South Africa / Botswana Help

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Feb 28th, 2006, 06:47 PM
  #1
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South Africa / Botswana Help

My husband and I are starting to plan a trip to SA and / or Botswana. I have contacted a few travel agents and have been astounded by the prices I am hearing. While I am sure it is wonderful (and believe me if I could afford it I would) to stay at one of the top of the line lodges, I was hoping for some advice on cutting costs. Honestly, we are used to booking our own travel, so I would prefer to do it ourselves anyway then book through an agent, unless they can get a good deal. We are not campers and are used to staying at mid-range to luxury hotels. We are adventurous and independent, in our late 20s.

With that in mind, one major question I have is what would be the best lodges, with the most game, at a reasonable price to drive to from Johan? How far by car?

Also, we have a free ticket on hold to Vic Falls. Are there any game lodges in Botswana I can drive to from there or arrange a car to rather than fly to? It looks like Chobe is pretty close, but I have no idea where we would want to stay, how to get there, and how far it would be.

I guess an underlying question is how far are the game park lodges from Johan and Vic Falls, can we drive ourselves?

In total, we have 10 nights to spend on Safari before we fly to Cape Town. We can spend it in the region around Johan (Kreuger) or up in Vic Falls area or both. Any suggestions, driving distances, ways to save $, would be much appreciated. Suggested hotels/ itinerary would also be appreciated.

Thanks!
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Feb 28th, 2006, 08:43 PM
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santharamhari
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Hi! You can self-drive from Joburg......but given the short duration (10 nights) i do recommend you do flying safaris......

You may need to start by pin-pointing out where exactly you want to go to....what are your priorities......if going to Botswana, i would do a 10 night flying safari...

Infact, i am booked on a 10night safari to Botswana......staying at the Kwando camps end August......www.kwando.co.za
or you can also go with another company, Wilderness safaris......their camps are also very good.....

If you want to go to SA......your options at the private reserves around the Kruger are unlimited......search around this board to see what interests you......Also, the lodge/camp can arrange for ground transportation which is fairly economical.......it saves the hassles of renting a car and safety precautions etc etc.,
 
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Mar 1st, 2006, 04:11 AM
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You ask many questions. What time of year are you planning on traveling?

SA: Honsetly, the best value and driveable from SA is the kruger Park itself. You are adventurous and young and IMO you will thoroughly enjoy the daventure of the kruger.

You should look at driving form the south to the north stopping a t two or three rest camps for a night and some for two. Exit the park return to JNB.

Then head up to Vic Falls, spend a night or two there, depending on time of year will dictate whether you are in Zam or Zim, both sides offer inexpesnisve lodging.

drive just under two hours to Kasane, from there you can do day trips into the Chobe. I would however suggest that you look at Chobe Safarim Lodge, great valkue packages available.

Then if time and budget permit, Pom Pom camp down in the delta doesn't charge the wallet busting prices asked for by the more lux props.

Good luck.
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Mar 1st, 2006, 05:43 AM
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From Johannesburg, you can easily fly (or drive) to Kruger, which can be visited easily in a 2WD rental car. You could easily spend 4 to 5 days in Kruger, staying at different lodges in the park. They are not luxurious, but they are reasonably priced, the food is OK and they are comfortable. I have done the high-end safaris and the self-drive and I've come to believe that the self-drives are more fun.

You could combine a visit to Kruger with a guided visit to either Hwange or Chobe, both within a couple of hours of Vic Falls. You should be able to get into a reasonably priced lodge, and those parks are more difficult to self-drive.

Some of the responses that you'll get on this forum are automatic and they'll recommend the Wilderness or Kwando lodges in Botswana, all of which are nice but they are very expensive and not what you are looking for it, as you stated, you are seeking advice on "cutting costs."

So, if it were me, I'd split the time between a self-drive in Kruger and a reasonable, guided trip to either Chobe or Hwange. And no need to stay at the over-the-top lodges -- the animals don't know or care what lodge you are staying at, and to me at least, Africa is not the place to go for high thread-count sheets, gourmet food, etc. On a safari, I prefer something more down-to-earth.

Michael
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Mar 1st, 2006, 05:59 AM
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Punky -- Depends on when you're going.

The first thing you should do is go to sanparks.org and read up on Kruger. You can see maps of the park, descriptions of each rest camp and maps of the layout of each, check pricing and availability, see photos of each camp, and go on their forums for advice from other Kruger travellers. Kruger is a 5-hour drive from JNB. Car rental prices are not bad for regular cars but for something that will get you up a little higher for easier game sighting like a Toyota Condor the prices are higher. Kruger has everything from tents to huts with shared baths to bungalows and cottages with private baths to guest houses. None of them are luxurious but they are all comfortable, and we thought the game viewing in Kruger was great & loved driving ourselves around the park (you can also do guided game walks and go on night drives, etc.). We stayed at Olifants in a river view bungalow and loved it. This year we are going back and staying 3 nights in a river view safari tent at Lower Sabie, 1 night in a cottage at Satara, 1 night cottage at Mopani, and 2 nights in a safari tent at Punda Maria. All of these are under $100 per night (not per person). You also have to add in the cost of park fees.

You could do a few nights in Kruger for a bargain, then a few nights at a midpriced place in neighboring Sabi Sands (like Elephant Plains or Chitwa Chitwa), and finally a few nights in Botswana which will be more expensive.

For more info on Botswana in terms of safari lodges/camps you can drive to, I highly recommend buying the Bradt guide to Botswana.
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Mar 1st, 2006, 09:29 AM
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Hey Punky!

