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Wilderness trails vs. drives+walks and itinerary check

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nquinn
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Wilderness trails vs. drives+walks and itinerary check

Unread post by nquinn » Wed Oct 18, 2017 6:04 am

Hi all,

I have ~6-7 days to explorer Kruger National Park (could potentially do more). I've done a good amount of research, but had a few questions.
I'll likely be a solo traveler so taking everything into account.

1. The wilderness trails sound pretty similar to just booking accommodations + a few sunset/sunrise drives and walks, but appear to be a better value. Is there really much difference between the wilderness trail and booking each separately? More walking involved in the booked trails? Anything I'd miss out on by pretty much only doing the wilderness trail?

2. Any trail preference? The consensus seems to be Sweni or Olifants? Would like a nice mix of scenery and large game. Not worried about trail difficulty assuming I'll just be carrying a daypack and not a full backpack w/ tent, etc.

3. EDIT: Is it that much harder to see animals? From the FAQ below it sounds like these trails make it tough to see animals because they run away, at least compared to doing the drives. As a first timer (and probably only-timer) to KNP, I wouldn't want to be missing out on the big animals because I'm on a wilderness trail.

Here's a rough itinerary I put together - let me know what you think:

Nov 23-Dec 3rd: Cape Town / Franchoek / Jburg
Dec 4th: Drive in from Jburg to KNP. Sleep in a southern camp (lower sabie maybe). Do a sunset or night drive
Dec 5th: Lower sabie drives or walks all day.
Dec 6th: Drive from Lower Sabie to Satara to arrive for 3:30pm Sweni departure
Dec 7th. Sweni trail
Dec 8th: Sweni trail
Dec 9th: Sweni trail
Dec 10th : return from Sweni trail (I think to Satara? Can't quite find the return information)

If I didn't do the Seweni trail, I would probably stay in Olifants on the 7-9th and organize my own tours.

Any input would be appreciated! I could also possibly add a day at the end as necessary.
Last edited by nquinn on Wed Oct 18, 2017 7:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Goggo EJ
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Re: Wilderness trails vs. drives+walks and itinerary check

Unread post by Goggo EJ » Wed Oct 18, 2017 6:43 am

Hi and welcome to the forums.

First off....you don't say if it is this year you want to come? If so you might yourself limited by availability. Check and book as soon as you can.

Second, there is a lot of difference! In the Wilderness camps you are out in the bush with only a very small fence or barrier between you and the animals. You will do a morning walk and possibly an afternoon walk each day, usually with a ride to the starting point. You will probably only see your fellow guests and the guides and camp staff during the camp, and no other vehicles. Accomodation will be in 'permanent' tent type structures. All food will be provided. One big advantage is having 2 guides available to explain everything you see.

In the camps you will have people and traffic around all the time. On the park roads there will be other vehicles around, and you must stay in your car all the time unless you are in a designated 'get out' point, and even then need to make sure it is safe and stay near the vehicle or within a small area. You will have the option of booking walks and drives from the camp too. You will need to self-cater although all the main camps have shops and a restaurant. You will be on your own as far as identifying animals, birds, trees, etc goes unless you are on a booked walk or drive.

Whichever you do you will enjoy it I am sure!
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Re: Wilderness trails vs. drives+walks and itinerary check

Unread post by Elsa » Wed Oct 18, 2017 6:58 am

As GEJ has explained and given you some good advice all I will add in case you have not yet done so, is to have a read through the topic Wilderness Trails - FAQ where there is also a lot of info.

nquinn
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Re: Wilderness trails vs. drives+walks and itinerary check

Unread post by nquinn » Wed Oct 18, 2017 7:01 am

Thanks for the info! Honestly running into a bunch of "traffic jams" with self-drives doesn't sound so appealing to me. I'm mostly worried that I'd miss out on something with these walks that I might otherwise see in the other areas.

I'll be coming in early December. I already booked a Sweni walk as a precaution since I can cancel within 30 days, but needed some help deciding if that was the right call!

After reading the FAQ posted above though, it sounds like these walking trails won't expose you to many large animals like the drives would, so I'm not sure how much I'd enjoy them.

nquinn
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Re: Wilderness trails vs. drives+walks and itinerary check

Unread post by nquinn » Wed Oct 18, 2017 7:19 am

Elsa wrote:As GEJ has explained and given you some good advice all I will add in case you have not yet done so, is to have a read through the topic Wilderness Trails - FAQ where there is also a lot of info.


