green season experience anyone?

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Sep 27th, 2004, 02:25 PM
  #1
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green season experience anyone?

this seems like a great idea, however i am suspicious.

one reputable and often mentioned company has not mentioned anything about the downsides of a green season safari in zambia, whereas the other - slightly more upscale - has almost bent over backwards to warn of the hazards.

my question is: if it is so bad that they warn of pot holes and flights not flying, why do they offer guests the opportunity at all?

has anyone on this board been to zambia during late november/ early december? i would really appreciate a first hand account of how the going was transport-wise and whether you are sorry you went then.

on an unrelated note, why haven't the tagasafaris people gotten back to me in a week? do they normally ignore inquiries? thanks.
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Sep 27th, 2004, 03:40 PM
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Is it a first trip to Africa? How "flexible" are you about what you do and see? What are your expectations about this trip-- what to do you want out of it?

The high season is the high season for a reason!! Gameviewing and climate are the best then...the best reason to go in the Green Season is you really want to see the region during the summer/ wet season...not just to save money. There really is a trade-off, and that's why the places are cheaper then!

How much time do you have vs. money? How important is luxury to you? (Is that why you are going in the green season, to stay at more upscale places than you can during high season? Because you could go during the high season and pi And just curious-- who is encouraging, and who is warning about hazards/ problems?
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Sep 27th, 2004, 04:00 PM
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dear mr./ ms. tashak:

i am going to africa to celebrate a speciic date that happens to fall at this time period.

i am going with 0 expectations of what game i want to see/ where i want to stay.

my budget - now that i know what the going rates are - is flexible within the realities of african safari travel- in other words- if i need to pay more $ to keep it from raining- that's not the issue, the issue is whether i will be miserable for several nights when i should be happy?

i am going to africa because it is "on my list" and because it doesn't seem to be prohibitively stupid to go at this time of year...just perhaps not ideal for the *perfect* experience.

for my work i have been to central amaerica during the rainy season and still think fondly upon everything that i experienced there on an eco-tour, so i will not melt.

my main concern is the level of misery i shoud expect. will my flight be cancelled, for example, and my "special trip" be spent on the ground in say lusaka because the roads will be flodded...

that sort of thing.

the companies are those that have been mentioned on this board for zambia travel and the lodges are chichele and the park south luangwa.

my tagasafaris request is unrelated and for the botswana portion of my trip.


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Sep 27th, 2004, 04:00 PM
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dear mr./ ms. tashak:

i am going to africa to celebrate a speciic date that happens to fall at this time period.

i am going with 0 expectations of what game i want to see/ where i want to stay.

my budget - now that i know what the going rates are - is flexible within the realities of african safari travel- in other words- if i need to pay more $ to keep it from raining- that's not the issue, the issue is whether i will be miserable for several nights when i should be happy?

i am going to africa because it is "on my list" and because it doesn't seem to be prohibitively stupid to go at this time of year...just perhaps not ideal for the *perfect* experience.

for my work i have been to central amaerica during the rainy season and still think fondly upon everything that i experienced there on an eco-tour, so i will not melt.

my main concern is the level of misery i shoud expect. will my flight be cancelled, for example, and my "special trip" be spent on the ground in say lusaka because the roads will be flodded...

that sort of thing.

the companies are those that have been mentioned on this board for zambia travel and the lodges are chichele and the park , south luangwa.

my tagasafaris request is unrelated and for the botswana portion of my trip.


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Sep 27th, 2004, 04:06 PM
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sorry for the repeater and all of the horrible spelling errors.

i should also add - in terms of "savings" in green season....africa seems wildly expensive in all seasons, so the difference between a $600pppn safari and a $800pppn one seems academic.

