Reviews of Camp Kalahari
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
MY BOTSWANA: CAMP KALAHARI
Camp Kalahari reminded me of Hemingway's Botswana and I was very pleased that I decided to stay there. The food was to my liking and the staff were friendly and helpful.
The herds of zebra and wildebeste outnumbered all other animals but on our evening drive in the moonlight we saw spring hares, cape hares, black backed jackals, an owl, an aardvark and a steenbok which everyone found very satisfying. On one daytime drive we saw a couple of ostriches in the distance but this was the only time I saw them during the whole time I was in Botswana. During the night there was a huge outcry as a lion tried to get into the horses' enclosure....who can blame him for thinking it would be a quick and easy meal.
The early morning visit to the meerkat burrows was charming and I believe I am right in saying everyone enjoyed it. We arrived as they began emerging from their burrows and when one sat on my knee I decided it smelt of marmite! A staff member has been appointed to stay around the meerkats' territory all day and every day so that they are used to 'us humans' and do not consider us a threat.
I did not join the Bush Walk but was surprised at the number of Bush people that arrived for the walk which included men, women, children and babies. I also did not participate in the quad bike drive because I had no time left, however afterwards I wished that I had.
Excellent start to our safari
We loved this camp and found the staff all very friendly, efficient, caring and knowledgeable. Ossy, our young guide, was excellent and we learnt a great deal from him about the animals and birds in the area. Highlights included seeing brown hyena, walking with the meerkats and visiting the National Park, where we saw part of the second largest migration of zebra and wildebeest, and a lioness with her cub and a freshly killed zebra. Particularly magical was sitting far out into the salt pan watching the sunset, before returning to Ossy and our vehicle, where he told his about the evolution of the delta and the pan. We also enjoyed the opportunity to meet the bushmen, and to learn something about their traditional way of life
Food was excellent, service was impeccable and we enjoyed the singing and dancing of the staff, in which we participated enthusiastically if not necessarily proficiently! The rooms were well appointed and comfortable.
We enjoyed the opportunity to see some animals with which we were not familiar, e.g. springhares, porcupine and to start our extensive list of bird sightings. The night drives with the spotlight showed us that nocturnal animals were plentiful in this area
Just what I wanted
I did several habituated Meerkat Mobs, some night viewing, and brown Hyena cubs.Read more about the whole safari
Camp Kalahari review
I was a little concerned about the quad biking. Why would I want to quad bike I asked myself? My fears were completely unfounded. It is the only way to get into the centre of the salt pans. Without this you wouldn't for example see the pans themselves or have the opportunity to look for arrowheads used by ancient man. There are literally dozens of these lying barely covered in the pans. There has been reference to the lack of helmets. Helmets are provided for all guests.
The guide was a specialist zoologist with extraordinary knowledge. Nothing was too much trouble for him to explain. he was simply one of the best guides I have come across anywhere in the world.
Our encounter with bushmen was a fabulous experience. It was all so natural and not a "Disney type" staged outing
The Lodge was very well managed and hosted
Camp Kalahari review
Visiting the Meerkats was fascinating, all that I had hoped for.
Visiting the group of Bushmen was just an ok experience.
Like coming home - 2nd visit for us
Love this camp. The new tented camps on stilts were awesome. However was the best of all the locations.
All the activities are fun and Bart was a superb guide.
Loved our visits with he meerkats again and Bart's knowledge of the area.
The staff at the camp was great, especially our guide Bones. The food was very good. Enjoyed the ATV quad ride and Bones made an effort to heighten the experience with our "flying on the Pans." We especially enjoyed the Meerkats which were a wonderful experience.
While we had been warned in advance about the "surprise" night on the Pans by Expert Africa, I still think the camp should tell people in advance. I wear contact lenses and because there was no advisement on which night this surprise would occur, I could not plan. Same holds true as I, and others we were traveling with, take medication and we had no time to prepare to take it with us. For us these reasons and the cold, we opted not to participate. For others who don't have these issues, I think it would be a great experience.
