so if you are up to talking some time, please email me your phone # at [email protected] and we can chat.

Steve and Julia Robinson
Silver Spring MD
stever is offline  
Dec 29th, 2004, 02:10 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,218
Steve, I know it's weird talking about your wife's IBS (I hope my questions didn't embarass further) but given that it's a major worry for her it's better not to dismiss it but to find best solution.
Given what you have said it may be worth her experimenting to see if she can take slightly smaller doses of the laxatives more regularly to avoid current method of losing a day completely. If that's not an option then would either work itinerary to be having an inexpensive rest day scheduled every 6-7 days or just have her stay in the camp for that day and miss the drives.

As for someone putting together an itinerary for you - we'll help you here as much as we can. I love researching and putting itineraries together for myself and friends and since I haven't got any trips to plan right now would be more than happy to help you make sense of all this. I'm sure others feel the same too.

So don't worry, we'll get there. Give it time - best not to book until you know just what you want.

More later...
Kavey is offline  
Dec 29th, 2004, 04:27 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 818
Stever - many people have misconceptions about traveling to Africa. We certainly came across similar reactions as those expressed by your friends - but the more frequent reaction was "wow, wish I was going."

Our trip was far from one of hardship, nor was it dangerous. The camps were a spot of luxury in the middle of nowhere with hot/cold running water, flush toilets and electricity in the tent. We flew from one camp to another. We followed the guidelines to ensure we did not put ourselves in situations where we posed a danger to any animals and vice versa. Not once did we worry that there was no lock on our tent door.

I suppose we could have roughed it - which might have made the trip a little harder and less relaxing, but we opted not to - after all we didn't know at the outset when we might be able to go back. On the other hand, we were not at the really high-end camps either - had to keep an eye out for the well being of our wallets

Believe me, if there had been a hardship, the first time a lion walked past our jeep, we would have forgotten it and remembered only that encounter. Luckily for us - there was never a moment when we wished we were elsewhere on vacation.

I think advance research and common sense applied to what one does (which applies to any trip anywhere in the world) are the key. I know it's overwhelming, but you have plenty of time to do your research - trust me, once you get into it, the planning is half the fun.

eenusa is offline  

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