preliminary planning for photo safari

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Oct 12th, 2005, 01:50 PM
  #1
rmh
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preliminary planning for photo safari

My friend and I are in the very preliminary stages (as in we decided last night that we both want to go to Africa) of planning our first trip to Africa in late 2006 or early 2007. Although we have both travelled quite a lot - planning this trip seems different -- so many options. I am hoping to impose on all of you for some assistance in making some of the initial decisions to get us started.

First off -- we need a destination....we are making the trip to see as much wildlife as possible and take photos. Primarily interested in the large cats, elephants.

We are planning a 2 week trip. What are the best months to visit?

I have seen a number of people on this board mention 2Afrika as a tour group to use. Would like to hear from anyone who has used this or has other suggestions for a group.

Thanks in advance for your help. Of course, we will begin reading and researching and using this board to become more knowledgable.

RMH
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Oct 12th, 2005, 11:46 PM
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Good for you. We went last September and are going back. First question to ask is how big is your bank account and/or how much credit is left on your credit cards? It can be very expensive, for me at least.
have fun - tom
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Oct 13th, 2005, 03:25 AM
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Tom has already asked budget which is one of they key questions.

Another is whether you'd prefer to be part of a group or have an independent itinerary?

Also, is there a particular month that you'd prefer to go are are you completely open in second half of 2006/ first half of 2007?

Cats and eles makes me think immediately of the Maasai Mara but we've also had fabulous cat and ele experiences in Botswana. Kenya and Botswana offer very different experiences, different landscapes, different accommodations and costs too.

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Oct 13th, 2005, 04:20 AM
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rmh -

Good for you to be starting early and with more than a year you have time to fine-tune an itinerary.

Budget, of course, has to be considered as if over the Christmas/New Year holidays, most every property adds a sur-charge which makes this "peak" season, whether visiting Southern or Eastern Africa.

If you consider November, you may just miss the price increases that go into effect by December 15. And no one has an idea of what prices will be in '07 before sometime late summer '06... your proposals received beforehand will reflect '06 prices. Note: That Tanzania doing the northern circuit parks - Tarangire, Manyara, Crater, Serengeti - in the first three months of the year (Jan-Mar '07) are high-season with prices to match.

As to where to travel
- if elephants: the Kenyan areas of Amboseli and Samburu have large herds; Chobe in Botswana have large herds, in excess of 30,000, but we must have been the only people visiting in November who saw but 3 of them.
- if cats: Kenya and/or Tanzania have their many prides in various locations; you'll also find cheetah and leopards; Kruger in South Africa also provided many cat encounters. I'm sure Botswana can also provide plenty of predators.

Of course, there are many more animals to be found at these destinations:
- the wildebeest,zebra,antelope herds will have returned from the Mara into the Serengeti by this time, so Northern and Central Serengeti are good.
- rare breeds can be found in Samburu such as reticulated giraffe, Grevy's zebra, gerenuk (antelope)
- monkeys/baboons of all varieties can be found just about everywhere, every country.

So you'll have to decide on your budget, which country/ies, type of accommodations, any activities in addition to safari,i.e, camel safaris, horseback riding, some beach time, city time. And whether you wish to travel with a group or private safari. Surprisingly, you can get a custom private safari to meet your needs at the same or a little more (less than $500/pp, if that) than a group safari.

Keep us posted on your progress.
 
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Oct 13th, 2005, 05:10 AM
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One reason that it's difficult making a choice is that you're likely to have a fantastic time no matter which location you choose. How often have you heard from someone who had a crummy time on a safari?

My suggestion is that you take some time to look at the photos that people have posted of their safaris -- travelers' photos are an excellent way to learn about the animals and landscapes that safari-goers actually experienced. You'll probably see a bunch of photos of places that look terrific, and then you'll run across a set of photos that speak to you and say: That Is The Place I Absolutely Have to See.

