76 posts in this topic

Hi All,

 

I'm still rather green behind the ears when it comes to posting, but I've been lurking in the background for quite a while reading up on all things safari. I must commend all of you on the wealth of information that is on this forum, it's amazing!

 

We just returned from our honeymoon which was both of ours first safari. We figured this trip would be a once in a lifetime splurge kind of thing.

 

We played it safe and picked South Africa as our destination. Not knowing whether we would love safari or whether we would find it boring staring at yet another elephant/rhino/lion/etc. Needless to say it never got boring.

 

It will come to no surprise to any of you though that now we are hooked :-)

 

The only problem is: money. Safaris don't come cheap.

 

We would love to return anywhere on safari this year. This once in a lifetime splurge has became a need. But we need to stick to a budget. In all fairness, we cannot justify spending more than 10.000 eur on a two week holiday (incl. flights so leaving about 4000pp for safari for say 12 nights - a tight budget by any standards). We are young professionals, still need to build a life, a house, have kids, etc. We need to keep it within reason. For any Belgian (not into safari) the number I just gave you would blow their minds, but keeping that aside and between us :-)

 

So I was hoping to tap into you guys' vast knowledge and expertise.

 

Are there any affordable safari's out there?

 

Of course ideally we would love to see a different country than SA. I know you can keep the cost down by self driving in Kruger. And I know it is loved by many, but being in a closed car on a tar road with 20 other vehicles around a sighting just isn't my ideal of safari (though my experience is limited).

 

I had found my ideal Kenya safari, but as some of you might still remember my then fiancé and now husband considers Kenya to be "dangerous". If anyone is interested , it was a mix of Porini camps, porini adventure camps (basic but seemed like great value for money) and Brian Freeman's safari camp. it came out to a bit more than the quoted 4000 but amazing value for money with small camps and private vehicle included at Freeman's (which after a honeymoon at a high end 5 star sabi sands lodge with 2 kids of around 8 years old in your vehicle you see as not a luxury but as a must :P ). I'm more than willing to pay the price if i get the feeling it is worth it, and with this itinerary i absolutely felt that way even if it stretched the budget. (In all honesty credit for that Kenya safari goes to @Flytraveller as it was entirely based on his trip report).

 

I have read through the whole under 200 usd thread but nothing really jumped out at me.

 

Ideally we would like to go around september but we'd be willing to wait off to November to have off season rates if need be.

 

We had conceived the crazy notion that we wanted to see Botswana next. Before we go there we probably need to win the lottery. Though i'm being a tiny bit unfair since the only option worth considering that I have come across in my last days of researching safari was actually in Bots. And it is honestly very much appealing to me. The only reason I haven't pulled the trigger already is that i am maniacal about research (which given the budget is a reasonable stance to take I suppose). Another small reason may be that I haven't read anything/very little about about Kingfisher safari on here. Martin himself is an avid poster but I haven't seen any trip reports from people who actually went on their mobile safari (I saw a few mentions of Moses' Unlimited travel but the Kingfisher still comes out at about 100 usd pppn cheaper).

 

Next I looked into Zambia, hoping that was cheaper. But it seems South Luangwa also comes with its price tag. And I would prefer to not only do walking safari. I would love to do a bit like x's trip report between camps (sorry x, but I read so many in such a short time frame that by god I can't remember your name - loved your report though!). If anyone would have any good priced options there? I was hoping to get discounts when booking multiple nights with the same safari operator but the savings still aren't even getting us close to our budget. I know 12n is pushing it, but since the flights wherever we'd go would already be about 1000, i want to make the most of it.

 

Anyone have anything to suggestions for Tanzania? Please don't say something like serana lodges though because those types of places are my worst nightmare (overcrowded mini bus tours). I'd rather wait a year and save up than go to a place like that.

 

The focus needs to be wildlife and not generally nature so i think Namibia is probably out. We were in Zim for a short leg of our honeymoon as well, around the zambezi river and the vic falls, and though i loved our camp, loved the people, in terms of wildlife it was a big bust (not only in comparison to SA but just generally).

