Botswana/Zambia Trip - Need Tips!

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Jun 16th, 2005, 09:07 AM
  #1
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Botswana/Zambia Trip - Need Tips!

I am heading out to Botswana next June (2006) - just confirmed all details of the camps - start at Stanley's camp for three days, onto Macatoo Camp for three days, Duba Plains for two days, Lebala Camp for three days, Savuti for three days and then off to Zambia - Tongabezi for two days and Singabezi for 1 day.

First, I hope anyone out there who has some feedback on these camps can make me feel better that my choices are solid - I can't stand hotels in the wilderness - tented camping sounds like the ideal and also as a single western female I will be safe?...I do tend to attract attention, I am very blonde, fair and tall...I tend to stick out...

Second - I have to arrange for my international flight on my own - any preferences for SAA vs BA? I need to fly out of Miami FL to Joburg for my connection to Maun - I can't even seem to price or book a flight yet - something about 325 days before the date? Anyway, any tips on making this a smart and easy connection will be appreciated.

Third: I am white water rafting for an entire day on the lower Zambezi - anyone done this and am I completely nuts - ie - am I going to be a scooby snack for the local wildlife?

Also - I have just bought a digital camera and thought of buying the adaptor to charge the batteries in the car - sound stupid or smart?

And finally - Buzz-off clothing from Ex-Officio - anyone out there bought it and is it worth the extra $?

I am already salivating looking at all the posts from Africa. Any and all tips welcome!!!! THANK YOU
Canechick is offline  
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Jun 16th, 2005, 01:56 PM
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Savuti is great, no experience of the others, but if you search you will find references to all of them. None of the Botswana camps are hotels in the wilderness.

If you fly SAA out of London it should get you into Joburg at 7:30 am which is plenty of time to get the Maun flight tthe same day.
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Jun 17th, 2005, 06:08 AM
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Stanley's--are you going to walk with the elephants? There have been some great reports on that.

Savuti--Great place to be in June

Duba Plains--Never been, but it is part of my own 2006 itinerary.

Tongabezi--never been but hear only good news on it.

You'll be very safe. Almost every Africa trip I've made has been as a solo female with no problems ever.

Most airlines do not book before 325 to 330 days. Sometimes BA will offer world travler PLUS seats (a step up from the cheapest coach seats called world traveler) at very little extra cost.

My Aug 2005 BA London to Joburg gets in at 6:55 am and there are 2 flights to Maun, one at 12:30 pm and one a little later. That's hours of time and allows for a late arrival. Of course 2006 could change, but probably not by much.

The white water rafting is a typical part of many safaris so you are not nuts. I personally haven't done it because I hate even slightly scary stuff.

I love Buzz Off and own several pieces, mostly for home. I've not needed misquito thwarting clothes in July or August in Southern Africa.

It should be a great trip and you're right about the intriguing reports coming back from Botswana.
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Jun 17th, 2005, 06:58 AM
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atravelynn:

Yes, I am doing the elephant walk thing, I was actually was encouraged to reserve this far in advance to ensure a spot. I am real excited about that...

It is funny you mention the BA Premium economy class - that is what I booked for my Kenya/Tanzania safari flight this August - it really was a nominal amount (about $300 US) but the comfort of a few extra inches should really make the long flight much better. I hope anyway. I am very tall and economy can be be pretty cramped for normal size folks...I would definitely like to do the same for my Bots trip if I can ever get a peek at the new flight schedule. I guess I have to wait until next month. SAA - ever flown them? They have a direct flight from Miami and thier flight prices seem to be significantly lower than BA - I wonder why?

I really love reading all of your posts. I feel much more comfortable with all the info on this site. And solo travel doesn't seem to be a big deal at all and that is nice to know. I had a few awkward moments in Italy last year...

I already placed the order for buzz-off since I can use it this year - Kenya and Tanz seem to have more issues with the pesky mossies.

Thank you again.
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Jun 17th, 2005, 07:33 AM
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I too am a single female - I never felt unsafe in Botswana/Zambia (although I am NOT tall and blond).

