Travel reviews by MW&JS from UK
Total number of trips
Lodges stayed in
My Feb 2020 trip
Tanzania between 3 Feb 2020 and 12 Feb 2020
Thanks you Expert Africa and Asilia for a truly outstanding service.
While we are very much in tune with Asilia's values and the consistently excellent services they deliver we do hope the trend to build only high-end luxury camps is not at the expense of places like Ubuntu and Kwihala . It is not only the cost factor of these places ,which is increasingly out of our reach ,but the departure from the real wilderness bush experience which we crave."
"True wilderness experience at Ubuntu Sout Cam"
Airport Planet Lodge
"Great place for short stay"
The air-conditioned room was spacious ,with an excellent large walk-in shower and external balcony looking out over well kept
We looked in vain for a hair drier but apart from that we had all we needed.
Lunch in the restaurant was simple and ok
There is a small curio shop but those at the airport offer a much bigger range of choice."
Another wonderful experience
Tanzania between 5 Jan 2017 and 19 Jan 2017
"Kwihala sets the bar high"
I will instead take this opportunity to thank all the staff (front of house and behind the scenes) for their welcome ,kind attention, in depth knowledge and sheer sense of fun. Tam is an amazing hostess whose magic wand and problem solving skills are always at the ready to deliver the nigh on impossible . It was great to spend time with three of Kwihala's truly excellent guides (Lorenzo, Saidi and Moinga) together with trainees Charles and Michael.
Thank you Lorenzo for a great full day out to Maji Moto and beyond when we saw 2 male dik dik fighting for all they were worth to Saidi; for his patience with my birding attempts and for that panoramic breakfast spot we christened Milima ya Saidi; to Charles for replacing my footstool and that great night heron spot and to Michael for quietly pointing out birds when other guests were entranced by lions.
But it isn't all about guides ; Robert heads a great team of waiters: it was fun to see Goodluck's pride in the new mobile bar and enjoy his recipes:;I resisted Nico's gentle entreaties to eat more cake ; it was great to see Rajabu just back from leave filling my bucket shower and to Dani for so gently teaching me some Swahili en route to and from my tent in the dark .. Full marks too to chefs for great food and to everyone who we rarely see but who are an essential part of the Kwihala family.
What I miss from reviews is some idea of what to expect at different times of the year. Having said that my 9 nights in early January this year was far from predicable. The green season had barely got underway but it was still fascinating to witness this transition time where the smell of rain was so tantalising, the Mwagusi and Ruaha rivers were still very dry and green season birds were only just arriving. However it meant we could venture further afield and with the dawn of each new African sunrise just bask in what Ruaha had in store for us and wonder at this pristine wilderness which I so precious and life affirming."
Saadani Safari Lodge
"A relaxing break "
However in terms of a relaxing break before returning to the UK it proved to be very good-peaceful and remote with a chance to chill. The layout of the whole lodge along the shore provided plenty of places to retreat to the shade in addition to the loungers outside each room. My room itself was well appointed and very clean with views from my bed of the Indian Ocean (which at high tide was very close) as well as lovely sunrises.I had asked for a room away from the main areas and room 4 was ideal – just a bit separated by vegetation from the others, which are set apart but still in sight of one another.
Colourful dressing gowns, kikois and large sunhats were thoughtful additions as well as plentiful insect repellent and toiletries. There was constant hot water and recharging facilities were located in the restaurant area. This was fine while the guest numbers were low but may be a problem when more busy. The pool was a great boon and was well provided with loungers and towels although very few loungers had adequate shade from the fierce sun at any one time. As there were only 2 other guests it wasn’t a problem but if the lodge had been busier it would be rather restrictive.
The food was varied, freshly prepared and well presented. Indeed it was not really possible to do justice to three, three- course cooked meals a day and I invariably skipped one or more courses. Dining was not communal but after a couple of meals a nice Austrian couple suggested we join forces rather than talk across the space between tables.
The manager Rose was a great hostess – warm and friendly and amenable to me booking more than one activity per day. Staff were friendly and attentive to me as a solo traveller. Activities are varied but game drives only occupy part of a morning – leaving at 6am and returning for breakfast at about 9.15am. The river trip is worthwhile and the shorter sundowner drives were very pleasant. Gilbert my guide was very attentive and delightful company finding local birds for us both to strive to identify.
At night the January off shore winds were relentless and it is a wonder that the thatched roofs and woodwork have stood up as well as they have to the onslaught of salt -laden winds. I was not surprised therefore to hear that the whole camp is due for refurbishment.
For those who prefer longer periods of relaxation with short optional activities Saadani could be a good choice."
