Planning An Epic Surprise Birthday Trip For My Dad

Filed Under: Travel

Long time readers may remember the trip I took my dad on over four years ago. It was a “round” birthday for him, and I took him on a surprise trip. That’s not just to say that he didn’t know where we were going when we left, but even as he boarded each flight he didn’t know where we were going next.

We ended up flying from Los Angeles to Dubai in Emirates first class, Dubai to Singapore in Emirates first class, Singapore to Melbourne in Singapore first class, and Sydney to Los Angeles in Qantas first class.

It was probably my favorite trip I’ve ever taken, and seeing his reaction to it all was so fun. He had a blast, but I think I had an even better time.

I want to do it again!

Late next November is my dad’s next “big” birthday. He may or may not be turning three quarters of a century old. 😉

He’s still in good health, and you never know how many more opportunities you’ll have to do fun stuff together, so I want to make this really special. I’ve already told my dad I’m planning a surprise, and he’s totally onboard.

Here’s the thing, though — I feel like I can’t top the last trip in terms of the element of surprise, and for that matter it’s tough to blow him away after that.

So the way I view it, the surprise here has to be something completely different. The focus can’t be the flights (though maybe I can think of something creative there), but rather the focus has to be on the destination.

A few different things came to mind, the first of which was maybe taking him to an Aman somewhere.

But then it dawned on me that there’s something neither of us have ever done, and this seems like a great opportunity to do so — a safari!

Anyone who has been on Safari, I need your help!

You guys always have amazing insights, and I’d love to hear any suggestions you guys have. I want to do something epic for him, but:

  • I’m not totally committed to a safari, so if anyone has other great ideas, I’d love to hear them
  • If we do safari, I feel like I’m at such an information disadvantage as I’ve never done one before, and have no clue where to even start; when researching this online it seems like everyone has a different opinion

Obviously there are many different countries in which you can go on safari — South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, Zambia, etc.

I guess my general starting thoughts were as follows:

  • While I’ve heard safari in Tanzania is great, on principle I don’t think I have any interest in visiting the country at the moment given what they’re doing.
  • I’ve always dreamed of going to Giraffe Manor, though it looks like they’re already sold out for a year from now, unless I’m missing something? Grrr…
  • I’ve heard great thing about Singita, but they have so many locations that I feel overwhelmed and don’t even know where to start.
  • In general I’m thinking I’d like to spend about a week on the ground (or a bit more) spread across two properties.
  • It seems like late November isn’t the ideal time for safari, though is it better in some countries than others based on animal movements, etc.?
  • It’s not that I want to work the whole time, but being without Wi-Fi would be a challenge, and it seems like Botswana and Zambia are least likely to have Wi-Fi at lodges?

Singita Lebombo Lodge

I’m totally open to other options as well

While safari is the first thing that came to mind, I’m also open to completely different ideas. I’d love to do something that will catch my dad off guard, that involves nature/beautiful scenery (rather than cities), that has decent weather in late November, and that’s active without being too active (Ford and I love to hike for miles when going places, but obviously I don’t want to overwhelm my dad).

With that in mind, there were a few other ideas that potentially came to mind:

  • New Zealand is one of my favorite countries, and has some incredible lodges
  • I love Amans, and from many I’ve heard Amanpulo is the best property; however, I think that might be a bit too slow paced for us, and it doesn’t seem ideal in terms of combining two destinations
  • Speaking of Amans, I’m fascinated by the two Amans in Indonesia outside of Bali — Amanjiwo and Amanwana — though I’m not sure if that’s a bit too far “out there” for a trip with him

Amanjiwo, Indonesia

Bottom line

I often think that the ideal time to start planning important trips is 335 days out (around the time airline award calendars open), though I’m realizing I might be a bit late if I’m looking at a safari.

I feel a bit overwhelmed here since I honestly know very little about safaris, and have no firsthand knowledge of what the best combination of lodges is, etc.

You guys collectively know everything, so I’d love any thoughts you guys may have, either on safaris, or something else that you think could make a great trip in late November.

Thanks for any tips!

  1. I often think travel geeks plan these trips for the fun of creating them. It is questionable if their companion actually enjoys going on them. Some people just prefer to stay home rather than going to 5 star hotels and flying in first class suites.

  2. For the flights you could do Lufthansa First as one of them (since your german). How about Emirates new first class? Or you could fly Qsuites? The Etihad First apartment might be nice. Or Singapore’s new first class?

    These are just flight ideas but if you want to top the last one perhaps use EK or SQ new First Class since you flew their “old” product before with him.

  3. Stick to private conservancies. The number of sightings are restricted so you don’t have a herd of vehicles. Additionally, you have the ability to off-road to follow animals (allows you a front seat view of an animals life for the next hour, as opposed to stationary sightings).

    In South Africa, I’d choose Sabi Sands. I’d pick one of Londolozi, Singita or Mala Mala since they have the largest traversing area (Singita and Londolozi have traversing rights). Singita is the most expensive, Mala Mala doesn’t have spotters. We stayed at Londolozi, absolutely blown away.

    Kenya and Tanzania have more rustic tented accomodations. The exceptions would be Angama Mara, Mahali Mzuri, Sanctuary Olonana, Singita Grumeti).

  4. Buy a gimbal for your smartphone. You will capture some amazing video that is a lot easier to watch with a stabilized video.

  5. My favorite safari lodge is Toro Yaka. It is small only 6 rooms, but the service is 5 stars. I have been there 3 times and have had many friends go and everyone has the best time. The rooms are very nice, indoor/outdoor shower, A/C, and wifi. Meals are included and they cook for whatever your dietary needs and even just foods you like or don’t like. The food is always amazing! You fly into Hoedspruit (HDS). I always spend a week at Toro Yaka, then take the nonstop flight from HDS-Cape Town and spend a week there or in Hermanus area. If you have any questions let me know, happy to give you anymore information.

  6. I never understood why people want to go on safari? Just go to the zoo? You will have more animal sighting in one afternoon than your entire trip. Plus what more fun than seeing polar bear cage right next to lion cage? You can’t see that on an Africa safari!

  7. My first thought was, you don’t need a “safari” to go in safari in Africa. We usually just rent a car a stay in the camps. You can see most things yourself in the Kruger NP, and for the rest, the guided stuff is around $35.

    My second thought was, this is Lucky. You’ll want to stay at all the overpriced private reserves. There are lots bordering the Kruger, so you’ll have plenty of options.

    I highly recommend South Africa in general (we jokingly refer to it as “Africa-lite”) and the Kruger NP specifically because it has so much wildlife that easy to find within a good mix of ecosystems.

    Don’t hesitate to ask me for more specifics. I’d love to help.

  8. The ultimate trip would be:

    – Cape Town 2/3 nights Cape Town
    – Singita Boulders
    -Mombo camp (in Botswana)
    – Vic falls (if desired, only for a night or two)
    – gorilla camp in Uganda/Rwanda (Singita has a new one or One and Onlt has a a new one)



    Serengeti is the best of the best. Only problem with a safari is the vaccinations required before hand. If he doesn’t already have them he will need them and for yourself. You also need the anti-malaria medication and typhoid as well.

    Well worth it in my opinion. USA-DOH-JRO on QR. QSuites for you two to Doha.

  10. I have zero experience with or interest in safari, so here are some alternative suggestions:

    – The Southern Ocean Lounge on Kangaroo Island in South Australia, you could also throw in some wineries around Adelaide, which is a wonderful and very underrated city.
    – Mauritius is a wonderful destination if you explore the island vs staying at a hotel; we stayed at a working horse farm on top of a mountain (might be a bit more rustic than what you had in mind), rode horses and drove around the island exploring beaches, towns and stuffing ourselves with delicious Mauritian food.
    -Isle of Man – much closer, so less time in the air and I don’t think I have ever felt more relaxed than on the IofM. However, it is not a November destination. Maybe you and Ford can go in summer when basking sharks are there.

