Back on the merry-go-round...

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Aug 30th, 2004, 04:34 PM
  #1
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Back on the merry-go-round...

Well, we've finalized our trip in November. We'll spend 7 days in Mauritius, then 3 at Singita Boulders. Now I'm thinking that since we're flying all that way and have a few extra days, why not stay on in South Africa.

Problem is, I'm afraid that nearly anything after Singita may be a letdown. I don't want to do Capetown or any city. The only thing I can think of is to choose a place to spend another 3 or 4 nights that would be luxurious, but completely different from Singita.

Are there any remote, unique lodges that would be different enough from Singita that we wouldn't "compare"? Our agent suggested the Outpost camp. Any thoughts?
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Aug 30th, 2004, 05:15 PM
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Buffy,

By all means, go ahead and compare. Nothing wrong with staying at two different game lodges that are somewhat similar, as long as they each have something different to offer.

Take a look at Madikwe Hills. This area is celebrated for its high population of wild dogs, and also features the "Big 5" along with Black Rhinos.

www.madikwehills.com

Madikwe Hills does not look like it would be a letdown after Singita, but rather like it may give Singita a run for its money.

Really, you are coming way too far, whether it is from Europe or the United States to only allow yourself three nights on safari.

Good luck.
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Sep 2nd, 2004, 05:38 PM
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I have to admit that I don't have a lot of experience with safaris. We went for our first Africa adventure to SA in May. We stayed at 2 lodges but I will only recommend one. It was Nottens Bush Camp. I sound like a stuck record here but it was such a personal intimate experience. They only house 10 guests and the cabins have no electricity but it is still elegant and gracious. Truly an old Africa experience. It is not remote. It is located in Sabi Sands but the people make the difference. You may want to try them. They are extremely popular with return guests and SA natives so they may not be able to take you on short notice but you may want to try.
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Sep 2nd, 2004, 10:56 PM
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Alison,

Although you really enjoyed Nottens Bush Camp, I don't think it is an appropriate suggestion to someone that is going to be coming in from Mauritius and Singita. Apples and oranges.

Lodges in the Sabi Sand and surrounding areas that would be in the class that Buffy is seemingly interested may include Londolozi, Ulusaba, Exeter and Royal Malewane.

Also in different parts of South Africa, the following places may be of some appeal:

Madikwe Hills (www.madikwehills.com)
Mateya (www.mateyasafari.com)
Phinda (www.ccafrica.com)

While I am sure that Nottens is a first rate place, when someone wants a luxury experience, as great as it may have seemed, it would probably be a letdown to someone coming from Singita. I made the mistake of making Singita my first ever game lodge, and the next game lodge I visited, Matetsi Water Lodge, although really very good with a perfect location and better activities than any South African lodge, ended up being a disappointment after Singita (although I would love to visit again now that I have been around and seen how nice a lodge it really is). Like water and oil, Notten's and Singita just don't mix.

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Sep 3rd, 2004, 06:47 PM
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I couldn't imagine much of any country that would be a 'letdown' as opposed to returning home to the 'regular life'......just a thought ;-)
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Sep 3rd, 2004, 07:02 PM
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Thanks, Roccco, for all the input! I have yet to finalize those three extra days, and have been considering the Royal Melawane and Sabi Earth Lodge. Any thoughts on those two?
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Sep 3rd, 2004, 07:55 PM
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Buffy,

The Royal Malewane is supposed to be excellent, and I am also considering a visit. Not to beat a dead horse for those that have heard me say this a few times, but while I was at Singita a couple years ago, I met a very nice couple that had just arrived from the Royal Malewane, and at the end of their stay at Singita, they said they had preferred the Royal Malewane (although they also enjoyed Singita very much). I do think that speaks volumes about the Royal Malewane, and although it may not seem like it is a bargain, at 5,450 ZAR pppns, it really is a bargain, especially if you have a good agent that may be able to knock another 5-10% agent off the rack rate.
Personally, I don't think an agent is worth retaining if he/she cannot help you do better than rack rates. With a 10% savings, the Royal Malewane would be about $1,470 per night (about 9,800 ZAR per night).