 

I can do a mobile camping private safari but I don't want to do a big bus group tour. Though they are mightily frowned upon on this forum I love plunge pools but I can happily do without :-) (if you give me lions and leopards in exchange - yes I'm sorry another unoriginal big cat devote joins the ranks ;-) )

 

I will do a trip report on SA soon and a lodge review (because they were all great and definitely earned our support!), but none of it compares to what I've seen on here in terms of sightings and photography. If I were you guys I would start buying some bulk lottery tickets because you are a lucky bunch from what I can tell!

 

Longwinded post in the end to just ask for your advice on a next destination that hopefully won't break the bank, nor will require a second mortgage (fyi, they don't do those for some reason in Belgium - must not have enough safari lovers among bankers).

 

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

 

PS I wonder if anyone is going to read this bulk of text without any pictures :-)

 

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In Botswana there are some good deals to be had if you are prepared to take your chances and book within a two week window before travelling.but then you do risk not getting the camps you want most. I looked into this before Christmas but then ended up going to monitor wild dogs in Somkhanda instead.

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I might suggest a return to South Africa - there are quite a few lodges around in the Sabi Sands and Timavati that would fall well withiin your budget, especially with the plight of the Rand. They may not offer 5 star luxury but some limit numbers in vehicles to 6 and some have clear restrictions on children. If you go in September or November you should miss most school holidays anyway. With 12 days you could go to a couple of private camps in different areas and maybe try 3 or 4 days in the Kruger - my experience is that it is perfectly possible to have excellent sightings there without the crowds (and you get the satisfaction of having done the work yourself!)

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Northern circuit of Tanzania-you can do a private guided safari, staying in a mix of small lodges and tented camps, for $300 per person per night. The tripadvisor forum for Tanzania http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g293747-i9226-Tanzania.html has a great deal of discussion on this and a list of recommended operators. We used Duma Explorer and were very happy with them, but some others that people recommend in this price range include Basecamp Tanzania, Access2Tanzania, Roy Safaris, Swala, and Good Earth.

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The only problem is: money. Safaris don't come cheap.

Amen.

 

This once in a lifetime splurge has became a need.

Surprise, surprise. We could have told you that. Even before your trip report, this is an indication that things went well.

 

For any Belgian fill in the blank with most any other nationality (not into safari) the number I just gave you would blow their minds, but keeping that aside and between us :-)

I too am completely discrete about costs, usually just citing the range of flight costs when people ask me how much it costs.

 

 

Of course ideally we would love to see a different country than SA. I know you can keep the cost down by self driving in Kruger. And I know it is loved by many, but being in a closed car on a tar road with 20 other vehicles around a sighting just isn't my ideal of safari Since you mention self driving, consider Namibia. In my experience there were never 20 vehicles around a waterhole, at least not in June. But many of our sightings were not private. Namibia has so much to offer in terms of unique in the world beautiful scenery, variety of animals (including meerkats and feral horses), lots of opportunities to get out and about on foot.

 

I had found my ideal Kenya safari, but as some of you might still remember my then fiancé and now husband considers Kenya to be "dangerous".

Kenya is one spot for some bargains. After another safari or two, perhaps your wife will change her mind on Kenya. How many visitors to Kenya's parks have been killed or seriously injured in the last 3 years? Have there been any? I'm sure someone has fallen down or something (@@pault?) but so far Paris and Boston look a little more dangersous. Don't know if statistics can sway her. Just don't show her the stats on Kenya's roads being some of the most dangerous in the world.

 

We had conceived the crazy notion that we wanted to see Botswana next. Before we go there we probably need to win the lottery.

No lottery needed for a mobile, which I have done and enjoyed and would like to do again. It does not pale in comparison to the permanent camps. There tend to be deals on these here and there if you are observant.

The strategy @@kittykat23uk describes is one I'd love to try. Kittykat, can you give us a few more specifics such as: were you planning to book from home first or fly to Botswana and work with a local agent and if so who & which camps/companies were you planning to contact.

 

Next I looked into Zambia, hoping that was cheaper. But it seems South Luangwa also comes with its price tag.

Yes. Flat Dogs Camp may offer a bit of a price break, but this is an expensive destination. Don't know if you'd consider nearby Zim for a participation camping trip (very little participation required) canoeing the Zambezi. Natureways has some good prices. Easy canoeing, designed for those without canoe or camping experience. But this could appear to have safety issues. I am going for a second year in a row and I wouldn't do something unsafe, risky, or daredevil.

 

Anyone have anything to suggestions for Tanzania? Please don't say something like serana lodges though because those types of places are my worst nightmare (overcrowded mini bus tours). I'd rather wait a year and save up than go to a place like that. I (atravelynn) am interested in what accommodations were you suggesting @@jeffb and where you stayed with Duma?

 

First off, no worries on minibuses in Tanz, everyone uses a Land Cruiser or Rover or similar. Have you ever stayed at a Serena or Wildlife Lodge? If not, your fears may be getting the best of you. If you have your own private guide, once you leave the lodge premises, those other folks are nowhere around. These places can make your trip affordable. They are often very well located for wildlife because they were the first to be built, in some cases by the government who chose the best spots. It is true that meals are like a restaurant, but in East Africa you almost always get your own table; it is not family style dining. The night time animal noises are less than in a more secluded tented camp, but I've heard lions roaring and other sounds. Even someone who can be a bit of a safari snob, like me, recognizes the place and value of the larger lodge. And I use them on occasion and am always satisfied. I have had excellent birdwatching and wildlife viewing at

 

Mara Serena (paradise flycatcher, bushbuck, the migration from the lodge, rock hyrax)

Samburu Simba (too many birds to enumerate, many eles, fascinating baboon behavior, butterflies, squirrels)

Sarova Shaba (crocs, yellow billed storks, eles, vervets)

Ngorongoro Sopa (blue monkeys, eles, tree hyrax)

Seronera Lodge (giraffe, rock hyrax)

Tarangire Safari Lodge (river full of eles, giraffe, antelope, dik dik, more eles, crowned francolin, ashy starling)

 

The focus needs to be wildlife and not generally nature so i think Namibia is probably out. But you can get wildlife in the beautiful surroundings. Etosha is definitely wildlife over scenery. But you may be sharing the wildlife with others whether self driving or just sitting around the Okaukeujo Waterhole. Have you looked at some of the Namibia reports? Lotsa' animals. We were in Zim for a short leg of our honeymoon as well, around the zambezi river and the vic falls, and though i loved our camp, loved the people, in terms of wildlife it was a big bust (not only in comparison to SA but just generally). That may mean no canoeing then, as I mentioned above before seeing this. But Mana Pools, where the canoeing is done, has a huge following of groupies (me too) here, indicating a lot of love for that place.

 

I can do a mobile camping private safari but I don't want to do a big bus group tour. Then a Bots mobile might fit the bill. No big bus. Wilderness (who I went with) has lots of mobiles. So does AndBeyond. Unlimited Tours & Safaris in Botswana has some happy customers here. Masson's does too. There are a lot of options for Bots mobiles. I think its a great way to visit Botswana.

 

 

PS I wonder if anyone is going to read this bulk of text without any pictures :-) I did!

 

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In September last year, high season, well.... it was 5 weeks, I did an extreme budget safari. It included 5 days in the delta by doing a "last minute safari" out of Maun, 1 nite at Chobe Safari Lodge and a photographic Chobe river safari with Pangolin included, flew up to SLNP for a couple weeks, then Mana Pools for game count and Chitake Springs with a Zim guide. You gotta think outside the box.

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Just additions to look at, and not necessarily any better than ideas proposed already. I may have even emtioned some before it you did a previous planning thread! Anything involving the rand (Namibia and South Africa) and self-driving will be a positive in terms of keeping costs down. Kgalagadi and Etosha are certainly worth a look and plenty more.

