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So Africa, Botswana, Vic Falls - trying to decide when to go

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Jun 18th, 2012, 08:06 AM
  #1
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So Africa, Botswana, Vic Falls - trying to decide when to go

Hello, all.
I am planning a trip for my Mom and my Mother In Law, who are both in their 70s and in good health with an escorted tour company. I have heard good things about Gate1 Travel, which is in their budget range, and they have a 17 day tour incl So. Africa, Botswana and Victoria Falls. They have availability in their Dec 2012, Jan, Feb and Mar tours.

I read the threads in Fodors and also did some other web based research and am trying to decide when to sign them up. It appears that summer (Dec-Mar) brings the rains, which may reduce the game viewing, but is spectacular for Vic Falls.

I also read about Malaria and the higher risk of same in the summer months with the rainfall. This is the first visit for both the Moms to the region. They do not have a bucket list of game they must view - they want to enjoy Capetown, do Chobe and Vic Falls. They would rather it not be baking hot, but I am more concerned about the malaria (although they will take the Malaria pills).

Any thoughts/suggestions would be appreciated. Also, Robbens Island is not included in the Gate1 tour. Any recommendations of local tour companies would be appreciated.

Thank you!!
Kaneez is offline  
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Jun 18th, 2012, 08:43 AM
  #2
 
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I've been going to southern Africa in May - June to avoid the heat and mossies (therefore we don't take malaria meds).

I HATE that Gate 1 itinerary - so much driving, not staying inside the parks, doing too much in too little time. For $4000 (plus optional tours), you can do better on your own. No need to go on a tour - private transfers are affordable. And it's really easy and safe in those places. And the accommodations on that tour are not so great. My mother, in her late 70's, thought a tour would be the best option for a first trip to Africa, too. She is so happy to have been on a personalized tour. It was arranged without any hiccups or problems.

I would arrange a trip to go to:
Cape Town 3-5 nights with private day tours to wine country and Cape of Good Hope, the rest you can do on your own or not (Robben Island, Kirstenboch Gardens, Table Mt, etc)
Vic Falls 1-2 nights, depending on arrival time, arrange for a tour, boat ride, bungee jumping?
Chobe 3 nights
An affordable camp in Sabi Sands (or Timbavati), a private game reserve in greater Kruger 3-5 nights

With layovers in Johanessburg, it's the same length of time. Save Swaziland and Hluhluwe (which are both worthy of more time!) for next time. while in safari camps, everything is taken care of - they will love it.
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Jun 18th, 2012, 09:03 AM
  #3
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Thank you, Christabr, for your reply. Very helpful! I looked at some of the other tours, but none give all three countries. Besides going the private company route, do you know of other tour companies that have a less harried itinerary? I had opted to go for an escorted tour so that the two Moms would be able to get company (other than their own) - they do get along, but I thought if they have a group of people, it may be better (2 weeks of togetherness may be too much!!) .
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Jun 18th, 2012, 12:13 PM
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The only time they will be "together alone" would be in CT and VF. At almost all safari camps, you eat communally and the game drives are in a group. It's my favorite part of safari - meeting people from all over the world. Really - private tour is the way to go! Every affordable tour stays in crappy places and moves around too much.
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Jun 18th, 2012, 12:15 PM
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You can also arrange group tours in CT and VF.
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Jun 21st, 2012, 10:13 AM
  #6
 
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Ntaba Tours in Kentucky is owned by two South Africans and they have scheduled tours or can book a private tour for you. They do have a scheduled tour in October/November, but it will be hot then. Their tours usually cover the areas you're interested in. Ask for a full price including air transfers, as their quoted prices don't include those and that can add up.
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Jun 21st, 2012, 04:14 PM
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If you think they would be more comfortable with a packaged tour, I suggest you check out OAT's African adventures -- specifically http://www.oattravel.com/Trips/2012/...fari-2012.aspx

We were set to go on this trip about 3 years ago, when we had to cancel out at the last minute because of a family medical emergency. (We had gotten trip insurance and there was NO problem in being reimbursed for everything we had spent.) While we have always been independent travelers, we were impressed with OAT. We were pleased with everything they did for us in planning for the trip (as well as their understanding when we had to cancel). My only problem with that trip, was that we weren't able to extend our stay in order to visit friends in Cape Town at the conclusion.

Now, everything is fine and we have planned an independent trip back to Africa this fall, and adding time on to our 10 safari in order to spend an additional 10 days (self-planned) in South Africa.

BUT, I would highly recommend the OAT trip for your Mom & MIL. The tour size is small enough to be manageable and large enough so that one doesn't have to feel they are stuck with the same people the whole time. Plus, it looks to me, as if unless someone is flush with air miles to pay for airfare, OAT is getting about as good a deal on international flights as you can find yourself.
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Jun 25th, 2012, 03:25 AM
  #8
 
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March would be the best. March and April are generally nice months in Southern Africa, but Mei-July might be even better in terms of game viewing.
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Jun 27th, 2012, 02:25 PM
  #9
P_M
 
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A friend and I have been comparing Smartours with Gate 1. Smartours with the Vic Falls extension is about the same itinerary as Gate 1's tour but Smartours gives you a lot more for the money. A few Fodorites have posted reviews on this particular tour if you are interested.
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Jul 11th, 2012, 10:41 AM
  #10
 
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Smartours and Gate 1 are partners
dkorwood is offline  
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Jul 11th, 2012, 03:06 PM
  #11
P_M
 
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How are they partners? They each have their own web site offering similar tours. They seem more like competitors to me.
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Jul 12th, 2012, 04:19 PM
  #12
 
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I have used Africa 2000 tours in South Africa to plan a 13 night trip next May/June: 4 nights Cape Town, 3 nights Nottens in Sabi Sands, 3 nights Islands of Siankaba in Victoria Falls, and 3 nights Muchenje Lodge at Chobe National Park. Including internal air, the price is around $7,000, but I am sure you can reduce it by changing to less expensive lodgings. They can arrange any type of trip you want and are very responsive even though they are in SA. The are highly recommended in International Travel News (ITN) magazine. You could also check out Rothschild Tours located in Denver and run by a South African woman.
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