Reviews of Lebala Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Delightful stay at Lebala Camp
Following our stay at Lagoon Camp we spent two nights at Lebala Camp which is located south of Lagoon Camp in the Kwando reserve. Because it was relatively close to Lagoon we were able to make our transfer part of a game drive where we drove about halfway between the two camps and transferred to a vehicle from Lebala to continue our game drive.
Although close to Lagoon the area around Lebala Camp was a little more open in places and so the game drive experience was a little bit different. Again our guide and tracker proved to be excellent with an exciting chase with wild dogs through the mopane brush one morning. Tthe dogs, apparently the same pack we saw while at Lagoon as their den is between the two camps, had lost their pups, possibly to hyenas, just before we arrived in the Kwando reserve. So it was not clear if they were hunting or searching but it was exciting just the same (although it was a shame not to be able to see the puppies which had been seen only a few days before). Game drives were the primary activity here.
Lebala had just undergone an extensive upgrade to the facilities a few months earlier and the rooms can no longer be described as tents. They are wood frame and screened panel "chalets" on a raised deck with a beautiful interior and the addition of more extensive solar lighting, a bath tub and ceiling fan (a most welcome addition that Lagoon and Kwara do not have). Supposedly the solar powered batteries will not run the fan or lights indefinitely but with judicious use we never had a problem with power in our room even though this was the start of the rainy season and we did not have constant sunshine.
Some might not like the new rooms since it isn't the true "safari tent" experience but we thought they were excellent. They are still close enough together that you can hear your neighbors at times but were otherwise quite private. There does seem to be some additional engineering that needs to be done with the white curtains that cover the screen panels. While they look beautiful and work fine when conditions are calm when it was rainy and especially windy the curtains were easily blown around and bang against the structure. They perhaps need a better way to anchor them at the bottom during storms.
The location at Lebala is quite beautiful on an island with a stream in front and a marsh behind even though there is less water readily visible here than at Lagoon or Kwara. The common areas have also been refreshed and are spacious and airy with beautiful views. The only downside is that Lebala seems to have a much bigger problem with mosquitoes than either Lagoon or Kwara. In fact we rarely noticed them at the other two camps but they were quite common here and that is why the location rating is slightly lower. Also the airstrip at Lebala has been flooded for some time requiring a relatively long drive to a neighboring camp to the south to reach their air strip. This really wasn't too big a problem as it just proves to be another game drive of sorts. Our drive to the airstrip was in fact quite productive for wildlife viewing although the one limitation is that you don't have the luxury of following the game.
Wild dogs and birds at Lebala Camp
We were met at the airstrip by our guide and tracker (OC and Bowman) for our stay and then had a 2hr game drive to the lodge (saw plenty of birds and animals on the way). We knew that the Lebala airstrip was out but didn't realise that it was 2hrs to the camp.
After the obligatory welcome drinks and camp rules we were taken to our tent we didn't go out on the afternoon game drive as it was getting on and we wouldn't have had time to get ourselves ready (and in any case we had already had 2hrs game and bird spotting).
Next morning we saw wild dogs and red lechwe (both a first for us) and many bird species, in the evening we saw spring hares, wild cat and eagle owls.
Overall OC/Bowman went out of their way to find us birds (luckily for most of the game drives there were only 4 in the wagon and eventually just us two) they always managed to put the vehicle in the best position for photography - we even saw honey badgers on our second night.
Again the food was both varied and plentiful. All the staff couldn't do enough for you especially Phoebe (the manageress), Nature, Hector, OC and Spencer. It was good that the guides/rangers ate with us and shared experiences over meals.
Recent modernisation has produced excellent quality rooms. A good result for this level/standard of camp.
This was our first experience of the Kwando group of camps and we were very satisfied with their attitude and principles that the game viewing is of prime importance and the food can wait until you have finished the game drive (no rushing back to in case the meal gets spoilt!). As your brochure has said, the staff are very dedicated and go to great lengths to try to find suitable sightings - this we can confirm.
We also visited Little Kwara (part of the same group) and found similar attitude regarding the game viewing. This is something which will cause us to choose their camps again on future visits.
Lebala Camp review
I loved it here! Thank you for warning us about the 2 H drive form the air strip. It meant we were ready with the correct clothing, sun screen, hat and in the mood for safari-ing.
Our guide and tracker were lovely: do send our heartfelt thanks to Thabo & Julius, we enjoyed their company very much. They were keen to shsow us as much as possible, always cheerful and fullof information. ( Do hope Thabo has found his 5th wife! by now))Congratulations too to Bisquet 8 not sure I ahev spelled his name correctly) for running a tight ship.. all worked well. staff were friendly and helpful. Did not seem to know about our wheat intolerance but rallied and sorted it out.
The rooms were large and comfortable. Really liked the rhythm of the camp.. worked well for me . In the camp was a very experienced safari traveller who seemed to know a lot and was quite keen to tell everyone.. so the staff gently put her in a jeep of her own with her friend and their own guide and tracker.. this was kind to everyone I thought!
We wre never more than 4 guests in a jeep in either of the camps.. really nice. Impressed with Kwando camps.
Lebala - Real comfort and great animals
Lebala was the last stop on our 12 day vacation and a fine end-point despite some minor managerial issues at the camp (which we think are being addressed but on which we suggest some lessons could usefully be learned from Kwara).
