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How can i solve a "problem" like Africa? first timer!


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#1 Oana

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Posted 05 March 2017 - 01:11 AM

Hello to all,

I ve ve never been to Africa but i m planning a safari.I need to see those beautiful sunsets with my own eyes.
A few months ago i had no idea about where i wanna go. However,for the last 2 months,i keep reading this great forum and now i think at least i know what i m looking for in a safari.

We are a couple in our late 20, active, we like to explore...looking for an aventurous type of safari,some walking& game drives as well.I m interested in a wilder,remote park rather then a touristic area. I wanna feel that i m in Africa. I would like to mix up a luxury lodge with an authentic bush camp.

First off all i have seen that lots of people here are reccomending to other first timers like me to visit Masai Mara. They said it's a: "MUST DO if u are first timer".. Well for me seeing other 20 or 10 cars around a leopard sign would be a huge disapointment...!

I ve started my research here because i was looking for more informations about zambia(s luangwa) however some trip reports diverted me from zambia to zimbabwe(mana pools).I like it more.

I have 12 nights.
Posible itinerary:

Samburu and mana pools
Masai mara and mana pools

Now regarding Mana Pools i cant find too many details about the camps or the position of the camps.

Looks like flood plains it's a must.I m looking for a camp on the zambezi river.

1. Zambezi lifestyke , Goliath and Mucheni and also other small satelites camps are in the area. I ve read that one of the mucheni camp is bigger that others. I wouldnt like to stay there(more tents more people)
What camp would u reccomend for flood plain? I m opened to any sugestion.
Some kind of toilet in the back it s a must!

2. I dont know if i should skip chitake or not. Just keep reading it s not for the "fainted heart" :))lol. This is frightening me. it might be too"wild" for a beginner? Cause yes...I will do a heart attack to hear the lions 5 ft from my tent!I understand that they are somewhere out there...but not that close.
And if i skip it can i still visit or it's too far?

What should i mix flood plains with? kango , ruckomecky or chitake?

3. samburu or mara? It s mara something not to be missed? Samburu looks more quit...I was thinking about staying at Sasaab! Anybody stayed there? Seems very nice. Probably the game is not great there. Not like mana pools. But i can relax and visit the samburu tribs etc.


Any opinions are highly apreciated!!
Thannks to all!

#2 ld1

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Posted 05 March 2017 - 09:56 AM

Combining the Mara with Mana Pools will be expensive and fairly time consuming. You'll need to transit via Vic falls or Harare along the way and eIther take a fairly expensive bush flight or long drive from/to Harare. You might also need to do an overnight. Nothing is impossible of course and if you can get good open jaw fares from home then it can be more manageable. Although personally I wouldn't attemp it with only 12 nights as you'll lose two days travelling by combining Kenya and Zimbabwe. I can't advise on Kenya as it's been such a long time since I was there. It is undoubtably though an amazing place for a first time, as is Tanzania. In Mana pools my preference is to go on a private mobile Safari. It's not particularly remote and you'll see other safari-goers in Mana. For walking though it's truly amazing and if you have a good guide you can be out of foot for hours and not see another person. The quality of game, the beauty of the terrain and standard of guiding is the draw in Mana. You don't get masses of people at sightings but you do see other guided groups and self drivers out and about. The private mobile camp is also a big plus in Mana. You feel a million miles from home and like you have your own little slice of wilderness. I wouldn't choose a luxury camp in Mana these days but I concede it is rather nice to spend a last night in the lap of luxury. I only stayed at Chikwenya and this is now being rebuilt, but it was certainly very nice and the dog pack there are very habituated if you are lucky enough to see them. I have been to Chitake, it really is very special but it can also be pretty slow. So it depends on you attention span. If you don't think you can stand sitting hidden in a bush for two hours waiting for 800 Buffalo to turn up and drink (but always with the threat that a lion might spring past you) then don't do it. It's still one of the most amazing places I've ever been and I'm going back this year. Perhaps best described as, slow, slow, OMG just look at that, slow slow, slow, heart stopping moment, slow, slow.

I really would choose between Kenya or Zim but not both with 12 nights. For the cost of getting between the two you could stay another night in a luxury camp or private mobile. Either place will be amazing and my preference would be private mobile mixed with lodge/camp. Lots of Kenya experts on hear and lots of reports at the moment so plenty of great advice on what to do there.....I really should get back there one day!
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#3 pomkiwi

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Posted 05 March 2017 - 10:18 AM

@Oana  Welcome to Safaitalk!

