Input on proposed itenerary for Sep 07 Trip

Old Jun 17th, 2006, 11:11 PM
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Input on proposed itenerary for Sep 07 Trip

I've looked at a ton of books, and a ton of websites, and tried to find as many unbiased opinions as possible. There are so many places that are (roughly) equivalent, which makes things hard enough, but especially in the Okavango Delta things seem to change by the month, which makes it all the more difficult.

Thus, I'd really appreciate it if I could get some frank opinions on my proposed itenerary. I haven't purchased anything, so you aren't going to hurt my feelings.

Cape Town (Cape Grace) 4 nights
Knysna (Phantom Forest Reserve) 1 night
Cape Town (Mount Nelson) 2 nights
Okavango Delta (Chitabe) 2 nights
Okavango Delta (Xigera) 1 night
Okavango Delta (Chief's) 2 nights
Victoria Falls (Royal Livingstone) 2 nights
South Luangwa (Nsefu) 3 nights
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (Gorilla Camp) 3 nights

I realize that this is a lot of stops, but I couldn't find anything I felt like cutting. The trip to Knysna is an extended day trip down the Garden Route, and then back. We'll probably do some whale watching at Hermanus, since September is prime whale watching season (from what I've read).

The reasons for the 3 stops in the Delta are 1) they're pretty close to each other, and 2) we wanted a good mix of flora and fauna. From my research it seems like Chitabe should be relatively dry, Xigera should be very wet, and Chief's will be somewhere in between. Chitabe should have wild dogs and other predators, Xigera should have nice boating excursions, and Chief's should have a little of both (and hopefully some Rhino too).

We want to do some real walking safaris, and the excursions from the Robin Pope Safari locations are supposedly very good. Also, the remoteness of Nsefu should be quite a change from the Delta.

And the gorillas are, well, the gorillas. No explanation necessary.

Anyway, if you have any tips, suggestions, or otherwise on any part of the trip, I'd love to get some candid feedback.

Thank you in advance.
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Old Jun 18th, 2006, 12:05 AM
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santharamhari
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Honestly, there's far too many stops for one trip. You really r not doing justice to any area.....

I will comment on the Okavango delta. You are better off doing two camps for 3 nights each. You could easily do Chitabe and Chief's. Both are very game rich areas. Depending on the time of the year, you could do some water activities at chief's camp. Honestly, you are not doing justice to Botswana without visiting the Kwando/selinda/linyanti/savuti areas.

There's no point in not doing full justice to Botswana to rush off to Robin Pope just for a 3 day walking safari. You could do walking trails at either Chitabe or Selinda. and extend your stay in Bots.

Hari
 
Old Jun 18th, 2006, 03:48 AM
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Hi mistadobalina,

I have to agree with Hari - way too few nights at each destination. The best way to see animals is to stay in one place for a longer period of time -not flit from one place to another. This also is very expensive - those flights between camps must add up to a sizeable sum!

Kind regards,
Kaye
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Old Jun 18th, 2006, 04:33 AM
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mistadobalina,

Try this on for size:

Cape Town (Cape Grace) 4 nights
Okavango Delta (Chitabe) 2 nights
Okavango Delta (Xigera) 2 night
Okavango Delta (Chief's) 2 nights
Victoria Falls (Royal Livingstone) 2 nights
South Luangwa (Nsefu or Tena Tena) 4 nights (you really should stay more than two nights for at least one of your safari camps).
Kigali, Rwanda, 1 night
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (Gorilla Camp) 3 nights

Regardless, you are going to need a night in Kigali whether you like it or not. I don't see the point of going to Knysna for a single night and then returning to Cape Town for two more nights. Your four nights at the Cape Grace should be sufficient and will allow you more time on safari.

As an alternate to the gorilla viewing, which may best be saved for another occasion, I would suggest you consider a 4 night stay in Lower Zambezi at Chiawa Camp.

www.chiawa.com

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Old Jun 18th, 2006, 07:25 AM
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Why is the night in Kigali necessary? Right now I was planning on getting from Nsefu to Bwindi via Lusaka/Nairobi/Entebbe. Is it not possible to do that in one day?

Thanks to everyone for the input so far.
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Old Jun 18th, 2006, 07:54 AM
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mistadobalina,

I was being GENEROUS by getting you from South Luangwa to Kigali in a single day. Chances are that you will actually only get as far as Nairobi, as every Kenya Airways flight that I checked had you getting into Nairobi no earlier than 4:30PM.

How did you plan on getting from South Luangwa to Kigali on the same day???
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Old Jun 18th, 2006, 08:13 AM
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mistadobalina,

For your benefit I am providing the link for the Kenya Airways timetable:

http://www.kenya-airways.com/kq/kqbookingfrm.aspx

This will help you determine the time you will be able to arrive in Nairobi (from Lusaka) and the time you will be able to arrive in Kigali (from Nairobi).

However, by the time you fly from South Luangwa to Lusaka, I would not count on being able to fly out of Lusaka any sooner than Noon.

