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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

You never forget your first time…

PaulCampbell - October 31, 2017

Well it was a long time ago, but we never forget a face!  We have written previously about how a holiday to South Africa inspired us to take a career break in 2003 which ultimately lead to us setting-up Travel Butlers…well imagine our surprise and delight when we bumped into our first safari guide when we stayed at Kafunta River Lodge  as part of our recent trip to Zambia.

Andrew was our guide on our very first safari back in 2002 when he was working at Savanna Private Game Reserve in the Sabi Sand, and his knowledge and enthusiasm helped spark our own love of the safari experience.   We had a great time at Savanna and were lucky to have some amazing sightings during our stay including leopard with three tiny cubs, a huge pride of lion hunting 300+ buffalo under a full moon and many others.  Following those few days we ended-up leaving the security of corporate employment, training to be safari guides ourselves, and then setting up Travel Butlers in July 2003.  So it was a truly life-changing experience for us, and is it any wonder that as we arrived at Kafunta to be met by the staff and management we were able to recognise Andrew immediately despite the intervening years?

This is not the first time our paths have crossed since 2002 – we bumped into each other at Dulini lodge in the Sabi Sands a few years ago – however it was fantastic to be able to catch-up again, and thank Andrew for his part in the Travel Butlers story.

Perfect Places to Pop the Question

PaulCampbell - February 14, 2016

The thing about getting hitched these days is that the bar has been set pretty damn high and, let’s face it, getting down on one knee during dinner at your local restaurant just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Now we may be a teeny bit biased here (okay, very biased) but when it comes to what makes an amazing backdrop for a jaw-dropping proposal we think Africa has it all – incredible natural beauty, an air of magic and sunsets to die for.

So we’ve compiled a list of some of THE coolest places to propose that will virtually guarantee an answer in the affirmative and significantly increase your brownie points credit in the process.  Now all that’s left for you to do is to decide when and where to do it…

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-busy-dune-image2074464Stargazing in the Namib Desert One of the best places in the world for stargazing.  Relax in the comfort of your private ‘skybed’ and surprise your partner under a sky filled with a million stars.

Seal the Deal: head to Sossusvlei and climb to the top of the immense Dune 45.  It’s a toughie, but goodie and seeing the sun rise over the blood-orange desert dunes is a moment that will stay with you both forever.  Stay at Little Kulala, quite possibly the most romantic place on earth!

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-wreck-image12546920Where two oceans meet A proposal at the Southern-most tip of Africa will earn you a few good bragging rights and pave the way for an annual pilgrimage in future years to come.  Cape Agulhas is a beautiful stretch of coastline, easily accessible from Cape Town.

Seal the Deal: stop off for an overnight stay in Swellendam and enjoy a spot of wine tasting before heading back to the city.  Stay at De Kloof Luxury Estate or Jan Harmsgat Country House.  Wine tasting can be done at the Robertson wine route.

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-hot-air-balloon-over-masai-mara-image6071658Hot air ballooning over the Masai Mara Your intended will be literally blown away by this one!  Experience the Mara with its spectacular wildlife from a totally different aspect and witness a sunrise like no other. Silently breath-taking is the best way to describe this experience.

Seal the Deal: come back to earth with a bump and enjoy a fantastic champagne breakfast to toast the happy event!  Stay at Mara Ngenche Safari Camp for a true ‘Out of Africa’ safari experience (they also make a pretty mean G&T).

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-victoria-falls-bridge-image13139680On a tandem bungee-jump at Victoria Falls If your chosen one is a thrill seeker why not mix this bucket list essential with the most important day of your life?  The spine-tingling thrill of a 120mph, four second free-fall will be nothing compared to hearing yours truly utters the words “I do”!

Seal the deal: keep the adrenaline pumping with a spot of white-water rafting down the Zambezi River.  Stay at Stanley Safari Lodge and kick back, sundowners in hand, to watch an amazing African sunset while you soak it all in.

 

SabiSand-Dreamstime-CopyrightFINALOn safari out in the African bush Those lucky enough to have experienced it will tell you that an African safari has a kind of inexplicable magic.  A sense of space and wildness coupled with mesmerizing sights, sounds and smells is guaranteed to awaken the senses.

Seal the Deal: arrange a night game drive before heading back to your private lodge.  Stay at the exclusive Londolozi Varty Camp or spend a night under the stars in your own luxury treehouse at Lion Sands Narina Lodge.

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-table-mountain-summer-image1678888At the summit of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World Take the cable car to the top of Table Mountain, with a chilled bottle of South African wine and a couple of glasses.  Expect enthusiastic applause (and a few damp eyes) from the inquisitive tourists who flock there every day.

