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Advice Please for an African Safari

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Jul 7th, 2011, 01:29 PM
  #1
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Advice Please for an African Safari

My husband and I are interested in taking our first (and possibly only) trip to Africa sometime in the next year or so. We are in our 50s and in good health. We have just started researching and are already quite confused. I have always heard of the Serengeti but am wondering now if that is the best place to go. We would love to particularly see elephants and giraffes in the wild (and other animals, too!) I am guessing we are looking at a mid-level price point (not sleeping on the rocks but probably can't swing 5 star accommodations all the way.) We're thinking of a two week trip but could shorten or lengthen this a bit.
I also have to admit I am not a fan of mosquitoes or sweltering heat!
We would love any suggestions or recommendations for further research.
Thanks!
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Jul 7th, 2011, 02:10 PM
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Since game moves and prices are seasonal, if you can advice month/s that you're considering for travel. Tanzania is good some months, where Kenya during others.

If you don't want sweltering heat even if dry, don't believe you'd be happy during Dec-mid-March. Daytime temps can easily be in the 90s and there's no air conditioning on safari.
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Jul 7th, 2011, 03:17 PM
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For the classic African savannah grass plains you need to go to Kenya or Tanzania.

However, take a look at this pro photographer, Thom Hogan, discussion of photo safaris that he leads.
http://www.bythom.com/botswanaworkshop2.htm
About 1/4 the way down, just after the lion snaps, he discusses the pros and cons of safari in Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. Short answer is - for a short 4-6 days of first time safari the Sabi Sand reserve (adjacent to Kruger Nat Park) of South Africa is best.

I agree and I also would never safari for only 4-6 days. At minimum twice that. If you're going over from USA you certainly would not go for less than 10 days. With 10-14 days, you could do both, we have, the classic Serengeti savannah plains and South Africa "low bushveld". Fly into Nairobi, to the Masai Mara, several nights at Little Governors camp. A day or so travel to Johannesburg South Africa. Then several night in Sabi Sand reserve (camp MalaMala) Cost for this would be around $600 per night per person. Plus international air to Africa.

regards - tom
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Jul 7th, 2011, 04:22 PM
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Following along as I too just started researching, and also overwhelmed. Tom, thanks for the link - interesting take on the differences.
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Jul 7th, 2011, 04:46 PM
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travelzoo.com runs some really nice pricepoints

to Kenya and Africa booking even five star hotels

lodges through friendlyplanet.com including air from $1795

South African Airways from $2200 including air

porini.com ecocamps excellent more when you factor in air

stil great value... many scammers stick with reputable folks

never wire money to locals too risky and always

insuremytrip.com Happy Hunting(Researching)!
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Jul 7th, 2011, 05:08 PM
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I agree with Sandi that the time of year you're planning to travel can make a big difference in where you should/want to go.

FWIW, I have been to East Africa three times now and have yet to be disappointed (and can't recall any sweltering heat in June/July other than on the coast)!

I'd go more often if only the bank account would catch up with the dreams.
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Jul 7th, 2011, 05:14 PM
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I forgot to emphasize that when you're reading Thom Hogan remember his perspective is very much from photography. For how much that perspective is worth. I think it's good because if you can take a good photo, you are seeing a lot.

regards - tom
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Jul 7th, 2011, 05:49 PM
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Let the adventure begin!

A first trip to Africa is typically Kenya and/or Tanzania ~or~ South Africa. My first trip was Kenya & Tanzania.

Some past threads for you, so you can see you are definitely not alone in this question:

In general
http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...ny-options.cfm

East Africa
http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...yatanzania.cfm


Southern Africa
http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...eed-advice.cfm

This was for a single traveler but has good advice and what is nice is the traveler returns to the post after going on the trip
http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...ng-my-trip.cfm


For the best parks to visit at different times of year, see this chart. As weather becomes less predictable, this chart—or any chart—becomes less accurate.
http://www.africa-adventure.com/dsp_besttime.html

This chart also contains temps. To avoid the worst heat, I’d travel during May to Sept. That is also some of the best wildlife viewing months.

“Serengeti—“
Whatever time of year you are going, there is some place in the Serengeti that will provide a nice experience. You need to pay attention that you are in the right part of the Serengeti at the right time of year if you wish to see the wildebeest and zebra migration. The chart above helps with deciding that.

As to whether the Serengeti is the “best place,” it depends on your goals and the logistics of your safari. But it certainly is a great safari location. Typical itineraries spend from 2-5 nights in the Serengeti. I'd stay at least 3 and that is what I will be doing in a couple of months when I visit the Northern Serengeti. On my first safari I definitely included the Serengti. Most East Africa safaris include the Serengeti and almost any Tanzania-only safari includes the Serengeti as a highlight.

“Eles and giraffe—”
These are not that tough of species to locate. Arusha National Park in Tanzania is a good place to spend the first day of any Tanzania safari because it is near the international airport in Kilimanjaro and this park is known for giraffe. But really, if you let your guide know you have an interest in giraffes, they are all over.

One of the best parks in Tanzania for elephants is Tarangire, which is easily included in any Tanzania safari itinerary.

I’ll be going to both Arusha Nat Park and Tarangire on my Tanzania trip.

Other great places for eles are Samburu in Kenya and Amboseli in Kenya.

A typical safari in Tanzania is called the "Northern Circuit" and would include places such as Arusha Nat Park, Lake Manyara, Serengeti (one or two sections--make sure they are the right ones for the time of year you are going) Ngorongoro Crater, and Tarangire. You could tack on the Maasai Mara in Kenya to that itinerary and have a great 2 weeks in Africa in May through Sept. Such an itinerary could easily be arranged privately for just the two of you, a very common way to travel in East Africa.

