Seeking Safari Advice

Old Jan 14th, 2020, 10:52 AM
  #21  
 
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Originally Posted by Songdoc View Post
I will look into designing my own trip. I have traveled extensively and have never taken a tour. But for some reason, the thought of DIY/build-your-own safari seems daunting -- and out of my price range. I guess I'll find out!
You can do this. From what you just said about looking at packaged tours and seeing things you don't want to do, you sound like you know what you do want to do. Make that list. Put it in an email with # of days, $ budget and what times of year you're thinking of and see what some safari planners come back with. I can't stress enough though, what you want to do really does play a big part in where you go. All my safaris were built around my interest in big cats or in one case gorillas. I haven't gone anywhere yet that isn't known for the big cat concentration. Everything else is gravy for me. Your list may be different but anyone working with you to build it with you is going to want to know what you want to get out of it.
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Old Jan 14th, 2020, 11:00 AM
  #22  
 
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I do think it's important to look at what else besides the safari experience is on your mind. Africa is a helluva long way from Hawaii, and many safari experiences are going to be very costly on a per-day basis, so unless you're looking for a short, expensive, safari-intensive trip, finding other activities or places to visit in Africa can make economic sense. It's also the case that, besides South Africa, intra-Africa air travel tends to be quite expensive, so stitching together experiences over several countries can start to get very pricey very fast.

This has been our reason for focusing on South Africa. Not only are there superb safari locations and facilities in several parts of the country, there are also many, many non-safari locations and experiences to be had, all fairly close to one another or reached inexpensively by road or air. There are numerous road trip routes - beaches, wine regions, stunning mountain scenery, deserts. wildflowers and gardens... all available at close range before, between, or after safari stays. The roads are good, rental cars cheap, there's terrific value in accommodation ranging from B&Bs to hotels and resorts, some of the best food we've had anywhere....

But it's not for everyone. You won't go gorilla trekking in SA, and there's no giant migrations like in Kenya or Tanzania. But there are penguins.
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Old Jan 14th, 2020, 11:27 AM
  #23  
 
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Conversely (and not be argumentative, but...) I'd add that I don't go that far to do things I can do at home: wineries, city stays, gardens, beaches. If I'm traveling nearly 24 hours and paying several thousands to do it, I'm going to do things I can't do at home or far cheaper destinations. Purely personal preference and there's only an answer that's right for you. But something else to keep in mind as songdoc formulates that list!
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Old Jan 15th, 2020, 12:49 PM
  #24  
 
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I've now been on 5 different safari trips to southern Africa: SA, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia (the latter only in and about the VFalls area including Livingstone) and one to Kenya/Tanzania.

Each of those trips save the last were booked by a safari planner in CapeTown and for none of them did I have to do any annoying figuring out..she does it all. Believe me, there in nowhere in the world I know of that has that magical combo of adventure, physical beauty, and excellent accommodations. Not only that, age is not really an issue; my brother-in-law recently celebrated his 86th birthday in Zimbabwe.

To get the most from your trip and not be overwhelmed by so many decisions, and there are a LOT, I would urge you to contact a planner who knows much more than we do about these areas and the particular camps lodges. Sometimes they can offer specials that we would not have access to.

I use SOUTHERN DESTINATIONS and I know that many others on this forum have used them as well and my enthusiasm for their planning talents are unbridled. In general, Botswana will be the most pricey for accommodations and involve some pricey flights as well. Zimbabwe offers some fabulous game viewing and during our approximately two weeks there, in four different camps, we saw perhaps two other vehicles, plus one or two when we left the reserve and went to a village near Hwange, and some very fair pricing. Not only does that country really needs the jobs,, but their guide training is said to be the most stringent and thorough in all of Africa.

ZIMBABWE SAFARI..Recommended!!!!!!

I've written (I think) two trip reports on this forum..maybe you will find something helpful within..
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Old Jan 15th, 2020, 06:02 PM
  #25  
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This is SOOO helpful. I've started checking out websites for safari planners.

