South Africa & Vic Falls questions

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Mar 25th, 2006, 06:43 AM
  #1
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Join Date: Dec 2005
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South Africa & Vic Falls questions

Have gleaned much useful information from this forum. Thanks for all your insights.

My wife and I will be in Southern Africa starting in late May for five weeks and would love some advice.

We have three days staying in Vic Falls, the Zim side. There seem to be a mass of tourist activities centered there - white water trips, elephant ride, lion walks, heli flights, jet boats, etc. Which ones are really unique and worth it. Is it best to book these before going? Which tour provider is best. Have heard mixed things about both Safari Par Excellence and Shearwater.

We have four days in Jo'burg. Staying in a guest house in Melville. Appreciate suggestions for best activities in reguards to history, music or great scenery within a day trip. Should we rent a car? Or are taxis or driver hires easy.

Also: Has anyone ever done a Robin Pope Safari in Zambia? How about Jaci's tree lodge in Melikwe?

Appreciate your thoughts!
robertsmyth is offline  
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Mar 25th, 2006, 07:30 AM
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Robert,

For your Victoria Falls excursions, I recommend you take a look at this company:

http://www.seasonsinafrica.com/adventures.htm

Seasons In Africa represents some of the finest luxury lodges such as Leopard Hills, Madikwe Hills and Kings Camp and it also represents many adventure companies in Victoria Falls.

As far as South Luangwa goes, while I have not yet visited Robin Pope's camps, I have visited many other excellent camps. Also, I do have a client who is active on this forum who should be returning home this weekend after making his second visit to Luangwa River Lodge (www.luangwariverlodge.com) and his first visits to Tafika (www.remoteafrica.com) and Puku Ridge (www.starofafrica.com)

Luangwa River Lodge is my favorite South Luangwa lodge but I also think very highly of Puku Ridge and Kaingo (www.kaingo.com). I haven't yet visited Tafika but it does get glowing reports.

For a May visit, you would be limited to Nkwali for Robin Pope, as the other camps will not yet be open. In the same area as Nkwali is Kafunta River Lodge, a nice lodge that is owner operated and offers good value for money. I very much enjoyed my time at Kafunta in June 2003. (www.luangwa.com)

As far as Madikwe goes, I have not yet made my first visit but I will be staying at each Madikwe Hills and Mateya in November. www.madikwehills.com and www.mateyasafari.com

These are very upscale lodges starting at about $800 pp per night for Madikwe Hills and going up to about $1000 per night for Mateya. However, these lodges appear to be in a more exclusive area of Madikwe rather than in a more congested area. While it is true that other vehicles have access to all areas of Madikwe, including the areas where Madikwe and Mateya are located, Madikwe is about the same size as the Sabi Sand, so it stands to reason that vehicles from lodges on the opposite side of the reserve are going to stick to their own general areas.

Another option in Madikwe would be Madikwe Safari Lodge, owned by CCAfrica.

http://www.ccafrica.com/reserve-1-id-2-19

Rack rates are about $400 per person per night, making it an excellent value, and any quality tour operator would be able to slightly discount rack rates for you.

Any thoughts on where you will visit in Victoria Falls? There are many options on both sides of the falls.

On the Zim side of the falls, there is Ilala Lodge, the Victoria Falls Hotel, the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge and Matetsi Water Lodge. For a 3 night stay, I think Matetsi is great, as it is all inclusive and offers morning and night game drives in addition to canoeing and sundowner cruises. It is about 50 minutes away from the falls, but it is the only Victoria Falls option that is on a true game reserve. Furthermore, it is owned by CCAfrica, and if you combined it with another CCAfrica lodge, you would qualify for a long stay discount.

On the Zambian side of the falls, there is Sussi Lodge and this is owned by the same company as Puku Ridge (South Luangwa). www.starofafrica.com

Closest to the falls will be the Royal Livingstone (5 star hotel) and the Zambezi Sun (3 star hotel). They are neighbors and owned by the same company.

Another option, and this would be great for both activities and cultural experiences, would be Songwe Village, operated by the reputable Kwando Safaris. www.kwando.co.za

Then there are other options such as Tongabezi and the River Club, both great looking places but a bit of a distance away from the falls.

Is there any reason for staying four nights in Joburg? It does seem like a long time, unless you are staying two days on arrival and two nights on departure. Even then, however, it seems too long and, budget permitting, I do think you would be better off elsewhere.

Finally, if you are considering South Luangwa, then I also think you would be well served to consider Lower Zambezi in Zambia, as well. There are some fantastic lodges there including Chiawa (www.chiawa.com) Chongwe River Camp (www.chongwe-river.com) and Kasaka River Lodge (www.kasakariverlodge.com). I do fear, however, that I have just about filled Chiawa at the end of May with fellow Fodorites, so I doubt there is availability there, but Chongwe or Kasaka would definitely not disappoint. I loved both of these camps during my visit last September and they are especially good for their river activities, including fishing for the razor toothed Tiger Fish, a bigger relative of the Piranha. Even if you are not into fishing (I surely am not into fishing), it is still a great time and during your fishing you are sure to see plenty of wildlife including elephants, waterbucks, buffalo, and plenty more. Other activities include morning and night game drives, canoeing and river safaris by motorized boat.

