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martywilddog

Beautiful South Luangwa - a safari of elephants

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Mid september we returned from our second honeymoon (we had two weddings so I felt owed two honeymoons - any excuse to go on safari :rolleyes: ) to Zambia's South Luangwa National Park.

 

This was only our second introduction to Africa and to safari and may I just say: "wow! "

 

We absolutely loved Zambia! I know people often say this, but I really really mean it, the people are just so friendly in Zambia! Everyone appears to be genuinly very happy that you are visiting their country and their beautiful park. Aside from the wildlife and the gorgeous scenery, and the delicious food and the beautiful sundowners, the people of Zambia were my favorite part of the trip!

 

I was sold on safari after our previous trip to SA, now after visiting Zambia's South Luangwa national park I am completely in love. And we didn't even get to visit Lower Zambezi yet on this trip - I can only imagine how gorgeous that must be!

 

Pictures to follow :)

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@@martywilddog i can share the sentiment! SLNP is one of my favourite parks. interesting that you chose that park for your second safari rather than the more popular destinations. what made you choose this park?

 

where did u stay? can't wait to hear about the trip!

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@martywildog I'm simply delighted that you loved Zambia as much as I do. I've already been to South Luangawa National Park 3 times,and North Luangwa once.I'm already making plans for returning again to Zambia in 2018. I'll be spending 10 days in South Luangawa National Park, and 10 in Kafue. I'm looking forward to it.

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Posted (edited)

@@Kitsafari Why SLNP? That is a good question and one I don't really know the answer to :rolleyes: If memory serves, it started out mostly as a process of elimination. Since we had only done Kruger before, the world was our oyster!

 

We wanted to go in September which really is high season for Safari so that definitively ruled out Botswana for budget reasons.

 

I had sort of made up my mind after lots of research that it would be Kenya next (picked the camps I liked and all), when the husband (Tom) started mingling and proclaimed he wasn't going to Kenya (safety issue - I know it's not accurate for a safari, you all know it's not accurate, but what can you do? It's both our holiday and if he wouldn't enjoy it, I would be sad).

 

So I looked around some more, read more trip reports. Whenever someone says Kenya, someone else will say Tanzania. But the necessary budget was up there if we wanted a quality option. It's very hard to get costs down a little in Tanzania given the fact you are starting out with such high park fees. And I was not so excited about the pop up roof mini van style safari (I really like the open jeeps). And I was also slightly worried about the amount of people and cars around. I would prefer to do Tanzania when we have the budget to do the (more upmarket) camps in the more remote locations who take you out in their open jeeps. (At this time I never really considered Southern Tanzania, Ruaha and Selous, which is actually one of the top safaris on my list thanks to so many recommendations from several people we met in Zambia (and who had safaried all over) who said told us these were there very favourite parks!)

 

Next I ruled out Namibia because we weren't in the mood for another self drive at this point and I wanted only safari.

 

So it really came down to Zambia or Zimbabwe. We didn't have enough budget to really combine parks (transfer flight costs are really high), so that's how I came to decide on SLNP. It seemed this would be a place we wouldn't get bored for 11 nights. Ideally we would have loved to combine with Lower Zambezi but it was just not in the cards at this time. Can't have it all at once :) And I could find a few camps that were really in the reasonable price category (as far as safaris go - don't tell anyone else, they'll think we're crazy).

 

Mana pools is also very very high on my wish list though!

 

And yes, also the Kafue is on there @@optig! (my wish list is rather long come to think of it :rolleyes:)

 

So shall I get started then with the trip report?

Edited by martywilddog
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Posted (edited)

Our itinerary was the following:

 

- 3 nights Zikomo camp (Nsefu sector)

- 3 nights Nkonzi camp (jackalberry safari)

- 5 nights kafunta (split as follows: 2n river lodge, 2n island bush camp, 1n river lodge).

 

We absolutely loved both Zikomo and Kafunta!

 

For us, Zikomo is really located in the most beautiful part of the park, the Nsefu sector (close to Tena Tena camp for those of you who are familiar with the area). We would absolutely recommend anyone going to SLNP to include at least one camp in this northern sector. And if you can only swing 1 camp in SNLP then really pick one (of the few) in this northern part of the park. The scenery is just beyond gorgeous! We were literally in awe every drive we took. The winding river, the open view, the light, the colours, breathtaking!

 

Zikomo offered everything we wanted from a camp and at a rate that is beyond reasonable, especially for this area! I was not convinced of the room decor based on the pictures and it is not really entirely my minimalistic taste, but the camp is rustic, it is friendly, the service was great, the view from camp was gorgeous (location), the food was delicous, the drinks were cold, the guiding was good, and their main attraction: Nsefu sector (did I mention the location?).

