Reviews of Meno A Kwena
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Mixed impression at Meno A Kwena
The camp is beautiful, everything feels like it has been lovingly and minutely designed - which I suppose it has.
The location struck us as both great and less than ideal. Great, because the camp sits 30m above a river used by lots of animals, allowing for superb game viewing while sitting in the shade with a cold beer. Less than ideal because it takes half an hour by car to get to the start of the actual game drives - not a particularly exciting half hour on the highway, that is.
David Dugmore, the owner and manager of the camp, struck us as rather more interested in his friends than in his guests. While we didn't really expect him to hold our hand all the time we stayed at his camp, it did bother us that we weren't asked what we would like to do, but simply presented with the program - which amounted to one game drive per day. This meant we were back at the camp at around 2.30 one day and around 3.30 the other - and that was it for that day.
We had a little discussion with David about walks. While we agreed that a guide with a gun, but without the proper training, is worse than a guide without a gun, we weren't happy with the idea of going on a walking safari with an unarmed guide. David then told us that, no matter what, the following day the program would be a drive anyway, no walk. And that was that.
Our guide, Max, was superb and equipped with a quirky sense of humor - and apparently the only guide the camp has at the moment. The first day, we drove off at 6am, with the idea of having breakfast in the bush. Which was fine, except for some reason we only had breakfast at 10.45 (our own fault to some degree: we should have piped up, I suppose, instead of just waiting for Max to finally stop for the food).
The second day, we had breakfast in the camp and started the drive at 7.30 - presumably, because it was supposed to be an all-day drive. In retrospect, we don't think this is a good way to organized the day - it's too late to start, and visibly exhausting both for the guide and for us.
Meno A Kwena review
Oh my, what a wonderful place this is and the staff are just as lovely. Ursula is there to develop customer service and is certainly succeding. The promotional material available does not refelct the perfection of this little jewel in Botswana. Without doubt this was the most comfortable bed I slept in on the whole trip. Every artefact is placed to create an atmosphere an ambience that is natural and such a treat for the senses.
I was blessed with being looked after on my safari trips with Max and Steve, what a team. Faultless! Thank you boys for such a fantastic time, I love you both. We saw some fantastic game and a herd of 23 giraffes at one time and a line of 13 bull elephants walking down to the water and then watched them play and frolic. It was absolute heaven.
The communal dinning may not be to everyone's style but I thought it was great because travel is also about meeting new people. The food was amazing and it is served on BIG plates!
I visited the local community project and school with Janaina which was a real treat. Meno A Kwena's whole ethos is to work with the local community through the Water for Life Project so it was important to me to see this first hand. Meeting the four members in the arts and crafts project was great. I have a lovely necklace made for me by Ishmael as a lasting momento.
I wish I had stayed for longer at this camp and definately want to go back again, it felt like home!
Meno A Kwena review
The location is 45 minutes from the main entrance to the park. This meant a long drive just to start game viewing. However, it did give us a good opportunity to the villages and the farms. We would not have seen these otherwise. The accommodation was acceptable but not good. It is very unnerving to walk to the loo in the night. This is totally unacceptable and should be corrected.
The lounge area was very pleasant with an excellent atmosphere. The fact that David was there to talk to was a huge plus!. He should keep his brother, Roger, there as much as possible. There are a great combination of truly authentic safari guides.
Allow us to say that the food was outstanding. It was varied, fresh and expertly cooked. We came to realize just how good the food was when we visited subsequent camps where the food was boring and sometimes poorly cooked. Pity we went to Meno first and not last.
Max, our guide, was fun to be with. He handled both the spotting and the guiding by himself and was excellent at both. We came to wonder later on why the other camps needed 2 people to do these functions.
Superb camp at Meno A Kwena
A very satisfying wilderness experience. We were priveleged to be in accommodation directly above a waterhole giving unusual views of the wildlife from above. There is a roomy hide on the cliff face down a difficult path, (not for the faint hearted) allowing an even better and closer game viewing experience.
Tasty food seved as a buffet but disappointingly for me, chicken curry.
We had a very good,informative guide, Max, and a good game drive to the Makgadagadi.
Although it is personal preference, we are not happy when forced to eat at one table with the other guests, but here the English-speaking were put together.
Laid back, prehaps a little too much.
The Tent was excellent, staff were helpful but not particularly friendly (english may have a problem for some - I often recieved only a nod in response to my comment or question).
