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Two weeks in SLNP - tales of leopards


Gregor

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Gregor

Hi Carole

 

I´m glad you liked it. I´m sure you will have a fantastic time in South Luangwa. Looking forward to a report when you come back.

And, I´m in the progress of writing up my trip report from Ruaha :)

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Atravelynn

"This trip was on an other level." It certainly was.

 

You had some unique and intense stuff going on and your photos do such a good job of showing that wild, raw intensity that is South Luangwa. Hope Ruaha proved to be exciting as well.

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Tom Kellie

post-49296-0-75422700-1436388767_thumb.jpg

~ @@Gregor

 

That's just about the dreamiest look I've ever seen in a big cat's eyes.

No tension. No wariness. No anxiety.

Pure daydreaming, with thoughts and feelings aimlessly drifting as only a leopard might do.

A lovely photograph.

Thank you.

Tom K.

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offshorebirder

... Before I left I saw the three films they made before from SLNP, Countdown to the rains. It was in a way an inspiration. But I didn´t really like it. I like it more when they follow a certain group of animals during a longer period (like big cat diary), then just showing a large number of different clips from an area in a short time period.

 

If people want to watch Countdown to the Rains - the full length videos are on youtube.

 

Just go to the Google video search at: https://www.google.com/videohp?gws_rd=ssl

 

and enter: countdown to the rains

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offshorebirder

Very nice trip report @@Gregor. Thank you for taking the time to write it and the photos were excellent. I appreciate the advice about Friday and the camp where you stayed.

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Marks

 

... Before I left I saw the three films they made before from SLNP, Countdown to the rains. It was in a way an inspiration. But I didn´t really like it. I like it more when they follow a certain group of animals during a longer period (like big cat diary), then just showing a large number of different clips from an area in a short time period.

 

If people want to watch Countdown to the Rains - the full length videos are on youtube.

 

Just go to the Google video search at: https://www.google.com/videohp?gws_rd=ssl

 

and enter: countdown to the rains

 

 

I just watched Countdown to the Rains maybe a week or two ago. I quite enjoyed the dog footage in particular.

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martywilddog

We are considering South Luangwa for our next safari so I just read through your trip report in one go! Great read @@Gregor !

 

How would you say it compares to other places you have been to? We're still considering Tanzania and Botswana too and I see you have gone to at least one as well?

 

For me, honestly, the most blood curling part of your trip was the leopards playing with the hurt impala baby. I always though animals are not cruel and they just immediately kill. The horror that little guy must have gone through… At least the buffalo foetus was already dead.

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Hi @@martywilddog

 

I got the same question in my trip report from Ruaha. And this was my answer:

 

"Well, very difficult comparison to make, as I have only experienced South Luangwa during the dry season and Ruaha during wet season. But I will give it a try.

Ruaha seems to be a park with more varied landscape, and with more places with potential good sightings. Ruaha have rivers, streams, forest, savanna, hills etc. all within the same area. My picture of South Luangwa is that there is not so much interesting except the areas along the river, and a few lagoons. Animal density and variation, and photo opportunities from a wildlife photography point of view, is so much higher in dry season (as experienced in South Luangwa). How this is in Ruaha during dry season, you can better judge. I think Ruaha have much more to offer from a landscape photography view. Except some short stretches along Ruaha river, it was very difficult to find/see animals in Ruaha during wet season. And the wildlife variation was very low. I had hoped to se dogs, leopards, hyenas, sable and roan antelope that I know inhabits Ruaha, but I didn´t see them. From my limited experience as a birder, I think both parks have a lot to offer in this aspect both in wet and dry season."

SLNP is fenomenal for seeing leopards. And from what I understand, at the moment there is a very good chance of seeing wild dogs (3-4 packs in the gaming area at the moment). The lodges have beautiful settings along the Luanga River. I think a big difference is what season you go. From a commercial point of view, or density of turist I would say (from the parks I have experinced), Masai Mara is definitely the most established (for good and bad), SLNP somewhere in the middle and Ruaha the least. My prejudice about Botswana is that they run a lot of high end/very expensive operations/lodges.

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martywilddog

We have a vet limited budget @@Gregor so the option I have found in Botswana is a private mobile camping safari. It's actually the cheapest of all the itineraries I'm considering at 4.200$ for 12n all safari (not incl flights) I'm still looking into the distances to cover since it's all driving and location of the camps. It's very basic lodging in dome tents but with an attached ensuite (no need to walk around the tent for a wee during the night) and all is being done for you (no need to assist with setup of camp or cooking (god forbid I have to cook on holiday :-) And since it's private you have the car and guide all to yourself! Which is unbeatable at that price. Though might get lonely just being the two of us :-)

 

What matters to us is wildlife, open vehicles (we're the no sun roof kind of people ;-) and definitely no mini van or huge truck full of people), not 100 vehicles at a sighting, preferably the possibility to off road and not too regimented of a schedule (not being forced back at camp at 9.15 for breakfast like we had in SA - too many "comfort" rules). A pool is a nice to have with these temps but not a must for us.

 

I have listed all the "budget options" I am looking at under my topic "affordable safari". You seem to have a lot of experience so your opinion would be much appreciated!

Edited by martywilddog
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Hi again

 

If 4200 us dollar is per person, you have a bigger budget than I had going to SLNP for two weeks (we payed 3500 pp incl private guide, excl flights) And T&T is probably considered a little bit more luxury than Flatdogs. I do agree, a private car/guide is invaluable (or what do I know, I always book a private guide).

 

My cheapest trip was definitely to Ruaha with Warthog safaris (but food was very basic), less than 2500 us dollar for a week incl flights.