Re: White water rafting on Zambezi. I did this in 1995 (can't believe it's been 10 years already!)...I would recommend it. It was an enormous amount of fun. I would also recommend flying over the Falls in an ultra/micro light.
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Jun 17th, 2005, 12:27 PM
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Don't know these camps, but you'll have a great time, and have no fears about safety. The Joburg connection is the only one you'll have to make yourself (and depending on the travel agent you used, someone may meet and escort you even there)...other than that, you will be met and transferred by all the camps. These areas really are very safe, and an individual traveller is never really alone-- there are always guides, and other guests around on drives and at meals, so plenty of company. I was in Botswana last June, and there were very very few insects-- only some small gnat-like things that don't bite, but can fly into your eyes, nose and mouth (if open!). We put mosquito repellent on at night, and didnt' get a single bit. I find that glasses/sunglasses and a bandanna (to tie over your nose & mouth is really useful in against the gnats... Mostly these gnats are around the water, soi I noticed them during water transfers in the delta. Also, if you are going to do a mekoro, a mheadnet that goes over your hat is really useful and makes the trip much more enjoyable, since there are lots of these little things at water level. With a net, you can keep the little bugs out of your eyes, and still use cameras and binoculars.

Personally, I don't think you need the ex officio buzoff clothes at this time of year, in Botswana-- the mozzies only come out at night, and don't bit thru clothing. So long sleeve/trousers/socks and a bit of repellent on exposed hands, neck, ears seems to be sufficient. Even if you wear this clothing, you'd still need to use repellent on exposed skin, so what benefit does it really have?

Haven't done the whitewater rafting, but "fellow travellers" did, and they loved it. Nearly all the rafts did turn over at some point, so expect to get wet...and the climb up and down the river bank is very steep. Yeah, it's a bit of a risk, but lots of people do it and love it. Just not my thing...

Not sure if SAA has changed its coach class seats, but there were LOTS of complaints about them last year. and they have nothing comparable to BA's WT plus-- so if that's an option for you, I'd say stick with BA. BA has several flights each day from London-Johannesburg , so I'm sure making plans this far in advance you'll be able to find a seat on a flight that allows plenty of time for connections to Maun.
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Jun 17th, 2005, 06:45 PM
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Canechick

Macatoo just rang a bell. Did you see this post?

Entitled Trip Report: Amazing Botswana
http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...t=0&dirtyBit=1

Itís current date is 6/6/05 posted by pologirl

Will you be riding there?

Iíll be checking out the SAA flights for 2006 too. Never flown them before. I canít imagine BA will offer those Plus seats for a few hundred dollars year after year. Itíd be nice, but I think it is a short-term promotion.

Solo in Italy is way different than solo in Africa from my experience.
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Jun 19th, 2005, 02:48 PM
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Atralynn:

Thank you for the thread tip - going to read it right now on Macatoo.

Yes, I plan to ride horseback everyday, and also do a "fly camp" excursion. They get you up a silly o'clock, fit you and your guide with provisions and off you go riding all day in the concession area and then camp at night under the stars. How neat!!! This is something I really look forward to.

I agree about BA - it doesn't make sense with the price of 1st and Biz class to offer WT+ at such a bargain. NO one will ever want to fly real coach again - I know I can handle it - but jeez it can be so cramped and uncomfortable.

And, the more I read of all the Fodorites - solo in Africa really seems to be quite common and not a big deal - which is real nice. I am actually now getting a bit excited to meet some real interesting folks - it seems that the Africa lovers are a bunch of real cool folks which makes any trip that much better.

Thank you again - and if you hear any news on BA/SAA give a shout please!

Canechick
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Jun 26th, 2005, 07:48 PM
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Lin
 
