Travel reviews by Mr N & Ms S from Zambia
Total number of trips
Lodges stayed in
Back to basics
Kenya between 23 Dec 2018 and 4 Jan 2019
This was not only for the fact that we spent time focused on the Mara megafauna but also because in Nairobi we indulged in the 'mainstream' safari-related activities of visiting the elephant orphanage and the giraffe centre.
It was all highly enjoyable and a reminder of many of the things which make Kenya a very special country in which to go on safari."
Crowne Plaza Nairobi Airport
"Mara minus the Madding Crowd (2)"
For some years now, 'safari' for us has generally meant out-of-the-way places and 'non-mainstream' wildlife (especially, but far from exclusively, the birds), in particular now that we are based in Zambia. But the past quarter saw something of a shift back to 'the old days', culminating with arguably the most conventional safari destination of all, ie the Mara! And largely not about birds as we shared most of our time with friends from Europe for whom this was a first safari experience.
For us, this was a fantastic reminder of some of the things - megafauna, rolling savannah etc - which make this continent very special indeed.
In this we were greatly aided by our excellent guide, Saruni, whose skills include an outstanding knack of anticipating an animal and pre-placing his vehicle in absolutely the best photography spot (though whether this is cause or effect of the work he has done with celebrity wildlife photographer Jonathan Scott was not clear to us). He also proved himself to be a good walking guide when we quit the truck on a couple of occasions. Thanks to his efforts we ID-ed 32 mammal species in all and over 130 bird.
As for the camp itself, it is comfortable and well-run. We actually changed tents during our time there in order to help out other guests who wanted an easier walk to the communal areas. Our first accommodation, Punda, was spacious as well as well-appointed; but we preferred the slightly smaller Twiga, which we moved to, for its location in a wooded area well-populated by birds.
We were pleased to see lots of fruit with breakfast, whether in the camp or out in the bush; and plentiful salads with lunch. Dinners were better than decent too and the staff reacted quickly and appropriately to any special requests as far as we could see.
All the staff we had dealings with were friendly and helpful; we would single out particularly co-manager Tony and also make special mention of the team in housekeeping, not least for quickly sorting out a minor problem for us at 2200 one evening.
Extra comments about our guide at Kicheche Mara:
By any standards, Saruni is a very good guide indeed. Personable, enthusiastic and knowledgeable with a real knack for pre-positioning his vehicle perfectly for photography or just enjoying the best possible view of a star attraction.
We took a private guide for our final day so we could walk, rather than truck, and devote our attention primarily to birds. It was money very well spent."
Tumbili Cliff Lodge
The accommodation is comfortable (even if the circular beds are a little kitsch!). Meals were all very enjoyable - plentiful food, well cooked with lots of vegetables and fruit plus, other than our first night when we were the only guests, a decent range of choices at the buffet. It would, however, be good if one or two better wines were added to the drinks list.
The lodge is very well run by Elijah, the manager, and all the staff we met were friendly, helpful and efficient, perhaps especially Samson who runs the bar and restaurant.
The main purpose of our stay here was birding in which we were greatly assisted by our local guide, Titus Kangor (who is a freelance associated with, rather than employed by, the lodge). With his help we logged over 120 bird species including over a dozen lifers. We were particularly impressed by his searching out of the slender-tailed nightjar and several owl species. Titus has a genuine enthusiasm for Kenya's birdlife and is certainly very knowledgable about the species to be found around Lake Baringo and where exactly to locate them. We very much enjoyed his company and benefitted from his guiding abilities.
We made two boat trips during our stay, piloted by Jonah who clearly has a deep knowledge of the lake. The second took us to an island in the conservation area near the eastern shore which has a population of the endangered Rothschild's (or Baringo) Giraffe; well worth a visit.
We also took advantage of the impressive astronomical telescope at the Lodge, which we commend highly to anyone visiting there."
"An expanded return"
As it happens breakfast (which we have missed more often than we have partaken thereof) the following morning was also in the Eagle thanks to renovation work in the normal restaurant; again, excellent especially coupled with daylight views across the Nairobi NP.
Other than this, suffice it to say that we specifically asked to be put in the Ole-Sereni for our stay in Nairobi based on past experience and would have no hesitation doing so again especially once the wholesale rebuilding currently in the pipeline is concluded"
South Africa between 13 Aug 2017 and 20 Aug 2017
We had hoped for a better flower season but, booking relatively early because of our need to spend some time in Cape Town, we had to take our chances. At least the variable weather at that time of year was kind to us. And we did see flowers aplenty in West Coast National Park; and we did find a good range of birdlife.
In short this was a very worthwhile trip not only in its own right but also as a scouting mission for a return."
"A good stay but..."
All this being said, we did encounter a number of problems which came down to below par service (outside the restaurant). For the most part these were individually trivial; but the failure even to address the serious problem with our shower after we had reported it to reception on the morning of the 14th was not. The other problems we encountered were, in our view, consistent in essence to the point where we were forced to question the ex-restaurant culture of service as a whole.
We have emailed a formal complaint to Village & Life (copied to Expert Africa) as the management in situ did not seem to be overly concerned by this failure beyond platitudes from a receptionist; at the time of writing this commentary, we await a reply.
We would add that the deficiencies we encountered at The Farmhouse were not consistent with our (one) previous experience of Village & Life properties."
"Our sort of 'quirky'!"
Our room was comfortable and, importantly for the time or year, warm. Breakfasts were most enjoyable. The service was consistently good, and Annie herself is disarmingly charming. On the Cottage's recommendation we dined each evening we were there at the Herb Garden - another good recommendation.
We were in Namaqualand for the flower season which was a little disappointing given the poor rains in July. But we still greatly enjoyed our time in the area making the trip not only worthwhile in its own right but also a good fact-finding experience for getting our timing better for a return. For example, we discovered that a 4WD is really essential to explore Namaqua NP to the full."
Short but sweet
Kenya between 21 Jun 2017 and 28 Jun 2017
As we live in Livingstone getting to Nairobi is very straightforward thanks to Kenya Airways flying Nairobi-Livingstone-Cape Town return three times per week.This is an excellent service, taking in views of arguably the three most iconic pieces of natural scenery on the continent, ie Kilimanjaro, Vic Falls and Table Mountain.
We had no hesitation in working with Expert Africa to arrange the non-work elements of our trip, our 20th with EA since we first ventured with the firm in 2006.
As always, we enjoyed a very helpful dialogue with the EA team, Richard Trillo in this case, working out what we would do. The plan worked perfectly and the trip more than lived up to our expectations."
"Short but sweet"
As we arrived there just before 2300 and left again for Wilson Airport at 0600 the following morning there is little one can say other than (a) it is very convenient for both airports, (b) our room was comfortable, and (c) our packed breakfast (included in the room charge as we were B&B rate) was perfectly adequate.
Sadly, we were not there long enough to enjoy the excellent views across the underrated Nairobi NP from the hotel's breakfast terrace."
Porini Amboseli Camp
"Porini Amboseli Camp review"
We opted for six nights (more than the norm based on what we saw of other guests while we were there) in part because of the frequency of Kenya Airways flights from Livingstone (where we live) and in part because we wanted to have a decent break and really explore Amboseli and the Selenkay Conservation Area where Porini is based. We are also very interested in camps which are owned and (largely) run by the local community. this being the fourth at which we have stayed in Kenya. Six nights was not too long.
This is not a high end camp. But it is comfortable and offers good standards of service. Acting Manager Daniel did an excellent job while we were there, keeping everything running smoothly. In the mess tent, John ensured that drinks and meals were well provided in a timely manner. All the staff were friendly and helpful.
The Conservation Area is a very worthy and well run project. From next to nothing two decades ago the community has created a hub for a whole range of animals - including four of the 'big five'. The game is plentiful and habituated, attracted by permanent water. It lives alongside the Masai cattle which are protected by the lion guardians whose job it is not only to protect the lions but also to keep distance between the two prides and the cattle herds, thereby avoiding clashes between the people and the cats.
The area offers several micro-environments which means that there is a great range of birds there. Add to this Amboseli NP itself, less than an hour drive away, and it isn't surprising that we logged 214 species in our six-night stay, despite being out of peak (ie inward migration) season.
All in all, strongly recommended both in its own right and as a base for exploring the NP."