Seal the deal: book a romantic dinner at The Roundhouse in Camps Bay, overlooking the ocean.  Stay at The Bay in Camps Bay or head back to the city and stay at The Table Bay Hotel (be sure to request a mountain-view room).

 

Breezes-CopyrightFINALOn a tropical island paradise For a truly barefoot proposal stay on the picture-postcard island of Zanzibar and propose at the ocean’s edge.  The icing on the cake will be returning to relive your memories on an African beach and safari honeymoon adventure!

Seal the deal: arrange a magical sunset cruise on board a traditional dhow. Stay at The Palms, an exclusive and intimate getaway which is the epitome of romance.

Top 5 Places to See Lions In the Wild

TraceyCampbell - August 10, 2015

We have seen a lot of news articles recently about lions, well, one lion in particular, but today is not for mourning Cecil, but it is for remembering him and celebrating the existence of lions all over the world – present and past. Today is World Lion Day – the first global campaign to recognise the importance of the lion worldwide.

The future of lions is slowly moving towards extinction across Africa and India. Humans have lived alongside the King of the Jungle for thousands of years and today, there have never been a more pressing need to embrace the conservation of these magnificent creatures, to help them continue to remain in our lives for the foreseeable future. Lion conservation, raising awareness and education is paramount to their continued existence.

As a visitor to Africa, going on safari and being able to see lions in the wild is a magical experience. To watch them interact with each other in their pride, to understand and learn about their behaviour from your qualified ranger or field guide, to hear their gutteral roaring at night and to see them hunt together is an experience that most people will never forget. If seeing lion in the wild has always been on your bucket list, there are a number of places that you can visit to realise this dream. Here are our Top 5 destinations.

Masai Mara – Kenya
Home to the Big Cat Diary, the grassy plains of the Masai Mara, baked golden by the African sun have always been a firm favourite for lion lovers. The ready supply of antelope, zebra, and wildebeest means a constant supply of food for the resident prides – especially during the months of July through to September/October, when the Great Migration arrives from the drier Serengeti Plains into the Mara in search of the green grass here.

IMG_3004 Morning Game Drive from Porini Lion

Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve – South Africa
Sabi Sands is the most famous of the private reserves adjoining the Kruger National Park. Covering over 65,000 hectares of wild bushland, it offers possibly some of the best lion viewing opportunities to be found on the continent, and provide an unforgettable experience. The land is privately owned, so the game viewing vehicles are not restricted to the road network and it is therefore possible for the experienced guides to follow the prides through the bush and to get extremely close to the animals as they go about their daily way of life.

Mala Mala - 24_lrg

Botswana
Botswana is now one of only 7 countries left with a lion population over 1,000 making it imperative to conserve the species in this country. In particular, you have the famous lions living in Savute who are known to specialise in preying on elephants, and a pride in Linyanti who hunt hippo. Visitors to the Okavango Delta may seen lions crossing the waterways from island to island in order to hunt.

dreamstimemaximum_23743771 OKAVANGO DELTA

Ruaha National Park – Tanzania
The Ruaha National Park is renowned for its undisturbed wildlife and stunning, rugged scenery, as well as it’s flourishing lion population. It is estimated that Ruhaha is home to the 2nd largest lion population in Africa – so about 10% of all lions left in the world.

dreamstimemaximum_28354087 RUAHA

South Luangwa National Park – Zambia
The Luangwa Valley has a healthy population of lion, and prides of up to 30 lions are common here. The birthplace too of the ‘walking safari’ you also can have the opportunity to approach prides on foot – of course, from a VERY safe distance!

dreamstimemaximum_875144 GENERAL

The Travel Butlers Top Ten of … Reasons to Go To Africa Soon

TraceyCampbell - June 10, 2015

Can you believe we are half-way through the year already – it seems like only yesterday I was hanging my stocking out for Santa!

So with 2015 well under way, and 2016 rapidly approaching, now might be the time to tick a few things off your Africa bucket list.

Reason 1 to Go To Africa – Going on Safari in the Kruger National Park
We are now in the middle of the winter months in the Kruger, and this is a wonderful time for guests to visit here. Not only are these months cool and dry, but they are possibly the best for game viewing.

Water is scarcer, so the animals are more reliant on waterholes or rivers, which means greater game viewing opportunities around these areas. Although the vegetation around these areas remains lush, the grass elsewhere becomes much drier and shorter, making it easier to spot the wildlife.

Whilst the daily temperatures range from 9 degrees C to 26 degrees C, the early mornings and nights can get very cold – so our advice is to take plenty of layers with you and even consider taking scarves, hats and gloves!

Several lodges also are running Stay/Pay packages too – which coupled with the Rand exchange rate at the moment means superb value for money!

