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Roccco- Luangwa River Lodge

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Roccco-
Per your suggestion in another post, I checked out Luangwa River Lodge. Looks beautiful. I'm planning a trip for 6-9 60 year old couples with big budgets and high standards [Singita, Mombo, Chilwero, and the Royal Livingstone are the camps/hotels we're currently looking at -- I'm 30-something and my husband and I get to tag along for free courtesy of my parents (can you say lucky!)]. Anyway, I went to South Luangwa 10+ years ago and the camp (Chinzombo) was rustic compared to Singita standards. However, the game was the best I've ever seen.

I'd love to go back to S.Luangwa, but my parents are concerned about the lodges. How much do you know about Luangwa River Lodge. There website has great pictures, but not a lot of details. It's so new that I'm having trouble finding a review or 1st hand knowledge of the facilities. Can you guide me to any reports?

Thanks for your help!

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    travelwmn,

    I would definitely contact Barry at Luangwa River Lodge...just follow the e-mail link on their website (www.luangwariverlodge.com) and it is most likely that Barry, one of the owners, will be responding.

    I am not sure that Luangwa River Lodge is set up to handle more than 12 people, and it is for this very reason that I chose it.

    Other lodges to consider that I think would go over very well are Puku Ridge (18 guest capacity) and Chichele Presidential Lodge (20+ guest capacity). They are both located very closely together, so if some guests preferred a more Victorian feel while others preferred a more African feel, I think it would be a great idea to put some guests at one lodge and others at the other lodge. I am sure that you guys could still all dine together at Chichele Presidential Lodge because it is really setup to handle quite a few people (but while I was there last June, there were never more than six guests in camp at Chichele and never more than four guests at Puku Ridge, but it was the very beginning of the season).

    Besides Luangwa River Lodge, Puku Ridge and Chichele Presidential Lodge, I cannot think of any other camps in South Luangwa that would compare to the more luxurious lodges you mentioned.

    I do think it is mandatory, however, to include the Lower Zambezi in the itinerary at an upscale camp such as Sausage Tree Camp, Chiawa Camp or Kasaka River Lodge. They are all beautiful camps and it would be a wonderful contrast to South Luangwa.

    www.kasakariverlodge.com
    www.sausagetreecamp.com
    www.chiawa.com

    Kasaka River Lodge is a steal at $300 pp per night sharing, while the other two are $450 pp per night sharing (still more than half less than Singita, Mombo, etc.).

    You will be able to get some very good deals on your air transfers within Zambia, since you will be filling up a couple small planes.

    For this, you should contact Airwaves Airlink. One thing you must know is that there will be no planes more than about 12 seat Cessna Grand Caravans available for your transfers.

    The website for Chichele and Puku Ridge (they are sister camps) is www.star-of-africa.com

    I can tell you that I rate my experience at Chichele Presidential Lodge (last June), every bit as high, if not higher, than my time at Singita (where I visited in March 2002). At only $450 per person per night, you will not find a better luxury lodge in Southern Africa. However, Luangwa River Lodge and Puku Ridge are also very luxurious and have a more genuine African feel to them, and are both excellently priced. Puku Ridge is $400 pp per night sharing and Luangwa River Lodge is only $350 pp per night sharing.

    I do not know if you are trying to do this all yourself or if you are looking for a good agent to work with, but my agent has already established a good relationship with each STAR OF AFRICA (Chichele Presidential Lodge & Puku Ridge), Luangwa River Lodge and Kasaka River Lodge. I would definitely get in touch with Mark @ TAGA Safaris to see if he can help you further.

    www.tagasafaris.co.za

    Just a parting thought...am I the only sucker around here? While I have seen a few parents take their adult children to Africa, I am your age and I am taking my mother and sister! What am I doing wrong here?! ;)

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    Oh, I forgot, here is the address for STAR OF AFRICA.

    www.star-of-africa.com

    Absolutely beautiful lodges, both Chichele Presidential Lodge and Puku Ridge. Plus, if you are going to Victoria Falls, Star Of Africa has a great looking place called Sussi Lodge and for a very lucky foursome has a very exclusive private house called Chuma House featuring its own butler, its own cook and its own vehicle and guide. Maybe that would be perfect for you and your parents, and it is probably only separated from Sussi Lodge by a very, very short distance, but enough room to offer an unmatched exclusivity in Victoria Falls.