  11. A Safari is great and you wont regret it. Early mornings in the bush, the closeness to the animals and evenings around a fire. Singita is a treat and any property in Sabi Sands would be special and 2-3 nights is enough. For a week trip to South Africa why not a few days in the bush and a few days in Cape Town or surrounding winelands. November is a good time in SA in general. Fly into JNB, hop to the Kruger or Nelspruit and take a small plane to the lodge. Maybe fly out of Cape town back home

  12. Hi Lucky. So happy to hear you want to do a Safari. I am not a big animal lover and still loved doing a safari. This place in South Africa is amazing. I had an opportunity to visit here exactly one year after Michelle Obama stayed here. I can see why she choose this lodge. Let me know if you have any questions.

  13. Northern Tanzania is decent in November and offers up unique experiences during November, such as tracking of the great Wildebeest migration to the Serengeti.

    In addition, inner Namibia is great in November since it’s the first season for calves and this always encourages predator sightings.

    As a NatGeo freelancer, I always recommend the NatGeo packages since you will be among zoologists and professional photographers who are familiar with the area.

  14. @ Lucky – I’ve been to the Fairmont Masai Mara Safari Club in Kenya. It was fantastic, and I was able to redeem Fairmont points at the time — believe they are part of L’Accor now. The best part was the small group they took out for the safaris — we maxed out at four people total in a jeep, vs. the busload of people you often see. Made it a much more intimate experience, and you got more freedom to see what you wanted, ask the guides to take you to specific places etc. vs catering to the big group.

    Food, the “luxury tents” (with running water!) and overall atmosphere was fantastic. They also offered hot-air balloon and safari on horseback. Highly Recommend.

  15. Other interesting destinations based around the hotel experience include the Taj Lake Palace in the charming old city of Udaipur followed by a wilderness experience at the Oberoi Vanyavilas in Ranthambore’s Royal Bengal tiger reserves – both are my favorite super lux hotels.

  16. If you want to experience an other amazing part of New Zealand try the Huka Lodge in Taupo (partners with Virtuoso) and while I haven’t stayed there I have been to Taupo (a few times) and it is stunning and Huka falls is amazing and there is some great hiking, canoeing, cruise , bird watching and other opportunities. I hiked this amazing track with the most stunning and scenic views and the track was in good condition. The lodge also looks spectacular and there are some mountains in that region as well. I also suggest visiting the town of Ohakune as well if you get the chance.

    If you are looking for more of a beachy destination, Smiths Beach Resort (part of SLH) or Cape Lodge (partners with Virtuoso) in Western Australia nestled among the Margaret River wine region has the most amazing beaches next to this lush green hillside and there is the cape to cape hiking track here which I have done and is very very good. There are also some award winning wineries in the region.

    I think it could be a little bit late to be planning a full-on safari for November (in terms of the best ones being sold out) and on safaris there isn’t the most opportunities to go on a hike.

  17. You could also look at India if you want to do a safari. Staying at the Oberoi Vanyavillas at Ranthambore National Park might be fun.

    You’ll have to pay cash but the rates aren’t ridiculous (~$350 a night). And I guess you could still use Fourth Night Free as long as you book before 8/31. Late November is a great time to visit Rajasthan weather-wise. And let me tell you, as much fun as we had on a safari in South Africa, there’s absolutely nothing that compares to seeing a tiger in the wild.

  18. I know a handful of people who have done multiple safaris and the general consensus is that Botswana in the Okavango Delta is the best place to safari. One couple who has been on 30+ safaris, including some of the most expensive/exclusive lodges in Africa, said that the Belmond Eagle Island Lodge in Botswana was the best safari they have ever done. That said, My wife and I have done 1 safari at &Beyond Ngala in South Africa and was hands down the best experience of our lives; we could not recommend it enough. One thing that stood out was their commitment to conservation. Feel free to reach out for more info.

  19. Agreed with many of the others that if you go to South Africa, the private game reserves will offer more bang for your buck. While we saw plenty in Kruger, the paved roads and throngs of vehicles felt more like a fancy zoo than a rugged wilderness experience at times.

    My husband has done safaris in three countries, and can’t stop raving about Uganda. Not sure how well your wifi needs would be met, though.

    All that said, South Africa is going to be the easiest by far in terms of immunizations/malaria considerations.

    Can’t wait to see how this unfolds!

  20. I stayed at Camp Hwange in November last year and loved it. Stayed a couple nights in the Vic Falls area and then got picked up via shuttle. If you love elephants, it’s an amazing place. The wifi might be a deal breaker though.

  21. I have been to both to Kenya and South Africa and i couldn’t agree any more with Chesterwilson, everything he said is right.

    Mahali Mzuri is in a huge private conservatory where you see tons of animals But Kenya is best to go from June – October for the Great Migration

    Sabi Sands is amazing but the bush is a lot thicker so you dont have as large of herds and as many animals but it is a lot easier to see the big 5 compared to eastern Africa and the hotel’s arent tents compared to Kenya

  22. We just came back from Safari trip through A&K in October. Absolutely loved it! Will want to do it again. The safari itinerary is pretty much standard throughout all tour groups. I don’t regret a bit using A&K. We started in Cape Town and stayed in One and Only for couple nights then flew into Kruger. We stayed in Ngala Kruger reserve. Loved the outdoor showers! Make sure you opt for the tree tent! Then we flew to Zimbabwe with private jet to visit the Victoria Falls. I agreed with the rest, one day is plenty enough for Victoria Falls. Make sure you stayed at VF hotel. Then we flew to Johannesburg and back home!

  23. Amanjiwo is only ~30min drive from Yogyakarta airport and is absolutely amazing. Can’t recommend enough. Sunrise tour of Borobodur temple is an experience of a lifetime. Mix of active and quiet activities.

  24. Best private safari game reserve in South Africa is hands down Sabi Sands … there are a multiude of 5 star lodges to choose from … all with wifi.

    4 nights is ideal. Look at Leopard Hills / Ulusaba / Singita / Lion Sands / Dulini / Londolozi / Mala Mala

    You can fly directly from JNB to the lodge air strip by private charter … or fly into Nelspruit and catch connecting charter flight from there.

    The above are all pricey – but game viewing is out of this world

    Next best private reserve is Thornybush ( fly directly into Hoedspruit ) and thereafter Phinda Game Reserve near Durban ( have exclusive lodges in Phinda )

    You can combine safari with a trip to Vic Falls in Zambia ( Royal Livingstone Hotel is tops ) and or Cape Town.

  25. Hello! What an exciting trip to plan!

    I’ve been a long-time follower of yours, love the points advice and love the aircraft reviews! I’ve just gotten my Amex Hilton Ascend card and hit the bonus mark, woohoo! I’m looking for World of Hyatt next (already maxed out for Chase cards).

    I run the Travel & Concierge team at Air Charter Service in London (but I’m from South Carolina originally). The trip you are looking to take is literally what I eat/sleep/breath for. Drop me a line if you want me to look into anything for you. Giraffe Manor is fabulous and there’s usually a cheeky ‘sold out’ room that can magically become available for the right guest. It would be wonderful to help you out. Let me now. Have a great day, cheers.

  26. We recently came back from the Classic tour given by Tauck Tours. It was a 12 day tour. Excellent! Went to Tanzania and Kenya. Stayed in the best hotels. One thing; you will be traveling in jeeps on dusty washboard roads.

    Tanzania was fine safety wise.

    Look at their website. You can see itinerary.

  27. Kenya is a great option especially because the Nairobi has excellent connections and many parks are not far from it. There also the usual hotels and so points can be used. There are some excellent high end tented camps as well as normal hotels. You were there recently! Should have to gone for a safari in Nairobi national park!

  28. I would take your father to India in Evolve Back Resorts. They are some of the best Resorts India has to offer. Their service is on par with Aman Stantards. They have 3 resorts in India. Evolve Back Kabini this is a resort on the banks of river kabini you can do safari here, there is 2 types of safari you can have water safari on a boat & jeef safari too. It shows the Nagarhole national park which has tigers.

    the other resort is Evolve Back Coorg which is called the Scotland of India, it is located in a Coffee Plantation has has fabulous coffee, i am sure you would love Indian grown coffee. Bird watching there is something to die for & one of the best in the world.

    the last resort is Evolve Back Hampi, it is situated near the ruins of Vijayanagar empire & has some really good historical UNESCO world heritage sites.

    you can fly to Bangalore & then they will arrange rest of the trip for you. I have been there many times & would definitely recommend it. You would have one more fav resort after Aman’s.
    They are green resort, everything else is included in the rate you pay. Including all the activities & 3 meals.

