First trip

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Dec 28th, 2003, 11:32 AM
  #1
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First trip

Hi,
I am considering traveling to Africa with my 13 year old and 20 year old.

We usually avoid pre-packaged tours when we travel, prefering to do it on our own.
I am thinking that the package tour might be the only way to go if we want to get to different parts of the country and stay at different placed and see a variety of animals, etc.

I am amazed reading some of the prices quoted here. Are hotels really $1,000 plus a night?

Can any one give me a ball park price for a family of 3 leaving from Boston Ma and staying about 10 days?

Where do I begin planning this? When is the best time of year to go?

Thanks for any advice/help!


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Dec 28th, 2003, 02:06 PM
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So, you would like to go to Africa for your first safari, right? Any idea what country would you like to visit? Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, South Africa? Different contries, different prices, different time of the year to visit. Does 10-day trip include your travel time from Boston to..... ?
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Dec 28th, 2003, 04:49 PM
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Cpeicott:

There are indeed hotels costing that much in Africa. There are also many more costing much less. I think it is marvelous that you are taking your two children on their "trip of a lifetime".

Most of us on this forum have all gone to Africa thinking it would be a once in a lifetime trip. However, every one of us has fallen in love so much with the country, its wildlife and people, that we return and return.

I will be leaving on my fifth trip to Kenya in January (since 2001). I too hate the idea of group tours so I go it alone. I decide where I want to go and what I want to see and contact Southerncrosssafaris.com and they set up my itinerary per my wishes. None of the hotels I stay in are expensive hotels but all extremely safe and comfortable. I do make my own flight arrangements. You can have your local travel agent contact Mill Run in Boston (consolidators) and come up with good rates on NW-KLM flights (around $1,000.00 for January). My entire in-Kenya costs about $3,000 and since I travel alone I get charged extra single rates which you wouldn't).

My suggestion would be for you and your children to sit down and decide what you want to see and where you want to go and then take it from there. If you have questions I might be able to answer you can email me at [email protected]. I too am in the Boston area and would be glad to help in any way I can.

Jan
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Dec 29th, 2003, 03:26 AM
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Cpeicott: Africa is a huge continent, so you would need to narrow down where exactly it is that you and your children would like to go. The Masai Mara in Kenya? Amboseli? - a personal favorite of Jan's! The Serengeti in Tanzania or the Ngorongoro Crater? Botswana? South Africa? Zambia? Jan is absolutely right about recommending you decide where to go first, then planning from there. Many countries offer a wide array of experiences, whether it is cultural or wildlife or both. Please do not be put off by any prices you may have read on this forum. As Jan said, there are many places well under the price mentioned. How I wish I was 13 or 20 years of age on my first trip to Africa!!! What a wonderful experience for you all. And you need not go on a pre-packaged tour. A "custom" or "private" safari is not as expensive as it may sound. Like Jan, I live in the northeast. We fly out of the Manchester, NH airport when going to Africa. Much less expensive to park than Logan and much easier to get in and out of. If you need any help, give a shout on this forum!
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Dec 29th, 2003, 05:05 AM
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Don't be intimidated by the trip reports with the $1,000+ game reserves. We always travel on our own. There are so many places in Africa you could go, but I would suggest South Africa. Fly into JHB and rent a car to drive to Kruger. Accomodations in the park are very reasonable for families. Fly from JHB to Cape Town or Port Elizabeth and explore the beautiful coast and garden route. B&B's are very accomodating to families and the prices were good. Go for it!
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Dec 29th, 2003, 06:11 AM
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What fun! My husband and I got back from our first Africa trip about a month ago and are already planning to take our teenagers to Tanzania as soon as they're old enough... and after we have children!

First you'll want to figure out either when or where to go. If you or your children have your heart set on South Africa, certain times of the year are better for game viewing. Or if you want to travel when your children are on summer vacation, you can narrow your search by game viewing opportunities at that time of the year.

I too normally dislike packaged tours, but it made our trip so much more enjoyable and stress-free. For ten days, I'd suggest staying in one country. Then you won't have to deal with customs several times, and getting extra visas (which equals extra money). There's plenty to see in each country without ever crossing a border. I wouldn't suggest driving into a game reserve on your own because you won't know where to look for animals. A guide can see things at a distance that will amaze you.

