Botswana-May 2010 Help?

Old Oct 12th, 2008, 09:26 AM
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Botswana-May 2010 Help?

I am planning a trip with Wilderness for May 2010 and need some help with camps. It will be our 3rd safari (twice to Tanzania in Feb.) and we are serious amateur photographers. Here's the plan:

3 nights Selinda Camp
3 nights Kwetsani
3 nights Mombo
2 nights Vic Falls

So is Selinda a good choice for May? Would we be better off at Duma Tau or Savuti Camp? I've always loved the idea of a hide but do you really use it and do you give up a game drive for that activity?

Kwetsani or Little Vumbura? I think Kwetsani is more romantic but I want to see game. This camp uses Hunda Island, part of Duma Tree for game drives so how does it compare in May?

Little Vumbura seems to be the popular choice but I'm reading that the game is thin there too. I do want one of these water camps but maybe 2 nights instead of three is better and which one?

And one last question. In Tanzania with a private cruiser and driver, we were able to be out at the crack of dawn and spend the day in the bush. Is it going to kill me to spend time in camp mid day and stop for tea and sundowners? Does it feel like youíre missing something or do you fall right into this routine? I really canít afford the extra expense of a private vehicle. Let me know how this feels?
Thanks for your thoughts.
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Old Oct 12th, 2008, 10:55 AM
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If you are serious amateur photographers, and I understand it quiet well, I am myself a keen photographer, why are you going to very expensive places like Mombo and also Selinda ? You could go to less expensive places and with the money saved, book a private vehicle.
For example, and please check, I think that the Kwando camps, Lebala and Lagoon, neighbouring Selinda, and Kwara in the Okavango, are less expensive. These are great places to go. Have a look at the last thread posted on this forum by Hari yesterday.
Concerning Selinda, I've been there several times in May. One year I saw only lions and the year after lions, leopard, cheetahs, wild dogs, caracal, serval,.....
If you stay only a few days, do not give up a game drive for a hide.
As I have never been a WS fan, I cannot give you a fair opinion on the other camps you mention, I will thus refrain from giving an opinion on it.
If you extend your investigations, you will discover that WS is not the only company on the marcket in Botswana : the Sanctuary lodges, Kwando lodges, Desert & Delta lodges,.....
Stops for tea and sundowners never made me feel like I was missing something. It was even in some occasions very exciting when for example we were suddenly surrounded by a huge herd of elephants.
It is sometimes boring to do nothing mid day especially when the morning game drive was quiet. On the other hand, there is not a lot of activity between 10 and 16.
One night in Vic Falls is enough. Stay one more night in the bush.

Regards

Mike

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Old Oct 12th, 2008, 01:31 PM
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Thanks Mike and Johan.

I picked May for a couple of reasons. I like to travel in the first part of the year and I would rather be hot then cold. May was a compromise. Also World Cup Soccer is in Africa mid June and I need to stay away from that.

I really want to go to Mombo and since that is a Wilderness camp it seems that the other camps must also be Wilderness. I've talked to several travel agents and they really won't let me mix and match camps. Also, once you ask one agent for a price quote the next agent backs off and won't deal with you unless the first agent "doesn't work out." Wilderness lets them know that someone else is working with you and then they won't. Does that make sense?

I thought Selinda was the same price as Savuti Camp or Duma Tau. If these 2 are cheaper, which would be better in May?

Also, where I checked Lebala and Lagoon were the same price point as the classic camps by WS. And it seems that everyone feels that there is no substitute for Mombo. I picked the shoulder season to save a little money and be able to go to Mombo. I also read that Mombo is good at any time.

We picked 2 nights in Vic Falls because we wanted to do some of the activities and we picked Zambezi Sun because it is cheaper than most. Is it? Sure, I'd rather be on safari but I thought I was saving money.

And on that note, I'm not too excited about putting a deposit down now for a trip that's over a year and half away. Do I really need to reserve this far out? I would sure like the market to recover before I commit.
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Old Oct 12th, 2008, 01:32 PM
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Hello,

First of all, I would try to go later in the season.

If the price of a private vehicle is a problem for a 9-day stay, I wouldn't consider to go exclusively to camps in private concessions then especially if you are a keen photographer.

