Are these Botswana Prices Right?!

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Feb 8th, 2005, 10:04 PM
  #1
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Are these Botswana Prices Right?!

I am blown away by the prices I have been quoted for my Botswana Safari in the end of August. I travel the world and I have NEVER seen prices like these at even the most luxurios places!!! I am having a hard time swallowing ~$8000 PER PERSON for 7 days!!!

Here is the itinerary I have now:
Victoria Falls River Club Chalet (2)
Little Vembura (3)
Little Mombo (2)
Kings Pool (2)
This is priced around $8500pp. $1600 for two of us...good lord! We are sharing a room!

Are these prices right?! Have you guys seen better prices for these camps elsewhere? Where can I go to get more competitive quotes? I know these are the nicer camps, but I mean, are they serving me gold?? Here are the camps that I am interested in:

Little Mombo
Kings Pool
Duba Plains
Tubu Tree
Xigera

Has anyone seen, worked with, knows anyone who can provide prices that are more within the realm of reality?

Please advise...
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Feb 8th, 2005, 10:27 PM
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ctheworld,

With a little work, you may be able to get that itinerary down to about $7,000 per person!

For a comparison, here is what I am getting for about the same price in Zambia, at the beginning of September, including transfers starting and ending in Johannesburg.

Kasaka River Lodge, Lower Zambezi National Park (4) www.kasakariverlodge.com

Kutandala, North Luangwa National Park (4) www.kutandala.com

Luangwa River Lodge, South Luangwa National Park (3) www.luangwariverlodge.com

Puku Ridge, South Luangwa National Park (3)

HERE ARE RACK RATES (I am not going to specify my exact rates, as they will vary from agent to agent, but I was able to get slightly below rack rates)

Kasaka River Lodge = $2,280 ($285 pppns)

Kutandala = $3,200 ($400 pppns)

Luangwa River Lodge = $2,100 ($350 pppns)

Puku Ridge = $2,400 ($400 pppns)

Air transfers = $1,750

GRAND TOTAL = $11,730 ($5,860 pp) for a 14 night Zambian Safari

I am also adding 2 nights in Joburg at the Westcliff Hotel ($500 total for 2 nights) and 3 nights in the Sabi Sand at Simbambili (about $3,750 total, including air).

So, ultimately, my 19 night Zambian / South African holiday, with 17 nights on safari, will cost me $15,980 for a couple sharing, and that is rack rates, but again, I am shaving a few points off of rack rate for an even better deal.

I would love to see Botswana, but I refuse to pay those kinds of prices. Even a less expensive option in Botswana such as Kwando (www.kwando.com) will still run you around $1,350 per night by the time you include your air transfers.

I entertained Botswana this year, but my experience was much like yours and it sent me running to Zambia where I do think I will have an amazing time for half the price, despite some very long and costly air transfers.

One final tip to keep your costs down...your average visit to each place is only 2.25 nights. Stay a while! Each transfer costs a few hundred dollars and it adds up. Perhaps by switching to Zambia or Zimbabwe you can extend your stays instead of only popping in for 2 days at each place.
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Feb 8th, 2005, 11:09 PM
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CTheWorld

You have included some of the most expensive camps available so, yes, the prices are right.

First point is to remember that pricing is very much related to supply and demand. Mombo and Little Mombo have only 12 tents between them and a very good reputation indeed. Both times we have stayed at LM we have been blown away by the game viewing. For that reason they are always in demand and they have no trouble selling rooms even at that price. They only charge what the market bears...

Second point is to remember that, unlike a hotel, you are paying for a number of additional elements. The night charge includes a flight to and from the camp, all activities with experienced guides, all meals and most drinks. Maintenance and food are more expensive than in many city hotels because of the logistics of getting supplies out to the camp.

