Travel reviews by Family K from London
Total number of trips
Lodges stayed in
Okavango tour July 2013
Botswana and 2 other countries between 17 Jul 2013 and 30 Jul 2013
We had highlights (Nxamaseri, Chobe, Vic Falls,) and lowlights (bald tyres, Camp Kalahari), but overall enjoyed the trip
The wildlife, birds and animals, is great. The landscape outside the delta a little dull (say compared to the desert in Namibia), but OK. The delta is really interesting as are the salt pans.
Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:
a difficult one. we had several phone calls and lots of emails, and a few iterations of the itinerary before agreeing everything. my main concerns were about driving
on the driving, i think a 4wd is essential even if using camp drives in the parks. there are too many places where one can get stuck in sand. also, there are roadworks in Namibia and Botswana that caused some delay. i realise this is difficult to factor in when booking a year in advance - we did not think to check.
one other point - when discussing where we could drive and how to get into Zimbabwe I was told that Budget would not let us take the car across the border. instead we paid for a driver and van to take us to and from Vic Falls. however, when picking up the car Budget asked us if we wanted the paperwork to cater for crossing into Z. I don't know how much money we spent on the two taxis, but it would appear that this was an unnecessary expense"
Expert Africa double checked the car hire company's rules regarding cross border hire. These state that it is possible to take the vehicle across to Livingstone (Zambian side of the Falls) for a hefty fee and a deposit of about GBP 3,000, but that it is not possible to take the vehicle from Namibia or Botswana into Zimbabwe. We were sorry that this wasn't made clearer to these travellers before their trip.
Arranged By Maruska AdyeRowe
Thamalakane River Lodge
"Thamalakane River Lodge review"
"Nxamaseri lodge - relax and enjoy!!"
The hosts were great, the food was good, all the staff were friendly and helpful. Our nut allergy was responded to by taking nuts off the menu during our stay - much appreciated.
The rooms had enough space both inside and on the decking outside and a view different enough from the common area to provide a choice.
A great location with plenty to see and to do. Strongly recommended. This is an excellent place to explore the wide open space in and to experience the emptiness of the delta.
One small detail - the totem pole is not what you might expect if you've seen one in North America and the distance from the town to the south was not quite what the instructions said. We found the guide as much by chance."
Ndhovu Safari Lodge
"Ndhovu Safari Lodge review"
The camp is in a nice location. We watched elephants crossing the river and saw buffalo on the other bank, as well as a variety of birds around the camp.
The tents and toilet blocks are fairly basic, and whist having a separate toilet area is not ideal in the winter it does have its advantages!
The central lounge and dining area is spacious, well stocked with books and relevant literature and the stand in management very well informed.
The food was good."
"Camp Kwando review"
The camp is in a nice location on the river. We heard hippo but didnt see any, and we saw plenty of birds.
We had a family chalet (two rooms and bathrooms with a connecting door). This worked to help communication, but with a single high roof meant that we heard almost everything that went on). The rooms looked out directly onto the river with great views of the sunset. We had plenty of room inside and on the veranda, and were far enough away from the fairly busy camp site to have feeling of isolation.
The local traditional village was worth the visit. It was interesting to hear first hand from the locals about how their lives are changing and about how the government is working to capitalise on tourism without any negative impact on the locals.
This camp has a large number of tents and space for camper vans etc, so there is less personal attention. Nonetheless, its a nice enough place to stay. Dinner is served on separate tables but at the same time. The food was good.
Overall we enjoyed the camp. It was a nice place to relax after several hours of difficult driving!"
"Ilala Lodge review"
The location is OK, on the edge of town with a view down to the Falls. Everything is within easy (safe) walking distance. The town is relatively busy, and so the hotel's open spaces, balconies and spacious restuarant create a pleasant enough refuge.
