Game Lodge Question

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Nov 13th, 2003, 11:52 AM
  #1
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Game Lodge Question

I'm planning a honeymoon for July/August '04. Will be flying from JFK to CapeTown and planning on spending 5 days there, then flying to J-burg and onto the game lodges where we're planning on spending 6 nights total. We like the look of Phinda, and are thinking about splitting our time between Phinda Forest (3 nights) and Phinda Rock (3 nights). Is this too much time here? Alternatively, we're considering spending 3 nights at Londolozi and 3 nights at Ngala tented camp. Unfortunately, we don't have the resources to fly from Phinda to Londolozi or Ngala (over $1000 one-way for 2 people). Any help or info would be greatly appreciated Thanks. G.
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Nov 13th, 2003, 12:26 PM
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Glennman -

$1,000 one way for two? You must be talking about private air charters? That is not necessary. Fares from JNB to most cities closest to lodges/camps is no more that $300 r/t per person (probably less) and then the land transfer which isn't too costly, and in some cases, dependng on lodge chosen, included in rate (though I don't believe in the three you've chosen.

I would split the time either between Phinda 3-nites and a lodge at Kruger (Private Reserve) or Ngala Tent (which is actually inside Kruger 3-nites.

Or just split the time 3-nites each Londolozi and Ngala Tents. While you can get to Londolozi (which is on private reserve at Sabi Sand) by flying into Hoedspruit or Skukuza and then road transfer to lodge; getting from Londolozi to Ngala (located in Kruger) might be a bit trickier because of it's location. Ngala would be your resourse to ask best way to do this.

Do realize that the per person/per night prices at Londolozi are hefty in the range of $900/pppn; while Ngala is less (though not much) and Phinda has four properties at different price point.

If you want to check other accommodation options see:
www.e-gnu.com
that lists most accommodations in SA.

 
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Nov 13th, 2003, 01:00 PM
  #3
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I have been told by SAA that they no longer fly into Skukuza airport. They do fly into Hoedspruit airport, and I can get a one-way flight for 2 from J-burg to there for $313. From there CCAfrica will transport me to Ngala for roughly $80 one-way. They tell me that Londolozi does not pick up from that airport for land tranfers. I could take an air transfer from Ngala to Londolozi for $144 for the two of us one-way, but would then be stuck in Londolozi with no way out but an expensive charter back to J-burg ($614 for the two of us one-way from Londolozi to J-burg). It seems like an awful lot of money to be spent on short flights on puddle-jumpers. Are there any other ways to get from J-burg to Londolozi that are more economical?
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Nov 13th, 2003, 07:55 PM
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glennman,

Just a couple observations. You are going to the Kruger / Sabi Sand area during the worst possible time of the year. I have been there twice in the last 20 months. The first time was in mid-March, while the weather was perfect. The last time was in mid-June, while the weather started getting very cold.

When I complained about the weather to my ranger at Djuma Vuyatela, he told me that the weather was great compared to late July and August, when the weather is at its worst, and there is often high winds, making it even less agreeable.

Just a little advice...you may want to consider South Luangwa, Zambia, where you will get a lot more bang for your buck at places like Kafunta or Kaingo. You should also consider Victoria Falls...it really is an amazing site/sight that one should not miss while in Southern Africa.

I have been to the very best type of game reserves, including Singita, but my lasting memories are at places like Kafunta in South Luangwa and Matetsi near Victoria Falls. They represent a more genuine Africa, the accomodations are very nice, and the prices are easier to swallow.

Phinda does look like a beautiful game lodge and the weather will probably be better than the weather in the Kruger/Sabi Sand area. The only problem is that you are hopping all around. The South African game lodges then gouge you for vehicle transfers. In South Luangwa, the transfers were often longer in distance, yet the price of the transfer was included with your stay.

I have a portfolio of pictures from my trips that may help you decide, but keep in mind that the Kruger/Sabi Sand was very dry and brown when I was there in June and from what I have read did not experience much rain since then. On the other hand, South Luangwa had the most lush vegetation, featuring gigantic Baobab Trees, Palm Trees and Termite Mounds that literally stood 15+ feet tall.

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding and here is a link to my online portfolio in case you would like to take a look:

http://www.ofoto.com/BrowsePhotos.js...1&sort_order=0
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Nov 14th, 2003, 01:42 AM
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I must differ with Roccco about the weather on the lowveld. The worst possible time to be in the lowveld or on the KZN north coast (Phinda) is Jan and Feb. This is when it is the hottest and stickiest, and the bush is thick so animals are more elusive.
August is the month when wind is due - but this is predominantly on the highveld and we're not talking gale force. It is winter and the temperature drops remarkably as soon as the sun goes down but the lodges are well equipped for this.
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Nov 14th, 2003, 05:27 AM
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Traci,

By mid-June it was so cold that there were times that my wife and I had the blankets pulled up to our eyeballs and sometimes even completely over our heads. The first hour of the morning game drive was miserable and so was the last hour of the night game drive.

