Travel reviews by Mrs C from Southwest USA
Total number of trips
Lodges stayed in
Botswana and 2 other countries between 27 May 2017 and 12 Jun 2017
I would like to offer some feedback to ExpertAfrica specifically - we were very frustrated with the lack of a final reconciliation 2 months before we left. We were trying to make our individual final payments and there seemed to be no way for us to get a list that said, PAX #1 owes THIS, PAX #2 owes THIS, etc. We ended up having to sit down with literally pages of payment records, separate out our own credit card surcharges, subtract our own payments made to come up with final payment amounts. It was EXCEEDINGLY frustrating. I can't believe that we are the first group travel you've ever dealt with - so it baffles me that a clear and final reconciliation was not provided. I went round and round via email, and requested this several times in several ways, but got the impression that I was asking the impossible.
In addition, I asked about tour arrangements in Cape Town, and was quoted USD75 per person to join a scheduled bus tour. When I asked about a private mini-van, the price doubled. I did a little research and booked privately with a well-known, well regarded tour company who gave us private tours for USD60 per person inclusive of wine tastings and park fees. My issue was that I had no means of contacting them once we were on holiday - although they were great and checked in with Acorn House, and it all went off just perfectly. it would have been much simpler to do this through Expert Africa and I cannot believe that with an office there you can't do better than what was quoted. The LEAST you could do is offer a recommendation of a company you like to save your clients the trouble of finding out. This booking was over USD40,000 and I had to do a lot of the legwork myself - don't get me started on international air because thats a different can of worms. I understand if you can't offer consolidator fares from the US, but arrangements need to be made if you're serving the American market."
We’re very pleased that this group of travellers enjoyed their overall trip.
Amidst the successes, we’re sorry about the admin side of things when it came to their individual balance of payments. We have explained that we have a fairly new reservation system, and we’re still ironing out the finer details. Separate payments, joint bookings, credit card surcharges and individual amounts all led to some confusion on both sides. We're very sorry about the inconvenience caused. It's a good lesson learnt!
Arranged By Lucy Copson
"Great service great location"
"Good animals "
Offering flexibility with regard to activities is still absolutely a key part of Kwando’s ethos and we are disappointed and so sorry to hear that this was not reflected in the guest's recent experience with us. During orientation the managers will outline a typical stay’s activities, but they should also have explained that the programme is flexible according to the group’s needs. As part of our follow up with the camp it would be extremely helpful to know if these guests suggested any alternative arrangements during their stay.
With regard to the walking, we did receive specific instructions on the booking from Expert Africa that these guests “Do not want to walk”. It is true that the grass at Lebala is long at the moment following the extremely heavy rains that occurred between January and April. As the guests observed, there is plentiful general game and we are sure that the grazers will soon reduce the length of the grasses. That said, if the guests had changed their minds about wanting to walk we could have organised a shorter activity near to the camp, or around some of the pans. Usually this would be explained during orientation, but perhaps it was not given the usual amount of attention given the instructions that the camp received on the booking form about no walking.
The Kwando concession on which Lebala is situated is approximately half a million acres which is split roughly in half for Lagoon and Lebala game drives. It is therefore an extremely large area and it should be possible for guests to enjoy their activities without bumping into other vehicles. Of course, in order to maximise wildlife viewing, guides do radio sightings into each other so that all guests have equal chance to see the animals and perhaps this is what caused the other vehicles to be sighted? Sundowner spots should always be private and we will speak to the guides about ensuring that this is the case. With regard to the elephants, it is very hard to generalise. Many of the elephants in the concession at the moment have moved up from the south and are very relaxed with the vehicles.
Kwando does specialise in photographic safaris and our guides always try to be thoughtful with their positioning with this in mind. Photographers will often complain if this is not the case. It is a shame that in their efforts to get better light the animals were startled and I have asked our guide coordinator to reassess the guides in question to ensure that they are striking the correct balance in this regard. It is good that the guest spoke to the guide so that he could better understand the specific needs of the group; it would be useful to know if this aspect of the drives improved afterwards. The guide should always check that the guests are happy to move on from the sighting and we apologise that this was not consistently the case. The guests were guided by Balemetse (Bale) who has been with Kwando since 2009 so is an experienced guide who generally receives very good comments however the guide coordinator, who happened to be in the same camp as him today, has already discussed with him the issues raised so that he can learn from the feedback.
