trip report - Zambia and Cape Town

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Oct 30th, 2005, 08:57 AM
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trip report - Zambia and Cape Town

Sometime soon I hope to be able to tell y'all that we have posted photos -- but we took so many and they take so long to review that we are still not yet down. However, now that we are a bit mor rested, I thought I would try a real report for y'all as this forum was so helpful in many ways.

We were flying Delta FF Business class from Atlanta -- the day before we left, we found out we could fly Atl -Ams direct insteads of through NYC. We were happy about that as it cut the travel time by around 4 hours. The trip went off perfectly and we got to Amsterdam with no worries about catching the flight to Cape Town. We got to Cape Town a few minutes early. Got through customs and the driver Selwyn had arranged for us was waiting there. Stopped at the ATM for money but only received 100 rand notes -- I needed some change for the trip. However, Selwyn called us in the car and came to meet us at 11:00 at night so that we could give the driver the fee. That, by the way was our introduction to him and the way he was about everything. Never makes you feel as if you are putting him out and he always seems to be able to help with everything.

We stayed at Avanti guest house. It is a good value for the money and the people are really great. It is not a fancy place but there was everything we could have asked for and more. The hosts are interesting to talk with and just really nice people. We enjoyed them. and their daughter has a company in Kruger doing walking tours -- if we ever get there, we would like to try to spend some time there.

Anyway, we agreed to be ready at 9 for Selwyn to pick us up. We spent the next 3 days with him and had an enjoyable time -- I would highly recommend spending time with him if you can at all do that.

Day 1 we went to the Money Tree Cafe -- and here I should have learned that Selwyn loves to feed everyone -- we had just had breakfast but -- there was always a local item to try and we did eat our way around Cape Town with him. The pie and tea were very good.

We went to see the penguins and then to the Cape of Good Hope. Along the way we saw an antelope -- sorry Selwyn I can't remember the name -- but it is beautiful with a white face -- that is native to there. We also saw some ostrich by the ocean as well as chaco babboons. The area is beautiful and the day flew by. For dinner he dropped us at the Waterfront and suggested Willoughbys which the locals like for seafood. It was a good meal and very reasonably priced.

The second day started with a stop at another tourist house as we needed a place to stay at the end of our trip. We really liked Avanti but we wanted a fancier place for our last night -- so we went to the Cape Cadogan. We liked it so Selwyn said he would arrange the stay with the manager later -- and then we went to a Chocolate shop because I love chocolate and Selwyn had -- once again -- just the place. After we had all acquired some chocolate, we were to head off to the wine country -- except the weather was clearing and we could see the top of Table Mountain -- so a change in plans -- we went to Table Mountain first -- a good thing we did because the window was very short -- we were able to go right up because we were with him and we did get the view of the city. Took some photos and by then the clouds were coming in so we left and went to Stellenbosch. After that we went to Kayamundi .

Kayamundi was a fascinating experience. I know now we did not know what to expect. I had no idea the township would be so large -- over 22,000 people. We went with Selwyn while he did his errands there -- and met some of the people he knows. We were impressed by the well spoken high school girl whose parents spend 70% of their income so she and her brothers can get a good education. We went into a township shack and really saw that it was a home to the woman there. She had family photos and several rooms -- and a TV -- EVERYONE has a tv even if they do not have running water. That and a microwave. I must admit I would rather have running water and a toilet! This woman had been married for 20 years but her husband had never paid the full bride price for her to her father so he decided that she had to leave him and her dad provided the place she now lives in. Additionally, the last home we went into the woman was dishing up some food for herself and she offered it to Mike when he said hello. That completely surprised him as she has so much less than we do but she offered it freely. It is this spirit that has so affected Selwyn.

Our last day we went to Hermanus to see the whales. The weather was great and the area was breathtaking -- sitting on the rocks watching them was just perfect!
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Oct 30th, 2005, 09:02 AM
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On to Zambia. It was a long trip to Kaingo which was our first camp. Three flights -- Cape Town- Joberg; Joberg - Lusaka; Lusaka - Mfuwe. And then a drive through the park. This was to be our first game drive but after all that travel, I was too tired to appreciate it. There had been a lion kill -- actually three of them -- the lions had killed three buffalo in one spot and everyone was going to see them. So there were a lot of vehicles coming back from it that we saw. When we got past that spot, the park seemed a lot quieter in terms of vehicles.
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Oct 30th, 2005, 04:28 PM
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Kaingo has 5 chalets that have all been redone this year. They are on solar power so that lights are available all the time.

