Advice on Botswana Lodges

Old Apr 24th, 2006, 11:01 AM
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Advice on Botswana Lodges

Hello,
I'm trying to put together a 10-night trip to Botswana and South Africa for this July (very late, I know!). I have two requests - advice on our overall itinerary and advice on Bots lodges.

We are planning to spend 1 night at Vic Falls, 6 nights on safari, and 3 nights in Cape Town. Is that too much for 10 days? If so, how should it be altered?

Botswana camps:
-Eagle Island; Khwai River and Savute Elephant Camp (2 nights each)
-Another company has offered Xigera and Duma Tau (plus 1 other lodge)?
-And a third proposed itinerary is Seba Camp and Little Vumbura, plus 1 other lodge TBD.
We are fine spending 2 nights at each place, though I know some Fodorites think 3 nights is preferable. I have just read that the three Orient Express camps are larger and more hotel-like, which is somewhat worrisome. Should we choose smaller camps instead?

Thanks in advance!
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Old Apr 24th, 2006, 12:41 PM
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Lily

Whats your budget?

I have not been to the lodges mentioned but have heard them desribed in those terms. Khwai River lodge was on a reality show a couple of years ago and did look a n=bit more like a hotel.

I thinkyou should try and focus on one company then you are likely to get a better deal. But at this point in time it may be simply a case of taking what you can.

You may want to consider Duma Tau in conjunction with Chitabe, Savuti is also good, I love Kings Pool but it is more expensive.

Others with more experience may also recommend some CCAfrica camps and the Kwando properties.
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Old Apr 24th, 2006, 01:03 PM
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johan_belgium
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Lily,

Given the time of year I would say that weater in Capetown is not great at all.

I think for a 10-night trip it's a bit too much if you want enjoy it all in a tranquile way.

I don't like the Orient Express camps because it's like you said more hotel-like and the people I've met there where more interested in the pool and the food than in the gameviewing. Maybe I met the wrong people.

Given the fact that's already May, you don't have many options for camps in Botswana. I think Chitabe or Savuti will be fully booked.

If you haven't been to the Sabi Sands in South Africa, I would actually recommend to do a safari over there in combination with one camp in Botswana (Little Vumbura should be nice) and a stay at Victoria Falls for 2 nights. I would recommend to stay at the Zambian side (Tongabezi/The river club and The islands of Siankaba should be good).

And leave Capetown for another time.

Greetings,

Johan
 
Old Apr 24th, 2006, 01:08 PM
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Lily,

A lot depends on your personal preferences.

Whilst many of us do indeed prefer to spend 3+ nights at a camp I certainly don't think 2 nights is too few - infact on our first trip we spent 2 nights each at 5 destinations in Namibia and Botswana and 4 nights at the 6th and it was an absolutely fantastic trip.

It's just a case of weighing up the disadvantages of having to move around more/ pack and unpack to the advantages of being able to experience more varied environments/ locations. I don't know about all the operators but certainly Wilderness Safaris try to ensure that travelling between camps does not mean missing out on a game drive as they attempt to schedule all the air transfers in the period between the morning and afternoon activities.

In terms of actual camps, I can only give feedback on the Wilderness Safaris camps I have stayed at - I can't compare them with non WS camps.

In terms of environments I would recommend that you choose three camps of which two are land-based and one is a water activities camp.

With slightly longer I'd recommend that you add the Chobe area and the Makgadikgadi Pans to your Delta itinerary but with only 6 nights I'd concentrate on the Delta itself.

That's just my opinion... it really depends on which animals/ experiences are at the top of your wishlist?
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Old Apr 24th, 2006, 01:16 PM
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Hello Lily,

Personally, I would do a week on safari and three days in Cape Town, and leave out Victoria Falls entirely.

In Botswana, it may come down to availability -- the camps are already very full in July. Ideally, I would do two camps rather than three -- it's much more enjoyable not to move every two nights -- with 4 nights in the Delta and 3 in the Linyanti.

You would want your Delta camp to offer both water and land activities (unless you decide to do two camps). The Xigera/Duma Tau itinerary would give you some time in the Delta (Xigera) and some in the Linyanti (Duma Tau). However, I would recommend Little Vumbura, Kwetsani, or Tubu Tree as your Delta lodge rather than Xigera, as they offer a better balance of water and land activities (Xigera is more water-focused). Game drives in the Delta are wonderful and it would be a shame to miss them out.

Seba is a brand-new Wilderness camp in a new area of the Delta, where no one on the board has stayed as yet. It looks like a wonderful area, and a Seba/LV combination could be wonderful if your third camp is a Linyanti camp (see below).