  29. Take Rovos Rail in South Africa. Combine it with Shamwari Private Game Reserve next to PLZ. Do a cape of good hope day excursion and some wine tasting in Cape Town. Did that this January and I will go again next July. I was on a trip with one of my daughters. Most memorable one so far! Text me, if you need more information!

  30. Stayed at the Amanjiwo in late 90’s in their Dalem Jiwo Suite. It was the best experience of my life. Incredible views of Borobudur. Hotel arranged an elephant excursion to Borubodur at sunrise. It was amazing. It is a MUST. Service was incredible as the usual at Amans. Billy the butler was incredible.

  31. Cannot recommend a safari enough if you have not done it. This was the itinerary my wife and I did last year:

    EWR – ADD (overnight) – VFA on Ethiopian
    1/2 day in Vic Falls to rest and recoup from flights
    1 day trip to Chobe National Park in Botswana
    1 day in Vic Falls exploring the falls, town, and Zambezi River Cruise
    LVI – MQP on South African Airlink
    4 nights at Inyati Game Lodge in Sabi Sands
    MQP – CPT on South African Airlink
    6 nights in Cape Town
    CPT – ADD – LHR on Ethiopian, LHR – EWR on United

    Great trip, Inyati was awesome. Recommend going to Sabi Sands as it is private, the game viewing can go off-road to track the animals (most National Parks the vehicles need to stay on the road). Hope this helps!

  32. Hey Lucky,

    That sounds really cool! I forwarded this article to my sister who has been on safaris recently and asked her to put some input in. She won’t get around to it for a couple days as she has a bunch of grandkids at her house but she will hopefully put some good info in here then. That sounds amazing. Your family is really fortunate to have such an awesome member as yourself!

  33. This question isn’t for this post but relates to another post. Recently you mentioned that security was at the gate area and that was where you had to pass through. I haven’t done that in a while but my stupid question is, once you pass security and are “sequestered” at the gate, are there bathrooms there? Or if you have to use the bathroom you have to leave the security area and then pass through the security check again?

  34. Heyy… I read the report of your trip with dad last time… it was amazing.

    Regarding ideas for safari … here is a DIFFERENT TAKE..: you can plan for Tiger safari in India… India has the lrgest population of tigers in the world … and this is something completely distinct from African safari….plus in india November is one of the best times for safari as winter sets in and the jungel becomes magical… plus I have been to luxury lodge which is rated extremely highly all over the world… after safari you can go for a Yoga retreat or stay a boutique luxury resort at Radhanagar Beach( google it ) in Andamans …

    Both of these experiences will be unique and very new for you plus comfortable and based around raw nature.. Ping me if u need any more details as I have done both myself a few times…

  35. Came to suggest Sabi Sands and see someone already mentioned it, have stayed at Londolozi many many years ago. Absolutely stunning property. However also consider Lion Sands Tinga Lodge. My father’s company built and operated the lodge when it first opened (not anymore), and I saw the construction of the individual cottages. It is on the banks of a river and the “rooms” are individual cottages with stunning bathrooms and bath tubs that overlook the river (the windows open up so you get an amazing view, private plunge pools and you can’t really see the other cottages so you feel like you’re totally alone. It’s also got a private concession and is now part of the Sabi Sands group. You can get a charter flight from JNB directly to either Skukuza (capital of the Kruger Park) or to a private airfield belonging to Sabi Sands (charter flight on a Cessna Caravan operated by FedAir (Federal Air)). Did this many times as a young teenager and always great fun. there’ll be WiFi at all the above as well

  36. Yowsers, lots of recommends.
    Can’t say I’ve got one that’ll stand out in terms of luxury, but our Madagascar safari was unforgettable last year.
    Picnicing with Brown Lemurs, listening to the sound of the Indri, getting up close and personal with the Sifika, and spotting Chameleons and more. You can get there through JNB.
    Andisibe, Ankarana, Montagne D’Ambre

    They could use the tourism, and wish a major blog would cover it.

  37. We absolutely loved Ulusaba, the Virgin Limited Edition property inside Sabi Sands. The closest thing to a truly perfectly executed vacation.

  38. Ben,

    I highly recommend a Safari if you and Dad have not previously been “in the bush”. I planned one for my 50th birthday, took me a year, the options seemed daunting. Then I saw an IMAX film, “The Greatest Places” showcasing the top wilderness destinations in the world, and discovered the Okavango Delta. Read about it.

    I decided I also had to see Victoria Falls, but only from the Zambian side, no trips into Zimbabwe. You need to see the Mosi-oa-Tunya from your own chartered air transfer from about 100 miles out. It reached 8,000 feet the day we overflew it as the Zambezi River was at maximum flood stage. Wow, unforgettable. Pilot got special permission to zig-zag over the falls 3 times before landing at Livingstone. We were so lucky.

    How to proceed? I researched inbound tour folks and selected the same company National Geographic uses: Wilderness Safaris based in Jo’burg. We tried 3 camps, one water based camp, one land based camp and one on Chief’s Island. Wow, what an adventure, maybe the best trip of my whole life.

    Nobody understands how terrific a good safari is until they have experienced one themselves. You just cannot translate the raw feelings, awe of nature, and exhilaration into words. I always recommend sooner rather than later as the African wildlife population sadly diminishes a little every day.

    I have also been to Giraffe Manor. I can discuss my experiences there with you separately via email if you wish.

  39. Something I’m wondering reading at your plans: are you open to less luxury for maybe different experiences (I’m not talking about camping either, but establishments that might still be 4-5 stars vs $4k a night 🙂 ). Great experiences don’t need to happen in ultra luxury.
    Depending on your dad’s fitness level, I would personally recommend the Milford Track in NZ. This is supposed to be the most beautiful walk in the world, I did it almost 2 years ago and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. You’ll need to go through Ultimate Hikes to do it, they’re the only company with the authorizations to do it. I was a bit afraid of being with a group for nearly 5 days, but you spend of the days walking and sometimes not running into anyone at all. We also made friends for life there, surprisingly.
    Another amazing thing to do in the area is going up a glacier and taking an ice hike with a guide. We went up Fox Glacier and had the most amazing and interesting hike there.
    Looking forward to see what you’re coming up with!

  40. Hi,

    Around 7 years ago I did a week safari in Botswana in 2 different luxury camps and it was amazing but expensive, I went in June so it was chilly. While Botswana is great the thing is to get the full expierence of getting there is hard. You really need to charter a plane for some of these as there are really no other ways. You need to fly to a bigger city in Botswana like Maun but to get to a lot of the reserves you need to charter a plane and you land on a dirt strip somewhere in the middle of the jungle. If you can get there it is amazing. The only cars are the safari ones, there are no roads and you stay in tents. There are some nicer tents as well that have the service simular to an Amen. The tens have hot water and full bathrooms, some don’t have AC or heat, some have there own plunge pools, they provide all meals, etc. The one thing to keep in mind is you are totally disconnected. There is no WiFi, no cell singnal, no phones, no TV, no news, nothing. The only way to stay connected to the outside is buy a sat phone. But being in the middle of nowhere. Being in the tent and having the animals just come right up is amazing. They have guards that walk you at night to make sure you can get back but you are living in the tents in the middle of the joungle. It is a lot to book and pricy but if you can swing it I would highly recommend. Mombo camp was one i did and greatly enjoyed that included everything. Here is the link:

  41. Lucky,

    One fantastic place that is nature oriented and absolutely stellar is One and Only Wolgan Valley. It’s not too far from Sydney, and gosh is it gorgeous, along with some really amazing service and facilities. Can’t recommend it enough, and frankly the pictures can’t even begin to do it justice.

  42. I had a fantastic trip to southern/western Tanzania (Nomad Tanzania) last year. Whether or not you want to go there, I found this website very helpful giving the pros/cons of most major lodges in Africa.

