Zambia or Botswana, Kafunta Lodge

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Jan 26th, 2004, 12:00 PM
  #1
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Zambia or Botswana, Kafunta Lodge

We are traveling to Zimbabwe in April and due to the recent State Department warning we need to transfer to either Zambia or Botswana upon arrival. Any thoughts on Botswana vs. Zambia. Any comments on Kafunta Lodge as they have offered us a pretty great deal. I heard the camp is nice and the hosts are great, but the food is sub par. Any info welcome. Thanks!
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Jan 26th, 2004, 01:13 PM
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I visited South Luangwa, and stayed at Kafunta Lodge, in August 2001. The hosts and accomodations are great, and I recall the food being quite similar to that I've had in other lodges, including the Wilderness Safaris lodges in Botswana. The game is abundant, but maybe not as plentiful as in the Okavango Delta or Chobe National Park. During three days at Kafunta, I saw plenty of elephant, buffalo, lion, giraffe, zebra, hippos, crocodiles and antelopes, and a very wide variety of birdlife, but even though South Luangwa is known for leopard, we were not successful in seeing any leopards.
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Jan 26th, 2004, 02:03 PM
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Thanks for your input. Do you know anything about Robin Pope and Nkwali Camp?
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Jan 26th, 2004, 04:10 PM
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Hi marychris,
I stayed at Nkwali in 2002, and had a WONDERFUL time. This camp is definitely on par with Wilderness Camps in Botswana. It is very beautiful. Rooms are lovely, airy thatched cottages with big open "windows" (no glass) screened by wrought iron (so no fear from animals at night.) Elegant, but very organic design. For example, the corner of my room was built around a lovely tree, and that tree sheltered the shower, which was walled, but open on top. The loo was adjacent to the shower, in a small rondavel. Very charming. You can shower and birdwatch at the same time!

Food is like WS too-- fresh, healthy, great, but not gourmet. Guides are excellent (Robin Pope still works as a guide too. He is superb...one day I was the only one on a drive with him, and we stayed out superlong on a morning drive, because he is so enthusiastic and knows this area so intimately. He's been doing this for decades!) and we saw everything except cheetah. Many lion, several prides with cubs. Leopard all over the place! Interesting encounters that involved both leopard and hyena, too. And of course all the expected other animals (except for cheetah, which are not really in this part of Zambia, and rhino.) Super birding as well.

And RPS tops Wilderness in one major respect-- these 3 camps really are run by Robin & Jo Pope and their team, and it does have a more personal touch than the Wilderness Camps. Highly, highly recommended!

If you have any questions, please email me at [email protected]. I love Zambia (I love Botswana too, but you asked about RPS) and I'd be chat more...
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Jan 26th, 2004, 06:11 PM
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Forgot to mention this: In my experience,game is MORE abundant in South Luangwa than in Chobe, with the exception of elephant. No one has more elephant than Chobe! And it is hard to compare the Okavango Delta and S. Luangwa. The delta is more LUSH, it is like the garden of Eden. Luangwa has the wonderful riverine environment, but gets quite dry away from that, so you also get the feel of bigger more open spaces. However MaryChris is going in April, Luangwa's green season, so it should be green and lush too. And Luangwa has those leopards. We often saw leopard several times night...often hunting. Also, South Luangwa allows night drives and walks...Botswana parks do not. (This may be do-able on the private reserves outside Botswana's parks however, depending on the reserve.
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Jan 27th, 2004, 09:28 AM
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marychris,

I was just at Kafunta last June and while I liked it very much, if I were to return I would spend a little more to stay at the elegant looking Puku Ridge, part of the Star of Africa chain. Have a look:

http://www.star-of-africa.com/circ3b.htm

I would personally stay four nights at Puku Ridge and possibly three nights at Kafunta Island Bush Camp, which I preferred over the Kafunta River Lodge. If you do a search on this board, you will likely find some of my posts on Kafunta, if you have not already read them.

