Help Needed with Botswana Trip

Jan 12th, 2007, 03:11 PM
  #1  
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Help Needed with Botswana Trip

My sister and brother-in-law are going to Victoria Falls in June for a business trip. They would like to do a 5-6 days safari tour in Botswana before hand. They have never been to Africa before and would like help from knowledgeable people on this board. Here are some of the questions they have:
1. What kind of itinerary would you suggest for a 5-6 day safari tour in Botswana?
2. Who are the good tour operators (with good reputation and reasonable price) in US they should use?
3. How do you book internal flight from Johannesburg to Maun and from Livingstone to Johannesburg? How much will these flights cost? Are these Africa flights safe and on time?

Thanks in advance for your help!
wangy26 is offline  
Jan 12th, 2007, 04:15 PM
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1. I would think you would want one camp in the Okavango Delta for 2-3 nights. Then 3 nights elsewhere.

The first camps I'll recommend are run by Wilderness Safaris in Botswana. They use a 5-paw and 6-paw rating system, with 6 being the fanciest and most expensive.

Little Vumbura (5 paw) or Vumbura (6 paw) Vumbura are in the delta and offer boats/mekoro activities and also good game viewing.

Duma Tau (5 paw) or Kings Pool (6 paw) Duma Tau & Kings Pool are in the Linyanti area with good overall game, especially elephant.

Instead of one of the camps in Linyanti, you could substitute the famous (and very expensive) 6 paw Mombo or 6 paw Little Mombo on Chief's Island. Game viewing here is usually spectacular and it offers the only real chance of seeing rhino in Botswana.

A second option is to combine two Kwando camps. Kwara is in the delta with boat & mekoro water activities and good game. Lagoon Camp or Lebala are not that far apart in the Kwando concession with a variety of good game.

You could also use Sanctuary Camps. The Delta camps are Baines or Stanley's and they have the water activities of mekoro and boats with ok game view. But they also allow walking and interaction with trained, but unchained elephants that live nearby. There have been some recent trip reports that have raved about the elephant walk.

Sanctuary also has a camp in Chief's Island (where Mombo is) called Chief's Camp. It is not as expensive as Mombo and its reputation for game is just short of Mombo's, but it would be an excellent option.

You could mix and match any of these, but there are sometimes slight price breaks sticking with the same management company. Any of these properties are of very high quality. These aren't the only options, but they offer a good sampling.

2. For Southern Africa these are some of the operators have been used with success by Fodorites

Africa Adventure
ATR (Africa Travel Resource)
Destiny Africa
Eyes on Africa
Taga

3. I have allowed the travel agent to do those internal bookings for me. Others may have more info on booking these and their costs. Here is Air Botswana’s home page and you can try Kayak.com

http://www.airbotswana.co.bw/flight....%20Information

Are they safe? I bet my life on it.
On time? I’ve had some major delays on Air Botswana that have forced me to miss my first day on safari when arriving in Africa an international flight home when leaving.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 12th, 2007, 05:14 PM
  #3  
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Thanks so much for your suggestion. I just wonder roughly how much it would cost for 5-6 days at two camps as you suggested for two persons in June. Does anyone on this board know if "Explore" or "Africa Dynamics" are good travel agent to use?

Here are some of the camps these agents suggested (or still available):
1. Seba Camp and Pom Pom Camp in Okavango Delta.
2. Zibalianja Camp in Selinda Reserve
3. Lebala Camp in Kwando Reserve.

Can anyone comment on these camps?

Thanks!
wangy26 is offline  
Jan 12th, 2007, 06:02 PM
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I don't know Seba or Pom Pom, but Zibalianja and Lebala are excellent. They are in one of Botswana's best game-viewing areas and are close enough together to do a road transfer, which amounts to a game drive. Zibalianja is probably the smallest permanent tented camp in Botswana, making it a desirable destination for those who are not so keen on large gatherings of people...capacity is normally six people. It's my favourite.

