First Time Safari: July/August 2012 -- Where to go?

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Jan 30th, 2012, 04:38 PM
  #1
apc
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First Time Safari: July/August 2012 -- Where to go?

I'm experiencing what must be classic first-time safari angst: where do I go on my first trip? I've been lurking on this forum for a while and read many guides, but still having a lot of difficult choosing a trip. I've put together three itineraries with different agents and hoping to use the expertise on this forum to better understand which itinerary is right for me.

I'm in my late 20s and will be traveling with my wife for 10-14 days in late July and early August. We're budgeting about $10,000 per person (without international airfare) and we're looking for a fun active trip that minimizes short flights (my wife doesn't do well in small planes). We'd like the classic African experience and we know that we'll be back some day (soon I hope). We're willing to pay a bit more for nice accommodations and a low hassle trip -- we want this to be as least stressful as possible. I'd like to do a night time safari and potentially some walking safaris, and would be interested in possible cultural excursions.

We've narrowed down our trip to three itineraries:

ITINERARY 1: Kenya
* Three nights at Chyulu Hills (Campi Ya Kanzi)
* Three nights at Laikipia (Lewa Safari Camp)
* Four nights at Mazai Mara (Saruni Mara)

ITINERARY 2: South Africa/Botswana
* Three nights Cape Town
* Three nights & Beyond Ngala Safari Lodge
* Three nights &Beyond Chobe Under Canvas
* Three nights &Beyond Nxabega Okavango Tented Camp

ITINERARY 2: Zambia/South Africa
* Three nights at Sausage Tree Camp
* Three nights at The Elephant Camp
* Three nights at Somalisa
* Three nights Cape Town

I understand that a trip this length will only give me a taste of the African safari experience, but which is best for a young, active couple in late July/early August? Our priorities are seeing a variety of wildlife and terrain, staying in comfortable lodging and having an unforgettable experience. My wife really likes the Cape Town option as she thinks too many days on safari will grow monotonous (hard to believe that). The above trips are all roughly comparable in cost, though Zambia may be a little bit less per person. Which would you recommend and why?

Thanks!
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Jan 30th, 2012, 07:03 PM
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Check out this thread that contains Safari Craig's summary of the different countries.

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...a-tanzania.cfm

I'm not voting or ranking, just commenting. Winners, all three.

#1 You stated classic. This has the migration in the Mara in July/Aug and all the animals you'd hope to see on safari along with a chance to view Kilimanjaro.

#2 Your wife gets Cape Town if catering to her one request is important. I'd pick a different Kruger area camp--one in the Sabi Sands, not in Timbavati where Ngala is.

#3 Again, Cape Town for your wife. If daily walking and an opportuntiy to canoe along the Zambezi is your idea of a great and active safari, then this one wins.

All of these offer what you are looking for. Night drives on each itinerary. Though #1 probably has no night drive in the Mara. All of these offer opportunities to walk.

Lots of culture in Cape Town but if you are looking to interact with various local people in the bush, #1 is best.

All of these have time in a small plane. I think #1 has the least time in a small plane and #2 the most. Ask for estimated flight times and the type of aircraft that likely will be used, since that's important and may very well determine which trip you take. It is possible to have a solely driving itinerary in Kenya or Tanzania if flying was completely out.

Here are some comments about certain animals on this trip.

#3 has no chance of cheetah or rhino
#1 has best chance of both black and white rhino, and the wildebeest/zebra migration
#2 has excellent chance of white rhino. Leopard would be easiest at #2 with a Sabi Sands lodge instead of Ngala. Seeing Big 5 would be easiest in Sabi Sands out of all these other parks listed.

Good luck!
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Jan 31st, 2012, 12:06 AM
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What Lynn said !(on seeing the big 5)

But... 10K$ pp excl flights; I do two safaris with that amount of money.

My little peeve with especially itinerary #2 is; why on earth do all these 1st timers want to explore two huge countries in a mere two weeks?? That way, you're flying around more than you are actually enjoying yourself!

If you want it to be "as least stressful as possible", then - for itinerary #2 - stick to CT and ONE place for a safari. A place that maximizes your chance to see good game, of course.

Here's what I would do for the safari part:
- fly from CT to Hoedspruit with SAA. Tip; flight SA1241 is direct. Price (return); about 750$ pp
- 4 nights in King's Camp, Timbavati; 2200$ pp
- transfer; 75$ pp
- 5 nights in Mala Mala, Sabi Sands. 3250$ pp
- fly back (I think the return flight always has a stop in Jo'burg).

