South Luangwa, Lower Zambezi

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Dec 5th, 2005, 06:17 PM
  #1
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South Luangwa, Lower Zambezi

I've seen some really informative post's here on how best to spend time in South Luangwa and have a few questions i hope you can help me with. There will be 3 of us travelling and we would love to spend about 7 nights in Sourth Luangwa and then a couple of nights in the Lower Zambezi. We would like to experience both game drives and walking safari's and were hoping to stay in a few different places (not just at one place). Does anyone have any recommendation on where to stay and for how long, and what is the best way to travel between places (is it possible to organise transfers etc) Any ideas will be greatly appreciated.
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Dec 5th, 2005, 06:31 PM
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i'd recommend Luangwa River Lodge in South Luangwa and Chongwe River Lodge in Lower Zambezi. Those are the two I've been to and am going back to South Luangwa in March, again staying at Luangwa River Lodge and Tafika and Puku Ridge. LRL has walking safaris with an excellent guide, Victor. Lasts about 3-4 hours, very fun and educational! The travel arrangements between places is usually done by the agent making your bookings. From Lusaka to Mfuwe, it's about 1.5 hours, from Mfuwe to LZ is about 2 hours, nice scenic flights. Both of the above camps had morning and evening drives or walks and Chongwe had canoeing, boating and fishing. Contact Rocco on this board, he'd be glad to help and has more experience in South Luangwa or email me if you want to ask any questions about the above camps. You're going to love Zambia!
Dennis
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Dec 5th, 2005, 06:39 PM
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wow, thanks for the quick reply Dennis, I'll take a look at both of the places you have mentioned, they both sound great.
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Dec 5th, 2005, 07:42 PM
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I visited lower zambezi and south luangwa in september and had a great time. I loved Luangwa River Lodge, Barry is the owner and is very nice and I believe he can arrange your transfers for you and possible all of your bookings, email him. The guides are great, food the best we had in zambia and the setting is awesome. Ask Victor to take you for cocktails to watch the elephants cross the river at sunset, this is only a 1/2 a mile from the lodge, the elephants have been crossing for years. We counted them as they crossed 10 yards in front of us we saw over 100!; Stayed at the Kasaka lodge in lower zambezi, it was average, however the best guide of our trip was Burt from Kasaka. The animal life is far less in this area and more wild and we rarely saw other jeeps, South Luangwa more animals many more people. I saw Chongwe rivelodge and if possible it may be slightly better. We did canoe on zambezi, it was wonderful, and we also went fishing.
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Dec 5th, 2005, 07:44 PM
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one other thing, we did walking safari at Chikoko Trails, it was different from the other experiences, 2 nights is plenty. Really felt more rustic unlike other places very luxurious. I think you can enjoy walking tours from south luangwa.
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Dec 5th, 2005, 11:46 PM
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Judochop,

For the type of safari you describe, I would highly recommend an itinerary such as follows:

Tafika (high season) or Puku Ridge (low season since they do not charge a single supplement in high season and you do have a third traveler) for 3 nights to start your safari.

Luangwa River Lodge for 4 nights

Chongwe River Camp for 3 nights (I would not spend any less than 3 nights in Lower Zambezi, and I do think that on a short stay that Chongwe River Camp would be your best option).

The above itinerary would give you the very best camps/lodges and would allow for not only walking safaris and game drives but also for canoeing, fishing and potentially microlighting if you were to visit Tafika. Fishing for the razor-toothed Tiger Fish (reputedly the big cousin of the piranha) is truly one of the highlights of a Zambian safari and is only available in the Lower Zambezi.

If anything, you may want to consider equally dividing your time between South Luangwa and North Luangwa. With five nights at each Luangwa River Lodge and Chongwe River Camp, you would be entitled to some nice discounts. With a 5 night stay, even Chiawa becomes a good value since you would qualify for a long stay special.

Air transfers would be through Lusaka. It is only a 25 minute air transfer from Lusaka to Lower Zambezi, costing about $240 per person for a round trip. Then it is about $360 per person for a round trip to South Luangwa. Road transfers between lodges in the same park are free of charge and provided by the lodge where you are concluding your visit. So, if you were to start at Puku Ridge or Tafika, it would then be their responsibility to not only pick you up from the Mfuwe Airport but also to provide you with a road transfer to your next camp/lodge in South Luangwa or back to the Mfuwe Airport.

Most of the Lower Zambezi camps are open from mid-April to mid-November.

Luangwa River Lodge and Puku Ridge are open year round. Tafika is closed between November to mid February, when it briefly opens up again for a couple months for river safaris before shutting down again on April 10th until about June 01st. The reason for this is because the river is no longer high enough for river safaris yet the road is not yet adequate for game drives in this northern part of the park until late May/early June.

