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Seeking Itinerary Routing for 3 week SA Trip

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Apr 20th, 2014, 03:43 PM
  #1
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Seeking Itinerary Routing for 3 week SA Trip

We now know where in SA we want to go and when (mid August to early September 2015) but need advice on best routing.
We want to stay at 2 to 3 private reserves (3 nts each) bordering Kruger (hopefully, each with different terrain and ambience), we want to stay a few days in the northern-central Drakensbergs for enjoying the scenery and easy hiking, we want to stay at one game lodge in KZN (now debating among Mfuzi Falls, Leopard Mountain, Elephant Rock), want some beach and cultural explorations in/around Durban, want scenic drives on our routes. Will probably fly in and out of JoBerg (and want a day or two to adjust at a cushy place upon arrival) but can fly to an airport near Kruger airport to rent a car or fly to Durban to rent a car or rent a car at JNB and drive to wherever. We want an easy pace with no more than 3-4 hours driving per day.
All suggestions welcome.
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Apr 21st, 2014, 12:54 PM
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You can fly directly to private reserves around Kruger. Then you can arrange for a driver to HDS to get a flight to Durban or Richards Bay. Arrange for a driver or car there. Just remember you don't need your car any time you are in a full service safari camp so you are paying for a car you won't be using. For our last trip, it made sense to rent a car.

Google maps is actually pretty good with times and distances in S Africa. I planned a three week trip and without getting into the unexpected construction traffic and horrible potholes on some roads, was pretty good. Going from the Kruger area to KZN we stayed one night in Mbabane, Swaziland. (we loved Zululand Rhino Reserve where Leopard Mountain is - and they have added lions since we were there in 2011. Highly recommended, especially for the price. But few ellies, so consider Tembe Elephant Park!!)

I knew exactly where we wanted to go and then used google maps to make sure the drives were doable. Printed maps for every day's drive and filled a binder with all the maps, reservations, car rental agreements and travel documents. It worked out great. You need to be prepared for the unexpected, and have everything you need - and don't expect to always have cell service (although it was unexpectedly good!!).

Have fun planning - you'll love it!!
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Apr 21st, 2014, 12:57 PM
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Oops - consider St Lucia instead of Durban, and Thonga and Rocktail for an exclusive beach stay. I think Leopard Mtn has a combo special with Thonga (it might be Rhino River Lodge).
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Apr 21st, 2014, 06:49 PM
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If we fly from JoBerg to HDS then how to do get to the camps we want to stay at in Mala Mala, then the camp we want to stay at in Klaseie Private Nature Reserve and then the camp we want to stay at in Sabi Sands if you say we don't need a car??

Then after Kruger area do we tour the northern Drakensbergs and then Leopard Mountain or visa versa? Christabir I like the idea of combining Leopard Mountain with their sister camp on the beach at Thonga. Nothing on their website indicates whether they provide transport.
We might want to end the trip with the beach stay and fly home from Durban if possible.
I take it the drive from Joberg to Kruger area isn't so great. Still don't get where to fit in several days in the northern and central Drakensbergs?
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Apr 21st, 2014, 09:59 PM
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The camps can arrange transfers, or if you use a safari agent they can arrange them. Sometimes the drives between camps are much longer than they look - there are mostly dirt roads between them and are not direct, and some are laughably awful so a high clearance might be necessary. So make sure to ask lots of questions when booking. You're doing Mala Mala? There's a daily charter. Klasserie might be farther than you think - make sure you can do the AM game drive at one and the afternoon game drive at the next on moving day. Lots of lost value if you miss game drives, especially at the higher end.

