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Short (7 days of less) four/five star level family safari


Aug 15th, 2015, 03:20 PM
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Short (7 days of less) four/five star level family safari

My family (myself, husband and three kids ages 13, 10 and 7) would like to go on an African safari in July 2016. We can't get away from work for long, so would like a 6 or 7 day safari. We are interested in Tanzania, Kenya or South Africa and would prefer a private safari. We like to stay in very nice properties (four or five star -- in the US, Hyatt or Four Seasons type properties). Does anyone have any suggestions as to great safari companies that might be able to assist us? My friends have enjoyed African Dreams Safaris and Micato, although I don't know if either company does safaris as short as 6/7 days.

Thanks in advance!
ematthews6 is offline  
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Aug 15th, 2015, 07:50 PM
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You don't need a group tour. It's just flying from JNB to a lodge, an easy road or flying transfer to another lodge, fly back to JNB. 6/7 nights is very short, so I suggest high end lodges in Sabi Sand that cater to kids. Check out Singita and Londolozi. Mala Mala might allow young kids. Also consider Djuma - you get the whole place to yourselves at a surprisingly great rate!! Really - check out the website - everything included for private groups. Agents won't suggest it, so if you want that lodge, you need to bring it up.

Gomo Gomo is another lodge that you might not consider because it is affordable. But you get a great experience at a good rate and caters to kids.

Contact www.ClassicAfrica.com for an excellent agent. They arranged two flawless safaris for me and can arrange anything you want.
christabir is offline  
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Aug 15th, 2015, 08:55 PM
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first of all, we did a budget trip and felt like most of the places we stayed were like US 4 star places. they really have it together at the private reserves! not everyone takes kids... so you will need to ask about that. in timbavati, we stayed at kambaku lodge. they do take kids. not 5 star, but the rooms were luxurious, beds amazing, and food very good and presented in a beautiful way. with 5 of you, i imagine you would have the safari vehicle virtually to yourself.

though we were on a budget, we absolutely loved wildwings safaris... they arranged everything, and we never had to think about a thing. every transfer was seamless ("a driver will collect you in the lobby at 9 am"...) i do believe they offer every level of lodging... you just need to let them know exactly what you want. i must have written to them 30 times, and each time they would answer the next day.

it's all about the location and the safari guides... they make all the difference.
best trip ever!!!
kawh is offline  
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Aug 16th, 2015, 06:04 AM
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All 3 areas would be great & you could even consider Botswana. I would suggest the &beyond lodges for East Africa or Botswana. In SA it's bit different as you would fly to an airport closest to your lodge in the Kruger area, previous lodges mentioned in the above posts are really great and the top end of the budget but there are many options that are great. You could either choose 2 lodges in the Kruger area or even combine Kruger and Phinda in Natal or Tswalu in the Kalahari to get different experiences, depends on how much moving around you want to do.
Lea - Love Africa Travel
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Aug 16th, 2015, 07:45 AM
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We used Easy Travel for a private safari in Tanzania and couldn't have been more pleased. They will tailor an itinerary to your preferences and time frame. They honored all our requests and made sure that we had a trip that was exactly what we wanted. If you can get Emmilian as your guide, you will be lucky.
I'd suggest one night at (the elephants!) Tarangire, one night at the Ngorongoro Crater (do a 6 hour game drive starting at dawn), and the rest in the Serengeti.
abram is offline  
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Aug 16th, 2015, 09:54 AM
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For that time of year, I think Tanzania would fit the bill, and I can highly recommend Africa Dream Safaris, that you mentioned in your post. We are taking our second trip with them in Feb. 2016, having traveled in July previously. We worked with Michael Wishner. I'm sure he could work with your time constraints, and you can save time by flying into the Serengeti where their vehicle and driver will meet you. All the accommodations we used there are in the deluxe or luxury category--quite nice and very good service.

I've been to South Africa too, and although travel is easier there, it isn't the same wilderness experience you get in Tanzania with large herds, although you can potentially get closer to some animals. Note, I haven't been to the Okavango Delta to compare, but for a group of your size, the cost of light airplane flights there would be substantial.

Have a great time.
traveler318 is offline  
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Aug 16th, 2015, 02:20 PM
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Good Afternoon Emathews6,

What a fantastic idea to take your family on safari even if it is short. For kids the age of your kids they will really love it. I took my kids on safari when they were 10 & 12 (South Africa and Botswana) and again at age 13 & 15 (South Africa and Zimbabwe). Of course, I have been to Africa 36 other times without them ha ha! The kids will be “eyes wide open”.

I have probably said 100+ times on various forums that 6-9 nights at safari lodges is enough for a first time safari. Many kids will actually ask to sleep in on morning #10! Going to two lodges for three nights each in distinct and unique ecosystems is a great way to go about this and you can do it!

I think you should work with an agent (or two) that can provide you with an East Africa option and a Southern Africa option so you can compare them side-by-side. The convenient thing about South Africa is that you can fly on SAA from JFK-Jo’burg/JNB every morning and the flight lands in Jo’burg in the morning so you can be on safari that afternoon. That is pretty time efficient. For Kenya or Tanzania you will likely land in the evening on day 2 or the morning of day 3.

I don’t think you should go to Tanzania. If you go in July, the numerical majority of the zebra and wildebeest that make up the great migrations will be on the Masai Mara in Kenya based on historical patterns. For the Kenya option, I would go as late as possible during your travel window and even push into August if you can. This will insure you have the best chance of seeing wildebeest crossing the Mara & Talek River. This is a sub-activity of the great migrations that only takes place there and in the far north of Tanzania in Aug-Sep.

I recommend staying at a Mara safari lodge on a private conservancy adjacent to the Mara. Almost all the private lodges include a full day picnic into the reserve to see the migrations crossing the Mara or Talek River on one of your three days. Check out Mara Plains if you are looking for luxury. For the four star choice you could do a family tent and normal tent at Naboisho. These two properties are in the Mara ecosystem on private land and would include a full day picnic into the reserve. I would choose a property on Lewa Downs or in Meru National Park to combine with the Mara. The downside of Meru on a short trip is that you have to connect through Nairobi on the way from Meru to the Mara in the middle of your trip but you could also charter a private plane. Given the size of your family this would be not much more than shared light air flights. Check out Elsa’s Kopje in Meru. In Lewa Downs I think Lewa House is great for kids or Lewa Wilderness Camp would be #2.

For Southern Africa, I recommend sticking within South Africa or possible Mashatu over the border just because of the flight times and your short trip. If you do the timing right, you can go to MalaMala Main Camp and Mashatu connecting each of them with a twice weekly flight on the Malatu Express. At a higher price point you could combine a family room at Singita Boulders or Ebony with a half-use of the Tarkuni suite at Tswalu or one normal suite at Tswalu and a Tswalu Motse triple for the kids.

Anyway, the Kenya trip would require nine days door to door (leave on Friday from USA and return on Sunday). The South Africa trip could have you leave on Saturday and come back on Sunday but you may be throwing away some specials like stay4pay3 or stay4/fly-free at Tswalu depending on the time you go in the summer.

I always recommend booking a safari with an independent safari operator (no affiliation with a lodge chain) in your home country (ones in African counties may favor their own). The RIGHT US agency should be the cheapest way to book as there are about 40 independent safari agencies in the US that I know of that work directly with the lodges mentioned above and sell for the same price (or less) as listed on the lodge’s websites. Christabir mentioned Classic Africa above. They are an excellent company located in Connecticut USA. Although technically a competitor of mine, I have a great deal of respect for Pierre Faber, the owner, and I consider him a good friend. He only plans South African safaris and he does GREAT work.

&Beyond is a lodge chain and they were mentioned above. Although they have good lodges, you would be better off booking them through Pierre or some other independent agency. When you book direct with a lodge chain I am sure you can imagine which lodges they “recommend” and it does not save you any money.

Good luck.

Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond
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Aug 16th, 2015, 04:58 PM
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6 /7 Nights Safari in Kenya is quite sufficient. Choose two locations rich both in wildlife, culture and landscapes, you will thoroughly enjoy, my thoughts being centered towards Laikipia/Samburu and Maasai mara. Kenya and Tanzania to me appear to be more authentic safari destinations as opposed to Kruger. During that time of the year Kenya has the upper hand as the great wildebeest migration will be on the Maasai mara side of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. Yes, use independent agency as booking directly with the lodges can be a little bit too costly comparatively.
For the tour operator, www.swiftsafari.com , I traveled with them early this year and had a good time. Will be taking another safari with them in Feb. 2016.