A short break
As a general comment, we can recommend the Kenya Airways Livingstone/Cape Town service which is relatively new and which we were using for the first time (though we did use the second leg to Nairobi and back last month). For anyone wanting to visit the Cape and see the Victoria Falls this is a very handy service. We shall certainly be using it again in the near future in both directions from our Livingstone home."
"The wine country at its best"
We stayed in the Garden Wing of the hotel and our room was very comfortable with a small but adequate balcony and great views along the valley towards the west. Good bed, excellent shower, coffee facilities, reliable wifi etc etc.
We dined at Mont Rochelle's Mika Restaurant on the first night of our stay and were suitably impressed by the menu and the quality of the meals. Similarly with the lunch we had at its Country Kitchen - very good salads. But the culinary highlight, in our view, was undoubtedly breakfast: an excellent range of choice, top notch poached and scrambled eggs, good bacon and black pudding as well as a wide variety of fruits, cheeses, fish etc for those not inclined to 'full English'. Decent coffee too.
The bar has a wide-ranging wine list, including (of course) wines from the property's own vineyards. We did do a wine tasting of the house range which we found fairly ordinary on average - though the Sauvignon Blanc does well with a salad lunch on a hot day. But other houses in the well-stocked cellar more than makes up for this. And we did enjoy the recommended Graham Beck Cap Classique.
On our second and third evening we ate out in Franschhoek where there is a number of excellent restaurants. Credit to the Mont Rochelle for running a shuttle service to and from town more or less on demand which facilitates this (as well as a baby sitting service of which our friends took advantage). We can recommend both Reuben's at Racine (though due to move back to its permanent home shortly) and Ryan's Kitchen.
Also in town we liked for a snack The Village Tart - very refreshing homemade lemonade and soda.
Lunch on our first full day at the Delaire de Graff was a real highlight. Great terrace location with a real buzz about it. Very good food and we can strongly recommend the Banghoek Reserve Chardonnay. We also had a tour of the vegetable garden there (of professional interest to us) which was well worth the effort. We can totally understand why it is so popular as a place to stay; but our personal preference remains the more intimate atmosphere of the Mont Rochelle as far as accommodation is concerned.
Our final trip out was to the Babylonstoren vineyard where we tagged on to the guided tour of the farm. This is an impressive operation but it is commensurately popular and very busy.
With all this food and wine, it was good to be able to take advantage of the gym at the Mont Rochelle, as well as stretching the legs on the steep slopes of the vineyards. We even managed to add a lifer to our birding list (this was a rare non-bird-focused trip) in the form of a Jackal Buzzard!
Throughout our stay we found all the staff at Mont Rochelle to be welcoming and very helpful."
Lodge not featured by Expert Africa
Mixing business and pleasure
Kenya between 9 Dec 2016 and 16 Dec 2016
However, with only three direct flights per week between Livingstone (where we are now based) and Nairobi we really wanted to tack on a couple of days somewhere else. Again, Richard's deep knowledge of Kenya came to the fore; and he was able to work some dates around Shompole and The Emakoko which fitted in with our other plans.
This was our 18th trip with EA in a few weeks over 10 years, which speaks volumes for the high quality of service Chris and his team consistently provide."
"Why go further?"
Furthermore, in The Emakoko it has an absolutely first rate lodge on its southern border which would grace just about any NP. During our stay the owners were actually on furlough; but the relief manager Rachel is very much part of the Emakoko family and does an excellent job both running the lodge generally and making guests feel very much at home. We could not have been made more welcome or been looked after better by her and the resident team The accommodation was very comfortable; the public areas are welcoming; and the food was so good that we dashed back from Karen on a couple of days for lunch rather than go to one or other of the fine restaurants in town.
As for the park itself, as usual we were mainly in pursuit of the birds. I have still to tot up the final number but we were not far short of 200 species during our five days (quite a bit of which was not spent in the NP per se as we had business and personal reasons to be out and about, this being a hybrid trip rather than 'just' vacation). This despite the fact that we did not do as well for migrants as one would expect at this time of year. My top picks were: the Greater Spotted Eagle; the Gull-billed Tern (probably only the second sighting ever in the park); three different species of Bustard/Korhaan; a Nightingale (always hard to see); the Eurasian Marsh Harrier; the White-headed Barbet; and the Yellow-throated Longclaw.
As for the mammals, it is a downside for many (us included) that there are no elephants (other than at the orphanage). But a plentitude of rhinos - black and white - goes a long way towards making up for this; and we did have some excellent close-up rhino sightings. Furthermore, we regularly stumbled across lions. Most of the major herbivores one would expect to see are plentiful, perhaps particularly notable being Masai Giraffe, Eland and Grant's Gazelle.
In all of the above we were greatly aided by our excellent guide Elizaban, to whom we are indebted not only for his services in the park but also for taking us out and about in Karen (part of The Emakoko's service) and for driving us to the airport for our return flight at 5am (which is another facility which The Emakoko offers, ie being able to ferry guests flying in and out across the NP from and to the airport after dark). And we were also fortunate enough to be able to spend a day in the park with an old friend who is one of Kenya's top birders, Brian Finch.
In short, we highly recommend a stopover at The Emakoko with enough time to do a decent exploration of Nairobi NP and to enjoy some of the additional pleasures to be found in nearby Karen."
"A calm corner of Kenya"
Given where the evolution of Shompole Wilderness stands, the accommodation is not top of the range - and has no pretensions in that direction. But our tent was comfortable, plentiful hot water was available for the bucket shower on demand and we even had a flush toilet.
The communal area is currently a dining tent with more seating outside. And it is 'outside' where the camp really scores, situated on a picturesque bend in the Ewaso Nyiro river inside the narrow strip of riverine woodland in the otherwise largely dusty scrub of the Rift Valley floor.
The camp also benefits from being co-hosted by Johann's wife, Sam Russell, who has been working at a nearby research centre for over a decade and who complements Johann with the depth and breadth of her local knowledge, making for very stimulating mealtime conversations.
The staff in the camp are very welcoming and we found the general level of service to be good - as, indeed, was the food.
Getting there from Nairobi is not particularly hard (although at about four hours by car from KWS HQ in Nairobi NP it does take a bit longer than generally advertised); and the sometimes poor-ish quality of the road is compensated for by the spectacular descent into the Rift Valley and approach to Lake Magadi. But, despite its proximity to Nairobi, this is one of the less explored corners of Kenya as far as safari-goers are concerned.
Johann was kind enough to pick us up in Magadi "town" (really a huge salt works with housing and shops etc attached!) and drive us from there to the camp via a shortcut across Lake Magadi rather than the long way round the western end of the lake. And very picturesque it is too with the bonus of all the birdlife one is likely to see at the better known Lake Natron without the additional travel time, including (of course) the famous flamingos.
Another considerable asset to the camp is our Masai guide Nixon. His knowledge and enthusiasm were hugely significant in landing us 124 bird species in less than 48 hours including an outstanding sighting of the Narina Trogon at the camp itself. Further afield in the foothills of the Loita Hills (about 40 minutes drive) we found Ross's Turaco - after, that is, a stop on the way in a nearby village where the garden of one of the camp staff proved to be a bird party par excellence. Twenty minutes in the opposite direction took us to the Ewaso Nyiro marsh with a wide range of water birds and waders including the Fulvous Whistling Duck and the Spotted Redshank. In the meantime, driving the sandy scrub brought us sightings of the Kori Bustard, Dark Chanting Goshawk, three species of nightjar and a whole host of smaller birds. All in all, top notch birding.
For those more interested in mammals there are plenty of those around too, including lion and hyena and Robert's Gazelle (a variant on Grant's) - unsurprising given its strategic location between the Mara and Amboseli. Our mammal highlight was a herd of 22 giraffe on the move at some speed.
In short, Johann and his staff - aided by Sam - are putting a tremendous effort into making Shompole Wilderness successful, including with the local community with which he is working very closely. There is still some way to go but it is already well worth a visit."
Lodge not featured by Expert Africa
A fine intro to Africa - and fun for us too
Zimbabwe between 5 Aug 2016 and 11 Aug 2016
Our guests had spent two weeks in Zambia with us before we took this trip, mainly at our home just outside Livingstone. But, other than a day at Masuku Lodge just north of Choma and a couple of sunset cruises around 'our' patch of the Zambezi, this had not been safari as such. We therefore wanted to give them a good taste of the wildlife. We picked The Hide in Hwange NP and Victoria Falls (Gorges Lodge) because of their proximity to our home in Livingstone and our wish for our guests to see the Victoria Falls on both sides.
