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

Mar 1st, 2008, 06:11 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
Changing your flight to include TZ might add even more costs than the Joburg-Arusha flight and nights/drives in there, making it less appealing.

You'd be flying into the country so any customs procedures would be done at the airport.

Unless you have your heart set on Ngorongoro, you can concentrate on SA and have a great safari.

I haven't heard much about Shamwari, but all the places look great on the website. There are many good options for you. That's the wonderful thing about Africa.

Good work on the husband. Mine might never go, so I always go without him.
atravelynn is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2008, 09:11 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 145
Thank you for all the information. I didn't realize that we couldn't go from one game reserve to another without flying back to Johannesburg first, so leaving South Africa will not be an option.

I chose late January because that was as far forward as the airlines would book at this point for frequent flyer seats, and I didn't want to chance waiting for a later date in case I wouldn't be able to secure the seats. (...or that my husband would change his mind!)

Now that I'm confirmed, should I keep trying to change to February or March, or is January just as good in terms of animal sightings and weather? I am flexible with travel time between mid-January and early March.

One more thing...is it better to stay in just one park for 4-5 days, or visit two parks for 3 days each? My inclination is to visit two because it is almost impossible to to choose just one.

If I choose two, which would offer the best combination of experiences? At this point, I am torn among MalaMala at Main Camp or Rattray's, Phinda at Vlei or Forest, and Sabi Sands at Exeter Leadwood.

I am so appreciative of all your input. Thank you again.
Elaine22 is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2008, 12:27 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 5,215
FWIW, If it's 4 days I'd probably do one camp MM for 4 days. If you can swing 6 days/nights, I'd do MM for 3 and Leopard Hills for 3 (Leopard Hills also in Sabi Sand Reserve and also a few more $$). I have been to both camps.

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2008, 06:51 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
Check out these for best wildlife viewing throughout the year



Rain in Johannesburg is (inches)
4.5 Jan
3.8 Feb
2.9 Mar
Nov is rainiest at 4.6

Rain in Duban is (inches)
5.1 Jan
4.5 Feb
5.3 Mar, rainiest month

There is another good reason to visit two places. For example at Mala Mala, lions are normally sighted frequently, but pride dynamics were in flux during my visit and I saw only one mating pair. I was able to see a coalition of 3 males at the next reserve.

If you start at Phinda, I believe you can get to MM without an overnight in Joburg, but if you start at MM, you have to o/nt in Joburg. Don't know what the cost of that flight from Phinda to MM is though. An agent can help you with it.

You may be able to drive between Exeter and Mala Mala.

MM Main Camp or Rattrays?--let your budget and desire for luxury dictate. It is the same reserve.
Main Camp is very, very nice and not low budget or cheap. You don't have to upgrade to Rattray's to assure decent accommodations or food.

Vlei or Forest--again let budget and desire for luxury dictate. They are a couple of minutes by vehicle from each other. You can definitely walk around the paths at the more moderately priced Forest Lodge.

If you have 6 nights, I'd do 3 and 3 at two locations.

If you have 4-5 nts, then I'd do all at MM and if you are curious about the different MM accommodations and don't mind packing and unpacking, split your stay between Main Camp and Rattrays. Many of the MM regulars who post here do this.

Any of the places that have made your final round would be wonderful, whether alone or in combo. With them you will "get it right!"
atravelynn is offline  
Mar 4th, 2008, 06:16 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,859
TC is offline  
Mar 4th, 2008, 07:37 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 145
I was finally able to change our departure and we are flying home from Johannesburg, avoiding backtracking to Cape Town to fly home. Interestingly, we are being routed through Sao Paulo. I was also able to add a few days to our vacation, so now we have time to spend 3 days at each of two different lodges, and still have time for a trip to Victoria Falls. Is it safe to go to the Zimbabwe side, which is the prettier side of the falls?

