South Africa vs Kenya/Tanzania

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Jul 25th, 2005, 01:30 PM
  #1
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South Africa vs Kenya/Tanzania

I am planning a trip to Africa next April. My travel agent told me that Victoria Falls is not worth the day it takes to get there and the day back. Has anyone been there? Is this true? I have always heard it is great.I also still have a question mark between South Africa and Botswana or Kenya and Tanzania. I would love to be on safari for about 5 or 6 days and spend a total of 14 days on vacation. Is the animal viewing in Botswana good or is it a glorified zoo?
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Jul 25th, 2005, 04:32 PM
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nanspec,

First off, dump your travel agent. Victoria Falls in April should be fabulous. Spending a two or three nights in Victoria Falls and then flying up to South Luangwa National Park for 4 or 5 nights of safari during their Wild Dog Season will be an awesome little trip.

Show me your travel agent's itinerary and I will more than likely show you an overpriced trip with inadequate accomodations.

Has your travel agent mentioned that you will be able to do these activities in Victoria Falls?

Elephant Back Safari
White Water Rafting
Microlighting Over Victoria Falls
Helicopter Over Victoria Falls
See A Lunar Rainbow If Visiting During Full Moon
Cultural Visits
Bungee Jumping

Do not come all the way to Africa and then do some cheap tour that only takes you to Chobe and Victoria Falls with a group of other people. For about the same price you may instead experience a custom luxury safari and stay at camps in areas that are very exclusive in camps with no more than a capacity of about 12 guests.

Take a look at these Victoria Falls and South Luangwa accomodations:

www.stanleysafaris.com (Victoria Falls)
www.star-of-africa.com (Sussi Lodge in Victoria Falls, Puku Ridge or Chichele Presidential Lodge in South Luangwa)
www.luangwariverlodge.com (South Luangwa)

These are the types of places that you should be visiting.

I sense some skepticism and negativity already from you, and this is quite understandable given the attitude of your travel agent. You will NOT experience the magic that Africa beholds as long as you are with an agent like this. As long as your budget is not ridiculously low, you will be able to go much further by talking to the members of this forum.

If you do like the above accomodations and you have a budget (excluding international airfare) of at least $275 per person per night sharing, then you would be able to enjoy a top-notch luxury safari to Victoria Falls and South Luangwa. Botswana will be around $450 per person per night sharing at similar lodges if that is in your budget.

The only thing you will find in Kenya or Tanzania for that price is a group tour of a scheduled departure, but no way will it get you a custom luxury safari at the level of lodges you will enjoy at the places I mentioned above.

If the above places I mentioned appeal to you, and your budget is at the level I mentioned, then feel free to e-mail me and I will be able to recommend a couple good sources that will be able to help you get the very best prices.
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Jul 25th, 2005, 05:49 PM
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Good grief, unless your travel agent is your soulmate, this kind of advice is way beyond what a good travel agent would offer. Do YOU want to see Vic Falls? Many people love this part of their safari, and it is fairly easy to do from any of the Southern African destinations (but not from Kenya or Tanzania). Some people would prefer to spend their time on other activities if they only have 14 days...but blanket statements like this are not a good way to "advise" clients. How well does your agent know you? Know Africa?

To your second question: no, Botswana is not a glorified zoo. (Did the same agent give you this impression? If so, that's two strikes. Dump them.) Gameviewing in Botswana is superb, and the camps allow you to really feel that you are out in the wilderness. You will not see as many other tourist vehicles around the animals in Bots as you would in Kenya, which most people consider a plus. But Bots is a different environment from the open savannahs of Kenya and Tanzania, so they don't have huge herds of migrating game. But you will see lots of wildlife, and a great diversity of animals. Bots also has the largest herds of elephants left in Africa. The animals are habituated to vehicles for good viewing. But this is emphatically wild African bush, not a zoo.
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Jul 25th, 2005, 06:41 PM
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<The only thing you will find in Kenya or Tanzania for that price is a group tour of a scheduled departure, but no way will it get you a custom luxury safari at the level of lodges you will enjoy at the places I mentioned above.>

Rocco,
I'm afraid you've been giving people the wrong impression that Kenya and Tanzania are very expensive destinations. Certainly your trip is turning out to be so, but I think what's driving the cost of your trip up has much to do with your stays at the semi-permanent camps on your itinerary and the fact that you're traveling at the height of season. And if you're quoting low/shoulder season prices for Vic Falls/South Luangwa, then you're not making fair comparisons. The OP can get just as favorable pricing in East Africa for the same time of year.