I do agree that the summer months must also be brutal, for the heat, but the winter months do not seem any more gentle due to the cold. As a test, one should drive a convertible car, remove the windshield, and drive around when the weather is 1 or 2 degrees, celsius (34-40 degrees, farenheit).

In July and August, countries iike Zimbabwe and Zambia are at their best.
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Nov 14th, 2003, 05:55 AM
  #7
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glennman -

You're absolutely right, the $614 fee for a puddle-jumper Londolozi to JNB is ridiculous. So I would wonder whether if Londolozi can't work with clients whether they, in fact, don't want you unless you have the bucks! The other prices are within the correct range. However, I wouldn't buy my tickets direct from SAA or CCAfrica if that is who you are using - rather contact:

www.PremierTours.com
www.2akrika.com

they have consolidator fares and will likely do better for you once you have the itinerary set.

Now, if I recall about our transfers - we flew into Hoedspruit for our stay at Honeyguide (on Manyaletti reserve) were picked up by a driver to take us there; then after two days, another driver took us to Singita (on Sabi Sand reserve) - neither of these drivers were affiliated with either camp, but were provided by our "tour operator" - there seems to be a group of driver that only do transfers, so the tour operator should be able to get you a driver to do the transfer.

If this cannot be done for Londolozi - I would simply pick another lodge to visit. Lodolozi isn't the only kid on the block. There are plenty more lodges/camps just as lovely and just as expensive who offer transfers from the airports.

Using the www.e-gnu-com site you can find others - this information usually listed under "prices".

I know Roccco stayed at Djuma Vuyatela and though initially had some "issues", they did like the place. There is also Royal Malawane or Simbabili (sp) and even Singita (though more expensive than Londolozi, in fact, the most expensive) - check these all out. There is also Ulusaba Rock Lodge, owed by Richard Branson, see whether they'll do the transfer.

These are all 5* lodges. While if you were going in "summer" I would be certain to pick a lodge where each room/house had it's own plung pool, but for July/Aug it's likely to be too cold to swim.

Check out some of the others properties till you find one that provides the service you want, not necessarily what they "won't do". You're sure paying a hefty $, you should get what you want.
 
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Nov 14th, 2003, 09:33 AM
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Sandi -- are you talking about using 2afrika or Premiere Tours for air tickets within Africa or from US to Africa as well?
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Nov 14th, 2003, 09:36 AM
  #9
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glennman,

Even though the weather will be much cooler in July/August as long as you bring along the appropriate clothing, you will be able to handle those early morning game drives. Make sure you have some nice warm gloves and hat. It will warm up considerably by mid morning so layered clothing is the best way to go and even in their winter months make sure you wear a wide brimmed sun hat and use sunscreen. I saw a lot of people start out in the mornings all bundled up and then end up with sun burns because they didn't realize how intense mid day sun can get after peeling off lots of clothing.

We did our safari in July and it was pretty cold in the early a.m. and cool in the evenings but the one benefit of this type of weather is that you will have much fewer bugs to deal with. A definite plus. Have a wonderful time on your honeymoon. It should be an amazing adventure.
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Nov 14th, 2003, 09:37 AM
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Let's not overstate this. We were at Lion Sands in the lower Sabi in late July and early August, and while it was at times brisk, I would certainly not use words like "miserable" or "worst possible time" to describe the experience. More like invigorating. Anyone who has ever been skiing knows the feeling of a little cold air on the cheeks in the early morning. If you come prepared - a cap, some gloves and a warm coat - you'll be fine. We had the time of our lives and never worried about the cold. I'd rather bundle up a bit against the chill than battle the humidity that Traci describes in January/February. You can't peel away enough layers to win that war. The problem here is that Roccco is from Southern California - no one told him to put something on over the tank top and shorts ;-).
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Nov 14th, 2003, 02:15 PM
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uhoh_busted -

Yes, I booked my trans-Atlantic with Premier Tours and they did my intra-SA tickets for JNB/HDS and HLP/JNB total cost $190 r/t (but the exchange then was USD$1 = 10.5 to 11ZAR).

If you check the 2afrika site, check airfares where they list SAA flights between JNB and various destinations at rates including taxes r/t - and for one-way, it's half that. And similar fares from CPT; also from JNB to VFA and/or WDH. Caveat - till ticketed. Prices can go up or down.

And Premier can offer similar prices, though I haven't checked their price list lately. Just call either Premier or 2afrika.

I also have some Southern Africa city-pairs as "fare-watchers" on a few sites and periodically, these sites have even better fares and the exact flights as SAA would offer direct and even Premier or 2afrika, though Premier once said they'd match fares. You've got to use whatever resources are available.
 
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Nov 14th, 2003, 02:23 PM
  #12
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Regarding chilly/cold mornings - Agree with DJE - we were in SA at end November which is going into summer - the mornings in those open vehicles certainly were chilly. Everyone was out in layers and even a few knit caps - I actually work gloves.