I am now in touch with a lovely lady from CC Africa who is helping me, but I still haven't been able to narrow my choices to two when so many look so fabulous. I have to admit, that for this once in a lifetime experience, I want both great game viewing and luxury. I just don't want to go totally overboard with spending, like at Singita, which admittedly looks heavenly and does win top awards.

If I go to two lodges in Sabi Sands, Exeter Leadwood and Rattray's at MalaMala are in consideration right now. If I stay in Sabi Sands for just one of them, (and it will be tough to eliminate one), I may go to Phinda to either Rock or Vlei Lodge.

So many of you have made such a good case for your favourite camps or lodges, that I am stymied. I think it won't be logistically economical to fit in Ngorongoro. And I don't think January is migration time anyway, but I could be completely wrong about that.

By the way, what, if any, are the advantages of staying at CC Africa Lodges?

Elaine22 is offline  
Mar 5th, 2008, 06:34 AM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 105
Hi, Elaine,

We've been to many of the CCA properties and while there are other excellent properties around, we've found that the staff at CCA is consistantly well trained, gracious and create a family-like atmosphere. Also, CCA is environmentally and community oriented. We have had good luck with details like transfers and overall never had a bad experience. I think you'd be pleased.
debwarr is offline  
Mar 5th, 2008, 07:38 AM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 266
I would concur that in my (admittedly limited) experience CCA does a phenomenal job at selecting and training great employees - as an example, and making the whole experience flawless. For example, they were in communication with our (non-Leadwood employee) driver, so that we were met immediately as our car pulled into camp by several members of the staff welcoming us with cold lemonade, cool cloths, etc. Anything we asked for was done with a smile. Our ranger and tracker at Leadwood were also walking encyclopedias of knowledge, and so passionate and excited about their jobs and providing a great experience for guests. They were as excited as we were for the great sightings we had. I also like that the camps tend to be small, which promotes that unstuffy "family-like" feeling that debwarr mentioned.

One note about Leadwood, though - be aware that the game vehicle holds eight guests, so if the camp is full, 1-2 people will be in middle seats. I thought I would find this annoying, but didn't...we really enjoyed and bonded with our fellow guests, and it was never hard to see. I can see how that might be bothersome to a die-hard photographer, though. BTW, I was so pleased with my experience with CCA at Leadwood that I am returning to Africa this year and will be staying at three additional CCA properties in Tanzania.

Re Vic Falls, I stayed on the Zambia side and wished I'd stayed on the Zimbabwe side. We did a day trip to the Zim side and found it perfectly safe and Zimbabweans working in the tourism industry were very happy to see us. As for the view, it was definitely better from the Zim side, but we were there in early September - I am not sure what the flow is like in January.
hlg22 is offline  
Mar 5th, 2008, 07:51 AM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 266
Just thought of another CCA advantage - they often offer 4 nights for the price of 3, and that can be split between multiple properties. So if you stayed 3 nights at Leadwood, and 3 at Phinda for example, you would only be paying for 5 total nights instead of 6. 4 of the other guests we met at Leadwood had taken advantage of that and also stayed at Phinda or Ngala. I'm not sure that deal would be offered this far in advance for January '09, but it is something to ask your CCA contact about.
hlg22 is offline  
Mar 20th, 2008, 11:22 AM
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Posts: 145
I have looked at the charts which suggest the best time to visit the various areas for wildlife. On the Born Free Guide, the time that we booked (early February), is rated as the worst possible time for Kruger and the private reserves, with the best places being Serengeti South and Manyara/Crater, with Masai Mara a close second. The African Adventure chart is not as bleak for the private reserves in South Africa, but horrible for Kruger. Does that mean we should stay in a reserve as far away from Kruger as possible, or change our focus for where we should stay?

We will probably have 4 nights/5 days after, or before, visiting Victoria Falls, depending on the logistics of travel, before heading to Johannesburg for our flight home. We could really fit in an extra day, but we would like to stay at fairly high end lodges, and the cost per day is a factor.

