First Safari in Zambia?

Jan 7th, 2005, 04:00 PM
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First Safari in Zambia?

We're looking at doing our first safari and are primarily interested in seeing big cats, hippos, elephants, birds of prey, etc, etc. In addition, we're trying to do this on a budget of less than $5000 for approximately 2 weeks for 2 people.

I had originally been considering a self-drive in South Africa with a couple nights at a private lodge (Kavey's trip report was very helpful for this). After reading all of the glowing reports about Zambia on this website (although primarily from one person), I started looking at that as well.

First question: Does this even make sense? It seems like most people do their first safari to SA or Kenya/Tanzania and then venture abroad. Will we get a similar experience for viewing wildlife in Zambia? I've also looked at Nambia as another oddball starting point (mostly because the dunes look beautiful).

As for a possible Zambian itinerary, I'd like to combine at least 2 of the 3 major NPs - Kafue, South Luangwa, and Lower Zambezi - and possibly all 3 if I can manage.

Second question: What NPs in which order do people think will give us the best viewing opportunities? South Luangwa I'm guessing is #1, but Kafue also sounds quite interesting to me - perhaps moreso than the canoe safaris offered in Lower Zambezi.

I've found a good deal combining Kafunta and their Island Bush Lodge for 5 nights at about $200pppn ( in South Luangwa, but I'm having some trouble finding reasonably priced places at the other national parks though. Any suggestions?

Any help would be greatly appreciated -- thanks!
ozwild is offline  
Jan 7th, 2005, 04:10 PM
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Oh yes, and we're looking at going sometime in September 2005.
ozwild is offline  
Jan 7th, 2005, 04:46 PM
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Have you seen these links? (approximately $150 pppns by the time you add in game activities, food, laundry and transfers, making it the best bargain in Southern Africa in high season IMO) $285pp, all-inclusive

Possible itinerary to help meet your budget limitations:

Flatdogs (3 nights) $450 pp
Kafunta Island Bush Camp (a good 3 hours south of Flatdogs) (3 nights) $540 pp
Flatdogs (1 night) $150 pp (you will never make it back from KIBC in time for flights onward)
Kasaka River Lodge, Lower Zambezi (3 nights) $855 pp

Lusaka - Mfuwe - Lusaka $320 pp
Lusaka - Royal (LZNP) - Lusaka $180 pp

Grand Total - $4,990 USD ($2,495 pp)

Chances are, unless you are willing to go with an ultrabudget company such as that 10 nights is about the most you are going to get with your budget.

Even so, a 10 night safari is an excellent introduction to Zambia.

However, if your budget allowed it, I would highly recommend Kaingo for $400 pppns, and if you wanted a bit of luxury, then perhaps Chichele at $450 pppns or Puku Ridge at $400 pppns.

Also, Luangwa River Lodge looks great at $350 pppns and may be the most luxurious lodge in the South Luangwa right now.


Flatdogs (3) - Morning game drives, night game drives, internet access at lodge, reputed lively bar at lodge, highly game rich area located right at the entrance to the park.

Kafunta Island Bush Camp (3) - Primarily bushwalks but if you love isolation, you will love KIBC. You will be sure to see many hippos right down the riverbank right outside your thatched hut.

Flatdogs (1)

Kasaka River Lodge (3) - Canoeing, Fishing, River Cruises, Morning Game Drives, Evening Game Drives
Roccco is offline  
Jan 7th, 2005, 05:07 PM
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One more observation...I did that exact same 5 night safari you mentioned at Kafunta. While I had a lot of fun, if I had to do it over again, I would have first spent 3 nights at Kafunta River Lodge, then 3 nights at Kafunta Island Bush Camp and then either a final night at Kafunta River Lodge or moved to another camp such as Kaingo further north for a final 3 nights.

It was a bit rushed to only spend 2 nights at KRL, followed by only 2 nights at KIBC and then ending with only a single night back at KRL.

