Tentative South Africa Trip Aug/Sep 2010

Old Jan 4th, 2010, 06:30 PM
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Tentative South Africa Trip Aug/Sep 2010

Trying to come up with an itinerary for a trip to S. Africa with my mother in Aug/September this year (doesn't have to be these months, but seemed to be best weatherwise for the places we wanted to visit, and also post World Cup) - initially was thinking 2 weeks, but the more we read, the more we want to see! This is a rough outline I came up with - would love suggestions, ideas to make it better logistically, etc. Focus would be wildlife, scenery, culture. Not a lot of interest in wine country, fine dining (for this trip), or super luxury accommodation. We like our hotels to be special, but for us this does not necessarily mean expensive. We are not going to self drive (would be easier I know with the itinerary we are thinking of, but don't want to do it). Would be flying in and out of Johannesberg due to flights.
Day 1 - arrive Johannesberg, overnight.
Day 2- Tour of Johannesberg, Soweto, etc (Spear of the Nation tour)?
Day 3 - Fly to Victoria Falls - stay on Zimbabwe side, (safety?) Ilala Lodge.
Day 4 - Victoria falls activities - Zambezi cruise, tour falls, helicopter flight, etc.
Day 5 - another day Victoria Falls. ? day trip to Chobe. Or overnight Chobe Safari Lodge?
Day 6 - Leave Victoria Falls area, fly to Capetown (I guess several flights involved)?
Day 7 - Cape Town
Day 8 -Cape Town
Day 9 - Cape Town
Day 10 - Cape Town, probable full day Cape Peninsula Tour
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Old Jan 4th, 2010, 06:48 PM
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Sorry, Fodor's cut me off....!

Day 11 - Since this is spring and the season for wildflowers, wanted to do the West Coast and Cedarberg region (thinking of this rather than the more popular Garden Route). So some form of daytrip (car and driver needed) to the West Coast, Cedarbergs, ending up at Oudrif Farm (also considered Bushman's Kloof, but maybe too fancy. Sounds great for a honeymoon, but not necessarily with Mom!). Interested in San rock art, Oudrif sounds like good place to do this.
Day 12 - Oudrif.
Day 13 - Oudrif/activities in area
Day 14 - Driven back to Cape Town airport, fly to Upington. Probably need to overnight here. Spend 4-5 days touring Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Seems like the only way to do this without self driving is with Kalahari Safaris, based in Upington. Any feedback on this? Would stay in the Wilderness Camps. This seems to be a less popular area (at least on this board) - but seems unique. The remoteness and landscapes are appealing.
Day 15, 16, 17, ? 18 in Kgalagadi. Is this enough time?
Day 19. Driven back to Upington, connect to Jhbg, probably need to overnight again.
Day 20 - transfer to a Sabi Sands lodge. ? Elephant Plains. Would like good experience here, but don't want to pay excessively for a luxury camp. Any other suggestions? Timbavati versus Sabi Sands? Would like great game viewing, but by this time (end of trip) also want to minimize travel time and go somewhere easy to get to. 3 nights here.
Next day transfer to Jhbg and fly home.

Trying to spend enough time in each area to get enough out of it without the feeling of being constantly rushing and to have some relaxation time, but also want to cover all these areas. Doable? Better options? Better routing to minimize connections/time in airports. Would love all thoughts and suggestions. Thanks!
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 04:44 AM
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I don't know that I'm the one to comment, but it sounds like a lot to do in a shortish time. But we like to come to the Cape area for several months, which is a totally different thing.

We went to Oudrif a few years ago, and were impressed with the owners' knowledge of cave art. We live in South-west France, and are familiar with prehistoric cave paintings and wanted to see the San art. Unfortunately we were there in January, and had been warned that it was hot. It was - mid 40's, higher than we had really appreciated, and didn't manage to stay as long as we had hoped. The only comment I would make is that it is a long and difficult drive in. Maybe if someone else is doing it for you it's different, but as we went from good to fair to poor to difficult roads, we began to wonder if we would ever make it. Eventually we did.

The 'straw house' cottages were comfortable. Everything is solar powered, very 'green' so no air conditioning. Normally I think this is a good thing, and get annoyed at all the people who want a/c everywhere in Europe, but in our case it would have been a good thing. At the time you are going, it would obviously be different.

Hope you have a good time. It's a beautiful country.
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 08:13 AM
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You seem to be jumping around a fair bit - if it were me, I would try to streamline the itinerary a little. Also, I would be inclined to drop Vic Falls - I was there in August 2008 and, in the dry season, I am not certain that side trip is worth the effort/expense.

I would fly into Cape Town and spend a few days seeing the sights - the Cape Peninsula, Robben Island, Table Mtn - all the usual sights. If you do a search on this website, you'll find lots of suggestions.

