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Traveller reviews

Travel reviews by Mrs C from Southwest USA

Review Distribution

Excellent
Good
Average
Poor
Terrible

Total number of trips

1

Countries visited

3

Lodges stayed in

5

Excursions taken

0

Wonderful Safari

Botswana and 2 other countries between 27 May 2017 and 12 Jun 2017

Trip rating: Good
"I have tried hard to frame my comments from a specific point of view of an ex tour operator. The majority of our party was overwhelmingly satisfied. My dissatisfaction with Kwando comes from (perhaps unrealistic) previous expectations. The animals, the service, the camps, and the people were all 5 stars. I purposely put off giving this feedback to gain some perspective on the events of the trip, and I feel like what I have said is justified and fair.

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."

Feedback response

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


Ilala Lodge

Ilala Lodge

"Great service great location"

2 nights Arrived 27 May 2017
"It may not be the fanciest hotel in town, but it is certainly the best in terms of location. A short walk to the falls or the market.

The service in both the restaurant and the bar was great, and the food was good if not great. The rooms are not luxurious, but they are certainly more than adequate and a good fit for this budget minded group. The grounds were lovely, and we saw elephant, bushbuck, baboon, warthog and mongoose on the lawn. The one minor complaint was that the pool was not perfectly cleaned, but it was still refreshing and a nice amenity."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Good
Rooms
Good
Food
Good
Lebala Camp

Lebala Camp

"Good animals "

3 nights Arrived 29 May 2017
"I've been to Lebala before - I pass these comments along to you from the perspective of a former tour operator and experienced Botswana traveler. I've not been to Botswana since early 2002, and I was shocked at how much it had changed. Perhaps I was not prepared enough myself, and I was dismayed. My favorite thing about the Kwando camps was the flexibility of the guides and activities in terms of animal viewing. If that philosophy still exists, it is no longer apparent. The grass was still long, so walks were actively discouraged, which is fine, but there was no alternative offered and no indication that the game drive schedule wasn't fixed.

First let me say that the concession at Lebala is too small by far. They don't appear to have a good relationship with Selinda at the moment, so it severely limited our movements and viewing. We saw all the other vehicles on every single drive; often using the same coffee or sundowner spot. In the evenings on the way back to camp after sundowners, all the vehicles would be on the same road heading into camp with their spotlights about 70 meters apart. (I realize this sounds nit-picky, but these are the kinds of things tour operators should be made aware of.) The effects of poaching were apparent this close to the Namibian border as the elephants were very skittish and aggressive. (Obviously not the fault of Kwando, but something to be aware of if the focus is elephants.)

At both the Kwando camps the guides were so focused on getting good light for a photo that they were not respectful of the flight distance of the animals. We would approach this amazing sight of a hyena or a kudu, and the guide would drive around it so much trying to get it into good light for photos that the animal would flee. I understand the importance of photos, but theres not much point of getting good light on an animal that is running away. This happened so often - literally at almost every sighting that I found myself asking the guide to stop farther away just so the first-timers could see the animals not running away. It was incredibly frustrating and it seemed the guides had no concept of flight distance. When we did have a good sighting in good light, the guides rarely asked if the photos were finished or the group was ready before moving along. Many times they would start the vehicle while we still had cameras up or were happily watching the animals. I think you can chalk this up to lack of experience from the guides.

One instance at Lebala I feel I must share because it was the most shocking thing that happened. We'd come across a lion pride the night before and had a good view of them feeding on a carcass. (We ended up leaving before we were ready in order to get back to the lodge for dinner - which was disappointing, and not at all what I expected from Kwando.) The next evening the lions were picked up again right on the Selinda border, and off the Kwando concession. Rather than let it go and make the most of the drive with other animals, our guide parked in a clearing - explaining to us that there were only 3 cars allowed at the sighting and so we must wait in line. Then he proceeded to argue with the Selinda guide over the radio fighting to get to the lions. We killed time sitting in a vehicle with the sun going down listening to the guide alternately negotiating with Selinda, gossiping with the tracker, and complaining to us that they should let us get in there before the sun went down and we lost the light. Eventually we did get to see the lions - for about 10 minutes just as the sun went down. Then the guide said we must leave because we were off the concession. From there we skipped sun downers and headed back to camp.

I was fuming. Why not just say the lions were gone and move on? Why not go have sun downers until a spot opened up? Why would you involve guests in the politics of concession rights?? This was so unprofessional and disappointing. It seems that the demand for guides is so high now that they don't receive the training necessary and the schools are turning out lower quality guides. (The tracking skills were fine - it was the inter-personal stuff that needs work)

I found this to be true overall of both the guides at Kwando. That said, I must tell you that the guides were delightful people and did work hard for us. They were very friendly and warm, but they lacked that polish. Again - perhaps this is nit-picky, and perhaps it was only apparent to me because I knew what it could be like (and still is down in the Sabi-Sand reserves...) Two of the people of my group most enjoyed Lebala and our guide there.

