2 weeks in South Africa with teens

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May 18th, 2013, 06:22 PM
  #1
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2 weeks in South Africa with teens

My family - which includes our two 14 year-old children - are considering a 2 week trip to South Africa at the end of July. A friend suggested spending about one week in Cape Town and then 2-3 days in a safari in Kruger. We're looking for a combo of cultural activities, outdoor fun (nothing too extreme) and a dose of social/political awareness. Any suggestions for the trip? Also, can you recommend a travel agency to help us? We're in the Boston area. Thanks!
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May 18th, 2013, 07:24 PM
  #2
 
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Hi There,

That sounds like a perfect plan! Your kids will love it. OK – so late July is peak season for Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Botswana. Game viewing in South Africa is good year-round. Cape Town could be a bit cold and rainy in late July but you will love it no matter what. It could also be beautiful! You will have a lot of geographic choices given the season although many of the lodges with family rooms may not necessarily be available on this relative last minute plan. Most safari lodges have 1 or 2 family rooms that book early. Using two normal rooms is not really a problem especially with 14 year olds.

I do think 2-3 days on safari is way too short – especially with kids. I have traveled to Africa over 30 times on safari and I did take my kids twice. The first was when they were 10 & 12 in March, 2008 and the second time they were 13 & 15 in July and August 2011. This is the same time you are asking about and my kids age was almost the same as yours. The first trip we visited two private reserves adjacent to the Kruger National Park and then Botswana and Vic Falls (Zambia side). The second time we went on safari in Madikwe (South Africa) and then two lodges in Zimbabwe and Vic Falls (Zimbabwe). In both cases, the safaris totaled 10 days but they were not consecutive. I have also planned many safaris for families. I would say 6 days of game viewing is the minimum you should consider and 10 would be the high end for number of safari days. The primary purpose for many people in visiting Africa is animals and 3 days is simply too little.

You did not mention budget but that may determine where you can go along with availability. Also, some lodges have child rates that kick in below 18 and many more have rates that are applicable to kids under 13. Cape Town should be relatively cheap in July. In general, a private reserve adjacent to the Kruger will start at $300 per person per night. If you want to be on a river and a private reserve (both are huge enhancement in July during the dry season) then the price starts around $600 per person night. Botswana accommodations on PRIVATE concessions in the Okavango Delta will be around $1,000 per night per person. Lodges in Zimbabwe start around $400 per person per night on private concessions within national parks.

I have made many agent recommendations on this forum and Trip Advisor over the years but I actually do not know a good safari planning agent in Boston. If you are open to working with one somewhere else in the USA I can recommend one for sure. If you have more specific questions, let me know! Here are some plans that would work for a six day safari under $5000 a person (including light air transfers):
3 nights each at MalaMala and Mashatu (South Africa and Botswana)
3 nights each at Lion Sands and Madikwe Safari Lodge (both South Africa). May need to overnight in Jo’burg inbetween.
3 nights each at Ruckomechi and Little Makalolo in Zimbabwe.

By the way, late July is perfect for seeing southern right whales and great white sharks (cage dive) near Cape Town. 14 year olds would love it!

Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond
2011 & 2012 Travel & Leisure A-List agent for Botswana and Zimbabwe
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May 19th, 2013, 05:27 AM
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Barry – if you want to try something a little different, then maybe consider a Cape Town/Zambia combination. You could see Vic Falls from the Livingstone/Zambia side and then do your safari in South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi National Park. Both parks have family accommodations. July is the coldest month in Southern Africa but Zambia is the warmest place of the Southern Africa countries since it is closest to the equator (i.e. less far south!). I have visited every permanent lodge in Lower Zambezi and all but a few of the permanent lodges in South Luangwa. This particular property in LZ has a family room and the rates would be less than most top PRIVATE LAND lodges in the Kruger ecosystem: http://www.kasakariverlodge.com/hippo_pod.php

NOTE: technically Kasaka is not in the park but it is about half a mile away on a conservancy.

The good thing about Lower Zambezi is that you can do canoeing, boating, and fishing if you get tired of the land rover game drives.

Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond
2011 & 2012 Travel & Leisure A-List agent for Botswana and Zimbabwe
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May 19th, 2013, 05:45 AM
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There are also several safari lodges in Hwange National Park Zimbabwe (3-4 hour drive or 45 minute cessna flight from Vic Falls) that have family rooms:

Little Makalolo - one family room. Seen it. Stayed in non-family room.
Davisons Camp - one family room (I stayed in it).
The Hide - several family rooms. Seen it not stayed in it.

Craig
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May 20th, 2013, 07:15 PM
  #5
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Thanks Craig. I certainly understand your suggestion about the length of the safari, but for us the focal point of the trip is the cultural and social/political aspects, the safari is a secondary aspect. So I'm thinking that 3-4 days for the safari is the max. Given that, how would you use the rest of the time?
Barry
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May 21st, 2013, 05:25 AM
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Hey Barry,

I suggest you save yourself 20-30% of the cost by booking directly with a Travel Agent in Cape Town with a good reputation. 20-30% being the uplift that "foreign" TA's generally take, unless they deal with lodges directly, but most don't.

Personally I recommend Sun Safaris in Cape Town. I have dealt with them numerous times, as a customer, and now handle lots of itineraries for my Belgian customers with them.

Being based in Cape Town they will know perfectly what to offer you, and within your budget. Their knowledge will most certainly be better compared to any foreign TA.

That one week in CT can be filled with so much fun activities for you and the kids that you will have to choose wisely. From the top of my head; the Table Mountain, a visit to Mandela's Prison, see the penguins at Boulders beach, go to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, do some shopping & dining at the Waterfront, have a lazy day at the beach, do a boat cruise and see the seals, ... Too much to sum up, really.

