Botswana or Zambia?

Jun 22nd, 2005, 11:42 AM
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Botswana or Zambia?

I was decided on Botswana for September 06 but now after reading alot of your posts I am considering Zambia. I know Botswana is much more expensive but I really want the best game viewing experience. Is Botswana and Zambia comparible or is Botswana really the best place to go?
24Lisa is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2005, 06:31 PM
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Sept is a great month for either country.

What does best mean to you? If you want activities such as walking and canoeing and would like to spend less money to see good game, then Zambia may be best.

If you wish to see the most game and are willing to pay for that privilege, then Botswana may be best.

How much time do you have? Could you hit both?

atravelynn is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2005, 06:53 PM
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I agree with atravelynn. At a minimum, you may want to include Lower Zambezi, which is not more than about a 45 minute light air transfer from Victoria Falls.

Not having yet been to Botswana, I will say that if you can afford to go strictly to Botswana without sacrificing any time off your safari due to financial concerns, then you should do it. However, if you find yourself spending lesser time in Botswana due to the price, then you would be well served to splitting your time between countries or to visit Zambia entirely. Each country has enough attractions to keep you busy for likely your entire stay.

What does your agent have to say about all this? If you need help with an agent recommendation, feel free to e-mail me as I have made quite a few contacts over the last few years of going on safari, especially for Zambia (but also in planning my hopeful April or May visit to Botswana).

Last thing...besides the gameviewing, you would be well served to consider the OVERALL viewing, as in landscapes, birds, smaller animals, rivers, lagoons, trees, etc. Although I have so far only done two Zambian safaris, each of them have fallen in June. While this has prevented the very best gameviewing that takes place later in the year (September is an optimal time), it did allow for some beautiful landscapes and the gameviewing was still satisfactory.

This year I am going in September and will hopefully be able to take thousands of photos over my 15 nights on safari!

Which lodges have you considered thus far???
Roccco is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2005, 08:48 AM
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I have been to Bots 3 times, and Zambia 5 times, and I faced this decision when planning a trip with a friend who didn't have much time for vacations, so he needed maximum gameviewing per day in Africa. My experience has been that on average, per day, the gameviewing is more intense in Botswana, expecially for the things a first time visitor wants to see. So for that trip we did Botswana, and were not disappointed. In fact, many times the gameviewing was so super that we couldn't stop for tea or loo-breaks--too many predators around. It's a problem I'm happy to have...

Also Bots has more extremes of landscapes-- stark Kalahari desert vs. lush Okavango land-and-waterscapes. The big destinations in Zambia are riverine (Luangwa and Lower Zambezi) so not as much variety in landscapes.

You won't see too many vehicles in either destination, so you won't have the "too many vehicles around the lions" problem, but because the destinations in Zambia are National Park as opposed to private reserve, there are more vehicles traversing Luangwa. In the private reserves of Botswana you will only see other vehicles from your camps/operator and the camps are very small. However in Zambia, you'll have the option of some serious bushwalks...but that is something that people generally enjoy more on trips after their first, because on a walk you (generally) won't be as close to the animals as you can be in a vehicle. Zambia camps and lodges are also really nice about arranging things like day-long outings with picnics-- really a nice option, but not so important on a first trip. In fact nicer for a subsequent trip, when you might be looking for something a bit different to do.

The one reason to go to Zambia sooner is to get there before it gets any more "discovered". Things won't change in terms of numbers of tourists in Bots, because the government regulates camps and lodges so carefully and is dedicated to "low volume-high revenue" tourism. Prices could go up in both places (and have) but there are more lower cost options in Zambia...while if prices go up in Bots, there is no real alternative. You pay them...or choose another country!

September is dry season and primo time for gameviewing in both countries.
tashak is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2005, 09:05 AM
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Hi Tashak,
I am also thinking of Zambia for our second trip to Africa in Sept 2006.

So far I am thinking of S. Luangwa and/or N. Luangwa for the game and some walking, then the Lower Zambezi for canoeing.
We like smaller more intimate camps as opposed to resort like lodges.
Would like to have a combo of camps with a range of activities such as bush walks, game drives, etc.

I would really like to see leopard and wild dogs which are some of the
species that eluded us in Botswana. Big order but hey a gal can dream right!

Are there any area/camps that you recommend that are noted for any of these elusive critters?

I have read some of your trip reports on Zambia but would you mind telling me more about your favorite camps or areas?


wallybrenda is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2005, 10:41 AM
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Were considering Little Mombo,Duma Tau, Duba Plains and Tongabezi. After reading your posts now I am considering adding Lower Zambezi. I am concerned about the cost so might end up with Little Mombo and the rest of the safari in Zambia. Does this sound reasonable. If I had only one camp in Botswana to chose, would Little Mombo be a good choice. We are mainly concerned with game. We want to see a large volume and a kill (lion, lepoard...). We were in Sabi Sands and Phinda last year and while we saw the big 5( all in one day) we didn't get to see a kill. Also, we only saw one hippo and would like to see more.

