Almost too tempting to pass up...

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Feb 8th, 2004, 02:39 AM
  #1
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Almost too tempting to pass up...

In my quest to negotiate a good deal, I contacted Kaingo in South Luangwa. Just a little background...last year, it was a toss-up between Kafunta and Kaingo, but I eventually chose Kafunta and had a great time.

However, about two weeks before I left for South Luangwa, I received an email from Shenton Safaris, offering me a last second rate of $120 pp per night inclusive of all accommodation, meals, full bar, laundry
service, all game-viewing activities, and airport transfers. Unfortunately, had I cancelled at Kafunta within 30 days from my arrival, I would have lost my 50% deposit.

In my correspondence to Kaingo, I reminded them of their email offering the $120 pp rate, told them that I had gone to Kafunta but would love to visit Kaingo and reminded them that South Luangwa was only at about 25% capacity, at least from what I could see in early June.

As a result of my email, I was offered this same rate!

I can basically spend six nights between Kaingo and their bush camp, Mwamba, for a grand total of $1,440 USD. I can pick up a three night Victoria Falls all inclusive stay at the Stanley and Livingstone Luxury Link package for about $900 USD and I have a complete 9 night Zambian safari package for $2,340 USD. Even with the flight from Mfuwe to Victoria Falls, I am probably looking at a total of $2,700 USD, or a paltry $300 USD per night.

What a tough decision...Tanzania??? Zimbabwe??? Botswana??? Zambia???

I do think that Botswana and Zimbabwe offer the greatest chances to see lions make a kill, something that I have not had the chance to really experience yet, at least not until after the fact.

But, the South Luangwa Valley is a great place to see leopards, giraffes, buffalo and hippos.

If anybody cares, please have a look at www.kaingo.com and let me know what you think. Fodor's Southern Africa guide does recommend it and the owner is a very highly esteemed ranger/guide in the South Luangwa for many years and his father was a pioneering ranger/guide in the area.

I have found a direct flight from London to Lusaka, negating the neccisity of flying to Johannesburg.

I really do think that some of the prices charged by some game lodges are truly outrageous, so the Kaingo's and Kafunta's of the world are very refreshing. A couple things that Kaingo has over Kafunta are that a full bar is included in their price and Kaingo also has two permanent "hides" where the game may be viewed from above. I do feel that Kafunta kind of nickle and dimed the guests on the alcoholic beverages.

Amazingly, I can have this safari for less than I will spend on a stupid preceding 9 night (same amount of time) tour of Italy. Unless a pod of hippos is spotted swimming in Venice, I don't think Italy can compare!
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Feb 8th, 2004, 05:23 AM
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Almost, Roccco? Please help me out here. Where does "almost" come into the picture?
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Feb 8th, 2004, 05:34 AM
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Sorry, Roccco, I feel that was facetious. Seriously, Kaingo looks REALLY nice.
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Feb 8th, 2004, 10:31 AM
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Rocco,

Am very intrigued by your post - what time of year are you going?

We loved SA last year and are heading back this year but experiencing the same problems - Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania??

What do you have planned?

By the way'-we ended up having Witwater ALL TO OURSELVES for 4 days in October ...absolutely the most unbelieveable experience having an entire lodge revolve around you!

Melissa
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Feb 8th, 2004, 10:51 AM
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Rocco

Fantastic deal,go for it!
Looked at their website and it looks really nice.Glad to see I am not the only person on this forum that's addicted to Africa.
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Feb 8th, 2004, 11:06 AM
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Melissaom,

I am cutting and pasting info from another thread that I just posted:

Correction...the South Luangwa/Victoria Falls package would not cost $4,750 pp but around $2,000 pp.

I can get six nights in South Luangwa (split between Kaingo's two camps) for only $720 pp.

For Victoria Falls, I can likely get the Luxury Link three night all inclusive package for $450 pp.

Unfortunately the air would be about $830 pp., but even so, to have a 9 night all inclusive safari package for only $2,000 pp, including 3 nights at the highly esteemed Stanley and Livingstone and six nights in the amazingly beautiful South Luangwa, is an amazing deal. In the end, it works out to under $225 per person per day.

---------------------------------------

Melissaom,

Another possible thing one can do with this is to combine South Luangwa with the Lower Zambezi. The Sausage Tree Camp looks pretty remarkable, and I just may choose this over Victoria Falls, which I have previously visited.

Even if one had to pay full rack rates at the Sausage Tree Camp (which I doubt), Sausage Tree would be about $2,000 USD for three nights, Kaingo/Mwamba would be $1,200 USD for five nights, and since a one night stay in Lusaka would be necessary if you wished to fly from Lusaka-London, you could throw in $200 USD for one night in Lusaka. With air transfers through Star Of Africa

(http://www.star-of-africa.com/rates....IGRATION-44867)

or another charter service, the transfers would be $600 per person.

