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Questions re itinerary - June 2012 trip w/tweens

Los Altos, CA
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Questions re itinerary - June 2012 trip w/tweens

I also posted this in the S. Africa forums as it relates to both countries.

I'm researching a trip to Africa (first time for any of us) to celebrate a milestone birthday (mine!) We'd be bringing our daughters who will then be 13 and just turning 10. We're coming from Northern California so we have a very long journey just to get to the continent of Africa of course.

We hope to spend about 2 weeks, with the last 4 days or so in Cape Town and then Jeffreys Bay (my husband is a surfer and wants to surf SuperTubes at JBay - but that will be the only surfing of the trip).

I contacted, and have been working by email with, a person from &Beyond who seems very helpful and knowledegable. She's suggested various ideas for us and I'm trying to narrow it down - interested in thoughts from other travelers. I told her I was interested in seeing both Botswana and S. Africa for safari, but now am wondering if it's too much flying around (both in terms of expense and exhaustion after the long trip to get to Africa in the first place) and whether we should just do safaris in one or the other country. But either way, would like to do the Cape Town/J Bay at the end.

Here are the options we're considering so far

In Botswana:

Selinda,

Nxabega,

Sandibe

In S. Africa:

Tuningi in Madikwe,

Ecca in Kwandwe (both malaria-free, though if we're going to other

places that are not malaria free then it doesn't matter - my question on these is are they worth our limited time regardless of malaria-free status)

Kirkman's

Phinda

Ngala

Obviously we have to make choices. Some suggestions that have been made were:

o 2 x Selinda; 3 -5 Nxabega (or in combination with Sandibe); 4 x Phinda; OR

o 5 x night Nxabega; 4 x Phinda (or overnight in Johannesburg and do 2 x Ngala plus 2 x Kirkmans) OR

If only doing S. Africa, a suggestion was:

o 3 x night Ngala; 3 x night Kirkmans; 3 x night Phinda

NOTE: I just learned that kids under 16 can't do mokoro rides which is one of the interesting things about Botswana, from what I've read.

Thanks so much for any input - my mind is about to explode!

Stanley, Falkland...
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1. Re: Questions re itinerary - June 2012 trip w/tweens

With the limited time available, I'd stick to one country and you can't surf in Botswana!

And I do think the extra logistics to and from Botswana might not be worth it.

Botswana is a superb place for safaris, but so are many places in South AFrica. As it's your first, it will be breath-taking almost wherever you go. And I think SA is more family-orientated.

Hope this helps.

Wayzata, Minnesota
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2. Re: Questions re itinerary - June 2012 trip w/tweens

Odd recommendations indeed? I would not go to Nxabega in the month of June if this is your ONLY camp in Botswana (your “option 2” was Phinda and Nxabega). And, I would also not go to Nxabega for five days in June. I wouldn’t even go there for two unless this is your water camp and you treat it as such. If your objective is to do mostly land based activities and see big four or big five you will not accomplish this at Nxabega in June. It makes a good option if you consider it a water activity camp and combine it with another land activity camp IN Botswana.

Nxabega in the SW portion of the Delta and has been highly impacted by the floods over the past few years. Even in normal years it is pretty wet in June. When I was at the camp last year in May, water was up to the deck at the main lounge area and this was before the crest of the floods which historically occurs in the SW of the Delta in June. There is almost no dry traversing (driving) area in June relative to January. Along with places like Seba, Xigera, Kudum, Karana, etc I position these places to clients as water activity camps only in June.

If you only have time or money for one &beyond camp in Botswana then I strongly encourage you to go to Sandibe. I have always maintained (on Forums) an opinion that Sandibe (&beyond) and Chitabe (Wilderness Safaris) are tied for the second best land based game viewing in the Okavango area of Botswana. They share the same NG31 concession. In addition, Sandibe offers water activities so you do a bit of this there. &Beyond owns Sandibe and it is, IMO, their best lodge in Botswana. Furthermore, if you really only have money for one camp, I suggest skipping Botswana altogether.

With the exception of Tuningi, every lodge that the &Beyond agent offered you is owned by &Beyond. I trust this is no surprise. They owned a lodge in Madikwe but sold it to More Hotels in June. I feel when you work with a lodge directly it is hard for them to look out for your best interests as they have beds to fill and almost always commissioned sales people selling these beds. Before committing, I suggest you seek the advice of people on these forums or the advice of an independent safari agent to challenge whatever you are told to book by someone that represents or works for a lodge. There are a lot of really good independent agents in Northern California that can book this trip for acting as YOUR agent only (instead of acting as the lodges agent). This is sort of like the buyer’s agent/seller’s agent concept in real estate. Most of these agents below will cost you no more than booking direct with &Beyond but they will be able to offer you many other options with the buffet of lodges and lodge chains in Southern Africa. Here are some options:

Kili McGowan of Next Adventure & Safari. Here is a review of her recent work on Fodors written by a person from Los Altos - fodors.com/community/africa-the-middle-east/…

Mountain Travel Sobek - http://www.mtsobek.com/

Geographic Expeditions (ask for Starla Estrada). http://www.geoex.com/about_us/staff.asp

Bushtracks - owned by David & Caroline Tett. David's brother owns Chris owns a full tour operation business based in Vic Falls. http://www.bushtracks.com/

I took my kids on safari when they were 10 and 12 and again this summer when they were 13 & 15. For a first time safari with kids the age of yours, I think a lodge in the Sabi Sands will combine well with Phinda. Phinda also has access to the ocean and you could spend a beach day on one of the days as they have stay3pay4 rates. IMO, the Sabi Sands is the best general big five animal viewing area in Southern Africa. IMO/IME Phinda has the best cheetah and black rhino viewing in Southern Africa. So, these two ecosystems are good South Africa only combos.

