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Botswana vs Kenya/Tanzania

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Sep 30th, 2005, 07:01 AM
  #1
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Botswana vs Kenya/Tanzania

My husband and I are looking into doing a safari early next year. These message boards have been EXTREMELY helpful in looking into the different countries and tour companies. However, I am torn on if we should go to Botswana or Kenya/Tanzania. Our timing is pretty open so we would hit the country at the appropriate time. This is our first time to Africa and due to the number of places we want to travel to, it may be the only time. We are more focused on the game aspect instead of the nightlife and beaches. Any thoughts on where might be better would be very appreciated.
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Sep 30th, 2005, 08:05 AM
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I'm sure half of us will say Botswana and the other half East Africa. Ultimately it has to be your choice. A lot will depend on budget, Botswana is pretty expensive, but well worth it IMO.
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Sep 30th, 2005, 08:16 AM
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Whichever place you choose, likely you'll return and get to hit the other one at a later date.

I'll add more specifics later in the day. Botswana is more expensive but it offers a product in line with that expense. So if budget is a big issue, then Kenya and Tanzania may be better for cost reasons, but Kenya/Tanzania offer things you can't get in Botswana!

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Sep 30th, 2005, 08:58 AM
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napamatt,

Take it from someone who has recently priced out both...Tanzania is just about as expensive (for luxury camps) now as Botswana, Mombo excepted.

For the beginning of the year, however, I would think that Tanzania would be preferable.
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Sep 30th, 2005, 08:59 AM
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If your primary interest is game viewing, then the unsurpassed wildlife spectacle is viewing the migration in either Kenya or Tanzania (depending on time of year).

It is, BY FAR, the Number 1 destination for game viewing and you'll see much more than you will in Botswana.

Just my opinion, but I have been to both.

Michael
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Sep 30th, 2005, 10:02 AM
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Hello Banson,

Whilst Botswana doesn't have the sheer spectacle of the migration, predator viewing (particularly leopard) is excellent. Each area has its unique species -- in Botswana, you can see wild dog, which are not found in Kenya and are found only in southern Tanzania (not usually included in a first-time safari, but there's no reason you can't include it if you really want to see the dogs).

Botswana has a large number of very different environments, from the wetland of the Okavango Delta to the desert salt pans with wooded forests in between -- it's one of my favourite things about the country. The Delta is simply magical, a wetland in the middle of the Kalahari desert. East Africa has the endless plains we often think of first when someone mentions Africa.

Botswana has a much lower tourist density than the famous reserves of Kenya (e.g. Masai Mara) and Northern Tanzania (Serengeti, Ngorongoro) and the camps are almost uniformly small (10-12 tents is considered quite large in Botswana, and quite small in east Africa). You'll share a huge wilderness area with only a few other people, and you'll be able to watch animals without encountering a mini-traffic jam -- something which may be hard to find in east Africa, particularly in the high season, without paying a substantial premium (eliminating the cost advantage versus Botswana).

Botswana has a very wide range of activity options in addition to game drives (boating, fishing, canoeing, and game walks). I particularly enjoy the magical feeling of poling silently through the Delta in a traditional mokoro (dugout canoe). Both regions offer the opportunity for cultural interaction with local people, e.g. the San bushmen in Botswana, and the Maasai and Samburu in Kenya and Tanzania.

Safari vehicles in southern Africa are open-sided Land Rovers or Land Cruisers, whereas many east African safaris use closed minivans with hatches that pop up for photography or a better view. It is possible to get open-sided vehicles in east Africa, but it will cost you more. Some people prefer closed ones, and some prefer open. Personally, I can't imagine being isolated from the sights, sounds, and smells of the bush by the walls of a minivan.

In the end, both areas offer superb experiences - it depends what your priorities are.

