Final decisions on S. African trip

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Apr 8th, 2003, 09:25 AM
  #1
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Final decisions on S. African trip

After scouring all the posts on this forum, I am starting to put some shape to my honeymoon plans for August. Thank you to everyone who has already helped. Any additional advice is much appreciated.

I have a budget of �5,000 for two and think I may be pushing it for what I have in mind, but here is my plan at the moment:

Flight from UK to Jo'burg - Livingston
2/3 nights at the River Club (as recommended by Rocco - is this enough time?)
3 nights safari - perhaps Jaci's Safari Lodge, Phinda or somewhere in Sabie Sands (It depends on air fares, which I have yet to work out)
Flight to Port Elizabeth
7 nights Garden Route/Winelands staying at Phantom Forest/Plettenberg Park - any other suggestions?
4 nights Cape Town
Return flight to UK

Does this sound feasible on my budget? I know living costs are cheap in SA, but the accommodation I am looking at is not, though I'm reluctant to give up on the luxury as it is my honeymoon.

All thoughts extremely welcome.

Thanks,

Grainne
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Apr 9th, 2003, 06:03 AM
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Grainne, 2-3 nights at the River Club is plenty. I would do 2 nights and add on an extra night on safari. Eat one night at the buffet of the Zambian Sun, the sister hotel to the River Club. it is a buffet but excellent. Try to do an elephant ride when you are there. Book ahead of time.You will have to go into Zimbabwe for that, but you can combine it with time spent at the Zim side of the falls. Buy the video that they make of the elephant ride.

When in Zimbabwe, keep your valuables in a hidden belt bag.
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Apr 9th, 2003, 06:44 AM
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Just a correction - The River Club is not part of Zambia Sun, Royal Livingstone is. 3nts should be the minimum stay at River Club as it is fantastic.
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Apr 9th, 2003, 11:17 AM
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Sorry, King. You are quite correct.
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Apr 9th, 2003, 12:31 PM
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I am probably the only person who disliked the River Club.
1. The dinner menu was set without any choices and the food was dull....chicken and white rice.
2. The accommodation was lovely but there were no screens on the opening overlooking the river and we had to keep the lights out after dark and wander around with a flashlight. We were discouraged from putting down the rolled up storm screen which probably would have helped.
3. I felt the entire place to be pretentious and did not like that the waiters were dressed in the old British type uniforms.
Just my opinion...

We were there two nights and it was fine. On our arrival day, the lodge arranged for us to visit a local village which they support and it was truly an enlightening experience. The first night we took the River Club's river cruise which lasted about one hour. The second day we visited both sides of the Falls and had lunch at the VF Hotel. We left the next morning. There are other options in the area and you need to decide if you are interested...bungee jumping, rafting, elephant back safaris.
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Apr 10th, 2003, 01:17 AM
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Above all, I think the River Club has the perfect setting on the Zambezi and really captures the magic of Africa.

I am sorry there wasn't a choice of food at dinner, the room didn't have 4 walls and the staff wore the old colonial garb. Perhaps you should have stayed at the Royal Livingstone Hotel.

When I arrived by boat, I was taken to the verandah of the main house and treated to freshly made juice and sandwiches, while the manager briefed us about the Club and the activites possible. In the evening all the guests set at the same table and no one ever complained about the food. It was like having an alfresco candle-lit dinner party at home and the ambience was terrific. Sherry and wine were passed around, then port after dinner and finally we wandered off to play croquet at midnight! It was wonderful!

I absolutely loved my room. The fact that I didn't have a window or a wall in front of me, so that I could have the full view of the zambezi, was so pleasureable. The rooms are built in the old colonial style and each room has a bath, shower and enormous beds surrounded by mosquito netting, all overlooking the zambezi. It was such a joy to let Africa into my room.

I also loved the sunset cruise and the fishing. The cruise was not conducted on one of those enormouse cruise boats that ply the zambezi but on a small motor boat with only a few people from the club on board which made for a very friendly cruise. On the cruise, we were served gin & tonic with ice and lemon slice -the only way to serve the drink -and enjoyed cocktails as the sun set. Everything was done so well. My fishing with the hippo was great fun too.

Re: the staff - I did not have any problem with the staff dressed in the colonial garb. In fact you will find staff dressed in traditional uniforms at many other hotels including London, so what's wrong with the colonial style if it helps accentuate the ambience of the club. You have to remember that the club is an evocation of the old British colonial style of living but unlike the Royal Livingstone or the Vic Falls Hotel, the River Club really does capture that style extremely well. I have nothing but praise for the Club and its owners for sticking to their vision.

