Will I be disappointed in SA after Bots,Zam,Zim??

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Oct 11th, 2005, 08:44 PM
  #1
Lin
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Will I be disappointed in SA after Bots,Zam,Zim??

Hello everyone - I've been away for quite awhile. (Rocco I'm still dying to read your trip report and will make time soon!)

Well, having been to Botswana in '04, and Zim/Zam in '05, I'm heading back to Southern Africa next June, and considering 2-3 stops in Namibia and 2 in South Africa. However, the camps I'm researching in the Lowveld/Kruger areas appear to be (1) larger (2) concessions more crowded (3) "too" luxurious, if that is possible, with spas, even tennis courts, etc.

Can any camp in South Africa compare to the remoteness of camps in Botswana and Zambia, for example? Am I spoiled forever? Does anyone know whether vehicles congregate at game sightings in Sabi/Kruger? I don't want to make a very expensive mistake.

Also, does anyone have any information on the new camp called 'Parfuri' on the SA/Zim/Moz border?

Thanks so much
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Oct 12th, 2005, 12:32 PM
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Lin

In Sabi Sand, there are some very luxurious camps and there are some less so. The big thing is that they are on private land and all the lodges do an excellent job of restricting the number of vehicles at a sighting. The most you will ever see in my experience is three, and that is actually fairly unusual - depending on the camp.

The only camp I can remember with a tennis court was Kirkmans, the temperature was over 100, so no tennis, but there was a Cheetah on the base line next morning, which we followed for two hours until she killed an Impala.

As for Spa's, dont use them if you don't want to.

As for disappointed, who knows, I love Bots and Sabi Sand. Sabi Sand is definitely closer to civilisation, which is really apparent if you self drive.
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Oct 12th, 2005, 03:00 PM
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Hello Lin,

Like Matt, I love both Botswana and the Sabi Sand. The Sabi Sand is definitely not as 'remote' feeling as the camps in Botswana, but the quality of the sightings is phenomenal.

If you prefer a more rustic setting, there are definitely less luxurious options available -- a good on is Nottens Bush Camp, which neighbours Londoz and Mala Mala.

At Londoz, the rule was three vehicles maximum at a sighting. I've stayed there several times, and I rarely encountered more than one other vehicle at a sighting -- about the same as at Duma Tau or Little Vumbura.

Pafuri opened about five or six months ago, so understandably there hasn't been much feedback thus far. I have stayed in that area, however, and while it does feel more remote than the southern areas the game-viewing is no where near as good.

Cheers,
Julian
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Oct 12th, 2005, 05:41 PM
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Lin
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Thank you, especially for the remarks about Pafuri which I was seriously looking at. Jasher, can you tell me how you know that the game-viewing isn't as good there? The Wilderness Safari website claims: "The region is considered one of Kruger's biodiversity hotspots, with some of the largest herds of elephant and buffalo, leopard and lion and incredibly prolific birdlife." Also, how long since you were at Londoz? I see from some of your previous posts that you liked Tree Camp and Bataleur - which one has more of a rustic feel? Which is smaller? do you have any knowledge of Garonga Safari Camp in the Makalali area, or Ndumo Wilderness Camp in Kwazulu-Natal? I really appreciate your comments.
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Oct 12th, 2005, 06:42 PM
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Lin,

In regard to Londolozi, Tree Camp is smaller than Bataleur, 6 suites at Tree Camp and 12 at Bataleur. Pioneer and Founders also have 6 each I think. Founders is supposedly for families but only Tree Camp does not allow children. Tree Camp is just up (or down?) the river from Bataleur and you can walk on a trail between the two during the day (you can walk between all 4 camps). The gift shop is at Bataleur. Tree Camp has only suites while the other 3 camps have "chalets" also which are less expensive and I assume smaller. Maybe Julian has seen inside one of the chalets. All Tree Camp and all Bataleur have plunge pools.

We stayed at Tree Camp in June and it has a very intimate and small camp feel and excellent service. When we were there the second week of June, there were only 4 vehicles out in all of Londolozi (that is, none of the camps were full), so it was actually less crowded than the Wilderness camps in Botswana. Londolozi is a traditional type camp, not really flashy (but it seems you don't want that), and they take game viewing seriously, even in the winter month of June, we left at 6:00 am sharp every morning. Our ranger and tracker at Tree Camp were excellent (and I assume at all of Londolozi). I believe that only 3 vehicles are allowed at a sighting or something like that.

