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Just Back From Botswana and South Africa - Ask Questions

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Jul 22nd, 2002, 10:21 AM
  #1
justin
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Just Back From Botswana and South Africa - Ask Questions

The people in these forums have given me so much information over the years and now I'd like to give something back. I just returned from a 2 week trip to Botswana and South Africa (safari and capetown) and would like to help others with questions. In addition to posting questions, please email me at [email protected] and I will email you back and post answers on the net. Here's what I did:


2 nights Sabi Sabi - Bush Lodge, South Africa
1 night Sabi Sabi - Earth Lodge, South Africa
1 night Lebala (Kwando), Botswana
2 nights King's Pool (Wilderness Safari), Botswana
3 nights Chief's Camp (A&K), Botswana
4 nights Cape Grace Hotel, Capetown S.A.

Feel free to ask about planning, travel agents, other camps in the area (I investigated heavily and met others while on vacation), and what to bring.
 
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Jul 22nd, 2002, 10:43 AM
  #2
kavey
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Justin

I would love to know more about the camps themselves, the facilities, staff and service, the game drives and expertise of guides, what animal and bird life you found at each, what the accommodation was like.

I'd love your impressions of each camp and each area.

I'd be interested in which camp was your favourite and in any which you felt didn't quite meet the standards of the others.

Also, did you fly in small charters between each camp or use other transport?

What did you think of Capetown, (I am thinking of adding this and other destinations in South Africa to a longer itinerary for our return trip in 2004).

Anything you'd be willing to share about any aspect of the trip, from packing to mosquitos to photography, I'd be happy to hear.

Lastly how did the photos come out and will you be posting any online?

I've used the free service ofoto to post my Africa photos (link for the album available on request or can be found in an earlier post of mine).

Kindest Regards
Kavey
 
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Jul 22nd, 2002, 01:22 PM
  #3
kavey
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Also would love to know why you chose those camps as opposed to others in the same locations?

What criteria did you use and did you find any information that's not readily available on websites or in brochures to help your choices?

Thanks...

Now to actually give you a chance to reply before I ask the next thing!

 
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Jul 22nd, 2002, 03:02 PM
  #4
Lisa
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Justin, I have sent you an e-mail and have tons of questions about your trip, particularly about Sabi Sabi and eating out in Cape Town.

Looking forward to hearing all the details.
 
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Jul 22nd, 2002, 03:33 PM
  #5
justin
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Lisa,

Haven't heard of the River Lodge, just the Bush, Earth and Celati lodges at Sabi Sabi. I was at Bush and Earth. Both were great. The pics on the website are very good and would do a better job describing the rooms than I could. Food at both is great, but of the two, Earth was better. Our guide at Bush was Doriano. He was good and a lot of fun, but only has 3 months of experience, so will not be as good as others. Didn't really take anything away from our experience, but depends what you are looking for. All of the rangers at Bush seemed nice, but we were only out with one, so I don't have much basis for recommending anyone else. At Earth, our ranger was Ray (Raymond) who was outstanding.

At Bush, the higher numbered rooms are farther away from the main camp, so if you want more privacy ask for a higher number (we were in #9, which is a good distance away). However, you've got to walk back and forth so it can be a pain to be too far away. Not much to do during the day, but there isn't much down time between meals and game drives. Go on a nature walk one day, it is a nice change. If you can get into earth lodge, even for one night, I would go for it. totally different experience and worth it.

Capetown we ate out 3 nights - once at Quay West (Cape Grace Hotel), amazing dinner for 2 with wine for about US$60!! second night at Bukhara, outstanding Indian food. third at Marcos African Cafe (african food and entertainment, both of which were mediocre). Ran into someone who had great seafood at Baia, a place on the waterfront (and recommended by the cape grace hotel).

Anything else I can help answer?