The accommodation at Lebala is first class (unless one wants air-conditioning, which we do not!) and the location is really excellent for game. The mammal count during our stay was truly impressive in terms of both range of species and sheer numbers. Dogs, cheetahs and roan antelope were the better known highlights of our stay; but, for us, the real thrill was a first class daytime honey badger sighting. And we were again fortunate enough to see both serval and caracal cats, as well as large herds of elephant.
We cannot praise too highly both our guide, Hector, and tracker, Julius. They are both first-rate individuals and together make up an excellent team. The skills, enthusiasm and humour which they bring to their work are, in our view, characteristic of the excellent staff at Lebala.
Our mark-down below on 'facilities' is entirely due to transport issues noted in our comments on Kwara; and a small downgrade on 'service' reflects the minor managerial issues touched on above. Put together, they have led us to an overall 'good' rather than 'excellent' which could quite easily be pushed up from the former to the latter.
These minor reservations notwithstanding, we have no hesitation recommending Lebala to others and would certainly be very happy to visit there again in the future.
Lebala Camp review
We had an amazing time at Lebala. In particular the wildlife was superb.
We saw some amazing animal behaviour including Cheetah hunting Impala and then chasing a Leopard. The guides were very knowledgeable and commited to finding what we were interested in.
The rooms are about as good as you will find anywhere in Africa.
Paradise in Lebala Camp
We were sure that Lebala would have been a fantastic experience for what concerned game viewing and location. We were astonished by the professionality, simpathy and entusiasm of the guides ( Hector, Simon, Tabo, O.C.) who went out of their way to make our safari unforgettable.
Beside that we really enjoied the fantastic and friendly staff, superbly managed by the great Baloo, who really made leaving Lebala very very sad.
Lebala Camp review
Lebala camp recently refurbished their accommodation, it's now extremely large wood chalets, with bath and a stunning double outdoor shower. The staff was very helpful and there was a real "family" feel in the common area and during dinner and breaks.
The guide and trackers were highly motivated and skilled to find animals / birds - also very active night drives in the concessions. We may have seen "less" game than in other reserve like Chitabe (their wild dogs packs were far at the time) but we had very good tracking experience and the dry environment is quite interesting. We did have the chance to see a Pangolin though !
One slightly minor note, their cars have 2 rows of 3 seats so they tend to put 6 guests in each which when you are in the middle seat is not as good for photography as being on the side (private car option is available but expensive).
Lebala Camp review
Lebala camp was substantially renovated earlier this year, and they have done an absolutely outstanding job. The new tents are huge, beautifully constructed from wood and canvas, and incredibly airy and cool during the heat of the day. We would have loved to have used the claw-footed bath, but there was just too much else to do. The service at the camp was excellent, but the clear priority is game viewing. We had a great driver guide, OC, who was tireless and immensely energetic in his endeavours to track predators for us to see, but equally enthusiastically showed us lots of other interesting animals and flora. The daily routine works really well, with a game drive starting early in the morning after coffee and porridge, then a lovely cooked breakfast followed by siesta to see out the heat of the day. Then at 330 it's time to eat again before the afternoon drive, which usually turns into a fascinating night drive. The night drives are great, you get to see all kinds of animals which aren't active during the day and the night sky is lit up by millions of stars you would never know were there if you normally lived in a city like London.
We had a wonderful time at Lebala and were very sad to leave after two nights (but greatly cheered up when we arrived at Lagoon Camp, our next destination)...
Wild dogs at Lebala
The first we knew about the Lebala airstrip being flooded was when we arrived at the departure point from Kanana - we went to Selinda airstrip and then had a two hour drive to get to camp, which we were not prepared for. This was annoying to us because the Lebala airstrip has been under water for quite some time but we had not been told about the problem.
The new accommodation is very smart and spacious. Again the shower was impossible to regulate, and the additional moveable showers don't work at all because of lack of pressure.
Sepo and Tuso were friendly and helpful. We had some reservations about the housekeeping, for example arriving back after a drive to find ashtrays still full and dirty plates around the fire. A major concern was the vehicle reliability; the one we were picked up in stalled repeatedly and required something to be done under the bonnet each time to get it started. A different car was provided after we complained. The radio system was poor - we were out of communication with the camp at times.
Our guide Bundi and tracker James were highly knowledgeable and enthusiastic. We had one or two problems: it is important that a guide gives the timing accurately - we were told we were 20 minutes from the camp but ended up driving 70 minutes in the dark - which we did not want to do. Bundi seemed to have some difficulty driving in the sand and we were totally stuck twice, the second time on the way to the airstrip for departure. We do not know if this was due to his (lack of) skill or the poor vehicle. But Bundi did make a huge effort to ensure that we had sightings and was particularly good at birds.
Alex had a very good walk and followed an elephant.
The high spot was the visit to the wild dog den. We saw the adults and nine puppies. But visitors should be aware that it is a long and difficult drive to the den and there is no guarantee of seeing them once you arrive; so we count ourselves lucky.
We also saw a herd of about 2000 buffalo charging across the water; again, that may be quite rare.
Finally, we saw two secretary bird males fighting for territory; even Bundi had never seen this.
So we had some niggling criticisms of Lebala but overall it was a superb wildlife experience.
Expert Africa comments
Due to heavy rains earlier in 2008, Lebala airstrip flooded making it unusable by light aircraft. During this time, visitors landed at Selinda Airstrip and travelled to Lebala Camp on a long game drive.
We were aware of this at Expert Africa, but were informed that Lebala airstrip would be back to normal from 24 June. Unfortunately, a setback occurred and the use of Selinda Airstrip became necessary again. This change came about too late for Expert Africa to pass the information on in this case.