    Make sure you check out the photo galleries of each place:

    Chichele Presidential Lodge
    http://www.star-of-africa.com/gallery/chichss.htm


    Puku Ridge
    http://www.star-of-africa.com/gallery/pukuss.htm


    Sussi Lodge
    http://www.star-of-africa.com/gallery/sussiss.htm


    Chuma House
    http://www.star-of-africa.com/circuit2.htm


    I think an excellent itinerary would be one that included about 4 nights in South Luangwa, 4 nights in Lower Zambezi (at least 3 nights), and 2 nights in Victoria Falls.

    If you are dealing with flexible people, you would also be well served to consider a not so luxurious camp in the northern part of South Luangwa called Kaingo. It is an excellent camp that offers 3 game activities daily with views of hippos and crocodiles right from the camp at the river below. Despite its more rustic looks, I can assure you will have a great experience at Kaingo, and if you did add it, then I would spend 3 nights at each Kaingo and then 3 nights at the more luxurious camp (Luangwa River Lodge, Chichele Presidential Lodge or Puku Ridge). Six nights would not go to waste in South Luangwa since it is such a huge park.

    www.kaingo.com

    Also, I must give you my Conservation Spiel.

    By visiting South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi instead of more popular parks in South Africa and Botswana, you are really helping the wildlife in Zambia in a very huge way. Zambia is one of the poorest nations in the world and lacks the diamond mines of either South Africa or Botswana. Therefore, the game reserves/national parks must be totally self-sufficient.

    While Kruger National Park (which includes the Sabi Sand Game Reserve where many luxury lodges such as Singita are located) will receive 1 million visitors in a given year, South Luangwa will probably be lucky to receive 10,000 visitors (despite being about 50% of the size of Kruger National Park) and the Lower Zambezi will be lucky to receive 5,000 visitors in a given year. It is just a bonus that you are able to receive the same luxury and service at certain Zambian lodges as at a Singita or Mombo for less than half the price.

    Here are a couple conservation organizations that will greatly benefit from a person like yourself who has the power to book possibly a two week safari in Zambia for between 14 - 20 people:

    http://www.conservationlowerzambezi.com.zm/introclz.htm

    http://www.afrikeye.net/Conservation/SLSC/pages/south_luangwa.htm

    Although I try to help out personally, I am only one person and can only afford to visit once per year. So, instead, all I can really do from 10,000 miles away is to be an active participant and share the gospel about Zambia to potential tourists such as yourself.

    It is just a win-win situation when you can save 50% on luxury lodging AND help the wildlife (and people) of Zambia in ways that are not applicable at more commercialized places like Singita, Mombo and Chilwero.

    Good luck and I am hopeful that you will take your large group to both South Luangwa and the Lower Zambezi. Please feel free to ask anything that pops to mind. :)

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    Roccco

    I've never been to Zambia but ran into a delightful lady, Molly Joyce, during a recent visit to South Africa.

    Your absolute love for Zambia reminds me of her! She spends most of her time there just writing about things.

    Anyway, she gave me one of her books, "Discovering Zambia - the real Africa" which I found very interesting and thorough.

    You won't find it at your local bookstore, but you can order it here:
    http://www.discovering-africa.com/zambia.htm

    Let us know what you think of the book!
    Eben

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    I don't even know how to begin to thank you, Roccco. You should really charge a commission for all your help!

    I told you I couldn't find much info on Luangwa River Lodge -- I didn't even know how many beds they had. I'll send them an e-mail to confirm.

    Regarding Chichele Presidential Lodge, the group already voted it down as it was too Victorian. Puku Ridge could be a definite possibility and I'll be pursuing it immediately.

    I am unfamiliar with the Lower Zambezi and am encouraged by your recommendation. Now you've given me more homework (which I am happy and eager to do).

