Travel reviews by Mr & Mrs B from W Sussex
Total number of trips
Lodges stayed in
Chada/Greystoke - Nomad camps
Tanzania between 7 Sep 2009 and 21 Sep 2009
All the Nomad guides (including the one who took us for a day trip into Arusha NP) were very knowledgeable and wanted to share this - for instance they all preferred to "talk you through" identification of a bird (flight pattern, habitat, solitary or group) rather than just giving you a name. The guides at Greystoke really did know the chimps individually and were most keen to point out their favourites, but also really knew their stuff on other species and birds."
They told us that they do use imported Kenyan beef and New Zealand lamb, to maintain top standards for their meat dishes. However they also source as much as they can locally – and noted that they serve both meats with fresh local vegetables, including some rare local varieties (which they assure us are rarely served in any lodges). It’s clear that Onsea are very proud of their mix of French-Belgian cuisine with traditional Tanzanian flavours.
They also noted that their desserts do include imported ingredients, like Belgian chocolate, although observe that this itself was made with African cacao beans! They also use locally-produced export-quality products which range from strawberries, raspberries and cashew nuts – plus top-quality (imported) Madagascar vanilla and the freshest locally-produced pineapples and mangos.
They commented that their wine list features the best South African wines, plus a small selection of other wines from France, Italy and Spain for connoisseurs who prefer such bottles. Guests are not forced to drink 'Italian fizzy water' and have the option to choose locally-bottled water. The Janssens-Onsea family are sorry if this alternative wasn’t made clear to these travellers.
They observe that the 'advertisement in a free tourist magazine' probably refers to an article written in the “Swahili Coast”, which notes that they have limited access to Western-standard produce – and hence do use imported Kenyan beef, New Zealand lamb and Belgian chocolate.
However they advise that they don’t import "a wide range of basic ingredients" from abroad, and don’t know where this misunderstanding has come from
"Chada Camp review"
Did not leave one fly camp site (Paradise) until well after midday - just sat watching hippos, a variety of waders and herons, and eagles fighting. Three hours at a waterhole watching two elephants drink slowly from the only clean water supply whilst everyone else (including playful young elephants) waited patiently or drank from the muddy pool shared with giraffe, zebra and mud bathing warthogs.
Apparently Nomad will guarantee a guide to yourselves for a supplement - why isn't EA mentioning this?"
"Chada fly-camping review"
"Greystoke Camp review"
Face masks have to be worn when anywhere near the chimps - to prevent human infections passing to them - and these are a real problem for spec wearers and for anyone trying to use the eyepieces of cameras or binos (they steam up instantly you put the masks on). Wish someone had told me to take contact lenses - I have them for skiing (same problem) but did not think they would be needed on this trip. Take a small towel and lots of lens cloths for your camera.
The humidity, and very early arrival of the rains, meant washing in the camp could not dry. If you tend to travel very light (or, like us, take so much camera equipment that this is forced upon you) you may find you end up wearing clothes to dry them. We travelled home with a bag of clean and beautifully pressed damp clothes!"
Do I have to give it a title?
Rwanda between 7 Sep 2007 and 20 Sep 2007
Rwanda is such a populated country - on every drive the scenery competes with "people watching" opportunities. Everyone with their bundles on their heads, children with homemade toys (we bought banana-leaf footballs back as presents for everyone), markets to look at and explore. And then there is the bird-life. And it also a country with some amazingly forward looking environmental policies - plastic bags are banned.
So much to see and learn ......
Regarding the guide ... Fred was not just a guide, he became a friend. It makes a huge difference when you have a guide who really goes the extra mile to make sure you enjoy every hour of your trip. Fred arranged things really well: I'm sure we got good rooms, good service and definitely better guides for tracking because of his knowledge and connections.
He didn't fuss, but I felt he just quietly watched to see what sort of people we were, and what we liked doing, and then suggested or arranged things to suit us. So we, as very amateur bird watchers, got guides for our walks who were knowledgeable and interesting.
He also made sure we had plenty of information about what to expect when tracking (how far into the forest the primates were, how long it had taken groups the previous day, how much water to take etc.) and made sure we had a good porter, which was money well spent as it makes the walking much easier and provides much needed local employment.