Justin
 
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Jul 22nd, 2002, 03:41 PM
  #6
justin
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I used Go2Africa. Check their website - go2africa.com. I dealt with 3 or 4 agents during my planning process and they were the most helpful and had the best prices. Kind of wierd doing everything via email and not talking to someone, but it all worked out very well - no kinks. At a minimum, you should get a price quote from them. Try to deal with Maureen Stover, she is the best. Mention my name as a reference...she is very familiar with me from all of my questions and planning.

I heard Mala Mala is nice. It is very close to the Sabi Sabi properties I visited. However, I found the overall safari experience to be better in Botswana. We considered Vic Falls, which I have heard is safe and we met many people on their way there or coming from there that felt comfortable, but ended up not going for safety reasons and we thought it was out of our way to go look at a waterfall (I know I'm oversimplifying). Cape Town is beautiful, cheap and a lot of fun. Ask if you have any other questions.

 
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Jul 22nd, 2002, 07:25 PM
  #7
Joey
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Justin:
I read your post, and I appreciate your willingness to help the rest of us. What sorts of game did you find in Botswana? I am especially interested in leopards and cheetah. Did you see many at King's Pool or Chief's Camp?
Thanks.
Joey
 
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Jul 23rd, 2002, 04:09 AM
  #8
kavey
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Joey
I know you weren't asking me, but we had great leopard and cheetah sightings at Mombo, in Botswana.
We spent hours with the animals, as you can see from my photos.
(Haven't got the link to hand but it's posted somewhere on this board).
Kavey
 
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Jul 23rd, 2002, 05:30 AM
  #9
evelyntrav
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We saw a leopard and her three cubs at Mombo and watched them for an hour. Mombo, as well as several other camps, has restrictions on how many vehicles can be at a sighting at one time. In this case since there were cubs involved, the limit was two.

One of our grandest experiences was at Savuti in Botswana where we followed three cheetah brothers for hours while they rested and hunted. Savuti is a rather remote camp and since we were the only vehicle in the area we were able to view and follow these animals without interruption.

Both cheetahs and leopards tend to be more reclusive than lions and harder to find. While we did see leoplard at national parks, we were not able to get close. At the private game parks, while there are regulations, it is much easier to get good viewing.

It is a matter of luck what you will see on a safari. If you want a copy of my trip report to Botswana, Namibia and Cape Town, let me know.
 
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Jul 23rd, 2002, 08:56 AM
  #10
Justin
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Joey,

Only saw Cheetah (with cubs) in S.A., not in Botswana.

Saw leopard pretty much everywhere, usually stalking or running away to hide. But at King's Pool saw a Leopard with cubs and a fresh impala kill - which I was told was very rare to see. Tough to guarantee what you will see. It's different on every drive. We drove to savuti from King's Pool in search of Cheetah, wild dog (spotted earlier that day in the savuti area) and Lion that supposedly hunt elephant. We saw none of these. So it's hard to say. King's Pool overall was great, as was Lebala. Duba is supposed to be great for kills, and Chief's for cats (we saw leopards briefly and lion).
 
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Jul 23rd, 2002, 08:59 AM
  #11
Justin
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(3 parts)

Kavey,

Some Background...

Keep in mind that I went in mid-July, Winter over there, so the climate was a factor in planning my trip. I chose Botswana as my primary safari destination because so many people said it was less commercial and less overrun with tourists. I was told that the Linyanti and Delta areas were the best for game viewing and a real Botswana experience given my 6 night limitation (3 nights in each area). I focused on 3 lodging operators - Wilderness Safaris, A&K and Gametrackers. I ended up choosing A&K in the Delta (Chief's Camp) and Wilderness Safaris (King's Pool) in Linyanti. I wanted to see what all the hype was about with A&K and Chief's seemed to be the best for game viewing of the 3 properties they have in Botswana. I was also told that I would see a lot of cats at King's Pool. Therefore, I wanted a camp that specialized in other animals as my next choice. I chose King's Pool based on the description as the highest concentration of elephants in the world (not true, based on my experience). I narrowed it down to King's Pool and also considered Duba Plains (not Linyanti) and Duma Tau as well. One person told me that if I really want to see a kill I should go to Duba...that was my only mistake, I should have gone there. I met a woman at King's Pool who had come from Duba and said she went on 4 straight game drives and saw 4 kills!!! Not sure if that is your thing, but after you've seen all the animals, you kind of want to see something different...some action. Anyway, this woman also thought the accommodations were better at Duba. I asked several people which of the three (King's, Duma and Duba) had nicer facilities and nobody really could make a distinction. So I chose King's because of the location (Linyanti) and the elephant concentration.