John
afrigalah is offline  
Jan 12th, 2007, 06:14 PM
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For descriptions and other details (rates etc) from the independent owners/operators of Zibalianja and Lebala, go to www.linyanti.com and
www.kwando.com

John
afrigalah is offline  
Jan 12th, 2007, 06:27 PM
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(Sorry my previous post appeared twice.)

Seba is a new Wilderness Camp that allows some elephant interaction. Here are two fairly recent threads on it.
http://fodors.com/forums/threadselec...4&tid=34902668
http://fodors.com/forums/threadselec...4&tid=34870513

Pom Pom has been bought and sold by various companies several times throughout its long history. It offers land and water activities and had a good rep at one time. It may still be a great camp, I just don’t know about it in recent times.

Zib in Selinda is a wonderful small camp where I spent 4 days last August. A pack of wild dogs that dens nearby made for some exciting game viewing when they frequented the camp. The area is beautiful with good game. There are not too many lions here, which means the dogs can thrive and it is good cheetah habitat.

Lebala has a great rep for excellent game and is a favorite of many Fodorites. I can’t wait to get there. As I mentioned in the previous post, it could be paired with Kwara in the Delta, another Kwando Mgmt camp, for a fantastic 5-6 nights.

Don’t know about Explore or Africa Dynamics. Is it iExplore? I see that on the Internet a lot. You can do a search in the box at the top. These are fine camp recommendations. Again, don’t know about Pom Pom these days.

Depending on when you go in June, you may be able to get low season rates. I think Wilderness starts high season mid-June and Kwando starts it the first of June. Check with whatever agent you decide on. But don't delay. Some Botswana camps are already booked for the June-Oct high season.

I just read Afrigalah’s reply and I agree that Zib and Lebala are both great camps in the same general reason. Because of that, a first time visitor may wish to include just one of these camps along with a camp in the Okavango Delta, another different habitat.


Here is a thread seeking help for Botswana in June. Could be helpful.
http://fodors.com/forums/threadselec...4&tid=34920570
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 12th, 2007, 06:29 PM
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Oh, I guess my 1st post did not appear twice. It looked like it on my screen.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 12th, 2007, 07:02 PM
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Wangy26,

To get an idea of the rates per person, you can check this website: www.e-gnu.com
This does not include the small airplane flights from camp to camp or from Maun to camps.

June is the month of rate change going from shoulder season to high season in Botswana, so that can make a big difference in the rates. For June 2007, Wilderness Safaris (www.wilderness-safaris.com) rates change to High season on June 15. I believe that Kwando Camps change to high season on June 1st, and Sanctuary Camps on June 30th. So depending on your exact dates of travel, that could make a difference.

Seba Camp is a new "5 paw" camp marketed by Wilderness safaris, put Seba in the search enigne above to find a few recent reports. In that same part of the Okavango Delta are Tubu Tree and Kwetsani also. I believe these are all water/land camps. As Lynn mentioned, another favorite of Fodorites is Little Vumbura or Vumbura Plains (also water/land camps in the Delta). Just as Lynn suggests, probably 2 nights or 3 if possible in one of these camps for an opportunity to spend some time in the Delta.

Then 3 nights at the one of the other reserves: Kwando (Lebala and Lagoon camps, or the Wilderness Linyanti camps (Duma Tau, Kings Pool or Savuti) or the Selinda camps which are now also marketed by Wilderness (Zibalianja or its larger sister camp Selinda camp).

If you wanted to go with Sanctuary camps, then I guess you would probably have 3 nights at Chiefs camp and 2 nights at Baines or Stanley.

All of the camps are quite small (3 to 10 tents) and fill up quickly. June is a popular month so it really probably just depends what is still available. All of these camps are accessed by small airplanes from either Maun or Kasane (Botswana) or possibly Livingstone or Vic Falls.

