Our agent and this company were outstanding. I had started our planning by researching a list of places we wanted to go in southern Africa, the things we wanted to do, the number of days we wanted to stay (18 days of actually seeing things, plus whatever travel days/nights were needed) and a budget. She was much more flexible about our needs than the other companies I talked with, who wanted to put us on their existing, large-group tours. She made suggestions, based on our initial list and the travel company's experience, for itinerary, hotels and safari camps; they had all been well-reviewed on TripAdvisor. She prepared an initial cost estimate for a customized trip and we negotiated a deal based on that.
Our experiences during the trip varied between excellent and truly outstanding. Our agent booked excellent local tour companies for us and her travel arrangements worked flawlessly. She stayed in touch with us at each hotel to make sure that there were no problems.
We have taken many trips, some packaged group tours and some we arranged ourselves. Our trip with this safari travel company was one of our best, probably the best. It was expensive and worth every penny.
We spent three days at each of two safari lodges recommended by the travel company: Savanna Lodge in Sabi Sands and Kings Camp in Timbavati. The lodges and their game drives far exceeded our expectations, and I will review them separately on TripAdvisor. We saw all the animals one hopes to see and many more: twenty-three species of mammals, including a leopard playing with her cubs, another leopard eating his kill in a tree, a lioness stalking her prey at dusk (we are rather glad she missed the kill!), hyenas and their cubs living in a huge termite mound, and a rhinoceros with her new baby. Our guides were expert at getting to within a few feet of the animals: a leopard cub played under our vehicle. These were unforgettable experiences.
I would take note of the warning that in SA the temperature changes dramatically when the sun comes up or goes down. Also, when driving in an open game vehicle, the wind chill is substantial: we went from the 70s F into the 30s in the space of an hour when the sun went down. We should have brought heavier clothes for May/June. We took a backpack on game drives with the warmest clothes we had packed and when the sun went down, we put them on over our regular clothes. In the morning, we started with them all on and then took them off when the sun came up. We bought fleece hats after our first drive and I wish we had taken winter-weight parkas, which is what the guides wore.
We are very glad that we spent three or four nights wherever we went: Capetown, Sabi Sands, Timbavati, Victoria Falls and Johannesburg. Short hotel stays would have meant a poor travel - sightseeing ratio, which is the bad thing about the packaged group tours. Short stays also mean that you miss worthwhile experiences in places where you will probably never go again. By the way, do not believe people who tell you that there is nothing to see in Johannesburg. We have a list of other places in southern Africa where we want to go, but that will have to wait for another trip - with this company, of course.
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