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October Safari in Zambia Kafue, Lower Zambezi, South Luangwa

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new york
posts: 23
reviews: 18
October Safari in Zambia Kafue, Lower Zambezi, South Luangwa

Hi

We have 8 nights to split up for an october safari in Zambia:

Some pertinent info: This will be our 5th safari (Kenya/Tanz, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana)

Primary objective is game viewing, also would be nice to visit a school or orphanage or animal sanctuary. I keep reading that Zambia is great for experienced safari goers- less about the glitz and more about true wilderness and wildlife viewing

We prefer game drives (love night drives) but are excited to do some walking and other activities on offer

My initial thoughts were

2 nights in Kafue (Busanga Bush Camp or Shumba- we have used wilderness with great success but open to suggestions of other camps)

4 nights in South Luangwa (have gotten rave reviews of Bushcamp company: maybe combine Mfuwe lodge with some of their ones in the south)

2 nights Lower Zambezi National park (old mondoro/chiawa people rave about. willing to consider cheaper option of similar calibar game viewing and overall experience)

any commentary on this itinerary would be most appreciated. My main questions/concerns:

Kafue- this should be peak season there from what i've read. has the area recovered enough from the terrible poaching in recent yrs. Is this a must see area or should it be left off?

South Luangwa- bushcamp co lodges seem focused on walking. obviously its all by chance but are these more bird & turd walks or is there a good likelihood of seeing bigger game? any reco's on their specific lodges that might offer drives and walking or do we need to consider one of the other lodges further north? I have heard mfuwe lodge is great and has more drives but it is in the more crowded area of the park.

Lower Zambezi: expensive lodges, we've been to Mana Pools which is across the Zambezi and likely a similar experience. We had a GREAT experience in Mana and loved the variety (boat, fishing, great game viewing.

I greatly appreciate the help people provide on this site

Thanks

Scott

17 replies to this topic
london
Destination Expert
for Zambia
posts: 2,543
1. Re: October Safari in Zambia Kafue, Lower Zambezi, South Luangwa

Wow- I really think you are trying to fit too much into 8 days. The cost of transfers between parks will really add up, not to mention the travel time. Especially, for example, travelling between Kafue and South Luangwa, I doubt if you will be able to do that transfer without losing game viewing time.

I wouldn't try and do all 3 parks, and you could easily spend all 8 days in South Luangwa. Then you could do both the north and the south of the park. In October, the north of the park is particularly good for game viewing- at the end of the dry season the buffalo herds get drawn to the river and the lions go on a bit of a killing spree. October will be seriously hot, but if you've been in Mana in Oct, then you know what to expect.

I would skip Mfuwe lodge- it's nice but it is big. I would rather spend 4 nights split between 2 of the Bushcamp Co camps and 4 nights in one of the small camps in the north- maybe Tafika or Kaingo or Lion Camp. Tafika can do trips to a local school that they support.

Kuyenda is my favourite of the Bushcamp Company camps (also the most rustic) and is managed/guided by Phil Berry, the longest standing guide in the valley. When I last visited the Bushcamp Company camps (I've only been to Kuyenda, Chindeni and Kapamba) in 2010 they only had one guide and one vehicle at each camp, which meant activities were decided by consensus amongst the guests. Someone more recently commented that this has changed, so you might want to check, if you're not happy with that. The activities are most likely to be a walk in the morning and a drive in the afternoon, but if it's decided by consensus you just never know.

For walking, my favourites are a combination of Luwi and Nsolo (Norman Carr) or Chikoko and Crocodile (Remote Africa Safaris, same as Tafika). The last two are in a completely walking only area (no roads, no vehicles, even the camp supplies come in on foot). If you have time to do a combination of 2 nights each at one of those pairs it makes a great walking experience, then add 4 nights at a more driving focussed camp (with Crocodile/Chikoko, Tafika would make sense, with Luwi/Nsolo then maybe Mchenja to stick with the same company, or Kaingo or Lion Camp).

Next year I'm spending 13 nights in South Luangwa, last year I was there for 10 nights. There's so much variety in activities, areas and styles of camps that you are spoilt for choice. I would try and include at least one camp in the Zambian "bush camp" style (reed chalets), like Luwi/Nsolo/Crocodile/Chikoko/Kuyenda/Tafika/Mwamba. This style is unique to Zambia and shouldn't be missed.