Best thing is to decide what is your key motivator. Is it to experience a safari in the most luxurious environment possible? In that case you may well prefer places like Singita and other South African lodges. Is it to see certain game and certain environments? In that case you can see same areas but stay at less luxurious camp - Wilderness Safaris have a number of classic camps that offer similar facilities but less space/ style in terms of accommodation. Is it to find a luxury safari experience at a better price? In that case you might want to look into Zambia which still has lower prices for similar camps.

For what it's worth, we knew the prices of Little Mombo compared with other camps and I put in enough research to know all my alternatives. We still chose to include Little Mombo on our second trip and we certainly were not sorry we did so.
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Feb 9th, 2005, 01:58 AM
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From what I have read and heard it 'uis' expensive. Some friends had a great trip planned, flying from Asia to Nairobi, do some local safari, head into Tanzania for same, down to Victoria Falls, then into Botswana and fly back from Jo'burg.

The bottom line is that apart from a visit to a Safari Park near Nairobi and 2 nights at the Falls they just simply could not entertain the prices, they are not 'poor', he workds in a Bank and his wife is an Optician, but the prices just thru them sideways.
I too would simply love to take the family on such a trip but we can simply never find anything reasonable price, great shame indeed.
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Feb 9th, 2005, 02:01 AM
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If anyone can come up with some ideas for a reaonable price Safari with perhaps the Vic falls would love to know about it. Would be wonderful to take the family back there ( I am from SA originaly ), would love them to see the Falls and enjoy some Safari whilst the kids are at the age where it could become a lifetime memory of adventure, but we live in Asia so I don't know if such accommodation / tours are available or not.
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Feb 9th, 2005, 05:04 AM
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ctheworld

There is a number of reasons why Botswana is so expensive.
First of all the Botswanan government has a policy of only attracting "high end tourism". The camps are leasing the land from the government and as some of the leased areas cover up to 500,000 acres that can be quite costly.
Here you should remember that safari camps in other countries either operate in much smaller leased areas or in National parks where they only have to pay an entrance fee.
Another high cost for Botswanan camps is general supplies. For the most remote camps it is a 33 hour drive by all wheel drive trucks to the nearest shop. For most camps it is still a 15-20 hour drive. this includes drinking water and so on. Certain food items have to be flown in.
Operating a safari vehicle is also quite costly due to the terrain. In Namibia I was given an estimate of 2 USD pr mile by a camp manager.
On top of that you have a high staff to guest ratio and again because of the location of the camps the staff actually lives next to the camp.
All in all the cost adds up.
The game viewing in Botswana is fantastic and combined with the quality of guiding and the exclusive use of huge areas where you probably will not see any other vehicles for a full day, makes the prices seem more realistic /allthough you have chosen the most expensive).
I will be going in October for the 3rd time in 4 years and it will not be the last time!!
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Feb 9th, 2005, 05:23 AM
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You have selected a couple of 6-paw camps, which are very expensive, and those prices seem in the ballpark -- you may be able to get a better quote with legwork, but I don't think you'd save enough to justify the time and effort to bombard operators seeking better quotes.

But if that quote is from a US-based operator, you may do better by contacting an operator based in South Africa, some of whom have longstanding relationships with Wilderness and can get favorable quotes.

I visited Botswana in August 2001, and stayed at two Wilderness camps (Savuti and Chitabe), both of which are 5-paw camps, but it was also very expensive.

Botswana has opted to for low volume, high value visitors, and you could do better price wise in Zambia or Zimbabwe.

Michael
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Feb 9th, 2005, 10:11 AM
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That seems high to me..but I only have limited experience. We just spent a month is SA and Botswana. The only camp on your list was Xigera and we had 3 nights at Vistoria Falls Hotel. Total came to $8,000 per person..included all flights between camps and car hire for 2 weeks.
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Feb 9th, 2005, 01:45 PM
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There are probably a couple of easy ways to reduce those costs. The first which hasn't been mentioned yet is August is prime time for Wilderness Safaris operations in Botswana. I traveled in January of 2003 and was able to go for about 30-40% less than dry season costs, the only way I was able to afford it at the time. Wildlife viewing was incredible and at Duba Plains we were two of only 4 guests. Even Mombo wasn't completely full. If you have flexability you could save a good bit of money going at a different time of year and by picking the correct camps for the time of year don't have to sacrifice wildlife viewing to do so.

