Reviews of Camp Kwando
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Expect little and you won't be disappointed.
+9In contrast to The Garden Lodge this camp was one of our less enjoyable experiences.
We arrived at lunchtime hot and tired.Tea was ordered for us but after a considerable wait we were brought strong coffee. Although I was assured that the kitchen staff were aware that I am vegetarian, I was served meat at each meal.
We booked a morning game drive, and after travelling 15 minutes the driver was called back to camp as the manager had forgotten to tell the driver there were another four guests booked on it. We were allowed extra time to compensate and it was a very good drive. John, the driver, who also doubled as the waiter and barman, was a very competent guide. However, on returning to camp, the six of us sat down at table together for lunch.
My order of cheese and tomato toastie and tea arrived as ham, cheese and tomato with a good deal of raw carrot chunks, and coffee, which I sent back. By the time my meal arrived I was eating alone as everyone else had finished. At dinner, having been served meat yet again,the plate was taken away and returned only with the meat removed, leaving just rice, carrots and green beans. All of which are very nice but make a very unexciting meal.
In my opinion the camp needs more enthusiastic management and certainly supervision.
Great Lodge. Shame about the Management
We went to Camp Kwando with some reservations as we had read adverse reviews about it. We determined to keep an open mind but soon had to agree with what has already been said.
The camp is beautiful and in a fabulous spot overlooking the Kwando River. We were met by the receptionist, Constance, who showed us to our tree house and explained about the generator and meal times. No offers to help with our luggage were made (up some very steep stairs). We asked if we could join an evening activity and she said we could go on the boat in half an hour. As we were rushing to shower and change she came back and said we couldn`t go as it was full and the game drive had already gone. The first time we have ever been refused an evening activity, ever, in a camp.
At no time did a member of the management staff ever approach us to introduce themselves or enquire if everthing was OK. There seemed to be little communication between the African staff and the white management. The African staff were willing but had limited English so requests were not passed on.
As the guests moved from the bar to the dining room the managers would then have their drinks and as we came to the end of our meal so they would come to their exclusive table in the dining room. At no time were we asked if we wished to sit with other people and when we requested it one mealtime it seemed to put them out.
We were introduced to the game guide, John, (by another guest) ,who doubled as the barman. We said how much we were looking forward to the morning game drive with him. However in the morning he left wthout us and another couple because of misinformation from a manager.
We have never stayed in a lodge or a camp where the managers took so little notice of the guests and everone commented on it.To the end of our stay we had no idea of their names or function and some of them would pass by on the path and ignore us. It reminded us of a stay in a big city hotel. Not what you expect in a small game lodge.
One last point We felt that in a lodge of this quality a bedside light would have been nice. We feel that Kwando has great potential with a different management style.
A room in the river!
On arrival we found that we were booked into two seperate tents far from each other. The manager was not expecting the children to be so young and had not been informed at the booking stage. The camp manager realised that the tents allocated were not suitable and moved us to the family chalet. However, as he said at the time, this chalet was affected by the unusually high river level the camp was experiencing and so only one bathroom could be used (several other tents on the river front had been abandoned altogether because of water level problems) and the chalet had to be accessed by a sand bag 'stepping stone' walkway. The single bathroom was not a problem for us although a curtain on the bathroom window would have been good as this was overlooked by the tents behind us - we had to improvise a 'bathmat curtain' ourselves. There was also no light in the bathrooms - only light spilling in from the main room (not great for midnight toilet calls!).
The activities offered were good - we did the sundowner river cruise and a safari into Mudumu National Park. The park was disappointing in terms of wildlife seen - just a few warthogs, zebra and impala. The riverside location again was great - with hippos, a variety of frogs and other wildlife very audible at night. The food and service in the dining room/bar was good with a good selection of items available at the breakfast buffet and breakfast cooked to order. The dinner menu was whatever the cook decided for that evening, but both meals we had were filling and delicious. We had the opportunity to meet the Swiss owner on our second night who had come to stay with her family. She made a point of talking to us as we had small children, asking us about our stay, explaining the river level problems - and made us feel welcome.
In hindsight, we probably could have done the drive from Divundu to Katima without breaking the journey here and had more time in other locations. There seemed less to do in this area than the Divundu/Bagani area and the wildlife we encountered had been seen elsewhere.
