Reviews of Lebala Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Lebala Camp Return
We were welcomed back by our tracker from last year (Bowman), our driver/guide Tahbo and by Nature at the camp.
I can't think of anything to add to what was said last year as we had a great time again with loads of different birds (lucklily the only other person on our vehicle was also into birds so everything went well with no conflicts of interest). The Carmine Bee-Eaters were execptional as was the leopard we came across whilst birding.
During one game drive (looking for birds!) we came across a herd of elephants who took an instant dislike to us and chased us down the road - a bit scary.
The accomodation and food were both excellent. The mossies were a bit of a problem one night after a terrific thunderstorm hit the camp. This must rate as one of our favourite camps in Botswana.
Visit to Lebala Camp
We had 3 nights at Lebala Camp in November 2009 - our last camp of 3 on this trip. The communal camp facilities (lounge and dining areas, plunge pool, bar) were excellent and our 'cabin' was enormous and luxurious. It came with a super large king size bed, easy chairs/settee with coffee tables, desk and stools, free standing bath, two wash basins, WC and 2 outdoor showers. On the deck outside were two deckchairs where we could relax and enjoy the view.
The camp was the largest of the 3 we visited and felt a little less 'personal' than the others, although everyone was very friendly and helpful. The food was good without being outstanding but attention to detail in the catering department was sometimes a little lax, with items running out and not being replaced. There was a somewhat inflexible attitude as well, for example we were told that we could only do a walk if the other people in our 'group' (this was a group that was imposed on us!) agreed to walk. Luckily they agreed, as we had specifically asked for guided walks when booking and would have been unhappy not to be able to do so.
The guiding/tracking was excellent - Spencer and Simon were very knowledgable and good company. We had game drives and a guided walk with them and enjoyed every minute. Game viewing was excellent - including elephant, wild dogs, impala, kudu, reedbuck, giraffe, hyena, hippo, zebra, ostrich, red lechwe, warthog, waterbuck, wildebeest, steenbok, water monitor and slender mongoose. Birds too were fabulous - far too may to list, but we were very happy to see such a variety.
I would echo other peoples' comments on the vehicles - we would have preferred a roof (especially in 38 degrees and/or torrential rain) and can see no advantage in not having one, also if there are 6 people in one vehicle (most we had is 5) it would be pretty cramped.
We enjoyed Lebala Camp, but not as much as the other camps we visited in Botswana.
kwando flagship camp
Thabu was our guide at Lebala and was terrific - knowledgable and enthusiastic.The lynyanti pack of dogs were in town for the duration of our stay and so made for exciting game drives with some terrific dog / hyena interaction and tabu was quite prepared to stay out and get the best of it
The communal areas and tents are all very spacious and luxurious with great decks and views. The food was simple wholesome and tasty.
A few nigly points that ought to be sorted out - there always seems to be a high turnover of management and relief management between camps at kwando and this does leave gaps in the service if you are caught in the transition.
An example of this was as follows -
we got caught a long way from camp after sunset in a ferocious storm - our vehicle then broke down and took a further 30 mins to be rescued - then a further 30 mins back to camp - with the storm raging the whole time - this is africa - you get storms and vehicles break down - that is not the issue - the issue is on return to camp we were wet through and very cold - there was no-one on hand just to hand out some towels - there was no-one around to walk us back to our tents - ( we had to wait 10 mins for our guide Thabu to re-appear and take us ) - and despite informing the camp before we left that our electrics had failed and requesting kerosene lamps and / or candles as a back up in case they went again or couldnt be fixed - neither was actioned - so very difficult in the pitch dark soaked through to get dry and change ! - this was poor preparation and organisation by a camp of this standard- just when you needed a bit extra - it simply wasnt there - dissapointing.
we were going on up to lagoon after our stay at lebala - and despite at first being told thabu would come with us this did not happen - the guides in lagoon were also first class - but it would have been nice to have had the opportunity to have had the benefit of longer with one guide - which we know from previous visits is possible - especially as we were travelling with friends and had our own vehicle
we will return but please kwando put candles lamps or a back up torch in the rooms and sort out your management and guide logistics better - you have some fantastic people but they are being being undersold by too much chopping and changing and a little more attention when things deviate from the normal.