Is it worth shortening the Cape Town/Garden Route/Wineland part of the visit to use extra travel time to go the South Serengeti reserves, or will we do just fine at places such as Phinda Mountain or Forest, or Exeter Kirkman's or Leadwood, or Ngala Tented? I would like to stay with CC Africa properties since they offer a fourth night free.

I have added some time to our trip since I first posted, so depsite my original heading, we can can visit 2 reserves for the added experience, as long as they are not too difficult to get to - i.e. one from the other.

I wish this were easier.
Elaine22 is offline  
Mar 20th, 2008, 08:48 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
The reason it is not easy is because there are many good choices.

Take a look at what people have experienced in the private reserves of Sabi Sands and in Kruger during Feb by checking out the reports on the Southern Africa Index.

I think the reason the private reserves are rated better than Kruger in Feb is not their location, but how the game viewing is done. There is radio contact among rangers, vehicles cannot crowd around sightings, and there are only so many guests in each private concession. So regardless of weather, the overall game viewing is never poor even if conditions make it tougher.

If you are going to do CC Africa, then I'd do Phinda Forest and/or Mountain and combine it with the least expensive of the CC Africa Sabi Sands options.

To include the Serengeti, you would want at least 3 nights in the Ndutu area. With travel that is at least 4 if not 5 days. I have a feeling that taking 5 days out of your itinerary would mean no wine country. With your amount of time, I don't think the Serengeti works well. With lots more time, it would be worth considering.

You'll have a fantastic trip with the two locations in South Africa.
atravelynn is offline  
Mar 20th, 2008, 10:58 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 1
Trying to squeeze SA and Tanzania into one trip probably isn't the best way to spend your time and money.

My husband and I have been to southern Africa several times in the past 2 years - in SA for 2 weeks on the first trip, and in a combo of SA, Bots, Zim and Namibia for the next 2 trips (each 2 weeks).

We didn't mind jumping on charter flights and switching camps every couple of nights on the last two trips. But for our first safari, we liked spending 4 nights in one place (MM Main Camp), getting to know our ranger and other people at the camp, as well as starting to recognize the leopards and lions in the area. You lose some of that by switching camps every 2 nights.

If you want to try different camps, I recommend 3 nights each. CCA makes it really easy to transfer between their camps.

In May, we stayed at Phinda Vlei and Forest. We were supposed to stay at Forest for 4 nights, but got upgraded to Vlei for 2 nights and liked it better. Vlei is much smaller, which we liked. Another selling point for Vlei is that the elephants show up at suite #6 to drink out of the plunge pool in the afternoon. We weren't lucky enough to get suite #6, but we saw the eles drinking as we drove into camp from the airstrip. Since you are going in the rainy season, the eles may not need to drink out of the pool - you should ask.

I highly recommend the Zimbabwe side of Vic Falls. The people are wonderful and extremely appreciative of our business. I highly recommend staying at Matetsi for a few nights. It's a CCA camp located on the Zambezi River (Zim side) and is such a great value - huge suites with plunge pools overlooking the river, for half the price of the CCA camps in SA and Bots. You can go on a morning game drive, have breakfast and then drive into town (CCA provides free transport - its an hour drive). You are usually in town for 3-4 hours, long enough to see the falls and do some shopping. You are back at camp in time for an evening game drive or river cruise. We had great elephant viewing last month on the cruise - the eles were playing in the river.
cali_traveler is offline  
Mar 21st, 2008, 06:40 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 8,675
I'm late to this thread and though I do not recommend visiting both Southern and Eastern Africa in one trip unless you have minimum three weeks, for you with such a busy schedule in SA, I'd just stay south.

Yes, East Africa is excellent in Feb, with visits to Ngorongoro (1/nt) and Ndutu area for the migration (min 3/nts) this would entail using, at minimum 5+/days out of your African visit. The + indicating you'll probably have to o/n in JNB before catching flight next morning to Tanzania at either DAR, JRO or even NBO. It's a 4/hr flight. Then getting to the Crater or Ndutu areas.

