mobile safaris in botswana - may 2003

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Apr 15th, 2003, 09:34 PM
  #1
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mobile safaris in botswana - may 2003

hello everyone-
i've been impressed by the breadth and depth of the posts in the africa section, and was hoping to get some feedback on mobile safaris. from my research, it's clear that botswana travel is divided into high-end luxury lodges or do-it-yourself public park trips, with scant middle ground for single travelers like myself who enjoy occasional luxury but don't need to dine off of bone china every night. mobile safaris seem one of the few mid-range options, and my agent at african travel in l.a. recommended it, along with a stay at kwando lodges. has anyone done the mobile safaris, particularly the ones which are the "mid-budget" affairs, as opposed to the luxury-lodge ones? also, any suggestions for nice 'bookend' respites (2 or 3 days) for pre- and post-safaris? is the vic falls hotel/vic safari lodge/royal livingstone too touristy for more than a single nights stay? which affords the best views and access to the falls? would appreciate any and all ideas, as i'm leaving fairly soon w/o firm lodging reservations (!)
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Apr 15th, 2003, 09:52 PM
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owl
 
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Hello! As I mentioned before, I highly recommend the Mopane safari with Wilderness Safaris. At the time we went the price was 1800 USD per person for 10 days starting Vic Falls and ending Okavango Delta. This is the lowest-tier trip Wilderness does, but the trip draws on the same pool of excellent guides. We went before the troubles in Zim and stayed in Harare for 2 days and Vic Falls Hotel 2 nights. Harare was a great place to do some high-end Shona sculpture shopping and we absolutely loved the Vic Falls Hotel. Remember that you'll be very tired after traveling all that way, and it makes sense to not push it when you arrive. So I'd definitely recommend more than one night in Vic Falls.
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Apr 16th, 2003, 10:26 AM
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thanks, owl, for your feedback. i'll definitely check out wilderness travel. i believe i've seen the mopane safari on other tour operater sites, so i'm assuming it must be booked through more than just one agency. do you remember how far in advance you booked? since i'm leaving the u.s on may 24, it's getting down to the wire. funny you should mention shona sculpture. i was hoping to look for some myself, though i'm opting out of a sidetrip to hwange/zimbabwe. were there any places that sold sculpture in the vic falls area, or was it too tourist-oriented to be good value?
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Apr 16th, 2003, 09:34 PM
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Which Kwando lodges are you considering?
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Apr 17th, 2003, 10:06 AM
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hi clematis-
my travel agent suggested that, in lieu of a multi-area mobile safari, i might consider staying a few nights at each of the four (?) kwando lodges. i have a brochure, but haven't fully studied the locations of each one, but the accommodations themselves seem perfectly nice. have you stayed at any of them? i haven't seen them mentioned in a lot of guidebooks, so i'm wondering if they're relatively new or perhaps renamed and under new ownership...
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Apr 17th, 2003, 11:35 PM
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Hi Doyung, I have not stayed there and I was also looking at them wondering why no one has commented on them. I have to say that their pictures (when you run a google search) are not too exciting. In one guidebook the review is tepid. But the best test is to hear from someone who went there.
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Oct 1st, 2003, 02:05 PM
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Doyung:

We just got back from a mobile tented safari in Botswana with Karibu safaris - it was their luxury version - The Livingstone. It was expensive, but soo worth every single penny. You don't lift a finger and you get to be closer to the animals all day and night.

Gourmet candle light meals, all the hot water you need for your showers (we had super large meru-style tents) with real beds, en suite bathrooms (shower, toilet, etc.).

It costs about $7,000 US just for the safari portion, but you get a lot of extras.

This company also had a mid-range one that is called the Authentic safari with smaller tents, simpler meals and you help setup the camp and cook.

I highly recommend Karibu - very, very professional.

Ingrid
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Oct 1st, 2003, 04:35 PM
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sandi
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doyung -

I notice you mention African Travel in LA. While they've been in business many years and have a good reputation - even being the So.African Air tour operator in the States a few years back - but about 2-3 yrs. ago came under the umbrella of Far and Wide Travel.

Now the bad news - Far and Wide declared bankruptcy last week, and about 20 very reputable tour operators for destinations around the world were included in the bankruptcy.

Now there are lots of people who got caught overseas and thankfully other companies undertook to help out these travelers with their hotels, tours, etc. And for those who have put down deposits and/or full payment - here too, other tour companies have worked out arrangements for rebooking. However, all these folks will become creditors and have to get in line to get back any monies. Unfortunately, trip interruption/cancellation insurance doesn't cover bankruptcies.

