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Traveller reviews

Travel reviews by A&J from San Francisco

Review Distribution

Excellent
Good
Average
Poor
Terrible

Total number of trips

2

Countries visited

2

Lodges stayed in

7

Excursions taken

0

My Jun 2021 trip

Zambia between 17 Jun 2021 and 1 Jul 2021

Trip rating: Excellent
"I can’t imagine a better experience than the one we had. We are grateful to RPS, Shenton and Chiawa for giving us so many unforgettable moments, and to Megan for arranging and re-arranging everything so many times.

Deciding to travel so far during the pandemic was daunting, and we had so many questions and thought about postponing this trip again, especially as cases started to rise in Zambia. But now we are so happy that we went. It was truly the trip of a lifetime.

Testing and transiting were my biggest worries. But armed with a negative COVID test and vaccination card, everything was actually very easy. We had no problems transiting in Europe or Ethiopia, and going through the Zambia entry protocol took 15 minutes, and that included getting the visa on arrival. Getting the test in Lusaka was also extremely easy. The PCR test costs $95, and for a small fee ($30 per person), someone from the clinic will come to the hotel to do the swab, and then drop off the result and travel certificate the next day.

We couldn’t have felt safer while on safari, as every minute was spent essentially outdoors naturally socially distanced. All the guides had one shot of Astra Zeneca and most are getting their 2nd dose in July. The few other guests we did meet were all fully vaccinated, and all staff wore masks in camp. While in Lusaka we hunkered down at the gorgeous Latitude 15 hotel which had plenty of lovely outdoor spaces to relax, a nice restaurant, and strict COVID protocol.

So, for anyone reading this who is considering a trip to Zambia, I’d say go for it! The camps need our support, and you will have an amazing time."

Arranged By Megan Green


Nkwali

Nkwali

"Nkwali review"

2 nights Arrived 19 Jun 2021
"Nkwali was a beautiful camp by the river. We were the only guests and were hosted and guided by Kiki. The guiding in Zambia was the best we have ever experienced and Kiki immediately showed off his expertise. On the first day, we saw a leopard with a kill in a tree, and another leopard during the night drive where he expertly positioned the vehicle multiple times for the best vantage point.

Not only was Kiki a great guide, but he was also a very humorous and interesting conversationalist. Over dinner he told us about the matrilineal tradition of his people, the Kunda, and some funny stories of his girls growing up with their cousins. We exchanged travel stories – us with other trips in Africa, and he with trips to the US. The first place he visited in the US was Minneapolis in February! Believe it or not, he also spent time in Menlo Park California, which happens to be where I grew up. What a small world!

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Nkwali. Our room was beautiful and comfortable, with a view of the river and hippo chorus serenading us every night. Food was fresh and delicious. The camp has a very convenient boat that can cross the river into the park without having to drive to the main gate bridge. South Luangwa park in June was stunningly beautiful – lush and green with plenty of wetlands, beautiful birds and butterflies, and teeming with wildlife. What a great start to our trip!"
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Nsefu

Nsefu

"Nsefu review"

2 nights Arrived 21 Jun 2021
"We absolutely loved our time at Nsefu and the only regret was we couldn’t stay longer. We transferred by canoe from Nkwali, and were met by Willy, who was both camp manager and expert guide. Great for us but sad for the camp, we were the only guests in camp and the first of the season

Almost immediately upon arriving we saw a pack of wild dogs near the canoe crossing point. The alpha female is very pregnant and the pack is preparing to den. The camp staff discovered them while working on the road a few days before we arrived. Willy thinks COVID has changed their behavior with no tourists, otherwise, they would not choose a den so close to the road. It was sobering to think that we were the first people to drive on these roads since 2019. However, this is great news for guests! If you are interested in seeing wild dogs, you would be virtually guaranteed sightings near Nsefu or Tena Tena this season!

Nsefu is the oldest safari camp in Zambia and located on a beautiful stretch of the South Luangwa river. Our “rondavel” room was very comfy with a really nice outdoor bathroom (and they even supplied hair conditioner!). Meals were all taken outside by the river. We thought the food was the best we had on this trip – fresh, healthy and delicious. I wish they would bottle their mango chutney and sell it!

