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camp feedback please

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We are still trying to figure this out and keep this a fairly reasonable trip costwise.

We were wondering how Kasaka River Lodge compares to Sausagt Tree, Old Mondoro, or Chiawa.

If we chose between Kafunta and Island Camp; Tafika and Chikoko; or Kaingo and Mwamba, which one and why?

And if we chose a last camp that was a littli nicer would you choose Puku Ridge or something else?

Is there a significant difference in the quality of the guides in either of the camps or do you find them great everywhere?


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    In South Luangwa, of the lodges you mentioned, I have been to each Kafunta River Lodge, Kafunta Island Bush Camp and Kaingo. By a longshot, I would rate Kaingo above each Kaingo camp.

    Kaingo's location is superior to either Kafunta camp, and at Kaingo you will receive THREE gameviewing activities daily. Plus, right outside the door to your chalet, with just about 20 feet of ground in front of you before an embankment, you will look down upon the Luangwa River where you will unquestionably see dozens of hippos and crocodiles in every direction.

    I do think that Kaingo's higher prices are justified in comparison to the lower rates of Kafunta.

    If you absolutely want a swimming pool & hot springs jacuzzi (with a nice view from each), then Kafunta is worth considering. Also, one interesting thing about Kafunta River Lodge is that on each of my three nights there the hippos came up from the river to feed right outside our chalet. The very first night there (and this was only after a more sheltered safari to Singita and Matetsi the year before), my wife kicked me awake at 3:30AM to a muching sound right outside our tent. It only took me, oh, about 15 minutes before I mustered the courage to move, and then when I looked out the window I saw a couple hippos not more than 10' away from us!

    Really, Kafunta is actually a pretty nice place, with very friendly owners who operate the lodge on a day to day basis. But, for pure game activities, my vote would have to go to Kaingo, but you must ask yourself whether or not you think it is worth an extra $125 per night per person to stay at Kaingo.

    As far as the Lower Zambezi goes, although I love the looks of Sausage Tree Camp and Chiawa, I just cannot justify paying each camp an extra $175 per person per night more than Kasaka River Lodge, which looks EQUALLY nice.

    I only toured Kasaka River Lodge for a few minutes on my way back from Kulefu Tented Camp (the lowlight of all my African lodges/camps so far). However, I did meet half of the managing couple, as well as their resident Jack Russell, Vodka.

    Kasaka appears to be a great place and their vehicles are in tip-top shape (newer Land Rovers with very comfortable seats...not always the case in gameviewing vehicles, believe it or not).

    With quality guides one of your priorities, I believe that you really should keep Kaingo as part of your itinerary. The owner, Derek Shenton, grew up in the Luangwa Valley, and his father was a famed game warden mentioned frequently in Norman Carr's books, and also getting a couple pages in Alexandra Fuller's book, "Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight."

    Derek Shenton still runs the day to day operations (he is only about 38 years old) and he has a couple excellent guides there in Patrick and Ian.

    For your other camp, I would feel very safe in selecting Puku Ridge. It is owned by a small group of people that have been doing this type of thing for many, many years. Each of my guides at Chichele, their sister camp nearby, were excellent, so I do think they put a high emphasis on quality guiding, as well as luxury and excellent service.

    Do not take it for granted that all guides are created equal...THEY ARE NOT. It is possible to get a guide that may know the bush like the back of his hand but who is also, unfortunately, more reserved in his personality. I had such a guide at Kafunta (although he is now a guide at Robin Pope Safaris) and while he was very nice, it makes it a bit of a struggle when you have to pull information out of your guide.

    On the flip side of the coin, my guide last year at Chichele, Nic Polenakis, was amazing. It was really as if a television production was being filmed and he was leading his guests (the viewers) every step of the way. Unfortunately, Nic has since returned to private guiding, or else I would surely be staying at Chichele all over again, even though I prefer the decor of Puku Ridge.

    Since you are trying to keep costs under control, I really think you would be well advised to include Kasaka River Lodge, as it will bring your average way down. With Kasaka, you will be paying a total of around $570 per night ($285 pppns). However, with either Sausage Tree or Chiawa, you will be paying about $900 - $925 per night. I do think 4 nights at a quality lodge is the right amount of time, so don't worry about spending all your time in the Lower Zambezi at a single lodge, if that is a concern.

    Kasaka River Lodge (4) $1,140 per person
    Kaingo (3) $1,200 per person
    Puku Ridge (3) $1,200 per person
    Lusaka - Royal Zambezi - Lusaka $180 per person
    Lusaka - Mfuwe - Lusaka $320 per person

    GRAND TOTAL = $4,040 per person RACK RATE excluding international airfare.

    That is my best answer for the itinerary unless you have more time to spend on safari. If you have a couple more nights, you may want to spend your time at a single lodge in South Luangwa and consider adding North Luangwa. You can do North Luangwa in 4 nights, but I think you will need a minimum of 6 nights if you wanted to enjoy Kafue NP, with the way the operators currently have things rigged.

