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About mtanenbaum

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    Tourist (first-time visitor)
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    California USA
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    photography, animals, culture, scenery, meeting locals

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  1. I think it's not easy to get to Northern Botswana from Mashatu and that's why it isn't on more itineraries. We went from Jo'berg and flew to a nearby airport--it was still around a 2 hour drive to Mashatu.The travel agent had a local driver pick us up and ferry us to Mashatu. It's right near the South Africa/Botswana border. Unless new options are available, you probably will have to go through Joberg. I still think it's worth it if you have the time! Margo
  2. I have a stupid question (from ignorance on my part of how this works). You were self-driving, right? So did you get these fabulous photos through the glass of your vehicle? or did you rent a pop-top vehicle? I was wondering how that works when you self-drive.I'm assuming you don't get out of the car to take the picture, or roll down the window (LOL)?
  3. Love your photos and also your daughters! Kgalagadi is on my bucket list for future trips to Africa!
  4. I have had good experiences using booking services. I have my miles on Chase which means they can be transferred to a number of different frequent flyer programs. I found the options to be overwhelming and it was helpful to have someone who could navigate all of that. I had about 200,000 miles and was able to book business class round trip to Africa (Los Angeles to Uganda on Turkish Air, returning from Nairobi) plus one way for my son from LA to Entebbe (he will be coach, LOL). I paid for his return ticket from Africa. Good luck with your arrangements! A stopover in Europe is nice but I have limited vacation so I don't want to cut into my AFrica time!
  5. You might want to consider contacting a travel agent I used in South Africa to plan a trip there. They are called Rhino Africa, and I used an agent named Bianca ( She is very responsive and She knows the camps in South Africa inside and out. I'm sure there are camps there with tents. One of the things I liked about her is that she was very good about keeping within the budget I set out (even offering lower priced options). The nice thing about SA is that you can incorporate some non-wildlife things if you want, i.e. some of South Africa's fascinating historical sites. This is what I did on a trip with my then 19-year old son a few years back, and it was a great trip.
  6. I will also be in Offbeat Mara this January! When will you be there? I am going there for 4 nights after a 2 week trip to Uganda. I will arrive there on January 10 and leave late on the 14th. I can't wait! This will be my first trip to Kenya although I have been on two other trips to Southern Africa. Margo
  7. I must add my enthusiasm for Safaritalk. I'm not sure how I found it exactly, whether it was a referral from Tripadvisor or I just stumbled upon it while surfing the web about safaris, but since I discovered it I use it as one of my most trusted sources for safari information. In fact, I also decided to change my upcoming safari from Zimbabwe to Uganda after reading the reports of gorilla and chimpanzee trekking in Uganda on this site! I also discovered that another Safaritalk user, Amy T, is practically my neighbor and we are looking forward to meeting in person soon! Plus I love to read Safaritalk to see everyone's great pictures!
  8. I am also flying to Africa on Chase miles, with the 100,000 mile bonus! (and business class, hurray!) my son will be in coach, but too bad, he's only 21 and he's lucky to get to go to Africa! No tears shed for him...We are flying Turkish Air but he will be returning on Ethiopian on the same flight you'll have in the fall. I didn't have enough miles for his return flight, so that one I'm paying cash, although we did discuss that it might be interesting for him just to stay in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (I just love saying that...)
  9. I have not flown them, but here's what I heard from a frequent flyer travel agent that I just used to book our tickets to go to Uganda in December. My son will be flying back on Ethiopian I think. "I myself have flown Ethiopian - from Arusha to Addis Ababa. Even though a relatively short trip, it was perfectly fine. Beyond that, if memory serves, your son would route through Dublin. The DUB - LAX flight is on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which is the newest, most comfortable plane in any airline fleet. I put lots of clients on this flight because its a great option to get to/from Europe using United miles. In addition, these planes are also serviced and staffed with mostly European crew, and to the standards of any other US or European carrier. So I wouldnt hesitate to recommend that airline from a safety standpoint - which is of course, most important."
  10. Your trip reports are fantastic! I really enjoy seeing your photography and also your stories. Zimbabwe is on my list for a future trip....
  11. Your pictures are amazing! I'm planning on Uganda for after Xmas this year and will plan to do a gorilla trek and also the chimps! I loved reading your report.