    It’s run by a UK tourism company but I felt the reviews were relatively unbias and they give a good estimate of relative pricing of different lodges (whether you book through them or someone else). Wherever you decide to book, send the itinerary around to a few agencies. I was able to get a price about 20% lower than either the lodge itself offered or 15% below what travel agencies initially quoted me just by bidding them down.

    Best of luck!

  43. Consider an aerial safari in Namibia. You’ll get game reserves and the incredible scenery of Sossusvlei and the Skeleton Coast. Added bonus, German is spoken everywhere.

  44. I think a safari is a fabulous idea. Just did my first one earlier this year, and chose Sabi Sand (we stayed at Chitwa Chitwa, which is mid-range for the area, but was still quite luxurious for us – I can’t even imagine the level of luxury at the top places there).

    Sabi Sand was our choice because it seemed like a perfect introduction to a safari – you are basically guaranteed to see the Big 5 (+ more), the animals are very accustomed to humans, and you get to see them very close, and the rangers are top notch (and cooperate with each other to maximize the sightings). I also appreciated the ability to go off road (it’s not permitted everywhere). Infrastructure is well-developed, and getting around to/from airports was easy enough (land transfer from HDS). In Sabi Sand, game sighting is reliable year-round, but it will be very hot (the drives are very early in the morning, and in the afternoon, so you’ll avoid the hottest time of the day).

    Re: wifi. They’ll have it, but connection most likely will be spotty and slow, so don’t expect to be able to work like you can in urban areas (that was my experience at least).

    We stayed for 4 nights (8 game drives), and that was enough for us (I don’t think you need an entire week on a safari if the time is short). Cape Town ended up being one of my favorite cities post-safari (and I generally don’t like cities).

    All in all, it was one of my top 3 trips (the other 2 were Bhutan and Galapagos). Galapagos perhaps should also be considered (it was no less amazing than South Africa, for sure) – the scenery is out of this world, and both land and marine life will blow you away. It’s not a physically strenuous trip either (definitely more active than an African safari though: you can kayak, snorkel, etc – but can also just sit on the beach). You do some walking around when you are on the islands, but I wouldn’t call it “hiking”. If you decide to go that route, HIGHLY recommend a cruise vs. land based (the most interesting islands are too far from any inhabited islands for a day trip, so you’ll miss out on seeing them). I would definitely recommend a smaller boat vs. a larger one (we traveled on one with 20 people). Weather should be favorable (end of the dry season) – we actually went in early November ourselves.

    In terms of getting there, Africa is definitely going to be a more luxurious flight (we flew (fairly pedestrian) Swiss in J there, but returned with Hong Kong with a stopover in Cathay (J out of JNB, but F HKG-JFK). There’s no impressive/world class options to fly to Ecuador.

    Other thoughts of places I haven’t been to yet, but have in mind for some once-in-a-lifetime experiences: Antarctica and Madagascar.

  45. How about 7-10 day cruise to Antarctica? Ushuaia (world’s southen most city) in Argentina is a popular choice.

  46. I’m surprised no one has mentioned Ngorogoro Crater yet.

    That was one of my favorite places to do game drives. All the animals are “stuck” in this deep crater so they’re always around.

    It’s like a little ecosystem all by itself and it’s so majestic. Being able to be in the crater was magical and we got to follow a big pride of lions (rather they were using our Jeep as shade & walking to the different watering holes.

    Magical, I could’ve done that for days on end.

    And to that idiot comment from @Jackie about just seeing animals in zoos, in cages, is the most absurd thing.

    Seeing them free, not imprisoned in cages for human entertainment, but to see them in their natural habitat is one of the most memorable & special thing I’ve done in my life.

  47. Thinking out of this options, Rio de Janeiro, Foz do Iguaçu and Buenos Aires could be a great combo. Rio has quite good luxury options after Olympics and is basically nature plus big city in the same place and goes pretty well with the two cities above.

  48. the Lion Sands River Lodge in Kruger, SA is terrific. stayed there in 2016 and had an amazing experience – comfortable room, FANTASTIC guide, and generally good service. Kruger is also rich with animals, and this is reachable with an AirLink ERJ from JNB. WiFi was expectably slow but it worked (The Luxury Travel Expert Reviewed it in 2016 – I found the food better than him). Namibia is beautiful and should be on your list, but very barren and more geared towards natural beauty. There is a cheetah sanctuary there that has hotel rooms and interactive activities for the rescue cats (also, again, functioning WiFi too). For many other locations (Botswana, Zambia, etc) it is worth reaching out to a tour company to arrange transfers and bookings. We used Abercrombie and Kent, which was a fantastic. They arranged for an overnight hotel in Johannesburg, all flights around Africa, and locations that were fantastic. They are quite expensive, but like your trip ours was for a special birthday and quite worth it.

  49. Ben, As far as Safari goes, I have been only once but it was the most amazing trip I have ever done in my life, and I travel often to a lot of pretty exotic places. We spent 8 days in Sabi Sands preserve at Mala Mala and then Ulasaba (a Virgin Limited property). While both were amazing the Branson property was a bit more over the top as you would expect, had a fun factor to it. They also have a great property in the South African wine country which you can visit pre or post Safari. From a practical standpoint safari is great because you can arrange to fly into JNB early in the morning and be in one of the camps by lunch time and ready for the evening game drive. Because of the schedule (4:30AM wake up calls followed by morning game drive, then breakfast, then nap time, followed by 4:30PM game drive and late dinner) jet lag is not a big issue – you will be screwed up regardless :).

  50. Inyati Game lodge in Sabi Sands Private Reserve in S. Africa was great. Saw the big 5 on daily basis. For something more upscale, Richard Branson’s place, Ulusaba, in Sabi Sands is right near by.

  51. My tip for doing Safari is make sure whatever place you go to, their morning drives take you out an half an hour to an hour before sunrise. To do that at Kruger NP in South Africa you basically have to be on one of the national park rangers drives (which are cheap too!) but obviously at private reserves you would think they can go out when they like.
    But being out over 30 mins before sunrise hugely helps seeing the rarer ones to find, particularly leopards.

  52. Id highly recommend Anabezi in Zambia. Its a luxury tented look it up on Instagram
    And ofcourse Victoria Falls – theres a number of luxury hotels – The Royal Livingstone, David Livingstone Safari Lodge and Spa, and many more…

  53. I would highly suggest a trip to India – like two other posters have suggested (and I’ve been on a high end Okavango Delta safari). You can stay in super luxe hotels, get a wildlife experience, and eat really good Indian food in India (instead of Asian vegetarian on an airline) 🙂

  54. I will be going on a safari to Tanzania and Kenya in 3 weeks (belated honeymoon trip), including Giraffe Manor. I spent too much time planning and pondering all the options. We are using an agency, as booking some of the internal flights between the camps would be difficult otherwise, but also using some miles to get in and out of East Africa and to stay in Zanzibar. Happy to share more if it can be of any help.

    Apart from a safari, I would consider Tasmania and Patagonia (Torres del Paine specifically), but November might still be a bit cold.

  55. Singita Mara River was one of the best places i have ever stayed.
    We visited over Christmas last year with my in-laws and it was incredible. The wildlife was very diverse and you could definitely check off the Big 5 at this location. What made it stand apart from the other Singitas was the staff.
    I would highly recommend this tented camp!

  56. I personally am addicted to wildlife safaris, and there are a potentially overwhelming number of options to consider. November won’t be bad, but is generally not highest of the high season….so less crowds, but generally not the most dramatic of wildlife activity if you’re after the Great Migration for example. I love the shoulder season, but “once in a lifetime” type travelers typically book well over a year in advance for summer months. You could consider South America as it’s the start of their summer in November….other Explora properties?

  57. Lucky, speaking as a travel agent who frequently books safaris, my experience with safaris is that everyone who goes on safari comes back and says it is the best experience they could have possibly have. It’s definitely an experience of a lifetime and I’m sure something you’ll want to do with Ford eventually even if you don’t go with your father.

    Personally, I love combining Singita Faru (over the top modern lux) with Singita Sabora (luxury tented camps) and then ending with Gorilla trekking in Rwanda. In the end, it’s all personal preference in what type of experience you want — for example, some incredibly wealthy/high end travelers like off the beaten path tented experiences because they feel that’s more authentic and what you were meant to do in Africa.

