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The Travel Butlers Blog

Is Zambia A Good Choice For Your First Safari? Yes!

PaulCampbell - November 2, 2017

We have long heard various people saying that Zambia is ideal for safari connoisseurs and people on their third or fourth safari, whilst South Africa and Kenya are often cited as being the best option for first timers.  But is there any reason why Zambia would not work for someone on their first safari?

We decided to spend 9 nights travelling to some of Zambia’s best loved national parks and safari lodges to see how the experience there compares to that in South Africa’s Kruger Park area, which is a firm favourite with first timers and seasoned safari veterans alike.  This is what we found:

  • Both South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi are really beautiful parks, with the Lower Zambezi being especially stunning due to the permanently flowing Zambezi river which is kept at fairly consistent levels as a result of the Kariba Dam. The Luangwa River is not damned and water levels do vary across the season, meaning the park can get quite dusty toward the end of the dry season and there are also a number of smaller rivers which dry-up altogether, however this natural variation in water levels means that animals move around the reserve in search of water and grazing throughout the dry safari season.  We love the Kruger Park, however we would say that both South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi are prettier and feel more remote.
  • Some of the camps in South Luangwa are open all year round, however a large number are seasonal and only open in the dry season (April-November) as many roads in the park cannot be driven in the rainy season. In the Lower Zambezi, the safari season is limited to the drier months between April and November, when the roads are accessible. The lodges around Kruger are open all year as the area has better all-weather roads and does not have such a pronounced rainy season.
  • South Luangwa offers excellent walking safari options, with shorter game walks offered by the majority of camps, and some operators offering longer walks with the opportunity to walk between different camps, giving you the opportunity for a true safari adventure. Many camps in Kruger offer bush walks, however we would say that South Luangwa is definitely the better option for keen walkers.
  • Both South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi offer a number of water based safari options that are not available in Kruger. In South Luangwa these are seasonal depending on the river levels after the rains, however in the Lower Zambezi water based activities are offered at all times when the lodges are open.  Water based activities including boat safaris, canoeing, sunset cruises and lunches on the river add a whole new dimension to your safari, and are highly recommended if you get the opportunity.
  • Whilst some parts of the Zambian parks are busier than others ( especially in the Mfuwe area of South Luangwa ), the busiest areas of both parks are noticeably less busy with tourists than the busiest areas of Kruger.
  • Kruger remains probably the best option for people looking for a good chance to see all of the Big-5 (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, buffalo) in a relatively short space of time, and neither South Luangwa or Lower Zambezi have any rhino, so if seeing the whole of the Big-5 or seeing rhino are priorities then Kruger would be the best bet. We had some fantastic sightings of lion and leopard, and the elephant sightings at both parks were exceptional.  In fact I think that Lower Zambezi probably had the largest number of consistently impressive elephant sightings of any park we have visited in the last few years.
  • Both of the Zambian reserves and Kruger are excellent for birders, however South Luangwa deserves a special mention for the huge numbers of beautiful carmine bee eaters that migrate to the area to nest from late August/early September.
  • South Luangwa has a greater variety of game than Lower Zambezi, including giraffe and a larger population of zebra, and South Luangwa also appears to offer more frequent Leopard sightings. Lower Zambezi is probably the prettier of the two, and definitely has the edge on water based activities and elephant sightings.

So, we would definitely be happy to recommend Zambia as a safari destination for first timers to Africa, and with one of the seven wonders of the world also in Zambia we believe a holiday that includes the following would be a real winner:

  • South Africa: Cape Town (stunning coastline, table mountain, rich history, Cape Winelands, penguin colony, whale watching in season)
  • Zambia: Livingstone (for Victoria Falls, one of the seven wonders of the natural world)
  • Zambia: South Luangwa (good variety of game that is regularly seen, excellent leopard sightings, fantastic walking safaris)
  • Zambia: Lower Zambezi (one of the most beautiful parks we have visited, wonderful river activities, fabulous elephant sightings)

Surely that is a holiday that a first timer could enjoy just as much as the hardened safari enthusiast?  If you need further convincing, below are a few pictures from our recent trip to South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi towards the end of the dry season in October 2017.

South Luangwa National Park

Elephant Herd On the Move, South Luangwa, ZambiaYoung leopard, ZambiaSpooky looking Marabu Storks, ZambiaElephants Crossing The Luangwa RiverSun-downer drinks are served overlooking South LuangwaBeautiful carmine bee-eaters, ZambiaLions mating, South Luangwa, ZambiaElephants emerge from the forest, South Luangwa, Zambia

Lower Zambezi National Park

Elephant at sunset, Lower Zambezi National ParkElephant on the river bank, Lower Zambezi National ParkLion in from of the winter thorn forest, Elephant at sunset, Lower Zambezi, ZambiaElephants on the move, Lower Zambezi, ZambiaElephants crossing shallow riverMale lion at sunset, Lower Zambezi, Zambia

Botswana In The Green Season

PaulCampbell - April 20, 2017

Conventional wisdom is that the best time to visit Botswana is in the dry season which runs from May to October.  The logic is that less rain means that wildlife concentrates around permanent waterholes and rivers  and it is easier to see the animals as trees and bushes lose their leaves and the grasses die back.  At the same time flood waters from Angola cover much of the Okavango Delta forcing wildlife to concentrate on higher land such as Chief’s Island, again making it easier to find the animals.