Meanwhile rack rates at Londolozi are 6,800 ZAR per night, actually MORE expensive than Singita.

Anyway, although the Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge looks fabulous, Sabi Sabi, overall, has never really been able to garner the attention that Londolozi, Singita and even the Royal Malewane have been able to get.

You may want to see another area, besides the Sabi Sand, such as Madikwe, where you will have the chance to see Wild Dog and Black Rhino, two species that are either very rare in the Sabi Sand (Wild Dog) or do not exist at all (Black Rhino). Take a look at Madikwe Hills (www.madikwehills.com). The rack rate is only 4,400 ZAR pppns, a 1,050 ZAR ($162 USD) pppns savings over the Royal Malewane and a 1,200 ZAR ($185 USD) pppns savings over Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge. With a three night stay, you would more than cover the extra costs of transferring to Madikwe rather than transferring to a second Sabi Sand or Kruger NP lodge.

I do suggest that you make a decision as soon as possible, as I imagine that the best lodges will be sold out soon.
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Sep 3rd, 2004, 09:07 PM
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Roccco - I just checked out the Madikwe Reserve, and it looks stunning! I sent through a request for availability. Thank you for the super info - perfectly timed!
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Sep 7th, 2004, 05:31 PM
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Hello all
Sorry been off the board for awhile. Roccco, I agree that when you are talking high end luxury some place like Nottens could be a let down. I suggested it because Buffy had stated that she wanted something a little different. The high end stuff is great (wish I could afford to get used to it) but it can insulate you from other experiences. I can't imagine anything not mixing when you are collecting experiences.
Anyway it was just a suggestion. I am glad you were able to provide Buffy with the info she was seeking.
Alison
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Sep 7th, 2004, 07:07 PM
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Alisonv,

I couldn't agree with you more on having a little variety. I just don't think that Notten's is especially remote and certainly isn't luxurious.

As Buffy stated:

>>> The only thing I can think of is to choose a place to spend another 3 or 4 nights that would be luxurious, but completely different from Singita.

Are there any remote, unique lodges that would be different enough from Singita that we wouldn't "compare"?

---Had she really wanted remote and unique, without caring about luxury, for example, I couldn't think of a better place than Kafunta Island Bush Camp in South Luangwa, Zambia. Despite Kafunta's website claiming it is only a 2 hour drive south of its main lodge, the transfer really took upward of 3.5 hours and there was only a single lodge within those 3.5 hours, but still a good 45 minutes away.

It does not get more rustic than Kafunta Island Bush Camp, yet it was an incredible experience. My wife and I had the island to ourselves with a staff of 7 or 8 to look after us, yet it was only about $200 USD pppns.

http://www.luangwa.com/island.htm

However, in the future, I would probably only stay at a place like this if I had like 30 days to bounce around, or if I was by myself and really wanted an excellent walking safari. For someone that does not appreciate walking safaris, it really wouldn't work out so well.

However, I do hope to end my safari next year with a "luxurious but completely different experience" by concluding my trip with four nights at Kasaka River Lodge.

www.kasakariverlodge.com

I had the pleasure of touring this camp on the way to the airport while returning from the hapless Kulefu Tented Camp in Lower Zambezi NP this year. What a beautiful camp Kasaka River Lodge is, perfectly situated overlooking the Zambezi River with excellent facilities, and from what I could tell in my 10 minute tour, a very nice managing couple and their great little Jack Russell, Vodka!

I don't know if I will make it to South Luangwa next year, but after a lot of consideration, I really decided that it was the Zambezi River that I could not do without, and since my wife has refused to return to Zimbabwe, that puts Matetsi (a CCAfrica lodge that we visited two years ago) out of the question. No matter...the Lower Zambezi NP will take about an extra 2.5 hours to reach, but it will be completely worth it.

