South Africa: tour or "do-it-myself?"

Jan 1st, 2005, 02:17 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 29
South Africa: tour or "do-it-myself?"

Planning to visit Cape Town and surrounds, Vic. Falls and add a Safari in Sept or Oct(best month?). Should I take a tour or try to do-it-myself once I get to Cape Town? Cape Town area sounds easy to do on my own but am concerned about the logistics of getting to Vic Falls and find a Safari on my own. Can I find local assistance in Cape Town? Any advice, suggestions are appreciated.
ghypse is offline  
Jan 1st, 2005, 03:36 PM
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Yes, September - October is a fine time to go. Suggest you start in the north and move southwards. Spring weather can be unstable in Cape Town, and the later you go the better the chance of warm, fine weather down there.

If you have two months to spend in Africa, if you can afford to stay in a hotel in Johannesburg, Durban or Cape Town while you plan your further adventures, and if you can afford to take flights that double back on your route, by all means wing it. Otherwise, design your itinerary and make reservations ahead of time.

Africa is a huge place. There are great distances to cover. The transportation infrastructure linking cities and wildlife preserves is not as concentrated as the one that links European cities. Setting out from Cape Town to go on safari isn't like being in Rome and thinking to yourself, "Hmmm, I think I'll go to Florence today," and hopping on one of many trains that's available throughout the day.

On your short list of Southern African safari destinations, consider Zambia. See this thread, for example:

Another country to consider for a safari, and one that is easily accessible from Vic Falls, is Botswana. First class safari destination, but more expensive than Zambia. Lots of threads here at Fodors, which a word search will bring up.

South Africa offers a great variety of safari experiences, all the way from luxury (and expensive!) game lodges to self-drive, self-catering, rather inexpensive wildlife viewing opportunities in the national parks.

Namibia also offers excellent wildlife viewing opportunities.

Suggest you choose one country for your safari experience. You will waste way too much time and money if you hop from a game reserve in one country to a game reserve in another country.

When it comes to Southern Africa, South Africa and Botswana seem to be the most popular with first time visitors to Africa. As the opportunities in Zambia and Namibia are becoming better known, some first timers are going to those countries too.

Mozambique is recovering from a civil war that interrupted tourism, and I'm noticing that more travellers are going there. I knew that wonderful country before the war. At this point I think Mozambique is a bit of an outlier for a newbie, and I think it's best left for a subsequent visit.

Zimbabwe is another potentially amazing country, the ordinary people are great and they need the tourist dollars, but until Robert Mugabe disappears into the sunset I personally am not attracted to going there.

A company that is reasonably priced and that consistently gets excellent reviews at Fodors is Taga Safaris:

A poster recently recommended Cruiselite. It was the first time I'd heard of them, and their website looked good to me. Judging only from the information on their website, they look as if they would be a bit more budget oriented than Taga Safaris. For example they go primarily to the Kruger National Park rather than to private game lodges. Nonetheless, they do not seem to have an "If it's Tuesday this must be Belgium " itinerary that some tour companies seem to have. So I get the impression they are worth looking into:

Hope that helps.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2005, 07:49 AM
Join Date: Mar 2004
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Hi, You should try and stay in a hotel ON or very near the V & A Waterfront in Cape Town because it is the safest to walk around, especially evenings and lots happens there all the time. For instance you can catch the Open Top bus for the most amazing ride around Cape Town which takes about 2 hours right from outside the acquarium. Loads of places to eat, but also take a cab to Long Street for good food. The tourist bureau there will give you numerous options like wine route tours and game farms, to choose from so you can be on the go everyday non-stop!
About Vic Falls. Seriously consider seeing the falls from Namibia, Botswana or Zambia. All four countries meet near the Caprivi strip where the falls are and the game viewing in Botswana is something else.
We are going to Namibia in May and are spending 6 days in the Etosha Pan just to view game. Then besides a whole lot of other stuff, we are making for Swakopmund to stay a few days and take some dolphin cruises from Walvis Bay( not a wonderful place to stay). Then on to Soussussvlei Lodge to walk among the sand dunes and sleep under the stars.(You get a roof top chalet at some places).
We would never consider going to Zimbabwe. A friend of ours went on an organised fishing trip two months ago with about twenty other guys and stayed at a government camp. They were all arrested on trumped up charges and harrassed continually by the POLICE!
Its beautiful but dangerous.
Get a very in depth atlas of Southern Africa which gives you distances etc.
I would book a fully orgaised tour to a game viewing destination like Botswana, Namibia etc.

tod is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2005, 08:03 AM
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Back again Ghypse. Check out what Tankgirl12 said about Cruiselite Tours & Safaris. Sounds good to me and may just be your answer. Good luck.
tod is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2005, 09:45 AM
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Not to be completely disrespectful, but I think your advise is totally out of kilter.