The downsides of travelling in the dry season are that the prices are higher, and many camps and lodges will be completely full as much of the dry season coincides with the European and North American summer holidays.

So given this….is it worth visiting Botswana in the Green Season?  In order to check this out for ourselves, we headed out to Botswana for 10 days in March 2017 to include Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta, and this is what we found:

  • The whole north of the country is green and beautiful, meaning there are stunning landscapes to enjoy.
  • There are still plentiful birds and lots of wildlife…although you may have to look harder to find them than in the dry season.  The quality of the sightings was very good as well, including lion cubs, lions hunting buffalo and impala, elephants playing in the water and charging, wild dogs playing, a leopard up a tree (others visiting at the same time saw a leopard with her cub), and countless other memorable sightings.  The one thing that we did not see is the very large herds of elephants that visitors in the dry season would expect to see regularly, however we did see a lot of elephants in family groups, and on one occasion a much larger herd of 50+ elephants on the banks of the Chobe River at sunset.
  • Most antelope give birth in the green season to ensure there is plenty of food for the newborns, so there are lots of cute young animals around.
  • There are fewer overseas tourists – most camps were about half full, even in the very popular Moremi Game Reserve area of the Delta.  If you’re looking to escape the crowds,  it is worth considering a Botswana green season safari.
  • The majority of lodges are significantly less expensive than in the dry season, although it is fair to say that Botswana is a fairly pricey option at any time of year.
  • If you travel in April or November you will avoid the wettest months – there had been substantial rain in Botswana before we arrived, however we only had a single two-hour storm during our whole stay at the end of March.
  • You will probably not be able to do water based activities in the Delta as the flood waters from Angola do not arrive until May/June (although if there has been a lot of rain you may get lucky here and be able to do some water based activities from mid-March as happened this year at some camps).
  • In Chobe consider a houseboat such as the Zambezi Queen or Chobe Princess. There are a number of houseboats that cruise the Chobe River, and these can be a great option in the Green Season as game viewing on land can be affected by the dense bush that covers much of the park.  Note that these boats are actually registered in Namibia, and the cruise along the river by day and moor on the Namibian side overnight.  You cannot land in the Chobe National Park from these boats, however game viewing along the riverfront is good all year round and the houseboats do offer smaller game viewing launches that can get you closer to the animals.

To put the game viewing into context we saw lions, elephants, leopards, rhino, buffalo, wild dog, hyena, giraffe, zebra, hippo, countless antelope and baboons,  spectacular birds and much more.  The scenery was stunning, especially in the early mornings and around sunset, and below are a handful of pictures from our trip.

We have been fortunate enough to go on many safaris over the years, and this trip to Botswana was one of our very favorite experiences.  The camps, scenery, and wildlife were all excellent, and the people and service we encountered everywhere were absolutely first class.  Special thanks must go to the to the camps that we stayed at: Chobe Princess and Chobe Chilwero for Chobe National Park, and Baines’ Camp and Chief’s Camp in the Okavango Delta.  We also stayed at the excellent Sussi & Chuma Lodge in Zambia, which we used as a base to visit Victoria Falls, and had a lovely stay at African Pride Melrose Arch in Johannesburg, both of which would make excellent additions if you are considering booking your own trip to Botswana.

So in summary…is it worth visiting Botswana in the Green Season?  Absolutely Yes!

Chobe National Park In The Green Season (March 2017)

Elephants On Chobe Riverfront

Boat Based Game Viewing

Chobe River Houserboat At Sunset

Elephants at Sunset, Chobe

Elephant, Chobe

The Okavango Delta In The Green Season (March 2017)

Wild Dog, Okavango Delta

Morning Coffee, Okavango Delta

Sunset On The Okavango Delta

Lion Cub In Okavango Dleta

Lilac-Brested Roller

Vultures, Okavango Delta

Lioness & Game Vehicle, Okavango Delta

Lion Up A Tree, Okavango Delta

Elephants on the Move to Malawi

TraceyCampbell - July 5, 2016

500 elephants are being moved in Malawi in an attempt to preserve the current dwindling numbers – it is estimated that there are now fewer than 450,000 African elephants remaining, as a result of excessive poaching and habitat loss.  The exercise, a collaboration between African Parks and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, will be one of the biggest events ever to happen to Malawi’s wildlife Tourism.