Take a look through some of the other threads here to see what others are paying for private safaris in Tanzania including stays in luxury permanent camps like Mbuzi Mawe, Migration, or Swala. You certainly don't need to relegate yourself to a group tour on a budget of +/-$300pppn in Tanzania (or Kenya for that matter).

And have you actually done any research on Kenya? Depending on the season, you can stay at some of the most exclusive ecolodges and camps in Kenya for $250-$300pppn including full board, day/night game drives, safari walks, laundry, drinks, etc., and these are not places you're likely to find included on a group tour.

So please, please cut it out with the generalizations about East Africa, will ya?
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Jul 25th, 2005, 07:38 PM
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Patty,

Sorry for the generalizations. Admittedly, I have received no more than about five quotes on Kenya and Tanzania combined in the last year (but all of them in the last couple weeks).

The fact of the matter is that I know Zambia about 100 times better than I know East Africa, so, naturally, I really know where to go for the best pricing and who to deal with.

On the other hand, perhaps if I knew Tanzania better, I would be able to do much better in the Serengeti than I did. The Nomad Camps are $500 per person per night sharing, and that is not counting the guide and vehicle. I have four nights at Nomad Camps.

Mbuzi Mawe and Manyara Tree Camp are even more expensive at $600 per person per night, but where else could I possibly stay in that class in those areas? I don't even want to talk about Ngorongoro Crater Lodge...I will likely upgrade to this lodge from my currently booked stay at the Serena. While the Crater Lodge does not appear to be worth its tariff, it just appears to be so much better than the accomodations anywhere else at the Crater, that there is little choice if one expects luxury lodging.

It is probably that I just don't know East Africa well enough, but I just think the accomodations are not as much a concern as in Southern Africa. Perhaps I am going to be so overwhelmed by the gameviewing that I will not see this as an issue, but for now, it is a glaring difference.

For the best East Africa accomodations, it really gets one into the Wilderness Safaris cost range for high season Botswana, other than the 6-paw camps. The major difference is that Botswana is very exclusive.

Anyway, I will try my best to reserve further opinions on East Africa until after I actually visit!

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Jul 25th, 2005, 08:59 PM
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I know Manyara Tree Camp is rather expensive, but is your tour operator quoting you $600pppn for Mbuzi Mawe? The price I received when I contacted Serena for a possible November stay was $315 per night double occupancy full board (not per person). Now granted I would expect price increases for next Feb, but $1200 per night for 2 people seems excessive even if you add up the park fees and costs of a vehicle and guide. Are you sure about the price?
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Jul 25th, 2005, 09:44 PM
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Patty,

Is November high season? I was told by ATR that 2006 rates were not yet released and he just priced it out at the maximum (it is supposed to get a big fat price hike) and then an adjustment will be made downward if it is less than $600 pppns...this was worst case scenario.

Other pricing?

Nomad Camps (Masek & Piaya) $474 pppns

Manyara Tree Camp $539 pppns

11 nights of private vehicle & guide, including two nights at Ngorongoro Serena and one night at Olduvai Camp (don't know why this was not priced separately). Also includes price of transfer from Seronera to Zanzibar $3,400

I will be without a guide and vehicle on my first two nights at Moivaro Coffee Lodge, but I do have an airport transfer on my evening of arrival and I will meet my guide & vehicle on the second day to make all arrangements for my next morning's early departure to Moshi for the Kiliminjaro Marathon.

