First time safari advice and awkward question

Old Aug 24th, 2016, 07:44 AM
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First time safari advice and awkward question

We are beginning to think about the idea of visiting South Africa next June. I have ordered a guide book to start understanding more about S.A., but in the meantime have started reading posts and exploring. We are in our fifties, in decent shape but not up for the "adventurous" level of travel anymore. Would someone be so kind as to explain the different "safari" and wildlife park options. I did visit the Wild-wings site and found it exciting but a little overwhelming. It looks like Kruger or Kwazulu-Natal might be our best options....any thoughts on that.

and probably the most important (and embarrassing) question of all. Being of a certain age I can't go more than an hour or two without needing to "go" if you know what I mean. I don't mind going behind a tree, but wouldn't want to be eaten by a lion while doing so. If one goes on the three hour jeep tours what happens if such a situation arises (needing a bathroom, not being eaten by a lion).? Thanks
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Old Aug 24th, 2016, 08:41 AM
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Let me reply just to your awkward question, being a person of similar age. I'be been on safari twice in Tanzania and once in South Africa plus Mashatu, southern Botswana (going to northern Botswana next). East Africa is different, in that you are often out all day. You just need to tell your guide you need a pit stop and they find a safe place. In Tanzania, if no one is around, the road works best, using the vehicle as a privacy shield.

In the camps I've been to in Southern Africa, there is typically a drinks stop in the game drives, coffee/biscuits in the morning and cocktails in the afternoon. That is always used as a toilet break. Again, the ranger scouts around and points out the safe "loo" area. If you don't think you can make it to a scheduled break, you should give the ranger waring that you will be needing a toilet stop and again, they will find a safe place for you to stop. They don't want you to be eaten by a lion either!

If you're embarrassed to be the one asking (assuming shared vehicle situation), you might tell your ranger/guide privately at the outset that you can't go too long and you'd appreciate if he'd ask if anyone needs a toilet stop every hour or so.

Safaris using a private guide/driver (like east Africa) or in a camp with game drives are one of the easiest travel experiences you will ever encounter, at least in terms of physical exertion. Even if there are "bush walks" they are slow and not very long. True walking safaris and canoe safaris may be different, but getting in and out of the vehicle is likely the most effort you'll expend in the more standard safari parks/reserves.

Good luck.
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Old Aug 24th, 2016, 10:55 AM
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Hello Laura,
As Traveler318 mentioned above, the guides on game drives are most affable & accommodating. If you mention at the outset that you need a loo stop after an hour, they will happily stop & point out the best & safest area for you.
If you are still a tad concerned, be sure to take a seat just behind the driver so you can tap him on the shoulder to remind him (or should you do need to stop urgently).

If you are visiting South Africa for the first time I would highly recommend Kruger National Park over Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Whilst Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN) has much to offer, and is in all honesty, one of my favourite destinations, Kruger National Park just ticks that many more boxes than KZN.

The Kruger National Park is mentioned often because it is an iconic game-viewing destination in South Africa. I cannot deny that KZN is lovely (and close to the coast), but it is also undeniable that it simply does not contend with Kruger National Park.
I would possibly recommend KZN to a second time visitor to South Africa, but if you would like to get the most out of your initial holiday to the country, I would highly recommend Kruger National Park.

In both Kruger Park area as well as in KZN, there are different types of game reserves, with an assortment of accommodation ranging from budget to deluxe, & with varying degrees of service.
A recent article I wrote explains the differences between the reserves, as well as the accommodation types (and also, why Kruger National Park is so famous) -

The reserve & lodge you choose will depend on the type of holiday experience you enjoy, what type of accommodation & service level you enjoy, what you would like to get out of your first visit to Africa, & on your budget.

Whilst some reserves do have all of the animals (including the Big Five), they may not have a lot of them, which means your chances of seeing as much is less.
In the reserves with fewer animals you may do a lot of driving around looking for the animals, as opposed to actually seeing them.
For this reason it is often better to go with one of the better known reserves, ie. a reserve in the Kruger National Park area.

