Africa Safari Planning - Need Assistance

Feb 9th, 2005, 12:19 PM
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Africa Safari Planning - Need Assistance

I have received advice from a few friendly readers to start a new thread.

I am planning my first trip to Africa with my husband in June, and am trying to figure out where to go and how long to spend in each destination. We're thinking of spending around two weeks in aggregate, but are flexible. We would like to try to keep to more budget-friendly locations though.

I'd appreciate if someone could recommend the best place for a safari (e.g. South Africa, or Tanzania?), as well as any "must-see" destinations. Thanks in advance!
lw2117 is offline  
Feb 9th, 2005, 08:29 PM
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Are you planning your own trip or will you go with a safari company. I highly recommend Thomson Safari--a company of such high integrity that recommending them is done with out reservation. If you go to my will find a link to them, a travelogue of our experiences and some pretty decent photos. Hope this is helpful.
janelp is offline  
Feb 10th, 2005, 12:41 AM
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My wife and I have been to South Africa a few times. I have just posted a trip report on my homepage from our stay in Johannesburg and a safari to Djuma Vuyatela near the Kruger Park. Maybe you can find some useful information there Get in touch if you have any questions.

Stavanger, Norway
gard is offline  
Feb 10th, 2005, 06:56 AM
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Nothing like answering a question with a question, but it depends on what is a must see for YOU. It also depends on how much traveling you are willing to do. Since you mentioned keeping an eye on your budget, you may want to concentrate on one area so transportation does not eat up too much of your money.

Africa has some Wonders of the World--the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania and Victoria Falls, viewed from Zambia or Zimbabwe. (I never remember if these are on the natural list or the modern list, but the are on one of the Wonder lists.)

Capetown is apparently one of the most beautiful cities and South Africa's vinyards are supposedly a lovely sight. Though I have not been personally.

In June you could witness a marvel of nature the wildebeest/zebra migration. Tanzania would be best that time of year for the migration, probably near the Grumeti River in the Western Corridor of the Serengeti. I know of Grumeti River Camp in the area.

Is remote wilderness with activities such as canoeing and walking of interest to you? Then Zambia or Zimbabwe may be a good choice for you and your budget.

I tend to think seeing the gorillas in Uganda or Rwanda is a "must see" but that requires 4-6 days of time and permits are about $375/visit as of 2004.

Are you into birds?

Is trying to see the "big 5" important? Then where you go would be affected by that.

I'm thinking Tanzania may work well for some of your travels since it would offer a World Wonder of the Crater and a good spot to see the migration and it is not as costly as South Africa or Botswana.

Reply with a few more of your interests
and things you are not interested in and we all can zero in on a good plan.

atravelynn is offline  
Feb 10th, 2005, 07:26 AM
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Here's the response I posted to a similar thread recently:

To be able to answer your question we really need more information about what you want:

How long a trip are you contemplating?
What kind of budget do you have in mind (just give a rough idea if you can)?
Would you prefer to travel as part of a small group or independently just you and your husband?
What level of comfort are you looking for? (Participatory camping/self catering, non-participatory camping (where staff put up tents and cook etc), standard hotel/ lodges, luxury lodges/ camps)
What animals would you absolutely most love to see?

In general, East Africa offers a wider range of options in terms of budgets than Botswana which is much more geared towards the luxury end of the market. East Africa, of course, offers the open plains of the Mara-Serengeti. Botswana offers the wonders of the Delta with wonderful water ways and bushy islands. There are open areas in the Kalahari Desert (the Makgadikadi Pans are incredible). But it doesn't have the open plains of East Africa.

Kavey is offline  
Feb 10th, 2005, 09:49 AM
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Thanks for all these responses!!!

After giving this some more thought, we're thinking in an ideal world we would like to spend some time in Cape Town, tour the wineries of South Africa, visit Victoria Falls, and do a safari in Tanzania -- all for less than $3000pp exlcuding air fare to Cape Town (we can get to Cape Town and Johannesburg on miles). Our total tour time would be 2-3 weeks.

Janelp: we were thinking we could tour cape town on our own but would really like a tour company for the remainder of our trip. We are willing to tour with other people -- we don't need our own private trip.

