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Traveller reviews

Travel reviews by Mrs & Mr O from California

Review Distribution

Excellent
Good
Average
Poor
Terrible

Total number of trips

2

Countries visited

4

Lodges stayed in

20

Excursions taken

2

We want to go again!

Namibia and 2 other countries between 6 Aug 2014 and 9 Sep 2014

Trip rating: Excellent
"We had a fabulous time! Unfortunately, this once-in-a-lifetime trip makes us want to go again, and again, and again!

I do hope the concessionaire's are careful not to over build. They are able to charge top dollar because of their high concentration of animals to a low density of visitors. But when vehicles are stacking up, waiting for a 10 to 15-minute turn to see the animals, the concentration is already too high for my tastes. There is something to be said for having more eyes in the field, because you then have more opportunity to make a good sighting. But there needs to be a balance, and we saw many new camps being added, and many camps are increasing the number of guests they can accommodate. As someone going to visit, note not only the number of tents in your camp, but of all the camps within the concession.

Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:
With your booking, Expert Africa has a general interest, basic requests, etc box; it would be nice to be able to customize that for each activity and/or camp to accommodate interests and expectations for different locations.

You guys and gals at Expert Africa are great! Everyone I've dealt with, though primarily Maruska and her sister Saskia when she was still with you, has been most helpful, honest, and pretty-darn-accurate, which I appreciate more than I can express!

Filling out this review has been a nightmare for me. Next time I will type things out elsewhere, and then cut and paste them in, which should work. When I tried to go back to previous page, whatever I'd typed was swallowed. If I hit save, it kicked me out, and I had to start again at the very beginning. I hated having to scroll forward through every page from the beginning, so I tried cheating and leaving the form open, but it would time out, again swallowing whatever I'd typed. It would be nice to be able to open on any page, so I could complete as time and mood allowed. Oh, well.

Sorry it's taken me so long to complete. I know I really appreciated other people's reviews and used the reviews heavily in making my choices--I would also like to see a scale of 1 - 10, because I would've liked to differentiate between good and excellent with a very good. The overall quality of all these camps is at least good, but some were far more excellent than others."

Arranged By Maruska Adye-Rowe


Olive Grove

Olive Grove

"Comfortable Stay in Windhoek"

1 night Arrived 7 Aug 2014
"We only stayed one-night, after a delay in our flight with South African, but I sure wish it had been two.

Everyone was very helpful; our room was very pleasant; we walked into town to change currency and visit a few shops; our dinner and packed breakfast, prepared for our early departure, were excellent."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Sossus Dune Lodge

Sossus Dune Lodge

"Sossus Dune Lodge good for photographers"

3 nights Arrived 8 Aug 2014
"As photographers, wanting the early morning and late afternoon light, this was the place to stay as they offer longer hours in the park, though I must wonder if the Kulala Lodges with their private gate, and location much closer to the dunes, might also be able to provide this service? There were many cars out very early and very late (way more than from Sossus Dune Lodge), possibly from the campground, but the dust cloud rising from the camping area, makes it not very appealing.

Our request for a distant room was not heeded, but given the amount of exercise we had climbing dunes this was maybe a blessing, though the noise from the bar and the clomp-clomping of people on the boardwalk and especially of running children, made only the wee hours of the morning peaceful. Our room did overlook a small lighted waterhole allowing us to watch a few animals stop by to drink.

We found the shuttle service to the parking area to be very good, walking only once when they had a large group arriving. Probably because we planned to tip at the end of our stay--so weren't tipping with every drink and dinner--our dinner service worsened with every night. The food itself was edible, but lacked flavor and texture, making me believe it was all prepackaged or canned. In future, I will try to learn how each camp/lodge operates on arrival, so we can tip accordingly.

When requested the night before, large packed breakfasts are placed on a table available for very early departures.

Whilst at Sossus Dune Lodge these travellers took a scenic helicopter flight over the dunes. Here's what they said about it:
Wow! Standing next to or on the dunes, gives you a feel for their size, but from the air you see just how large the expanse is, and the magnificence of the ever-changing shapes and patterns!

Our pilot was a bit of a hotshot, maybe fun for some the thrill of racing low over the dunes and causing the oryx to run, but not what we desired as photographers or with respect for the thin gemsbok, already stressed with low food and water. So I have really mixed feelings--the aerial perspective is fantastic, but I also feel flights should be banned if they are disrupting the wildlife, especially if it's intentional.

We felt it was not very professional when the pilot showed up for the flight with his booking girl, supposedly for weight and balance. My husband and I mentioned sitting on the same side, hoping the pilot could accommodate us with favorable light, and no mention was made during our preflight meeting that this would be a problem. As it was, he and the girl got the favorable light, and it was difficult to get his attention as he spent his time talking primarily with her."
Good
Location
Excellent
Service
Average
Facilities
Good
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Poor
Scenic flights in Namibia

Scenic flights in Namibia

"Fantastic Perspective of the Namib Desert"

9 Aug 2014 • Morning excursion

Wow! Standing next to or on the dunes, gives you a feel for their size, but from the air you see just how large the expanse is, and the magnificence of the ever-changing shapes and patterns!

Our pilot was a bit of a hotshot, maybe fun for some the thrill of racing low over the dunes and causing the oryx to run, but not what we desired as photographers or with respect for the thin gemsbok, already stressed with low food and water. So I have really mixed feelings--the aerial perspective is fantastic, but I also feel flights should be banned if they are disrupting the wildlife, especially if it's intentional.

