Naimibia/Botswana planning


Sep 10th, 2006, 11:14 AM
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Naimibia/Botswana planning

Usually I am able to create trips myself, but planning trips to Africa has become beyond my skills. Iíd like help and am told this Africa forum is a good place for input.

Iíve searched the archives some and have not been a regular here so far. Iíve traveled quite a bit and have accumulated some frequent flyer miles. This will be my second trip to southern Africa.

This is a long first post - Iíve introduced myself a little and explained what I am trying to figure out. And if the recommendation is to use a travel agent, thatís fine too, if you have some suggestions.

Date: flexible, fall 2007

Length of trip: also flexible, but probably a month

Me: I travel by myself and pay single supplements. Iím a morning person. I like to have a plan. Iím generally quiet, thoughtful.

Luggage: I do not travel light, generally checking a 25" suitcase and carrying on an 18" roll-a-board and an 18" cabin tote. I can manage for a few days with a duffle bag. If there are weight limits for the internal country flights, then I have to come back to where I began to pick up stored bags. (I do know the carry-on rules have changed, especially in the UK and that this is in flux so I might have two checked bags and one briefcase of some sort used only for out of LHR and otherwise stored away.)

Priorities, in order:

Air: The first parameter is to get award business tickets (preferably OneWorld though I also have some StarAlliance miles) which means completing my wish list 11 months out. I was also hoping to avoid LHR and was looking at SFO MAD (spending a week there) JNB ... but I might be willing to accept SFO LHR JNB, either round-the-world or award with allowed stopovers. So far, after I get to JNB, air connections donít seem to work very well.

Lodging: I want a minimum packing/unpacking/moving around, 4 - ... nights per base stop. I like day trips from a base. A one two day one night side trip from base is ok, because I would keep the base room too. I prefer an ensuite room with a mattress (not a canvas cot) and like electricity (laptop for daily impressions, morning tea, reading at night).

Transfers and travel days: In between, full day travel days OK, prefer early afternoon arrivals

Where to go: I went this year to Cape Town and Lusaka and took Shongololoís Southern Cross in between. I three things I liked best the holistic sense of being there (in Kruger, but I donít think it was Kruger specific), the Chobe afternoon cruise, and Cape Point. I had thought on this trip to visit the desert in Namibia and see elephants in Botswana. And then in 2008 take the Rovos trip from CPT to DAR, stay a bit longer in Tanzania and also go to Uganda. That will use up my award miles and likely all my travel budget.

I like culture - villages, township tours, local restaurants; scenery - desert especially (I like on the Monterey Bay in California - oceans and wineries have a lower priority); shopping for crafts - quality over market, price; and for animal viewing would best like to sit on a treetop lodge veranda and have them come to me. I like walking (not major hiking) and didnít much like spending the day in 4x4s though I realize itís the only way in some situations.

So far I am very drawn to the Namib, Sossusvlei, canít make the DuneHopper connections work without sleeping in Windhoek both ways, found an African Extravaganza by bus to Namib Naukluft Lodge and have had no reply to my emai to theml. Also found Welleverde Guest Farm outside of Windhoek which I like because it is a hospitality industry school.

Cost: 25 years ago my travels were guided by Lonely Planet books and my budget was $10/day plus international airfare. I do prefer B&B to luxurious self-contained hotels, and also find that people are generally more friendly towards me as a single woman at moderate priced lodging than at the luxury hotels. However, those preferences outside of major cities in Africa donít seem to fit well and I am accepting that these trips will cost a lot.
SylviaCaras is offline  
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Sep 10th, 2006, 11:57 AM
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Hello Sylvia,

With a month, you should be able to get a good look-in at both countries.

Because of their remoteness, safari camps in Botswana are reached by light aircraft. You may be able to do some self-driving in Namibia, but in Botswana you'll have to fly.

Game-viewing in Botswana does normally entail spending time in vehicles, particularly in the Delta as the animals are not drawn to waterholes in the same way they are in drier regions. However, the options of water activities and walking mean that you won't be stuck in a vehicle every day if you prefer not to be. Camps with hides (Chitabe, Savuti) would be good options for sitting and watching the animals come to you.

If you want to see large populations of elephants in Botswana, you'll want to travel to the Linyanti region in August or September, when the lack of water has drawn the ellies down to the rivers -- this is when you'll see the huge herds. For up-close ellie viewing (and great game-viewing from camp) I'd recommend Savuti Camp in the Linyanti:

The woodpile hide will enable you to get very close to the ellies, and the waterhole in front of the camp means that there's a lot to see there.

Since you're also interested in culture, I would highly recommend a visit to Jack's or San Camp in the Makgadikgadi Pans. which offer a unique opportunity to interact with the Bushmen of the Kalahari. I recently returned from a trip to Jack's Camp, which you can read about in my trip report:

(Note that the weather this year was rather odd, as the late rains affected game-vewing in the Linyanti quite a bit -- if you were to go in August or September you wouldn't have this problem).

Based on what you've said in your post, you might prefer San Camp to Jack's -- it's a bit smaller and simpler.

In the Okavango Delta, I'd recommed one mixed water and land camp and one land-only camp if possible. A mixed water and land camp offers boating and mokoro (dugout canoe) trips as well as game drives, and is the best way of experiencing the unique aspects of the Delta environment. Since you enjoy beautiful scenery, I'd recommend Kwetsani, which is in a particularly beautiful area of the Delta:

Another option, which is a bit less scenic but offers better game viewing, is Little Vumbura:

This is a small, intimate little camp with only 6 tents, which offers a full range of both water and land activities and has very good game-viewing. It's one of my favourite camps.

