Botswana Planning Help...

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Jan 26th, 2005, 07:42 PM
  #1
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Botswana Planning Help...

It may sound stupid, but I would like to start planning my 2006 safari.

There is a very small chance that Botswana could turn into my 2005 safari, as now my sister-in-law and her husband are looking to join us in 2006, and I am not definitely not footing the bill for that. Still in their late 20's, they are not yet in a position to afford Botswana.

However, chances are that I will go to Botswana NEXT YEAR around the same time as I am going this year to ZAMBIA (early September), but I need to be ready either way, as lodges are filling up already. What it comes down to is whether or not I can really trust counting on going around the world with a young couple that may not be in a position even to do a more cost-effective Zambian safari next year. What is cost-effective for me may be way out of their league, but I have told them the costs and wouldn't mind helping them some (I just don't want to pay for their trip, but wouldn't mind picking up the tab of Cape Town and a few air transfers, for example).

It all comes down to wanting to share the magic and beauty of Africa with my loved ones. Hopefully, they will spread the word to others and what is left of Africa will survive another generation or two.

Anyway, after reading the recent report by Bigcountry, I would likely start my "Botswanan" safari in Hwange NP, Zimbabwe.

With so many great Botswanan lodges that are attracting my attention, I really am torn on where to stay, but I will probably need to keep it to no more than 7 nights in Botswana.

The lodges that are most grabbing my attention are the following:

Kings Pool and Savuti (this would be an either/or proposition). Kings Pool does seem to be a little bit more scenic, but Savuti does have that interesting wood elephant hide and is about $200 pppns less expensive.

AND

Kwando Kwara, Sandibe or Mombo. I am still having a little trouble accepting the fact that Mombo does not do night game drives and that Wilderness Safaris does not utilize the guide/tracker system. Oh and then there is also that little thing with Mombo called the $1,150 pppns PRICE TAG!!!

I have heard excellent reports on Kwara, but I do wish it were a bit more stylish (which is where Sandibe comes into consideration). I do like that Kwara is a combo water/land camp, so that I may be able to enjoy a mekoro excursion or two during my stay.

I may be wrong about this, but I am really not interested in a strictly water camp such as Jao, Jacana or Nxabega. Am I really missing out, if I get a mekoro excursion or two in while at Kwara? I may be willing to expand my stay at Kwara to 4 nights rather than staying 3 nights at Kwara and 2 nights at a water camp, if it all acomplishes the same goal.

So, how does the following itinerary sound:

Westcliff Hotel, Johannesburg, 2 nights
(Staying at the Westcliff for 2 nights would allow me to start my safari very well rested)
Makalolo Plains, 3 nights
Matetsi Water Lodge, 2 nights (this will be the only opportunity for canoeing and visiting Victoria Falls plus greatly helps the average daily cost of this itinerary)
Savuti, 3 nights
Kwando Kwara, 4 nights
5 nights in Cape Town at luxury Waterfront Penthouse.

Although if I visit Zambia, I am planning to finish with Simbambili, I don't know if I still would if I visited Botswana. I think I will have no unfinished business after a Botswanan safari and would therefore move on to a very relaxing 5 nights with my family in Cape Town, really hoping to take in the city, hopefully helping to lead my wife in one direction or another whether or not we are serious about buying property in Cape Town in the next few years.

Although I would like to see more places in Botswana, I cannot afford to be redundant at Botswana prices!

Although Kwara is not Mombo, it will still cost about $625 per person per night, including transfers.

Savuti will also cost around $625 pppns, including transfers.

Makalolo Plains will be a welcome relief at only be about $425 pppns in high season, including transfers.

Matetsi will be the best bargain at about $350 pppns, including transfers.

The Westcliff Hotel should be easy at about $300 per night total.

Therefore, the 13 night itinerary above would probably, per couple, cost as follows :

Westcliff (2) $600 x 2 couples
Makalolo Plains (3) $2,550 x 2 couples
Matetsi Water Lodge (2) $1,400 x 2 couples
Savuti (3) $3,750 x 2 couples
Kwara (4) $5,000 x 2 couples
Cape Town (5) $1,000 x 2 couples

Ultimately, it is about 15% more expensive than Zambia, with the same number of safari nights as Zambia. Really, it would have been MUCH more expensive if it were not for Makalolo Plains and Matetsi in the itinerary.

Any opinions on the above itinerary? I am hopeful that the night game drives and guide & tracker system at Kwara will make up for not staying at Mombo.

Because I have invited my mom and will be paying for a portion of my sisters costs, I really cannot afford to get too crazy, otherwise it would be Kings Pool, Jao and Mombo.

