South Africa or Botswana?

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Oct 14th, 2003, 11:53 AM
  #1
wj1
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South Africa or Botswana?

Hi everyone. I'm just beginning to think about next year's vacation and I need some suggestions about which country to visit. At this point, we're thinking of going to either South Africa or Botswana (and if it worked out, Namibia).

Let me give you some info and see if that helps all you experts come up with an opinion.

First off, we'll be two middle-aged but young at heart couples going. (Other friends may join us, but that will be after we decide what we want to do.) I am the only one who has been to Africa before--Kenya on a Micato tour about 7 years ago. I got the Africa bug too, but life got in the way and I'm only able to get back there now.

We'll have only 14-16 days to spend there including flying from Los Angeles. I would really like the others to go on Big Game drives since they've never been on one. I'm still not sure of budget but am guessing about $6500pp including internal airfare.

I've ruled out Kenya since I've already been there. We were thinking of South Africa but I have some concerns and were wondering if they are valid. My concern is that maybe there are parts of South Africa that are similar to California. For example, why would we really want to spend so much money and fly so far away to go to wineries, see coastline etc.? Is this a valid concern? We're also not really interested in birding but would like to try maybe a game drive on a boat or on foot (not a lot, just to vary the game drive routine). We would also enjoy see some tribal villages. If we did go to South Africa, we would be interested in seeing a township and Robbin Island. If one couple had to leave after 14 days, the other couple might be interested in tacking on a visit to Victoria Falls. We will not want to rent a car. My guess is that this trip will probably take place next October or November.

So what's the verdict out there? What are the differences between the countries? I really appreciate your thoughts including suggestions as to how to sort all this out. Thanks in advance.
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Oct 14th, 2003, 03:36 PM
  #2
sandi
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I agree that if you live in California and have seen the vineyards, you don't need to do so in CPT. But CPT should be seen as it is a beautiful city. That said, trying to get So.Africa, Botswana, Vic Falls and Namibia into one trip is pushing it in 14nts (+2 days traveling). One or the other Botswana or Namibia might have to be saved for another time, though you can get a taste of either on this trip.

Some samples would be:
Dy1-Lv.CA - arrive JFK or ATL
Dy2-Arv.JNB connect to CPT or arrive CPT
Dy3-CPT
Dy4-CPT
Dy5-CPT fly to Windhoek, Namibia
Dy6-Fly to the Sossusvlei-the Dunes area
Dy7-Sossusvlei
Dy8-Fly rtn to WDH, fly to VFA
Dy9-VFA-Fall Tour-leisue-Fly to JNB
Dy10-JNB - Township tour
Dy11-Fly to Hoedspruit (Kruger) Private
Dy12- Reserve lodge/camp - safari
Dy13-Still on safari
Dy14-Still on safari
Dy15-Panorama Route rtn to JNB via
Nelspruit airport
Lv.JNB to ATL or JFK
Dy16-Arv.ATL or JFK connect to CA.

CPT-3nt; WDH-1nt; SOS-2nts; VFA-1nt; JNB-2nts; Kruger-4nts - total 13nts.

The above includes time in Namibia at the Sossusvlei - the amazing Dunes area (but no Botswana), or

Dy1-Lv.CA - arrive JFK or ATL
Dy2-Arv.JNB connect to CPT or arrive CPT
Dy3-CPT
Dy4-CPT
Dy5-CPT fly to Vic Fall via JNB
Dy6-VFA - Falls Tour - transfer by
road (1-hr)to Botswana - Chobe
Natl Park
Dy7-Chobe Park
Dy8-Return by road to VFA - some leisure
time till 4pm flite to JNB
Dy9-JNB - Township tour
Dy10-JNB fly to Hoedspruit (Kruger)
Dy11- Private Reserve lodge/camp
Dy12- for safari
Dy13-Still on safari
Dy14-Still on safari
Dy15-Panorama Route rtn to JNB via
Nelspruit airport
Lv.JNB to ATL or JFK
Dy16-Arv.ATL or JFK connect to CA.

CPT-3nts; VFA-1nt; BOTS-2nts; JNB-2nts; Kruger-5nts - total 13nts

The above includes 2-days Botswana, but no Namibia.

The Botswana portions do not include the Okavango Delta area, rather Chobe which is known for it's large elephant herds.

I have a thing about traveling in one direction and not backtracking if at all possible - and the flight schedules and time is of utmost importance. It's not like there are on-the-hour shuttle flights between many of these destinations or every day service for that matter.

Of course, you can add or subtract a day anywhere; maybe go to Phinda in Natal in addition to Kruger; see a township in the CPT area instead of spending time in JNB - but I hope this give you some idea of what you can consider.

We would all like to have as much time and as much money to go and stay as long as, but unfortunately that's not the case with most of us - so we take a taste a bit at a time.

There are a number of tour operators that many use on these boards - while one in particular is budget they can do whatever you want:
2afrika.com (in NJ)
go2africa.com (in SA)
africatours.com (in NY)
fisheagles (in Houston)
pulsetravel (in SA)
- and lots more that don't come to me right now.

For airfares check: www.premiertours.com
which is also a tour operator; also 2afrika.com (the budget company,above) also has good airfares.

Check the following site for a wealth of info including estimate prices for accommodations:
www.e-gnu.com

Think this should get you started.
 
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Oct 14th, 2003, 05:13 PM
  #3
wj1
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Sandi,that was amazing. It certainly is more than a start.

Sorry for not being clearer. I didn't think that we could, and wouldn't want to, try to do South Africa, Botswana, Victoria Falls and Namibia all in one two week trip. In your mind, what are the greatest differences between the countries? I was thinking that maybe we should concentrate on just one country and save the rest for another trip. Namibia sounds great but I'm thinking that unless it's an add-on, I'd like to have my husband see the other countries first. Any more thoughts?

In the meantime, I'll keep looking at your itineraries and continue to be amazed at the knowledge and generosity of Fodorites!
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Oct 15th, 2003, 04:02 AM
  #4
sandi
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Well, then that makes it much easier. There is more than enough to see in SA along with a side-trip to Vic Falls which doesn't really need more than 1-day. Although with the tenuous situation in Zimbabwe these days, many people are staying on the Zambia side and add another day to investigate things around the Livingston, area in Zambia.

Then Namibia and Botswana (Okavango Delta) area can be done on a separate trip a few years later on.

In addition to time in CPT, you can drive up the Garden Route with a few stops along the way to Pt. Elizabeth or Durban, head onto Phinda Reserve in Natal, then to Kruger Private Reserves and the quick trip to VFA.

All will depend on flight schedules so would put VFA between Phinda and Kruger (often you have to fly via JNB to get from one to the other) and I personally believe in saving the best for last.

If this works for you, present this to a few tour operators and see what itinerary they come up with - including hotels, inter- and intra-country flights, accommodations and, of course, price.

Once you have some of these, come back here and I'm sure they'll be plenty of input and comments - have fun!
 
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Oct 15th, 2003, 02:18 PM
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I mentioned your posting to my husband, and here's what he came up with, thinking especially of your desire to see big game.

Fly from the US to Jo'burg and on to Windhoek, Namibia. (Or from the US to Europe and then on to Windhoek.) Drive or fly up to Etosha National Park where you'll see many large herds of game. You can stay in the park and/or someplace close like Etosha Aoba Lodge.

From there, drive or fly to Maun and organize a safari into the Okavango, where you'll see all kinds of game. Then fly to Cape Town and see the V&A waterfront and take the trip out to Robben Island. From there, fly to Durban, drive immediately up to someplace like Umhlanga Rocks and spend a day relaxing on the beach. Then drive on up to St. Lucia and take the river tour where you'll see hippos and crocs. Keep driving up the coast to Umfolozi-Hluhluwe Park where you'll see rhinos like no place else on earth. Stay in Hilltop Camp there. You'll also see lots of game in addition to the rhinos.

Drive up to Kruger and stay at someplace elegant like Mala Mala where you're almost certain to see leopards and other big cats, or stay in Kruger itself, in one of the "guest houses" if you want semi-elegance on a less expensive scale.

