BOTSWANA - Here we go again! Where to stay, etc.

Old Jul 24th, 2009, 02:00 PM
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BOTSWANA - Here we go again! Where to stay, etc.

After getting so much information from such great people regarding my last inquiry, I am now rethinking my trip. As I mentioned a few days ago, my husband and I and another couple are planning a trip to Southern Africa in mid-October, 2010. I am taking the suggestion that we skip Cape Town seriously. I have left an email with my friend to see what she and her husband think. We have traveled enough that I think the suggestion that we skip Cape Town might be a good one. After all, we are primarily going to see the beautiful animals in their natural habitat.

I'm almost ready to give this all up but I'm forging ahead with plans and new ideas.

This brings me to my question regarding Botswana...I'm thinking 3 nights in the Okavango Delta and 3 nights in Linyanti? If that would work then which camps would you recommend. I guess we would do a Classic Camp for we want to go to the Lion Sands Ivory Lodge, as well.

Do any of the camps in Botswana have any combo deals?

I will appreciate any and all replies.

Fran
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Old Jul 24th, 2009, 02:40 PM
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Mid Oct 2010 is too far for any "deals".
If the credit crunch shouts its impact far into 2010 then most probably there will be deals coming out as well. But not before the camps and lodges get into the early months of the year and see whether people are still reluctant to commit long in advance.

But you can do an early research on camps which are appealling to you - in any case.

For the Delta experience: I e.g. like Baines camp very much. Intimate (only 5 chalets) right WITHIN the Delta; chalets are built on top of the a lagoon) Excellent accommodation, great lounge and restaurant, very personal, very good game drives (incl. the costly Elephant walks at the sister camp Stanleys)
www.sanctuarylodges.com

Then I would consider Savute area for the Savannah part.

Happy Planning.

SV
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Old Jul 24th, 2009, 03:07 PM
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Do a search for info on the ele walks. Most people are thrilled with them.

In the Linyanti area there is Savute Lodge, managed by Desert and Delta. There is also Savuti Camp by Wilderness.

When I ran into an exterminator who went to almost every camp in the delta, I asked his favorite camps. The answer was Duba Plains and Savuti Camp.

Duma Tau, the only place I have stayed of those mentioned, is in Linyanti and also very nice.

You have a great trip taking shape.
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Old Jul 24th, 2009, 03:36 PM
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I recently returned from Botswana, we were there in May/June (i have a trip report, with photos if you wanted a look.)

We stayed in Wilderness camps. I found of the camps we stayed in, that Chitabe and Savuti had the best game. Both are 5 paw camps. The guides at both camps were very good, food very good, (and very plentiful). 3 nights was ideal for us, though we did stay at 2 camps for 2 nights, I felt 3 was better.

amy
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Old Jul 24th, 2009, 06:29 PM
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baines camp and chitabe camp are close to each other. baines is owned by A&K's subsidiary sanctuary lodge. chitabe is owned by wilderness safaris.

in the linyanti, my favorite camps are duma tau and savuti as well. i have been to both. i have also been in the savute. savute (with an e) is anywhere on the savute channel inside the chobe. savuti (with an i) is the same ecosystem but west of the chobe on the private linyanti land. savtui camp (wilderness) and savute safari lodge (D&D) are less than 20 miles apart.

i suggest chitabe for three nights and duma tau OR savuti for three nights. keep in mind than neither one of these camps have water activities so if you want to fish, boat, or mokorro, you can't do that in these camps. if you want water activites then i would add one of the following camps for two nights and take away one night at chitabe: little vumbura, kwetsani, tubu tree, jacana, or xigera.

i seriously doubt wilderness safaris is going to discount next year's high season. in fact, they are going to review their 2010 rates by august 31, 2009. my guess is that they will raise their rates and take away the discounts in place right now (stay7pay6). this will not effect people under deposit by that date. bookings are very strong for next year especially the months after the world cup. i really have no idea but this is what i suspect.