J’Bay is going to be pretty cold in June and very out of the way for a two week trip. Perhaps do a one day surfing trip in Durban instead which has warmer Indian Ocean air/water in June and big waves. Durban is a bit of a gritty city for Americans but I do go there every year and it is reasonable close to Phinda. J’Bay is about 7 hours from Cape Town and would be hard to combine in four days.

Here is one option that would work for South Africa only.

Day 1 Depart

Day 2 Arrive JNB. Overnight.

Day 3,4,5 Drive/fly to Sabi Sands for three day safari. I know you saw the post in the Sabi Sands forum yesterday on family rooms (MalaMala, Elephant Plains, Singita, Londolozi, Savanna, Ulusaba) because you commented.

Day 6,7,8 Fly to Cape Town for three days (I suggest add one more). Your husband can rent a board and surf in Muizenberg. My daughters did this with wet suits last month.

Day 9 Fly to Durban. Surf. Stay at Oyster Box for one night. Great winter rates – ultra lux.

Day 10,11,12,13 Transfer 4 hours to Phinda. Safari and beach! Stay4pay3.

Day 14 Transfer 60 minutes to Richards Bay. Fly to JNB. Fly home.

Day 15 Arrive home SFO or OAK.

Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond

Los Altos, CA
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3. Re: Questions re itinerary - June 2012 trip w/tweens

Thank you very much for all the comments. I know J Bay will be cold for sure - my husband is an avid surfer and surfs all winter here in the Pacific ocean, so he'd use a wetsuit obviously and be prepared! Thanks for the other surfing options, he has heard about surfing in Durban and also has heard of Muizenberg but doesn't know that much about it so he says he'll look at those ideas. It was just that he's heard so much about J'Bay - but this trip is mainly for me, so he's willing to not surf at all if it doesn't make sense - he takes his own trips for a week at a time to surf anyway!

Its true most of the suggestions were &Beyond properties, but she actually had also suggested a bunch of other places in Botswana such as Chobe Chilwero, Chobe Under Canvas - which I know is &Beyond - Chobe Game Lodge, Savute Safari Lodge, and Camp Moremi (I had told her initially that I wanted to explore going to both areas). She also has been helping with Cape Town and J'Bay suggestions and suggested Grootbos as another option, which I didn't mention. Last night I asked her about Londolozi and she replied that it's great and seemed happy to recommend it, so I hear you that of course they'll suggest their properties but she's also willing to be honest about other places that are good! However, I may well consult an independent person as well.

I clearly still have a lot of thinking to do but thanks again, and keep the suggestions or opinions coming!

Wayzata, Minnesota
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4. Re: Questions re itinerary - June 2012 trip w/tweens

Chobe Game Lodge, Savute Safari Lodge, and Camp Moremi are all fantastic choices and all are owned by Desert & Delta. They are a good value and sit as one of the least expensive options for a June safari at a permanent lodge in Botswana. Unlike Sandibe & Nxabega, the D&D lodges are all in national parks so you can't drive off road or at night but this limitation is reflected in the lower rate.

Londolozi is wonderful.

Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond

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5. Re: Questions re itinerary - June 2012 trip w/tweens

Thanks, Craig. What about the fact that the kids won't be able to go in mekoro - will that make going to the Okavanga Delta not really worthwhile if we don't want to go without them in mekoro trips? The whole reason to bring them on the trip is to maximize family vacations while they are still living at home with us (having an almost-13-year-old, we are realizing this time is precious and we could theoretically come back to Africa when they are in college or when they are 16 and up and do other things they couldn't do at this time). I've read that at some Delta locations you can take motor-boats and maybe the kids can go in those, but if we go to a location where almost the only way to see game is by mekoro, that won't make sense for this trip, I think.

Also, what about Mombo? I read that at least used to be considered one of the very best places to see game, and some think it has changed? I have no clue if it's child-friendly, haven't looked that far. I read that there are baboons there, not sure where else in the places we've considered we may see them but I'd be interested in seeing baboons/monkeys in general.

So Craig, in deciding whether to do both Botswana and S. Africa or just one country, it's not so much whether we have the money (which I haven't quite figured out yet, admittedly) to go to more than one camp as much as do we want to be flying around so much (and I know that can get expensive too). Theoretically we could go to say 2 camps in Botswana and 2 in S. Africa for a few days each - my husband just thought that we'd all be tired of safari after 10-12 days so he thinks that's probably the limit in terms of safari days - at least he thinks the kids will tire of it, though I think I will not!

