Excuse me while I sing the praises of Zambia...

Apr 20th, 2004, 01:08 AM
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Excuse me while I sing the praises of Zambia...

Disclaimer #1...this is a very biased opinion. I visited South Luangwa, Zambia, last year, and will be returning to South Luangwa this year, as well as adding the Lower Zambezi National Park.

Disclaimer #2...In all honesty, if I was in a stronger financial position, I would likely be visiting Botswana this year instead. But that brings me to my point, that there is absolutely no need to skip Africa and to make it out to be such a very expensive destination.

Disclaimer #3...Zambia is still undeveloped as a safari destination. This is a myth that one may or may not hear from a travel agent whom would like to steer you to more expensive South African or Botswanan destinations. I make no dispute that you will see more concentrated game viewing in the Sabi Sand, but I dare anybody to say that the Sabi Sand can compare in beauty to the South Luangwa. Just as Namibia is attractive for its beautiful landscapes, South Luangwa is the same way, although the game viewing is also pretty good, even in June, and supposedly excellent by September-October.

I really believe that those that really want to enjoy Zambia before it gets too well known and expensive should go as soon as possible. Not to beat a dead horse (from previous threads), but where else can you stay in very nice game lodges for as low as $250 per person sharing in high season?

Even the best operators (Robin Pope Safaris and Star Of Africa) are willing to offer discounts off their already very reasonable rack rates.

Also, while it is more expensive to fly from Joburg to Lusaka and then onto either Mfuwe (South Luangwa) or Jeki (Lower Zambezi National Park) than to fly from Joburg to Hoedspruit, this extra expense will probably be made up on the very first night or two and by the time one pays for their road transfers from Hoedspruit/Nelspruit to their respective game lodges. In Zambia the game lodges do not charge for a transfer from the nearest airport, even if two hours away, back to the lodge.

I really think that Zambia is the destination for the person that has really graduated to a deeper and more meaningful bush experience, yet few of the comforts enjoyed in the Sabi Sand need be sacrificed.

Just as Botswana and Tanzania have a few different game parks worth seeing, Zambia is no different. South Luangwa is the most popular, but even so, how many people have really yet visited? I thought highly enough of South Luangwa to stay seven nights this time around and do regret that I do not have one extra night at Kaingo and one extra night at Chichele Presidential Lodge.

There really are too many quality lodges in South Luangwa to mention, with probably half or more of them enjoying Luangwa River frontage. Quality operators in South Luangwa seemingly include Robin Pope, Star Of Africa, Bushcamp Company, Remote Safaris, Norman Carr, Kaingo and Kafunta.

Besides South Luangwa, there is the Lower Zambezi National Park. There are a couple amazing looking camps there, with my favorite one being Chiawa (although even at the very fair price of $395 per person per night, it was out of my budget for this year) www.chiawa.com Other nice camps include the Sausage Tree Camp, Kulefu Tented Camp (my chosen destination) and Kasaka.

I do wish I had more time to visit Kafue, the second largest national park in the world, but that will have to wait until my third visit to Zambia, possibly in 2006. Although the very best lodging only earned in A/B rating in Mark Nolting's guide, Moshi, the only lodge in Kafue to earn an A rating may reopen soon, under the banner of Star Of Africa, per my conversations with Star Of Africa.

Next is Lochinvar, a World Heritage Wetland Site, and a supposed bird lovers paradise. Lechwe Plains Tented Camp, a Star Of Africa property, is probably the finest lodging available. http://www.star-of-africa.com/circuit5.htm

Last but not least is Victoria Falls. I do think that the nicer lodging is definitely on the Zambian side of the falls and includes Tongabezi, The River Club, Sussi & Chuma and Songwe Village.

For those that have built up such tolerance/endurance, and have the time allowance, I do not think that three weeks solely in Zambia would be too much. Best of all, using the current pricing I do think that three weeks in Zambia would be no more expensive than 10 nights in Botswana, or even five nights of top lodging in South Africa.

As I've said before, I loved Singita in the Sabi Sand, but that is the fantasy, while Zambia is the "Real Africa." Take advantage now before something changes. Who knows, maybe Wilderness Safaris could move in next year and acquire or build five game lodges, possibly driving up the prices. I do not understand why WS is not yet in Zambia, but it is likely that they will not stay out for too much longer.

Here is the very best website for Zambia that will offer links to countless game lodges. http://www.zambiatourism.com/welcome.htm

Roccco is offline  
Apr 20th, 2004, 04:12 AM
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Roccco - in reference to your comment:

>>I really believe that those that really want to enjoy Zambia before it gets too well known and expensive should go as soon as possible. Not to beat a dead horse (from previous threads),<<

Then stop beating that poor horse! and telling everyone about Zambia.
Sweet Roccco - it's getting boring!! The current participants on this board know about Zambia and your thoughts and great prices.