You'll see the Big Five, and you'll see a lot of South Africa if you drive. The four of you and your luggage would fit in a van, and you'd be up high for good views of the animals in the parks. The excellent SA highways make this a good option. But flying would work too if time matters more than money. I didn't really think about how many days this itinerary would take; maybe it's too long, but it includes big game and Robben Island.

I think you're right to skip the wine country; it's very like California, (but different too), and something you can do when you go back.

South Africa is very much a part of the modern world, Botswana less so, in my opinion. Namibia is a lot like SA to my mind. It's hard for me to recommend one over the other. Both SA and Namibia have excellent national parks and good tourist infrastructure. Food is more expensive in Namibia than in SA; I think lodging is about the same, maybe slightly more in Namibia. South Africa has world class cities as well as wild places.

Whatever you decide, I know you'll love southern Africa.
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Oct 15th, 2003, 06:47 PM
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I am not an expert on Africa, so take this information for what it is worth. We just got back from South Africa a few weeks ago. We fell in love with the country.We did a few of the things on your list, so I thought I would tell you about what we did,just in case something might be of help.

We did spend 5 days in Cape Town at the start of our trip and it is a beautiful city. It did sometimes remind me of Califoria however.You could at moments forget you are in Africa,except when you catch sight of the many townships around, then you remember very well where you are. We visited a township,with Fodors own Selwyn Davidowitz, who is a wonderful man, who does private tours, and sometimes gives advice on this board. It was a day we won't forget anytime soon.I recommend this very highly.If we could only do one thing in Cape Town it would be this.We didn't make it out to Robbin Island,but I did hear very good reports about it from people who did.

Celia, mentioned Mala Mala private game reserve. That is where we stayed for 3 days of game viewing.We stayed at Kirkmens Kamp, which isn't as expensive as the main camp, but we really liked it. It isn't as elegant as some of the lodges I hear about, but it is very nice and quite comfortable, and the food was excellent.
Most important of all, the game drives were fantastic.We saw all of the "big 5" several times, plus several others.

From Kirkman's,we flew to Johannesburg for the night, and on to Victoria Falls for 2 nights.We stayed at the Royal Livingstone on the Zambian side of the falls.We did like the Royal Livingstone, it is very well located and the grounds are beautiful.Hippos were in the river right next to the resort,and some very playful vervet monkeys were very entertaining. Since we only had the 2 days we concentrated on just seeing the main atraction, the Falls.The first night there we took a Sundowner cruise,which was pleasant.The next morning we had arranged for a guided tour of the Zimbabwe side.After this we took a tour out to Livingstone Island to have lunch and view the falls. From here you are right on top of the Falls,and what an awesome place to see the Falls.Rainbows where on display and you can swim right next to where the water goes over the Falls.You can only get to the Island however in the dry season.After this we saw the falls from the Zambian side.Victoria Falls is beautiful and is worth seeing from both sides.We wished we had stayed one more day here, to go on an half day,Elephant back safari. We heard that was great.
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Oct 16th, 2003, 03:44 AM
  #7
sandi
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wji-
Celia has some great ideas about Namibia having returned recently and whose trip report I vvery much enjoyed reading, however, the flight scheduled from Windhoek to Maun (for Okavango Delta) are limited. And flights from Maun to CPT appear to have to go via Gabarrone.

As you clearly stated in your reply to my initial response, in reality you can really do one country.

While air transport within SA is doable, getting between some of the countries from other of the countries can sometimes take a full day, which I do't think you want.

You can do just about anything in the "lower-four" countries, but flights schedules have got to be considered. Sometimes there is only one flight a day and not every day at that. Keep that in mind - I don't think you want to spend a day just flying to/fr places.
 
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Oct 16th, 2003, 08:41 AM
  #8
wj1
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Thanks so much everyone. My head is ready to burst with all your ideas. I will never get over how helpful everyone is here.

I'm now thinking of Botswana with Victoria Falls and a few days in Capetown (mostly just to break up the trip a bit). Dottie, thanks for your Capetown summary. It really helps me firm up in my mind what Capetown is like. I'll definitely do a township tour because the townships are definitely a part of South Africa's history, even if it's not pretty.

I'm sure I'll be back soon with a bunch of questions. Thanks again!!
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