Moivaro Coffee Lodge ($68 pppns)

So, already, I am up to $12,000 and I haven't even upgraded to Crater Lodge yet or paid for 2 nights at Emerson & Green and 3 nights at Palms Zanzibar. Once I do this, I am looking at a final tab of about $17,000 for:

3 nights - Moivaro Coffee Lodge
2 nights - Manyara Tree Camp
2 nights - Crater Lodge
1 night - Olduvai Camp
2 nights - Masek Camp
2 nights - Piaya Camp
2 nights - Mbuzi Mawe
2 nights - Emerson & Green
3 nights - Palms Zanzibar

The five nights split between Moivaro Coffee Lodge and Emerson & Green do not even amount to $1,000. Therefore, for the other 14 nights, I am looking at about $1,150 per night ($575 pppns), making this trip as expensive as it would have been for a 12 night high season Botswana safari and possibly 5 nights in the Western Cape. Not really what I was expecting, but once the ball started rolling, I didn't stand a chance.

But, whatever the cost is, I am sure this is going to be an excellent itinerary and a fabulous trip. It will be a great treat to be able to go on safari in February/March, a time that I would rather not be at home, and a time that until now I did not know was possible for a high season safari.
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Jul 26th, 2005, 06:06 AM
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Hello Nanspec,
Victoria fall is good but to get there is coherrent complitly- But the sujestion is that you cantravel to Tanzania where by that time all the migration will be on this side.
But also the month that you have choosen is wrong month here becouse that time is our long rain season.
So you can do march or laiterat June.
Thank's a lot.
Ndonga.
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Jul 26th, 2005, 06:48 AM
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Rocco,
November offers shoulder season pricing at some but not all properties in East Africa. It just seemed like a huge jump in price from $315 to $1200 per night! But now that I know it's based on 'worst case scenario', it makes more sense. Still I can't see the price increasing by almost $900 within months, but what do I know?
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Jul 26th, 2005, 07:00 AM
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That price jump at Mbuzi Mawe is incredible. I too had been quoted (a soft quote, and not for high season) that Mbuzi Mawe was only marginally more expensive than the Serena.

Guess those days are over. I hope it's not a trend.

Rocco, obviously luxe/exclusive accommodations are important to you, but I still think one could get away with going cheaper than the Crater Lodge...Of course, you know best what, in the end, will make you and your wife happy, and if you can afford it, why not?
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Jul 26th, 2005, 07:28 AM
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Roccco, as you know, you are paying a VERY high premium for using plastic. I guarantee you -- and you know this because you have been preaching this gospel for years -- that you could have gotten significantly better pricing on that same itinerary from a Tanzanian outfitter. So yes, the way you have chosen to do Tanzania is pricey. But it doesn't have to be so! Our itinerary for 15 days & nights on a private safari for 2 people in our own vehicle with our own driver/guide in November is $4,085 pp, which includes:
1 night Kia Lodge, morning flight to Serengeti
3 nights Migration Camp
2 nights Mbuzi Mawe
3 nights Serengeti Serena
1 night Ndutu
2 nights Ngorongoro Serena
1 night Gibbs Farm
2 nights Swala in Tarangire
day room Kia Lodge prior to evening flight
This includes the domestic flight, all meals, transfers, park fees, etc. -- basically everything except tips and the occasional bar bill -- grand total $272.33 per person per night! (Less than or comparable to what you're saying Zambia & Vic Falls would be.)

Yes, park fees are going up a bit next year, but you could definitely plan a wonderful safari in Tanzania and/or Kenya at very nice accommodations for under $300 per person per night.

Nanspec -- I do think if you want to go to Victoria Falls, you should! I have not been there yet but it is on my list and I certainly wouldn't let a travel agent talk me out of it.

By the way, you can also have a wonderful safari in South Africa for under $300 per person per night. We spent 3 nights in Kruger National Park, 3 nights in Sabi Sands at a lovely small safari lodge called Chitwa Chitwa, and 6 nights in Cape Town -- highly recommended and very reasonable, relatively speaking.

