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Anyone ever done on of the more "rustic" tented safaris?

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Jun 24th, 2005, 01:16 PM
  #21
sandi
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cooncat -

The maximum number of participants on OAT tours is 16. Now, compared to other tour company regardless the destination who often have numbers in the 20s, 30 and even 40 people for a tour, 16 is manageable. However, for their Africa trips they often don't even have 16.

That's not to say that the dates you pick might not have the max, but from friends who did their Tanzania trip with the Kenya post trip - may 8 or 10 for the Tanzania; only 4 on the Kenya post.

The OAT Africa itineraries provide mid-range price lodges and nice ones at that, and they have their own mobile tent site (as Leely mentioned above).

One of my friends uses OAT for lots of her travel... her husband doesn't like traveling, and she's always enjoyed the OAT offerings. Besides, with OAT you can avoid the single supplement if you're willing to share... often they don't find a "share" for you.

OAT does offer good value for the money and if it's in the money range that you can afford; you fit in the age group of between 45-80 (most in the 55-75 range)... there's bound to be someone in the group you'll get on with... then go for it.

 
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Jun 27th, 2005, 06:03 AM
  #22
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Thanks Sandi and everyone. It's funny you should mention the age group - This whole thing came about as a way for me to celebrate my 45th birthday! I have traveled in groups before as well, and I do not have a problem with people who are older than me. I am probably going to be traveling with a friend, anyway, who is an ornithologist. She's been to Africa once before. So that part isn't an issue. What would be an issue for me is if we wanted to change something on the fly - go off the itinerary because something is of more interest - and people are too anal to go with it. This could be my only trip for Africa - or at least I doubt I can afford to go back for a long time. So as much as I have any control over this, I do want it to be good! (duh!) As always, thanks for all the input.
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Jun 27th, 2005, 07:38 AM
  #23
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cooncat -

What would you want to change on the fly? Stay out longer on a drive? Go out for a full-day game drive? Skip game drives and do walks instead? I'm sure there may be others on your mind... but remember, it's not like walking to the corner and catching a bus to the next town. Taking a bus anywhere is almost a full day affair, if there is even one going to your destination.

That's the difference between a group tour which has set departure dates and a defined schedule - you know where you'll be every day. With a private safari, you also prepare an itinerary to meet your likes and dislikes and stick to it, but it's "your" itinerary. Certainly if you're in Nairobi or Arusha and wish to change the order of what's scheduled in these cities - sure you can. But once out on the road, there's not much you can do... the reason for good preplanning. Where do you want to go, why; where to stay, type of lodging, budget; number of days, etc.

That's not to say that backpackers might not have an easier chance of traveling by the seat of their pants, but even they have to depend on schedules of some sort... they too are you're out in the wilderness.
 
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Jun 27th, 2005, 08:16 AM
  #24
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To be honest, Sandi I'm not sure what I meant. But not catching a bus to another town! ;-) I suppose I meant for instance, if we are scheduled to drive to a specific area that day but we find halfway there that there is an incredible sight - some wild dogs or something, heck I don't know! - but that we'd be able to enjoy that and not just get to our next scheduled destination. Maybe this makes no sense and isn't applicable when in Africa. I just like a bit of flexibility, I guess.
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Jun 27th, 2005, 08:27 AM
  #25
 
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Cooncat, I'd be surprised if you could have a huge amount of flexibility since you wouldn't be permitted to (nor want to, I assume) spend the night out in the bush and you'd need to get to the accommodation reserved for you.

On a well-planned itinerary there is a lot of time built in during drives between accommodations to sight see so you should be able to stop and enjoy unexpected sightings but... there's always going to be a limit since you do need to reach that bed by nightfall.