Expert Africa comments
We forwarded these client's comments on to Camp Kalahari who came back to us with the following reply:
"Thank you very much for the feedback sent through below and we are so happy these guests had a wonderful time at Camp Kalahari.
Generally on arrival guests are taken to their tents, and when they are being shown around they do get asked to please pack medication and nightly necessities into a specific draw - so that when it is time for the sleep out the staff know to take all the stuff in that specific draw with them to the fly camp and then guests will be well prepared for the sleep out."
We're sorry to read that on this occasion there seems to have been a breakdown in communication between the camp and these guests. Camp Kalahari have assured us that they are looking into what went wrong and that they will do their best to prevent similar oversights happening in the future.
Camp Kalahari - at your own risk
We spent two nights at Camp Kalahari as part of a self drive holiday. We were met at Plant Baobab and driven to camp. Initially everything was fine.
The camp itself is spacious, with reasonably well equipped family tents and a nicely laid out central area where everyone eats together. The location is fabulous, some distance from the main road or any other habitation. The surrounding area has a varied desert landscape, vegetation and wildlife, creating plenty of opportunities for interesting and informative walks or drives.
The daily format is simple, groups of up to eight or nine per vehicle with a guide undertake activities together. We asked about the itinerary on arrival and were pleased enough to be told that we would do a few drives and go-karting on the second day. Before the karting our enquiry about crash helmets was deflected with a request to bring a cloth to wrap around our heads to help keep our hair clean! Safety goggles to keep the dust out of our eyes? No luck there either. If we wanted to go karting it was clearly at our own risk.
We were given a time to meet, but left 30 minutes late. The guide stopped repeatedly, dismissed requests to get us to the karts and we eventually started karting an hour late. No big deal except that it was now clear that we would be driving at night and return later than originally understood. We arrived at the end of the karting route with about a minute to prepare to watch the sun go down. We then spent 30 minutes contemplating the vastness of the desert - great except that it was cold. On the way back we stopped to visit an "archaeological team" - which was actually the bar from camp reconstructed in the desert. After another round of misleading information we found that we were eating in the open. Also great if its summer but we had gone karting with the expectation that we would be back at camp to prepare for dinner, change, sort out warmer clothing etc, not spend the evening in the cold. Then yet another round of misinformation about 'fossil beds' which as a geologist I was intrigued by, apart from the fact that it was dark, which turned out to be a set of beds constructed in the open with the expectation what we would sleep out overnight. This 'surprise' was welcomed by some but not all. Even though this appears to be a routine, the camp staff did not have a simple process to make clear this offer was a choice and to help confirm who wanted to do what and then get other people back to camp. More time in the cold. Two of us returned arriving at camp about 2 hours after our holiday bed time. Again, not an issue for some but we were travelling the next day and a good nights sleep would have helped.
It is clear that some people enjoy the 'surprise' element of camping at Kalahari. Personally I do not go on holiday to be lied to, to be misled, and ultimately to be left in a situation that might endanger life. One of our family who stayed overnight has a nut allergy. The camp was aware of this, but at breakfast the team in the desert could not confirm whether or not the food contained nuts.
The last morning demonstrated the limitations of the managements capabilities. We had discussed and confirmed a departure time, twice. On our return to the camp we were then told that the vehicle that was taking us to Planet Baobab had no fuel and so had gone to Jack's camp to refuel. This camp had a year's notice of our booking and had driven us around for two days in a vehicle that had 1/4 of a tank before realising that they could not perform the contract. We left over an hour later than intially agreed. We arrived too late to do anything at our next stop. Lucky we were not catching a plane that day.
Overall, great location, interesting place but one of the worst experiences I have had on holiday.
Expert Africa comments
Whilst these travellers enjoyed the location and surroundings of Camp Kalahari, there were clearly some elements of the service and activities that they did not enjoy. We have all learnt something from their feedback, and in particular the following points have been noted.
