URGENT: Safari in S. Africa?

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Jul 26th, 2005, 06:42 AM
  #1
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URGENT: Safari in S. Africa?

My husband and I are going on our first trip to SA in late Aug/early Sept of this year. We are starting off with a 3-day safari and have a major dilema: Do we pay more (upwards of $2000) for flights and accommodations to go to a reserve that borders Kruger National Park (i.e. Djuma or Vuyatela Lodges in Sabi Sands or the Tanda Tula Safari Camp in the Timbavati Private Game Reserve)? Or, do we save the money and go on safari 3+ driving hrs. away from Johannesberg (i.e. Kingfisher Lodge on the private Entabeni Reserve)? Is it well-worth the extra expense to go closer to Kruger? Is time-of-year a consideration? Are there other must-do safaris that you suggest? Our budget is about $2500 for the 3 nights, give or take a bit. Please, please safari experts, help me make this decision!
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Jul 26th, 2005, 08:09 AM
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Hello,

A few questions that can help us help you...

Is your budget $2500 per person, or for the two of you?

What are your priorities? Is game-viewing the most important aspect of your safari, or do you have other things in mind?

Cheers,
Julian
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Jul 26th, 2005, 08:47 AM
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Julian - Thanks for your response. Ideally, we'd like to spend a total of $2500-3000 for the 2 of us, for 2 nights and three days on safari. However, based on my research, I think we are going to have to pay more... As for what we want out of the experience, I'd say good game viewing and comfortable, smart accommodations, and great food. I imagine you can get this in several places, but since this is our 1st and maybe last safari, where should we go? Is going to Kruger a "must"? Thanks.
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Jul 26th, 2005, 11:03 AM
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Hello,

If this is may be your first and last safari, and you are definite about staying within South Africa, the Sabi Sands is definitely a better choice (if you are willing to fly to another country, the choices become wider). Within South Africa, the Sabi Sands is the top choice in terms of the quality and quantity of game viewing. I've visited Madikwe in South Africa and the Linyanti and Okavango Delta in Botswana, and I've definitely had my best sightings in the Sabi Sands.

I've been to the Sabi Sands twice, and I did a lot of research before my first trip in 2004. Last year, I was there at about the same time you will be there (late August/early September). At the time, I thought it might be my first and last safari, so I wanted to make sure I had the best possible game-viewing experience.

On both of my trips, I stayed at Londolozi Private Game Reserve (at Bateleur Camp and Tree Camp). The guiding is absolutely superb, and Londolozi is particularly known for its leopard sightings -- at some reserves it's rare to see leopards at all. I saw five different leopards in the five days I spent at Londoz in July 2005, including a leopard vs hyaena face-off right next to my vehicle.

Based on the current exchange rates from Xe.com, your $2500 is about ZAR 16,753. You can hopefully get cheap flights on Kulula.com for R299 per person, which leaves you with ZAR 16,153, or ZAR 5384 per night (about $804 -- many of the camps are costed in Rand, so it's helpful to know how much you have to spend).

Londolozi is ZAR 7150 per night for two people, which is quite a bit more than you have budgeted, but would ensure a first class game viewing experience in first class surroundings. It was more than I budgeted for my safari as well, but I didn't regret the extra expense. The accommodation is very smart (African bush chic) and the food is of a very high standard. You can take a look on www.ccafrica.com.

When I stayed at Londoz this year, I used the 'pick two, stay four, pay for 3' special which you might be interested in. If you're paying for three nights, why not get a fourth free?

I also considered Singita, Mala Mala, and Sabi Sabi before settling on Londoz. My main goal was an absolutely first class game viewing experience -- the luxuriousness of my surroundings was less important. I felt Mala Mala was too large, and Singita was too expensive. I did consider Djuma briefly, but it didn't seem to offer the level of game-viewing experience I wanted.

I'm sure some of the people on this board who have stayed at some of the other camps can give you more information on them. I've only stayed on one place, but I can wholeheartedly recommend Londoz.

You might also think about whether you want to stay in chalets or in a tented camp. I prefer tented camps in general as I feel much closer to the bush than in a chalet -- if Londoz offered a tented camp it would be a dream come true!

Pricing for many camps is available on e-gnu.com. This site offers discount rates for a minimum stay of 3 nights on some properties (it brings Londoz down to R6758 per night, but doesn't offer Bateleur Camp). I haven't used it myself, but people in this board seem to think it offers good service.

Hope this helps you somewhat!

Cheers,
Julian
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Jul 26th, 2005, 01:06 PM
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mlriggio,

I agree with Jasher that Londolozi (this is a CCAfrica camp) is excellent. We were just there the first part of June and really liked the camp and saw a lot of animals. We stayed at Tree Lodge, which I do not think has any reduced rates. The other camps (all very near to each other, within walking distance) have some "chalets" which are slightly less expensive than the suites. However, even the chalets are on the order of 3600 Rands per night per person. If you can get the 4th night for free, then that would be a good deal. I'm not sure if you can get the fourth night for free with all 4 nights at Londolozi, or if you you have to have two nights at two camps (then you would have to pay to transfer between different CCAfrica poperties).

