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Comments on Botswana itinerary with Wilderness Travel

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Dec 1st, 2010, 08:23 AM
  #1
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Comments on Botswana itinerary with Wilderness Travel

Hello knowledgeable fodorites! Anyone done a Botswana trip with Wilderness Travel? I think they have a good reputation and have been in business for 30+ years. I've copied the specific itinerary I'm looking at - it would be a small group tour. I'll be traveling solo this particular trip, so I'm not keen on doing everything on my own. What do people think of the areas we'd be going? I have not been to Botswana before and really want to see big cats - but every animal is a joy, though I'd like to maximize chances of seeing leopards and cheetah.

Also regarding when to go... sounds like the best weather and animal viewing is in Sept. Do people concur with that statement?

Day 1 – Maun, Motsentsela Tree Lodge
Day 2-3 Moremi Game Reserve, camping at Xakanaxa
Day 4-5 Okavango Delta, Xugana Lodge
Day 6-7 Moremi Game Reserve, Camping in Khwai River Floodplain
Day 8-9 Chobe National Park, camping along the Savuti channel
Day 10-11 Chobe, camping in Serondella area
Day 12 Livingstone/Vic Falls, Royal Livingstone Hotel
Day 13 - depart
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Dec 1st, 2010, 02:29 PM
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We did a variation (Kalahari Explorer itinerary) on this trip with Wilderness Travel last April. Capricorn Mobile Safaris is their group operator in Botswana. We ended up having 4 guests, a guide and a crew of 5 on our trip. We are campers and really loved the camping aspect of the trip and it was a much higher camping standard (e.g., big tent, beds, private bath) than we were use to. We saw both the higher and lower standard of camping and thought this was just right for what we wanted.

It was nice having one guide for the whole trip since he knew what we had seen and what we were looking for. We saw about 30 lions, a dozen leopards, over a hundred elephants, hippos and zebras; dozens of giraffe, wildebeest, buffalo and most of the antelope species. The two cheetahs we saw were in the Kalahari.

A caution on mobiles. You are with the other guests all the time. They are your companions for game drives, meals, etc. You are not generally allowed to even walk around the back side of your tent alone. It is more togetherness than on a lot of other group trips. This was our fifth trip with Wilderness Travel and we have found that we generally enjoy the other travelers on their trips.
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Dec 1st, 2010, 03:14 PM
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I just went to the WT website to check it out. It really looks like a nice trip. I know you don't want to "go it alone", but I would price a similar trip with &Beyond. Transfers are handled very professionally, and you won't feel alone. They don't have a single supplement and I think they could come in at a comparable price with their current specials. I could be totally off base, but I would try and compare them.
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Dec 2nd, 2010, 03:07 AM
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HI KG - thanks so much for your comments. Sounds like you were pleased overall. THe extreme togetherness does give me pause... since you never know who will end up on a group trip I've traveled solo on group hiking trips with REI and been matched up with a roommate and it's always been fine, however, there was always someone in the group who was annoying-just the law of averages I guess. I was thinking it would be worth the single supplement on the WT trip to ensure myself of some privacy.

Christabir - I have looked at &Beyond's website. I assume it would mean contacting them with my wish list and seeing what kind of private trip they would put together for me, correct? Although their website is attractive, there is not much info there about what they offer. Thanks for the advice though, I'll look into it more.
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Dec 2nd, 2010, 06:25 AM
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Your itinerary seems the fairly standard drive from south to north through Moremi and Chobe. We completed a self-drive trip following more or less the same route in August 2008. We enjoyed it so much that we are repeating the trip in October 2011. The weather was lovely - hot and sunny during the day , warm overnight, no rain. It was a tad hazy thanks to smoke drifting across the river from Namibia, so our photos are a bit hazy - no clear, blue sky. We learned later that this is typical at this time of year - caused by the farmers burning their fields.

We began in Maun, as your itinerary does - be aware that Motsentsela Tree Lodge has changed hands and is now Royal Tree Lodge.
http://www.royaltreelodge.com/

We stayed at many of the campsites that you will be at - most of facilities were upgraded shortly after we left, so the ablutions are much improved and should all have hot showers.

