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

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Jan 14th, 2006, 06:39 AM
  #41
 
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Hi Rocco,

Glad to see that you'll get a chance to visit Makalalolo in Zimbabwe.

BTW, my own trusted sources have confirmed that Wilderness will not longer be running Chikwenya, but will be opening Ruckomechi (refurbished) to individuals as well as groups. Have you found out who will be running Chikwenya?

I'll be curious to see what you think of (and what sort of photos you get from) the double-decker boats at Kwara. To be honest, this was one of the things (as well as reports of the Ikea decor) that put me off the camp a bit -- both sounded a bit naff.

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 14th, 2006, 07:13 AM
  #42
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Julian,

What...your trusted sources don't know who will be running Chikwenya???

Then again, I do have a source on the ground, just a short stroll away from
Wilderness' offices in Joburg, as well as people on the ground in Mana Pools, just a safari walk or short canoe ride away from Chikwenya, some of them (also) former employees of Wilderness!

One trusted source (I have a whole network of them to rival the FBI, NSA and MI-5 combined) have told me only that it was won by a local (black) Zim (not African Bushcamps) and this particular source thought it may be a bit political in nature.

I'll start turning some more stones, and unless I start getting knocks on my door from the Zanu-PF, I will get more information.
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Jan 14th, 2006, 02:55 PM
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Hi Rocco,

I had also heard that it was a (black) Zimbawean, but no company name or anything more -- there were hints that the decision may have been politically motivated, which would be very sad but not terribly surprising given the political situation in Zimbabwe.

Look forward to hearing what you have found out.

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 16th, 2006, 03:19 PM
  #44
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Julian,

There are no remaining doubts about Wilderness having lost Chikwenya. If you go to Wilderness Safaris website and check their Zimbabwe camps, Chikwenya is no longer listed.

The good news is that Ruckomechi is now listed, along with Linkwasha, Makalolo Plains and Little Makalolo in Hwange.

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Jan 16th, 2006, 03:33 PM
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Hi Rocco,

That confirms what I heard from other sources. Any word on the new operator?

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 16th, 2006, 03:43 PM
  #46
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The word is that the results have not yet "officially" been announced. It will be very interesting if it is some start up company with little experience.

It has been pretty quiet on what Wilderness is doing in Zambia. Doesn't look like they will be able to get their foot in the door in time for 2006 high season unless they intend on buying existing & operating camps/lodges. I do think they are a bit late to the party in Zambia, however. There are already so many great operators, that I would think they would need to buy one of them out, in order to avoid congestion and in order to eliminate some competition. Then again, who knows?

This is so much more fun than thinking about which free agents that the L.A. Dodgers are going to acquire in the offseason...haven't followed sports much since Africa became my passion!
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Jan 16th, 2006, 03:57 PM
  #47
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Julian,

I wonder if the owners of Chikwenya did just not decide to do it on their own, instead of continuing under the Wilderness banner? I have no idea how the partnership between Wilderness and the various lodges works, but different owners are listed for different lodges.

What an annoying little mystery that we have unfolding (very slowly) here!
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Jan 16th, 2006, 04:14 PM
  #48
 
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Hi Rocco,

According to the information on camp ownership in my Wilderness brochure, the owners of Chikwenya are the same people who own Linkwasha, Makalolo, and Ruckomechi, so striking out on their own with only one camp doesn't sound likely -- it would make a lot more sense to market the camps as a group if they wanted to go out on their own.

Cheers,
Julian

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Jan 16th, 2006, 05:31 PM
  #49
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Julian,

Thanks for this cross reference. The concession must have been up for renewal and the owners & Wilderness Safaris seemingly lost it to another, just as occasionally happens in Botswana on government property.

