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Zambia or Southern Tanzania?

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Hi Everyone.

I have 2 safaris planned and priced, but for the life of me cant decide which one to go on. They are both identical in lenght (14 nights) and the cost is pretty much the same.
In Zambia I have 7 nights in South Luangwa (4 nights Kafunta Safari Lodge and 3 nights Island Bush Lodge), followed by 7 nights in Lower Zambezi (7 nights Royal Zambezi Lodge)
Southern Tanzania comprises 9 nights Selous Game Reserve (5 nights Lake Manze Camp and 4 nights Selous Impala Camp) followed by 5 nights in Ruaha (5 nights Old Mdonya Camp)
I would love some feedback on what others would do if given the choice between the 2 trips. We will be traveling in June 2012. This will be my 3rd safari, having been to Sth Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Kenya on previous trips.
All thoughts and comments most welcome.

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    Sorry, no help, but what is the safari (only, not air) cost per person?

    Oh, maybe one idea, that is, off-road game drives. Which camps allow off-road game drives? For my interest in photography, off-roading is critical.

    regards - tom

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    Hi Mopsy,

    what a great choice of safaris.

    I've been to both Ruaha and Selous on my third safari in 2008 and I think 9 nights in Selous is quite a long time. I found the wildlife and scenery much more varied in Ruaha than Selous. We combined game drives with river cruises from Rufiji River Camp and drove to Lake Manze on one long day. I think I would find 9 days in this area a bit long. 5 nights in Ruaha allowed for solid days of game viewing and was enough time.

    I've not been to Zambia but I do keep an eye on the Kafunta website - it looks great. I have a sense from other people's reports and my own research that South Luangwa would offer more varied wildlife viewing than Selous.

    Throw away thought - have you thought about combining South Luangwa and Ruaha, or do the flights take too much time from your 14 days?

    Whichever itinerary, sounds like you will have a great time.



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    I've been to 4 out of 6 of those lodges (Kafunta, Island Bush Camp, Old Mdonya and Lake Manze) and also think you've got two great options. South Luangwa is my fav park in Africa but I visited Selous a few years ago and Selous and Ruaha last year and was very impressed. I think both those itineraries could be tweaked a bit, though.

    For the Zambia trip, I have only briefly visited LZNP but I am not sure that it merits an equal split of time with SLNP. Kafunta is a good choice- it's a very well priced lodge and have had a refurb since I visited. Although outside the park they have a location which allows them to drive in 2 areas of the park- either via the Mfuwe main gate, or by using the Nkwali pontoon. This is good for variety and also for getting a bit away from the crowds around the busier Mfuwe area. I visited Kafunta in 2008, in combination with Island Camp and Mwaleshi in North Luangwa. Island bush camp is a classic bush camp- very nice location. It's walking only and we didn't see a huge amount of game but that's the nature of walking- it's more of a bush experience. Beware the tsetses on the drive down!

    If I was going to tweak that itinerary I would shorten the time in LZNP in favour of a few days in the North part of South Luangwa- either the Nsefu sector or on the other side of the river. If you are looking for somewhere similarly priced to Kafunta, try Lion Camp. Other options are Tafika and Kaingo/Mwamba. The northern part of the park is excellent for lion sightings. For lions, the southern part suffers from the proximity of the GMA (hunting area) on the other side of the river, although I have had better leopard sightings in the southern/central part. I've never seen dogs in SLNP but apparently the central and southern areas have more sightings (still very few).

    Tanzania- last year I went to Old Mdonya and Lake Manze with my parents. They extended their stay in Selous at Selous Safari Camp- they wanted to do Impala camp but at the time we booked they weren't taking bookings as they were renegotiating their lease. In the end my parents paid not much more for the more luxurious SSC due to a "stay 4, pay 3" deal they were doing. I loved Ruaha- amazing scenery. I was pretty impressed with the sightings- a few lion sightings (inc a pride of 20+), a couple of cheetah sightings and a leopard in 4 days. However, Old Mdonya doesn't have the best location. It's a long way from where the action is so we ended up doing long tiring all day drives. Many of our best sightings were in the vicinity of Mwagusi lodge so if I were to return (which I definitely would) I would pay a bit extra to stay at a more central location.

    Selous- Lake Manze was very similar in style to Old Mdonya. No complaints about the location or game viewing. Boat trips on the lakes are good for bird watching and make for a bit of variety. We saw wild dogs (twice in 3 days)!!! Also lions and a leopard. My parents prefered Selous Safari Camp which is a bit more expensive- but worth looking for offers as the more expensive lodges can work out the same as the cheaper ones (as my parents found). I also can't help thinking 9 nights in Selous might be overkill and I would definitely make sure the two lodges are well spaced apart. On the other hand, you can walk and do boating in Selous so at least there is a range of activities.

    Someone mentioned off roading. This is allowed in Selous as it is a game reserve not a national park. It's technically not allowed in Ruaha but the rules aren't closely observed. It's also not allowed in South Luangwa, but the further away from the main gate you go, the less the rules are adhered to. The last few times I've been it has been to lodges away from the main area and I didn't even realise off roading wasn't allowed- you certainly can't tell from the way the guides drive.

    As for combining South Luangwa and Selous/Ruaha this may not be crazy- last year I flew from Lusaka to Dar for $165 with Zambezi Airways!

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    I spent several days in Ruaha in October, 2010. I last was in Zambia in 2004 when I spent about a week in South Luangwa, as a part of a much longer trip. While I have not been on the Zambia side of the Lower Zambezi, I have been on the Zimbabwe side a half dozen times. I have not stayed at any of the camps you mention, but I know them by reputation. Taking your two safari possibilities at face value, I cast my vote for Zambia. First of all, five nights at Ruaha is too much time, in my estimation. Three nights are plenty. Next, the terrain is varied, the escarpment by the Zambezi River is beautiful, and the range of activities likely to be greater in Zambia than in southern Tanzania. One thing I liked about flying into South Luangwa was seeing the African villages and the people planting their gardens. Because of the camps and the parks, the area is relatively prosperous. One won't see any villages as one approaches Ruaha. I can't say about Selous. My last piece of advice: stick with one country or the other. Don't try to merge the destinations. Each deserves fourteen days. ZZ

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