Travel reviews by Mr B from Hertfordshire
Total number of trips
Lodges stayed in
Rwanda and 1 other country between 4 Oct 2017 and 16 Oct 2017
Having spoken with several people who were trekking it seems to us that better briefing beforehand is required. With trekking up to 3000 metres you have to be physically fit and acclimatised which were not although of course I did not know at the time I was suffering with pneumonia. Comment was made that it's always best to do one trek before committing to another. Appreciate that could be a problem as permits often should be booked in advance. It's not unusual for people to abandon the trek part way and in my case the guide did mention (at the end) there was a thought that I might need to be stretchered off the mountain. Among the people I spoke with was an American lady doctor who said she had to give up on her trek but then again she should not really have been on it as she's asthmatic but no one told her how difficult it might be. Nurses at the hospital in Kigali said they often had patient referrals from the gorilla treks as many underestimate the difficult terrain involved.
It would seem there is a perception among a lot of people that seeing the gorillas in the wild is a trip for everyone. Don't believe it is and can be a lottery. At least we have experienced a meeting with gorillas but at some cost and now plenty of paperwork associated with the insurance claim for reimbursement of hospital fees and the non-refundable trek permit. Would advise would be visitors to seriously think about the risks involved."
We greatly appreciate this constructive feedback from one of our regular Africa travellers.
This idea of going on one trek before committing to the next is very interesting; we’d be delighted for any traveller to pay locally for their second trek. (We get no commission on treks, and sell them at cost to our travellers.) However, travellers would have to take the risk that the next day’s gorilla-trekking would be full. This would probably not be an issue during the quieter periods, but in peak season may be inevitable.
The strenuousness of the treks and the need for travellers to acclimatise to the altitude comes across loud and clear from these comments also. Hence, we’re busy reviewing what we write about the treks on our website, on our quotations for trips, and in our pre-departure information – so we make sure that we’re as clear as we possibly can be about how strenuous some people do find these treks at altitude.
Hotel des Mille Collines
"Hotel des Mille Collines review"
1st night our room was at the back of the hotel (seems all odd numbered rooms face the same view) and was subject to noise at about 04.30 which, on commenting later to our guide, reckons was due to activity associated with a shopping mall which had recently been built. Best to avoid odd numbered rooms if possible!
Our guide had mentioned this to hotel management and he said they would ensure we were in a front facing (even numbered) room when we next stayed. In fact they put us in a mini suite which was a pleasant surprise and just a shame we could not take full advantage."
Mountain Gorilla View Lodge
"Mountain Gorilla View Lodge review"
Large bed/lounge area with open fire which was lit for us by one of the staff. There was an electric kettle of sorts; not a type seen before - a small jug which only just warmed the water. The shower/wash room, which was huge, left quite a lot to be desired; the shower head was mounted close to the corner of two walls and as a result you could not adequately cover yourself with water. The shower area floor should have anti-slip paint applied or mats to prevent possibly slipping. The wash basin had no plug.
The choice and quality of the food was just about average. Have not previously had the pleasure of eating cold toast - not to be recommended."
Gorilla Trekking Safari
"Think very carefully about this activity"
7 Oct 2017 • Morning excursion
Unfortunately this proved not to be the case and it took a gruelling 4 hours of walking through mainly a narrow pathway which the guide had machete their way through the mix of bamboo and vines. Spent 1 hour with the family before we had to descend. The exit was as painful as the climb and again it meant cutting a pathway through and while so doing there was a thunder storm with torrential rain which made the ground very slippery. It took 1 1/12 hours to reach the edge of the jungle and a further 15 minutes to reach the waiting transport back to the lodge.
The reason given for the longer than anticipated trek was the gorillas had moved much deeper than expected. It took and age for the trackers to find them but meanwhile it seemed to us we had been constantly moving often in the wrong direction ie. 4 hours up and 1 1/2 coming down. We were exhausted but fortunately we both had opted for the assistance of a porter (20 $ per person) who will carry your backpack, hold your hand to help you up the climb, assist when there's a steep slope to be navigated and without them we would not have made it.