Those who may be interested in Zambia in the near or far off future, need only do a "search" and will find all of your posts raving about Zambia as a destination.

Luv you, but please give "me" (at least) a break! Thanks.
Apr 20th, 2004, 05:42 AM
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This is called killing time (and brain cells), as I await my departure. 30 days to go, and without any interesting threads on the board last night, what's a Fodorite to do but post a completely self-serving thread? I guess I am being as obnoxious as those that have their "ALUMNI, _____ UNIVERSITY" license plate holders on their vehicles (usually vehicles that strongly show the evidence that these people have A LONG way to go before paying off those student loans and acquiring a vehicle that they will confident enough in NOT to wear their diplomas on their backsides, errr, bumpers).

Sure, I could have written the whole thing out and not sent it, but I am sure that SOMEBODY will benefit from it. It is really a sad thing when you have people overpaying for Kruger/Sabi Sand right now when there are alternatives.
Roccco is offline  
Apr 20th, 2004, 05:54 AM
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Roccco, very interesting post. I have only spent three days on safari in Zambia (at Kafunta in South Luangwa in August 2001), but it was very memorable (great game viewing, well-informed repeat safari guests, comfortable (not over-the-top designer) lodging, etc.

One thing to add -- we spent a couple of days on Lake Malawi after our visit to South Luangwa. Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, is only a 40-minute charter flight from Mfuwe (the airport serving South Luangwa), and the lake is an hour drive from Lilongwe. Its a nice spot to relax at the end of a safari with some great snorkeling.

Plus, there are direct flights from Malawi to SA and, at least when I visited, back to Heathrow.
thit_cho is offline  
Apr 20th, 2004, 01:44 PM
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Roccco -

>>It is really a sad thing when you have people overpaying for Kruger/Sabi Sand right now when there are alternatives.<<

When I was just a 'lil one, my mom taught we that is was rude to put your hands in someone else's pockets.

You know and I know and many others on this board realize that SA is rather costly against the USD, right now. But those who haven't read these boards or posted questions, either, don't have the time, or even care.

We both spent big bucks for Singita when we went back a few years ago, why? because we wanted to. We don't want to again, at least not now. There are also lots of people out there who don't care what they spend on their vacations. So let those who choose to spend what they want, where they want - just do it!

How about reading a book the next time you can't sleep! Even a book on Africa, is fine with me! Still luv ya!

Apr 20th, 2004, 05:04 PM
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FYI, others have thanked me for sticking my hands in their pockets!

I don't even think the words Luxury Link appeared in this forum before a certain Fodorite showed up on the scene.

Just as Selwyn thinks it is a waste of time and money for people to stay at The Twelve Apostles in Cape Town, instead referring them to alternate lodging, I think it is a waste of time and money to stay at most game lodges in South Africa. We all have our own opinions, and people are free to trust or not trust the opinions of Selwyn, myself and others for our recommendations, and although I don't know if I would have listened or not, I wish that there was as much activity a couple years ago on this board as there is today.

I welcome others to my lint-filled pockets if they can save me a buck and steer me towards an otherwise unknown quality lodge or hotel.

Just a final reminder...we are all free to ignore threads that may not be to our liking and just move on down to the next thread. As boxing promoter Don King would say, that is what makes America the great country that it is!

(with my apologies to the non-American Fodorites)
Roccco is offline  
Apr 20th, 2004, 09:37 PM
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Don't forget the Royal Livingstone Hotel in Zambia. It serves a certain purpose and it's lovely.

>Last but not least is Victoria Falls. I do think that >the nicer lodging is definitely on the Zambian side >of the falls and includes Tongabezi, The River >Club, Sussi & Chuma and Songwe Village.
Clematis is offline  
Apr 20th, 2004, 09:57 PM
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Yes, Clematis, you are right. Also, the Stanley and Livingstone is a new hotel that is supposed to be very nice, so those two should be added to the list.

17 more "working days" and 4 more weekends and then I am out of here!
Roccco is offline  
Apr 20th, 2004, 10:50 PM
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''I think it is a waste of time and money to stay at most game lodges in South Africa.''

Wow roccco! ? most game lodges in South Africa

Remind us again as to how many lodges you've been to in South Africa.

How did you enjoy the following private game reserves? Phinda,Manyeleti,Timbavati,Madikwe,
Thornybush,Kapama,Makalali,Garongwe,Shamwari and lastly the remote parts of northern KNP?

