Help with safari accomodations

Old Oct 21st, 2005, 09:32 AM
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Oh my God Rocco....your description of Zambia is incredible and thank you so much for sharing your pictures...couldn't help a sneak peak at your animals of all kinds. The idea of canoeing (with crocks????) sounds awesome. We have fed the sharks in the South Pacific and hiked the jungles of Costa Rica and kayaked with whales in Vancouver, (even if we are oldies...60ish)so you have really gotour attention now....NOW we are debating dumping Cape Town and doing Zambia and Sabi....your itinerary, but replacing Cape Town with Sambambili or Dulini...what do ya think?
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Old Oct 22nd, 2005, 04:34 AM
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I'll be in JNB for a short business trip in three weeks. Can anyone provide suggestions for a 3-4 day extension? Safari from Jberg? CapeTown?

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Old Oct 22nd, 2005, 04:37 AM
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After sleeping on it, my husband and I are now wondering if we should go to South Africa at all. It we were going to pick another lodge in Zambia....what do ya think? And do you think we should skip Sabi Sands? Thanks.....
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Old Oct 22nd, 2005, 08:19 AM
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I think a combination of Livingstone, South Luangwa and the Lower Zambezi would be best. Working with your original 10 nights, I would suggest the following:

Royal Livingstone, Victoria Falls (Zambia), 2 nights

Luangwa River Lodge, South Luangwa, 4 nights

Chiawa Camp OR Chongwe River Camp, 4 nights, depending on your budget. Chiawa will be about $475 pp per night and be inside the park, while Chongwe will be about $325 pp per night and be just outside the park but in an awesome area.

Some would suggest finishing with Victoria Falls, but I am suggesting that you start with Victoria Falls so you can get over any jet lag you suffer. It is hard to get over jet lag when you are being awakened at 5:30AM for game drives!

In your limited time, I would not try to force in a third lodge. I think the magnificence of Victoria Falls would be the best option. With two nights there, you will be able to get in a full day of activities, whether it is to go on an elephant back ride, white water rafting, microlighting over the falls or whatever.

Trust me, you would not come home disappointed if you spent all of your time in Zambia. June is not the best time for Cape Town anyway and the amount of money you save by going to Zambia instead of South Africa will be a good start on your savings for your next trip!
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Old Oct 22nd, 2005, 08:30 AM
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And just one other option in case you wanted to stretch your trip a little. Kafunta in South Luangwa is another option. While they are not nearly as luxurious as Luangwa River Lodge, they do enjoy an excellent location and I think you would love their natural hot spring jacuzzi on a cool June night.

The main reason, however, why I would suggest Kafunta is that they have both a 5 night and a 7 night package that combines their two camps. Kafunta River Lodge is their main camp but then they also have Kafunta Island Bush Camp which I absolutely loved. It is possibly the most remotely located camp in South Luangwa and it is primarily for walking safaris.

The 5 night package is 2 nights at the main lodge, 2 nights at Island Bush Camp and then 1 night at the main lodge. It is about a three hour transfer between camps.

The seven night package is 2 at the main camp, 3 at Island Bush Camp and 2 back at the main camp. This would be my choice providing it did not cost me my time in the Lower Zambezi.

It is only $1240 per person for the 5 night package (less than $250 per person per night in HIGH SEASON) and it is $1740 per person for the 7 night package. You would easily spend $1740 per person for just 3 nights in South Africa at the lodges you previously mentioned so it is a great value at Kafunta and in Zambia in general.

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Old Oct 22nd, 2005, 02:24 PM
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Hi Rocco,
Is Victoria Falls like Niagra Falls....yuk...people, people everywhere....It sounds like a plan to recover from jet lag, just concerned about "tourist traps". What can we do there? Will we need a car? Is Kafunta very rustic?....if we do 4 and 4 we do have time...we are teachers, but can we add another five days of getting up at 5 am and seeing animals without being bored or fatigued? Is Chiawa worth the extra cash? Is Luangwa a very busy lodge, you commented it was a busier place I think. Thanks for the advice, again. We are very appreciative of the time you are spending with us. Oh, on one of your threads you were talking about a place called Mombo? Is it a good place?
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Old Oct 22nd, 2005, 03:54 PM
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I visited Victoria Falls in March 2002. My wife and I (along with our guide) spent a couple hours in the park on the Zimbabwe side of the falls. During those two hours, I think we came across only two other groupls, each with three people. Not too bad, seeing one of the Seven Natural Wonders Of The World and only coming across six other people, huh?

Kafunta, while not as luxurious as Puku Ridge or Luangwa River Lodge, is still pretty nice. I consider it possibly the best value for high season lodging in South Luangwa.

