Itinerary for review - Wine/Kwando/Madikwe

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Sep 9th, 2005, 07:36 AM
  #1
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Itinerary for review - Wine/Kwando/Madikwe

Very close to completing my itinerary for a Southern Africa trip. This is how its shaping up.

Feb. 20 arrive Cape Town

4 nights for CT and Wine Country. I am thinking I'd like a nice spot close to the ocean for 2 nights and then 2 nights in wine country. I'm open to suggestions on this.

Feb 24 fly to Botswana
2 nights Kwando Lebala
2 nights Kwando Lagoon
2 nights Kwando Kwara
2 nights Deception Valley Lodge (Kalahari)

Mar 4 fly Joburg - 1 night

Mar 5 drive to Madikwe
2 nights Buffalo Ridge Safari Lodge
2 nights Madikwe Hills Lodge

Fly home.

All comments appreciated.
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Sep 9th, 2005, 07:55 AM
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Sounds great...do you need a assistant to help with your photo gear
Is this your first visit to the Kwando properties?? Can't wait to see your green season photos and hear more about these camps.

Brenda
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Sep 9th, 2005, 09:27 AM
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No need to split the camps in the madikwe, much the same terrain, so keep it to one camp, that way your guide will build on each days experience. By splitting you're going to have repeat commentary, not neccessarily repeat sightings.
You might consider www.mateya.com for an experience that is out of this world.

i enjoyed your selection of camps in Bots. Again do either Lebala or Lagoon. Much the same terrain, so no need to switch camps and for the same reasons as above. I would then suggest that you do 3 & 3 nts, this is particularly relevent for Kwara as they offer ALL the activiities available, mekoro, motorized boat to the lagoons, walks and drives. two nights there means you are not going to do it all.
2 nts at DVL is great, super experience the Bushmen are intriguing and I believe the presentation offers wonderful insights into a fast dissapearing culture.
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Sep 9th, 2005, 09:45 AM
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Hello,

I stayed at Madikwe (Madikwe Safari Lodge) at the beginning of July 2005. I'd agree that the reserve is small enough that you don't need to split your time -- you'll see everything there is to see staying in one place.

I was really looking forward to Madikwe this year, and I have to admit that I was rather disappointed by my experience there. Don't get me wrong -- I think Madikwe will be a wonderful reserve in years to come. Phinda is a great example of what can happen when a reserve is created out of former farmland. But IMO, Madikwe just isn't quite there yet.

When you're on a game drive at Madikwe, there are constant reminders that it's not really the bush -- telephone wires overhead, telephone poles on the tracks, and you're constantly running into the fences. The animals (particularly the wild dog) have learned to use the fences in their hunts, so if you find the dogs it's very likely to be against the fence with buses and lorries rumbling by less than 100 feet away. The reserve is small, and this is what makes the fences so intrusive.

The game was very thin on the ground when I was there, and many of the animals were not very relaxed (particularly the elephants, many of whom are from an area where poaching was a big problem). Seeing anything other than antelope was pretty rare, and there were long stretches of time when we didnít see anything (not even an impala). The night drives were particularly non-productive Ė we basically only saw scrub hares, and them very rarely. Highlights were seeing a pride of pale Kalahari lions, including two huge black-maned males; two young male giraffe sparring; black-backed jackals hunting; a lioness chasing a jackal; an elephant calf nursing; a female cheetah resting by a waterhole (though she was so far that it was a binocs-only viewing, not a photographic one unless you had a 600mm+ zoom lens handy). However, I did have my best sighting of wild dogs thus far on my last game drive here.

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 9th, 2005, 10:14 AM
  #5
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Thanks for all the great feedback.

Brenda: wish I had that much camera equipment, although I have done pretty well with my one 200-400 lens.

mkhonzo and Julian: your recommendations make great sense but I am purposely spliting the camps. I have some groups interested in me leading safaris as a Biologist expert so I am trying to sample a variety of camps to get the different feels and be able to support different itineraries from first hand knowledge. I have been to a few WS camps before and looking very forward to trying Kwando for a different Botswana experience. I would rather do a 3/3 split at two camps but I want to be able to advise on all of them. I am really looking forward to the San Bushmen experience at Deception Valley and I love taking in a different kind of wilderness.

