Travel reviews by Ms V & Mr D from Illinois
Total number of trips
Lodges stayed in
Overall trip feedback
Rwanda and 2 other countries between 2 Oct 2007 and 17 Oct 2007
While we would recommed going to the Selous, we can not recommend the Lake Manze Camp. This camp was not a good match for us. However, the Lake Manze Camp was the only camp in Selous that had availability on our preferred days. We knew that there were risks with going to this camp as it was so new (in that there may be some procedures that may need to be worked out). We did not expect the full Italian experience. We were expecting that there would be an African experience.
We already talking about our next trip to Africa. We know that we will go again.
When we do, we plan on contacting Expert Africa.
Feel free to include us on the mailing list for your 2008 brochure. Thank you!!!"
We’re very pleased that these travellers enjoyed their whole trip so much – they covered a lot of ground.
Amidst the successes, we’re sorry that Lake Manze Camp wasn’t a good match for them – even if it did provide two of their best game drives. This trip was booked quite late; about 5-6 weeks before they travelled. The options in Selous were very limited. We advised them that Lake Manze was very new (it had opened just three months earlier), and because of this it had space and was relatively inexpensive.
We feel confident that the issues they did experience there – of a heavy Italian bias and an inexperienced guide – were very much teething troubles, and look forward to hearing more from more recent travellers about the camp. We hope it will be as successful as its much-loved sister-camp, Mdonya Old River Camp, in Ruaha National Park.
Arranged By Claire Scott
"3 night safari at Gorillas Nest Lodge"
"Brief overnight at Macushla House"
We would have liked to have stayed longer. Unfortunately, our overall holiday was of limited duration and we could only stay one night in Nairobi."
Lodge not featured by Expert Africa
Kigali Serena Hotel
"1 night at the Kigali Serena"
The hotel provided a delicious breakfast in our room at 4:30am. Unfortunately, at 5:15 our driver had not appeared. The front desk staff was very helpful in attempting to track him down and arranged for a taxi ride to airport for us. Our driver did appear at the airport, eventually."
Serengeti under Canvas
"Fantastic safari at Serengeti Under Canvas"
The game drives were outstanding and the rangers were excellent. They were able to tell us not only about the land and the animals but about local customs and experiences. Their english skills were very good. The service was very friendly.
Food and beverage options were excellent. In fact, we may have had the best food and bedding that we ever had on all of our journeys to Africa. At meals, we were able to have a taste of Africa with local foods and seasonings. It was always a joy to join the group in conversation about Africa.
While a bit expensive, we were able to take advantage of an internet offer for 4 nights for the price of 3.
We would strongly recommend this camp to our friends."
Lake Manze Adventure Camp
"3 night safari at Lake Manze Camp"
The camp is owned and managed by Italians. The client base is Italian. There was only one other couple, for one night, whose first language was english. The majority of their clients are Italians who are on one night safaris from Zanzibar (with this one night safari being their only experience in game drives). The food, that was well prepared, was Italian. This was usually a pasta, potato, bread and cabbage slaw for lunch. At dinner, we had a meat, potato, bread and a canned vegetable or slaw. Deserts were good. Often a food was referred to as "just like you get in Italy."
We did not expect such a strong Italian experience. We would recommend this camp to Italians who wanted to talk to other Italians about Italy while eating Italian food.
The camp is new. Some rangers have transferred from their other camp. Others are new hires and trainees. The ranger for our boat safari had limited english skills. He appeared to have good knowledge about identifying birds. He had no binoculars or field guides. We could not have a conversation with him about animal activities or local customs.
On our arrival from the air strip, our first ranger on the jeep safari was Joseph. Our driver was Simon. On our first dirve we were very fortunate to see 2 groups of lions, one of which had baby cubs. We saw a wide variety of animals. When we saw our first group of elephants (about a half mile away), Joseph and Simon put the jeep in reverse and backed down the road and took another road to avoid the elephants. They said the elephants were very aggressive and we should not get too close.
The next day we took a morning and afternoon drive with Joseph and Simon. They were both very hard to understand. There were no binoculars or field guides for them to use. For most of the afternoon drive, Joseph used one set of our binocs and we shared the other set. He said that the camp had promised him binocs but he had not yet received them. We asked several times about large brown birds that we had seen. The standard response was tawny eagle (even though you could see that the birds were different).
We asked them to get closer to giraffes. They said no, they will just run away. We pushed and they finally drove closer to the giraffes. We saw several groups of elephants, some were several miles away. We asked to get closer to them. Joseph and Simon said no, elephants are too aggressive. It was obvious that they were very afraid of elephants and were very uncertain about reading the elephants behaviors.
When we returned to camp that evening, we were greeted by the manager and asked how our safari went. We said not so good and told them about our experiences. We asked to have a new guide. We had heard (from the other english couple) that Vincent was an outstanding guide. We asked for him. The manager said that we would be reassigned but that he needed to check the schedule and would get back to us at dinner time on who our new guide would be. The manager very quickly responded to our problem and assured us that we would have better game drives.
At dinner we heard that the manager had talked to Joseph and this resulted in Joseph no longer working for the camp. We heard that the managers and the owners did not like Simon and that Simon would no longer drive on game drives but he would only work the shuttle between the camp and the airstrip.
This was more information than what we wanted to hear. We did not want to feel responsible for someone being fired. Nor did we want to know about bad blood between an employee and management. It put a damper on dinner for us. We think that clients should not hear about employee performance problems. It would have been enough to know that we had been reassigned to another guide.
We had 2 drives with Vincent the following day. Our driver was Abraham. Both were outstanding!!! They were some of the best guides we have had on all of our trips to Africa. We saw numerous animals and were provided great insights as to their activities and habits.
