1st ever Safari to celebrate 2 milestones

Old Oct 24th, 2007, 06:10 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 91
One TA told me that in August (when we will visit) Vic Falls on the Zambia side would be medium to high water!

But you were there in Sept/Oct and it was low.
Could be she just wants to close this deal with me already I've exercised the TAs quite a bit already.

Ok, so they don't itemize by cost.

Thanks to all the feedback. I'll post my final itinerary when it's ready.

mistik321 is offline  
Old Oct 25th, 2007, 03:48 PM
Join Date: Oct 2007
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mistik321 - congratulations on the milestones. We want to go on a similar itineary you are planning, but in May. Which travel agent are you using for your trip?
darovidse is offline  
Old Oct 25th, 2007, 09:52 PM
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I went to SA, Botswana and the Zim side of Vic Falls September 2006 with my mother, husband and nephew. We stayed at the Cape Grace. Don't miss it if you can afford it. We took full advantage of the car and driver - Table Mountain (don't miss it!), dinners out, and Kirstenbosch Gardens. The guys used the car for a game of golf (it was extra for that - outside the 4km radius of a free ride) while the ladies went to the garden (gorgeous). We also used the hop-on/hop-off tourist bus. That was a great way to see the city. We used a private car/driver for the winelands and Boulder Beach/Cape of Good Hope. The best thing our driver did was take us into a "township" to show us the living conditions of the poor residents. It was an amazing experience, and not something we would have done on our own. It would be a shame to miss the experience and meet some of the people there. I've driven in many countries around the world, but SA is not one I would have felt comfortable driving. Kind of like latin countries or Manhattan - rules of the road don't seem too important to them.

Did you know that sharks are the only wild animal that it's legal to feed in South Africa? There are reasons why we shouldn't.

We also stayed at the Intercontinental at JNB. It was so convenient - in the morning the bellhop even took our luggage back to the airport for us. We were exhausted that day, so it worked out really well for us. I don't know if we could have handled a shuttle that evening.

Don't even think about not seeing Victoria Falls! There was very little water flowing in September, but it was still one of the most amazing sights. It goes on forever. And there's lots of fun stuff to do - zip lines, bungee jumping and rafting, if that's your thing. Don't miss one of the seven natural wonders of the world when you'll be so close. We were only there for one day, and I thought that was plenty, but we didn't do anything fun.

I have to say that when all was said and done, we preferred the less fancy safari camps. They were smaller and more intimate, and the service was impeccable. We really loved dining (and I mean dining) in the bush with the other guests, our guides and the camp management. At the fancy lodges, we ate alone and it was not as fun. We learned so much about the local people eating communally. We also were so into the wildlife, that we spent very little time in our rooms except to grab a nap. (up at 5AM, quick cup of coffee and a snack, off to see the wildlife, brunch at 11AM, grab a nap, afternoon tea at 3PM, off again to see the wildlife, dinner at 8PM, bed after drinks at 11PM, and up again at 5AM.) We were always tired and exhillarated at the same time. It was the greatest 3 weeks of our lives, and can't wait to go back!!!

We flew through Europe to get to JNB. It was a long layover, but worth the freebie in business with FF miles. Try partner airlines, and odd connections (we went through Madrid and got to see the city for the day, again on the hop-on/hop-off bus). We got the Madrid to JNB-CPT leg with miles and paid for the JFK-MAD leg. It saved us a small fortune. But now that I'm hooked, I'm willing to sit in coach and get a cheap(er) flight and go more often!!

One other thing - ask your TA about tipping. We tipped in rands in SA, and it was about the equivalent of $20/person/outing, plus $10/person/outing for the tracker, if you have one, and housekeeping and the kitchen staff. We found we were overtipping, but we loved it so much we were glad to give extra for the amazing service. We also donated most of our clothes when we left (after laundry service, of course).

