Reviews of Lebala Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
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 !!
Exellent wildlife area with excellent guides
Supurb tracking abilities and radio contact to veiw wildlife. Guide and spotter had excellent tracking abilities and knowledge. Guides tracked down a new hyena den. We veiwed four different leopards in our three nights.
Camp facilities were good. On arrival to the camp we were told that wild dogs had not been seen for ten days. We thought they had passed through the area, but, on the very last morning some dog tracks were found and after an hour of tracking the dogs were located under a bush - brilliant!!
The only negative point was the food was not always hot - not enough to put us off.
Brilliant experience !!! Special to track and see wild dogs.
Enjoyable stay at Lebala
Overall we had a very enjoyable stay at Lebala. All the staff were were very friendly. All the game drives were great fun especially getting up close with the elephants! We were unlucky on the number of predators we saw but that's just how it goes.
A couple of minor points that did not detract from our stay:
1. The staff were unaware that we had booked a private vehicle until we informed them when we realised they were putting us on a shared vehicle. Once they had checked they sent us out on our own but the remaining guests had to wait an hour before they got another vechicle to take them out. This put us in a embarrassing situation and impacted the other guests. I think what they should have done was to send us all out on the shared vehicle and then when they had sorted another vehicle to come and find us and take us off!
2. The new tents are beautiful but because of the open design it does mean that they get un-necessarily hot during the middle of the day. The balcony has no shade and the sun shines right into the tent, the curtains are light and filmy so shutting them doesn't help cut out the sun.
Return to Lebala
This was a return trip to Lebala and we were looking forward seeing the new 'rooms'. Unfortunately, we weren't overly impressed. They were very barn-like and drafty and I fear that the parachute silk curtains won't be sufficient to keep out the chill when the mornings turn cold. It was also difficult to locate things like the light switches and the shower looked good but was very temperamental.
Our guide was rather quiet and relatively inexperienced but he 'warmed up' once he got to know us. He tended to rely on the sightings of the other guides but we did see all the big cats, so no complaints. The plains game in May was much less in evidence than in November but we had expected that.
Food was good but vegetarian options were lacking on occasion. The early morning porridge or semolina was always welcome as was the campfire toast when the squirrels didn't steal it!
All the camp staff were friendly and we were remembered and greeted as old friends.
A 'Tent' as you have never seen it before
We were the first guests at the camp following its refurbishment. The so called 'tents' were out of this world - very spacious, with separate bedroom (with proper beds) and bathroom (flush toilet, bath tub, twin sinks, and the exquisite outdoor 'his and hers' twin shower). I
The tents were upmarket - so was the catering. Large quantities of really imaginative, varied, excellently cooked food appeared day after day. we are hoping that a book of recipes will be published in due course! I noted that the camp coped very well with the special dietary requirements of two of the guests..
The safari drives were brilliant. Our guide, Thabo, was excellent, with an enthusiasm for his country and all of its wildlife. With him, we had our best elephant encounters of the holiday, but felt very safe because it was obvious that he understood the behaviour of these, and the other animals, and would do nothing to upset them or to put us at risk.
We liked the completely open vehicles, and could see the tracker and guide working very closely together - locating animals from the smallest clue. Although it had been a very wet season, and animals were perhaps slower than usual in retuning to this area, we saw a lot, including a herd of 60 elephants and one of 200 buffalo. There were also large quantites of hippo, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, antelope (including sable) and we had a very good sighting of two spotted hyenas. The bird life was very good, the highlights had to be a brilliant sychronised rolling display by two lillac breasted rollers, and a pied kingfisher that managed to swallow a fish as big as iteself - even Thabo didn't think it would manage it.
Our only regret was that we hadn't taken a tape recorder with us, it would have been good to capture the sounds of Africa - especially those of the nearby Hippos.
All the stalff at the lodge made us very welcome, and we enjoyed the ambience and the relaxed but busy routine of our holiday there.
Remoteness at its best
This camp is being renovated in April and the current manager is retiring, so comments might not be helpful. Nonetheless, all of our experiences here were top-notch with the possible exception of the tents. They were of three large rooms which seemed dark and cavernous and simply didn't allow a breeze. If the heavy brush to either side of the bedroom were thinned, a breeze might be possible; and of course, a fan would help.
We prefer vehicles with canopies, but all the game drives were rewarding. We saw wild dogs, for instance.
As an aside, Lebala afforded us with one of those unpredictable experiences sometimes encountered when traveling: the Lebala airstrip had been under water for a month due to excessive rains when our visit was scheduled. Many of the tracks were flooded as well. Consequently, we were flown into the neighboring airstrip (Lagoon) and had a 3-hour game drive to and from the camp.