Sabi Sands has so many camps to choose from, you should be able to find one that meets your style, and of course several of them are known for their leopards. Hope that helps.
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Oct 14th, 2005, 04:05 PM
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Hello,

The area around Pafuri may be very diverse, but biodiversity doesn't necessarily mean better game viewing. The northern part of Kruger is drier than the southern part, and the animals follow the water -- especially during the dry season, May-September, when you'll be there. The animals are also much less relaxed than in the southern part of the reserve. The cats in particular are not very accustomed to vehicles and are very difficult to spot. I definitely did not have the same quality of gamve-viewing in the northern part of the park as I did in the southern areas, which is why I keep returning to Londoz and not to the northern region.

My most recent visit to Londoz was in July 2005. I stayed at Tree Camp and Bateleur Camp (in a suite, though I've stayed in the chalets there as well). Tree Camp is small, intimate, and luxurious without being over the top (no gold-plated taps). As well as the plunge pool, each suite has a separate sala (deck) furnished with comfortable chaise lounges which is a really nice place to relax between game drives. If I were to return and wanted to stay in a suite, I would choose Tree Camp.

The suites at Bateleur are also very nice -- I stayed in No. 1, which has an infinity pool set in to the rocks of the Sand River. There are several large, flat rocks in front of No. 1 which are popular with lounging lions. There was a sala with this room as well. The camp is larger, however, and not as intimate.

I've also stayed at the chalets in Bateleur camp on previous visits, and they are very comfortable though not so luxurious as the suites. Bateleur is the only camp where the chalets have private plunge pools. However, it is also the largest of the three mixed (suite and chalet) camps which may not be to your liking.

I haven't stayed in Pioneer or Founders, but I've visited them on my previous stays.

Pioneer is situated up on a little hill and has traditional safari decor -- it's probably the most rustic of the camps. There is an open kitchen (always nice) and a particularly nice lounge area.

Founders is the only camp with triples for families, and thus most families tend to book here. I prefer a child-free safari, so this would be my last choice camp. However, the area in front of the Founders boma seems to be particularly popular with the local wildlife -- on one of my trips, there was a leopard kill right outside.

You can take a look at the camps on the Londolozi section of the CCA website,

www.ccafrica.com

The rangers and trackers I have had on my visits to Londoz have been uniformly excellent. On my most recent visit, I had Maxine Scott, the resident leopard expert, as my ranger, and spent a wonderful five days watching leopards. Londoz is particularly well-known for its leopard sightings, and because the camp is one of the oldest in the Sabi Sands they know the resident cats intimately. Repeat guests get to know them as well, and I love returning to see how the leopards are getting on.

Cheers,
Julian
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Oct 14th, 2005, 04:10 PM
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Hi Lin,

Sorry, I forgot to answer your question about Garonga. I haven't stayed there, and I doubt I will given the write-ups I've read. Garonga seems to see itself more as a spa in the bush than a safari camp, and emphasises a 'holistic bush experience' with yoga and ayurvedic treatments rather than game drives as the primary focus. I don't object to yoga or spas per se, but if I want to visit a spa, I'll go to Europe, not to Africa.

I'm afraid I'm not familiar with Ndumo WIlderness Camp -- I believe it's one of the WS camps in SA. If I wanted to go on safari in KwaZuluNatal, I'd stay at Phinda Game Reserve -- it has seven different environments and offers a huge range of activities in addition to game drives. It's a CCA camp -- you can read about it on their website.

Cheers,
Julian
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Oct 18th, 2005, 01:11 AM
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I agree that the wildlife sightings are superb in SA...and at the right camp you can avoid traffic jams. But SA doesn't really have the wild, remote bush feel of the other countries Lin has visited. Personally, if you dedide to spend some time in SA, I'd do that first thing in your trip (you will get great photos) and then head off to the bush for a wilderness experience (which I personally prefer.) Depending on where you go in Namibia you can be in a very remote spot (Skeleton coast! What could be farther from civilization?). Namibia is beautiful, but it is extreme desert, so the wildlife is limited by the land and water availability. Still a unque and beautiful experience. You'll see less wildlife (except around the busy waterholes/parking lots at Etosha) but you will treasure every encounter in a way quite unlike your experiences elsewhere.
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Oct 21st, 2005, 02:58 PM
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Lin
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jasher,
Thanks for all the info. I don't think I could afford Londolozi, at least not when I'm going to several other camps. I REALLY want to stay there sometime! I have already stayed at Phinda which also has a more up-market, luxurious feel and although it was lovely, I find myself much preferring the Bots and Zambia type of camps, it's just my taste I guess. I like the feeling of canvas between me and the outside while I'm sleeping. And after looking at it further, I agree about Garonga - sounded like too much emphasis on the spa part.

