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Itinerary planning...how South Africa is shaping up...

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Aug 27th, 2004, 10:52 PM
  #1
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Itinerary planning...how South Africa is shaping up...

Well, I must say that I am pleasantly surprised. Even at some very exclusive lodges, reduced rates are possible, that is if you know how to ask!

I have a few possible itineraries in mind, but they all include the Sabi Sand and Madikwe. While I am heavily leaning towards including a third area, I am not yet sure if it is wise to do so, for fiscal reasons and just in order not to jump around too much.

Here are a couple leading contenders.

FAVORITE ITINERARY (but possibly too expensive)

Twelve Apostles, Sabi Sand (3 nights)
Simbambili, Sabi Sand (NO CHILDREN ALLOWED) (3 nights)
Londolozi, Sabi Sand (3 nights, does anybody know which is the best lodge? I have included this because with six nights in CCAfrica lodges, the rates are very reduced, seems almost like getting two nights free)
Madikwe Hills, Madikwe Game Reserve (4 nights, from the same people that brought you Leopard Hills in the Sabi Sand, this lodge looks in the same class as Singita)(www.madikwehills.com)
Phinda Forest, Phinda (3 nights, I would really like to see Phinda, but in all honesty it has as much to do with me wanting to spend my time in Madikwe at Madikwe Hills rather than at Jaci's Tree Lodge or the under-construction and unphotographed CCAfrica camp, Madikwe Safari Lodge...the relation being that I need six nights at CCAfrica lodges if there is any chance that I will be able to afford Londolozi, possibly the only other company in the Sabi Sand on the same level as Singita).

Total = 16 nights. Total price = my lips are sealed. No more kissing and telling, but if I book a lodge, you can be rest assured that I probably got a very good deal.

I do think that my wife will be able to handle 13 nights at these top-notch lodges. Most of them have phone and some even have internet access. Madikwe Hills even has a wellness center and possibly even satellite television (for sure it is in their suites, so I am thinking it may also be in the common area somewhere). While most of us could care less about those things, hey, if it helps me go on safari and live to return another year, it is important also to provide comforts for a non-Africaphile partner.

RECAP
Twelve Apostles (3)
Simbambili (3)
Londolozi (3) (best possible camp)
Madikwe Hills (4)
Phinda Forest (3)

ALTERNATES

Most Economical
Twelve Apostles (4)
Simbambili (4)
Madikwe Safari Lodge (CCAfrica) (4)
Phinda Forest (3)

Most Varied
Twelve Apostles (3)
Simbambili (3)
Madikwe Hills (3)
Phinda Forest (3)
Matetsi Water Lodge (3)
--This is still somewhat affordable due to the combo of the two already reasonable CCAfrica properties, qualifying me for a big discount. Regarding Matetsi, you can look at this a couple ways...perhaps people shouldn't be supporting a Zim lodge right now, but on the other hand, if it is not supported, will Zimbabwe be any better off after losing CCAfrica, and then probably Wilderness Safaris (Little Makalolo, Ruckomechi, Matusadona, etc.)???

Most Upscale (yet still affordable due to reduced number of safari nights)
Twelve Apostles (3)
Bushmans Kloof (2)
Le Quartier Francais (2)
Simbambili (3) No Children
Singita Lebombo (2) (There is no way I am shelling out 3 nights worth of money at those rates)
Madikwe Hills (3)

For the record, very surprisingly, I have been told yes to requested discounts more often than I have been told no. With so many safari lodges nowadays, I guess the competition is fierce.

Also, maybe I am just a little slow, but I just figured out that www.mtbeds.co.za more than likely means EMPTY (MT) BEDS, as it specializes in selling beds at hotels and lodges at last second rates so they do not remain empty. Unfortunately, more often than not, the really good rates only apply to South African residents.

South Africa is shaping up to be a lot more interesting to me than it had in the past, with the emergence of Madikwe, Phinda and other places, rather than being limited to Kruger/Sabi Sand.
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Aug 28th, 2004, 07:10 AM
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Rocco:
Re: Londolozi- see below

Wild Dogs Return (8/28/2004)

"We were watching Klipspringer on Xipalapala koppie when out of nowhere there was an explosion of animals running for their lives. A huge herd of maybe 200 Impala, with a mixed group of Zebra and Wildebeest came charging past our vehicle into the clearing behind us. We then had a brief view of a pack of Wild Dogs chasing the Impala in all directions. After a few seconds we had lost sight of all the dogs and found an Impala hiding in the thicket where the predators had passed. Before we knew what was happening, the Wild Dogs returned and killed the antelope. Within about 30 seconds 11 dogs appeared on site and after ten minutes the entire carcass was finished. The pack then trotted off into the thicket south of Xipalapala. The following morning their tracks crossed the Sand River at Taylor's Crossing and the pack was found chasing Impala again before resting on the Sparta-Ravenscourt break."
Greg Seymour
Londolozi - South Africa


Wow, that's ten more wild dogs than we saw on our trip there last March!!


