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Rocco & Alexsandra's 19 Night Zambian / South African Excellent Adventure!!!

Rocco & Alexsandra's 19 Night Zambian / South African Excellent Adventure!!!

Sep 29th, 2005, 04:46 PM
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We've enjoyed following your trip report and photos. Thanks so much for sharing!
Ericka is offline  
Sep 29th, 2005, 05:15 PM
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It has been my pleasure!


Yes, Zambia and the Sabi Sand are definitely apples and oranges.

While this may too much of a stereotype, I think the Sabi Sand is for those that want Africa Lite...great accomodations, fly directly into your lodge's airstrip (or to a neighboring lodge), see the Big Five within the first couple drives, great food, plunge pools, instant gratification, and other than the staff, hold the Africans. Okay, this may be harsh, but it is my interpretation. While enjoyable for a few nights, it is just so incomplete.

Zambia on the other hand is not a place for instant gratification, but rather a place to come and really soak in the environment. African guides and trackers, non-profit organizations that are passionate about wildlife conservation such as Conservation Lower Zambezi, South Luangwa Conservation Society and Chipembele, endangered wildlife that truly benefits from each and every visitor, a plentitude of wildlife from hundreds of hippos within a kilometer stretch of river to buffalo herds of 400+, to nearly nonstop viewing of impalas and puku, to the possibility of seeing perhaps a dozen fish eagle on a single drive...so maybe the leopards do not stop and pose for the visitors and this does not allow for the best photos, but to see the leopards BEFORE they have been habituated to the people and the vehicles is also very special...lodges that are beautiful and in great locations but do not operate like clockwork...game activities that are largely tailored around the guests individual wishes rather than being regimented...SO MANY game activities from canoeing to boat cruises to Tiger Fishing (which is awesome, even for a person that does not fish) to extended bush walks and game drives...driving through African villages and seeing real African people...to have your soul touched by these people, who despite earning less in a year than is spent in a single night at a luxury lodge, still offer the warmest welcomes with the children RUNNING to the roadside just for the opportunity to welcome you to their country and wave and shout "How Are You!"...to meet lodge owners who started these camps/lodges long before there was a demand for them, who, sometimes for years, have been active in anti-poaching campaigns and despite now having successful operations choose to remain in camp rather than anywhere else.

Not a single rhino or cheetah to be found in South Luangwa or Lower Zambezi yet they are both such awesome places with SO MUCH ELSE to offer. Wow, I am already starting to miss Zambia, one week after I arrived home!

Anyway, that is my take on things after making my third visit to Zambia and my third visit to the Sabi Sand (which for all intensive purposes represents South Africa as a whole for those of us choosing the luxury lodge/camp route).
Roccco is offline  
Sep 30th, 2005, 10:46 AM
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topping for Banson
Roccco is offline  
Sep 30th, 2005, 09:16 PM
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where are your Simbambili photos?
regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Oct 1st, 2005, 06:18 AM
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The Simbambili photos are there...they start right after the photos of Simbambili's suite.

Approximately the final 140 photos of the gallery are of Simbambili.

I do have more photos but have not had time to upload them yet. Unfortunately I have to go to a wedding this afternoon in Palm Desert (as if it is not hot enough in the San Gabriel Valley at 103 degrees on Thursday, I have to go to a wedding in Palm Desert where it may be a dozen degrees warmer...hope the discomfort of the guests was worth whatever the bride's family saved for having the wedding on October 01st rather than waiting a month or two).

Hopefully I will find a couple hundred more photos to upload, and I still do have many of my conservation minded photos to upload, although with the rescue of the buffalo, you saw some of what South Luangwa Conservation Society does. The thing is, the carcass of the buffalo, had it been allowed to remain in the water, could have contaminated the water and harmed the animals later drinking water from that spot.
Roccco is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2005, 07:39 AM
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Roccco is offline  
Oct 5th, 2005, 01:21 PM
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Bravo and thanks for another excellent report. All your planning did pay off in the end, even with that one problem. Obviously it didn't put a pall on the rest of the trip!