craig beal
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Old Jul 24th, 2009, 06:56 PM
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Going to Southern Africa and missing Cape Town, one of the world's most beautiful cities, would not be my suggestion. But it depends on how much time you have and how you want to spend it.
I'd also recommend, as would most on this board, 3 nights at each camp. We went to 5 camps in Bots 2 years ago: Chitabe, Kwando Lagoon, Little Vumbura, Kwetsani and Jack's Camp (in the Kalahari). This offered an amazing array of landscapes and unbelievable diversity of wildlife. (We went in November, VERY hot. So's Oct.) Kwando was the most basic (it may be upgraded by now) but had the most genuine staff and African ambiance. Kwetsani won't have any water surrounding it that time of year, but you can do some water activites like canoeing not far away (I prefer local Botswanans to the South Africans who were running Kwetsani at that time), and the wildlife was the least interesting/diverse, but the tree-top rooms are great. Little Vumbura is a fabulous, and very upscale, camp that you take a boat to; accommodations are swank and gorgeous, but they cater to a bit snootier crowd IMO. Chitabe was our least favorite, though we saw wild dogs.
One suggestion: Why not skip South Africa (and Ivory Lodge) altogether and head straight to Bots and do 3 camps Classic Camps there? If you stick with Wilderness or Delta camps it'll be much easier planning and transportation, and maybe cheaper. What agent are you using?

Craig is surely correct that after the World Cup the safari camps will be booked, and at top rates.
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Old Jul 24th, 2009, 08:13 PM
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World Cup in SA is June 11 - July 11. I can see SA safari camps, and Botswana, being busy then and two weeks or so on either side of those dates. But for it to extend into October? Are fans/tourists going to go to World Cup and then staying around for another 2-3 months? Lucky people those.

regards - tom
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Old Jul 24th, 2009, 08:16 PM
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Why so discouraged? Southern Africa is amazing. It's worth the trouble.

Kings Pool in Linyati is beautiful, Duba Plains is famous for its lions and Vumbura was over the top nice. All had amazing game sightings. Classic Camps are perfect (Duba being one). For my taste I would not go to 6 paw camps again, but that's just me. All of the camps in Bots are high quality - they pay a lot of money for those leases, so I can't imagine that any of them would be disappointing. There is a special going on at Wilderness this year, but next year I'm hoping everything will be booked full for the World Cup. But it's in June/July so you are going well after the crowds leave. You are so close to Victoria Falls while in the Delta - don't miss it.

October is starting to get really hot and the rain might start early. (But we were just in Bots and it rained in June - that never happens!!)

We just came back from our second safari, and please stay in any one place for at least three days. Two makes it too rushed and four was great.
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Old Jul 24th, 2009, 10:49 PM
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In normal years, October can be extremely hot (it's called the suicide month) so although gameviewing can be rewarding as a lot of herbivores are in poor condition before the first rains, conditions can be a bit unpleasant.
Given the unpredactibility of the weather patterns in recent times, there is a possibility of early rainfall by which the plains game disperse into the woodlands.

In the WS portofolio, Chitabe and Savuti usually have good gameviewing. Duba plains which doesn't have the variety of plains game (like other places) I would only recommend if you are keen to see lions hunting buffalo. Take into mind, that most of the kills are made during the day and following them during the middle of the day will be unpleasant if it's a hot day.

These days NG32, the area in which Baines and Stanley's is located doesn't have the best reputation and it's the only place where I have seen animals with snares. Also Sanctuary lodges tends to focus more than the other operators on the experience in the camp itself.

Today the camps typically focussing on water activities are in my opinion totally overpriced as you don't need to be in a private concession and pay top rates for seeing mainly birdlife.

The best gameviewing from a boat is on a cruise on the Chobe river where besides the birdlife, you'll have good chances to see elephants/hippos and crocodiles and consider all other mammals as a bonus. Keep in mind that it's a quite popular thing to do so it can be crowded but I find it still one of the most rewarding things to do for people who go for their first time to Botswana.

I find it extremely annoying that agents keep pushing their clients to book far way in advance especially in economical conditionas as today.

