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Help me plan a family safari for three generations!

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Jun 29th, 2016, 05:21 PM
  #1
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Help me plan a family safari for three generations!

Since the forums have helped during my prior planning efforts I am here again seeking ideas. I am especially indebted to Ekscrunchy for pointing me to the villa near Bologna where we celebrated our 50th with kids and grandkids. So now I am hoping Ekscrunchy and others can help plan a family trip to Africa!

First a little background – We (the grandparents) have been to southern Africa in 2010 and Tanzania in 2012. We loved every minute! Our kids and grandkids (ages 16, 14 and 9 when we travel in mid-2018) have all traveled to Europe and the older ones have been to the South Pacific. They are good travelers and can handle long flights. We think Africa is a great experience to share with them. We all enjoy photography. We like nice settings and accommodations – not necessarily “over the top” but definitely nice. There are some parameters that are not negotiable.

1. Our daughter will not, I repeat WILL NOT, fly on little planes! So any itineraries that require fly-in such as the Okavango are out.
2. We need to travel during summer 2018 since the kids’ school vacations are not aligned otherwise. The second half of July is probably the best bet. Trip will be two weeks in length – give or take the international flight days.
3. We are also realizing that Botswana, which was our first choice, is probably out of our price range; we are generous parents/grandparents but Botswana rates for our group of eight is too high. We could be convinced otherwise of course!
4. We (eight of us) all want to be in the same safari vehicle during the game drives. Everyone might not participate in every game drive but we don’t want to be separated into two vehicles when we are all going on the drive.
5. Lodges/camps that have one or two family units (two bedrooms) would be great. Also, programs for the grandkids would be desirable even though the teens might disagree!
6. We would like a quiet initial two night stop to get over jet lag – we thought Vic Falls was perfect for that when we were in southern Africa but not sure how it can work for this trip.
7. Even though we will be traveling in “winter” we would prefer having a swimming pool at each lodge/camp.
8. Eight to ten nights in safari camps or lodges at no more than three locations – two locations might be preferred. No need to explore the cities of Cape Town or Johannesburg on this trip.
9. Malaria-free areas are preferred but not essential. However, no mobile camps on this trip! We would prefer floors and some walls!
10. Predators are important to the kids and grandkids! Birds are entertaining for us but we know they are everywhere to some degree.

These “criteria” have developed after hours scanning the web, conversations with our kids, and the experiences we had on our previous trips. First we focused on Botswana (Chobe NP) since the river is a great experience and it fits with Vic Falls so well, but then we could not determine what to combine with Chobe since Okavango is not possible. We then shifted our attention to South Africa since the family aspect seemed stronger there. I have been looking at Samara and Madikew since they have family options and are malaria-free but I cannot figure out how to assemble the itinerary. I just found Kwandwe which looks magnificent!

I know there are many unasked questions.
1. Here is one to start… How cold will it be in South Africa in July when we set off for a morning drive?
2. And another one… Are night drives and off-road drives more or less common in the areas I have mentioned?
3. Next one… Does anything we are considering compare to the river experience of Chobe?
4. Final questions for now… Can anyone recommend a safari consultant who works with families to plan a trip such as ours? Is it better to deal with a safari consultant rather than contacting the lodges directly?

So I have tried to do some homework but I need some advice and ideas. Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.
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Jun 29th, 2016, 11:28 PM
  #2
 
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If this were my trip, I would look at somewhere that has a safari house/villa. That would be amazing for a group. To me your daughter is the biggest problem. How small does the plane have to be?

Robin Pope has a great safari house in South Luangwa-
http://www.robinpopesafaris.net/camp...fari-house.php

You need to fly from Lusaka to Mfuwe with Proflight. Their planes are not all that small-
http://proflight-zambia.com/corporat...t-us.php#fleet

They vary which plane they use depending how many passengers, but it's usually one of the top two to Mfuwe.

Chongwe also has a safari house in Lower Zambezi, but I'm not sure how big the planes are to get there. It's also Proflight, but they may use one of the smaller planes (I'm just speculating- there are probably fewer guests going to Lower Zambezi, and the airstrips there are not tarmac like Mfuwe). But you could always combine Luangwa Safari Camp with something further into South Luangwa, like Tena Tena or Nsefu. For a group of 8 there are 4 room camps you could take over (look at the Bushcamp Company for example). However, inside the park, swimming pools are rare. If this is essential, look at Lion Camp, and I think Mchenja has a small pool and only 5 rooms so you could take the camp exclusively.

