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What is a good rule of thumb -- 2 or 3 nights per lodge?

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Aug 20th, 2005, 12:55 PM
  #1
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What is a good rule of thumb -- 2 or 3 nights per lodge?

I see a lot of people fitting a lot of stops into their trip -- sometimes only 1 night in a place. Whereas some trip constraints force this, I was curious what a good rule of thumb is if you aren't 'that' pressed for time?

If you allowed 2 nights in each spot, would that be good enough to see what each offered? Or does that lend to a 'rushed feeling' and 3 nights is best if possible?

Or, does it come down to how close places are together and the traveling time required?

I am working with a 3 1/2 week itinerary. On one hand, 2 nights per place seems like you could fit in a lot of variety and places, but on the other you may end up feeling that you've run a marathan

Thanks.
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Aug 20th, 2005, 01:38 PM
  #2
sandi
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Yes to all of the above.

It depends on the time of year, the itinerary in total, the distances between places, means of transport between destinations, size of the park/reserve, and on and on!

With 3-1/2 weeks why not post the interary, time of year and accommodations you're considering - we can comment.
 
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Aug 20th, 2005, 02:07 PM
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ha ha ha -- post the itinerary?? Just kidding. I have been struggling with dates, frequent flier availability, and the zillion posts on this board for two months....and am nowhere NEAR an itinerary.

I JUST settled a flight itinerary that I can live with. Plus, since it it FF seats, I can pay fees to change it if I have to eventually.

I figure if I read this board for another month I MIGHT be able to post a possible itinerary or at least more intelligent questions

This board is invaluable but also overwhelming. Now that I am past the flights dilemma I can hopefully start breaking things down and put together a plan
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Aug 20th, 2005, 03:16 PM
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2 nights is enough to have an enjoyable stay and to experience a decent flavour of a camp/ it's immediate area (though if a camp offers a large variety of activities it may not give time to try them all).

But it's hard to leave after 2 nights when one loves a camp. Then again it's hard to leave after 3 or 4 too.

3 nights allows a more relaxed pace. With two nights only one day is actually FULLY at the camp from dawn to dusk. WIth 3 nights you have two full dawn to dusk days.

On our first trip to Namibia and Botswana we did 2 nights in 5 camps and 4 in one other camp. Whilst we'd have loved to stay in many of them even longer we didn't feel that the 2 nights were too short to make it worthwhile and extremely enjoyable.

On our next trip we did try and opt for mostly 3+ nights but we had one or two shorter stops too.
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Aug 21st, 2005, 04:21 AM
  #5
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Sorry, I didn't mean to push on the itinerary. I can well understand if you're still only "getting started" that you feel you have a ways to go to you just get a handle on the fact that you're going to Africa. But if you've gotten your tickets, then is it to Southern or Eastern Africa?

As Kavey mentions - in some places 2-nts are fine, whereas at others 3 or 4-nts aren't nearly sufficient. A lot depends on the itinerary, where, your accommodations, definitely your budget.

I do my utmost to avoid 1-nt stays unless it's absolutely necessary and usually occurs if doing a road/drive safari and need a point between two destination to sleep/game view before heading on.

If you've already picked the direction in which you will be going - South or East - then you're part-way there. Now just ask the questions regarding these two diverse areas of Africa, your budget, type of accommodations you'd like, and we'll be glad to help. There's more information here on Fodor's then you'll find elsewhere. Someone or lots of someones have been to just about every of these areas; put their heads down on many pillows.

So ask away.
 
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Aug 21st, 2005, 07:34 AM
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To date, the majority of my visits to lodges/camps have been three or four nights. On only two occasions have I ever spent only two nights at a lodge/camp and one of them was at Singita, and this was the absolute one place that deserved more time allocated, but due to its expense, I limited it to two nights.

Here are a list of my lodges/camps, the length I stayed and how I felt about the duration of each stay:

Singita Boulders, Sabi Sand (2) - Would have loved a third night, even at its high tariff.

