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First time Safari - any comments on Wild Wings/Taga Safari companies?

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Jan 12th, 2017, 10:12 PM
  #1
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First time Safari - any comments on Wild Wings/Taga Safari companies?

Looking at a first time safari in possibly August/September 2018 for two weeks or more for two people, have read a lot on this forum and basically decided on Zambia (Victoria Falls), South Africa (Kruger and Kalahari), Namibia and possibly Botswana.

Narrowed down agent to Wild Wings and Taga Safaris but has anyone got any other suggestions or comments on these two companies?

Do not want to be in large groups and as luxury as possible within budget.
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Jan 13th, 2017, 08:31 AM
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You are trying to do too much! Way too much. Go for over a month for all of that.

Wild Wings is a very good agency.
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Jan 13th, 2017, 12:36 PM
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Hi Cyansiam,

I have heard of Wild Wings because christabir always raves about them. I don't know anything about Taga. How did you settle upon these two choices? You may also want to consider Asia to Africa as they can be helpful with advice on visas etc (if you have a Thai passport).

One comment on the itinerary: If you go to Zambia to see the Falls in late August or September it will most likely be dry with no water flowing over it. This time of year you should go to Zimbabwe if you want to see water flowing.

Much of the Kalahari is outside South Africa. What part of the Kalahari are you considering? In my experience, the Kalahari can be a bit dismal outside the rainy season. But, the area around Tswalu in South Africa or the eastern fringes like Madikwe are great in the winter/spring when you are traveling.

You asked for other suggestions so you may want to consider a US based agency to get another consultation and quote. I highly recommend Piper & Heath in San Diego. The owner, Chris, is from Namibia and guided there for 15 years. He is a friend and worthy competitor!

Cheers for now.

Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond
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Jan 13th, 2017, 06:02 PM
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"Wild Wings is a very good agency" is always raving? Wow, Craig, that's a stretch. I recommend WWS often because they, unlike yourself and too many others, will arrange a trip in any budget. For most of us that's important, and it's not easy to find them.

As for other suggestions, you can arrange it on your own. That way you get exactly what you want. It's not as hard as it may seem. I have also decided on all of the areas and lodges and then contacted an agent to arrange it and the transportation. Now I know better and can do all of that myself. Some lodges require an agent, however. With those, they have their chosen agent contact you for that portion when you contact them. I'm currently doing that for my nephew's honeymoon. I reached out to his chosen lodge, I contacted them for availability and then book the lodge and private transfers to the lodge through the agent. The rest of it we are doing ourselves.

But I totally understand wanting to use an agent. WWS is a good choice. I like to use an agent in the country I am visiting as opposed to a agent near home with limited hands on knowledge of where I'm going.
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Jan 14th, 2017, 01:12 AM
  #5
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Thanks Chistabir and Craig for the feedback.

We can go for a month if budget allows and any time of year except Xmas, New Year and CNY. I was told September was a good time to go but obviously mixed up Zambia with Zimbabwe on the falls.

Tswalu was the place I was thinking of but again have been told that Namibia is worth going to, especially the north.

We are english and agents in this part of the world generally have no idea so I did think it best to use a local agent. Wild Wings have come up a number of times and Taga recently as being one of the first companies on the scene.

The only other one I listed is Hippo Creek Safaris and I looked at &Beyond whose lodges look suitable.

I have read a lot that prices are no different if you book direct with the lodge or use an agent and I honestly do not know where to start so I figure if they get the drift of what I am looking for we can go from there. I have sent an enquiry to Wild Wings so will see what comes back and then get a comparison elsewhere.
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Jan 14th, 2017, 11:27 AM
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Hi There,

Nina and Dan at Hippo Creek are personal friends and it is a great company. I think Nina is in Mexico this weekend but back on Monday. And now it makes sense why you want to work with a company outside of Asia. Dan and Nina also only offer upscale/luxury safaris which is obviously a niche within a niche. If upscale is your plan, I do feel you are best served to work with someone that has max leverage and relationship in this area vs a generalist safari planning agency. As Christabir mentioned, I don’t really comment on or plan budget safaris so I will stick to commenting on what I know & like. When I travel, I like to go all out. In fact, I just got back from a nice, 18-day trip to Antarctica and saw mega-fauna on South Georgia Island!