Ruaha again -but this time in June
Tanzania between 13 Jun 2016 and 24 Jun 2016
While game is a bit more difficult to see at this time, nevertheless it is far more abundant in the Mwagusi area rather than in the Jongomero area.
Of the two camps Jongomero is more luxurious and while its isolated position means there are no vehicles from other camps, this isn't the most important criterion for a true wilderness experience. For those who prioritise guiding and camp atmosphere (together with essential comforts) Kwihala offers a better all round wilderness experience, more fun and better value for money"
"Hotel in the Bush"
My main reason this time for combining a stay at Jongomero with my favourite camp of all time in Kwihala, was because last October my daughter and I enjoyed an amazing whole day out to the western part of Ruaha in the vicinity of Jongomero and beyond.
The different scenery , varied habitats, plants and wildlife , especially the upper reaches of the Ruaha River ,the miombo woodlands and above all the Makindi Springs area, , convinced me to stay at the only camp in this part of the park.
It was most unfortunate therefore that the long rains had been particularly heavy this year ,such that the very areas I wanted to visit were still unreachable and to cap it all uncontrolled bush fires nearer camp prevented us accessing the roads that were otherwise driveable .
But all of this was clearly out of the control of Jongomero camp.
It is very true that the camp is well run ,if a little formal .The 'tents' are very large and luxurious ,well positioned with hot water available pretty much all the time and the food consistent with city-style fine dining -to the extent of sugar work on the crème caramel -in the bush!
While there was communal dining at lunchtimes,guests dined separately at breakfast and dinner. This limited time to exchange stories and adventures among guests and staff, which for me is an essential safari experience that I missed. . Pre-dinner drinks (not included) were taken in the bar area and not around a convivial fire -such a shame.
As a solo traveller however Chris ,Sam or Theo ensured I had good company at dinner. A nice touch.
When I discovered the first game drive didn't start until 8am instead of 6 or 6.30am, the reason given was that there were not many animals about that early so I didn't pursue the matter ,which I regretted .
While there was opportunity to linger and watch interesting wildlife ,nevertheless the morning game drives were always back by 12 noon on the dot . I knew not to expect the same level of wildlife in this area or so early in the season but even so the game was sparse. However the butterfly ,flowers and birdlife and scenery were really very good .I enjoyed sitting on my veranda before breakfast and watching the sun rise behind my tent and touch and warm the trees on the opposite side of the dry river bed .
My guide Theo ,who I was lucky enough to have to myself on 3 occasions ,proved very responsive and indulged my request to spend time to make a confident identification. Indeed when the game drives proved a little thin and frankly a bit monotonous he was amenable to my suggestion of having a birding session for an hour or so in camp .We sat on a sand bar with binoculars and book, enjoying what flew past and on the look out for elusive green pigeon. We invented a sitting safari to make the most of what was on offer.
On reflection I think that Jongomero would appeal especially to couples or small groups who value the time to spend together in luxury ,as much as, if not more than the wildlife itself ."
"Rohoporini-the spirit of the bush"
Much has been written by many in previous reviews about this magical place, which continues to attract a high proportion of return visitors who are in a good position to make favourable comparisons with other camps in other places.
When I came with my daughter on her first visit last October ,the bush plane had barely lifted off when she said 'when are we coming back!
Kwihala is that very rare combination of simplicity and comfort ,great food ,amazing scenery ,varied habitats, informal family atmosphere, communal dining, great team work and a real focus on guiding ,which is flexible and passionate. Where else can you be out in the bush from 6am to 1pm and then again from 4-7pm giving ample time to track animals or linger to observe interesting animal/bird behaviours or just drool over the palm trees along the Mwagusi River against an African sunset.
For those who appreciate all that Kwihala represents and has to offer it sets the bar very high and is greater than its constituent parts .
Just before I left I learned that the camp had been moved but was reassured it was to a beautiful place . Well hidden in the Sokwe forest opposite the Ichaka falls (unfortunately dry at this time) on the banks of the Mwagusi sand river, the winding entrance to camp was very intriguing and to be greeted at the final turn by Tam and the guys singing and dancing made my return even more special.
I cannot imagine how much hard work went into relocating the camp both physically and in terms of the selecting the best sites in virgin bush for the tents and eating areas. The huge effort was worth it and much appreciated. Tents 1 and 2 have long views up the sand river with a clear view eastwards -ideal for watching the African dawn to the crescendo of bird song . Because the trees provided more shade it was possible to eat lunch outside the mess tent and the evening campfire and dinner table were set very romantically in the dry river bed. The animals liked it here too-elephants were frequent visitors as were baboons scampering in the rain trees over our tent.The mass of droppings they left on the path in the morning were miraculously cleaned up thanks to Rajabu and his team, who keep the place spotless.