Hotel des Mille Collines
"Hotel des Mille Collines review"
[Ed: See below]"
The food is very good with overly (for some) generous portions, so much so we asked the chef to reduce ours which he did. All the staff ensured that you should enjoy the experience and want for nothing. Hot water bottles in the bed in the evening and provided on morning game drives were a nice touch. There is a variety of landscape and terrain within the conservancy which offers a wide range of game and bird species. The guides are a mine of information and very enthusiastic.
It's a camp we would willingly return to and probably will."
Kenya and 2 other countries between 11 Dec 2016 and 28 Dec 2016
We were disappointed with Malawi for the reasons mentioned and also for the costs associated with Lilongwe airport. The actual internal flight departure tax is $7 per person and the external departure tax is $35 per person. Visa charge is $75 per person.
Considering the country is regarded as 'poor' and want to encourage tourism the Tourism Board should consider requesting the Government to reduce the fees involved. Suppose the UK equivalent is Air Passenger Duty (APD) which is £13 per person for flights of less than 2000 miles."
"Good hotel for short stay"
Good location for easy road access to the International and Wilson airports. Comfortable room, wide choice of food in the restaurant or served on the terraced area which overlooks the Nairobi National Park. Helpful staff. Breakfast officially starts at 6am but we found they were ready by 05.45 which helps those with an early start.
Only downside compared with our previous visit some years ago is the construction of a new major road which runs close to the hotel so rooms at the front are subject to traffic some noise."
Kicheche Bush Camp
"A totally different experience"
For us it was an interesting experience but we did miss the usual home comfort facilities ie. hot water and a decent shower. Bucket showers can be arranged at a time to suit the guests but it's a rather crude arrangement and most of the water from our shower head leaked from one side. We also found the lighting to be too subdued especially in the bathroom area; I had to hold a torch so my wife could put in her contact lenses. There is no mains power and lighting is available for certain periods. Guests are woken each morning with tea delivered to you your tent plus a jug of hot water for a minimal wash.
That aside, the food (no bush food served which we appreciated), hospitality, and game viewing was some of the best ever experienced. This camp is situated in a conservancy which has advantages; unlike the Maasai triangle there is relatively fewer people and therefore a lot less vehicles so game viewing is a far better experience. On one game drive we saw, including a group of 3 mothers with their 8 cubs, a total of 25 lions. On another, 5 male leopards in one group - which was most unusual. On another drive, our first kill - a female cheetah bringing down a gazelle. Just so much game!
Much to our surprise the camp has just introduced satellite Wi-Fi so phone and computer facilities available.
All the staff are to be congratulated on their endeavours to ensure guests are so well looked after in every detail."
This hotel claims the rooms are 'boutique' style but in reality the room (Garden suite 3) is a poor example of how not to equip a concrete box; very subdued lighting (one ceiling light was not working which did not assist) very dark décor, no shelves by the large sink so no where but the floor to place our 'wet packs', and an unguarded drop from the main area to the floor below.
Although the restaurant staff were helpful and the food reasonable (our bill including drinks was £61) the receptionist was less so and although I requested the bill to be converted to $ so I could at least get some idea of the room cost she was not able to do this in the short time we had before being collected to go to the airport. Consequently I find from my credit card statement the room charge was £220.60 which is far more than originally quoted and indeed shown on their website which I checked before arriving.
Would not stay here again."
"Good but no game!"
The stone built chalets with thatched roof are well appointed, spacious and comfortable with hot water available at all times but you might have to wait some 10 minutes or more for the shower to run from cold to hot. There is a mini fridge stocked with beers and soft drinks but no tea making facilities (ie. no kettle) but the staff will bring a hot thermos to the door so you can make tea or coffee which are provided. Food was very good, no bush food served, and the 'full English' breakfast following the early morning game drive was most appreciated. The chalet viewing deck could do with some TLC - there were rusty nail and screw heads protruding through some fairly uneven boards which could easily rip your feet.
