The waiting game...

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Feb 21st, 2004, 07:58 PM
  #1
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The waiting game...

This must be the most uncomfortable part of the whole African holiday...waiting!

Everything is all booked. S
Second-guessing the itinerary creeps in.

With this being a third trip in three years I really have nothing to buy for this trip and I am even hesitant to go to the doctor for immunizations believing that they are redundant at this stage.

Lower Zambezi National Park (4 nights at Kulefu Tented Camp)
South Luangwa (7 nights, with 4 nights in the previously unvisited Northern Sector of the park split between Kaingo & Mwamba, with the remaining three nights in the more familiar Mfuwe sector of the park with 2 nights at Puku Ridge and the final night at Chichele Presidential Lodge).

One of the best features about this trip is that South Luangwa doesn't get nearly as cold as Sabi Sands, and from what I have read Botswana. I am hesitant to even go to Botswana in June from what I have read and I am curious to hear from Liz Frazier how her late March trip goes. If its not so bad in late March, that is when the best bargains can be had...$500 pppns at Mombo and as low as about $200 pppns at Kwando's camps, with a nice middle ground at most other Wilderness Safari lodges (Kwando is not WS, I realize this).

Personally, I would love to do a combo of Zimbabwe and Botswana that would begin with possibly 4 nights in Matobo Hills (a one hour road transfer from Bulayo), followed by 3 nights at Makalolo Plains, followed by 2 obligatory nights at Kwando's Songwe Village in Victoria Falls, which seems like it allows a more genuine African experience without sacrificing comfort and luxury, followed by 3 nights at Kwando Lagoon which seems to be Kwando's best camp and ending with 3 nights at Mombo. For weather purposes, this would have to be in mid-April 2006, allowing me to run the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon in Cape Town, spending three nights at the Twelve Apostles, followed by one night in Joburg before proceeding with the above.

Anyway, now is about the time where a time machine is hoped to be stumbled upon, so I can just jump ahead three months and be on my way.

I do look forward for the canoeing, fishing, game walks, and hopefully even microflighting on the upcoming trip. Also, I hope that the food at Star Of Africa's lodges and Kaingo's lodges are better than it was at Kafunta, which was Kafunta's only fault. I do regret that I will not have the opportunity to spend my time in the South Luangwa with my ranger from last year, but I am sure that there are other equally capable and engaging rangers at the other lodges.

It will be an interesting experience, going to Africa after ten days on a preceding vacation (in this case, to Italy). I don't know if that will make me even more hungry for Africa or more hungry for home halfway through my Africa trip? But, that is the compromise when one is with someone that is not as enthusiastic about Africa as the other person. Personally, I see the money being spent in Italy and think that it is a shame that I couldn't take that time to spend it in Africa. How I would love to instead start out in Hwange National Park at Makalolo Plains for 4 nights, move up to Victoria Falls for 3 nights, allowing time for bungee jumping, river-rafting, elephant back game rides, etc., and all for just about the same price that Italy at some very ordinary hotels is costing.

Anyway, I am just being thankless right now and should be thrilled that I am returning to Africa again. Never mind me, I am just exhausted from putting this altogether, but it will make it all that more special once I am there.
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Feb 22nd, 2004, 05:50 AM
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Well, since you have all this time on your hands....maybe you could steer me toward the sites you found for the cheapest airfare to Africa. I want to take my kids there mid-March. I'm remembering a place you mentioned that had discount last minute travel packages, too. I hope you have some ideas (just bet you do!)
Thank you.
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Feb 22nd, 2004, 06:46 AM
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mariacallas,

Fortunately this year I didn't have to worry about the airfare. I was already going to be in Europe and just needed to fork over 80,000 frequent flier miles per person to fly Business Class on South African Airways between London - Johannesburg - Lusaka (Zambia) - Johannesburg - London

I did have great success LAST YEAR buying my air through African Travel Inc., www.africantravelinc.com, out of Glendale, California. They were about half the price I could have bought it for myself, and about 20% lower than another African travel specialist, Somak, www.somak.com.

