Safari Honeymoon advise please!

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Apr 19th, 2005, 12:41 PM
  #1
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Safari Honeymoon advise please!

I am in the process of planning my Honeymoon to Southern Africa for September 2005. We have never been to Africa and are completely clueless! We have a draft itinerary, but nothing is finalized yet so would love any feedback or advise anyone can offer. We are going to be there for 15 nights. Our budget is around $15-16,000 not including rountrip air to Africa.

We fly into J'berg and head to Botswanna for a 2 night stay at Kwando Kwara Okavango Delta safari camp.
Next we go to Kwando Lagoon Safari Camp for 2 nights. Then we head to Victoria Fall and are staying at Songwe Village (also run by Kwando) for 2 nights.
We then go to Tswalu Kalahari Game Reserve in the Northern Cape Province, for 2 nights.

After Tswalu we go to Cape Town and are staying at the Cape Grace for 3 nights. Then to the Winelands and staying at Cathbert Country Inn for 2 nights.

Has anyone been to or heard anything about the places we have in mind? Any other recommendations? Any advise or feedback on any of the places we are staying would be greatly appreciated! Also any comments on the order or legnth of time spent in each place would be helpful. We are not doing a safari in Kruger, but are doing 3 others - is that a mistake? Do we need 2 nights in wine country, or is 1 enough and just spend more time in Cape Town? Does anyone know what the weather is like in these regions Sept. 12-29th? Thanks to anyone who can help!
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Apr 19th, 2005, 04:43 PM
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Safaribride,

Personally I think your itinerary is a bit rushed and too choppy.

For example, on your 7th day between Victoria Falls to Tswalu you will likely be traveling all day long just to get there for your short 2 night stay. I think you would be much better served in expanding each of your Botswana camps to 3 nights.

I find your selection of the Cathbert Country Inn to be very peculiar, considering the prior accomodations that you are interested in visiting. While I am sure it is a lovely place, it just doesn't match the rest of your itinerary, in my opinion. It may be a bit of a letdown after the Cape Grace. The Cape Grace is widely considered one of the very best hotels in the world, while the Cathbert Country Inn may be a very nice bed & breakfast, but not in the same caliber as the Cape Grace.

I do think that your budget may be stretched a little thin if you stick to your originally proposed itinerary, but by knocking out an extra flight by going to Tswalu and instead adding a night to each of your Kwando camps, you may be able to meet your budget. Then again, however, I have only counted the 13 nights that I am seeing within your thread. Are the other two nights being spent in Joburg? Depending on where those two mystery nights are, it may put you well beyond your budget.

There ARE other options if you are not 100% deadset on Botswana.

For example, something like this may work for you for your 15 night stay.

Fly into Joburg and then head to Zambia for a 4 night stay at the luxurious Luangwa River Lodge.

www.luangwariverlodge.com

Afterward, you may fly down to the Lower Zambezi to stay 3 nights at the well regarded Kasaka River Lodge in Lower Zambezi.

www.kasakariverlodge.com

From there, go to Stanley Safari Lodge, Tongabezi or Songwe Village in Victoria Falls for your final 2 nights in Zambia.

This will leave 6 nights for Cape Town & The Cape Winelands. I think you would be well advised to spend four nights in Cape Town and two nights in the Cape Winelands.

Not including r/t air to Africa, I do think the following package would be available in the neighborhood of $12,000 or less. That savings, alone, would pay for your international flights, not to mention give you possibly a more satisfying safari experience.

Kwando is reknowned for its wildlife but its accomodations, quite honestly, leave a little something to be desired, especially Kwando Lagoon.

You are on your honeymoon and may like to just kickback and relax at a place like Luangwa River Lodge for four nights. In mid September, you would be there at the very best time of the year and will be guaranteed plenty of wildlife (elephants, giraffe, lion, leopard, hyena, puku, antelope, waterbuck, an incredible number of birds (upwards of 300 species), a plentitude of nocturnal animals such as honey badger and mongoose, as well as possibly the highest density of hippos and crocodiles of anywhere else on the planet).

Luangwa River Lodge is owned and operated by a very nice British couple in their 30's, who are said to be excellent hosts. The lodge is worthy of being featured in a home decor or architectural magazine, that is how luxurious and unique that it appears to be.

Kasaka River Lodge is one of about three very nice camps in the Lower Zambezi (with Sausage Tree Camp and Chiawa Camp being the other two luxury camps). But, Kasaka River Lodge is an excellent value, but not at the expense of the guests comfort. It features a bush spa and a wonderful honeymoon suite with an outdoor shower/bath with an unobstructed view of the Zambezi River.

