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Traveller reviews

Travel reviews by Mr V from Texas

Review Distribution

Excellent
Good
Average
Poor
Terrible

Total number of trips

3

Countries visited

2

Lodges stayed in

13

Excursions taken

0

It Rains in Kenya

Kenya between 23 Jan 2020 and 8 Feb 2020

Trip rating: Excellent
"The short rainy season extended right through our trip in January-February (2020), which is ordinarily the height of the short dry season. Interestingly, this is no way dampened (pun intended) our enjoyment of the trip.

I’m interested in photography, and the lush green foliage, moody skies, and sometimes dramatic sunrises/sunsets all enhanced my efforts. The animals were all healthy and happy, with plenty of vegetation for the herbivores and well-fed herbivores for the predators. Luckily, in spite of the presence of rain on each except our last day, we only experienced one 45-minute delay on a single game drive, so we weren’t particularly impacted by the rains, other than by the presence of lots of mud (the camps supplied Wellington boots) and some insects in Meru.

The hard work of the staffs at each of our camps contributed tremendously to our enjoyment of the trip."

Arranged By Richard Trillo


Four Points by Sheraton

Four Points by Sheraton

"Four Points by Sheraton review"

1 night Arrived 24 Jan 2020
"This is a nice airport hotel for one to recharge after a long flight. We spent one night here after a late evening arrival in Nairobi.

The breakfast buffet the next morning was good, and the staff were all helpful and friendly."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Average
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
The Emakoko

The Emakoko

"The Emakoko review"

1 night Arrived 25 Jan 2020
"We spent an additional one night after our arrival in Nairobi at The Emakoko, as I like to have a sufficient buffer before moving on to the bush, just as protection against potential flight cancellations or other travel delays. This was our second stay at The Emakoko, and we were warmly welcomed back.

A funicular has been installed to help guests more easily access cabins on the upper portion of the hillside above the reception and dining areas, which is very helpful. The cabins are spacious, well-maintained, and luxurious. The staff is very friendly, and the food is excellent. Dining is at separate tables, which makes sense here, as this isn’t a place where guests remain for prolonged stays leading to bonding.

Nairobi National Park is worthy of our support, in my opinion, and it’s always a nice introduction back to Africa. It’s an excellent place to see rhino, both black and white."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Elsa's Kopje

Elsa's Kopje

"Surprising Meru; Elsa’s Kopje review"

4 nights Arrived 26 Jan 2020
"This was our first visit to Meru National Park. As the remainder of our trip would be spent in the Mara Conservancies, I had wanted to balance that out with a place that had a different landscape and featured some of the Northern specialties. Meru definitely did not disappoint. The short rainy season had continued straight through the short dry season in Kenya this year, and Meru was flush with swollen rivers (which we could still cross, however, although there had been accessibility issues in the previous weeks), green foliage set against the striking red dirt for which the Park is known, complete with stretches of white wildflowers blooming in profusion along the roads.

The rains were generally intermittent light showers, mainly in the morning, and they didn’t particularly interfere with our drives. Interestingly, our guide Moses mentioned that the lions had taken to climbing trees to avoid the soggy ground and numerous insects that were flourishing (but few mosquitoes), and we did indeed find a lioness and several cubs up in trees, which were special sightings for me. The protected rhino sanctuary is also well worth a visit. A cordoned-off part of the National Park, it is completely wild in feel, and there are points within the fenceline that are designed to allow animals other than rhinos to traverse freely between the sanctuary and the rest of the Park, so there is plenty to see in the sanctuary besides just rhino. Reticulated giraffes browsing amongst the Dr. Seuss-like palms, gerenuk, a few Grevy’s Zebra (at a far distance), and Vulturine Guinea Fowl were a few of the Northern specialties that we saw. We also saw a lot elephants.

The chalets at Elsa’s are huge (ours was split-level), and the facilities are spread out. If you are mobility-challenged, it might be a bit daunting. The place is also a bit more formal in tone than we normally prefer, but I must say that the management did an excellent job in pairing us up with other guests who, like us, wanted to emphasize time on game drives rather than time in camp. Picnic breakfasts were prepared for us so that we could stay out all morning. There definitely were other guests in camp who preferred more pampering, and I have only praise for the balancing act that the management pulled off. A chef-catered bush breakfast and a few chef-catered sundowners with other guests were nice touches, and fortunately they blended in nicely with our game drives. If we had been required to abandon a sighting in order to make those, however (and we were not), I might feel differently."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Kicheche Mara

Kicheche Mara

"Kicheche Mara review"

4 nights Arrived 30 Jan 2020
"This was our second stay at Kicheche Mara, and we’d happily return for subsequent visits.

