Oh Where oh where to go ???????

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Nov 24th, 2009, 02:50 AM
  #1
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Oh Where oh where to go ???????

We are finally ready to plan a trip to Africa, but are totally overwhelmed by how much there is to figure out. We are 56 + 60, and want to do as much as we can before we can't anymore! We are free to travel any time, and right now we are totally stuck because we want to see the gorillas in Rwanda, the great migration Kenya/Tanzania, and I'm determined to go to Botswana too. We can afford a nice trip, but we won't waste our money to have a tent that imitates a 4* hotel as we just don't need that. But a comfortable tent is definitely up our alley. From what I can see already, lodges aren't what we want as we'd like to be 'in there', but maybe there are some lodges that are like that. Tented camps seem more interesting. My confusion right now is should we plan to do one big trip, or expect to break it up into 2 or more? How long is too long when you are not used to being on safari? Although we don't mind some long driving between camps, we are open to flying to avoid too many long days on the road. I especially want to see lots of elephants, lions, babies, leopards, cheetas, giraffes, etc. and beautiful scenery. We want to go with a very reputable and very experienced company that we will want to recommend to others and want to travel with again ourselves. I would be so grateful for just some advice on companies that have great reputations, camps that are gorgeous and well located and anything else you can think of. I already have the Fodor's Safari planning guide, and dozens of links (but I'll whatever you can recommend) but mostly I want your personal recommendations. Also, we have been briefly to Krugar in the past and would like to avoid being in the middle of major tourism. I know people who have traveled happily in Botswana with the Africa Adventure Company, but other than that have no other personal recommendations.
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Nov 24th, 2009, 07:14 AM
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My advice would be to do either East Africa or Southern Africa, but not try to do both---I think that would be too tiring. Besides, if you end up like most of us here, who suffer from mal d'Afrique to one degree or another, you'll be planning your next trip in no time. I would think that if you combined Sabi Sand with Botswana (with a stop in Vic Falls if you haven't already done that) you'll meet many of your goals (lions, leopards, giraffes, elephants, perhaps wild dogs) and enjoy two different ecosystems.

I've stayed at both lodges and luxury tents. Among my favorite lodges are Sandibe (Botswana), which has African-style chalets and Londolozi (Sabi Sand, great for leopards); tent-wise, my favorite was Grumeti (western Serengeti)---you just feel like you're in Africa, what with all-day-long grunts, groans and bellows coming from the inhabitants of the adjoining hippo pool.

As to how long is too long, I suggest that you look back over your past travels and judge from those experiences. If after two weeks or so you were thinking about home, I'd figure the same would happen on safari.

Good luck and enjoy your planning.
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Nov 24th, 2009, 05:25 PM
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East Africa and Southern Africa are considered by most travelers as two separated safari destinations. They are far apart distance-wise but there is a little bit of advantage from a time and airline cost standpoint combining the two destinations. Unless you're retired, for most people it is too much time away from work to properly visit both destinations in one trip.

Rwanda is combinable with East Africa and/or Southern Africa. I have very little faith in the reliability of Air Rwanda Express which is the only way of getting from Rwanda directly to South Africa. Kenya Airways is pretty reliable and, for this reason alone, we often recommend combining Rwanda with East Africa instead of with Southern Africa. As the economy improves, our hopes are that South African Airways will start offering service to Kigali! For now, if you go to Rwanda I recommend you fly Kenya Airways to/from South Africa via Nairobi. This is more inconvenient but much more reliable.

I'll comment on Rwanda first. It is typically a 5 to 6 day destination depending on what you wish to accomplish. And, keep in mind there are many things to do in Rwanda other than gorilla trekking. But, it seems to me your desire is to have a big five safari and that is going to be had best in Botswana, Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, or Kenya. A typical Rwanda itinerary has you arriving in Kigalli on day one and over-nighting. The next day you will leave by road to the Virunga Mountains. You will spend one night near the national park and start your first gorilla trek on day three. Most people do a second gorilla trek on day four and some people do more beyond that. ATravelynn, (from Fodors) did six tracks on one trip I believe! Most people drive back to Kigalli on day four and depart on day five.

