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Questions about travel to Zambia

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Hello. I’ve been lurking on this site for a while. It is a wonderful resource. Having read a number of postings on Zambia has caused me to consider going on safari there instead of some other locations. But I had some questions that I couldn’t find many answers to elsewhere. I know that I have a number of questions, but even just a few answers would be most appreciated.

1. Zambia vs. Botswana. I have read from a few posters that Zambia is a great value. Does that mean I would have the same game viewing experience whether I went there or to, say, Botswana?

2. Poaching. In prior years I had read stories about poaching in Zambia. Does it continue to be a problem?

3. How Long At One Place. I have seen suggestions about spending 5 to 7 nights at one lodge. If time is a factor and one wants to see as much variety as possible, what is the optimum amount of time to stay at one location?

4. Where To Go. Are the only two locations worth visiting in Zambia the Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa?

5. Game Viewing Differences. Is the game viewing experience the same at all locations in the Lower Zambezi and all locations in South Luangwa?

6. Traveling Around Zambia. How easy is it to get from one location to another within Zambia, or to travel to/from South Africa to Zambia?

7. Self-Booked Trips. What are the pros and cons of booking my arrangements on my own?

8. Travel Agents. If I were to use a travel agent, does it matter where they are based? How would I go about picking one?

9. Politics. What is the political climate in Zambia and how might that affect our vacation?

10. Helping Out. By going to Zambia would I be helping out the people and/or animals?

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    1. everyone has their own opinions on Bots or Zambia. No game viewing experience is the same from day to day let alone country to country-it's all luck on what you'll see. some camps in bots are renowned for the game in their concessions as are some in Zambia
    2. there is poaching everywhere, the problem is with hunting camps and there are some in Zambia and Zim. Don't think Bots allows hunting camps
    3. I like a minimum of three days at one camp, i wouldn't stay less than two at a camp..too much moving around.
    4. Kafue and North Luangwa are supposed to be the up and coming locations to go in Zambia
    5. in South Luangwa, some lodges drive north, some drive south but basically yes, the same area is covered by most of the camps nearest to Mfuwe. in Lower Zambezi I think it's the same as we saw vehicles from the other camps, but not as often as in SL. You need to also look at how many people the camp/lodge holds so you won't get stuck in a Rover with 5-9 other people. Also the quality of the guide can make or break the experience of a good safari.
    6. From South Africa, there's a few flights a day to Lusaka, from there you can catch flights to L.Z or Mfuwe in S.L very easily. I beleive charters go to Kafue.
    7. Some lodges won't do bookings without going through an agent. The agent hopefully will fill in all the unknown gaps you might not think about on your own. Charter flights, transit from hotel to airport to lodge etc. It's not like landing in Seattle with all the rental cars and taxis waiting for you to choose from.
    8. Doesn't matter where there based, look at their experience with booking African safaris...way different than booking a cruise. there are some threads here where people recommend agents that they have used.
    9. the political situation in Zambia is fine, they just had their election and Levy won again, people are happy the economy is picking up...nothing to worry about concerning politics
    10. As with everywhere you go, what you spend helps the employees earn their wages, which is spent in the villages etc. etc. without tourists, there would be noone working at the camps, no money flowing, so yes, going there or anywhere helps the people. the park fees that you'll pay pays the rangers/guards etc. to prevent poaching, keep up the roads waterholes etc.

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    Here is a thread about Zambia and Botswana.
    http://www.fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=4&tid=34894646

    Matnikstym did a great job on your 1-10.

    1. Zambia, a little less game, but your actual experience depends on where you stay in Zambia, where you stay in Botswana, and luck. You'd have to go to Kafue in Zambia to see cheetah. You’ll probably see no puku (antelope) in Botswana.

    2. Unlikely you'd encounter poaching either place if you stay in reputable camps. Your mere presence reduces poaching. I'd not use this as a criteria.

