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Places to stay, tours for Kruger and Cape Town questions

Places to stay, tours for Kruger and Cape Town questions

Old Jun 2nd, 2009, 10:48 PM
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az3
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Places to stay, tours for Kruger and Cape Town questions

Hello,

We are going to be traveling to South Africa in early or mid July and we want to visit mainly Kruger National Park and Cape Town. Overall, I think we're looking at 9/10 nights in SA. The breakdown would be 6 nights in Kruger, 2 in Cape Town, with the rest left for some flexibility here and there which we would fill up once our plans are set.

As a family, we are very much into wildlife, and not just big 5 (which we would of course definitely like to see) but other things like Wild Dog, Hippo, Cheetah, and even smaller mammals, birds, and reptiles. We also however want a place that's comfortable and relatively "nice."

We have a few questions though. From the research we've done, it is generally understood that private game reserves are much more flexible, versatile, and give better opportunities to see wildlife than staying in the main park.

Is there any benefit to staying in the main park? Can certain species, like Cheetah and Hippo, only be seen in certain areas?

We are considering Sabi Sands, which definitely has a high price tag, but from the reviews it seems it is worth it. Since it is so expensive though, we're looking to split the 6 nights in Kruger between Selati and somewhere preferably cheaper. I've read Selati isn't the best place for Cheetah, and I haven't seen any mention of Hippo, so I was wondering if someone could recommend me another place (either in Kruger or in a private reserve) that would be both not so costly and have a different palette of wildlife.

We also need to find a good tour operator that can preferably give us a deal on the whole thing, including Cape Town, but there are so many so it's hard to find one. Could someone recommend a good tour operator through which we can see Cape Town and also potentially give us a deal on Kruger?

Any other comments or suggestions regarding our prospective itinerary? Any other tips?

All responses are welcome and desired! Thank you!
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Old Jun 2nd, 2009, 11:46 PM
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Some random questions/thoughts.
Welcome to Fodors, you will find a lot of friendly knowledgeable help here. Are you from USA? Why do you want to visit Capetown? Capetown is lovely but you have lovely cities in USA and in Europe. What you don't have in USA and Europe is the fantastic African wildlife. And I think you realize that. In other words, why not spend all your time, 10 nights, in/around Kruger? If you're coming from USA, the trip over is worth more than 10 nights. If you're coming from Europe, then the trip down is half the effort/cost. Lucky you.

Kruger National Park. We have been to Kruger twice and going back this Sep for seven nights. We've been to Sabi Sand Reserve five times and going back in Sep after Kruger. We love Kruger. You are your own guide. It is amazing to be out with no one else around and find yourself in the midst of an elephant or buffalo herd. But, but, we have never seen cheetah nor leopard in Kruger. And lions rarely, about every other day and they are most likely sleeping. While at Sabi Sand camps you will see lion and leopard on every game. Cheetah not nearly as often. Cheetah prefer wide open plains, like Kenya. Yes you can do both, visit Kruger and Sabi Sand. Kruger is basically a self guided. Sabi Sand camps provide a guide and vehicle and accommodations and meals for you. Kruger will cost you (with rental/hire car) around $125USD per day per person. Sabi Sand will cost upwards of $500 per day per person. If I had 10 days and unlimited budget I'd do all 10 in Sabi Sand. If I had (and do have) a budget I'd likely split the 10 days between Kruger and Sabi Sand. Or if not Sabi Sand the Timbavati Reserve which is just north of Sabi Sand.

Enough for now from me . Here are two web links. First one is for Kruger-
http://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/
Second is a map showing Sabi Sand and Timbavati Reserves. Note how they border Kruger but are not part of Kruger. Also gives you an idea of the surrounding towns. Johannesburg is further off to the left. This map shows many of the safari camps in those two reserves.
http://tinyurl.com/phlubo

Lastly but probably most important of all -YIKES- July, July 2009? You may find -very- limited availability of Sabi Sand safari camps. Even some of the Kruger camps may be full. You're right, you need to find a travel agent that has some "influence" with where you want to go.

regards - tom
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 03:38 AM
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I used a CapeTown agency to book my trip in 2007. I give them my highest recommendations, and I know a few others here have also been very pleased. They have an 800 number, if you are calling from the US, or you can e-mail. They were responsive to all of our needs and were on hand to give us advice once we arrived in the city. I wrote a trip report which you can read if you want more information. To find it, click on my name in blue and look for the section of my trip reports.

www.southerndestinations.com
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 05:54 AM
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I would disagree with the assessment that the private reserves are more flexible and versatile than Kruger Park itself. I would contend that by self-driving, you define flexibility and versatility.

