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First safari for summer 2019: any tips?

(44 Posts)
Caladium Mon 13-Aug-18 14:27:42

We'd like to go on safari in July or August next year -- DH, DS will be 10, and I.

Any tips on where to go, what to see? Looking at all inclusive packages, with or without flights, that will give maximum time to see animals and experience the outdoors (with some luxury).

Any recommendations for travel agencies or resorts? How would you plan it if you had up to 14 nights? Is £10k for the holiday (without flights) enough for two adults and 1 child?

OP’s posts: |
BubblesBuddy Mon 13-Aug-18 19:27:35

You have a number of options in the summer. We have been to various countries but the costs vary.

In Kenya it’s the wildebeest migration at the Mara River in the Masai Mara. It’s busy and expensive but unrivalled. You can get a great 2 weeks there if you include Samburu, Lake Nakuru and the Mara. There are family friendly options and Abercrombie and Kent used to do a great family trip. I would highly recommend Governors Camp in the Mara. Or Little Governors. Always stay in the park in a camp.

You could also include Tanzania. The Ngorongoro Crater is fantastic but the wildebeeste in the Serengettit will be in the Mara area so talk to a safari expert.

There are amazing Safari’s in Zambia. Big highlight is going out at night with a spotlight on the vehicle and walking trips. Check 10 yrs old is ok though. We have stayed in South Luangwa at Nsefu but the Bushcamp Company also has great places to stay! Small camps with personal attention are their trade mark. Fantastic hippos and wonderful experiences here! You can also travel down to Victoria Falls.

You also have Botswana. It’s expensive but you have the unbelievable Okavango Delta and amazing camps which are both wet and arid such as in the Savuti area. You can also look at South Africa (it’s their low season so colder in the mornings and cheaper) so the Kruger/Sabi Sands area or Hluhluwe Imfolozi are good value. Lake St Lucia is good too. There are lots of other options in SA. You can pay a vast amount for the most exotic lodges but often character is found in smaller camps and the animals are the same! Rhinos can be seen at the HI fairly easily. Even Zimbabwe is possible again and they will be pleased to see you.

Try Ultimate Travel, A&K, The Bushcamp
Company and Expert Africa. You must use a safari expert company to get the most out of it and decent advice. They all have great on line research resources too.

Caladium Tue 14-Aug-18 13:55:19

Thanks so much Bubbles, this is great detail to have and exactly what I was looking for! I'll look up those companies you listed.

Do you think Kuoni is any good? Only because there's a branch near us (we've never used them).

OP’s posts: |
BubblesBuddy Tue 14-Aug-18 16:49:01

Our first safari was with Kuoni in the 80s.

What I would do, is check out the suitable options for the destinations I’ve listed via the companies I’ve listed. See if there are any destinations used by both.

Kenya will be a good bet, but busy. You might get good prices for South Africa as it’s the low season. These are very good options for a first safari. Look at itineraries suggested by the safari companies, then compare with Kuoni.

When you are doing a safari anywhere you have to consider how you get to the game reserves from your arrival point. How much travelling along bumpy roads you are prepared to do? In South Africa you can drive to the lodges yourself. In Kenya you cannot. Therefore do you want to fly from Nairobi to the Mara or share a mini bus? This affects price. Going up to Samburu is quite an adventure but the Lakes are nearer Nairobi. Lots of people go to Amboselli but we found it too busy. I have not checked, but there used to be camps with activities for children called Explora. However things change but the safari experts might have info about family friendly. I would always go small camp if you can. There are “resorts” but they are somewhat impersonal.

All the camps will have their own open top vehicles with driver and spotter and you go out game spotting at about 6, come back for breakfast and then out again in the late afternoon/evening. In Zambia you would have sundowners and carry on looking for game with a spot light. I can assure you, that can be exciting!

Camps in the parks are far more convenient than those outside. You are where the action is. However prices are higher for convenience. If you remember Big Cat Diary: it was filmed from Governors Camp.

I’ll have a look at Kuoni on line and see if anything looks good.

BoogleMcGroogle Tue 14-Aug-18 21:40:25

Do look at Namibia. It’s safe, with excellent infrastructure, malaria free and has fantastic wildlife in Etosha, as well as the beautiful dunes at Sossusvlei. No need for an expensive private safari. The Cardboard Box travel agency can put together an itinerary, according to your budget and what you fancy. Driving is easy, on huge, deserted roads. If you fancy getting off the beaten track ( big time!), the amazing Living Culture Foundation has living museums run by local people, showing their ways of life.

