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Roccco Mar 11th, 2003 03:05 AM

The more I look at Zimbabwe, the more it looks like a superior safari destination to Zambia!!!....
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, and has made a career of it, returning 2 or 3 times a year.<BR><BR>This lucky dog actually goes around to game reserves, free of charge I would imagine, and &quot;inspects&quot; them. The same way that a food critic would critique a restaurant, he reviews safari lodges.<BR><BR>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. <BR><BR>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. <BR><BR>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.<BR><BR>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).<BR><BR>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.<BR><BR>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.<BR><BR>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).<BR><BR>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. <BR><BR>Given this new information, I will probably follow the following itenerary:<BR><BR>June 07-11 Arrive Cape Town. 4 Nights at Twelve Apostles Hotel in Camps Bay.<BR>June 11-14 Cape Town-Victoria Falls. Short air transfer to Hwange National Park. 3 Nights at Makalolo Plains Lodge.<BR>June 14-17 Air transfer (charter?) Hwange-Kariba. Road transfer to Mana Pools National Park. 3 Nights at Chikwenya Lodge.<BR>June 17-20Air transfer to Lusaka, Zambia. Lusaka-Johannesburg. 4 nights at Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton.<BR>June 20-Late PM Departure. Johannesburg-LAX<BR><BR>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.<BR><BR>The revised price for my package is starting to appear as follows:<BR><BR>LAX-CPT. JNB-LAX = $2,600 USD ($1,300 pp)<BR>CPT-VFA. Lusaka-JNB=$1,040 USD<BR>Air transfer VFA-Hwange=$200 USD???<BR>Air transfer Hwange-Kariba=$450 USD???<BR>Air transfer Kariba-Lusaka=$300 USD???<BR>3 Nights Chikwenya, Mana Pools=$1,620 USD<BR>3 Nights Makalolo Plains, Hwange=$1,620 USD<BR>4 Nights Twelve Apostles, CPT=$570 USD<BR>4 Nights Michelangelo, JNB=$600 USD<BR><BR>Grand Total = $9,000

Roccco Mar 16th, 2003 12:43 AM

It is commentary like this that I grabbed off a website that is making Zimbabwe hard to resist:<BR><BR>Where do I begin? In a word, amazing. Our trip was fantastic. Zimbabwe itself gets the lion's share of the credit but that's saying a bunch considering the flawless planning and execution. A brilliant itinerary. I can't thank you enough. Every stop had something about it that made us like it the best. Chikwenya had the most animals, our favorite guide (Kevin) and our favorite manager (Alison). Ruckomechi was comparably funky but it had its own charm and our guide was a classic (Paul). I'm really glad we went to both places at Mana. Makalolo was the benchmark for well run lodges- absolutely beautiful. They surprised my son with a birthday cake hidden in tree house lookout. A moment we'll never forget. The logistics were first rate. Never a glitch. Everyone did what they were supposed to do when they were supposed to do it. And with charm, grace, pride and humility. Unheard of. Please use me as a Zimbabwe booster for any wary Americans or Europeans. Its the least I can do. <BR>R.E. - USA

king Mar 16th, 2003 02:02 PM

I could not visit Zimbabwe while Mugabe continues to systematically destroy his country and the Zimbabwean people.

Roccco Mar 16th, 2003 02:31 PM

king,<BR><BR>Are you hurting Mugabe by not visiting or are you hurting those employed by tourism?<BR><BR>Would the same logic apply to a European visiting the U.S.A. that they support Bush's approaching death sentence to tens of thousands of Iraqis that will only be following orders and defending their homeland?<BR><BR>By visiting Israel, is one condoning the treatment of Palestinians and the occupation of their territories?<BR><BR>By visiting Russia, is one condoning the war in Chechnya?<BR><BR>By visiting England, is one condoning the occupation of Northern Ireland? <BR><BR>Etc., etc., etc...

