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Traveller reviews

Travel reviews by Jaybarn from the Chilterns

Review Distribution

Excellent
Good
Average
Poor
Terrible

Total number of trips

1

Countries visited

1

Lodges stayed in

3

Excursions taken

1

October Kenya safari & Lamu dream holiday

Kenya between 30 Sep 2018 and 15 Oct 2018

Trip rating: Excellent
"This was one of our best ever family holidays - ideally for older children (in our case, young adults) - with many amazing animals to see, landscapes which were stunning, and different cultures between the highlands, the Mara and the coast.

The four legs of the trip - Borana in the Highlands, a not for profit conservancy which is helping re-establish the black rhino to the first Maasai-owned Camp in the Mara, to six days on Lamu island, a centre of Swahili culture, provided wonderful contrasts and very different experiences.

We could not have wished for a more perfect trip which exceeded all expectations. Now we would love to explore more of Kenya and see more of sub-Saharan Africa. Problem is, we also loved where we went and would like to return to these places and people too! Not the worst problem to have...asante sana, Expert Africa!

Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:

Expert Africa could offer a bit more information about activities in addition to quality of camps and lodges -- including interrogating the interests of a family group in order to get them to plan more of what they can get out of a trip. We didn't realise until the end of our first day at Borana, for example, that horse riding really offered the chance of a safari on horseback - and this then made Borana very special.

On the other hand, the flexibility of the Expert Africa team in allowing us to stay at a friend's private accommodation on Lamu was greatly appreciated. The process of building up the itinerary was a very positive experience and I trusted Richard Trillo's advice and in depth knowledge.

On the quote: It would have been nice to have had more of a breakdown of costs and options as I didn't feel able to weigh up alternatives fully. On the other hand, the itinerary was fairly fixed when it came to where we wanted to go on safari.

Finding ways of helping providers be as green as possible would be beneficial - not just conserving species (and we did donate to the Rhino International fund) but also ways of eliminating plastic in camps is important as these are visible ways of leaving less impact. After all, the Kenyan government has banned all plastic bags, so camps and airlines including safarilink should be encouraged to have refillable water canteens, etc. And camps can easily switch.

On Lamu - I would certainly explore the growing private villa/house rental options as these a fun, private and often of historic interest. Otherwise, airbnb and tripadvisor will take a share of your future business....(Our situation was coincidental and through a friend who owns a place with bandas at the end of the island...)

In summary, I rate Expert Africa highly and would recommend you to others! Many thanks."

Feedback response

We were very grateful to these very experienced travellers for their extremely detailed and enthusiastic comments about their whole trip. In response to the point about offering more information, we recognise the volume of info available can be a bit overwhelming, so we usually leave clients to explore our website, and in particular the reports on individual camps such as Borana, to read about the full details of the activities in each location. Horse-riding on the conservancies in Kenya always involves encounters (sometimes quite close encounters!) with the wildlife, which is less fazed by seeing people on horses than when those same people are on foot. We don't currently offer itemised quotes or invoices, but we are looking at doing so in the future. We agree that encouraging our partners to be environmentally responsible is part of our role, and we are currently mid-way through a long-term programme, in association with academic partners, exploring the social and environmental policy initiatives that all our suppliers undertake. On the question of private villa rental on Lamu Island, we are always interested in adding new properties to our Kenya programme, but unfortunately we can only do so as fast as we are able to visit them all!

Arranged By Richard Trillo


Crowne Plaza Nairobi Airport

Crowne Plaza Nairobi Airport

"Crowne Plaza Nairobi Airport overnight"

1 night Arrived 30 Sep 2018
"The Crowne Plaza Nairobi hotel near the airport was a comfortable and modern place to overnight before our early safari flight the next morning. The rooms were spacious, clean and had all the amenities we need to recover form the long day flight from London.

The staff were very helpful and gave us an upgraded room as our rooms were not both available by the time we arrived. We had been delayed at the airport getting through immigration, with long queues for both e-visas and especially the airport visas line. Note for return visit - it is worth getting the e visas in advance!

