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Anyone taken Oddysseys Unlimited "Africa's Wildlife" tour?

Anyone taken Oddysseys Unlimited "Africa's Wildlife" tour?

Mar 12th, 2019, 06:44 AM
  #1  
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Anyone taken Oddysseys Unlimited "Africa's Wildlife" tour?

Thinking of taking this tour in October. We've done one other with them and it was wonderful. But I know not all trips are the same. We are normally people who do independent travel but this sounds complicated to do on our own and so we are thinking of booking with them again.Any help you could give would be welcome.

Dianedancer is offline  
Mar 12th, 2019, 07:04 AM
  #2  
 
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Why do you think an independent trip, planned by a safari specialist, would be complicated?

I've planned four itineraries to that area so far, and each trip ranked up with the easiest I've ever taken. Get a travel planner to do a custom itinerary, just like many on this forum have done, and go on your own. At the lodges you will be with other people on the game drives if you do not hire your own vehicle, which is not necessary for most people.
ekscrunchy is offline  
Mar 12th, 2019, 07:15 AM
  #3  
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ekscrunchy - Cold you tell me which specialists you used?
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Mar 12th, 2019, 07:17 AM
  #4  
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Also - Wondering about the drives between sites. Did yo rent a car or was transportation planned for you? On the Odysseys tour there are two flights included - domestic between countries.
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Mar 12th, 2019, 09:14 AM
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Definitely don't take any packaged tour. All 5 of my safaris have been customized to me, my travel companions and our schedules. We maximize our time on the ground and work within our time and financial constraints. There's no way I'd want to do a safari with any more people than those I choose to travel with. Find a travel specialist for African safari, give them your wishlist and budget and start evaluating itineraries.

Looking at the itinerary you cite above, that's a lot of money to spend for just five days of actual safari. It's not that much "Africa Wildlife" for 12 days on the ground. You can do far, far better than that, and traveling in something much smaller than a throng of fellow tourists.

I'd recommend either The Wild Source, Gamewatchers or Africa Travel Resource for a multi-country itinerary (if that's what you really want). I just booked a blockbuster Zambian safari for 2020 with Africa Travel Resource and they did an excellent job stretching my budget for exactly what I wanted to do and see in high season! I've worked with the other two as well and think you'd be well-served talking to all three, you just need a sense of what you're expecting to do/see on this safari.
amyb is online now  
Mar 12th, 2019, 09:16 AM
  #6  
 
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From another few replies I've made to similar questions:

What you need to decide before you contact a safari planner:
1) Your budget (excluding international flights) -- know that this is all inclusive usually, but for the tips. I take very little spending money with me as it's just tipping local staff. Sticker shock usually hits until you realize this is ALL meals, ALL entertainment, ALL room and board for the entire trip.
2) Days on the ground available and time of year (excluding travel time to/from Africa) -- migrations, rainy seasons, high seasons, all factor into overall costs and when it's best to go to certain areas.
3) Your interests -- Big cats? Elephants? Reptiles? Gorillas? Birds? Beach time? Village visits? Some areas/countries are better than others for certain wildlife.
4) Lodging types -- do you need soaker tubs and swimming pools? Do you want to stay in tents in the bush (with beds and full bathrooms)? Do you need electricity/wifi/ solid walls?
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Mar 13th, 2019, 05:36 AM
  #7  
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amyb - The Odysseys tour would be about $6k per person without their air. Going at the beginning of October. Except for the lead coordinator, all tips are included. I would like to see Victoria Falls and would want that as part of our tour. I'm wondering if doing the same itinerary through one of the companies you mention would be less than what it costs through Odysseys.
Did you drive yourselves from place to place?
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Mar 13th, 2019, 05:38 AM
  #8  
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Oh and, what did the tour companies charge you for th heir services? Thanks.
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Mar 13th, 2019, 08:33 AM
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Diane, the itinerary is whatever you want it to be. If you want Victoria Falls, tell them. If you want the wine route in S. Africa, tell them. I've never been on a safari where I drive myself, but if you want to do that, I'm sure there are places that will let you self-drive. Any itinerary from the safari planners is usually all inclusive except for tips and top shelf drinks and sometimes laundry. Every safari I've done includes transport from touchdown to takeoff, includes guiding and all activities, permits, camp or park fees, meals and accommodation. (To be clear, what I recommended to you are not tour operators; safari planners work with independently owned and operated lodges and camps to put together an itinerary that fits your needs. This itinerary is put together based on what you want, not a canned itinerary that can be sold to any random person)

