Sabi Sands or Phinda... please help!!

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Sep 10th, 2012, 12:08 PM
  #21
 
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>> Mala Mala were the first to go the ecotourism way followed by Londolozi and Sabi Sabi.

Mark,

Thanks for the info. I didn't know that. If you read Varty's book it's as if he was the first to try "a form of safari without hunting". Been a while since I read it, but I still remember that their first customers were soaked because of heavy rains and barely saw anything.

Anyway, it's not that important. Much more important is the information about differences between north, east, central and south Sabi Sands. Good input in this thread! The animals may be the same, but the time you can spend with them, the number of jeeps at any sighting, the number of rooms in a camp etc etc ...that all is very different when you start comparing lodges.

And also true; a TA can help a lot narrowing the choices down. However, I would like to add that regular customers (such as people on this very board) can also give good input in terms of what you can expect at a certain lodge.

To follow a TA blindly is not the smartest thing to do. The best thing to do is to get as many sources of info as possible, and then decide. We should not forget a TA often pushes towards an accommodation a bit higher than was initially required. One technique is to "create" problems and then solve them.

"are you sure you want to sit in a vehicle with 9 other people?"
"Why? Is that bad?"
"Well it can be annoying for photography, etc etc... There's lodges where the maximum is 6"
"Oh, get me one of those then"

...while I'm often thinking; "it's their first safari, and straight away these people are going for one of the best formulas (*), so the number of people per vehicle shouldn't be of much concern, they don't even know the difference."

Ciao,

J.

(* a private reserve, with off road driving, FGASA lvl 3 guides, quite luxurious rooms, etc... compared to going to a National Park, with standard rooms in a restcamp, no off roading, less experienced guides.)
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Sep 11th, 2012, 09:23 AM
  #22
 
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pixelpower

Nice post, although I disagree with what a TA pushes for monetary value. That does not make a good TA. Thats a greedy idiotic TA who has no idea of what value their reputation is.

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Mark
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Sep 12th, 2012, 03:27 AM
  #23
 
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Well let's agree to disagree then

In my view, I see that most customers are one-timers (as opposed to safari-nuts like myself), and that these people interpret TA messages quite differently. A message like "you may not like X or Y and have a bit of bad luck with Z, but you could opt for a better camp which is a bit more expensive" is more often than not interpreted as "this TA is making sure I get the best of the best". And as they don't go to Africa a 2nd time (let alone choose a different TA), they will never know whether the things the TA said on X Y and Z are actually true. IOW the TA's reputation goes up, not down, because of the way he "helped" his customer.

Things like this should happen less on this board, as you'd expect more safari-nuts here, helping other people out. But as I see that the threads on this board are not a reflection on the total African safari offering (not even by a long shot), I can only conclude that TA's are still doing a good job. Sometimes it's as if only high-end camps exist.

Ciao,

J.
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Sep 12th, 2012, 04:23 AM
  #24
 
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Here is something our family did a few years back. Take a lookj for ideas. We did not spend much as we self-drove the entire thing, but it can give you ideas of what to expect and perhaps aid in some planning:

http://www.cokesmithphototravel.com/...rica_2009.html
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Sep 12th, 2012, 07:18 AM
  #25
 
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pixelpower

You are confusing. I implied that a TA who pushes expensive camps to clients instead of taking their budget or needs into account are not good TAs

Yours on Safari
Mark
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Sep 12th, 2012, 07:31 AM
  #26
 
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cokesmith

Just checked out your blog and had goose pimples as I recognised all the places. That must certainly have been a Trip of a Lifetime. FANTASTIC!

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Mark
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Sep 12th, 2012, 09:10 PM
  #27
 
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Sabi Sands is such a reliable game-viewing location that we try to include it on any trip that we make to Africa. So I agree with people who are saying to go to Sabi Sands over Phinda. (I also agree with leaving the Drakensbergs til another time).

We had one trip in Sabi Sands where there were 10 people in a game viewing vehicle - 3 across 3 seats and one beside the ranger. The person on the left couldn't see what was going on to the right of the vehicle and vice versa. People in the middle, bummer either way. We hated it.

On that trip, we decided that we would never again spend all the money to get to Africa and then nickle and dime (relatively speaking) on accommodation to end up with 3 people across a seat. So, for us now, the biggest factor in our choice of game lodge is only 2 people across a seat (and the second factor is which lodge has what deal going at the time). In terms of 2 across a seat, some lodges will guarantee it, some can't guarantee it but you'd be unlucky to get more than 2 across and some budget on 3 across a seat, I guess.

