If you had to choose only one safari experience....

Feb 29th, 2008, 08:22 PM
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If you had to choose only one safari experience....

If time constraints allowed for just one incredible safari experience, what should it be? And if two were possible.....? Unfortunately this will be my one and only visit to the continent, (next January), so I need to get it right.

So far I have been considering the following:
1) Shamwari - Eagle's Craig, 2) Kwandwe - Great Fish River Lodge, (both malaria free), 3) Sabi Sands - Exeter Leadwood, 4) Phinda - Vlei Lodges.

Does anyone have comments about these or any I haven't, but should have mentioned? I am looking for a combination of great game viewing, and luxury.
Elaine22 is offline  
Feb 29th, 2008, 08:57 PM
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Oh, I forgot one of my considerations - 6) Ngorongoro, althugh it may be just a bit too expensive.
Elaine22 is offline  
Feb 29th, 2008, 10:10 PM
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One more thing - MalaMala is another option, although I don't know which lodge.

Normally I wouldn't be asking for help when the trip is such a long way off, but I need to book my flights right away, since I want to travel on points, and which city I depart from depends on which game reserve I end up in.

Thank you for any advice you can give me.

Elaine22 is offline  
Mar 1st, 2008, 12:18 AM
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Hi Elaine22

I wasn't going to reply to this, as I have no experience of these places, except Shamwari but a long time ago!

Then you mentioned MalaMala! I would definitely choose Rattray's at MalaMala - fantastic gameviewing and very luxurious! In my opinion, you will not do any better! Also very easy to get to from Jo'burg.

You don't mention a time but I am one who prefers to stay in one place, so staying a week at Rattray's would be a dream!

Kind regards

KayeN is offline  
Mar 1st, 2008, 03:23 AM
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Kaye, thanks so much for replying. I was afraid nobody would answer. I noticed in another post that you took your nieces - what a wonderful auntie you are.

We are going in January, 2009. Since this will be our only trip, ever, to Africa, do you think we should also visit a second reserve for a varied experience?
Elaine22 is offline  
Mar 1st, 2008, 03:40 AM
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If I knew I would have only one visit to Africa I'd combine Rwanda for the Gorillas with East Africa. That's what I did in 2003. Of course my one visit turned into 2 and soon to be 3! Once you've been there you seem to always find a way to go back again!
Lillipets is offline  
Mar 1st, 2008, 04:37 AM
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Hi Elaine22

I am also going in January 2009 with an 18 year old niece. For the first time for a long time I am including another camp, but I can fly from one to the other without missing a gamedrive - most important to me. We are also visiting Mashatu in Botswana for 6 nights sort of in the middle of our MalaMala visit!

So that may be an option for you!

Kind regards

KayeN is offline  
Mar 1st, 2008, 06:15 AM
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I was at Exeter Leadwood last year and thought it was the perfect mix of luxury and fabulous gameviewing. My trip report with a detailed review & pictures can be found here: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=35068300. How much time will you have on safari? We met other guests at Leadwood who had combined their time with stays at Phinda or Ngala, and had really enjoyed those visits as well.
hlg22 is offline  
Mar 1st, 2008, 06:42 AM
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For your first trip, I would vote for Exeter and Phinda. At Exeter you should have some excellent leopard sightings, at Phinda cheetah and rhino (and perhaps serval), and lots of other animals including the rest of the big five at both.

If you go in January, Phinda may be running their night turtle watches on the beach. If you are lucky, it's an incredible experience. In November 2006 we saw a loggerhead coming out of the water on her way to lay eggs and watched a leatherback lay her eggs and then walked back to the ocean with her. In January, the hatchlings will be digging out and heading for the sea.
tuckeg is offline  
Mar 1st, 2008, 06:54 AM
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I second Rattray's or Mala Mala Main Camp. We had incredible viewing at Mombo Camp, however Mala Mala certainly offers the best website to "get to know" some of the lions and leopards before you go and stay in touch when you return. The service, guides and lodging were all excellent, who cares about paying for a coke. The Big Five are sighted nearly everyday, and as KayeN said, it is easy to get to.

