It's Never Too Early To Dream!!!

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Apr 29th, 2004, 06:09 PM
  #1
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It's Never Too Early To Dream!!!

Now that I have been outed as the sellout that I am, I may as well re-embrace South Africa completely and share the latest and greatest best itinerary ever designed in the history of mankind!

Thursday, August 29th - Day 1 - Depart LAX to JNB.

Friday, August 30th - Day 2 - En Route

Saturday, August 31st - Day 3 - Morning Arrival. Transfer to Lusaka, Zambia. Transfer to Mfuwe. 4 nights at Chichele Presidential Lodge.

Sunday, September 01st - Day 4 - Chichele Presidential Lodge.

Monday, September 02nd - Day 5 - Chichele Presidential Lodge.

Tuesday, September 03rd - Day 6 - Chichele Presidential Lodge.

Wednesday, September 04th - Day 7 - Transfer to Lower Zambezi (Mfuwe to Lusaka to Jeki). 4 nights at Chiawa.

Thursday, September 05th - Day 8 - Chiawa.

Friday, September 06th - Day 9 - Chiawa.

Saturday, September 07th - Day 10 - Chiawa.

Sunday, September 08th - Day 11 - Transfer to Johannesburg. 1 night at "A Room With A View."

Monday, September 09th - Day 12 - Transfer to Cape Town. Transfer immediately to Grootbos Nature Reserve. 4 nights.

Tuesday, September 10th - Day 13 - Grootbos

Wednesday, September 11th - Day 14 - Grootbos.

Thursday, September 12th - Day 15 - Grootbos.

Friday, September 13th - Day 16 - Transfer to Cape Town. 3 nights at Twelve Apostles.

Saturday, September 14th - Day 17 - Twelve Apostles.

Sunday, September 15th - Day 18 - Twelve Apostles.

Monday, September 16th - Day 19 - Transfer to Mala Mala, connecting in JNB, if necessary. Three nights at Mala Mala.

Tuesday, September 17th - Day 20 - Mala Mala.

Wednesday, September 18th - Day 21 - Mala Mala.

Thursday, September 19th - Day 22 - Transfer to Singita Sweni. Three nights.

Friday, September 20th - Day 23 - Singita Sweni.

Saturday, September 21st - Day 24 - Singita Sweni.

Sunday, September 22nd - Day 25 - Transfer to Johannesburg. Final night to be spent at Michelangelo in newly christened NELSON MANDELA SQUARE (formerly Sandton Square).

Monday, September 23rd - Day 26 - JNB to LAX.

Tuesday, September 24th - Day 27 - Arrive Los Angeles. THE END.

So, after a flip through the latest Conde Nast Traveler and two sleepless nights, that is what I have come up with. Some people are great artists and will work hours on end on some sculpting or painting and some others just waste their lives away planning the ultimate Southern African vacation!

I have really detailed this itinerary to make it the very best I can. Notice that all nights in Cape Town and Johannesburg fall on the weekend, while the dead nights of Monday - Thursday are spent at Grootbos.

Staying at the Twelve Apostles on the weekend will also cut down on noise from cars, that is ONLY heard when lounging on the balcony. And although this may be hard for some to believe, I LOVE its secluded location, 10 minutes out of Camps Bay and 20 minutes from the Waterfront. With its 70 rooms, it has more rooms than any other hotel/lodge that I have scheduled, but at 70 rooms, it is still 1/3 or less the size than the Cape Grace and probably 1/5 less than the Table Bay Hotel.

Grootbas has only 11 private cottages and it looks like a truly amazing place, offering countless activities, excellent flora and fauna, and excellent looking cuisine. While it is pretty expensive, about $550 USD per night at current exchage rates, it is all-inclusive (full board AND activities) and very exclusive. I had previously considered the Marine Hermanus, but next to this place the Marine Hermanus is a flop!

Chiawa has only eight tents and an amazing position right on the Zambezi River, sitting beneath a beautiful ancient, giant Baobab Tree. Honestly, in true sellout spirit, I don't even mind the fact that it has a Safari Spa, but after reading further I am disappointed to see that it is for ladies only! What is up with that? Well, I know where my wife will be while I am out dodging hippos and crocs on a mekoro excursion or fishing for tigerfish.

Chichele has 10 individual victorian lodges atop Chichele Hill overlooking the South Luangwa Valley. Port wine and fine cigars are included in the rate, and I cannot wait to see South Luangwa at its best in early September.

Singita Sweni has 6 chalets, offering a more intimate experience than Singita Lebombo yet sacrificing none of the beauty.