If I were to plan as trip to Zambia, what areas/lodges do you recommend? From what I have read, Lower Zambezi is a must.
24Lisa is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2005, 11:08 AM
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Kasaka and Chongwe River Camp are each incredible values, in my opinion, while Sausage Tree Camp will still be a significant savings over most Botswana camps.
Roccco is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2005, 01:16 PM
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For just one botswana camp, I think you have to go with Mombo or Little Mombo. You should note that witnessing kills is really quite rare. I have been on 67 drives and have seen 4 kills. 2 by Cheetah, 1 by Wild Dog and a long distance Lion kill (details here)
The best place to see Lions kill is at Duba Plains, where there are 7 guest witnessed kills per month on average. That still means you've got to be awfully lucky.
My intent here is for you not to get too hung up on seeing an actual kill, for fear that failure in that respect will spoil your trip.
napamatt is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2005, 01:26 PM
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If cost is a factor...and you are considering going only to Little Mombo...well, that wouldn't be my choice!
To my taste, I think there are prettier camps in the delta (Kwetsani) that are half the price...and places like Chitabe that deliver great diversity of wildlife (lion, cheetah, leopard, serval, wild dog) or possibly little Vumbura (if it is still a 4 paw and if it does drives-- you'll need to double check that). You could spend twice the time in these other camps because last time I checked, they were about half the price of Mombo. Don't get me wrong--I'd love to go to Mombo again, but not if it was the ONLY place I could go in Botswana.

Kills are never a sure thing. I've seen many near kills (right before...right after, sometimes both together...but I've never seen the actual killing moment. That's been enough for me, actually. Duba Plains used to be touted as the place where lion hunted buffalo nearly every day, but don't know if that is still the case.

Also, the lower Zam is great, but I'm not sure it's the must-do in Zambia (I'd put South & North Luangwa above it, for sure, especially given your interests. And I don't consider it even close as a substitute for the Botswana camps.

And trying to do Luangwa and Bots/Mombo is not simple-- you'd have to take several--possibly many!! flights to do this.

Wallybrenda...I'll email you directly about the South/North Luangwa stuff. Leopard should not be a problem...especially in Sept. Wild dog are a bit iffier at that time of year, but last year (2004) they did have good sightings!
tashak is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2005, 03:50 PM
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Getting from Mombo to South Luangwa:

Mombo to Kasane (1 hour? light air transfer)
Kasane to Livingstone (1.5 hour road transfer)
Livingstone to Mfuwe (2 hour light air transfer)

Depending on the flight schedule out of Livingstone an overnight in Victoria Falls may or may not be required, although if Brenda were again to travel in a foursome, a chartered flight for four persons would be just about the same price as the normal "seat" rates, allowing her to leave at her convenience providing she booked far enough in advance (6 months should be sufficient).
Roccco is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2005, 08:32 PM
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All those flights and times are theoretical...ever taken those flights or done those transfers? hahahaha

There are no flights directly from Mombo (or any other camp) to make stops along the way, with possibly/probably a change of plane in Maun. The number of stops depends on the other people changing camps and the camps they are going to,and you never seem to know this in advance. With all the waiting for planes, blah blah blah, it could take most of the morning to get to Kasane. Then the overland transfer, which is about 1.5 hours from Kasane, but maybe more depending on the line and the state of mind of the border folks. In my experience, there is always wait-around time.

Then sometimes there are good flight connections between Livingstone and Mfuwe, but these flights ALWAYS go thru Lusaka, and may require a change of plane there. That's about 4 hours once in the air...oh, and I'm not sure those connections are available every day of the week. The other catch-22: most transfers occur after the morning activity (and you wouldn't want to miss that last morning at Mombo, would you?), and that will mean you'll arrive too late to catch the flights from Livingstone/Vic Falls for Mfuwe.

So if lucky, it will take a long, whole single day...if not, then a good chunk of 2 days with an overnight in Livingstone or possibly Lusaka.

I think a private charter from Mombo to Mfuwe would be quite expensive, and since this whole thing came up to save money (going to Zambia instead of staying in Bots) I think that rather defeats the purpose!

It always sounds better in theory...
tashak is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2005, 11:03 PM
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That all depends...if a foursome is traveling together, even if a charter flight was $2,000 for a one way flight between Mombo to South Luangwa, then it may be worthwhile. Mfuwe is an international airport, so should, theoretically, be able to accomodate such a transfer.

Alternately, a flight into Lower Zambezi should be about twice as close and much less costly. A flight directly from Mombo to Livingstone will be even less.