The peak season for game viewing in Botswana is really June to October. It can stretch into November, but the game viewing changes significantly when the rains start. The migrations in East Africa are on the southern part of the Serengeti December through March, they moved north from April through July, and they are on the Masai Mara from August through October. In October and November, the migrations are on the move back south. These are gross generalizations based on historical movements. Everything depends on the rain and the grasses!

So, if you're trying to combine the peak season for the migrations with the peak season for Botswana you should consider Kenya in August and September combined with Botswana or the Western Corridor of Tanzania in June combined with Botswana. This last option (June) is a value option because the rates will typically be less in East Africa in June and with many operators they are less in Botswana in June. For the coming year, Wilderness Safaris goes to peak season rates on June 15 and most other operators in Botswana go to peak season on July 1.

The most difficult animal to see in Botswana on most people's list is the rhino followed by the cheetah. At last count, there were only 54 white rhino in the entire country of Botswana in the wild. They were poached to extinction in the 90s and only reintroduced in the central Okavango in the northwest portion of the Moremi game reserve about five years ago. There are three black rhino in the wild in Botswana because the two just had a baby. If you don't go to East Africa, I do recommend you visit the Sabi Sands or Phinda prior to Botswana just to be sure you see all the big five. The Sabi Sands has so many lions and leopards that there aren't that many cheetah which is why I sometimes recommend Phinda. In my opinion, Phinda has the best cheetah population in southern Africa. But, Phinda is the least authentic and “wild” safari experience of the ones I've mentioned. The Phinda reserve is small, completely fenced, and it was a sugar farm until about 18 years ago.

So, assuming your travel dates are as flexible as you say, and assuming you combine Rwanda, East Africa, and Botswana then I recommend you travel in August or September. Leave the United States, and fly to Nairobi via Europe. Spend one night in Nairobi and the next morning flight to the Masai Mara for four days amongst the migrations! After this safari, depart for Nairobi and depending on flight schedules you can fly to Kigali or spend one more night in Nairobi. Conduct a five-day gorilla trek and then fly all the way to South Africa via Nairobi on Kenya Airways. If you do want to go to the Sabi Sands or Phinda I recommend a three or four days safari in both these reserves and they are easily accessible from Johannesburg. I do agree that Londolozi has a great leopard population. But, the same river that flows through Londolozi through MalaMala next. Upstream from Londolozi is Singita. The valley of the Sand River is an abundant leopard habitat and lion habitat. I've also seen leopard on every visit to Lion Sands which is on the Sabi River on the southern part of the Sabi Sands.

Unless you use an expensive and possibly unreliable charter flight or miss your morning game drive and use a commercial flight from Nelspruit to Living tone, it is not possible to get from the Sabi Sands to Botswana or Victoria Falls in one day. Of course, this assumes you are not chartering a private airplane. So, after the Sabi Sands safari you can spend one night in Johannesburg and then continue on the next morning the Botswana.

Traveling in August or September I recommend you visit two major ecosystems in Botswana. The Chobe, Linyati, and Kwando are three areas with the same game viewing phenomena in July through October. The rains in Botswana typically end in March and as the seasonal water sources dry up the elephants and antelope all migrate towards the Chobe, Linyati, Selinda, and Kwando River systems. By July, there are massive herds of elephants and many other animals in these reserves. The Linyati Wildlife Reserve has some of the largest elephant concentrations on earth for those three months (same thing for Chobe and Kwando). But, Chobe is a National Park and it can be very crowded especially in the Northeast. So, I recommend you go to a private concession like the Linyati or Kwando. I prefer the Linyati and the four Wilderness Safaris camps on the property. You simply choose one for a three-day visit. I like the classic camps of Duma Tau and Savuti. Many people like Selinda and Kings Pool is an excellent premier camp but, based on your statement, may not be to your liking.

I would also spend four nights to in the Okavango Delta or Moremi game reserve. There are many lodges to choose from. My personal favorites are the Wilderness Safari lodges. For classic camps I recommend two nights at Chitabe Camp and two nights at either Kwetsani or Little Vumbura.