Luangwa River Lodge was not busy during my stay. We had the lodge to ourselves the first couple nights and then there was another guest that arrived on our final day. It is the most luxurious lodge that I have yet seen in Zambia. Furthermore, the owners, Barry & Tara, a 32 year old couple, he from England, she from South Africa, personally run the lodge. The hosting, food and accomodations are second to none in Zambia. Also, the lead guide, Victor, is excellent.

As far as Mombo goes, it is reputed to be the best safari camp in the world. However, the best does carry a hefty price tag...$1,200 per person per night no matter what time of year you visit. It is definitely on my list of places I want to visit, but up until now it has been out of my budget. Hopefully next time I am in Southern Africa I will be able to stay 3 or 4 nights at Mombo.

Another interesting itinerary that I personally like is one offered by Kafunta that combines Kafunta River Lodge, Kafunta Island Bush Camp and a visit to North Luangwa National Park at a place called Buffalo Camp. North Luangwa is one of the most exclusive safari experiences possible, with only about 30 beds split between three camps in a park that is six times the size of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa. In comparison, the Sabi Sand has about twenty five lodges and possibly 500 beds, which is about 17 times the amount of concentration.

Here is the itinerary:

North Luangwa is primarily for walking safaris but there are also limited game drives. Imagine being out there with your armed guard and tracking lions on foot!

Plus, I really like the whole overland aspect of this itinerary. Most people that come to Africa on a photosafari never stray more than a few miles from their camp and, as a result, don't end up seeing much of Africa.

One other option that I see for you would be to fly in and out of Lusaka, avoiding South Africa completely. This would work great if you are considering forgoing Cape Town, as you would save a minimum of four hours in each direction by avoiding Joburg. Otherwise, you are flying right past Zambia, only to arrive in Joburg, wait a couple hours for your connecting flight and then turn right around and fly two hours north back to Zambia!

If you did go straight to Lusaka, it would be on a British Airways flight from London. You would more than likely need to spend your final night in Lusaka, but I personally enjoyed Lusaka and had a nice night out on the town, you could say, with my wife. We stayed at the Inter-Continental Lusaka, visited their jewelery store, had a luxury SUV transport us from the hotel to the factory of the jewelery store, I bought my wife a beautiful Emerald ring surrounded with diamonds and then our jeweler ended up suggesting a nice place for us to enjoy dinner and personally took us there. Take a look at my photos from Lusaka:

(copy and paste this, and then follow the next six or seven photos)

While it is not a beautiful city or one that you would even walk around at night, it is a great way to end your safari and get cleaned up before making the journey home. Doesn't hurt to come away with an Emerald either! Just the money that you save by going to Zambia instead of the Sabi Sand will be enough to get you a very impressive piece of jewelery, for sure!

So, if you were to arrive in Lusaka, you would likely be arriving in the morning and then hop right on a connecting flight to either Lower Zambezi (25 minutes away) or South Luangwa (75 minutes away). If you are starting from the USA, you may elect to spend a night or two in London to make the transition easier, otherwise you may suffer from jet lag for the first couple nights in Africa.

Chongwe River Camp or Chiawa??? That is a tough one. I loved Chongwe River Camp and at about $325 per person per night next year it will be one of the best values in Africa. The camp itself is amazing. The only downside is that the game drives seem to mostly take you an hour into the park near Chiawa. While it is a lovely drive, for the first 30 minutes, the land based gameviewing is not as intense as it is around Chiawa. However, for $150 per person per night less, this may be an inconvenience worth enduring. That is up to each individual to decide.

As far as the water based activities go, I see no advantage to being within the park to being outside the park.

Hopefully on MY next visit, I will have enough time to visit each Chongwe AND Chiawa.

Anyway, take a look at my photos and consider my suggested itineraries and let me know what you think. Zambia would be an incredible way to first discover Africa!
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Old Oct 22nd, 2005, 04:49 PM
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I couldn't get into your photo. Could you please post the site again. Thanks.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2005, 05:29 PM
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Try this link, it will be easier:

Lusaka starts on photo #342 and ends on about #349.