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Aug 28th, 2004, 08:12 AM
  #3
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Divewop,

It would be an amazing accomplishment if I not only saw the wild dogs in Madikwe (the biggest reason I am going there) but also in the Sabi Sand!

Where did you stay at Londolozi and how did you like it? I will do a search to see if you posted a report or not, but just in case I do not or the details are not included...

1. How often did you come in contact with other Londolozi vehicles?

2. At major sightings (leopards and lions) were there usually more than one vehicle?

3. Did your lodge have internet access? (a computer to use along with it, and not just a connection for a personal laptop)

4. What month did you visit?

5. How was your overall experience?

Also, I believe you went to Phinda, right? Same questions for Phinda.

Thanks!
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Aug 28th, 2004, 08:18 AM
  #4
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By the way, I do think that Matetsi offers as close to an experience as possible to a Zambian safari.

With canoeing, walking safaris, morning and night game drives, the amazing Zambezi River and of course, VICTORIA FALLS, Matetsi really is an awesome place.
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Aug 28th, 2004, 09:18 AM
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Rocco-
Here's what we had planned for March of last year and then I will tell you what happened. You know what they say..."the best laid plans..."!

Our trip began leaving ATL 3/10 arriving 3/11 returning 3/21. Since we had only booked it a month in advance the ATL-J'burg direct was already sold out. We flew thru JFK 'cause hubby got two first class tickets using his FF miles.

The safari was to be 3 nights Phinda, 3 nights Londolozi, 2 nights Ngala. And we were to have a private vehicle for one day at each camp= 3 days total for private vehicle.

But when we landed in Dakar to refuel, upon take-off a bird flew into one of the engines and completely tore it apart. (musta been a damn big bird!)
So we were stranded in Senegal for 30 hours...they didn't take the luggage off the plane either. Didn't clear customs or immigration or anything. What an experience that was!!

We called CCAfrica from the hotel in Dakar and explained our situation. We were to be almost two days late so they worked it our for us to do 4 nights Phinda and 3 Londolozi. We had to cut out Ngala altogether because there was no way we could extend our stay. And I did not want to short change Phinda.

CCAfrica understood completely and were more than accomodating. Great folks to work with in an emergency type situation!

Because we had to shift the itinerary around, for the Londo part we had two nights in Tree and one in Bateleur. (They had a group coming to tree our third night hence moving us to Bateleur.)

When we arrived at the J'burg airport to leave for Phinda Vlei, we met up w/ another couple that was on the "flight from hell" so we shared a jeep with them @ Phinda the whole time. They left after the third night so we had the jeep to ourselves anyway on the fourth day.

Because of that, the folks at CCAfrica gave us a jeep to ourselves the whole time at Londo which was great!! They even gave us a guide who was into photography which made it better for me!

We saw other jeeps only occasionally at Londo. Our guide and tracker were the first ones usually to spot leopards (yay!) except on the last day. Of course, after we got our fill of pics, then he would radio the other jeeps. It was great. We had the opportunity to follow leopards on many game drives.

And, if they know you're into photography, they make a special effort to get you to all the great sightings and you can sit as long as you want. If the other rangers know you're serious about it, they will not block your line of sight when on a sighting.

I've got lots of photos of leopards, lions and cheetah from Londolozi.

Both Londo Tree and Bateleur are great. Londo Tree has all suites, 3 w/ a sala & 3 w/out. It was small and very personal.

But I've got to say, our last night when they moved us to Bateleur was just as good.(It is right next door.) The suite (101) was just as nice and from my perspective had an exceptional view right on the sand river. You could walk out the back and onto the rocks of the river. It was my favorite room.

There is a computer room at Bateleur which you should be able to access from any of the Londo camps.

I'm glad we had a private vehicle the 3 days at Londo. We pretty much came and left when we wanted. Early out on the game drives...and late in on the game drives.