If you have more time, there are many ways to improve this itinerary. You could visit a second destination in Kenya or one of the new national parks in Rwanda. You could add more time in South Africa or add time in Victoria Falls. You could skip Kenya and Rwanda altogether and do a comprehensive visit to Zimbabwe and Botswana. There is a very good trip report on this forum about two weeks ago from this exact same experience.

There are many excellent safari operators based in the United States that book these types of trips. All of them are “brokers” or consultants. Like my company, they will have contracted rates with most of the safari lodges and hotels in the East and Southern Africa and we can also piece lodges together with charter flights and commercial flights and the necessary hotels in the various cities you visit along the way. The biggest difference you'll experience with different operators is service, knowledge, and to a lesser extent price. The major safari outfitters in the US typically purchase safari lodge accommodations and hotels at discounts off the website published price. This price difference creates a margin or commission from which we earn our living. The Africa Adventure Company is based in Fort Lauderdale Florida. I know the owners Mark and Allison Nolting and they are very reputable. As a competitor, I can highly recommend them.

I also recommend you look into Premier Tours. I say this because you mentioned the Fodors travel books. The South Africa book is written by Julian Harrison. He is the owner of Premier Tours in Philadelphia which is another tour operator for Southern Africa. Julian is golfing in South Africa this week so you will have to wait a week if you want to speak with him personally. On the boutique side, I would recommend Discover Africa in Cleveland or possibly Fish Eagle safaris in Texas.

This gives you some choices. I personally love Wilderness Safaris and for my budget minded clients Desert & Delta offers good value. There are people on this forum that have lots of experience with other operators and I'm sure they will chime in shortly.

Like my company, some of the larger operators in the US will also have airline contracts with South African Airways, Delta/KLM/Air France and also Kenya Airways. So, you can get the full service tour operation from these types of companies.

Let me know where you're from and I can possibly recommend a safari expert that you can drive to and actually meet face-to-face. It is a daunting task to try to find and plan a Safari on the Internet. If you go to Google and type “safari: you will have 106 million choices (as of this morning)!

Lastly, it is not weird or odd to simply call some operators and start asking a few questions. I had a lady set up an interview with me on the phone a few months ago. She interviewed me on Africa for about an hour and told me she would get back to me in two weeks after she interviewed two other operators. I did not find this weird or offensive at all! By this method, you can see who really “knows their stuff” and who can come up with a plan to route you around in a sensible manner that skips needless nights in Nairobi and Johannesburg, long layovers, or costly logistical errors.

Good luck planning and let me know if you have any more questions.

Craig Beal
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Nov 24th, 2009, 07:05 PM
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My oh my how very exciting!

“one big trip, or expect to break it up into 2 or more?”
Using the analogy of putting all your eggs in one basket, I’d do 2+ trips IF you can afford the airfare. If for some reason you have a problem on Trip #1, you still have some things to look forward to on the next trips. You may want to repeat some of Trip #1 too, or pursue a slightly different strategy that you could not have anticipated without the experience of a safari under your belt. But IF the fixed cost of the flight is too much, then don’t waste your $ on the airplane.

“How long is too long when you are not used to being on safari?”
I like sdb2’s comment: I suggest that you look back over your past travels and judge from those experiences.
A safari such as you are requesting is not grueling or difficult (except for the gorilla tracking) and probably more relaxing than many group travel itineraries that move around a lot.

“elephants, lions, babies, leopards, cheetas, giraffes, etc. and beautiful scenery.”

Elephants
Chobe in Botswana is known for them, especially coming down to the river where you can watch from a boat. But Chobe is the most crowded of the Botswana parks. Botwana’s Savuti and Linyanti are good too and there are hides at some of the camps to watch them. Kings Pool has a nice hide and Savuti used to have a wood pile hide and maybe they still do. Kenya’s famous Maasai Mara is always good for eles and everything, but has more people than some of the other places. Tarangire in Tanzania is known for elephants and Amboseli & Tsavo in Kenya is known for them, with Tsavo having fewer people.

