Kenya/Tanzania or Botswana/Zimbabwe/South Africa??

Old Mar 17th, 2007, 07:16 AM
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Kenya/Tanzania or Botswana/Zimbabwe/South Africa??

Hi Everyone - I am just beginning my research on Africa and I am so torn on where I'd like to go. This is my first (and may be my only!) trip to Africa and I really want to make the best of it. I will have around 2 weeks of travel time in Africa and I am currently considering Kenya and Tanzania (with maybe a short stint in Zanzibar on the backend) OR Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. I know this is a lot to accomplish in 2 weeks regardless of which path I choose, but any advice? Kenya and Tanzania seem to have superior wildlife viewing opportunities. Botswana & Zimbabwe seem to have more flexibility in how you view the wildlife - up close viewing, canoe safaris, etc. I would love to do both S. Africa & E.Africa (maybe Tanzania & Zimbabwe?), but not sure if it is really feasible to combine Southern Africa with Eastern Africa in 2 weeks. Any opinions? I am so excited for my trip - I almost want to pack up and move there to see everything Thanks! - Laura
lmavolio is offline  
Old Mar 17th, 2007, 08:15 AM
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When is your trip? That is important in offering advice.

Also is this a custom itinerary or did you have a particular group departure in mind?

The "up closeness" factor is a function of being able to drive off road and animals being accustomed to vehicles. There is more offroading in Southern Africa, but I'd rate the close encounters equal in East and Southern Africa.

Canoeing and walking are exciting and a great way to view wildlife, but the encounters are much briefer as a rule.

It is possible to do 2 regions in 2 weeks, but I'd opt for that only if you had your heart set on seeing specific sights in specific areas. For example, you must see Victoria Falls and the Ngorongoro Crater. Then Zim and Tanz could make sense.

With 2 weeks you want as many of your hours and days in the bush as you can and not in transit in airports.

To pick your countries and activities, first pick what is important to you.

Photography? Then viewing from a vehicle is usually best.

Being active? Then Zambia or Zimbabwe with walking and canoeing, plus excellent regular game drives and night drives should be included.

Remoteness/seclusion? Botswana, which also has excellent game but is pricier and books in advance. Maybe a mobile safari would work well for you in Botswana. Or choose Southern Tanzania.

The Big 5? South Africa is the surest bet in the shortest amount of time. But other places can provide that also.

Migration? Kenya or Tanzania or both

For my once in a lifetime solo trip to Africa where my goal was to see lots of animals I chose Kenya and Tanzania and became hooked.

Please post again as your plans narrow.
atravelynn is offline  
Old Mar 18th, 2007, 04:53 AM
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I personally would be reluctant to go to Zimbabwe given the political situation there - it can only get worse before it gets better.
hetismij is offline  
Old Mar 18th, 2007, 05:35 AM
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You both bring up terrific points. To answer a few of them, I am going to let the destination dictate when I travel. I have some flexibility in terms of when I leave, so if I decide to go to Tanzania & Kenya for example, I will try to choose the "best" time of year to go to those places. If I decide on Botswana, it may be a different time of year...Generally, from what I can see, July-Sept in all places seem like optimal times of the year to visit, so I am leaning toward August. I am hoping I can still find some availability for this August/early Sept, but I know I am cutting it close....

This will be for a custom itinerary (I am not really into large group tours).

As far as priorities, I too am looking primarily for excellent wildlife viewing - lions, elephants, cheetahs, hippos, etc. Just trying to figure out the best places to see these animals since I know they can be found in various places across Africa.

I do like the remoteness of Botswana (I have heard Kenya and Tanzania have grown quite "overrun" with tourists), but, at the same time, I have seen so many National Geographic shows on the Masai Mara and the Serengetti, I just think it would be wonderful to finally get there for myself!

Victoria Falls is not a "must see" for me, and the political situation there is definitely something to consider...
I was considering Zimbabwe really b/c I heard they have wonderful canoeing safaris.

I do like the mobile safari ideas as well. My husband and I are pretty active, but as long as we can fit in 1 walking safari, a couple of night drives, and maybe one day by boat, we would be more than happy.

We think the wildebeest migration would be pretty amazing to see as well, but we are open to traveling outside of that time as well...When you view the migration, does it really bring out all of the other predators as well? i.e, do you see lions, wildebeest and other animals all out on the plains together at once? I am worried that the migration may be "overrated" - if that's even possible....

Well, hope that gives you a better sense for my interests, as well as flexibility on timing. Thanks so much!!
lmavolio is offline  
Old Mar 18th, 2007, 08:36 AM
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Your flexibility in travel dates will really help. Aug-Sept is a good bet all over as you mentioned.

"When you view the migration, does it really bring out all of the other predators as well?"

Yes it does. It is not a column of wildebeests in a vacuum. Even if you don't see the bulk of the migration, seeing huge herds of wildebeest and zebra is impressive.

In Sept or Oct I’d recommend Kenya with time in Tanzania if it fits. You can avoid the crowds by choosing your parks and accommodations wisely. With your own guide you can leave early while others are still breakfasting and stay out all day when others are siesta-ing back at camp. You’ll still likely see some other people but it won’t be a parade.

