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South Africa/ Botswana vs Kenya/ Tanzania

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6 of us are going for the first time to Africa for a two week trip in middle of October. We are trying to decide if it is better to go to Kenya and Tanzania or South Africa (Kruger) and Botswana to see the most animals

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    "To see the most animals"

    The wildebeest migration will be in the Maasai Mara of Kenya and the northern Serengeti of Tanzania. Seeing that will offer the greatest # of animals as there are thousands of wildebeest and zebras.

    Kruger and neighboring Sabi Sands of South Africa will give you the best chance of seeing the Big 5 (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, rhino) with the most ease and frequency.

    Botswana has abundant wildlife as well, but tends to be more expensive. But you've got enough people to have your own private mobile safari, which would bring prices down in Botswana. Unlikely you'll see rhino on a Botswana mobile, though. You could combine a Botswana mobile with a 3-4 nts stay in Kruger. To get to Bots, you usually fly to SA anyway.

    Is the 2 weeks total time or time on the ground in Africa?
    Do you have a budget?
    Are you interested in self-driving or were you looking at having a driver/guide for the trip?

    Answers to those questions will help.

    Any of these countries will provide your group with an outstanding trip and you'll be planning a return.

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    I second the private mobile safari in Botswana and a few nights in the private game reserves around Kruger. 6 people makes for an opportunity that would make Bots pretty affordable. Even a "regular" trip, with more affordable charter flights opens up all kinds of opportunities. It starts to get hot in October, however.

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    Agree with AT and CB above.
    And, don't confuse Kruger with Kruger. There is Kruger National Park and then there are adjacent to Kruger large reserves. It is in those reserves, Sabi Sand and Timbavati that you will for sure see the "big 5". I have been in Kruger NP totaling around 15 days and have never seen rhino, leopard only once, lion about 5 times. But many elephants, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, other mammals, birds. Again go to one of the reserves.

    regards - tom

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    Just about all of Southern Africa will still be in peak season in October so you should also add Zambia and Zimbabwe to your consideration set. The major drawback from Southern Africa that does not stand out in my general overview way below is the heat. You can expect daily highs of 95-100 in Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe in October. It is the hottest month of the year but still peak season for animals. Since you did not mention Zimbabwe and Zambia, here is some food for thought:

    Zambia is an extremely seasonal safari destination with a short peak season from mid-June through late November. Prices are relatively good here. The wildlife viewing is seasonal and most lodges are shutdown from late November through May. For a sample, many people taking a first-time Safari to Zambia would include one lodge in the Kafue (sometimes) like Kapinga with one Lodge in Lower Zambezi (always) like Sausage Tree and One Lodge in the South Luangwe (always) owned by Bush Camps or Robin Pope Safaris. Six days start at about $4,000 per person including charter flights.

    In my opinion, Zimbabwe is the best value (best safari for least money) in all of Africa. There are world-class national parks here and one massive private conservancy. All three parks are far away from each other and can offer a complete and balanced safari experience but more so in their peak season. The first one is Hwange National Park which is approximately a 45 minute charter flight from Victoria Falls. During the worst of Zimbabwe's political isolation most of the lodges in the Park shut down and there's now only several left that Americans go to. With the re-birth of travel in Zimbabwe over the past few years everyone is reopening as fast as possible. Little Makalolo and Davison’s Camp are selling-out early and so is the Hide and Soamlisa. Hwange National Park is a year-round destination but has a prolific peak season from June through November. This is also a big five safari destination. Of all these camps in the Hwange, I only recommend visiting only one on any particular trip. The second major national Park in Zimbabwe is Mana Pools National Park. There also only a few lodges open in this Park and the industry is rebuilding now. Ruckomechi is the camp I use the most in this Park and I took my family here this past summer. Ruckomechi gives the water experience to juxtapose with Little Makalolo which is an open-plains dry-land safari. Ruckomechi is on the Zambezi River and across the water is Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia. Other properties in Mana Pools are Vundua, Goliath and Kanga. There is also a Singita property in Zimbabwe called Pamushana which is EXCELLENT. This property offers the same service and luxury as Singita in South Africa but it is 60% less. For Zimbabwe, six days/two lodges start at about $4,000 per person including charter flights.


