Safari in Dec./Jan. - Help?

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Jul 26th, 2005, 10:31 AM
  #1
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Safari in Dec./Jan. - Help?

Hello all,
First, while this is my first posting, I've been reading the site for sometime now and all your guidance is invaluable, so thx very much.

Here's my question; my wife and I are planning on a 4 night safari over end of Dec. beginning of Jan. of this year. We'll be in the CT area before then and plan to do the safari before heading back to the U.S.

We've been on safari before in the Kruger area, but have never been further north. We're debating where to go and the choice seems to come down to Botswana (Delta/Moremi/Chobe) or Zambia (SLNP).

Its a big question, but wondering what you guys think in general in terms of the general experience and the weather and game viewing that time of year? Are insects terrible? Any thoughts on Mfuwe Lodge? Not many places are open that time of yr. in Zambia. We like the idea of being able to see Vic. Falls before hand and may spend a night there as well. Keep in mind we'll be newbies to both locations. Should we consider any other areas which may be better that time of year?

Any help would be much appreciated. We are having trouble deciding where to go. Thanks very much.
gbaron is offline  
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Jul 26th, 2005, 07:55 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2005
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Hi gbaron

While I haven't been to either I did consider Zambia for January and received some advice when I posted. The link is: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34608340

You have to read a lot of non-relevant info but some may help.

Good Luck and see if you can pin Rocco down.
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Jul 27th, 2005, 01:25 PM
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hi gbaron,
for the last 2 january, i have visited botswana. it can be a great time to go especially for photography with the low green grasses. u need to go to specific area though as some are much better than others at that tim of yr. for botswana the best would be mombo camp and savuti. mombo is fantastic yr round so that goes without saying. savuti has a zebra migration in dec-jan so the savuti channel is filled with zebra and predators. spending time at either of these camps would be great. another option which is a little different and would easily include vic falls would be to go to makololo plains in zimbabwe. we were there this past jan and had a fabulous time. those are the 3 best camps i know for the rainy season. let me know if you have any specific questions.
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Aug 8th, 2005, 09:23 AM
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Thanks very much for the tips and the links. I managed to track down Rocco who was indeed very helpful. Luangwa River Lodge looks great and its mentioned frequently in the forum, however, I cannot find a single first hand account from anyone who's been there. I'd like to book it, but can't get fully comfortable without some first hand info. Any thoughts? Did I miss it another thread? Thx much.

p.s. bigcountry, thx for the recs. but they're really expensive and kinda out of our range.
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Aug 8th, 2005, 09:38 AM
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bwanamitch
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Last year I had been in contact with the owners of Luangwa River Lodge who told me that they planned to open the lodge in August 2005. This information is not up-to-date, but nevertheless, if the lodge is already open it can't be for a long time. This would explain why there are no firsthand accounts.

Maybe Rocco can shed some light in this issue...

Mitch
 
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Aug 8th, 2005, 10:22 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2004
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Luangwa River Lodge is partially open. Meaning that some of the chalets are done, and they do have guests. But they are still building/finishing some of the chalets. There are not many actual reviews because very few people have been there yet, as bwanamitch reports.
My own philosophy about new lodges--try them out, but don't have your whole stay/experience in the area depend on one camp. They may be perfect, but they may have kinks in the operation. It's not easy running a camp in an area like this, especially if the operators are new to the area and new to the business (in fact it's not easy in any case). Some of these problems could be exacerbated in the rainy season, their first rainy season in operation, which Dec/Jan is. (On the other hand, they can get very experienced guides during the rainy season from established camps that are closed at this time. That is a definite plus.)
Re the timing: December is typically drier than January. The rains and flooding usually start in earnest in January. Both are very hot time of year in the valley, so if you are not ready for really high temps, it is not a good time to be there. Because it is hot and wet, there are definitely more insects of which mosquitos are the most dangerous, so serious protection is required.
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Aug 8th, 2005, 10:41 AM
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Re Mfuwe Lodge: for a safari at this time of year it is an excellent choice. None of the real bushcamps are open at this time of year so all the places available are more chalet/lodge-like. Mfuwe Lodge is inside the park, so that minimizes driving to get to the action. It is in one of the most wildlife-dense parts of the park. Guides and locals have told me that the wildlife knows it is safe here-- with the Lodge, the park gate and more ZAWA presence, poachers won't be operating here. Yes, this area gets more traffic on game drives, but there is a reason: this is the hotspot for wildlife, expecially for elephants and predators! And in December /January, that other traffic will be a bare minimum, so I doubt it will bother you. Mfuwe Lodge is also on a lagoon, which gets great bird action--including rarities like Pels Fishing Owl.

Finally, because of the mozzies, a screened room can be more comfortable than an open room with only a big mosquito net over the bed (the setup at Nkwal--it is beautiful in dry weather, but it restricts you to your bed at night. If I were going on holiday during this period, I would definitely stay for at least part of my trip at Mfuwe Lodge. With only 4 days, I would not advise spliting your time, but you could. The drives between Mfuwe Lodge, Luangwa River Lodge or Nkwali (my other choices) are very short. (There are other posts about this season which detail why the other lodges open at this time of year would not be my first choice--most have to do with distance and road access in the rainy season.)

I haven't been in Bots during this season, but it is also very hot, and could have rain. I doubt it would have as much rain as S. Luangwa however-- this area just doesn't get the same amount of rainfall as Zambia. (The floods in the Delta area are created by heavy rainfall moving down from the Angola highlands, not by local rainfall.)
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Aug 8th, 2005, 10:46 AM
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bwanamitch
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tashak,

Do you know if LRL has its own pontoon, or, if not, which pontoon do they use for getting into the park? And how's the situation in the wet season?

Mitch
 
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Aug 8th, 2005, 11:24 AM
  #9
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
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No pontoon for LRR...haven't been there, but I was told that it was about 20 minutes off the main road (on the right hand side when facing the gate) , pretty close to the park entrance. Don't think this road floods. So I think the drive to the park gate is much shorter than would be the case from either Nkwali or Kafunta, the other two lodges open year-round (or near year-round).

For those who don't know what we are talking about: the pontoon bridge is only used when the river is low, so you can't count on it in December and it won't be available in January. This pontoon shortens the drive (at least one way) into the park from some of the lodges that are across the river.
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Aug 8th, 2005, 11:33 AM
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Tashak, in early November, are most of the camps still open, or have they already closed for the season? Of the three you mentioned above, which would be your most highly recommended? In November, would Nkfuwe be as busy still, or do you think it would have tapered off by then? I like the idea that it is in the densest for wildlife.

Lisa
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