Please help with safari destination

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Jan 26th, 2006, 06:16 AM
  #1
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Please help with safari destination

Hi Folks,
I'd like to start planning my 07 trip to Africa and need some ideas. We'll be leaving for Tanz./Seychelles Feb. 10 and probably would like to go elsewhere in Africa.
As a NE I usually try to escape during the US winter months (Jan.Feb.) and go somewhere warm.

I've been tossing around Zambia during the Emerald season but really want to see dogs.
here's my wish list:

1. Small and intimate lodge or mobile/perm. camps in fairly remote areas - not too costly.

2. Dogs and other preditures, scenery and birds ? maybe gorillas if possible

3. 4x4 and other types of excursions - river boats(small,not smelly motored) hiking (not Kili or too high up)- maybe horseback - although DH isn't (too) old, he has an artificial hip - so I can ride while he hangs out.

4. warm weather is a plus but not too hot - over 85+ is starting to get to hot.

5. less places at a non frantic pace is best as we will be going back

So am I asking for too much, and can you help?
Much appreciation ahead;
Sherry
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Jan 26th, 2006, 09:47 AM
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(Disclaimer...Cybor was provided this information offline but thought it would be a good idea if I posted it for the benefit of others to see)


Sherry,

While there is no guarantee that this will be offered next year, I do want to show you what would have been possible had you been traveling between Dec. 01st - March 31st 2006.

There is a very special rate when combining two or more Kwando camps, and if you were to stay 8 nights or longer, you would be able to get you in Kwando for a mere $250 per person per night sharing. This is a 63% savings off their high season rate and better yet, a 22% discount off their regular pricing for the same period.

www.kwando.co.za

These camps are about as small and remote as you will find. Kwando has between its Kwando and Kwara concession, over 1 million acres of land, yet in all that space, there are only 40 beds between its current three camps. That works out to 25,000 acres per person, and that is in the unlikely event that the camps are full.

Kwando uses the guide & tracker system to maximize the gameviewing opportunities for its guests.

Kwando may be one of the best places in Africa for near-guaranteed wild dog sightings and is also supposed to be excellent for other predators such as lions and cheetah.

From booking my own trip, I do know that there are already some blocked off dates in December 2006, so it would be in your best interest to enquire about availability as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.
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Jan 26th, 2006, 09:55 AM
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Sherry,
Funny, I was just thinking Rocco (and maybe even Dennis, as he's getting to be quite the Zambia regular) would probably be able to help you.

The other thing that occurred to me was whether it would be terribly difficult/expensive to get from, say Uganda to Zambia. Rocco or luangwablondes might have info about this, but then you could conceivably do gorilla tracking AND see Zambia. Wouldn't that be amazing?
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Jan 26th, 2006, 10:36 AM
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My thoughts are along the lines of Leely - no gorillas in Zambia, unless Rocco is around... haha. OK, that was a joke. Rocco can help you plan agreat trip - I haven't worked with him officially but he led me to the operator I used for my upcoming Zambia trip and it's been totally great. I've also talked to him off forum from time to time and I'm pretty sure he will do his utmost to get you the best deals. (Just watch out, he has a legendary taste for luxury. You may have to reign him in a bit.)

I haven't been to Zambia yet but it sounds like it would be right up your alley. Although the Kwando camps def. look great, too. Good luck with your planning!

Sharon
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Jan 26th, 2006, 10:44 AM
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cybor

The best time to see wild dogs in South Luangwa is during the wet season. It is almost a daily occurrence. During the dry season they move to the hills and seen from time to time.

Kwando, their wild dog pack was killed by lions last July. There are only two remaining dogs. They may get the Selinda pack but during the rains this is a no no. Most of the animals move down the spillway and into the Mopane. In the dry season you'll find dogs in the Selinda. That said, Kwando is an excellent product
 
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Jan 26th, 2006, 10:58 AM
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I am not sure that your last piece of informationa bout the dogs at kwando is true. I am aware that they had dogs denning outside Lagoon in August 2005.

I also am not sure that in the entire kwando concession that there is/was just one pack of dogs.
I do not dispute the fact that dogs were killed by lion, that could well be true, but dogs were defiantely still around.
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Jan 26th, 2006, 11:07 AM
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lbj

someone must have mislead you about the Kwando Lagoon Dogs.
They denned very late in 2005 (2 month later than normal) and at the end of the year the 5 puppies were still doing fine!
Michael
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Jan 26th, 2006, 11:34 AM
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From what i have heard, the Lagoon pack was decimated. They still have frequent visits from the Selinda pack which the Lagoon pack was related too.

