A little riff on the Rand/USD

Aug 3rd, 2004, 12:26 PM
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A little riff on the Rand/USD

I've submitted my dream safari to 2 agencies.
The first one came back with a lttle over $600/day. I know this may sound a little funny, but I was actually a little scared to find out what it would cost. $600/day is what I thought it would be, but I was hoping against hope that it would be a little less.

I usually scrimp on the necessities (and splurge on vacation deals). The Rand/USD rate is a real killer. I read in a SA business magazine online that the head of the SA Chamber of Business is perplexed by the huge increase in the Rand...as if there is usually a rational value to anything financial!

I almost thought of putting our Botswana safari off for another year, but if people can pay this amount now I can't imagine the lodges dropping their price no matter what the exchange rate happens to be.

I feel a little foolish whining like this, because I realize how lucky I am to even have the opportunity to be nervous about all this, the Rand, which lodges to pick, binoculars and camera lens to buy (I'm also scared to find out how much to price the lens I want!)

Oh well,...

Just another primate with fancy clothes,

mzcuriouz is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2004, 01:33 PM
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What itinerary did you submit?
Maybe we can help with some alternative suggestions for one or two camps without your having to compromise on quality?
Kavey is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2004, 01:49 PM
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Zambian dreams are a lot less expensive than Botswanan and South African dreams!

Personally, I cannot afford South African and Botswanan dreams but I do treasure my Zambian dreams that are half the price.

Roccco is offline  
Aug 4th, 2004, 03:50 AM
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In that most of our prices are quoted to us in Rand, we have seen a huge increase in USD costs for just about all of our camps and hotels. I am chartering a train and since planning began the cost of our charter has risen 30%. $600/ day should get you an amazing safari. Zambia is definitely less expensive.
tgfny is offline  
Aug 4th, 2004, 10:12 AM
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Keep in mind that most Botswana camps actually do prices in US $, not in rand or pula. But, because the dollar has fallen against these currencies, they may have raised their rates for 2005. (In fact is very likely that they have.) Also, you may end up in a strange situation where these SA agents are converting $ to rand, and then back to $...with a slice off for exchange transactions each way? At the very least, they will want appropriate compensation/commissions for their services in rand...and since the rand is so much stronger against the dollar, this amount has gone up. So the "discount" you get from working with an SA agent has gone down. To check whether it is worth the effort, you should probably get a quote from an agent in the US!

Where this goes (rates and exchange rates)-- well who knows?? When will the US dollar recover? Since these rates have not gone up if you have EURO, the camps could become increasingly popular with Europeans (and there is lots of room to grow here, as Bots doesn't get many of these...yet. But WS camps in Namibia are VERY popular with Europeans...so they can clearly pay the WS prices in Bots if they want to...) So not clear that demand for these camps will go down.

Message to ROCCCO: If MZCURIOUZ is selecting Botswana camps from big operators (eg WS) they DO NOT DEAL DIRECT. So don't tell her to trythis route...it is futile.

And if MZ wants Botswana, it doesn't really help to tell her about Zambia. That would be like telling her to go to Rome if she wants to go to London... Yes, there are museums and historical sites and good hotels...but it is an entirely different destination and experience!!!
tashak is offline  
Aug 4th, 2004, 10:22 AM
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More on the exchange rate thing: when I book with places like WS camps, I use a US travel agent... in the past I've checked rates for quoted airfares, and because they would have air tickets issued in SA, these were cheaper than tickets issued in the U.S. This year however, when we checked airfares with a SA travel agent, they came back much higher, and my agent said it was much cheaper to buy them in the U.S. on the web. (This wasn't at SA resident rates issue...just the exchange rate thing I believe). So what works one year may not work the next when exchange rates and economic conditions are different.
tashak is offline  
Aug 4th, 2004, 11:24 AM
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We certainly found that a high proportion of guests in the WS camps in Botswana were British/ other European which is a change from the last visit in 2001 when more of our fellow guest were American.

Happily we did still encounter many Americans who were still able to make it to Botswana...
Kavey is offline  
Aug 4th, 2004, 04:14 PM
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Thanks everyone. Zambia will be our next safari! I considered Zambia because I do LOVE a good deal and being a camper mixing Tena Tena or Tafika with walking safaris in South and North Luangwa, well now I have another dream to keep my AM EX card for charging every penny we spend. But my "deathbed test" (will I be pissed-off at myself if...) answer was Botswana. "Ya' gotta do what ya' gotta do."

Now for the itineray:

Delta (SAA) San Diego-Victoria Falls (Reward Miles) rt direct
3 The Waterfront (chalet) Victoria Falls
3 Savuti
3 Kwara
3 Little Vumbura
3 Chief's (0r 2 Chief's and 2 Chitabe Falls

I will check out Burt again, I had contacted him earlier for a more modest safari, for a US quote on this itinerary.

