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safari private lodges - % off rack rates

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Sep 29th, 2016, 10:32 AM
  #1
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safari private lodges - % off rack rates

going on a safari trip to south africa and bots, and learned that there are price advantages of booking through a travel agent, besides them coordinating ground logistics of course!

in general, what is the estimated % off rack rates one can realistically get for private safari lodges in south africa through a TA? let's say for sabi sand.

what about for botswana? heading to chobe national park

share your experience!
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Sep 29th, 2016, 02:39 PM
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It depends on the agent. You realize that the agents make their money off of the savings they get? Most times it will cost about the same if you use an agent or book on your own.

Sabi Sand is a reserve with many lodges. Each will be different but it is unlikely you will see a significant savings through an agent.

Contact a couple of agents, get estimates, compare the savings if any.

I book my own safaris.
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Sep 29th, 2016, 03:15 PM
  #3
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oh i see. thanks for setting a realistic expectation.

<>

something like that?

rack rate at lodge = $1000
TA's rate from lodge = $800
TA's price quote to customer = $900
profit to TA = $100


if you book your own safari, then it would be rack rate, right?
do you do that bc of more flexibility? (as in, change date at whim, direct communication with lodge, express preferences)
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Sep 29th, 2016, 05:42 PM
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I don't use the high end lodges. No way could I afford to go so often if I pay $1000/nt. We stay in national parks and affordable private lodges. Since everything books up well in advance, there's no changes on a whim. We tend to plan our trips 1-2 months out so have to be very flexible with availability. Southern Africa is very easy to plan on your own, even ground transportation. Driving is easy in S Africa too.

There is some collusion between the high end agents and they only quote rack rates. Don't expect any savings. See the lodge Facebook and websites for specials and savings. Some lodges don't deal direct with customers, though that is changing. Currently the Rand is very weak so there's never been a better time to visit S Africa. Botswana quotes in USD.
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Sep 29th, 2016, 05:57 PM
  #5
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gonna be my first trip there so these are great tips, thanks!

hope i can be like you one day where i go back for repeat visits.
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Sep 29th, 2016, 08:10 PM
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Not sure why you are going to Chobe instead of other parks/reserves. It's expensive to get to and although great, not a great value.

I'd do a reserve adjacent to Kruger and/or Kruger National Park and a reserve in KwaZulu Natal. Choices depend on budget. Add a couple of days in St Lucia (my favorite fun town with tons of water, land and wildlife activities) for a perfect trip. Or northern Tuli reserve in SE Botswana if you insist on Botswana - excellent.

Safaris don't have to cost a fortune. Ours have gotten less expensive and progressively better (not including our last one during this terrible drought) each time. It's too bad that so many people think higher cost means a better experience. It doesn't!

Klaserie, Manyeleti, Timbavati and Sabi Sand are all excellent, unfenced reserves adjacent to Kruger NP. Here's a map:

http://assets.sunsafaris.com/Map-of-Kruger-Camps.pdf

Some of the ones I highly recommend are Senalala, Cheetah Plains, Motswari, nThambo. More affordable good options are Elephant Plains, Shindzela (rustic but very friendly and casual) and Africa on Foot. Nottens and Umlani are each a little different than most.There are many more and keep in mind that they are all very competitive within each price range and every one will exceed your expectations.

In KZN, the lodges in Zululand Rhino Reserve and Tembe Elephant Park are wonderful and the reserves both do great conservation and community work. Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is a great public game reserve (similar to a national park) and if you are very adventurous and want to do overnight guided walking safaris, the wilderness trails there are fantastic. See www.kznwildlife.com.

For community owned lodges, Pafuri Camp in northern Kruger (www.returnafrica.co.za) and Tembe are excellent.

I'd do Cape Town, fly to Durban and get road transfers or rent a car for ZRR or Tembe or HiP and St Lucia, fly Durban to Hoedspruit for a Kruger lodge and/or Kruger NP, fly Joberg.

Or CT, fly or fly/drive northern Tuli, road transfer or drive Pafuri, road transfer or drive Kruger option(s), fly//drive JNB.

I've done both, love both. I've done Botswana too, but too expensive now for me. For more affordable, very good options in Botswana, try Footsteps in Africa.

