Help -- SA Itinerary -- August

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Mar 4th, 2005, 10:18 AM
  #1
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Help -- SA Itinerary -- August

I am in the midst of trying to plan a "last hurrah" trip for my husband and myself, and our best friends (another couple) before we succumb to a life of parenthood in the next year or so and thus, can no longer afford to take trips like the one listed below (at least until our children are older).

3 of the 4 of us have never been to Africa or on a safari, though we are fairly well-traveled in respect of the rest of the world. I would appreciate anyone's honest input as to the itinerary in light of our stated interests.

We have secured SAA FF seats into CPT and out of Joburg.

Having never been to SA, we are interested in seeing CPT and the wine country, and a few days doing a safari. We would also like to do a barefoot luxury type of beach resort to end the trip. Though this may be too much for one trip that is only 12 nights. We may be able to extend the trip for a few nights. If so, how many more nights do we need, and where would you add them?

Thoughts on the Itinerary below?

Cape Town - 2 nights
Stay at
Kensington Place or Ellerman House

Winelands -- 2 nights
Stay at La Couronne or Le Quartier Francais

Safari -- 2 nights
Stay at Singita

Safari -- 2nights
Stay at Phinda

Beach -- 3 nights
Stay at Mnemba Island (I just found out this island lodge is booked for all of August --- any thoughts on other barefoot luxury beach destinations that would be possible for only 3 nights?)

Airport --- 1 night in Joburg (do we need a night here?)
Stay at Ten Bompas or The Westcliff

A reccomendation for a local travel agent who could secure the best SA hotel rates and inter-Africa travel would also be highly appreciated.

Thanks for any and all input.

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Mar 4th, 2005, 11:01 AM
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dswl,

Your itinerary is not only unrealistic, but it is likely impossible.

You need to choose a smaller area to concentrate on given your limited timeframe.

Furthermore, August will not be a good time to visit either Cape Town or the Sabi Sand (for Singita).

With only 12 nights, you should really be focusing on either the northern part of Southern Africa (Zambia or Zimbabwe, including a visit to Victoria Falls) and maybe a couple nights in Joburg.

If you come a month or two later, then Cape Town would be better, as would the Sabi Sand Game Reserve (Singita). It would be silly to try to spend only two nights in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve and only two nights at Phinda. Instead, if you do insist on South Africa, choose one or the other, but not both, at least not with only 4 nights available between them.

So, that is the bottom line, unless you want to be possibly rained out while in Cape Town and the Cape Winelands in August. Plus, the Cape Winelands can get very chilly in the winter, and August is definitely winter.

If you are willing to visit at least one month (but not more than two months) later, then I would suggest the following itinerary:

Cape Grace, Cape Town - 3 nights
Le Quartier Francais, Cape Winelands, 2 nights
Matetsi Water Lodge, Victoria Falls, 3 nights
Westcliff Hotel, Joburg, 2 nights
Singita, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, 3 nights

(Live a little and add one extra night for a total of 13 nights)

If, however, August is mandatory, I would suggest that you broaden your horizons and look beyond South Africa for an itinerary such as the following:

Westcliff Hotel, Joburg, 2 nights (relax a bit upon your arrival, enjoy the fine dining and excellent shopping in Sandton and learn the history of SA with a half day tour of Soweto)

Puku Ridge, South Luangwa National Park, Zambia, 4 nights. This will be a simple two hour flight from Joburg to Lusaka, followed by a 1 hour air transfer to South Luangwa National Park. While this is a beautiful lodge, you are definitely in the middle of Africa, rather in the insulated Sabi Sand Game Reserve.

Kasaka River Lodge, Lower Zambezi National Park, 4 nights. This is in an absolutely beautiful area, and you will get nearly 4 nights at the luxurious Kasaka River Lodge for the price of 1 night at Singita!

Matetsi Water Lodge, Victoria Falls area, 3 nights. You should not come all the way to Southern Africa without visiting the majestic Victoria Falls.

The above 13 night itinerary would likely cost you no more than 3 nights at Singita, and you would be visiting each place in high season, having much nicer weather.