Have an amazing time!! We are already planning next year's trip!!

christabir is offline  
Old Oct 26th, 2007, 09:34 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
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I forgot Robben Island!! The boat trip and the experience were another not to miss.
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Old Oct 26th, 2007, 12:48 PM
Join Date: May 2005
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My TA also dissuaded me from staying on the Zim side in early October. But you must go to Zim to see any kind of water flow at that season. We, too, had lunch at the Vic Falls Hotel; we did this after our walk along the Zim side of the Falls. If the situtation does not deteriorate further, I would stay on the Zim side if I were to return at the same time of year..probably at Ilala Lodge or the Vic Falls Hotel (both very close to one another and also to the Kingdom Hotel) (Islands of Siankaba, where we spent two nights, is a lovely place to spend a few days even though it is about a 40 minute drive to Livingstone and the Zam-Zim border crossing..)
ekscrunchy is online now  
Old Oct 27th, 2007, 06:47 PM
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Posts: 91
Hi - more changes afoot.

We're doing the safari first. Overnighting in JNB is unavoidable it seems, because of flight schedules. We'll use IC Airport Sun for this.

Based on feedback, we're not doing Lebombo; to stay in Singita Boulders/Ebony, we have to move the routing around.

Cape Town is next. We are thinking of splitting our Cape Town stay (3) nights Cape Grace and (2) nights Franschhoek - hotel TBD (looking at Le Quartier Francais, Le Petite Ferme).
I read more posts and found out about the foodie restaurants in Franschhoek. Sounds like Napa/Sonoma in California. One thing we want to do is eat, so Franschhoek, here we come!

After CPT will be Vic Falls. We arrive afternoon, and have time to visit only one side of the falls (depending on which hotel).
The next day is full-day Chobe).
There may not be time to go on a ride down the Zambezi, see the other side of the falls, etc.

So much to do and see in Cape Town! I wish we have more time. Our 5 nights is actually only 4 full days. About tipping, we think this is important

I wrote you an email (probably still traveling).

One TA is recommending Victoria Falls Hotel on the Zim side (better value + more water on the Falls).

Bsiness class airfare to SA just KILLS me. I know an option is to just fly economy, but... I keep saying, it's only money - this trip is for an unforgettable experience and memories to last a lifetime. Who can put a price to that?

Still no luck with airline miles.
As for Amex Platinum 2-1 tickets, discovered this tidbit: seems the tickets come from the same pool shared by Amex Black, Platinum & Gold holders. And guess who gets priority! I'm planning to call and find a less snooty agent on the phone and call on a late weekend evening

We're on quote#6 now. Is this typical for you guys as well?

mistik321 is offline  
Old Oct 27th, 2007, 08:21 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,068
Gold cardholders do not have access to 2 for 1, only Platinum and Centurion. The way the International Airline Program works is that even though the first passenger pays the full business class fare, there has to be 2 seats available in a lower booking class that's designated for IAP, so it's capacity controlled just like if you were to purchase 2 discounted business class tickets.

For a list of the booking class that must be available for each participating airline, see this thread http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=739396

If you know the booking class, you can look up availability on a site like seatcounter.com

Patty is offline  
Old Oct 28th, 2007, 08:52 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
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Yep, just got back from traveling. I will respond to your email tomorrow night.

But, quickly...we did three nights at the Cape Grace and two nights at the Grande Roche. If I had to do it over again, I would visit the winelands from the Cape Grace. First, packing again is a pain. Two, I personally preferred the restaurants in Cape Town. Three, packing is a b*tch. Four, it gives you more flexibility - in August, when you go to Table Mountain and the Cape will be very dependent on the weather, while visiting vineyards is not as bad weather is very conducive to drinking (we lucked out with beyond perfect weather on our first day, but it's better if you give yourself more time to play with as we never had another clear day). Five, packing is a b*tch. Six, the Cape Grace often runs a five nights for four special. Seven, packing is a b*tch.

Can you tell I hate packing?
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Old Oct 29th, 2007, 08:14 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
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mistik - we stayed at Le Quartier in Franschhoek and were seriously underwhelmed given how much we were paying for a room. We were in the Pool Suite, and while the private pool and garden were lovely, the suite itself was fairly tired and the service left a bit to be desired. We had lunch at La Petite Ferme and it was great, with great views, although I have no idea what the accommodations were like. All in all, I wouldn't spend more than 2 nights in Franschhoek. There is trip report under my username with some of the wineries and restaurants we liked.