    3. The 5-7 nights is unusual and not necessary. I agree 3 as a minimum is good, maybe 2 occasionally.

    4. SL and LZ are the biggies with the most game.

    I just emailed a friend about Zambia, so I'll include those comments here for you.

    Kutandala in North Luangwa is my fav camp. The couple who run it were at Tafika in S Luangwa when I was there in 98. That's how they met. Rod Tether is the guide. Guz, his wife, is the chef extraordinaire.

    The design of the huts, all done traditionally without nails or screws, is elegant and functional with a nice view of the river during the day and the stars and moon at night--all right from your bed. The huts have a dried mud floor and the ensuite bathroom has a sand-bottom floor.

    Warm water is provided each morning through a flap in the bathroom wall and early morning coffee/tea is served through a flap in the main unit. The huts are beautifully decorated with shells, tree stumps, seedpods, and other natural materials.

    It is almost all walking with driving mainly to and from the airstrip. No night drives. Extremely beautiful and remote. You take off your shoes to cross the Mwaleshi River (5 inches deep or so) every time you leave camp for a walk. It is common to see lions on foot and I saw three.

    Kutandala is more than just a special place out in the wilderness. We saw great game and most of it on foot, thanks to the skill and effort of Rod. Highlights were:

    Seven species all within a panoramic view, interacting with each other (and us): impala, puku, Cookson’s wildebeest, warthog, zebra, waterbuck, and 3 lions. There were 2 male lions and a female. We actually saw the lions before the other animals did, so it was interesting to see their delayed reaction.

    A herd of about 300 buffalo stampeding past where I was drying my feet after traversing the Mwaleshi and putting on my boots—all at a safe distance.

    An encounter between a buffalo walking down the riverbank and a croc sunning itself on the back that refused to move. The croc opened its mouth real wide and the buffalo retreated.

    Interesting bird of prey activity: a fish eagle with a rodent, a snake eagle with a snake, and a martial eagle’s failed attempt at flock of flying guinea fowl.

    Getting growled at by a bush pig—not oinked or grunted—but growled.

    A big bull elephant and a young male crossing the Mwalesi, picking up our scent running into the forest. (One note on this behavior: elephants used to be hunted here so they can be fearful of people on foot. Our encounter actually served as teaching device for the elephant. Though they were afraid, they learned no shots were fired and we did not pursue them. As they encounter more benign walking safari participants, their fear should subside a bit. They were less fearful of us in a vehicle.)

    The ride to and from the airstrip and one drive to another part of the park produced:

    Herds of a dozen, relaxed elephant.

    A courting pair of lions.

    Herd of Cookson’s Wildebeest.

    When I was there, the black rhino were just being introduced, so they should be running around now too.

    This sounds like I represent Kutandala. Not the case, but I’m returning in July 2008.

    The Lower Zambezi offers the most action in Zambia with walking and canoeing. Sausage Tree is slightly less expensive than Chiawa and I thought it was great. A few other posters much preferred Chiawa. I did mostly water activities at Sausage Tree but by far the most exciting, picturesque, bird and animal filled, memorable, etc. activity was the day long canoe trip on the Chifungulu Channel from Sausauge Tree to Old Mondoro. You cannot canoe from Chiawa to Old Mondoro because it is too far. Some itineraries do Chiawa for a few days, Sausage Tree for 1 night, then leave by canoe for Old Mondoro. Old Mondoro is a rustic bush camp. The areas you walk in are like the beautiful Mana Pools in Zim, with huge acacias filtering light. I would definitely suggest the LZ be included in any Zambia itinerary.

    Kafue was really remote, especially Busanga Plains (now run by Wilderness under a different name), with rare antelope species and good lion action. Sept-Oct would be an ideal time to visit because you could see bigger herds of sable and roan at closer range, though I saw both in July at a distance. Wattled crane are all over too. The lions start climbing trees the end of Aug. This is the only place in Zambia to see cheetah and I saw 4 here--a pair at Lunga River and a pair at Busanga. Oddly, both pairs were on night drives. Never saw cheetah at night before or since.

