south africa in October

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Aug 14th, 2004, 03:57 PM
  #1
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south africa in October

My husband and I are planning an anniversary trip to South Africa in early October. We are thinking about splurging for Singita but really do not want to waste the money if it is substantially similar to other luxury safari resorts. Any thoughts?

Also, we would like to see Cape Town but do not want to waste travel time if it is just another city and might rather spend our time in the bush, as opposed to a city. Any thoughts?

What else is there to do in the Northern South Africa region that is reasonably easy to get to if we choose not to go to Cape Town? Is it worth it to do Victoria Falls from Johannesburg? Any other suggestions? We will have 9 days and were planning on spending 4 at Singita or a similar safari resort so have some time for something else.

Also, is October a good time to go? Finally, has anyone been recently and felt uneasy as an American in South Africa? Thanks!
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Aug 15th, 2004, 03:47 AM
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October is a lovely time to visit SA, in both the Kruger area for game viewing and Capetown. South Africa is as safe as anywhere traveling considering the times we live in. Your physical safety will be fine as you are traveling to a first-world country.

Coming from the US and assuming you're flying SAA, your air ticket should include the leg to CPT if you arrive in JNB, or to JNB if you arrive in CPT. So you can fly into one city and depart from the other.

Interesting your statement "thinking about spluring for Singita, but really don't want to waste the money if it is substantially similar to other luxury...." - Never heard anyone describe their time at Singita as a "waste of the money" Have to admit that the current prices for a stay here is very high considering the lousy exchange rate of the USD aganst the SARand - so in that sense it might be a waste, but certainly not for what one gets at Singita properties. While there are other similar properties where you can save some money - search the boards here for comments on other properties - (or consider Simbabili, Royal Malewani (sp) in Kruger area or over to Phina lodges) - if Singita is what you are considering, you will be disappointed if you don't spend some time here. However, if you want to save a few $$$s you can consider 2-days at Singita and 2-days at another lodge.

As to Capetown, this is probably the most beautiful city in the world. Again, certainly not a waste of time. You would need at least 4-nts/3-full days here to enjoy what CPT has to offer in and around the area. This includes the Winelands about an hour from CPT, trip down to Cape Point, the Kirstenbosch Gardens, Table Mountain, a trip up to Hermanus - lots more. Check the threads on this board by "Selwyn" on this board, a Captonian with great ideas and suggestions for your time in CPT, or simply contact thru his website.

So with only 9-days in-country that doesn't leave you much time to do anything else. A trip to VFA would run you about $350 r/t air (from JNB), plus hotel and transfers, and you don't really need more than 1-nt. here if you simply want to see the Falls.

Let's see what other Africaphiles have to comment.

 
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Aug 16th, 2004, 08:45 AM
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..."Finally, has anyone been recently and felt uneasy as an American in South Africa? Thanks!"...

Our most recent visit to South Africa was in May-June of this year. I can say categorically that you will never feel uneasy as an American in South Africa. The warm, hospitable South African people will welcome you and make your time in their country something you'll always treasure.
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Aug 16th, 2004, 04:46 PM
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I was excited about our safari in Botswana, and the more I read about South Africa, and Cape Town in particular, the more I knew that I wanted to spend some time there as well -- (afterall, it is an expensive air fare, so you may as well take the time to make it worth while!!!)
I can say that both parts of our trip really exceeded any expectations that we had. We even braved driving in the wrong side of the road in S.A. to get the most out of our time in the Cape, and while I must admit that Xanax improved my comfort level in the passenger seat (it's sort of like the terror one feels when teaching a teenage child to drive for the first time) it was well worth it. Sure, go for Singita if you can afford it. There are other options, but if this is a special anniversary, why not. Don't hesitate, as well, to visit Cape Town. You'll turn into a nutcase just like most of us here, plotting and scheming to return....
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Aug 27th, 2004, 02:13 PM
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My fiancee and I are also planning a trip to South Africa in October (our honeymoon). We also considered Singita, as well as Mala Mala and Chitwa Chitwa. We are likely going to go with Mala Mala because we have heard that the game viewing is unparallelled. Singita also seems great (hard to argue with all those magazines that rate it as the top place in the world), but it seems more about pampering than the safari experience (and for 3x the cost, it didn't seem worth it).

Does anyone have positive or negative feedback about Mala Mala or Chitwa Chitwa?

