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Should I add Zimbabwe and cut out a stop in Botswana?

Minneapolis , MN
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Should I add Zimbabwe and cut out a stop in Botswana?

Trying to narrow down my itinerary and lock into my plans for late June-early July 2013. So far I am set on starting In South Africa, going to Mala Mala then to Botswana. There I want to visit Okavango (Shinde) and then something in Moremi/Linyanti Reserve/Chobe and ending in Victoria Falls. Lately I have been reading so much and talking to safari travelers and they recommend going to Zimbabwe. I like what I have heard about the Mana Pools area and particularly the Goliath Safari experience. (up close and personal and a bit more rustic). If I add Mana Pools I would need to cut something out from Botswana. Here lies my dilemma. Budget would be $10-15,000/person--just my husband and I. Should I just stick to Botswana and not try to add Zimbabwe? Is it worth it? Thoughts or advice???

london
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for Zambia, Selous Game Reserve, Ruaha National Park
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1. Re: Should I add Zimbabwe and cut out a stop in Botswana?

I've been to Mana Pools and it is great- haven't been to Goliath but it's very much on my list of places I'd love to go.

However, I think your itinerary already covers enough ground and I know from experience and research that Mana Pools is not very accessible and especially not to add onto what you've already got planned. It's OK to get to from Lusaka, so would combine well with a Zambia itinerary (eg South Luangwa or Kafue) or as part of a Zim circuit with Hwange. From Vic Falls I don't know what the options would be but I suspect they'd be expensive.

So if you added it in and cut out a Botswana stop you'd end up spending a large chunk of your budget on connecting flights which to me doesn't make sense- I'd rather spend my money on the actual safari. If I am understanding correctly, you'd end up spending only a few nights in each country. I know it's tempting to try and "do it all" in one trip but I think you'll find safari somewhat addictive so I'd say concentrate on Botswana this time and save Zim (maybe with Zambia) for next time.

Or look at a combination of Mana Pools with South Luangwa for this trip, although I wouldn't try and do those two and Vic Falls AND Mala Mala. Although it's not clear whether time or budget or both is the limiting factor for you. Your budget will buy you more days in Zam/Zim than Botswana IF you can spare the time.

Stanley, Falkland...
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2. Re: Should I add Zimbabwe and cut out a stop in Botswana?

Advice - cut down the amount of time you are in an airport or plane, because I can guarantee you will see no wildlife then.

Avoid places far away from your main centre. EG Mala Mala?? Its not even near Botswana!

What is your priority? You dont say, so how can anyone advise where to spend your time?

"Some travellers say this..." So? What do YOU want? It's YOUR trip!

Wayzata, Minnesota
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3. Re: Should I add Zimbabwe and cut out a stop in Botswana?

Hi CMNQuinn,

Your budget is very generous if you shift your destination to MalaMala and Zimbabwe and I absolutely love Mana Pools. I went to every permanent lodge in the park last year along with every permanent lodge in the Hwange. A few more opened this year that I have not seen. I am going to every permanent lodge in Matusadona next month. IMO, the major difference between Mana Pools and the Okavango Delta (Botswana) is the comparison between the Okavango Delta and the Zambezi River. Only in Botswana can you have a safari on an inland Marsh. Only in Mana Pools (and across the River in Lower Zambezi, Zambia) can you have a safari on a major river. The Zambezi is about one mile wide at Mana Pools. Both the Okavango Delta and Mana Pools offer canoeing, motor boating, hiking, and land rover safaris. You have to choose the right camp to get these activities in Botswana and Shindee offers all four. Both offer elephants galore, many other cats and mammals and almost no rhino. I am not sure that Goliath is best for you on a first time safari. The camp is awesome but the experience is hard core. The owner, Stretch Ferreira (he is over 6 ft 6in) puts a big focus on hiking safaris and getting very up close and personal with elephants. If you got there and found this too unnerving, your visit may be a bust. My profile for Goliath customers is much more the 2nd or 3rd time safari goer.

I would not go to Mana Pools unless you went to Hwange on the same trip. The two companies that offer scheduled (i.e. affordable) light air transfers also service the Hwange on circuits so it makes sense to go there as well. Africa Bush Camps/ABC and Wilderness Safaris/WS are the only two companies currenlty offering light air scheduled service. You have to book the lodges (including Goliath) with ABC or WS to use their scheduled air. WS does not take direct bookings and ABC recently stopped taking direct bookings so you need to work with an agent to book the air and the lodge. If you use ABC you can pair Somalisa (they own it) or the Hide in the Hwange with Kanga (they own it) or Vundu or Goliath in Mana Pools. If you go with WS you might as well pair Ruckomechi in Mana Pools with Little Makalolo in the Hwange. One small advantage to Wilderness is they offer scheduled service from Harare/HRE. HRE is only about one hour from Mana Pools while Victoria Falls/VFA is about 2.5 hours. Also, there are at least 6-8 flights per day to HRE from Jo’burg/JNB and the flights are cheaper (VFA is only a tourist route) and the flight JNB-HRE is about 30 minutes quicker than JNB-VFA. So, there are lots of reasons to end in Mana Pools and go to HRE or start in HRE and go to Mana first (then Hwange then Vic Falls to end).