In the Linyanti, Duma Tau is a great camp -- I have stayed there and really enjoyed it. The sightings and guiding were superb. Other options in a similar price range include Selinda, Zibalianja, Savuti. Savuti is very popular and is almost certainly booked, but you may have some luck with the others. As Matt has mentioned, King's Pool would be the most expensive (and most luxurious) option -- though Duma Tau is certainly quite luxurious as well!

The Kwando camps, Lebala and Lagoon, are located in a neighbouring reserve. They are a bit more expensive but offer a guide and tracker system which is unusual in Botswana.

The Eagle Island etc itinerary would give you time in both the Delta and in Chobe, which has a similar environment to the Linyanti. However, I think moving camp every two nights would feel a bit rushed. At this late date, however, it may not be possible to get more than 2 nights at a stretch at most camps.

Cheers,
Julian
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Old Apr 24th, 2006, 02:34 PM
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I have to second Johan's suggestions to split your time between Sabi Sands (we stayed at Elephant Plains) and Botswana (we stayed in the Delta at Nxabega) and to spend 2 nights in Vic Falls (we stayed at Ilala Lodge). One night in Vic Falls is not enough to really see the falls and enjoy them. I really appreciated the contrast between the Sabi Sands ecosystem and the Delta. We saw a TON of animals (including the Big 5) between the two areas and really got a sens of how water factors in. We also spent 3 nights in Cape Town and I loved it. The weather might be a bit iffy, but if you don't mind that it can give you a whole other perspective on Africa. If you have limited time, though, and want to add to your Vic Falls stay, then I would say skip Cape Town this time around (much as it pains me to say that). We worked with go2africa.com to put the trip together and Rikke was fabulous to work with.
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Old Apr 24th, 2006, 03:12 PM
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We were at Kwhai River Lodge last Sept 2005, for 4 nights. Very nice facility, not too big, beautiful location. I have two pictures, outside and inside, of the guest "huts' at - http://www.kodakgallery.com/tdgraham/safari_2005?

Look about in middle of the photos, they are captioned as Khwai. It did not, repeat not, feel like a hotel. Less so than Mala Mala (which I love). The staff was very friendly and helpful. Guiding was good (not great). It was a great place to see elephants, as I guess all of Botswana is. My problem with it is the Moremi game park. Moremi does not permit off roading and it closes at dusk. (Khwai is on the other side of the river). For the morning drive we drove over, (20-30 minutes, 6 passenger open vehicle) to Moremi for about three hours. We did see a pride of lions each time and a leopard once, and other "lion food".The late afternoon game drive was on private property on the Khwai Lodge side of the river. We saw many hippos, elephants and elephant breeding herds. Did sundowners there. Back at dark for dinner which was excellent as was breakfast and lunch. Four nights were too many there, two or three would be good. Our friend spent 2 nights at Eagle Island, liked it, you game drive in a boat/canoe. If you like water, good place. I would be tempted to drop Eagle Island, add a night to Khwai and a night at Savuti. We have not been to Savuti, I hear it's very good, but, the main lion food at Savuti is elephants. My wife could not handle seeing an elephant killed and/or eaten. Anyone else here know that this is true of Savuti, am I mistaken?
regards - tom
ps - for your reference, the other two camps we were at last Sept were - Nsefu Zambia and MalaMala S. Africa. We are going back Sept 2006.
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Old Apr 24th, 2006, 03:48 PM
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Tom

The Savuti (Wilderness camp) lions certainly do kill Elephants, but to see that happen is pretty unusual. It is certainly not like being at Duba Plains. While at Kings Pool last year we saw the last moments of a young Elephant beaten killed by Lions. I would not let the possibility put you off visiting there, the game in the Savuti channel is great and very diverse, got very close to Aardwolf there.
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Old Apr 24th, 2006, 04:08 PM
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Thanks napamatt.
I guess an elephant kill can happen anywhere. But the sight and sound of a baby elephant being killed would distress my wife terribly. Can't say I'd enjoy it, but I can accept what nature is.
regards - tom
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Old Apr 24th, 2006, 06:11 PM
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Lily,

Given the last minute nature of this trip, i suggest you chk with your agent in terms of availability for Wilderness and Kwando properties and what is available. As many ppl have already expressed the other companies are really not all that good....
 
Old Apr 25th, 2006, 03:56 PM
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Thanks to you all for your advice. These boards are a great resource!
We ended up going with the OE camps as it offered us the chance to see different areas of Botswana and, due to a special offer, was significantly less than all the other quotes we received. This is our first trip to Cape Town & Botswana and, for some reason, I already have a feeling this won't be our last!

