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Two Safari questions--one photography and one about gratuities

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Aug 12th, 2015, 01:47 PM
  #21
 
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BH - you crack me up. They aren't going to weigh a thing and your photo companion will have a little tiny bag. But you'll look like the Michelin man just in case! I saw today that Uzbekistan Air is now weighing their passengers and bags and immediately thought of you!

Make sure you have a car charger for your camera battery(s) if possible. You might be out for long stretches and you don't want to miss that shot. We learned the hard way when we were out all day on our own in Kruger and the camera died and the backup battery didn't hold a charge. Another time a lens died (I have no idea what happened, not my thing) and we stopped at a camera shop in Hoedspruit between camps for a new one.

I don't weigh things in my head anymore. We are really good lightweight packers now. Nope, now every time I turn up the heat or get in the car unnecessarily, I think we won't be able to afford our next safari. It's gotten to be a running joke in our house. Bad.

What is it now? 19 days? So fun. That's about how long I have to wait to start trying to get availability in Kgalagadi NP next year. Holding thumbs (S African for fingers crossed).
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Aug 12th, 2015, 07:22 PM
  #22
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christabir, Goodness, I could never fly Uzbekistan Air! Dear God, my over-loaded vest would have me thrown off the airplane! Thanks for the suggestion of a car charger. I do have one, and I would have not taken it. Excellent advice, And.....it only weighs about 2 oz, so I'm good

I'm going to be fine, I know. I am so excited. I travel a lot, and I don't think I've looked forward to a trip more than this. This is my first completely solo journey too. Lot's of firsts!

Thanks again!
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Aug 13th, 2015, 03:52 AM
  #23
 
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Hi BostonHarbor
I no longer go to MalaMala but have been many times when I was gameviewing. My understanding is that the Rattrays do not own the property but they do the management of the property and that article seems to say that. I no longer know who works there but at one stage it was Mrs Rattray's daughter at MM and her son at Mashatu, but that may have changed. I doubt much has changed since I was last there and I have been there many many times as a single person. The ranger did eat with guests breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dinner is eaten as a group in the Boma or ranger tables if elsewhere while breakfast and lunch is ranger tables or if by yourself in the vehicle, then it would be your, your photographer and the ranger.
I agree with Christabir that you need to be on the generous side of tipping if it just you in the vehicle as a private vehicle means not the 4 to 6 guests contributing towards a tip, just one!
Wildlife viewing is exceptional at MM and very good at Mashatu, but I found the animals at Mashatu to be a bit more nervous especially the leopard but that may have changed now. Have seen cheetah at MM but my stays were considerably longer so that may be more difficult. Regardless, there is so much to see there that as long as you don't focus of "the Big 5" you will have plenty of subjects to take photos of I am sure!
Don't ever remember having to worry about baggage weight but that may well be a new issue. Also like someone else mentioned, dressing up at dinner never happened as they mainly eat outside and it is cold, staying warm in my priority. Don't underestimate how cold it is going to be as early morning and late afternoon, without the warmth of the sun, can be freezing, and nothing is more uncomfortable than being cold. Also being cooler, you will be able to stay out most of the day and make use of the private vehicle. In summer, it really is too hot to be out all day and the animals are normally too hot to be moving about.
I hope they are still strict about walking you back to your room, as they have leopard and lion walking through the camp at night.
You will have a great trip! I still go twice a year, once to South Africa and once to Zimbabwe but these days I volunteer with animals, so much more rewarding for me! Though am going to manage to get my 3rd visit with gorillas in 2017!
Kind regards
Kaye
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Aug 13th, 2015, 05:12 PM
  #24
 
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KayeN - great to see you here! My husband and I are hoping to move (sooner than later!) to SA to hopefully make a difference. Thank you for what you do. I will be inviting all of our Fodor's friends at any time. You will always be welcome. Please share your Zim work. It must be difficult these days. Mugabe has really mucked things up.

We had surprisingly good cheetah at Mashatu, very few in/around Kruger. Lots of leopard and lion at both. Amazing rhino - lots of babies! - even with the troubles, in Kruger. Still hoping for good dogs someday, but so far, not to be.