    My biggest suggestion would be having Ford use his travel industry contacts to speak to Safari tour operators and have a conference call with Ford & figure out what type of trip you’re looking for, whether you want to do East Africa or South Africa, if gorilla trekking is for you, etc. Enjoy!!!

  58. As an alternative to safari (which may also be supplemented in-country with a safari) would be gorilla and chimpanzee tracking in Uganda or Rwanda if your dad is fit enough and you’re open to the adventure. While you won’t be staying in the same level of luxury as you’d find in South Africa or more typical tourist destinations, walking with the chimpanzees in Uganda for a few hours through the jungle was one of the more unique and special experiences I think I’ll ever have while traveling.

  59. Before I jump into the topic of safari, given that this is a November trip, I would also research 1) New Zealand (take a look at the 3 amazing Julian Robertson Lodges) and 2) Chilean Patagonia (Nomads of the Seas is a week-long expedition cruise in the Chilean fjords with heli excursions for hikers and fishermen). Awasi Patagonia is my all-time favourite and November would be nice pre-season with very long days and possibly spring flowers too. It’s the end of the world, but has the benefit of little jet lag vs the US.

    For Safari, the month of the year is key. Unless you insist on seeing the Great Migration (only in June/July), November isn’t a bad month. I would much prefer a private game reserve because in a public game park, you could easily have multiple other vehicles when you have a good sighting. Private game reserves – depending not he country – also allow night drives and other benefits. There are tons of great safari lodge out there, but Singita is probably the most iconic and for a good reason. I understand your reservations about Tanzania ATM, but I’d still take a look at Singita’s Grumeti reserve in the country. Like most of safari land, Tanzania has a rainy and a dry season. The long rains are from March to May and often make roads impassable, so not worth risking. June-Oct are dry and increasingly hot. Game viewing is at its best, because foliage dries out and animals have to come out for the few remaining water sources. November is variable. The year may or may not have short rains. IF they occur, that would be in November, but could also shift by a month. I think it’s a fairly decent bet to make because those rains are not massive (like this in spring) and it may only be a 30-60 minute shower in the afternoon (which provides great sunsets and greener backdrop in photos). Singita is very, very expensive, but provides 3 distinct lodges in the Grumeti reserve of NW Tanzania alone. One is a tented camp in 1920s style with oriental rugs and crystal, one a modern Zanzibar beach-vibe lodge near a river and the 3rd is an English manor on a hilltop. If you have a week, you can easily combine 2 of these 3. It’s still the same game reserve, but it gives you the feeling of a twin-stop. Game is very prolific there throughout the year. Safari can be exhausting though. Usually you get up around 5am, go out on a morning game drive at 5:30, return at 9:30 for breakfast, then chill because it gets hot and animals hide, then have lunch and tea and get up for an afternoon game drive around 4pm to 6:30pm again. Unless you can nap during the lunch hours, I feel the lack of sleep after a few days. When I go on safari, most I do is a week, then look for a beach of city break, before going back on safari again. I would say South Africa is ideal for that because Cape Town and the wine country around Franschhoek are brilliant combos with safari. But Tanzania is too far to combine with South Africa. If you want to do 3N Cape Town, combined with safari, I would stay in Southern Africa for the latter. Think South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia. November is great weather for Cape Town, but a bit rainy for safari in the region. Still, I did safari in Northern S. Africa once in December and apart form a few more clouds and said late afternoon shower for 30 mins or so, things are fine. Check out to combine The Silo (new hotel in Cape Town) with safari at one of the Singita lodges in Kruger, or Royal Malewane lodge. It breaks the bank, but will impress dad for sure. One place I would recommend is Tswalu Kalahari, which has its own lodge plane with direct flights to Cape Town (pretty cool for you) and is brilliant, but it’s not as game rich as Singita Kruger or in Tanzania. It’s less lush and a more arid/desert like environment, but offers great game, if you are not obsessed with seeing the Big 5. I would always recommend it to ppl who are on their 2nd, 3rd+ safari though. Namibia would also be brilliant for a week, one of my all time favourite countries, but this is mostly about otherworldly landscapes and less about classic safari with game. Big positive for me is that most lodges are so remote, you fly in on a small cessna type plane. I would look at Serra Cafema lodge and Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, as well as Little Kuala. Hope you like those recommendations!

  60. Honestly i doubt you can have a more ‘proper’ safari experience than in Masai Mara Kenya especially during the migration season. Even out of the migration season you’ll be stunned by the experience. A safari in Kenya should definitely be part of your itinerary.

    And i hope keeps away from this article so he doesn’t see all the suggestions we are throwing around.

  61. For Tanzania I would recommend staying at Mwiba lodge! Very pricey but well worth the experience.

    For Kenya look into staying at Angama Mara which is located in the Masai Mara.

    For New Zealand you can stay at Huka Lodge, which is incredible. Air NZ has just launched nonstop flights to Chicago as well!

  62. We did a safari in Kruger NP, Victoria Falls and visited Cape Town, Zambia and Nambia in December of 2016. Victoria Falls is dry in the summer and you won’t see waterfalls in November. Just did a safari in Sri Lanka a month ago. Cats are so elusive that we did not see any in both safaris. We plan to do safari in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda plus India and Madagascar, according to above suggestions. It is more expensive to do it in SA than in other eastern African countries. SA also requires evidenced vaccinations if travel to east Africa prior to entering SA. A bit leery now that Ebola is spreading in Republic of Congo and may cross into Uganda soon.
    On a side note, Lucky, can you invite Jared, a NatGeo freelancer, to occasionally post his worldwide travel experiences in remote natural and historic places? You must be honor to have such a regular distinguished reader of your posts. He did not reveal his credentials until after you posted a direct reply to his comment of your article as well as being outed by other readers. Readers, when you post your suggestions, kindly include how to get there and the tour companies that you contacted and / or traveled with, to help other readers follow your paths. Thank you

  63. My favourite place to go on safari is Tanda Tula, near Kruger NP. It’s in the Timbavati private game reserve and is fantastic. Exceptional food, from bush breakfast to dinner by the fire! We have been able to see the Big 5 and more over our visits all of which have been in November and it has been perfect! Lots of giraffes! It’s a short flight from JNB!

  64. I’ll just add my recommendation for the Sabi Sands. Well managed and the guides work to make sure you have a great experience. We stayed at Simbambili Game Lodge, which had excellent service and a family feel. Paired this with a few nights in Cape Town, and it is one of my favorite trips we’ve ever taken!

  65. How about safari first and then straight north to the Ice Hotel in Northern Sweden. That contrast would be the perfect surprise.

  66. Lucky is the only person I have ever heard use the term “round birthday”. I had to Urban Dictionary it. Doesn’t mean what I thought!

  67. Here’s another issue and forgive me if someone has already mentioned. You need to keep your dad away from this website. I’m sure he reads from time to time?

  68. Safaris are one of those things where I previously thought “Yeah people rave about it, but like how great can they possibly be?” Then I went on one and understood immediately. Very much worth it, especially if your dad has never been on one before. Truly once-in-lifetime experiences to be had. I stayed at Madikwe Safari Lodge in South Africa and it was all around amazing.

    You know, there are travel agents who focus exclusively on safaris—could be worth reaching out. You can take care of the international flights, and then let the travel agent arrange the particularities of the safari (especially if you go to multiple lodges). I booked on my own because I hate giving up control, but if I go again I’ll use a well respected travel agent. They can open up some cool opportunities and plan a more detailed itinerary.

  69. As an alternate to safari I can recommend Chilean Patagonia, and the Singular Hotel in particular (it’s on Virtuoso), which is really quite special – they run a full range of excursions to Torres Del Paine National Park, and there is also an Explora property. Hard to get there in premium cabins though….

  70. I would definitely suggest East Africa over South Africa for a safari, but these days an Amanresort is much more my speed.

    I think Amanwana is very worth the trip, but Amanjiwo is really not a very difficult place to get to (can fly nonstop these days from SIN/KUL/CGK into JOG and a very nice hour drive to the resort) and guaranteed to be nothing like anything you’ve encountered before. The excursions are equally memorable, rice field hikes in Selogriyo through Javanese villages, riding horses up the mountains to see the Gedong Songo Hindu Temples, etc. Very special and very worth the small marginal extra effort to get there.