  12. Hi, Safaritalkers, I just got back from my 2017 vacation (Israel and Jordan) and am back on track to go back to Africa in 2018! I realized that is where my heart is and I dream about going back there all the time. (my son is studying abroad in Jordan so that was great to go see him there as well, but no lions....) I've done two Africa trips--one to Botswana in June 2012 (3 camps in the Delta, Sandibe, Okuto, and Shinde), and Victoria falls. The second trip in 2015 I visited in May and went to Mashatu (Botswana), and Sabi Sands, and Phinda in South Africa. I'm very interested in trying a "green season" trip for the different experience, especially in terms of photographic potential, but I wanted to get some frank advice. First of all the bugs--I don't love bugs, but I understand of course there are more of them in the summer. But how bad is it? Are there mosquitos constantly buzzing in your ears all night long? (LOL) Also, I'd like to be able to see baby animals, and am trying to figure out which month is optimal, January, February, or March. Also, the heat--is it really bad, i.e. like you can't sleep? I'm a Southern California person so I'm not used to humidity, but I also don't plan to be doing walking safaris, which I believe is not usually done at that time of the year anyway. I'm thinking Zimbabwe because I haven't been there and I really would like to economize a bit on this trip. I saw some camps in Zimbabwe in green season where you can get specials for as little as $250-$350 a night, and I would like to stay in that range if possible. I also may be traveling on my own, another reason for Green Season since I understand you can often get single supplements waived or lower at that time. Has anyone here done Hwange in green season? Or should I look at going back to Botswana? I think Botswana even in green season will be out of that price range. If I went back there I would be interested in Chobe and maybe the Nxai pans, but I'm not sure about Chobe in green season. Also I am very interested in hides--I loved the hides at Mashatu, but I"m not sure if hides work well in the summer months. I'd love to hear from anyone who has experience with green safaris about your thoughts. One other thing, having done very luxurious camps like Sandibe and Phinda I am actually looking for a more "camping-like" experience this time (although not participatory camping). I'm thinking I may try to include Mashatu and do their tented camp instead of the lodge, where we were last time. Also, I was wondering if anyone has any experience with &Beyond's mobile camping trips in Botswana? They look very nice but are still pretty expensive. Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
  13. Hi, I'm also here in California (Claremont) and would be happy to talk to you about my two trips to Africa. I think for your budget you'll get the best value in South Africa, and since it's your first time, you'll see all the animals and you won't have anything to compare it to. I've done safaris and both Botswana and South Africa and South Africa is about half the price. You won't be able to do Botswana for your budget. I used a South African travel agent called Rhino Africa which I found on the web and they were excellent and worked well within my budget. There is some feeling that because the reserves in South Africa are fenced it is more zoo-like, but having done both I would have to say I liked Botswana better but if it's your first safari you'll love South Africa as well and you will save tons of money. I'd be happy to give you more details of where we stayed in you're interested, also. Cheers, Margo
  14. Trip Report Part 2 Nottens Lodge – Sabi Sands After our 4 nights at Mashatu, we went back to Joberg and the next morning we caught to a flight to Sabi Sands, where we spent 4 nights at Nottens Bush Camp. This was my first experience on safari in South Africa, since my prior trip to Africa all the safari camps we visited had been in Botswana. I was curious to see the difference, since Nottens is quite a bit less expensive (although still not cheap by any means!) than the Botswana safari camps. I was not thrilled with the guide we had at first at Nottens—he was one of their most experienced guides, having been there for many years, but he just didn’t seem that excited about what he was seeing or that communicative with the guests. I felt very awkward but after 2 days I asked if we could switch guides and we were switched to a younger guide who I liked much better. In fact, at one point with the second guide, we had a very good elephant sighting—we were literally surrounded by about 40 or 50 elephants, which apparently is quite unusual in Sabi Sands. Our guide himself was wide-eyed and kept saying, “Wow!” It was great to see that he was as excited as the visitors by the sighting! We had been told by a private South African guide that we met at Mashatu that he NEVER sends his clients on safari in South Africa. When I asked why, he said that it was more of a “zoo experience.” If that’s so, it was a zoo where a lot of the animals seemed to have gone on vacation, since we had large stretches where we didn’t see any animals at all, even very early in the morning when I would have expected to see more around. That said, I felt there was more of an emphasis at Nottens and at Phinda (our next camp) on “Big 5” sightings rather than just the experience of being in the bush. This was somewhat disappointing to me, especially when I heard another guest say that they had seen “everything” within the first game drive! We did have some excellent sightings at Nottens, including the famed Sabi Sands leopards, water buffalo, cheetahs (which were actually spotted by a guest, not the guide or tracker!), lots of lion, including a pride of females that I had hoped were going to hunt but no such luck, however, they did wander through the bush for quite a while, before finally settling down for a long nap, a very brief sighting of wild dogs, and plenty of white rhino. We had beautiful sightings of both leopard and cheetah at sunset, with great lighting. We also had some really fun sightings of colonies of dwarf mongoose, which I had never seen before in Botswana, and which were very active in their little colony. As a camp, Nottens is very “old-school” Africa in ambience, with no electric lights (although there is a charging station in each room). We had a beautiful suite, with a separate small room for my son, outdoor shower, and private patio overlooking their property. The main lounge area overlooks a water hole, where if you’re lucky you might see warthogs, impala, and even elephant come for a drink. The food was very good, but a bit monotonous at lunch; the same assortment of salads was served every day. We did several excursions at Nottens in between game drives; one took us to a local village, where we visited a primary school, saw a group of teens doing traditional dancing, and visited a traditional healer. My son is a professional magician, so in order to avoid the strange feeling of “poverty tourism” I asked if he could do some magic tricks for the teen dancers and also at the school, where the audiences were suitably amazed! I also had the chance to sing “The Wheels on the Bus” with a group of school children; they had a book with the words and pictures but didn’t realize that it was also a song! We also did an excursion into Kruger National Park with one of their staff; we especially enjoyed this trip because the guide, who was white, was very willing to discuss the ins and outs of South African politics with us , as a member of the “Born Free” generation. The black South Africans we met, probably because they were all working in the tourist industry, seemed less willing to talk frankly about politics (perhaps they are even told NOT to talk about politics with visitors). We drove around Kruger in a closed vehicle, definitely not as fun for photography as the open safari vehicles, but we had some nice sightings of crocodile and hippo, who are not present in the Sabi Sands area. We did not take advantage of any of the guided walks which are available at Nottens, since they are offered after breakfast, by which time I already felt it was too warm (at least for me) for walking.