I was pointing out though that for an "African Wildlife" itinerary, you're spending less than half the time actually seeing wildlife. I wasn't sure you'd noticed that. For a large group tour where you'll be shuttled around en mass, that is a high price for that itinerary in my opinion.

The companies I referred you to do not charge you. They are often paid by the lodges/camps they book you with. As I've used them before, I can vouch for both the pricing and customer service. They are not like generic travel agents who charge you a percentage of what you've booked through them.
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Mar 13th, 2019, 08:48 AM
  #10  
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Thanks amyb. I looked up two of the companies you mentioned. One had set" itineraries - perhaps just for reference or in case you just want to ha everything planned for you and you don't have to think about it and plan it with them . But I noticed that flights within Africa were not included in the prices and the prices were already quite high. Short hops to the bush camps were included but not flights between countries. Thus, that would be quite an added expense. However, I will check further.

I traveled with Odysseys for a South America/Patagonia trip. There were 24 of us. It was fortunately a great group of people. However, I doubt that's always the case and I do wonder what this Africa group may be like. We usually travel independently and have only take a two group trips. One to the aforementioned Patagonia, and one on a river cruise in Russia.

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Mar 13th, 2019, 09:32 AM
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Yes, there are set itineraries from all of them if you look hard enough but those are usually starting points or ways to generate ideas for you to think about. As I said, none of these places offer "tours" the way Odysseys does. These are custom itineraries, starting, ending and playing out the way you want them to.

I would not want to do any game drives with a group of 24, or even 10. Even if they are a great group of people, that would likely be 6 to 8 in a vehicle traveling as a swarm and everyone with different interests to be met. What if you have birders in your vehicle and you want to see cats? (Or vice versa?) What if you hate elephants? Don't want to see reptiles? How does a guide satisfy 8 people that way? What if the people in your vehicle don't want to be up for sunrise and you do? Or if they want to do a game drive before dinner and you want an early night? Or if you want to wait to see a pair of lions mate or cheetahs hunt and others are bored and want to move on? I think safari is one of those things people usually only do once, and I'd want to make it spectacular, not something that I have to keep compromising to please others. Keeping it to you and your traveling partner(s) lets you set the pace, set the schedule for the day and make sure that you get what you want to see.

I've done safaris well within your price range before. I do think though that once you're going to two or three countries, you need to increase your budget to include the airfare, that's just common sense. ATR will book all your airfare between countries through a partner of theirs if you're not comfortable doing it on your own. I booked my Kenya-Rwanda air myself and just told the safari planner when I'd be at the airport for my transfer to the next camp. This is all my two cents, take it for what it's worth, but you did ask for feedback on the itinerary, and I'm offering it. I think you can get a far better experience doing it on your own.
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Mar 13th, 2019, 10:27 AM
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I agree with Amyb. We used one of the agencies she recommenced (Gamewatchers). The travel planner and I had a long discussion about what were our priorities and what did we want to see. Based on that, we only did Kenya. Rather than bounce between Kenya and Tanzania - which adds cost, time, and headache, we stayed in Kenya. We did 4 different safari camps - and loved every one, but for different reasons.

I was so glad we listened. Look at the itinerary- do you absolutely have to go to Johannesburg? We decided we weren't going to Africa to see cities, but to see camps and wildlife. That eliminated 4 hours flying to/from J'burg. Maybe another trip, but I will spend that entire trip in SA.

Victoria Falls? Interested? yes, we were. But we went in April, when the rivers are flowing and it was suggested that we would only see the spray and never the falls because they were strong that time of year. Good advice - I would have never known it, but struck that and the hassle factor that went with it.