Gard - thanks, I'll go take a look.

atravelynn - we like walking and are open to canoeing, but we don't need to have remote wilderness. We like gorillas but it doesn't sound like that will fit with our budget. Birds are not of interest to us, and I'll confess I don't know that the "big 5" is.

Kavey - I think I answered your first few questions above. As for the rest, when it comes to the safari non-participatory camping would be great. I'd most like to see giraffes, hippos, lions, zebras, and rhinos. Everything else is a plus.

Thanks again everyone. You've been so helpful!!!
lw2117 is offline  
Feb 10th, 2005, 01:18 PM
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Honestly, I think you're trying to cover too much territory in too little time. You'll waste half your holiday time travelling...

Given your interest in South Africa I'd stick to South Africa alone or South Africa plus Vic Falls or South Africa plus Botswana.

Do too much and you won't really do anything at all.

Kavey is offline  
Feb 10th, 2005, 02:08 PM
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If I read this correctly:

Budget = $3000 pp for 14-20 days = $150 -$215pp a day. Not enough for Botswana, and RSA will need careful planning. Even Tanzania is on the bubble.

June - getting colder in Cape Town, migration at full swing in the Serengeti. Zanzibar hotels opening.

First safari - on a budget there is bang for the buck in Tanzania in June.

Airfare - probably less to East Africa than Nairobi

Safari-style - lots of camping in the wild opportunities in the Serengeti at just over $100 per day! In RSA, your budget camping experience won't be anything like this.

Given the above, I would say Tanzania (Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Manyara safari plus Zanzibar) is a better fit.

If wildlife is not your main priority then RSA offers more but at a cost!
climbhighsleeplow is offline  
Feb 10th, 2005, 02:13 PM
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Correction: I meant to say that air will probably cost more to RSA than East Africa.
climbhighsleeplow is offline  
Feb 10th, 2005, 02:53 PM
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The big 5 are animals many hope to see on safari. The term has its roots in what hunters hoped to shoot. The big 5 are elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard, and rhino.

To see if your itinerary is too much in the time allotted, here is a rough sketch and the approximate traveling it would require:

1 Arrive in Cape Town, South Africa

1-2 days in Cape Town

2-3 days in wineries
(this is just a guess on my part, having
never done it)

2 days Vic Falls. You'd be spending a good part of a day flying to either Zimbabwe or Zambia to see this. So it would have to be a high priority. You could also do game drives in Zambezi National Park in Zimbabwe or in the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park in Zambia. The drives would be available from your accommodations. Since you mentioned rhino, the small Zambian park would offer a chance to see them. (So would the Serengeti and Nrongoro, but it always helps to have an extra shot with these creatures.) Where to stay? I can only offer suggestions in Zimbabwe: Ilala Lodge is a moderately priced, nice lodge in a good location. Victoria Falls Hotel is colonial, stately, elegant, nice clothes are appreciated, very classy. Both offer easy walking to the falls. Actually I think Zambia has become the more popular spot from which to view the falls now. There are several very lovely lodges on that side but I donít know about them personally. If it is your wish to spend some time in Tanzania too, you probably could not spend much more time doing activities near the falls.

1 day travel to Tanzania Youíd probably have to fly through Nairobi, Kenya from Zambia to get to Tanzania or go back to Johannesburg from Zimbabwe to get to Tanzania. While I am not certain of all the details, I want to mention the real possibility of a lot of flying around the continent to see the falls and as well as Tanzania, with your other activities.

1-2 days Ngorongoro Crater I like Sopa Lodge, but other choices are fine. This assumes you would include this destination and not just go to the Serengeti.

3-4 days (2 would be too little) Serengeti Western corridor in June for best migration action

So how many days is this? 11-15 with what is here.

It seems like a lot of effort to go to Victoria Falls for a short visit there. To remedy this you could (1) eliminate that stop (2) spend more time in the area to justify the flights and extend it from a ďpit stop.Ē There is an Elephant Camp near Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe where you can ride elephants and interact with them. I did something similar in Motoba Hills, another part of Zimbabwe, and it added a great dimension to the safari. I think Elephant Camp provides more interaction than what I did. (3) Just acknowledge that you are making a big effort and undertaking an expense to see something you really want to and if itís not cost effective, so what, itís what you want to do. On the Zimbabwe side the close encounters with the normally timid bushbuck and mongoose would be an added incentive to go. Probably the same on Zambian side.

