Travel reviews by Mr & Ms B from Florida, US
Total number of trips
Lodges stayed in
Our 2023 trip to Kenya
Kenya between 16 Sep 2023 and 16 Oct 2023
Nonetheless, we figured it was time to check out East Africa for a change. To be honest, we were a little apprehensive about this trip, because many guidebooks or websites tell you that in both Kenya and Tanzania visitor numbers are much higher than in the South of Africa. As the New York Times wrote earlier this year, they witnessed a cheetah hunting and making a kill in the Maasai Mara, and in no time, the poor animal was surrounded by 50 vehicles. Well, even though the number of cars per sighting was, on average, higher than in Southern Africa, we experienced none of such extremes. I guess, we were lucky with the choice of camps and/or locations.
For instance, we took great care in picking camps that are using open vehicles with a maximum of six passengers and not vehicles with pop-up roofs, let alone minibuses. For a serious photographer, such conditions would seriously limit your freedom to move, and in the case of pop-up roofs you would have to stand up and, often, you would look down on animals. In other words, it would be a nightmare ruining my trip. I realize that the camps we picked are significantly more expensive, but this goes hand in hand with providing better guides, better amenities and facilities, and better service. The good news is that in our experience, the camps in Kenya are not quite as pricey as Botswana accommodations.
One more comment about the number of cars per sighting: The official rules in the Maasai Mara clearly state that the maximum number of vehicles per scene is limited to five (per animal, not animals!). Taken literally, a pride of 8 lions could be visited by 40 cars, and we have witnessed scenes with up to 20 cars. On other occasions, for instance when observing cheetahs or leopards, we have noticed that local wildlife rangers do in fact make sure that there are no more than 5 cars on the scene. Throughout the entire trip, we were blessed with guides that showed great patience and perseverance to stay at a scene for longer. Quite often we were also lucky enough to be the only two guests in the vehicle. The only camp where there were six passengers in a car was Lewa Safari Camp.
As in previous years, I enjoyed recording our wildlife sightings. Overall, we saw more animals here than in any other place in Africa. And our encounters with the big cats were especially noteworthy, because often they were full of drama. I should point out though that we did not see any wild dogs anywhere. Of the four areas visited, the Maasai Mara was, thanks to our guides, and despite the higher number of vehicles, a photographer’s paradise.
What we also appreciated in all five camps was that they allowed each party to have their own tables at mealtimes.
To summarize, this trip was so good that we are almost certain to return to Kenya in the near future."
We are thrilled to hear that these travellers had such a good time in Kenya, although we can respect the challenges with regards to the number of vehicles at a sighting in the Maasai Mara National Reserve. The official rule is that no more than five vehicles are allowed at any one sighting, at a minimum distance of 25m, and with a viewing time of no more than 10 minutes if more vehicles are waiting. However we respect that this can be challenging to enforce.
Arranged By Lyndsey Marris
"Macushla House review"
Lewa Safari Camp
"Lewa Safari Camp review"
"Elsa's Kopje review"
Elephant Pepper Camp
"Elephant Pepper Camp review"
Little Governors' Camp
"Little Governors' Camp review"
"Tawi Lodge review"
Our Mar-Apr 2022 trip to Namibia and Botswana
Namibia and 1 other country between 9 Mar 2022 and 13 Apr 2022
I would like to also emphasize that this trip was the first time that we visited this region at the end of the southern summer, i.e. at the very end of the rain season. Previously we had traveled here only in October (3 times) or July (once). We were pleasantly surprised by all the greenery, and we weren’t bothered by mosquitoes in any significant way. However, I should point out that my wife was often bitten by midges, whereas I wasn’t.
Virtually all guidebooks point out that the dry season is the best time to visit Africa in order to get the best wildlife sightings. I readily admit that the tall grass sometimes impedes tracking down predators, however, as my review of the camps in Botswana shows, we were not really short-changed of lion and cheetah sightings. Overall, except perhaps for leopards (only 2 encounters in 5 weeks) the wildlife sightings were as good as in the dry season, and in some aspects they were even better: To us, the animals appeared to be more relaxed or at least less stressed, due to the availability of food and water.
Everybody we talked to said that the region had a good rainy season. However, during our whole stay, we only had one brief shower (during siesta time in Etosha Heights) and one morning game drive in Nxai Pan, during which we had to wear rain gear and protect our cameras.
All ten safari camps are, in our minds, highly recommendable. And, as it turned out repeatedly, we saved the best (Kwara Camp) for last. This is not in any way to diminish the experiences we had at other camps. They all had their special appeal. However, if asked which are the places we are most likely to revisit again, they are Okonjima, NamibRand, Tau Pan and Kwara Camps.
I would like to add a comment about the flights to the various camps in Botswana. All of them took place on time and, most importantly, got us safely from point A to point B. However, I don’t quite understand why the departure times are only given to us the day before. I understand that for the airlines it can be challenging to come up with an economic way of handling these flights, but isn’t it true that virtually all of these trips are booked months in advance? For instance, on our way from Maun to Kwara Camp, we stopped in Xaranna and then Shinde Camps, whereas on our way back to Maun, it was a direct flight of 25 minutes.
