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First time in Zimbawbe, SA, Safari, etc. Really need your help.

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Apr 20th, 2013, 03:55 AM
  #1
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First time in Zimbawbe, SA, Safari, etc. Really need your help.

Hi to all !

We are a couple in our 60's and will be attending a convention in Zimbawbe in August 2014 (still no exact date). For many years I've been considering vistiing "black" Africa, and I cannot let go this great opportunity of doing things I've dream for many years.These are my priorities: Victoria Falls, a 3 or 4 days Safari, Capetown and visit an authentic local village to experience their daily life. I need your help of how to organize the logistics for this kind of trip. What National Park to visit (Chobe, Hwange, Kruger)? Do I need a tour operator? Is self drive in Capetown ok to visit the main attractions?, etc. Will have 13 to 15 full days, not including the convention days. I know the trip is too far in the future, but I want to make sure this will be a trip of a lifetime. Many more questions will come late as soon as I have the answers to these initial questions. Thanks in advance for all the help yoy can gave me.
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Apr 20th, 2013, 06:40 AM
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What a fantastic time to be in Zimbabwe (or Botswana). August (and into early September) is the best month of peak season for Hwange and Chobe because the weather is so great and the animal viewing is at its annual best. It can still be a little bit colder in the beginning of the month in the Hwange National Park but it warms up quickly and by the end of the month (according to CNN in an article last year) it is the best weather on earth! The chances of seeing Rhino in the wild in Zimbabwe are very low, but you can have an excellent big four safari in the Hwange in August. The popularity of Zimbabwe as the Safari destination is exploding so there is quite a bit of choice for lodges in 2014.

A four-day safari is sufficient in Hwange. But, as long as you are in the area, you should definitely consider going to a second safari lodges in the Hwange or add another national park in Zimbabwe or Botswana (as you mentioned). With local ground operators called Africa Bush Camps or Wilderness Safaris, you can easily add three nights in Mana Pools National Park to this itinerary. They both have flying circuits that begin at Victoria Falls and end either at Victoria Falls or in the capital city of Harare. The flying circuits allow you to visit multiple camps in Hwange, Mana Pools, and Matusadona National Park. It would be slightly cheaper to combine the Chobe with Hwange vs. a more remote additional national park in Zimbabwe. The reason is because both Hwange and Chobe can be accessed by road from Victoria Falls (i.e. no light aircraft needed). If you use the road transfer option you will need to spend one night at the Falls in-between the two safaris to avoid missing game drives that are non-refundable and included in the rates. The flight savings are offset by higher accommodation costs in Chobe. If comparing similar levels of comfort, Botswana is generally more expensive than Zimbabwe.

My top choices for Hwange are Little Makalolo, the Hide, Somalisa, or Camp Hwange. Camp Hwange opened since my last visit in 2011 so I have not seen it but the owner, Dave Carson, is a friend and he was here in Minnesota in February to visit me. I trust the product is great sight-unseen. Camp Hwange is far enough away from the other three that I mentioned so you could combine Camp Hwange with one of the other three. Little Makalolo, The Hide, and Somalisa are close enough to each other that you could see the same exact animal at one camp in the morning and the other the next morning.

In the Chobe you should consider Ngoma, Chobe Chilwero, Muchenje, or Chobe Game Lodge. Three nights would also be sufficient in the Chobe. If you contact a safari expert they will help you sort through all these choices and tell you what combines best with what. If you self-plan you can use forums to figure it out.

Many say Hwange is the most mammal diverse habitat in all of Africa. It is an environmental transition zone for the Kalahari Desert and mopane woodlands of northern Zimbabwe. Because of the transition, you get overlapping habitats and there are at least 108 mammal species seen on an annual basis in the park. When I was last there in August 2011, I saw giraffe, elephant, buffalo, and lions every day. We saw Leopard a few times and nocturnal cats on the night drives.

If you stay at little Makalolo there is an authentic village that can be visited in lieu of a morning game drive. Most of the lodge’s staff are from the village. There's also a school in the village fully funded by Grand Circle Tours.

A self-drive in the Cape Town area is very easy. I just don't recommend driving too much at night and especially I don't recommend driving at night on the day you arrive. If you arrive in the city late, it is best to have a company transfer you to your hotel and have Budget or Avis deliver your car the next morning. Be sure to get a GPS unit and also a paper map and cross-reference the two against each other as you travel around.

Many of the lodges I mentioned above do not take direct bookings. So, you will have to work with an agent if you want Makalolo, Camp Hwange, Chobe Chilwero, Somalisa and some of the others. I see someone posted this exact same question on trip advisor so I'll paste this exact same answer there since it is probably you.