Again, though, do not allow the luxurious surroundings to lead you to believe that this will negatively affect your game experience. At Kasaka River Lodge, you will have the opportunity to go canoeing in the Zambezi, and the wildlife that you will see from your canoe will be an absolute delight. By this time of the year, the elephants will be cooling off in the river and crossing over to the small river islands in search of food. Additionally, you should see lion, leopard and a variety of other wildlife, and the Lower Zambezi features the best birding that I know of.

It is a whole different experience when you have the opportunity to just take in a place for 4 nights than when you are jumping around from place to place every couple nights. Yet with the variety of activities at Luangwa River Lodge & Kasaka River Lodge you will not get bored for one second. Walking safaris, morning and night game drives, canoeing, sundowner cruises, gameviewing by motorized boat, cultural visits to a native village, etc.

If you had said that you were spending 8+ nights in Botswana, I wouldn't have bothered writing this reply, but it seems like you are really forcing the issue. Instead of those 4 nights at Kwando's camps, and 2 nights at Tswalu, you can have a wonderful 8 night Zambian safari and then transfer easily to Songwe Village for your 2 nights in Victoria Falls (SV is on the Zambian side). Besides that, you will have a lot of money leftover and may then choose more upscale accomodations in the Western Cape.

Perhaps then it may be in your budget for your 4 nights at the Cape Grace followed by 2 or 3 nights at a place like La Residence:

http://www.laresidence.co.za/pages/entrance.php

Alternately, you could choose a place like Le Quartier Francais (awarded best small hotel in the world in 2005 by the British magazine, Tatler).

http://www.lequartier.co.za/



Luangwa River Lodge (4)
Kasaka River Lodge (3)
Songwe Village, Sussi Lodge, Tongabezi or Tongabezi (2)
Cape Grace (4)
Le Quartier Francais (2)

Now there is an excellent honeymoon, and one that is about 20% less than your current plans!

If any of this interests you, do not hesitate to send me an e-mail and then I will provide you with a couple good contacts who could help you put together an incredible honeymoon.

Congratulations!
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Apr 19th, 2005, 04:55 PM
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I've stayed at Kwando Lagoon and it was a nice camp, but not quite up to the standards of the Wilderness Safari camps in the Okavango Delta. One of my favorites was Kwetsani.

Have you considered staying in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe? By September, the Zambian end of the Falls have all but dried up (at least when I was there), so the best views are from the Zim side. Ilala Lodge or the venerable Victoria Falls Hotel recall the elegant bygone era of colonial Africa and are within walking distance of the Falls.
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Apr 20th, 2005, 12:26 AM
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Safaribride,

It looks like your schedule is a little hectic, especially for a honeymoon. I assume that you spend the first night in Johannesburg, then fly the next day to Botswana. Then you have only two nights at each camp. Maybe you should consider spending 3 nights at two camps, then up to the Falls for two nights. Also, have you considered and discarded the Wilderness camps, I think that the Kwando and Wilderness "5 paw" are probably about the same rate. The six paw camps for September (high season)will probably be too expensive for your budget. I have not been to either yet (we leave in June), so cannot comment, but you can search this sight for previous comments.

When you leave Victoria Falls, then do you have to spend another night in Johannesburg before getting to Tswalu, or is there a late afternoon flight to Tswalu? I have not seen Tswalu mentioned that much on this site, but maybe someone else can comment. Is there a specific reason you are going there, that is, you want to see a desert type environment? The web site looks like a beautiful camp, but I do not beleive that the game viewing would be as good there as in Botswana (or Sabi Sands in South Africa). If you cut out these two nights at Tswalu, you would be able to spend 3 nights at your camps in Botswana and maybe even upgrade your camps there.

Then you could fly from Victoria Falls or Livingstone, transferring through JNB, and on to Cape Town that evening.
I would think that with your budget, you would be able to stay at a nice place in Franschhoek itself (instead of at Cathbert). Personally, I would prefer to stay in Franschhoek with the many good resturants right there to choose from, but some people do enjoy staying out from Franschhoek or Stellenbosch.

It sounds like a great honeymoon, hope you have a wonderful trip!
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Apr 20th, 2005, 12:32 AM
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Dear Safaribride

Congratulations and well done on picking Africa as your honeymoon destination, it is amazing!

Your itinerary as Rocco says is very topsy turvey and all over the show, you are going to be exhausted going home and there really is a more logical routing that you would be able to do.

My greatest concern and puzzlement is why you have added Tswalu in the middle of the itinerary after doing game viewing in Botswana. You are going to be very dissapointed after all the game viewing you are doing in Botswana with the game viewing available in Tswalu.