    Southern Africa and East Africa are two very popular and well-visited areas for safaris. However, the question that I normally have to answer is this: If I had to choose, which is better, East Africa or Southern Africa? Both areas are amazing and it’s hard to compare and, of course, I think you should go to both at some point in your life. If you have to choose one, then I suggest you have a look at the below information. You will find a nice and simple comparison between Southern Africa and East Africa – showing you the highlights.

    Countries included in Southern Africa
    1.South Africa

    Countries included in East Africa
    **Burundi, Rwanda, and The Democratic Republic of the Congo are generally considered Central Africa**

    Landscapes/Scenery and attractions. There are many reserves, parks, and ecosystems not mentioned below. These are just some of the more popular ones.: In terms of landscapes and attractions, the regions are quite different.
    1.Southern Africa
    •Okavango Delta wetland (Botswana)
    •Skeleton Coast and Namib desert (Namibia)
    •Kruger National Park (South Africa)
    •Kalahari Desert (Botswana & northern South Africa)
    •Victoria Falls (Zambia and Zimbabwe)
    •Chobe National Park (Botswana) and Hwange National Park (Zimbabwe) – savannah.
    •Chobe National Park (Botswana) + Linyanti/Selinda/Kwando, Mana Pools National Park (Zimbabwe), Lower Zambezi National Park (Zambia) – River-side & Savannah big-five safari
    •Other ecosystems: Kafue (Zambia), Madikwe, Eastern Cape, South Luangwe (Zambia), North Luangwe (Zambia).
    2.Eastern Africa
    •Mount Kilimanjaro
    •Serengeti Plains/Maasai Mara ecosystem
    •Ngorongoro Crater
    •Many other areas in Kenya

    Wildlife: The wildlife species found in the two areas are essentially the same; most of the predators and plains game can be seen in both regions and only some birds and a few mammals and reptiles are distinct between the regions. The major differentiation is in the numbers of certain species and the general experience a visitor will have when viewing them.
    •Southern Africa: Botswana and Zimbabwe are home to 80% of Southern Africa’s 300,000 elephants and huge herds are a common sight along their northern borders.
    •East Africa offers herds of zebras and wildebeests in the hundreds of thousands. The annual migration between the Maasai Mara in the north and Tanzania’s Serengeti in the south is a spectacle unequaled anywhere on earth today.

    Weather: The weather also varies between the regions.
    •In Southern Africa, while each country varies, the rains generally fall between November and March with the rest of the year being mostly rain-free. Most of the camps stay open year-round. The rainy or “green” safari season in Southern Africa offers benefits such as herbivores having their babies, lush green landscapes and dramatic skies, all of which combine to create superb photographic opportunities.
    •In East Africa, October marks the beginning of the “short rains” while April brings “long rains.” Many of the safari camps close during the long rains due to difficult driving conditions. You should be OK in late October for any of these places.

    The major differences between East Africa and Southern Africa for safaris are the density of tourists, the safari accommodations and the safari vehicles.

    Density of tourists & Accommodation:
    •Southern Africa is known for its luxury tented safari camps and huge tracts of wilderness areas with very low tourist densities, making for a private safari experience. For the most part, Southern Africa is dominated by huge land concessions, which are owned or leased by luxury safari camp operators, and these concessions are for the sole use of the individual camp and its guests. With an average camp size of only 10-16 guests and only one or two vehicles for the entire concession, one can drive all day and not encounter anything but wilderness and wildlife.
    •East Africa, in general, has earned a reputation for a high density of tourists staying in hotel-styled lodges. However, there are a growing number of luxury lodges cropping up in East Africa, particularly in Tanzania and these lodges offer a far more exclusive experience than the large safari lodges which may have typified Kenya and Tanzania. There are also private conservancies surrounding the Masai Mara and many private conservancies attached to public/national parks throughout Kenya.

    •Southern Africa: In the private safari lodges, the safari vehicles used here are modified, open-air Land Rovers which also add to the intimacy of the experience. On scheduled tours companies use converted 10-Seater Land Cruisers, mini-busses & Overland Trucks
    •The most common safari vehicle in East Africa is the mini-van with its pop-up roof, whereby passengers stand up to take pictures while peering out of the roof or sit in the enclosed vans. More and more companies also make use of 7-seater Land-Cruisers or Land-Rovers with pop-up roofs

    Cultural Tourism:
    •Southern Africa Different tribes can be visited in Southern Africa such as Zulus, Swazis, Himbas & the bushmen
    •East Africa - Opportunities to witness Maasai or Samburu tribal living are common.

