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So many beautiful lodges in Botswana...how does one decide? (with very good info related to numerous Botswanan lodges)

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Mar 9th, 2004, 07:11 PM
  #1
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So many beautiful lodges in Botswana...how does one decide? (with very good info related to numerous Botswanan lodges)

In just brushing up on my Botswana, I have come across so many beautiful lodges, spread out through so many different areas. Really, I come up with no less than 10 lodges that I would LOVE to visit.

Here is an excellent website that shows close to fifty different Botswanan game lodges, complete with photos, prices and information about each lodge:

http://www.botswanasafari.info/botswana_xigera.html

(I linked it to the one featuring Xigera lodge so that the hyperlinks featuring all the other lodges would appear and I purposely chose a beautiful lodge that I think few people know about)

Just a few of my favorite looking lodges, and the pricing for each lodge, courtesy of www.botswanasafari.info (I've never seen a website end in "info" before, but I tested it and it is correct):

Kwando Lagoon (Makes the great claim of being in the most beautiful location of any game lodge in all of Botswana. Even if it only one of the top five, that would be good enough for me. It's not on the site I linked but visible by visiting www.kwando.com) $318 pppns in shoulder season. $494 pppns in high season. $237 pppns in low season.

Kwando Kwara (there are more beautiful camps in the Okavango but I have heard very good things about Kwando) $318 pppns in shoulder season. $494 pppns in high season. $237 pppns in low season.

Kwando Lebala (only about 15 kms. away from Kwando Lagoon but set upon plains allowing for a different perspective) $318 pppns in shoulder season. $494 pppns in high season. $237 pppns in low season.

Xigera (what a beautiful looking lodge/camp situated on "Paradise Island" within the Moremi Wildlife Reserve) $365 pppns in shoulder season. $506 pppns in high season. $304 pppns in low season.

King's Pool (I am attracted to the fact that it borders Chobe yet does not have the same restrictions, i.e, it allows convertible game vehicles and night game drives. Also, it looks like a beautiful camp, I believe one of a very few designated 6-paw camps by Wilderness Safaris) $483 pppns in shoulder season. $703 pppns in high season. $408 pppns in low season.

Jack's Camp (Located within the Kalahari/Makgadigadi National Park area, it is supposed to offer great vistas of grasslands and desert and offers the unique opportunity to do game viewing by All Terrain Vehicles, and unobstructed game viewing due to the lack of vegetation) $451 pppns in shoulder season. $546 pppns in high season. $356 pppns in low season.

Mombo/Little Mombo (Need I say more??? Known as the finest game lodge in the whole of Botswana, if not all Africa) $717 pppns in shoulder season. $876 pppns in high season. $515 pppns in low season.

Duba Plains (has earned the reputation of being possibly the best lodge in Botswana to witness lions hunt buffalo. I know that after seeing the Big Five a few times that I would for once welcome seeing such a sight rather than driving around non-stop looking for the next of the Big Five to check off the list) $468 pppns, shoulder season. $609 pppns in high season. $408 pppns in low season.

Savuti Camp (located in the southern part of the Linyati Reserve, bordering Chobe. Like King's Pool, Savuti is able to offer night game drives, convertible vehicles, well within the reaches of Chobe National Park but outside their jurisdiction). $365 pppns in shoulder season. $506 pppns in high season. $304 pppns in low season.

Chief's Camp (The only other game lodge that I am aware of that shares Chief's Island with Mombo. It looks like a very beautiful camp and may be a good alternative for those that do not want to pay Mombo prices). $398 pppns in low and shoulder season. $660 pppns in high season.

Parting thoughts, I am in discussion with a couple private guides right now, including one that has been featured in a few Africa shows right now. I am told that it is possible to setup a luxury mobile tented camp even nearby to Mombo to get the same type of gameviewing experience while instead enjoying Luxury Mobile Tent Camping rather than being stationary. No prices yet, but it has definitely sparked my interest, although I have no delusion about this option being inexpensive.

Hope this helps anyone considering Botswana!
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Mar 9th, 2004, 08:54 PM
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Check with safariplace.com. If you book with them, they will provide you with a very comprehensive evaluation of the best way to pinpoint your best options. There is a fee to work with them and fee applied against booking. They have been featured in the New York Times.
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Mar 9th, 2004, 09:24 PM
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at least you "narrowed" down to botswana. we are thinking of taking the easy way out by going with ccafrica. that's because i really don;t know where to start.... i am thinking of going in late april. any advice?
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Mar 10th, 2004, 04:16 AM
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cazz,

I couldn't possibly even begin to advise you unless I knew the amount of time and money that you wish to spend on safari, and whether or not you intend on spending time in South Africa on non-safari activities or not.

