First Trip to Africa

Aug 24th, 2015, 02:29 PM
  #1  
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First Trip to Africa

A friend of mine is planning her first trip to Africa. Seeing the wildlife is her main interest. Which country should she visit?
samcat is offline  
Aug 24th, 2015, 02:49 PM
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We thought the Northern Circuit in Tanzania was fabulous for seeing wildlife.
Contact a tour operator called Easy Travel to arrange a trip.
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Aug 24th, 2015, 03:50 PM
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Maybe to help your friend orient to a safari, Fodors "Complete Guide to African Safari" would be a good start. While not the definitive resource on all countries let alone the 5 covered, it is a great start in regards to general concepts. Then time of year and maybe budget would determine a particular country. Once a decision is made as to a particular country then a guide book for such would be good reading.

Like Abram, we would also suggest the northern circuit of Tanzania. Maybe a case of first "love" but it is still our favorite of the three East Africa countries we have visited. Great mix of habitats and wild and interesting people.

We have enjoyed the northern circuit in Nov but mostly in May when rates are lower than much of the year, crowds are much, much less, but the variety and quantity of wildlife is excellent to say the least. I am partial to the Bradt guide to northern Tanzania when planning trips there.

Trip reports are available on Fodors should you care to share with your friend.
rsnyder is offline  
Aug 24th, 2015, 05:47 PM
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I am starting to plan my first trip also. June 2017. I got Foder's complete Guide to African Safaris and it helped me decide how to plan my route!
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Aug 24th, 2015, 06:31 PM
  #5  
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rsnyder, abram, and Fayeanne,
Thank you for your comments. I've been in Africa 7 times and lean toward East Africa, but someone had told my friend, "Not Kenya. Go to Botswana." That is why I'm trying to get some other opinions.
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Aug 24th, 2015, 07:51 PM
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Botswana might be the best place to see wildlife, but it is significantly more expensive than other countries (by design - less quantity, more quality, higher cost). Every lodge is highly recommended - I don't think I've ever seen a negative review in Botswana. Our first safari was to Botswana and plan to go back, though on a much less expensive trip, next year. For an idea of cost comparison and some good itinerary suggestions, check the safari itineraries at Classic Africa www.classicafrica.com or the scheduled safaris at Eyes on Africa. Sorry, I can't paste the site for some reason.

I happen to be a big fan of S Africa, especially the Kruger region. A combo of any lodge in Sabi Sand or Timbavati (Mala Mala is a great option) along with Mashatu in SE Botswana or Phinda in SA, SE of Kruger near the Indian Ocean, are both great trips. I would do Phinda -Kirkmans (Kruger region) right now because they quote in SA Rands, which basically collapsed with the market turmoil this week and is at a record low against the USD. (13 Rand/USD - historic "normal" between 7 and 8!!) It's a great deal right now. It's also a very high quality combo. Add Cape Town to the beginning of a trip, and it's very nice. No matter what, I would choose lodges that quote in Rand right now - this is an incredible opportunity.

Phinda is in my new favorite area of SA. Such a wealth of diversity and investment in wildlife parks. iSimangaliso Wetland Park (which Phinda is a small part) is just fantastic.

If budget is not an issue, Botswana is definitely the way to go for fantastic wildlife, great service and accomodations. But combine with Kruger area (very easy) because they have very few rhinos. For excellent wildlife, good to great accomodations and service at a fantastic rate, Kirkmans - Phinda or something similar.
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Aug 28th, 2015, 06:25 PM
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Good input from all. Thanks. We are still discussing!
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Aug 28th, 2015, 07:46 PM
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Why did "someone" tell your friend not Kenya"? IMHO, that is questionable advice.
What time of year is she going? that could affect whether TZ or Kenya .
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Aug 29th, 2015, 12:18 PM
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I don't know who said that our why. I, too, consider it not good advice. Actually, I'm going with her on this trip and we are still deciding where to go. I'm pushing for Kenya or Tanzania.
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Aug 29th, 2015, 07:11 PM
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I've only been to Tanzania once and it was by far my least favorite trip to Africa (southern circuit/Sept/tsetse flies ruined it for me). I've been to Kenya, Botswana and South Africa at least 2x each and would have to say Kenya for a 1st/only trip.

But it doesn't really matter where you go - Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana - it will be great!
(unless there are tsetse flies )
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Aug 30th, 2015, 07:08 AM
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I would recommend Zambia, she has one of the wonders of the world, Victoria falls. People are super, government is pretty stable and everything is very cheap. Also S.Luangwa national park is arguably the best game park in the world. So fly into Lusaka head east for a safari and then south to see Livingstone!
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Aug 30th, 2015, 10:39 AM
  #12  
TC
 
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I have been three times to Africa. 1. Kenya and Northern Tanzania. 2. Only southern Tanzania. 3. Botswana

We really saw so much more in Botswana than the other places that I wouldn't consider returning to any other. Having said that, Botswana is expensive -- but we spent roughly the same amount on all three trips. Our budget is substantial and we spend at least 3 weeks. For two people, (without International air fare) our cost was $20-$25,000.

