Travel reviews by Miss K & Mr G from London
Total number of trips
Lodges stayed in
Our October 2020 holiday to Namibia
Namibia between 15 Oct 2020 and 1 Nov 2020
Sabina was incredibly helpful and we had a lot of last minute changes due to covid restrictions and various flights been cancelled and a couple of our original places to stay were closed. She dealt with it all in a very professional and helpful way, always getting back to us really quickly and making sure we were up to date with all the latest information.
We felt completely safe the whole time we were on our holiday, and Namibia is clearly dealing with Covid much better than we are back in the UK."
Arranged By Sabina Hekandjo
"Excellent volunteer project but poor lodge"
Lodge not featured by Expert Africa
Okonjima Bush Camp
Our guide, Martin, was great. He had amazing eyes and was great at explaining things. He also understood about light for photography. He showed us some amazing things.
We did leopard tracking on our first afternoon, but actually the highlight was some fabulous brown hyena sightings. This was followed by pangolin tracking (fabulous). Then the next morning was the Africat tour, where he took us inside the cheetah enclosures in the jeep, and also arranged for us to watch the lions be fed. That afternoon it was back for more leopards followed by a night hide/drive (more amazing brown hyena sightings). Then rhino tracking the next morning (2 white rhinos) with a fabulous sighting of a group of 10 sable antelopes on the way back to the lodge.
In general, I thought this was a really well run lodge, with excellent guiding, that really surpassed my expectations. We also had a really good sighting of a sable antelope here, but it wasn't in the list below."
Great bed and pillows and an excellent shower. Very helpful manager who booked restaurants and made other arrangements for us.
Also an excellent breakfast. Cereal and yoghurt, cold meats and cheeses as well as cooked egg options."
"Interesting and great scenery"
18 Oct 2020 • Afternoon excursion
I was expecting slightly more of a focus on biology and ecosystems, whereas it was a bit more focused on geology, but it was all very interesting.
Dolphin and seal cruise
18 Oct 2020 • All-day excursion
Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better a humpback whale showed up. They also plied us with alcohol (including a great local sherry) and gave us a fabulous lunch complete with oysters (which were fabulous). I got to feed a young fur seal some fish!!!
We did both this and the kayaking and we both agreed that we preferred the boat cruise. That is partly because we both love taking photos, and it was much easier to do this from a boat than a kayak, but also because we got much closer to all the wildlife (except the flamingos) on the boat than we did from the kayaks.
Coast and Sandwich Harbour
19 Oct 2020 • All-day excursion
When we got to Sandwich harbour we walked up some of the dunes before heading to lunch. Next to the lunch stop there was a colony of very habituated 3 striped mice who were shy to start with but would come and take food from our hands once they got used to us. The we drove back through the dunes (slightly terrifying, but my other half absolutely loved this) and saw ostrich, oryx and springbok.
We enjoyed this trip, but seeing all the dead and dying seals was a really sobering experience (this is not a reflection on Turnstone tours - it is nature....we understand that periodically the seals have a really tough year if the fish they eat don't come close enough to land). If the majority of the seals had been fit and healthy it would have been a really amazing day.
Cape Cross Lodge
"Surprisingly good lodge"
Food was good – game carpaccio (excellent) followed by really nice hake for me and steak for Andy for dinner. Breakfast was also decent with cereal and yoghurt and a good omelette. Better than expected.
Good location for Cape Cross Seal colony, although in hindsight, since the national park closes at 5pm and it didn’t get dark until after 7pm, we might have been better off staying in Henties Bay or near Brandberg to reduce the amount of driving we had to do the next day."
Kayaking with seals
"OK...probably not quite as good as we were ex"
20 Oct 2020 • Morning excursion
Some really nice views of the flamingos on the way back to Walvis Bay though. Our guide was great and pointed out jackals and all the different birds. For us the highlight was (unexpectedly) the flamingos rather than the seals. Similar to Sandwich harbour, there were lots of dead or dying seals on Pelican Point, so tough to watch.
Mowani Mountain Camp
"Good but not amazing"
Dinner was lovely – excellently cooked steak followed by a rather poor dessert, and breakfast was also very good. However, the mattress and pillows were uncomfortable and the shower was poor. I also didn’t particularly warm to any of the staff or our guide.