It doesn't hurt to present all of this to Zambian air trasfer companies. When, originally, I had four persons in my group, I was often able to transfer for less costly with a charter of four persons than normal "seat" rates would have cost for four persons.
Roccco is offline  
Jun 24th, 2005, 09:45 AM
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If we were to go just to Botswana (which is what I really want to do, cost providing) would Mombo,Duba Plains, Duma Tau, and Tongabezi (vic falls) provide a good combination of land and water based activities?
24Lisa is offline  
Jun 26th, 2005, 07:38 PM
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Hi Lisa,
If you go to Botswana you should consider staying at a water camp in the Jao concession. Staying at a water camp in the Okavango Delta is truly magical and the Jao concession will offer both game drives and water activities.
That said, I was there in late May so I have no idea how the floods water are by September.
You may get some water activites at Duma Tau as it is situated on the Linyanti River.
Again, September is totally dfferent in terms of game and flood waters so I can not advise on that.
FYI, Savuti Camp which shares the Linyanti concession with Duma Tau has two year round water holes, one right in front of the camp with a hide for viewing up close. September is suppose to be incredible for the game concentration around the both waterholes.
Also, the camp has raised walkways now and most websites have not updates their photo to show this.
Otherwise, your itinerary sounds wonderful..sigh...
wallybrenda is offline  
Jun 27th, 2005, 01:37 AM
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What are your opinions of Tuba Tree or Kwetsani in Jao consession?
24Lisa is offline  
Jun 27th, 2005, 07:00 AM
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I agree with tashak. As much as I love the place, I wouldn't pick Mombo if I can only pick one camp in Botswana. With everything it's got going for it, you can only do day game drives. Not a lot of variety.

Before our trip I thought the most important thing was seeing animals. Now that we've been, and while seeing animals is still the #1 highlight, there's just so much more to the experience. I think I enjoyed the varied scenary/landscape and the birds almost as much as the animals.

I think all the Jao concession camps are operated by the same company (it's actually a different company but marketed through Wilderness Safari). Tubu Tree is on Hunda island so is more dry. Jacana is literally on the water so to do any driving you have to first boat somewhere else. Kwetsani and Jao are pretty close to each other (they share an airstip and we saw Jao vehicles) and are mixed water/land. At Kwetsani there's some areas we can drive locally, but we also went to Hunda island for one drive. I picked Kwetsani because I thought a mixed camp was a safer bet, and it was cheaper than Jao. We met some people that came from Jacana and Xigera and they didn't really see any games, while we did see two leopards and one lion plus lots of elephants and giraffes at Kwetsani.

BTW, this all only applies to early June. When the flood gets higher, Kwetsani and Jao maybe more cut off. I have no idea what Sept is like. Your travel agent should be able to tell you these very specific things on the geography and water level of the camps (and if s/he can't, find a new travel agent .

linjudy is offline  
Jun 27th, 2005, 07:06 AM
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Both Kwetsani & Tubu are highly rated. I was at Kwetsani in June 04 (very high water time) so the island itself was small, and I found the chalets, walkways and surroundings of the camp the most beautiful we visited (vs. Mombo, DumaTau, Chitabe & Vumbura) My companion picked this as his favorite camp (over Mombo & Duma Tau). I really like the wooded feel of the whole camp area-- it has more big tree canopy than Mombo for example. This also created very interesting gamewatching possibilities from the walkway. There are some resident bushbucks easily visible and lots of fabulous birds. It's small--only 4 or 5 chalets I believe. I also prefer the chalets to Mombo's, because I feel closer to the environment there-- Mombo's huge "tents" are an environment unto themselves, and too big to create that "in the bush" feeling I love. (But that is a personal preference, you'll get lots of disagreement here.)

These Jao camps always offer true water activities (mekoro and boat trips). I found the water areas around Vumbura to be even more beautiful, and Vumbura is perhaps even better for consistency and variety of gameviewing too. (Kwetsani would be just a bit lower on those criteria, but higher on site beauty, chalets, and service.) But now Vumbura has an additional "paw" and prices are commensurate. So all in all,for a water camp in the Delta that offers the opportunity for great game drives, Vumbura is perhaps a notch above, but not a large notch!

BTW, DumaTau doesn't have mekoro, and it's not a delta camp or even a water camp...the "water activities" there are very limited and not interesting.

In September Kwetsani's island will be bigger, so there will be a plain in front of the chalets instead of wetland, but that may be just as good for game and predators.

Even with the high water in June there were lots of lion on the island and virtually in the camp (they hung around the staff area). Also leopard,though we didn't see them. When that plain dries out, I believe there could be cheetah there too. I guess we were lucky, because even in June we had many superb lion interactions.

The Jao concession (Jao, Kwetsani, Tubu Tree and Jacana) is managed separately although it is under Wilderness Safaris, but in my mind the owners/managers do an even better job. We really felt that we were guests at an amazing house party. I would include one of the Jao concession camps on any future trip to Botswana, because the others get great reviews too. I don't think you can go wrong with a Jao concession camp.
tashak is offline  
Jun 27th, 2005, 10:42 AM
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How is the game in Duma Tau? Is it worth a visit? Is Savuti better?
24Lisa is offline  

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