To limit my budget, I would opt to do a private mobile safari combined with one camp which normally has good game sightings.

I would recommend to camp at Khwai for 5 days (I have been there several times and always had excellent gameviewing) (predators/birds/general game). I can recommend Masson safaris. And I am sure other people had good experiences with other operators. Also you can book directly with most of them.

Then I would opt for a 4-day stay with private vehicle at one of the following camps:

- Chitabe/Chitabe Lediba;
- Lebala/Lagoon.

I prefer these camps because of the excellent game around (I have been to these places many times and was never disappointed). The other reason why I prefer these camps is of the excellent guides they have around.

Phinley/Newman (Chitabe/Chitabe Lediba)

Spencer/Charles (Lebala/Lagoon)

If staying at Vic Falls, try to go to Chobe for a boat cruise. It's still my favourite spot for birding and as a bonus you have ellies/crocodiles/buffalo and hippo.

Greetz,

Johan





 
Old Oct 12th, 2008, 02:16 PM
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Hi,

Mombo is a fantastic place but if you look at the price they are asking I wouldn't consider it the camp with the best price/quality. If you look at their website, they don't see much cheetah and wild dog at the moment due to the huge population of lions. Leopards are seen more often. Of course, things change over time but I guess you would be extremely lucky to see cheetah/wild dog there on a three day stay. And I don't think you are prepared to pay a huge amount of money to see elephants/buffalo/lechwe... which can be easily seen in other places too.

The camps in the Selinda/Linyanti at that time of year wouldn't offer the spectacular sightings you'll see at the end of the dry season. In case of huge rainfall in their summer season, it can easily be disappointing.



If you want to travel in May, I still would opt for Chitabe (for the reasons mentioned in my previous post).

If you travel agent won't let you mix different camps from different companies, than you probably picked the wrong agent. I mix camps on a regular basis and never had trouble to do so.

Greetz,

Johan

 
Old Oct 12th, 2008, 02:20 PM
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wildlife painter,

Savuti and Duma Tau are less expensive than Selinda. Savuti is my favorite. The tents were recently renovated and the game viewing has always been great. I would suggest a private vehicle if you are an avid photographer.

cj
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Old Oct 12th, 2008, 02:37 PM
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Johan - I've talked to about 4 different agents that are always mentioned here and I "felt" like it was all or nothing with WS. I got the impression that cost wise it was cheaper to stick with one company. I may be wrong and I will ask.

cj - Which camp in May? I orginally asked for Savuti Camp but was told that it was probably not the best choice for May in an "average" year but you never know. Why would Selinda be better and/or is Dumba Tau a better choice?

I really appreciate all input. It is incredibly difficult to wade through this stuff. With airfare about $2k each, I guess I'm willing to pay a few extra $$ for a great experience. When planning so far out I will have lots of time for second thoughts so Iím trying to get it right. I also might consider the private vehicle option at a later date if the market recovers. I assume that I donít need to reserve it yet?
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Old Oct 12th, 2008, 03:00 PM
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Private vehicles are best booked in advance. Because at WS camps you have only one private vehicle per camp at the time.

Travel agents that tell you, you have to stick with one company are thinking about themselves (and their commissions) and not about the clients needs.

Duma Tau and Savuti are using the same area but like Selinda/Zib (nextdoor to Duma Tau/Savuti) gameviewing in May can be poor or average and very seldom impressive.