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Sep 27th, 2004, 04:43 PM
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kerikeri,
i have been to botswana during all three of the pricing seasons within the last 4 yrs. (green, shoulder and high). my last trip was this past jan 04. here are my thoughts. obviously botswana is not zambia but the conditions i can assume to be similar. the temperature to me during midday was about the same during any season. the difference comes at night when its much colder in the non green seasons. in terms of rain, during my 6 nights, only 2 of the 12 game drives included rain and only 1 of those 2 caused us to head back to camp. most of the time it rained for short spurts so even when we did drive back to camp we only paused our drive by 15 min or so. it terms of the flights, we had 0 problems. maybe we were lucky, but it didnt seem like even during the short rains that the runways were affected at all. the upsides for going in the rainy season are as follows.
- there is short green grass so photos are much better.
- the calving season is this time so you get to see antelope babies.
- the days are longer so drives can go longer before dark sets in.
- great skies when storms are approaching.
- there are fewer people and it costs less.
- finally the migratory birds are around so get to see many new species.

the advantages of going in the dry season.
- no rain.
- less bugs.
- less snakes. -
- game concentrations high at water holes.
- better sunsets because the dust etc.
- huge herds of elephants.

i now prefer the green season to high season bc i like the short grass for the photos. that said for a first time trip i would probably choose the high season to reduce the possibility for messups. in my opinion there is less risk but also less reward. in addition there are specific areas that are very good during the rain season and some that are very bad. if you do go in the rain season make sure you choose the camps carefully our else it could be a disater. i could help you with selection in botswana but unfortunately i am no help with zambia. but i am sure someone on this board or a travel agant can help witrh that. let me know if you want to hear anymore about the rainy season or even some of my photos to show the difference in vegetation.
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Sep 27th, 2004, 06:00 PM
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thank you bigcountry for that detailed response....

i mean, i get excited when i see a gekko in my room in hawaii, so i'm not worried about plentiful game..

that said i was thinking of the botswana portion splitting between moremi amd linyati region...the usual suspects for the camps...

thanks for your reassuring description. that's just what i was hoping to read.

kerikeri

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Sep 27th, 2004, 09:19 PM
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Hi Kerikeri,
Sorry if my long list of questions seemed rude, but it does help to know the what and why of a question!

I wondered about who was warning you, vs who was not.. for example it might have to do with their location in the park... as some parts of the park become impassible first.. and some close for part of all of the rainy season. Others are open for busines all year round, given where they are located and howe they run their operations. Travel in the green or wet season demands a more flexible traveller who can roll with any changes that do occur. But that said, I think that

I have not been to Zambia during Nov or Dec, but have been there during the May "green season"--also several times during the dry season. I've talked to people who live in the area about these months, however. I'm planning on going in March next year-- that will be after the floods.

During Nov and Dec it will be hot...in Nov it should still be dry with only small showers. Apparently lots of thunderstorms, however, which can make for beautiful skies. (When I asked people how hot in degrees, they can't answer, and I can't find any weather records for the valley! They just say "really really hot". Most of the roads are passable at this point, and since there isn't much rain, should not be too potholed. But with the thunderstorms, the flights from Lusaka could be bumpy and/or cancelled. If you are a nervous flyer, this could be an issue...during these months there are fewer flights and if things are cancelled, it could mean an overnight in Lusaka. But I think that this month is "shoulder" dry season, so the biggest issue will be the heat and rising humidity. Gameviewing should be virtually like dry season.. (October is the hottest month, and is locally called "suicide" month in the valley). Also with the heat, there are more insects, and snakes will become more active. (But in a tourist camp or lodge, I would not worry about snakes.) Mosquitoes and malaria will be more of an issue, and if the nights are warm, you will have to take care to wear repellant and/or long sleeves in addition to antimalarial meds.

By December it will be more humid, so although the temps may be a bit lower, it will be a more humid heat. Also in December the rains typically begin in earnest--but plenty of dsys should be clear. The roads in parts of the park may become immpassible. However there should still be plenty to do, and in drier areas (the hills) walks may still be possible. The bush isn't so thick that you can't see animals, if the reports from the last few years are typical. Birding should be really fabulous, too, and historically the wild dog become more active in the areas near the valley's camps.

I think that if you can handle the heat and rain of central america and enjoy that, South Luangwa would still be a wonderful trip in November or December. I wouldn't recommend it for someone looking for a sure thing in terms of weather or gameviewing, but for someone who gets excited by geckos (and you should have some cool frogs and geckos in your room here too!) I think there will be PLENTY to get very excited about...In addition, I think this time of year IS more adventurous, and you'll probably meet more serious birders and return travellers. (REad the threads about birders as safari companions...they are great).