Lions
The Maasai Mara has lots. They are not that hard to find other places, such as the delta or Linyanti areas in Botswana. They're in the Serengeti. A special location for lions is Duba Plains where the lions and buffalo herds interact. The documentary "Relentless Enemies" was made there. The camp at Duba Plains is one of my favorite.

Babies
Tell your guide you are interested in babies.

Leopards
The best spots are the Sabi Sands, which you did not mention as a desired destination, and Moremi in Botswana. I saw 8 leopards in 8 days with just a couple photo ops at Chitabe in Moremi. The famous and expensive Mombo is well known for leopards, but I think not quite as much anymore. Although they can be found draped in the Acacia trees in Central Serengeti, I would not count on East Africa to produce a leopard and consider any sightings there good luck.

Cheetah
The Serengeti in Tanzania or Maasai Mara in Kenya have good sightings. While they can be seen in both the delta and more northern Linyanti regions of Botswana, you never know. You can see Safari Craig’s comments on South Africa's Phinda, which would be a good option for cheetah, even though you did not mention South Africa. I loved the 55,000 acre Phinda with its 7 distinct habitats and its philosophy of returning the land and wildlife to its former state. Phinda means return. And if you want gorgeous camps, Phinda Forest Lodge is glass cottages in the unique sand forest, which won awards for the ecological design and beauty, plus there are 3 other places to stay at Phinda, with 2 of them even more exclusive and having fewer people than Forest Lodge.

Etc.
It’s everywhere and may turn out to be the highlight of your trip. The people, culture, birds, animals you never knew existed until you got there will captivate you.

Beautiful scenery—can’t be avoided.

" flying to avoid too many long days on the road." Flying is by far the most common way to get around in Botswana, but you can arrange it throughout East Africa too on scheduled flights.

“great reputations,”
You mentioned The Africa Adventure Company and Botswana. They are very sound for all of Africa and I’ve used them for every country you mentioned and others you did not. If you did decide on a cross continent trip, they would be a good choice since they operate in all the countries typically visited. There has never been a problem on any trip and when problems did arise that were outside their control (just because it is Africa) they fixed everything up. They'll do your internatinal air too, if you want.

“ camps that are gorgeous” Anything that AAC or a similar company sells will be. And they'll be in scenic locations with good wildlife.

“like to avoid being in the middle of major tourism.” More Botswana, less East Africa. But you can always avoid the biggest crowds if you have a private vehicle, which is common in East Africa, and you ask your guide to steer clear of groups and if you pick smaller, more remote locations.

I’d agree with Safari Craig's Rwanda itinerary suggestions and the timing of the trip, especially if you combine East and Southern Africa.

For more specifics, I'd do the gorillas first (or close to first) because you may do some walking/training for those hikes and you don't want to sit around in a vehicle for a couple of weeks and lose your fitness. Also if you take old boots that you will discard, you can get rid of them early. The Aug-Sept timeframe is great for gorillas. Nicest places are Sabinyo Silverback Lodge and Virunga Lodge. But there are others that will save you hundreds and offer adequate comfort. Kinigi Guesthouse had excellent birdwatching, hot running water in your own private bath, and a nice restaurant for very little money, though it was quite basic. Up from that is Gorilla's Nest and I've heard good things about Gorilla Mountain View Lodge.

In East Africa, I'd definitely go to Kenya's Maasai Mara, even with the possibility of more people. There are many nice places to stay. Maybe Little Governor's, which also owns Sabinyo Silverback Lodge--deal there? Serian, Rekero, both exclusive tented camps.

If you include Tanzania, I'd go to Ngorongoro Crater, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is tops in the scenic beauty catergory, plus the animals you mentioned. I like Sopa Lodge there for its own access road. The fanciest place at the crater and one of the fanciest places in the whole world is Crater Lodge. It is run by AndBeyond, the same people that have Phinda, so combining the 2 may get you a deal. You could also include the N. Serengeti in one of the luxury mobile tents. AndBeyond has one called SUC (can you believe it?), Serengeti Under Canvas, and so do several other operators. Top notch. Maybe Tarangire too, which is at its best in Aug Sept. Lots of places to stay in Tarangire. The order would probably be Tarangire, Crater, Serengeti. If you did TZ, it would likely be placed before Kenya for the best migration viewing.