We felt it was not very professional when the pilot showed up for the flight with his booking girl, supposedly for weight and balance. My husband and I mentioned sitting on the same side, hoping the pilot could accommodate us with favorable light, and no mention was made during our preflight meeting that this would be a problem. As it was, he and the girl got the favorable light, and it was difficult to get his attention as he spent his time talking primarily with her.
Good
Wolwedans Dunes Lodge

Wolwedans Dunes Lodge

"Big Disappointment with Wolwedans"

2 nights Arrived 11 Aug 2014
"As photographers, we wanted to be in good landscape locations with the prime early morning and late afternoon light. We were told, and our voucher clearly stated we were to have a private guide and vehicle. Wolwedans would not honor this, stating their office in Windhoek knew nothing about it. Our guide, informative talkative Trecious, was very apologetic, but it was beyond his control. I felt Wolwedans has a very standard set of activities/locations, and absolutely no desire to accommodate personal preferences, but would rather sell you an extra activity--horse, plane, balloon rides, etc.

The food was very good, but a late-starting 5-course dinner makes for a very late evening, and everyone at our table the first night had early morning activities, so we were all a little anxious about getting enough sleep. They heavily promote their conservation: never driving off-road--even a little to stop or park--making it very difficult to watch or photograph the wildlife, as there is quite a bit of traffic considering it's a single lane road; charging a per item laundry fee and limiting each guest to 50-liters of water per day, yet it took a very long time for me to get hot water. A recommendation to not shower for more than say 2-minutes, would be much preferable than saying our water will cut-off at 100-liters; how am I to know just how much water is coming out the faucet or showerhead? Maybe each room could have a small solar water-heater? Would save a lot of water.

Wolwedans is located in a very beautiful reserve, though everything seemed to be a fairly lengthy drive from the lodge. We'd originally intended to visit during the rainy season, but were told it was worth visiting both during the rainy and dry seasons. I would like to visit the reserve again, but certainly not through Wolwedans.

The service overall was very disappointing: our request for our room's canvas walls to remain up was ignored, though we appreciated the hot-water bottles placed in our bed; we arrived at 6:45 for a supposed 6:30 breakfast to find the place sealed up, unzipping a wall and yelling 'Good morning' into the black cavern, did bring voices emerging from the depths (the girls were then most pleasant, shivering in the cold), to having to 'check-out' where they seemed very disgruntled shuffling through papers again and again, before agreeing there was nothing additional for us to pay. We were given a packed lunch no problem, as we'd arrived after lunch on our first day. I overheard the others at our table, who'd all eaten lunch on their arrival, initially refused a packed lunch, but then agreed to if paid for. I can understand if they're working on that tight of a budget, but it left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth, when all the other camps we stayed with were always trying to give us more food.

We were disappointed in the activities because we expected to be in good locations during the prime light of early morning and late afternoon. The Namibrand Nature Reserve is beautiful, with many animals traversing through. Wolwedans made a supreme effort to tell and show us how this unique ecosystem works, and of their efforts to conserve the natural resources, which we value and appreciate very much. But when the light is good, and the shadows are long, we'd prefer to be shooting landscapes and larger animals (though I did get some interesting shots of beetles), and not quite so much time with their pumps and watering systems. There was a definite time-table for our full-day excursion, and we often felt hurried through areas where we would have liked more time, while spending time in areas we'd have preferred to skip, even when all the vehicle's occupants agreed."
Poor
Location
Good
Service
Poor
Activities
Average
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Good
Rostock Ritz

Rostock Ritz

"Unexpected Delight at Rostock Ritz"

1 night Arrived 13 Aug 2014
"We would have enjoyed another day here to explore its fascinating landscape. The well-marked trail system offers a great variety of rock formations and plant life, outstanding views, and wildlife. The meerkats, both in rehab and in the wild, were entertaining to watch. Everyone was helpful, and our meals excellent--though we did spend more than anticipated.

The igloo-shaped rooms are an interesting feature, but a little more cramped than most of our stays."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Good
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Lagoon Lodge

Lagoon Lodge

"Lots of flamingoes across from Lagoon Loge"

2 nights Arrived 14 Aug 2014
"The owners and staff were helpful, making dinner reservations for us, speaking with the tour operator to change our pickup time, and giving us an electrical adapter when we asked where we might purchase one.

Their breakfasts were good, and their location along the lagoon was excellent for bird watching and walks along the water.

Whilst in Walvis Bay these travellers took a day trip to Sandwich Harbour. Here's what they said about it:
Sean Braine, our guide, was a wealth of information while being very laid back, providing a relaxing enjoyable day. He spent the time to find different geckos, and bring to our attention many other little creatures, telling us much about the birds and plants we saw. It would have been nice to spend longer than one-hour at the harbour itself, but Sean was concerned about the tides despite other groups still being there (maybe because our vehicle was making a horrible chattering noise?), although we did spend plenty of time in the environment both to-and-from. All-in-all it was a pleasant and informative day, which I would recommend to anyone interested in this unique environment."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Coast and Sandwich Harbour

Coast and Sandwich Harbour

"Relaxing day at Sandwich Harbour."