- Camps aren't full by today but maybe blockbooked by TA's.
-
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Old Jul 24th, 2009, 11:12 PM
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I accidentially submitted my post so here's the rest:

- Better deals can be reached later on if agents see they can't fill up the assigned number of bednights.
- Also if it has been an extremely wet year and not all of the pans dried out, you have the chance of paying top rates for ordinary gameviewing. By booking now you don't know what the impact of the rainy season/floods will be.

I would highly doubt if WS and others are going pushing up their prices and creating even a wider gap between their product and the ones of their competitors (in and outside the country). Nowadays some operators are asking the highest rates in November. Well I can only see greediness for that. At the moment, pricing in peak season for most of the camps is not in line with the quality (gameviewing/...) you can expect.

I won't see any affects on the Botswana safari industry in October 2010 from the World Cup being held in June/July. Given the dubious relationship between TA/WS I would take their advice with a big sack of salt as their agents are highly rewarded by pushing clients towards their product (even sometimes by exaggerating a lot or giving sometimes misleading information).
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Old Jul 25th, 2009, 12:30 AM
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I would have to agree with Johan on most of his points.

Do not feel pressured into booking camps a year in advance. If you look at the availability for this October, there is still space available at a number of the camps highly recommnded by other fodorites.

Here is a link to the availability at Duma Tau for this October, more than three tents available on a number of nights.

http://africatravelresource.com/T1/a...intro&Nudge=-1

Do not believe the agents hard sell. Camps still have visitors this year as many had booked prior to the collapse of Lehman Borthers. I can not see next year improving.

In terms of the time of year, October over the last two years has had indifferent weather. I would recommend late September, as you minimize the chance of having your game viewing impacted on by early rains and alot of wildlife disappearing into the woodlands.

Whilst the Linyanti is being talked about, there are actually three distinct areas, Kwando, Selinda and the Linyanti Concession, all similar, but different.

Having been to Selinda, Zib (now Zarafa), Savuti, Kings Pool and the Kwando Camps, I feel that I have enjoyed the better game viewing at in the Kwando Concession - the accommodations though are not on a similar level to WS.

The problem with the area is the recent increase in water flows, changing the dynamics of the area.

The level of the water and channel flowing through Mopane woodlands has had the effect of shorting the peak season. For example, elephant herds can stay in the mopane woodlands along the spillway and have water sources close at hand.

Previously, the herds would have to move into the open flood plains to get to the permanent water sources. Ofcourse, you can still drive along the channel edges and have good viewing, though it is a different experience to that of a couple of years ago.

With the Channel likely to reach the Marsh, it will be interesting to see if the migrating herds move back to the Linyanti region following this wet season.

I would look into subsituting the Linyanti for Savuti Marsh. Booking later will allow to ensure the water has reached the region. It was the place where the Jouberts first started filming when the channel last flowed.

FOr such a short trip, look at Andbeyonds mobile camp, a bargain at $600 for peak season.

http://www.andbeyondafrica.com/luxur...d_savute/rates

You can't offroad like in the private areas and they are a little busier, though this camp is small and appears to offer an intimate atmosphere compared to other option in the area.

I people could become surprised at the massive transformations that will occur to Game viewing in the Savute region of Chobe National Park.
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Old Jul 25th, 2009, 12:47 AM
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*I should add, Savute under canvas in not a mobile safari as such. More a seasonal style camps you find when following the migration in East Africa.
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Old Jul 25th, 2009, 12:48 AM
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To add to both Johan and Russell (who have been to Bots many many times, and not your average 3 night camp visits at that- they know what they are talking about) ......... in terms of photography, there is a good chance of fires late in the dry season making the skies hazy - more so these days, due to the obvious growth of the grass from the rainfall patterns and possibility of heavy burning.

Having said that, I am due for a dry season visit end of September into October to both the Delta and Linyanti. I know I'm in great hands with my guide friend and tracker extraordinaire (LK and Lebala)...... that, if the animals are around - they are gonna find them!

