It is nice to see more people on this forum interested in safaris. I too am seriously condsidering a safari for later this year but still undecided on what to choose.I am also considering Sun City although many people don't recommend it, but I would just like to experience it. If I do opt for Sun City then I will probably go for Madikwe, (probably Madikwe Hills) but if we decide against Sun City then I will probably choose another luxury lodge, either Sabi Sabi-Earth Lodge, Leopard's Hill or Ulusabi. I still have not decided if it is the safari we will do, either that or Dubai/Maldives, but we will probably go Aug/Sept/October and there is a good chance of rain in the Maldives at this time andI feel that a destination like The Maldives really needs nice weather. So it looks like the safari is favourite at the moment. You had mentioned CC Africa which is funny because I actually received their brochure this morning. It looks very nice and they do sound like a very professional company.Does anyone know if CCA only take bookings direct with them or can you book them through another source e.g travel agent or do anytour operators use them for there holidays in South Africa? I would definately want to go with a reputable company and many people highly recomend CCA. Jashermud, it is always nice to read your replies and always find your posts very helpful and I will contact you again once Iam more definate in whatI want to do. Meanwhile I will look forward to reading these threads on safari's and picking up some more tips/advice. Thanks.
Yes, it is nice to see more interest in safaris! If you do want to do Madikwe, I'd highly recommend combining it with another game reserve to ensure that you do see something on your trip -- game-viewing at Madikwe is just very uneven and I would hate for you to go all that way and not see much of anything. Madikwe Hills and Leopard Hills are sister properties so there are sometimes good deals combining them. Alternatively, it's an easy flight back to Joburg from Sun City and onward to the Sabi Sands or Phinda.
I'd highly recommend CCA. You can book either direct with them or through a safari specialist. I've done both and I've found that you can get better rates with a safari specialist than you can by booking direct -- if you book direct you'll get the 'rack' or public rate but many safari specialists can give a discount off that rate. CCA do have a property in Madikwe (Madikwe Safari Lodge) which is lovely -- I've stayed there and really enjoyed it. It's sometimes featured on LL, so keep your eyes peeled!
August/September/October is a great time to go on safari in SA -- it's the end of the dry season so the bush is very thin and animals are easier to see. It can be a bit dusty sometimes if you go towards October, so I'd recommend August or September.
paul and jashermd, how close do you really get to the animals on these safaris? I see the pictures on the web sites and in the travel brochures I have read and they always show the people in the trucks and jeeps being really close to the animals. If you were really that close, and it must be important to get good photos, were you concerned about your safety? Thank you.
The following is a picture from our honeymoon when we were in Manyara NP.
With regards to booking with CCA, as mentioned previously you can either book directly, or via an agent. In my case, I got the best rates by going direct (and haggling a little!), but I'm sure it can work either way.
As you can see from Paul's photo (unfortunately I still haven't figured out how to post photos on LL...if there are any Mac users out there who can help, please PM me) you do get very close! I've been close enough to leopards and lions to pet them as they brushed against the side of the vehicle.
There've been only a few times when I was concerned about safety on safari. One was where an incompetent guide kept moving us closer and closer to a rather agitated pregnant elephant (if you'd been pregnant for two years you'd be pretty irritable too). The matriarch of the herd charged to protect the pregnant one, and when the matriarch charges so does everyone else, even the little calves. Fortunately by that point I had persuaded the guide to back off and we were already in retreat, and the elephants didn't press the point. Needless to say I don't have plans to go back to that camp anytime soon.
The other time was when I was brushing my teeth (in an outdoor loo) and looked into the mirror to find a large male baboon looking over my shoulder. Baboons have huge teeth, and in general primates are not as intimidated by humans as other animals. As soon as I turned around and told him to sod off he jumped down and ran away.
in reference to your Q on 'how safe are you?'. Anyone who says that you are dead safe, is dead wrong, and dead is the operative word. Subsequent replies to your Q, on the charge of ellies, and being stared at while brushing teeth (by a baboon no less, a very irritable beast), should give you an idea of just how close you can get. Smart operators know their business, and keep a respectful distance from animals.