On the good side, I hear that African Travel and a few of the others under the Far and Wide umbrella are trying to buy back their good names and restart/continue business under their original good reputation.

I even have a friend who has used African Travel with great satisfaction for many years, and has a deposit with them for travel in 2004 and is hoping for the best.

I cannot tell you what to do re African Travel, but felt you and anyone out there to be aware of this situation.

Though I read about this last week, Frommer's Newsletter had an entire article on this bankruptcy - you might want to access their site to read the details.
 
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Oct 2nd, 2003, 06:34 AM
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Clarification to Ingrid's post above (I'm her husband): the Karibu Livingstone Safari was almost $7000 for both of us, not each. We had an abolutely awesome time and I second her recommendation.
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Oct 2nd, 2003, 06:48 PM
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posted earlier under a diff topic...we're leaving oct 7 w/ overseas adventure travel & also am wandering what's a must to do at vic falls when you have limited time?? any thoughts? jona
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Oct 3rd, 2003, 07:02 PM
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Sandy, my own personal experience of African Travel was not good at all and that's aside from any bankruptcy. I called up the agent to ask about camps and prices. He wanted to know which dates because they might not be available. He checked with the camps and put a hold in our names for those dates because "they might go." I asked for a written estimate and he sent a total price without any hint of what the individual camps or flights cost. Now on a fixed tour, I can understand why things are not itemized, but this was a safari custom-planned by us. He refused to give any prices saying that agency never permits it. So we had no way to judge which camps we wanted to keep or not. So to be clear, we had a total of two phone calls and a written "estimate" of sorts, no brochures, no in-person visits. Another agent elsewhere came referred to me at that time and this agent was more than willing to price individual camps, air, etc. I called the African Travel agent but he was away on a trip now. His assistant said she would contact him, that he could cancel the reservations by email. He never did. So I called African Travel and was given "his associate." She assured me she would contact him and he would definitely cancel the reservations. Meanwhile our new travel agent was having problems making reservations in our name because the first one was not releasing his. Days go by and we then faxed the president of African Travel. When he didn't do anything I decided this company was not one I ever wanted to have to depend on. Finally the new agent asked us for a copy of our fax which she faxed to the companies owning the camps to prove that African Travel was not releasing their reservations in spite of all our efforts. Clematis, that first agent pushed Kwando on us although we could not find good reviews. Since he refused to say what we were paying for that camp, we figured there's a good chance they have a special incentive to recommend it.
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Oct 4th, 2003, 04:28 AM
  #12
sandi
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DreamsOfAfrica -

It's not unusual when you get a quote from tour operators they are not broken out - example: hotels in CPT; safari camps at Kruger, cost of interair and/or trip to VFA - you get one total price. If you make changes because of cost or want to change an accommodation - you want something less expensive or in a different location, they can remove a particular section, but included in that segment is not only the accommodation and maybe some tours but transfers to/fr airports. There is a lot that goes into pricing out a trip (today even considering regular exchange rate fluctuations), other than a tour one specifically found on a tour operators website/brochure.

In addition, and especially after 9/11, you will find that many tour operators know clients are checking around to various companies and don't want to give away precious information that they have acquired over years in business - destination specific. Many clients take this info and choose to attempt to book on their own and the operator looses a booking. What operators are doing today, and something an operator as A&K (& others) have done for years - if it's a specially designed itinerary there is a fee of about $100 or more which will deducted from final payment if booked with said operator. Hey, travel agents are doing this if you want them to book airline tickets for you (from $15 - $50/tickets); even fare websites charge booking fees, mailing fees, etc.

Personally, I don't have a problem with this as they are providing a service that many people either don't know how to do on their own, don't have the detailed information, or have the time, or even want to - let someone else handle everything for them. One can go on about the pros & cons of working with tour operators and/or travel agents - my problems come in (as your situation states)

"when phone calls are not returned, when requests are not acted upon - irresponsible service"

and for that you go with your gut and shop somewhere else.

That's why, nowadays, there are so many resources out there for one to choose from and to feel comfortable doing so - whether thru an operator or on their own. You made the right decision for you in your situation, as Clematis did in complaining in her situation, and many others do whatever the case might be.

One is spending good money for their vacations, especially many foreign destination ones and you should be comfortable with whom you work. I hope the new tour operator was able to better satisfy your needs.
 
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