We have not stayed at Xugana, but it looks lovely and should provide a break from camping - it is a pity that it doesn't fall a little later in the itinerary, when you would appreciate the plush surroundings even more.

We saw several cats along this route but not as many as we did in Tanzania (Northern Circuit) and Kenya (Mara Triangle).

What is the maximum number of people that will be accommodated on the trip? Make certain that you ask what they mean by "small group tour". We saw many mobile camping groups in Moremi and Chobe that involved much larger groups than I would have enjoyed. Certainly, you will spend most of the time with the group - you will eat, travel, game drive and do everything together - the only time you will be on your own will be at night when you are in your tent.

Here is the link to our photos - it includes many photos of the campsites and Motsentsela/Royal Tree Lodge.

http://bert-and-bin.smugmug.com/Trav.../6570901_ZUKvn

Hope this helps! Robin
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Dec 2nd, 2010, 07:53 AM
  #6
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Robin - thanks for your comments. Sounds like the route would be a good one based on you planning to return. The maximum number of participants is 10.
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Dec 2nd, 2010, 08:24 AM
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I just looked again at WT website - it says no more than 16 participants, which I agree is getting up there. The trip I was looking at specifically has a price listed for 8-10 people, and that's where I got the figure of 10.
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Dec 2nd, 2010, 08:47 AM
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Cat- I only bring up the &Beyond option because with the single supplement and other fees, you are looking at $10,000 for 12 nights. It just looks like a lot of money for what you are getting (a value thing). You would definitely get an en-suite bathroom with a hot shower at all of their camps, plus a lot more.

Yes, you have to contact them or a travel agent to get a price. They are very quick to help. No single supplement and buy five, pay for 4 I think could come in less than what you are looking at.
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Dec 2nd, 2010, 01:36 PM
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Hmm, you say $10,000 for 12 nights, solo? That's $800 per night. Lot of great camp choices for that money.

Big cats. I know some locations in Bots are excellent for leopards, private camps where off-road driving is permitted. But Moremi? In Sep of 2006 we were in Moremi (Khwai River Lodge) for 4 nights and saw a leopard once and lions about 4 times. Not that often. Being permitted to drive off road is important for game viewing. Anyway, be specific about Bots camps for leopards. And for cheetahs. Hope poster HariS chimes in here, he has lots of Bots leopard and cheetah experience.

South Africa, or Botswana. For sure you will see leopards and lions on almost every game drive in the Sabi Sand (or Timbavati) reserve, South Africa. But cheetahs are not seen often. Also for $800 per night you for sure can have a very very nice private camp in Sabi Sand. And FWIW &Beyond has 3 different camps there. I could for sure spend 12 nights in Sabi Sand, even twice that many .

You have some time yet before booking for Sep, don't rush it, keep asking and looking around.

regards - tom
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Dec 2nd, 2010, 02:05 PM
  #10
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Hi Tom - thanks for your comments. Yes.... I've been back and forth between SA, Bots, or the two combined??? My travel partner has abandoned me for 2011, but we will likely go on another Africa trip in 2012. But I need an Africa fix in 2011 Since I will have to go solo in 2011 I want the trip to be relatively easy, so thinking one country alone will be best. And that's why I was thinking a small group tour might be more fun than being solo the whole time.
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Dec 2nd, 2010, 04:01 PM
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"being solo the whole time."
I've been on two safaris solo (South Africa). But it's really not solo when you get to the camp(s). You will share your game drive vehicle and meals with other guests. But you likely already know this. Really very easy to fly into Joburg/JNB, short SAA flight to Kings Camp in the Timbavati reserve. Then charter plane hop down to MalaMala, or to one of the &Beyond camps, in Sabi Sand. Short flight back to JNB and home. Last time I did this was in Sep 2008, but did all safari nights, 16, in Timbavati reserve. FWIW, here's my Fodors trip report -
http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=35161085
Note, Kings Camp as well as &Beyond camps do not have the extra solo/single supplement charge. So instead of $800 per night you're looking at $400 or so per night.

regards - tom
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Dec 2nd, 2010, 05:53 PM
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Botswana is a special place. If you have the time and resources for 12 nights in Bots, I would definitely do that. I love it. You'll be back to southern Africa, but next time might have to cut back a bit and go to S Africa or another less expensive area. Bots is a splurge. And worth the expense.

