More Zambia !-June/July -Assistance Pls!

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Nov 6th, 2005, 11:12 AM
  #1
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More Zambia !-June/July -Assistance Pls!

My husband and I are planning a trip to next Africa for sometime between the last week in June through early July (14 days roundtrip. Read Dennis' trip report (and Rocco's) and it further confirmed my feeling that Zambia will be an amazing choice! We don't have leeway to choose another time to travel and I am not certain if Zambia is the best choice for this time (as much as would love to go!) Has anyone worked with Geographic Expeditions on a trip to Africa? They helped with a trip to Tibet in September but not sure of the African expertise and I know they don't send many people to Zambia although they recommended it based on our interests (day and night drives, walking safaris, maybe canoeing, wanting to be more private without a lot of people).

GeoEx sent me the following itinerary which is standard for them in Zambia. (it is not a group trip, just what they recommend) I am not certain of whether the itinerary makes sense given the time of year and whether the accomodations will be the best choice also for the time of year. While Zambia is a top choice we would consider other countries if the time of year isn't the greatest.

Would appreciate any recommendations or referrals to other groups that can help put together the trip with us. The itinerary is for 16 days so I would have to cut out somewhere.

- Days 1&2: fly from USA to Johannesburg

- Day 3: fly to Livingstone. Transfer to Tongabezi

- Day 4: Victoria Falls & Environs (Tongabezi)

- Day 5: Fly to Kafue. Game Drive Transfer to Busanga Bush Camp

- Day 6: Busanga Plains. (Busanga Bush Camp)

- Day 7: Drive to Lunga River. Game drive transfer to Lunga River Lodge, Kafue Nat'l Park

- Day 8: Lunga River. Walking safaris, day & night drives. (Lunga River Lodge)

- Day 9: Fly to Mfuwe via Lusaka to So. Luangwa Valley. Nsefu Lodge

- Days 10 & 11. Luangwa National Park. Walking safaris, day and night drives. Nsefu Lodge

- Day 12: fly to Lower Zambezi and Chiawa.

- Days 13 & 14: Lower Zambezi (game drives, canoeing, etc.) Chiawa.

- Day 15 - fly to Livingston and onward.


Again any thoughts would be appreciated. This seems like an awful lot of movement to me and we have never been to Africa before. Some of the places to stay I have seen mentioned before, such as Chiawa. Not sure of Nsefu vs. Tena Tena or whether Busanga Bush Camp is not such a good idea. The description from GeoEx says the en suite bathroom is "under an open sky."

Thanks in advance!
Lauren
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Nov 6th, 2005, 12:12 PM
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Laurenaf,

I do think that it is great that you want to see so much of Zambia in such a short time. However, I do think that from a gameviewing perspective, that Kafue will not measure up to South Luangwa and that you may be spending too much time transferring between parks.

Just another suggestion, but something like this would also work out well:

Tongabezi or Royal Livingstone (2)
Royal Livingstone is the closest of any luxury accomodation to the falls, but Tongabezi will have more of an Africa feel to it while Royal Livingstone is more of a luxury colonial type place.

Kaingo or Tafika, South Luangwa (3)
These would be in place of Nsefu. Kaingo is a wonderful lodge that puts a real emphasis on the gameviewing experience, offering THREE game activities per day and really has very good gameviewing right from camp where you literally look down onto large hippo pods and crocodiles in the Luangwa River. Plus the guiding at Kaingo is fantastic.

Tafika, on the other hand, is the only place I know of out of any photosafari lodge/camp in Africa, where it is possible to go microlighting. I have never done this before, but it is like a hangglider with an engine and the owner, John Coppinger, takes his guests up for 15-20 minute flights over the wildlife. I have seen many people say this was one of the highlights of their safari.

www.kaingo.com
www.remoteafrica.com

Next, I would suggest a place in the Mfuwe area of the park.

Luangwa River Lodge (3)

You will not find a more luxurious lodge than LRL, yet the luxury does nothing to take away from your Zambian experience. Barry & Tara are a hard act to beat and they get it right in every single respect from the food, to the game drives, to the staff to the accomodations. Most owner operated lodges are very good but I have not come across a better owner operated lodge yet than Luangwa River Lodge.

From here, I would suggest finishing with the Lower Zambezi. This is truly a beautiful park and by going in late June/early July you will see it in all its beauty before it gets too dry.

I, too, would recommend Chiawa Camp over all others. I suggest 4 nights, but if you do stay a fifth night, you do get about a 15% discount over your entire stay. Therefore, a 5 night stay is only a little bit more than a 4 night stay.

