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African Safari And Beach Holiday News.

The Travel Butlers Blog

TripAdvisor – Friend or Foe?

TraceyCampbell - July 2, 2013

Travel Butlers are a fairly regular contributor to Trip Advisor, and a Senior Contributor too with regards to reviews submitted and forum contributions. In every post that we submit, we will always try to answer the question fairly and avoid putting too much personal spin on our comments or thoughts, as we really do think that what is one persons ‘poison’ may be another persons ‘champagne cocktail’ so to speak.

Personal opinion is always so subjective, and it does concern me that people will read Trip Advisor reviews and only focus on the one negative review, where someone was obviously just having a bad day and took a dislike to the colour of the wallpaper, rather than seeing through this and realising that the location was good, the bed comfy, and the breakfast actually was cooked and presented attractively.  They will conveniently overlook the 170 other positive reviews.

My general view on Trip Advisor is to take the overall ratings seriously but don’t get too hung up on the individual comments.  If overall a property is scoring over 4 out of all its reviews,  then you can pretty much be assured that it is of a high standard and quality.  If overall it is scoring one or 2, then maybe do have second thoughts about booking it as part of your trip of a lifetime.

We always ask our guests for feedback when they get home from their trip, and we also ask them to score each place they stayed (and our service too) with a mark out of 5 – with one being poor, and 5 being excellent.  One particular ‘scoring’ that springs immediately to mind was with a lovely guest house in Cape Town that we use a lot, and also know personally having stayed there ourselves.  The score came back as an astounding 1 out of 5 – whereas previously the guest house had regularly scored 4 and 5 consistently.  Obviously very worried that one of our favourite guest houses had been taken over by terrible people, we called up the customer and asked them why they had marked the guest house down so severely.

Their answer was (and I quote) – the bread rolls at breakfast looked nice but were very bland tasting and the bacon was too salty.

I re-iterate – what someone may see as a huge fault, other people will just roll with it (no pun intended).

 

Emerald Green Time in Zambia

TraceyCampbell - June 27, 2013

Whilst most people will try to avoid travelling anywhere during the rainy season, in Zambia it does have its benefits.

Mid-November sees the start of the Zambian rains, and these tend to last until the end of April, with the most rain falling in December, January, February and March.   In particular,  flooding can happen in the Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa regions, making some areas here completely inaccessible.  Many of the temporary lodges and bush camps are dismantled, to let the vegetation recover.

This season is known as the Emerald or Green Season, as the rains turn everything a verdant lush green – so for a backdrop to your safari photos, it makes for a wonderful picture to proudly hang on your wall when you get home.   The wildlife also embraces the change of season, and many plains game will give birth at this time to take advantage of the abundance of food.  As a result, the predators also give birth too – after all, their food supply has just increased too…

So for the safari enthusiast, this is a magical time to come to Zambia for a safari holiday.  Not only is the wildlife viewing wondeful, there are less vehicles about due to the camp’s temporary closures, so it is less frantic and busy.  Coupled with the fact that these monts also tends to be the least expensive time to go on safari, it really is a win-win situation.   The only downside is that because of the increased water supply, the game is more dispersed throughout the Parks, rather than being concentrated around the rivers and lagoons as they tend to be during the dry season.  It makes finding the  game harder, but infinately more challenging and rewarding.

Now is the time to start planning your trip to Zambia during this season, so do give one of our consultants a call or drop us an email, and we would be delighted to help you!

  Emerald

The Best Time to Go on Safari in Kruger

TraceyCampbell - May 14, 2013

This is possibly one of the most frequently asked questions that our consultants get on a weekly basis – When is the best time to go on safari in Kruger?

LeopardThe answer, of course, is that any time is good – especially if you are a safari enthusiast, the Kruger National Park and the adjoining game reserves offer some of the best safari game viewing (in my humble opinion) to be found anywhere on the African continent.  Especially in the private game reserves such as Sabi Sand or Timbavati, lion and leopard tracking are a particular speciality – indeed, in my last 10 day visit to Sabi Sand, we saw no fewer than 27 different leopard!

