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this will be our first trip to Africa. it's a long held dream come true.

i've been lurking and although i was dreaming of Botswana for over a decade now i' totally focused on Zambia!

i found a small agency in the uk (safari africa) that offered some great deals this year for Tongabezi-Sandabezi Is. and Tafika, has anyone any suggestions or cautions? I emailed them the other day about if they would book this years prices for next year.

the new luangwa river lodge opening in august seems like it could be fabulous.

so here's my plan for Aug-Sept 2005:
JNB sleeping (1)
Victoria Falls Tongabezi or Sandabezi Is. (2)
Kariba Breezes (1)
Mana Pools Fisheagle canoe (5)
Luangwa River Lodge (4)
Tena Tena (3)
Kawaza (2)
Tafika safari (7)

i'd really appreciate any suggestions on my itinerary and going about making reservations.

seeing i'm set on high season for our first trip i can't risk making last minute reservations. also i want to get our flight tickets on Sept 17.

i'm here to learn!

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    Don't know this agency, but I have heard VERY good things about Tafika. Camp is beautiful, and the owner has a long and good reputation. But 7 days is a LONG time-- is this safari going anywhere else (for example, up to North Luangwa? where Coppinger also has a camp? )

    If you are not travelling with Tafika, I think you might be too focused on South Luangwa...I love the area, but 7 + 4 +3 +2 nights is a LONG, LONG time for a first trip to one park. I'd suggest spending a bit more time in another area of Zambia...perhaps North Luangwa, if you are interested in walking safaris, or Lochinvar, if you are keen on birding (or open to learning).

    You'll be in good hands with Tena Tena, it is one of my personal favorites. I loved the feel of old-fashioned (but big and well appointed) tents on the ground, and the game viewing was unbelievable, with excellent guides.
    Most people stay only one night at Kawaza Village-- is the 2 by this for 2 days (day before and after the overnight) or 2 nights? Unless you have some special interest/ reason for being there, I do think 1 night would do...

    For my comments on Luangwa River Lodge, please email me privately at tempusedaxrerum99@yahoo.com.

    Can't comment on the Zambezi options, but all-in-all, it sounds like you are planning a fabulous trip!! At a super time of year for great wildlife viewing!!

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    tashak,
    wow, thanks for all your advice. i'm revising my ideas, very glad i didn't delete my botswana file:)

    i live inland from san diego (about 10-15 min. from the san diego zoo wild animal park.)
    it get's as hot here as lusaka does in oct. but kicking back in my hammock under the shade of a big oak tree in the daily afternoon breeze.... i've got no complaints.
    could i consider oct-nov? does the air move at all?

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    Mzcuriouz,

    I notice that you have five nights in Mana Pools. It is worth noting that this is in Zimbabwe and besides any political concerns, this will complicate transfers over to Zambia. Just opposite Mana Pools is Lower Zambezi National Park and there are numerous lodges to choose from including Mwambashi, Kasaka River Lodge, Chongwe River Lodge, Sausage Tree Camp, Old Mondoro and Chiawa to name a few. Additionally, if it is a canoeing expedition that you are doing, I would suggest that you do one that stays on the Zambian side to keep things uncomplicated.

    And, as much as I love the South Luangwa, I do think that 14 nights is definitely overkill. Perhaps you should cut it down to 9 or 10 nights and spend the remainder in Kafue. Even if you sacrifice a night to compensate for the extra airfare, it would be worth it to explore Kafue. Lunga River Lodge and Busanga Plains are lodges that come to mind.

    Although I, personally, would likely try the Luangwa River Lodge, if nothing else for the massages and other amenities, for a first timer that is not spending any other time in the Nsefu area of the park, I would strongly suggest Kaingo. Despite its name, Luangwa River Lodge faces an empty river bed, or at least it is empty VERY EARLY in the season by June 05th when I visited Kaingo.

