Phinda or Londolozi???

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Apr 24th, 2005, 11:06 AM
  #1
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Phinda or Londolozi???

I am really struggling here. I will be staying four nights at a CCAfrica lodge, and I have four nights provisionally booked at Londolozi Bateleur. Londolozi Bateleur is especially attractive because it is located between Singita and Mala Mala (as are most of the Londolozi Camps) but besides the much higher priced Londolozi Tree Camp, Londolozi Bateleur is the only Londo camp to offer private plunge pools.

I will be spending my final 3 nights in Simbambili, no matter whether I go to Londolozi or Phinda.

I have already been to the Sabi Sand on two previous occasions, and Phinda does look interesting to me. However, given my budget, I am limited to Phinda Forest, and I am not exactly overwhelmed by the lodging offered at Phinda Forest.

What do you think???

Thanks.
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Apr 24th, 2005, 02:09 PM
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Ouch...tough call on that one Rocco. Having been to both reserves and having stayed at Londo tree & Londo Bateleur as well as having stayed at Phinda Vlei, I immensely enjoyed both game reserves.
I'd hate to have to decide between the
two.

I also visited Phinda Forest while at Phinda, and it's not a bad looking camp by any stretch. Just a little bigger and while not as luxurious as Vlei, it's still pretty nice.

You've got a wide variety of outside activities available at Phinda that you won't have at Londo. And the seven eco-systems encompassed at Phinda make it a really cool place too, especially the old sand forest.(A really neat place for a bush walk.)

Londo has leopards galore. I was so impressed by our leopard sightings there, I came back and bought the "Leopards of Londolozi" table book which was terribly hard to find. I wanted it to remind me of our stay there. Oh...and that's where I had my first and only wild dog sighting so far.
If you do decide on Londo Bateleur ask for Suite 101. The best suite in the camp by far.

I know you'll be seeing (hopefully) lots of leopards at Simbambili so is there is anything else you may be wanting to see that Phinda may offer you that Londo can't?

Any questions on either, I'm happy to help. Having fallen in love with both places, I'd go back to either in a heartbeat.





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Apr 24th, 2005, 03:36 PM
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divewop,

I assume that you have only stayed at each camp once, so this would be a very limited sampling, but...

Were there more safari newbies at Londo or at Phinda?

AND

Were there more families at Londo or at Phinda?

AND

Did you have better game drives at Londo or at Phinda?

Just as a point of reference, Phinda Forest is $430 pppn, while Londolozi Bateleur is $590 pppn. By staying 4 nights, my 4th night is free. No single supplement for my 3rd person (for their own chalet).

Therefore, for my 4 nights at Phinda Forest, the cost would be $430 x 3 nights x 3 people = $3,870 + air transfers from Joburg + air transfer for myself to Simbambili (while my mom and my wife return for a long weekend in Joburg for 3 nights at the Westcliff).

Alternately, for my 4 nights at Londolozi Bateleur, the cost would be $590 x 3 nighs x 3 people = $5,610 + air transfers from Joburg + road transfer to Simbambili.

Even if my transfer from Phinda to Londolozi cost me $740 USD, I would save $1,000 by choosing Phinda Forest, and I imagine this $1,000 would cover all of the additional activities at Phinda. Moreover, if there is last second availability at Phinda Vlei, maybe I can stay a couple nights there for a negligible extra cost?

Knowing that I am just as likely to see lion and leopard at Simbambili as at Londolozi (it is virtually guaranteed), I am kind of leaning towards Phinda for all of its different ecosystems and daytime activities. It should certainly be warmer at Phinda than at Londolozi, as well.

I do like the fact that at Phinda I can spend a couple of my days doing alternate activities, including horseback riding, snorkeling, a Zulu cultural visit, etc.