Best regards,
Diane/uhoh/LOL, etc
LadyOLeisure is offline  
Oct 5th, 2005, 02:36 PM
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Yes, while we could have pouted and stomped our feet about getting stuck in Lusaka, we, instead, made the most out of it and enjoyed a very nice night that included a beautiful piece of jewelery for Alexsandra, a nice hotel (that I had to pay for myself) and a nice dinner.

Thanks for the comments in my photo album. Also, in case anybody missed it, I have uploaded a new photo album of some of my favorite photos. It may be found in the October 2005 folder at


For my huge 500+ photo album, it is at the same website in the September 2005 folder. There are only about 40+ photos in my new gallery but they are much nicer, overall, than in my bigger album (some of them run through Photoshop, others not). Comments are always welcome!
Roccco is offline  
Oct 5th, 2005, 03:34 PM
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There are some very nice shots in this group. I love the hippo charge, it would have been better if there were only seven, but they rarely co-operate, so this was great. The Barred owl is lovely and I am very jealous of your proximity to a White Headed Vulture, I generally see them flying overhead and have to identify them by wing markings. The male Leopard at Simbambili is a beaut, I have asked Leon at Mala Mala if his territory overlaps and if so, can they ID him. It would be fun if we had Leopards in common!
napamatt is offline  
Oct 5th, 2005, 04:49 PM
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The Simbabmili traversing area goes right up against Londolozi, and we were close enough to also see spotlights from the night drives taking place at Singita. So, it would not surprise me at all if the same leopards seen in Simbambili's traversing area also were seen in Mala Mala's area.

As far as my bird/raptor photos go, there was not much that I could not shoot with a potential of 896mm zoom (my 80-400mm lens is really a 128-640mm lens with the multiplying factor caused by the reduced sensor size, and after putting on the 1.4x teleconvertor it then had the potential of 896mm).

Although it was not fun carrying around all of my photo equipment, when I do go back, I would take the same equipment:

(2) Canon 20d bodies
(1) Sigma 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 OS lens
(1) Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 lens (this was very important for low light shooting and for close up shooting in the Sabi Sand)
(1) Canon 17-85mm f/??? IS lens
(1) Sigma 1.4x teleconvertor
(5.5 GB) CF Cards--mostly in 1GB cards but with one 512MB card. This was very convenient since I was sometimes capable of filling up close to 2 cards on a single drive, especially on the longer drives I experienced at Luangwa River Lodge.
(6) Camera Batteries (it was nice not to have to charge batteries every day).
(1) Tamrac 777 backpack--I needed a backpack this size to fit everything and the black color that I was concerned with was never even close to an issue, but then again I never went on a single bush walk this year, except for a couple very short ones at Simbambili (and I didn't bring all my stuff along).
(1) Sigma EF-500 Super Flash. Although I never learned how to properly use this flash, and I was frustrated often with my ignorance, it did come in handy for a few photos. Considering that the spotters do not flash the light in the eyes of the animals, a good flash is very important so that you get more than just the body of the animal and then bad shadowing on the face.
(1) Laptop computer. I LOVED being able to download my photos within a couple minutes and then look at them immediately following a game drive. Why spend $500 on an Epson P2000 or other expensive downloading device, when for a few hundred more you can buy a laptop that you will be able to use possibly on an everyday basis?

(sorry to stray from my original response to NapaMatt, but I am on a roll)

My one regret was packing three pairs of shoes. Believe it or not, for 21 straight days, starting in London when I boarded the flight to Joburg, I wore sandals! Not once did I wear my trail running shoes that I brought mostly for bush walks or my regular shoes. Yes, my feet paid a price for wearing sandals the entire time, namely Tetse fly bites, but I needlessly carried around two extra pairs of shoes that were too nice to justify tossing out.