You can avoid the crowds around the Mara by staying in one of the conservancies. As @Id1 mentions there are lots of trip reports at the moment discussing this. As well as the Mara Kenya will offer contrasting safari experiences in different areas - again many of the trip reports discuss this. I have personally been impressed by the service offered by Gamewatchers in Kenya and you could do worse than spending some time looking at what they offer (others here on Safaritalk will have their own recommendations  :))

 

Have fun planning.


Edited by pomkiwi, 05 March 2017 - 10:19 AM.


#4 wilddog

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Posted 05 March 2017 - 12:13 PM

I agree with @pomkiwi that staying at the conservancies in the Mara would be ideal for you. Much more privacy at viewings in the concessions. You could even do 2 concessions in the area and then fly up to Samburu. or you could move on to somewhere in Tanzania.

 

I think moving down to Zimbabwe would take a lot of wildlife watching out of your 12 days. I would put Southern Africa down for the next trip because there will be a next time one day. It is addictive.



#5 Oana

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Posted 05 March 2017 - 03:58 PM

Gyys,thank you for your answers.

I wont be able to stay in both Samburu and Mara. I must choose only one...

I really wanna visit Zim. It s looks wild. I can add 1 or 2 more night if my itinerary feels in a rush...i m flexible with time.

I really need advice about accomodations in Mana pools. I can see that robin pope is opening a new camp in mana pools. At this moment there are very little informations about it. There is also zambezi camp! Anybody stayed there?? How about Goliath?

I m reading a lot of good trip reports about Botswana as well. It would be more inspiring to add Okavango to Mana pools instead of Kenya?? I can t really decide.
These are my top 3 favorites.

Edited by Oana, 05 March 2017 - 04:03 PM.

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#6 ld1

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Posted 05 March 2017 - 05:50 PM

@Oana I understand it's a bit of a nightmare when you want to go everywhere and you can't decide. I very much doubt you'll be disappointed with either Kenya or Zim. If you plan to travel in high season then Botswana is hellishly expensive, especially in the private concessions. It's amazing, but really really expensive. In the past I have used Expert Africa based in the U.K and they are a very reputable agent here. Others speak very highly of Africa Travel Resource (ATR) and they have an excellent website with lots of info on the camps in all those countries. In Zim I used @DougMcdonald as our private guide and I have to say the trip was amazing. We are going back to Mana/Chitake in Aug/Sept this year with Doug along with Hwange and Vic Falls and I absolutely cannot wait. Doug has a website and Facebook page which are easy enough to find. Operators such a Natureways and Tailormade Safaris in Zim may also be worth a look. I haven't been with Natureways but othe STers have and enjoyed it, good for canoeing too. Tailormade did our mobile camps in 2014 on our first trip with Doug and they were very professional. I met the owner Humphrey Gumbo and he was a great guy.

There are lots of others here who have equally favorite operators and places to stay in Kenya or othe guides in Zim. If you are really set on both places then go for it, but maybe look for two agents or guides in each of Kenya and Zim. If you can afford it I would do only private mobile in Mana and maybe end with a night at Kanga Camp or Vic Falls for a bit of luxury before the long journey home. Sorry I can't help with the Zim camps. I've never been to any of them!

Edited by ld1, 05 March 2017 - 05:51 PM.

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#7 Oana

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Posted 05 March 2017 - 07:42 PM

@id1, nice description about Chitake. Sounds faboulous.I dont have any problem waiting to see games. Do you get a basic toiled attached to your tent at chitake?

I know im loosing some precious time travelling between coutries but i m planning to stay in cheap accomodation between transfers.
When i said 12 night i was thinking that i will have 12 nights of pure safari in the safari lodges! Another 2 nights or more probably will be spend in diferent B&B... where i can rest. For example after the long flight from uk i will definatelly stay somewhere to rest.

#8 Oana

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Posted 05 March 2017 - 07:48 PM

Can i choose which camps i wanna stay if i book a safari with Doug McDonalds ? Is he working with all the camps in Zim?

Ive never used a travel agency for a holliday. I m used to book complicated hollidays by my own, for me it s just fun planning everythung.
I need to check first if the agency can get a better price then me.Only then i might use them.

Edited by Oana, 05 March 2017 - 07:55 PM.


#9 ld1

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Posted 05 March 2017 - 08:11 PM

@Oana I am sure Doug can help. On our first trip we stayed at Chikwenya and for a time we considered Kanga as well. We just prefer privately guided mobile camps. I don't doubt he and his team could book you an itinerary that was staying at any camp you want and using camp guides rather than your own.