If you went to Botswana, I'd do a delta camp (check Wilderness Safaris website, or there are many others, Sandibe mentioned above is AndBeyond) and a Linyanti camp at least and stay for a minimum of 3 nights at each. Maybe tack on Chobe for the elephants and wildlife on the afternoon-sunset cruise.

You didn't mention Vic Falls, but you could end with it or hit the falls prior to Botswana.

And if you went to S. Africa (maybe Phinda or back to Sabi Sands) too, I'd do that prior to Botswana. I think that order was suggested earlier as well.

6 weeks later you're back home!
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Nov 25th, 2009, 01:26 AM
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I have read the two replies from my fellow friends above and they are very informative.Today I don't have a lot of time to respond your query but think I can help a bit.According to your age,I think you should do Tanzania or Kenya Safari or even both.Tanzania National Parks are not fur from each other and therefore you don't do long drives.On the other part,Kenya is the best country to me to see the big game more so the Big Five-Leopards,Lions,Buffalos,Rhinos and Elephants.If you want to see the migration,you should planning to visit Kenya starting the month of July next year (2010).The wildebeest together with zebras migrate from Serengeti in Tanzania to Masai Mara in Kenya.You can read about how they travel on this site,home page africa veterans,which is the only company I have used for the number of times I have visited Africa,whether in Kenya,Tanzania and even South Africa.They have many referrals on this site,so may be you can check them out.happy planning and remember to let us know your experiences when out of the safari.
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Nov 25th, 2009, 02:22 AM
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You guys are all fantastic! Keep it coming because I will check into all of it! We are actually located in Sydney, so will fly from here. I find that if I go to travel agents locally, they have limited brochures/options so I am looking all over for the best products for us. We have done some, how shall I say, very active traveling in recent times. We recently did 7+ weeks Egypt-Israel-Turkey, with very, very early starts, and long, hot days. It was so much fun and so exciting that feeling tired wasn't even an issue. I was ready to keep going when it all ended! I so appreciate all the suggestions on itineraries and camps, and the details on Rwanda and the gorillas and keeping fitness was wonderful! So much to think about, so much to learn! Talk later! Thanks again!
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Nov 25th, 2009, 07:00 AM
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If you did 7 weeks in Egypt, Israel, and Turkey with early starts, long hot days, and no tiredness, a cross continent trip in Africa will not be too hard for you.

My winking smiley with the 6 weeks comment may not be so winking after all, it may be just about right!

I'm not pushing AAC, but they do have some kind of sister company in Australia, Down Under is the name I believe, that offers Australia trips primarily for people not from Australia. I mention it in case you wanted some kind of more local connection, at least initially, if you chose The Afica Adventure Company.

You're right about local travel agents not being equipped for an Africa trip of this magnitude. There are several Australia posters who may be able to offer advice on their agents.
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Nov 25th, 2009, 09:35 AM
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All great comments. We traveled recently (end of July) to Botswana and Zimbabwe, our first trip. It was spectacular in every way. It seemed to be a truly authentic safari as we were in Mana Pools and Moremi. I cannot speak to comments about East Africa, But I plan to go there some day as well!!!! I can only tell you that from a crowd standpoint, wildlife viewing etc. Botswana and Zimbabawe would be tough to beat. It was as if we were all alone. We used African Adventure Company as well and they were awesome. Call Mark Nolting and he will really help you sort through things. No, I am not on their payroll, but seriously they did an outstanding job of working with us and matching our desires etc.
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Nov 25th, 2009, 10:01 PM
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sorry, I can't be of help, I too am planning a trip to Africa. The information on this thread is wonderful, I'm sure I'll reread these posts a few times when planning my upcoming trip.
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Dec 13th, 2009, 09:37 AM
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We've been to Tanzania, South Africa (twice), Botswana (twice), Zimbabwe and Zambia (just briefly). We just recently used African Adventure Company and echo the great feedback you've heard above. Our first four trips we planned ourselves, but working with AAC was a treat and made things much easier. Our trip went off without a hitch. Combining any combination of South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia would work without too much time loss travel, but I'd save East Africa for a separate trip. If possible stay in the private reserves since you have more flexibility than in the national parks (night drives, off-roading, etc.). For example, in the Serengeti (which we loved) if you see a cheetah on a termite mound, you are left looking at it through your binoculars and can't go off-road to get a closer look. On the other hand, the huge herds and Maasai people in the Serengeti make it a very special place that I wouldn't want to miss. I'd concentrate on places where you'll encounter fewer vehicles (i.e. if you go to Kenya, be selective).