Madikwe Hills (4)
Inyati (3)
Simbambili (3)
Twelve Apostles, Cape Town (3)
Marine Hermanus (2)
(early morning flight out of Cape Town to Joburg in time to connect to 11:30 AM flight to Lusaka, arriving in Lusaka at 1:30 PM and likely arriving at Kasaka River Lodge by 3PM after 25 minute flight into Royal airstrip)
Kasaka River Lodge (4)

Too bad I don't have time for South Luangwa, but I think four nights in the Lower Zambezi NP is quite a nice finale to it all.
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Sep 8th, 2004, 05:28 AM
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All,

I am also considering a Madwike Hills/Singita combo. But what Sandi has said in earlier posts also makes sense - wouldn't a tented camp combine nicely?!?

Does anyone know of any truly luxury tented camps in the area? Ngala just doesn't look lux enough for me. Jao always looks awesome but maybe a bit too far from Joburg.
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Sep 8th, 2004, 06:20 AM
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Hi Roccco
I agree with your assesment of Buffy's needs. I still think I was clear when I stated that it was not remote just a little different. It was second choice for us, the first being Mala Mala but they were full. I was glad that it worked out that way in the end. Nottens may not be exactly what she was looking for but the beauty of this board is the variety of suggestions. Sometimes the one you never thought of are the most fun.
I checked out your suggestion of Kafunta Island Bush Camp it looks like a really terrific experience. We were looking for something unique for our next trip and we do enjoy walking safaris. This may just fit the bill. Can you fly there via light aircraft rather than a 3.5 hour drive?
Your second idea about closing with Kasaka River Lodge looks marvelous. We were looking for another country to add to our trip next time and Zambia will definiltely be considered. Thanks
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Sep 8th, 2004, 03:49 PM
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Quick correction - I guess Jao isn't exactly tented.
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Sep 8th, 2004, 07:04 PM
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Ericka,

Perhaps something like this would fit the bill:

http://www.star-of-africa.com/circuit5.htm

I know, I know...wrong country! Or is it?! Two nights at Puku Ridge followed by two nights at Chichele Presidential Lodge would make for a very nice little four day Zambian getaway. If you wanted to spend a couple more days, you would see more hippos than possibly anywhere in Africa if you were to go to Kaingo, about a 1.5 hour drive away from Puku Ridge/Chichele.

By the way, I did find you a place with hippos in Madikwe, but I will save that for another thread. Same place also offers sleeping under the stars in a treetop hide, satellite television, telephones in your room, wine cellar, etc.
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Sep 9th, 2004, 02:56 AM
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Allisonv,

I doubt there is a light air transfer available to Kafunta Island Bush Camp, but getting there is half the fun. It is nothing more than a 3.5 hour game drive where you will surely encounter your fair share of game on the way over.

Plus, it is in a drive like this that you will be reminded that you are really in Africa, rather than in a private game reserve. During this transfer to Kafunta Island Bush Camp, we passed through many tiny African villages and even saw trucks from the Untited Nations handing out supplies at schools and villages. I don't think anybody will ever encounter that in Botswana or South Africa!

You will be serenaded to sleep each night by a chorus of hippos and the occasional lion roar, as well as awoken each morning by the same. Each night, you will sit around the campfire with your guide and if there are any, the other guests, trading campfire stories!

All the food is prepared over the open fire as there are no ovens to speak of at the very low impact Kafunta Island Bush Camp.

