Itinerary Thoughts

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Apr 2nd, 2004, 07:41 PM
  #1
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Itinerary Thoughts

Hi Folks,

I've spent a couple weeks planning out a southern africa itinerary, and just discovered this board a few days ago - seems like a lot of well-informed people post here - and I thought I'd ask for some thoughts on the Botswana portion of the trip. The basic plan is to fly into Cape Town, spend a few days there, then head up to Namibia, then finish the trip with ~6 nights in Botswana. We're (my fiance and I) trying to keep costs down for the trip, which will total 27 nights, but we're willing to splurge a bit on the Botswana portion. Here are some ideas we've considered:

1) 2 nights in Xigera Camp, 3 nights in Muchenje Safari Lodge, 1 night at the Intercontinental in Livingstone (just enough time to see the falls before we fly out of Victoria Falls

2) 1 night in Xigera Camp, 2 nights on the Xigera Mokoro Trail, 2 nights in Muchenje Safari Lodge, 1 night at the Intercontinental in Livingstone

We've also considered Chitabe on the high end, and the Chobe Safari Lodge on the low-end.

This is our first Africa trip - we're extremely excited for it. Our priority for the Botswana portion is to see game, since we won't do as much of that during the rest of our trip. We're also looking for good value - we don't need things to be overly luxurious or stylish, so long as we can do great game drives and be comfortable.

Any thoughts on these places? Other ideas? Thanks for your help!
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Apr 2nd, 2004, 08:06 PM
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May want to consider the Kwando circuit and do something like this:

Kwando Lagoon - 3 nights
Kwando Kwara - 2 nights
Kwando Songwe Village - 1 night

While Kwando appears to be a great operation, its prices are very reasonable, comparatively speaking.

www.kwando.com

I guess it all depends on your personality, but I do think that the 1 night Xigera, followed by 2 nights on canoe trail option would be a bit of a taxing way to end your honeymoon.

Also, if there is anyway that you are able to add a seventh night in Botswana, it may make it into a much more pleasurable stay...either that or cutting it down to two lodges. I think that staying at a lodge for only a single night is not very beneficial.

Have a look at Songwe Village (Kwando). It definitely appears to merit two nights. If you and your fiance are adventurous souls, you may want to spend the extra day white water rafting, bungee jumping, or any of the other various activities available in Victoria Falls. Songwe Village is on the Zambian side of the border, in case that matters.

I do think that Kwando is reasonable enough that you can afford to stay a seventh night for the same price as six nights elsewhere.

Best of luck and congratulations on your upcoming wedding.
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Apr 2nd, 2004, 08:34 PM
  #3
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Thanks for the thoughts. Kwando does look like a good alternative. Any agents that you would suggest for working with Kwando? Or can one book with them directly? Their website seems to suggest going through an operator and lists a ton of them....The agents I've contacted so far have steered me towards Wilderness Safaris fairly strongly, which is part of the reason why I started surfing the forums to begin with - I realized I needed to do more research and checking up myself.

Thanks again.
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Apr 2nd, 2004, 09:46 PM
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Chooch,

I do have a quote from just yesterday on a Kwando / Savuti safari. The prices look okay and are not too much out of line than what is listed on www.botswanasafari.info which lists Kwando's lodges in shoulder season at $318 per person per night sharing (excluding transfers). Therefore, you may expect to pay about, if travelling in shoulder season (April 01st to June 30th and November 01st to November 30th) $636 x 7 nights, plus your transfers from Johannesburg and between camps. I am guessing that you will come in under $3,000 per person sharing for a 7 night Kwando safari, and I do suggest no less than seven nights, with 3 nights at Kwando Lagoon, 2 nights at Kwando Kwara and 2 nights at Songwe Village.

If you are going in high season, July 01st to October 31st, you would need to add $180 per person per night sharing, and this would still be cheaper, by a good amount, than Wilderness Safaris camps. High season, alone, would add $1,250 per person sharing to the price of the Botswana portion, taking it from $6,000 total all the way up to $8,500.
I find that difference in price hard to swallow, and I will be going towards the end of June next year, God willing, and will take advantage of the shoulder season pricing.

Although not mentioned in your original post, you may want to also consider Zambia for a quality low cost safari. I will be going in two months and will enjoy an 11 night safari in Lower Zambezi National Park and South Luangwa for the grand price, including all transfers from Lusaka for the grand price of about $4,800 or only about $218 per person per night, including flights from Lusaka - Lower Zambezi National Park, Lower Zambezi NP - South Luangwa National Park and South Luangwa NP - Lusaka.