Also, some game reserves/game areas are very well-known for a particular animal.
For instance, if you would like to see leopard, the Sabi Sand area which is adjacent to the Kruger National Park, is famous for these big beautiful cats, & your chances of seeing them are much greater here.
There are many game reserves & lodges within this Sabi area.
For a bit more of an explanation, you can have a wee peep here -

A safari holiday is a most fulfilling and thoroughly enjoyable experience ... no matter what age

I hope this helps,
Happy Planning,
Debbi, Travel Guru, Southern Destinations, Cape Town
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Old Aug 24th, 2016, 01:31 PM
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We have been to the area that you mentioned many times, and have just retuned home from another adventure.
I would suggest the following :
Fly into Johannesburg and hire a car from Avis. They're right next to the aiport entrance. Register for an Avis Prefered card and they hand over your car keys without any hassle.
Places which I would recommend in order of travel :
Sabie River Bush Lodge.
Koubad Farm Lodge.
Tembe Elephant Park
St Lucia. (Sandpiper B&B)
All can be booked online with websites on Google and viewed on TripAdvisor.
Don't be concerned about safety etc. SA is no worse than than any other country, we never feel threatened !
For Further information or pictures my email is [email protected]
Good wishes for a fantastic holiday
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Old Aug 24th, 2016, 07:16 PM
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Thank you all for your reassurance and ideas. It is a lot to take in. I just got the guidebook in the mail so now I can do some serious studying of options. I am sure I will return with more questions.

I may change my mind as I study but for now I don't think I'm that wedded to seeing any particular animals but more just want the experience of being out there...wherever the there may be. I will probably take all of you up on your offers of further advice as things get closer.
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Old Aug 25th, 2016, 06:15 AM
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If you go on a tour with guide it is as you said.

When we went on a Safari in Etosha, Namibia, we did it with our rental car on our own. First, there are several lodges in the park with all facilities. Second, they had public loos in the middle of the wilderness which were fence. Not too hygienci, however..
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Old Aug 28th, 2016, 09:49 AM
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You may have already read my trip report here (if not, click on my name and it should pop up) as you reference Wild-wings. Staying in a lodge/camp in Kruger (or adjoining KNP, as does Sabi Sands or Timbavati) is an excellent first safari experience. We traveled with my brother-in-law and wife and they were first-timers, so I took that into consideration when we planned our trip and made our first stop Rhino Ridge in KNP. Yours needn't be as extensive a trip as we did, because we also got to visit KZN, and you may just want to do 5 or 6 days between 2 different camps in/around Kruger, plus 5 days to see Cape Town and you can have a fairly simple trip that gives you a wonderful SA experience. A TO like Wild-wings can help with transfers between places.

There are breaks on safari drives - and in KNP, most of the time, we stopped at locations that actually had some basic bath rooms (like you might find in any state park), or there were strategically located tangles of bush that the guide would first check to ensure your safety, then you could go in pairs or on your own.

Enjoy the planning! It is one of the most enjoyable parts of travel, IMHO.
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Old Aug 28th, 2016, 10:28 AM
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Our guide was very understanding when one of us asked to "check the tires".
I was worried about my ability/agility in hanging on to the back of the vehicle and not ending up with wet clothing, so I bought a product ($12) called "Go Girl", which was a silicon funnel type thing with a longish spout that gave me the benefit of anatomical equipment DH has, but I don't.
I never needed to stop other than at actual restrooms, but for the peace of mind, it was money well spent.
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Old Aug 28th, 2016, 06:53 PM
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My mother in law used to use one of those! great advice
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Old Aug 29th, 2016, 04:03 AM
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Here is a great post on TA about doing Kruger.

While on safari with a driver at Hamilton's (private concession) my wife had to do some serious business early in the drive. The driver swung back to the lodge & dropped her off. She missed 4 lions on the move later in the drive . . . but her problem was solved.

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Old Aug 29th, 2016, 12:20 PM
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Hello Laura. No worries about the "bush breaks". As stated above, you need only ask your driver with a few minutes warning and they will find a very safe place. Our drivers always insisted on going behind the bush or tree or ant hill to check out the area before allow us to go. We have also used the back of the vehicle when he did not feel the bush locations were secure enough. Everyone faces this same problem, so absolutely no need to be embarrassed or worried.

You are doing the right thing to read a lot and ask many questions. We started our first safari in Kenya and Northern Tanzania. The second in Southern Tanzania. And the third in Botswana - Okavanga Delta. We stay approximately 3 weeks on each trip and we spend it all in the bush.

Here is one of my trip reports:

My photos are here:

Each morning and evening, National Geographics broadcasts a live safari drive. Its a wonderful way to get a feel for the whole experience. Try to watch.

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Old Sep 1st, 2016, 11:06 AM
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The euphemism we learned in Botswana was "picking flowers." If ever we needed to take a break, we'd simply give the guide a little warning that, when safe, we'd appreciate a chance to pick some flowers! He'd then scout out a safe termite mound for us - or we'd go behind the jeep as others have said. I'm not an outdoorsy person and found it all very easy and straightforward. Plus, everyone has to go! Relax and enjoy!
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Old Sep 4th, 2016, 05:31 PM
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Ummm does urinary incontinence start at 50?
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