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Initial SA safari plan coming together - comments welcome

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Jan 9th, 2006, 07:26 AM
  #1
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Initial SA safari plan coming together - comments welcome

OK, you safari gurus out there - thanks for all your help so far. My girlfriend and I have decided that South Africa is where we want to safari, focusing on Sabi Sands (and perhaps North Kruger Park if we have to go downbudget for a bit) - we like the open vehicles. We want to spend 3 to 4 nights in each camp. We can go anytime we want and have read that July, Aug, September is the dry season (but is winter there)and one can see the animals better then. We do not want to drive ourselves anywhere, so flying or driving transfers will be the order of the day.
We are Big Cat fans but might want to throw in one luxurious place with a spa.
Here are the camps we are considering:
MalaMala - seems to be a "must do" because of the game. 3-4 nights
Londolozi - 2-3 nights -leaning towards Bateluer or the Tree Camp
Lion Sands Camp 3-4 nights This one is less expensive so would help us not spend part of our retirement on this trip! Anyone been here?

We are figuring an average of $500USD pppn for a safari budget of $5,0000 for 10 days.
plus figuring in a 10% rise in prices for '07. We are figuring $2500RT pp for the airfare from SFO to Johannesburg.

Questions: Is the July, Aug, September time frame the best time for game viewing or did I read that wrong?

Once you get from Johannesburg to, say MalaMala, do you puddle hop to the other camps or can one arrange a drive. We are of the opinion that it is better to spend money than time to get the most use out of the camps, but if I'm wrong in that, please correct me.

Last Question for this post: We are considering ending our trip in Cape Town, but if it is winter there, would one go to the beach? The wine lands hold no allure for us, but hiking, exploring town, history and flopping on a beach do hold allure.

Comments appreciated from all - and as some of you have pointed out, I HAVE been devouring this board for info to help me narrow it down. Thank you all again for your help so far.

Just as an aside, I know I will return to Africa for other countries, but I doubt if my girlfriend will be able to.
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Jan 9th, 2006, 07:43 AM
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We spent 6 nights in Cape Town followed by three in the Winelands - we didn't think we'd be particularly wowed by the Winelands as we pop over to our neighbour, France, pretty often and love touring the wine regions there.

We were there in May which is the start of winter, I believe, and experienced mostly sunny and dry weather - not too cold to our UK minds.

There is tonnes to do in Cape Town and the surrounding area
- if you're into hiking you should definitely look into the various different walk/ hikes up the Table Mountain
- you have all the regular tourist sites including Robben Island, Greenpoint Market (and the one in downtown the name of which I forget) and lots in the centre of Cape Town itself
- A tour of the peninsula is a must including a visit to the Boulders Beach penguin colony and the Cape Point and lots lots more - a full day for sure
- Even if you're not into wine (I am totally not) the landscapes of the Winelands are stunning - the Franshhoek Pass and similar views blew us away
- we're not into this but shark diving in/ near Hermanus is quite a popular activity
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Jan 9th, 2006, 07:46 AM
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Londoz and Lion Sands in particular are relatively easy driving distances from Mala Mala. I'm pretty sure that Lion Sands uses the Mala Mala airstrip.
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Jan 9th, 2006, 07:51 AM
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Are you considering stays at all of Mala Mala, Londolozi AND Lion Sands? The Sabi Sands is one reserve, and with that plan, you'll just be moving camps within the same reserve. I understand the game viewing is excellent at all of those camps, but you'll likely see the same animals, perhaps with slight variations, in the three camps.

Have you considered adding another park to the mix (Addo, Hluhluwe, Phinda, Madikwe, etc.), which would allow you to see different parts of the country.

I could be wrong, but I just don't recall that many visitors staying at multiple camps within the Sabi Sands on the same trip.

Just a thought.
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Jan 9th, 2006, 08:14 AM
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We are open to ALL suggestions - our main goal is the most game for the buck, which is what we want to pay for. We thought, since Sabie Sands was so big, that you'd get different game. If this is incorrect, we will rethink. Our main goals are to see a lot of game, do a few bush walks, maybe fit in some local/cultural events or visiting local people. But mostly animals.