I really do not like jumping around too much, so I am not very interested in staying 2 nights at this camp, and 2 nights at that camp. The less travel days, the better...this is a HOLIDAY, after all.

Am I really missing out by not staying at a water camp? Matetsi is basically my water camp, and while it is not the Okavango Delta, the Zambezi River holds a very special place in my heart.

Is Botswana not Botswana without a visit to Mombo at $1,150 per person per night?

Lastly, where is the ONE PLACE that I am really missing out by not visiting, other than Jack's Camp? (sorry, that just doesn't do anything for me.)

Whatever happens, I am definitely going on safari in September 2005, but it is now up in the air whether it will be to Zambia or Botswana. It is still early enough so that my deposits are safe (THIS is the benefit of using a major tour operator such as Taga Safaris who accepts American Express) and so that the affected Zambian lodges would still have 7+ months to sell the primetime slots I currently hold.

While this would not be very cool on my part, I do hope that the publicity that I have brought to each of the Zambian lodges would more than make up for it. I am definitely going to Zambia...I just don't know if it will be this year or next year. I know, I am a total flake!

Thanks for any feedback about the proposed itinerary.

P.S. - Do you see now why tour operators have to charge what they do...I would hate to have myself as a customer! We will see what happens. Maybe everything will stay the same or maybe Botswana just moved up a year in which case I definitely owe the South Luangwa Conservation Society, Conservation Lower Zambezi and the North Luangwa Conservation Program a nice donation.
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Jan 27th, 2005, 03:36 AM
  #2
mv
 
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Roccco

Kwara is a wonderful camp with very good game viewing. They tend to have very good Leopard and Lion sightings.
I had 3 quality Leopard sightings and 7 quality Lion sightings in 3 days last August including Lions mating (visible from Camp), Lions hunting Buffalo and a territorial dispute between Male Lions. Also very good general game.
Based on your previous postings I do not believe that you are a "mekoro guy". I think that you may find this activity very nice to try but to quiet to do on a regular basis. At Kwara you can do walks, Mekoro, Powerboat and Game drives with excellent guides and trackers. The Kwando camps are very relaxed about meal times as the game viewing is considered more important. You will like their attitude in this respect.
Based on your previous postings the meal arrangements will not be to your preference as the guides will be your hosts at the communal dinner table. Personally this is the way i rrefer things as it allows you to learn more about local culture and it gives an excellent opportunity to discuss the days sightings more in detail.
I have not been to Kings Pool and Savuti but based on the game viewing I would take a closer look at Duma Tau as they had a large pack of Wild Dogs denning in 2004 (The pack normally dens in the Linyanti concession). September should be a good month to see Wild Dogs.
Duma Tau also have regular visits of 3 cheetah brothers. These Cheetah have a large territory covering Kwando Lebala, Linyanti and Duma Tau.
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Jan 27th, 2005, 08:01 AM
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Another possibility:

Westcliff Hotel (2)
Matetsi (2)
Makalolo Plains (3)
Savuti (3)
Sandibe (4)
Cape Town (5)

The question is whether or not the gameviewing activities would be as strong at Sandibe (a CCAfrica lodge) as at Kwara. Sandibe does look like a beautiful camp in a great looking area around Chitabe/Chitabe Trails.

http://www.ccafrica.com/reserve-1-id-2-3

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Jan 27th, 2005, 02:24 PM
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Rocco,

Not a flake, just someone who likes to keep their options open and maximize any opportunities.

The info you've provided is just as valid whether you are going to Zambia 05 or 06. All of our detailed and frenzied planning in contrast with the timelessnes of the African bush we are trying to visit is somewhat ironic in itself. Probably many of us have had itineraries spill into the next year's travels or we've made last minute major revisions. It's just not everyone is willing to reveal all of this blow by blow behind the scenes stuff to the world (or at least this little world of travel talk) as you do.

I would also recommend Duma Tau if you are considering the Linyanti-Savuti area. I think Linyanti may be just a bit better for game viewing in Sept. I was there in 1998 (July) and will be going back this August. I picked it for the good location for game. I believe you are an elephant fan and there was always good elephant activity around the camp, in the lagoon near camp, and during the night right next to our raised platform "tents."