    There are many excellent places to stay in S. Luangwa besides Tafika, or in addition to it and the Pope camps were fine. Where Pope really excels is the several day walking safaris. The people I met who had done them raved. Some were back for repeats. No one saw much game though and they readily stated that. Based on what they told me, I saw more game on the morning walking excursions than they had on the several day trek. That was true for my walking at Tena Tena or at Tafika.

    5. Game viewing in LZ can include canoe or small boat safaris. No can do in S Luangwa. In S Luangwa the further north you get, the better it is to wait until later in the season, like late July at the earliest. In LZ I think game viewing is the same at each camp.

    6. Easy—your agent can arrange all of this for you. Even including N Luangwa and Kafue, I had no wasted travel days. Went from camp to camp, maybe through Mfwue or Lusaka, but charters and scheduled flights worked well.

    7. Pros would be to save some money. Cons are some S. Luangwa camps I’ve asked about this have said it is the same price either way. Why? Because they don’t want to undermine the agents that work hard to sell their properties by circumventing them and going directly to the clients. Arranging the charters would be hard, I think by yourself.

    8. Logic says African based agents would be less. That is not what I’ve found in practice. Use one you are comfortable with that has experience where you are going. Get a few references. I like to ask if they can link me to any newspaper or magazine articles about them. Are they in Fodors, Frommers, Bradt, Rough Guide, etc.? Get advice from people on Fodors who have used them.

    9. Fine. I’ll defer to Matnikstym’s response.

    10. Yes

    Tell us when you are going and the responses can be more specific. Please post your itinerary as it takes shape and have a great trip.

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    As to Zambia being bettter value for money.....that's a debatable topic, as in the case of some establishments prices have increased in recent times.

    As to Botswana...you need to find the right options as there are plenty of value for money options. So, you need to find the right agent to provide you with what you are looking for....

    In terms of game viewing, the main difference is that, Botswana has private concessions where camps are located and this provides you with the exclusivity: limited to guests at the camp during your stay....you can also do the national parks option in Botswana, but then you are going to bump into FAR more people.

    Your other questions have been suitably answered by Dennis and Lynn....

    Good luck in your planning.....

    Hari

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    Hello Canadaphile (a fellow Canadian?),

    My husband and I have been to Botswana 3 times and Zambia once. On our first safari ever, we combined Zambia (LZ and SL)and Botswana.

    1. Zambia is good value, but a slightly different game viewing experience. I didn't find it worse than Botswana at all, just different. Because the landscape is different (more bushes and trees along the rivers and inland), the game can be harder to spot. But I enjoy the searching as much as the seeing. The elephant and hippo viewing was terrific, as was the leopards (5 different adult leopards in 1 day!)Saw lots of stuff every where we've been.

    2. Visiting any camp or park helps drive the poachers away. But I never saw any signs of it either.

    3. On our first trip, we stayed 3 nights at each place. Our second trip, it was 4 nights, and our last trip was 5 and 6 nights. I personally find it very relaxing to slow it down and stay longer and not jet around. And I never get bored as I love to look at everything from the dung beetles and birds to the elephants. For your first trip, you might want to try 3 nights each in a few different ecosystems.
    4. Although I have only been to LZ and SW, my next trip will probably take me to Kafue, NL and SL again. All different.
    5. The game viewing experience varies from camp to camp, with critical factors being the number of lodgers and seats in the jeeps, quality of guides, and what activities they offer. I always try to stay at camps where there are no more than 10 or 12 guests, preferably 6-10. On some of the websites you can see details on how many people they put in each jeep, etc. And the guide can really make the difference. I have had great guides who can make a slow day lots of fun, and other guides who can really ruin a great day.
    6. Within an organized safari, pretty easy to get around and the industry is well organized. Not recommended that you drive yourself.
    7 and 8. I find that using a very experienced agent specializing in Africa has made a world of difference. They know first hand what's going on and they've probably been wherever it is you are going. My agent negotiated Canadian dollar at par when the dollar was at 65 cents to the US dollar. Saved a fortune. Plus all my trips have been awesome.
    9. Wherever you travel, just check the government updates.
    10. Tourist dollars are needed and the money supports not only the parks and animals, but entire communities.