Once you start to narrow your search to country and/or time of year, definitely post your thoughts here. It seems that just about every camp and park has been researched or visited by SOMEONE on this board, and they can give you some great feedback on your selections. While we ended up paying more than I'd originally budgeted for our safari, it's not impossible to do it less expensively. I've seen package deals via South African Airways that are around $2,000 pp including airfare for a ten day trip at certain times of the year. These packages also include ground or air transfers, all meals and a guide. Some lodges even include laundry in their costs. Kavey posted some helpful websites here a while ago -- I'll try to top it. You can take a look at these to give you some ideas. Everything will look marvelous and sound amazing to you at first, but feel free to ask for advice to narrow your choices. Having been in your shoes about four months ago, I know how overwhelming it is!
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Dec 29th, 2003, 06:18 AM
  #7
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Thank you so much for the advice and the encouragemnet!
I know that I am being very vague, but I am just in the begining stages of planning this.

Susan, I am curious about your flying from Manchester, as I didn't realize that they had International flights.
How long does it take and is there a direct flight from there? What is consdired a "good price" for a ticket?

If anyone has any suggestions, or an itinerary, I would be very grateful. I know that I am not giving you anything to go on.....South Africa does seem like where we should focus. For all of you that are experinced traveling there, whaat would you suggest for a first trip?

Thanks again.
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Dec 31st, 2003, 01:19 PM
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Cpeicott, you still haven't given people much information to go on. Couldn't you float out some sort of a time frame like, say, Easter break, or (northern hemisphere) summer vacation or something like that?

Since you have a 13 year old child, I assume he/she is in school, and the most feasible time to travel are his/her school breaks, i.e., Christmas, Easter and June / July / August.

If you go somewhere near the equator, Kenya for instance, the variations in weather will be smaller than if you go further from the equator, e.g., South Africa. Although Kenya is on the equator, some parts of it are not as hot as you might expect from the latitude, because the altitude of the inland plateau compensates.

Perhaps I should preface this by saying I've been to Swaziland (where I grew up), South Africa, Lesotho, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and a bit of Namibia. I have never been to East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, etc.), so when I discuss those places I'm going by what I've heard.

If you go south of the equator, the timing of summer and winter of course will be the reverse of what you're used to.

Much of South Africa consists of a high plateau that gets cold in winter. The southwestern corner of South Africa, around Cape Town, has a mediterranean climate, which is cool and wet in winter.

The only parts of South Africa that are warm in winter are the lowveld to the east of Johannesburg, near the Mozambique border, where the Kruger National Park is located. Kruger admittedly is a bargain from a price point of view, it's a huge park, and it's a great place to view game.

The other part of South Africa that's warm in winter is the low lying coastal belt around Durban, in KwaZulu-Natal. There also are some game reserves inland from Durban, in the bushveld of KwaZulu-Natal. They're smaller game reserves than Kruger, but good nonetheless.

I've been talking here about government-run game reserves, which I recall being cheaper than private ones. In the vicinity of Kruger there also are some private (generally more expensive I believe) game reserves, which the experienced members of this forum would be able to tell you more about if that's the route you want to go.

So, if you want to travel in YOUR summer, it will be winter in South Africa, and the only places I would advise you visiting are the Kruger Park area and Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Although I've never been there, I believe Botswana also would be a good country to visit in the southern hemisphere winter.

Then of course there's always East Africa (Kenya or Tanzania or whatever).

Your child's Christmas break would present you with exactly the opposite challenge. It would be summer in the southern hemisphere. Kruger Park, the low lying areas of KwaZulu Natal, and Botswana would be hellishly hot and humid.

A region that would be nice to visit, from a weather point of view, during your winter / the southern hemisphere summer would be Cape Town and the Garden Route (the Garden Route being the stretch of coast from Cape Town in the west to Port Elizabeth in the east). This region has beautiful scenery, wineries, and many other attractions. However, it doesn't offer wild animals to anything like the extent that the Kruger Park, KwaZulu Natal, Botswana, Namibia or the game reserves of Kenya and Tanzania do. I get the impression you would want to devote at least half of your vacation, if not all of your vacation, to game viewing, so I would not recommend Southern Africa at Christmas time. If you must go around Christmas, I recommend Kenya. (Again, other members here could provide more specifics about that.)

Going around Easter would give you many choices, if you were able to go then. It would be spring in the northern hemisphere and autumn in the southern hemisphere. As with so many places in the world, Africa is pleasant in both the spring and the fall, IMO.

If you wanted to go to South Africa, Easter would be the best time to go. The Kruger Park would have started to cool off to the point of being pleasantly hot/warm. While Cape Town would have started to cool off, the weather still should be very tolerable and not yet too cool and rainy. Therefore you would be able to see some wild animals in the Kruger area and visit Cape Town as well, if you wanted to do that combination.

I believe Namibia and Botswana also would be good places to visit in the southern hemisphere fall.

Now I've just been talking about the pleasantness of the weather from a human point of view. From an animal viewing standpoint, there are others here who would be better qualified to tell you the optimum time to visit different places.