Never been to the other camps you mentioned, but I was at Linkwasha, which is very near Makalola, so I would agree with choosing that area for 3 nights. Again, for elephant it was quite amazing with beautiful sunset views of elephants coming to the pans to drink. Also I've never seen such large herds of sable relatively close anywhere else but there.
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Jan 28th, 2005, 01:33 PM
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Roccco, we spent 3 nights at Sandibe this past fall, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The camp is lovely, with the chalets right on the edge of a permanent water channel, where you can hear the hippos at night. We found the game viewing to be outstanding,including a relatively large population of lion and some large elephant herds. The CCAfrica camps, as you probably know use a tracker/ guide system, which we prefer. Dining each night is in their wonderful dining boma, and they have a selection of both African and western foods. In short, I'd strongly recommend that you include Sandibe.
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Jan 29th, 2005, 12:04 PM
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The depressing thing I am finding out all over again, is just how much more expensive Botswana is than Zambia.

The prices for each of Kwando's lodges is about $600 per person per night.

Really, it is Kwando that interests me most. While Sandibe (CCAfrica) is a beautiful lodge, I just don't know if they would have the same gusto for providing what I am being told is a near limitless effort for the best possible gameviewing.

Regarding Wilderness Safaris, it just makes no sense, whatsoever, that they would not provide the guide & tracker system that is employed by Kwando and most other quality operators throughout Southern Africa.

In comparison of the prices, however, here is how my Zambian preferred lodges measure up to the $600 pppns at Kwando:

Luangwa River Lodge - $350 pppns for the first 3 nights, $300 pppns for each night thereafter.

Kutandala - $400 pppns and this is supposed to possibly be the best bushcamp in Southern Africa, with the camp only catering to a maximum of 6 guests.

Kasaka River Lodge - $300 pppns for this beautiful lodge right on the Zambezi River.

Therefore, the average price of these lodges is $350 pppns, while Kwando is $600 pppns. For each safari night, it will cost me $1,000 more in Botswana, all while staying at camps that cater to at least 16 guests. The average size camp of my Zambian lodges is only 10 guests, on the other hand, and I would guess that Kutandala is about as exclusive and isolated as it gets.

www.kutandala.com

This may have merely been a coy flirtation with Botswana on my part. I will get to Botswana, but it will probably not be while I am responsible for an extra two guests, as I am this time.

Even if I got a killer deal and let's say saved $300 per night, it would still cost me an extra $8,400 for a 12 night Botswanan safari over a 12 night Zambian safari. While I may miss out on a few predators and on massive herds of elephants, I know that I will still see my share of elephants and predators in high season in Zambia. I will miss out on the wild dogs, but for that I could visit Zambia in March or April for like $200 pppns rather than triple the price in Botswana.

I would be very interested in seeing Botswana in January as fellow Fodorite Bigcountry just did. Maybe I would not splurge on Mombo as he did, but it would be possible to visit Kwando for the price of $275 pppns rather than the high season price of $600 pppns!

I think I would also be wise to save Makalolo Plains for whenever I get to Botswana as well. Once a person starts flying below Lower Zambezi from Lusaka, it starts getting very expensive on the air transfers!

Thanks to everyone for the Botswana feedback. It does nothing but reinforce my opinion that I will have to get there very soon, but it probably will not be until next year.

Not surprisingly, once I started comparing them back and forth, I really have little or no disappointment that I will likely be returning to Zambia for the 3rd straight year.
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Jan 29th, 2005, 03:57 PM
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Rocco

I probably answered some questions on the Air Bots posting, but there is some more information to give here.

Last year we went to Savuti (3) Kwando Lagoon (2) and Sandibe(2).
Lagoon was my least favorite for the actions regarding the young Leopard detailed in the other thread. Sandibe was very nice, being a permanent building and the food was excellent. Game viewing was the worst of the three camps (and only Savuti was as good as Mala Mala) they have ranger and tracker but our tracker didn't really manage to achieve much. The vehicles were big enough for six people to have lots of stuff with them - very important in my opinion.
Savuti was the best time we had In Botswana, the hide is terrific and a unique experience. Our ranger Bryan had arule about being last in for dinner so everybody else had usually started when we got back. He even offered to go out all day or all night, the latter I thought about until we saw a relaxed Ardwolf in the channel and parked right next to it in the dark and got one usable photo and tons of video, on the same drive we saw Porcupine, Bat Eared Fox of the nocturnal guys.

He did a great job tracking when he needed to and using the spotlight at night.

In my experience most places utilize the tracker less than you would think because game is plentiful, I like the seating arrangement at Mala Mala, the tracker is up high so when tracking Leopard in thick cover he is much more likely to see it than sitting low down at the front of the vehicle.

July we are off to Kings Pool and Mombo for a splurge and will report back then.

I do understand that Mombo comes down in price if you visit another Wilderness camp on the same itinerary.