Edited: 27 September 2011, 18:44
Wayzata, Minnesota
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6. Re: Questions re itinerary - June 2012 trip w/tweens

You are spot on. I generally find with kids under 12 that nine days safari is the maximum you would want to do. The age limits on mokkoros (where applicable) could be a challenge. It will start becoming a bit repetitive for them after nine days (3 camps for 3 days each).

One way to mitigate the “safari fatigue” is to visit Cape Town in-between two different safaris such as Sabi Sands and Botswana. You also want to avoid early wake-ups with the kids!

If you go to Botswana, you definitely should visit two camps once you sink the cost of the logistics into getting there (forced overnight in Jo’burg, flights from Jo’burg to Maun, etc). Going to two camps is easy and the moving from camp to camp is not difficult as it is done in the middle of the day. It is game drive to and from the air strip! Two camps for 2-3 days each is a good balance with another safari in the Sabi Sands.

I still think Mombo (and Chiefs) is the best animal viewing camp in Botswana (not just the Delta). You have the highest chance of seeing the most species here including the big five as rhino are slightly possible. At Mombo, they do not have family rooms but you can have little kids sleep in the 1000+ sq ft room with you as long as you pay for the empty room that is not being used. By sleeping 3 or 4 per room you are denying the lodge from selling all their beds. The camp can only legally have 24 guests between Mombo and Little Mombo so any triple room or quad rooms denies the ability to sell one of the 24 other beds to other clients and the rooms sit empty.

The kids would like Toka Leya at Vic Falls.

Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond

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7. Re: Questions re itinerary - June 2012 trip w/tweens

No don't throw Vic Falls at me - aaah I haven't even looked at that, I've been avoiding it so as not to add another possible stop to the itinerary!

So if I did 2 camps in Botswana, what do you think would be best - Mombo and what else? I still really want to do both Sabi Sands and Phinda though! I was interested in seeing - and having the kids see - the Zulu tour they do - phinda.com/south-africa-safari/isikolethu-zu… as well as just all the good stuff Phinda is known for. Wonder if we can manage 4 camps and 10-11 days of game viewing with the kids? Breaking it up is an interesting idea. If there's anywhere to meet local kids, too, that would be cool - my family is really into soccer and we had the idea of maybe bringing some deflated soccer balls to gift to some local kids somwhere? Hopefully they'd have a pump to blow them up, if so!

What about the baboons/monkeys - are they seen elsewhere in Botswana other than Mombo/Chiefs? How about S. Africa?

Wayzata, Minnesota
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8. Re: Questions re itinerary - June 2012 trip w/tweens

Mombo Camp pairs well with other premier camps. A lot of the other premier camps will be very wet in June like Vumbura Plains or Jao so the dry land drives may be limited. You may want to consider a classic camp like Savuti or Duma Tau but go to Mombo last to finish in style. The new Duma Tau opens in April. I would not stay at Mombo for more than 2 days as it is in a national park so the night drive limitations begin to diminish the value over time. Baboons and Vervet monkeys are, unfortunately, everywhere including Cape Town!

Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond

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9. Re: Questions re itinerary - June 2012 trip w/tweens

We went to the Okavango this July. Loads of water everywhere and some lodges were, as already noted, having to seriously curtail their game viewing on land and transfers were arduous. We went on a mekoro trip with our daughter (11) as well as boat rides, which we enjoyed. However, birding was the mainstay fromt he water. We stayed in a simple camp though - no luxury for us! Everything was set up on an island (including long drop toilets and bucket showers, real beds though). Food and wine was good. Great guides and all our activities were water based (our choice) for three days. We spent the other 10 days self-driving and camping just the three of us. No safari fatigue in sight - but we are very lucky with our daughter (trained from a very early age!).

However, I would have to say (having read your post originally on the SA forum) that I would personally consider SA to be a better destination if safari fatigue is likely to be a problem. There were VERY few other activities available in Botswana. SA offers a whole host of alternatives all over the place and brilliant safari opportunities. Plus some of the lodges (including some &Beyond ones) specialise in packages for budding young safarifiends.

Los Altos, CA
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10. Re: Questions re itinerary - June 2012 trip w/tweens

Thanks to both of you! So the baboons and vervet monkeys are pests, huh? well I'll still enjoy seeing them!

The perspective you offered about your trip with your daughter is very helpful, Safarifiend. So they DID let you take your daughter on mokoro, interesting as I was being told it's not normally allowed. But you may be right that S. Africa could end up being best for us this time around ...

I don't know if safari fatigue will really kick in or not. It could for the younger one ... My kids are big animal lovers (I suppose most kids are!) and we enjoyed a 10 or 11-day trip to Costa Rica last February where much of what we did was animal viewing in various settings and there were some long drives but there was also some pool time and beach time interspersed.

I looked at rates for Mombo and it seems an awful lot for going with the kids - perhaps we will save it (and Botswana in general) for if/when we go without kids or maybe when they're older. I don't know about the bucket showers and drop toilets, not exactly sure how they work ha ha.