Help with safari accomodations

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Oct 18th, 2005, 03:00 PM
  #1
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Help with safari accomodations

We will be going to South Africa in June 2006 and would like the best combination of two safari lodges. We want to spend three nights each and then four nights in Cape Town. We think we are narrowed down to Londolozi Bateleur, Dulini, Simbambili and Lions Sands River Lodge. We are not sure if these are the best for the dollar value or location. Any suggestions?
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Oct 18th, 2005, 03:11 PM
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stru,

Also, keep in mind that June is very cold in the Sabi Sand. Those pretty plunge pools that you see at most of the lodges you mentioned will be nothing more than nice decorations on your deck.

Just for your information, although I have never personally visited, I do believe that Phinda (a CCAfrica camp)would be much warmer in June, if the cold weather will be an issue.
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Oct 18th, 2005, 03:30 PM
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Rocco,
Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. We read that it would be cold, but we also understood there would be better game sightings, particularly on the river. We thought about Phinda, but were told that the air transportation from the Kruger area would be $650. Is it worth it to perhaps do one in Sabi Sands (which one- small and private) and then fly to Phinda and then Cape Town? We are so confused. Thanks for any help.
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Oct 18th, 2005, 04:17 PM
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stru_lgr,

If you were to start in the Sabi Sand, stay three nights, fly to Cape Town for four nights and then fly to Phinda for three nights, it would be possible to hit each the Sabi Sand and Phinda for three nights each. However, this would be dependent on you arriving in South Africa in the morning so that you could get a connecting flight to Phinda.

I do think that if you are considering Phinda then you will be best off sticking to Londolozi Bateleur in order to qualify for a CCAfrica discount if booking direct with CCAfrica.

Also, if at all possible, I do think you would be much better off with 4 nights Londolozi, 4 nights Cape Town, 4 nights Phinda, for a total of 12 nights rather than 10 nights.

If you do end up choosing two lodges in the Sabi Sand, then I think Simbambili would be a fine choice for one of your lodges. I just stayed at Simbambili for three nights and thought it was fantastic.
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Oct 18th, 2005, 04:44 PM
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Thanks Rocco, We have read some bad press on Phinda recently so I think it is out. We do like Londolozi Bateleur Camp and are interested in Simbambili also. We read that Dulini is very small and nice. We are unaware of the special with CCAfrica, but are very interested in that. Which two CCAfrica camps would you choose to get that special and how do I get it? Would there be any other specials I should be aware of ....mtbeds etc. If you were to choose between Simbambili and Dulini which would be your choice. I think Londzo is one of our choices so transportation between lodges will be a consideration. Are you aware that CCAfrica's contract with Londolozi is up in December and do you think it will be renewed and will it affect the quality if something goes bad with the contract? Thanks.
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Oct 18th, 2005, 07:19 PM
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Stru_lgr,

We were in Sabi Sands at Londolozi about the second week of June this year, and the weather was wonderful. The early mornings are quite cool, and you would want a coat in the vehicle, but by about 9:00 am when you stop for tea, the temperature had warmed up and you could be in shirt sleeves or light sweater. The afternoons were warm and comfortable, not really plunge pool weather, but we did dangle our feet in. I would go back in June in a minute, so I think it just depends on the year.

We stayed at Londolozi Tree Camp and it's really small and intimate. Suites only at Tree Camp (all with private plunge pools), so no less expensive lodging there. The other 3 camps have both suites and chalets, and the chalets are less expensive. Only Bateleur Camp has private plunge pools at all the suites and all the chalets, so that's a plus to Bateleur, but Bateleur is also the largest camp.

I don't know where you heard the "bad press" about Phinda, as it has received good reveiws here on Fodors, especially Phinda Forest. And of course, there are also the new samller camps at Phinda: Vlei and Rock camps. The good thing about going to Phinda is that you would see a different environment than two camps at Sabi Sands.