The Uncharted Africa camps (Camp Kalahari, San Camp and Jacks Camp) have been operating the quad bike activities in the area since the early 90s without incident and they have assured Expert Africa that they conduct these activities in a safe manner. The excursion is done at a measured pace and follows a lead guide. That ensures that the bikes dont go fast and are always ridden in an easily controllable manner. The guide leading the tour generally keeps to specific tracks and the area is largely flat and free of other traffic. The cloth offered to wrap around your head is to provide some protection from the dust. It is felt by Uncharted Africa that goggles arent needed as each bike keeps enough distance from each other to avoid most of the dust, and they believe that goggles may alter participants impression of the view and landscape.
Having said that, it is important that we let travellers considering visits to these camps know that helmets wont be provided for the quad-biking excursions. We have now added this information to our literature, and will also make sure to inform people verbally of the situation too.
The team at Camp Kalahari have apologised to these guests for a communication error over the meeting time. The meeting time for each afternoon excursion is usually set at 3.30pm with the idea that guests gather to have afternoon tea before departing on the excursion at 4pm.
With regards to the slow journey to the starting point of the quad biking excursion, Camp Kalahari explained that in their desert location, they come across animals and other sightings of interest less regularly than elsewhere in Botswana's reserves. Therefore, when something interesting is spotted, the guide has been trained to seize the opportunity to inform guests of the fauna or flora, especially as it might be something guests wouldn't necessarily see during any other part of their trip. It may have been that the guide spoke for a while on something that was of less interest to the vehicle passengers, and there is a lesson that has been learnt there on trying to better judge such a situation.
Camp Kalahari apologised to these guests that felt lied to and mislead. It is definitely not the type of sentiment they wish to create. They say that the activity is done to be a fun surprise and without any real intention to deceive or make guests uncomfortable. Despite that, it is clear that the surprise activity doesn't suit everyone. After further correspondence with Uncharted Africa we now understand that although the sleep out is usually only possible for travellers who spend at least three nights at any of their camps, it might be included for a two night stay too. Now that we understand this more clearly, we will explain the possibility of the sleep out to our travellers when they are considering whether or not to book a stay at Camp Kalahari or one of its sister camps.
Camp Kalahari assures us that the guests nut allergy was catered for. However, there was a lack of communication from the camp kitchen to the sleep out staff about this. Therefore the team arranging the meals at the sleep out were not able to confirm that the food did not contain nuts. They have learnt from this experience.
Camp Kalahari was sorry about the delayed transfer on the last day of these guests stay. The delay was compounded by a problem with the car's ignition. They assure us that they have taken steps to ensure a similar situation doesnt happen again.
The meerkats are always wonderful
I had been to Jack's Camp before and absolutely loved it. Our budget meant we had to choose this less expensive option. It was truly wonderful, and had pretty much everything you would get at Jack's except the museum. We had a great time, our guide was NDabona and he was lovely. We wanted the meerkats twice, and so did the other people there at the time, so we went twice. :) Zack was the manager, and was great as well, again, all the staff were friendly, very helpful and we couldn't have asked for better.
I love the Makgadikgadi and would go back every year if I could afford it. The Uncharted Africa people always capture some kind of magic with their camps. I wish I could afford to go on one of their mobile camps!
Rustic and Peaceful
First stop on our journey proved to proved to provide the most unique experience, the photo-op of an Aardvark at 1566, just minutes after arrival. The beginning of an exciting, mixed wildlife adventure guided by a professional Biologist, Bart.
The eco system is quite unique and fascinating providing a platform for many beautiful birds from the Lilac Breasted Hopper to the Martial Eagle.and mostly smaller mammals. Obviously the Mongoose were a big hit .
The management of Camp was in transition, which was a bit disruptive, however the Chef, Sonya was the best on the trip. Tent was adequate, but extremely cold.The staff were doing the best they could under the circumstances of change.
I would possibly visit again to see this eco system in a different season and sleep on the pans.