Then, if you wish to see the Cedarberg and the flowers, drive north from Cape Town - either on your own or with a guide. It is a lovely trip north and an easy drive - a good, paved highway. You won't have any difficulty finding a tour that will take you along this route, but you need to book soon - the flower season is very busy/popular and lodgings book up months in advance.

From Springbok (the flower area) it is an easy drive to Upington - spend a night here at La Boheme (www.labohem.com), an outstanding B&B. Then head into Kgalagadi - either on a self-drive basis (rent a 4x4 - needed for Bitterpan and Gharagab from www.kgalagadi4x4.com) or with a tour. I would spend as long as possible in Kgalagadi - start in Kieliekrankie (2nts) then Nossob (1 nt), then to Gharagab or Grootkalk (2nts), then Nossob (1nt), then Bitterpan (2nts) then Kahalari Tented Camp (2 nts) then back to Upington for a night. We have visited Kgalagadi 3 times - it is a favourite.

From Upington, there are direct flights to Joburg. I have not visited Sabi Sands so I can't comment on that part of your itinerary.

Here is the link for my trip report and photos for our drive through Kgalagadi - we stayed in the wilderness camps. It is a wonderful park and I would highly recommend it. We self-drove, but you could certainly go with a guide.
Robin

http://bert-and-bin.smugmug.com/Trav...61053054_KcDbR
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 01:41 PM
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Sorry - missed your comment about flying in and out of Joburg because of flights. Fortunately, flights from Joburg to CT are frequent and quite cheap - have a look at kulula.com. Robin
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 06:01 PM
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Canadian_robin: I've read your trip report on Kgalagadi (I've read just about every trip report on this board on South Africa!) and actually your descriptions of the park are a big part of what made me want to add it to the itinerary. You suggest about 10 days in the park, but I don't think we would be able to spend that much time. What would you consider the minimum amount of time to have a good experience there? We would go with a guide for sure - my mother does not drive and I don't want to be the only driver.You mentioned not having been to Sabi Sands, but have been to Kgalagadi numerous times - why is that? Sabi Sands seems to be a favorite on this board. If we were to cut something out, would you suggest skipping Kruger/Sabi Sands in favor of Kgalagadi? I know Victoria Falls seems like an effort and expense to get to, but my mother really wants to go and it seems a shame to miss if you're already in the general vicinity. Could you comment more on your experience in August - I actually read that August was a good time to go (at least for the Zimbabwe side), as there was still a good amount of water and not so much mist to obscure the falls. The Zambia side I know is not very impressive in the dry season, so we would go to the Zimbabwe side unless it was unsafe. I like the idea about driving from Cape Town to Upington through the Cedarbergs and Namaqualand, with an overnight along the way probably - would need to check if there was a tour company that would do this as a private car/driver trip. Would save a flight to Upington, and add some nice scenery on the way.

Carlux: thanks for the feedback on Oudrif - not many reviews on it that I could find. Seems like spring is really the time to go there, I don't think we would include it, or the area, during another season. I like that it is eco-friendly - but sounds like it may be almost too much on the rustic side? Do you think it would be a nice place to stay a couple of days, if the weather was good? Enough to do in the area? Would there be any other place in the region (perhaps not involving such terrible roads!) that you would suggest staying instead?

Thanks, and other feedback/suggestions would be greatly welcomed!
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 06:26 PM
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I vote for keeping Vic Falls. I loved the experience of not just the falls, but the cruise on the Zambezi, and easy access to Chobe which was another highlight for me. Hard to say if I would have enjoyed it more when the water level of the falls was at its height, but I still had a wonderful time.

There is a lot of moving around on your itinerary but I think you've scheduled enough recovery time to make it worthwhile. My rule is a minimum of three nights at each real stop, i.e. the stops that are not forced by logistics.
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 06:44 PM
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Lily3,

what great ideas for a Southern African itinerary with lots of variety.

I'd ask your TA to book both JNB and CPT on your international ticket to shave a few $$$ from the budget if this works for you.

Kalahari Safaris sound fine to me and I would have booked with them this year but the World Cup got in the way. Pieter also offers trips to the wildlfowers so it might be good timewise to book both Kgalagadi and the wildflowers with
Kalahari Safaris.

If VF is an essential part of your itinerary, you might like to consider a couple of nights (3 would be better) at one of the lodges in Chobe NP which will give you a riverine safari to compare and contrast with Kgalagadi.

Happy planning,


Pol
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 06:59 PM
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You suggest about 10 days in the park, but I don't think we would be able to spend that much time. What would you consider the minimum amount of time to have a good experience there?