Often staff did not know when things (dinner, guided walk) were going to begin or end - just approximations. Don't worry be happy seemed to be the camp philosophy.
The location of the camp is scenic - on an elevated river bank of a dried-up river with a combustion pump filled water hole below - probably should be replaced by a noiseless solar arrangement.
The sleep out on the salt pan is run by another lodge - Gweta, that were friendly and professional.
I had asked for it on 2nd last day so I would have a day to recover before flying home but Meno A Kwena ran it on my last night which resulted in a a marathon journey home starting from an isolated salt pan requiring an hour of rough trail to just to reach paved roads, then 2 hours to the airport.
I would of liked a day trip to the kalahari. The Boteti "river" was mostly a series of artificailly sustained water holes attracting wildlife.
Meno A Kwena review
Very interesting camp. Good staff - our guide Dabe was excellent. A very interesting man full of knowledge and very proud of being San. We had fascinating conversations about his community near Ghanzi and he edited for me the section on the San in Chris McIntyre's excellent Botswana (a really very good guide book). If Chris wishes to discuss this please ask him to call Adrian - the relevant part of the book is where Chris discusses the difficulty of naming the San appropriately (a good and very sympathetic section which I enjoyed).
When booking I had formed the impression that the camp was on the edge of the Pans so was slightly disappointed not to repeat the experience I had 10 years ago of being on the Pans themselves. But Dabe more than made up for this disappointment.
We wish we had longer at Meno.
Great tented camp experience at Meno A Kwena
Even though we were struggling with the loss of our luggage, we really enjoyed the experience of being at this camp. Couldn't have asked for a better first camp to visit. The situation in the Kalahari; the location at the water hole; the laid-back atmosphere and friendly staff were exactly as we would have wanted. Our guide, Max, was knowledgeable, friendly, helpful at all times, and accommodated our requests.
The trip to the saltpans with the folks from Gweta Lodge was an added bonus, and one we would recommend to anyone.
Please pass on our thanks to David and Geoff for their help in locating our luggage and keeping us informed about what was happening.
Meno A Kwena review
$ 300 is to much for this location lead by amateurs.
- The car almost lost the wheel because of 4 not fixed nuts !!! If the guide would not have checked the wheels we may would have come to death by an accident.
- While given a lift to the airport the police stopped the car. What a surprise: The insurance expired in November 2007. After discussions with the policeman we get the allowance to drive to the airport. Otherwise we would have missed oud plane (Thanks to Dave - our very good guide).
- The water for the bucket shower was usually cold.
- I was showering each time the same way and the same duration. Once the water went out because they did not filled enough water in the bucket shower. Poor.
- They never filled up my water for washing my teeth. So I had to use the mineral water for my teeth.
- We had to drive 2-3 hours to come to good game viewing spots. That is too long.
- Walking Safaris without a gun is in my opinion not safe. Even if the probability to have to use a gun is almost 0%, it gives the customer a safer feeling. So we decided not to go to a planned and appreciated walking safari because of security reasons.
==> This location is not worth to visit (expect of the nature). You better invest the $300 a day for other and better managed camps. It was disappointing.
Expert Africa comments
We were sorry that this traveller was disappointed by Meno a Kwena. We have discussed these comments extensively with David Dugmore, the owner of Meno a Kwena, who made a number of insightful points.
Re: the wheel nuts. Safari vehicles usually work a lot harder than city cars. Any good safari lodge will regularly maintain their vehicles, and Meno a Kwena is no exception. Despite this, problems can occur – so guides and managers will always keep an eye on their vehicles between services. In this case, the guide noticed that the wheel nuts were coming loose – so he fixed them before they caused a problem.
We regard this as part of a good guide’s job. David tells us that there has never been a serious breakdown with a vehicle at Meno A Kwena. However, as a emergency precaution, each of the camp guides carry a satellite phone.
Re: the vehicle’s license disc. This was not displayed on the vehicle’s windscreen as it should have been because the vehicle had been fitted with a new windscreen a few days previous. (After a bird had flow into it, and cracked it!) The police questioned its absence, and were happy with this explanation. This vehicle did have an up-to-date tax disc, it just wasn’t on it at the time.
Re: the water issues. We’ve never had any problems reported on this before, but David has discussed these issues with the camp’s manager, and measures will be taken to ensure that these issues are rectified for future visitors.
