robin pope safaris (Zambia) in may?

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Jan 10th, 2005, 02:26 PM
  #1
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robin pope safaris (Zambia) in may?

Can anyone tell me about their experiences with Robin Pope safaris? I am considering spending 4 nights in Nkwali and 4 nights in Tena Tena for my honeymoon at the end of May (May 24-June 1).

Any information, opinions appreciated. We are also considering the Okovango Delta in Botswana if anyone has any thougts on comparisons.
Thanks!!
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Jan 10th, 2005, 06:58 PM
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stefandsara,

I was at Tena Tena (and Nsefu) in July 2003 and was very happy with my stay. 4 nights at each location is a good combination without too much rushing. Great area for walking and seeing game on foot, in addition to driving, and night drives.

South Luangwa and and the Okavango are a great combination. You can decide if you want more of a water camp or a land-based activities camp in the Delta, or both. How many days are you planning on in Botswana?

Unless you are planning real active, walking safaris in Botswana, I'd do that after Zambia, so you end on a more relaxing note. Just my preference.

Have fun planning your wedding as well as your honeymoon.

Lynn
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Jan 10th, 2005, 11:28 PM
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We can't really afford to do both, so I have to choose btw Zambia and Botswana. What do you think?
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Jan 10th, 2005, 11:36 PM
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Stefandsara,

Not to take anything away from Robin Pope Safaris (they have a very good reputation), but here are some other alternatives in South Luangwa that are worth looking into.

www.kaingo.com - This is a great camp. Three game activities per day are included and the guides here are excellent.

www.luangwariverlodge.com - This is a new camp but I have heard excellent reports about it. It may be more ideal for your honeymoon than Nkwali, as it appears to be more luxurious.

www.star-of-africa.com - They have two excellent places in South Luangwa, Chichele Presidential Lodge and Puku Ridge. Each place is within a couple miles of the other, so there is no sense in staying at both. Chichele has a hilltop location that provides views for as far as the eye can see in every direction.

www.remoteafrica.com - This is the website for Tafika. While this camp is more on the rustic side, it is the only camp that I am aware of in all of Africa that offers "microlighting" as one of its activities. A microlight is like a hang-glider but with an engine, allowing you to fly with the pilot for an exhilirating "game drive" from the sky.

There are other places as well, just none that I would recommend for a honeymoon:

www.normancarrsafaris.com
www.bushcampcompany.com
www.luamfwa.com
www.luangwa.com
www.flatdogscamp.com

For an excellent website covering all of Zambia, have a look at www.zambiatourism.com

Congratulations on your approaching wedding. Wherever you decide to go in Zambia, you should have an amazing time!
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Jan 10th, 2005, 11:44 PM
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stefandsara,

While I have yet to visit Botswana, I believe that by May it will be getting very chilly. Others may not agree with me, but the last thing I want while I am on safari is to have cold weather!

South Luangwa is further north than Botswana and by May it should be very nice during the day (around 80 degrees) while at night, I would doubt if it dropped under 60 degrees.

I have twice been there in June, and despite it being the coldest month for South Luangwa, and I have never found it to be uncomfortably cold.

From a pricing standpoint, in late May, you may still be able to get some great prices in Zambia.

South Luangwa should be incredibly beautiful in late May. Each time I visited, it was at the beginning of June and everything was still nice and green, yet the bush was forgiving enough to allow very good gameviewing.

The only thing about late May is you should not count on doing any walking safaris. The bush may still be too high, making it too dangerous for walking safaris.
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Jan 11th, 2005, 09:45 AM
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Dear Stef and Sara,
As part of our honeymoon in 2000 we went to Zambia for 10 nights and stayed at Tongabezi (nr Vic Falls), Sausage Tree (Lower Zambezi Park), and Robin Pope's Tena Tena and Nsefu in Luagwa.

While we enjoyed the game at Tena Tena and Nsefu we didn't find either property as romatic as Sausage Tree or Tongabezi, where, for example, they were much more ready to prepare a special meal for us that we could have privately.