For a first trip I'd recommend some time in the Sabi Sands area of South Africa. The wildlife here is so amazing (and somewhat consistent) that your chances of seeing what's on your list is probably higher than at any other place (with the exception of cheetah which is somewhat spotty there). You can easily combine this with Botswana and Victoria Falls, if you're interested in that. One thing we've learned over time is (at least for us) spending at least 3 nights, but preferably 4 at a property gives you a chance to really get to know your guide and staff and settle into a property and not spend so much time in transit.

After you've narrowed down your choices, get good recommendations on guides at the different properties. We've found that requesting the best guides provides the best experiences. In fact the only two times we've had less that exceptional (but still great) experiences has been because we didn't feel good about our guide (in one case the guide just seemed to be going through the motions and on another the guide was very inexperienced and didn't get along with his tracker very well). A great guide gives you the best opportunity to see what you want and will provide you with a good time, even when the animals aren't cooperative!

Lastly, don't rule out lodges altogether. We have enjoyed both lodges and tented camps. For example, Sandibe, in Botswana, is a "lodge" but feels just as remote and "out there" as any tented camp we've stayed in. If you're open minded about this, you'll have more choices.

We've enjoyed Wilderness camps and have stayed in 10 different &Beyond properties plus a few private properties. We've been very pleased with all the places we've stayed and have had amazing experiences everywhere.

Good luck with your planning!

Debbie
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Jan 2nd, 2010, 03:46 AM
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I hope that I haven't seemed too rude, since you all have posted such amazing ideas and I never got back to you. But I sort of have to wait until I can look at all this now with my husband so we can formulate our ideas beyond this early stage together. But I've been paying close attention to all the postings on these countries and will jump back in once we are further along in our planning. This month should see more action. But you are all so generous to share your ideas and experiences with us newbies. I hope I will be able to contribute to this forum after our trip!

I am looking at a few companies, but I just can't tell if you are booking the lodges/camps on your own, transport on your own, or are using a company to plan it all for you?
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Jan 2nd, 2010, 05:24 AM
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I'm excited for you just reading everyone's suggestions!

Use a reputable travel agent who specializes in Africa...tell them what you want and then sit back and let them make all the arrangements for you. They will take care of all the lodging, transportation etc. You just sit back and savor the anticipation!
Of course there are some people who like to make all the arrangements and handle every detail on their own, but I'm not one of them.
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Jan 2nd, 2010, 08:12 AM
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tinydancer,

it is very nice of you to follow up. many people post a question and receive detailed answers and they are never heard from again!

if you do want to work with an agent or local tour operator, i would be happy to refer you to one of my "competitors" that has an office close to your home. that way, you could even sit face to face and make your plans. let me know where you live if you are interested. i know one or two good safari consultants in most major US cities.

happy new year and i hope this month sees you firming up your safari plans!

craig beal
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Jan 2nd, 2010, 11:03 AM
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Happy New Year Tinydancer and have fun planning your trip.
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Jan 3rd, 2010, 04:50 PM
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I'm in Sydney, and the local (Australian) companies I have found are

www.emcompassafrica.com.au
http://www.africasafarico.com.au
www.africantravel.com.au
http://www.nfs.travel

I don't have a direct contact here in Sydney.

I've also made initial contacts with &Beyond and The African Adventure Co. both of which are not located here.

I'm beginning to see that many companies use many of the same lodges/camps, so I need to narrow that down to maybe only 2-3 companies to make further enquires with. I don't like asking too many people to invest too much time if I can narrow it down. My feeling is that having one company make all the arrangements may be best rather than me booking everyone directly, which I gather is much more complicated once you get into transferring between camps and between countries.

