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Traveller reviews

Travel reviews by Mr P from Penny

Review Distribution

Excellent
Good
Average
Poor
Terrible

Total number of trips

1

Countries visited

1

Lodges stayed in

13

Excursions taken

2

A glorous month

Namibia between 7 Oct 2007 and 4 Nov 2007

Trip rating: Excellent
"Despite the series of reservations expressed above [Ed: see individual camp reviews - follow the links below!], our experience as a whole was entirely positive. This is a wonderful country with resources of considerable potential. Our aspiration was to see and do - animal life, bird life in abundance; the beauty and power of the desert, the rich scale of the Okavango, the variety and suprise of Etosha, the charm and challenge of the San people.

We were privileged to have been and seen, and, for the most part, in exceptional settings and charming cirumstances.

To avoid your feeling too complacent ... flight instructions for the return journey showed two times of departure - 1940 and 2040.

But, if that's all I can find to complain about - and it's hardly that - then I think you have every reason to feel pretty pleased with your organisation. Expert Africa is so much more apt and expressive than Sunvil; 'Expert' you deserve."

Arranged By Tracy Lederer


Bagatelle Kalahari Game Ranch

Bagatelle Kalahari Game Ranch

"A fine start"

2 nights Arrived 8 Oct 2007
"Our first nights in Namibia; Bagatelle courteously and efficiently run; cuisine and hospitality excellent; private ownership gave first class feeling of comfort and concern; young management very competent, good humoured and always concerned for our welfare and interests.

Had these been our final nights, we might have been disappointed in the variety of wild life available on view tho' some magnificent sighting of hornbill and lilac breasted roller; guide very fully informed and entertaining.

Keeping, feeding and, in one case, an invitation to pat a cheetah, all rather tacky. Our choice of this venue substantially influenced by advertised resident meer cats - in fact, none were there, absent elsewhere where food was more plentiful.

Highlight - bright fire, cheerful company and exceptional cooking.

Lows - the collection of domesticated 'wild' animals and the phony experience of 'captive' cheetahs."
Good
Location
Good
Service
Excellent
Activities
Average
Rooms
Good
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Good
Kulala Desert Lodge

Kulala Desert Lodge

"Disappointment in the desert"

3 nights Arrived 10 Oct 2007
"I completed a detailed evaluation sheet including the points below and discussed them in outline with the management before we left. They represent a fairly unsatisfactory experience of what is described in your brochure as a distinguished establishment.

(i) The food was badly prepared and presented. Vegetables were overcooked and distasteful, often cold and even unrecognisable - a pat of rice, grey and lukewarm, for example; meat was either tough or unattractive; puddings were ordinary, obviously frozen, and unappetizing; one first course, described as 'bruschetta', two pieces of sponge slopped with plum sauce, was inedible. We have never experienced anything quite as awful as this in a public restaurant, let alone one that was so fulsomely written up.

Both my wife and I were, on different occasions, quite seriously ill with clear symptoms of food poisoning; the manager put it down to a change in drinking water ('even when I go to Swapokmund I get a stomach upset through drinking a different kind of water') and this despite his earlier assertion that his water was entirely safe. It's never easy to link eating habits with food poisoning and we can only suspect; contenders as potential culprits were warmed rice and inadequately stored cream. So, a suspicion that this menu was not only unappetising but potentially dangerous. Our symptoms persisted long after leaning Kulala.

Kulala's problems stem from poor management. Causes for concern, beyond the kitchen:

(i) Security; there is no sign of this; we complained twice, without any response, of a forced and broken bolt on one of our room doors. We asked about locks on the doors, again a question treated with indifference. This may seem an odd enquiry since we subsequently stayed in 'tents' without even walls let alone doors. There, though, there were in force clear security precautions. And, anyway, I wonder how an insurance company might respond to a claim for lost or apparently stolen goods from an unlocked room. This may not be the point; but it's crucial that if guests have concerns of this sort that at least they sould be addressed. Risk has to be managed not ignored. One of the toilets in the public area was without any sort of lock.

