Reviews of Kwara Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Kwara Camp review
The management of this lodge is very poor. On arrival the manager seemed disinterested and stiff. The relief manager (PJ) who arrived the next day was an improvement. We lost part of our evening game drives on two evenings, the second being 2/3rds of the drive's time, because of late arrivals. This is acceptable on the first day but the result of unacceptably bad organisation of guest groupings when it recurs a second time.
Jacob was an excellent guide whose efforts were badly let down by this bad organisation.
During the 3 days we saw impala, tsetsebe, reedbuck, red lechwe, sable antelope, warthog, jackal, hyena, a lion, hippo, a large 70 strong herd of elephant, buffalo and numerous birds. The highlight was tracking a cheetah searching for and calling for his brothers to his reunion with one.
On our third evening our trip to the heronry was marred by a violent and overhead thunderstorm with heavy hail causing hippos and elephant to be very nervous. We question whether we should have been on the water in those conditions, though Jacob handled the situation very well, reading and responding to the intentions of the animals accurately
Expert Africa comments
Kwara Camp has apologised for the frustration and disappointment these guests felt during their stay. This was caused by a lack of communication between the existing and relief managers which manifested into bad organisation of transfers and game drives. The camp has assured us that they have learnt from this experience which will help them avoid any similar issues in the future. By way of apology, compensation for the disrupted activity has been offered to these travellers.
Josie was my number one camp manager, all the staff and guides out performed to the very high standard expected.Read more about the whole safari
Kwara - Wide ranging Activities
Before coming to Kwara Camp per se, we have a couple of general observations about Kwando Safaris which apply equally to the third and last lodge at which we stayed, Lebala (also controlled by Kwando). Both revolve around transport (on which basis alone we have marked down otherwise good to excellent 'facilities' in both Kwara and Lebala).
First, Kwando's vehicles - both jeeps and boats - were, during our eight days staying at their lodges, subject to what we regard (based on several years of experience on safari) as an unusually large number of mechanical breakdowns. At Kwara, our jeep broke down terminally on two out of our six game drives (despite being a replacement for one which had broken down just before we arrived); other guests suffered similarly during our stay there. And the boat engine (which we understood to have been out of action just before we arrived there) broke down the day after we had taken the trip to the heronry. Sadly, such a record of mechanical failings can detract somewhat from the overall experience; and yet our impression was that the camp staff who were having to deal with this on a day-to-day basis may not have been getting as much support from HQ to come up with lasting solutions as one might reasonably have expected.
Second, we were surprised in this day and age of greater awareness of the risks of skin cancer that, as a matter of company policy, Kwando's land vehicles do not have shade from the sun . Our concern over this was compounded at Lebala by the camp's airstrip having been out of commission since the start of the year necessitating a 90-minute-plus journey between the camp and a neighbouring camp's airstrip, often in the middle of the day. While we understand that there are arguments in favour of open vehicles (eg for bird watching), we at least have certainly found significant advantages in canvas tops in terms of guest comfort and no compelling disadvantages (underlined by our experience at Mapula where the vehicles are covered).
That being said, we would underline that our overall experience at Kwara camp was excellent (as indicated above). The camp has new top managers in Diner and Dit and they seem to us to have gotten off to a terrific start, creating a very positive and friendly ambiance in a relaxed atmosphere. The semi-spontaneous singing and dancing which the staff organised on the Sunday evening is indicative of a happy camp in which staff and guests are at ease individually and with one another. Based on our experience, we commend highly the way in which Kwara is being run.
We also had the benefit of a first class guide (David) and tracker (Justice) team who are extremely knowledgeable of the range of micro-environments - deep water, shallow water, bush - which Kwara offers. Highlights here included elephants, sable antelope, lions, cheetahs, serval and genet cats, and side-striped jackal. We very much enjoyed the boat trip to the heronry which was the centre-piece of a strong four days for birders.
We again had a most enjoyable makoro experience followed by a very interesting bush walk. As with the other two camps in which we stayed we very much liked the approach of rolling the afternoon game drive into a pre-dinner night drive.
Overall, therefore, despite our reservations about transport we really enjoyed our stay at Kwara and have no hesitation recommending the camp to others.
Kwara Camp review
Very friendly staff made our stay at Kwara so enjoyable. We liked having a guide allocated to us for the duration of our stay and eating at a big table with the other guests and some of the staff. Log fire and hot water bottles helped to stave off the night-time cold.Read more about the whole safari
Kwara Camp review
A mixture of good, some excellent, and poor makes our scoring below mostly average for a camp of this type.
There were problems with some aspects of the accommodation and service: the loo was broken and the first attempt to fix it was not successful, not aided by a communication mix up between the managers; the water in our room should have been replenished daily but was not.
Got off to a bad start because the boat to collect us from Xakanaka was 2 hours late: Grant contacted the Kwara Maun office and, after they had radioed the camp, was told that the boat had left when it hadn't. Another plus for Grant for staying until the boat did come.
