Botswana Report

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Sep 28th, 2005, 12:02 PM
  #1
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Botswana Report

I am writing to report on one of the most amazing experiences that I have ever had. I recently took my 18 year old nephew on safari in Botswana and Zambia. I have decided to report on this trip because our experince has changed my view about the best way to go on safari. Prior to this I had been on lodge based safaris in Botswana. My nephew is very much into camping and the outdoors. Given this I decided to try a non-participatory camping safari. I spent a fair amount of time researching companies that offer these services and decided on one (Masson Safaris) after reading about them in the Bradnt Guide to Botswana and e-mailing some former clients of this company (names, e-mail addresses were provided to me by the company). I was very impressed with how enthusiastic the comments were about them -- so I decided to go with the Massons. We did a 13 night camping safari throughout Botswana staying in a number of private HATAB campsites. We camped at Baines' Baobabs, Nxai Pan, the Moremi area, the Kwara concession [so that we could do some night drives], Savuti and Chobe. I worked the schedule out well in advance with Sallie Masson (co-owner of the company and wife of Ewan Masson -- our guide). Since I had been to Botswana before I had a sense of where I wanted to visit and she made it all fit into the schedule (two nights in each place). Although I was a bit hesitant about camping in Africa -- I am so glad that I did and I can never imagine doing a safari any other way. The nicest thing about it was that it was me and my nephew with the guide and three camp attendants. We did not have to worry about other guests and there were no set schedules which I had experienced in some lodges (e.g., you must be back for brunch at a certain time). If we were having a great game drive we could stay out as long as we wanted and the guide would radio the staff 30 minutes before we returned so that they would know when to have everything ready. As it relates to creature comforts, my nephew summed it up well -- "this isn't like any camping I have ever done". We were completely taken care of and did not have to lift a finger. We stayed in comfortable dome tents that were about 9 ft x 9 ft. They had mesh windows and a mesh roof that made for wonderful views, particularly of the stars at night. They were equipped with cots that were surprisingly comfortable and fresh linen every 3-4 days. My nephew and I both had individual bathrooms (chemical flush toilets) which were absolutely fine, and we could take bucket showers whenever we liked -- the staff always kept warm water ready. Over the course of our thirteen nights we always had different meals -- the food was never repeated and I was amazed at the quality given that everything was cooked over a fire (e.g., flan for desert). As anyone who has been on safari knows the most critical element is the guide. Ewan (our guide) was AMAZING. I always felt safe with him and he was increadibly knowledgable and worked hard to see that we had a good time. As I look through the photos I took (almost 4,000 in Botswana) I am amazed at some of the things we saw. Conversing with Ewan over dinner was also a high point of the trip for both me and my nephew. A fascinating man who we learned a lot from. Ewan was recently made a volunteer national park service warden by Botswana (an honor bestowed on only a few guides) to help with issues of park management. I was impressed with how dedicated he was to these issues / duties. I was also impressed that all the guides we would run into from various lodges knew him and seemed to respect him. Sallie (Ewan's wife) met us in Maun and visited our camp to restock it with food. She is a licensed guide too and very knowledgable. She is the person I communicated with in planning the trip and she couldn't have been more helpful. When we left Botswana we went to Tongabezi in Zambia for three nights. It was definitely luxurious and beautiful, but to be completely honest we missed Ewan and our tents in Botswana. I could go on and on, but this is already sounding like an advertisement. If anyone would like more info on my experiences please feel free to e-mail me at [email protected]. You can also reach the Masson's at http://www.masson-safaris.com/
Let them know that Michael and Matthew (my nephew) said hello. I would also be happy to share some of my photos (not all 4000) with anyone interested -- e-mail and I will forward digital files to you. Although most people on this message board seem to be interested in lodge based safaris, I would definitely recommend giving camping and the Massons a try. They were amazing, and actually the cost is a bit less than the usual lodge experience.
Michael
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Sep 28th, 2005, 12:11 PM
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Glad you had an enjoyable time. Any special sightings you'd care to share--and in which park you saw them?

I'll keep Masson in mind.


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Sep 28th, 2005, 12:22 PM
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Wow, sounds like a great way to see Botswana. I have only been once to Botswana, staying at Wilderness Safaris lodges, but I find the time on safari limited (morning and late afternoon into evening drive), with many guests as much interested in lodge architecture as wildlife viewing. For our next safari next July, I am doing a self drive through two parks in SA precisely b/c we want to spend the full days on game drives. If and when I return to Botswana, I intend to look into this type of travel.

Now, for the million dollar question, and hopefully the answer won't be a "million dollars", but what't the approximate price for something like this.

Thanks
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Sep 28th, 2005, 01:54 PM
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I'm thrilled you had such a wonderful time, Michael...you made the right choice. Whichever form of camp you choose, as distinct from lodge-style accommodation, the most remote, intimate and flexible ones are the best. Friends and I had similar camps on a walking safari in Chizarira and Hwange NPs in Zimbabwe. Our crew set up camp as a base for trekking for two or three nights, then moved camp for us while we walked to the new location and spent another two or three nights. Chiz and the Hwange walking area were really special.
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Sep 28th, 2005, 02:10 PM
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Sounds fantastic Michael. Thank you for letting us know.

I too am interested in any pricing details that you would be willing to share.

You have a very lucky nephew!
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Sep 28th, 2005, 02:41 PM
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Thanks for such a positive report! That sounds amazing. what month did you travel?
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Sep 29th, 2005, 12:32 AM
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Wonderful report, thank you so much!
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Sep 29th, 2005, 12:48 AM
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Most interesting. What was the average cost per person per night?
regards - tom
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Sep 29th, 2005, 03:07 AM
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Sounds wonderful! Please let us know pricing details of this type of trip.
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Sep 29th, 2005, 08:40 AM
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I emailed the company for more info. The pricing for tailor made safari is $350/pppn. A scheduled safari (Discover Northern Botswana) is $2620.00/pp and looks to be 8 nights from their website.
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Sep 29th, 2005, 02:13 PM
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As it relates to the question of cost -- we paid $320 pp/pn, which came to a total of $8960. The message from ALadyNCal indicates that she checked the Masson website and found the price for the scheduled safari to be $2620 pp. You should know that most of this companies safaris are privately arranged and I believe that they can accomodate 1-6 people (maybe more I am not sure). I also think that the price per person goes down as the number of people travelling goes up (I am also not sure about this). I am not sure how many scheduled join-in type of safaris they do a year. I think that the price we paid was a real bargain given all the individual attention that we got. It was particularly nice to have the continuity of the same guide throughout the trip.
Our trip was in late June into July and it was the ideal time . The sightings were spectacular. This was particularly true around the Moremi / Kwara areas. We stayed in two very remote camps here (there was no one around for miles). In one of these camps (Mboma) we were treated to a pride of seven lions. Actually we had left for our morning drive when the camp staff radioed and informed us that a group of lions were watching them as they packed up the camp. We returned and watched the seven lions watch the staff and then do there own inspection of the area that we had slept in the night before. Another camp that I particularly liked was Hippo Pools -- we camped in front of a lagoon and were treated to the singing of many hippo each night. The last morning we were at Savuti we were awakened by the sounds of lions and elephants fighting. Out guide got us and we hurried off to the waterhole where the action was taking place. The sun was just coming up and when we arrived we were treated to the sight of a group of 29 lions waiting and watching the elephants at the waterhole. Apparently this is the same group of lions that has gotten some recent TV attention (National Geographic TV Program "Be the Creature") for their ability to stalk and bring down elephants. It was amazing to be among so many lions. We were the first ones there thanks to our guide's quick response. I noted that by the time the land rover carrying the guests from the Savuti Camp Lodge arrived (which I had stayed in once before) the lions were already taking off into the bush. Our guide, Ewan, also had a particular knack for finding the perfect spot to see elephants at sunset -- it made for some amazing pictures. One evening we sat along the shores of the Kwara river as large herds of elephants came down to the bank to drink and frolic in the water. There were elephants on both sides -- I would guess anywhere from 75-125 along the bank. It was magical. These are just some of the special moments. What was great about the campsites we used is that they are private -- no one else is around. They are controlled by HATAB (Hotel and Travel Association of Botswana) and only HATAB member safari companies can reserve them. Camping in these remote spots made us feel very much a part of the bush scene. It just felt like us and the animals. Let me know if you would like any more info. Anyone interested should e-mail Sallie Masson -- she is really helpful. She even arranged for us to get discounted rates on our Air Botswana flight from Johburg to Maun prior to the safari -- she got the tickets and sent them via DHL to me. The whole thing couldn't have been earier
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Sep 29th, 2005, 03:28 PM
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Thanks for all the great info I will be in Botswana in June -- glad it seemed like a perfect time for you. The pricing I noted was emailed to me from the company (btw). If there is a link for your photos -- could you post it here or send it or some of your photos to me? My email is [email protected]. Thanks so much.
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Sep 30th, 2005, 07:49 AM
  #13
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For anyoneinterested in viewing some photos from this trip -- you can see some at http://www.mike59.shutterfly.com/action/

Password = Botswana

Enjoy & let me know if you have any questions
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Sep 30th, 2005, 08:35 AM
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A lot of really really great photos Thanks for sharing them.
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Sep 30th, 2005, 09:32 AM
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Great pictures! Thank's for sharing. My favorites: the two giraffes and the lioness who seems to be looking right at you, and the skies!
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