Thanks for this - the warning that you won't see nearly as many big animals on these trails is making me question my decision. I think I might go with individual drives instead after reading that =/

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Re: Bookings - info - advice & Feedback

Unread post by nquinn » Thu Oct 26, 2017 4:29 am

Has anyone had luck getting booking fees waived?

Ugh.

I booked a few accommodations and a wilderness trek when I saw that you could cancel 30days+ out without any fee.

However, I failed to notice that the wilderness treks had a different policy, and you lose 50% from days 31-90.

Entirely my fault, but after reading more about the wilderness trek I'm fearing that I won't like it as much because there are less large animal sightings.

Any chance they might waive the 50% fee since I'm still 42days or so out and there are all 7 other slots still available?

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Re: Bookings - info - advice & Feedback

Unread post by Meandering Mouse » Thu Oct 26, 2017 5:13 am

nquinn, the wildreness trek gives a completely different experience and it would be worth reconsidering your decision.

I have been on a number of trails and have had a few very exciting experiences. I have been very close to lion, buffalo, rhino and once had a few dry mouth hippo moments.

The walks themselves focus on signs in the wild. There is something very special looking at fresh spoor and smelling that 'an ellie had just passed by'.

I love the drive to and from the sundowner spots. I also love the midmorning snack, surrounded by pristine bush. We once sat on a little koppie withing touching distance from an ellie.

I also love the camps. The reality of being visited by a snake is very real. There are sometimes Rock Monitor, Gerbil, Dwarf Mongoose, and most definitely primate locals that love to look for possible scraps.

My daughter went on a trail a couple of years ago and the walk was interrupted by wild dog chasing an impie. I have had sundowners with hundreds of buffalo in the near distance.

Near is nothing like watching a sunset on a trail. It is the closest I have been to an earthly experience of heaven....think carefully....
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nquinn
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Re: Bookings - info - advice & Feedback

Unread post by nquinn » Thu Oct 26, 2017 5:32 am

Meandering - thanks for this insight. I'm still considering doing it, but I've seen several posts where they state "don't expect to see many animals on the trail" which is scaring me a bit.

Maybe I'd have a good variety agenda with something like this?
Dec 4 - Arrive Olifants, sleep, maybe a night drive
Dec 5 - Olifants all day
Dec 6 - Drive to Satara, start wilderness trail ~ 3pm
Dec 7/8/9 - wilderness trail, sunset drive at satara on return or just chill out (sleep satara)
Dec 10th - self drive wherever

I'd lose out on the souther part of the park / lower sabie where I was considering going, but it would give more variety.

The other option I was considering was basically 50% lower sabie 50% olifants and organize a bunch of one-off game drives and walks.

What do you think?

nquinn
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Re: Bookings - info - advice & Feedback

Unread post by nquinn » Thu Oct 26, 2017 5:14 pm

Elsa wrote:I think you might be surprised as to how much you would enjoy the trail!
nothing is guaranteed on any activity be it the guided drives or even self drive for that matter..
We have done some drives where we have heardly seen any of the "big animals" close to us but have enjoyed it nonetheless because of watching the smaller things like the birds, insects, the vegetation etc all of which makes up the bigger picture.
All I can suggest and I'm not sure if it will work or be allowed, is to contact reservations and ask if you can use the amount from the trail to book extra accommodation and activities in the park?
but it can't be less otherwise the modification fee would apply and do it asap.


You know, I think you guys might have sold me on this trail. Combined with game drives, do you think this would be enough:

Dec 4- arrive olifants late, maybe time for a sunset drive
Dec 5 - olifants morning/sunset drives
Dec 6 - self-drive to satara, start wilderness trail at 3
Dec 7 - wilderness trail
Dec 8 - wilderness trail
Dec 9 - wilderness trail
Dec 10 - self drive wherever after satara - maybe work my way out of the park or explore elsewehere

nquinn
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Re: Bookings - info - advice & Feedback

Unread post by nquinn » Fri Oct 27, 2017 7:00 pm

Elsa wrote:It could certainly work and the only option I might suggest is to start lower down in the park, say in the Skukuza area for the first night and then move on up to the trail unless you particularly want to stay at Olifants.
You could always make your way up there after the trail and then out of the park?