There is a very cute family of rock hyrax living in the rocks behind the main restaurant area."
"Not recommended for rhinos"
We arrived too late for an afternoon activity on our first day, and had pre-booked rhino tracking for our second day (although, again, they didn’t have any record of this). The terrain here is extremely rocky, which makes for very bumpy game drives. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone with back problems! We found the game to be very sparse and also extremely skittish – the fact that trophy hunting was done here until very recently certainly shows.
We drove for around 3 hours before reaching the target rhino area, where our tracker (only one – I got the feeling there were supposed to be 2 or 3 of them, but it was rhino tracker change-over day, where one set of trackers go in and another come out) searched for several hours to find fresh tracks, but with no success. For most of this time we were just sitting in the jeep waiting, which got extremely dull after a while. If we had known in advance that this is what it would be like we would have taken a book to read! We found out later on that they have had a big problem with poaching over the last few years, and they are now down on only 5 rhinos, so your chance of seeing them isn’t very high.
Also no power sockets in the rooms, so you have to charge devices in the main area. No wifi. The pool was empty. In general the lodge staff are friendly and helpful (especially the assistant manager Silvie)."
So when they arrived at Grootberg, the lodge was not expecting them. The team at the lodge did their best under the circumstances, but the pool hadn’t been filled and their rhino-tracking activity was far from the usual standard that we’d expect.
We’d have expected the rhino tracking to be a long and bumpy day, on rough rocky tracks. However, with a full complement of rhino-trackers from the community we would have expected the expedition to be more interactive and more successful.
We’ve apologised to these travellers in a very tangible way.
The photo hide is fabulous – loads of animals (including lions, elephants and sable antelope). Our guide, Michael, was amazing. He was incredibly knowledgeable, had amazing eyes, and was a fountain of interesting information. He was also very personable and it was a joy to be guided by him. He also knew exactly where to position the jeep to get the best light for photography.
Our sightings of elephants and black rhino here were simply incredible."
Dinner on the first night was much better than I expected and the service was quick. However, on the second night it wasn’t as good and much slower. Breakfast was ok (your choice of cooked breakfast).
However, the main reason to come here is the waterhole, which is really pretty amazing, with a steady parade of wildlife. We drove ourselves around during the day. We did have some excellent sightings of lions, leopards, black rhino, spotted hyena and elephants while doing this (as well as a honey badger during the day which was pretty special) and a good variety of herbivores and birds, but we also had some long periods while doing this of seeing very little at all...a lot depends on your luck and your spotting skills.
However, if you aren't confident in your spotting skills you can just stay and watch the wildlife at the waterhole. There are also ground squirrels and banded mongoose in the grounds of the lodge."
Onguma The Fort
"Lovely high end lodge"
The lodge is well located, very close to the Etosha main gate, and there is wildlife within the Onguma reserve (we had a giraffe and a cheetah come to drink at the lodge waterhole while we were having dinner). However, there were a couple of little niggles which would have irritated me had we been paying full price (we were upgrade from Onguma Treeptop Camp following fire damage). Our minibar wasn’t restocked after the first day, and we had to ask for it to be done.
Also, I can’t have caffeine which means I can’t eat chocolate. The lodge were informed of this in advance and I reconfirmed it when we checked in. However, dessert on the second night was chocolate mousse, so I asked for an alternative and was presented with a bowl of fruit salad with chocolate ice cream on top! We pointed this out to the waiter who apologised, but didn’t seem to do anything about it as 20 minutes later we had to ask for another alternative to be brought out. Luckily for me, if I eat chocolate it just means I don’t sleep (it was too dark to tell it was chocolate until I tasted it), but if it had been a severe allergy it could have gone badly wrong.
The other thing is that if you are coming from the National Park and not from the direction of the main road, there is no sign for the lodge, and if you are relying on Google maps, it doesn’t know where the entry point to the Onguma reserve is. We ended up driving around for an hour in the dark trying to find it before retracing our steps and finding the sign when coming from the direction of the main road. We should have read Expert Africa's instructions the previous day!!!
We didn’t do any of the lodge activities so can’t comment on those.