    I am hooked on safaris and can't wait to go again. Whatever you plan, I am sure you will love it. Enjoy!

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    I prefer to think in terms of what Zambia has that is special.

    Unique animals endemic to Zambia
    Many different ecosystems and scenery
    Seasonal birds visit parts of Zambia- like the Shoebill
    Waterfalls
    Tribal ceremonies throughout the year
    Horseback riding
    canoe safaris
    tiger fishing
    Remote safaris
    Bush walks are the norm
    Even an annual bat migration Nov-Dec
    Many camps offer local guides as opposed to a guide from South Africa(example) that may not be up to speed.
    In Aug-Nov, game is easier to spot in the dry season and locate as they will be predictably close to water.
    Leopard sightings are more common in many parts of Zambia.
    Wild dog seem to be slowly recovering and is spotted more often now in a couple parks.
    Opportunities to visit traditional villages.
    And from my point of view, it is mostly selfdrive friendly.

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    1) Comparison to Bots - Several here have traveled to both and given you great insight.

    2)Poaching - concur with Lynn's respose.

    3)How long at each camp - I am in the longer the better camp on this one. Unless travel logistics require it , I would go along with the 3 day minimum. I could easily stay a week or two at some locations.

    4)Other destinations besides S.Luangwa and Lower Zambezi.

    Having just returned from the N.Luangwa I would add this this area to the list. Best walks I have done and loved the remote, wild feeling. Some on this board and in other venues, do not recommend N.Luangwa as a first trip. I personally don't see that reasoning. I would have loved being there on my first trip. Some differences in wildlife found in various parks within Zambia

    N.Luangwa - larger prides of lions(and what seemed to me more numerous numbers) and larger herds of buffalo. Also only area in Zambia with coxson wildebeast and hartebeast. No giraffes are found in the North. Rhino's have been re-introduced in the North, but will be a number of years before this population grows to a number where tourists will be allowed in this area.

    South Luangwa - river draws large populations of hippos, crocs, elles. In the 14 days I have spent there in 2 trips I have seen leopards on ~ 7 of those days. Rich game concentrations - especially in the area of the main gate and surrounding area. Big plus is many of the camps are on the river which allows for great game viewing from the porch of your camp!!

    Kafue - only national park where Cheetah are found. Have not been there so can't comment on speficics.

    6)Ease of travel - One thing to add here as the camps in the S.Luangwa will provide transport to the other camps in the park.

    7&8 - Self booked/travel agents - as mentioned above some camps will not self book and you can not arrange in-country airflights yourself (although some of the camps that do self book will do this for you.)

    9)Political situation in Zambia - as Dennis mentioned above the political structure is very stable and safe and has been stable for many years.

    10) Tourism to all the areas in Africa makes a HUGE difference. It provides an economic structure that can preserve both the wildlife and help boost up the local economies.

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    Greendrake,

    Thank God!!! you are another believer in a long stay in a location....

    I dont believe in an itinerary that involves lots of shuttling about, as at the end of the day you just get a glimpse of the area and you are more likely to just enjoy the camp/lodge and their facilities...not the intent of my travels...

    Hari

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    The longer stay--I enjoy the luxury of more time in one place as well. But a 3 night stay does give a good feel for an area, especially when time for the whole trip is a factor and their is a desire for variety.

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    On my last trip I started off with a 2 night stay followed by consecutive one night stays at 2 different camps. This was done partly because I was a solo traveler and had to "fit in" as there was only one time slot to catch a ride up to the North Luangwa. It was heaven to finally reach a place where I would have 4 consecutive days in one spot.