I would not worry too much that most people either baptize themselves with a South African or East African safari. South Luangwa is an amazing park, as is Lower Zambezi. I cannot comment on Kafue, as I have not yet visited.

I will say, however, that canoeing in the Zambezi River is an incredible experience, and you will encounter numerous hippo pods (many of them 20+ in number), see crocodiles jumping into the water within abou 10 meters in front of you, and by September you should even see elephants in the river, as well as a handful of other game such as Waterbuck, Buffalo and too many bird species to count. Perhaps it cannot compete with Kafue in terms of lions, but from what I have read, the overall diversity of Lower Zambezi is superior from what I have read.

Good luck.
Roccco is offline  
Jan 7th, 2005, 06:24 PM
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Thanks for the tips Roccco -

I sent a bunch of emails out earlier this week to some places (Kasaka River Lodge being one of them) and haven't heard back. That price is definitely one of the cheaper I've seen in Lower Zambezi.

I've looked at Flatdogs as well as Wildlife Camp ( in South Luangwa. My big question here are the guides -- I figured the pricing for the less budgety places primarily meant lesser accomodations, but also lesser guides. I take it that this isn't necessarily the case?

Also, do you think staying in one area for 7 nights is a good option? One thing I liked about Kafue is that I read somewhere that this is the only place in Zambia with the chance of seeing cheetah. What is the difference between the ecosystem type of these 3 regions? I tend to like some change in scenery as well.

I have found a couple cheaper places in Kafue, but couldn't find much about them (websites posted so that everybody else doesn't have to google forever like me): ~$200pppn ~$120pppn (still waiting on pricing info here though - could be too pricey - they have a very cute leopard picture) ~$130pppn

Maybe I'll ask Kafunta if I could structure something in my price range like you described. They do have a 7 night package of Kafunta(3), Island Bush(2), Kafunta(2) for $1490pp.

Oh, and Zambian Airways has an airpass deal now where you can get 4 "coupons" for $100 each. Of course, as far as I could tell, they don't fly to Jeki (for Lower Zambezi) or near Kafue. It doesn't look too bad to get to Lower Zambezi by road transfer though...

Thanks again - if you ever want to quit your job and become a travel agent, you'd be good at it
ozwild is offline  
Jan 7th, 2005, 11:42 PM
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Has anybody heard of Luamfwa Lodge in South Luangwa?

It looks pretty remote - does anybody know if there are good wildlife sightings in the southern part of the park? Thanks!
ozwild is offline  
Jan 8th, 2005, 03:53 AM
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Hi - some of the prices quoted in the replies so far just dumbfound me - $450 US a night PP? What on earth are you getting for all that dosh?

You may or may not be interested - but why not check out

They are not a backpacker outfit - accommodation is not necessarily in tents. And for your budget (assuming it is land only) you have loads of options to choose from.

If it were me I like the look of:

Zambezi Cruise & South Luangwa Safari + Lake Malawi Extension
Ref: ZAM
19 days Lodges/Chalets/Houseboat - Wildlife & Wilderness of Zambia

There is a local charge that takes it up to $2900. But this is one of many options.

If nothing else - a great site for info and armchair travelling.
alice13 is offline  
Jan 8th, 2005, 07:29 AM
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Luamfwa Lodge is in the beautiful and isolated southern part of the park, about a 3 hour drive south of the Mfuwe part of the park. The only place further south, to my knowledge, is Kafunta Island Bush Camp, about another 30 minute drive further south.

Luamfwa Lodge appears to be more basic than most of the other places, but I assure you it is in a beautiful area.
The guest comments, however, certainly seem to be glowing.

I do think that Luamfwa is an excellent alternative to visiting the northern Nsefu area. In Nsefu, I don't think it is possible to stay anywhere for under $350 per night. Your choices are either Nsefu or Tena Tena (both Robin Pope), Kaingo or Mwamba (both Shenton Safaris) or Tafika. While each of these camps seems excellent, they are double the price as Luamfwa Lodge.