Really, the most commercial of all the places is probably Mala Mala, but Safarinut has sold me and I do not want to miss out.

I really like this package because it features 8 nights at possibly the two finest game lodges in Zambia, with one atop Chichele Hill, offering amazing landscapes, and the other right on the Zambezi River in my favorite looking lodge in Zambia and possibly all of Africa. How could I NOT go to Chiawa?

The night at "A Room With A View" in Johannesburg will be nice. Last year I transferred all the way from South Luangwa to Cape Town in the same day and didn't arrive at the Twelve Apostles until almost Twelve Midnight! That was a waste of a day in Cape Town. At least this way I will arrive to Cape Town in the morning and then since it will be a Monday, I will transfer to Grootbos, saving Cape Town for the next weekend.

Hopefully Grootbos will be every bit as remarkable as it appears to be on its website. Then on Friday, I will transfer back to Cape Town allowing for action in the city, but quiet at the Twelve Apostles for my three night stay.

To have seven peaceful nights, with the freedom for a short ride to Cape Town nightlife on the weekend, will be perfect. Plus, by saving Cape Town for after Grootbos, I put myself in the position for a convenient transfer to the airport for my flight to Mala Mala, which really did just announce its secession from the Sabi Sand!

And what better way to end this holiday than with three nights at the new Singita, as opposed to the old Singita, which has been declared off-limits by yours truly! Singita Sweni will hopefully be the highlight of a highlight filled holiday.

And in the end, I will soak it all in with a final night in Joburg at the Michelangelo. I love the Michelangelo's restaurant for breakfast and there are more than a few great restaurants right in Nelson Mandela Square (may we never utter the words Sandton Square again). I just want to have an amazing dinner, enjoying a fine bottle of South African wine and recounting all the amazing memories from this trip, not wanting to forget a single detail!

And then what better way to end the trip than to have a full day in Nelson Mandela Square to explore, beginning with one of the amazing breakfasts at the Picolo Mondo, the Michelangelo's amazing restaurant. Perhaps it will be the Ostrich Eggs and Warthog Sausage breakfast that I enjoyed so much last year? Freshly squeezed orange and fresh pineapple from the Eastern Cape that would compete with Hawaiian pineapple anyday. And what incredible service at the Michelangelo. Staff that anticipates your every move and want, yet that stays a very safe distance but then magically appear before you even have to look up for them! They probably just see the guests begin to get a dumb, befuddled look on their face and then, zoom, they are at your table before you even think of calling them over!

I don't know if I am just full of "it", or if this is truly the best itinerary I have ever planned!

Chichele Presidential Lodge (4), South Luangwa National Park
www.star-of-africa.com/circuit6.htm

Chiawa Camp (4), Lower Zambezi National Park
www.chiawa.com

A Room With A View (1), Johannesburg
www.aroomwithaview.co.za

Grootbos (4), Grootbos Nature Reserve
www.grootbos.com

Twelve Apostles Hotel (3), Cape Town

Mala Mala (3), formerly of the Sabi Sand Reserve

Singita Sweni (3), Kruger National Park in a far reach of the park, bordering Mozambique.

Michelangelo Hotel (1), Nelson Mandela Square.

APPROXIMATE COSTS

Chichele Presidential Lodge - $3,000 USD (I doubt I will be given much of a break in high season, but this would still be a $75 pppns discount for a repeat customer, as they are at $450 pppns)

Chiawa - $3,200 USD (no discounts here, pal!)

Zambian Transfers - $1,000 USD

A Room With A View - $250 USD

Grootbos - $2,200 USD

Twelve Apostles - $1,250 USD

Mala Mala - $3,000 USD

Singita Sweni - $5,250 USD (I predict the Rand to be at 7.77 to 1 USD when I book/pay)

Michelangelo - $350 USD

South African Transfers - $1,500 USD

Wow...that is one expensive trip. $21,000 if I counted correctly. But, doesn't it look worth it?! Why not?!
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Apr 30th, 2004, 05:57 AM
  #2
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And another option, the first of 50, I am sure:

Friday, 9/02/05 - Depart LAX - JNB.

Saturday, 9/03/05 - En Route

Sunday, 9/04/05 - Arrive Johannesburg. Transfer to Lusaka. Transfer to Lower Zambezi National Park. 4 nights at Chiawa Camp.

Monday, 9/05/05 - Chiawa Camp.

Tuesday, 9/06/05 - Chiawa Camp.

Wednesday, 9/07/05 - Chiawa Camp.