king Mar 17th, 2003 01:09 AM

This is a complex issue. What you have highlighted is a Country Vs Country (or non-country)problem and there is an element of terrorism involved too. <BR><BR>What Mugabe is doing is different. He is not allowing food or humanitarian aid to reach those who oppose him , he and his henchmen are murdering fellow Zimbabweans just because they oppose him peacefully, he is inciting his tribe against other tribes. He is probably leading his country into another Rwanda. I think not supporting all this is more important then maintining the tourism industry which has collapsed anyway because of Mugabe. He does not care whether one visits his country or not. He does not care we are tourists bringing in dollars to his country. All he cares about is his own position. <BR><BR>Another example is Burma where human rights are constantly abused. The tourism dollars there mostly help those in power and rarely help the people who most need help. Tourists to that country indirectly help the regime to remain in power. <BR><BR>We can go on debating about these issues but I would not change my mind re: Zimbabwe until Mugabe was removed from power. I am subsequently willing to help rebuild Zimbabwe and its tourism industy.

Roccco Mar 17th, 2003 01:23 AM

king,<BR><BR>We can agree to disagree on this one. However, I do not see why a leaders transgressions against another country is anymore excusable than transgressions against ones own countrymen.<BR><BR>All I know is that I was glad that I had the opportunity to meet some very nice people at Matetsi Private Game Reserve last year while in Zimbabwe, and I don't see how my absence would do anything but hurt them.

king Mar 17th, 2003 01:42 AM

Yes I agree with you. I am opposed to what is happening re: Iraq, Chechnya, etc. but I am appalled by Mugabe's violence against his fellow countrymen. Many Zimbabweans opposed to Mugabe themselves say that we should not come to Zimbabwe as it is seen as a sign of support for him. No doubt you will meet many nice people in Zimbabwe as there are millions there who are nice but most are suffering as a result of one man who has no respect for human mankind.

Zambezi Mar 17th, 2003 02:56 PM

I'm happy to hear that PAUL is still at Ruckomechi, which I like the best of the many safari camps in Africa that I have visited. Two years ago, Paul, my husband, and I went on a morning walk, only to stumble upon a mother elephant and a curious juvenile male whom Paul let get within ten feet of us before he kicked sand in his face. It was vintage Africa and Paul an emblematic guide. ZZ

Roccco Mar 17th, 2003 04:17 PM

Zambezi,<BR><BR>Can you please tell me a little more about Ruckomechi. I have heard good things about Ruckomechi but I have also heard wonderful things about Chikwenya.<BR><BR>I have heard that Ruckomechi has excellent game viewing but that their lodge was not as nice as Chikwenya which is supposed to have almost as nice game viewing as Ruckomechi.<BR><BR>I would be interested in hearing where else in Zimbabwe you visited and how your experiences were at those destinations and lodges. Thanks.

Zambezi Mar 18th, 2003 09:28 AM

Ruckomechi has an excellent site overlooking Mana Pools, with about ten thatched roof chalets spread in a large oblong pattern, with grass and trees on the &quot;quadrangle.&quot; There is a separate bar/lounge and a separate dining room. An outstanding aspect of the camp is the range of activities. There is the usual pre-breakfast drive or walk. After breakfast (brunch about 10 a.m.), you can go up and down the Zambesi on the pontoon boat or go for another drive. After lunch, in the late afternoon, you can go canoeing (my favorite) or for an evening game drive, with sundowners along the river. At the right season (August on), you can fish for tiger fish on the Zambesi with Sasha. I recommend staying five nights rather than the usual two or three because you can be more leisurely---if you want to do your laundry after breakfast (the male staff will not do &quot;dainties&quot;---this is common), you don't feel as though you are throwing away money. Two of the three times that my husband and I have been there, the manager was Troy Williamson and his wife, Leslie. He had been &quot;promoted&quot; in 2000, when we were last there, but I believe that he is now back at Ruckomechi. There is no one in the world like Troy! He has an incomparable joie de vivre. Finally, I should mention that the food is wonderful. The only other safari camp that I have visited in Zimbabwe is Chizaria, which is in the hills south of Lake Kariba between Kariba and Victoria Falls. It is entirely different from the camps along the Zambesi. The tents are mostly on a ridge overlooking a vast wilderness of scrub brush, cliffs, boulders, and small lakes. Both walking and jeep safaris are offered. There are many elephants. The remoteness and the sense that this is really Africa add to its attraction. ZZ

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