The food is delicious and varied and on one occasion to celebrate a birthday the chef made ice cream -by hand -in the bush.
Staff take it in turns to join guests at communal mealtimes ,which add so much to a safari experience by providing opportunities to share amusing tales of adventures and experiences that whet the appetite even further.
It was good to come in a different season .The weather in June is lovely and warm during the day if cooler at night ,but nothing that a warm sweater and hot water bottle for the beds and early morning game drives couldn't dispel.
By mid-June the rivers have gone down after the long rains but there are still scattered pools,which make game more elusive but still much more in evidence than at Jongomero just a few days before. There are echoes of the green season ,with beautiful flowers, grasses really as 'high as an elephant's eye' and a wonderful light that is more clear and luminous than in October or February .The condition of the tracks made driving challenging but not impossible, especially after Lorenzo, in his best Italian- accented Swahili, had charmed the driver of the grader to clear certain tracks to help us get further afield .
It was good to meet Charles ,the new trainee who had only been with Lorenzo for a couple of weeks. It was he who spotted a leopard slinking into the long grass on my first afternoon which led to a great drive tracking its movements over and around the Mdonya river area. He also spotted that my feet couldn't comfortably reach the floor of the vehicle, which made balancing a bit tricky over the bumpy tracks -in his quiet charming way the next morning he presented me with a little wooden footstall that he'd made himself and that made such a difference..
We saw lots of groups elephants with babies, several prides of lion including 3 lionesses stalking impala and afterwards noisily crunching on the bones, an amorous male lion waiting patiently for a female to signal interest, huge family groups of banded mongoose dashing across the river bed plus all the usual suspects .
Having experienced the phenomenal birdlife of the green season I came with realistic expectations. However there were many birds like sand grouse with tiny chicks and the large number of immature birds proved a real challenge to my attempts at identification ,which didn't ruffle Lorenzo's patience . A few new species were added to my list including a barn owl which Lorenzo inadvertently flushed out of its roost in a cavernous baobab ..
Lorenzo, as ever up for an adventure, proposed a full day out heading east to Lunda and beyond,which we readily agreed to as last year we had had a similar full day out but heading west .Ever hopeful of seeing roan or sable, despite it being early in the season ,there were large herds of impala and zebra ,which being nearer hunting areas were much more skittish and fled in alarm. At one point a flock of about 50 white stork,wings outspread against a clear blue sky and reminiscent of a Chinese painting , simply took our breath away.
The thing about Ruaha is that it's so lovely that just being driven through the bush and taking in sights and smells ,the varied vegetation and the changing light is quite heavenly.
My hope is that the new camp planned by Asilia near the old location (and complete with swimming pool) will not detract from Kwihala -the true spirit of the bush"
Keep coming back!
Tanzania between 17 Oct 2015 and 28 Oct 2015
This has never proved to be the case - my favorite places in East Africa never fail to provide new and exciting opportunities and the people are always delightful. Its never long before i think about the next trip!"
Southern Sun Dar
"Greta overnight stop"
Very warm welcome ,lovely ambiance ,clean and comfortable . There was a nice shop but not open while we were there .We thought we might have to skip breakfast because of an early start but as the very comprehensive and delicious breakfast starts at 4.30 am there was no problem.
It was a Sunday morning when we left and traffic was minimal so it only took 20 minutes to the domestic airport .It would take much longer on a working day."
"Back -again !"
The unique,intangible Kwihala welcome and family atmosphere was very much in evidence and a few small changes were appreciated (eg most drinks and night drives now included , bathrobes supplied ,hot water bottles on morning drives and fans in the tents. None of which spoiled the overall bush experience.
While it was good to hear that some members of the team have moved on to other opportunities within the wider Asilia family and beyond it was really great to see some had been promoted within Kwihala .The new bunch of trainees ,who had been through an incredibly rigorous process, all seemed to be fitting in very well. Lorenzo and his new trainee Moinga made for a fantastic team and created for us a memorable few days .
This time my daughter accompanied me for her first safari and was completely enchanted with the whole experience. Her main bag didn't turn up for a couple of days and Michelle managed to find a few supplies to keep her going,which was really kind of her."
"Selous Impala Camp review"
Fausto was a very welcoming host ,very attentive to detail . Without being asked he supplied us with a few more hangers because he 'remembered i had requested these last time when i was here with my sister'.
It was good to have Ezra and Kharidi as our guides once again. This time together with Moshe we took a longer morning boat safari ,which meant the light was different and we could go further. We left at 6 as usual taking a bush breakfast with us.I thought we'd eat this on the boat but oh no. On finding a safe mooring spot out came the tables and chairs and they even constructed a platform of palm leaves for us to walk safely and dryly to land .