15 Aug 2014 • All-day excursion

Sean Braine, our guide, was a wealth of information while being very laid back, providing a relaxing enjoyable day. He spent the time to find different geckos, and bring to our attention many other little creatures, telling us much about the birds and plants we saw. It would have been nice to spend longer than one-hour at the harbour itself, but Sean was concerned about the tides despite other groups still being there (maybe because our vehicle was making a horrible chattering noise?), although we did spend plenty of time in the environment both to-and-from. All-in-all it was a pleasant and informative day, which I would recommend to anyone interested in this unique environment.
Excellent
Desert Rhino Camp

Desert Rhino Camp

"Marvelous Fabulous Desert Rhino Camp"

3 nights Arrived 16 Aug 2014
"Bons, our guide, and our experience at Desert Rhino Camp 'set-the-bar' so high, it would continue to be unattainable by any other camp. I hope Wilderness Safaris appreciates the gold mine they have in Bons. He is a boundless source of energy, a team player who when not out on safari was helping anyone and everyone in camp. He has great organizational skills, is excellent at prioritizing, a good mechanic (recognizing immediately what was wrong when another vehicle broke down), understands what makes for a good photograph, is sensitive to the wildlife and capable of getting into good photographic positions without causing them to move off, and he listened to what we desired, thought about it, then offered us many outstanding opportunities. Bons could be very patient, but he also knew when to hurry. Bons grew up locally, sharing a great love and respect for his community, with absolutely nothing artificial in his feelings for preserving, promoting, and improving the viability of the ecology in and around Desert Rhino Camp.

We were pleasantly surprised at Desert Rhino Camp with the variety and abundance of wildlife. Remaining on road, at most camps means photographs with little specks of wildlife or the back-ends of wildlife. Despite this restriction (other than for rhinos and lion kills), somehow Bons was not only able to get us close to the animals but also with them well-lit. The rocks, the geology, and the plant life in this harsh environment, make for a dramatic back-drop for wildlife photography. Stunning!

Sunsets were surreal. Temperature inversions caused the oddest phenomena I've ever seen, a step-shaped 'lantern' mirage sun.

The highlight of our stay at Desert Rhino Camp was, of course, tracking rhino. I was totally unprepared for our first encounter, when rather than running away, the curious rhino girls came closer and closer. Orders were given, 'Stop the cameras,'--silence--was followed closely by, 'Lie down!' One woman was overheard to say, 'There are worse ways to die.' Quite an exciting introduction. Our second day wasn't bad, but with a fairly large group, the rhinos startled off without too close or long an experience. We discussed with Bons how difficult it is to keep a large group of people close together, smooth, and quiet.

On our third morning, we knew from the trackers the approximate whereabouts of the day's selected rhino. I saw fresh scrapings and dung-flinging, so I knew a rhino had been near recently. But when Bons said let's go for a little walk, I didn't know we'd be in for an immediate sighting. I thought this was preliminary to the trackers and other guests gathering. Wrong! We were quite near as the rhino, Don't Worry, climbed the river's embankment. He was in shadow, but it was still a good sighting. But, Bons took advantage of a wind-shift and we moved quickly, as quietly as we could, from clump-to-clump of vegetation. We'd take a few photos, before moving forward and around time and again, until we were alongside and looking up to the horizon at one very large male rhino, and then the sun came out from behind the clouds, brilliantly lighting our subject. We were so near--my heart was pounding and palpitating--yet I was feeling relatively safe as a charge down the steep rocky embankment/cliff would be unlikely; the option of fleeing across the open plain would be much easier for the rhino.

After taking our images, with no more than a flicker or two of the rhino's ears, we snuck off until safely out of range, when we could freely converse again. Marvelous. Fabulous. Bons' intuition and ability to think like a rhino, and a photographer, were outstanding."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Serra Cafema

Serra Cafema

"Serra Cafema has so much more to offer"

3 nights Arrived 19 Aug 2014
"For our preferences, Serra Cafema placed too much value on food and drink. Yes, it was thoughtful to be met at the airstrip with champagne, but we would have preferred exploring and photographing the landscape on the drive to camp. While we very much appreciate quality food, not when it is taking time away from the river, sand dunes, rock, wildlife, canyons and mountains we'd come so far to see. Serra Cafema has an environment unlike anywhere else in the world, so why spend so much of the day hurrying back to camp for yet another meal or snack? We'd much preferred to take bagged meals and stay out all-day, but our guide wanted to show us "the Serra Cafema way . . ."

Even on our 'all-day' outing to visit the Himba and the Marienfluss Valley, we had to wait through a sit-down breakfast, but then were in too big a hurry for 'the long-drive ahead' to stop for photographs of landscapes and birds leaving camp. Until our guide realized he'd forgotten our lunches, then we waited for someone on a quad to make the delivery, despite our protestations we could easily survive without a meal.

Unbelievably, we had a cheetah lope across the riverbed in front of us, and rather than stopping to watch and enjoy this incredible sighting, our guide gave chase--needless to say, the cheetah won, disappearing up and over a ridge.

Our visit with the Himba was an incredible experience; their care for clothing and appearances is extraordinary, as they live very simply under the harshest of conditions. We would have loved to have talked with and asked about their lives, instead we were severely limited as our guide used a little translational dictionary to look up the most basic of words. So rewarding, and yet so disappointing at the same time.

The importance of a sit-down lunch? Only to speed down the road--braced above the seat to save my back--the moonscape quilt of colors--rocks, vegetation, mountains, erosion--blurred as we flew back to camp. What was the hurry? So we could watch as our guide covered his turnaround tracks from the morning? (Especially when there are quad tracks leading and circling everywhere!) Or to spend time waiting in our room?

