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

Old Jul 26th, 2009, 06:25 PM
  #41  
 
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Besides the cost, some people here may not have mentioned Singita (probably the most luxurious camps in Southern Africa)because they believe it's more about a resort experience (an extensive wine cellar, a spa) than a safari experience. I am one of those. I can sip expensive wines and get a masssage anywhere, but I'm in Southern Africa primarily for the wildlife. At Londolozi, we stopped alongside a Land Rover in the wee morning hours, and all the ladies of a certain age were wearing full makeup. I vowed that was a place not for me.
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Old Jul 26th, 2009, 06:26 PM
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I meant we stopped alongside a Singita vehicle. I don't mean to put them down. Just not the kind of place I'm looking for.
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Old Jul 27th, 2009, 04:43 AM
  #43  
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Craig -- sorry I wasn't clear... actually rethinking the costs, I guess our budget for the safari part is 7000 to 8000 per person. I guess we won't be able to do the Ivory Lodge. Right now it looks like it's shaping up to be the River Lodge and in Botswana, Chief's Camp. We should get to Chief's Camp around October 24th or so and I just hope the game viewing will be okay.

Also, to LA Leslie -- I agree with you about the "makeup" situation.
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Old Jul 27th, 2009, 04:45 AM
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fran,

you will be fine at river lodge. as long as you are considering chief's camp, you should also consider mombo on the northern tip of the same island as an alternative. they are about the same price +/- a few hundred.

craig beal
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Old Jul 28th, 2009, 10:57 AM
  #45  
 
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Fran,

I would put in a good word for Singita. Yes, there are some "full makeup" type people there (and we've run into them at other camps/lodges as well), but we've been there twice (I am definitely not a "makeup" woman) and our last trip two years ago was fantastic. We had a superior ranger and tracker and once they found out that we were serious about seeing animals we broke away from many of the other vehicles and went our own way. He took us out to walk amid a journey of giraffes and we tracked rhinos on foot as well. One night at dinner we heard some male lions roaring and our ranger asked if we wanted to leave the rest of our dinner behind and seek them out. We did and spent more than an hour sitting beside a beautiful male rocking our vehicle with his amazing roars. We tracked a leopard on the way back to the lodge and didn't get back until almost midnight. So, even though I agree with LA Leslie that there are some people there that are more into the good wines than the animals, I think our ranger was thrilled to have people who wanted to spend as much time as possible with the animals and he accommodated us nicely. It helped that we were there with a like-minded second couple. We had a "makeup" type woman in our vehicle but because there were four of us, we were able to set the pace. Also, she didn't go on many game drives and spent more time in the spa. Her husband was a trooper, however, and loved the adventure.

So, you can have a fantastic experience at Singita (and have good wine!)....just be willing to make your wishes known and I think you'll be greatly appreciated by the staff.

Have fun wherever you go.

Debbie
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Old Jul 28th, 2009, 06:06 PM
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I too think Singita sometimes gets a bad wrap for its "luxury" status. Our experience there was fabulous and very similar to debwarr's. The guide seemed as excited about finding great animal encounters as we were. We don't drink so the wine cellar wasn't of interest but the food was superb.
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Old Jul 28th, 2009, 07:33 PM
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Fran-

IMHO you are trying to go to too many places too far from each other in just 10 days. You'll be spending a lot of time and $$ traveling. Botswana is amazing, very expensive and takes a long time to get to with the transfers, etc. This won't be your last Southern Africa trip. Hate to say it, and I'm sure most will disagree, but I would skip Botswana. I know- it's my favorite place I've ever been, but 10 days is just not enough for all that travel. I agree Cape Town is a must do (Cape of Good Hope, Robben Island and Boulder Beach for sure!) and then head to Sabi and maybe Timbavati or Phinda? Or just Botswana and skip Sabi this go around. You'll be back. Or add a few days and do it all.
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Old Jul 29th, 2009, 01:58 AM
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Hey Fran,

As with most here, I don't really get the Cape Town - Botswana combo. They are two quite different things.

Cape town is a city that is almost identical to our cities. It is very un-African. That's not necessarily a bad thing though; there's plenty to see. There's the Waterfront, the botanical gardens, table mountain, ... And in the vicinity is even more to see; cape point, Robben island, the wine region, the garden route (with in turn great little coastal towns, offering good stuff like whale watching). You can even get to Addo, or to the Karoo if you want.
It is hard to mention it all. So many things to see and do! The penguins, visiting an ostrich farm, the steam trains of Outeniqua, Featherbed island & Knysna, the Cango caves, the Diaz museum... oh man.

What I'm actually getting at is two things;
1) The Cape town region merits a vacation on it's own. There's no way to even see the highlights in just three days.
2) A trip to this southern tip of Africa is totally different from a safari. There's nothing really "wild" about this sort of trip. It resembles more a trip you would do in a European country, or an Asian country.

