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Africa novice: 7 night stay -- Singita or Mala Mala? Or Botswana?

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Africa novice: 7 night stay -- Singita or Mala Mala? Or Botswana?

Old Feb 29th, 2008, 06:24 PM
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Africa novice: 7 night stay -- Singita or Mala Mala? Or Botswana?

I'm in the very beginning stages of planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip to South Africa with my husband and my soon-to-be 13-year old daughter. I'd prefer to stay in one lodge rather than moving around, and am thinking that a week at a luxury game lodge would be great. Because we are most interested in game viewing, it seems like Mala Mala is the way to go, but I have to admit that I'm tempted by the ultra-luxurious (but stunningly expensive) accommodations at Singita. The expense at Singita would be a real stretch for us, and I'm trying to figure out whether it would be worth it. I'd love to get detailed thoughts on the primary differences between the two BOTH in terms of game viewing AND in terms of accommodations and other amenities.

To complicate matters, some people have said we should skip South Africa altogether and go to Botswana instead; thoughts on that question would also be appreciated.

Also, I have some very basic and probably very naive questions. What is there to do at game lodges between the morning and evening safaris? My daughter is very active; are outdoor activities possible during the day? For example, will she be able to run around a bit with a soccer ball on the grounds, or is that impossible or dangerous? Are there other physical activities, such as walking trails for daytime? I'm trying to figure out whether she'll go stir crazy after seven days.

Finally, I'd love to hear thoughts other "must do's" in South Africa. My daughter has made a request to see penguins. Where in South Africa are the penguins located and is it worth going there to see them? Or should we save the penguin viewing for some other trip to another part of the world? My husband is a surfer and votes for three or four days in Cape Town for the waves, but we live at the beach in California and I'm wondering if those days might be better spent someplace more exotic.

Any and all thoughts would be greatly appreciated! As I mentioned, I'm a complete novice, so even the most basic information would be helpful.

Best,

Kristin
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Old Feb 29th, 2008, 06:59 PM
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I highly recommend going to see the penguins. You can do this, if you go to Cape Town. I'm not sure of how many places in the world you might get a chance to see this particular species of the penguin - the Jackass penguin!

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Old Feb 29th, 2008, 07:13 PM
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Hi Kristin

I have been many times to MM and four times to Singita. I am only interested in gameviewing, though I like to be comfortable and fairly well fed! For me, Singita is more than double MalaMala Main Camp, and it is definitely not worth the money for me. Gameviewing, in my opinion, is far better at MalaMala. I usually go with nieces, and the youngest I have taken there was 11. They have a winter and summer timetable - you have more downtown in summer and more gameviewing in winter.

I think you are much wiser to remain in one place as changing camps wastes both time and money. My stays at MalaMala tend to be over 3 weeks now and I could easily stay longer with always so many things to see and I always see so many new things no matter how many times I have been.

I have been to Botswana a few times, and I am not a huge fan - I certainly didn't hate it, but I certainly didn't love it either.

In summer, your daughter could swim and they do have morning walks at MalaMala after breakfast. At 13, she would be to young for the gym and really there is no large area where she could really run around with a ball, though there is a reasonable area around the pool. None of my nieces have had difficulty filling in their spare time, and they have ranged from 11 to 24.

In winter, there is really very little downtime as you spend more time gameviewing.

I think you will be amazed at how tiring your days are, even though you seem to do very little other than sit in a vehicle or sit down to a meal.

On my first trip, we did visit Cape Town for 4 nights, and we did go and see the African Penguins, and that visit I had two nieces aged 8 and 10 and we all did enjoy that experience. I have no idea what the surf is like at Cape Town, so cannot comment on that but I would think that if you do spend a few days in Cape Town you will have plenty to do!

If you have any specific questions, please ask.

Kind regards

Kaye
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Old Mar 1st, 2008, 06:50 AM
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I'm certainly not a surfer, but as I recall the "endless*" waves are north of Durban. But this may also be season dependent.

*if anyone out there remembers the film "Endless Summer" about these two guys who travel around the world looking for the best waves. Actually saw this recently on late nite TV; filmed sometime in the 60s; I was still a teenager!
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Old Mar 1st, 2008, 09:36 AM
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I think a few days in the Cape Town area would be worthwhile, especially if you don't think you'll be back to South Africa anytime soon.

In the Cape Town area, you can see the penguins, baboons, ostrich, seals, sharks, and whales (depending on the season you visit).

In regards to surfing around Cape Town... if your husband does surf there, make sure he learns to read the local flag system on the shore. Different flags indicate if a shark(s) have been seen in the water and where. Probably very important to know if you're a surfer!

As for your safari lodge...Have you considered Timbavarti instead of Sabi Sands? Kings Camp is a very good value and it's quite luxurious. http://www.kingscamp.com

If you're married to the idea of staying in Sabi Sands, check out Leopard Hills. I think it may be a bit more upscale than Singita or at least on par. I'm not sure how pricing compares. http://www.leopardhills.com

Happy vacation planning!