Next, I thought I would go to Mauritius or Seychelles to unwind for a few days. However, I ultimately decided not to because it would require more flights (appx 8 hours round trip) after my long travel from the US and I figured why go all that way to sit on a beach (I live in Los Angeles). So I decided to add a few more days of safari. Botswana was already very expensive, so I chose to focus on South Africa, which I thought would be more modern and less expensive. I was correct on both counts. I chose Sabi Sabi because of the beautiful looking facilities on their website (the Earth lodge was also featured in Conde Nast's hot list) and the great price (about half the cost of the Botswana properties). I'm glad I did safari in S.A., but I enjoyed my experience in Botswana a lot more. Botswana had much more beauty in the landscape and greater numbers of animals than SA. Also, the facilities, while not as plush as SA, were more authentic and really made you feel like you were in the Bush. Finally, there were less tourists and less chance of running into numerous vehicles out on game drives in Bots vs SA.
 
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Jul 23rd, 2002, 09:01 AM
  #12
justin
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(multiple parts)

Kavey,

Some Background...

Keep in mind that I went in mid-July, Winter over there, so the climate was a factor in planning my trip. I chose Botswana as my primary safari destination because so many people said it was less commercial and less overrun with tourists. I was told that the Linyanti and Delta areas were the best for game viewing and a real Botswana experience given my 6 night limitation (3 nights in each area). I focused on 3 lodging operators - Wilderness Safaris, A&K and Gametrackers. I ended up choosing A&K in the Delta (Chief's Camp) and Wilderness Safaris (King's Pool) in Linyanti. I wanted to see what all the hype was about with A&K and Chief's seemed to be the best for game viewing of the 3 properties they have in Botswana. I was also told that I would see a lot of cats at King's Pool. Therefore, I wanted a camp that specialized in other animals as my next choice. I chose King's Pool based on the description as the highest concentration of elephants in the world (not true, based on my experience). I narrowed it down to King's Pool and also considered Duba Plains (not Linyanti) and Duma Tau as well. One person told me that if I really want to see a kill I should go to Duba...that was my only mistake, I should have gone there. I met a woman at King's Pool who had come from Duba and said she went on 4 straight game drives and saw 4 kills!!! Not sure if that is your thing, but after you've seen all the animals, you kind of want to see something different...some action. Anyway, this woman also thought the accommodations were better at Duba. I asked several people which of the three (King's, Duma and Duba) had nicer facilities and nobody really could make a distinction. So I chose King's because of the location (Linyanti) and the elephant concentration.
 
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Jul 23rd, 2002, 09:03 AM
  #13
justin
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Kavey,

Finally, I chose Cape Town because of all the great things I heard from friends who had gone. They were right. Cape Town is a beautiful city with lots to do/see and it is incredibly cheap if you come from a country with a strong currency.

If you are going in the Winter, keep in mind that the weather is freezing in the morning and night and hot during the day. Your game drives will be early morn and sundown, so bring WARM clothes - gloves, sweaters, wool caps, scarves, etc. Also, don't underestimate the strength of the sun like me...nose, hands and lips burn very easy. We took doxycyclin for malaria, but there honestly were not a lot of mosquitoes (Winter). We were bitten a few times here and there and I am not saying to forgo the malaria medicine, but it shouldn't be a big concern in the Winter.

I worked with 3-4 travel agents during the planning process and managed to irritate a couple with my laundry list of questions along the way. The problem is that most agents haven't seen/don't know the differences between the camps and areas and it is a lot of money to spend blindly. I ended up working with go2africa.com, an internet agency. They have a fantastic website and were very friendly and helpful from the first contact. It was strange doing everything via email and not speaking to someone that you are giving so much money to, but everything worked out great. I would highly recommend them. They were not only helpful, but had better prices than all the others I spoke with. Try to deal with Maureen Stover if you have a chance. She is wonderful.
 
