Best Bang For the Buck?

Old Feb 19th, 2009, 03:49 PM
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Best Bang For the Buck?

Hi folks,

I'm just starting to think about planning another trip to Africa. I've been to Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa and Botswana thus far. I'm interested in nature photography including animals and landscapes, safaris and birds. So I'm pretty flexible and open to lots of different experiences. I'm wondering if you all have any recommendations or know any travel agents who are knowledgeable enough to help me find some places or give me some guidance on where the current best bangs for the buck are? Have safari prices come down significantly given the global economic crisis?

To give you some idea of what we like. Our last trip was to Djuma Vuyatela in Sabi Sands and then the Kwando Camps in Botswana. We had a fabulous experience. Our last trip was during the green season. If we return to Southern Africa I think I'd like to go during the Southern Hemisphere Fall/Winter.

Appreciate any ideas you all have!

-Todd
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Old Feb 19th, 2009, 04:39 PM
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Biggest help to my safari budget has been the USD getting stronger. You also from USA?

Kenya is great, but I've been to only one camp there. Like to go back. How did you like Djuma Vuyatela and compared to Kwando I've heard mixed reviews on Djuma. FWIW, I've been to SA in Sept every year since 2005 and going back this year.

regards - tom
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Old Feb 19th, 2009, 04:53 PM
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&Beyond and Wilderness both have deals of extra nights if you book a minimum. Footsteps in Africa does too.

Mobiles in Botswana offer a big savings from the permanent tented camps. I did one through Wilderness that was outstanding and that's probably how I'll be seeing Botswana in the future.

Real bang for buck would be self driving in Kruger. I would not choose it, but there are many great accounts in trip reports and wildlife was plentiful.

For agents, why don't you first try the one you used last time and see what they are offering? Ask for a repeat customer discount.

A variety of agents for Southern Africa have been mentioned here. Fodors Africa book, Complete African Safari Planner lists quite a few. In no order, here are some I recall were mentioned positively
Rhino--S. Africa
Go2Africa--S. Africa
Southern Destinations--S. Africa
Africa Travel Resource--UK
The Africa Adventure Company--Ft. Lauderdale
Eyes on Africa--Chicago
Fish Eagle--Houston
Premier--Philadelphia

Here is list of Nat Geo best Adventure Companies
http://adventure.nationalgeographic....e-ratings-text
Not that these would be the only good ones, but you know that they are real companies and not scams. In these times stability and longevity is more important than in the past.

Good luck and please share any tremendous deals you find.
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Old Feb 19th, 2009, 05:25 PM
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Tom,

We had a great experience at Djuma. We loved our room and plunge pool. I really enjoyed relaxing by the plunge pool and watching the birds. We had a Woodland Kingfisher hanging out just feet away that I was able to get great photos of. We also had many wonderful sightings on our safari drives. So I had no complaints there at all. You can see some photos of Djuma on my website here:
http://www.pbase.com/toddao/djuma_vuyatela_safari

Lynn,
Thanks for the info. We used Green Rhino out of South Africa before. They do a lot of travel for US government folks and my partner is a CDC scientist, so I may contact them again. I will definitely post any good deals I find and welcome any other feedback from others.

I like the idea of Mobile in Botswana and would love to learn more...

Thanks again,
Todd
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Old Feb 19th, 2009, 05:33 PM
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Todd, I just read recently on this board that Uncharted Africa has some good mobiles, and that made my ears prick up. But their camps tend to be expensive.
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Old Feb 19th, 2009, 05:53 PM
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Todd - nice photos, I can see why you're into it.

Lynn reminded me of Kruger. One of our favorite safaris. Fly into JNB, rent car, drive to Kruger, 6 hours. Kruger simple bungalow, $70 per night, 2 people. Make you own game drive(s), be your own ranger. After a week or so there drive out and over to a safari camp in Sabi Sand or Timbavati Reserves. Camps quoting rates in SA Rand are a $$$ bargain compared to last year. Short flight back to JNB and home. But however, that would not be so different like a tented mobile in Botswana.

BTW, you associated with Todd-AO? (Just curious, I'm not).

regards - tom
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Old Feb 19th, 2009, 08:23 PM
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hi todd,

after 25 trips to southern africa, the safari experience sometimes needs a break. if you are looking for beautiful scenery, wide open landscape (and some animals) i would go to namibia. their "high season" is may-sep which is the winter. you will capture some of the most amazing photography here. one other advantage is that the camps are mostly priced in namibian currency which is pegged to the rand which has deprecitated 40% against the dollar in the past few months. book now for june-sep and pay the whole trip in full is my recomendation. i recommend wilderness safaris as they have a full circuit of camps. at a lower price point, the safari and adventure company (SAC) also has a geographically diverse camp collection. all SAC camps are accesible by rental car. since you have been on safari a few times, you should consider self-driving namibia. long drives but big savings can be had.

i have been to vuyatella (dec '08) and the areas where kwando camps are. i think you will find namibia amazing.

can't recommend operators as it violates fodors rules.

craig
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Old Feb 19th, 2009, 08:28 PM
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todd,

the above recomendation was based on your post title of "best bang for the buck". to really preserve your travel dollar, book with a US based travel company that has been in business long enough to be covered for bankruptcy protection by the major travel insurance companies. this is really important these days.

craig
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Old Feb 20th, 2009, 05:59 AM
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Todd, I really enjoyed your photos. Just curious if they were taken hand-held; if not, how did you stabilize?
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Old Feb 20th, 2009, 11:39 AM
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We went to Africa twice last year, so were very concerned for bang for the buck.

We went to Serengeti in March and used www.masaitravel.com that does trips from USA, London or just land package. After endless checking we found them to give best value for the money.

In September we went through Tanya of www.africadirect.co.za who help organize our wedding and Honeymoon all on Safari in South Africa (2 weeks) It was great. Look at the walking Safari Camps at Ngala Tented Camps in Timbivarti and Exeter in Sabi Sands. We got discounts of stay 4 nights pay for 3 which was great.

Both those agents were great and we felt we got plenty of value for our money. We are planning on going back later this year and will be using Tanya again for a visit to Phinda, Vic falls and Botswana.

Good luck.
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Old Feb 21st, 2009, 06:24 AM
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Thanks everyone for the suggestions. You've given me some good food for thought and a starting point to begin planning. I'll keep you posted.

sdb2 I did take a tripod with me, but I never used the tripod while in the safari vehicles. I used a Kinesis bean bag which I filled with whatever grain/beans were cheapest wherever we went, and then left it for the staff when we moved on.

-Todd
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Old Feb 21st, 2009, 07:16 AM
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Thanks for the info, Todd! Steve
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