    •Southern Africa Price can vary a lot with the price of the dollar vs the Rand in South Africa. There really is a wide range of accommodation standard on offer which will suit everyone’s budget
    •East Africa Park entrance fees, etc. are more expensive in Tanzania – overnight rates are similar to Southern Africa.
    •However, mobile or overland safaris are very popular in both regions and give the price sensitive traveler the opportunity to experience the bush.

    Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond

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    Thanks for posting this comparison Craig. I have been trying to tell friends who can't decided where to visit, the differences and thanks to your timely post I will refer them to it as you explained it much better than I ever could. Happy New Year.

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    Very, very nice summary Craig. (Save it for use often here!!).
    Only thing I might add is that IF you are particularly interested in a species, e.g. leopard, rhino, that you investigate sighting frequencies. (Seen? How often?). Not only by country but by area/reserves in those countries.

    regards - tom

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    Craig that was an excellent breakdown comparison of the two area!
    Since I only have 2 weeks in Africa I am leaning toward South Africa which would include Kruger, Botswana (Okavanga), Victoria falls and 4 days in Cape town. I'm still not sure if we want to go go to an area adjacent to Kruger called Ngala or the Leadwood camp which is in an area named Sabi Sands
    I heard Sabi Sands may be better if someone knows please advise
    Thanks again for all your info

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    This is my tentative itinerary