The managers who are leaving at the end of June had perhaps lost their drive: we had a sense of the managing of the camp needing tightening up and that the incoming manager, who we met, would make a difference. We make these remarks with a full appreciation that we were in Africa and acknowledge the difficulties that can arise. But, apart from the guiding, which is, of course, most important, Kwara did not stand up to comparison with other camps/lodges we've been to in Botswana and Tanzania.
For us, having been on a mokoro with Grant, the very limited mokoro trip was too inactive and stretched out. The motor boat trip was worth while. The saving grace was that the guiding was excellent: it certainly helps having a tracker/spotter as well as the driver, especially at night. A highlight was the night sighting of serval.
Expert Africa comments
The ‘Grant’ referred to above was their guide at Santantadibe Camp – where they stayed before transferring to Kwara, and clearly enjoyed immensely.
Kwara Camp review
We were pleasantly surprised by Kwara. The setting was excellant - a wooded area by a hippo lagoon.The rooms and facilities at Kwara were much better than we expected. Whilst not exactly "luxurious" the tent was extremely comfortable and pleasant and very private being high up on stilts with views over the plains.
We had good game sightings from our terrace and also had five elephants outside the tent one evening eating the trees. This was a little scary but very exciting and we watched them for some time before they moved on to the next copse and tent. There were also hyenas who regularly raided the kitchen and on our last evening, a lioness waiting outside camp as if expecting tit bits!!
Guiding was slightly disappointing. I think we were unlucky in that we were assigned a new guide who seemed to have a fixation on lion kills! There was interaction with the other guides though and we did see lots of game although this involved some very tiring long drives over really awful tracks. The vehicles used were South African Uris which were not suitable for the sandy terrain and these made the drives arduous rather than enjoyable. We enjoyed the mokoro trip...quite an experience...and the double decker boat trip at sundown.
In general, the staff were lovely and there was a very relaxed atmosphere but little attention to detail and service. However, the food was good and several guests had been time and time again.
We did get to see Little Kwara (which had been our preferred choice) and yes, it was more luxurious but game drives were the same as Kwara so I don't think we missed out that much as our main aim was to see game!!
Overall, Kwara was OK.
My favorite camp thus far
We spent three nights at this camp which was the perfect length as we got to unpack a bit and rest up in between the travelling. Our guide Donald was very knowledgeable and thorough in teaching and answering questions. Our tracker was JD who was very very good. They were the best I had in the three camps that I visited.
We were lucky to see wild dogs, leopard, pride of lions and the female lions too. The game drives were chilly in the mornings and evenings but very productive and exciting. Dinner and desserts were so good especially after a tiring evening of tracking animals.
Our tent (I believe it's #3) did get a bit too hot during the afternoon to be able to fall asleep. There were also a lot of bees that joined us during afternoon tea which were a bit scary as i learned that they can get aggressive. At night, it gets really cold. Even the extra blankets did not keep us warm enough. More insulation for the tent will be super helpful as it makes getting up at 6am a bit easier.
The water was also a bit yellowish-brown and some times way too hot. The water pressure in the shower was a bit low and the hot water knob gets so hot that you can easily get burned. Also, the insect killer spray "Doom" used at all the camps doesn't work. The bugs only get wet but don't die. I suggest they buy a different brand like Raid that does work.
Lions at Kwara Camp
Game drives by our guide Donald and tracker TJ were excellent, a huge variety of animals were seen including a night hunt with lions. Other actiivies included fishing and Mokoro however due to long grass a walking was unavailable. The food, the friendlyness of staff were excellent.
There were too many sorries due to housekeeping errors, unfilled water, promise of water bottles but not put in, room being prepared for new visitors when we were not leaving therefore the room not being available whilst it was being put back to original state, laundry then being returned wet due to error of room being vacated, being told that room would be put back to original state and that laundry would be dried but when told room okay to go back to, bed had not been returned to original state and laundry still there wet.
This did not retract from our stay we still loved the camp, it just reduced our opinion from excellent to good.
Good for hippos
The camp was very well integrated into its surroundings, and accomodation, food and service were excellent. The managers and all the staff made us very welcome. Siesta times were spent on our verandah watching the grazing hippos. To be recommended!
During the first evening drive we witnessed two cheetah kills and one lion kill. Dinner for us was a little late that evening! We were impressed by the skill of the guides in following the hunting animals, but in a non-intrusive way. The animals were not bothered by our presence - confirmed by a vet in our party - and all the guides were careful not to interfere with the hunts - switching lights off at critical times so that we did not influence the outcome - by blinding the prey, for example. Our guide, David, was also aware that not all guests would want to witness the kill or the aftermath, and we were given the choice.
The other drives were also very enjoyable.. We had very good viewings of many animals, including lions and cheetahs again. The boat trip was delightful, and it was great to enjoy our sundowner in the middle of a large African lake, watched by a few hippos. The mokoro trip was great, so peaceful, and having heard the calls of the painted reed frog, it was great to see them, and marvel at how such a small creature could make so much noise.
Very good range of gaming activities
Both waterborne and land animal and bird expeditions were well conducted by skilled staff who responed readily to customer requests.
Food was good if somewhat unimaginative (and the meat was usually over-cooked)