Malawi have been very successful with their anti-poaching and ongoing management of human-wildlife conflict, which has resulted in a population surplus in Liwonde National Park (home to Malawi’s largest population of elephants at 800 strong) and Majete Wildlife Reserve, which are protected areas,

The huge relocation starts this week in Liwonde National Park.  Helicopters will be used to dart the elephants, who are then lifted by crane onto trucks to start their 300 km road journey to a newly created 16,000 hectare sanctuary at the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, close to Lake Malawi – which currently is home to 100 elephants.  The arriving elephants will be kept safe and secure in the sanctuary before being released, after time, into the main reserve.  There are also plans to relocate other wildlife into the reserve, to  build up the wildlife here again.

This is an extremely hopeful story for not only elephants, but for conservation and also for Malawi. Kelly While from Malawi Tourism says “We are delighted with African Parks’ plans to relocate and reintroduce species into Malawi’s Parks. If Malawi had a perceived weakness in tourism terms, it was that some of its neighbours offered a ‘better’ safari experience. But, as well as helping to safeguard the future for these magnificent animals, these developments will result in a total transformation of Malawi’s wildlife and safaris. Malawi will become one of the most complete destinations in Africa – Lake, Landscape, Culture and now Wildlife experiences of the very highest quality. Warm, welcoming and unspoilt, Malawi really is just waiting to be discovered.”

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-elephant-tusk-thick-skin-strong-image33022852

No such thing as a safari on a budget? Think again.

PaulCampbell - March 27, 2016

Mention the words ‘bucket list’ to almost anyone and if they haven’t done it already it’s highly likely that an African safari will feature somewhere on their list. That said, there is a common misconception that private safaris are a privilege of only the wealthy and although it’s true that in the context of a private safari holiday ‘cheap’ is a relative term, the truth is you won’t have to re-mortgage your house to make the dream a reality.

When it comes to perfect safari destinations in Africa, you are never short of choices, but for a truly affordable private safari option we think South Africa is a great place to start. Travel critics have been heaping awards on South Africa as one of the world’s best travel destinations and for good reason; this is a country guaranteed to get under your skin from the moment you arrive. With the added bonus of favourable exchange rates and no jet lag to worry about there really are few places better to experience your first safari adventure.

Now if you think a safari on a budget means you’ll be slumming it then think again. We’ve done a round up of some of the very best private safari destinations in South Africa for travellers on a budget.

ShindzelaBest Tented Safari Experience

Shindzela Tented Safari Camp is set in the Timbavati Game Reserve and offers an affordable Kruger safari experience, without compromising on excitement and thrills. There is something enchanting about staying in a tent on safari.  For an extra charge real wildlife junkies can book a ‘Sleep Out’ experience at the Shindzela Hide overlooking the Main Dam at Shindzela.  From here you can soak up the magic of the African night and enjoy front row seats from which to witness breath-taking night action.

Prices start from £79 per person per night, including all meals, tea/coffee and shared safari activities.

Africa on FootBest Alternative Safari

For a true wilderness experience few things beat a walking safari. Situated in Klaserie Private Nature Reserve in the heart of Greater Kruger, Africa on Foot  specialises in walking safaris. Sharing unfenced borders with Kruger National Park means animals roam freely. Some of Africa’s most superb predators are found here and there is nothing more thrilling than walking in the open where a feeling of being in the wild is ever-present.  The more adventurous can book a stay in a treehouse at no extra cost.

Prices start from £115 per person per night, including all meals, tea/coffee, game walks and shared drives.

9e-nThambo-Tree-Camp-accommodation13Best for Romance

To escape the realities of daily life and immerse yourself in the true spirit of Africa look no further that nThambo Tree Camp.  Situated in the heart of Southern Klaserie, this intimate and eco-friendly camp shares unfenced borders with Kruger National Park, making it prime Big Five viewing territory. Each of its five private chalets are raised on stilts and come complete with a four poster bed and private veranda overlooking the plains; the perfect escape for those seeking romance and adventure.

Prices start from £132 per person per night, including all meals, tea/coffee, game walks and morning/afternoon shared game drives (prices valid for the whole of 2016).

Garonga Safari Camp2 - CopyrightFINALBest for Honeymoons

Honeymooners looking for an exhilarating and alternative way to kick start married life should look no further than Garonga Safari Camp. Set in the Makalali Conservancy, this unassuming sanctuary promises a more intimate wildlife encounter in an unhurried environment. Its luxury tents each have a wooden deck complete with hammock and spectacular views.  For a truly unique experience enjoy a bath in the bush followed by a night sleeping under the stars!

Prices start at £170 per person per night, including all meals and drinks (house wine), game drives, bush walks, bush baths, sleep-outs, picnics and even your laundry!