In general, we are very clear: ‘If you have difficulties of any nature whilst on your trip, it is imperative you let the agent, or lodge manager know exactly what the problem is. If you only voice problems to us on your return, we are powerless to help.’ Had this traveller asked the manager to ensure the water for their bucket shower was warm, and requested that the wash basin was filled regularly, then we feel sure that these issues would have been solved there and then.
Re: the long drive to game-viewing spots. Wildlife is unpredictable as it moves and migrates in search of better feeding grounds and water. This is especially true in the Kalahari, during December, when the herds of zebra and other animals follow the localised rain storms over a vast area. At Meno A Kwena there is always some wildlife to see in the vicinity, although many of the herds will move away after the first rain fall. The possibility of this happening at this time was described to these travellers when planning their trip.
Once the zebra herds and other wildlife move away from Meno A Kwena then the activities offered by the camp range over a larger area. These might include a day trip to Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, about 30 minutes’ drive away, or to Nxai Pan National Park, 45 minutes’ away. These trips follow the zebra migration as well as spending time searching for other interesting wildlife along the way.
This client commented that, in their opinion, walking safaris without a gun are not safe. We completely understand this traveller’s feelings, and have some empathy with them. We are pleased that this traveller opted not to walk, and that they drew this to our attention. When we put the question to David, he commented: "With regards to walking with/without a rifle, I trust guides with wildlife, but do not trust anyone with a rifle. My experience growing up with a hunting safari guide father, my time in the Rhodesian bush war, and over 20 years in the safari business has taught me that a rifle is the biggest danger to us when walking in wildlife country. Most injuries and death on safari involve rifles than not. When I ask my Naro Bushman guide if he would be happier carrying a rifle, his answer is, why? I have never had an issue with a single guest in my safari career decline a walk because we do not carry weapons. If they cannot trust us in the bush without a rifle then they should not even come on safari.”
Whilst this is quite an extreme view, we also have a lot of empathy for the view that rifles can, sometimes, cause more problems than they solve. So we believe that David does have a point here. He continued to comment: “Our walks are not about seeing the animals so much as experiencing being on foot in the bush with a guide who shows them aspects of nature other than the lions, elephants, buffalo etc. They are about the plants, insects, spoor, and how native Africans live with nature for food and survival, making fire with sticks, digging for water in tubers and bulbs, making francolin traps, and avoiding situations where survival is compromised by dangerous wildlife! The trouble with rifles is they give the guide and guests a false sense of security that allows them to enter a situation of danger and take chances they ought not to make."
So there are two sides to this coin…
Having said that, we had believed that Meno a Kwena’s walking safaris were only led by armed guides, so we are very grateful that this traveller drew our attention to this. As the result of these comments, we are taking this issue up with Meno a Kwena in more detail – and are suggesting that our guests should not to walk at Meno a Kwena if walks cannot be carried out with an armed guide.
Thsi was a terrible experience. These people are amateurs. The location is truly sad. The watering hole was set up to attract animals, just for the tourists sitting at the top of the cliff. It is an ecological disaster: prey animals get traped around the water hole - cheap food for lions. The manager tried to force us to go on a nature walk, with an unarmed guide. All walks are done like that. This is a risk nobody should take. We had to go through lengthy and unpleasant discussions with the manager in order to be able to do the activities we wanted to do.
During our stay, we drove in a completely rotten car which had no insurance. At the end of one of our day trips, we almost lost a wheel (4 bolds were gone, the 2 ones left were loose). On our way back to Maun, we were stoped by the police, because of the missing insurance. Our guide somehow managed to get us through to Maun.
Expert Africa comments
We were sorry that this traveller was disappointed by Meno a Kwena – they visited with their friend, Mr B from Zurich, whose comments, below, make several of the same points.
Our responses are also below. In general, whilst we understand why these comments are made, we disagree with some of their conclusions.
Regarding the waterhole … the scientific evidence is clear: this waterhole is vital for the game. Recent scientific studies of the Makgadikgadi Pans have strongly recommended more like it along the length of the Boteti and, currently, these are being built by the park’s authorities.
From our own recent visits, we understand that Meno a Kwena is different from most camps in Botswana. However, for the right visitor we know that it can be a highlight of a trip to Botswana. We view it as an original, owner-run camp which shows a real commitment to the environment, the wildlife and the local community. Talk to us if you are thinking of visiting Meno A Kwena.