I don't remember Phinda Vlei having computer access but Forest might.

Between Londo and Phinda, the overall experience was great at both. We were totally spoiled rotten by the time we left. I can't say which was better because they are soooo different.

I did enjoy the Londo part because of our interaction w/ so many leopards. And being surrounded in the dark w/ hundreds of buffalo being stalked by lions.
And seeing the lone wild dog. He was spotted by our tracker across the field behind a herd of elephants.
We then tracked him, found him again chasing an impala and with him being chased by a leopard. All 3 bounded right by our vehicle in about four feet of grass. It was like a cartoon with the three of them jumping up and down out of the grass to chase each other.

I thought March was great. It still was not high season, not crowded, and only a tad bit of rain. Yes, the grass was pretty long making it harder to spot the critters, but it also made for a good backdrop for photography with the contrast in color.

Would I go again in March? I wouldn't hesitate for a minute.

I've not been disappointed in any of the CCAfrica properties I've been to so far, from Ngorogoro Crater Lodge, to Phinda, to Londolozi.
And the staffs have been great.

I thinked I've rambled enough again!
Let me know if you need any more info.
By the way, we worked w/ Amber in the J'burg office to plan the trip. Very helpful.
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Aug 28th, 2004, 12:49 PM
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Divewop,

My first safari was also in March (early March, 2002), and I also enjoyed the timing very much for South Africa and Matetsi. Unfortunately, by doing Singita first and Matetsi next, it really took away from my experience at Matetsi, as I had been completely spoiled by Singita!

In retrospect, I didn't realize how special some of the sights were that I enjoyed at Singita. Two rhinos, shoulder to shoulder in opposite directions, right in the middle of the road in broad daylight...about a half dozen lions munching away on a Kudu kill, up close and personal...a leopard literally so close to me that all I had to do was lean out the window and I could have patted it on the head (right before it would have left me an amputee!!!)...following that same leopard for over an hour as she called out to her son, a full grown 2 year old male who she wanted to summons back to a kill that she made that was hanging in a tree...watching as they finally found each other and loved each other before returning to the kill...watching dozens of very large baboons in Matetsi having some sort of domestic disturbance as the dominant male was chasing everybody around, seeing the majestic Victoria Falls for the very first time, etc.

With a maximum of about 13 nights for safari this time around (it gets higher each year, from 5, to 8, to 11, to now possibly 13), I am having the most difficult time making up my mind.

CCAfrica, I am finding out, is a great way to go for anybody willing to spend a minimum of six nights at CCAfrica camps. Their rates are already reasonable, and I believe they are probably able to do this because they don't give out local rates too often to native South Africans, thus helping them keep the price reasonable for foreign visitors. By the time you throw in all the air and road transfers, chances are that you may still be at under CCAfrica's moderate rack rates.

Still, that DAMN (!) lure of Singita is always in the back of my mind, knowing full well that they are taking advantage, but still not being able to completely resist the call of the Singita Sirens singing softly in my ear!

However, in order to not completely break the bank, and to make it a nice and relaxed vacation with guaranteed great game viewing without too much jumping around (as beautiful as Singita Lebombo is, I have heard that the animals are not nearly habituated to the presence of vehicles, as Lebombo is in a far corner of Kruger NP bordering Mozambique). Therefore, this looks

Twelve Apostles (3)
Simbambili (3)
Londolozi (3)
Madikwe Hills (4)
Phinda Forest (3)

I am still waiting on prices on Londolozi Bataleur and Tree Camp, but I expect them to be a lot more reasonable than Singita Lebombo.
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Aug 30th, 2004, 05:43 PM
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I think this is going to be it for 2005:

Twelve Apostles, Cape Town (4 nights)

Matetsi Water Lodge, 50 kilometers from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe almost halfway to Chobe, and right on the banks of the Zambezi River (3 nights)

A Room With A View, Joburg (1 night)

Simbambili, Sabi Sand (4 nights)

Madikwe Hills, Madikwe (4 nights)

I really don't want to hop around too much, as all it will do is add unnecessary expense and make for a more mentally draining holiday. The quotation for Londolozi was a lot higher than I was expecting and I found out that I misread my quotation for a Phinda Forest/Madikwe Safari Lodge combo from CCAfrica, failing to include the air transfers that were priced separately adding an extra $900 USD per person!