When I lived in kenya, I often drove to safari camps / national parks along in my little 4 x 4. And have played that game of chicken with a lone bull elephant (who wouldnt get off the road).He won. I backed up for a half km, hoping that the stubborn devil (who was a goliath to my little david of a car) would wander off to some watering hole. Eventually he did, and I always believed that for him it was some principle of 'his road' and I was a guest. He had a sense of humour. So did I. I've had a young lioness think about my safari-booted foot as a potential prey, during a night drive (and we only caught her by spotting her emerald green eyes in her pre-pounce on the attack pose), and wemanaged to disrupt her trajectory by breaking hard.... (watched by guardian angels that time), that kept us in conversation for hours at the camp fire that night. and I had a very upset matriarch ellie decide that i was not welcome anywhere near her herd, and had to drive in reverse, up hill, on a narrow winding bush road, at something close to full speed.... while my passenger shouted into my ear "SHE'S STILL COMING, SHE'S STILL COMING". The true force of nature. I wouldn't have had it any other way.
Safari's depend on paying attention. You don't stray from the group. You respect the unpredictable force of wild animals in their natural habitat. You don't chat needlessly and make extra noise in the company of a pride of lioness, with young cubs, and you don't stand between a hippo and his water.I've watched friends 'water ski' in lakes full of hippo. They were insane. And lucky. But, onthe other hand,I have had young ellies play some game of tag around my little 4 x 4,trumpeting their trunks, their mothers and other older females just watching and thinking that was normal, Ihave watched with nervous amusement a young lion cub consider my tire some new found teething ring.... and have the litte fellow take shelter from the sun under my truck.... and just waited the 40 minutes until his 'mommy' told him to come back to the pride.... car turned off, no A/C, windows up, and have unearthed by complete accident, a rather large scorpion from its comfort in a piece of elephant dung... with a strong walking stick, not my foot.Ihave been horseback riding among herds of zebra and gazelle, and when they decided to be 'spooked' my horse got into the same game, and off we went .... somewhere .... it took an hour to regain our ground, lost in the bush, and glory of all, Iwatched a new born baby ellie stand for the first time, a safeand respectable distance from the herd, butclose enough to get the photos of a lifetime. Listen to the guide. Ensure that you are comfortable. Don't make noises that will disturb the animals, and watch your front and back....and sides. Remember where you are and don'tever underestimate that force of wild. But that's why safari's are so exceptional. Smart people, who respect just where they are, and remember that it is not only "their" holiday,make good safari companions. Find a quality safari company (previously mentioned in this thread cheli and peacock, which I recommend without hesitation and the Explorers group as well). Pay the extra. Good companies and camps have Range Rover style4 x 4s. Low end companies use 'vans' with some silly pop up roof and stuff 15 noisy tourists into that thing, no clearance, dusty, small tires .You canuse that standard asan easy method to eliminatethose lower end alternatives.
but go on a safari.go with a solid company, pay extra. itsa mistake to think that a van = 4 x 4. Even the animals know the difference.
(aka pony soldier).... if my ramblings and recollections are useful and welcome, i'll offer them. if not, i suppose the community will let me know. i have been very blessed to have lived where others dream of visiting. travels on holidays are always different than actually "living" in the same place. that often jades my perspective, which should be considered by accidental tourists. but when you live for a few years somewhere, you get to see beyond the regular tourist route, which should suggest that i have that opportunity to discriminate where i spend my shekels ..... i have watched the accidental tourist pay too much, or get drawn into a hype, and sadly miss the perfect moment that is a few km down the road. i have both the luxury and perhaps the misfortune of seeing holiday destinations for what they are beneath the surface.
your kind words are appreciated. discriminating tourists need to go beyond the hype.