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Jul 23rd, 2002, 09:04 AM
  #14
justin
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(Last part)

Kavey,

Now the Camps:

S.A.

Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge - large facility, holds appx 50 people I believe. Very nice bungalow style rooms with AC/heat in the room and modern design. Spacious bathroom/sitting areas as well. Pictures on their website do a better job than I could in describing. Food was great (but I thought it was at every place we stayed). Rangers were very nice, but seemed less experienced than other places (didn't take away much from the drives because even an inexperienced ranger knows more than me). Staff was nice, but not the nicest.

Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge - smaller facility, holds appx 16 people I believe. Very modern, sleek facilities. Didn't feel like I was in Africa (not sure if that was a plus or negative). Beautiful place that I would recommend just for the experience. Also had the best food of any place we went. Game viewing was better than Bush lodge. Rangers were more experienced and animal sightings were better. We saw lion and cheetah here but not at Bush. Staff was very nice.

Botswana

Lebala (Kwando Property) - You might notice this place wasn't mentioned above. That is because we didn't plan on staying here, but ended up here for one night...but that's a whole other story. Anyway, this place was one of our favorite! Beautiful new facility. Individual tented rooms with polished teak floors and great bathroom facilities (ball and claw tubs). No electricity, which made things more romantic at night - the whole place is lit up with oil lamps. Food was great. Game viewing was awesome - on the way to the camp they stopped to show us a pride of lions that was feeding on a hippo they killed. Rangers were very knowledgeable and nice. Staff was very friendly, overall some of the nicest people we met.

King's Pool - Facilities were older than the rest, but still very nice. great room and deck overlooking a river. Didn't see that many elephants!! Otherwise, game viewing was great - lion, leopard (with cubs and a kill!!) hippo, etc., etc. Our ranger here was our favorite of all the camps. Staff here was also very nice and sad to leave. Food, again, very good.

Chief's Camp - Most expensive place. Nicest facilities and second best food (behind Earth Lodge). The rooms and bathroom were spectacular. Tent covered, but not really a tent. Good game viewing, but not as great as I expected. Larger numbers of animals, but at times harder to find. Definitely the most picturesque place we visited and most green (again, Winter season left many areas looking "dead"). Management of property was very nice, but the staff wasn't as friendly as other places...maybe they tell them to act more reserved due to the high end clients that come through...who knows. Rangers were very experienced and knowledgeable, but not our favorite personalities we met. We ran into Mombo vehicles a few times out on drives, so I'm not sure how much better their game viewing was, but I think it was probably better, because we ran into them at good sightings. No night drives allowed here or at Mombo (but were allowed everywhere else).

Any other questions, ask away.

Justin
 
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Jul 23rd, 2002, 09:40 AM
  #15
kavey
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Justin

Thats just brilliant, thank you! I really appreciate you taking all the time to write this and post it for me, especially when it all disappeared the first time you tried to post and I know you had to do it all again.

Thank you.

We also went in winter - June last year, and found the early mornings and late evenings cooler than we had expected, (though the agent had advised to pack gloves etc we hadn't appreciated it, I ended up buying some out there).

We found few mosquito too, but a number of Tsetse flies. I was a little alarmed when I got bitten until our guide explained that in that area they no longer carried sleeping sickness! We did take anti malarials - better safe than sorry and it only takes one wrong bite to get it!

For our first trip we didnt get involved in the itinerary since we based it on a trip my parents had done the previous year.

For the second one (2004) I am struggling to narrow the choices down.

At the moment there seem to be about 30 camps I want to visit and a whole host of areas.

If we do all that we'll be there for months and bankrupt!

So I am trying to look at narrowing things down adn your information helps greatly.

If I think of more questions I'll ask here.

Thanks again.

Kavey

 
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