Thursday, 9/08/05 - I don't really think that three consecutive years in South Luangwa is mandatory. I have to keep my travelling companion's best interests in mind, as well. Transfer to Johannesburg. 1 night at "A Room With A View" in Melville section of Joburg.

Friday, 9/09/05 - Transfer to Plettenberg Bay. 2 nights at Tsala Tree Lodge.

Saturday, 9/10/05 - Tsala Tree Lodge.

Sunday, 9/11/05 - Transfer to George. 1 night at The Fancourt.

Monday, 9/12/05 - Transfer to Hermanus. 3 nights at Misty Beach Chateau. While 3 nights is a long time for Hermanus, I do plan to stay busy, whale watching and cage diving.

Tuesday, 9/13/05 - Misty Beach Chateau.

Wednesday, 9/14/05 - Misty Beach Chateau

Thursday, 9/15/05 - Transfer to Cape Town. Cape Grace Hotel. 3 nights. I would consider the Twelve Apostles if I could land a great deal on Luxury Link.

Friday, 9/16/05 - Cape Grace Hotel.

Saturday, 9/17/05 - Cape Grace Hotel.

Sunday, 9/18/05 - Transfer to Mala Mala. 3 nights.

Monday, 9/19/05 - Mala Mala.

Tuesday, 9/20/05 - Mala Mala.

Wednesday, 9/21/05 - Singita Sweni. 3 nights.

Thursday, 9/22/05 - Singita Sweni.

Friday, 9/23/05 - Singita Sweni.

Saturday, 9/24/05 - Transfer to Johannesburg. 1 night at Michelangelo Hotel in Nelson Mandela Square.

Sunday, 9/25/05 - JNB to LAX.

Monday, 9/26/05 - Arrive LAX. END.

SUMMARY AND COST

Chiawa Camp, Lower Zambezi NP (4 nights, $3,200 USD)

A Room With A View, Johannesburg (1 night, $250 USD)

Tsala Tree Lodge, near Plettenberg Bay (2 nights, $1,000 USD)

The Fancourt, George (1 night $350 USD)

Misty Beach Chateau, Hermanus (3 nights, $500 USD, the best bargain on this trip and this is for the Honeymoon Suite or Presidential Suite).

Cape Grace, Cape Town (3 nights, $1,100 USD)

Mala Mala, Sabi Sand (3 nights, $3,000 USD)

Singita Sweni, Kruger NP (3 nights, $5,500 USD)

Michelangelo Hotel, Johannesburg (1 night, $350 USD)

Zambian Transfers - $500 USD

South African Transfers - $1,000 USD

South African Car Hire, pick up in Plettenberg, drop off in Cape Town - $750 USD?

GRAND TOTAL = $17,500 USD.

I am sharpening up my numbers now, from the $21,000 original, although at the expense of the South Luangwa. Still, 10 nights on safari sounds perfect. Also, 21 nights sounds pretty great. Anything more would be stretching my comfort level.

Wonder where else I can sharpen up? I love the lodging I have now, so I don't see where else to cut.

And this is how you begin to plan a trip. Unfortunately, with the lodging I am choosing for this itinerary, I will not be able to find too many great deals, but at least it will be customized to my taste, or lack of it!
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Apr 30th, 2004, 11:47 AM
  #3
 
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Roccco

''Really, the most commercial of all the places is probably Mala Mala, but Safarinut has sold me and I do not want to miss out.''

Roccco,remember at the end of this year the new Harry's camp will be completed at Mala Mala giving you a super luxurious,intimate choice of not more than a six suite lodge with spa options,plunge pools etc!

This will be the best lodge in the SSGR as the old argument of Mala Mala having''tired'' accommodations wont be applicable anymore!

They already have the best game viewing and with their new luxury lodge option they will be very hard to beat.
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May 1st, 2004, 06:38 AM
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Safarinut,

Do you have any pricing info yet on the new Harry's Camp? Also, will they retain the name Harry's Camp or rename it?

I would hate to spend $1,500 per night for the new "Harry's Camp" and then run into somebody else that spent $500 per night at the old Harry's Camp! For $1,000 per night premium, a little distinction is deserved!

I did notice that you wrote that you are planning a six night stay next time around at Mala Mala, about twice as long as at Singita. Is it really that great at Mala Mala? Also, which rooms/chalets do you suggest?

Are you planning six nights even if you decide to stay at the new Harry's Camp and the prices are more in line with Singita?

Lastly, if you do not fly directly into Mala Mala, where is the closest airport? Hoedspruit? Nelspruit?