In Kenya, Asilia has some lovely houses in the Mara. The most sensible way to get there is by plane, but I guess you could all do a bumpy 5 hour road journey instead, at the end of which you'll probably be ready to throttle your daughter.
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Jun 30th, 2016, 01:56 PM
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Hi Jeep61!

I would highly recommend South Africa for a number of reasons. First, the Rand is still at a historic low and your travel dollars are going to stretch a lot further than booking in countries that use USD. It means you can travel longer or more luxuriously or both! Second, South Africa will offer you both malaria free reserves such as Madikwe and Kwande (the two better ones) as well as areas such as Sabi Sand/Timbavati/Manyeleti and Phinda that are low risk and in winter are even at a lower risk. You just want to be sure that you will see leopards since populations are not strong everywhere and it would be a shame if your grandkids missed them. Sabi would best on this front. Third, you don't need to take any small planes since the reserve airports offer you commercial flights with reasonable transfers to many lodges!

Private reserves would be my preference in that the kids will think it's such fun to follow an animal in and out of river beds, over scrub and small trees in pursuit. It makes the ride quite fun. Off roading is not allowed in national parks as are night drives. Night drives introduce the nocturnal animal experience which is so fun. Your tracker will point out bush babies and more! Plus the stars are incredible!

There are many lodges that offer "family units" and have pools. There are also lodges that have sole use villas that include the jeep, food, etc. While there are lodges with age restrictions, many lodges will take children of the ages of your grandkids but it's important that it's family friendly. Some allow children but the lodge and its atmosphere are not truly friendly. Eight in a vehicle is fine. With that number, most lodges would just dedicate the vehicle to you and may not require you to pay the upcharge for a private vehicle since you fill it anyway. But that would be something akin to knowing which lodges allow this or not.

Vic Falls could be your first stop. Plenty to do besides look at the falls. The Canopy Tour is a nice zipline tour for all ages. There are other activities for those with more adrenalin seeking interest! The Flight of the Angels helicopter tour over the Falls is spectacular. A wonderful splurge to capture the beauty of one of the world's natural wonders! You could arrange a day trip to Chobe for some water experience since that's of interest. All do-able. Two nights or maybe 3 if you want a day trip experience is enough.

I'd recommend for a multi gen group of your size that working with a safari planner would be highly advisable. A targeted search for the right lodges as well as stringing together the transfers and internal flights can be a lot to manage.

Happy to help!
Dianne
Africa Direct USA
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Jun 30th, 2016, 02:07 PM
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Hi there again!

You asked about weather. Hit Submit too soon! In July, it will be chilly in the AM such as 45F to 52F or so but by mid day, it's mid 70s. Layering is very helpful and so a heavy fleece, beanie cap, lightweight gloves are useful in the AM. This is just a guideline. Mother Nature makes up her own mind about the weather! Lodges understand that it's can be chilly for guests. They'll have blankets and my boys always loved the hot water bottles they sometimes gave us!

Best
Dianne
Africa Direct USA
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Jun 30th, 2016, 02:56 PM
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Hello Jeep!

Happy to "meet" you again. I hope that you do decide on South Africa as I cannot imagine that all in your party would not be overwhelmed with not only the scenery and the animal experience, but with the kindness of the poeple and the high standard of the lodgings.

I've been in October (to the Kalahari in SA) when I presume it was warmer than the bush would be in July. We all but froze in the open vehicle in early morning. Please do not forget, as I did, to bring warm hats, and gloves, too. I had a fleece jacket with me but it was not enough.

Forget the swimming pools. The are invariably quite small and will be freezing cold in winter, as none that I know about have heat. I was very keen on being able to swim between game drives but I was soon disabused of that idea once I felt the climate and dipped a toe into a few pools. And that was in September and October, when my two Southern African trips took place. (Hope to go again in May next year).

