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Thinking of a safari, how long and where? And costs...Yikes!

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Jan 22nd, 2013, 02:40 PM
  #1
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Thinking of a safari, how long and where? And costs...Yikes!

I am trying to convince my husband to go on a safari, and we are not quite there yet... but in the meantime, I am trying to hone in on where and for how long.
When/How Long: Our time frame is Sept/Oct 2013 up to 2 weeks. Can we have a good, quality safari experience in 1 week, not counting travel time to Africa?
Where: I know the classic 1st time safari is East Africa - Kenya/Tanzania but I am also considering Botswana, and I would like to see Victoria Falls, which might fit better with Botswana. We may have safety concerns and concerns about too many people on Kenya Safaris. It seems so expensive to go the Southern Safari route! I want to see the Big 5 of course and am very interested in seeing elephants. I am also interested in Rwanda gorillas, but maybe that is for another trip. I do have some safety concerns with Rwanda, unfounded or not...
Group or solo: I know - more flexibility on our own, but will it cost more? I might like the social aspect of a small group...
Type of safari: I really want to stay in those beautiful tented places rather than a lodge
Cost: I have been looking at the higher end small tours - Tauck, Abercrombie, & Beyond and it seems so expensive $10,000+ each without air to Africa for the Botswana tours.
So my thought is maybe less time 1 week vs 12 days?
Thanks for any advice!
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Jan 22nd, 2013, 04:34 PM
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The specifics that stand out are:
Vic Falls, Big 5, Focus on eles, tents not lodge, maybe gorillas, minimizing #s of other people

By the label in your post, you seem to be thinking Botswana, which is generally the most expensive country unless you self drive or unless you do a mobile. The mobiles are often termed "luxury mobile" and are very nice, great food, excellent guiding, wonderful wildlife, and overall a very good deal that is not Yikes expensive. You'll get your tents, not lodges, and these are really nice, not pup tents. I've done the Wilderness mobile and there are many others. AndBeyond does one I believe. Masson's, Capricorn.

In fact, I'll probably never visit Bots in high season again unless it is via a mobile due to the high costs.

The mobiles often start/end at Vic Falls or make it easy to include Vic Falls.

The fact that you want to see Vic Falls and have 2 weeks to travel means you should probably not include the gorillas. I wouldn't nix gorillas for safety reasons (I've been there twice myself) but I would for logisitcs if you end up in Southern Africa.

Your time frame is high season, adding to the expense you rightly describe as Yikes.

Big 5-Unless you go to Mombo or Chief's Camp on Chief's Island, which are over $1K pp/pn; or unless you visit Khama, a small rhino sanctuary in Bots that is usually reached by car, you won't see rhino (one of the Big 5) in Botswana.

The easiest place to see Big 5 is South Africa in or near Sabi Sands. Many of those locations are lodges, not tents. Ngala is tented I think and pretty good for rhino. If individual little rondavels or huts is what you want as opposed to a lodge and you do not require actual canvas, then there are a whole lot of South Africa options. For example Kings Camp in Timbavati has "eleven generously spaced thatched colonial suites."

Elephants are present in many of the Bots destinations you'd likely choose, but Chobe is known for large ele herds, especially Sept-Oct. Many mobiles include Chobe.

Any Bots/South Africa combo would definitely suit your minimizing #s of people concerns.

You can also minimize #s of people in Kenya and Tanz. In Kenya stay in private reserves in tented camps. Lewa Downs and one of the many Mara conservancies would give you a good shot at Big 5 and both have eles. You could tack on gorillas. But probably no Vic Falls with this itinerary.

In Tanz, try for rhino in the Ngorongoro crater where you would probably see lots of other vehicles. But leaving with a breakfast box and getting to the crater when it opens is a good strategy to minimize #s of other people. Then spend time in Northern Serengeti, which is perfect for Sept/Oct in one of several tented camps and hardly anyone else is around. You might want to include Central Serengeti for a couple of nights to increase the odds of leopard, helping to fulfill your Big 5 goal. You'll likely see bull eles in the crater, and eles in Serengeti, but you could a TZ park that is known for eles, Tarangire. Sept-Oct is prime ele time there. There's a Serengeti-Kigali flight to expedite gorilla viewing. Probably no Vic Falls with Tanz.

Group or private? In Southern Africa you often travel alone but team up with other vehicle mates at each location. If you chose a mobile, then you'd be with a group.

In East Africa, a private trip is more common and the premium is not as high as Southern Africa. However, you can also use the travel alone, team up at camps approach.

Tauck and A&K are some of your most expensive options, regardless of which country you choose. Fodors has book, The Complete African Safari Planner, that lists a variety of agents. You can also check out the many reports here or seek recommendations.