    Kaingo, on the other hand, has an UNRIVALED position on the Luangwa River, and many of my hippo photos in my online photo album this year, were taken right outside my room overlooking the river. Plus, with Luangwa River Lodge, you are really trying out an unknown commodity while Kaingo is an EXCELLENT lodge with an EXCELLENT staff and EXCELLENT guides.

    I do know that the owner of Luangwa River Lodge has already made quick enemies with some of the other camps by buzzing her helicopter around the South Luangwa. She is rumoured to be some multi-millionaire from Texas, although that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

    For whatever it is worth, Tafika does seem to me to be on the expensive side. Located very closeby is Kaingo and their bush camp, Mwamba.

    As it stands now, unless Tafika is taking you through there on a mobile tented safari, none of your time is being spent in the Mfuwe sector of the park. While, in my opinion, the Nsefu Sector is more beautiful, the Mfuwe Sector is definitely better for gameviewing. I strongly suggest that you divide your time between the Nsefu Sector and the Mfuwe Sector.

    MFUWE SECTOR - Chichele Presidential Lodge, Puku Ridge, Nkwali, to name a few.

    NSEFU SECTOR - Tena Tena, Kaingo, Tafika and Luangwa River Lodge are the only lodges that I am aware exist here.

    Really, of all the lodges, I cannot recommend Chichele highly enough. Kaingo, however, for the price and location is also very highly recommended. If there are budget constraints, it would be totally worth it to shorten your 25 night trip by a few days to stay at the very best available places, although Kaingo is definitely not a place that will break the bank.

    I suggest that you try to contact each lodge directly to see if you are able to negotiate better than rack rates. I believe that Robin Pope may turn you down but many of the others will likely offer a discount, although August-September will be high season.

    I do think that a couple nights in Joburg at the end would be a nice way to rest up before returning home. By ending in South Luangwa, you are likely facing a 90 minute ride back to Mfuwe Airport, standby time, a 90 minute flight back to Lusaka, standby time and a 2.5 hour flight back to Joburg. If you are returning to the USA, you are facing at least an additional 15 hours of flying if you are lucky enough to live in New York or Atlanta.

    If you are from Europe, then you are lucky and may fly directly from London - Lusaka and will not even need to go to Joburg. But, after needing about 40+ hours from the doorstep of Chichele to my own front door last month, I would not wish that on my worst enemy.

    Two nights in Joburg in the Sandton area would be very nice to enjoy some very nice restaurants, shopping and a bit of modern South African culture. The Michelangelo Hotel is probably the best located really nice hotel available. If I could do it over again, I would have shortened my safari by a couple nights to have the opportunity to stay a couple nights in Joburg, and my safari was only 11 nights to begin with, so I am a bit concerned with a first timer spending 20 nights on safari. While I applaud your enthusiasm, I am concerned that you may burn out 2/3 of the way through and not truly enjoy yourself for the latter part of your safari.

    Just for suggestion's sake, I think the following would be really nice:

    Victoria Falls (3)
    (SKIP Kariba and Mana Pools, Zimbabwe)
    You will likely arrive in Joburg in the morning and there are plenty of flights to Livingstone.

    Lower Zambezi (6) (Sausage Tree Camp has a special of stay five nights, get one night free and this is supposed to be the very best that the Lower Zambezi has to offer)

    Luangwa River Lodge, Kafue (3)

    Busanga Plains, Kafue (3)

    Kaingo, South Luangwa (Nsefu Sector) (4)

    Chichele Presidential Lodge (Mfuwe Sector) (4)

    Michelangelo Hotel, Johannesburg (2)

    This is the same length of time as your itinerary but by finishing up in complete luxury at Chichele and the Michelangelo Hotel, you are guaranteed to go home well rested and dreaming of your imminent return to Africa. Also, the suggested itinerary allows you to visit Kafue National Park, which is further than even I have gotten yet! ;)

    If the budget does not allow it, I would save Kafue for another time and concentrate on South Luangwa and the Lower Zambezi.

