Botswana or Zambia for first-timers?

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Nov 9th, 2005, 01:15 PM
  #1
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Botswana or Zambia for first-timers?

I have been lurking and reading for weeks now. There is soooo much great information and so many helpful posters! I am trying to plan our first trip and could definitely use some help! We haven’t been on safari before and I know this trip will be AMAZING. I think I want to aim for Botswana, BUT I’ve been reading all the recent trip reports from Zambia. Would it be “as good” for a first timer? It certainly seems more affordable

We are thinking of June 2006. Besides a few nights in Capetown (my husband has always wanted to visit there), I am figuring on about 11-12 days for safari and 1-2 nights for Victoria Falls.

Is Victoria Falls a ‘must see’? Or does everyone go because they are ‘so close by’?

If we go to Botswana, I want to try a mobile camping trip since a) it would be a really unique experience for us and b) it can be done for a lower budget. I read the report by SUNDOWNER and think we would enjoy something like that.

These are the operators I am considering getting quotes from for the Botswana mobile camping safari. Is this list sufficient?

www.tagasafaris.co.za
www.gametrailsbotswana.com
www.eyesonafrica.net
www.karibu.co.za

So if anyone has feedback on Botswana vs. Zambia for first timers, or on the list of operators – I would appreciate it! Thanks
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Nov 9th, 2005, 01:25 PM
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You will go again! So pick your poison and get packing.

I would suggest that you do as follows:
Cape Town, give yourself at least three days.
Then fly to Maun and join an overland & yes I agree GAMETRAILS is tops, look no further. Travel with gthem through the Moremi finishing in Kasane.
Shuttle across to Victoria Falls and spend two nights there. one full day.

Yes it is ALL and MORE than it is cracked up to be. If you like adrenaline, this is the capitol for it of the world. 100 m bungee, great grade five river with 18 heart stopping rapids...Gorgeous sunsets on an upper Zambezi cruise and and and!

And now you will get a zillion motives to go to Zambia, which is pretty damned terific too. But don't try and do it all as you don't have suficient time.


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Nov 9th, 2005, 02:24 PM
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Zambia parks are not setup for mobile camping safaris like Botswana. And you would need to drive a lot to see a few parks as compared to Bot. So the options offered are good and many for your safari in Bot. Be aware that trying to see too much like going to the Kalahari, Magadigadi, Moremi, Savute, and Chobe in 11-12 days means long driving between a couple of parks. To really enjoy, I would recommend maybe a couple days(fly) to Gunn's or Oddballs camp in the Delta-this is assuming you are budgeting. Then a company that takes you from Maun into Moremi, Savute, Linyanti, Chobe and finishing in Kasane with a transfer to VF. If budgeting, go to Zim Side and you can get day passes at border($10)over to Livingstone side. Drop the trip to Gunns or Oddballs if too much and spend more time between Maun and Kasane mobile camping.

There are way too many options and I just made some assumptions what you might be looking for.

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Nov 9th, 2005, 02:38 PM
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IF we went with Zambia, we would not necessarily do the mobile camping. There have been several lodges mentioned in Zambia lately that are 'reasonable'. So I would not be looking for self drive or mobile camping in Zambia.

I think we would enjoy the mobile camping experience, but it is also a way to make Botswana more affordable.

Thanks
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Nov 9th, 2005, 02:54 PM
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2006 Green/Emerald Season pricing for South Luangwa:

Luangwa River Lodge $280pp per night for first 3 nights, $230pppn for each additional night

Kafunta River Lodge $180pp per night until 4/30, discounted 10% if you stay five nights

Puku Ridge, $300 pppns, no single supplement
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Nov 9th, 2005, 02:55 PM
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Just my 2 cents... I've never been either, and I've chosen Zambia. I'm very excited about it. As a solo traveler it turned out to be more affordable for me. Having said that, one day I WILL be gliding thru the delta in a Mokoro......

Have fun deciding - it's a toughie!
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Nov 9th, 2005, 02:55 PM
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If you are looking at something reasonable, this is the one I recommend. The South Luangwa/Luambe/ North Luangwa Safari.
If you want to drive, it eats up a lot of time to drive from Livingstone to Lusaka is basically most of a days drive. or even Lusaka to SLNP-is a long long days drive if you know where you are going. Not trying to discourage you, because I prefer self drive and it is safe if you have a bit of pot hole(some are massive) and 4wd experience.I could suggest one hell of route for then.
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Nov 9th, 2005, 03:04 PM
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Forgot to paste
www.luangwa.com/nsluangwa.htm
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Nov 9th, 2005, 03:17 PM
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luangwablondes,

That is an excellent itinerary and it is at a very affordable price compared to most safaris. $2,630 pp sharing for a 10 night safari, where much of it will be a private safari. That works out to $263 pps for a mostly privately guided safari. Although it is apples and oranges, I am paying about triple the price for my upcoming Tanzania safari, although it is not really a fair comparison to put Buffalo Camp/Luangwa River Lodge/Luangwa Island Bush Camp/Wilderness Camp in the same league as Manyara Tree Lodge/Crater Lodge/Nomad Tanzania/Mbuzi Mawe (Serena). However, it does offer a much more affordable option to Botswana, especially when you consider that it is completely overland with no additional costs for air transfers other than the Lusaka - Mfuwe - Lusaka transfer that runs about $320pp.