Andrea
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Old Mar 1st, 2008, 10:39 AM
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Wonderful family vacation!

If the expense of Singita would be a stretch, then absolutely don't do it. Mala Mala is very nice with Internet access, a library, a workout room filled with exercise equipment and a lovely view, and a pool. Though the pool may be chilly.

Those ammenities may help to occupy your daughter midday. Or you could take the $$ you had considered spending on an ultra-luxury property and hire a private vehicle. Then you could stay out most of the day.

My comments are on MM Main Camp only, which is the most reasonable, and where I've stayed. Sable and Rattray's offer more luxury and than Main Camp and may interest you.

As to what your daughter can do midday when it is downtime, I'd ask Mala Mala directly using their reservations email, found at malamala dot com.

I wonder if something cultural could be arranged. I think she could kick a soccer ball around if she kept it well controlled and did not kick for imaginary goals. If you ask in advance, maybe soccer and culture could be combined. At other lodges and camps where I've stayed young people have played soccer with either the staff or the kids of the staff. So if you plan ahead, the soccer could offer an opportunity.

There are some places to walk but not really trails and you can't go very far. Jump rope maybe, plus the exercise equipment I mentioned.

Penguins--I'm going to see them for the first time this North American Summer. They are in Simonstown, about 30 mintues from Cape Town. I will be basing myself in Simonstown because in addition to penguins, the Great White Shark viewing company I am using is there. [African Shark Eco-Charters www.ultimate-animals.com] To me, seeing the sharks while there is a must.
Plus you can do baboon walks with Baboon Matters out of Simonstown.

Robben Island where Mandela was held in prison can be reached by ferry from Cape Town.

I am not a surfer, but I agree that while in South Africa, there are unique things to see like penguins, the history of Robben Island, lions and elephants, etc. that cannot be found elsewhere. Maybe he could surf in Cape Town, while you and your daughter did the other things.

Did you say what time of year this will be?

As for Botswana over SA, you could do that too and even fly into (or out of) Cape Town so you still had that experience. Botswana would be more remote and wild and you'd likely be in a tent whereas MM Main Camp is solid walls (and I think the other MM accommodations are too.) It's unlikely you'd have the volume of leopard viewing in Botswana, but there is other excellent game. You could include a mekoro (small narrow boat) ride in the Okavango Delta. Depending on what you did, it would likely be more expensive and involve smaller planes than going to MM. Typically people would do 2 Botswana camps in days for a more diverse environment.

Doing 2 camps in 7 days is also typical for SA. Kings Camp mentioned by LuxCruise is next to Sabi Sands, where Mala Mala is located. It gets great reviews. I'd also suggest Phinda near Durban. It is fenced but has loads of activities from canoeing, to rhino tracking on foot, to tracking collared leopards at night in a vehicle, to midday cultural visits, plus more. It's a CC Africa property so you could google them. At Forest Lodge there were many trails to safely walk on through the sand forest where various monkeys and antelope lived.

With any activities, ask about age limits to be sure your daughter could participate.

Good luck!
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Old Mar 1st, 2008, 11:02 AM
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LCB Andrea - have you been to Kings Camp, MalaMala, Leopard Hills?

regards - tom
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Old Mar 1st, 2008, 12:32 PM
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Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! This is incredibly helpful. Based on your advice, we've decided against Singita and have narrowed it down to Mala Mala and the other options people have mentioned. We'll let you know our final choice! I didn't realize that the Cape Town area also has so many animal-viewing opportunities, so we're going to add three or four days there. A week at a game reserve lodge and three or four days in the Cape Town area focusing on the nature related activities sounds like a fabulous trip!! And thanks to all of you, our lodge experience will be half the price that it would be at Singita.

In terms of time of year, we're hoping to go some time between June and early September of this year, but it depends on availability. We may have to push it back if everything is already filled.
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Old Mar 1st, 2008, 01:53 PM
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Those months are not the biggest travel times in South Africa, so you should be ok. Mid June is the best time to see the Great White Sharks. I'm going mid-July which should be very good too.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2008, 11:26 AM
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Choice between Sabi Sands and Botswana? No contest - Botswana.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2008, 10:29 PM
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Surfing: There are great surfing locations at many places along South Afria's coast line. And a wide variation in water temperatures, from the freezing (IMO) Cape Peninsula, especially the Western side, to the sub-tropical KwaZulu-Natal coast. (Although Bruce Brown's 60's movie Endless Summer featured Cape St. Francis, which is Eastern Cape not North of Durban.)

For lots of surfing info, see www.wavescape.co.za. Including "Surfrican slang", the link's at the bottom of the home page. The dictionary is also a good intro to S.A. slang in general.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2008, 12:50 PM
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Isabel

You might want to consider what we do at Mala Mala, we split our time starting at Main Camp, then move to Rattrays for more luxury and a different position on the reserve which allows you to see the beautiful southern part of Mala Mala.
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