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Help please! Trying to plan an African trip!

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Hi guys! So my girlfriend and I have done some extensive travelling together but haven't been to Africa yet. And she is definitely on the bucket list! We want to go for the month of October/November. Places we want to see are pretty much what are on everyone's bucket lists: Cape town (great white shark cage diving), Kruger (optional), Victoria Falls, Seychelles, Maasai Mara and Luxor and the Pyramids. We will be flying out of Vancouver, Canada. I was thinking maybe flying into Cape town first and ending in Egypt for my flight back. Our budget is around $15,000-$20,000. We were thinking: get to cape town around October 10th, spend 5 days there recovering from the flight and enjoying scenery and going cage diving, then flying up to Johannesburg and booking a 3 day trip safari to Kruger, back to Johannesburg for a day and then flying to Victoria falls and spending three days there, then flying to Mahe and going scuba diving and spending 7 days there, then flying to Nairobi and booking another 3 day trip safari to Maasai Mara, then flying to Luxor and seeing the pyramids for five days and making our way back to Vancouver around November 8th.
Please feel free to give your input on all that. I know it's a lot of travelling. Don't like spending weeks in the same country or around the same place. We like to get in, see things, do things and get out.
My questions are these:

Is there anything in between there that we need to do or any places that we are completely missing out on that are a must see?

I've looked at the map and they all seem fairly far apart from one another so I'm assuming flying to all these places would be best. But some places like Victoria falls seemed a little expensive for flights.. Is driving safe around all these areas?

Am I better off booking safaris while I'm there or should I pre book? I'd like to think I'm a pretty good negotiator and it seems to always be the best way to go pretty much everywhere around the world but is this the case around Africa, more specifically safaris?

Zambia or Zimbabwe side for best view of the falls?

Any input is highly appreciated!!!

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    What kind of accommodation do you have in mind? That doesn’t seem like much of a budget for month with al those flights included. Also, if I am not mistaken, there will not be much water flowing over the falls at that time of year so neither side will be very impressive.

    I’m still working on putting together my first trip to Africa together so these thoughts are based on my research, not experience. I’m sure if I am mistaken someone will set me straight.

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    There's an awful lot to respond to in your post, so I'll zoom out a little and make some general (and very personal) comments.

    First, for a month and with all your flights I think your budget is in real jeopardy. Air travel around Africa is expensive, full stop, and by wanting to hopscotch around you're risking paying several one-way fares or having to "double back" to make connections. For example, in October one way SEZ-NBO is C$527; a one-way flight from NBO to CAI is C$400 and a return flight from JNB to VFA is almost C$500. It really adds up.

    And lodging in popular safari or beach areas is NOT cheap; you should probably figure at least $100 per day per person for lodging and food; easily twice that (or more) in safari situations. Then there's ground transportation to add, and so on.

    Second, you'll be visiting during a fairly inconsistent weather period. By November you're definitely in the rainy (and hot) season in the north, e.g. Masai Mara, but Cape Town will be well into nice spring weather. What happens if your days in the Seychelles are rainy?

    So I'll just recommend you do a thought experiment along these lines.

    - Limit yourselves to South Africa. There are cheap airfares available (look at Emirates out of Seattle or BA out of Vancouver.) Or if Egypt is a must, buy a round trip ticket to Cairo and "nest" a separate round trip from Cairo to South Africa and back inside the Cairo flights.

    - Use a car to get around SA. The driving is easy, the scenery incredible, the cultural and landscape variety is nonstop, and it's quite affordable. Look for beach experiences in KwaZulu Natal, go wine tasting, hike in the Drakensberg mountains or along the Panorama Route, try to go early enough to see the wildflowers in Namaqualand (google these places) and so on.

    - Use the money you would have used for airfare to upgrade your lodgings. Things like bed and breakfast places in South Africa are incredible bargains.

    - Start budgeting for your return trip. You will be planning it before you've been there a week.

    Like I say, just some suggestions.

