Puku Ridge--Change of management?

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Dec 20th, 2005, 10:32 AM
  #1
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Puku Ridge--Change of management?

In researching my Zambia trip I heard that in the past 8 weeks Puku Lodge has undergone "some major shakeups" and is currently without a manager. As this was one of the lodges I was considering for an April 2006 trip to the South Luangwa area, I'm not sure what to make of this. Does anyone have more information on this situation? How often do Zambian lodges undergo management changes, and how much does this affect visitors' experiences to these lodges?

Thanks, Glennman
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Dec 20th, 2005, 03:50 PM
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Glennman,

Don't worry about a thing...everything is under control. The former manager, Angie, has moved on, but in all honesty I am not so sure that is necessarily a bad thing. She and her husband, an American "chef" named Chris, were formerly at Jao in Botswana, but then left Jao to a job they thought they had in Mozambique, only to be informed that their jobs no longer existed in Mozambique and then after trying to return to Jao, as could be expected, their jobs no longer existed there, either. It seems to me that they joined Star Of Africa in order to collect a paycheck. I was told that they did recently move onto Mozambique.

Star Of Africa has now transfered their Kulefu manager, Kevin Macauley, to manage Puku Ridge.

Here is an e-mail I just received from Puku Ridge a couple days ago after I checked in on Puku Ridge, as I do like to stay on top of such things whenever I have clients visiting a certain camp:

>>>Dear Rocco,

Good day to you and many thanks for your email to Petrinah. Puku Ridge is only being renovated , the camp will still be at the same place and everything else the same. Right now the renovations are almost complete, by the 30th of this month works will be finished.

It is true Angie has left but we have Kevin Macaulay taking care of things there, note he was running Kulefu and is our acting Operations Manager.<<<

Star Of Africa does, admittedly, suffer from high turnover, but its camps enjoy some of the best locations in Zambia. Star Of Africa is rumoured to have a silent partner who is high up in the Zambian government (Zambian Wildlife Authority to be precise) and they do seem to win very favorable concessions, much to the chagrin of the other operators. Whatever the case, I have stayed at three different Star Of Africa camps/lodges and although I think the food & drinks could be improved, the locations are great, the rooms luxurious and the guiding is very strong.

Personally, I am still recommending Star Of Africa, and despite some negative press about Puku Ridge last year, I decided to stay 3 nights there this past September (as a full paying customer, prior to starting Destiny Africa) and, quite honestly, I am very happy I did. Okay, the food and wine was not so great but the gameviewing was excellent, and to have the wind gust through the spacious tent each night each night, whipping the mosquito net around the bed, all while hearing lion roars and other sounds of Africa, it was totally the right decision to stay at Puku Ridge.

Puku Ridge is one of a very few South Luangwa camps that is NOT situated along the Luangwa River, and this makes for a nice contrast for guests staying at another South Luangwa camp along the Luangwa, and especially for guests whom are also visiting Lower Zambezi, where the Zambezi River rules.

I have done so many thousands of possible itineraries in my head, 95% of them as a normal traveler (pre-Destiny Africa) and Puku Ridge constantly appeared as one of my top three South Luangwa choices. Given the fact that Kaingo and Tafika are mostly closed between mid November to mid May, Puku Ridge is almost a must, in my mind, for any South Luangwa visit allowing more than one lodge. My favorites would be as follows:

1. Luangwa River Lodge
2. Kaingo or Tafika (each are in the northern part of the park and they also each have bush camps to further diversify the experience)
3. Puku Ridge or Chichele

Admittedly, I have not yet had the privilege to visit the Bushcamp Company camps or camps/lodges belonging to Norman Carr Safaris or Robin Pope Safaris.

Kafunta makes an excellent budget option. More upmarket than Wildlife Camp or Flatdogs, but not quite there with the above lodges/camps. However, Kafunta Island Bush Camp is the southernmost camp that I am aware of in South Luangwa and is an incredible experience.

Anyway, Puku Ridge will be fine and I would not be concerned. If anything, I would be glad that it is undergoing a renovation that is expected to be completed in a couple weeks. I just think that Puku Ridge has such a great location with such good such good predators around (lions and leopards) that it would be a shame to miss it, especially when we are talking about a marginal manageress who left after being there for only a few short months anyway.
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Dec 20th, 2005, 04:31 PM
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Thanks, Roccco, for putting my mind at ease as well. As you know, I will be staying at both Puku Ridge and Luangwa River Lodge, at your suggestion during the heart of the wet season. I leave a week from today for London, and arrive in Zambia on Dec 31 and will be there until January 13th. I am confident that both of these camps will offer great photographic opportunities and competent management.

And Glennman, I will a post detailed report here on both camps when I return, which you will have access to long before your departure.

Happy holidays to you both,

Phil
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Dec 20th, 2005, 05:50 PM
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Thanks from me too, Rocco. This is alot more detail about Puku than I have been able to glean from any other source, and definitely puts my mind at ease about a possible booking. And Phil--look forward to the trip report!
Cheers, Glenn
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Dec 20th, 2005, 06:11 PM
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we drove by puku ridge in october and it did look pretty run down so any renovation would be an improvement, but that didn't stop me from booking there in march. and from someone who gained 11 pounds in 11 days in Zambia, i'll eat anything good or bad and only had to ask for ketchup once at Stanley Safari Lodge in Livingstone!
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Dec 21st, 2005, 04:26 PM
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Phil,

Wow...seems like just yesterday that you were first enquiring about South Luangwa, and here you are, one week away! I am really excited for you and wish you the best of luck. Like a good pay per view championship fight, I am eagerly awaiting seeing the photos that you return with from South Luangwa. At least there will not be any battery charging issues since there is full time electricity right in the rooms at each Puku Ridge and Luangwa River Lodge (some camps/lodges only have electricity for a few hours per day as they operate off generators).


Glennman,

Glad I was able to help. South Luangwa is just about my favorite spot on Earth, along with Lower Zambezi, and Star of Africa is a company that I have followed closely for the last couple years since first booking a stay at Chichele Presidential Lodge & Puku Ridge for a June 2004 visit.


Dennis,

I guess Puku Ridge is like a person who is not very photogenic but looks much better in person than in their photos!

Puku Ridge has this "rustic elegance" to it that I think you will really like.

I did locate some photos of Puku Ridge from my June 2004 visit. Hopefully the renovation will restore it to at least this level, although I don't think it was too far off from this during my stay in September of this year. If anything, I think the recent drought makes it appear less attractive against the dry hillside:

http://www.kodakgallery.com/rocco/so..._zambia_-_2004

Puku Ridge is featured in the second to last row of photos. As you can see, South Luangwa is much greener in June than in October during your last visit. March will truly feature South Luangwa with an Emerald appearance.

Altogether, there are 17 photos of Puku Ridge. Please let me know what you each think and whether or not it bolsters your opinion of Puku Ridge. Thanks.
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Dec 21st, 2005, 04:37 PM
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yes Rocco, those pics are nice, all we saw was the backside of the place-but I wasn't really worried, as long as they have elephants in camp i'm happy. it does look like a beautiful place and from the game viewing it is known for, i know i made the right choice! i'll be there in 83 days!
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Dec 22nd, 2005, 03:54 PM
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Looks great to me, and look forward to booking it if available early April. On the other hand, compared to my less than spacious apartment in Manhattan I'd be happy just about anywhere!
Thanks again,
Glenn
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