Reviews of Somalisa Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
A real experience of life in the bush....
We very much enjoyed the remote location of Somalisa Camp in Hwange NP and have great memories of watching animals at the water-hole and in the vicinity of the camp, as well as during our safari drives into the vast area of Hwange. On so many occasions we enjoyed drinking our morning coffee or having sun-downer drinks with wonderful elephants in close attendance and our guide Mike always seemed to know just the right place to find them - or baboons- or zebra - or ostriches.
Visitors during the winter months need to be well-prepared for cold overnight temperatures, in contrast with warm sunshine during the day, especially when out in safari vehicles early morning or after dark. However at the camp itself the warm log-fire is very cheering and the hot porridge provided for breakfast is most welcome. Beds are comfortable (and included hot-water bottles) but showering arrangements need improvement. Food is good and plentiful and a very congenial atmosphere prevails at meal-times, particularly in the evenings
Somalisa Camp has seen better days
Our driver Victor from Victoria Falls Tour Link was great in getting us through the Police road blocks between Victoria Falls and Main Camp at Hwange National Park. I can not say the same for the men that picked us up from African Bush Camps Somalisa Camp. We were stuffed into the back seat of an old land rover, windows only partially working, with part of our luggage. The two camp employees had the front seats fully extended backwards so that we had less leg room than on an airplane. The employees proceeded to chat and regale one another for the two hours of the trip. We finally had to interupt and request a stop to get out of the car and stretch our legs.
Upon arriving at Somalisa we were warmly greeted by Shane, Johnny, Sandra, and Nick. We never saw Johnny or Nick again, and Sandra left the next day; so although Shane took excellent care of us they seemed to be short handed. That being said, for two days all the guests in camp toured in one safari vehicle, seven of us, a bit crowded to say the least. Obviously there was not other driver/guide for us in camp.
The safari drives had a limited area to roam in and they tended to be repetitive, the same waterholes morning and evening. Michael was really into tracking lions and wasn't too interested in stopping for us to photograph other animals.
On the morning of our departure, about halfway into our two hour return to Main Camp our safari vehicle broke down. After about a half hour a vehicle from another camp came by and offered to help with repairs. After another half hour a supply truck from our camp came by an took us on to the pick up point. Break downs can happen anywhere. I think the age and run down condition of the vehicles at Somalisa camp was a major contributing factor.
There is a bright spot. On our final evening Shane had organized a lamp-lite dinner on the deck beside the pool and in the full moon elephants came and drank from the pool as we were sitting there, truly magic. Well done Shane!!!
Somalisa Camp review
Our first camp ever, nice people and quality tents.Read more about the whole safari
Somalisa Camp review
The camp was a great experience.
Excellent staff and guides. The elephants drinking y the pool in the afternoon and right before dinner was a very unique experience. Once we got used to scheduling the hot water for the overhead bucket shower, it was great.
Somalisa Camp Review
A few ragged edges did not serious distract from what was a very enjoyable stay.
Excellent and friendly upper echelon staff. Mike was a brilliant guide. All were very accommodating.
Hwange Park is a bit challenged for wildlife due to limited water. Consequently, the park might not be the best choice for a first visit to Africa. Unless one wants a bush camp experience as opposed to the more usual lodges. Then, it's excellent.
Very peaceful, too. You can design what you do to get all the rest you want.
We're definitely planning on go back fairly soon.
Somalisa Camp review
We stayed at the smaller, Somalisa Acacia camp which backs onto the larger, original site. We were given the family room which had two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Wonderful beds and duvets, and bathrobes were provided but out of four nights, we had no water (except a dribble) for two nights and hot water on only one of the other two nights.
Food would have been given a "good" score but the kitchen was at the main site so the hot food was warm at best and the sorbet was a puddle. I understand that a new kitchen for Somalisa Acacia is planned. However, the recipes were good and Smart, our chef, passed one on to me which I plan to make and serve to my family - hot!
Whilst the huge herds of elephant and buffalo are incredible to see around Somalisa, the driving is limited in area so the same waterholes were driven to on a repetitive basis.
So So Somalisa
Somalisa Acacia is a new addition to the main camp and we were lucky to have it to ourselves along with the Baileys. This made for a very private experience. However it is some distance from the main camp kitchen which has its own problems. Food was often luke warm and service was somewhat slow. We were looked after by Betha who we feel requires more training. Dudley was good guide but as he was also camp manager his duties meant he had no time to recharge himself between game drives.
