Me, on a solo safari? *dips toe in cautiously*

Jan 4th, 2009, 05:16 PM
  #1  
Amy
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Me, on a solo safari? *dips toe in cautiously*

Hi! Some of you may know me from the other boards, but I'm tiptoeing in here because I might, just might, be able to do a trip to Africa this year.

I travel alone most of the time, making my own arrangements, but I have traveled (once) with OAT, and, with their constant reminders, I've become aware that I can go to South Africa in June for under $5,000, as they are waiving some single supplements. That just might be doable for me, and somehow the thought of going on safari alone is not as appealing as some of the other solo adventures. This is the link to the trip I'm looking at: http://www.oattravel.com/gcc/general...ocation=search

However, I am quite open to suggestions. I figured that I'd focus on the South rather than the East as I kinda prefer cool to hot, and June or July are the only times that I can travel. I like the idea of a mix of game-watching and other activities. I guess my main question at the moment is whether there is a better way to do this considering my extremely meager budget--I do prefer to do my tourist business within the country I'm visiting when it's possible, for example.

I have read off and on on this forum, but of course I"m the usual newbie-to-this who just really can't wrap my mind around it all...

For those who'd like a better idea of my travel style in order to be more specific (or am I assuming too much? ) there's a list of some of my trips here; India got added on toward the end: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=35084942

My thanks in advance for your advice and help!

Amy is offline  
Jan 4th, 2009, 07:31 PM
  #2  
 
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Welcome to the Africa board, Amy! You're gonna love Africa! Having been on several safaris, I'd suggest you start in East Africa. (we never say it's your only safari, only your first.) I would agree that you'd enjoy the safari more if you're with a group. I find that it's always more fun that way. My first trip to Tanzania was with OAT, so I think you'd enjoy their "Safari Serengeti". I have always had good luck with their safari outfitter, Kibo Guides, and have booked my own safaris directly with them, as well. With the waiver of the single supplement, the OAT trip is a great deal, considering it includes the airfare to Africa. That can cost over $2000 for that itinerary. OAT includes cultural aspects to their trip and meeting the Maasai is a special experience. All in all, it's not a bad introduction to Africa.

In June (early preferable to late), you'll probably catch the Migration herds in the Serengeti. As for the temperatures, the days are quite pleasant and the nights, cool. Tanzania is also in the southern hemisphere, so that's their "winter". In southern Africa, it will be cold at night in June. I'm also not that fond of OAT's itinerary in southern Africa.
ShayTay is offline  
Jan 5th, 2009, 12:59 PM
  #3  
Amy
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Thanks so much, ShayTay! Tanzania does look awesome (I was thinking that they just did Kenya) and I'm sure is more traditionally "safari-ish." I'll have to look into it further.

I did kinda like the idea of going to Kruger, partly because of reading (just prior to this) a Dick Francis book where it's featured.
Of course, the book was written 30 some years ago! I was looking at "Ultimate Africa" as well, but that, of course, is more expensive.

Hmmm, so many directions to try to make my little budget go...
Amy is offline  
Jan 5th, 2009, 01:30 PM
  #4  
 
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Amy, welcome to the Africa board!

I think South Africa is a fantastic country for a first-timer interested not only in safari but also in other activities too.

The country has such a wealth of attractions, there's enough to keep you busy for weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks!

It's also very accessible.

I don't really like group tours for wildlife trips but then again I haven't done one on my own, but with my husband. I guess I'd probably opt for a group trip were I travelling on my own.

Whilst Kruger is worth visiting, I don't know that it's the best option for an organised tour. It's a park that's great to self-drive, and I would love to visit some of it's more remote corners, in the Northern region, next time I visit. I enjoyed our visits to Hluhluwe-Umfolozi, Ithala and Ndumo more, also self-driving.

I think, if I were looking at organised trips, I'd look into some of the private concessions/ reserves on offer, both those bordering Kruger (such as Sabi Sands, Londolozi, Djuma etc.) and others (such as Shamwari or Pilanesburg). But I haven't costed these so don't know, in all honesty, how these fit into your budget.

I've looked at the link you've provided and I don't recognise the names of the safari accommodations they are offering. Maybe a search here and in other travel forums might pull up some traveller reviews for them?
Kavey is offline  
Jan 5th, 2009, 02:23 PM
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Amy,

travelling solo in Africa can be tricky, particularly when budget is important.

I can recommend Explore Worldwide's Botswana safari, however this is mostly camping and I'm not sure they offer a single tent anymore.

These trips are run by Wilderness Dawning, a local operator located in Maun.

More details here, http://www.explore.co.uk/Tour+Detail...reCode=EWW2009

and a recent review of this safari is available at http://safaritalk.net/index.php?showtopic=3013

Alternatively, I have filed this trip away as part of a longer visit for myself http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=35114946

with more details here, http://www.backontracksafari.com/

Happy planning,


Pol
Treepol is offline  
Jan 5th, 2009, 02:33 PM
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No SS is a nice deal that will not last forever. I'd agree with ShayTay about recommending East Africa over this itinerary at first thought, but you have a reason for choosing this one.