The private reserves do offer more in the way of "guaranteed" sightings. As Tom said, you will likely see cats (but probably not cheetahs) everyday. However, in Kruger you are less likely to see leopards in particular--although I have seen one on one of Kruger's guided sunset drives. I had one additional non-sighting where the leopard was in very heavy cover, and while others could see it, I never spotted it. I've also missed 3-4 additional sightings by mere seconds.

I've seen plenty of lions in Kruger, but the sightings weren't the best. As Tom said, most of the time they're sleeping and are partially obscured by grass or bushes. Perhaps the most memorable was the quick blur of a lion jumping out of the grass 30 meters in front of me on a morning walk. Yikes.

Cheetahs and wild dogs are supposedly very rare in the Kruger area (private reserves AND the park itself)--I was told there are less than 200 of each species. I did see a group of 3 cheetahs on one of Kruger's guided early morning drives, and saw a pack of wild dogs while self-driving last year.

I guarantee that you'll see hippo if you go to Sunset Dam, just 2 minutes from Kruger's Lower Sabie rest camp. You will also hear them all night from that camp!

Lower Sabie camp is also very near where I saw the cheetahs and leopard, as well as serval, rhinos, elephants, buffalo, civets, genets, etc. I would recommend this area if you were to stay in Kruger. Satara is also known for its variety of wildlife, and the Orpen/Tamboti area is a personal favorite of mine.

I'm sure you'll enjoy your trip wherever you go.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 07:38 AM
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I too am a great fan of Kruger. Gritty's experience with leopard sightings there pretty much matches mine, but I have seen, in Kruger, lions mating, lions on a kill, lions chomping on a giraffe carcass, as well as lions sleeping far away.

In Kruger you can sign up to go on game drives with the rangers, as well as driving yourself. To me, it's the best of both worlds.

I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time wherever you choose.

Celia
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 04:32 PM
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AZ - to really provide the best reponse, please let us know the ages of the kids in your family. Also, if you have a budget in mind, putting into this thread will get you the best response.

Craig Beal
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 05:05 PM
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I enjoyed the time I spent in Cape Town immensely (2 nights), I would recommend you keep it on the list.

As for finding a good tour operator you will be spoilt for choice, I was quite pleased with the services of Go2Africa.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 05:26 PM
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"Can certain species, like Cheetah and Hippo, only be seen in certain areas?" I think hippo are fairly wide spread (no pun intended) although I noted that I saw none on my 4 day visit to Mala Mala. I did not request any hippo, though.

Cheetah are iffy in the Kruger area. If you wanted to see cheetah, you might consider Phinda, closer to Durban than Johannesburg. They offer daily flights from Joburg so getting there is easy. Or you could drive. Phinda is a cheetah sanctuary where it is likely you would see one or more in a stay of a couple of days. Phinda's 55,000 acres are fenced, just so you are aware of that. I really liked my time at Phinda, not just for cheetah hunting, but for the 7 habitats and the many other activities you can do there.

Femi should tell us how she spent her 2 Cape Town nights. I'd suggest another night or two or skip Cape Town, unless there was one or two things you really wanted to do there, such as Robben Island or Table Mountain.

Since you mentioned you are wildlife fans, you could spend time in Simons Town, about half an hour away. From Simons Town you can do a trip to see Great White Sharks at Seal Island with African Shark Eco-Charters; walk with baboons through Baboon Matters, and see the penguins at Boulders Bay. Two of those activities could be done in one day.

I believe Go2Africa in South Africa has been given credit for arranging some last minute trips, as yours is.

In the US, I've used Eyes on Africa in Chicago for South Africa and one of the owners is South African.

Africa Adventure in Ft. Lauderdale has worked well for me too.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 10:13 PM
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@cary999: "Why do you want to visit Capetown? Capetown is lovely but you have lovely cities in USA and in Europe. What you don't have in USA and Europe is the fantastic African wildlife."

You are so right, Tom. There's certainly no wildlife or wilderness to be seen in the USA, and since Africa has no culture, its people are indistinguishable from Americans or Europeans, and the ecosystems and landscapes across the continent are invariable from what's found in the Kruger Park in fact you can experience all that's important, interesting and meaningful about Africa from a 5-star safari lodge in the Sabi Sands.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 10:15 PM
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Sorry, I forgot the last line:

"Harumph"
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 11:03 PM
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So, kurt_a, maybe you live in Cape Town?

Gee Kurt, don't be so tough on Africa. I'm sure it does indeed have a lot to offer. Like King Tut's tomb.

and my "Harumph" (with a smiley)

regards - tom
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Old Jun 4th, 2009, 04:00 AM
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Lynn- I had to laugh at your hippo comment

Here is an excerpt from my trip report on how I spent my time in Cape Town '...For my first morning in Cape Town I had scheduled a group half day city tour (The castle/The South African museum/Bo Kaap/Signal hill). We tried to go up table mountain twice, but the cable car was closed because of the winds both times...'