Anyway, I am having fun with Photoshop Elements 3.0, even with my limited knowledge, and I will be downloading more photos. It only takes anywhere from about 3 - 5 minutes to improve a photo that has decent composition but is lacking in other areas. The before and after difference is quite amazing.

I will say that although it was a very serious investment, that I am extremely pleased with the results I have been able to achieve by upgrading my photo equipment. I do think it was important to have easy access to 640mm of zoom rather than cutting myself off any shorter.

One final thought for now...having my own private vehicle for about 2/3 of the time was a true blessing. Fortunately, I did not have to pay one cent extra for this, as it was just the luck of the draw that I was in certain camps at the right time. I mean while Kasaka was certainly not hurting for guests on my final night (with a total of 12 guests in camp), for the first two nights there were no other guests). Only Simbambili and Chongwe River Camp seemed to be near full the entire time. Fortunately, however, this did not diminish the experience as they were both very well equipped to handle large groups (and when I say large, I am talking about a maximum of 16 guests at each camp, which is about the largest camp/lodge that I would ever want to visit).

Anyway, time to play with Photoshop and put up some more photos!
Roccco is offline  
Oct 5th, 2005, 05:14 PM
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I haven't read all the posts in this thread yet...you know me, I had to go straight to the photos. It took me a while to get through all of them.

Good stuff, especially the leopard mother and her cub. Looks like you've been practicing your photography Rocco.

And after being absent from Fodor's all these months I thought for sure I'd come back and read about your adventures with wild dogs. What happened? Don't they know how big of a dog lover you are?
Maybe on your next trip...in the meantime, I've got lots to read about and catch up with on the board, along with lots of new people too.
I'll be waiting to see the rest of your photos.
divewop is offline  
Oct 6th, 2005, 08:28 AM
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I was SO confused half the time on what I should do with my camera! Then, others would offer advice, and it always seemed to contradict the last person's advice.

I do think the most important key to whatever success I enjoyed was having an adequate zoom lens and plenty of memory and batteries. Also, it was nice to be the only game drive passenger, for the most part, while in Zambia.

I am just going crazy trying to find a photo of a Civet that I captured. Civets are so hard to find and then once they are found it is next to impossible to get a good photo. So, I finally got a good photo of a civet and now it is missing. This happened on my 12 hour game drive at Luangwa River Lodge yet when I search those photos I don't find it anywhere. Oh well.

Looking forward to this weekend so I may download some more photos. Hopefully within about a week I will be able to make some large prints and start upgrading my current framed photos. Honestly, looking around my home and office, few of my existing pictures will survive and will instead be nothing more than easy prey for my new photos!
Roccco is offline  
Oct 16th, 2005, 03:14 PM
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A few more new photos have been posted on this newer album:


It consists of 100 photos now and most of them have been run through Photoshop Elements.
Roccco is offline  
Oct 16th, 2005, 03:49 PM
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Rocco, really excellent photos. Do you want to start a new thread -- these may get lost at the bottom of such a long thread, and you have some of the best leopard photos I have seen, plus lots of other interesting photos, including some great bird photos.
thit_cho is offline  
Oct 16th, 2005, 05:27 PM
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Thanks for the suggestion. I will start a new thread for my newest photos.
Roccco is offline  
Oct 21st, 2005, 03:30 PM
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Dear Rocco,
Better late than never! I searched and found your trip report, and I have read it twice, and I can't figure out where to find your photos, would you post the site please??? I'm sure it's right here under my nose but I'm tired of looking.

The trip report was awesome, you guys really know how to travel. I also, liked the part about the bike ride, esp because last summer I truly enjoyed that part of my transfer because as you described, it is a peek at the 'real' Africa, the part with people in it going about their lives. You're cool.

I'm glad you did not have my experience at Puku Ridge with all the other vehicles. Maybe it was the time of year.

I laughed when reading that the sounds in the LZNP were scarey at night - I still get adrenaline rushes when I remember some of my encounters there!