Like you, we are also likely to go to Vic Falls. We have some concerns about safety, but I have been told that there is nothing to really worry about, especially around the falls (and particularly on the Zambia side). Have you heard differently?

Then we have planned to fly to Port Elizabeth to drive the Garden Route, and plan to stay a couple of days at Hermanus to see the whales (which I have heard are in abundance in October).

Finally, we will stay in Cape Town for about a week.

If anyone has any recommendations, please let me know! Planning time is getting short.
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Aug 27th, 2004, 03:12 PM
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Hello Deedle,

Here is a previous discussion thread in which Selwyn provided advice on things to see in the Cape Town area and the Garden Route, if you haven't already come across it. You would need to mentally switch things around, of course, since you're thinking of doing the Garden Route before Cape Town.

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34477003

The other thing I would suggest is that you adopt a layered approach to wardrobe planning.

Mala Mala or any other game reserve in that area is likely to be quite warm, even hot, during the day (perhaps 84 - 88 deg F). However, the temperature may be more like 50 deg F on an early morning game drive. The morning temperature, combined with the wind you'll feel in an open 4x4 vehicle, will mean that you should dress for cool conditions.

As far as Cape Town is concerned, the average daily high in October is 72 deg F. Spring can be absolutely lovely, but it also can be a bit unstable from the weather point of view, and the temperature can fluctuate to some extent on either side of the average.

Hence my advice to bring layers that you can add or peel off as the weather dictates.

October is the beginning of the season in which there is an elevated risk of contracting malaria in the province of Mpumalanga, in which many of the game reserves are located, so get professional medical advice about anti malaria medication.

It sounds as if you've done a lot of research, so all of these are points about which you probably are aware, but I mention them just in case.

Sorry, I can't tell you about the private game reserves from personal experience. Many folks who know them certainly do give Mala Mala good reviews. I'm sure someone will stop by and comment on that in due course.

In order to see a range of territory and animals, you may want to split your safari experience between two different lodges (2 or 3 days in each).

As to Vic Falls, I haven't been there recently, but trip reports from just a short while ago have been complimentary (even more so the comments about the Zambian side, as you seem to have found yourself).
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Aug 27th, 2004, 09:52 PM
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Deedle,

I am not sure as to when you will be in Hermanus in October (beginning or end of month) but please be aware that the Southern Right whales generally migrate back to the Antarctic in the first two weeks of October and by the time you get to the middle of October whale sightings are minimalistic. By the end of the month sightings are rare.

Hope this does not spoil your travel plans because whether there be whales or not at least a one night stayover in Hermanus is worthwile just to enjoy the quaint atmosphere of the village/town itself.

Enjoy our country when you visit us.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa

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Aug 28th, 2004, 01:14 AM
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Judy, thanks for the great information! It is helpful to get confirmation on the things that I have learned already.

Selwyn, thanks for your post too. We are currently planning to stay in Hermanus two days, although if we have little chance of spotting whales, I may consider making it only one day - in favor of adding the second day back to somewhere else in the Garden Route. Any suggestions of places I "can't" miss on the Garden Route? How trecherous is the Prince Albert drive?
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Aug 28th, 2004, 06:07 AM
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Deedle,

If you are talking about tyhe Swartberg Pass Drive when you refer to the Pricne Albert drive then in my opinion it is'nt a case of how treacherous it is as it simply is MUST DO event as far as I am concerned. Please dont misss it as it is a an amazing experience and btw I dont think I would go as far as labelling it as being treacherous at all; all you need to do is drive slowly and with care.

In terms of where to spend the extra day all would be dependant on what your Garden Route trip plan looks like. If you let me know what you are planning in more detail I will be able to advise you further.

Hope this helps.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa

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Aug 28th, 2004, 08:18 PM
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Selwyn,
Right now, our plan is to fly into Port Elizabeth and spend five days driving the Garden Route. We wanted to spend two days in Hermanus (to be certain we could enjoy the whales and everything else Hermanus has to offer), but we may trim that to one day now in favor of other spots. I know I also want to do the Swartberg Pass. Other than that, we have no particulars planned. After the Garden Route, we have about 6-7 days planned at and around Cape Town. There is a ton we want to do there, but if we would benefit by taking a day from CT for the GR, we could do that. Any recommendations for the time we are going? We are planning to get more involved in planning the Garden Route details this weekend, so I will let you know what else we decide.