Many Africa travelers prefer to linger longer in remote and/or game rich areas and truly absorb the experience. I am one of them, but I understand the desire to skip across the continent and see sights that may be a once in a lifetime opportunity. While I may think all your travel for a view of the falls is not a good deal, I think flying to Alaska with two days in transit lodgings to spend three days at a bear lodge is a fine idea and well worth my frequent flyer miles. If you have the itinerary with all you want to do costed for you, then you can make a better judgment if it is worth it.

Let's see what others have to say!

atravelynn is offline  
Feb 10th, 2005, 02:57 PM
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Have to to agree with Kavey that you are trying to do too much in too short a time. Even if you get seats with FF miles to/fr CPT or JNB, the air between CPT/JNB has to be considered. Then you have to fly from/back to JNB if doing Tanzania. And the weather in CPT is changing by June.

I also have to go with climbhigh... re Tanzania in June. Perfect time to see the Wildebeest in the Western Serengeti and many prices don't go up until July 1.

You're working on a tight budget - definately in Botswana, the exchange rate of the USD against the SARand is not at all favorable and you'll have to be very careful how you spend your limited funds. And the airfare between SA/Tanz are pretty high these days. Granted it's your holiday, but I'd do only SA or Tanzania, but not both. And in SA you'll only be able to safari at public camps to get the most of your budget. I'd
reconsider Tanzania only with the stops mentioned by climbhigh...

Feb 13th, 2005, 05:10 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 51
OK - you've all convinced me that I need to pick either South Africa or Tanzania for this trip. I guess I'll have to plan another visit in the future

Now I'm trying to figure out which to choose. I think I'm hearing that between the weather and the migration we'd be best focusing in Tanzania, but I just want to confirm.

If we're going to focus on Tanzania, I'd appreciate any suggestions for Tanzania-only itineraries, tour companies, and airlines. Putting your previous comments together it sounds like 1-2 days Ngorongoro Crater, 3-4 days Serengeti Western corridor, ?? days Manyara safari, ?? days Zanzibar. How does this sound? Any idea what airport I should fly into? I live in NYC so I'm wondering if I could go direct and avoid going through J'burg?

Thanks guys -- you've been wonderful!
lw2117 is offline  
Feb 13th, 2005, 05:32 PM
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You are in the same situation we were about 6 months ago. We are traveling this June/July as well. We knew we wanted to travel to Africa, but didn't know where. After many, many hours researching on the internet, travel books and consulting tour operators we selected Kenya and Tanzania with Roy Safaris in Tanzania and Wild Trek in Kenya. I can tell you that I believe that this message board is fantastic.

We bounced back and forth between just about every possible destination. Now we are thrilled with our final itinerary (Kenya and Tanzania) and price for our first Sarai. We are traveling with our 11 year old son and believe East Africa is a good choice for us with a family. Below is a paste from a previous message on this baord that explains our June safari:

"We just booked our Tanzanian and Kenyan safari with Roy Safaris. I spent months researching outfitters and am very comfortable with chosing Roy's. I am glad that you have found this board as I believe the people who contribute here have provided me with excellent advice. I try to read posts daily. We started out to "go to Africa"...not knowing even what country to consider first. After lots of research we chose East Africa for our first safari, then selected Tanzania and Kenya, hoping to catch the Great Migration (June 2005). Once we decided on Kenya and Tanzania I continued research of over 25 operators, both US and local. I bet I have 30 catalogs and brouchures on East Africa alone! After many emails and calls were chose Roys for the best service and price. OUr itinerary:

1. Fly to Amsterdam - Overnight there at the Hilton.
2. Fly to Nairobi - Giraffe Manor
3. Fly to Amboseli Tortilis
4. Amboseli Tortilis
5. Drive to Lake Manyara Tree Lodge
6. Lake Manyara Tree Lodge
7. Drive to Ngorongoro Serena
8. Ngorongoro Serena
9. Drive to Serengeti Serena
10. Drive to Kirawira
11. Kirawira
12. Kirawira
13. Fly to Arusha. Fly to Amsterdam.
14. Overninght Amsterdam.
15. Return to US

The land package for this for 3 of us is about $10,000.