    You have a tremendous opportunity for a truly amazing adventure! I wish you the very best luck. :)

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    I almost forgot Kawaza Village...that is definitely something that I would do if I had the right travel partner. I would not pass up an opportunity to stay at Kawaza Village, although I may only be brave enough to do it for one night.

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    Roccco, I love that you are enthusiastic about the places that you have visited.

    I too love this area. But PLEASE, PLEASE PLEASE stop with the stuff about "very best places"!!!

    I sometimes fear that if a newbie reads only this thread, they will think that you have actually been to all of these places, instead of just to the places that you are recommending as "the very best places". Reading and research does not = the experience. A more honest statement sould be "of the three places I have stayed, this is the very best place for me".

    Chichele is a fabulous colonial-style 5 star hotel in SLNP. If that is what you want...plenty of people explicitly DON"T want a 5star colonial style hotel! I can give you a whole list of things that you won't experience here...like lions walking and calling right outside your tent at night, and footprints outside the door or tentflap in the morning...a leopard growling overhead as it stalks baboons...a hippo that chooses to graze for its dinner (while you are having your dinner) right by the door to your chalet...waking up at 5:30 am to the sounds of crunching branches outside your window,and pushing aside your curtain to see an elephant eye an armslength away... (by the way, the last 2 were frequent experiences at Flatdogs, a place you constantly warn people against...but you have never been there! It is a viable choice-- especially for $30 pppn for a really nice chalet with a kitchenette. Not for everyone, but a terrific value and lots of fun for a person that understands what it is and what it isn't...)

    By my reading of this forum, I think you have only stayed at 2 camps in SL-- Kafunta and Kaingo-- and one luxury hotel--Chichele. These are all good places-- places I will happily visit again.

    But the beauty of SL is that it has an amazing array of different camps, all with different styles and different strengths, and covering all price ranges.

    It would be a real shame if someone booking their first, long-held-dream trip gets only partial info and personal tastes. Why not just provide an objective description of the places you have actually visited, with all the pluses and minuses of the place.

    That way you could help someone make THEIR dream come true, instead of just telling them to relive your dream?

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    Tashak,

    I believe you are mischaracterizing Chichele Presidential Lodge. No hotel, that I am aware of, has detached individual chalets (the fact that they are Victorian in decor is irrelavent) requiring an escort to accompany you each night back to the room because you are in the middle of the bush.

    Also, no hotel that I am aware of, has dozens of baboons, dozens of impala, elephants and sometimes predators walking through its grounds.

    I have stayed at Kaingo, Kafunta Island Bush Camp and Kafunta River Lodge. I am aware of the more "rustic" experience, and believe that it has its own place on a safari. My suggested itinerary had more of the rustic in the beginning and middle and finished off with a bit of luxury to ensure that the original poster of the thread arrived home well rested and in complete awe of Zambia.

    Trust me, I can appreciate being waken by the sounds of hippos right outside my chalet (Kafunta) and even being mock-charged by an elephant in the middle of the camp (Kaingo). Also, not in the South Luangwa, but at Kulefu, a spitting Mozambiquen Cobra made its way into camp during my stay there.

    I do think there is a mischaracterization happening that I only know one type of safari experience, and that is of the detached, luxury style. Nothing can be further than the truth. While I have not never traveled on a second class train, eaten with the locals in their villages or done some other activities, I do not believe this to be safari related. I will say that the very best game experiences I have experienced have been at Chichele Presidential Lodge, and Singita.

    Now to clarify, my posts are my truth. They may not necessarily be your truth or another persons truth, but my posts are what I have experienced, and that is all I am able to convey. So, from now own, when I say things such as "the very best lodge", it should be understood that I only mean "the very best lodge THAT I HAVE EXPERIENCED." Really, I shouldn't even be giving myself carpal-tunnel syndrome to clarify this, but I am doing so in a good faith effort in case I have stepped on too many toes.