I remember our first safari - we planned for hot and hotter. I was not prepared for close to 0 C. Linen and cotton.It's hard to wrap your head around it until you've been there. Cashmere, gloves and earmuffs, along with a hot water bottle at night, are my best friends.

Please share your gorilla experience when you get back. Hopefully when we are SADC residents we will get to do it, too!! It's a dream trip for us

BH - I expect a thorough trip report and your plans for the next time when you go back.
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Aug 14th, 2015, 01:33 AM
  #25
 
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Hi Christabir

Have not been here for ages as busy at home usually as look after wildlife here as well. But currently getting over a frozen shoulder so taking the rest of the year off before heading back to South Africa to volunteer at a rhino centre near Nelspruit. Thanks, but I really love what I do over there and it is terribly rewarding most of the time, sad sometimes as looking after animals anywhere in the world can be.
I love the place I go to in Zimbabwe, called Twala Animal Sanctuary Trust, just outside Harare. Here they take any animal in need, domestic or wild, and it is difficult to be sure. The lady who owns Twala, Sarah Carter is absolutely devoted to her animals and nothing is too much trouble. She is an absolute joy to work for and a pleasure to be helping her help those poor animals. Her husband is a vet and they do local clinic every Wednesday where they feed, give injections and have a list of animals that are slowly being desexed, which is vital for these local areas as most can barely feed themselves let alone their dogs. A lot of people have mucked things up big time, but Zimbabwe has good animal poaching laws in place, it is just getting them enforced and to get people to serve jail time. The biggest poaching is pangolins and that is devastating as they are such gentle and sweet animals. Sarah and I speak a lot about different animal projects and the pros and cons and she has a lot of information about some of them. Luckily we agree on these issues so have much to talk about always.
No doubt in my 12 odd years of gameviewing with the majority at MalaMala where I would often stay 4 to 5 weeks, I have been exceptionally lucky and it helps that I love all the little things sometimes a lot more than the Big 5, maybe not leopard! Very lucky with the little things at MM like pangolin, honey badgers, Sable Antelope and a lot of unique sightings that I realise how lucky I was to see that.
I have also been to MM in September and 40 degrees Celsius when we arrived then did not see the sun for another 7 days, absolutely freezing. We were wearing everything we had each day and Dad was wearing socks on his hands, luckily they were leopard socks, so only looked mildly ridiculous!
I am also very lucky to have seen the gorillas for 6 days visits and you absolutely must go and see them. To be on foot and that close, is something I will always remember, also I feel very gentle animals who could do us harm but seem to understand we are there for 60 minutes each day, so they will tolerate us! I figure I can do it once more physically as it is quite demanding for me, especially when I do 3 days in a row, as I have rheumatoid arthritis, but worth the pain!

Kind regards
Kaye
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Aug 14th, 2015, 02:10 PM
  #26
 
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Thank you for all the great info, Kaye! I can't tell you much I admire what you do. It can't be easy. Yes, someday we will get to do a gorilla trek - we hope soon, as neither of us are getting any younger. It's amazing that the pangolin is being being poached so much everywhere it's found. We all want to see one (and usually fail) and poachers find them in large numbers. We all understand when elephants, rhinos and lions are in trouble, but the small animals are in trouble too. And usually poached for the same myths.

One creature we have been incredibly lucky with is honey badgers. On one trip to Kruger NP, we were "chasing down" a rhino who was on a mission - probably a lady nearby - and when we made a turn to hopefully be able to follow him, we came upon two honey badgers who entertained us (no other cars) for about a half hour. Saw our first dung beetle last year on horseback in KZN. I love the little things, too.

Sorry about your health issues. I recently discovered I have RA (and a few other autoimmune diseases which keep popping up), too. I find if I keep moving (a body at rest....) the stiffness doesn't set in. But gee, even sitting at a restaurant for dinner is long enough to really feel it. I'm starting to get the itch to do everything asap!