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Apr 10th, 2003, 03:34 AM
  #7
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Thank you so much for all your replies. I have to say, the River Club does sound totally idyllic, and it's looking like it might definitely have to feature!

I'm now wondering whether to leave the Garden Route out of my trip due to the weather. I know it's beautiful scenery but if it rains the whole time I'm there (August), I may not get to enjoy it too much.

Any other suggestions as to where I could spend the rest of my honeymoon after River Club and a safari?

Thanks again.
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Apr 10th, 2003, 04:55 AM
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Grainne,

Since it appears that you will already be in Zambia at The River Club, it may be convenient for you to consider South Luangwa National Park, also in Zambia.
High season in South Luangwa is considered from June - September, the opposite of what you will see for seasons in South Africa, making this a good choice for the time you will be visiting. I have often seen South Luangwa described as the way that Botswana used to be 20 years ago, before all the fancy lodges moved in and prices skyrocketed to over $1,000 USD per night in high season for the nicer places.

South Luangwa is supposed to have A LOT of game plus offers the Luangwa River which is supposed to have a very high concentration of Hippos and Nile Crocodiles (the Nile connects to the Luangwa River). It is an area famous for its walking safaris but game drives are also possible at all the places that I will mention.

Here is a very good link that I just came across in doing research for this very response to you:
www.zambiatourism.com/travel/nationalparks/sluangwa.htm

(People do not realize how much I learn PERSONALLY just by being so helpful to others...it really is the best research).

Another good link:
http://gorp.com/gorp/location/africa/zambia/luangwa.htm

You should look up the following safari companies in South Luangwa:

1. Robin Pope Safaris - perhaps the best known safari company in all of Zambia. RPS is about $700 USD per night in high season. www.robinpopesafaris.net

2. Bushcamp Company - also very widely known and highly recommended by travel agents. Bushcamp Company is about $650 USD per night in high season. www.bushcampcompany.com

3. Kaingo - run by highly regarded guide, Derek Shenton, who is a 2nd generation guide in the area. Kaingo is about $440 per night in high season. www.kaingo.com

4. Kafunta - a newcomer to the South Luangwa but the one that I chose for its excellent pricing and nice looking accomodations. I was also able to get a couple very good recommendations from people that I found on Fodors and elsewhere that had visited Kafunta. About $395 USD per night in high season. www.luangwa.com

You may have a hard time finding air around Zambia so here is a very good link that should solve that problem:
www.star-of-africa.com/pdffiles/zflights.pdf

Also, a couple of the agents I spoke to were not resourceful enough to handle my air into Mfuwe (South Luangwa). If you need a good travel agent, just ask me and I will give you a good referral.

For your time in South Africa, I highly recommend that you book the accomodations yourself and you will probably save some money doing so. The very best rates I have seen have been on www.attractiveafrica.com where I ended up booking a three night stay at (Djuma) Vuyatela in the Sabi Sand Reserve (www.djuma.co.za).

The Sabi Sand will be cold by the time I am there in mid-June but it will not be any colder than the Garden Route would have been. Plus, I will be at the beginning of high season for my 5 night safari stay at Kafunta in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia.

Given the fact that you have 16-17 nights per your original post, you can have a fabulous trip that includes plenty of time in Cape Town, as well as three nights at The River Club and possibly a weeklong safari.
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Apr 10th, 2003, 05:06 AM
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Grainne,

Just one more thing. I forgot to mention that South Luangwa is famous for Leopard sightings.

While I was staying at Matetsi River Lodge last year, there was a younger couple that was also there. I believe they had also stayed somewhere in the Sabi Sand Reserve earlier in their trip but they didn't have the luxury of seeing a leopard as I did while I was at Singita and they were really fixated on it.

They actually had someone drive them from Matetsi to Chobe? or somewhere else right inside Botswana on the Botswana/Zimbabwe border in hopes of seeing a leopard. It was an all day event and they came home empty handed.

If Leopard sightings are important then it seems like South Luangwa may be the very best place. The only thing that South Luangwa is lacking is Rhinos and that is why I also chose to spend three nights at Vuyatela. My best photographs are of leopards and rhinos from my stay last year.
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Apr 10th, 2003, 05:09 AM
  #10
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Thank you so much for all your replies. I have to say, the River Club does sound totally idyllic, and it's looking like it might definitely have to feature!

I'm now wondering whether to leave the Garden Route out of my trip due to the weather. I know it's beautiful scenery but if it rains the whole time I'm there (August), I may not get to enjoy it too much.

