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Trip Report: July/Aug 2005 Cape Town; South Luangwa; Lower Zambezi

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Aug 26th, 2005, 07:08 PM
  #41
 
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Mitch,

Thanks for the map. It looks like an incredible area!
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Aug 26th, 2005, 07:25 PM
  #42
bwanamitch
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Rocco,

I'm just building up a little database of 'important' Zambian locations. Since up to now I havn't find a reliable way to convert GPS data to Google satellite image coordinates, this is a time-consuming task, mainly based on several printed maps, guide books and personal experience. I will publish some of these locations here soon. Feedback and corrections by Fodorites are highly appreciated. You can help, too: up to now I have no idea where exactly Luangwa River Lodge and Puku Ridge are located. So please, remember some important landmarks when you are there.

Here are some other locations:

Mfuwe Intl. Airport:
http://maps.google.com/maps?q=-13.25....933308+(Mfuwe Intl. Airport)&spn=0.116034,0.158675&t=k&hl=en

Chichele Presidential Lodge:
http://maps.google.com/maps?q=-13.16...1178+(Chichele Presidential Lodge)&spn=0.078602,0.084475&t=k&hl=en

Kafunta River Lodge:
http://maps.google.com/maps?q=-13.16...33580+(Kafunta River Lodge)&spn=0.078602,0.084475&t=k&hl=en

Kapani Lodge:
http://maps.google.com/maps?q=-13.11...767397+(Kapani Lodge)&spn=0.078617,0.084475&t=k&hl=en

Nkwali Lodge:
http://maps.google.com/maps?q=-13.11...735983+(Nkwali Lodge)&spn=0.078617,0.084475&t=k&hl=en

Nsefu:
http://maps.google.com/maps?q=-12.93...4044&t=k&hl=en

Tafika:
http://maps.google.com/maps?q=-12.85...4044&t=k&hl=en

Tena Tena:
http://maps.google.com/maps?q=-12.99...1.905413+(Tena Tena)&spn=0.078655,0.084475&t=k&hl=en

Mitch
 
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Aug 29th, 2005, 08:49 AM
  #43
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Chongwe River Camp

According to the camp management, Chongwe gets 70 – 75% English visitors, about 20% American and the remainder is a scattering of everything else. The food was meat and two veg variety of dinners. Pork (fatty) one night, beef skewers (excellent) another, chicken curry (served everywhere!) the third. Starters and desserts were served, main course was buffet. IMO the food was relatively average with a few above average exceptions – the beef skewers, a pâté, and passion fruit tarts. Butternut squash was served several times. Meals are served at one common table.

The camp is in a beautiful location at the junction of the Zambezi and Chongwe river. The tents look out onto the Chongwe river. I was assigned to Tent 6. Facing the Chongwe river, Tent 1 (the honeymoon tent, with a bathtub) was to the right of the dining area. Tent 2 was to the left and closest to the dining area. The numbering continued to the left and went progressively further away. Scattered between the tent areas were the pool and a sitting area. I liked the tents further away from the common area – so you weren’t disturbed by any late night or early morning gatherings. From Tent 6 I had a clear view of the Chongwe river and from the side, Tents 4 and 5. (see photos). There is also a hippo that comes up in between Tents 5 & 6 at night. For privacy, I liked the tents from Tent 6 on. Daredevils may wish to request Tent 4 (story coming later.)

The tent itself was a zip style tent approximately 12 x 12 feet. Both the front of the tent and the back of the tent unzipped. Exiting the back of the tent lead into the very spacious bathroom area (no roof). Chongwe provided Doom, Peaceful Sleep, a flask of water and a mosquito coil in the room. By the sink, Chongwe provided amenities – toothbrush and toothpaste, a razor, soap, shampoo, lotion, etc. A very nice touch. No closet, but a couple of nightstands in the tent and shelves in the bathroom.

Chongwe had 5 people in management – three seemed to be involved in running the camp and two in game drives and vehicles. This seems to be a temporary situation, as they are building a private use house nearby which two of the management will then be moving over to run once it is complete. While I was there the camp was more crowded than usual and was just starting the busy season.


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Aug 29th, 2005, 09:32 AM
  #44
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FYI, the new house will be Chongwe River House (www.chongweriverhouse.com, still offline), planned to be open in April 2006, and part of the exclusive new Safari Houses of Zambia (www.safarihouses.com, still offline).