My suggestion for the itinerary would be as follows:

Kwando Kwara (3nights)
Kwando Lagoon (2 nights)
Sussi Lodge (2 nights) or Tongabezi for 2 nights
Cape Grace/The Bay - 3 nights
River Manor (Stellenbosch) - 1 night
Birkenhead House (Hermnaus) 2 nights

I think as a honeymoon couple to end your honeymoon at Birkenhead House is unbeleivably awesome and you will end feeling relaxed, refreshed and not wating to go home.

Let me know if you need anymore help.
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Apr 20th, 2005, 12:28 PM
  #6
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Thanks so much for your all of your thoughtful feedback on our itinerary! Does anyone have any feedback on Songwe Village? I have heard that we can not miss Victoria Falls so wanted to make sure to include this as part of our trip, do you agree? Do you think we would be better off doing Victoria Falls, a luxury safari around Kruger, Tswalu and then Cape Town and Wine Country? Something like this:

Michelangelo in J'Berg (1)
Songwe Village/Vic Falls (2)
Lukimbi Safari Camp (4)
Tswalu (2)
Le Quartier Francais (2)
Cape Grace (4)

Does anyone know anything about Lukimbi? Are there other luxury camps in SA you would recommend? Do you know anything about Tswalu? We heard it was incredible and not to be missed. What are the difference between Le Quartier Francais and La Residence in terms of price and accomadations?

I am so confused and trying to plan the best trip of our lives, so it is getting me a little stressed! Thanks again for your help!!
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Apr 20th, 2005, 01:46 PM
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Safaribride -

For more information on La Residence and Le Quartier Francais try this link to the Siyabona site. http://winelands.hotelguide.co.za/Lu...residence.html They give an overview of each and show rates as well.

I don't know anything about Lukimbi, but when I read info on it it said that children of all ages are allowed there - which is a little unusual and maybe not what you might want for a honeymoon?

Why don't you look also at some of the lodges in the Sabi Sands? Search here for Sabi Sands or SSGR. And have a look at Londolozi, Mala Mala, Simbambili (there are many more). Another area to look at is Phinda.

I don't think you're going to be able to get from Kruger to Tswalu without an overnight in Jo'burg. The flight to Tswalu leaves Jo'burg at 11am. Your first night is currently scheduled in Jo'burg. Does it need to be? Do you arrive in the morning or in the evening?

Don't think about this being the best trip of your lives! That it too much pressure at what is already a stressful time. Think about this being the first of many trips. One of the problems is that there are so many great choices that there is no one RIGHT choice.
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Apr 20th, 2005, 06:45 PM
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I agree wholeheartedly with dreaming about going to one of the Sabi Sands camps. I've spent three days at Mala Mala a couple of years ago, and it was amazing! The game viewing was superb, and the accommodations were fantastic. There's a different feel in Botswana (I really liked Kings Pool and Jao) -- it is so peaceful, you feel as though you are on the earth at the beginning of time. But Mala Mala really gets the adrenaline pumping.
I would also recommend Grace Bay Hotel in CT, and I would put it at the end. After all that "roughing it" on safari, the Cape Grace is SO luxurious and the marble bathrooms are big enough to have a party!
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Apr 20th, 2005, 08:17 PM
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safaribride,

Given your budget, I do think that you have very minimal expectations for your honeymoon! You can do a lot better.

Neither Lukimbi or Tswalu are very highly regarded camps. I am not saying that they are lowly regarded, they just do not ever earn mention around here, and I do have the highest respect for my fellow Fodorites and their taste in wildlife camps/lodges.

With your 15 nights, and given your realistic budget, that you could do something like this:

Michelangelo or Westcliff (1)
Jacks Camp (Wilderness Safaris)(this will satisfy your Kalahari Desert urge) (3)
Vumbura (Wilderness Safaris) (3)
Savuti (Wilderness Safaris) (2)
Songwe Village (1) (unless you are planning on doing activities such as microlighting or river rafting, a single day in Victoria Falls should be enough).
Cape Grace (3)
Le Quartier Francais (2)

While this itinerary will push the upper limits of your budget, it is head and shoulders above what you are currently considering.

I do think it is best to stick to a safari area that connects to Victoria Falls so that you do not waste an unnecessary night flying back to Johannesburg where you will likely need to overnight.

From Victoria Falls you have plenty of options:

1. Botswana (such as the Wilderness Safari camps that I suggested above, although there are plenty of other great WS camps to consider)
www.wilderness-safaris.com

2. Zambia - Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa.

Some good examples of appropriate camps/lodges for your honeymoon include the following:

a. Luangwa River Lodge, South Luangwa
www.luangwariverlodge.com

b. Kasaka River Lodge, Lower Zambezi
www.kasakariverlodge.com

c. Sausage Tree Camp, Lower Zambezi
www.sausagetreecamp.com

d. Chiawa Camp, Lower Zambezi
www.chiawacamp.com

3. Zimbabwe (Hwange and Mana Pools)

a. Makalolo Plains, Hwange
www.wilderness-safaris.com

b. Chikwenya, Mana Pools
www.wilderness-safaris.com

---I just think that if you do not interlace your safari with your visit to Victoria Falls that you will waste valuable time.

