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South Luangwa Trip Report...

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I just completed my five day safari at Kafunta in South Luangwa, Zambia. I have not yet been to Vuyatela...that will be next week.

But, allow me to say that I had a wonderful time at Kafunta and would return in a heartbeat. Despite five days there, I would have liked at least one more.

South Luangwa is a virtual ghost-town of a game reserve compared to others, but that is its charm.

Of the 14 (?) chalets available between the main Kafunta River Lodge and the Kafunta Island Bush Camp, no more than three chalets were occupied at any given time. Their busiest times are August - September so we nearly had the entire camps to ourselves and enjoyed excellent service and plenty of one on one interaction with the owners of the lodge and the managing couple.

Kafunta has a very special rate for those that visit within one months time from their booking. The rate is only $120 per person per night plus, I believe, a $20 per day per person fee to go into the actual National Park right across the river. That $140 per person per night includes lodging, airport transfers, two game activities a day and all meals.

I paid $197.50 per person per night but I still think I got a great bargain, given that this is the beginning of their high season.

I would rate Kafunta as follows:

Accomodations - 8.5
Service - 9.5
Food - 6.0
Game Viewing - 8.0
Value - 10.0

The accomodations don't have a claw-foot bathtub or a private plunge pool but they are very nice and every night we were within 10 feet (3 meters) from hippos that were grazing right outside our chalets. The first night was scary but after that we got used to it.

Since there were no more than three rooms occupied at any given time, we had excellent service. During our two night stay at the Island Bush Camp, we actually had the whole camp to ourselves and there were about eight people there to cater to us, including the managing couple, a 32 year old South African guy that just finished a couple year stint at a lodge in Botswana and his 26 year old New Zealander wife.

The Island Bush Camp is primarily for game walks but since it takes three hours on a "rustic" road to get there (one of the worst dirt roads you have ever travelled) you also get a chance to see a lot of game. On the way over we saw about ten Thornicroft Giraffes altogether and on the way back we had a close encounter with a 10 year old bull elephant that we were able to get within 10 meters of.

The Island Bush Camp is in a beautiful setting on a small river island right on the banks of the Luangwa River. I couldn't imagine a better setting for a lodge. Although it lacks electricity, that is part of the charm. It didn't prevent us from enjoying flushable toilets, showers with hot water and light in our rooms (provided by lanterns and candles).

The food was nothing to write home about but I never got sick like I did at Matetsi Water Lodge last year.

I am giving it a 10 for value even though I felt a little ripped off that other people were probably there for even 50% less than I paid since a couple of those people booked last second and probably got better rates.

However, even paying my $197.50 per person per night, this was still at least $125-150 per night less than the people were paying at Robin Pope's Nkwali, Mfuwe Lodge, Chichele and one of Norman Carr's lodges, all right down the road, and sometimes passersby on our game drives.

We had a very nice ranger, Rocky, that we really liked and on the final night he found us a pride of about 10 lions and cubs and that was the gameviewing highlight of our trip. At one point we were within about three meters of the hunting lionesses and although that was a bit close for comfort, it was really exhilirating.

Besides the lions, we saw dozens of Thornicroft Giraffe (found only in South Luangwa), Zebras (a special kind also found only in South Luangwa, although the exact name escapes me), a few herds of buffalo, numerous elephants, countless baboons, puku, impala, hippos and birds of every sort.

I know I will have fond memories of my time in South Luangwa for a long time and with the reasonable prices, I have no doubt that I would be able to take along a couple family members next time around.

I will write a full report on Vuyatela upon my return in ten days but for now I am still basking in the wonderful memories of South Luangwa and Kafunta. :)

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