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Please help! Sabi Sands or Hluhluwe-imfolozi

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May 19th, 2015, 06:01 AM
  #1
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Please help! Sabi Sands or Hluhluwe-imfolozi

We are planning our first trip to Africa (Adults/teens). I have flights booked arriving on a Saturday morning and departing 9 days later. I have booked Thonga in the St. Lucia area for our last 3 nights. I was originally planning on spending the first 3 nights in a lodge in the Sabi Sands area, then heading to St. Lucia for 3 nights to do horse beach/safari, wetlands tours, and finishing with 3 nights at Thonga, but now that I look at the various options for getting from JNB to Sabi Sands, then Sabi Sands to St. Lucia, I am wondering if all this travel is worth it in only 9 days. I see some nice options in the Hluhluwe game reserve, and am now wondering whether it makes sense to just head there and concentrate all of our time in this area. This is our first safari, and our only "must sees" are elephants, giraffes, and lions. Of course we want to see more, but the kids are very excited about this and we won't exactly be checking game sighted off of a list!

So my question is: Is Sabi Sands THAT much better than Hluhluwe that it makes the extra travel worth it? I don't want to travel all this way and not get a great experience, but also don't want to waste a lot of time traveling (my kids HATE that). If you think we should stick to only the Hluhluwe area, which lodges should I be looking at? We have a decent budget - would prefer not to spend more than we have to, but don't need to go totally on the cheap. Don't want to do self drive. Was looking at Rhino River Lodge, anyone have any experience with that? Any suggestions for this itinerary would be very much appreciated.

Also, I was planning to book this whole trip myself, as I love travel planning and never use an agent, but do you think it makes sense to use an agent for this trip? If so, any recommendations?
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May 19th, 2015, 07:08 AM
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What time of year?
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May 19th, 2015, 07:12 AM
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March/April
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May 19th, 2015, 06:50 PM
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In my experience, game viewing much better in Sabi Sands but at much greater cost. Doubt you'd see a lion in H-U. Have to stay on road and a huge park with lots of trees. But the private reserves are very expensive. But worth it!
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May 19th, 2015, 07:41 PM
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Well, you are speaking my language! We love the area you are considering! So much so that we have decided to retire there. It's tons of fun - so much to do and see. I might have different ideas for you - how old are your kids and when are you planning to visit my future neighborhood?

I am totally enamored with Rhino River Lodge. We've been twice and love it! You can't beat the value. We arranged for a rhino conservation project that was easily our best day ever. They arranged for a veterinarian to come to the reserve in a helicopter and choose a rhino to dart, inject a "rhino LoJack", take DNA, notch her ears for ID and microchip her horn. It all helps identify the horn if poached so they can prosecute the #%+*#%s who poach these magnificent creatures. In best circumstances, they use the info to figure out bloodlines so there isn't too much interbreeding. It would have been even better with kids with us. You can also arrange a visit to their local village to meet/greet some Zulu tribespeople. The game drives are good, too. Kyle and Frances are excellent Rangers and very fun. They recently added lions to the reserve and have had a few cubs, the cheetah are ridiculous and have lots of babies, and the most exciting thing is they just released a pack of six wild dogs!!!! I can't wait to go back to visit. One problem is they only have two small breeding herds of elephants and aren't seen every day - I know, they are huge but somehow manage to hide on the 30,000 (I think) hectare reserve. You might consider Tembe Elephant Park. It's a couple of hours north on good roads. They have really fun ellies and lots of them. We also had great lion and black rhino experiences there. It's also a community owned park which is important to me and provides decent jobs in a very poor area.

It's a pain to get from Sabi Sand to KwaZulu Natal. There are no easy flights and driving is an overnight. We go from Kruger to KZN through Swaziland with an overnight in Mbabane and add a round of golf at the Royal Swazi Hotel. We LOVE Kruger (SS) but with just nine nights, I'd do it next time. Your plan sounds like a good one. Just fly from JNB to Richards Bay, and arrange for transfers or rent a car for the rest. You will spend MUCH less at RRL and Tembe than in Sabi Sand. It should allow the extra money for the rhino outing. Plus, the exchange rate is great right now! My only issue is: do you need to do Thonga and St Lucia? There are great beaches, including Cape Vidal which is gorgeous, and so much to do in St Lucia. And you can go to the beach anywhere. Nowhere else has lions and ellies. I would skip Thonga and add time on safari in RRL and/or Tembe.

Have fun planning.
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