First trip to Africa in December-January

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Jun 14th, 2014, 01:20 PM
  #1
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First trip to Africa in December-January

What would you recommend for a group of 6 people in our 60s who have about 3 weeks -- all first-timers to Africa. Interests include animals (duh!), arts & culture, photography, cooking, local marketplaces, meeting interesting people. Comfort yes, but luxury and shopping not so much. One of us is a teacher, limiting the time we can go to mid-December-early January. We're all experienced travelers but don't have the luxury of time to arrive without plans. Would appreciate suggestions for small tour companies as well as your favorite areas to go at that time of year.
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Jun 14th, 2014, 02:52 PM
  #2
 
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If anyone please had some advice as to some cheap routes? A couple of stops in Africa

Thanks
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Jun 15th, 2014, 09:26 AM
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Tanzania is a nice destination, doing safari with a combination of cultural tour and relax in Zanzibar/Mafia beach can be a great experience. For Mid December-Early Jan wildlife viewing is a major activity. Consider visiting Northern Tanzania Safari Circuit where the great migration will be at Serengeti National Park, other parks worth visit are Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro.

For Tanzania Tour Operator I highly recommend Happy World Safaris (www.happyworldsafaris.com) I used them and the tour was beyond our expectation. Also I advice Mafia Island compare to Zanzibar
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Jun 17th, 2014, 08:26 AM
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Just be aware that is the hottest time of the year so make sure to bring a swimsuit & book places /lodges with pools!
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Jun 17th, 2014, 10:57 AM
  #5
TC
 
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On our second safari, we did Southern Tanzania. It is lovely with so few people around -- no hordes of autos at every lion crossing the road. Click on my name and read the trip report. As said previously, you could combine it with a stop in Zanzibar. We stopped in Dar. I loved the one day's worth of cultural shopping there.

I'm not sure why "worldpass54" is recommending Mafia Island over Zanzibar. We spent a few days on Mafia. Its lovely, but there is nothing to do but snorkel/dive and lay in the sun. I don't think it fits your criteria. We went for whale shark hunting. (report also posted)

Our last (and third) safari was to Botswana. Wow! The Okavanga Delta is amazing. We saw more animals than ever before. It is a bit pricier, but you can still find bargains. Dec/Jan will be the green season in either place. I was able to put together 3 week trips to both places for a budget of $10,000-$11,000 per person - excluding Intl air fare. (We fly on points)

If animals are your thing (as it is mine) just head right out to the camps. You'll get plenty of chances at photography everywhere you turn. As for cooking - not sure you'll find much of that, if you're talking about lessons. We have always enjoyed the company of our guides - learning an amazing amount about the countries and their life style. So many of the "home or village visits" are just tourist set ups where you will feel like absolute voyeurs and be hounded to purchase trinkets. I avoid these pseudo encounters.

I urge you to use a reputable travel consultant. We used ATR (Africa Travel Resource) in the UK for the So. Tanzania trip and Craig Beal of Travel Beyond (MN) for Botswana. Both were very good.

Happy to answer any specific questions you have. Photos posted at www.tonna.zenfolio.com

You might also try posting your questions at www.safaritalk.net Lots of good people there with vast amounts of information.
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Jun 29th, 2014, 06:12 AM
  #6
 
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luciemom - Sounds like a nice plan in the works. Are you planning on going this December 2014? If so, I think you are a little late into the game to get some of the best value lodges. If you could defer to Dec 2015 you will have much more choices. The viable options in December for big-five or big-four are Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, and Botswana. Many places in Zambia and Zimbabwe will be hot. December will be pretty hot in southern Tanzania so check temps before committing. Given people's unfounded fears of Kenya (more shootings in US last month than Kenya) there have been cancelations and a great itinerary may be possible in Kenya only for that reason this December. Art, cooking steer my recommendation toward adding Cape Town - possibly even if you do East Africa since you have three weeks. Can the teacher travel in the summer (June-August)?