SONY DSCBest ‘Out of Africa’ Experience

If you want to reconnect with nature and experience the real magic of Africa then Umlani Bushcamp is for you. Located in Timbavati Private Nature Reserve and the heart of Big Five territory, this beautifully designed eco lodge is off the grid and the beaten track of tourists that flock to Kruger. For exclusive tranquillity there is a tree house about 2.5 km from the camp overlooking a dam, where the lodge can leave you for an hour or two with blankets, big comfortable pillows and a cooler box filled with drinks.

Prices start from £129 per person per night, including all meals, two private game drives, optional bush walk and all local brand drinks.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-fun-outdoor-children-playing-image26170490Best Family Safari

Forget Disney World and consider a family safari adventure, such as an authentic bushveld experience at Gomo Gomo Game Lodge. This laid-back, family-friendly lodge overlooks a waterhole, so when you’re not out in search of the Big Five you can sit and watch your kids faces light up with excitement as animals come to drink here.  You might even be lucky enough to see the odd baby elephant frolicking by the water’s edge.

Prices start from £97 per person per night (adult), including all meals, tea/coffee, morning and afternoon/evening shared game drives and bush walks.  Children under 13 go half price.

Has this got you thinking that a safari could be for you? If so our friendly and knowledgeable team is on hand to chat to you about planning the ultimate African adventure!

 

Double the fun or double the trouble? Five tips for planning the perfect family safari.

PaulCampbell - March 13, 2016

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-fun-outdoor-children-playing-image26170490As much as documentaries such as Big Cat Diaries may inspire you to want to see the real thing, parents often dismiss the idea of a safari with nippers in tow because of concerns about safety, enjoyment and the general hassle factor. So is it possible to embark on a family safari holiday that is rewarding and enjoyable for all involved? Well we believe it is and done right the whole family will be buzzing from their bush adventures for years to come.

Safaris really are a holiday like no other and just like us big kids, your little kids will go totally wild for the wildlife.  Nothing can prepare you for the real thing and watching their little faces beaming with excitement and hearing their gasps of sheer amazement at the sights and sounds of the bush makes for double the adventure and double the fun.  Not only that, there’s a huge amount for kids to learn, from identifying animal tracks and dung to understanding the habits and appreciating the plight of the wildlife in Africa.  This makes for a unique educational experience where storybooks will literally come alive before their very eyes.

So if you think a family safari is for you here are our five dos and don’ts for planning the perfect adventure.

Lalibela Game Reserve - Mark's Camp - CopyrightFINAL1. DO your research

When it comes to safaris some lodges have strict minimum age requirements so be sure to check that the lodges on your wish list cater for children.  Across South Africa, there are a number of safari lodges that offer excellent programmes for kids so while you take a well deserved break by the pool between game drives, your children can set off on ‘bush bumbles’ that will get eyes popping and set minds spinning.

 

 Amakhala Sunset2. DON’T risk malaria

South Africa is, without doubt, the best place for young families; there is no jet lag to slow you down, the roads are excellent meaning you can self-drive and set your own pace and, most importantly, a number of the country’s ‘Big Five’ game reserves are malaria free so you won’t have to worry about malaria medication and can take the odd mosquito bite in your stride.

 

Lalibela Game Reserve - Mark's Camp - CopyrightFINAL23. DO know when enough is enough

As well as adjusting to the new routine of early morning and late afternoon game drives, safaris require long periods of silent anticipation.  For children under the age of ten we advise three days’ safari action, providing plenty of opportunity to immerse yourselves in the magic of big game spotting without seeing the excitement fade and turn to boredom.  A combined safari and beach holiday could strike the perfect balance.

 

FamilySafaris-Shamwari-CopyrightFINAL4. DO get on their wavelength

Build up the excitement through books and wildlife documentaries.  As mentioned, many lodges offer specially designed kids programmes with activities that are both educational and entertaining, from bush walks to junior tracking courses and themed bush picnics in between. Traditional folklore storytelling about ‘Why The Elephant Has A Trunk’ or ‘Why The Warthog Is So Ugly’ add to the fun.  Depending on age a pair of binoculars and/or a camera will let them get fully immersed in capturing the moment.

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-southern-right-sailing-1-3-image16316165. DON’T forget the other treats that South Africa has to offer

High on the ‘must see’ list of any visitor to South Africa is a trip along the Garden Route.   If you think this is only for the green-fingered holiday makers among us think again.  The Garden Route followed by a Big Five safari is a winning combination for families.   From shore-based whale and dolphin spotting to close encounters of a furry kind at Monkeyland and meeting elephants at Addo National Park, a trip along this stunning stretch of coastline is a feast for the eyes and perfect for a family adventure.

 

If you need help choosing a lodge or would like advice on planning your family adventure, our friendly and experienced team can help.

 

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