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The more I look at Zambia, the more it looks like a superior safari destination to South Africa...

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Mar 8th, 2003, 02:10 AM
  #1
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The more I look at Zambia, the more it looks like a superior safari destination to South Africa...

Maybe I just burned myself out with all my research on Sabi Sand lodges but Zambia definitely looks like it is the way to go for a quality and diversified safari experience.

In Zambia, one may experience Victoria Falls, the South Luangwa Valley and the Lower Zambezi River at beautiful lodges that are no more expensive than about 2,500 ZAR per person per night. 2,500 ZAR per person does not get you very far in Sabi Sand and by the time you throw in road transfers between lodges you are almost looking at the same prices as air transfers in Zambia.

I found a great looking website at www.star-of-africa.com and I am considering the following itenerary:

2 nights at Sussi & Chuma, a beautiful lodge just a few km's upstream from the Zambian Victoria Falls.
http://www.star-of-africa.com/circuit2.htm

Chartered flight from Livingtston to Mfuwe, followed by 3 nights at Chichele Presidential Lodge (formerly the Zambian presidential retreat) in the highly regarded South Luangwa Valley.
http://www.star-of-africa.com/circuit3.htm

Transfer to Lower Zambezi National Park for 2 nights at Kulefu Tented Camp. This place is supposed to offer wonderful game viewing opportunities as well as great fishing opportunities. Personally, I have not been fishing in nearly 15 years but to cast a fishing rod on the Zambezi River seems like it would be a very spiritual experience.

After spending four nights along the Zambezi last year at Matetsi in Zimbabwe, I would love the opportunity to return, this time on the Zambian side.

While this trip is a little more than I had originally anticipated on spending on my safari portion, it looks like a completely different experience than Sabi Sand. I may very well still end up in the Sabi Sand, but that does now appear to be so much more commercialized, packaged and neatly presented to the consumer who does not want to venture far from the safety net of Johannesburg or Cape Town.

Pardon my overactivity on this board but I do want to share my findings with all. Zambia, while often overlooked, appears to be an excellent alternative to the Sabi Sand and even Botswana and the other safari destinations.
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Mar 8th, 2003, 04:44 AM
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This surely must be heaven:

http://www.star-of-africa.com/gallery/chichss.7.htm

That photo is a view from a dining area at Chichele Presidential Lodge.

Some other amazing photographs of these lodges in Zambia:

Sussi and Chuma, near Victoria Falls:

http://www.star-of-africa.com/gallery/sussi2.htm

http://www.star-of-africa.com/gallery/sussi5.htm

http://www.star-of-africa.com/gallery/sussi3.htm

From Kulefu Tented Camp in Lower Zambezi National Park:

Imagine the tranquility of fishing in the Zambezi River:

http://www.star-of-africa.com/gallery/kuleffs5.htm

As exciting as it is to be close to an elephant, lion or rhinoceros on a game drive, it does not compare to the thrill of being surrounded by hippos and crocodiles while canoeing down the Zambezi River as I learned last year at Matetsi:

http://www.star-of-africa.com/gallery/kuleffs3.htm

My only regret is that I neither have the time nor the money to spend five nights at each of these lodges. There are a couple other lodges in this wonderful collection that I have not even mentioned.

I have already been quoted on the following package:
2 Nights - Sussi & Chuma, Victoria Falls
3 Nights - Chichele Presidential Lodge, South Luangwa Valley
2 Nights - Kulefu Tented Lodge, Lower Zambezi National Park
Air Transfers throughout

By the time I throw in my air from Cape Town-Livingstone-Johannesburg, I am probably looking at around $6,000 but THIS looks worth it. It will bring the price of my whole trip very close to $10,000 or about $2000 more than I was planning by staying six nights in the Sabi Sand.

Even so, the $8000 number was by staying six nights in places like Vuyatela and Inyati. While those places are nice, they don't seem to have nearly the magnetism as these places in Zambia.