Since you are going that way (towards Kgalagadi) to see the flowers and the Cedarberg, any number of nights would do - maybe drop the trip to the far north of the park and just do Kieliekrankie, Bitterpan and Kalahari Tented Camp. SAN Parks recommends spending the night before going into Bitterpan at Nossob, and I would follow their advice (it's a long but amazing drive) - although a bigger camp, the Nossob area is known for its predators.

You mentioned not having been to Sabi Sands, but have been to Kgalagadi numerous times - why is that?

When we spent a year in SA (based in CT) in 2004-2005, Kgalagadi was the first park we visited and we loved it. It is a smaller park and much quieter - there are far fewer vehicles. The wilderness camps are amazing - only four tents and the ranger. You feel as though you have the park to yourself. The park is easily reached by car from Cape Town and combines very nicely with a visit to the dunes in Namibia. So, accessibility but mainly the park and wilderness camps are the reasons we keep returning.

We have been to Kruger (in 2005) on a self-drive basis and then followed it up with 3 nights at Honeyguide Tented Camp (www.honeyguidecamp.com), which was wonderful. We have not intentionally avoided Sabi Sands - we just haven't made it there yet. Perhaps on our next sabbatical in 2011-2012!

If we were to cut something out, would you suggest skipping Kruger/Sabi Sands in favor of Kgalagadi?

Tough question! Personally, I would choose Kgalagadi because of the wilderness camps, but I would love to return to Kruger - you can't go wrong with either park. In Kruger, you can choose to stay at the smaller camps which, although not as small as those in Kgalagadi, are still isolated and wonderful. If this will be your first safari, then you will see more variety in Kruger - Kgalagadi doesn't have elephants, for example.

I know Victoria Falls seems like an effort and expense to get to, but my mother really wants to go and it seems a shame to miss if you're already in the general vicinity. Could you comment more on your experience in August - I actually read that August was a good time to go (at least for the Zimbabwe side), as there was still a good amount of water and not so much mist to obscure the falls. The Zambia side I know is not very impressive in the dry season, so we would go to the Zimbabwe side unless it was unsafe.

Below is a link to my Botswana trip report and photos which includes photos of Vic Falls in August and a description of our visit - see page 36 and 37. It was certainly a worthwhile stop, but I might have been disappointed if we had gone out of our way to see them.

http://bert-and-bin.smugmug.com/Trav...18318816_Pyvk6

I like the idea about driving from Cape Town to Upington through the Cedarbergs and Namaqualand, with an overnight along the way probably - would need to check if there was a tour company that would do this as a private car/driver trip. Would save a flight to Upington, and add some nice scenery on the way.

There are countless tours leaving from CT that go to the flower region. You would have no difficulty finding a private tour, as long as you don't leave it too late.

Happy planning! Robin
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 07:03 PM
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I agree with Pol - if you are going to keep VF, consider a visit to Chobe NP or a houseboat on the Chobe R - see my Botswana trip report above. Robin
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 08:01 PM
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Any thoughts on whether the Namaqualand/flowers/Cedarberg area is worth it, or would this be something to eliminate in order to streamline the plan a bit? We could just do a day trip to the West Coast National Park from Cape Town instead, which would give us a taste of the flowers (could you see any good rock art on a day trip?). Is this region and the springtime flower spectacle really special and unique, or not too different from springtime flowers elsewhere (in which case, maybe really nice but not necessarily something to go halfway around the world for)? This is a really hard trip to plan - trying to focus on things unique to the region, (hence skipping the Garden Route, which though sounds gorgeous, in some way seems similar to the California or Oregon coasts)?
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 08:17 PM
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You certainly could visit West Coast National Park from CT (it's about 100km) - that is how we saw the park - up and back in a day. The Postberg section, which is only open in August and September when the flowers are at their best, is spectacular and would certainly give you your "flower fix" - fields of flowers in every colour of the rainbow. I think that is an excellent solution, rather than using more days to venture further north up to the Springbok area.

Personally, I think the Garden Route is overrated! Beautiful scenery, but very crowded. We spent Christmas 2004 in a lovely cabin at Knysna and thoroughly enjoyed it, but the GR wouldn't be my first choice.

Now the tough decision (if you are no longer driving north for the flowers and going to be in the Kgalagadi area) - Sabi Sands or Kgalagadi - two very different experiences. It really depends on your priorities. Certainly everyone on this forum raves about Sabi Sands. Perhaps someone who has been to both Kgalagadi and Sabi Sands can give you some input.
Robin
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 08:56 PM
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Victoria Falls, Zambezi river cruise, done that. Only because it was "on the way". Unless you simply love love love falls then I would not spend the time and effort going so much out of the way. Have you been to the Iguacu Falls in Brazil/Argentina? Now those are water falls!!!!!

