Reviews of Sandibe Safari Lodge
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
MY BOTSWANA: SANDIBE SAFARI LODGE
This is my fourth visit to Sandibe Lodge and I had to pretend I was visiting a new camp for the first time. The new Sandibe, whilst understanding the theme and reasons for the new camp, did not jell with me in the way the old style had and I missed it. I found that the wooden floor created noise whenever someone walked across it and it spoilt the peacefulness. The dining area was very pleasant and on two occasions a young bull elephant joined us at teatime and stayed a long time before moving away.
The guide, tracker, butler and staff were helpful and friendly and made it their job to make sure everything went smoothly. As at Nxabega, I enjoyed having my personal butler who ensured I was given the food and drink that I liked and the guide and tracker made sure the drives were interesting - the hot water bottles first thing in the morning were more than welcome. On the second evening we dined out in the open around campfires with the area lit with lamps and candles; this seems to have become a Sandibe tradition.
My accommodation was more than adequate with features that I did not find of interest, e.g. the plunge pool. However the duvet was much too thick for me and there were no blankets but upon request two small blankets were placed side by side on my bed to cover it to try and make up for the omission.
Because of the increasing thick growth of water plants that the Government refused permission to thin out, mokoro poling is no longer an activity at Sandibe.
Regarding encounters with wild life: whilst lunching a vivet monkey jumped on to my table and grabbed a handful of mashed avocado before rapidly scurrying away, a hippo took a dislike to our vehicle and began to charge us and, as already mentioned on two occasions an elephant had tea with us. On our second morning drive we watched a female leopard purposely walking without being distracted and we were told she was very hungry. Towards the end of the evening drive we saw the same leopard again, purposely walking along the road without any hint of stopping but looking very tired. We were told she had been walking all day without finding food. We drove alongside her and eventually left her as she continued plodding along.
To summarise the new Sandibe: I think American Visitors would be attracted to it but to me it felt too pristine and, forgive me, modern.
Friendly place with luxurious rooms
The architecture of this lodge is original and interesting, and the standard of the rooms quite exceptional.
Very comfortable and spacious, though a private plunge pool with outside seating for at least 15 people seems a little excessive. Excellent and very friendly service. The guiding was outstanding, Jonas not only found everything we were hoping to see but also allowed us all the time we wanted to stay with the animals and really share what they were doing, rather than just taking a few photos and moving on.
We spent an entire, unbroken day with one leopard, our best ever wildlife experience.
Sandibe Safair Lodge
The Lodge is wonderful. The architecture is dramatic, with sweeping views over the plains.
The bedroom was very big and comfortable, and there was a large porch with a small pool outside.
The staff and guides were outstanding. We really felt that we became friends with several.
Sandibe Safari Lodge review
WOW! We were at the "new" Sandibe after the remodel and it is incredible! The architecture, art work, ambience and graciousness of staff are top notch.
This is definitely a luxury, premier camp and was very different from the other two we stayed. It was nice to experience this level of luxury while on safari for a few nights. Guests tend to stick to themselves more than the other camps due to the private dining tables and larger facility, but the service, food, rooms, private pool, butler were just amazing! It was hard to pull myself from the beautiful room, deck overlooking the marsh, in-room massage (thank you Amy.....she is terrific), coffee and juice delivered each morning, and the surprise evening candlelight dinner on our deck to actually go on the game drives. But we did and they were wonderful.
Jonas, our guide, took great care of us.....and we spotted 6 leopards our first morning out. Our tracker was excellent also, and I regret I can not locate his name in my paperwork. Thank you to both of them for a wonderful experience. The night drives were exciting; especially coming upon a family of hyenas with puppies playing right outside their den!
This lodge should be a "must" for anyone who wants to experience luxury in the bush, along with fabulous food and great animal sightings!
Delightful lodge and staff
Everything was excellent - the skill and knowledge of the guides and the quality and quantity of wildlife were outstanding.
The friendliness, helpfulness, humour and singing and dancing of the entire staff greatly enhanced the experience.
Hope the rebuilding of the camp, and its expansion with double the accommodation, doesn't change these things.
Sandibe Safari Lodge review
We had fantastic game viewing, best ever and even saw some smaller nocturnal animals such as porcupine, spring hare, bat eared foxes so very lucky. We did not like being Put at separate tables for meals as we much prefer communal dining so that one can exchange stories about the day with other guests.
Lodge was well managed by Skipper, meals were good and the room was comfortable. The lodge will close at end of 2013 for complete refurb so obviously some parts are looking a bit tired. Interesting to see the new camp.
Sandibe Safari Lodge review
Good camp and excellent game - saw a wild dog kill, although there are apparently only the small group of 4 in the area and we were extremely lucky. Saw lots of lion and leopard.
The camp is good with friendly staff and good guides. The seating for meals is separate (unlike all the other camps we went to), which is good if you don't want to be with others but does not encourage guest to relax together. The camp has the best showers in Botswana!
Very friendly - an excellent camp
What a wonderful place Sandibe is.
The rooms were fine with all you would need including a safe and a hairdryer. There was a lovely outside deck with two loungers and a table and two chairs which overlooked the river - great for an afternoon of relaxing.
The food was excellent with perhaps too much to eat and drink but nevertheless varied and good quality. We even ate Kudu one evening.
The staff were always happy and smiling and pleased to serve you. Whilst we were there it was our anniversary and the lodge made us a surprise chocolate cake in the shape of a heart plus a bottle of bubbly in our room.