Whilst I am sure it's possible to book it all yourself and similar to yourself I often book other destinations independently. I wouldn't underestimate that logistics can be more tricky on Safari. The camps will be the easy bit and if they can help you with transfers all the better, but if not make sure you know what time you need to be within a park, where you need to be to hand over from a driver/bus to camp driver etc. Working with an in country operator can be a cost effective way to travel within some countries and takes the hassle out of it. You could also consider self driving in Mana. That's a popular way to see Mana and there are a few regular STers with excellent self-drive reports on here.
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#10 Treepol

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Posted 05 March 2017 - 11:49 PM

@Oana lots of good advice here already.

 

I agree totlly that you will spend a lot of time and money travelling between countries which you could otherwise spend in the bush. I really think that Zim and Mana Pools will deliver the type of safari that you want. Doug Macdonald will be able to help with whatever you decide on.

 

I was wondering if Kafue NP would also fit the bill for you? Hippo Bay Bushcamp is reasonably priced (and very basic) and you can mix it with stays at maybe KaingU Lodge which is beautifully sited on a river or Nanzhila Plains. There are other camps in the area. Again Doug Macdonald can fix this up for you. You could fly into Livingstone or Vic Falls, then catch Wild Dog Air into the camps. Alternatively, Doug can provide a vehicle and driver for Zambia.


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#11 pault

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Posted 06 March 2017 - 03:23 AM

@Oana Your main problem is the same we all have - you are many years too late to have the very best wildlife areas without people too, unless you go off-season or visit an area that is a private concession or conservancy that allows very limited visitors - or just get lucky. Anyway, first thing is when are you going? This could make a big difference to answers I think.

 

Second thing is that you can have all the fun you like planning but as a first-timer gererally it's going to be better to book through somebody. Unless you are driving yourself (a different story) I think it will actually give you more, not less, freedom to plan. Book different parts through different people if you want but book transport, camp and guide together. Because really you might think you can resolve issues on the ground in Africa, and maybe you can - but also quite possibly you can't. You can do Africa without an agent, especially at your age when you'll be less stressed than us older folks, but since you have so little time I think it's important to know the lines between fun and pride and between conservatism and common sense. I don't think it will cost you more as long as you are sensible - which you are being so far. What will really cost you more is good accommodation, flights to remote places, exclusivity and quality oif guiding. Differences based on those things may easily be $200-400 per night. Differences based on the way you book may be $50-100 per night, .

 

Mara and Mana Pools would look very doable to me if you can use direct Nairobi-Harare flights. If you have to go NBO-JNB-Victoria Falls or Harare it is a lot of flights and a llot of flights that can be delayed, messing up your schedule. Doable, but less comfortably. Also, you just haven't read up enough yet - there are many places that will become "must do" in both regions if you just know more about them!! :D

 

Samburu is lovely although probably not (form most people)  in the same class as Zambezi floodplains (Mana Pools) or Serengeti (Mara)  or Okavango Delta. Not many people here have been to Sasaab although I really like how much they put back into the communivty and I know the members here who have been and guarantee you it is a classy operation. If you're looking for that isolated luxury vibe and cultural intereaction in the same sort of area,  check out Sarara and Ol Malo too.

 

If you are unsure about your courage in the face of animals I would think twice about Mana Pools because if it turns out that you are unable to trust your guide (whether your fault or his) and start to get stressed rather than thrilled it may not be a happy time. I don't think there is really a Plan B in Mana Pools where you can just do vehicle safari. If unsure, choose somewhere where vehicle safari is the norm or a practical option first time and try a little walking to test yourself. You'll probably love it though - just saying.


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#12 ld1

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Posted 06 March 2017 - 08:20 AM

First rate advice from @pault Although I am a mana fanatic it's true that the big draw in Mana is the walking. You can drive around and plenty do, but it's the ability to walk there that's the jewel in the crown. You won't see Giraffe or Cheetah in Mana (although we did see a cheetah fleetingly at Chitake). If you decide for Kenya only you won't be dissapointed equally if you decide only for Zim then think about adding in Hwange as well.