Like our other RPS guide Kiki at Nkwali, Willy is also a really fun person. We went for a walking safari one morning around a beautiful lagoon, and we had a younger guide, John, who just passed his walking exam come with us to fulfill his practicum hours. Willy would quiz him on all sorts of things and their exchange was really funny. All 3 of our South Luangwa guides are examiners, but I think Willy was the most intimidating. I would not want to be quizzed by him .

We have never been the only guests in camp on our previous safaris. I was a bit worried as we’ve generally enjoyed the company of other guests and have even made some lasting friendships. But the concerns were unfounded because Willy and John were great company and told us funny and astounding stories.

We had some amazing sightings at Nsefu. We saw the dogs hunt one morning. One member of the pack had a slight injury that caused him to limp, which was good for us as we saw the other dogs communicate and wait for the injured member. South Luangwa was teeming with leopards. I think we saw at least one every day, and on one day, we saw 5 unique ones, including a small cub. There was also an adrenaline filled encounter when we were parked on the road waiting for an elephant to pass, and he inexplicably decided to charge the truck. This was caught on video and you can see the entire frame filled by the elephant’s face. Even Willy said he was a little scared. That evening the stories were especially inspired!

On our last morning, Willy took us to a huge colony of yellow billed storks nesting nearby. It is very close to Nsefu but with the water still high, we had to go around by the main road. It was an amazing sight to see the storks fishing, feeding their young, and fighting over the fish with eagles and pelicans. We really appreciated the extra effort it took to show us the colony

Again, our only regret was not being able to stay longer. We were supposed to do the walking and bush camp experience between Nsefu and Tena Tena, but that was cancelled this June. But that just means that we will definitely come back to Nsefu!"
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Mwamba Bushcamp

Mwamba Bushcamp

"Mwamba Bushcamp review"

3 nights Arrived 23 Jun 2021
"Mwamba is an authentic Zambian “reed-chalet” style bush camp with only 4 rooms, where we spent 3 glorious days and loved every minute. Our “room” was nestled under a huge strangle fig tree with a big outdoor bathroom and a bucket shower under another big tree. We can see baboons and impalas from our bed. Everything was “Swiss Family Robinson” and utterly charming.

We transferred by canoe from Nsefu, and were met by Patrick on the other side of the river. Again, we were the only guests – great for us, sad for the camp. Our first morning and afternoon drives were pretty quiet. The area around camp was very beautiful with lots of birds and we saw beautiful flocks of love birds and our one and the only carmine bee eater of the trip. However, the night drive was action packed and we saw 2 leopards (our 4th and 5th of the day), genet, civet, and a scope owl.

The camp is hosted by the executive chef and we were joined by the host from Kaingo for tea and dinner where we had wonderful conversation. The staff at the camp seemed genuinely fond of each other and the atmosphere was fun and informal. Patrick had some very funny as well as harrowing stories, including one about being surrounded by lions during a truck breakdown. We also talked about the current COVID outbreak and the impact the pandemic has had on the tourism industry. All three of our South Luangwa guides trained together and know each other. They all took up farming last year. It breaks my heart to hear that such accomplished men had to take up subsistence farming to feed their families.

Next morning started out quiet again as Patrick showed us a beautiful ebony forest nearby. The place felt like a cathedral. We spent quite a bit of time watching a big flock of yellow bill storks near a pond. Then Patrick said let’s go check out a gully where one of the neighborhood leopards likes to hang out. Before he could finish his sentence, there was the leopard, who began stalking a couple of impalas. We watched for a long time but the impalas were always just out of reach.

That afternoon / evening we saw beautiful zebras, elephants, and yet another leopard. This was the night for our special “star bed sleep-out”, and it was beyond amazing. The “star bed” is a tree house under mosquito net and the most romantic “room” I have ever seen. Catherine and Johan cooked a delicious meal for us over the camp fire which we ate under a full moon. After dinner, we were left alone to sleep under the moonlit sky with the hyenas calling all night.

Next morning Patrick came by, started a fire, and made coffee and breakfast. We set out for walking safari from the camp. We walked at every camp and this one was my favorite. We visited a series of waterholes, approached a big herd of buffaloes on foot, and saw 30+ Cookson wildebeests. These were new animals for us. They were gray and very handsome animals when compared with the regular gnus.