This turned out to be about as good a final week to their three week trip as we could have imagined, not only in absolute terms but also as a great counterpoint to the time our guests spent in Zambia. It was also very good from our perspective too. Getting such a good balance is not straightforward and we are grateful to the team at Expert Africa for once again coming up trumps."
"High marks for The Hide"
The Hide is an extremely well managed camp, one of the best in our experience. Meals are high quality with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables: we especially liked the fact that one evening the main course was traditional Zambian fare. The bar is well-stocked. The rooms are comfortable and the communal areas a delight, looking out onto a waterhole which attracts a wide range of animals. The highlight is the hide itself which puts one (underground) just feet away from elephants coming to drink.
There is a three activities per day rhythm to the camp (unusual in our experience), with a morning post-breakfast drive, an afternoon drive or walk and a post-dinner night drive on The Hide's concession. We found this balance to be very appealing.
Our guide, Ngozi, was excellent, personable and with a nice (again unusual) touch of stopping the vehicle and getting out of his seat to turn to his passengers when he had something important/lengthy to say about what we were seeing. He also was able to balance nicely the different interests among his passengers.
We were lucky enough to have good lion sightings on our first two days (including Jericho, former comrade-in-arms of the more well-known Cecil); super elephant and buffalo; serval, black-backed jackal, lesser genet and a whole host of herbivores. Best of all, perhaps, an aardvark. We also logged 84 bird species even though we diluted our usual birding focus for this trip: these included Secretary Bird, Kori Bustard, Ground-Hornbill, Ostrich with chicks, Pearl-spotted Owlet and a range of smaller raptors.
We can thoroughly recommend the Hide to first-time and experienced safari-goers alike."
The fact that Gorges is 30 minutes from the centre of Victoria Falls is really no disadvantage (ie no further away than many Livingstone Lodges - or indeed our home - are from the Falls). One round trip per day into town was included in our day rate as was one free admission to the Falls themselves. (There are other included outings too, including a sunset cruise, but we elected not to take advantage of these.) Furthermore, the travel time is more than compensated for by the sumptuous views of the Batoka Gorge from the Lodge.
This is a great place for lovers of raptors and we were especially fortunate with sightings of Verreaux's Eagle, one male adult visiting the Gorge around the Lodge every evening as he is periodically fed there. Additionally, the gardens of the Lodge and the scrub around it host a wide variety of birdlife. (And for lovers of waterbirds and waders, stopping off at the town's sewage works on the way in is well worth the effort.)
Our accommodation was very comfortable, one of the newly refurbished chalets. The communal areas are light and airy. The food is fairly standard but fine - the braai on our second evening being a highlight. The bar carries a decent range of wine and the mini-bar in our chalet was well stocked too.
The manager, Debbie, and her team made us most welcome throughout our stay.
All in all, highly recommended for newcomers to Africa and 'old hands' alike."
Our first foray to the Cape - not our last
South Africa between 22 Oct 2015 and 1 Nov 2015
Camps Bay Retreat
"Tranquility under the Table"
De Hoop Opstal
"Nature at its best"
All this being said, we would still recommend De Hoop Opstal simply because of the wonderful opportunity it offers to get close to the Fynbos and some of its wildlife. Admittedly, the mammals may be a little too habituated for the taste of some; but we personally found it refreshing to be able to observe for lengthy periods the front end of zebras (Cape Mountain) and eland in particular! And the birdlife is excellent - we counted off 75 species in our three days including Denham's Bustard, Cape Vultures and Blue Cranes - reflecting the range of habitats in the immediate locale.
All the activities we did were well-organised and well run, with first rate guiding. We were particularly impressed by the marine walk with shark expert, Hannah, which opened up what was a completely new aspect of Africa's wildlife to us."
Grootbos Forest Lodge
"Top notch lodge"
We went there primarily for whale watching and found it to be the most convenient jumping off point for boats going out from Gansbaii, with transport arrangements to and from smoothly run by the lodge itself. For those who may not fancy the boat, the lodge ensures plenty of opportunities for excellent whale watching from the cliffs just ten minutes or so drive away.
We also greatly enjoyed and learned much from other activities - the fynbos drive and bird, cave and beach walks. Furthermore, the 90 minutes or so we spent finding out about the work of the Grootbos Foundation with the excellent Chunami (who guided us well on other activities too) was fascinating.
We were equally impressed with the dining - and the wine list. And the quality of service indoors was the equal of that which goes with the outdoor activities."
Whale watching boat trip
"The Right Whale Trip"
29 Oct 2015 • Morning excursion
If we had one minor gripe it was the somewhat hyperbolic - verging on hysterical - commentary one of the boat crew 'treated' us to over the speaker system, especially during the breaching; our preference would have been for somewhat calmer enjoyment of these wonderful creatures. And, to be fair, most of the crew did go quietly and calmly about their business, un-fussily looking after the passengers.
Victoria & Alfred Hotel
"Upgrade to Queen Vic"
A valuable visit
Zambia between 18 Feb 2015 and 3 Mar 2015
As always, EA provided us with the very highest standard of service from start to finish, including (as has often been the case) a recommended adjustment to our originally proposed itinerary, ie Nsefu, which was definitely an improvement. Furthermore, when our original accommodation in Lusaka cancelled us at very short notice, EA immediately came up and sorted a more than suitable alternative (ie Latitude 15).
The downside of having done 15 trips with EA is that we have run out of superlatives. So, suffice it to say, we have nothing but praise for Chris and his entire team and will continue to recommend EA strongly to anyone considering a vacation on their 'patch'. One simply cannot do better than put oneself in the hands of EA."
Avani Victoria Falls
"Many happy returns!"
Our frequent stays speak for themselves but it is worth adding that the hotel has lifted its game somewhat since our last stay (under new ownership, we understand). Good Wifi reception is now available more or less everywhere (and we, at least, didn't pay for access). Rooms are still being refurbished and redecorated but the work appears to be nearly complete. And one of the things we have griped about a little in the past, ie volume of music day and evening around the swimming pool, has been addressed. Lots of other small improvements. We'd suggest adding to these a top-of-the-range gin to the otherwise impressive stock at the bar.
At the same time the hotel retains, of course, its single biggest selling point which is its proximity to the Falls and free access thereto for guests. Add to this the super gardens along the river it shares with its sister hotel, the Royal Livingstone, and the mammal and bird life there and this is a really solid proposition.
The hotel is about 15 minutes from the centre of Livingstone where we had quite a bit of business to conduct during our stay. But we do not find this inconvenient as cars are available more or less on demand at the hotel itself (Kw50 one way into town) and there is no shortage of cabs in town to get back.
As usual, we ate dinner at Squire's restaurant adjacent to the hotel where we were also very well looked after.
We did (again!) the morning river safari (arranged by the activities desk at the hotel), which is one of our well-established favourites. All in all, we shall continue to recommend the Zambezi Sun to friends going to Livingstone - comfortable, convenient and good value for money."
"Chilling out in Lusaka"
The bar is well-stocked (impressive wine list, eg) and the restaurant is good - the lunch menu being particularly impressive. We found the staff consistently very pleasant and eager to please. We would commend particularly the efficiency with which our return for our second stay was handled after our flight from Mfuwe was delayed four hours and we didn't arrive until after 11pm - to be whisked through reception with the formalities postponed until the following morning and the salads etc we had asked to be left for us awaiting us, as ordered, in our room.
We were in Lusaka primarily for business (and to catch up with friends). Situated on Leopard's Hill Road, the location was excellent for the places we needed to get to, as well as being just 30 minutes from the airport.
This being said, as is often the case with new enterprises (and notwithstanding the excellent way in which our late returned was handled - see above), there is scope for some further attention to detail, notably around quality of service (a couple of Zambian friends who joined us for dinner at Latitude 15 echoed this sentiment based on their previous experience). But we are confident that these will be ironed out over time and we will certainly not hesitate to stay there again in the future - or to recommend it to others.
In short, we think that Latitude 15 is a very welcome addition to the Lusaka hotel offering."