As for Madikwe it seems to get mostly great reviews and then occasionally an experience like Julian's. It is 4 times the size of Phinda and larger than Sabi Sands, making it the 4th biggest reserve in SA. Coming from Botswana's biggest wilderness areas -- Kwando and the Kalahari I feel its a good time to try Madikwe since I will have been in the biggest spaces and not feel cheated on my trip. I am always drawn to try and see wild dogs since they are my favorite species and I have yet to see a cheetah and Madikwe seems pretty strong for both. As someone who works on wildife conservation for a living I am very intrigued by the Madikwe project and want to see it first hand.

Buffalo Ridge is (I believe) the only community owned lodge in SA so I want to support and learn more about their community. Damaraland Camp is set up similarly and I found it to be one of the most rewarding places to visit. Madikwe Hills has the oppulent luxury to finish a trip on and celebrate my wife's birthday.
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Sep 9th, 2005, 10:24 AM
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Hello,

I'm surprised to hear that Madikwe is larger than Phinda -- constantly running up against the fences made it feel a lot smaller. The telephone poles and wires were really jarring.

I hope you have a better Madikwe experience than I did. I read the great reviews as well, which is why I was looking forward to it -- I also love the wild dogs. Maybe I'll give it another go in a couple of years -- right now I'm looking forward to Botswana in 2006.

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 9th, 2005, 10:47 AM
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Julian: I have a book with sizes, Madikwe 75,000 ha Phinda 17,500 ha and Sabi Sand 60,000 The book is a few years old so there could be some changes but I wouldn't expect much difference.

I can understand why you felt it was small if you kept seeing fences and powerlines. I hope that will not be my experience but I am at least prepared. I am sure your Botswana trip will be much different! Which camps are you going to?
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Sep 9th, 2005, 11:13 AM
  #8
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Even the new Mun-ya-Wana Game Reserve (Phinda and adjoining Bumbeni, Phumalanga and Zuka) has only 200 qkm.

Mitch
 
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Sep 9th, 2005, 11:38 AM
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Julian,
I have said it in previous posts: the ranger can make or break your stay, in a reserve the size of Madikwe there is no reason to hug the fence line.
Sincerely sorry to hear you trip was spoiled by that.
Fact is those dogs can move great distances & in my experience from the first months of their reintroduction (Gus Van Dyke's ) days we always saw them in the middle of nowhere, sans fence, sans telephone lines too. And on my most recent trip there we (tracking black rhino on foot) ran into the dogs 100 yards or so away.

I definately had the sense that this reserve is a superb game destination, with the added bonus that it supports a far greater variety of species than any other southern african park. Note, I said variety not necessarily numbers.

Bad luck on the night drive, yes leopard are tough to find in that reserve, however hyena, lion, civet genet, aardwolf, bat eared fox etc are plentiful. Oh and if you are a birder the sighting of a pennant winged night jar was a highlight, unusual for them to be so far south. That was in Oct 04.

Preadtor, appreciate your intentions and can't argue that with your goal in mind, yoou are going to have a magnificent time, hope you get to see the lions tackling elephant from lebala/lagoon. I understand that the dogs have established a den there once again, not to create too much anticipation.....
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Sep 9th, 2005, 01:09 PM
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mkhonzo: thanks again for your feedback. I really appreciate hearing the on the ground experience and I am definitely looking forward to the Kwando big predator experience -- hopefully I have good fortune.
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Sep 9th, 2005, 03:12 PM
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Hello,

My ranger had spent the past 5 years in the reserve (with Jaci's) so local knowledge wasn't lacking, and he certainly put a lot of effort into finding the game. Based on the radio chatter, the other lodges were having similar problems -- we crossed paths with a couple of vehicles from other lodges (e.g. Jaci's and Madikwe Hills) and they reported a similar lack of luck. It was pretty weird, to be honest -- unlike some people, I don't mind if we see 'nothing but general game' but seeing nothing at all was strange. I did get the sense that this was very unusual (good news for you, PB), particularly as it went on for most of my stay (I was there for four days). People (not me -- I thought it was rude to the rangers) started joking that there weren't any animals and that they were merely the product of a very good marketing machine.

Whilst it was only on my last game drive that we started seeing game, it was an absolutely brilliant drive, with my best wild dog sightings to date. If that drive is more typical of Madikwe (as it was according to my ranger), I completely understand why people say Madikwe is a great reserve. Hopefully my experience was just one of those rare blips on the radar -- I'm certainly open to going back in the future!

PB -- my Botswana 2006 itinerary is 4 nights Duma Tau, 4 nights Little Vumbura, and 5 nights Mombo. I also spent 3 nights at Duma Tau and 4 nights at Little Vumbura this year, along with the 4 at Madikwe and 5 at Londolozi. So it's not like I didn't have any good sightings on safari this year!

