Trip Report

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May 18th, 2004, 04:29 PM
  #1
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Trip Report

First of all have to say thanks to all to my fellow Fodorites for your help and info for my wifes and I first trip to Africa! Without your kind help you made our trip wonderful with your knowledge and help! Thanks. Our trip looked like this:

3 Nights Bali Indonesia
3 Nights Hong Kong (Kowloon side)
1 Night Victoria Falls (Zim side)
2 Nights Savuti
2 Nights Tubu Tree
3 Nights Cape Town (Mount Nelson Hotel)

Cathay Pacific Airlines: Wow, first time flying these guys. Wonderful service, early takeoffs and arrival...wish I could fly them everytime!

Bali: Stayed at the Grand Bali Hyatt, the best hotel we have ever been too..excellent
Service above and beyond, on forty lush acres right on the ocean, five pools, gardens all over the place, running water.
We only ventured off the grounds for one day and cancelled our side trips as we just relaxed here and didnt want to leave!

Hong Kong: Wonderful busy city, easy to get around, did all the stuff we should for first timers: Big Buddha, Star Ferry, Tram ride up the Victoria Peak, Island of Cheung Chau, Flower and Bird Markets, Temple Street. Feet still hurt from all the walking we did here!

On to Africa (this is the African board isnt it?)

We arrived at Jo'berg pretty well rested as it is very easy to sleep on the business seats in Cathay, and only 13 hours from Hong Kong. From here we flew up to Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls. After customs we were met by a rep from Wilderness Safaris and taken to our hotel. From start to finish Wilderness took great care of us. Sure would use again.
We stayed at the Ilala Lodge within 10 minutes walk to the Falls. The falls were fantastic! Massive water going over, the only cloud in the sky was the water vapor! Had no problems, the lodge was wonderful, felt like we started our Safari here as it felt like a Safari Lodge. We could see and hear the falls from here. We felt sad for the people of this pretty country, many who tried to sell us their wares and as others who posted here just wanted our shoes/clothing as the money they would get from the carvings they were selling would buy them really nothing as there is little to buy here (the gas stations had no gas in them as it is too expensive) whereas the shirts and shoes from trading would last a long time. We went to the 20 stalls behind the Post Office and did buy alot of stuff (every mindfull of the 12 kilos limit tho!). More on this later. If you can go the Victoria Falls Hotel......great old hotel, dont build em like this anymore.

From here we were driven to Kasane to fly to Savuti. The ride was kind of neat as we had to get out of the car on the Botswana side, walk into some liquid while the car drove thru the same stuff (for Hoof and Mouth disease we were told) and went into a small Border crossing building to have our passports stamped. Crossing was easy. At Kasane we waited for our first small plane.

The Safaris:
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May 18th, 2004, 05:22 PM
  #2
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Oh, sorry rambling on a bit, we just got in today but I wanted to post this to help any who might be going.

Shots: We had Hep A and B and Tetanus, and took Malarone for malaria.

Weather: Wonderful the whole trip, we got lucky I know...15 minutes of rain in Hong Kong! That was it! Hot days and cool nights in Botswana.

Insurance: for travel, didnt take any. We have been to 35-40 countries now and never have taken it. I know some do and feel good about it but we just never have.

Starry nights: Ok this is the one thing you guys never told us about! The incredible nights under the stars either on the night drives or dinner...wow have not seen stars like this unless I was watching Star Trek!

Ok the small planes: the first one was the hardest, we left late in the afternoon when the heat thermals were the worst and got shaken up a bit, the pilot had to be 22 or so. After that the following rides were easy had a blast up there looking down seeing Africa. And yes they weighed our bags! One of our pilots flew Patrick Swayze on his trip and made him leave excess weight there (and he went to Kingspool!). Thought that was funny, of course at first the pilot didnt know who he was.

Savuti: We were met by our guide at the landing strip...his name was Thuto, and his knowledge and guide skills were fantastic. He was very energetic....consider yourself lucky if you get him. Felt like a brother to me at the end of our stay here. The camp was very comfortable and well run. It as you know faces the watering hole so right away we got to see Zebras/Baboons watering here. Thuto told us if we came in Sept you would see 1000 Elephants a day here! I should also say this was our first trip to Africa and Safari as well so I have nothing to compare it to. Our first game drive was wonderful I had to keep pinching my wife and telling her: "we are in Africa on a Safari!!" It was the best trip of our lives....we saw so much: 2-300 Zebras at a time, Elephants, Giraffs, we got to see three lionesses laying the shade of a tree during the day.....then as zebras came nearby they got up and chased them(no kill tho we were glad at that)..all while we were 10 feet away. At savuti we saw wild dogs twice...once at night we saw 4 and then our last day (when Thuto took us and two others out for a 10 hour game drive!...all the way up to Kingspool!), and the second time we saw 16 wild dogs tearing up a Impala (missed the kill by seconds..again glad of that), but we watched them feed on it, chase off some hyenas, and watched the dogs throw up some food to the young dogs who didnt get any of the kill. The dogs sounded just like my Yorkies when they cried for food.....it was a wonderful day! When we left Savuti it felt like I was leaving a family......hated to go, we saw and did so much.....even got to see a Black Mamba! Scary snake...and faster then a bill collector! My god that snake is fast...glad we were in the jeep when it flashed by us.

