I'm not very familiar with Busanga Plains, but I know there's quite a limited choice of camps there. Several were taken over by Wilderness Safaris a few years ago and at least one has now closed down. Apart from the Wilderness camps, Mukambi lodge also runs a bush camp up on the plains, but in all I think there's only a handful of camps to choose from.
South Luangwa has lots of excellent camps- it would help to know how long you are planning to be there, and at what time of year. If planning on combining with Busanga, I think you will be limited to June-October.
For South Luangwa, how interested are you in walking?
South Luangwa has lots of small camps, some of which offer a mix of walking and driving safaris, and others concentrate on walking, sometimes exclusively. Some of these smaller bush camps have only 3 or 4 rooms and offer a great wilderness experience. I think a great combination is a few nights in a mixed walking/driving camp and then some time in one or 2 bush camps. My favourite combinations for walking are Luwi and Nsolo (Norman Carr Safaris) and Chikoko and Crocodile (Remote Africa safaris). With either of these pairs you can spend 2 nights at each camp and walk between the two. Chikoko and Crocodile would combine well with a stay at Tafika which offers walking and driving and is also run by Remote Africa Safaris. For Luwi and Nsolo you could combine with one of their other camps, but personally I think it would work well with independently owned Lion Camp.
If you're a keen photographer, Shenton Safaris camps Kaingo and Mwamba are popular as they have a number of hides.
The other main groups of camps in the park are Robin Pope Safaris and the Bushcamp Company.
I think you are going to need to organise this through a tour operator. Most camps in South Luangwa do take direct bookings and can also book your flights Lusaka-Mfuwe. However, for Busanga, Wilderness don't take direct bookings, and once you have an itinerary involving camps from more than one company it's easier just to organise the whole trip with a tour operator. I've used Expert Africa in the UK for a few trips. I've also booked direct with Norman Carr before but if combining with Busanga I think using a TO that can book the whole trip will be easiest.
Thank you for that quick reply. We shall probably go in September. Now that we are retired, we shall probably concentrate on game drives. Our experience with walking safaris has not been A+ and we have been disappointed about the animals seen and having to keep a reasonable distance away.
If you don't want to walk then make sure you choose camps that can offer full flexibility, which probably means avoiding the very small camps. Some (eg crocodile and Chikoko) don't offer drives at all. Others may only have one guide in camp at a time so everyone does the same activity which is more likely to be walking as that is their focus and there may not be an extensive road network.
The Robin Pope camps might be good for you, as they are small enough to have an intimate "bush camp" feel, but with full flexibility of activities, and they are all in areas with plenty of driving options. You could also look at Tafika, Kaingo, Lion Camp and Puku Ridge. Just don't pick ones too close together as their game drive areas will overlap- eg Lion Camp and Kaingo, or Tafika and Nsefu (Robin Pope).
I have been to every camp mentioned in this thread so far. Your mention of Inyanti and Idube along with the information about land rovers only (no walking) is very useful as it narrows down the choices in both South Luangwa and Busanga. The level of accommodations in South Luangwa is quite diverse so you need to keep that in mind if you are trying to match it to your past experiences. For example, there are many places that I would describe as rustic bush camps or basic bush camps in Zambia. At these types of camps, including Tafike which I love, the rooms are not completely sealed from the outside, the toilets are “under the stars”, and rooms are seasonal (not brick and mortar). Although you have a mosquito net around your bed, any creature smaller than about 6 inches in size can get in your room. I like it but some people don't and are surprised.
In South Luangwa there are also some relatively high end places and two of them are mentioned above. One is Puku Ridge and the other is Lion Camp. Based on the limited information I know about you from reading this thread I think they will work for you. Perhaps spend 2 nights at Puku and 3 at Lion Camp. Although you can hike at Lion Camp, the primary focus of the activities at both camps is land rover game drives. This is partially driver by the tastes of the guests which are sometimes attracted by the upscale accommodations.
I have been to both Sumba and Busanga Camp in Kafue. I don’t think you will like Busanga as much as Shumba. They are a few miles apart and both owned by Wilderness Safaris. They are so close they share vehicles and guides. Busanga is a very basic bush camp and Shumba is almost the same quality as a Wilderness Safari Premier Camp like Vumbura Plains. It is quite nice and fancy.
Is there a reason you did not include Lower Zambezi National Park on your itinerary? To be honest, it is much more common from what I have experienced for guests to visit South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi and then only do Kafue as a third national park. I rarely send someone on safari in Zambia and have them skip Lower Zambezi. Check our Chiawa or Sausage Tree camp.