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 9th, 2005, 05:11 PM
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We spend three days in Madikwe this June.

I am spoiled with the amount of game we normally see in Tanzania and my expectations were low to say the least.

As we drove into the park, the fence was a bit of a bother. And the fences around the lodges were also disappointing.

And while on game drives in the bush-ready open safari vehicles, it's a bit amusing to have a family pull up in their brand-new BMW asking for directions to their lodge!

Around the park, one sees several open areas with the foundations of previous villages/farms clearly visible.

All of these were reminders that this is not as "wild" as I wanted it to be.

YET once we moved from Jaci's (on the edge of the park) to a lodge near the center, we saw few reminders of civilization. No fences, poles, etc. The lodges are carefully hidden - in fact it can be a bit hard to find your lodge - we got lost in my sister's new BMW

After three days I thought the park compares very well to most of the overrated concessions near Kruger. Carol loved the lodges and I enjoyed the frustrating challenge of spotting the wild dogs and rhino- we never did! But we saw plenty of other game.

Once completed, the new approach road to the park will bring more BMWs I am sure ;(

It certainly ain't no Tarangire, but Madikwe doesn't pretend to be a Tarangire. It is a great escape for a few days with very nice lodges where you can kick back if you choose to forego a few game drives.

And not having to bother with Malarone is certainly a plus!



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Sep 9th, 2005, 07:45 PM
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Julian -- I know how you feel as I think I had the worst viewing in the history of Mombo, although I still enjoyed it plenty. You are certainly hitting/have hit many wonderful camps. I would really like to go to the Vumbura area sometime -- to date Duba Plains is my favorite experience.

Climbhighsleeplow: I think that is probably a very realistic view of the mix of luxury lodging, wonderful wildife and yet reminders that it hasn't always been wilderness. My preference is certainly big wild spaces with my wildlife which is why I chose Botswana for my first safari and Namibia for my second. I am sure I will enjoy Madikwe in combination with the wilds of Botswana. I hope to soon make it to your favorite areas of Tanzania sometime soon.
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Sep 10th, 2005, 04:23 AM
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PB -- sorry to hear about your experience at Mombo. That would have been awfully disappointing -- at least with Madikwe, I could think, 'Well, I can afford to come back another time and see if things have changed'.

Climbhigh -- which more central lodge did you stay at? When I go back to Madikwe, it sounds like I would be better off staying in the centre of the reserve.

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 10th, 2005, 05:57 AM
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Julian

We stayed at Jaci's for one night since my sister has a small child and Jaci's has a really good family setup. They take the kids on game drives, etc.

From a game viewing perspective Jaci's did not use spotters. And during our visit the game viewing areas were quite a drive from Jaci's as the lodge is at the edge of the reserve not far from the airstrip.

Dinner service was erratic and somewhat uncomfortable. The wait staff did not introduce themselves to us and they were clearly inexperienced in both hosting and restaurant service.

Carol & I booked Etali simply because I liked the name! It turned out to be a wonderful lodge near the center of the reserve not far from the plains (cheetah) area.

http://www.etalisafari.co.za

Etali had really good guides and they used spotters. The game drives were much shorter and more enjoyable because we were so much closer to the game.

Etali was a heavenly experience. We sat for hours on our large, private deck overlooking a lit waterhole. I did not use the heated plungepool but should've! During the night I set my videocam to "wild dog watch" mode, but they never visited our water hole!

Carol has much better taste than I and she absolutely loved Etali. It is stylish and personal all at the same time. A very welcome change from Jaci's and I think the stay at Etali really helped me to appreciate Madikwe for what it is and can be.

Frankly, I don't know how Etali compares with the other top lodges and I don't even know where the others are located in relation to the central part of the park.

But I think you can safely put Etali on your short list of lodges as you start your research!

And if you have kids, then Jaci's is highly recommended. My little niece loved it there.
Eben
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Sep 10th, 2005, 07:32 AM
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Eben,

I've just spent a rather fruitless time searching for a map of Madikwe showing where all the lodges are. Do you know of one? All of the lodges are described as being 'in Madikwe Game Reserve' but nothing more specific than that.

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 10th, 2005, 10:26 AM
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Hi Julian

While at Madikwe I saw an up-to-date and accurate map of Madikwe with lodge placements, etc. It was done by the reserve officials.

I am trying desperately to get a copy but it's like pulling teeth!

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Sep 10th, 2005, 03:02 PM
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Thanks Eben - good luck! I'm sure other people would be interested as well.

Cheers,
Julian
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