Soon it was time for our last game drive of South Luangwa. Even though we had seen scores of leopards, we had not seen a single lion after 7 days. I also had a running joke with all the spotters that evening drives were “porcupine time”, knowing chances of seeing one is low. I would say “porcupine”, and they would say “elephant shrew”.

On this evening, we came to a fork in the road, and Patrick said his instincts told him to go one way. Shortly after that we saw another truck, which were only the second truck we saw for the entire 3 days. They had seen lions, so we followed their direction and soon found 2 moms and 3 large-ish cubs feeding on a zebra. We got quite close, and it was a bit disturbing to be “surrounded” by lions after dark just like in Patrick’s story. We’ve been close to lions, but never so many and so close while dark. I think it’s scary because you can’t see them all. I keep imagining one creeping up on me.

Feeling happy that we finally saw some lions, we started heading home. Suddenly, Patrick shouted “Porcupine!”, and sure enough there was one on the road right in front of our truck. Our first porcupine ever! Moments later a second one ran across the road. It was beyond believe that we saw lions AND two porcupines on our very last game drive!

This was our 4th safari, and every trip has been the “best” in its own way. But no place has filled my heart like South Luangwa. The beauty of the land was stunning and animal sightings were exciting, but I think it was the guides that made our experience so special. It was a privilege to spend time with these soulful, smart and funny men. We can’t wait to go back again."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Chiawa Camp

Chiawa Camp

"Chiawa Camp review"

3 nights Arrived 26 Jun 2021
"Chiawa was a large and very luxurious camp right on the Zambezi. We had chosen it for the variety of activities, and it definitely delivered! Every day at Chiawa was like a movie with a story.

Even as we were landing at the Jeki airstrip, there were elephants on the runway, and as soon as we got on the jeep, we saw a big breeding herd wallowing in mud. The area was filled with elephants and hippos and we ended up spending quite a bit of time dodging both.

We arrived by boat and our room was huge and gorgeous with multiple sitting areas, 2 showers (one indoor and one outdoor) and a big bath tub. We can see animals right from our room, including some elephants who kept us in our room for a little while longer than we wanted.

Our guide was Chris, another 20+ year veteran, who was also the camp activities director (?). He came by at lunch to go over all the activity options. Since we only had 3 days and wanted to do everything, we opted to go for a boat cruise, do some finishing and a night drive back to camp on our first afternoon

Having never fished before, we were extremely inept. The fishing soon turned into drinking while we enjoyed the scenery. After the sundowner it was time for our night drive where the first action movie occurred.

We started hearing baboon alarm calls and Chris soon spotted a leopard. There were also impala alarm calls in front of us, and another jeep said there was another leopard a short distance away. We decided to keep following “our” leopard until some hyenas came along and the leopard ran away. While we were parked trying to figure out what to do, a big male impala sprinted out of a bush, with hyenas at its heel, and smacked into the side of our truck. We were so lucky that the truck had doors, or our spotter Fraser would have been toast!

Minutes later the hyenas succeeded in killing the impala, and started calling other members of the clan, and we saw 10 hyenas feeding. It was a bit like watching wild dogs interact with all the behavioral rituals. Super interesting!

Next day we decided go canoeing followed by a night drive. Drifting along the Zambezi in a canoe was serene unless we had to dodge hippos – then it was a bit nerve wracking. However, Chris and Fraser were very skilled canoers. As we neared the end of the channel, we started hearing baboon alarm calls again, and Chris thought there was a leopard in a tree, but it turned out to be a young male lion with an impala kill. We hopped in our waiting vehicle and soon found him hiding. Unlike South Luangwa, there were guests at Chiawa and other camps, and this was our first multiple-vehicle sighting for the entire trip. Since we couldn’t see the lion, we decided to go have our sundowner instead.

When we returned, the lion had moved into the open. We watched him for a while and Chris said we should to check out the stomach of the impala, to see if it attracts other animals, such as a crocodile. Just as he finished his sentence, we saw a huge crocodile with the stomach in its jaws right in front of our jeep and quickly scurried into the bushes. 5 seconds earlier or later we wouldn’t have seen it. Again, it was like a movie, and I have pictures to prove that this really happened!