PS. FYI, at the moment I am sitting on my lanai watching two whales spout, splash and breach beneath a rainbow -- with albatrosses swooping by!!!
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Old Jan 16th, 2020, 12:33 PM
  #26  
 
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If you decide to use Southern Destinations in Cape Town, which I highly recommend and have mentioned many times here, ask for Liesl Matthews. Honestly, with a planner you will have almost NO STRESS!!!!!

Now, how about moving over so I can sit in the lanai with you! I will talk your ear off about safaris!
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Old Jan 17th, 2020, 06:53 AM
  #27  
 
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Originally Posted by MyriamC View Post
I booked a trip to Namibia and Botswana for this September and I feel exactly as you do. I feel as nothing can top our Kenya trip way back in 1996.
This is why we returned to Kenya 2 years in a row! The Mara is that awesome. So many big cats too. We saw a kill both trips. Many close ones too. Not sure if I am correct but i have heard South African safaris are much more structured and camps are much larger. On ours, we left the camp around 6 am, had a bush breakfast around 9, and returned to camp around 1. Out again at 4 and back around 7. However, you can stay out all day if you want. Small tented facilites with max of 12 people, communal dining and great conversations.
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Old Jan 17th, 2020, 01:07 PM
  #28  
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I appreciate this info so much! I am mostly settled on Kenya (at least for now) and will be reaching out to some planners.
Your comments have helped me see that there's no reason to join a group tour that includes activities that don't interest me.

ekscrunchy: <Now, how about moving over so I can sit in the lanai with you! I will talk your ear off about safaris!>

Well, come on! It's a big lanai and the whales are jumping. ;-)
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Old Jan 18th, 2020, 05:46 AM
  #29  
 
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Originally Posted by plambers View Post
This is why we returned to Kenya 2 years in a row! The Mara is that awesome. So many big cats too. We saw a kill both trips. Many close ones too. Not sure if I am correct but i have heard South African safaris are much more structured and camps are much larger. On ours, we left the camp around 6 am, had a bush breakfast around 9, and returned to camp around 1. Out again at 4 and back around 7. However, you can stay out all day if you want. Small tented facilites with max of 12 people, communal dining and great conversations.
Don't know about South Africa but camps in Namibia and Botswana are usually small and the demand is much higher than the supply. We have booked our trip in June 2019 for September 2020 - that is 15 months in advance! - and various lodges were already fully booked. Anyway, our trip will be more than exciting because we will be driving ourselves (and take game drives offered by our lodges).
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Old Jan 18th, 2020, 06:17 AM
  #30  
 
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Originally Posted by plambers View Post
Not sure if I am correct but i have heard South African safaris are much more structured and camps are much larger. On ours, we left the camp around 6 am, had a bush breakfast around 9, and returned to camp around 1. Out again at 4 and back around 7. However, you can stay out all day if you want. Small tented facilites with max of 12 people, communal dining and great conversations.
All the lodges where we've stayed in SA had similar schedules, adjusted a little for time of year. In most cases there was a coffee and snack stop on the morning game drive, but the main breakfast was when we returned, usually around 10 AM or so. The evening game drive was similar - around 4 PM departure, 7 or 7:30 PM return, then dinner, with "sundowners" out on the drive someplace. But things were flexible depending on how the drives were going; it wasn't unusual to stay out longer both AM and PM if there was unusually good viewing. We never stayed at a tented camp so can't comment on size, but none of the places we stayed ever felt crowded; they were always quite intimate.
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Old Jan 18th, 2020, 09:56 AM
  #31  
 
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In my experience for photography and also the best chance at predators, going out before the sun comes up is critical. I will never, ever miss a morning a game drive. The guides usually hear the lions overnight and head in the direction they've heard them and you stumble across them as they return for their day-long nap. It's also amazing light right around sunrise. All the camps I've stayed at make a point to be out before sunrise and in for lunch around 12:30-1:00, having a nice mid-morning breakfast in a scenic spot. I've also had really good luck with all-day game drives, but found that after 5 all-day drives in a row I was getting tired! Ping at Enaidura Camp will have a full hot lunch brought out to you in the Reserve; he did that every day we were out, we were always tied up watching something and didn't want to leave. That also gives the camp staff a chance to come out and sit with us to see what we're watching. Many of them had never been on safari themselves and relished the chance to see the action.

