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Jochen last won the day on September 21 2014

Jochen had the most liked content!

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About Jochen

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    Order of the Pith

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    Wildlife Photographer/Artist
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    Travel Agent

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  1. We did it in 5 hours, without rush. Landed at Jo'burg at 11AM, rental company took us to their home base (near the airport but one or two exits further on the highway), we checked the car, did the paperwork, then went shopping (there was a supermarket at the end of the street), and left at 1PM. We arrived at Blouberg at 6PM. So one thing we did need to do is ask the gate to wait for us (as normally they close at 5PM). We gave the guard something for his trouble. Of course; we were doing a self drive. After Blouberg we did Mashatu, Mapungubwe, and then the whole of Kruger (north to south). If you do not want to self-drive I think Blouberg is impossible. You won't find a transfer company taking you there (and back). And if you would find such company, I'm sure they'd charge a lot (as they have to dive back home after having dropped you).
  2. I did it with ANT (Africa Nature Training), but they are based in Sabi Sands reserve.
  3. I'll have to look for that thread again then. But the point I was trying to make is; if on a board like this you have to make a thread to collect affordable lodges ...something is seriously wrong!
  4. Hey PT! I know. There are exceptions. But they're a mere drop of water on a hot plate, or at least that's what it looks like to me.
  5. You can find plenty of potential reasons to explain higher prices, but my experience is that none of them hold up. High risk? All around the Kruger private reserves, but even in them (luckily not that much) rhinos are getting smashed. It's a war that we are losing (but that's another subject). Still, the risk level is as high in Sabi Sands as it is in Klaserie. But Sabi Sands is known and has lots of expensive lodges, while Klaserie is not known, and has lots of affordable lodges. High conservation value? I know places that have a higher conservation value than any successful private reserve, yet no one goes there. Whether or not a reserve is successful (and has plenty of lodges asking mucho money) has more to do with how easy it is to reach, and how easy it is to fit into a typical safari itinerary. And sometimes it has just to do with finding the right person with the money and vision to develop and market the place. Case in point; at Blouberg Provincial Reserve, they have the biggest breeding colony of Cape Vultures in the world. More than 1000 pairs. The species is threatened with extinction. Seeing that colony from below is jaw dropping. But you can also see them from the top of the mountain if you hike there. They fly you by at very close range, but they feel 100% safe as their nests are lower and you cannot get to them. The experience cannot be described in words. Apart from the colony, the reserve has plenty of other species (giraffe, buffalo, sable, grey rhebok, klipspringer, kudu, ... everything except elephants and rhino). Predators; leopards, brown & spotted hyena, jackal, ... just no lions). And then there's the huge baobabs and amazing birdlife (due to the mountain range on the reserve; plenty more species than in the regular bushveld). There's little self-catering houses that cost about 20$ pppn, but they stand empty most of the time. The reserve is self drive, so there's no extra cost to do game drives. Supermarket & gas station 15 mins from the gate, which is 20 mins from your room. Everything seems perfect for a succes. And yet the reserve is struggling. And you know why? 1) Because the location is not the best. It sits between Polokwane and the Botswana border (where people cross the river to get to Mashatu). But no one drives 400km from Jo'burg to Blouberg, to then continue later to Mashatu. No, people who pay Mashatu prices also have the money to fly straight to that reserve. Why would they bother losing so much time on the road, "for a reserve that doesn't even have elephants"? 2) Because at this point in time, the mid-market for eco-tourism is seriously under developed. This is actually my biggest peeve; that no one seems interested in developing this market. Even here on this very board, we are acting elitist; if a reserve is not big 5 it's not even worth saving it. Skiing used to be for the rich, now everyone with a decent budget can get a decent ski trip. Cruises were for the rich. Now everyone can afford them. When is the first big tour operator going to stand up and put it's shoulders under eco-tourism? It's about time because "city trips" are old news. Where's the first rich industrial that pumps money into projects to develop places like Blouberg? It would be good for nature AND local economy. Now all projects they choose are either pro-economy but have a negative impact on nature, or the inverse. FWIW, because I like Blouberg so much I registered two domein names ( and .com) for them and I am hosting their site. See; I will continue to do this until the day I kick the bucket, but I sure hope that in the mean time someone decides to pump money into this gem. The plans for a lodge are drawn. The business plan is written. But I lack the funds to do it on my own. Where's Bratt Pitt and Bill Gates when you need them?
