Help with Safari planning...so many questions

Jun 11th, 2010, 01:48 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 14
Help with Safari planning...so many questions

Hello Fodorites. I have just started planning a safari for a big birthday. I have been reading a lot of old threads and am thrilled to have found this board. RIght now, I am a bit overwhelmed with the options and would love some advice so I can begin to shape our plans or alternatives.
We need to travel sometime between January 15 and May 31 (2012). We can only be away a maximum of two weeks (13-14 days) including travel time because we have young kids at home. Our budget is moderate in terms of what it seems these safaris cost, say total of $10-$12 k total for two people, not including air.
Considering East Africa (either Kenya or Tanzania or a combo) in Jan/Feb or South Africa (Botswana) in May. Any comments about these options -- concerns are extreme heat (for my very urban husband), ability to view animals and access to areas due to rain at this time of year. This is a first time experience for us and are looking for the typical first timers things -- seeing animals, esp. the Big 5 or most of them, in their natural habitat, without the feeling that we are at the drive through safari in Florida. Not being in crowds at sitings, though if there were some others there that would be okay. Would pay more for good guides because in my limited experience (In Costa Rica, Belize and at a tiger refuge in India the guide was the most important thing that affected the quality of my experience.) Would Kenya and Tanzania have similar weather at the parks at the same time of year? Are they priced similarly or is Tanzania more expensive across the board, or just has higher end properties in general? Would Botswana be okay in late April or May or is it best to save that for another time?
If anyone has any advice for me, I would appreciate it. I am going to continue reading and researching, in the meantime. Thanks in advance.
lsinden is offline  
Jun 11th, 2010, 02:05 PM
  #2  
 
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Would Kenya and Tanzania have similar weather at the parks at the same time of year?

Depends on which parks you go to. Being near the equator elevation is what mostly determines weather/temperature. In Kenya, lower elevation parks such as Samburu, Amboseli, Tsavo, Meru, etc. will be hotter than higher elevation areas such as Mt Kenya, Aberdares, Laikipia, Mara. I'm not as familiar with the elevation changes in Tanzania but the parks in southern Tanzania are lower in elevation overall than in northern Tanzania.

Are they priced similarly or is Tanzania more expensive across the board, or just has higher end properties in general?

I've found that Tanzania tends to be more expensive when comparing similar accommodations. The migration will be in the southern Serengeti at that time of year though if that's a consideration.

Don't know anything about Botswana.

Here are the trip report indexes in case you haven't found them already and you can see where others have gone during those times of year:

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...port-index.cfm

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...port-index.cfm

Good luck!
Patty is online now  
Jun 11th, 2010, 08:30 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
Here are some weather charts. As you can see, the highs can get up there during the day in the places you are considering at the times you are considering.

south Africa
http://www.classicescapes.com/sa-weather.html

Botswana weather
http://www.classicescapes.com/bw-weather.html

Kenya
http://www.classicescapes.com/ke-weather.html

Tanzania
http://www.classicescapes.com/ta-weather.html

I think Botswana in May might offer the most temperate climate of the times/places you mention above. I'd go as late in May as possible if choosing Botswana.

Here is a chart with the best wildlife viewing conditions throughout the year in all of Africa. As climate changes, any chart becomes less reliable.
http://www.africa-adventure.com/dsp_besttime.html

If traveling from N. America, you will need 3 days at least of travel, so your available time is 14-3 = 11 days max. I'd stick with one country, unless you chose Botswana and it worked to add some days in S. Africa before/after your flight to Johannesburg, which is typically the gateway airport.

A Botswana mobile safari would likely show most of the Big 5--not rhino and you would not have other people around. These are very nice with excellent guiding and not traditional camping.

Though a little warmer and with more people than Botswana, Tanzania in Feb would allow you to view the great migration, which should be in the Southern Serengeti. You could include the World Heritage Site of Ngorongoro Crater, plus Tarangire, Lake Manyara, along with S. Serengeti.

If you would consider South Africa in the Jan-Feb timeframe, you could avoid the near 100 F highs of May that are found the Kruger area. A stay in a couple of Sabi Sands or Timbavati properties would provide you the best odds of seeing the Big 5. Perhaps even in one day.

For rates, check a place like Elephant Plains. I have not been here, but am impressed with the good reviews and pricing.
http://elephantplains.co.za/accommodation/tariffs.htm

Here is Mala Mala, which is more expensive, but could work for a few days.
http://www.malamala.com/reservation.htm

Lots of decisions for you!
atravelynn is offline  
Jun 11th, 2010, 09:52 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 12
hi,
if you need to enjoy more your big birthday in the park and to see alot of animals like big 5, pls go to ngorongoro national park, serengeti np, tarangire np, lake manyara np. all those parks its found in tanzania. [email protected]
tanganyika is offline  
Jun 12th, 2010, 04:33 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,352
We were in Tanzania in late January for the migration and had a great time and a GREAT guide - here's a link to our blog

http://lizandrichardsa.typepad.com/a...ater-and-area/

(navigate on the right hand margin to other Tanzania postings)

