Looking for input re unfamiliar Botswana camps

Old May 14th, 2008, 09:48 AM
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Looking for input re unfamiliar Botswana camps

I am planning a return trip to SA and Botswana, probably in June of 2009. I sent a first draft of an itinerary to an agent, suggesting (along with another stop or two) Mapula (or alternatively Little Vumbura or Kwara) and Duma Tau (or alternatively Lebala). The agent came back and suggested Kanana and Okuti camps, saying they would be less expensive but offered almost comparable accommodations and comparable game viewing. Our budget is not infinite, but I do pay attention to costs.

I'm looking for some input from any of you Fodor's experts about Kanana and Okuti, since a search on Fodors yielded very little results.

Thanks.
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Old May 14th, 2008, 10:42 AM
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I haven't been to both camps but according to my knowledge of the areas I can say the following:

Kanana: game drives should be limited that time of year due to the floods so the focus will be on water activities(it's not that far away from pom pom which I visited in 2003 and was quite wet).

Okuti: if I am correct they do game drives in Moremi (so no night drives or off-roading) - some other camps are not that far away (Camp Moremi/Xakanaka) so it could be busy if a big cat will be spotted. Also it's not the best time of year to visit Godikwe lagoon (heronry).

What is your main intrest and can you travel in other months than June so I can give you some other suggestions.

Greetz,

Johan

 
Old May 14th, 2008, 02:37 PM
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Johan, thanks for the info, those factors don't sound very positive. As far as your kind offer to provide more suggestions, here is our situation. We went to SA (Jo'burg and Cape Town) and Botswana in 2004, spending all of our safari time in Botswana, at Mashatu Tented Camp (3 nights), Savuti (2), Little Vumbura (2), Tubu Tree (2), and Little Mombo (1 night splurge) (plus one night at Victoria Falls). We are planning on going back and taking a first-timer couple with us. This trip I also want to go to the Kruger area, as well as doing a slightly shorter version of Botswana. For what it's worth, we did the Tanzania northern route and Zanzibar in March/April 2007.

Below is my first crack at an itinerary, which may be a bit overreaching, but I want to at least try it on for size (e.g., cost). I fear a severe case of sticker shock. Our budget, although undetermined at this point, is not, as I have said before, unlimited.

We want a variety of types of camps, games, lodgings, activities, topography, cultural exposure, etc., but game viewing is our (at least my, and hopefully the others') primary interest. I thought June would be a good compromise in terms of balancing the game viewing in the various areas, and for some camps there might be slightly lower rates at that time. If we can't get the trip arranged for 2009, then we might shoot for March of 2010 (to avoid the soccer World Cup in SA in June), but then would likely drop the Pans part of the trip since it would not yet be dry season.

I wasn't going to burden the board with the whole itinerary, but since there was a volunteer I guess I will. I have divided the trip into two parts. Any ideas, comments, suggestions, criticisms, etc. from the Fodorite intelligentsia are more than welcome. I have already gotten a lot of good info and ideas from this board, but there might be some more out there.

Part 1

Day 1 – Arrive in Jo’burg, transfer to nearby hotel
Day 2 – Air/Road transfer to Mashatu Tented Camp (beginning of Mafuri 9-day package)
Day 3 – Mashatu Tented Camp
Day 4 – Mashatu Tented Camp
Day 5 – Road transfer to Pafuri
Day 6 – Pafuri
Day 7 – Pafuri
Day 8 – Air transfer to Mala Mala Main Camp
Day 9 – Mala Mala Main Camp
Day 10 – Mala Mala Main Camp (add extra day to Mafuri 9-day package)
Day 11 – Tour of Panorama Route with car and driver – to Jo’burg hotel for overnight

Alternative ideas:

1. Day 9 – change to car rental and 2- or 3-day self-drive to Mala Mala Main Camp, overnighting in Kruger Park rest camp(s) (Shingwedzi Camp?, ??)
2. Maybe a day in Jo'burg before we go on to Part 2, for a change of pace


Part 2

Day 1 – Air/Road transfer from Jo’burg to Planet Baobab via Maun (3-night Planet Baobab itinerary, including quad bikes, one overnight in Pan, meerkats)
Day 2 – Planet Baobab
Day 3 – Planet Baobab (or maybe San Camp)
Day 4 – Air transfer (via Maun?) to Mapula Lodge (based on Predator Biologist's raves). Am I correct that Mapula will offer land and water (mokoro) activities in June? If not, Little Vumbura or perhaps Kwando Kwara Camp (based on Hari's raves) would be my preference.
Day 5 – Mapula Lodge
Day 6 – Mapula Lodge
Day 7 – Transfer (presumably by air?) to Duma Tau
Day 8 – Duma Tau
Day 9 – Transfer to Jo’burg to fly home

Alternative ideas:

1. Perhaps add one night at Victoria Falls at the beginning or the end (primarily for the first-time couple).
2. Perhaps Kwando Lagoon or Lebala (see earlier Hari reference) or other Linyanti camp instead of Duma Tau.

