More Zambia !-June/July -Assistance Pls!

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Nov 7th, 2005, 07:24 AM
  #21
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 148
I LOVE Kaingo, and Roccco is right, the guiding is superb there. Luangwa RL is beautiful. As is Tafika--probably the prettiest setting in SL, and I have great respect for John Coppinger & his guides.
The big plus of an RPS is that they have the biggest support team and thus the most flexibility to handle your day to day preferences for doing walks, drives or full day activities. Every day they ask what YOU would like to do today/tomorrow, and they will arrange guides and vehicles accordingly. I don't know of any other operator who can do this every day, even if full! (Others can do it if they are not full...but you can't count on being the only people at a camp, though it is wonderful when it happens.) Because they are also asking everyone daily what they want to do, you will have the flexibility to join travellers that you like on an activity, or consciously avoid travellers who are not simpatico...or to pick the activity that no one else is choosing, and thus have a private activity. This is a really big advantage. It is not really fair to say that RPS puts more emphasis on marketing than on guiding or guest services...it is just that they are a big operation with multiple camps & walking/mobile safaris, so they have the wherewithall to market internationally. They wouldn't keep their reputation long if they didn't deliver. And their marketing helps the other camps and operators in the longrun, because so many people return to the area, and want to see/have a different experience. RPS & Norman Carr safaris literally put South Luangwa on the map, and for that, we should all be grateful. (Though soon we as insiders may rue the day that Zambia became popular.)

So lots of excellent choices in South Luangwa, for lots of different tastes. Another reason to stay longer there-- you can sample a couple different camps, styles & locations. And if you do this, I would recommend a couple different operators, instead of just moving between a single operators camps.

Most camps now have email access on a limited basis, if you ask nicely and don't hog their computers or email-- they do need these to run their businesses. So as long as you keep it short, use the computer when the staff doesn't need it and don't ask to check multiple times a day, you can keep in touch. Flatdogs has pay-as-you-go public access-- but finding the time to get there is not easy when you are staying at these other camps. You might ask to stop there on your transfers however.

North Luangwa is a spectacular destination--but probably not the best choice for a first visit when you have limited time AND a husband who wants to stay in contact. N. Luangwa is a place you go to ESCAPE contact (and the people who need to keep in contact with work this way). It's a separate flight, a long trip. And all the activities are walk-only. Amazing...but doesn't fit your criteria I think.
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Nov 7th, 2005, 07:34 AM
  #22
 
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Alejandra: I really tried to arrange my trip to have one of those at the end, but didn't work out that way. I wanted to go as late in the "early season" as possible, for better rates, so Chiawa is actually my first stop, for 5 nights, then Old Mondoro for 2 nights, (couldn't get longstay discount with a 4/3 split); on to Chamilandu for 3 nights; LRL for 3 nights; and finishing up at Tafika for 3 nights. So, some luxury, bush camps, more luxury and ending up with Tafika. I think it will be a good mix. I'm a bit paranoid about there not being much game up at Tafika, but maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised!
(Sorry to have taken over your thread, Laureaf!)
Sharon
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Nov 7th, 2005, 08:13 AM
  #23
 
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ddgattina
Have you been to North Luangwa? Its only a one hours flight from SLNP.And the bushcamps are closer to the airstrips then most the campsites in SLNP. It meets their criteria more then any other by the fact it is private-the probability of seeing another person other than park staff or camp staff is extremely low.
And the park staff maybe just the game scout. And if 4 days is too much time for one to be without internet access, then her husband should nix the trip.

And I put Flatdogs as an internet access as it is the only one that is available to the public I know of, and to go to any campsite/lodge in SLNP from the airport it is an extra 3-5 minutes out of the way excluding someplace in the North outside the park like Tafika-then it is maybe an extra 5 minutes. Otherwords, its at the bridge into the park.
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Nov 7th, 2005, 09:29 AM
  #24
 
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Hi Luangwablondes,
Yes, I have been to NL, and do love it...but that one hour flight turns into 3.5 hours with transfers on both ends, and waiting around for the planes. Of course, if you are lucky, part of that transfer might be like a gamedrive. That is not so bad, but the 4 day/night minimum stay...plus the fact that it is walk-only, and much more remote seemed to make it not the best choice for a 1st time visitor with a husband who is worried about internet access. Unless the camps there have gone for sat-access, I'm not sure they will be as happy to allow a visitor to read and send emails (that could be fairly long from his office) on bushmail. Especially if they plan to do attachments on those emails.
(Unfortunately, I know and have travelled with these business-types. They think it will just be a "quick email", but once they know THAT is possible, it turns into heavier usage.)