Feel free to e-mail me if you need any further help.
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Dec 6th, 2005, 04:33 AM
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I would agree with the Luangwa River Lodge but would also add another part of the park. We stayed at Kaingo and their bush camp Mwamba and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is further into the park and there are a lot fewer vehicles. A lot of wildlife there. They have a hippo hide which allows you to view them extremely close up. Going to the hides is an extra activity -- in addition to the morning and evening game drives or walking activity. Additionally, Patrick is a great guide -- he is a natural mimic and can get the animals to turn around.

Puku Ridge might be very nice -- have not stayed there -- but it is not far from Luangwa so you would not be doing a different part of the park.

As for the Lower Zambezi, I have not stayed at Chiawa or Sausage Tree but if I were to go back, that would be my choice as the ride into the park is slow and bumpy -- I would want to stay in the park next time. If you do not care about going to the park, and want water sports, then Kasaka River Lodge is a great choice. Just make sure that there is not a whole group at any of these camps taking up all the other tents!
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Dec 6th, 2005, 08:08 AM
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mpkp,

Yes, I forgot to mention Kaingo. Kaingo is another excellent option and the guiding is fantastic, as is the hippo hide and hippo viewing right from Kaingo's camp.

As far as location goes, however, Luangwa River Lodge, I believe, is about the same distance from Tena Tena as it is from Puku Ridge. It was an hour drive on the transfer between Luangwa River Lodge and Puku Ridge. As a result, the game drives are done in completely different areas of the park.

Puku Ridge shares its game drive area with Nkwali, Kafunta and Chichele (which is its sister lodge located only a mile away). I have had wonderful luck with lions in this area, having experienced this area for the last three years, first at Kafunta, then at Chichele and this year at Puku.

Luangwa River Lodge, to their credit, will put its guests on a full day game drive into the Nsefu area. I believe you experienced this and the gameviewing was quiet. On my own full day drive, while there were long stretches where there was very little game, overall I was very pleased as I saw my first ever Cookson's Wildebeest, my first ever Civet and enjoyed the solitude of the Nsefu area. Plus, it was on this game drive that I was able to get my photos of a hippo pod about 20 strong running full speed down the river. At the end of the day, I had many of my favorite photos from my safari from this one game drive.

Plus, I loved napping in the afternoon heat underneath a Sausage Tree, although that may not be the safest thing to do. Tara made a wonderful picnic lunch and after that, I was all too happy to let James and Fenwill take a break from the afternoon heat.

Of course, the best thing may be, time permitting, to allow about 10 nights in South Luangwa, at which point I would recommend the following:

Tafika or Kaingo (3)
Luangwa River Lodge (4)
Puku Ridge (3)
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Dec 6th, 2005, 10:56 AM
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Well i'll just chime in to say how much you'll enjoy Zambia.
I have stayed twice at the Bushcamps Company camps in South Luangwa and they were great.
Their five camps (including the lovely new Kapamba) are in the southern end of the park, teeming with game.
When there last month, we saw several lions every day (some from as close as a few meters away on foot!), leopards (you have to search for these at night), and of course more eles, hippos and giraffes.
The walking trails are great and while people are plugging their fave guides, Manda Chisanga at Kapamba will show you things you never knew about hte animals and the land and the Zambian people.
As others have said, the Luangwa River is just incredibly beautiful -- worth the trip just to see it.
I stayed at Mwambashi in lower Zambezi -- a very nice camp.
Try to spend as much time as possible in the canoes. Seeing the animals from water-level is the reason to be in the LZ>
Good choice to spend your (relatively short) time in LZ and SLNP, instead of a side trip to the falls. The safaris are unforgettable, a trip of a lifetime. Vic Falls is just a nice waterfall.
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Dec 6th, 2005, 01:50 PM
  #10
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thanks for all the information, it's made planning alot easier for us. I'm going to Rwanda and Uganda (about 16 days) and will be doing that part of the trip solo, but i'm looking forward to Zambia more and more. We might even extend our stay to fit as much as we can in. How far in advance do you have to book accommodation (we are going in August 2006)? Thanks again for all your help.
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Dec 6th, 2005, 04:35 PM
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judochop,

For August 2006, you should book yesterday!

August is possibly the very best time to visit as it is not yet too dry, but it is also not too wet, it is not too hot and it is not too cold.

The majority of people will visit between about June - September. Personally, I am already making enquiries for my clients for 2007.