Mentioning adventurous...personally I wouldn't spend the whole time at Chichele...it's a great location in the hills, but it IS a multi-story hotel and while you are in it, you won't really be experiencing the bush. Spend a bit of time there, but also spend some time at a place like Nkwali or Kafunta. Nkali is the most beautifu beautiful...the rooms there are one of my favorite places in AFrica. Also beautiful outdoor showers. The only warning is that it's "windows" are unscreened and unglassed. I love it for that...but it means that you rely on a huge mosquito net over the beds in the room for bug protection. (Very pretty, very atmostpheric...and certainly adequate protection but not for a nervous traveller during mozzie season.)

Kafunta chalets do have screened windows (as well as mozzie nets over the beds) and the style is more comfortable, large wooden cabin than "Africa" but you still definitely feel like you are in the bush and connected to this amazing landscape. It's a nice choice for this season (given the screens).

The other place open during these months are Mfuwe Lodge. It's in a really terrific location for wildlife viewing and is more like a hotel than Kafunta or Nkali (see Greendrake's recent report) but with single story cabins clustered around a lagoon that's terrific for birds and wildlife, it is less like a "hotel" than Chichele. Service at all of these places is wonderful (and Kafunta's food has inproved a great deal since Roccco's trip 2 years ago) so I wouldn't choose because Chichele is supposedly "better" than the others...sorry, I just can't get past that "hotel in the bush" thing. Nice for a night or two, but not for the whole time in the area.

(BTW-- for Nkali or Kafunta, make sure that the pontoon bridge will still be in service for the dates you will be booking...I think it should be in place until the river rises, and that is typically not until January. Also, to be safe, you might want to schedule things so it's not a big problem if you get stuck in Lusaka for an overnight if a flight is cancelled. I generally try to do this anyway, even during the dry season.


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Sep 27th, 2004, 09:37 PM
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oops hit too soon....

The unfinished sentence in the middle should say, But that said, I do think that a person seeking a unique, adventurous (but still with top-notch service) truly wild experience in Africa would have a memorable time in South Luangwa during Nov or early DEc. Not for a person who has certain expectations that MUST be fulfilled, or for one who wants everything to go according to checklist or schedule...
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Sep 27th, 2004, 10:43 PM
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no problem, tashak, i was a bit b*tchy myself in response! (i had not yet had my dinner).
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Sep 28th, 2004, 03:31 AM
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Tashak,

I can assure you that Chichele Presidential Lodge is a single story building and half of the rooms are individual Victorian themed chalets with wonderful views, both from huge picture windows and a balcony alike, overlooking the valley below.

I do think that Chichele Presidential Lodge would be an excellent choice for November, for the very reason that it is the only lodge in all of South Luangwa I am aware of that has AIR CONDITIONED ROOMS. Plus, since it is inland a bit and away from the river, it would likely offer a respite from the insects that will likely be around most the other camps in November.

Personally, if I were in kerikeri's shoes, I would select the Emerald Season special for the shortest term possible of 7 nights, spending three nights at Nkwali, two nights at Mfuwe Lodge (despite it being near the entrance of the park, this is a very profilic part of the park for gameviewing, and I would suggest three nights at Tongabezi). Then, I would add three nights extra at Chichele Presidential Lodge.

The personal attention I received at Chichele was second to none, and the game drives and bush walks were never on a strict time limit but went on as long as the guests desired, including a seven hour game drive one morning (my best game drive ever, not just because of great game viewing but because also because it was a great learning experience as in seven hours, Nic, the best guide I have yet come across and the manager of Chichele, never let his attention waiver and provided excellent commentary throughout.

On another occasion, although I don't think I would do this in the November heat, after I requested a quick paced and long lasting bush walk, Nic led a group of five of us on a 4.5 hour bush walk that likely covered 10+ miles, never neglecting to show us all the flora and fauna, but also keeping us on the move.

It is also worth noting that the food at Chichele was great, and the service was impeccable. I was honestly reminded of the service at the 5* Picolo Mondo restaurant at the Michelangelo Hotel in Joburg.