Once the photo album loads, it is possible to skip the other photos by scrolling down and seeing all the miniature sized photos.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2005, 09:52 AM
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Hi Rocco, I think we are getting close thanks to you. We are going to see about flying into Lusaka. Going to Livingston for a few nights. I guess the Royal Livingston is the best in your opinion? Then Luangwa River Lodge, Chiawa and then we are confused whether to go to Chongwe or Kafunta. If we go to Kafunta would we be okay just staying at the lodge or should we go to the bush camp? Thanks so much for everything. We still are wondering if we are missing out by skipping Simbambili, but you are right it is dumb to go to Joberg, fly to Sim and pay so much more for a commercial situation. If you could address these last few things I think we are ready to book our vacation.....yeaaaaa
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Old Oct 24th, 2005, 07:39 AM
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My final suggestion would be to do this:

Royal Livingstone (2)
Chongwe or Chiawa (4)
Kafunta River Lodge/Kafunta Island Bush Camp package (5)
Luangwa River Lodge (3)

I would recommend doing the five night package at Kafunta, but would modify it so that you spend your first three nights at Kafunta River Lodge, and your final two nights at Kafunta Island Bush Camp. This works in your case because you would be adding Luangwa River Lodge at the end. Otherwise, if you ended with Island Bush Camp, you would be too far away to catch a transfer out of South Luangwa, but in this case you should be to Luangwa River Lodge by about 2PM, which is perfect.

I suggest you e-mail if you have any questions and I would be most happy to help.
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Old Oct 24th, 2005, 07:41 AM
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By the way, I do think that Kafunta Island Bush Camp is an exceptional experience and I would not miss it. Again, it is possibly in the most isolated part of the park, about three hours south from where the majority of the lodges are located. With a capacity for only six guests, you are sure to have a very exclusive experience. My wife and I were the only guests during our visit, yet we had about six staff members there just to look after us!
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Old Oct 24th, 2005, 08:04 AM
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Stu- Kenya Airways flies to Lusaka from London thru Nairobi. I learned of this on this forum, and was able to get "reasonable" flights on my own thru Expedia and then Kenya Airways directly. Although if you're going to the Falls, this may be moot and others may have better suggestions. Just FWIW!
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Old Oct 24th, 2005, 08:13 AM
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Sorry - I guess that's STRU: I meant to add that I believe the flight on Kenya airways, while not direct, is less expensive than the BA flight. If money isn't an issue, then do your thing! I noticed that you also asked about Vic Falls, and whether it is touristy. If may share my own perspective, I decided ultimately to give Vic Falls a miss for this, my first trip to Africa. I would love to see the falls, but for me, coming to Africa was about being in the bush and seeing wildlife. So I'd urge you to search your own heart, and if you want to see the falls, great. But just because a lot of people go there, doesn't mean it's right for you. Just my 2 pennies worth! Have fun with your planning!
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Old Oct 24th, 2005, 09:35 AM
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Hi Stru,

If you haven't booked yet, you might want to drop an email to Rocco -- he's helped many Fodorites, including me and Cooncat, get great deals on safaris to Zambia.

If you can manage an extra couple of days (like Rocco did with his trip this year), I'd suggest adding a couple of days in the Sabi Sands at the end of your trip -- it's not as remote as Zambia, but the game viewing is spectacular.

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Old Oct 24th, 2005, 10:16 AM
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Wow - I didn't realize that this thread had taken a Zambian turn!

I have to second Julian's comments about Sabi Sands. (Amazing gameviewing with a good chance of seeing the Big 5, lacks the remoteness of Zambia).

Rocco - an update on the Kafunta Island Bush Camp. When they rebuilt it this year, they build 5 chalets... technically big enough for 10 people, but they max out the camp at 8 (as the guide can take a maximum of 8 guests).

Stru - I'm not sure where your thoughts are on the itinerary at the moment, but I thought I'd toss in my two cents as well.... I was at Kafunta Game Lodge, Island Bush Camp and Chongwe in August this year and would be happy to answer any questions you might have.
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Old Oct 24th, 2005, 12:11 PM
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First Rocco,
I can't thank you enough. Now after the last two posts, I am wondering about Vic Falls and Sabi again... Or just more time in Sambia...I can't find any accomodations I like in Livingston that are reasonable and if I have the money to spend maybe Sim or more time in Zam would be the ticket. If I go straight to Zambia would I need to spend a night in Lusaka before I headed to a lodge? I will check how much it would be to go to Sim as a side jaunt, but I really think for the several thousand it would take for the flight and the lodge, my $s might be better spent in Zambia..

Dreaming: Did you think Kafunta and Bush were very rustic accomodation and food wise...I don't need luxury, but Bucket Water???? Also, did you Chongwe as much as Rocco. How many days did you spend at each and how did you fly in and out? Did you spend any nights elsewhere? We are thinking about Rocco's itinerary with or without vic falls....any thoughts?

