Help for South Africa short safari extension

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Oct 17th, 2015, 06:42 AM
  #1
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Help for South Africa short safari extension

Help! My brain feels like it's going to explode or melt! There is so much information out there it is overwhelming trying to make sense of it all. And some of the info is 4 or more years old and I can't tell how relevant it still is..... And, of course, I'm on a short planning time line. I want to make my airline reservations in the next few days, so need to quickly decide some things.

I have just signed up to help with a research project in Mankwe Game Reserve, with some time spent in Pilanesberg National Park, and want to extend my trip by 4-5 days and go someplace else. I am being picked up at the airport in Johanneseberg on February 1 and dropped off the afternoon of February 12. I would like to have another 3-4 nights in a park, the question is where? And will it make much of a difference if I do the extension before (late January) or after (mid February)? I'm doing this alone, so the dreaded Single Supplement is a consideration as well.

I've been to Africa twice before and love just being out there. I like being comfortable and good food is important to me, but I don't need the ultimate in luxury. I'm actually happier sitting and watching a herd of elephants than racing around looking for a leopard that we never find... Budget-wise,my hope is to keep it to an additional US$1,500 (including accommodations, game drives, transportation); I can do a bit more for the perfect place if necessary.

From what I know, just staying in Pilanesberg isn't the best answer because it's so small and I will have just been there for 11 days, even spending quite a bit of time out in the bush on foot, counting animals and surveying vegetation. Am I best off going to Greater Kruger (Timbavati, perhaps) or is there somewhere else? In any case, it seems I will want to fly even if I stay in South Africa, so I guess there's no reason I couldn't fly north (Botswana? Kenya?) and get part way home (I live in California)...My first instinct is to go to Timbavati and I'm liking what I see about Umlani and Shindzela if they have availability.

Any input on Timbavati in general/Umlani and Shindzela in particular or suggestions for other places I should go instead will be much appreciated!!!

Thanks much!
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Oct 17th, 2015, 05:01 PM
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Thanks for your good work!

Definitely head over to greater Kruger. Botswana is expensive, Kenya is far and Kruger is one of the best wildlife areas in the world. I loved Shindzela but it is a very small game viewing area, so consider Gomo Gomo, Africa on Foot, nThambo, nDzuti and Arathusa. All of them can arrange transportation from the nearest airport and should fit your budget. You will have to pay single supplements at all, but negotiate - they might waive them. It can't hurt to ask.

Contact Wild-Wings about their Kruger NP tours that includes transportation, meals, game drives and accommodations in Kruger NP and then they'll drop you off at the private lodge of your choice and provide transportation back to JNB. It looks perfect for me, and might fit your needs and budget if the timing works.
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Oct 17th, 2015, 11:30 PM
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+1 Arathusa. We spent 3 amazing days there last month. Great facilities and the game drives were top notch.
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Oct 18th, 2015, 01:11 PM
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Thinking about it more,
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Oct 18th, 2015, 01:12 PM
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oops, clumsy....

I am changing my plans a little and thinking about making it 5 nights and 2 camps. Maybe nThambo in Klaserie (3 nights) and Shindzela or Umlani in Timbavati (2 nights)? Are they different enough?

I know and appreciate that you both recommended Arathusa, but I guess I've heard about "Speed Dating" game viewing (meaning there are many vehicles jockeying for position around the "good" viewings and staying only 10 or 15 minutes and then moving on to make room for another vehicle) in Sabi Sands so am a little leery about that. DebitNM, what was your experience in that way? Or maybe I could do Arathusa for 2 nights and Klaserie or Timbavati for the rest of the time? Would that work and make sense?
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Oct 20th, 2015, 01:31 AM
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Try to check also with this groups which offer affordable safaris to Kruger and Sabi sands , here is a link for itineraries' options .
http://swaptoursgroups.webs.com/sout...sharing-safari
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Oct 20th, 2015, 03:18 AM
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If staying in the Timbavati then look at Simbavati River lodge, they have some great specials like fly for free etc.
Sandy - Love Africa Travel
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Oct 20th, 2015, 03:42 AM
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We had a greate peri emcee at Arathusa. Our ranger and tracker were top notch.