Just a couple meals that I recall at Chichele...upon arrival at Chichele, 20 days into my Italian / Zambian holiday and 20 days without the Mexican food that is so common in Los Angeles, what is on the menu at Chichele...CHICKEN ENCHILADAS complete with salsa, guacamole and Spanish style rice! More surprisingly, it was very good, as it turns out the chef was taught the recipe by an American from New Mexico.

For another lunch, we were treated to a better pasta than I had enjoyed during my 10 nights in Italy.

The dinners were great, with waiters being close enough to offer excellent service, but just far away to provide a degree of privacy...always there to refill wine glasses and to immediately take away plates that were no longer needed.

While I did enjoy a high degree of luxury at Chichele, I also enjoyed excellent game activities (longer and very personalized) than at any other South Luangwa lodge.

Although this is not what everyone is looking for, I did find Chichele to be an experience that rivaled Singita, but at less than half the rack rate.

The mood at Chichele was very laid back and friendly and the management and staff just went above and beyond doing such things as packing us a lunch for our departure day, and at my wife's request packing us about a dozen fresh baked muffins, which she then gave to a villager woman with children that she saw on the way to the airport. The driver from Chichele did not protest one bit, when my wife emptied out his ice cooler full of soft drinks and bottled water, handing them out to children we passed on the way to the airport.

Chichele was just a wonderful experience that would be impossible to appreciate unless you have actually stayed there. I could not imagine not including it on a South Luangwa itinerary, especially in November/December when it will be very hot and humid outside but a nice cool 70 degrees or whatever temperature you want, in the comfort of your own room for 12 hours a day.
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Sep 28th, 2004, 03:41 AM
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Here is a link to the Emerald Season special.

http://www.robinpopesafaris.net/page...llivgross.html

I would recommend the following:
2 nights at Mfuwe Lodge
3 nights at Nkwali (a Robin Pope camp),
3 nights outside the package at Chichele
2 nights at Tongabezi in Victoria Falls.

Besides that, I think it would be perfect to spend a couple nights in Joburg at the end of the itinerary in the comfort of a 5* hotel like the Westcliff or the Michelangelo, for a total of a 12 night itinerary, unless there is time for Cape Town which would be very nice by late November/early December.
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Sep 28th, 2004, 07:59 AM
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Hi Kerikeri and Roccco,
I think the package/itinerary Roccco found is really good, for a variety of accomodations and areas. I just think that spending ALL the time at an enclosed 5* is not the way to experience Zambia, which does offer such a wild and "real" Africa experience.

Sorry about the multi-story comment...I have seen lights at Chichele at night that certainly looked multi-story...is this because it is built onto the hills (most of the other lodges/camps are in flat areas)? I must admit that I have not stayed there, and the last time I visited it was still undergoing renovation (and was closed). But I mentally noted (not the place for me, too much like a hotel, too big...and that's why I haven't returned to try it!) Perhaps one of the renovation changes was to make it into a more intimate, one story cottages. AC might be nice for a few nights of relief, too...but again, not for the whole trip. Nkwali has fans in the room, which are perfect for cooling an afternoon nap (and "discreetly available" electricity-- you can easily ignore the fact that its there if you like. )

But having been to the RPS camps, I can guarantee that they also will be incredibly flexible and accomodating about what you want to do (even if they are full...this is just their way of operating) and they are happy to arrange longer/shorter/full-day with picnic drives, drives combined with walks, etc. I should note thatRPS arranged a full-day event for me once-- we started at 5 am, before sunrise, and did not return until 8pm (with dinner already in progress!). It was incredible. This was the place that assigned a Scout to my vehicle, even though I told them I wanted to drive...so in the event we saw something we walked to walk to, we could do it. And this was the day we found the wild dogs and jumped out of the vehicle to follow them on foot. Amazing adventure!

So I trust that all three of the places Roccco mentioned will provide extraordinary service and guiding...especially if you are there at a slow time of year.
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Sep 28th, 2004, 07:09 PM
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Hi kerikeri,
I got some info on Chichele specifically in the wet season that merits a question to this lodge before booking.