Although i prefer communal dining it isn't a reason to stay away .However on the last night Fausto arranged a BBQ which was shared with other guests.
I have been before at this time of year and so thought i was prepared for high temperatures and considerable humidity .On the last day i felt very befuddled and it transpired the temperature had risen to 43 C. Its a credit to all the staff that they continue to provide such excellent service in such conditions -and no even they don't get used to excessive heat."
Another great trip
Tanzania between 8 Feb 2015 and 19 Feb 2015
I still feel the guiding at Kwihala is streets ahead of other camps which were good nevertheless"
"Great welcome at Dunia"
Angel the manager was a superb hostess and couldn't do enough to help make our stay memorable -especially as it was my son's first safari experience. On a still warm night we requested to dine outside under the stars and this was arranged.
Lucas our guide was also warm and friendly and readily shared his knowledge with us and was willing to make an early start at 6 am each day and even attempt a longer day trip to the Kusini area in search of the migration.Despite having no 'spotter ' Lucas managed to drive and spot birds and animals well before we did -it would have helped to have a bit more direction than 'over there' but that improved over the three days.
I had advised my son that specific sightings are not guaranteed .However the variety of game was outstanding - lion,leopard,cheetah as well as many other sightings in the first 2 game drives ! A particular highlight included 20 dwarf mongooses frolicking on top of their termite mound home in the evening sun -with one nonchalantly suckling a baby.
We had requested an open vehicle but on arrival at Seronera airstrip Lucas escorted us to a closed one. When i mentioned our preference, Lucas disappeared and came back to tell us that an Asilia open vehicle, which was transporting two Asilia staff to Namiri Plains ,would now be allocated to us. We had met these guys on the flight and are most grateful to them for graciously swapping - thank you Lucas and well done Asilia. Excellent customer relations. It really made a difference.
There are so many positive things to say about Dunia it seems a shame to mention the presence of tsetse flies around camp, which meant we couldn't relax outside our tents ,although the main mess tents were blissfully free of them."
"Ubuntu Camp review"
On arrival we had lunch outside under the trees-the first of many imaginative and tasty meals - the best of the whole trip by far. Anna and her staff were all incredibly friendly and helpful. The tents were comfortable and lighter than those at Dunia -it was a joy to sit outside admiring the views and the sun birds visiting the acacia trees in bloom below the cliffs .Facilities for charging batteries are plentiful.
Breakfast starts at 6.30 unless you want to start earlier with a packed bush breakfast.
There was only one open vehicle in camp, which had already been allocated and though Merinje our guide explained the advantages of a closed vehicle (less dust for example) we remain unconvinced overall .For one thing i am too short to see through the roof opening and standing on the seats is not an option while moving and the side windows were hard to open and close.Fortunately we were the only occupants for most of the stay which lessened the feeling of being in a box.
While the purpose of our trip was to to see the migration and wildebeest calving ,the main herds had passed though earlier than usual and despite Merinje's heroic efforts, the nearest we got to a birth was a fresh placenta waiting for the vultures. Nevertheless we had great game and bird sightings. Highlights included watching the sun rise over nearby Lake Magadi with a flock of sacred ibis reflected in the water ,numerous Kori bustards in breeding plumage, ostriches with chicks, the courtship dance of Grey Crowned Cranes, magnificent male lions , leopard, eland , oribi , bouncing gazelles as well as the usual suspects .
The opportunity for a walking safari accompanied by two Masai was very welcome although no big game was sighted. On our last morning before driving to the airstrip we were offered the chance to make a bee-line for wild dogs which had been sighted some distance away ,out on the plains.After a hectic bumpy ride Meleji our Masai spotter was the first to see a small pack of well-fed wild dogs . A fitting end to a great 3 days ."
This green season was very different from last year-very little water in the rivers -even less than in October, which resulted in different flora and birds. It was great to spend time with Lorenzo again and I marvel at his patience with my attempts to improve bird identification.
The game and birding was great as usual and my few days ended on a high note with a dash across from Kimilimatonge to over the Mwagusi bridge to catch good sightings of wild dog. This was my fourth visit and there is nowhere else I'd rather finish a safari tour as it never disappoints.
PS While i was in Kwihala Lorenzo was awaiting the results of his level 3 Field Guide exams and news came through after I returned home that he has been successful .Congratulations -great achievement"
Tanzania between 16 Oct 2014 and 26 Oct 2014
Everything went smoothly and Ruaha in particular draws us back."
Our request for our preferred tent and for Ezra as guide were met and so we got off to a good start.