This would be the itinerary that I, personally, would suggest:

Royal Livingstone, Victoria Falls (2)
Kaingo, South Luangwa (3)
Luangwa River Lodge, South Luangwa (3)
Chiawa, Lower Zambezi (4 or 5)

Also, be careful with bigger tour operators like GeoEx. While they have beautiful brochures, they end up using the same ground operators as the smaller operators. With a smaller operator, you will be able to get a much better price and exactly the same final product. Moreover, with a smaller operator, I believe that you have a better likelihood of dealing with an individual agent that really knows the area rather than an agent who may have crammed in a visit to Zambia and every other African wildlife country.

If you are not 100% insistent on going to Kafue, I suggest saving it for another time. Your best gameviewing will take place in South Luangwa and the beauty of the Lower Zambezi in June/July is indescribable. As Dennis mentioned in his trip report, and as I saw during my own recent trip, the nights are fireflies, lions roaring, hippos grunting and you will have the advantage of being there before it gets too dusty and this will translate into millions of stars in crystal clear skies.

I just wouldn't send a client on such a fragmented itinerary but would rather they really be allowed to settle into a particular area to really absorb all of its wonders. With the timeframe that you are working with, I cannot imagine a better itinerary than the one I suggested above.
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Nov 6th, 2005, 12:14 PM
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GeoEx is a fine company & does many "specialized" trips in other parts of the world (particularly in Asia, they do things that one could not otherside arrange) BUT their experience is Zambia is less than many specialized travel agents...and less than many individuals on this board. You are correct, this is a pretty "standard" itinerary and also correct, in that this itinerary has a fair amount of jumping around, though it does have the advantage of sampling the 4 major parks in Zambia (Vic Falls/Livingstone area, Kafue, S. Luangwa and Lower Zam). If you feel that now, you will definitely feel that way once you are there. The beauty of Zambia unfolds more slowly than some destinations, and deserves more time per stop. The alternative would be to drop one of the three regions, and spend some extra time in the other two. You have plenty of time for Vic Falls, Livingstone, so do not add the extra days there. The one place you should NOT drop is South Luangwa...it deserves more time in a first trip to Zambia.

BTW, June/July is an excellent time to visit this area. And both Nsefu & Tena Tena are good choices & I've had excellent experiences at both. Since most camps/lodges in Zambia are not tented, I think I'd recommend Tena Tena, as it is a tented camp, and that is a nice variation on the other places you will stay. (And an excellent choice in any case.)

As is sound like you are in the SF Bay area, I would highly recommend Next Adventure in Berkeley, a small but extremely specialized agency that focuses only on Africa. They provided me with excellent advice & services when I began my travels in Zambia (and indeed, for trips all over Africa)-- highly personalized service for custom trips (as you are planning) and I think you will find their prices lower than Geo Ex and many of the larger agencies. Also more responsive, attentive service.

Yes, you can try to arrange things on your own (as many people on this board do), but many of the outfitters there will not deal direct (Tena Tena or Nsefu, for example) and most will not discount during high season (when you are contemplating) even if you deal direct...so why go thru the time & hassle? Especially for a first trip, the services of a good travel agent are valuable. (And this DOES take alot of time to do well. Many people here actually LOVE that part of arranging & planning a trip...but I don't.)

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Nov 6th, 2005, 12:17 PM
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I don't know about that time of the year in Zambia, but it seems like with this itinerary you are doing an awful lot of flying, which takes up the better part of a day. The internal airlines are not always on time and we were delayed several times on our trip. I'd suggest fewer camps and less travel for the number of days you'll be there. the under the open sky en-suite is actually quite cool, especially when the elephants peek over the fence! i'm seriously considering going back in april for the emerald season. Zambia was great!
Dennis
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Nov 6th, 2005, 01:49 PM
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I don't get involved often with this itinerary stuff, but my football teams are not even rated or worth watching, so I would like to pitch my opinion.

Consider something along these lines

Lusaka
fly to
Shiwa Ngandu- 1 nite
fly or drive
North Luangwa-Kutendala is 6 beds only
bushwalking mostly-rhino here,
4nites
Fly to South Luangwa
South Luangwa-5 nites
fly
Livingstone

I like the drive from North Luangwa to South Luangwa. about 8-10 hours. Includes crossing through/not over the river. In June the river is still a little high, but would give a story. I like this as it gives the river crossing, going through villages, and plain a different perspective then flying from place to place. But that can be a little tiring for most people, if you don't overnite at like Luambe NP.
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Nov 6th, 2005, 01:54 PM
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Laurenaf,

That's a good time to be in Zambia and I've picked that time frame for travel to Zambia. Usually June-October is considered high season with good viewing and higher prices to match. Aug-Sept or Oct produces the most wildlife sightings as a rule due animals concentrating around scare water sources. But it starts getting really hot for walking so your time is fine.