Secondly, as has been pointed out those are the highest priced camps. King's Pool is situated in the same habitat area as Duma Tau and Savuti. They often sight the same wild dog packs and lion prides from all of these camps. This is an easy place to save money as paying more is not going to deliver a different experience outside of being at the more luxurious camp. Often times it is the camp managers and fellow guests that really make one camp more special than the others -- they are all very nice. While my stay at Mombo was the most luxuriously set we far enjoyed the service and company at Duba Plains and Duma Tau much more.

Finally, to be in Botswana and view the amazing wildlife without having to see another vehicle and not being restricted to a road is a truly special experience. Seeing brother lions by yourself is such a different feeling than being in Etosha with 5 other cars. It is worth every penny for anyone who is fortunate enough to be able to afford it and I think it would be near impossible to find anyone who has been and doesn't think they got their money's worth.
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Feb 9th, 2005, 04:52 PM
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hi ...just to let you know that 3nights in mombo camp and 3 nights in kings pool is costing me $5000 per person ....but these are the top rated camps especially mombo camp and for my wife and i its a once in a life time trip ....so we have to do it right also going victoria falls ...royal livingstone..and to mozambique ...
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Feb 9th, 2005, 05:54 PM
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Not to take anything away from a Mombo or Kings Pool, but after three consecutive years on safari, I am finding that I don't really start to FEEL Africa until I am at least one week into a safari.

Sure, by staying at a Mombo and Kings Pool you will probably see everything that you came to see, but after a certain amount of time, it becomes a more spiritual encounter, rather than a "I stayed at Mombo" (or as it was for me, an "I stayed at Singita") kind of bragging rights encounter.

Unless I could somehow afford an extended time in Botswana that included a minimum of 3 or 4 nights at each Mombo and Kings Pool (along with a couple other game lodges for a similar duration), I just would not do it.

The gameviewing in Botswana may very well be the best in Southern Africa, but I can assure any potential visitors that the gameviewing is very strong in Zambia, especially in high season, and for no more than an average of about $400 per person per night, it is possible to stay in some pretty fantastic lodges.

I do not intend to be a "thread jacker" here, but when I see an unsatisfied person, as ctheworld seems to be, then I think that my suggestions would be well worth consideration.

Again, ctheworld, if you have the time, take that same amount of money and relax a bit in Zambia.

Track lions on foot in North Luangwa at Kutandala, the most exclusive bush camp in Southern Africa with only six possible guests and a trained gourmet chef onsite. No more than 24 guests at a given time are allowed between the three game lodges in North Luangwa, a park about 1,700 sq. miles in size.

Enjoy canoeing, bush walks and game drives in Lower Zambezi National Park at the very highly regarded Sausage Tree Camp, Chiawa Camp or Kasaka River Lodge. While canoeing may not be the same as sitting in a mekoro while a guy pushes you around with a stick, somehow I think it would measure up quite well to canoe on the Zambezi River. During my time last year at Kulefu in Lower Zambezi, canoeing was the definite highlight and was a real adrenaline rush, to say the least, as we passed literally hundreds of hippos and crocodiles, while also spotting elephants, buffalo and countless antelope and birds of different variety.

South Luangwa is an awesome place and here you have luxury choices such as Chichele Presidential Lodge, Puku Ridge and Luangwa River Lodge. I will be staying at Luangwa River Lodge in high season for less than 1/3 the price of Mombo. I am not going to compare the gameviewing to Mombo, but again it is very strong and unless you are spending a couple weeks on safari, I just don't see the point in investing so heavily in a couple different lodges only to be in and out with only a week on safari. Just my take on things but that is a personal decision. I would never question anyones decision to stay at a Mombo who has the wherewithal to spend an adequate amount of time on safari before and after Mombo, it is just the 2 days here, 2 days there, that seems like a waste to me, no offense.

