Which camp at Londolozi?

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Jan 3rd, 2006, 12:14 PM
  #1
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Which camp at Londolozi?

I'm starting to plan a trip to South Africa for next October. Londolozi has been recommended to me as a good choice for a 4 night safari. CCAfrica is checking availability for our dates, but I don't know which camp we should choose (assuming we'll have a choice) This is our first time to South Africa and first safari together (I was in Kenya for a week many years ago) I want it special but can't justify 'over the top' prices. Game viewing is the number one consideration, but certainly don't mind coming back to nice accommodations. We're not traveling with children.
To give you the whole picture, we're thinking about 3 nights in Capetown (perhaps the Victoria and Albert Hotel) then to Londolozi for 4 nights and then to Victoria Falls for 3 last nights.
Thanks for your suggestions.
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Jan 3rd, 2006, 12:47 PM
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Hello Rosebrook,

Game-viewing (rather than spa activities or OTT decor) is definitely the focus at Londoz. If you have any particular game-viewing interests, let your ranger know. Londoz is known for great leopard sightings, and I've enjoyed many hours with the leopards of Londolozi -- I hope you will as well. Because Londoz has been around for a long time, the rangers know the personal and family history of each leopard. Lex Hes's book, The Leopards of Londolozi, is great background reading for leopard-vewing at Londoz -- the lodge library has copies you can borrow.

I've stayed at Londoz several times (at Tree Camp and Bateleur Camp) and I've visited the other camps. They're all very nice, and each has its own unique features. You can see some pictures on CCA's website, www.ccafrica.com

Because you are going in October, I would highly recommend Bateleur Camp, as it's the only camp in which all rooms (not just suites) have private plunge pools. October is pretty hot in South Africa, and having your own pool to relax in will be a nice touch. Bateleur is built on the site of the original Londoz bush camps and has a strong sense of history.

If your budget will stretch to a suite, I would suggest either Tree Camp (all suites -- very intimate, and my favourite camp) or Room 1 at Bateleur Camp, which has an infinity pool built into the rocks (not for the lizard-adverse, however, as a large if rather shy monitor lizard lives under the deck).

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 3rd, 2006, 01:11 PM
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Rosebrook,

There are 4 camps just a short walking distance from one another along the river: Pioneer, Founders, Bateleur, and Tree Camp. Founders is the only camp with triples, so more likely to have children, so probably avoid if possible.

Pioneer and Tree Camp both small with only 6 suites or chalets. Tree Camp has only "suites" (which are somewhat larger than the chalets) and private plunge pools at all the suites. No children under 16 years are allowed at Tree Camp. We stayed at Tree Camp and loved it there, and I highly recommend Tree Camp if the suites are in your budget.
Pioneer Camp has suites and chalets, and the chalets are less expensive, but do not have private plunge pools (but has its own swimming pool). We only walked through Pioneer and saw one of the suites, but it appears to be a lovely camp, and also has an "open kitchen".

Bateleur is the largest camp with 12 suites and chalets (again, the chalets being less expensive). But all the suites and chalets have private plunge pools at Bateleur, so that is a plus in October. The gift shop is also here at Bateleur. But the larger camp is not quite as intimate as the smaller camps.

Each camp has its own chef, but the food and service should be wonderful at all the camps, and the game viewing is in the same area for all four camps. Lots of good reviews on this site about Londolozi.

Londolozi does (or did, I think it has been sold) have another camp called Safari Camp in another area of their reserve, but this area is not supposed to be quite as good for game viewing.

Hope that helps.
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Jan 3rd, 2006, 02:12 PM
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Thanks to both of you for the wonderful info. I am comparing the rates between the chalets and suites and the suites are almost twice as much. Sounds like it's the chalets for us, but it still sounds wonderful! I'll request Bateleur, since, like you wrote, even the chalets have the plunge pools. Sounds great! Hope it's available.

We won't have a car, so will need to fly. Did either of you fly into camp? Any idea the cost and/or departure times? We'll be coming up from Capetown and hope we can make it in one day and not have to overnight in Johannesburg.

Thanks again!
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Jan 3rd, 2006, 02:38 PM
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Hello,

There are two options for flying in. You can take a scheduled flight from JNB to MQP (Nelspruit) and do a ground transfer from there. The flight can be as little as R299 if you book very far in advance with Kulula. The ground transfer is, I believe, R400 per person, and takes about 2 hours. You can sometimes see some animals as you drive into the Sabi Sand (once I saw a rhino) but that depends on luck. I did this once when I wanted to spend some time seeing the Panorama Route before my safari.

