Safarinut needs help

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Nov 13th, 2005, 05:26 PM
  #1
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Safarinut needs help

I have changed my Botswana itinerary again and I think I've narrowed it down to:

3 nights Kings Pool
2 nights Jao
2 nights Mombo

I will be going in the first week of February 2006 and need help with the following:

I know February is possibly the worst month to go to Botswana but is it still worth it?

Has any other fodorite paid a visit to Bots in February and if so,what was your experience like?

Should I change my plans now and head to East Africa?

I just can't get the Botswana bug out of me!

I will really appreciate any comments and advice on the above mentioned.
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Nov 13th, 2005, 06:28 PM
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safarinut,

Unless you are able to get a discount for being a South African citizen, I would say that is a lot of money to spend for Botswana at its least desirable time.

However, speaking from experience, don't think that you are going to save a lot of money by going to Tanzania. Originally I picked Tanzania over Botswana thinking it would be much less expensive, but altogether, my 21 nights in Tanzania/Zanzibar/Amsterdam will cost me $20,000+ including my airfare and that is with "free" ff seats from Los Angeles to Amsterdam.

Here is my itinerary:

Moivaro Coffee Lodge, Arusha (3)
Manyara Tree Lodge, Lake Manyara (2)
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge (2)
Olduvai Camp (1)
Nomad Masek (2)
Nomad Piaya (2)
Mbuzi Mawe (2)
Palms Zanzibar (3)
Serena Inn Zanzibar (2)
Canal House or Amstel Amsterdam I/C (2)

However, one of the other reasons I picked Tanzania was because I did not want to wait until May for my next safari, and May was the absolute soonest that I would consider going to Botswana. At least you will be in the height of high season on the northern circuit with the exception of Tarangire.
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Nov 13th, 2005, 07:19 PM
  #3
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Roccco

I know...It's expensive and not a good time of the year.There are a lot of specials for RSA residents to Bots but none to Mombo,Kings Pool and Jao that I've seen.I am waiting for Mark to get back to me.This should have been just another trip to the SSGR but now I want to see another part of Africa.

The building of my new home isn't going too well either as $10 000 for an upgrade here and there turns into $50 000 overnight!

Your itinerary looks great.Do you think it's too late to try a 7 night Northen Circuit safari now or should I bite my lip and hope for the best in Botswana?

Thank you, as always, for your advice.
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Nov 13th, 2005, 10:23 PM
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Safarinut,

Although I would love to visit each of the Wilderness Safaris camps that you mentioned, I wouldn't dream of paying those kinds of prices in February. I know that Kings Pool and Jao are probably discounted for February, but even their discounted prices are not that low. Furthermore, to pay full Mombo prices for February just doesn't make much sense to me.

When I finally do get to Botswana, I will likely save it until August or September, especially if I am going to Mombo. Even if I only went to Kwando, I would still save it until May, three full months later than your proposed visit.

Perhaps you should contact Sandi at Serendipity Africa, Africa Travel Resource or one of the local tour operators in Tanzania such as Tanzania Serengeti Adventures to make an immediate enquiry. Something like this may be very productive:

Lake Manyara (1 or 2)
Ngorongoro Crater (2)
Serengeti (4)

I cannot imagine it costing more, even at the very best lodges/camps, than Botswana and your gameviewing would not suffer one bit. Plus, you will have your own safari vehicle and guide.

Personally speaking, although I really have more desire to see Botswana than Tanzania, I just could not wait that long. Ultimately, it will make me wait even longer, but at least I will get my high season Africa fix. I have nothing against Green Season/Wet Season, but I do think that such safaris should come at a discount as they do at nearly everywhere BUT Mombo.
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Nov 14th, 2005, 02:48 PM
  #5
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Roccco

I received a quote of $5890pp for the 7 nights including all flights in Botswana as well as the CPT to Maun and Maun to JHB flight.What do you think?
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Nov 14th, 2005, 03:52 PM
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safarinut,

This from www.e-gnu.com for January 10th - March 31st 2006:

Kings Pool - $570 pppns x 3 nights x 2 people = $3,420 USD

Jao - not listed but let's assume the same rate as KP - $570 pppns x 2 nights x 2 people = $2,280 USD

Mombo - $1,140 pppns x 2 nights x 2 people = $4,560 USD

Assuming about $750 pp for your air transfers, let's add another $1,500 USD

GRAND TOTAL = $11,760 USD / $5,880 pps

(I had to just double check your quote, and I think you are getting ripped off by $10 pp).