So, a good travel agent can minimize the moving between and maximize the viewing.

When I look at that itinerary, these are my initial thoughts:
day 1: travel (no benefits to you from travel agency - a bit deceptive to list it as part of the tour)
day 2: arrive in J'burg (nothing planned, no benefits except breakfast, which is probably a hotel thing)
day 3: meet tour group BLD - day on a bus visiting local sights
day 4: fly to Victoria Falls, BD - "see" the falls. anything else planned or on your own?
day 5: Vic Falls - BD - morning game drive, evening cruise. **good activities day**
day 6: Vic Falls - BD - morning visit to town and "local village" - afternoon at leisure, speaker at dinner
day 7: Vic Falls/Botswana - BLD - visit Vic Falls school, then 2 hour coach ride, afternoon safari trip
day 8: Botswana - BLD - safari, cruise ** good activities day**
day 9: see day 8
day 10: Botswana - Zambia - BLD - morning flight, afternoon for "safari activities"
day 11: Zambia - BLD - full safari
day 12: see day 11
day 13: morning flight to Lusaka, day hotel rooms, evening departure flight
day 14: arrive US (tour company does nothing)

So day 1 and 2 and then 13 and 14 don't count. The agency is providing minimal benefits (other than transportation). No wildlife viewing.

Is it really worth it to go all the way to J'burg for 2 days? One unplanned - on you, one group.

anyway, those are my initial thoughts... (oh yeah, and anytime they don't include lunch, I would be hesitant. Eating could be a challenge if someone hasn't taken care of it for you. I am assuming you are in major towns/cities on those days?)

oops, another add: consider booking airfare yourself. When we went - in April - it was less than $1,000 RT through Frankfurt. My kiddo is going to Tanzania/Kenya this summer for a service trip and just booked airfare in May for less than $900 RT.
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Mar 13th, 2019, 11:39 AM
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Could either of you tell me the number of days you went and the cost(excluding international air)? I understand that this may be, and probably will be for us, a once in a lifetime excursion and certain amount of $ should be expected to be spent. But 15k for the two of us is wildly expensive (with air) for us. We really have to discuss further.

No we don't have to go to Johannesburg, but flying NYC to other places in Africa usually involves two days of flight travel and three planes.
I will look into your suggestions further.
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Mar 13th, 2019, 12:21 PM
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Diane, I think you can fly direct from JFK to NBO (Nairobi) now? I looked into that flight directly to J'burg and decided against it. You depart at 11am and arrive at 8am. Basically, the day is shot that you leave on ... and by arriving at 8am, you are also somewhat limited.

We left PHL at 6pm - connected through FRA and arrived at 8pm the next evening. Went to the hotel, got food, and were up the next day ready to go. As much as I hate connecting (and I HATE connecting!), I liked getting in at 8pm, going to bed and ready to go the next morning.

For our return, we departed NBO at 10pm, arrived in FRA at 5am, got a day room at an airport hotel and departed FRA at 1:30pm for our flight back to PHL. Not terrible.

our itinerary looked like this:
4/7 - arrive 8pm, transfer to hotel
4/8 - transfer us to Giraffe Manor, B at hotel, L/D at Giraffe Manor, Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage visit
4/9 - pickup at hotel, go to Wilson airport, fly to Samburu. safari drive en route to camp, LD at camp, safari drive
4/10 - Samburu BLD (visit local village also)
4/11 - fly from Samburu to Nanyuki. safari drive en route to camp, stay in Ol Pejeta
4/12 - Ol Pejeta
4/13 - fly from Nanyuki to Masai Mara, game drive en route to camp, afternoon game drive
4/14 - Masai Mara (Olare Mara) (hot air balloon ride)
4/15 - Masai Mara (Olare Mara)
4/16 - transfer to Mara North to a different camp at Masai Mara
4/17 - Masai Mara
4/18 - Mara North - Wilson flight (back to Nairobi) - day room at hotel - private visit at Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage - depart NBO at 10pm