(ii) Early calls were either late, very late or entirely ignored. In the latter case, this happened before a ballooning trip which was the responsibility of another organisation some distance away. We might have missed our booking had we not woken independently - once bitten.

(iii) There were three organised trips. Two of these were very expensive and poor value for money. The dull visit to the Sesriem Canyon, a long way with a dull subject and an uninformative guide at that, and the nature drive in the evening which constituted a drive round the lodge's estate, were both glorified excuses for the statutory sundowner. The third, Sossusvlei visit was potentially more interesting though here our guide was equally disenchanted. Me: 'Do you take this trip often.' He: with an onvious sense of boredom: 'Yes; every single day.' Management could have helped with some coordination and education - we never had the same guide so three diferent individuals rehearsed the same tired, and already well known, facts about the acacia tree, the habits of the termite and the sociable weaver.

So, charming staff who had little idea what they were supposed to do and how; poor, floundering, management. In almost every way this was not an acceptable stay. I would be concerned not only for the reputation of Wilderness Safaris - they're big enough and well enough represented elsewhere to cope, anyway - but for Expert Africa; I would strongly recommend that until you have assurance that these issues have been addressed, you should not recommend this lodge to your clients. Have you heard this sort of thing before?"
Poor
Location
Excellent
Service
Average
Activities
Poor
Rooms
Average
Food
Poor
Facilities
Average
Ballooning in the Namib Desert

Ballooning in the Namib Desert

"A golden morning"

12 Oct 2007 • Morning excursion

This was the highlight of our Kulala trip, shadowed only by the lodge's failure to wake us up as promised and only a vague sense of timetable.

A wonderful experience, not only for the usual things - quiet, calm, stunning views, the gentle drift, the mighty beauty of the Namib - but also for the sheer professionalism of Astrid, our pilot, and her cheerful readiness to talk about what she was doing. It was an essay in skill and control throughout with the climax of an effortless landing and then the extraordinary deftness of her handling the basket and balloon, from the ground, to settle gently on the back of a trailer.

The breakfast in the morning sun was beautifully stage managed, too. First class.
Excellent
Sam's Giardino

Sam's Giardino

"Friendly welcome at Sam's"

2 nights Arrived 13 Oct 2007
"Still suffering from stomach upsets, we both enjoyed Sam and his giardino; cuisine first class, insofar as we were able to appreciate it, cellar exceptional though tasting again limited; we liked the slightly eccentric atmosphere, Sam's laconic concern in conversation and, especially, his willingness to provide us with transmissions of two Rugby world cup semi-finals.

We felt very much at home; nothing pretentious, but very solid, very friendly; thoroughly charming. Thanks, Sam."
Good
Location
Good
Service
Good
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Good
Food
Good
Facilities
Good
Coast and Sandwich Harbour

Coast and Sandwich Harbour

"Bruno's day"

14 Oct 2007 • All-day excursion

We were fortunate that Bruno was himself available for this trip. 'Having to make do with' him was anything but second rate. The visit was, of course, fascinating as your brochure description has it. This occasion was exceptional, though, because we were only two, able to benefit exclusively from Bruno's extensive knowledge on every topic under the Namibian sky; hugely entertaining on education and culture in Namibia, the profile and activity of the bay, the history of the country, its wild life and its evolution, the genetics of rhinoceros breeding ..... A memorable day.
Excellent
Mowani Mountain Camp

Mowani Mountain Camp

"Magical Mowani"

3 nights Arrived 15 Oct 2007
"Not just by contrast with Kulala, Mowani was an experience of considerable style and elegance. Much of the excellence of this visit derived from the careful and courteous leadership of Vincent, general manager. Accommodation, cuisine, service all perfect; one regret that given the quality of the cooking, neither of us were sufficiently recovered to take advantage of what was on offer - and paid for in advance. Staffing was first class - not only friendly but everyone know what to do, when and how. The search for the desert elephants managed with huge expertise - wonderful! A great stay; if Mowani can do it ...