Jump in with two feet and go for it.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 5th, 2009, 05:45 PM
  #7  
Amy
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Aaaaaandddd...the two feet kinda want to jump in!

Treepol, that looks like a marvelous trip, especially with the added houseboat bit. But with airfare from NY currently pricing at over $3,000, it's a bit out of my league--plus it does look as if there's room sharing that has to happen. (I'll do a group, if necessary, but oh, do I need my own room!)

Waves to Kavey--I think you may have planted this seed, actually! I keep reading of all your lovely times. How I'd love to be able to do this without a group, but at least OAT is a small group. I went to Peru with them (it was the year my mom passed, so I wasn't doing any planning that year) and the trip was actually quite nice, so here's hoping~

I did a few checks on the accommodations; one thing I keep coming up with on Mkhaya is that you can approach on foot, and the one in Kruger. Njovu, actually has a glowing TA review. (Not that they are always entirely, erm, impartial.)

Thanks again to all of your for your input and patience. I am feeling like such a newbie all over again!
Amy is offline  
Jan 5th, 2009, 08:10 PM
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Amy,

I take your point about sharing - its just not on!

The price is probably in Aussie$$, I was wondering how it would look in US $.

Cheers,


Pol
Treepol is offline  
Jan 5th, 2009, 09:55 PM
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I've solo safaried twice, May 2007 and Sep 2008. (These two out of total of five safaris). Both trips were flying into JNB (from LAX) and then going to safari camps. Nothing other than safari camps, only safari camps. In Sep 2008 I went to just two camps in South Africa, Kings Camp and Ngala Lodge, eight nights each. Both camps are in private reserves bordering Kruger. Here is my Fodors trip report-
http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=35161085

I much much prefer traveling with my darling Carolyn but if you read my report you'll find why she could not make it in Sep. When you go to a safari camp you pretty much join in as much as you want with the other guests so your not really totally alone. Certainly for the twice a day, 3-4 hour game drives, you will share the vehicle with 2-6 other guests. This safari along with others was arranged for me by my TA. I tell them what I'd like to do (e.g. the two camps) and they take care of it. I almost always do the air, LAX/JNB/LAX myself.

I've also done Kruger twice, but, with Carolyn. We rent a car at JNB and drive over, 6 hours. Stay at one of the park's rest camp huts, $70 per night for 2 people. Last time we did this was 2007 and here is my Fodors trip report-
http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=35083850

Questions???

regards - tom
ps - these camps have no single supplement, all year.
cary999 is offline  
Jan 6th, 2009, 12:02 AM
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Amy, compared to the experienced safari-goers here on the Africa board, I always feel like a newbie! We have some folks here who've done so many, many trips and have such a marvellous wealth of experience!
Kavey is offline  
Jan 6th, 2009, 12:46 PM
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I also travel solo. I did a group safari (Kenya & Tanzania) in 2004, only 4 in our group which was great, and am now planning a visit to 2 sites in South Africa on my own. I really didn't like being constantly on the move while with the tour, and when going on my own I am able to choose properties that are more to my taste.

I'm cutting costs by staying in place as transportation can be expensive. As mentioned by Tom, &Beyond (formerly CCAfrica) offer free nights with a minimum stay and no single supplement.

Also consider that the US Dollar is quite strong against the South African Rand right now which makes for more savings.

Whichever route you choose, in the end your attitude is what makes a great trip!
Femi is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 04:13 AM
  #12  
Amy
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So many thanks again to all of you! Tom, your trip reports were great reading...and that's a pretty fascinating reason for Carolyn not being with you!

Since the price was for a limited time, I did go forward and book the OAT trip: deciding factors included Mkhaya in Swaziland, the variety of activities (including Robbens Island), perhaps a touch of security, and, well, I kept coming up with $6-7,000 plus going on my own. Probably if I had kept at it I could have gone for less, but I think after last year's planning and connections in India I might just be a little lazy. (I do love trip planning, but on my own to China and India over the past few years has almost given me carpal tunnel. )

I'm busily reading my new LP South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland guidebook--but of course I'll keep reading here!
Amy is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 04:49 AM
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I haven't seen too many trip reports that included Mkhaya, which I visited when I was in Swaziland several years ago. While its certainly not a natural park, and a lot of the animals have been introduced, its a great place to photograph white rhinos, some of which we approached very closely on foot. I thought it was a great place to spend a day.
thit_cho is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 02:41 PM
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Since you mentioned Robben Island, I put in the comments from my July visit. I thought it was outstanding.

The morning ferry departure from the Waterfront in Cape Town is at 9:00 am and returns about 12:30 pm back at the Waterfront dock.

