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Family 2 Nights Safari in Pilanesberg -- Recommendations

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Anchorage, AK
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Family 2 Nights Safari in Pilanesberg -- Recommendations

Hello,

My family (2 adults, 2 children ages 13 and 11) will be in Pilanesberg for a 2 night safari in December 2014. I think I have narrowed down our lodge options between Bakubung and Ivory Tree based on recommendations of friends. I'm trying to understand the differences in cost as well as offerings. I'm not getting tons of response from their websites. The differences in cost are particularly difficult to because of the differences in how they manage children's costs.

I want to understand what is included in each (number of game drives per day per person), what meals are included, etc. For instance, do the base rates at Bakubung include the game drives? I get the sense that Ivory Tree is fully inclusive. Also, we could potentially spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day here but don't have a sense if they are open for the holidays and if so, whether there is any degradation in service due to the holidays.

Any recommendations for figuring out full costs and benefits of each would be greatly appreciated.

Berkhamsted, United...
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1. Re: Family 2 Nights Safari in Pilanesberg -- Recommendations

I haven't done Ivory Tree but we've been to Bakubung several times with our kids. However, our kids were both under 12 which may make a difference as there seems to be different rules for 13-17yos, looking at the various websites.

The normal hotel family rooms have two double beds. The room rate for 2 adults and 2 kids under 12 includes dinner, bed and breakfast. The included meals are buffet style although there is an a la carte option available at an extra charge. the websites I've looked at seem to indicate your 13yo would have to pay 50% of the meal charge but don't indicate how much that would be.

Normally, the rates don't include game drives but there are some tour operators who seem to be offering rates which include 1 game drive per day. Having said that, Bakubung's own website says that 6-12yos get a free game drive daily. The game drives are all run by Gametrackers who have their own website so maybe try contacting them for more information.

If you are considering driving to Pilanesberg, Bakubung offers really easy access if you want to try driving yourselves around the park.

Kruger National...
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2. Re: Family 2 Nights Safari in Pilanesberg -- Recommendations

I think the main difference is the level of luxury and the included game drives. If I am not mistaken, Ivory Tree is fully inclusive, and Bakubang is more of a base from which to drive yourself, though as above they do offer game drives through Game Trackers.

I have wonderful memories growing up and visiting Bakubung & Kwa Maritane. I mostly remember the delicious buffet breakfasts and the DIY pancake station, lathering my pancakes in nutella..... ANYWAY!

Are you considering driving yourself, or do you want the all inclusive vibe?

I doubt they will be closed over Xmas, it is a very popular time to travel (a lot of South Africans go away over this time to 'the bush'). Have you tried to email them directly regarding your questions?

Warmest regards

Jacqui Sive l Owner & Safari Specialist, Lodge Trackers l Author, Kruger Safari Guide Blog l

Anchorage, AK
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3. Re: Family 2 Nights Safari in Pilanesberg -- Recommendations

Thanks everybody! Yes, I finally received a message back from Ivory Tree. Still having trouble deciphering cost for the 13 year old and whether there is additional cost for the game drive at Bakubang. We will have a car in South Africa but I think we'd prefer at least some guided safari opportunities since we will be unfamiliar with the terrain and animals. We want to maximize our chances of seeing animals and their activities (eating, bathing, etc).

I appreciate the good recommendations for Bakubang and their nutella pancakes. That is definitely a good selling point. :-) Any more recommendations are much appreciated.

California
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4. Re: Family 2 Nights Safari in Pilanesberg -- Recommendations

We are staying in the Ivory Tree Lodge in September and have had a very hard time getting any information from them. They have said that they want you to wait until arrival to discuss the schedule and activities.

I have been able to get some information, though, which I can share.

1. Between the game drives, the following activities are available -- Quad riding (1 hour -- R 450.00 per person), Bird drive (2 hour -- cost unknown).

2. The Marimba / Drumming activity is offered by the lodge during dinner evening (you can option to book this, more with reference to groups, they then pay R 11500.00 for exclusive use of the Marimba Band)

3. The bush walk is subject to availability (can only accommodate a limited number of people on the walks). Duration is close to 4 hours, and you both forfeit a game drive to do this and pay an additional R 850.00 per person to do it.