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    What about Tafika, Chikoko and Mwamba? We get a little of a break if we spend 6 nights -- 3 in Kaingo and 3 in Mwamba --- so we were considering that. It would be 3 nights Tafika, 3 nights Kaingo, 3 nights Mwamba, and 2 nights Puku Ridge. I think the total cost will be around 4300 per person.

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    No, I would not do that. Tafika is in the same general area as Kaingo and Mwamba. I could understand combining Kaingo & Mwamba, but at that point I would definitely spend the time you are suggesting for Tafika in a different part of the park, possibly at Luangwa River Lodge. Doing so, you would hit the northern part of the park, the central part of the park and the slightly southern Chichele part of the park with Puku Ridge.

    Kaingo (3) $1,080 pp (assuming a 10% discount off rack rates, a reasonable assumption for an extended 6 night stay)
    Mwamba (3) $1,080 pp
    Luangwa River Lodge (3) $1,050 pp
    Puku Ridge (2) $800 pp

    GRAND TOTAL = $8,180 USD ($4,090 pp) (a savings of $210 pp while seeing more of South Luangwa's diverse areas).

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    sorry. What I meant was 3 nights kasaks, then 3 nights either tafika or kaingo and 3 noghts either chikoko or mwamba and then 2 nights puku ridge. I did not mean to go to both Tafika and Kaingo -- was wondering if one is preferred over the other and why?

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    Weighing in on Tafika or Kaingo, I can only comment on Tafika, having spent 6 nights there in 1998. What I've read on Kaingo looks quite positive and intriguing, though.

    Tafika was an excellently run camp with the owners, the Coppingers, very involved and living in camp with their daughters.

    Guides were superb, although I know a couple of them that I had are no longer there, but I am sure they would be replaced with like calibur.

    Only 5 thatched huts so it is quite small. And small proved to offer wonderful personal service.

    It is in a good game area. We even saw the Pope-mobile (as in Robin Pope safaris) come into the area because game was better near Tafika. I don't think that is always the case, season after season, on a daily basis. But it happened during my visit.

    I was quite impressed with the individual attention I received as a solo traveler who did not pay for a privately guided safari. I was almost always taken out alone and I did a good job of monopolizing men and machinery. Most days we'd head out in a vehicle with a guide and a scout. We'd drive awhile to get to an interesting place, spend most of the morning walking with the guide and scout, then drive on back to camp.

    While I was doing this a family of 5 was doing its own thing.

    One feature I liked was many tents had their own personal shower chameleon that spent most of the day in the shower area. If you didn't want the chameleon, it could be moved to another hut. During my stay there were good natured fights over who got the chameleon.

    Plus there is that aerial plane thing that you can ride on. John Coppinger is the pilot. Some people did it while I was there and enjoyed it very much. I much preferred the walking to the flying.

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    I believe both Kaingo and Tafika are each highly regarded.

    You just have to decide what appeals to you more. Do you prefer the microlight at Tafika or do you prefer the hippo hide at Kaingo?

    Also, does Tafika look that much better than Kaingo to justify an extra $50 pp per night? After 3 nights, you are talking about $300 total, enough for one person to fly from Lusaka to Mfuwe.

    Personally, I think you cannot go wrong with either camp, and accomodations look similar.

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    Please elaborate on the Kaingo hippo hide.

    Where is it in relation to the camp?
    Walk there, drive there?
    Part of game drive activities or during down time, or both?
    Next to water or an overhang?
    How close are the hippos?
    How often are they visible from the hide?
    How long do you usually spend there?

    Not to make this into a quiz, but those are some things I'd like love to know about this interesting feature of Kaingo. Thanks

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    >>Where is it in relation to the camp?

    I would say that the hippo hide is within a couple miles away from the camp.

    >>Walk there, drive there?

    Because it is a mid-day activity, it is about a 10 minute drive. This is the extra activity of the day that few, if any, other camps offer. I imagine you could walk it, but mid-day, when the hippos are best viewed, driving is the better option.

    Part of game drive activities or during down time, or both?

    This is exclusive from the game drives. I did ask to go on a little drive, but the guide told me that we would only be back at camp for a couple hours before our next drive, so that was good enough for me.

    Next to water or an overhang?

    It is built into the river embankment. Check out Kaingo's website and there should be some good pictures of the hippo hide.

    How close are the hippos?

    The closest hippos are probably about 50 feet away, but that is in June when the water is still ample. I was told that by September & October, that the hippos are much closer and that there are many more.

    How often are they visible from the hide?

    There were at least 20 - 30 hippos within I would say 100 meters of the hippo hide, and quite a few more just upstream/downstream. They are a permanent fixture during the daytime and you just have to point your camera and click away and just find the hippos that are about to yawn. A good way that I devised to catch yawning hippos in the act was to focus on the hippos that had just people, even though theirs is a territorial yawn, once they start yawning, they tend to do it again every couple minutes for awhile.

    How long do you usually spend there?

    In my two visits, we spent between 60 - 90 minutes at the hippo hide.

    I don't think anybody should go to Kaingo solely for the hippo hide, but given the fact that Kaingo is an excellent lodge, with excellent guides, a great location right on the river overlooking a very busy stretch of river full of hippos and crocs, I do think that the hippo hide when added to the rest of it all, just makes Kaingo a fantastic destination.

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