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Can't make a decision...

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Mar 26th, 2006, 05:52 PM
  #1
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Can't make a decision...

Hi,
I am in the process of trying to plan a trip (for 2) to Southern Africa in Sept-Oct (could possibly travel in Aug or Nov). I contacted four different travel agents to determine the options available. 3/4 travel agents suggested the same trip and I provisionally reserved the trip with the agent that had the best availability. The 4th agent answered later than the others (after I provisionally reserved the trip with another agent) and again suggested the same trip, but also offered more comprehensive information and a couple more options (so I have preferred working with this agent). This is my first safari and I cannot decide which of the options they suggested would be best; I am interested in finding out if anyone has experience with any of these or similar trips.

The options are:
1) The trip that I have provisionally reserved: Wilderness Safari's Botswana Migration Routes mobile safari (travels to Xigera and Kwai regions of Okavango Delta (4 days), Savuti (1 day), Linyanti (2 days), Chobe (1 day) and Victoria Falls (Natural Mystic Lodge, Zambia side, 1 day).

2) South Botswana/South Africa: The second option is Mashatu Tented Camp (3 days), Coach House in Tzaneen (1 day), Djuma Bush Camp in Sabi Sands(3 days).

3) Zimbabwe: The third option is Little Makalolo Tented Camp in Hwange (3 days), combination of Ruckomechi/Chikwenya Camp or mobile canoe safari in Mana Pools (3 days), Victoria Falls (Ilala Lodge, 2 days).

With respect to what I am looking for...I wanted to stay in tented camps, but I think that this is beyond my budget for Botswana. I would like to see a variety of wildlife; I am hoping to see, I guess, the usual: lions, leopards, cheetah, elephants, hippo, giraffe, baboons, zebra, etc. However, I would also like to have a variety of activities available: canoe/boat trips, walking, night drives (I also would like to do a one-day elephant back safari from Victoria Falls and would have to add extra days to options 1) or 2) for this.). And, I would like to be able to get a sense of the wilderness of Africa. I am also concerned about any safety issues, particularly Zimbabwe.

Please let me know if you have any input regarding these options.

Thank you,
V
vickiw16 is offline  
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Mar 26th, 2006, 06:22 PM
  #2
 
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vicki,

Wilderness safaris lost the Chikwenya concession. As far as your safety in Zimbabwe goes, I think you will be fine. I do think that Zimbabwe (or Zambia) would offer you the most diverse activities. I just returned from a very nice safari to Tanzania, and although I saw unrivaled gameviewing, the best of my five safaris to date, after a while I did miss not being able to go canoeing, fishing, on a river safari or on a walking safari. Zimbabwe will offer these activities in Mana Pools (as would Zambia in Lower Zambezi...Chiawa and Chongwe River Camp are excellent tented safari camps in LZ).

If you were to wait until November, prices would drop significantly in Botswana. Alternately, if you wanted to go to South Africa, if you were to go in late August, you would qualify for low season pricing.

One other place to consider is Phinda, CCAfrica's lodge in the KwaZulu Natal. It offers low season pricing all the way until September 30th, and offers a variety of activities not seen at too many places. If you were to combine Phinda with CCAfrica's Zimbabwe/Vic Falls lodge, Matetsi Water Lodge, you would qualify for a nice discount with a minimum 5 night visit between the two.

It is scary that 3/4 agents proposed the same trip...almost like nobody is bothering to think outside the box.
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Mar 26th, 2006, 06:36 PM
  #3
 
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I think for what you would be doing in Zimbabwe, it is as safe as anywhere. Hopefully people who have been there more recently than I have will chime in with their views.

#1--Wilderness is a top notch provider. This is one of their standard trips. 9 days. Land and water activities, night drives available. Other than a mokoro trip, not much canoeing. Maybe a little walking at Xigera. But it can depend on lone buffalos in the area. Very good game here. I did a Wilderness mobile safari with a slightly different itinerary that was excellent.

#2 7 days. No experience with these camps, but I am going to Mashatu in 2007. You'd get your walking there and maybe biking too. Sabi Sands is known for excellent game with night drives. Unless Coach House offers water, no water activities here.

