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Which lodges have you visited and found that three nights was not nearly enough time?

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Apr 5th, 2004, 05:32 PM
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Which lodges have you visited and found that three nights was not nearly enough time?

I think the unwritten rule of thumb is that one should not spend more than three nights at a single lodge in order to vary their safari experience.

So, which lodges have Fodorites visited where more time was really warranted?

Although I realize that some of us on here have visited too many lodges to count, I think that most of us are still in the single digits. Therefore, may I suggest that we each post the lodges that we have visited and comment further on them, including the amount of days we stayed and our lasting impression of each lodge (brief accounts of a couple paragraphs preferred).

Here is my list:

SABI SANDS, South Africa

Singita, 3 nights. While I had a lovely time at Singita, I did think that three nights, especially at its steep price, was perfect. The rooms were amazing and the food was the best I have ever experienced at any lodge. Also, the gameviewing was pretty amazing and I saw the Big Five by the second day, including getting some amazing pictures of white rhinos. As great as it was, I would never return, at least not until it came back down to the $550 USD pppns that I paid in March 2002.

Djuma Vuyatela, 3 nights. I must say that I was unrealistically expecting Singita Lite, but this was definitely not the case. I found the owners to be snobbish, although the staff was excellent. The food was good but not great, and the gameviewing was also good but not great.

The Sabi Sand was at the tail-end of a pretty bad drought and the landscape looked pretty pathetic and being that Djuma doesn't have any Sabi River frontage only made matters worse. Despite excellent and spotlessly clean accomodations, I would not return, although I am thankful for the picture of the yawning leopard that was taken at Djuma. Hopefully I will have that picture for the rest of my earthly life.


MATETSI, Zimbabwe (halfway between Victoria Falls and Chobe, Botswana)

Matetsi Water Lodge, 3 nights. Unfortunately, I had been spoiled by Singita just prior to visiting Matetsi and as a result I didn't appreciate Matetsi at the time. In retrospect, Matetsi has a beautiful location right along the Zambezi River and I would recommend it to anyone that is making their way over to Chobe instead of spending a couple nights at a hotel in Victoria Falls or Livingstone. The game viewing was great for elephants and giraffes, but poor for predators. Unfortunately, hunting is prevalent in the area and that's all I need to say about that on this thread.

The rooms at Matetsi were excellent...very roomy, very stylish and each with their own plunge pool, not more than 100' away from the banks of the Zambezi River. The biggest downside was that a tracker was never provided on game drives and the guide really had to do it all himself, even holding the heavy spotlight, driving, talking and spotting on the night game drives. This was probably a great game lodge when it first opened yet still remains better than a Djuma Vuyatela, in my opinion, if for nothing else its location and similar price to Djuma Vuyatela. There is no doubt that the Zimbabwean guides were the best that I have experienced. Once Bobby Mugabe is dead, this place may improve, if the political situation in Zimbabwe follows suit.

We did have one amazing night when we were treated to a surprise dinner in the bush, close enough to Victoria Falls so that we could hear it thundering in the distance. It was a first class dinner with white linen, silver, fine china, wine and other drinks, and filet mignon, barbequed chicken, fresh corn on the cob right off the grill and plenty of other food. Possibly the finest dinner I have enjoyed in Africa.


SOUTH LUANGWA, ZAMBIA

Kafunta River Lodge, 3 nights. Because this was broken up into 2 nights, followed by a couple nights in their bush camp, followed by only a single final night at Kafunta River Lodge, I was left wanting for more. One more night may have been sufficient, but two more nights may have been perfect, for a total of five nights. Otherwise, four uninterrupted nights may have been fine, but I don't think three would have quenched my thirst, although it really had as much to do with the beauty of the South Luangwa National Park as it had to do with the lodge.

Food was definitely subpar in my opinion, yet one other set of American guests LOVED it...go figure. They were kind of strange so who knows what kind of food they are accustomed to eating.

The owners of the lodge were GREAT. Anke and Ron personally spent ample time with the guests each day and usually ate meals with the guests as well. It was interesting to hear how a young German woman and a young Australian man got started in Africa, and eventually fell in love with it so much that they started their own game lodge, Kafunta.

The staff at Kafunta was excellent. The gameviewing was only average for the first two nights but on my final day it was excellent, with many lions, a couple nocturnal leopards, a herd of about 100 buffalo, many elephants and of course more hippos and puku (antelope) than can be imagined. The price was right at the time, but now that I know better, I know that I can get it for even lower than the already reasonable rack rates. At the end of the day, I don't think too many people would be disappointed with Kafunta.

KAFUNTA ISLAND BUSH CAMP

I really have a soft spot in my heart for this camp. This camp is really in a very isolated part of South Luangwa, about a 3.5 hour drive south of Kafunta River Lodge. We passed through very small villages and even saw some U.N. trucks giving out food to the villagers. This, to me, was Real Africa.

Kafunta Island Bush Camp was on a small river island in a beautiful location, with its thatched cottages only about 200' away from the banks of the Luangwa River. The walls of the chalet did not even go higher than about waist level, but it did have a roof, leaving you feeling quite exposed to the hippos and other wildlife, but making it that much more exciting. The floors were non-existent and was actually the dirt/sand that they just walled around, and I didn't mind this one bit. The bathrooms were great, with a bucket shower (they heated the water beforehand), and a flush toilet, and running sinks.

Kafunta Island Bush Camp was mainly for bush walks and scaredtodeath and I had the whole camps to ourselves, with a staff of six just for the two of us, including the managing couple (a South African guy my age that was a bigger braggart than I am, and a native New Zealand girl--a Maori?--who was way too enamored with this guy who was nearly ten years her senior). Nevertheless, it was fun talking to these two and while they were striving to have everything that I already had, I found myself envying them for already having spent a couple years in Botswana and signing on for a couple years in Zambia. I could have stayed another couple nights at this beautiful camp, and I did like being literally in the middle of nowhere and out of touch with the rest of the world.

----------------------And that is my very limited experience with game lodges so far. If I had to rate them from high to low, it would be as follows:

1. Singita
2. Kafunta Island Bush Camp (the total opposite of Singita)
3. Kafunta River Lodge
4. Matetsi Water Lodge
5. Djuma Vuyatela

I will have the pleasure of visiting FIVE lodges in my next upcoming trip, with my only stay of more than two nights being at Kulefu Tented Camp in Lower Zambezi National Park. For the remaining seven nights, I am spread out between four lodges in South Luangwa.

Anybody else's experiences will be greatly appreciated.
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