I'm a safari girl, plus golf for my husband, so the Drakensbergs are not on my radar. You could rent a car at HDS (there's an avis) or Durban (or the much more convenient to KZN Richards Bay) and return it to any of the others. They don't charge large fees like they do in the US to return to a different airport. The easiest time for Drakensbergs is probably between the Kruger region and KZN, or rent car in KZN and drive to mtns. Check with Leopard Mtn about transfers. They'll do it. Just remember if you rent a car, it is very expensive to rent an automatic and they drive on the "other side" is S Africa. It's tons of fun to drive on the wrong side of the car with a manual transmission - and on the wrong side of the road!! And surprise! There are speed bumps (well marked, but still!) on the secondary highways. The drive between JNB and Kruger is fine - and The Panoramic Route on the way is spectacular. It's just too far to drive after a flight to make the afternoon game drive!! Or in our case, the gate closing times at Kruger.

Since Mala Mala is the most luxurious place you are visiting, consider doing it last - or at least last of the Kruger section. Check a map - you'll want to do Klasserie, then Sabi Sand, then Mala Mala (or vice versa) so you don't spend too much time in a car. Mala Mala's sister camp, Mashatu, is my favorite place. Look into it - they do a nice combo with charter flights between camps. It's on the website under packages or combos (something like that). Nice trip - Mashatu, Mala Mala, Leopard Mtn, Thonga. (I am planning a very similar, but much less pricey, trip for this June!!)

I am in the process of arranging a rhino conservation outing at Zululand Rhino Reserve (Leopard Mtn's reserve) in June. We are very excited and hope we can work it out. It entails darting a rhino, notching his/her ear, taking DNA and checking out the rhino. They hope to be able to protect them better with the info. It's the least we can do. I'm a big fan of ZRR - it's a WWF rhino expansion project with private land owners. Really well done. And they recently got lions! Check out Leopard Mtn's Facebook page for some spectacular photos of the cubs. Rhino River Lodge Facebook page, too.

The planning is half the fun. Then planning the return trips are even better!!
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Apr 22nd, 2014, 07:18 AM
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A few years ago we did a similar trip - Joburg - Sabi Sand - Phinda - St Lucia - Cathedral Peak - Addo - Garden Route - Cape Town - over around two weeks. Quite a lot of driving, but an amazing diversity of landscapes. Here's the route (roughly - some road construction/closures required a couple of pretty long detours) - http://goo.gl/maps/aNXcg

Your route wouldn't include the Garden Route or so it sounds, but traveling when you are I'd personally make the effort to include the west coast a couple of hours north of Cape Town if at all possible, even for a couple of days. The spring wildflowers around Paternoster and West Coast National Park are a wonder of the world.
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Apr 24th, 2014, 06:52 AM
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Gardyloo, we did a terrific tour of the Garden Route and the Winelands when we visited Capetown a few years ago. Oh Christabir, your driving replies are sobering. I think you are saying that after our final morning game drive at one Kruger area lodge we'd have hustle safely on bad roads to get to our next lodge in the next reserve in time for the pm game drive at the next lodge (say in four hours) and this could be iffy. In my mind, charter flights and hired drivers are very expensive compared to self drive rental cars but maybe that's a wrong impression or just worth the cost. Do tell.
So one possible routing is to fly into JNB, rest two days, fly to Kruger area airport, use lodge transfers from lodge to lodge, then rent a car to spend few days in Drakensbergs for scenery, then drive to KZN, stay at Leopard Mtn L, end trip at Thonga to relax and fly home from Durban (if we can use ff miles to fly Emirates, otherwise fly back to Joberg & home to LAX)
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Apr 24th, 2014, 02:45 PM
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How many lodges? Please stay a minimum of three nights per camp - otherwise you always feel like you're packing up and leaving again and don't really get the feel of the camps. You only have three weeks - don't try to "do it all".

Check with the camps about drive times between them. Each one is different, and conditions change often. They can also give you pricing for charters and transfers. Then decide.