#3 8 days. You'd get all of your walking and canoeing action in this trip plus good game. Your most active trip of the 3. Night drives in Hwange for sure. I loved both Hwange and Mana Pools when I was there.

All trips would provide a sense of wilderness.

Does pricing make a difference? Is one departure at a more convenient time?
These 3 options are all great so these other factors may play more of a roll for you.

From a personal perspective:
#2 is closest to what I have chosen to do in 2007. #1 is similar to a wonderful mobile I thoroughly enjoyed. #3 is similar to an itinerary I did and found to be very high on the wilderness factor.

There is not a dud in the bunch. I'd be thrilled with any of these itineraries.

Have a wonderful time.
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Mar 26th, 2006, 06:51 PM
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Hi Vicki.

I would reccomend either 1 or three. Both of your other repliue have had much more safari experience than I have! But I just did a mobile camping in Botswana, along with the canoe trip down Mana, and Rhino tracking in Matusadona. Don't hesitate going to Zimbabwe. I was there for a week in October 05, and loved every minute of it. I did the ele safari for a morning with Wild Horizons- I highly recomend that one!!! I LOVED the canoe trip in Mana- it was a highlight of the trip! You will canoe in the morning, and walk for a couple of hours along the way- Excellent!!! I also loved the birds in October- nesting in the sides of the banks of the Zambezi. I would not change your time frame for the first trip unless you have to for financial reasons. I was quite happy to see so many animals who were near the waters edge. We saw a pack of about 20-25 wild dogs on the way into Vundu camp, tracked lions on foot, ele's on foot (and were mock charged several times). Botswana (Khwai was my favorite here) was wonderful also, but the canoeing was just a wonderful thing! Best of luck decision making!! I am saving up for the next trip next year!! Suzi
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Mar 26th, 2006, 07:15 PM
  #5
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As further information...the price of all of these trips is very similar--within $200-300. I do not have departure dates yet for options 2) and 3), so that may influence my decision. I expect to hear about these tomorrow. The mobile camping safari in Botswana has very limited dates remaining. I have reserved it provisionally in Sept with one travel agent, but would prefer to work with the 4th agent with whom I spoke. So, I may have to try to reschedule it with them.

Thank you for your replies.
-V
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Mar 26th, 2006, 07:53 PM
  #6
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Hi,
Sorry to add another entry, but thought of a couple more questions...Specifically, how comfortable are the mobile camping safaris? And, will I see the same diversity of wildlife on all three itineraries (big cats as well as elephants, hippos, etc)?

Thank you again,
V
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Mar 26th, 2006, 09:06 PM
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I like your Zimbabwe #3 trip as long as it takes place in Aug or Sept. Later-Oct is called the Suicide Month in the Zambezi Valley because of the heat and humidity. Nov- is the start of the rainy season. So it cools off a couple degrees but still uncomfortable. I've been in Mana Pools and VF in Oct and would not intentionally plan a safari at that time in the Zambezi Vly again.
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Mar 26th, 2006, 09:15 PM
  #8
santharamhari
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Hi! On the mobile trip to Botswana, you may not be permitted to go off road in some of those areas. You will still see lots of game........

I agree with most other posts, to go with either 1 or 3. I am partial to Botswana, so i would go with that option. I hv no experiences with Zim, although top notch game viewing is possible there also.

Mashatu and Djuma are really not on my list of places to travel to.......

Cheers
Hari
 
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Mar 27th, 2006, 07:39 AM
  #9
 
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Mashatu has excellent game viewing. I visited there in Oct 2003. I stayed at the main camp, not the tent camp. A word of warning, in October it is hot and dry there, Mashatu was so dry it was like being on the moon, but we saw lots of Lion and Leopard, and good nocturnal sightings like African wild cat, Honey Badger, Genet and Porcupine.
For the best range of activities I would consider #3. I would not be concerned overly about safety in Zim, you will be in locations very far removed from the troubled areas.
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Mar 27th, 2006, 10:48 AM
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How comfortable are the mobiles? The one I did with Wilderness was very comfortable and that is why it is called luxury camping. Comfort should not be an issue with a Wilderness or other quality mobile safaris.