I'd cut Kafue based on both your days available and the time of year. Kafue is known for its wide range of interesting antelope species but they are best viewed later in the season, such as Sept or Oct. In July when I was there, there were small herds visible at a distance. So a Kafue visit would not be great timing. Also to fully appreciate Busanga Plains, you really need a three night stay and your itinerary has two.

With 14 days total, Vic Falls, South Luangwa, and Lower Zambezi would be a great combo.

In the Lower Zambezi I really enjoyed the all-day canoe transfer on the Chifungulu Channel from Sausage Tree Camp to Old Mondoro Bush Camp. A recent post mentioned that Sept was too hot to spend much time on that channel in a canoe so that's a point in favor of an earlier trip, like yours.

I'm sure a company with such a good rep as Geographic Expeditions would do a fine job of providing services. But has been mentioned, Africa is not their main focus.

I'd check with some agents that specialize in Africa and get their recommendations. You can always still go with GeoEx.

Please keep us posted with your trip development.
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Nov 6th, 2005, 02:05 PM
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Your itinerary does not include the South Luangwa National Park. This is the first park I would visit and I agree with Rocco on Kaingo -- it was a great camp and the area was wonderful for game. I had considered Kafue but could not really afford not just monetarily but timewise to fly there also. It takes close to a day to fly from one park to another because you have to go through Lusaka -- or do a charter flight for just your group. There are not as many camps to choose from in Kafue -- tourism is not as developed there as it is in the Lower Zambezi and the South Luangwa.
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Nov 6th, 2005, 05:21 PM
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Thanks to everyone for the speedy and informative replies. I feel much more comfortable that you have confirmed my instinct that this was too much running around and not enough time just absorbing and "being" in each location.

I will check out websites for the other alternatives mentioned for accomdations and remain focused on the Vic Falls, South Luangwa, Lower Zambezi itinerary. That really makes the most sense and sounds terrific. BTW- GeoEx was amazing and personable in help planning my recent trip to Tibet which is why I wanted to contact them first. The person I spoke with regarding Zambia LOVES Zambia and is knowledgable but my preference is really to work with a company that does lots of business in the area. It also worried me that their itinerary was well thought out for me.

I prefer not to do the planning myself. I am actually based in the NY-Area but certainly will contact Next Adventure in SF. Thanks for that tip and any other suggestions of travel agents.

The quote given to me by GeoEx was $5,495 through June 30th and then $5,995 from July 1. As there was so much flying around, internal air was expensive at $1,408. For 16 days including medical/evacuation/accident insurance-assistance - how does the $5,995 stack up to all of you based on what they suggested. I am trying to figure out what to expect and what the trip should cost. I know that this will not be inexpensive but any $ to be saved will make it easier in getting my DH to disconnect from his office for two weeks.

That actually leads me to my next ? - as much as my husband wants this adventure, it is very difficult for him to leave his business for such a long time without being able to communicate via e-mail a few times. (this is one of the reasons we are traveling over the July 4th holiday). Is there e-mail access in any of the places I am looking at?

Thanks again for all the help. It makes such a difference!
Lauren
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Nov 6th, 2005, 05:52 PM
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Assuming airfare to Zambia is not included, it is a reasonable quote for 16 nights on safari. We were on safari for 13 nights and spent approximately 5,000 per person internal airfare included -- it was about 600 each but we could have done it for 450 or so each had we chosen to.

Luangwa River Lodge -- and you can find them on the internet at www.luangwariverlodge.com is on main power and probably would let you check the internet -- you can contact Barry and Tara directly there. They are really nice people with a lodge several of us have visited and really enjoyed.

Are you interested in water activities such as canoeing and fishing for Tiger Fish. If you are, then staying at Kasaka or Chongwe at the Lower Zambezi would be good and save a little money as they are not located in the park. However, the game drives are longer and more tiring as it takes about a half hour to get to the entrance of the park and another half hour to get to where the game usually is. So if you are not interested in water sports you may want to try Chiawa or Sausage Tree as they are located in the park.

I found 13 days to be a lot of time sitting in a vehicle -- I probably would have felt that 10 or 11 was oerfect. However, there are others that would prefer longer. The time of year you are going is not so hot -- you could mix it up with walking whic gives a completely different perspective.
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Nov 6th, 2005, 06:17 PM
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if you have the choice between kasaka and chongwe, go with chongwe. their "tents" are right at waters edge. kasaka's are set back quite a bit from the water. chongwe was a magical place, the activities were excellent, and the staff exceptional. my only complaint was not as much game as south luangwa, especially on night drives which were my favorite! they don't have email access though.
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Nov 6th, 2005, 06:33 PM
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Laurenaf,

Feel free to e-mail me for some suggestions on your upcoming trip.