Alternatively, you can fly on a charter flight direct to the Londoz airstrip. This is definitely the nicer way to go -- no ground transfer, and it takes you straight there in about 1.5 hours. The little plane flies pretty low, so you can see animals from the air -- I've seen buffalo, giraffe. elephant, and even a black rhino and calf. There are snacks and drinks onboard the plane, which has nice leather seats. This costs about R1500 per person, and is the way I usually go.

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 3rd, 2006, 02:43 PM
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Hi Rosebrook,

BTW, you can save a lot of money and have an equally luxurious experience by moving away from the big hotels that all the tour operators use. The Portfolio Collection has a great website showing boutique hotels and posh B&BS for every budget, which will be every bit as luxurious and have a lot more character as well. Take a look at www.portfoliocollection.com -- I've stayed at An African Villa in Cape Town, and A Room with a View in Joburg. I spent a month-long trip to SA staying only in Portfolio properties and was never disappointed.

I might also suggest saving Victoria Falls for another trip (unless of course seeing the falls is a priority for you), and spending some more time in the Cape Town area. There is so much to see and do there, particularly if you like wine and food -- the winelands will be beautiful at that time of year.

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 3rd, 2006, 02:51 PM
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Thank you Julian,
Great info! The charter flight - does that mean it will fly to your schedule or does it have a set time to fly? If it means eliminating overnighting in Johannesburg, it would be worth the extra cost. The same in reverse when transiting to Victoria Falls. Probably has a very minimal baggage allowance though. Perhaps we can store some luggage at Johannesburg airport. We're arriving into Capetown after a 27 day cruise from Bangkok, so my baggage, unfortunately, won't be light.

Thanks for the website for smaller hotels - I'll take a look at it. The reason for wanting to go to the falls is that this will probably be our only journey to that area and feel we should see it while we're there if we're ever going to. We're from California, USA and it's a REALLY long flight.
Thanks again
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Jan 3rd, 2006, 03:07 PM
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Hello,

The charter flight is 'flexibly scheduled' as it runs not only to Londoz but to other private game reserves in that area (Singita, Mala Mala, etc). I'm usually connecting from Botswana, so I overnight in Joburg and take the morning flight. However, I believe there is a flight later in the day -- CCA will know.

You can certainly store your luggage at JNB. I think it's about R25 per bag per day.

If all you want to do is see Vic Falls, you don't need three nights (1 or at most 2 would do). On the other hand, if you're into white water rafting, bungee jumping, and other extreme activities, then the three days makes sense. Aside from adventure activities and viewing the falls, there's not much to see in the area.

If you do go to Vic Falls, CCA has a lodge on the Zimbabwean side (Matetsi). If you stay there as well as Londoz, you'll qualify for the 'Pick 2 lodges, stay for 4 nights, pay for 3' special, which can save you some money -- ask CCA about this.

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 3rd, 2006, 05:13 PM
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Hi Julian,
Thanks, I'll ask CCAfrica about the flight reservations. Also, great info about the luggage at Johannesberg airport. Expensive for two bags for 10 days, but perhaps I'm not in 'touch' with the prices. It would be worth it.

About Victoria Falls, I had read about the Elephant rides.....about an hour or so along a trail. I'm not into extreme stunts like bungee jumping, but the elephant did sound like fun. Also read about a lion encounter. Do you know anything about either of them? I've also been reading about Zambia vs. Zimbabwe. Do you have any opinion?
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Jan 3rd, 2006, 07:14 PM
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Rosebrook,

A small charter airline called Fed Air serves Londolozi from Johannesburg (also serves Singita, Leopard Hills maybe and a few other camps in Sabi Sands). The flights leave JNB to Sabi Sands approx. 9:30 am, 11:30 am and 1:30 pm. They are usually 12 seater planes and depart from a different small airport (maybe 5 miles away) from the main JNB terminal. So you will want to leave Capetown on a fairly early morning flight up to JNB (about 2 hour flight), get your luggage stored, etc. and get transferred over to the small airport that serves Fed Air for your flight into Londolozi. A CCAfrica representative should meet you at the JNB airport to take you over to the small airport.
The flights back from Londolozi to JNB depart aprrox. 9:30 am, 11:30 am and 1:30 pm so you typically need to overnight at Johannesburg because the flights up to Vic Falls also leave about mid-morning. According to the Fed Air website, there is now a very early morning departure (about 7:15 am) from Londolozi back to JNB which is supposed to allow you time for a connection up to Victoria Falls. However, you would then miss your last morning game drive at Londolozi, but that is a possibility.
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Jan 3rd, 2006, 11:18 PM
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The charge for baggage storage at Jo'burg airport is R50 per day for the first day, and then R40 per day.

http://www.acsa.co.za/home.asp?pid=1148#baggage
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Jan 4th, 2006, 02:30 AM
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Hello,

It's been awhile since I stored lugggage at JNB (2004) -- prices have certainly gone up since then!

