Zambia for First Time Safari?

Jan 16th, 2008, 05:39 PM
  #1  
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Zambia for First Time Safari?

Someone on this board once said something like "even Blind Freddy could design a safari that would 'wow' a first timer"...

I have had only one safari: late October 2007, 10 days WS mobile throughout Northern Botswana (Delta, Savuti, Linyanti, Chobe) plus 4 days at Mala Mala. I was certainly 'wowed' and would have been happy with either part of the itinerary,let alone the whole.

I am now planning a return trip to Africa, this time to Zambia. Itinerary would include a mobile in Kafue with WS (8d / 7n) plus a mobile covering both N & S Luangwa (11d / 10n) with Kafunta Safaris. I have a pretty good idea of what to expect, including the emphasis on walking safaris and the (therefore) lower expectations of the kind of close encounters with wildlife (especially the big predators) that you might otherwise get on a Botswana mobile or (certainly) on a stay at MM.

Here's the rub...

On the basis of my stories about how amazing my previous experience was, and my pictures, (and with a little nudging from me), several family members are now interested in joining me on at least a portion of my Zambia itinerary. These would include my sister and her 3 kids, aged 20, 18, and 14. We would have to go in August due to school schedules starting up in early September.

So my question...

For my sister and niece/nephews, this would be their first safari. No doubt, their expectations will be high based on my first safari experience in Bots + MM and the pics from that trip. The Zambia (especially SLNP and NLNP) emphasis on walking, the reduced opportunity for "up close and personal" encounters with wildlife in general and big predators (cats!) in particular, suggest that this might not be a good option for a first safari?

I'm pretty set on Zambia for myself, at the moment, but wonder if I would be doing them a disservice by not suggesting they hold off until a time when I can take them to MM and a Bots itinerary?

Any thoughts or opinions?

Thanks...

rickmck
rickmck is offline  
Jan 16th, 2008, 05:44 PM
  #2  
 
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Rick,

Never been to Zambia, yet

But, always enjoyed the Blind Freddy quote .....
HariS is offline  
Jan 16th, 2008, 06:39 PM
  #3  
 
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Rick,

I'm blind Freddie.

Why don't you ask them how they would feel about "lower expectations of close encounters"? but qualify your question with reference to the potential: I've a friend who had a thrilling encounter or two walking in NL, and more than a few elsewhere in Africa. He might even chime in here.

If they are mad keen walkers or nature-lovers enthusiastic about 'just being there' I would have no hesitation in going ahead with your proposal. That's how I felt on my only serious walking safari (but not a mad keen walker). If they are not that way inclined, I'd be more conservative and choose a safari with little or no walking.

BTW, your plans sound fantastic to me.

John
afrigalah is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 01:40 AM
  #4  
 
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Hi there

Zambia is unspoilt untamed and pure wilderness, there are some areas where the game is not that great and some where it is better but on a whole it is truly amazing, it reminds me of Botswana 10 years ago, before the onslaught of lodges.

I think you have a nice itinerary, however if I am perfectly honest I think 18 days of game viewing in one are for first timers is a little hectic, they will love it but I am not sure after 10 days if they will not have had enough and wanting to do something else and have a little diversity, could you not add in a few days in Livingstone/Victoria Falls doing white water rafting, bungee jumping, adventure sports? It is just a thought.

The other thing I would suggest is Wilderness is brand new to this area, I would put more trust in Robin Pope Safaris or Norman Carr Safaris that have been in this area for 10 years plus and have ectroidenary accommodation and packages. They know that area so well that I would feel very comfortable booking a trip with them.
Doogle is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 05:16 AM
  #5  
 
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That Kafunta itinerary could be outstanding for first timers, but it depends on their interests, expectations and traveling style. This particularly the case for a 14 year old. Key point being their passion in viewing wildlife. Do they get excited when traveling in the U.S. at seeing a fleeting deer, an eagle a beaver? If so, good chance you will instantly be a legend in the family by taking them on this trip. Some positive and negative things about aspects of this Kafunta itinerary particularly in regards to a 14 year old:

Kafunta Lodge

1- Good chance you will pull in an have drink by the pool as you wait to get into your room and instantly see warthogs, puku, and baboons feeding in the open field. Dinners outside often have hippos grazing meters away. This should be a big hit.