 

We're still waiting for the danger in Kenya to present itself - and I walked into a tree branch; I didn't fall down (well, I fell down after walking into the tree branch so @@Atravelynn is not completely wrong and I must thank her for reminding everybody).

 

Northern Tanzania staying at moderately sixzed, basically equipped tented camps can be good value, especially off season, as mentioned by @jeffb although I agree that you would actually survive the occasional lodge especially off season.

 

If you can get to Dar Es Salaam reasonably cheaply, Adventure Camps (aka Authentic Tanzania) and Foxes have reasonable prices for Southern Tanzania itineraries, particualrly if you get a special offer. You can combine with Zanzibar or other places on the Tanzanian coast to stretch your budget even further if you have more time than money. Click on this too... lots of options in the South...

http://safaritalk.net/topic/15256-self-drive-safari-through-northern-tz-parks-of-mara-crossings-and-lions-in-camp/?p=185207

 

Most of my knowledge is about Kenya though. Let us know if your husband can be persuaded that going to Kenya is not only for the reckless.

 

It's not a problem anyway, as long as you are okay with about $300 per person per dayall-in - just park fees can be close to $100 pppd in some places and private transportation can be very expensive compared to the west.

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Posted (edited)

I would strongly state that wildlife reserves in Kenya are perfectly safe.

 

the areas which are not safe are near the Somali border no one goes there

 

in practical terms the greatest risk in Kenya is the Nairobi traffic which is aggressive with pedestrains , so keep to your hotel or an organized tour.

Edited by COSMIC RHINO

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Lynn

 

I was looking at booking it from home as soon as the two week window opened for our dates via Liquid Giraffe . But the SRS was still keeping the price higher than I would have liked. It would definitely be worth checking out the deals available. Since my main interest became dogs, not general game, birds or cats this time I felt going with Wildlife Act gave better vfm. But I would still like to try a last minute deal to Botswana at some point ideally with a female share!

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A private mobile camping safari in Northern Tanzania would get my vote. Personally I'd go for dome tents and special (private) campsites over some of the large lodges, but I think this depends on your thoughts on comfort vs. crowds. A group mobile safari in Botswana could also work.

I'd also strongly recommend shoulder season in many areas for the massive cost savings it brings. So November, March, late May in East Africa can be utterly wonderful and at least 30% cheaper than other tines of year.

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I can't stress it enough Kenya isn't dangerous. I feel more at risk in my native Chicago than here. You'll be fine as long as you don't drive,and spend a minimal amount of time in Nairobi;furthermore,even Nairobi isn't dangerous if you take a minimum of the same common sense precautions that you'd take back at home.

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For affordable options in Botswana, check out Unlimited Safaris - multiple Safaritalkers have very good things to say about Moses and company. http://www.unlimitedsafari.com/

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@@Atravelynn - Ahadi Lodge in Arusha, Rhino Lodge on the crater rim, Ndutu Safari Lodge (it was June so off-season), and Chaka Camp in central Serengeti (Seronera region). This was 2 years ago, and Duma now has a permanent tented camp in Seronera, so I'm not sure what prices are like now. But there are lots of tented camps on the northern circuit that may fit this price range. And basic camping with a dome tent as suggested by @@ExtraordinaryAlex is also possible and, I would imagine, cheaper, although perhaps not as comfortable. Like the OP, I had no desire to stay in a Serena or Sopa lodge, but I don't think its too difficult for a good local tour operator to put something together using small lodges and tented camps at this price point.

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@@jeffb Quite right, not nearly as comfortable, but I think I just get swept away by the romance and adventure of the special campsites, just us, the guide and the cook and no-else around. I do love the luxury tents, but there's still a definitely soft spot for the dome tents.

