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Safari Lodge Suggestions with Budget

Richmond, Virginia
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97 posts
17 reviews
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Safari Lodge Suggestions with Budget

I am planning to be in Zimbabwe next August and would like to plan a 4 day stay at a safari lodge in either Sabi Sands or Timbavati (b/c they are not fenced) prior to my stay in Harare. I would like to stay under $500pp/pn at the MAX, and would really like to be under $400pp/pn. I am, of course, willing to bend when needed b/c of the pesky budget. This is our first time in Africa, and first safari. It's just my husband and I. Here is what is most important to us in order of importance.

1. Great game drives. I would really like to not be in a super crowded vehicle (seems on these forums the magic number is 6 persons per vehicle). Good drivers and trackers who make it an enjoyable and not rushed experience. Obviously, this is most important. This is why we are going.

2. Comfortable, clean rooms. I do not need luxury, but would like to be able to be sit in an outside terrace off the room (hopefully with a decent view) to read a book during the middle of the day.

3. We do enjoy well-prepared food and eat relatively healthfully (not fried, fatty foods). Good food is a plus.

4. I would really like coffee, tea, and water to be included. I don't want to feel nickled and dimed with paying for every bottle of water. Of course, local wine included is a major plus. But I don't want to pay an extra $2000 overall for "free" wine.

I have looked at: Inyati and Tanda Tula. Feedback and other suggestions are appreciated! Thank you.

Richmond, Virginia
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97 posts
17 reviews
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1. Re: Safari Lodge Suggestions with Budget

OH, and I also found Kambuku. Thanks!

Sydney, Australia
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2. Re: Safari Lodge Suggestions with Budget

Inyati has very good guides and trackers and the game viewing was excellent. Only one day we had more than 6 in the game vehicle. This was due to an American couple booking a private game drive which took one of the vehicles out of general use. It did not affect us as we 2 had a seat to ourselves. The other 3 had to share their seat with their translator. Not a problem. The lodge is in very nice grounds overlooking a dry river bed. A nice swimming pool which we used it was hot during the day in September. Animals roam around the grounds, nyala, impala, monkeys even had a night visit by an elephant. Food is wholesome and hearty, not chefy, wine by glass or bottle was very reasonable. Tea, coffee and water is provided free in your room. Dinner is served in the boma around a fire. The room was comfortable and the ones we stayed in had a little table and chairs just outside on the walkway, they were the cheapest rooms but the big windows on the side gave us a view of the antics of the resident monkeys, spying on us. There are other areas around the lodge for relaxing inside and out, pool area has lounges and umbrellas. Up the scale you get private terraces and more private chalets. Overall a nice comfortable mid size lodge providing guests with a very pleasant comfortable stay. Luxury it is not, which is reflected in the price, although there are touches, like the white towell robes, chocs on the bed at night. Very pleasant nonetheless.

Sydney, Australia
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3. Re: Safari Lodge Suggestions with Budget

We have also stayed at Kambaku in 2012. It is a family friendly lodge run by a young couple Nicola and Bryce ably assisted (during our stay) by the very helpful manager, Clarisse. Guide Van and tracker were excellent and we had 5 of us all in the one vehicle. Rooms comfortable and clean. Most rooms have a little terrace outside, we had the chalet overlooking the water hole, which was IMO the best room. Specify if you decide to book here. We were there in September the weather turned and it was very cold which affected the game viewing. Mind you this can happen anywhere, as we again found out this September in Balule. I believe now Kambaku has increased its traversing rights and has acquired a new lodge. OP may be able to update us on these aspects. So I wont go on. I relay this information, in case you decide to stay 2 nights in Timbavati and 2 nights in Sabi. We did the 2 x2 in 2012 it was easy as we were self driving. I prefer this, as it is a way to experience 2 different reserves, with the subtle and not so subtle variety and contrasts. Whatever you choose you will have a great experience.

Sydney, Australia
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1,208 posts
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4. Re: Safari Lodge Suggestions with Budget

Another option I forgot to mention, some lodges have stay for 4 pay for 3 nights deal. You might want to consider that option. I am sure the travel operators who post regularly here can offer advice on this aspect ie what lodges offer this and when.

Kruger National...
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5. Re: Safari Lodge Suggestions with Budget

Hi there!

Sounds like you have done some great research so far - the Greater Kruger has some excellent options within, and below your budget.

Along with the Sabi Sands & the Timbavati, I would also suggest looking at the Klaserie (Timbavati's next door neighbor) and Balule reserve (also unfenced & connected to the Kruger), just to give you a few more options too. These are the reserves that make up the Greater Kruger area.