    So, in my opinion, the very best lodges in Zambia, through my own expereince and through the experience of others I trust are as follows:

    Chichele Presidential Lodge
    Sausage Tree Camp
    Kaingo
    Puku Ridge
    Kasaka River Lodge

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    Again, thank you both Tashak and Roccco, so much. I've calmed down :) and am back to my original Botswana dream. But I'm already looking forward to my next trip when we'll go to Zambia camps...and canoe (not 5 nights but better 3 nights with River Horse!)...and go to a walking camp, Kutandala.

    As I used to say in job interviews, "...and I'm a fast learner."

    Roccco, I understand what you mean about kicking back before we return home, but from past experiences I know we'd just end up going to SAA's ticket counter asking how much more it would cost for the next flight to San Diego!!!
    (Always get HOMESICK towards the end of a trip.)

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    Kutandala is a splendid camp, and a fabulous experience!! I'm so glad this is on your list...being in a place as remote as this is truly magical...and the owners/managers of Kutandala are fantastic.

    A really, really special experience! I think you are in good hands if you have found Kutandala.

    But I am curious-- why the switch back to Botswana (a place I also love). Just wondering about the reasons for the switch...

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    Rocco,
    Your insights have been very helpful to us as we have been planning our trip for the past few weeks, using your postings as our guides. Don't let anyone give you a hard time (or carpal tunnel) on these boards!
    Would you mind looking at my post from earlier today (re: "OUR ITINERARY-WE ARE ABOUT TO BOOK-YOUR THOUGHTS?"). A quick note back would give us some comfort before we book tomorrow.
    Thanks,
    anissrob

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    Hi Tashak,

    I switched back to Botswana because:

    I believe that this truly will be the first of many trips to Africa.

    I've dreamed of going to Botswana for years.

    It's my guess each year the increase in cost and visitors will be greater in Botswana than Zambia.

    I want to take what will probably be our most expensive trip first...if I begin with a low seaon rate or less expensive camps I can easily imagine myself thinking,
    "I don't need a "better" safari. This safari is fabulous...I'd rather come more often than spend more $$$ on one trip and wait longer to come back."

    Sometimes I'm a "dessert first please" baby.

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    Great reasons.

    I'd add one more for a first safari: sometimes its great to pick a first destination that quickly delivers so many animals and photo opportunities that you "get it out of your system". You see and photograph lots of lions, leopards, cheetahs, cubs...ellies etc. And you can tell everyone at home, that yes, you've been there, done that. Then on the next trip, you are not just dying to see a lion cub...you can sit back and really enjoy some phenomenal birds...or spend an hour watching leafcutter ants, or just sit back and enjoy some puku grazing.

    On one of my trips to Zambia, we had a great sighting of Pels Fishing Owl-- very rare, very beautiful. He sat for a long time...then slowly flew overhead. One woman didn't even look at him, because she hadn't seen any cats yet on her trip, and that was all she wanted to do. Very sad for her...very irritating for everyone else. Everyone involved would have been happier if she had gone to South Africa.

    I think Botswana is a great first choice-- still wilderness, but with all the things you'll want to see (except rhino, which are difficult...)

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    Tashak,

    At Kaingo, we were fortunate enough to have a Pel's Fishing Owl, although we were unable to get a good enough angle to afford a quality photo opp.

    Kaingo had the best birding I have ever seen and turned me, a non-birder, into at least an interested observer. My favorite bird was the Blacksmith Plover, which made sounds like a blacksmith hammering on steel! :)

    Next favorite was the Yellow Billed Stork and during one game drive at Chichele, we parked near a lagoon and watched one after another make a landing at the lagoon, most of them making noises like a jet fighter, as the wind sifted through their wings. Some made more of a display than others, looking like quite the warplanes as they landed at the lagoon, although it was always to little or no fanfare from the hundreds of other Yellow Billed Storks already at the lagoon. :)

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