Best Wilderness Safari Botswana Camps?

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Mar 25th, 2005, 11:11 AM
  #1
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Best Wilderness Safari Botswana Camps?

I am strongly considering a January safari to Botswana, and I am looking for the four best Wilderness Safaris camps.

I am thinking of a couple nights at each of the following:

Savuti
Kings Pool
Vumbura
Mombo

Savuti and Mombo seem like "cant miss" selections. What about Kings Pool and Vumbura?

There are other attractive options such as Duba Plains and Chitabe but since I will be going in January, a place like Jao does nothing positive for my itinerary, does it?
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Mar 25th, 2005, 06:54 PM
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Rocco,

Savuti and Kings Pool are under 20 miles from each other. My latest Wilderness catalog has Savuti as a 5+ Paw Classic camp, while Kings Pool is the highest rated 6 Paw Premier Camp. In January, I think Savuti has the slight edge for game.

Vumbura has been upgraded and it offers the possibility of both water and land activities. Your other camps are basically land camps.

Duba Plains is noted for its buffalo eating lions. Chitabe offers two walking trails camps where you can sleep outside in an elevated hide, then do a walking safari. I'm trying that for the first time in August. So those would be unique aspects of Duba Plains and Chitabe. If you're not into the walking and hides, Chitabe probably would not offer something different from the other camps mentioned, except an addditional shot at seeing wild dogs.

Jao would add luxury to your itinerary, being a 6 Paw Premier Camp. If you did Vumbura, with some water activities, I don't think Jao would offer much additional variation, except maybe some walking. I've never been to Jao.

Any combination of the camps you mentioned should be a fabulous trip.
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Mar 26th, 2005, 02:22 AM
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Rocco
You've read and read and read the Mombo question so many times here in forums that I won't go into details again. I will say that, whilst it's a beautiful camp, the main draw for many of us that love staying there, is the game viewing. I know many people suggest Chief's Camp instead and I can't comment personally as I haven't been to that camp. I do know that guides and others have explained that Mombo's position at the edge of the Moremi land mass mean a greater concentration of game and better chance of seeing them. I do not know if this is true. Only you can decide whether Mombo is worth it to you since, despite it's price and the beautifully designed accommodation, it's more about the game than about the luxury experience. You will still find insects inside your tent. Food has definitely improved hugely between 2001 and 2004. When we were there, there were no spa treatments etc. Personally I wish it were one of the 5 paw camps and they would drop the price a little as, for me, 5 paw camps are perfectly wonderful but... I can understand why they'd opt for a 6 paw camp in that location.

As has been said, Savuti and Kings Pool are too close to bother doing both in one trip. Your choice depends really on which accommodation style you prefer as you'll be able to see similar game and terrain from both. When we stayed at Savuti we went right over to KP area to see the wild dogs who happened to be nearer KP that month. Be aware that Savuti now has 7 not 5 tents and also that some have a sort of outdoor bathroom where you have to come OUT of a room in your tent, down a small corridor and to the OPEN sided bathroom area. Very romantic during the day but TOO scary for ME during the night. I hadn't accurately understood the bathroom layout before arrival so had agreed to one of those tents but luckily they were able to swap us to another tent. And note that the bath tub that they used to have by tent 1 is no longer there and also that the tents and areas are now all connected by raised walkways not paths on the ground.

Savuti or KP are worth including for the wild dogs - you have a good chance of seeing them. Because of unusual rain patterns in 2004 we did not see the elephants in the numbers we were hoping to, another thing the area is know for, but were happy with our wild dogs sightings and with the cheetah sightings too.

I haven't been to Vumbura, though I have been to Little Vumbura. I loved the water experience at LV but, on my visit, game viewing happened to be fairly poor. That said we concentrated on water activities there.

My favourite water camp after our last visit is definitely Jacana. It's a magical little island and just lovely experience. At the time of year we went it is very much wholly water based.