Cooncat: Thanks so much for your input. Everything is so hopeful. We kinda were thinking the same about Vic Falls, but liked Rocco's idea about catching up on the jet lag before we hit the safaris. Any thoughts on that and perhaps an alternative. I like you flight plans...but I think we will be using frequent flyer points for one of our flights and I am not sure they will do that, but I will try....thanks...If I can save money, I can see more Africa....You guys are all so nice...thanks.
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Old Oct 24th, 2005, 01:07 PM
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I envy all of you with your frequent flyer miles! I used mine up last year going to the Caribbean, not dreaming of this trip....Stru - I've never been to Africa so you have to take my input in the spirit of someone who just wnet thru the whole planning process. I would love to see the falls, dobn't get me wrong. I'm sure they're stunning and going in May and June as I am, they probably would be going really strong. But as a solo traveler, i didn't want to be stuck in a modern hotel by myself on my last night or two in Africa. I thought hanging out by a fire with other Africa-nuts would be more fun! As for the flights - I am pushing straight through to my first camp. I'll be beat, but I wanted to avoid the hassle of spending one night in Lusaka, when I'll be maybe only and hour or a bit more from my first camp. I'll sleep there, if need be! again, good luck! Lots of more experienced folks on this board than me!!
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Old Oct 24th, 2005, 01:22 PM
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Stur - I didn't think that Kafunta Game Lodge or Island Bush camp were all that rustic for food - moussaka, chicken curry, three bean salad, etc. As you might expect, the food at Island Bush Camp was slightly more basic.

Kafunta isn't that rustic for accomodation either. I've got some photos of the accomodations - Try this link:

Kafunta accomodation photos should be #41 - 44.

Island Bush camp is fairly rustic - photos 87 - 93. There is a photo of the bucket shower as seen from outside. The bucket shower really wasn't a problem at all - just have to conserve so that you don't run out mid-shower. And they bring you heated water in the morning.

My trip was:
Cape Town (3)
JNB Airport Hotel (1)
Kafunta Lodge & Island Bush Camp (3/2) - this was the five night package Rocco mentioned.
Jo'burg (1)

I flew into JNB then on to Cape Town. Back to JNB just for the night. JNB to Lusaka to Mfuwe, then Mfuwe to Lusaka to Lower Zambezi. Then LZ to Lusaka and back to JNB.

I didn't go to Vic Falls on this trip, I've been there several times before and decided to not go this time.... However, I'm one of the people who loves Vic Falls, so I can't really help with that decision.

I did like Chongwe a lot.... maybe not as high on my list as Rocco's. Of course, my favorite lodge so far has been Island Bush Camp, bucket shower and all!

Chongwe is in a beautiful location, nice people, wonderful open air bathrooms and a neighborhood elephant! The two guides I had, John and George, were really good. It was a little chaotic for activities while I was there, but other people's trip reports haven't reflected the same issues I had.

Let me know if you have any other questions.
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Old Oct 25th, 2005, 01:14 AM
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Thanks for the kind words.

While I do agree that the Sabi Sands is a lot of fun, for a short visit the costs due tend to mount up quickly as they did for my short 3 night stay in the Sabi Sand last month.

For example, a flight from Joburg to KMIA is about $375pp. Next, the road or light air transfer to whatever game lodge is about $250pp. That is $625pp just to get there.

Next, for the game lodges that Stru_lgr was interested in, the average cost is probably about $675pp per night sharing. For a three night stay at a Dulini or Bateleur, the costs are $2,025pp + $625 for the transfers from Joburg. Plus add in another flight from Lusaka to Joburg for about $375pp and now a person is facing $3,000pp to combine a Zambian safari with a Sabi Sand safari. $6,000 total for a 3 night stay and this is not even for the very top lodges.

Meanwhile, how far will $6,000 go in Zambia for a 2006 high season safari???

Lusaka - Mfuwe = $300pp roundtrip
Lusaka - Lower Zambezi = $200pp r/t
Kafunta 5 night package = $1,240pp
Chongwe 4 night stay = $1,300pp (I am estimating $325 per night although it was only $285 pppns in 2005 high season)

Total 9 night Zambian safari = $3,040pp = $6,080 USD

9 nights in Zambia for the price of 3 nights in the Sabi Sand.

Add in a r/t flight from Lusaka to Livingstone and 2 nights at the Royal Livingstone for about $550pp and there is an entire 11 night luxury Zambian safari and Victoria Falls visit for about $7,180 USD total.

A couple nights at Luangwa River Lodge would just be icing on the cake and would add about $800pp, for a total
of $8,780 for the following itinerary:

Royal Livingstone, Victoria Falls (2)
Kafunta River Lodge (3)
Kafunta Island Bush Camp (2)
Luangwa River Lodge (2)
Chongwe River Camp (4)

What it works out to is a mere $675 per night for a high season safari in some great camps/lodges. The only additional charges would be the international flights.

Although I enjoy the Sabi Sand, given the cost to get there from Joburg, I don't know if I would go again unless I was planning on spending at least six nights there. And as a point of reference it as much or more for six nights in the Sabi Sand as it is for the 13 night Zambian itinerary I mentioned above.

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