I really appreciate your new found enthusiasm for the dollar friendly Zambia but I can't agree with your above mentioned statement regarding a South African safari as I just think you haven't got enough experience in RSA to make such a broad statement.
safarinut is offline  
Apr 21st, 2004, 05:34 AM
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Do me a favor and take a look at the following map:


How many game lodges can you whole heartedly recommend? I would guess it would be Mala Mala, Londolozi, Singita, possibly Sabi Sabi and possibly Inyati. All the other lodges lack the river frontage that is vital to the game experience.

Perhaps there are also a couple others in Kruger that come highly recommended?

Any Londolozi camp that you stay at is up to $966 per person per night sharing, if you buy it on www.e-gnu.com

We know that Singita is $1,099 per person per night.

Even Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge is up to $720 per person per night, while the more favored Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge is $905 per person per night, again, courtesy of www.e-gnu.com

The pricing of Sabi Sand lodges is truly ridiculous. I mean look at this...Djuma BUSH Lodge (not even Vuyatela) is $444 per person per night in high season.

If there is anyone that has been able to get past the tour operators/travel agents and book these lodges personally at a great discount, please let me know.

In comparison, I am staying at Puku Ridge, Chichele Lodge and Kulefu Tented Camp, all Star Of Africa properties, at the beginning of high season, for $200 per person or less!

Star Of Africa is no joke. Their accomodations are first class, they include a tracker on night game drives, their accomodations are only in the best locations (unlike Djuma and many other Sabi Sand game reserves that are much more expensive), and they are willing to deal directly with the customer.

I would love to do a combo of Mala Mala, Jaci's Tree Camp and Phinda Forest in South Africa, but do you have any idea how much that would cost??? Let's say I were to stay four nights at Mala Mala, three nights at Jaci's Tree Camp and four nights at Phinda Forest, for an 11 night safari. We are likely talking $5,500 PER PERSON!!! Okay, being that I can find pretty good deals, let's say that I knocked off even 20%, and got it down to $4,400 per person.

The air transfers and road transfers combined would be no more than I am paying in Zambia, since they do not charge for road transfers, even though the lodges are even further from the airport than in South Africa. So really, ultimately we are only comparing the price of the Zambian lodges to the South African lodges, as everything else will balance itself out.

Now, in high season, albeit the very beginning of high season, I am paying $140 per person per night for the honeymoon suite at Kaingo, $120 per person per night at Mwamba (both on www.kaingo.com), $193 per person per night at Kulefu Tented Camp, $200 per person per night at Puku Ridge and $200 per person per night at Chichele Presidential Lodge.

My 11 night Zambian Safari, at some of the finest lodges on offer in Zambia, is costing me less than $1,900 per person, for an average of $172 per night per person!!! That is about 60% less than the South African safari would have cost me.

Please consider my bashing of South Africa, more a bashing on the pricing than on the accomodations and/or safari experience. It is all about economics. I just think it is sad that a lot of newbies THINK they can only afford three nights of safari, when if they ventured beyond the borders of South Africa into Zambia, that they likely could extend it to 7 nights or more.

The smart consumer right now will go to Zambia. I have done my homework and I have reached the conclusion that nowhere else in Africa can match Zambia, dollar for dollar. It will come out when other Fodorites finally get there, how beautiful Zambia is and what an amazing value it is.

Trust me, I love South Africa, but it just does not make sense to visit right now, if you are planning on staying at top lodging.
Roccco is offline  
Apr 21st, 2004, 05:50 AM
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Although out of my budget for this year, here, in my opinion, is the finest looking lodge in Zambia, and it is only $395 per person per night sharing:


Tell me that lodge does not look like it is not amongst the finest in all Africa, yet it is priced below Djuma Bush Lodge!
Roccco is offline  
Apr 21st, 2004, 06:52 PM
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Roccco, honey, do you work for Zambia Tourist Development?

In addition to the wonders cited by Roccco, I would add:
1)lovely, warm people-- those who work in the tourist industry, and those who don't-- who are completely welcoming and so happy to see tourists come to their country. If you make a return trip, you see this even more...they are just so proud that you chose to visit their country.
2)a tourist industry that is still small and local and not "institutionalized"-- so when you return, it is a bit like going back ot a private club or camp. Most are still run by families or couples, and even the larger "corporate" operators, like Star, make you feel like one of the family.
tashak is offline  
Apr 21st, 2004, 11:04 PM
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I am just thankful that Zambia and its affordably priced lodging exists, otherwise I would not be in a position to visit Africa this year, at least not the way to which I am accustomed.

I believe that you said that you are going to Zambia this year, right? What kind of itinerary do you have in mind and when do you plan on visiting? While I would love to have gone in August or even September, I got locked into June again, due to a late May visit to Italy before I take off for Zambia.