The downside was there was virtually no game to view. In the 4 days apart from plenty of antelope species and many birds we saw the back end of 4 Zebra and a glimpse of 5 elephants. Appreciate it may have been the rainy season but the area is very large and although there is supposed to be 500 elephants, 17 rhino, Leopard, and one lion pride (no cheetah or giraffe) the land is mostly dense thicket so the chances are actually seeing any game is fairly slim since they 'disappear' very quickly.
The staff were very attentive and welcoming and no effort spared to ensure our stay was enjoyable and despite the lack of game the guides were very enthusiastic."
"Excellent is an under statement!"
The chalets, solid walls with thatched roof, are spacious and well appointed with 'his and hers sinks and showers' and views overlooking the Luangwa river. Hot water available at all times and mains electrics. The staff ensure you will have an enjoyable time, good hospitality and a wide choice of food (no game served).
An open camp area so animals can roam freely and do so mainly at night with the occasional hippo wandering through and on one night, much to the night watchman's surprise and fright(!), 3 lions walked through.
Game drives mainly involve crossing the river in a 10 seated boat to reach the National Park area which contains a lot of game - even in the rainy season which produces some spectacular thunder storms as was the case on our visit. Nkwali has much to offer and we will be back again some day."
Excellent trip - all ran to plan
Botswana and 1 other country between 3 Dec 2015 and 23 Dec 2015
At Xakanaxa airstrip (which incidentally is a new runway positioned a little further from the camps than the 'old' strip) we were very pleasantly surprised to see Banda, our requested guide for Camp Xakanaxa where has been based since last January, albeit we were due at Camp Moremi first. Apparently in agreement with the D&DS marketing manager (regret don't know his name and was not aware he was the South African chap who wished us well as he leaving for the plane we arrived on) we were allocated Banda for the whole of our 5 night stay on an exclusive basis. This is an amazing example of D&DS customer service for which we are truly grateful. If you are aware of the chap's name please let me know and I will send a thank-you e-mail. Thanks should also be extended to all the D&DS staff including Setch and staff at Suvute and Albert (who was 'care-taking' between Moremi and Xakanaxa) and all the staff.
We will undoubtedly return to Nkwali, Savute and delta camps again - don't know when. However in future we will try to avoid Jo'burg airport if only due to the totally inefficient and unfriendly staff at passport control. It takes ages to be processed. Never enough staff on duty. As you maybe aware, there are 2 sections, one deals with SA residents, the other all non-SA passengers.
There are some 25 (maybe more) passport control booths on the non-SA section. Less than half were being manned on our first arrival and only 7 when we arrived form Maun. Coupled with the delays occurring to some families, presumably associated with the recently introduced regulations and paperwork required for people travelling with children, the delays are totally unacceptable. We were directed to stand in a queue behind a family which we were already aware had processing problems and had to wait 20 minutes while they continued to try and resolve without any apparent success so we asked to move and were eventually directed to stand in another queue. There is no efficient management system in place, it's a shambles.
It is not surprising that Lusaka airport is building a new terminal (by the Chinese!) and Maun wants to expand so that passengers can fly direct rather than via Jo'burg which attracts so much criticism. BA used to fly direct to Lusaka but apparently no more. We met people who flew with Emirates via Dubai so for the future it's worth considering another carrier. There may be others."
Arranged By Megan Green
Battery lights (very limited illumination) were provided in our room which were not fully charged so we had to ask for replacements. Added to all this we discovered in the morning there was no hot water available to our chalet. After an early breakfast we departed for the airport. Due to low levels of water in the dams there are, or were, daily outages which were only supposed too be for no more than, I believe, 4 hours which affects the whole of the area including the city of Lusaka.
In future we would opt to stay at a hotel in Lusaka which would have adequate power back-up and probably be closer to the airport."
"What a retreat!"
Situated next to the river, albeit it was running at its lowest level, this is an excellent location with wild life, mostly elephant, baboon and monkey, wondering through the camp at close range. The accommodation was very good, we were in chalet 6 which, I believe, is the largest. Not a peak time to visit, there was only one other couple who were there 3 nights of our 6 night stay. The staff; Kiki, Shannon, Thomas (our guide) and the rest of the team looked after us very well and provided some unexpected treats.