By the way, I think I accidentally engaged in two threads on this topic, so disregard the other one if you see it.

Thanks again for your help!
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Aug 28th, 2004, 10:00 PM
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Hello Deedle,

Just so that we don't misunderstand each other, I think it would help if we would clarify our terminology.

In the discussions about the Garden Route and Hermanus, I thought you wanted to spend 5 days on the GR and 2 days in Hermanus, so 7 days in all.

In re-reading your posts, however, I think you meant 5 days on the GR, including the 2 days in Hermanus.

The potential for misunderstanding arises from the fact that I think of the GR as the coast from Port Elizabeth (PE) to Mossel Bay. I don't think of Hermanus as belonging to the GR.

But never mind, now that I think I understand what you meant, I can say how much time I think you need to see the coast from PE to Hermanus. I think that, to enjoy the highlights of that portion of your trip, you would need to include the following at a minimum:

Day 1 - Arrive in PE.

Day 2 - Drive through the Tsitsikama Forest to the Knysna / Wilderness area.

Day 3 - Oudtshoorn / Swartberg

Day 4 - Drive to Hermanus (an option would be to go via Cape Agulhas so that you could say you'd stood at the most southerly point in Africa; if you're interested this route also would put you within reach of the ship wreck museum at Arniston and the neighbouring fishing village of Kassiesbaai, which is a living national monument)

Day 5 - In Hermanus

As your research has unearthed, there are heaps of things to see in Cape Town and the winelands.

If you were willing to trim your Cape Town / winelands time from 7 days down to 6 days, you could add one day to your safari time. If I remember correctly, you had allocated 3 days to a safari, which I think is slightly too little. You could add a day to Mpumalanga Province, where the Kruger National Park and nearby private game reserves are located. Alternatively, you could spend a day at Addo Elephant National Park near PE, most logically the day after you arrive in that city.

Hopefully you will hear other opinions that will help you to make choices and flesh out your plans.
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Aug 29th, 2004, 12:48 AM
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deedle,

Although it is on the Zim side, there is no place that I would rather be at while in Victoria Falls than Matetsi Water Lodge.

Matetsi is about a 50 minute drive away from the falls, but this is a good thing. Once you see the amazing Victoria Falls, you may very well be asking yourself, "OK, now what?"

The "now what?" at Matetsi will include canoeing in the Zambezi River, sundowner cruises, bush walks and morning and night game drives (there are a lot of elephants, giraffes and other non-predators in the area, although the website also claims lions and wild dogs, although I didn't encounter either during a three night stay in March, 2002).

Plus, the rooms are very nice at Matetsi, each featuring their own plunge pool and each very close to the banks of the Zambezi River. You are really in the middle of all the action, as there is a lot of wildlife activity on the banks of the river (my wife and I got quite the scare as we were enjoying the plunge pool together and a family of warthogs sprinted by not more than about 10 feet away from us!).

The rack rates of $250 per person sharing per night are unbeatable, considering that you will likely pay the same or more at the nicer places in Victoria Falls or Livingstone with few, if any, extra activities available.

Plus, if you stay six or more nights at CCAfrica lodges (www.ccafrica.com), you will qualify yourself for a very nice discount, which equates roughly to two nights free. CCAfrica has two properties in the Kruger NP/Sabi Sand area (Londolozi and Ngala), four camps at Phinda in the KwaZulu-Natal and a new camp opening in Madikwe (Madikwe Safari Lodge). While I expect Londolozi and Ngala to be expensive, Madikwe Safari Lodge is a bargain at 2,500 ZAR per person per night sharing. Using the current currency exchange, this works out to just under $375 pp per night sharing and each room will also feature a private plunge pool.

I would expect that starting from Joburg, with the discounts that a 6 night stay would entitle you to, that a 6 night safari split between Matetsi Water Lodge and Madikwe Safari Lodge would not be much more than $2,000 per person sharing, including all your air fare and transhers. For South Africa in high season, that is an amazing price for the quality of lodges that CCAfrica presents.

Best of luck.
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Aug 29th, 2004, 03:55 AM
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Thanks Judy and Roccco again!

First, Judy:
You are right that I was including Hermanus as past of the Garden Route. I am glad you clarified that. So it sounds from your most recent post that five days is probably sufficient for everything between PE and CT? Also, in October, is this drive something that should be very organized (ie. we have all our hotel reservations mapped out in advance), or can we likely plan as we go without worry about when and where we are staying?

