So Africa safaris-would appreciate suggestions

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Jul 13th, 2014, 11:20 AM
  #1
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So Africa safaris-would appreciate suggestions

Planning a safari for 4 in So Africa. Did Kenya in the past and loved it. However, we spent 6-8 hours driving between reserves many of the days and would like to avoid that if possible. Only spent one or two nights at each place. We would like to find two or three preserves where we could spent 4 or 5 nights apiece and still see plenty of wildlife on the game drives. Does anyone have any suggestions for this type of itinerary where we could stay longer at each place?
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Jul 13th, 2014, 11:30 AM
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Hi Mary Bren,

I have been to Southern Africa over thirty times on safari and I have been to almost every ecosystem in every season. My first question is what time of year and what is your budget per person per day for lodging (or total budget for 12-15 days)? You have many more options if you go in June-October but you can save money with less choice if you go November through May. The answer to these questions will help me assist you with more focused advice. It also occurred to me that you meant "South" not "Southern" with your abbreviation "So". The major wildlife countries of Southern Africa are South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana.

I have traveled to Kenya a few times now including 3 weeks this year. What lodges did you stay on your safari? With this information I might be able to draw some comparisons for you.

Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyon
2011-2013 Travel & Leisure A-List Agent for Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia
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Jul 13th, 2014, 12:01 PM
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You mean the country of South Africa (RSA), yes?

regards - tom
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Jul 13th, 2014, 12:18 PM
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Hi Mary, I know just what you mean. Our first trip to Africa was in 2000. We spent about 3 weeks doing the typical Northern circuit - Tarangire, Ngorongoro, Serengeti, Samburu, Mt. Kenya, Masa Mara. We flew in and out of Nairobi, traveling via car to Arusha. We stayed at Olivers Camp, Kirawira, Larsens Camp, Serena Lodge Crater, Little Governors Camp, Mt. Kenya Lodge and the Norfolk in Nairobi.

What I loved were the animals and some of the camps, what I didn't love was that we stayed only 2 nights in each place before moving on. We never really had the opportunity to take advantage of the camps, get to know anyone, or wait patiently for things to happen in a natural way. I really disliked that aspect, but I adored Africa and could not wait to return.

Ten years later, we started to plan our return. I have a good friend who works for Royal African Safari in Toronto, so I talked to her about where to go. I just wanted to see lots and lots of animals again, and wanted to spend time in some nice camps. She was quick to say -- "you should go back to Tanzania". So that was the beginning. I did lots of reading and began to fall in love with Southern Tanzania. In 2010 we spent 21 days in Southern Tanzania at two parks and four camps. That safari gave us just what I wanted, time in each place to enjoy all the area had to offer at a leasurely pace. We spent 4 nights in each camp and did lovely game drive transfers between.

In 2013, we ventured again to Africa. This time doing Botswana in the green season of November/December. It was a magical trip. We spent 4 or 5 nights in 5 different camps with very easy 15/20 minute flights between them. The flights were short and low and breathtaking. One can't drive between camps in the Okavango Delta where we were. I highly recommend Botswana. If you go during the right season and work with the right agent it can be had for a reasonable price. Both our trip to So. Tanzania and Botswana ran about $1000 per day (for 2) without International airfare. We fly on points.

My Tanzania trip report is on this board. (Click on my name to find it). There will also be a link to my photo albums. I have just started a trip report with photos from Botswana on Safari Talk. You can find it here: http://safaritalk.net/topic/12907-a-...a-with-photos/

I hope this helps in your research.
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Jul 13th, 2014, 12:36 PM
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I have two favorite S Africa safaris that I highly recommend. Both can be done any time of year and with wildly diverse price points. Give us more details on budget, time of year and amount of time you have and I can give more details. Also if you want to drive yourself, get a driver to take you between places or if you want to fly - or a combination.

Sabi Sands/Pafuri/Mashatu - this is an itininerary that will take you to a private reserve in the Kruger area (too many different options for costs to get into yet), a camp inside the park that is set to reopen in 2015 (but until then they are doing three day walking safaris that look good!) in northern Kruger and Mashatu Main or Tented (less expensive, fewer amenities) in SE Botswana. All are drivable distances and you can also get charters or commercial flights for beginning/end. It is really a wonderful trip!!