This was a tremendously moving experience for me, not so much because of the physical buildings I was seeing, but because our guide was a former prisoner. Once on the island, we spent quite a bit of time sitting, looking out the bus window, and listening to Guide Mosebe (spelling?) explain the area and his experiences in prison. He told of his first impressions of Mandela, which were quite negative, and how he came to respect, admire, and follow the man. It was riveting.

Seeing Mosebeís view from his cell and where his bunk stood while he explained to us his typical prison day routine was surreal. He even recited a poem he had written while in prison. Somebody asked Mosebe if he sometimes became emotional during these tours. He responded that a few weeks ago, he came around a corner and the sudden sight of the prison building that had been his home caused him to collapse and fall to the ground. It took him a few minutes to recover and continue the tour.

This is not a tour for little children, at least not the way I did it. There is too much sitting still and listening for the attention span of little ones. It is not like a museum where you wander around at will and can escape with fussy kids. We had an incident on our bus where a 2- and 4-year old were causing a disturbance and being allowed to do so. Mosebe had words (and rightfully so) with the parents who were very defensive and argumentative but after that they kept the kids quiet by feeding them biscuits non-stop.

Mosebe also admonished an adult whose cell phone went off and who took the call (chat, chat, chat), talking over Mosebeís account of hardship and torture in the prison. Unbelievable! Fortunately, these incidents were early on in the tour while we were on the bus and detracted only momentarily.

* If Robben Island is a priority for you, plan it for your first day in Cape Town so if the ferry cannot sail, you have some backup days. Bad weather and waves cancelled eight straight days of trips before I arrived.

* I walked the 2-3 blocks to the Clock Tower where the ferry to Robben Island departs, leaving from The Waterfront Hotel about 7:40 am, sunrise in mid-July. The Waterfront area employs its own security and it was very safe as I wandered around until 9:00 am departure time.

* Buy your tickets a few days before departure. Maybe even a few weeks or months. I had Take2 Tours do this for me and charge my credit card about $18, a tremendous value in my opinion. Maybe you can call the ticket office direct.

* If you can pick up the ticket the day before, thatís good so you do not have to wait in line just before your trip departs. The ferry holds about 260, so thatís lots of people in line.

* Hang onto your confirmation number and bring your credit card that you used to make the Robben Island reservation. I had a small problem due to computers or something and the confirmation was helpful for me.

* The 30-minute ferry ride was not enough to cause me to reach for the bags that are provided at each seat, and I had not taken anything to prevent seasickness, but I was glad to get off when we docked. Seas were rolling but fairly calm that day with only a few white caps.

* On the lower deck of the ferry, a video on the history of the island plays on the way over and a video on how the ferry you are riding on was made plays on the way back.

*You get to see Mandelaís cell. That was what drew me to Robben Island. By the end of the visit, I found the cell itself to be just a tiny part of the overall Robben Island visit, as I experienced it.

* I had been told about the infestation of rabbits on the island. They were everywhere and pose a big environmental problem.

* If you are going on to Boulderís Bay, donít worry about not being able to get pictures of the numerous but elusive penguins on the island.



atravelynn is offline  
Jan 14th, 2009, 12:44 PM
  #15  
Amy
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Thanks for the account, atravelynn! I'm just getting so excited about this (and googling for khaki color clothes ) that I have to keep reminding myself that July is a looong way away and there are a lot of papers to grade between now and then.

I already have my air itinerary: Air France PHL to Paris, then Paris to Jo'burg...lots o' plane riding, but I'm sure it will be worth every minute.

Now, back to work! (somebody's gotta pay for this trip, even if it is the cheap version.)
Amy is offline  
Jan 14th, 2009, 01:10 PM
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Hey, Amy, you'll enjoy being in Africa, even if you don't spend much time on safari. I wouldn't worry about getting khaki-colored clothes for only three days of game drives. Even in the Sabi Sand reserves next to Kruger, it seems that few people wore them. Just wear something muted and dress for the rest of the trip like you would for any vacation. If you've signed up for June, be aware that it's winter in South Africa then and be prepared for cold nights.
ShayTay is offline  
Jan 14th, 2009, 05:03 PM
  #17  
Amy
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Yeah, I wasn't really too worried about the khaki...but any excuse to shop, eh? I probably have enough khaki in my wardrobe for the Kruger and Mkhaya portions, and I'll coordinate everything else with that--not forgetting some nice warm cashmere for the nights! (I learned that lesson, oh, more years ago than I care to remember {20! } when I went to Argentina in July. Gorgeous, lovely time, but one morning wandering around Buenos Aires I about froze my tuchas off.) But with July being what it is in Philadelphia, I'll enjoy some cool time in South Africa.

I'm sure I'll be pulled back for more game viewing, just like one Amazon trip wasn't enough, but this at least dips my toe in to the safari experience along with a touch of variety in other areas. I am so looking forward to this!
Amy is offline  
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