"so many places not enough time."

Though you currently think this will be your only trip to Africa, if you're in anyway like most who thought the same "you'll be back."

sandi is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2008, 02:15 AM
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 448
I agree with Sandi (who has a lot of experience) and the others about not using up your time going to East Africa when you must be down in SA to see relatives.

Last year we went all over, going to SA, Namibia and Tanzania over a month and it wasn't the best arrangement. We ended up going back to overnight at Joburg airport several times and the money spent on air... oh, don't get me started.

Transferring from Phinda to Mala Mala as I recall was pricey and not simple. Our own personal experience -- Mala Mala was fantastic and Phinda Vlei was a bit of a disappointment. We'd return to Mala Mala (Rattrays) in a heartbeat, that place is very well run. We also had wonderful viewing at Singita Boulders on a previous trip.

When we first went to Africa five years ago we also thought it would be our only trip there. It's a big club of us and you might also end up joining it.
Clematis1 is offline  
Apr 27th, 2008, 06:37 PM
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Well, it's been over a month since I've posted here and I am still not settled. As sometimes happens, life got in the way of making travel plans.

What I have determined, though, is that we will only be able to go to one game lodge or camp, and spend three or possibly four days there, because the travel logistics are just too time consuming and difficult to contend with, especially for my husband, (the relunctant traveller).

I am willing to go to about $600.00 PP per day, but I think I have to draw the line there. That doesn't even include taxes and tips.

That rate would include Kirkman's Kamp, Sabi Sabi Little Bush Lodge, Phinda - Forest and Mountain, and Exeter - River and Dulini. MalaMala Main Camp is already over my limit at $645.00 PP for 2009.

What to do, what to do, what to do! Six great choices and I'm totally stuck. I must make a decision soon. I know that each of these lodges has it's loyal fans, but does anyone have anything to say against choosing any of the lodges on my narrowed down list? I hate to be negative, but maybe the only way to decide is to eliminate them one by one until there is only one left.

Help! I may not qualify to be a damsel, but I sure am in distress over this. Suggestions anyone?
Elaine22 is offline  
Apr 28th, 2008, 06:35 AM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 504
CC Africa often runs a stay 4 nights pay for 3. If that would help your budget, then you might want to consider using them. That would be Exeter.

Although we have been on safari, we have not stayed in South Africa before. We are going in November and will stay in Namibia then Phinda Rock ( a CC Africa property with stay 4 pay for 3 nights) and then Londolozi -- which is family run and in the Sabi Sands.

We worked with Rhino Africa and did not pay rack rates for the stay. Depending on the camp, we did get discounts from what you see on the internet. The person we worked with there is Leigh-Ann and so far we have been happy. They have a toll free number from the US but I am not sure that works in Canada.

This is our third trip to Africa. We have not been disappointed in any trip. Once you are there with the animals in their native environment, it is just fascinating. We have not seen cheetah or rhino before so we are going to places that we have a good chance of seeing them.

You can never do everything as much as we all want to. Just know that every place you are considering is fascinating and will be a great experience.

I have never regretted money we have spent on travel. Several years ago, I was losing my job -- the company had been bought -- and so I decided to gp to Australia and New Zealand -- I met my husband hiking here before I went and he asked me if I was concerned spending all that money with no job here -- I told him I had done the numbers and the worst case scenario was that I would become a bag lady a couple of weeks sooner. I went and came back and we ended up married with a good life.
mpkp is offline  
Apr 28th, 2008, 10:36 AM
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would go on a robin pope safari to the south luangwa at the end of the dry season.
Apr 28th, 2008, 04:28 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
See if Phinda works with that get a night free scheme. Forest and Mountain are the more economical choices.

Elephant Plains in Sabi Sands gets good reviews. Idube in Sabi Sands was put on par or above with Mala Mala in a recent report. I'd try either of those two.

atravelynn is offline  
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