Getting To Zambia With Airline Miles

Most frequent flier programs place Zambia into the Africa zone. You can find some generic recommendations on how to get to East Africa here.  You can also fly to South Africa and then get a flight from JNB to LUN. I already have a blog with my recommendations for which programs to join if you are new to the world of miles and points.

The major gateway city for Zambia is Lusaka (LUN).  There are also international flights to Livingstone (LVI).  Once you have been in the miles and points game for awhile, you will get a feel for which airline to use where but if you are just starting out Wikipedia will show you all the airlines that fly into  Lusaka and Livingstone.


LUSAKA:  No One World airlines fly here.

LIVINGSTONE:  Comair (British Airways subsidiary) flies from JNB.


LUSAKA:  Ethiopian flies from Addis Ababa and South African flies from JNB.

LIVINGSTONE:  Ethiopian flies from Addis Ababa and South African flies from JNB.


LUSAKA & LIVINGSTONE:  Kenya Airways serves both airports from Nairobi.


Emirates serves LUSAKA from their hub in Dubai with connections world wide.


Every airline member of the 3 main alliances has it’s own frequent flier program. Examples are in my East Africa post.

IHG Pointbreaks Through 31 Oct 2017 – Good Options In South America

The quarterly PointBreak list is out and valid for bookings between 31 July and 31 October for a mere 5000 IHG points.  As usual, domestic USA hotels dominate but for eco-tourists, there are some good options in South America.



Due to the limited availability, each member may only book two PointBreaks® Reward Nights reservations per hotel during the special offer time period. Offer and participating hotels are subject to change at any time, valid for booking through Oct 31, 2017. All other Reward Night terms and conditions apply. To view participating properties, simply click one of the regions below.

Please note that Reward Nights booked through PointBreaks® may not be sold or used for commercial gains. Doing so is a program violation and may result in the freezing of your account, the forfeiture of all point transfers, rewards, vouchers, or merchandise issued pursuant to point redemptions and any accrued points or miles in your account, as well as cancellation of the account and your future participation in the Program.


HOLIDAY INN GUAYAQUIL AIRPORT – We stayed here in 2016 so I have a detailed review.  Good option for convenience to the airport and a good staging point for birding in Cerro Blanco Reserve.

HOLIDAY INN MANAUS – You may be passing through Manaus on the way to an Amazon adventure or making day trips to Adolpho Ducke Reserve to the north.

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS BELEM ANANINDEUA – Another staging point for the Amazon River in Brazil, also check out the Parrot Island to see 1000’s of Orange-winged Amazon Parrots!

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS PUERTO MONTT – Gateway to Patagonia and Chiloe Island which are good birding areas.


Mid-year Assessment, Mileage Accounts Decimated But It’s All Good

Well I did it!  Next year’s trip to Bolivia and Brazil is officially booked and my USA based airline miles accounts are pretty much wiped out.  This is the culmination of what I had been working towards, after all what good are miles sitting in cyberspace?  You need to use them and enjoy them!  So where did I end up?

Brisbane-Santa Cruz, Bolivia:  Used AA miles on QF & LA taking my account down to a measly 25,000 although I do have the Barclay’s Aaviator card with the annual 10,000 mile annual bonus so this account will slowly rebuild.

Santa Cruz-Sao Paulo-Fortaleza:  Used Flying Blue miles for the Gol connecting flights, account is wiped out.

Sao Paulo-Auckland:  Used British Airways Avios sourced from Ultimate Rewards, only had enough to get as far as Auckland.  BA charges a higher amount if you use 2 or more partner airlines so I had to use Latam all the way and Sydney would have put us into a higher bracket.  BA account now under 1000 miles.

Auckland-Brisbane:  Used United (husband) & Singapore (me) small balances for this short segment.  First time we have been on 2 separate PNRs but I got seats assigned in the same row (window & aisle) so no worries!  Both accounts down to less than 500 orphaned miles.

All flights are in Y, I expected that J wouldn’t be available (it wasn’t) and that was all I could afford miles-wise.


Now that the 2018 trip is safely booked, I have discovered to my shock that I don’t need the US based accounts anymore.  For the next 3 years, all trips are easily covered with miles/points earned through Aussie shopping programs (Coles-Velocity & Woolworths-Qantas) and use of my Aussie Amex 3x on grocery store shopping.

2019 – We will use Velocity and Qantas points to do some Pacific Island hopping with birding of course.  I have all the miles & points required already!

2020 – We will use a combination of Singapore, Velocity & Qantas for birding in Indonesia (with some domestic flights paid in cash).  I have about half the points required, will easily get them all by year’s end via shopping at Coles & Woolies.  For now the plan is to fly in Y but maybe I can get enough shopping points to upgrade at least the BNE-SIN segment.