Serra Cafema is an older camp. Beautiful plate-glass windows and deck overlooking the river, but not maintained with the attention to detail we've become accustomed to in most camps. Our room had a cracked mirror, spiders and cobwebs occupied corners, trash remained below the deck for duration, broken chain left without repair; in the dining area bits of vegetation remained on the floor, toothpicks and other small trash not picked up. Nothing horrible, but I felt a sense of pride was missing. While at Desert Rhino Camp it was difficult to carry our own bags--someone was always offering, literally removing from our hands--here at Serra Cafema, after much lingering and awkwardness, the offer would come half-heartedly. I felt most individuals, especially dining and serving staff, wanted to do well, but there was a rigidity obstructing a relaxed pleasant atmosphere."
Good
Location
Excellent
Service
Average
Activities
Good
Rooms
Good
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Good
Ongava Tented Camp

Ongava Tented Camp

"Lots of wildlife around Ongava"

2 nights Arrived 22 Aug 2014
"Ongava was quite a drive from Etosha, but it was nice to get away from the crowds, the vehicular noise, and the dust that accompanies the park. Many of the waterholes near this entrance suffer man-made detractions to 'wild' life photography, such as fencing and concrete, so it's an even longer drive to natural springs.

We had many good sightings of relaxed animals driving into camp and visiting Ongava's waterhole, including a white rhino and her calf one evening. We enjoyed listening to the mating calls of a lion pair throughout the night, not so much the couple in the neighboring tent.

The variety and quantity of wildlife here make the visit worthwhile. As a 'private' vehicle, I wish our break stuffs had been kept up front, so we could have enjoyed our breaks at the waterholes with the animals, rather than wasting time driving to the bathroom areas which are the only reasonably nearby areas where you are allowed out of your vehicle."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Good
Facilities
Excellent
Ilala Lodge

Ilala Lodge

"Ilala; great location for a day at the falls."

2 nights Arrived 24 Aug 2014
"Ilala has nice rooms opening onto a lovely garden with frequent wildlife visitors. I was surprised how few birds bothered the guests or food outside, unlike the cake-stealing birds at Serra Cafema, until seeing a slingshot in the fellow's hand who was pacing the perimeter. The compromise at Ongava was to cover the food with a net lid/top--I never saw a problem there, so I assume it was effective without being brutal. Maybe too difficult with the huge layout and number of people here, but I feel it is rather sad.

It is a short walk to the park, and though I never felt intimidated by any beggars, be prepared to be asked.

We were delighted to see microlight flights offered, until learning there was a significant transfer fee, plus needing to repay the entry visa to Zimbabwe. Never mind. Maybe the next time we visit Zambia."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Muchenje Safari Lodge

Muchenje Safari Lodge

"Enjoyable day on the river with Muchenje"

2 nights Arrived 26 Aug 2014
"Muchenje is a very nice lodge, with wonderful people around, but we felt too much time was spent traveling not only to get there and back through the Kasane Airport, but to get to the boat ride also based out of Kasane. Even driving into the park for safari was a lengthy drive, which unfortunately our guide took very slowly on the smooth paved roads, while driving relatively much faster on the rough rutted dirt roads, and they were very rough.

Our day on the river was wonderful. We had the boat to ourselves, though we'd been warned this would not be the case. Though there were many boats out, it was not as busy or commercial as I'd anticipated. Our guide was very attentive, zipping the boat here, there, anywhere, and everywhere so we could watch and/or photograph a wide variety of animals and birds. Eating our lunch in the boat was delightful, floating on the water with ellies nearby.

The most memorable animal was an adolescent male elephant, suffering the trauma of rejection by his family; it was time to make it on his own. Trumpeting, screaming, crying as he charged up and down the river, shaking his head and threatening anything that got in his way, including a group of 4-batchelor kudu who seemed surprised to find themselves running from an angry young elephant."
Good
Location
Good
Service
Excellent
Activities
Good
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Lagoon Camp

Lagoon Camp

"Classic 'Leopard in a Tree' at Lagoon Camp"

3 nights Arrived 28 Aug 2014
"We saw more (of interest) in our first 2-hours here, than in 2-days at Muchenje. Started with a pair of African Hawk Eagles, who held their perch as we eased past, looking for my husband's request of a leopard in a tree, during the day. 5-minutes later, there she was, and with a big sigh she dropped into the classic National Geographic pose, facing us with her legs straddling the branch. Of course our guide gets on the radio to alert the others, and soon comes a vehicle of chattering people. The leopard looks in their direction, and pops off the tree into the grasses. Then we were off to watch lions and cubs feasting on baby buffalo.

Matt, our guide, and Gideon, our tracker, had very sharp eyes and were quick to call out what they were seeing. Matt chose a wonderful route for our all-day outing, including varied scenic landscapes with a variety of birds and animals, and other than an armed border patrolman we saw no one else all day.

Lagoon must be Kwando's recent remodel. The tents are huge, but unlike Serra Cafema they are of a very functional design. Easy to open drapes, not the noisy velcro of most canvas chalets. A sliding door leads into a sitting area with 2-comfy chairs and a relatively large table, up a step to a king-size bed with bedside tables and lights. Behind is a dressing area with dual chairs and shelves. These 'camps' have come a long ways from what I think of as camping.

We enjoyed meals with the guides and other guests at the large group table. I grew very fond of my mornings shared with the grunts of the hippos outside."
Excellent
Location
Good
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Good
Facilities
Excellent
Little Kwara

Little Kwara

"the dogs were amazing at Little Kwara"

3 nights Arrived 31 Aug 2014
"We are not dog people, and we really didn't care if we saw the dogs or not. I had no idea just how exciting it would be to watch them hunt, and to watch and learn about their family interactions.

Hobbs, our guide, told us, "Hang on." Off he zoomed, and I do mean zoomed. With heels down, and legs wide-spread, we braced ourselves as Hobbs accelerated across country. He said the dogs were hunting--he could tell by the impala's speed and straight-line run. Sure enough, we see first one dog then another. They are spread out trotting along making use of of all the old island mounds to look around. Unlike any pack of dogs I've ever seen, these dogs were hunting independently though moving as a group making a wide sweep of the area. When several of the dogs gave chase--the impala leaping and bounding--Hobbs drove the vehicle hard, slowing only to navigate through pockets of dense brush. When we happened on the dominate male standing alone Hobbs knew they had given up on those impala. We followed the male, watching as he listened to locate the remainder of the pack.

By now, multiple Kwando vehicles were giving chase following different dogs. One vehicle happened on a successful kill. Hobbs aggressively out drove another vehicle to get us #2 arrival on the scene. The dog was devouring the impala, ripping it to pieces, swallowing without chewing. When the 3rd (Kwando policy--no more than 3-vehicles on a scene) arrived it begged for us to move so it could have a better view. Hobbs said it was first-come, first-serve, we needn't move unless we wanted. Of course we moved; treat others like you would like to be treated.

Whichever dog is successful in making a kill, gulps down as much as it can as fast as it can, then signals to the other dogs to feed while s/he goes back to feed the pups by regurgitating the chunks it swallowed. Only the dominant male and female reproduce, then the entire family pack supports the upbringing of the one litter. We counted 16-puppies, so thus far the entire litter has survived. The group dynamics are astounding. I'm so glad we were able see this.

Also while at Little Kwara, we had a wonderful encounter and photo-op with a male cheetah; watched a morning puppy-feed and the resultant tug-a-wars and other games; watched and listened from a very short distance as 2-hyenas crunched on what remained of an impala's skeleton; and spent an entire day at the heronry watching and photographing the many different birds' antics, nest-building, feeding of chicks, grooming, mating, etc.

An amazing stay at Little Kwara!"
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Good
Facilities
Excellent
Little Vumbura

Little Vumbura

"Standard for Excellence is Little Vumbura"

3 nights Arrived 3 Sep 2014
"Greeted at the airstrip, "What do you want?" "What have you seen?" Rain, our guide, started our time together in the most positive way. Arriving at camp we were set-down to a fabulous meal, despite our protestations we'd already just eaten Kwando's brunch (very unlike our experience at Wolwedans where it seemed every crumb was accounted for).

Steven and Mandy, managers, relatively new to Little Vumbura, were awesome overseeing every detail, yet the camp and staff all seemed a relaxed cooperative unit. They never made us feel any request was too much, but went way out of the way to make sure every need, every desire known or not, was fulfilled. By far, the most superior run camp at which we stayed. (And that's saying alot because we were very very happy at Desert Rhino Camp.) The camp's common area is beautifully located to make the most of the rising sun, and to watch the sun and moon set. The boat ride to and from camp adds to the beauty, peace, and restfulness of this idyllic location.

Whereas Little Kwara placed a great emphasis on the carnivores, Rain gave much attention to everything (if you were interested, and he was very attentive to our reactions and responses), such as pointing out 5-different bird types on a single bridge.

Our greatest memory (other than rhino-tracking with Bons) was a day spent watching first a leopard hunt, followed in the afternoon with lions hunting. The leopard was fascinating as it blended so well into its surroundings we had to anticipate where we might see it again. The leopard had made it very near an unsuspecting impala herd when a mother and baby elephant passed adjacent to its location on a mound with trees. The mother walked right past giving no indication of seeing the leopard. Not so the young elephant. The young elephant made a complete circle of the mound, and spotting the leopard she shook her head, and trumpeted a warning to the world.

Then came the lions, approaching impala, lechwe, a previously injured hippo, and kudu. Nothing quite working to their advantage, but great to watch their assessments and attempts. Then one lioness saw an unguarded baby elephant. She was almost within striking distance when mama elephant caught sight of her. Mama trumpeted for help, and bellowing with murderous rage she charged the lioness. The lion opted to withdraw, and within seconds several adult elephants materialized, encircling the baby. If I'd not witnessed the drama, I never would have believed how quickly the whole thing played out.

We also spent time watching: young playful hyena cubs (I never imagined I would think of hyenas as cute, but these pups were); hippos in a shallow pool where they could rear up and launch, looking very impressive in their antics; innumerable birds, including a pied kingfisher beating a fish, trying to tenderize it such that he could swallow something awfully close to his own size; both a herd and a lone male sable that I very much wanted to see; beautiful distinctive painted frogs, again a definite request; when we'd catch a slow spell, we'd photograph the many beautiful dragonflies--Rain jumped from the vehicle to point out a special one, only to have a lilac-breasted roller snatch it from beneath his pointing finger, aghh; and when the birds warned of a snake, we saw a black momba rearing in the road.

Thank you everyone at Little Vumbura for magical time."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Tubu Tree Camp

Tubu Tree Camp

"Good Tradition at Tubu Tree"

3 nights Arrived 6 Sep 2014
"Our safari highlight at Tubu Tree were the subadult sibling lions, 2-females and a male. We are use to watching young cubs play, but it was thrilling to watch these near adults charging, tumbling, and batting at one another. So unexpected and fun, watching their mischievous expressions before making their play attacks. We also had the opportunity to photograph them drinking with their reflection in the outstanding warm morning light. Wonderful. Unfortunately, the male is suffering a severe injury to a hindleg; we hope he can make a recovery. He has such a beautiful and kind expression.

We saw some very light-colored giraffe on the island; it would be interesting to know the how and why.

Tubu Tree has Monday 'tradition' night; to show how their chief is honored, the staff at Tubu Tree elect one of the guests to be chief for a night. Having the topic opened, enabled Kambango, our guide, to share with us how in Botswana the individual tribes, traditions, and beliefs are respected. How every voice is heard at the community level, then the chiefs--after hearing what everyone wants to say--make the ultimate decisions.

2-complaints: one was there was a large group who ran late. The first night we were there, they had a slideshow--for their group only--causing dinner to be an hour late. They should have done their show earlier or after dinner. Maybe if they'd allowed the other guests to join in, we wouldn't have been so agitated with our rumbling stomachs and a late night. But then they were late again the second night, still out on the boat with a 30 to 45-minute drive once on land. I know it's easier for management to feed everyone at the same time, and big groups fill the camps, but . . .

And one option would be, to be advised, and thus other guests could have the option to stay out longer themselves on drive, but that brings me to complaint #2; we were told Wilderness Safaris has gone to red-lights for night drives, so as to not bother the diurnal animals. If the guides are well-trained a white light should never be shone on a diurnal animal--it is easy even in the dark to recognize one animal type from another. I find watching and photographing night animals (who are not bothered by white light) under red-light to be very distorting and unrewarding. I hope Wilderness will reconsider this policy.

Whilst at Tubu Tree these travellers took a helicopter flight over the Delta. Here's what they said about it:
I'd kinda thought the flight would include more time over the waterways of the delta, rather than just the island, but the perspective from the air is phenomenal no matter what. In my mind, I was envisioning the landscapes and the geology of the delta, where the pilot concentrated primarily on the wildlife. Either way, it's pretty spectacular to see everything from the aerial vantage point, without cloudy windows or the haze which comes with the altitude of planes, and I cannot recommend a flight highly enough. I will definitely fly again, when I return during the rainy season, curious to see how the land and water change shapes.

I forgot to write down our pilot's name, sorry, but he was very professional, and great at pointing things out."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Good
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent

Fabulous First Safari

Zambia between 8 Oct 2013 and 24 Oct 2013

Trip rating: Excellent
"Our trip was excellent. Thank you, Maruska, for suggesting we add the Lower Zambezi to our trip; it really did offer another dimension, balancing our overall experience.

One disappointment, and I'm not sure who knew what when, or if Expert Africa knew at all, was the added traffic flow caused by BBC filming in South Luangwa. They were given special permission to operate all hours of day and night, and when present at lion and leopard sightings their crew usually added 3-vehicles, making some of our sightings very congested. I had chosen the northern sector of the park, particularly for its lesser density. I know how much the publicity is good for the park, and the wildlife, I just selfishly wish it hadn't interfered with my own experience.

I had initially wanted to add Zambia to our proposed trip to Namibia and Botswana, but our trip was becoming far too long, so we opted to take a 'warm-up' instead. I'm glad we did, as we've opted to go with a private guide/vehicle during our second Africa visit. This will give us more say in what we see and how much time we spend where, something very important in obtaining good photographs.

Expert Africa's arrangements worked flawlessly. Thank you."

Arranged By Maruska Adye-Rowe


Pioneer Camp

Pioneer Camp

"Good Layover at Pioneer Camp"

1 night Arrived 8 Oct 2013
"Pioneer Camp was fine for a night's transition after the long flight. We enjoyed the abundant bird life, and the opportunity to speak with self-drive campers."
Good
Location
Good
Service
Good
Facilities
Good
Rooms
Good
Food
Good
Chongwe River Camp

Chongwe River Camp

"Unbeatable Beginning to our Safari at Chongwe"

4 nights Arrived 9 Oct 2013
"Chongwe River Camp was our first camp on our first safari, setting the standard so high it would be difficult to surpass. The camp has a idyllic setting along the river warmed by the early morning sun, with the escarpment and 'Never Again' mountain acting as a stunning back drop. Though a relatively large camp, Flossie seemed everywhere, always relaxed and smiling, making sure our every need was met. Having a large number of guests, from many parts of the world, made for enjoyable and entertaining dinner conversations. My dirty laundry has never, before or since, been returned so clean and tightly folded.

We loved the elephants who frequently wandered through camp, entertaining us with their antics. It was a real treasure to watch their greeting rituals up close and personal, and to observe a variety of their eating habits, again very close.

We stayed in the chalet furthest from the camp's central area and the Zambezi River, but closest to a floodplain along the Chongwe River. We enjoyed the near constant wildlife activity: impalas sparring; warthogs kneeling to eat between wheeling bouts, running off with tails straight up; baboons with their young clinging to bellies or backsides; cattle egrets by the hundreds; the early morning and evening procession of hippos to and from their nighttime grazing; countless variety of birds; and occasional bush or water buck, monitor lizard, frogs, etc. to keep us highly entertained. The pathways were raked frequently, allowing easy observation of tracks. I found it fascinating to learn what all was walking through camp.