Plus, I am staying an extra night on safari in Zambia and will see three different lodges instead of two, meaning that my increased cost is more like $1500. Even if I allowed for an extra $215 USD per night in Sabi Sand, it would do nothing more than allow me to trade up from Vuyatela/Inyati to Vuyatela/Leopard Hills.

Please do not hesitate to donate to my relief fund when I go bankrupt!!!

Well, looks like I'll just have to keep driving my current car for another year before buying a new one.

Roccco...you just have had one month's worth of sleep deprivation, what are you going to do now??? "I'm going to Zambia!!!"
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Mar 8th, 2003, 05:15 AM
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Africa seems just unbelievably expensive, friends who are currently on a visut have passed through Nairobi and Dar and headed to Lusaka and they have emailed that costs are on a Switzerland level. How much would a day trip to a Safari Park cost them or maybe 2 days and 1 night in Euros or USD?
Tks
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Mar 8th, 2003, 05:32 AM
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James,

For one night, they could expect to only get a late afternoon / evening game drive, dinner, lodging, a morning game drive and breakfast. For one of the places that I listed above it would probably be $325 USD per person and that does not include transfers to the lodge.

One night is simply not enough time. Some game drives are very successful while others are not. I would not sugggest any less time than four nights at a private game lodge and the four nights, if limited to that time, should be split between a couple lodges.

The game drives are THE highlight of private game lodges but there are also other highlights such as eating dinner in the bush, guided bush walks, maybe sundowner cruises if you are staying at a lodge on the Zambezi River and just the fact that at private game lodges, you basically have thousands of acres to yourself.

As much as I love Africa, I don't think I could do it self-catering style. I am pretty useless in domestic matters and cannot even do self-catering at home, yet less 10,000 miles from home in the middle of the bush. Plus, as I tell my wife, don't ask me to drive, I'm on vacation.
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Mar 8th, 2003, 07:25 AM
  #5
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Rocco-
You are saving me hours of research. I too am looking at Zambia for our next safari (after Tanzania). I've been watching the specials billboard on e-gnu and like MTBeds, they offer some real good green season specials. Robin Pope Safaris has a good green season special too. So, how do you do air from J'burg to Lusaka? Can you get from Lusaka to Maun by direct flight? I don't know the airline sites for regional air there. Do you?
Thanks for the wonderful research. I plan my day by your posts. Well not quite, but I do print a lot of your posts and put them in my travel file. Liz
 
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Mar 8th, 2003, 01:17 PM
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Liz,

I still have a lot to learn about Zambia, especially regarding the flights into and around Zambia. I have a feeling that I will be forced to pay for costly charters from one lodge to the next, but since my time is very limited and I am trying to see three areas, I don't really mind.

Comparable places, in my opinion, in the Sabi Sand would cost around 3,000 ZAR per night per person. Seven nights would cost 42,000 ZAR with another 3,500 ZAR in road transfers and another 5,500 ZAR in air from Cape Town. 51,000 ZAR is about $6,500 USD and I believe that I can go to Zambia instead for the same price and get a much greater diversity in my safari experience.

Ideally, I would be able to fly directly into Livingstone from Cape Town, but I believe I must stop in Joburg and catch a connecting flight.

I either have the choice of starting my Zambian safari in Victoria Falls and then paying for the expensive charter directly to Mfuwe (South Luangwa) or I can fly on SAA to Lusaka but not arrive until 4PM. I would then probably have to waste a night in Lusaka and then catch a connecting flight to Mfuwe the next morning. I don't really have the time to waste in Lusaka so will probably start my trip in Victoria Falls, then go to South Luangwa and end in Lower Zambezi before finishing off the trip in Joburg.

I figure that the air transfer from Livingstone to Mfuwe will be $300 per person, the transfer from Mfuwe to Lower Zambezi area will be about $150 per person and that the transfer from Lower Zambezi back to Livingstone will be another $150 per person. That puts me at $1200 USD for inter-Zambia transfers and another $600, or so, to SAA air for the CPT-Livingstone-JNB flight sequence. Total air in Africa = $1800.

I am estimating $600 per night for the Zambian lodges. $600 x 7 nights = $4,200.