Oddly enough, Jao is just next door and also a water camp but, from what staff were explaining, a lot of the visitors choose it only because it's 6 paw and offers massages etc rather than because they are interested in water activities and they end up having to boat people to where they can then do game drives. Seems a bit daft to me. Also, whenever we were at sightings, we'd sometimes be joined by the Jao people, but they'd get bored after a few minutes and ask to move on. This was not just one Jao group but a few different ones over the course of our 3 days there. Rocco knowing how you appreciate the game itself you might find the company frustrating, I don't know. Then again, you might find the accommodation etc enough of a balance to that.

Tubu is also worth considering. 5 paw but the tents are much larger than the rest of the 5 paw tents. In the right season you can do both water and land activities. Excellent guides, particularly nice camp staff, great location. We saw leopards mating just by camp from the bar/ dining area platform!!!
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Mar 26th, 2005, 05:28 AM
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Thanks for the feedback so far.

Here is one thing I do not understand. What are the water camps like in summertime? Are they still considered water camps? Or are they now land camps with quality game viewing of predators and elephants?
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Mar 26th, 2005, 07:05 AM
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No direct experience but I know that Jacana, which is an island when the waters have risen, is fronted by open plains during the dry season. It still offers water activities (my understanding is that it's one of the few camps that can offer water activities most of the year) but it is also able to offer land activities in dry season.

Rocco, how many nights do you have overall and can I encourage you to include Jack's Camp in your itinerary? It's not a WS camp, though it's on their website as it's now marketed as part of their group and bookings handled by WS, and managers can move between Jack's and the other WS camps.
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Mar 26th, 2005, 07:35 AM
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Kavey,

I would be hesitant to visit the Kalahari Desert in January (summer).

I would like to visit Botswana for around 10 nights, maybe taking off from Los Angeles a day or two after Christmas, spending a couple nights in Joburg, probably for New Years and then taking off for Botswana. Although it will be hot in the daytime, hopefully the morning drives will be nice and the late afternoon/evening game drives will be tolerable.

I may just do this one solo while I send Alexsandra & guest to the Western Cape while I am in Botswana. It is very cheap to fly from Los Angeles to London from about November - March, about $400 pp, and then probably another $850 pp to go from LHR - JNB. I will never accumulated enough frequent flier miles in time for Business Class on this trip, which would be just over 3 months after returning from my September safari.

Then, who knows, maybe I could save Kafue NP (Zambia), Makalolo Plains in Hwange (Zim) and Chikwenya (Zim) for high season, since pricing will still be favorable in Zim and tolerable in Zam.
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Mar 26th, 2005, 08:22 AM
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Ah. January. Good point. You might bake! Leave it till next time!

Stop a night in London and we can meet for dinner in Central London, if you'd like?
10 nights?

I haven't been in January so bear in mind that this will definitely have an impact... but my favourite camps to revisit would be Mombo (of course), Tubu Tree, Jacana and Savuti OR KP (for the wild dogs). Jacana I might drop if it the water levels were going to be low. Budget dependend you could easily do 3 nights Mombo, 3 in Tubu Tree (or your choice of camp), 2 in either Savuti or KP and have another 2 to put in somewhere else.
If you're interested in cultural trips at all you could include a one night stay at Gudigwa which allows you to learn a little more about the San people and their culture and traditional life style.
We went for 4 nights in Mombo both times which was wonderful but 3 would work too.
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Mar 26th, 2005, 11:11 AM
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rocco,
for 10-11 nights, i would do 3 nights savuti, 3 nights vumbura/tubu tree, 3 nights mombo, and maybe 2 nights duba plains. between vumbura/mombo, u will see all the leopards you could ever want. at savuti u have a chance to see wild dogs/cheetahs, and at duba u may have a chance to see a lion kill. 2 days is really enough for duba bc the general game isnt as plentiful but is high impact lions/buffs. that would be a phenomenal itinerary. and if you are going by yourself, the increased cost of including mombo will be some what negated.
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Mar 26th, 2005, 11:42 PM
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Kavey,

Thanks for the invitation. If I am able to do, I will definitely spend a night in London on the way over.

