A month in Africa - how to spend the time

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Dec 25th, 2014, 04:07 PM
  #1
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A month in Africa - how to spend the time

I was able to book a crazy low airfare today and have tentatively got a month to explore. We fly into and out of JNB from New York; arriving 8 September and departing 8 October.

We are interested in spending some time in Capetown and then doing one or more safaris.

I have 24 hours to decide on keeping this airfare, so I thought I would seek out some suggestions if this is too long of a visit and get some direction as to how this time would be best spent. I will search and read threads tonight, but if anyone would like to chime in, I would be most appreciative. All suggestions are welcomed. Thanks
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Dec 25th, 2014, 05:38 PM
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Congrats! I assume you're referring to the Etihad fares. I looked into it this morning but couldn't find anything for July / August or December.
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Dec 25th, 2014, 05:42 PM
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Yes, it was Etihad fare. A steal; very luck to have found great dates at that price.
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Dec 25th, 2014, 06:05 PM
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In a nutshell: With a month you could do Namibia and/or Botswana and South Africa. Botswana will be very expensive at that time. I'd suggest safari first in Namibia (Etosha, but add Namib Desert for world class sand dunes) and Kruger for two very different ecosystems and leave Cape Town and Garden Route/ Wine Country for late September, early October when the weather is starting to do better down there. Early Sept will be excellent for game viewing.
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Dec 26th, 2014, 04:43 AM
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How lucky for you -- this could be an extraordinary adventure

Oh my goodness -- what a fantastic adventure this could be for you. Is this your first trip to sub-Saharan Africa?

Budget of course is an essential question. While some prices (especially for wonderful food) are surprisingly low, you can also spend a fortune at some safari camps. At the most sought-after camps in Botswana, for example, the cost for 2 people can be $4000/night. [...waiting for OP to revive after fainting...] But there are very definitely alternatives. And, for safari, you are going at the very best time of the year.

I'll also start out by saying that a safari is my very favorite vacation. I first went to see the animals, and then I fell in love with the places I've been to because of the people, the land, and especially the sense of being in a natural and unspoiled place where almost all of the noises you hear and things you see belong to Nature.

If I were planning this type of trip, here's what I'd do if I had a somewhat generous but not unlimited budget:

- Start with a day or two in Joburg to unwind and recover from jet lag
- Spend a week exploring the Kruger area, staying mixing a couple of days of exploring the area with several days at 1 or 2 safari lodges
- Fly from Kruger to Cape Town, and spend ~10 days in the Cape Town and the Western Cape: the wine country, the parks, the city.
- Fly up to the Chobe area to see the enormous numbers of elephants at/near Chobe Nat'l Park. Then head over to Victoria Falls for a day or two (Zambia side).
- Spend the final week at a couple of safari camps in Zambia -- you will not believe that such a wonderful and remote part of the world still exists.

But that's just me.
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Dec 26th, 2014, 05:17 AM
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Oh my, I did almost faint! Not really, I knew this wasn't going to a cheap adventure.

We don't have a budget yet, as this really did just fall into my lap yesterday morning.

We have not been (unless you call a layover at Malawi airport for 8 hours waiting on a plane part with a 2 year old) to Africa. We had talked about it, but I was always intimidated by the vastness of the area and choices of where to go/stay/see etc.

I love animals and as a docent at our wonderful zoo, I am thrilled at the chance to see these wonderful creatures in their natural habitat. My husband is a nature lover, much preferring the wild open areas to cities (except Paris and San Francisco, but then who can not love those cities?)

Thank you SO much for your input. Seems like there will be plenty to occupy our time.

Keep the suggestions coming, links for places you've been and such are most welcomed.
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Dec 26th, 2014, 06:37 AM
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Because you mention links, here's one to a report I did at Fodor's on a trip to Namibia. If you like the American Southwest I'd think you'd like Namibia.

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...to-namibia.cfm

The correct link to photos is: http://thesafariadvisor.com/thesafariadvisor_010.htm
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Dec 26th, 2014, 08:11 AM
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How comfortable would you be driving in Southern Africa on the "opposite" side of the road? That could make your stay quite a bit cheaper. You could see a lot of South Africa that way. Also, if you don't mond cooking for yourself, there are guest houses in Kruger that are available. You can also drive in Kruger. I've met some people who also drive between camps in some of the reserves next to Kruger. Then, they go out on game drives at the camps. Namibia is also good for self-drives. You've got a lot of time to research out places to go and things to see.
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Dec 26th, 2014, 08:23 AM
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Again, much thanks! Hubby is more than ok with driving on the opposite side of the road, and we do love the American Southwest [which is why we live here!]
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Dec 26th, 2014, 09:16 AM
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As others have mentioned, self driving can be quite economical and is very common in South Africa and Namibia. Here's a link to our Namibia self drive with a few days spent near Cape Town (there are updated photo links at the bottom) http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...uth-africa.cfm
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Dec 26th, 2014, 11:04 AM
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Hi DebitNM,

I have seen a lot of good advice on this thread but I thought it would be appropriate to give you some concrete plans you can use as a starting point for the planning process and budgeting. I have been to Africa over 35 times. I have been to every major wildlife areas in Southern Africa including trips during September to Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa on safari. I have been to just about every four star and above safari lodge in Zimbabwe and Zambia during peak season (July-October); the notable exceptions are Change, Pamushana, and Anabezi. I have traveled to Botswana and South Africa many times in all seasons.