I would be very curious to learn the pricing that you are quoted if you are going in August or September. Even if it is full rack rates, Zambia is still a bargain compared to South Africa and Botswana.

Would love to hear a report on Chiawa, if you happen to choose that lodge as your Lower Zambezi NP destination. I probably do not need to tell you, but the Zambezi River is simply amazing.

Roccco is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2004, 08:05 AM
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Hi Roccco,
Well, believe it or not, I am still workign on the itinerary! Juggling things around, but I'm not too worried, because May is pretty open. Looks roughly like this: some combo of RPS Nkwali, Kafunta, Kaingo and Flatdogs. Lots of places in the Valley don't really open til June, but May is quite quiet. Still working on whether I will include a trip to Chiawa or Sausage Tree on the Lower Zam. (I've been to Kulefu, so wanted to visit a new camp. Chiawa looks very interesting, and the owners are very involved with Conservation Lower Zambezi and the Wild Dog Conservation project Kellie Leigh is doing. You can probably tell from my other posts that I don't go to places that allow hunting, and strongly prefer places that are ACTIVE in local conservation. RPS, Flatdogs and Kaingo and Kafunta are ALL involved with the new South Luangwa Conservation Society, and they have supported conservation in various ways for a long time.

In Botswana, I'm staying at Mokolodi (near Gaborone), which supports and houses Cheetah Conservation Botswana, an excellent new project. Then I'm off to Wilderness Camps: Mombo, Duma Tau and Kwetsani. Can't wait...but I'm just not ready to travel yet either!

About August/ Sept...I think pricing is going to depend on how full the bookings are for each operator. When I was in Botswana a couple years ago in September, Wilderness wouldn't go to off season rates, but they did waive the dreaded single supplement. I imagine by later in September, people may be willing to offer an early "off-season" rate, depending on their booking level. I think it varie s year to year, and all depends on bookings and how nervous they get in advance. I also know people who have negotiated nice discounts once they are on the ground there, but in that case you have to have lots of flexibility...and a place you are willing to stay if you can't get a "deal". Just for the record, I've hard that it is very difficult, even for locals, to get deals in Botswana.
tashak is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2004, 12:40 PM
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Thanks for bringing up the issue of conservation. I really should make that a consideration in the future on which lodges I book.

I am pleased to see that Kaingo supports conservation but I did not see Star Of Africa with any conservation projects, although I probably didn't look hard enough.

I do wish that I had the opportunity this year to do the 6 night package in the Lower Zambezi (3 nights at Chiawa/3 nights at Old Mondoro) for the Cheetah and Wild Dog Conservation itinerary.

I think 2006 will see my staying three weeks in Zambia, even if it is by myself!

I could totally justify spending five nights in Kafue, six nights in Lower Zambezi, six nights in South Luangwa and four nights in North Luangwa, with maybe a night in Lusaka at the Intercontinental Hotel thrown in the middle.

Excuse me for being nosy but do you find you enjoy yourself equally (or more?) going solo?

Too bad it rarely works out that both partners rarely share the same passion for Africa, at least from what I have seen on this board. I wouldn't be surprised one bit if eventually Fodorites started teaming up to avoid single surcharges and to enjoy Africa with others that share the same passion.
Roccco is offline  
Apr 24th, 2004, 08:29 AM
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Hey Roccco....more info re Chiawa...
It looks like I will not be able to visit Chiawa this year. Will have to wait for the next trip. But I've exchanged emails with them, and with other folks I know in South Luangwa asking about Chiawa. They all confirmed that it is on par with Sausage Tree for accomodations, food, guiding. A big plus for Chiawa: Chiawa is VERY tied into local conservation, however. Grant heads Conservation Lower Zambezi, and they support Wild Dog Conservation very directly. Given the whole positive role conservation tied to responsible tourism can play for wildlife and people, I think Chiawa looks super, and is now a priority for my next Africa Trip.
Given that Wild Dog are more easily seen during the rainy or shoulder Green Season, a package of South Luangwa/Chiawa sounds incredible. (RPS has an itinerary like this for the Green Season).
However, I know you will enjoy Kulefu...I had a super time there last year, and the managers were passionate conservationists. You know, you could reinforce this message by talking to Star about it...Star is a relatively new company, and the more we push them to show active involvement, I think the more they will do. You can use your visit--and your patronage of SoA's camps to lobby for conservation support!
tashak is offline  
Apr 24th, 2004, 10:15 AM
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Thanks for the feedback. I will be sure to put in my two cents about conservation and let them know that they could potentially gain new customers if they made others aware about their support and active involvement with conservation.

I will have the opportunity to talk to three different Star Of Africa's lodges about this, so hopefully it sinks in to the right person.

Roccco is offline  

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