Any comments or suggestions would be greatfully received. Who knows what my itnerary would be without this forum.

Thanks again for your consideration,
mzcuriouz is offline  
Aug 4th, 2004, 05:21 PM
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What agencies can you recommend in US, UK and Africa?
mzcuriouz is offline  
Aug 4th, 2004, 06:37 PM
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Can't recall the time of year that you are planning to travel...if this quote was for the high season, you might consider going during the shoulder season. Technically it starts in October, but if you went in September...especially late Sept. perhaps there would be a bit more flexibility? This was true a couple years ago...but not sure what they are willing to do now, but it might be worth a try. September is a super time for game viewing...
tashak is offline  
Aug 5th, 2004, 03:55 AM
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In the UK I recommend Steppes Africa - I always deal with Illona but other team members are equally helpful, genuine, knowledgable and friendly.

One possibility would be to check whether your camps are Classic or Vintage. There is very little actual difference but Wilderness Safaris have two price bands.

Off the top of my head (without checking) I think Little Vumbura is Classic but Jacana is cheaper Vintage. We adored both camps (LV in 2001 and J just in June this year) and wouldn't list one as better than the other in any way. So if Jacana is cheaper (ask your agent) I'd opt for that camp.

Savuti is one of WS most popular camps so I suspect it will be more expensive than nearby alternatives. Might be worth asking if nearby WS camps are any cheaper as the viewing should be very similar.

Don't know re the rest but can definitely recommend Tubu for game viewing (and they have night drive permit so afternoon drives are much longer = more time to spot that special sighting). Another advantage is that one can transfer by boat between Tubu and Jacana instead of plane (which SHOULD be cheaper than flight though you have to make the point with your agent to ensure the quote takes that into account).

Kavey is offline  
Aug 6th, 2004, 11:32 AM
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Hi again,
Tashak, we're planning on going in Sept.

I've thought of substituting Kwando Lagoon for Savuti, I'm not too sure that Kwando camps are significantly less expensive than WS, nor do I know that Lagoon and Savuti, although both in Linyanti, are really eqivalent. Maybe I should start another thread to see if anyone's been to either/both ...especially around the time we'd like to go (did a "Lagoon" search and 'big country' had been there then).

I spoke with an agent on Conde Nast's best africa agent list who really put down Savuti in Sept. ...said it was a shambles, fake waterholes, nervous eles(lions). Haven't read that here, who knew.

BTW I spoke with 3 CN reccomended agents yesterday (the one I mentioned was fun to talk with, but I think was in a pretty manic phase.) Another had a definite "posh" bias; the third was very nice but thought it was better to deal with US agents because they would be more difficult to sue....

Oh, and I think I'd save a transfer by doing Lagoon-Kwara. I'm not too sure but I don't think Kwando charges transfers between any of their camps.

I'm still trying to get things straightened out with a highly recommended SA agency. I sent original itinerary through their web page. The president of the agency replied but had my itinerary confused with someone else. Didn't get a reply yet to my friendly response...so I wrote another email to an agent with the agency that had been recommended here.

Kavey, thanks for the Steppes lead. I looked at their site and I'll send them my itinerary.

mzcuriouz is offline  
Aug 6th, 2004, 12:21 PM
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Oppps...of course I meant the US agent thought agents in SA would be more difficult to sue .
mzcuriouz is offline  
Aug 8th, 2004, 07:06 PM
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I planned an itinerary for a trip to S.Africa, Botswana & Vic Falls, and contacted several travel agents. The price differential was amazing. One price was 50% higher than another. The differential was amazing. Both agencies are making a profit, but I couldn't believe the difference.

The rand seems to fluctuate on a daily basis. I am not going until next April, and who knows what the rand will be then.
mollybee is offline  
Aug 9th, 2004, 07:21 AM
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The famous Savuti Camp waterhole (with wooden log pile hide right next to it) is indeed "fake" in that it's fed by a man made water pump not a natural stream but, to be honest, given the way that humans have blocked many natural migration routes (that animals would follow to find water in certain seasons) it's only fair to give the animals access to water ourselves instead.

When I was there I could hardly work out who was actually the manager - I think one was on leave but the woman I think is his wife was still there and so was a trainee manager and plus some guides seem to be acting managers too and it was somewhat chaotic in that respect BUT I did enjoy my visit there and the wild dog game drive made it extremely worthwhile.
Kavey is offline  
Aug 9th, 2004, 07:22 AM
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PS If you do take it further with Steppes Africa please do let them know Kavita referred you because she was happy with their help and service on her last trip.

It's always nice to let people in service/ sales industries know that their good service is getting them referrals since it's an added incentive to keep their high standards up.
Kavey is offline  

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