For hotel services, Shumba, Lion Camp, Puku, Chiawa, and Sausage will be a step up from Inyanti and Idube. Kainga (highly recommended) will be about the same. Busanga and Tafika will be a step down. Again, I am only talking about hotel services. Tafika, Chiawa, Kainga and Sausage are owner operated and the owner(s) is/are often at the camp making a huge difference in experience in my opinion.
The average daily temperature in Zambia increases RAPIDLY in September. If you have flexibility, I suggest being OUT of the country by the 20th of September thereabouts. By then, the days will be 95-100 and VERY humid. It will be much warmer than Clarksville in August. If you can go in August that would be even better and a better time to be away from TN as well.
When I was a naval officer I served on a submarine with Melvin Sweatt from Clarksville. He would be about 55 now and is a retired Chief Petty Officer. I was his last division officer before he retired. I also know Randy and Cathy Darcy from Clarksville but they live in Minnesota part of the year. I am not sure how big the town is. I do drive through every year going from Minnesota-Paducah-Nashville-Atlanta but it seems to be off the highway somewhat.
I also agree it would be quite difficult and in some cases impossible to book all these camps “direct” and I doubt you will save any money by trying to book direct.
Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond
I must say, I disagree with Craig's assessment of what consitutes "upscale" or "high end" accommodation.
Places like Puku Ridge and Lion Camp are much more in the style of camps you will find in Botswana or South Africa. But this is Zambia, and the camps in Zambia tend to concentrate on making the rooms as close to nature as possible, and most people who go to Zambia are looking for things like outdoor bathrooms and open fronted chalets. That's what the Zambian safari experience is all about. These camps have very high end levels of service- excellent food, uncrowded vehicles etc.. Often these camps are more expensive. I wouldn't describe them as less upscale or having a lower level of accommodation- it is just a diffferent style.
I think it is somewhat of a mistake to go to Zambia and look for something like a camp you have experienced before in South Africa. Otherwise you might as well go back to South Africa.
It's true that the more outdoors style is not to everyone's taste. A friend of mine went to South Luangwa and wasn't keen on her tented room with a bathroom under the stars, because she was scared to go to the loo in the night because an elephant was feeding right next to the bathroom. However, for me that's part of the experience that makes a safari in Zambia so unique.
Hi Stokeygirl - I don't think we are disagreeing with each other at all. I was simply trying to "rate" the accommodations in regards to hotel services only (the stuff other than safari) in comparison to what the original poster (OP) did before. With Zambia, this "rating" is not easy. I think Zambia is amazing; everyone simply loves it!
When discussing Zambia, it is a bit difficult to try and describe the accommodations to people that have been to Botswana and South Africa because (1) accommodations are more unique than the lodging in SA (2) the Zambia accommodations and lodges are all so different compared to each other.
In reading this again I still can’t think of a better way to answer the question asked by the OP.
Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond
I think the different styles of camp can be described without resorting to ranking one as "more upscale" than another- I think that's misleading. I wouldn't describe Tafika as more or less "upscale" than Lion Camp, for example. They are different styles and will suit different people, but is a "rating" necessary?
I don't really think you can judge safari camps by the same criteria as a hotel so to me "hotel services" are irrelevant. If I was staying in a hotel in New York, I'd quite like TV, wifi and a phone in my room. On safari, definitely not.
Fair enough; Strokeygirl, I have always appreciated your passion for the off-the-beaten path products and especially the Zambezi region. If it makes a difference we confirmed a guest into Tafika just today! My point is, I like all these places. I was simply looking for a way of describing the accommodations to a person that had only experienced the Sabi Sands.
See you soon on this very same forum!
Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond
I appreciate both your comments! Wow! We are not the 5* exclusive people. Camping was the only way we could afford to take the children to many European countries when we lived in the UK and even when we first immigrated to the USA. The South African sites were merely mentioned as we were amazed at the number of animals we saw. We all have different wants and needs and we are more than happy with recommendations of plush or medium rated camps ( Everest Base Camp will tell you that we dont flinch at basic camps) but we really appreciate availability of game drives, beds rather than airbeds and some decent sanitation. Yes, Sabi Sands was expensive but it was a short 3/4 day stay.
Craig, I shall certainly look up the 2 families you mentioned - many retired military families here and Clarksville is right off Exit 4 from the I24. No distance at all!
It sounds you Zambia was made for you! I guess you just can't see the city of Clarksville from I-24.
Have a good evening.
Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond