Questions!?!?! - Botswana Trip Planning for Jun 2009

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Jun 8th, 2007, 02:04 PM
  #1
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Questions!?!?! - Botswana Trip Planning for Jun 2009

Having just returned from my first trip to Botswana, I am now considering going back. Yes, I think I cought that bug. After checking my schedule and wallet, Jun-July 2009 looks like the most ideal time for another adventure.

My last trip was a mobile safari, but I would like to try the tented camps this time around. The main game I would like to see are the Wild Dogs and the 3 big cats (lion, leopard, & cheetah). We only saw a smattering of the cats on the mobile safari (5 male lions napping, 1 very shy leopard, and 3 cheetah), but I would love the
opportunity to see more of them, especially female lions with young and all in a more active state. We never saw the Wild Dogs at all on the mobile, so I would really like to maximize the potential to see them as well. And yes, I understand that it is all a crapshoot and there are no guarantees.

Now after saying all that above, I also want a bit of variety. One of the things I enjoyed most about the mobile was that our activities varied from game drives to walks to mokoros to canoes to ATVs, etc... As much as I want the opportunity to see all the cats and wild dogs, I also want the ability to go on a boat/mokoro ride or do an elephant encounter to mix it up. I am not sure I could handle day after day of game drives.

Budget really isn't an issue, but I do want to save money where I can. I am traveling by myself and I have about 2 weeks (14-16 days).

After reserching numerous threads here, it seems that Chitabe, the 3 Kwando camps, Selinda/Zib, and Duma Tau/Kings Pool are the main camps with the best potential for seeing Wild Dogs.

Based on that, here is my tentative plan for an itinerary:

2 nights - San/Jacks Camp (ATVs & meerkats)
3 nights - Stanleys Camp (ele encounter + game drives & mokoros)
3 nights - Chitabe Trails (game drives w/ good game+possible wild dogs)
3 nights - Kwando Kwara (game drives + boats/mokoros + possible wild dogs)
3 nights - Kwando Lagoon (games drives + boats + possible wild dogs)
2 nights - Victoria Falls (falls + helicopter flight + rafting + bungy?)

I do have a few questions :

1) Chitabe Trails and Stanley seem to be really close to each other, although different concessions. Is the game here similar? The reason I choose Stanleys is for
the ele encounter. Is there good game viewing there beyond that? I am just not sure about spending 6 days in the same general area unless the game in both camps is good.

2) I want to request at least one day with a private guide at Chitabe, and the 2 Kwando camps. Are there specific guides I should request? Anyone have recommendation for outstanding guides here?

3) I left off the Selinda/Zib and Duma Tau camps. Would it be better to add one or two and do less nights at Chitabe/Kwando camps? Based on what I was reading here, Chitabe, Kwara, and Lagoon all have Wild Dog packs in their areas, but the Selinda pack can roam anywhere from Lebala to Selinda to Linyanti...3 different concessions. With only 2 weeks, I can't do all of them.

4) Is there an advantage to using all of one operator's camps? I have 4 different camp operators here. Would it be better (or cheaper) to consider all Kwando or all Wilderness Safari camps? So either:
San, Stanleys, Kwara, Lebala, & Lagoon or
San, Stanleys, Chitabe, Selinda/Zib, & Duma Tau.

5) This itinerary is focused heavily on the Wild Dogs. With these camps, will there be a good chance for the cats (lions, leopards, cheetah) as well? Besides Mombo, is there another camp or two known for good overall cat sightings? I heard Mala Mala in SA is good. It is worth it to take an extra days travel to add that onto the beginning or end of the itinerary?

I would appreciate your thoughts and comments on this proposed itinerary. Even after being there myself and reading here for the past few months, I am still confused and bewildered as to a good itinerary.

Thanks,
sarah
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Jun 8th, 2007, 05:49 PM
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Howdy Sarah - the second trip of a life time awaits.

Kaye and I also did a mobile safari and our Aug 2008 trip will be tented camps/lodges for several reasons.

We will be in Southern Africa for 58 days and want to have a bit more 'independence" about whether to take part in activities or not, be able to move on in a few days if we come across 'incompatible" travelers ¡Kor they can't stand us either
We too wanted to focus specifically on wildlife eg. painted dog, lion, leopard and elepahnt PLUS the myriad birds and other wildlife. We are not speciest!) for the Botswana leg of the journey and have chosen the following itinerary for cost, wildlife and range of habitat.
__________________________________
Our next itinerary,
Monday: Following breakfast this morning you will be met by your Representative/Driver and depart the Zambezi Sun Hotel for your road transfer to Kasane Airport. (Transfer time is approximately 2 hours and immigration and customs must be cleared at both the Zambian and Botswana border posts).

You will then board your light aircraft transfer to Selinda Airstrip. (Flying time approx 50 minutes).