There are just so many great deals available in Zambia, all the way from Flatdogs Camp to what may be the most exclusive experience, the Superior Safari Tent at Chiawa Camp for $565 pp per night sharing in high season.

http://www.chiawa.com/pages/newsltr-july-04.htm

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Nov 9th, 2005, 03:31 PM
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Rocco
The beauty of the Kafunta tour it includes what I consider two of my favorite parks in Africa- South Luangwa and then North Luangwa with its all walking safaris, exclusiveness, many lion prides and herds of buffalo, and the feeling of being in a completely remote spot in the world.
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Nov 9th, 2005, 04:36 PM
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i've never been to botswana yet, but zambia for a first timer was much, much more than i ever expected it to be...words can't describe it, so much that i may be going back in march.
then after that maybe botswana, uganda, kenya, tanzania, namibia, etc. etc. etc.
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Nov 9th, 2005, 05:48 PM
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I love mkhonzo's "pick your poison" comment.

Vic Falls is a world wonder and a beautiful natural sight. Some friends who just went to Botswana for their first safari had this to say: "We are so glad our agent insisted we include Victoria Falls even though we were not enthused about seeing another water fall." They stayed at The River Club and did several excursions including riding elephants.

If you are more into hiking and canoeing then I think Zambia would be the best choice. Otherwise Botswana would probably produce a bit more game, especially in the Linyanti, Chobe, or Moremi regions.

Regardless, you'll have a great June.
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Nov 10th, 2005, 04:38 AM
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Where does one ride elephants in Zambia and what is the cost? I have done it at Camp Jabulani and am just curious to know about the Zambian option.
I gather it is less extravagant and more affordable.
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Nov 10th, 2005, 04:56 AM
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mkhonzo - Here's a bit from my journal about the elephant ride. I don't recall offhand what we spent pp - but regardless, it was a terrific experience. Definitely make advance reservations if you decide to do this.

And, if you'd like to see photos - check out our album (the ellie ride starts with picture 278)

http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/eerkun...rkun/my_photos

An Elephant Moment with Our Friend Lewa

We had a fantastic morning on our elephant ride. A representative from the Zambezi Elephant Trails operation drove us to the elephant camp. Since we were the last to be picked up, the van ride was short. There were 11 participants, the number restricted by the elephant population of the camp.

Sipping coffee – hot tea in my case – we took care of the housekeeping issues first: liability paperwork and safety briefing. Then we met the elephants. The ellies in this camp were brought over from a similar operation in Zimbabwe. Two of them were orphaned during culling operations – Danny and Bop. The other four were saved from certain death during a bad drought – Madinda, Mushumbi, Marula, and Lewa.

I don’t necessarily think training wild animals is a good thing, but in this case bringing them to this camp was a matter of saving their lives. Besides, by allowing visitors a close encounter, they serve as ambassadors for the preservation of their species – that’s a good thing.

Wow! And wow again! Such a simple word, but so appropriate to our experience. How else can I describe being nose-to-trunk with a full-grown bull?

The elephants lined up side by side, a virtual wall of gray. Standing near them, I experienced one overriding feeling. No, it wasn’t fear. It was pure ‘awe’. Little did I know that things were about to get even better. As our guide started introducing each animal, Danny, the biggest of the elephants, stepped out. He came directly towards me, raising his trunk to sniff first my hair, and then the hand I instinctively held out to him. At 5’2” [1.5m], I’ve never thought of myself as particularly small, but with multi-ton Danny standing next to me, I felt downright diminutive.

Someone had told me, “When you photograph an elephant in the wild, zoom in on the eye; it will be an amazing picture.” Forget the picture; looking Danny in the eye was the ultimate in amazing. Wow! That’s all I can say – it’s an experience I will treasure forever.

Shortly thereafter, accompanied by an armed guide and a videographer, we were on the backs of these gentle giants. With one of the ellies pregrant, Danny did double duty, carrying four people. The expecting ellie accompanied us riderless. Mui and I rode astride Lewa, a 16-year old female. I was a fair distance from Lewa’s head; nonetheless, her flapping ears reached back to cover my legs. It was like having an extra blanket against the morning chill.