As lebala is kwandos flagship camp i will make a general comment about kwandos uri vehicles here.They are in our opinion ( and it seems the many others who have made similar observations ) inferior in nearly every respect to virtually every other camp / operator in botswana who use either specially adapted toyotas or landrovers. The vehicles are especially cramped when there are more than 4 to a vehicle - there is no rating for vehicles / equipment but if there was it would be average / poor. Any possibility of the replacement of these vehicles in the future im sure would be welcome by many.
Lebala Camp review
Of the three camps that we visited, (Kwara, Lagoon and Lebala), the tracker and guide that were with us "OC and PD" were the best. Their knowledge and bushcraft were like a form of magic. We would tell them what we were looking for and they would try their upmost to find it. If the animals were not in the area, they could always find an excellent alternative.
Unfortunately at the time of our visit there were only two other guests present, and also there was a change of management staff taking place.
Somehow this made the camp seem more corporate and formal than the other camps when we were on site. We thought the accomodation was luxurious, but somehow excessive for our requirements - this is a personal choice. (Not true of the showers which were most welcome after the gamedrives).
One of the outgoing managers (Phoebe?) lectured the guests one evening - intimating that we should take more interest in the culture of Botswana and not just the animals. This was politely tolerated. However at the other two camps there was a very informal exchange of information between the staff and guests and many cultural topics and this is a much better format of exchange than any artificial cultural show.
One of the incoming managers, Charles was first class and is a great people person who always had great stories and was a "fountain of knowledge". We wish him well.
Wildlife score: * * * *
Lebala Camp review
a must seeRead more about the whole safari
Lebala Camp review
We also enjoyed our time here at Lebala. Everyone so friendly.
Our guide Spencer and tracker PD were great, we had the most enjoyable game drives. We saw lion,herds of elephant and buffalo.
It was bitter cold early mornings, we were glad we took plenty of clothing layers.
The tents were very nice, but it took courage to get out of bed in the mornings. The white silk type curtains do nothing to stop draughts.
So many animals at Lebala
We did not think that the accommodation or food was as good as at Kanana and Shinde BUT the great advantage was the game drives having a driver and a spotter - in our case OC and Mister Moh.
We saw many more animals than at the other camps - including herds of buffalo, wildebeest, zebras, giraffes etc and 4 leopards, (2 at night, 2 during the day), AND a pangolin, which is extremely rare.
All the staff were very friendly and helpful. The only disadvantage was that there were no water based activities, so we bounced around in a jeep every morning and evening, but equally we did see more animals so this isn't really a criticism.
Lebala Camp review
Lebala was the best Kwando camp as far as accommodation is concerned and better than Lagoon for location. The service at all Kwando camps was about the same. i.e., very good. Here we saw two male lions in daylight and a leopard after dark. We followed the leopard for some way as she walk without any acknowledgement of our presence. She broke into a trop and then leaped to one side behind a bush, there was a scream and she reappeared with a jackal, we then followed her for a way before she settled down to eat it.
We had a bad drive at Lebala due to Kwandos vehicle layout and 6 to a vehicle policy. A couple arrived from Lagoon who we had met there and we were told that we would be going out with them. However we went out with a group of four Belgians who kept talking which was bad enough but having six people in a vehicle is too many as there is not enough room to put cameras, bins etc. This was made worse as it rained and we had to wear ponchos which restricted us even more. In our opinion three people to a row is one to many, this is the only safari outfit in our experience that does that. What made it worse was the couple from Lagoon went out on their own!
Lebala Camp review
Lebala was nice but not a camp that we would rush back to.
As a general observation, Kwando camps are doing themselves a disservice by not having roofs on their vehicles and occaionally having 6 guests in their vehicles. We think that Kwando should have the same cars as Selindi and Sandibel camps. We were so impressed with their safari vehicles. They really need roofs!
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.