The rooms are in good condition and were well serviced (including quick and cheap laundry service). We used the restuarant both evenings having failed to find a local restuarant that could promise a nut free meal to the member of our family with an allergy. The hotel staff by contrast were helpful and worked to make sure our stay was accident free.
The Falls were well worth the visit. Including walking to the view point, crossing the bridge to watch bunjee jumping and talking to the local vendors we spent a full day in and around the park."
Chobe Safari Lodge
"Chobe - lived up to the hype"
The lodge is in a nice location with great views over the river, and grounds that attract small animals and abundant birds.
The game drive was excellent - we saw an abundance of animals (including lions and a leopard cub), numerous birds and had quite detailed explanations of everything we saw from the guide. It was cold (6am in the winter), but blankets were provided. The park was busy (exactly what it says in the guide books - at one stage there were 10 vehicles chasing a lion), but once we elected to drive to a quieter area we had a great time.
The boat trip was somthing of a highlight given the numerous elephants (including families crossing the river, cleaning the grass before eating), water buffalo, impala, hippo, giraffe, crocs, eagles, etc... Again the river was busy but there was plenty of time and space to stop and watch the animals. The guide was excellent.
The rooms here are excellent - lots of space inside the room, plenty of furniture, a large safe, decent sinks/shower area and separate toilet cubicle. Also a small deck although without much of a view given that trees line the river bank.
The food is a mass produced buffet and has the potential to be busy if you arrive just after a coach party. Nonetheless, there was a wide choice of dishes, some of which were cooked on demand. The staff here were most helpful - when asked about nut ingredients the chef was summoned and gave us a detailed explanation of everything on offer that day."
"Camp Kalahari - at your own risk"
The camp itself is spacious, with reasonably well equipped family tents and a nicely laid out central area where everyone eats together. The location is fabulous, some distance from the main road or any other habitation. The surrounding area has a varied desert landscape, vegetation and wildlife, creating plenty of opportunities for interesting and informative walks or drives.
The daily format is simple, groups of up to eight or nine per vehicle with a guide undertake activities together. We asked about the itinerary on arrival and were pleased enough to be told that we would do a few drives and go-karting on the second day. Before the karting our enquiry about crash helmets was deflected with a request to bring a cloth to wrap around our heads to help keep our hair clean! Safety goggles to keep the dust out of our eyes? No luck there either. If we wanted to go karting it was clearly at our own risk.
We were given a time to meet, but left 30 minutes late. The guide stopped repeatedly, dismissed requests to get us to the karts and we eventually started karting an hour late. No big deal except that it was now clear that we would be driving at night and return later than originally understood. We arrived at the end of the karting route with about a minute to prepare to watch the sun go down. We then spent 30 minutes contemplating the vastness of the desert - great except that it was cold. On the way back we stopped to visit an "archaeological team" - which was actually the bar from camp reconstructed in the desert. After another round of misleading information we found that we were eating in the open. Also great if its summer but we had gone karting with the expectation that we would be back at camp to prepare for dinner, change, sort out warmer clothing etc, not spend the evening in the cold. Then yet another round of misinformation about 'fossil beds' which as a geologist I was intrigued by, apart from the fact that it was dark, which turned out to be a set of beds constructed in the open with the expectation what we would sleep out overnight. This 'surprise' was welcomed by some but not all. Even though this appears to be a routine, the camp staff did not have a simple process to make clear this offer was a choice and to help confirm who wanted to do what and then get other people back to camp. More time in the cold. Two of us returned arriving at camp about 2 hours after our holiday bed time. Again, not an issue for some but we were travelling the next day and a good nights sleep would have helped.
It is clear that some people enjoy the 'surprise' element of camping at Kalahari. Personally I do not go on holiday to be lied to, to be misled, and ultimately to be left in a situation that might endanger life. One of our family who stayed overnight has a nut allergy. The camp was aware of this, but at breakfast the team in the desert could not confirm whether or not the food contained nuts.