If you left Londoz at 715, you would almost certainly miss a big chunk of the morning game drive, if not the entire thing -- personally I don't think the sacrifice is worth it just for a day in Vic Falls, particularly given what Londoz costs relative to Vic Falls.

I've read mixed reviews about the elephant activity in Vic Falls -- some people say they have actually been able to ride the elephants and see some game, and others say it's more like a glorified zoo and you just sit on the elephant and have your picture taken. I think it depends on which side of the falls you're on -- the original elephant safaris took place in Zimbabwe, and those have gotten the better reviews, but like many things in Zimbabwe their future is a bit uncertain.

Personally, I would not recommend the lion activity based on what I've read here and elsewhere -- they have half-grown hand-raised lions walking and running beside tourists, which seems like a recipe for disaster from a safety standpoint. Even a half-grown lion is a might big cat, and these are not tame animals. All you would need is one idiot in your tour group to make the headlines in a way you'd really rather not do.

The Zambian and Zimbabwean sides of the falls have their pluses and minuses. The Zimbabwean side offers better value-for-money, but comes with various logistical hassles because of the government's monetary policy (the 'official' exchange rate bear little resemblance to the actual value of the Zim dollar -- so don't use a credit card unless you want a nasty surprise). It is supposed to be easier to visit Zambia (from ZImbabwe) than vice versa, which may be a factor since you'll probably want to see both sides of the falls.

There are very nice places to stay on both sides of the falls. Depending on the type of accommodation you want, Tongabezi and River Club are probably the nicest places on the Zambian side, and Matetsi or Vic Falls Hotel on the Zimbabwean side. The rates on the Zimbabwean side are a lot lower for a similar standard of accommodation.

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 4th, 2006, 09:24 AM
  #13
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Thank you for such wonderful information !Unfortunately I just found out from CCAfrica that Londolozi is completely sold out for the four days after we're in Capetown. I'm back to square one. I thought about going to the falls first and then to safari, but dosn't work well with flight time from Victoria Falls to Londolozi (I'd have to overnight in JHB) and I wasn't planning to stay four days at the falls. In fact, from what you're saying, three days may be too long.

So.....I'm looking for alternatives to Londolozi. I am enjoying working with CCAfrica and wonder if another of their properties would be a good alternative.
Madikwe, Ngala, Phinda or Kwandwe. Does anyone have an opinion of one of those?
Also the suggestion of combining two CCAfrica properties is a good one (at Victoria Falls).

Or......another property in the Sabi Sands area that wouldn't run more in cost than the chalets at Londolozi. $1200 per night/couple is about my max.

Thanks again....you guys are great!
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Jan 4th, 2006, 11:34 AM
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Hello,

I'm sorry to hear about Londoz. Are you flying into Cape Town? If not, you may want to investigate the possibility of doing your safari first and the city stay afterwards.

If you want to stay with CCA in the greater Kruger area, you might want to take a look at Ngala, which is further north than Londoz. Ngala Tented Camp is a great camp, and there is certainly something to be said for sleeping under canvas in the bush. Personally, I've found that the game density tends to be higher down in the Sabi Sands (near Londoz) but other people here have said that it's about the same -- it's probably a matter of luck.

Phinda is also a great option -- it has seven different environments and a really wide range of activities, including diving and rhino tracking. Take a look at the Phinda section on the CCA website. I would recommend Vlei or Forest lodges if you chose Phinda.

I wouldn't choose Madikwe for your first safari -- the game is not very dense on the ground, and you don't have the variety of species you'll find in the Sabi Sands or at Phinda. I'm afraid I'm not very familiar with Kwandwe.

There are, of course, non-CCA options in the Sabi Sands. CCA can book them for you, but you won't qualify for the special offer. If I wanted to stay in the Sabi Sands and Londoz was full, my next choice would be Singita (Ebony or Boulders Lodge, www.singita.com) followed by Mala Mala (www.malamala.com). Singita is in the same price range as Tree Camp; Mala Mala Main Camp is doable, though the camp is quite a bit larger (18 rooms versus 12 rooms at Bateleur Camp).

Another option, if you wanted to save some money, is Nottens Bush Camp (www.nottens.com). It neighbours Londoz and Mala Mala, and is much less expensive.

Good luck on finding something that suits you!