Oh, and unfortunately we couldn't swing biz class airfare, so we went Premium Economy on BA and it really wasn't bad - just make sure you get the row of 2.
abcdc is offline  
Old Oct 29th, 2007, 09:50 PM
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Patty - thanks for the link to flyertalk. We're looking at the airline participants on the 2-1 program. We're checking into oneworld; have lots of miles but want to avoid Heathrow as I still bear the mental scars of my last 3 trips thru there

hills27 & abcdc - Sounds to me like using Cape Town/Cape Grace as the base and making day trips from there is a better option. Very disappointed to hear about Le Quartier Francais; I would be sorely disappointed if the suite did not come up to snuff (for what they're charging!).

hills27 - yes, I do hate packing/re-packing too; very tiring. And yet again, none of the TAs mentioned Cape Grace's "5-days for the price of 4 stay". Interesting.

Another TA did mention that Singita gives a price break for staying 5 days combined at their properties. So we may be back to doing Boulders/Lebombo?
But hills27, would love to see your list of Lebombo's ills

I was checking out the Ilala Lodge/Zim (thanks ekscrunchy!) . It is closer to the falls than Victoria Falls Hotel/Zam, has good reviews here on the board and costs less than Royal Livingstone/Zam.

The feedback has been wonderful; it's really helping us hone the trip.
mistik321 is offline  
Old Dec 1st, 2007, 11:58 AM
Join Date: Dec 2007
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Hi, mistik321

I am thrilled that you are taking your first trip to Africa; you will love it and go back as often as you can.

I see that you are going to spend some serious time in S Africa at the parks. Is the camp or the wildlife most important? My TA (Ultimate Africa) has discouraged me from the parks because they are so "civilized", not a wilderness experience or very personal. If it the wildlife that you want with a personal experience, go to Botswana or Zambia.Your fear of the tented experience is unfounded. The sounds of the night are one of the highlights of a safari. Lions, leopards and elephants in the camp are magic. Safety is not an issue if you follow the rules and stay inside; but nothing compares to a lion roaring 10 feet fromn your tent!! Eating dinner in the bush away from camp with stars everywhere, candles and lanterns in the trees; if you very lucky, the staff will sing and dance. The guests at camp will sit together at the same table so you can share the stories of the day. There are bathrooms ensuite so no sacrifice there. I am sure that S Africa parks are great but they will be a different experience. Just remember that a tented camp is magical.

Definitely visit Cape Town, it is the most beautiful city I have visited, and it is mind boogling clean. Sounds like a silly thing to notice but it make the US look like a dump. Cape Grace is amazing with a great location and in 2006, it was possible to get a discount with a 4 night stay. Other hotels are close to V & A Waterfront but the service at the CG is unparalled. Do not miss Robben Island or a day trip to the Cape of Good Hope.

Vic Falls In September does have water but not high; still a magnificent visit. Zim side is better for views of the falls, but the poverty and begging is very sad. Zam side more prosperous but views not as good. As for Toka Leya Lodge, I am planning on staying there this August and cannot wait. Wilderness Safaris does everything well and they take great care of their guests.

Sorry this is so long but I adore Africa and have been 5 times and number 6 is this August. I got a business class FF ticket on Delta but I haunted their website to get it. Flew bus class on SAA and it is surreal and I booked that ticket 11 months in advance, too. I know that you will have a great time whatever you plan.
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Old Dec 1st, 2007, 06:05 PM
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<i>&quot;My TA (Ultimate Africa) has discouraged me from the parks because they are so &quot;civilized&quot;, not a wilderness experience or very personal. If it the wildlife that you want with a personal experience, go to Botswana or Zambia.Your fear of the tented experience is unfounded.&quot;</i>

I had the same thoughts about the Sabi Sands and its lodges such as Mala Mala before I went. That's why it took me so long to finally visit South Africa. I did not find the parks to be civilized. The lodge was very nice and had more infrastructure than a tented camp. In the bush, the wilderness was as wild as other places. The personal attention from my ranger/tracker in both Mala Mala and Phinda was unsurpassed.

