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Which are better - private or public game reserves, and when is it best to go?

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Sep 30th, 2003, 07:24 PM
  #1
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Which are better - private or public game reserves, and when is it best to go?

With so many enthusiastic postings it is difficult to get a consensus. As this will likely be a once-in-a-lifetime trip, I am trying to determine a) when to go, b) which tour company to use, c) which reserves to visit, and d) in which camps or lodges to stay.

A March trip is a possibility, but I haven't seen postings for that time of year. Is that not an ideal time to go? I would like to go when the sightings are best,and would especially like to see baby animals. My husband would not be happy with 100 degree temperatures, so if summer is the best time, I'll have to settle for second best.

Does anyone have any comments about Micato Safaris? They run tours in Kenya and Tanzania. Are the reserves better there than in South Africa? And is there a difference between public and private reserves in terms of variety and quantities of animals, and the quality of the lodging?

I would like luxurious lodging, but not too expensive, especially since our Canadian dollar is still about 25% lower than US currency.

Thank you so much for any advice you may give. Your postings are wonderful.



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Oct 1st, 2003, 05:12 AM
  #2
sandi
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Kenya/Tanzania vs South Africa are two different environments and experiences. While the former is primarily safari; the latter is a bit of everything - city, country, winelands, magnificent scenery and natural wonders and, of course, safari.

The difference between private vs public/national park reserves is that on the private lands you can go out on nite drives. And while in K&T it is usually easier to spot animals (though not always)-more open plains; in SA you kind of have to go out to look for animals.

Micato Safaris have been around a long time and are quite reputable, but on the expensive side.

Lots of people prefer to be in K&T around Migration time which is late summer (between July-Sept) it's also more costly. While for SA the preferred time is Aug-Sept (again more costly at some places), however, since SA has different environments the temps are different through the country.

Do realize that with tourism so low in K&T these days, you should be able to get better prices.

For myself personally, we've always traveled end-Nov/begin-Dec and found the safari experiences excellent in either area. As to the weather - while K&T are at the Equator area the temps are pretty constant year-round, though you do have a rainy season (spring) and some "short-showers" in Nov. SA on the other hand has seasons completely opposite of the northern hemisphere with their winter (June-July) having some pretty cold nights especially.

Do a bit more research and if you would provide a sample of some of the itineraries you are considering, I'm sure we here on fodors.com could comment.
 
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Oct 1st, 2003, 06:11 AM
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In many, maybe all, of the public parks in South Africa, you can go on night drives with the rangers. We've done this in Hluhluwe and in Addo in South Africa.

In South Africa, I think you're more likely to see baby animals in the southern hemisphere summer. There will also be more foliage then, which can make spotting game a little more difficult. The South African winter isn't all that cold, so you won't be uncomfortable if you go then. The summers are hot, but not as hot as the American midwest summers.
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Oct 1st, 2003, 06:33 AM
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The planning is half of the fun! We just returned from our "dream safari".Your questions brought back fond memories of planning.I read everything on this site for 3 months before I knew enough to even ask questions! Also spent a lot of time looking at web sites recommended by fellow Fodorites. I would only use companies that our friends 'here' at Fodors would recommend. After reading of the different areas, we decided on the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Our tented camps were very nice and 2 of the 3 were small. If we do it again, they will all be small/ between 4 - 6 tents. All our reserves were private so we could do nite drives and also drive off road plus in 9 days, we only saw two other Land Rovers. In Botswana, the Land Rovers are open to the sky. In Kenya , Tanzania and a few other places, the Land Rovers are enclosed with a cut out area in the roof where you stand to look out. Some people enjoy the enclosed ones--others like the open Rovers. Now for the weather---Sept. in the Delta was PERFECT...no bugs, cool at nite, beautiful blue sky in day plus the hottest in the middle of the day was 85. NO RAIN. You really need to decide the area first then go with their weather. We used Fish Eagle Safaris out of Houston , Texas. They moved here in 1990 from South Africa. Check their web site. Ours was a customized fly-in safari at upscale camps /2 camps were 5 paw & one was 6 paw. The web site explains the PAW. Come on ....where is Liz , Kavey, Rocco?
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Oct 1st, 2003, 07:13 AM
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I can't tell you which area of Africa to choose. All I can tell you is what I have enjoyed.

I did a fantastic trip in 2001 to Namibia and Botswana which I still dream about. I've posted here about it often.

I'm currently planning a return trip, 5 weeks in SA, 2.5 in Botswana and just over half a week in Namibia.

I can tell of places I've liked and discuss choices for upcoming but not able to comment on East Africa as well as others here.
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Oct 1st, 2003, 07:51 AM
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Elaine22

Just noticed that I did not include web sites. www.wilderness-safaris.com
www.fisheaglesafaris.com
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Oct 1st, 2003, 08:06 AM
  #7
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Jann, Bert is handling my next trip. So far, he has been terrific. All-Botswana. I've used other agents for past trips, and one time even did all of it on-line, tapping into the SA travel agent network. Black tie is my idea, I never tell the agents beforehand.
 
