janzin

South Luangwa/Lower Zambezi August or Sept 2017

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Now that I'm back from the Mara, its time to start planning the next trip. We are looking at South Luangwa/Lower Zambezi in 2017 and have the option to go either the first weeks in August, or the first weeks in September (we can't go late August due to a family event.)

 

My agent has sent me an itinerary as follows:

 

3 nights Amanzi camp (Lower Zambezi)

3 nights Bilimungwe Bushcamp

4 nights Tena Tena

 

First of all, how does that sound insofar as combination of camps? We'd love more nights but this is already at the top of our budget. (And our tour operator has already gotten us some free nights with special offers, like 3 for 2 at Amanzi, and 4 for 3 Tena Tena.) I guess we could substitute Tena Tena for a less expensive camp, like Lion Camp, to eek out more days, but I'm concerned with the possibility of six in a vehicle at Lion Camp; Tena Tena promises no more than 4.

 

I don't see much about Amanzi camp, I know its new as of 2015. Anyone have any experience with it?

 

Our interests are birds, leopards, wild dogs (unlikely, although I have read there was a pack near Tena Tena this season!), any more unusual critters, and of course, photography. (Would have loved to use Kaingo, for the hides, but beyond our budget. :( We are also keen to do some walking, finally...after many Africa safaris confined to vehicles! But not TOO much walking ;) as its not really best for photography.

 

As for timing...would early Sept be substantially hotter than early August? What might be the differences in wildlife sightings? I know we'd have a better chance at the Carmine Bee-eater colonies in September, but if the cost is going to be excessive heat, we might be better off in early August.

 

Thanks for any insights.

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Posted (edited)

In September you'll have a better chance of wild dogs as most packs will have stopped denning and started travelling with their pups.

Indeed carmine bee-eater colonies are also active in September.

Early september isn't that hot yet (usually), but nights will be warmer than early August (those can be a bit chilly even).

Bilimungwe and Tena are situated in two very different areas, so the change of scenery will be nice.

Walking will be done on your request, and the length of the walk can be varied based on what you want, so I wouldn't worry too much about that. But you'll have to indicate you want to walk usually the day before, as a scout accompanying your party on the walk has to be organized. No scout on the vehicle = no walking.

My one concern is the transfer from Bilimungwe to Tena Tena, that will be a LONG transfer, probably taking you all day, so no resting in the afternoon before the afternoon/night-drive.

Edited by egilio

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thanks @egilio I believe that the transfer from Bili to Tena Tena will stop at Mfuwe Lodge for lunch...at least we are being taken there, and transfered to a Robin Pope vehicle, so I assume we'd get lunch there. Anyway as long as its a game drive all the way, we are fine with it.

 

Good point about the wild dogs, that's the kind of info I was wondering about. I'm starting to lean towards early September over early August...

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A lunch stop at Mfuwe lodge makes sense. That's over half way, after that it's about 2-3 hours more. And of course there's game all the way.

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Posted (edited)

So it looks like we can do the trip starting either August 2 or August 27. At this point I'm strongly leaning towards the later time frame---but still hoping for some other input.

 

The Lower Zambezi days are first, due I think to better flight connections. That puts the SLNP days (for the later dates) in the very first week of September.

 

I don't mind warm days, within reason---and it seems like most camps don't do mid-day activities or all-day trips. I find on cold mornings wildlife, and especially birds, aren't very active until the sun warm things up some. Its just really warm nights that are a problem for me as then I just don't sleep. At least I see fans in the rooms at both Amanzi and Tena Tena--that actually helps a lot!

 

Anyway I have to decide soon, so if anyone has experience staying at this time of year please chime in :)

Edited by janzin

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@@janzin...last year we made a transfer from Kuyenda to Tena Tena. We stopped for viewing and coffee and the trip took just under two and one-half hours. We the crossed the river via boat fairly close to TT. They were waiting for us on the other side and when we showed up, they crossed to come and get us. I would think that that the later date is the better one especially for dogs but maybe not the heat.