Suggestions for improvement:
No complaints! This feedback form is great - though it took me ages to fill in. Glad you did not have these last year when we finished our ten week trip, I would have been at the computer for days. Funny thing is that although I never got around to sending in feed back after that trip your next brochure said exactly what I thought about most of the places we had visited - your carefully researched descriptions matched our experience.
I think that was also something we appreciated on this trip - Tracy took the time to make sure we knew what we were letting ourselves in for, so when we arrived somewhere pretty basic, that was what we were expecting. I don't think she prepared us properly for the Sabinyo Lodge - but the log fires, huge rooms and vast hot showers were a very pleasant shock!"
Arranged By Tracy Lederer
Akagera Game Lodge
"A good intro to Rwanda and time to relax"
Attracting "weekenders" from Kigali to visit and enjoying their own wildlife must help secure the future of the park and it was great to see a bus load of schoolchildren having a game drive."
ORTPN Resthouse, Rwanda (this camp has since closed)
"A basic resthouse, but a great place to be."
Lovely garden for bird watching (lots of marico sunbirds). No complaints!"
Lodge not featured by Expert Africa
Bethanie Guesthouse, Rwanda (this camp has since closed)
"Fantastic location - room with a "wow" factor"
This second room had a perfect private balcony for relaxing; bird-watching and watching life on the lake go by and was a perfect retreat from what was otherwise a rather busy and overfull guesthouse.
(We had the misfortune to have arrived during the visit of a large group of evangelical Americans who were there to visit - and convert - in the nearby Congo refugee camp.)
The boat trip from the hotel is great - but watch out for the boatman trying to charge double the agreed price by taking you out for longer than you asked!"
Lodge not featured by Expert Africa
"One bad day, one good day"
The following day we came back from tracking golden monkeys to an empty lodge, smiling staff and a totally relaxed atmosphere. We went for a very interesting walk with one of the hotel staff to visit the local community, meet people, chat to the children (the older ones being desperate to practise their English) and tour the market - a highlight of the holiday.
There was a lot of rain by the time of our stay here and it was not warm - so by way of warning (not complaint) - visitors need to be prepared for damp clothes you can't dry and getting cold, there is no heating in the rooms - but wonderful charcoal fires in the bar and dining room.
Regarding the Golden Monkey tracking: Do this before you visit the gorillas - you don't get as close, the photos won't be as good but the monkeys are well worth the visit and somehow the more different groups of primates you get to watch, the more you will get out of each group. We got to see vervet and baboons (in Akagera) chimps, colobus and mountain monkeys (in Nyungwe) and the golden monkeys before seeing the gorillas. It gives a perspective ...."
Golden Monkey Trekking
"Definately do this ...."
16 Sep 2007 • Morning excursion
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
"What a place!"
The reception/dining/ communal rooms were still being built so we were cooked for and fed in a third chalet (what will be a guest bathroom was the kitchen).
But everything about the accommodation, food and service is first class and (even better) the Rwandans are really pleased and excited about this project which promises to give jobs to and train members of the local community. When the guide taking us to visit gorillas learnt we were staying here he insisted upon shaking our hands and even the State Minister for Tourism and Culture (or similar title) turned up during our stay to look at the work in progress.
We did two days of gorilla tracking. On day one we visited the Sabyinyo group and on day two, Susa. It is, as the guide book says, a peerless experience.
I was very worried about the hiking involved but actually we (despite being mid-forties, relatively sedentary lifestyle etc etc) managed it fine and with seemingly less problems than our younger fitter looking companions. This I put down to:
(i) having by this stage in our trip been at altitude for some time and having completed treks to see chimps and golden monkeys, and
(ii) hiring a porter - cameras, water, coats, lunch make for a bulky heavy backpack and clambering under fallen bamboo poles in mud with a backpack is no joke (and the porters need their job!), and
(iii) using two sticks. We took our own, but the guides also provide these – so we slid about in the mud much less than those balancing on one!"
Gorilla Trekking Safari
"No title necessary ........"
18 Sep 2007 • Morning excursion