Nkwali is a very well run and comfortable camp. We have nothing but praise for everyone there who helped make our stay extremely pleasant and comfortable, especially the excellent and charming hostess, Christabelle. We were also very impressed with the quality of the guiding of Jacob in particular - and he was also a whole barrel of fun to be with.
February is, of course, 'off season' (and very few camps are open, as a result). But it is a truly fabulous time to visit South Luangwa, lush, green and with bags of bird and mammal activity. For fans of the latter, we had two good leopard sightings and both lions and painted dogs were seen by others while we were there; elephants and buffalo were around in abundance.
Together with its sister camp, Nkwali, strongly recommended."
"Heart of brightness"
The camp itself is very comfortable and we were well looked after by Bertram and his team. No vehicles, so all walking and boating - so very peaceful and soothing.
Together with Nkwali, Nsefu took our bird sighting list for the five nights in Luangwa this trip to over 150, including a handful of 'lifers' (though the eastern nicator, heard but not seen, proved illusive again!). A return trip to the nesting area of the yellow-billed storks (which we had previously visited in May from Tafika) was just one of several highlights. Worth adding that the light at this time of year is usually excellent for photography, with the emerald vegetation adding real lustre.
Again, strongly recommended."
"Latitude 15 review"
Avani Victoria Falls
"Zambezi Sun review"
A diverse and thought-provoking trip
Kenya between 27 Dec 2013 and 9 Jan 2014
Second, we should also mention why we land-transferred to Nanyuki, ie to visit the Karatina market, reputedly the second biggest food market in East Africa. While we had a business-specific reason for making this unusual visit, we can certainly recommend it for anyone who wants an interesting and different experience for a couple of hours in the Nanyuki area, meeting and chatting with local small business people.
All this being said, the heart of the trip was, of course, the safari in general and, in particular, the opportunity to visit - and therefore support - three community-based projects in Laikipia which are all run in somewhat different ways. Our growing sense for some time during our regular visits to Africa since 2006 has been that, with national parks in some parts often failing to provide adequate environmental and wildlife protection, much of the future may well lie in community-based and private (eg Mundulea in Namibia where we stayed in sept 2013) projects. This trip firmed up this view further, especially as it gave us a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the commitment of the local community to the projects and its aspirations, including for the education and related opportunities available to future generations.
Despite the ready sharing of views by those we met, we are cautious about trying to draw firm conclusions other than in the following respects. First, Laikipia is a fabulous part of Kenya and well worth visiting for both its wildlife and its culture. Second, we feel that these community-based projects are genuinely helping the local community consistent with its aims and aspiration and are, therefore, well worth supporting. Third, it will nevertheless likely to difficult to balance preserving tradition with the evolving way of life which inevitably ensues.
Finally, a word of thanks to the Expert Africa team, especially Richard Trillo, for their efforts putting together for us what was another excellent trip."
"Convenient and comfortable overnight-er"
Il Ngwesi Eco-Lodge
"Great stay, great project"
In writing the following detailed comments, we would note that in both relative and absolute terms the overnight rate at Il Ngwesi is very affordable and excellent value for money.
We actually stayed in two rooms - two nights in each - not because of any fault with our original accommodation but because, half-way through our stay, a room with a sleeping deck 'under the stars' became available and management offered to move us there, which we accepted. Both rooms were rustically pleasant and comfortable with good showers: sleeping under the stars was a real treat.
The staff at the camp were all extremely welcoming and hospitable and we were very well looked after. Particular commendation goes to James, who not only oversees the running of the camp but who is also an excellent guide and very good company (as well as being the presenter in London who first inspired us to want to visit).
In marking food as 'average' (see below), we would underline that we are taking a numerically literal interpretation of the word, especially relative to the other camps at which we stayed this trip. And we would stress that the meals were wholesome, tasty and plentiful. A little more imagination - and, perhaps, a little more leisurely pace between courses - could easily see this rating improve.
Our dominant activity was walking/birding. The walks were consistently enjoyable (including the climb to the top of the hill behind the camp) and the bird population in the area was huge - great time of year to visit with many resident birds nesting and migrants in the area. As for mammals, since this was the early part of the dry season, sightings were regular rather than abundant: but we still did well - especially for elephants. Our hopes for first ever sightings of vulterine guinea fowl and the remarkable gerenuk were realised (in both cases) within minutes of arriving.
Our afternoon at a local Masai village, followed by dinner, was fascinating. We were very well hosted by a young local, Peter, aspiring to go on to university shortly - and therefore himself a beneficiary of the project which has helped finance him through secondary education. We learnt a great deal not only about Masai history and traditions but also about the aspirations of the community, building on dialogue throughout our stay with the staff at the camp. There were also some very interesting comparisons to draw later between the way the Il Ngwesi project operates and the approach adopted by the other two community-based camps at which we stayed during this trip."
"A 'rare gem' indeed"
Expert Africa's description of Tassia as 'a rare gem' is, in our view, totally justified. Managed with great expertise and warm hospitality by Antonia and Martin on behalf of the local community, it genuinely warrants 'excellent' ratings across the board.
Our sleeping accommodation was very comfortable, great views across the plain (especially from our tower) and good bathroom facilities. The lounge area is spacious and comfortable. We took meals in a number of different locations around the camp, which was fun, sometimes with other guests, sometimes by ourselves, which was a nice mix. And the food itself was first class, consistent with Antonia's well-deserved reputation (and the camp's own cook book).
In addition to her camp-based work, Antonia is involved in a number of important income-generating projects with the women of the local community, including high-end bead work (handbags etc), which are well worthy of support. The commitment of both Antonia and Martin to the objectives of the project is impressive, as is the expertise which they both bring to their role.
Needless to say, as birders we also commend very highly Martin's work at his raptor rescue centre based at the camp and well worth a tour in its own right.
Our main activity was again walking/birding (indeed, the camp does very little by way of drives - although it does have horses and camels, consistent with the strong focus on eco-friendliness). Especially considering how close Tassia is to Il Ngwesi, we were struck by some significant differences in the local bird population, which made combining the two locales all the more interesting (ie in addition to comparing the way in which the Tassia project runs with Il Ngwesi and, later, Sarara). We did particularly well for raptors.
The major exception to walking was the day trip we made across the mountains behind the camp to Borana Ranch on the Laikipia plateau, where we boosted both our bird (notably water birds) and mammal (notably lion and black rhino) count significantly. Even though time did not permit us as long a walk in the cloud forest on the mountains themselves as we had hoped, this was an excellent day.
We also devoted an evening walk to local culture, visiting the caves which provided shelter to many Masai for much of the 20th century, learning a good deal more about their history and culture in the process.
We were guided at various times by Martin himself (brilliant, especially on birds) and by two Masai, Michael (very good on birds) and, in particular, Isaiah (solid all-rounder), learning a good deal from all three not only about the wildlife and environment but also about the Masai generally, their history and the project.
In sum, we have no hesitation in strongly recommending Tassia both in its own right and as part of a wider tour of the Laikipia region."
"Comfort, culture and wildlife"
Sarara is the home of Jeremy and Katie (and was established originally by Jeremy's parents), who run the camp in a relaxed and welcoming style. Having been brought up there to a significant extent, Jeremy in particular is a font of insights into the region and its culture. The accommodation is genuinely high end - very comfortable, spacious tent with a fine view of the busy waterhole, excellent lounge and mess facilities etc. Meals were consistently enjoyable - nice to have fish on a couple of occasions as well as lamb (two dishes which are not that often served in safari camps in our experience). We are not surprised that there are many return visitors (including while we were there).
Throughout our stay we were guided by the excellent Mark, a Masai who has an extensive knowledge of the flora and fauna of the region as well as local culture and who is engaging and humourous. We really enjoyed his company and benefitted enormously from his knowledge and willingness to share his thoughts with us on local issues.
For three of our four days we followed a pattern of early morning birding walk, a drive after breakfast and then a late afternoon drive stretching into a night drive. The wildlife in the area is excellent: we topped 120 bird species and saw around 20 mammals, including leopard, buffalo and plentiful elephant. The fourth day was taken up with a climb up the ridge behind the camp to about 6,500 feet into the cloud forest - not for the faint-hearted but well worth the effort for those prepared to make it.