Our late dinner at the hotel was part of their 24 hour service - straightforward meal which was perfect for what we needed.

The morning transfer was smooth and everyone was very helpful. Our driver from Southern Cross Safari company was the local agent meeting us; we had a clean, comfortable minibus. We had to keep an eye on which luggage trolley our baggage was being loaded onto because many people were leaving for Wilson Airport to go on safari, or going on other trips to Nairobi, the beach, etc."
Good
Location
Excellent
Service
Good
Facilities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Average
Borana

Borana

"Wonderful time at Borana Lodge"

3 nights Arrived 1 Oct 2018
"The whole family (2 parents, our 27 year old daughter and 24 year old son) absolutely loved Borana. Our cottages (7 & 8) were perched high above an active watering hole, with regular Waterbuck and Thomson Gazelle visitors. There were gorgeous sunrises to wake us up , beautiful hills around us and stunning views of Mt Kenya in the distance. The service could not have been more attentive, while also relaxed and discreet --our host Cary perfectly judged the pace, so we never felt pressured into any extra activities just to be busy. Our guide and driver Ben was remarkably knowledgable and interesting and was a very nice person to have as company. After one of our morning safari drives, Ben even suggested a mountain bike expedition for my son, when he could have legitimately had a lunchtime break. Ben was very helpful about what we wanted to see on our safari drives and also looked after whatever we might need or want to do during our three night stay.

Our Landrover behaved impeccably (not breaking down like some of the other vehicles) and allowed us to get anywhere we wanted to go. Adventurous forays included finding our first solitary male lion at night, who walked alongside our vehicle, marking his territory, followed the next evening by spotting a whole pride of females and their five young cubs, all following each other in a neat lion tail-to-tail line to prepare for a hunt. Ben was determined to find them and was a great spotter. He also knew lots of natural history from the behaviour of harvester ants on the short hike to Pride Rock to the flora of the Highlands.

Meals and events included a surprise birthday dinner with sundowners for one of the guests somewhere in the bush, with dramatic burning torches under the stars. Cary, the manager, has a great sense of style and threw herself into entertaining the guests, while giving everyone space and privacy. We wanted to dine alone in our cottage for one of our lunches and Cary was happy to arrange something just for us - though we enjoyed the family style meals as well.

The food was very good - plenty of variety, plenty of meals and drinks. We felt we indulged ourselves with the jeep sundowners too, while seeing a good range of wildlife. If we came back we would probably opt for sightly longer game drives and would stay out longer with more bush breakfasts.

Activities: the horse riding safaris were a high point. the horses are excellent, ex-polo horses and the rider-guides are very skilled at riding and wildlife spotting. It was very exciting being on horseback in a herd of zebras, getting up close to elephants and staying far enough away from a lone aggressive buffalo hiding in a bush, as well as a lion which was stalking zebra. Horse back is a good way of covering quite a lot of ground and we would have planned for another day at Borana if we had realised how horse rides here were a genuine safari experience, not just trail rides.

We liked the rhino tracking on foot - a good morning activity along with our bush breakfast. And good to see the work of the rangers first hand.

I wished we had visited the local school supported by Borana. We heard great things about that - but we weren't sufficiently organised to take advantage of that on our first day and ran out of time later!

We would also consider going back to Borana in order to go fly-camping and horseback trekking up the slopes of Mt Kenya over a few days, but didn't know about this until we were there. More information about the necessary level of riding experience (and what the novice level would offer would also be useful for mixed-ability groups to plan in advance).