Finally, "how long?" If you have 2 weeks, I'd try to find something affordable to last the entire 2 weeks, realizing travel time is in there. It can take a long time to get to Eastern/Southern Africa. Stay long enough to really enjoy it.
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Jan 22nd, 2013, 06:12 PM
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Well, think Lynn about covered all the bases!!!
And don't try to cram in too much, would be like seeing Europe in two weeks.
If you're from USA, go for minimum of 2 weeks to make the airfare, flight time (20hrs plus connections), and time change (9 hours if from CA) worth it.

regards - tom
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 12:40 AM
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Hi,
it s possible to go to Vic falls in Zambia, see a white rhino in Mosi o Tunya np, eventually take a trip to Chobe from there and see the big herds of elephants, buffalos and lions then fly to Mfuwe and visit South Luangwa were the chance of seien a leopard are probably the highest on the continent not to mention the elies, buffalos, lions and all the others animals seen there.
I use to organise trips likes this for friends visiting us when we where living there, it is not to complicate,and there is a variety off accomodations with different prices levels to chose from on all these destinations.
You can procure yourself a guide book of Zambia or Botswana or go on the internet to study maps and find the names of the camps and lodge then visit they websides to have a better idea.
Next you find a safari operateur or a travel agency that can help you with the bookings (camps and fly)
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 12:50 AM
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Unless someone or something is paying for the trip and you know you will be back soon i will personnaly never travel to Africa from Europe for ex for less then A MINIMUM OF 3 WEEKS!
If you can not spend that then it is better to stay home and wait until you can...
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 01:23 AM
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Many lodges in Livingstone organise outings into Chobe np for 2 days but you will save time if you drop it and stay in Zambia.
There are difference in the bush if you compare Zambia with
Botswana, Tanzania, Namibia or Zimbabwe but in terms of animals species variety and numbers, wilderness feelings and beauty and safari accomodations and services Zambia has it all!
I have never been in South Africa outside airports but from what i have heard it is a more occidentalise Africa...
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 01:29 AM
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Many lodges in Livingstone organise outings into Chobe np for 2 days but you will save time if you drop it and stay in Zambia.
There are difference in the bush if you compare Zambia with
Botswana, Tanzania, Namibia or Zimbabwe but in terms of animals species variety and numbers, wilderness feelings and beauty and safari accomodations and services Zambia has it all!
I have never been in South Africa outside airports but from what i have heard it is a more occidentalised Africa...
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 08:49 AM
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It' simple, 25 words or less.
If you want the classic African savannah plains, go to Kenya.
If you want to see the Big 5 up close, personal, and often go South Africa Sabi Sand reserve.

regards - tom
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 12:08 PM
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TC
 
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Well you've gotten lots of good advice. Lynn is always a wealth of information. One way of cutting your cost for that dream safari is to reconsider your travel dates. We are headed out on our third safari and always travel during the "green season" -- sometimes called shoulder season or the off season. We did Kenya and northern Tanzania the first time in January. It was amazing. We did southern Tanzania the second time in January. It was amazing. We are going to do Botswana in November. I expect it to be amazing.

You can read my trip report and some discussion on the cost of our first two trips by clicking on my name above. I am planning our three weeks in Botswana to come in at about $22,000 (excluding International air for two people). We will use all Wilderness Safari camps (five camps - four nights in each). I think they would fit your description of tented luxury nicely.

I agree with the others...don't try to do too much. Better to pick three great places near each other and spend your time in the bush rather than moving from place to place. You are much more likely to achieve the big five if you are out looking for them rather than packing and flying on to another camp to unpack again and settle in again. Its just not worth the effort.

But do be careful....Africa is addictive.
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 12:54 PM
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The past couple of years, Wilderness Safaris has offered "green season" specials. I think they have released them in August for travel from November to March.
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 02:06 PM
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"But do be careful....Africa is addictive."

That warning should be the forum's subtitle.
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 02:28 PM
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Wow, fabulous advice, everyone!! Atravelynn, you succintly summed up my priorities and provided so much detail. It forced me to think a little more about my priorities:
-I think I will skip Rwanda, although I would love to see the gorillas, I'll save that for another trip.
- I love the idea of the small luxury tented campsites, and the thatched roof places are fine, too. What I but I meant was 'tents' ones with nice sheets, and private bathrooms with flush toilets and plumbing for regular showers and great food! Luxurious but not necessarily ultra chi-chi...close to animals where I can hear a lion roaring in the distance or see an elephant walk by. Mobile camping is not what I am thinking of, although I know they can do a great job of it.
--The reason I am choosing Sept/Oct is because this is a milestone birthday celebration for me & timing works right with other things going on for me. I really want to be on a game drive on my actual birthday or maybe in a hot air balloon (even though I am afraid of heights - but what are birthdays for but to push your limits with a bit of a thrill!).
--I'm still back and forth with Botswana vs. Kenya/Tanzania. I will only include Victoria Falls with a Botswana trip. My husband is leaning towards Botswana because he wants to see Victoria Falls. I could forgo it. Also he thinks Botswana is a safer area to travel than Kenya.
Thank you to all, I will check out all of your suggestions including South Africa, Zambia, more focus on Tanzania, etc. and do some more thinking on this.
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 02:42 PM
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I'd certainly not go to the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania if I wanted to see rhino (if you do and often at great distance), rather many more at Sabi Sands in South Africa and plenty of them, black and white, at Lewa or Ol Pejeta in Kenya.