We also visited the famous 'singing wells' and witnessed this cultural phenomenon for ourselves. Despite the (appropriate, in our view) ban on photography, we were left feeling that our presence and, therefore, tourist visits generally are having an impact on the conduct of the herders there and, without in any way wishing to be judgemental, we wonder how much longer the phenomenon can continue in its 'natural' state, despite efforts to preserve it.
In sum, Sarara provided us with a fitting final four-night stay to our 12-day tour through Laikipia and camps rooted in the local community."
'Best of breed'
Namibia between 5 Sep 2013 and 18 Sep 2013
Once again, we found ourselves well-satisfied with EA's offering and the quality of service (including rapidly finding us overnight accommodation near the airport in Windhoek after a flight delay).
We enjoyed all the camps we went to and achieved most of our objectives (the pangolin, which we had hoped to see as there is research ongoing at one place we stayed, remaining unsurprisingly elusive).
Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:
Keep up the good work!"
Etango Ranch Guest Farm
"Convenient and comfortable"
Expert Africa did an excellent job finding us alternative accommodation at very short notice literally right outside the airport, where we were made to feel very welcome and spent a comfortable (and very affordable) night. We'd have no hesitation recommending Etango to anyone who needs accommodation close to the airport."
Erongo Wilderness Lodge
"Worth more time than we had there"
Our guide, Johnny, with whom we did a couple of walks, was very up on his birds and assisted us in finding and indentifying several endemics. It is also very conveniently placed between other popular destinations, with good road access."
"More than just elephants and rock carvings"
We also greatly enjoyed the Doro !Nawas-organised trip to Twyfelfontain where we again beneftted from an excellent guide, Jenny, going round the impressive rock carvings.
Furthermore, we found that Doro !Nawas also has a very solid birding proposition - better than we had expected. We did three birding walks with Mwizi, two close to the camp and the third at a beautiful canyon location with permanent water some 25 minutes away by truck. Together with taking the 'back way' to Twyfelfontain, this allowed us to find a range of interesting birds including several endemics.
The camp itself is well-run, the food is good and we thought the wine list to be better than average. All the staff we met were very friendly and helpful."
Etendeka Mountain Camp
"Far from the madding crowd"
The mammal range is impressive - including elephants and black rhinos (another group saw lions as we were on our way to the camp). And the area also has a good bird proposition. That said, some readers may be surprised to learn that the highlight for us was a pair of very habituated elephant shrews warming themselves on the rocks outside our tent of an afternoon!
Even if the mammals and birds were fewer, the area would be well worth a visit simply for the landscape which is truly wild and beautiful.
Dennis is an excellent host at the camp and the new communal area is very well appointed. He is also something of an expert on the night sky, which was totally undisturbed by pollution (anyone for a post-dinner sight of Saturn's rings?!).
All in all, very enjoyable and strongly recommended."
Bruno himself is a true (latter-day) 'renaissance man'. Sculptor, film-maker, photographer, birding guide and bush expert, he has a wealth of knowledge on a wide range of topics and is genuinely curious about many others. Over the four nights we were there our conversaations ranged across, inter alia, the origins of multi-cell life (based on local fossiles), the eating habits of porcupines (more complex than you might think), the genetics of the zebra (and kite) family, undoing the damage of over-intensive farming, local politics, the Chinese in Africa, and human dietary issues.
Mundulea is a true bushcamp. But the accommodation is very comfortable - and we commend in particular the shower which is as good as any we have found on our numerous trips to Africa. Much of the fittings have been made by Bruno and his team from locally available materials (including scrap metal from the area's farming days). Bruno produces amazingly good meals on an open fire, which would do credit to many a modern kitchen.
The waterhole right outside the camp attracts a good range of mammals day and night and, although we were a few weeks early for the peak period, we also saw a wide range of birds.
Best of all, no trucks! Mundulea is all about walking and we enjoyed some excellent rambles through the bush morning and evening.
In short, highly recommended."
Breaking new ground
Kenya between 16 Feb 2013 and 22 Feb 2013
Fortuitously, this decision coincided with EA's expansion into Kenya; so, at pretty short notice, we put ourselves in EA's hands again (for the twelfth time since 2006). Guided by new team member and Kenya expert Richard Trillo - aided by Ellie Dunkels who has arranged trips for us in the past - we went through a number of options before settling on Leleshwa as both convenient for our non-vacation elements and consistent with our vacation priorities and preferences. As our separate crits make clear, it was an excellent choice, not only in its own right but also as our introduction to safari in Kenya, a country which we are sure we will be exploring further in the not too distant future.
Indeed, overall - and worth underlining as we were, we believe, EA's first ever clients to Kenya - the whole trip was well up to the very high standards we know Chris McIntyre and the team set for themselves."
Loita Hills Mobile
"A walk on the wild side"
The countryside is truly beautiful, rolling hills featuring dense-ish forest and open pastureland with an abundant water supply. We enjoyed some good sightings of black and white colobus monkeys and olive baboons (though this is not an area for seeing a wide range of mammals); and the birdlife (which was high among our reasons for going) was prolific and varied. The walking itself was a real pleasure, made all the more so by the fact that we saw no-one other than our party until we walked out of the Hills to the pick-up point at the end of our two days.
David's expertise was augmented by the local knowledge of two super Maasai guides, Robert and Alex, who know the Hills intimately and who added real value to the trip.
Our mobile camp site was extremely well organised by the local Maasai team (with the help for porterage of a school of donkeys), who also laid on an evening show of Maasai traditional dancing and singing for us. Our tent was - especially by the standards of our previous fly-camping experience - spacious and comfortable. The food was excellent - on a par with the meals at the Leleshwa camp itself (from which this trip was based).
Please note that our 'good' ratings from rooms and facilities are relative to the 'excellent' standard of both at Leleshwa itself."
Lodge not featured by Expert Africa
"The Mara without the 'madding crowd'"
Leleshwa is situated on its own concession just outside the Mara which is contiguous with a a number of similar concessions. The wildlife there is prolific, our night-drive proving particularly fruitful.
Needless to say, we did venture into the Mara itself for a day. Thanks to the expert knowledge of our chief guide, David, and his tracker, Rinka, we were able to enjoy a day of excellent wildlife spotting, mammals and birds, largely without being mobbed by minibuses (and we were left in no doubt about what could have been when we saw as we were leaving the park the crowd of vehicles around a leopard - more minibuses than Bree Street bus station!). As David remarked that evening, making no effort at all (we had mainly been bird spotting) we had managed to see four of the 'big five' in about eight hours - plus cheetah and a range of herbivores.
The camp itself is excellent - and we would single out for particular praise the bed which was probably the most comfortable we have slept in on safari. We were extremely well looked after by David, William and the team. Meals were very good (though, to be a little 'picky', we felt that a little more effort on desserts would not go amiss for those who like their sweets).
All in all, and including our foray into the Loita Hills, Leleshwa was a top-notch experience which we would strongly recommend to anyone looking to enjoy the Mara without the 'madding crowd'."
"Convenient and comfortable"
For anyone needing to stay in the city centre we have no hesitation in recommending this hotel."
Our eleventh Expert Africa experience
Zimbabwe and 1 other country between 28 Dec 2012 and 12 Jan 2013
Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:
We are very impressed by the outcome of the upgrading of the website. And we welcome the addition to the EA portfolio of Kenya, which we are currently actively investigating with an eye to our twelfth EA-arranged trip."
"Very happy new year!"
The camp is very well run and Dave and Antoinette are excellent hosts. The range of activities offered is first rate"
"A broad and rewarding experience"
First, the Matopo Hills are scenically very beautiful and worth a visit for this alone.
Second, one of our main reasons for going was to see some of the cave paintings. We were really impressed by the paintings; and, in Amalinda's Paul Hubbard, had the best possible guide. Paul also impressed us with his more recent historical knowledge. Paul's (wet afternoon) lecture on the early white incursion into what became Rhodesia and reflections when we visited Rhodes's grave were both highly informative and entertaining; and we were delighted that he devoted an afternoon to take us round the Bulawayo museum, which is well worth a visit.
In between the cultural activities, we had some good birding and were delighted to find white rhinos during our stay.
The camp itself is well run by Priscilla, Billy and the team."
Avani Victoria Falls
"Our third stay in less than a year!"