Personally, I think it would be a waste to come all the way to Africa and spend 1/2 your time alongside the ocean. Last time I checked, the Earth was 75% ocean, while there are very few places left in the world with significant wildlife, including within the African continent!


Check out these websites:

www.star-of-africa.com (Puku Ridge)
www.kasakariverlodge.com
www.ccafrica.com (Matetsi Water Lodge)

Good luck.
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Mar 4th, 2005, 11:17 AM
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By the way, a good agent to start with would be TAGA Safaris. TAGA has been around for over 10+ years and knows Southern Africa as well or better than anyone.

I am using Taga Safaris for my 19 night luxury safari to Zambia and South Africa this coming September.

My itinerary in my fourth consecutive year visiting Southern Africa, including a past visit to Singita?

Kasaka River Lodge (4)
Kutandala, North Luangwa (4) www.kutandala.com
Luangwa River Lodge, South Luangwa (3)
www.luangwariverlodge.com
Puku Ridge, South Luangwa (3)
Westcliff Hotel, Joburg (2)
Simbambili, Sabi Sand Game Reserve (3) (about half the price as Singita, but still very luxurious with their own plunge pools and with a maximum capacity of about 12 guests)

www.tagasafaris.co.za
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Mar 4th, 2005, 11:56 AM
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Roccco:

Thanks for your candid advice. September is bad time for us to travel.

However, in light of your post and other advice that we have gotten from travelers to Africa (and from this board) we are now considering going to SA the first 2-3 weeks of October --- as the members of my group really would like to see Capetown and the Winelands. The big question will be availability at Singita.

In addition, we will use your suggested itinerary as a guide. You do have a valid point about water/ocean v. wildlife!

A follow-up question on hotels in Cape Town. We tend to like smaller, more intimate hotels, which are not in the middle of everything (but perhaps tucked away). In light of this, would you still recommend Cape Grace?

Thanks again for your help and honesty with regard to our travel plans!

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Mar 4th, 2005, 12:05 PM
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Just a comment on Sabi Sands and August. I think that the reason Rocco said that August won't be a good time for Sabi Sands due to the weather. It will probably be chilly especially for the morning and evening drives and you probably won't be using your plunge pool. But, the game viewing is good in the winter and there is generally little winter rain in Sabi Sands.

I went in August last year and had a great time with good sightings. But, layers required - and a tissue for my nose. So, depends on your tolerance for chill...

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Mar 4th, 2005, 12:08 PM
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dswl,

You are making the right decision by delaying travel until October. The weather should be perfect by this time...not too hot for safari yet, but not too cool for Cape Town.

As far as the hotel suggestion goes, I whole-heartedly endorse the intimate Twelve Apostles Hotel, outside of Camps Bay, about 20 minutes from the more touristy Waterfront area. This is a luxurious boutique hotel, with no more than about 50 rooms, and many rooms overlook the Atlantic Ocean with waves crashing not more than 50 yards away from your balcony.

There is a road between the hotel and the ocean, a 2 lane highway. However, if you time your stay for a 4 night stay checking in on Thursday and checking out on Monday morning, you will be able to avoid most of the traffic as Saturday and Sunday should be relatively quiet.

There is an excellent auction for this hotel on www.luxurylink.com. Although this hotel has rack rates of about $600 per night, you may be able to pick up a 4 night package for only $1,200 for a luxury 700 sq. ft. seafacing room.

I stayed at the Twelve Apostles two years ago and LOVED it.

So, given your new dates, I would suggest the following:

Twelve Apostles, Cape Town (4)
Le Quartier Francais, Cape Winelands (2)
Simbambili, Sabi Sand Game Reserve (3)
Singita, Sabi Sand Game Reserve (3)

You should act fast to make sure that your dates don't get taken. I do think you would be well served with 3 nights at Simbambili, probably about a 90 minute drive from Singita. You will see SO MUCH in 6 nights, while with 3 nights if you catch a dry run, you may miss out on certain animals, such as rhinos or cheetah.

