Reviews of Camp Kalahari
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Camp Kalahari - at your own risk
We spent two nights at Camp Kalahari as part of a self drive holiday. We were met at Plant Baobab and driven to camp. Initially everything was fine.
The camp itself is spacious, with reasonably well equipped family tents and a nicely laid out central area where everyone eats together. The location is fabulous, some distance from the main road or any other habitation. The surrounding area has a varied desert landscape, vegetation and wildlife, creating plenty of opportunities for interesting and informative walks or drives.
The daily format is simple, groups of up to eight or nine per vehicle with a guide undertake activities together. We asked about the itinerary on arrival and were pleased enough to be told that we would do a few drives and go-karting on the second day. Before the karting our enquiry about crash helmets was deflected with a request to bring a cloth to wrap around our heads to help keep our hair clean! Safety goggles to keep the dust out of our eyes? No luck there either. If we wanted to go karting it was clearly at our own risk.
We were given a time to meet, but left 30 minutes late. The guide stopped repeatedly, dismissed requests to get us to the karts and we eventually started karting an hour late. No big deal except that it was now clear that we would be driving at night and return later than originally understood. We arrived at the end of the karting route with about a minute to prepare to watch the sun go down. We then spent 30 minutes contemplating the vastness of the desert - great except that it was cold. On the way back we stopped to visit an "archaeological team" - which was actually the bar from camp reconstructed in the desert. After another round of misleading information we found that we were eating in the open. Also great if its summer but we had gone karting with the expectation that we would be back at camp to prepare for dinner, change, sort out warmer clothing etc, not spend the evening in the cold. Then yet another round of misinformation about 'fossil beds' which as a geologist I was intrigued by, apart from the fact that it was dark, which turned out to be a set of beds constructed in the open with the expectation what we would sleep out overnight. This 'surprise' was welcomed by some but not all. Even though this appears to be a routine, the camp staff did not have a simple process to make clear this offer was a choice and to help confirm who wanted to do what and then get other people back to camp. More time in the cold. Two of us returned arriving at camp about 2 hours after our holiday bed time. Again, not an issue for some but we were travelling the next day and a good nights sleep would have helped.
It is clear that some people enjoy the 'surprise' element of camping at Kalahari. Personally I do not go on holiday to be lied to, to be misled, and ultimately to be left in a situation that might endanger life. One of our family who stayed overnight has a nut allergy. The camp was aware of this, but at breakfast the team in the desert could not confirm whether or not the food contained nuts.
The last morning demonstrated the limitations of the managements capabilities. We had discussed and confirmed a departure time, twice. On our return to the camp we were then told that the vehicle that was taking us to Planet Baobab had no fuel and so had gone to Jack's camp to refuel. This camp had a year's notice of our booking and had driven us around for two days in a vehicle that had 1/4 of a tank before realising that they could not perform the contract. We left over an hour later than intially agreed. We arrived too late to do anything at our next stop. Lucky we were not catching a plane that day.
Overall, great location, interesting place but one of the worst experiences I have had on holiday.
Expert Africa comments
Whilst these travellers enjoyed the location and surroundings of Camp Kalahari, there were clearly some elements of the service and activities that they did not enjoy. We have all learnt something from their feedback, and in particular the following points have been noted.
The Uncharted Africa camps (Camp Kalahari, San Camp and Jacks Camp) have been operating the quad bike activities in the area since the early 90s without incident and they have assured Expert Africa that they conduct these activities in a safe manner. The excursion is done at a measured pace and follows a lead guide. That ensures that the bikes dont go fast and are always ridden in an easily controllable manner. The guide leading the tour generally keeps to specific tracks and the area is largely flat and free of other traffic. The cloth offered to wrap around your head is to provide some protection from the dust. It is felt by Uncharted Africa that goggles arent needed as each bike keeps enough distance from each other to avoid most of the dust, and they believe that goggles may alter participants impression of the view and landscape.
Having said that, it is important that we let travellers considering visits to these camps know that helmets wont be provided for the quad-biking excursions. We have now added this information to our literature, and will also make sure to inform people verbally of the situation too.
The team at Camp Kalahari have apologised to these guests for a communication error over the meeting time. The meeting time for each afternoon excursion is usually set at 3.30pm with the idea that guests gather to have afternoon tea before departing on the excursion at 4pm.
With regards to the slow journey to the starting point of the quad biking excursion, Camp Kalahari explained that in their desert location, they come across animals and other sightings of interest less regularly than elsewhere in Botswana's reserves. Therefore, when something interesting is spotted, the guide has been trained to seize the opportunity to inform guests of the fauna or flora, especially as it might be something guests wouldn't necessarily see during any other part of their trip. It may have been that the guide spoke for a while on something that was of less interest to the vehicle passengers, and there is a lesson that has been learnt there on trying to better judge such a situation.
