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Moving Around Safari Lodges in Sabi Sands

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Hey All! I am in the process of planning a trip in the pretty near future to South Africa. I will have 5 nights to spend on Safari. Originally my plan had been to split the nights up 2 and 3 at two different lodges. Getting between the lodges isn't a huge issue, I imagine I will end up renting a car as it will be more cost effective and I have driven in South Africa before. But I am now realizing that I am going to run into availability issues at a lot of the lodges since I am only planning a little over 3 months in advance. Cost is a bit of an issue, as I don't want the trip to get exorbitant and already have a good chunk invested to a week in Cape Town; but I am going with a first with a friend who will be experiencing her first Safari; so I don't want to hold back on that front either.

The &Beyond Lodges have a long stay deal going on, which is very tempting and helps us to stay in our budget. My original plan had been to stay 3 nights at Kirkman's Kamp and self drive to Exeter River Lodge for 2 nights. Giving us the chance to experience both the lower and upper Sabi; and hopefully increasing our odds of seeing all that we can on our game drives. My previous stays in Sabi Sands have all been in Lower Sabi, and I have a bit of a fondness for that area, so I don't necessarily want to eliminate that from the itinerary. The problem I have run into when going to book is that Kirkman's is not available for the first night we were planning to Safari or the last two nights.

My question to you all is: Is it too much to go to 3 Lodges in a 5 night span? Notten's Bush Camp has availability that first night; and appears to be only a half an hour drive from Kirkman's. The reviews for Notten's seem great, and staying one night at a lower budget hotel won't effect the longer stay promo at the &Beyond Lodges. Would I be doing us a diservice by spending no more than two nights at any given camp? What I am considering right now is 1 night at Nottens; 2 nights at Kirkman's; 2 nights at Exeter. I would plan to do the morning game drives at the lodge we spent that night in; then move on to the next in time for the evening game drive.

Also, what kind of issues will I run into with tipping on the game drives? Am I putting us in a position where will be spending a lot more on this because of all of the moving around? I can't seem to recall the policy and what I did last time. This would be my first time moving Lodges, in the past I have only been able to spend 3 nights on Safari at a time and just stayed in one Lodge the whole time.

Thanks for any input and advice!

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    I am no expert with just one safari split between two lodges 3/2 nights.

    While we had a great time at both lodges, we probably would not have enjoyed 5 nights at either lodge. Just our style--wanting different experiences and scenery, only a little lounging around. With new people joining the truck for drives each day, the drivers for good reason go back to where the game is most common plus add on something different based on recent spottings. On the 6th drive over some of the same ground, we were ready for a new location. So 2 nights would have left us still excited about the area.

    We moved from Timbavati to Sabi Sands, so we had a relatively long ride, but for us it was interesting because we had not been outside the cities in SA.

    As for 1 night, most will probably say too much time moving around. I would ask, what will you do with that time if you stay at one lodge for 3 nights instead? You would not get to take a day walk at the 1 night lodge, but you would have time at the others. Are there any other activities that you would miss that transit day that make staying in one place more important than the additional cost and less preferred lodge?

    One other thing I will mention is that when we were planning our trip last year, there were cancellations and openings popped up at lodges. Depending on how far out you are from your trip and whether it is peak season, one of your preferred may have another night open up.

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    Thanks Kay2 for your reply. Did you self drive between Timbavati and Sabi Sands?

    If not having to transit between various lodges, the time would be spent with relaxing around the lodge reading a book most likely. Nothing terribly exciting. The afternoons between game drives can drag on IMO, with little to really do. My main concerns with transferring lodges on two of the days would be concerning the game drives. Are we moving so much that we are limiting our ability to see the Big 5 and other highlights? My previous outings took 4-5 game drives to see the big 5 at one location. Will hopping between lodges give us a greater chance of missing something? Or will it give us a greater chance to see more?

    The other issue would be just the inconvenience of unpacking/re-packing and the checking in and out process; but that isn't a huge deal. My travel style is usually what most would consider rushed. I am typically fine with spending 2 nights in one location, seeing the highlights of that area and moving on to fit in another location that I would have otherwise had to skip.

    I am currently wait-listed for that first night at Kirkman's Kamp, and hope that it becomes available. That is my ideal schedule; the first three nights at Kirkman's with the last 2 at Exeter. But in the process of waiting, I don't want to miss that open night at Notten's and have a day that we would have been on Safari spent elsewhere instead. We are traveling late August / early September this year.

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    Unlike Kay, I prefer minimum three night stays per lodge. Otherwise I feel like we are moving around too much. We've been lucky with our rangers not returning to the same place with new guests, but we also make requests so that doesn't happen. We've met a few people who have stayed in one lodge for over a week, and our own tom on Fodors prefers long stays.

    We now travel in May or June - the days are short so those long afternoons are very short, and we get a full nights sleep even with the early game drives and late dinners. It works better for us. We also arrange, before we go, to have an afternoon game walk so at least one afternoon per lodge is busy. Usually it's just a short walk near camp, but we have been on a couple of extensive ones. Fun experience.

    If you are considering a car, why don't you spend that first night in Kruger NP at one of the larger rest camps that has restaurants? There are a few very near Kirkmans - Skukuza will almost surely have availability. If you fly to Kirkmans, they use Skukuza's air strip - it's close. We love self driving game drives - but it's exhausting because we stay out from dawn until dusk. We've had some great sightings and rarely experience the crowds that everyone complains about. If Kirkmans opens up, just cancel the reservation - it's less than USD100, so not a big loss. You shouldn't have any trouble getting from KK to Exeters between game drives. Ask &Beyond - they can arrange the transfer or give you someone to call if you don't drive yourself.

    I tip $20 per person/night to the ranger, $10 pppn to tracker, $10 pppn to staff. Moving around doesn't change that. I do tip drivers $10pp or more, depending on the length of transfer. In the big scheme of things, tips are a minor expense.

    Sounds like a nice trip. Cancellations happen, so I hope you get that night!

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    Hi Stormysunshine6!

    Sounds like a great trip!

    I really think you need 3 nights at a minimum at a lodge. You are acclimating to the lodge, your ranger and the area. Tough to do that shifting between lodges so much in so few days. Is 6 nights not a possibility? Six nights gives you two great 3 nights stays to be spent at 2 lodges. I would really try to avoid if at all possible a one night stay just to satisfy the itinerary. There are certainly other incredible options to make your trip come together.

    First, does Kirkmans have the last few nights free? Could you switch the order of the 2 lodges?

    Another idea would be to consider switching out Kirkmans since you have already been to Lower Sabi. I know that you are fond of the Lower Sabi but you will have an incredible experience in Sabi truthfully no matter where you are.

    Have you thought of Ngala Safari Lodge in Timbavati Reserve as a substitute for Kirkmans? Since Ngala is another lodge in the AndBeyond portfolio, you would benefit by any discount for a long stay. Moving between Timbavati and Sabi is definitely manageable. There's also Ngala Luxury Tented Camp.

    I think there are many good options out there. I've only named a few.

    And cancelations do happen...

    Keep the questions coming.

    Best
    Dianne
    Africa Direct USA, owner

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