The above costs about 6300$pp. I can hardly imagine the three nights in CT eating up the rest of that 10K. This itinerary gives you 8 full safari days (as the transfer between camps is done at midday so you don't miss any safari activities)(compared to the 6 days in the above itinerary #2), is much more relaxed, and does not involve flights in small planes.

True, it does not contain Botswana, but that country merits it's own full safari holiday spent there.

Note that I still think the above is expensive, but it's because I opted for luxury camps since you did the same (Ngala).
You could trade King's for Simbavati River Lodge and still get the same access to animals (traversing rights; see this map; http://www.sunsafaris.com/south-afri...timbavati-map/), same meals, same good guiding etc. The only thing you'll miss are luxury things like heated towel racks (I'm guessing here). Simbavati is 290$pppn.
You could trade Mala Mala for Lion Sands River Lodge (idem remarks as above, and map see here: http://www.sunsafaris.com/south-afri...abi-sands-map/), and spend only 540$pppn.

This would bring your price down to 4400$ pp for the safari part.

Also; choose a local TA, and he will not add anything to the prices above (on the contrary!). I recommend Sun Safaris (as they run my maps, let me be honest about that), but there are others that I'm sure are equally good.

Happy travels!

J.
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Jan 31st, 2012, 01:24 AM
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www.vacationstogo.com/alanfox.cfm
Great Safari newsletter with good deals
Safaritalk.com great place to do research.
Kenya usually best for first timers porini.com eco camps save
flysaa.com great SAA fly/safari packages
travelzoo.com great sales sometimes

Many touts here and there careful research to pay the least.

insuremytrip.com always wise pay wuth CC do not wire money.

Happy Hunting!
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Jan 31st, 2012, 01:27 AM
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The African safari forum asks, what is the future of the safari industry, and how will it impact not only the consumer but on the environment, wildlife and local ...
safaritalk.net
Sorry for typo for SA
Garth Jenman
jenmansafaris.com great for me in tha past.
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Jan 31st, 2012, 01:39 PM
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"You could trade Mala Mala for Lion Sands River Lodge"

For apc's sake, anyone else reading this, and for my own interest, please expand on this statement, PixelPower (or anyone else). How are they similar and why is Lion Sands River Lodge a good replacement for Mala Mala?
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Jan 31st, 2012, 04:51 PM
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atravelynn,
Our first safari trip is nowhere near (2015 hopefully), but I'm already reading a lot about various options.
Why do you say "I'd pick a different Kruger area camp--one in the Sabi Sands, not in Timbavati"?
What's different between the 2 areas? Animals? Access to them?
Thanks
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Jan 31st, 2012, 06:09 PM
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I hate to add to your options, but this is a nice trip, and fits your budget. Any of your agents can arrange it, and you can choose any camp in Sabi Sand/Timbavati in place of Mala Mala, if preferred. It was a very nice, no stress, no hassle trip. I would do three nights at each, but if time is an issue, only Pafuri would be a 2-nighter for me. You can fly commercial JNB to the Kruger area and get a road transfer to your camp of choice, the transfer to Paruri is by road, the road transfer Pafuri to Mashatu is very easy, and you can get a road transfer to Polokwane and a commercial flight back to JNB, although a road transfer doesn't take much more time and you see more. Add CT at the beginning, and you've got a great trip, with three very different Eco-systems and no little planes. Plus you have a good chance of rhinos (white only), cheetah and lots of elephants. I loved this trip - and at around R28,000 according to the rate sheet (divide by 7 or do for a conservative exchange to US), it should work. Mashatu Tented (pretty rustic, but excellent!!) and an alternate SS camp will keep it even lower. Check it out:

http://www.mashatu.com/itineraries/Mafuri%20Package.pdf

Have fun planning!!
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Jan 31st, 2012, 06:22 PM
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"What's different between the 2 areas?"
The Sand River.

I've spent about 20 days in each of the Timbavati and Sabi Sand reserves. With the Sabi Sand reserve having for me significantly more sightings of the big 5.

regards - tom
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Jan 31st, 2012, 07:05 PM
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Tom's response of 3 words is one answer to your question, xyz99.

Here's another answer with italics, quotes, an asterisk, etc. but it boils down to much the same 3 words.