Thanks!

Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond
2011-2013 Travel & Leisure A-List agent for Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia
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Jun 29th, 2014, 03:14 PM
  #7
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The teacher can travel then but my husband can't. One place a friend suggested in Tanzania is between Tarangire National Park and Lake Manyara-- the Burunge Wildlife Management Area. How is that area for weather at that time of year? That's an interesting thought about Kenya.
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Jun 30th, 2014, 01:45 PM
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With 3/wks you sure don't want to spend entire time in the Burunge area. You'd only need maybe 2/nts at Tarangire and 1/nt at Manyara.... this is a relatively small area.

You have more than sufficient time to visit farther afield. Know also that Dec-Jan is 'summer' in East Africa so temps can be rather warm and should stay at a lodge/camp with a pool. But if you only seem to want to relax, I'm sure you can find many options closer to home at better rates. Besides as Craig mentions above, travel would be over the Christmas/New Years period at the highest rates, thus finding space especially for consecutive nights might well be rather difficult.

You can do about 2/weeks safari (based on availability) and 1/week on the coast, but know prices keep going up, depending on what kind of budget you are working with.

You might want to consider contacting OAT - Overseas Adventure Travel - does group tours, that might have something during that time frame.
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Jul 4th, 2014, 04:38 PM
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Luciemom,

Maybe your friend was talking about Chem Chem which is in-between Lake Manyara and Tarangire? Chem Chem is pretty posh and the experience there is quite private. Cape Town is SUPER crowded over the holidays so perhaps if you really meant “mid” December head there around the 15th and then leave Cape Town for East Africa around Dec 21-23. I think 9-12 nights at 3-4 safari lodges is more than enough to satisfy you on a first safari.

East Africa
Chem Chem would combine well with a lodge in the southern Serengeti where the migrations should be concentrating in December. After that, you could head up to Kenya to finish off your trip. You may want to consider two nights near the Crater with a full day game drive into the Crater but it will also be SUPER crowded over the holidays. Perhaps consider skipping it to have a more private safari experience away from the crowds. If you just wanted to consider a Kenya-only safari then perhaps combine Lewa Downs with the Masai Mara and Chyulu Hills or Amboselli. This would be a nine night safari with 3 nights at each lodge and all transfers by relatively inexpensive scheduled light aircraft transfers. SafariLink air charters connects all these regions.

Here is a sample Cape Town/East Africa itinerary:
Day 1 Depart US

Day 2 Arrive Cape Town. Consider a private home like Redcliff House at More Hotels.

Day 3,4,5 Cape Town with wineland, art, and Peninsula tours. Five star restaurants each night since food is so cheap!

Day 6 Spend most of the day flying to Jo’burg then Nairobi. On arrival transfer to Giraffe Manor or Hemingways for two nights.

Day 7 Full day touring and shopping in Nairobi. There is a nice bead market and can visit the elephant orphanage at http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/.

Day 8,9,10 Fly to Amboselli on a shared (i.e. cheap) small plane. Spend three nights at Ol Donyo Lodge or Campi Ya Kanzi both on private land in the Amboselli ecosystem.
http://www.maasai.com/
http://www.greatplainsconservation.com/odl/index.html

Day 11,12,13 Transfer by plane to Lewa Downs with a plane change in Nairobi. Spend three nights at Lewa Wilderness Camp or Sirikoi.
http://www.sirikoi.com/
http://lewawilderness.com/

Day 14,15,16 Spend three nights on a PRIVATE conservancy adjacent to the Masai Mara National Reserve. These properties I am recommending will including a full day picnic drive into the reserve in their three-night rates:
http://naboisho.asiliaafrica.com/Home.aspx
http://www.richardscamp.com/index.ph...amps/rivercamp
http://www.greatplainsconservation.c...amp/index.html

Day 17 Time to go home!

