South Luangwa Trip Report...


Jun 13th, 2003, 09:03 AM
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South Luangwa Trip Report...

I just completed my five day safari at Kafunta in South Luangwa, Zambia. I have not yet been to Vuyatela...that will be next week.

But, allow me to say that I had a wonderful time at Kafunta and would return in a heartbeat. Despite five days there, I would have liked at least one more.

South Luangwa is a virtual ghost-town of a game reserve compared to others, but that is its charm.

Of the 14 (?) chalets available between the main Kafunta River Lodge and the Kafunta Island Bush Camp, no more than three chalets were occupied at any given time. Their busiest times are August - September so we nearly had the entire camps to ourselves and enjoyed excellent service and plenty of one on one interaction with the owners of the lodge and the managing couple.

Kafunta has a very special rate for those that visit within one months time from their booking. The rate is only $120 per person per night plus, I believe, a $20 per day per person fee to go into the actual National Park right across the river. That $140 per person per night includes lodging, airport transfers, two game activities a day and all meals.

I paid $197.50 per person per night but I still think I got a great bargain, given that this is the beginning of their high season.

I would rate Kafunta as follows:

Accomodations - 8.5
Service - 9.5
Food - 6.0
Game Viewing - 8.0
Value - 10.0

The accomodations don't have a claw-foot bathtub or a private plunge pool but they are very nice and every night we were within 10 feet (3 meters) from hippos that were grazing right outside our chalets. The first night was scary but after that we got used to it.

Since there were no more than three rooms occupied at any given time, we had excellent service. During our two night stay at the Island Bush Camp, we actually had the whole camp to ourselves and there were about eight people there to cater to us, including the managing couple, a 32 year old South African guy that just finished a couple year stint at a lodge in Botswana and his 26 year old New Zealander wife.

The Island Bush Camp is primarily for game walks but since it takes three hours on a "rustic" road to get there (one of the worst dirt roads you have ever travelled) you also get a chance to see a lot of game. On the way over we saw about ten Thornicroft Giraffes altogether and on the way back we had a close encounter with a 10 year old bull elephant that we were able to get within 10 meters of.

The Island Bush Camp is in a beautiful setting on a small river island right on the banks of the Luangwa River. I couldn't imagine a better setting for a lodge. Although it lacks electricity, that is part of the charm. It didn't prevent us from enjoying flushable toilets, showers with hot water and light in our rooms (provided by lanterns and candles).

The food was nothing to write home about but I never got sick like I did at Matetsi Water Lodge last year.

I am giving it a 10 for value even though I felt a little ripped off that other people were probably there for even 50% less than I paid since a couple of those people booked last second and probably got better rates.

However, even paying my $197.50 per person per night, this was still at least $125-150 per night less than the people were paying at Robin Pope's Nkwali, Mfuwe Lodge, Chichele and one of Norman Carr's lodges, all right down the road, and sometimes passersby on our game drives.

We had a very nice ranger, Rocky, that we really liked and on the final night he found us a pride of about 10 lions and cubs and that was the gameviewing highlight of our trip. At one point we were within about three meters of the hunting lionesses and although that was a bit close for comfort, it was really exhilirating.

Besides the lions, we saw dozens of Thornicroft Giraffe (found only in South Luangwa), Zebras (a special kind also found only in South Luangwa, although the exact name escapes me), a few herds of buffalo, numerous elephants, countless baboons, puku, impala, hippos and birds of every sort.

I know I will have fond memories of my time in South Luangwa for a long time and with the reasonable prices, I have no doubt that I would be able to take along a couple family members next time around.

I will write a full report on Vuyatela upon my return in ten days but for now I am still basking in the wonderful memories of South Luangwa and Kafunta.
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Jun 13th, 2003, 09:16 AM
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Dear Roccco,

Thank you for the great report. I sure hope the cubs are still around during our visit July 11-22. The last time we were in Southern Africa was a Sept trip and the cubs were grown up a bit. We'll be staying at Tena Tena 2 nights, Nkwali 2 nights, bush walking 3 nights, Nsefu 2 nights (all Robin Pope). We're really looking forward to it! I'll post a report upon our return. Before Zambia we're going on a Kaokohimba Safari in Northwestern Namibia. I just saw that one of N. Geo.'s photographers rated Kaokoland his favorite place in Africa. It should be great!
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Jun 13th, 2003, 09:34 AM
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Rocco, I'm very glad you really enjoyed Kafunta, since I was one of those advocating it as you planned your trip, and I agree on your assessment. Like you, I didn't see any leopards, which was surprising since the park is known for leopards.

Were the carmine bee eaters nesting in the riverbank, or is is too early? What about huge flocks of crowned cranes -- again it may be too early in the year?