If you did want to split between 2 parks, I would go with South Luangwa plus one of the others. I can't really help much with choice of camps, but I believe Busanga Plains is the area to be in in Kafue and the choice these days is pretty much limited to the few Wilderness Safaris camps. Lower Zambezi is going to be more similar to Mana Pools, which you obviously liked, so I guess it depends if you want to try somewhere different or go with something a bit more "tried and tested".

new york
posts: 23
reviews: 18
2. Re: October Safari in Zambia Kafue, Lower Zambezi, South Luangwa

I really apprecaite your detailed and helpful response. I think we are going to rule out Lower Zambezi for now since its so similar to Mana Pools and we want to have some new experiences. I think we are either going to do 3 nights in Kafue at one of the wilderness properties and 5 nights in South Luangwa (tbd on camps but appreciate your info on the legendary guide at Kuyendi).

I am also debating spendnig all 8 nights in different parts of SLNP.

Again i appreciate your help

Scott

london
Destination Expert
for Zambia
posts: 2,543
3. Re: October Safari in Zambia Kafue, Lower Zambezi, South Luangwa

If you only have 5 nights in South Luangwa, I think Tafika (3 nights) with Kuyenda (2 nights) would be a great combination of different areas and walking/driving. Tafika could do your village/school visit. They also have a microlight at the camp, and (for an extra charge) you can do a microlight flight over the park.

West Australia
posts: 293
reviews: 11
4. Re: October Safari in Zambia Kafue, Lower Zambezi, South Luangwa

2 nights Kuyenda and 3 nights either Mwamba or Kaingo would also be a good combination and probably a bit easier with regards to inter-camp transfers. Kaingo / Mwamba also have some exceptional guides.

Also - with only 8 nights to play with, personally, I would do all 8 in South Luangwa, even though I love the Kafue, the full day spent transferring between the two parks would be in my eyes a day wasted.

Edited: 4:52 am, July 13, 2013
new york
posts: 23
reviews: 18
5. Re: October Safari in Zambia Kafue, Lower Zambezi, South Luangwa

Thanks again for everyones input.

We decided to do 2 nights at Mfuwe Lodge, 2 nights at Kuyenda and 3 nights at Chindeni camp next month.

Cant wait

Scott

Wayzata, Minnesota
posts: 45
6. Re: October Safari in Zambia Kafue, Lower Zambezi, South Luangwa

Hi Scott,

You sound very well-travelled in Africa and are looking for something a bit more “authentic” and unique. Zambia is my favorite of the southern Africa safari destinations – it will complement your previous trips very well. And as always, Stokeygirl has provided excellent and accurate feedback on your original inquiry. However, I’d like to expand on what she has already listed as potential suggestions, more from a tour operating perspective.

First, I can’t agree more that you can spend the whole of your safari in the various sectors of South Luangwa National Park (SLNP). However, if you are keen to visit another park, I may suggest visiting a Wilderness Safaris Camp in Kafue over Lower Zambezi National Park (LZNP). The reasons are two fold: 1) you’ve been to Mana Pools in ZIM – the ZAM side is fairly similar. If you want to diversify your experience, Kafue is totally different. 2) On an average year, temperatures in LZNP are hotter in October than they are in the Kafue – like into the hundreds hot. I don’t know where you live and if you are exposed on a regular basis to serious heat, but to me, the temps are in the verge of unbearable.

Second, Stokeygirl advised you not to stay in the Mfuwe sector as it gets busy. This is true – the Mfuwe sector is the busiest part of the park, but also very productive. If you plan to arrive into Lusaka (LUN) direct from Amsterdam (AMS) on the KLM flight which operates on Tues/Thurs/Sat, I’d say that flying from LUN to Mfuwe (MFU) and road transferring 3-4 hours into the heart of the park is nice to do in one day. However, if you plan to fly via Johannesburg (JNB) with an evening arrival, you’d be forced to fly JNB/LUN; LUN/MFU and a 3-4 hour road transfer to a camp in the interior of the park. What I am getting at is: commencing your day in JNB at transferring to a remote camp in SLNP in one day is a very long day – I wouldn’t advise this and would suggest you look into staying at the Mfuwe Lodge. There are other options in the Mfuwe sector as well including the budget friendly Flatdogs Camp (their Jackal Berry House is nice, especially if you have a party of 4), Kapani Lodge, or Robin’s House (again, if you have a party of 4). It’s a nice way to commence a safari, especially if you’ve already had a long day of transiting.