The variety of animal and bird life was better than expected the high light being the daily encounter with a pack of 21 wild dogs as they prepared to hunt/chase Impala. Also had the pleasure of two elephants close to our room which chose to have a standing sleep for a couple of hours resting their trunks on a tree branch. A truly wonderful place."
Stanley Safari Lodge
"Stanley Safari Lodge review"
The only downside for us was the lighting which was poorly positioned eg. not close to or over bathroom mirrors, and really dimmed so it was nigh on impossible without the aid of a torch to insert/replace contact lens! This is a common problem we find in many African lodges, lighting is placed for ambience rather than practical reasons.
The chap who met us at Livingstone airport was not very helpful. He was there waiting for us but instead of being directly on hand to assist with our luggage was talking to someone at the end of the arrivals hall and did not come to greet us; we had to go and meet him rather than he meeting us. Fortunately a fellow passenger assisted with our luggage retrieval which is not that easy as the area where the luggage is delivered is very small and the exit door has a metal threshold over which it's very difficult, if nigh on impossible, to push a laden trolley. However this presumably will not be a future problem when the new terminal is opened - due anytime now."
Muchenje Safari Lodge
"Good but hard going!"
The area was dry and the tracks for most part very hard and bumpy which does not make for very comfortable safari drives; in fact at times not a pleasant experience.
This is probably just due to the time of year and unfortunate timing on our part"
Savute Safari Lodge
"D&DS never fail to impress"
Excellent location, well laid out, frontline room, good size, well appointed, overlooking the waterhole where elephants and other wild life, gather throughout the day and night.
Plenty of game including the well documented (BBC + others) Savute Marsh lion pride which has developed hunting skills to bring down elephant."
"As good as ever!"
Excellent location for both land and water (Okavango Delta) safari. Plenty of game and birds viewed. Very popular camp with many international guests.
Buffalo (the 'local' boys club of 5 to 7 bachelors) were unwelcome visitors at night but presented no danger to guests."
D&DS will be refurbishing some of the chalets and have mentioned 3 items for consideration -
1) the space between the chalets is on the small side and there are existing tall wooden side screens but they don' extend far enough; from your own veranda you can see the decks of your neighbours which is not the case of other camps so the screening needs to be extended.
2) The shower/washing/toilet area has very poor lighting (a small bank of LED's) which is badly positioned (above the entrance door) and totally obscured when the door is closed!
3) Also unlike other camps there is no tea making facility."
Namibia and 1 other country between 6 Dec 2014 and 26 Dec 2014
Overall thought the choice and quality of food was disappointing - in some cases it may have been the lack of guests which prevented a buffet style choice but was often on offer was often restricted and poor quality - naturally game was included on most menus and the only alternative was 'vegetarian' which was mainly the same vegetables which were being used for the main course. Rice seemed to be the main starch available. There was also a lack of detailed information given on how the food was presented eg. broccoli was a main veg but it often came with a blue cheese on it and meat often had a sauce poured on it. Fortunately we made up for this with some excellent meals in Cape Town and the High Tea at the Cape Grace Hotel is highly recommended!
This was our first trip to Namibia which has some spectacular scenery and good game viewing but don't think we will be keen to return except perhaps to Etosha. We like to regard ourselves as fairly seasoned travellers but perhaps our expectations were too high - accommodation was generally good but food disappointing."
Arranged By Tracy Lederer
"OK but not great"
Food average - choice of 2 starters, 2 mains and 1 desert - quantity seems to be more important than quality. Lodge comfortable but little shade on veranda and in fact very little shade available at main building (bar/reception/restaurant) unless you want to sit inside. Swimming pool some 6 minutes walk from our lodge (no. 4) which was also not one of the closest to the bar/restaurant which was surprising considering that on the first night there were only 6 people and 7 on second.