My apologies if I've missed it but... have you shared a rough idea of the budget and duration you're thinking of? It's much easier for people to find options that may suit if they know these two things than if they're just guessing on a vague idea of what they think your budget is.
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Jun 27th, 2005, 09:13 AM
  #26
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Hi Kavey - I haven't posted a lot, other than I'm just getting started with plans, can't decide between Botswana and Tanzania/Kenya areas. I don't really know about budget, but I can tell you that it is a huge concern for me. I'd like to keep it to $5,000 (or less!) for a 15-19 day trip. If I go with Overseas Adventure Travel, I can come darn close, and that would include airfare. What do you folks think of the OAT itineraries? The Botswana one covers a lot of territory, and the Kenya/Tanzania trip looks nice, too. Opinions of these itineraries would be so appreciated. If there is another company I could contact to do a more custom trip, that perhaps would stay longer in a more desirable area, that would be great to know about. I don't need top-of-the-line luxury. But I'm not interested in "participation camping," either.
Thanks once again,
Sharon
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Jun 27th, 2005, 09:49 AM
  #27
 
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cooncat,
You've gotten me so curious about OAT that I'm halfway to scrapping my plans for 2006 and going with them.

I think their itineraries and accommodations look nice, and if you're not averse to a tour I don't see why you wouldn't go with them-- either to Kenya/Tanzania or Bots/
Zim/Namibia.

I guess what I would wonder about is whether their tours take you to the "right" places at the right times. I'm talking best park at best season, etc.

For example, I know very little about Namibia, but I know if I were to go, I'd love to visit Etosha, which I don't see on their itinerary. Is that because it's not a good time of year to visit Etosha? I've always heard about Etosha, so personally it would be difficult to me to fly all the way to that part of the world and skip it.

And then for Kenya/Tanzania, why don't they offer an Indian Ocean beach extension?

These are the kinds of thing I'd research before making a decision and booking. But of course one can't see/do everything in one trip!

Good luck. I'm sure you and your friend will have a great time whatever you decide.
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Jun 27th, 2005, 09:50 AM
  #28
 
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Sharon,
Thanks for giving more info. I know it's weird posting your budget on the net but it's easier for people to give a more targetted response.
I think the OAT itineraries look OK and their accommodation looks nice enough too, though if they are actually marketing themselves at older travellers, they will likely have a lot more of the older and less of the younger. That's not an issue in terms of getting on with people but might have an impact in daily schedules and so on as they may be designed to take into account stamina issues for older travellers.
Their itinerary and accommodation strike me as reasonable.

I've also heard various local operators recommended here on Fodors. I don't have experience with them but it may be worth doing a few searches here and seeing if anyone can recommend any for the areas of Africa that interest you. Sometimes local operators can offer just as high standards of accommodation, organisation, security and staffing at lower prices, though that's not always the case.
I don't know any local operators in Botswana as I opted for a bespoke Wilderness Safaris trip but I wonder if Mark at Taga Safaris might be able to help - he may even be able to put together a bespoke tour for you and your friend at a competitive price. Assuming you'd want to do that and don't actually prefer a group. I don't but I appreciate that many do. Worth researching OAT alternatives, anyway, I reckon?
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Jun 27th, 2005, 10:14 AM
  #29
 
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Sharon,
If you plan a custom itinerary in Kenya/Tanzania, it's primarily the game drives that you would have more flexibility and control over, i.e. staying longer at a sighting, schedule your drives for different times of day, going out on an all day drive, etc., without having to get group consensus. Your itinerary and accomodations would be pre-planned and fixed. That's not to say you absolutely couldn't change them after arrival, but at that point, it would likely cost you extra, if for example you wanted to leave a pre-booked lodge earlier than originally planned and head elsewhere.

I don't know about Botswana (and expect that's more expensive), but you should be able plan a custom 2 week safari in Kenya/Tanzania including economy airfare from the US with your $5000 (per person, right?) budget. I don't know where you'll be flying from but assuming $1500pp for air, that leaves you with $3500pp for the safari which is enough if you plan to stay in mid-range accomodations. If you travel in low season, you could probably get away with less than that amount or stay longer.