I think it would be wonderful to spend a night in London on the way over, and then possibly two or three nights in Dubai, on the way back.

LAX - LHR - Dubai - JNB - Maun - JNB - Dubai - LHR - LAX

I would save Dubai for last for the shopping opportunities.

Who knows, maybe even two nights in London?

London (2) 12/27 - 12/28
Johannesburg (3) (New Years?) 12/30 - 1/01
Botswana (10) 1/02 - 1/11
Dubai (3) 1/13 - 1/15

Talk about shifts in temperature, from Los Angeles nice December weather, to London's winter, to Joburg's summer, to Botswana's sweltering heat, to Dubai's nice winter weather and back to Los Angeles.

Adding Dubai would add only about $350 per person for the cost of the air, as opposed to flying London - JNB.

Oh, it is always so easy to do these things on paper! Putting them into reality, however, is another story.

Besides Dubai, what other interesting places are possible for a direct flight to Joburg? Tel Aviv? Anywhere else? Dubai does seem like a lot of fun.
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Mar 27th, 2005, 12:04 AM
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Actually, believe it or not, I found a cheaper ticket to fly LHR - Dubai - JNB than I did to fly directly from LHR - JNB!

I can fly Emirates Airlines for only $1,222 pp for the LHR - DXB - JNB round trip, and it will cost me $1,292 for the cheapest LHR - JNB flight that I found! Could just be a fluke on my particular dates, but they are probably very close in cost to each other, meaning that I basically would get to fly to Dubai for free.

Burj-Al-Arab, anyone?

I don't think I would drop that kind of money, but I know there are great hotels available for $300 per night.
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Mar 27th, 2005, 12:08 AM
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I'm talking to myself here, but I think it is especially noteworthy as a final mention to say that the above schedule would be put me in Dubai for the Dubai Shopping Festival!

This just became a much easier sell to managment (Mrs. Rocco).
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Mar 27th, 2005, 04:56 AM
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I thought Mrs Rocco wasn't coming along on this one? Seriously, would be nice to meet you for dinner if you can make it through London.
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Mar 27th, 2005, 07:20 AM
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Kavey,

Yes, Alexsandra will be joining me, if only during London, Johannesburg & Dubai. However, I do think that she will skip Botswana, or at least half of Botswana to spend time in the Western Cape. She will most likely be bringing a guest, although I don't know who yet. Hopefully either her sister or mom can come along. I do think that she & her guest would probably do better at Phinda. Somebody please remind me...is Phinda a non-malaria area? I can send them to Phinda for a low season safari if I wait until January 07th. Even I would like to go to Phinda but not at the sacrifice of Botswana.

Madikwe seems interesting but something tells me that the landscapes are not all that interesting. I know other Fodorites have had a terrific time in Madikwe, but as a former cow pasture, I imagine that it does not feature too many variations in landscape, nor towering anthills, baobab trees or other fauna that makes some areas so very beautiful.

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Mar 27th, 2005, 08:11 AM
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Rocco-
Phinda is in a malaria region of S.A. so the meds would be needed there. However, Madwike is in a non-malaria region.

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Mar 27th, 2005, 08:44 AM
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Rocco
If your wife is travelling to the Western Cape why not consider Kwandwe - 20 minute flight or 2 hour drive out of Port Elizabeth. It is also Malaria Free. I had fantastic wild dog sightings up close as well as other great game viewing.
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Mar 27th, 2005, 09:45 AM
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Roccco - Go to Phinda, too! It really is an amazing place. I'm normally a been there, done that game lodge kind of girl -- but I can't wait to go back to Phinda.
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Mar 27th, 2005, 01:22 PM
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I'll look fwd to meeting all of you in London, then!
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