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Wild dog research safari in Zambia -- feedback on lodges

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Jul 8th, 2004, 10:01 PM
  #1
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Wild dog research safari in Zambia -- feedback on lodges

Very excited to just finish developing with some researchers in Zambia a wild dog safari that I will lead along with an in-country guide/researcher. It is hoped that there will be a satellite collared dog in South Luangwa and there definitely will be numerous packs with collared dogs in Kafue so we should be able to observe puppies while still at the den by going in late June/early July as well as follow some hunts. We will be able to travel along with researchers and help with dog identification and genetics work as well as standard safari activities.

The lodging is determined by where research on the dogs is taking place so there was not a lot of choice but they all appear to be great. As I have not been to Zambia I would appreciate any feedback on these lodges and itinerary. Thanks in advance.

The trip is limited to 6 travellers.
2 nights Mfuwe Lodge, South Luangwa
3 nights Bilimungwe Bush Camp, South Luangwa
3 nights Lunga River Lodge, Kafue
including charter flights starting & ending in Lusaka, all road transfers, accommodation, meals, park fees, game activities.
Cost is US$3950 per person sharing (with a single supplement of $1470).
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Jul 9th, 2004, 05:36 AM
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I will be staying at both the Mfuwe Lodge and the Bilimungwe Bush Camp this September and will gladly try to make note of any specific questions you may have.

In terms of pre-trip communications, they have been EXCELLENT. All inquiries made by myself have been handled, quickly (via e-mail), professionally and thoroughly.

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Jul 9th, 2004, 07:35 AM
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GreenDrake: Glad to hear the excellent responses you have received, that is usually a great indication on how the camp will be run. I would really appreciate it if you would share a write up of the camps after your visit. Enjoy and have a tremendous safari! Thanks.
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Jul 9th, 2004, 08:32 AM
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I have stayed at Bush Camp company's other camps (not Bilimungwe) but I expect tht this will be an excellent complement to some of the other places you are staying. Bush Camp Co. has great guides and high standards, and Bili is supposed to be their most rustic bush camp. Should be a great area. (Didn't know their was dog research going on in this area!)

Mfuwe Lodge is an interesting choice, but I think it will work well for you. It is a more developed lodge, close to the park entrance. The only minus is that it is an area that gets more vehicle traffic, since all vehicles enter and exit the park in this area. and of course, it feels more like a small hotel than a bush camp. But the pluses are big ones-- it has superb wildlife in this area...probably the most concentrated in South Luangwa. Predators of every kind...I've seen more lion (including on kills) leopards (including hunting) in this area than in any other area of the park. Partly because they are so habituated...and partly because with all the traffic, it is the safest part of the park for the wildlife. (Poachers avoid it because of the activity). So you don't have to go far to be in the thick of the action. (When I saw a wild dog pack successfully hunting in May, it was close to Mfuwe Lodge.) Also, the lagoons in the area make for great birding, from the hotel, and the ellies love these lagoons too.
So all in all, a good choice for some action. Owned by Italians, so I suspect the food will be good too! (I've only been to the bar, and its lovely. There are sightings of Pels from the bar!)

Please post more info about the researchers you are working with...sounds like a very interesting trip!!
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Jul 9th, 2004, 08:53 AM
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Tashak I always enjoy reading your comments. I will be staying on Mfuwe Lodge on day 1 of my trip and on the last night and I just viewed it as a "transitional" stop to recover from jet lag a bit. Your description of the wildlife in the immediate area just got me to sit up on the edge of my seat and created a huge smile on my face!!! Ellies, lions, leopards and "pasta" sound good to me!!!

Predator, I will definitely post a trip report with photos upon my return.
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Jul 9th, 2004, 12:47 PM
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Tashak: thanks for your feedback, it sounds like excellent game viewing in the area.

I don't like the larger lodge aspect of Mfuwe as much but there is an area that the wild dogs frequent close by and thus it is a good spot for this safari and a necessary area to collect data. I have not seen a Pel's fishing owl yet, and owls are one of my specialty areas here in the states so that is very exciting to me.