I always say though that my best sleep is the post-lunch siesta on safari. I lay down under the guise of "reading my book" and always wake to the alarm I've set for 3:45 p.m. just in time to go out for the evening drive. If you think about it, if you're staying in tents, you're basically out in fresh air the entire time you're on safari, and that is just "exhausting"...LOL!
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Old Jan 18th, 2020, 10:22 AM
  #32  
 
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Just received this e-mail so will share:

https://go.pardot.com/webmail/384922...2dd7f9dc492d10
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Old Jan 18th, 2020, 10:23 AM
  #33  
 
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Also, please move over..you are taking up too much space on the lanai sofa! I can barely see the whales!
And where is my mai tai????? It's almost noon!!


I am being very nosy here but your screen name intrigues me' my partner is a huge aficionado of the American songbook....any link there with you? New book he is now reading dissects various seminal songs...he is also a Frank fanatic! Just curious...

Last edited by ekscrunchy; Jan 18th, 2020 at 10:25 AM.
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Old Jan 19th, 2020, 07:08 AM
  #34  
 
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Originally Posted by Gardyloo View Post
All the lodges where we've stayed in SA had similar schedules, adjusted a little for time of year. In most cases there was a coffee and snack stop on the morning game drive, but the main breakfast was when we returned, usually around 10 AM or so. The evening game drive was similar - around 4 PM departure, 7 or 7:30 PM return, then dinner, with "sundowners" out on the drive someplace. But things were flexible depending on how the drives were going; it wasn't unusual to stay out longer both AM and PM if there was unusually good viewing. We never stayed at a tented camp so can't comment on size, but none of the places we stayed ever felt crowded; they were always quite intimate.
in kenya, we never returned back to the camp for breakfast-we eat out in the bush. it was always so much fun. the back of the jeep holds chairs, tables,linens and wonderful silver bowls filled with great food! so what do you do after breakfast?stay at the lodge until 4? we would be out from 6-1 ish. thanks
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Old Jan 19th, 2020, 08:36 AM
  #35  
 
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Originally Posted by plambers View Post
...so what do you do after breakfast?stay at the lodge until 4? we would be out from 6-1 ish. thanks
Depended on the lodge. Usually they offered guided walks (with somebody carrying a rifle just in case) which we'd do, or, in a couple of places, we could just sit on the porch of our rondavel/cabin and watch the show, e.g. this from our room at the Chitwa Chitwa lodge in the Sabi Sand reserve -



Also naps, a swim if it was warm enough, talks with the other guests or the staff, downloading the morning's photos to my laptop, whatever. We were never bored. On one or two occasions we also drove out of the camp to one of the nearby villages to buy something or just look around.

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Old Jan 19th, 2020, 11:56 AM
  #36  
 
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One other thing I will throw out is you asked about the "right" time to go. All the experts will tell you that April is the 'long rains' in Kenya, the wildlife viewing isn't as good, and the weather is unpredictable. We went in April - because that's when we could go.

Our experience?
=> Low season meant low crowds - two of the camps we were the only people in camp, so it truly was extremely private!
=> We had one afternoon/evening of rain. One of my favorite photos was taken that afternoon as the lions were licking the water from each other (below)
=> Safari vehicles were not surrounding kills/cheetahs, etc. We had drives where we didn't see another vehicle.
=> Babies! We saw babies of every type: lions, elephants, giraffes, you name it. We saw them nursing, we saw a giraffe mom with the umbilical cord still attached.
=> It made costs more affordable. (always good with a family of 5!)

So... my point is.... listen to what people say and figure out what works for you.

(these photos were all taken in Kenya. Our travel agent - Julie, from Gamewatchers - recommended Kenya. We had an amazing 12 days and are now in the midst of planning our next Africa trip. I highly recommend her.)















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Old Jan 19th, 2020, 04:34 PM
  #37  
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These photos are killing me!

I appreciate the comment re: the viability of going during the "rainy" season. I don’t have any time constraints. With the exception of a few commitments I could go any month. I’m leaning toward August or September so that I could see the great migration. I’m not sure if that will be this year or next.