Also, check out Tagasafaris.co.za.
He has a special that may still be running thru September for Simbambili, another camp within Sabi Sands. This speccial was for about 8500 Rands per person for 4 nights. Then you would have to get there and back. This is a pretty good price. I don't think that anyone on this board that usually replies has been to Simbambili yet, but several Fodor people, including Rocco, are going there in September.
There are alos a couple of other less expensive properties that someone posting here has been to in Sabi Sands recently, one is Elephant Plains and one is Chitwa Chitwa (spellng?). I think they are in the same proximity as Simbambili, but not as upscale, and they may share traversing areas.

Anyway, I think that Sabi Sands is definitely a good place for a first safari, and many people have taken return trips there.
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Jul 26th, 2005, 01:23 PM
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Brandywine,

I stayed at Simbambili in May,
check out my report at tagasafaris :

http://tagasafaris.mywowbb.com/forum4/41.html

And yes, Simbambili and Elephant Plains do share traversing rights.

 
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Jul 26th, 2005, 01:36 PM
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Africa lover,

That's good to know since there did not seem to be any first hand reports here about Simbambili. It looks like you just got back before we left (we left June 2nd). Now I can check out your report. Thanks.
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Jul 26th, 2005, 11:49 PM
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Good Day mlriggio

I am very excited for you guys since you will be visiting our very beautiful country - I have not doubt that you will love every minute of it. As this is probably your first and last stay in SA (although I doubt it!!), I suggest you make the most of it, even if it means spending a little more. IMHO, the Sabi Sands cannot be beaten for close up viewing of the Big 5, we have had many awesome sightings there. I see that other Fodorites have suggested Londolozi as an option, and quite rightly so, they offer a fantastic product. Having said that, I believe there are other lodges that are the equal of Londolozi if not better, my opinion again. We have been to the Dulini, Leadwood Lodge, Ulusaba Rock Lodge, Lion Sands and Chitwa Chitwa Safari Lodge - out of these I would have to say that Dulini is the best (best rooms by far!!) and Chitwa Chitwa the worst (nowhere near as luxuruios as the rest). The others are all equally wonderful and I have nothing bad to say about any of them - near faultless. You will probably find too, that with the exception of Leadwood, the others will be cheaper than Londoz. Also, don't forget to check with MTbeds for special deals, they are last minute but one can invariably find something for a 1/4 of the price - www.mtbeds.co.za.
Hope this helps!!
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Jul 29th, 2005, 03:29 AM
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Hello,

A lot of great suggestions have been made -- there are certainly a lot of lovely lodges in the Sabi Sands.

I just wanted to say that what makes Londoz special to me is the guiding -- while the accommodation is certainly smart, I don't care if my surroundings are super luxurious so long as the guiding is excellent. There are more luxurious places to be sure, but Londoz has the best guiding I've ever experienced.

Cheers,
Julian
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Aug 7th, 2005, 07:34 AM
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Hi,

I have just returned from South Africa last week. I was there for work but managed to go on safari at the Sabi Sands game reserve and I could not agree more that I never imagined to see so many animals and diversity within such close proximity.

I stayed at a wonderful lodge called the "Inyati Private Game Reserve" that was luckily running a "winter" special for 1200 rand a night based on double occupancy. The normal rate in the high season can be up to $400 USD a night. The lodge in the Sabi Sands private reserve is situated right next to Singita, the most expensive resort out there, so you see the same animls either way.

The lodge has only 10 chalets so you feel quite catered too with personal attention and peace and quiet. I would recommend chalet #10 or 8 or 9. The staff there are quite friendly and knowledgeable and the best part was it's location overlooking the Sand river. Included in the price are 2 game drives daily, an afternoon bush walk, breakfast, luch and a traditional braii dinner. Babboons and a small warthog family roamed the grounds as well as hippos from the river sunning themselves in the afternoon.

I stayed 2 nights and had the most excellent ranger and tracker (George and Solly). Both were from the local area and had a history of this profession in their families. It was amazing to see their tracking skills, leading us to a night hunt of 2 lionesses which resulted in a kill right infront of our vehicle (not for the faint of heart like me), a kill the next day of a leapord lunging at an impala, plus being in the midst of herds of elephants, and many families of animals with many babies in the park at the time.

My personal opinion is that you go on 2 game drives a day 3 hrs in the morning and 3 hrs in the evening so the focus is on the animals so why pay exorbitant amounts of money on a place you will most likely not be around too much to enjoy.

I took SAA from JNB to Nelspruit and after that it was about a 2 hr transfer to the reserve, but a nice drive to see the region and the farming crops in Mpumalanga along with sights of the Drakensburg mountains.

Hope that helps, I have many pictures of the lodge itself and of course on our wildlife sightings if that would help you as well.

Thanks-Bhavna
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Aug 15th, 2005, 08:35 PM
  #11
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Thanks so much for all your wonderful and detailed responses. After your feedback and further research, we've decided to go to Sabi Sands and are staying at the Vuyatela Lodge. We're excited about our trip, and will report back upon our return. Thanks again, and happy traveling
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Aug 16th, 2005, 08:35 PM
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What is the recommendation for a person that prefers simplicity in a camp (tent in the bush preferred) but still still wants the best wildlife experience?
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Aug 17th, 2005, 04:24 AM
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Tashak,

You could try Notten's -- it's in a great area (adjoining Londoz and MalaMala) and offers a more homely, tented experience.

Cheers,
Julian
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