Best of luck with your time in Southern Africa.
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Mar 25th, 2006, 07:43 AM
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Hi, As for my experience in Vic Falls, I would not reccomend Safari Par for the ele ride or the walk with lions. Here are my reasons. I went on the ele ride with wild horizons. (www.wildhorizons.co.zw) The ele's were treated with respect, and kindness. A baby was born the day before we got there. The ele's are given time to be ele's. The breakfast after the ride was wonderful also! That afternoon, I did the lion walk thru safpar. The lions were 16 months old, and hit with sticks to make them do what the keepers wanted them to do. The guests were allowed to be disrespectful to the lions (ie- holding the tail while the lion walked). I believe that these lions are actually used for canned hunts when they get too big (no matter what they say, they do not need so many male lions for a "breeding program". As we were leaving, I watched the video of their ele guests from their ele ride. The ele's were not treated with decency either. So my voice says dont use safari par excellence for these activities- the animals are not treated well. I did enjoy the Boma dinner, and the sunset booze cruise was okay. Have a great time!! Suzi
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Mar 25th, 2006, 08:50 AM
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Suzic, thanks for the candid comments.

RobertSmyth,

You inquired about Robin Pope. I stayed at their flagship camp, Tena Tena as well as Nikwali. Both offered a wonderful experience, similar to other South Luangwa camps. I did daily walks and night drives.

You can also spend time (from hours to a week or more) at Kawaza Village nearby for a cultural aspect. I spent a day and stayed overnight and really enjoyed it.

I specifically requested Pope camps for my second visit to South Luangwa because they are well known. My experience at Tafika was at least as good as the Pope camps. So, agreeing with Rocco, S. Luangwa has many great offerings.

Though I did not do their mobile walking safaris, there were several people at Tena Tena who had just completed one. One couple had even done the same walking safari a year or two before and was back. The consensus of this group was that their experience was outstanding and that they saw very little wildlife. In contrast the daily walks from Tena Tena and elsewhere produced elephant and buffalo sightings, plus numerous antelope. Even a leopard on foot at Tena.

My own mobile walking experience (in Mana Pools) was similar with not that much game seen enroute to the destination, but a super experience overall.

But that is why most of the mobile safaris also included a few nights at a permanent tented camp before and/or after the mobile.

As to Vic Falls activities. I don't like scary stuff or loud noise so my answer is biased. I did a slow sunset Zambezi cruise with snacks and drinks that was lovely with some wildlife viewing.

For unique I think the bungee jump that lands you on the level 5 whitewater rafting trip is exceptionally unique. Or just the rafting aloneis pretty unique. Not many places where you can do level 5.

My favorite part about the falls was just walking around in the undeveloped area surrounding the falls. You can take your time and see all sorts of wildlife like baboons, vervets, various antelope and mongoose.

Three nights may be a bit long unless you did want to take advantage of most of those activities you listed.

Booking in advance? If there are a couple of must activities for you, I'd book them. Then see what catches your fancy upon arrival. You are not going at the busiest time so that should help availability.

Looks like an exciting trip!
atravelynn is offline  
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Mar 27th, 2006, 08:24 PM
  #5
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Your responses have been tremendously helpful.

Rocco, thanks so much for all the great ideas. We're going to do a little time at both Madikwe Safari Lodge and Madikwe Hills. Have shorten the visit to Jo'burg on your advice, but we do want to visit the apartheid musuem and Soweto.

Suzic, thanks for you honest input, we have taken it into account.

atravelynn, many thanks for your thoughts on South Luangwa. We doing the Robin Pope walking safari and, thanks to you, staying a night in Kawaza Village after.
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Apr 6th, 2006, 06:31 AM
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"Also: Has anyone ever done a Robin Pope Safari in Zambia?"

We stayed at Nkwali for 9 days starting dec 27th. Great experience, although it was our first Africa trip. Guides were great, facilities are great, food was awesome and we seen tons of animals.

We did the SafPar ele ride - not all that great for the price. We also watched them go river rafting - they were doing a lot of stupid things out there, and 3 days later the rapids were described as a "war zone full of injuries". Not that I imply that any of them were SafPar, but in retrospect we were happy we went with Bundu which seemed very safety oriented, IMHO.

Go for the Popes for sure - you should have a great time with one of the leaders. If you are not booking via a tour op, they may give you a good discount if you stay a certain minimum stay (we stay 9 days in the green season and they knocked off about $50/$60 pppd)
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