Early Planning for Wildlife Viewing in SA

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Jan 4th, 2005, 09:48 AM
  #1
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Early Planning for Wildlife Viewing in SA

Hi all -

I got a book on wildlife in Southern Africa this Christmas and have been drooling over it ever since. I'm in the early planning stages right now trying to nail down what's feasible and what's not. I'm open to time of year still -- only requirements are lots of wildlife and as little crowding as possible (getting bundled up in winter doesn't bother us). We'd like to keep the pricing to an average of $300-350/night which excludes the awesome private lodges often discussed around here, but it sounds like great things are still possible. Here's a preliminary itinerary:

Cape Town (2 nights)
- arrive AM from LHR
- check out some Great White sharks and penguins
- fly to Durban

Durban (1 night)
- pick up rental car
- eat some good Indian food

KZN Parks (4-6 nights)
- Hluhluwe/Imfolozi
- St Lucia <-- I want to see lots of hippos!
- Sodwana Bay for a quick dive

Kruger and surrounds (4-6 nights)
- Olifants gets good reviews

Return car to Johannesburg and fly out that evening

One thing that I'm very interested in are some of the Wilderness Trails offered by both Kruger and KZN Wildlife -- usually 3 nights in length. These are hiking trails where you're with armed guides - some involve camping and others you sleep in huts. Has anybody done this? We're late-20s early-30s in good shape so I'm not worried about backpacking for a couple days or "roughing" it.

I'd also be interested in 2-3 nights at a private lodge for a more guaranteed wildlife viewing experience. Because of our budget constraints I'm open to cheaper lodges like Elephant Plains or last minute deals (not sure if this can be had by non-SA residents or not though).

Our wildlife focus is probably big cats (lions, leopards, cheetahs), hippos, elephants, giraffes, rhinos, lots of smaller mammals like bushbabies, wild dogs, smaller cats, etc. Birds are cool too, but we're definitely not birders.

Any help is greatly appreciated! I spend way too much time reading these forums when trip planning -- it's quite habit forming
ozwild is offline  
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Jan 4th, 2005, 11:54 AM
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I was in Kruger for a month this past June/July.....some things to consider: the wilderness trails (with armed rangers) are pretty cool, but I chose to do it on a daily basis and this is why - I was really, really intersted in wildlife viewing and photography. You will see wildlife while on the walks/hikes but not nearly as much as if you were in a vehicle. If you have limited time in the park (under a week) I would do a morning walk (or two)instead of burning three nights in the bush. Olifants is a good choice (good location and excellent views), I also liked Letaba. Also, one of the best camps for character and enviornment is Tamboti, incredible permanent tents with hot/cold water, ceiling fans, deck, sinks, comfy queen size bed....everything. One thing to consider though - no services at Tamboti, but it was awesome. The best price on private game reserves I found was at Leopard's View Lodge in the Balule region of the Kruger Ecosystem. But you really don't need to go private, you'll see plenty of game on your own in the park. To avoid crowds don't go during SA holidays and when inside the park take dirt roads instead of the paved ones (don't need a 4x4 vehicle). Other hints: for large cats head for areas around Satara. Distances are huge in SA so you may have to tweak your itinerary - for example it'll take you about five hours to drive from Kruger to J'burg. Don't know what month you're going, but great white cage diving generally best from May-Sept. at Gansbaai, which is about 1-2 hours from CapeTown. Good luck and feel free to e-mail me. FYI: I drove from Kruger to CapeTown and first leg of trip and on second leg drove from Kruger to Durban, flew from Durban to Port Elizabeth and then drove from PE to CapeTown and saw almost everything in between (Ithala, Addo, Transkei, Townships, Garden route, winelands, Swaziland....)
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Jan 5th, 2005, 08:26 AM
  #3
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Thanks Adrenaline -

My husband really enjoys seeing the wildlife and I really like getting away from it all. Do you separate from the main roads on the day walks? I have to admit that while the chance of seeing wildlife on a walk is a pretty low, it seems to be a risk worth taking. I'm checking out some other countries now as well to see if that will help out the budget. Thanks!

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Jan 5th, 2005, 01:37 PM
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Oz, the guided day walks are well away from main roads - check out Rhino Tours if you end up going to SA. If you have options: I did a month in East Africa in 1999 - Kenya and Tanzania, really enjoyed it. The infrastructure is better in SA, but the experience is more "authentic Africa" in East Africa. If you don't mind it a little more rough (and if you really enjoy African culture)I'd suggest East Africa. Another country worth looking into is Namibia....good for the budget (not expensive), great for wildlife (Etosha) and some interesting cultural aspects (the Himba). Good luck.
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Jan 5th, 2005, 04:30 PM
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I've done some research on a couple other places too because of the budget - Namibia being one of them. The dunes look incredible and it does look pretty easy to get around. I do like changing scenery though and Namibia sounds like we would have to at least fly to the Caprivi Strip to get some wetlands.

What makes you say that East Africa is more authentic? For whatever reason, I always assumed East Africa would be more touristy...

Thanks for the reply!
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Jan 5th, 2005, 07:00 PM
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More authentic, culturally, in terms of what people generally think of what Africa is. For example SA was colonized by the Germans, English and Dutch, so the (white) people and infrastructure reflect this. When I was in Nairobi (which is the most mixed city/place in Kenya) there were time when I was hard pressed to find another white person. In CapeTown it kind of resembles a European capital. In Kenya you'll run into Masai in full traditional Masai dress all over the country (except a major city or two) - in SA you'll run into Europeans (white people, just like you and I) all over. Even in remote areas of SA the (black) African will still be wearing westernized (soccer/football shorts, t-shirts, jeans) clothing. In Kenya (and Tanzania) you can visit tribal villages were they live in mud huts and still use cattle for currency and substinence, still use gourds to mix cattle blood and milk.....in SA they go to fast food restaurants and speak English. In SA, traditional villages are replicas for touists and photographs. In East Africa I camped with Masai who still hunt with spears and bows and have several wifes. East Africa may indeed get more tourists (not sure), but the country retains a lot of historical culture.
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Jan 5th, 2005, 10:04 PM
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Just a small correction. South Africa was never ever colonised by Germany, you're thinking of Namibia.
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Jan 5th, 2005, 10:42 PM
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In fact, I think it was Dutch - British - Dutch - British.

Regardless, you bring up an interesting point on culture. While I'm primarily interested in the original original inhabitants of Southern Africa (flora and fauna), I'm also greatly interested in history (and therefore original peoples). However, my comfort level with tourist visits to traditional villages (real or fake) is a subject for another post. Thanks for the input - I guess I'll have to do at least a little research into Eastern Africa as well!
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