Tubu Tree: this camp was better in most ways to Savuti except game. Bigger tent, better food, wonderful dining area and bar. Professional run, here we felt more like it was business then family. It is on the delta so it was alot different. We had seen all we wanted to see at Savuti (I told my wife if I see one elephant and one giraff I would be happy...boy was I happy!). Here the highlights were a herd of 30-40 elephants and a pride of 6 Lions ...two of em cubs! A wonderful experience we will treasure forever!

From Tubu Tree we flew to the big city of Maun and then on to Joberg and finally to Cape Town. We met a wonderful Capetownian on board who drove us to Mount Nelson...we also loved Cape Town, beautiful sunny 80 degree day when we went to the top of Table Mountain and the waterfront. Went to the Peninsula the next day. This city is now our favorite taking the place of Rio. The hotel was great too, only 60 rooms rented out when we where there, felt like we had it all to ourselves. Too bad my wife found the Green market there! But all our items we bought there made it back safe! Flew back, with a 9 hour layover in Hong Kong. Slept alot in the business lounges on the way back.

If I can help any with questions I would be happy to help or if I missed anything you want to know about please post here and I will try to answer. Again thanks for all your help and advice and as I told my wife: "why havent we been to Africa before?"
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May 18th, 2004, 05:38 PM
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Wulfstan,

EXCELLENT REPORT!

I may just have to give up Zambia next year and concentrate on Botswana, before finishing up with Singita Lebombo and Simbambili or Mala Mala.

I am intrigued about the gameviewing you described at Savuti. However, with the description of the food and lodging, I will definitely consider Duma Tau or King's Pool, both of which I believe are in Linyati near the Chobe border.

I, for one, would like to know more about Tubu Tree, since most of your discussion focused on Savuti.

Also, although not game related, I am sure that others besides myself would also like to hear about your time spent in Cape Town and your overall impression of Cape Town and the Mount Nelson Hotel.

Lastly, I am sure that you took hundreds of pictures that you cannot wait to get posted on www.ofoto.com or another similar website so the rest of us can join in on the amazing trip of yours!

Your trip report has me thinking of something like this:

Joburg (1)
Duma Tau (3)
Kwando Lagoon (3)
Kwando Kwara (3) (from the descriptions I have been reading, and from its location, it seems like a poor man's Mombo)
Cape Town (5)
Simbambili (3)
Singita Lebombo (3)

Thanks again for the great report!
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May 19th, 2004, 07:30 PM
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hey wulfstan, i visited kings pool back in sept 2002 and had thuto as a guide there. i'm sure he's the same guy just now moved over to savuti camp. we found him to be exceptional as well. the last day of our trip we had seen everything we wanted to except wild dogs and he drove us way out of their normal range over into the duma tau region just in time for us to see 4 dogs finishing off a kudu. we got back to camp significantlty later than the other cars and we couldnt have been more pleased with his effort. he had a real passion for game and even one night we heard male lions walking through the camp just as we were about to go to bed and he wanted to go follow them to see if there were going to be any territorial battles. this was close to 11 pm after a long days driving. most guides would have wanted to hit the sack but thuto was ready to go. hearing that he took u on a 10 hr drive doesnt surprise me at all and brings back great memories for me. glad you had a great time.
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May 19th, 2004, 08:07 PM
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A safari is so much about the people and I would go to a camp just to have a great guide. He sounds like one. Wulfstan, thank you for reminding me of two details - stepping in that liquid before entering the country (botswana) and seeing all those stars. Ah, I just had a mini-trip back to Africa. What is the green market??? Lucky you- wild dog!
Rocco, your itinerary looks very interesting now (for your trip after the trip)... bet you're getting excited!!! (you leave tomorrow yes?)
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May 20th, 2004, 04:43 AM
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Wow jet lag has still got me in its grip, sorry have not replied earlier. My lawn looked like a hay field when i came back so I had to take care of my household chores. Let me answer your questions:

Big Country/Clematis:

Yeah Thuto came from King's Pool. He liked it there he said but I believe he is working on moving up and doing all sorts of things (managing, guide, anything involving the camps), and he moved around a bit. We felt honored really to be with him. Still dont know how he spotted all that game. He was as excited as us to spot the dogs/lions, and you are right Clematis/Big Country the people made up the safari for us(as well as the game of course!) The room was just to sleep in, shower and store our 12 kilos! Even after our 10 hour marathon drive he would have taken us out for a night drive as he asked us! Amazing guide so glad we went with us.
He made the camp fun as well, still have visions of him dancing when we had a African dinner under the stars when the staff came out to sing for us: "Everyone sit down, everyone sit down.."
Clematis: The Green Market is a market in Cape Town. A square where the locals (I was told a few times actually that they were either Zimbabweans or got the items from Zimbabwe) sell mainly carved wood works, T-Shirts, items of a local bent I would say. Compared to the waterfront super cheap. Stalls after stalls. They set up every day there except Sunday from 9am to about 4 Pm. The tips I heard was to offer em half of what they wanted and bargain up from that. My wife, supershopper, got 4 carved elephants for 100 Rand, a 3 foot Giraff for 80 Rand! We went late in the day...about 3 pm or so when they were about ready to go. She got a Ostrich Egg for a third of what it was in the Waterfront. It is a short walk from there to the Mount Nelson, every cabbie knows it well!



Roccco:

Enjoy your trip my friend! When we where in Zimbabwe I thought of you everytime the microlites flew over the Vic Falls! I laughed imagining you up there! Standing there when there was not a cloud in sight and im getting soaked from the falls watching them go over.
Tubu Tree/Savuti Camps: Dont get me wrong both camps were well run! Everything was clean, food delicious, staff friendly and very warm. The vechiles are were full of gas, clean, had ponchos in them (thank God!) for us to use, drinks plenty. I would go back to either without any problems. Savuti was all on raised platforms, you had to walk about 2 feet above the ground to get anywhere, the dinning area was fine. Our dinner there one night was just by lantern light, very special. Plus you have the water hole in front of the camp, I took my showers outside looking at the game out there. Both camps where fine! No complaints about anything.
Tubu Tree: As I have said the camp is only 2 years old so everything is newer. Electricity is provided by a generator so you can use it 24 hours, whereas Savuti the generator runs only 4 hours I think. The Tents here are raised about 15 feet above the ground and the tents were bigger. You are facing the Delta while in camp, and many times we heard the red leches running through the water at night! And the baboons howled when a lion walked thru as well..
to get anywhere in camp we had to have the vechile wade through water almost up to the top of the doors! Didnt have that in Savuti, plus it was warmer here due to the water/trees holding in the heat. We had day drives, mokoro, game walks and night drives here which we did. The game was no where near what we saw in Savuti tho, dont know if it was due to the animals being out of season here or not? But as i said both camps where fine, just seemed Tubu Tree overall was a bit better as I have said in the earlier post. But really how long are you in camp for, dinner and shower then asleep really (and doesnt that 6 am come early?).

Cape Town: Cape Town now is our favorite city. We were there listening to the radio on a Penisula Tour when they announced the World Cup 2010 site! Everyone in the car hooted and later when we were in the city everyone was celebrating! Blowing horns, dancing and singing.....Everyone said it was because they sent Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu, everyone there holds these men in such high regards, again we felt lucky to be there then. What can I say about Cape Town? Beautiful city, the best we have been in. Replaces Sydney, Rio, Rome, London and Paris as our favorite place to be. The city on the ocean surrounded by mountains! Cant beat it. Glad we stayed at the Mount Nelson as well...wonderful to stay at such a grand hotel with such history behind it, and the service was fantastic. We had breakfast there every day (included in our price). Only 60 rooms where full so we kinda had the place to ourselves, at night my wife and I would walk thru the many halls not seeing anyone, thinking we were in a Steven King movie, the hotel just kept going on and on. We ate our final meal there as well, had a huge meal, the only ones in the Cape Colony resturaunt with about 6 staff for us, with old 1940's music playing ...a magical night....the hotel is such a class place to go and end our trip there. We walked back from the green market up the driveway by the palm trees, thru the arches, a wonderful time. 3 Days does not do Cape Town justice really.