If you do decide to go to South Africa and only want to view game, then I would split the 10 days between the Kruger Park (or a nearby park) and the KwaZulu Natal parks. If you want to divide your time between game viewing and seeing some city life, the ocean, wineries, etc., then I would split the time between the Kruger Park area and Cape Town. You would need to fly between the two, as driving would take too big a chunk out of a 10 day vacation.

From what I've heard, Kenya is another country that offers a rather pleasant combination of game viewing in the interior and a beautiful coastline where your family could enjoy the beach. However, I don't know how much of that is feasible within your 10 day window. Perhaps it would mean you would need to fly from the interior game reserves to the coast. Again I must rely on others to advise you on this point.

But above all, I agree with the advice others have given you to choose one country and stick with it.

I also agree that, if you are not used to viewing game in the bush, it helps enormously to have a guide pointing the animals out to you. If you're inexperienced, you can drive right by a whole bunch of animals and not even know they're there. As you become more experienced, even after a few days, your game spotting skills increase.

I hope my observations about climate have been somewhat helpful and that they'll give you at least a starting point for getting your trip a little more focused.
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Dec 31st, 2003, 01:45 PM
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Cpeicott, some edits that I made to my message did not survive when I posted the message. Sorry, I'm new to Fodors and am learning the ropes. I had attempted to add a few points.

* Getting a guide for game viewing would not necessitate being on a guided tour for your entire vacation. You would be able to hook up with a local guide at a specific game reserve for however long you wanted to hire his services (one day, two days, five days, or whatever).

* If you wanted to do the Kruger Park area / KwaZulu Natal combination, you would be able to drive from the Kruger Park area through Swaziland to KwaZulu Natal. That would be the most efficient road route connecting the two.

* Even if you choose not to go on a guided tour for your whole vacation, you can use the itineraries of guided tours for inspiration. Let's say I wanted to drive from NYC through New England to Quebec to see the fall colours. Well, to get a general idea of what would be involved, I could look at the itinerary of a guided tour. I might tweak their itinerary for myself, but it would give me a basis from which to work.

* In my experience, planning independent travel requires, at a minimum, a good map and a good guide book.

Best of luck.
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Dec 31st, 2003, 02:36 PM
  #10
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Thank you so much for taking the time to write all of that information. It is very helpful!

I am sorry to be so vague, but when my son said "how about an African Safari"
I didn't realize that I would have so many choices. I thought that there would be one or two areas that specialized in that, not several coutries. Pretty dumb on my part, I guess!

I have ordered several travel brochures and I am waiting to see their itineraries for ideas. Maybe that is even the way to go, given that it looks like people seem to fly from place to pace. Might be easier to let someone else figure those details.

My first choice of travel would be our early summer. My second choice would be our late summer. Trying to work around both kids school schedules!

I intend to get some books and then come back here with more specific questions, but if anyone out there started like this and could tell me hw they decided and where they ended up, I would love to hear!
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Dec 31st, 2003, 04:58 PM
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Cpeicott, I feel like a total idiot. I replied to you, but my reply disappeared into some sort of Bermuda Triangle. So I posted again, and that reply too disappeared into the wild blue yonder. Now, when I attempt to reply AGAIN, my two previous, lost replies appear in the list of posts on the left hand side of the screen. Yet, when I go to a fresh view of this thread, my replies are not there. I fear that, if I now send this reply, all three replies will magically appear, and I'll look really weird saying the same thing three times. Oh well. The double edged sword of technology.

So...... I will say once again that it's helpful that you're focusing on a narrower time frame. This helps other people to narrow their suggested destinations.

All other things being equal, your proposed timing points me towards East Africa (either Kenya or Tanzania).

Cape Town is the jewel of South Africa, IMO. If Cape Town cannot be included in the itinerary, and I personally would not include it in a southern hemisphere winter itinerary, my instincts would be to head for East Africa rather than Southern Africa.

I think it will make it much easier for you if you can focus your general research on Kenya and Tanzania, choose one of them, and then do more detailed research on whichever one you've chosen.

I suppose you're familiar with the forum's pull down menu near the top of the screen that allows you to look at messages concerning a single country. I find this to be a handy feature. I just looked at the Kenya page, for example. If one is curious about Kenya, it's helpful not to have messages about Kenya lost amongst messages about Israel, Egypt, South Africa, etc.