I also considered Aftican Travel Resource, Good Earth, Sun Trek, Born Free, Thompsons, etc. but they were much more expensive for "lesser" accomidations. "

Hope you enjoy the research process as much as I have. I feel that we have a "luxury" safari for the price of an off the rack entry from a "big name".

Good luck.

JazzDrew is offline  
Feb 14th, 2005, 04:12 AM
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lw2117 - Jazz Drew presented a good itinerary, but there are places where you can save some money, as a number of accommodations can be costly.

As to flights, you do best with NW/KLM from NYC. There is a 6:15pm flight that arrives AMS about 6:15am or 7:15am next day where you can connect about 3-hrs later onward to NBO or JRO depending in which country you wish to start. Likewise you can depart from either of these airports for homebound flight, except on the homeward, the layover in AMS is much longer - something you should know; can be 8-hrs to JFK or 5-hrs to EWR.

If arriving NBO, you can overnight at a less expensive hotel than Giraffe Manor - just need a clean place to lay your head before heading out early next morning - consider the Intercontinental.

Next day, instead of flying to Amboseli (each flight adds to your cost and while time savers, best to save the money for flight from the farthest distance.

The drive to Amboseli, about 3.5 hrs. - Tortilis is great and your first taste of luxury camping, though there are lodge options here. 2-days here is good. Be prepared to find crowds here as it is a favorite park for many.

After time at Amboseli, you'll transfer to the Namanga border for Tanzania, customs/immigration procedures and change vehicle and driver. If early June, Lk. Manyara a good choice, but Tree Lodge is expensive as it's a CCAfrica property, though lovely, there are other options here. If traveling mid-June I'd choose Tarangire Park over Lk.Manyara, a nicer park with the great baobab trees, more animal sightings - here to stay at Kikoti Camp or TreeTop Lodge. Staying at either Lk. Manyara or Tarangire at least 2-days.

Then drive to Ngorongoro Crater. If departing early from either Manyara or Tarangire, you can do an afternoon Crater tour and spend only 1-nt here.

Next morning after breakfast, head out for the Western Serengeti. This will be an early start, and long drive day - stopping briefly at Olduvai Gorge. If you prefer not to take a box lunch with you, it's a good idea to arrange to stop at Serengeti Serena for lunch which is midway. Though a long drive, it is safari all the way. You'll probably arrive in the Western Serengeti late afternoon. Kirawira is a lovely lux camp, a member of Small Hotels of the World. Special prices are often available, but an option here is a smaller camp called Mbalageti for your consideration. Definitely spend 3-days in this area, 4-days if possible.

From the Western Serengeti - this is where you fly - back to Arusha, where you can spend the day doing last minute shopping, have lunch and dinner before boarding your late evening flight out of JRO homebound.

I too would suggest you contact Roy Safaris for pricing. They can be reached thru their website Tell then what you are looking for, time of travel, and your budget. For comparison I would also contact one or two of the other companies mentioned, but not more than 3-4 bids, as it starts to get confusing.

Let us know how this works out for you.
Feb 14th, 2005, 04:35 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 51
JazzDrew - thanks! Sounds like you have a wonderful trip planned and I am considering it strongly, as you'll see below.

Sandi -- you should start a tour company! If I make the hotel changes you suggest, any idea how much we could get off the tour price? I suppose the other way to get the price down is to cut Kenya. We were thinking of going the first week in June, so putting it all together would leave this:
Day 1) Fly into JRO. Drive to Lake Manyara.
2) Lake Manyara. Hotel TBD.
3) Drive to Ngorongoro Crater. Afternoon crater tour. Hotel: Sopa Lodge
4) Head to Western Serengeti. Lunch at Serengeti Serena. Stop at Olduvai Gorge. Camp: Mbalageti
5) Western Serengeti: Mbalageti Camp
6) Western Serengeti: Mbalageti Camp
7) Western Serengeti: Mbalageti Camp
8) Fly to Arusha. Fly to Amsterdam. Fly Home.

Last question is -- if I were to add 2 more days on, should I go to Zanzibar, Kenya, or somewhere else?