I had not heard of "speed dating" used to describe the drives. We spent quite a good deal of time at each sighting. The ranger always asked if we were ready to move on. Only once or twice did we leave so another truck could have a better view, but again, that still gave us plenty of time. Sometimes, I felt we stayed too long, wanting to go find other animals. That happened more with our second team of ranger/tracker ( our first left for their leave ). We did 3 nights, I would have liked 1 more. Arathusa was our first safari and I wished it had been the last stop. It really spoiled us for the other stops/stays.

One thing that I liked about having other lodges trucks out and about - they all kept in touch via radio and it enabled us to find sightings we might not have found otherwise.

I also liked being on a private reserve so that we could go off the road and really get close to the animals. We did drives in Chobe without a tracker and without 2way radios and had to stay on road. We didn't care for that nearly as much as our drives with Arathusa. If you go, ask to stay in WATER BUCK room, it's a standard priced room but is huge and renovated.

Hope this helps.
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Oct 20th, 2015, 04:03 AM
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Experience not peri emcee! LOL
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Oct 20th, 2015, 10:49 AM
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DebitNM - thanks for clearing that up! Autocorrect does some amazing things.

kat - you'll hear those kinds of things but in reality it rarely happens, or at least you're not that aware of it. If it does, it really isn't that big a deal - I believe in sharing. At least you don't have 15 vehicles around a single sighting. In my view, that would be much worse.

Combining Sabi Sand and Timbavati or Klaserie is good. We have done that. In your $1500 budget, it might be tough but contact the lodges (or an agent if you choose - it doesn't cost more. Wild-Wings is good) and get availability and costs. If you go solo, you will have single supplements, unless you can negotiate them out, which raises your costs. Sabi Sand is famous for leopard and there's not a place where you will get up close and personal with so many animals. Timbavati and Klasserie are not as old, so the animals are not as acclimated to humans, but getting close!! I recently read a trip report from Gomo Gomo that was spectacular, which seems to becoming more the norm than just a few years ago. But Sabi Sand is still better. Definitely go there last as DebitNM says.

I liked Arathusa, but you could do a nice combo with Gomo Gomo (also has a waterhole) and Shindzela or any of the Africa on Foot lodges, including Umkumbe (I think that's the spelling, but probably wrong) in Sabi Sand. Check on availability and cost, including transfers. There are other affordable lodges, like a Elephant Plains in SS. Check www.sabisand.co.za for options. No matter what you choose, it will be great.
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Oct 20th, 2015, 11:06 AM
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Transfer to Arathusa were not cheap.

(I do have some amazing Leopard photos from there. )
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Oct 20th, 2015, 08:33 PM
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Thanks, everyone for your input. DebitNM - that was very funny! I could NOT figure out what you were trying to say, so am very glad you explained!

I was watching things get booked almost hour by hour, so jumped on availability... my dates aren't flexible, so I didn't want to miss out. I booked 2 nights at Shindzela in Timbavati and 3 at nThambo in Klaserie and am staying under budget, even though I am a bit surprised by the cost of transfers, even between Timbavati and Klaserie. But I'm pretty darn excited! I don't normally get excited about vacations until I'm at least on my way to the airport, but I'm feeling it already and it's over 3 months away!

Now that I'm committed, I'm starting to wonder about some other aspects of the trip - like, how hot and wet IS it going to be in mid February??? I guess all the vehicles are open and most of the lodges give you ponchos if it's raining, but how much often is it likely to rain and how much for how long? Or am I better off starting a new thread with my other questions as they come up? I want to follow proper forum etiquette.

Again, thanks everyone; this forum is such a great resource, and I took full advantage of lots of older posts as well as comments here.
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Oct 20th, 2015, 10:32 PM
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Search here for weather, what to wear etc. also Google as I found lots LOTS of suggestions. (The second LOTS wasn't a typo, it was for effect)
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Oct 20th, 2015, 11:09 PM
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kat - Excellent choices!!! You'll love them both. Shindzela is rustic - tents on wooden platforms (but ensuite), solar power, honor bar, but the people are so warm and friendly. When you get back from nThambo, please let us know how you liked it. They get top marks for great guiding but I haven't heard much lately. My favorite ranger was from there. Really nice and exuberant!