I am estimating airfare of $2,600 USD for the LAX-CPT, JNB-LAX flights on an air consolidating website like www.airgorilla.com

My eight total nights of lodging at Joburg, Michelangelo Hotel in a junior suite, and Cape Town, Twelve Apostles Hotel in a luxury seaside facing rrom, will only be $1200 thanks to www.luxurylink.com

International Air = $2,600
African Air = $1,800
Zambian Lodges, 7 Nights = $4,200
Joburg & Cape Town, 8 Nights = $1,200
Tips, etc. = $200

Grand Total = $10,000 USD

I am not going to fight too much on the Zambian air transfers. I am too exhausted to put too much more time in to save a couple hundred dollars.

Although I was considering Robin Pope, I think I will more than likely go with Star Of Africa (www.star-of-africa.com) since their lodging looks superior and they have a place in Lower Zambezi and Victoria Falls.

I do feel like a weight is being lifted off my shoulders as I didn't feel like I was being very ambitious for going back to Sabi Sand when there is so much more Africa left to see.
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Mar 8th, 2003, 07:58 PM
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Liz,

Just a little more info on the flights. I was surprised to find a flight from Cape Town-Livingstone-Johannesburg for only $465 USD per person.

The flight from Cape Town-Livingstone is on South African Air while the flight from Livingstone-Johannesburg is on Nationwide Air. It works out perfectly because there is a flight that leaves Cape Town at around 6:30AM, connects in Joburg and gets you to Livingstone just after Noon.

I was very optimistically hoping to pay $600 per person for these flights so I was very surprised to find it for $135 less at $465 per person.

The only chartered air in Zambia that I have found is on the Star Of Africa website with Air Migration. The rates per person, at least for the places I am going are as follows:

Livingstone-Mfuwe (South Luangwa) $360
Mfuwe-Jeki (Lower Zamezi) $310
Jeki-Livingstone $290

http://www.star-of-africa.com/rates.htm#Anchor-Migration-44867

Star Of Africa is going to have to give me a tremendous discount on the air if they want my business. I am NOT going to pay $1,920 USD for my domestic air transfers. That is quadruple the price that I am paying for Cape Town-Livingstone-Johannesburg and about 75% the price that I am paying to go from LAX-CPT, JNB-LAX.

With the $1,920 price tag, that bumps the price of the Zambia package to the following:

Int. Air, LAX-CPT, JNB-LAX: $2,600 USD
4 Nts 12 Apostles, Cape Town: $600 USD
CPT-Livingstone-JNB: $930 USD
Domestic Zambian Air: $1,920 USD
2 Nights Sussi&Chuma: $1,200 USD
3 Nights Chichele: $1,800 USD
2 Nights Kulefu: $1,200 USD
4 Nights Michelangelo, Joburg: $600 USD

That puts the package all the way up to $10,850 USD, or about $850 more than I want to spend for this package. I will shop around and use other prices as a bargaining chip, but this is really the trip I want.

(P.S., I am in business and often give out quotes, and I am sure that often times I am only used as a bargaining chip...C'est la vie).
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Mar 8th, 2003, 08:00 PM
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Correction:

Actually the price for the Zambian air transfers is DOUBLE the price what I am paying for CPT-Livingstone-JNB (not quadruple). Still, it seems unnervingly high priced.
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Mar 10th, 2003, 03:11 PM
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South Luangwa, in my view, is much, much better than Sabi Sands and the private reserves adjacent to Kruger. When I stayed in Sabi Sands, I got the distinct sense that we were checking off Big 5 and that we were driving within a contained park, but South Luangwa is much more wilder. I stayed at Kafunta, which is a great lodge with really nice people. You can get to Luangwa by flying from Jo'burg to Lilongwe (capital of Malawi) and then chartering flight to Mfuwe, at least that's how I did it.

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Mar 11th, 2003, 12:56 AM
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Well, I thought that Zambia was the right place to spend my safari but after speaking to a very intelligent and very educated American travel agent today, I have switched gears. This guy was an American but has spent a few years in Africa (mostly university), and has made a career out of it, going back two or three times a year.