Middle of the road accommodations are easy to find and would likely include lodges such as Serena (highest), Sopa (next), Wildlife (after that). I've stayed at all and found them all to be highly satisfactory and very nice with good food. At the top end are luxury tented camps, worthwhile if they fit into the budget.

I would spend two weeks if you are able to afford it. Depending on where you are traveling from, it can take 3+ days of just international transport. You can combine Kenya and Tanzania, especially if your 2 weeks are on the ground. There is plenty to see in two weeks, two months, even two years.
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Jul 7th, 2011, 06:33 PM
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One precaution. The "possibly only" safari rarely is. Many of us thought our trip of a lifetime, only once safari has been the first of many.

I'm a Southern Africa visitor - just got back. Already planning the next. The private game reserves around Kruger, esp in Sabi Sand, are outstanding, but there are lots of other great areas that we have been lucky enough to visit, and yet to visit. Someday we'll get to East Africa but we are enamored with S Africa right now.
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Jul 7th, 2011, 06:33 PM
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Enjoyed the Thom Hogan site greatly. Good general information as well as photo stuff. Of course the picture are amazing...and saw first hand what I've been trying to find out: dinner being eaten by guests all in their daytime earth toned safari garb!
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Jul 7th, 2011, 08:06 PM
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Thank you for all the great advice. It sounds like there are so many wonderful options and, of course, each thread I read makes me change my mind. I will research further and am sure I'll be back with more questions. In the meantime, please keep any suggestions coming. This sounds like a trip (or possibly trips) of a lifetime!
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Jul 8th, 2011, 03:04 AM
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I have some good news and some bad news for you, KTtravel.

The good news is that, despite the mind-boggling array of options and permutations and variations, the choice that you ultimately make will almost surely be a good one. African safaris are that good. (Which is not to say that all choices are equal, just that they typically range from good to impossibly fantastic.)

The bad news is that you can toss out most of the post-Africa vacation planning that you may have already done. As christabir eloquently suggests, it would not be a wiser wager to bet on you or anyone else making "one and only" African safari.

Don Topaz
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Jul 8th, 2011, 07:49 AM
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I agree with Don Topaz wholeheartedly. We thought we go on one safari and this is now our third summer going back to Africa. We went to Tanzania last summer and did the Northern Circuit and absolutely loved it. We went to the far north and we were able to see the migration of the wildebeasts across the Mara River. Once in a lifetime experience. I am just hoping that one of the lottery tickets that my husband buys each week will hit and then the options will be endless. Until then I will keep working and figuring out the next trip. I am thinking that South Africa in the private reserves would be a great trip. I would love to hear more abou Christabir trip to South Africa and how it compares to Tanzania and Kenya.
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Jul 8th, 2011, 08:09 AM
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If you haven't done so yet, pick-up a copy of "Fodor's Complete Safari Planning Guide" - covers the safari countries with lots of pertinent info to get started and at least in one book. Then once you decide on a country/ies, go for a specific guidebook... many can be suggested here.
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Jul 8th, 2011, 08:36 AM
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Don Topaz is a man of wisdom.
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Jul 8th, 2011, 08:38 AM
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lhgreenacres- I did a trip report. "Three weeks S Africa, Waterberg to KwaZulu Natal. It's still in the top 50 posts. I just added photos. Unfortunately I have not been to E Africa so cannot compare. atravelynn has, so look into her posts.

We went to Entabeni GR, 3 hours north of Joburg, Shindzela, a Timbavati camp, Kruger (LOVED Kruger!), and then down through Swaziland to KwaZulu Natal to visit Hluhluwe-UmFolozi for the rhinos, Zululand Rhino Reserve and Tembe Elephant Park. All have their plusses and minuses, but every night in the bush is paradise to me. It was our third safari and we drove ourselves. Our previous trip was Sabi Sand, Pafuri (N Kruger), and Mashatu in SE Botswana. That was a really good mix, esp for a short trip. We had drivers/charter/scheduled flights for that one. Easy. I rarely go anywhere twice, but Mashatu was a place I'd go again.

The national parks that we visited are outstanding. Our next trip will definitely include more (Addo?).

We are looking into spending lots of time in S Africa when we retire. Can't get enough.
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Jul 8th, 2011, 07:26 PM
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Oh, I am getting excited. I've ordered the Fodor's book recommended above and look forward to pouring through it. I will keep reading the threads here. Thanks for all of the suggestions!
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Jul 9th, 2011, 01:37 AM
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There is also the choice of private reserves in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, near to Port Elizabeth, no mosquitoes in this region & May/June is not so hot but chilly at night & early in the mornings.
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Jul 9th, 2011, 02:58 PM
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KTTravel,
You are in a situation much like we were--in our 50's planning what may well be our only African safari. After much research and much help from this forum, we just returned from a northern Tanzania safari with Warrior Trails and we could not be more pleased with our experience. We went to Tarangire, Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti and Manyara for 10 days plus travel. Our first stop was Tarangire River Camp and we awoke to elephant watching from our deck. Also saw many more elephants, including twin babies and more than 50 giraffe. The weather was perfect, in fact we chose to eat dinner outdoors most evenings, it was so pleasant. We saw no more than 2 or 3 mosquitoes. We chose Tanzania because the national parks are so large and natural and to experience the migration--which did not disappoint! I will get the full trip report up soon, but I recommend that you seriously consider a private safari in northern Tanzania.
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Jul 9th, 2011, 06:10 PM
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Here is the jangonow planning thread with helpful info
http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...erary-help.cfm
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