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Dec honeymoon - Tanzania? S Africa?

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Hi! Suppose we have 2-3 weeks and a budget of $8000 (excluding airfare) to travel during the month of December and early January. I've never been to Africa and don't know much about it so I've just had to try to gather information from the internet. Here are three priorities:

- Adventurous, mostly-tented, relatively private safari (about a week?). We're hoping for moving tented camps to minimize costs and to see the wildlife.
- Diversity of activities and places (nature stuff, beach, towns, cities, recreational activities).
- A few nights of private & luxurious accommodations (during safari or on beaches or somewhere really nice).

I'm not set on going to any particular place; I'm just trying to find the best places that fit in with our budget and interests. I was thinking about starting on a Tanzanian safari (with maybe a stop in Zanzibar afterwards) and then working our way to Cape Town -- maybe flying. But there's a lot between Zanzibar and Cape Town, so I was also thinking of starting with a closer safari (say, in Zambia or Botswana or both) and moving towards Cape Town. I don't how we'd arrange transportation, though, other than flying (which can get expensive). Moreover, I've read, that there are amazing safaris in Tanzania during the month, and a great safari is a priority. So, some questions!

(1) Is either one of these options feasible given our budget and time frame?
(2) Do you have an alternative recommendation that you think is better?
(3) What is the most economical way to go about doing this? (My thoughts: contact locally-based safari places for that leg of the trip, and arrange the rest ourselves.)
(4) Suggestions for best places to go / what to do, given our priorities? Other general advice?

Thanks for the help!

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    Hi Alterum!

    Congratulations on your wedding - such fun to plan a honeymoon and no better place to celebrate your union than to go on safari!

    I think there are some different itineraries available to you but please keep a few things in mind. First, Africa is a very big place and moving around creates a lot of logistics, not just in time but in money. It will surely zap your budget moving around too much, especially if direct flights are not available and/or desired flights are only at certain times which may require a one night layover. So you should really make well-thought out selections. Second, December to January is a holiday period which is not only popular but could incur some extra costs depending upon where you go/stay. Having said that, availability for this coming Dec/Jan could be extremely slim for you depending upon where you want to go. So I’d start checking around or have someone help you do that asap. You may need to push your travel dates further ahead - hopefully not but you might.

    Here’s a possible plan for you to consider given your budget: Fly JNB to Cape Town. Spend 3 nights in Cape Town. There are many places to stay that would fit your budget and some great choices for honeymooners. Cape Town lends itself well to lots of different interests: cultural, nature, adventure, history, culinary etc. For example, if you like hiking and the outdoors, you could do a day hike to the top of Table Mountain via the Platteklip Gorge route. Or if hiking isn’t your thing, you could enjoy the view from the top of Table Mtn by way of the Gondola.. You could spend a day in the Wine Lands and visit some vineyards, eat at some fun restaurants, or do a bike tour and pack a picnic and enjoy the vineyard area that way. My point is that there’s lots of great things to do and you can do them according to your style and budget.

    From Cape Town, I would fly to one of private reserve airports adjacent to Kruger (depending upon where you stay determines which airport). Staying at a lodge/tented camp in the private reserves will give you that something extra: night drives, off-road driving, well-versed rangers and trackers, great food and service. Great for honeymooners! I would do 4 nights on safari and, with your budget, you could look at Elephant Plains, Arathusa or Simbavati River Lodge just to name a few. There are also lodges who offer a 50% discount for the bride up tp 3 night stay so you could actually see how that discount could work for you. Just a thought..

    After your safari, you can fly out Nelspruit (airport near reserve) direct to Vilanculos, Mozambique. There are direct flights twice per week. The coast of Mozambique and the nearby archipelago will give you that romantic beach ending to your trip. Beautiful beaches, trips to nearby islands, snorkeling scuba etc.. You could stay 3 nights and I’d look at Casa Rex. Their honeymoon suite is great! That’s just one place there to consider. After 3 nights, fly back to JNB and onward to the USA.

