Please assist me in picking an itinerary

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Nov 3rd, 2004, 06:37 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2003
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Please assist me in picking an itinerary

It looks like my travel dates are set for next year.

On August 30th, I will be departing Los Angeles (LAX) on a nonstop evening flight to London (LHR), arriving in London, with the time zone difference, in the late afternoon. Then, after a short layover, I will fly from London on a nonstop flight to Johannesburg (JNB), arriving around 9:30AM on Thursday, September 01st.

From there, everything is wide open until I depart Johannesburg on Sunday, September 18th at 9PM. So, I have 17 nights at my disposal. Of course, I have a couple favorite itineraries in mind. Any feedback regarding the following itineraries will be most appreciated.

ITINERARY #1

Sept. 01 - 4 hour layover at Joburg Airport, allowing for excess baggage check in downstairs and time to freshen up in the SAA Baobab (Business Class) Lounge. 1:50PM flight to to Victoria Falls, arriving around 4:00 PM. Upon arrival I will be met by CCAfrica rep and transfered 50 minutes by road to Matetsi Game Reserve, hopefully in time to freshen up a little prior to a night game drive. 3 nights at Matetsi Water Lodge.

Besides the normal morning and evening game drives, at Matetsi it will be possible to do canoeing excursions in the Zambezi River, take daytrips to Victoria Falls, take an extra daytrip to do an Elephant Back safari nearby, or any of the other activities available in Victoria Falls. I would really like to go White Water Rafting this time around.

September 04th - Upon checkout of Matetsi, it should be a 50 minute transfer to Victoria Falls Airport, followed by about a 20 minute flight to Makalolo Plains (Wilderness Safaris) in Hwange National Park.

Hwange is supposed to have one of the best diversity's of mammals of any park in Africa, and I am honestly hesitant to only allow a 3 night stay, but due to budget and time constraints, 3 nights will have to be sufficient under this itinerary.

September 07th - Upon checking out of Makalolo Plains, it will be a light air transfer of possibly 60-70 minutes to Chikwenya (Wilderness Safaris) in Mana Pools National Park for a 3 night stay. This park is directly opposite Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia where I was earlier this year. However, it is supposed to have far more elephants (less poaching in years past) and different landscapes.

At Chikwenya, besides the morning and night game drives, activities such as canoeing, fishing and game viewing by motor boat will be possible. Too bad there are no jet-skis!

3 nights will probably fly by here, but again, it is all the budget and schedule will allow.

September 10th - Checkout of Chikwenya, arriving back in Victoria Falls by about 1PM, possibly allowing time for lunch at the Victoria Falls Hotel and another visit to the Falls, before catching a 4:00PM flight back to Joburg, arriving around 6:00PM.

One night stay at Intercontinental Airport Sun?

September 11th - Chartered flight on light aircraft to Simbambili in Sabi Sand Game Reserve for 3 night stay. This should completely round out my safari experience. While I do expect to see rhinos and leopards in Zimbabwe, I am not sure how close the encounters will be. At Simbambili, I have no doubt that I will have a few quality close encounters, especially since I wil be aboard the Taga Safaris filming vehicle for a couple nights (extra cost, but it should be well worth it).

September 14th - Return to Joburg for a short stopover, hopefully landing in Cape Town by about 3:30PM for a 4 night stay. We are considering staying at the V & A Waterfront in a 2 bedroom luxury apartment right across from the Cape Grace.

Hopefully during this stay, I will have a chance to do an all day tour with Selwyn, and maybe another with his brother, and then have a couple days at leisure. I definitely want to visit Hermanus since it will be the best time of the year for whale watching.

September 18th - After a leisurely day, we will probably fly out of Cape Town around 5PM to meet our 9PM flight from Joburg to London. Alternately, I will check if there are any direct flights from Cape Town to London, allowing a few more hours in Cape Town.

UPSIDES OF THIS ITINERARY

1. Plenty of variety by spending 3 nights each in the Matetsi Game Reserve, Hwange National Park, Mana Pools National Park and the Sabi Sand Game Reserve.

2. A visit to Victoria Falls.

3. Tolerable cost since Matetsi Water Lodge is only $250 pppns, Makalolo Plains and Chikwenya are only $375 pppns and Simbambili is only $550 pppns (while this is high, it is still half the price of othe Sabi Sand lodges such as Londolozi Tree or Singita).