If I do go to Mala Mala next year, I will likely be flying in from Cape Town, and there is a direct flight from Cape Town to Hoedspruit but not to Mala Mala, to my knowledge.

Then from Mala Mala, how hard do you think it is to get to Singita Lebombo/Sweni?

Thanks.
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May 1st, 2004, 08:10 AM
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Rocco
If you plan your next trip this far in advance you'll have nothing left to plan when you come back from this next trip!
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May 1st, 2004, 08:52 AM
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Roccco:

I don't have any idea what the ''new'' Harry's camp will cost and whether they will retain their old name or not.
I know however it is going to be more than $500pp/night with all the added luxuries.After selling Kirkmans camp for 130 million rand they have more than enough cash lying around to create a masterpiece!My gut feeling is that they will change the name.

Next question,is Mala Mala that great?

YES,YES,YES!!!
Roccco,you know I've been on multiple safaris and aren't too easily excited anymore.Mala Mala has blown me away on every single visit!I like to see interaction between animals and not merely just spotting a member of the big five.

On my last visit there for example we spent an hour watching an interaction between two leopards and three hyenas.

We arrived on the scene just as a male leopard killed an impala,he soon lost his kill when three hyenas rushed in and claimed the prize.We then noticed a second leopard not more than 20 meters away lying flat in the grass.
These two leopards positioned themselves on opposite sides of the carcass and watched as the hyenas devoured the carcass.They both made several attempts to move in only to be chased off by the hyenas.I will never forget the sights and sounds of that special morning.I know there's an element of luck involved when seeing sightings like this but I truly believe your chances are better at MM seeing this than any other game resreve.It's sightings like these that will make me return for the fourth time in 4 years!

Which rooms to request:

You basically have a choice between their normal rooms and the suites in the sable unit.I usually take a suite in the sable unit as this is basically a smaller camp within the big camp with their own pool,boma,bar etc.
Suite 17 and the lions den are my favourites.Although a concrete structure you hear all the animal sounds at night,and from your deck I've witnessed many lion sightings in the dry river bed.

I will miss the old Harry's as you could stay there for $550 a night for two people if you just wanted the game viewing and didn't care for all the luxuries.

On my first visit there years ago I was like a child and didn't want to leave after three days.My ranger told me to book a week next time as this would be sufficient to see everything you ever wanted to see and I've done so on all my return visits.Obviously if the new camp charges Singita-like prices I will brake up my stay between Main Camp and the new camp.

I am not clued up on all the different flights as I usually drive in,but I know MM has a brand new airstrip and I am sure you can fly in from Cape Town.To get to Sweni after a visit to MM shouldn't be difficult as you can either charter a plane to fly direct there from MM but I think it would be more cost effective to have MM drop you off at Singita's airstrip for the daily flight to Lebombo.

One thing is sure once you go there I know you will return!
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May 1st, 2004, 09:25 AM
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Safarinut - I was already considering MalaMala because I want to return to Mashatu Tent Camp and decided to stay in the Rattray Camps for the whole trip. And I've read several of your posts about how great MM is and really want to go there now.

I discovered that MM has one "single" room and you are not charged a single supplement so it's a flat $500 per night instead of $750. Their capacity at main camp is "49 guests". It seems odd that there is one single room. Do you know anything about this room?
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May 1st, 2004, 09:46 AM
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sundowner

No,I don't know anything about this room,but that would be great if you could avoid the single supplement. Maybe e-mail them and ask,this can't be the disabled suite by any chance could it?
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May 1st, 2004, 09:47 AM
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Kavey,

There will ALWAYS be something to plan!

I do know, for sure, that I would like to do some whale watching & cage diving with the great white sharks, putting me in Cape Town and Hermanus for at least six nights. I am not so sure about going further east than Hermanus, however. I would also definitely like to see Mala Mala, as long as they hold their rates at $500 pppns for next year, and Singita Lebombo/Sweni, possibly staying two nights at each place.

Already, that is fourteen nights in South Africa, and I will probably require at least one night in Johannesburg if I add another part of Southern Africa to the trip, making it fifteen nights in South Africa.

From there, I have a maximum of eight nights, which I would like to spend in another country. There are many options.

1. South Luangwa for four nights, Lower Zambezi for four nights.

2. Botswana for eight nights, although my better half does not want to go here and I don't want to subject her to tiny planes.

3. Zimbabwe, spending three nights at Makalolo Plains in Hwange, three nights at Chikwenya in Mana Pools and two nights at Ruckomechi in Mana Pools, each property belonging to Wilderness Safaris.