This lucky dog actually goes around to game reserves, free of charge I would imagine, and "inspects" them. The same way that a food critic would critique a restaurant, he reviews safari lodges.

He told me that the very best place in the world, bar none, was Mombo and Little Mombo in the Okavango Delta. Well, since these lodges are almost as much as Singita, they are out of consideration.

I learned that a lot of places in Zambia do not allow night game drives due to the threat of poachers and that it is pretty much martial law/curfew every night, unless you are driving around a private property.

Also, regarding Zambia's Lower Zambezi National Park. I was told that there are something like 35 different lodges concentrated on the Zambian side of the Zambezi River. In comparison, on the Zimbabwean side there are only two or three different lodges in the Mana Pools National Park, or so I was told.

I was not being sold on a trip to Zimbabwe but rather away from a trip to Zambia, based on the criteria I had provided for my desired style of safari (upscale accomodations combined with excellent game viewing including night drives in areas that were not too concentrated with other lodges).

The agent spoke of Sabi Sand as if it was safari for beginners or for those that just had a couple days to get away from Joburg or Cape Town.

After my conversation with this agent I was strongly considering Botswana but after seeing its expense ($750 USD per night for accomodations that were not THAT impressive), I did more digging and found a ton of invaluable information on the website of this agent. Included was a list of his places in Africa that were not to be missed.

On that list, were a couple places in Zimbabwe. Elsewhere on the website was information regarding Zimbabwe's political situation and how, in his opinion, it has really cooled down significantly (the elections were just over 52 weeks ago).

After checking the prices for a couple places that were on his not to be missed list, I found VERY favorable pricing for lodges that are supposed to both have some of the very best game viewing in the whole of Africa.

Given this new information, I will probably follow the following itenerary:

June 05-Depart LAX
June 07-11 Arrive Cape Town. 4 Nights at Twelve Apostles Hotel in Camps Bay.
June 11-14 Cape Town-Victoria Falls Airport. Short air transfer to Hwange National Park. 3 Nights at Makalolo Plains Lodge.
June 14-Air transfer (charter?) Hwange-Kariba. Road transfer to Mana Pools National Park. 3 Nights at Chikwenya Lodge.
June 14-17 Mana Pools. Chikwenya Lodge
Air transfer to Lusaka, Zambia. Lusaka-Johannesburg.
June 17-20 4 nights at Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton.
June 20-Late Departure. Johannesburg-LAX
June 21-Arrive LAX (END)

This package will probably be $1,500 less than Zambia or Botswana. Zambia is mostly expensive because of the air transfers while Botswana is most expensive for its lodging.

The revised price for my package is starting to appear as follows:
LAX-CPT. JNB-LAX = $2,600 USD ($1,300 pp)
CPT-VFA. Lusaka-JNB=$1,040 USD
Air transfer VFA-Hwange=$200 USD???
Air transfer Hwange-Kariba=$450 USD???
Air transfer Kariba-Lusaka=$300 USD???
3 Nights Chikwenya, Mana Pools=$1,620 USD
3 Nights Makalolo Plains, Hwange=$1,620 USD
4 Nights Twelve Apostles, CPT=$570 USD
4 Nights Michelangelo, JNB=$600 USD
Grand Total = $9,000
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Mar 11th, 2003, 03:50 AM
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Rocccccco!

Does that agent you mention publish his opinions/ feedback on the various game parks and lodges he visits and reviews?

In a book or on the internet anywhere?

Would be grateful if you could ask on my behalf.

Thanks so much and also for continuing to share all your research and findings and thought processes.

Kavey
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Mar 11th, 2003, 06:15 AM
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Kavey,

As a matter of fact, yes this agent has published his opinions on his website. I was not going to post it unless somebody asked for it.

I do not endorse this agent but he really seems to know his stuff. I was mesmerized the whole time I was speaking to him about South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Tanzania and Kenya. The only reason I was able to speak to him personally was because I noticed a toll free telephone number with an American prefix so I decided to call, not expecting much.