Wonderful location, poor service
Camp Kwando was a very disappointing camp. It is a beautiful spot and has enormous potential but the service had 'gone to absolute pot'. Our understanding is that the manager has changed recently and about ten days ago all the good staff walked out. Other than the guide Yilly the others hadn't a clue. Here is a list of the little things that add up to a very bad impression:
This was the only lodge that did not greet us with a welcome drink, in fact we arrived and Ramona said welcome I will explain everything and kept us standing while she told us how the place operated, namely electricity only on at 10 am off at 1pm then on 6-9. Water on at 6am off later in the morning back on at 6pm off later. So you cannot really have hot water and electricity at the same time when you need it.
She then tried to take us to the ordinary chalets and we had to insist on the Treehouses that we had booked.
Our Treehouse had no bedside lights so when the electricity was on we had to switch the lights off the other side of the room. There was no alternative lighting (most lodges give torches when there is limited electricity - obviously we had our own but shouldn't have needed to at a so called good lodge.)
Our room was also missing a curtain over the door which was at the side, so when one of the staff wandered up to the lodge there was no privacy and on one occasion we were both changing. We were told that the curtain had been stolen from the laundry but as there was no curtain rail that was a lie.
Our friend's room had no bath plug, we were told this was stolen as well.
You couldn't drink the water but we were not provided with water in the room.
The beds were never turned down and there were certainly none of the niceties evident at other lodges such as hot water bottles, notes or sweets on the beds. Similarly the covers on the windows were not rolled up or down as you might expect.
The food was not very good, one bizarre example was a stuffed savoury pancake which had sugar in the pancake batter! More importantly while there, one of our party became ill and because of the nature and speed of his symptoms and the fact that other people in the camp were ill we are pretty sure it was food poisoning.
The serving staff had very poor English and it was difficult to order anything special (or even a glass of wine)
The timing of breakfast was poor so a seven o'clock breakfast on our last day was not laid out at all until 7.20 and when our order for eggs was taken it came back wrong.
Overall I would say the place is about to implode. We did talk to both the so called manager and the owner who was there. I am not sure they really understood or listened. However, again I would stress that the guide was very good and he rescued the situation for us, otherwise it would have been a really bad stay and the only one that was three nights.
Expert Africa comments
We put these comments to Johan Liebenberg, the owner of Camp Kwando, who was very upset that these clients did not enjoy their stay here. He felt that there were faults from Camp Kwando’s side; he wanted to apologise that there where no welcome drinks and no bath plug.
Camp managers do change periodically, but given that the owner and assistant manager at this time (Johan and Ramona) were the same team who were here when Tracy, from Expert Africa, visited in September 2006 … we haven’t noted this as an issue here.
We are sorry that there was a communication error on the room type booked here. We had a Tree-house confirmed to us, but Camp Kwando had a chalet allocated by the reservations staff. We are investigating this at the moment to find out where the miscommunication occurred.
Like many camps in Africa, Camp Kwando informs guests, when they arrive, about how the lodge runs; about hot water, electricity, meal times, and things like that. This is an important briefing, although we are sorry that these clients were kept standing for it. We’d recommend that they ask to sit down and for a drink.
Camp Kwando is 140km from mains electricity and fuel is driven 280km for their generator. Like many remote camps, electricity runs for only a few hours every day. However, the generator runs from 10am to 1pm, and again from 6pm to 10pm. There is also hot water in the morning from 6am to 10am, and the lodge makes a fire again for hot water at 5pm, so that guests can shower until late evening.
All the staff at Camp Kwando are local – and we applaud this. Eight years ago, most of Camp Kwando’s staff did not know about taps or light switches, and certainly didn’t speak English. Now the camp relies on their skills; they generally communicate well in English, although it isn’t perfect – so we’re sorry that these travellers experienced language difficulties.
We were sorry that one of this party became ill during their trip, although we understand that one of them had an upset stomach when they arrived at Camp Kwando. Whilst such upsets are thankfully rare for our trips in Africa, they do occur – although in our experience, cases like this aren’t usually because of ‘food poisoning’ (ie: incorrectly stored or cooked food); they’re usually down to poor hygiene. Camp Kwando assure us that they maintain high standards of hygiene throughout their kitchen and lodge. Whatever the cause; we’re sorry it impacted on their trip.