Both the above posts talk about changing patterns - I did notice that last year, when I spent two weeks in the Kwando concession - the Elephant and buffalo herds were more dispersed. Yet, I had a great trip as the guiding makes a huge difference - not to forget the memorable cheetah/dog/leopard viewing. Lions were also dispersed with the dispersion of the buffalo herds. Who's complaining ........

I can't see how or why WS or any other operator would make a price increase for 2010 - Kwando have already announced their 2010 rates earlier this year keeping them the same. Although, the food and wine does not compare to WS, their emphasis on the bush and maintaining a relaxed/ homely atmosphere is good enough reason for me to keep returning.

As in the other posts, I seriously don't think the 2010 world cup has anything to do with Botswana or Zambia for that matter. Most football fans would be adding on a short safari - mostly to the Greater Kruger (with the many options depending on budget levels). They would probably add on Cape Town and perhaps, Vic Falls.........

I personally can't talk of D&D or Sanctuary as I haven't been. Infact, no desire to try them...... I can talk about Selinda, WS and Kwando obviously where I have been to!

Regards - Hari
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Old Jul 25th, 2009, 04:10 AM
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skimmer (johan) and lbj2 (russel? employee of kwando?) -

you guys were doing so well in the beginning on this thread. you were actually providing travel advice and naming camps, etc. but, as usualy, you couldn't resist attacking me for being a travel agent and got off topic. i encourage you not to focus on me. let's focus on the traveler needing advice. fran is not a client of mine and i have no idea who she is. she is simply someone who has been getting lots of advice from me over the past two weeks thanking me every step of the way. i would not be surprised if she contacted me at some point as i think she trusts my advice, but that will be her decision.

wilderness safaris released rates for 2010 several months ago. they did raise prices by adding back the duba surcharge. when the current round of specials expire on august 31, prices will effectively go up about 15% as the stay7pay6 deals will go away. of course, i am not sure if they will simply keep that scheme in place.

the world cup is forcing people to change their travel plans until later parts of the dry season. you can see this effect on camp space during the july 15-august 31, 2010 period. booking now or waiting is up to the customer. any agent with clout will be able to apply future discounts to their clients under deposit should prices drop in the future. this is called price protection and is quite common in the cruise industry.

the availability chart that lbj2 pasted into this thread is not the real availability of the camps in botswana. africa travel resource is a travel agency in the UK. they have an informative web site but the camp availability is only as updates as the last time the human being responsible made the changes. no camp operator in botswana has live web inventoy of camp availability, including wilderness safaris. it is not possible for a static website to have live inventor.

wilderness safaris has semi-live inventory. any agent with a password can log-in and display the camp availaibility as of the close of business the night before. i often do a screen capture and email this to clients so they can decide for themselves what is available and what decision they want to make regarding booking.

fran - good luck!

craig beal
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Old Jul 25th, 2009, 04:38 AM
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Wow! I am overwhelmed by the response by all of you. THANK YOU ALL VERY MUCH. I take everything under advisement and am thrilled with the information provided. I will surely make an informed decision.

Going back to the first scenario I had...I know I've received air info before but i there a way to get from Maun to Lion Sands without having to overnight in JNB?

More to come on all of this, I'm sure.

Also, is there a way to directly email any of you?

Thanks.

Fran

Is there a way I can get individual email addresses?
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Old Jul 25th, 2009, 04:42 AM
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Fran,

Your question has generated some good and detailed info.

One thing you need to consider when you state you want one delta camp is if you want to spend time in the actual waters of the delta on a mokoro or similar or just be in the region.

If you <b>don't</b> want to be poled through the delta or experience it in a small boat, then Chitabe has some of the best wildlife sightings of the various delta camps. There is not enough water in the region for boating or mekoring.

If experiencing the waters of the Okavango Delta up close and personal by floating on them in some kind of vessel is what you want, then some of the "water" camps mentioned would be better. If doing solely a water camp with very little land activity, I think 2 nights would be fine, and I'm someone who usually likes to stay 3 nights or longer.

