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Lower Zambezi vs. Northern So. Luangwa

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We are visiting Zambia beginning of June 2018. Right now we are considering 5 nights each in 3 areas, south Luangwa and Lower Zambezi, which we have visited before, and the Northern area of SL which we have not visited.
Would appreciate your opinions if at this time of year, we would experience just as good a trip using our entire 15 nights in the north and south of South Luangwa. There would be some significant cost savings, as well with two less flights.
Thank you for all the great info. on this forum.

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    Hi Westendavenue,

    How exciting to be planning to a trip to Zambia. I just returned from 3 weeks exploring the South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi National Parks in August. I fell in love with Zambia again and I was blown away with the number of different leopards I saw on a daily basis. If you can amend your travel dates to July or later the animal viewing becomes increasing better the later in the dry season you travel.

    I spent most of my time visiting safari camps north of the Mfuwe Gate. The further north you go in the South Luwangwa the less vehicle traffic you experience. The Nsefu Sector of the park is also very quiet as only 2 camps are in this part of the national Park. The Nsefu sector is very productive with wildlife.

    A highlight for me was Kaingo Camp and their bushcamp Mwamba. Incredible location on the Luangwa River with stunning photo hides dotted around the area. Both Kaingo and Mwamba offer sleep outs.

    If you plan to spend 5 nights in the South Luangwa my suggestion would be to spend 3 nights at Kaingo then walk to Mwamba bushcamp for 2 nights. What is nice about this combination is you will have the option for walks and game drives. Some bush camps only allow walking. I like having options such as morning walk, afternoon game drive. The night drives in the South Luangwa are some of the most productive I have experienced. On a previous visit to the South Luangwa I spent my time in the Southern part of the part and I would much rather spend more time in the Northern Part of the South Luangwa and visit the Lower Zambezi National Park.

    The Lower Zambezi is stunningly beautiful and the variety of options available to canoe, boat, walk, and go out on game drives can easily keep you busy for an extended amount of time. My advice is to stay inside the Lower Zambezi National Park and not outside of the park.
    I understand budget is an issue but you will be 100% satisfied is you combine the South Luangwa National Park with the Lower Zambezi National Park. I wish I had more time in the South Luangwa to go experience a mobile walking safari similar to what Robin Pope Safaris offers.

    Good luck with your planning!

    Marsha Carroll

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    I quite often do 2 week trips just in South Luangwa, so I wouldn't rule out a longer trip there, but it does depend what your interests and priorities are whether that would suit you.

    I like to mix up my trips and do some portions of exclusively, or nearly exclusively walking. If you are not keen walkers and mainly want to do drives, 15 days in South Luangwa alone might be a bit much. The other thing is that in early June there is probably going to be high grass in some areas, so depending on how much that will bother you it might restrict the areas you consider.

    I did a trip in early June in 2014, and stayed at Puku Ridge, Tena Tena, Tafika and the Chikoko Trails walking camps. At Puku Ridge- so around the Mfuwe and Chichele hill area of the park, we had great game viewing with not too many issues with long grass. At Tena Tena, there did seem to be a fair bit of longer grass and I ended up doing a bit more walking there. But further north in the Nsefu sector, where Tafika operate, it was OK again. I haven't been to the other side of the river (lion Camp/Kaingo area) that early in the season, but I think it would be similar to the northern end of the Nsefu sector. There's a lot of open areas.

    Up in the Chikoko Trails walking area the grass was extremely high- we were literally pushing through grass that was over our heads in parts. I still really enjoyed the 4 days walking up there, and we had nice sightings of elephant, eland, a herd of buffalo, and birding, but it was pretty clear that with the long grass any big cats (especially leopard) were going to be able to slink off before we got anywhere near them. Not that I would expect to be seeing lots of big cats when walking, but I have been to those camps before and had a couple of leopard sightings in 4 days.

    I don't know what you could expect from Lower Zambezi in early June. However, I do know that Old Mondoro has got some very good specials for shoulder season (as I am going there in late Oct at the other end of the season). They are doing 3-for-2 or 7-for-4, which is really exceptional value.

    In an ideal world, I would say 10 days in South Luangwa and 5 in Lower Zambezi would be great but with the 7-for-4 special, if you are looking to keep costs down and are open to longer stays, you could even consider 7 days in Lower Zambezi and 8 in South Luangwa. With 8 in South Luangwa you could split 4-4 between the central area and the Nsefu sector, or even between the Nsefu sector and the other side of the river. With Nsefu I would go to the northern end, so Tafika or Nsefu camp (Robin Pope). So for a central-Nsfeu combination, using Robin Pope would be good value (they have a 10% discount for 7+ nights) splitting between Nkwali and Nsefu Camp. Or you could do a Tafika-Kaingo combination or Tafika-Lion Camp, or Tafika-Mwamba. Lion Camp has been closed this year for an extensive refurb and will open in June next year. They are usually a less expensive option than Kaingo, but in the same area.

    If you can do your trip a bit later, then I would. Up to late June it shouldn't affect pricing, but if you do combine LZNP and SLNP, note that Proflight only start their direct flight link on 15 June. Any earlier and you'd have to go via Lusaka.

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