Please pop in occassionally! Love to see your input. Feel better. Frozen shoulder can be tricky from what I understand.
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Aug 16th, 2015, 06:05 PM
  #27
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Kaye and Christabir--what a wonderful thread this has turned into. I feel I have already visited Mala Mala and Mashatu and am so far better prepared. I have everything pretty much organized clothes-wise and am prepared for the cold as well as the heat. Well over 50% of my allowed weight is going to camera equipment, but that is why I'm going, so my normal "glamor girl" persona is staying in Boston.

Kaye, I appreciate your efforts to keep Africa wild and strong. Christabir, I hope you get to SA soon. Your energy will be a great asset at whatever you do.

And, yes indeed, I will report my trip, along with more images than you would ever want to see.

I leave two weeks from tomorrow. Counting down the days.

Thanks again to all of you for your kind and generous help.
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Aug 16th, 2015, 07:10 PM
  #28
 
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Hi Chrisabir,
No it is not easy, but as I love it, it makes it still a joy to do and I am grateful that I get the opportunity to work for such wonderful people and with all these different animals that deserve all I can do and more!
My health issues have been around about 25 years, so like everyone I have my good days, my great days and my not so good days, but it is what it is, so you deal with it. Many times, if I don't feel my best, my first animal interaction and my day becomes a great day! Yep, I am also on the move all day to keep all joints moving, best idea! And the shoulder is coming good, so that is a relief as well!
I love the little things and it never fails to amaze me when people have been gameviewing for 3 nights and they come back and have seen "everything" which of course is normally 5 animals! They don't even know what they are missing out on!!!

Hi BostonHarbor
I never need worry about the "glamor girl" persona! While my camera stuff takes some of my luggage allowance, most of mine is usually animal stuff I am taking over, last time it included 2 lion balls and 12 swings for the monkeys, and they take up a fair bit of space! Last trip think it came to about 68kgs! So I am thinking camera equipment and a few clothes would be pretty easy!

You cannot but help have a great time as really the best gameviewing I have experienced is at MalaMala! During my long stays, I would easily see 20 to 30 different leopards and while I sometimes I had the vehicle to myself, never paid to have it privately, so of course, every few days we were rushing around looking for rhino and buffalo for the new people, so at least you will be spared that!

Hope I remember to look back in a while, and see how you fared!

I will do a very short stint at Kirkmans Kamp at the end of my next volunteering time in South Africa and they also have had some great gameviewing recently with cheetah and dog, so also very lucky!

Kind regards
Kaye
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Aug 16th, 2015, 09:54 PM
  #29
 
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This is such a pleasant thread. Thanks to everyone who has popped in and given such good and kind input. Sometimes they can get a bit "off track". This one has, but in the nicest way. Every time I check in, someone else has had such nice things.

KayN - you crack me up! Lion balls and monkey swings! Where else would that sentence make sense except from you! Have a nice time at Kirkmans, and keep up the good fight.

BW - I think you are ready! Leave glamor girl at home and become another safari girl. It's getting to be a bigger group.

I am trying to plan a pretty adventurous trip (at least for us) next year. A week or more in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in a fully kitted out Land Rover. I don't camp - I never have - so we won't be roughing it, but we will be doing BBQ meals (braai in SA) in unfenced rest camps. I'm not quite sure how that works. We've cooked in fenced camps in Kruger and were visited by baboons (I hate to say bad things about them, but....) and a hyena. I don't really want to be visited by lions or hyena in the dark in an unfenced camp! Fewer people get hurt by lions in SA than by bison in Yellowstone, so our chances are good. (Darwinism at its finest - taking selfies with bison).

After KTP, we plan to visit KwaZulu Natal and find our future neighborhood to retire to. We want to do volunteer work in Zululand Rhino Reserve and Tembe Elephant Park when we retire, so why not move close? We can't decide if we want to live in/very near a wildlife reserve near the ocean or oceanfront near a wildlife reserve. We are leaning toward oceanfront, but still undecided. We also want to start a program to help girls to go to school in rural KZN. After finding a house (ha ha!!) we will spend a few days in ZRR so we can take it easy and enjoy some game drives with a ranger and see rhinos, eles and wild dog (if our luck changes!) which are not in KTP.

