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Zimbabwe, here I come!!! (including latest first hand account on Hwange)

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Jan 11th, 2006, 09:02 AM
  #21
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Napamatt,

I could pull up many posts where I speak adoringly about Mala Mala. Perhaps you should recognize that there is a balance, rather than attacking me.

However, for the record, allow me to correct myself...Mala Mala Ratray's has televisions in each room and golf carts. Not sure whether all of Mala Mala offers the 24 hour room service.

Better?
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Jan 11th, 2006, 09:39 AM
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Rocco:

Great looking itinerary!

The golf cart issue:

Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge was the first to have this available for guests.

With todays obesity rates I am suprised that not more lodges have this service available.

At Sabi Sabi a fellow guest who was morbidly obese found the golf cart very useful in getting to her suite.

Whether it's useful to the elderly or obese or debilitated arthritic population I have no problem with this service being available...I think it's a nice touch to help the above mentioned group.
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Jan 11th, 2006, 10:25 AM
  #23
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Safarinut,

Yes, I agree that the golf carts are great for such reasons...well, not for the obesity reason, and this is coming from a fat American. If anything, give us fatties about a 50% head start to the tents/lodges and then release a hungry lion. A few of these death-defying sprints will get our metabolism going!

Safarinut, how is the house in Nelspruit coming along? Will you drive from your home to the Sabi Sand lodges?
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Jan 11th, 2006, 10:28 AM
  #24
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Just for clarification, however, the Mala Mala website makes no mention of disabilities for the use of the golf cart, but rather states this:

"Golf Carts for guests who do not want to walk back to rooms."

Now, I wonder how a golf cart would perform on a game drive!
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Jan 11th, 2006, 11:16 AM
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Rattray's is a separate camp from Mala Mala with different facilities, I'm not sure why you don't understand that. When you use the general tag Mala Mala to refer to services only available at one camp Rattray's it is misleading, and I don't understand why you can't see that.

As for loving Mala Mala, yes I do. As to a matter of balance, you will note that I speak positively of it and negatively where appropriate (I just posted that the extra $250 for a suite was not IMO worth it). What I don't do is speak negatively of lodges I have no experience of. Nor do I repeat statements about lodges or areas from people I meet, I report on what I know.

It is my opinion that you do not always do that. Now you are bringing golf carts up, again these are at a camp called Rattray's NOT Mala Mala, and were first introduced at Sabi Sabi.

I notice your comments always seem to focus more negatively on Mala Mala, and I don't believe I'm alone in noticing that. Until you visit there, I think you should shut up, in much the same way as I do about Singita.

I have stopped posting about my experience at Kwando, because it does appear to have been an isolated incident and so many others have had a great experience, again you have been telling everyone how wonderful Kwando is on the basis of a visit in December 2006.

All I am asking for is that you don't make statements that you don't know to be true. I don't think that is too much too ask. From your original post, anyone thinking of visiting Mala Mala would expect a TV in every room - simply NOT TRUE! I believe you know it not to be true and instead of admitting that your original post contained a factual error you have gone in a different direction.
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Jan 11th, 2006, 11:57 AM
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Scratch the last post.

Apologies to Rocco, I hadn't realised that you had in fact corrected yourself. Shame on me for not reading things properly.

Can't remember too many of those loving posts about Mala Mala though. But always willing to be proved wrong and admit it.
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Jan 11th, 2006, 12:35 PM
  #27
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Napamatt,

Apology accepted.

For the record, although I have not visited, I believe, just from the reports I have read, that Mala Mala offers possibly the best and most varied gameviewing in the Sabi Sand.

My only issues with Mala Mala are that I believe the main lodge is aging and that Ratray's is starting a bad trend with the internet, television and golf carts.

I do applaud Mala Mala, just as I do Norman Carr Safaris in South Luangwa, for being the originators of photosafaris in their particular areas. Even so, however, there are just other places that I would prefer to visit personally. I am sure that you feel the same way about certain places.
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Jan 11th, 2006, 02:51 PM
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Hi Rocco,

Your intinerary looks great! I'm curious, however, about the absence of the Wilderness camps in Zimbabwe -- I thought you had planned to go to them as well?

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 11th, 2006, 03:27 PM
  #29
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Julian,

It is unclear whether or not Wilderness Safaris will continue to operate Chikwenya. That would be tragic if they shut this camp down, as they have with Ruckomechi.

Given that I don't know what will happen with Chikwenya, and because I have limited time, I have elected to spend 3 nights at each African Bushcamp property. Each of their properties neighbors the Wilderness camps (Makalolo and Chikwenya), so I do think it will be a similar gameviewing experience.

Best of all, however, will be that it will more likely give me a much better chance at a more exclusive safari with little or no chance of a large group being in camp.