Wi-Fi only available in reception area. It seems most of the lodges, their position/orientation to the sun could have been thought out better, have very small verandas to shield from the sun so there's not much opportunity to sit outside. Horse riding would seem to be no longer available. Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest this was discontinued some time ago following a riding accident involving a small child. The horses are still there but no one suggested riding."
Kulala Desert Lodge
Was very hot - highest temp of the 2 days was 40.2 degrees. On first night only 2 other guests (one of whom worked for Wilderness and was with her sister) 2nd night - same 2 girls plus one other couple and a girl from Namibia Treks and Trails plus a Wilderness pilot. F
ood was disappointing - meat was tough (management informed and apologetic) fruit salad consisted of c. 90% apple, fresh fruit was unripe. No advice given by staff regarding food preparation eg. loin of lamb (more like very old lamb/sheep!) came with mustard sauce poured over the meat - no option advised. Little food choice - may be associated with so few guests.
No Wi-Fi but guests can use main lodge computer - good connection. Lots of activities including quad biking - a first for us - which was a fantastic experience."
Interestingly, later on our trip we met two other parties who had also stayed at Cornerstone (and highly rated it) and another couple who were booked-in. Very popular - best to book well in advance."
Went elephant trekking (07.30 to 12.30) - some very rough tracks. Also living museum but too hot to continue to rock engravings.
2nd hottest place we stayed - temp c. 33 -35 degrees - just too hot to bear in mid-afternoon."
Unfortunately the chalets are very small with virtually no veranda and almost sheer drop from chalet entrance. No where to hang/place clothing, no room in shower/basin area (very cramped space) to place toiletries except on floor. Light but no power available. Laundry bag but no price list. Not a wide range of food available - below average quality. Horse riding not mentioned as being available. Good Wi-Fi in main lodge.
Would not return."
"Better than expected"
Restaurant food choice (buffet style) was better than average and separate bar area adequate. Game viewing at the large waterhole can prove interesting particularly in the evening - 3 rhino visited while we were there. Check-in and out was fairly quick but you do have to be in the correct queue which is not always evident - waited several minutes to check out only to be told I needed to speak with another person. Payment by CC was swift - good connection.
Ideal location for self drive in Etosha park but 4 wheel drive vehicle is recommended (we had non 4 wheel drive and found ourselves facing deep water filled ruts which we could not pass so had to return via the same route which can be a 20km drive). Recommend the guided night drive.
Excellent game viewing in Etosha and would return to this camp."
Onguma Tented Camp
"Great spot but not much to do!"
Food above average but limited choice. We had opted to go on rhino expedition in the afternoon at 4.00 but were kept waiting with little information why the driver had not arrived. Then informed he would be another 20 minutes. No show. Then informed another driver was on his way. No show. Then informed it was cancelled. Returned to our lodge. Some 15 minutes later (by now c5.15pm) a driver arrived and asked if we still wanted to go - we said no thanks. No apology offered by staff."
Okonjima Plains Camp
The Plains Camp (standard room) chalet was very spacious including 2 double beds, large shower/ washing area, plenty of clothes storage, large viewing window (overlooking the plain) and own veranda. Own private parking just outside. Telephone to reception (not working - reported to management but not rectified during our 1 night stay).
Seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to track the radio collared cats but were eventually rewarded with excellent views of leopard and cheetah - 3 resting after a kill.
Good eating/lounge area - food above average."
Staff very helpful with restaurant suggestions and taxi service. We needed an early breakfast which they provided outside of their usual time. Free Wi-fi. Close to supermarket and petrol station. Highly recommended."
"Best of all!"
We spent 4 days here (in lodge 12 which is very spacious and has it's own viewing deck over the lagoon) and it's probably still the best place we have stayed at on our many trips to Africa. All the staff are very helpful and efficient and you are treated like family here. Food is very good - all the usual variations including turkey/gammon/ Christmas pudding for Christmas Day dinner with crackers! There's no better place to be in the evening than sitting around the open fire under the stars sipping your ice chilled Amarula!
All the guides/trackers are excellent - nothing is too much effort for these guys.
No Wi-Fi but guests can use the lodge computer.
We will return."
Ok hotel convenient for the International Airport."