4. I could always spend an extra eight nights in South Africa, spending a couple nights in Plettenberg Bay, a night somewhere between Plettenberg Bay and Hermanus and three nights at Phinda Forest and a couple nights in Durban. This may be the easiest thing to do, but it all depends on how I like the Lower Zambezi on my upcoming trip and how the Rand performs in the next few months. Trust me, if the Rand would go back to 8.5, the choice would be easy.

Excuse me while I do some estimated calculations, at 8.5 Rand to the dollar:

Atlantic House, Camps Bay (bed and breakfast) - 4 nights - $1,250 USD
http://www.capestay.co.za/atlantichouse/

Hermanus, Misty Beach Chateau, 3 nights in Honeymoon or Executive Suite, $500 USD

Swellendam, 1 night at Rothman Manor, $125 USD (at 8.5 ZAR to 1 USD) even in Luxury Suite and graded a 5* B&B.
http://www.wheretostay.co.za/rothmanmanor/default.htm

Knysna, 2 nights at Phantom Forest, $700 USD?
http://www.phantomforest.com/Packages/index.htm

Plettenberg Bay, 2 nights at Tsala Tree Lodge, $1000 USD
www.tsala.co.za

Phinda Forest Lodge, 3 nights, $3,500 USD?
http://www.phinda.com/Accommodation/forest.aspx

A Room With A View, Johannesburg, 1 night, $200 USD
www.aroomwithaview.co.za

Mala Mala, 3 nights, $3,000 USD
www.malamala.com

Singita Lebombo, 2 nights - $3,200 USD

Singita Sweni, 2 nights - $3,200 USD
www.singita.com

Transfers & Car Rental - $1,800 USD?

GRAND TOTAL 23 NIGHT LUXURY SOUTH AFRICA = $18,500 USD.

Really, that is not bad at all considering everything that is included in there. I am sure that scaredtodeath (Mrs. Roccco) would really appreciate having all of our time spent in South Africa for once, since she just doesn't appreciate sleeping in an open air thatched hut in the far reaches of the South Luangwa nearly as much as I do.

But, spending time at Singita, Phinda, Mala Mala and some of these bed and breakfasts is going to be a real effort for me!

Even if the Rand doesn't improve too much and this package is 15-20% higher, it still looks like a great time.
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May 1st, 2004, 09:54 AM
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sundowner

No it's not the disabled suite,I see there is one single room.
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May 1st, 2004, 01:39 PM
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Rocco, I know, just teasing... I ALWAYS have some trip in the pipeline... I'd be lost without having something to research and arrange and anticipate!
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May 1st, 2004, 02:56 PM
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Safarinut,

Thanks for the informative response. Depending on the pricing, I think I would like to stay four nights at Mala Mala and four nights at Singita. I would likely spend two nights at each the existing Mala Mala, two nights at the new Mala Mala, two nights at Singita Lebombo and two nights at Singita Sweni.

Safarinut, do you usually go the same time each year to Mala Mala? If not, which month has been your personal favorite. I would like to go sometime during whale watching season, as I really enjoyed seeing the whales in Quebec, and that probably doesn't even compare to Hermanus. I guess whale watching season would be between August to October, and by October, Cape Town should start getting nice again.

Thanks again.
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May 1st, 2004, 04:20 PM
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Hey Rocco,
Just interested to know if you've ever done any cage diving w/ the great whites. It has been a dream of mine since I started diving and am eager to do it.

As a shark lover, most people think I'm nuts for wanting to but I think it would be one heck of an experience!
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May 1st, 2004, 04:27 PM
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Roccco

The experts say August is the best month because this is usually the driest month but who can be certain with the funny weather patterns of the lowveld these days.

My best month was during this past December because of the severe drought and the animals dependence on the Sand River.

I have been there in May as well but can't say I enjoyed the early mornings and late night chills.

October should be fine if the weather follows it's usual pattern as the bush is still dry and generally thinned out in anticipation of the summer rains.You will definitely encounter a few afternoon thunder storms but they don't last long and usually it only rains enough to give the bush a nice green flush.Have you ever experienced a lowveld thunder storm?,this is an experience on it's own!

We can't order the weather but it's very important that you get the best guide that Mala Mala has to offer.We will discuss that once you have made final plans.Their senior rangers have been there for years and all have university degrees in the natural sciences.


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May 2nd, 2004, 09:33 PM
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Thanks Safarinut. I will keep all that in mind when I consider the time of year I visit next year. September sounds like it might work out well, before it starts getting too hot.
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May 2nd, 2004, 09:56 PM
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Roccco

I am delighted to see Mala Mala in your provisional itinerary!
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