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Kuyenda is the most northern bush camp of bcc, bilimungwe one of the furthest south. Kuyenda - Bilimungwe is about as far as Kuyenda - Tena, but wildlife between Kuyenda and Tena seems more prolific as the landscape is more open.

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Just finalized it...we decided to do the later dates, and then found out that there was some availability issues--we waited a little to long to firm it up! So we had to move it up a few days, now departing August 30th-Sept 12th. Shouldn't make that much of a difference. And we added one additional night at Amanzi, so now its 4 in Lower Zambezi and 7 in South Luangwa.

 

Now, to wait a year!

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I have to say that your choices in South Luangawa National Park are excellent,and you'll enjoy both of them. I haven't been to Lower Zambezi National Park,but I have been to Mana Pools twice. I did throughly enjoy it.

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@@janzin I've just returned from SLNP, 4th trip there (& also the Mara). In SLNP I asked a certain guide (in my opinion he is amongst the top guides in Africa) "if you only had 2 weeks to visit the SLNP when would you go?" His response was "September and probably the 1st 2 weeks. The days are heating up but it is still cool enough to sleep at night, the pans have dried out and the game is concentrated along the river"

 

Also Lion Camp is closed for renovations in 2017 so you could not have stayed there anyway.

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Thanks @@Geoff I'm glad i made the right choice in dates!

 

I'd heard Lion Camp was renovating, but not closing completely...

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I've been to South Luangwa in September,and it certainly was hot. I'll be visiting it again in June because I want to combine it with Botswana,and Hwange National park. I'm also trying to take advantage of the fact that Wilderness Safaris offers shoulder season rates in May,and Great Plains offers them until the 14th of June. As I know May is and excellent time to visit Botswana because it's not overly hot,and it doesn't rain much. It may be cold in the mornings,and night but I'll be prepared for it. June will be a good time to visit Hwange. I'd prefer visiting Kafue in August but I can't really combine it with Botswana then. I'm sure that I'll visit Kafue on another occasion,and staying at Shumba or Busanga. I'd love to take the balloon flight. As it is,I'm delighted about visiting South Luangwa,and Kafue in June.

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In September you'll have a better chance of wild dogs as most packs will have stopped denning and started travelling with their pups.

 

I always thought denning season is better to see wild dogs, because once you know where the den is you will always have a starting point to look for them.

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Hello, just got back from a week in the South Luangwa, September 19 - 26th. We had amazing wildlife and really moderate heat. It was not too hot at all and the nights were still cool enough to be comfortable. We may have just been extra lucky with that, but I was really comfortable. Also, we saw the wild dogs twice while there. We were at Luwi, Nsolo, and Mchenja (Norman Carr camps). The pack had puppies and as someone said above, they were out of the den and so we got to see a lot of them. It was such a great experience. We had hired Edward Selfe (Photographic guide) and he got us out of the vehicle so we could photograph the dogs sitting on the ground. Truly an amazing experience and interesting shots of the dogs looking down on me. One was curious and came quite close! I think you will have a fantastic trip in September. Don't worry about the heat.

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thanks @@SharonV1 it does sound like you were lucky! I'm glad you got to see the dogs...fingers crossed we will see them as well!

 

I actually contacted Edward Selfe a couple of weeks ago, but he was in the hospital in Johannesburg! Seems he had some sort of burn accident, but he said he'd get back to me once he is back in Zambia. This must have happened after your trip. I might look into hiring him for a couple of days if the timing and costs works out.

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Sept--for the weather and wildlife reasons. Also plane fares tend to be lower in Sept compared to the more popular travel month of Aug.

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Thanks @Atravelynn The September dates are now set (well actually we leave August 30th...so I hope we don't just miss the cheaper fares! Right now the fares on South African Airways are very high, so I'm waiting to see what happens. They usually do fare sales starting in the spring. There's also some rumors that Air Kenya might start direct service to Nairobi from JFK, so that might also be an option for us (although I'm not holding my breath on that one, as apparently this has been rumored for quite awhile.) Our only other option is Emirates, but I really would prefer the SAA flights.