Personally, I cannot justify those prices for Mombo in February.

As a comparison, I am paying about $4750 for a 12 night privately guided safari and this includes my 2 nights at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge but not my other accomodations that start adding up quickly.

I am guessing that the Crater Lodge accounts for about $2,750 of this cost, meaning that I am getting the 12 nights of private vehicle & guide for $2,000 or about $167 per day.

I know precisely that I am paying the following for these camps:

Nomad Mobile Camps $948 per night ($474 pppns)

Lake Manyara Tree Camp $1148 per night ($574 pppns)

Therefore, although this is messy and hard to follow, I estimate that you could do the following itinerary for the following cost:

SEVEN NIGHT TANZANIA HIGH SEASON SAFARI

Manyara Tree Lodge (2) $2,300 USD
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge (2) $2,850 USD
Nomad Mobile Safari, Serengeti (3) $2,850 USD
Private Vehicle & Guide (7) $1,000 USD
Air for two from JNB - JRO - JNB and Seronera - JRO $2,000

GRAND TOTAL = $11,000 USD

Just an estimate...I am far from an East Africa expert and first and foremost you would need to find out if lodging is available.

As great as Mombo is, I do think that a high season visit to see the Great Migration would be at least the equal of Mombo. I did include two nights at Manyara Tree Lodge because by the looks of including Jao in your itinerary, it did look like you wanted luxury and strong birding. It was for this reason that I decided, myself, to stay 2 nights at Manyara Tree Lodge and Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. By booking at Crater Lodge and Manyara Tree Lodge, I was seeking that Southern African luxury and exclusivity that is, for the most part, hard to find in East Africa.

Also, I don't know how much trust you place in the Best In The World Lists, but Conde Nast Traveler just listed Crater Lodge as the #1 property in the world, displacing Singita for the first time in as long as I can remember...probably since 2001.

Here is the link for Nomad Tanzania. With only a maximum of eight guests at their seasonabl camps, you are guaranteed a very exclusive experience.

http://www.nomad-tanzania.com/our-camps-1.php

It's a tough decision and one that YOU ultimately must make, but knowing what I know from researching my own decision to go to Tanzania in late Feb/early March, I would say that if you can get into the appropriate accomodations in Tanzania, that it is not that tough of a decision to make. Save Mombo for August - October when the gameviewing will be at its best. Yes, you will pay more for Kings Pool and Jao during those times, but at least you will experience them at their reputed best.

Also, a final disclaimer...I have never been to Botswana OR Tanzania so what are you listening to me for???

Go to Wilderness Safaris website, if you have not already, and look up the reports from last February for each camp to see if you like what you see.

Here is Mombo's newsletter for February 2005:

http://www.wilderness-safaris.com/ne...wsitem_id=8656

Also, remember...private vehicle w/ guide or shared vehicle w/ guide. This is pure conjecture, but I would think that you would be more likely to get fellow visitors in February that don't know what the hell they are doing and just want to go to the very best lodges, perhaps not being the most sophisticated safari-goers out there and increasing the chance for conflict, but that may just be me being a bit paranoid about other guests.

Good luck.
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Nov 14th, 2005, 04:04 PM
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Safarinut,

Thanks for seeking my response to your thread. After writing and reading what I wrote, and completely believing it, I am more pumped up than ever about going to Tanzania.

I am reminded why I booked Tanzania in the first place instead of second-guessing myself, as I have been recently, for not waiting a few more months for Botswana & Zambia.

I think it is awesome that it is possible to go on year-round high season safaris, so, again, I am happy with my own decision to choose high season Tanzania over wet season Botswana.

