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Traveller reviews

Travel reviews by Mr J & Mrs M from London

Review Distribution


Total number of trips


Countries visited


Lodges stayed in


Excursions taken


My Jul 2014 trip

Botswana between 5 Jul 2014 and 18 Jul 2014

Trip rating: Good
"See my detailed comments for the two legs of our trip."

Shinde Footsteps

Shinde Footsteps

"Footsteps Across the Delta review"

4 nights Arrived 5 Jul 2014
"Our guide, whose name/initials I am happy to provide if you don't have them, was uninspired, a bit weary and in general just "mailed it in." He did not bring much energy and almost no enthusiasm to the experience and provided average information and observations about what we saw.

While the walks were fun, they were shorter than we had hoped and barely allowed us to stretch our legs. We were hoping to have a more intense walking experience in the bush in terms of distances covered, terrain experienced, wildlife observed, etc. The food was surprisingly good and the staff apart from our guide were delightful: charming and warm."
Experience Report
Overall Rating:

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Northern Botswana Safari (Not currently featured by Expert Africa)

"Northern Botswana Safari review"

9 nights Arrived 9 Jul 2014
"We stayed at three locations: Moremi, Khwai and Savuti. M and K proved to be very exciting in a lot of ways, in particular our guide's willingness and ability to travel off-road in pursuit of game. By contrast, S was a dud. Our guide was unable to go off the trails/roads and this significantly impaired the experience. Additionally, S is very crowded. We would have preferred not to have gone to S at all, which isn't to say that we didn't end up with some good experiences there, but it was a real let-down after M and K.

The beds leave much to be desired: they were too narrow, esp for the men, and the mattresses too thin, with the result that they offered inadequate support. That the beds are really below what is available is confirmed by the fact that Letaka will be upgrading its beds in the very near future. Tents are a bit small and it is very difficult for two people to bend over at the same time, but otherwise fine. Rest of the facilities were fine. Strangely, from what I can tell from a review of my correspondence with Expert Africa, we were not advised that Letaka would be our local operator until a week before our departure, even though EA booked us in with Letaka several months earlier (something that EA has expressly confirmed). It would have been extremely helpful to have been able to review the Letaka website in advance, as well as online reviews of Letaka, as this would have prepared us better for the trip by, among other things, helping to calibrate our expectations and alerting us to issues and common complaints. In fact, there was nothing in our correspondence with EA or for that matter on the EA website that indicated that there would be a different local company providing the guiding and camping services and I therefore assumed, perhaps naively (but based in part on the advertised fact that an EA principal wrote the Bradt guide to Botswana) that EA had its own local operations in Botswana. For all of these reasons, at least, EA should make it clear that it is acting purely as a travel agent and is putting its customers into the hands of unaffiliated local operators, and it should then identify the local operator as soon as space has been booked.

The guide we had from Letaka (whose name I can provide if you don't have it) was exceptional. His upbringing in a local village and experience since very early days in childhood as a hunter allowed us to follow, anticipate and observe predators hunting, killing and having killed. This was coupled with patient, detailed and frequent explanations about the significance of alarm calls being emitted by various animals and birds, the significance of the presence of certain animals,and the behaviour of animals (we spent 45 minutes or more at each of a hyena den, a wild dog den, a wild dog kill, a lion kill, elephants drinking, among others, watching and learning about what was happening, often before it happened). On one occasion, our guide turned off road in the Khwai area to get around a herd of impala, because he thought it presented a good opportunity for a cheetah, and within five minutes a cheetah attacked the impala, within yards of our jeep. Our guide was also a dedicated amateur photographer and was very attuned to the issue of good light, as a result of which he knew to position the jeep so that the light would be optimal (in addition to understanding the appeal of the early and later "golden hours" of the day); of course, this never trumped the importance of positioning the jeep so as not to spoil a kill, something we watched other guides and tourists, including another Letaka guide, do routinely. Here again, our guide's deep experience as a hunter allowed him to avoid such obvious and costly mistakes.

Unfortunately, on more than one occasion, we had positioned ourselves to observe kills that were in the process of being set up - once by a cheetah of impala and once by lions of zebra - only to have careless guides and other tourists spoil the kill by positioning their vehicles in a way that ensured that the prey would spot the predator. This was particularly inexcusable because in both instances there were alternative and superior viewing positions available that would not have spoiled the kill. Our guide also told us a story about another group he had guided, consisting of 4 couples, three of whom, when presented with at least two unusually fine kill viewing opportunities, insisted that the guide not stay for the kill, over the objection of the fourth couple. Fortunately, the other couple we were with shared our viewing desires, but this anecdote suggests that EA should, working together with its local operators, take steps to ensure that such mismatches do not occur. It may be that most guides aren't able to deliver kill viewing opportunities with the frequency of ours (I would be interested in hearing more about this) and that therefore such potential mismatches rarely are a factor (it may also be that most visitors want to see kills and these three couples were simply anomalous).

The food was usually good, although not as consistently good as Footsteps. This may result at least in part from the fact that we were mobile and Footsteps is stationary.

As noted, the drives at the first two camps, because of the freedom to travel anywhere, were exciting, very memorable and often intense. The restrictions at Savuti, coupled with its great popularity, make it a distinctly less attractive location. Observing animals from the road, or being one of a dozen jeeps surrounding some hapless leopard who must now also struggle against man to achieve a kill, is just not that much fun. Savuti should be stricken from the roster.

Finally, I should add that the sands of the Delta are their own sort of wildlife and we stopped to helped self-driving tourists on three occasions get their vehicles out of deep sand. On one occasion, this took almost three hours in the heat of mid-day. I'm not sure what can be done about this except perhaps to petition the Botswana government to ban self-drivers: they bring the wrong vehicles, pull overly heavy trailers, don't deflate their tires and then, when they aren't stuck in the sand and manage to spot a guided tour jeep that has found a potential kill, they flock to the spot and spoil the kill. A recurring problem that Botswana should do something about if it is serious about its business model of high-cost, eco-friendly, exclusive tourism. Our guide certainly thinks so.

Excellent rating given largely on the strength of the guide."
Experience Report
Overall Rating:

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