We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

suggested tour operator for South Luangwa/Zambezi?

Brooklyn, New York
Level Contributor
715 posts
23 reviews
Save Topic
suggested tour operator for South Luangwa/Zambezi?

Can anyone suggest an operator who could book an itinerary for South Luangwa/ Lowe Zambezi, preferably one in-country? Usually we prefer to use a local operator but I'm not finding much. Most of what I'm finding is in the UK. (Expert Africa, African Odyssey, African Travel Resource.)

I know I can book directly with the camps but it would seem more expeditious to have one central booking that can do the flights between, recommend camps in my price range, etc.

We are thinking about October 2014 (to take advantage of lower season rates.)

Wayzata, Minnesota
Level Contributor
2,810 posts
31 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: suggested tour operator for South Luangwa/Zambezi?

I actually don’t know if there is one in Zambia and I know most of the major players in the country. The companies you named are all based in the UK with no physical office in Zambia (they would technically be agents or operators).

We work with two “tour operators” in Zambia and neither one of them will work directly with the traveler. They are technically DMCs (destination management companies). If you want to use a US based tour operator there are only a handful that will have both (1) the best rates at all the camps and (2) staff that have traveled to virtually every camp and know the product well and how to mix and match the product. The only US companies we really compete with in the Zambia market are the Africa Adventure Company and Wild Source; they should meet both the aforementioned critera. There is virtualy no intrinsic demand in the US for Zambia so these companies “make” the market in some sense. If there is another company in the USA that does this I don’t know about it. I heard about a lady in Seattle named Hilde that books Zambia quite a bit?

Robben Pope Safaris is based in Zambia and has a robust direct client business but you will need to be very careful if you work with them since they own a bunch of camps and obviously have an incentive to put you into them over the others (their competitors).

In the end, all the companies you mentioned and the ones I mentioned (including Robben Pope) will charge you approximately the same price since competition is keen. Perhaps contact 1 or 2 and see what kind of service (i.e. knowledge and responsiveness) you get and base your decision on that? All the camps include the transfers from the airports (Mfuwe, Jeki, Royal) in the nightly rates so the price of a trip is pretty transparent and you will be able to easily tell if you are getting ripped off. Just ask the operator to issue the tickets on ProFlight as a separate transaction with a service fee to make sure a fat margin is not slapped on the ticket.

Is it really worth it to you to save a small amount of money and go in October? It will be VERY hot and I would not be surprised if the daytime highs at some places is over 110F. The temperature on Lower Zambezi will still be around 90F at sunrise on many days. If you want shoulder rates maybe go in June?

Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond

Brooklyn, New York
Level Contributor
715 posts
23 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: suggested tour operator for South Luangwa/Zambezi?

Thanks Craig this is very good info. This is obviously very different than the usual experience of booking i.e., for Tanzania there are plenty of local Tanzanian operators. And yes, the problem with booking with someone like Norman Carr or Robin Pope is that they will want to use their own camps and I might very well want a combination. I had actually found the Wild Source and have emailed them. I will check out African Adventure company as well. It would make most sense for us to deal with a US agent rather than a UK one, being here in the states.

Wow I had no idea it was THAT hot in October...I figured in the 90's. Its not only a question of savings but also as we are birders, I particularly want to see the big migrations of Carmine Bee-eater and my understanding is that they arrive in September. In June they surely will not be there. Also, June is too soon for us as we have another trip planned in February 2014.

I'll have to think about those temps though! I noticed that unlike other places most of the vehicles don't seem to have sun shades in any way. That could be pretty unbearable.

Wayzata, Minnesota
Level Contributor
2,810 posts
31 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: suggested tour operator for South Luangwa/Zambezi?

On my last trip to Zambia in 2013 I arrived on Sep 6 and left on Sep 28. It was pleasant when I arrived - probably 60 in the morning and 85 in the day. By the time I left, it was 80 in the morning and 105 at night. It will likely be hotter in October especially in Lower Zambezi/Zambezi Valley. The rates are discounted in October because of the heat. One option would be to stay in the Mfuwe sector at one of the places with AC (or at least cooled sleeping areas). They human density can be higher but October will mitigate this and they do a good job of managing the game experience. If it is cooler than normal and you are at, let's say, at Chinzombo (http://www.normancarrsafaris.com/#!/camps/chinzombo) they would probably allow you to move to one of their bush camps. This would depend on space being available. I did not see Chinzombo as it only opened this year but Pam from our office was there last month and LOVED it. She was also at every Bush Camp, several Norman Carr camps and Lion Camp on the same trip for comparison.

FYI I arrived in South Luangwa on Sep 8, 2013 and the Carmine Bee-eaters were already there in several spots. I obesrved them for several hours at Shenton's Kainga camp. Perhaps go around Labor Day and head home around the 15th before it gets super hot.

I did not notice any vehicles with sun shades except those of the Bushcamp Company and Lion Camp.

Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond

Brooklyn, New York
Level Contributor
715 posts
23 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: suggested tour operator for South Luangwa/Zambezi?

Thanks again Craig. Well much depends on the price differential, so I need to start getting some prices.

I just heard back from Wild Source and they have a very intriguing offer staying at Bushcamps and Old Mondoro camp with an included private driver at no extra cost for the Bushcamps, which seems like a great opportunity. Good to know that the Bushcamps vehicles have sun shades as that would seem critical if we did go in Oct. Bill actually suggested that early Nov. might be cooler than October if the rains come. But I'm not sure I'd want to risk the rains. Still waiting on prices for this package and have emails out to several others now.

Wayzata, Minnesota
Level Contributor
2,810 posts
31 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: suggested tour operator for South Luangwa/Zambezi?

Hmmm. I would definitely get a second quote then. I am very doubtful that Old Mondoro and Bushcamp Company would give a “free” private vehicle deal to Wild Source that is not available to the other companies that you and I mentioned above. I know both Grant Cummings and Andy Hogg, they own the respective companies (I think Andy has Paul Allen as an investor) so this sounds odd. It would be bad for lodges business to favor one company over the others in such a big way. Maybe Bill is paying for the vehicle out of his “commission” but unless you are representing a bigger group the profits just aren’t there to allow any operator to give away such a benefit and survive. Anyway – an apples-to-apples comparison that you are already seeking should suss out any such discrepancy.

I think Bushcamp and Old Mondoro would make a great circuit - good choice! Since you are open to the "unsealed" tented camps like Old Mondoro then I do strongly suggest you also include one more property in the northern part of South Luangwa. My suggestion is Kainga for the bee-eaters or Tafika.

Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond

Brooklyn, New York
Level Contributor
715 posts
23 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: suggested tour operator for South Luangwa/Zambezi?

To be clear, the "free" vehicle is only for the Bushcamp properties, not Old Mondoro. As for whether its really "free" or not I will figure out when I get the pricing, but it might be, as you say, just an incentive that he takes from his commission. I don't really care as long as the price is right. From what I can see most lodges charge at least $400-450 for a private vehicle which however we spin it is out of the question.

My concern about the Bushcamp lodges is that they are all in the same general area, and quite close together (except for the Mfuwe Lodge.) The package allows one to combine 8 nights at any of them in any combination. I agree that adding a few nights in the north would complement this but its doubtful I could afford to do that. I've looked at Kainga and Tafika and they seem out of my budget :( But maybe they have some deals.

Meantime I've written to several others including Norman Carr, Shelton, ATR, Expert Africa-- and we'll see what else I find. But I have to say a private vehicle is hard to pass up.

Wayzata, Minnesota
Level Contributor
2,810 posts
31 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: suggested tour operator for South Luangwa/Zambezi?

Well - your purchasing method should suss out the best deal. All the companies you have contacted will be competitive. If you think you can't afford Kainga then check-out Shenton's other camp called Mwamba. Extremely rustic but I love this place! Yes - all the Bushcamp Company properties are relatively close except Mfuwe Lodge. Mwufe Lodge does have AC.

Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond

Mannheim
Level Contributor
95 posts
39 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: suggested tour operator for South Luangwa/Zambezi?

Hallo,

we also wanted to travel to Zambia next year. So we contacted http://www.voyagerszambia.com/

a travelagency, which is located in Zambia. They sent us their quotation, but at the end we booked everything by ourown. It was so easy. Every lodge answered very quickly . And they also are able to book the flights in Zambia. I have never had so quickly finished my travel plan.

Lili

Ks
Level Contributor
99 posts
5 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: suggested tour operator for South Luangwa/Zambezi?

Adventureseekers (Adventrueseekers-safari.com) based in Illinois does a lot of Zambia travel; we've used them (in various incarnations) for years. Norman Carr has a number of bush camps that are in the less-traveled areas and my choice on the Zambezi is Chiawa and Old Mondoro.

Brooklyn, New York
Level Contributor
715 posts
23 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: suggested tour operator for South Luangwa/Zambezi?

Thanks for all the suggestions. I'm still considering the Bushcamp deal with WildSource (the price came in just a little higher than I'd hoped but still workable.) The private guide, as I said before, is difficult to pass up.

But I am also working on an alternative now with ExpertAfrica and they have suggested this as fitting in my price range:

3 nights Mwamba Bush Camp

3 nights Tafika

4 nights Chongwe (Lower Zambezi, one night is free in beginning November)

At any other time of year I'd say this looked like a great trip for me--both Mwamba and Tafika have Carmine hides (Mwamba guests can access the Kaingo hide.) But I'm starting to get concerned about the heat.

Stokeygirl recommended Lion Camp and I'm thinking of asking them to price swapping out Mwamba for Lion Camp--it has a pool and fans which at this time of year might not be a luxury, but a necessity. Also I think with Lion Camp I could probably add another night, as it should be cheaper.

any thoughts?

Get answers to your questions about South Luangwa National...