JNB - Mufuwe flights - aarrrgh!!! help!

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Apr 13th, 2004, 11:06 PM
  #1
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JNB - Mufuwe flights - aarrrgh!!! help!

Hi All,

Long time no type, I know. After our fabulous trip to RSA last year we have been bitten by the proverbial "Africa" bug, and are heading back again in October. On the agenda this year - 21 days again, but 7-10 in Zambia on safari, then 4 in the winelands and 7 in Cape Town.

The problem with this lovely itinerary is getting from JNB - Mfuwe, affordably. We get in on Oct 13 at 8:55 am. Zambian Air has the best deals from Livingstone, but they only go on Wednesdays and return on Thursdays - and the flight leaves at 10:20 am, which does not give us time to get from JNB-Livingstone. But, they are cheap - 190PP each way Livingstone - Mfuwe. They insist that the only schedule they have for the time being (and Oct) is this one, despite the fact that the Zambian Tourism site says they do this 10 times a week in season.

We are not looking at a well prices SAA flight from JNB- Lusaka, but that leaves at 6 pm, gets in at 8, (so stay somewhere) and then the next day we have to try and get to Mfuwe.

Any ideas would be great as the charter companies are slow to reply and the conflicting info such as "Mfuwe is now considered an international airport, and flights from outside Zambia no longer have to go through Lusaka) are driving me nuts. So far I have found no one who flies from JNB to Mufuwe.

Thanks all!!

PS - We are booking Atholl House in Camps Bay - anyone have experience with this? It looks amazing, and they have been really great to work with. Plus they are significantly cheaper than atlanticview, for the same Luxury rating on Portfolio.
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Apr 14th, 2004, 01:26 AM
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melissaom,

Have you tried flying into Lilongwe and transferring from there?

Also, this is probably not what you want to hear, but you may just want to bite the bullet and pay whatever rate you need to, in order to get to Mfuwe on the same day. By being a smart consumer, you will be able to get excellent rates at the lodges, and it would be such a waste to lose a night in Lusaka or Livingstone, unless you want to stay in Livingstone for a night or two to see Victoria Falls.

Here are the rates that I am paying Star Of Africa:

Description/Activities
4 nights @ Kulefu Tented Camp 2 persons @ 193.00 = 1,544.00

2 nights @ Puku Ridge 2 persons @ 200.00 = 800.00

1 night @ Chichele 2 persons @ 200.00 = 400.00

Flights: Lusaka/Jeki/Lusaka 2 persons @ 200.00 = 400.00

Flights: Lusaka/Mfuwe/Lusaka 2 persons @ 300.00 = 600.00

(Return Flights)
-------------------------------------------------------------------

With the above rates possible, at least in early June, I would think that you would be able to negotiate some pretty good rates by mid-October, as well. Do keep in mind that if you stay at a quality lodge, they will most likely be including your road transfers and your (alcoholic) drinks, meaning that you will likely spend less at a South Luangwa lodge than at a typical South African lodge. Oh, and sorry, but there are no massages or bush spas to waste money on in South Luangwa, meaning that the visitors of South Luangwa will be busy on bushwalks, morning game drives and night game drives instead of doing things that have no place while on safari (although I have been guilty of such indulgences while in the Sabi Sand).

I do think that it will be easiest to fly into either Lusaka or Lilongwe and then transfer to Mfuwe, since the transfer from Livingstone to Mfuwe is VERY expensive.

If you happen to be flying on SAA using frequent flier miles, it is possible to get a free add-on round trip flight from Johannesburg to Lusaka (that's how I am getting to Lusaka from JNB).

The only downside about South Luangwa is the expensive air to get there. Honestly, although I haggle about a lot of prices, this is one animal that I have never tried to take on. I believe doing so would be futile and counterproductive. Instead, just rejoice in the excellent pricing available at even the best game lodges and do whatever you can to get there on the same day, even if it is a couple hundred dollars more than you think is fair.

I would love to hear a report from South Luangwa for mid-October. I'll be there in just over six weeks, the same time that I visited last year.

