Just starting to plan Africa trip

Jul 13th, 2010, 10:10 AM
  #1  
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Just starting to plan Africa trip

I will be traveling alone next spring/summer and I want to go to South Africa (Cape Town and somewhere in Kruger) but also want to go to Kenya/Tanzania. I have 3-4 weeks but want to be sure to see the highlights. I will be looking for a small, high-end tour, such as Micato. Any suggestions on what must not be missed? Other tour providers? Experiences with Micato? Thanks!!
losaltos is offline  
Jul 13th, 2010, 02:35 PM
  #2  
 
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Micato gets high marks. They have a tour that does southern and east Africa. If you can afford it, go for it - it will be top notch. You can check out Abercrombie & Fitch and Tauck too. They do both areas. If you check out Travel and Leisure online, they have a list of their "best" safari operators. But there are much less expensive ways to go. If I were going solo, I would probably do a group tour, too, but you can do an independent tour where you will get treated very well and can have more flexibility. If you think this might not be your only safari - I'd consider doing southern or east Africa and go back (you'll be planning your next safari on your plane home!!).
christabir is offline  
Jul 13th, 2010, 06:35 PM
  #3  
 
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Hi There,

Sounds like a comprehensive safari experience you have planned! My first suggestion is to consider moving your trip into the summer. The spring time is a shoulder season for much of Southern Africa and a short rainy season for Tanzania and Kenya. South Africa will be in winter May-August and game viewing will be excellent. Zimbabwe is entering high season in June and peak game viewing is July-October. October is very hot! Botswana is also entering high season in June with peak game viewing in July-October. Some parks in Zambia are only open from July-October. Cape Town is in winter May-August so you can get some cold rainy days but it will always be a good place to catch your breath before your journey begins.

Here is a possible itinerary for July/August. Some people want to visit East Africa to see the migrations. The great migrations are always on the move (thus the name). They traditionally cross into the Kenyan Masai Mara from Tanzania (Serengeti) in July. In fact, for 2010 they began this week! So if you go in late July or August you can see the migrations on the Masai Mara. But, there are only three animals that migrate so the massive herds or Zebras & Wildebeast can “choke out” your viewing of other animals and you may want to also spend some time avoiding the migrations in East Africa.

Day 1,2,3 Arrive Cape Town and spend three nights at the Cape Grace.
Day 4,5,6 Fly to Nelspruit. Charter to Lion Sands or MalaMala. Both have rooms with no single supplement.
Day 7 Charter to Jo’burg. Overnight Jo’burg near the airport.
Day 8,9,10 Fly to Harare. Connect on a charter flight to Mana Pools National park and Ruckomechi Camp for three nights.
Day 11,12,13 Charter flight to Hwange National Park and Little Makalolo Camp for three nights,
Day 14 Charter to Victoria Falls. One night at the Falls.
Day 15,16,17 Charter to Botswana. Spend three nights at one camp in the Chobe/Linyanti/Selinda/Kwando area of Botswana. My favorites: Duma Tau, Savuti, Zarafa.
Day 18,19,20 Spend three nights at one camp in the Okavango Delta Botswana. My favorites: Little Vumbura, Chitabe, Jao, Mombo
Day 21 Overnight Jo’burg
Day 22 Fly to Nairobi. Overnight at the Fairmont Norfolk.
Day 23,24 Charter to Ol Donyo Wuas
Day 25,26,27 Charter to Mara Plains. See the migrations on a private conservancy!
Day 28 Go home.

The above itinerary is very high end especially in Botswana and Kenya. There are many other options and alternatives. Micato is a great and reputable company. When our company started in 1975 we actually used Micato to book our clients to East Africa. I have a Micato safari bag from my first trip to Botswana in 1984. But, I do recommend you shop around. I would also suggest you get an independent agent to price the exact Micato itinerary so you can make an apples-to-apples comparison before you commit. At last count, I am aware of at least 79 safari companies in the USA that can get you to all the above places. The big differences end up being price and service. Some companies really do the little things better than other and also can offer complete service such as the advice you need for the complicated commercial airline flights you need for the above itinerary.