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Canechick, Here's another vote for Botswana as extremely safe for a solo woman! You will never feel that type of discomfort in one of the camps. Besides, if anything did happen, one scream and the whole camp would come running! I will be staying at Tongabezi in a few weeks so I'll report back, it certainly looks lovely and I'm excited about putting it right in the middle of my safari for a little touch of luxury (even hairdryers!!). I will also be staying at Savuti. About the Buzz Off, my comment is, it's way over-priced. You can buy the same ingredient used in the clothes, Permethrin, in a spray bottle and spray your own clothes, then respray them if you ever need to after the 10 or whatever washes it takes to make the chemical ineffective. I spread all my clothes on the lawn last year before my trip to Botswana and sprayed them ($5 can at Walmart). Then, as Tashak says, I found that in July/August, there were hardly any insects to be seen. One or two mosquitoes that's all! So this summer I'm not bothering to spray my clothing, will just bring the repellent and use as needed. I thought the SAA airbus from Atlanta to Jo'burg was fine! I was perfectly comfortable in coach class, as much as I could be for such a long flight. You will not find SAA out of Miami any longer, you will have to route through Atlanta, NY or possibly Washington DC (on again, off again rumor). I bought my ticket online at flysaa.com. The connection to Maun is at 10 or 11 am so you usually have to sleep over in Jo'burg if flying SAA. I am also scared about my canoe trip in South Luangwa but trying to tell myself I can't miss out. In the 4 camps I stayed at in Botswana, no powering of cameras was available in the safari vehicle. My advice is to buy an extra battery to leave at camp to be charged while you are using the other one. The camp will charge your batteries for you. Hope that helps.
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Jun 26th, 2005, 10:23 PM
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I just came back from trip to Africa a week ago. Stayed one night in Tongabezi and one night in Sindabezi. Prior to arriving in Zambia, I stayed in 4 other Botswana camps so I was not overly impressed with accomodations in Tongabezi. Anything after Mombo is a let down but I enjoyed Sindabezi immensely. Very different and hardly any insects.

I don't know how much use you'd get to for car charger. We were able to charge in the camps. If not in our room, there would be some outlets in teh common area for charging. Didn't notice any lighter socket for a car charger in the land rovers.
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Jun 30th, 2005, 09:03 AM
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Lin & Purplefish:

Lin - I look forward to your posts on Tongabezi - especially in light of Purplefish's comments. I chose two nights there instead of Singabezi - hope it doesn't turn out to be a mistake... And Savuti was the first camp I chose for my Botswana trip - the minimalist elephant hide made out of tree trunks looks fantastic - AfricaTravelResource has a movie of the camp guide using the hide - go to their website and check it out - you are going to be so excited! I want to hear all about it - it supposed to be very down to earth with excellent guiding. You are right about SAA - I would have to get to Atlanta. I am curious about your coach comments - even my travel agent has said his clients have made negative comments across the board on the SAA airbus coach seats. He still wants to book British Airways WT+ and also is looking into consolidator fares for Biz class - there may be some good deals. I don't have tons of $ - but what a treat that would be on such a long flight. PS - love the idea of spraying the insecticide on the clothes, I got a few buzz-off shirts on sale on the Natl Geo web store - but other than that - bug spray it is. I am going to do the same for trip to Tanz and Kenya in August.

LIN - HAVE A GREAT ADVENTURE!!!

Purplefish - Could you elaborate on your experience at Tongabezi and Sindabezi? Did you see Horas the hippo at Sindabezi - I was very curious about their "pet hippo"...
Also, what camps did you stay in Botswana - we seem to be doing the same thing - next year I go to Bots first then Zambia - hmmm. Did you write a trip report or have any pictures to post a link to?

And thanks for the heads up on the car battery charger - it costs 69.99 and I guess I just saved the $ if it can't even be used!
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Jun 30th, 2005, 09:59 AM
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Canechick - which company are you using to organize your trip?
THanks!
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Jun 30th, 2005, 11:00 AM
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Cooncat:

Love the name! I used AfricaTravelResource (www.africatravel resource.com). They have been incredible to work with. They are all well traveled in Tanz, Botswana, Zim, Zam etc...and visit the camps personally throughout the year. I stumbled upon them while "googling". What I found was an incredibly knowledgeable bunch who are passionate about Africa. Their website is fantastic, it is full of information by country of accomodations, parks, and culture. Their Botswana section has incredible internet movies of almost every camp showing the plane ride in, the camps, an example of a typical safari - I just watched the Savuti clips again at lunch - amazing. I think what I liked the best is that they don't care if you need to go low budget or top of the line - they just want to get you the best experience. They also must be pretty well connected because I picked (didn't know it at the time) very popular camps and they got me in every one I wanted at the time I wanted. Heck, they know some of these camps so well, they ask the camp staff to reserve a certain tent/room for their customers based on best views, noise level etc...I have loved working with them and am already planning a Southern Tanz, Zanzibar, Pemba Island trip for 2007 with them. Just for pure information, check out the website. Lots of good stuff. have fun and I would love to know what you think of thier website...
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Jun 30th, 2005, 12:59 PM
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Whoa Canechick - I am on it right now! Thanks so much for this info! If I may ask, and I realize it's about personal opinions and perspectives, but what area would you recommend for a first Safari - Botswana area or Tanz/Ken?