ddgattina, Yes, that's exactly how I feel. I think I've decided to visit Namibia and then return to Botswana this trip, hoping to try other areas and camps. So I get the impression you found Etosha to be kind of touristy? Did you by any chance stay at any of the Ongava camps? Should I limit my stay there to 2 nights rather than 3? If you had an extra night, would you spend it at Etosha or the Sossusvlei area? I'd love to see the Skeleton Coast but won't add it to this itinerary since we're bringing 2 teenage girls who really want to see "African" animals, not dolphins and seals which they've already had experience with.
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Oct 21st, 2005, 05:41 PM
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Hi Lin,
Well, the desert environment at Etosha is very fragile, no offroad driving is permitted and, being a desert, the animals concentrate around the waterholes. So all the vehicles park around the waterholes too. After Botswana camps, it is kind of weird at first. But the environment and the animals that survive there are so amazing that it is definitely something to see. The desert light is wonderful too-- my photos came out MUCH better than expected here. Definitely worth a trip, but best to understand that this will be a very different wildlife experience. I couldn't get into the Ongava camps during my trip (which was planned around other volunteer activities, not around the best holiday schedule). I'm sure they are wonderful, and I believe they can do night drives which is not allowed in Etosha. However there was some debate (in 2002) about how good the wildlife viewing actually was in these areas adjacent to Etosha. According to some reports, there were more animals in Etosha, and the animals at Ongava were less habituated. It would be interesting to hear what people who have visited more recently say about this.

The place I really wanted to stay-- Okakuejo, in Etosha-- was not available either. By all accounts, this is definitely a good place to stay, because the lighted waterhole here gets lots of wildlife visits at night, and you can watch this from the lodge. Much cheaper than Ongava too.

I stayed at Mokuti Lodge, which is just outside one of the Etosha gates. It is big, but quite inexpensive & very comfortable. Might be good for kids too-- there seemed to be lots of teens and younger kids hanging around the pool. Also on the grounds is a big reptile/snake exhibit, which allows you to see all the things that you would rather not run into casually...
Mokuti runs game drives on big, rather high trucks. Turns out there are several advantages to these: you don't get as much dust as you do when you are in lower vehicles (including land rover type vehicles) AND they get better views /photographs over the vehicles at the waterholes. So Etosha is NOT like Bots/Zam camps, but is still worth a visit. 2-3 days seems about right to me, although 2 days at Ongava plus 1-2 days at Okakuejo might be good too.

Other people I was travelling with loved the other WS northern Namibia -- Damaraland and another (name forgotten right now). Perhaps you could combine Okakuejo at Etosha for a visit to one of these. There are in very remote, wild areas, with no other tourists around. You will see wildlife there, but these are lower density areas because of the climate. (And from what I've heard the best chance of seeing lions IS in Etosha...and other cats are rarely seen in Namibia.

For this reason, many people choose to visit the lodge at Okonjima, where AfriCat has many very photographable leopards & cheetahs that cannot be released back to the wild. Haven't been there though...

Finally, I didn't get to Sossusvlei either--another reason to return to Namibia. I imagine they are as spectacular, and not-to-be-missed...but not a place to see wildlife either (other than gemsbok/oryx).

I think your idea of visiting other Botswana areas (you know you love the area, and you can get the heavy wildlife fix there) then use Namibia to explore a completely different environment with spectacular desert scenery, you will have a super trip.
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Oct 22nd, 2005, 02:29 AM
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I think if you visit South Africa expecting it to offer the same experiences as Botswana and Namibia you might be disappointed but if you search out those things special to South Africa I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

Our first trip was to Botswana and Namibia and we stayed mostly at Wilderness Safaris properties.

On our second trip, last year, we prefaced our time in Bots and Namibia with 5 weeks self-drive in South Africa.

Even though it's a completely different experience we really enjoyed it.

There's a special pleasure in going at your own pace, finding the game yourself, working through the bird of animal books and identifying the sighting yourself (not always easy when you're switching between descriptions of a mountain nyala and a lesser kudu).