 

It's a great alternative for those of us who can't afford the really high rates that the other Nsefu sector camps charge (yes, I am looking at you, gorgeous and remote Tafika). At this time it's a bargain - so get there before they become too popular and known :) And it is well worth that price! In terms of landscape, remoteness, even sightings, Nsefu sector definitely beat everyone else. So anyone planning a trip, this is perhaps a camp to look into! They are relatvely new to the market so they do still have one kink to work out. Mainly they need to upgrade their vehicles! Urgently! Really, I don't know whether I was more suprised by the fact that the heap of junk they used to pick us up at the airport didn't break down or that it started in the first place :rolleyes: This is Africa, so you smile and get on it (and no worries, this is not the vehicle used for the actual safaris). But we did have a break down during our actual safari, and there I was disappointed (we had to cancel the whole day safari). I am rather convinced though that Tom wasn't all that sad about not being in the car all day and getting in his afternoon nap time after all!

 

They have something great going on here: location, location location, i.e. an affordable Nsefu sector camp. And at the risk of sounding incredibly repetitive, Nsefu should be included in any itinerary! It's just so much more beautiful and remote! We were always alone! If you read my previous post and my worry about too many cars in Tanzania, well there was absolutely no need to worry about that here! If we saw two other cars on a whole drive, it was "a busy day"! It also meant that the guides had to really work their asses of because there really wasn't anyone to ask for tips on where to go. And they did!

 

What I also very much liked about Zikomo as a "hard core safari goer" (who has been on all of 2 safaris now :P) is that they really took you out on drive for the maximum time! You really left at 6am and were never back before 10am. Same at night, off by 16 and never back before 20 (and later if there was a good sighting!). We loved that! Definitely a camp where game viewing came first which is what I want!

 

The camp was also not very full when we were there (though their camp site was very popular with self drivers) so we had the vehicle to ourselves half the time. Though we would have happily continued sharing with the very nice young french couple we met there! They were avid photographers so they were always very eager as well! (you can check out some of their pictures which are way more professional than mine here: http://www.eyesonthebush.com/portfolio/)

 

 

 

Edited by martywilddog
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I will post pictures in their chronological order, but I want run through a day by day account. The pictures speak for themselves. If anyone has questions of course, please feel free to ask!

 

We also made a few video's but I don't think I'll be able to post those. Even though they are only 5min clips, they seem to far exceed the maximum file size. If anyone has a suggestion on how to make that work, please let me know :)

 

 

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If anyone has a suggestion on how to make that work, please let me know :)

 

 

 

upload them at youtube or vimeo and then embed it or simply post the link

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Same morning continued

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If there was one thing I was really hoping for on this trip it was to see wild dogs. That and leopards (I am not difficult :rolleyes: I didn't ask for a pangolin).

 

Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would see them on our very first drive! (Ok they were just sleeping and not doing much - but I had seen wild dogs!). This was an awesome start to say the least!

 

 

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What blessing! Dogs on your first drive! Glad you had great fortune. We missed them by a few days.

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It was a very exciting first drive - after the dogs, back to the lions.

 

And one animal we say at every turn: elephants! Sometimes loners or bachelor herds, sometimes breeding herds and in the Northern part we very often got to watch these beautiful crossings. My pictures just don't do it justice, it literally took my breath away.

 

I really couldn't believe how much we got to see on that very first drive. Now mind you, as always with safari, they weren't all like this. But boy was that an exciting one!

 

And hippo's! Hippo's were literally everywhere we looked! Also at Zikomo camp there were so many. I don't like to wear earplugs on safari, I love to sleep to the sound of the bush (and am always worried I would miss something!), but here I had met my match with these hippo's! On the third night I had to concede to them and put in those damn earplugs! I love the sound of them though - so quintessential safari! (I just also like to sleep :rolleyes: )

 

The funny thing is that these two were the only 2 zebra's we would see in 3 full days in Nsefu! They are everywhere when you are near the main gate, but here there were very few zebra's!

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Zikomo continued

 

Just looking at these pictures again, makes me smile form ear to ear. How much I loved that place :wub:

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And just for the record, I did not mess with the colours of those sunsets ! ;-) I had never seen such pink sunsets before in my life! And over the water they were just magical.

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I called it a safari of elephants for a reason ;-)

 

I had never before seen them sleeping lying down!

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Our most memorable and once in a lifetime sighting we had at Zikomo on the last drive. Together with 1 other sighting that we had while at Kafunta, this was by far my favourite part of the trip!

 

We had been looking for the dogs ever since our first drive but we had had no luck in finding them again so far. But then all of a sudden, there they were, just like that. And very active, running about. We almost had trouble keeping up! But James, our guide did a marvellous job! We followed them running, playing, they even had a half hearted attempt at chasing some impala.