The rains created quite a challenge for the guides and staff. The river at the entrance of the camp was flooded when we arrived, and we were given Wellington boots to help us navigate the considerable mud in camp. We were not able to cross back over the river for game drives for several days, but there was plenty to see on the camp-side, so we did not feel particularly constricted.

We saw a lot of interesting leopard and lion behavior, and Mara North is an excellent place for those interested in birds. The tents had been plumbed since our last visit 2 years ago, so no more bucket showers, which I kind of missed, but a hot shower on demand is also much appreciated. Kicheche’s emphasis on longer game drives and time in the bush makes me a loyal and returning customer."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Kicheche Bush Camp

Kicheche Bush Camp

"Kicheche Bush Camp review"

4 nights Arrived 3 Feb 2020
"This was our second visit to Kicheche Bush, and we enjoyed it every bit as much as our first time two years ago.

This is an intimate camp that emphasizes game thrives and time in the bush. The tents are airy and spacious, with en suite restrooms and bucket showers. Of all the Kicheche camps, this one seems to attract more hardcore safari enthusiasts, many of them repeat visitors staying 8 or more nights (which is fine with us). The guiding here is superlative.

At our request, we had Patrick again, and he did not disappoint. He is a master at positioning the vehicle for the best photographic opportunities. Olare-Motorogi Conservancy continues to be a hotbed of leopard activity. We saw 6 individual leopards in 4 days, some on multiple occasions. Other highlights included a cheetah kill and a large pride of lions with playful cubs."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent

Kenya: Laikipia and Mara Conservancies 2018

Kenya between 27 Jan 2018 and 11 Feb 2018

Trip rating: Excellent
"This was a wonderful safari, with smooth connections, the right kind of lodges and camps that met all of our needs, top-notch guiding, and plenty of wildlife (including a number of first-time sightings for us, as this was our first safari to East Africa)."

Arranged By Richard Trillo


The Emakoko

The Emakoko

"Two Nights at the Emakoko to Start"

2 nights Arrived 27 Jan 2018
"We began our safari in Kenya with a two-night stay at the Emakoko at Nairobi National Park. This was a great way to level into the trip and shake off our jet lag. Our BA flight from London did not get into Nairobi until almost 10:00 PM, and by the time we got to the lodge, it was after midnight. Nevertheless, the staff and manager had stayed up to greet us and prepared a light dinner for us. This was definitely a nice touch and a welcome repast.

Our assigned guide, Elizaban, also met us at the airport and drove us to the lodge. As it was low season (late January), there was only one other couple at the lodge, so our game drive the next day was private, and the level of guiding was excellent. The food was uniformly good and the staff was incredibly friendly. Our Safarilink departure the next day was at 10:00 AM, and our guide transported us to Wilson Airport, giving us a mini-game drive en route.

By the time we left, we were well-rested from our long flight schedule from the U.S. Even better, we were already in the safari groove. Staying at the Emakoko was definitely the right call for us and provided a great start to our trip."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Kicheche Laikipia

Kicheche Laikipia

"Kicheche Laikipia review"

4 nights Arrived 29 Jan 2018
"Laikipia provided a nice contrast to our time, spent later, in the Mara conservancies, both in terms of landscape as well as sightings of certain northern species, such as Reticulated Giraffe and Beisa Oryx, that don’t occur in the Mara.

Our guide, Peter; was top-notch and very hard working (not to mention very friendly and jovial), and we had superb sightings (a porcupine being chased by a hyena at dawn, week-old lion cubs coming out of the den for the first time and cavorting around) solely because of his diligence.

Of the three Kicheche camps we stayed at during our trip, our tent set-up at Laikipia was probably the best — the tent was very spacious and hot water is available on demand — no bucket showers here (not that we have any problem with those). The food was also a little fancier and more creative here than at the other lodges (although we happily cleaned our plates throughout the trip).

As at the other Kicheche properties, the management here did an excellent job of meeting all our needs within an informal, relaxed and unstuffy framework. To my surprise, except for our first afternoon/evening, we were the only guests in camp (it was late January — low season), but no shortcuts were taken as a result. We still had a lovely buffet lunch every day, drinks around the camp fire every evening before dinner. With lions roaring at night, and a family of elephants visiting the waterhole in front of the camp every afternoon, and just us and the staff, it was a very exclusive experience. The manager, Louise, even organized a special sundowner at the top of one of the highest points in Ol Pejeta so that we could all see the lunar eclipse one evening. Very nice.