    During my last stay at Kafunta in South Luangwa, I met a couple who were staying at Kafunta for 2-3 weeks. This was their 8th trip there and each time was they stayed 2-3 weeks with side trips to bush camps, villages, schools and other wild life projects in the area. Now these 2 were my "role models". In their late 60's - both licensed glider and small plane pilots and both with an unbounding adventurous spirit.

    Would love to have that kind of time (and finances) to truly appreciate all the nuances of a place that are missed when one does a whirlwind tour.

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    I know that this thread has been dormant for a while, but the author asked many good questions, most of which aren't the typical ones addressed in the forum. I have a somewhat different take than a lot of the respondents to date, so it might be useful to a few readers to get another perspective.

    1. I too had read on this board that Zambia was a great value--the implication being that you see the same things in Zambia but it's much cheaper. Botwsana and Zambia are different experiences. And while luck plays a large role in what you see or don't see, Botswana in general has more game, so you're likely to see more animals, albeit not necessarily more variety. Botswana has an identity---limited visitors and more exclusivity, high cost, more game. I think Zambia isn't sure what it is---they are talking about adding concessions in various parts of the country but don't seem to realize that that detracts from the experience, and as I discuss below, they aren't doing a very good job of addressing their poaching problem.

    2. Poaching continues to be a huge issue in Zambia. You may not see poachers (in fact, it's very unlikely that you will), but you will see the effects of poaching in the form of less game. In Botswana, the military enforces anti-poaching laws, and frankly they do a very good job (at least, relative to other places). In Zambia, it's ZAWA's responsibility, and they are undermanned, unmotivated, underpaid, and under-equipped. Hence, more animals in Botswana and less in Zambia. As I understand it, many camp operators in Zambia are opposed to rhinos being reintroduced there because they will quickly be slaughtered ......again. I won't spend the type addressing the socio-economic issues related to poaching but needless to say, it's not all about military enforcement.

    3. This is definitely a different strokes for different folks question. I couldn't handle more than 1 night at Kafunta, as compared with the response about someone spending two weeks there.
    I would say 2 to 3 days is probably best, but put some effort into coming up with well-timed transfers, so you don't lose days going from one reserve to the next. Zambia's scheduled airline service leaves much to be desired, so that is a drawback.

    4. I've heard the same thing about Kafue and North Luangwa being the new up and comers, but I haven't been there. Stay away from the southern part of South Luangwa, like Luamfwa. Overpoached, limited roads, heavy brush and fearful animals make it a bad game viewing experience. I understand other camps are going to be developed there, but I would keep away for at least a couple of years. As far as SL, it's not the right experience for everyone--for me, it was too many 4X4's all running into each other over and over again, with the animals posing or just ignoring all the activity. It felt like Disneyland.

    5. Yes in SL, although as I wrote above, South SL is quite disappointing, so stick with the northern part of SL if you go to that area. LZ can be a much more varied experience.

    6. I think the travel within Zambia is a real challenge. I've heard that ever since the national airline went out of business, traveling around has been difficult. My whole itinerary changed out of necessity a month before I was set to arrive, because routes had been terminated. And a week before my arrival, the airport in LZ had been closed without warning (in the middle of high season) and air traffic was re-directed to a field (and I mean a field) an hour or so away.

    7. Ideally, because of the problems you can encounter in Zambia, you'd want to use an agent. But use one who knows Zambia (so that they're actually adding value for you) and has contacts on the ground there and knows what's going on.

    8. I'd try to find one based in Africa, but who's very familiar with Zambia (if they actually have a Zambian satellite office, that's even better). But I think I'd stay away from Zambian-based agencies---I just didn't feel comfortable with the way they do business (bad communication, limited value-add, and even misrepresentations along the way).

    9. As everyone else has said, politics shouldn't affect it. But the re-elected president as a campaign promise, said that foreign operators in Zambia would be required to sell a half-interest to local companies (his opponent wanted to nationalize everyting---and someday that could happen). The half-interest sale is not a good thing--it just makes a trip to Zambia even more expensive, and Zambia is a very expensive place as it is.

