1st Time African Safari - Help!

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May 27th, 2013, 03:58 PM
  #1
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1st Time African Safari - Help!

Hi All - I am overwhelmed and in need of some direction. I've been pouring over fodors forum threads as well as a plethora of other websites trying to put a plan together for our first African Safari late May 2014.

I'm utterly confused/undecided as to whether to go to: Tanzania - Botswana - Victoria Falls etc.... I also don't know how to plan the trip once I decide where to go (ie which safari planner is best). I love doing the planning of all of our trips but i feel like I'm over my head in planning this one vs say a trip to Europe or Mx or the Caribbean etc...The more threads I read, the more overwhelmed I become . Can someone net out the differences for me of these locations/experiences?

A few details: My husband and I (46 and 50 yrs old) are fit/active. We'd be coming from Phx AZ and the 2 weeks would include travel time. We would like a smaller (boutiquey) lodge with an authentic African safari feel yet still somewhat upscale. We'd like about 5 days on a safari and another 5 days combination of beach/local village sort of experience. We'd like the beach to be amazing in terms of beach and accomodations that are again authentic african feel (and upscale) - does Zanzibar fit this description? We love the beaches of the Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Bora Bora etc... Know we won't find that but nonetheless would like to find a nice beach if that's possible...

I haven't determined our budget yet but my initial thought is about $7500 not including airfare. Is this do-able? If not we will consider increasing the budget.

I would appreciate any advise that might point me in the right direction. If there is a recommended book I can get to get me started I'm game for that as well.

Thanks in advance for your input.
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May 27th, 2013, 06:12 PM
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That's an awfully long way to go for only 14 days. Are you able to stretch it to 3 weeks?

If 1st time(unlikely last) consider what's called the northern circuit in Tanzania. Arusha, Tarangire, Ngorongoro Crater then Serengeti. It's doable in 7 days with driving between destinations.

Then look at flying to Zanzibar. Say 3 or 4 days north island for the beach portion and a day or two in Stonetown.

The other quintessential safari would be something like Nairobi, Laikipia area, Samburu and then the Masaai Mara. From there you can also fly to Zanzibar.

I loved both countries but Kenya just a bit more.

My week in Zanzibar was fantastic and a nice way to relax after early morning wake up calls for the safari game drives.

Research, research, research...it's half the fun!

Good luck!
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May 27th, 2013, 06:45 PM
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Thanks so much. Unfortunately, 2 weeks is our max. And I am confident, too, that this wont be our last trip to Africa

I have also read about Londolozi in Sabo Sand - have you been or do you know anything about the area relative to the others?
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May 27th, 2013, 09:27 PM
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Sabi Sands is in South Africa along Kruger Park so add another 3 hours flight time.

Haven't been yet but heading to South Africa on Friday and will be in MalaMala for 4 days which is next door to Londolozi.

Search this forum for both as there was a "Londolozi vs MalaMala" thread recently here.

If you're looking for beach you may not find the tropical kind in South Africa, not like Zanzibar so it depends on what's more important.
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May 27th, 2013, 09:33 PM
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Hopefully you're reading this thread. Tons of things to think about to determine which place would work best for you.

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...m#last-comment
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May 28th, 2013, 04:54 AM
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I went to Tanzania for 12 days in February with three people from California. While the transit was long, it wasn't much longer than mine from Boston (about 18 hours). They did have some jetlag so as long as you can deal with it, don't let the travel put you off.

One recommendation I have is to lean towards permanent or mobile tented camps. We stayed in a combination of lodges and tented camps in TZ, and while the lodges were nice, the tented camps gave us a better safari experience, both from being right in the middle of where we wanted to be, and also having wildlife right out our back door.

I'm now planning my second safari for next year and I'd suggest first picking where. Don't try to bite off too much. (We did the Northern Circuit of TZ as kath mentions above over 12 days, and it was comfortably paced and not frantic.) Once you pick your place, start researching tour operators or providers who can put the wheels in motion for you. Read trip reports here and on safaritalk.net and see what strikes you.
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May 28th, 2013, 06:30 AM
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I know exactly what you mean - so many options! For our first safari, I checked out the Abercrombie and Kent, Micato and Tauck safaris (websites are really good with lots of info). High end trips. From that info, I was able to narrow down where we wanted to go and then contacted a safari outfitter and arranged a private safari - surprisingly not more expensive than a tour!!. Our first was almost perfect, but way too expensive, and maybe a little too much moving around. Since then, we've gone back twice with much less expense and better fit to our travel style. Stay at least three nights in each camp.

Have fun.
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May 28th, 2013, 11:44 AM
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Swanner, we took some wonderful 14 day safari's in Botswana and South Africa 18 months ago. We also went to Victoria Falls,but if I were to do it over, I'd skip that and go on to the safaris.

In Botswana, we went to the Chobe area and stayed at the Elephant Valley Lodge http://www.evlodge.com/ . The Okavanga Delta area is nice too but we were a little late to get rooms there. The Elephant Valley Lodge is really quite nice. It is a permenant tented area with in suite facilities. We are mature adults too and we appreciate that sort of thing. The food was good and the staff was incredible. I wouldn't take anything for the experience we had on the river cruise safari. Here are the videos I have taken there and elsewhere and uploaded to YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/user/OneCarolinaGirl
See the the Botswana River Cruise one to see what I mean. One night as we were having dinner there was a wonderful display nearby when a hyena tried to steal a baby elephant and whole herd defended it and won. We just sat back at our dinner table and watched and hated ourselves for leaving our cameras back in the room.