Eight Reedbuck Hotel, Zambia (this camp has since closed)
"Our third stay in less than a year!"
Lodge not featured by Expert Africa
Our 10th trip with Expert Africa!
Zimbabwe and 1 other country between 20 Sep 2012 and 4 Oct 2012
Kanga Bush Camp
"A treasure trove in Mana Pools"
The camp itself is very comfortable and we were very impressed with the lengths which Lizzie, temporarily managing on a day-to-day basis, went to to make us feel welcome and to provide any assistance we required.
As for the wildlife - leopards, painted dogs, lions, hyaena, buffalo and (of course) elephants all graced the waterhole during our stay, among many others; and we identified over 70 species of birds without even leaving the concession."
"A wonderful river location"
In camp we were made to feel very welcome by Nick and Natalie.
As for the animals, we were delighted to see nyala for the first time ever; but the most memorable has to be the (male - his mate followed a couple of nights later) pennant-winged nightjar flying into the lounge area one evening - fabulous."
"Convenient and comfortable"
Avani Victoria Falls
"Our preferred Livingstone accommodation!"
Eight Reedbuck Hotel, Zambia (this camp has since closed)
"A great place to stay in Lusaka"
Lodge not featured by Expert Africa
A well balanced trip
Zambia between 24 May 2012 and 7 Jun 2012
On the vacation element, we thought that we got the balance right between the more conventional South Luangwa leg and the more exotic Bangweulu/Kasanka leg.
Overall, we are very satisfied
Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:
On the website, the recent evolution (on which work is ongoing) is rapidly pushing it towards the 'very good' category."
Avani Victoria Falls
"A good base in Livingstone"
If we have one minor criticism it is the hotel's penchant for quite intrusive live and/or canned music for much of the day, which can be a bit of a nuisance in inward-facing bedrooms in particular in the evening."
Shoebill Island Camp
"Remarkable wetlands, remarkable wildlife"
Our guide, Webby, and boatmen did an excellent job on our outings into the wetlands; and the chief steward, Paul, looked after us well in the mess tent.
As for the accommodation, meals etc, Shoebill is - as advertised - fairly basic; but that certainly did not detract from our enjoyment of the whole experience."
That said, Kasanka is not especially well populated with megafauna thanks to the impact of poaching on this part of the country; so visitors should be prepared to temper their expectations accordingly and be patient.
In addition to going out in the truck, we enjoyed a very pleasant river safari from the nearby Luwombwa camp; and a couple of walks. Throughout we were expertly guided by Webby.
The camp itself is comfortable and its manager, Ernst, is working to improve standards across the board as the Kasanka Trust looks to attract more guests.
All in all, we feel that Kasanka - coupled with Bangweulu - is well worth a short stay, especially for the experienced African visitor looking for something a little out of the ordinary and with an interest in bird life."
"A happy return to Tafika"
Throughout our four day stay we walked each morning then took a late afternoon/evening drive. This afforded us a fine balance in our activities allowing us to enjoy the abundant birdlife on the one hand (118 species seen and indentified) and the large mammals (notably leopards including three sightings of a young cub) on the other.
In short: highly recommended."
Eight Reedbuck Hotel, Zambia (this camp has since closed)
"A good base in Lusaka"
Our room was spacious and comfortable and the manager, Stella, and her team went out of their way to look after us and ensure that our stay was well spent achieving our objectives. We dined at the hotel both evenings and although the menu is limited (understandably given the size of the hotel) found the standard to be just fine.
In short, firmly recommended for anyone needing to stay in Lusaka for one or a few nights."
Lodge not featured by Expert Africa
Another great trip with Expert Africa
Botswana between 6 Jan 2012 and 22 Jan 2012
Megan (and Lucy before her) did a great job on getting quite a complex itinerary to work. Thanks to all the team."
Arranged By Megan Green
"A walkers' and riders' paradise"
Grante Truthe is a truly first-rate guide (well supported by Letota and Lake) as well as being excellent company. The camp, overseen by James, is very well run and very comfortable; and the quality of the meals was consistently high - further enhanced by the quality of the mealtime conversations.
Although we were concentrating on the birdlife, there were plenty of mammals around and that population is set to increase as the cycle progresses.
In sum, we strongly recommend Motswiri to anyone who enjoys walking and, although we are not expert riders, would have no hesitation doing the same to riders looking at horseback safari options."
Nxai Pan Camp
"A less known but no less impressive migration"
With their help we identified over 115 bird species in four days (the majority of them different to the species we had identified at Motswiri, bringing our total for the eight-day trip to just over 200), with the large and varied raptor population a particular highlight. The drive to Baines' Baobobs was well worth the effort, the bonus being a large flock of lesser flamingo in Kudiakam Pan.
As for the mammals, even in just four days the ebb and flow of the population was clearly visible across the pan in search of fresh grass, bringing sightings of lion and cheetah; and close encounters with elephants were frequent.
The camp is very well run by Janet Shamukuni (whom we had first met two years previously at Tau Pan) and her team and we were very well looked after throughout."
"The place to stay in Maun"
It suited our purposes perfectly as a location and was very pleasant and comfortable to boot, with helpful and friendly staff. Firmly recommended for anyone who needs/wants to be in town."
"Good business hotel"
Firmly recommended to anyone who needs/wants to stay in Gabs for a couple of days."
Lodge not featured by Expert Africa
"A good business hotel in Jo'burg"
Jo'burg's financial etc business has moved in recent years. Although we didn't use it, the hotel is right outside a Gautrain station, so safe, easy transport to and from the airport; and it backs onto one of the area's many shopping malls which has a good range of restaurants.
We were very well looked after at the hotel and would firmly recommend it for anyone who needs/wants to spend a couple of days in Jo'burg."
Lodge not featured by Expert Africa
A well-balanced itinerary
Tanzania between 30 Aug 2011 and 15 Sep 2011
Expert Africa was able to come up with a 15-day programme which fully met these two sets of objectives."
"More elephants than impalas"
During our 4 night stay we saw plenty of mammals - over 20 different species with buffalo, zebra and lion (in addition to elephant) in abundance - and the bird life is even more impressive (we identified nearly 100 different species). The southerly location of Oliver's in the park also means that there are few other vehicles despite the richness of the wildlife and the splendid scenery. Our guide, Jackson, looked after us extremely well from start to finish.
Oliver's also has the advantage of doing walks (Marcus is an excellent walking guide) and - unlike many camps in Tanzania - night drives, though neither is included in the basic cost (possibly because the majority of the guides do not work for the camp)."
"All the big five and much more"
We did see literally tens of thousands of wildebeest, including a small group crossing the Mara. But arguably as big a selling point for Olakira is that, expertly guided by Jeremiah, we also saw all the "big five" in the four days we were there - a rare treat in our experience of safari. Add to this cheetah, side-stripped jackal, hyaena and around 20 other mammal species and one can only conclude that this is a top safari spot by any standards.
The camp itself is comfortable and well run - indeed we were impressed generally by our dealings with Asilia (the parent company of Olakira and Oliver's where we had stayed immediately prior) and its staff."
"Well worth the journey"
The sheer distance, time and cost involved getting there means that visitor numbers are low (for now - that appears to be changing as word gets out about Katavi) so we seldom saw other vehicles as we explored a small corner of this enormous park, expertly guided by Mark, Paul and Gabriel.
The fly-camping trip to a section known as Paradise was particularly worthwhile (indeed we would strongly recommend either a day or overnight trip there for anyone staying four nights or longer); and it was good to be able to do a couple of decent walks during our total four night stay.
Mammals are plentiful - especially hippos crowded into diminishing pools as the dry season bites - and we were very impressed by the bird life."
"Not just about chimps"
The camp is comfortable and well-appointed - a relaxed and relaxing atmosphere (although actually tracking the chimps up the ridge and through dense vegetation is not for the faint-hearted or weak-kneeed!). And it was a real pleasure to spend three interesting days without even seeing a truck!"
My Dec 2010 trip
Zambia and 1 other country between 26 Dec 2010 and 10 Jan 2011
Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:
As mentioned in feedback from previous trips we do think the website could be usefully updated more frequently. But we would congratulate you on the 2011 brochure which is a step up from the still very good 20010 version."