    10. I'm sure you'd be helping out the economy of Zambia, but it seemed evident to me that the government isn't investing in their national parks the way they should. They may just view the game viewing/hunting as a cash cow. Sucking money out of this industry and not re-investing isn't a good long-term strategy to become a top-notch game viewing destination. For my money, I'd rather go to Botswana or SA, and send a donation to one of the wonderful conservation organizations operating in Zambia; they've got an uphill fight.

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    sorry you didn't like Zambia, but I think you are full of crap.
    1. "And while luck plays a large role in what you see or don't see, Botswana in general has more game, so you're likely to see more animals, albeit not necessarily more variety" so you are saying it's better to see 200 zebra in Bots, than 23 other species in Zam?
    2. "In Zambia, it's ZAWA's responsibility, and they are undermanned, unmotivated, underpaid, and under-equipped" ZAWA is doing an incredible job against anti-poaching. did you stop and visit ZAWA and see the job they are doing? I did and they are HIGHLY motivated, and well equipped and manned (in the last few years) and ALL the folks at ZAWA I met, whether in the office or in the field were motivated and doing an EXCELLENT job against poaching. And poaching does occur in Bots also.
    3. "Zambia's scheduled airline service leaves much to be desired, so that is a drawback" Zambia Airwaves has a very good schedule making it easy to go from area to area. Check their webpage and see the amount of flights they have.
    4. "As far as SL, it's not the right experience for everyone--for me, it was too many 4X4's all running into each other over and over again, with the animals posing or just ignoring all the activity. It felt like Disneyland" Again, I think you are full of crap. I have been on at least 24 game drives in SL and at MOST, have seen 5-6 other vehicles on a 4 hour drive. SL is a huge park and except for passing vehicles on the road, there was not traffic at any sightings I've been on. Disneyland? Maybe for the "Adventureland" feel. Oh yeah, I'be been there in both the high and the low season.
    5. "Yes in SL, although as I wrote above, South SL is quite disappointing, so stick with the northern part of SL if you go to that area. LZ can be a much more varied experience." If you like river activities, yes, LZ can be much more varied, but if you like game, nothing beats SL.
    6. "I think the travel within Zambia is a real challenge. I've heard that ever since the national airline went out of business, traveling around has been difficult. My whole itinerary changed out of necessity a month before I was set to arrive, because routes had been terminated. And a week before my arrival, the airport in LZ had been closed without warning (in the middle of high season) and air traffic was re-directed to a field (and I mean a field) an hour or so away" Even in America, routes get terminated, just a part of travelling. I've never had a problem travelling from SL to LZ to Livingstone to Lusaka or any combination of the above. Who'd you hear that from, or did you experience it yourself? There has never been an "airport" in LZ, it's always been dirt fields, both of the landing strips have always been dirt, as most small "airports" in Africa are.
    7. Agree with you on using an agent familiar with Zambia, though the same can be said about using an agent familiar with Bots. You wouldn't go to Disney Travel for a trip to Africa.
    8. "I'd try to find one based in Africa, but who's very familiar with Zambia (if they actually have a Zambian satellite office, that's even better). But I think I'd stay away from Zambian-based agencies---I just didn't feel comfortable with the way they do business (bad communication, limited value-add, and even misrepresentations along the way)" Don't generalize about all Zambian or all African agencies. Not all are bad, not all are good, same as in the U.S. or U.K.
    9. "The half-interest sale is not a good thing--it just makes a trip to Zambia even more expensive, and Zambia is a very expensive place as it is" Zambia is still cheaper than Bots, though pricing is going up. How do you know the half-interest thing is not a good thing, who told you that? Do you believe EVERYTHING someone tells you, seems that way...
    10. "They may just view the game viewing/hunting as a cash cow. Sucking money out of this industry and not re-investing isn't a good long-term strategy to become a top-notch game viewing destination. For my money, I'd rather go to Botswana or SA, and send a donation to one of the wonderful conservation organizations operating in Zambia; they've got an uphill fight"
    Again, who told you this? When I was there (twice) we saw government workers working on the roads and bridges paid for by the government. The government knows how important SL is to the economy and is spending money on the parks. Yes, I did talk to a government official during a dedication of a school by the President's wife, and I did see the work ZAWA and the NP system is doing to improve the area for tourism.
    Again, I'm sorry you didn't like Zambia, but just because you had a bad experience, you don't need to badmouth the country and the people who are doing their best. Go to Bots and donate to Zam, I'm sure they'd appreciate it more than having you return.