Really, with CCAfrica and Nomad Tanzania, how could you go wrong in Tanzania?
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Nov 14th, 2005, 04:37 PM
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hi safarinut,
i have been to botswana the past 2 januarys. in terms of mombo, the game will be as good as anytime of the yr. i think february is a touch worse than january as the grass may be a little higher but mombo is incredible. i have yet to come across anyone that has been to mombo in the high season taht has seen more than me. u can search for my previous reports for sighting details. that being said, kings pool will definitely be a little worse than high season as the elephants wont be congregating and the vegetation thick. the price is also discounted for that. savuti would be the best camp in linyanti at this time of yr. i would go 2 nights savuti, 2 nights jao and 3 nights mombo and you would have a great vacation. i am going to mombo in sept next yr just to see the difference in environment not in the wet season but all im hoping for is game viewing to match my wet season visits. and teh camps are much less full in botswana so u get a more personalized visit. in 2004 at mombo, for several game drives my wife and i had a car to ourselves and most other drives only had one other person.

i havent been to east africa so maybe its the better choice for this time of but if it were up to me, Mombo would be my first choice.
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Nov 14th, 2005, 04:41 PM
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Tough one, especially paying premium prices for these camps in the off-season. (My understanding was that Mombo no longer has low season rates. If that's true, well...ouch.)

And here is the question: could you take a later vacation to these places? Are you more time-limited or $-limited? If this was the ONLY time you could go, AND your budget allows both this and later trips...why not? If you can re-arrange schedules to go later in the season, that would be preferred.

If you REALLY want to go and see Bots in this season, and this trip would crimp your ability to visit these camps again during the high-season, well how about going to Bots, but trying to do the cheapest trip possible?

I guess I'd love to see Botswana in the off-season, but unless I was absolutely positively sure that it was worth the lofty tariffs, I would keep my costs low. That way you can experience this time of year, and decide if you would travel there again during the off-season (and you can give us some tips about how good it is.)

Now East Africa...well now you've opened a huge discussion.
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Nov 14th, 2005, 04:43 PM
  #10
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Roccco:

Although we've had minor disagreements over a few issues in the past I highly value your opinion whether you have visited a place or not.You do a tremendous amount of research with every answer ''free of charge''.Whenever you start your new website don't ever forget your friends here at Fodors,don't know what this board will be without you.

I will also never forget your kind responses when I started posting here in 2003 when,at the time,I could hardly speak English!

I am starting a new practice in Toronto in May of 2006 and will be unable to go to Botswana during the 2006 high season thus making my decision even harder!

I will have to decide before the end of this week as even Mombo is filling up in low season at those ridiculous prices!

I am going to look into East Africa.

Thanks once again.
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Nov 14th, 2005, 05:27 PM
  #11
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Bigcountry:

Thanks for your advice.I have had Mombo fever for a year now and 3654 tylenols haven't changed a thing!

If I go to Botswana I will definately drop Kings Pool for Savute and book an extra night at Mombo.I am also considering a ''sleep out'' at Jao.

This Safari wasn't well planned as I always leave things last minute.This was initially planned as a winter holiday to get away from the snow and mainly focussing on a South African Safari in the SSGR.

ddgattina:
:the cheapest trip possible:
This would be taking advantage of a Wilderness safari special for RSA residents:

Details:
3 nights Maun/Okavango/Maun package, R5500.00 per person sharing.
3 nights Maun/Linyanti/Maun package, R5700.00 per person sharing.
INCLUDES: Return air transfers from Maun to the relevant camp, accommodation for three nights at any of the following camps: Chitabe, Chitabe Trails, Jacana, Kwetsani, Tubu Tree, Little Vumbura, Xigera, DumaTau or Savuti in twin-bedded tents on a full board basis. All game viewing activities, park entrance fees, laundry.
EXCLUDES: Drinks, items of a personal nature.

Its not really a dollar issue I just want to enjoy good game viewing in the time I have available.I know I will get this on my South African portion but if Bots is going to be a disappointment in terms of game I would rather extend my Mala Mala visit.