Avani Victoria Falls
"Fun by the Falls"
We would probably have rated it "excellent" overall had it not been for:
(a) the (possibly seasonal) loud-ish around the pool and dining/bar area for most of the daylight hours and all evening during our stay; and
(b) the hotel's apparent inability to provide help to guests on activities other than the admittedly extensive standard offerings."
Given the time of year (ie wet season) and the nature of some of the terrain around the camp, mammal sightings required some patience: but we were still able to enjoy two great dog sightings, quality time with a pride of 19 lions and sables as well as plentiful elephant and buffalo: other guests staying at the camp while we were there saw leopard, cheetah, rhion and roan antelope.
We understand that the camp is having a significant makeover in February/March so would expect an even higher standard in the 2011 season."
From the "normal offering" menu we very much enjoyed and would recommend the full day canoeing trip where we were guided by the excellent Ndoga Unganai."
"We ate dinner at Ilala every evening bar one (reflecting how good the food is there) when we headed out to the Makuwa Kuwa restaurant at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. We can't comment on accommodation there but the restaurant is certainly very good: food on a par with Ilala but with a more extensive menu and wine list (probably reflecting a larger number of beds) and, probably by booking early, we were able to get a "window" table even though we were not residents. Well worth the taxi ride even if the waterhole was quiet."
Taj Pamodzi Hotel
"A convenient overnighter"
Our Fifth Year With Expert Africa
Zambia between 22 Sep 2010 and 8 Oct 2010
Chikoko Tree Camp
"Wonderful for Walkers"
The accommodation was very comfortable and we really enjoyed sleeping in the tree-tops. As for the food, everything we were offered would have been a real credit to a larger camp with extensive kitchen facilities - and especially the bread and cakes baked in a hole in the ground."
John and Carol and their team really make their guests feel at home. Great atmosphere, excellent food and really nice people.
Both walking and game drives were expertly guided - underlined by the fact that we found leopards on seven of our eight outings (although our first ever elephant shrew sighting was also a high point).
All in all, srongly recommended."
Although we are not into fishing we did try it and would recommend that other guests do too, as this is something at which Chiawa clearly excells. We also enjoyed three excellent walks and some interesting drives. All of these activities were greatly enriched by the quality of the guides, expertly led by Paul Grobler who is right up there with the very best.
Our stay was at the end of the camp's 2010 season and we understand that the two "aspects" where we had some reservations - service and food - are being addressed for the 2011 season."
A First Class Foray
Botswana and 1 other country between 8 Dec 2009 and 22 Dec 2009
The high bird count was in part a reflection of the season. But we also felt that we benefitted in that respect – and similarly with mammals – from staying in four very different terroirs during our trip, ie the “mighty Zambezi” just above Vic Falls, Linyanti, the Delta and the Kalahari. And, needless to say, we would not have been anything like as successful without expert guides in all four camps in which we stayed.
Given the amount of moving around we did – more than usual, especially when one includes the day-trip into Zimbabwe – we should also note that the logistics worked throughout with commendable smoothness thanks to a combination of your planning and extremely competent and pleasant people looking after us locally.
In sum, this was a great trip."
"Romancing by the river"
Our guide Lawrence was equally excellent. This is a great place for birds and we found and identified plenty on our gentle river cruises thanks to his expertise - the highlight being the African Finfoot.
Our day-trip to Zimbabwe to see the Victoria Falls was well worthwhile. The logistics worked very smoothly – including around our add-on of lunch at the Victoria Falls Hotel – and our guide at the Falls, Max, did a great job.
We should also note that we were extremely well looked after getting from Livingstone into Botswana for the next leg of our trip.
Because of the brevity or our stay and our foray into Zimbabwe, we didn't take advantage of much of what Tongabezi/Sindabezi has to offer. But what we did do there we really enjoyed and we would have no hesitation in recommending the two camps to others."
Spencer, of course, has long been recognised as a top-notch guide, and rightly so; PD is an excellent partner for him and between them they make a truly exceptional team, both professionally and in terms of their personalities. It was also good to see Thabo and Julius again, whom we know to be of similar calibre. We were particularly pleased with the tracking efforts of all four, which yielded some quality time with the painted dogs.
Organisation and hospitality in the camp were also good under the guidance of Nicky and Hermeena; we were especially impressed by the speed with which everything was righted and dinner put on the table on time and to order after a particularly violent storm early one evening had reeked a certain amount of havoc.
All in all, well worth the return visit."
Xaranna Okavango Delta Lodge
"The Delights of the Delta"
The accommodation at Xaranna is extremely comfortable and we were very well looked after by Carl, Melody and the team. Some of the facilities on offer are not of particular interest to us – eg air conditioning and resident masseuse – but no doubt are to other guests; but we took advantage of – and really liked – touches such as the cold box of drinks and “gym in a box” in each chalet. The cuisine was, in our view, above average – especially afternoon tea which we thought was nicely balanced and very well presented; excellent coffee too.
The main aim of our stay was birds and in Rams we were guided by a man who clearly knows his avians . He was ably assisted by a first-rate tracker, Master. The bird life alone was well worth the trip, highlights including Pel's Fishing Owl, Verreaux's Eagle Owl, a Bataleur at very close range, Wattled Cranes, Green Pigeons and various Kingfishers. Add to that lions, a leopard, a wonderful serval with her cub in broad daylight and it is clear that this was a very rewarding three days.
In conclusion, we would have no hesitation recommending Xaranna and we are certainly minded to look to other &Beyond camps on future visits to Africa."
Tau Pan Camp
The birdlife was particularly impressive, a strong resident population augmented at this time by some very interesting seasonal migrants. But we also did very well for mammals, including cheetahs (five separate sightings), the black-maned lions, bat-eared foxes closer than we have ever previously experienced, cape foxes (in daylight), meerkats and honeybadgers. Furthermore we found clear evidence of elephants close to the camp no more than three weeks previously (where there were thought to be none around).
The trip to Deception Valley was well worth the effort. But it would not be for the faint-hearted in the heat – ours was much eased by rain having fallen the previous night.
For all that, this is a very different environment to the private concessions around the Delta and in Chobe/Linyanti/Moremi. We enjoyed it enormously and strongly recommend it for experienced safari-ers, especially those with a keen interest in birds. We left Tau Pan in no doubt that it is situated in a very special environment indeed and one which we hope to visit again in the not too distant future.
Our guide Hector was outstanding (as he had been guiding us at Lebala last year) and it was a real pleasure to spend time with him again. We cannot speak too highly of him.
In the camp itself, we were extraordinarily well looked after by Janet, Sa'adia (both relief managers) and the team."
An excellent programme
Botswana between 13 Sep 2008 and 27 Sep 2008
We really enjoyed our whole Botswana experience.
Suggestions for improvement:
None at present, thank you."
"Mapula - A Great Addition by Expert Africa"
There is just one minor caveat to that recommendation and that is that the lodge is situated in an area which (based on our experience at that particular time of year) demands a certain amount of patience searching out the animals. That said, such patience does bring its rewards and we got our trip off to a flying start in terms of both birds and mammals.
Highlights included elephants, sable antelope, lions, serval and caracal cats (the former in daylight) and (the absolute highlight as far as we were concerned) over an hour-and-a-half with a pack of 18 very active painted dogs; among the bird life we particularly enjoyed, at one end of the size scale, giant eagle owls and, at the other, malachite kingfishers. This success is in significant part a testiment to our guide, Matt, and tracker, Johan, both of whom were excellent.
In addition to game drives, we enjoyed our makoro experience (though I personally mourn the demise of traditional materials in favour of plastic boats!) and our bush walks.
We also really liked the camp. The accommodation is very comfortable - the shower was the most pwerful I have found in many years of bush visits! - and the atmospherics/ambience are excellent. The staff are, without exception, relaxed but efficient and nothing was too much trouble.
We enjoyed the food and strongly approve of the brunch menu which breaks away from tradtional breakfast fare to include light lunch dishes (eg quiche, macaroni cheese)."
"Kwara - Wide ranging Activities"
First, Kwando's vehicles - both jeeps and boats - were, during our eight days staying at their lodges, subject to what we regard (based on several years of experience on safari) as an unusually large number of mechanical breakdowns. At Kwara, our jeep broke down terminally on two out of our six game drives (despite being a replacement for one which had broken down just before we arrived); other guests suffered similarly during our stay there. And the boat engine (which we understood to have been out of action just before we arrived there) broke down the day after we had taken the trip to the heronry. Sadly, such a record of mechanical failings can detract somewhat from the overall experience; and yet our impression was that the camp staff who were having to deal with this on a day-to-day basis may not have been getting as much support from HQ to come up with lasting solutions as one might reasonably have expected.