Summary:

Sausage Tree Camp, Lower Zambezi, 3 nights - $1,000 pp

Kaingo, South Luangwa, 3 nights - $360 pp

Mwamba, South Luangwa, 2 nights - $240 pp

Lusaka, 4* hotel, 1 night - $100 pp

Lusaka-Jeki (Lower Zambezi)-Mfuwe-Lusaka - $600 pp.

Grand total for 9 night Zambian safari package - $2,300 USD per person.

Alternately, for anybody that prefers Victoria Falls over the Lower Zambezi, you could save about $500 pp on the lodging on a Luxury Link package at the Stanley and Livingstone, but will end up paying about $200 pp more on the air. Still, it is a great deal at $2,000 pp for Victoria Falls (3), South Luangwa (5) and Lusaka (1).

It is amazing to think that by the time air transfers from Johannesburg are thrown in, one would pay as much for two nights at a place like Londolozi or Singita than they would for 9 nights in Zambia. However, I can include myself in that category on my initial trip to Southern Africa in 2002, but never again. As amazing as a Singita or Londolozi may be, it is all just a creation...almost like a man made beach at a Las Vegas hotel. With Zambia, you get the real deal at 1/4 the price.
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Feb 8th, 2004, 11:44 AM
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Rocco
Man made beach at Las Vegas-Singita and Londolozi?

Hey Rocco! don't let cost impair your judgement!
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Feb 8th, 2004, 09:28 PM
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Hi Roccco,
I have heard good things about Kaingo's bush camp from another traveller that I met in Zambia...and do think the price you negotiated is good value. (The couple I met paid about the same... they arranged it while in Zambia.) Well worth spending some time there!

You have great experience to offer, and I do enjoy and value your posts, but Ihave a bit of an issue about your statementquot;I really do think that some of the prices charged by some game lodges are truly outrageous". And other comments about "laughing at people who paid more to be at (another) camp."

Basically, I think the market is pretty efficient...you do get what you pay for, and ultimately you pay for what you get. However not everyone wants or needs the same things, (I don't even always need the same things on the same trip!) so there are trade-offs one can make and find a better price/value match for their particular needs. I've stayed at cheap places, and expensive places, and had a great time at both...but the experiences are NOT the same. Sometimes you are paying for a location that is exceptionally beautiful, or particularly productive for wildlife viewing. Or a place where the animals are more habituated to people. For guides or managers that are particularly qualified and experienced. Accomodations might be larger, more elegant...the comfort and capacity of the game vehicles is a factor, as is the experience of the guides. I'm happy to pay for a guide like Robin Pope or Phil Berry, and to have a safari vehicle that is conducive to serious photography. (Yes, there is a difference...) Also, an outfit like RPS will go to extraordinary lengths to ensure a personalized experience, and they can do this because they have more vehicles and guides, and more flexibility to arrange what you want when you want it. I LOVE Zambia, and have spent a good bit of time there, but RPS (which is at the high end of Zambia prices) is the only operation there that approaches Wilderness Safaris in terms of a "sure thing" total experience.
For example, during my time with RPS, we saw many leopards, including a leopard kill, a leopard encounter with hyenas, a leopard/ lion stand-off, two failed lion hunts (virtually as interesting as a kill), and a pride of lion immediately after a kill. It might have been luck, but too many other travellers have had the same kind of productive experience. I think it is a combination of camp placement, and experienced guides.

Basically RPS is like WS in another way: yeah, they are expensive, but you won't find people who begrudge the money after they have had a spectacular time there. (And I don't say this about every expensive place I stay...)

Actually, I think it is a great strength of Zambia that they have good places to stay at ALL of these price points. So no need to criticize places jjust because they are at a higher price point...I don't always stay at a Four Seasons but I don't criticize them just for being more expensive than a Sheraton or Marriott...

Now, if you can turn your investigation and negotiating skills to finding some lower priced alternatives for the Okavango/ Moremi/ Linyanti area, THAT would be a real coup....

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Feb 9th, 2004, 01:43 AM
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Tashak,

I appreciate your opinion, but I mostly disagree. Other than perhaps food, I fail to see where Kafunta did not equal or surpass Robin Pope Safaris, at least for the two RPS camps that shared the same driving routes as Kafunta. While I do not recall which two camps are nearby Kafunta (perhaps Nkwali? and another), I do know that the pricing is nearly double, and no matter how good the food is, it is not worth an extra $300 USD per night. Let's be honest...Robin Pope is usually not personally acting as the ranger/guide in the game drives...not unless there are five or ten of him since he has various camps and vehicles.