I'm planning another trip for June, and after considering camps in the Sabi Sands, I went with my heart and will be returning to Botswana (Botswana is to me what Zambia is to you) with a side trip to Namibia. It helped to hear from you that Sabi is the "lite Africa" because that is the same impression I got. Well I didn't judge solely upon impression because I stayed years ago at Mala Mala but anyway. Back to remoteness.

Yesterday I bought my third dog and I'm a little afraid of how I'm gonna feel leaving them for 3 weeks next June!! Who takes care of yours?

Thank you for an enjoyable read.
Lin is offline  
Oct 21st, 2005, 06:11 PM
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First things first. Congratulations on doggie #3!

As far as who takes care of my dogs, for my 6 dogs at home, we have a live-in housekeeper / dog nanny who doesn't mind working three weeks straight while we are gone. Full pay, half the work. It does get expensive but I would never abandon my dogs or give them away to a suspect home. We have turned away so many people who wanted these dogs as puppies...we are left with the consequences, but at least I can sleep well at night knowing that these animals are well looked after.

Okay...my photos! Here you go...I have simplified things recently by signing up for my own webpage on Kodak Gallery. It is something like $20 per year but once you have your own web page, the size and quality of the photos displayed increases and it is just so much easier to share galleries with a dedicated webpage.


The most recent three albums are from my safari last month, including one dedicated completely to the conservation effort in Zambia.

About Puku Ridge...the gameviewing was the best out of any camp/lodge I visited. We largely stayed away from the busy Mfuwe area and concentrated on the areas south of there. The only other vehicles we saw were Kafunta and Nkwali, and never more than one other vehicle at once. Plus, a suspect reputation, as Puku Ridge seems to have, does have its benefits. I enjoyed private game drives during my entire three night stay, while the vehicles I saw from the other camps were full. Having your own vehicle is definitely the best possible experience, as you don't have to be considerate of other guests and you are always in position for the best possible photos.

The only camp where we had a full vehicle was Simbambili and it was a constant tug o' war so that everybody had an opportunity from the best angle that worked for them. Also, it was always a vote whether we were going to look for lions, go off to a leopard sighting or whatever. While I believe we all got along very well, I wouldn't have liked a similar experience for the duration of my safari. As it worked out, I had a private vehicle about 80% of the time in Zambia (12 days) and 0% of the time in South Africa (3 days).

I am glad to see that you are going back to Botswana. While I would be lying if I said that I did not really like the Sabi Sand, I still stand by my words that the Sabi Sand (and places like Madikwe and Phinda and other areas around Kruger besides the Sabi Sand) are, in fact, "Africa Lite." Tastes great, but it is also less filling!

I hope you enjoy my photos. Please feel free to run a slide show of my photos and press pause to leave glowing comments for any photo that you particularly like!
Roccco is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2005, 09:07 AM
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OK, I have bookmarked your kodak website and will enjoy it at my leisure (leaving glowing comments of course!). Thanks for the tip about the web page, I might just try that myself. I have just finally edited and readied my photos from July/Aug (soo slow) and I want to post them.

I see there's a lot to be said for visiting Zambia in the shoulder season. It's awesome that you had so much private time in the vehicles and camps. We were all alone at Tafika for a day - that was nice! But the vehicles at Puku Ridge had 7 people in them, that is, the first night we arrived and the following morning, we only had 4 but 3 more arrived for the next evening game drive. We asked for another car but they didn't have one, so we opted to skip that game drive. I know exactly what you mean about everyone having a different agenda, and each person is feeling 'this is my big trip to Africa and I want to see such and such' but they're all different depending upon their luck at prior camps. Ugh. Last trip I booked a private car at Savuti and Tafika and was glad.

Well I'll post again after I look at your pix. Nothing to do this weekend since I'm home with my puppy!
Lin is offline  
Mar 1st, 2006, 07:37 AM
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Thank you for sending this amazing account - what a trip - a great help.
didyrob is offline  

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