We found that there was less wildlife in the eastern part of Etosha than we were expecting. We had previously been told by a number of people that this was the most wildlife-dense part of the park. There were plenty of herbivores, and occasional solitary elephants, but no rhinos or large groups of elephants, and apart from spotted hyenas the only predators we saw were one sighting of a group of three cheetahs. I’m not sure if this is usual, or is as a result of the recent fires, or a result of fewer cars driving around due to Covid so fewer pairs of eyes to spot things."
Let down by not nearly enough light in the rooms at night and the hot breakfast options taking forever to arrive and being badly cooked (the cold breakfast options are good – yoghurt, cereal, fruit, pastries). We had dinner at the Butchers Block restaurant on site which was pretty good, although our food did take an awfully long time to arrive.
A reasonable first or last night choice as it's on the right side of Windhoek for the airport."
Namibia and 1 other country between 10 Apr 2014 and 28 Apr 2014
If I was doing the trip again I wouldn't have stayed a night in Namtib Desert Lodge but would have put in a night at Quivertree Forest after our stay in Fish River Canyon. We stopped here for a couple of hours on our way to Luderitz, but we wished that we had more time and were able to see it at sunrise and sunset.
The driving was mostly fine in our high clearance 2WD. The only roads that caused us problems were the access track to Polentswa lodge and the D707 north of Namtib Desert Lodge where the road is basically sand for a 20km stretch. I would recommend that in future you only recommend this road for people in a 4WD and that you recommend the C13/C27 route for anyone in a 2WD. I think that even though this is longer it would be much faster as the D707 is in a pretty bad way once you get North of Namtib Desert Lodge. The scenery doesn't get really good until the C27 near the Namib Rand reserve.
We had an issue at Polentswa lodge, however, this was quickly resolved - thank you for your help with this. I would recommend that you clarify the current situation regarding night drives and other activities with the Ta Shebube lodges and update your website accordingly. We were really impressed by the quality of the Ta Shebube Rooiputs lodge - we had a great time there and saw some great animals.
I would have liked to have one or two nights on the Mata-Mata side of the national park as well as Rooiputs, as the wildlife and birds are quite different here to Rooiputs, but all the park accommodation was full so it was not possible. However, I would recommend this for future guests if the accommodation is available."
We would like to thanks these travellers for their very informative feedback. As a result of this we noted that the track to Polentswa requires a 4WD and will advise future travellers of this.
In general, we always send our travellers along the C13/C27, unless they are staying at Namtib Desert Lodge, but have also noted that a 4WD may be required when visiting Namtib.
Arranged By Tracy Lederer
Augrabies Falls Restcamp
We did the ebony walk which took us way longer than the suggested 2.5 hours. Also did the dassie trail which I would recommend when the weather is dry to anyone with a reasonable level of fitness. The scenery is just stunning.
We also did some self guided game drives to the various viewpoints. We saw springbok, gemsbok, giraffe, yellow mongoose, ground squirrel, daisies, vervet monkeys, black spitting cobra.
We also did a guided night drive and saw cape hare, steenbok and gemsbok.
Overall really enjoyed our stay here and would recommend it."
"Lovely stay at Canyon Lodge"
The restaurant is expensive by Namibian standards and the service is incredibly slow. The food was quite nice though. Breakfast buffet was good. Wifi was free and reasonable.
I would recommend having dinner in the Bay View Hotel instead, although they don't take walk ins so you need to reserve a table in advance (the service here was also very slow but the food was better and the prices were much lower)"
Namtib Desert Lodge
"Namtib Desert Lodge"
Apparently there are lots of interesting animals around, they just don't seem to do anything that allows there guests to see them, which we found very strange given that they brand themselves as an Eco lodge. The food is ok but nothing special and compares poorly to some of the other lodges we stayed on our trip. On the plus side when we arrived we had had a puncture on the drive up to the lodge and they were very helpful and made a couple of phone calls for us which we appreciated. Do be aware that the rooms are pretty basic with no fans or air con.
You have to walk through an outdoor courtyard to get to the bathroom, which can be a bit off putting if you need to use the loo in the middle of the night."
However, on the plus side the manager Andy is great and he makes sure all the guests are well looked after. The food is excellent.