The choice would be an easy one for Phinda, had I not been conditioned for the last 3+ years that Londolozi Bateleur was not nearly the equivalent of Singita. It is only, to my knowledge, in the last few months that Londolozi Bateleur has dropped its rates, and had I been visiting two weeks later, I would be paying the same price for Londolozi as for Singita.

Londolozi does also offer a cultural visit to a Shangaan village, and I would be interested in hearing from anybody who has done this. I wonder if CCAfrica's cultural visits are genuine or artificial.

The more I think about it, the more I get confused. Again, I feel like I am nearly giving up Singita for four nights and the fact that I have seen other Fodorites mention that they have stayed long stretches of time in the Sabi Sand without getting bored, I don't think staying a full 7 nights in the Sabi Sand (Londo 4, Simbambili 3) is necessarily overdoing it.

At the same time, however, I am very interested in seeing the different ecosystems of Phinda, as I think they may make for fantastic photos.

I am more confused than ever.
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Apr 24th, 2005, 03:40 PM
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Any ideas on which chalets are the best at Phinda Forest?

And which of the two lodges is more FUN?

I expect to have my share of lions and leopards with my 3 nights at Kasaka River Lodge (Lower Zambezi), 4 nights at Luangwa River Lodge (South Luangwa) and 3 nights at Simbambili (Sabi Sand).

Lastly, I know I am being a pain, but for anybody who has visited Phinda, which month did you go and how was the weather. I will be searching the Fodors database for Phinda reports but I don't know what I will find regarding weather.

THANKS!
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Apr 24th, 2005, 03:56 PM
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Correction...

>>>Even if my transfer from Phinda to Londolozi cost me $740 USD, I would save $1,000 by choosing Phinda Forest, and I imagine this $1,000 would cover all of the additional activities at Phinda.

Should read...

Even if my transfer from Phinda to SIMBAMBILI cost me $740 USD, I would save $1,000 by choosing Phinda Forest, and I imagine this $1,000 would cover all of the additional activities at Phinda
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Apr 24th, 2005, 05:24 PM
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Rocco-
We were in Phinda in March. The weather was great...cool in the a.m. (50's-60's)and warm (80's) midday. Sodwana Bay beach was also quite warm during our horsebackriding excursion.

The folks at CC Africa and Phinda will work with you on the best room location if it isn't taken. I haven't been to a CC Africa camp where they didn't go out of their way to accomodate one's needs.

As far as newbies or families, we didn't encounter either at Londo or Phinda. As a matter of fact, the folks we did meet at Phinda were repeat visitors. Two S.A. couples and a couple from California who were on their fourth visit.

The only camp that was full during our stay was Londo Tree.

To be honest with you, initially I wasn't impressed on our arrival at Phinda, especially upon seeing the fences. And they do not have nearly the amount of predators that the Sabi Sands have. I thought our four nights were going to be too long and a waste of money. But by the time we had to leave to go to Londolozi, I felt like they were dragging me away kicking and screaming because I didn't want to leave.

There is just something about Phinda, it's eco-systems and it's conservation efforts that pulls you in. It is remarkable what great strides they are making by working with local communities which in turn helps to save the wildlife.

They do have a surplus of antelope, particularly nyala. But that is because of their low predator rate. But that is tied in to their dedication to achieve a high success rate in cheetah and leopard survival.

After everything you've said, since you will be in Sabi Sand at Simbambili, I would opt for a visit to Phinda. Keep an open mind and with your love of animals and conservation, I don't think you will be disappointed.

I have only been to each reserve once but if I went back to S.A., even if I only had four nights, I would do two at Londo and two and Phinda. And I wouldn't worry about which is more fun. You'll have a great time at both.

Mighty big decision you have to make! I couldn't choose between them either! But what a good problem to have!



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Apr 25th, 2005, 08:10 AM
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Rocco

You must be very hardy to want a plunge pool in Sabi Sands in September. Thats the equivalent of Mid-March here and while the daytime temperature is often a comfortable 70+, the pool temperature is decidedly chilly. So I wouldn't make that feature a make or break at this time of year.
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Apr 25th, 2005, 10:35 AM
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Napamatt,

You are probably correct regarding the weather and the plunge pools.