But the reason for us going at all is to be in Gaborone, Botswana for their 50th anniversary!! We've been planning that for 10 years since we were there our first time. It should be quite a party. It's a very special country.

Oops. Off track again. Looking forward to your trip report.
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Aug 29th, 2015, 06:19 PM
  #30
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Woo Hoo! I'm off on my safari on Monday! From BOS to ATL and then on the non stop ATL-JNB.

KayeN and Christabir, looks like I'll be getting a little "weather" in Mala Mala with rain and clouds this week, but the weather will also be cooling down (it was 102 f on Saturday) into the 60's and 70's during the day, so I'm not sad about the clouds. Besides for photography, a cloud cover can be great--none of those harsh shadows under my subject's eyes

I'm SO excited. Unlike you expert African travelers, I'm a newbie when it comes to safaris--this is my first. I'm glad I'm going solo and I can't wait to spend day after day capturing images. I have my luggage/camera weight under control (heavy on cameras, light on clothing) and everything else is set.

I've arranged to do star trails photography at Mashatu. The moon phase and weather look highly promising for great night stars. I'll do about 90 or so 30-second (shutter) images and then layer them together. I've never done star photography and I'm pretty excited about this opportunity. . I have a "intervalometer" gizmo that triggers all the images for me. I just have to set it up, push a button, get a cocktail, and sit in the Land Rover until it's finished Technology is a beautiful thing.

Thanks again for all your generous and amazingly useful help. I have a diary and pen in my camera bag and will write a trip report and post images upon my return. I'll toast my Fodor friends during one of my sundowners
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Aug 29th, 2015, 07:09 PM
  #31
 
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I was wondering about when you leave. Have a great time. I'm not surprised about the weather - spring is starting, so it is all over the place. You will have mostly gorgeius weather, so take advantage of any clouds!! They add interest. That star thing sounds great! The Southern Hemisphere stars are so different - and just wait until you see the Milky Way in Botswana with no light pollution! I'm on the east coast, too. We don't get to see it often.

We were at an outdoor concert last week (Joan Jett - she was great) and used our "sundowner" tin cups. Just makes me smile. In addition to a sundowner (or two!) add a coffee with Amarula on a morning game drive. Yummy - especially with a good rusk. I also like it a lot (any time of day) over ice. It's an SA drink made from the marula fruit. You'll see many marula trees - look out for drunk elephants and baboons.

If you want to add a little extra touch, especially in Botswana, when you shake hands cradle your right elbow with your left hand. It's their custom.

Call your bank and credit card co to remind them. Most of all, have a fantastic time - and don't forget to put down the camera once in a while. Safe travels!! I am so excited for you.
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Aug 29th, 2015, 09:08 PM
  #32
 
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Boston Harbour, I hope you have an amazing time, though it's a dangerous trip - safaris can become an expensive habit.

do bring a bit of the glamour girl with you too!
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Aug 30th, 2015, 09:10 AM
  #33
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Actually Welltraveledbrit, I am taking a pair of black skinny pants, a long black Kurta top from India, and some black sandals, along with a few long colorful printed light chiffon scarves and a black pashmina--I can look different every night. I'm planning on buying some locally made necklaces as well, so all should be fine on the "glamour girl" front. I really couldn't go ALL casual. The "glamour" clother weigh only a few ounces (everything is ounces to me these days) and I simply could not do cocktails in safari clothes every night You know me well, lol.

However, I'm still, after 12KG of camera equipment at exactly 20kg. And, that's doesn't count my Michelin man vest that I can load up.

I laughed at your comment about a dangerous trip. Yes, indeed, I'm sure it will become a very expensive habit.