First of all, anybody that has ever designed a custom itinerary and sent it to the right tour operators, knows that they can get their own personalized itinerary, for less the price as any pre-packaged itinerary, and at the same time, they can eliminate the unnecessary fluff (nights in places that one really does not want to be, or in lodges/hotels that one would not select otherwise).

The only time I would suggest a prepackaged itinerary, is for someone that does not want to do the research that will allow for the best possible trip, or for someone on such a tight budget, that they do not mind being herded together with hordes of other tourists at places such as Protea hotels, rather than at true African (luxury) game lodges.

Also, regarding Victoria Falls, I fail to see the logic in staying in either Namibia or Botswana to see the Falls. Each one will require multiple hours driving just to see the falls, and will not put you along the Zambezi River with the chosen lodging. There are so many quality places to stay in Zimbabwe and Zambia that it would make no sense, whatsoever, not to stay in either Livingstone (Zambia), Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) or even Matetsi (CCAfrica property located about 40kms away from Victoria Fals, but still on the Zambezi River and offering free daily transfers to Victoria Falls with an armed scout, along with morning and night game drives to see tremendous amounts of elephants, along with giraffe, buffalo, various antelope, and predators, all for only $250 pp per night sharing).

Zimbabwe has its problems, but I think you have wrongly vilified it. 99.9% of the tourists that go to Zimbabwe, go without incident, and are rewarded by some great rates right now.

You are not helping matters any by steering people away from a country that desperately needs the help of tourism right now.
Roccco is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2005, 11:51 AM
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I would recommend that you do-it-yourself, but with the assistance of a local operator, like Taga Safaris that Judy recommends.

You can visit Cape Town by yourself, but safari accomodations tend to book quickly, so I would suggest that you plan where you want to visit (Cape Town, Vic Falls and Botswans would fit what you've mentioned) and send an email to Taga Safaris, or another operator that you find during research.

They'll be able to put together an itinerary for you and book everything, including intra-African airfare.

Chobe is a great park within driving distance of Vic Falls, and there's all sorts of lodging depending on what level of luxury you're after.

thit_cho is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2005, 01:15 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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Hold your horses. I find it quite amazing how everyone glibly tells you what to do in Cape Town yet no one knows how long you are going to be in the city. I am a tourism professional in Cape Town who is born and raised in this city and I would not know how to advise you without a timeframe of your days in the city. Thus I ask myself how anybody could tell you with such authority what to do?

With that said could you give us a time span of how long you want to spend in Cape Town and how long you intend spending on safari, be it in Zimbabwe or not. Once you let us know this many Fodorites, inclusive of myself, will be able to help you much further with some advice.

Just my twopence worth.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa

Selwyn_Davidowitz is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2005, 04:56 PM
Original Poster
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Posts: 29
Thanks to all for the info. I was going B.A. from London. Now I find better fares on Virgin Atlantic. But they only travel into Joburg. I can probably do my trip in reverse but how much of a problem/expense is it to get from Joburg to Cape Town and back again? Thanks again.
ghypse is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2005, 08:03 PM
Join Date: Mar 2004
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ghypse - getting down to Cape Town and back on SAA will be expensive but there are cheaper airlines like but in the end you may just come out the same as if you had taken the BA flight and have had all the inconvenience of extra flying.
Roccco - No offense taken - we are all free to give advice the way we personally see things. As a born an bred African I too sympathise with the Zimbabweans who have had their homeland totally destroyed by one man who has unleashed a campaign of mass murder and terror against his political opponents.
Today Zimbabwe is a country beset by violence and lawlessness with an economy in tatters. So who is keeping the tourists away?
By the by - Zim has traders pouring into South Africa all the time selling their wares and taking back precious rands. I know, because two of them arrive on my doorstep every 6 weeks or so and we buy all we can.
Ghypse - go on an organised tour to Zimbabwe by all means but I personally think there are better options.
tod is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2005, 03:31 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,216
On our trip (from London) to Southern Africa earlier this year we found the best solution was to buy an open-jaw ticket on SAA - we flew into Cape Town and home from Johannesburg.
You'll probably find that the cost of a flight back to the airport you came into would be the same as the extra cost of getting an open jaw return ticket in the first place?

I'm with Selwyn in that I find it very hard to give advice on the rest of your questions - where to go, what to see - without an indication of how LONG your trip is to be?

Kavey is offline  

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