Have fun planning. For wildlife viewing, June - September is best.
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Sep 29th, 2016, 08:24 PM
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yes, i agree chobe wouldnt be the best of choice in bots. actually chobe is included in the plan bc we are doing the victoria falls as part of our travels. and it is nearby so why not. i guess we are doing the popular circuit many folks do - kruger + vf + chobe

the other itinerary i was thinking was cape town + garden route + kruger.

would be impossible to fit all 5 in our time frame!

how is Nottens different - have you stayed there and like it? notten seems cozy, more affordable. that was one of the ones we were looking at if we end up in sabi sand. another place is umkumbe. as for other private reserves, that is still on the to-do list. havent done enough research for other private reserves to spew intelligent comments.

we plan to spend time in the public kruger np also. do some camping... or glamping.
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Sep 29th, 2016, 08:24 PM
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yes, i agree chobe wouldnt be the best of choice in bots. actually chobe is included in the plan bc we are doing the victoria falls as part of our travels. and it is nearby so why not. i guess we are doing the popular circuit many folks do - kruger + vf + chobe

the other itinerary i was thinking was cape town + garden route + kruger.

would be impossible to fit all 5 in our time frame!

how is Nottens different - have you stayed there and like it? notten seems cozy, more affordable. that was one of the ones we were looking at if we end up in sabi sand. another place is umkumbe. as for other private reserves, that is still on the to-do list. havent done enough research for other private reserves to spew intelligent comments.

we plan to spend time in the public kruger np also. do some camping... or glamping.
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Sep 29th, 2016, 10:39 PM
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Do the glamping in a private reserve! Shindzela and Tembe are both amazing! Serolo or Mashatu tented, even Tuli Safari Lodge, in northern Tuli are good/great. Pafuri is beautiful. In Kruger NP, the perimeter tents at Lower Sabie are my favorite. If you want to camp, you need to buy or rent the equipment. Pretty silly when you can get a already built tent or bungalow with a kitchen, fridge, utensils, bathroom at a very reasonable rate. If you are a group, larger cottages and guest houses are available in the park at some camps.

It depends on when you are going. VF after August is very disappointing if the water is low - lots of dry cliffs, not a lot of falls. I'm not a fan. But if you insist on going, I would stay in Chobe and do a day trip to VF, not the other way around. Chobe is best morning and late afternoon, VF is nice all day and only takes a couple of hours. Chobe gets very crowded when all the day trippers are there - not recommended to do day trips to Chobe. Also, fly to and stay in Zimbabwe. The best view of the falls is on the Zim side. Visas to Zim and Zambia are $50 each so save the $50 and skip Zambia. If you go to Zam, you'll have to get a multi entry Zim visa for $100. It adds up quickly. (But I'd skip it).

You will have to do your own research on the lodges. I like all the ones I mentioned. Everyone has different needs - I prefer electricity. Sabi Sand does great marketing! As I said above, the other reserves I mentioned are excellent and generally at a better value.

No, you can't do all five locations unless you have five weeks. You'll be back. You have places to visit next time. I prefer to see less/experience more. You didn't say when or how long you plan to go. I always guess it's two weeks or a little more/less. Flights are much more affordable in May/early June than July/August.

Like I said, I'd do the itineraries I already posted. I didn't enjoy VF and the cost to get there far exceeded the value for me. The Garden Route is a little tame for me, too European. I prefer KwaZulu Natal for beauty, activities, warm ocean, gorgeous beaches. You can do CT, fly Durban (very reasonable direct flights), rent a car and do KZN. Then drive through Swaziland (spend a night) to Kruger for the NP (4 nights minimum) and private reserve (three nights preferable). I do that often.

Disclaimer: I'm moving to KZN. That's how much I love it. And I can live just about anywhere in the world.
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Sep 30th, 2016, 12:21 PM
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You can check several companies for lodge/camp reservations help if you like. We've had tremendous luck working with TAs who are "local" to where we are going.

To get an idea of some of the itineraries offered (and contacts so you can get competitive quotes) you may want to look at www.SafariBookings.com and find the exact itinerary you want to follow offered by several TAs.

