Where to start? Too many options!

Mar 30th, 2009, 06:23 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 258
Where to start? Too many options!

We (my wife and I) have travelled a lot in North America and Europe but have never been to Africa and want to start putting that right.

What do we want? An active holiday (days on beaches are not our thing) with plenty of wildlife (preferably including cheetahs, jaguars and elephants) great scenery and in an area that is safe. But with a whole continent to consider we don't know where to start. We also do not want to spend too much time travelling between different areas; we would much rather see a lot of a smaller area.So be gentle please and point us in the right direction.

Some specific questions:
What is the best time of year for what we want to do?
Guided or not?
Which guide books for more information.

Many thanks

Diz01 is offline  
Mar 30th, 2009, 07:36 AM
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Budget would be a helpful starting point.
Do you just want to focus on safari or are you interested in more than that?
You might want to consider breaking Africa into four quadrants.
North Africa - deserts, Pyramids etc
West Africa - beach, wildlife
East Africa - lots of wildlife
Southern Africa - deserts, wildlife, cities, beaches.

South Africa has the tag line "A world in one country". Indeed it would be very easy to spend three weeks there and barely scratch the surface.

Also you should identify how adventurous you are.

BTW - no Jaguars in Africa, they do have lots of Leopards though.
napamatt_2 is offline  
Mar 30th, 2009, 07:39 AM
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Pick up a copy of "Fodor's Complete Safari Guide" covers most of the safari countries in Africa. Will give you an idea where, when, some costs, etc. etc.
sandi is offline  
Mar 30th, 2009, 07:59 AM
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Thanks for the replies so far.

(Cannot believe I typed jaguars - I did indeed mean leopards! Doh!)

Budget is thankfully not really an issue

Regarding how adventurous we are: well we do like a hot shower a comfortable bed and some good food at the end of the day. But during the day (or night) we are well used to being on our feet most of the day. Very happy to be remote so long as it is safe.
Diz01 is offline  
Mar 30th, 2009, 08:30 AM
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I had the same issue when planning our honeymoon and ended up with South Africa and Zambia. I could easily have spent the whole time in SA but wanted to see Victoria Falls which was an expensive side trip. I thought then that we might never have an occasion to get back, but we are hooked.

You could easily spend a week+ in the Cape Town area enjoying the city and its sights, and surrounding place like Stellenbosch for wine, Hermanus for whalewatching and the garden route as well. We decided on 4 nights in MalaMala in the Sabi Sand based on the recommendations here and it did not disappoint. Perhaps a bit more controlled of a safari than the migrations in Botswana, etc. but perfect for us as first timers. If you had more time you could add on a self-drive in Kruger.
kak113 is offline  
Mar 30th, 2009, 08:58 AM
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Botswana is a great safari destination. Fabulous wildlife, beautiful accomodations and wonderful people - very safe. The best time would be their winter - dry season June through October. That said it is not a physically active safari but you will spend long days ( early morning and late evenings on game drives).

If you are looking for walking or canoe safaris the the choice would be Zambia. You will not see the quantity of wildlife in Zambia compared to Botswana and even less if you are walking.

Tanzania is a different safari destination. The Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater are outstanding. The migration in the Serengeti is best seen in Jan- March. Again this would be a game drive type safari.

Enjoy the process of planning and Africa will not disappoint.

KIBOKO is offline  
Mar 30th, 2009, 09:08 AM
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Your "problem" is not uncommon and frequently dealt with on this board (all problems should be so delightful.) You will discover a wealth of information and incredibly wonderful, patient, helpful folks, here.

If you'd care to mire through my similar plea for help, my thread from December, 2007, is: http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...ng-my-trip.cfm.

It's full of great "starter/newbie" type information. I ended up going to Tanzania and Zanzibar this past September. It was my life-long dream come true. You will hear this from many people, and it's true - there are no wrong choices. No matter where you end up going in Africa, you'll have a most extraordinary experience.

best of luck,
aknards is offline  
Mar 30th, 2009, 05:01 PM
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I am awaiting my first safari (leaving end of May).

I can concur with several of the previous posters comments.
The Fodors Complete Safari Guide I found very helpful,
This Board even more helpful! Everyone is very helpful in sharing their experiences, and it is wonderful to read some of the trip reports and see the photos.

These are some of the questions I asked myself and my son ( who I am going with) and they helped point us towards our destination- Botswana.

Are you only interested in wildlife viewing?
Do you want to see some cities?
How long do you want to spend in a vehicle at any given time?
Are you willing to drive to different locations or would you prefer to fly?
Is there anything you would especially like to see (Victoria Falls, Kili, migration)
Do you want to see tribal villages and have cultural interactions with people?

And happy planning

amycyma is offline  
Mar 30th, 2009, 07:01 PM
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There are indeed too many options, which is why you must return to Africa a few dozen times. I'm only partially joking.

But for Trip #1 or a once-in-a-lifetime trip, aknards posted a helpful thread and you have been given some good ideas and questions to mull over.

Better to make the jaguar mistake now than around the campfire with all your safari-mates.

You mentioned these animals
Best places are:
Tanzania, Southern Serengeti, Ndutu area, in late Jan through early March.
Also Central Serengeti, but no off road driving, which can make it a little harder to see them
Maasai Mara, Kenya
Phinda, a cheetah sanctuary in South Africa. It is fenced but contains 55,000 acres so there are vast areas for animals to roam freely.
Okonjima, operated by Africat, an organization devoted to preserving predators in Namibia, especially cheetah. This is a managed area and some animals are collared or in enclosures.