You are already visiting Zambia with the River Club...just change directions and go north instead of west and enjoy a 15+ night luxury safari for the same price as your 7 night safari!
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Feb 10th, 2005, 10:21 PM
  #12
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Thanks everyone for all your helpful feedback.

From what I have heard, most of the Zambia camps are "walking safaris" so you end up hiking all around the bush. Is this true? Or is it basically the same as in Botswana?
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Feb 11th, 2005, 08:32 AM
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ctheworld: Zambia is famous as the birthplace and best place for walking safaris but it is possible to do an all driving safari as well.
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Feb 11th, 2005, 09:44 AM
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ctheworld,

The only place you cannot do game drives in Zambia is in North Luangwa. If you choose to do so, you will have no problem at all sticking to only game drives in either South Luangwa, Lower Zambezi or Kafue National Park.

Lower Zambezi also offers game viewing by motorized boat, and this may be a fun option for you. I do, however, think you would probably be best off skipping the canoeing, as this is a bit unnerving with all the hippos and crocs. While I felt completely safe on bush walks, canoeing remains a bit scary for me, but I love the adrenalin rush, so I continue to do it!
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Feb 12th, 2005, 06:00 AM
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Rocco you said october will be the busiest with hippos and animals around the rivers. Does this mean it will be impossible to do canoeing that time of the year? I guess i wont dare too
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Feb 12th, 2005, 06:18 AM
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Alejandra,

You will be able to do canoeing year round on the Zambezi while in the Lower Zambezi National Park area.

Unless you have a death wish, you will not do canoeing, no matter what the month, in the Luangwa River. It is a very shallow river and has one of the highest densities of hippo and crocodiles of any river in the world.

Canoeing is only for the Lower Zambezi or if you happen to visit Victoria Falls. However, if you are feeling brave, you may bring your own canoe and try to canoe in these conditions:

http://www.nyanjasafaris.co.uk/image...Hippo_Hide.JPG

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Feb 12th, 2005, 08:09 AM
  #17
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OK Everyone, I just got a fairly good quote from my agent which I *think* I should be happy with. What I found out from this board is that I should go through a South African Based company for my safari quotes.

Can you guys let me know what you think of this price or if you have seen lower prices IN AUGUST? Here is my itinerary:

Kings Pool (2)
Chitabe (2)
Mombo (2)
Vumbura Main (2)

Total: $7080pp, or $885pp/per night

(By the way I am OK w/ 2 nights in each place. I am already shaking in my boots as it is for 8 whole nights!)

Thanks.
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Feb 12th, 2005, 10:35 AM
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Your prices look about right for the quality of lodges that you're looking at. It looks like a great trip!

By the way, on my first two trips to Africa, we stayed 2 nights in each camp as well. I think that's perfect for a first trip. While sometimes it was hard to pack up and move again, we were able to experience more diverse habitats/wildlife and a variety of lodges. We're currently planning our next trip and we know exactly what we're looking for in a lodge. As a result, most of our stays will be 3 nights.

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Feb 12th, 2005, 03:35 PM
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ctheworld,
those prices look about right for high season. mombo should be about 1100pppn, vumbura and kings pool should be close to 1000 and chitabe should be about 700. if i were you i would choose duma tau or savuti over kings pool and that would bring your cost down by about 600pp. the viewing will be in the same vicinity and u will experience 6 paw accomodations at both mombo and vumbura so i doubt you will need it as well at kings pool. when we visited kings pool in sept 02, we drove to duma tau to check out the wild dogs.
i would stick with mombo and vumbura bc they are the 2 best game viewing camps i have ever been. the cats abound at these 2 places. i'll really jealous of you itinerary as i definitely would like to see mombo in aug/sep.
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Feb 12th, 2005, 03:44 PM
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sorry i slightly overpriced the camps as i was looking at singles. it should be mombo 1100, vumbura/kings pool 800 and chitabe 600, but my statement otherwise remains the same.
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