So, thit_cho, or anyone else, with only 10 total safari days available and wanting to spend them in South Africa with minimal travel times between, how should we split it up?

And what about the time frame? Is this really good game viewing time? Every website ways "ANYTIME is the best time to visit..." Yeah, right. We want the best time to see game and if that means rotten weather otherwise, so be it. We don't care if it is extremely cold or extremely hot, either - we can take it if it means better game viewing.
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Jan 9th, 2006, 04:10 PM
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Hello,

Londoz and Mala Mala are literally right next door to one another (a lot of the leopards and lions move back and forth) so it wouldn't really make sense to stay at both of them. I've stayed at Londoz several times (at Tree and Bateleur Camps) and would go back in a heartbeat -- others here can say the same about Mala Mala.

If you have ten safari days, I would suggest combining a stay at Londoz in the Sabi Sands with a stay at Phinda, a private game reserve near Durban. Durban will be warmer than Cape Town during the South African winter if you want to lay on the beach for a bit. Phinda has great game-viewing, but the environment is quite different to the Sabi Sands and will give you some variety.

Phinda is a wonderful reserve with a huge range of different environments. In addition to game drives, you can do walking safaris, rhino tracking, and diving safaris on the coast.

Since Phinda is run by CCAfrica (like Londoz) you can also qualify for one of their winter specials, like the 'Pick two camps, stay for four days, pay for three' -- stay for eight days and pay for six, or stay for twelve and pay for nine!

Take a look on www.ccafrica.com -- my favourite Phinda lodges are Vlei and Forest, but I've never stayed at Getty or Zuka since they're relatively new.

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 9th, 2006, 05:11 PM
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hi merrittm,

Have just returned from sabi sands 6 jan. I did stay at Lion Sands Ivory Lodge, Londolozi Bateleur, Singita and MalaMala.
Lion Sands was a new one for me, and I loved the lodge, game viewing was reasonable but for me, way too many vehicles from neighbouring reserves - on one sabi sabi vehicle, they had 13 guests - it was ridiculous! The position on the Sabie River was beautiful, but for me, gameviewing is the top priority, so I doubt I would go back.
Londolozi Bateleur was also a first and a big disappointment. The rooms were really disappointing, knowing what I paid to be there! The gameviewing was reasonable, but in 5 nights there, not one elephant, so to me when everyone says that Londo and MalaMala being next to each other, you will see the same animals, I found that to be not true at all! The outlook from our room was supposed to be a view of the Sand River, I suppose it could have been there! We had a chalet, which was so small, the fridge was out on the deck - the rack rate for this room was ZAR6500, and this is ridiculous. One thing in its favour, was the food! The chef, Naas was fantastic! But I do not fly that distance for food or accommodation, but for the first time, I did feel as if I had been taken advantage of in a huge way for being a silly tourist with too much money!
I have always been a MalaMala fan, and nothing has changed. For whatever reasons, and I am sure the Sand River is one, and I am told the control of the burning etc. is another, the variety and numbers of animals I see here, is always consistent and better than the other three reserves I stayed at this trip. To me, the rooms and food, are not as luxurious as Singita or Lion Sands, but once again I do not need to fly to South Africa from Australia to experience luxury, I can do that much closer to home!
I did move around a fair bit this trip compared to previous trips, and I hated it! Even though the travel was only an hour or so, the packing and unpacking and being organised the night before departure wasted too much of my time and energy. I believe, that by staying in one place, that has great gameviewing, you get a much better chance of seeing more wildlife.
In my 22 nights of gameviewing, I saw 30 different leopards, and I do realise how lucky I am. I am a cat fan, but I love all sorts of wildlife from lizards to chameleons to antelope to the night creatures to birds and everything inbetween, except for vervet monkeys and baboons. So for me, there is always something to see!
I usually go in June, July which is very cold during gamedrives, but good viewing with vegetation at a low. The last 3 years I have gone in December which is also good gameviewing, but big expanse of time in the middle of the day as too hot to gameview, this I do not like! I am not sure if most places go to a winter timetable, but MalaMala does and this means you stay out longer in the morning as you have breakfast before you leave, which makes sense to me.
If you have any specific questions, please ask me as I am happy to answer what I can.