 
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Jan 26th, 2006, 11:54 AM
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lbj-we saw the dogs in South Luangwa in late October near Chichele plains and then later in another plains area, no hills around.
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Jan 26th, 2006, 11:54 AM
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lbj

The Lagoon pack lost its (at the time) alpha female in August 2004 (I was visiting Lebala when it happened). Since then they have not lost any adults. As mentioned above they denned succesfully in august 2005. They may or may not be related to the pack that you are referring to. That pack has 12 adults and 11 subadults. Thet are likely to split into two groups soon and who knows where they will be denning next year??.
The entire Kwando /Selinda area is vey good for dogs but you still need some amount of luck as they do move about quite a bit.
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Jan 26th, 2006, 01:27 PM
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mv,

that is must selinda pack you are talking of, same size. Look on the Selinda website and you'll find the information on their denning. By August they are already moving. So it is likely they could have crossed into the Kwando. I was under the impression there was also another pack in the Kwando concession. But maybe they are one and the same. So could be very wrong

matnikstym, as i said, from time to time. October is practically the end of the dry season. So you should expect a higher chance of seeing the dogs. Though they Den in the hills towards the escarpment as a general rule. In the thick bush areas.

 
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Jan 26th, 2006, 02:17 PM
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Lorraine did an excellent report after being to Kwando in November. According to her report:

The Lagoon pack is small and actually was still denning in November with healthy small pups. Rare to be denning so late -- would suggest losing a litter to lions earlier, however the pack is still there and trying to grow.

Lebala had the pack of 21 dogs at that time.

I will be there in March and hope to be able to report back myself even though it is not prime dog viewing season perhaps I will be lucky. I will at least try and find out the status of the packs.
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Jan 26th, 2006, 02:57 PM
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As much as I like Zambia, can't recommend it in 'Emerald Season" clever marketing tool for the rainy season. Botswana would be a much better bet to see dogs, but it gets to be a little toasty that time of year.

Gorillas can include some arduous hiking over many hours in difficult terrain. Are you sure you are interested and up for that? Its worth it if you end up with a cooperative group to view. And Transportation costs add up.
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Jan 26th, 2006, 04:12 PM
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Hi,
Thank you all for such good responses -it's all good food for thought. As much as I thought I had a handle on the geography of Zambia and which camps are open during the Emerald season, I realize that I have to look the info. up all over again. For some reason the names of those places in Zambia do me in.

Question: is the general consensus stating that I'd be more likely to see dogs in Botwania at that time of year - if that's the case, how difficult is it to combine the 2 locations. How hot is hot in Botswania - I remember someone's great report where she made a wonderful 'sticking your head in front of the oven' analogy.

I have wanted to go to Uganda to see the gorillas but I'm gathering that that's not an easy place to combine with Zambia - true?

Thanks ahead;
Sherry
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Jan 26th, 2006, 04:50 PM
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Sherry,

Combining Uganda with Zambia should be no more difficult than combining Uganda with Botswana.

With that being said, however, I do think a combination of Botswana & Zambia would be the easiest thing, or even combining Zambia with Tanzania, if you were interested, perhaps, in Mahale, which has, I believe, the biggest remaining wild chimp population in the world. Greystoke Mahale, a Nomad Safaris camp, looks wonderful. It is a very remote location, however, and is even a long way from Arusha or anywhere else you would likely fly into to get to Tanzania.

I just did a test on the Kenya Airways website, and this is how simple it is to connect Zambia and Uganda. I chose two completely random dates, Wednesday March 15th, for a Lusaka departure to Entebbe, and Tuesday, March 21st for a return flight from Entebbe to Lusaka.

For the departing flight, it would be a 12:50PM flight, with a 4:30PM arrival in Nairobi, a short layover, a 6:10PM departure to Entebbe, and a 7:25PM arrival in Entebbe.

On the way back it is similar, leaving Entebbe at 5:30AM, connecting in Nairobi and arriving in Lusaka by 10:00AM sharp.

So, given the above information, I would be very surprised if it were easier to connect Botswana with Uganda.