We have a few concerns about trimming time from CT in favor of another safari day. First, there is so much to see! Second, the safari is very expensive! Which leads me to...

Roccco,
your idea about Madikwe (which a friend also highly recommends) is a good one, which will help with costs. Is the safari experience as good as Simbambili or Mala Mala though? Are we as likely to see the Big 5? Are the surroundings and accommodations as beautiful?

Judy and Roccco,
We were figuring three nights (four days) would be a long enough experience too. Out of pure ignorance, I ask, what will the fourth night offer that the first three have not? Are two of the days really just travel days, leaving only two safari days? I have very high expectations for how great the safari is going to be: am I still underestimating it? Am I better off with four days at Madikwe than three elsewhere? How long of a trip will it be to get to Madikwe from Jo-Burg, and how does that compare to the trip for Simbambili and Mala Mala?

Thanks again for your wealth of information. This is really clarifying a lot of questions we have had, and helping us finalize our trip!
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Aug 29th, 2004, 04:04 AM
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Oh, Roccco, I forgot about Vic Falls:
We are planning two nights in Vic Falls. Given everything else, is that enough time? We have heard that the elephant rides are great, and canoing also sounds like something we would want to do. If we stayed at the Matetsi, would we take cabs to the falls themselves? And is that on the Zambia side (which is the side we intend to stay on)? If not, can you offer a comparable recommendation for Zambia? We have heard recommendations from friends for the Victoria Falls Hotel and the Zambezi Hotel. Thoughts on those?
Thanks!
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Aug 29th, 2004, 08:34 AM
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Deedle,

Take a look at this special offer for "Victoria's Secret" Safari:

http://www.ccafrica.com/seasonal_offers/default.asp

Never mind the dates that this supposedly requires...CCAfrica will honor it just to get people to Matetsi right now. But, you can be rest assured that you are completely in the bush at Matetsi, a good 50 kilometers away from the nearest city (Victoria Falls). You are completely safe at Matetsi from the political situation in Zimbabwe, and you are provided daily transfers with your guide to the Falls for a visit. He even accompanys you all along the way, helping to keep aggressive street vendors away. It is about a 50 - 60 minute transfer each way but does not interfere with your game drives.

In two nights, you should be guaranteed four game drives, a visit to the falls on one day, and perhaps canoeing in the Zambezi River the next day, along with a white linen/silver dinner in the bush, with dozens of torches burning, armed guards standing at the perimeter (to protect against animals) and possibly close enough to hear Victoria Falls faintly in the background, as was arranged on my visit.

You are guaranteed two action packed days at Matetsi, while at other lodges I am concerned that besides an elephant back ride, you probably won't get to do too much. I would imagine that it would be possible to also have Matetsi arrange this option for you if you were willing to leave right after breakfast, and not return until right before your evening game drive and possibly paying an extra fee. (They are very accomodating at Matetsi...when there were two brooding New Yorkers there, bit**ing and moaning about not seeing a leopard, they were driven all the way to Chobe (Botswana) 90 minutes away, for a full day game drive for an extra charge...unfortunately they returned later that evening without having seen their leopard. For shame, for shame! Serves them right trying to compare the vineyards of New York with the vineyards of California. I literally wanted to slap those two!

Lastly, it should be mentioned that at Matetsi guests are provided with a private "butler" who is only the ring of a bell away. While this may sound demeaning, it really adds to the ambience of the lodge and adds to the experience. Honestly, I don't think you can go wrong with Matetsi, and I am having a hard time resisting it myself.
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Aug 29th, 2004, 11:12 AM
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Hello Deedle,

You're eager to include Vic Falls in your itinerary, and I think that's great, because Vic Falls truly is a wonderful sight.

If you can combine Vic Falls with a safari, which sounds possible with Roccco's suggestion of Matetsi, I think that would be super. I mean Matetsi sounds marvellous from Roccco's description of it, and it has the added benefit of efficiency, in the sense of combining a safari and viewing of Vic Falls in what sounds like a time effective manner.

I really do recommend going to 2 different game lodges, in slightly different areas, for at least 2 nights each. Habitats differ from each other, and attract a different mix of animals. You'll get a more varied experience if you split your safaris between 2 destinations.

