Reviews of Lebala Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Lebala - Real comfort and great animals
Lebala was the last stop on our 12 day vacation and a fine end-point despite some minor managerial issues at the camp (which we think are being addressed but on which we suggest some lessons could usefully be learned from Kwara).
The accommodation at Lebala is first class (unless one wants air-conditioning, which we do not!) and the location is really excellent for game. The mammal count during our stay was truly impressive in terms of both range of species and sheer numbers. Dogs, cheetahs and roan antelope were the better known highlights of our stay; but, for us, the real thrill was a first class daytime honey badger sighting. And we were again fortunate enough to see both serval and caracal cats, as well as large herds of elephant.
We cannot praise too highly both our guide, Hector, and tracker, Julius. They are both first-rate individuals and together make up an excellent team. The skills, enthusiasm and humour which they bring to their work are, in our view, characteristic of the excellent staff at Lebala.
Our mark-down below on 'facilities' is entirely due to transport issues noted in our comments on Kwara; and a small downgrade on 'service' reflects the minor managerial issues touched on above. Put together, they have led us to an overall 'good' rather than 'excellent' which could quite easily be pushed up from the former to the latter.
These minor reservations notwithstanding, we have no hesitation recommending Lebala to others and would certainly be very happy to visit there again in the future.
Lebala Camp review
We had an amazing time at Lebala. In particular the wildlife was superb.
We saw some amazing animal behaviour including Cheetah hunting Impala and then chasing a Leopard. The guides were very knowledgeable and commited to finding what we were interested in.
The rooms are about as good as you will find anywhere in Africa.
Paradise in Lebala Camp
We were sure that Lebala would have been a fantastic experience for what concerned game viewing and location. We were astonished by the professionality, simpathy and entusiasm of the guides ( Hector, Simon, Tabo, O.C.) who went out of their way to make our safari unforgettable.
Beside that we really enjoied the fantastic and friendly staff, superbly managed by the great Baloo, who really made leaving Lebala very very sad.
Lebala Camp review
Lebala camp recently refurbished their accommodation, it's now extremely large wood chalets, with bath and a stunning double outdoor shower. The staff was very helpful and there was a real "family" feel in the common area and during dinner and breaks.
The guide and trackers were highly motivated and skilled to find animals / birds - also very active night drives in the concessions. We may have seen "less" game than in other reserve like Chitabe (their wild dogs packs were far at the time) but we had very good tracking experience and the dry environment is quite interesting. We did have the chance to see a Pangolin though !
One slightly minor note, their cars have 2 rows of 3 seats so they tend to put 6 guests in each which when you are in the middle seat is not as good for photography as being on the side (private car option is available but expensive).
Lebala Camp review
Lebala camp was substantially renovated earlier this year, and they have done an absolutely outstanding job. The new tents are huge, beautifully constructed from wood and canvas, and incredibly airy and cool during the heat of the day. We would have loved to have used the claw-footed bath, but there was just too much else to do. The service at the camp was excellent, but the clear priority is game viewing. We had a great driver guide, OC, who was tireless and immensely energetic in his endeavours to track predators for us to see, but equally enthusiastically showed us lots of other interesting animals and flora. The daily routine works really well, with a game drive starting early in the morning after coffee and porridge, then a lovely cooked breakfast followed by siesta to see out the heat of the day. Then at 330 it's time to eat again before the afternoon drive, which usually turns into a fascinating night drive. The night drives are great, you get to see all kinds of animals which aren't active during the day and the night sky is lit up by millions of stars you would never know were there if you normally lived in a city like London.
We had a wonderful time at Lebala and were very sad to leave after two nights (but greatly cheered up when we arrived at Lagoon Camp, our next destination)...
Wild dogs at Lebala
The first we knew about the Lebala airstrip being flooded was when we arrived at the departure point from Kanana - we went to Selinda airstrip and then had a two hour drive to get to camp, which we were not prepared for. This was annoying to us because the Lebala airstrip has been under water for quite some time but we had not been told about the problem.
The new accommodation is very smart and spacious. Again the shower was impossible to regulate, and the additional moveable showers don't work at all because of lack of pressure.
Sepo and Tuso were friendly and helpful. We had some reservations about the housekeeping, for example arriving back after a drive to find ashtrays still full and dirty plates around the fire. A major concern was the vehicle reliability; the one we were picked up in stalled repeatedly and required something to be done under the bonnet each time to get it started. A different car was provided after we complained. The radio system was poor - we were out of communication with the camp at times.
Our guide Bundi and tracker James were highly knowledgeable and enthusiastic. We had one or two problems: it is important that a guide gives the timing accurately - we were told we were 20 minutes from the camp but ended up driving 70 minutes in the dark - which we did not want to do. Bundi seemed to have some difficulty driving in the sand and we were totally stuck twice, the second time on the way to the airstrip for departure. We do not know if this was due to his (lack of) skill or the poor vehicle. But Bundi did make a huge effort to ensure that we had sightings and was particularly good at birds.
Alex had a very good walk and followed an elephant.