If you want big five (i.e. rhino) I recommend you add three days at a PRIVATE reserve in the Kruger ecosystem. At a private reserve you can go off road thus greatly increasing the chance of seeing the rhino. In this case, I would sequence the trip like this: Jo’burg x 1 >> Kruger x 3 >> Cape Town x 4 >> Vic Falls x 1 >> Hwange x 4 >> Vic Falls x 1.
*You can cut nights in Vic Falls if you fly to Hwange instead of driving.

Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond
2011 & 2012 Travel & Leisure A-List agent for Botswana and Zimbabwe
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Apr 20th, 2013, 08:05 AM
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Thank you very, very much Safari_Craig. Over the years I have seen a lot of your forum contributions which I'm sure many of us are very greatful. Although this will be my first trip to this part of Africa, I usually read in the Africa forum getting acquainted for a future trip that now I hope will become a reality. Will start to look at the places you recommended and post my impressions and questions later on. Another question: pardon my ignorance regarding Africa, but being this my first Safari trip, is it not too much to Safari for 7 days? I know many people say that after theri first one, many became almost a Safari addict. But considering that it will be my first one, would 7 days will not be overkill?

Regarding the sequence of the trip; all my travel plans will be after I finished the convention. Wouldn't be less costly and less time consuming if I fly from Harare (where the convention takes place), go to Vic Falls, and from there Safari in Hwange and Chobe, and then fly to Capetown in case I do not Safari in Kruger? Also, which safari expert you recommend to organize the trip in the Chowe-Hwange National parks?
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Apr 20th, 2013, 08:20 AM
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That is a tough question. Right now, Air Zimbabwe is offering HIGHLY unreliable flight service from Harare to Victoria Falls. It started last December and this service has come and gone over the years. When it goes, it is usually an abrupt ending to service. If you counted on this flight and it was cancelled you would have to fly Harare (HRE) >> Jo’burg (JNB) >> Victoria Falls (VFA) on BA or SAA leaving HRE on the first flight in the morning to connect in Jo’burg on time.

Wilderness Safaris is the ONLY safari company offering scheduled (i.e. shared) light air transfers that begin in Harare. But they only go to Mana Pools. You could book a safari with Wilderness (must use an agent) and fly on their 2pm light air transfer from Harare/HRE to Mana Pools, spend three days at Ruckomechi and then continue to Hwange for 3 days at Little Makalolo. This would be a great 6 day safari.

Regarding the number of days; generally I find people like 6-12 nights at safari lodges on a first time safari. If I recommended 5 nights at lodges most people would come back saying they could have had more. If I recommend 12 most people would come back and say it was too many. How about this statement for being vague? “80% of first time safari goers will ideally spend 7-9 days on safaris doing 14-18 morning and afternoon activities”. I have been to Africa over 30 times and been on safari hundreds of times dating back my earliest childhood memories so it is hard to be in “your shoes”. I have taken my kids on safari twice. In 2008 they were 10 & 12 and in 2011 they were 13 & 15. On both safaris we had ten nights at lodges on safari. Like clockwork, on both safaris they decided to sleep-in on day 10…

Keep in mind, at Mana Pools some of the activities are canoeing, hiking, and boating. The same applies to boating in Chobe. So, you are not stuck on a land rovers all the time. Also, with the flying schedule in Zimbabwe that I mentioned above you miss most of the afternoon game drive the afternoon you arrive in Mana and you miss all of the morning drive the morning you leave so on a six day safari to Mana and Hwange you really only have ten activities. Missing the activities is accounted for in the package price by Wilderness and ABC.

Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond
2011 & 2012 Travel & Leisure A-List agent for Botswana and Zimbabwe
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Apr 21st, 2013, 05:02 AM
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Thanks again Graig. Looked into the various Safari Lodges in Hwange and in Chobe; very nice places but out of my budget. I should clarify that I'm looking for something more affordable (not necessarily budget). Can you sugest other options? Also, can anybody coment on why would you choose a Game Lodge over a hotel that gives the options of games on a daily basis? Are the hotels guide good enough? Do they go to the same places where the Games Lodges takes you? I'm a bit confused with these options. Thanks.
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Apr 21st, 2013, 05:03 AM
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I mispelled your name Craig...sorry !
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Apr 21st, 2013, 07:27 AM
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Then you should consider Ivory Lodge and perhaps one of these packages: http://www.ivorysafarilodge.com/wp-c...-West-RACK.pdf

Ivory Lodge is outside but adjacent to the park. What is your budget? That would be good to know. Camp Hwange and Ivory Lodge are both around $400 per person per night. There is not much cheaper than that that I would "recommend" to a first time traveler. Perhaps consider booking direct with Chobe Safari Lodge (not mentioned above) and buying all your activities ala carte?

Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond
2011 & 2012 Travel & Leisure A-List agent for Botswana and Zimbabwe
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Apr 21st, 2013, 08:31 AM
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What is your total budget for your safari? That would be the place to start. You might check out the Africa Adventure Co. They have Zimbabwe safaris on their website that would give you an idea of costs. (Alison Nolting, one of the owners, is from Zimbabwe.) They could also put together an itinerary specifically for you. It's much easier to use a safari planner and really not any more expensive than trying to piece it together yourself.