There are ways of holding down ones cost -- foremost is going during the green season -- picking less expensive camps -- making a shorter trip, -- and most importantly stay put in camps. Moving from one place to another every two days is a big waste of your expensive time in Africa. You want to spend as much time as possible on game drives and you can NOT do that if you're packing and moving on to a different camp. Each time you move, you will lose at least a half, if not a whole day's worth of game drives.

Under no circumstance would I suggest you travel on a "canned" or packaged trip. They are one of the worst quality for expenditure endeavors. I explain the cost comparison of a packaged trip vs a self-planned trip in my trip report of Southern Tanzania. I think you read it.

If "seeing wildlife" is your main interest, I would skip Vic Falls. It uses time and money that could be put to better use in the bush.

Good luck planning --- its half the fun.
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Aug 31st, 2015, 01:52 PM
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Thank you to those who have recently responded. All of this is helpful. I think we decided today on Botswana + Vic Falls. I may suggest tacking on a camp in Zambia while we're there!
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Sep 2nd, 2015, 06:32 PM
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This is a really helpful thread! I'm also planning my first trip to Africa, solo, and am a little overwhelmed with so many choices. Since I am traveling alone and this is also my first international travel, I've been looking at tours but I haven't seen one yet that doesn't have you moving at least every 2 days which seems like a lot of time lost in travel.
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Sep 2nd, 2015, 07:02 PM
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cararlmck - you should start a new thread. We have a few people who travel solo and might have better info than me. DON'T take a group tour. It is very easy to travel solo in Africa. We met a woman at a lodge near Kruger (Arathusa - an excellent choice for value) who was on her first international trip. She chose to make it easy and flew directly from JNB to Arathusa and spent a week and went home. On safari, you generally eat as a group, go on game drives as a group, get alone time if you choose between eating or spend time in the lodge or pool if you want to hang with others. It's a perfect solo travel experience, as you will never be lonely, but have the opportunity to be alone if you choose. I will give you the same advice as I gave to samcat above. Kirkmans - Phinda for a great value (the Rand is very weak right now), great experience and two distinct ecosystems or Mala Mala - Mashatu for a great experience and two distinct ecosystems. Check out Eyes on Africa and Classic Africa for more options (they can all be arranged specifically for you!) and prices.

Have fun planning.
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Sep 3rd, 2015, 12:05 AM
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cararlmk- please post a new thread with your questions. I go on safari up to 3 times a year, mostly solo and I'd be happy to give you some suggestions but I don't want to sidetrack someone else's thread. There are issues to bear in mind when travelling solo that people who don't travel solo don't consider, and it's not just single supplements on lodges. For example, air transfers between camps/areas if these are not scheduled routes with a high enough level of traffic can often ask solo travellers to pay a double fare to guard against the possibility of having to run the flight for just one person. That would, I think, be an issue with the Mala Mala-Mashatu or Kirkmans-Phinda combinations suggested above.

So it is good that you don't want to rush around changing location every 2 days as transfers can often eat up the budget, especially as a solo traveller. But this is more of an issue in some places than others.


It would also be helpful to know if you have any ideas about which country, budget, whether you have any specific interests like photography.
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Sep 6th, 2015, 12:50 PM
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Hi samcat!

Great that you've settled on Victoria Falls, Botswana, and Zambia, I'm wondering if you have decided as to the number of days and the time of year you are thinking about. Certainly, an approximate budget or your preferred style of travel would be helpful to know as well.

Starting off in Victoria Falls for 2 -3 nights (at most) would be a great idea. Depending upon the activities you are interested in, there is really something for everyone: Tree canopy tours, helicopter flight over the falls, bridge swinging, bungee cord jumping, flying fox, white water rafting, sunset cruise, sitting in Devil's Pool, and more! The Falls are truly spectacular and I don't think they should be missed. An initial stay before you move onward to safari is also a good way to recover from jet lag, get yourself oriented/settled and serve as a cushion in your itinerary should your flight(s) to Africa be delayed/re-routed etc.

Beyond that, as far as Botswana and Zambia, please let us know when you are planning to travel, how long you want to go for and your preferred style of travel. This will help in recommendations etc.

Keep the posts coming. Happy to help!

Best
Dianne
Africa Direct USA
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Oct 20th, 2015, 08:30 AM
  #18  
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Diane,
What about first two weeks in May?
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Oct 21st, 2015, 03:44 AM
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Hi samcat!

First two weeks in May would be a great time to go!

I would recommend you allocate your trip as follows: 2 nights in Victoria Falls, 6-7 nights in Bots, and 4-5 nights in Zambia. While in Botswana, I'd split your stay between Okavango Delta and Linyati/Chobe so that you can experience different areas. In Zambia, I'd recommend South Luangwa or Kafue.

Great trip!

Best
Dianne
Africa Direct USA
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Oct 21st, 2015, 05:27 AM
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Thanks. We are zeroing in!
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