Good luck.
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Old Jun 18th, 2006, 09:50 PM
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Rocco,

Sorry if I'm being dense here - where is Kigali, and why would I have to fly through there to get to Bwindi? All of the information on the website for the Gorilla Forest Camp discusses going through Entebbe and taking a short charter from there.
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Old Jun 18th, 2006, 10:33 PM
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mistadobalina: I think Rocco had a moment of confusion thinking you are heading to Rwanda for gorillas rather than Uganda.

I agree with the others that I think you will have a better experience if you concentrate on Botswana or Zambia to have more nights and less time wasted traveling.
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Old Jun 19th, 2006, 01:02 AM
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Bwindi is close to the border and confused me as being in Rwanda.

However, the results are the same. I checked the different days of the week and the earliest arrival I found into Entebbe from Lusaka was 7:25PM. So, 1 night in Entebbe would be mandatory.

Next, that begs the question whether or not you will be able to get back to Entebbe and onto a flight home on your day of departure. How will this be done? Will you fly out of Nairobi to get home? Will you fly all the way back to South Africa? Will you fly to another country to get home?

Although I definitely see the attraction with the gorilla trekking, there is just no way it can be done in three nights (at least not spending all three nights in Bwindi without losing at least 1 night in Entebbe and probably another night elsewhere afterward).
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Old Jun 19th, 2006, 08:11 AM
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Okay, thanks. We were planning on flying out of Nairobi, to London, and back to the US. There are flights out of Nairobi on British Airways at close to midnight.

I take it from your post that there are no charters from Entebbe to Bwindi in the late evening - that's good to know, thanks.

Back to the other main takes of this thread, besides the increased travel costs, what is the downside of so many stops? Aren't most of the flights in Botswana very short? I was of the impression (please correct me if I'm wrong), that you could go on the morning safari at Camp A, hop on the plane, and be at Camp B in time for the afternoon drive in Camp B. Is this correct?

The reason for so many stops, by the way, is that I will be traveling with another couple that probably won't be going back to Africa, so I'm trying to get an "all-in-one" trip together. If I had two trips to do this, I'd to Uganda with Tanzania and Kenya (at a different time of year), and South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zambia on a separate trip.
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Old Jun 19th, 2006, 08:59 AM
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Just a couple of thoughts:

1. I would cut out three nights in Cape Town (yes its a beautiful city, but that time could be better used on safari) -- four days would be plenty to see Cape Town (and you can get to Hermanus on a day trip and return back to Cape Town at night)

2. Okavango -- I would add one night so as to spend two nights at three different camps (one night at Xigera would not be worth the travel, in my view)

3. I would recommend that you look into seeing the gorillas at Parc Nacional Volcans in Rwanda. Its only a two-hour drive from the nearest international airport at Kigali. Bwindi is much further from Kampala and would involve chartered plane or long overland journey. I have done treks in PNV and Bwindi and they are both excellent. From South Luangwa, you can charter flight (or overland) to Lilongwe, Malawi, fly to Johannesburg and fly to Kigali. But I'm not sure if this can be done in one day and may entail overnight at JNB.

Its a great trip, and unlike others, I see no problem with the movements, although it will be a lot of travel. My personal view is that two nights per camp is adequate (some like more) -- but to me, I see nearly all that a camp has to offer in four game drives.

But, you may want to check out PNV instead of Bwindi -- it should be a lot easier. Also, it will be a lot easier to get back to Nairobi from Kigali than from Bwindi.

Michael
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Old Jun 19th, 2006, 09:19 AM
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Normally it takes between 30 minutes and 45 minutes for the camps you have chosen.

In my opinion you are doing too much in a short time. It's just not possible to see all the highlights of Africa and enjoying it when you have to rush from one place to another.

And seeing all the different species in such a short time, is not possible unless you are extremely lucky.

For your safari (besides your stay at Uganda I would either focus on Zambia or Botswana).

For Botswana I would choose the following camps:

- Duba Plains (3 nights) (lion vs buffalo during daytime);
- Selinda (5 nights - you can also do some walking there) (good chance to see wild dogs + cheetah)
- Xigera (2 nights) (boating + good spot for seeing sitatunga)

Although Chitabe is an excellent camp I would prefer to go to Selinda instead because it's one of the best places to follow wild dogs while hunting. You should be extremely lucky to see the dogs at Chitabe if you are only staying there for 2 nights.

I didn't recommend Lebala or Kwara because I think it's better to book all the camps of Botswana through Wilderness Safaris (better prices).

For Zambia I would prefer the following camps:

- Tena Tena + Nsefu (South Luangwa) (6 days) (like you know walking between Nsefu and Tena Tena would be great);
- Chiawa (Lower Zambezi) (4 days).

I didn't recommend to go to Kafue because you probably won't enjoy the tse-tse flies over there.

I agree with you that seeing the gorillas is a thing that can't be skipped.

Hopefully you are lucky with the weather in Capetown that time of year. Don't miss Kirstenbosch - it should be at its best.