For a land-only camp, you should take a look at Chitabe and Chitabe Trails:

This is one of the few options in the Delta for walking, and you can also sleep out in a hide overnight. The hides offer good places to sit and watch animals during the day as well.

Your itinerary in Botswana might end up looking something like this:

Linyanti x4 (Savuti Camp)
Okavango Delta Camp 1 x4 (Kwetsani)
(KOkavango Delta Camp 2 x4 (Chitabe Trails)
Makgadikgadi x4 (San Camp)

Depending on your flight times, you may need a stopover in Joburg either coming or going from Botswana.

I'll post separately on Namibia later.

jasher is offline  
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Sep 10th, 2006, 12:14 PM
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A few more notes about Botswana:

Charter flights in Botswana have strict luggage weight and size limits. You are limited to 2 soft-sided bags which weigh no more than 20 kg (44lbs) combined (this is for the most generous of the charter companies -- the less generous ones limit you to 12 kg (26 lbs). You can also bring a reasonable amount of camera gear (small backpack or shoulder camera bag). I know you said you like to bring a lot of luggage, but the camps offer a daily laundry service so it's not necessary to bring as much as you might think.

Many camps in Botswana do not have power outlets in individual rooms. However, it is possible to charge digital camera, laptops, etc in the camp office -- though very few people bring laptops with them given the weight restrictions.

It is possible to pay extra for an additional seat and bring your luggage with you, but this will begin to add up with all the transfers.

jasher is offline  
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Sep 10th, 2006, 12:42 PM
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Hello Sylvia,

Now on to Namibia...

Since you love desert scenery, I'd recommend including 3 or 4 nights on the Skeleton Coast. This needs to be done as a fly-in, but offers some truly spectacular scenery in addition to the famous roaring dunes.

With your interest in culture, a visit to Serra Cafema, where you can interact with members of the nomadic Himba tribe, may also be of interest:

Serra Cafema is very remote, so it would be best to fly there. It could quite easily be linked up with the Skeleton Coast.

Etosha is the best area in Namibia for game-viewing. This is definitely a place where you can sit by a waterhole and watch animals come to you. There are private concessions adjacent to the park (similar to the Sabi Sands at Kruger) where you can do off-road driving and night driving, such as the Ongave Reserve:

You can also stay at the national park camps inside the park if you want to save a bit of money on this part of your trip, and drive yourself to the waterholes.

There are a number of options for places to stay in Sossusvlei/Namib Nakluft, most of which are located to the east of the park near the entrance closest to Sossusvlei. The closest lodge to the gate is Kulala Desert Lodge:

There are some campsites in the park but they are very basic.

Note that Wolwedans is so far out that they do not offer excursions to the dunes.

In both Etosha and Sossusvlei you can stay at camps on a self-drive basis (where you drive yourself around) or on a fully-inclusive basis, where you have a professional guide.

Your itinerary might end up looking something like this:

Serra Cafema x4
Skeleton Coast x4
Etosha x4
Sossusvlei x4

I'm not sure how you feel about group travel, but a great way to save a bit of money on the Namibia portion of your itinerary would be using a scheduled mobile safari like the Great Namibian Journey:

Another option would be staying in lodges for Serra Cafema, Sossusvlei, and the Skeleton Coast, and staying in national parks accommodation in Etosha.

jasher is offline  
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Sep 11th, 2006, 01:00 AM
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Hi Sylvia,

I am planning to return to Namibia and am considering these destinations:

Desert Express to Swakopmund

Day tour to Sandwich Harbour with Turnstone Tours from Swakopmund

Okonjima Lodge (Home of the Africat Foundation)

A stay at Hobatere Lodge for birdwatching and game drives

Stay at Kavita Lion Lodge (which is very close to Hobatere)

Of course I haven't worked out the logistics of this travel, this is my wishlist.

Jenman Safaris have trip Livingstone to Swakopmund and hopefully in reverse which may open up a few more options,

Like you, I am a solo traveller who pays the single supplement. It would be possible to drive some if not, all of this trip - I just haven't got that far yet. Anyway, hope you find these ideas helpful.

(Sorry, not sure what the problem is with the URLs - can't delete the duplication - very annoying.)


Treepol is offline  
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Sep 11th, 2006, 11:31 AM
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I'm interested to hear about your previous trip to Namibia. Where did you go? Did you ever post a report? If you prefer, you can email me at pchang1972 at yahoo dot com. Thanks!
Patty is offline  
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Sep 12th, 2006, 02:47 PM
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A wealth of lnks; thanks Julian and Pol. I am following up and checking plane connections will come back with a draft itinerary (or more questions) when I'm done.

Groups are fine for short periods. I don't much like driving.

SylviaCaras is offline  
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Jan 13th, 2007, 12:15 PM
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Total change of plans. I won't be able to do this fall trip that I first posted about for a while - fall has become busy. I've sketched out some ideas from all the good information, it looks like it will be fall 2009 before I can take that trip.

In the meantime, if I get award air tickets, I am seriously considering the Rovos Cape Town to Dar train in July, 2008, and thought I might start with one stop elsewhere for 4 - 7 nights. the third week in June, 2008. The most important criterion would be good logistics, a connection from CPT or JNB straight through to somewhere pleasant.

The things I've been looking at require overnights in between and I don't want to do that.

When I arrive, I'll be flying from California, probably to Cape Town or Johannesburg, arriving early morning. What I want is to make one more connection and arrive somewhere that same long long travel day, unpack and settle-in, and stay put. What I don't want is to sleep somewhere for one night before going on.

I'm open to suggestions.

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