  71. Out of curiosity what is the problem with Tanzania? Maybe this is just a reflection of my ignorance but what are they ‘doing’ right now that precludes you from going there?

    No judgment, am just genuinely curious!

  72. I’d highly, highly recommend Singita. Each lodge has a very unique “feel” to it based on the location so it also comes down to personal preference – and it’s possible / easy to stay in more than one lodge on your trip ( they’ll arrange an air transfer between Boulders and Lebombo, for example). Lebombo and Sweni are in a private concession deep within the Kruger Park and so seem more private / isolated – the others being in the Sabi Sands where the concentration of lodges is much higher. The plus side of Boulders / Ebony is you tend to have more viewings as the road network is more dense and the lodges share info on sightings. I’d personally recommend 2/3 nights in each of Boulders and Lebombo, booking air transfers from
    OR Tambo direct to and between the lodges.

  73. I’m researching a safari trip right now and the best lodge/game drives seems to be Singita Sasakwa Lodge in Tanzania. Giraffe Manor is pretty booked up 1.5 yr in advance unless you are open to the most expensive Karen Biloxi suite but the reviews for that suite are quite negative with noise level and lack of privacy from windows. I have emailed them inquiring availability 4 days ago and still waiting for a response. Four Seasons Tanzania reviews say this property is too commercial with no local culture feel. Devil’s pool at Victoria Falls is open Oct/Nov so that would be a good combo with the safari. Read Nov reviews at Sasakwa Lodge there are plenty game to see in Nov. The reviews of the crater seem to be not very worthwhile with views only allow from the rim. Amanjiwo is very beautiful but I find it caters to couples and there is little activity within hotel grounds and not much in terms of gym, pool, spa if you’re not in honeymoon phase, no TV in room. I agree with another post to go to India and enjoy the Rambaugh Palace and Umaid Palace. Maybe Lapland/Iceland with the glass igloos/ice hotel for Nov?

  74. Tanzania great simply for the variety of scenery and remoteness of some places to safari – Ngorongoro, Selous, Kilimanjaro, side trip to Zanzibar.

    South Africa is great – Kruger is simply immense (Nov is perfect time of year), particularly the more northern areas from Oliphants northward. Consider doing a walking safari (depending on his health). You can drive or be driven on a safari… but there is simply nothing like walking in a park (obviously with an armed guide!). It’s a totally different experience. Combine Kruger with some time in Blyde River Canyon, and if time permits, head to Mozambique for a total experience.

    Namibia is also very cool and a different type of safari. Combine time in Etosha and desert dunes, then head down the Caprivi strip and into the Okavango delta and then finish up in Livingstone/Vic Falls (white water rafting down the Zambezi may be a little much :-))

  75. If you end up in South Africa, you can top last year flights by booking JNB-DXB-STN on EK first for around U$ 2500, he would think “nice to be on Emiratez again, Benny” and be surprised with the second flight on the new F. Or, for the same price, take him on AF La Premiere flying JNB-CDG-LHR to enjoy the best all around First experience (both options requires a return throw away ticket on economy, which I learned about here on Omaat).

  76. JFK-FRA (Lufthansa First) FRA-ATH Aegean First) Stay at Amanzoe in the Peloponnese Then ATH-FRA (Lufthansa First) FRA-CMB (Sri Lankan Business) Stay at the Amanwella on the south coast of Sri Lanka, its insane. Then CMB-DHK on Sri Lankan or Biman Bangladesh then DHK-SIN on the Biman 787 (If they still operate it.. if not then go straight to Singapore). SIN-BKK On Cathay, Thai, or Singapore, BKK-CNX on Thai Regional Then stay at Four Seasons Golden Triangle, they have an amazing Elephant and Tiger tours and safari’s. Then however you wish go to Bali (Garuda?) Stay at both Amandari and Amankila. If your feeling very very brave then go on a Jetstar 787 from Bali to Melbourne then Virgin Australia’s excellent 777-300 Business class from MEL-LAX! TA DA!

  77. My parents did quite a similar travel:
    Starting from Germany ( I am German), going to Seoul (Staying at the Conrad), going to Shanghai (Peace Hotel), flying to NZ (South Island Tour by car), flying to Perth, going to JNB, making a 5-day Safari (Sabi), Flying into Cape Town (amazing small independent Hotel, forgot the name) and then back to Germany.
    Was an AWESOME TRIP, roughly 4 weeks.

    I did Safaris in and near Sabi and Kruger as well, from super luxury to basic, and honestly: the more “basic”, the more fun it was.

    Dont to Kruger-Park-Tours – any of them!!! The best compromise of basic, but still comfy Safari was with Tydon Safaris. A nice guy, 6 “Glamping”-Tents, fireplace and BBQ at night. Morning walks or drive, Land Rover Tours thru the bush. We felt like being 10 again!

    Anyway, european autumn/winter is not the very best time, since its not dry and the visibility of animals harder. But have in mind:

    A SAFARI IS NOT A ZOO! If you do an authentic safari, searching for animals and not “getting them presented” is so much fun! We did not see lions, but hell who cares! We have been in the middle of the bush! We found hippos! Driving behind Giraffes! We have seen Rhinos in their natural environment!

    Hafe fun!

  78. Ben – great post. We loved Botswana in particular on our safari in the past. Some folks here have mentioned Mombo camp. Its luxurious, the game you’ll see is unmatched, and the service is lovely.

    for something really unique though, try Jack’s camp on the edge of the Kalahari. For even a most seasoned traveler as yourself, this experience will blow you away in every sense of the world. Do the quad bike expedition on the salt pans for 2 nights.

  79. @lucky

    If you’re up for a challenge, Antarctica! There’s no more unique place than that. Getting there is totally doable, though can be a challenge but I promise you you’ll not regret it.

  80. Man, your readers know how to live. Personally, if I was used to first class around the world smart spoiled travel, I’d be surprised by doing something more remote. Madagascar was recommended. Rwanda and the Gorillas or what about doing Senegal down to the White Rhinos and Namibia? Anyone can stay in an amazing place in South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana… Stretch your legs a little

  81. If you want the classic safari, go to Singita sabi sands. There are two camps there, about 10 mins apart, Ebony, the original, is decorated old school, colonial Africa safari, Boulders is more contemporary African, both renovated fairly recently, I love both, and you can stay at both during your visit if you request to. Sabi sands is ideal because it’s so old most of the animals have grown up with safari vehicles and have come to see them as normal, so you can get extremely close to them and they won’t care at all. My brother’s been to Lebombo and Sweni, (I missed that trip), he loved it but said the big 5 game viewing wasn’t as good as at sabi sand. If you want to see the open plains, do Singita grumeti and stay at sasakwa, it’s a colonial lodge. That was very beautiful, though it’s less about getting close to the big 5 safari animals–its ideal for the wildebeest migration, but that’s in May-June. If you want to get ahead of me, go to Singita Kwitonda to see the gorillas, it opens next year, that’s on my list for sure. November isn’t an ideal time to go on safari in Africa–July-August is ideal because it’s dry and not as hot and there’s less vegetation hiding the animals–but I’m sure you’ll have an amazing time regardless, your first safari is life-changing. BTW, all the singita properties have decent binoculars in the vehicles, but buy a great pair, well worth it IMO, and don’t spend all your time looking at the animals through a camera! Live in the moment!

  82. I have heard very good things about the Reunion islands from a couple of friends. It seems to be a very outdoor friendly place (tons of outdoor activities available), while also very relaxing. Given that there are direct flights between JNB and Reunion, it could be a nice add on if you were to opt for a Safari in South Africa/ close to JNB. There are also multiple direct flights from the Reunion to mainland France as well as SE Asia (BKK and CAN I think).

    Good luck, I’m sure your dad won’t really mind the destination as long as he gets to spend some quality time with you 🙂

  83. Another vote here for one of the private game reserves in Sabi Sands. Wife and I just did a safari there in September (andBeyond Kirkman’s Kamp) and really had an embarrassment of riches of animal sightings. Service and food were top notch too.