I obsess about guides and highly recommend Felix - I can provide contact information for North American operators who book directly with Felix if you wish.
Elizabeth_S is offline  
Jun 12th, 2010, 05:37 PM
  #6  
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Posts: 14
Thanks Patty, Atravelyn, Tanganyika and Elizabeth for your advice. Definitely given me some direction for my next stage of research/reading. Thanks for the trip indexes -- I didn't realize they existed. Also, i will check into altitudes of different East Africa locations. And Elizabeth, as soon as I finish this note I am going to read your blog -- thanks!
I will be back in touch up the road as more questions emerge.
lsinden is offline  
Jul 28th, 2010, 03:46 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 4
I have the 'africa fever' and have been to several safaris in several countries and my best trip so far was with Mind & Soul Travel in Tanzania, a small and personal company (swedish/tanzanian) with a former wildlife guide in charge, The great migration (recommend to see it - its almost 2 million animals gathered together) is in EAST Serengeti near the border between Serengeti and Ngorongoro in january-february and the gnus is calving in Serengeti in february. Here is a link to the company I recommend

http://www.mindsoultravel.com
Crumbs32 is offline  
Jul 28th, 2010, 06:00 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
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Kenya & Tanzania:
Jan-Mar - is relatively warm-to-hot during daytime; cool evenings/mornings. It is "peak" season for pricing in Tanzania as the Migration is taking place in the Southeast Serengeti; It's "mid" season pricing in Kenya during this period.
Apr-May - is their "long" rain period, but no guarantee it will rain, but doesn't inhibit safari; if wet, all is green with flowers popping everywhere; some seasonal camps are closed, but most lodges/permanent tent camps are open; also less visitors.

Can't comment with specifics re Botswana, but this country is normally the most expensive of the various safari countries. See what other comments others may have.

Back to East Africa:
- Have you checked airfare to Kenya's Nairobi/NBO or Tanzania's Kilimanjaro/JRO airports; the latter often more expensive as only served by KLM. More carriers into NBO.
- In-country transport by air is rather expensive, though there is road transfer (shuttle) bus between Nairobi/Arusha from where safaris commence.
- Visa price to Kenya is lower, currently at USD$25, but expected to increase to USD$50 as 1st Jan 2011. Tanzania price is USD$100 person and if arriving at Kenya and transiting to Tanzania you'll require a Yellow Fever inoculation and proof of same for entry between the two countries.

With only 11/days in-country, best to stick with one-country only... in this case Kenya where prices are lower, as is Visa and no need for YF inoc (which is rather expensive even if good for 10/yrs).

... and for budgetting purposes, don't forget besides international air, Visa, cost of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, tips for guides and staff, malaria meds and recommended inoculations, trip insurance and Flying Doctor's service. Of course, souvenirs and if you have to purchase any clothing not already in your wardrobe, even camera/s, batteries/charger, binoculars, misc other.

Suggest you get preliminary quotes from African specialists in the States; also some outfitters in Kenya and/or Tanzania. See the KATO site (believe www.kato.org) and/or TATOTZ (at www.tatotz.com [or .org]) for names. Send same requiremtns to 4-5 and see what they recommend and prices. Be sure to compare apples-to-apples.

Feel free to return here for comments and additional help.
Good luck.
sandi is offline  
Jul 28th, 2010, 06:09 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 346
Read my recent report (click on my screen name) on a luxury safari in Kenya and Tanzania where we celebrated a big birthday as well. For the budget you have mentioned you should be able to do 9 to 10 days of an all fly in luxury (and I mean top of the line) safari, just as we did. Once you know where you want to go the key is to understand the following point: most if not all African safari destinations are hurting significantly from the global economic downturn with a fraction of the tourists frequenting the upper end of the camp/lodge spectrum. While this is obviously a generalization I believe its true particularly in East Africa. Do not be afraid to negotiate hard on the price- the asking price is just that- rack rates have not been adequately adjusted downwards to reflect reality and the camps desperately need visitors. Then, deal with a local agent to cut out as many middle men as possible- get several quotes to compare. Finally, negotiate as little money upfront as possible to reduce your risk, and insist upon paying upon arrival- its possible, despite what most agents say, I did it. Flying between destinations in East Africa is, in my opinion, critical for a great safari experience as the roads are generally awful and make for tiring, boring journeys. Using the camp vehicles and guides is highly recommended as opposed to having your own vehicle/guide and driving between destinations, as in my experience, the better camps, have superior guides with local (immediate vicinity) condition knowledge and the vehicles are generally much better than what you get on your own. The ultimate luxury is having a camp private vehicle as you minimize the possibility of having others with you in the vehicle with completely different game viewing desires, but for first timers this is a smaller risk.
AKR1 is offline  
Jul 28th, 2010, 06:55 AM
  #10  
 
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The global economic downturn has not affected South Africa all that much, and South Africa remains the most affordable African safari destination. The key difference is that most lodges in South Africa charge in local currency, while Botswana and East Africa charge in USD.
In the time frame you mentioned, I would consider the month of May, and either in South Africa or Botswana (or both). May offers low season rates in South Africa, and mid-season rates in Botswana (peak season kicks in around June). It is also the start of the dry season, which is good for game viewing. You won't have a problem with extreme heat in May, the temperatures are generally very pleasant.
I completely agree that the quality of the guide is one of the most important things that affect the quality of your safari. At many lodges in South Africa and Botswana, where game drives are included and conducted by the lodge, you will not necessarily know who the guide will be, as most lodges have several guides of different quality. In East Africa and in South Africa's Kruger National Park, you can however book an entire safari with the same guide accompanying you the whole time.
An advantage of Botswana and South Africa is also that you can easily include a trip to Victoria Falls, which is well worth the visit.
Onne from Wild Wings Safaris
wildwings is offline  
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