2- At that time of year you will probably cross the South Luangwa River on a pontoon to get to the park. Probably a hit

3-Area is rich in game- have seen close up on drives both leopards and lions on all 3 of my visits to this area. Big hit.

4-Big chalets and good food

5-Will run into other vehicles in this area.(Area around Mfuwe gate) Not really that noticeable during the day as often these will be seen in the distance, but at night you can see the various searchlights of vehicles which to me is disconcerting especially after returning to Kafunta from the bush camps. I donít think this would be a big issue for a 14 year old.

6-Night drives Ė will yield some outstanding viewing. Aside from the prize leopards, other nocturnal animals such as genets, civets and bush babies. But on a 3 or 4 hour drive their will be considerable periods of time where you donít see much and a 14 year old will have to have some patience and not expect video game like constant action.

Kafunta Island Bush Camp
1-This will be their first experience into the bush and if they are adventurous they will love it. If they have camped out before this will be a breeze as this is much easier and more upscale than any U.S. type tent camping. (I have quite a few photos of the camp on my PBase account)

2-You will not see any other people and really feel that you are in the wild. Itís about a 2 hour drive from Kafunta. Game is less rich in this area when compared to the Mfuwe gate area, but believe me you will still feel like you are in Africa and this is not an area to just admire the scenery. Had several up close and personal elephant experiences in this camp including a bull elephant coming to within 3 meters of me in camp and having a mock charge on foot.

3- Again a key point is will their sense of adventure and passion to see wildlife. Not uncommon for a 4 hour walk to have an hour or two when sometimes you see little. Good guides will use this opportunity to focus on other interesting flora, fauna and cultural issues. I know some 14 year olds that would love every minute and others that would be bored.

North Luangwa Trip
1-The drive going up is broken into 2 parts. About 6 hours to Luambe camp where you will overnight before driving the remaining 4 hours up to the North Luangwa. You will pass through numerous rural villages. Open vehicle, but it does have a canvas top to shield you from the sun. This is something I really wanted to do and I would think they would find it fascinating. On the way back itís a 10 hour straight drive. Thatís a long drive for anyone!! On my trip 3 of the other people decided to look into flying back and they rented a charter for $1,000. It had 4 seats and I took the 4th seat for $250. Itís about a 45 minute flight versus a 10 hour drive.

2-During parts of the drive ran into tsetse flies.

3-This is the land of big lion prides, buffalo and hyena!! I personally love the North Luangwa. Lots of literature will describe this area for seasoned safari goers and not recommend it for first timers. I would have loved it as a first timer, particularly on this itinerary where you have ample opportunities for close up vehicle shots during your Kafunta stays.

4-Rustic basic accommodations. I personally love having an open view and the ďtree-topĒ like chalets. (I am assuming this portion of the trip is still at Buffalo Camp)

5-Hyenas howling and lions roaring at night

6-Have had some very close on foot encounters with lions and hyenas.

7-You will be alone and will not see other vehicles or walking parties

8-Again action is not ďnon-stopĒ but patience can yield unforgettable opportunities

9-Kafunta brings their own supplies and cook Ė I found the food to be excellent
GreenDrake is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 02:06 PM
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Your itinerary looks wonderful. A mobile in Kafue--how fascinating.

I'd give the family GreenDrake's test of how do you feel about a fleeting deer, eagle, and beaver. If they are not really enthused, then this is not the trip for them. Even if they are big on walking, the kind of walking you'll do will have lots of stopping and looking, which does not appeal to brisk walkers.

Maybe you could all join up for a 3rd trip that would be more like your first one. I realize I've just sent you off for Trip #3 before #2 is finalized. And I think you should include the gorillas on that one.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 02:07 PM
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Thanks for your thoughtful replies. They reinforce my feeling that the itinerary as stated would be great for my 20-yr old nephew, but probably too long for the others. Also, I think the 20-yr old has the enthusiasm and interest to enjoy the bush walks in NLNP, while the others might not quite have the interest for the walks and might not want any "thrilling encounters" with Ellies "at 3 meters" or "close on-foot encounters with Lions and Hyenas."

I'll be talking it over with them, and perhaps we will come up with a modified itinerary that can suit everyone.