Sabi Sands/Zululand - this itinerary also goes to a private reserve in greater Kruger, and then you drive/fly south to Phinda (high end) or Tembe Elephant Park and/or Zululand Rhino Reserve (very affordable). I just did a version of this trip last month and it was lovely. I tend to try camps/lodges that are community owned or they do great work with their local community, and Tembe and Rhino River Lodge (in Zululand Rhino Reserve) both fit that need. There are also two fantastic beach lodges if you want to combine that nearby - Rocktail and Thonga. St Lucia is also a very fun town with lots of activities in a Unesco World Heritage Site - iSimangaliso National Estuary. It is beautiful.

Both of these itineraries can be done for any number of nights and with many combinations of camps - especially near Kruger. Just my two favorites.

If you would like to self drive, even just a few days, driving yourself around Kruger National Park and Hluhluwe (in Zululand) is so much fun! The public parks also do game drives you can sign up for. I still can't believe they let you drive around with lions and elephants!! So fun.

There are lots of other options. If budget allows Botswana is amazing, but I would combine with Kruger for rhinos. You can do the Garden Route and visit Addo Elephant Park and Mountain Zebra NP. I have not yet been to Zimbabwe - waiting for their country to stabilize a bit before I spend my money there. Zambia might also be a nice option - they are famous for their walking safaris.

Hope that helps a little and doesn't add too much confusion.
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Jul 13th, 2014, 01:06 PM
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Kruger National Park. Drive yourself in Kruger for 3-4 nights. Stay at the Rest Camps. Drive over yourself from JNB, 6 hrs, cost for 2 pax about $200 per day includes the car. Good way to start a safari.

Sabi Sand or Timbavati reserves adjacent to KNP. Those safari camps easy to get to from KNP. In Sabi Sand recommend MalaMala because it has the largest game area, with the Sand River through it, and they do not share traversing rights with other camps. Best camp in world for finding/seeing leopards. In Timbavati Kings Camp because it is luxurious camp without being overpriced, the staff is great and so are the rangers. In both reserves you will see the big 5 - probably upclose, personal, and often

regards - tom
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Jul 13th, 2014, 03:10 PM
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Admittedly, I have not done a self drive. My husband has in Kruger and I've met many people who have during my travels. My question is how does one negotiate the roads and scout for animals? We have always appreciated greatly the skills of our guides and drivers. I know we would have missed most of the animal sightings without them. Our guides in both S. Tanzania and Botswana were amazing at tracking and then spotting wildlife. They also know their concessions and trade information daily with other guides on recent sightings within their concession.

Does one off-road on a self drive? The professional guides drive through the thickest bush without doing harm to the vehicles...a real feat of skill. They are able to drive at night while using a spot light to highlight animals. It's a miracle.

We spent time at one of our camps in Botswana with a couple who were, for the most part, self-driving. While they had seen a lot of lovely scenery, they were bowled over by the abilities of our guide. I've always felt that self drives were more luck and happenstance than talent when it comes to seeing wildlife.
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Jul 13th, 2014, 03:58 PM
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TC - it's a bit of both. When self-driving, there is no one on the radio telling you where you saw something, but we saw a lot last month!! Leopard (wonderful sighting) during the day for more than 15 minutes with just one other car. We've been lucky enough to have many rhino sightings up close and personal in Kruger and Hluhluwe, along with eles, lots of lions both flat and active, plus all the "normal" zebra, giraffe, kudu, etc, etc. I'm sure we miss more than we see, but we see a lot. There is no, and I mean no, off roading when self driving in national parks. Can you marine the chaos and the damage to the park? Different from private property - they can do what they want. Also no night drives without arranging them through the rest camps. But they are fun, too.