  84. I know this technically isn’t safari but if you’re in Nairobi or even near I recommend the Giraffe Manor it’s one of the most memorable hotels I’ve ever stayed at

  85. I highly recommend Capella Lodge on Lord Howe island which has rainforest, mountains and beaches and then Longitude 131 which is a luxury wilderness camp right next to Uluru.

  86. We highly recommend Kapama Private Game Reserve. SAA Express will take you to the Hoedspruit airport from JNB, and Kapama is across the road. The safari will start on your transfer to the “lodge”. Victoria Falls is also worthwhile

  87. If you change your mind and want to go to Serengeti in Tanzania, I would highly recommend Singita Sasakwa. This particular lodge is equivalent to Aman type of service standard in Asia. There is only 10 lodges/ villas total and it will be the fanciest lodge/ villa you will ever stay at on an African Safari. Here’s my review with video of the lodge:

    If you like to stick with Kenya, I would go to Angama Mara. They came in fourth in a Conde Nast ranking recently. The tents are beautifully constructed and are situated on a cliff where part of Out of Africa was filmed. I’m sure your dad have seen that film with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. View out of the tent will undoubtedly be the best view you will ever have in an African safari tent hands down. There is no contest. If you do go to Masai Mara, absolutely make sure you go on a hot air balloon ride.

    If South Africa is more of your vibe, check out Royal Malawane. There is a reason why people like Elton John, Bono, former French president Sarkozy are repeat guests at this lodge. If seeing the big 5 is high on your list, no doubt you will check those off in the first day if not by second day at Royal Malawane. Here’s my review of the place

    Few notes: you will need yellow fever vaccination when going to these countries so absolutely make sure you have it. It is not the easiest vaccination to obtain so I would do so ASAP as there is a shortage of them. When you do your research, you will come across the word private game drive. What it means is that your resort actually owns the land where you do your animal sighting and this makes a HUGE difference in terms of experience. For places like Masai Mara and Serengeti, which is a public park, you will have tons of jeeps driving around with dust everywhere and if there is a lion eating a deer, you will find yourself quickly surrounded by 20 jeeps where everyone is clicking away with their cameras. I’m sure you remember your experience at Ranthambore. In Africa, it’s even dustier if that’s possible. At a private game drive, you will see maybe two/three other jeeps at most sharing an animal viewing which is a huge difference plus you are not covered in dust just after half hour of driving. In addition, because land is private, your jeep can go off road and your guide can actually drive you close to the animals (say within 10 feet) whereas if you are on a public park, you are required to stay on the road. What this means if the animal you want to see is far away, you will have to use binoculars. It’s a very different feeling seeing an animal with a pair of binoculars vs being so close you can smell the animal.

    Obviously Amanjiwo is a very different experience than going to Africa. I have stayed there before and I would highly recommend it. While seeing Borobudur is an incredible experience, I would choose African safari as going to Java is a bit easier and less once in a lifetime feel if you know what I mean.

    Lastly, don’t forget to stop by Cape Town. If you like San Francisco, Cape Town is quite similar in many ways but Michelin star level food is a LOT cheaper if you like to eat fancy. Oh who am I kidding? Look at all your food reviews on airplanes. Like SF, Cape Town also has a beautiful wine country that’s worth exploring… with good cheap wine as a bonus.

  88. Highly recommend safari. Went to Tanzania in August 2018 and planning Kenya February 2019. Let me do a little research and come up with some recommendations.

    I thought a safari would be a ‘bucket list’ item and I’d be done. But, was already planning the next one before our LH flight home landed. 😉

  89. 1) Why dont you ask him if theres a specific place on this earth he wants to visit/ something he wants to do in his lifetime that he hasnt done yet? Maybe get that and turn it into an epic trip you know?

    2) I would suggest Fernando de Noronha (Brazil’s Hawaii) off the coast of Northeast Brazil. November is summer, there are a few hikes, private beaches, beautiful place. Maybe incorporate it with Rio which is a city in nature. Or go down to Buenos Aires/Punta del Este and maybe do an Antartica cruise.

  90. @Lucky — Great! I remember fondly the big trip you did with your dad.

    A number of questions jump to mind…

    1) Is that the right time for a safari weather- and animal-wise?
    2) Is this either/or – can you do a safari and NZ? (The earlier suggestion of Huka Lodge was good.)
    3) What about a stopover at the Taj Mahal on the way? (Extra flights is good for us readers too.)

    Good luck with it…

  91. Talk about Epic.No matter what you will do on the ground,Etihad Residence in the air is a must.
    Base on this India seems a logical destination.

  92. Why not think of Bhutan? Still visited by very few tourists and you can do it staying at Aman resorts and they can organise everything for you. Its a spectacular destination particularly if he likes the outdoors and walking. November will be a bit chilly but its also a great time because they have all sorts of local festivals you can participate in. You won’t get any break on rates I suspect but it would definitely be a once in a lifetime experience.

  93. Madikwe National Park in South Africa (right along the border with Botswana) is a great first safari. The Madikwe Safari Lodge is wonderful with amazing guides and staff, and you can fly in (~45 mins) from JNB. Expensive, but worth it and a truly wonderful experience.

  94. I went to the Ngorogoro crater a few years ago and it is a highlight of my life. Agree that Tanzania is doing bad things right now, but it’s hard to find a country in Africa where there haven’t been horrific crimes against humanity. 🙁 The key is to go for the best animal viewing – that’s what makes it special.

  95. Hi Ben

    I am South African, and I have contacts at Singitia, &beyond and wilderness safaris. All companies have amazing properties around Africa and have been fortunate to stay at many of them. Would love to help you out. Feel free to get in touch. 🙂

  96. Okavango swamps in Botswana is an awesome way to see the wildlife but you must go at the right time of the year. You could also go to Victoria Falls on the same trip in Zimbabwe.
    Namibia is another out of the way place to see wildlife in a desert environment. Again, choose the right time of the year.
    Or how about Angkor Wat in Cambodia? That is best when it’s not the monsoon season – Mid-year.

  97. I took my parents to safari ten years ago, it was great fun. We went Victoria Falls, Kruger National Park, Cape Town. You shall find planty of luxury accommodations.

    Looking for more surprising and unique trip, maybe link South Africa with South America together.

  98. Hi Lucky,

    We went on Safari this summer and had a great time!

    We stayed at the Bisate in Rwanada for Gorilla hiking- my mum’s Super FIT but she still found it a little challenging, mainly because there are no trails and her little short legs couldn’t deal with the bushwacked route. FYI we had the “easiest gorilla family” but they roam free on this giant mountain, on that particular day, they had moved away from their regular camp at the bottom up. Expensive but highly recommended, our hour with them felt like 10 minutes. Wilderness safari seem to hit the right note (for us) as an ethical luxury company and when the manager took us on a hike, his knowledge and love of animals/ environment really impressed us (and the fact he has his own “science” project going on at the same time). Based on this experience, we are planning to visit their other hotels and I would highly recommend them as a company, especially if you like to learn as well as see.

    Tanzania, the animals were bountiful and great. The guides were hit and miss- all locals (great for the economy to have locally run tourism but it’s rough on the edges) but out of the 4 we had, only 1 was knowledgable, the others were basically “drivers”. This again depends on what you want to get out of your trip. We stayed at Lemali (sp?) camp in norther serengeti and the safety of their cars were extremely questionable, and I won’t recommend them. All the lodges we stayed at in Tanzania only had wifi in the main area, not in the rooms, and it was bad if more than a few were online. None of our guides had positive things to say about the government. In short, had a good time, won’t be returning.

    Re yellow fever, both countries currently, you are not required to have them done if you travelled from a non-yf country but I was checked for papers in both countries (the only reason I got it was for ease of entry. In HK you can’t get the YF jab over 70, not sure the requirement in the US, but might be a flag for where you can take your dad. I got bitten by both mozzis and tstse flys in Tanzania. Out of our group of about 12, roughly 50% were affected enough by malaron that they couldn’t finish the 3 week course. I did, mainly because I was bitten even with all the deet on the world on me. So there is a health concern with going as well.