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 30th, 2005, 10:58 AM
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Just a minor correction to Julian's post above. Wild dogs are found in northern Kenya. Nyamera posted recently about sightings in Samburu and they can be found in the Laikipia region as well, though they're difficult to spot from what I gather. Wish me luck in November!
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Sep 30th, 2005, 11:04 AM
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Glad to be wrong -- anything which has wild dog populations increasing is great!

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 30th, 2005, 11:27 AM
  #9
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This has all been very helpful -thank you so much! Any more insight is vey appreciated. The more I read, the more thrilled I am to be doing this!
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Sep 30th, 2005, 11:45 AM
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Banson,

Just wondering...

Have you considered Zambia?

Take a look at my trip report and photo album and see if this may appeal to you. It is about half the price of Botswana and is far less expensive than Tanzania. Anytime between April - September would be great for Zambia.

I will top my trip report and photo album for you.
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Sep 30th, 2005, 01:22 PM
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Since you are thinking early next year, Botswana has seasonal rate structures, which could swing your safari south.

Kenya & Tanzania fill up with tourist between end July and October, consequently prices are at a premium and accommodation tough to arrange at short notice.

As has been advised, game is prolific in both regions, however the specatcle of the migration should rank as a "wildlife enthusiasts olympics" and shouldn't be missed.

For those wanting dogs in Kenya: Laikipia wilderness, speak to the team at Loisaba, they have a pack and see them regularly.
Venture of the beaten track (tourist track) in TNZ and you'll stand a great chance of finding them in the Selous.

And if you hit Botswana toward the end of April/May and are prepared to do a mobile safari into the Magkadigadi area, chances are good that you'll witness the great zebra migration too.
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Sep 30th, 2005, 02:30 PM
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Roccco -

What took you so long to mention Zambia? LOL!

Patty -

You got to Julian before I did... good for you. Yes, wild dogs up north in Laikipia and Samburu.

banson -

You've gotten a pretty good overview of what's available where and when. For 2006, Jan-March is pretty much closed in Northern Tanzania. Then there is the wet season April-May in both Kenya and Tanzania and this "green season" in Botswana. There are price deals in all three areas during this time, and don't let the rain put you off. Except for the torrents in Botswana two years ago, the rain is rarely daily, often just afternoon or overnight storms. But roads can be muddy. Benefit - less tourists, better prices.

Once you get into June - Aug, you hit high seasons in East and Southern Africa; in East Africa this goes thru October with prices not coming down until November with the "short" rains. Hey, even recently in September there was some rain in East Africa. So there are no guarantees.

There is a wealth of information on this board for both areas. There are plenty of books in the stores. Check out various websites and itineraries in both areas. It's a bit of work to get a handle on what you think will work for you, but once you do, we're here to help.

And if you can't decide, remember, as many here will tell you and as Arnold says "you'll be back." So just pick one area and be ready to plan a return visit the following year or two.
 
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Sep 30th, 2005, 03:18 PM
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banson: the good news is I don't think you can make a bad choice here. I will add in that when it was time for me to select for the first time I really focused on what is most important to me, the wildlife viewing.

Things I considered to maximize my viewing potential:

1) Being able to leave the road. I watch wildlife from a distance all the time, I wanted to have the best chance for close encounters and thus I like the private concessions where vehicles may leave the road.

2) Feeling wild! I wanted to be somewhere that has lots of area and very few people and vehicles. Being the only vehicle at sightings to me really adds to the wilderness and natural feel. So again, I really value the private concession area.

3)Vehicle type. Count me as one who really prefers open sided vehicles both to enhance the photography and because the viewing feels more intimate and connected to me.

4)Night drives. There are so many animals that are virtually only seen at night and it is often the time for action. Many national parks do not allow for this experience. I don't think you need it everywhere but I would not want a trip that has no night driving.

5) I was particularly interested in finding predators and specifically wild dog. This clinched it for me as the Botswana safari areas have the best dog populations in proximity to camps and when I found that Duba Plains was an unparalleled place to observe lion I was done.