Camp Kalahari apologised to these guests that felt lied to and mislead. It is definitely not the type of sentiment they wish to create. They say that the activity is done to be a fun surprise and without any real intention to deceive or make guests uncomfortable. Despite that, it is clear that the surprise activity doesn't suit everyone. After further correspondence with Uncharted Africa we now understand that although the sleep out is usually only possible for travellers who spend at least three nights at any of their camps, it might be included for a two night stay too. Now that we understand this more clearly, we will explain the possibility of the sleep out to our travellers when they are considering whether or not to book a stay at Camp Kalahari or one of its sister camps.
Camp Kalahari assures us that the guests nut allergy was catered for. However, there was a lack of communication from the camp kitchen to the sleep out staff about this. Therefore the team arranging the meals at the sleep out were not able to confirm that the food did not contain nuts. They have learnt from this experience.
Camp Kalahari was sorry about the delayed transfer on the last day of these guests stay. The delay was compounded by a problem with the car's ignition. They assure us that they have taken steps to ensure a similar situation doesnt happen again.
The meerkats are always wonderful
I had been to Jack's Camp before and absolutely loved it. Our budget meant we had to choose this less expensive option. It was truly wonderful, and had pretty much everything you would get at Jack's except the museum. We had a great time, our guide was NDabona and he was lovely. We wanted the meerkats twice, and so did the other people there at the time, so we went twice. :) Zack was the manager, and was great as well, again, all the staff were friendly, very helpful and we couldn't have asked for better.
I love the Makgadikgadi and would go back every year if I could afford it. The Uncharted Africa people always capture some kind of magic with their camps. I wish I could afford to go on one of their mobile camps!
Rustic and Peaceful
First stop on our journey proved to proved to provide the most unique experience, the photo-op of an Aardvark at 1566, just minutes after arrival. The beginning of an exciting, mixed wildlife adventure guided by a professional Biologist, Bart.
The eco system is quite unique and fascinating providing a platform for many beautiful birds from the Lilac Breasted Hopper to the Martial Eagle.and mostly smaller mammals. Obviously the Mongoose were a big hit .
The management of Camp was in transition, which was a bit disruptive, however the Chef, Sonya was the best on the trip. Tent was adequate, but extremely cold.The staff were doing the best they could under the circumstances of change.
I would possibly visit again to see this eco system in a different season and sleep on the pans.
Amazing experience at Camp Kalahari
This has been my first visit to Botswana.
I have always dreamt about going since I started reading the books by Alexander McCall Smith - The No.1 Ladies' detective agency. I was interested in knowing more about the country and was looking forward to seeing different areas. The Makgadikgadi Pans in the Kalahari was one of them. Both my husband and I have truly enjoyed our stay at Camp Kalahari. Apart from seeing various wild animals (wildebeests, ostriches, brown hyenas, jackals, etc. - and for a few minutes we missed the famous Aardvack which had been spotted by a couple of guests who were travelling on another car - when we arrived on the spot the Aardvack had gone back into its burrow) and many interesting birds (amongst which the lilac breasted rollers, secretarybirds, condors, etc.) we had an amazing time watching the meerkats and following them while they went looking for food.
We also had lots of fan driving the quad bikes over the salt pans and loved the walk with the bush men. We have seen lots of interesting plants and trees and have been impressed with the size of the Chapman's baobab (the third largest tree in Africa). Our guide, Fanwell, was very nice and extremely knowledgeable. He was able to answer all our questions and give us a lot of interesting details about the flora and the fauna of the area. Every staff member was very kind and helpful. The food was very good and there was plenty of it which applied to the drinks as well.
All the tents at the camp had been replaced a few weeks before. Our was very comfortable and clean. We did not mind at all the fact that the camp doesn't have electric lights (illumination is provided by lamps and there are torches available if needed). This helped to make the all experience more realistic. We could still re-charge our camera batteries thanks to a charging station which is connected to solar panels.
We also liked eating at one big table with the guides, the managers and the other guests as we had the chance to get to know many nice and interesting people and we enjoyed our conversations around the fire before going to bed. Last but not least Fanwell and the rest of the team organised a few amazing surprises for us and the rest of the guests. I believe that none of us will never forget our stay at Camp Kalahari!!
fantastic desert experience
Really enjoyed our two nights here, crammed alot in. Well run by Jonothan and Kate.
The time spend with the meerkats was fantatstic as was the Bushman experience. I had thought it might all be a bit touristy but it really is not and infact is so informative.