  99. Lucky, have considered Chile? It has some amazing properties all around the country. Viña Vik, in Colchagua, for example, or Hotel Awa in the lake region, not to mention some of the properties in Chiloé, Atacama, Patagonia.

  100. I have ZERO doubt in my mind – Mara Exlorer in Masai Mara Kenya!!!! I went in north hemisphere winter and it was like living through National Geographic every day! Very quiet this time of the year, but incredible sightings – hippos fighting, leopards, lions, 20+ giraffes congregating…. amazing food and service! Plus it’s literally 2 mns from its own airstrip! I live in Africa (South Africa) and this is probably the best I’ve been to. If I had the cash (and I think for this one you can splurge) I would LOVE to go to Ngorongoro Crater Lodge! It’s once in your lifetime experience!!! Basically a lot of animals in an extinct crater turned wildlife park. You could combine this with Samburu, Zanzibar or gorillas in Rwanda.

  101. Hey Lucky,

    @UA Fan is right – the Palace on Wheels or the Deccan Odyssey are amazing super luxurious train journeys through unique parts of India.

    Or you could join my bf and myself on a research expedition to Antarctica next November (I write from my bunk from the southern continent). We cannot provide luxury accommodation but can guarantee a unique experience with climatologists 🙂

  102. Lucky,

    Lots of great suggestions here.

    I recommend East Africa over South Africa, despite the fact that November is the season of the Short rains’.

    Reach out to Bryony Anderson at The Giraffe Manor, she is very helpful and they could have cancellations.

    In addition to all the recommendations made by your readers, I highly recommend a stay at the Mount Kenya Safari Club. You should also go to Treetops and The Ark, Lake Naivasha Country Club, Lake Baringo and Lake Nakuru. A&K can help with travel arrangements.

    Look forward to hearing how your plans evolve.


  103. Hi Lucky

    I have some more suggestions for you for an amazing saafari.

    If you’re looking for the best of the best Singita boulders is defentliy if. However if you’re looking for South Africa there’s a brand new lodge tengile by &beyond which is incredible. Otherwise in the Kruger londolozi is great.

    Out of South Africa I would highly recommend Botswana at Mombo Camp or Vumbura.

    Out of Botswana all Singita are infredible particularly the Zimbabwe one. However lately I stayed at bistate lodge in Rwanda’s and was also great. Therese so many options and I have stayed at a lot of them. Being quite local

    Would love to put you in touch or help further

  104. Have you thought of Amboseli National Park which is about 5 hours from NBO? It is in the background of Mt. Kilimanjaro and I’ve heard it makes good views. I’m sending my parents there next year, but I’m not sure if there are any luxury properties. If you want to see the Mount from the air, try an early morning flight from NBO to ZNZ/DAR.

  105. If you have never been on safari – it’s a must…my very first safari was more of a bucket list check…but the experience puts such a spell on you that you start planning your next trip while still in the middle of your current one…close to a dozen safaris later, I am still planning the next 2…to me personally – Botswana is the most magical…and the most expensive (think around $3000 per PERSON per DAY if you go for high end ones – Zarafa, Mombo, Duba Plains)…but! they drop their prices in November, because supposedly the rainy season begins…except the rains are often delayed, and you have pretty much the same experience at maybe 30-40% off…for you though, Botswana might not work – most of the camps there do not have wi-fi or cell connection…so I would suggest South Africa – Sabi Sands or Mala-Mala…the sightings are great, the lodges (personal favorite is Singita Boulders) are luxurious, wi-fi and cell connections work, and November is pretty much as good a month as any…definitely do it – it’ll be amazing, more amazing than you can even imagine…

  106. A safari is the VERY best choice! I went a few years ago and still have wonderful memories and I’m about 10 years younger than your dad! It’s impossible to know where to begin planning, and that’s why we used Bert at Fish Eagle Safaris. I’m headed to Africa this summer and he arranged it all. My friend has used him numerous times and no, I do not work for him in any capacity (I’m a teacher)! Our trip was flawless, all ground transport arranged and we visited two Wilderness Safari camps and Mala Mala where we saw leopards! I highly recommend Bert, we are repeat customers. Here’s his website and my blog post on our trip. FYI, we arranged our own airfare, using points, of course.

  107. I lived in Kenya for 3+ years. I would highly recommend Amboseli, Lewa and Tsavo. Masai Mara is great if you will be around during the Great Migration. I would suggest then going to Lamu for some beach time; villas are easily rented there.

    Even if you cannot stay at the Giraffe Manor, they have high tea and a center for tourists to interact with the Giraffes.

    Though I have never been, you might consider Nambia as an alternative. They have some very interesting landscapes. It is on my list.

  108. It might sound boring on the surface, but the highlands of Scotland is one of the most incredible places on earth in my opinion, it’s not the best for points property’s or even super luxurious property’s but it’s truly an incredible place, also November is not the best weather, however I’m sure you’ll love it if you gave it a chance. We always go to the west, Torridon, Kishorn, Etc. Check it out 🙂

  109. @Jackie

    I would suggest you not comment on this website, seeing as how your opinion is as interesting as stale white bread.

  110. When Giraff Manor is full, look for an availability in Garden Manor – both are the same property with same service, except the latter is built new but you can still look out for giraffs and have breakfast with them.

  111. I know you’ve got a billion comments and opinions here, however to the extent that another opinion matters, I’m chiming in with those who suggest Namibia.

    I’m also chiming in with those who suggest Wilderness Safaris. Exceptional staff, guides, and service. I’ve only stayed at their “Premier” level camps, however over the past few years they’ve reclassified some of the properties up and down, from what I understand.

    On one of my trips to a Wilderness property a few years ago, we were sitting in the Wilderness lounge in Windhoek killing time before going through security for our connecting flight to Cape Town. While we were waiting, and gentleman came in and talked to the guy working the lounge, then sat on a couch near me and played on his phone. We struck up a conversation, and he asked me how I liked Namibia. I told him I love Namibia, love Wilderness Safaris, and that Namibia is my favorite country in the world (it is). He handed me his card, and told me that if I ever needed anything to contact him – turned out he was the Namibia Tourism Minister.*

    Anyway, I felt like I had just met Cher. Okay, I exaggerate, but it was pretty cool, and I was glad I gushed to him before I realized who he was, so he knew my effusive praise was genuine, vs. saying what he wanted to hear.

    *Which is now the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, because Namibia, like Botswana, understands the need to preserve the environment if it is to sustain high-end tourism to the country and the jobs the tourism industry creates.

  112. I would suggest gorilla tracking in Rwanda and there are some pretty special lodges in the Volcanoes National Park.
    However, if you only have a week and would also like to go to Giraffe Manor then perhaps you are better off just staying in Kenya. Saruni have an exclusive property in northern Kenya near Samburu where you can track rhinos. There’s also the famous Star beds in Laikipia. In November, Kenya does have the short rain season (it only rains for a short time each day) so it tends to be an OK time to travel as you can get shoulder season rates at some of the lodges. And if you go to northern Kenya (around Samburu) then it’s an arid area so less chance of rain. In November the migratory herds of wildebeest tend to be heading back to the Serengeti, so the Maasai Mara isn’t as big a draw card as it is July-October.
    As another person said, you can get lucky with Giraffe Manor if there’s a cancellation. But I would definitely book earlier than leave it. My husband has a tour company and we usually have to design an itinerary around the availability at Giraffe Manor if guests want to go there. If you are flexible with your dates, it’s definitely worth it!
    I guess if you have a week you could fly to Kigali and head straight to the Volcanoes. Track the gorillas the next day, heading back to Kigali that afternoon. Fly to Nairobi the next morning and spend that day at Giraffe Manor. Day 4 fly to Saruni or Sasaab or another lodge in the Samburu area and spend the rest of the week there.
    Also you may be interested to know that there are now direct flights on Kenya Airways from New York to Nairobi. I gather you are based in LA, and Kenya Airways is certainly not Emirates, so I don’t know if this information is any use to you. But just in case…..

  113. US-KGL
    Singita Bisate Lodge (gorillas)
    One&Only Ngyngwe House (chimpanzees)
    Ngorongoro Crater Lodge
    Singita Grumeti or Faru Faru

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