Also, I worry about first-timers to Africa (as Lauren seems to be) going to places that do only walks. I know some folks love this, but I have also had first-timers express the feeling that they didn't see as much as they expected or hoped when they concentrate on walking. I'd hate to have people disappointed by walks, so I think it's better to get your fill of the big sightings by vehicle, THEN enjoy the more subtle pleasures of walking. I can completely understand why a person with your experience would prefer & recommend walks...I just didn't think it matched Laurenaf's needs on this trip. But maybe, I'm wrong...now she has lots of options to consider.

And of course, you are correct about public access at Flatdogs, but these folks won't have a vehicle, they will have to rely on their camps to take them to Flatdogs to use the internet, and this is not so easy to arrange. I think the camps would rather let him use their email, if he can use it quickly, than arrange a driver and vehicle to take him to Flatdogs. And although you pass right by Flatdogs when you go into/out of the park for gamedrives, I don't think you'll be able to get the vehicle to stop and wait while one person checks their email! The other folks in the vehicle will want to get on their gamedrive, or get back to lunch/dinner. This would of course be different if they had their own private guide/vehicle, but with this itinerary, that won't be the case. The camps are not yet including email/internet stops on their schedules!
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Nov 7th, 2005, 10:21 AM
  #25
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
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I spent 5 months in North Luangwa, and had some business types and 1st timers coming into the park. And everyone of those loved the remoteness, the fabulous game viewing bush walks, and didn't miss the email connections as arrangements were made prior or after with the operators assistance. The plane connections taking so long is not the norm and you just had a few bad experiences.But it happens just about anyplace you go. If one is staying at Coppinger camps, its not very often with their own plane.

And ALL trips to and from the airstrips are game viewing in NLNP.

With the internet access, I have seen quite a few people make arrangements at SLNP to be transferred midday between game drives and before departing on to their next destination. I'm sorry you are not as well organized. Making clients happy in the service industry shouldn't need to be explained, and most of the operators at SLNP will find a way to assist.
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Nov 7th, 2005, 11:03 AM
  #26
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
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I am all for North Luangwa, but with only 12 nights availalbe, Laurenaf has some decisions to make. There is no way, IMHO, to comfortably see Victoria Falls, Lower Zambezi, South Luangwa and North Luangwa.

If someone wanted 12 nights safari from me and absolutely wanted to see SLNP, NLNP and LZNP, I would advise the following itinerary:

Luangwa River Lodge (4)
Kutandala (4)
Chiawa Camp (4)

Given the budget, I would strongly advise to book the Superior Safari Tent at Chiawa Camp as a grand finale. At only $565 pp per night sharing, the Superior Safari Tent at Chiawa may be the best bargain in luxury travel in Southern Africa:

http://www.chiawa.com/pages/newsltr-july-04.htm

The above itinerary, IMHO, is much better than the itinerary suggested by GeoEx and it will likely cost less.

Kutandala is very well regarded and the food is reputedly excellent as is the guiding. It is the only owner operated lodge where you will be personally hosted and guided by the owners.

www.kutandala.com

Look no further than the guest comments to see the gushing reviews left behind by past customers.
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Nov 7th, 2005, 12:33 PM
  #27
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
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If you read all the recent trip reports from Zambia, it seems clear that rolling with the punches of changing air schedules seems to be the order of the day. And perhaps if a group has chartered a whole plane, they can specify when the flight takes place, but a couple won't typically have that flexibility. (And given that these planes have a whole list of flights to make that day, even a charter can slip.)

But the truth is, the flights are not the issue here. If Laurenaf wants to visit NLNP and walk, and her husband is cool being pretty much out of touch for 4 days (it would probably do him good!)-- well there are few places left in Africa that can provide this kind of experience. I loved it and hope to go again soon. Both the Coppingers camp and Kutandala are excellent choices, you really can't go wrong here. I stayed at Kutandala, it is just incredible. But I'm sure the other camps are equally wonderful.

Laurenaf, does the 14 days you have include your travel time? And are you buying tickets or using miles? I ask because using miles often involved routing (eg via Joburg) that might eat up another day of your time, which you will need to consider as you build your itinerary. Be careful about this when you compare price quotes from various sources because their assumptions may differ and one extra night in a safari camp vs. a city hotel to make flights can change the price quotes
considerably.
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Nov 7th, 2005, 07:33 PM
  #28
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Wow - what a bonanza of information and ideas. And I've got to get on the stick here in making decisions. Door-to-door, I have a max of 14 days of travel time. I am aware that if I use miles, I probably will lose travel time. (for example - if I want to use miles from American, I will have to fly via London to Lusaka. This may result in my cutting out Vic Falls. The initial itinerary I posted was based on 16 days from GeoEx including day 1 as flying from the USA and 16 as landing in the USA. I just mentioned that I needed to cut the time back by 2 days.

The suggestions for a mix of activities are right on target. Some drives, some walking, some water activities (canoeing). Based on what I have learned, we will cut Kafue-Busanga Bush Camp.

