Zambia Itinerary Booked!

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Feb 2nd, 2005, 08:43 AM
  #1
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Zambia Itinerary Booked!

I've finally managed to book the Zambian portion of my itinerary for August (YEAH!):

Kafunta River Lodge/Island Bushcamp (2/2/1 - Two nights at the River Lodge, two nights Bushcamp and the last night back at the River Lodge)
Chongwe River Lodge (3)
JNB Hotel (1)

I still have the first 4 nights of my trip undecided. I'm torn between Sabi Sands/Kruger/the Panoramic Route or Cape Town....
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Feb 2nd, 2005, 10:21 AM
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Dreaming,

Congratulations! I am really not the person to advise you on how to do your first four nights since I am so completely lost with my own itinerary!

But, I would say that in August you are probably best off skipping the Western Cape and better off staying further north. Perhaps the first three nights would be well spent in the Sabi Sand/Kruger NP area, and then you will definitely need to return to Joburg for one night. In August, I would imagine that you may be able to get pretty good rates in the Sabi Sand if you waited until the last couple weeks to book (trust me, most lodges will be available in August).

You are going to have quite the thrill when you hear the hippos munching away right outside your room at Kafunta River Lodge!

Also, you will be serenaded to sleep each night and awakaned each morning by the grunts of the hippos at Kafunta Island Bush Camp!

One other consideration that comes to mind with your extra time is to add an extra night at each Luangwa River Lodge and at Kafunta Island Bush Camp. It will be so much cheaper than having to fly somewhere else. Trust me, 5 nights is nothing for the very large South Luangwa NP.

You are going to have a great time!
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Feb 2nd, 2005, 11:07 AM
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I visited Kafunta in August 2001 and it was great. I stayed at the camp from where you took a pontoon into the park -- I don't know which camp that was, but I'm sure Rocco does. Anyway, great wildlife viewing in August (although I was surprised not to see leopards, but plenty of lion, including them feasting on a dead buffalo). In fact, I saw a dead lion that apparently had been kicked by the buffalo during a scuffle. The hosts were also really nice.

Michael
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Feb 2nd, 2005, 11:29 AM
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Congrats!
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Feb 2nd, 2005, 05:33 PM
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dreaming

Here is another vote for adding those extra days to your existing itinerary. But my bias is to spend less time packing/unpacking and more time getting to know an area and sometimes even individual animals a little better. Less flying around means lower costs too. Not having been to South Africa on safari, I also don't have personal experience with your other options.
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Feb 2nd, 2005, 07:45 PM
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Yes, with such limited time I would definitely extend the time in Zambia, as if the Sabi Sand/Kruger and an extra flight is being considered, then the budget would appear to be available to schedule more time.

As I have said before, I did the same 5 night package at Kafunta, and while I really enjoyed it, it would have been better had I stayed a couple nights longer. The additional time does not have to necessarily be at Kafunta, but I think that a a couple more nights in South Luangwa is definitely warranted.

Why not spoil yourself with a couple nights at Luangwa River Lodge, Puku Ridge or Chichele to round out your time in South Luangwa.

With your particular itinerary, I would especially recommend Puku Ridge, as it would offer a different, but very nice, flavor to your holiday. Right now you have eight nights on the river between the two Kafunta camps and Chongwe River Lodge, but not a single night further inland.

Puku Ridge would offer very dramatic scenery, as it is on a small hill overlooking a wide plain with watering hole. The tents are nearly 1,000 sq. ft. each, feature a sunken bath in the room, an outdoor shower and a huge balcony overlooking the plain. Trust me, it is pure luxury and I am somehow seeing if I cannot fit it in my own itinerary, if even only for a couple nights.

But, I am also torn between wanting to possibly visit the Sabi Sand. I know, I know...it is SO COMMERCIALIZED and attracts so many first timers, but the gameviewing is undeniably strong and that is why I am thinking of something like this:

Luangwa River Lodge, South Luangwa (4)
Kutandala, North Luangwa (4)
Kasaka River Lodge, Lower Zambezi (4)
Westcliff or Michelangelo Hotel, Joburg (2)
Simbambili (3)
Dulini, Ivory Lodge or Leadwood (2) (whichever one is available for a last second booking, just to finish this trip off with a bang at an ultra-lux lodge)

Otherwise, for the same price (within a couple hundred dollars per person), I am looking at:

Tafika, South Luangwa (3)

Kutandala, North Luangwa (4)

Luangwa River Lodge, South Luangwa (3)

Puku Ridge, South Luangwa (3) I have measured it out and Puku Ridge is actually 20+ miles away from Luangwa River Lodge, and probably 60+ miles away from Tafika. Furthermore, it is the only one of my three South Luangwa lodges that is actually located INSIDE the national park, rather than just outside its border. What this does is allows for slightly longer game drives, and, in my opinion, better gameviewing around the lodge.

Puku Ridge really should be featured on some HGTV design show, it is that nice. The swimming pool is the best I have seen at a game lodge and although it is very fashionable, it still retains its rawness and you will not soon forget where you are, especially when elephants walk right through the camp as they did as I toured it for 30 minutes last June.

Kasaka River Lodge (4)

Westcliff (2)

Dreaming, you should definitely consider Puku Ridge with that extra time. Trust me, you cannot have too much time in South Luangwa.
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Feb 2nd, 2005, 07:51 PM
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Puku Ridge photo album:

http://www.star-of-africa.com/gallery/pukuss.htm

This really gets my blood flowing and makes me really want to stay there, even if it does mean possibly staying 9 nights in South Luangwa, alone.
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Feb 3rd, 2005, 02:04 PM
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Roccco and atravelynn -

Yes you're right!!! Another couple of nights in South Luangwa (or Lower Zambezi) would be fabulous - and Puku Ridge sounds fantastic. The bathtub in Puku's photos looks like a dream come true. But, I have a soft place in my heart for SA and so many places there that I'd like to see again or for the first time. Despite the weather, I'm leaning toward Cape Town for the start of the trip, but I can almost hear the leopards in Sabi Sands calling my name!

Roccco - I know you're eliminating Cape Town from your itinerary, but thought I'd point out that the Mount Nelson Hotel has a buy two nights, get the third night free promotion.
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Feb 3rd, 2005, 02:23 PM
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Dreaming,

And let me return the favor...if you wait until a last minute booking at the Mount Nelson, you can probably get your room for a 50% discount...buy 1.5 nights, get 1.5 nights free!

At least that is the way it worked when I spent 3 nights at the Mount Nelson in 2002.

In August, you are nearly guaranteed that the hotel will have availability.
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Feb 3rd, 2005, 02:40 PM
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If you do not insist on being in the City Bowl, here is my favorite Cape Town hotel, and it is available at a great rate with many amenities included:

http://www.luxurylink.com/Home.phtml...l?theme_type=9

I really, really, enjoyed the Twelve Apostles, and preferred it over the Mount Nelson and Table Bay Hotel, the only other two Cape Town hotels where I have stayed.

The room in this package is about a 750 sq. ft. room with an incredible ocean view. Great restaurant, especially for breakfast, and great high tea, set to contemporary live entertainment rather than being the fancy-schmancy high tea at the Mount Nelson. Mountain trails behind the hotel lead you through the Twelve Apostles mountain range, if you care on going for a little hike. On top of it all, the service is excellent.
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Feb 4th, 2005, 08:34 AM
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Roccco - did you see the Phinda package on Luxury Link?!
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Feb 4th, 2005, 08:45 AM
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Dreaming,

Yes, I have seen this package in the past, as well.

The only thing that I do not care for is that there are no game drives during those first three nights. But, if someone gets this for near the asking price, then it is a great price, although I would definitely add a night at Phinda Forest for three nights worth of game drives.