Though by the time you return for breakfast, you're peeling off the layers.

In the afternoon it might be warm at 4pm, but a soon as the sun sets - chilly again - and this was summertime.

Just travel with enough to layer and peel off as or if the weather changes. If your accommodations have a fireplace, this is wonderful to take the chill out of your room.

But weather is just that "whether it will be hot or cold or somewhere in between" - these years, nobody knows, so just be prepared. Gloves, a scarf, pr. of socks and a thermal t-shirt don't take up much room in your luggage.
 
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Nov 14th, 2003, 04:29 PM
  #13
 
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Admittedly, I am from Southern California, and anything below about 50 degrees farenheit may as well be 10 below zero. Even so, if possible I choose not to be "invigorated", a curious choice of a word for FREEZING, while I am on vacation.

I don't think that too many will argue that Cape Town will definitely be at its worst during this time, but then again how could anybody possibly visit Southern Africa without visiting Cape Town. At least it will be a break from the summer heat and humidity of New York, assuming by his initial post that glennman is from that area.

In the end, I think I just miss Africa already and I will probably not return until March/April, 2005, since I just booked a Radisson cruise to kick off a three week Mediteranean trip next May.

After experiencing Singita for $1,200 per night (now $1,800 per night due to currency fluctuations), Djuma Vuyatela at the start of low season for $600 per night--$900+ in high season--, Kafunta (in South Luangwa, Zambia) for $400 per night and Matetsi Water Lodge for $330 per night (Victoria Falls area), I would opt for Kafunta and Matetsi anyday over the Singita's, Londolozi's and even Djuma Vuyatela's or the world.

With the proper planning, it is not hard to save $4,000 - $5,000 off a top notch South African trip without really sacrificing that much. If nothing else, use some of that money to turn an 11 night trip, as Glennman has planned, into a 15 night trip that includes Victoria Falls.
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Nov 14th, 2003, 08:52 PM
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Regarding Cape Town weather in July, this can be quite unpredictable. Before our trip I heard so much about how the weather at that time of year was going to be unpleasant, wet, cold and windy

Our experience was the opposite when we were in CPT for 5 days at the end of July. It was comfortably warm with clear blue skies the entire time. Only required a light jacket in the early morning and later on in the day. You may be fortunate like us during your trip. Either way it's a great area to visit with some spectacular scenery.
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Nov 19th, 2003, 12:18 PM
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My husband and I went to SA last Christmas. We stayed at Phinda, Royal Malewane and Singita. We LOVED Phinda. Definitely stay in Vlei and Rock, I would not recommend Phinda Forest. The game viewing at Phinda was more spectacular than the other too places. I would highly recommend the rhino tracking on foot and the short flight to the Indian Ocean for an afternoon. Both were great excursions.

Londolozi is nearer to Singita. They share the same areas for game viewing and we did not see nearly the wild life that we saw in the north.

I thought the accomodations at Royal Malewane were the most luxurious, but the food and service was not.
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Nov 20th, 2003, 08:41 AM
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Daisya2:

Just curious - why do you not recommend Phinda Forest? This is the first negative I've heard, so I would really like to hear your opinion. Thanks.

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Nov 20th, 2003, 03:26 PM
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Yeah me too..what gives? I just booked 4 nights there for early December. Daisy is a DOWNER.
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Nov 21st, 2003, 08:18 AM
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Kewilliam:

Don't despair - I too will be staying at Phinda Forest (next July) and I suspect we'll both have a grand time. Daisy may have liked Rock and Vlei because they're smaller, but in any event it's not even clear that she stayed at Phinda Forest. Maybe she'll let us know. I've heard too many good things to be discouraged by one dissent. Take a look at the following link from a few years ago - a travel writer from the Boston Globe stated that of all the places she visited in an entire year, Phinda Forest was her favorite. Personally, I can't wait. Be sure to let us in on your experience.


http://www.boston.com/globe/search/s...outhafrica.htm


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Nov 21st, 2003, 01:32 PM
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Thanks Steve that article made me feel better about my choice. I leave on Sunday, December 1. I will post a trip report upon my return.

Who is this Daisy? I trust NOBODY named after a flower or a duck unless her last name is Duke and that is a whole other story altogther.
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Nov 22nd, 2003, 02:19 PM
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To kewilliam: I echo Steve's endorsement of Phinda Forest. After staying at Phinda Forest, Singita and Londolozi in May 2003, I returned to the U.S. with nothing but great memories from Phinda. Admittedly, Vlei and Rock Lodges are smaller and more intimate; but, I just loved the Zen feel to Forest and the sand forest was enchanting. Nyala and duike graze at your doorstep and barely give you a glance as you walk by. The dining area overlooks a large open area that is frequented by many animals, including elephant herds. The staff really knocks themselves out to make you feel special. I felt it was, by far, the best "value for money" I received in South Africa. Enjoy your trip! : )
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