Cristabir, thanks for the tip on the handshake. I know those small gestures are important. And, I will get stills of the Milky way as well. I'm SO happy the moon is cooperating when I am there (i.e.: staying out of the way until after 1AM)

I'll be in the air tomorrow at this time!
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Aug 30th, 2015, 01:16 PM
  #34
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OMG, I got my "check in " notice from Delta and, rather than my Business Elite seat 7D, I was in 25F in Economy!!!! (the "flyer talk" people said that 7A and 7D are the best seats on the 777 200LR and I listen to frequent flyers : ) Seriously? I don't think I will be in economy. I paid for business class! What the hell? So raced to the website and saw that although I wasn't in economy, I was now in seat 10C that is directly opposite from the main toilet door in business. 16.5 hours in a toilet door seat? I don't think so. This is crazy. Check in notice says one thing, the website says another and I've had 7D for four months (until this morning) . What is going on?

I will spare you the conversation I had with Delta, other than the customer service woman (actually) said "they changed equipment from a Airbus 319 to a 777LR. Well, it had ALWAYS been a 777LR since it is the *only* Delta equipment that can fly 10,000 miles. There had been NO equipment change. I said to the woman "if we were on an airbus 319 we would have not gotten much further than the coast of Cuba" before needing to land or crash. I received no response.

So, after about 30 minutes of getting nowhere with the woman on the phone (who put my on hold 3 times to "speak to my supervisor"), I said "why don't we make this easier for you, patch me to your supervisor."

Within 20 seconds, the supervisor gave me my seat back. 7D. The one I had had for four months.

Geez. So absurd.
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Aug 30th, 2015, 02:34 PM
  #35
 
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It doesn't have to be an expensive habit (addiction). We go often and cheap. The retirement homes we are looking at may be costly...

When we checked in the day before my flight last year they had no record of my reservation. I used DL miles on Virgin through LHR. It took all day, just what we needed to be doing on the day before we left, but we got seats on the flight you are taking for the days we needed. We were in the last two seats on the plane, which normally I would hate sitting by the restroom (in coach!), but they are also the only two across seats. It was fine. Three across in the 20th row was worse on the way back.

I'm sorry they made you crazy, but at least you got what you paid for. I really wish they would not lie when they screw up. Just admit the screw up and move on.

We have also experienced a flight cancellation in LHR on BA (AA miles in biz), so in order to get to JNB the same day, we flew in center seats, six rows apart. I was fine. My husband is 6'4". He was a pretzel, but it's "only" a 10 hour flight, maybe less. Such a disappointment, but we got there.

Biz is so much nicer than coach, but we don't accumulate as many miles as we used to. We just found non stops to Buenos Aires in coach for 40,000 miles rt, $80. It might be too good to pass up. It's a city we are considering for retirement if SA doesn't work out. Any place with an international airport.

Have fun! One favor - blow a kiss to a rhino you see at MM for me.
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Aug 30th, 2015, 03:53 PM
  #36
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Have a wonderful trip Boston Harbor. You will be glamorous no matter what the clothes! Glad the flight stuff got straightened out.

Because of this wonderful thread, I've been looking at sites for our second trip. We did go to Phinda our first time. I loved it, the people, our guide, the lodging, and everything they are doing there. So a second visit there may be a requirement.
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Aug 30th, 2015, 04:52 PM
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Hey cw - definitely a great time to book. Check what currency the lodges quote in. The Rand is currently at R13.3/uSD, the best (in USD) ever. Phinda and Kirkmans would be great, although there are many others. We have fallen for Rhino River Lodge in Zululand Rhino Reserve, a relatively new reserve created with help from WWF to increase the black rhino numbers. It's "around the corner" from Phinda and just released wild dogs early this year. We did a rhino conservation project there that may have been our best day ever. At the current exchange rate, it is ridiculously affordable and such a great cause at this dire time for the rhinos. Tembe Elephant Park is pretty great, too. It's community owned and provides jobs in an area that otherwise would not be available. I'm nuts about the entire area around iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Phinda is a small part of it, and hope everyone gets to experience some of it. Share when you decide.
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Aug 31st, 2015, 11:58 AM
  #38
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christabir, thanks for the added information. Right now I'm all over the place. Husband would like to be able to have some opportunities for walking, so I was looking at Zambia as well. Last time we went to Phinda, Londolozi, and Ngala Tented. That was in the last months of &Beyond's control of Londolozi. I think that impacted our experience there. The game drives were wonderful as they are in Sabi Sands though. Ngala was fun because you had to search a little more for sightings, and there was a great group of people staying when we were there.