Mitch
 
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Aug 29th, 2005, 11:19 AM
  #45
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
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Dreaming,

Thanks for your very detailed account of "the invasion". It has educated me and scared me at the same time.

We are leaving in 16 days for our first safari and my husband's biggest fear is my fear of bugs, arachnids and other creepy crawlies.

Advice from anyone on how best to cope would be greatly appreciated!

Cindy
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Aug 29th, 2005, 11:36 AM
  #46
bwanamitch
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cindymac,

I just posted one of the basic rules in the "Kenya, Masai Mara - SNAKES?" thread:
http://www.fodors.com/forums/pgMessa...4&tid=34669304

Mitch
 
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Aug 29th, 2005, 12:04 PM
  #47
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Arrival

Arriving at the same time at Chongwe were an English woman and her two kids (18&20 ish). When we arrived at the camp from the airport (approx 20 minutes), the guide asked what we would like to do. The family decided on a game drive, and I asked for canoeing. After getting my stuff settled in the tent, I joined my guide, George, for a short canoe ride up the Chongwe river for sundowners. At this time of year, the Chongwe is not flowing and is backwash from the Zambezi. It was peaceful and quiet while I missed the excitement back at camp…

The family settled into their tents and then were trapped by an elephant. As the son walked out the back of Tent 4 into the bathroom, he could see an elephant over the top of the bathroom wall. The son then stepped down the two steps into the bathroom, at which point the elephant couldn’t see him anymore. This apparently disturbed the elephant because he proceeded to stick his head through the reed portion of the bathroom wall so that he could see the people again. The elephant knocked down part of the wall and a mirror off of the wall. The family was stuck in their tents until their guide could sneak them out!

Arriving back at Chongwe from canoeing, we could hear the anguished bellows of a buffalo over in Mana Pools. George at first thought it was being attacked, but as the sounds continued the guides thought that it was stuck or trapped. As the sounds continued for over an hour, they decided that researchers in Mana Pools were playing a recording to attract lions. They said that this is illegal to do in the LZNP.

During dinner, the management asked what everyone would like to do in the morning. They said the options were fishing, canoeing, game drive or bush walk. I’m not a fisherman, but here on the Zambezi with all of this water, it seemed that a water activity needed to take priority, so I selected fishing. Another group chose walking and was told that might be a problem because there may not be a guide available who is qualified to lead walks. The group pushed back fairly hard and said they had asked to go on a walk for the two previous activities and that tomorrow morning was to be their last activity before they left. The camp ended up borrowing a guide to lead the walk. The ability to choose the activity was, logically, constrained by the resources (guides and equipment) they had available. But, since the camp was more crowded than usual it seemed that there were more issues than usual. Also, it appeared that one of the two guides qualified to lead walks was booked for a private group.

Wake up call times varied depending upon the activity and the time your group decided upon. Fishing was to leave at 7, so I asked for a 6 am call, which didn’t come. But after getting up at 5:15 for so long, I was wide awake anyway. I went out in the boat with two South Africans and our guide, George. We first went to catch bait fish before we could try to catch Tiger Fish. It was amazing to be out on the river, watching buffalo cross from one small island to another, birds flitting through the air (sigh). I had no luck trying to catch bait fish, but eventually we were ready to try for the Tiger. My lack of luck continued through the morning as I had no catches, no hooks and no close calls. I did, however, catch the oh so elusive branch fish and then, amazingly the river grass fish. We then had to head in early, since the South Africans were flying out.

After lunch I found that one of the guides had taken out a group of people on an all day game drive with lunch in the park, AHHH, I missed that option!

Lazing around the tent during the afternoon break, I looked out the window and saw an elephant hanging around Tents 4 & 5. Maybe the same one? A few minutes later I looked up and he was directly in front of my tent looking in at me. As I grabbed for my camera he sauntered on. I didn’t get the picture, but the sight will live in my memory!

