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Best way to book Private Reserve stays and Safari Trips?

London, United...
posts: 221
reviews: 96
Best way to book Private Reserve stays and Safari Trips?

Hi,

I will be staying at the Sabie Sands Private Reserve for 3 nights, either 19-21 Dec. What is the best way for me to book both accommodation and activities? Do I need to contact each camp independently and ask for quotes, or is there an easier way to do it?

Also, would all the game viewing activities be similar for all the good camps? I suspect not, but how do I get a good feel of this, as it seems like I shouldn't just be looking at price even when comparing different camps in the same Sabie Sands area?

Lastly, I am not sure how it works, but will I get a 'better' price if I go through a travel agent, as they may have arrangements with the camps?

Thanks all.

Shah

62 replies to this topic
Kruger National...
posts: 1,208
reviews: 35
1. Re: Best way to book Private Reserve stays and Safari Trips?

Hi there Shah,

This is a good question, and quite a debated one!

In all reality, it really is easy to book your own trip through South Africa, including the safari portion :). One simply needs to contact the lodge via email or phone, inquire about availability, and book.

The benefits of using an agent however, are that they can do the work for you; contacting various lodges in your price range or that suit your needs/wants, and can do all bookings from your transfer to the actual lodge, additional activities etc. You also only have one point of contact, which some prefer. The benefit of using a local agent is also that the agent will never be more than a phone call away, generally able to physically help should you require anything.

But of course, this may seem biased as I am a safari specialist myself, so I will let some other TA members also explain the pros and cons too :-).

In terms of better prices; To be honest, all agents can get a discount for you, as each have a certain amount of commission to play around with when booking for you. If you don't use an agent, I definitely would recommend asking the lodge too, as you may find they are also easily able to give you a good discount on the room price :-).

Agents (if they are good) will have also been to the majority, if not all, of the lodges they represent, so will be able to personally recommend ones that suit your needs and budget,a nd help you with any questions etc. But I guess the lodge can also do this :-).

So, in short, it is 110% possible to book lodges and your trip on your own, and many many people do this indeed! But, if you prefer to just tell one person your wants, needs, likes, dislikes and budget, they can contact the various lodges (and there are many!) that would suit you, and you can move forward from there.

Now, regarding your other questions;

The lodges in the Sabi Sands all generally include the following in your rate:

- Dawn game drive daily

- Dusk game drive daily

- Optional bush walk daily

- Breakfast daily

- Lunch daily

- Dinner daily

- Refreshments on game drives

- Depending on the lodge, the transfers, all beverages and laundry may also be included.

Thus, unless you perhaps mean outside activities such as tours of the other local attractions (such as the Panorama route etc) there is no need to pre-book the activities at the lodge. And, even if you would like to do external activities, the lodge can generally book this for you too.

So, in short (again!) I guess an agent just takes the hassle out of it all?

Warmest regards,

Jacqui

Phoenix, Arizona
Destination Expert
for South Africa, Sabi Sand Game Reserve
posts: 6,826
reviews: 42
2. Re: Best way to book Private Reserve stays and Safari Trips?

Good explanation by Jacqui. Since she has specifically told you that she is "a safari specialist" perhaps you should contact her for those discounts and take the hassle out of it all.

Dave Patterson - Owner - The Africa Safari

Kruger National...
posts: 1,208
reviews: 35
3. Re: Best way to book Private Reserve stays and Safari Trips?

I only stated it, as I don't want to appear biased :-).

Living right here in the Kruger, I find it the perfect way to combine my love of the bush with my love of people :-).

Although, we recently had a huge fire here on the reserve, so living in the bush definitely also has its cons!

Warm regards,

Jacqui

Johannesburg, South...
posts: 668
4. Re: Best way to book Private Reserve stays and Safari Trips?

Hi again Shah,

So, in so far as activities go you won't have to book anything because all is included in the private lodge rates like all meals, 2 daily game drives, optional bush walks, except things like beauty treatments/massages etc, which you can either book before or once you are there.

There are 2 options when booking, either yourself, by enquiring directly with a few lodges of your choice and seeing what their availability is there is no easy way to do this) or through an agent who can advise you according to your budget and contact the lodges on your behalf. With regards to deals, sometimes yes and sometimes not. There are a couple of factors in this regard.

The game viewing is generally great throughout the Sabi Sands, so that wouldn't be the main factor in choosing a lodge. I think the balance between luxury, service and value for money is a big factor. You can see that your budget will play a big part in choosing a lodge. I guess you will only know which is the right lodge by getting the correct advice.

Regards again.

Brett | Owner | Safaris For Me | South Africa

Johannesburg, South...
posts: 668
5. Re: Best way to book Private Reserve stays and Safari Trips?

Love the post Jacqui. Sums it all up.

London, United...
posts: 221
reviews: 96
6. Re: Best way to book Private Reserve stays and Safari Trips?