Second, we were surprised in this day and age of greater awareness of the risks of skin cancer that, as a matter of company policy, Kwando's land vehicles do not have shade from the sun . Our concern over this was compounded at Lebala by the camp's airstrip having been out of commission since the start of the year necessitating a 90-minute-plus journey between the camp and a neighbouring camp's airstrip, often in the middle of the day. While we understand that there are arguments in favour of open vehicles (eg for bird watching), we at least have certainly found significant advantages in canvas tops in terms of guest comfort and no compelling disadvantages (underlined by our experience at Mapula where the vehicles are covered).
That being said, we would underline that our overall experience at Kwara camp was excellent (as indicated above). The camp has new top managers in Diner and Dit and they seem to us to have gotten off to a terrific start, creating a very positive and friendly ambiance in a relaxed atmosphere. The semi-spontaneous singing and dancing which the staff organised on the Sunday evening is indicative of a happy camp in which staff and guests are at ease individually and with one another. Based on our experience, we commend highly the way in which Kwara is being run.
We also had the benefit of a first class guide (David) and tracker (Justice) team who are extremely knowledgeable of the range of micro-environments - deep water, shallow water, bush - which Kwara offers. Highlights here included elephants, sable antelope, lions, cheetahs, serval and genet cats, and side-striped jackal. We very much enjoyed the boat trip to the heronry which was the centre-piece of a strong four days for birders.
We again had a most enjoyable makoro experience followed by a very interesting bush walk. As with the other two camps in which we stayed we very much liked the approach of rolling the afternoon game drive into a pre-dinner night drive.
Overall, therefore, despite our reservations about transport we really enjoyed our stay at Kwara and have no hesitation recommending the camp to others."
"Lebala - Real comfort and great animals"
The accommodation at Lebala is first class (unless one wants air-conditioning, which we do not!) and the location is really excellent for game. The mammal count during our stay was truly impressive in terms of both range of species and sheer numbers. Dogs, cheetahs and roan antelope were the better known highlights of our stay; but, for us, the real thrill was a first class daytime honey badger sighting. And we were again fortunate enough to see both serval and caracal cats, as well as large herds of elephant.
We cannot praise too highly both our guide, Hector, and tracker, Julius. They are both first-rate individuals and together make up an excellent team. The skills, enthusiasm and humour which they bring to their work are, in our view, characteristic of the excellent staff at Lebala.
Our mark-down below on 'facilities' is entirely due to transport issues noted in our comments on Kwara; and a small downgrade on 'service' reflects the minor managerial issues touched on above. Put together, they have led us to an overall 'good' rather than 'excellent' which could quite easily be pushed up from the former to the latter.
These minor reservations notwithstanding, we have no hesitation recommending Lebala to others and would certainly be very happy to visit there again in the future."
My Oct 2007 trip
Namibia between 3 Oct 2007 and 14 Oct 2007
We were glad we limited our travel. We met many people who were spending a night here and a night there trying to see the majority of the country in a couple of weeks - several of whom were attracted by our more limited programme. From our perspective, we'd reckon we got far better value out of the vacation by focusing on one particular corner of Namibia's vastness.
Bottom line: this was a great trip - not least as we saw 32 different mammal species including many we did not see in Tanzania last year - and we will be coming back to Expert Africa shortly to explore options for Botswana next year and hopefully (now Clare's seen rhinos) satisfy Alastair's 26 year quest to see wild dogs!"
Arranged By Sabina Hekandjo
Waterberg Plateau Lodge
"Calm, views and rhinos - ideal short stay"
The countryside and vistas are strikingly beautiful - we very much enjoyed our morning bush walk up onto the plateau - and the overall ambiance was very restful (ideal for the start of our vacation, especially after an overnight flight). Furthermore, we were fortunate enough to get up close on foot with rhinos within literally a couple of hours of our arrival; as seeing rhinos was one of the principal objectives of our whole trip this was a great start.
We felt the Plateau Lodge was more to our liking than the main camp would have been from what we saw of it: but the facilities there were clearly very good too. That said, because we were not interested in doing the cultural activities in which Waterberg also seems to specialise, options here were a little limited from our perspective (so two nights was the right length of stay); and its main attraction animal-wise is the rhinos - which from our perspective was somewhat neutralised by the wealth of white and black rhinos we were to see subsequently in Ongava and Etosha (we were very fortunate in that respect).
None of which is to detract from a thoroughly enjoyable stay at a location we'd have no hesitation in recommending for a short-ish stay for anyone wanting to see rhinos (80% probability on the drives apparently) and not going on to Etosha - especially if they were interested in the lodge's cultural activities."
Lodge not featured by Expert Africa
Ongava Tented Camp
"A great centre-piece to a fab vacation"
First, it is a very well-appointed camp. Cameron and Wendy have created a great family atmosphere - helped by two of their daughters being around for some of our time there - and are to be highly commended for the warmth of their welcome and general hospitality: they are great hosts. The waterhole is a real draw to the animals at least in October and the regular visiting porcupine, Charlie, is a bonus.
Second, the camp has excellent guides. We saw a very wide range of animals including frequent white rhino sightings and lions, as well as many species of herbivores. Our guide for most of the time we were there was Rio and he was outstanding both as a guide and as a man: we really enjoyed our outings with him.
Within that context we were able to persuade Cam and Wendy to let Rio take us out on a couple of night drives - without any difficulty though it seems not to be a normal service notwithstanding what the brochures say. These were certainly the highlight of our holiday: even though we had to work hard to find animals we were very well rewarded, especially by the rare sighting of an aardvark - but also by an excellent leopard spot, frequent African wildcats, a cape fox and a genet.
We'd recommend that Ongava offers night drives as a matter of course especially now that Rio has identified some key spots for the nocturnal animals - at least for guests who are staying for a few days and have time and patience to indulge in activities which might not bring instant gratification.
While we saw half-a-dozen or so not previously seen species when we moved into Etosha - notably black rhinos and elephants - the vast majority of the 32 mammal species we saw during our vacation were in Ongava, which says much for both the range of animals and the quality of the guides.
I guess if we have one other suggestion for improvement, as noted below it would be the food which was a little inconsistent in quality. The best was very good indeed; but there was the odd dip or two in quality, especially (but not exclusively) when we were having early dinner before our two night drives. A slightly better white house wine would also be welcome (but the red was very good).
That said, we'd have no hesitation in recommending Ongava to all-comers and suggesting a four night stay there to take in the full range of its offering, including a trip or two into Etosha itself (we did one half-day trip)."
"Sound accommodation, great waterhole"
The accommodation at Halali is better than adequate and the location is prime - we used it as a base to explore a significant proportion of the eastern end of Etosha going as far round as Tsumcor (which is well worth the trek). Of course, Halali's strongest point is the waterhole which is brilliant: we were fortunate enough to see myriad elephants and five black rhinos there as well as a wide range of herbivores.
We did not do any organised activities out of Halali but drove ourselves and simply enjoyed the waterhole at the camp.
In the context of exploring the east, from our brief stop there we'd be a little cautious of Namutoni (which we note you didn't recommend) where we were unimpressed by the waterhole."
"Fine facilities, first clas waterhole"
The accommodation was very pleasant indeed and the dining facilities were good - we commended the chef for the quality of his roast game. We were fortunate enough to have a room just a few yards from the waterhole, which is a great facility. Again, we were spoiled for elephants and black rhinos.
We used Okaukeujo to explore the west of Etosha, going as far west as Ozonjuitji m'Bari, ie as far as we were permitted, which we thought was very impressive in terms of the sheer number of animals there (although we were less impressed with the Ghost Tree Forest). This was the (unintended in our original itinerary) last stop of our trip and allowed us to leave on a high note."
The hotel is modern and well-fitted - and the sound-proofing, importantly for an airport hotel, is good. We did not eat on arrival but we did join our friends, who had flown in from Europe, in the bar as they clearly enjoyed a bite of supper. Breakfast the following morning was good - a buffet with a decent range of choices."