I have not heard of either of the travel agents you mention. Atravelynn gave you a good list and a couple of others that have been mentioned are Ultimate Africa Safaris and Fisheagle Safaris. I think that most people let their agent booking the camps take care of booking the intra Africa flights.

I have only been to two camps in Botswana so far: Little Vumbura and Kings Pool (June 2005) and they were both excellent. Next June, we will be going back to 4 camps for 3 nights each.
brandywine is offline  
Jan 12th, 2007, 07:32 PM
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I just returned from this area. I am a travel agent. I would suggest you seek the services of a travel agent in your area to put together a good itinerary for your sister and brother in law. They will be able to guide you to some good camps. Great suggestions here on this sight too. I'd probably spend some time in the Okavango Delta as has been recommended and then a couple of nights in the Chobe area. That way you get to see different areas and different game. As for the tour operator, I would entrust your agent to recommend a good one. I use African Travel Inc. - I am in California and they are based here and only sell Africa. Of course there are many other good ones out there also. The reason I suggest using a travel agent is because they are experienced in putting together safaris, arranging compatible flights etc. so you don't have to worry about coordinating flights. You don't pay any extra to utilize their services. Regarding the flights, yes, sometimes there are delays, this happens frequently in many countries in Africa, but you just have to be flexible and hope there is not too much delay. For the most part though, most try to leave on time. Are they safe, about as safe as any flight you'd take anywhere. Good Luck in your planning!
kmactravel is offline  
Jan 13th, 2007, 06:25 AM
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On using a travel agent: Wilderness camps must be booked with a travel agent. No direct booking. I think the same is true for Kwando. Probably Sanctuary too.

Again, don't dawdle since these are small camps and the whole world is a customer.

atravelynn is offline  
Jan 13th, 2007, 11:19 AM
  #11  
santharamhari
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wangy26,

Some excellent suggestions....as John and Lynn already mentioned Zib and Lebala are in a very good game-rich area.

Although, they are close enough to do a drive transfer....i do recommend visiting both camps. Infact, I am going to be at both of these camps in June for a long-stay. For your trip, i strongly recommend Zib, Lebala and/or Lagoon combined with Kwara. All of these camps have great variety of game.....but also gives you a GREAT chance to see the endangered wild dog. As a matter of fact, in recent weeks wild dog sightings at all Kwando properties have been very good. Zib and Selinda have historically been very good. One of the reasons why i plan to visit Zib in June (my to be first visit).

Talk to your TA to come up with the best itinerary and pricing....

Cheers,
Hari
 
Jan 14th, 2007, 05:36 AM
  #12  
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Thank you all so much for your tremendous help. The more I learn about Africa safari the more questions I have. I have some additional questions about Botswana safari trip and would like helps from you.

1. What is reasonable cost for these trips? I understand Botswana safari trip is an upscale and expensive one. However, some of the quotes I got from travel agents seem so expensive and I am not sure if this is the going rate. The trip will take place June 18-23. From limited information I got from website (Zib camp in Selinda) up until June 30 is still a shoulder season. The rate for Zibalianja camp is $495/pp sharing.

Can you comment on the cost of the following quotes?

Travel Agent 1
Total cost for 2 persons for a 4 days safari trip - $8,350, which includes:
• 1 night hotel at Johannesburg (diner not included). No transportation required since it is an airport hotel.
• 2 nights at Seba camp in Okavango Delta.
• 2 nights at Zib camp in Selinda.
• Transport from Zib camp to Livingstone/Vic Falls.
• Transport from Maun to Seba camp and between seba camp and Zib camp. Flight from JNB to Maun is not included.

Travel Agent 2
Option 1 – total cost for 2 persons for a 6 day safari trip - $9770, which includes:
• 1 night hotel at Johannesburg (diner not included)
• 3 nights at Pom Pom Camp in Okavango Delta.
• 3 nights at Lebala Camp in Kwando Reserve.
• Transport from Lebala camp to Livingstone/Vic Falls
• Transport from Maun to Pom Pom camp and between Pom Pom camp and Lebala camp. Flight from JNB to Maun is not included.