Good luck.
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Mar 4th, 2005, 12:19 PM
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While I haven't been to South Africa in August (my safari to that country was in May), I have visited, on separate trips, each of the following countries in August (Swaziland, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi), and I found the temperature agreeable (cool mornings and evenings but warm, not hot, days), and the game viewing excellent.

I also worked with Mark at Taga, and you may want to bounce your initial itinerary off Mark, and ask about weather and game viewing. I also think 2 nights at Singita and 2 nights at Phinda is a little crazy, but not impossible.

I have also been to Cape Town in August, and the weather was great (warm, no rain).

Am I alone in thinking that August is a great month for a trip to South Africa?
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Mar 4th, 2005, 12:45 PM
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August definitely has my vote. I've been in July, August and September only to the general area of the Sabi Sands. I sure hope to go again this year during that time frame. The weather has been beautiful and the game viewing excellent.

I only spent one day in Cape Town but it was beautiful weather-wise.

Haven't been to Mnemba Island but if it is fully booked in August then alot of other people must think it's the time to be there.
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Mar 4th, 2005, 12:47 PM
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No thit_cho, you are not alone....

Let me try to restate my earlier post.... August may be cooler, but the game viewing is generally (no promises for your trip!) better in winter. So, between August and October, I'd choose August.

That said, Cape Town is less likely to have rain in October than August.
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Mar 4th, 2005, 01:17 PM
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FYI, Mnemba Island is in Tanzania and here August is high season, so no wonder Mnemba is full with only 10 cottages.

I can't imagine why one would want to be flying in/out of SA (CPT/JNB) and then spend another $500-$600/rt per person to fly to DAR or Kili (JRO) and then fly to/fr ZNZ. That's not including cost at Mnemba at $650+pp/pn (though all inclusive, still less the SA prices).

In SA, whether at Singita or Phinda, ideally you should spend 3-days. If at Phinda you can arrange for a day on the beach.

But if you've changed plans, and are now considering October, you'll definitely have better weather in CPT and the Kruger and/or Phinda areas.
 
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Mar 4th, 2005, 01:54 PM
  #11
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Thanks everyone for your input.

We haven't changed any of our air reservations yet, but we are currently looking to see if FF seats are available in early October...that will determine whether we travel when the weather is less rainy and cold in CPT (i.e., October), which is desirable since we will be in that region for at least 5 nights total.

I think we have dropped the Mnemba Island/beach option since there isn't enough time on this trip and it is located quite far from SA.

We are looking into 3 nights at Singita and followed (or preceded) by 3 nights at Phinda or Matetsi. If I am reading these posts correctly, it looks like August is better for game viewing (at all 3 locations or just Singita?), but the temps in October will be more enjoyable (at all 3 locations or just Singita?). The temperature may be a determining factor if we are on these safaris for 6 nights and the women on this trip hate being cold unless we are wearing insulated ski-wear (moreover, at these prices, we will want to use the unheated plunge pools at Singita!).

I have also sent Mark at Taga an email to get his opinion for my travel dates and for general availability.

I will keep you all posted on the developments.

Thanks for your help!
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Mar 4th, 2005, 02:22 PM
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dswl,

Also, just in case you are not aware of the "in's and out's" of frequent flier travel...along with your international flight from your frequent flier miles, you are also entitled to a free regional flight, providing you fly in and out of the same airport.

So, if you fly to Victoria Falls, you should be able to do so for free for no additional mileage, providing there is space on the flight on your required date. Same thing if you fly to Hoedspruit to get to Singita, but I would strongly suggest that you fly directly into Singita on a charter flight, as it will make it much nicer.
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Mar 4th, 2005, 03:41 PM
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dswl -

I've been to Victoria Falls and Sabi Sands in August. I haven't been to Phinda at all. You asked... "it looks like August is better for game viewing (at all 3 locations or just Singita?), but the temps in October will be more enjoyable (at all 3 locations or just Singita?)". August should typically be better for game viewing at all three - Phinda, Singita and Matetsi simply because it is dry season. This doesn't mean that October will be substantially worse, just means that without the rain there is less vegetation so the animals are easier to see and also, without the rain, the animals are more likely to be found at watering holes.