Matetsi Water Lodge, Matetsi Reserve (Zimbabwe) (3) - This was just right and allowed me the opportunity to go canoeing, visit Victoria Falls, enjoy three night game as well as three morning game drives and a fabulous dinner in the bush.

Kafunta River Lodge, South Luangwa National Park (3) - This was a bit disruptive because I first stayed two nights here, then transferred to Kafunta Island Bush Camp for two nights and then returned here for a final night. It would have been much better had I added another night at the end for two (2) night visits.

Kafunta Island Bush Camp, South Luangwa National Park (2) - This was in a beautiful and isolated area of South Luangwa NP. A third night would have been welcomed here.

Djuma Vuyatela, Sabi Sand (3) - Three nights, in my opinion, is perfect for a Sabi Sand lodge. I have just been using Sabi Sand visits as my dessert after I have been first going on safari, next spending a few nights in Cape Town and then finishing up with a 3 night mini-safari. I do, however, think that people that come all the way to Southern Africa but then only spend three nights on safari are really cheating themselves.

As far as this camp goes, I would not return. I will not go into it on this response, but if you do a search for "Vuyatela" on this forum, my trip report will pop up.

Kulefu Tented Camp, Lower Zambezi (4) - This was an absolutely beautiful area but I was one of the unlucky visitors in its final season before its major upgrade. To make matters worse, I was there during the full moon and there were no predators to be found since they don't seem to hunt as frequently during a full moon. Then to really top it off, there was an unbelievable cold spell while we were there...not a cloud in the sky to hold in the little heat there was in the day. It was about 40 degrees each night and even multiple hot water bottles and extra blankets did not seem enough.

Here, because I was so unimpressed with the camp and because I was going to one of its sister lodges, Chichele Presidential Lodge in South Luangwa, I actually tried to escape a day early to expand my stay at Chichele by a day, but I was told that there were no light air transfers that could accomodate me (which I only half believe).

Kaingo, South Luangwa (4) - This is an awesome camp. Even though I stayed four nights here, I would not have minded staying two more. The staff was great, the guides were great, the location was great and the game activities were above and beyond experienced elsewhere, with THREE activities daily.

The accomodations and the food were just average but the real things that make for an incredible safari experience were all present at Kaingo.

Chichele Presidential Lodge, South Luangwa (3) - Although this is more resort than safari lodge, make no doubt about it, it is in the middle of a very good area for wildlife. It is located atop Chichele Hill and has 360 degree views for as far as the eye can see in every direction.

The rooms are very luxurious and my wife and I thought the food was outstanding. The service was impeccable with the waiters during lunch and dinner being immaculately dressed and offering better service than even the finest restaurant in a major city.

As if that was not enough, the game activities were the very best I have experienced anywhere. One morning there were three of us that went out on the morning game drive and we never made it back to the lodge for breakfast and we were a bit late getting back for lunch, not arriving back until about 2PM after doing what amounted to nearly a full day game drive. We barely had time to eat and rest for a couple hours before we were back on the road again for our evening game drive. Very few places would do this for its visitors but Chichele really seems to pull out all the stops for the enjoyment of its guests.

I honestly rate my Chichele experience on par with my Singita experience, yet Chichele, for 2006, is $500 per person per night, while Singita is around $1175 per person per night.