Funny that we both were thinking of Tswalu. Indeed that will be a great choice in August/September. For a month long trip, you have to keep in mind “safari fatigue”. Believe it or not, many people end-up spending a maximum of ten nights at safari lodges on their first trip to Africa. Obviously there are exceptions to this. But, I will dare to say, that 90% of first time safari goers come back home and say ten days (20 game drives in the morning of afternoon) was enough. Many come back and say they slept-in on morning 11. This does not mean that you won’t wish you were back in Africa shortly after getting home; you will! There are ways to mitigate this “fatigue” for a 30-day trip and one method is to break-up the safari with Cape Town or Victoria Falls or perhaps safaris that allow you on horseback or foot (like Tswalu).

You said some key words about that I will build around. You said “luxury”, “possibly Botswana”, and “within budget”. Based on the average price paid by an overseas tourist, Botswana is the most expensive place in “safari Africa” that you can put your head down for a night in August and September. So, here is one-month long example of a trip that excludes Botswana and should have a per-diem of under $1,200 USD per person per day (that is the rough price of Tswalu).

Day 1 Arrive Jo’burg and overnight.
Day 2,3,4 First safari in the Kruger ecosystem at MalaMala, Tintswalo, or Lion Sands River Lodge (or Tinga/Narina).
Day 5,6,7,8 Fly via JNB to Tswalu for four nights. Plane change in JNB.
Day 9,10,11,12,13,14 Fly Tswalu to Cape Town/CPT and spend four nights in Cape Town and perhaps 2 out near Hermanus to see the southern right whales which will be up from Antarctica for the winter.
Day 15,16,17 Fly to Victoria Falls/VFA via JNB and proceed immediately to Hwange National Park on a small plane from VFA. Spend three nights at Little Makalolo or Linkwasha
Day 18,19 Back to Victoria Falls to spend the night at Elephant Camp or Victoria Falls River Lodge.
Day 20 Fly to Windhoek via Johannesburg. Late arrival.
Day 21,22,23 Sossusvlei Desert. Perhaps Little Kulala.
Day 24,25,26 Skeleton Coast (Wilderness Safaris or Schoeman)
Day 27,28,29 Serra Cafema for the icing on the cake!

Of all the things I mentioned, Skeleton Coast is the most coveted and the most necessary to book ASAP even for 2018. As of yesterday, the entire program was sold out for a 3-day stay (2 people)) from May 1- Sep 30, 2017!

I hope this helps and good luck!

Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond
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Jan 15th, 2017, 12:32 PM
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"I recommend WWS often because they, unlike yourself and too many others, will arrange a trip in any budget. For most of us that's important, and it's not easy to find them."

Bravo and thank you, Christabir! Loving Africa, I find it frustrating and (although it sounds melodramatic, it's true) painful that people who want to go, fear they can't, or don't investigate further, because they incorrectly assume every trip will be $1,000 per person per night.
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Jan 15th, 2017, 03:27 PM
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Hi Cyansiam!

I'd recommend starting in Cape Town which will give you a little more time to acclimate to the start of your trip and will provide a more leisurely starting pace rather than facing early morning wake ups for game drives first thing in your itinerary.

From Cape Town, you could experience the incredible landscape of Namibia (Sossusvlei/Skeleton Coast etc). From Namibia, you could move onward to Zimbabwe or Zambia (you could include a short stay in Vic Falls too) with a visit to Hwange Nat'l Park in Zimbabwe or the Busanga Plains in Kafue, Zambia. From Zambia's Livingstone airport, you can fly direct to Kruger's KMIA airport and begin your South African safari in the reserves abutting Kruger. Lastly, you could end your trip in Tswalu Kalahari for yet another safari but in a distinct ecosystem. I refrained from recommending specific places as lodging options since you didn't identify a budget.

There are many different ways to build this itinerary and accomplish one's vision for this trip. It largely depends upon how many days you'd like to spend at different places, your preferred style of travel, as well as one's budget. An important thing for you to keep in mind when building this itinerary is that your movement from one place to another should be in the most streamlined and efficient way possible. Ideally, you want to avoid as many extra stops and/or layovers, especially ones that require an overnight in JNB. For example, as I mentioned, you can fly on certain days of the week from Livingstone airport in Zambia to Kruger's KMIA airport without going thru JNB. You can also fly from Cape Town to Livingstone direct without having to go thru JNB.