The places I am staying at in Zambia are amongst the finest in the area and all include drinks and airport transfers (as well as all meals, laundry and game activities).

If you are intersted, I am staying at the following places:

Kulefu Tented Camp, Lower Zambezi NP
http://www.star-of-africa.com/circuit7.htm

Kaingo and Mwamba, South Luangwa NP
www.kaingo.com

Puku Ridge, South Luangwa NP
http://www.star-of-africa.com/circ3b.htm

Chichele Presidential Lodge, South Luangwa NP
http://www.star-of-africa.com/circuit3.htm

If you are able to make it in June, you should be able to get equal pricing if you e-mail each lodge, tell them you are on a budget and request low season local pricing. Otherwise, the price may go up about $100 per night, if you negotiate better than rack rates.

Do not be hesitant to ask for better than rack rates, and always contact the lodges directly, no matter where you are going. While there are some lodges that will not sell to you directly, there are others that will, and those lodges will usually discount their rack rates.

Good luck and don't hesitate to ask if you need any more help.
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Apr 2nd, 2004, 10:28 PM
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chooch, I am wondering if you've considered reversing the order and starting at Livingstone and leaving out of Cape Town? We did our trip that way and the advantage was we could get over jet lag at the Royal Livingstone (is that owned by Intercontinental, not sure if that's the same one you're thinking of) which was wonderful. Then we went on safari and after spent time in beautiful Cape Town where if you want to buy gifts you do that and not worry about the extra weight while on safari (with the very limited luggage req.). Not sure what time of year you're thinking of going though and perhaps you want to be in Cape Town when the weather is right. In any event it will be a wonderful honeymoon.
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Apr 3rd, 2004, 07:46 AM
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Hi chooch,
I concur with the advice about reversing the order...also because I think you will enjoy the Okavango/ Moremi portion of the trip MUCH more than Chobe. If you do the Okavango first (especially with WS) you may find the Chobe portion a bit disappointing. Mostly because the Okavango is mind-bogglingly spectacular and Chobe is "very good". I always like trips that end on a high note, and the Okavango is definitely that!

I agree with your travel agent that WS is superb, and worth every penny. If you do have the budget, I would make sure that any trip to Botswana includes at least one of their camps. That way you will be able to compare what you like and don't like when planning your next trip.

I've stayed at Chitabe...and at Muchenje...as well as a number of other camps in Botswana and would be happy to discuss the merits of each with you offline (email me at "[email protected]") (Another interesting topic would be the comparisons of being on private reserves vs in a national park like Chobe.)
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Apr 3rd, 2004, 08:26 AM
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Thanks for you input everyone, it's helpful to get your perspectives. I suppose I forgot to mention in the first post that we're taking this trip from the end of May to the end of June. I appreciate the idea of reversing the order of the trip, but I think we're pretty set on it for the following reasons:

1) I thought finishing it Botswana would be the most exciting, and starting in Cape Town would ease us into Africa. Plus, end of June seemed a great time to be in Botswana (almost high season, but still shoulder season prices).

2) We're doing a long self-drive trip from Cape Town through Namibia. Car rental prices were better for starting in Cape Town.

3) We're using airline miles, and we can fly out of Victoria Fall airport back to the states (through Joburg) on that awards ticket. (By the way, has anyone had trouble flying out of Vic Falls? Should we be worried about this at all?)

I am definitely going to look into the Kwando circuit referenced above. Any other thoughts for this time of year? Other lodges we should consider?

Thanks.
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Apr 3rd, 2004, 08:26 AM
  #8
LizFrazier
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Tashak- What time of year were you at Muchenje? We were there in late Aug/early Sept time frame and there weree no animals whatsoever. Game drives were in vehicles that mostly got flat tires and all we saw was rocks. Hopefully you can tell about a better time. No one else has posted here about the camp. The food was very good and the managers were nice, but the guests got sort of fed up after a couple of days without animals. Strange. We did see the only Pangolin I've ever seen though. The highlight for everyone.
 
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Apr 3rd, 2004, 05:25 PM
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Hi Liz,
I was at Muchenje in mid-Sept in 2001. We did see a fair amount-- lion in various incarnations (single female at buffalo kill...several females with one small cub, good sized pride with adolescents. Frightening thing about these lion-- they are beginning to "specialize" in crossing the river to hunt cattle on the Namibia side. if they get caught, they get shot. So far, they have been very wily and have prospered taking the local cattle...but I really worry about this behavior. Also jackal...tons of ellies of course. And pretty good birding. There were leopard tracks right outside our rondavels, too, but we never saw him. We actually saw a fair amount, but after the Okavango and Moremi, a step down in excitement and beauty.