Because Kafunta Island Bush Camp, is a long way from Mfuwe, I would suggest that perhaps you spend a single night at Kafunta River Lodge (it is cheaper than Puku Ridge), followed by three nights at Kafunta Island Bush Camp (great for walking safaris) but then as a grand finale, spend three nights at Puku Ridge. Its location is superior to Kafunta River Lodge which is outside the park, requiring 20-25 minutes each time you enter or exit the park.

The difference in price is probably about $100 per person per night, so you will only be spending $600 more.

Another word of advice...Kafunta was 75% EMPTY in early June and they offered a last minute special of $125 per person per night for those booking one month or less in advance.

Whichever way you go, I think you will love South Luangwa and will not be disappointed.
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Jan 27th, 2004, 03:22 PM
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Thank you everyone for your responses. The information is so helpful. I think we are going to do a combination of Kafunta and Nkwali in order to keep it affordable. There are nine of us so it adds up pretty quickly. Nkwali is so gorgeous and it sounds like the game viewing might be better there. I'll let you know what we end up with. In the meantime, any thoughts on Vic Falls? Where to stay?
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Jan 27th, 2004, 11:16 PM
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Sorry, when I was there I stayed on the Zim side at Ilala Lodge. From your first choice I gather you are looking for choices on the Zam side...
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Jan 30th, 2004, 11:21 AM
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hey roccco,
i am curious how you heard about the deep last minute discounts like the one you mentioned here. is it from a website or through word of mouth through an agent? i have a pretty flexible schedule so any deals like that I would be more tahn happy to take advantage of. thx
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Jan 30th, 2004, 01:26 PM
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bigcountry,

There were deep last minute discounts available at both Kafunta and Kaingo. Perhaps I am giving myself too much credit, but I believe that the last second discounts at Kafunta may have come about as a result of my personal conversation with the owner of Kafunta, as I told her that I nearly switched to Kaingo after they emailed me a couple weeks prior to my arrival with this special.

It was not until my last day at Kafunta that I saw fliers being ready to be mailed out (?) advertising last second rates for anyone booking within one month of their arrival. It took the price down from the $200 per person per night that I paid, all the way down to $125 per person per day, about a 35% discount off already great rates.

In June, the South Luangwa is just entering season and is mostly empty but I still found it to be an exceptional experience. Perhaps there were not dehydrated animals congregated around watering holes, but the weather was perfect. I don't know how much I would enjoy driving and walking safaris while it is blistering hot, as it is supposed to be by late August/September.
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Feb 3rd, 2004, 03:43 PM
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This message is for Rocco. You seem to appear everywhere I research. Just read your epinions and visited your ofoto album of Kafunta. Great photos. I also have reason to believe from one of your recent restaurant reviews, that we might be neighbors, sort of. I am in Southern California in the Pasadena area. Small world. And for tashak, because of flight arrangements, we may end up on the Zim side. How was Ilala?
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Feb 3rd, 2004, 04:35 PM
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marychris,

Although I still own a home in Pasadena, I use it as income property and now live in Azusa Canyon (about 10 miles away) in a new development...but I am in Pasadena all the time and cannot wait until they build the new homes in a couple years at the World Church Of God old site (Orange Grove, just south of Colorado). If I am a good boy and put enough pennies in my piggy bank, I should be able to return to Pasadena in a brand new home there, but for now, I didn't want to live in a smaller house when I could instead live in a new house that I could actually enjoy.

Anyway, if you end up on the Zim side I suggest that you consider staying at Matetsi Water Lodge, a CCAfrica property. Here is a link:

http://www.ccafrica.com/destinations...accomwater.asp

Although I didn't appreciate Matetsi at the time (I arrived after staying at Singita), nearly two years after the fact, I have every bit as fond memories from Matetsi as I do from Singita, and Matetsi was about 1/4 the cost and even when not discounted Matetsi is still about 1/3 the cost of Singita.

At Matetsi you will be able to go on game drives, canoe with your ranger down the Zambezi River, take nightly Sundowner cruises on the Zambezi and will be provided with a free round-trip transfer to Victoria Falls at your request. Elephants and Giraffes are plentiful at Matetsi and you should be able to see hippos, as well as plenty of other animals (not too many predators, though).