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    I'm all for longer stays at camps as well ;-) . I prefer to kick back a bit and get a feel for the place.
    Eg. Next Sept my wife and I are staying 5 nights at Puku Ridge and 7 nights at Kaingo/Mwamba.

    Cheers
    Marc

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    canadaphile,
    I wasn't going to respond as I thought matnikstym, green drake, jimb et al, did nice jobs of describing the experience differences and what to expect in Zambia vs. Botswana.

    But, sharonarx was so far off-base relative to our experience in Zambia late Sept./early Oct., I have to make a couple of comments.

    First, travel. We flew from San Francisco to Heathrow to Lusaka. Our travel within Zambia was far more efficient than getting there or going back home. The wait in Lusaka was short, we were met by Chiawa's (our first camp) owner, who guided us through customs, and made sure we were set for our Zambia Air flight. The connections to Chiawa were seamless, and we would have never known that the usual airstrip was closed and we were using an alternate except for them telling us. We got to camp in plenty of time to clean up, relax, and go on our first afternoon and night drives (leopards, lions and lots more the first evening).

    Then, the boat trip to Sausage Tree (the one camp where we had several problems) and, after one night, the canoe trip to Old Mondoro (with a brief interruption by a startled hippo). The Zambezi was wonderful, watching ellies, lots of them, playing in the water, cape buffalo, in singles doubles, and herds of 100's, hippos, huge crocodiles, fishing for tigerfish, sundowners on the water, canoe trips, incredible numbers and diversity of bird life.

    Flying out of the Lower Zambezi back to Lusaka, then to Mfue and on to South Luangwa also was smooth and uneventful. On our way into camp (Luangwa River Lodge) we saw giraffes, zebra, and a lion pride with a fresh kill, and again, we were able to go on a drive the same day as arriving.

    As far as encountering other vehicles, in 7 nights total in the Lower Zambezi, we saw one vehicle from another camp exactly once, and we went on every drive available. We rarely saw another vehicle from our own camp. Also, on all drives except one, we were the only people other than our guide (and spotter at night)in the vehicle. Now, some of this was certainly luck, as we had not specified a dedicated vehicle, but the camp managers, at least at all camps except Sausage Tree, really went out of their way to anticipate and meet our desires.

    We did encounter more vehicles in South Luangwa, but our wonderful guide, Victor, somehow managed for us to almost always be the only vehicle at a game viewing. And, we were always the only 2 in the vehicle all 6 days we were there.

    As for lengths of stay, we also liked being at a place a minimum of 3 nights, and could have easily spent a week each at Old Mondoro and Chiawa and never been bored.

    As for choosing a travel agent, the key, as has been mentioned, is to have an agent who specializes in Africa and has personally visited the camps being recommended. Also, we were more comfortable having someone in the US, as I felt (although do not know for certain) that I would have better recourse and more direct communication in the event of problems. But, everything went quite smoothly.

    We ended up choosing Rocco and his Destiny Africa. He originally had been so helpful on this forum in educating us and helping us zero in on a safari that would meet our desires (small, quality camps near water, and good value), never pressuring us to book with him. As for costs, I can’t say if Zambia is less expensive for an equivalent total experience than Botswana. But, in doing our research, I do not believe that there is anything like the Zambezi experience except in Zambia, and, I assume, Zimbabwe. And, I am aware that top camps like Chiawa are not cheap and are raising prices for 2007. But, taken as a whole, we feel like we received everything, and more, than we had hoped for.

