Congratulations on your wedding! It's great that you're planning a safari for your honeymoon.
I think the first thing you'll want to think about is East Africa (Tanzania and Kenya) versus Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, Zambia) -- I've been on safari in both regions and love them both, but they have very different safari styles which will impact your experience. A book could be written on the subtle differences but here is a brief outline of the major ones:
The safari experience itself will be quite different in the two regions. Most safaris in East Africa involve driving from park to park in the company of a single driver-guide who will stay with you throughout your trip. Safari vehicles are closed with 'pop-top' roofs to comply with park regulations -- the best are Land Cruisers or Land Rovers which have been 'extended' to provide more space. Most safari areas are in national parks which means you can't drive off-road or at night or do walking safaris (though there are designated wilderness areas where limited off-roading are walking are possible, notably in Tarangire and in the Lemai Wedge portion of the Serengeti). There is no denying that you will see a lot more vehicles than you will in Southern Africa, as there aren't any capacity controls to keep the numbers down. That being said, it is possible to get off the beaten track and avoid most of them, but it takes effort and can be expensive -- you'll need to make sure you book with a specialist company that is familiar with the smaller camps and lodges rather than just the big safari hotels. There are certain areas, like the Ngorongoro Crater and around the river crossing points on the Grumeti River, where you won't be able to escape the crowds.
Most safaris in SA (or Botswana or Zambia) involve flying from camp to camp, with a different guide at each camp who really knows the area well. Safari vehicles tend to be open Land Rovers or Land Cruisers, which can give you a stronger feeling of being in the bush. Most safari areas are privately owned which means that off-road driving, night drives, and walking safaris are possible, and vehicle numbers are strictly limited (normally to two or three vehicles to a sighting). Driving off-road and at night enables you to see predators in action and to observe nocturnal species.
While the same species are present in both regions, the numbers you'll see and the ease of seeing them will differ. Tanzania is of course famed for the Great Migration, with millions of wildebeest moving across the plains. Cheetahs are much easier to see as they prefer the wide-open landscapes typical of the Serengeti.
Botswana has a very diverse environment, from the wetlands of the Okavango Delta to classic bushveld where you can see enormous herds of elephant and buffalo in the dry season to the stark white pans of the Makgadikgadi. South Africa also has a wide range of environments, from the classic bushveld of the Sabi Sands to the drier semi-arid Madikwe region and the greener reserves in KwaZuluNatal. Zambia has both classic bushveld and areas which are dominated by the presence of the mighty Zambezi River.
Each environment supports some species which are not found in the others, so you'd see a wider variety of animals but not the sheer numbers that you'd see in Tanzania. It's easier to see leopards in Southern Africa since you can drive off-road and at night -- the Sabi Sands in South Africa has IMO the best up-close big cat viewing in Africa. Rhinos are also much easier to see in South Africa, again in the Sabi Sands. Botswana is probably the best country in which to see the highly endangered African wild dog.
Because of national parks rules, safaris in Tanzania focus primarily on game drives. There is a wider range of activity options in Southern Africa, including walking safaris and river safaris, as well as mokoro trips in dugout canoes in Botswana. Botswana also offers the opportunity to interact with the San Bushmen and learn about their way of life which is a really special experience. I spent two days with the Bushmen on my last trip and it was amazing.
If you wanted a non-safari experience in East Africa, you could spend in Zanzibar or some of the islands nearby. In addition to spending time on the beach you could go on a spice tour or a historic tour of Stone Town. You're also within easy flying distance of the pristine islands of northern Mozambique if you'd like to get off the beaten track.
Southern Africa offers a wider variety of non-safari options -- there's a reason why South Africa's slogan is 'a world in one country.' Joburg is the transportation hub of Southern Africa you'll be only a short flight away from Namibia, Vic Falls, Cape Town, and the beaches and diving off the KwaZuluNatal coast and in Mozambique. There are often some nice Mozambique packages on LL.
If buget is a factor (and when isn't it?) South Africa offers the best value for money, particularly with the Rand being as weak as it is. There are often some great LL packages for SA, particularly in Cape Town (Twelve Apostles, Mount Nelson), the Winelands (Le Quartier Francais) and the Garden Route (The Marine, etc). From what I've seen the safari packages are not always as good a value -- you need to check the exchange rate carefully. The main problem wth most of them is that they only give you 2 nights per camp which is not enough to relax and really enjoy your stay. I'd recommend a minimum of three nights per camp -- otherwise you're either just arriving or getting ready to leave.
I have really enjoyed all of your extensive information on safaris, and one day I hope to put your information to good use and actually go on a safari! I have a difficult question for you: if money were no object, which safari lodge would be your number one choice? Which has been your all-time favorite lodge?
This is a purely fantastic question as money would certainly be an issue for any safari trip we planned. I'm just curious, though, as all of your photos and recommended resorts look fabulous!
I'd go with Mombo in Botswana, edging out Singita Boulders in South Africa by a hair (Singita has better food and nicer rooms, but nothing can compare with the game-viewing at Mombo). Of course a dream itinerary would involve nice long stays at both!
Thanks jasher - I was hoping you'd see this stray question here. I've heard a lot about both camps, it sounds like an ideal Southern Africa trip would combine visits to both camps plus Johannesberg and Cape Town (and maybe some wine country) for a well-rounded, luxurious trip. Definitely on the wish list.....
for all luxury suite only just outside Joburg try the castle at Kyalami or a Southern Sun group hotel at Fourways such as the Indaba - nearby they also have the Lipizzaner horse show or with Southern Sun in Cape Town
or if you want downtown Joburg try the Melrose Arch area with its own Moyo Kenyan restaurant
Good place to vist is Brightwater Commons for restaurants and has its own rejuvenated flea market
and is Joburg's equivalent to the Victoria and Albert waterfront
My husband and I would like to do our first safari ain Kenya and tanzania however lat October or early November is the only time tha twe could go other than February. Is this time of the year impossible or undesirable for safari travel? Can I bid on any good trips here on LL?Many thanks, Francie
The East Africa options on LL are normally pretty slim compared to the South Africa options (though there was a very nice Cheli and Peacock package offered a few months ago so you never know). Late October / early November is not an ideal time to go to East Africa as that's when the short rains start (the 'short' bit refers to how long the rainy season lasts -- the rain itself can be quite heavy and can last most of the day). While this does mean that you could potentially pick up a bargain, there's a good reason most people don't travel then -- East African safaris are road-based and often involve long drives between camps, and many of the roads (which are not great even when it's dry) turn into mud and gettting stuck for hours at a time is common. I've been on safari in late October in East Africa and can say from experience that being on safari when it rains is not a lot of fun. If you wanted to travel in late October / early November I'd recommend focusing on Tanzania if you want to see the Migration as the animals are normally heading down into the Central Serengeti.
February is a great time to go to Tanzania to see the birthing of the wildebeest on the short grass plains, but this also means it's peak season so you're unlikely to find any bargains. It will be hot and humid and you may encounter a few showers.
If you want to travel in late October / early November you may want to consider Southern Africa (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, or Zambia). The rainy season normally doesn't start until around mid-November and the game-viewing will be superb as it's the end of the dry season -- the bush will be very thin and animals will gather around permanent water sources. However, it will be high season which will make it expensive (though the South African Rand is quite weak against the dollar which will keep costs down if you choose South Africa). Zambia is also relatively inexpensive. Safaris in Southern Africa tend to use planes to move between camps.
February is low season in Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia (but high season in South Africa). You're also likely to see some showers in Southern Africa but the rains there tend to be lighter and generally take the form of brief afternoon showers rather than an all-day drizzle.