Upon arrival you will be met by a Representative/Driver and transferred by road to or Ziblianja Tented Camp http://www.linyanti.com/">http://www.linyanti.com/ for your four night stay in a twin tent with en suite facilities on a fully inclusive basis.
Endless time. gentle, quiet and restful... Here, in the domain of the big cats, game viewing is both private and riveting. Roam the open floodplains searching out the big game, stopping for short walks and more detailed inspection of minutiae.

Tuesday to Thursday:For the next three days you will enjoy scheduled game activities from Ziblianja Tented Camp
When it comes to wildlife the Selinda area is well known for its Hippo-killing Lions, Cheetah, Wild Dog and Leopard. The camp also holds among others: Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra, Wildebeest, Kudu, Impala, Hippo, Hyaena, Sable and Lechwe. There is also stunning birdlife and vegetation, which makes for breathtaking photography. The wildlife is profoundly viewed in summer from October to April.

Friday & Saturday: following breakfast this morning you will be met by your Representative/Driver and transferred by road to Selinda Airstrip for your light aircraft flight to Pom Pom. (Flying time approx 40 minutes)
The Camp http://wildweb.co.za/destinations/po...ns/pompom.html (sorry couldn't find their own home page but this has good info) is located on Pom Pom Island in a private concession situated in the heart of the Okavango Delta and on the head waters of the Xudum River system. The area lies on the western boundary of the Moremi Game Reserve and offers superb Okavango scenery and a true Okavango wilderness experience. A recent question I posted here about Pom Pom has helpful info http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34973175
The Camp is set under a grove of shady trees and overlooks a beautiful lagoon enhancing the already spectacular Okavango sunsets.

Accommodation consists of nine luxury safari tents in true traditional safari style, all with full en suite semi open ablution facilities. The main building is attractively designed and constructed of thatch and canvas and comprises lounge, dining, bar and pool areas, as well as a gift shop and the boma area.

Activities include game drives, night drives, mokoro trips and walks. Game viewing is of the best offered in the Delta. Guests have the opportunity of seeing all major predators, a variety of big game and plains game, as well as an abundance of bird life.

Sunday to Wednesday morning: Following breakfast this morning you will be met by your Representative/Driver and depart Pom Pom Camp for your road transfer to Pom Pom airstrip for your light aircraft flight to Stanley¡¦s airstrip. (Flying time approx 15 minutes)

Upon arrival you will be met by a Representative/Driver and transferred by road to Stanley's Camp http://www.sanctuarylodges.com/stanl...anleyscamp.htm for your three night stay in a twin tent with en suite facilities on a fully inclusive basis and 1 x elephant interaction activity.

Due to year round access to permanent water Stanleys Camp affords guests the opportunity to partake in a wide range of activities from daily open 4x4 game drives, night drives, walking with an armed professional guide and serene water safaris in nokoros.

Situated in a 260,000 acre private concession of untamed African bush on the southern tip of Chief¡¦s Island, Stanley¡¦s Camp offers some of the best game viewing in the Okavango, including an abundance of buffalo, elephant, giraffe, lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dog.

Set in an amphitheatre of ebony and sausage trees Stanleys Camp is a small camp with only eight classically styled safari tents. The delicately appointed tents exude classic Africa; handcrafted beds dressed with the finest linen, antique furniture individually selected and oriental carpets all ensure an air of colonial-era luxury. Facilities are en suite.

Built into an existing tree line with its main support being a large sausage tree, the sitting and dining room has been built on a raised wooden deck offering extensive views over the surrounding floodplains.

Following breakfast this morning your Stanleys Camp Representative/Guide will transfer you by road to the starting point for your four hour Elephant Experience.

Stanleys Camp offers you the opportunity to meet a group of three elephants. This activity encompasses a leisurely paced walk with a trio of semi-habituated elephants, becoming personally acquainted with them, observing and interacting with them and a picnic lunch in their company.
Doug and Sandi Groves who look after the family of elephants adopted Jabu, Thembi and later Morula, rescued them from culling operations that had left them as orphans.

You are invited to discover the elephants, from the bristled ends of their long tails to the tip of their powerful yet sensitive trunks. Marvel at their big ears, thoughtful eyes and enormous padded feet. Trace the textures of their skin and the silken polish of their ivory. In our opinion the Elephant experience at Stanleys Camp is one of the most powerful and extraordinary experiences and should not be missed.