We went in May and June and, with the exception of Addo and Kruger, were sharing the parks with few fellow people. Not as empty as Botswana reserves but not crowded either.

We liked Hluhluwe-Imfolozi for landscape and remoteness, we adored Ithala for landscape and emptiness even though the game viewing was sparse, when we saw something it was worth it, and we really loved Ndumo. At Ndumo we stayed at the Wilderness Safaris camp there, our one non-budget choice in South Africa, but it's no longer open due to some problems negotiating the concession, I believe. You could always write and ask if they know when it might reopen. It's a small intimate camp and the birding is fabulous. The views of the yellow fever trees reflecting into the water pans is amazing. Even Kruger and Addo we enjoyed, though not quite as much as the others due to higher numbers of fellow guests, still wonderful experiences. At Kruger one could usually find some smaller back roads to escape the crowds.

The main difference in self-drive is the very reduced encounters with predators. We saw very few indeed and when we did we caught just glimpses.

This is not the case at the expensive camps, I'm sure but maybe you could combine self drive and full service camps? We're so glad we did and owe Celia and Michael (Thit_cho) for that decision - their reports on self-drive inspired us.

GOOD LUCK!
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Oct 22nd, 2005, 02:37 AM
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I meant to write that Namibia definitely compares well to Botswana for us - we love it. It's hugely different - as ddgattina says the sightings are rarer but all the more special for when you see them - but offers it's own wonders. The landscape is not like any other desert - it's been called the Living Desert for good reason - it's incredible to see how much life has adapted for the environment. We saw aardwolf, oryx, chameleon, many birds, baboons and lots of rather interesting insects. And the scenery - wow. At Sossusvlei itself (where the famous dead pan, current water pan (the sossusvlei itself) and the famous huge dunes are) you won't see that much wildlife and you'll see lots of people but...

Go to Wolwedans. It's my favourite place on earth.
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Oct 22nd, 2005, 08:57 AM
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Lin
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ddgattina, Wow thanks for all the information. Sometimes I get so hooked into Wilderness camps that I forget to research what else is out there. I'll definitely look into those you mentioned. What volunteer work did you do in Namibia?

Hi Kavey,
Yes, I have read your posts about Wolwedans, you had the most romantic time! and I loved your photos. Wolwedans is one of the places on my list. Can I ask you the same question I asked ddgattina? i.e. if you could stay 3 days at either Wolwedans or the Etosha area, and 2 at the other, which? Can't wait to see some of Namibia, I've been trying to tack it on to a trip for the last 2 years but the logistics are hard. Better with Botswana.

Next, your 5 week drive, BEFORE heading off to Bots and Namibia, sounds fantastic, but who has that much time, you lucky girl?? Actually, I guess I will in 2 years after my daughter goes to college, but I'm single and I doubt I would do that type of trip on my own. A few years back my ex, our 2 kids and I did do an SA driving trip, from Jo'burg to Mala Mala to Swaziland to Rocktail Bay to Phinda to the Drakensburg and back. Whew! We didn't know what we were getting into and our trip was too short for the distances involved. But you are so right, when we saw an animal, a beautiful scene, or just experienced a feeling of total remoteness, it was sooo worthwhile. There is no doubt, SA is gorgeous and a great travel destination.

At any rate, I can only convince people to join me for 2-3 weeks at most!

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Oct 22nd, 2005, 04:47 PM
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Lin
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Also Kavey, did you do the hot air balloon flight at Wolwedans? There seems to be a long transfer to the starting point, any advice? And, which of the camps did you stay at (saves me trying to find your post).
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Oct 22nd, 2005, 05:48 PM
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Hi again Lin,
If Kavey says Wolwedans is her favorite place on earth, I do think it should merit the extra day! Generally I do prefer 3 days per stop, but I do think that you can get a good feel for Etosha in 2days, if necessary. The big problem, of course, is travel takes up so much time in Namibia-- much more time than the little hops in Botswana seem too. So there is a fair amount of "overhead" associated with each stop.