The example from tom for travel to the Kruger area is similar to Botswana. And he makes good points about not feeling alone in the camps and drives. I don't want you to feel like we're trying to talk you out of the WT trip, but there are other options at a better value. Wasn't it a previous thread of yours that some good mobile options were mentioned?

We were in Bots for 7 nights in 2006. We didn't see any leopards, lots of lions and 2 cheetah. Except for Phinda, I don't think you'll find a lot of places that support all three. And no rhino in Botswana. They are just starting to reintroduce them from extinction.
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Dec 3rd, 2010, 02:30 PM
  #13
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Hi Cristabir - yes, I really have my heart set on Botswana I think, so I'm going to set aside SA for a future trip. I had not specifically asked about mobiles in Bots before, but I did solicit comments about the SA vs Bots vs both once previously and someone may have mentioned a mobile safari.

At your suggestion (thanks!) I emailed &Beyond and got a reply today with a link to a 10 day/9 night tented camping safari that looks interesting and well priced (lower than WT but fewer days by a couple). The nice thing is that it is a small group - 6 people max, 3 tents and as mentioned no single supplement. So I am going to study that this coming weekend. Thanks for this tip
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Dec 3rd, 2010, 04:29 PM
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Just to make sure you look at the other ongoing thread here on Bots, the latest replies -
Botswana: July/August vs December

regards - tom
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Dec 3rd, 2010, 04:47 PM
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Maybe you could extend your stay in one of And Beyond's permanent tented camps at a reduced rate since you'd be booking the mobile with them. They often have pay for 3, stay 4 types of deals.
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Dec 3rd, 2010, 06:07 PM
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I had no idea &beyond did mobiles. Nice. 6 sounds much better than 10 (or 16!).

Good to hear they got back to you so quickly with an interesting option. Did you ask about their permanent camps? It doesn't sound like you'd be interested in all permanent camps, but they are very nice. Hope we didn't add a wrench into your plans.

Love, love, love Botswana!!
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Dec 6th, 2010, 08:24 AM
  #17
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Well, now that I've investigated the mobile safari with &Beyond a little more, it does look like a nice trip, but THERE IS a single supplement and it's very high. The 10 day, 9 night trip (all mobile except 1 night in Vic Falls area at a lodge) is $5417 during Aug/Sept (when I want to go). That seems not too bad, but the single supplement is another $2183, making the total $7600 for me since I'm going solo. It is still a smaller group than Wilderness Travel, so I like that. But WT trip was around $7000 for 13 days, 12 nights with a single supplement of $1100.

What do you all think?
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Dec 6th, 2010, 08:28 AM
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A couple more things... yes I asked about permanent camps and extending the trip a couple of nights. This is possible at the front end of the trip (don't know cost). The other thing is that flights between camps are included in &Beyond, but not with WT. WT lists approx $350 in park fees and $325 internal airfare (subject to change of course). So overall, I'm not sure the price of the two trips is really much different...
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Dec 6th, 2010, 10:43 AM
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OK Cat - There is no single supplement at their permanent camps. I thought you could do 3-4 permanent camps for 12 nights for a better price than the WT trip, but that doesn't sound like what you want. I didn't know about the &beyond mobiles, and that is a high single supp. Can you post the itinerary for the &beyond trip?

Do you go to similar areas? Are the accommodations comparable? If you get your own bathroom, and don't have to go running across camp (I am projecting my loo problem), in the dark, with the baboons to get to a bathroom, well... that would be my deciding factor, but I'm old.
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Dec 6th, 2010, 11:02 AM
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Hi,
We just spent 6 1/2 days in Botswana in the later part of September and loved it. The main downside is that there is still some burning and the sky is filled with smoke in some areas. We stayed in WS camps-Savuti and Kwetsani and both were outstanding. This was our first trip with them and we were very impressed with the coordination, comfort and service. We saw big cats at both camps as well as the other amazing critters. I actually started our planning with &Beyond and had very poor service, so I switched to Travel Beond and they were great to work with. Incidentally, every guide we encountered at WS camps was very proud to be an employee of theirs and bragged about all that they do for the people and wildlife.
This sounds like a great trip if the number stays reasonably small. Enjoy!
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