I think that African Travel Inc. may have changed their policies since last year, however, and now require that the ground package ALSO be booked through them. Last year I only booked the air and my five night stay at Kafunta through them, but found them much too expensive for my stays at Djuma Vuyatela and my one night stay in the Cape Winelands, so that is the only portion of the trip they got. By cherry-picking, I used four different operators last year (African Travel Inc., www.cybercapetown.com for my one night at the Lanzerac Manor in the Cape Winelands, Luxury Link for my four nights at the lovely Twelve Apostles in Cape Town and for two very comfortable nights in a Premier Suite at the Michelangelo Hotel in Johannesburg--originally it was for four nights in a Junior Suite, but I didn't want four nights and negotiated for two nights in a Premier Suite along with free pay per view movies and free internet access in the business center).

I really don't even remember the tour operator that I used for my stay at Djuma Vuyatela. Most quotes were at about $600 USD per night, but I eventually found it for about $540 USD per night. Could have been www.africam.com, www.e-gnu.com, www.safarinow.com, www.natureworkshop.com, www.tagasafaris.com or even www.mtbeds.co.za.com. After a cursory check, I think I found the lowest prices on www.safarinow.com.

Back to the airfare, Somak may be worth considering. Although they were higher for me, they do not require part of the action on the ground package, and that is where African Travel Inc. makes up their very low prices on their air. They were very reluctant to book me into Kafunta but I insisted and because Kafunta printed their rack rates on their website, African Travel Inc. wasn't really able to charge me anything beyond that. Since Kafunta wasn't willing to give me any discount over their rack rate, I was more than happy to give it to African Travel Inc.

Maria, I do suggest that since you are taking your kids that you may even want to check out www.skyauction.com. They usually have low priced air-inclusive packages to South Africa and Kenya (choose one or the other). While the places may not be the very best lodges, they are fine for children and you will not have to worry about all your transfers. Here, for example, is the current auction for South Africa on www.skyauction.com:

This Exciting 9 Day Safari Tour Package Includes the following:

*Air from New York or Atlanta to Johannesburg, South Africa via South African Airways
*One (1) Night Hotel Accommodations at the Rosebank Hotel in Johannesburg
*Scheduled Tour of Johannesburg & Soweto
*Flight from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit
*Two (2) Nights Accommodations at the Hoyo Hoyo Tsonga Lodge in Hoedspruit
*2 Game Drives per day in Hoedspruit as outlined in itinerary
*Flight from Hoedspruit to Capetown
*Four (4) Night Hotel Accommodations at the Cape Manor Hotel in Capetown
*Scheduled Table Mountain and Capetown City Tour
*Scheduled Cape Point Tour
*Return flight from Capetown to New York or Atlanta via South African Airways
*All transfers between airports and hotels
*Certain Meals as indicated
*Meet & Greet on arrival and handing over of documents

I figure that by the time the auction ends, the package will go for about $1,550 USD, plus the $300 USD service charge. So, for $1,850 pp, you will really get a lot. That would only cover your air, if even that, if you were to fly either Atlanta or New York to Cape Town, then fly to Hoedspruit and then fly to Johannesburg before returning home. Instead, with this package you will get 4 nights in Cape Town at an acceptable hotel in a hotel within a block or two of the ocean, with a couple very nice included tours that would cost you hundreds of dollars otherwise, 2 nights at a game lodge in Hoyo Hoyo Tsonga Lodge in Kruger National Park, which according to www.cybercapetown.com, has rack rates of over $500 pp sharing per night,

see link: http://cybercapetown.com/Hoyo-Hoyo/

followed by a final night in Johannesburg at the Rosebank Hotel, an excellent hotel that I stayed at in 2002.