    I believe the Royal Livingstone is a done deal with my parents, but appreciate your other suggestions. It will be our second trip to the Falls and I think they saw a TV show which featured the hotel. Who am I to complain?

    As far as my "free ride" luck . . . my parents and most of the members of this group are retired CEOs and VPs of Fortune 100 companies. As successful as my husband and I have been, a 14 day Safari to Singita, Mombo, and the like would certainly put a dent in our son's college fund! I pay my way through researching and planning the trip. That said, we take my husband's parents on trips and Caribbean cruises. (I think we get the better deal).

    By the way, thanks for your conservation spiel. My husband, whose only been to CCAfrica lodges in South Africa, asked me the other night why I was so desperate to find a luxury lodge in Zambia. While I described the amazing game I'd seen, I omitted the conservation element. You wrote it so eloquently that I made him come in and read you post. Thank you for taking the time to educate us and to be an advocate for the cause.

    You really have been amazingly helpful --THANK YOU!

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    Travelwmn,

    You are most welcome. If nothing else, just let the lodges know who sent you so maybe I will get extra VIP treatment when I visit! ;)

    Believe it or not, at this time last year I had the slightest interest in conservation and I was just beating up these lodges for some pretty amazing prices. Understanding what I do now, however, I am more than happy to pay just about full high season rack rates, as I know that a portion of this goes to support ogranizations like Conservation Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa Conservation Society.

    Regarding the college fund...I have 11 dogs that may one day decide to go to college, yet I still got stuck with the bill for Africa! So much for early retirement with these annual African safaris. ;)

    Perhaps I will set up my own dog rescue foundation for my own dogs and start taking donations...now there's a plan! :) Free safari advice for donation to canine rescue foundation. j/k

    travelwmn, I do suggest that you start looking right away, as the lodges are already starting to fill up for high season. While September will probably be the best month, August would also be nice and if the group can stand the heat, October would offer the very best game viewing.

    Please keep me informed on the progress of your safari planning and I will try to assist you in any way I can. It is high time that Zambia started receiving more of the level of clientele that you will be leading.

    Others have said that what Zambia is today, Botswana was 15 years ago, before it spun out of control on its pricing, etc. With a few more upscale minded visitors, things will only continue to improve in Zambia, especially in South Luangwa where gameviewing is already very strong.

    So, your visit alone would be compensation enough, but if your guests also made a donation of any size to either Conservation Lower Zambezi or South Luangwa Conservation Society, that would be awesome. :)

    http://www.southluangwaconservationsociety.com/help.html

    http://www.conservationlowerzambezi.com.zm/

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    climbhighsleeplow,

    May I trouble you to look at the book you recommended and tell me what year it was published.

    I am finding that with African Guide Books, that even the ones that are a couple years old are already obsolete, especially with Zambia since there are so many new lodges over the last couple years. Plus, many lodges have changed ownership, and thus also changed names.

    I would hate to order this book only to find that it was published in 2002.

    Thanks.

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    From the author of the guidebook that climbhighsleeplow recommended, here are her personal recommendations for a few Zambian camps:

    http://www.left-at-the-baobab.com/results.php?regionlist=None&bookingoptionlist=None&typelist=None&pricerangelist=None&mollylist=None&country=Zambia&Submit=Submit

    Bottom line...out of about 10 featured, the only 2 that she recommended were Kaingo in South Luangwa and Kutandala in North Luangwa.

    Somewhat surprising was that she did not recommend Tafika in South Luangwa. Although I have not stayed there, I have heard good things about Tafika, but at the end of the day I decided to instead stay at Puku Ridge over Tafika or Kaingo to combine with my stay at the newly opened Luangwa River Lodge.

    My decision was mostly related to the fact that I will already be spending the previous 11 nights along the Zambezi, Mwaleshi and Luangwa Rivers, and I wanted to spend the last 3 nights inland. Plus, it would have been hard to go from the luxury of Luangwa River Lodge to the more rustic Kaingo or Tafika, and therefore thought staying at Puku Ridge would be the best choice.

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