Kaye


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Jan 9th, 2006, 05:56 PM
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Thank you Kaye for your candid comments. What were your most unusual sightings this trip?
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Jan 9th, 2006, 07:28 PM
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Hi atravelyn,
We did have some great sightings,a few of the rarer ones would be:
- a 2.5m african rock python had killed a male steenbok, and after stuffing around for an hour, we thought he would start to eat, but a couple with us were bored, and we headed back home - with steam coming out of my head - but went back the next day, no python, but one dead male steenbok. so nothing had eaten it!
-touched a pangolin, whose head was well hidden under a log.
-watched two 13 month old female leopard cubs playing in trees, while being scolded at by a tree squirrel who narrowly missed death when he went up one tree to scold one leopard, while the other leopard had come down a tree and followed the squirrel up the tree, so squirrel was stuck between both cubs, but he did live to tell that tale.
- a couple of kills, though we did always miss the moment of capture, a leopard with a duiker, which screamed and of course, hyena were there in about 10 minutes, subadult lioness with a baby impala, female leopard with a female impala.
-my first ever sighting of egyptian goslings, one lot quite little, the second lot a big bigger
-2 daytime chameleon sightings, which i just love
-watching a big male leopard one day, he was marking a bush when he did a flip and landed about 2m from the bush, then up through the bush comes a huge boomslang (I think that is the spelling) so not sure if he smelt it or saw it, but he had a great reaction, of course I didn't get it on film, but a memorable moment all the same.
-i must have a lot more, as something usually happens everyday that is something new and interesting, will go through the photos to jog my poor old memory

kaye
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Jan 9th, 2006, 08:00 PM
  #10
santharamhari
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Hi! I agree to most of the posts. I think it's a bit of overkill staying that long at Mala mala, Londo and lion sands on the same trip.....3-4 nights at lion sands is a bit much. I did stay 3 nights one trip in lion sands and there were issues of the lion pride spending most of the time at sabi sabi and we couldnt see them, except very briefly on one evening drive. However, we had exceptional leopard viewing as in all of sabi sands.

Mala mala i did spend 4 nights on a seperate trip, and given the size of the reserve, i would say it justifies 3-4 nights. However, i did not see a single cheetah. As everyone knows, Mala Mala has a magnificant nyala populations, and especially the male nyalas are fantastic!

Londolozi i know nothing about........from personal experiences
 
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Jan 10th, 2006, 09:48 AM
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I have spent 4+ nights at Mala Mala frequently. That level of time coupled with the size of the property allows you to venture to the areas that are seldom visited which can result in some great sightings, or in a great sense of peace. I love just being there, driving around, listening and spotting birds, looking at the landscapes, following tracks, all of these are a delight to me. So its even better that Mala Mala is big enough to keep us occupied for as long as we want, because it feels like home to us after so many visits.
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Jan 10th, 2006, 11:13 AM
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thanks austkay for sharing your experiences of Londolozi chalets. I'm currently booking for September and have been tempted by their low season rates of R3995 per person. Now i'm not so sure.

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Jan 10th, 2006, 12:14 PM
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You might want to check Makalali out. I've stayed there a few times at the owners residence(friend). It is a special experience. And the cuisine and presentation is awesome.

www.makalali.co.za
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Jan 10th, 2006, 01:52 PM
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Hello,

I'm afraid that I have to disagree with Austkaye about Londolozi -- I've stayed at Londoz several times, and I've enjoyed wonderful game-viewing in every visit, especially leopard and lion. I've even seen wild dogs a few times, and they are an extraordinarily rare sight in the Sabi Sand. The guides and trackers are superb, and their knowledge of animal behaviour and the specific histories of the animals you encounter makes for a truly special experience.