For a happy medium on the weather AND the pricing, perhaps a May safari would work out well. Here is just one sample itinerary:

Taj Pamodzi Hotel, Lusaka (1) (This is the most luxurious hotel in Lusaka and is likely not more than $200 per night)

Luangwa River Lodge, South Luangwa (4)

Tafika or Puku Ridge, South Luangwa (3)

(Depart South Luangwa by 9:30AM, in order to be back in Lusaka by 11:00AM for the 12:50PM flight to Entebbe)

Entebbe, Uganda (1)

Gorilla Trekking and ??? (5)

Entebbe, Uganda (1)

(5:30AM flight to Lusaka, arriving at 10AM, connecting to a light air transfer to Lower Zambezi)

Chongwe River Camp or Chiawa (5) (four nights may be sufficient, but five nights gets you a nice discount from the lodges)

End the safari just prior to June 01st high season pricing and you have gone while the daytime weather in Zambia will be great and the nighttime weather in the Lower Zambezi is not yet too cold. Very easy looking connection to see the Mountain Gorillas in Uganda.

Thanks for inspiring me to do the above exercise...honestly, I never would have thought that a Zambia/Uganda connection was so simple!
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Jan 26th, 2006, 05:35 PM
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If you are set on seeing the gorillas, you might as well go all the way. Bwindi for the apes, fly to the Serengeti, fly to Mahale(Greystoke) for the Chimps, then direct to South Luangwa(Robin Pope)for a chance at seeing dogs and on to Botswana. Its now possible to combine all of this without roundabout connections. You definitely will be avoiding the crowds and flying over some of the wildest and least visited sections of East and Southern Africa.
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Jan 26th, 2006, 05:46 PM
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Thanks Rocco for your efforts,
I probably don't even want to know the price on the above - it's already making me need a paperbag - I am curious though, I'll have to look it up.

I do want this next trip to be somewhat reasonably priced (is there really such a thing) My 2008 trip will be the bigger,longer and more costly one.

The primary reason to add on a second destination would be to see dogs - perhaps when Preditor and Dennis come back from Zambia, they'll report magical dog sightings and my Zambian dilemma will be solved.

Luangwablond:
Why do you think the Emerald season is a sales ploy of sorts? Do any others feel this way?
Thanks;
Sherry
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Jan 26th, 2006, 06:55 PM
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Sorry, I think it is silly to talk about which lodges are best (!!) when cybor hasn't even agreed to put up with the temperatures in either Botswana or S.Luangwa in Jan/Feb. If serious about 85 degree max, this should be a deal breaker.

Luangwablondes, who knows this area well, has mentioned that the temps are high in both S. Luangwa & Botswana. First figure out whether this is a deal-breaker before we start pitching our favorite lodges!

Next, dogs are much harder to see than other predators. There are not very many of them, they range over very big areas, and they move very fast. Very very fast. Even if you get a report from someone who has sighted them, it is very typical that by the time your vehicle gets there, they have moved on and are unlocatable.

The best way to see them is to pick an area and time where the probability is higher, then spend lots of time there. 2-3 days may not be enough if you really want to see them...perhaps 5 days might maximize your probability. I say this as a person who has had more luck than most (much more luck) in seeing wild dog in both Zambia and Botswana.

Now realize that even if you REALLY want to follow every lead to find the dogs, the other people at your camp may not have this burning interest. For this reason, an event like Wild Dog safaris at Robin Pope Safaris probably maximizes your chance. First the researcher who is tracking them is involved, second, all the people attending have a similar passion, and it is traditionally a good time of year to see them in South Luangwa. Nothing assured, but traditionally considered the best time. LuangwaBlondes is right, marketing this as "wild dog week" is marketing, but that doesn't negate the fact the it meets all the criteria for African Painted Dog lovers(APD). I have heard that green season is best for dogs for years, long before any specialized marketing efforts.

For some reason, the folks here are always dissing Robin Pope Safaris, the operation now hosting the new Dog project in Luangwa and running Wild Dog Week. Since none of these people have ever stayed there, I don't think this should be taken very seriously. RPS, like WS in Botswana has no trouble keeping their camps full, and they provide a very high standard of service, like WS. It can't all be attributed to marketing: if they didn't deliver, they wouldn't get repeat business from individuals and travel agents. RPS are also helping APD conservation (by hosting the research camp and offering logistical support, not a trivial thing), as they help themselves with a marketable new "product" that answers the needs of tourists who want to maximize their chances of APD sightings. So what is the problem with that?