But we do appreciate that the weather can play an important factor in whether people have a good or a not-so-good holiday, as can prices, so this blog will try to summarise it all succinctly for you.

Basically, you can divide the seasons in Kruger into 2 main periods – the High Season and the Low Season.

High Season around the Kruger National Park are the broadly September/October through to the end of April – so the Southern Hemisphere Spring and Summer.   The main summer months of December, January, and February tend to be extremely hot and humid, and temperatures can soar to over 40°C.  This is also the rainy season, which means the vegetation is wonderfully green and lush – so making all your pictures vibrant with colour – BUT this can make game viewing more difficult.  It always amazes me how something as large as an elephant can simply disappear behind a leafy bush, never to be seen again!   The combo of hot and rain also means the mosquitoes are out in force.

On the plus side, many animals give birth during the height of summer, so it is an excellent time to visit if you want to see lion cubs at play or wobbly zebra foals and baby impalas following closely behind their mothers.  On the downside, the lions, leopards and cheetahs are also very active, and the young calves are easy pickings – bear in mind, the cute lion cub also has to eat…

Low Season are the Southern Hemisphere winter months – so June, July and August.  These months are not only cool and dry, but are possibly the best for game viewing. Water is scarcer, so animals are more reliant on waterholes or rivers, which means greater game viewing opportunities around these areas. Although the vegetation around these areas remains lush, the grass elsewhere becomes much drier and shorter, making it easier to spot wildlife. Daily temperatures range from 9 degrees C to 26 degrees C, but the early mornings and nights can get very cold – so you will need several warm layers for your morning and evening game drives. The risk of malaria is less, and coupled with the cool daytime temperatures makes this a very popular time for visitors.  Low Season also means lower rates – and on top of this, many safari lodges offer Stay/Pay packages such as Stay for 3 nights, Only Pay for 2, so you can get some fantastic deals and really make your holiday budget stretch further.

The only downside on going on safari in Kruger in the Low Season is that many people choose to combine their safari with a trip to Cape Town, which experiences completely different weather over these months – Winter in Cape Town is the rainy period (conversely Summer in Cape Town is their dry period, when Kruger it is rainy).

Construction Work at Victoria Falls Airport (VFA)

PaulCampbell - April 25, 2013

We have just heard that there will some renovation work taking place at Victoria Falls Airport (VFA, Zimbabwe) for the next 3 months ahead of the UNWTO General Assembly in August 2013.

The construction work entails extension of the entrance halls to the Terminal building, and this means that The International Departures entrance shall be temporarily closed until 1 May 2013. Passengers will be directed to use the Domestic Departures Entrance to enter the Terminal building. This will be followed by the closure of the Domestic Departure Entrance and passengers will  enter the Terminal using the International Departure Entrance.  Signs will be posted to direct passengers  accordingly.

The above renovations should have no impact on guests travel arrangements and we look forward to a new and improved terminal when renovations are complete.

 

New Helicopter Transfers Add Extra Glamour To Botswana Camps

PaulCampbell - March 28, 2013

Helicopter Horizons have introduced a small chopper to their fleet, enabling affordable helicopter transfers between camps in Botswana’s Okavango Delta as an alternative to light aircraft transfers.

Some colleagues of ours recently enjoyed the full experience, spotting herds of zebra, elephant, journeys of giraffe and pods of hippo from the air before stopping for a refreshing glass of champagne on a remote palm island in the delta.  The agility of the chopper added a touch of adrenaline with low-flying passes over the channels as well as superior opportunities for aerial photography.

For bookings of 2 pax, not only is the chopper a highlight of any safari in Botswana, but it’s private, turning an inter-camp transfer into a memorable and exclusive activity for two.  The helicopter also drops off and picks up right at camp, removing long airstrip transfers.

The surcharge for helicopter transfers ranges from no additional cost to around $200 per person (based on the surcharge vs a fixed-wing aircraft), and  a 15 minute champagne stop on a palm island in the delta can be added to any helicopter scenic flight or transfer for $50pp in 2013.

Now that’s our idea of travelling in style!

 

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