All in all I think the two words that describes our travels through Africa, with the people and sights we have seen, was that I was awed and humbled. And I have to thank the great people on this board for that with your kind advice, words and taking the time to answer my many questions. If there is any more questions I can answer let me know be more then happy to. Good travels!
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May 20th, 2004, 04:55 AM
  #7
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Wulfstan - great report and wonderful to know that our advise, ideas, suggestions worked well for you. And nice to know there's another vote for Cape Town as a "keeper" city - it sure is.
 
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May 20th, 2004, 06:56 AM
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Selwyn will know far more about this than I as a non-Capetonian, but in case anyone tries to do a web search, that's Greenmarket (one word) Square. It dates back to before 1700, but the name is from the early 19th century when it was a fruit and vegetable marketplace. After the City Hall was built, the Grand Parade became the focal point for that kind of activity. These days you'll find different wares, as described.
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May 20th, 2004, 02:18 PM
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Wulfstan,
Great report - thanks very much. We're off two weeks tomorrow and our trip includes Savute Safari Camp so hopefully we will get to see lots of animals there including the wild dogs you saw.

What were the water levels like around Savuti - did you get stuck at all or have any other problems due to water? Aslo how were the mosquitoes - that's the bit I'm not looking forward to as Liz's earlier report suggests they are much worse than usual. ALso how cold was it - how many layers of clothes did you need morning & evening?
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May 20th, 2004, 10:02 PM
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Wulfstan, Arthur, thank you. I was at one market in Cape Town, I don't recall if it was the Green Market - lots of stalls. I bought a small painting of African shops with some collage on it and some other gifts. Great fun.
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May 21st, 2004, 02:32 AM
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RuthieC:

No water levels around Savuti at all! No problems at all concerning that. Savuti was very cold though. Each jeep carries enough ponchos for everyone in the jeep. These are quilted ponchos that are very warm and everyone gets one. Dress as warm as possible, id suggest gloves, hat, for women, many layers if you can pack it. I only brought two pairs of shoes, three shorts and two pairs of pants. The laundry service out in the bush is incredible! The clothes come back even ironed! Once the sun comes up....you peel them off. I think it was about 85 in the sun and got down to low 50's or so. No chance of rain at all and certainly no water either. We had to travel miles to find water here as it is no where near the delta. Mosquitoes, didnt see any here that I can remember. Since it got so cold they get killed off as it is close to Botswana's winter now. Just bring a small bottle of Deet to use in case but we never had to use bug spray here. Tubu tree was different as it is on the Delta and they only came out at night. If it works out for you get Thuto as your guide (we called him tutu...). You wont find a better guide.....tell him Robert/Liz from America said hi! Best of luck! Please post when you get back! Any other questions let me know.
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May 21st, 2004, 05:52 AM
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Great report - happy to hear we have another Africa convert!!!

Melissa
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May 21st, 2004, 01:19 PM
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Wulfstan, Thanks very much for the reply. Just realised how stupid my question about the water was - I got my camps mixed and was thinking of Sandibe when I asked the question.

I don't think we're stayong at the same place as you at Savute - we're at Savute Safari Lodge which is run by Desert & Delta not Wilderness so we won't be able to be with your guide. Hopefully though we'll have the same great time that you did.

I still can't get my husband to believe we might need gloves in Africa - he thinks we British are more used to being cold! I shall pack mine anyway - they won't take up much room.
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May 21st, 2004, 06:44 PM
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Hi Ruthie -- we're just back, too and we stayed at Desert & Delta's Savute Safari Lodge between the two ccafrica lodges. The rooms are in sort of big a-frame thatched roof chalets with big glass doors overlooking the watering holes. We were in #3, which had a fantastic view. Our guide was Eddie, a VERY tall thin fellow, who has a marvelous personality -- We saw many many elephants (including a large breeding herd with babies) and a portion of the local pride of lions (the entire pride now numbers 45, but they roam about in 4 or 5 smaller groups now, to make it easier to eat.) We saw three big females with about six or seven little cubs. We even watched them climbing trees and playing around. Simply amazing. I won't hijack this thread, and will put together my own trip report some time this weekend, but whew. I haven't a clue what day or time it is at the moment so that must wait.
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May 21st, 2004, 07:35 PM
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Wulfstan: loved reading your trip report! Your trip sounded amazing. I leave for Botwsana on Sunday and look forward to sharing my impressions with everyone in a few weeks. As you mentioned, the Milky Way is simply breathtaking without any light pollution. Thanks again for sharing.
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May 23rd, 2004, 07:03 AM
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Oooh ooh ooh good to catch this as we'll be in Savuti and Tubu Tree next month - we are currently in Ballito with Kim!

Felt the market in Green Point (on Sunday) was better and more extensive than the Greenmarket one.

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