 

But as other have written in your tread "affordable safaris" I think you sooner or later should consider Kenya. Kenya is today probably safer than Belgium.

 

I don´t consider my self very experienced. There is many here in the forums who have vast experience, and also several operators. But it seems that people here have very different views of what is expensive and not, and what kind of service they expect. I think many here is going for what I would consider high end/luxury. My experience is that a private guide/car does´t need to be very expensive (if you book it separately 150 us dollar/day is a good price). It is more about negotiating / finding options, like finding a separate guide/car and not going for the lodges. Obviously the lodges don´t want that. They like you to pay a lot for game drives (or have them included in a package), and then be abel to have several guests in the car (if needed depending on what occupancy they have etc.) But lodges mostly offer a price without gamedrives (and then you have a starting point to do negotiations).

 

I wish you best luck and wonderful safaris.

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martywilddog

Hi @Gergor, that is a very good price indeed!

 

So if I understand correctly you booked T&T accomodation only and got yourself a private guide? Where did you find him?

 

I have started looking at Kenya as well again :) The strongest argument for DH is his wallet! Though I am surprised to see so few special offers for Kenya at the moment. I thought they would be more motivated to lure tourists back.

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martywilddog

Hi @@Gregor, that is a very good price indeed!



So if I understand correctly you booked T&T accomodation only and got yourself a private guide? Where did you find him?



I have started looking at Kenya as well again :) The strongest argument for DH is his wallet! Though I am surprised to see so few special offers for Kenya at the moment. I thought they would be more motivated to lure tourists back.

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Hi again, I actually did find a private independent guide (The personal touch www.tptouch.com ). I did negotiations, with them and T&T. And in the end I got a good deal with T&T. I think negotiating with a viable option helped and also that I was going off season. And in SLNP there is only the lodges that have permission to do night drives. That was also a consideration.

 

From what I read, Flat dogs seems like nice other options. When negotiating Jenny at Marula was be a darling, very helpful and giving good information (and they are cheaper) (but my mother wanted T&T as she believed they were nicer, from looking at pictures.) Marula is just next doors from T&T, and when I poped over, it looked perfectly nice. In the end, I think they are all good options.

 

If you are looking for real walking safari (not just walking in a circle within 100 yards from the car), I would contact Edward Selfe http://www.edwardselfephotography.com

 

Kenya has much to offer, is comparable cheap and is easy to access. With Africa in your blood, I bet you will go to Kenya sooner or later.

Edited by Gregor
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ZaminOz

Edward Selfe is also one of the guides at Jackalberry Safaris (Nkonzi camp) in South Luangwa.

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martywilddog

Thanks for all the input @Gergor and @@ZaminOz !

 

I think for this safari we have kind of settled on SLNP, though Kenya is the runner up. Because it's September we're looking at, I have found better value options for SLNP.

 

I'm still going back and forth on the itinerary, but I'm leaning towards:

3n Thornicroft (Mike finally got back to me and for 600 usd pp for a 3n safari package, it's pretty good value)

3n/4d package with Gavin/Jackaelberry Safaris (Nkonzi camp, this is 995 usd and give you a varied program with 1 cultural activity and game drives and a whole day drive)

5n Kafunta (a mix of the lodge and 2n island bush camp so that we have a mix of drives and walks, +- 2375 pp)

 

I'm still trying to work out if they are not all too close to one another. Kafunta's bush camp is very much South so we would get to see that, Thornicroft and Kafunta are close in Mfuwe and I'm still trying to get my bearings on where Nkonzi is. Gavin said about 45min north of the gate but that's rather chinese for me as I haven't figured out yet where exactly the gate is. Do you happen to know @@ZaminOz ?

 

I was also considering switching something for Zikomo camp (I think recommended by @@luangwablondes ). But I kind of don't want to give up on any of the above; Thornicroft is so cheap it helps the budget, I like Nkonzi because it's more traditional camping and I like kafunta because it's pretty (yes, I said pretty :) ) and you can do the bushcamp.

 

Mike from Thornicroft said that we could get a private guide for a day for an additional 200usd and then do an all day drive to the Nsefu sector. That could be a way of including that and it's definitely appealing!

 

I had found a Kenya option I liked using the Gamewatcher's adventure camps (camping) for their 6n package in Amboselli and Mara (1995 usd, incl. flights to Amboselli and to Mara) and then add on an @beyond special in Mara at Kichwo Tembo camp (1200 usd pp for 4n), but I didn't read the small print for &beyond so no chance of that in September. Her alternative was a fly me to East Africa itinerary Kenya+Tanzani which was 9000 usd per person for 8n... I really just don't get some agents. Sorry but that is just way off base. And I told her so. I did ask her to price up the 4n for me in Kichwa Tembo in September but I doubt I will ever here back. The other Kenya option would be combining the Adventure camps with Brian Freeman's camp, but that would come out more expensive. September really is peak season for Kenya since they get the migration then. Which I suppose you have to experience to appreciate because I'm at the moment just not so keen to spend that much more to go sit by a river bed with 50 other cars for the chance that a group of Wildebeest will cross a river and half will get trampled and eaten by crocs... Nope, not seeing the appeal just yet :)

Edited by martywilddog
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@@martywilddog

 

I think you are going to have a fantastic safari at SLNP. And I am already looking forward to read your trip report :)

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ZaminOz

@@martywilddog

All 4 of the camps that you have picked for South Luangwa are in very different areas to each other. Although I have not stayed at any of these camps I am familiar with the areas that they are all operating in. it looks like a good selection to me.

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