As for Craig's suggestion of Ivory Lodge... I stayed there a couple of years ago. It was "okay", but not as good as the camps in Hwange itself. They don't drive inside the park, just in areas near the lodge. My choice within Hwange was Somalisa Camp. I'm not sure how the two compare in price. Somalisa was full my last night in Hwange, so I moved to Ivory Lodge because I was going on to their sister property, Amalinda Camp down near Bulawayo. Now THAT was a spectacular location! The game in Matobo Hills NP wasn't all that great, but the San rock art and the granite outcroppings were really interesting. The camp is built right into the rocks and I actually had rock art on the walls of my room.
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Apr 21st, 2013, 09:11 AM
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Good info ShayTay.

Basically - $400 is the minimum per person per night to be within the park at a permanent lodge not camping. My advice will not be too relevant at lower per diems.

I second the endorsement of Alison Nolting. I know both Mark and Alison. He is the author of Africa’s Top Wildlife Countries at Barnes and Nobles. His advice won't be too relevant below $400 pppd. The guy that owns Came Hwange, Dave Carson, does a lot of private guiding for the Noltings in Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Craig
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Apr 21st, 2013, 02:04 PM
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Total budget will be around $6,000 for both us, including a two night stay at Victoria Falls.
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Apr 21st, 2013, 05:11 PM
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So - to be clear - $3,000 per person including Vic Falls. Does this budget need to include air transportation to Victoria Falls?
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Apr 21st, 2013, 05:56 PM
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I'm not sure yet, Carig. I'm still figuring out how my FF miles will work out for this trip. The last time I've checked the fair from J'burg was around $347. Supposing that this budget does not includes the airfare to Vic Falls, will that be enough for a reasonably good safari, maybe for a total of 5 to 6 days?
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Apr 21st, 2013, 05:57 PM
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Again mispelled your name !! I'd better re-read three or four times my replies, Sorry.
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Apr 22nd, 2013, 09:29 AM
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Hi There!

Yes - for $3,000 per person you can have a great safari in the Vic Falls area. I would just concentrate on Hwange. Perhaps do 2 at the Hide and 3 at Camp Hwange using road transfers. That should be under $2500. This is, of course, one of many options.

Craig
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Apr 22nd, 2013, 04:30 PM
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Those are great news. My optimism is back. I was getting a little worried that things would not work out the way I planned it. Will look closely in your Game Lodge recommendations. Thanks again, Safari_Craig.
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Apr 24th, 2013, 10:20 AM
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If you are going to Victoria Falls, you might also consider going to the Chobe area in Botswana, rather than Hwange. It's actually closer and has a huge elephant population. Imbabala Zambezi Lodge has gotten high praise from travelers I know that have been there. My favorite was the Ichobezi safariboat. There is no visa required for Botswana for US citizens, but you might need a multiple entry visa if you plan to leave Zimbabwe and come back in the country to fly out of Vic Falls. There are also flights from Kasane (near the Chobe) to Johannesburg, but not every day of the week.
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Apr 26th, 2013, 07:38 AM
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We were on safari in Zimbabwe last September, after a couple nights in Victoria Falls. You may want to read my trip report here: http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...uth-africa.cfm

While we had more time to spend, I think you will benefit having started in Harare. You may be very ready to get out of the city and into the bush -- and schedule your safari first, finishing up with your stay in Victoria Falls -- which is a terrific place to buy craft/souvenir items. Also nice to not have to haul anything extra around on safari

BA has flights from Vic Falls to Cape Town, which I strongly recommend over changing planes at JNB to go on to Cape Town. Actually, you can get around Cape Town without a car, and book excursions to places like Boulders Beach and Cape Point. We've done it both ways. Takes some time to get used to driving on the left side of the road if you are from the US, but otherwise it isn't difficult.

I made a short video for my daughter's 1st graders that shows our Vic Falls and Zimbabwe safari experience. You may enjoy it while making your plans http://youtu.be/4IaJ8neM4SQ
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Apr 26th, 2013, 06:55 PM
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Thank you, thank you, uhoh_busted. Read your detailed and very informative trip report. Will surely help me with my plans for my trip. Greatly enjoyed your photos and videos of your safari experience. Can't wait to be in Zimbawbe. Thanks too for the tip of the direct flight from VF to Capetown.
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May 18th, 2013, 05:46 AM
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Not sure if you've read this, or if relevant to your upcoming trip, but I came across it after reading the new Africa article by Peter Godwin in the recent issue of CN TRaveller (Not online)


http://www.cntraveler.com/features/2...national-parks
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Aug 14th, 2013, 02:41 PM
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Hi, Gilawi02--

It's possible we have the same convention in mind.
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