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Jun 13th, 2003, 09:36 AM
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One more question -- what did you think of the pontoon crossings? We were surrounded by huge pods of hippos on some of our crossings!
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Jun 13th, 2003, 09:39 AM
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OK, one more post. South Luangwa is known for three endemic large mammals: Thornicroft's Giraffes (I saw plenty of them and to me they look like other giraffes, except for the Reticulated, which is the most beautiful); Cookson's Wildebeast (I didn't see any); and Crawford's Zebra (a really beatiful zebra with black stripes going all the way under its belly -- I only saw a half-dozen or so).
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Jun 13th, 2003, 09:48 AM
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Thit Cho,

Allow me to clarify...although I left it out of my original post, we did have two separate leopard spottings. They just weren't as memorable as some of the other spottings because each time we weren't able to get to closer than about 20 meters away and it was already dark, so we just had to enjoy them through our binoculars.

I saw at least 100 zebra and half of those were altogether in a single spotting. We were able to get VERY close to the zebra (about 10 meters) and I got some great photos.

I didn't have any luck with the Wildebeest either.

We did go across on the pontoon and you have never seen a bigger idiot try to "row" the pontoon across than when I took a seat and tried my luck! I think they needed a new oar when I was through and I fell on my butt halfway through and nearly dropped the oar in the river on a couple other occasions!

I found the Zambians to be very warm. I doubt that any Zimbabwean government official would allow me to take the helm of the pontoon but the Zambians were all great, from the armed park rangers (we had an armed escort on our walks named "Danger")(what a great name for an armed park ranger!) to the hundreds of small children that lined the road from the airport to the lodge, enthusiastically waving to us as we passed by.

I will write a full report on my return but it is just about time to board my flight for Cape Town. Take care.
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Jun 13th, 2003, 01:09 PM
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Rocco - great report - just what one would want to know and very enjoyable. I know you'll have a great time in Cape Town - say hello to Selwyn from all of us!
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Jun 14th, 2003, 08:01 AM
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Well boys and girls, as Roccco's wife, I have a bit different perspective on things...

Kafunta and its story was one of the more interesting things to me--from it's private ownership to the owners point-blank decision to be "bushmen" for many years to come.

Zambia and it's people were also something else--a far cry from their not-so-friendly Zimbabean neighbors. This is what I really enjoyed--the people. Our guide was wonderful and hilarious, despite his shy demeanor. Charles and Francis the waitors were something out of King Arthur's Court and Craig and Charlene, the managers, well...that's a whole other issue altogether.

All-in-all it was a decent trip. And what made it decent rather than "outstanding" was the time spent there. 5 nights is WAY too much--really unreasonable, actually. This means a minimum of 10 game drives, 5 days of being plucked from your bed at 515am, and if you're lucky, seeing the
"Big 5" fifteen times. How many time can you possibly see a lion,leopord and elephant? You only have SO much wall space--how many pictures do you REALLY need?

Kafunta and probably Vuyatela, I fear, are redundant experiences of Singita--the best place in the world. "Yearly" safari is really a waste of time in terms of been-there-done-that. Kudos, however, to my dear Roccco.

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Jun 14th, 2003, 11:51 AM
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Scaredtodeath - the two of you are a hoot! I also love my trips to Africa, but try to space them to every other year.

I would agree that 5-days in one place would be a bit much, that's why you usually see that most itineraries do 2-day (maybe 3-day) stops at any one area. Though have to admit we're sorry not to have taken a 3rd day at Singita if for no other reason than to enjoy our "house" and relax! But with Singita you always have the cost issue.

Recall on trip to Kenya and then another to Tanzania you could tell immediately where in each the country you were located by the greenery, the color of the elephants because even the dirt (soil) was different - Some places it was grey & others red (a la Tara).

As far as how many photos - well, sure you can take too many, as many of us have,but I don't take more than 15 rolls (of 24s) regardless where I am. Most are really great, only the spectacular ones get hung on a wall someplace. The rest go into albums that actually tell a story - "picture books for adults".

Think you're just going to have to be a bit more forceful when it comes to your next holiday - that one should be "your choice" - it's a big world out there.

Bye the way, how were the flites in Zambia? I gather you survived.

Enjoy the rest of your holiday.
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Jun 15th, 2003, 01:29 AM
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hi sandi--
hahahhaah! roccco will be tickled when he reads the last lines of your post!!!!! Zambia flights were not half bad--except the cessna coming back--loaded up on dramamine!
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Jun 16th, 2003, 02:22 AM
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Your report put a smile on my face!

I guess the difficulty is that for safariphiles (yes I just made that up), 5 days is not enough - and we could easily spend weeks without getting bored.

For others, safaris are perfectly enjoyable for a few days but after that, begin to lose their appeal. Boredom sets in.

It's a shame you and Roccco don't feel the same about them but then, variety is the spice of life.

I guess the only solution is to take it in turns in choosing holiday destinations - one main trip choice for each of you in turn.

Or that you do one trip together every year and one trip without each other when Roccco can indulge the safari lust and you can go to wherever you'd prefer to be.

Anyway, fun to hear your side of the report!

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Jun 16th, 2003, 12:08 PM
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Hello Kavey--
No separate trips--house rule
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Jun 17th, 2003, 02:48 AM
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Heh heh - fair enough!
I guess taking turns choosing sounds the best option then - maybe you can get your own back by dragging Rocco around some high-end shops for an entire week or something?! : 0 )
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