The entire six night safari including air in Zimbabwe would be around $4,500 per person all-inclusive AT THE MOST and less depending on camps selected. To this you would need to add MalaMala, commercial flights, Vic Falls accommodations and transfers to/from MalaMala. Given your big budget you could add three more nights in Matusadona inbetween Hwange and Mana.

Bottom line – I recommend two choices:

1) MalaMala + Shindee +Ngoma/Muchenje

2) MalaMala + Ruckomechi/Vundu/Kanga/Goliath + Little Makalolo/Hide/Somalisa.

I don’t recommend combining Botswana and Zimbabwe given YOUR PARTICULAR PARAMETERS so just stick to one country and add MalaMala and Vic Falls to both options.

Since you are from Minnesota (I am ten miles west of you in Wayzata), I am not sure why you want to travel in June and July. That is one of the only nice times here. It is also the coldest time of the year in Zimbabwe and Botswana (it snowed yesterday in Jo’burg and was below freezing). In Mana Pools your morning temp will be about 35F. Why not go right after Labor Day? This will be the absolute best weather of the year in Zimbabwe or Botswana and the flights will be cheaper.

Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond

2011 Travel & Leisure A-List agent for Zimbabwe and Botswana

ld
Manchester, United...
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4. Re: Should I add Zimbabwe and cut out a stop in Botswana?

If you are going to Shinde, try and get a night or two at Footsteps camp for some walking safari and a great bush experience. Footsteps and Shinde are on the same concession and not too far a drive away from each other.

Nairobi, Kenya
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5. Re: Should I add Zimbabwe and cut out a stop in Botswana?

I think that you should eliminate Mala Mala because it is a fenced,private game park. Thus you'll be missing out on the excitement of an unfenced national park,and the experience of having wildlife entering your camp as well as listening to it at night. In my experience,most people and not only myself prefer a more "natural" safari then what is available in South Africa both at the private and National game preserves.

Port Moody, Canada
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for Vancouver, British Columbia
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6. Re: Should I add Zimbabwe and cut out a stop in Botswana?

kl we were at Footsteps in 09 and again this past November.. you can't drive from Shinde to Footsteps now because of the water levels changing the terrain.. at least we couldn't in November we had to fly into a different airstrip( memory lapse here) and then it was a very long drive.. absolutely terrible road. to the Footsteps camp which btw is also now permanent as opposed to being moved every 2 years. .we enjoyed the walking at Footsteps but I'd say the camp has gone down a notch or two since our 09 experience. The staff were very good and the guides did the best they could with limited resources...no mokoro there as well last Nov again because of water levels. I do realize that this can change depending on season but the staff indicated that they hadn't been able to access Footsteps from Shinde in more than a year.

We did great walking with letaka and I think almost every camp will offer some walking. We did our last 2 nights at Selinda this trip and while we didn't walk it was an option.

In 99 we canoed the Zambezi and spent some time in Mana Pools.. it was quite wonderful but overall I think the Okavango is a superior experience.

Wayzata, Minnesota
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7. Re: Should I add Zimbabwe and cut out a stop in Botswana?

Hi There AfricanMan,,

Just a quick note. MalaMala's fence was taken down sometime around 1995. It has since then been open to the MASSIVE Kruger ecosystem and the entire 14 mile Eastern boundary of MalaMala is an un-fenced border with the Kruger. The animals are free to come and go as they please. The animals come out of the park onto MalaMala land to drink from the permanent flowing Sand River. There are no fences on any side of MalaMala. It is surrounded with no fences by Kikmans, Sabi Sabi, Nottens, Chitwa Chitwa, Londolozi and some private land. The fences are on the other side of these properties.

Craig Beal - owner – Travel Beyond

2011 Travel & Leisure A-List agent for Zimbabwe and Botswana

Nairobi, Kenya
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8. Re: Should I add Zimbabwe and cut out a stop in Botswana?

Thank you for your correction.

Wayzata, Minnesota
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9. Re: Should I add Zimbabwe and cut out a stop in Botswana?

No problem. That is why I like the forums. Learn a ton here.

Craig

Sydney, Australia
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10. Re: Should I add Zimbabwe and cut out a stop in Botswana?

There's so much to see in Botswana....Just crossing the boarder into Zimbabwe took hrs.( There's no game at the boarder crossing either). Unless you're really big fan of lots of water flowing over a big cliff, stick to Botswana Chobi area and head up to Okavanga to see heaps of wildlife.