Well, what say all of you?
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Old May 14th, 2008, 06:24 PM
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hguy47,

Hello! My references were Little Kwara specifically - I had a great time pretty recently. Brilliant leopard viewing - specifically the Kwara female leopard and daughter.

I notice your Lebala reference - if you plan on going there, i would suggest 3 nights at a minimum (same would apply if ur choice was Duma Tau).

I have a logistical question for you - how do you drive from Mashatu to Pafuri in Kruger? thanks in advance. Mashatu sounds like a good area to visit. Heard good things from recent visitors.

Cheers
Hari
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Old May 14th, 2008, 06:28 PM
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Question for Johan or anyone else - why do the Desert and Delta camps not get much attention? I know some of their camps are in National parks - but, what about their gameviewing and stuff?

Thanks
Hari
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Old May 14th, 2008, 08:35 PM
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I come back with some answers/suggestions on friday.

Greetz,

Johan
 
Old May 14th, 2008, 08:55 PM
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hguy: I also have not been to those camps so can only pass on general knowledge and what I have been told. Those are both Ker & Downey Camps which has a good reputation and they consider June to be shoulder season so the pricing will be very good although Mapula will be fairly close still, I would guess within $50 pppn but Duma Tau will be probably $300 to $400 more pppn.

I did recently talk to someone who used to guide at Ker & Downey and they raved about Shinde Camp but when I asked about the other camps the response seemed to be they are nice but nothing fabulous.

I think Johan's assessment is very accurate.

Kanana is best as a water camp and is not likely to be even close to the same league for game viewing with either Mapula or Duma Tau.

Okuti Camp is indeed inside the Moremi Game Reserve and has two other camps in close proximity so it is in a good game viewing area but also has the possibility of some congestion and the limitation of staying on road so to me it is not going to be the same quality experience as the private concessions but it could be a good value with good game viewing. It also has a very unique/funky kind of style for the accommodation so if you consider it make sure you see the photos because it looks very different than anything else I have seen which you could really like or dislike.

Those suggestions will make for a good price but I can't see how anyone can suggest they offer comparable gameviewing as both Mapula and the Linyanti concessions are in the some of the best game viewing areas period. You actually have excellent points of reference from your previous trip as Mapula has similar game to the Vumbura concession and Duma Tau should approximate Savuti. I have had some of my most productive game viewing at both Mapula and Duma Tau so I think they are very good choices.

You can mokoro at Mapula year round so that won't be a problem.
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Old May 15th, 2008, 08:12 AM
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Thanks for the helpful responses so far. As usual, there seem to be some trade-offs.

Hari, the Mafuri package includes a road transfer between Mashatu and Pafuri.

http://lodges.safari.co.za/Vacation_...i-package.html

I have been told that you can choose to stay at Mashatu Tented Camp instead of Main Camp, and that should reduce the price a few hundred dollars.
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Old May 15th, 2008, 08:53 AM
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hguy47

Have they told you how long the road transfer will take?
 
Old May 15th, 2008, 08:32 PM
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First of all I have the following question: is the other couple really committed because otherwise I think this trip will maybe be too long for them.

If you look at the variety of what you are gonna see I don't know if a stay in the linyanti/kwando is a must. Although normally excellent for predators, it should be maybe a bit of an overkill cause by then you should have seen most of them already. Also a stay of two days there to maximize your chances for cheetahs/wild dogs is in my opinion too short and can be a hit or miss.

I haven't been to Mapula yet (will be there in November this year) but from what I heard (while on safari) and read from other people like Bill it should be quite good. Also the price difference with the other camps like Little Vumbura/Little Kwara justifies a stay over there.

If I had to choose between San and Planet Baobab, I definitely would prefer the last one because of the price difference. It can be quite cold there in June so be prepared.

Vic Falls is nice to see if you haven't been there before but I would stay in Chobe for two days at one of the cheaper lodges and combine a boat cruise with a visit to the falls from there.

If you are keen on photography, I'll think it will be worthwile to book a private vehicle at Mala Mala because they go out quite late in the morning. Also in an area that rich on game, you want to focus on your interests only.

It has the following advantages:

a) you can stay longer at an interesting sighting while mostly everyone else is still having breakfast.

b) light will be better.

One last thing, an extra day in Joburg can be nice in order to relax or visit a museum or township while there.


Anyway, the trip like you planned it now looks great too.

Best regards,

Johan









 
Old May 16th, 2008, 11:06 AM
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Mashatu now represents a great opportunity to see dogs and we certainly had great Lion and Leopard there a few years ago. The transfer takes about seven hours, personally driving through Kruger would be awesome, but you may be safari heavy for first timers.
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Old May 16th, 2008, 11:10 AM
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Matt,

Glad to hear the dogs are around at Mashatu - I'll be there for 3 weeks next month so ...