They build a hippo hide into the bank above a pod of hippos every year. There is an amazing vie of the hippos and sometimed crocodiles from this place. Going to this hide is an extra activity -- done after breakfast and before lunch -- from about 12 - 1:30.

Anpther highlight were the lion cubs -- 7 weeks old. We were able to watch them several different times over the next few days. There were also two that were around a year and 5 or 6 females in this pride. One day the male was challenged by another lion but it turned out to be just noise and the other one went away. That is a good thing because if the male had lost, the cubs would have been killed by the other lion.

It poured for about an hour the second night we were there -- a very unusual thing -- so the night drives were cancelled due to the poor road condition. The one thing the rain did do was bring us a little cooler weather for the next couple of days which was great.

At lunch one day the elephants came. I had never seen an elephant nurse but the baby did this right in front of the dining room -- where we all were when they came.

We walked to Mwamba -- the bush camp that is about a 3 hour walk away. This camp is constructed of reed huts. Solar power is used here also. Although bush camps are primarily walking camps, we used the vehicle because of the hear.

We had a bull elephant at lunch here one day also. In fact her used a small water holethat the birds used as a burd bath to first drink and then took a mud bath.

We also found two leopards here -- at separate times. I had never seen leopard before so it was pretty exciting to me. One of them climbed a tree and was after the guinea fowl. She did not get any because she heard a kill and came down to investigate. We lost her after a while but we could hear the impala warning each other.

The area that Kaingo is in does not get a lot of traffic from other camp trucks . There was a lot to see there -- and we would highly recommend that part of the park.
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Oct 30th, 2005, 04:37 PM
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We next went to Luangwa River Lodge -- and that was culture shock after coming from the bush camp. It is a beautiful lodge with main electricity and fans in all the rooms. There is a tub for two in all the rooms and a very nice shower. Barry and Tara have done a phenomenal job. Everything was 5*.

We were the only guests at the lodge which felt a little strange at first.

Although this lodge is outside the park, Barry has permission to cross the river -- when it is a river -- by boat just up from the lodge -- and by vehicle -- which is what we did -- at the sale location. So you do not have to spend an hour driving around to the main gate.

Some of the highlights on game drives here were a 3-4 week old elephant; a week old bushbuck; a pair of leopard -- probably a mating pair but they were not engaged when we saw them -- and a giant eagle owl -- this one was knocking white brow sparrow weaver nests out of the tree and then picking them aprat to find the chicks,

We did spend one day on an all day game drive to the Nsefu sector -- the luck of the draw but we really did not see much here. Definitely was not worth the drive to us but you do not know these things ahead of time.
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Oct 30th, 2005, 04:52 PM
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Our final camp was Kasaka River Lodge is the Lower Zambezi National Park. This started out to be a disaster but Hugo and Esther were wonderful and really turned the situation into a great time.

We were the only guests there that were not part of a group from California. Esther and Hugo had been told that this group was a fishing group but that turned out wrong -- they had never been to Africa and wanted to go on safari. Kasaka only has two trucks -- and a full camp. That put 8 people on a truck which I felt was too many. They are correcting this next year -- will have another truck so that no more than 6 are in one.

Additionally, part of this group was at Chongwe down the road and they came for dinner two of the nights we were there -- So there were 20 people where the camp accomodates 16 -- for dinner besides us.

Esther did great -- she did a very nice table by the pool for us and she served us. It turned out to be a wonderful and relaxing dinner after a long day -- we were spoiled.

Esther and Hugo also managed one day to give us a private vehicle so we did get to go on safari without as many people in the vehicle.

We also did some river activities -- and caught some tiger fish -- when the vehicles were full.

This camp is about a half hour bumpy ride outside the park and it seems it was another half hour until we arrived at game viewing places. So these game drives were always longer than the others because there was a lot of additional driving to and from -- where we went out for about 4 hours at the othe camps, drives here were 5-5.5 hours. That was tiring.

If I could afford it, I would definitely look into staying at a camp inside the park such as Sausage Tree or Chiawa. It was a lot more expensive so this needs to be weighed against the convenience of being right there. And Kasaka is right on the river so if river activities are important to you, then that needs to also be considered.
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Oct 30th, 2005, 04:58 PM
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We flew back to Cape Town for one last night -- and stayed at the Cape Cadogan. These people were the best --the room was very nice but beyond that -- our flight left at midnight. Although our room was sold for that night, they moved our things to an empty room and offered it to us to freshen up or take a nap or anything we needed before we left. I was very impressed at how much they went out of their way for us. Most places will hold your luggage for you to pick up later but they gave us another room to use at no additional cost. Again, a highly recommended place to stay.
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Oct 31st, 2005, 12:19 AM
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mpkp,

Thanks for sharing this trip report.

