Safari Planning for 2015

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Feb 6th, 2014, 09:01 PM
  #1
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Safari Planning for 2015

DH and I are considering a return trip to Southern Africa for a safari. Here's what we are pondering 1) its a very LONG trip from Los Angeles. Where could we stop on the way to relax for a day or two? and ditto on the way home?
2) We just came back from our second trip to Costa Rica and were disappointed, the wildlife sightings weren't so good, no wow factor. We'd hate to have that happen in Africa. Having said that, we've gone back to Thailand, Bali, India and many other places and loved it as much the second time. OK probably answered that.
3) We loved the game viewing and birding from Land Rovers in the Okavango Delta a great deal (stayed at Mambo Camp, what's not to like?); probably a bit more than Zambia. We've enjoyed the mobile tented camps with friends in the Serengeti and the Mara. Would we see different landscapes in other parts of Botswana? Different type lodging experiences?
4) Also considering Namibia while in the "neighborhood". Any recommendations for 2 areas, 3 nights each?
5) We are seniors, my husband will be 77 when we take this trip in May-June '15, I'll be a young 70. It will be our last big blow out trip. I just want to insure that we build in lots of relaxing time and creature comforts.
All suggestions and advice welcome.
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Feb 6th, 2014, 10:09 PM
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I also live in LA area and it takes me from my home (Fullerton) to first hotel in Johannesburg 30-32 hours none stop. After the first 9 hours on a plane I'm afraid I'm going to die! After 10 hours I wish I would! I've always flown straight through, no overnights. I'm 71 years, first safari was in 2005. Safaried every year through 2012, usually with wife. Love it like no other experience I've had.

Many USA safari travelers like to fly KLM and stop over night in Amsterdam.

Where should you safari, you've been to Botswana?

Go to Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti in TZ. Then to Little Governors Camp in Maasai Mara Kenya, then to camp MalaMala in South Africa. Fly home from Johannesburg SA. All camps will be luxury (But not quite up to Mombo luxury). We've done three safari countries in one trip. Sure it is a bit of skipping around, you will waste 1-2 days in transit (flying) between each camp - to Kenya and to South Africa. So you'll need 3 weeks or more total. In each country, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, stay in safari camps 4-5 nights. I've been safari all those camps and others. This itinerary guarantted to exceed your expectations. Cost with air to/from Africa and internal flights between countries/camps I'd guesstimate at $11,000 per person. Go for it!!!

regards - tom
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Feb 7th, 2014, 07:32 AM
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cary999, do need to consider more stopover possibilities. We have the time. How did you independently arrange the small internal flights? We did three weeks in Tanzania a few years ago (stayed at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, and mobile camping in Serengeti plus much more) and I did two weeks in Kenya before meeting hubby. Still we like Botswana best. Would we get such a different experience in South Africa game areas (compared to Botswana game areas) to justify the the time/effort/hassle of the travel?
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Feb 7th, 2014, 07:54 AM
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RT, I would have suggested the Southern Circuit (Selous, Ruaha) in Tanzania but you may have been there and you seem to want to return to Botswana. But, Selous with all its lakes, palm trees, and Rufiji River reminded me a lot of Botswana, and Ruaha is a much less visited but true African experience with large lion prides and buffalo herds and resulting interactions. After the safari, a stay in Zanzibar would have offered nice relaxation before the schlep home.

Combining SA and Botswana makes eminent sense. You'll get two very different ecosystems and each will yield memorable experiences I'm sure. After flying into JNB and resting either overnight or for a full day, head to Sabi Sand. I'd recommend Londolozi for 3 or 4 nights (I think they discount a bit for stays of 4 or more nights). After SS return to Jo'burg and relax overnight before heading up to Botswana. You can pick areas different from those you stayed in last time to get some variation.