Tough ,tough decision [-o<
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Nov 14th, 2005, 09:26 PM
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safarinut,

Thanks for the kind words. I think it helps that I am a natural skeptic and I really like to investigate things before forming an opinion and especially before booking one of my own safaris. So, when I, myself, have finally given in to the charms of East Africa, on, this, my 5th safari, then I think it is safe for the rest of the Southern Africaphiles to also give it a shot. Likewise, to all of you Eastern Africaphiles, it is time for you to experience the magic of Southern Africa!

It really took me about three years to finally pull the trigger on East Africa, and I even tried to weasel my way out of it just last month, but fortunately Africa Travel Resource did not allow it, at least not unless I was willing to put my entire $3,000 deposit in their pocket.

The way that my air magically came together last week tells me that East Africa was meant to be. I could not figure out my air to save my life and then I found the best rates. About $1,075pp from Amsterdam direct to Kiliminjaro and returning from Zanzibar with a very short layover in Nairobi and an early evening arrival in Amsterdam, forcing me to spend at least one night. Then, the very next day while unsuccessfully checking for frequent flier seats to Buenos Aires, I just stumble upon ff seats that will take me in First & Business Class from LAX - Amsterdam - LAX. How's that to start and end a magnificent holiday? Best of all the seats they had required that I spend TWO nights in Amsterdam so at least I get a little time to inhale Amsterdam all in.

I am not going anywhere soon as I still have so much to learn from the rest of you. Plus Destiny Africa will take years before it is in a position to challenge my other businesses for the breadwinner position. I sincerely just want to get as many people to Zambia as I can in order to help the Zambian wildlife and people. I just see too many operators out there trying to PREVENT curious people from going to Zambia...anyone with experience going to Zambia probably has faced similar experiences. I mean on my first visit Africa Travel, a major tour operation out of Glendale, California, with big glossy brochures, ALA Micato and A&K, tried SO HARD to get me to go to either South Africa or Botswana. They were basically refusing to book me into Kafunta and when I persisted, they then suggested I switch to Robin Pope Safaris. After I told them I was taking my business elsewhere, they caved in and booked Kafunta for rack rate, but it was not the most pleasant experience, and I would never even consider calling them again. Unfortunately, they are not the only ones, and as a result the beauty of Zambia has largely gone undiscovered by many.

Anyway, I am way off on a tangent. Thanks again for the kind words and as I mentioned already, I owe much of what I learn from the rest of you, so it is a two way street.
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Nov 15th, 2005, 06:17 AM
  #13
 
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Roccco, off the subject, but we loved the Canal House in AMS when we stayed there years ago. Have a great trip!
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Nov 15th, 2005, 02:28 PM
  #14
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BOTSWANA BOOKED!!!

Well I have made my decision and booked Botswana.My safari will be 10 days in total at the following Camps:

Jao (2)
Mombo (3)
Singita Boulders(2)
Mala Mala Ratrays (3)

I will be the low season Botswana guineapig!

Thanks for all the advice.
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Nov 15th, 2005, 04:31 PM
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Safarinut,

Congratulations. I see you hedged your bet by limiting Botswana to 5 nights...nothing wrong with that.

With the lodges you selected you are guaranteed both luxury and amazing game viewing. Tanzania may be best enjoyed when you have more than seven nights and have sufficient time to plan your itinerary and get your desired lodges well in advance.

Have a great time!
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Nov 15th, 2005, 06:33 PM
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awesome,
cant wait to hear about your sightings at mombo. you'll have to say hi to tsile for me
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Nov 15th, 2005, 07:24 PM
  #17
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Roccco

Thanks,this was a really tough decision but I couln't put Botswana off until 2007.I spoke to Mark last night and he assured me that a bad day at Mombo is a good day anywhere else.East Africa as you say needs more time and planning but you have given me great tips for a future trip.

I needed the South African portion as a safeguard if everything else fails.

Thanks again for all your help.

Bigcountry:

I can hardly wait!I decided to skip Savuti and Kings Pool in order to make my South African portion work.Botswana in February is a gamble and limiting my time there to five days reduces my risk.Whatever happens at Mombo I will enjoy my water activities at Jao.I will also enjoy spectacular scenery at both camps.

Thanks for all your help.
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