We have used Zambezi Safari & Travel Co (their Vic Falls office) when we went to Vic Falls, and other locations in Zimbabwe, and most recently Wild Wings Safaris (located in George SA) when we did Kruger, KZN and Zululand battlefields. We were very happy with our choices. (We also got to see Botswana, but it was back in 2004 before it got so pricey. The company we booked through then was CCAfrica - which has since turned into "And Beyond") We also self-booked two trips around Capetown and the winelands, and Capetown & the Garden Route as self-drives over the years. SA is a fantastic country and it is pretty easy to travel in and through, as long as you have some patience.

It is nice to have someone "local" to call if you have a problem, which is why I like to use local TAs, but you can book yourself efficiently.
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Sep 30th, 2016, 02:53 PM
  #11
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thanks both! yeah 2 weeks max. currently have 1 buddy confirmed going but maybe 2 more. probably winter time southern hemisphere but exact month to be determined. i guess aug is the absolute "deadline" if seeing vf at its glory is important. good luck on your move to kzn! must not be a big change since you keep going back there anyway - almost like just moving to a second home.

----

thanks for the TA recs. yes, botswana safari is so expensive for some reason, compared to other countries. is it bc it's much diverse and varied landscape and wildlife than others? no idea, but since there is demand, there is no fear of backlash for price hike over the years i guess.
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Sep 30th, 2016, 08:59 PM
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Botswana had decided on high quality, low density tourism. So they limit the number of beds per acre/hectare. This results in very high prices. Like uh_oh, I went a long time ago. It was expensive then, but not like now! One of the places we stayed back then is now $2360 per person per night. That's more than I spent on my last safari - for two weeks, including international air from NYC!!! Stupid. More money than brains.

As I said, look into northern Tuli in Botswana. Excellent reserve, not stupid expensive. There are no/very few rhinos in Botswana. Don't miss them.

Since you want to keep things affordable, I'd contact Wild-Wings-Safaris if you want to use a TA. They get excellent reviews and are very nice. They will work in any budget. But you don't need a TA.

Moving to KZN is a big move. A really big move.
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Oct 1st, 2016, 03:58 PM
  #13
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thanks for the WWS rec.

i see. it was made intentionally exclusive then. i really like the photos taken in okavango delta + moremi game reserve area though. having water against the reed-thin grass as backdrop makes it look nice.

are you going to work as a TA in KZN? or park ranger?
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Oct 1st, 2016, 04:04 PM
  #14
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btw why is rhino rare in bots? poachers?
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Oct 1st, 2016, 06:55 PM
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Yes, rhino were poached to extinction in the '80's. They are just now importing some (there is an unbelievable WWF video and pics of rhino being flown by their ankles to safety - not mean, possibly the safest way to move them while sedated). Botswana now has a zero tolerance policy on poaching so much safer - certainly safer than in S Africa right now. It breaks my heart. Americans and Europeans aren't off the hook - we are the #2 and 4 importers of illegal rhino parts and elephant ivory.

Don't get too caught up in the professional pictures. Just be happy to see the wildlife there is to see. Kruger is fantastic and beautiful and you won't be disappointed. KZN is beautiful and the parks near the ocean and lakes give great opportunities to see wildlife rare in Kruger. The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is amazing, and much more affordable than Botswana. Currently most of Southern Africa is experiencing its worst drought in over a century (possibly ever) so water is scarce. It had better be a wet, but not flood wet, winter. It's bad and will take years for agriculture and wildlife to recover. Don't go to Botswana unless you can afford it. If you are experienced in 4x4 driving and like camping, you could do a self drive in northern Botswana but don't overspend your budget because you like the pictures.