    I think that would be a great trip! And such a great opportunity right now with the South African current exchange rate at record lows. That will certainly help your budget.

    There are other itineraries that you could consider such as 3 nights in Cape Town then 3 night safari in Phinda in KwaZulu Natal and ending with a 3 night beach stay at Thonga Beach Lodge. Another idea could be a self-drive from JNB to the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve/Kruger area via the Panorama Route The Northern Drakensberg mountain range views are beautiful and Blyde River Canyon is South Africa’s biggest and deepest canyon. A great sight and a Hot Air Balloon ride would be an incredible way to take it all in! Just another idea for you.

    All these ideas are about 10 nights but will give you those special touches you want since it's your honeymoon. If staying longer (you mention 2-3 weeks) is more important, then you'd have to scale back on the places you go/stay. All possible but a different kind of trip.

    There are actually PLENTY of options that can work with your budget once you identify the activities that interest you and your style of travel. Then the planning comes together quite well.

    Hope the ideas are helpful!

    Best
    Dianne
    Africa Direct USA

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    Dianne has provided you with some good options for staying in SA for the whole trip. It's a spectacular country with lots to see & do.

    Sabi Sands has amazing wildlife with plenty of camps/lodges that can suit any budget.

    Many self drive in South Africa which can save money.

    Cape Town itself is worth a good 5/6 days IMHO.

    Good luck planning...to me it's half the fun! :)

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    Congratulations!

    As always, Dianne has given many good options. As she said, Africa is big - significantly bigger than North America, so keep to either southern or Eastern Africa.

    There are many definitions of "luxurious" in Africa. I consider any lodge that feeds me, takes me on game drives and has a comfortable place to sleep in that category. I have stayed in tents in Botswana that were $1500 per person per night and very nice, full service lodging for under $120 per person per night. I will keep to the low end so you can add on or upgrade if you'd like to.

    I am a South Africa safari girl, so I will add a few options there to the ones that Dianne mentioned above. I am currently totally enamored with KwaZulu Natal on the Indian Ocean in eastern South Africa. Love it! Bear with me.

    I prefer to start in Cape Town if you visit this lovely city. You can stay on the beach in Kamps Bay or other beach area and tic that off the list, too. Four nights, plus a couple for beach time, if you want

    Fly to a private reserve near Kruger and visit a mid range lodge - check out www.sabisand.za.co for all options in all price ranges. Arathusa has a waterhole and we liked it a lot. It has been renovated since we were there. Ask for a room directly on the waterhole. There are also a few very nice affordable lodges in other reserves. Shindzela (tented, rustic, friendly atmosphere), Gomo Gomo (on a waterhole, large reserve), Africa on Foot and its sister camps - check the website - (very professional, excellent guides). Stay at least three nights.

    Fly or drive (through Swaziland - cool stamp in your passports, overnight Mbabane. Good golf at the Royal Swazi) to KZN. As I said, I love this area, but you are going in summer, so beware it's hot. We have stayed in two VERY affordable lodges that are ridiculously great values. Rhino River Lodge in the Zululand Rhino Reserve just finished a renovation and looks beautiful. Their guides are young, but very enthusiastic and knowledgable. Check out their Facebook for Kyle's pictures and Frances' words. Lions and wild dogs are now on the reserve, as well as all the usual suspects. Plus many, many rhino, my current passion. There is also Tembe a Elephant Park. As the name suggests, lots of elephants! So entertaining! We also had great sightings there, especially lions and a black rhino. It is tented, and also has been recently renovated. It is a community owned reserve that provides jobs, training and income to an area that previously was very poor (still is, but much better). The value of these two parks can't be beat! Stay a minimum of three nights at either/both. This is the same area as Phinda, but these are in my price range.

    If you want to do private beach time, check out Thonga and Rocktail. They are full service, remote beach camps. If you would prefer a bit more fun, but still beach, try the little town of St Lucia in iSimangaliso Wetland Park. So fun! Hippo/croc kayak tours, snorkel/scuba, whale watching, horseback on the beach or with zebra and Impala, turtle tours, nighttime safari. Just a super fun beach town. Lots of great accomodations and very nice restaurants, all in walking distance. We loved it! Three nights minimum.