Back when I was planning my first visit to the Kruger area, this is some of the advice I was given as to why Mala Mala in the Sabi Sands is exceptional:

"I worked at Mala Mala for two weeks as part of work experience. I got to know most of the leopards and lion prides. The big factor contributing to the awesome game viewing at Mala Mala is the fact that Mala Mala’s land is situated on a 19 km(15 mile) stretch of the sand river. This river is basically an animal magnet( espeicially in wintertime*).

Mala Mala also own the largest property in the Sabi Sands. More land = more animals. They also have quite a few land rovers going out each morning and afternoon. If all three camps are full about 16 game drive vehicles traverse Mala Mala’s traversing area. More vehicles = more sightings. No overcrowding! Maximum 2 vehicles per sighting. You stay minimum 35 minutes at leopard sighting(if it’s exciting).

*Winter = approx June to Sept


----------

Haul out a map and study the sabie sands wildtuin as that is the body of land that encompasses mala mala and chitwa chitwa. You'll notice that other than the sand and sabie rivers there is very little else that alters the topography across the area. This is an important point because the soil composition dictates the vegetative cover, which dictates the herbivore density & diversity, which will determine the quantity and diversity of predators

------

One other thing to consider is how long the areas have been used for safaris. Sabi Sands and Mala Mala in particular have had generations of animals encounter vehicles.

One difference in Mala Mala as of the last few years is they no longer have trackers (guys that sit in front/back and spot animals). They just have the ranger who drives and is in radio contact with other drivers. Most other South Africa lodges have a tracker. If Mala Mala is back to trackers, please correct this.
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Feb 1st, 2012, 12:06 AM
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> "You could trade Mala Mala for Lion Sands River Lodge"
>
> For apc's sake, anyone else reading this, and for my own
> interest, please expand on this statement, PixelPower (or
> anyone else). How are they similar and why is Lion Sands River
> Lodge a good replacement for Mala Mala?

Lynn, (& Tom & others): that whole sentence should be seen in the context of my entire post, and thus should be read "To save some $, you could trade..."
But I stand by my opinion that there's no significant difference in quality of game viewing.

The theory is that, to have good game viewing, you need 1)space, 2) water and 3) animals accustomed to vehicles. All three are fulfilled @ Lion Sands:

- They traverse with Kirkmans, so they have access to an area that's as big as Londolozi (although now Londolozi is sharing with Singita), as big as the camp with most traverse in the north of Sabi Sands (Arathusa), and as big as all the camps that share traverse in the western section of Sabi Sands (where Ulusaba is - ic the rather expensive camps owned by the owner of Virgin).

- The total riverfront of Lion Sands + Kirkmans is quasi as big as Mala Mala as well. They not only have the Sands river, but Sabie river too.

- They've been operating for years. They know the animals, and the animals know them.

So why should Lion Sands NOT be as good as Mala Mala?


This is getting a bit silly. In the past I got the heat for saying that some places in Timbavati are as good as the places in Sabi Sands (and I stand by that argument too). Now I'm already getting the heat because I say that one camp in Sabi Sands can offer equal quality than another camp in the same reserve. How far can you go?

Also; why does this forum always feel the need to push newbies to the most expensive places? As if a good safari cannot be had elsewhere! It's silly, really. It would be the OP's first safari experience! If he'd go to one of the most affordable options in Sabi Sands, say: Elephant Plains, he'd still see the big 5 about daily, he'd still have one good sighting after the other, he'd still have magnificent pics, etc.

Besides, why does this discussion always arise when the OP is asking questions about the private reserves near Kruger? I mean; when someone's asking about a trip to Tanzania's northern parks, then I don't see any replies saying "that itinerary is cr*p because you cannot go off road" or "because you cannot have trackers" or "because your vehicle needs to be closed" etc.

I spent a lot of time in both Timbavati and Sabi Sands (and Manyeleti an Klaserie as well). To me the differences are not that obvious as the theory would dictate. Who needs flowing rivers when everyone digs waterholes? How long does it take before animals are accustomed to vehicles, given that 10 years is a long lifespan for a cat in the wild, and the lodges in Timbavati have been going strong for longer than that? How come everyone agrees there's less plains game to be seen in Sabi Sands, while some still insist that the predator density is higher? Does the latter not hunt the first? And so on...

Bottom line for me; if you want to spend that much on a safari, by all means do. But please respect other people's opinions. Especially when a newbie asks questions, it's no use being confrontational. We all know we have our own opinions and we all know we will not convince each other.

Can't we just get along? Live and let live?

* holds out his hand *

B.regs,

J.