We're not looking for a budget company, nor are we looking for an ultra luxury trip. I want to mix tented camps and lodges (which make the most sense in the specific location), and be guaranteed of good vehicles and good guides. We're not looking at group tours.

And Happy New Year to all of you too!
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Jan 3rd, 2010, 05:00 PM
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"I'm beginning to see that many companies use many of the same lodges/camps, so I need to narrow that down to maybe only 2-3 companies to make further enquires with."

You are exactly right!
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Jan 3rd, 2010, 08:49 PM
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Hello tinydancer,

I've been watching this thread with great interest, and you are right. Many companies use many of the same lodges/camps.

That's because those companies (mega operators) spend huge amounts on advertising and commissions and entertainment for the travel agents you'll be dealing with.

There are hundreds of good lodges in South Africa and surrounds who never get a mention from travel agents or the travel forums, because they are realistically priced and spend more money producing good quality than paying their food chain. The same names keep cropping up everywhere, on every forum (and all of them mentioned in the above posts - how strange!)

Look around and keep an open mind. Good luck!
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Jan 3rd, 2010, 09:21 PM
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BK0 - I'm sure you are right, there are many more good lodges in SA than get mentioned hear. If I were local SA resident, I could easily try many different lodges and the ones that were just so-so would be no big deal. Very little lost. However, when I have to fly for 22 hours to get somewhere I want to be as sure as I can about my destination. How am I to know??

Happy New Year - Tom
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Jan 4th, 2010, 12:08 AM
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Hi Tom,

I agree that's it's extremely difficult to tell from afar. And I don't discount the wonderful services provided by Travel Agents around the world. They are a crucial link in the supply chain.

I also agree that as a South Africa resident, I can visit many lodges across the spectrum, and if I'm a bit disappointed with one or two, there's little lost. When you are traveling for 22 hours at huge expense, it's very important that you are assured of good quality at your destination (and on your way there and back).

That's one of the huge values of forums like these. You can ask for detailed information and get responses from local and overseas travelers and experts in the field and inside the industry.

But you also need to filter the information. At the end of the day, it's up to personal choices. And the more balanced information you have, the more appropriate those choices can be for you.
Bushkid0 is offline  
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Jan 4th, 2010, 03:51 PM
  #20
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 5,285
Here's my two cents. Since you can travel for a long period of time (7 weeks being a very long period of time in my book) I would try to do it all. One week Rwanda/travel, two weeks East Africa and three - four weeks Southern Africa. We have gotten drivers for some of our transportation, but flying is the only way to get from place to place for the most part. Africa is big but you can do a lot in 5 - 7 weeks. I would start in Rwanda, as atravellyn suggested, go to ngorogoro, Serengeti-Mara, Tsavo (fewer people), then Cape Town for a few days to get back into civilization. Then Sabi Sands near Kruger, Phinda, Botswana - Duba Plains and Mombo are special - Victoria Falls, and maybe a few days in Mana Pools or Hwange in Zimbabwe. I prefer tents, but the tents are ridiculously luxurious for the most part. It's not camping by any means. Wilderness Safaris (I personally like them, but other Fodorites have a different opinion) does some interesting small group excursions in Bots, Namibia and Zambia where it is more rustic than their permanent camps.
I have no idea of the best times for the great migration, but Southern Africa is at its best from June - Sept, except being from Australia the cold might get to you at that time (my niece married an Aussie and he HATES the winters here in NY and never minds the heat even on our most miserable summer days). It does get surprisingly cold in the bush in the winter. You could go in your spring and see tons of babies, but the weather is hotter and wetter and the grass is higher, making the animals harder to find as they don't have as much trouble finding water.
Although I've never traveled with &Beyond, they get great feedback here. They have camps in all the areas you are interested in except Rwanda, and you could go entirely with them. I think they could help you with Rwanda.
My mom did three weeks Bots/S Africa when she was 77. It was not too much for her. You'll be fine - just stay in places for at least three days at a time. Less than that is stressful. Happy planning. It's fun!!
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