I just viewed some photo albums on www.pbase.com of each Phinda and Londolozi, and I must say that Londolozi's fauna appears to be much more picturesque than that of Phinda. The gate issue of Phinda does bother me a bit.

Plus, from nearly all accounts, the gameviewing at Londolozi will be superior, and again, I am right smack in the middle of Mala Mala and Singita...who could ask for anything more?

I think I will just try to get my ocean experiences out of the way with my 5 nights in Cape Town, but I really think it would be foolish to pass up 4 nights at Londolozi Bateleur, considering that with the free night, I am looking at about $400 pppns, excluding the transfers. I will get IMMENSE PLEASURE when I wave to the Singita vehicles that we are sure to encounter, knowing that they are paying nearly TRIPLE the price.

I would say that as of this righting that Londolozi is about a 5-1 favorite over Phinda.
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Apr 25th, 2005, 04:04 PM
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GO TO PHINDA!

We went to both Phinda Forest Lodge and Londolozi (the one formerly known as Bush Camp). I have no desire to return to Londolozi, but would jump at the chance to go back to Phinda.

We saw a great variety of game at both lodges, but I'd give the edge to Phinda. We were there only two nights, but managed to see lion, leopard, cheetah, giraffe, elephants, and crocs, and more. We even tracked rhino on foot. It was amazing. It was one of the few places I've been where I've actually seen different animals grouped together grazing or at watering holes. It's nice to have pictures of elephant, zebra, warthogs, etc., all together in one shot. My husband and I appreciated the chance to go canoeing (crocs, no hippo). We also enjoyed the evening sundowner river cruise. I wasn't thrilled with their boma, but the bush dinner was wonderful. We didn't go the the beach, but others in our party loved it.

Londolozi was nice, but it didn't live up to the hype. For me, it was a one time thing.

We went in late August and early September. It was HOT at all camps, but a little cooler at Phinda (we went to Ngala, too -- another lodge I would highly recommend). I'm talking 80's and 90's the entire trip. I would have killed for a private plunge pool. The main camp pools were nice, though.

The rooms at Phinda Forest are beautiful. No, they don't look safari-ish, but the views are unreal. It's kind of creepy and cool at the same time. The lodge isn't located too deeply in the forest, so you get occasional game sightings from your room.

Good luck deciding (personally, I think it's a no-brainer). Looking forward to hearing what you decide!

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Apr 25th, 2005, 04:25 PM
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travelwmn,

Thanks for confusing me more!

I would say there are some people are very passionate about Phinda and perhaps I would be well served to listen up.

Okay, Phinda and Londolozi are about even money right now, quite a change from this morning's odds of Londo being a 5-1 favorite. The late money is definitely coming in on Phinda.

This is such a tough, tough call. If one or the other had Wild Dog, it would be a slam dunk. I am sure that Londo very occasionally has Wild Dog, but the chances of seeing Wild Dog at Londo is probably no better than about 5% maximum, so it is not even a deciding factor.

The one (CCAfrica) camp with Wild Dog would be Madikwe Safari Lodge, but I have a hard time dedicating four nights to Madikwe.

I do, however, want to see Wild Dogs very badly!

ODDS from someone that doesn't gamble or quite know if I am posting the odds correctly...

Londolozi -105
Phinda +105
Madikwe +300
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Apr 25th, 2005, 08:06 PM
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Has anyone seen wild dog at Ngala recently??? We saw a huge pack -- watched them for over an hour. However, it was several years ago and I know they cover large distances. That's the only CCAfrica lodge where I've seen them.
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Apr 25th, 2005, 08:22 PM
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travelwmn,

I think that Londolozi Bush is the camp now known as Londolozi Safari. It is far separated from the other lodges and is in the southern part of Londolozi, while the rest of the Londolozi camps are located just about three miles from Mala Mala and probably about six miles from Singita. I figure that each of the other Londolozi camps is closer to even Singita than it is to Londolozi Safari. LS is pretty much their budget camp.