CCAfrica had a previous discount of about 15 percent off the total if you satyed 6 nights or more at two of their camps in South Africa (and maybe Botswana and Zim). Then they started running their much better special where you get 4 nights for the price of three (on their website), but suppposed to expire at the end of this year. It would be great if they extend that special into next year, but I'm not sure if anyone knows about that yet. I do not believe that you need to book directly with CCAfrica to get the discounts, any of the good Africa travel agents that people on this website use can give you the discount. There are supposed to be direct air transfers between LZ and Phinda, but $650 per person for one way seems very high, are you sure that is correct, or maybe that meant getting from JNB to LZ and then on to Phinda.

Good luck making your choices and you are in for a great time.


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Oct 18th, 2005, 11:18 PM
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Hi There

Have stayed at Londoz Tree, Dulini, Lion Sands River Lodge (of your choices) and have visited the other Londoz lodges. Best accommodation - definately Dulini, with Londoz tree next. For me Dulini was unbelievable - better than Londoz in my opinion, just thought that Londoz needs a bit of a revamp. Game viewing - all equal - you cannot beat the Sabi Sands. Service and Food - Lion Sands, Dulini, Londoz - was a little disapponted with Londoz service. Although Lion Sands is a wonderful place it is a little big for my taste (too many people) - I would return to Dulini in a heartbeat!!
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Oct 19th, 2005, 06:15 AM
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Thanks for all your help. Now from the posts, I believe we are definitely going to Dulini. Now if you had to chose between Simbambili or Londolozi, what is going to compliment Dulini better. Of course if we can find any breaks in the prices we may stay with the same company. How do we get from Johannesberg to the lodges, to Cape Town and then back to Johannesberg to fly back home. Can we book those flights ourself or should we go with a travel agent? If we get a two lodge break from CCAfrica which two there? This is really helping us....thanks
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Oct 19th, 2005, 06:53 AM
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I would NOT recommend spending 6 nights in the Sabi Sand. You will see pretty much the same game from each lodge. If I were in your position I would rather diversify the parks that I visited to experience a greater spectrum of game.

My suggestion is that you do three nights S/sands, whiichever lodge floats your boat, they all have some uniqunesses that diferentiate them.

Then I would take the 09h30 Fed air flight out and head to the Madikwe for the final three nights. They have a 12h00, or thereabouts, flight to the reserve and spend your last nights there.

The reserves are markedly different and have similar animals, however the Madikwe will offer you the chance of seeing game that you will not see in the S/Sands. Particularly Black Rhino, Wild Dog, Gemsbok, Eland and so on.

lodges abound in the Madikwe and like the Sands have their own identities etc. If budget is not an issue, you might consider Mateya Safari Lodge, just read a magnificent piece on it in Architectural Digest.

I stayed there last year and have to admit that it is the finest property I have stayed at!
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Oct 19th, 2005, 08:45 AM
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If one is combining the Sabi Sand with Madikwe, then ccafrica is still a good option, as they have lodges in each location. Madikwe Safari Lodge & Londolozi. Madikwe would be worth it for the wild dogs alone, although I am sure there will be plenty of Big Five spottings, as well.
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Oct 19th, 2005, 12:40 PM
  #11
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Thanks mkhonzo and Rocco
It sure makes sense to do Sabi Sand AND Madikwe. A couple of more questions. If I am flying into and out of Joberg what is the best order to do Sabi, Madikwe and Cape Town. In Sabi would you pick Simbambili or Dulini...I think we decided we would rather have small...but these are it seems in more crowded areas. I looked at Mateya and the have a great June-August savings. Would you stay at Mateya or Madikwe Safari Lodge? I am so glad there are people helping me. We kicked around a travel agent and in fact talked with one, but now I am wondering if I can't do this myself. Do you think I will get as good of prices and be able to handle booking the air? Thanks again.
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Oct 19th, 2005, 12:44 PM
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Hello,

I've stayed at Londoz Bateleur and Londoz Tree, and visited Pioneer and Founders Camps. Londoz Tree is my favourite, with Bateleur a close second. FYI, CCAfrica's contract with Londoz has been renewed, so that need not be an issue for your booking.

I'd be very interested to know what sort of 'bad press' you've heard about Phinda, as I've heard nothing but good reviews.

Cold is all relative -- some of our thin-skinned friends from LA might think 70F is cold, but to us Brits it's quite warm! Nights in the Sabi Sands in June don't usually drop below 50F and daytime temperatures ranged from mid-high 70s.

