safari advice please

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Dec 17th, 2005, 10:10 AM
  #1
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safari advice please

We are thinking of going in February- is that a good time to go? Also recommendations for a tour company would be terrific. We are looking to spend about $4500-5,000 a person including international flight. Does that seem reasonable for a ten day trip? Any suggestions? Also do you recommend the safari parks in South Africa or Botswana?
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Dec 17th, 2005, 03:31 PM
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As to SA or Botswana, either will provide you with a fabulous trip.

Botswana would offer the Okavango Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To enjoy the Okavango's water activities, such as being poled in a mekoro and observing game and birds from the water, be sure to choose a true water camp, like Jacana or Kwara. Combining 2-3 days at a water camp with some 2-4 night stays at land camps would be a delightful holiday.

The Kwando combo mentioned by Rocco would do this nicely and could take you to Vic Falls. Another wonderful Botswana company is Wilderness. I've been to many of their camps and have done one of their camping trips. If you used Wilderness camps, one of many possible combinations would be:

Chitabe/Chitabe Trails 3 nights ($408/nt dbl)
Jacana Camp 2 nights ($408/nt dbl)
Duma Tau 3 nights ($408/nt dbl)
You could do 2 nights at Vic Falls in Zambia--The River Club, A Wilderness property(about $350/nt dbl) or 2-3 nights in the Makgadikgadi Pans of the Kalahari Desert at Jack's ($641/nt dbl) or San (about $500/nt dbl)

The Kalahari is a unique experience offering walks with the San Bushmen and colonies of meerkats. Feb is peak time in this area with the greatest amount of wildlife. Jack's is the more famous of the two accommodations. I stayed at San in Aug 2005 and loved it.

In general Botswana would offer you a more remote safari experience.

On the other hand, the South African parks, such as those in the Sabi Sands, are noted for spectacular sightings and boast of visitors often seeing the Big 5 in one outing. I've not experienced a safari in SA myself.

The Big 5 would not be likely in Botswana due to the lack of rhino, unless you stayed on Chief's Island in the Moremi section of the Okavango Delta at Mombo/Little Mombo (over $1100 per night or Chief's Camp in the mid $400s). Or unless while at the falls on the Zambian side you went to the small Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park that has white rhino.

If you wished to combine your safari with other activities, South Africa's wine country would offer a nice contrast.

The prices I quoted are from e-gnu.com and are estimates of what you could do through an agent. For example, with Wilderness, if you do 7 nights or more in their camps you get a discount. You can check out what is happening at the different Wilderness camps and see what happened last Februray at Wilderness.com and then click on camps.

Please post again as your itinerary takes shape or as more questions arise.
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Dec 17th, 2005, 04:42 PM
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Sadly, the Okavango Delta is not a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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Dec 17th, 2005, 05:50 PM
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UNESCO World Heritage sites:

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/

For Southern Africa, I have copied and pasted the UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

Botswana
Tsodilo (2001)

Mozambique
Island of Mozambique (1991)

South Africa
Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai, and Environs (1999, 2005)
Greater St Lucia Wetland Park (1999)
Robben Island (1999)
uKhahlamba / Drakensberg Park (2000)
Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape (2003)
Cape Floral Region Protected Areas (2004)
Vredefort Dome (2005)

Zambia
Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls (1989)

Zimbabwe
Mana Pools National Park, Sapi and Chewore Safari Areas (1984)
Great Zimbabwe National Monument (1986)
Khami Ruins National Monument (1986)
Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls (1989)
Matobo Hills (2003)

I am happy to see that I will be visiting three UNESCO sites in just a few weeks:

United Republic of Tanzania
Ngorongoro Conservation Area (1979)
Serengeti National Park (1981)
Stone Town of Zanzibar (2000)

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Dec 18th, 2005, 09:09 AM
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My bad on the World Heritage site. I thought the Okavango Delta was one. Dog gone it, it should be!

Here is a link on an SA discussion I found helpful since so far Botswana has been favored in this thread.