I have called another agent and personally spoken to a guy who has a very extensive African website with links to everything and I didn't really care for the guy. He made me feel as if I owed the booking to him without really piqueing my interest in anything.

The link to the good agent is:

www.ultimateafrica.com/safari_recommendations.htm

I don't know if I will use him or not...that is up to he and his pricing. I will pay a small additional fee to purchase from him rather than somebody else, but not more than 1-2%.

Another good website that I found (given with a link to one of my chosen lodges and substantial about the lodge and surrounding area) with lodges from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and other countries is:

http://www.wilderness-safaris.com/chikwen.asp#mainchik

This website has similar information for ALL of the lodges shown on their website! By reading guest comments, you can really start to see whether or not you may like the place. Some places have guest comments that appear artificial (30 different comments but all of them only two to three lines thick) while others have comments from guests that seem like staying at the lodge was a life-changing event.

I encourage everybody to go to both of these websites, as they are two of the best Africa websites I have come across. They may not show links to 500 different lodges but they have great info about the ones they do show and seemingly endorse the lodges shown on their respective websites.

Good luck.
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Mar 11th, 2003, 06:46 AM
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Rocccccco
Thanks for the link. It's great to see _all_ of my Botswana camp choices listed on the page of camps this agent recommends - and to read his summaries on them.
The Wilderness Safaris site is one I have posted often on this board - they are the operator a few of us have used for our trips to Botswana - their lodges and staff are superb.
If you want feedback on a few of the Botswana lodges they operate some of us here can help.
Kavey
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Mar 11th, 2003, 07:42 AM
  #14
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Rocco-
Ian Proctor is a travel agent, much like Bert from Fish Eagle Safaris, etc. They are given familiarization trips from the camps for booking into them. All travel agents get them. The amount of business you give to an outfit like Wilderness Safaris, etc. determines what trips you get. They all take "inspection" trips and recommend their products like any sales person.
I too had an experience with Ultimate Africa, not as nice as yours. I got brushed off and was told to call back. I never did.
Did I miss something in your post? If so, sorry, but this is standard practice in the travel industry. Liz
 
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Mar 11th, 2003, 09:01 AM
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Liz,

Sorry to hear about your experience with Ian. He really mesmerized me with his wealth of information.

I do see where his customer service may at some times suffer. For example his office is closed for the next week. However, to his credit, he did get me a quote within a couple hours before he shut down for the week.

I was not inferring that there was anything wrong with receiving free lodging, other than to say that I am green with envy. Maybe after a few more years of plugging away at my career, this line of work would be something that I would be VERY interested in doing. Of course I have A LOT to learn and will require many more trips back to Africa before I have the slightest clue.

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Mar 11th, 2003, 09:30 AM
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Rocco-
A few years ago many people got enough training to be called travel agents. Then they signed on for "outside sales" and away they went. It was legal, but I think the Gov't cracked down on the free trips. You spend enough time on the business to get involved in my opinion. ;>)
I'm not going to give up on Zambia. He also posted on that site that Zambia was very good for wildlife. Liz
 
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Mar 11th, 2003, 10:02 AM
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Liz,

I am sure that Zambia will be great, as well. Ian told me that Chichele Presidential Lodge was great.

However, regarding Lower Zambezi, he said that the concentration of lodges was a real problem.

On the one hand I did feel that if a guy like Robin Pope chose the South Luangwa Valley for his camps, that there must be something to it. On the other hand, after my conversation with Ian, I felt that it may have more been related to the fact that it is 50x easier to have a private lodge in Zambia than Zimbabwe.

Only in the last four years or so, has Zimbabwe began easing their restrictions against private game reserves, but given the political climate, few lodges have opened. So, the ones that have opened enjoy a lot of elbow room.

Anyway, I hope that I stay firmly committed to Zimbabwe. I was there last year at the worst of times, about five days after the elections, and if I survived then, I should no problems this time around.
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Mar 15th, 2003, 01:26 PM
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Rocco, are you serious about $650 a night in a safari park? Is that $65 or truly $650! I thought my friends were joking about the costs! That is staggering.