I have received very positive feedback about African Bushcamps when I put my feelers on and talked to a couple trusted sources, one who is a private guide in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia, and is very familiar with Vundu and is familiar with the owners of ABC.

About Kwando, I have wanted to visit Kwando for the longest time that it is a dream come true to be able to spend 10 nights with them, visiting each of their 5 camps/lodges. Kwando offers the most exclusive experience in Botswana and I do prefer the guide & tracker system that is used at Kwando.

I did consider adding a couple nights at Chiefs Camp or Mombo at the end, but, really, that is not the kind of safari that this is supposed to be. I am all about the ultraluxury on my upcoming Tanzania safari, but I want to really have a different experience in Zimbabwe and Botswana.

I feel like Zimbabwe is going to come full circle, and will rebound in the next couple years. It is a bit limited in that it really has only two attractive parks, Mana Pools and Hwange, but these parks have most every animal that Botswana does, as far as I know.

I would love to see a smaller, (black) Zim owned company like ABC succeed, and since the reports are positive, I do want to get a look for myself.

It is generally accepted that Wilderness is a fantastic company, the premier operator in all of Southern Africa and a few Fodorites have already visited Makalolo and reported about it, so I would not be bringing anything new to the table by visiting.

At least one night in Victoria Falls was necessary, just to be safe in case of any delays with light air transfers. Therefore, why not take off my shoes and stay a second night. I would love to go white water rafting, and if I lose a little weight by then I would also go microlighting over the falls and possibly even bungee jumping.

Also, I do like the cultural aspect of Songwe Village. I never want to just go to Africa and insulate myself at luxury lodges. I am sure that I will not regret my two nights at Songwe Village.

Countries that will be visited on this trip:

Panama (stopover, cannot really count it)
Argentina
Uruguay (day trip, a one hour trip in each direction from Buenos Aires)
Zimbabwe
Zambia (maybe I can go on a day tour of the Caprivi Strip and add Namibia?)
Botswana
South Africa (1 night)
Brazil (1 night in Sao Paulo)
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Jan 11th, 2006, 03:40 PM
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Hi Rocco,

I may be wrong, but I don't believe Wilderness has closed Ruckomechi down -- I think it may have temporarily (until bookings to Zimbabwe pics up) become a camp that you can only book as part of a private safari which takes over the entire camp, like Linyanti Tented.

I look forward to hearing about Songwe Village -- to be honest, I wasn't sold on the idea of staying there because the cultural experience sounded like it might be a bit hokey. It's also a fair way from the falls, though as you have been there before it probably doesn't matter as much. Does Alexsandra enjoy cultural encounters?

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 11th, 2006, 04:21 PM
  #31
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Julian,

Alexsandra spends the majority of these safaris with the staff in camp, only doing half of the game activities, and knows each of them by name, as well as all of the local gossip, and earns us a grand farewell from each camp we visit. I don't know if that qualifies as a cultural visit, but I think it does. She genuinely takes an interest in these people and more often than not she is in the kitchen, cooking alongside the staff, and modifying menus to my liking. She even made a dinner for the entire camp one night at Kaingo a couple years ago...Mexican food, entirely from products found in Zambia!

I do know that Alexsandra will LOVE the bathrooms, overlooking the Zambezi River, atop a 400 foot high gorge.

The only other place I would have stayed for a familiarization trip is Sussi Lodge, and that is still not a bad idea since I have already negotiated business with Star Of Africa. I suppose I could stay one night at each Sussi Lodge and Songwe Village, but I really don't want more single night visits than is necessary. Already I will have a single night in Joburg, Sao Paulo and Kwara Island, but at least that single night affords me three straight nights at Kwara to conclude my time at Kwando.

Then there is always the chance that I may extend my stay in Vundu by one night and only stay one night in Victoria Falls, but I do think that Alexsandra would appreciate a break in Victoria Falls for two nights between our 6 night Zim bushcamp safari and our 8 night Botswana safari.

At the end of the day, Southern Africa is just too big a place and I cannot possibly see 1/10th of what I would like to on each trip.
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Jan 11th, 2006, 04:26 PM
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Hi Roccco

The rains have slowed things down at the house but it seems like it will be finished by mid February.

I always drive to the lodges in the SSGR.I usually drive to Malelane Gate in Kruger-only a 40 minute drive from my house-and then head to Berg-en-Dal Camp.This Camp offers wonderful bush ''braais'' and gives me the feeling that I am back in God's country.

I enter the SSGR at Shaws Gate and then drive to the camp.

I am thinking of skipping Berg-en-Dal this time and rather pay a visit to Tinga Private Game Reserve on the banks of the Sabi River.

Leaving next Sunday...

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Jan 11th, 2006, 04:39 PM
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Rocco, on point on Brazil. Its the only country on your list, I believe, that requires a visa prior to arrival.