Greetz,

Johan
 
Old Oct 12th, 2008, 03:15 PM
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When in May are you going? We were at Kwetsani mid June (2006) and the game viewing was amazing, as was Duma Tau a few days later. We also spent two nights at Victoria Falls (River Club) and thought the amount of time was just right.
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Old Oct 12th, 2008, 03:40 PM
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I'm looking at hitting Botswana about May 21, 2010.
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Old Oct 12th, 2008, 04:09 PM
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wildlifepainter,
I hope you are aware that the World Cup will be held in South Africa June 11 through July 11, 2010. The pressure on thSouth African infrastructure will be great so I would plan accordingly. Next, Mombo is very overpriced and if it were me, I would use another camp and take the savings and hire a private vehicle. If you are an enthusiastic photographer, you will be much happier. The Momo savings would easily cover a private vehicle charge. As for camps, Kiboko mentioned Savuti it is superb. Kwetsani and Little Vumbura are both fine water camps. Chitabe is due for a makeover in 2009 and Chitabe Lidiba for a makeover in 2010. Either one has great guides and very good game viewing so I would plan accordingly. Duma Tau is larger than Savuti and the camp atmosphere is not as intimate, sometimes they host small tour groups with really change the atmosphere. Do whatever you need to to hire a private vehicle if you are enthusiastic photographers. I would even shorten my stay by a day or two, if necessary, in order to afford exclusive use. Good Luck
Ted
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Old Oct 12th, 2008, 04:12 PM
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Selinda, Savuti and Duma Tau are all in the Linyanti. The game viewing should be similar. We were at Savuti in September 2008 and early June 2007. There was more water this year and the game viewing was completely different, predicting the "best" is very difficult. The other choice would be Chitabe or Chitabe Lediba. The game viewing in that area is fantastic and both camps will be renovated by 2010. Wilderness does give a discount depending on the length of your stay.

cj
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Old Oct 12th, 2008, 05:20 PM
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"I got the impression that cost wise it was cheaper to stick with one company. I may be wrong and I will ask."

If you do 7 nights with Wilderness and maybe with some other companies, there is a little discount. If I really wanted another camp, I would not let that discount interfere. But it's a nice bonus.

If you opted for another camp besides Mombo, would that extra money allow you additional days? Or would it make a private vehicle more affordable? That's just what Temba said.

But if this trip were my one shot at Mombo and I thought I'd always be wondering what I had missed if I didn't go to Mombo and if the pricing were within my budget, I'd go to Mombo. I'd rather be a little disappointed that it didn't live up to my expectations (and it might be your best stop) than be regretting forever that I didn't go.

I also thought Kwando camps were about equal to Wilderness pricing, as you state.

I second Johan's suggestion for a sunset wildlife cruise on the Chobe River during your stay at Vic Falls. A sunset cruise might mean an o/nt in Chobe. A day cruise would not require an o/nt there.

With your time of year, I like Chitabe as a choice too.

LV, on your own island, is pretty romatic. Any of the Wilderness propeties are so beautifully appointed with private views of gorgeous settings that they all could be considered romantic. I'm sure dinner in your tent could be arranged at any of them to up the romance factor.

Hides--I've only used hides midday and never substituted a game drive for a hide stay.

Let us know your final decision.
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Old Oct 12th, 2008, 08:10 PM
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With Wilderness, if you have your own vehicle and guide, you may do whatever suits you, all day drive or come back whenever you want. If you opt to take a box lunch and decide instead to return to camp, the managers allways accomodate. In other words you have total control over your day and the freedom to stay with an interesting sighting or wait out a promising opportunity. Mid day is generally quiet but occasionaly stuff happens and if your vehicle mates want to return to camp, your stuck. I agree with the sentiment that if its you one and only trip to Botswana, then perhaps you might want to do Mambo just to know what you have or have not missed. However, it sounds as though you have been bit by the Africa Bug and perhaps another time for Mambo might work out. Other might disagree but I don't find water camps all that exciting. In fact you don't see much from a moroko but it is a very worthwhile experience (at least once). It all just depends on how keen you are about spending your time on drives. Many people like to return to camp and refresh and an all day drive can wear out even the more enthusiastic addict. If you enjoy the whole day drives you had in Tanzania I would plan of the same in Botswana. Also remeber if you are an enthusiastic photographer, you will need to get out very early in the morning for best light and will not want to be sipping sundowners during the best of the evening light. Just my humble opinion of course but you seem to know what you are after.
Ted
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Old Oct 12th, 2008, 09:15 PM
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Keep in mind at Mombo not only do you pay a premium but you have to be in by dark so no night drives and less chance of seeing predatory action and some chance of being forced off of an interesting sighting early to get back before dark.

I read that you prefer to travel in the first half of the year but if you took the second shoulder season and went at the very start of November the Linyanti area and pretty much everywhere else would typically be a better bet than in May. If you went to Mapula Lodge you could pay for a private vehicle for your photography and still spend less than being at one of the Wilderness Safari or Kwando Camps. Then if you dropped Mombo for a different camp you could possibly afford a private vehicle at a second camp with that savings be it Savuti, Chitabe or a Kwando camp like Lebala.