email me at surf_mom at live dot com and I will share pricing. Remember, we had some pretty special things included - a private visit to Sheldrick, an overnight at Giraffe Manor, and some pretty nice camps. Our safari camps were:
Samburu - Elephant Bedroom Camp
Ol Pejeta - Porini Rhino
Masai Mara - Olare Mare Kempinski
Masai Mara - Serian Ngare
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Mar 13th, 2019, 12:49 PM
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Diane Iíve done 5 safaris for 12-14 days for under $8k all in and I paid single supplements on three of them. I fly from Boston usually on KLM through Amsterdam. (There is now direct flight JFK to Nairobi on Kenya Airways which is quite affordable and good...) You however are going to two of the most expensive countries for safari and not spending much time in either. The constant moving around coupled with the expense of Botswana and Zambia is going to make this trip more expensive so your $15k for two may not be reasonable but you wonít know unless you actually reach out to a safari planner with answers to the questions I posted up top and see what they come up with. They will also offer guidance on how best to get value for your time and have access to package deals at lodges or camps that you donít know about. Not knowing what theyíll say for certain, my advice is to pick one country (or another, cheaper country like Kenya or Tanzania) and really focus on it. As you saw above, others who have been donít see a lot of great value in the itinerary youíre proposing despite the very attractive price; what is your reaction to what she posted about it?
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Mar 13th, 2019, 03:37 PM
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Diane: All my trips to southern Africa have been planned by Liesl Matthews at www.SouthernDestinations.com in Capetown. They have a US office as well. You can take advantage of the great exchange rate between US dollars and SA rand if you pay all or part in rand. This is one reason why I like to use an agent based in or near the country to which I will be traveling.

I've given Liesl's name to a number of others on this forum and as far as I know, they've all been thrilled with her trips. A few have written trip reports which were glowing. She works with all kinds of budgets. Truthfully, I would skip Vic Falls on the first trip. Too much money to get there and too much to see elsewhere to merit it as a stop. If you want, contact her and give her a budget and time frame and see what she can come up with. I can assure you that it will be a lot better than an organized tour.
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Mar 14th, 2019, 04:18 AM
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Hi again. We don't want to go to South Africa but I will check out the name you supplied ekscrunchy. I am concerned about the countries who allow trophy hunting and SA is the very top of the list. But I know there are others.

Yes, there are direct flights from JFK to Nairobi now but it's on Kenya Air which have gotten terrible reviews - entertainment doesn't work, crew is not helpful and is uninterested. I've read the same about South Aftica air. Coupled with the fact that my husband who isn't crazy about flying in the first place and the recent crash, I don't think we'll be taking Kenya Air. Unfortunately.

All your recommendations and suggestions have been eye opening. Thanks.
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Mar 14th, 2019, 05:33 AM
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Iíve actually flown Kenya Air on the NYC route as recently as four months ago and it was quite good. They arrived an hour early and it was an incredibly smooth flight with friendly service. I was very pleased, especially at the $860 round trip economy price! Thatís half what KLM via Amsterdam usually costs. IĒm not sure where youíre reading your airline reviews, but Iíve never heard anything negative about SAA and I know many people who routinely fly that route to get to South Africa and Zimbabwe.
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Mar 14th, 2019, 10:06 AM
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The only negative thing I heard about SAA is that it's too expensive. Flying from JNB to CPT all of the CPT locals on my tour were using Mango or Kulula. I used FlySafair.

I believe there are far more elephants in Kruger (in fact an overpopulation) as compared to countries such as Kenya and Tanzania where poaching is a huge problem.

At least the South Africans are taking steps to address the rhino poaching problems (mostly in and out of Madagascar) and they don't issue permits for leopards.

Last edited by mlgb; Mar 14th, 2019 at 10:10 AM.
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Mar 15th, 2019, 04:47 AM
  #20  
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I've read the reviews on airlinequality. I try to focus on flights comparative to the ones we would take i.e., NY or EWR to whatever city we're going to. Guess that MAX plane is out of service now. I read multiple reviews of SAA's crew that were less than flattering.
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