The lodges we stayed at in South Africa were in the Sabi Sands Private Reserve next to Kruger National Park. We stayed at one a few days and then had to move to the other as they were booked solid but found the first one to be very nice, but the second one to be 'perfect'. First we stayed at Elephant Plains lodge http://www.elephantplains.co.za/the-lodge/ and then Cheetah Plains Lodge http://www.cheetahplains.com/ . I never wanted to leave Cheetah Plains. Wonderful isn't strong enough to describe that lodge and staff. They are incredible.

If you're going to the South Africa Lodges, you can fly into Hoedspruitt Airport http://www.eastgateairport.co.za/ and arrange for them to pick you up.

The guides and safari's on all of those are superior. Hope that helps.
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May 28th, 2013, 11:46 AM
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Clarification - I meant we were on vacation for 14 days, not that the safari's lasted 14 days. ;-)
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May 28th, 2013, 08:52 PM
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Thanks so much to everyone. Your input is extremely helpful.

Kath - yes that is one of the threads I was reading.

Amy - thx for the tip on the tents - I had been wondering about that sort of accommodation - thanks for sharing your thoughts on that.

Chris I will definitely check out those websites - might not have time til next weekend to really spend some good time doing that. Thank you.

Caroline - thanks so much for all the detail. The lodges look wonderful - I can't wait til I can take a little time to watch your video. The baby elephant story sounds like a memory that will live with you forever - what an in rebel experience it must have been.

I've contacted Roy Safari because an aquaintence used them for a trip in Mar 2013 and were happy. Havent heard back from them yet but As of right now, I have narrowed our trip to Tansania, Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara - 3 of the 4 places. Any suggestions as to which 3? We will probably stay 3 nights at one and 2 nights each at the 2 others. And then 3 or 4 nights in Zanibar or Pembra. Pembra looks like the kind of place we would like.

Again - thanks so much everyone.
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May 28th, 2013, 08:54 PM
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Correction to note to Caroline - meant to say incredible not in rebel ( hate that auto spell feature of iPad)...
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May 28th, 2013, 09:02 PM
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One other question - is Uganda or Rwanda gorilla trekking worth trading out lake Manyara and Ngorongoro crater for? In other words would Tanzania - Serengeti - Rwanda or Uganda be a better plan?
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May 28th, 2013, 10:28 PM
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For you budget you can do Tanzania, Victoria falls and - Botswana if you do mix luxury and budget; you can check similar itinerary from african safari vacation packages at http://vacationsafaris.com/africa.aspx
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May 29th, 2013, 08:04 AM
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If for late-May '14, better not into June as the rates go from 'low' to 'peak' season in Tanzania. May is the end of the short rains, but there might be some showers even into June though won't inhibit safari.

And when it comes to ZNZ, know that 'some' of the hotels/resorts might be closed thru 1st week June (they tend to close from Easter thru the 'wet' and reopen when the shows stop, however being 'tropical' showers are always possible. On Pemba Is. there are few properties, most small and only one has air conditioning when you consider the islands are hot and humid.

With $7.5K budget (assume for both of you) can come close for May travel, but know that '14 rates aren't yet all published maybe why a delay from the outfitter you contacted.

With 12/days you can consider:
Day 1 - Arv. JRO, met/transfer for - o/n in Arusha
Day 2 - Drive to Tarangire - o/n
Day 3 - Tarangire - o/n
Day 4 - Drive to Ngorongoro; crater tour - o/n
Day 5 - Game drive thru to Central Serengeti - o/n
Day 6 - Central Serengeti - o/n
Day 7 - Game drive to Western Serengeti - o/n
Day 8 - Western Serengeti - o/n
Day 9 - Transfer to airstrip for flight via Arusha/ARK, connect to flight to ZNZ; met/transfer to Stone Town - o/n
Day 10 - Transfer to beach resort - o/n
Day 11 - ZNZ; at leisure - o/n
Day 12 - Transfer via ST for flight to DAR or JRO or NBO for homebound flight.

By end-May you can meet up with the 'migration' in either the Central or Western Serengeti which areas are only 2/hrs apart and game drives can/will be done wherever the herds are found.

Note: Re - Londolozi at Sabi Sands at Kruger - 1/nt for 1/pp will eat up most of your budget.
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May 29th, 2013, 08:57 PM
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Sandi - thank you so much for your help. It sounds like you know Africa well. Thank you for pointing out Pembra only having one hotel w AC - i think we'd want ac. In Zanzinar i thought Raj Nungwi looked interesting but then i discovered its closed in May Once I get some quotes back I may reach out to you w questions, if you don't mind. Thanks again.
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May 30th, 2013, 12:51 PM
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If you're looking for some quiet beach time, no discos, just a pristine white powder beach, excellent food and a good book, I stayed here in Zanzibar and loved it!

Request cottage #1 or #2.

http://www.mchangabeachlodge.com/
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May 31st, 2013, 07:26 PM
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Kath - thanks for the Zanibar tip. That's exactly the kind of environment we are looking for. I'll look into this resort . Thank you.
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May 31st, 2013, 07:28 PM
  #18
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Another question- does anyone have any experience/opinion of Roy Safari? Some acquaintances used them and were happy.
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Jun 1st, 2013, 08:46 AM
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Caroline - your elephant video is amazing. I couldn't find one called Botswana River Cruise, though.
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Jun 1st, 2013, 09:03 AM
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Hi All - another question. What is everyone's opinion of Uganda or Rwanda for gorilla trekking in lieu of Zanzibar?
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