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34717955
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Dec 18th, 2005, 10:41 AM
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Rocco.. I know you recommended Kwando, but what else do you recommend if we want to do Botswana and Victoria Falls for less. It just seems like a lot of money to me and that's excluding flights. It's been 30 years since I've been on a safari...I went to East Africa and loved it. But would like to explore Southern Africa this time around. There is so much information out there, it's really confusing.
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Dec 18th, 2005, 11:07 AM
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susan,

Another good option for Botswana would be Game Trails (www.gametrailsbotswana.com), which is a mobile tented camping safari. However, even this is about $250 per person per night sharing and by looking at the schedule, it appears that they do not start running their safaris until March.

I just don't think you are going to have much look, other than camping in Kruger National Park at some very busy campsites, with beating the prices of Kwando in February. Wilderness Safaris, the biggest safari operator in Botswana, will be slightly more expensive than Kwando.

Where you would be able to cut the price a little, is by staying elsewhere in Victoria Falls, if you are even interested in Victoria Falls.

Something like this would help cut down the price:

Joburg (1) $200
Kwando Camps (7) $4550
Victoria Falls at a place like the Zambezi Sun (2) $500

Grand Total, excluding transfers = $5250 ($2625 per person sharing)

This is really the best pricing, as once you get into April the prices will progressively go up. Prices at Kwando between July - October are actually more than double the price at about $675 per person per night sharing, and prices at Wilderness Safaris camps for the same high season period start at $700 per person per night and go up to $1,095 for some of their more exclusive camps and then top out at $1,950 PER PERSON PER NIGHT for their most expensive camp, Abu Camp.

Really, with Kwando, you are getting camping pricing for what is really a top notch fully inclusive safari experience.
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Dec 18th, 2005, 11:24 AM
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Susan: You can actually go to Kwando for less than that if they have availability in February which could be tight. There is a "Secret Season - 5 Rivers" promotion that is just a little more than $200 pppn that includes all of the Kwando camps and includes
Deception Valley Lodge in the Kalahari if you wanted that experience. Because these are all remote camps there is no escaping transfer flights which are not cheap so you would probably want to do less transfers and more time at each camp.

1 night Joburg
2 nights Vic Falls - Songwe Camp
3 nights Kwando Kwara
3 nights Kwando Lagoon or Lebala

Personally I would do just 1 night in Vic Falls and add one to the safari camps since the prices are the same per night on special but many people like more time for activities at Vic Falls.

Including all camp air transfer (not International air) costs this could probably be done with the special for close to $3,000 per person. Unfortunately it does not get any cheaper for this type of experience in Botswana, the special is very discounted.

You could probably find a very nice mobile camping expereince that could still be small and exclusive for less cost.
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Dec 18th, 2005, 11:53 AM
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There are also lots of self drive options in South Africa that could be cheaper and provide great wildlife viewing.

One I would recommend is drive from Joburg to Sabi Sands (adjacent to Kruger) and stay at Elephant Plains Game Lodge then drive to the Botswana border, with a nice overnight in the mountains on the way. From the border you will be picked up and taken to Mashatu Tented Camp. I believe you could do this for less than $200 pppn lodging and then paying for a rental car on top of it.

1 night Joburg
4 nights Elephant Plains Game Lodge
1 night Coach House - Tzaneen, SA
4 nights Mashatu Tented Camp

With car cost, depending on that deal this could be around $2,500 pp.

What's great about this itinerary is you get the wildlife sighting bonanza of the Sabi Sand but then in Mashatu you get the huge, wide open Africa feel that the Sabi Sand lacks.

You can also always self drive Kruger and some other SA National parks and save lots of money but it will be a very different experience doing most of it all yourself, which isn't necessarily a bad thing if you already know the wildlife pretty well.
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Dec 18th, 2005, 12:31 PM
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Predator Biologist:where would I find out about the five river promotion- on the KWANDO site? Or ask specifically about that? thanks
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Dec 18th, 2005, 01:08 PM
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Susan: Any agent working with Kwando should be able to book it for you. If you click on Contact on their website and page down they list a number of agents that have relationships with them. If it is appropriate for me to recommend I believe Rocco has just entered the business as well and based on the amount of work he does on this board I'm sure he would work hard for you as he is becoming established in Botswana.

