Adventurous Safari Experience- Suggestions???

Dec 23rd, 2011, 09:41 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
You asked about a return to Zambia for walking or Mahale--I have returned to Zambia several times. I would gladly go back to Mahale, but have visited several other chimp locations, so I'd more likely look to something different.

What I hope to do next is a return to Mana Pools in Zimbabwe if election timing works out. You asked about concerns for a Zim trip--My only concerns are getting to the parks and back if disruptions occur. In the parks I am not worried. My other concern is I do not want family worrying back home, so I won't go somewhere during heightened tensions, such as elections in Zim.

"I really want the opportunity to have a more adventurous, quiet experience that will include walking and water."

Mahale and chimps--can be very strenuous walking for an undetermined amount of time. Certainly an adventure. The hour with chimps is controlled and the quality chimp viewing is unsurpassed anywhere. Back at camp you lounge around and can swim or wade in Lake Tanganyika, a beautiful setting.

Zambia or Zimbabwe--Walking is often done near the Luangwa River or Zambezi. The walks are not mostly single purpose as in Mahale and allow for meandering, deviations, waiting and watching, etc. If you do a mobile walking trip, it is more adventurous than going from permanent camp to camp, but you have less flexibility in following wildlife because you have to get someplace in a particular location. Walking in Zim and Zam is exciting wildlife viewing on foot and by vehicle, usually in the afternoon, but viewing chimps is an experience unto itself.

For both locations, your quiet is interrupted only by animal noises, be it pant hooting chimps or trumpeting eles.

One other thing regarding your timing. In Mahale I was told that as the season progresses, the chimps are more frequently found at lower elevations. In June (when it is coolest) they tend to be higher in the mountains and Oct (when it can be hot/rainy) closest to the ground. Mid-Sept we found them up 20% of the mountain or less. But that's just a rule of thumb, they can move quickly in the treetops to any spot. I planned my Mahale trip specifically for Sept.

Now a rule of thumb with wild dogs in Southern Africa, if you were considering Mana Pools with wild dogs at the top of your list. The pups are generally visible but den-bound from about July through August. That makes it easier to find and view wild dogs and their young. The dogs start going mobile in Sept when the pups are old enough to follow and that makes it harder to find them. All this depends on when the breeding takes place and if the litter survives, so you can't mark you calendar for sure. I have scheduled early Aug (not Sept) when wild dogs are a priority.

Do check temps for walking in Sept, especially later in Sept in Zim or Zam. October is called "suicide month" due to heat.

I think Vic Falls is closer to Mana Pools weather than Harare.
(In fact Harare once won the best year-round weather in the world contest.)

It appears you travel frequently, Greenacres, so what does not make the cut this time could be considered for the future. Birthdays come around every year and there are plenty of other occasions you could celebrate in Africa.
atravelynn is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2011, 09:54 AM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 421
I booked with Zambezi Safari and Travel Company who have an office in London and Victoria Falls. Chris Worden in the Victoria Falls office is a professional guide and director of the company. I like the idea of having someone on the ground there if there is a problem and Chris has been great to deal with. We will be using the guides in each camp. By using two Wilderness safari camps we are able to use their planes for our transfers and therfore not have to charter planes. Chris has reasurred me over and over again that things are fine in the areas I am travelling in. So no, I am not worried. On Safaitalk there has been some very positive reports about Zimbabwe in the last few months. I do a great deal of research before getting a few quotes and Doug provided me with some great information, but because you have to pay for the private guide's accomodation, it gets expensive if there is only two people going. I also don't know if Doug is able to book Wilderness properties.
raelond is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2011, 12:14 PM
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I really appreciate all the suggestions.

atravelynn- we do travel a lot so you are correct if not now we can go another time. We are really looking for an adventure this summer and are just trying to come up with some good options.
lhgreenacres is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2011, 12:28 PM
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 153
Here is one other itinerary from the Zambezi Travel Company that appealed to me a lot. I've been thinking of building a Zam trip around that. This one is called Wild Luangwa. It includes 3 nights at Tafika, 4 nights in two camps on the Chikoko walking trail in SL and then 3 nights at Kutandala in North Luangwa. The price was $5900 including all transfers. Lots of walking in the remoter Nfesu sector. Something else to add to your basket of possibilities!
sangeeta is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2011, 12:31 PM
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Oops, meant to say Nsefu!
sangeeta is offline  
Dec 24th, 2011, 12:53 PM
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Here were some other S. Luangwa camps that might not be as expensive:

Kafunta, Wildlife Camp, Croc Valley Camp

Never stayed at these.
atravelynn is offline  
Dec 26th, 2011, 06:38 PM
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The more I have been researching Zimbabwe, the more interesting in looks. Do you think it is repetitive to do South Luangwa and the parks in Zimbabwe? I did connect with Doug MacDonald and I waiting to hear back from him. I want to make the trip as easy as possible in regards to transportation and I seem to have found that the more successful trips are the ones that limit the amount of transportation time and give more time in the country to actually see things. We just returned from Madagascar and the best thing we did was concentrate on three areas, which given the almost 30 hours it took to get there, made the trip one of the best we have ever had.
lhgreenacres is offline  
Dec 26th, 2011, 08:23 PM
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S. Luangwa and Zimbabwe repetitive? No. But you could easily spent all your time time in Zim rather than one park in Zambia, then the rest of the time in Zimbabwe. That would minimize travel and visas, which you mentioned you prefer.

Hwange, Zim is a good park for walking and night drives. It has large pans of water where eles gather. These are especially picturesque at sundown. Hwange is one of the best places to see the beautiful sable antelope. I thought S. Luangwa was more scenic than Hwange from a purely landscape standpoint.