We were very concerned to hear the feedback on the lion incident, and would like to thank this guest for making us aware of this highly unusual incident. First of all, with regard to the previous night’s sighting, the guests should have been allowed all the time that they wanted with the lions. It is usually regarded as a strength of Kwando that we are flexible with our mealtimes in order to maximise sightings and we apologise that this did not seem to happen in this instance. It would be useful for our follow up if the guests actually asked the guide if they could continue at the sighting rather than head back for dinner, although we acknowledge that this should ideally have been proactively offered as an option.
Although the whole region is unfenced, we do strictly observe the boundaries with our neighbours; this is a good practice which means that animals are not overly disturbed. Furthermore, we have a legal obligation to stay within our borders, so breaking this rule is treated as a serious misconduct, subject to disciplinary action for the guides and trackers involved. Therefore when the lions moved across the boundary the guide should have explained that the sighting was no longer possible and left it at that. We agree with the guests comments that this situation could have been handled much better and apologise that the situation even occurred. We have already made a full follow up with the guide Bale who admits that he made a big mistake by trying to continue with the sighting, although he genuinely wanted to be able to show the lions to the guests.
We are very pleased to hear that despite the earlier observations these guests found many positive aspects regarding their guide and tracker at Lebala and that for some of the group they were the favourite guides of their trip. We have passed this on as encouragement to Bale.
We are pleased to hear that your clients enjoyed Lebala camp itself and that they were able to rate many aspects of their stay as “Excellent”. This is consistent with their guest comment book entries.
"good variety of activities"
We would like to thank this guest for her very positive comments regarding the camp staff at Kwara and will certainly pass on her appreciation to the team.
Again, we are sorry to hear that Kwando’s usual flexibility was not made obvious and will definitely follow up with the team at Kwara about this that they should consult the guests more as to which activities that they want to do on a given day. We have spoken to the guide at Kwara and he could not recall the guests preferring a different arrangement to the plan that he suggested. It would be useful to know if this concern was raised at all with the camp management at the time, or if the guests requested alternative activities/itinerary at any stage.
We have spoken to the guide, Chester and he did recall the male cheetah sighting. We are sorry that your client felt frustrated at being asked to leave. Chester said that they stayed with the cheetah for approximately 30 minutes and at the time, it was the only cheetah located in the concession. We do operate a three vehicle rule to ensure that the wildlife is not harassed and the only way to manage this in a fair way so that all guests have equal opportunity to see the key predator species is for guides to give way to one another after allowing a reasonable amount of time at the sighting. On this occasion, Chester has already informed the other guide that he could come into the sighting when the cheetah started to move; it was unfortunate timing, but to have stayed would have prevented other guests having their chance to see the animal which would equally have frustrated them. (Lucy, as an aside, there were 8 vehicles operating in the concession at the time, so the guides did need to be mindful of the time spent so that all guests could enjoy the sighting)
With regards to the mating lions, Chester said that he did remember checking with the guests if they wanted to leave since not all guests have the patience to wait for snoozing lions to spring into action. We are pleased that in this instance the guests were happy to wait, the guide accommodated their wishes and that ultimately they were rewarded with an excellent sighting. Although the guests were late back for brunch, it seems that in this situation we did offer the flexibility that this guest was looking for.
Chester agreed that the drive back from the boat activity was not a true night drive. The route back includes some deep water crossings and thus the vehicles do go together to ensure that all vehicles are safely through before it gets dark. However what he should have done after the crossings is to check whether these guests wanted to then extend their night drive and continue to look for smaller nocturnal mammals. He sincerely apologises that he did not do this and that they found the night drives in general to be lacking.
Feedback about the guide and tracker essentially giving up after a leopard sighting and heading to the sun downer spot is unusual – usually the tracker only stays in the front seat during a sighting with a potentially dangerous animal and then reverts back to the tracker seat. We need to do some further follow up with the guides further to ask why this happened, but are very sorry that the guests felt that the team were not committed to finding game during that period of the drive.
Again, it is pleasing to see that the overall experience at Kwara was rated as good and that many aspects of the guest’s stay were rated as “Excellent”
Lucy, we are very sorry that your client had concerns regarding some aspects of our activities and would ask you to please pass on our sincere apologies that she did not feel that the overall guiding service was of the same standard that she enjoyed on her previous stay. We would like to thank her for her valued feedback and have already spoken to our guide coordinator to ensure that the points that she has raised are addressed with the specific guides in question, but also at a broader level across all camps to ensure that Kwando continues to consistently deliver a high quality of guiding and flexible approach.
"Best by far - highlight of the trip"