We did the sundowner horse ride which was brilliant. We are experienced riders and there were also two beginners as well. They split up the group so we went with two different guides. The beginners walked to the sundowner spot and we went the long way round trotting and cantering most of the way. I would definitely recommend it for experienced riders.
We did a self drive trip to the dunes. We left the lodge just after 5 am and drove to the park gate. We drove to the parking area where we the shuttle to dead vlei and sossus vlei. We walked up the dunes at both places. Be aware that you are reliant on the shuttle. It was fine getting to dead vlei, then we had a short wait to go to on to sossus vlei but then we had to wait for almost an hour in the baking heat for a shuttle back to the parking area. Because of this I would recommend taking lots of water with you plus something to eat.
There are some very tame black backed jackals that hang out in the parking area scavenging for scraps. In terms of cost it is 80 rand to get into the park, plus 100 rand for the shuttle. This compares to 850 rand for the guided tour offered by the lodge. So it is quite a large difference in cost. If you have a 4x4 you can drive to dead vlei and sossus vlei yourself and not use the shuttle. However i would only recommend this if you are experienced driving on soft sand. We saw a number of vehicles that got stuck."
Kalahari Red Dunes Lodge
"Kalahari Red Dunes Lodge"
The service lacks the personal touch. The food is ok but nothing special. We went on a sundowner game drive which was a bit disappointing. The driver ignored all the birds and inevitably put us in a spot that was either looking directly into the sun at the animals or had a bush between us and them. Not so good for taking photos. We also did the nyala self guided walk which we enjoyed.
There is a tame meerkat who runs around the lodge. The owners of the lodge found him and his sister abandoned when they were pups and they hand reared them. They released both meerkats when they were old enough to survive on their own but toffee decided he preferred the good life around the lodge than life in the wild. When we were there he showed up for afternoon tea to beg for cake."
Torgos Safari Lodge
"Torgos Safari Lodge"
We did a game drive while we were there which we very much enjoyed. We also mentioned that we really would like to see a porcupine and they took us out again for a night drive after dinner. We didn't see a porcupine but there were loads of spring hares, bat eared foxes, a cape fox and a genet. They didn't charge us any extra for this on top of the afternoon game drive.
The food was very good and the service was friendly."
Lodge not featured by Expert Africa
Ta Shebube Polentswa
"Ta Shebube Polentswa"
We had a high clearance 2wd vehicle for our trip. Driving through the national park itself was fine in a 2wd, however the access track to Polentswa lodge was a 4wd track and our car really struggled with it. I would definitely recommend that if you stay here you drive a 4x4. When we got to the lodge we were told that their game drive guide had gone away to attend a funeral and that they were unable to offer us any game drives. Also, contrary to the information we had received they also didn't have a permit for night drives and couldn't offer those either, even if there had been a guide available. This was extremely disappointing. Given all the above we asked if it was possible to move two of the nights we were supposed to be spending at Polentswa to their sister lodge rooiputs. We were able to arrange this so we only ended up staying one night.
The tents themselves are very nice, the service was good, the staff choir was a real treat, and the food is quite good. The setting is beautiful and the view is fabulous. If you want somewhere to relax and get away from it all for a few days then this would be ideal. However, if you want to come here to see wildlife then you are much better off in their rooiputs lodge further south where the wildlife is more prolific and you get a much better view of it due to the nature of the road."
Ta Shebube Rooiputs
"Ta Shebube Rooiputs"
I would definitely recommend doing the game drives here rather than self driving, especially if you want to take photos. We had great sightings of lion, cheetah, leopard, gemsbok, springbok, wildebeest, hartebeest, meerkats, ground squirrels, slender mongoose, black backed jackals plus an assortment of excellent birds. The only word of caution that I have is that it does get very cold first thing in the morning when you are doing game drives in an open safari vehicle so make sure you take warm clothes - I would recommend a warm hat, gloves, windproof jacket and fleece and warm trousers. However, by the time you get to the middle of the day it will be hot."
October 2012 trip to Zambia
Zambia between 12 Oct 2012 and 3 Nov 2012
Expert Africa did a great job with the organisation and recommendations."
Arranged By Claire Scott
Avani Victoria Falls
"Location, Location, Location!"