If you decided to go to Southern Africa via JNB, you could fly into JFK, overnight and then take nonstop South African Air 204, which leaves in the morning and gets you into JNB the next morning ~8 am. You then have the whole day to chill and get over lag before moving to your safari destination.

Anyhow, good luck with your planning.
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Feb 7th, 2014, 05:33 PM
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Ok, now we know you've been to Ngrongoro, and Kenya big time, that changes things a bit.

Internal flights can be arranged by the camps you stay at. Some flights like on SAA are easy to do yourself.

I've been to Bots only once briefly so can't comment about it. But it is a favorite of photographic tours. Especially Chiefs camp. But very $$$$$. Not in "my budget", as they say.

The terrain in SA is typically low bushveld. Bushveld being slightly hilly, some brush, some small Acacia trees. Not like the grass savannah of TZ or Kenya. Here's snap of bushveld as viewed from dry river bed, Sabi Sand, camp MalaMala -
http://tinyurl.com/kv5vlxx One BIG factor for me for the Sabi Sand and Timbavati reserves is that off-roading game drives are permitted. Thus you see the wildlife up-close and personal. And if you're also into photography, being able to position your vehicle is critical.

Maybe this, we've done this three times. Fly into JNB, rent car from Avis at JNB, drive to Kruger National Park. About a 6 hour drive. In Kruger you will drive yourself on decent asphalt or gravel roads. You are your own game ranger!! Stay nights in Kruger "Rest Camps" - http://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/ . Private bungalows behind camp fences, cost around $100 a night sleep two. Total daily cost of car, hut, gas, meals at camp restaurants, around $200 per day for 2 pax. Four-five nights in Kruger is enough.

Sabi Sand borders Kruger on west. After Kruger, drive Avis car (2-3 hrs) to MalaMala or Londolozi and leave car there (Avis will pick-up). Stay 4-5 nights in camp. Maybe two camps in Sabi Sand!! (Here's turn off from Kruger into Sabi Sand - http://tinyurl.com/mojubld ).

Fly Sabi Sand camp to JNB. Fly JNB to Bots, go to Chiefs Camp or one of the other high-end camps.

That's about it from me. Ive been to Africa just for safari in 5 countries, about 15 different camps, about 200 game drives. (More than half being in South Africa). I've enjoyed them all, all, all. Just being out with the wildlife, whatever kind, is joy for me.

regards - tom
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Feb 7th, 2014, 08:27 PM
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My tune has changed since I looked at current prices for camps in Botswana. Wow, they have gone up 70% in the 10 years since we were there. Maybe one splurge camp in Botswana but it won't be Mombo. I will investigate the South African camps you mention. Yes, we've chilled in Zaqnzibar, stayed at The Palms near Bwejuu for four days. For more background, we've spent time in Capetown, the Winelands, Garden route, etc., all beautiful. No one has been to Namibia hyuh?
We are hoping to have enough miles for a first class mileage award on Air Frane, KLM or Emirites I will have to check the rules to learn what stop overs are allowed. Perhaps we could stop in Nice on the way and Mauritius or Seychells on the way back.
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Feb 8th, 2014, 01:44 AM
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I'm stopping for about 20 hours in London between Calif and Kenya. BA goes LAX to LHR. At Heathrow, the Sofitel is right AT Terminal 5, so extermely convenient if its main use is as a place to unwind between flights, grab a meal, visit the gym, eat, etc. It's available on Hotwire for a great price (it is the only 5 star Heathrow Hotel on HW).
Maybe a different Europe city on the way home?
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Feb 8th, 2014, 03:21 AM
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I can recommend Mashatu Tented Camp in southeast Botswana. You could hire a car, do Kruger or the Timbavati and Sabi Sands reserves before heading north through the park to Pont Drift Border Post on the Limpopo. Mashatu is just on the other side of the river - your guide will meet you at Pont Drift.