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Oct 1st, 2003, 11:30 AM
  #8
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This is too much all over the map for me. When Elaine does some real research and decides what she wants, I'll add if I can. Luxurious and not too expensive means what? How much do you want to spend? Thats where agents start. Liz
 
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Oct 1st, 2003, 02:28 PM
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Bert planned a spectacular trip for us - above our expectations.. My e-mails were answered promptly & always took my phone calls.
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Oct 3rd, 2003, 08:41 AM
  #10
 
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Ditto on Bert.
My wife and I went to Botswana back in May, and Bert handled everything. He is extremely helpful and willing. He does a good job!
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Oct 3rd, 2003, 09:15 AM
  #11
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I alweays hear great things about Bert, first from Liz, then later from others. These raves caused me to select Bert to arrange my latest trip to SA and Botswana.

OK, here's what I think about costs - budget the max you believe you can afford, and then bump it another 25%. If you think of this as a "trip of a lifetime" then you'll perhaps be willing to fork out more. I know that's the approach I took on our FIRST trip. Blow the money, this is IT, this is the one time, we'll never be able to do it again. Go for it.

On the flight home, we started planning our second trip of a lifetime. And it has gone on from there. It has cost money, lots. What can I say.

Go with the best you can afford, and if you can go to a private lodge or two, go to the very best ones where you'll have great rangers and see lots of game. This is where experts like Bert come in and help you. They have to be reliable, and Bert appears to be.

Not to pry, but could you tell us the number of days and how much you can afford to spend, excluding airfare? Yes, I know, none of my business - but knowing would help.
 
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Oct 4th, 2003, 08:25 PM
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Ealine,
I agree with everyone who has asked you to provide more details but broadly speaking here are my 2 cents worth...

1)Depending on how much time you have you can lower the overall cost by combining a safari section with somehing else...so you could do safari plus Capetown, the Cape winelands or somewhere else in South Africa...

Because of the exchange rate you can rent a car, eat wonderfully and stay in good places for what may be a more reasonable figure in Canadian dollars.

If you did East Africa you could add some time on the beach or go to Zanzibar...these add ons will probably be much cheaper than the time you spend at a safari camp.

2)You'll have a great time when ever you go...I think there are considerable advantages to going off season...lower prices, quieter lodges etc. Some people seem rather ridgid about June-October in southern Africa but I've seen plenty of game at other times. It is true however that in drier weather the game concentrates around watering holes and that it's easier to see game when the grass is shorter.

3)I've posted on this before but my experience is that South African travel agents are more cost concious.(I'd recommend Pulse Africa at www.africansafari.co.za who I used for my honeymoon in Zambia). Perhaps I'm a tad cynical but North American agents seem to be geared into high US prices and the "trip of a lifetime" mentality and encourage you (like building contractors)to spend over your original budget!

Hope this helps!
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Oct 4th, 2003, 08:51 PM
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First, thank you for your generous responses. It may not have appeared so, but I had actually done quite a bit of reaserach before my posted query.(well into the wee hours nightly for several weeks),and I have been continuing to research since. The result is that I am now so overwhelmed with information that I am more stymied than ever.

I had originally mentioned March because my son and his girlfriend are going to South Africa then, and I thought we would co-ordinate our trip with theirs. However, it appears that the safaris are far superior in Kenya, Tanzania, and Botswana the ideal time for the East African safaris is at odds with the ideal time to visit Capetown.

So perhaps with more information from me, as requested, and with a few more questions, some of you might be able to help me. And I do appreciate the help.

Ideally I would like to cover as much as pos

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Oct 4th, 2003, 09:36 PM
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Oops...must have inadvertently clicked the post button before I finished and had a chance to preview and pare down my rather wordy post.

So, to continue....I would like to cover Cape Town thoroughly, skip Johannesburg (seems much too unsafe),and spend 5 or 6 days on safari, not counting travel time to and between reserves.

Having seen Niagara Falls many times, I don't know how thrilling Victoria Falls would be. Is it different enough to take the time to visit?

I have heard of a resort called Plettenberg, (or something like it), that is supposed to be lovely. Does anyone know of it and what the rate is?

The big question is whether or not the animal sightings are really superior in Botswana, Kenya, and Tanzania. If we will do just as well in Kruger National Park, then we might go in March with our son, although that is not a major consideration.

As for time and budget, we would like to be away less than three weeks, including travel time to and from Toronto, if that wouldn't be rushing things too much. The budget part is difficult. Would $8,000 USD,(for both of us - not each), not including air fare to and from S.A., be sufficient to stay in nice places, and eat in good restaurants? Certainly that amount wouldn't include Singita or its ilk at 6800 Rand per person per night, but I don't want low budget accommodations either.

