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Weather for March/April 2006 Safari -- best in SA, Tanz, or Zambia?

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Aug 3rd, 2005, 02:21 AM
  #1
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Weather for March/April 2006 Safari -- best in SA, Tanz, or Zambia?

Hello everyone,

I'm trying to pick a destination for my March/April 2006 (between March 12 and April 23 because of work). My three options are:

South Africa (Phinda and Londoz)
Tanzania (Selous and Ruaha)
Zambia (South Luangwa)

I was originally planning on South Africa, but Rocco's descriptions of the green season in Zambia certainly are tempting! All three destinations look like they will cost about the same, in the realm of £2,300 ($4100 at current exchange rates) -- the accommodation in South Africa is more expensive, but I can use frequent flier miles to get there whereas I can't for Tanz or Zambia so it evens out. I'll be travelling solo, and CCA doesn't charge single supplements which is also helpful on the SA end of things.

My main concern is weather -- I have a medical condition which makes it very difficult to tolerate hot (above high 70s) humid weather. This is the main reason I've always travelled to Southern Africa during June and July. I've never been to East Africa (yet) so this would be my first trip there.

If you have travelled to any of these areas in March or April, what was the weather like in terms of temperature and humidity? How was the game-viewing? If anyone has been to more than one of these areas in the spring, how do they compare? Thanks!

Cheers,
Julian
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 04:32 AM
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Julian,

We were in Zambia in March of this year and had a fabulous time. The weather was certainly hot but I don't remember noticing the humidity - which probably means it wasn't a problem. Viewing wise we saw great game (apart from the elusive leopard) and the highlight were the wild dogs. The grass was a little long in places but the guiding we experienced was ecellent so we didn't find this a problem and on every game drive we saw plenty.

I've posted the link to our trip report below.

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34595009

We also visited Botswana the year before but this was later (early June I think). The weather was bright & much cooler morning and evening so no problems with humidity. This was also a great trip, but hand on heart I much preferred Zambia although I'd be hard pushed to explain why.

Again, I've posted links to our report below.

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34508770

and photos

http://www.ofoto.com/BrowsePhotos.js...1&sort_order=0

Hope this helps.
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 05:55 AM
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Hi Ruth,

Do you happen to recall (or have written down) any temperatures for the time you were in Zambia? If not, was it shorts and pool weather or not?

Was it a lot hotter than Botswana? I've visited Botswana in June, so I know what that's like.

I visited your trip report, and the lodges you stayed in sound great. I'm thinking about staying there myself.

Cheers,
Julian
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 06:54 AM
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Julian,

Sorry, I'm useless with temperatures but it was definitely shorts and pool weather, although we didn't use a pool anywhere. Early am / pm drives required a long sleeved top & sometimes a fleece but nothing like as cold as Botswana. Very hot and sunny from about mid-morning to late afternoon; a couple of times we were out walking and found it tough so we moved from shade to shade wherever we could. But not too hot that it was unbearable.

The lodges were all different and all great. Nkwali was favourite because of the people & the guiding. Accommodation and food was excellent but different at each of them.

Siankaba was lovely but a long way (45mins - 1hr) from the Falls and transfers were very expensive; so if seeing the falls and visiting Livingstone etc are a priority then try to find somewhere nearer.

Also, sorry, I misread your post earlier - the info about Botswana was not relevant to you. However we did visit Ruaha in June 2 years ago (which is still my most favourite of all our visits to Africa). If you search under my name you should be able to find the post.
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 09:12 AM
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jasher, be aware that the March/April time frame in Luangwa is kind of an uncertain/swing season.
This year, 2005, was unexpectedly dry--so much so that it is considered a major drought and caused serious crop failures. So not a normal year at all, and everyone hopes it won't happen again next year. It is a major problem for the local population (and isn't making the news at all, given the total famine in several other countries.)

In 2004, March and especially April were exceedingly wet. In fact the major floods were in April, and the place was just beginning to get back to normal during May. This also meant that some camps which have to rebuild after the flooding were a bit later opening their operations.

Many of the valley's best camps don't open until June 1, but there are still good choices available earlier in the season. Nkwali, Mfuwe Lodge, Kafunta, Luangwa River Lodge and Chichele are open year round, but during the wet season, Chichele has access to rather limited roads. (there is an old thread on this). Kafunta is farthest from the park, and until the pontoon is open--which if the river is high, it won't be--the drive is long and must be done both ways. (Even in late May 2004, the pontoon was NOT open.) At Nkwali, which is near Kafunta, they can use boats to move people across the river and to the park even before the pontoon is open, which makes this workable. Mfuwe Lodge is probably the best, sure choice in case the wet season proceeds as "normal" because it is right in the middle of most of the action. I know it isn't a "bush" experience, but none of the real bush camps are open at this time of year, anyway.

Flatdogs and Wildlife Camp are open at this time too, if those are on your agenda.

At this time of year, it is doubtful that you can walk -- they can't do it when the grass is too high. June 1 is a safe bet for walks reopening, but it might happen a bit sooner, again depending on rainfall and flooding throughout this normally wet period.

However, if you are interested in green season with the likelihood of wet weather--great for birds, and traditionally a good time to see wild dog-- the area is very beautiful.