One minor concern; the house rule, a sensible one, was that tipping was centralised; guests' material appreciation of good service would be distributed equally throughout the whole staff; we very much approved since it was a whole effort and not one restricted to high profile employees. The young man assigned to us as 'our' waiter quite clearly disapproved, asking directly for his reward; when I explained my understanding of the principle of the communal tip his reponse was that 'everyone' would then have a share of my generosity. Exactly so. Persist with that, Vincent, we say; it's a principle that informs the much wider organisation and philosophy of Mowani - and it shows."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Good
Okaukuejo Camp

Okaukuejo Camp

"Inside Etosha"

2 nights Arrived 18 Oct 2007
"Okaukuejo has benefited hugely from its refurbishment; accommodation is excellent and its position adjacent to a wonderful waterhole unique. This was a brilliant theatrical setting with exceptional viewing of elephant and rhinoceros, giraffe and uncountable numbers of antelope and much else - viewing in complete comfort and safety.

But this site can't rely on its setting alone; staffing and procedures are light years away from the splendid standard of accommodation provided and the convenience of staying inside the park will not guarantee a 'full house' unless the standard of service improves. Though cooking facilities are provided, a poorly furnished shop on site doesn't encourage their use; restaurant provision is adequate and meals similarly so but staffing is poor and, again, badly managed.

The notion of service in this nationally run organisation has some way to go. The local buzz is that the increased price, post-refurbishment, is unreasonably high; without considerable effort to improve service all round, this site, despite its unique setting in the park, will lose out to private competion outside the area. Consideration for the material welfare of visitors beyond rooms and showers has a long way to go."
Good
Location
Excellent
Service
Poor
Facilities
Average
Rooms
Good
Food
Average
Halali Camp

Halali Camp

"A different view"

2 nights Arrived 20 Oct 2007
"Halali, of course, offers a view of wild life rather different from the one available farther west. And it might just be worth staying here for that reason. The accommodation, recently refurbished, too, is excellent and the service here, if anything, worse than at Okaukuejo.

We stood in a queue at the bar in the evening while waiters were served before us (they, too, used the same facility) only to be told, when we reached its head, that they couldn't serve us because they had run out of glasses. Tempers became pretty frayed. One tour operator had a public row with the restaurant manager - 'if you charge premium prices you must deliver premium service'. We had some sympathy with that.

A waitress who might or might not serve you - she certainly wouldn't expect to supply you with cutlery - could never be found to give you a bill; if you wrested her from the kitchen, she would have to go to a madame sitting in a booth to get the bill, to bring it to you, to take it back to madame, to grope for change, to take it to madame .... You had to start this process early - we were committed to a night drive at 8.00 p.m. and asked for a bill at 7.30 p.m. Tempting providence. We were just lucky - I fancy there are still some folk waiting even now to pay - or, more likely, they've sneaked off without paying out of sheer frustration.

The following morning, the same waitress is listlessly mopping the floor; madame objects to being invited to give us a bill direct. Systems, procedure, management .... dire. And all those lovely rooms. The waterhole was disappointing, too, though we do remember that wild animals are exactly that and you take your choice; and we did come across eight lions sitting by the rpoadside on our way out."
Average
Location
Good
Service
Terrible
Facilities
Average
Rooms
Good
Food
Poor
Nhoma Camp

Nhoma Camp

"Unique, fragile, complex, wonderful Nhoma"

3 nights Arrived 22 Oct 2007
"This really did what it says on the tin. Arno, and Estelle, are people with an affection and a vision that will maintain the San people and their culture, though changing, for a short while longer. Everything about Nhoma was exciting, informative and, insofar as that's possible, wholly natural.