And if you've ever been on any river cruise, you've already been on the Zambezi river cruise

regards - tom
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 09:13 PM
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Also, since you say - "This is a really hard trip to plan - trying to focus on things unique to the region, (hence skipping the Garden Route, which though sounds gorgeous, in some way seems similar to the California or Oregon coasts)?"

I have not been to Cape Town. But as has been mentioned in another post, CT is a European settlement and hence not really a huge difference from other such cities, e.g, San Francisco. I'm sure CT is beautiful, but if I want beautiful cities there are many many more in the world much closer to me (Calif USA), including Europe. I go to South Africa for what is unique there - wildlife!!! And of course there are other worthwhile attractions, but I don't believe CT is one of them. YMMV

regards - tom
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 01:38 AM
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I have guided at many of the lodges in the Sabi Sands, and have also visited the Kgalagadi. As mentioned by a previous poster - indeed two very different experiences! To choose between the two - in my opinion, it depends on what you are hoping to see in terms of wildlife? The Sabi Sands offers of the best big 5 safaris our country has to offer, and if good quality sightings of all of the big 5 is high on your list of priorities, then I would recommend the Sands! If however, you are not too bothered about seeing all of the big 5, and you would like to spend some quieter days in a very unique reserve, then the Kgalagadi would be a good place to go!
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 10:30 AM
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You have also not considered Kwazulu Natal, it boasts two world heritage sites and has the magnificent estuaries of St Lucia with amazing game parks such as Phinda right on St Lucias doorstep. It is also much more African than our Euro Centric CT, although don't get me wrong Ct is definitely worth the trip. The mighty Drakensberg and trips to Lesotho can also be done in Kwazulu natal. The Kzn game parks are also very different ecosystems to Kruger so you could consider doing both areas. There are many people on the Trip Advisor South African forum who could assist with a personal tour arrangement for you both over our borders and within our borders. www.kimssouthafrica.blogspot.com
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 05:36 PM
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My first trip to Africa (Dec 2005) was part of the itinerary you've mentioned. There was alot of flying involved for only 11 days and a bit rushed but it was a good 'sampler platter" and only made me want to go back for more.

Flew ATL-JNB-Cape Town for (4) nights. Visted Table Mountain, Cape Peninsula, Winelands, Boulders Beach (Penguins)and shopped at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.

Flew back to JNB then to Victoria Falls Int'l Airport(Zim side) Visited the falls and did the helicopter flight, sundowner cruise on the Zambezi river. Saw lots hippos, crocs and ellies. Stayed at the Vic Falls Safari Lodge. The falls were at their lowest flow but I still found it amazing!

Road transfer to Kasane (Botswana) to Chobe NP stayed at Chobe Safari Lodge. Sundowner cruise on the Chobe River (lots of hippos and crocs). Stayed here for 3 nights.

Road transfer back to VF's airport and flew back to JNB.

My 2nd trip (July 2008) was 10 days of pure safari.
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Old Jan 7th, 2010, 06:14 PM
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If Cape Town is too "Eurocentric", as some have mentioned, is there somewhere else it would be recommended we go for some non safari time, that would perhaps be more of a unique experience? If we do visit Kgalagadi as well as the Sabi Sands/Kruger region, would like something to do in between that would be less structured ( a break from 5:30 am wake ups for game drives would be nice), maybe more culture or nature oriented. Then we would be refreshed and ready for the second safari destination!

On a completely different track - would visiting one or two camps in Botwana be a better experience than the Sabi Sands?Considered this initially, but didn't like the idea of the small planes to get to the camps, seemed more difficult logistically, and also obviously very expensive (though this is fine if the experience was significantly better). Main focus is to see a great mix of wildlife in a wonderful, natural setting. Don't have a need to tick off the Big Five, specifically, though would love to see plenty of cats!
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Old Jan 7th, 2010, 09:10 PM
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Personally, I love Cape Town. Yes, it is arguably more European than "African" but, nonetheless, it is a beautiful city with many unique attractions (Table Mountain, Robben Island, Kirstenbosch Bot Gardens, the Winelands, the Cape Peninsula, Boulders Beach and the penguins, etc.) We always like to start and end our South African safaris in Cape Town (as opposed to Jo-burg), so we have an excuse to spend some time there. We lived in Cape Town for a year (2004-2005) and I am always happy to return.

To answer your other question - since you are flying into Joburg, you could go to Sabi Sands first, then fly to CT for a few days to see the flowers and take a break from game-viewing, then head to Kgalagadi with a guide. There would be flights from Upington to Joburg for your return flight home. Not the most streamlined itinerary, but certainly possible.

The other option would be to again start in Sabi Sands (from Joburg) and then fly to Cape Town for a few days. From CT, fly to Maun in Botswana for a safari at two or three camps, and then take in Vic Falls (which your Mom is keen to do) before flying home from Joburg via Livingstone, Zambia.
Robin
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