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Aug 16th, 2015, 05:19 PM
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I would suggest the Topi House in the Mara in Kenya. It's a private 3 bedroom house with a staff of 5 for your private party. The guides (Fred and Mpatinga) are outstanding as are the game drives. The chef prepares nice meals and all of the staff is very personable. My two daughters and I stayed there for 6 or 7 nights last year and had a most memorable trip. http://marabushhouses.asiliaafrica.c...opi-House.aspx

If you are thinking of a camp with luxury tents, you might consider Mara Plains or Mara Toto. I stayed at Mara Toto for 8 or 9 days in 2013 and it's in the same area as Topi House so the game viewing is excellent. The guides there are also very good - Tirian and Ping are the two I'm familiar with.

Both of these, Asilia Africa and Great Plains, can make 100% of your travel arrangements including meet and greet at the airport, transportation to your hotel on arrival in Nairobi, any sightseeing you might want to do in Nairobi (Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage or Giraffe Manor), etc. They take care of 100% of the details for while you are in Kenya.

There are reviews on trip advisor.

Have fun!
sundowner is offline  
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Aug 23rd, 2015, 09:14 AM
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Hi ematthews6!

Sounds like a great family trip in the making! It's such a magical experience to see the bush through the eyes of your children!

Here are some ideas..

Have you checked out Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp in Masai Mara? It's really a beautiful camp, one in the AndBeyond portfolio. I've been there with my own family, as well as neighboring Bateleur Camp. Very family friendly! Since it's located on a private concession on the edge of the Oloololo escarpment, you will be able to enjoy some off road game viewing. In the National Park, you are limited to stay on the roads while on game drives. I would reserve a private jeep too for your family too. The hot air balloon ride is spectacular. We also spent a half day with a Masai tribe which my children loved. They showed them how they build homes, tend to the animals, herd, make crafts, what they eat etc. Very eye-opening! The leader of the tribe had 19 wives! I have incredible pictures from that trip. If you are interested, you can email me and I'll send you the link. For privacy reasons, I don't post the link publicly.

Besides having family friendly properties, AndBeyond offers great long stay rates at their lodges/camps. You could consider doing a 6 night stay at Kichwa Tembo or split your safari time between Kichwa Tembo and Ngorongoro Crater Lodge in Tanzania, another beautiful AB property. AndBeyond also offers children rates at 50% off the adult rate.

On the front end of your trip, you could do an overnight (or up to 2 nights) at Giraffe Manor before heading out to the Masai. It's a great place for children because they'll get an up-close- personal with giraffes - they even stick their heads in at breakfast! There's also David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi which makes for a nice experience. I have also stayed at House of Waine outside of Nairobi which serves as a great one night transition to the bush. Beautiful place. Very child friendly.

As for a South African safari, I would highly recommend you pick a family friendly lodge in Sabi Sands. Some lodges that I highly recommend would be Londolozi Varty Camp, Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge, MalaMala Main Camp (as well as their combo trip with Mashatu in Botswana), Singita Boulders or Ebony, and Kirkman's Kamp. Again, private jeep would be highly recommended, if not required by the establishment. These would all be nice picks. In the Timbavati Private Reserve, also in South Africa, I think Ngala Safari Lodge (also an AndBeyond property) would be a great family friendly choice. They have a 2 bedroom family suite which is beautiful and would serve you well. All these are in the 4-5 * luxury category and are family friendly.

Flying to these lodges is quite easy and this would prove advantageous since you said your stay is kept to 6-7 days. If at all possible, I'd strategize your flying logistics for when you land in JNB so that you can fly out of there to the bush that day which would get you there in time for afternoon game drive. Ideally, you don't want to overnight at a JNB hotel and lose a day out in the bush. So I would manage that tightly.

Regardless of what country you decide upon, your trip will be amazing and one that will yield incredible memories!

Let me know if you'd like the links to photos of any of these areas. Some of the photos have won awards.

Africa Direct USA
diannelovestravel is offline  
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Aug 24th, 2015, 06:44 PM
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Great information!
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