Namibia is a great country for scenery and wildlife. I'd recommend 3 night stays in Damaraland (Palmwag, Erongo or Grootberg Lodges)and Etosha, probably Okaukuejo. Then there is Swakopmund on the coast and the Caprivi Strip through into Botswana. Kgalagadi Park in northwest South Africa has stunning red sand dunes and a good population of big cats. These destinations combine a number of environments to maximise wildlife sightings.

If you are still thinking of a mobile, Masson safaris do good trips into the delta and Central Kalahari Game Reserve with game viewing from an open vehicle.

One trip to think about is Namibia to Vic Falls via Damaraland and Caprivi, finishing in Botswana - all or part of the way. Its possible to fly direct to Walvis Bay from Joberg and then do a self-drive or hire a guide for Damaraland, Etosha etc.

Happy planning,


Pol
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Feb 8th, 2014, 04:15 PM
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Treepol I will research your suggestions for Namibia. I'll also check out NW South Africa. We have been to Vic Falls, spent 3 or 4 days at Tongabezi and had a wonderful time.
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Feb 8th, 2014, 04:21 PM
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I'm now thinking that since we've been to Botswana (Mombo and Jao), even though not up north, we could still have diversity by going to camps in different parts of South Africa and tp Namibia and not have the up charges of Botswana. Would we be doing ourselves a disservice by skipping Botswana. We love beautiful landscapes, the big 5, the thrill of the hunt, the birdlife, walking where possible.
Do we fly back to JoBerg and then to camps in Namibia?
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Feb 9th, 2014, 05:47 AM
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Based on your most recent Feb 8 thoughts...
Since you mention "not having the up charges of Botswana" I assume that the $2000-ish per person per night of Mombo does take a bite out of your pocket. If this was typical of what you spend on vacation, then Mombo and Jao would fit nicely into your plans. Otherwise, time for some alternatives. Fortunately many abound.

You can get "beautiful landscapes, the big 5, the thrill of the hunt, the birdlife, walking where possible" without those costs and without Botswana. As for doing yourself a "disservice," by skipping Bots--Maybe you don't have to. If you want the delta environment then include Botswana because nothing else provides that particular kind of landscape. But rather than Mombo costs, how about Duba Plains for "thrill of the hunt" where lion and buffalo interactions take place. You get the beauty of the delta, nice birdlife, along with predator activity. Do check on the latest pride dynamics though, as lion activity vacillates.

Looks like you may be well on your way to Namibia. If it is for June, maybe I'll see ya.

Treepol has planned a nice trip for you!

QUESTION ON COSTA RICA--Can you describe where, what, etc. disappointed you or how reality differed from your expectations? Much appreciated.
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Feb 9th, 2014, 12:52 PM
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Our pocketbooks were fatter when we were working, now we are all but retired, we do have to be mindful of costs. In our current reality $2000 a night would be a nice splurge, $800-$1200 a night ok, $400-$500 a night a respite for a few days. We don't mind mixing things up. Say 15 nts including necessary Joberg overnts, internal air, + 2-3 nts at beach resort on way home max 30K
DH and I now agree that we will skip Botswana, it was fabulous and we can look forward to seeing new fabulous environments.
I'm now considering 4 nights in a Kruger lodge, 3 nights at a NW So African camp, 2 to 3 areas in Namibia (but which two?) Suggestions

As to Costa Rica I think I made bad choices of areas and lodges. Playa Hermosa was not so hermosa. Arenal rained for 5 days so birding was not great. Ylang Ylang Resort in Montezuma had little wildlife compared to our first trip where we spent six days at two high end lodges on Osa Peninsula. Next time I'd go to Buena Vista in Manuel Antonio and back to Aguila de Osa.
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Feb 10th, 2014, 02:29 AM
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For Namibia, maybe fly into Walvis Bay and have a short stay at Swakopmund before heading off to Damaraland (we're staying at Erongo Wilderness Lodge and Palmwag which look good) Bruno Nebo's Mundalea Camp which is south of Etosha and Etosha itself of course.