I had another full day during which I visited Stellenbosch, Spier for the cheetah encounter (not recommended), Boulder Beach, Baboon Matters for a walk with baboons, and Cape Point.

You can read the rest here: http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...uth-africa.cfm
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Old Jun 4th, 2009, 11:31 AM
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Thank you for all your responses.

In terms of age, the youngest is 19.

And atravelynn is exactly right. We definitely want to see the penguins and the sharks. We'd also like to see the more "tourist-y" attractions as my wife enjoys that as well.

Does anyone know what rest camps in Kruger are better for game viewing? I've heard Satara and Lower Sabie are good. In terms of availability we're looking for just 1 room for 1 night I think if we were to stay there.

And has anyone been to Monwana in Thornybush or Inyati in Sabi Sands?

Thanks

az3
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Old Jun 4th, 2009, 11:43 AM
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Kruger camp. Those you mentioned are good. But for one night what you see will largely depend on luck. Pick the one that is easiest logistically for you to come and go, which Kruger gate to use (there are eight).

regards - tom
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Old Jun 6th, 2009, 07:52 AM
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az3

you won't see anything but people at the kruger rest camps as they are all fecned in. it really doesn't matter which rest camp you stay at because the game viewing depends on where you drive each day.

any rest camp in the southern section of the park will put you in proximity to the best game viewing areas for your daily excursions.

regarding safari operators - people in this thread have made comments on these opertors:
1. eyes on africa in chicago is owned by nikki and james weiss. i know them through phone/email only. they are big time competitors of my company and i would highly recommend them as exceptional safari planners.
2. mark and alison nolting are the owners of the africa adventure company in ft lauderdale. mark is one of the three conde nast recommend safari specialists for 2008. i highly recommend mark and alison as well.
3. i have never heard of southerndestinations except in travel forums. several people paste their web site into forums recommending their services.
4. go2africa is a cape town based company. like eyes on africa and the africa adventure companu (and my company) they do not own any hotel/lodge assets in africa. they make bookings and provide safari planning consulting services. funtionally, they are exactly the same type of company as the others. all of us work off the same rates so the big differentiators will be mark-up, knowledge, speed of service, and accuracy.

the advantage of working with james & nikki or with mark & allison is the impartial advice. they are the owners so they do not work on commission. you may want to determine if the consultant you are working with is commission based or salary based. this can effect recomendations...

craig beal
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Old Jun 7th, 2009, 06:12 PM
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az...its a bit late i think looking for this july....you best contact someone quickly....

we are first timers and i am splitting our time between a sabi camp and kreuger... that way we are hoping for the best results at the lowest cost...
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Old Jun 10th, 2009, 07:58 AM
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We went to sabi sands and timbevarti in September last year. It was great and we saw all kinds of animals. We used Tanya from Africa Direct to book everything ansd she help organize our wedding there and honeymoon which was great. We found Elephant Plains in Sabi Sands one of the best value for money and she booked us in CC Africa (now named &beyond) which had special rates...pay for 3 stay for 4 which again value for money would be Kirkmans in Sabi Sands and Ngala Safari lodge in Timbevarti.

Good luck in the planning ...it will far exceed your expectations...once in a lifetime.
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Old Jun 10th, 2009, 08:02 AM
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tanya is an exceptional safari consultant. she is also a competitor of my company. i "met" her on trip advisor and then i finally met her face-to-face in south africa last month. here is her trip advisor profile.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/AFRICADIRECT

craig beal
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Old Jun 11th, 2009, 02:43 PM
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hi, az3,

two years ago we went to SA with our kids then aged 19 & 16. I had started off thinking that we should spend all/the vast majority of our time on safari, but the family persuaded me otherwise. Thank goodness! although we enjoyed the safari time we had [3 days], we would nto have wanted to miss the other great things we did, many of them animal based.

2 nights in Cape towon is definitely not too long, and we found our 4 nights hardly long enough. 1 day we spent going up Table mountain and visiting Kirstenbosch gardens - loads of birds to see there. another we spent seeing the city [slave house museum was really a highlight from the amount we learnt about SA's history], and a third driving to the cape, seeing the penguins at Boulder's beach on the way.

the day we left Cape Town on our way east, we went to Spier to see the Cheetahs [not sure about this, honestly] then drove to Franschoek for lunch followed by Hermanus to watch the whales from the shore.

later in the holiday, we went on a whale-watching trip in Plettenberg Bay and walked with elephants, enjoyed the monkey park, the bird gardens and snake park around Plett.

just a few ideas,

regards, ann
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Old Jun 11th, 2009, 05:04 PM
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Cape Town is nothing like any city in the US. Maybe a Very Exotic San Francisco....but that's not doing it enough justice.

The people in South Africa are incredible.
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