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 4th, 2006, 01:12 PM
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I've stayed at both Ngala and Phinda (and Londolozi)and would highly recommend either lodge. Ngala's terrain isn't as pretty as at Londolozi and Phinda. It's a lot of scrub brush. Game is excellent, but spread out. You may drive a while before seeing something. We stayed at the main lodge and I'd have to say the rooms were smaller than expected.

We stayed at Phinda Forest Lodge and loved it. Phinda was my favorite of the three CCAfrica facilities I visited. Game was excellent and the variety of ecosystems was amazing. It was like visiting five different camps in one. Plus, the lodgings were luxurious and the food excellent. This would definitely be my pick.

Good luck making your decision!
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Jan 4th, 2006, 01:17 PM
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Hello,

I've stayed at Ngala Tented, and the rooms were huge -- I also visited the main lodge, and I'd definitely recommend Tented Camp over the main lodge in terms of accommodation. You'll see the same game either way, but the tents are nicer to come to home to.

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 4th, 2006, 07:37 PM
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That's too bad that Londolozi is not available. Have you tried going to Vic Falls first for two nights, then one night at JNB (you would be arriving afternoon and could leave the next morning), then 4 nights at Londolozi?

But anyway, I agree with Julian that Madikwe would not be an equal replacement to Londolozi. Phinda has gotten good reviews and personally I would like to combine Phinda with LZ next time.

In general Sabi Sands still gets the best reviews on this site for quality and variety and number of animals. Other camps that should be in the same price range may be Simbambili (Rocco was there in September and his report is posted somewhere), Mala Mala Main Camp (next door to Londolozi, and lots of posts here about Mala Mala), and maybe the Exeter lodges or Leopard Hills. I've only been to Londolozi and Madikwe in South Africa so I can't comment about the other camps but they may be worth checking into.
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Jan 5th, 2006, 05:42 PM
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Thanks everyone,
I think I'll take Brandywine's suggestion and try for Mala Mala Main Camp. Sounds like the game viewing is really good and is just next door to Longolozi and the price is about the same.

Is there a web site or email directly to Mala Mala for does everyone go through a wholesaler to make reservations?
Thanks
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Jan 5th, 2006, 06:50 PM
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I think that you can book directly with Mala Mala, but I'm not sure, you might check their website: www.malamala.com.

Napamatt, frequently on this board, often stays at Mala Mala so you might try to get him to reply by setting up a separate thread about Mala Mala.
I used Bert at FishEagleSafaris.com for my trip to Londolozi and Botswana, and I assume that he can also book you into Mala Mala (and also ask him to double check on Londolozi).
I think there is just one flight a day into Mala Mala from JNB at about 11:00 am, but Napamatt will know more about that also.
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Jan 6th, 2006, 08:04 AM
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Rosebrook

Mala Mala main camp is $500 ppn. While the camp is larger than the Londoz options, the way in which your visit is structured you will hardly notice. Game viewing in this area is second to none and at Mala Mala you will see many of the same critters. Each camp gives them different names, but the properties border each other. In fact a large part of Mala Mala was actually sold to Londoz some years ago.
The rooms do not have private plunge pools, but there is a lovely pool which overlooks the river and is not used by many guests, so it is quiet.
There is an SAA flight from JNB at 11am each day direct to Mala Mala. It takes just over an hour, from there it is a five minute drive into camp.
The return flight leaves at 12:30 each day (the plane turns around) getting you into JNB just before 2. If you are flying out the same night, this means a longish layover. Many lounges dont open until 4 (Virgin) so that can be a problem. In the past we have taken a taxi to Sandton and wandered round, while leaving our luggage at the airport. Note, only do this if you can lock your luggage - we lost some items.
Now I prefer to get a day room at the Sun Intercontinental. We can watch TV, grab a late lunch, nap, then shower and change before heading back to the airport. While not cheap, its actually not bad when compared to taking a taxi and dealing with traffic and shopping!

You can go to Mala Mala's web site and check availability for yourself. You can book direct, but you'll pay the rack rate. I would second Julian's recommendation of Nicky Glover at eyesonafrica.net. She books MM for me and gets me a better price than I can get myself.

At Malamala.tv you can see their weekly sightings reports with a five year archive. These reports give a good flavor of what you are likely to see and I think they paint a truer picture than the reports prooduced by many camps which focus on one or two great moments each month.

Just being there is enough, seeing something National Geographic worthy is truly a bonus. This year I will be lucky enough to have 42 different game drives, many at Mala Mala and Mombo. I don't expect to have a single National Geographic moment.

Hope this helps, I will be visiting MM for the 9th time a week from Monday, so they definitely do something right for me.
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