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-waterhole-south-africa-image10200086

Reason 2 to Go To Africa – Whale Watching
The first of the whales are already starting to arrive into Hermanus, the whale-watching ‘capital’ of the Western Cape. The peak time, when daily sightings are virtually guaranteed, is during September and October, so availability over these months in the various guest houses and hotels in Hermanus is already getting scarce – so do move quickly if you want to include this in your holiday over this time.

We normally recommend 2 nights in Hermanus, which not only gives you the opportunity of going on an early morning whale watching boat trip, but also gives you the chance to enjoy the whale watching from the land – good whale watching vantage points are from the Old Harbour wall, or from the 12 km cliff path. Another great spot to watch the whales is at Bientang’s Cave restaurant, where from your table you can watch the whales frolic not more than 100m away in the Old Harbour.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-southern-right-sailing-1-3-image1631616

Reason 3 to Go To Africa – The Greatest Show on Earth
The famous, awe-inspiring Great Migration is now fully on the move. Often referred to as the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’, the million or so wildebeest and accompanying zebra and gazelles are now in the Central Serengeti, heading rapidly towards Western Corridor and the Grumeti River, the first of the river crossings, where the local crocodiles have already started licking their lips in anticipation of a few freebie dinners…

dreamstime 28033753 MARA RIVER CROSSING

Reason 4 to Go To Africa – Mokoro Adventures
The Okavango Delta is filling rapidly with flood waters, so if you have always fancied the idea of floating through the reeds in a mokoro, the next few months is THE time to go to Botswana. Traditionally hand-carved from an ebony or sausage tree log, these shallow canoes are perfect for gliding through the calm waters in search of wildlife. A poler stands at the back of the mokoro so all you have to do is relax, look out for the wildlife and enjoy the experience.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-mokoro-boat-image15452549

Reason 5 to Go To Africa – White Water Rafting down the Zambezi
You could argue that there is no ‘bad’ time to visit one of the 7 Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls, but between July and September is one of the most popular times for visitors, because many people combine a trip here with a safari in Kruger. For adventure seekers, August through to December are also the best/only months to go white water rafting, as this activity is not run when the river is in full flood.

In addition, the new runway and terminal expansion at Victoria Falls Airport is imminent now, which will be an added boost for tourism to the Falls, as more international airlines will be able to fly directly here.

dreamstimelarge_29187662

Reason 6 to Go To Africa – Flower Power
September is the wild flower season in SA’s Namaqualand – an extraordinary spectacle of nature which turns the otherwise uninspiring landscape into a beautiful blanket of colour.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-flower-field-image6226836

Reason 7 to Go To Africa – Gorilla Trekking
July through to September are the most popular months to trek gorillas in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. These months fall immediately inbetween the main rainy seasons (though remember that the gorillas live in rainforests, so as the name suggests, be prepared for rain at any time!) but the real plus point are the fantastic low season permit rates – USD 350 per person per trek compared to USD 600 per person per trek outside of these months – what a fantastic saving! This almost means you can spend twice as long here (woman’s logic – what you save you can therefore immediately spend again…). Bwindi is home to almost half of the world’s surviving mountain wild gorilla population, but it is not just gorillas you can expect to see on your morning trek – watch out for duikers, bushbuck, monkeys, giant forest hogs and forest elephants, as well as a host of bird species.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-wild-gorilla-image2523984

Reason 8 to Go To Africa – Southern Carmine Bee-Eaters Flock Back in their Hundreds
These stunning African migrant birds return to their homeland and set up breeding colonies along river banks. Some of the best sightings are in South Luangwa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Some colonies can have over 10,000 birds.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-southern-carmine-bee-eater-image18390547

Reason 9 to Go To Africa – Turtle Safaris in KwaZulu-Natal
Witnessing literally hundreds of tiny new-born baby turtles making a mad dash for the ocean is not something you get to see every day. Only 2 breeds of Maputaland turtles lay their eggs on the KwaZulu-Natal shores – the Leatherback and Loggerhead.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-newly-hatched-baby-turtle-toward-ocean-image22466773

Reason 10 to Go To Africa – Namibia
A trip to Namibia is an adventure that can be done anytime of the year, in all honesty. Namibia is a beautiful country, with endless highlights – the red sand dunes of Sossusvlei, the wild desert elephants in Damaraland, the stunning Etosha National Park…You can drive for hours and encounter only a couple of cars on the road, making you seem magically and wonderfully alone in a barely-discovered Africa. Namibia is far more than just a holiday destination – it’s somewhere really special that is guaranteed to leave you wide-eyed and open-mouthed.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-busy-dune-image2074464

Now if these aren’t Reasons to Be Cheerful – Part 3 – I don’t know what is…(only people over a certain age will understand this reference!).

All images copyright of TravelButlers via Dreamstime.com
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