(self-promo: mine are at http://photobucket.com/albums/a315/dtopaz/ )
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Oct 13th, 2005, 06:39 AM
  #6
rmh
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thanks to all for taking the time to share your suggestions and input. Since we have started planning so early, we are really flexible with the dates. Since this is our first trip to Africa, I think we are leaning toward going with a small group tour rather than attempting to customize something for ourselves (we can save that for return trips). In response to budget questions, I'm only guessing at this point, but hoping we could do 14 days including airfare for under $4k -- is that reasonable?
thanks
rmh
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Oct 13th, 2005, 07:28 AM
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Is the $4K per person and where are you flying from? If that includes international air from North America, I think your budget is tight but do-able for a 2 week safari (assuming your entire time is spent on safari) in East Africa. I would think that Botswana would be very difficult on that budget but others can better advise.

Going in shoulder season can save you some money - November to mid-December and also June (at least in Kenya). April-May is the least expensive time of year but also the long rains season.

I wouldn't necessarily stick to a group tour for your first trip. You'll find many on this board planning private, custom safaris for their first visit (we did). Going this route through a locally based tour operator may actually save you money over taking a group tour through a company based in the US or elsewhere. Part of the equation depends on what you can get for airfare on your own versus through a package tour.

Good luck!
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Oct 13th, 2005, 09:24 AM
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rizzuto said, "How often have you heard from someone who had a crummy time on a safari?"

My answer is never.

Your budget, if includes international air, is tight, but I would never discourage anyone from going on safari if they have the slightest inclination. It's one of the best experiences I have ever had. You must "make it work" somehow.

If you're willing to either take a group trip or include some budget camping, I think you can do East Africa. It sounds like Kenya may be a bit less expensive than Tanzania, and shoulder season would give you a little more wiggle room with $.

TanzaniaBound just returned from a trip with 2Afrika. Her trip report should be somewhere on the first few pages of this board if you'd like to read about her experiences with that company.

I'm guessing that since you're leaning toward a group tour, you wouldn't be interested in self-drive in either South Africa or Namibia. But if that's something you're willing to consider people on this board can advise you how to work all that out too.

You are in for an amazing trip, whichever region/country you choose. Best wishes!
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Oct 13th, 2005, 10:02 AM
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How serious are you about your photography? If you're fairly serious, then I think you'll find most group tours to be rather frustrating, unless you actually go with a dedicated photo tour.

In my initial planning, I had some difficulty when safaris would be advertised as "photo safaris". My definition of a photo safari was one where the primary purpose of the trip would be photography and that the arrangements would be geared towards that purpose. However, I discovered that safaris are called, "photo safaris" to distinguish them from safaris where one used a gun to hunt.

A truly photo-oriented safari would have a limited number of people in each vehicle in order to accommodate all of your camera gear, as well as, provide access to shoot both sides of the vehicle. The vehicles would have extra electrical outlets to allow for charging of batteries. All of the participants would be photographers, so no problems with everybody sitting down to photo Cheetah cubs for 3 hours or waiting for a group of Wildebeest to cross a river. Lastly, the tour leader would be a professional photographer who could offer guidance and tips to the other participants. These sorts of trips are expensive.

A regular safari may have the entire vehicle filled with people - which makes for more jostling and crowding. You might not get out in the best light all the time or have the time you want to shoot since you don't control the itinerary.

So, if you're serious about photography, and can't afford the expensive "photo" tours, then you really ought to consider a private safari. Your accommodations most likely won't be as nice on the group tour, but you'll have the best conditions for photography.

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Oct 13th, 2005, 06:05 PM
  #10
rmh
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thanks your input has been most helpful and definitely given us some much needed data. special thanks to lifelist for the photo perspective, you raised some issues that we had not considered.

RMH
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Oct 13th, 2005, 09:07 PM
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I know it seems overwhelming, but it's really not that hard to plan a custom safari. Personally, I'm not big on tours and would avoid that. I think in general the winter months (June/July/Aug) is best to visit.
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Oct 13th, 2005, 11:54 PM
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I like leely's and lifelist's advice to you. Budget is very important, of course, and will often determine which destination and duration you choose. Like just about everybody else, I have a favourite destination, one which has never let me down. But, like most people, I have never been disappointed wherever I went in Africa. If you have time check out my website www.afrigalah.com to see why.
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