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Attn Africa specialists! So many safaris, how to choose??

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May 15th, 2002, 03:35 AM
  #1
Aarti
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Attn Africa specialists! So many safaris, how to choose??

Hi all. I am planning to go to Africa this december (for the first time) and I am thoroughly confused about what countires to visit?! There are so many options and all so enticing...theres Botswana, Namibia, Kenya, then Zimbabwe..the list goes on and on! The key factor would be good wildlife coupled with nice accomodation. Someone pls help! One more thing, I am an independant traveller but after reading all the reviews here, im having doubts about making my own reservations and doing my own thing! Can anyone recommend a good tour operator (Im living in Asia)? Since its my first time to Africa, any ideas or suggestions are welcome and appreciated.
Tnx, Aarti
 
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May 15th, 2002, 07:14 AM
  #2
Liz
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If you haven't already, put "African Safari" in your search engine. Start looking at pictures and safaris and decide what you want most to see. No one can really tell you, it really takes hours of research to at least decide on a country in Africa and then refine it to what areas in that country. As you examine available safaris, something will stand out. There are the best opportunities available online and you can decide who you want to work with there. Its best to be on a set safari before you leave home. Otherwise you'll face more trouble deciding after you get there I think. Since this is your first trip, be prepared because it won't be the last. This will open something new to you and what an excitement! Good luck. Liz
 
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May 15th, 2002, 12:31 PM
  #3
kavey
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Aarti

It depends on a number of factors...

These are some things which will very much help you decide:


Your budget

How important to you is the volume of other tourists? Game viewing is good in both Kenya/ Tanzania and Botswana/ South Africa but Kenya and Tanzania have a much higher level of visitors so a game sighting is often attended by a number of vehicules. In Botswana particularly, visitor numbers are very low and camps small so there is a different feel - the ratio of humans to animals is very different.

What style of accommodation do you want? Basic, mid or lux tents or lodges? Accommodation (generally) is more luxurious and expensive in Southern Africa than in Eastern, though there are some less expensive ways to see Southern Africa too.

Do you want to self drive? This rules out the Okavango Delta, where transport between camps tends to be by small charter planes such as cessnas (and therefore more expensive).

Do you want a guided tour or to go it alone?

Are you more interested in the larger game, bird life or landscape itself?

Do you have a yearning to climb Kilimanjaro?

How long do you want to go for?

I think the key two are budget and style of safari that you want?

Good Luck!

Kavey
 
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May 16th, 2002, 03:00 AM
  #4
Aarti
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Thanks u guys. This is all very helpful. I have another question, when do you think I should start making reservations etc.? Is it still too early for december? Should I wait a few more months? I will have round about 20 days in Africa. I dont want to be too ambitious, so how many countries do you think I should cover? Kavey, you're the Botswana expert, how would you rate it compared to Kenya or Namibia or Zimbabwe? I want to avoid very busy places. Ive heard animals go away from places that attract huge crowds. Im big on accomodation- luxury tents, or at least something different.

I really appreciate all the advice. Thanks once again.
 
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May 16th, 2002, 06:39 AM
  #5
kavey
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Aarti
I am not an expert by any means, I have been once to Kenya and Tanzania and once to Botswana and Namibia...
I AM very enthusiastic about Botswana and Namibia though, so I do post a lot!!!

Personally, with 20 days, I would go for the Southern Africa region.

I'd combine Namibia and Botswana with another country, probably South Africa. These countries offer the most wonderful range of accommodation as well as superb game viewing and low visitor numbers...

I hope you don't mind me asking, but do you have a rough idea of your budget at all? That will make a huge difference to what people recommend.

Feel free to email me if you don't want to post that kind of information here.

I'd definitely (personally) go for these areas over Kenya and Tanzania if it were me booking, and I had the money. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike those two countries, I just prefer the quieter experience we had in Botswana and Namibia. We felt closer to the animals and yet less intrusive too.

Kavey
 
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May 18th, 2002, 04:40 PM
  #6
nancy
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You don't mention your budget but for fantastic accommendations in permanent tented camps, Land Rover vehicles, good food and terrific wildlife viewing I recommend Abercrombie & Kent. I admit they're on the highest end of travel but they can't be beat. I saw it all in Kenya. We went from desert to rainforest to lake environments. Excellent guides. Did not feel I was in a heavy tourist environment. If you'd like my trip report, e-mail me directly.
 