It's ridiculous that many agents have near exclusive relationships with WS and thus make it difficult to go outside of their offerings. There are definitely agents that can book a variety and if they are claiming that you save due to long stay deals etc. they should price out a mixed-camp itinerary so you can compare. Of course beware that a lot of WS specialists do charge over the rack prices on the quotes for non-WS lodges which makes them less favorable and tricks you back into an all WS itinerary. Nothing wrong with an all WS itinerary if that is what someone wants but if you want to explore other options that should happen.
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Old Oct 12th, 2008, 09:48 PM
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Agree that Mombo and their pricing is probably a complete waste of money.

However, here's the thing about predatory action at night. You don't watch with the lights on, as you may give away either predator or prey - but, it's more the whole experience of it by experiencing the sounds at night and then you turn the lights on immediately when you think something has happened.

That's why I love cheetah and wild dogs, as most action is during the day time.

Nowadays, I hardly ever do a night drive except when it is a longer transfer back home to camp from where I have been on a particular evening. I spend a lot of daytime outdoors and I like to have my guides fresh for the following day.

Agree with one other poster earlier in the thread - If you have a private vehicle, get out early not just for the best of light - but, you also need time for tracking.

Sundowners - You can always do that after the golden light has passed and the light goes flat. Or better yet - do it in camp when you return!
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Old Oct 13th, 2008, 04:49 AM
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Yes, to all that HariS said. Also FYI South African Residents pay a reduced rate at Wilderness Camps. I don't know if any can use this information it is not generally known certainly never revealed by travel agents outside of South Africa. Not commenting on whether or not this is an ethical practice, only that this dual price strategy exits.
Ted
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Old Oct 13th, 2008, 05:44 AM
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Ted,

Are you a travel agent who posted before under a different name here???

Just curious to know.

You should try a moroko at Mambo if it still exits over there.
 
Old Oct 13th, 2008, 06:28 AM
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skimmer,
I was tempted to say yes and that my name was Div but I decided not to stir that pot. I was never a travel agent-just a retired airline pilot (former Navy) and now enjoying travel. By the way, you shouldn't take such offense at innocent commnents about your watermark/copyright practice. Get a grip man.
Ted
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Old Oct 13th, 2008, 07:00 AM
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WOW thanks for all the input!

I know that May is not the optimal time in Botswana but if I were to go in late October the price would increase by 1/3 as it is high season! And yes I do know about the World Cup in 2010. That is why I'm keeping within May.

I picked Mombo because I understand that is the BEST viewing at this time of year. I also assumed that game is so plentiful that I would not need to consider a private vehicle here. I thought this might in part justify the high price.

It sounds like I'm hearing a lot of you say that I should consider Chitabe as a location. Should I drop Selinda/Duma Tau/Savuti and add Chitabe or was that in place of Mombo? What if I had a private vehicle for 1 of the days at Duma Tau? I'll tell you that when I'm in Tanzania with a private guide we hit the bush by 6am and stay out until 7pm. Then we have to save images and charge batteries and I AM BEAT! I would love to be forced to take it a bit easier if I wasn't missing too much.

Night drives - I haven't done them but I'm a morning person so I'm not sure if I would have the energy. But then maybe if I took that nap it would work.

Also, I want camps where there is a water hole or something within view of camp so I will have some mid-day options. Can you wander around camp and photograph the birds and such?

Lynn-thanks for the suggestion of the Chobe River cruise. Would this be better here than on the Zambezi from Vic Falls? Should I stay one night here and then one night at the Falls?

Cheetahs-I love cheetahs. We saw 19 in Ndutu area last year in 3 days and I'm hoping for more in 2009. So I guess I'm not banking on them in Botswana. I was planning on an extra night in JoBurg so I culd go to Dewildt to see the cheetahs run. Has anyone done that?

PB-I'll look into Mapula Lodge. I was really just looking at the classic Botswana type tour with 3 camps in 3 different locations, 1 being a water camp. My husband mans the camcorder so he likes some of that great scenery also.

So one more question. When I do get this worked out, when do I need to reserve for May 2010? How far in advance does shoulder season book out?


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