    Fly JNB. Fly home.

    I just priced out a 7 night safari, higher end including Sabi Sand and Phinda and it was about $5000 pp including the internal flights. An Arathusa/Rhino River Lodge/Tembe 10 night would be half that or less. With the current fantastic exchange rate, everything is a better value if it's quoted in Rand, not USD. Check the lodge websites, most have pricing info. Sometimes you can get rates if you click on "booking". Some don't include rates.

    I know you said December/January but that is high season for holidays (expensive and crowded) and low season for wildlife viewing. In our summer, their winter, it's dry and the grass is down, making seeing animals easier. It's also cooler (can be cold) making it more comfortable. Daytime is still warm. And the Indian Ocean is warm year round. My nephew married in August and honeymooned in February, so it's not that unusual to wait. Or you could check out the specials going on in Botswana in summer. SafariCraig mentioned them in another thread this week. But they probably aren't available around the holidays and will stretch your budget, even with great specials.

    Have fun planning!

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    Thank you everyone for your helpful advice! I've got a lot to look into!

    I notice that no one has provided an itinerary for (or even suggested) starting in Tanzania for a safari and then working down to Cape Town. That was my original idea because: (1) it's the end of wildebeest migration / beginning of calving season in the Serengeti, so amazing safari?; (2) Zanzibar promises more private beaches on the archipelago; and (3) I thought we might be able to stop at Victoria Falls on the way to S Africa.

    Anyone think that's a good idea? Remember, a good safari is our top priority! I'm thinking that the private reserves might not hold up to a safari around Tanzania...

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    The African continent is much bigger than North America. You will spend all of your time and money on air travel if you do those three areas. Stick to southern or east Africa. Think flying from Alaska to Niagra Falls to LA to Florida, plus flying in from Australia - that would be close to the equivalent of what you want to do. Not practical.

    We gave good advice - look into some of them. Sure, add Cape Town to the beginning of any of the southern Africa suggestions. I said that. It's easy to add if you are in S Africa. Victoria Falls is nice, but not so great to spend the time and money just to get there and fly out. If you want to add a few nights in Chobe, that's ok, but December is low time for wildlife there.

    You have a limited budget for a three week trip - look into the suggestions above and you will see that, even with some very reasonable lodges I cite, $8000 goes pretty quickly. There is a Micato trip that does all you want to do. Check it out on their website.

    You said safari was your priority, so that's what we tried to help with. I also gave private beach time suggestions. Africa is not that far or exotic any more. Right now it's cheaper to fly to Johannesburg than to Paris. Whatever you choose, you'll love it and will go see the stuff you skip next time.

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    Congratulations on your wedding and Honeymoon plans! It's time for me to chime in as I too noticed no comments about Tanzania. Tanzania exceptional for various reasons: [ Read: Tanzania voted best safari country in Africa: ( http://cnn.it/1nzOmed ) ]. This is for a good reason: Tanzania is a peaceful culture; 3/4 of the Serengeti eco-system is in Tanzania; it is not over-crowded; it has a nice mixture of tented, high end, mid-range quality accommodations etc from which you can choose; the Great Migration is totally amazing and you are quite correct, calving season is taking place while you are there; it has the Ngorongoro Crater-Serengeti ecosystem that are included in the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and Mt Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania. You can visit its most popular game parks: Tarangire NP, Ngorongoro Crater & Highlands, Lake Manyara NP, Lake Natron and Rift Valley.

    I loved Tanzania so much, I co-founded a safari company there: Zohar African Safaris www.zoharafricansafaris.com. My partner, Lily, runs the base operation in Arusha and I live in the USA (Lancaster Pa) and can be reached easily by phone to discuss things in greater detail (see all contact info below).