BTW, I was looking for the other camp (with the forgotten name) and I couldn't recall/ find it on the WS website. But I did read their descriptions of Ongava vs. Palmwag, and if I were planning a trip, I'd definitely check out Palmwag. Largest predator population outside Etosha...rhino project (though you definitely see those at Etosha) and generally wilder environment. I'd do this before Ongave, because Ongava does day game drives in the Okakuejo area of Etosha...so why not just stay at Okakuejo in Etosha for 2 nights, save some $ for the other places, and have the full benefit of those lighted waterholes at night? No need to do night drives at Ongava when the wildlife comes to you at Okakuejo. Then figure out how many days you have to divide between Wolwedans, Sossusvlei & Palmwag...Unless flights have increased alot since 2002, the biggest problem will be transfers between Okakuejo and Palmwag...not sure how this can be done without a trip back to Windhoek, which is what I had to do in 2002 to go from Etosha to the Skeleton Coast. Talk about flying way out of the way!

Re volunteering: I was a volunteer at Cheetah Conservation Fund in Otjiwarongo.

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Oct 22nd, 2005, 06:06 PM
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Lin
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Sorry more questions: How many guests can be accommodated at Okakuejo? Are they rooms or tents? Any nice features? Is the camp on its own or are others nearby? Do they offer guided activities or are guests on their own and must rent a car? Thanks again.
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Oct 22nd, 2005, 06:21 PM
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Lin
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Aha! I was spelling it wrong, should be "Okaukuejo". Now I'm getting somewhere.
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Oct 23rd, 2005, 10:34 AM
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Lin,
Sorry about the spelling problem! It's tough with these transliterations...tougher still to pronounce. When I was there, I thought the pronunciation was like "O-ka-ku-yu" or "O-ka-koo-yoo"...but I could be wrong about that too.
Since I haven't been there, I'm just going on the reports of other travellers, but I gather it is a lodge-type place (not tented) and as a "government" lodge, I'd expect service-able, clean, but definitely not luxurious accomodations. Probably like Kruger. Basic but hygenic food. I believe they do their own gamedrives too. I'd expect larger vehicles for these (like what I described for Mokuti Lodge). More guest than a WS camp...but probably smaller than Mokuti. It's in the park, so no other lodges right by it. The big big draw/feature is the waterhole at night.
However so many people--including Mombo-type travellers who love wildlife more than luxury--choose to stay here, that I have to believe that it is worth it for that almost assured night-time action. And since you view this from the lodge, you can stay up all night and watch if you so desire!

There are a couple other government lodges in the park, but since they don't have the waterhole action, I'd probably opt for Mokuti Lodge over those. I really did enjoy that reptile exhibit near Mokuti, for one thing...and after my volunteer time at CCF, I also enjoyed the r&r hanging out by the pool to write in my journal. The government lodges don't have things like swimming pools...

PS: when you are in Windhoek on the almost obligatory overnights because of flight times, a great place to souvenir shop is the big crafts center, right in town. I found lots of cool things there, including some very artistic/modern jewelry by a German/Namibian jeweler who uses natural materials like ostrich shell in very modern ways. There is also a pleasant little cafe in the crafts center for good coffee and nibbles.
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Oct 23rd, 2005, 03:55 PM
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Lin
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ddgattina,
Thanks again for the info. And for the tip re: crafts market! I am really hoping not to spend a night in Windhoek, I see the SAA flight from Dulles (Washington DC, connecting in JNB, arrives in Windhoek at noon, and the Lufthansa flight arrives in Windhoek at 9am - so I'm hoping to get right to camp. But if not possible, I'd enjoy seeing the city and doing some shopping (the drag is it's at the beginning of the trip and we have our weight limits!).

Was your cheetah volunteer experience with Earthwatch? Or how? It'd be great to do something like that next trip.
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Oct 23rd, 2005, 06:15 PM
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Cheetah Conservation Fund has both direct volunteer programs and Earthwatch programs. The format and cost are the same, but if you do it direct, CCF gets the whole contribution, so that is what I would recommend. Both require a 2 week commitment...but with the direct program they might let you extend a bit.

Actually, if you would like to be a conservation volunteer --relatively short term-- I think the very best program is a direct volunteer program with Cheetah Conservation Botswana (and would fit with your love of Botswana). It is a more active conservation program-- you are likely to do lots of field work, helping track radio-collared cheetahs, as well as helping with farmer & villager surveys, education, etc. i think they have 2 or 3 research camps now in various areas of Botswana. (and headquarter at Mokolodi Reserve outside Gaborone.

It is an excellent organization-- small, smart & extremely effective. (Started by 3 very dedicated women!) And they really need volunteer help. The only drawback may be that they require a 4 week minimum commitment-- but if you have that time, the lengthier stay means you really will learn & contribute. Check it out: www.cheetahbotswana.com
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