I agree, welltraveledbrit, that one can get carried away with the "trip of a lifetime" mentality, and thank you for www.africansafari.co za.

go2africa.com also has extensive information. You can spend a month navigating it.

By the way, I don't see gorillas mentioned in any of the safari information or reports. Do they not live on reserves?

Several reports list "kills" as a highlight. I know that's part of the natural order, but I don't believe I could stand to watch that. Does that make me a poor candidate for a safari?

One last question. Who is Bert?
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Oct 5th, 2003, 04:17 AM
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Hi Elaine,
We are heading to South Africa in March 2004 and still pinch ourselves to make sure we are not dreaming! We arranged our flight thru a Canadian company called Reservations Africa out of Victoria, B.C. They had the cheapest flights to Jo'berg that we could find ($1550 + tax p/p from Montreal including one stop over in London should you choose) We shall be staying in the Pretoria area for two nights, then heading to the bush, first stopping at Mabula for hopefully one night, then Kwa Maritane for 4 nights, then heading to Kruger Lower Sabie Tented Camp for two nights. We then return to Pretoria for a night before an early flight to Cape Town. We will stay in Simonstown for three nights to enjoy the cape area,(renting a car and hoping we don't crash into anything... haha) before catching a flight from Cape Town to London for our return trip home. Thankfully we have friends who live in South Africa so the biggest expense shall be the flights! We will be staying in self catering units which cuts down on the costs of meals and drinks and gives us more money for game drives, etc.

www.reservationsafrica.com
I would give them a look and see what they have to offer. They do have tours on their site, but they will also help you to book whatever you want within whatever price range. The addition of a flight to the Cape only added $100 to the total flight cost!

Cheers, and enjoy your holiday!
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Oct 5th, 2003, 05:48 AM
  #16
sandi
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Elaine -

>>By the way, I don't see gorillas mentioned in any of the safari information or reports. Do they not live on reserves?<<

You'll find gorillas in Central Africa in natural forest areas - and a completely different experience!

After the massacres of tourists a few years back, trips to Central Africa ceased. A few year later, they started up again, but one has to get permits to "trek" into the jungle, there are a limited number of people allowed at any given time, there is no guarantee you will be able to go on your assigned date, nor a guarantee you will see goriallas, and you're only allowed a limited time in the gorilla environment.

That said, first decide on and travel to East or Southern Africa - then you can consider "the Big Boys (and Gals)" in Central Africa.

We're here to assist with your first adventures as your plans come together.
 
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Oct 5th, 2003, 11:42 AM
  #17
 
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Elaine,
on the question of "kills" the reason these are a highlight for many on safar is that the predators gather around the kill and so you are likely to see a large number of lions, or to watch the interactions between the dominant and less dominant members of the group.

My impression is that when people talk about seeing a kill they are talking about the aftermath of the event, the animals gathering to eat...eg hyenas, jackels, or lions.

Having lived in and visited various parts of Southern Africa I've been on a number of different types of safaris and have only once seen an animal killed infront of us, when a crocodile took down a young buffalo as the herd passed in shallow water crossing the Zambezi.

Anyway, I hope that illuminates the question!
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Oct 5th, 2003, 01:45 PM
  #18
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I agree with welltravelledbrit. I was afraid we might see the actual kill on this trip, but we didn't. It is rarer to see and I definately would not have watched. On my first safari, I saw a cheetah kill an Impala and was thrilled. 15 years does a lot to mellow the soul and now I don't ever want to see that again. One night at camp this one group came in and they were so thrilled to have witnessed a lion kill a Wildebeest. We both shuddered and were glad we weren't there. The first trip is always sounds thrilling, but after that I would cheer for the animal being chased, not the predator. I do like to watch the squirmishes afterwards though. That is so interesting to see the order of the predators. I think my photos reflected a couple of cases where the animal didn't want to give up a bite even though they were too full to eat anymore. A big percentage of the time the animal gets away anyways. You also remember that it is the order of the plains. Liz
 
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Oct 9th, 2003, 01:31 PM
  #19
Lee
 
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We visited Kenya/Tanzania in Jan., between the rainy seasons, and found the animals, scenery, etc., perfect--could not ask for anything better.
We recently returned from Botswana and Victoria Falls (the trip was planned because we had not seen it the last trip)and were disappointed in the camps, the animal life, the dry scenery (any green leaves would have obscured the fearful animals hiding in the scrubby brush). The Falls, however, were beautiful and worth the trip.
Tanzania and Kenya are the best for animals and each photo was a portrait.
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Oct 23rd, 2003, 09:05 AM
  #20
 
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Hi Lee,

Im in the process of planning a trip to Botswana and South Africa. After reading your 'un enthusiastic' post on Botswana, I was wondering whether you could tell me time of the year you went and where all you stayed. This will be very helpful.

Also, which camps did you choose in Tanzania?

Thanks. Aarti
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