Reviews of Meno A Kwena
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Lovely camp, river view, and San
Meno a Kwena has a lovely location on a high bluff overlooking the Boteti river and the Makgadikgadi National Park. The camp itself is beautifully decorated with wooden trunks, brass and copper wash basins and shower urns, carvings and natural items like skulls and horns. Our tent was roomy with a large covered "veranda" and a very comfortable bed. There was a basin to wash up in on the veranda and a few steps away was the shower and toilet in a charming enclosure built of reeds. The camp is very environmentally conscious and it has no generator. There was plenty of solar lighting in the evening, along with a campfire, and there was a central station for charging our batteries that was more than adequate. Food was good and varied and I was impressed throughout our trip with good variety of vegetables that were served along with meat dishes.
Probably the main attraction at Meno a Kwena was a chance to meet a group of San 'bushmen' (both men and women). They led us on a walk and shared various aspects of their traditional culture with us including a hunting simulation, starting a fire with a drill, some games for both men and women, and how they use various plants (for things from medicine to deodorant). They explained everything in their language (which includes 5 clicking sounds) and one person translated. They tried to teach us a few words but although I could do 4 of the 5 clicks it was still really hard because the clicks are sort of laid on top of other vowel sounds.
This camp was where we saw the most zebras. There is a floating hide on the camp side of the river where we watched zebra and kudu drinking at the river in the evening. There were many elephants too and one afternoon during the "siesta" time a herd crossed the river, taking their time jumping on one another and splashing. We could hear lions at night as they were preying on the zebra that came down to the river to drink. The camp had a pair of night vision goggles for wildlife viewing after dark.
As birders we especially enjoyed seeing a Verreaux's (Giant) Eagle-Owl and its chick and an African Fish-eagle from camp. Some birding highlights on our full-day game drive in the park were a Secretarybird and a Red-crested Koorhan just next to the vehicle as well as a number of Martial Eagles including an adult/juvenile pair "dueling" high above us. An evening boat trip in the river was a great birding opportunity with a special sighting of an African Jacana's nest with 2 very well-camouflaged eggs.
Our only difficulty was that the vehicle that met us in Maun to take us to camp had really seen better days and developed a mechanical problem on the way (the radio started smoking). We did have to wait for a while for alternate transportation but still arrived in time for lunch. I think the transfer staff was more upset than we were.
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Meno A Kwena review
We stopped here for one night, and arrived late (no fault of anyone at this camp) which was a shame as we did not really have a chance to enjoy the camp or surroundings.
I can feedback that this camp is in a great location - we had fabulous views from both tents and from the communal areas. The food was fantastic, as was the open air kitchen.
The camp's attempt to minimise the environmental impact gives one plenty to think about. Seeing someone carry water for your shower helps us appreciate what we take for granted elsewhere.
We spent the evening in the company of a family who did not get clear directions to the camp. We had been sent some very specific details which we followed closely (we also surveyed the route on Google Earth). We had no problem at all. This was helped by having a 4WD.
Mixed impression at Meno A Kwena
The camp is beautiful, everything feels like it has been lovingly and minutely designed - which I suppose it has.
The location struck us as both great and less than ideal. Great, because the camp sits 30m above a river used by lots of animals, allowing for superb game viewing while sitting in the shade with a cold beer. Less than ideal because it takes half an hour by car to get to the start of the actual game drives - not a particularly exciting half hour on the highway, that is.
David Dugmore, the owner and manager of the camp, struck us as rather more interested in his friends than in his guests. While we didn't really expect him to hold our hand all the time we stayed at his camp, it did bother us that we weren't asked what we would like to do, but simply presented with the program - which amounted to one game drive per day. This meant we were back at the camp at around 2.30 one day and around 3.30 the other - and that was it for that day.
We had a little discussion with David about walks. While we agreed that a guide with a gun, but without the proper training, is worse than a guide without a gun, we weren't happy with the idea of going on a walking safari with an unarmed guide. David then told us that, no matter what, the following day the program would be a drive anyway, no walk. And that was that.
Our guide, Max, was superb and equipped with a quirky sense of humor - and apparently the only guide the camp has at the moment. The first day, we drove off at 6am, with the idea of having breakfast in the bush. Which was fine, except for some reason we only had breakfast at 10.45 (our own fault to some degree: we should have piped up, I suppose, instead of just waiting for Max to finally stop for the food).
The second day, we had breakfast in the camp and started the drive at 7.30 - presumably, because it was supposed to be an all-day drive. In retrospect, we don't think this is a good way to organized the day - it's too late to start, and visibly exhausting both for the guide and for us.