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    Ya, I figured $5,000 for flights/travel and $10-15K for everything else for a month.. that's $300-$500 a day for food, accommodations, etc. I think the budget is good. Mind you it's sounding like it will be closer to $7,000 for flights/travel. Not an issue though. As to accommodations, we are very easy going. Not looking for 5 stars by any means. Just somewhere to sleep and continue on with our day!

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    Why do you have to do the whole continent in a month? Go to one region and enjoy it. You'll experience more than just flying all over. A month is not long and Africa is much bigger than S America or N America.

    Three nights on safari is not enough. Vic Falls during that season is low water.

    We like guest houses in S Africa and the public park bungalows. See www.SanParks.org and www.kznwildlife.com for info. A wilderness trail in Hluhluwe-iMfilozi should not be missed.

    Go on half the budget this time and go back (again and again).

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    Three nights on safari was plenty for us and Kruger is definitely the place to do it - it was super cheap and perfect for what we wanted. Personally I'd skip Victoria Falls - it seemed a huge expense for a very small amount of water and so while it was on our shortlist we dropped it for more time in Cape Town

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    With safaris, I'd say it's better to book in advance to ensure you get a good quality one. Prices can be seasonal but I've heard people have had bad experience when they've tried to book on the day or at short notice.

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    Hi there!

    Sounds like an epic adventure you have planned. I’ve personally traveled all over Southern Africa in Oct-Dec so I can speak to that experience a bit. I haven’t yet traveled to East Africa during that time, but I will be there this fall actually the same months you are hoping to travel. Who knows, maybe we’ll cross paths! J

    You have a lot that you want to cover and although you have a month to travel I still think you might be trying to cram in too much into this trip as others have mentioned. You might want to break it up into Southern Africa on one trip, East Africa on another and then hit up the pyramids/Egypt on a separate trip as well. I could easily spend a month in Southern or East Africa on their own. Each time I go my trips are usually about 3 weeks long and it never gets old. I usually spend about two weeks of that time on safari and the rest in cities like Cape Town.

    Gardyloo made some really good points about flight costs and your budget. The flights alone could take up a huge chunk of your budget if you include everything on your list and I also agree that you could really maximize the types of places you stay in, the types of guides you have, levels of service, etc. by decreasing the amount of places visited. My personal preference too is to really feel that I experienced a place and got to “take off my shoes and stay a while” as the saying goes rather than hoping in a car/plane/train/bus every other day to move on to the next place. Seems like you prefer to be more “on the go”, but I hope my thoughts and suggestions help!

    In terms of the areas that you would like to visit:

    Cape Town is one of my favorite cities in the world. It’s wonderful and well worth a 4 night stay at least especially if you want to shark cage dive as that’s a full day excursion. Keep in mind that runs at a couple hundred USD per person last I checked, so it’s a pricey day. It’s an AWESOME experience though. I did it in October – the water was freezing!

    There are lots of awesome bed and breakfast accommodations in Cape Town that are a really good value. Welgelegen away from the waterfront and Lawhill Apartments near the waterfront are two of my favorites and offer a great value for money. I also recommend spending 2 nights or so in the Cape Winelands. It’s beautiful that time of year and if you enjoy wine… it’s paradise! Franschhoek my favorite area to stay in. I don’t have any great recommendations in the budget category, but if you are looking to splurge on those couple of nights Leeu House (or for the best of the best La Residence) are both incredible options!

    Victoria Falls will be dry as a bone on the Zambian side of the falls, so it’s definitely best to stay on the Zimbabwe side. When you visit the falls you’ll be able to walk out and overlook the Zambian side while standing in Zimbabwe, so you still get a good view of both sides from Zimbabwe. While it’s beautiful and I’m happy I visited the falls during that time, it’s very out of the way compared to some of the other areas you are visiting in South Africa and will add on quite a bit cost-wise for what most people do as just a 2 night stay. That might be one thing I’d eliminate from your itinerary. Ilala Lodge is a good moderately priced and well located hotel on the Zimbabwe side if you keep it in. When you mentioned driving to Victoria Falls, where were you thinking of driving from? I can’t think of a good option that would be efficient with your time and money unless you did a camping self-drive safari from somewhere in South Africa to Victoria Falls? I’m not an expert in self-drives so if you are interested in that idea maybe someone else can pitch in with their thoughts.