4. Wildlife and conservation safaris are available, we deal directly with the Parks Board, they arrange for these activities (this involves the darting and notching of a rhino, this is to assist Park officials to monitor and protect the rhinos). Duration is 4 hours. Cost is R 35000.00 for a group (1 to 18 people)

So two game drives are included per day and any additional activities are charged separately.

You should also look at the most recent review. They discuss the issues they had with the lodge allowing their 11 year old to participate in their other activities.

tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g312650-d614863…

Anchorage, AK
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5. Re: Family 2 Nights Safari in Pilanesberg -- Recommendations

Thanks duncanblizzard! My husband and I have discussed the issue with an 11 year old (the stated policy is that any child under 12 will participate based on recommendations of the park ranger.) Our daughter is very mature for her age so we assumed she would have no troubles, but I can see the potential problems. Glad to hear we're not alone with having trouble finding out all the costs beforehand. It is especially good to hear that not every activity is "inclusive" in the price -- that is quite useful in our decision making.

Pilanesberg...
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6. Re: Family 2 Nights Safari in Pilanesberg -- Recommendations

If you do PB at Xmas & you want a Lodge experience, I would shoot for the Black Rhino part of the Park. This is private with no day visitors allowed. It will also be the only part of the Park you will be able to see buffalo at that time of the year.... but you also can"t self drive. Look at Black Rhino Lodge, Morokolo Lodge and Pilanesberg Private Lodge. It will cost you more than Bak Or Ivory, but well worth the lack of traffic.

This said Ivory has better guides than Bakubung, and also use 10 seaters as opposed to B's 25 seaters. Bakubung drives are done by their own Lodge guides, not Gametrackers(-Mankwe)

You will not find any degradation etc, but the Park is pretty full from the 16th so service is a bit slower.

Another factor you are not even thinking about is the rain season...from the 16th the % gets higher by the day.

Bakubung Value/Price of Meals:

Breakfast: 7h00 - 10h00 @ R160

Lunch 12h30 - 14h30 @ R160

Dinner 18h30 - 22h00 @ R220

My advice;

Do PB as early as possible in Dec (people+ rain). Do a Lodge if you want 2 nights, then move 2 nights to a Resort that is much cheaper (rec Bakgatla) Do your bird & self drives from there. Don"t expect too much from a walk. The grass will be long and it will be dangerous, so Dec you walk in an open area and the animals see you coming from miles away...so you will basically see dung and tracks, and an animal here and there. You can walk in the educational area at Manyane for free. They have giraffe, impala, kudu, zebra, springbok, waterbuck and warthog. Trails are 1 - 2,5 hours

Jaco Rautenbach, Owner / Operator, Adventure Travel Africa

Richmond, Virginia
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7. Re: Family 2 Nights Safari in Pilanesberg -- Recommendations

This reply is probably too late to help you, but I thought we'd try. We were in Bakubung a couple of years ago and had a great time. One game drive a day was included and if you wanted another it was about $25 per person. Breakfast and dinner were included with our rate. The rooms were nice and our balcony overlooked the watering hole. As I recall we didn't see a lot from our balcony - a few wart hogs and a zebra or two. We booked through an agent that our company uses is South Africa.

This time we are going to Ivory Tree. We also used an agent but a different one than last time. We haven't tried to contact the lodge directly but all inquiries have gone through our agent and she has been outstanding in making arrangements and fulfilling special requests. I can't comment on the quality of the lodge yet as we go this weekend (Nov 21 - 25) but it seems to be pretty much all inclusive - morning and evening game drives; 3 meals a day; 2 tea services a day. We also priced Bakubung for this trip and it was quite a bit more expensive. They sometimes say you get what you pay for - I suppose we'll find out once we arrive but we are really looking forward to Ivory Tree.

California
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8. Re: Family 2 Nights Safari in Pilanesberg -- Recommendations

Just a quick comment on Ivory Tree. Check the room carefully to see if there is anything that's important to you that's not working. When we were there in September, there were multiple rooms where the telephone didn't work. They clearly knew about this but weren't trying ti fix it. Also check the air conditioning. The room next to ours did not have functioning A/C, and it should be even hotter now than when we were there.

So before unpacking or even accepting the room, check the things you care about to ensure they're working properly. If not, insist on a different room.

Edited: 20 November 2014, 01:42
9. Re: Family 2 Nights Safari in Pilanesberg -- Recommendations

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