We enjoyed the game sightings at Sausage Tree which were excellent, a leopard came right thro the camp! Also the setting on the Zambezi was spectacular.

Have you considered a combination of the lower Zambezi National Park and Luangwa...this would also give you some variety in the landscape.

We booked through africansafari.co.za and they were able to get us an excellent end of season rate.

Good luck with the planning, hope this helps!
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Jan 11th, 2005, 01:59 PM
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Thanks for the replies. I was just thinking this morning about doing the first part of the trip in the Lower Zambezi, and the going up to South Luangwa.

I spoke to Kim and they have just built a honeymoon tent at Tena Tena, so I am hopeful about that camp.

Any other reflections on any of the places you stayed, what to bring, what to expect, etc would be great. Thanks!
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Jan 11th, 2005, 03:40 PM
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stefandsara,

So you are thinking of Zambia OR the Okavango. To compare the areas for the time of year you are going, you can use this link.

http://www.africa-adventure.com/dsp_besttime.html

As you will see, the Okavango comes out a little better for game viewing during May, but you are going the end of May, so it's almost June.

I've never been there in May, but Rocco, who has actually been there when you are going, makes an important point about not counting on walking at that time. If walking safaris were part of your plans that is an important consideration. But so is a new honeymoon tent.

I think Botswana would be more expensive than Zambia in May. I've only stayed at Wilderness camps. A few very lovely ones in/near the delta you might want to consider are: Vumbura or the less expensive Little Vumbura with day and night drives and water activities; Chitabe or the equally priced Chitabe Trails with day drives and walking; or not in Okavango, but in Linyanti there is Duma Tau with day and night drives, boating, and hides/blinds. Overlooking an active lagoon, I thought it was rather romantic. There might be other camps that are more romantic, but I bookd those camps for their game potential.

For temperatures, with no firsthand experience in May, I just looked up some temps and found Botswana seemed to average lows in the upper 40s and S. Luangwa had lows in the mid-50s for May. Highs were mid-70s to 80 in both. Little rainfall for both so that's good.

Those were just some thoughts.

Lynn


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Jan 12th, 2005, 03:08 PM
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I think I'm pretty settled on Zambia. It's so much less expensive that I think we'll be able to stay a little longer. I talked to Chris McIntyre at Sunvil Africa and he was very helpful (and agreed that for first time to Africa, though the Delta is amazing, Zambia has tons to offer, and probably will get more for the $$). Neither he nor the reservations person at Robin Pope said anything about not being able to walk in late May; both talked about the walking parts as though they would be featured. I will check with them again.

Now I am just trying to work out the best camps....
Chiawa or Sausage Tree?
Tena Tena or the Luangwa Valley Lodge?
Nkwali or somewhere else?

Also I'm wondering if we should do 4 days in the first came we go to, and then 2 and 3 in the others, since we will take a day to get our bearings, I imagine. Does anyone have thoughts on this? We could possible stretch it to ten nights, and do 4 in the Lower Zambezi, and then 3 each at 2 camps in South Luangwa....

So many decisions to make from so far away!
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Jan 12th, 2005, 05:56 PM
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Stefandsara,

The Lower Zambezi is, indeed, a beautiful area, but, like the Okavango Delta, it will be a bit chilly at the end of May.

I spent four nights at the beginning of last June at Kulefu Tented Camp (www.star-of-africa.com) and it was uncomfortably cold at night...I would estimate about 40 degrees each night.

Also, while the birding was amazing, the gameviewing was poor, and in four nights we did not see a single leopard or lion and only saw a handful of elephants. I was told that favorable gameviewing occurs later in the dry season (August - October).

But, if you want to enjoy spectacular scenery, while also taking in some canoeing, and don't mind a few cool nights (remember, you are in luxury tents, but they are still, nonetheless, tents) then I would highly recommend the Lower Zambezi. I thought it special enough to plan a return trip this year, although I am waiting until mid-September to visit this time around. However, I may have just been the victim of being in the Lower Zambezi during the full moon, when predators don't really bother to come out and hunt at night.

