First trip to Africa and travelling solo


Sep 6th, 2015, 05:35 AM
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First trip to Africa and travelling solo

I had posted in a different thread but a couple of people suggested I start a new topic. To replay, I'm planning a trip to Africa for 2016. I'm a single woman in the US and this is my first time traveling internationally. I'm leaning towards Tanzania or possibly Kenya, with an add-on of Victoria Falls. I just got the Fodor's travel guide and so far it's reinforced that plan. The Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater sound amazing! My top goal is seeing the country and the wildlife - I don't care to spend a lot of time in any city and I'm not looking for high-luxury. I'd be willing to camp some but I'm not that experienced a camper so I wouldn't want to make 2 weeks of it. As far as timing, I've been thinking late May or early June but I'm flexible.

Because it's my first international travel, I've been leaning towards a group but I know there shortcomings. I really dislike single's unfair to penalize single people for traveling alone. I took a group tour to Alaska a few years ago and got lucky in that they had another single woman that wanted to go so we roomed together. I don't anticipate spending much time in the rooms so I'd be willing to share.

I'd really appreciate any suggestions or insight. The groups I've looked at are all over the place as far as costs and they do seem to move you around a lot which is time spent in travel instead of seeing the sights.
cararlmck is offline  
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Sep 6th, 2015, 11:32 AM
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How much time do you have and what's your budget? My first thought is that if you're planning to go to Tanzania/Kenya, don't add-on Vic Falls. Internal airfare within Africa is expensive and it sounds like you don't want a lot of moving around anyway. Maybe even stick with one country depending on the length of your trip.

As a solo traveler you can book your own private vehicle and travel by road in either country. It becomes costly since you don't have anyone to share the cost of the vehicle with but you could stay in simpler accommodations to compensate. Kenya Wildlife Service has self catering accommodations in several parks and you can bring a cook for little additional cost. There are also ranch type properties such as Sandai which is near the Aberdares, Solio and Ol Pejeta and El Karama in Laikipia which are fairly inexpensive. I'm less familiar with Tanzania so hopefully someone else will chime in there.

Another option is to fly from destination to destination in which case you'd be going out on game drives with other camp guests. I've found that in general the smaller the camp, the more communal they tend to be, i.e. guests dining together, etc. so you'll have more opportunity to meet others if that's what you want.

Also check out the forums which are very active for Africa planning.
Patty is offline  
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Sep 6th, 2015, 01:36 PM
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I agree- if you want to do Kenya/Tanzania, I wouldn't try and add on Victoria Falls. If you want to combine a safari with Victoria Falls I would pick one of the Southern African countries- Botswana, South Africa, Zambia or Zimbabwe.

I don't think a group tour is really necessary, if you pick the right type of camps you won't be alone. The exception might be the northern circuit of Tanzania where safaris by road are more common and, as Patty says, if you go alone you will be paying for the driver and guide alone. But as a solo traveller, I enjoy the "fly in" type camps where you share activities with other guests.

Apart from all the usual considerations of game viewing, crowds, logistics of getting there, the three things I think worth bearing in mind for a solo safari are:
1) If you want to be social then look for small camps that offer communal dining. Some camps seat diners at separate tables, some might have a table per vehicle, others may have one big table for everyone. I look specifically for camps that offer the communal dining, I don't really want a "table for one". If you follow this advice, you won't miss being in a group and it's probably better because you only have the same people for a few days at a time.

2) Single supplements. There are various ways to avoid these. There are camps that don't charge a single supplement all year round but these are few and far between. But it's quite common to find camps that only charge single supplements in peak season, so it's worth travelling off peak to avoid them. The third option is also simply to ask for a waiver or reduction of the single supplement. The answer is more likely to be yes for off peak travel, or if you are planning on staying a lot of nights at the camp or group of camps. Or if it's a last minute booking. Sometimes you can find special offers where if you use the same group of camps for a certain number of nights, the single supplement is waived.

3) Transfers. Some low traffic air routes insist on a minimum 2 seat booking, which means single travellers get charged double. Also, for road transfers if there is a charge obviously you are paying this alone rather than shared, which makes it more expensive. So destinations which can be accessed by scheduled air services or seat rate services with no minimum booking are best.