That said, this time of year (Jan/Feb, even March) is not the best time for many other things (including pleasant weather, lower insect counts/malaria threat, access to many roads in the park (as many are totally closed due to rainy season conditions), walking (not permitted when the grass is high) or sighting other animals (which disperse with the rainy season & can be difficult to find with high grass. I'm not saying it is bad--it is beautiful, a glorious time for birding, less crowded and touristed, and a good time to TRY to see APD.
If Kwando could make any assurances about willingness to give up on lions, cheetahs, etc. to track the dogs, they would be good too. (And their guide & tracker system is to be much commended.) So would Chitabe--it is wonderful for a wide diversity of animals, and I've had incredible dog sighting there, but I have NOT been there during the green season (so my comment fits right in here ha ha) I believe there is a research project in the Chitabe area too, although I don't believe that any of the camps involve the researchers in trackng or game drives.

Sorry to sound so irritable. But I thought this inquiry was about seasonal choices and ways to maximize seeing certain things. If all the responses ignore that, talk about experiences during a very different time of year, and don't tell cybor why this time of year is considered the off-season, we are doing her/him (can't recall!) a disservice at the question of maximizing dog sightings or the weather/temperature limit, it sounds great but it doesn't answer the questions. Thus it could be highly misleading advice. Yes, you loved your time there, but is it the right advice for cybor, given her stated interests, limitations & needs?
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Jan 26th, 2006, 07:12 PM
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well said ddgatina
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Jan 26th, 2006, 07:25 PM
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ddgatina,

I am sorry you have upset yourself over this. I do not believe that you should be upset by others talking highly of Luangwa River Lodge, Puku Ridge or any other non RPS camp.

Just as some operators will only send guests to RPS camps, other operators will send clients to the lodges that they know and trust. For my first safari to South Luangwa, my agent, African Travel Inc. first insisted that I NOT go to Zambia, and when I proved unrelenting, then they insisted that I ONLY book at RPS. Well, I had other ideas, and threatened to take my booking elsewhere if they did not book me the 5 night itinerary that I wanted at Kafunta.

The only reason why I stuck with African Travel Inc. is because they had lined up good pricing on my international air. Now I know of other air sources that are just as competitive that will not insist on also booking the lodges.

You mention the Wild Dog Week at RPS, but this is in February, which will be very hot. I specifically mentioned the month of May to Sherry because I believe this offers the best combination of pricing, weather and there is still a chance to see Wild Dogs as late as about mid to late May, although I agree that seeing them would be very lucky.

Also, while you may see it as a positive that companies such as RPS and WS are always full, I do not see it the same way. I would personally much rather go to a lodge that has managed to stay a bit under the radar, as I know that it will be a more intimate experience with a far greater likelihood of private or half full vehicles. There is no benefit to going out on a fully packed game vehicle, that much is certain.

Just as Phil was recently able to enjoy at Puku Ridge and Luangwa River Lodge, at these same camps I also enjoyed many completely private game drives and even had the camp to myself on a few occasions at Kasaka River Lodge, Puku Ridge and Luangwa River Lodge. This should not be considered a negative against them, only that they are each newer camps and have not yet been discovered. I would even venture to say it is because many major tour operators have long standing relationships with the longer established operators like RPS and Norman Carr, that they are not doing their clients any favors to sample the latest (and greatest?) in the newer camps.

RPS is to be commended for all the community service and wildlife protection that they have done. However, they are not the only ones. Most every lodge in South Luangwa belongs to the South Luangwa Conservation Society, the same non-profit anti-poaching group that I donated the two new bicycles to on my recent visit. Although they don't publicize it on their website, Luangwa River Lodge sponsored a major concert in Mfuwe a few months ago to benefit HIV+ people, flying in the most prestigous Zambian musical artists to perform. A concert like this with the quality of musicians that performed had not previously been seen in Mfuwe.

One other major consideration...while Luangwa River Lodge and Puku Ridge are open nearly year-round (LRL will close from Dec. 01st to Jan 22nd), two-thirds of RPS camps shut down for seven months out of the year.

DDGatina...I do wish you only the best with your safari at RPS and I am sincerely sorry if you believe that I slighted you in any way by recommending that you split your time between the northern part of the park and the southern part of the park. I went back and looked at an old message, and I first recommended that you try to spend some of your time at Nkwali rather than entirely at Nsefu & Tena Tena. It was only when you responded that Nkwali was unavailable for your dates that I then suggested you consider some other camps in the Mfuwe sector of the park.

In closing, with three prior visits to South Luangwa, and with visits to luxury lodges such as Singita, Simbambili and Vuyatela, I do believe that I am very qualified to declare that each Luangwa River Lodge and Puku Ridge (as well as Chichele Presidential Lodge) rank with the best lodges in Southern Africa. It is unfortunate if one interprets this as a slighting of other South Luangwa camps that I have not yet visited.
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