A lot depends on just how low a budget you'd prefer to stick to and whether your highest priority is seeing lots and lots of game (including predators) at close quarters or whether it's independence, beautiful landscapes and the thrill of finding and identifying sightings yourself. Private (mid to lux) camps often offer the best bet for the former because trained guides have better luck spotting game, especially if they can take you off road or on routes that are not busy with other vehicles. DIY safaris are great for the latter.

I've done both and loved both.

My favourite self drive parks in South Africa were Ithala and Hluwhluwe-Imfolozi though I did enjoy Kruger too, just not quite as much.

We set off from Durban to Imfolozi and neighbouring Hluhluwe, staying in self-catering safari tents at Mpila Camp in Imfolozi. Instead of Hilltop Camp in Hluhluwe (which is at the expensive end of the government camps) we stayed just outside after our last full day at Ubizane, a private place with inexpensive self-catering rondavels which were very nice.

In Ithala we absolutely loved the self-catering chalets and the stunning views in this camp were out of this world. We also had very few fellow visitors during our late May visit in 2004. Game density was low (though white rhino sightings were great) but every sighting we did have was exciting and the scenery was just so breathtaking we didn't miss the denser game.

Kruger was interesting too and surprisingly (due to my ignorance) excellent for birding in particular. We liked Olifants camp a lot, staying in self-catering river view rondavels. The main roads in this park are busier than elsewhere though and we had to locate the smaller tracks to get a more remote, private experience.

None of these parks is great for predator spotting, though sightings are made as there are big cats in the parks.

What you might do is combine a self drive tour of these parks (taking about 8 or so days) and finish with 2 nights in a posh private camp in the vicinity chosen specifically to give you a high chance of predator sightings).
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Mar 1st, 2006, 10:58 AM
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Thanks everyone for the great response. We are going the last two weeks in October (which I know is peak), but its a good time for work for us and also our 1 year anniversary! Our primary goal is game viewing.

Question- for Botswana if I understand correctly, it would be difficult to self drive from Vic Falls, so we may be better off with a package?

Sorry I am very ignorant about S.A., but if we self drive Kreuger, the lodges don't include our game drives, correct? Is there a way if we stay at the less expensive lodges/ cottages in Kreuger to arrange for an experienced game drive, or is our best bet do some of it ourselves and then spend two nights somewhere more high-end where they are included. I see Sabi Sabi mentioned a lot- where is this and can we self drive ourselves to a lodge there?

As for our budget, we were hoping to spend under $5000 for these 8 nights of our trip. We have another 5 nights in Cape Town that we are going to save some money on a b&b. The travel co's I talked to said I should be allowing $5k-$14k per person. Ouch. We are frequent travelers and honestly, I think this is a bit outrageous. As my husband pointed out, it is more than we spent to stay at the most lux resort in Australia or per night on our honeymoon.

So, I have two ideas for a "basic itinerary" and wondered if you have thought on which one is preferable and arrangements for each.

1) Spend all eight nights on a self drive from Johan with mostley self-catering in Kreuger, with a few nights at a private, more lux lodge.

2) Spend 3 nights in S.A., 2 nights in Vic Falls, and 3 nights in Chobe. Where can we go for the 3 nights that won't break the bank in S.A. or Chobe? Or is one worth a splurge?
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Mar 1st, 2006, 11:28 AM
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Botswana is much more difficult to self-drive -- you would need a 4WD, the roads are not as well marked in Chobe and the roads are not as good.

If you stay in Kruger, you can drive yourself in a 2WD car, or you can sign up for drives at most of the lodges in the park. But, its very easy to self-drive and you'll see a lot. Contrary to what some others have written, there are lots of predators in Kruger, and we saw many lion and hyena and even leopard.

I would vote for your option 2, and with your budget you can do it easily. I would stay in Kruger and self-drive, then fly to Vic Falls, and then you can arrange a tour from Vic Falls to Chobe, a great park in Botswana. With your budget, you'll have no problem affording a nice lodge in or just outside the park.
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Mar 1st, 2006, 12:24 PM
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Hello Punky,

Based on what you've written, I'm assuming that your budget is $5000 for both of you ($2500 per person) not including flights.

I think you'll get the most bang for your buck if you stay in SA rather than having your budget eaten up by flights. You can book very inexpensive flights from Joburg to Nelspruit/Kruger on Kulula (www.kulula.com). The prices go as low as R299 ($50) one-way. This may be more economical than self-driving as you won't have to pay for both car hire and petrol, and you also won't be spending the first 6 hours of your holiday on the road. If you fly both ways, you now have $2400 per person, or $300 per person per night.

With this budget, you can definitely afford to spend some time in a private reserve as well as in Kruger. You could self-drive for 5 nights, and spend the other 3 at a private reserve.

In Kruger, if you stay at Olifants camp in a bungalow with the best river view, it will be R600 per night (R300 per person). The conservation fee is R120 per person per day. So your daily expenses will be a minimum of R420 ($70) per person, not including food (inexpensive), car hire, and petrol.

Ranger-led game drives will cost an additional R100-R115, and walks R175 (afternoon) or R220 (morning). You will probably want to do at least one ranger-led drive near the beginning of your stay to pick up some pointers on spotting animals.

For your private reserve stay, I'd recommend the Sabi Sands for the superb predatory viewing, particularly of leopard. Whilst many of the lodges are very expensive (Singita, Mala Mala, Londolozi) there are less expensive options as well, such as Chitwa Chitwa (www.chitwa.co.za) or Nottens Camp (www.nottens.com). Combining three nights there or at a place in a similar price range should enable you to stay within your budget.

Cheers,
Julian
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