Since you want to see all the usual wildlife, in my experience here are the best East Africa spots for:
Lions—Mara, but they are in many parks and not that hard to find.
Cheetah—Mara, the Serengeti is great too; many, including me, have seen some in Ngorongoro, but they can be in most parks.
Leopard—Samburu in Kenya, Serengeti, but they can be anywhere.
Rhino—Lewa Downs in Kenya, other private reserves in Northern Kenya, Sweetwaters (Kenya), Lake Nakuru (Kenya), often seen in Ngorongoro.
Hippo—everywhere, Mara River has lots of action.
Elephant—In Kenya Samburu, Amboseli, also lots in Mara; in Tanzania Tarangire in Aug-Sept

Samburu and other northern Kenya parks have unique and easily seen species of giraffe, antelope, zebra, and ostrich.

You mentioned canoeing. Here are some of my comments and links to a marvelous canoe opportunity in the Lower Zambezi in Zambia along the Chifungulu Channel.

We took 7 hours to canoe along the Zambezi and through channels to get to Old Mondoro from Sausage Tree. Of all the lovely canoeing I did this was by far the most spectacular with narrow winding waterways through Winterthorn Forests. The birdlife numbered in the hundreds per flock with spoonbills, all the ibises, Egyptian geese, spur-winged geese, black crake, the herons: gray, black-headed, green-backed, goliath, squacco, the storks: open-billed, saddle-billed, yellow-billed, wooly-necked; egrets, and fish eagles. A herd of 150 buffalo watched us from the banks without running away, we saw elephants with a baby, a trumpeting ele from the brush, monkeys on the banks, and had 20 hippos charge out of the shallow water ahead of us. Jason, the Sausage Tree manager who accompanied me to Old Mondoro, said it was like canoeing through the enchanted forest and he was right. Walt Disney could not have made up a better “ride” than that canoe trip.
Others’ comments on Chifungulu Channel ½ way down see Steeliejim

I would check to see if by Aug-Sept the channel is still filled with water. There is other canoeing as well. Game viewing in Zambia from land is good with night drives daily, but not quite the abundance of Kenya or Tanzania. Walking is done regularly.

There are places to walk in Kenya-Tanzania but you’d want to be sure your agent knows that is a priority. (It’s not extensive walking like Zambia, though.) The only water activity I can think of in East Africa are recent canoe trips in Lake Manyara in Tanzania. I have not done that.

Since you prefer to avoid group travel, a mobile in Botswana would probably not be your first choice.

If canoeing is a real priority, you could do the LZ for 4-5 days, then take an Air Kenya flight from Lusaka to Nairobi (2-3 hours) and visit a couple of Kenya parks for the rest of your trip. I did a Southern and Eastern Africa trip once when Mana Pools and gorillas were must sees and lost about a day and a half to travel.

Good luck.
atravelynn is offline  
Old Mar 18th, 2007, 09:02 AM
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If you go to Africa once, you will go again and again and again, so regardless of which area you decide to visit you will do the other next: I promise.

So since has given you some ideas for east Africa, let me give you an idea for southern Africa.

My itinerary would assume that you are flying out of the US and using SAA or Delta to get there, so I have suggested a Johannesburg to Johannesburg itinerary.

First night is a forced overnight in the city as onward flights are not available unless you have the budget to charter a light aircraft.

Then the flow is as follows:
3 nights Madikwe.
5 niights Botsawana (3 delta & 2 Savuti/Linyati/Kwando area)
2 nights around Victoria Falls. (zim or zam between jan and July, zim only between August and Jan)
4 night lower Zambezi or South Luangwa Valley.
Return JNB, connect out the country and return home via JNB.
This is 15 nights if you are really tight and can only do 14 then perhaps drop a night in the Madikwe.

mkhonzo is offline  
Old Mar 18th, 2007, 11:32 AM
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For water activity in TZ you could consider Selous I think. I have never been there - on my wish list - I am sure there are plenty of Fodorites who can tell you more about it.
hetismij is offline  
Old Mar 18th, 2007, 12:12 PM
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Hi Laura,

Yes, let me give a hearty second to Lynn's description of the canoe trip down the Chifungulu Channel in Zambia.

Zambia is the other part (along with Zimbabwe) that was split from the colonial Rhodesia. Unlike Zimbabwe, though, it is a stable country, wonderful, friendly people, and also "relatively" undiscovered compared to Tanzania, Kanya, So. Africa. We had issues with Sausage Tree (although Lynn and others have liked it), but Chiawa, a little ways away, and which also combines stays there with the canoe trip to Old Mondoro, was wonderful. And, I cannot speak highly enough about Old Mondoro. Walks, night drives, elies, buffalo, and hippos wandering through camp, and the most amazing camp hosts, Helen and Roelof. And we saw one other vehicle once in our whole stay.

So. Luangwa Nat. Park is also noted for walks. No canoe trips that I know of, though. We stayed at Luangwa River Lodge and loved it, along with our incredible guide, Victor.