There will be many suggestions, so my other suggestion is to check out Wildnerness Safaris website and the Mala Mala Website to see what suits you best.

Regardless, you will enjoy a trip of a lifetime!

ShellCat is offline  
Mar 1st, 2008, 06:57 AM
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We will have almost three weeks (less travelling time),in total, which includes several days in Cape Town with some relatives, driving along the Garden Route, and then spending a few days in Plettenburg with them at their timeshare. After that we will be on our own.

I imagine we will have about a week to visit game reserves including travel time. The expense may hold us back from spending quite so much time, though, since we do want a luxury experience. (At least I do!) Perhaps a 2 night stay in one lodge and a 3 night stay in another would work.

The relatives we are staying with only do self drives in Kruger National Park, so can't help with our choices. They suggested Shamwari because it is close to Plettenburg and malaria free, but I would rather pick the best game reserves even if they are farther away.

Does anyone think Shamwari is a good choice, since we will be only a two hour drive away, before going north to another reserve, or should we leave the Cape right after Plettenburg and visit a couple of reserves such a MM or Phinda or Ngorongoro to get more or better variety.

There are so many threads extolling so many lodges that we are really having a hard time deciding.

I haven't heard too much about Ngorongoro. It seems like a fascinating place. Anything from anyone on that?

If we go north to other reserves, we will want to change our flight, (which will not be easy), so that we can leave from Johanessburg rahter than backtracking all the way back to Cape Town to fly home,(Toronto,Canada). Unfortunately, that may not be possible, in which case we'll have to lose a precious day at the end of our trip.

If we can make a change, maybe it is better to do the safaris at the beginning, and end up in Plettenburg. Will going toward the end of January versus the first half of February make a difference in sitings and weather?

Thanks again, everyone.
Elaine22 is offline  
Mar 1st, 2008, 07:39 AM
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If I only could do one safari it would be nothern Tanzania including Ngorogoro, but far better(that is my experience) the Serengeti.... Havenīt been to top the other places you are conseidering but in Serengeti(which is just a few hours away from Ngorongoro) you will see the biggest thing nature has to offer.. The Migration!! Nothing beats that, and I doubt that it will be more expensive than doing the places you are considering..
jesron is offline  
Mar 1st, 2008, 07:47 AM
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If you are already going to be in South Africa and only have a week for safari, I would stay there - travel to Tanzania to get to Ngorongoro would eat up a lot of time.
hlg22 is offline  
Mar 1st, 2008, 09:10 AM
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Hlg22, are you advising that we stay in South Africa, and go up to game reserves such as Sabi Sands or MalaMala, but just not go to Tanzania? Or are you suggesting that we stay down in the southern part and visit Shamwari and/or Kwandwe only? Sorry I wasn't clear on what you meant.

How many days would we need to have sufficient time to travel more extensively? If we shaved off a couple of days in the Cape Town/Garden Route/Plettenburg portion, would that do it?

I guess I am trying to fit in as much as possible because this will be the only opportunity I will have to get to Africa.
Elaine22 is offline  
Mar 1st, 2008, 09:32 AM
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I just meant stay in South Africa. I'm not familiar with Shamwari, etc. but it was easy enough to get from Cape Town to Sabi Sands - we left Cape Town in the morning and were at Leadwood in time for the afternoon game drive. To get to Ngorongoro I believe would take you a full day of travel each way.

hlg22 is offline  
Mar 1st, 2008, 11:35 AM
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I would agree with hlg22 and omit The Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania if you have about one week for safari activities. Logistically it does not make sense and is not the best use of your travel time or transportation costs.

But you are in Africa to see once in a lifetime sights not be efficient, so I also included a plan that could incorporate the crater.

You mention some areas are malaria-free, but I assume that is not a requirement. None of my suggestions include malaria-free areas.