Thanks for the feedback. My concern was that if I'm not starting a full day until the 5th, I would be rushed to get to Satara for the trail starting on the 6th

I could potentially do this... what do you think?

Dec 4th: Arrive at Lower Sabie late, do a sunset drive / sleep
Dec 5th: Explore Lower Sabie, sleep Lower Sabie with morning and sunset drives
Dec 6th: Drive to Satara (3hr 45min drive + delays/food), wilderness trail at 3pm
Dec 7th: Wilderness trail
Dec 8th: Wilderness trail
Dec 9th: Return wilderness to Satara in the morning (not sure what time?). About 2hr 10min drive, could sleep at Olifants this night and do a sunset drive there
Dec 10th: Self drive around last day wherever in olifants area

A few people have posted that Olifants was there absolute favorite, so I considered switching to doing that instead of Lower Sabie. If the wilderness trail gets back reasonably early on saturday I could possibly head directly to Olifants from there for a one night stay.

Should I try to do lower sabie -> satara/wilderness -> 1 night olifants instead? Feels a touch more rushed, and I'd need to make sure that the wilderness trail gets back early enough saturday to make it to olifants. The page says "Wilderness trails start on either a Wednesday afternoon to a Saturday morning " So I think I'd be OK since olifants is only 2hr 10min from Satara.

This actually seems like a nice schedule to take me through a bigger section of the park, but it does mean I have only a 1 night stay at olifants on the 9th.

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Re: Bookings - info - advice & Feedback

Unread post by Elsa » Fri Oct 27, 2017 10:05 pm

The trails usually get back to camp around 9am so you have plenty of time left to explore further.

For me Olifants is spectacular in terms of scenery but I think the Lower Sabie area better for animal sightings.
So I would go with your final choice of itinerary! :thumbs_up:

nquinn
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Re: Bookings - info - advice & Feedback

Unread post by nquinn » Sat Oct 28, 2017 2:37 am

Thank you for all of the excellent advice! I know i've been rather indecisive but with limited time I want to make good use of it!

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Re: Bookings - info - advice & Feedback

Unread post by Meandering Mouse » Sat Oct 28, 2017 4:11 am

Hi nquinn, I think that your plan is now :thumbs_up:

You will find that the wilderness trails take you into another mode. You start to see and appreciate the moment in another way. You will also find that it spills over into the enjoyment of the bush in so many ways.

There are usually evening drives to the sundowner spot and early morning drives to the area where you will start walking. I have experienced very special sightings on these occasions.

I would advise you to take a birding and mammal book plus reasonable binoculars. There is an afternoon break where there is time to explore the wilderness camp. Each camp has it's own character and it is a period to relax and take in what has been seen on the walks.

The camps really are a lot more rustic, so you can experience nature in a very different way. Remember to also take a good headlight torch. :hmz: The trip to the ablutions can have interesting consequences.

People can be disappointed if their expectations are unrealistic. Take note of the moment. Breathe, feel and listen. Use your imagination. You might have a quiet walk with few sightings; you might stumble across a pride of lion. Either way, you can enjoy, if you allow your mind to take in everything.
The bird doesn't sing because it has answers, it sings because it has a song.

nquinn
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Re: Bookings - info - advice & Feedback

Unread post by nquinn » Mon Oct 30, 2017 7:24 pm

Thanks everyone, you guys are awesome.

I have one last concern though:

Currently, the Sweni trail still has no one else booked on it.

Do you think it's safe to book for December 6th and assume that at least 3 other people will join?
I'm not sure if there is no one else interested, if summer heat is scaring people away, or if it's just too far out for people to have booked yet.

My main concern is that if I book it and we don't reach the minimum 4 people, I will be stuck scrambling for accommodations!

Thoughts? Olifants tral has 2 people booked that day if I wanted a safer bet, but I'd prefer Sweni.

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Re: Bookings - info - advice & Feedback

Unread post by Afriphile » Mon Oct 30, 2017 7:50 pm

Hi ,nquinn.
I was not aware that there was a minimum number for the trail to go ahead.
Friends of mine booked,and did, the Nyalaland trail and there was only the 2 of them.
I think it is highly likely that if numbers are low then they will combine the Sweni with the Mathikithi,which both leave from Satara,and are only about 20 km apart.This happened to me but it was a great trail,and in no way diminished.
Sanparks would not "pull" the trail and leave you without accommodation.
My advice would be to stick with the Sweni,and see what happens.
Afriphile.


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