4. I will visit two parks that I have not yet visited before in Hwange and Mana Pools.

5. I will be supporting Zimbabwe wildlife and thus keep it going until Zimbabwe straightens itself out. Otherwise, if everybody stopped going to Zim, CCAfrica and Wilderness Safaris would pull out and their current concessions would likely become overrun by poaching activities, destroying the wildlife. At a minimum, the areas would be leased out to hunting operators.

DOWNSIDES

1. Each Matetsi (with all of the Vic Falls activities possible between game drives), Makalolo Plains (with one of the best diversity's of mammals of any park), Chikwenya (natural beauty and variety of activities) and the Sabi Sand (concentration of predators) all seem like they warrant at least a 4th night instead of only 3 nights.

2. 12 nights of safari for four people is DAMN EXPENSIVE, even at the tolerable nightly rates of each lodge.

3. Cape Town really warrants at least a fifth night for all the possible activities (Hermanus, Cape Winelands, Cape Peninsula Tour, Table Mountain Tour, Cage Diving With Great White Sharks, Township Tour, Hanging Out At The Waterfront, Etc.).

However, even with these downsides, so far this is my favorite itinerary.

SUMMARY

Matetsi Water Lodge (3)
Makalolo Plains (3)
Chikwenya (3)
Intercontinental Airport Sun (1)
Simbambili (3)
Luxury Apartment At The Waterfront In Cape Town (4)

I will be very brief with a couple other itineraries I have in mind.

ITINERARY #2

Matetsi (3)
Makalolo Plains (4)
Intercontinental Airport Sun (1)
Sabi Sand Game Reserve (4)(possibly split between Simbambili and Exeter Dulini or Leadwood)
Cape Town (5)

This itinerary will give me one extra night at each Hwange, the SSGR and Cape Town, but will cost me my visit to Mana Pools NP. Costs will be possibly about $500 pp less ($2,000 total), since it is one less day of safari and one less air transfer.

Itinerary #3

Luangwa River Lodge, South Luangwa NP, Zambia (3)
(I have been promised my own assigned gameviewing vehicle for my party of four and a couple other incentives)
Kaingo, South Luangwa NP (3)
Michelangelo or Westcliff Hotel, Joburg (2)
Sabi Sand Game Reserve (4)
Cape Town (5)

While I have already visited South Luangwa twice, there is a reason for it. It is incredibly beautiful, has excellent gameviewing, excellent walking safaris and great pricing (average of $375 pppns at these two top lodges).

This itinerary would be less expensive than the others since it has only 10 nights of safari and only visits two different parks.

Also, with two nights in Joburg, it would be possible to spend time in Sandton, visit the Cradle of Mankind and Soweto.

ITINERARY #4

Matetsi (3)
Savuti (Wilderness Safaris) (3)
Sandibe (3)
Joburg (1)
Sabi Sand (3)
Cape Town (4)

Even with only 6 nights in Botswana, the average price in Botswana ends up at about $575 pppns, making it an average of $200 pppns more expensive than Zimbabwe. Altogether, even for just those six nights, it translates into an extra $4,800 ($800 x 6 nights). This is just TOO expensive.

Itinerary #5

Matetsi (2)
Mobile Camping Safari, 9 nights with a very esteemed private guide, as follows:
Meet in Kasane (1 hour drive from Matetsi)
Northern Chobe (2) (This is the crowded area of Chobe, but this is what is on offer)
Savute area (2)
Khwai area, just outside Moremi, thus allowing night game drives (2)
Some island deep in the delta (1)
Xakanaxa area (2)
Joburg (1)
Sabi Sand (5) I would go to the SSGR by myself and send the others to Cape Town for their final five nights.

This itinerary gives me 16 nights on safari (out of 17 total) and is no more expensive than Itinerary #4, even with the split lodging of the final 5 nights (Three persons in Cape Town and I in the SSGR).

I am concerned whether or not a mobile camping safari will be enjoyed by my wife and my mom, rather than staying at a luxury lodge, but we would see SO MUCH and really have a chance to connect with our guide and the staff.

So, those are my options. I have about 10 days left to decide if I want to hold onto the frequent flier seats that Award Planner has reserved for me for these travel dates.
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