Though I have not been so no personal experience, you might consider Matusadona, Zimbabwe for walking or staying in a houseboat.
atravelynn is offline  
Dec 26th, 2011, 08:39 PM
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atravelynn-Where did you stay in Zimbabwe? Did you go to Mana Pools as well? I am looking at Matusadona? If we go to Hwange, Mana Pools and Matusadona that would definitely be a whole trip and there would not be time to go to Zambia. So many choices, I guess things could be much worse than deciding on which amazing place to go to this summer.

Any one have any fears about canoeing on the Zambezi? My mom saw an episode of "I Shouldn't Be Alive" which a hippo bit into a boat on the Zambezi and then when the man swam to the shore to get help, he got attacked by a crocodile. When I told her that we were considering canoeing on the Zambezi she got a little panicked. I know hippos are extremely dangerous but I would like to think that if you are with an experienced guide then they know how to navigate on the river. Maybe I am naive but I would love to know others thoughts about this issue.
lhgreenacres is offline  
Dec 27th, 2011, 06:20 AM
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I had the same question about hippos and crocs when I saw groups of people kayaking on the Zambezi. Not sure what the stats are, but it seemed to be a fairly common activity and the kayakers looked like they were having a blast. That being said, it would not be an activity for me- sorta like watching people pick their way across the falls into Devil's pool. No, thank you!
Femi is offline  
Dec 27th, 2011, 08:07 AM
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If you're looking at doing a safari in Zimbabwe, I'd suggest starting or ending your trip at Amalinda Camp at Matobo Hills near Bulawayo. The setting among the granite boulders is spectacular and we saw a couple of rhinos in Matobo Hills NP. The highlight for me, though, was the San rock art in the area. We hiked to a large cave with dozens of paintings in it. There are lots of others sites in the area, as well. I even had rock art on the boulder that comprised one of the walls of my room.

I was also at Hwange, staying at Somalisa Camp. Elephants regularly come for a drink from their pool in the afternoons. You can sit on a lounge chair on the other side of the pool and watch them from 10 meters away.
ShayTay is offline  
Dec 27th, 2011, 08:48 AM
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ShayTay-Did you go to Mana Pools as well? If so, where did you stay? Did you like Somalisa and would you recommend it? What international airport did not fly into to go on safari in Zimbabwe?
lhgreenacres is offline  
Dec 27th, 2011, 08:59 AM
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Great suggestion of Matobo Hills and Amalinda, ShayTay. When were you last there? I wasn't sure if Matobo Hills was still a good place to go.

Getting there would likely involve a flight to Bulawayo.

Amalinda is one of the most interesting and unique places you can stay--a luxury cave.

If you are looking for adventure, I spent one and a half days tracking black rhino on foot in Matobo Hills, which is a typical activity. And we found one. We also followed white rhino on foot.

You could do walks on your own without escort around the extensive Amalinda grounds.

Amalinda was about a 15 minute drive on regular paved highway from Matobo Hills.

"atravelynn-Where did you stay in Zimbabwe? Did you go to Mana Pools as well?"

Hwange—Linkwasha, but Somalisa or another location would be good too.
Mana Pools—mobile camping
Matobo Hills-Amalinda

I had fears about canoeing and that is why my Mana Pools mobile was walking only and no canoeing. Later I did canoeing in Lower Zambezi when I felt more comfortable. It was outstanding. I have been told that walking on safari is the most dangerous activity, moreso than canoeing. With an experienced guide, canoeing is an activity I would not hesitate to do. But I do know how to canoe and can swim well. I’d make sure life jackets are provided and I always wore one.

If you go to a place like Vundu, Ruckomechi, Chikwenya in Zim or Sausage Tree, Old Mondoro, Chiawa in Zam, to name a few, then you can decide on canoeing once you are there. Or do walks, drives, etc. that will also let you enjoy the area and see the river.

You could probably even arrange a mini-canoe trip for just the two of you to try it out and see what you think.

Zimbabwe does not allow motor boats but Zambia does. Some of our water activities in Lower Zambezi were by motorboat, less intimidating than a canoe might be. The presence of motorboats can be a negative if they zip along and don't just go slowly. That annoyance extends beyond the Zambia side, as sound travels.

Photography is challenging in a canoe even when you are in front and a guide is paddling in the back. I found photo ops and conditions to be better while walking. But canoeing offers a peaceful and different view of the terrain and the wildlife.

If I do go to Mana Pools this (N. American) summer, it will be more walking than canoeing.
atravelynn is offline  
Dec 27th, 2011, 12:34 PM
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I was at Chikwenya Camp in Mana Pools back in 2000 and loved it. Back then, the camp was managed by Wilderness Safaris. My Zim trip last year was a solo "add-on" to a Bots safari, so I kept it to areas in the western part of the country that I could reach via road transfer. Yes, I'd highly recommend Somalisa! The camp is run by African Bush Camps; they have camps in Mana Pools, so you might consider an itinerary such as this: You could fly into Jo'burg, then catch a flight to Bulawayo. Amalinda Camp is less than an hour out of town. Relax and get over the jet lag (great spa there). Look for rhinos at Matobo Hills NP and visit some of the rock art sites. From there, it's about a half-day transfer up to Hwange via road. Then, proceed with a slightly revised version of itinerary listed above (Hwange, Vic Falls via road, then fly to Mana Pools.) From Mana Pools, you'd fly to Harare for a flight back to Jo'burg.
ShayTay is offline  

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