I must disagree with the statement that you will see the same game at all Sabi Sands lodges. Some lodges have higher resident populations of particular animals, or are known for sightings of particular species -- Londoz is known for leopard sightings, so this may be a factor in your choice if you really want to see these cats. I've stayed there several times and had absolutely brilliant leopard viewing. Guiding plays a key role in the quality of your experience, and in my opinion is far more important than posh accommodation -- the guides at Londoz are superb.

I think it is easily possible to spend a week in the Sabi Sands (especially if you split your time between lodges in different regions of the reserve). You might be interested in choosing a tented camp such as Ngala or Nottens as your second camp for a different experience.

If you do decide to go to another reserve, I would not recommend Madikwe. My last trip (June and July 2005) included four days at Madikwe, and after my experience there I won't be headed back any time soon. I think it's wonderful that derelict farmland is being returned to the wildlife, and I think it will be a great reserve in a couple of years.
However, I was really looking forward to Madikwe this year, and I have to admit that I was rather disappointed by my experience there. Don't get me wrong -- I think Madikwe will be a wonderful reserve in years to come. Phinda is a great example of what can happen when a reserve is created out of former farmland. But IMO, Madikwe just isn't quite there yet.

When you're on a game drive at Madikwe, there are constant reminders that it's not really the bush -- telephone wires overhead, telephone poles on the tracks, and you're constantly running into the fences. The animals (particularly the wild dogs) have learned to use the fences in their hunts, so if you find the dogs it's very likely to be against the fence with buses and lorries rumbling by less than 100 feet away. The reserve is small, and this is what makes the fences so intrusive.

The game was very thin on the ground when I was there, and many of the animals were not very relaxed (particularly the elephants, many of whom are from an area where poaching was a big problem). Seeing anything other than antelope was pretty rare, and there were long stretches of time when we didnít see anything (not even an impala). The night drives were particularly non-productive Ė we basically only saw scrub hares, and them very rarely.

If you are concerned about cold weather, then DO NOT go to Madikwe during the African winter -- it went down below freezing on many nights, and we had to bundle up with gloves, scarves, and every available layer of clothing (plus extra blankets and hot water bottles) to do the morning drives. It was so cold that I briefly contemplated not going on the morning drives at all -- and normally nothing can keep me away from a game drive! If you do go, be prepared -- bring serious winter clothing. The staff at the lodge said this was normal weather for Madikwe at that time of year. The summers there are scorching, so many of the lodges are designed to be cool -- probably great in summer, but pretty chilly in winter even with the fireplace in my suite stuffed full of wood.

Despite the frustrating aspects of my stay at Madikwe, I did have some good sightings. Highlights were seeing a pride of pale Kalahari lions, including two huge black-maned males; two young male giraffe sparring; black-backed jackals hunting; a lioness chasing a jackal; an elephant calf nursing; a female cheetah resting by a waterhole (though she was so far that it was a binocs-only viewing, not a photographic one unless you had a 600mm+ zoom lens handy). However, I did have my best sighting of wild dogs thus far on my last game drive here.

Cheers,
Julian
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Oct 19th, 2005, 01:28 PM
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To answer your questions;
Air routing.
Johannesburg is in the center of all three destinations effectively becoming the hub for your trip. So you can tackle that any which way you choose.

I do believe that nationwide ran a flight from Sun City to Cape Town at certain times of the week. If that is still operating you might consider heading to Cape Town after the Madikwe experience. By doing this you should look at doing the Sabi Sands first.

Alternately, you could do Cape Town first, then fly (midday) Cape Town to Kruger Mpumalanga International, flight gets in around 13h00, road transfer to your lodge will be another 2 hours or so, getting you into the lodge just before the evening game drive. Finish up with an early flight to JNB and onward to Madikwe.

BTW: The flight to KMIA is either with SA Air Link or SA Express or SAA, perhaps Kulula.com (SA's equal to South West) And I think Nationwide has frequency: Some of these flights stop in JNB, so check that out first.

As I posted earlier, I have stayed at Mateya and recommend it. It is a small intimate camp of only five HUGE suites. I believe that the CCA property is close to forty beds. So if you don't like crowds, give that a miss.