Those transfers sure add up. As much of a waste that it is to leave a car in the lot, we drive ourselves now - but we also continue on after Kruger.

It'll be hot, it might rain. It won't likely rain all day. If you want to take anti malarials, look into it as it's malaria season. Some people (like me) use lots of high %deet bug spray instead of the pils - there is a malaria suggestion map on SanParks website, so check the info there. They are making great strides in reducing malaria in S Africa, so check the latest info from SA.

They do laundry for you on safari, so clothes can be kept to a minimum. You may do some walking safaris (nThambo does these and we did a fun one at Shindzela) so try to keep to neutral colors. I'm sure the volunteer job gave you info on clothes - the same applies. Take a sun hat, sunscreen, long pants and long sleeves to protect from sun and mossies at dawn and dusk. Take a packable poncho if you think you need it. Some people skip game drives in the rain - don't! Some our best drives have been in the rain, plus sunsets can be spectacular.

You can start a new thread or not - there's no etiquette police here. If it's an entirely different topic, star new. If not, just keep topping with new questions. It's been pretty quiet here - most will find it.

Really great choices. You are going to love every minute. I can't wait to go back!
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Oct 22nd, 2015, 09:07 AM
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Thanks, DebitNM, I will do a search as you suggested. Oh, dear, sometimes LOTS of information is worse than just a little - overwhelm!

Christabir - thanks for all the info on many different things. I will definitely post a trip report including what I think of nThambo. I definitely won't skip game drives in the rain. The game drives are the main reason I'm going and I'm only going to get a limited # of game drives as it is. I hike in the rain when we get it here in drought-stricken California; as long as I can get dry and warm when I get back I'm happy.

Re: transfers: now you have me thinking.. a very dangerous thing! A quick look at car rentals through Europcar shows I could get a small car for about 1/2 the cost of transfers, even though there's only 1 of me. What are the pros and cons of doing drive myself? What are the hidden costs, if any?
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Oct 22nd, 2015, 09:47 AM
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The added costs for driving will be gas (barely any) and reserve fees. Timbavati and Klaserie both have fees to enter. Find out before you go - they are payable in cash in Rand. Get driving directions to/from/between camps from the camps! They will have the best info and how long it should take. Ask them if a sedan will be ok - we had a little trouble getting to Shindzela, but they've upgraded a lot since we were there. A small sedan should be just fine. Are you flying in/out of HDS? It is very close to the Timbavati entrance on good roads. I'm sure you've already considered your options, but have a cell in case you get lost or stuck. Not likely, but could happen. I rent from Avis and try to use a corporate code or international coupon. The savings can be a lot. Do you drive a manual? If not, automatics are much more $$$. Use a credit card that adds insurance or get the insurance through car rental. They drive on the other side in S Africa, but your drives are short, mostly in reserves and should be very easy.

I've never understood skipping game drives - that's a pretty expensive bed!

You're going to love every minute!!
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Oct 25th, 2015, 03:26 AM
  #17
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Christabir - thanks for the reminder about driving on the "other" side of the road! I had forgotten about that. I had been thinking about driving from Johannesberg, but think I'll just sit back and enjoy the ride. I really appreciate all your comments, they are very helpful.
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Oct 25th, 2015, 05:50 AM
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One reason I might seriously consider picking up a car at Hoedspruit would be the proximity (very close) to the Panorama Route - Blyde River Canyon, God's Window, Three Rondavels - which are superbly scenic and an amazing departure from the lowveld landscapes around the reserves. You could spend a night in Graskop (nice little town) and still be at either of the lodges in time for the evening drive on check-in day.
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Oct 25th, 2015, 10:05 AM
  #19
 
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kat - that's one of the reasons why I tend to ramble. You never know what little piece of info might be important. Happy to help. You're gonna love it. It might cost a little more, but go the way you are most comfortable.

Please tell us about your experience volunteering as well as your Kruger visit when you get back.
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