I decided on canoeing for the evening activity, as did an English family (different family than the first one) (Parents, two kids – 12 & 14 ish, very into wildlife). The five of us took two canoes. I sat in the front of my canoe, one of the kids in the middle and the guide, John in the back. The other canoe had the other three. With John in my canoe, I could either paddle or not, so I paddle some, floated some, took some pictures. We paddled past hippos and absolutely HUGE crocodiles for about an hour down the Zambezi, before turning up a channel. We paddled up the channel for a while, passing hippos, buffalo and birds, before being met by one of the Land Cruisers for a game drive back.

As night was falling, we found a group of five female lions that strolled very close to the car. And we saw a baby elephant that made quite a show of telling us to move out of his territory. Then, one of the other Chongwe cars broke down, so we circled back to the other car and picked up the stranded guests and drove back to camp. Dinner was again late, due to our late arrival (9pm). Again, we made arrangements for the next morning over dinner. And I, again, decided on fishing (if at first you don’t succeed….) I had heard rumors of an aardvark that sometimes walks through camp at night, so I put in a request for an aardvard wake-up as well.
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Aug 29th, 2005, 12:13 PM
  #48
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Dennis - Don't you mean: I WILL BUY ANOTHER CAMERA?

Mitch - Thank you for the additional information. My apologies, we drove right past Puku Ridge, but I don't remember any landmarks. I was looking at the Chichele image to see if I could recognize it there, but couldn't.

Kavey - I just noticed that you had put comments on my photos - thank you!

Cindy - First rule, put your husband in charge of all bugs! Also, you might take your own Doom and spray your room after the evening drive and before dinner.
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Aug 29th, 2005, 01:13 PM
  #49
 
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THANKS DREAMING!!!! Great report, can't wait til i get there....hmmm, do i want tent 4???? and after this weekend's pictures of a hula festival, i'm tempted to toss my digital and go back to slr!! Thanks again dreaming!
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Aug 29th, 2005, 02:47 PM
  #50
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Chongwe Continues

That night was filled with the sound of lions. In the morning my 6:30 wake-up call came at 6. There were five of us that wanted to go fishing – the family of 4 and me, which was apparently 1 too many for the regular boat. I went with someone who didn’t seem to be a regular guide (don’t really know), but who knew fishing and knew where the hippos were. After a very slow start, I reeled in an 8 ½ pound Vundu – a catfish type of fish. We released the Vundu back into the Zambezi and cast out again in the search for Tiger fish. It was almost time to head back to camp when I caught an 8 lb Tiger. It was a struggle to reel him in, we then admired his teeth and released him back into the water.

At brunch we each decided our afternoon activities. This was my last activity before beginning the trip home in the morning and I decided on a game drive while everyone else decided to fish. After tea, we all gathered for our afternoon activities and the management decided that there wasn’t enough room for all to fish, so they selected a couple to join me on the game drive. Up until this point I’ve been very lucky with groupings. This wasn’t a good combination. Then we got a flat tire. AHHHH. After they fixed the tire we started heading back and we saw honey badger and a porcupine rattling its quills!

We made it back toward camp and found that they had laid out a beautiful bush dinner. Again, dinner was late – this time due to our late arrival.

In the morning I sat with a family at breakfast who had been due to check into another camp the night before. But when they arrived, the person who was in “their” room refused to check out for another day! I understand the feeling…

Then, a transfer to Royal. I was the only passenger on the flight to Jeki, so I asked to sit up front with the pilot. We flew over the Zambezi and could see pods of hippos, herds of elephants (sigh). We picked up one other passenger at Jeki and flew to Lusaka where I connected to a flight to JNB.


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Aug 29th, 2005, 03:29 PM
  #51
 
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Dreaming,

Thanks for the wonderful report. Although I am going to be scared silly, I cannot wait for seeing the elephants in camp at Chongwe, if this occurs during my stay. Hopefully they will not start bulldozing, or should I say elephantdozing, my tent while I am there!
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Aug 29th, 2005, 05:48 PM
  #52
 
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Thanks for a wonderful report! Did you write a journal every day? You have so many details. I've really enjoyed reading it. You also have some great photos. Congratulations on such a great trip!

Cindy
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Aug 29th, 2005, 06:42 PM
  #53
 
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dreaming:

Loved the trip report, and the pictures were fantastic. Especially the elephant right between the tents! Great stuff.

Jan
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Aug 30th, 2005, 01:26 AM
  #54
 
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I would be FURIOUS if I arrived at a long-time reserved camp only to be told that I would not be able to stay because another guest refused to leave... absolutely furious. Do you know at which camp t they had this experience?