If you are American let me know where you are from and I can possibly recommend a company and expert safari consultant you can meet face to face.

I DO NOT recommend a group tour of any kind. Any decent safari agency (SOME of the 79+) can plan your transfers and meeting services at airports and make your trip 100% private for the same or less than a group tour. Travel by yourself and you will meet new and interesting people at each lodge and you will never be alone. In a group you will always be subjected to the drunk, the annoying loud talker/braggart ay meals, the late person, or the person that holds up everyone taking 100 pictures of a tree. You will never get away! I urge you to travel independently and save the money and hassle.

I hope this helps.

Craig Beal
Safari_Craig is offline  
Jul 13th, 2010, 08:14 PM
  #4  
 
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I thought Micato mostly uses hotels like Sopa and Serena? How is it a high end tour?
HariS is offline  
Jul 13th, 2010, 08:36 PM
  #5  
 
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I agree with Craig on arranging your own plans instead of going with a "fixed" tour itinerary. I've traveled alone in Africa both ways and Craig is correct, you will meet people at each lodge/camp and never really be alone, so it is infinitely better to arrange your own itinerary than to go with a fixed tour. A long trip with one set of people is really confining, and you will meet a greater diversity of people if you arrange your own itineray. It really costs no more, and may well cost less. And you will pay no more using a good travel agent; many of these places will simply not book direct in any case.

If I had 28 days, I think I'd do either Kenya/Tanzania and Zim, OR South Africa/Botswana and Zim. Craig has suggested good itineraries, but I've found that spending 3 days in a camp is much preferable to spending only 2 days then getting on a plane again.

Something like 10 days South Africa/ 10 days Botswana and 8 days Zim/ Vic Falls would be amazing. Or substitute Kenya and Tanzania for the 10 days each, then 8 days in Zim.

South Africa could fill the whole month, but 10 days there would allow you to see the diversity of the country. Capetown is glorious (I could see at least 5 days there, with trips to the Wine Country and Cape Point, as well as all the sights in town). If you went independent, your travel agent could arrange a drive (or driver)from MalaMala/ the Sabi Sands area back to Joburg through some of the scenic towns and vistas in the Drakenburg mountains. I was surprised at how affordable customized itineraries like this are in South Africa.
If you had more time for Botswana (which is expensive, but absolutely worth it) I would spend 10 days instead of only six. To his camp list I would add:
Kwetsani -- fabulous small camp, near Jao, less expensive but takes you over much of the same territory
Jack's Camp or San Camp-- 3 nights in the Kalahari...UNFORGETTABLE
I loved both Vumbura and Chitabe, wildlife viewing at Mombo is incomparable. Given the prices at Mombo, a 2 night stay is still great, then you could spend the money saved on a couple additional days in one of the other camps in the Okavanga or Kalahari. Actually, I wouldn't want to miss any or these places!
ddgattina is offline  
Jul 14th, 2010, 06:20 AM
  #6  
 
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As others, good to use Micato and/or A&K itineraries as a guideline, but you can have other tour operators (those that specialize in African safaris) to price these for comparison.

While Micato does have an itinerary that uses mostly Serena and Sopa Lodges at a stiff prices, they can design a safari using more upgraded lux camps... at an even stiffer price.

But, I do believe you should consider a private itinerary designed to meet your wishes - where, how many days, type of accommodations, etc. It's easy enough and there are plenty of people to meet and not be tied to a "group" who may not have the same interests and being hampered by so many different personalities/quirks.

There are so many great destinations for safari, but only you can decide, as Safari_Craig shows, visiting South Africa, Victoria Falls, Botswana, and onto Kenya... but the cost with all those "charter" flights vs "scheduled" flights (within countries) can be a budget buster.

Have you checked international airfares, such as or if using Frequent Flyer miles the routing for:
1) States to South Africa/to East Africa (NBO or DAR)/back to the States, or
2) States to East Africa (NBO)/NBO or DAR (if visiting Tanzania also) to South Africa/back to the States?
... bearing in mind that flight time between South and East is about 4/hrs with only 1 or 2 flights daily; some of which may require an overnight before onward travel.