No, retiring. Our dream is to live with a water view and within a day drive to Kruger. The big bonus is to live in KZN, which has quickly become our very favorite area - beaches, game reserves, mountains, incredible parks and friendly people. I'm hoping to do more rhino conservation and do some health and education community work. Maybe help local craftswomen sell their products in the U.S. I'm not a TA and unless I'm allowed to work (very difficult to get work visas anywhere in the world) will volunteer and continue helping people plan their trips here. And hang out in Kruger, KZN and on my water view balcony. Maybe I'll have an open house so everyone on fodors can come visit and I can show them "my Africa".
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Oct 2nd, 2016, 07:34 PM
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Best of luck to you christabir!
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Oct 3rd, 2016, 06:15 PM
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Thanks Femi. It won't be for a few years (unless this election goes farther off the rails than it has already) but the plan is moving ahead.
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Oct 4th, 2016, 01:26 AM
  #18
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Christabir - Good luck to you as you move on to the next chapter! Have you already bought a home there as a first step? How would you settle the visa issue or will they grant you residency after a while? I guess the good thing is you will probably start clearing junk out of your garage now!

I am sure instinctively you know this is the right choice for you. Even though I am not anywhere near the 'standard' retirement age, I already have a short list of where I want to live after I stop working... assuming i am still alive and kicking then

Yeah I would love to experience the whole 4x4 driving experience but first i need to find travel buddies who are into doing that. Always have a pang of envy when I watch youtubes of people who do that. I need to seek out a 'local safari club' to meet likeminded folks.

Wow, iSimangaliso Wetland Park is really nice! yes, one of the reasons why I think Bots is picturesque is because I think the water at Okavango Delta really make a difference in photos. but this wetland look similar.
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Oct 4th, 2016, 05:43 PM
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No, haven't bought a home. There is a lot of development going on in KZN right now so we are shopping but not buying yet. It's too far to worry about a second home. It would be hard to check up on it. Most developing nations allow people to "buy" residency as a retired person. If you have any income from foreign sources (Social Security, pension) you can usually qualify. We won't have either, though SS will kick in later, so we have saved as many pennies as we could and should have enough. And they have first world medical care and insurance, though expensive, is available. No, I would not give up my US citizenship (no matter how screwed up it looks right now). We probably won't get citizenship in S Africa. We can still travel from there.

It's harder to move to another country than you think. If you are a U.S. citizen, it's even harder. Banking and investments are particularly difficult. Buying health insurance is complicated. Residency requirements are different everywhere - and the income or savings needed go up often. Two years ago S Africa and Argentina both doubled theirs. No telling what happens next time. Costa Rica is talking about changing theirs, same with Panama. And no work visas anywhere. S Africa was not on our retirement radar, not even until the third time we visited. We thought we'd be in a very different part of the world or be traveling nomads - 3-6 months in different countries depending on visas. Then we realized we needed health insurance....

I love the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. That whole area in northern KZN is beautiful from Tembe Elephant Park and Ndumo Reserve in the north to St Lucia to the south and Mkuze and Hluhluwe-iMfolozi in the middle is great. Then the Drakensberg mountains farther south are beautiful.

If you want some adventure but not ready for crazy adventure, the wilderness trails in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi are fantastic. They get excellent reviews. I live vicariously through people I recommend them to since health issues prevent me from doing it. I love hearing from them when they return saying the trails were the highlight of their trips. They have very basic camping ones and others that are a bit less basic.

Our last few trips have been to Kruger, drive south through Swaziland and stay the rest of the time in public and private reserves in KZN. It's a perfect trip. Our last trip we also included Marakele National Park, about three hours north of Joberg, which was stunningly beautiful. It's the Waterberg area - really nice. It was a nice place to stay for a few nights upon arrival at JNB.

Whatever you don't choose this time, do next time.
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Oct 4th, 2016, 08:02 PM
  #20
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you have given me many ideas. i am saving this thread and copying to a word document in my desktop as the convo progress.

it's funny how this thread evolve to you migrating to SA ! LOL but it is a much interesting discussion than the original topic.

i think most nomads take on travel health insurance, like this guy here http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-bl...vel-insurance/ (World Nomads insurance), that are not country-specific, so no matter where they travel to, they are protected. but i am sure there are many other types out there.

based on my limited reading, i believe why SA is so popular is because it is the most 'friendly' when it comes to the DIY type of safari - meaning, rent 4wd, drive around yourself, find animals, stay at camp, stay at reserves. it is probably not as easy to do the same, in say, kenya, tanzania, zimbabwe, or zambia. not to say impossible, but the infrastructure is just less developed? maybe it is easier in botswana or namibia. but bots is just freaking expensive as we have discussed!
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