And in closing about Lower Zambezi, unless you want to hear the occasional hunting rifle, I suggest that you avoid Kulefu Tented Camp and the little known Ana's Tree Camp. I do think that you will be well insulated from the Zimbabwean hunting areas while at Sausage Tree Camp, Chiawa Camp and Kasaka River Lodge, although I do not know for sure as I have yet to stay at any of these lodges. Remember, Zimbabwe is just a few hundred feet away, right on the other side of the river, so although I am not aware of any hunting going on in this exact part of Zambia, it definitely occurs within earshot of Kulefu and Ana't Tree Camp on the Zim side of the river.

Regarding South Luangwa NP, I have always had better experiences when the owners are onsite. That may or may not be the case with Robin Pope Safaris, but with three camps and their own private house away from the camps, and with Robin Pope away half the time on walking safaris, my guess would be that while you will be in capable hands, you will not be in the same camp as the owners.

At Luangwa River Lodge, on the other hand, not only will you be in possibly the most luxurious lodge in the South Luangwa, but you will also be hosted by the owners of the lodge, Barry and Tara. While many lodges seemingly force the issue, by having the rangers/guides dine with the guests, Luangwa River Lodge, I have been told, does things a little differently by personally hosting dinner each night with ONLY the guests.

While I have met many guides that I have enjoyed, quite honestly, once it comes time to an intimate candle-lit dinner in the bush, I would much rather just be with other well-traveled guests and with the owners of the lodge, which in this case are two well-traveled Europeans, he an investment banker or something similar, and she and interior designer, each in their mid-30's.

When eating with the guides, many of whom are from the local villages, conversation just sometimes seems forced, and unless they are Mr. Personality, for the most part, I prefer to eat with just the managing couple and the other guests, if not alone with my wife if I don't care for the other guests.

I do think that the most suitable places (i.e., "romantic") for a honeymoon stay would be either at Luangwa River Lodge, Chichele Presidential Lodge or Puku Ridge, but I have not yet visited Tena Tena or Nkwali.

But, if you are staying at two different lodges in South Luangwa, you may be best off with four nights at Nkwali and three nights at Tena Tena.
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Jan 13th, 2005, 10:59 AM
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I think Roccco brings up some excellent points and many of his observations echo my experience.

We didn't have the best time at Tena Tena because of the quality of the managing couple, Robin Pope was abroad,they were very, very young and in our estimation not suitable for the hosting job. However at Sausage Tree both the guide and the manager were excellent. The other guests also come into play but the difficult is how does one plan for these issues?

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Jan 13th, 2005, 01:23 PM
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Thanks for the insights. I think I am heading towards staying in the Luangwa Valley, though we may end up at Tena Tena. Do you remember the name of the couple? I'm hoping maybe they'll have moved on.

I've been talking extensively with Chris McIntyre of Sunvil Africa, and he has been very helpful, as he's very familiar with all the camps in Zambia. (He has also written the Brandt's books on Zambia and Botswana, which look quite good, though I haven't delved into them deeply yet.)
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Jan 13th, 2005, 03:21 PM
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Greetings,

have you thought about going with the bush camp company? The only operate very small camps that are very rustic. Its another company to possibly throw in the hat. Greendrake went there, so check out his trip report.

My only other reponse is to Roccco's attitude towards guides sitting in with you at dinner. I can understand that the conversation may differ slightly from what we are used to a westerners, though it if you wish to find out more about the local culture and life it is fantastic. There is one crucial element that i consider when dining with guides. You talk about helping with conservation efforts etc, how about black empowerment. By conversing with guides, you are putting them on a learning curve that will help their hosting skills. This gives them a greater opportunity to enter the management of the lodges. In my experience, there are too few from the host country who are given this chance. I know you have a high regard for star of africa, if more managers like Justice (at sussi) can come through, i believe the whole safari experience will be greatly enhanced. His experience as a black zimbabwean gives you a different perspective, compared to the predominate white management you usually find.
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Jan 14th, 2005, 01:32 AM
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stefandsara,

I dont know whether you have looked at the 'its monday' on the robin pope website, but they are experiencing a hell of a lot of rain. May will be nice and green hopefully for you.
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Jan 14th, 2005, 11:24 AM
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Photoholic,

While I am most appreciative of the guides, the fact of the matter is that individuals with the financial wherewithal to visit luxury lodges will likely not have much in common with local guides. There is plenty of time for interaction during game drives, sundowners, morning and afternoon tea, etc.