Thanks again!
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Jun 30th, 2005, 01:41 PM
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Cooncat - I am a newbie - but have tried to listen and learn from the other experienced travelers - there is person who posts under the name Kavey - he travels a lot. Check out the general threads in the Africa section and you will be amazed at the wealth of knowledge and opinion from folks who really know and have been there. Make sure to scroll through several sets of posts, remember only the most recent 50 show - but the folks who post on this board converse often with a lot of different topics. It is good stuff.

My first trip to Africa is in 31 days - I leave for Tanzania and Kenya. Then Bots/Zambia next year. Then southern Tanz and the east coast ( diving yay!) in 2007.

I get the feeling that no matter where you end up - its magical and just seems to call folks back for more exploration.

so just go where your heart tells you and I bet you will end up going back for more!
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Jun 30th, 2005, 06:41 PM
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We didn't see horus but we were very lucky that we stayed in Sindabezi the night we were leaving Zambia. We were meeting our transfer to the airport in Tongabezi so we left Sindabezi by boat at about 11:30am. On the way, we saw a mid size hippo out of the water drinking by the river banks. It was a rare sight bec hippos do not normally get out of the water when the sun is out. Everyone kept on saying that it's hard to see a hippo out of water in the middle of the day. When the hippo realized we were nearby it jumped in the water. I have a good video of it. We also got a good picture. The we saw a huge pod of hippos all piled up on each other and they were halfway out of the water. It more than made up for not seeing horus.

In Botswana, we stayed in Duma Tau, Little Vumbure, Mombo and Jack's Camp. After these camps, our room in Tongabezi paled in comparison. But Tongabezi grounds and location are very beautiful. It wonderful to take you meal on the deck over the Zambezi River. We also had a private dinner on sanpan which is basically a tethered floating deck. Very romantic and they serve each meal using a canoe.

For accomodation, we loved the open rooms of Sindabezi. And it was great to wake up and not have to get up to see the sunrise. We also like dining under the stars since they set up the dining table in the open near the fire. I found it very relaxing and the area feels remote which is not the feeling I get from Tongabezi accomodations.

I have not written and trip review.
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Jul 1st, 2005, 05:40 AM
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Canechick - I have read a lot of these threads as you suggested and yes, there is just a wealth of information here. Everyone is so great about responding; I love this board! Please make sure you post a report on your first trip! I am leaning toward the south for my first trip next year. Botswana and Zambia sound fabulous. I'll keep everyone posted as my plans come together!

THanks!
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Jul 1st, 2005, 06:13 AM
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Purplefish,

Just for your future consideration...

In South Luangwa, it is possible to see hippos (thousands of them) in and out of the water day and night. Of course they prefer the water during the daytime, but they occasionally go to the riverbanks and by about 4PM, half of them are out of the water, at least for my June visit (June is the coolest month in South Luangwa).

There is a great hippo "hide" at a very good lodge, Kaingo, that affords guests the opportunity to get very close to the hippos. Here is the link so you may take a look:

http://www.kaingo.com

Go to their "photographic hides" link on the left of their website and you will see what an amazing hide it is. I was able to get some great hippo photos last year from the hippo hide, but unfortunately I was working with only a 190mm maximum lens and 5 megapixel. If someone were to visit with at least a 300mm lens, they would surely come away with some incredible photos.

But, really, most anywhere a person will visit in South Luangwa, with the exception of Puku Ridge and Chichele which are not near water, will provide guests with a great opportunity to see hippos and Nile crocodiles. I mean there are literally thousands of hippos to be seen daily and hundreds of Nile crocodiles if you are at a place like Kaingo that has a great view of the river from camp.
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Jul 1st, 2005, 06:43 AM
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Wow Rocco - did you book directly with Sheldon safaris? Those camps look wonderful!

Thanks for the tip!
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Jul 1st, 2005, 06:44 AM
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Make that Shenton....
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