The best part of Chobe on my visit was the day long boat trip. We saw huge herds of ellies coming down to drink and play...got very close, and hung around long enough to observe some interesting behavior. Also, after having WS guides doing really expert tracking, it just isn't as much fun to drive around Chobe and stay on the trails. In fairness to the guides, they don't really get good opportunities to track, since they must stay to roads. I found them to be a bit more "entertainment" oriented, and this was not to my personal liking. ( I tend to favor the professorial types who know all the research...the conservation types who can talk about what's happening and whats being done...or the serious "trackers".) But the facilities at Muchenje were nice, great view from the escarpment, and I found the owner/managers very interesting for history and commentary about the whole region (Sandy knows Zambia really well-- she was one of the people who turned me on to South Luangwa-- and her husband (Peter?) was great on historical and archeological stuff (grew up in Zim, I think his father was a professor of archeology in Harare.

When were you there? The comments about the the drop in animal numbers was really troubling, so I hope it was just one of those "luck of the draw" things, and not a trend...
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Apr 3rd, 2004, 06:13 PM
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LizFrazier
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Tashak-
We were there in 1999. You could not venture into Chobe then from Muchenje. The owners Mat and Lorna were in charge. They have since had a baby and may have another couple in charge. The site of the camp is incredible. Sean from Zimbabwe was the guide and Ass't Mgr. When you say the rondavels, are you referring to the rooms? They were chalet style when we were there. The main area was very nice overlooking the Caprivi Strip. No boat rides either. Nothing but these long dry game drives where we saw many foot prints, but strangely no animals.
We ran across people coming from Chobe and they saw lions and eles as you say. Perhaps Muchenje received permission to go into Chobe, or just took the liberty. Liz
 
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Apr 3rd, 2004, 09:20 PM
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Hi Liz,
Sounds like the same place.. yes, they were chalets overlooking the Caprivi strip. and fairly close to the Northern gate to Chobe...maybe this gate was new? or just closed when you were there?

We couldn't enter until 7AM (or thereabouts, as I recall) and everyone had to be out of the park by ^6:30PM, so no night drives. The boat trips could be rather new. As I recall we had a pretty long drive to the place we embarked, thus it had to be a full day trip. They didn't arrange this everyday...perhaps just twice a week. But it was the highlight, so if anyone is going to Muchenje, I'd make sure that this can be scheduled on your visit.

We did ALLof our drives in Chobe... was there a game management area or some other area they were using at that time? But even in the park "long dry game drives" applies... the elephant population there is so high (by some estimates at 3 times the carrying capacity of the park area) that they have just destroyed the vegetation.

Interesting note about elephants: when I was in Namibia, on the Skeleton Coast, we were told that the desert elephants have learned not to destroy the trees, and that the adults train the juveniles-- they are reprimanded if they get too destructive. This is essential because the area gets almost no rain (only the moisture from fog). But of course the elephant population of this area has always been quite low . Too bad the elephants of Chobe haven't "learned" this behavior.
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Apr 4th, 2004, 05:09 AM
  #12
LizFrazier
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Tashak- I guess somehow Muchenje received permission to enter the Park. In 1999 they were not allowed into Chobe Park. There was nothing outside of the Park and I questioned Mat as to why they built the camp where they did. He said they just 'liked' that spot. It is pretty, but what a situation with no game drives. Glad they received permission to enter the Park. I still think it would be better to stay at a camp within the Chobe Park.

My first visit to Botswana was in 1990 with Earthwatch. We assisted (our group, or team) the Scientist who was studying the effects of elephants on the environment. This report would, upon completion, be given to the Botswana government to make a determination as to whether they would cull the elephant herds in Botswana as surrounding countries were doing or had done. Each team of about 7 or 8 members would stay for 2 weeks doing the tedious counting of trees, bushes, etc. We all hoped they wouldn't cull the herds and I later heard that was the final recommendation of this report. We did visit Chobe (Savute), Moremi, and one other area I can't recall. The work was hot and tedious, the conditions were horrific, but I developed a love of Botswana and the Delta that is just as strong today as then. Luckily I have been able to return and see the real beauty of the country and the animals.
Most wonderful is the ability to find you folks where I can share these feelings and dreams. Liz
 
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