Buquebus runs the hydrofoil between Buenos Aires and Colonia

http://www.buquebus.com/BuquebusLoca...asPrincipalEng

And, while Travelers' Century Club would allow you to count Panama, I personally don't countenance layovers as visits, which is the reason I haven't joined TCC.
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Jan 11th, 2006, 11:36 PM
  #34
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I have now heard from two trusted sources that Wilderness Safaris has, indeed, lost the Chikwenya concession. I heard a local Zimbabwean beat out Wilderness Safaris. How does that happen?

I have no idea yet whether or not Wilderness will start up Ruckomechi again. Yes, Ruckomechi is available for large groups booking the entire camp, but that doesn't do the average traveler with a party of 2 any good.



Michael,

Thanks for the Brazil visa advice and the information on the Hydrofoil to Colonia.
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Jan 12th, 2006, 03:08 PM
  #35
 
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Dear Tripster,
I so understand your not wanting to support that thug Mugabe. But sorry to say the thug that gets the light shown on him is determined by politics, not by damage done.
Now I don't know about you but I, and most Americans, buy lots of stuff from China. Bush thinks that's just great. China has the worst ratings on every measurenent of human rights, torture, killing...you name it. They are still killing baby girls, and worse! BUT IT'S BETTER THAN IT WAS because we are there.
Zambia is in the top 3 list of female abuse and some day that will not be true because WORKING HAND IN HAND is there.
TRIPSTER,i'M REALLY GLAD YOU SPOKE UP, because if there is one thing I know for sure there are many right answers to changing Zimbabwe and I think the
best part of your attack isn't the $ part, but the speaking-up, moral- outrage part. You are SO right on.
So when Rocco books my Zambia-Zimbabwe Safari and I', gliding in the Mana Pools I'll be greatfull that you're doing what you sould be doing. And if you feel a little superior, well maybe you should ;D
Marilyn

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Jan 12th, 2006, 06:44 PM
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I love Zimbabwea and the Zimbabwean people regardless of Comrade Bob - I'm sure you'll have a good time.

I'm sure you'll enjoy both the wonderful food and wine in BA. Alesandra will enjoy the shopping - there are so many great small boutiques in areas like Palermo Viejo and Soho.

I agree with Micheal that the stopover definately doesn't count and I'm not really sure that a night in Sao Paulo means one has see Brazil!
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Jan 12th, 2006, 08:11 PM
  #37
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welltraveledbrit,

Oh come on...cut me some slack!

If I spend the night in Sao Paulo, it will not be at an airport hotel, but rather in a lively hotspot and I will not let the evening go to waste. That's gotta count for something and Brazil will make it onto my country list. 2006 should give me six new countries (Tanzania, Netherlands, Botswana, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil). Even so that will only put me at about 30 countries and five continents. I really don't know if there are enough countries out there to interest me in getting me much past 50 countries, but there are certainly enough to get me to 50.

Okay...the part of my itinerary that is set in stone is my time with African Bushcamps and my time with Kwando. However, I am having a hard time with those two nights in Victoria Falls...seems like throwaway time and it is not as if Alexsandra is going to want to engage in any thrill sports such as bungee jumping, microlighting or even whitewater rafting. As a result, I am thinking about tinkering with my itinerary, as if that is a surprise. I also would rather spend four nights in Buenos Aires at the beginning and then just make my way home after that. I don't even have to go to Buenos Aires at the end. The one risk is that I do have two border crossings between Hwange and Kwando if I skip Victoria Falls. However, if I get an early enough charter (maybe 9AM?) out of Hwange, then I should be just fine, arriving in Kwando by at least 3PM. How does this look, other than the very hot & humid weather?

11/08 - Depart LAX to Miami (overnight flight).

11/09 - Depart Miami to Buenos Aires, arriving by about 7PM on the same day, arriving on a Thursday to have a nice long four day weekend.

11/09 - 11/12 Four Seasons Hotel, Buenos Aires (4)

11/13 Depart Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo. Depart Sao Paulo to Johannesburg (overnight flight).

11-14 7AM Arrival in Johannesburg. Depart JNB - Harare, Zimbabwe. Light air transfer from Harare to Mana Pools.

11/14 - 11/17 Vundu Camp, Mana Pools (4) This is adding one night in Mana Pools, as I really don't think three nights does this beautiful park justice.

11/18 - 11/19 Somalisa Camp, Hwange (2)
I am likely going to try to split my time in Hwange between Somalisa and the nearby Makalolo Plains or Little Makalolo. I would still be spending my planned six nights with African Bushcamps, but would redistribute the time a bit.

11/20 - 11/21 Makalolo Plains (2) This camp has long fascinated me, but I think I may be too chicken to sit in the pool while the elephants drink!

