First Safari Trip


Jul 12th, 2004, 06:24 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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Let's put this into real perspective. One of the largest wildlife reserves in Africa is Selous yet it has only 4 major places to stay, all of them pretty small. This means each visitor to Selous will probably have over 1000 times more wilderness space available than the visitor at Sabi Sands.

Which would thus be better for you - Selous or Sabi Sands? It would depend on your objective. If you are looking to find the 'big 5', in the shortest possible time as well, then perhaps Sabi Sands is your answer - remember this is an area that is considered a managed wildlife area with each concession area constantly restocking or destocking game based on its needs(many are fenced off to protect the stock). The wildlife here is completely habituated, with guides knowing virtually every move the 'important' game makes through constant monitoring. This I would consider a couple of steps away from becoming a managed wildlife park similar to the ones found in the western world - the only differences being that animals are not kept in separate enclosures and the habitat is still natural. The subject of who owns what traversing rights in the Sabi Sands is a laughable one. In Selous, Luangwa, Serengeti no-one cares and that includes the wildlife!

Then consider Selous - game is difficult to see, it's wild, roads are sometimes impassable, and so on. Yet there is something about not being able to see the wildlife instantly that makes the whole adventure much more satisfying. The thrill of a chase is infinitely better than the thrill of a guaranteed 'quick fix' viewing and to me this is the biggest difference between the new world safari (Sabi Sands) and the old world safari (Selous, luangwa..). I belong to the old world.

Then there is the constant trumpeting on this board of what is the best accommodation in Africa, giving people the impression that best accommodation implies best wildlife experience. This is absolute nonsense and as a fordorite I sometimes despair at the confusion that we fodorites must create in the minds of newcomers. Here is what i feel:

Best accommodation including spas, plunge pools, etc. do not equal best wildlife experience
Guaranteed 'Big 5' viewing does not equal best wildlife experience

Think before you book the wrong type of wildlife safari.
king is offline  
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Jul 12th, 2004, 07:52 AM
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''considered a managed wildlife area with(true) ?each concession area constantly restocking or destocking game based on its needs(many are fenced off to protect the stock)?????. The wildlife here is completely habituated????/''

King you usually have words of wisdom but this is far from the truth.
safarinut is offline  
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Jul 12th, 2004, 03:00 PM
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Mike, your budget will also play a large part in the more detailed recommendations people offer. Can you give us a ball park figure?

I'm not yet ready to begin thinking about budget or any of the other details about the trip. But thanks for offering.

I just realized that I never got a response to one of my questions -- is it the animal sightings, the weather or both that determine the "high season?" Another way of putting it, what makes the low or middle season what it is and why would I want to think twice about going to southern Africa any time other than the high season?

Thanks to everyone in advance, as always.

MikeBuckley is offline  
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Jul 12th, 2004, 07:02 PM
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hi mike, the main 2 things that make a season high, shoulder or low season are weather and game (they usually correspond with each other). in botswana for example, the low season is the rainy season (dec-mar) and the game is more dispersed bc their is abundant water for the animals to find. the shoulder season is apr-june and is as such because the water level and grasses are relatively high due to them following the rains. july-sept are the driest months causing game to congregate at the waterholes and thus makes finding them easier. also the grass is lower as by then it hasnt rained for months so much of the vegetation is clearing making spotting creatures easier. the reasons for going in the non high season (these are specifically for Botswana as its the only first hand 3 seasons i've experienced but can be applied just about anywhere) are:
1. less expensive
2. less crowded
3. greener for nice pictures
4. calving season is during the low season so u get to see all the youngsters
5. lots of migratory wildlife that comes at that time of yr
6. less expensive (for some places like mombo camp the price can almost be cut in half)

but all in all for a first safari i would stick with the shoulder/high season bc the wildlife will be great and you dont have to worry about getting rained on.
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Jul 12th, 2004, 07:59 PM
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We chose Botswana for our first safari, based on the fact that we always go on vacation in May, and we saw a chart in the back of a Bradt book on safaris which showed what months you were most likely to have the best game viewing by country (East and Southern Africa). Botswana looked good for May. That, and the dollar vs the Rand was getting worse (it's still gotten ever worse) and the South Africa camps were simply out of our budget. I found a great deal at the ccafrica website which pretty much cut the price in half for three really lovely camps. I also wasn't sure I wanted to try a overland trek (where you ride in vehicles to various sites and pitch your camps) as I'm really NOT a camper. While it was sort of appealing (and generally less costly) I was swayed by the pictures of comfortably furnished tents with ensuite bathroom facilities. ;-)

Finally, I actually enjoy flying in little airplanes, which is how one gets between camps if you aren't being driven in a bit 4WD.

I'm not sure where we'll go on our next safari. We're still enjoying thinking and talking about this last trip. It just exceeded every expectation. It's a pricey adventure, too, so it's likely to be a few ye
uhoh_busted is offline  
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Jul 12th, 2004, 08:06 PM
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...make that "years" (I hate when I cut myself off like that!) before we go back to Africa. We still need to see Costa Rica and India and Nepal...
uhoh_busted is offline  
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Jul 12th, 2004, 11:22 PM
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I don't think its inaccurate or pejorative to say that the game in the Sabi Sands reserve (and others like it) in SA is completely habituated. By this King means habituated to safari vehicles. It is, in fact, a positive. That's why you can get so close...why the leopards stroll right by and don't hide, for example. (If they are not habituated, leopards are very reclusive.) And as another example, the elephants in Botswana near Chobe are very habituated to vehicles-- very relaxed, so you can get closer to them than just about anywhere else in Africa. (But in places where they cull or poach elephants, this is not true.)

And it is also true that many reserves in South Africa are "re-stocked"-- many game animals and predators have been re-introduced. It is not a is again, good for the animals and for wildlife conservation. But these areas have certainly more influenced and shaped by man than Ruaha or the Selous, the areas that King was talking about...

That doesn't detract a thing from the SA parks and reserves-- they are well managed and well protected. They offer superb game viewing. But in truth the are not as wild as southern Tanzania, and so the experience will be different.
tashak is offline  
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Jul 13th, 2004, 05:04 AM
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''each concession area constantly restocking or destocking game based on its needs''

So does this mean if Londolozi hasn't seen a leopard they just restock their leopards? Sometimes you may find game parks re- introducing a certain specie if it becomes extinct(Mombo ringing a bell-rhino)

''many are fenced off to protect the stock)''

Is this true?,everyone knows there is a fence around the 2 000 000 hectare park,but what does he mean with many are fenced off?

''completely habituated.''

Can wild animals ever become completely habituated to safari vehicles? What about the animals that migrate from Kruger?

I also recall an ecologist that was recently killed in a tragic accident by a ''completely habituated'' elephant.

Anyway,I don't have time to respond to every expert's opinion on the SSGR.
safarinut is offline  
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Jul 13th, 2004, 07:55 AM
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Yes, you are right, perhaps the word "completely" shouldn't be used with "habituated". It is misleading because it implies that they are domestic or tame animals and of course they are still wild animals. An elephant is still an elephant. And of course even a "domestic" animal can injure or kill. (Far more people in the US are killed by "domestic" dogs than by (wild) mountain lions.)

Don't think Sabi Sands needs to reintroduce carnivores...they have been flourishing there.

And I certainly don't know the particulars of individual reserves and parks, but I do laud the places that are re-introducing and protecting animals that have been exterminated from those areas in the past.

And of course the SA parks have a pretty long history of on again, off again "culling" (I hate this sanitized word-- it just means killing) of elephants (recent thread on Fodors about re-starting this...)
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