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May 18th, 2002, 11:03 PM
  #7
Aarti
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Hi Nancy. I dont have a "strict" budget as such. Like I said in my earlier post, Im big on accommodation. Would like to explore all the available options (luxury catagory). Regarding A&K, I have heard they are good, but do they also cater to independant travellers? I dont want to be part of a tour/group with fixed dates. I prefer flexibility in travel. It will be very helpful to me if you could share more information about A&K and how they function. Thanks for your input.
 
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May 19th, 2002, 06:10 AM
  #8
kavey
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Aarti

I think one of your major decisions is going to be between East Africa and Southern Africa.

It's hard to help you with that, Nancy said she saw lots of wildlife and was lucky enough not to be surrounded by other travellers. Her trip sounds wonderful

When I went to Kenya and Tanzania, I also saw a reasonably high volume of game, but not always as close up as I would have liked and often surrounded by the vehicules of other groups. I very much enjoyed the experience but didn't feel it was as remote and exciting as my Southern Africa one.

My experience in Botswana and Namibia was far more comfortable (in terms of accommodations) and with much better game viewing, and less tourist numbers. I felt it was magical, and just so much more exciting than Kenya and Tanzania.
This is just my own experience though.

To look more into Southern Africa I would recommend for an operator you consider Wilderness Safaris, who have a great website where you can get a real feel for the lodges and camps available.

The one we loved the most (and was also the most expensive ) was Mombo.

http://www.wilderness-safaris.com

When you pull up a camp, there is a link for More Pictures which gives a great overview.

But if you like the look of them you'll need to find their preferred tour operator in your own country, they tend not to deal with customers direct. We combined camps they run with a couple that they didn't, our tour operator arranged it for us. Wilderness Safaris were our local contacts all the way through, even for the camps which weren't theirs.

Another site which is good for looking at the options is

http://www.go2africa.com/

Anyway, have fun deciding.

If I can help with any more answers about the safari I did to Namibia and Botswana last year, and how we found the accommodations, which ones were most luxurious and enjoyable and so on, please just ask.

Kavey
 
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May 19th, 2002, 07:16 AM
  #9
Aarti
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Thanks Kavey. I will check out wilderness website. I dont think I want to go to South Africa and Kenya anymore. Ive ruled them out. Saw some pictures of Little Mombo camp and it looked very good (better than other camps in zimbabwe or kenya). If i should decide on Botswana I will email you directly. By the way, what airlines did you fly within Africa?
 
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May 19th, 2002, 07:40 AM
  #10
kav
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Aarti

British Airways to get to Jo'burg and back from London and then straight on to Maun, no stopping in Jo'burg.

Then my itinerary just shows BP and SW as the airline codes for the two internal scheduled flights. I think whatever the national airlines are for Namibia and Botswana...

Mostly we used teeeny tiny cessnas (2-4 seaters) for hops between camps - this is WONDERFUL and such a view - like a longer higher balloon ride...

If you are scared of turbulence it may be a little scary but I have more faith in the little craft than the big jets so I loved it.

Do feel free to email me.

We combined Namibia and Botswana for 14 nights and we LOVED it. Such a contrast between the countries, just a perfect balance for us.

Our other favourite was Wolwedans Dune Lodge, the food was superb, better than any other camp we stayed in including Mombo, thanks to the German chef Ralph.

Kavey
 
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May 19th, 2002, 05:17 PM
  #11
Nancy
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Look up abercrombieandkent.com (I think that's the website) and request their brochures. I also talked to them on the phone but don't have the number. I know they do independent travel but it's really expensive (I think something like $1,000/day). As far as I know, they tour all over Africa.
 
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May 20th, 2002, 04:21 AM
  #12
Lisa
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My 2 cents.
If you want luxury,the choice of incredible camps and great sightseeing the experience of your life and the security of a first world infrastructure, I would not rule out South Africa in a hurry.