On the way back to camp, we saw a bunch of lights, and Chris said they were illegal campers. But instead, we were surprised with a barbeque dinner under the stars. We have always loved looking at the southern sky and the Milky Way, so the dinner was extra special. Chiawa has all sorts of these little surprises for guests!

On our third day, we had another mini-documentary movie. Again, we saw another vehicle and were pointed to a lioness with 3 very small cubs – maybe only 2-3 weeks ago. We found them walking with Mom in the open. All three cubs were struggling, but one fell behind and couldn’t keep up. He started mewling but the Mom just kept going and left him behind. It was really pitiful as it couldn’t possibly survive on its own. We followed the Mom and the 2 cubs for quite some time off road and found a sister lioness with a slightly older cub next to waterbuck kill. The first Mom had been leading the 2 cubs to food and safety. As soon as she dropped off the two cubs, she headed right back out, presumably to find the other cub. It’s tough being a mother of three! The story had a happy ending: when we went back in the afternoon, all cubs were accounted for. That night, the camp surprised us again with a private dinner on the river, just us. We would radio and the staff would bring our next course. It was lovely to have dinner by ourselves on the last night of our trip.

Since our flight doesn’t leave until early afternoon, we were able to go on another game drive in the morning and watched the cubs some more. On our way back, the camp radioed that they saw a big male lion while working on the road. They stayed with the lion so we can find it easily, and gave us the first and only male lion sighting of our trip. This was typical of “above and beyond” service we received at Chiawa. Everything was meticulously arranged to maximize guest enjoyment. Truly a first-rate operation!"
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent

Great trip! The most action-packed safari!

Kenya between 28 Aug 2016 and 7 Sep 2016

Trip rating: Excellent
"Fantastic. Loved every minute!

It was such an action-packed safari and we saw so many incredible animal interactions!

Richard was super helpful in understanding our desires and planning the perfect itinerary. Also, the Nairobi guide/driver was great and planned our half day perfectly."

Arranged By Richard Trillo


Laikipia Wilderness

Laikipia Wilderness

"Great no-rules safari experience!"

3 nights Arrived 29 Aug 2016
"We had a great time at Laikipia Wilderness Camp. Things we really loved:

- Seeing the wild dogs every day!!
- Great guiding by Steve, Steven and Mgombe. Very hard working and skilled guides
- The varied activities offered including walking, swimming, fishing, etc. No 2 days were the same.
- Delicious food every meal, all served in different settings (eg., by a waterfall, at a watering hole, open flame BBQ).
- Meeting interesting people. The camp was a very social environment with adventurous people from all over the world. Great conversations!"
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Average
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Average
Kicheche Bush Camp

Kicheche Bush Camp

"Great camp that lived up to all the hype"

3 nights Arrived 1 Sep 2016
"We picked Kicheche Bush b/c we wanted to be in the Olare Orok conservancy, and both the area and the camp were awesome! Things we loved:

- Incredibly action packed game drives. On a single drive, we saw cheetahs, baby hyenas, numerous lions, 2 mating lions, and a lion/wilderbeest kill!
- Great guiding. All silver level. Our guide was very knowledgeable about photography and had great tips for the best shots.
- Beautiful luxurious rooms.
- Truly gourmet food worthy of Michelin stars. Don't know how they do it. If you have time, visit the kitchen and the chef!
- Ability to go for a walk with a great walking guide (Patrick).
- Great jeep mates."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Good
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Rekero

Rekero

"Good experience but not quite up to expectati"

2 nights Arrived 4 Sep 2016
"We had stayed at Asilia camps in Tanzania, and loved it, so were very much looking forward to Rekero. Overall, it was a good experience, but did not quite live up to our (admittedly very high) expectations.

Things we loved:
- Camp was in a very lovely location next to a small river. We were able to see our own small crossing.
- As with all Asilia camps, tent and food were very good.
- Our guide, Onesmus, was one of very few Gold Level guides. He was very good at spotting action and an excellent photographer."
Good
Location
Excellent
Service
Good
Activities
Average
Rooms
Good
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent

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