But Phinda does call to us, so incorporating that into the itinerary is a temptation. We did do the optional trip to Sodwana Bay and after flying over the area, I can see why this area is attractive to you. I will definitely update plans here. Thanks!
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Aug 31st, 2015, 02:05 PM
  #39
 
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I enjoy meeting fellow travelers, too. They sure can make a big difference.

You don't have to go to Zambia for excellent walking safaris. They are available more and more. The ones in Hluhluwe-imFolozi NP, a short distance from Phinda, get rave reviews. The guides are excellent and the experiences are unforgettable. Here's all of their available walking safaris:

http://www.ekznw.co.za/Trails.htm#3

The short, higher end one looks perfect for me some day. My only problem is I don't camp. Maybe after 2022 when we move there. I'm a big fan of Hluhluwe-imFolozi. Without the rangers there, we would likely have lost the rhino many years ago. They single handedly saved the two African species when we tried to exterminate them the first time. They have also researched, and experimented with, the safest means to transport African animals to keep the gene pools more varied than they would be these days with limited area for them to live.

There are also walking safaris in the Zululand Rhino Reserve:

www.zululandwalkingsafaris.com

Thula Thula near Phinda does morning walks. Africa on Foot in Timbavati has an excellent reputation for great rangers and they do walking safaris in the morning. Kruger does overnight safaris. Rhino Post has a great reputation. Pafuri, too. Phinda used to have a rhino tracking walk, but I'm not sure if they do it anymore. If you can find it (I can't! They probably discontinued it) there is/was a walking safari that went between a few high end lodges in Sabi Sand. That would be great fun. If you contact lodges, they can arrange walking safaris - we've done AM game walks at Mashatu, Shindzela, ZRR and Entabeni. They just have to make sure they have a ranger with the correct training on hand to do it, so you have to arrange in advance, generally. Just be sure you are going out in the bush, not just a quick walk around the lodge. We rode horses with Impala, wildebeest and zebra in iSimangaliso where I saw my first dung beetle. So fun. We also golfed on unfenced courses at Skukuza in Kruger and Entabeni.

Ours scariest "walk" was at a spot in Kruger (on our own, no ranger) where there is a plaque to commemorate a SANParks ranger. It was in perfect leopard territory - trees, rocks, in a rocky hilly spot. The parking lot was dirt, so we checked the footprints. Cats, large antelope, birds, little cats, little antelope.... So we decided for some reason to take the chance and go check it out. When a pair of steenbok (I think - they were startled by us and took off too fast to see much, and I was more startled than them!) jumped down a rock in front of us, all I could think was they were being stalked by a leopard. I quickly high-tailed it back to the car, making as much noise as I could to scare off that leopard. Of course, it was fine - my husband took a pic of the plaque, a pic of the gorgeous view of the park from the high spot we were on and laughed at me for days.

Anyway, sorry to get off track again! Zambia is no longer the only place to get a great walking safari experience. There are overnight, multiple night and very short options. And some of them don't require camping!

Last time I looked, there was a special with "free" air between Phinda and Kirkmans. We love a Kruger/Sabi Sand/Timbavati, drive through Swaziland to Zululand (and iSimangaliso WP) combo, if a self drive interests you at all. It's easy, and how many of us have a Swaziland stamp?

Have fun planning. I'm hoping to get to Kgalagadi NP and Botswana (just Gaborone and Khama Rhino Sanctuary) next year for Botswana's 50th anniversary. Hoping for a big, fun party.
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Aug 31st, 2015, 03:10 PM
  #40
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Thanks so much for the additional information and links. I (we) have a lot to think about. But I do most of the planning. Someday I would like to do a self-drive but I'm not sure of how much time we will have next year. I forgot about Africa on Foot. I had looked at them a few years ago.

That's classic about the possible leopard. I would have gone back to the car too.

I know Phinda used to have a 4 or 5 day camping/walking program but I haven't seen that either.

I have a lot to research. And that is fun!

Thank you again.
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