    A unique aspect of Zohar is we specialize in custom designing safaris with a wide range of personalized options combining wildlife viewing, recreational activities, cultural immersion experiences with remote traditional indigenous peoples, environmental briefings with experts managing bush projects and visiting community based projects....what ever you choose is up top you! These interactive and engaging activities provide stimulation and engagement throughout the safari. Zohar has a 5 star review ratings on Safari Bookings ( http://bit.ly/1E1VqZ7 ), the largest online marketplace for African safaris and its group leaders are the elite safari guides in Tanzania. Our Safari Director is a National Geographic guide.

    Your idea about going to Zanzibar is a perfect romantic and relaxing way to end your safari on its pristine beaches and visit its spice plantation while you are there (lots of aquatic adventure options) . Zanzibar is one of the most laid back places you'll ever visit and it has a fascinating and unique cultural confluence. We can set up your entire itinerary. It's a 1 hour and 20 minute flight from Arusha to Stone Town, Zanzibar. What you have presented can fit into your budget. It just takes some tweaking to make your ideas work within your budget as it depends on many factors (so lets just discuss this). I would agree with comments above Africa is much bigger than you'd ever imagine. Five USA's fit into it...it's that big! Also, getting around from place to place takes a lot of time due to the conditions of many of its roads. I could help advise you on ways for your plans conform to the logistical realities there and have a great time.

    I could propose many itineraries to you, but it would be best to take a look at the various options on the Zohar website (www.zoharafricansafaris.com). Check out its blog site too for ideas. We can combine what fits into your budget an time schedule. If you would like to discus details, feel free to give me a call in the USA : 1-800-603-1219 (EST) or email me: [email protected]

    Ken

    Dr. Ken Firestone
    Zohar African Safaris
    Director of Global Markets

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    Have a look at Selous Safari Company. I have stayed at two of their camps. Amazing -- sexy for a honeymoon. Southern Tanzania is a wonderful place with fewer people clogging up the sightings than other locations. When we traveled (the month of January), Selous offered several package deals that included all three of their locations (two safari and one beach) plus free in-country air between camps. I can't quote prices as it was several years ago, but with a simple email they will send you information or put you in contact with someone who can quote.

    http://www.selous.com/itineraries-0


    Congratulations!

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    In addition....I agree with others that your idea to fly to Cape Town is a long, expensive journey. Its a bit like a honeymoon in New York while popping to L.A. for dinner.

    If you decide to do Southern Tanzania consider that December/January is low season, so less expensive, but still great weather and animal viewing. In the camps I mention, you will spend much less time moving from place to place which not only puts you in the bush more, but saves a lot of money. You don't mention your location, but for S. Tanzania you would fly into Dar es Salaam which is an easy flight from the US or Europe.

    You mention the migration -- and I know its quite attractive on TV, but it is the MOST expensive time to travel there and you will encounter a gazillion other people at every single sighting.

    A quote from Aris Grammaticas, founder of the reserve's 34-year-old Governor's Camp:
    "You will find 120 cars waiting (by the riverbank) for the wildebeest to cross. The guests come back and ask, 'Why are there so many cars? It's not a town!.......The Mara's capacity of about 8,000 beds are all booked months in advance of the three-month migration. To meet demand, some tour operators put up temporary tents which are pulled down after the migration ends. The reserve's tourist accommodation is in nine properties, with another 40 in the surrounding area in the hands of Masai families, Grammaticas said. By comparison, neighbouring Tanzania's 5,700 sq km Serengeti Park – where the migration begins – hosts only nine lodges and camps."

    Unless you are already booked and increase your budget substantially, I don't think the migration is doable.

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    We're hoping for moving tented camps to minimize costs and to see the wildlife.

    Mobile and seasonal camps don't necessarily cost less than permanent tented camps. Often they cost more.

    Internal airfare within Africa is high and you'll encounter holiday pricing at that time of year so stick with East or Southern Africa and not both.

    Diversity of activities and places (nature stuff, beach, towns, cities, recreational activities).

    That says South Africa to me which is also likely to be more budget friendly.

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