What you have to decide is whether you prefer group or independent travel. And by independent, I don't mean taking buses and backpacking
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Jun 27th, 2005, 10:18 AM
  #30
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Thanks again everyone. Leely, if you click on the Ultimate Africa safari option and look to the left, you'll see some links. One says "Insider's Perspective." Click on that and it gives details of the trip - what they see/do at each location. I get the impression that they go where the wildlife go at any given time, but I could be wrong. Granted, it is an INSIDERS view and could just be PR, but it is a bit more descriptive than the itinerary.

Also, I don't see anywhere that OAT actually caters to older folks. It could be that they are more cost friendly for some retirees, etc., and so that's who take these tours. It's funny - the first time I ever heard of OAT, it was owned by a Boston woman (I think it was Boston) and it seemed like a fairly rough and tumble operation. That was back in the '80s, though! Still, I am willing to delve further; if my friend and I can get a custom tour for a reasonable cost that would be great. But when I checked airfare to Botswana from my Midwestern town, it was about $3,000. Therein lies the rub! ;-)
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Jun 27th, 2005, 10:21 AM
  #31
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Patty - I didn't see your message. OF course I would prefer an independent travel experience! Absolutely. I just never dreamed it would be an option. And yes, that would be $5,000 per person. Any thoughts on someone/a company who could lead this trip for us? As always, thanks!!!!!!!
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Jun 27th, 2005, 10:41 AM
  #32
 
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cooncat,
Find traskyuk's posts--somewhere he(she?) posts his/her itinerary to TZ this June w/costs. I believe their party got a great price from Predator's in TZ.

And I think people have also mentioned that JanGoss manages to make many trips to Kenya suitable to her taste at a good price.

And many, many others.

I believe, perhaps mistakenly, that Botswana will be more expensive. Not sure about Zambia, though.

FYI, we are working with a budget similar to yours. Problem is the time we can travel is not terribly flexible, so half of our time will definitely be during peak season. Otherwise I'd be very confident we can stay within it.
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Jun 27th, 2005, 10:47 AM
  #33
 
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Cooncat -- For Kenya & Tanzania, the names you will see pop up on this board repeatedly are Roy's, TSA, Good Earth Tours, & many others. For $5,000 per person you should be able to get a very nice customized safari. My husband and I have booked a private safari for November-December with Good Earth, 15 nights in Tanzania, staying in a mix of accommodations (some luxury permanent tented camps, some lodges -- including Migration Camp, Ikoma Tented Camp, Serengeti Serena Lodge, Ndutu Lodge, Ngorongoro Serena Lodge, Gibbs Farm, Swala Tented Camp, and Kia Lodge), for just under $4,000 per person. This does not include international air but does include our flight from Arusha to Serengeti, park fees, meals, etc. -- pretty much everything except tips and the occasional bar tab.

When are you going?
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Jun 27th, 2005, 11:30 AM
  #34
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I'll look into Good Earth. We don't know when we're going - next year, but WHEN we go kind of depends on WHERE we go, if you know what I mean! (So far the dates are pretty flexible.)
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Jun 27th, 2005, 11:44 AM
  #35
 
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cooncat,

To address you original question, I did a mobile camping trip with Wilderness, staying in a couple of their lovely camps and doing the rest as mobile. For 12 nights, with one of those nights in Vic Falls, it was $3400 in 1997. The wildlife was stunning, the food was terrific and the 9 x 12 tents were comfortable.

That was probably the best African value I've experienced to date.

Wilderness and other companies, including go2Africa, CCAfrica, and Africa Adventure have these camping trips. You must book any of Wilderness's offerings through an agent. After I visit a few Botswana camps that I have always wanted to see, I think I'll go back to the mobile camping option to save $$.

As for the $3000 flight, if you check some discount air sites you can do far better than that. I too fly from the midwest but have never paid that much. You can also pick an agent that has deals with the airlines and offers discounted prices.