If you have a chance, I would love to hear your impression of the different guides at each camp, and more detail such as what you thought about the food and just the whole vibe or culture of the camp/lodge.

I do agree with your assessment that staying within the national park at Lower Zambezi would be preferable to staying at Kasaka River Lodge. However, the advantage is mostly found in the game drives, as I did find that river activities second to none while at Kasaka River Lodge.

Also, just wondering, if you were to return to Zambia, do you think you would again go through Cape Town? I have also used South Africa as a gateway to Zambia in the past, but I do think that in the future I will consider flying directly from London - Lusaka or from another European city - Nairobi or Dar Es Salaam - Lusaka. It does get annoying to see the route map up on the airplane screen and see that the plane if flying right past Zambia!

Did you love Cape Town enough to make it a mandatory stop on your next visit?

Did you love your safari enough to start planning a return safari whether to Zambia, Botswana, South Africa or elsewhere?

Were you satisfied with your camera equipment?

Have you been able to share your passion with Africa for friends and family and what has their reaction been to your choice in doing a Zambian safari rather than a more traditional holiday to Europe or wherever else?

Thanks!
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Oct 31st, 2005, 01:08 AM
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How strange. I am sure I've already read this - I remember the bit about sharing the last camp with a big group and the manager's efforts to resolve it... and yet I have failed to comment!

Welcome back and thanks for sharing the report!
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Oct 31st, 2005, 06:21 AM
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The guides at Kaingo and Mwamba that we had were very good -- We had Ian at Kaingo and Patrick at Mwamba. I really enjoyed that Patrick is a natural mimic so that when you are looking at animals and want them to turn around, he can usually get them to do so by calling to them. Guides rotate between Kaingo and Mwamba as they are both owned by Derek Shenton. Patrick has been at Kaingo forever and probably will stay there. Ian has moved around -- been there two years. He has been at Kasaka also. Definitely a proper Brit but very nice and very good at what he does. Also was sensitive to the make up of people -- we were getting along very well with a couple from the Netherlands so he suggested we stay with them at Kaingo one more day rather than moving to Mwamba with a group of 4 germans that kept to themselves. Mwamba only takes 6 people so we would have felt odd man out. The Dutch couple was going to Mwamba the next day asthe Germans were only staying one night. I really appreciated that about him as well.

As for food -- I never understood starting dinner with hot soup when the temperature is 100! But they did that there. It is hard to compare the food here with next year as the caterer will not be back -- She is from Las Vegas and did it for only this year. So what was true this year may not be next year. That said, there was a routine to the food. I liked that salads and fruit salad were served for lunch -- something lighter because asyou know we are always fed too much. Ginger snaps were big here -- that was always what we had on the truck with a beverage for the stops.

I thoroughly enjoyed Kaingo and Mwamba and would go back in a minute. They do agreat job.

Luangwa River lodge was culture shock after the bush camp and it took a minute to adjust. However, once we did we found it delightful. Tara greets you with those ice cold towels after your grimy drive --very nice touch. Meals here were really great -- a step above everywhere else. And Mike liked the pewter tableware so much we ended up bringing some home! Found it in Cape Town that last day.

The chalets here were the best with the tub for two that opens out onto the river and the shower and the sinks -- they were really beautiful. And yes -- fans! and main power.

Our guide here was good also. James had been guiding for 8 years. We were a little hit or miss ont he game drives -- half were really great -- wartlets feeding, the giant eagle owl, a pair of leopard, lions with blood on them after they had had a kill somewhere, Mike saw hippos fend off a croc after a baby hipp o. But then we had some drives with absolutely nothing. I can't say that is the guide's fault though. I would definitely come back here also.

Kasaka was the largest camp we stayed at and the managers were really great. Hugo is also a guide and I enjoyed our time with him. I liked the food better at the first two camps and preferred being served dinner to a buffet line. That said, there was really nothing wrong with it -- it was just different.

I think Kasaka had the nicest common areas -- really nice places to relax. Great views as there really was a river here! The Luangwa was about dried up when we were there.

I would want to come back because I really enjoyed Hugo and Esther -- if they were not there, I would probably stay in the park as I am not as big on water sports.

