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"IF" the cost were the same--Would you choose a (luxury) lodge or a (luxury) mobile safari?

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Oct 1st, 2005, 04:35 PM
  #1
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"IF" the cost were the same--Would you choose a (luxury) lodge or a (luxury) mobile safari?

As has been discussed in other threads, $500/pppn might be a value for some or hard to swallow for others. So for discussion, presume either option is "in your budget"

I am trying to be open minded about cost (to a degree), but mainly about having a unique experience. This brought me to my latest "miscellaneous" question

IF the cost were the same -- would you choose a nice lodge or a mobile (luxury) safari? In the mobile safari, there are lovely tents with en suite facilities and I'm sure it wouldn't feel like 'roughing it'.

It would probably be wonderful to relax at a nice lodge that has facilities, but it would also probably be incredible to do the mobile safari. It seems you are probably 'exploring' the same areas/concessions and have the same great safari opportunities.

So if price were not the deciding factor -- what is? Personal preference? Pre-conceived ideas of 'authentic' safaris? Comfort level?

Which would you (or did you) choose and why?
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Oct 1st, 2005, 04:49 PM
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Oh, good question. I am sitting here with my East Africa TC and asked her. She said, "We just made that choice. We chose the camping."

I'm not sure that's what we've done--won't know 'til we return waaayyy next June, but the "camping" in our next itinerary is definitely the pop-goes-the-budget part.

This isn't what you asked, but IF both were in my budget, I'd try to arrange to do a mix of both. On a longer itinerary, it might be nice to have some of the facilities of a lodge or permanent tented camp.

By the way, I know you're going to Botswana, and I did read that recent trip report from the gentleman who returned from a private camping trip there with his son. It sounds fantastic.

I'm interested to see what others say.
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Oct 1st, 2005, 05:17 PM
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Interesting question!

If I could add one other condition--

That the mobile safari would go to the same general locations as the luxury tented camps are in (ie same game viewing), then I'd pick the mobile.

Having done both and really enjoyed both, I think choosing a good location for camping and game viewing is the key.
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Oct 1st, 2005, 05:47 PM
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I would avoid lodges, if you apply that name to a bricks-and-mortar establishment, because they tend to be in more crowded areas, not as "close to true wilderness" (a subjective judgment in some cases), less intimate and more likely to be inflexible regarding such things as meal schedules. I don't like generalising, so I'd have to say there can be exceptions. The title lodge is also applied to 'permanent tented camps' but I don't regard them as true lodges. Those I've stayed at have been in remote areas (usually Botswana) with excellent wildlife experiences, are quite luxurious and pamper their guests extraordinarily, offer intimacy (the degree of which depends on the size of the camp), and more importantly, are very flexible: you don't have to rush away from an interesting sighting because it's dinner time. Meals wait for you. I prefer the ones in private concession areas as opposed to national parks or reserves, so wildlife viewing doesn't have to cease at nightfall. So my choice would be (luxury) tented camp and/or (luxury) mobile safari, in the remotest possible location. Having said that, I've also experienced a variety of comfortable, as opposed to luxury, mobile safaris and been quite happy but they usually don't fit into the price category you mention.
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Oct 2nd, 2005, 03:59 AM
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Hello,

It depends on what you mean by 'lodge' and what you mean by 'mobile'. I'd definitely choose luxury mobile over a big hotel-like lodge like a Serena or Sopa, but not necessarily over a place like Little Vumbura or Savuti.

I agree with Afrigalah about the tented camps -- they offer a great combination of remoteness and being close to nature with luxury amenities. The permanent tented camps in Botswana are my favourites thus far. Being in private concessions is a big plus for night drives and exclusivity.

I would hazard that a permanent tented camp might be better in terms of game-viewing because the guides have had longer to get to know the area and the resident wildlife, UNLESS your guide on the mobile is a real 'old Africa hand' who is very familiar with the specific areas you will be going to. The permanent tented camps may also offer activity options you wouldn't necessarily have on a mobile safari, such as boating, fishing, and mokoring (obviously, this depends on the nature of your mobile -- there are some mobiles which are mokoro based).

The private aspect of the mobile (assuming it is a private safari for just your party) is very appealing to me, though some might find it a bit claustrophobic.

I think Leely has a great idea - do a bit of both. It means that all of your eggs aren't in one basket, so to speak -- since you have about 12 days, you could do six camping and six based in a permanent tented camp. Maybe three nights at a camp, six mobile, and three nights at another camp to finish off. This would also ensure you get a full range of activities in case your mobile doesn't offer water activities.

Cheers,
Julian
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Oct 2nd, 2005, 08:30 AM
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Very interesting perspectives

To compare apples to apples, I would describe lodges as what are probably called 'camps' -- ie. places that accommodate a smaller amount of people, not hotel-like.

I think the permanent tented camps also sound very interesting and that a combo (for most people?) is a good option.

