Sandibe and Nxabega Questions...


Oct 19th, 2004, 06:27 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2003
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Sandibe and Nxabega Questions...

I have found what I believe to be a great package that includes 3 nights at Matetsi Water Lodge (CC Africa, halfway between Victoria Falls and Kasane), 2 nights at Nxabega (CC Africa) and 3 nights at Sandibe (CC Africa).

While the price is $3,700, the best part about this deal is that the single supplement will be waived, meaning that I can either do this by myself while my wife is in the Western Cape OR I can take my mom with us and not be penalized with a single supplement charge.

The actual package is as follows:

1 night Intercontinental Airport Sun Hotel, Joburg

3 nights Matetsi Water Lodge

2 nights Nxabegi

3 nights Sandibe

Airfare from Joburg to Victoria Falls and from Maun to Botswana are not included in the price. The only problem I see with this itinerary is that I would not have a chance to use a free business class frequent flier flight, although it is my intent after this itinerary to send my wife and mother to Cape Town for a week, while I visit the Sabi Sand. They will be able to use the business class add-on for that particular flight, and if I want to be a schmuck, I can always use MY free busines class flight to Victoria Falls and leave the two of them behind in steerage class!

Although my mom travels frequently (at least one international trip per year and a couple regional trips), who knows if she will ever have a chance to return to Africa. That is why I really want to include Victoria Falls on her part of the itinerary, and Matetsi is the perfect place for it...far outside the city, yet only a one hour drive to Victoria Falls, all while offering two game drives per day.

Last time at Matetsi, in 2002, my wife and I were there in March. While the weather was great (basking sun, but not blistering heat), the bush was just too thick to get in quality gameviewing other than elephants, giraffes, and buffalo. In early September, however, I would expect to see lions, leopards and if I am very lucky, wild dog.

The best part is that Matetsi would surely be one of CC Africa's most expensive lodges if not for the political turmoil in Zimbabwe. Instead, however, it is only $250 per person per night, with no single supplement, at least not if you buy it through the right agent. The rooms are fabulous (not Singita, but definitely better than most places) and each feature their own private plunge pool, not 500' away from the mighty Zambezi River.

Anyway, moving onto the rest of my itinerary, I have seen that a lot of other Fodorites have visited Nxabega and Sandibe, and I have seen nothing but positive reports. I do have a couple questions, however, that I am asking in order to save me hours of scrolling through old reports.

1. Is the guide and tracker system used at Nxabega and Sandibe?

2. Are night game drives avaiable at either camp?

3. How are the vehicles? Land Rover or Land Cruiser? 6 seats or 9 seats?

4. How were the air transfers to/from each camp?

5. Were there many child guests in camp? What was your experience with the other guests? Were they mostly well traveled are were there many on their very first safari?

This is the itinerary I have in mind for my wife and mother (my itinerary is the same for the first 9 nights)

Intercontinental Airport Sun, 1 night
Matetsi Water Lodge, 3 nights
Nxabega, 2 nights
Sandibe, 3 nights
Twelve Apostles, Cape Town, 3 nights
Marine Hermanus, 2 nights

My final five nights will be as follows
A Room With A View, Joburg, 1 night
Simbambili, Sabi Sand, 4 nights

Then I will meet up with my wife and mother in Joburg for our flight probably back to London. I will likely only fly business class on the London - Joburg stretch because that is all the miles that I have for 3 people (plus, it is next to impossible to find dates all the way from Los Angeles).

While this is a shorter itinerary than I originally imagined, it will allow me to take along my mom and will also allow me to take another 7 - 10 vacation either earlier or later in the year (or a couple shorter trips).

Any input regarding Sandibe & Nxabega will be greatly appreciated.
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Oct 19th, 2004, 08:27 AM
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Roccco -

Sounds fabulous, as usual. I visited Sandibe this past August, but have not been to Nxabegi. So, unless otherwise noted, my answers apply to Sandibe.

1. Is the guide and tracker system used at Nxabega and Sandibe? Yes. Tracker sits on the seat mounted on the front of the vehicle. Unlike Sabi Sands, where the tracker generally stays in the seat regardless of the proximity of wildlife, the tracker at Sandibe gets into the vehicle if in proximity to buffalo herds, lions, etc.

2. Are night game drives avaiable at either camp? Night drives at Sandibe. Afternoon drive leaves after tea, drive stops for sundowners and continues for night drive. They have a special red cover for the spotlight so that they can shine it without injuring the animals eyes....