Here are a couple Zambian flight schedules that you may have already seen that may or may not benefit you:

http://www.star-of-africa.com/pdffiles/zflights.pdf

http://www.ulendosafaris.com/aircharter.htm

Lastly, you may just be able to find a great package deal, such as this one offered by www.voyagerszambia.com. I would have posted a link but there was not one available, so I will cut and paste, instead:

UPMARKET TOUR
QUOTE BASED ON MIN 12 PAX TRAVELLING

USD880.00 Per person sharing and USD916.50 single MFUWE LODGE
BOOKING CODE ?MFL5DA

Package includes return air flight to Lusaka, accommodation for 5 nights on full board basis, return road transfers from Mfuwe airport/Mfuwe lodge, game activities and walking safari, Excludes bar and park fees

Day 1 Air transfer from Lusaka to South Luangwa on arrival at Mfuwe airport you will be met by a representative from Mfuwe Lodge who will transfer you to the lodge. After a sumptuous tea you will depart on the Famous Luangwa Night Drive taking in the last of the daytime animals and the beginning of the nocturnal. Return to the lodge for dinner overlooking the banks of the Luangwa River. You will spend 1 night at Mfuwe lodge on a fully inclusive basis

Day 2 You will be transferred to your first walking safari camp, Kuyenda Bushcamp, and have a full day game viewing on foot and by open vehicle, a fantastic area for game and birdlife. You will spend your day exploring and learning about the bush, and return to the camp at dusk to enjoy a sundowner and a well-prepared dinner before you settle in to the sounds of the African night. You will spend 2 nights at Kuyenda bush camp on a full board basis

Day 4 You will set off early in the morning and walk to Chamilandu Bushcamp where you will arrive in time for a hearty lunch. Chamilandu is set in a wilderness area with both walking and game drives. The camp is located on the banks of the Luangwa River with spectacular views of the Nchendeni Hills. You will spend the whole day of discovery in and around Chamilandu Bush camp. Nature has marvelous healing qualities; some call it ?wilderness therapy?. You will eat under the stars and the noises of the African night. The security of an expert naturalist and armed guard dramatically heightens the senses and creates exciting experiences not possible in a vehicle. You will enjoy 1 night at Chamilandu bush camp on a fully board basis

Day 5 A transfer back to Mfuwe Lodge for your last night on a full board basis

Day 6 Transfer to Mfuwe airport for flight to Lusaka

----------------------------------------------------------------------

This looks like it could be a great and inexpensive trip to South Luangwa, if you were to add a night at the beginning at Mfuwe Lodge, add a night at Kuyenda, and a night at the end at Mfuwe Lodge. You would be left with an eight night itinerary of Mfuwe Lodge (2), Kuyenda (2), Chamilandu (2) and a return to Mfuwe Lodge (2). The five night package is only $880 USD per person + $100 park fees ($20 per day)(averaging out to $196 per person per day sharing). I would think that the additional nights may take this to a total of about $1,550 per person sharing, and that would include your air from Lusaka. Your air from Johannesburg should not be more than $450 per person, meaning that you could have an eight night Zambian safari at the end of high season for a total of $2,000 per person sharing.

Mfuwe Lodge is a very nice looking place that usually goes for over $600 per night, and the two bush camps also look great.

However, if you can get the same deal that I did, you will still make out better since for $2,400 per person sharing it may be possible for seven nights in South Luangwa and four nights in Lower Zambezi, although you will probably need to add another $350 per person for the JNB-Lusaka flight. Still, at $2,750 per person for an eleven night safari to Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa National Park, you would be getting the deal of a lifetime. It works out exactly to $250 per person per night including air and road transfers starting and ending in JNB.

Just in case you haven't seen it (I realize you've been away for awhile), here is my complete itinerary:

Day 1 - Morning arrival to Joburg. Transfer on SAA airways to Lusaka. 1PM? flight from Lusaka to Jeki (Lower Zambezi NP). Transfer to Kulefu Tented Camp, 4 nights.

Day 2 - Kulefu

Day 3 - Kulefu

Day 4 - Kulefu

Day 5 - Transfer to Lusaka. Connect to Mfuwe (South Luangwa NP). Transfer to Kaingo in the Nsefu Sector (northern part of South Luangwa) for two nights.

Day 6 - Kaingo.

Day 7 - 3 hour bushwalk to Mwamba (Kaingo's Bushcamp), 2 nights.

Day 8 - Mwamba.

Day 9 - 2 hour road transfer to Mfuwe Sector part of park to Puku Ridge, 2 nights.

Day 10 - Puku Ridge.

Day 11 - 2 hour? bushwalk to Chichele Presidential Lodge for final night.

I do think that by committing to seven nights at Star Of Africa's properties, that I did get some very good pricing. I actually originally committed to 10 nights but they did not have vacancy for certain night so I gladly used the opportunity to book a few nights with Kaingo.