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@@ExtraordinaryAlex I do love the idea of the special campsites, and being there with just the guide and cook, but as I get older the en-suite luxury tent seems essential, particularly in the middle of the night when the lions are roaring and the hyenas are calling :)

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Another vote for Kenya or Northern Tanzania, should easily be possible with your budget. Both fantastic safari areas with much diversity, and the safari circuits are perfectly safe IMO. Returning there myself again this year.

 

Another option not mentioned yet for Botswana (which obviously appeals to you) is Kwando´s 5 River´s Special. Starts Nov 15th, and if you keep to Kwara-Lagoon-Lebala (ie avoid too many bush flights) should be doable by less than USD 6,000,-- (Rack rate per day is apparently USD 463,--, and costs for flights Maun to Kwara, Kwara to Lagoon/Lebala, and Lagoon/Lebala to Maun would have to be added. And operators do offer below rack rates.) Could work for not much more than EUR 5.000,--. I know, more than you said your budget allows but not excessively so. And everything is included which may not be the case with other options when you are comparing. Lots of Kwando Green Season reports here if that should interest you.

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Posted (edited)

Wow, I can't thank you all enough for the numerous comments and suggestions!!!

 

Wonderful spirit of sharing!

 

@@Atravelynn you really deserve a special thank you for your incredible answer!

 

You guys have given me a lot to look into!

 

I sent another few e-mails today for Zambia. It seems to me that Kafunta River lodge (in combination with their more remote bush camp) could be an option if I plan it well. Anyone been there?

 

I am very much interested in the Kingfisher mobile safari, 12n Botswana for 4,200$ in high season with a private vehicle seems unbeatable. Anyone have any experience with them? I have read a few reports about Unlimited's mobile safari @@offshorebirder but they are quite a bit more expensive.

 

I also sent out a few request for Tanzania. Thanks @@jeffb, I contacted all the ones you mentioned today!

Camping in the South isn't as cheap as I would have hoped @@pault. It's still 400 usd pppn with Authentic Tanzania. I hope I can find a better price. Even the Bots safari is cheaper...

 

@@kittykat23uk I've also been in touch with liquid giraffe and they also mentioned these, but i would be so scared to have booked my flights and then be left empty handed. For 300 usd pppn I wouldn't really care what camp i get, they are all super luxurious and upscale (so assuming good). But it would be a nightmare to have nothing. And I'm not sure if this 300 usd pppn is guaranteed… If you don't mind my asking, who did you book your last minute with @@luangwablondes ?

 

I'm very much leaning towards the Kingfisher mobile safari at the moment, but would love to hear from someone who has been on safari with them!
And of course I have to get my head around the only camping and no luxus :-) But we're young, we can do it. I'm not so subtly pushing my husband to gift me a little safari budget for my upcoming 30th birthday. It's a special one. And that way it's a gift for the both of us! I just simply don't want anything else that costs money :-)
Edited by martywilddog
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A private mobile camping safari in Northern Tanzania would get my vote. Personally I'd go for dome tents and special (private) campsites I'd like to learn more about this! Itineraries, etc. over some of the large lodges, but I think this depends on your thoughts on comfort vs. crowds. A group mobile safari in Botswana could also work.

I'd also strongly recommend shoulder season in many areas for the massive cost savings it brings. So November, March, late May in East Africa can be utterly wonderful and at least 30% cheaper than other tines of year.

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We're still waiting for the danger in Kenya to present itself - and I walked into a tree branch; I didn't fall down (well, I fell down after walking into the tree branch so @@Atravelynn is not completely wrong and I must thank her for reminding everybody). Anytime!

 

If you can get to Dar Es Salaam reasonably cheaply, Adventure Camps (aka Authentic Tanzania) and Foxes have reasonable prices for Southern Tanzania itineraries,--I always thought Foxes in S. Tanz were an expensive option. I'll look for some deals per your recommendation. particualrly if you get a special offer. You can combine with Zanzibar or other places on the Tanzanian coast to stretch your budget even further if you have more time than money. Click on this too... lots of options in the South...

http://safaritalk.net/topic/15256-self-drive-safari-through-northern-tz-parks-of-mara-crossings-and-lions-in-camp/?p=185207

 

Most of my knowledge is about Kenya though. Let us know if your husband can be persuaded that going to Kenya is not only for the reckless.