Best regards,

Johan
 
Old Jun 19th, 2006, 01:04 PM
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Mista,

To respond to a few of your questions, and to ask you a few more...

You can do a private charter between Entebbe and Bwindi for a little over $1000. It was $1000 in 2004. You can also drive it, but that takes a 12-hour day.

In Bwindi, were you planning 2 gorilla visits? I assume so with 3 nights. I would not do only 1 visit just in case that was the rare unlucky trek that produced no gorillas.

How many nights in Africa is your maximum? Or is your itinerary more limited by cost rather than by time?

Throwing in another whole element, which translates to more time and money--If you are in East Africa in September, the Masai Mara is at its best. You'll probably be going through Nairobi anyway so you could spend 3 or 4 nights observing the migration.

Johan's comment of sticking with Wilderness camps makes sense since 7 nights at Wilderness camps results in a discount. Rocco just informed us that the Kwando discount requires 5 nights. Kwando camps are Lebala, Lagoon, Kwara.

You mentioned you wanted wet and dry in Botswana. Xigera (Wilderness) is just about the wettest camp in the delta. Your dry camp could be in the Selinda (Wilderness) area. You also mentioned seeing wild dogs. Even being in the best camp at the right time can be dicey for dogs. Selinda offers a good chance for dogs plus a variety of other game. (My first Selinda visit will be this August.)

Lagoon or Lebala matched with Kwara would also give you dry and wet. I haven't been to these camps but hope to visit soon based on their fine game viewing reputations.

Chief's Camp is a Sanctuary Camp and relatively dry, certainly in Sept it will be dry. The wet Sanctuary camps are Baines and Stanley's. Those also allow walks with elephants. Sanctuary also has Chilwero in Chobe. Never been to any Sanctuary camps and don't know what their multi-night discount is, or if one is available.

If you are making only 1 stop in Zambia, I'd recommend the Lower Zambezi over South Luangwa. Though both are lovely and I plan to return to both, LZ has the option of a canoe or motor boat safari. Either is an exciting way to view game.

Those of us who love and savor each camp, park, and country in Africa always recommend more in depth stays with less bouncing around. It allows for better photography and greater understanding of the species observed and just more time to absorb what is around you. Many of us also plan to return to Africa again (maybe again and again) so what we miss this time can be enjoyed next time.

In contrast at least some in your party have one shot at Africa. I understand the scattered nature of the itinerary, with a "Best of" approach. If an overview and a brief acquaintance with different areas is the goal, then the skipping about makes more sense. But I would not do only one night in any Botswana camp.

Your itinerary may be akin to a "European Highlights" tour of 4 countries and 10 cities in 2 weeks. If you would enjoy such an itinerary, then your Africa trip will probably also be enjoyable. Given adequate time and money, it would be nice to linger in France, Italy, Botswana, Zambia, etc.

You can also approach whirlwind trips as an introduction that gives you experience in a new part of the world and lets you know if there are areas you'd like to visit again.

Please post again as your itinerary develops.
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Old Jun 19th, 2006, 01:42 PM
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One more thought

Gorilla Forest Camp is a Sanctuary property, along with Chief's in Botswana. That could sway you to other Sanctuary camps, since you wish to book two of them anyway. Again, don't know Sanctuary discount info.
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Old Jun 19th, 2006, 03:38 PM
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I am limited by both time and money. Total vacation time allowed is three work weeks - right now we're taking off out of LAX late on a Friday, getting into Cape Town on Sunday morning. To get back to LAX on a Sunday, we need to leave Africa on a Saturday.

So basically, I have 20 nights available in Africa.

From the comments already, I have one less night than I thought, due to the fact I cannot get from Nsefu to Bwindi in one day (short of a private charter, I suppose).

Thanks for the input on the Wilderness-Safaris/Sanctuary Lodge issue. Right now my take is that I'd prefer to stay at multiple different operators camps, just to see what I like best. That could of course change if the discounts are significant.
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Old Jun 19th, 2006, 04:23 PM
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mistadobalina,

Trust me, the discounts for long stays are usually not that significant. Don't count on more than a 5% discount, although sometimes operators make it seem like more by adding a discount of their own. Some tour operators are basically married to certain safari operators and will do everything in their power to steer you in the direction they want. It is always best to work with someone who encourages you to choose the camps that are right for you.

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Old Jun 20th, 2006, 12:20 PM
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So it is 20 nights!

Without that limit our suggestions get carried away and we can easily come up with a 6-week itinerary of must do's!
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Old Jun 20th, 2006, 01:33 PM
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Yes, reality keeps getting in the way...

Any guesses on whether we could do the gorilla trecking that last day, and still make it to Entebbe by the 3pm departure to Nairobi?
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Old Jun 20th, 2006, 02:48 PM
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Have you looked into Parc Nacional Volcans (Rwanda) instead of Bwindi? You can definitely make it back to Kigali by early afternoon. I have visited gorillas in both parks, and they are both excellent.
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