However, there are so many great looking lodges in South Luangwa, made all the more attractive by the natural beauty of the South Luangwa. I would be happy with 10 different camps/lodges in the South Luangwa, so you should be able to find the right place at the right price.

Then again, you may want to limit your time in South Luangwa to 5 or 6 nights and add some time in Lower Zambezi National Park to enjoy the incredible Zambezi River and the quality game viewing said to exist in the area (supposedly rich in leopards and lions).

I will say that I am getting my entire 11 night Zambian safari for $220 per person per night sharing, including my transfers from Lusaka - Lower Zambezi (Jeki) and from Lusaka - South Luangwa (Mfuwe). Really, I don't know where else in Southern or Eastern Africa that I could get such incredible prices for top game lodges.

Do not hesitate to contact the lodges directly. For sure, Star Of Africa, Kaingo and even Robin Pope Safaris will give you a rate below rack rates if you negotiate.

Hopefully I didn't confuse you further with this post. I have just studied Zambia and its lodges for the last 15 months, and there is just so much to share on the subject (and frankly I am excited to be able to share it with someone that is still in the planning stage).

Time to roll up your sleeves and get to work!
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Apr 14th, 2004, 01:41 AM
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Melissaom,

Can I be reimbursed about one hours worth of sleep? Thanks!
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Apr 14th, 2004, 02:07 AM
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Hi Rocco,

Thanks for your post. If you had to choose between Puku Ridge and Chichele, which would it be?

Flying to Lilongwe is about double the cost of Lusaka. What is annoying is there is a very affordable ($190pp/each way) transfer with Zambian Airlines, but we can only see that they do it once a week, as I stated.

I have written Ulendo but not heard back yet. Keeping my fingers crossed!

Will definitely post a trip log when we return and can't wait to see yours! Apparently October is hot, but from all sources the best month for seeing lots and lots of game. (Plus then we have great weather down on the cape).

Was not planning on adding the lower zambezi because of the additional airfare and also I am not sure my husband can handle 11 days on safari. Is it really worth it?

This airfare thing is driving me nuts
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Apr 14th, 2004, 10:26 AM
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Melissaom,

If I had to choose between Puku Ridge and Chichele Presidential Lodge, I would go with Puku Ridge for a couple reasons.

First of all Puku Ridge only has twelve beds (six luxury tents) while Chichele has the capacity for twenty ("10 elegant Victorian style lodges are built along the edge of the hillside, each giving guests a private panoramic view.") Puku Ridge just has more of an African look to it.

Second, if you change your mind later on, you will have a better chance of availability at Chichele since it has a higher capacity, while if you book Chichele and then decide you want Puku Ridge, you may find it unavailable.

However, I do strongly suggest that you do NOT spend all of your time in a single lodge and Puku Ridge and Chichele are too close in proximity to each other to really get any variation in game experience.

I strongly suggest that you also spend some time at a quality lodge that is located against the Luangwa River. Tena Tena may be the very best one, with Robin Pope Safaris, but if that is out of your budget, select another one in the Nsefu Sector along the river, whether Kaingo (I am getting Kaingo for $140 per person per night, all inclusive) or another.

I, personally, would spend about three nights at Puku Ridge, three at Kaingo and then 2 nights at a Bush Camp such as Mwamba (again, only $140 per person per night; this is Kaingo's bushcamp).

If you can get Kaingo/Mwamba at the same price and Puku Ridge at even $250 per person per night, you are only looking at $1,500 for Puku Ridge, plus $1,400 for Kaingo/Mwamba. Even by the time you throw in your transfers from Joburg, you are probably looking at a maximum of $4,000 for a very nice 8 night itinerary that will provide you with the very best variation possible in the South Luangwa (spending time in both the Mfuwe Sector at Puku Ridge, and time in the Nsefu Sector at Kaingo and Mwamba).

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Apr 14th, 2004, 10:07 PM
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Thanks for your reply.

We will be at another lodge besides Chichele/Puku for 4 days as well. I like the luxury tent concept, as that is what we had at Witwater last year which was amazing.

What is steering me towards Chichele is that they have airconditioning. I know this sounds silly - but I keep hearing the it is scorching in October, and that might be welcome after staying a losge that doesn't have it.

Anybody out there ever stay at Chichele or Puku Ridge?