Option 2 – total cost for 2 persons for a 6 day safari trip - $7290, which includes:
• 1 night hotel at Johannesburg (diner not included)
• 3 nights at Pom Pom Camp in Okavango Delta.
• 3 nights at Chobe Marina Lodge outside Chobe National Park (only 2 game activities are included. Other activities at additional cost)
• Transport from Chobe Marine Lodge to Livingstone/Vic Falls
• Transport from Maun to Pom Pom camp and between Pom Pom camp and Chobe Marine Lodge. Flight from JNB to Maun is not included.

Do these costs seem reasonable to you?

My sister and her husband do not care that much about luxury accommodation. Regular accommodation would be OK to them. However, they do want good game viewing opportunities. Which place would have better game viewing activities comparing Lebala camp and Chobe Marine Lodge?

I have a third travel agent who gave me some different suggestions for a safari trip (no price quote yet).

Option 1 – Spend all 5-6 nights at Okavango Delta.
Split between chief’s camp and Baines’ camp. Is this a good suggestion for someone taking their first Africa safari trip? Is there any difference between these two camps as far as game viewing opportunity is concerned?

Option 2 – Spend all 5 nights in Zambia
Either 5 nights at Luangwa river Lodge in South Luangwa National Park, or 5 nights at Chiawa Camp in Lower Zambezi National Park.

I don’t know if the game viewing opportunities and cost in Zambia comparable to Botswana. Can anyone comment on these?

Option 3 – 2~3 nights at Linyanti Bush camp and 2~3 nights at one of the camp in Okavango Delta.
Is this a good option?

I know that I ask a lot of questions here and would really appreciate any help you can give me.
wangy26 is offline  
Jan 14th, 2007, 07:59 AM
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You are right—the more you know, the more you want to know. As far as asking lots of questions--your questions and answers benefit not only you, but lurkers and other researchers for similar trips/itineraries.

Botswana is expensive but not so much because you get really expensive mints on your pillow or fancy marble bathroom fixtures. It’s more because few people are allowed in to each huge area, preserving the wilderness. You are paying for remoteness and exclusivity in areas with excellent game that is comfortable withi vehicles. Of course the accommodations are really nice too.

”The rate for Zibalianja camp is $495/pp sharing.”

I see you’ve used John’s link. That sight also shows availability. You can also notice the transport costs are listed so that you can see it’s about $200 between camps.

"Can you comment on the cost of the following quotes?"

I’ll use e-gnu, as Brandywine mentioned, to look up the other properties. If you compare Zib on e-gnu and their own website, you’ll e-gnu skews high, but it gives a ballpark figure on the high end. None of my calculations take advantage of any special deals that agents might have.

Your itineraries show that you go from the last Botswana Camp to Livingston. I think you have to go through Maun or another Botswana city first, so I added that leg in there. Even if I am wrong and a direct route from the Botswana bush to Livingston, Zambia is possible, the costs to cover that distance would be still need to be incurred.

"Travel Agent 1"

Joburg—using the shuttle $200 (e-gnu shows $180+ for Airport Sun)
Maun-SebaTransport = $200-ish
Seba $760 x 2 = $1520
Seba-Zib Transport = $200-ish
Zib $500 x 2 = $1000
Zib-Maun transport, then Maun-Liv = $400-ish (guessing)
I get about $3500 per person or $7500 for 2



"Travel Agent 2, Option 1"

Joburg—using the shuttle $200 (e-gnu shows $180+ for Airport Sun)
Maun-Pom Pom transport = $200- ish
Pom Pom $500 x 3 = $1500
Pom Pom-Lebala Transport = $200-ish
Lebala $750 x 3 = $2250
Lebala-Maun transport, then Maun-Liv = $400-ish (guessing)
I get about $4750 per person or $9500 for 2

(I realize why I had lost track of Pom Pom. It reopened in mid-season 2005)



