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amybatt

Looking to 2018 -- Zambia?

21 posts in this topic

Well here I am again.  The safari itch has gotten to me.  This is an improvement: usually I'm ready to book the next one about a month after I get home.  I made it four months this time.  Safari #5 is in the conception phase!

 

For the "next one" I'm considering Zambia in June 2018.  I am however, somewhat confused by where I should look in terms of regions.  Too many trip reports are too enticing.  I'll have 10 weekdays at my disposal, max and I'm trying to work the late May Monday holiday in to squeeze out a bit more time.  It may be just me, but likely will include my most recent safari, intrepid gorilla trekking friend Kim, depending on itinerary and pricing.

 

My only priority is big cats with elephants a close second.  From what I gather lions and leopards are common in South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi (?)  Given my ridiculously good success with cat sightings in the Mara, am I going to have comparable experiences here, or have I seen "it" in terms of cats?  One stunning trip report here (apologies I forget whose it was) had wonderful leopard sightings in Zambia.  I know nothing is assured...but generally speaking? If I see dogs and elephants, fine too, but not #1 priority.  And what part of South Luangwa (or Zambia generally) would you recommend, if you were planning this?

 

And not to sound like too much of a newbie but is it even worth considering splitting time between, say, South Luangwa in Zambia and Chobe in Botswana linked by a day or two at Victoria Falls, or would you keep them separate trips?

 

So I guess my questions are, good time of year? I'm looking for the equivalent crowd experience to the Mara in February where it's excellent game with lower crowds, is June that time?.  Also want the cats.  Any recommendations for camps in the mid-range...no basic camping but not high end Richard Branson style. (I tentatively have my eye on Kuyenda Camp, Chindeni Camp and Mfuwe Bush Lodge, feedback welcome and alternatives desired!) I just want to have my thoughts in order from you all before I turn this over to my safari planner.

 

Thank you in advance.

Edited by amybatt

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~ @amybatt

 

Your passion has evolved to an itch.

 

Next a craze?

 

Great to know that your love of being out on safari to be with those cats, big and otherwise, has motivated you to start planning.

 

Sounds as though another terrific adventure is in the offing!

 

Tom K.

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We would go back to Luangwa in a heartbeat and though June is not high season we had so many cat sightings. Double digits for leopards and most were close and very high quality.

 

My lion sightings were good but my leopard sightings were better in Luangwa than anywhere else I've ever been.

 

If you are interested in Vic Falls and I do love it then its easy to combine with Chobe. I did not love Chobe but man the elephants! We must have seen a million, okay a slight exaggeration but we saw what seemed like hundreds having a great time in the water during a river cruise.

 

You will love it and I will get a Luangwa trip report so everyone wins!

 

PS There is an elephant orphanage near Lusaka as well!

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SLNP is excellent for leopards. We have also had lovely lion and elephant sightings. Have also had all three in lower Zambezi NP. I think these two combine perfectly (in that order). I am not a fan of multiple country trips and have never been to chobe and so cannot comment on this. Aug-oct would be peak time, but most of the camps are very small, so do not feel busy. Please feel free to read my TRs and ask any other questions.

 

The dogs are doing well in SLNP and I understand that a cheetah was recently seen in lower zambei

 

Most camps within the parks are probably not "mid-range" as they pay a huge premium to be inside.

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SLNP would be one of two places I would return in a heartbeat too. It is an awesome park (not crowded in northern part of SLNP beyond Mfuwe when we were there). although as Tdgraves  mentioned, there's a premium to be inside the park, there are benefits - less camps, hence less crowds, and you are in the heart of the park, so no need to take hours to drive into the park. The park is huge and you can cross the river into Nseful reserve as well. Plenty of cats - both lions and leopards, and elephants as well. Sept and October are very good for sightings, but very hot; still, waterholes are drying up so all the wildlife will be at the river and sightings will be incredible. 

we spent all 10 days in the park, and never felt bored or thought the sightings repetitive. one of my top experiences, if not the top, was in SLNP watching a lion battle with a buffalo. I'm not one for multi-country trips, so I can't give a view on Bots and Zambia, but you may have to fly from Bots/Livingstone into Lusaka and then into Mufwe. 