  15. I wanted to post a trip report on my recent trip to Botswana and South Africa with my 19-year old son (my second trip to Africa, his first). I want to thank those of you on this site who offered advice while I was thinking through our various options; originally I had hoped to go to Zimbabwe but it proved to not be an affordable option for us so that will have to wait for another trip (still on my list to go to Hwange and Mana Pools, but perhaps when I am not paying for two people!) I wanted to report back on some of our adventures. I will post additional entries on the safari camps we visited in South Africa. After the incredibly long plane trip (Los Angeles-Dubai, Dubai-Joberg) we checked in at the City Lodge at O.R. Tambo and had a rest for a couple hours before being picked up for an excellent afternoon tour of Soweto with photographer tour-guide Ilan Ossendryver. We came from the US with a large suitcase full of new children’s books and Ilan kindly arranged for us to visit a primary school in Soweto, where we donated the books and had a chance to meet the principal. I am a children’s librarian and was able to enjoy reading a story to a group of very enthusiastic 5-year old students. We were returned to our airport hotel and then took the Gautrain to Sandton for dinner and some walking around Nelson Mandela Square, to try to stay up and get on South African time. On our first day we saw quite the cross-section of South African urban life, from the very rich in Sandton to the economically disadvantaged residents of Kliptown in Soweto. The next morning we caught a flight to Polokwane, where we were picked up by a friendly driver who delivered us safely to the Botswana border. We were met there by a guide from Mashatu, where we spent the next four nights. I was immediately struck by our guide, who launched into a heartfelt speech about how much Botswana appreciated our tourism business, which not only helped protect their animals but also provided jobs for local people. I feel strongly that spending my hard-earned dollars on safari in Africa does more for the environment and to protect animals than making a similar-sized donation to World Wildlife Fund or another environmental group, but it made me feel very good to hear this sentiment from someone on the inside of the tourism industry. I had visited the Okavango Delta area of Botswana on a previous trip, and I must say that I found the Tuli Preserve where Mashatu is located to be just as beautiful, with a great variety of scenery, although of course less water. There had been some late rains so there was still a great deal of green in mid-May. Our first game drive started out with a blast when we encountered a troupe of baboons who were fighting under a large tree, with several males chasing each other through the branches. Other sightings that afternoon included two young male lions lounging in the dry river bed. I especially liked the photo hides at Mashatu. This was a new experience for me and I thought it was amazing! Having a private photography tutor for 3+hours each time I went to the hide was also very valuable. I visited 2 of their 3 hides; one is on a water hole and there we saw birds, a large elephant, hyena, and impala, and the other hide is just for bee-eaters. I understand later in the summer we would have seen lots of elephants at the water-hole hide, but I felt lucky to see one. We were so close to the elephant that when he drank we were hit with some of the spray. This was a thrilling experience for me to be so close to this magnificent creature. We also had fabulous sightings of a large family of cheetahs (mom and 4 almost grown cubs), leopard, hyena at their den at day break with very young cubs, giraffe with a young baby, and large groups of elephants, as well as smaller animals like rock dassie and steenbok. The accommodations at Mashatu were quite nice; we were at the lodge. I would have preferred the tented camp for a little more "wild" experience but we could not get 4 nights there despite booking well in advance. Guiding was excellent, as one would expect in Botswana. I found out about Mashatu from a travel agent who I didn't wind up using to book the trip, but I really liked what I read about it and had it included in our final itinerary. I'm glad I went to Mashatu and would love to visit there again some time. I also know now that hides are definitely something I want to be able to experience for future trips to Africa! Interestingly enough, the Tuli area is not even listed in some guidebooks to Botswana; I understand from a travel agent I met there that is because of transportation difficulties if you are doing a circuit in Botswana (i.e. the Delta, Chobe). However, I found it was very easy to get there from Joberg, either by flying to Polokwane and then doing the ground transfer as we did or for the more adventurous just driving directly from Joberg, which is around 5 hours. I was afraid to drive on the opposite side of the road myself so we relied on drivers engaged through our travel agent, Rhino Africa, which did an excellent job coordinating our trip.

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