    Seychelles does have its wettest weather generally in November, but it is a year-round destination. Usually the rains are short bursts and then the sun comes back out. Most everything in the Seychelles is priced in Euro and quite expensive, this could take up a huge portion of your budget depending on how long you spend here. Mozambique would be a great beach alternative to keep flight costs down and stick within Southern Africa. Still awesome beach options there! Villa Santorini being one of my favorites in the more moderate price range. I don’t know budget properties in the area.

    The Masai Mara will have some rains as well, but it won’t be to the extent of the April rains that shuts many lodges and roads down. You may want to consider visiting Botswana instead of the Masai Mara. It will also be the start of the rainy season there, but in the same way, short bursts and generally doesn’t disturb much of your game viewing. Botswana is so much closer to some of the other areas you’d like to go.

    I liked traveling to Botswana in October/November because as soon as the rains came it was like the continent came alive again with baby animals being born, the grasses coming back to life, and you even notice it in the attitudes of the camp staff… they totally celebrate the first rains! While, I would never compare the two (Botswana and Kenya) in terms of experience, they are both AMAZING game viewing areas and Botswana is much closer to some of the other areas you wish to visit including Victoria Falls (an easy and relatively inexpensive add-on once Botswana is in the itinerary), Kruger, Cape Town, etc. Depending on the camps you visit pricing generally drops in Botswana at the end of October/early November so that can help you keep costs down. Botswana would be a big splurge with the per diem you had in mind, but again if you stick within Southern Africa that will save you a ton on flight costs which you could re-allocate there. Keep in mind, temps will be HOT, especially during the day. Make sure wherever you stay at least has a fan. You may be uncomfortably warm at times, but to me it’s worth it. I love the African sun! (Wear sunscreen and a hat for sure!) I would spend at minimum 6 nights at 2 different camps in Botswana as there are so many different areas to visit within a short flight from each other. A Chobe River cruise would be awesome this time of year as well… so many elephants!

    You listed Kruger as optional – I’d include it before Botswana or any other safari area if you plan to go there. It’s just my personal preference of order because Botswana is just so vast. I like going from a more bushveld, dense area (Greater Kruger eco-system) to the vastness of Botswana instead of the opposite order.

    Adding Cape Town in between these two areas is super easy as well – there are nonstop commercial flights between several areas outside of Kruger National Park to Cape Town and from Cape Town to Maun, Botswana. If you can, I would include Kruger so that you have the chance to see rhino. Seeing rhino is so special, especially because of the current world climate around poaching/protecting them. It’s well worth seeing them in the wild if you are able to!

    One side note- if you do add Mozambique into this itinerary as I suggested then the easiest way to get there is via Johannesburg or from safari outside of Kruger. Thus, I might shift around my order recommendations above (re- Kruger first and then Botswana) if you want to include Mozambique and have your beach stop be at the end of your month-long adventure.

    I wouldn’t recommend showing up and booking on arrival as space can be limited at a lot of camps and on flights. You could end up stuck somewhere!

    Again, hope this helps!

    Enjoy your trip!

    Kayla Torgerson
    Safari Consultant – Travel Beyond

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    Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden is a must see location. It is actually the place that has the tree bridge. It's extremely beautiful and you will be able to see a lot of wildlife. If you enjoy hiking than you are able to hike around the mountain a ways as well. If you just want to enjoy the scenery, there is an amazing restaurant where you can enjoy many native South African dishes. The prices are fair and you receive a lot of money for a low price.

    The other place to visit in South Africa is the South African drum shop near the marketplace. It is owned by S Manan. On Saturdays you will hear many tourists learning how to play the African drums. It is completely free for anyone that wants to learn, also tell them that Kasandra sent you and they will be very happy. The next place to visit is Table Mountain. It is a hard hike, but there is also a cable car that takes you to the top if you don't want to do the hike. It's absolutely beautiful at the top as there is a land of clouds. The other place to visit is Seapoint. It's pretty popular and it's absolutely relaxing and beautiful there. There are a couple other spots that I know of to visit if you are interested, but those are all the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Happy Travels! :)

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