"Travel Agent 2, Option 2"

Joburg—using the shuttle $200 (e-gnu shows $180+ for Airport Sun)
Maun-Pom Pom transport = $200-ish
Pom Pom $500 x 3 = $1500
Pom Pom-Chobe Marina transport = $200-ish
Chobe Marina = 3 x $300 = $900
Chobe to Kasane or Maun transport, then back to Liv = $400-ish (guessing)
I get about $3400 per person or $6800

Chobe Marina is much less in cost because it is much less remote. I really liked the Chobe region and found the sunset wildlife Chobe River Cruise to be a unique experience in all of Africa.

With only two game activities, you would likely add another 2-4 activities, which would boost the cost.

Of Agent 1 and Agent 2, I would not do the Agent 1 itinerary because it seems high in price and also two nights at each camp is not enough. One reason for the relative high cost of Agent 1 vs. Agent 2 is that when you stay 3 nights most anywhere, you can get a bit of a break on the cost per night. Both options with Agent 2 take advantage of this.

”Which place would have better game viewing activities comparing Lebala camp and Chobe Marine Lodge?”

Far less people and a more wild, remote setting with a better chance for cheetah and wild dogs = Lebala. Less people in general offer a better game viewing experience. Lebala is highly regarded for game viewing. The Chobe area is used as a getaway for lots of people, including those with a passing interest in wildlife viewing. I think guiding would have the edge at Lebala over Chobe.


To see large herds of eles crossing the Chobe River = Chobe. June might be just a little early for the bigger herds to be around, especially if there have been very good rains.

”I have a third travel agent who gave me some different suggestions for a safari trip (no price quote yet.”

When those numbers arrive, post that too. In the meantime...

”Option 1 – Spend all 5-6 nights at Okavango Delta. plit between chief’s camp and Baines’ camp. Is this a good suggestion for someone taking their first Africa safari trip? Is there any difference between these two camps as far as game viewing opportunity is concerned?”

A fine setup for a first or any Africa grip. The Delta camp, Baines has the water activities of mekoro and boats with ok game viewing. But they also allow walking and interaction with trained, but unchained elephants that live nearby. There have been some recent trip reports that have raved about the elephant walk. This is a very special activity unique to Baines and Stanley camp.

The other camp is Chief’s on Chief's Island (where Mombo is). It is not as expensive as Mombo and its reputation for game is just short of Mombo's, but it would be an excellent option. Do the 3 nights at Chiefs.

”Option 2 – Spend all 5 nights in Zambia
Either 5 nights at Luangwa river Lodge in South Luangwa National Park, or 5 nights at Chiawa Camp in Lower Zambezi National Park.

I don’t know if the game viewing opportunities and cost in Zambia comparable to Botswana. Can anyone comment on these? “

Game viewing not quite as good as Botswana, but still really good. You are much more active in Zambia, doing walking and canoeing. Out of the vehicle means more skittish game and less viewing/photographing. You can still do productive game vehicle-based drives or you could opt out of walking/canoeing/boating altogether and remain in the vehicle. But walking/canoeing are tremendously exciting ways of seeing animals and if you have the option, I’d take it. Zambia is a little less costly than Botswana. You would want a slight more adventurous mindset than what is needed for Botswana to get the most out of this Zambia itinerary.

”Option 3 – 2~3 nights at Linyanti Bush camp and 2~3 nights at one of the camp in Okavango Delta.
Is this a good option?”