"Visitors should also know that Chichele is not really a rainy-season lodge, even though it stays open year-round. Game-viewing loops to the south of the lodge are rarely graded even in the dry season, and are totally impassable in the rains. Loop-roads around President Hill/Puku Ridge go through floodplain dambos and have to be avoided after downpours. Even the main Mfuwe-Chichele causeway gets washed out on occasion. In short, in the rains there's only the main causeway to gameview on: up and down and up and down. Although the game varies greatly from hour to hour and day to day, for longer stays this can be a bit boring. Better to go in the dry season when all loop-roads are open. "

this comment was based on a visit a couple years ago, so don't know if it is still true...but this might be why you were getting warnings about potholes, roads closed, etc.! So the specific question you should ask is about this road grading/maintenance issue.

And as I mentioned before, before booking either Nkwali or Kafunta, I would ask if the pontoon bridge will be in place and in operation during your visit. (The camps use this to ferry you across the river to the park...it is very convenient, saves time and provides more drive options. Without this, I believe that Nkwali can send you over by boat, with a vehicle waiting on the other side. But Kafunta must send folks by road into the park, and this is rather long drive.

Mfuwe Lodge has none of these problems-- they are inside the park, just past the entrance, in a more touristed area, but one that is terrific for very concentrated wildlife viewing, including all the predators-- lion, leopard and wild dog all frequent this area, It may not be the most interesting accomodations, but it is great for wildlife...
 
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Sep 29th, 2004, 08:02 AM
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wow -

that information is incredibly useful, and it was so nice of you to post that.

while i'd read that the rain drives the wildlife to the main road, it had not occured to me that "safari" would mean driving back and forth-

if you know- will the other lodges: nkwali/kafunta/ kapani pose the same problem? are they also cut off by water?

being in an open boat in the rain is kind of like showering with your clothes on - the water just pools all around you and you canot see a thing. if i would have to do that every day and then be squishy for hours afterward that would be a nightmare.

i saw a map of luangwa on a web site, but was unsure how far everything was from each other...

any recommendation for which other lodge might be comfy and well-located to split the trip?

thanks a lot...seriously i was all set to do chichele and that definitely kills it.

kerikeri
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Sep 29th, 2004, 11:39 AM
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Hi Kerikeri,
As I said, you might want to ascertain that the road grading/maintenance situation is still the same for chichele-- as I said, this info was a couple years old, and things could have changed. But if they were the ones warning you, the story pretty much fits together...and frankly, it was pretty good of them to warn you.

And in fairness to Chichele, there probably (there is that word again) won't have been very much rain. Especially in November. But one big storm could make a difference here.

After October, most of the camps in the Valley close. I could have missed someone, but I think that these four are the only choices during late Nor and Dec.

Of the 4, Mfuwe Lodge has the easiest/ best access. The are right inside th entrance to the Park. There is a very high concentration of almost everything in this area (in fact some locals say it is because there are so many tourists and vehicles there, the animals feel really safe and protected from poaching. ) Great gameviewing starts the minute you leave the Lodge...or as greendrake reported recently, often right at the Lodge. There have a really nice lagoon there, and great incredible bird action-- we often park there to watch birds, and i know they have sighted the rare Pels Fishing Owls on the deck by the bar.

Nkwali and Kafunta are quite close to each other (virtually nextdoor neighbors, but they have big pieces of land, so you won't see the camps...only the vehicles using the "main" road nearby. (The main road is dirt...but a wider track.)
Both are across the river from the Park, but both have excellent wildlife on their land. The giraffe like to hang around the Kafunta land; we saw more there than in the Park. Also saw ellies, a bushbaby and the very rare pangolin on Kafunta land. Kafunta doesn't overlook the river, it overlooks a watery floodplain that has plenty of wildlife (and birdlife) too.

Nkwali looks out over the Luangwa toward the Park. It also has lots of wildlife strolling through-- ellies and hippo very regularly. The hippos liked to snack very near my room after dark.