I didn't see Little Vumbura (or the more expensive Vumbura Plains) mentioned. Maybe I missed it. This is a delta camp with water and land activities. When I was there, the only water activity I chose to do was the 10-minute boat ride to get to the Little Vumbura Camp. Otherwise I did all land. Vumbura is near Duba Plains, where the lions are famous for daytime hunts. This daytime hunting characteristic was also practiced by the Kubu pride at Vumbura and I saw two hunts, one successful, during the day. Other guests saw cheetah and leopard while I was there or just before I got there, but I did not. It is one of the few places to find sable. I saw one. The water habitat, complete with herds of red lechwe splashing as they run, is an attractive feature of the delta, and one you may want to include.

Good luck on your plans.
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Old Jul 25th, 2009, 05:06 AM
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To make your decision more complicated, there's Mapula Lodge with land and water activities. That place would be high on my list for any future Botswana travel, especially late in the season, when you are going.
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Old Jul 25th, 2009, 05:42 AM
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If WS is going to increase again by 15 % (without enhencing service or other add-ons) then it's even more high time to consider to shift towards other decent camps.

This is ripping off and as long as people pay these unreasoned increases they won't stop!

I am in the mood to ask for a boycott.

SV
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Old Jul 25th, 2009, 05:59 AM
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Craig,

Would it not be a matter where people are booking later in the dry season, as the water levels(floods) (given today's pricing) makes it a tad bit more worthwhile visiting later in the dry season? Unless, you are selling the fishing/mekero/boat/spot the pied King Fisher (our roads are mostly flooded) experience?

It may not have have anything to do with the World Cup. Those dates you have mentioned - end July into August is typical travel time for people in Europe. A lot of (manufacturing) companies for example., do close for 2-3 weeks this time of the year on holidays. This allows for people to travel.
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Old Jul 25th, 2009, 07:52 AM
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Craig,

At which point did I attack you? I simply mentioned do not always believe the agent hard sell. I have faced similar tactics only to arrive at an empty camp - it is much about sharing travel experience as naming camps.

An employee of Kwando? I think you may have got your wires crossed there, I am afraid. A repeat guest to Kwando and WS, yes.

I did actually spend time working in Botswana in 2005, though it was with Desert and Delta.

Would be interesting to see how I can work for Kwando when I currently live in Seoul, and prior to that, Dubai.

Fortunately, I have been able in the last couple of years to have the opportunity to indulge in a lot of photography across Southern Africa.

It is easier to discuss areas in general, as it is hard on a forum to determine what expectations the guest has? I try not to advise on camps unless I have been there in the last couple of months. Even then, a lot of the game viewing is changing as these evironments are dynamic.

As for availability and booking early.

I spent 3/4 months on Safari in 2007, through the peak season(Botswana,Zim and Zambia). I did not book in advance and organised everything once I arrived in Africa. I had no problem finding space at the higher end camps through a number of countries, inludes WS. (at highly competitive rates too. At least a 50-60% saving)

The same applied when I went for 3 weeks in May 2008.

I appreciate that a number of people cannot book using this late booking method. Though it demonstrates that even through the high season, there is availability at WS, Kwando Camps, AndBeyond and Sanctuary.

My point was based on my experience, over 120 safari days in the last two years. I have found that agents' claims of no availability without booking a year in advance, as you have dicussed, is not reflected on the ground. Though I don't want to debate this in the Fran's thread.

I was using this point to illustrate the point that it is ok to wait longer to book and determine your game viewing based on how the rainy for 09/10 turns out and current reports.

I am sure you can appreciate the effect that early rains and late rains have on the environment. That is one reason why I would advise going in September.

It also took until Feb/March of this year for WS's offers to come on to the market following a fall in demand.

As for the availability chart at ATR, it is updated every business day to my knowledge. Whilst it may not be live availability, it gives the consumer the opportunity to see what the demand is. Compared to previous years - far lower in 2009.

ATR is a travel agency and has a person dedicated to updating this service. Having never used them, I could not comment on their TA skills however.

http://africatravelresource.com/T9/1...0rue/staff.asp
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