A bit of insider info...Wilderness Safaris is reputedly starting a circuit of camps in Zambia. Zambia is really starting to gain popularity and already for my 2006 bookings I have had to shift dates around for my clients to help them get the lodges/camps they want. I don't think this would have been the case a couple years ago, but with the tragedy that is Zimbabwe, the higher prices of Botswana and the commercialism of South Africa, Zambia is becoming more and more in demand.

By the way...forgot to mention it before but I love the screenname!
Reminds me of a movie I saw on the way back from Africa in September...Kung Fu Hustle...great movie!

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Dec 6th, 2005, 06:45 PM
  #12
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thanks for the information Rocco, I'll book as soon as I can, and I'll check out Wilderness Safari's too. After reading everyones ideas we are now thinking of spending 3 or 4 nights at Luangwa River Lodge, 3 nights at Puku Ridge and maybe 4 nights at Chiawa, but that could still change (i hope they're not all booked out). I can't wait to get to Zambia, it sounds incredible!

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Dec 7th, 2005, 04:42 AM
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Both Puku Ridge and Luangwa River Lodge are in the southern area of the park. You will be going out over the same areas in these camps. That is why I would recommend you consider another area -- We stayed atKaingo and really enjoyed it but we also heard from people who had been at Tafika and they really enjoyed it -- these are both in a similare location but separated by the river. Perhaps you want to look at a map to see where the camps are -- I believe eyes on Afrika has one.

Enjoy your trip. In truth you will not go wrong with any of the camps.
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Dec 7th, 2005, 07:30 AM
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Rocco - What more can you share about the Wilderness thing? Will the local camps and lodges sell to Wilderness? I sure hope not. I like the individually owned places, and the fact that you can book directly with them. More personal. What does this mean for the future of Zambia safaris? Thanks
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Dec 7th, 2005, 07:54 AM
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cooncat,

At least for South Luangwa, I believe Wilderness will be starting a camp in the northern part of the park. It is my understanding that the former managing director of Star Of Africa resigned and was hired on by Wilderness Safaris to develop a circuit of WS camps in Zambia.

I have no word yet on what they will do in the Lower Zambezi, but I cannot imagine any of the established top camps giving up their independence.

I am happy to see Wilderness Safaris finally come to Zambia, however, as I believe that WS is an excellent outfit committed to conservation. With WS, many new tourists, who would have otherwise not visited Zambia, will now likely visit Zambia. If Zambia becomes a yearround tourist destination, this would be great for the wildlife. Unfortunately, poaching incidents rise when many of the bushcamps in the more remote locations close for the year between November to May.

Given WS excellent track record in Botswana, I don't think there is anything to fear. If anything, I believe WS presence in Zambia, will greatly benefit the Zambian wildlife experience.
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Dec 7th, 2005, 08:16 AM
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Well, hopefully they won't "price the rest of us" out of Zambia. Glad I'm going now....
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Dec 7th, 2005, 12:00 PM
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The Bushcamps company cannot be beaten for it's location and adventures: Splt your stay between Chindeni & Kuyenda, or walk from Bilimungwe to Kapamba, maybe spend a night at a flycamp; They'll organise the works, all you need to do is arrange your flights to and from Mfuwe and they will take care of the rest.
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Dec 7th, 2005, 12:04 PM
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cooncat,

You have chosen a great time to visit. Late May should be beautiful and will also give you the benefit of low season pricing at Luangwa River Lodge and Chiawa. Good thing you booked when you did because I am already getting responses from Chiawa that they are fully booked for some May 2006 dates, forcing me to shuffle dates around for my clients.

Have you started practicing with your Canon 20d yet?
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Dec 7th, 2005, 12:33 PM
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Rocco - I know! Thank goodness I chose Zambia now. However, ahem... I only get low season pricing at Lower Zambezi. Then I get into June and high season. That's OK. My bank account will recover. In about 5 years. Yes, I've been practicing! I love the camera. I've been doing some "artsy" things in photoshop, too. Mostly just playing around with shots I took at the Henry Doorly Zoo on Omaha. Sure hope the animals pose as nicely in Zambia. ;-)

May cannot get here soon enough...
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Dec 10th, 2005, 01:22 AM
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cooncat,

One more reason to be glad that you are visiting Zambia in 2006:

http://allafrica.com/stories/200512080660.html

Unfortunately, I am fresh out of Zambian Kwachas, but what this 27% gain of the Kwacha to the U.S. Dollar will mean, if it doesn't lose its value again before the Indaba travel show in May, will be that Zambian lodges may be forced to raise their prices at least 20% for 2007 in order to compensate.

As things now stand for the Zambian lodges, they are getting shorted by 27% due to this gain of the Kwacha against the US Dollar. 2006 rates are already set, though, so for anyone thinking about Zambia, 2006 may be the best time before prices start to resemble those found in South Africa or Botswana.
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