Email me if you wish. I will be gone for several weeks, though not to Africa, but will respond upon my return.
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Jun 27th, 2005, 12:58 PM
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Sharon,
Eastern & Southern Safaris is the tour operator that I've used (and will use again in November) and if you go on their website, you'll see a 15 night Kenya/Tanzania safari listed for $3482pp in high season (price is for 2005, so expect slight increase for 2006) - http://www.essafari.co.ke/esskt018.htm

This is just to give you an example of the cost of a mid-range safari booked through an in country tour operator based on 2 people sharing. They can customize your itinerary/accomodation however you'd like.

There are many other Kenya/Tanzania based tour operators that have been recommended here by others -

Wild Trek
Sun Trek
Southern Cross
Roy's
Good Earth

These are just the ones I've seen mentioned most often.
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Jun 28th, 2005, 06:19 AM
  #37
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Thanks again everyone. As someone suggested I am going to continue to ask questions on this same post. Other things I am wondering about: If I were to hire someone to do a private safari, how does it work in terms of meals, guides, etc.? Do you stay with the same driver/guide the whole time, going from camp to camp, or do they get you there and then do you join the lodge's/camp's activities? Do you eat the same lodge/camp meals as everyone or does the company you're working with do that? Another question is: If we go the private route, given my budget, do you think it would be possible to swing one or two nights at someplace like Mombo Camp if we go less expensive elsewhere or is my budget ($5,000 for 2 weeks inc. air) too low? I know I'll have more specific questions but this is enough for now. I have to say I really do appreciate everyone's input and time in responding so thoughtfully to these questions. Which reminds me, if there are any books that would help me plan/learn the safari ropes, let me know.

Thanks again!
Sharon
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Jun 28th, 2005, 09:45 AM
  #38
 
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Sharon,
I'm not sure if a budget of $5000 is enough for a 2 week safari including air in Botswana. I get the impression from other threads here that Botswana is much more expensive than East Africa or even other Southern Africa destinations. I hope someone else can answer that question for you.

To address your other questions - if you decide to do a custom safari in Kenya/Tanzania, you'll be eating the same meals prepared by the lodge or camp as everyone else staying there. If you're doing an all drive itinerary (or primarily driving with one way flight), you'll have the same vehicle and driver/guide throughout who will provide both your transportation from park to park and your game drives. If you're flying from park to park, then you'll utilize the lodge or camp vehicles and guides for your game drives, usually on a shared basis with other guests unless you choose to pay extra for a private vehicle. There are a few exceptions where the lodge or camp requires that you utilize their vehicles and guides for game drives whether you drive or fly in. This generally occurs only at high end properties and/or those located on private conservancies like Lewa in Kenya.

You can join other optional activities (safari walks, night game drives, etc.) offered at the lodge or camp regardless of how you arrive.
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Jun 28th, 2005, 01:16 PM
  #39
 
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Mombo is something like $1000 per person per night or something crazy isn't it? Particularly if you're only booking one night at a Wilderness Safaris camp, you're not going to get the lower rates they might give to someone doing a longer, all WS itinerary.

With your budget, Mombo is not an option unless you want to do a three day trip.

You can still see FANTASTIC wildlife and enjoy FANTASTIC experiences and so many other camps in Botswana and elsewhere in Africa.

If you could swing the budget without sacrificing the entire rest of the trip, I'd say, go for Mombo. I have had incredible sightings there and loved every minute of both stays. But if you can't afford it, don't feel you won't be getting a fabulous safari - some of my top safari experiences have been at other WS camps and some have even been when self-driving in national parks in South Africa, staying in self-catering accommodation!
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Jun 29th, 2005, 05:19 AM
  #40
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Yeah, it is really pricey. I suppose I was dreaming on this one! ;-) Just going to Africa will be so fabulous I can't believe I'm being so picky. It's just that the photos I'm seeing and the wildlife there seems pretty incredible. I'm going to do some more pondering on this but I do have another question. If I contact one of these companies, Good Earth, 2Africa, etc. Will they do an itinerary for me even if I don't end up hiring them? I mean, obviously, how would I know if they can provide what I want without asking... But is it acceptible practice to say "this is what I want, what can you do for me?" OK that will be it for this morning! THanks!
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