I would highly recommend Mwamba or Tafika (across the river) but as Lion camp is closing for renovations, the other camps in the park will get a little more crowded. 

 

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How about the Kafunta camps @Kitsafari. They are less pricey and get good reviews elsewhere on the internet. When we go back to Luangwa Flatdogs is a must but I want to go further into the park but without breaking the bank.

@Marks and I both have reports on Flatdogs if interested @amybatt and we both loved it. I'd go as far as saying it might be my favourite camp in Africa.

 

We flew Livingstone to Lusaka to Mfuwe so she would probably lose a day. 

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Seems kafunta camp is outside the park but has its own access unto the park via a pontoon rather than going through the gate. Looks like game drives is close to the Mfuwe end, which means dogs are a stronger  bet! Being outside the park will mean costs are lower but im not sure what the sightings of leopards will be? Flatdogs is just outsidethe mfuwe gate although that area becomes very crowded as most of the camps are around the gate region. It doesnt mean sightings are worse, just that you probably  have to share it with more vehicles.

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@dlo, @Tdgraves, @Kitsafari, thank you all!  I now have a lot of reading and research for this lazy Sunday.  Good to hear about the quality and quantity of sightings you've had in SLNP and that you'd gladly return.  That's quite an endorsement from you three.  I'll definitely look up Flatdogs.

 

@dlo you had me at "elephant orphanage", LOL!

 

@Tom Kellie, it really does feel like an itch in the middle of my back that I can't reach, not having a safari booked.  Once it's booked I feel like it goes away.  It's crazy!!  

 

I'm looking to the June timeframe mainly to avoid the worst of the heat and not have to wait an entire 18 months between safaris.  I'll read the TRs, but I'm sensing June is not a horrible time to go, just at the end of the rainy season, start of peak?

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~ @amybatt

 

The immortal words of long ago character actress Marjorie Main, playing “Ma Kettle”:

 

I itch, so I scratch, so what?

 

Tom K.

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With your shorter time availability I would limit the time to one country/area.  We have been to SLNP twice, the last time for two and one-half weeks.  And, will go again.  Closer to the gate there are more vehicles.  Take a look at the Bushcamp Company camps.  They are small.  We had great game viewing with no other vehicles around.  And, you are inside the park so can stay out later and do not need to to through the gate both coming and going. More for you to think about.

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Thank you @marg  I just read a few more trip reports and I think I came to the conclusion that keeping it to just Zambia is the right thing to do (Botswana can wait to be safari #6!).  There's too much to see to waste time in transit.  The safari planner I met at Offbeat Mara this year suggested Kuyenda and Mfuwe to me as "right up my alley" and indeed they are Bushcamp Company Camps.

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Mfuwe Lodge is close to the gate.  We spent one night there at the beginning of our last trip and watched a leopard surrounded by a bunch of vehicles as we headed out in the morning.  Loved Kuyenda!  Take a look at Chindeni.  I think that if you stay a certain number of nights with the same company, you will get a discount.

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SLNP is wonderful. I was there just over a week ago so sightings/landscapes could be fairly similar if you're planning to go in June! We saw 10 leopards in 5 1/2 days, and 5 lions. Which cats in particular are your priority? SLNP provided our best leopard sightings by far, but the lion sightings were truthfully lackluster (perhaps because I have unfairly made a comparison to our visit to the Serengeti where we saw several large prides).

We also had our best wild dog sightings at this park, all near the Mfuwe gate area. 

 

We stayed at Flatdogs and loved it :) I'm sure you will love love love this park no matter which lodge you choose!

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Great update, @monalisa!  Honestly I'm most into lions but I feel I didn't have the best leopard experiences my last two safaris so I'm looking to improve on that!  10 in 5 days would be fine!!  Can I ask how far ahead you booked your trip last week?  I'm wondering if it's ok to wait until the end of the summer or if I should jump on it now.