Southern Africa only:
Day 1 Depart US

Day 2 Arrive Cape Town. Consider a private home like Redcliff House at More Hotels.

Day 3,4,5 Cape Town with wineland, art, and Peninsula tours. Five star restaurants each night since food is so cheap!

Day 6-11 Six day safari at one of these three combos:
(1) $$$ Lion Sands River Lodge and Madikwe Kopano or Marataba
http://www.more.co.za/interactivemap.asp & http://www.madikwesafarilodge.co.za/kopano.asp
(2) $$$ MalaMala Main Camp and Mashatu
http://malamala.com/ & http://mashatu.com/
(3) $$$$$ Singita & Tswalu
http://singita.com/ & http://tswalu.com/ (do 4 nights here)

Day 12-14 Charter a small, unpressurized single engine (i.e. safe and cheap) plane to Shinde in the in the heart of the Okavango Delta. http://www.kerdowneybotswana.com/our-camps/shinde/

Day 15,16 Two nights at Vic Falls with a customized escorted shopping trip. Stay at Elephant Camp - http://www.wildhorizons.co.za/elephantcamp/

Day 17 go home

Both options will offer the ultimate in diversity for each respective major safari destination (east or southern Africa). You have the best possible chance of seeing the big five on both these trips many times over.

If you give a budget I may be able to provide much more focused advice and perhaps you can tell us what year as well. Thanks!

Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond
2011-2013 Travel & Leisure A-List agent for Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia
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Jul 4th, 2014, 04:41 PM
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A cheap way to have a totally private safari in Kenya is to use a private guide but actually drive in-between most places. The guide would be with you the entire way and ad you would use his/her vehicle for the game drives. In this scenario your could spend 12 nights at these 4-5 areas:

Samburu National Park
Lewa Downs
Lake Nakuru National Park
Masai Mara
fly to Amboseli

I hope this helps more!

Craig
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Jul 5th, 2014, 12:41 PM
  #11
 
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luciemom - May I ask what is your estimated per person budget for this adventure? Remembering that from 20th Dec, the rates for both Kenya and Tanzania go into peak season at highest rates and often supplements for Christmas eve/day and likewise New Years eve.

Craig's first safari above - (CPT to start) onto Kenya - is a dream, but will also be very expensive, the reason I inquired re your budget. As example: a stay Days 14-16, a stay at Mara Plains costs at $1K+/person/nt.

The 2nd option of 'areas' only (no specific accommodations) is better, but will depend on which lodges/camps have availability at minimum for some consecutive nights as you sure do not want to be moving every day.

Regardless the route you prefer and for period when traveling, best you contact a few tour operators/outfitters so you aren't closed out with replies as: 'no room at the inn.'
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Sep 21st, 2014, 10:15 AM
  #12
 
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Let's talk about something else than northern circuit parks in Tanzania.
Unless you are up to the great migration from Mara to Serengeti...

Otherwise, please have a look at those hidden jewels in the south of Tanzania. Especially Katavi National Park.
Unspoilt and with much more chances to enjoy wildlife without the traffic and the stress of northern circuit parks.

How about visiting 2 countries during your trip?
Burundi is getting better everyday and has a lot of fun and surprises to offer:
- the last mountain rainforest of Africa
- Rwanda's gorillas are just 4 hours drive from there
- Tanzania's most preserved parks (Katavi and Gombe) are within the same range
- Lake Tanganyika is worth seeing!

Feel free to drop me a line if you want to know more about this.
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Sep 21st, 2014, 10:43 AM
  #13
 
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Getting to/from Katavi and/or Gomba (both Tanzania) add quite a bit of $$$s and time. Getting about in Africa isn't like doing so in the States or the UK/Europe.

Concentrate on 1/country and stick with it.
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Sep 21st, 2014, 11:18 AM
  #14
 
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Depends on when you land if your goal is Katavi...
Bujumbura Airport is connected via Addis, Nairobi, Arusha and Kigali as well as directly from Brussels.
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