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We were in SNLP the first two weeks of September this year and we thought it was absolutely perfect weather! Not too hot at all - still really needed my fleece every morning and some evenings. Though we did stay in Dubai with friends first for 2 days so that might have been the reason for it not feeling too hot :rolleyes: (I do NOT recommend Dubai in September - horrible wet heat - 41 degrees at 6am).

 

I would recommned the Emirates flights though, they were perfect! For us the connecting time was very long going in Dubai, which is the reason we made it into a stopover, but couldn't fault them for anything. You can also book your proflight ticket with Emirates directly which we did and we got a nice meet and great in Lusaka and everything! (since our connecting time there was tight, only 1h25 I was happy this way that if we missed it, that made it their problem).

 

If you are booking your proflight flights seperately then don't wait with those! There is a very good evening flight from Mfuwe to Lusaka (good for connecting and getting most out of your last day) and that one fills up very quick! You don't want to sit around in Lusaka airport for 6 hours like us (there is literally 1 bar).

 

I am just starting my trip report now with some pictures but I can tell you now: we loooooooved Zambia! Best trip ever! (though I keep saying that after every safari trip :) )

 

We would have loved to do Lower Zambezi as well but due to the rather pricey flight connection we decided to spend all our time in SLNP. Amanzi would have been our pick! The place looks gorgeous.

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Posted (edited)

Thanks @@martywilddog We may be forced to take the Emirates flights as, at least now, the price is much lower than SAA (over $600 lower per person!); but there's a few reasons I prefer the SAA flights. You don't say where you flew from, but we are coming from New York so I'd really prefer one long flight to JNB and then just a short hop flight, rather than dividing it into two longish flights via Dubai. Much easier to get a good sleep that way. Also, we can earn United/Star Alliance miles on SAA. So I'm just waiting for awhile.

 

Our tour operator will handle the Proflight tickets (he may already have booked them, I think.)

 

Too bad you didn't get to Lower Zambezi; the flight is much better for next year as starting next season they have added a direct flight from Mfuwe, so no need to go to Lusaka first.

 

I look forward to your trip report!! Good to know it wasn't too sweltering!

Edited by janzin

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Posted (edited)

We came from mainland Europe @@janzin (Belgium to be exact) so for us this Emirates flight is pretty much the only option. It is two legs of 6h approximately. And since we broke up the going there with a stay in Dubai, it really didn't feel too long. There's also no jet lag for us, since there's a minor time difference with Dubai (3h I think) and none with Zambia. That definitely helped coming back!

 

Make sure you ask your agent for the good proflight flight! (depending on your connection obviously). Ours didn't even mention it so we only found out while we were waiting in Lusaka (it was fully booked at the time of our booking, but still, I would have liked to have known).

 

Indeed, we would have had to fly back to Lusaka first and then on to Lower Zambezi. And it added up to more than 500 pp if memory serves. Given the fact that we stayed in the more budget oriented camps, that was almost two days of safari in flights... And there really isn't a budget option in Lower Zambezi (Maybe Kasaka if you can get a package deal - I would not count Amanzi at all in that category - for me budget is at or under 300 usd pppn).

 

No, really don't worry at all about the heat! Yes, it's warm, but it's a pleasant warm (not sticky humid) and it cools down at night. You can't nap in a tent during the day, that would be too hot, but it's really no problem to sleep comfortably at night. For me it was perfect, clear blue skies and in the low 30ies (celsius).

Edited by martywilddog
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@@martywilddog actually since we are going to Zambezi first, the Proflight times are a bit different. Our agent booked the flights so that they would line up with either the SAA or Emirates flights, depending on what we end up with. The flight into Zambezi gets us in late afternoon, which is why we actually added an additional day in Lower Zambezi. We hopefully should get a night drive that first day but perhaps not make it for the full afternoon drive.

 

Enjoying your trip report, glad you like the Tena Tena area so much!

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Oh right, you mentioned that Zambezi would be first!

 

Thanks for following along @@janzin! As you can see from the video, us girls were wearing fleeces or coats in the morning. Should give you an idea of the temperature! Sure, during the day it would warm up, but it cools down at/over night, so it allows for a comfortable sleep!

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