The hotel itself is big and brash but we knew that before we chose it. There are loads of facilities on site including a pool, activity centre, ATM, and a few restaurants. The rooms are air conditioned with nice bathrooms and excellent showers. We ate at the buffet restaurant on the night we arrived as we were tired and wanted something quick. The quality was ok but it was a bit pricey. The following two nights we went to Squires Steakhouse (also on site) which did great steak and was much more reasonably priced. The grounds of the hotel are extensive and definitely worth exploring. There are zebras, impalas, giraffes, baboons and vervet monkeys in the grounds as well as a variety of birds.
The best feature of this hotel is it's location. You walk out the back gate of the grounds and you are at the Victoria falls. We explored the Zambia side of the falls twice - once in the morning and once in the afternoon - which is definitely worth doing. Not only are the views great but we saw some nice birds as well. We also spent an afternoon crossing over to Zimbabwe to see the falls from there as well. We were there in October and the view from Zimbabwe was considerably better as there was a lot more water flowing over the Zimbabwe side of the falls. If you want to do a day trip to Zimbabwe first you need to exit Zambia and get your passport stamped (the border is only 3 minutes walk from the exit gate of the Zambezi Sun). Then you need to cross over the bridge to the entrance to Zimbabwe. This sounds quick but it would probably take you an hour if you walked so we got a taxi for US$5. You then need to buy a visa to enter Zimbabwe (US$55 for British passports or $30 for Australian). It is then a few minutes walk to the entrance of the national park, which costs $30 each to get into. So it isn't a cheap afternoon out but we thought it was definitely worthwhile. If you want to cross into Zimbabwe make sure you get a double entry visa when you arrive in Zambia, so you can get back in without buying another visa.
We also did a number of other activities while we were there. These included Horse riding (good horses and a nice ride but we didn't see any wildlife apart from some distant birds), Walking safari to see the rhinos (excellent - we got really close to the rhinos. The walk itself is very short which was good as it was very hot, but is followed by a long game drive which was considerably better than I had expected), Livingstone Island/Devils Pool (this was brilliant fun - the views are spectacular and we really enjoyed it), and we also did walking lions and cheetahs and an elephant ride at Makuni Big 5 safaris. I was a bit dubious about the ethics of this but they explained how their conservation programme worked and it all seemed fairly sensible. The animals were all very well cared for and seemed content. Our favourite bit was the cheetahs who started purring as soon as we got close to them. They seemed to love the attention and when you started patting them they would lick you back to say thank you. I could have spent hours with them and it still wouldn't have been enough!
For anyone who wants to pick up some cheap souvenirs there is also a craft market just outside the back entrance of the hotel where the quality is good and the prices are reasonable (although you still need to bargain a bit)."
We had some brilliant wildlife sightings while we were at Shumba. In our three days we had really good sightings of a pack of wild dogs, a group of 3 cheetahs (at night), 2 leopard cubs, several groups of lions, about 5 different servals (at night), elephants , hippos, water monitor and roan antelope. The only thing we wanted to see that we didn’t manage was the sable antelope.
However, the game in this area can be sparse and it is also quite possible to drive around for an hour and see absolutely nothing. However, when you do spot something the quality of the sighting is often very good.
I would also have liked a bit more focus on birds, antelope and smaller animals on the game drives. Our guide (who was generally very good) had a bit if a tendency to search for big cats and ignore everything else. However, we found this to be a common issue throughout Zambia."
"Leopards galore at Mwamba"
The hide at Mwamba is brilliant (much better than any other hide we were in during our trip). It is right by a waterhole and it is the only water for quite a considerable distance so attracts a huge variety of animal and bird life during the dry season. We saw 3 lions, impala, bushbuck, fish eagles, sparrowhawk, lovebirds, lilac breasted rollers, plus many other species of birds.
The rooms here are fairly basic and the insect life is extremely prolific. If you can't deal with bugs then choose somewhere else to stay. We were there in October at the end of the dry season and the rooms got incredibly hot - we didn't get a lot of sleep as it was just too warm. If you are staying here during the hottest part of the year then bring a sarong with you that you can wet and sleep under - they were provided in some of the other camps and it makes such a difference. The food was simple but perfectly edible (note that if you stay at the sister camp, Kaingo, you get the same dishes there)."