This year, I have chosen to visit five different camps for a 3 night stay at each camp:

Kasaka River Lodge, Lower Zambezi (3)
Chongwe River Camp, Lower Zambezi (3)
Luangwa River Lodge, South Luangwa (3)
Puku Ridge, South Luangwa (3) (this is owned by the same company that owns Chichele and is only about a mile away from Chichele. It is a true luxury safari lodge in the middle of a very good area for wildlife and will feel more genuine, even with 900 sq. ft luxury tents, than would Chichele with its 5* hotel type rooms)
(Then I am interrupted with a four night stay in Cape Town at the Twelve Apostles before finishing in the Sabi Sand)
Simbambili, Sabi Sand (3)

I would definitely go for a minimum of three nights at each lodge/camp, providing they are the places that you really want to visit, rather than a substitute if it turns out your requested lodge is unavailable.
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Aug 21st, 2005, 07:57 AM
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it also depends on your age, i would say.

my parents would not like the idea of "moving around" as much as i would, decades younger.

i am not as experienced as the above posters, but can offer a first timers' experience: 2 nights does NOT feel rushed.

2 nights = 4 drives. that's four 4-5 hour blocks in the safari vehicle, with the same guide, same vehicle mates, going over the same/similar terrain. that's b,l,d twice, with the same kitchen and the same company at meals (in a small camp setting).

on the other hand, if you are the type of person who needs to skip a safari drive in favor of a massage, you might like an extra night.

also, if you visit a camp that offers a range of activities, you might want that third night.

honestly, don;t bend over backwards attempting to make every camp 2 or 3 nights. see what they have available. see what your flights allow.

i would definitely say that 1 night is NOT enough and you will wish you could have stayed a second night (if we are talking about a remote camp), but i never once felt that i needed that "extra" night at any camp after 2, no matter how lovely or great the experience. but we only visited safari camps, without the possibility of water or other types of activities, so weigh that in when deciding.

have fun!
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Aug 21st, 2005, 08:15 AM
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Thanks SO much for all the detailed info.

Right now, my airfare is in/out of J'burg, with the idea very very tentatively being SA & Botswana, including Capetown.

I am going to start piecing together a route and when I get a better idea, I will post for advice on specific lodges and suggested durations.

My preliminary decision is how much to do myself and how much to use an agent for. There are lots of pros/cons to consider for that alone. A fair portion will probably be self-drive but I want to try not to feel like the 'Amazing Race'

Thanks ~~ "I'll be back"
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Aug 21st, 2005, 08:19 AM
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Let me add one more thing to 'complicate' my planning

This whole trip is a surprise for my husband, so the burden is on me! This is ironic in that HE would have a lot of general knowledge of Africa that I do not posess. He is originally from the UK, but neither of us have been to Africa.
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Aug 21st, 2005, 09:18 AM
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One thing to consider is travelling from camp to camp takes a big chunk out of the middle of your day. This means that "travel days" can be pretty tiring: game drive in the morning, a hurried brunch/lunch, travel to next camp, then almost immediately hop on another game drive. This means you have no relax/down time to read a book, write in your journal, sit on your deck, take a long shower....

Staying 2 days at each camp means you're doing this every other day. This is what we did on our first safari, and something I would definitely change on our second in that we would mix in some 3 day stays at camps that offered enough variety.

Hope this helps,
Judy
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Aug 21st, 2005, 10:39 AM
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linjudy -- very good points. I don't want to be 'on the go' every minute. I just read a 'self drive' itinerary that included about 4-5 hrs drive every second or third day. Ugh Definitely not what I hope to do.
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Aug 21st, 2005, 07:48 PM
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linjudy sums up why I do not like two day visits to camps...every other day you are traveling.

I have waived this rule, however, for Tanzania, since it is all overland and I cannot imagine needing more than 2 nights in either Lake Manyara or the Ngorongoro Crater. Also, while I am hitting four camps in seven nights in the Serengeti, I do not believe they will be more than a couple hour drive away from each other, and there will likely be plenty of wildlife viewing during the transfer.