For the timing you are looking at, this is shoulder season in Botswana and Zambia, which could work well with Victoria Falls. I'm actually going to Botswana myself next May and will be staying at Selinda Explorers and Shinde camps- neither of these charge a single supplement at that time of year. Shoulder season in Botswana is a little harder to avoid a single supplement than low season but there are some groups which don't charge- eg Ker Downey, Desert and Delta, Great Plains. Then the air transfers are all seat rate flights.

Last year I went to South Luangwa in Zambia, which is my personal favourite safari destination, in June. That's also shoulder season and at that time of year most of the camps don't charge a single supplement, and Robin Pope is one of the few groups I'm aware of that don't charge all year round. Access to the park is via scheduled flights from Lusaka to Mfuwe with Proflight, and the camps don't charge to transfer you from one camp to another.

If you want to do Kenya or Tanzania, I'd pick either Kenya or Southern Tanzania (Selous and Ruaha) for a solo traveller. You may find camps closed in May but June should be low or shoulder season. In Kenya, I've used the Kicheche group of camps- they don't charge a single supplement except in peak season (mid July to end October). I'm also aware Offbeat safaris don't charge a single supplement all year round, and Asilia don't charge off peak. Flights on main routes with Safarilink are no problem as a solo although on some routes you may find minimum seat bookings.

In Ruaha, I love Kwihala camp. I had a fantastic time there in June a few years ago (and have been back twice since), and there is no single supplement in June. The flights in are with Coastal Aviation and fine for a single seat booking. Selous is a bit more tricky, for some reason the camps there seem to favour separate dining which I don't like. But Lake Manze is one of the least expensive camps in the park and they do communal dining and have a quite low single supplement. Alternatively, Beho Beho is one of the most expensive and has communal dining but no single supplement all year round. Ruaha and Selous are particularly easy to combine with some time on the beach in Zanzibar.

I use a tailor made tour operator to book my trips. In Botswana, I've used a local company called Safari Specialists, and for Zambia/Tanzania I use Expert Africa in the UK.
stokeygirl is offline  
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Sep 6th, 2015, 10:27 PM
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Right now, the ridiculously great exchange rate in S Africa makes safaris there about half price from historic norms. &Beyond lodges quote in Rands and don't charge a single supplement. Avoid lodges that quote in USD or Euro, you won't get the great exchange. &Beyond also has some interesting specials right now. You could do Kirkmans and/or Ngala Tented near Kruger, then use commercial air to get to Phinda (or look into the fly to Phinda special) near the SE coast of S Africa. Two very different ecosystems and an incredible value. Any combination in SA that quotes in Rands will be "on sale" right now. Sun Safaris and Wild Wings Safaris can arrange a great safari for you in any price range, for any length - and work with you to avoid unnecessary single supplements and travel costs. It's easy to add Vic Falls to a S Africa safari. Even better if you add Chobe and/or Hwange.

If you do Tanzania/Kenya, think twice about adding Vic Falls. Africa is bigger than N America. It's like flying from Texas to Niagra Falls. Pretty far to go. You don't say when you plan to go - there are times the falls have very little water and others where there's so much water, the water spray blocks any view you might have.

You will fall in love with Africa no matter where you go. You'll be planning your return before you land at your home airport. If you miss something, you'll see it next time (or the time after that).

"They say elephants never forget. What they don't tell you is you'll never forget your first elephant." - Bill Murray
christabir is offline  
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Sep 6th, 2015, 10:33 PM
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Oops - I missed the May/June timeframe. That's when I usually travel to SA. It's cooler, the wildlife is a bit more active and the grass is starting to die back. Good. I also like to travel at this time because the days are short, so you still do two game drives (or walks, rides, etc) at sunrise and sunset, but still get a good night's sleep! We traveled later in the year, and with sunrise being earlier and sunset later, i was always sleepy. Just a personal preference of mine.
christabir is offline  
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Sep 7th, 2015, 01:48 AM
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Hi , there