"Lovely time at Tafika"
On one of our mornings we went to a spot where large numbers of grey crowned cranes congregate and we saw them as they flew in, which was lovely. We also saw lions, a leopard, hyenas, civet, genet, elephants, giraffe, a huge heard of buffalo, and lots of other animals while we were here. On one of our afternoon game drives we visited their carmine bee eater hide, which was brilliant. It is in a great position (much better than the one at Kaingo camp). It is worth getting up early in the morning and watching the river as huge flocks of queleas drink at the river and they swarm like locusts - it is spectacular.
The lodge also has a hide by a small waterhole. It isn't as spectacular as the one at Mwamba, as it is very close to the river, but we still saw hammerkop, impala, elephants, hippos, ground hornbill, bushbuck, baboons, banded mongooses and a juvenile eagle. It is nice just to be able to wander in whenever you feel like it.
The food is plentiful and nice and the owners who run the camp are very friendly. The rooms are very well designed and are nice and let in a breeze (if there is one blowing) which is nice. They also supply a sarong like cloth to wet and put over you while you are sleeping when the weather gets really hot. This made such a difference and we really appreciated it.. There is a central point for charging batteries and laptops in the dining area.
Overall we really enjoyed our time at Tafika. The wildlife and terrain is slightly different to the other two camps in the park that we stayed it and I would definitely recommend a stay here and at Mwamba bushcamp - they complement each other very well."
"Kaingo Camp - disappointing"
Both guides had a severe case of what I call "Big Cat-itis" where they focus on lions/leopards to the exclusion of everything else. This is such a shame as you miss so much on a game drive by ignoring the smaller things. It also contrasted badly to the two previous camps we were in - Mwamba and Takifa.
We kept being taken back to the same group of lions on every game drive. However, most of the time they were asleep - and lions lazing under a tree get a bit dull after a while. I'd much rather watch a group of baboons for an hour than a group of lions. However, I wasn't given the choice. We just sped straight past things like baboons.
The night drives here were also disappointing compared to the other camps that we visited. All the animals we saw were much further away and more skittish.
The hides were also a bit of a disappointment. We went to the hippo hide twice, but the hippos were a considerable distance from the hide so you don't get an up close and personal view like I was hoping for. The elephant hide was nicely positioned up in a tree at a point where the elephants cross the river. However, on the day we were due to go to the elephant hide we had been told to meet in reception at 12:30 which we did. We waited around for about 15 minutes for someone to appear and eventually they did and we were asked "Why aren't you at the hide?". Apparently the elephants had crossed early and the other guests had gone over at 12:00 but no-one came to get us so we didn't know. By the time we got to the hide the elephants were half way across the river and travelling away from us (so not great for the photos). It would have been lovely had we seen the whole thing but the best bits happened before we got there - which was frustrating. Once the elephants had finished crossing we were told "that's it - we're going now" without being given any option to stay longer - despite only having been there for about 20 minutes. At no stage was there any apology for messing us around.
It wasn't all bad. We saw lions, hyenas, a leopard up a tree with a kill (actually very close to Mwamba bushcamp and found by Patrick - the Mwamba guide), it just wasn't as good as it could have been, which was deeply frustrating. There are very tame bushbucks and vervet monkeys in the surrounding bush. We were nearly joined by a vervet monkey in the bath on one day.
The rooms are ok - although they don't let much breeze in so they get VERY hot. The outside bathtub is a nice touch and lovely in the hot weather. The food is mostly average - although we did get the occasional really nice dish. But there is no choice - you just get what you are given."
Derek and Jules have clearly taken these comments seriously and have already acted on some of the points raised.
Looking at all the travellers comments below, we don't believe that generally Kaingo is a place run for the convenience of the managers rather than the pleasure of the guests. That said, we don't doubt that this was the experience that these travellers had at the end of October 2012.
( We do note that they stayed just a few days before the camp closed for the year, which shouldn't make a difference at all but we wouldn't be surprised if the team were tired at the end of a long season. )
Firstly, this feedback reminds us to re-emphasize to all of our travellers that if they ever experience problems whilst in a camp, then its really important to voice these very clearly at the time, as theres a good chance that they can be rectified there and then. We are powerless to help travellers after they have left the camp, as are the camps owners and managers.