If you decide to drive, you may as well drive from Joberg (one night is enough to recover from flight) and spend a day on the Panoramic Route since you seem to enjoy scenery. Then you have an easy drive to the Kruger area.
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Apr 25th, 2014, 07:43 AM
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I think we can recover in one night near airport, then fly to HDS. Take local transfer service to nThanbo (3 nts), get transfer to next camp (now thinking of Tinswalo for 3 nts, less traveled reserve), then transfer to last Kruger area camp. Here is my big dilemma: Kings Camp (meets most requirements but seems a bit too formal), Lion Sands River CAmp, Mala Mala (best game area, lodging OK except for Rattrays and not sure worth the cost),
don't know why Londolozi camps don't ring my bell, Dulini.
Then 3 nights Drakensbergs, 3 nights Leopard Mtn Lodge, 3 nts Thonga, may need to overnight in Durban then fly Durban to JoBerg (1 nt), so that gets us to about 3 weeks. Is there a way to stay at a farm overnight in the Kruger area between the safari lodges? So far your suggestions have been golden. Can anyone recommend a really good regional map for Kruger and KZN?
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Apr 25th, 2014, 08:08 PM
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So you'll go from nThambo that has 5 beds to Tintswalo that has what, 30? 40? Sounds awful. Why not Africa on Foot or Umkumbe (nThambo's sister camps)? Both get nice reviews. Then splurge on Mala Mala or Kings (I have heard all great things about both except for the tracker, or lack of, at MM. There is also something shady going on about reconciliation for stealing land from Africans during apartheid at MM.) You won't know "worth the cost" until you go. There are some really pricey camps we've been that were "worth" more and inexpensive places you'd have to pay me to go back, and vice versa. And others have loved places I haven't liked so much, and vice versa.

Have you looked into Kirkman's. It may fit your needs, too.

Why a farm between camps? If you feel you may get bored on safari for so long, ask the camp if there are any day trips they recommend to break things up a little (and without a car, what can you do for a day at a farm?) Contact the camps ahead of time to possibly arrange for a walking safari - some do. I want to someday do an overnight one!! Zululand Rhino Reserve has a couple of camps that do that!!

Why not fly Richards Bay to Joberg? Much closer to Thonga, and if you need an extra overnight, you can stay in St Lucia, a nice town with lots to do - hippo/croc safari is highly recommended!

When you get home, please let us know how Leopard Mtn is. The guy that owns it sounds like a gem, and the lodge looks beautiful with a great view. Zululand Rhino Reserve is a special place. (But not a lot of elephants.) We are going to ZRR in June, but staying at Rhino River Lodge, hopefully doing the rhino conservation outing!!

It's over a year before you go! You have some time - things do fill up quickly, but you have a couple of months before you need to think about that. Take a little time before you book - you can't change a lot after you book without paying penalties. And as soon as you pay, if you are getting travel and/or medical insurance, buy it right away so they cover pre-existing conditions (almost anything is pre-existing). I always get medical/evac ($100,000/$1 million pp) when we travel, as our health insurance ends at the border!
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Apr 26th, 2014, 03:33 PM
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Where did you see Tinswalo housed 30+? 2 sites I checked show 5 suites, 1 honeymoon suite, 1 2 berm suite. I try to stay away from any camp that houses more than 18 people in all.
I did look at Kirkman's but wasn't wowed. I will keep pouring over the offerings in Timbavati, Londolozi and Mala Mala (and check on this issue during apartheid, potentially a deal breaker).
Good ideas on Richaard's Bay and day trips.

I don't know what time of year each of you went but our trip is mid August to early September. I am now wondering if we should reverse our order and go to KZN and Drakensbergs first, leaving Kruger area for end of August and September. My reasoning is that most family groups will have to return home to get kids back to school. Its not that we dislike kids but find we often have more in common with travelers over fifty (we're 68 and 76). Is it true about Kruger camps having more families in August than September?

As far as travel ins. Yes, I buy it the second I pay a dollar on a trip. Also familiar with evac stuff. We've done safaris in Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia over 25 years. Keep the good info flowing, I'm eating it up.
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Apr 26th, 2014, 07:24 PM
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Sorry - got Tintswalo and Kapama mixed up in my head. Scratch that.