In any event, although it is 10 months away, I am really looking forward to Zimbabwe. However, with a November 14th arrival, I am hoping that it will already have rained a couple times.
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Jan 17th, 2006, 03:23 AM
  #50
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Which one looks better, my current itinerary of:

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)

OR

Michelangelo Hotel, Joburg (1)
Ruckomechi, Mana Pools (2)
Vundu, Mana Pools (2)
Somalisa, Hwange (2)
Makalolo Plains, Hwange (2)
Songwe Village, Victoria Falls (2)
Kwando Lagoon (2)
Kwando Lebala (2)
Kwando Kwara Island (1)
Kwando Kwara (3)
One & Only Royal Mirage or similar, Dubai (3.5) (I get in at 10:00PM on a Friday night and depart at 2:10AM on Monday morning)

Dubai does seem like a lot of fun. The skyscrapers that are going up look amazing, and the city would make for nice day trips before returning to the Royal Mirage. The early December weather seems like it would be perfect at about 85 degrees in the daytime and 65 degrees at night.

I do think I would be able to do something really over the top for the final night which is Alexsandra's birthday. My original itinerary has me returning the morning of her birthday to L.A. on a Monday morning.

Plus, should I really be starting with the luxury of the Four Seasons in Buenos Aires and then follow it up with 6 nights in Zimbabwe, 2 nights in Victoria Falls (Zambia) and 8 nights in Botswana? Seems like it would work better to do a single overnight in Joburg, then move onto 8 nights in Zimbabwe, 2 nights in Victoria Falls (Zambia), 8 nights in Botswana and then end in style with the 3.5 nights in Dubai.

I do like separating my Zimbabwe safari from my Botswana safari with those two nights in Victoria Falls. It should help recharge my internal batteries a bit. I don't mind jumping around from camp to camp so much, because I would still be a minimum of four nights in each park. All the camps within the same parks are likely not more than 90 minute drive away from the next one.
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Jan 17th, 2006, 06:14 AM
  #51
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Julian,

In a related matter, my undercover operatives have informed me that Wilderness is being slightly delayed from moving into Zambia because the former managing director, who has now been hired on with Wilderness Safaris is trying to get at least one South Luangwa property from Star Of Africa, even if it is just their seldom used remote concession in the northern part of the park (http://www.starofafrica.com/circuit/...ngwawtrail.htm) but that Star Of Africa is not budging and is instead only offering Kulefu in Lower Zambezi (http://www.starofafrica.com/circuit/kulefu/kulefu.htm) and Lechwe Plains (http://www.starofafrica.com/circuit/...chweplains.htm).

I think Kulefu would be an incredible camp if it were properly managed, so this is worth watching closely.

Thinking back to my June 2003 visit, I do remember visiting Puku Ridge at the same time that a land surveyor/real estate appraiser was there, so this has probably been in the works for some time. However, I do think that Star Of Africa would be very unlikely to give up Puku Ridge or Chichele. Even that concession of theirs in the northern part of the park was very highly sought after when it went to tender.

Interesting, all these behind the scenes politics!
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Jan 17th, 2006, 03:39 PM
  #52
 
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Hi Rocco,

I vote for the second itinerary -- I think Alexsandra would appreciate the break in Vic Falls, and it would give you a chance to catch your breath. The addition of Ruckomechi is great too. To be honest, I've always thought that the stopovers in South America weren't ideal -- it seems like you'd be adding a lot of time in the air (always my least favourite part of any trip, even in first or business class) for relatively little time in South America.

Personally, I've never been able to understand the attraction of Dubai -- a lot of people in the UK go there for 'winter sun,' but it's just never appealed to me. Maybe because I loathe hot weather and find beaches boring...personally, I'd much rather do Morrocco or Egypt than Dubai.

On the other hand, if you want OTT luxury, Dubai is definitely the place for it. I'd look into the Madinat Jumeirah (Al Qasr or Dar al Maysaf) -- it's where I would probably stay if I got stuck with a layover in Dubai. At least you know you're in another country. The One and Only looks very luxurious (like all of their properties) but a bit generic.

I'd also heard about the Wilderness/Star of Africa business from one of my sources. I think it would be great if Wilderness moved into Zambia -- it would certainly bring a lot more visitors to the country!