We did a Mekoro ride at Sandibe - I thought it a waste of time, it was on the floodplain and so we hardly saw any birds. I would think it pales in comparison with a canoe ride in Zimbabwe which I'm told can be awesome for birds.
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Jan 30th, 2005, 06:15 PM
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Hi Roccco,

I recently booked a safari to Zimbawe and Botswana for Sept/Oct 2005. The itinerary is: 1 night Johannesburg, 3 nights Makalolo Plains, 3 nights Mana Canoe And Walking Trail, 2 nights Chikwenya, 1 night Victoria Falls Hotel, 3 nights Savuti, 3 nights Little Vumbura and 3 nights Chitabe Trails. I picked many of these camps because we want to see wild dogs. Based on the research I did I think we got a smokin' price. I'm new to posting info on a website but there does seem to be an unspoken rule about not posting prices - maybe I'm wrong, but I'd rather not chance it. You can email me at [email protected] and I'd be happy to let you know who I worked with and the price. Good luck on your research. I'm sure whatever you decide to do the trip will be wonderful! Kathy
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Jan 30th, 2005, 07:35 PM
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Kathy,

In my next life I am looking for a partner who books a 19 night Southern African safari holiday with 18 actual nights of safari, including 3 nights of Mana Canoe Trails, with only 1 actual (obligatory) night in the city!

Sounds like an awesome itinerary that you have set up!

Thanks for the feedback. I have e-mailed you with a few more questions.
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Jan 30th, 2005, 08:59 PM
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I have just noticed that there is a late 4:35PM flight from Victoria Falls to Joburg on what would be my final night of a 14 night safari.

What this would do for me is open up the following possible itinerary, all while sneaking in a 2 hour visit to Victoria Falls without spending a single night in Victoria Falls!

Luangwa River Lodge (4)
Kutandala (4)
Kasaka River Lodge (3)
Makalolo Plains (3)

Makalolo Plains would be my best opportunity for very strong elephant sightings, lion sightings, sable and kudu. Plus, it will be my ONLY possibility to see rhino. I just want to sit there, scared ****less in the swimming pool while the jumbos come to drink!

Makalolo Plains may offer the strongest viewing of all the camps and is considered at or near its best in mid-September, when I would be visiting. Victoria Falls would be a major bonus, and even if I only visited for a couple hours, it would be perfect. I could get into Cape Town by 10:10PM for my 5 night stay.

The only other option would be the following:

Luangwa River Lodge (4)
Kutandala (4)
Matetsi (2)
Makalolo Plains (4)

Matetsi would just be filler, but as a CCAfrica lodge, it would probably be a very nice, abbreviated, experience. I am not sure, though, that I want to sacrifice Kasaka River Lodge and the Lower Zambezi.

Anyway, I am just trying to find my way down to Makalolo Plains with also visiting Victoria Falls, if only for a couple hours.
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Jan 31st, 2005, 03:51 AM
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Roccco,

So sorry - my email address is [email protected] (not @home). Duh! I look forward to hearing from you.

Kathy
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Feb 1st, 2005, 03:46 PM
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Kathy,

We may just meet up with each other, after all, at Makalolo Plains.

This is all related to Delta Skymiles and my free regional flight.

In order to fly JNB-Lusaka and then Victoria Falls-JNB, I will have to fly in and out of Lusaka. I don't even have the opportunity for a one-way flight.

I am thinking that I am better off starting off with two nights at a luxury hotel in Johannesburg rather than at the end, and then end with a single night at the Victoria Falls Hotel.

In short, what that would do to my schedule is the following, beginning on Sept 01st, with my final night being on Sept 19th (departing on the 20th)

Westcliff or Michelangelo Hotel (2)
Luangwa River Lodge (4)
Kutandala (4)
Kasaka River Lodge (4)
Makalolo Plains (4)
Victoria Falls Hotel (1)

That would put me at Makalolo on the nights of the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th.

I hate to fly all the way back to Lusaka at the end, but it really won't be so bad, and is still cheaper than buying four 1-way seats from VFA - JNB, and at least it will be in Business Class. I just hate all these "no stopover, no open-jaw, etc." rules that the airlines have.

So, you just may see four ragged Californians at Makalolo Plains, spending their final night on safari, I believe, while you are nice and fresh just starting your safari!
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Feb 1st, 2005, 05:16 PM
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Rocco,

We're arriving at Makalolo on the 19th - so if we see you guys it will probably be as we're getting off the plane and you're getting on! Sounds like you're getting close to finalizing your trip.
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