I live in the area, so am able to visit the reserves and the lodges on a very regular basis, so can happily recommend some options that you may like :). The good (or perhaps it is a bad thing?!) is that there really is a lodge for everyone - they are all so unique!! :).

Right, let's get into it!

Your ultimate budget of USD$400 (By the way - LOVE Richmond! Have visited my family there many times) equates to roughly R4,150. This can absolutely get you a wonderful experience - without necessarily needing to push to the budget up.

Within this budget range, the first lodge I would have recommended would be Tanda Tula.

Since you have already checked this out, I won't go into too much detail (well, I will try not to!) but this lodge stands out to me on so many levels. Living in the bush, and being constantly exposed to the Big 5, it takes something special for us to be wowed, and Tanda Tula ticked all of the boxes. Their attention to detail, value for money, food quality, traversing area (huge) and hospitality was beyond exceptional. They have specials that will allow them to fit within your budget range; Either 4 nights for the price of 3, or a 4 night special, depending on when you are looking to visit. Local beverages and laundry included, and a beautiful private balcony with sun loungers to enjoy the view. If budget and time allow, I would definitely reccommend Tanda Tula for your stay - A total 10/10 in my books!

An added plus is the treehouse - Included in your rate, you have the option to spend a night, morning, afternoon or evening in their treehouse overlooking a dam (sometimes dry, sometimes not - depending on the season) - they will pack you a picnic basket with food, and make treehouse up all romantic :).

Another option I swear by is nThambo Tree Camp. It has a very relaxed luxury vibe with excellent rangers and trackers, and a very unique lodge experience; tree-house style tented chalets set high above the plains. Very cool, and easily slide into your budget at just under R3,000 pppn all inclusive (drinks too!).

However, they do not specifically take only 6 on a vehicle, but the whole camp can only hold 10 guests, so it is very intimate. It is located within the Klaserie reserve.

Kambaku is a great choice, and they certainly tick the majority of your boxes (inc. food - AMAZING!!!), however, they are very child friendly which may affect your trip. Child friendly lodges are not at all a bad thing (we love Kambaku), but if you are looking for pure romance/a more mature experience, young children may affect your trip?? Not sure how you feel about this - it differs from person to person.

Another great option is Nottens Bush Camp in the Sabi Sands - We love this place with a passion too! Modern, but with a heavy bush style accent, Notten's is very pleasing on the eyes too, and fits your budget nicely.

All of the above options have impeccable game viewing areas too, with a great mix of different terrains (meaning a larger variety of animals! :) ).

Warm regards, and good luck - it can be a confusing, but very fun process! :).

Jacqui Sive l Owner l Lodge Trackers Safari Specialists l South Africa

Atlanta
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6. Re: Safari Lodge Suggestions with Budget

We have reservations at Simbavati River Lodge in Timbavati and it would be within your budget. I ultimately chose it because, for the money, I felt it was the best I overall experience: luxury plus friendliness plus cost. The food gets good reviews, as do the game drives. And the lodge, being on the river, has lovely views of animals and landscape. Kambaku, at the time we made our reservations, was about $75 more per person, I think, and we have 6 in our group, so that added up quickly. My only disappointment with this lodge is that they are not yet offering bush walks. I'm hoping this becomes a reality by the time we get there!

Kruger National...
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7. Re: Safari Lodge Suggestions with Budget

Simbavati - Can definitely recommend that too!

They are looking to start offering in mid 2014, but as of yet none of the rangers there have their Trails qualification - hopefully they will soon! :)

J

Richmond, Virginia
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97 posts
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8. Re: Safari Lodge Suggestions with Budget

Inyati and Dulini were booked. Still haven't heard back from Tanda Tula...Also, I found Elephant Plains...anyone have any input to that as compared to the others?

Weybridge
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9. Re: Safari Lodge Suggestions with Budget

Wow, you found availability at Elephant Plains - this lodge is probably one of THE most popular lodges and hardly has any spaces - which I think says it all!

The area is very good for game viewing, it has a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, and the rooms are very nice indeed. Nice pool area, pleasant bar, good staff and rangers. All in all, quite a winner really.

Tracey - Owner/Director. Travel Butlers

Richmond, Virginia
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97 posts
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10. Re: Safari Lodge Suggestions with Budget

I've also considered doing 3 nights somewhere nicer instead of 4 nights at a cheaper lodge. Any thoughts on that? Is 3 nights enough and worth the exchange? I was worried Elephant Plains or Tanda Tulu or other budget lodges will have crowded game viewing experiences.