Finally, all of this might be moot, because if you cannot tolerate hot weather, this is a risky time of year to be in Zambia. It can be very hot and fairly humid, depending on those rains again. (I was there in May this year, and the temps were in the high 80s and mid 90s...it was hot even at night. And remember, March and April are typically hotter than May. However, I think Mfuwe Lodge has air conditioning--which could be another plus for them. Chichele and Kafunta have air cond, I believe...but they have those other problems I mentioned earlier.
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 09:17 AM
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Tashak,

Thanks so much for your post -- seeing the numbers made it really helpful. The information on the lodges was helpful was well -- fortunately, I'm looking at Luangwa River Lodge and Puku Ridge or Nkwali. I'm not sure if any of them has air con, though -- it seems like most camps don't.

Zambia is beginning to look less likely, and Phinda is out (too hot and humid). Maybe Tanzania?

Cheers,
Julian
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 09:29 AM
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Thanks for clarifying Tashak - I thought we had been extraordinarily lucky with the lack of rain in March. It was only when we got up to Tafika and John explained the problems they were already having locally that we realised how big an issue the drought was becoming.
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 09:33 AM
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Julian,
I don't know about the two other locations, but have you checked which camps in Ruaha and Selous are open that time of year. I know many of them close between mid-March and mid-May.
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 09:39 AM
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Hi Patty,

Yes, it does look like some of the camps are closed, including Sand River :_ (. But hopefully some of them will be open...

Cheers,
Julian
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 09:41 AM
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One point about frequent flyer miles. I'm not sure who you'd be taking to South Africa, but if its SAA you can add on flight to Lusaka. If its BA or Air France or another carrier, it may be worth getting the flight to JNB and paying for flight to Lusaka, if you decide on South Luangwa.

Michael
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 09:52 AM
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Unfortunately, my miles are with Continental, which means Virgin is the main partiner flying to Africa, so it's Joburg or Cape Town -- they don't fly to anywhere in East Africa.

Cheers,
Julian
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 09:53 AM
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Sorry, misread your post -- an add-on flight is a good idea. Do you know which airlines fly to Lusaka and/or Dar from Joburg? That would make Zambia quite a bit cheaper than the other options.

Cheers,
Julian
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 09:58 AM
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Now that Continental is a member of SkyTeam, along with KLM, you may be able to book a KLM flight to East Africa (they fly to Nairobi and Kili and maybe Dar) using OnePass Miles. I was able, in 2003, to use Delta SkyMiles to book KLM flights to Nairobi.

I'm pretty sure you can get to East Africa on KLM with Continental miles.

SAA (South Africa Airways) flies to Lusaka (I don't know about Dar), but they have their schedule on-line.

Tix for March/April are available now using miles, and I just snagged SAA trip from JFK to Johannesburg for next Summer.

Michael

PS -- Kenya Air is going to join SkyTeam next year I think so you'll then be able to use OnePass miles on Kenya Air, and they fly from Europe to NBO.
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 10:10 AM
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Julian, there is a website that has current as well as historical weather. This link will show you the month of April 05 in Lusaka.
http://www.wunderground.com/history/...lyHistory.html
You can change the date and see a different month or a different year. To change countries/cities just fill in the blank at the top. I know first hand info is great but this might help.

Cindy
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 10:14 AM
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Michael is correct that KLM is now part of Skyteam (but they joined in Sep 2004, not 2003, so I wonder how you were able to use your DL miles on KL in 2003?) and you should be able to redeem CO miles for KL flights. They fly daily from Amsterdam to Nairobi, Kilimanjaro and Dar Es Salaam. The Kilimanjaro/Dar flight is the same flight, stopping at both airports to and from to drop off/pick up passengers. KL will also start service from Amsterdam to Entebbe in November.

March generally has good award availability on KL flights to East Africa, but you didn't mention whether you're trying to redeem in economy or business. Economy is easier, business will be more limited as far as dates.

Kenya Airways is supposed to join Skyteam as an associate member and I'm not sure what that means exactly in terms of reciprocal ff privileges. As far as I know the 'associate member' category is a new one, so I'm waiting to see how they define this. Hopefully, it will mean another redemption choice for Africa in the near future
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 10:19 AM
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I think I was able to get a KLM flight in October 2003 using Delta SkyMiles because I actually booked a Northwest coded flight, but it was KLM equipment, so I'm calling it a KLM flight, even though ticket, I think, was Northwest. But it was definitely via Amsterdam since I spent one day in Amsterdam on return leg.
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 10:30 AM
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Thanks for all the info. I will check out KLM and the add on flights as well, once I get this weather question sorted.

The link Cindy sent is helpful, but doesn't tell me much about the climate in the parks -- anyone know of something similar for the parks?

Cheers,
Julian
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 10:51 AM
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Continental Airlines OnePass rewards are valid for travel on Continental Airlines, Continental Express, Continental Micronesia, Continental Connection carriers, SkyTeam Alliance: Air France, Aeroméxico, Alitalia, CSA Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Delta Connection (excluding Delta Song flights and Delta Connection flights operated by American Eagle), Delta Shuttle, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Korean Air, Northwest Airlines and Northwest Airlink. Other valid OnePass reward partners include: Air Europa, Alaska Airlines, Horizon Air, American Eagle, Amtrak, British European (flybe.), Cape Air, Copa Airlines, Emirates, Maersk Air, TAP Air Portugal and Virgin Atlantic.

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Aug 3rd, 2005, 10:58 AM
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If you can redeem on Emirates, that would be another possible option to Tanzania as they fly to Dar Es Salaam via Dubai.
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 11:05 AM
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Wow, I totally forgot about Emirates -- that's great!
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