Ezra and Kharidi made a great team and we saw and learned a lot-new birds included green pigeon and Bohm's bee-eater and we had glimpses of bush pig as well as the usual subjects .It was great watching large herds of zebra,impala ,buffalo and hartebeest running the gauntlet of predators towards the waters of Lake Manze.
The new manager Fausto was extremely hospitable and attentive and we enjoyed the company of his wife Fede on a number of game drives.( Fausto did ask us first!).
Be warned at this time of year the temperatures are in the mid thirties with very high humidity but the breeze on the game drives and the fans in the tent make it bearable.
Despite our preference for communal dining this is a great well run great camp with a warm and welcoming atmosphere."
"A magical place"
So we were pleased and relieved that the special Kwihala magic was still much in evidence -not surprising as the wonderful staff and the stunning scenery were just the same. The very high level of returning guests speaks volumes. Lorenzo and Saidi make a formidable team and between them their knowledge ,tracking skills,patience and sense of humour make for great game drives day after day.
Highlights include ;-
-tracking a leopard for about 45 minutes after being alerted to its presence by the hyrax colony and being rewarded with an extended sighting of 'Onca' a beautiful and relaxed young male .The grin on Lorenzo and Saidi's faces said it all.
-watching elephants rub clean every nook and crannie of their bodies on a fallen tree trunk -including behind the ears/ knees
-a large pride of lions with very tiny cubs that had feasted on an elephant kill
-2 honey badger cubs on a night drive just before we had a puncture near to said lions
-a herd of 700 + buffalo as they came to the Mwagusi to drink
-lots of wonderful birds and interesting animal behavior
Thank you to Michelle for arranging for us to have our preferred tent and guide/tracker and for being so committed to keeping the Kwihala atmosphere alive and well.
Message to Asilia
The food ,previously perfectly adequate, was very much improved and it was good to hear staff speaking very positively about increased training opportunities -all benefits from being part of a larger company .The addition of the little shop was also welcome.
But we were disappointed to see the beautiful and stylish 'Baobab' crockery was gradually being replaced with more corporate white china .Please think about replacing it - we can't be the only guests who would love to purchase items as a reminder of a wonderful camp. Please don't even think of changing the Baobab bed covers.
We realise change is inevitable, especially to ensure Ruaha remains viable. However the prospect of a sister camp to Kwihala very nearby will inevitably increase traffic in the area, which we noticed had much increased since this time last year. Still nowhere nearly as congested as northern Tanzania but how long can it remain the isolated wilderness we love?
A last request - a bird list would be really helpful. Notes written on a bumpy vehicle are pretty indecipherable."
My Feb 2014 trip
Tanzania between 3 Feb 2014 and 10 Feb 2014
"Amazing in the green season"
As a camp Kwihala continues to deliver a magical wilderness and bush experience .A truly warm welcome and atmosphere, just enough of the right sort of comforts, a great staff team and superlative guiding in a beautiful setting.
Finding a place like Kwihala which so closely fits my ideal bush camp has, I fear, spoiled me for other camps.
Before coming at this time of the year, I was careful to bear in mind that animals might be more widely spread out and hard to spot ,some trails would be impassable and rain might even prevent us leaving the camp . To some extent this was true .We did not have any where as near as many sightings of cats ,we could not cross the sand rivers except by the bridges but despite the rain, mostly at night, only one afternoon in 6 days was too rainy to venture out .
But any limitations were completely outweighed by the miracle that is the bush transformed by the rain;-the lushness of the trees, grasses and flowers, the rivers flowing strongly,squelching through the muddy puddles in the land cruisers, spectacular thunder and lightening displays at night ,going to sleep to the sound of rain on the tent roof and of course the varied array of butterflies and birds in breeding plumage. Game was still plentiful if not as abundant as in the dry season and it was good to see the animals and their young in such good health.
Highlights included following a cheetah on the hunt with two very young cubs, a very newly born giraffe being licked clean by its mother , a herd of 200 elephants stampeding across the Ruaha River and circa 140 different bird species . It was great for much of the time to go at a slower pace -to spend half an hour admiring a sunrise ,to take time to identify a tricky bird ,track a pride of lions ,watch an army of driver ants cross the track or gaze in awe at huge flocks of black-headed weavers building their nests from scratch in bushes hanging over the water-how did they evolve to be able to tie knots in bendy grass stems!
I fear that having discovered a place like Kwihala, which so closely fits my ideal for a bush camp, has spoiled me for others.
It is such a special place that I was somewhat alarmed to hear that it had been sold to a bigger safari group, Asilia, particularly as I was planning to return in October with my sister. Angela at Expert Africa provided some reassuring information before I came and this was confirmed to a large extent in discussion with three reps from Asilia, who dropped in for a couple of days so I truly hope the best features of Kwihala camp will be retained.