Chongwe sounds wonderful but slightly chaotic at activities management. But wonderful nonetheless.

And you're welcome for the comments...
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Aug 30th, 2005, 08:48 AM
  #55
 
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Hello,

I would feel the same, Kavey -- and would be sorely tempted to march over there and start packing their stuff myself. How unspeakably rude!

Cheers,
Julian
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Aug 30th, 2005, 09:27 AM
  #56
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Rocco - if you have time before you go, be sure to look at cyntut's pictures and trip report... they had some AMAZING elephant experiences at Chongwe.

Cindy - thank you - I did well at keeping the journal while in Cape Town, but once I got to Zambia I only made entries on the transit between camps. I haven't been a journal keeper in the past, so this is a learning experience for me.

Julian and Kavey - as with most stories, there are also extenuating circumstances. The folks who couldn't check in were friends of the management at the other camp. The other camp arranged their alternate accomodation and their activities were handled as previously planned - the other camp sent canoes to Chongwe to pick them up at 8:30 am for a full day canoe trip. I'm sure that if it had been a typical guest/lodge relationship that the tardy guest would have been packed on his/her way.

Jan - thank you... I just can't look at the pictures of the elephant between the tents without thinking of the elephant right in front of my tent - ahhh, the picture that got away....
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Aug 30th, 2005, 12:57 PM
  #57
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The End

After arriving in JNB, I got a cab through Itram to the Westcliff (R350) and checked in. My (discount rate) booking was for a rear facing room, so I was delighted when the check-in receptionist said that I had a room with a view of the zoo. And confused when I got to the room and it was indeed a rear view room. Oh well. It was almost hard to look at the gleaming bathroom after being on safari! I had dinner in the Polo Lounge at the Westcliff (sparkling water, glass of wine & chicken Caesar R120). Internet access was available in the business center - ½ hour for R90.

Unfortunately late check out wasn’t available and I hadn’t booked any activities for the day (bad planning on my part). So, I went to Sandton Square for shopping and lunch. But first, I enjoyed the incredible breakfast buffet at La Belle Terrasse (strawberry crepes and crème, fruit, salmon, tomatoes & avocado, etc.). It was included in my room rate, but would have been R110 if not.

Lunch was at The Butcher Shop & Grill in Sandton (sparkling water, glass of house red, beef carpaccio R100), then a Westcliff car to the airport (R435). A side note on The Butcher Shop – they had a notice on the table that if you call them, they will provide free transport to & from local hotels to the restaurant as long as you tip the driver.

At the airport I pulled together the receipts I could still find to get VAT back. Please note that you have to show your receipts and items PRIOR to check-in for inspection. Then after check-in and immigration you can go to the VAT return desk with the paperwork. My refund was not enough to put on a credit card, so they issued a check in Rand, which was cashable next door at the currency exchange office. The VAT return desk takes a sizable percentage, as does the currency exchange desk (for cashing the check).

The flight home was Jo’burg to London to LA. When I finally arrived in LA the customs officer asked me if I had family in South Africa or Zambia. I said no, and she asked, “Why did you go there then?” Thoughts of sunsets and sundowners, bush walks and elephants, nighttime and hippos, friendly people and beautiful places flitted through my head, but I just answered, “To go on safari”.
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Aug 30th, 2005, 01:00 PM
  #58
 
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Hello,

Wonderful trip report, Dreaming!

RE the guests who wouldn't leave: I think it's even worse that the exception was made because the rude people were 'friends of the management.' It's very unprofessional for the managers to treat paying guests in such a fashion. Which camp did this happen at?

Cheers,
Julian
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Aug 30th, 2005, 01:02 PM
  #59
 
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Dreaming,

I'm sorry -- I misread your answer as saying that the people who over-stayed were friends of the management. If the people who were 'bumped' were staying as guests of the management (rather than paying guests) it's more understandable -- usually friends of the management have to take space as available.

Cheers,
Julian
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Aug 30th, 2005, 01:08 PM
  #60
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Hi Julian - It's how you read it the second time! The people who were "bumped" were friends.... they weren't at all upset about it and were anticipating moving forward with all of their planned activities.
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