What would say a 3/4 star hotel cost per night in Lusaka or Vic'Falls?
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Mar 15th, 2003, 05:04 PM
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James,

I wish I was kidding! I have been able to get great deals on 5* hotels in Cape Town and Johannesburg but to stay at very nice accomodations while on safari, you can expect to pay $500 minimum per night.

Sure, if you look around, you may be able to find places in the $300 USD per night range, but would you rather pay $300 USD per night for accomodations that are not very nice that you will not appreciate or $500 for nice accomodations that you can somehow justify the price.

The budget for my approaching trip (if I choose South Luangwa Valley and Victoria Falls appears as follows:

Int. Air, LAX-CPT and JNB-LAX - $2,600
Dom. Air, CPT-VFA, VFA-JNB - $600
Safari Air Transfers, VFA-Mfuwe, Mfuwe-VFA -$1200
Victoria Falls, 3 Nights at The River Club - $1,500
South Luangwa, 4 Nights at either Robin Pope's lodges or at Chichele Presidential Lodge - $2,000
Cape Town, 4 Nights at 5* Twelve Apostles Hotel in Camps Bay - $600
Johannesburg, 4 Nights at 5* Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton - $600

So, in a nutshell, If I want nice safari accomodations it will cost me triple the price I am able to stay at some of the best hotels that South Africa has to offer.

I am not into camping and self-drive safaris and I will pay for it dearly.

The great thing about the private game lodges is that you will likely see as much game in a few days than you would in a few weeks of doing it on your own or through camping. I just don't have the time to go camping and I would probably do something stupid enough to cost me a limb or two!

It would be easy to think that I just don't know where to look for good safari accomodations but I have looked religiously up and down and the best price, in my opinion, that you can get for nice safari lodges in Zambia and Zimbabwe is for about $500 USD per night, and in Botswana & South Africa for about $700 USD per night.

Trust me, I would never consider spending even $400 USD per night at some Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton or other resort in Bali, Hawaii, Mexico or elsewhere. But, for Africa, I am willing to spend this amount and more for the finest accomodations and game viewing.

I honestly sometimes think, "Wow, that person is spending $400-$500 per night at that resort hotel" when I am spending much more, especially when you consider the cost of airfare.

I just have no interest in going to what I consider stupid American holiday destinations like Cancun, the Caribbean, Cabo San Lucas, Hawaii or even Western Europe for those REALLY adventurous Americans who think that visiting France right now is the equivalent to visiting Iraq in terms of their personal safety! HA!

If somehow I could get to Africa once a year I would die happy. I have never visited a place that has touched me so deeply. I have been to Europe about four times, to China, Mexico, Hawaii, Chile and other places and while I had fun at each place none of them came close to Africa. On the one hand, I wish that more people could experience of Africa, on the other hand I hope that more do not come.

I had to laugh when a business associate of mine expressed that he would NEVER go to Africa. We are talking about a guy with a timeshare in Hawaii and a timeshare in Palm Springs, a desert resort city a couple hours east of Los Angeles...goes to the same places every year, right on schedule, with no desire to go anywhere else.

About Africa, he said "Been to the f'n zoo, been to Africa." So sad that I had to laugh my head off.
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Mar 18th, 2003, 09:00 AM
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I was lucky enough to see the Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe Ruins, most of Central and East Africa when I was youung, have not visited there for 20 years. The prices though are quite unbelievable. I think I will stick to Asia!
My friends got back at the weekend from doing Kenya/Tanzania/Zambia and S.A.
It is sad for someone with such great memories to have to hear their account of their travels.
I remember when Nairobi and Harare were cosmopolitan cities. So sad that their account included the worst part as being from touch-down at Nairobiand the only good part was when they toucked down at Singapore on their way back.
They tried to get cheap trips but simply impossible. They paid a fortune for the Intercontinentals in Nairobi and Lusaka.
The potential of countries such as Tanzania are surely huge.
Sad.
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