Ekscrunchy: my screen name is pretty literal. I’m a song doctor and a songwriting teacher. Songwriters bring me their sick songs, I make diagnoses, and I do surgery. ;-) I was a successful songwriter, but much more recently than the era of the Great American Songbook. I worked with top pop and country music artists around 20 years ago. But it is the older songs and artists that touch my heart and play in my car. I’m grateful that I got to see many of the greats, including seeing Old Blue Eyes perform at a private function. Part of my work includes dissecting hit songs -- but I focus on current pop and country hits.

Here comes the jealousy part …

For the past twenty years I have traveled to teach songwriting in Asia, Scandinavia, the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, the Caribbean, as well as through the U.S. I almost always add on vacation time, arriving early to adjust to the time change and jet lag before I work.

I have worked in the U.K. at least fifteen times, seeing a great deal of England, Ireland, N. Ireland, Wales and Scotland and adding on vacations to many countries on the continent. (I’ve gotten a $59 airfare from Dublin to Paris, $79 to Prague, and additional great deals to other countries while traveling within Europe.) Similarly, I have worked many times (and continue to do so) in Scandinavia, and I spent at least six weeks teaching my way through Australia and New Zealand eight times. The limitation is that I can only teach in places where English is spoken widely and songs are written in English.

The trip I am planning to Africa will be the FIRST TIME I have ever traveled without the entire cost of the trip being offset by my teaching.

Yes, I know how fortunate I am!
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Old Jan 20th, 2020, 12:47 PM
  #38  
 
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Fascinating!!! My partner is even more fascinated that you saw "Frank" in person. Please, please let us know if you ever come to NYC..dinner is on us!! YOu can talk about charts and labels and all the rest..
really I would love to meet you in person.
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Old Jan 20th, 2020, 02:42 PM
  #39  
 
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Originally Posted by Songdoc View Post
I’m grateful that I got to see many of the greats, including seeing Old Blue Eyes perform at a private function.
Originally Posted by ekscrunchy View Post
Fascinating!!! My partner is even more fascinated that you saw "Frank" in person.
Off topic fer sure, but in the early '60s my mom sang and played piano at a fairly well known seafood restaurant in the LA area (Tony's on the Pier at Redondo Beach.) One (late) night Sinatra came in with a small entourage. (He knew the restaurant's owner.) My mom was at the piano bar, playing her usual selection of piano-bar standards (including of course many of Sinatra's hits.) He came to the piano and told my mom he'd pay her $20 for every Italian song she could perform. After she picked herself up off the floor she started to play. She'd studied opera so had no problem coming home with a couple hundred bucks. He sang along with her on a couple of (more recent) numbers, to the delight of the people still in the restaurant. It's something of a family legend.

Last edited by Gardyloo; Jan 20th, 2020 at 02:46 PM.
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Old Jan 20th, 2020, 06:22 PM
  #40  
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Amyb: I read your trip report on safaritalk. OMG, your photos are INCREDIBLE. If you are not a pro photographer, you should be. I can hardly imagine seeing the things you described and photographed. Thank you SO much for that amazing report!

Gardyloo: WOW!!! What an incredible story about your mom!!! I love it!

and Ö

Ekscrunchy:

It would be awesome to meet you & your partner. I donít have any trips to NYC planned at the moment, but Iíll keep you posted when I do. You might just have to come to Kauai.

FYI, in the early '80s I was a publicist for some big-name celebs in Los Angeles. I coordinated a fund-raising gala to benefit St. Johnís Hospital. The entertainment was the 5th Dimension, Bob Newhart (who sat at my table), and the headliner Ö Frank. He was as good as I could have hoped. That night, I met almost every superstar from Hollywoodís golden age: Lucille Ball, Jimmy Stewart, Loretta Young, Cary Grant, Johnny Carson Ö

And back to our regularly scheduled topic Ö

At the moment Iím sorting through the complicated logistics of an April/May work trip to L.A. and Nashville, with a vacation stop in Zion Natíl Park. When I get that locked in Iíll start contacting safari planners. You have all helped me so much!
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