Speaking of the beach; if you're looking for more peace & quiet then an option may be to stay part of this first week at De Hoop Nature Reserve. But you'll be there in winter, and I don't know what kind of temperatures you are used to ;-) At any time it's a great place to go hiking though. And for whale-spotting (in the rights season).

As for the safari part; I would certainly look further than the "popular" places like Sabi Sands or Mala Mala. Granted, the game viewing there is excellent, but the lodges there are cashing in on the popularity of their reserve's name and prices are skyrocketing.
There's other reserves, much less known and with equal game viewing opportunities, that are much more affordable, like Manyeleti, Timbavati, and Klaserie (to name the ones that are unfenced towards Kruger NP).

Sun Safaris co-owns and markets a few camps in the greater Kruger area that are really fantastic. My favorite is nThambo Camp in Klaserie. Fantastic rooms (on raised platforms), about 10000Ha of traversing rights with other properties, all inclusive (no drinks bill), and great food. Plus, in all my travels there (I lost count) I have seen the big 5 every time, with each species seen multiple times and up close, per trip. I normally stay for 4 nights.
Another plus is that the Hoedspruit airport is a mere 15 mins away. Compared to Sabi Sands you save at least two hours per transfer (airport -> lodge and lodge -> airport). Not to mention the cost of this transfer, as nThambo does these for free.
nThambo is about 200$-350$ pppn, depending on the season. To compare with Mala Mala; a room there, in their main camp, is about 700$ pppn.

HTH,

J.
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May 22nd, 2013, 05:56 PM
  #7
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Thanks - that all makes great sense. Can you or anyone else recommend a travel agency to deal with? Also, is it possible to visit a township? What's the best way to arrange that?
Barry
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May 22nd, 2013, 08:40 PM
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Re townships - Many on this forum have recommended Hylton Ross for tours in and around Cape Town.

http://www.hyltonross.co.za

I'm booked on one of their township tours in June so can't give you first hand experience but reviews I've read have been good for them.

Have fun planning! I've already figured out 5 days in Cape Town just isn't enough!
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May 23rd, 2013, 01:14 PM
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It seems like everyone has contributed quite substantially to your upcoming trip. Good luck, I hope you enjoy Cape Town.
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May 24th, 2013, 03:25 AM
  #10
 
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Cape Town area, shark diving at Simon's Town or Gansbaai, the southern most point of Africa and where the 2 oceans meet at Cape Agulhas, penguins also at Betty's bay, less touristy & Harold Potter botanical gardens both are along the most scenic coastal road R44 also called Clarens Drive then onto popular Hermanus for whale watching. Wiesenhof, legacy parks about 1hr from CT http://www.legacyparks.co.za/parks/ a great place for the morning, arrive before 10am & follow the truck that feeds the wildlife, it's great ! On route back take the old road not the tunnel. Spier outreach programme for cheetah's, Table Mountain check it's not closed for maintenance, Robben Island is weather dependent, agree Hylton Ross is good for tours, Cape peninsular & Chapman's Peak Drive.

Shopping, the waterfront is nice but very touristy & prices that match, the best shopping mall in CT is in Claremont.

It is very easy to book all of this yourself but a local agent with a great reputation is Gemma Dry of Discover Namibia but is based in Hermanus.
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May 27th, 2013, 06:25 AM
  #11
 
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I spent four and a half days in Cape Town. While I could have spent a lot longer in the Cape I honestly felt content when I left. Many people say a week is a must in Cape Town but I think 4-5 solid days could do it.
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May 29th, 2013, 04:39 PM
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Hi BarryJE, The end of July is probably close to the coldest time in Cape Town but good for Kruger. Not as cold as midwinter in Boston but relatively cold and the cold is intensified by the likely windy conditions.
I travel to SA regularly but opt for the cheaper side of life and stay in self catering apartments or even in a tent but the Cape area in July would exclude that possibility. What I sometimes do is after a stay in Cape Town is hire a vehicle and drive from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth (July is cold for that really - that whole Cape area is better done in say February.) via the garden route and stay over along that coastal route, some great sites there. After Port Elizabeth, there is a great park, not as big as Kruger but never the less excellent for game viewing called ADDO. There is private accommodation around the park, but also inside the park, a family sized "house" will cost you in the region of $200 - see the S A national parks site for details. There is also a great restaurant in the park... booking for accommodation here is essential though...
They have many other parks as well and a drive tour just staying in the parks is something I do and enjoy, often staying in a tent for 90% of the time. This is a relatively cheap holiday and keeps one closer to the ground.

Buying a "wild card" from the national parks authority will give you a years entry into around 80 parks for less than $200 if I remember correctly. They also have game drives that can be booked.
I'm always a little nervous for the first day or so when I head out but soon feel at home and with a decent map and or GPS soon feel "at home" traveling around.
There's a cheaper option, probably not suitable for July but I'm busy planning my next trip right now.
PS: It's worth taking a nice camera along and if there is any chance that you may give the animal side of things more precedence take a 400MM lens (or longer) along.

Whatever you chose - enjoy
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Jun 8th, 2013, 06:04 AM
  #13
 
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Dear Barry,
Greetings from Cape Town. This is a very belated response to your request for assistance, and I can see you have had much information already, so are no doubt all sorted. just thought I would mention Southern Africa travel specialists on the East Coast, who do a fine job - Classic Africa. The contact person there is Pierre Faber - www.classicafrica.com. Even if you already have provisional plans in place, it might be interesting to see what Pierre and his wife Margaret would suggest. Best wishes,
Lew Rood
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