    As for politics and which government cares more or less about wildlife protection, no country is perfect, but I have to believe, based on what I saw, that Zambia does care a great deal.

    I could raise questions re. Botswana's priorities W/R to its building of
    veterinary fences which block herd migrations resulting in the horrible deaths of thousands of animals annually. The protest against the building of these fences is why the Owens' (authors of Cry Kalahari) were forced to leave Botswana, and why they are urging people not to go to Botswana so long as its government continues to cater to the cattle industry.

    Anyway, bottom line, I think sharonarx is full of baloney, and wondering what her motive is.

    Jim


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    Sorry I have been a stranger lately but I have been very busy. I could not, however, let this thread go without adding my two cents.

    Having just returned from Botswana and with plenty of experience in Zambia, I do believe I am able to offer some good input.

    My own experience...

    I did not find the air transfers in Botswana any easier than in Zambia. If anything, I think it is easier to fly into Lusaka on South African Airways (or now also on Zambian Airways) than to fly into Maun on Air Botswana.

    The gameviewing I experienced in Botswana was slightly better than I have experienced in Zambia, particularly for wild dogs and male lions, but, overall, I did not find it overwhelmingly better. What I love about Zambia are the Nile Crocodiles and the Hippos that are found both along the Luangwa River and Zambezi River, really adding to the atmosphere.

    Personally, for me, the abundance of different activities in Zambia more than makes up for the slight difference in gameviewing. Game drive after game drive after game drive can get a bit tiresome so it is nice to be able to mix it up with a good walking safari, canoe excursion, river safari or cultural visit as it is possible to do in Zambia.

    Cost wise, Zambia is still about 25% less, on average, in high season than for camps of a similar quality in Botswana.

    Also, let me add that while I have not been successful at seeing wild dogs in Zambia, other Fodorites have been successful.

    One other difference is that there are still many owner operated lodges in Zambia while there are very few remaining in Botswana. I personally enjoy the smaller, owner operated, independent camps in Zambia.

    I think ZAWA, Conservation Lower Zambezi, South Luangwa Conservation Society and others all do a great job in combating poaching.

    Also, I have never felt like there were so many vehicles in South Luangwa that it was like Disneyland. One does not have to go to the far north of the park to enjoy exclusivity...I have enjoyed exclusivity wherever I have visited, but again, I tend to stick to the owner operated lodges. While I have often been the only person in my vehicle, I have seen other better marketed camps with full loads of guests in their vehicles.

    However, quite honestly, because the vehicles often work in tandem to assist in finding wildlife, I saw no more vehicles on wildlife spottings in Zambia than I did in Botswana.

    Hopefully I am wrong, but it does seem that there is an attempt in this thread to discredit Zambia and that is truly unfortunate. Zambia is an absolutely magical location and I long to return to Zambia next September to explore Kafue and perhaps even stuff in a quick visit to North Luangwa, if I am lucky.

    My heart yearns for Zambia like for no other destination, as wonderful as both Tanzania and Botswana proved to be on recent visits.

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    I would imagine wild dog viewing to improve in the future in the South Luangwa. Bear in mind, you need to be lucky even in Botswana (even if you plan ur trip around appropriate camps and seasons). Having read so much in recent times about the wild dog packs and their success in the SL, i can only think positive about the future situation.

    Cheetah viewing in Botswana, FANTASTIC.

    However, i think we should all not compare one wilderness area with the other. I've seen comparisons of Zambia and Botswana in some threads. Other comparisons of Botswana and some popular SSGR lodges in other threads......i think each area has it's own beauty, charm and potential for a FABULOUS trip!!!

    But, for those who only travel to Africa ONCE........i dont have an answer. It's upto you to do the research and pick an appropriate destination for YOUR needs.

    Hari

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