Really, a couple hours at the Falls seems sufficient and it is nice to be able to stay at a place that has so many other included activities.

I did stay a final night at the Victoria Falls Hotel and that was very nice after three nights at Matetsi. Although Matetsi is a very nice game lodge with very nice accomodations, it is still a game lodge and is not a substitute to a luxury hotel like the Victoria Falls Hotel.

One last word about Matetsi, it features a personal plunge pool for each chalet and it is heavenly to be able to sit in the plunge pool, just a few meters away from the banks of the Zambezi River. Of course, my wife and I did not spend too long in there after we ran for our lives after a pride of lions...I mean a trio of warthogs! walked on by. Judging from the way we jumped out of that pool and into our room, you would think that it was a pride of lions!

Each room also has a butler, and the Zimbabwean rangers are truly excellent and not just poster boys the way that they are at some South African lodges.

Hope you have a great time!
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Feb 3rd, 2004, 05:07 PM
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Hi MaryChris,
I was at Ilala in late Sept. 2001. (In fact, since I was in Botswana on Sept. 11, it was at Ilala that I first got real news about it.)
Ilala was really nice & relaxing. Rooms are large, nicely furnished hotel-style...certainly not an experience in the way Vic Falls Hotel or VF Safari Lodge would be...but also much cheaper. Not new, but in good condition...about on par with a nice Marriott, but with more history and atmosphere. It's in-town (Vic Falls is small, but it is a town), so no big wildlife. Nice, casual outdoor bar/restaurant with pretty good food. We enjoyed hanging out there. (Remember: do not use your credit card anywhere in Zim!!)
For a place in town, this is a down-to-earth but nice alternative.
I'd definitely stay there again, unless I had a friend who wanted to share the VF Hotel "experience".
One of the differences I noticed hanging around in the restaurants and bars at both the VF Hotel and Ilala was
that VFHotel got the travellers who were in groups, perhaps more "managed"(?), and travelling with more luggage. Ilala had plenty of folks who had been to Wilderness Safaris camps, so not at all low-end, but infinitely more casual. And no need to dress for drinks or dinner!
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Feb 3rd, 2004, 06:28 PM
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Rocco - As always, your posts are not only informative, but funny. Will definitely look into Matesi and I am talking with Tangala as well (which looks fabulous by the way) Tuck those pennies away and move back to Pasadena - it's a great place to live, however, I heard the development you spoke of is not going through. Tashak - thaks for the tips on Illala!
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Feb 3rd, 2004, 08:28 PM
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marychris,

That is the first time that I have seen Tangala House. It does look pretty interesting, especiaaly if there is a group that wishes to rent out the whole place.

Yes...I miss Pasadena greatly but with prices at about $400 per sq. ft. right now, I will just bide my time. Just sold a property on N. El Molino...unless it is Madison Heights, Chapman Woods, Eaton Canyon or Ritz Carlton area, I am better off where I am now, in the Angeles National Forest, with mountains all around me. It is really the last place you would expect to find a new development and it is separated from the rest of Azusa with many other Pasadena transplants that tired of living in 1,500 sq. ft. Craftsman's, etc. Hey...at least I didn't have to go all the way to Rancho Cucamonga!

In the end (or by the time I am a quatrogenarian? (40)), as long as I have a comfortable home (i.e., Mansion) in Pasadena and Cape Town, I will be a happy camper!
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Feb 9th, 2004, 02:25 AM
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tashak,

Although most Botswana camps do not allow night game drives, Kwando does allow night game drives. Personally, I love night game drives except when it gets too cold.

One of the highlights of my trip last year was during a South Luangwa night game drive by Kafunta. We were following a leopard that was hunting and as we were following him with the spotlight, just where he was passing, right behind the leopard was a set of two eyes that appeared...surely some poor animal that was hoping these stupid humans would turn off the spotlight!

Fortunately for the animal hiding in the bushes, the leopard walked right on by, just a few feet away from the animal, never seeming to notice that it was there.

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