I would like to ask for assistance with the following:
I am a US Citizen who will be traveling with a Filipina for vacation this year. We have traveled over much of SEA together and would like to branch out. One of our thoughts is to go to Africa primarily to go on Safari. I have done some reading in the various threads and some research using various search engines. My initial (not written in stone) requirements in approximate order of importance are:
1. Only countries where both a US Citizen and a Filipina can obtain visas relatively easily.
2. Low cost but decent, or better, Safari experience.
a. "big 5", but Filipina particularly likes giraffes and elephants [Safari World, TH] (Is there any chance of riding an elephant as in Thailand?)
b. lodging preferred but camping is acceptable
c. good season, if not the "perfect" season (i.e. do not want to be out in the rain that much but some is ok as long as the animals are there.)
3. Good tourist experience (before and after the actual Safari)
a. inexpensive but clean hotel (private room with en-suite bathroom)
b. good, but inexpensive restaurants (not really picky eaters but organs and sweetbread are off the acceptable list)
c. interesting places to see (either man made or natural)
d. decent shopping for local arts and crafts (souvenirs and gifts)
e. "friendly" locals (it would be nice to get to know some local people if time and communication barriers allow. [English, Thai, Chinese, Cebuano and Filipino spoken by traveling couple])
4. I am reluctant to go to South Africa due to its history, the African countries we are considering are Egypt, Morocco, Ghana (though from what I have read these aren't the countries for the Safari experience), Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa. The reason South Africa is on this list is that I have read Kruger can be done as a self drive which may (or may not) help it better to fit into our budget and there is a train ride from JNB to CPT that is appealing.
5. We can depart anytime from about 01 April until 31 December 2011. We have about 14 days or so for the trip. But do not want (or need) to spend the whole 14 days on safari as we'd like to see something of the city life. There is some flexibility in the number of days available.
6. The budget is about USD$2,000.00 per person (total $4,000.00) NOT including airfare to/from Africa (what the travel agencies/brochures call land only). There is some flexibility in the budget. However, we are not seeking luxury or exclusivity.
So, my questions are:
1. Where is the best place to go for Safari and what time of year given that we may only get to do it this one time?
2. Is it better to book a Safari in advance or can we do it when in country? The two concerns here are cost and availability. Of course, we'd like to spend as little money as possible but would rather not risk showing up and finding out that all the good/decent guides/tours/sites were booked.
3. Recommendations for drivers, car rental, safari guides, etc.
4. Recommendations for hotels for the nights before and after the actual safari.
5. Recommendations for hotels in the city.
6. Recommendations for reliable low cost carrier for intra-Africa flights? (ala Air Asia/Tiger Airways/JetStar Asia or something like the Cathay Pacific All-Asia Pass)?
7. Comments on the proposed budget vs the requirements? Two weeks in SEA is certainly doable at USD$2000/pp (ex. international airfare) and one would be at least comfortable and probably experience some luxuries. Will USD$2000/pp be enough for 14 days at a moderate standard for hotels and meals?
I hope I have provided enough information but if not please ask.