GreenDrake, thanks for your very specific comments and observations on the Kafunta itinerary. I remember reading your trip report, and these addtional comments are very helpful. A couple of changes have occurred in the itinerary: the return trip south from NL to SL is now via air charter from Mwaleshi to Mfuwe; and Mwaleshi Camp is now used rather than Buffalo Camp.
rickmck is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 02:32 PM
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Some interesting news indeed, just checked it on Kafunta's website.
nyama is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 02:54 PM
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Great run down by Green Drake,

I've now been twice to Africa (and planning my next trip for this year--maybe twice), both times to Zambia and to the same parks, Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa. I was hoping that this time around would be as fabulous as the first. It was even better!

I'd like to add another option to consider for a family that might have diverse interests and attention spans. The Lower Zambezi. In addition to walks and drives, you can do canoe trips on the Zambezi and its channels and even fish for tigerfish.

My companion, Ruth, is not a fisherperson, but she got pretty excited when those toothy creatures right out of a B-grade horror movie would grab bait or lure and immediately come leaping out of the water.

We split seven nights between Chiawa and Old Mondoro Bush Camp. They are owned by the wonderful Cummings family, and they are first class operations in every respect. Most days we never saw another vehicle, and never more than one other.

Elephants and buffalo in and close to camp were daily experiences, and the tents at Old Mondoro are like being in an elephant hide. We never got tired of watching them play in the river just outside of our tent.

Can't guarantee your experience will be the same, but we saw leopards every day. Mostly different ones, and not just lazing about in trees. Leopards being harassed by babooms, leopard mom and cub, leopards feeding, leopards in foreplay (others the week before saw them mating in camp. BTW, the last three documentaries on leopards that I've seen on Animal Planet and Discovery Channel were filmed in Zambia.

We did not see wild dogs, but there's been a lot of comment about how cool it is to see honey badgers. We saw so many of them, and, yeah, they are cool, but I thought they were quite common.

As for South Luangwa, in 2006, we stayed for a week at Luangwa River Lodge, again first class all the way--great host, great guides and great food and accommodations.

This time around we decided to stay deeper in the park, so we split our time between the Shenton's Kaingo and Mwamba Bush Camp. There were fewer vehicles than closer to the entrance, as Green Drake said.

Funny the comment about assuming predators are less numerous than in Botswana. There were three separate prides that we observed every day we were in South Luangwa. In the smallest I counted 12, and in the largest I counted 17. Saw a leopard kill in South Luangwa, then watched as a lioness attracted by barking baboons took the puku away from the leopard before it could take it up into a tree. Also saw a lioness make a kill--and there was another chapter to that experience, as well. ither.

I can't compare to Botswana yet (and I will someday), but it's hard to imagine how it could top our experiences in Zambia.

steeliejim is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 03:52 PM
  #10  
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Gorillas it is, then, Lynn!
rickmck is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 04:17 PM
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steeliejim -- was the croc problem solved when you stayed at Chiawa/Old Mondoro last season?
nyama is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 09:33 PM
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Ruth was willing to take the canoe trip to Old Mondoro again in spite of the previous year's incident, but Chiawa wasn't offering it. They are very safety conscious and said there were some problems without being too specific. It was only later in the week that we heard from someone else that the problem wasn't hippos, but a croc that had taken a liking to canoes--and perhaps their occupants, by approaching them, and sometimes bumping them.

Apparentlhy permission was given by the authorities to dispatch the offending croc, but Chiawa wanted to make sure it was the right one before resuming trips. Apparently, Sausage Tree had fewer concerns because they did have people travel to Old Mondoro by canoe.

We canoed at Chiawa by traveling to the channel upstream of camp (can't remember its name). It's apparently too shallow for hippos to reside in any number, and we had a great experience when we did it. Lots of wildlife up close, and Paul, who led us, is a superb guide and great guy.

We also canoed the main Zambezi, but we liked the intimacy of the channel better.
steeliejim is offline  
Jan 18th, 2008, 04:43 AM
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Ric - incorporating the flight back from N.Luangwa, but keeping the 6 hour drive up to Luambe, are very positive changes to that itinerary. I enjoyed my stay at Mwaleshi this past October and may return this summer.

Jim - that canoe excursion up the side channels sounds great. I can see why you are "hooked" on that area.
GreenDrake is offline  
Jan 19th, 2008, 12:58 PM
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Jim,
Thanks for the channel details.

RickMck,
Aug 2009 for gorillas.
atravelynn is offline  

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