Zambia/Botswana Possible to book lodges directly?

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Sep 4th, 2012, 06:30 AM
  #1
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Zambia/Botswana Possible to book lodges directly?

Starting to research 8 week trip to Bots / Zim / Zam / Malawi for 2013. None of web sites I have reviewed to date offer rates as part of menu options. Is is possible to book directly with camps (my preference) or is one forced to book through a travel company? If the latter, need suggestions for which agents offer best pricing as well as reliable company which won't go bankrupt during planning phase or take money and do a runner.
Thanks
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Sep 4th, 2012, 07:12 AM
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It is possible but difficult as many safari camp owners in places like Botswana will not directly deal with the end user. More importantly, it is my experience it's nearly impossible to save money by doing so as they will likely give you the rack rate especially in high season. A safari agent often works out cheaper as they can share part of their commission with the client.
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Sep 4th, 2012, 05:44 PM
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There are some great agents to work with -- check trip reports and most people will tell you who they worked with. In addition to arranging lodging, it is helpful in booking how you plan to get from place to place. While some places are drive-able, others are not.
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Sep 4th, 2012, 06:40 PM
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Try this site for some rate info -
http://www.eyesonafrica.net/rack-rates-botswana.htm

regards - tom
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Sep 5th, 2012, 03:45 PM
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>Tom
Thanks so much. Fabulous reference tool.


> uhoh_busted
Great point re: planning how to get from place to place. Will follow up with your suggestion.
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Sep 7th, 2012, 10:27 AM
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For Zambia, it's pretty easy to get the rates directly from the camp's website. In South Luangwa, Norman Carr and Robin Pope definitely make it easy to check rates and availability. However, I would suggest using an agent since mine was able to get a good discount off what was advertised on the websites.
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Sep 7th, 2012, 04:48 PM
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It depends on the time of year you're going, and you have to look for who is offering specials. Some companies offer specials exclusively through one agent; others offer them through multiple booking sources. In Zambia's South Luangwa we got a much better deal with one agent than we could have on our own (including private vehicle and guide), through The Wild Source.
In Botswana we booked a Green Season safari with Kwando through Fish Eagle Safaris. We used go2africa.com for another Botswana safari (at camps other than Kwando) and that went off without a hitch as well and they had better prices than we could have gotten otherwise. Certain agents have special arrangements with certain camps and/or companies.

We had great service with all of these companies and would recommend them. Bottom line: shop around, ask lots of questions, and don't immediately accept the first thing you are offered -- you can modify itineraries to get what you want, and if the itinerary is what you want but the price is more than you're willing to say, say so -- and check with others. Tell them what your needs and preferences are. If you're a first time safari-goer, say so. If you've been on safari a dozen times and are into photography, say so. If you're a birder, say so. It can affect the guides you get and other factors.

Good luck, and enjoy -- the planning is at least half the fun!
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Sep 15th, 2012, 11:59 PM
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Hi There,

I am sitting in the lounge (a.k.a. common area) at Chiawa Camp in Lower Zambezi National Park. I am about 12 days into a 19 day trip though Zambia with a three days at Matusadona National Park (Zimbabwe). As an agent, I won’t comment too much on what has been mentioned on price other than to say we do make sufficient commission to operate our businesses and make a very modest profit while (for most companies) charging clients no more than the direct booking price.

How to book – I have been here for about 12 days now and spoken to at least 100 travelers. In my chats with others in Zambia, I have found that many guests are booked here with Expert Africa (UK – at least 10 guests), ATR (UK – at least 10), and Bill Givens (US – at least 6), Africa Adventure Company (US - at least 4) and everyone else seems to be with various other companies (Encompasse Africa – 2 , A&K - 2, etc.). The companies that book South Luangwa a lot seem to keep their guests there for at least five days at two camps minimum with 3-5 days in Lower Zambezi as well. Perhaps starting with some of these companies would be a good start for the Zambia portion and you may consider booking components with different companies. I know ATR and Bill Given book a lot of Kwando in Botswana. I know Expert Africa books a smattering of lodges in Botswana including Wilderness and Kwando.

Zimbabwe – there is no company mentioned above that dominated in Zimbabwe but I know AAC books a lot of Vundu (according to their web site). Goliath is booked direct somewhat, and the Wilderness Camps in Hwange and Mana Pools are booked by a lot of US tour operators and the guests I have met in those two camps are almost always American. The camps are done in a 3-3 circuit typically. The African Bush Camps Company camps like Somalisa and Kanga in Hwange and Mana Pools have a more international clientele and Vundu and Goliath in Mana Pools are used much more exclusively by canoe and hiking guests respectively. I suppose finding the right PERSON at the above companies with knowledge in these places may be best.

Two of our consultants used to work for Wilderness Safaris in Malawi and one managed Kaya Mawa. I have heard that only about 100 Americans visit Malawi per year for pure tourism purposes so no one individual company has huge volume here but any of the ones I mentioned above should be able to assist and do a seamless booking.

I hope this helps. Back to the bush! No internet for another 10 days.

Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond
2011 & 2012 Travel & Leisure A-List agent for Zimbabwe and Botswana
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Sep 16th, 2012, 06:18 AM
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Craig - If you are at Chiawa, I hope you are also going to Old Mondoro - one of our favourite camps. I would also highly recommend a night in the tree house at Kaingo Camp in SLNP - it provided one of our most magical nights in Africa ever! CR
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Sep 16th, 2012, 09:06 AM
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Having been in the Industry for 18 years I remember starting out long before the Internet and then being the First to use the Internet in Jan 1997. As usual everyone has copied me and that's Ok but now the cut rate competition has started. Thats Capitalism for you.

We are off to film at Mala Mala and Simbambili in a few weeks time.

Craig, Have a GREAT TIME.

Yours on Safari
Mark
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