We’d happily stay here again."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Kicheche Mara

Kicheche Mara

"Kicheche Mara review"

4 nights Arrived 2 Feb 2018
"The tents at Kicheche Mara were simpler affairs than those at the other two Kicheche camps where we stayed, smaller and with less natural ventilation and no enclosed sitting area, but their location above a shady tree-lined creek bed was arguably the most attractive setting we had. Although the food was a little more straightforward than at Laikipia, that wasn’t an issue with us, and everything was very good.

The gracious and outgoing manager, Raymond, was very hands-on, and our guide, Francis, was excellent. His intuition, determination, and patience paid off, leading us to witness an unforgettable kill by a single lionness. Francis could tell that she was interested in this particular hunt, and at his urging, we stayed with her over the course of several hours until it all unfolded just as he had predicted it might. Now that is superb guiding.

As at the other Kicheche properties, morning drives began at 6:00 AM, with breakfast in the bush and returns shortly after noon, just in time to freshen up before lunch at 1:00 (unless you were on a great sighting, and then lunch became secondary). This is exactly the type of camp we desired — it had everything we needed, but management never lost sight of the fact that we were here for the wildlife.

Only 4 of the 6 tents were occupied during our stay, but to Kicheche’s credit, they kept all their guides and vehicles operating, so we each had a private guide and vehicle, which was an exceptional privilege and really enhanced our experience there.

I could not be happier with the ethos behind Kicheche’s approach to safari. They’ve really got their priorities in order, and the fact that the majority of guests we met at both Mara and Bush camps were repeat customers (some had been coming for years) is a testament to their success in this area."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Good
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Kicheche Bush Camp

Kicheche Bush Camp

"Kicheche Bush Camp review"

4 nights Arrived 6 Feb 2018
"We continued to enjoy the Kicheche approach to the safari experience at Bush camp. The tents were spacious and nicely appointed, and although the setting at first glance was not overly inspiring, it brought in grazing zebras quite close to the tents, while bushbabies could be found in some of the larger trees around the property.

The staff here was just as friendly and service-oriented as at the other Kicheche properties, and managers Darren and Emma helped keep the vibe fun and relaxed, while attending to every detail behind the scenes.

Unlike at Laikipia and Mara, Bush was booked solid throughout our stay. The camp's convenient proximity to the main Reserve may be one reason it is so popular. We did drive down to the Reserve on a couple of occasions for specifically-desired sightings, but the difference in vehicle traffic between that in the Reserve and that in the Conservancy was palpable. I was always more than happy to stay in the Conservancy.

We did have to share a vehicle here, but Kicheche places a maximum of only 4 people in a vehicle, and Darren made a concerted effort to pair up guests with similar interests and priorities. The customized vehicles were open air (with a canvas roll top cover in case of inclement weather or impending sunstroke), outfitted with well-placed supports and beanbags to help with photography, which was important to us.

Our guide, Patrick, did an excellent job of positioning the vehicle to make the most of our sightings. I obtained photos that I would not have been able to achieve — and in some cases; that I would not have even thought of — because of his expertise. As with our other Kicheche guides, Patrick was affable and diligent in trying to get us the best sightings possible. Because of his efforts, we were able to witness an extraordinary lionness kill that was probably the pinnacle of an already fantastic safari.

This last safari to Kenya really was a game-changer for us in many ways, and the Kicheche ethos played a big part in that."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent

My Jul 2017 trip

Rwanda between 1 Jul 2017 and 14 Jul 2017

Trip rating: Excellent
"Our trip to Rwanda was a dream come true.

We were really glad to have gone to the expense to book 3 gorilla treks -- an extraordinary experience I will never forget."

Kigali Serena Hotel

Kigali Serena Hotel

"Kigali Serena Hotel review"

2 nights Arrived 1 Jul 2017
"This was a very nice place to shake off the jet-lag after our long international flights from the U.S. and then, at the end, to regroup after 9 nights in the national parks."
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Good
Service
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Mountain Gorilla View Lodge

Mountain Gorilla View Lodge

"Mountain Gorilla View Lodge review"

5 nights Arrived 3 Jul 2017
"We had read mixed reviews of this lodge, but we were very happy with it. The staff to guest ratio was very high, and they worked hard to provide us with anything we required, cheerfully and promptly. It's close to the headquarters for Volcanoes National Park, the central gathering place for anyone doing a Gorilla or golden monkey trek (about a 20 minute drive).