Anyway, as you say, you'll be able to ask more specific questions once you've read the brochures and books you've ordered.
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Jan 1st, 2004, 04:27 AM
  #12
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cpeicott -

Now that Judy_in_Calgary got some possible dates from you, she is correct in that East Africa should be your destination - Kenya specifically. It's "Migration" time in the Maasai Mara. When thousands upon thousands Wildebeest and Zebra move from the plains of the Serengeti in Tanzania north into the Mara (which is the northern part of the Serengeti).

Generally, Migration can happen any time between July thru October, depending on when the rains come - the animals move for more greener pastures. Though there is no given date when this happens, as we are dealing with animals, but this year Migration was later than usual and the herds remained in the Mara longer than usual, not returning to the Serengeti till late November/early December.

Besides the size of the herds, everyone waits to see a "crossing" of the Mara and/or Talek Rivers. The hesitation of the herds to cross, then one animal proceeds and the rest follow across the rivers - know that the Crocs are waiting "for dinner." And yet, there is no guarantee that you might see a crossing, but the experience of waiting, hoping to see a crossing and possible attacks by the crocs is "heart-stopping."

Some people spend an entire vacation during this time "only" in the Mara, while others include other stops in Kenya finally ending in the Mara for a greater portion of their time.

Also at this time (Jun-Jul) you have dry weather, maybe cold nights, though the later (Aug-Sep) the warmer and dryer the weather.

Given your dates, later would be better - end August, shortly before the children would return to school, and more likely the Migration will be underway.

If you think this time-frame would be of interest, you might want to check some of the websites below and review itineraries and prices:

www.2afrika.com (located in NJ, budget safaris, but can provide better lodging if you wish; they also have consoldator airfares)

www.essafari.co.ke (located in Kenya, budget-mid price itineraries)

www.suntreksafaris.com (located in Kenya, competitive itineraries as above)

Also do a "search" on this board for "migration" - there are lots of posts from Aug thru Oct detaling migration experiences to give you an idea of what to expect. Hope this helps.
 
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Jan 1st, 2004, 05:04 AM
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cpeicott: There are not any international direct flights (except Canada) out of Manchester, NH. Depending on what airline you take, you would have to connect out of either JFK or Newark or even Detroit (NW/KLM) to go to Africa. We use Manchester because it is much closer than Logan and the parking is significantly less expensive. I would agree with Sandi that a trip to Kenya at that time of the year would be appropriate. We were there last in September 2002 and had the great fortune of witnessing a crossing of the Talek River. What a glorious experience. I think you are doing the right thing by requesting brochures and doing research in preparation for the trip. I am sure that you will become a great fan of Africa as are the many people on this board. It truly is a magical place!
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Jan 2nd, 2004, 12:59 PM
  #14
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Hi,
Thank you!
This information is hepling me to quickly narrow my choices down. I think that I would have had needed to spend hours and hours researching to get to this same point!
Also, Judy, thank you for being so persistent!
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Jan 5th, 2004, 11:53 PM
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Our family did a 10 day trip to Kenya and Tanzania last Christmas and it was great.

I agree with the other writers regarding trying to catch the migration in Kenya, but I also found Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania fabulous. I acutally have my best photos from there because you are much closer to the animals and they don't seem to be afraid of the jeeps and vans. The lions actually used the shade created by the vehicles to sleep!

If you have a chance, stay in some of the tented camps. We stayed at the Tortillas Camp in Amboseli Park, Kenya. This was the last part of our trip and didn't find the park as great as the others, but the camp was spectacular and the views of Mt. Kilimanjaro (when not obscured by clouds) were beautiful.

A tip for your 13 year old - make sure you have a Gameboy or similar entertainment. As wonderful as the trip was, I realized that once my kids had seen 30 giraffes, #31 wasn't quite as exciting. So the Gameboys were a lifesaver - espcecially during the long drives. Reading is out - the roads are way to bumpy! Also - take along snacks!

We booked our trip through Discover Kenya (do a google search) and they were terrific. We have many, many friends who have used them with great success. They will probably give you a general itinerary based on your time-frame, then you can modify it to fit your particular interests.

Most of the people I know have families of 4, and the general cost for everything (accomodations, driver, van, park entrace fees, food, in-country flights, etc) averaged around $900-1000 a day. THis did not include airfare there. But, the accomodations were mainly 5* places (4* and 3* are available) and if you chose to drive rather than fly between some locations, it will be cheaper.

NOTE - make sure that whatever company you choose used 4-wheel drive jeeps with pop-up tops. We saw MANY other vehicles (mainly vans)
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Jan 5th, 2004, 11:55 PM
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Oops - hit the "Post My Reply" by mistake.

Just to finish my final comment. Many companies (like A&K) seemed to use vans and these were much more likely to get stuck if the roads were muddy. We pulled out several people!

Have fun planning!
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