In general, I would try to get in and out of Zambia and Zimbabwe FIRST if you want to go there and your budget allows. The advantage of these two countries is the riverine safari experience available nowhere else in Africa + Victoria Falls (Zambia side is dry in September). These two countries heat-up rapidly in September especially in South Luangwa, Lower Zambezi, and Mana Pools. You can expect the daily high to be 85F in these areas in late August but 105F in late September with little relief at night in late September.

Cape Town will be improving in September with October being a very nice month. The majority of floral species bloom in September making it very beautiful here and also on the garden route which extends hundreds of miles along the coast from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. The southern right whales will be calving in September and will historically start heading back to Antarctica in October for the “summer”. So, go to Cape Town later and this will be ok.

South Africa will be good anywhere for safari in September. Don Tobaz has mentioned the top end of the budget spectrum. Here are some ideas of places in the $500 per person per night range (+/- $100).

Day 1 Land Jo’burg. Overnight at City Lodge OR Tambo.

Day 2,3 Fly to Vic Falls (JNB-VFA) and stay at Vic Falls Hotel for two nights.

Day 4,5,6 Transfer by road or small plane to Hwange National Park. Stay at Somalisa or The Hide, or Little Maklolo for three nights. These places will be over $500 pppn.

Day 7 Return to VFA and fly to JNB. Overnight.

Day 8,9,10 Fly commercial 50 minutes JNB-HDS and road transfer to a lodge in the Timbavati. All these options are in the range $400-$600 pppn. Tanda Tula, Shindzela, Ngala Main, or Kambaku.

Day 11,12,13,14 Have Copper Touring or similar collect you and drive you six hours to the Botswana border so you can safari in Botswana at Mashatu Main camp for four nights (about $450 pppn).

Day 15,16,17 Have Copper Touring drive you to Marataba or Madikwe Game Reserve (about 3-4 hours) and safari here for 3-4 nights (under $400 pppn).

Day 18 Fly FEDAIR or drive 4 hours to JNB and fly to Cape Town.

Day 18-30 Collect a rental car and stay in Cape Town for 6 nights then drive the garden route. Stop in the Winelands, Hermanus, Knysna, and anywhere else that interests you.
Day 30 Drop car in Port Elizabeth and fly to Jo’burg to fly home.

I hope this helps!

Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond
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Dec 26th, 2014, 11:42 AM
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Lucky you DebitNM!

If choosing Mashatu in Botswana check out Mashatu Tented Camp rather than Main Camp. Prices are lower, the camp is small & intimate, tents are large and immaculately clean and you'll have the same outstanding wildlife sightings as at Main Camp especially leopards and large herds of elephant.

Just spent last May in Namibia and I would skip Etosha and do your animal safaris elsewhere however the sand dunes at Sossusvlei and around Swakopmund are incredible!
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Dec 29th, 2014, 02:29 PM
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DebitNM: How exciting! We loved staying in Cape Town, and exploring the Cape Peninsula in our car. You can see penguins in the wild. Also great is the Postberg section of the West Coast national Park, where you can see more wildlife.

If you want to stay in the foothills of the Cederberg, check out Oudrif, which is an hour from Clanwilliam. It's solar powered, peaceful, up on the river bank, all meals included. Great price. If you can't find it on fodors, check out my trip report for South Africa, which has web-site links.

Have fun!
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Jan 2nd, 2015, 02:27 AM
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Hey DebitNM,
you can do Kenya/Tanzania safari for 2 weeks then you can also do mountain trek either in Kenya or Tanzania then you finally complete your holiday in Zanzibar enjoying the beach life
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Jan 4th, 2015, 06:34 PM
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Wow DebitNM! A month in my favorite country. I am green with envy.

Our first time to SA, we did the "normal", overly expensive (but fantastic experience) safari. Then we realized that we loved it too much to go to those expensive places - we want to go back again and again! So we now self drive, mix low-mid priced all inclusive camps with national park accommodations, and we love it and can afford it! We are safari people, so we mainly do that, but we mix in some golf, conservation activities and a little bit of city.

You are going to be in Cape Town during the flower season. Look into seeing the fynbos while you are there - spectacular! Penguins, Robben Island, Table Mtn, wine country, the waterfront - do it all (plus the flowers).