When it comes to Botswana; now here's a country where safari-style trips are about the only tourist activity possible. The country is made for it. I'm not just talking about the Delta. I'm talking about the beauty of the Kalahari desert, about the huge herds of elephants in Chobe, about the vastness of the salt pans (just sleeping under the stars there is an experience that changes your life), etc...
I read that you want to spend a week max in Bots, and that your budget is (deducting the few days in the Cape) about 6000$ for that.
There's two things that totally FREAK ME OUT every time I read post like yours (sorry, blush). First of all; the length. It's waaay to short to really unwind, get into the rhythm of nature, and see all there is to see. Even if you stick to just on region. Secondly; the price. 6000$ for a week per person?? I know a lot of people here on Fodors pay that. But since most people travel as a couple; don't most of you realize that for the total price of your holiday you can actually buy a brand new small car?? Give a car for one meager week in the bush? Come on now.
Fran & all; I wish to emphasize that there's better to be had, for a much better price. We did a trip lasting 17 days, in high season, during which we saw the Delta (Moremi), Khwai, Savuti, Chobe and the Falls. Our price was about 250$pp per day. In other words, Fran; we were there 2,5 times longer than you intend to be, and it has cost us half of what you intend to pay. How that is possible? Because ours was not in those overpriced lodges, but a trip with a private guide using private camp sites.

Perhaps you think this is the only way to get a better deal in the Delta; to stay away from the lodges. Well, for that overhyped area, there's a high level of truth in that. But you can certainly get better lodge deals for the same level of wildlife elsewhere. The Northern circuit of Tanzania, for example. Or closer by; the Kruger area & the Tuli block. I'm currently looking at a week in a private concession near Kruger, and then a week in Mashatu. The deal would be even cheaper than our trip in Botswana.

Don't fall for this artificially created shortage of beds. Don't fall for the brochures that tell you that any particular place is "the best to see XXX animal".
Don't fall for these schemes that are optimized only to make you part with (lots of) your money in the shortest time possible.

You can get the same for much less elsewhere. You can get the same (and more!) even in that very same place, if only you want to drop a bit of the luxury-needs.

Ciao,

J.
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Old Jul 29th, 2009, 02:09 AM
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Fran, if you want to know more about private camping safaris; below text was part of my initial post above but I took it out as it made it too long. It is a comparison between lodges and camping out in the way we did:

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- The food is NOT different. It was as delicious as in a lodge (I tried both)
- We had a private vehicle, so everybody was guaranteed a seat "at the window" (OK, there's no window but you get what I mean). Also, we could therefor decide where to go (the waterfront today? More inland? Birding?) and how long to stay at a certain sighting.
- The drive lengths are longer. That's because we could choose ourselves when to go and come back to camp.
- We got to choose our guide, who was a pro with 25 years of experience. In a lodge, choosing your own guide is seldom done (some die hards here know who they want and try to make sure they get that person, but that is not the rule).
- As a result of the above I can with a pretty good confidence, say that our game viewing was far better than what you can expect to get during your one week in those overpriced lodges. Unless you think you can top a bird list of almost 200 species (we are not birders, so there was no focus on birding) and a mammal list of 37 species, including wild dogs, cheetah (with kill), leopard (even a threesome ma pa & cub), 54 individual(!) lions, four honey badgers and a waterhole with about 1000 elephants during the 3 hours we were there (No, I am not exagerating, I've got pics to prove it).
- The places you can get to. True, we could not drive on the private concessions. But are, in total, those areas very different from where we were? No they were not. We got to do a trip on the waters of the delta too. Actually, while people from the loges need one hour by boat to get to Godikwe lagoon, we just camped on the opposite bank. And also; we could get to places they could not; as they had no time, they needed to get back to camp in time for lunch. I witnessed this myself; our guide told a lodge vehicle about an impressive lion kill we saw (zebra caught by 7 lions), but he decided not to go there as it was too far.
- Perhaps you think that there's a difference in the number of vehicles at a sighting. Well, true, you should normally have less vehicles in a private concession. But in reality; the area is so vast, and our guide so experienced, that all of the top sightings mentioned above occurred in remote areas where we were completely ...alone!
- Comfort level. There is indeed a difference there. Our tent was far less spacious, but the beds were still good, we had individual loos, etc... the bucket shower was shared, but so what, we were just there with friends. Actually the only difference was a bit of luxury, if you think of it. No oversized tent with a writing desk (than nobody ever uses). No rugs next to the bed. Stuff like that. But we were pampered as well in fact. The tents were set up and taken down for us. Everything was kept very clean. We had absolutely no camp chores. Personnel/guest ratio, if I also count our guide, was actually 1 on 1.

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Ciao,

J.
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