3. How are the vehicles? Land Rover or Land Cruiser? 6 seats or 9 seats? Vehicles are in good condition. 9 Seats - although we only had 4 guests in our car during our stay. Mekoro also in good condition - fiberglass. They had a removable canvas cover for the top of the car to put on during the worst heat/sun of the day. Did not block any game viewing and didn't have it on for the night drives. They also asked us if we wanted it before putting it on.

4. How were the air transfers to/from each camp? Transfered by car from Victoria Falls to Kasane. Kasane to Sandibe was about 1 1/4 hours on a small bush plane. I believe it seated 6, but maybe 8. There were just 2 of us & the pilot. They didn't weigh our luggage, but there were others there that they did - I think the visual check told them whether or not to do so. Kasane is a very small airport - not a lot there. Transfer from Sandibe to Maun was 15 minutes. Larger plane, more passengers (6?).

5. Were there many child guests in camp? Most of the guests were adults. One of the nights we were there there was a French family of 5, with teenage children. They had their own vehicle & did not go on the drives with the rest of us. Otherwise there weren't any children. I understand that was the case at Nxabegi as well. Although I believe that both camps accept kids (over 12?) What was your experience with the other guests? Very pleasant. Lots of Europeans, a few Americans. Several honeymooners, but not all. Were they mostly well traveled are were there many on their very first safari? Most of the people we spoke to were very well travelled, but on their first safari. There were a few that had been on previous safaris in other parts of Africa.

One couple at Sandibe had just arrived from Nxabegi. They had said that it was more water, less land. Where Sandibe was more land, less water.... There was more water arriving daily though so I imagine that the balance may shift due to water levels.
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Oct 19th, 2004, 05:42 PM
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The vehicles were Toyota Landcruisers with specially outfitted undercarriages as they go off road most of the time (particularly at Sandibe). I guess they were nine passenger but the most in our experience were three couples at Nxabega. I'd opt out of the mokoro morning ride at Sandibe if you can, since you'll have been at Nxabega before. Maybe being on your own you can do that fairly easily. You'll fly over Chief's Island to get to Nxabega -- I'd assume the transfer from Matetsi to Nxabega will be a longish one. But you've seen my photos, I think, so you'll agree that watching the delta roll out beneath you is intriguing. I loved the little planes. We enjoyed talking with the pilots, too. The tracker/guide arrangement is wonderful. Rams at Nxabega was really a great guide, but Boyce at Sandibe was exceptional.

The other folks we rode with were all more experienced safari people...British, Swiss, Dutch, German and Argentinian. We finally ran into another American couple (with adult daughter) at Nxabega. No kids, but we were there in May while school was in session. The chef at Nxabega was astounding. The food at Sandibe was also quite good. All the fresh local We had night drives at both camps.

I'm jealous. I'd go back in a heartbeat.
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Oct 19th, 2004, 10:45 PM
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Thanks for the feedback. Hopefully, by going in early September, there will be no children.

My challenge is to fit in all my gameviewing without any full moons, yet late enough in the season when it has started to dry out (and the bush thins out), yet not so late in the season that it will be miserably hot.

The reason for avoiding full moons is because the predators are unable to hunt during full moon or probably within a day or two before or after, as it is too bright and the prey can see them coming.

With full moon being on August 19th, September 18, and probably October 18th, I think I will opt for about a September 03rd start, as hopefully by then all the children/teens will be returning home for school, it will not yet be too hot, and I will enjoy Matetsi right when the moon is at its dullest. If I stick to a 14 night itinerary, I will still have my final game drive at Simbambili three nights before the full moon.

The only potential problem I see with this trip is that I think that 3 nights at Sandibe may be insufficient. Perhaps a fourth night is warranted and will just put it over the top. So, I may want to start a day earlier and add that final night in Sandibe.

I am starting to get itchy, like it is time to book this thing, but I am not yet able to do so. Hopefully within a month or so, I will be ready to do so, and then I will be ready to make false promises to myself of running a marathon or something prior to the trip!

By the way, I do not envy tour operators/travel agents. Just for entertainment, I put together the itinerary for this trip, as if I was quoting it to my wife, and I am not kidding when I say that I have run marathons in less time than it took me to put it altogether. It was a beautiful final product, but at 32 pages long (overkill on the pictures and information about each hotel / lodge and the activities in each area), I don't think that I would have sold the deal to anybody. Worst of all, in the end, about 1/4 of my pictures did not come out at all, but instead were big empty spaces with the little "x" in the upper right hand corner. It is hard to imagine that a tour operator must go through this with each quote, even if it only takes 15 - 20 minutes with each quote.

However, in my line of work, it is not unusual to spend a similar amount of time and often more on a quotation, yet I think that I have a much higher success rate with a better margin, so I will not quit my day job just yet!
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