However, for any safari that were to require air transfers, I would be hesitant to stay two nights at any camps, unless one of them was a true transit point, such as a place like Matetsi Water Lodge may be to connect Botswana with either Zimbabwe or Zambia.
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Aug 21st, 2005, 08:24 PM
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Dear ALadyNCal,

I initially did my first few trips, with the 1-3 nights per camp, with a lot of driving and flying and sitting in local airports and never again. Gameviewing is my reason for going, and at the moment I do only go to the Sabi Sands area, usually with a niece, if a younger niece then usually at one camp while the older ones like a change, I am happy to be at the one camp! I believe that the longer I am in one camp then the more likely I will get to see a larger variety of everything. I seem to be almost alone in this but the few days here and the next few days there, to me seem to waste my gameviewing time. Maybe if I hadn't found an area that I really love for gameviewing, then I would still be looking to go elsewhere and sometimes Animal Planet does make me think of going to different areas to see different gameviewing, but getting to know the history of some of the animals that I see each visit is something that I think means a great deal to me as I am now seeing cats that I saw as tiny babies, having their own babies!

You do learn to do something differently after each trip.

Kaye
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Aug 22nd, 2005, 04:10 AM
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Hello,

I've found that 3 nights per camp is a good middle ground -- you have enough time to unpack and relax so you feel that you're not constantly on the move, whilst allowing you to combine a number of camps. It also means that your guide has a chance to get to know your interests and idiosyncracies, which can really enhance your trip.

For camps with an unusually wide range of activities, 4 nights is good -- I spent 4 nights at Little Vumbura because they offer both water and land activities in the Delta (versus just one or the other like many Delta camps). This let me do game drives, mokoroing, boating, and even fishing, which I wouldn't have been able to do if I had only stayed for 2 or 3 nights.

If there is a particular animal you are hoping to see, more time also gives you a higher chance of seeing it (though there are no guarantees, of course!).

Cheers,
Julian
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Aug 22nd, 2005, 05:40 AM
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ALadyNCal - Don't fret too much. Don't change camps too often (stay 3-4 nights per), and at some point you've got to just pick 'em and don't keep second guessing.

Realize you're trying to sip from a firehose in this forum. You've got so many great people who've been to so many great places! It's mind boggling to try and construct a table of costs, animal likleyhoods, probable weather, probable camp mates, best managers, best guides, best food, available activities, etc.

On this forum you're always just one new trip report away from information which will totaly disrupt your current inclinations.

In any event, if you're like the rest of us, you'll be mulling over your return trip moments after you get back!
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Aug 22nd, 2005, 03:19 PM
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On my last trip we had just two nights at Kings Pool and two at Mombo.

Our Air Bots flight was 4.5 hours late out of JNB so we didn't get to KP until almost 5pm instead of around 1pm. The next day we spent 3.5 hours in the sunken hide. Result no time to actually enjoy the nicest safari room I have ever had. Didn't even get five minutes in the sala, I did sit on the couch for about 30 seconds as we headed out, just to say I had done it.

I think an extra day (3 total) allows for a day of relaxation as well as the chance to visit hides, have an all day drive etc. Many camps will do special things for guests staying for three nights or more that they wouldn't consider offering to someone staying for less time.
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Aug 22nd, 2005, 05:12 PM
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oh, please don't leave us hanging...such as what? (special things for 3 nights or more?)
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 11:51 AM
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Sorry that did sound a bit cryptic.

I had never realized that you could request a picnic lunch and be out all day for example. Or that you could request a bush breakfast. Or that you could visit a hide, or do a sleep out.

All of these things are often available, but usually unpublicized.
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 01:37 PM
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Hello,

In my experience, a longer stay also gives you a better chance of getting any special requests met, such as a particular guide or room...more leverage, so to speak. You've obviously made an investment in the camp, so they make more of an investment in you. Being a repeat guest helps for the same reason.

Cheers,
Julian
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 02:36 PM
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Napamatt,
Lunch and out all day? I'm so curious about the details ;-D

And if you have a bush breakfast how much earlier do you have to get up?

Gosh, I'm just about to leave and yet there is still so much grreat stuff to learn on this forum!!!

I can't wait to go AND I can't wait to get back to tell everyone here all about it.
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