Cary999: thanks for sharing your photos and your thoughts on Khwai and your friend's report on Eagle Island! I appreciate it.
Happy Travels!
-L
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Old Jul 13th, 2006, 05:25 PM
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I recognize that my posting probably will be too late to be of assistance to you, but it may help subsequent viewers. In 2004, my wife and I visited the Orient Express camps of Kwai River Lodge and Savuti Elephant Camp for 2 nights each. Excellent. Excellent. Excellent. Hotel-like? Not at all. Everyone I met was thrilled to see the animals, as were we. Only a few very hardy folks visited the pool (much too cold for me), and then only in between game drives. Two nights at each camp was perfect. It permited us to experience the diversity of the 2 camps in an efficent manner. Nothing repetitive. The small plane transfer took place in the middle of the day in between game drives (ie., morning game drive at Moremi, and evening game drive at Savuti).

Later in our trip (after some time in Vic Falls and Jo'burg), we stayed 4 nights at Inyati in the SSGR in S.A. While Inyati was great, 4 days of the same game viewing trails of necessity did involve some repetition (remember, in the SSGR they have traversing rights over other nearby properties - so the game viewing area is fairly large).
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Old Jul 13th, 2006, 08:59 PM
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santharamhari
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While i'm sure Khwai river lodge is a great facility, the inability to drive off-road is a point to note. Remember, the thrill of driving off-road cannot be matched......

Personally, if i want to visit other areas than the Kwando/Wilderness marketed concessions, i would prefer to venture on a mobile safari.

Hari
 
Old Jul 13th, 2006, 10:36 PM
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I can't agree on Khwai River lodge - compared to the wilderness (not 6 paw)/kwando camps it doesn't have the real bush feeling.

Their game drives are split between the private concession (ability to drive off-road) and the Moremi Game Reserve (no off-road driving).

In my opinion it's only worth considering going there if you have a private vehicle at your disposal and you are fine with any type of accomodation.

The Khwai area of the Moremi Game Reserve is one of the most productive places for big game viewing in winter time and is in my opinion best enjoyed on a mobile camping safari.

I've done both there (staying in Khwai river lodge/mobile camping).

Greetings,

Johan
 
Old Jul 13th, 2006, 10:40 PM
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santharamhari
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Johan,

Khwai area itself (not the lodge, but the productive drive area), is it in the Moremi park or outside?

Hari
 
Old Jul 13th, 2006, 11:01 PM
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How do all of you folks feel about the Santuary Lodge camps specifically Chiefs and Stanleys. This as compared to the Kwando and Wilderness camps.
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Old Jul 13th, 2006, 11:10 PM
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Hi! Chief's is meant to be very very good also. Chief's island location is great. However, i think when the floods arrive every year, some of the better game drive areas (Boro West) may be inaccessible from Chief's camp. Chief's is a great place to go to during the rainy season......great rates, fantastic game viewing. It may not be very good May/june/july during the floods.

Stanley's is meant to be very good also. I think Johan and others hv visited on prior trips.

IMO: Top quality predator viewing camps in the delta include:

Mombo; Chief's; Chitabe; Kwara....personally, i wont look beyond these......

Although, Duba and Vumbura areas are productive (they lack the overall diversity)...something i'm looking for!!!

Hari
 
Old Jul 13th, 2006, 11:21 PM
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FWIW, the Khwai River Lodge (we were there in Sept 2005), is on one side of the Khwai River and Moremi (National Game Park) is on the other side. From the Lodge Moremi is about a 30 minute vehicle drive where you cross a crazy little bridge over water into Moremi. Moremi has the restrictions of off road travel and no drives at night. But on the Khwai Lodge side it is private property. So you can go out late afternoon, drive off road, and see lots of elephants that come down to the river at sundown. I liked Khwai River Lodge but one time there (for 4 nights) is enough.
regards - tom
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Old Jul 14th, 2006, 12:18 AM
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spiegelcjs, I have stayed at WS camps as well as Stanley's and Chiefs. I really enjoyed both of those Sanctuary camps. Stanley's is a camp you can do the elephant walk/experience that was a highlight of our trip. It's a 4 hour walk with 2 or 3 semi-tame elephants who were adopted by a terrific couple because these eles were unable to fit in the wild, yet no one could care for them. You learn about them, lead them, walk in the bush with them and finally all dine outside at lovely tables. It is a very non-touristy, wonderful day.
If Jacob is still at Stanley's, he is a wonderful guide.
Chief's felt like a true camp - friendly, warm. Prince William was there right before we visited.
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