Rocco, a frequent poster here (who also arranged our trip), has been to many of the places you are interested in, and will be going to Zimbabwe in spite of the unrest we've been reading about. Perhaps he can weigh in on the current state of affairs there.

Please keep us posted on your planning progress.

steeliejim is offline  
Old Mar 18th, 2007, 06:13 PM
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Wow - now I am really confused It all sounds so amazing....Zambia sounds wonderful. I am still a little concerned about the political situation in Zimbabwe, so not sure if that will work. Kenya & Tanzania still sound terrific, although not as remote as Botswana. I am going to keep researching to make my decision.

If I do choose Kenya & Tanzania, is it still possible to feel like you're "off the beaten path" with so many tourists?
lmavolio is offline  
Old Mar 18th, 2007, 06:59 PM
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Off beaten path in Kenya & Tanzania:

If you have your own guide you are already on your way. Go out early while others are still eating breakfast. Stay out midday while others are back in camp. Those two strategies cut down on people anywhere. Just be sure you let the agent know up front that is your plan.

Southern Tanzania (where I'd like to go but have not) has fewer people than Botswana. Selous (where boating is common since you usually stay right on the river), Ruaha, Katavi, Mahale with chimps. But it can get more expensive down there than the Northern circuit. Aug-Sept is an excellent time for good game viewing because water is scarce.

Lewa Downs in Kenya-no crowds

Meru in Kenya-no crowds

Some of the other private Northern ranches in Kenya-no crowds

Smaller Maasai Mara camps, especially a little further north such as around Little Governor's, Rekero minimize crowds

Try Shampole, not far from Amboseli. Never been but I think few crowds there.

Tsavo-real big park, not crowded

Serengeti-so big you can get away from crowds

I would not let the fear of crowds deter me in selecting safari destinations. A good guide will minimize your interaction with others.

I understand your wanting to skip Zimbabwe.

atravelynn is offline  
Old Mar 19th, 2007, 02:11 AM
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We were in TZ Feb last year, peak Northern circuit viewing. And the only time we were aware of "crowds" was when we stopped by a lion and two lorries turned up, packed with people all fighting to get a photo of the poor beast. I took a photo or two of the people and we left them to it. Highlights for me were finding Cheetah, with no one else in sight, and watching a wildebeest give birth, again with no one else in sight. A lot is down to the skill of your guide I think. Some are always on the radio and are lazy and take you to reported sightings, others take you off and find things, and more importantly don't share them!(At least not till your done with them)The only time our guide used the radio was to find us a leopard as we hadn't seen one.
We stayed in tented camps, which by definition aren't crowded. I don't know how the lodges feel in the evenings.
hetismij is offline  
Old Mar 19th, 2007, 03:04 AM
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I'd pick two countries, any two countries and you can do both easily in two weeks. For instance, just to pick two that are east AND south, Kenya and South Africa. Fly into Nairobi then five nights at Little Governors Camp in the Mara. Back to Nairobi and fly to Johannesburg. That will take one day, at least. From Joburg short flight to to Sabi Sands Game Reserve (next door to Kruger). Five nights at a SSGR camp; Londolozi, or Singita, or Mala Mala, or Leopard Hills, etc. Very short flight back to Johannesburg, fly home.
What I would NOT do is try to visit several camps, like 5 or more. You waste too much time in transfers between camps when you could be game viewing.
regards - tom
ps - if you're going this summer/fall, camp choices are filling and closing.
cary999 is offline  
Old Mar 19th, 2007, 09:39 AM
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I agree with Tom (Cary999) We are going for two weeks in June - 6 nights in Sabi Sands Reserve at 2 camps; then, 6 nights divided between Bots and Vic Falls (my partner very water oriented and wanted action there)...I feel we will cover quite a bit; and of course plan our return trip on the 20 hour flight home! Good Luck! (the other 2 days are of course flying from one area to the other, but I think of what I will see via air will be fun too!)
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Old Mar 19th, 2007, 01:19 PM
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Water activities in Tanzania/Kenya:

Canoeing on Small Momella Lake in Arusha National Park in northern Tanzania. This is a couple of hours activity and can be combined with game drives in Arusha National Park. Available through

I could be wrong, but I don't think canoeing on Lake Manyara is offered anymore.

Boat rides (motor) on the Rufiji River in Selous in southern Tanzania. Most camps are located on the river and offer this activity. Can be a few hours or longer with a packed meal. You can go on boat rides everyday if you wish. I recommend at least two - one early morning and one at sunset. No crowds here.

Boat rides on Lake Baringo in the Rift Valley in Kenya. This is mostly for bird watching but there are crocs and hippos as well. Any of the accomodations here can arrange this. If you're brave, you can try one of the locally made balsa rafts (paddle by hand). We stayed at Samatian Island in the middle of the lake and this is how some of the staff "commuted" to work. Baringo is a nice place to relax and unwind pre, mid, or post safari but not a game viewing destination.

Rafting or inner tubing (again, the latter for the brave) on the Ewaso Nyiro River on one of the private ranches in the Laikipia region in Kenya. Being on private land, there's a variety of activities and ways to view game here including night game drives, walks, camel and horse rides and no crowds. Also a chance to see some of the northern Kenya species.
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