My two trips were planned by Liesl Matthews of Southern Destinations in CapeTown. Perhaps you want to contact her for advice. She has planned trips for a few frinds of mine and has a lot of experience with family groups. Some of the camps will let you book only through an agent; Liesl is really kind and patient and her knowledge of her home country is vast.




I wish I could be more helpful but have never traveled with such a group with the varied interests and ages that that implies...

More than happy to answer anything else that I can, so please ask.
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Jul 1st, 2016, 06:27 PM
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Thanks for the responses which have helped clarify our preferences. We are making progress defining what we really want for this special family vacation.

The former Zambezi Sun at Vic Falls in Zambia is a “for sure” since we think it is a good intro to Africa – commercial, but reasonable for a couple of jet-lagged nights and easy to get to. It was great on our trip in 2010. We also want to repeat Muchenje at Chobe NP for three nights since it has an authentic feel to us – others may not concur but it was very homey and the views from the escarpment and the elephants were priceless. That’s the easy part.

Since our kids live on opposite coasts our primary focus is time together so we definitely prefer the “sole-use” concept of having the lodge to ourselves for the remainder of the two weeks. Kwandwe’s Melton Manor fits us to a tee so that is a given. It’s pricey but we are worth it! It’s easy to get to without using “tiny airplanes”. It appears to provide good opportunities for wildlife sightings which is another prime factor for us. We think five nights at Melton Manor would be perfect – plenty of time for game drives and anything else we feel like doing… They even offer cooking classes!

The difficult part is deciding whether or not to add another destination. We have ten nights defined so far and travel to and from these places is not awful – one long day to get to Kwandwe but otherwise manageable scheduled flights and road transfers. I tried adding another sole-use option – either Madikwe Hills at the Botswana border or Waterback Game Lodge in the Thornybush nature reserve. The results of that effort were not pretty!

I will contact in-country and US-based Africa specialists soon but in the meantime I would like to hear ideas from this forum. I prefer to present a draft itinerary rather than starting with a blank slate when I contact travel agents – that’s worked well for prior independent travel in Africa, South America, and India.

Should we add another destination? We dropped Cape Town due to the iffy weather in July/August. Another sole-use option to end the trip would be great but it must be easy to access! Should we simply add another night to both Muchenje (Chobe) and Kwandwe (Eastern Cape)? I need help! Thanks.
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Jul 2nd, 2016, 03:22 PM
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Happy 4th jeep61!

You might want to consider a stay at Phinda Homestead (exclusive use villa for up to 8) in Phinda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal. Their 2017 rate per night is slightly more than Melton Manor's but incredibly beautiful and AndBeyond does a superb job. They also have their Zuka Lodge which is also an exclusive use for up to 8 for about the same 2017 rate as Melton Manor. Phinda has 7 distinct ecosystems which really makes it quite fascinating. It's unlike other reserves on that front. From palm savannah to mountain bush to sand forest to bushveld, it's pretty incredible. In fact, they have one of the last sand floor forests in the world.

One possibility would be to combine a stay at Phinda with a stay at Ngala Safari Lodge in the Timbavati Private Game Reserve which shares an unfenced border with Kruger. Ngala is a wonderful lodge, very family friendly (as is Phinda!). They have a beautiful 2 bedroom suite for up to 2 adults/2 children and you could additionally reserve 2 other suites. The total for the 2 bedroom and 2 suites is in the same ballpark per night as the other options. The area has great game viewing and you will surely see leopards, which are the most elusive and not the most prolific at many other smaller reserves.

Because Phinda and Ngala are in the same portfolio of lodges under AndBeyond, you could be eligible for a long stay discount with the combination. This could work really well for you. Traveling between the lodges, even if you don't want to take advantage of the direct flight between the 2, is still fairly logistically easy.

Just thought I would suggest this as a combo or as an accompanying lodge to Melton Manor.

Great trip in the making! Happy to help!

Best
Dianne
Africa Direct USA
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Jul 2nd, 2016, 03:46 PM
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Dianne,
Many thanks for your excellent suggestions. We (the grandparents) were at Phinda Vlei in 2010 so we are very familiar with the various Phinda environments. I think we would prefer going to different locales since we are already repeating Vic Falls and Muchenje. The potential savings is very tempting however. Let's see how things evolve...
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Jul 3rd, 2016, 06:13 AM
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Hi there again!