As far as accomodations go, I would say that Kafunta is superior to RPS and most other South Luangwa operators. The only place that I would favor over Kafunta in the accomodations department is probaby the newly opened Puku Ridge, which is overpricing itself at $400 USD per person per night. That pricing would be fine if it were not in South Luangwa where I can negotiate pricing in the $120-$200 USD per person per night charge at Kafunta and Kaingo. It is like the difference between a Lexus and a Mercedes. Sure, perhaps I will pay a premium for a Mercedes, but they are both great products and I will not pay double for either a Mercedes or for Puku Ridge.

Another example of NOT getting what you pay for:

Last year I stayed at Djuma Vuyatela. The room was excellent and had its own plunge pool, just like other upscale places like Singita (where I stayed the previous year) and Londolozi. Comparing Djuma Vuyatela against Singita, I would rate as follows:

FOOD - Singita 9.5, Vuyatela 8.0
SERVICE - Singita 9.5, Vuyatela 8.5
LOCATION - Singita 9.5, Vuyatela 8.5 (they are separated by perhaps 10 miles?)
VEHICLES - Singita 9.5, Vuyatela 9.5
RANGERS/TRACKERS - Singita 8.5, Vuyatela 9.0
CLEANLINESS - Singita 9.0, Vuyatela 10.0
PRICING - Singita 1.0, Vuyatela 9.0
Singita must be almost $2,000 USD per night per room right now, even in low season! I paid Vuyatela the equivalent of about $550 USD per night per room in low season and in high season it is about $900 USD, or still HALF the price of Singita.

And then there are camps like Nkhoro Bush Lodge, located only a couple miles from Djuma Vuyatela and sharing the same traversing rights that are half the price of Djuma Vuyatela in low season and perhaps 1/3 the price of Djuma Vuyatela in high season. I am sure that the accomodations were not as nice but I have heard good reports about the place.

The numbers just do NOT add up! I do not even want to get myself worked up about preferential pricing given to South African residents! I thought APARTHEID had ended 10 years ago, yet I must suffer through seeing game lodges advertising for half price to South African residents, while I already will have paid $3,000 USD just for my wife and I to get to Johannesburg and I am starting out that much ($3,000 USD) in the hole already.

I am just thankful that some of the game lodges have been receptive to my personal emails requesting better prices. Let them make their profits off someone else, and treat me (and price me) like the future (part-time) South African that I am!

Lastly about finding great pricing in Botswana, I agree that will be somewhat of a challenge. However, I do think that the two different CCAfrica packages being offered at about $1,600 USD per person for a six night stay, including transfers from Maun and between the three different camps is a great deal. Also, Kwando seems to have very reasonable pricing and I have heard very good reports about Kwando, although it seems like the tour operators I have dealt with are trying their best to steer me away. Perhaps they do not receive the high commission rates that they do from the pricier camps!

At the end of the day, I just want to get the most bang for my buck. If Africa were a once in a lifetime trip for me, or even once every five years, I may want to pull out all the stops and stay at Singita in the Sabi Sand, Robin Pope Safaris in South Luangwa (NOWHERE IN SINGITA'S CLASS, by the way) or Mombo in the Okavango Delta. However, since I would like Africa to be an annual visit, or at least every other year, I am quite content at staying at very good places for half the price or less. There is no way that, for example, that Singita was worth more than triple the price than Djuma Vuyatela last June. I am sure that Singita was suffering from extreme drought, just as Vuyatela was at the time (and still is from what I hear). It would be ABSURD to spend an extra $1,300 USD per night to stay at Singita, just as it would be ABSURD for me to pay Robin Pope Safaris triple the price that I am being asked to pay by Kaingo. I would bet my bottom dollar that Derek Shenton is every bit as involved, if not MORE involved in Kaingo as Robin Pope is involved in RPS. It is Derek Shenton that personally answers my e-mails and can therefore authorize such great pricing. Try getting a personal email from Robin Pope! Perhaps Kaingo (Shenton Safaris) does not have the slick marketing campaign that RPS does have, but Derek Shenton is very highly regarded and is a third generation guide in South Luangwa, dating back even further than the legendary Robin Pope.

And as far as Kafunta goes...true they do not have the experience or name recognition as others do in the South Luangwa, but what they do offer is excellent personalized service. The owners are responsible for the day to day operations, live onsite and make it a point to really interact with their guests. Plus, Kafunta River Lodge really is a beautiful camp and I think that their Kafunta Island Bush Camp is a magnificent and unique experience and price-wise is unmatched anywhere. My wife and I had the whole camp to ourselves, yet there was a staff of about six people, including a Zambian government-assigned armed ranger, "Danger", looking after us! This required two vehicles to travel three hours in each direction and the operation of the whole camp for under $200 USD per person per night.