The last morning demonstrated the limitations of the managements capabilities. We had discussed and confirmed a departure time, twice. On our return to the camp we were then told that the vehicle that was taking us to Planet Baobab had no fuel and so had gone to Jack's camp to refuel. This camp had a year's notice of our booking and had driven us around for two days in a vehicle that had 1/4 of a tank before realising that they could not perform the contract. We left over an hour later than intially agreed. We arrived too late to do anything at our next stop. Lucky we were not catching a plane that day.
Overall, great location, interesting place but one of the worst experiences I have had on holiday."
The Uncharted Africa camps (Camp Kalahari, San Camp and Jacks Camp) have been operating the quad bike activities in the area since the early 90s without incident and they have assured Expert Africa that they conduct these activities in a safe manner. The excursion is done at a measured pace and follows a lead guide. That ensures that the bikes dont go fast and are always ridden in an easily controllable manner. The guide leading the tour generally keeps to specific tracks and the area is largely flat and free of other traffic. The cloth offered to wrap around your head is to provide some protection from the dust. It is felt by Uncharted Africa that goggles arent needed as each bike keeps enough distance from each other to avoid most of the dust, and they believe that goggles may alter participants impression of the view and landscape.
Having said that, it is important that we let travellers considering visits to these camps know that helmets wont be provided for the quad-biking excursions. We have now added this information to our literature, and will also make sure to inform people verbally of the situation too.
The team at Camp Kalahari have apologised to these guests for a communication error over the meeting time. The meeting time for each afternoon excursion is usually set at 3.30pm with the idea that guests gather to have afternoon tea before departing on the excursion at 4pm.
With regards to the slow journey to the starting point of the quad biking excursion, Camp Kalahari explained that in their desert location, they come across animals and other sightings of interest less regularly than elsewhere in Botswana's reserves. Therefore, when something interesting is spotted, the guide has been trained to seize the opportunity to inform guests of the fauna or flora, especially as it might be something guests wouldn't necessarily see during any other part of their trip. It may have been that the guide spoke for a while on something that was of less interest to the vehicle passengers, and there is a lesson that has been learnt there on trying to better judge such a situation.
Camp Kalahari apologised to these guests that felt lied to and mislead. It is definitely not the type of sentiment they wish to create. They say that the activity is done to be a fun surprise and without any real intention to deceive or make guests uncomfortable. Despite that, it is clear that the surprise activity doesn't suit everyone. After further correspondence with Uncharted Africa we now understand that although the sleep out is usually only possible for travellers who spend at least three nights at any of their camps, it might be included for a two night stay too. Now that we understand this more clearly, we will explain the possibility of the sleep out to our travellers when they are considering whether or not to book a stay at Camp Kalahari or one of its sister camps.
Camp Kalahari assures us that the guests nut allergy was catered for. However, there was a lack of communication from the camp kitchen to the sleep out staff about this. Therefore the team arranging the meals at the sleep out were not able to confirm that the food did not contain nuts. They have learnt from this experience.
Camp Kalahari was sorry about the delayed transfer on the last day of these guests stay. The delay was compounded by a problem with the car's ignition. They assure us that they have taken steps to ensure a similar situation doesnt happen again.
Meno A Kwena
"Meno A Kwena review"
I can feedback that this camp is in a great location - we had fabulous views from both tents and from the communal areas. The food was fantastic, as was the open air kitchen.
The camp's attempt to minimise the environmental impact gives one plenty to think about. Seeing someone carry water for your shower helps us appreciate what we take for granted elsewhere.
We spent the evening in the company of a family who did not get clear directions to the camp. We had been sent some very specific details which we followed closely (we also surveyed the route on Google Earth). We had no problem at all. This was helped by having a 4WD."
The location is pleasant enough, and the grounds nicely landscaped. The staff were friendly and helpful, although the service in the restaurant was a little slow.
The highlight of our short stay was finding a hippo on the river bank 5 metres from one of our chalets when we walked back after dinner."