I actually bought a very similar package for my first visit to South Africa, as I really had no clue back then about where else to start. Unfortunately back then, instead of Hoyo Hoyo, I was only offered the Skukuza Rest Camp, and did a slight upgrade for that portion to Singita and upgraded from the Cape Manor to the Table Bay Hotel for my four nights in Cape Town.

If you do the math on this trip, it is worth substantially more than the $1,850 USD per person that it will likely go for.

Accomodations alone are probably as follows:

Cape Manor - $250 USD ($62.50 USD pppns x 4 nights)

Hoyo Hoyo - $1000 USD ($500 USD pppns x 2 nights)

Rosebank hotel - $100 USD ($100 USD pppns x 1 night)

Included tours - $150 USD per person

Ground transfers - $100 USD per person

By the time you are through with even the ground portion, it is about $1,600 USD per person. It is as if you are getting the air from Atlanta/New York-Cape Town-Hoedspruit-JNB-Atlanta/New York for only $200 USD per person!

This is an excellent introduction to South Africa and I think that anybody would be hard pressed to come up with a better deal.

OK, Maria Callas, by the time you put my markup on their, based on a trip for four persons, you owe me...$1,850 x 4 = $5,400 USD x 30% commissio...$1,800 USD for a few minutes of my time to research this...and THAT, my fellow Fodorites, is what many American based tour operators are doing!

Never mind, I am feeling generous today, a simple "thank you" will suffice.
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Feb 22nd, 2004, 06:49 AM
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Screwed up on my 25% commission...it should be based on $7,400 USD ($1,850 x 4 persons), not $5,400 USD, meaning that I just earned $2,220 USD, but again, a "thank you" is just fine in this case.
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Feb 22nd, 2004, 07:08 AM
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Lastly, it is worth noting that Sky Auction is located on Madison Avenue in New York City, so they are one rare exception to the rule of not using companies in high rent districts. I don't know how they can offer a package such as the one that I listed, but they do, and I, for one, have no complaints whatsoever about the trip to South Africa that I booked through them.
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Feb 22nd, 2004, 02:21 PM
  #6
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But with the SkyAuction itinerary Roccco listed above, I personally believe that is a long way to go for only 7/days in-country. And though the first day is in JNB, it might not be enough time to recuperate from jet lag. Also, consider whether you prefer more safari time or city time.

As to African Travel, since they were part of the Far & Wide bankruptcy this past October, they are now under the umbrella of Trafalgar Tours and might not be working under the same conditions as previously.

Two other resources for excellent airfares to South Africa:

www.premiertours.com (in Phila)*
www.2afrika.com (in NJ)

in both instances click on their air departments, but it's still best to call as there are always special offers which might not appear on their websites. Both companies have 800#s.

Both companies can route from JFK or ATL to CPT or JNB. Recently there was a special offered by Virgin Airlines, with the best prices, except that you'd have to route thru London with a layover (don't know how long) before continuing onto SA.

*Premier has been offering some of the best airfares to SA for over 25-years.

 
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Feb 22nd, 2004, 05:27 PM
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Sandi,

I agree that it is a long way to go for only 7 nights. Personally, I added a four night extension in Victoria Falls (3 nights at Matetsi Water Lodge and 1 night at the Victoria Falls Hotel). Plus I added an extra four nights in Cape Town at the Mount Nelson(it was my first time and I didn't have much imagination back then, so I ended up with eight nights in Cape Town).

Considering that for only $295 more pp, this is also a great opportunity for anyone flying from the West Coast. Right now if I wanted to fly to South Africa within the next couple months, it would likely cost me $2,000 USD pp. With this package, I could get it for possibly $2,150 and have the rest of the package, either as is, or upgraded and/or extended.

A person could always add another two nights at another game lodge in the Kruger/Sabi Sand area, or maybe just one more night at the same game lodge being offered likely for A LOT LESS than the $500+ USD per person per night sharing price tag listed by www.cybercapetown.com, and another night in Johannesburg, to make it a more enjoyable trip at a very negligible price difference (in case they didn't want to add Victoria Falls).
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