As far as the Internet access - no huge downloads of info. Just checking and sending out e-mails and we don't expect that to be every day. It would be wonderful if my DH could unplug almost entirely but those of you who are in business for yourself (and even those who are not) may understand how hard that can be for 2 weeks. I can see that I would need to make mention of this ahead of time for wherever we stay. Thanks for the ideas on places for public access - you never know, that may come in handy.

So - now to take all of the information and sit down with my husband and nail down exactly what is best for us based on what we have learned from everyone. I appreciate all of the ideas on big operators vs small and even organizing with an independent agent. There are truly pros and cons on both sides. Of course everyone wants to save $ and I know from my experience with GeoEx in Tibet that I paid a bit more to have the comfort level of knowing that if there was a problem, they would help get me home pronto. The Director for India and Tibet was in constant contact with me while I was in Tibet as there was a problem in Beijing with our guide. That adds a layer of comfort as I have children who will be in camp while I am in Africa.

So, I have contacted a couple of the operators recommended here and on the boards to compare and contrast.

Rocco - I truly appreciate that you can shave a thousand dollars off the trip and believe me, I would love to save that $. Just don't know if I can get past the need for a support infrastructure in case of emergency.

Well, I am off to digest (and maybe to sleep as it is nearly 11:30 pm) and I will write again!

thanks,
lauren
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Nov 7th, 2005, 08:27 PM
  #29
 
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lauren,

I appreciate the consideration.

About the support infrastructure, I would be very surprised if GeoEx used different ground operators than those used by the smaller tour operators. I mean what better ground operators than the owners of the lodges?

I cannot imagine two better people to count on in an emergency than Barry/Tara at Luangwa River Lodge or Grant Cumings at Chiawa. Plus, whomever you book with, you should have SUPPLEMENTAL medical evacuation insurance such as that offered by www.medjetassistance.com so that you can get all the way home rather than just to the nearest major city, which in the case of Zambia would be Lusaka.

For $305 per year, a couple would be provided medical evacuation insurance anytime they are more than 150 miles from home.

Then, it would be in your own best interest to get your own travel insurance through a website like www.insuremytrip.com than to just accept whatever insurance is offered through a higher priced itinerary offered by one of the bigger operators. This way you have more control over your coverage AND you realize a cost savings.

Also, a final consideration should really be who is able to design the best itinerary for you. Had you accepted that original itinerary by GeoEx, I guarantee you that you would have arrived home very worn out and in need of a vacation.

Whichever direction you go, you will love Zambia. It is a truly magnificent safari destination.
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Nov 7th, 2005, 09:38 PM
  #30
 
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Lauren, I believe that BA still flies from Joburg into Livingstone, so you can do an open jaw itinerary with your AA miles, and fly London-Joburg-Livingstone then local flights...back from Lusaka to London (or vice versa) this should save some time and internal flights if you do decide to spend a couple days in the Livingstone/Vic Falls area. Arrange this with care, since BA doesn't fly these routes every day of the week. (And if there is a plane cancellation or delay, that can be a problem. Another reason to do Livingstone first-- there are more flight alternatives from Joburg to this area...there are no other alternatives to a London-Lusaka flight.

I prefer Vic Falls at the beginning of the trip, but if you plan serious shopping, it might be better to put it at the end, so you don't have to carry all the stuff along with you for the whole trip.

Just to be clear, I don't thing ANYONE you will work with in the US has an actual person in Zambia if you need help-- not GeoEx or anyone else. (They may have an associated agent in the Vic Falls area, but I kind of doubt it.) BUT you won't need this kind of assistance, as all of the camps, large or small, are very used to dealing with internal arrangements and changes within Zambia. They can confirm & change air reservations, make hotel reservations if your plans change, coordinate transfers (which the camps do themselves in Zambia, and they do it very well) or help you make arrangements in an emergency. (A friend of mine in visiting Zambia recently got very ill on his visit --malaria, so take those prophylactic precautions seriously!!--and the camp he was at arranged for him to see a doctor and changed reservations to get him into a bigger lodge rather than at a bush camp. Once I decided to make an unplanned trip to Lusaka in the middle of my safari--they handled those arrangements too. Any of the camps mentioned here (and all those not mentioned, including the very cheapest) can and will provide this type of service, and they all do it well. Using a travel agent in the US helps you avoid the hassles of all the inquiries, arrangements, payments (by wire transfer, no credit cards!) and confirmations. But they won't really help you or provide a safety net on the ground in Zambia...not that you will need them to do that.
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Nov 8th, 2005, 07:29 PM
  #31
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Ok, thanks. I understand what you all mean. I am off to Miami for a couple of days of R&R and decision making. Will keep you posted on where we are going, etc!

Lauren
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