robin pope safaris (Zambia) in may?

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Jan 25th, 2005, 08:51 PM
  #21
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
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We have been to a number of countries in Africa and Zambia remains a favorite. The Robin Pope camps feel like a more "authentic" safari experience than many others -- not so much focus on "the Big Five" and more on experiencing the bush and appreciating everything one sees (rather than chasing after only the fanfare game to check off on a list). Most importantly, the quality of the guides is absolutely top-shelf. Charming tents and honeymoon suites are lovely, but without superb guiding a camp is not tops in our book.

It all depends on what is important to you and what your style is. We loved Nsefu and found Tongabezi (near Vic Falls) to be over the top for our taste (having a butler assigned to us for the duration of our stay felt uncomfortable and retro-colonial rather than wonderful). Some people love this, however, so you just have to know what you like. (If retro-colonial is your thing, the River Club may be even better for you than Tongabezi).

We highly recommend Zambia and Robin Pope Safaris -- you can't go wrong with either. Have a wonderful honeymoon!!
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Jan 25th, 2005, 10:15 PM
  #22
 
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WinterTravel,

It would be a pretty futile effort if Robin Pope Safaris did, in fact, concentrate on The Big Five since rhinos have been poached to extinction in Zambia for many years now!

But, I can appreciate what you are saying about Zambia and Robin Pope Safaris, although in even my third trip to Zambia, I still have not found it necessary to visit Robin Pope's camps with so many other options available. Unfortunately, there have actually been mixed reviews about RPS on this website, although I have friends that visited Nkwali last year and loved it, their first ever safari experience.

There are just so many wonderful options to choose from in South Luangwa, from Robin Pope's camps (Nkwali, Tena Tena and Nsefu), to Star Of Africa's luxury options (Chichele Presidential Lodge and Puku Ridge), to Shenton Safaris camps (Kaingo and Mwamba), to the Bushcamp Company's circuit of various bush camps, to one of the best bargains in all of Southern Africa at Flatdogs Camp, to the new and luxurious Luangwa River Lodge and to the only lodge/camp in all of Africa, to my knowledge, that offers microlighting as an activity, Tafika.

With so many wonderful options, it would be hard to go wrong with South Luangwa as a safari destination. The park is large enough to easily justify visiting at least two different lodges, if not more.

As an added bonus to Americans suffering through a bad economy and weak dollar, lodges in South Luangwa and other Zambian wildlife destinations (Lower Zambezi and Kafue) price out their lodges in U.S. Dollars rather than in South African Rand. So, while many South African lodges have nearly doubled in the last 2.5 years, Zambian lodges priced have remained relatively unchanged. Even in high season, it is possible to stay at some great great places for about $350 per person per night sharing, and even for the most luxurious lodges such as Chichele Presidential Lodge and Chiawa Camp, it is no more than about $450 per person per night sharing. Having stayed at Chichele, my experience, overall, was every bit as good as my time at Singita in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa (which is now up to about $1,100 per person per night!). While the rooms were not as big and did not feature their own plunge pool, they were very luxurious and featured amazing postcard-quality views. Furthermore, the game activities were totally unregimented, allowing us on one day to enjoy a SEVEN HOUR game drive and on another day to enjoy a nearly 5 hour bush walk.

This year I have selected Tafika and Luangwa River Lodge as my destinations of choice (after visiting Kaingo and Chichele Presidential Lodge last year, and Kafunta River Lodge and Kafunta Island Bush Camp the previous year). However, I do hope to visit Nkwali and Tena Tena on a future visit, as well as other camps such as Puku Ridge, Luamfwa Lodge and others. South Luangwa is just such a wonderful park, and the Zambians such a warm and friendly people, that it is hard to go wrong with most anyplace.

For the very best site featuring South Luangwa and the rest of Zambia, anybody interested should visit www.zambiatourism.com
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Jan 29th, 2005, 07:18 AM
  #23
 
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Roccco,

You asked about my experience at Kasaka River Lodge. We stayed there in August 2003, liked it so much that we went back with friends in August 2004, and are in the early stages of planning another trip later this year.