I have not been to Botswana yet but have only heard wonderful things about the game viewing there. Friends who went came back with photos that made me green with envy. Pricewise it seems significantly higher but I am not the expert on that.

Have fun planning!
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Jul 26th, 2005, 09:23 AM
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Lisa:

Having priced many of the same places Rocco has chosen with out and in- country operators, I disagree with you that Rocco "could have gotten significantly better pricing on that same itinerary from a Tanzanian outfitter." I do not believe that Roy's, for example, can price Crater Lodge, Manyara Tree Camp, and Nomad's camps for less--certainly not for "significantly" less. Rocco chose the highest end places to stay. I think that everyone is in agreement that you do not have to spend $500pppn for a very nice Tanzanian trip--and your own itinerary is a perfect example of it. [looks wonderful and at a great price.]
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Jul 26th, 2005, 11:01 AM
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OK bat, maybe you're right, what do I know? I'm just giving Roccco a bit of a hard time because I know his champagne tastes are getting the best of him right now with his switch to Crater Lodge.
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Jul 26th, 2005, 11:32 AM
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Lisa:
Agreed. Rocco's tastes are not only "champagne" tastes--we are talking Le Grande Dame or Dom Perignon reserve!!! [Rocco, nothing wrong with that--but remember that champagne is "extra" at Crater Lodge.]

Nanspec:
I do not think that anyone has mentioned this yet re Tanz/Kenya but I understand that for Tanzania April will be the rain season. Comments anyone?


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Jul 26th, 2005, 11:57 AM
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By $1,200 per night for Mbuzi Mawe, I mean $600 pppns, but as I said, that price may fall slightly once the firm pricing for 2006 is released.

There just appears to be more of an emphasis on nicer accomodations in Southern Africa than in East Africa. I mean Mbuzi Mawe is really not all that fancy yet it is pretty costly. There is no way that I would be able to stomach the Serengeti Serena, so there were not any other options I was aware of but Mbuzi Mawe.
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Jul 26th, 2005, 12:05 PM
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But it's still shocking to me that they (Mbuzi Mawe) are nearly doubling their prices for 2006.

I mean, the Serena hotels site lists 2005 prices as $340 pppn. And only $230 for a single.

It's an enormous, gigantic jump.

Is this unprecedented? Or normal?
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Jul 26th, 2005, 12:32 PM
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Leely,
I actually think that Serena has a misprint on their website. I think it's $340 per night per double (not per person) for 2005 and this would be more in line with what their sales agent quoted me directly. That's also the way they list their rates for other properties (in double/single terms, not pppn). Otherwise, it doesn't make any sense to me that one person occupying a tent would cost $230, yet 2 people occupying the same tent costs $680, no? If that were the case, I'd tell them that my husband and I will each take separate tents

So if it turns out that their 2006 pricing is really $1200 per night per double (or $600pppn), then that's almost a quadrupling of prices, even more gigantic, enormous, and shocking! I suppose we should just be patient and see.
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Jul 26th, 2005, 12:44 PM
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Patty,
Wouldn't that be great? My party would say "We'll take three singles to save money."

I guess the rates hike will put Mbuzi Mawe more in line with Kirawira high-season pricing, which makes sense given recent upgrades as described by climbhigh and others.

I confess to sending the Serena an e-mail regarding 2006 pricing right after I saw Rocco's quotes. Getting panicky and ahead of myself, no doubt.
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Jul 26th, 2005, 12:46 PM
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All I know is that for November 2005, my operator priced Mbuzi Mawe for us at just $30 per person per night more than Serengeti Serena for the same two nights. Frankly I would be shocked if they really raise their prices to $600 pppn for next year.

We are actually staying at both (I like a mix of all different kinds of accommodations, and honestly I think Serengeti Serena looks pretty nice!).

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Jul 26th, 2005, 12:50 PM
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nanspec,

My apologies for hijacking your thread. I haven't been to Vic Falls, but it seems to me that if you want to go, why on earth wouldn't you?

Re: safari. I can't imagine anyplace in Africa being a "glorifed zoo." Except a zoo, maybe.
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