At Lake Manze we had one of the worse (Joseph/Simon) and one of best (Vincent/Abraham) sets of game drives that we have ever had in Africa. Ranger performance appears to be very inconsistent at this camp."
Lake Manze is a new camp, and had been open only three months before these travellers visited. (Hence it’s such good-value!) They are still refining their guiding and many aspects of the camp’s staffing. Their chefs were trained at a leading restaurant (which serves mostly Italian food) in Dar es Salaam. So there is sometimes an Italian emphasis on the food; but it’s not exclusively Italian. They advise that more variation is being introduced into the menus as the camp becomes more established.
Joseph and Simon were new staff. They worked together for a few game drives, but after comments from these travellers, the manager reassigned them to work alongside some of the camp’s more experienced staff members – who could help to train them further. There was clearly a misunderstanding here, as neither of these staff members has been sacked!
Apparently 3 out of 5 of Lake Manze’s vehicles now have their own sets of binoculars for the guides; they hope to purchase another 2 pairs shortly – and rectify the problem encountered by these travellers.
As we realize at Expert Africa, a new camp like this, run by committed management team, will have some issues at first – but then it has been sold at a particularly good-value rate for its first few months, recognizing that it was just starting up! We’re cheered that these travellers enjoyed such superlative game drives with Vincent & Abraham – and that the camp’s team are working hard to overcome these various teething troubles well before 2008.
"A Beatuiful Stay at Unguja Lodge"
We were warmly greeted with a cool drink and towels by management. All of the staff were very friendly. Food was generally buffet style. We particularly liked the soups and deserts.
We took advantage of the water activities desk with a coral reef snorkeling excursion and a dolphin/snorkeling excursion. The coral reef was excellent. We have never seen coral in such great condition!!! coral pieces were whole and not broken off as we have seen in Hawaii, Mexico and Carribean. This was attributed to the area just being opened to visitors and coral not broken by anchors, clients, etc.
Our stone cottage was outstanding: bedroom, sitting area, bathroom, shower room with sea views and patio. There was also a loft (unfurnished in our unit). The ceiling was extremely high, appearing to go up at least 50 feet. The cottage was in excellent condition and appeared to be very clean. When you were in your cottage, we had the feeling that we were in a private home, without neighbors, even though the cottages were actually very close to one another. The laundry service was very good.
There was only one area of concern. At times the common areas of the resort feels very family orientated and at times more couple orientated. The first evening, while we were having dinner in the restaurant around 8pm, kids were running through the restaurant screaming and apparently playing tag. The manager stopped by our table to ask how dinner was and we asked to move to another table to avoid the noise. As we moved to the back of the room, I asked if the screaming kids were going to stay all week. She said yes...some of them are mine.... (oops....). She did talk to the kids and they were a lot quieter. During the day, it could occasionally get noisy at the pool with the kids. You could tell by the looks on the faces of the honeymoon couples that they were not expecting noisy kids. I think at times 3 or 4 of the cottages had kids."
On the first day, through our driver, we asked for the guide Francois (who had worked with Dian Fossey). He was excellent! He was very informative about plants, animals, farming, and local customs. He was very energetic. We used the services of a porter to carry our daypack. This cost $10 per day.
Also, the trek included 2 armed guards provided by the Rwanda army to protect us and the gorillas. While we brought rain gear, our morning treks were sunny and clear. On the first gorilla outing, since there was so much underbrush, the guide let us stay another 10 minutes beyond the standard hour visit. The gorillas were fascinating. We were very close to the gorillas. We highly recommend the gorilla visits.
The golden monkeys were very fast when jumping from one bamboo tree to another. Photos were not easy to take. For the most part, we just leaned back, looked up and enjoyed the activity. We were glad we signed up to see the monkeys.
The lodge was very convenient to the park headquarters. The room at the lodge was very cold. During the days we opened the doors to try and get some warmth into the room. We asked for and recieved an extra blanket. The bathroom appeared to need a bit of repair and cleaning (mold removal, caulk and grout repair).
The grounds (flowered pathways) and setting (backgound of mountains, forests and terraced fields) were beautiful. The lodge had a golf course (which nobody seemed to be using) that added to the open view. Local dancers came in the evening and provided a 45 minute show for tips. The food was primarily buffet style, with a local flavor. Soups were very good. Main courses included fish, pork, beef and goat. Also, we had 2 excellent lunches at the hotel that our driver stayed at in town.
Rwanda is a very clean country. According to our driver there are periodic national clean-up days. It shows. There is no litter or piles of garbage!! It was a 2 hour drive form Kigali to the park on good roads. The children were very friendly. They sang and danced when they saw us drive by. However, some were begging for $, pens, bottles. This was discouraged by our driver.
Our driver, Arthur, was very friendly and informative. He was very helpful in helping us to understand the Rwanda genocide. We talked quite a bit about the future of Rwanda. We also talked about possible activities for tourists. It seemed that once we completed the monkey/gorilla outings, we had open time in the afternoons. We did go to the Virunga Lodge for the views and drinks. It seems like there could be some development to provide additional outdoor activity opportunities for the tourists.
We talked about renting kayaks, canoes, bamboo rafts on the lakes and rivers. We talked about escorted bike trips and village treks that could include local dancing, handicraft shops or local cafe at the destination points. We talked about walking tours of a local village by a village elder. None of these are available now. I think that Rich and I might have signed up for 1 or 2 of these if they had been available. It seems like most people that we talked to saw the gorillas and left. Perhaps, if there were additional activities, they may have extended their stay."