Investigating the specifics, were told by Jules that one of the guides who guided these travellers was released at the end of last season; he is no longer working at Kaingo. We are sorry that these travellers experienced him.
We also understand that the camp has taken seriously the confusion about the visit to the Elephant Hide; clearly it shouldn't have happened, and measures are now in place to try to avoid it happening again. For 2013, Kaingo have also replaced their safari manager, which we hope will help the activities to run as well in the future as weve always been used to them running in the past.
So whilst we are really glad that the rest of the trip that these travellers had was enjoyable, and were sorry that they had such a negative experience of Kaingo, which our travellers normally find to be a very good camp.
When we arrived there was a sitatunga grazing by the shore of the lake about 150 metres from the lodge. It's great to see a species of antelope that is normally so elusive up close (although you still need either a decent camera lens or pair of binos to get a good view). He stayed in roughly the same spot throughout our visit and they tell us he gets slightly closer to the lodge as the season continues each year.
The first evening we were there we went up to the BBC hide to watch the bats emerge from their trees. This was spectacular. We were told there were between 2 and 5 million bats when we were there at the end of October and that number would have continued to rise during November. Potential visitors should be aware that the climb up to the hide involves a long and rickety ladder attached to the tree - this isn't suitable for anyone who is scared of heights or anyone who has any mobility issues. However, you can also get a good view of the bats from the ground.
The following morning we went back up to the BBC hide to see the bats come back to their trees. This was also amazing - I think the bats come slightly closer as they return in the morning. Note that it does get cold so early in the morning and also during the drive in an open vehicle - I wore a fleece and some lightweight thermals under my safari gear. On our way back to the lodge we saw a family of baboons. The Kasanka baboons are a slightly different type - they are currently doing genetic testing to determine if they are a subspecies or whether they just exhibit different behaviours. They are currently the subject of some research so they are fairly well habituated and we had a lovely sighting watching them groom each other in the early morning sun.
We then went back to the lodge to ditch our warm clothes and have a bacon sandwich before heading off again on a drive to the river. We had some nice bird sightings on the way and also saw a family of jackals running in the distance. We also had a very brief sighting of a bushbaby (the jeep startled a dwarf mongoose who ran into a hole at the bottom a tree and a bushbaby poked his head out the top to see what the fuss was about).
We did a canoe trip on the river which was lovely. We saw some lovely birds including 5 species of kingfisher, Martial eagle, cormorants, egrets, bee eaters and a Ross's Turaco.
After a long lunch and a brief siesta we went for a walk where we saw lots of interesting insects and a few more birds.
On our drive home we looked for the sable antelope but unfortunately didn't see them.
We had flown into Kasanka on a private charter flight with Skytrails. Our pilot stayed with us at the lodge and he offered to fly us up to shoebill island for the day and do some scenic flying over the herds of black lechwe and tsesebe for a cost of $500. After a bit of thinking we decided to do it and were extremely glad we did as it turned out to be a great day. Flying over the herds of lechwe was spectacular as thousands of them congregate together. We walked through the swamps to see a shoebill and got very close (within 20 metres) - he was totally unfased - at one point he went to sleep. They are such spectacular birds. We then did a game drive in search of the tsesebe, which we found, another huge herd. We also drove through the massive herds of lechwe. There were lots of other birds and the whole day was fantastic. I would definitely recommend it as a day trip if you have access to a plane. It is also possible to drive but not in one day as the road is in very poor condition.
The following morning we went on another short game drive to try and find the sable antelope - but unfortunately they eluded us again. We did, however, see some bushpigs, which made the drive worthwhile.
Visitors to Kasanka should be aware that the game is nowhere near as prolific or as habituated as in the other Zambian National parks. Almost all of the antelope we saw ran away as soon as they saw or heard the jeep. However, the amazing spectacle of the bats, the chance to see the sitatunga and the excellent birdlife make this an extremely worthwhile destination for those who don't just want to see the Big Five. Add to that the fact that every cent that you pay goes straight back into the upkeep and protection of the park. I would also definitely recommend shoebill island - either as a day trip or a longer visit depending on your budget and time constraints."