 

It's not a problem anyway, as long as you are okay with about $300 per person per dayall-in - just park fees can be close to $100 pppd in some places and private transportation can be very expensive compared to the west.

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Wonderful spirit of sharing!

 

@@Atravelynn you really deserve a special thank you for your incredible answer! But I got you and your husband's genders wrong. What is more important is that you two keep them sorted.

 

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who did you book your last minute with @luangwablondes ?

 

Mckenzie 4x4 in Maun. They are a licensed travel agency and well known in Maun. They can book anything you want and things you haven't thought of. They're used to enquiries with "budget" in mind.

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You did a self drive @@luangwablondes? That's brave :)

 

We self drove us around a bit in SA (panorama route and from camp to camp), but in all honesty, that was always the worst part of the trip. It just added way to much stress. Our agent had booked us a ridiculous car (tiny economy hyundai), which was fine on the tar roads in SA, but getting to the camps was a nightmare. A trip that should have taken 40min at most, took us 2h (at 10km an hour...) and that is valuable time.

 

And the hassle with the corrupt police also put a bummer on the driving. They are nothing but thieves and crooks. And worst of all, coming from those who have been sworn to protect us. Ugh, it gets my blood boiling. And my big mouth could have landed me in jail "for interfering" or "for making false accusations" (for the record, if they are true they are not false).

 

So we've kind of been put off the self driving part...

 

Thanks @@Atravelynn, very much appreciated! And no worries, when I read your reply I noticed I had wrongly set my gender to male, so the confusion is all my fault :) I have changed it since.

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It sucks not being filthy rich :)

 

I received this proposition from an agent and it's everything I love (Oliver's camp! Ubuntu Mara! Flying over the serengeit!), except for the price: 6.230 usd pp, w/o international flights (add +- 1.000)

 

Day

Date

Itinerary

1

September 2016

Arrive Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO) - met and transferred to Arusha for overnight - River Trees Country Inn

2

Transfer to Arusha Airport for flight to Tarangire NP withAir Excel dep 08h00 arr 08h20 - game drives - Oliver's Camp

3

Walking safari - game drives - Oliver's Camp

4

Game drives - Night game drives - Oliver's Camp

5

Relaxing breakfast in camp - about 10h00 depart with private driver guide - game drives in Tarangire NP - afternoon drive to crater area - Kitela Lodge

6

Game drive Ngorongoro Crater - Kitela Lodge

7

Transfer to Manyara Airstrip for flight to northern Serengeti with Regional Air dep 08h40 arr 09h25 - game drives - Ubuntu Camp

8

Game drives northern Serengeti - Ubuntu Camp

9

Game drives northern Serengeti - Ubuntu Camp

10

Fly from northern Serengeti to Kilimanjaro Airport withRegional Air dep 10h00 arr 13h10 - own outgoing flight

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@@Atravelynn Can be any itinerary you like- most parks in tanzania have private campsites and they're far nicer than sharing the public ones at not a great supplement. So it's really mainly a case of getting space which tends only to be a problem in the areas of the Serengeti where the migration is expected to be, where they're booked out by seasonal camps a long way in advance.

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Posted (edited)

You did a self drive @@luangwablondes? That's brave :)

 

 

This last trip was relatively tame. I've "self drive" all over Southern and East Africa, including a few remote places that aren't on the maps today and including routes 99% of self drive still don't drive. At 6-11 months each trip in the past. Even managed a camp in North Luangwa NP.

 

I think the reason it seems so daunting is that even the Africans don't know Africa. If it isn't in the guide books, it can't be safe nonsense.

 

Cops in Africa are different from anywhere else. It's a different culture and needs some mental adjustment when encountering them so that situations do not develop. The police can be your best buds if you learn to adapt.

Edited by luangwablondes
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