Greetz,

Johan
 
Old May 16th, 2008, 06:45 PM
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Hi Napamatt,

Thanks for this! Must be in the cyberdiary - will check it out this weekend!!!

Did you do any of those predator drives that they talk about on their site?

Thanks
Hari
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Old May 16th, 2008, 06:49 PM
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skimmer, Mashatu is on my short list for next year. Can you provide some insight on why you plan to spend three whole weeks there? (In addition to a touristic stay, I am also considering a stint in their volunteer program). Many thanks, rickmck.
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Old May 17th, 2008, 08:52 AM
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Hari
We did a couple of predator drives in Mashatu in 2006 with the leopard researcher, Villiers Steyn (his work was detailed on his website http://www.tulileopard.co.za/)- we were so impressed we funded one of his remote cameras to help record leopard movements, and in return got photos back of all the animals captured on camera. He has moved on but someone else has taken over, I think concentrating more on lion research. We had the most brilliant sitings with him, spent one evening watching a female leopard up a tree with a warthog kill with her 2 cubs waiting down below for their turn and in they turn being chased away by a hyaena waiting for scraps to fall. We were close enough to lean out and touch the cubs (of course we didn't) they were so used to the researcher's vehicle. We also went on the elephant researcher's drive, and she too was very informative about the elephants and we got very close to the herds because they are used to her. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. We also thought about participating in their volunteer project but couldn't fit it into this year's itinerary, maybe next year. Would like to hear if anyone has done it.
We were also lucky enough to see wild dogs - their first sighting for 6 years, all the camp staff were so excited, and they used our photos to help identify where the pack came from, which made us feel very involved. Their newsletters are packed with information, though I see there hasn't been one since August07.
We drove straight from JNB, stayed a couple of nights in Mapungubwe NP (SA) then left the car at the border (Pont Drift) and Mashatu picked us up from the Botswana side. Vehicle was very safe in 'no man's land' between SA & Botswana border posts.
I think you can gather that we highly recommend Mashatu! Though bear in mind that we haven't been to any other lodges of this type, we usually do self drive and National Parks, so maybe are easily impressed!
(hope I'm not hi-jacking a thread, just responding to a question about predator drives and got carried away)
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Old May 17th, 2008, 03:36 PM
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Johan --

I'm interested in your comment that the vehicles start out rather late in the morning at Mala Mala. I assume if your vehicle mates agree, it is possible to have a shared vehicle start out earlier; is that correct? Or is there a way to get assigned to a vehicle with other early birds? Even though I'm just a beginning photographer, I'm definitely interested in taking advantage of the light at sunrise! Is this something that we should mention to Mala Mala before we arrive? I'd love your thoughts!
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Old May 17th, 2008, 08:43 PM
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Tockoloshe,

Thanks for your valuable feedback. Mashatu sounds fantastic and will keep it in mind for future plans. Their tented camp is something that caught my attention and will hope to do one or two predator drives, when I eventually get there!

Thanks
Hari
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Old May 17th, 2008, 08:45 PM
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Isabel,

Not Johan - but, my guess is he may have been referring to their winter schedule where breakfast is prior to drive. When I was there in January - I asked them about this rule and was told that, if requested you can leave early with a packed breakfast or whatever that suits your needs .........
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Old May 18th, 2008, 03:31 AM
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My partner and I spent 2 nights at Okuti and 2 nights at Kanana in August 2005. This was our first and only safari thus far so we didnt really know what to expect accommodation wise. We were pleasantly surprised to find both places were of a higher standard to what we thought we would find. Okuti has hut style accommodation white Kanana has tents on platforms with a verandah, all offering stunning views over the flood plain.
It is true that Kanana's activities were more water based but this does give the opportunity to break up the time spent in vehicles and gives you a different perspective of the Delta. Having said this you didnt have to take a boat ride and could just do game drives if this is to your liking.
In our experience the game viewing was better at Okuti, seeing four of the big 5 there (no rhino), lots of plains game and other less familiar sightings as well. We were also lucky enough to see a Pangolin on our first ever game drive, so we knew we were in for a great trip.
If you did decide to use these properties I dont think you would regret it.
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Old May 18th, 2008, 05:01 AM
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Hari,

Thanks for clearing this out. But what happens if the other guests are not willing to go out early and you haven't a private vehicle at your disposal. When I was there in June 2006 I was lucky to convince the other guests but we were sometimes the only vehicle going out early at that time.

Rickmck,

I wanted to go to an area which has good game and is reasonably priced. I haven't planned anything specific while there but given my long stay I hope to spend some time with the elephants.

Greetz,

Johan




 

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