    Option 1
    12 October 2012
    You will be collected from O.R. Tambo International Airport and be driven to Federal Air Lounge for your scheduled Federal Air flight departing at 11:00 to Ngala airstrip arriving at 12:30.
    Unwind for 4 nights at &Beyond Ngala Tented Camp in a deluxe spacious tent with outdoor shower. Your stay includes three meals daily, soft drinks, house wines, local brand spirits and beers, teas and coffees, scheduled safari activities, refreshments on game drives, nature walks (1 hour) accompanied by experienced armed trackers (subject to availability) and laundry.
    16 October 2012
    You will be collected from &Beyond Ngala Tented Camp and be driven with fellow guests to Eastgate Airport where you will catch a flight from Hoedspruit to Cape Town (this flight is not included in the cost and will be quoted separately).  
    Option 2
    12 October 2012
    You will be collected from O.R. Tambo International Airport and be driven to Federal Air Lounge for your scheduled Federal Air flight departing at 09:30 to Ulusaba airstrip arriving at 10:40.
    Experience 4 nights at &Beyond Leadwood Lodge in a suite with ensuite bathroom, outdoor shower and private plunge pool. Your stay includes accommodation, three meals daily, soft drinks, house wines, local brand spirits and beers, teas and coffees, refreshments on game drives, laundry, scheduled safari activities, nature walks (1 hour) accompanied by experienced armed trackers (subject to availability), emergency medical evacuation insurance as well as transfers to and from the airstrip (where applicable).
    16 October 2012
    You will be driven to the airstrip for your scheduled Federal Air flight from Ulusaba airstrip to Kruger Mpumalanga International where you will board your flight from Nelspruit to Cape Town  (this flight is not included in the cost and will be quoted separately).  
    Both options
    You will be collected from Cape Town International Airport and be driven to Cape Grace Hotel.
    Enjoy 4 nights at Cape Grace Hotel in a luxury room with ensuite bathroom. Your stay includes breakfast, use of the Hot Spa area: steam room, sauna, rain and body shower.  Complimentary wireless/high speed Internet access, morning tea and coffee with wake-up calls, luxury chauffeur transfers within a 10km radius from 07h00 to 23h00, subject to availability & Cape orientation and wine tasting.
    17 October 2012
    You will be collected at Cape Grace Hotel for your private full day tour (winelands).
    18 October 2012
    You will be collected at Cape Grace Hotel for your private full day tour (peninsula and Cape point).
    19 October 2012
    Begin this scenic tour of Cape Town at iconic Table Mountain or, if the weather is not favourable, at the flat-topped hill known as Signal Hill. From there, you will be driven along the spectacular coastline, taking in the four secluded beaches of Clifton, as well as the famous Sea Point promenade. Browse the vibrant Greenmarket Square, one of the city’s oldest markets and take a walk through Company Gardens, established by Dutch settlers in 1652. Drive past the Houses of Parliament and the historical Castle of Good Hope, as well as the Slave Lodge, which used to house thousands of slaves of the Dutch East India Company. Next you will visit the traditional Malay Quarter in the predominantly Muslim Bo-Kaap, with its brightly coloured houses dating back as far as the 17th century. Pause to listen to the firing of the noonday gun from Signal Hill.
    20 October 2012
    You will be collected from Cape Grace Hotel and be driven to Cape Town International Airport where you will catch a flight to Victoria Falls via Johannesburg (this flight is not included in the cost and will be quoted separately).  
    On arrival at Victoria Falls Airport you will be met and driven with fellow guests to the Elephant Camp.
    Spend 2 nights at The Elephant Camp in a luxurious tented suite with private viewing deck and plunge pool. Your stay includes all meals, local drinks, complimentary in-room mini bar, return transfers between the lodge and Victoria Falls Airport, two transfers per day to Victoria Falls town, laundry service and an opportunity to interact with the elephants at Wild Horizons Wildlife Sanctuary.
    21 October 2012
    This morning you will go on an elephant back safari. This peaceful adventure will allow you to explore the breathtaking beauty of the magnificent Victoria Falls National Park on a half-day elephant back safari. You will be able to enjoy exceptional game viewing as your elephants amble within a comfortable distance of waterbuck, white rhino, zebra, giraffe and other plains game.
    After lunch you will depart on a tour of Victoria Falls.  Be thrilled with the memorable opportunity to explore the breathtaking rainforest that surrounds the majestic Victoria Falls. This adventure begins at the Victoria Falls Map Room where your guide will divulge the fascinating history, layout and geology of the Falls. Afterwards, you will make your way on foot to the David Livingstone Statue and then onwards through the flourishing rainforest to the beautiful view points of Cataract View, Devil’s Cataract, the main Falls and then lastly to the Eastern Cataract. The Victoria Falls are at their best in April when they are in full flood. During your walk, through the rainforest, you will have the opportunity to view the numerous birds, butterflies and smaller animals that have settled in these lush surrounds as well as view huge mahogany, wild fig, sausage trees and delicate orchids. This one and a half to two hour adventure can also be followed by an hour long excursion in the Falls Craft Village, where you are introduced to the traditional customs of the people in the village.  
    22 October 2012
    You will be collected from The Elephant Camp and be driven with fellow guests to Kasane Airport.  Upon arrival at Kasane Airport you will be greeted by a member from the &Beyond team who will assist you onto a Safari Air light aircraft. From here, you and fellow guests will be flown to Pom Pom airstrip (Approx 1 hour and 20 mins).
    On arrival at Pom Pom, you will take a game drive to camp with a picnic enroute.
    Experience 2 nights at &Beyond Nxabega Okavango Tented Camp in an East African safari tent with ensuite bathroom with shower only. Your stay includes accommodation, three meals daily, soft drinks, house wines, local brand spirits, beers, teas and coffees, refreshments on game drives, scheduled safari activities, emergency medical evacuation insurance, laundry as well as transfers to and from the airstrip (where applicable).
    24 October 2012
    Enjoy a game drive to Pom Pom airstrip where a Safari Air light aircraft will be waiting to fly you, and fellow guests, to Chitabe airstrip (Approx 15 mins).
    Experience 3 nights at &Beyond Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge in an African-inspired cottage with ensuite bathroom with outdoor shower only. Your stay includes accommodation, three meals daily, soft drinks, house wines, local brand spirits, beers, teas and coffees, refreshments on game drives, scheduled safari activities, emergency medical evacuation insurance, laundry as well as transfers to and from the airstrip (where applicable).
    27 October 2012
    Enjoy a short game drive to Chitabe airstrip where a Safari Air light aircraft will be waiting to fly you, and fellow guests, to Maun Airport (Approx 15 mins) where you will board a flight back to Johannesburg (this flight is not included and will be quoted separately).


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    Gotta love the lingo.

    "Unwind in a deluxe spacious tent"

    "Experience Leadwood Lodge in a suite with ensuite bathroom, outdoor shower and private plunge pool"

    etc etc

    If I'd choose a tented camp in Timbavati, I'd choose Bateleur Eco Camp, or Simbavati River Lodge, or Shindzela. On average three times less expensive than Ngala, for an equal experience.