Together with Christopher, her handler, Lewa took us through Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and along the banks of the Zambezi. Her slow, plodding gait was surprisingly quiet as we rode through the bush. In our saddle, we gently swayed side to side – it felt like we were in a cradle. At one point, we stopped by the river for a photo op – that picture will make a great Christmas card this year.

When she wasn’t stopping to sample the bounty of nature every other step, Lewa gave us the ride of a lifetime. A branch too hard to break off? No problem, let’s just take the entire sapling with us! And so we made our way through the bush with Lewa munching away – it gave ‘take away food’ a completely new meaning!

We did not see much in the way of wildlife during the ride; several wild elephants just outside camp – hence the armed escort – and a lone giraffe further into our ride. We weren’t on a game drive, though, so the lack of sightings did not bother us. We had a beautiful day for our outing; a little on the cool side. We were halfway across the world living a very special adventure. We sat back and enjoyed the experience and our surroundings. Throughout, running through the back of mind was Clarke’s words from the article about Abu. In this instance, I’ll paraphrase:

With each step, every muscle in her body flexed. Her pelvic girdle swayed. Her shoulder blades protruded like pistons – left, right, left, right. The thick massive skin on her back rolled back and forth across her spine.

I know.

I was riding on top of Lewa.
And I felt like I was riding on top of the world!

After the ride, we had a chance to interact more closely with our ellie. Feedbag in hand, I sat on Lewa’s bent knee and fed her – sometimes commanding her ‘trunk down’ to place food pellets directly into her trunk. At one point, in a very trusting way, she laid her head on my shoulder! Ugh – talk about heavy! I bore her considerable weight with a smile and patted her cheek.

After about 20 minutes, the ellies left us to get their treats – they prefer the sweet oranges and eat them first, and then move onto the lemons. Who can blame them? As they munched on their fruit, we were escorted to our own meal – a full-blown English breakfast consisting of: steak and eggs, beans, potatoes, steamed tomatoes, and a fruit compote. For a buffet, the food was very good.
Conversation throughout the meal was quite animated and revolved around the elephant ride as we compared experiences. We were all in total agreement – it was indescribable. Nevertheless, here I am, trying to do just that.
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Nov 10th, 2005, 06:58 PM
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atravelynn
I will be staying at the River Club in Zambia in June. Did your friends give you any more information about what it was like?

eenusa
The elephant ride sounds wonderful. I am staying 3 nights in Livingston and plan to do an elephant ride and a day canoe trip on the Zambezi River. Did you arrange the elephant ride once you got there? I was wondering about the canoe trips also as I have seen pictures of people in inflatible canoes, at least that's what they look like in the pictures. Not my idea of a canoe.
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Nov 11th, 2005, 05:01 AM
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raelond - we did make reservations for the elephant ride in advance by contacting Sussi & Chuma (where we stayed) as they had the elephant ride listed as an optional activity. I'm sure you could also contact Zambezi Trails operation directly or ask your safari organizer to help with the arrangements.

If you're going to be there during the high season, I would definitely suggest making advance reservations.

We didn't do a canoe ride, or even see anyone doing it (we were there in July 2004) be it with a canoe or an inflatable. Our lodge did offer small boat trips on the Zambezi - small motorboat. We did this twice for sundowners and really enjoyed it, but would not have felt comfortable going out on the river on our own.
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Nov 11th, 2005, 08:05 AM
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My friends loved the River Club and their photos were beautiful. Very similar to those I've seen in the Wilderness catalogs. They said they had some wonderful meals too.

The inflatables are more common along the Zambezi near the falls. I've never seen them in the Lower Zambezi.

Thanks for the elephant riding account, eenusa.
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Nov 11th, 2005, 11:52 AM
  #18
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Thanks for all the great info Seems you can't go wrong with picking Zambia!

Of course, I have researched for weeks on Bostwana and don't feel that I know much (yet) about Zambia.

A couple of misc questions:

1) I've read a lot about mixing in a water camp on the Botswana itineraries -- do you end up with similar options/activities in Zambia? Esp on the 10 day itin that luangwablondes suggested?

2) How much travel time & cost does it add to travel to Zambia and back to JNB vs. going to Maun and back to JNB for the Botswana itineraries?

Thanks!!!
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Nov 11th, 2005, 12:54 PM
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Have you considered flying into Lusaka, do your Luangwa Valley and Vic Falls tour 1st, before going to Cape Town?
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Nov 11th, 2005, 12:56 PM
  #20
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Not really. Would that be considered more logical? I was thinking Capetown first because of wanting better weather in Capetown (if possible) and to end the trip on a 'safari note'.
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