Wild dogs were heavily frequenting the area around Bili this June so they probably have a den nearby. Currently genetics material is being collected through scat and hair, and photograph identification is taking place in this area by Derek Solomon who will be the in-country leader with me. If funding is approved a dog in this pack will be collared this year so next years den can be located. Kellie Leigh, an Australian biologist has been conducting studies in Lower Zambezi and is in charge of this one as well and may well join the group too. She founded the African Wild Dog Conservation http://www.save-the-african-wild-dog...og-conserv.asp With 6 guests we will have the camp exclusively to ourselves.

Then in Kafue there is a research station for a San Diego zoo biologist (Anne Carlson) in close proximity to Lunga River lodge. She has done census work on 8 packs in northern Kafue, as well as all other predators and common prey species. She is funded to collar dogs in each pack so there should be plenty of tracking and identification going on there during the denning season when we will visit and we will go into the field with her. Her research info is here, including a link to her annual report: http://www.sandiegozoo.org/conservat..._wilddogs.html

I am just beginning to pursue funding to collar dogs that should be dispersing as little is known as to how far they go or what happens when they leave the parks. I would also like to find funding to have a website that allows people to follow via the satellite technology the lives of some dogs (not pinpointing locations of course, but activity, distances traveled, etc.).

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Jul 9th, 2004, 03:26 PM
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While there is a plentitude of game right outside Mfuwe Lodge, it is also located right across the main road that drives into the park from the airport.
There is, however, a beautiful and very large lagoon that rests between the lodge and the main road to soften things up a bit.

The trip seems like an excellent opportunity at what appears to be a very fair price. Immediately, by instinct, I was trying to find fault with the price, but quite honestly, at $500 pppns with all Zambian flights and a full time guide/researcher included, it's not bad.

I would suggest to anyone considering such a trip to consider a short three night pre-trip extension to Kaingo to really enjoy the action with the hippos, and hopefully leopards. Bilimungwe appears to be in a far southern part of the park, while Kaingo is in the far northern part of the park, so it will really allow for a lot of diversity.

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Jul 9th, 2004, 09:24 PM
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Roccco: thanks for your feedback. I'm glad you analyzed the price and think it is reasonable -- especially considering it includes not only the in-country guide/researcher but also at least one (if not two) internationally renowned wild dog experts and myself, an expert on predators and I bring wildlife and conservation into an international perspective which adds a lot of interest. I tried to ensure a good price for anyone who may travel with me and most of the expertise is really coming at no additional cost, it is simply due to good coordination and a shared desire to conserve wild dogs. Still I feel great that you checked the numbers and they look good since you are well versed in Zambian trips and costs. Now all I need is 6 clients, I am hoping to possibly find a zoo to sponsor the trip.

I agree that an extension would be great for anyone with additional time and budget and your suggested extension would be a great enhancement. I know we are going to offer a two night extension to Vic Falls area - Tongabezi for $985 per person. I decided not to have myself or the in-country guide go on the extension because here it really would drive up the cost and we would not be adding that much. I would prefer your extension suggestion since I have been to Vic Falls but for those who have not it is probably a very desirable option.
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Jul 10th, 2004, 06:28 PM
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PredatorBiologist,

Just a word of warning about finding a sponsor...I fear that any outside interference may somehow force the price much further upward. I met a couple zooologists from the USA while at Chichele Presidential Lodge, and they were returning to South Luangwa next year on a zoo-sponsored trip and the prices were outrageous. I believe it was also for wild-dog research and I had to gasp when I heard the price...it must have been 50% more expensive than the price you suggested for a similar safari.

If the price remains the same, I would strongly endorse your tour to any interested party. Unfortunately, I don't think I will be getting back to Zambia next year or else this package would be of great interest to me.
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Jul 11th, 2004, 10:37 AM
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Very true that some sponsors will want a big chunk and ruin the price. I have to find a way to reach clients but not have any big surcharges lumped on. Definitely difficult. It is crazy when you see trips run through Wilderness Safaris for example and it costs almost twice as much through Aberchromie as it is through standard operators for the same exact trip.
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