We've seen such vanishing cultures elsewhere in the world; here, though the whole shifting environment and existence are undoubtedly evolving, the influence, if not the intervention, of Arno, goes some way to preserving what is right rather than something of a museum to be gawped at.

The opportunity to live with these people was a real privilege - tracking, hunting, making fire and weapons with them, sitting in on the elephant and giraffe dances, we were privileged to be part of their world. And Arno's huge knowledge, enthusiasm and commitment were a wonderful accompaniment. Equally, the comfort of the accommodation and the provision of excellent food and drink, rough, ready and delightful made for a wholly satisfying package. Wonderful!"
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Good
Food
Good
Facilities
Good
Nkwazi Lodge

Nkwazi Lodge

"Brief stopover"

1 night Arrived 25 Oct 2007
"Nkwazi is probably the sort of place you stop at when you're on the way to somewhere else. That was us. It was comfortable and well appointed; cuisine was good or very good.

The assembly of a series of local dancers, whom it was difficult to avoid watching at an extra charge (dinner only served after the demonstration) had the flavour of the artficial, a staged performance for tourists and the reckoning the following morning took place with Valerie sitting at the receipt of customs, writing the details of, and charges for, every individual's consumption then and there. With a queue of about fourteen, and very laborious computing and scribing, the excessive waste of time was unnecessary and frustrating."
Good
Location
Average
Service
Average
Facilities
Average
Rooms
Average
Food
Good
Lianshulu Lodge

Lianshulu Lodge

"Space, grace and peace on the Kwondo"

2 nights Arrived 26 Oct 2007
"Another Wilderness Safari house and what a difference! Lianshulu is the perfect example of what Kulala is not - and should be. Its physical circumstances help, of course - a small number of guests, plenty of open, airy space and a policy of unhurried, relaxed but efficient organisation.

Here we were almost entirely in the hands of Tertius, the 'front of house' manager whose good humour, good sense and concern for every detail of our comfort and our curiosity was exemplary. Food, accommodation, activities were all first class. Our one regret of our programme, really, that we had left so little time for the Caprivi, the Kwondo and the Okavango - and, of course, never a sniff reserved for Botswana. We'll have to come again. Perfect."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Ndhovu Safari Lodge

Ndhovu Safari Lodge

"Okavango nights"

2 nights Arrived 28 Oct 2007
"Ndhovu is relaxed even easy-going and this is obviously how Horst, the newish owner, would like it. (Erica and Lee were there but coming to the end of a holiday cum work stay.) Communal eating with the staff was very much the house style and we found Horst's company and conversation entertaining and informative.

His river trips and a morning's game drive were fascinating; he is another of those excellent guides, of whom our experience in Namibia was the majority, whose freshness and enthusiasm helped our understanding of the environment and the wild life and, more significantly, made us feel that our visit and our anxiety to know mattered to him.

The organisation is a little run down; the tent accommodation has been there a long time and gives a rather dowdy than 'outback' (cf Nhoma) appearance and the food was plain and not always enough. One of those conflicts that we found on more than one occasion in Namibia - how to retain the original sense of adventure and informality without alienating visitors whose expectations had moved on.

Our preference is very much for the former (see our comments on Nhoma) and recognise that there is a difficult balance to be maintained here. There might just be a temptation on the part of lodge owners to say 'well, this is what we do so this is what you get.' THis is not so much a criticism as a query, perhaps a suggestion for the future of the lodge.

But we liked it; hippos in the garden, carmine bee-eaters and all. Wonderful birds. (An interesting contrast with Lianshulu where we were always escorted to dinner after dark in case of marauding elephant or hippo. Here, Charlie the hippo grazes on the grass outside the tents at night, we and he unconcerned.)"
Good
Location
Good
Service
Average
Activities
Good
Rooms
Average
Food
Average
Facilities
Average
Roy's Restcamp

Roy's Restcamp

"Unpretentious and charming"

1 night Arrived 30 Oct 2007
"Roy's, too, has something of the same feel as we noted at Ndhovu; it's an eccentrically designed and decorated camp with a 'hippy' feel; it's also charmingly laid-back. Despite our voucher and long-term booking arrangement, they had no record of our arrival and stay; not that that mattered - we were the only guests beyond a handful of campers.