The camp itself is stunning - highest class accommodations and comfort. Food was incredible, staff was amazing. Tents are WAY too close together and we heard literally every single word coming from the tents on either side."
Average
Location
Good
Service
Excellent
Activities
Average
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Kwara Camp

Kwara Camp

"good variety of activities"

3 nights Arrived 1 Jun 2017
"Kwara has the best location - land and water all the time. I had been warned that the camp needed updating, but I found it just fine. The tents were spaced better than at Lebala, so there was some privacy. The camp staff here were above and beyond - just as they were at Lebala. Warm, friendly, welcoming and considerate beyond expectation. Could not imagine a better camp staff.

I had similar activity observations here - guides were slightly unprofessional and the activities seemed so structured and left no room for flexibility. We were not asked if we wanted to mokoro - we were told which morning it would be done. We weren't asked about the sunset cruise to the rookery - we were just taken to the boat. It just wasn't the flexible, "what should we do today" attitude I was used to - and valued most - from Kwando.

During our stay at Kwara we came across a large male cheetah warming up and getting moving for the day. We had a lovely time with him as he rolled on the grass and got up to start the day. He marked a couple of spots and then climbed a tree to watch a herd of impala nearby. As he was climbing down and starting a stalk, we were told we needed to move along to make room for another vehicle. I was gobsmacked. I've never left an active cheetah hunt before and I never expect to do so again. In the end he was unsuccessful, but that hardly matters.

Another time we were notified by another vehicle of some mating lions. We arrived late in the morning to find them snoozing, and the other vehicle left when we arrived. The guide asked if we were ready to leave after just a few moments. I asked him how often they mate, and the guide said about every hour. I asked how long it had been since they last mated, and the guide said, "about an hour." I asked for 10 more minutes and sure enough we had a spectacular sighting. He seemed very anxious to get back to the lodge, and indeed the others were finishing up brunch when we arrived, but we didn't come to Botswana for brunch. It was just another example of misplaced priorities in my opinion.

On the boat ride, we were told that we needed to be off the water by dark since it was inside the national park - and thats completely fine. (No reason guests need to know that - just do it.) But then the "night drive" was 20 minutes from the dock to camp with no detours. The whole point of a private concession is driving at night, and I found overall - at both Kwando camps, that the night drives were essentially just the trip back to camp from sun downers. So much so that all the vehicles were all on the same road again, 70 meters apart, and arrived at camp at the same time. We had so little time driving at night at Kwando camps that we didn't see any nocturnal wildlife (saving the 2 big cat sightings we had at sundown.) We never saw genet, civet, bush baby, small cats, bat eared fox or porcupine with Kwando. Try to imagine how little time you must spend in a private concession in Botswana at night without seeing at least ONE of the above. It was shocking.

One other incident that I noticed to illustrate the point - and I don't know which of the Kwando camps this was - may have been Lebala - was that after we left a leopard sighting and were on our way to a sun downer spot 30 minutes away, the tracker and guide essentially gave up. The tracker stayed in the front seat chatting with the driver and didn't return to the jump seat for a 30 minute drive to a dam. Not a big thing if it was an isolated incident, but this was definitely a pattern."
Good
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Average
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Camp Kalahari

Camp Kalahari

"Best by far - highlight of the trip"

3 nights Arrived 4 Jun 2017
"I cannot say enough about Camp Kalahari. Accommodations, staff, food, wildlife, guide, activities were all top notch. Our guide not only was one of the best I've ever had, but had an obvious rapport with other guides in the area. Sightings were never shared and there was seamless cooperation - which didn't involve the guests - at interesting spots. Walking with the meerkats was a bucket list item, and can be done no where else. Guides worked very hard, and listened to our interests.

Camp staff was wonderful - managers here are great. Food was very good as well.

This camp should be selectively booked - people (Americans) only interested in seeing lots and lots of animals should perhaps not come here. This is about the culture of the people and seeing some unique species in a very beautiful landscape, not about quantity - at least not in June."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Acorn House

Acorn House

"Good location, wonderful staff"

5 nights Arrived 7 Jun 2017
"Great guesthouse - rooms were comfortable and upgraded.

Staff was awesome, and even made a birthday cupcake from scratch on 20 minutes notice for a member of our group!

Amazing - helpful with dinner reservations and other logistics. We were very happy here."
Excellent
Location
Good
Service
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent

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