Both of these camps have to do a rather long (eg 45 minute drive) to the single entrance to the Park. You will see some wildlife along the way, but if you do this many days in a row, it is tedious. So if the river levels allow, they move the vehicles across a seasonal pontoon bridge into the park-- this saves lots of time, and allows more varied and interesting drives. But when I was there in May (post flood) the pontoon bridge was not in place yet. At Kafunta we had to drive both ways into the park. Again, the drives can be very good (that's when we found the pangolin!) BUT if you are staying for more than 2 days it does get tedious to drive the same way for so much of the time. At Nkwali when the pontoon is in place, they used a motorboat to transport people just across the river, where the vehicles were waiting. This took 5 or 10 minutes, and allowed more drive time in the park, and the additional drive time allowed more flexibility to explore. (But this is just a quick shuttle in a boat...not a boat activity, so even a bit of rain wouldn't be a problem.) However, at the end of the drive the vehicle did have to bring us back to the lodge (they couldn't leave it in the Park overnight) so there was still that long drive in the evening.

However, I do believe that the pontoons would be in place until the river starts to flood, and that would be typically in January.

So that's the situation. Given the time of year, and the issues about the roads that may know Chichele out of consideration, I guess I would definitely do some time at Mfuwe Lodge, then consider if you wanted to add a few nights at either Kafunta or Nkwali. That choice would depend on what your preferences are vis a vis a couple nights at Kafunta (screens, electricity, minibar in the room, but a cabin/camp type atmosphere...I can't remember if Kafunta had air conditioning...it might, so check their website at www.luangwa.com) or Nkwali (more elegant rooms but simple, open architecture, beauful soutdoor showers , but no window screens and only fans in the rooms.. Also has that boat shuttle option if the pontoon is not working.)

I think both camps also have archived newsletters posted on their websites (www.luangwa.com and www.robinpopesafaris.com) that provide some color, some typical activities and wildiife sightings by month that may be helpful to your decision.

And thanks for your excellent question...I wouldn't have discovered that issue about Chichele's roads if you hadn't asked this question!
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Sep 30th, 2004, 05:07 AM
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Tashak your descriptions and advice always seemed right on prior to my trip to Zambia and even more so now after my journey. Your comments about birders/guides and guests are particularly on target. My trip perked my interest in this part of the animal world greatly. (Will lead me to buying the best pair of binocs. I can afford -something I would advise all safari travelers)

A pangolin sighting!! First person I recall ever stating they actually have seen one these truly mysterious looking creatures.
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Sep 30th, 2004, 01:04 PM
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GreenDrake,
I loved your reports about your recent trip. Just the thing to get people interested in a trip to Zambia!

Yes that pangolin was quite a treat. We were so lucky to see it...and because it was Zambia (where walking is encouraged), we could hop out of the vehicle and follow it a bit (from a respectful distance) to take photos. It is so rare that guides at other camps were sure I was mistaken...but digital photos proved it!

And you are oh-so-right about good binoculars. They increase enjoyment by so much-- more important than a good camera, I think. Unless you have tried a range of sizes, qualities and brands, it's difficult to understand the difference good optics make. Especially for birds, and in low light. Did you get them before your trip, or are you in the market now and looking forward to your next trip?
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Oct 1st, 2004, 04:28 AM
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Tashak would love to see your pangolin photo. Almost like seeing a photo of "Bigfoot"!!!

Am in the market for a new pair of binocs. Any advice would be welcomed. I own a compact pair of Pentax binocs that I bought specifically to be light weight - something I could carry in my fly-fishing vest. These are what I brought on safari and I soon realized the difference a really good pair of binocs makes.

Several times the guide would point out something in the distance or in the bush and I would try to find it with my binocs to no avail.

I have often fly-fished with guides that have eagle like vision and would point out some small bug 200 yards away and I would learn to just nod my head when they asked me if I saw it - knowing that could scan the scene for 100 years and not see what he was pointing out. Was prepared to do something similar in Zambia until I once borrowed the guides binocs. All the things he pointed out were now clearly visible and I realized it was not so much my eyesight that was causing problems but my "kiddie" binocs.

I now know this is a vital piece of equipment that I will not skimp on in the future. Agree that if I have to make a choice between $$$ for better camera equipment or binocs it will go towards binocs.
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Oct 1st, 2004, 05:09 AM
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Me too me too... I'd love to see a pangolin!
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