Three staff, a manager and a guide/barman/handyman and a young woman who seemed to do all the work were cheerfully relaxed. The cooking was sumptuous, very plentiful in a genuinely farmhouse style and thoroughly wholesome - if Roy's can do it then ...."
Good
Location
Average
Service
Good
Facilities
Average
Rooms
Average
Food
Good
Waterberg Wilderness Lodge

Waterberg Wilderness Lodge

"Cool efficiency at Waterberg"

1 night Arrived 31 Oct 2007
"We were disappointed with this clearly very expensive and rather complacent lodge. Our first introduction on arrival was to be given a sheet of paper recording ten items to be found in our room; we were to take this to the lodge where a supervisor would check if off before he and we were to sign for them. The list included a room key and a plastic folder containing information about meal times and so on.

Compare this with the iced tea, cool flannels and thirty minutes informative and informal induction at Lianshulu or Mowani and Okonjima; the management here should know that such courtesy costs nothing (cost is clearly a significant part of Waterberg's mind set) and the reverse, with the implcation that guests are likely to drive away with the swimming towels or a tacky torch, is at the best tactless and, at the worst, offensive.

This attitude continued; two vehicles left for a game drive in the evening. Our guide introduced himself as 'Helmut' (there is a pretty patronising habit - see 'Purple Hibiscus' - where black Africans are given European names by their employers); I don't know if Helmut had adopted his own Westernised name or not but he certainly behaved as though he did not undertsand or belong to the lodge culture which surrounded him. No more did he guide; his passengers asked him on a number of occasions to stop and identify a bird, usually a bird, and he was clearly floundering.

Rosemary spotted the problem; he had no binoculars and a book for bird indentification in German which he clearly did not understand. She felt very strongly that this man was being let down by his employer in that he was inadequately equipped and improperly briefed, so much so that she asked to see Joachim the morning we left; he was absent so a note asking for a response had to suffice; no reply, by e-mail, yet. Poor, non-existent, welcome; poor information; pretty poor food; owners/management never in evidence; the whole feel was of an outfit too big for its own good (a second lodge to run could have added to the remoteness of the direction.)

Lovely setting - a monopoly - spoiled by lack of concern for guests' welfare and expectations. Thoroughly disappointing."
Average
Location
Excellent
Service
Average
Activities
Poor
Rooms
Good
Food
Poor
Facilities
Good
Okonjima Bush Camp

Okonjima Bush Camp

"A glorious end"

2 nights Arrived 1 Nov 2007
"Everything about Okonjima is exceptional. From the first welcome and introductions, through some wonderful meals, to guided activities of the highest standard, this was a treat. Again, it's not all about money; it's about attention to detail, putting your guest first, accurate information delivered with good humour and authority, openness. Even Kulala could do that, with sound management.

Before we arrived, we were concerned about the artificiality of a setting in which big cats were compulsorily housed - we would see leopards because they are tagged and available. The sheer professionalism and dedication of the whole enterprise dispelled all that. The search for the animals was as exciting as any we had experienced in unconfined areas, the final discovery entirely fulfilling. And the opportunity to learn as well as to see was unique. These peple are doing a magnificent job of preservaton and education with no sense of exploitation or intrusion. Special mention of our guide Sanel - enthusiastic, fresh, informed, wholly committed. A model for the country and its tourist ambitions.

Just the smallest gripe; something of a traffic jam when brunch was being served after the morning drive. We had a suspicion that guests staying in the very super accommodation, the suites, were being given preferential treatment in the queue. If that's so, then even here, that won't do."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Good
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Good

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