SA summer 2005

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Jan 6th, 2005, 03:47 PM
  #1
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SA summer 2005

I am at the very very beggining of planning our trip to SA and have no idea where to start or where to go or see. We spent last summer in Kenya and loved it. We were on Safari for 3 weeks and then a week or so in Mombasa. Is SA the same kind of thing? This time we only have 2 weeks max, so I don't want to spend the entire time on safari. Any ideas?
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Jan 6th, 2005, 06:38 PM
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Hello katj232,

Golly, you don't have much time to plan. It's summer 2005 in South Africa right now, so if you want to catch it you'd better leave soon.

Okay, just kidding, okay? But there is a potential for misunderstanding when people from the northern and southern hemispheres discuss things on these boards. When a person says "summer," do they mean summer in the destination country or summer in their own country? And, speaking of that, which is their country to start with? There's nothing about your online name or anything else about your post that tells me where you are. See what I mean?

The most common thing for a first time visitor to do is to visit Cape Town and its environs, go on a safari, and maybe throw a brief visit to Victoria Falls into the mix as well.

Cape Town is a beautiful city. To see the city, its environs, the nearby winelands, and maybe do a day trip to Hermanus or Gansbaai requires a minimum of 4 days -- and that requires that a person's itinerary be extremely organised and finely tuned. On that tight of a schedule, I would even say there would be merit in using a guide or guides for some of the day trip activities. If a person had 5 - 6 days to devote to the SW Cape region, it would be more feasible for them to do much of it alone, on a self-drive basis. I say that because I feel one "wastes" a bit of time while one is getting oriented in a new place. At least that's what seems to happen in my case. Hermanus and Gansbaai are mini destinations for a few reasons, mainly whale watching in the southern hemisphere winter (which you'll just catch the beginning of, if you go in June again) and spring, and also shark diving.

When it comes to safaris, there are some differences, but the fundamentals are not that different from Kenya and Tanzania. I've never been on safari in East Africa, but I feel I know enough about the topic to be able to speak in very general terms.

I think most folks here agree that, when it comes to Southern Africa, one should choose ONE country for the safari portion of one's trip. Transfers amongst game reserves occupy too much time when the game reserves are spread over more than one country.

The most common safari destinations for newbies are South Africa and Botswana. I've seen a few instances in which a newbie has gone to Zambia or Namibia, countries that often attract repeat visitors to Southern Africa but that are perfectly legitimate destinations for newbies too.

One of the reasons that Zambia is starting to attract attention is that the exchange rate between the American dollar and the Zambian kwacha is more favourable for an American than the exchange rate between the dollar and the South African rand.

But it is possible to have excellent safari experiences in all of the countries of Southern Africa. In the case of South Africa, the most common safari areas are the province of Mpumalanga, east of Joahnnesburg and the province of KwaZulu-Natal, SE of Johannesburg and north of the port city of Durban. Madikwe, a more recent addition to the safari mix, is located NW of Johannesburg, and has started to come into its own. Madikwe has an advantage that the Mpumalanga and KZN game reserves do not have, and that is that it's not in an area that's at risk for malaria.

For the people who've been on safari in all or many of the possible destinations, it would help to know what you like best about safaris. For instance, do you particularly like the big cats, elephants, wild dogs, or some other species? Would you like at least one of your lodges to be close to water? Do you like thick bush or more open plains? There are people here who can point you with a fair degree of precision to places that are likely to deliver what youwant.
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Jan 6th, 2005, 07:11 PM
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Apologies for the grammatical errors in my previous posting. Got called away in a hurry.

Anyway, I just wanted to add a note of caution about the SW corner of the continent in which Cape Town is located. It has a mediterranean climate, so gets most of its rainfall in winter.

If you're contemplating going away in June again this year, and if it's possible for you to go to Cape Town in the first half of June, I would recommend you do so. If you go in the second half of June, it's more likely that you'll run into the rainy season.

An alternative to consider for the seaside portion of your vacation is Durban, or a part of the coast that's near it. Being in a subtropical location, Durban usually gets dry, very mild winters. It too has an interesting mix of cultures and is a pleasant city. Anyway, something to think about.
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Jan 6th, 2005, 07:18 PM
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Wow that was a great response to my question, thank you. I am in Los Angeles if that helps. My husband and I will be traveling this time with my parents. They are adventerous but probably a safari drive here and there will do. Personally, I love the open planes with the cats! We are not bird watchers whatsoever. We like water of any kind, lakes, rivers or ocean. My parent love history and the "Sites to be seen."
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Jan 6th, 2005, 11:16 PM
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Katj232,

I second all that Judy has told you and believe that she has given you some wonderful insights as to what to do in your two weeks in SA. I have to double up on a very important question that she has asked of you and that is excactly when (Months not seasons) do you intend coming to SA? This has a huge influence on the advice anybody would give you to your question. Once you have told us the above information I am sure that many Fodorites, inclusive of myself, will be able to expand even more on Judy's great advice.

Looking forward to seeing your response posting.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa
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Jan 7th, 2005, 04:53 AM
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We will be there in July
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Jan 8th, 2005, 04:49 PM
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Hello katj232,

I'm at a loss for an itinerary that would meet your and your parents' wishes in 2 weeks.

Let me review your collective (sometimes conflicting) desires:

* serious safari lovers
* safari dabblers (want safari drive here and there)
* open plains with cats
* water
* history
* icon attractions

I don't recommend Cape Town in July. Cape Town, the winelands, Hermanus, the Garden Route, Addo Elephant National Park and Schotia's Tooth and Claw Drive would deliver exactly what your parents want. The problem is you'll be there in winter. Cape Town's latitude is 3355'S, almost identical to LA's latitude. July in CT is like January in LA. I consider it iffy from a weather point of view. The other limitation with this itinerary, even if you didn't have to think about the weather, is that it might not satisfy your desire for game viewing.

You could consider Durban (ocean + urban experience) plus relatively nearby safari lodges like Phinda and Rocktail Bay. You could even throw some history into the mix, in that the province of KwaZulu-Natal has some famous battlefields (Zulu Wars, Boer War). They are to South Africans what Gettysburg is to Americans. I think this itinerary would give almost everyone almost what they wanted. There are no plains like the Serengeti in this area, though.

You also could consider Durban + Mpumalanga safari lodges (those located in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve and other private game reserves that are adjacent to the Kruger National Park). Nearby, in the vicinity of Pilgrims Rest, is an area of scenic and historical interest. There is lovely scenery (Blyde River Canyon, God's Window, Bridal Veil Falls, Bourke's Luck Potholes, etc.). There also is some history (Boer War battle sites, a gold rush that -- unlike the one in Johannesburg -- fizzled out). To follow this itinerary you would need to fly from Durban to an Mpumalanga airport such as Nelspruit.

You also could consider Victoria Falls plus safari lodges in Zambia. While your parents could just do a game drive here and there, and get a spa treatment or something when they don't feel like going on a game drive, I do see the potential for problems. If your parents get tired of being out in the bush, it won't be easy for them to escape. I haven't been to Zambia, but Roccco's posts make it sound like an awesome safari destination, and it sounds like good value for money.

You also could do Vic Falls + Botswana safari lodges. Botswana offers very varied safari experiences, all the way from the the Okavango Swamps to the Kalahari Desert. Although it's not the Serengeti Plain, you could get some wide open spaces here for sure. But, as with Zambia, there will be nowhere for your parents to escape if they don't like being stuck in the wilderness.

Maybe someone knows something I don't know, and could come up with a suggestion.

Or perhaps you could tell us which elements of your wish list you're willing to sacrifice if some of your criteria cannot be met.
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