There are now over 40 cabins, so it's not a small lodge, but having spent 5 nights there, it was nice to bond with other giuests, some of whom we later saw during our subsequent travels in Rwanda (which allowed us to have mini-reunions, of sorts). They are constructing some new units (numbers 40 and above, as I recall), and these are not nearly as charming as the single cabins with fireplaces that comprise the older part of the grounds. I would avoid these.

The chefs worked very hard, the buffets contained a bountiful assortment of foods, and we especially enjoyed the coffee bar, where cappuccinos and lattes could be ordered.

We did have one day where we lost water pressure, but management worked diligently to get things running again. In the evenings, we had a few extremely brief power outages, but nothing that lasted long. The bathrooms aren't luxurious, but they are perfectly functional, and the beds were very comfortable.

All in all, we'd be happy to stay again at Gorilla Mountain View Lodge."
Good
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Good
Rooms
Good
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Good
Cormoran Lodge

Cormoran Lodge

"Cormoran Lodge review"

1 night Arrived 8 Jul 2017
"We stayed here only one night, as we were transiting between Volcanoes National Park and Nyungwe National Park. The setting is lovely. We especially enjoyed the fresh fish caught in Lake Kivu as well as the very reasonably-priced French wines. Our cabin was set on a small promontory overlooking the lake and was very picturesque.

As nice as the lodge was, we are fairly active, and I think we would have gotten bored here if we had stayed longer than one night. For those looking to lounge in the sun by the lake and tuck into a book or snooze in the fresh air, a longer stay might be attractive, but we were ready to move on, despite the attractive setting.

For those who are mobility challenged, please be aware that the lodge is set on a hillside overlooking Lake Kivu. There are uneven stone paths and lots of steps, so take care if you are not even-footed."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Good
Activities
Good
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Good
Facilities
Good
Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel

Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel

"Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel review"

4 nights Arrived 9 Jul 2017
"Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel is a place I would love to hate. The main lodge is a rather pretentious hulk of stone with second story balconies spanning a turret, most of which are completely useless. We did have lunch on on the western balcony, but only because management had obtained some large Heineken Beer umbrellas to provide a bit of shade from the heat that radiated all around us. The formal layout of the grounds was contrived and unnatural, and completely at odds with the beauty of the surrounding mountains and forest.

The cabins are arranged on a strict linear grid, two rows facing what was intended to be a formal garden, which is elevated by a stone retaining wall as tall as a human being and basically inaccessible. Inside each cabin is a useless large entry way and a sitting room with a single lamp and a large fireplace surrounded by shelves filled with West African (not Rwandan) wooden figurines. There is a wood-burning fireplace, which we did not use, not in small part due to the fire screen that was framed in.....wood.

The beds are okay, and we were grateful for hot-running water and a flush toilet. Each room has a safe, but they are not wired and so you can't use them as intended (combination code). You have to have a key from the front office. How many keys do they have? One. So only one cabin out of 12 can utilize the safe -- hope you are the lucky one when you stay there. We demurred and just left our valuables at the front desk whenever we left the premises.

Food was just okay. The staff is skeletal. I honestly don't know how this place manages to stay afloat. Well, yes, actually I do. It's because of Tito the manager and David the head waiter/bartender/whatever else is required. Those two worked their fingers to the bones. Tito worked such long hours that he sometimes had to sleep on a mattress on the floor of the office instead of being able to go home for the night. Without the two of them, I think the whole operation would have just fallen apart.

Part of my disappointment may be due to the fact that originally we were supposed to stay at the very well-reputed Nyungwe Forest Lodge. Unfortunately, it was closed for renovations at the time of our trip, and so we had to be rebooked at Top View (and the view from the western balacony is nice).

In spite of all of my seeming negativity, we never really went without. There aren't many accommodations at Nyungwe, so I think this lodge has to be measured, at least in part, on that basis. That said, if you have flexibility in the timing of your trip, I might consider waiting until Forest Lodge is (hopefully) back up and running. Without that benefit, we nevertheless had a serviceable enough time at Top View (4 nights) and we're glad to have the opportunity to visit Nyungwe National Park."
Average
Location
Good
Service
Good
Activities
Poor
Rooms
Average
Food
Average
Facilities
Average

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