Best places are:
Sabi Sands, the private reserves next to Kruger in South Africa--leopards are their specialty
Mombo on Chief's Island that now is up to about $1500/person/day.
South Luangwa, Zambia, especially on night drives.
Possible to see them in trees in Central Serengeti.
Samburu and Nakuru in Kenya have quite a few, but hard to see.

They are all over and if your guide knows you are interested in them, they can often be found.
Best places:
Chobe, especially along the river, in Botswana July-Oct
Tarangire, Tanzania, July-Oct
Lake Manyara, Tanzania, Dec-Mar
Amboseli, Kenya
Samburu, Kenya

great scenery It's everywhere
an area that is safe. All the places mentioned are safe, as safe as anywhere. There is a US State Dept warning for Kenya but it has been there for a decade plus. Reputable, conservative travel companies send many clients to Kenya. But since you mentioned safe, it is something to consider.

We also do not want to spend too much time travelling between different areas Wise move

What is the best time of year for what we want to do?
Here is a chart on best wildlife viewing around Africa throughout the year.

Guided or not?
Too see the most, you want guided. You can easily self drive in Kruger and Namibia. You might want to combine some self driving and guided game viewing in South Africa.

Which guide books for more information.
Fodor's The complete African Safari Planner
Africa's Top Wildlife Countries Mark Nolting

You can get travel DVDs from the library on the various countries to see what is most appealing.

But if you would be disappointed if you did not see cheetah or leopard and you want big ele herds, then here's what I'd do:

Go in mid-July through Sept.

Fly to South Africa and overnight Johannesburg.

Fly to Phinda.
Spend 4-5 nights at Phinda. I'd recommend Mountain Lodge (south) and Forest Lodge (north). This is the cheetah sanctuary. There are elephant there too, plus many other animals. Good place for rhino. I did 3 rhino tracking excursions on foot that were great.

Back to Joburg

Fly to Sabi Sands Game Reserve
Spend 4-5 nights in the Sabi Sands. I liked Mala Mala, but there are many other places SSGR at different budgets. Mala Mala Main Lodge is middle of the road for price. SSGR is the best place to see leopard. There are elephants too, plus a good place for rhino and all the other animals.

Fly back to Joburg.
Fly to Maun, Botswana and Chobe and spend about 3 days. You can stay anywhere from a very moderate hotel to a remote lodge. The elephant action here is tremendous. I'd do at least one late afternoon to evening Chobe River cruise. If you wanted to see Vic Falls, you could arrange a day trip. Chobe is the busiest of all of Botswana's parks, but in the park, you can escape the crowds. All the other animals, in addition to eles, are here too. But not rhino.

If you wanted ele herds without the people, you could substitute any camp in the Linyanti or Savuti region of Botswana. But you'd forego the river action, even if there are water sources.

With flying time that would be about 2 weeks. You could easily spend lots more time in a few other places.
atravelynn is offline  
Mar 31st, 2009, 05:58 AM
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Don't follow the crowds. Go to Etosha in Namibia.
rogerbruton is offline  
Mar 31st, 2009, 06:37 AM
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Thanks so much for the helpful replies. I will have a read of the excellent links and doubtless be back!
Diz01 is offline  
Mar 31st, 2009, 07:05 PM
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Either on this thread or if you start another, tell us why you like Etosha, where you stayed, and when you went.
atravelynn is offline  
Apr 1st, 2009, 12:51 PM
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Re: Etosha -- Namutoni is THE place to stay - an old German fort (for those who don't know, Namibia used to be German SW Africa). One of my dislikes is following hordes of tourists. Etosha is far enough away from the beaten track to discourage all the the most determined travellers. (No white high heels and huge suitcases there!) It's a while since I was down that end of Africa -- I lived in South Africa for six years.
rogerbruton is offline  
Apr 1st, 2009, 12:55 PM
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..... oops! That should say
"all BUT the most determined travellers" !!
rogerbruton is offline  
Apr 1st, 2009, 01:04 PM
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RB- If the only reason you like Etosha is because scarcity of tourists, no crowds, there are a zillion places on earth that meet that requirement.

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Apr 1st, 2009, 05:45 PM
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Thanks Roger. I'd like even more details about how long you stayed, wildlife you saw.

By the way, I agree with you on the no white high heels. I banish them in my own home. It is a white-high-heel-free zone and always will be.
atravelynn is offline  
Apr 1st, 2009, 06:58 PM
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I just met a private guide from WS who was just at Mombo. Apparently, the large Lion prides are some what fragmented and all over the place making leopard viewing pretty hit or miss at the moment.
HariS is offline  
Apr 1st, 2009, 07:39 PM
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Maybe there's a discount on the $1500 plus per night then.
atravelynn is offline  
Apr 1st, 2009, 11:42 PM
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Tom - No, it's not.
rogerbruton is offline  
Apr 1st, 2009, 11:59 PM
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Lynn -- While I lived in S.A. I tried to visit as many game parks as I could. Kruger was good but a bit TOO popular for my taste. I used to visit on the way to/from Swaziland and Mozambique. Etosha was THE place for Elephants and Lions and stark beauty. I loved Wankie (or Hwange if you prefer) (when things were more peaceful!) and another favourite place was northern Botswana.
rogerbruton is offline  

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