Our current favourite lodge if they have a deal going is Exeter Dulini. They have 6 cabins and 2 vehicles so the math works out to no more than 2 across a seat. Leadwood I think have 4 cabins and 1 vehicle so the math works out to more than 2 across a seat though I heard that they were going to start only renting 3 cabins unless a group booked out the whole lodge - so if they do that Leadwood would also be good - and we'd probably look at staying there next time. If not, I'd pick Exeter Dulini ahead of Leadwood for that reason alone.

Exeter River Lodge is large and you run the risk of 3 across a seat there too.

We've been to lots of Sabi Sands lodges where there were no more than 2 across a seat: Londolozi Tree Camp a few times (lovely accommodation and great game viewing). As for the Main Camp (or whatever it's called now) at Londolozi , the accommodation seemed to be a bit jammed up for our taste so we've never wanted to stay there.

Mala Mala (stayed once) has in my view average accommodation, and great game viewing, but I felt smothered by the ranger as he was always present, including at most, if not all, meals - too much interaction for me and I felt obliged to buy him pre-dinner drinks, which was a bit irritating.

Singita Boulders (stayed twice) has fabulous accommodation, lovely luxuries and surprises, and great game viewing but I've decided now it's not worth the extra money. We went to Singita Ebony for lunch and looked at the rooms which weren't as nice as the Singita Boulders ones - a bit too inward looking for our taste.

We like to be able to look out from the room and see a nice view (preferably with animals too), which Exeter Dulini, Londolozi and Singita Boulders provide. Mala Mala doesn't really. I wouldn't go back to Mala Mala, unless it was a lot cheaper than Exeter Dulini. If you choose to splurge at Singita, Boulders is terrific but ask for a cabin overlooking the river.

I've also enjoyed Kirkman's Kamp when it had a deal though its accommodation is a number of notches down from Exeter Dulini, Londolozi Tree Camp and Singita. Wouldn't stay at Djuma again because of the numbers in the vehicles. Leopard Hills has lovely accommodation but again the maths of the number of rooms and vehicles means a risk of more than 2 across a seat. We haven't stayed at Ulusaba but have heard that there are issues about noise from a nearby town, as a previous comment noted. We've stayed at Notten's Bush Camp, which has nice accommodation (candles rather than electric lights), great food, great game viewing, a nice spa and is a lovely family-run camp with quite reasonable rates (well, reasonable in the Sabi Sands context), but it's hard to get in and there is a risk of more than 2 across a seat.

In terms of travel agents, we've had good deals in South Africa with go2africa (a South African travel agent) and for Botswana with Expert Africa (based in the UK), who have a great website. (We live in New Zealand). For &beyond lodges, you'll get a better deal from go2africa than from &beyond direct, which has always struck me as rather odd, but what do I know!

One thing to watch for is stay for x nights but pay for y deals (eg stay 4 nights pay for 3). Or stay at 2 lodges and get a night free. &beyond often has this sort of deal and other lodges may too. As I said, we look for the best deal, the numbers across a seat and choose which lodge has the best offering at the time.

In December, it will probably be wet. The lodges give you ponchos that provide good cover but often my bottom ends up wet. I recommend taking some rain pants to wear over your shorts to keep your bottom dry.

The game viewing at Sabi Sands is truly wonderful. Have a great trip.
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Sep 13th, 2012, 12:52 AM
  #28
 
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Hey Mark,

Oh OK, sorry, I somehow thought you said that this didn't happen here.
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Sep 13th, 2012, 07:19 AM
  #29
 
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pixelpower - Cool, no problem

Tapata1 - Very nice post. Experience certainly does count.

Yours on Safari
Mark
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Sep 13th, 2012, 12:19 PM
  #30
 
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Thanks Taga_Safaris. It was my first post!!
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Sep 14th, 2012, 08:31 AM
  #31
 
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Tapata1

Only a pleasure.

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Mark
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Mar 14th, 2013, 04:40 AM
  #32
 
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ttt
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Mar 19th, 2013, 06:03 AM
  #33
 
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There are so many good posts here about differences between Sabi Sands and Phinda. However I have failed to see any one comment on the differences of what you might see. If you want to see cheetah and black rhino, go to Phinda. If you want to see leopard, go to Sabi Sands. Phinda has excellent accommodations and it is worth seeing.

In Sabi Sands, I have been to Djuma, Londolozi, Exeter Leadwood and Lion Sands, and Tinga in Kruger. Of those, I highly recommend Lion Sands and Londolozi with Tinga a close third.

You can expect excellent leopard and lion viewing anywhere in Sabi Sands, but seeing cheetah is a big hit and mostly miss.

There are lodges in Sabi Sands I have not visited either because they are too expensive or I have issues with management style. Since you have plenty of choices, you will not be disappointed with Sabi Sands.

Mike
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