Have a look at the e-mail I sent you as it has additional pertinent information.
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Apr 21st, 2005, 05:29 PM
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Dear Safaribride,

I am responding to your last message under Zpenci's column. No need to get all stressed out, vacation planning to Africa is supposed to be fun, there are so many great destinations and lodges and you seem to have enough budget to give you good choices.

You already have a personal reference
for Tswalu telling you it is a great place, and it is a "gold" Relais & Chateaux, so I don't think you can go wrong there. It's just that most newbies like myself come to this board to get opinions on where people have been to see the most wildlife and especially the big predators, large herds of elelphants, etc. and also nice accomodations. People have suggested that wildlife viewing will probably be better somewhere else, but that does not mean that you would not enjoy Tswalu if your friends have been there and enjoyed it.
May we ask what other area or camps your friends visited besides Tswalu?

If you decide not to visit Botswana (although it fits nicely with your trip to Victoria Falls), then most first timers to South Africa visit Sabi Sands, which is a private concesssion next to Kruger. There are many well known lodges in Sabi Sands and the game viewing is suppposed to be excellent. Your budget shoud allow you to stay at somewhere very nice such as Londolozi. I'm not sure how you came up with Lukimbi, I think it is a newer lodge (in an area south of Kruger?), and I doubt that you will find many people if anyone on this board that has been there, since it doesn't seem to be well known.

Good luck in making your decisions.
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Apr 22nd, 2005, 02:29 PM
  #11
 
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Congratulations, safaribride! You have the makeings of a great honeymoon trip (budget wise) so now you have to figure out what your priorities are! There is good advice in all these response (although if you only have two weeks and have never been to Africa, I wouldn't suggest Zambia for a honeymoon. It's wonderful, but a a longer trip...save that for an anniversary trip.
You are going at a super time--though it will be getting hot in Botswana, it is still pleasant, and the gameviewing is superb at this time of year.

First of all, what is most important experiences you want to have on your honeymoon?

You are trying to do ALOT on a relatively short honeymoon, and I would think that after the wedding you would like some time to really relax. You can do it in ANY of these places-- they are all good-- but you won't get it flitting around between them.

Capetown is spectacular, and if you just want to take a peek at wine country, you can do it in a day. I had a wonderful time on a 1day winecountry tour, an organized one in a minivan. Personally, I find driving a hassle for things like this...

You will have great gameviewing if you visit a private reserve near Kruger (like Mala Mala, mentioned by another poster). You'll see the big 5, and more in one day...but it's not particularly remote or wild. Good for photos.

That's why I prefer Botswana--I love small camps, and especially tented camps. The game viewing is superb, but not "guaranteed" the way it (literally) is in Sabi Sands area.

I don't know Kwando...but
I second the recommendation on Kwetsani(in fact I've been in the honeymoon suite there). This is a glorious camp, and very relaxing. We preferred it to Mombo (5 paw, so still reasonable by Bots standards!) Personally, I'd choose this vs. Jao...it's managed by the same folks, but Kwetsani is smaller and simpler (I don't go to Bots for a spa experience..but if you want that, you can get it at Jao!)

I also adore Vumbura (but now its 6 paw) and Chitabe too.
IF YOU ARE ADVENTUROUS and want a dramatic, romantic, extremely unusual experience, do 3 nights at Jack's Camp. No big wildlife, but the most fabulous desert/wilderness experience imaginable. Unforgettable!!!
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Apr 23rd, 2005, 03:55 PM
  #12
 
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ShayTay and Tashak,

Could you elaborate a little more on the game aspect of Kwetsani? Also what time of year were there there and what was your length of stay. Thank you.
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Apr 23rd, 2005, 05:09 PM
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Safari bride,
we went on safari for part of our honeymoon and loved the Sausage Tree and Tongabezi. We also stayed at Quartier Francias which we greatly enjoyed...especially the food and wine. However it may not be warm enough for the pool.

I agree with everyone else don't do too much running around. Are you talking to an agent because they can also give you great advice. We used Pulse Africa at www.africansafari.co.uk and I found them very helpful. Any good agent would give you help.

One thing that springs to mind is that some of the safar lodges have communal eating at large tables so before you go request a special evening on your own if this is something you'd prefer.

Have a wonderful time!
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