Very good deals are out there for those that take the time and effort to look for them. I, for one, will not throw my money out the window, unless it is Kwacha to the Zambian children that so gleefully run to the roadside to wave at the passing vehicles (expecting nothing in return but reacting like they just won the lottery when they see Kwacha flying out of the vehicle). Zambia is a beautiful country and, for the most part, not yet spoiled by OVERPRICED game lodges. Hopefully it stays that way for many, many years to come.
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Feb 9th, 2004, 03:12 AM
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message: anythoughts on mala mala main camp,and victoria falls safari lodge in early april
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Feb 9th, 2004, 03:39 AM
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pgmargate,

I stayed at Singita (nearby Mala Mala and also in the Sabi Sand Reserve) in late March, 2002 and also visited Victoria Falls. At the time, both were great, but I must warn you that the Sabi Sand has suffered drought the last two years and even by last June, it was not very pretty.

In Victoria Falls I stayed nearby at Matetsi Water Lodge and it had an excellent location right on the Zambezi River and included in the rate were game drives and water activities (canoeing and sundowner cruises) and a daily transfer, if desired, to either the actual Victoria Falls or to the town of Victoria Falls.

The rooms at Matetsi are also very nice and each room is assigned its own butler who is at your beck and call. It is a CCAfrica lodge and the rates are pretty reasonable...certainly not as economical as the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge but definitely a lot more bang for the buck, especially if you start adding on things like game drives and water activities at the VF Safari Lodge.

Nearby Victoria Falls are other game parks such as Hwangwe in Zimbabwe and Chobe in Botswana. Makalolo Plains in Hwange looks incredible and is a Wilderness Safari's property. www.wilderness-safaris.com. You will likely find that the pricing at a place like Makalolo Plains is an incredible bargain in comparison to Mala Mala, likely half the price while probably offering superior landscapes and equally excellent game viewing.

Good luck.
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Feb 9th, 2004, 10:00 AM
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PGMARGATE

MalaMala Main Camp is an excellent choice.I stayed there in December for eight days and experienced my best game viewing ever.I have been to MalaMala three times and can't wait for my fourth visit.It is true that the Sabi Sands Game Reserve experienced a severe drought last year but in january 2004 they had more than 220mm of rain!

The Sand River is flowing again and all dams are more than 60% full.

Request suite 17 at Main Camp and make a request for Chris or Nills to be your rangers.MalaMala will blow you away- trust me.
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Feb 9th, 2004, 01:33 PM
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safari nut: thanks for info .am going on pacific delight tour 04/04/04 3 nights cape town(cape grace hotel) 3 nights mala mala main camp, 1 night jhburgrace hotel),2nights victoria falls safari lodge. going with wife and 7 & 9 year olds. staying at same places as A&K FOR LESS$. am told pac delight has very good rep. in asia and is new to africa market. hoping to here from anyone with knowledge of there africa operation.THANKS
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Feb 9th, 2004, 01:41 PM
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With all of the differences of opinion here perhaps this is a thread to stay away from but I just can't help myself from "weighing in".

On the question of cost...you get what you pay for...?!!!
I don't get it... cost cannot control for the animals you see or don't see. Cost doesn't determine whether you like the people who end up in your safari vehicle. I agree that cost can determine a certain level of comfort but to be honest Robin Pope's camps (we stayed in Tena Tena and Nsefu) were the low point of my safari experiences...including Sausage Tree, several different Wilderness Safari camps in Zimbabwe, a five day canoe safari etc.

Part of the experience is intangible...what you are lucky to see, who you are matched up with, whether you feel it was worth what you paid...

There's not shame in spending more or less...no particular experience is more or less authentic based on what you pay. My experience with US based operators, having lived in Namibia and Zimbabwe, was that they seemed overly invested in suggesting cost=quality.

On Rocco's point, and as someone who has paid both local rates and international rates at different times in my life ...you have to understand that without the local rates there are almost no people in places like Zimbabwe who could afford to visit the camps in their own country. It matters that the government invests both locals and foriegner in the safari industry that's why local rates, cheaper government run bungalows at places like the Matopos,Hwange and Mana Pools and projects like Campfire all have a place in investing all of us in ecological preservation in Southern Africa.

Finally, on the question of Sausage Tree I would highly recommned this camp to Rocco and others. We loved our time there. I have no interest in fishing but they encouraged me to go out on the Zambezi at sundown were we caught (and released) tiger fish while drinking gin and tonics as the sun went down!

There was alot of variety and it's so lovely to be on the banks of the Zambezi. A leopard came through the camp at night followed by a pride of lions...incredible. We liked the manager and the guides. The night drives were particularly interesting as was the game viewing right from the boma. The tent was large and beautiful with a lovely open air bathroom. They even organized a private dinner for us one evening which we loved.

Just my 2 cents!
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