11/22 Early departure to Botswana. Hwange to Victoria Falls, followed by road or air transfer to Kasane, followed by light air transfer to Kwando.

11/22 - 11/23 Kwando Lagoon (2) I wonder if they will serve a Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday the 23rd??? Hopeful thinking and a bit Americo-centric, I suppose.

11/24 - 11/25 Kwando Lebala (2) This camp really appeals to me but I do want to see all of the different Kwando safari camps.

11/26 - Kwando Kwara Island (1) This luxury camp is currently being built, but I believe it will be more in the design of a nicer 5 paw Wilderness Camp than the other Kwando camps. Due to scheduling & availability, only one night is available, but I will stay an extra night at Kwara to compensate.

11/27 - 11/29 Kwando Kwara (3) I have only heard great things about this camp, and many have said it was the highlight of their entire Botswanan safari. I am pleased to have a three night stay here to conclude my safari. The double-decker boats seem great and should make for some interesting photography. These boats assist in gameviewing, allowing guests to see over high reeds as the boat navigates through narrow channels. Behind the high reeds are river islands with a great assortment of wildlife that would never be seen without the aid of the double decker boats.

11/30 Depart Maun - Johannesburg, likely arriving by 2:30PM.

11/30 Michelangelo Hotel, Sandton (1) I will be knocking down the door of the neighboring Bukhara restaurant. Best Indian food I have ever had...I ate at their Cape Town location on consecutive days during my last visit in September. The weather should be great at night in Sandton and I imagine that we will not waste the opportunity to stroll around and probably catch a show at the Liberty Theatre (live performing arts) in Sandton.

12/01 Mid morning departure, allowing for a great breakfast at the Michelangelo. Their breakfast buffet is extraordinary!

12/01 Depart JNB - Sao Paulo, arriving at 3PM the same day due to time zone difference.

12/01 Hotel Emiliano, Sao Paulo (2)
http://www.emiliano.com.br/emiliano.html

This place is so beautiful that I will likely stay two nights. Just have a look at the website. Plus, it does rank #2 on Trip Advisor for favorite Sao Paulo Hotels, but I prefer its style and location to the #1 rated hotel on Trip Advisor.

12/03 Depart Sao Paulo to Miami. The beautiful thing about flying through Miami is that I can fly direct from Miami to Buenos Aires in the beginning and then fly direct from Sao Paulo to Miami at the end. Same day arrival in Miami. Depart Miami - LAX, arriving at 11PM.

SUMMARY
Four Seasons, Buenos Aires (4)
Vundu Camp, Mana Pools (4)
Somalisa Camp, Hwange (2)
Makalolo Plains, Hwange (2)
Kwando Lagoon (2)
Kwando Lebala (2)
Kwando Kwara Island (1)
Kwando Kwara (3)
Michelangelo, Joburg (1)
Hotel Emiliano, Sao Paulo (2)

The two nights in Sao Paulo may look questionable, but I am not going to change my dates again with African Bushcamps and Kwando's safari camps. I would be dropping Songwe Village in order to do Makalolo Plains, but that is all.

I see no reason to spend an extra night in Johannesburg, since I have been there a few times already. Instead, I would like that night in Sao Paulo. Rio De Janeiro or Buzios, it is not, but it should still be fun on a Friday and Saturday night, especially staying at a great looking place like the Hotel Emiliano.

The 16 consecutive night safari in Zimbabwe and Botswana will be an absolute dream!
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Jan 13th, 2006, 05:59 AM
  #38
 
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According to that itinerary, you definitely get Brazil (I don't count airport transfers, but I certainly count a night outside the hotel). Sao Paolo makes Manhattan look tiny. If you've had your best Indian meal in SA, it may not surprise you that I have had my best Italian meal at Massimo in Sao Paolo Brazil (it was cash only when I visited and pricey), but it was even better than Enoteca Pincchiori (the Michelin three star in Florence). And if I recall correctly, I had pretty good pizza in Colonia, Uruguay.

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Jan 13th, 2006, 06:43 AM
  #39
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Michael,

I am on a diet right now and going through serious withdrawals...please don't tempt me like that again!
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Jan 14th, 2006, 01:10 AM
  #40
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One of my trusted sources tells me that Wilderness will now refurbish Ruckomechi and open this camp back up to more than just large groups.

We will see how that develops. If that is the case, I would not mind splitting my time in Mana Pools between Vundu Camp and Ruckomechi. If I remember correctly when each camp was operating it seems to me that Ruckomechi received more favorable remarks for its wildlife, while Chikwenya received more favorable remarks for its accomodations...however, it has been a couple years since they were each operating, so don't quote me on that.

It is 2AM local time, my stomach is grumbling and my brain is thinking about Massimo restaurant in Sao Paulo!
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