I liked the screen netting of the tents, which allows a breeze and sounds to enter, but also allows one to see out (there are drapes pulled for privacy at night). Looking out paid off one morning as we had a hippo grazing next to our chalet, so I was able to move around and make a little noise, encouraging the hippo down into the river before I ventured out to sit under the awning, watching and listening to the day beginning as the sky gradually lightened. Coffee or tea was brought with the morning's wake-up call.

There is not the same density and variety of wildlife at Chongwe, as can be found deeper within the Lower Zambezi National Park, or especially as compared to the South Luangwa NP. But the close encounters with relaxed elephant was unrivaled in all other of our camps. The opportunity to sit in a boat near a pod of hippos, watching and photographing their interactions during the warm light of the setting sun, delivered us the best hippo experience of our entire trip. When Flossie became aware of our photographic desires, she turned our care over to guide Patrick, for the most part to ourselves, spoiling us early in our trip.

We spent an entire (12-hour) day in the park watching--a group of lions with cubs resting and playing, then unexpectedly giving chase to a kudu; the dynamics of baboons, birds, and antelope sharing the ripe fruit of a fig tree; a group of bad-boy elephants gather, then encircle a tree, bent on destruction; elephants, hippos, baboons, impala, waterbuck, kudu--a field of water lilies, termite mounds, erosional features where a town once was, always Patrick had us there with the best light, patiently explaining and answering our questions. Passing other camp's vehicles filled with 9-passengers, we were very appreciative of Chongwe's flexibility and willingness to help us attain our desires.

The bird life along the Chongwe and Zambezi Rivers is very abundant and diverse. The islands, banks, floodplains, and trees offer a wide range of habitat, so is filled with innumerable species. We very much enjoyed both our boat excursions, on both the Chongwe and the Zambezi, but the highlight of our stay was the canoe trip. The afternoon light was spectacular, gliding quietly through the water relaxing, with sounds breaking the silence enlightening. Sitting low in the water, it is very impressive looking up to buffalo, and having elephant mock charge. We eased for close up views of monitor lizards, butterflies, and birds. If I'd had any idea how thoroughly we'd enjoy the canoe trip, I would certainly have opted for more than one such outing.

I cannot recommend Chongwe River Camp highly enough for their varied water activities, elephant encounters, hippo viewing, and abundant birdlife."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Tafika

Tafika

"Excellent Guiding and Wildlife at Tafika"

4 nights Arrived 13 Oct 2013
"Tafika is owner-operated, and it shows--they care! Their operation is very professional, while conversations are very inclusive on any number of issues. John and Carol are attentive to every detail; their daughter Jenny is an absolute delight, adding a soft, more casual, relaxed persona--she's going to make a great addition to the management team; Brian offers great experience and advice (though, in the future, I'll make sure never again to say my husband is the primary photographer); Heather was very helpful, concerned everything was just right. There is a distinct effort made to ensure you enjoy a wide variety of experiences, while accommodating guests' individual preferences as best possible. Guests, guides, and dinner tables were rotated, so encouraging engagement of different people in the smaller groups.

We were given the family chalet; it's location and veranda overlooking the Luangwa River, with the never-ending bird and wildlife, was fabulous! The open-ended thatched chalet was our favorite of the trip, allowing any breeze to pass through, including lovebirds and weavers to share the second bedroom unused by us; the sausage tree overhead invited birds and elephants to visit, dropping flowers into the area leading to the sink. What a delight!

We enjoyed all the activities we partook: the Carmine bee-eater hide was well worth visiting, as was watching the morning arrival of the innumerable gray-crowned crane; a morning walk was educational (good thing we weren't responsible for lighting the fire, using wood and friction, for the tea-break), with many good animal sightings; game drives were very productive, especially the variety seen at night--a highlight was watching a serval successfully catch then eat a fish; but the overall highlight of our stay was the microlight flight--as close to enjoying the freedom of a bird as a human is able; John is an excellent pilot; the aerial view adds an eye-opening perspective; I cannot recommend it highly enough.

We certainly hope to be return visitors."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Kaingo Camp

Kaingo Camp

"Stunning Location Overflowing with Wildlife"

2 nights Arrived 17 Oct 2013
"I had great expectations, and unfortunately Shenton Safaris fell short. I find myself sounding harsh, but this is only in comparison to the other camps we visited which far exceeded our expectations, so I'm not saying these camps are a poor choice, only that the relaxed inclusive atmosphere of the previous camps was somewhat lacking.

Kaingo has a beautiful location with large old-growth trees along the Luangwa River, offering spectacular diversity of wildlife. But, for all their emphasis on photography, I found our previous camps' guides more aware and accommodating to our photographic desires and needs. Too much emphasis here was placed on timing, such as a 'special sundowner', which had us flying past wildlife and great landscapes with the full-moon rising, only to watch the sunset in a dull location lacking inspiration.

Upon our arrival, an excited guide took us down to the hippo hide as a crocodile appeared eager for a meal. It was fun to watch it dig itself in, lying stealthily only feet from where many animals were coming to drink. Unfortunately, or not, the crocodile never did strike during the week we were with Shenton Safaris. The road to the hippo hide seemed always thick with a wide variety of wildlife, so no resting on the drive to-and-fro.

We spent one-night in the elephant hide, and though it was my best night's sleep of our trip, having pulled back all the nets it was relatively cool and I loved the silence broken only by the wildlife (and a BBC truck at 1am!), it would be much more rewarding if there was more time actually spent at the hide--maybe a picnic dinner? But only being there for a few hours (and needing some sleep), I feel it wasn't worth the additional cost, and I certainly wouldn't do it again. Maybe the Mwamba camp-out would be a better option.