KathBC and I both love Mashatu Tented Camp. We combined it with a Sabi Sand camp near Kruger (Arathusa-very nice), then Pafuri in northern Kruger, but it is closed due to flooding. Check when it is reopening, or replace with a camp in Kruger or the walking safari at Pafuri which is quite an adventure. Then a very easy drive to Mashatu. It was a nice, semi-affordable two week trip. You could also add in Wildside at Entabeni, which has fun golf and safari. I did a trip report if you want to click on my screen name to find them.

Our past two trips were very similar. The last one was fantastic as we had the opportunity to do a rhino conservation outing, involving the darting of a wild rhino! It was one of the best things we have ever done! Anyway, we drove to Kruger, staying in the park for a few days, then down through Swaziland to KwaZulu Natal. Hluhluwe National Park, where the rhino was saved from extinction the last time, is fantastic. We visited Tembe Elephant Park which we loved and now has been expanded and improved, Mkuze NP is a gem for a short visit and Zululand Rhino Reserve (we stayed at Rhino River Lodge. Love it.) is now a big five reserve and possibly my favorite place. We also visited St Lucia and iSimangaliso Wetland Park to do horseback safari and kayak with crocs and hippo.

Whatever your budget, you'll be able to do a lot. Safari does not have to break the bank - we have had incredible luck seeing wild animals (except for wild dogs!!) with a very small budget and a VERY large budget. Finding some of the camps that are not marketed in the US can be difficult, but there are many. Staying in/near Kruger has camps in every budget. Do splurge on an SUV, though 4x4 is not necessary, may be useful but very expensive. You want a high vehicle if you visit any national parks to both see animals and for the clearance. Manual transmissions are the norm, but they are on the "wrong" side, too. It's fun - we plan our first day to be mostly highway driving.

Enjoy your planning! I know a month feels like a very long time, South Africa (and maybe some Botswana) is vast and very varied. Between CT, Kruger, the Garden Route and KwaZulu Natal, (and more!) there is TONS to do. Internal southern African flights can add a lot to your cost, but one way car rentals aren't usually more expensive, so you might be able to plan open jaw flights (JNB to Kruger, durban to CT, Port Elizabeth to JNB, for example). Fun!
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Jan 6th, 2015, 08:48 AM
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You are very lucky to have so much time!

If you are driving I will 3rd the suggestion of Mashatu Tent Camp. It's in Botswana but you drive there easily from Johannesburg. Love that place and it's so different than any other camp I've been to in South Africa.
Pics from 2008 http://www.pbase.com/cjw/africa_2008_mashatu

If you can do non-participatory camping, a mobile safari would be an economical way to see Botswana. It may be hot at that time of year but the wildlife makes it worth it. These are from 2005 http://www.pbase.com/cjw/botswana_africa_2005
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Jan 8th, 2015, 09:10 AM
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I like Safari Craig's suggestions. Don't "short" yourself on safari time If you like San Francisco, you will love Capetown. After this trip, you will probably want to go back to see things you missed.

We've been twice (and one planned but not taken trip between those two) and hope to go back again. South Africa is a remarkable country. We totally loved every second spent in Botswana and Zimbabwe, as well. We've spent time in Capetown twice, and could go back again and again. You CAN drive in SA, but I wouldn't suggest it in Zimbabwe, as you can arrange road or air transfers inexpensively there. We did a road transfer from Vic Falls to Hwange, and I have to say while it took nearly all day, it was an eye-opener. When you later see life and the level of development driving through and/or flying over SA and Botswana, you will understand what bad government vs good government means. Most all of the people you meet throughout will be outgoing and good folks.

We stayed at Ilala in Vic Falls, and it was charming. Actually, we preferred their menu and food to that at the Vic Falls Hotel (which is sort of across the street and down a very long driveway.) But no matter where you stay, do visit the Vic Falls Hotel as it is so evocative of Stanley and Livingstone's era!

Enjoy the planning phase, then get ready to be amazed.
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Jan 10th, 2015, 12:02 PM
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There is plenty to see and do in South Africa alone for a month, or you could explore wider in Africa as others have suggested. If you self drive and stay in self catering accommodation, South Africa is a very affordable destination. Here is just one idea of what you could do - we did this trip some years ago now, but we still look back on it fondly. http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...-mauritius.cfm

If you want to venture further, I can highly recommend Namibia - my husband I did a self drive over about 16 days a couple of years ago - started in Windhoek, travelled south to the Sossosvlei Dunes area, then up to Etosha, through the Caprivi strip to the Botswana border. Had transfers from there to Chobe Game Reserve and onto Vic Falls (Zimbabwe). Another great trip!
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Jan 10th, 2015, 12:04 PM
  #19
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Thanks for the additional input. Working on this, it will take a while.
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Jan 10th, 2015, 03:03 PM
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And you should probably be warned: You WILL become enchanted and want to go back again and again. It is easy to do, because many places you visit -- English is the common language. You will meet travelers from all over the world and "family style" meals in safari camps, especially if they include the guides, are some of the most wonderful and enriching conversations you will every have in a "travel" context.
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