I can’t recommend Namibia highly enough, it’s a beautiful country!

lyinginthesundrinkingbubbles Tue 14-Aug-18 21:45:10

Having just explored this ourselves we have discovered it is at least £1000+ per night (two adults/two kids) especially due to park fees. No way could you safari for two weeks on that budget. Maybe 4 nights safari, 7 nights beach (and that might be pushing it)

Cakecrumbsinmybra Tue 14-Aug-18 22:07:01

I would recommend up to 4 nights on an all
Inclusive safari (check out Madikwe, north of Johannesburg, it was absolutely amazing; the location, the wildlife, the staff, the attention to detail, the guides - just brilliant. Can you tell we enjoyed it? My son had his 10th birthday whilst there, it was one we’ll never forget.) Combined with a self drive option, for example through Kruger, then a week relaxing (although not the best time for Cape Town, etc). Namibia amazing and so much you can combine a trip with - self drive in Etosha and then a guided one. I’d love to go to Botswana personally.

Tanzania landscape was amazing and huge variety of accommodation from tents to luxury.

BubblesBuddy Tue 14-Aug-18 22:12:15

No-one books direct with a safari camp or lodge. The tour operators get massive discounts. Locals get even cheaper, especially in SA. You can certainly check out a variety of prices with Expert Africa. This gives a very good overview of what is possible. Although we have not been on safari for a few years now, you really don’t need to pay £1000 a night! I can highly recommend bush camps that are less pretentious. Plenty in Kruger and Sabi Sands. Far more fun chatting around the camp fire and they even go out at unscheduled times if there is something special to see.

The other family friendly camp is Mara Intrepids.

crumpet Tue 14-Aug-18 22:14:37

Consider malaria - there are a number of game parks in non-malarial areas, if you don’t want to take malaria tablets

crumpet Tue 14-Aug-18 22:21:12

Also it’s worth checking the itinerary - some have age limits on children joining the game drives, and also will your 4 year old be happy to join a 3 hour game drive at 5am each morning

Cakecrumbsinmybra Tue 14-Aug-18 22:23:31

I would disagree, probably depends on the lodge and they are especially likely to offer discounts if it’s more last minute. On the last trip we got a much better deal by going direct than the tour operators i asked (and one was a friend so costing was very transparent!).

kayaking Tue 14-Aug-18 22:44:05

Try to get a safari that uses 4x4's rather than mini buses. My family went with kuoni in the late 90's, 2 4x4's just 8 guests (of which we were 4. Me DH, DS1 aged 15 and DS2 aged 11). So we had a vehicle and guide/driver to ourselves, no problem all being near window or head out of roof hole. I took 700 photos in 6 days! so much to see.
It was a camping safari in Kenya, not posh, but comfortable. The 2 guide/drivers were both university graduates and so knowledgeable.
The mini buses tried (and failed) to follow us because they knew how great our guides were.
The company had camp staff who traveled ahead, set up camp and prepared food.
It was a fantastic trip that the boys talked about for years.

TravellingFleet Wed 15-Aug-18 07:26:35

I had a truly amazing safari in the Okavango Delta with Ker Downey. It was extremely expensive but an outstanding experience - I was dubious about how much I would get out of it, but it really was everything I could imagine, and extremely luxurious.
I also had a couple of other safari experirnces which were much less rich in wildlife, in private game reserves in South Africa, and they were to my mind not worth while (but they weren’t my choice in the first place).
I came to the conclusion that there’s a huge difference between a really good safari location and an okay one, and that it’s worth paying for the really good one. I think I would have been very disappointed if I’d been expecting much from the South Africa safaris.

ShirleyPhallus Wed 15-Aug-18 07:31:07

BoogleMcGroogle

Completely agree with everything written here

Botswana is beautiful too

cloudtree Wed 15-Aug-18 07:41:06

Another vote for madikwe in South Africa. But I also don’t think your budget is nearly high enough if you really want to do two weeks on safari. I think your ds would be bored for that amount of time anyway. We paid £8k for six days (all inclusive and a beautiful lodge) but the exchange rate was very good at the time. That was in December.