Sounds like this will be an incredible trip filled with beautiful landscapes, varied ecosystems, and the wonder of the bush! The memories and feelings from this trip will resonate with you long after you return home!

Happy to help!
Dianne
Africa Direct USA
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Jan 16th, 2017, 01:42 AM
  #9
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Thanks everyone for replying.

Craig....thank you for the ideas, I spent yesterday checking out the places you mentioned.

Dianne..agreed too many extra stops/layovers is not what we want and the example itinerary that has come back has 2 overnights in JNB.

I am now not sure if Namibia is too similar to Tswalu so would be better putting Botswana in instead for diversity.

This is more confusing than planning India!!!!
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Jan 16th, 2017, 03:57 AM
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Hi Cyansiam,

You could also consider doing more in Zimbabwe and saving Namibia/Botswana for another trip. In my sample trip above, I had mentioned Hwange National Park. Here is an alternative ending:

The small planes mentioned below are all scheduled flights so you will not have to charter a private plane. Except the flights to/from Singita they all operate daily.

Day 15,16,17 Fly to Harare/HRE via JNB and proceed immediately to Mana Pools National Park on a small plane from HRE. Spend three nights at Little Ruckomechi.
Day 18,19,20 Small plane to Hwange. Three nights at Linkwasha or Little Makalolo.
Day 21,22 Two nights at Victoria Falls River Lodge or Elephant Camp.
Day 23,24,25,26 Time the trip to use the new once-per-week flight from Victoria Falls to Buffalo Ridge and spend the last four nights at Singita Pamushana in SE Zimbabwe.
Day 27 Fly home on the twice per week flight from Signita to JNB and fly home.

Do Namibia and Botswana on you next trip!

Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond
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Jan 16th, 2017, 09:34 AM
  #11
 
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Hi there again!

If you really wanted to explore different ecosystems and landscapes, then perhaps you could consider the following:

Start in Cape Town with 4-6 nights (depends on if you want to include nights in Hermanus or the Winelands). So many incredible things to do to fit your specific interests from nature, history, culinary/wine. Private cooking experiences to biking in the wine lands and more!
Namibia for 6 nights split between Sossusvlei and Skeleton Coast. Hot air balloon - Incredible!
Botswana for 4- 6 nights (wet/dry/"mixed" camp options). Many beautiful lodges to pick from ranging from contemporary to traditional to African chic.
Victoria Falls for 2 nights which would be a nice break to the game viewing activities and daily schedule. Clients love the Elephant Camp.Other great places too.
Zambia (Kafue - Busanga Bush Plains) or Zimbabwe (Mana Pools or Hwange) for 3 nights.
Fly out of Zambia direct to Kruger and end your trip at 1 or 2 incredible lodges in the private reserves for your final 4-6 nights.

You'd have an amazing experience in different ecosystems and see different landscapes, all incredibly beautiful and unique. You'd also balance your trip with game viewing in national parks and in private reserves, where you can benefit by night drives and driving off road to follow and stay longer with an animal to learn more about their behavior.

There are many lodges to consider based upon your style and budget and availability is key. Your itinerary may need to tweak here and there to adjust to that but again, the focus should be on streamlining the flow of the stays at the different destinations and keep your vision for the trip at the forefront of the planning. You could of course trim this down as necessary but again, it is your trip and should match your goals!

Best
Dianne
Africa Direct USA
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Jan 22nd, 2017, 01:35 AM
  #12
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Thank you again Craig and Dianne!

After looking at possibly every lodge out there last week I think I have decided to stick with Tswalu and Kruger (2 lodges). I was quite shocked at the cost of the internal flights in Namibia and to get the right accommodation and length of stay the cost would be almost double what I expected and I doubt that this is going to be the only time we go to Africa so no point trying to do all at once.
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Jan 22nd, 2017, 05:07 AM
  #13
 
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Hi Cyansiam!

Great to hear that you have honed in on what you'd like to do! So many incredible options as we have discussed. If you need assistance threading the pieces together, please let me know.

Best
Dianne
Africa DIrect USA
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