Hope my humble review might help your kilimanjaro or safari plans . In May this year i was in Tanzania alone as solo female traveller , and i did 4 days safari by joining the group direct from Arusha through this group's link which was based on Tarangire / Serengeti / Ngorongoro , and the best thing i noted its better to join a group direct from the ground rather than from online , because all the payment you made direct upon the day of safari . And later after safari i departed with another group from the same mainstream to Kilimanjaro trek through machame for 7 days on camping base , and i got all camping gears for free from the organiser and for this trip i just paid usd 1,300 to join to the group . And i found its better to depart from Arusha if you climb Kilimanjaro through Machame . Afterward i went to Zanzibar and i stay at stone town at Abuso inn hotel for $80 per room on B&B , and also i did prison tour and Dolphin tour by this agency which based in sgone town there . I think some of this will help you go fit your plan for Tanzania .

Have good time on your trip !

Kris_m is offline  
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Sep 7th, 2015, 05:15 AM
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I traveled solo to Tanzania last March. I opted to join a small group tour that advertised, "comfortable camping." I did have to pay a single supplement. The tour stayed 2 nights at each camp. I am glad i opted for camping but did not want to "rough it." the semi-permanent camps and vehicles were as nice as advertised. Like other posters mentioned - there was one group dining table for the whole group which is good for solo travelers. Below is a link to company.
SA1 is offline  
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Sep 21st, 2015, 01:57 PM
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Hi caralrmck,
I'm glad to find your inquiry. I'll also be traveling solo to Africa at the end of January 2016. My hope is to join a group, climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and visit one or two of the parks. My desire is also to visit the Serengeti yet unsure if that's possible as I'd also like to see the Victoria Falls and unsure if I'll ever return to Africa. I'm still in the planning stages and have already contacted a few outfitters requesting more information.

I'm also researching the trip from Tanzania to the Falls. While there's a train that could take me there (after a bus ride), the trip length is estimated at 48 hours yet posters in another site indicated it took them 60+ hours as the train evidently breaks down quite often.

Let me know if the dates in question might work for you. I'm particularly interested in the trip to the Victoria Falls from Tanzania. From my online communications with other women traveling solo, Tanzania is fairly safe as long as you exercise caution.
NanCesca is offline  
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Sep 22nd, 2015, 09:30 AM
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I am a solo female traveller. I went to Kenya and Tanzania last October with overseas Adventure Travel. It was a perfect trip in my mind and they do NOT charge a single supplement. They specialize in small groups. We only had 10 in ours although there had been some cancellations.

We also visited a school and a Massai Village on the tour which I really enjoyed.

You could do the tour and then, if there was more you wanted to see, do your own thing

I would use this tour group again in a heartbeat!
sunbum1944 is offline  
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Sep 24th, 2015, 12:55 PM
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I went to Tanzania this year with Stan excursion safari company, they are safari and trekking specialist,with affordable price,
I joined the group for five days safari,the services was very good.I highly recommend Stan contact them
Ema199 is offline  
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Oct 3rd, 2015, 12:08 PM
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I have one recommendation for you, avoid Micato. Check out their website and the prices and you'll see why. I recently returned from the 16 day Micato Stanley Wing Safari. The actual safari is 13 days, they include the 3 days of flying. I think 7 to 10 days is long enough for an East African safari. The excitement of seeing giraffes, wildebeest, and zebras diminishes greatly after a few days. The animals of interest such as the rhino, leopard and cheetah were usually visible only with binoculars or a camera with a high power zoom lens. Of course, this may vary greatly depending on the experience of the guide. The wildlife in Tanzania far surpasses what you will see in Kenya. In addition, I'll take Arusha any day over the filthy city of Nairobi.

My post may seem negative, but after spending $11,935 for the safari as a solo traveler, $1,950 for internal airfare, $535 for the extra night at the Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi, $1,009 for travel insurance, $470.02 for visas (a company they recommended), $100 for the required yellow fever vaccine and $3,056 for international airfare for a grand total of $19,055.02, this trip was very disappointing. Usually I hate to see a vacation come to an end, but the highlight of this vacation was coming home. It's obviously too late, but I'm certain my experience would have been better if I had chosen a different tour operator.
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