Finally, a comment about Covid-19. Entry requirements with regards to corona changed during our trip: While we had to produce a negative PCR test for our first destination Namibia (to the tune of $250 per person) they lifted that requirement one week after we arrived, and Botswana lifted its requirement for the test before we crossed into Botswana. So did South Africa. The US, on the other hand, still requires a negative PCR test, so we did that in Maun one day before our departure back home. However, no one asked us to produce the paperwork!
I would also like to commend the way the camps in Zimbabwe last year handled the seating arrangements during the meals. They provided separate tables for each party rather than having everybody sit together at one or two tables along with the guides. I sense that this is a delicate issue and that it’s really up to company policy and not expertafrica to decide what’s best. With regards to guests sitting together I much prefer the separate tables arrangement, because in our five trips to Africa so far, our experience has been that the vast majority of conversations one has at these occasions amount to not much more than small talk: Where have you been, and where are going from here? Of course, there are exceptions. For instance, we got to know one couple from Switzerland and, on another trip, a couple from the UK that we really liked to talk to, and then we simply asked the camp staff to set up a table for four instead of two.
And with regards to the guides sharing the dinner: Of course, they deserve to have a gourmet dinner just like the guests, but I would say, they can have it in the quiet of the staff quarters, because in my mind, they deserve a well-earned break because they work hard enough already as it is. Again, in our experience, we had virtually all of the stimulating and significant conversations with them during the game drives, the coffee break and the sundowners, but not during dinner time."
Thanks for these really interesting points, and great to read the report of of a traveller who has been to Africa at different times of the year really enjoying a trip in the 'green season', and commenting that "the wildlife sightings were as good as in the dry season, and in some aspects they were even better".
Looking at the specific point about seating for dinner at camps... there are two broad opinions on this: some travellers love share tables with other travellers at camps, to chat and exchange experiences; others much prefer to eat at separate tables with only their own companion(s), or perhaps with just one or two guests of their choosing.
For those thinking of travelling, we'd comment that if you prefer to eat separately, and not dine communally, then please let us know this as a 'special request' when you book. Then we can let the camps know, and many camps will be able to arrange this for you.
In extremis, tell the camp manager in the morning, and s/he will sometimes be able to organise this for you in the evening.
Arranged By Sabina Hekandjo
"Casa Piccolo review"
Lodge not featured by Expert Africa
"Safarihoek Lodge review"
Hoanib Valley Camp
"Hoanib Valley Camp review"
Etendeka Mountain Camp
"Etendeka Mountain Camp review"
"Okonjima Villa review"
"Olive Grove review"
Dead Valley Lodge
"Dead Valley Lodge review"
Wolwedans Dune Camp
"Wolwedans Dune Camp review"
"Olive Exclusive review"
Kalahari Arms Hotel
"Kalahari Arms Hotel review"
Thamalakane River Lodge
"Thamalakane River Lodge review"
Tau Pan Camp
"Tau Pan Camp review"
Nxai Pan Camp
"Nxai Pan Camp review"
Meno A Kwena
"Meno A Kwena review"
"Kwara Camp review"
Thamalakane River Lodge
"Thamalakane River Lodge review"
My Oct 2021 trip
Botswana and 1 other country between 8 Oct 2021 and 20 Oct 2021
All three lodges are, in our minds, highly recommendable. But, as I said to my wife, it looks like we saved the best (Kwara Camp) for last. This is not in any way to diminish the experiences we had at Muchenje or Lebala.
It’s no secret that we had spent 12 days in Zimbabwe (organized by a different tour operator who granted us a voucher for a trip cancelled in 2020): 2 days in Harare, 2 in Kanga Camp, 3 in Nyamatusi, and 4 in Somalisa Camp. That was also very enjoyable, but I’m mentioning this here for one specific reason. In Zimbabwe, at mealtime we were always given the chance to have a table by ourselves, whereas in Botswana they followed the tradition of having the guests sit together at one big table. Well, we didn’t get sick, so everything went well, but just as an aside, we sometimes dreaded the kind of small talk we had to engage in when communicating with other guests. Maybe we were just unlucky this time.
This was the first time ever that we did an exclusive fly-in safari, which is very intense. It’s non-stop action, and thanks to the wonderful camps we did not fall victim to a sense of fatigue that we anticipated.
We chose to do it this way because we didn’t have the courage to do self-drive during the corona pandemic. But our worries were not necessary, because everywhere we went, the people dealt with the dangers of corona in impressive ways. Masks were worn by nearly everybody, shops and airports greeted you with a temperature check and hand sanitizer (!). Anyway, under normal circumstances we like to combine the fly-in with a self-drive, and that’s what we have planned on doing next year. In our experience, you get to see a bit more of the people and the land, and spending some time on the road is quite relaxing.
Not really. Everything worked quite smoothly from start to finish, which I can’t say about our daily life in the good old USA. Maybe that’s to be expected in this luxury travel segment, but still, I think it’s worth mentioning.
Since the Lebala airstrip was closed for repairs, Lucy in fact contacted us in Chobe to offer us the opportunity to switch to Kwando Lagoon Camp, since this meant that our ride from the airstrip to Lebala was going to be around 2.5 hours instead of the usual 15 minutes or so. After a short discussion among ourselves we decided to stick to Lebala."
Arranged By Lucy Copson
Batonka Guest Lodge
"Batonka Guest Lodge review"
Muchenje Safari Lodge
"Muchenje Safari Lodge review"
"Lebala Camp review"
"Kwara Camp review"
Thamalakane River Lodge