As far as the temps being more enjoyable. The temps will be slightly higher in October - spring vs. winter. However, you should note that average rainfall in Kruger in August is 1/2 inch (8C low/21C high), while in October it is 3 inches (16C low/24C high). Also, ccafrica describes the weather at Phinda on their website as "hot, humid, wet summers". They note summers as between September to April. Perhaps you could talk to CCAfrica to get more specifics about the weather in October. Looks like Vic Falls has 1/4 inch for August (8C low, 26C high) and 1 inch for October (16C low, 32C high).

To try to further describe the weather, we wore multiple layers for the morning and night drives, but during the day we were in shorts and T-shirts at both Vic Falls and Sabi Sands.
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Mar 4th, 2005, 04:38 PM
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I'd go in August. I went to Londolozi (next door to Singita) and Phinda in the later part of August and had a phenomenal trip. Yes, it's a little cold in the morning. I wore shorts, a t-shirt, and a light jacket. I also brought some hand warmers that I found at a camping store -- they were great! The lodges provided blankets in the vehicles. By the end of the morning game drive, we had taken off the blanket and jacket. After lunch, we were hot and took a swim in the pool. At night, it was a little chilly, but it made the evening dinners by campfire that much nicer!

Also, we only stayed two nights at each camp (on that trip we did all CCAfrica lodges and went to Ngala, Londolozi, and Phinda Forest). It was an amazing trip. Phinda was my favorite. The game was amazing and the variety of ecosystems was refreshing.

The only problem I see in your trip is Mnemba. I'm sure it'd be great to go to the beach, but I certainly wouldn't fly that far out of the way to do it. It makes sense on an East Africa trip, but not a SA one. I'd add another safari camp, make your stays at Singita and Phinda longer, or go to Vic. Falls. As a younger mother, I can say that you'll still be able to go to the beach with kids, but Africa is something special.
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Mar 4th, 2005, 06:23 PM
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Can't give you any specifics on what to do and where to stay since we haven't done our "Once in a lifetime"trip to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana yet (going in June), but I dealt with Rikke Williams at go2africa.com and she was very helpful and knowledgable. Good prices on the flights between places (as well as a good deal on the international flight, but it sounds like you don't need that). Have fun planning.
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Mar 5th, 2005, 05:31 AM
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dswl,

In my opinion your original tour plan is not totally impossible as Roocco makes it out to be however I would still modify it quite a bit. (See how later on in this posting) I do believe that as it stands the itinerary would be a little bit hectic for the very reason that you will be spending a lot of time in the air as well as well travelling on the ground. You will also be spending a lot of time packing in and out of suitcases.

My honest suggestion is that you should only visit one game reserve. I know that I will probably be nailed by many Fodorites for making this suggestion but this is an open board for all to comment and this is my opinion based on my experience as a travel professional as well as the comments from many people who have travelled with me who visit many game reserves while touring SA.

An example of this happened today when I bid my latest group of visitors from Atlanta farewell after 7 days of touring in the Western Cape region. It just so happened that I could not tour the last two days of the journey with them due to other commitments that I had before I planned their journey with them. In their last two days they did two game drives and saw every potential animal that they could. They have just called me from the airport to say, you know what we saw them all and it was a wonderful experience with two days being just right!". I know that many on this board would not agree with me but my feeling is that one or two days on a good game reserve or one day at a game reserve with another day at another reserve close by (sleeping at one of these two reserves only) would generally suffice the animal needs of most of those interested in trying to obtain an OVERALL PERSPECTIVE of South Africa in 12 different type experience days. I say this because there is so much else to do in SA than just viewing animals. Anybody who makes the statement that South Africa is an event revolving around animals and water just is totally off target. Trust me there is a whole lot more to see in South Africa that you wont see in other parts of the world and in twelve days you wont have all that much time to see it all if you too much time is allocated to animal viewing! Enough said and I have my thick skin prepared for the expected barrage of comments!