We love it - we sat watching a saddle billed stork building a nest with her baby while we ate lunch, watched rhinos joust for over an hour, had a badger encounter, a male lion walking down the road looking for his girls, many ground hornbills and our last leopard was our best yet. Never have we had to deal with large crowds at sightings on gravel roads. We also had lunch in iSimangalisa surrounded by buffalo and hippo! Everything on your own schedule. We go out all day - no stopping for the "heat of the day". Love it. Guides are great, but they also have a radio - it's not just you against the world. I don't think there is as much talent as we think. On game drives on reserves where there aren't other trucks out, we tend to see much less than in the busier camps. They are very good at making it seem like it's just their talent, experience and training. And the guides scratch the heck out of the vehicles!! I like to combine self drive with at least a bit of private reserves to get someone to take care of us for a few days. But there are no guarantees either way - it's not a zoo and you see what you see.

A big consideration for is also the cost. The accommodations in parks are $100/night or less, we cook our own food for dinner and have breakfast and lunch on the road (cereal, fruit, sandwiches). And we still get to hang out with eles!! We rented a Toyota Avanza this time and it was half the price of an SUV and a couple inches higher for a decent view. We can't afford $400 - $1000 per person per night, so we do the next best thing! Love it.
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Jul 13th, 2014, 06:29 PM
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christabir pretty much said it all for me.

We have driven in KNP three times and loved each time. After each KNP safari we go to a private reserve. Each a very different experience.

regards - tom
ps - the bit about a rental vehicle for KNP is very important for us. So many of todays cars have very low/narrow windows. Front and side. This REALLY interferes with viewing and photography.
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Jul 14th, 2014, 03:24 AM
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I hope you don't mind me tagging along on this post. If so, my apologies.

I am interested in the differences between the Phinda safari experience and the experience offered in the Sabi Sands. (I have been twice to the latter, but never to Phinda.)
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Jul 15th, 2014, 10:11 PM
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Ker & Downey!
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Jul 16th, 2014, 05:49 AM
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Having done a lot of research prior to all our trips, I can comfortably say that one will pay much, much more to travel with Ker and Downey than they would using other providers. The accommodations will not be better, the guiding will not be better, the sightings will not be better. It's a lot extra to pay for hand-holding and hats.
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Jul 16th, 2014, 07:05 AM
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ekscrunchy:
I have been to both Phinda and Sabi Sand. Love them both! Phinda, unlike Sabi, has 7 distinct ecosystems which is fascinating. The sand floor forest there is one of the only remaining ones in the world. From Phinda, you can easily get to the Greater St Lucia Wetlands which is a World Heritage Site and the hippos and birding was excellent. From there, we visited Sodwana Bay. Incredibly huge dunes on 300km+ untouched coastline. Spectacular. If you plan well in advance, we were able to secure a pass to drive on the beach. They only allow so many per day for the entire area. You can email me if you want to see pictures.

As for animals, so much is about what you happen to see and witness. Some of that is helped by exceptional guides and trackers but some is also luck. The unfenced border with Kruger certainly adds to the dynamic changes in the reserves there.

Loved Phinda and loved Sabi! Enjoy.
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Jul 16th, 2014, 07:37 AM
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Marybren

There are SO MANY lodges in South Africa. Something for every budget, size and style. To scale it down, I would figure out your per person/per night maximum and if you're taking children, then that will scale it down somewhat as some lodges have children guest policies (by age).

Phinda might be a good option for you because you could opt to do two of their lodges. Phinda has incredible diversity in their habitats and you can experience from a sand floor to mountainous terrain. It's incredible. Since you are in the same reserve, it's a simple jeep transfer. No long hauls. That's what we have done.

Another idea would be to go to Sabi Sand. There are many private reserves there and lots of lodges to check out. You could do 2 lodges there with a short light aircraft transfer between them, as an example. Sabi Sands is incredible as well given its proximity to Kruger and that the animals move freely. The leopard sightings are superb.

When you were in Kenya, did you witness the migration? Incredible huh? One big difference between National Parks and Private Reserves for example is being able to drive off road to follow animals. And the thicker denser landscape can yield a wonderful sighting that creeps up on you. So you might want to think about contrasting what you have done before with what you can plan for the next go-around.

Happy to help. I love being on safari. I think it's so moving to be in the presence of these incredible animals.
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Jul 16th, 2014, 02:06 PM
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I've often wondered how to start planning a safari and this post really gives some good ideas. Gotta bookmark!
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Jul 18th, 2014, 06:49 PM
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Bookmarking these great tips!!
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