For a first time, I would advise on not doing too many consecutive nights of safari. On my first time, the most consecutive time I spent on safari was four nights (one night in Joburg, followed by three nights at Singita, followed by four nights in Cape Town followed by four nights at Matetsi Water Lodge between Victoria Falls and Chobe) and by the fourth night at Matetsi I was starting to tire of it.

However, by the time last year rolled around, after five consecutive nights of safari in South Luangwa, Zambia, divided between Kafunta River Lodge and Kafunta Island Bush Camp, I found that five consecutive nights was not nearly long enough, and the three nights at the end of the trip at Djuma Vuyatela in the Sabi Sands was hardly enough to compensate.

So, this year, I have booked myself for 10 consecutive nights on a Zambian safari, divided between five different lodges. The first four nights will be in the Lower Zambezi National Park at Kulefu Tented Camp (www.star-of-africa.com/circuit7.htm) and then I will move north to South Luangwa National Park where I will divide six nights between Kaingo, (www.kaingo.com), Puku Ridge, (www.star-of-africa.com/circ3b.htm), and Chichele Presidential Lodge (www.star-of-africa.com/circuit3.htm).

I'll tell you one thing, if you don't mind a summer rain and wet season, you can almost name your own price in Zambia at this time of year.

You may be able to get a Zambian package from Star Of Africa that includes Sussi & Chuma in Victoria Falls, Zambia, (www.star-of-africa.com/circuit2.htm), combined with Kulefu Tented Camp in Lower Zambezi National Park, combined with either Chichele Presidential Lodge or Puku Ridge (or both) for an excellent price.

Be advised that most places in South Africa will still be in high season in April and will be VERY expensive.

The best thing about Zambia, if it is not mandatory to go to South Africa, is that you can take a direct flight from London to Lusaka, instead of flying all the way down to Johannesburg, although this may be more challenging if using frequent flier miles unless you are able to get seats on British Airways, the only airline that flies direct. Unfortunately, I have to fly into Johannesburg for my upcoming trip. I do not even spend a single night in South Africa this year, and with the way that the US Dollar is performing against the South African Rand, I have no regrets about not spending any time there. I will have possibly a couple hours in a Business Class lounge in Joburg and that is it. Probably won't even have to exchange any money this time around, since the lodges in Zambia would much rather have U.S. Dollars than Zambian Kwacha. I will literally be on safari for 100% of the time this time around.

If you do happen to decide that Botswana is right for you, then you would be well advised to consider Kwando's lodges/camps. They have four lodges/camps and their prices are EXCELLENT and even include air transfers between lodges. Besides three safari camps, they also feature a place in Victoria Falls, Zambia, "Songwe Village", that is supposed to feature some of the finest bathrooms you have ever seen, with an amazing view of the Zambezi River near Victoria Falls, three hundred feet below (it is atop a gorge). A safari consisting of possibly 3 nights at Kwando Lagoon, 2 nights at Kwando Lebala, 3 nights at Kwando Kwara and 3 nights at Songwe Village, would be an excellent safari in my opinion.

One of the things that I like best about Kwando is that the transfers are included when booking through Kwando, as well as alcoholic beverages. Even if you only have a couple drinks a day, that can really add up, and there is nothing more annoying than being handed a $100 bar bill at the end of your stay, and having to pay by credit card where they tack on an additional 5 - 10% service charge.


Also, each of their safari camps (Lagoon, Lebala and Kwara) offer day and night game drives, a guide and tracker system (some lodges require the guide to somehow drive AND track at the same time), and all laundry is included (some lodges refuse to wash your most important and most needful item...your UNDERWEAR!...perhaps they would prefer we don't wear underwear?).

At least for Kwando Lebala and Kwando Lagoon, there will be NO other lodges/camps anywhere near you, for they operate in the Kwando concession, a huge area of 2,320 sq. kilometers. Even Kwando Kwara has its own private concession of 1,700 sq. kms.

Although there are many other beautiful lodges/camps in Botswana, given their prices and services, Kwando is definitely atop my list for whenever I get around to visiting Botswana, hopefully next year.

Have a look for yourself at www.kwando.com

Good luck.
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Mar 10th, 2004, 06:28 AM
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I visited Botswana at the beginning of a four-country (Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi) safari in August 2001, and I also had a very difficult time selecting lodges. At the outset, I knew that I wanted to visit the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park, but I knew little more.

With some research, I narrowed my search to Wilderness Safaris camps in the delta, and since my primary interest was seeing wild dogs, I concentrated on camps with good records for wild dog sightings. So my first camp was Chitabe, a Wilderness camp that skirts the southern border of Moremi game reserve, and I was not disappointed. We saw wild dogs hunting impala on our first night drive, and had several more encounters over the next three drives.