The brand new tents were excellent but our bathroom area needed further screening for complete privacy. The wasbasin and wc could be seen from the mess tent. This was mentioned to Dudley but was not resolved during our stay.
It was great to see huge herds of elephant, buffalo and zebra. Big cat viewing was limited to one brief and distant sighting at dusk. As the concession is quite small the game drives were routine and repetitive. Not much guiding was required.
First stop - Somalisa Camp
Having arrived in the dark it was good to see such an interesting location on the first morning. The close proximity of the water hole to our tent made for excellent game viewing, especially of the huge number of elephants that came on a daily basis to wallow and play. It was also an enormous privilege to be able to sit in the guests' plunge pool while elephants came and drank from it! To be no more than eight feet from a wild elephant, and at ground level, as it drank was completely mind-blowing and a great photo opportunity.
The tent was comfortable and clean but a little short on storage space for clothes etc. We were consistently unable to get hot water from the shower and wash basin.
House-keeping service was good at all times. Our laundry was completed quickly and efficiently; washing powder was provided for guests to wash their own underwear. General organisation was a bit haphazard and we were never quite sure where we were supposed to be and at what time or who was in overall charge. This wasn't helped by the fact that rather than the six tents we had expected, there were in fact ten, with two separate dining areas and we were never sure which one to go to.
Food was generally excellent with good vegetarian options. There was always plenty of fruit and vegetables.
The only activity available was game - driving within a fairly limited area and we would have liked to walk. We found that the guides were predominantly interested in finding the big cats which, it must be said, were few and far between. There was very little attempt to spot and identify birds and rather too much time was spent driving at speed to possible cat sightings only to find the cats had moved on!
We asked if we could visit the Painted Dog Conservation Centre, having seen at its conception in 2002; we had noticed it on our way to Somalisa and Dudley arranged for us to visit on the way back to Victoria Falls. It was a thrill to see it in operation and to learn that over 6000 children had stayed there since it opened in 2003.
Great for elephants.
We feel that Somalisa is distinctly 'well worn' and that seems to be reflected by the owners who are expanding and updating. Unfortunately we had a tent that wasn't new or modernised even though at least 1 other Expert Africa guests were in a new tent.
For 3 days we had to ask at least twice for the water for our shower even though we had agreed a time; so service didn't overimpress.
We were also unlucky I suppose with game given that we were there for 4 nights and saw no hyena, leopard, rhino, only 1 solitary lioness and only cheetah on our transfer back to V Falls.
There seems to be no flexibility in activities. Every day it's just the same old game drives round the same roads at the same times. Compared to our other camps and previous safaris we were not hugely impressed with the quality of guiding although the 2 guides we had were both knowledgeable and pleasant.
Expert Africa comments
Expert Africa passed these comments to Beks, the owner of African Bush Camps who own Somalisa Camp. He thanked these travellers for their feedback and explained that on the days that these travellers were staying at Somalisa, the camp had experienced 10 days of wildfires which nearly destroyed the camp completely. Many of the staff and management left the camp to help fight the fires which resulted in the camp being short staffed and limited the game drive routes and wildlife experience.
Beks regrets that these travellers’ visit coincided with the period of fires that disrupted the camp’s normal operations. However, the fires are now out, the wildlife has settled and the camp operations have returned to normal.
With regards to the tents – the only difference between the two tents is that Somalisa Acacia’s wash basin and showers are plumbed (because the camp caters mainly for families and groups), whereas Somalisa Camp has bucket showers and unplumbed wash basins.
Somalisa Camp review
The camp felt a bit disorganised (although there was a large bush fire nearby). We did not have a welcome talk so subsequently they did not know when to provide hot water for the bucket shower.
The camp manager/host (I'm not sure what her job title was as she didn't tell us) seemed more interested in entertaining/reminiscing with the (almost) resident wild dog researcher than her paying guests. She was certainly very responsive to demanding Americans, but for us laid back Brits, she did not do much. In fact, whilst broken in a Land Cruiser down at the side of the road, she continued transporting her guests back to camp, without so much as a hint of concern about our situation.