Kaingo has decks overlooking the river in front of each room which is a wonderful place to enjoy the environment from; lunches are brought here in an ice chest with a selection of drinks each day--very enjoyable. But I missed having a veranda adjacent to the room, where I could enjoy each morning's arrival. The chalets are solidly built, and I also found myself also missing the openness of our previous chalets.

We had a wonderful walk to Mwamba with guide Andrew who is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic."
Good
Location
Excellent
Service
Good
Activities
Good
Rooms
Good
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Good
Mwamba Bushcamp

Mwamba Bushcamp

"Mwamba's Last Waterhole Hide was Fantastic"

4 nights Arrived 19 Oct 2013
"The variety of wildlife visiting Mwamba's last waterhole was incredible! It would have been wonderful to be allowed to come and go as desired, as the hide is very near the rooms. There were times when all was quiet and the heat stifling inside the hide, but with prearranged guide pick-up and deliveries, often we would wait drooping, only to have activity flare just when we were expected to leave. But the experience here was awesome--many of the animals would come within feet of where we were sitting, some with very deliberate eye-contact. Bushbuck, waterbuck, impala, puku, and kudu would come to drink, very skittish, singly and in small groups. Small elephant families drank, bathed, rolled, and dust-bathed. Birdlife was abundant. Two very old hippos appeared to be spending their few remaining days muddying the waters. Though midday light is the worst for photography, we came away with some excellent images taken here.

Maybe it was the heat, and it was HOT, or maybe the nightly elephant raids on the kitchen robbed the staff of sleep, but the staff seemed tired. Only Zimba, an older gentleman who served our meals and helped out around camp, always greeted us with a welcoming smile. The camp manager was continuously warning us of the dangers lurking, not allowing a moment's relaxation or pleasant 'goodnight' in our doorway at night before closing the door, daring us not open it until after the morning drum-roll. We were made to feel almost like prisoners . . .

We felt the guides here were overly interested in cat sightings, often passing other wildlife we'd have been delighted to watch. One afternoon/evening we spent hours bouncing and jarring cross-country. If we'd known they were anticipating lions going after buffalo, we'd have shared in the excitement of such a possibility. As it was, I just hurt. Upon arriving back at camp, I asked that we might go for a walk in the morning--nope, too little staff. I suggested maybe I remain in camp enjoying the hide, again, nope, gotta go out on a drive. Luckily the other couple in camp opted for a shorter drive, and allowed me the front seat where the ride would be smoother. Unfortunately, I misinterpreted bushcamp to mean there would be an emphasis on walking, not so.

We also found on the afternoon/evening drives, the guides and scouts would converse extensively between themselves, not hearing questions or requests to stop. But, the scouts were worth their weight in gold once the sun went down, finding any number of interesting subjects to look at.

The food was generally excellent, though I did get a really slimy salad one-day for lunch. There was a two-day period where we were served eggs breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and although the eggs are of very high quality--unlike American supermarket eggs--and prepared in a different manner for each meal, it did become rather boring. If it was because of the heat or elephant raids spoiling intended meals, fine, otherwise I would suggest alternating with the heavier meals.

We had a great game drive transfer back to Kaingo with guide Mayem. Whether it was because we were his only guests, or he was headed towards a few days off, his attitude was much better than on the couple of previous drives he'd taken us on. He was more talkative, sharing his wealth of knowledge, working hard to position the vehicle so we had the best light and angle on different animals. All-in-all we felt Mayem was an excellent guide, supposing his initial lethargy might only have reflected his being overly tired, as indicated by the camp manager. The guides do work long hours, with minimal time off, during the relatively short safari season in this area.

I hope our experience with Mwamba's manager was unusual. This should be an awesome little camp, but unfortunately during our stay there was a tense undercurrent which prevented our entire enjoyment and relaxation."
Good
Location
Excellent
Service
Good
Activities
Good
Rooms
Good
Food
Good
Facilities
Good
Kaingo Camp

Kaingo Camp

"Fantastic Finaly with Kaingo"

1 night Arrived 23 Oct 2013
"We had guide Mayem to ourselves for transfer from Mwamba to Kaingo, and for our last day's drive at Kaingo. What a difference this made in the willingness to listen, and find what we wanted. His knowledge and motivation became a great asset. Camp manager Izzy was also instrumental in sending us out without other guests, so that we could concentrate on the Thornicroft giraffe, Crawshay zebra, and Cookson wildebeest, which were my primary reason for visiting Zambia--I wanted to capture these animal's unique coat patterns.

Guide Andrew, with his fabulous smile and unending enthusiasm and knowledge, drove us to the airport, by way of the Mfuwe secondary school. (I don't know how much celebrating Zambia's Independence day had to do with all the smiles we saw passing through town, but it was so nice to witness instead of the usual tension seen associated with western life). The large herds of wildlife along the road driving out was a safari in itself. Andrew made sure we stayed on schedule, and was very supportive and helpful when the power went out at the airport--we would have felt bewildered without him. Kaingo had sent us with drink and sandwiches--much appreciated during our wait.

Despite not feeling the same degree of inconclusiveness and relaxation of our previous camp stays, Shenton Safaris has a spectacular location and I would certainly go back for the wildlife, although I would want to reserve a private guide/vehicle.

Note: there is a discrepancy between Shenton Safaris encouraging up to $20-day tip for guides, and Expert Africa's suggestion of up to $10-day."
Good
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Good
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Good

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