I honestly do not think you can go wrong with the game viewing in the Sabi Sands. The game abounds and there is no migration. I disagree that certain areas have higher densities of species. This is merely individual companies marketing strategies, that entice you to believe certain things. A pride of lions move great distances and when they pass through the leopards pass out!

The Madikwe is indeed an old farm, however so is the sabi sand, read up on Kirkman and his cronies and you'll understand that they hammered the lion to save the cattle that pretty much destroyed that environment in the arly 1900's. THe Madikwe has remarkable game, which is doing very well. I was most impressed with what I saw and the style in which I saw it from Mateya.
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Oct 19th, 2005, 11:50 PM
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Hi there

My suggestion for what it is worth would be the following: 3 nights Dulini and 3 nights Londoz Tree - you won't get much better than that. Stick to the Sabi Sands. These two lodges are in different sectors of the reserve so you won't be seeing the same terrain and definately won't be seeing the same animals - in my opinion, it is a no brainer - Sabi Sands all the way....
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Oct 19th, 2005, 11:56 PM
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Bushmad,

That sounds like a great combination if it is within the budget. If not, Mala Mala Ratray's is supposed to open soon and would be a very good alternative to Londo Tree. It is my understanding that Ratray's will be just as nice as Londo Tree but will only be $750 per person.
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Oct 20th, 2005, 12:00 AM
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http://www.malamala.com/Rattrays.htm

I must say, I honestly do not like the way that Ratrays looks. Reminds me too much of Chichele Presidential Lodge in South Luangwa, which was great but did not really feel like I was on safari once inside the room.

Also, what is up with the golf carts for people who are too lazy to walk back to their rooms?

Never mind what I said about Ratrays. Dulini, even though it is in a much smaller reserve, looks much nicer. If Londo Tree is too much, then Simbambili would be a great complement to Dulini.
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Oct 20th, 2005, 03:50 PM
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Hello,

I agree with Rocco -- in my opinion, Rattrays looks way too much like a standard African-theme five-star hotel, not a safari camp. I definitely wouldn't choose it over Londoz Tree, which is very posh but still feels like a safari camp.

Cheers,
Julian
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Oct 20th, 2005, 05:09 PM
  #18
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Rocco,
If you are still monitoring this I hope you don't mind if I throw you a wild one here. I was reading some of your earlier posts and came across your "Zambia and the Sabi Sand are definitely apples and oranges" post. Now I am confused again. My husband and I had ruled out the rest of Africa because of fear of unrest and safety....Now that you have told us about Zambia I am interested. Is it safe and if so, how reasonable would it be to spend 3 or 4 days at a lodge there (which one?) and then 3 days in Sabi....????? If this is not feasible, then I think you have helped us to decide on Simbambili, Dulini and Cape Town. Thanks for all your help.
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Oct 20th, 2005, 05:46 PM
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Stru_lgr,

I would not recommend only 3 or 4 nights in Zambia, unless it was an add-on to an intended visit of Victoria Falls.

However, I would strongly advise you to consider spending your ENTIRE safari in Zambia, with possibly 4 nights in South Luangwa and 3 or 4 nights in Lower Zambezi. I have been to the Sabi Sand three times and I have been to Zambia three times, and I would choose Zambia without hesitation over the Sabi Sand.

In Zambia you will probably not have the opportunity for close up and prolonged viewing of leopards and you will not see rhinos, but what you will gain by going to Zambia is well worth it.

There is such a diversity of wildlife in Zambia and the overall numbers are stronger than in the Sabi Sand, especially in South Luangwa. What I mean is, while I had a fantastic time at Simbambili last month (Sabi Sand), there are stretches where you see very little. Yes, you will see the Big Five, but you will not see 1/2 as many varieties of birds, you will not see 1/3 as many elephants, you will not see any crocodiles and very few hippos in the Sabi Sand and you will likely pay much more for a luxury lodge in the Sabi Sand than in Zambia.