I know that if you work this out properly that you will be able to stay at the very best lodges for the ground prices you mentioned, but INCLUDING your internal flights.
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Nov 6th, 2005, 06:42 PM
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Hi, just checked out website for Luangwa River Lodge and it looks spectacular. I have read the good reviews from those posting here and it's a good choice for us. (Will check out the internet access directly). In the Lower Zambezi, Chiawa seems right for us. We want to be able to canoe, have a river safari, bush walks, etc and Chiawa fits the bill. Also, staying in the tent lets us have the fun of a mix of accomodations to try out on the trip.

Rocco - not sure of why we would select Kaingo or Tafika over Nsefu or even Tena Tena?

thanks for all, lauren
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Nov 6th, 2005, 06:56 PM
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For internet access, you can go to Flatdogs in South Luangwa-www.campafrica.com
In Livingstone-there are a few internet shops in town if your accomodations aren't hooked in.
In Lusaka, there is the several places. But the internet provider for Zambia is in the yellow pages, and open M-Sat south of city center on Cairo Rd-Kafue Rd.. One shop is also at the mall in Manda Hill shopping center which is on the way out to the airport from city center. If you also decided to go to Shiwa Ngandu, they have internet. And if you also decided to go into North Luangwa Nat'l Pk and stayed at Buffalo Camp when Mark Harvey was there, he has Bushmail(hf radio from Pretoria) where he receives email. He has received mail for others and then can send also. Can't help with Lower Zambezi.

These should be more than adequate I should think to put your husbands worries about contact with the rest of the world.
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Nov 6th, 2005, 07:07 PM
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Rocco - If you can get them 16 nights at the aforementioned camps in high season I wil eat my hat...... My total is more in the $7,000 -plus range, and that's with some nights in May.

Peace,
cooncat
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Nov 6th, 2005, 07:09 PM
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Laurenaf,

My experience has been that owner operated lodges are usually better than non-owner operated lodges. There is a 95% chance that Derek and Jules Shenton will be present at Kaingo and the same for John and Carol Coppinger at Tafika. Plus, if you look at a map, Kaingo and Tafika put you further north into the park into the most remote areas.

Really, the only reason you have first heard of Nsefu and Tena Tena is because Robin Pope Safaris puts its strongest emphasis on marketing. Kaingo, on the other hand, puts its strongest emphasis on its guiding and game activities, relying largely on word of mouth from its past guests.

This is not to say that Nsefu and Tena Tena are not very good camps, just that there are other options that may be in a position to offer just as good, if not a a better, safari experience.
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Nov 6th, 2005, 07:14 PM
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cooncat,

They have a total of 12 nights on the itinerary that I read. I can get them into the finest places including air for the same or less than their reported ground price with GeoEx.

Royal Livingstone (2)
Luangwa River Lodge (5)
Chiawa Camp (5)

It does not get any better than that. I don't think anyone would be disappointed in staying 5 nights at either LRL and Chiawa, only disappointed if they chose to split their time with another lodge in the same park, thus reducing their time at Chiawa or Luangwa River Lodge. These are the best that Zambia has to offer and they would measure up well to any lodge in Africa, yet in Zambia they are each under $500pp per night in high season.
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Nov 6th, 2005, 07:16 PM
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OK - I feel better now - I re-read, and she did say that 16 nights was too many! My bad!





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Nov 6th, 2005, 07:21 PM
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Lauren~
I am heading to Zambia in May/June next year, staying at Chiawa and LRL, Tafika and Chamilandu, a bush camp. You'll be able to read my report, but in the meantime I would urge you to get yourself booked. These are popular camps, and I had to juggle my dates even though I started looking into my trip in August. Good luck!
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Nov 7th, 2005, 06:42 AM
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Just spotted this stream and wanted to add that I have met Kate Doty who is responsible for their African product selection. She is incredibly knowledgeable leaving without doubt that should you travel with GeoEx, that you are in capable hands.

The tour they have offered you looks magnificent, although the Lunga/Bungu area could be in flood at that time...you never knoow. The lodges that they have chosen are all quite OK and I suspect have been selected for a variety of reasons, cost being a major factor. I don't know what they are charging you, however would estimate that this tour would be sold at around $7500, which I believe is competitive.
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Nov 7th, 2005, 07:20 AM
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Cooncat: You will love both Chiawa and Luangwa river lodge.....I would save one for them for the last stop. Preferably Lrl.
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