If you do end up visiting South Luangwa, you have to ask yourself whether or not you want a more exlusive experience or if you are okay with a place like Flatdogs where there will likely be 25+ other people, many of them camping, and many of them partying in the bar. I have never been to Flatdogs, but while it looks like it has the possibility to be a fun place, personally, I don't really go to Southern Africa for a partylike atmosphere. Undoubtedly, though, it is an amazing bargain and their chalets look very nice.

Supposing Flatdogs is what you want, however, you would be able to extend your safari time with a combination of Flatdogs and Luamfwa. I would say to definitely start with Flatdogs, and then end with the more exclusive and far more isolated Luamfwa.

Flatdogs (4 nights) $600 pp
Luamfwa (3 nights )$570 pp
Kasaka River Lodge (3 nights) $855 pp
Lusaka - Mfuwe - Lusaka $320 pp
Lusaka - Royal - Lusaka $180 pp

GRAND TOTAL = $5,050 ($2,525 pp)

Although this did not gain you any nights, I would prefer Luamfwa Lodge over Kafunta Island Bush Camp since you also have the opportunity for game drives. While bush walks are an amazing experience, I would say that in 10 nights staying there, with let's say 20 possible game experiences, that you would be fine with about 4 bushwalks, 14 game drives and 2 canoeing trips. With the bushwalks, I would take a couple of them at Luamfwa, one of them at Flatdogs and one of them at Kasaka River Lodge.

If you stay at Kafunta Island Bush Camp for 3 nights, you are committing yourself to a minimum of 6 bushwalks, and they are all at the same place.

Flatdogs will probably be the best area for viewing lions and leopards, but you should also see them while at Luamfwa and Kasaka River Lodge.

Unfortunately, unless you are able to expand your budget, I don't think that you will be able to stay at a quality camp in Kafue. The only company that has been recommended to me, that I would personally trust, is Experience Africa, the owners and operators of Lunga River Lodge and Busanga Bush Camp. If you were to visit these camps, a six night stay in Kafue, alone, would eat up your entire budget.

I have checked out many of the other places that you have mentioned in Kafue, and while they may be fine for Zambians and South Africans, I just don't think they would be in the same league as the other camps mentioned.

Thanks for the kind words. In my quest for my own amazing adventures to South Luangwa (and other parts of Zambia), I have been fortunate enough to acquire a certain amount of knowledge about the areas and lodges/camps. I don't think you could go wrong with South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi. However, wherever you end up choosing, start with the most basic accomodations and try to finish with the best possible accomodations (within your budget). A combo Flatdogs/Luamfwa/Kasaka River Lodge, for example, follows this principle, as does my own Tafika/Kutandala/Luangwa River Lodge itinerary that I will be going on in September. I do not mind finishing with Kasaka River Lodge because I think it is on the same level with the more expensive Chiawa and Sausage Tree Camp, and neither of those places looks nicer than Luangwa River Lodge, anyway. Kasaka is a great looking place and if available for your requested nights, they will upgrade you to the honeymoon suite for no extra charge.

If you are not yet working with an agent, I recommend that you contact Taga Safaris or another local agent, rather than an American company or a European company. Your rates will not go up, and, for example, with Taga Safaris, if you happen to have an American Express card, you can charge it on your American Express, which, depending on your membership level, may entitle you to free travel insurance. It is a bit of a hassle to deal directly with the lodges once it comes time to pay them and you must pay $40+ wiring fees to wire the money to their accounts.

Good luck.

Roccco is offline  
Jan 8th, 2005, 07:36 AM
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rocco, are you a travel agent? you seem to have every detail on every lodge- and have been to many.

this is asked in earnest in a non accusatory way- how DO you obtain all that info? are you an airline employee for south african airlines? thanks.
kerikeri is offline  
Jan 8th, 2005, 08:13 AM
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I am not a travel agent...rather, I am just OBSESSED with Southern Africa, especially Zambia, and especially South Luangwa.