Oh, that's great that you have been to Phinda! Love Vlei Lodge! Yes, it would be best to try other places. I would still highly recommend that you add a stay in one of the private reserves that abut Kruger such as Sabi Sand, Timbavati, Manyeleti etc so that you will see leopards. This would complement your trip beautifully.

Ngala is one that is family friendly, has lodging that works well with families and would be a nice fit to your trip. There are others that can work well, such as Tintswalo in Manyeleti Reserve. They have a Family Suite for 4 called Presidential Suite and like Ngala, you could book additional suites as needed. It's a lovely lodge. It's a matter of finding the ones that meet your needs and are not repeat venues for you. That would be the targeted search.


Best
Dianne
Africa Direct USA
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Jul 3rd, 2016, 11:42 AM
  #10
 
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Your trip sounds awesome. We have done a similar trip with 3 generations to South Africa and stayed almost exclusively at And Beyond properties. We did it again in Kenya and Tanzania. As you know, they do it so well and the great thing is they love families and kids. I second the recommendation that you book a lodge in a private reserve neighboring Kruger to see the leopard population. I think it would be a spectacular addition to an already exciting trip.

Happy planning and good luck!
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Jul 12th, 2016, 12:39 PM
  #11
 
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You may want to check out Isibindi properties in SA. I KNOW they had some family-type accomodations at Rhino RIdge, in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi. It makes a great "pair" with Kruger as it is such a very different landscape.

There are many places to choose from in Kruger, and I know we loved Rhino Post. Here's my trip report, if it helps. http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...uth-africa.cfm
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Jul 12th, 2016, 12:45 PM
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Oh - I don't think anything compares with Chobe. BUT that is probably a good thing.

When you say your daughter won't do a small plane, I assume you mean small like the little ones that go between camps in Botswana (which I loved...but I understand), and not commuter-jet sized planes like those that might go from JNB to Skakusa, or Durban?
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Jul 12th, 2016, 05:54 PM
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This such a wonderful process! Thanks for all your ideas. I just re-read my initial post and realized that our current plan is very different! Now we are leaning towards Madikwe River House, Muchenje, Ilala Lodge and Tintswalo Manor House. Now working on the logistics of getting from place to place. So glad we have two years before we travel. I will update as it evolves.
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Jul 13th, 2016, 04:57 AM
  #14
 
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Hi again Jeep61!

So glad that you liked Tintswalo and it's nice to see that you switched to Ilala Lodge which gets solid reviews from clients. If I can help further in anyway, please don't hesitate to reach out. Planning well in advance is key.

Best
Dianne
Africa Direct USA
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Jul 18th, 2016, 11:18 AM
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We heard great things about Phinda when we were in SA.
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Jul 31st, 2016, 12:14 PM
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Ruthie Detwiler from Rothschild Safaris planned a fabulous family trip for us to Sabi Sand/Kruger area in SA in May of this year. Our kids said it was the best vacation ever. In May it was already very chilly in the early morning and late evening portions of the game drives. The pools were pretty chilly as well in May.

We had a driver take us from Johannesburg to Sabi Sand as we also have some flying fears. The drive was no problem.

We stayed at several lodges, but Mala Mala was our favorite. They had some options for families to all stay together.
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Aug 9th, 2016, 07:30 PM
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We just returned home from a 3 generation safari to Tanzania and it was an incredible experience. I'm so happy to hear about families sharing this wonderful opportunity!

It sounds like you are set in your plans, but I'll share an overview of what we did anyway. We booked with Rothschild Safaris and were pleased with the personal touch they offered. Our itinerary included 1 night at the Arusha Coffee Lodge, then on to Chem Chem (Tarangire/Lake Manyara), Gibbs Farm (Ngorongoro Crater), and Mkombe House in the Serengeti.

Gibbs Farm is great for families as there are lots of activities for kids. Mkombe House (in the Serengeti) was wonderful. It is a stand along house and we had sole use. It was perfect for a family situation. It has 4 en suite bedrooms as well as a living room and dining room. It also has a dedicated housekeeping staff who were wonderful.

I hope your family has a wonderful safari!
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