Meno A Kwena review
Oh my, what a wonderful place this is and the staff are just as lovely. Ursula is there to develop customer service and is certainly succeding. The promotional material available does not refelct the perfection of this little jewel in Botswana. Without doubt this was the most comfortable bed I slept in on the whole trip. Every artefact is placed to create an atmosphere an ambience that is natural and such a treat for the senses.
I was blessed with being looked after on my safari trips with Max and Steve, what a team. Faultless! Thank you boys for such a fantastic time, I love you both. We saw some fantastic game and a herd of 23 giraffes at one time and a line of 13 bull elephants walking down to the water and then watched them play and frolic. It was absolute heaven.
The communal dinning may not be to everyone's style but I thought it was great because travel is also about meeting new people. The food was amazing and it is served on BIG plates!
I visited the local community project and school with Janaina which was a real treat. Meno A Kwena's whole ethos is to work with the local community through the Water for Life Project so it was important to me to see this first hand. Meeting the four members in the arts and crafts project was great. I have a lovely necklace made for me by Ishmael as a lasting momento.
I wish I had stayed for longer at this camp and definately want to go back again, it felt like home!
Meno A Kwena review
The location is 45 minutes from the main entrance to the park. This meant a long drive just to start game viewing. However, it did give us a good opportunity to the villages and the farms. We would not have seen these otherwise. The accommodation was acceptable but not good. It is very unnerving to walk to the loo in the night. This is totally unacceptable and should be corrected.
The lounge area was very pleasant with an excellent atmosphere. The fact that David was there to talk to was a huge plus!. He should keep his brother, Roger, there as much as possible. There are a great combination of truly authentic safari guides.
Allow us to say that the food was outstanding. It was varied, fresh and expertly cooked. We came to realize just how good the food was when we visited subsequent camps where the food was boring and sometimes poorly cooked. Pity we went to Meno first and not last.
Max, our guide, was fun to be with. He handled both the spotting and the guiding by himself and was excellent at both. We came to wonder later on why the other camps needed 2 people to do these functions.
Superb camp at Meno A Kwena
A very satisfying wilderness experience. We were priveleged to be in accommodation directly above a waterhole giving unusual views of the wildlife from above. There is a roomy hide on the cliff face down a difficult path, (not for the faint hearted) allowing an even better and closer game viewing experience.
Tasty food seved as a buffet but disappointingly for me, chicken curry.
We had a very good,informative guide, Max, and a good game drive to the Makgadagadi.
Although it is personal preference, we are not happy when forced to eat at one table with the other guests, but here the English-speaking were put together.
Laid back, prehaps a little too much.
The Tent was excellent, staff were helpful but not particularly friendly (english may have a problem for some - I often recieved only a nod in response to my comment or question).
Often staff did not know when things (dinner, guided walk) were going to begin or end - just approximations. Don't worry be happy seemed to be the camp philosophy.
The location of the camp is scenic - on an elevated river bank of a dried-up river with a combustion pump filled water hole below - probably should be replaced by a noiseless solar arrangement.
The sleep out on the salt pan is run by another lodge - Gweta, that were friendly and professional.
I had asked for it on 2nd last day so I would have a day to recover before flying home but Meno A Kwena ran it on my last night which resulted in a a marathon journey home starting from an isolated salt pan requiring an hour of rough trail to just to reach paved roads, then 2 hours to the airport.
I would of liked a day trip to the kalahari. The Boteti "river" was mostly a series of artificailly sustained water holes attracting wildlife.
Meno A Kwena review
Very interesting camp. Good staff - our guide Dabe was excellent. A very interesting man full of knowledge and very proud of being San. We had fascinating conversations about his community near Ghanzi and he edited for me the section on the San in Chris McIntyre's excellent Botswana (a really very good guide book). If Chris wishes to discuss this please ask him to call Adrian - the relevant part of the book is where Chris discusses the difficulty of naming the San appropriately (a good and very sympathetic section which I enjoyed).
When booking I had formed the impression that the camp was on the edge of the Pans so was slightly disappointed not to repeat the experience I had 10 years ago of being on the Pans themselves. But Dabe more than made up for this disappointment.
We wish we had longer at Meno.
Great tented camp experience at Meno A Kwena
Even though we were struggling with the loss of our luggage, we really enjoyed the experience of being at this camp. Couldn't have asked for a better first camp to visit. The situation in the Kalahari; the location at the water hole; the laid-back atmosphere and friendly staff were exactly as we would have wanted. Our guide, Max, was knowledgeable, friendly, helpful at all times, and accommodated our requests.
The trip to the saltpans with the folks from Gweta Lodge was an added bonus, and one we would recommend to anyone.
Please pass on our thanks to David and Geoff for their help in locating our luggage and keeping us informed about what was happening.