If I were to suggest a perfect 7 or 8 night itinerary, it would be the following:

Luangwa River Lodge, South Luangwa (4)
Chiawa Camp or Chongwe River Camp, Lower Zambezi (4) or 3 nights if you are pressed for time

www.luangwariverlodge.com
www.chiawa.com
www.chongwe0-river.com

Just have a look at this latest update on Chiawa's website!

http://www.chiawa.com/pages/newsltr.htm

There is just so much more you can do while on safari in Zambia than in the Sabi Sand. 3 - 4 hour bush walks with armed guide, fishing for the razor toothed Tiger Fish, gameviewing boat cruises on the Zambezi River, canoeing, morning and night game drives.

It is my experience, especially in Lower Zambezi, that three activities per day are possible.

While it would be cold in the Lower Zambezi at night, the daytime weather will be very nice. South Luangwa, on the other hand, is far enough north that even nights will be moderate, probably in the high 50's to low 60's farenheit.

I do think you have a little time before you need to book as June is low season for the Sabi Sand and it is just the beginning of high season for Zambia. Therefore, I suggest you wait a couple weeks and research Zambia a bit more to see if you think it would be a good fit. A fellow Fodorite, "matnikstym" (Dennis), just left for a safari that includes each Chongwe River Camp and Luangwa River Lodge.

Personally, I think that Luangwa River Lodge and Chongwe River Camp are in a very exclusive category of lodges. Chongwe River Camp is not overly fancy, but its location is awesome as is the layout of the camp. The same could be said for Chiawa, but Chiawa enjoys an even better position within the national park.

Just to give you an idea of the costs, Luangwa River Lodge is going to be about $385 per person per night sharing for high season 2006, while Chongwe River Camp will likely be around $325 per person per night sharing and Chiawa will probably run about $475 per person per night sharing.

In comparison, unless you are able to somehow get a huge discount off of Dulini or Londo Bateleur, I am guessing that a three night stay would average anywhere from about $650 - %750 per person per night.

In case you have not seen them yet, please feel free to have a look at my photos from my safari completed last month. While you will see many beautiful leopard photos from my time in the Sabi Sand, most of the bird photos, lion photos, crocodile photos, hippo photos and elephant photos were mostly from Zambia. However, that is not to say that there are not leopards in Zambia. As a matter of fact, Zambia has more leopards than any other country and they were easily found in South Luangwa, especially. The only live kill that I witnessed on this last safari was while staying at Luangwa River Lodge and tracking a male leopard as he killed a small puku and quickly dragged it up a tree just before five hyenas were on the scene.

Lastly, you don't know how magical it is to be serenaded to sleep each night by snorting hippos, to have lions roaring nearby and to just hear wildlife sounds that you cannot even identify. These are the sounds of a Zambian safari, especially when you are right on the Zambezi River as you would be at Chiawa or Chongwe in a luxury tent. Those are the sounds that occur in my dreams and no matter how nice it is to see the Big Five in the Sabi Sand, it is no substitute for the experience of a Zambian safari.

To get to Cape Town after Zambia, you would fly from either South Luangwa or Lower Zambezi to Lusaka, onto Joburg and into Cape Town by about 8PM that night.

Zambia is perfectly safe, at least as safe, in my opinion, as South Africa.

For my idea of a heavenly itinerary:

Luangwa River Lodge, South Luangwa (4)
Chiawa or Chongwe, Lower Zambezi (4)
Twelve Apostles, Cape Town (4)

And finally my photos (copy and paste)

http://www.kodakgallery.com/rocco/zambia___south_africa

The above is 500+ unedited photos but is a very comprehensive picture of my safari.

Below, I have about 140 of my favorite photos, many of them edited through Photoshop Elements to maximize the quality.

http://www.kodakgallery.com/rocco/2005_favorites

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Oct 20th, 2005, 05:51 PM
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Correction...the website for Chongwe River Camp is:

www.chongwe-river.com

Although it looks basic, it is anything but basic. This is honestly the only time that I really did not want to leave, despite the fact that I had two other luxury lodges/camps lined up afterward. I could honestly come back and spend an entire week at Chongwe River Camp, and really, I don't think that would be such a bad idea for someone with only a week available.

The website, unfortunately, does not share the magic that I found at Chongwe River Camp. Anyway, just wanted to share the correct website address, but the memories of Chongwe River Camp are all flooding back!
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