 

The most funny and exciting part was when they crossed into a dry river bed though. There was some elephants who were there first and they were not such big fans of the dogs. So they started trumpeting loudly and making a fuss! But the dogs were not really impressed, they just stared back and stoically stood there ground. Until the elephants had decided they had enough of these insolent little twits and started chasing one of them. I have never seen anything as hilarious as a wild dog being chased by 4 angry loud trumpeting elephants! It was just so much fun to watch!

 

And we didn't share this sighting with a single other car (nor did we share the car with any other guests). It was just us, the dogs and the elephants! You can imagine the look on our faces after this drive!!

 

Sorry for the overload of dog pictures that is to come! :rolleyes:

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The magical dog and elephant interaction

 

Few pictures of this since we were just too busy enjoying the spectacle! :rolleyes:

 

 

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Our last drive at ZIkomo also gave us the usual suspects of course and a great buffalo herd sighting!

 

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While we didn't get to see any leopards while we were there (others did), to say that Zikomo delivered for us would be the understatement of the year!

 

We loved this place :wub: And were very sad to leave.

 

In hindsight I would have added the next 3 nights here as well. Nsefu was just our favourite part of the park. And the camp was exactly what we like, rustic, laid back, with a clear focus on wildlife viewing (and not as far as we're concerned unnecessary luxuries) and offering great value for money.

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Posted (edited)

@@martywilddog I have to say that the first time that I ever saw a pack of wild dogs in Selous National Park eight years ago,it remains my most memorable sighting ever. It's something that I'll simply never forget.I have to say that I really appreciated the sheer emptiness,and incredible wilderness "vibe" of the Nsefu area. I've stayed at Kaingo lodge twice,Tafika Camp twice,Mwamba Camp twice as well as Chikoko Trails once and Crocodile River Camp once. I loved all of them especially Mwamba and Tafika Camps.

 

I have to say that when I return to South Luangawa National Park,I'll be staying in the Southern section of the Park. I'd like to stay at Kuyenda,Bilingumwe and Chamilandu because

I'd like to stay at a different area of the park. The scenery here is quite different. It's the Central Area of the park which is so crowded with vehicles. I'm talking about the area around Mfuwe.

Edited by optig

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Thanks for sharing. Next September, we are doing 11 nights in a combination of SNLP (including Tena Tena in Nsefu sector as well as Mwamba in the main park) and Lower Zambezi - already looking forward to the Nsefu sector based on your report!

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We also did a few days in the South @@optig, at island bush camp. I am generally all in favour of a combo trip! See different parts!

 

You will have a great time @@philw! Great choice of camps, you will get to see some different area's! I'm very jealous that you get to go to Lower Zambezi too! But, ok, this way we have an excuse to go back to Zambia ;-)

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Thoroughly enjoying this TR @martywildog and totally agree with your comments on Zambia and its people.

 

It's quite some years now since my last visit to SLNP and am appreciating returning to the Nsefu sector through your eyes and photos.

 

Love the photos of the elephants in the Luangwa, the dogs of course with their varied patterns and that was a pretty impressive buffalo herd.

 

Looking forward to more.

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Great trip report @@martywilddog - SLNP was my first ever safari destination as a grubbie backpacker back in 1999 and to this day probably my favourite safari place not because of the sightings but mainly the scenery and the massive sauasage trees.

Love the TR so far and well done on the Wild dog sightings, great buffalo pics too!

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Enjoying your report--fantastic that you saw the dogs! We had a similar experience--and thrill--seeing them in Botswana, and I really hope we get to see them in Zambia! We'll also be in South Luangwa (and Lower Zambezi) in September 2017 (maybe we'll run into @@philw !)so I'm following with great interest. Really happy you speak so highly of the Nsefu area; we'll be at Tena Tena for four nights (and also at at camp in the south, Bilimungwe, for three nights.) We also wanted to experience the two different sectors, at least on our first trip :)

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@@martywilddog - I have been away from the forum for so long that it took me three tries before I remembered my password!

 

Glad to be back on Safaritalk though and reading a trip report about one of my favourite places. Really pleased when somebody else like it as well and it is clear that you do. Wild dogs on first drive is always going to influence thoughts on a particular place and from what I have read so far you have fallen in love with Zambia and that is wonderful. Really liked the second dog image and all the elephants in the river. A fantastic place and you captured that in those images.

 

I seem to remember that you took a GoPro along? For videos I use Vimeo and upload at 720p rather than 1080p - it keeps the file size down. To post these in your trip report just click on the "share" icon (paper airplane) and then copy the "link" and just paste it into your trip report. If you "preview" your post it generally shows up as just the address for the link but when you post it will include the video. I am not familiar with Youtube but I'm sure it works the same.

 

Looking forward to more.

 

Kind regards

 

deano.

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