Anyone else?
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Oct 2nd, 2005, 09:58 AM
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I am with Leely on preferring a combo--for me of luxury permanent tent camp and semi-permanent. The permanent camps can offer more facilities (a pool for example) but I think the semi-permanents can give you more of an out-in-the-wilderness feeling. I like Jasher's 3-6-3 scenario.

My own itinerary lacks a luxury permanent camp component and that is the one thing I feel that I am missing (has 2 nights at a moderate permanent camp), includes 5 nights of luxury semi-permanent camping and includes one night at a small luxury lodge.

If I was forced to choose between the two though-I would go with the semi-permanent camp. In my itinerary that means choosing the Nomad camp over say Kusini
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Oct 2nd, 2005, 11:13 AM
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Bat -- your combo itin sounds good Is it Botswana? Did you book it all thru one operator? If yes, which one? Thanks.
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Oct 2nd, 2005, 04:26 PM
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Hi aLadyNCal:
No, it is TZ--because I never get to travel in Feb but can next year, I opted for the Feb calving time for the wildebeest in TZ. I booked with ATR.
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Oct 2nd, 2005, 06:05 PM
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being a "virgin" Africa traveler (that will change in 16 more days) I would be too scared to do the mobile safari, camping in the middle of nowhere with the lions, elephants and everything else that could come through the tent with nothing but a zipper to protect you! I'm having mild panic attacks just thinking of our 3 night stay at Chongwe! (if I see the elephant with the one blue eye that is in my dreams every night grabbing me through the tent, I think I will die!) But after reading the reports about the mobile safaris, especially the one with the man and his nephew in Botswana, I think I could do it next time, just not my first safari!
Dennis
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Oct 2nd, 2005, 06:34 PM
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ALadyNCal,

I have had a little experience with tented permanent camps, though I am mainly in smallish luxury lodges. My experience with tented camps was up to September 2001 so things may have changed since then.

I found the tents to be fairly poorly lit even during the day, some worse than others, but my main problem was the heat especially during the day. We couldn't even sit in them in the middle of the day. I am from a hot humid state in Australia, but you can normally move around the house to be in a cooler position, but in a smallish tent that is not so easy as to sit outside leaves me open for mosquitoes, and having had dengue fever from a daytime mosquitoe, I cannot risk that!
Winter may be different, but I certainly still prefer the lodge with airconditioning, especially when I go there in December.
My main aim is gameviewing, but during summer when I have more free time, I need to be comfortable. The few times I have gone to a tented permanent camp I have also been very disappointed with the gameviewing, Kusini in Tanzania comes to mind. Gameviewing due to rains was approx. 4 hours to it and then the return 4 hour trip. I also feel that animals that do not have regular vehicle sightings, are not as relaxed and I do not mean the 20 vehicles that surround a single cat in the Serengeti, that is as off putting as not being able to get within a reasonable distance of what you are viewing!

Next year I am thinking a little of going to some of the Kwando camps and if I go as a single, I need to go prior to 31 March and the thing that really puts me off is the heat when I am not gameviewing and if after the 31 March, the dreaded single supplement.

Kaye
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Oct 2nd, 2005, 09:23 PM
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Kaye,

You've either been uncommonly unlucky or made poor choices of safari destinations. In nine years of safaris, I've never been disappointed with the wildlife-viewing. The best times for me have always been in tented camps.

As for the weather, you can't do much about that. It would be impossible or prohibitively expensive to air-condition tents. Most of us wouldn't want to hear the sound of air-conditioning anyway. Even under big shady trees, tents are going to be warm, uncomfortably so for some individuals at certain times of the year. As for lighting, we (in our 60s, with doubtful eyesight) read books and write up our journal or photo notes in our tents during siesta.

The odds are that tented camps are going to be in better wildlife areas (among other things, less crowded with people) than many lodges, but the viewing is usually best during the drier and/or hotter months. So you may be restricted to air-conditioned lodges, second-best in my view, unless a Kwando camp or similar with really big tents and an outlook over an expanse of water does the trick for you.

The single supplement at the best time of year is then the problem, of course. I paid it gladly on my first few safaris; the result was worth it. I'd suggest you try to get the supplement waived. I wouldn't hold my breath, but you might be lucky (I've known it to be done). You could also get around the problem by going with a friend or rellie and sharing a tent. Then go to a place like Kwando in June or July, still good viewing but before the weather warms up. Or even my favourite, Selinda, now that they are upgrading to bigger tents. You've seen the photos. You could hardly be disappointed.

cheers,
John
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Oct 3rd, 2005, 12:56 PM
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Kaye,

If you want to avoid the single supplement, I'd suggest looking into CCAfrica's camps -- they do not charge a single supplement. Their properties are of a very high standard and usually include a fan and in some cases A/C.