SealSong Wed 15-Aug-18 07:41:16

Reading this with interest. My friends have just had an amazing safari in Zimbabwe but I don't know the details.

cloudtree Wed 15-Aug-18 07:42:38

Our South Africa safari wasn’t limited. We’ve done Kenya twice and South Africa. Madikwe is a good reserve though right on the Botswana border.

BubblesBuddy Wed 15-Aug-18 11:02:52

South Africa has a lot of private game reserves that are reclaimed from farmland. They are then stocked with the wild animals for conservation purposes. Before you book anywhere, you need to know what you are booking! Kruger is wild. The concessions adjoining Kruger have plenty of animals but you may find fences eventually. South Africa, in our summer, is a lot cheaper than South Africa in December. At the best wild reserves there is plenty to see and the prices are reasonable. If you want the Richard Branson experience, that is a different pricing point!

You really have to do your homework re game viewing and what you might see. For example - rhinos can easily be seen in Hluwluwe-Imfolozi north of Durban. How many Brits bother to go there is a different matter. Hardly any. You have to look at whether it is a wild area or a reclaimed and restocked farm with boutique accommodation. You often pay more for the rewilded areas!

I think Botswana is brilliant too. I would look at mobile tented safari (child is 10 not 4!) and definitely include the Okavango Delta and a couple of dry areas. I know this will cost more than the budget, but it is worth it. The problem with Kenya and an the Mara in July/August, is that it's heaving. The migration is a huge pull and prices are high as a result. My children went at 7 years old onwards. (It is only walking safaris that usually require 12 years old, not vehicles).That is why there are family camps. Also look at Families Worldwide. They might have something worthwhile at a lower pricing point.

I have yet to go to Namibia but I have heard it is excellent.

As I said earlier, Zimbabwe will be peased to see tourists. We have been there several times and it is great. Mana Pools and Hwange in particular. It is fairly easy to combine it with Zambia. At a price though!I do not think there are many flights to Harare these days from the UK (if any) so it's not the easiest place to get to.

BubblesBuddy Wed 15-Aug-18 11:06:38

Also last minute might be Ok if you do not care where you go but with transfers to the camps, internal flights if used and other arrangements, last minute is hugely risky. If you have friends in these coutries that can help, and often locals do get better rates, you are lucky. Most of us do not, and need to plan and be certain about destinations. Getting into desirable camps in high season is not really possible last minute.

Mercurial123 Sat 18-Aug-18 16:16:38

Namibia is outstandingly beautiful it's my favourite place to do a safari. Botswana is a close second wild camping in the Okavango delta is amazing.

Mercurial123 Sat 18-Aug-18 16:46:58

The great thing about Etosha are the watering holes at the lodges and camp sites they are well lit and if you visit very early in the morning or late at night when the crowds have gone you will see amazing wildlife.

The Chobe river is great for seeing the elephants. One of the highlights of my trip was seeing a family of elephants swimming across the river. Elephants were very patient and waited for the last one to arrive before continuing their journey.

We don't do luxury safaris tried it once it was very nice and expensive. Now we travel with Exodus or Intrepid.

sexnotgender Sat 18-Aug-18 16:52:19

We did Kruger in April this year, drove ourselves rather than doing a game drive. Stayed in the golf lodges about a 10 minute drive from Kruger, was very reasonable.

GeorgeTheHippo Sat 18-Aug-18 17:02:03

Mercurial - have you gone on safari with exodus or intrepid? What was it like? (I have travelled with both and am thinking of a safari next year.)

MinaPaws Sat 18-Aug-18 17:08:30

I went on safari in Kenya in August. Saw loads of elephants, hippos in a lake, giraffes, monkeys, zebras, all sorts of deer-related creatures, secretary birds, parrots, rock hyraxes (cute as anything) and even a black mamba snake. The elephants were the best. So lovely to watch the families and how they interact with their young.

At lodges we saw big cats (fed by staff so people staying could view them.) Never saw big cats in the wild though.

Mercurial123 Sat 18-Aug-18 17:23:55

George I travelled with Exodus to Namibia for 14 days amazing trip which was well planned. It was serviced camping so no putting up tents or camp chores. Camp sites were good we stayed by two camps with watering holes. Namibia is amazing visiting Dune 45 at sunset is spectacular.

We did Botswana with Intrepid it was cheaper but just as good started in Joburg finished in Victoria Falls. We put our own tents up and did a few chores.

Both group leaders were amazing. I think Namibia as the edge as the desert and mountains are stunning.

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