We found the game drives very interesting and saw lion and cheetah within our first hour. Had a good sighting of wild dogs and also leopard. The trackers were excellent as were the guides who drove carefully and thoughtfully with respect for the landscape and terrain.
On our last evening the lodge arranged a few surprises for all the guests, so hope you are lucky to be staying there when this happens.
Sandibe - A Return Visit After 11 Years
We last visited Sandibe in 2002 and it was the first camp of our first safari holiday. The camp is unchanged but is now in need of some TLC. We understand it is to be pulled down in 2014 and replaced by rooms on stilts as is common across much of the Delta. This may explain the reluctance to carry out renovation work. Sadly they also intend to greatly increase the number of rooms to 15. In our view this will destroy the intimacy and exclusivity of the current formula and we will not return to such a large camp. The concession is already shared with Chitabe and Chitabe Lediba and the extra rooms may result in crowded game drives.
Our stay was a curates egg - excellent in parts. The management, staff and day to day organization were wonderful. The And Beyond practice of allocating guests a personal team of guide, butler and housekeeper was new to us and in camp worked brilliantly. Judy our 'butler' was just perfect. Always smiling, always there when needed and nothing was ever too much trouble. Mmaajo (?) our housekeeper was largely invisible but our room was always 'put back in order' whenever we left it for long enough! One negative aspect of the rooms is a lack of an inside shower. It was unseasonably cold and showering outside became a challenge!
The less perfect member of the team was our guide Gee. We began well enough but it became clear that he had his own agenda which seemed to be driven by an urge to track lion, leopard or dogs interminably and often resulting in anything else en route being given no more than cursory attention. Half way through our stay we were joined by another British couple who had also been taking safari holidays for many years. Gee made no attempt to find out what we wanted to do and became truculent when we made it clear that we were not interested in another fruitless hunt for a pride of lions we had already seen at length twice. On our final morning we had a different guide to take us to the airstrip via a short game drive. Gee had already been out for some hours and when our guide radioed him to ask if he had any sightings his reply was 'Yes, lots.' He made no attempt to pass on sightings or locations, most of which he had made along the route he knew we were taking. When our new guide made a remarkable siting of wild dog he immediately passed it on to Gee. He replied 'Oh yes we saw those there early this morning'!!
Gee said that he had been at Sandibe for 13 years. We suspect this is too long and he has become complacent. The major exciting sighting of a very recent lion kill was made almost entirely by luck. He and the tracker were once again out of the vehicle inspecting leopard spoor when we heard the kill take place close by in thick bush. Had we been driving we would not have heard it. Gee later attributed the sighting to his use of tracking skills and knowledge of nature. A second sighting of the same pride was also pure luck as they walked out of the bush 20 metres from where our team were changing a tyre!
This was an unhappy experience for us balanced only by the efforts of the camp management to bombard us with the most marvellous food in wonderful bush, deck and boma settings. Wilderness please note - not a single instance of tough meat at any time! Aaron and Skipper were marvellous managers but we do not favour the And Beyond practice of separate dining. We find it unnecessarily divisive.
On balance Sandibe seems to have concentrated on the hotel aspects of the experience to the detriment of the game viewing. Witness the availability of a personal butler, housekeeper, masseuse and WiFi. If they are to increase to 15 rooms they will have to address the guiding and revitalise the game drives whatever the season. We also learned that there was plenty of water to operate the electric boat but it had been discontinued/moved as it was 'too slow' and vulnerable to hippo. If the latter is true it must also be true at the camp it has been moved to? More misguided guide influence? Despite the guiding experience we loved our stay but will not return.
Expert Africa comments
We were very sorry to hear that these travellers didn't have the guiding experience that we or they would have hoped for or expected, despite an otherwise very good stay. So we contacted the camp who echoed our disappointment and, subsequent to further discussions, both Expert Africa and these travellers are assured that the lodge has taken this feedback seriously and are addressing the issues with the guide.
Expert Africa has also learned that Sandibe will be rebuilt in 2014 and will indeed be increasing the number of guest rooms. However, they gave assurances to these travellers and to us that they remain committed to their sustainability and low impact model, and that they will be decreasing their energy usage by 70percent, as well as removing all concrete from the structures. They also believe that with with 25,000 hectares exclusive to the lodge, there shouldn't be an impact on the exclusivity. But rest assured we will visit the 'new' camp when it's completed to see - and report on - the changes for ourselves! And as we learn more, we'll update the website.
Sandibe Safari Lodge review
Sandibe has a very nice dining area. Service and food were wonderful. Especially Joshua, the chef, made our stay there a true gourmet experience! The bush dinner as well as the bush lunch at the river were amazing and a great surprise!
Wildlife in the Sandibe area was excellent, we saw cheetah, many leopoards and lions - the focus of the guides was definitely on tracking the cats, even though we kept assuring them that we like relaxed game drives and are also interested in other game and birds. We do appreciate that the guides were working so hard to show us lions and leopards at every game drive in the best position for taking pictures (understanding that many other guests probably put a lot of pressure on the guides in this regard). However, we sometimes felt that the vehicles were destroying a lot of vegetation when offroading and moving so close to animals (lions and leopards) that they felt crowded and moved away.
The manager, Aron, creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere and we enjoyed our stay at Sandibe very much. We were told that the camp will be taken down and rebuilt in the course of next year, with up to 20 new tented chalets. We think that this would be far too many visitors (and cars!) in the area. Wildlife would be affected and the intimate ambiance of the camp would be lost. We believe that 8 chalets are just fine and we would not consider coming back if guest numbers were to be increased.