Wednesday: Following breakfast this morning you will be met by your Representative/Driver and depart Stanleys Camp for your road transfer to the airstrip for your flight to Maun. (Flying time approx 15 minutes) transfer to Windhoek in Namibia for start of Self Drive
_____________________________________ ļ

We hope sharing this part of itinerary and links assists. We havent answered your questions specifically but as to the Stanleys area we were at nearby (And Sanctuary owned) Baine¡¦s camp in 2005 and they share the concession so wildlife viewing is much the same i believe, and we saw more diversity of wildlife in single drives there than at any other time on our 9 Day mobile (which was also fantastic just different from Baines). The link to our trip report is here just so you can look for the Baines section! And the link to the photos is at the end of the whole trip report thread. http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34957250

Cheers and happy planning!
Jude
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Jun 8th, 2007, 07:59 PM
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1) I think the dog and cheetah possibility, along with other cats, is better at Chitabe because it is drier. No water activities in Chitabe, which you have at Stanley's. I've been to Chitabe but not Stanleys. Even though camps are near each other, the terrain and game can be very different. Chitabe and Stanley's complement each other nicely and I wouldn't consider them repetitive. I think I've read where some prefer Baines over Stanley's for camp-related reasons, not wildlife.

2) Newman at Chitabe

3) This is the conclusion I came to after planning my "increase the odds for wild dog viewing trip." June-July is denning time. If a camp is aware of a den, you will almost certainly be taken to it during your stay, even if only 2 nights. (Of course the dogs can suddenly move the den and go missing until the new den is found. And sometimes dogs don't den, or lose the pups and abandon the den. But odds are they den in June-July.)

To maximize the possibility of seeing dogs, I think going to more potential wild dog habitats for fewer nights is better. It is the shot gun approach. That would mean more 2-night stays, which I am not very fond of. The frequent moves is the downside.

If it is all Wilderness camps, and dogs are very important, you could even see if you could alter your plans to remain at the camp where dogs are present, if you find them before your last camp. I did that. There was no extra fee since I was swapping camps that were priced the same.

4) There is a slight Wilderness discount with 6-7 nights booked. Maybe Kwando has it too. The camp swapping described above works most efficiently and definitely most economically with one management company. (I don't know Kwando's rules on altering plans.)

5) Camp for good cats...You mentioned Mala Mala. If you fly into/out of Joburg, it's simple to add it. Mala Mala would offer the best chance at leopard viewing, plus good lions, and maybe even cheetah. Your Botswana camps are good for the other cats. Duba Plains offers the best chance to see hunting lions.

The camps you've mentioned would give you a great trip in June-July.
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Jun 9th, 2007, 07:43 AM
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I was at the Kwando camps in February, and was lucky to see 2 different packs of dogs. It really is luck, as I was told they hadnt seen them for the 2 weeks previous to my visit.

I do recommend a private vehicle if it fits your budget. At the Kwando camps they are not too expensive (around $250 per day depending on your agent). I feel all the guides there are pretty good, but I really liked Spencer at Lebala, Russ at Lagoon, and Doctor at Kwara. I used a private vehicle for my stay at the Kwando camps, and I found it great as I could do what I wanted to do... I mainly wanted to see the cats, and dogs, and so thats what we looked for. We actually spent most of one day following a pack of dogs... something you couldnt probably do with a group.

Your Itinerary looks good... though personally I would go to Lebala over Lagoon, buts thats just me...

Richard
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Jun 9th, 2007, 09:24 AM
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Thank you all for your replies.

Jude - Do you know why Baines is preferred over Stanleys? You said it was camp related, but can you give some specifics? And it was your report on Stanleys and your ele encounter that enticed me to add it to my itinerary.

Richard - Can I ask why you prefer Lebabla over Lagoon?

Jude, Lynn, & Richard - Thank you so much for your feedback.

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Jun 9th, 2007, 09:27 AM
  #6
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buzztechie

I think all the guides at Kwando are good.
For wild dogs at Lagoon KB may be your best bet. At Lebala Spencer or Charles.
Kwara has many good guides including Doctor, Moses and Joe.
I will be back at Kwando in September and I am really looking forward to it
Michael
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Jun 9th, 2007, 09:48 AM
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I had the best game sightings at Lebala... in fact, on one of my "Lagoon" days, I spent the entire day at Lebala following the dogs. Thats one of the advantages of a private vehicle, if you are at one camp, and there is a good sighting at the other, it is an hour plus drive away (depends on driver, lol). More than the sightings though, which I realize can be hit or miss anywhere, I just liked the people and the camp a little more.

Dont get me wrong, both are great camps, and I am trying to plan to get back to Lebala later this fall.

To Michaels point, Charles would also be an excellent choice for guide.

As to your question on Baines / Stanleys... I stayed at Baines this year and visited Stanleys. Both offer the Ellie interaction. Baines is smaller (5 rooms I think), and very nice. The rooms are like small huts, and you can (if you are brave) have your bed wheeled outside to enjoy a night under the stars. At Stanleys, you were staying in tents, some of which were a good walk from the main area of camp. There is also 8 tents at Stanleys, and I personally prefer a smaller camp.