Thanks for all your comments. I realise that I've booked at a peak time, and therefore time is maybe of the essence. Brett has seen my itinerary - basically I have 5 nights / 6 days in the park and looking for 2 nights self drive and 3 private safari.

As far as luxury go, I really don't mind. We (me and the missus) often stay in hostel private rooms when we go travelling (the only thing my wife draw the line nowadays is shared bathrooms/toilets!). To us, the experience counts more than luxury. I have looked at the Tydon Camp and that looks ok. I've emailed them, let's see what they come back with.

Johannesburg, South...
posts: 668
7. Re: Best way to book Private Reserve stays and Safari Trips?

Hey Shah,

I don't think Tydons Camp is actually in the Sands. I think just outside Shaws gate. I do stand to be corrected on this, but I've never seen any sign boards inside any of the Sabi Sands gates to Tydons Camp, so I'm not sure exactly how they operate their drives etc. I've seen there website and they do say that they are in the Sands. I'm not sure this is accurate though, and may just be a bit of marketing. Like I said I am open to correction on this. All the lodges in the Sands are luxury lodges....defs no communal bathrooms and ablutions there :) lol

What is your per person per night budget?

Brett | Owner | Safaris For Me | South Africa

South Africa
posts: 1,361
reviews: 14
8. Re: Best way to book Private Reserve stays and Safari Trips?

Excellent replies above. Within the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, all the lodges offer a pretty similar experience, with a similar daily itinerary, so you might ask yourself why some are so much more expensive than others. Basically it comes down to level of luxury and exclusivity, as well as location of the lodge. Some top end lodges have absolutely huge suites with luxury bathrooms, inside and outside showers, private viewing deck and plunge pool or jacuzzi, that kind of thing. And they might have their own private traversing area which is not shared by other lodges so you pay for a certain amount of exclusivity. On top of that, some of these top end lodges take only 6 or even just 4 people per vehicle during game drives. Add in an excellent location overlooking a river or waterhole, and you can expect to pay a bit more at such a lodge.

By comparison, a cheaper lodge may have a smaller traversing area, shared with several other lodges, have smaller rooms perhaps without the private plunge pool and so on, and typically the lower budget lodges seat up to 9 people on the back of their land rovers during game drives. Some lodges take children, other don't. Some are small and intimate, and have only 5 or 6 rooms. Others are much bigger and can accommodate up to 50 people.

As Jacqui pointed out, the best and most experienced agents would have personally visited all the lodges in the Sabi Sand (or whatever other area you have in mind) and can therefore compare different lodges and give firsthand advice about which lodge is best for you. Some things you may or may not hear from the lodge direct, for example a lodge that is situated very close to the fence line may not want to advertise the fact that you can see and hear the nearby communities outside the reserve. A lodge with a very small traversing area will not advertise this limitation on their website. This is where independent first hand advice comes in handy, whether from fellow travelers and reviews here on TA or from a knowledgeable agent or operator.

In theory, the rate you pay should more or less be the same regardless of whether you book direct or through an agent. Sometimes agents are willing to offer some discount, and I've also heard of lodges that sometimes offer discounts to direct clients. As Jacqui mentioned, the question of which is better (booking direct or via an agent) has been debated many times here on this forum and you will get strong and vocal supporters for both points of view. Perhaps one point to add to what has been said above is that if anything ever goes wrong at the lodge or you have a complaint or incident which requires follow up, it could be helpful to have someone on your side who can negotiate with the lodge on your behalf.

But, (disclaimer) I too am biased on this topic I'm afraid.

Kruger National...
posts: 1,208
reviews: 35
9. Re: Best way to book Private Reserve stays and Safari Trips?

Hi again,

Sounds like you have a fab trip planned!

Brett is right; Tydon is actually just near Shaw's gate, 'bordering' the Sabi Sands. Brett is also correct in saying that the majority of the lodges in the Sabi Sands are v. luxury, with the only low - mid range budget option being Umkumbe. If budget is a concern, you can also maybe take a look at the other private reserves that are open to the Kruger, being the Klaserie, Timbavati and Balule. There area some great options here starting at around R1800 per person per night all inclusive.

EDIT; I have seen that Tydon is R1895 per person per night in their safari camp. Why not take a look at Africa on Foot in the Klaserie reserve for a similar price? This is right in a private reserve (open to the Kruger like Sabi Sands) and is all inclusive. They offer walking safaris in the morning instead of drives, and drives in the afternoon. If you do not want to walk though, they can accommodate to drives in the AM too :-).

Warm regards,

Jacqui

-Co-owner-

Lodge Tracker Safari Specialists

Kruger, South Africa,

Edited: 1:56 pm, July 16, 2013
London, United...
posts: 221
reviews: 96
10. Re: Best way to book Private Reserve stays and Safari Trips?

Thanks Brett - That's interesting if they are actually not in the Sands, as their website certainly says they are! In terms of budget - I honestly don't know. I am hoping to get some guidance on this - what would be a good budget to have for that time of the year, considering I will be more inclined towards value rather than luxury?

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