As those who (like us) have extensive safari experience in places like Zambia, Botswana and South Africa will know, it is hard to capture exactly what transforms a good lodge into a great one. It is some combination of the hospitality of the managing couple, the capabilities of the guides, the density of the game, the quality of the accommodation and the food, the scenic dimensions and the indefinable ambience. In our judgement, Kasaka is right up there on all these dimensions. Hugo and Esther are an astonishingly able pair, and incredibly warm and hospitable. They really do care about their guests. The Zambesi river adds a lot to Kasaka - partly because it is such a majestic river, partly because the bird life and game that it attracts are mesmerizing, and partly because being on the river itself (either fishing, or game viewing from one of the boats, or simply just watching the sun go down) is a welcome addition to the normal routine of walking and vehicle safaris. Our greatest pleasure has been to take the pontoon boat on a gentle cruise deep into the Lower Zambesi National Park with one of the Kasaka guides in the morning (picking up an armed Zawa scout along the way), having a walking safari in the Park with a picnic lunch, and returning to Kasaka in the evening, timed to enjoy the sunset on the way back. The game in the Lower Zambesi is as good as anywhere - plenty of predators, and more elephant than I've ever encountered. And we've come to really enjoy the tiger fishing, even though neither of us professes to be greatly interested in fishing. The technique used is drift fishing - allowing bait to drift on the river bottom, whilst the pontoon floats silently for miles downstream. It is incredibly peaceful, the game viewing whilst this activity is taking place is magnificent (hippo and crocs all around, elephant on the banks and in the water, waterbuck drinking - and even eland on the Zimbabwe side; plus wonderful bird life, particularly when the carmine beeeaters have come in from Mozambique). And the buzz of adrenalin when a tigerfish takes is something to be experienced. We've even flyfished for tiger, with Hugo, who is something of an afficianado of this esoteric art. Another key attraction of Kasaka is that its airstrip is only 5 minutes from the camp, and the flight to Lusaka is only 30 minutes - making it possible to leave early in the morning and still catch the British Airways flight to London, which leaves at about 8.00am.(It isn't possible to do this from Mfuwe in the South Luangwa - which then necessitates a rather dreary night at the Holiday Inn in Lusaka).

I feel I've only scratched the surface in my description of what makes Kasaka so enjoyable. But, as is probably clear, I'm a real fan.
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Jan 29th, 2005, 09:06 AM
  #24
 
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Africa Maven,

Thank you so much for that comprehensive reply. I am waffling right now on whether I should stick to Zambia for the 3rd straight year, or whether I should take a year off from Zambia to make my first visit to Botswana. Only for Kwando's camps am I willing to even consider giving up Zambia for a year, as Kwando has an amazing reputation for lions and plenty of other predators, while really making the game drives and other gameviewing activities their focal point.

I did have a chance to tour Kasaka for about 15 minutes, with Hugo gracious enough to cut short his brunch to give me a tour as I was on the way back from Kulefu Tented Camp. The vehicles seemed in tip-top shape (and were Land Rovers, as opposed to Land Cruisers), I loved Vodka the resident Jack Russell, and I loved the camp, especially the honeymoon suite which I currently have reserved for a 3 night stay in mid September.

My only concern is seeing predators, especially lion and leopards, at Kasaka, but these may be unfounded concerns. What was your experience with lions and leopards?

Here is my current itinerary:

Tafika, South Luangwa NP (3)
Kutandala, North Luangwa NP (3)
Luangwa River Lodge, SLNP (3)
Kasaka River Lodge, LZNP (3)

I am tempted, however, to change my itinerary, if I stay in Zambia, to the following:

Luangwa River Lodge (4)
Kutandala (4)
Kasaka River Lodge (4)

Not only does it make for a more comfortable stay, but it adds one night each at lodges that are between $50 - $100 pppns less than Tafika. Honestly, I like Luangwa River Lodge, Kutandala and Kasaka all more than Tafika, and I hope that whatever I miss in the Nsefu part of the SLNP, will be more than made up for at Kutandala in NLNP.

Which would you choose, my current itinerary or the one with 4 nights at each Luangwa River Lodge, Kutandala and Kasaka River Lodge?

Last question...did you find the other guests at Kasaka to be well-traveled and veterans of Africa, or were there many first-timers? I much prefer staying at places that have well-traveled guests whom are making repeat visits to Africa. Makes for much more interesting conversation and prevents a lot of stupid questions and conversations, if you know what I mean!

(No offense to the newbies)
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Jan 29th, 2005, 04:07 PM
  #25
 
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Rocco

The 4 nights at 3 camps would be my preference for these reasons.

1. As you have mentioned in other postings, sticking around awhile gives you a more in depth perspective of the camp, as well as a more relaxing experience. I'm not just giving lip service to this idea, because I too will be doing 3 4-night stays on the next Africa trip.

2. You will hit 3 excellent regions--S. Luangwa, N. Luangwa and the Lower Zambezi. You are not sacrificing a park, just a camp in a park. Being a real fan of Tafika, still does not change my mind for including it if the tradeoff is shortening the stays.

4. The Lower Zambezi has so many options with the water activities that 4 days is really necessary to leisurely enjoy the walks, canoeing or boating, and fishing (you mentioned you partake in this sport), in addition to the traditional game drives.

5. BIGGEST REASON Kutandala just deserves four nights because it is that special and you might feel you have shortchanged yourself with only 3. Also when I was there Rod, the owner, told me that all of the guests that season who had stayed 4+ nights had seen lions at least once on the walks. Those who had spent only 3 nights had not. My experience confirmed that with one on-foot siting of 3 lions during my 4-night stay. However, to put his comment in context, I was there in late July 2003 when there had been heavy rains so it was acting like late June, which is not as good for game as later in the season. September should not require you to "work as hard for your game" as Rod would say, due to fewer sources of water.
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Jan 30th, 2005, 07:08 AM
  #26
 
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Oops, no reason #3 in the above.
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