Richard
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Jun 17th, 2007, 01:28 PM
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I have emailed 2 agents for proposals so I am waiting to hear back.

I do have another question for the wise & wonderful folks here.

Mombo vs. Mala Mala?

I understand both have exceptional game viewing. Mala Mala appears to be less expensive but it also looks like you waste a day on a Botswana to Mala Mala transfer (overnight in Joberg).

I am thinking about adding one of the two to my itinerary, but am not sure which.

I would love to hear from some of the folks here as to their choice/ preferrence between Mombo or Mala Mala and why.
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Jun 17th, 2007, 08:20 PM
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Since you are not leaving until 2009, I can offer a comparison in a couple of weeks when I get back from a first Mala Mala trip and it should still be in time for any of your decisions. I went to Mombo and Little Mombo back when they were not so expensive.
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Jun 18th, 2007, 01:48 AM
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Just saw this...

It varies from week to week. Remember it is a HUGE CONCESSION. This past week the bulk of the action happened in middle Kwando (john's pan) area. Pretty far for an evening drive, given the fading light this time of the year. Other weeks action can happen south of Lebala (Hippo pools, Twin pools, Baboon loop, Vlei road etc etc.,)that is obviously closer to camp. REeeing the Lagoon pack at the densite it is advisable to stay at Lagoon as it is a three hour plus drive from L to L without any stops en route.
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Jun 18th, 2007, 01:49 AM
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sorry.....typo
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Jun 18th, 2007, 10:20 AM
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The proposal came back as:

2ngts Zambezi Sun - Victoria Falls
2ngts Lebala
2ngts Selinda
2ngts Chitabe Trails
2ngts Stanleys
2ngts Kwetsani
2ngts Chiefs

I have asked to cut Chief and add a night each to Chitabe and Lebala. Which makes it:

2ngts Zambezi Sun - Victoria Falls
3ngts Lebala
2ngts Selinda
3ngts Chitabe Trails
2ngts Stanleys
2ngts Kwetsani

I am up in the air about Kwetsani. I did a search on the camp here and it was mixed reviews. I think TA put it in there cause I asked for variety in activities.

I am thinking of changing the Kwetsani to either Duba Plains, Kwara, or one of the Vumbura camps.

Should I do this or should I just add the two days to one of the other camps I already have.

ARGHHHH..... the choices are paralyzing me!
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Jun 18th, 2007, 11:49 AM
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Keeping in mind wild dogs are a goal along with lion, leopard, cheetah, I like your revision.

2ngts Zambezi Sun - Victoria Falls

3ngts Lebala -meets goals

2ngts Selinda - meets goals; I saw no lions/leopards. Let's see what Hari discovered.

3ngts Chitabe Trails - meets goal, 3 nights is good

2ngts Stanleys - for your elephant walk, right? You can do a mekoro here too for your variety of activities. Check if two nights would allow for both ele walk and mekoro.

2ngts Kwetsani - As you stated, I think this was here for the variety of activities. I'd like to visit, but don't think Kwetsani is as good for the game you specifically stated you hope to see.

I would consider switching Kwetsani with Little Vumbura. There are lions, leopard, cheetah, seen at LV regularly. I would not consider switching Kwetsani for 2 nights at Duba because I would never stay only 2 nights at Duba Plains (and I would do 2 night stays elsewhere, though I prefer 3). If the lions are out of range at Duba, they could easily remain there for 2 nights so I don't like the odds.
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Jun 18th, 2007, 12:09 PM
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I just read Hari's report, which is an active thread now. His dog and cat good fortune reinforces your choice of camps.
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Jun 22nd, 2007, 02:41 AM
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If your main prioroty is Wild Dogs then Selinda/Kwando is your best bet and June/July your best timing. Also try for a private vehicle this is affordable at Kwando camps.Your proposed trip has far too many camps each transfer is not only expensive but may require you to miss game drives! You cannot guarantee any sightings in Botswana but you are bound to see something good.Good sightings are almost guaranteed in Mala Mala and Londolozi, but probably not Wild Dog.
 
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Jun 22nd, 2007, 03:34 AM
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The dogs are actually denning at Mala Mala and maybe, Lynn will return with pictures of the pups.
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Jun 22nd, 2007, 03:54 AM
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For lions I have read good things about Duba Plains camp. Haven't been myself. My best lion sightings were at Mombo, though they were the most ubiquitous cat sighting across a range of camps in Botswana.

For leopard, I've really only had good sightings at Mombo, but I've not been to the South Africa camps that are very well known for leopard.

For cheetah, we had good sightings at Savuti in particular.

Wild dogs we also had excellent sightings at Savuti.

I enjoyed Tubu Tree as a good all-round camp - we saw lion and cheetah but not leopard though they are in the area, water activities were available (we didn't do them because we'd just come from 3 nights at neighbouring Jacana, a water camp).
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