    Also; I'd get a free pickup from those lodges at Hoedspruit airport. The drive between the airport and the camp is (for the most part) one straight line on a tar road, and it's faster than getting in and out of an airplane :-D

    If I'd choose a lodge in Sabi Sands, I would not choose a lodge in the western part of the reserve. That block is too heavily used (times at sightings can be short, if the sighting is popular), and Ulusaba in particular is not the best location (right at the edge of the reserve). It's pics on the web are of course taken from a good angle, but once there, you see that half your view consists of cultivated fields and ramshackle houses. Better options, when it comes to pricing and number of vehicles, are Arathusa and Elephant Plains. Or Umkumbe, if you're looking for something special.

    @OP; it would perhaps be best that you give us your budget, and the type of trip you're looking for (luxury or not etc). Right now the TA's are jumping on this thread, all offering a top-budget safari. But perhaps that is not what you had in mind.



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    "This is my tentative itinerary

    Your original post was to "see the most animals". Does this tour do that for you?

    Any tour description by an agency will sound great. Question is, is does it take you where and show you what you want to see and is it a good value (bang-for-buck).

    regards - tom

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    "elephant back safari"

    Really? Why?
    It might be available, but many, including myself consider this animal abuse.

    Same with 'petting the lions/cheetahs' - game should be left alone from us humans... they're not house pets.

    Maybe try bungie jumbing, white water rafting or other activities in the Vic Falls area.

    My 2-cents!

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    Many of us first timers don't know that the human-animal interaction experiences are so awful. So for the late SV, please avoid the elephant back safaris. The eles are wild animals that deserve better.

    My first safari itinerary read just like yours. Must be the industry vernacular. We had a similar itinerary and wow - it was really pricey. You could really do a private mobile in Botswana and spend much less and have an as good or better experience. You have great choices with 6 of you - take advantage of it!

    Try to arrange for three night minimums. Two nights doesn't give you time to settle in and experience the camp. Shindzela might be a little rustic for what you are expecting, but Simbavati would probably be a nice alternative. I don't know anything about Bateleur. Travel agents usually only offer camps that have a large marketing budget. It's unfortunate because alternatives are available in S Africa.

    Planning is half the fun. Enjoy.

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    One more thumbs up vote for Craig's comparisons.

    If you wanted to maximize animals (stated in your first post) Vic Falls and Cape Town won't do that. These are highly worthwhile destinations, but you'll see more animals if you are on safari. Cape Town does have penguins, Great White Sharks, Whales, and ostriches, zebra, antelope, birds in Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve.

    Also one more vote to please skip riding the elephants.

    Here's what I'd suggest, assuming you want Cape Town and Vic Falls.

    It appears you have 16 Days for your trip

    4 days = Cape Town
    You can rent a car yourself and see the sites to save $$ Very common. Not something I'd do personally. I enjoyed Wayne of Take2Tours as my private guide.

    You can fly early from Cape Town to Johannesburg and then board the flight to Sabi Sands, so no need for a down transit day.

    3 days = A Sabi Sands lodge. Mala Mala or other. Elephant Plains and Arathusa are suggested by Pixelpower. These are less expensive than Mala Mala and get good reviews. I'd like to try them someday, especially Ele Plains.

    1 day in transit

    8 days = Botswana mobile that is easily done for just your group since you have the advantage of 6 people. The Bots safari should start or end in Vic Falls. One night in Vic Falls is enough to leisurely enjoy the falls.

    Christabir mentioned some mobiles. Also Masson, Capricorn, an more. Lots of good options. With 6 you're in the driver's seat, well not literally, for the mobile. You don't have to take a scheduled trip, you can design your own mobile.

    The trip you listed can be improved upon I think.

    If you can swing more days for your vacation, do a few more on the mobile or stay 4 nts in Sabi Sands.

    Your group will have a great time together!

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    Hey Lynn,

    Good advise about the mobiles. Here's one more vote for Ewan Masson!

    Re; Ele Plains & Arathusa; they share about the same area. Check the map:

    Arathusa has got a bit bigger area to drive around in, and their rooms seem to be a bit better than Ele Plains (as in the latter the regular rooms only have garden view). But Arathusa is a tad more expensive. Still nowhere near Mala Mala and Singita though.



    PS. And one more vote to SKIP THE ELLIE RIDES!

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