For example, in the last couple months I have purchased many books about the area, a couple by Norman Carr (the former game warden of Kafue NP and later of South Luangwa NP, before starting his own safari company, While I would never recommend Norman Carr, the man led a fascinating life, and by reading his books I have learned a great deal about the area, to further complement my two prior visits and my prior hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of research on the areas.

Furthermore, I have read Eye Of The Elephant by Mark & Delia Owens, two biologists who after being kicked out of Botswana for their criticisms of the Botswanan government's handling of the wildlife in the Kalahari Desert, led to their establishment of a new base in North Luangwa, Zambia. In this book, not only is their war against the poachers discussed, but of course, the areas are also discussed. It was through reading this book that I really became committed to visiting North Luangwa on my next visit, to contribute to the protection of the wildlife, as with no tourists, there is no money for the locals and they will revert to poaching.

Also, I have recently read "The Africa House" by Christina Lamb, an excellent book about the life of Sir Stewart Gore Brown, an Englishman who built this fabulous English looking estate in the middle of the bush in Zambia. Eventually, Gore Brown, unlike the majority of the white Northern Rhodesians, was crucial in helping the country gain its independence to become Zambia. Unlike Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), there was not an armed struggle. There is so much more to the story, and I cannot recommend the book, highly enough.

Although I have only been to Zambia twice, I have probably been in contact with just about every top lodge in South Luangwa, North Luangwa, Lower Zambezi and Kafue, and in doing so, visited their websites countless times.

So, again, no, I am not an agent, just a very passionate traveler whom has read everything possible about the area. I mean the two books I just read authored by Norman Carr are not even in publication but I didn't think twice before tracking them down on the internet, having one used copy shipped to me from England and finding the other I don't even remember where.

Anyway, South Luangwa and the Lower Zambezi National Parks are incredibly beautiful places that should not be missed. With Zambian lodges pricing out their lodges in US Dollars, there is no better place to visit now that the dollar is so weak against the Rand.
Roccco is offline  
Jan 8th, 2005, 08:16 AM
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Believe it or not, I am a traffic signal contractor from Los Angeles, also owning a couple Alzheimer care facilities with my other words, I am not even in the travel industry!

God willing, our businesses will be around for a long time, allowing annual visits to Southern Africa.
Roccco is offline  
Jan 8th, 2005, 09:16 AM
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thanks, rocco. you're onviously a great researcher/ reader- keep up the good work and thanks for letting us all share in your expertise.

i liked zambia, myself, and would definitely go back- although my visit was merely limited to livingstone (and the road between it and the ferry crossing).

kerikeri is offline  
Jan 10th, 2005, 12:57 AM
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Glad to hear my report was of help.
In terms of your question about whether you "should" start with one of the usual first-time safari destinations or start with Zambia my response would be that it doesn't matter - go with a) the one that appeals or b) the one that makes most financial sense.
At the moment Zambia is still a great deal as it's still less established than South Africa. That won't be the case forever. So if I were planning a trip now I think I'd go for Zambia.
There is a difference in what one is looking for from a first safari and from a repeat visit - but think you could get that from either country.
On a first time safari it's probably worth trying to mix the kinds of experiences so that you can really get a feel for what your preferences are - small, remote camps or larger places with more facilities and people, flat open plains environments or dense bushy woodlands... Also worth trying out game viewing by car, foot, water and even horse or elephant if those interest.
Given your budget and the current strength of the Rand you might well find that Zambia gives the best value for your trip this time.
That said if I can help any further on SA just let me know!
Kavey is offline  
Jan 10th, 2005, 09:26 AM
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Wow - lots of suggestions! Alice - I'll definitely check out that website, and Kavey - I like your idea of mixing it up. That being said, if we were to stay at one of the higher end places in S Luangwa, what would be the big difference?

I assume accomodation/food which would be nice, but not necessary for us. Would game drives be substantially better? Does that northern half of the park have higher concentrations of wildlife?

I'm leaning more towards a combination of Kafue and S Luangwa - especially after reading this article:

Assuming I can afford it of course

Thanks again to everybody for their generous comments...
ozwild is offline  

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