Fortunately for those of us who don't care for very hot weather, things have changed a bit since your last permanent tented camp experience -- many permanent tented camps in hot areas have fans in the rooms to alleviate the heat. Many Wilderness 5-paw (and all 6-paw) camps fall into this category.

As of September 2005, the Kwando camps did not have fans or A/C so they may not be your best choice if you are heat sensitive.

Cheers,
Julian
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Oct 3rd, 2005, 01:36 PM
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Julian,

You're way ahead of me there. Sounds like it would solve Kaye's problem. Do those camps have generators going for long periods, or do they have something special in the way of solar generation and storage?

cheers,
John
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Oct 3rd, 2005, 02:22 PM
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Hi Afrigalah,

The generators are run whilst you are out on game drives, and the fans are powered off an invertor system when you get back to camp. This seems to give the best of both worlds - no noise when you are in camp, and electricity available when needed. It is possible for the electricity on the invertors to run out (e.g. if everyone is running their fans all afternoon) but in my experience it hasn't happened. The important thing is to remember to turn the fan off when you leave the room to avoid using electricity when it's not needed.

At some of the camps you can even charge batteries etc in your room (Duma Tau) whereas at others which are a bit more rustic you have to charge them off a power strip at the bar (Little Vumbura). I believe hairdryers aren't an option at any of the camps because they draw too much power (I don't use one, so I'm not sure).

Cheers,
Julian
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Oct 3rd, 2005, 02:23 PM
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Oh yes, and there are solar panels for heating water for showers and stuff. Not sure how they interact with the invertor system, though.

Cheers,
Julian
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Oct 3rd, 2005, 04:18 PM
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Julian,

Yes, fans wouldn't be a problem, hardly more than the large quantity of camera batteries we need to recharge (Selinda's lounge/bar area has at least three power sockets which can be used for that).

Like you, I've not heard of hairdryers being allowed, and for that reason had never given a thought to air-conditioning. Aircons draw so much power I would have thought it wouldn't be enough to run generators only when you're out on game drives.

I think you'd have to pay me to go to a camp with generators running a lot of the time, especially to power something I don't like using much. Ugghhh! I even feel a bit guilty enjoying the camp comforts I've grown used to in Africa.

They're "improving" all the time. As we found at Selinda, Zib and Kwando, the water heating is now both gas and solar, so you can have a hot shower any time of day or night (unless the wind stops the gas from igniting). When I go camping in Australia, it's a one-man tent which falls down in a strong wind, a spade or shovel for a toilet, and sharing space with 'roos, birds, scorpions and reptiles...sheer bliss!

cheers,
John
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Oct 3rd, 2005, 08:55 PM
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Thank you for your responses John & Julian,

I am off to Londolozi in Dec of this year, my first time at a CCA lodge - only Founders was available when I booked, and, someone mentioned a lot of kids may be at Founders, it may have been you Julian, so I desperately tried to change it but was unable to do so. I have only been as a single once, and I was lucky enough to get the single supplement waived. I love MalaMala in the Sabi Sands, I know that it is not everyone's favourite, but it is mine so I am very keen to also be at Londolozi this December as I will see a lot of the same animals that I view at MalaMala. When I see what Londolozi is like I maybe a lot more interested in the 2 CCA camps in Botswana. I suppose the rangers there would also have excellent knowledge on family of all their regular cats that have territories within their reserve.

I only started this safari going in May 2000, but this will be my 9th one so maybe next year will be a good time to return to Botswana as I was last there in Sept 2001.

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Oct 3rd, 2005, 10:30 PM
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Kaye, all I can say about nine safaris in 5 or so years is: well done! I wish I could achieve that rate. You can't have been all that disappointed

Londolozi interests me, has done so ever since I earned second prize in a travel agent's photo comp after my first safari: about the only decent photo I took on that trip was rewarded with Lex Hes' book "The Leopards of Londolozi".

cheers,
John
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Oct 5th, 2005, 03:02 PM
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Hello Kaye,

Londoz is a wonderful camp. There are some leopards and lions whose territory overlaps both Londoz and MalaMala, but there are also some animals whose territory lies entirely within Londoz. The rangers are very knowledgable about the family histories and relationships of the local cats -- if you particularly love leopard, you may want to request Maxine Scott as your ranger. I spent five days with Maxine in July, and it was a wonderful safari -- she is the Londoz leopard expert and knows everything there is to know about the cats at Londoz.

I was the one who commented on the kids at Founders -- you may get lucky and there won't be any. CCA is quite good about minimising the impact of kids on other people's experience, but some things are hard to control. If you let the management know (preferably in advance) that you're concerned about this and would prefer a child-free safari, they'll do their best to accommodate you.

Londoz does have A/C, but I was not aware of noise from the generators, except in one case where the A/C unit itself was faulty (I was upgraded to a suite since the fault couldn't be fixed immediately).

Just a note -- Londolozi, like all CCA camps, does not have a single supplement. Any agent who charges one is running a scam.

Cheers,
Julian

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