The prices on Luxury Link have really gone up. Last year I got the same Twelve Apostles Hotel package for four nights that is currently starting at about $1,150 USD. I got it for $570 USD last year! I got a similary cheap package at the Michelangelo and all my Zambian lodges for half price...yeah, those were the times!!!
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Feb 4th, 2005, 12:40 PM
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Personally, I have just "finalized" my own Zambian itinerary, hopefully once and for all.

Kasaka River Lodge, Lower Zambezi (4)
Kutandala, North Luangwa (4)
Luangwa River Lodge, South Luangwa (3)
Puku Ridge, South Luangwa (3)
Westcliff Hotel, Joburg (2)
Simbambili, Sabi Sand (3)

I was torn between Puku Ridge and Kaingo, but Kaingo threw a little hissy fit saying that I got them in trouble with their agents last year by posting prices on this forum. Furthermore, I was accused of misleading them into believing I was from Southern Africa, which is not at all true.

Star Of Africa, on the other hand, has long since gotten over it, and has welcomed me for my final 3 nights in Zams, my newly apointed nickname for Zambia, at Puku Ridge.

Now I can rest this weekend!
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Feb 4th, 2005, 05:53 PM
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So this is fun once more, eh? Now you can start working on 2006.

This forum is more powerful than I thought if it can result in hissy fits.

Is there an etiquette rule that I don't know about that states we really should not post prices we receive? I don't want to do something offensive or rude in the future and tick off agents. Please enlighten me.
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Feb 4th, 2005, 06:22 PM
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Last year, I really, really, really shopped around for the best deals. Some lodges offered incredible discounts while others told me to take a hike.

Each Kaingo and Star Of Africa (Chichele & Puku Ridge & Kulefu in Lower Zambezi) offered me rates that were just unbelievable, of about $200 pppns.

Back then, I was not as conscious about conservation and was purely interested in the best deal, not realizing or caring that this would likely mean less money for conservation efforts, as these game reserves really do count on the higher tariffs received from overseas visitors.

In any event, I ended up having, including all my local air transfers, an 11 night Zambian safari at the beginning of high season for $5,400 USD. My only offense was posting about it on this board, which I can tell you is spied upon by more than a few tour operators...YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!

I guess a couple agents really gave Star Of Africa and Kaingo a hard time for offering me the rates that they did.
After they got slapped on the wrist, I became the bad guy and from Star Of Africa, I was told that the rates were known to me to be "confidential," which I disagree was ever stated or implied.

From Kaingo, for the first time, I was just told that I represented myself as a South African, which is laughable considering I made wire transfers from my American bank account (I don't think there is a Wells Fargo in South Africa).
Part of it is that there is a new co-manager at Kaingo and, as if this is a good thing to advertise for a supposedly laid back family owned game lodge, she brings a "corporate" background. Sigh....

In any event, that is what happened. As a result, the deals in Zambia seem to have dried up, but that is fine, and I am prepared to ante up this year and pay whatever is necessary for my lodges of choice.

I am just happy that I am returning to this area for the third straight year and that I have the opportunity to share it with my mother and younger sister. I believe I have paid my dues in terms of research and past visits and I really feel like this is the itinerary that will just provide the most incredible Zambian safari experience possible.

I know that my dates are available for Kutandala, Luangwa River Lodge and Puku Ridge. Hopefully with a new date change, Kasaka River Lodge is available for my nights, but I must confess, if I had to switch to Sausage Tree Camp, even at $100 pppns more, I would not be all that disappointed!

I do think it is important for Fodorites to have an honest and open line of communication between each other. Otherwise, what is the point of the forum? We can really help each other out and help create the best possible holidays for each other.

As much as I share on this forum, it would not be possible if others first did not share with me. We are a community, and a community that for the most part bans self-promoting tour operators and agents. So, the last thing that we should do is something that would be of benefit to them and of detriment to us. We must feel free to talk about all things, prices included.
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