It sounds as if you want to handle the safari aspect of your vacation in as efficient a manner as possible.

In that case, since you already may be going to Matetsi, it may be most efficient to do your other game viewing nearby, perhaps at Hwange, which also is in Zimbabwe and only 100 miles from Vic Falls.

Alternatively, since Vic Falls is close to the border of Botswana, you may want to cross over to Chobe or somewhere like that.

These destinations may give you a more efficient game viewing experience, overall, than combining Matetsi with a South African game reserve.

It would require some research to check out the accuracy of my hunch.

Madikwe is 3-1/2 hours drive northwest of Johannesburg. I believe one also can fly there. The game reserve was founded in 1991. Although I haven't been to the area since it has been turned into a game reserve, I understand they've done a fabulous job of re-introducing numerous species.

I would not advise going to Madikwe (or any other game reserve!) as the visitor's sole game viewing experience. As I've said, I prefer visiting at least 2 different locations.

One of Madikwe's attractions is that it's in a malaria-free area. But if you're going to Vic Falls you're going to have to take anti malaria medications anyway, so that doesn't count for you.

Madikwe's disadvantage is that it's on its own, so transferring from there to another game reserve area is time consuming.

The benefit of the private game reserves that are contiguous with the Kruger National Park (Sabi Sand, Manyeleti, Timbivati, etc.) is that they are close to each other, so transferring from one to the other is less time consuming. This helps when one's safari is going to be split amongst the game lodges in this area.

The Kruger National Park and its neighbouring game reserves are approximately 5 hours' drive from Johannesburg. The game reserve area is served by 3 airports. Kruger Mpumalanga Airport and Nelspruit usually are used for accessing the southern part of the Kruger National Park and the southern game reserves. Hoedspruit is used for accessing northern Kruger and the northern game reserves. These regional airports are in the neighbourhood of 45 minutes' flying time from Johannesburg.

How one transfers from the regional airport to the game lodge varies. The Honeyguide lodges in Menyeleti, for example, are something like a half hour drive from Hoedspruit, so do not require an additional flight.

As I understand it, Mala Mala has its own airstrip (that Nottens and perhaps other neighbouring properties are allowed to share). So reaching a place like Mala Mala may involve flying on a scheduled flight from Johannesburg to Kruger Mpumalanga and from there taking a short flight (maybe 20 minutes) in a small plane to Mala Mala's airstrip.

Each private game lodge offers its own selection of transfer options. I do know that luggage restrictions are more rigorous when you travel in small planes and land on small airstrips.

The private game lodges usually conduct their game drives early in the morning and in the late afternoon / early evening. Midday usually is a time for relaxation if one is not undertaking a transfer on a given day. If one is transferring from one lodge to another, one usually does so in the middle of the day, so as to take advantage of the morning game drive at one lodge and the evening game drive at the next lodge.

Something to take into consideration is that the Kruger National Park is 2 million hectares. If one adds the areas of the nearby private games reserves, that are not separated from Kruger by fences, one is looking at a vast wildlife preserve.

Hwange also is in the neighbourhood of 2 million hectares.

By comparison, Madikwe is 60,000 hectares and Matetsi is 45,000 hectares.

I'm not saying that size is the only thing that counts, but a large area does give the larger species, such as elephants, plenty of room in which to roam, and I do think it contributes something to the overall game viewing experience.

So I think there would be some merit in having one of your game viewing experiences in a game reserve that is part of a large complex.

Since your safari will not coincide with a school vacation, that I know of, hopefully there won't be any kids on your game drives (regardless of whether or not your game lodges accept kids).

I would recommend starting in the north and travelling southwards in the southern hemisphere spring / early summer. November is the start of the rainy season around Vic Falls. By the same token, the later you get to Cape Town, the more likely it is to be sunny and warm down there.

Hope this helps.
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Aug 29th, 2004, 07:06 PM
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I'm a Cape Town girl, who now lives in the USA (non-permanently). Cape Town is the most beautiful city in the world. There is no way you could miss out on a place like that! Vic Falls is overrated if you've sen Niagara, but it is REALLY cheap to go anywhere in Zimbabwe at the moment. Try Matetsi Game Lodge, Its a CC Africa Lodge. absolutely incredible, it might be possible to get a great deal there because business has been slower than in South Africa.

Have a great time. Its a beautiful country and I can't wait to go home!
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