Other factors that I weigh much more heavily now for future trips: cultural interactions and variety of activities -- boating, walking, research, etc.

My suggestion is don't think about countries and figure out what are the most important factors for you -- a particular species, an occurence like a migration, small intimate luxury, the sky under canvas, a vehicle type, etc. Decide the top 3 or 4 things you hope to find on the trip and then see which country fits best.
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Sep 30th, 2005, 03:25 PM
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PredatorBiologist:
What a really useful and practical analytical framework to apply!
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Oct 1st, 2005, 12:16 PM
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One factor to consider is the unique qualities of the Okavango Delta in Botswana. I don't think there's any landscape that's similar to it anywhere in Africa, or even in the world. I was just blown away by how beautiful it was. With human encroachment and climate changes, it's one of those very delicate ecosystem that won't last forever. One of the key reasons we chose Botswana over Tanzania for our first trip was this. Of course, now we're more torn than ever on our second trip -- to return to Botswana or to go to East Africa!

Judy
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Oct 1st, 2005, 12:32 PM
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Linjudy,

I know exactly how you feel...I had to make that choice for 2006, and it was a hard one!

Cheers,
Julian
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Oct 1st, 2005, 12:48 PM
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I wonder has anyone done both in one trip? I recall someone who posted an itinerary that had both. How long/expensive is the flight from JNB to Tanzania anyways? It would be lovely to not have to choose

Would love to hear from people who have done both on one trip!

Judy
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Oct 1st, 2005, 12:54 PM
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Judy,

Canechick and I are thinking of doing a Tanzania/SA combo in 2007...if the plans solidify, we'll post here!

Cheers,
Julian
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Oct 1st, 2005, 01:04 PM
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banson,

Lots of good information that has your initial request pretty well covered. But in an earlier post on this thread, I wrote that I'd have more info later so I feel compelled to provide it. Here it is...

Tanzania
Pros:
The variety and sheer numbers of animals seen for what you spend makes it the best value
Can see a World Wonder--Ngorongoro Crater
Can experience the migration, depending on when you go
Cultural interactions with Masai
Can see chimps if you go south to Mahale
Closer proximity to the gorillas for less travel time/expense to get there (if you were to go to Uganda/Rwanda)
For a first safari, it is a bit more typical and common than Southern Africa

Cons:
Not as secluded as parts of Southern Africa
Fewer opportunities to walk, although they do exist
Few water activities, boat safaris or canoeing
Fewer night drive opportunities, although they do exist
Open vehicles are less common with pop-ups being the norm


Botswana:
Very secluded and beautiful luxury tented camps, not crowded at all
Great game
One of best places to see wild dogs (although Selous & Ruaha in Tanzania also have packs--never been there though)
A few places allow walking
The Okavango delta, a World Heritage Site, which you can experience on boats or in mekoros--long narrow boats poled by expert polers.
Many places offer night drives
Can experience the Kalahari Desert--meerkats and San Bushmen

Cons:
If you wish to see the "Big 5" you would have to include Mombo, which has rhino, but costs over $1000 per night. The other game there is phenomenal, though, and it probably is worth the price.
Expensive--even not at Mombo, but luxury camping safaris are more reasonable

To respond to linjudy, though I've not been to both Tanzania and Botswana on one trip, I did Zimbabwe and Uganda. The internal flight was not a big deal, uneventful, and nonmemorable. It was a few hundred several years ago.

If you have the time and money to do both, I'd go for it!


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Oct 28th, 2005, 03:41 PM
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We too are looking into the Botswana/Kenya decision for safaris. We are looking to go in July '06.

If budget is not a concern and this is our one shot at Africa (there's a lot of the world left to see still), does anyone have a recommendation between Botswana and Kenya?

We like the idea of smaller and less touristy, I just want to make sure we see all the wildlife I am expecting (Lions, giraffe, elephant, leopard etc.).

Your thoughts are appreciated!
Keith
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