However, once it comes time for dinner, it borders on absurdity for the local guides take part in formal dinners. More often than not, the guides seem uncomfortable at these dinners and would seemingly much rather be back with the other staff enjoying a much more casual dinner.

I just thought that, especially on a honeymoon, stefandsara may enjoy either dining on their own or with only the other guests and owners of the lodge.
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Jan 14th, 2005, 06:52 PM
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Dining with guides--

You probably can get a feel for what you and the guides would prefer once you are there. Sometimes it builds comraderie to dine together. Guests can further enjoy the guide's expertise and company and the guides can hone their interpersonal skills with clients. At other times, I think the guides like a little down time and prefer not being "on duty" during meals.

One a light note, on my first safari in Kenya, I asked my guide to dine with me at one of the very nice lodges with a delicious and expansive buffet. He filled up his plate and when we sat down to eat, he called over a waiter and said, "Bring me something I can eat. My mother would never allow this in her kitchen." He said the running joke among some of the guides was that they called the chicken that was served to guests "wood" and found it inedible. We ended up getting plates of ugali that night, his preference.
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Jan 16th, 2005, 12:54 AM
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Robin Pope is a good operator and their camps are all high quality (Nsefu is my favourite). But they operate in a fairly remote part of the South Luangwa, and the game density isn't great. Given the choice, I would opt for Bushcamps, and particularly if you can get Phil Berry to guide you. Chindeni and Bilimungwe are outstanding in every respect.

There is no comparison between Zambia and Botswana. Zambia is still fresh and vibrant, and the safaris there take you into some very remote territory. The rawness and the thrill and the solitude are all there. Botswana used to be this way 10 years ago, but Okavango safaris have now become contrived and sterile. The format in most of the Okavango camps is now very tired.

I would go for Zambia by a mile. If you want to add some variety to your honeymoon safari, go to the Lower Zambesi after the South Luangwa (it's an easy flight from Mfuwe to Royal), and stay at Kasaka River Lodge, which is absolutely fantastic. The Zambesi River adds a whole new dimension - both in terms of game viewing, but also as regards activities (canoeing, tiger fishing in particular).
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Jan 16th, 2005, 04:05 PM
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Africa Maven,

Would you please share more about your experience at Kasaka River Lodge. I toured the lodge for about 10 minutes while I was returning from Kulefu Tented Camp last year, and I was impressed enough by the lodge and by the managing couple (and managing Jack Russell, Vodka), that I booked a short 3 night stay for September (to conclude a 12 night Zambian safari that will also take me to Tafika in South Luangwa, Kutandala in North Luangwa, and Luangwa River Lodge in South Luangwa).

It is refreshing to find someone that has been to both Botswana and Zambia. While I sometimes feel immense pressure to visit Botswana, instead, I am enjoying my love affair with Zambia, and this year will mark my 3rd consecutive year visiting Zambia.
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Jan 22nd, 2005, 07:04 PM
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Last July, me n' my Fam spent two week in South Laungwa. We used the Bush Camps Co. for our walking safari. We met many people before and after the safari who used Robin Pope's outfit. I never heard any bad infoe. However, sounds like Bushcamps have more and much more varied types of camps to walk from. Each in their own little eco-system. The one advantage that Robin Pope has, is a camp in the more open country in the north part of the park. Also, I highly recommend Mufwe Lodge as a post safari respit. Very nice place. We shared one camp with an Italian honeymooning couple. For some reason, they just wanted to spend all day in camp. Now that I think about it, the Lion roars we heard in the middle of the night had a slight Italian accent to them.
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Jan 23rd, 2005, 12:33 AM
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I have some experience with Sunvil and other UK operators that you might be interested in.

Drop me an email or I could post it here if preferred.
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