I prefer Londoz for the smaller camps and the quality of the game-viewing experiences I have had there over the years. Napamatt prefers MM for the same reasons.

This is not to say that every day, even at Londoz or MM, is going to be a brilliant, National Geographic one. One thing to remember is that there is always a certain random factor in game-viewing, and no matter where you go you can end up seeing less than you'd hoped to. I spent four days at Little Vumbura in Botswana, and didn't see any sable (a species regularly sighted there which I had really been hoping to see -- regulars were amazed).

Even if you don't see the 'Big Five', you'll see plenty of animals, large and small, at Londoz or MM. If you're interested in wildlife, you'll find the 'small' game, like the mongooses and antelopes and lizards, as fascinating as the big game. Good luck with your choice.

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 10th, 2006, 01:54 PM
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Forgot to mention --

I recommend going in June or July -- mornings are crisp and can be a bit chilly, but the bush has died back which makes for excellent game-viewing. Days are warm and sunny. You'll also be able to take advantage of the winter specials at the lodges.

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 10th, 2006, 07:14 PM
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hi leanapayne

I have booked Londolozi Bateleur for July 2006 for 10 nights, and I am now in the process of trying to change that, regardless of their low winter rates. The rate of R3995, in my opinion, is still way to high for what I have paid for and received at other camps in the Sabi Sand up until now. I was disappointed in the room - by the small size of the bedroom; to me, the
room needed some upgrade, for example, the mould in the shower; the lack of view from the view, which all rooms are on the Sand River, I had a wall of shrub in front of my room; the fridge sat on the deck and we were to store only water in it, as baboons could open it up - all little things that for a night or two might not matter as much, but for a longer stay paying over R12000 for the room, I do expect much more than I received.
I will say that the food was wonderful and the head chef was always aiming to please, but I do not go all that way for food, I expect nice accomodation and overall, great gameviewing, I am not a big 5 person, so to me, there is always something to be seen.
Other rooms at Pioneer and Founders have been recommended to me, and I will try to get these for July 2006.
Kaye
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Jan 10th, 2006, 07:21 PM
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Kaye

Did you pay R12 000/night at Bateleur for a room or a suite?

I am paying R 6100pp/night for Tree Camp.
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Jan 10th, 2006, 07:34 PM
  #18
santharamhari
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Referring to Julian's post on sable antelope.........on a recent trip to Kwara........we saw a small herd of sable with a majestic bull......but it was in the area of shide's property and their traversing area.
 
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Jan 10th, 2006, 08:01 PM
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Hi safarinut,

No it was for a chalet only - no suite. I paid in Australian dollars and it was A$1100 approx per person per night, so approximately R5500 per person per night.
Kaye
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Jan 10th, 2006, 08:46 PM
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merritm,

I do think it would be quite improbable for you to stay 10 nights at Mala Mala, Londolozi and Lion Sands for the budget of $5,000 pp.

For the most bang for your buck, you may want to consider Kwando in Botswana. If you were to visit between December 01st - March 31st, you would be able to stay for about $325 per person per night sharing. Kwando Lebala and Kwando Kwara have gotten a lot of good reviews on this board. December up until mid-January would probably be best and this would allow you to visit Cape Town during its summer.

10 nights of Kwando at this opportune time would come in well within your budget. Plus, you would enjoy much more diversity by spending time in the Kwara concession of Kwando and the Kwando concession. Between these two concessions, they are 1 million acres, or about 8 times the size of the Sabi Sand.

In the Sabi Sand, there are 25+ lodges with possibly 500 beds. Within Kwando's borders, on the other hand, there are only three camps (Kwando Lebala, Kwando Lagoon and Kwando Kwara), with a total of about 40 beds. This makes Kwando about 1/100th the concentration as the Sabi Sand lodges!

Kwando also claims to have more elephants within its borders than all of South Africa. Besides the elephants, Kwando is well known for its predators, including wild dogs, lions, leopards and cheetah. Plus, like the Sabi Sand lodges, Kwando uses the guide & tracker system, unlike Wilderness Safaris.



Good luck with your search.
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