If it were 3 nights at each, I'd consider it in the running. And if the Okavango camp were something like Little Vumbura or Kwara with really good game viewing in addition to water activities, I’d consider it.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 14th, 2007, 08:06 AM
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http://fodors.com/forums/threadselec...4&tid=34920152

The above link tells about the elephant walk opportunity at Baines Camp and Stanley's Camp, both Sanctuary Properties.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 14th, 2007, 09:24 AM
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I agree with the previous posters re. Kwando's Lebala Camp! I live in South Africa, and am fortunate enough to do monthly (and sometimes weekly!) safaris both locally and in Botswana. Zambia is a beautiful country and will be a wonderful experience, but for prime game viewing, make sure that you get to Botswana! To add to your confusion - "Jao" is also one of Wilderness' EXCELLENT camps in the Delta - well worth investigating!
AFRICADIRECT is offline  
Jan 14th, 2007, 01:29 PM
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Best to contact Selinda's operators direct by email re rates & availability at Zibalianja. I know they have a major reconstruction job going on at Selinda main camp right now, and probably have been too busy to update their website. Rates have gone up for 2007 and I understand there may no longer be a shoulder season at Zib...I think their high season is being brought into line with WS (one of the disadvantages of association with big outfits).

John
afrigalah is offline  
Jan 14th, 2007, 02:13 PM
  #17  
bat
 
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wangy26:
I can't help you but just wanted to comment on the excellent advice that you are receiving. lynn--wow, what an analysis of the various proposals.
bat is offline  
Jan 14th, 2007, 04:08 PM
  #18  
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Atravelynn and others: Thanks so much for your help and detailed analysis of TA’s quotes. Here are some more questions:

1. I look through the camp list on e-gnu website. It seems to me most camps highly recommended by people on this board are all on more expensive side. Is the cost of the camp proportional to the quality of game viewing or the luxury level of the accommodation or both?
2. Wilderness safaris and Kwando both start peaking season rate before my sister’s traveling date (June 18-23) while Sanctuary still has shoulder season rate until June 30. Are Sanctuary camps, therefore, a better value for this trip?
3. I am still debating if they should spend all 5-6 days on Okavango Delta between two camps or spend 3 days on Okavango Delta and 2-3 days on Chobe and Linyandi. Is there any big difference between these two options? This is their first and maybe only Africa trip.
4. I am curious as how travel agents get compensated for their service. Do they charge a flat fee or percentage of total trip cost? Or do they get commissions from camp operators and transportation operators? Do they have incentive to steer you toward places that they can get higher commissions? They usually just give me a lump sum cost. Would they give me an itemized cost if I ask?
5. After the safari trip my sister and her husband will go to Livingstone/Victoria Falls for 4 days; 2 day business and 2 day leisure. What kind of leisure activities would you suggest in that area besides Victoria Falls?

Again I would like to thank everyone on this board who have helped me tremendously.
wangy26 is offline  
Jan 14th, 2007, 05:15 PM
  #19  
santharamhari
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wangy26,

E-gnu is just an indication. In my experiences, they are OVER priced. some of their quotes are WAY over marked. Just an estimate of the costs (is the way i would look at their website). However, if someone doesnt care about costs.....their services and attention to detail is FANTASTIC!!! There is a lady by name Janice, that i have worked with in the past and she is brilliant!!!!

Do look around for other operators.

One of your earlier questions about Lebala. No comparisons with Chobe at all......you will enjoy a much more personal experience here and the people there are amongst my favourites in the whole planet!!! Go for it!!!

Hari
 
Jan 14th, 2007, 07:16 PM
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Wangy26,

1. For me, Lynn just about said it all in one of her previous answers: You are paying for remoteness and exclusivity in areas with excellent game. In my view, there are no areas in southern Africa with better game and the same feeling of wilderness. In those which come close in game quantity, you are sharing the experience with so many more people and vehicles (therefore to me, the quality is diminished). That's one of the reasons why I just have not bothered to go beyond the Linyanti region and other remote areas for the past 8 years.

3. If it's their only Africa trip, I'd divide it between the Okavango and the Linyanti, though it's a pity their time will be so short. There's considerable difference between the two areas, with the delta giving a mixture of land and water activities (mekoro especially) and the Linyanti almost solely land (beautiful woodlands and vast grasslands in the Kwando-Selinda area). It wouldn't surprise me, though, if it turned out to be just their first Africa trip...Africa tends to do that to people.

John
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