Best wishes and thanks to all staff at the camp ,with a special mention for Sara, Lorenzo and Saidi, whose passion and dedication ensured another amazing trip and many happy memories of people as well as wildlife."
My Oct 2013 trip
Tanzania between 11 Oct 2013 and 21 Oct 2013
Thanks to Elizabeth Wollen at EA for her insights and advice .She interporetd our brief really well."
"Superb guiding at Selous"
The weather was hot and humid and the recent heavy rains had dispersed much of the larger game , which we had expected would be concentrated round isolated water holes .Neverthless there was a lot to see and it was magical to experience the greening up of the bush. It rained one morning and substantial raincoats were provided .(umbrellas also available in the tent if needed)
Our tent was comfortable and the access to plentiful hot water and electricity was very convenient .Toilet and shower areas were separated off from the wash basin area so providing maximum privacy.
We were in tent 6 ,very close to the river ,the shore of which was frequented by hippo ,elephant and water buffalo -often noisily in the night .The dawn chorus around 5 am was the loudest and most joyful we have experienced .
The land cruisers were extremely comfortable due to proper moulded seats (not benches) and we were fortunate to be the only passengers in our 4 night stay.This enabled us to go at our own pace and linger to watch interesting animal and bird behavior and not bore others with our interest in the myriad birds. (By the way the bird list booklet in our tent was very useful and much appreciated.
The boat safaris (one morning ,one evening and one en route back to the air strip ) were fascinating .Faidh our boatman made some great spots and Ezra explained how the african golden weaver builds its nest . We enjoyed the walking safari as an opportunity to stretch our legs and focus on the micro habitats.Red velvet mites emerging from the sand were everywhere once they had been pointed out to us!.
Ezra was an outstanding guide who shared his knowledge ,enthusiasm ,stories and sense of humour such that we learned a great deal and enjoyed ourselves hugely .His excitement when a radio newsflash announced a sighting of wild dog towards Lake Manze resulted in a dash to the scene in time to have good sightings.Manuel our driver was superb- coping with the wet and muddy potholes remarkably well. Many animals such as impala,giraffe and wart hogs had very tiny newborns .
While we were aware that dining at this camp involved separate seating arrangements ,the prevailing atmosphere was rather more european than African bush and we did miss the informality and camaraderie that is generated by
sharing meals with fellow travellers and guides.
There was only one incident of concern in an otherwise great stay. On our way back to our tent after lunch the first day we came across a huge hippo grazing to one side of our tent. Now we are always warned that hippos are dangerous and fast running so i heeded instructions to call for a Masai to come to our aid.This prooved fruitless so i tip toed round the back of my tent. When I reported the incident later we were told 'don't worry, its only Andrea our resident hippo who knows us'. That may well be so but I think its not wise to treat wild animals as harmless pets -even if they have never been known to 'misbehave'."
"Kwihala Camp review"
From the start this warm friendly bush camp excuded team work and enthusiasm at all levels and it was a real joy to share in the wonderful atmosphere and ethos that seemed so effortlessly created.
What was also great about this camp was its commitment to training local tanzanaians in all aspects of camp life including becoming guides.
The weather was very hot but not humid thoughout our stay (35-6C daytime and 20-24C at night) and the level of birds and game was very high .The scenery here is stunning and there is a very wide range of environments ,each with its own flora and fauna.
All the facilities are simple but imaginatively designed .The tents are very big and set widely apart. This meant privacy was maintained even when we kept the curtains open so we could see the bush lit up by the full moon .Electricty is available 24hrs and there are 2 sockets for charging cameras etc -very useful. Water is somewhat limited and bucket showers provide enough hot water for 2 showers each a day. Quite enough if you are careful.Amazingly there is network access.
Dining was communal ,which we really like;in the dining tent at lunchtime but together with guides out under the stars at night. Food was imaginative and varied despite the cooks liberal use of chilli .Specail diest were sensitively catered for.Vehicles were extremely comfortable -padded seats in 3 rows of just 2 seats abreast with baskets between for personal items. Good views for all.
The day starts at 5.15 with a wake up tray of drinks in readiness to leave promptly at 5.45am -earlier than at most camps but it meant we saw a great deal before our breakfast in the bush around 8.30 amd 9 and it meant we had nearly 7 hours safari by lunchtime .