By the way, your message about adding the JNB-Lusaka to our inbound flight (we are also flying with miles) is a winner!!!!! Looks like we will be able to do it by changing our departure date a day early.

Now I just have to hope that start of africa can pick us up in Lusaka - all the Zambian Air flughts leave before we get there (both coming and going) which means we might have to waste a day in Lusaka coming and going.

Just a question - the difference in accomodations (and probably food), seems quite large between Kaingo/Mwamba and the star of africa properties. Is the good game viewing and fab guide what swung you to spend time there as well? Or was it something else. Although you got better prices at Kaingo, I assume that is not the whole story. It seems like a more "authentic" safari experience.

My husband and I originally wanted to hire a guide and a cook and a truck and wander all over, but then I started to wonder when I would be able to get a shower and after a week a real bed might be nice. But Zambia seems to offer great safari experiences without breaking the bank and making you feel like you are staying at a hilton near the zoo.
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Apr 14th, 2004, 10:42 PM
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Melissaom,

Glad I was able to help you find a "FREE" flight to Lusaka!

(There really is no substitute for experience, but I am partially indebted to www.awardplanner.com for helping me get both my air from London - Johannesburg and then from JNB - Lusaka).

About my choice of lodges, I really enjoyed myself at Kafunta last year, but being naturally curious, I wanted to experience a similar camp in the Nsefu Sector (northern part) of South Luangwa.

Derek Shenton, the owner of Kaingo, has an excellent reputation and is a 3rd generation guide/ranger in the South Luangwa. Plus, he seems like a pretty down to earth guy and very active in the operation of Kaingo.

While the rooms at Kaingo do not appeal to me much (made of brick with thatched roofs), they do offer sweeping views of the Luangwa River and I will be staying in the honeymoon suite, with heated jacuzzi for only $20 per night extra. The heated jacuzzi will be awesome in early June when it should dip in the low 50's at night (cold but not intolerable). However, I imagine that the jacuzzi could also be invaluable in mid-October, so long as it is not heated and is instead used as a plunge pool, after a long hot day.

FYI, Kafunta does have both a swimming pool and a natural hot spring jacuzzi that is as good as any jacuzzi, and the views from the pool and jacuzzi are amazing. One day I just lazed around the pool and jacuzzi and watched the baboons, antelopes, occasional elephants, occasional giraffes and numerous storks in the plains below.

If Kafunta had better food and just slightly better housekeeping, it would probably be considered amongst the best in the South Luangwa. However, these shortcomings did make me want to look elsewhere.

Plus, the fact that Kaingo and Star Of Africa are willing to deal directly with the customer while Kafunta is not, also played a major role in it. I mean, by the time you include drinks, I am paying LESS for Chichele Presidential Lodge and Puku Ridge this year than I did for Kafunta LAST year. I just don't see where Kafunta is worth anymore than Kaingo.

Really, although I didn't originally plan to stay at Chichele, I am happy that I am staying my final night there. Being more like a hotel atmosphere, it should offer a very nice final night of rest and relaxation before enduring the 33+ hour transfer home.

So, which mystery lodge are you staying at besides Puku Ridge or Chichele???
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Apr 15th, 2004, 12:39 AM
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Melissa,

I found these high resolution photos of a few of the lodges and bush camps around South Luangwa, including Kaingo and Mwamba.


BUSH CAMPS (cut and paste)

http://images.google.com/imgres?imgu...UTF-8%26sa%3DG


PERMANENT LODGES

http://images.google.com/imgres?imgu...UTF-8%26sa%3DG


While Mwamba is nowhere near as nice in appearance as Tena Tena and Kaingo does not appear as nice as Nkwali or Puku Ridge/Chichele (not pictured), I do see that the facilities at Kaingo and Mwamba are excellent, with an elephant hide, a hippo hide and the jacuzzi for the honeymoon suite. I do know that I will be spending very few non-sleeping hours in my room, although that sounds cliche and is often used to justify buying the worst cabin on a cruise, it is mostly true, and I mostly like what I see at Kaingo and Mwamba.

Of course, Puku Ridge and Chichele are just something else in terms of appearance and decor. However, as much as I am concerned about the accomodations at Kaingo (a very little bit), I am honestly much more concerned whether or not my game experience at Puku Ridge/Chichele will come close to my game experience at Kaingo/Mwamba. That is why it is good to mix and match and not always go with the best looking camps, but also taking into consideration other intagibles.
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