Thanks again!
lw2117 is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 05:38 AM
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lw - Day 1 - Lv. NYC. You'll be arriving Day 2 and upon arrival, it'll be dark, so a pillow will be the first thing you'll be looking for.

Day 2 - Overnight in Arusha - there are a number of choices for sleep and breakfast next morning. There's the Mountain Village, Ngurduto Lodge, Impala Hotel and some others in/around the same price range.

Now you start:
Day 3 - drive to Lk. Manyara
Day 4 - Lake Manyara
Day 5 - Drive to Ngrongoro Crater, afternoon crater tour - o/n Sopa
Day 6 - Stop at Olduvai (Oldupai), into Serengeti w/ lunch at the Serena, then onto W.Serengeti - Mbalageti Camp
Day 7 - Mbalageti
Day 8 - Mbalageti
Day 9 - Mbalageti
Day 10/11 - Fly to Arusha, connect to flight to ZNZ - here suggest 2-nts at a beach hotel. After bumping around the roads of Tanzania, some R&R is much appreciated.
Day 12 - Transfer to Stone Town - there are a number of hotels, various prices in this area - o/n here.
Day 13 - Late afternoon flight from ZNZ to Kili for homebound flight via AMS to JFK or EWR
Day 14 Ar. Home

For accommodations in ZNZ and ST, weather is often hotter and more humid, so if air conditioning is important, ask. Many places have a/c, others only ceiling fans which can be more than sufficient. If beach is important, ask about it; if pool is sufficient, be sure the hotel has one. If diving and snorkeling is important, inquire about these activities.

In Stone Town, most hotels are in grand old Arab homes, small and intimate; some have a/c & fans, others only fans. So ask specific questions. Remember that ST is a thriving muslim community... you'll hear the muzin call to prayer 5x a day including the early early morning one (unless you're deep sleepers). If you've visited the bazaars in Egypt, Turkey, the Old City Jerusalem - ST is much like that, with winding alleys, but absolutely fascinating.. and fun to shop.

Hope this works for you.

Feb 15th, 2005, 09:14 AM
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Sandi - thanks again, this is sounding great. I am off to price it among a few tour companies. Keeping my fingers crossed...
lw2117 is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 10:10 AM
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While I am certainly a fan of Mbalageti and you may hit it at the right time, 4 nights are long given that it is a bit out of the way.

Since we never know where the migration will be, you may get suggestions from the outfitters to expand your range a bit.

The Serengeti Serena for a night is an option, as are very nice camps outside the Serengeti near Grumeti where you can do night drives, etc.

If migration ends up near Grumeti during your visit these Grumeti options may blow you away with all the action.

My wife and I are planning to be in the area ourselves in early June - so we may see each other!
climbhighsleeplow is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 04:11 PM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 226

Sandi is right in that you can save quite a bit by making some other choices in lodging. We decided to try some more upscale places for our first safari. We wanted to error on the side of "luxury" as opposed to "budget" with so many unknowns so far away. But, by using a local operator like Roy's we were able to book sopme of the most expensive sites for less than the cost of the big name US operator's basic safaris.

We also looked at Tarangire vs. Lake Manyara carefully. I hope that Lake Manyara works out for us, but the Tree Lodge just seems so cool! We'll catch Tarangire next time

I would also suggest requesting brouchures from operators like Micatos, Park East, Thompsons, A & K, etc. and take a look at the package safaris that they offer. There are some nice pics and rhetoric in their fancy catalogs. You can use these itineries to help customize your own. I continue to read and re-read everything I have, each read excites me more and more as our departure grows nearer.

Please listen to the experts here more than me. We have traveled quite a bit in Europe and US, but this is a first for us. I do feel very comfortable with our itinerary, but am sure that we will return with the same sort of advise that the regulars here have had for us.

I really felt the need to interact with other travelers before we got to the comfort of travel in Africa with our 11 year old (and my very conservative wife). About a year of lurking on this board has made all the difference. I am excited to say the least!
JazzDrew is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 06:25 PM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 6, against popular advice, we DID book a 2 week trip that includes a tanzania safari and a stay in cape town. but we had to nix zanzibar (since we're going in the april rainy season, we weren;t that upset. we went with tanzania adventure safari company for a private, camping safari:
be glad to provide more info if you need it. email me at [email protected]
syzafar is offline  

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