Any other suggestions as to where I could spend the rest of my honeymoon after River Club and a safari?

Thanks again.
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Apr 10th, 2003, 02:34 PM
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To King... there was no need for your nasty response.
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Apr 10th, 2003, 02:46 PM
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I think we should all remember that what we value here is receiving real opinions from those who have been there rather than marketing speak from the brochures and sales pitch from the agents.

If we want to encourage each other to give that, it behooves us not to belittle one another when our opinions happen to be different.

Evelyn, I, for one, thank you for expressing a dissenting opinion.
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Apr 11th, 2003, 06:55 AM
  #13
LizFrazier
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Evelyn-
You have been so helpful on this board and I've missed your posts. I was also taken aback but didn't know what to say. Thank you Kavey for putting it so eloquently. Liz
 
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Apr 11th, 2003, 08:50 AM
  #14
 
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Thank you Liz and Kavey. King's comments just showed what type of person he is.

Liz, I read that you canceled your trip to S. Africa and can understand your tough decision. Hopefully, there will be peace soon and we can once again travel without concerns.

We canceled our trip to Sicily and went to Hawaii (first time) instead and were really surprised how much we loved it. We stayed at oceanfront condos, saw an active volcano, and did a good deal of great snorkeling. Also saw "tons" of whales and hundreds of feral chickens. The wildlife there was definitely different from Botswana, yet still wonderful.

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Apr 11th, 2003, 11:44 AM
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Hi Evelyn-
Yes it was very hard to cancel but at the time it seemed like the only sensible thing to do. Now I regret it and think I really must have been scared. It's over though and I've moved on. We are taking a short cruise the end of the month, which seemed like a good thing but as the time nears, it doesn't even begin to fill the gap. Hopefully we can later go to Kenya and witness the Wildebeest migration.
In defense of King, he has never given any idication of anything like that, and I really think he must have had something happen. He has helped me immensely with places to stay and I just think that was unfortunate and out of character to what we've seen.
I know I recently made some posts which bothered me later and I decided when I'm feeling out of kilter I'll take a day off from posting.
But, Hey! Its good to have you back.
Oh, I finally got a hat. I loved the Bay Hats you told me about, but I couldn't decide among so many so I got a Tilley hat. Liz
 
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Apr 11th, 2003, 12:20 PM
  #16
DE
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Hi Liz,
Hope you enjoy your Tilley Hat. I have had one for about 6 years and it has been to many destinations and will again be on my head in a few months in Africa. It's very versatile and folds up nicely in a suitcase. It has even kept my head dry in a few torrrential rain showers. They are great hats.
 
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Apr 11th, 2003, 06:01 PM
  #17
 
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I really like the Tilley hat and used it all the time in SA & Zimbabwe but was not at all pleased with the rest of the tilley clothing I bought. Such is life.
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Apr 11th, 2003, 06:13 PM
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DE
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Hi Patricia,
What other articles of clothing from Tilley did you buy and what didn't you like about them? I was thinking of getting some long pants to wear ( I have never purchased much of their clothing before ) specifically for this trip as they can easily be washed and dried with little care and they're durable. I thought these would be good for using in the tented camps and I would leave my other casual attire for any lodges and hotels. We have to scale down on luggage because of weight restrictions on the small planes.
 
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Apr 11th, 2003, 09:27 PM
  #19
 
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Dear De,

Honestly, I wouldn't go to Tilley's again and this is after buying tons of stuff for trips. I bought their "safari" pants that they continuously rave about,I also bought their safari shirt. Before going to south africa I had also gone to Costa Rica and tried them out there. I was totally uncomfortable with the Tilley attire both there and in SA! I couldn't wait to get them off fast enough. I promptly called Tilley's on three different occasions to tell them and NEVER heard from them. For money, you can go anywhere. I had bought an off white light pair of pants which were far more suitable then the supposed Tilley safari pants. I also wore shorts and if it got cool then I wore a jogging suit. Tilley's is also expensive-that in itself doesn't bother me but I feel that you don't always get what you pay for. I When I told one of my close friends her answer was "I could never understand why you went there in the first place!" And believe me, money is no object to her.
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Apr 12th, 2003, 03:15 AM
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Grainne,

I've been to Cape Town three times: May June & August in different years. The weather was always awful. It was windy, cold and wet. The wind was the worst. Sometimes it blew at gale force for days. Once the wind didn't blow and we were covered with fog until noon. I've been to Port Elizabeth once, but wasn't impressed. It looked like a UK holiday beach resort town. I
haven't been on the garden route but have been told by friends the time to go is late September until late November.
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