So, again, that just confuses me more. I am sure that Phinda is a great experience, but to be between Mala Mala and Singita must also be pretty fabulous.

I did get an e-mail back from CCAfrica telling me that they could not guarantee any certain chalet/suite, as I had requested Suite 101 at the urging of Divewop.

This is one of the toughest travel decisions I have had to make yet!

For now, I am holding onto my Londolozi Bateleur provisional booking, as it is for the last two chalets, and had I been visiting even one day later they would not have been able to accomodate me. I have to make a decision within about the next 10 days, and it will probably come down to the wire!
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Apr 25th, 2005, 08:46 PM
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I just checked and the camp I stayed at is now called Londolozi Founders Camp. Accomodations have been redone since I was there (my recommendations are based more on game viewing and activities than on lodging -- any CCAfrica camp will be top-notch).

We often drove around Singita's air strip on game drives. As a result, your game viewing at Londolozi should be on par with what you had on your previous Singita trip.

I don't think you'll go wrong with either lodge. I just think Phinda offers you a different safari than you've had before. Africa offers such a range of sights and experiences -- I like to see as much of it as I can.
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Apr 26th, 2005, 07:46 PM
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Rocco: I'm coming late to the conversation, but I would like to encourage you to consider Londolozi. I've been to both and prefered Londo. I prefer knowing that there are no fences between Kruger and the Londo concession; and the animals are free to come and go. Cheetah and leopard were much better at Londo (of course, they are known for leopard, which suits me just fine). I will risk confusing you a bit by saying that I found Phinda Forest enchanting. The floor to ceiling walls emerse you in the sand forest and nyala and duiker graze next to the cottages. Hey, you can't go wrong either way and you can always visit the other one in the future. It's a win - win.
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Apr 26th, 2005, 08:27 PM
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girlpolo,

Thanks for the input. To be able to have that easy transfer between Simbambili and Londolozi is also a good selling point for Londolozi.

Trust me, I am very tempted to go to either Phinda or even Madikwe, but Londolozi is more than likely in a whole different league than those two.

I could only afford a couple nights at Singita when I visited in 2002...to be able to stay 4 nights at the neighboring Londolozi Bateleur would be quite rewarding!

(humming the theme to The Jeffersons sitcom in my head...moving on up, to the sky, finally got a piece of the pie) Then again, if that were the case I would just call it a day and go to Singita!
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Apr 27th, 2005, 08:17 AM
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One final option...visiting Lunga River Lodge and Busanga Bush Camp.

www.experienceafrica.com

I would tack this on after 3 nights at Kasaka River Lodge and 4 nights at Luangwa River Lodge.

Kasaka (3)
Luangwa River Lodge (4)
Lunga River Lodge (2)
Busanga Bush Camp (3)
Cape Town (4) for me (7 for my wife and mom)
Simbambili (3)(solo)

This would be roughly the same price as if we went to Londolozi, but it would be nice to see Kafue NP and especially the Busanga Plains portion.

Makalolo Plains would have been my first choice but the logistics are a nightmare. Kafue is a piece of cake since I will be flying in and out of Lusaka.
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Apr 27th, 2005, 11:13 AM
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Roccco: If you stay at Lunga River Lodge there is a wild dog researcher, Dr. Anne Carlson, from the San Diego Zoo based nearby. The wild dog trip that I was scheduled to lead (just cancelled cause I couldn't get 4 people)was going to go in the field with her for 2 days. She has dogs with satellite collars in a few packs. The packs will be done denning and back on the move by the time you get there but the guides probably stay in touch with the researchers, and perhaps, they could even arrange for you to go out with the researchers giving you one of the best chances to see wild dog other then denning season. Just one more thing to think about.
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Apr 29th, 2005, 04:16 AM
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travelwmn,
Ngala is not that far from Kings Camp, where we saw the wilddogs on 2 different safaris in August 2001.
We must have been extremely lucky I guess, we even saw them hunting and catching a steenbok,although by the time we realised it was a steenbok, the poor antelope was almost completely eaten.
 