After spending two of the last three years along the Zambezi River, nothing else quite compares, and I don't want to go all the way to Africa without enjoying the Zambezi River. It is a magical experience to stay along the banks of the Zambezi, that the Luangwa River, Sand River and few others could duplicate.

Simbambili is the right price and by not allowing children, it wins my favor. Plus, as I said earlier, I will book some private all night drives with Taga Safaris hopefully going with the guide that the very well-versed Safarinut says is the best guide in the entire Sabi Sand, Jaco? or something close to that.

Madikwe Hills is just an amazing looking lodge and I have had very positive communications with them. I will probably be worn out after Simbambili, so I would like nothing more than four nice leisurely days and nights in Madikwe, hopefully with enough wild dog action and black & white rhino action (along with the rest of the big five) to keep me stimulated.
But I will really be looking forward to the great looking meals, the wellness center and the incredible landscapes.

Just waiting on the confirmation from Award Planner and then I am ready to commit. Ultimately it is not much less expensive than a dream itinerary to East Africa, but it is a few nights shorter and it is an itinerary, with the exception of Matetsi, that I think my wife will like a lot more than East Africa. I will get to East Africa sometime in the next year or two, but now is the time to reacquaint myself with South Africa and to visit an old friend, the Zambezi River.
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Aug 31st, 2004, 09:46 AM
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Roccco,

Just wanted to check that you had seen the reports on recent viewings at Phinda - sounds incredible.

http://www.wildwatch.com/sightings/default.asp
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Aug 31st, 2004, 10:23 AM
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Having been at Phinda Forest twice, may I suggest you ask CC Africa for their thin book on Phinda, its woods, sands, zones, etc., plus its birds. Phinda is not just about seeing animals. It was created as an experiment modeled after Londolozi, and reflects ranches and farms acquired, animals reitroduced, and conservation. A newrby reserve accepts Phinda residents to track black rhinos, after you see the white ones at Phinda. There are two rivers as well you can go on, flights to the ocean and snorklee SCUBA trips. Suggest you fly in to Phinda to save time.
 
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Aug 31st, 2004, 04:12 PM
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Glad to see so many Phinda fans on the forum. It's such a great reserve to visit.

Not trying to hijack your thread Rocco, but I recently heard Phinda has acquired some more hectares from one of the neighboring farms and are working on bringing down the fences! Getting more land for such a great place! That's good news.
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Sep 1st, 2004, 05:10 AM
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Wow, Phinda sure seems to have its devoted followers!

Matetsi may have to wait for another time unless I want to do this holiday solo...something about the Zanu-PF militia surrounding our taxicab with clubs and spears and walking a foot away from the cab on either side, about 150 strong on each side while our windows were all the way down and we were too scared to move! I guess time heals wounds faster for some than for others!

The ABSOLUTES on my itinerary are:

Twelve Apostles (3 or 4 nights)

Simbambili (3 or 4 nights)

Madikwe Hills (3 or 4 nights)

I am very interested in the following places, but I do not know if I will be able to fit them in:

Bushmans Kloof (2 nights)

Phinda Forest (3 or 4 nights)


I am moderately interested in the following places:

Le Quartier Francais (2 nights)

Westcliff Hotel (1 night at only 1,240 ZAR per couple sharing, only necessary if I were to stay at Bushmans Kloof without finishing up the Western Cape in the Winelands, as this would cause me to take an afternoon flight from Cape Town to Joburg, missing all flights to whatever game lodge and necessitating a single overnight in Joburg. Although "A Room With A View" looks nice, the Westcliff definitely appears to be a world class 5* hotel).

I guess something like this is possible:

Twelve Apostles, 3 nights

Bushmans Kloof, 2 nights. There is an excellent package beginning April 01st for 3 nights at the 12 Apostles and 2 nights at Bushmans Kloof, including all breakfasts and dinners at the 12 Apostles, as well as a spa treatment, and full board at BK for only 1,097 pppns...that works out to $825 USD per person for the five night stay...unbelievable! The same package one week earlier would be about $600 USD per person extra and would not include all dinners at 12 Apostles or spa treatment so cost savings are nearly $150 USD per person per night.

Westcliff Hotel, 1 night. As I just pointed out in an independent thread, beginning April 01st to August 31st, it is possible to book a room for only 1,240 ZAR ($185 USD) per night at this fabulous looking hotel located in an exclusive setting overlooking Joburg.

Transfer to Simbambili, 3 nights.

Transfer to Madikwe Hills, 3 nights.