I too love Botswana and Zambia for the experience they offer, but if South Africa is what someone wants, I think they'll have a marvelous time.

&quot;Luxury lodge&quot; was what Mistik321 wanted and South Africa fits the bill nicely for that. I did not see fear of a tented camp mentioned, but if so, then I bet by the second trip, that fear will disappear.
atravelynn is offline  
Old Dec 3rd, 2007, 06:32 AM
Join Date: Nov 2007
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Hi Mistik321

Well some very valuable advice given to you on this board and some excellent advice so I thought i would put my 10 cents in here.

The Cape Grace is wonderful right on the waterfront, close to everything. However check with them as I think in August they are doing their yearly refurb and check that upgrades will be available. If you want really delectable Ellerman House is the place to be, and another one is the Penthouse Suite at ezard House. Ezard House is young and vibey and it has the most wonderful penthouse at very good rates. They also have complimentry airport shuttles in a bently which are really great as you know someone will be there to get you on arrival and I founf Cape Town to be quiet difficult to drive around at first and they give you a whole little orientation tour en route.

I would not split my time in Cape Town, the winelands and Franschoek is 45 minutes away, if you do decide to split it and stay there have a look at Klein Genot, that is my facourite in the winelands at the moment!!!

Then Victoria Falls, August/September the water is low on the Zambia side, also if your hubby and you are into adventure and adrenalin then you must stay on the Victoria Falls side as from here you can do all the adventure activities like abseiling, gorge swinging, it is so awesome some of the activities that they now have over the falls, the last time I was up there I stayed at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge which was really nice, but I still prefer the new wing at Victoria Falls Hotel, and I would stay there just to say i have stayed there.

Then in Johanensburg, have you looked at The Fairlawns, they ofer free transfers and it just takes you away from the hustle and bustle of the airport and they are no more expensive than the interconti in act I think they are cheaper and you will get a great dinner there.

Now the game lodges and everyones favourite topic....just to throw a spanner in the works, I honestly would skip Singita Lebombo, I am yet to see good game here and for your first visit that is what you want. If you can afford Singita Lebombo, then rather go to Royal Malewane, it is outstanding and without a doubt on a par with Singita Lebombo for luxury it is so wonderful, warm, welcoming and it really is a wonderful wonderful experiance. From here lodge hop over to Singita Ebony or Boulders or Londolozi Granite Suites. Having chatted to some people they have said to give Londolozi another year to settle down after going from CCA back to The vartys as it is having some teathing problems, but it is also very luxurious.

Do not let your travel agent push you into something take your time shop around and see what you like, there is so much choice that you really should have a good time.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2007, 06:51 AM
Join Date: May 2005
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Just a thought or two: I would stay in the Zim side of the Falls, at either Ilala or Vic Falls Hotel.

I would spend a a night or two, max, in the Winelands (we spent 3) and the rest in Capetown. I agree with Hills that the food is better overall in CapeTown. My TA also recommended Klein Genut but we nixed it because it was too far too walk into town. (There are no taxis in Franschhoek and we had a car/driver only during the day.)

I would definitely eat at LQF (be sure to reserve; one of the best meals of our trip) but NOT stay there. We loved Akademie Suites Guesthouse; take a look at my (ongoing) trip report for info on the 3 nights we spent using that as our base..I will top the report for you; it has a lot about food....

ekscrunchy is online now  
Old Dec 3rd, 2007, 06:57 AM
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 193
I forgot to say about the tours, you do not have to use Selwyn, I was in CApe Town two weeks ago adn there are so many young and fun guides, that are just as wonderful they really are festive and they know where all the fun adn funky restaurants are and really have a good perspective of Cape Town, I would check around for guides if I were you!
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