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Apr 30th, 2005, 08:08 AM
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Rocco,
I just had my wedding at Phinda a very magical place for many special reasons.
It's good to do some research on your trip but I think you are going overboard. You have a list of those you would like to visit and I am absolutely certain no mater your choice you won't regret it and you will find something wonderful in your visit of either Londolozi or Phinda.
Of course Phinda is a significant place for me now however every single person in our group (30) had the time of their lives and Phinda opened up something in their hearts. Some of our guests were South Africans who never were inspired to travel in their country but Phinda touched their soul. The Forest Lodges are in amongst the sand forest built in 4 walls of glass whcih gives you a sense that you are a part of the forest only saved by any predator who likes the look of you for dinner!
The sand forest is the largest sand forets in the world and its one of those places that at night when you are out on your game drive you might just happend to see the glows from the fairies dancing in the sand amongst the trees. We saw EVERYTHING except cheetah. A marvellous place with people who love their land, their animals and their jobs. A very very very special group and place. A must for everyone. We were there on 15th-17th April and we had one rainy day which is unsual for April and the other two days were warm and sunny. The river cruise on sunday morning was fantastic. The river was calm and the hippos came to say hello and farewell to us as we were leaving after the cruise which was where we had our breakfast (not usual, we organise that esp. for our wedding guests). GO TO PHINDA!!!!!!!!
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Apr 30th, 2005, 08:55 AM
  #20
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Janiekb,

Thanks for your input. Phinda definitely seems like a great experience for most.

However, just knowing that there are the capacity for 30 guests in one camp is a bit troubling for me. At three luxury lodges in South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi last year over an 11 night stay, I don't think I encountered more than 15 other guests, and I would be surprised if I encountered more than 30 other guests even in high season Zambia this year over 12 nights.

CCAfrica is like the Sheraton of game lodges...very nice, but very popular. Instead of the Sheraton, I am looking for those under the radar 5* boutique hotels.

I am fairly certain that I will, at this point, neither go to Phinda nor Londolozi, and instead spend those 4 nights split between Puku Ridge and Tafika.

http://www.star-of-africa.com/circui.../pukuridge.htm

Tafika is on the rustic side but it is in a gorgeous area, and somebody please tell me at which other game lodge in the whole of Africa that you can do this!

http://www.remoteafrica.com/microlighting.asp

So, as things now stand, providing my dates are available at Puku Ridge, Tafika and Chongwe River Camp here is my final itinerary:

Kasaka River Lodge, Lower Zambezi (3)
Chongwe River Camp, Lower Zambezi (2)
Luangwa River Lodge, South Luangwa (3)
Tafika, South Luangwa (2)
Puku Ridge, South Luangwa (2)

This would be a real treat and would leave very few places in Zambia that I have not yet visited that I want to visit.

The remaining Zambian lodges that are on my short list:

1. Kutandala, North Luangwa (www.kutandala.com)
2. Chiawa Camp, Lower Zambezi (www.chiawa.com)
3. Sausage Tree Camp, Lower Zambezi (www.sausagetreecamp.com)
4. Lunga River Lodge, Kafue (www.experienceafrica.com)
5. Busanga Bush Camp, Kafue (www.experienceafrica.com)
6. Nkwali, South Luangwa (www.robinpopesafaris.net)
7. Tena Tena, South Luangwa (www.robinpopesafaris.net)
8. Mutemwa, near Sioma Ngwezi (www.mutemwa.com)
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