2021 – I’m eyeing a Papua New Guinea Cruise which can combine birding and a bit of luxury.  Princess often has discounts on this cruise which sails from Brisbane.  No flights this year, except maybe domestic Australia.

2022 – The Last Hurrah!  I have 4 years to get as many as possible:  Amex Membership Rewards, Qantas & Velocity for one last mega-trip to South America.  This is so far ahead of the game I can’t even be sure miles and points programs won’t be obsolete.  Worst case scenario would be using the Amex points to pay for tickets on the Amex travel portal.

So I have come to the surprising realization that I no longer need the USA credit cards or mileage programs.  I have lost all interest in United due to devaluations and the routing restrictions.  If I have any Ultimate Rewards left, I will send them to BA as I can always use them for Qantas or Latam and I can keep the account alive with the shopping portal.  I’ll be cancelling the USA credit cards with annual fees when they next come due but will keep the AAviator for the annual AA 10k bonus well worth a $89 fee and the IHG card whose $49 fee gives us a free night in any of their hotels and platinum status.

It’s kind of hard and bittersweet to cut the USA programs loose as I have gotten some incredible flights out of them over the past 10 years but the Aussie game has been steadily improving and I find I can easily get what I need simply by strategic grocery shopping!

Getting Lost Near Menagesha Forest & The Addis Ababa Merkato (Market)

This was a big miscalculation on my part.  I knew that many birders stay at the Ghion Hotel so I assumed they would have birding guides on call who would be able to take us out to Menagesha Forest.  They didn’t, or at least  the staff on duty the evening we arrived didn’t.  The manager did manage to line up a car and driver to take us out there and I knew roughly where it was from Google maps and eBird.

The driver showed up promptly in the early morning and off we went.  It took a while to escape Addis Ababa because of traffic but we finally got out into the countryside.  It was interesting to see some of the transport options the local people have!

An Ethiopian Airlines plane made into a restaurant.  I wish we would have had time to check it out!

Getting out into the forest areas, we started seeing baboons on the road.

This is where we turned and we did end up in a section of Menagesha Forest after a long drive but it wasn’t the main entrance.  We never did find that, a shame as we possibly could have found a guide there.

I heard something that sounded like parrot screeches so we stopped and went for a walk.

The driver (white shirt), my husband and a boy who just happened to be near the stream.

Yellow-fronted Parrots flying overhead

Blue-fronted Bee-eaters near a small stream

Speckled Mousebird

Common Waxbill

We happened to pass the Born Free Sanctuary so stopped in hoping that there would be people knowledgeable about birds.  There weren’t any birders but one of the guards showed us the lions for a small donation.

Heading back to Addis Ababa, we saw some roadside markets.

The last place I wanted to see was the Merkato, the largest market place in Africa.  I had heard it was full of pick-pockets and thieves and we had expensive cameras with us so we opted for a slow drive around the market with photos out the window.  It was still interesting to see people going about their daily business!

We had been in a minibus like this one for the trip from the Lake Langano turn-off to Ziway, where we changed to a normal bus.

There were some pretty traditional dresses.

Amazing what some people can carry!

All in all, it was a very interesting excursion, though I think we would have had more success with the birding if we had had a qualified birding guide.  I probably should have emailed the hotel and tried to set one up well in advance but I had gotten used to hotels popular with birders having guides on call.  I paid the driver around $70 in a combination of USD and Birr and it was worth it for a half day excursion.  He was a nice guy, I forgot his name but his photo is above.

Yellow-fronted Parrot (Poicephalus flavifrons)

The Yellow-fronted Parrot (Poicephalus flavifrons) is endemic to the Ethiopian Highlands.  It is a mostly green parrot with a yellow head. Although this bird was one of my main targets for my Ethiopian birding trip, all I could manage was some furtive birds calling from distant trees so I will have to share the Wikipedia photos.

The easiest places to search for this bird are around Lake Langano, Wondo Genet and Menagesha Forest in Ethiopia.



World Parrot Trust



Hardly anything on Youtube but at least I found this one of a hungry Yellow-fronted Parrot!  Looks like someone was lucky enough to get close to one!


Birding The Ghion Hotel’s Garden

I was really hoping this would be a better experience but the weather was against me for most of the afternoon I had free to explore the Ghion Hotel’s beautiful gardens.  Here is a glimpse of the birds I managed to find.

Tacazze Sunbird

Abyssinian Thrush

Abyssinian Slaty Fly-catcher

Speckled Mousebirds

Wattled Ibis in flight

Speckled Mousebird

Wedding party arrives for a photo shoot, they barely missed being rained out!