Next, I wanted to experience a different environment and a small camp, so we visited Savuti Camp and saw an incredible variety of carnivores -- plenty of lion, wild dog, serval, and even a caracal and aardwolf (the only times I have seen the last two animals). Plus plenty of elephant. A great small camp.

We next moved to Chobe Game Lodge b/c we wanted to stay within the park. A larger camp, but offered four game activities per day and we did them all -- morning game drive, late morning boat cruise, early afternoon boat cruise and late afternoon game drive. Saw huge herds of elephant (over 100 per group) and buffalo (maybe 1,000 in the group) and lion, wild dog and dozens of sable (best sable sightings I have ever had -- many people say they are lucky to see a few, and we saw large groups).

On my next trip, I think I'd like to visit one of the water camps (maybe Xigera and one or two of the ohter Wilderness camps).

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Mar 10th, 2004, 04:21 PM
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Rekleod,

www.safariplace.com was featured in the New York Times FOURTEEN years ago.

Wilderness Safaris is a good option for the unfamiliar as they rate their camps either 4 paws, 5 paws or 6 paws and it is free for all to see. www.wilderness-safaris.com

Also, guide books are always a good option and definitely worth the $20 - $30 investment.

Even with these tools, however, there are so many amazing looking lodges and locations to choose from that I don't think a 30 night safari would be sufficient.
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Mar 11th, 2004, 01:15 AM
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On my first trip to Southern Africa, also in 2001, in June, I received input from my parents, who had visited in 1999. We included 2 nights in NamibRand Nature Reserve, 2 at Sossusvlei, 2 in Damaraland, followed by 4 nights at Little Mombo, 2 at Little Vumbura and 2 at Chitabe Trails.

Regarding the Namibia segment, we loved the NamibRand stay and would happily have stayed longer. Sossusvlei must be seen but we'd have been happy with one night, if we had been able to arrive, visit the sights and then take a late afternoon flight to our next destination. That said, if you choose accommodation that's not right at the entrance area but in it's own remote little area - the feeling would be more like the silence and peace of NamibRand so two nights would be great. We loved Damaraland and felt two nights was just right.

In Botswana we loved Little Mombo and our game viewing there was superlative. We also felt the staff in the camp were excellent and went the extra mile without being asked. We had selected Little Vumbura for water activities and were surprised at quite how much we enjoyed them and how welcome a change it was from the game drives of other camps. We'd have liked another night here. We finished at Chitabe Trails, which we liked less than the others - poor game viewing is not the fault of the camp since sightings can never be guaranteed however we also weren't as happy with the way things were organised at camp. That said, we still had a great time, there were some lovely touches and I wouldn't want to suggest omitting the camp from your itinerary.

I would also point out that we didn't find the number of consecutive days on safari too much at all - infact we found it unusually hard to adjust to being home again - almost like drug withdrawal symptoms.

We decided almost immediately that we wanted to return and our finances dictated it could not be before 2004. Since our 10th wedding anniversary is this year we felt that the year was auspicious.

For our next trip, now almost here, in May 2004, I started planning back in mid 2002. I obtained brochures for Wilderness Safaris, CCAfrica and other operators but decided after a lot of research to stick with WS. We were more than happy with their operation and camps last trip.

I then spent more time thinking about what range of environments we wanted to see - that helped me decide that the trip would concentrate on Botswana and include the Okavango, the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans and the Savuti/Linyanti/Chobe area.

One of our strong preferences is for small camps - the smaller the better. So that really played a strong part in the choices.

There were cases where I knew for sure which camp I wanted - Little Mombo, Jack's Camp, Gudigwa - and other cases where I was choosing between a couple - Jacana/Xigera, Tubu Tree/ Duba Plains, Savuti, DumaTau. I chose Tubu Tree and Savuti very quickly but took longer to select Jacana as I really felt equally positive about both. In the end I went with advice from two travel agents, one of whom has become a friend, and opted for Jacana. But I also knew that, whichever one I had chosen, we would have an equally wonderful experience.

So our final itinerary for that trip is as follows:

Savuti Camp ? 3 nts
Jacana Camp ? 3 nts
Tubu Tree ? 2 nts
Gudigwa Camp ? 1 nt
Little Mombo ? 4 nts
Jacks Camp ? 4 nts
Windhoek - Hilltop House ? 1 nt
Wolwedans Dunes Lodge ? 4 nts

I booked the trip at the end of 2002 and even then, I was unable to secure the camps in the order I wanted them due to existing bookings. We worked out a different order for the same camps and booked. As it happens, WS later contacted my agent to inform her that a cancellation meant we could switch to our initial itinerary, which we did.

It was only mid-2003 that we decided to precede this trip wtih a 5 week self-drive in South Africa. We didn't want to do that segment after the above because I think it's nicer to start on the moderate budget stuff and finish in style!

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