Vic Falls, even if hubbies wish list... is good for a few hours unless he wants to bunjee jump off the bridge.

For a hot-balloon, it's either in Kenya or Tanzania. Figure price of $450-$525/person.
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 04:09 PM
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Okay so I guess I am a bit different some of the above posters. My first safari was with Lion World Tours to Kenya, only 6 nights from DC then I added a night in Nairobi (see my trip report at Ofmyheart.net April of 2011)two people with everything included (even souvenirs for folks back home) only $6000 total. We stayed in great lodges and beautiful tents, and saw all of the Big 5 multiple times.
Because we are both still working we can't afford (time off)to be gone from home for extended length of time.
That being said we returned to Africa, South Africa the following year, 2012 again for 7 nights. And again we saw the Big 5.
Hope to return again this year, thinking of Namibia but certainly do want to get to Vic Falls at some point.
Good luck with that first safari but be warned, Africa is addicting and once just doesn't seem to be enough!
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 04:10 PM
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Oh and BTW, the South Africa trip was only $6000 total for the both of us also, again from DC.
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 06:07 PM
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$6000 for a six day safari is good, neuman65. Your cost was $1000 per day, which is what our 20 days in Botswana will cost this coming November. Our 22 days in Tanzania cost $18,000 or a little over $800 per day. It's just a matter of how long one stays. I prefer going every five years for a longer period, you prefer going every year for a week.

Ellen, we celebrated our 40th anniversary on the last trip....well, not exactly ON the trip. Our anniversary is in November and we traveled the following January. However, each camp did something special for our celebration trip....from a private champagne dinner to a surprise bush breakfast. It was wonderful and we saved roughly 50% on the cost, which is why we can go again for our 45th anniversary. While you are having a milestone birthday, you can have your "celebration" on any date you wish.
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Jan 24th, 2013, 04:17 PM
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Ellen,
My Husband and I just spent 4 years in Africa on our yacht in Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, and South Africa. We organized our own Safaris and didn't have airfare but had a car we bought in South Africa when we arrived. So of course we could do it on the cheap. That said, We did a full blown Lux safari in Tanzania during the end of the southern migration in Serengetti. Thousands of animals! Heards Zebras and Wildebeast jumping across the road in front of us, a lion kill and hippo pools and leopard. In Ngorngoro we saw Lions up close! One Elephant, a cheetah hunting and everything else including flocks of flamingos but no giraffe or rhino. This was our first safari and we had a great guide! It was off season (Dec. 15th) actually late for the migration but we only saw one other car the whole trip (except in parking lots). Also in Tanzania you must plan a two day stop in Zanzibar. Both stone town and a to die for snorkle trip from the north end to the island on the northeast side. I'm a diver and this is a must! We also did some high end safaris in Kenya but after Tanzania we were jaded. Moving down the coast we spent two years in South Africa. And I can only say that this is the place I would go back too forever if I could. It is so incredibly beautiful! The land and the people and if you want to see the big five Kruger will show you starting at the south end you'll see elephant in heards. Checkout Lower Sabi' lux tented camp on the river. Cats are big around Satori camp. My favorite is Olifants camp if you can get a Best View Bungalow over looking the river as I remember (BVBD 1-7). I booked entire safaris around this camp and was always rewarded with something special. Yes, you must drag yourself out of bed at 4am and be at the gate at 4:30 but it's worth it when you get to see two fully bearded male lions stretched out watching the sunrise and talking to each other and shaking their heads as if discussing the state of the of the planet believe me it's worth it! Checkout South Africa National Parks at [email protected] (I think). You can check availability and accomodations. If you like what you see you can buy an international family multi entery card (wildcard) which gives you a gigantic savings if you are planning to go in and out of the park or are planning to take the family or going for more than two weeks. This good for all parks in South Africa and Swaziland. What you wouldn't have is a travel agent to help you. And yes, Africa is addictive I'm still trying to talk my husband into buying a house near a park!
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Jan 24th, 2013, 04:36 PM
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$6000 for a six day safari is good ~ or ~ do 4 years on a yacht.

Good luck with your research, Ellen!
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Jan 25th, 2013, 06:42 AM
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... but if anyone remembers those "Lion" tours and comments from those who did these, while they thought (as a first-time safari) were great... it was constant 'go-go-go' - too much in too few days, more time spent in transit than game viewing. While the price is good, not the ideal way to do safari.
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Jan 25th, 2013, 07:20 AM
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"but if anyone remembers those "Lion" tours and comments from those who did these, while they thought (as a first-time safari) were great... it was constant 'go-go-go' - too much in too few days,"

That's where the 4 years on a yacht, as suggested by Phuket, comes into play. No go-go-go if you have 4 whole years!
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