Johan and Ramona felt that they, and Camp Kwando’s staff, had tried hard to help these travellers when problems were raised, but he commented about these travellers that “when you are so unhappy, nothing in the world will help.”
We’re sorry that this was the case, but are reassured by Johan – as we believe that he has learnt valuable lessons for the future from this episode.
NICE CAMP. PITY ABOUT THE MANAGEMENT.
We felt we were interupting the managements holiday !! The "local black" staff were brilliant. David the guide and the girls etc. The 4 "Managers" 3 guys and a girl were not interested. Only Ely the guide introduced himself, took us a 2 hour boat trip...very informative but smoked all the way !! Not usual when guiding guests...Really strange behaviour by these 4. We had to go and find them and ask everything..time of dinner etc. When we went to have a drink and dinner they sat together drinking, just said Hi and then carried on with their chat. We had no drink, nowhere visible to sit only at a dining table as they were at the only "lounge table" and only 4 chairs.
Even when I went to ask about a drink they never got up, just called a girl from the kitchen so we sat at one of the tables set for dinner and had an early night. They obviously ate later at the other table..Same thing on the second night after our trip out with David. He walks for 3 hrs. to be at work for 8am. and leaves at 5 pm. for his 3 hr. walk home ! Some of the girls also have over an hours walk to and from the camp. We gave a lift to a couple while the Managers did ???
The "main " guy spoke only on the morning we were leaving as they had trouble trying to get the Debit card to go through..Really rude and obviously don't care about the Staff or visitors. Does the owner know what goes on ? or do they come to life when there's a few more guests ?
Expert Africa comments
We put these comments to Lee, Camp Kwando’s manager, who appreciated the feedback, and apologised that these travellers felt that their stay was just ‘average’ – as he aims for much better.
Lee tells us that the team member who shows new guests to their rooms usually follows a ‘set procedure’ to explain to the guests their meal times, activities, and how the camp is run – and there’s always a chance for questions. He’s not sure why these travellers seem not to have had this, and hence why they didn’t know how the place worked. Whatever the reason, he’s sorry that this was the case.
He tells us that the management and staff here normally make a point of leaving the guests alone, without interrupting them. He’s sorry that these guests perceived their ‘hands-off’ approach to guests as being indifference – and assures us that this isn’t the case.
Lee explained to us that his team all have different duties – and that’s why a member of the bar staff was called from the kitchen to make a drink. The guide, Eli, introduced himself during dinner because one of his duties is to find out what activities each guest would like to do during the next day.
Lee was also sorry that these travellers felt that they didn’t have anywhere relaxing to sit. He commented that the camp usually accommodates up to 30 people, so there are a number of places to sit around the lodge. Our two travellers were the only people in camp at the time, and he’s sorry that they felt there was no space for them in the lounge. That said, he has discussed this with his team, and reminded them that they should vacate seats when guests come through.
Lee was appalled to learn that the guide, Eli, had smoked on an activity with guests; he agrees that this is totally unacceptable, and he has “dealt with it accordingly”.
Getting staff to camp for work can often be an issue in Africa. Lee explained to us that Camp Kwando doesn’t have the resources to provide transport to and from work for all of its staff, and that some, like the guide John (not David – there’s been a mix-up with names here), do live two hours’ walk away. They assure us that the situation is clear when people apply for jobs with the camp.
Lee told us that their policy was to lay on transport when it is raining heavily, or for any staff that work late – and that the small ‘night shift’ is always taken home after work. (In this case, for example, these travellers returned late to the lodge after their afternoon drive, and hence the manager drove John home.) We realise that such a long walk may seem (and probably is) difficult … but we’re pleased to hear that this lodge has a clear policy, which is broadly similar to many safari lodges.
Lee apologised if he, or anyone else in his team, seemed rude then these travellers checked out. He was disturbed by this comment, as he feels that he and his team do care about both their staff and guests alike. He was at pains to advise us that whilst Camp Kwando does aim to leave guests to themselves, he and his team aren’t unfriendly – and would always like to be viewed as approachable.