  6. My thoughts exactly! To me it's mind boggling that - for example - lots of people on Fodors start real flame wars to justify their expensive safari-choices, when you dare say that the same wildlife-experience can be had for less. The idea that you need to fork over 500$+ pppn for a "real safari" is so widespread that even on this board (where there's supposed to be plenty people with good safari-knowledge) a thread had to be started to assemble all safari-options under 250$ pppn.
  7. Why would it? What you describe is hotel (not a lodge) in a National Park, and we already have (enough of) those. They're aimed at the not-so-serious eco-tourists, that move through the reserves at great speed. Kinda like the Chinese fly through all hotspots in Paris. What I am talking about is small lodges on farms in private reserves, aimed at eco-tourists with above average budgets, but with lower budgets than the bigshot doctors/lawyers etc. These private reserves have rules, like a maximum of beds per Ha (in SA quite typical is 10 beds per 1000Ha), and like a maximum of vehicles per sighting (most of the times two are allowed). It is a misconception that such lodges need to ask 500$ pppn and up to make a profit. I know plenty of lodges that cost 200$-250$ pppn, and they are doing just fine. There are, of course, plenty of lodges that do ask 500$+ pppn, and that's because they can. Because they've become very known and are very successful. Typically as well; they are lodges that have been operating for a long time, they pretty much invented this type of "safari on private reserves". It is lodges like this that make their whole "package" luxurious, to further justify their prices. Is their price correct? Well, in economy 101, we are taught that the correct price is "what the fool will pay for it". So they can do what they want, and if they get away with making customers believe that such amounts are necessary to guarantee their safety and comfort level; good on them! But that doesn't mean we, as eco-tourists, should mistrust any private lodge that asks less. Lodges with rooms at 200$ pppn are simply lodges in lesser known reserves or lodges that just started doing business a couple of years ago, or lodges that provide a package aimed at the eco-tourists for whom a normal comfort level will do.
  8. Lately I've not been very active on these boards, as I've been busy "making the switch" from EU to SA (that process is still not complete; we've given ourselves three years to find the right investment opportunity), but in the mean time I got to see the "back side" of the eco-industry, and here's my observations (especially in relation to SA, not necessarily 100% in relation to any other country); First of all we need to know what market segment we're talking about here. I'm going to assume we're talking about "real" eco-tourism, and not the "pseudo" eco-tourism. To give an example of the latter; there's plenty of tourist groups doing a round tour in SA. Their focus is mainly on culture (cape, wine region, robben island, garden route, golfing in Knysna, Pretoria, Zululand, stuff like that) and only a few days are spent on nature. A long time ago, when I did not know any better, I joined a group like that. The only safari days we had was one day in Kruger and one day in Hluhluwe, on a total of two weeks. And we didn't even sleep in the reserves. By contrast, an example of "real" eco-tourism would be: coming to SA for two weeks, spending the largest part of that period in reserves, and sleep somewhere in those reserves. Important; this "real" vs "pseudo" differentiation is not made to look down on those who opt for the latter (any day spent in nature is good for conservation). But we all have to admit that the members of this Safaritalk-community are mainly interested in the type of trip that I described as "real" eco-tourism, whether it's a self drive in a National reserve, or being driven around in a private reserve. Right... now that that's out of the way, when it comes to "real" safaris, here's what I see in SA: either you fork out plenty of dough (500$ pppn and up) and you end up in a private reserve in a luxurious accommodation. Or you are not wealthy enough and you end up in a restcamp in a National park (where some will opt for guided drives but most go self-driving). It is as if there's no middle ground. Important here again; it is not necessarily YOU who makes the decision. It is the business owners that basically make the decision FOR YOU. It's as if none of those business owners thinks there's a market for safaris where people with more modest budgets want a safari experience like you get them in a private reserve. So they all "take the luxury-path". It's as if they think "luxurious accommodation will justify the amount I'm asking", or: "if it's not luxurious, the tourists won't come". Even now, after all this time in the industry, I am still baffled by this, but it seems they are right with their logic. Because there's plenty of eco-tourists on the www who fiercely defend these places/lodges. Ok, perhaps more on Fodors than here. But let me remind you all; at one point this community had the (not so crazy) idea of joining forces and starting a lodge, and when someone popped the question "what's our daily rate going to be" almost everyone thought 500$ would be a good idea. Do we really think there's a lot of couples who are prepared to pay 1000$ for just one night in the bush? What I'm getting at is this; if I ask my ex IT-colleagues what they are prepared to pay for one day of "real" safari (I have to describe the experience in private reserves to them), then they almost