When it comes to weather I must also add that Rocco's statement about a cold August in Cape Town is THEORETICALLY 100% correct and I would agree with him totally HOWEVER Thit_Cho and Sundowner's points about good weather in August has in the past couple of years proved to be what has REALLY happened. Yes we have had the odd days when it has been rainy and cold in August however they certainly were few and far between. What makes this so damn difficult is that once again I would have agreed with Roccco completely that October would be a much better time to visit Cape Town than August but guess what, in the last couple years this has not been the case. The weather patterns of Cape Town are changing at a dramatic rate and I hate to say this but one cannot rely on the so called norms that one follows of 4 seasons type weather. dswl if you think that you have problems trying to decide when to come to Cape Town using a weather guide then just imagine what I need to go through when advising people in terms of travel in a professional capacity when it comes to these recently unpredictable patterns.

Itinerary wise I would suggest to you is that relative to your original plan you modify it as follows:


Day 1 - 4

Cape Town - 4 nights
Tour Cape Town and the Winelands using ONE base in Cape Town. This is definitely the ideal way to see Cape Town when you only have 4 days at your disposal.

Day 5
Travel to Singita or Phinda for your safari

Day 6 & 7
Spend 2 days and nights on safari at whichever game reserve you choose to stay at (effectively 3 nights at a game reserve)

Day 8.
Travel to wherever your beach destination will be -

Day 9 + 10.
Spend 3 nights (including your travel day) at this destination.

Day 11
Travel to Johannesburg
Stay at the Westcliff

Day 12
Tour Johannesburg

Day 13
Fly out back home.

If you follow the above itinerary you will see a lot more of SA in a slower holiday type fashion where you wont be packing your cases all the time and visiting airports.

When it comes to your accommodation in Cape Town all I can tell you is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with Kensington House or Ellerman House other than they are quite expensive (Especially Ellerman) At this stage I would not comment or suggest any further as both these venues suit what you have called for. (We tend to like smaller, more intimate hotels, which are not in the middle of everything but perhaps tucked away).

Btw if you want to obtain better prices for all the venues that you will be staying at please contact me as I have a way of obtaining an overall discount, which could be quite substantial, off the rack rates that you or for that matter any Fodorite will normally pay.

OK dswl here’s hoping that above helps you in your planning.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa

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Mar 5th, 2005, 05:57 AM
  #17
 
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I agree with the unpredictability of the weather, whether (ha ha) in Cape Town or anywhere else.

The Los Angeles Marathon is tomorrow (no, I am not running it but I did run it three years ago). It is very cold right now for Los Angeles, not even reaching 70 degrees in the daytime the last few days. Last year was about the same, but two years ago, it hit 90 degrees for those poor marathoners, and for 2002 when I ran it, it hit 80 degrees.

So, my point is, had someone been researching a trip to Los Angeles based on 2002 and 2003, if for the reason of running the L.A. Marathon they would have sooner chosen to run a marathon in hell. But, wouldn't you know it...2004 and it now appears that 2005 will have perfect running weather (but not perfect weather if you want warm weather).

Still, I would go with history. There are bound to be hiccups every now and then, but chances are that Cape Town will NOT have good weather in August (just as the chances are that Los Angeles will have good running weather on the first Sunday of each March, hence the reason for the marathon organizers picking this particular date over all others).
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Mar 5th, 2005, 10:42 AM
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Here are the average highs and lows for August vs. September according to Singita's website:
August High 82 Low 48
October High 85 Low 62

Average Rainfall:
August 14 mm
October 43 mm
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Mar 5th, 2005, 02:18 PM
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To really understand what it will feel like, I suggest that someone borrow a convertible, put the top down, and not only have someone drive you around when it is below 50 degrees (f), but also sit on top of the backrest of the backseat. My guess would be that no matter how many layers you are wearing that you would not be comfortable for a few minute drive, yet less a 3.5 hour drive.

62 degrees sounds MUCH nicer, and cool enough for me. I am personally worried if it isn't going to be too cold for my mid-September Sabi Sand visit, but I will just have to cope after being spoiled by the more tropical weather of South and North Luangwa prior to my arrival in the Sabi Sand.
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