Old Mondoro Bushcamp
"Old Mondoro Camp"
For the first 24 hours the game drives were truly excellent. We spent plenty of time looking at some of the less traditionally spectacular animals like antelope, baboons and birds, which I feel makes for more interesting and varied game drives. We also had a few leopard sightings (including a short sighting of a mother with a very young cub). However, half way through our stay we were joined by different guests and they mentioned to our guide that they really wanted to see big cats. From this point onwards our guide for the daytime game drives got a case of what I call "big-cat-itis" where you charge around the bush looking for big cats to the exclusion of everything else. This is great if you see them, however, it's a bit rubbish if you don't (in this case - we didn't).
One of the highlights of our stay were the night drives. We saw porcupines, leopards, genets, civets and even an aardvark. The guides were certainly good at finding things in the dark, although I suppose the tall trees and open areas really help. They use a red filter on the spotting light for finding animals. However, I did find the ban on flash photography frustrating. I can understand the reasons behind it, however, the jeeps still used their headlights (which didn't have a red filter) and if they came across antelopes that didn't get out of the way quickly enough they would flash their headlights at them. So I did find the ban on flashes slightly contradictory. We took red plastic to put over over camera flashes which helped the cameras to focus in the dim light as the cameras could use the auto assist beams of the flashes. We bought a small role of red plastic lighting gel off ebay for less than £5. The "no flash" rule didn't seem to make the animals any less skitish, or less stunned looking as they would often get dazzled by the jeep headlights anyway. We saw no difference in behaviour from other camps that didn't have this rule.
We also did a river boat trip which was great. We told our boatman that we were really interested in photographing birds and we were the only two on the boat so he did his best and we got some nice shots. We had multiple groups of elephants cross the river in front of us, which was lovely. Seeing elephants in the water is great.
We also did the canoe trip. We found this disappointing. There were three guests on the trip, split over two canoes. However, for almost the whole journey the other canoe went first. This meant that any birds or animals we were trying to photograph would run or fly away when the first canoe drew level with them and the only photos we could get from the second canoe were retreating back or blurred wings. This was made even more annoying by the fact that the man in the first canoe wasn't interested in birds at all and we were. It is just a shame that they hadn't told us before we started that we would be on the second boat the whole times, since if we had known in advance we would have chosen a different activity and gone canoeing on a day when it would just have been the two of us.
The tents were nicely appointed (although I would have liked some shade over the outside bath - you couldn't lie in it for long in the middle of the day without getting sunburnt). The staff were generally helpful and friendly and the food was good."
The game drives were excellent. Our driver asked us what we wanted to do and he would always let us know where we were going. If news came through on the radio that another group from our lodge had found something interesting he would ask us first and we would decide as a group whether to go and have a look or to stay where we were. We saw lots of different animals (Including a leopard and her almost adult daughter up a tree) and some really great birds. We did a lovely boat trip on the river as well.
Night drives here are subject to a "no flash" rule. They use red lights to spot the animals. Before we went we bought a small role of red plastic lighting gel (like they use in theatres) to put over our flashes so we could still use them. This definitely helped the cameras to focus in the low light - although it's probably only worthwhile if you have an external flash for an SLR camera. The night drives weren't as good as those at Old Mondoro, but I think this is because the area has quite thick scrub so it's much harder to spot the nocturnal animals.
On our final night we all heard lions roaring very close to camp. We searched for them as we returned from our game drive. They were eventually located on the edge of the river where a dead hippo had washed up on shore. All of the guests at the lodge got onto a boat and we went and had a look from the river. There were 4 lions eating the hippo and trying to protect it from the circling crocodile. It was a brilliant final sighting to end our stay in Zambia."
Dinner was disappointing, with overcooked game steak with claggy spaghetti and ice cream that was obviously very cheap that had gone icy. Breakfast was better. But for the price it generally felt like the quality was lacking. Given the price difference, Naankuse volunteer project is a much better option!
We originally stayed here so we could do some of the activities, however, we ended up doing the Naankuse volunteer project for a week before our lodge stay, and this included most of the activities, so I would recommend for any traveller with the available time who is fit enough to be able to climb into and out of the back of a pickup truck, that they do the volunteer project instead."