And, seriously... what kind of budget are you working with?

You can certainly visit South Africa/JNB for (CPT, Kruger), maybe VFA, then to Kenya/NBO, concluding in Tanzania for homebound out of Kilimanjaro/JRO

There are many options but lots of research and discussion with a specialist. And, don't hesitate, if necessary, using different operators/outfitters, one to handle the southern part of the Continent, one to handle the eastern areas... it's done all the time.

Good luck!
sandi is offline  
Jul 14th, 2010, 04:18 PM
  #7  
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Wow you guys are fabulous -- so much to think about! Safari Craig -- yes I am in the States, northern CA to be exact. Who would you recommend? Let me digest some of these recommendations. I am sure I will be back for more of your wonderful advice. Cheers!
losaltos is offline  
Jul 14th, 2010, 04:33 PM
  #8  
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Forgot to ask: two friends told me NOT to consider Zimbabwe at this time..dangerous and unstable. You guys seem to think I should go there. Any insights on why?
losaltos is offline  
Jul 14th, 2010, 07:34 PM
  #9  
 
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Losaltos - by Northern California perhaps you mean the Bay Area?

If so, consider Mountain Travel Sobec or Bushtracks. Bushtracks is owner operated by David and Caroline Tett. They are better know for private air safaris but they are very familiar with the normal FIT safaris as well and their prices should be good. My top recomendation would be Bushtracks as the I know the owners personally. If you are really far North then maybe consider Paul Swart who owns Natural Migrations in Bend Oregon.

Zimbabwe:
Totally safe. I was there in May and I am taking my wife and teenage daughters next July. I have sent three female employees from my company to check out lodges and parks and they all traveled alone. Matt from our Minnesota office just spent six weeks in Zimbabwe arriving hoome June 14 and said it was the most peaceful place he has ever visited or worked in Africa (he has been just about everywhere and worked in lodges in Namibia and Zambia). I have sent many people to Zimbabwe for many years and no one has ever been hassled. You stand much more risk of falling victim to crime in Cape Town than in Zimbabwe.


Craig Beal
Safari_Craig is offline  
Jul 15th, 2010, 03:12 AM
  #10  
 
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Hi there

Zim is safe (mostly) and the staff members at lodges etc. are desperate to make the experience as memorable as possible for visitors...they really go ten extra miles. About South Africa: we have the most wonderful safari options as well as MANY other places to visit. For safari, do have a look at www.africadirect.co.za - I make use of them all the time. You definitely don't want to miss out on Cape Town/winelands either.

Kind regards
living4safari is offline  
Jul 15th, 2010, 05:39 AM
  #11  
 
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Recommend Ngoko safaris.

www.ngoko.com

Benson is one of the partners of Ngoko. He still lives in Zimbabwe, and really has strong guiding history behind him in both Zim and Botswana. Also he's personally played a big hand in setting up many of the Wilderness camps - Makololo, Savuti etc etc.,
HariS is offline  
Jul 15th, 2010, 05:41 AM
  #12  
 
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Here are some well reputed camps in Zimbabwe

www.africanbushcamps.com

I do believe there are some trip reports on safaritalk

www.safaritalk.net

(go to the trip report section)
HariS is offline  
Jul 15th, 2010, 02:16 PM
  #13  
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Ok I am feeling much better about Zim...and it sounds like it would be easier than K/T also. I will check out the Bay Area suggestions Safari Craig so again thanks for that info. So much studying to do!
losaltos is offline  
Jul 15th, 2010, 04:04 PM
  #14  
 
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David Tett, the owner of Bushtracks, is from Zimbabwe.

Craig Beal
Safari_Craig is offline  
Jul 15th, 2010, 10:20 PM
  #15  
 
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since you plan on going all the way up to kenya/tanzania, id see if you have it in your budget to head to rwanda or uganda for a few nights and gorilla trek. that was by far the most insane and amazing breath taking experience i have ever had. It is worth every penny, so if u can..do it!!!
jenbertoni is offline  
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