We were sad to leave and loved the experience, the company of Ben, our gorgeous rooms, plunge pool and the easy informal luxury of the experience, without feeling we were playing at being colonials....we also felt very good that this was a not-for-profit operation which benefits the conservancy and the community including impressive work in establishing a community school, as well as the important rhino conservation project."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Good
Facilities
Excellent
Tangulia Mara

Tangulia Mara

"Great time at Tangulia Camp in the Mara"

4 nights Arrived 4 Oct 2018
"Tangulia Camp was a great place to stay for our four nights on safari in the Mara - Tangulia is positioned above a bend in the Mara River, so our mealtimes were spent gazing at a backdrop of hippos, zebras and hyenas going down to the river's edge, with fabulous sunsets across the Mara beyond. The setting for the tents in the bush provided shade and privacy for each canvas tent, with the Maasai staff and askari guards (men and women) ensuring good service and security. We loved the proximity of wildlife in the camp - with hippos, zebras and possibly hyenas and other creatures coming up from the river after dark and making sounds through the night until sunrise, when we were brought flasks of tea

This is the first Maasai owned Camp of the Mara and Dominic .... and Jackson... are entertaining and charismatic hosts. Jackson is an expert guide and photographer, and well-known as a BBC and international television presenter and naturalist in Big Cat Diary and other documentary series.

Our guide and expert driver Benjamin was a storehouse of knowledge about the wildlife including the amazing bird life - as well as Maasai culture. He was focused on helping us see what we hoped to see, even if it meant some long day drives to the border of Tanzania to see the start of the wildebeest migration, which lucky for us, was late this year. In the Mara Triangle, down to the Tanzanian border we saw thousands and thousands of wildebeests, escorted by zebras, as they migrated into the Mara from the Serengeti. we also found the elusive cheetah just on the border. Over the next two days, Benjamin our guide was tireless in seeking places to witness one of the first wildebeest crossings as they reached the Mara River. They weren't ready before we had to leave the Mara and Benjamin sent us his own video a few days after we left, when those crossings finally happened. We devoted some of our drives to watching the wonderful Marsh lion pride and ventured further to find leopards as well as seeing baby elephants bathing by the river.

We thoroughly approved of Jackson and Dominic's work experience programme for future female guides - they want to create more opportunities for women and we enjoyed the additional company of Valentine, a student in her last year at college, completing a tourism degree, the first in her family to attend college.

The only extra activity which we took advantage of was the visit to a Maasai Boma or Village. Although this was laid on for visitors, it was great fun... and very informative. Our son was invited to 'jump' with the young Maasai men while our daughter threw herself into the women's dances and shopping for some of their craft items. The women of the boma were good business women, we found.

Food -- we enjoyed the convivial family style dining at a long table with room for 14 guests, all sharing their stories over dinner. Good salads and tropical fruit...with substantial main courses, plenty of wine, beer and spirits. We liked the provision of bush breakfasts and lunch on our long day drives....the final sundowner on the bluffs of the Mara River was a wonderful end to our stay.

The camp was well organised, with nice hot showers and good en suite bathrooms with running water. New tents are being erected this year which will be a further upgrade to the camp.

Our only suggestion would be to modestly smooth some of the track into the camp to allow for a slightly quicker journey into the Mara Park. And to find a way of switching to metal canteens for drinking water - to phase out individual plastic bottles asap. Borana gave a metal bottle to guests at the start of the trip - and provided filtered water in glass refillable bottles in rooms, plus jugs of filtered water at all meals. Very popular.

We would love to go back to Tangulia - many of the other guests had been there regularly - some several times a year for several weeks at a time. We found the Mara wildlife very very impressive, and not crowded, and this second leg of our Kenyan trip was a lovely complementary contrast with the landscape and flora and fauna of the Kenyan Highlands."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Good
Food
Good
Facilities
Excellent
Safari in Maasai Mara National Reserve

Safari in Maasai Mara National Reserve

" Maasai Mara National Reserve was amazing"

6 Oct 2018 • All-day excursion

Our family group had never been to Kenya and were stunned by the proximity of the wildlife to our safari jeep and the animals' closeness to each other - prey and predator and scavenger often side by side. Our kids described it as a Noah's Ark of wildlife - and felt it brought us beyond box-ticking the Big Five or the Ugly Five, etc. into watching behaviours.

Other comments are in the review of Tangulia>

Well worth coming here and I would come back again -- so much to see!
Excellent

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