If you have any problems you can feel free to email me. I lead specialty wildlife group trips and don't usually get involved with booking for individuals because to be honest I simply do not have the time to give the full service and attention that a good agent/operator can but I could simply help you book the accomodation if you have trouble finding a rate close to what I estimated, I would be happy to check for you. Note that some agents pile a lot of mark up on top of the deal so you want to find one with a low mark up.
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Dec 18th, 2005, 01:40 PM
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Predator,

I saw you recommended Elephant Plains. Do you have an personal experience with this camp and surrounding wildlife?
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Dec 18th, 2005, 05:41 PM
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atravelynn: I do not yet have first hand experience at Elephant Plains. I have worked with them for a potential future group trip and they were excellent to work with. However, I only contacted them because I have heard and seen numerous good reports on them. I think for the price tag it is a tremendous bargain for the excellent Sabi Sands viewing.
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Dec 18th, 2005, 08:04 PM
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This question is for Rocco and anyone else that wants to reply. I have read many of the threads and most of you appear to be booking your safaris independently. Picking the lodges you want to stay at and then I assume arranging for transportation between each location via plane or road. I have been told that doing it this way is much more expensive than picking a trip offered by a tour operator when there may be only two people. My husband and I are looking to travel in 2006 and some friends may or may not join us. Is it possible to book lodging and then participating with the other people at the lodge for the game drives, or do you have to hire a private guide. Also what about the transportation costs. I have not seen a tour package I really like and would rather pick some of the lodges you all talk about.
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Dec 19th, 2005, 03:16 AM
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spiegelcjs,

We booked ours independantly. I can see the attraction in using a service for the planning aspect of it, but if you are good on the internet, read some books and ask a lot of questions you should be able to do it on your own.

That said, we are going on our trip in less than a week, and we will not know until we get there if our planning was successful. In my searches, I found that airline tickets were easier without help (and a lot cheaper) since we booked the flight about 8 months out to ensure we got the flight we wanted. Also, with the lodge operators (livingstone lodge and Robin Pope), we were able to ask many questions and get many detailed responses. That, along with travel books and the internet helped with the choices.

As for price in the lodges, they were either the same in one case, or way less ($120USD per day) direct, although I could not say if the tour operator would have gotten the same deal and passed it along.

The best thing though? The though we planned it ourselves and we are doing exactly what we think we want to do.
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Dec 19th, 2005, 07:11 AM
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spiegelcjs,

As a specialist tour operator in the UK we are in a very competitive market. We could not survive doing what is effectively a 'brokers' job if our prices were not similar to other specialist tour operators as well as those you would get going direct to the camps and lodges. The internet has made things much more transparent than they ever were; we pride ourselves on charging clients 'the public price' (our commission is earned below this level) and are happy to give breakdowns if clients wish.

The advantages of a real specialist who will tailor make a trip for you are: increased knowledge (we travel a lot ourselves and talk to all our clients when they return), independent views (we will tell you when camps aren't as good as their own website or marketing leads you to believe), sensible itineraries (slowing you down, arranging things in the right order logistically and economically) and financial security (in the UK we have to protect our clients' money through a bonding scheme). You can contact us by phone or email and we'll call you back or respond quickly, something African communications systems mean is not always the case.

I think we do a wonderful job (I would say that wouldn't I) and you effectively get our services for free!

That's the situation in the UK anyway. I'm sure you will also get an American perspective on things later in the thread.

My two penneth worth, Richard
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Dec 19th, 2005, 08:49 AM
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We are heading to Botswana for a 14 day,overland safari,in February,with Kiboko Adventures, a division of Karibu Safaris. It appears to be everything we're looking for and we've heard only good things about them....here's hoping!
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Dec 20th, 2005, 01:06 PM
  #18
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I think I may now try for late May/June. After checking out things, the temperature in Jan/Feb. may be just too hot for us. My partner has some disabilities and the heat can be a drain on him. Has anyone used Julian at Premier Tours? Any comments
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Dec 20th, 2005, 02:00 PM
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I have spoken with Julian at Premier Tours and was referred by him to Bob Berghaier of their company who was also very personable, knowledgeable, and competent. In the end we didn't book with them because the price was too high. I do, however, always book my air tickets to South Africa on SAA with Premier, as their prices seem to be the best.
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Dec 23rd, 2005, 04:22 AM
  #20
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With my partner having some disabilities in terms of walking, what's the best way for us to see Capetown for about three days. I would like to go to Robben Island. He is unable to take leisurely walks, so we need probably tours that will take us to some places. Any suggestions. We have eliminated the wine country, since we think it's too much to do in a short period of time. thanks
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