Cheers,
Julian

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Jan 17th, 2006, 07:46 PM
  #53
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Although it is not on the best airline, I thought that this was a pretty great price:

BRITISH AIRWAYS
LAX - JNB (stopover in London) r/t $1,381; Depart Nov. 09th, Return Dec. 05th

I am also liking the Lufthansa flights, as many of them now offer wireless internet access on the planes. Anybody know if this is a, dare I say it, free service, or whether each hour is charged at some ridiculous price?
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Jan 18th, 2006, 04:26 PM
  #54
 
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Hi Rocco,

Are you going business class? If so, Virgin's Upper Class is much nicer than anything BA has to offer. I avoid flying BA whenever I can because their service and comfort level are sub-par compared to Virgin.

I'm reasonably sure that Lufthansa charges a pretty penny for their wireless service.

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 18th, 2006, 04:32 PM
  #55
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Julian,

I don't know if I will build up enough miles by then to fly business class. If I do, it will only be for a portion of the trip.

I am so very tempted to pay about $700 to get myself to Amsterdam in coach next month, and get a 90,000 mile refund on at least my own Business class seat. Let Alexsandra stay up there and she can come back to steerage class and rub it in my face how nice it is up there. That would help me get to 160,000 miles by possibly next month and for 160,000 miles I can get two frequent flier tickets on SAA from Europe to South Africa to Victoria Falls for the next trip.

Quick...what was the deadline that I can no longer use Delta Skymiles to fly on SAA??? I only have about 10,000 Delta Skymiles right now, and about 35,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points. It may be a bad move if I were to put 90,000 miles back into my Delta Skymiles.

Thanks.
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Jan 18th, 2006, 04:44 PM
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Rocco,

I believe the deadline is sometime in March for the Skymiles/SAA alliance.

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 18th, 2006, 09:13 PM
  #57
 
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Rocco- Lufthansa's internet usage cost is:
1. Flatrate Internet access from Connexion by Boeing=$29.95 per flight
2. Pay per minute internet access is $9.95 for the first 30 minutes and 25 cents a minute after that.
Available in all classes on the airplane.
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Jan 28th, 2006, 01:36 AM
  #58
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Dennis,

Thanks for this info...seems like a small price to pay...almost could make a flight in economy class seem as short as a flight in business class, and all for $29.95.




In wanting to push the envelope for my next trip, I have been considering adding in a 5 night Kafue visit to start the safari. It would look like this:

11/08 Inter-Continental Joburg Airport (1)
11/09 Lunga River Lodge, Kafue (1)
11/10 - 12 Busanga Bush Camp, Kafue (3)
11/13 Lunga River Lodge, Kafue (1)
11/14 - 16 Vundu Camp, Mana Pools (3)
11/17 - 19 Somalisa Camp, Hwange (3)
11/20 - 21 Songwe Village, Victoria Falls (2)
11/22 - 23 Lagoon, Kwando Reserve (2)
11/24 - 25 Lebala, Kwando Reserve (2)
11/26 Kwara Island, (Kwando) Kwara Reserve (1)
11/27 - 29 Kwara, (Kwando) Kwara Reserve (3)
11/30 - 12/01 Michelangelo Hotel, Sandton, Joburg (2)

In the above scenario, I would just fly LAX - Atlanta or New York - Joburg and skip Europe. At 24 nights, it is a bit longer than I would like, but the last two nights are a Thursday and Friday, meaning that I would fly home on a Saturday and arrive on a Sunday. It is of little benefit to arrive home on a Friday afternoon. Although I could go right into my safari, I think I would benefit greatly by just chilling out at the I/C Hotel at the Joburg Airport, perhaps enjoying a nice 2 hour massage, their spa or pool, etc. I will be too beat up from the journey to want to go to the Michelangelo for just one night...much better to save it for the last two nights, as it is much easier to fly home directly from Joburg rather than leaving Kwara, flying back to Maun, flying back to Joburg and flying back to Los Angeles. The only other consideration would be to spend two nights in New York, but that seems like it would be exhausting right after returning from such an intensive trip.

With the above itinerary, I would expect to see so many predators as well as all new areas for me, except Victoria Falls. This would round out an amazing year that would introduce me to the following new wildlife areas that I had not previously visited:

Tarangire
Lake Manyara
Ngorongoro Crater
Serengeti
Kafue
Mana Pools
Hwange
Kwando
Kwara
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