This is where I am having problems...is Phinda worth a visit for 3 nights? There seems to be so much to do, yet is it worth more time than the Sabi Sand or Madikwe?

I would like to save Madikwe Hills for last, as it is definitely the most luxurious of the bunch, yet if I stay at Phinda during anytime but the very end, I will lose my morning game activity on the final day to catch an early flight out of Richards Bay to Joburg (connecting to either Simbambili or Madikwe Hills).

I am concerned about being disappointed going from Madikwe Hills to Phinda Forest, but from what I am hearing from other Fodorites, I will NOT be disappointed.

I'll tell you, that Rhino Darting safari looks incredible. Since it looks like I may wait for April 01st low rates, all the way around, I guess there is no reason why I could not start out with Phinda for 3 nights and proceed in this order, timing my stay for a weekend stay in Cape Town:

Phinda Forest (4) April 02, 03, 04 and 05
Westcliff Hotel (1) April 06
Simbambili (4) April 07, 08, 09 and 10
Madikwe Hills (4) April 11, 12, 13 and 14
Twelve Apostles (3) April 15, 16 and 17
Bushmans Kloof (2) April 18 and 19. This is the perfect way to end the itienrary since the flights home from Cape Town do not leave until about 9PM. Late checkout, followed by a leisurely 3 hour drive back into Cape Town, perhaps stopping for a late lunch/early dinner someplace very special before returning home.

This is longer than some people that may be traveling with me would like to stay, but with the excellent April rates, and with weather that I think will still be fabulous, I do think this is an excellent itinerary.

I think this itinerary nearly guarantees:

-Wild dog spottings at Madikwe Hills and maybe even at Simbambili

-Countless leopard sightings and probable leopard kills if I am able to hook up with Taga Safaris filming crew at Simbambili

-Numerous rhino spottings, both black rhino and white rhino alike, at Phinda, Madikwe Hills and Simbambili

-The opportunity to participate in rhino darting research at Phinda, although I really just want to afford scaredtodeath and I the opportunity to molest the helpless rhino!

-Horseback riding through False Bay Nature Reserve while at Phinda.

-If in season at Phinda, Night Turtle Drives to see the loggerhead and leatherback turtles make their way up the beach to lay their eggs.

-Isikolethu Community Experience near Phinda (Experience the wonders and diversity of the Zulu culture while exploring the Mduku, Mnqobokazi and Nibela rural communities surrounding the Reserve. Guests will depart after breakfast at 10h00, enjoying visits to Macebo crèche, the Sangoma (witch doctor), Ngubane Homestead and Mdluli Ancestoral Home to name a few. After an action-packed morning, guests will return to Phinda in time for a late lunch and their afternoon game-drive).

-Possibly do some snorkeling on the beach at Sodwana Bay while at Phinda.

I do love all the options available at Phinda, which is why I think four nights would be best, although I am not sure if I would want to commit my time to a rhino darting safari...perhaps doing it once, but not over and over again.

So how does the 18 night Phinda, Westcliff Hotel, Simbambili, Madikwe Hills, Twelve Apostles, Bushmans Kloof itinerary look???
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Sep 1st, 2004, 07:10 AM
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Looks good to me. 3 nights at Phinda is pretty normal to most people but it looks like you want to try and do alot while there. Trust me, the days fly by. You might just opt to do one or two things outside of the game drives.

I found my 4 night stay wasn't really enough because of all the additional activities Phinda has. It's really hard to cut into a game drive if you know what I mean.

We chose to do the h'back riding on Sodwana bay and the Flight of the Fish Eagle. They do have day trips just to hang out at the beach as well. I would have loved to dive and do the canoe-ing too but there wasn't enough time. The days flew by.

We definitely want to return and may do so sometime next year.

I'm signing off for two weeks now as I'm heading to the airport for my Greece sailing trip. Unfortunately, it's NOT AFRICA!!

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Sep 1st, 2004, 12:48 PM
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Divewop,

YOU POOR THING!!!

I am sure Greece will be a lot of fun, and you should have ample time on your hands to get busy planning and perfecting your next African holiday!

Twelve weeks to go for me before I am off to Costa Rica for one week. It will be my first visit and I was pleasantly surprised when I recently learned that my company had purchased enough material from my supplier to qualify for a second trip (my business partner and his wife are using the first earned trip). I had been wanting to visit Costa Rica, but never wanting it enough to consider going there over Southern Africa!
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