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Escorted Tour of S. Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe

San Diego, Ca.
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Escorted Tour of S. Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe

We are looking for a tour company that conducts a small group tour that includes S. Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. We have approx. 16-18 days to include travel from U.S. West coast. Cost to be from about $ 8-10,000 p/p. (we will use FFM for the flight from U.S. to Africa). I have seen alot of trips but very few include all of the countries I have listed above. We would like to find something in the late Aug-early Nov. 2013 timeframe.

Any recommendations as to who we might consider would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

Bob

Philadelphia...
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1. Re: Escorted Tour of S. Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe

You do not need an escort for a trip like that.

Talk to some group like Rhino Africa and they can arrange it all for you.

Wayzata, Minnesota
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2. Re: Escorted Tour of S. Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe

Hi Byoung2,

I am not sure why you want to travel in a group on an escorted tour so perhaps you could tell us a little more about the reasoning so we (the forum members) can provide better advice. For many different types of safaris, an escorted tour would be a more expensive method of travel; you would need to pay the travel costs and salary of the escort and they add no value to the game viewing experience. The vast majority of four-star and above safari lodges in Southern Africa only allow guides that are full time employees at the lodge to drive their vehicles. So, to be clear nobody except full time, permanent employees drive the guests at these lodges. The tour escort, if you had one, would sit in the back with you and enjoy the safari on your hard earned dime.

If you are looking for social atmosphere in a group, then most safari lodges have six or eight people per vehicle so you would spend the game drives with other guests. If you choose lodges with a historically good social atmosphere (vs. ones that are used a lot for milestones trips and honeymoons) you will have other guests to hang around with in the common areas. This is a much better situation than being with the same group of strangers for 16 days. What if you don’t like them and can’t get away? What if there is a really obnoxious person or a heavy drinker or someone who is always late when you are ready to leave?

If you are worried about traveling alone, the way that many first time safaris are arranged is to have you met at all airports and transferred to your next spot. If you land, for example, in Jo’burg on a charter plane from a safari lodge there are at least 1,000 companies that could arrange for a driver to pick you up and drive you to the Jo’burg airport for a commercial flight to, let’s say, Cape Town. Rhino Africa would be an example of one of these thousands of companies.

If you are worried about touring alone in Cape Town or spending more for private tours, there are many companies that organize scheduled shared tours for up to 8 or 10 people each day. Their driver will go around and pick up 8-10 different people and take them on a tour for the day. If you don’t like the people that day you never see them again. If you do, perhaps have dinner with them that night.

Based on your budget, here is what I suggest. I also noticed you like food and wine so you might want to visit some places that put a bit more focus on food and wine while also having a reasonable rate and not too over the top. There are a few lodges like Mombo and Singita that would deplete your entire budget in six days! Since you are in San Diego and have good weather year round I suppose you don’t care when you leave. I have had the chance to visit San Diego in several seasons when I was a submarine officer in the Navy – the weather was always the same! I suggest you choose Aug 20-Sep 10 which will be an ideal time for weather in Africa and peak season game viewing in Southern Africa. By August 20, many of the kids will be gone from the safari lodges. You are over 65 and I am sure you enjoy your grandchildren but you don’t want to spend your vacation with other people’s grandkids.

Day 1 arrive Jo’burg and overnight.

Day 2 fly to Victoria Falls for one night at the Vic Falls Hotel.

Day 3,4,5 transfer 4 hours by road to The Hide for three nights. This lodge is in Hwange National Park Zimbabwe.

Day 6 transfer back to Vic Falls for the night.

Day 7,8,9 transfer 2.5 hours by road to Ngoma or Muchenje Safari lodge in Chobe National Park Botswana for three nights.

Day 10,11,12,13 transfer to Vic Falls and fly to Cape Town for four nights at Cape Cadogan or More Quarters. Spend a full day in the wine country as well!

Day 14,15,16 Fly to Kruger Area and spend three nights at Lion Sands Safari lodge.

Day 17 Fly home.

*You could upgrade the trip by flying to the lodges in Hwange.

Since the price of a lengthy and diverse safari can get a little opaque I suggest you get a few quotes so you can make sure you are not getting ripped off. I suggest you contact a few independent safari operators to get an idea of prices and service. You will quickly know who you are comfortable working with. There are over 100 independent operators in the United States. Perhaps contact Chris Liebenberg in San Diego. He owns Piper and Heath. Rhino Africa is a good operator. Keep in mind they are vertically integrated which, in my opinion, can impact the recommendations you get. They own a hotel in Cape Town and some of the owners of Rhino Africa also own safari lodges so you just need to make sure you are getting unbiased advice. As long as they disclose this to you then you can make decisions armed with knowledge and they will be great.

I hope this helps.

Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond

2011 and 2012 Travel & Leisure A-List agent for Botswana and Zimbabwe

Tempe, Arizona
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for South Africa, Sabi Sand Game Reserve
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3. Re: Escorted Tour of S. Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe

I think I would start the trip at Botswana - flying from Johannesburg to Maun and then working your way north and east to Victoria Falls. AndBeyond has a diverse group of camps/lodges that offer some serious discounts that could be used including a 6-for-4 (not available July & August but September & October are better for Botswana, anyway) that would help with costs in expensive Botswana. andbeyondafrica.com/african_safari/botswana

At the Falls - a remarkably wide range of accommodations and locations. Some of the lodges on the Zambezi that are out of town are amazing. Among my own favorite things-to-do.. sundowners out on the river.

I have a couple of good safari spots in Zimbabwe that I use for clients.. and Craig's suggestion of The Hide in Hwange is also an excellent choice.

In South Africa - a blank canvas. Many of us regularly recommend the Sabi Sand reserve for wildlife, and it is a reliably interesting area. And also does have a variety of price points. Budget here will help you choose one that suits you but you can't go wrong at any price. Further, other areas of South Africa are also very strong wildlife destinations.

But getting back to your interest in an escorted trip - your difficulty in finding one has its roots in what the market has told tour operators. For them to set up a complex escorted packaged trip through several countries - with multiple relatively expensive lodges + the flights and transfers and perhaps some included tours in and around Cape Town - they end up with something so pricey that it has a very limited appeal. Part of the reason - commissions to travel agencies will run a minimum 10% up to 12%. And that's on top of their own markup over their nett rates from the lodges, hotels, etc. Plus the salary & expenses of the escort. $8K - $10K per person would likely not be enough for the trip.

What does make your thought of visiting those 3 countries reasonable is how reliable the tourism industry is here in southern Africa. Gracious professionals on the ground handle your movements from place to place - staff and management at the places you will stay are going to make you feel so welcome. If you connect with specialists in this part of the world and get advice, suggestions, quotes from them - you can leave home with the sense that the pieces will fall into place as you expect.

Dave Patterson - Owner - The Africa Safari

Tempe, Arizona
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for South Africa, Sabi Sand Game Reserve
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4. Re: Escorted Tour of S. Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe

I must have missed something - I don't see that you are over 65. Me too. Hahaha...

Kasane
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5. Re: Escorted Tour of S. Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe

Check the following agents based in Maun (Botswana) - all of whom are specialists in these areas. We have worked with all of them and they are excellent:

1. Safari Destinations

2. Travel Wild

3. Time Travel

4. Safari Specialists

5. Gondwana

if I can help in anyway please feel free to PM me.

Best regards,

Clive.

SGS Africa.

Chobe.

San Diego, Ca.
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6. Re: Escorted Tour of S. Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe

Safaricraig,bwanadave and Clive.....thanks so much for you great input. In the meantime,however, as a compromise with my travel companion (wife) we have booked a trip with OAT which will take us into Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. However I have reserved the option of arranging a trip into Kruger Natl. Park/private parks in that area. We would plan to depart Johannesburg on the morning of 14 Sept. and return on the morning of 18 Sept. in order to meet with our OAT tour group. I would like to keep the cost at around $1500-1600 p/p. There will be 3 adults traveling. I would greatly appreciate any suggestions as to in-country tour companies I might contact to do this...and comments perhaps on trying to do a 2 day Park stay and 2 day Private area stay in hopes of keeping the cost down to some extent. I would like to be able to fly into Kruger if at all possible. Would Timbavati Game Reserve be a possibility? What about using Wild Wing Safaris? Any and all suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much,

Bob

Tempe, Arizona
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for South Africa, Sabi Sand Game Reserve
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7. Re: Escorted Tour of S. Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe

This is interesting. I was sitting down now to suggest OAT. As for your plan to flesh out their plan with some more rewarding safari time - good for you. I suggest contacting Onne at www.wildwings.co.za - they have a trip very much like the one you described. Look at their Greater Kruger combos. And they can construct something slightly different to your needs if you ask them to.

Dave Patterson - Owner - The Africa Safari

Kasane
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8. Re: Escorted Tour of S. Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe

I'm not the best person to advise on SA, but anything else on Bots let me know!

Cape Town, South...
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9. Re: Escorted Tour of S. Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe

Great Choice. You cannot go wrong with OAT - Grand Circle Travel. I know quite a few of the guides and they are all excellent.

You might want to consider doing their post trip to Cape Town as well....

San Diego, Ca.
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10. Re: Escorted Tour of S. Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe

Thanks for all the good input. I will definitely contact Wildwings for the S. Africa/Kruger part of the trip I am going to put together. Am also looking at Rhino Africa. Has anyone used them and if so would appreciate your impressions. Thanks, Bob