This just reached me - I can't believe the Rattrays got so much money for the property - but don't let it change your mind about Mala Mala. Unfortunately, so many properties were "stolen" from Africans during that time. We have tried to visit camps that Africans now have a community stake in - Pafuri, Tembe. We'll see what happens with Mala Mala - hopefully good will come.

http://www.timeslive.co.za/politics/...a-game-reserve

http://www.politicsweb.co.za/politic...5605&sn=Detail

We feel the same about kids - but we had a great experience with two little boys at Tembe. So a couple of game drives with kids might actually be fun for you (but just a couple!!). But if it's important, I would just avoid the places that don't allow kids. Or if you are staying at reasonable cost, arrange for a private vehicle. I have actually found in most of our travels that there are very few kids from mid August on. Lots of schools and college start in August.

Londolozi and Singita look very nice (just not my style), but if I'm going to spend that much, I'll spend it in Botswana. Have you looked into Arathusa? We liked it a lot. Loved having the waterhole at camp. Cheetah Plains? Just stay in the eastern part of Sabi Sand - the western part is expensive and higher people density. I would definitely try for one camp in Sabi Sand - the game viewing really is great. You could change it up a bit and add the time in KZN and splurge on Phinda. I hear nothing but great things! And it's close enough for some nice day trips between game drives - about an hour closer to the ocean than Leopard Mtn.

www.sabisand.co.za for all camps in SS, including a map.

I messed up on my frequent flier miles and we don't have enough, so unless we win lotto or find cash in the couch cushions, it looks like S Africa is a no go in June. Bummer!! We are still going to try, if I can get a "cheap" flight. Holding thumbs.
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Apr 27th, 2014, 08:58 PM
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Sure hope you can figure something out on your miles. If you use United, the new Explorer card is offering 30K bonus miles if you charge $1K within first 3 months. We do want a beach stay at the end. Thonga says you need a 4 x 4 to get there (know of any other beach places???); maybe Leopard Mtn Lodge does transfers. Also, I'm going to check with Leopard Mtn Lodge because they mention facilities for conferences for up to 30. Don't think I'd like to share my safari experience with a group of good ole boys on an incentive trip.
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Apr 28th, 2014, 07:05 AM
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I messed up on my frequent flier miles and we don't have enough...

This is enough of a hobby of mine that I just attended the "Frequent Traveler University" session held here in Seattle, conducted by several of the acknowledged gurus in the field (Randy Peterson, Gary Leff et al). http://ftuniversity.com/ So just a couple of questions -

Which airline/credit card program are your miles with;
What class of service are you looking for (coach, business);
How short are you (not prying, just trying to gauge.)

Help might be forthcoming.
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Apr 28th, 2014, 12:46 PM
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Thanks Gardyloo. It's kind of a part time job for me, too. I didn't book the flights (delta) early enough and now they are 125,000 miles instead of 100,000. I have just enough, husband is just under 90,000 (cheap enough to transfer or buy 12,000, too many needed at 125,000). I will check every day - seats open up as they get closer, generally. We have enough AA and BA miles for coach, but the fees are so high we like to use them for biz, so that is not an option this year. We don't have any leeway on dates, making it tougher. We don't have a lot of vacation budget this year, so we're hoping to just fly for less than $1000 and stay in national parks and inexpensive reserves for a very affordable trip (cheaper than a US national park vacation!) It still may happen. Any help would be appreciated.
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Apr 30th, 2014, 08:13 AM
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When trying to use Delta bc miles (last year) to go to Israel and Petra this May, we called from 12:01 when they first loaded seats for weeks. Finally we bit the bullet and contacted Bookmyaward. So if you have to wait and use business class for next year consider them. It costs a couple hundred but they found us seats and routes we never could get because of their tremendous database.
I'll let you know as things come together.
As of now, believe it or not, I am leaning toward Londolozi Founders in Sabi Sands. Never say never.
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