J.
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Feb 1st, 2012, 07:23 AM
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#1 is 9/nts, whereas #2 & #3 are 12/nts.
#1 is at peak season prices, where I believe #2 & #3 are at lower.
#1 is during the migration in the Masai Mara
#1 all properties are in the luxe-category.
#1 all are flying to/from as distances are just too long - Nairobi to Chyulu, Chyulu to Lewa, Lewa to Masai Mara, Masai Mara to Nairobi.

Can't comment specifically on #2 & #3 and though Capetown is a keeper, there appear to be issues with where visiting and staying. Besides, after first African visit... there's almost always another trip a year or two down the road, at which time you can include South Africa. And, I certainly can't be specific with #3.

To me, for August - it's Kenya!
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Feb 1st, 2012, 07:49 AM
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I'm not trying to argue, but -

"I don't see any replies saying "that itinerary is cr*p because you cannot go off road" or "because you cannot have trackers" or "because your vehicle needs to be closed" etc. "
I do respond with such, when the poster mentions they want photography.

With the OPs budget of $10,000 per person for 10-14 nights (not including air). They certainly can afford the higher end camps so they should go for it. Also, Londolozi and Lion Sands I believe are more $$$ than MalaMala. Kirkmans may be a bit less $$$.

Arms out, big group HUG

regards - tom
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Feb 1st, 2012, 08:04 AM
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Tom and travelynn,
It makes sense, thanks a lot. I'll have to keep this in mind, especially because I enjoy bird photography. I assume water would attract more birds, too.
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Feb 1st, 2012, 12:12 PM
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I missed the "per person". I still like my itinerary suggested, maybe do Mashatu Main instead of Tented (I loved it, but it is a bit rustic for some). Save some money and return soon!! No reason to spend that much money, even including airfare, for two weeks. It's a quality trip that I'd do again in a heartbeat.

Johan - you know I agree with you most of the time, but I think atravelynn was just asking. I think her question was sincere.
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Feb 1st, 2012, 03:34 PM
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Oops, it was just a basic and sincere question. Sorry if the wording appeared confrontational. Sometimes in writing, tone and meaning are lost.

I'm interested in less expensive Sabi Sands accommodations. I didn't want to butt into the conversation with "What's cheap and good in Sabi Sands? I want to know!" so I mentioned the original poster would also benefit, as would others.

You answered the questioned, Pixelpower. A key point is the traversing rights that I did not know about. That makes the areas equivalent. The quality of the areas, along the river, are similar. Very good to know.

I am entering the group hug zone, grasping hands, and performing the secret handshake with you all.

Seriously, sorry that my question seemed offensive.
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Feb 1st, 2012, 11:11 PM
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Hey Lynn,

Perhaps I'm the one who should apologize. English is only my third language. I often fail to see the finer nuances (blush).

@Tom; I'm not saying that someone makes these point in this thread. Just; in general.
I know the OP said he can afford a bill of 10K$ pp, but the point I was trying to make is that there's no need to spend that much. Certainly not on a first safari, and for the quality he is looking for (don't see any request for personal vehicles or super luxury etc).

Lion Sands has more than one lodge. "Ivory" and "1993" are indeed more expensive (or as expensive) as MM. But "River Lodge" is cheaper.

@Christabir; I'm not Johan, I'm Jochen.
Johan = "skinner" = Botswana-man ;-)

But apart from all that: group hug!

Ciao,

J.
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Feb 2nd, 2012, 06:23 AM
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I know nothing of Africa, safaris, lodges, crossing rights, etc. and the information on the internet is overwhelming, so I come here to read and learn.
I really appreciate all points of view, and I love reading your discussion and arguments about similarities and differences between different lodges, what matters and not, etc.

My first impression about an African vacation (which I know, it has to be South Africa for us, to mix a safari with Cape Town and coast views for both of us to be happy) was that it will have to be (at least the safari part) at least $1000/pppn. It was a shock, but I am so happy to see we can do it for less, without sacrificing the safari experience.

I know the general approach is to only respond to the OP’s question, but personally, I love to read about alternatives and why they are recommended. So please, go ahead, discuss various options, I am sure others are happy to read your arguments. And thank you.
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Feb 2nd, 2012, 07:55 AM
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Sorry Jochen. Auto-correct on Apple products (or a typo).

{{group}}

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Feb 2nd, 2012, 08:23 AM
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...was that it will have to be (at least the safari part) at least $1000/pppn...

Who told you that, and where can I find this guy? Because I seriously want to kick his butt until my shoes are worn.

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