The high spot was the visit to the wild dog den. We saw the adults and nine puppies. But visitors should be aware that it is a long and difficult drive to the den and there is no guarantee of seeing them once you arrive; so we count ourselves lucky.
We also saw a herd of about 2000 buffalo charging across the water; again, that may be quite rare.
Finally, we saw two secretary bird males fighting for territory; even Bundi had never seen this.
So we had some niggling criticisms of Lebala but overall it was a superb wildlife experience.
Expert Africa comments
Due to heavy rains earlier in 2008, Lebala airstrip flooded making it unusable by light aircraft. During this time, visitors landed at Selinda Airstrip and travelled to Lebala Camp on a long game drive.
We were aware of this at Expert Africa, but were informed that Lebala airstrip would be back to normal from 24 June. Unfortunately, a setback occurred and the use of Selinda Airstrip became necessary again. This change came about too late for Expert Africa to pass the information on in this case.
Close encounterswith big cats at Lebala
Yet another excellent guide, Joseph, made our experience unforgettable. We watched a cheetah and her cub for a long time at very close quarters, because Joseph was so patient in getting close to animals without disturbing them or altering their behaviour.
The landscape is more open, and the views of antelope, zebra, giraffe, warthog,wildebeest and cape buffalo were among the best of the whole trip. We could watch elephants and lions just going about their life too. Seeing -and hearing- a pair of hippos fighting was a first.
Perhaps the most incredible experience of all occurred whilst we were watching herds of elephant, giraffe, zebra etc. on a plain in the twilight. We saw a hyena running full speed across the plain, and at the same time heard baboons screaming just over the hill. Joseph suspected a leopard may have been stalking the baboons and when we got closer we could see a tree full of outraged baboons.
However, cowering at the top of the tree was a leopard and the baboons were throwing branches and shaking the tree to try to cause the leopard to fall. Even Joseph had not seen this before and we really felt that we were caught up in a dramatic episode of a wildlife documentary. As twilighrt darkened the tables turned and most of the baboons slipped away, leaving one or two young macho males in the tree. They suddenly realised their mates had deserted them and so they bolted, leaving a very relieved leopard to make its way down the tree to safety. Really this experience summed up the whole trip, in that no-one could anticipate just what we were going to see and things could change so quickly.
The camp was very luxurious, with stunning bathrooms, and again such warm and friendly staff.
Authentically wild setting.
The cabin was great, lodge location made me feel truly in the wild - elephants ate from the tree beside my cabin at night, and the staff was friendly and helpful.
I felt the jeep safaris were too long - 4 hours each, twice a day. There was only 1 type of activity offered at Lebala - the jeep safari, therefore 2 days is fine.
Lebala Camp review
Long drive from airstrip to Lebala (because Lebala airstrip was flooded) turned into a wonderful game drive. We saw lots of animals, including cheetahs, elephants, giraffes and warthogs before even arriving at the lodge.
Beautiful new lodges, with excellent facilities and lots of drives, but no water trips. As at Kwara, it was good to sit at one table for meals, sharing experiences with other visitors and staff. Very friendly staff, but we were aware of some underlying issues and the food was in short supply. Baloo was apparently charged with addressing the problems (which did not greatly affect or detract from our enjoyment) and he did everything he could to make our stay as enjoyable as possible.
Terrific guides at Lebala
Another terrific camp, in a beautiful setting. Again a very welcoming camp with very friendly and helpful staff. On the way in from the airstrip, our guide, Hector, stated that a pack of wild dogs had been spotted and we detoured on the way to the camp to try and spot them which we did, which was a terrific start to the three days.
That night we went to track the dogs yet again but although we found them they didn't seem that interested in trying to feed so we abandoned the chase for the night. However the second night we did come across them as they caught an impala and the speed at which these dogs devoured the impala was most impressive. As was the sound of the accompanying hyena as it finished off the bones of what was left. The poor vulture that was hopping around on the edge of all this activity got very poor pickings at the end of the night !!
The following day was came across two male lions, the elder one, about 5 years had a truly magnificent mane. This was then followed up with a group of four lions, a lioness and three younger ones, one female and two male who we tracked later that night. However the two males got bored and started to play, causing so much noise that the herd of zebra that was meant to be dinner got spooked and ran.
Lebala is a wonderful camp and the sounds of the hippos at night, plus having to negotiate them on the way to our room was an added bonus !!
The only issue we would have with Lebala is that while the new rooms, which are not true tents, but wooden framed chalets, is that there is too much ventilation in the winter months, so it is really cold at 05:30 in the morning. The tents at Little Vumbura had proper canvas sides with ventilation panels cut in them which would be closed if necessary so these were warmer in the morning, but you could not do that at Lebala so there was always a breeze blowing through the rooms. Probably great in summer but not so great iin winter !!
The other comment we would make was that the shower arrangement was tricky to control in order to get a suitable water temperature, plus the pressure wasn't great. Again the showers at Little Vumbura were much better and more enjoyable to use. Small point but it did make you think a bit about showering !!