I'd do one of the following. These are listed in no particular order:

Your whole stay: Mala Mala Main Camp in Sabi Sands (never been to Exeter have been to MM)


3-4 nights Phinda Forest Lodge
3-4 nights MM Main Camp
Nothing against the higher end Phinda Vlei, but Phinda's Forest Lodge is gorgeous and has won awards for beauty & eco qualitites and is less expensive. It is in the unique sand forest and not far from Vlei. There are safe trails to walk around and antelope (including the beautiful nyala) and monkeys that meander about. I spent a week at Forest, but no other Phinda property.


If you can carve out more time in your itinerary for more safari days instead of other activities:

3 nights at MM and 3 nights at Phinda as shown above, then head up to Tanzania as shown below:

1-arrival in Arusha
2-3 at Ngorongoro--I prefer Sopa for the private access road. Serena is supposed to be nicer and Wildlife Lodge is less expensive and I thought it was fine.
4 Leave Ngorongoro early to get back to Arusha in time for your eve flight home.

You might feel more rushed and like it was more of a whirlwind, and the roads will likely be bumpy and uncomfortable, but what's worse? All your life wishing you had seen the World Heritage Site of Ngorongoro Crater with one of the highest--if not the highest--animal concentrations of large mammals on the continent? Or being rushed and bouncing on a bumpy road?


3-4 nights MM
about 4 days allotted to do Ngorongoro

If you had not mentioned that you wanted to see Ngorongoro, I would not have added it to a South Africa itinerary. I don't feel unless you've seen the crater you haven't seen Africa. But it's about what YOU feel is a must see in Africa.

I've been to all the places I mentioned, some more than once, and any of these combos would leave you feeling you did indeed "get it right."

They also will leave you feeling that you want to go back--whether physically or through memories and photos of a great trip.

atravelynn is offline  
Mar 1st, 2008, 02:36 PM
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We just got back from Tanzania & Kenya, and I would skip Ngorongoro Crater if you're in South Africa. I know it's a World Heritage Site, but I don't think it's worth the transportation hassle. We were there two nights at the Serena...one game drive in the Crater...and it was not the highlight of our trip. (See Trip Report: Kenya: Amboseli 1st...actually wait a few days because I just posted the Serengeti part and I will write the Crater report next}
barefootbeach is offline  
Mar 1st, 2008, 02:44 PM
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Are you limited to southern Africa?

If not, without hesitation, I would recommend the Serengeti/Masai Mara -- depending on which park is better in January.

I have been on six safaris, and have visited most of Africa's major parks, and my first safari was to the Masai Mara, and I saw more there than I likely have seen in all of my safaris since. And while I don't like to revisit places, if I was to revisit an African park, it would without question be the Serengeti/Masai Mara.

But, if you're limited to southern Africa, you've gotten great advice from others.
thit_cho is offline  
Mar 1st, 2008, 02:45 PM
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Thank you so much, atravelynn, (love your "handle"), for taking the time to advise me in such detail.

A bumpy road wouldn't be a deterrent. (How bumpy is it??) It is only the lack of time plus the cost of adding a third safari that would be problematic.

If I can change my return flight to Johanessburg, perhaps add an extra day to the trip and spend less time in the Cape, I might be able to swing it.

It is interesting that not one person recommended Shamwari, and it looked so lovely on the web site. But there must be a reason that the majority opt for MalaMala, Sabi Sands and others of that ilk in the north and east.

If we do cross into Tanzania, are there border controls that would be time consuming, or is it just the distance combined with the lack of good roads? Likely we'll have to forgo the crater. I am just happy to take this trip - a dream of mine for many years, but it took that long to convince my husband.

Thanks again, to those who replied. At least, I am narrowing down my choices. It is really hard to choose when everything is so enticing and people are so fervent in their likes.
Elaine22 is offline  
Mar 1st, 2008, 03:11 PM
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You mention border control and bad roads....Tanzania is thousands of miles north of South Africa so the problem is that you would have to fly from Sabi Sands back to Johannesburg, probobly have to overnight to take a plane to Tanzania ...so can add a couple of days each way..depending on how much time you have and money, trying to put together a trip to both countries at the same time could be difficut
barryozed is offline  

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