Diversity of game? While 3 all are good, below the game is addressed specifically.

#1 Xigera, more of a water camp so not as much diversity. Should be lots of hippos and probably eles, buffalo. This is your chance at the elusive sitatunga antelope and Pelís Fishing Owl. Kwai is in Moremi, one of the most game-rich regions in Africa and a disproportionately high source of all my good pictures. Savuti has good game with cats and eles and a chance for wild dogs. Linyanti is at least as good as Savuti in every respect. Chobe has wonderful all around game viewing with huge ele populations. A sunset Chobe River cruise (which you will probably do) has amazing wildlife . I hope to return to Linyanti and Chobe for some of the same great game viewing Iíve had in the past. All but Xigera, which is your mekoro/water camp opportunity and worthwhile in its own right, are strong game areas in Botswana. This trip would provide the best chances for cheetah and wild dog. A well rounded trip for animals you listed and many opportunities to see fair sized herds of antelope, buffalo, zebra, and elephant.

#2 Mashatu is known as the Land of the Giants with 7 big speciesóeles, eland, ostrich, kori bustard, lion, giraffe, baobab tree. It has a rep for good leopard sightings too. I donít believe it is on par for game with Moremi, Linyanti and Chobe. But then your Sabi Sands stop at Djuma may have the most game of any place listed here. (No personal Sabi Sands experience, only what Iíve read, but it has convinced me to go in 2007óto Mala Mala.) Sabi Sands will be your only shot at rhino in any of the trips. Just a comment/question: I am surprised that Mashatu is not paired in the Sabi Sands with Mala Mala because both camps are owned by the same people and this would seem to be a logical combo. Not familiar with the Coach House place. It looked kind of spa-like and appeared not to provide much game viewing, but that opinion is from one visit to one website. This trip would probably provide the best leopard opportunity, as well as the only chance for rhino. The other animals you listed would be here, with herds in Sabi Sands being smaller than Botswana or Zimbabwe.

#3 Hwange will provide excellent elephants and other cats, maybe even dogs. I saw more cats in Botswana than in Hwange and Mana Pools, but still saw lions and a leopard at night. When you are more active, such as walking in Hwange and canoeing in Mana Pools, the wildlife viewing is not as prolific as in a vehicle. Hwange offered the best sable antelope viewing Iíve had anywhere, with large herds. Mana Pools is one of the most picturesque locations Iíve been and a beautiful background for herds of impala and kudu. For walking and canoeing, which offer excitement that just canít be found in a vehicle, these two parks are excellent choices. This trip would be the most active with good gameóall of the animals you listed. But I think Sabi Sands and the Botswana camps would provide slightly more game viewing, especially since most of your time at those locations would be in a vehicle.

So thatís a comparison from a game standpoint, in my humble opinion. Again, I like Ďem all. Let us know what you decide or if your agent provides additional insights into the proís and conís of these itineraries.

I certainly can understand the title of your post.
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Jul 8th, 2006, 10:04 AM
  #11
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Hi,

I never had a chance to update this entry. After discussing with the travel agent and reading your helpful entries, I decided to go with option #3 (Zimbabwe). With the closing of the Chikwenya, my travel agent switched our stay in Mana Pools to Vundu Camp.

We leave Sept 15 for our trip--still somewhat concerned about going to Zimbabwe, but looking forward to the trip.

Regards, V
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Jul 8th, 2006, 10:33 AM
  #12
 
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you will be fine in zim. the people are extremely nice. and once you are at the camps, you will be away from civilization anyway. have fun and report back what you see.
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Jul 8th, 2006, 10:57 AM
  #13
 
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vicki-please report back when you return. i'll be going to hwange, zim in november. thanks
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Aug 16th, 2006, 10:03 PM
  #14
 
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Hi!
I'm celebrating my 63rd by volunteering Sept. in an anti-snare/poaching project in Hwange NP.
If you come by Miombo or see a truck with a tall old woman with a group of gapsters come say "hello"...it should be intersting ;D
Good luck to you,
Marilyn
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Aug 17th, 2006, 10:55 AM
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Hope you have a great trip. I'm considering a trip to Zim next year so would love to hear your thoughts when you get back.
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