You mention the Bushcamp Company (BCC) – they operate a top show and Andy Hogg, their MD is a dear friend. However, as previously mentioned, their main caveat in my opinion is that you don’t have options for activities – meaning that you are at the mercy of what the group decides to do for the day. This is rarely an issue as most are happy to walk or drive and often, they will complement the afternoon activity with something different than the AM. If you want total flexibility, Robin Pope Safaris (RPS) is known to have the highest guide to client ratio – meaning that you can opt to walk or drive on any given activity time slot.

Other operators you may want to consider may include Shentons (Kaingo is especially good for photographers with its hides), Norman Carr Safaris (NCS) and Remote Africa Safaris (RAS). There is also a great American owned camp called Lion Camp. Super value for money and requires a 3 night stay minimum (per their booking policy). It’s a superb camp with creature comforts equal to a Wilderness Safaris classic camp and, in my book, is the best value for money in SLNP. I’ve heard other camp owners in Zambia complain that Lion Camp over delivers in experience for their price point. I’d like to simply think that they offer stellar value.

So my recommended itinerary may vary depending upon if you fly into JNB or LUN, at least for how you’d commence your SLNP portion of the trip. I’d then strongly encourage you to do 3 nights in Kafue to complement your SLNP experience.

Lastly, if you must go to LZNP, I recommend you look at camps that are serviced by JEKI not ROY. ROY is a tarmac airstrip outside of the park servicing many camps. JEKI is a dirt strip in the heart of the park only servicing a select few. Chiawa and Old Mondoro are great, but I’d also look at Sausage Tree and Potato Bush (Potato Bush recently opened and is best value). In short, the camps serviced by JEKI are much more remote.

Good luck and happy planning.

Kota Tabuchi – Safari Consultant – Travel Beyond

new york
posts: 23
reviews: 18
7. Re: October Safari in Zambia Kafue, Lower Zambezi, South Luangwa

Thank you Kota for your helpful detailed response. We are indeed flying in via Joburg so we decided to stay at Mfuwe lodge for 2 nights at the start of our trip. We are aware of the 'crowds' in this part of the park but i am confident the game viewing will make up for it and from the glowing reviews on TA they manage this issue well. Another factor for us was being able to visit one of the schools that the Bushcamp Company supports during one of our siestas before heading out into the more remote and "quiet" southern portion of the park

We decided not to add Kafue, much to my chagrin, because of the logistics of travel and effectively losing a full day to travel.

We decided not to do Lower Zambezi, despite Mana Pools being amongst my favorite areas we have visited, becuase of the similiarities between the two, but also because everyone I talked to recommended spending the whole week in SLNP.

Sadly in the US a week is considered a long vacation and thats all we have this time!

Thanks

Scott

Wayzata, Minnesota
posts: 45
8. Re: October Safari in Zambia Kafue, Lower Zambezi, South Luangwa

Hi Scott,

I am so delighted that this trip is going to work out for you! I too understand what its like to only be allotted 1 week at a time for vacation, but working for a US based tour operator, we understand the value of travel unlike other jobs I've worked in the Bay Area. Have a wonderful trip in Zambia and hopefully you've booked yourself into Kuyenda Camp where Phil Berry is the host (he is a legend in SLNP - I believe former Warden)!

Kota Tabuchi, Africa Consultant, Travel Beyond

Chicago, Illinois
posts: 706
reviews: 91
9. Re: October Safari in Zambia Kafue, Lower Zambezi, South Luangwa

Dear Kota,

Please give me your opinion of Kafue National Park. I've been to South Luangwa twice and loved it. I stayed at Tafika for 4 days, Kaingo twice once for 3 days and another for 4,and Mwamba for 3 days. I love South Luangwa National Park and would definitely return. Where do you recommend staying in Kafue? I'm prepared for the tsetse flies because I'll be getting a fly suit. If you don't feel Kafue is worth staying at please let me know. I really appreciate your opinion.o

Chicago, Illinois
posts: 706
reviews: 91
10. Re: October Safari in Zambia Kafue, Lower Zambezi, South Luangwa

I have to stress that the guiding at both Kaingo/Mwamba and Tafika is some of the best in Africa. The guides are all incredibly well informed, but they all have their own unique style which I feel is essential to guiding. Meyam and Andy are superb guides and Patrick Njobuvu is not only a superb guide but has an incredible sense of humor. I was constantly cracking up during walks, and night drives with him. Derek Shenton the owner of Shenton Safaris is also very funny. So in the wonderful manager of Mwamba Bush Camp: Marlene.

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