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Botswana/S. Africa safari recommendations -- for a first timer!

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Jul 17th, 2005, 12:10 PM
  #1
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Botswana/S. Africa safari recommendations -- for a first timer!

My husband and I are avid wildlife and nature lovers and young, active people. We are going to Southern Africa for the first time in early October and want to go on safari for 1 week, the second week in October. We have heard that Botswana's Okavango Delta, Chobe, Moremi, and Linyati are spectacular at that time of year. Kruger (especially Sabi Sands area) and Victoria Falls also come highly recommended. We've also heard great things about Luangwa NP in Zambia, but have heard it's very expensive to get there from Cape Town (where we'll be before the safari).

We are most interested in getting away from the crowds/paved roads/reminders of civilization, being active (maybe a walking safari or canoeing?), and seeing wildlife. We don't need fancy accomodations (in fact, we want to avoid anything that's cheesy and touristy), but we would like to sleep on beds and have en suite bathrooms. Most important, we want a socially and ecologically responsible tour company, and want to be sure that all employees are treated with respect. We'd prefer to do this with a private guide rather than a large tour group.

Can anyone recommend 1) where we should go? Botswana or South Africa or Zambia or another country? Or should we split the safari between two countries? 2) Specifically, which regions/parks/game reserves within that country? 3) Recommended tour operators/guides?

CarolineB_L is offline  
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Jul 17th, 2005, 05:06 PM
  #2
 
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hi caroline,
all 3 of the areas u mentioned will allow for all u seem to desire. sabi sands has fantastic game. if you want a virtual guarantee of teh big 5, this would probably be your best bet. if you want a more remote area with still fantastic game, i would do botswana, and for the most active of the 3 zambia would be your choice as a lot of walking safaris are based there as well as canoe trips down the zambezi. one thing to know is that oct is extremely hot in southern africa so you may want to keep that in mind for your activities. it is the driest time of year so game concentrations are high, but so too is the heat. in terms of price, botswana will be the most expensive and zambia the least based on staying at remote private concessions. hope this helps as a starter
bigcountry is offline  
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Jul 17th, 2005, 05:36 PM
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Caroline,

Regarding South Luangwa,, it is not much more expensive to get there than it would be to get to Moremi or Linyanti. You would simply fly from Cape Town to Joburg to Lusaka and then take a 1 hour small plane transfer to Mfuwe.

Whatever extra costs there are over Moremi or Linyanti would be more than made up on the first night of lodging as it is about 1/3 to 1/2 less expensive for lodging than in Botswana.

I will be leaving for my 3rd Zambian safari in as many years at the end of next month. While early October would be hot, it will be hot whether you are in Botswana or Zambia.

The good thing about South Luangwa is that it is an easy connection from Victoria Falls. As an alternative, you could fly in and out of Livingstone (Vic Falls on the Zambian side of the falls) and then it is a 2 hour small plane transfer to South Luangwa.

There are really quite a few really nice lodges in South Luangwa. Here are a few that I would recommend:

www.luangwariverlodge.com
www.star-of-africa.com (click on the links to Puku Ridge and Chichele Presidential Lodge)
www.robinpopesafaris.com
www.luangwa.com (Kafunta River Lodge)
www.kaingo.com
www.normancarrsafaris.com
www.bushcampcompany.com
www.remoteafrica.com

There is not one on the above list that I would not love to visit. To date, however, I have visited Kafunta River Lodge, Kafunta Island Bush Camp, Kaingo and Chichele Presidential Lodge. I would return to each and every one of them, but this year I will be staying at Luangwa River Lodge and Puku Ridge.

Another consideration for you, that would make an excellent combination with South Luangwa, is Lower Zambezi National Park. There are a number of excellent lodges here, as well:

www.kasakariverlodge.com
www.chongwe-river.com
www.chiawa.com
www.sausagetreecamp.com
www.star-of-africa.com (go to the link for Kulefu Tented Camp)

Personally, I think four nights at Luangwa River Lodge and three nights at Chongwe River Camp or Kasaka River Lodge would be an awesome combination.

As a rough guide, I would say to make the following allowances for your October (high season) safari, assuming you are staying in lodges and not camping:

Botswana - $600 - $700 per person per night sharing

Zambia - $300 - $400 pppns

Although you are saying that you do not need "fancy" accomodations, and the accomodations at, for example, Luangwa River Lodge may strike you as being fancy, the prices are right and you are sure to have an exclusive experience as its capacity is only ten guests. Yet, the pricetag is only $1,350 pp for a four night visit (an average of $312.50 pppns).

Chongwe River Camp and Kasaka River Lodge in Lower Zambezi is only $285 pppns.

Regarding Victoria Falls, I don't think that the falls will be that spectacular by October. A better time to see the falls would probably be between March - June while they are truly a spectacle to behold.

Regarding tour operators, you need to be careful on which operator you select. Many will attempt to charge over rack rates, especially in Zambia where the commissions are not as high as in Botswana. I have made some excellent contacts with various tour operators and I definitely have my favorite couple operators. Feel free to e-mail me if you would like my recommendations as I would rather not give any commercial endorsements on the board.

Last thing I will address is the fact that you and your husband are young and active. One of the best things about Zambia is that there are so many activities to choose from. While at many other places, guests may be limited to morning and night game drives (or in some places, night game drives are not even available), that is not the case in Zambia.

In Zambia, you will have your choice of walking safaris, morning game drives, night game drives, canoeing (Lower Zambezi) and cultural visits to real African villages (South Luangwa).

A private guide will cost you more money than going to most of the lodges that I suggested, and then you may likely end up at campsites with far more people than you would find at the lodges I recommended...kind of defeats the purpose, huh? You always do have the option of requesting a private vehicle (and guide) at your lodges, but that may add about $200+ per day to the pricetag.

In closing, I would recommend that you jump right on this. October is the end of high season and is traditionally a very busy time for each Botswana and Zambia as gameviewing will be at its very best.

Good luck!
Roccco is offline  
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Jul 19th, 2005, 08:00 AM
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Caroline -- What is your budget or price range?
lisa is offline  
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Jul 20th, 2005, 07:27 AM
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Yes, knowing your budget would make ALL the difference in giving recommendations - can you give the budget EXCLUSIVE of air fares so that we know the figure you provide can go fully towards your 1 week trip.

In the meantime, my main advice would be to not try and cover too much with such a short duration of a trip. With the advice you'll receive here, and books too if you want, try and narrow down your choice to one area and concentrate on it for the week. Doing too much will mean lots of time travelling and less time safaring.

PS Where are you based in the world?
Kavey is offline  
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Jul 20th, 2005, 02:01 PM
  #6
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Thanks so much for your responses. I am based in New York City. My husband and I would like to spend $200-300pp per day, exclusive of air fares. If there was something truly spectacular, we may be able to stretch our budget to $400pp per day for a part of the one week trip.

Rocco and others have gotten me very excited about Zambia, especially the idea of doing a 1 week canoe and walking safari. But I don't understand the connection between tour operators and lodges. If we stayed at a lodge, do they supply the guide to take you on the game drives? Or should I contact a tour operator and ask them to make the reservation for a specific lodge and also provide a guide?

Also, I keep hearing that Wilderness Safaris is a good outfit, but their website indicates that I don't book a tour with them through them, but rather through another operator. I'm confused about this.

Thanks for any advice you may have!
CarolineB_L is offline  
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Jul 20th, 2005, 07:11 PM
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Hi Caroline,

I have traveled to Zambia & Botswana in 2004 and to South Africa in 2005. Both areas are very interesting. We have seen al BIG 5 (elephant, lion, rhino, buffalo, and leopard) animals in Kruger NP in first two hours of our visit. We also camp in Okavango for 3 days and did a lot of walking safaris there. It is very interesting experience, but you may not see animals as close as you can see from car/truck. Chobe river cruise is awesome, but when we went for drive to Chobe NP next day we didnít see a single elephant (we have seen many impalas very close and personal). You can check pictures from our trips on my personal web-site www.leshko.com. Feel free to drop me e-mail with any questions.
For Botswana and Zambia we book tour with http://www.wagontrails.co.za/
Kruger we booked with http://www.siyabona.com/ . Both companies are good and reliable offering budget tours, camping and tracking experience.

Sincerely,
Jurij.
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