Being on the Pans was incredible, like nowhere else. Literally miles of nothingness!!
Camp Kalahari - KB and Tops were Tops!
Our first camp. Amazing experience with lots of 'surprises'. Great hosts. KB - manager. Tops - guide. Meerkats fantastic and great attention to detail shown by host and staff. The best hot water bottles of our trip. Stayed hot all night! Would love to know what make they are..
We loved the quadbike/saltpan day/night 'experience!!' too and have spoken about that more than anything else. Of all the camps, this is the one we would come back to - even though it was the least luxy. Thanks KB.
Re location - would also like to try Jacks or San as there was a bit more driving involved being based at CK.
Great africa experience
Super camp, environment and people.
Well managed en great atmosphere.
Would have liked to stay longer than 2 nights.
Will recommend this one!
could be better
Tent was very comfortable. Outside bathroom attracted bees to the water in the tap. Made it difficult to clean teeth, wash etc in safety as they attacked us. Need a sink/tap cover to prevent this as using a towel as a cover worked. Need to advise other guests of this measure.
Food was good.
Manager was Jo at the time. Enthusiastic person but very loud and liked to be centre of attn. Needs to be more discreet to avoid irritation. Hearing her stories more than once at dinner, at 20 decibels, was somewhat wearing. Normal front of house man was on compassionate leave.
Meerkats totally awesome! This was why we went here and they did not dissapoint. We went twice so very lucky.
Quad bikes good fun but made us feel guilty about pollution and noise etc. This is a desert not Brands Hatch.
Safari very disappointing. Never been to any lodge before that put 10 people in a car. Very squashed and impersonal. Felt like a herd os sheep. Unacceptable for the price. Also, few animals to be seen.
Furniture in the lounge area very uncomfortable. Looks nice but try sitting on it! Sticks do not make make for a good back rest!
Expert Africa comments
Reading about their whole trip, these travellers arrived with very high expectations of Botswana, but returned very disappointed and were sorry that they found aspects of Camp Kalahari which they didnt like.
When we passed all of their comments to the camp manager, Jo, she replied (regarding the bees) that Tent 5 is used often, and when these guests mentioned the bees to me, I sent a member of staff to check during tea. They didnt see any then, and we havent had any other comments from others in camp, about the bees.
Jo commented that she did speak more than usual, as the Italian family were asking a lot of questions and she apologized that at the time she had the flu, which may explain if I was too loud as my ears and nose were fully blocked.
Were glad that these travellers enjoyed the meerkats so much even if they were disappointed by the safari. We always try hard to explain that game is scarce in and around the Makgadikgadi Pans; we include this in our literature, and on our website. Were sorry if we failed to emphasise this enough to these travellers.
Finally, theres a very good point here about the relatively basic furniture and the full vehicle; Camp Kalahari is the lower-budget choice when compared with Jacks Camp and San Camp and these are some of the reasons why its less costly.
Unpretentious camp, full Kalahari experience
After 6 days in the bush we thought we had seen it all (ha ha!) but, while undoubtedly somewhat formulaic, the 3 kalahari camps (Jacks, San and Kalahari) do offer a truly unique set of experiences to end up you Botswana tour.
Our 4 sessions included a bush-drive and sundowners on the pan, breakfast with the amazing meerkat family followed by a visit to the 3500-year old Chapman's beobab, an evening stroll with the wonderful bushmen (who dug up scorpions, made fire with sticks and played a remarkable game of scissors/paper/stone) and what would have been a final mornnig quad-bike ride if it had not been hijacked by the sighting of a glorious pair of kalahari lions.
As always, the guide is all-imprtant, and we couldn't have wished for anyone more knowledgeable than Aoyoshi (who introduced us to all the magic of the desert while still finding time to track down the elusive lions which had the vehicles from Jacks scurrying up behind). The new pool when it is finished will round off this camp which seems like a fantastic value for money alternative to the rather snootier Jacks and San.
Camp Kalahari review
The Pans are a marked change from the north and the Delta in most ways possible. The landscape is bare, dry and arid and the Pans themselves reminded me of the lunar surface. Game is less easy to spot and the animals are much smaller and harder to spot. I was privileged however to spend a great deal time with a rare brown hyena cub.
The baobabs are incredible and fairly easy to climb! Walking with the meerkats was probably my highlight here and two of them even climbed up onto my knees! I was also lucky enough to see the first rains come with fantastic lightening displays.
The camp is a comfortable camp and nce again the hospitality was top notch. The only down side was that I was the only guest for the last night which felt a little odd having been in the company of 5 other travellers for most of my trip.