Look into travel agents that are consolidators for Southern Africa. I don't personally knbwo of any in Asia, but with the global network, I'm sure the travel agencies (which are in the States)I have recommended can help you. They do land arrangements as well as air fares. They will put together an unbelievable experience for a heck of a lot less than $1000 per day. Hell, for that price, I'll personally lead you. That is outrageous. You don't need the services of a private tour guide when you are at the camps, you have rangers and trackers for that. All the camps will arrange transfers for you. You need someone to arrange an itinerary for you and transportation between camps. And that is no big deal, really! At any point along your trip, transfers can be arranged.

Some travel agencies that specialise in SA are Premier Travel and Froesch/Frosch. If you need numbers and names of travel agents e-mail me. I am not affiliated with any agencies, just somebody who grew up there has traveled a lot to Southern Africa

There are unbelievable luxury camps in SA and the experience you get going off road to view the animals can't be beat.

You will also want to incorporate a trip to Victoria Falls.
With 20 days, you can definitely cover a lot of ground in Botswana, Namibia, Zim/Zambia and South Africa.

Good luck!
 
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May 21st, 2002, 03:58 AM
  #13
Tracy
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Hi there Aarti,
I have had dealings with a tour operator in South Africa, if you are interested in going there, they are a must. They are called Wild Sensations Tours & Safaris, they specialise in all kinds of safaris, and also did all my accommodation, and car rental bookings for the rest of my trip. contact them on [email protected]
Have fun, I did
Tracy
 
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May 21st, 2002, 10:39 PM
  #14
Aarti
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Thanks Kavey, Nancy, Lisa, Tracey. All of a sudden theres tons of information and im enjoying doing my research work I might have more questions as I narrow down my options. But for now, I appreciate your thoughts, inputs and advice.

One more thing, how early do you think I should book on these safaris? Is it advisable to reserve early (because of volume of tourists)?
 
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May 22nd, 2002, 12:29 AM
  #15
kavey
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Aarti
Some of the camps I have mentioned have only a handful of tents/ lodges so its best to book early to get the dates and itinerary you want.
Mombo is the busiest and best to try and book 12 months in advance or more though you may be fine booking less than that depending on dates.
Have fun planning!
Kavey
 
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May 22nd, 2002, 04:30 AM
  #16
Jacqueline
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Definitely do Zimbabwe. I actually just finished 12 days in the bush and I'm on the last leg of my trip in South Africa. We started in Zimbabwe at Vic Falls, then went to a Safari Camp (Matetsi), from there went to Namibia and then to the Okvango Delta. Zimbabwe is desperate for tourism and kind of expensive. However, there is NO danger what so ever. If you want go to the Zaire side of the Zambize river. But definitely if you can check out the Matetsi Water Safari Camp just outside the falls. We kind of regret staying at the falls and wished we went to the falls from Matetsi instead. The lodge accommodations were INCREDIBLE, the staff amazing, and the sightings ideal. We saw heards of elephant, giraffe, and a plethora of other animals. The only place you can really see Rhino is in South Africa, and we were lucky to see Lion on the Chobe.

Good luck. If you want a great agent, call African Portfolio in Greenwich, CT and ask for Yvette. I don't have their number with me, but I'm sure you canfind it online or through the 1-800 directory.

 
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May 27th, 2002, 09:37 AM
  #17
Klavey
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Jacqueline,
Where did you stay in the delta, and how did you find it?
Kavey

 
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May 27th, 2002, 09:37 AM
  #18
Kavey
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Jacqueline,
Where did you stay in the delta, and how did you find it?
Kavey

 
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May 27th, 2002, 06:14 PM
  #19
Rocco
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I had different luck than the above poster at Matetsi. While I suppose the accomodations are luxurious compared to most game lodges, and I did get it a 50% discount, I was not at all satisfied with Matetsi. The Rangers were incredible, but not once in my 3 night stay was my Ranger ever supplied with a tracker and this made game spotting futile.
Plus, we did not see any predators whatsoever, after seeing too many to count in South Africa. Matetsi borders a hunting lodge and also many poachers cross the border to hunt what few predators are left at Matetsi.
The Falls are absolutely amazing but if I were to ever return, I would stay two nights at the Victoria Falls Hotel, heads and shoulders above the others, and then for my game viewing go elsewhere, although I must admit that the Zambezi River is one of the most beautiful places in the world and the location of Matetsi Game Lodge could not be better for its scenery...its just to bad they dropped the ball on just about everything else.
Two places I would recommend are Singita and Royal Malewane in South Africa.
 
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