As @pault says think a bit about whether you you are ok with walking. I went on my very first Safari at the tender age of 21 and I remember running like a frightened bunny between the lodge and my concrete room when something rustled in the bushes after 10pm. I remember thinking OMG I could never stay in a tent. Of course now I would be poking a torch in that direction wondering what all the kerfuffle is. I think hotels in the bush weirdly make you feel a bit more vulnerable. It's like you don't feel safe unless surrounded by concrete and the "Must be escorted to and from your room" after dark rule re-inforces that. I feel safer in a tent striking distance from the camp fire and my guide a few feet away in his tent these days.
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#13 amybatt

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Posted 06 March 2017 - 02:00 PM

Purely anecdotal, but I can back up the claims that moving between countries can eat up a lot of time.  We moved from Rwanda to Kenya's Maasai Mara last week.  We left our hotel in Kigali at 4:30 am and didn't arrive in the Mara until 4:00 pm.  It was KILLING ME all day that we were missing game drives and time on the ground.  I knew this going into it, but it still really ate at me as we were in transit.  And those are two countries that are next door to each other, so in theory really easy!


Edited by amybatt, 06 March 2017 - 02:00 PM.

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#14 SSF556

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Posted 06 March 2017 - 03:22 PM

Concentrate on individual countries...it will make traveling a lot easier.   We have done the following..

 

1) South Africa

2) Botswana

3) Kenya

 

Next up will be Zambia.  Zambia will have to be spectacular to replace Botswana at the top of our list.



#15 michael-ibk

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Posted 06 March 2017 - 06:57 PM

I agree with everybody else that it would probably be better to concentrate on one country, or at least make a choice between East and Southern Africa. Mana Pools could easily be combined with Hwange and Vic Falls, for example. Of course it´s possible to combine Mana with Kenya but I really see no need for it - lots of great options in the South which work better logistically.

 

About the camps you asked: Unlike Zambezi Lifestyles or Goliath Mucheni is not a lodge as such, there are four campsites (Mucheni 1 to 4) where private operators or self-drivers establish their private camps. About how they could look when booking with Doug for example, look here:

 

http://safaritalk.ne...ights/?p=178645

 

And yes, there is a toilet attached to the tent for the night, so no need to get out.

 

About Chitake: It feels "wilder" because what remains of the "river" is the only water source in the area, so all the animals have to go there. Visibility is not as good as on the flood plains because the terrain is not open, much more bush and scrubland. So you do not see the lions even if they are very close - but the nights can be very loud with lions roaring, Elephants and Buffalos reacting in terror, it´s quite a concert. But do consider that also on the flood plains it´s entirely possible for lions to be very close to your tent - they go where they please. And Elephants in camp are a very regular thing there. So care is definitely needed.

 

IMO there´no point to visiting Chitake if you don´t stay there, it´s quite a long drive, and it´s entirely possible you see pretty much nothing when you are just there for a few hours.

 

Kanga is a nice addition to the flood plains, I stayed there and will return this year. Rukomechi is on the flood plains as well, so no point in adding it to a flood plains itinerary if you want some change. Look here to get a better idea of where the lodges and campsites are situated:

 

https://www.afrizim....-Pools/mana.gif

 

Samburu or the Mara - I´d definitely say the Mara (even though I do love Samburu), and as others have mentioned in the conservancies you need not be afraid of dozens of cars. In my experience Samburu was not quieter than the Mara btw, as a matter of fact there were far more minibusses in Samburu. All depends on the time of year though.



#16 Atravelynn

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 03:35 AM

All good advice. 

 

One other important piece of info is your budget.  Along those lines, if you had your heart set on the Mara and Mana Pools, cost out what the transportation between the two would run.  Also "cost" the missing day and what you'd be giving up.  You may get your own answer in very definite terms as to whether you want to combine the two locations.  One other thing...going to either Kenya or Zim, coming from North America or Europe (for example) you don't need a yellow fever card.  Going between countries, you likely will.  Not a big deal, just extra cost and vaccine you could otherwise avoid.


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#17 Oana

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 02:36 AM

Wow! I was not expecting so many answers! People on this forum are great! Thanks to everyone who took time to write here!!

I have been busy with work, and unfortuantelly had no time to "investigate" further more around this forum. But now i m back for another portion of reading.
I can see lots people adviced to visit only one country...i think it s a resonable advice and i undrstand why.it will be less of a hassle and lower costs.
But i m not sure yet what i will do.
I have my heart set on Mana Pools and a mobile camp. No doubt about it. Just not redy yet to let go on Kenya...but slowly slowly probably i will get there. I think im considering this trip as a once in a lifetime because i never came back again to the same area, and just because of this i wanna see more. Many people are doing this mistake ,rushing up all the itinerary...etc.but i dont like to be rushed.