Okonjima maybe an interesting overnight stay on the return to Windhoek. I enjoyed my 2005 stay, not sure what the camp is like now.

Happy planning,


Pol
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Feb 10th, 2014, 02:32 AM
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For Namibia, maybe fly into Walvis Bay and have a short stay at Swakopmund before heading off to Damaraland (we're staying at Erongo Wilderness Lodge and Palmwag which look good) Bruno Nebo's Mundalea Camp which is south of Etosha and Etosha itself of course.

Okonjima maybe an interesting overnight stay on the return to Windhoek. I enjoyed my 2005 stay, not sure what the camp is like now.

Happy planning,


Pol
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Feb 10th, 2014, 07:01 AM
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Thank you Robbietravels for your Costa Rica opinions. Now back to Africa. Looks like Namibia will be on the list.
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Feb 10th, 2014, 07:22 AM
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Does it have to be May / June? I just think September would be better for a Southern Africa safari.

Where have you gone in Zambia?

I've not been to Mombo but I've been to Chiefs Camp (Sanctuary Retreats), the only other camp besides Mombo on Chiefs Island in the Mombo retreat. Loved it as I also loved other places I visited in Botswana, including the Kwando camps, and Baines Camp (Sanctuary Retreats).

But, my own personal favorite camp in all of Africa, is Chiawa Camp in the Lower Zambezi where I've twice visited. Simply amazing especially in high season. I've been to many of the best lodges in Africa but no matter the expense (Singita, Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Sanctuary Retreats, etc.), none measure up for me to Chiawa.

www.chiawa.com

Like you, I'm a SoCal native and I've mixed up my routes to get to Southern Africa...sometimes skipping any layovers, other times stopping in Europe on the way there or back and once going the other direction and using Sydney as a layover for a few nights which I really enjoyed (although for a May/June trip, that would be winter).
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Feb 10th, 2014, 01:33 PM
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Botswana doesn't have to cost $2000 pp/pn. We just did 22 camp nights in five Wilderness Safari camps for approx. $22,000 for two people. So that is about $1000 pp/pn. It included all our internal air. We flew on frequent flier points non-stop from Atlanta to JNB in Business Class -- a wonderful treat. No need to stop over in route. We spent our first night in JNB at the InterContinental Hotel-JNB. Used points for that one, so it was free too.

To get this kind of pricing in Botswana, consider traveling in the "Green Season". We traveled November 10-Dec 4. The weather was perfect. The camps were amazing and our sightings were over the top. Our first trip to Africa was Kenya and N. Tanzania, the second was to Southern Tanzania (Ruaha and Selous). Our third trip, Botswana, was by far the best animal sightings.
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Feb 10th, 2014, 03:05 PM
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Chiawa looks fabulous. We stayed atNkwali and Nsafu, the camps were OK, the guests and staff great, the guides and game drives superb. Personally I did not like Ngorongoro Crater Lodge (despite the massage on my deck overlooking the crater being awesome) the rooms and set up were just too precious for me.
We can travel anytime between May 29 - September 17 2015. I heard that August was terribly windy in Namibia but we can go any 3 1/2 weeks during this timeframe.
I'd like to continue these conversations about South Africa and Namibia but think having them under the heading of Botswana is misleading. So I will start new topics with more specific questions about South African or Namibian camps, regions, logistics or whatever. Talk with you on my next thread.
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Feb 10th, 2014, 04:35 PM
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But of course feel free to respond to the time of travel issue above.
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Feb 12th, 2014, 01:47 PM
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I second TC's suggestion of Botswana in the green season. In fact, we met TC and spouse there! See if you can get availability at the very beginning of the green season (mid November 2014.) If you go later in the season, the grass is high, the wildlife is more dispersed and the viewing isn't as good (speaking from experience.) I know that The Wild Source in Colorado has been able to book green season rates already for the 2014 - 2015 season.
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