A couple nights here is highly recommended to combine with Kafunta River Lodge. Besides Kafunta, I would strongly recommend also adding Kaingo, in the northern part of the park. Kaingo is an excellent (yet affordable) camp that offers three game activities per day and features some of the finest guides I have yet experienced. (www.kaingo.com)

There is no finer place that I have seen for interaction with hippos, and during my four night stay there were elephants in the actual camp three out of four nights!
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Sep 9th, 2004, 05:12 AM
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Alisony - just want to say that I thought your suggestion was great. Not that I have been to the camp you mention. Just that I always get the impression on this board that if it isn't 5 star and mega expensive it isn't worth considering.

Good on 'ya. No electricity sounds fine to me. I'm not sure I can understand people who fly into Africa, go to a luxury hotel; then go to a luxury "lodge". Any chain hotel could be anywhere in the world. Why not stay somewhere that belongs to the culture, rather than something transplanted from another culture. And with "lodges" - well - do you think the animals know you are big buck payers and prefer to put in an appearance for you?
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Sep 9th, 2004, 11:31 AM
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alice13
Thanks for understanding my motivations. I do love the luxury experience but the different and smaller lodges and inns often provide you with an extraordinary experience for half the cost. As you say the animals don't know the boundaries. In fact a picture my son took at Nottens will be appearing in the World Wildlife Fund's membership calendar. ..plus no electricity can be wonderfully romantic.gt;
Hi again Roccco
Thanks very much for the suggestion of combining the two Kafunta lodges. I think your description of the experience is right up our alley. We will also consider Kaingo.
I also appreciated your comments regarding the drive. You are right. That is a side of Africa I really want to see.We were planning on SA and Botswana but I think we will look into doing SA and Zambia instead.
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Sep 9th, 2004, 04:40 PM
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Hi Allison,
If you enjoyed the Notten's experience, you might want to look at a number of other camps and lodges in South Luangwa. Luxury in Africa, as you've discovered, comes in various forms. There are places that offer superb personal service and a good amount of personal comfort, but not 5 star accomodations. Putting a hotel in the middle of the bush kind of defeats the point for an Africa trip for me. Thus I really enjoyed Kafunta and Kaingo, but Chichele, which is more of a "hotel" (big building, windows, colonial hotel type staff) may or may not be what you are looking for... But there are lots of other camps that have "bush elegance" and tremendous ambiance. (When I go to Africa I don't want glass in the windows...and sometimes, I don't even want screens. Open windows (typically barred, but open) and mosquito nets over the beds are lovely, and you really know you are in Africa.
Kuyenda is a small camp with reed chalets, and Phil Berry does ALL the guiding there. He is recognized as one of the best guides in Zambia. (Maximum 6 people at a time, so lots of personal attention.) Robin Pope Safaris is super-- all their camps have something special going on, but Tena Tena is probably the best of the best. All of the RPS camps have a great policy of arranging whatever activity you want, whenever you want-- that is the ultimate luxury on safari.
For a little more adventure, combine a trip to South Luangwa with one to North Luangwa-- there are less than 20 beds in this whole immense park--and no roads. N. Luangwa's Kutandala is another simple "camp" with superb personal service, food and guiding. This area concentrates on walks, and the walking there is the real thing-- much more than a nature walk. Glorious!

Chichele is a fun place for dinner and drinks (and maybe a "colonial" night...but if you enjoyed Nottens, I think you might be happier if you look at the range of superb "bushcamp" options in South Luangwa.

And if you are interested in birding, Zambia's Lochinvar Natl Park is superb...and as of a couple years ago, so was the Lechwe Plains camp there. Most activities are on the water, so it's a nice respite from bush drives and walks, too. Lovely and relaxing.
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Sep 10th, 2004, 09:27 AM
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Hi Tashak
Thanks so much for the info. These are exactly the sort of places we are looking for. We always like to spend our time doing some of the "real" stuff before a couple of days of pampering and luxury before we return home. There are 4 of us (my husband and I and our 2 university age children). This means that if the "kids" chose to come with us next trip your suggestion of Kuyenda will be perfect for us.If they chose to stay home, we will still enjoy the more intimate experience just for longer since we won't be paying for 4
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