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I've been to SLNP three times and loved it so much that I'm returning next year!! I can guarantee that you'll just love it. 

 

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@amybatt I've been to SLNP numerous times, most recently Sept' 2016 and I'm returning again in Oct 2017. 95% of my experience is with the northern area of the park so I do not have an opinion on the southern camps and many of the lodges in the Mfuwe area just outside the park (mentioned in previous posts). I have heard good things about the many of them though. Mfuwe lodge, Flatdogs and Nkwali readily come to mind and they are good value for money. Last year I spent 3 nights at Kafunta Lodge to unwind from the 28 hours of travel before proceeding to the northern area. I won't elaborate unless you want to know more but from my perspective there are disadvantages and advantages to staying there.  

 

I booked this year's safari in February so do not feel the need to rush to secure accommodation. Just some comments after reading your questions in the OP.

 

As you might be travelling alone consider Robin Pope safaris, they do not charge single supplement and provide discounts for extended stays using their camps. I think it is a 10% discount for 7 days or more and 25% discount for 10 days or more. They are more expensive but many of their camps are in better? (maybe not the right word) more isolated locations within the park.

 

I haven't been to the Mara in February since 1986 so I cannot comment on comparable crowd levels but if you are staying in the central section of south Luangwa expect it to be busy. 

 

Also, be aware that it is a different safari experience to the Mara. The South Luangwa is woodland with floodplains & oxbow lagoons along the river, compared to the Mara's open savanna. As such the game density is less and at times can be harder to locate but it does not lessen the safari experience.  

 

 

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19 hours ago, amybatt said:

Great update, @monalisa!  Honestly I'm most into lions but I feel I didn't have the best leopard experiences my last two safaris so I'm looking to improve on that!  10 in 5 days would be fine!!  Can I ask how far ahead you booked your trip last week?  I'm wondering if it's ok to wait until the end of the summer or if I should jump on it now.

 

We booked about 9 months ahead for Flatdogs which fluctuated in guest numbers when we were there. It ranged from 40% to 100% full during the 6 nights we were there in early June. We did see some pretty empty jeeps from other camps around which would suggest you most likely don't have to lock anything down for a while unless you have your heart set on a specific camp. At the end of our stay it was fairly empty. There were only 3 of us in the jeep. I'm confident you can wait till the end of summer to book :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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@amybatt  As others have mentioned, I am sure you will love SLNP.  I am not one that normally returns to the same place often, but SLNP will definitely be one place I return to.  I spent about a week there in August 2013 and stayed at Flatdogs.  I did combine the visit with some time in Chobe/Vic Falls but I would concur with your decision to focus only on one area per trip.  While the ProFlight connections in/out of Livingstone to Mfuwe were not bad, we still had to miss one game drive and it was a bit tiring moving around between parks (and fairly expensive too).  Next time I will spend a minimum of 10 days in SNLP.  The leopard sightings were second to none.  While we didn't have a great number of lion sightings, the ones we did were really good.  Spent several hours with one pride by ourselves given no one else was around.  Not sure you can match the lion sightings of the Mara, but it was still pretty good.  One option to consider if you enjoy photography is to join in on one of the photo safaris from Ed Selfe (www.edwardselfephotography.com).  We were fortunate enough to have Ed be our guide for 4 days as we had requested a guide with photography experience.  He has been in the area for many years.  I believe his photo safaris usually combine 2 different lodges so you can spend time in different areas of the park.  Just a thought... 

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Interested.  Details please.

Thanks

Hari

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Lots of great info and suggestions here.  I have been looking up the camps and operators suggested.  I also started following some on social media and see that it's quite active with some good sightings now, a year before I plan to be there.  All signs are pointing to yes.

 

@Geoff I'll be looking for your trip report later this year then!  I think I'm reading another of yours now, too.

 

@soleson I've been interested in a photo safari and those are particularly well priced and in great camps, thanks for the suggestions!

 

@monalisa good to know I can wait a bit on Flatdogs booking.  

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