Our guide/driver Lorenzo was a star and up among the 3 best guides we have had in our travels.He really helped us see and appreciate the bush in all its glory and whether we were watching a group of 4 lions catch and eat an impala before our eyes ,or 8 lions devour an adult giraffe over 3 days or a leopard stalking impala or just to simply lingering under the baobabs and acacia trees to see what came to us or enjoy gin and tonic taking in a glorious sunset ,Lorenzo added so much to each experience from his wealth of knowledge and experience-and wonderful sense of humour. His sidekick, trainee Rajabu was a first class spotter and also endowed with infectious laughter fun.Good luck in yopur level 1 exams in January Rajabu.
An unprecedented incident relating to our departure resulted in an unexpected extra overnight stay .Just to stay the matter was dealt witrh extremely professionally and promplty by all concerned ,for which we were most grateful.
This is an outstanding camp, very ably lead by Sara the manager .We would love to return."
My Jun 2011 trip
Botswana between 21 Jun 2011 and 3 Jul 2011
This meant I'd felt we had made good choices for our first trip to Botswana and others commented on what a good balance it was.
So the advice we received ensured we had a very good trip which exceeded expectaions which were alreay high.
Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:
I cannot fault the help and advice given by Lucy Copson and Nick Hobbs - nothing was too much trouble and they really made every effort to meet my initila brief and provide alternative options.
Although i didnt choose Africa Travel Resource to book my holiday I did like the ranking system they used, which enabled us to refine our choices and keep within budget. Perhaps something like this would be a useful addition to your site."
Arranged By Lucy Copson
Muchenje Safari Lodge
"Muchenje Safari Lodge review"
Rooms were very comfortable but lacked storage space ,which Cathy the manager said was being rectified.Cathy went out of her way and worked very hard to be hospitable and attentive to guests .
This was the only time we had hairdryers and charge points for our batteries so we made full use of them
Food was varied and very tasty
Sinca our guide responded well to our declared interest in more than the big 5 and actively brought to our attention a whole range of wildlife and Botswana culture.He also tactfully managed the fact that the other 2 occupants of our vehicle had no interest whatever in birds or flora.
We had requested ,by email in advance ,to visit the school to take gifts (mentioned on lodge website) and this was arranged -very interesting but not much opportunity to speak with the children or see them in lessons.
One of the highlights was undoubtedly the full day safari with an afternoon boat trip-amazing variety and numbers of game and birds while we moored on sandbank for a picnic lunch surrounded by hippos,elephants ,crocodiles ,puku .Wonderful day. However this involved a long trip on the tar road back towards Kasane and so we wonder how much we benefitted from Muchenji's western location at this time of year which wasn't as busy as it can get in the high season.
We also enjoyed watching activites around the water hole as the bush came to life in the mornings and the night drives (bushbabies leaping and a young leopard with a recent kill)
The fleece lined ponchos were wonderful and we really needed them on cold late June mornings/evenings.
What marred an otherwise good start to the holiday were a number of incidents relating to attitudes to staff and their management. From the start Cathy (very courteous to us) made critical comments about staff failings and inabilty to follow instructions both in front of them and behind their backs .
When we requested a walking safari to be included in our activities Cathy left Sinca to explain it wouldn't be possible and he was clearly embarrassed not to be able to give a reason.
At the end of the second day one of the laundresses came to our room to explain she had damaged a blouse with an iron that was too hot.She was clearly terrified ,had been worried all day and burst int tears when I assured her it was an accident and that I had done something simlar myself. There was no way we were going to mention this to Cathy, but after dinner she raised the matter herself and reiterated how incompetent staff were despite being told how to do things correctly. A positive outcome was that a morning walk could now be arranged for the next day and this we really enjoyed very much.
We regard these incidents as very sad as at all other lodges the atmosphere was one of mutual respect and harmony among staff at all levels.
"Lagoon Camp review"
However first impressions were most favourable -a wondeful welcome by staff on arrival and a real wow factor on passing through reception to see the lagoon on the doorstep.
The rooms had not only been recently refurbished but considerably enlarged to the size of small bungalows and by far the most spacious of all the lodges we stayed at. Perhaps not as intimate as other lodges ,especially as tents were not nestled in the trees but other factors more than made up for this
-a wonderfully warm atmosphere among staff,who treated one another with care and respect
-our guide Stan and tracker Bidi .Stan was by far and away the best guide on the whole trip and the others were very good .When we explained we were interested in just about everything and we wouldn't think it a bad day if we didnt see the big 5 ,he positively glowed and used every opportunity to share his considerable knowledge ,using his own hand drawn diagrams and notes to illustrate key points.He is a natural teacher and brought to life the complex interrelationships within the ecosystems of the delta.