If Zambia was my destination and I did not want to do South Africa, then flying direct to Lusaka makes sense and cuts out a lot of travel time. I might consider flying into Cape Town and home from Lusaka or vice versa nest time.

We loved our safari a lot and I would like to go back. That said, it will probably be a few years before we go back. First, we need the ff miles. Second, there are still alot of places in the world we want to see. Third, it is a lot of money and time -- not so easy to get that every year.

Nest time, I would like to see rhino, wild dog and leopard. I have never seen rhino or wild dog so where we go may be tempered by that.

I would have liked to be able to afford the 100-400 lens. Other than that we did love the Canon 20D and the 70-200 lens we took. We have some great photos of the lion cubs that we will post soon.
I also wish we had considered a tripod or bean bag -- I find that the weight of the lens I am not as steady as I woul like to be. I thought a tripod would be a problem but I think it could be used on the trucks.

We did video also which we have not had a chance to review. I think when we put that together it will be really great. The Dutch couple we were with -- she was a professional videographer and gave Mike a lot of tips. A great still photo on your wall is wonderful but to be able to watch the animals again -- priceless!

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Oct 31st, 2005, 06:38 AM
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Thanks for the great report mpkp! I'll be heading that way next year. Can you tell me which 70-200 lens you used? The f4 or the big f2.8? Would love to see your photos! (hint, hint)
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Oct 31st, 2005, 09:38 AM
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Thanks mpkp for the trip report! Zambia is definitely on my list of must-see places and it was great to get to read about your adventures...

Glad you had a wonderful trip!

Jenn
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Nov 1st, 2005, 06:10 AM
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topping....
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Nov 1st, 2005, 06:29 AM
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cooncat,

I would definitely suggest that you consider the Sigma 80-400mm Optical Stabilizing lens. It is a big lens that goes for about $950 but it will be perfect for Zambia. I used it 90% of the time for my photos.

I do think you will have a hard time capturing your leopard photos, unless you really crop them, with a 70-200mm lens, and the same goes for the majority of your bird photos.
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Nov 1st, 2005, 07:17 AM
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Thanks for the tips, Rocco - I've pretty much made up my mind to rent the Canon 100-400 L for the trip. I doubt if I'll need such a huge lens again, and if I do - I can always buy one. I am curious about the shots mpkp got with the 70-200 though! Another hint....
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Nov 1st, 2005, 08:31 AM
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cooncat,

Have you checked out the cost to rent the 100-400L lens. Even for a two week trip, I think it would cost perhaps $500 minimum. By then you are more than halfway to OWNING an 80-400 OS lens.

Please let me know how much you are able to rent it for, as I myself would like to rent a lens rather than buying as my skills, or lack thereof, may be tapped as a boxing ringside photographer and my first assignment would be in a few days time. Rather than buying an expensive lens, I would like to rent one, but everywhere I have checked, the rental is about $50 per day.
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Nov 1st, 2005, 09:10 AM
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Rocco - good question. I just called my camera shop and it's $30 a day or $90 for a week. I think prices are a bit lower on some things here in the Midwest.

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Nov 1st, 2005, 02:22 PM
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We thought about renting the 70-200 lens but by the time we figured in the rental fee and insurance and the cost if anything happened to it -- we would have been responsible for the rental fee of about $300 for the three weeks plus a replacement fee of $2,200 -- we decided to purchase the lens. They are in great demand and we figured we could always sell it after we returned for most of what we had in it -- which is true but we decided to keep it. The 70-200 i more versatile for travel to other places than Africa. I think the 100-400 would have been great to have in Africa.

Cooncat -- I will post a few of my favorite photos later this evening so that you can see how it was. None of these will have been touched up in photoshop -- I think we have some really great ones of the lion cubs at Kaingo.
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Nov 1st, 2005, 03:50 PM
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http://www.snapfish.com/thumbnailsha...35/t_=33181954
This is the sight for just a few lions and elephants -- I loaded 12 of each so that you could see how the lens worked.
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Nov 1st, 2005, 04:03 PM
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http://www.snapfish.com/shareereg/p=...otsi=SALB/t_=0

I may have gotten it wrong -- if the first address doesn't work, try this one.

I have never tried to post photos online before -- it took 15-20 minutes to load 12 - is there a better web site to use or a trick to it?

Thanks
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Nov 1st, 2005, 04:54 PM
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thanks mpkp! I haven't been able to view your photos, can anyone else get the link to work?

MP - was it the f2.8 lens or the f4? Thanks once again - looking forward to the pics!
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