all give me a max cost of 200$-250$ pppn. Say; idem as what one day during a city trip would cost, if you take museum passes and the restaurant in the evening into account. When I ask them if they need luxury (private plunge pool, spa, ...) then they laugh at me and say "no just a comfortable room with a good bed, and an honest meal". If I ask my friends and family; I get the same answers. The bottom line; it is high time that business owners and investors start to realise that the eco-tourism market is growing, and that the biggest part of this market hasn't even been tapped into. There's a lot of potential customers in that "tourist with regular budgets" segment. Let us also not forget that we are in a race to save as much wild area as possible from the grabbing hands of "civilisation". We will not win that race with a few bigshot doctors and lawyers in a few luxurious lodges.
  9. Pics are back! Will be home again next week, and share plenty stuff then.
  10. I guess the server (where the pics are on) is down temporarily. Try again tomorrow?
  11. Hey Michael, Don't know yet. We're on a sabbatical right now, so no need to make a decision yet.
  12. Greetz fellow ST'ers! Long time no see, I know. Been very busy with moving (semi)permanently to Africa. We're now doing our first eight weeks in the bush. Let's call it a trial run (it's not a real job yet, jut doing a bit of photography & video). Had quite a bit of fun this first week, but it was also very hectic. Learning all the roads, for example (I've got my own game drive vehicle so I've got to know my way around. Not going to bore you with the "regular" images. Let's just skip to the most fun sighting so far. A wild dog chase and a kill. The cubs (almost adults) were very inquisitive and came to smell my boots. As a bonus; we saw them again the next day, and then they were very playful. Enjoy the images! (sorry for the faint at heart, but there's no way to "disneyfy" this) J. On the vehicle from nThambo is Luan (guide) and Isaac (tracker) (yours truly. Yes, my hair is getting grey) Pics from the day after;
  13. Same kind of experience here. 78 in a 60 zone (no habitation, so a bit weird). Cop did not ask for cash though. He said I needed to pay at the police station in a town I had passed 15 mins ago. Wasn't too keen on losing an hour or more doing that. So I gave him something, and he let me go. Yes, it's not cool. Yes, it's not correct. But hey, if I do the same over here in Belgium, I'd be 150€ lighter. Now ...not even 1/20th of that. Plus I came home with a cool "bribing a cop" story. To put things in perspective...
  14. Those cheetah cubs are just TOO CUTE! Very nice leopard shots too.
  15. Truly sorry for not seeing this sooner. I'm in the process of relocating to SA (temporarily, but who knows?). I'll be in Klaserie for 8 weeks, as of next week. The problem with choosing Kambaku is that it's just on the other side of the tar road, opposite of Gomo Gomo. So you'll see the same landscape twice. However, these lodges do not share, so it's not as if you'll be on the same dirt tracks. (side note; they used to share when Kambaku was still "Royal Legend". Then they shared "on invitation only", but it wasn't something that happened a lot as it wasn't something official - in fact you could even consider it breaking the rules as guests at GG paid conservation levies for laser, to for Timbavati. And vice versa!) For the white lions you have to be really lucky. Their "home" is an uncommercialized plot to the SW of Kambaku. But as it goes with pride dynamics; prides move around a lot. I saw my first white lioness on the "Giraffe" plot, another uncommercialized plot S of the tar road. From the gate, it's actually the first plot you pass, before coming to Kambaku. But normally that pride doesn't come that far north. It depends a bit on the Ross pride, which normally hangs around GG, Africa On Foot, nThambo, etc... Ross pride was taking quite a beating at that time, maybe that's why that pride with white lions came so close. But right now the Ross pride (even though it's only just two females) are strong again, because there's a coalition of three males taking care of them. They already sired two cubs, which unfortunately didn't survive, but I'm sure the females will be pregnant again by now. Tip; follow the public group "Lions of Timbavati and Klaserie" on Facebook, to know which pride is doing what. I recall seeing a lot of posts of white cubs a while ago, but they all seem to have died by now. So bottom line; you have a chance of seeing white lions at Kambaku, but the question is: is this small chance worth choosing two lodges right next to each other. If you choose any of the other lodges in Timbavati, your chance of seeing white lions is less, but the chance of seeing anything else might be a bit less. Because all those lodges (with the exception of Shindzela) share; most can go anywhere they want (Simbavati RL can go as far SW as Umlani plot), while Kambaku only shares with the lodges around them, but no further (why would they need that, having two huge plots of their own). Wild dogs; you can get lucky or unlucky anywhere on those reserves. In general; the bigger your area, the better your chances. However, if they are on the move and too far from where you are when you get the news they've been spotted... forget it. We've had wild dogs two days in a row at Shindzela (February last year), and at this very moment there's a pack of 30+ dogs at nThambo (see their FB page). In your case, I'd go for Simbavati RL. HTH, J.

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