-crashing throught the bush to track 3 cheetah brothers
-the camaraderie around the campfire-the camp was full and especially lively
-staff singing and dancing after dinner -led by the incomparable Grace -very moving and joyful
-seeing 72 species of birds in one morning
-bird watching around the lodge and especially from the upper level in the trees
-fishing on the evening boat ride-even though we caught nothing
-good curio shop -grace opened up at 6am so we could buy hats and gloves
It was disappointing not to be able to go on a walking safari but it was explained that because the previous rains had been good , the grass was still very high and so visibility was very restricted.
Not too much animal activity on nightdrives -perhaps the cold?-but we did see striped hyena ,genet and civet
Despite 7 layers of clothing it was extremely cold -the 'bushbaby' hotwaterbottles were welcome but the thin blankets on game drives were not a patch on the fleece lined ponchos"
The communal areas and facilties were delightful and i think the best of all the camps we visited
Ollie our guide was knowledgeable once coaxed and certainly knew his birds.
Lettie the manager was welcoming and gracious and we enjoyed conversations with her round the fire about Botswana culture and tradition
-having the guide to ourselves the first day-we could really spend time on birds
-wild dog sightings on our first drive
-splashing through deep water in the amazing vehicles
-lions finishing off a kill
-the delta scenery is magical
-the incredibly amazing abundance of game and birds on one particular one morning drive
-sitting round the camp fire and hearing an elephant crash through the bush and pass quietly by as we held our breath
-the boat transfer to Kwara our next destination
-fleece lined ponchos to keep us warm
The range of activities is fewer in the reserve (no night drives /walks) but what we did see was great"
"Kwara Camp review"
However the location ,range of activities and quality of guiding made Kwara a good choice.Hilda was great manager and nothing was too much trouble
-The views of the lagoon just a few yards away were amazing -listening to the music of the frogs and hippos chomping the grass round our room at night
-our guide Thomas -who must be the biggest guide in Botswana and tracker BJ who was a real star and mokoro poler Justice who described 2 month mokoro trips in his youth to travel from his village to the main town (now takes 3 hours by road)
-birdlife especially wattled cranes ,a secretary bird,a Pels Fishing Owl (Thomas had last seen one 5 years ago) and a dozen huge ground hornbills spread out in formation across the airstrip scouring for 'roadkill' but missing the lone blacksmith plover chick which we checked out each day
-crossing the wooden bridges between the islands -very hairy
-the mokoro trip (seeing the tiny things in the reeds)and walking in the bush,tracking and learning about the flora ,the biodiversity and the interrelationship of living things in the delta
-the evening boat trip and watching the sunset through the papyrus
-having a puncture surrounded by 7 lions"
All the criteria for a great safari were fully met - a simple but comfortable bush camp ,superb guiding ,access to amazing wildlife and good food ,comfy bed ,warm welcome and attention throughout.
Having stayed at Ubuntu South 5 years ago, the several small improvements were most welcome but didn't detract from a true bush feel. These included good bedside lights , the mosquito nets hung well away from the beds ,wellies, umbrellas and the 'serving hatch' for delivery of wake up drinks. The provision of hot water bottles helped counter the cool ,damp nights and early morning game drives. The food was varied and very tasty .One of us doesn't eat red meat or nuts and her needs were always accommodated.
All the staff are just the warmest ,friendliest and helpful people you could hope to find. Saeed the manager was especially attentive and went out of his way to make us feel a home. We have come to expect a consistent high standard in the guiding across Asilia camps ,which has visibly improved over the years under the intensive training led by Pietro Luraschi and Lorenzo Rossi.
Our guide for the whole week ,David Osaka, not only had all the essential skills of a great guide but had the patience, sense of humour and personality to help us see what we most wanted as well as the unexpected . He clearly loved the wildlife and sharing his passion with us.He managed to steer away from the crowds and we were often the only vehicle for miles around. Even though the migration was in full swing and we were often surrounded by thousands of wildebeest and zebra it took nearly 5 days of dedicated 'hunting' to finally catch a wildebeest birth from start to finish . This fully justified our decision to stay 7 nights . There was plenty of predator action too -including a wild chase across the savannah to the woods near Kimondo just in time to catch sight of a leopard almost completely hidden in a tree being closely watched by 7 lionesses in nearby tree who were so hostile to the competition that the leopard quickly escaped. Knowing we also liked birds and smaller creatures like bat-eared fox , David was on the alert for anything we might not have seen before or was well hidden.
A word about the Asilia open vehicles ; the weather had been extremely wet just before we arrived and driving was a challenge Although we got stuck and were rescued a couple of times it was quite apparent that vehicles from one other nearby camp in particular suffered far, far worse and were regular stuck. As the weather warmed up and the roads dried a little we were able to venture out earlier around 6.30am ,which enabled us to experience the rising sun in the east at the same time as the setting full moon directly opposite in the west . One of many memorable , magical experiences."