I dont have to much time to decide, my trip would be september or octomber. So high season...and i need to book soon!!

I have checked the price with Robin Pope new camp and it s quit high...790 $pppn.
I was hopping i can stay somewhere on Mana on a slighty lower price,in order to splurge for a Wilderness or something more luxurious for the last days.
Probably i will go with Zambezi Camp or Zambezi Lifstyle which are in the same price range.
Are any location better then other? For me better means less people,more animals and tents close to river with river view.

@michael-ibk , great tip.i understand i shouldnt consider ruckomecky as it s in the same area on floodplain..i m moving on.
That means it's either Kanga,or go for something else in Hwange or Kafue!!

@Atravelynn, i have never took vaccination into consideration...it s funny that this never cross to my mind! Can you please tell me if u know what happens when you travel from zimbabwe to kenya? I mean the other way around . In this case i might not need Yellow fever card if i travel from a country that is not in the yellow fever belt ,likr ZIM! I m reading contradictory informations about this matter.

@Id1, i m planning on walking. Need to walk there.i m very aventurous but at this moment i m freaking out about seeing lions very close. I just hope i wont see any charges!! There is a video on youtube with a charging lioness at mana pools. That couple was with a guide...but still looks a bit horror. I think i m going to be another version of you when u were 20. I still not plan to give up, i will just overcame my fear. I have the feeling that if i will trust the quide i will be fine. Just need a great guide :)


@pault, your advices are great. no doubt i want the same thing as everyone, less people...best wildlife. I will go on hight season! September or octomber. ive seen the flight u were talking about. Its takes 3 hour between kenya and zim, direct flight. Regarding Mana Pool, i understand that i dont have to much of a choice and i must walk.Anyway.. i wouldnt like to be there and do only game drives.it will be boring. As i previosly said i know i will be very scared...if i will see charges i just dont wanna let thig to affect me.

About kenya, i was going for this type of more luxurious lodge rather then a camp, just because camming from the horrible weather in UK,i miss the sun,and i want to enjoy a bit of sun at the pool,maybe a massage...when i m not on game drives. Sarara looks stunning. Hard hard decisions.

I have couple of more question.
Is Kafue easy accesible from Mana? I m taking Hwange into consideratiom as well. If i do only zimbabwe i will spend another 2 days at VIC falls.
I must say i didnt do too much reserch into transportation between parks.

So Which one is your favorite? hwange or kafue? Which one is more diferemt then mana pools? I dont considering a mobile camp for this part of safari,i wanna have a lodge.

Sorry for writing so much ,just felt i need to answere to everybody here who was very nice. And i just hope i m not too boring with my newbie questions that probably You hear all the time here:) :)

Edited by Oana, 09 March 2017 - 02:43 AM.


#18 pault

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 05:41 AM

@Oana As a happy medium, there are parks like South Luangwa in Zambia or Hwange in Zimbabwe (actually many Zambian and Zimbawean parks)  where camps offer both walking and vehicle safari and some people do vehicle safari only, so if the walking is too much it's not really a problem and if you find you love the walking you can probbaly do more of it. But sounds like you are ready anyway - lion charges and

 stuff like that are pretty rare.

 

September or October..... well everywhere you are thinking of is good for wildlife then. You'll have a great time.

 

You can chill and do Mara at the same time by the way. Ngare Serian and Saruni Mara are two I know of that would do that for you very, very well. Both have satellite camps closer to the main reserve river crossing action (very close in the case of Serian). I am sure there are more options for that too, but those are the first that sprung to mind that offer different things.


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#19 michael-ibk

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 06:18 AM

Whatever you do, I suggest you move quickly if you want to do Mana Pools this year. September and October is high season, and it might be already tricky to get what what you want.

 

Hwange (and Vic Falls maybe) would be easier to combine with Mana than Kafue since you would not have to cross borders.



#20 ld1

ld1

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 07:55 PM

@Oana try not to worry too much, you don't get that close to Lions and Elephants on foot (although you might get very close to Elephants in camp if they choose to wander through). Guided in Zim go through rigorous training, some of the finest on the planet in my opinion. You can do a great mix of drives and walks in Mana, it's not uncommon to start off driving and then leave the vehicle and go off tracking something interesting on foot for 2-3 hours.

As @michael-ibk says, it might be a challenge getting exactly what you want for this high season so I wouldn't leave it to late to organize.
Anyone can squash a bug but all professors of this world couldn't build one.
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