Hotel Review: Ghion Hotel, Addis Ababa

The Ghion Hotel is the most popular hotel in Addis Ababa for birders thanks to its beautiful grounds and garden so no wonder I was keen to stay here!  Full disclosure, non-birders may not like the hotel as it is rather dated and the wifi is very weak at best in some rooms, many rooms don’t have it at all and you need to go to the lobby.

We arrived in the evening just before dark after a long journey from Lake Langano so there was no chance to see the grounds that day.  Driving from the bus station, I was dismayed to see it had been raining, not good for birders!

The next morning, we could see a lot more!  Here is the entrance where the taxi will drop you off.

Restaurants are also accessible from this section.

This is the room we got which turned out to be a good location as I could get a wifi signal from just outside the door.

I haven’t seen a tv like this in years!

So the room is simple and definitely channeling the 60’s.  We weren’t here to sit around the room so it was ok.

Back to the lobby to organize a driver for birding Menagesha Forest with the manager who knew a driver, then on to dinner.

For dinner you can choose the buffet or order off the menu.  We went for menu items as we weren’t really that hungry.  Breakfast is included in the rate and also includes the buffet and freshly made omelets.

If the weather is nice, you can also eat outside.

Interesting decorations!

There are several shops in the lobby area.

They also have an Ethiopian style restaurant where we had lunch after returning from the Menagesha excursion.  We opted to sit outside to look for birds while we ate.

I ordered some local food just to try it, I think it was the 3rd item down from the English side.  It was like a curry served with injera.  It was OK, I wasn’t wild about the injera and the portion was huge so I couldn’t finish it all.

The views were great!

A few little birds were hopping around looking for food.

Now the main reason to choose the Ghion is to have access to the beautiful gardens so look for the next post to focus on birding the gardens!

The Ghion Hotel is available on most online booking sites or you can book direct.

Black-winged Lovebird (Agapornis taranta)

The Black-winged Lovebird (Agapornis taranta) also known as Abyssinian Lovebird is the largest of the lovebird genus, a group of small parrots. The adult male is easily identified by its red forehead, and the adult female by its all green head.

They are only found in Ethiopia and Eritrea.  Good places to look for them are Hara Langano Lodge, Menagesha Forest & even the city of Addis Ababa in flowering trees.



World Parrot Trust



I couldn’t find much on wild birds on Youtube but if you search “Abyssinian Lovebirds” there are lots of pet birds.

Bird Walk With Hakim At Hara Langano

For serious birders hoping to see as many species as possible, you really need to book Hara Langano’s resident bird guide, Hakim.  He is an expert on the the local birds and knows all the calls and can ID all the birds.  He helped me fill out my bird list, unfortunately my photos didn’t come out as well as I hoped.

We started quite early and headed out past a small village.  The weather was drizzly and gloomy and we were wearing rain ponchos.  We did attract a lot of attention and some kids kept following us around.

My husband, Ina meeting locals.

Hakim (red jacket), Ina and some locals.  We did cop some rain and were wearing ponchos to protect the cameras.

The tiny endemic Black-winged Lovebird came fairly close, just couldn’t get them in good light due to the weather.

Some of these photos are so dark I can’t identify the birds.  If you go, I hope you get better pics!

White-cheeked Turaco

Bare-faced Go-away Bird

Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike

Grey-headed Kingfisher

Von der Decken’s Hornbill

The next morning we had some time before we had to get the transport to the main road and hung out near the gate.  The weather was better and I was able to get some better pics, especially of the gorgeous little Black-cheeked Lovebirds!  Indulge me while I post some (finally) good pics!

Hakim had been booked by others in the lodge for a village walk but he came and sat with us while waiting for them to finish breakfast.  We set out on a short walk in the same direction as the day before.  Hakim soon caught up with his group in tow and was happy to point out some birds to all of us.

Bruce’s Green Pigeon

Not sure about this little guy


Blue-breasted Bee-eater

Silvery-cheeked Hornbill

Violet-backed Starling


I saw a LOT more birds than I got photos of, my full list is on eBird.  I do highly recommend Hakim as a guide, I wouldn’t have seen half those birds without him!

Bare-faced Go-away-bird (Corythaixoides personatus)

The Bare-faced (or Brown-faced) Go-away-bird (Corythaixoides personatus) is a species of bird in the family Musophagidae which is native to the eastern Afrotropics. It is named for its distinctive and uniquely bare, black face. Although the genus is named for the g’way call of its near relation, the grey go-away-bird; this bird seemed friendlier and didn’t tell us to “go’way”!

They are endemic to a small area of Ethiopia so I considered myself very lucky to see them near the Hara Langano Lodge.





Hardly anything on Youtube for these guys!

The call

Soundless clip of foraging.

At least you can learn to draw one!