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Traveller reviews

Travel reviews by Dr & Mrs S from Oregon

Review Distribution

Excellent
Good
Average
Poor
Terrible

Total number of trips

1

Countries visited

5

Lodges stayed in

8

Excursions taken

1

My Jun 2019 trip

Tanzania and 4 other countries between 7 Jun 2019 and 13 Jul 2019

Trip rating: Excellent
"Our information and discourse was always with Maruska who was meticulous, knowledgeable and detailed in the planning with regard to our trip. We cannot thank her enough for the planning that was executed flawlessly, that reduced the anxiety of the multitude of transfer and connection flights that occurred within our itinerary.

The execution on the ground and air by the operators was flawless and any oddities that occurred were developments that could not be predicted by Expert Africa or their employees. Updates are required by direct observation and on site verification. We hope that we have provided them for you in this review in an objective manner that is factual without any bias or drama. Of course, there are always two sides to a story and after submission of our comments to any of the operators, if there is a discrepancy of the events that occurred, we are happy to respond or reply in kind. Our comments are also documented by photos of the elephants on the walkways and streets near the Vic Falls Hotel and in the case of the excessive call to prayer by the Imam near the Machweo hotel, we have a live, timed recording to document this annoyance.

Otherwise, it would be hard to improve upon the suggestion of camps recommended by Maruska in the Kalahari or Zambia for the quality of service and most importantly, for the wildlife that was observed.

We think we are seasoned travelers and it is not often that we would ever lavish such praise upon a an individual or company that helped us so much with the arrangements but Expert Africa and Maruska are to be commended. So please accept our sincerest thanks for an itinerary well planned and executed. If Maruska can put in the time and effort to plan this trip, we can certainly take the time and effort to evaluate in kind. Thank you.

Greg & Kathy

Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service: We never looked at brochures, website or general literature etc. from Expert Africa. Perhaps we missed something. I think we have already given our suggestions in this extensive evaluation process on how to improve such trips. Fortunately, there was not much need for that."

Arranged By Maruska Adye-Rowe


Victoria Falls Hotel

Victoria Falls Hotel

"Victoria Falls Hotel Review"

4 nights Arrived 7 Jun 2019
"The location of the hotel is primo! After all, the falls is the main reason folks go.

Walking to the gate entrance is a bit tricky now that they have closed the beginning access from the hotel property. I suspect this is because of wild animals. Nonetheless, you will encounter them on the walk from the hotel even if you walk on the streets the entire way (about a 12 minute walk). One of the paths, just off the busy street that accommodates pedestrians, has a sign to warn of wild animals but this is AFTER you go through some woods where the elephants are just off the path, well camouflaged and as we found out, will come out onto it! This little encounter scared the sh-- out of us as it was not expected as well as generated calls from the locals to "RUN", which we did. On the way back we stayed on the street only. It didn't matter as one elephant came right across the street and did a head bob and shake to warn us to keep away. So, stay alert. There are no elephants once inside the gate to worry about. These guys were not there the last time we were their in 1987, when you could walk the entire way from the hotel.

The hotel location is great but the place is showing a bit of a need for upgrade in the rooms in the older section and common areas. The grounds are magnificent as always. The food menu for lunch and dinner is the same and it was getting boring until we asked about the "venison". For us Yanks (and Brits) that is deer but not true for Zimbabwe people, at least according to the waiter. This term can be any of several animal meats and none of them were deer. So we had, over several meals, kudu, gemsbok and springbok steaks as well as crocodile tail. All excellent and not with the expected "gamy" taste. I would suggest a little asterisk be placed next to "venison" to enlighten the tourists of the opportunity to partake of these dishes as they read the menu. It won't be boring.

Lastly, the area has lots to do and see since were last there. Going across the bridge back into Zambia is tricky, especially for jet lagged guests. But Sharon, at guest services, was an expert at arranging for this to be done without the usual hassles and confusion that occurs in "no man's land", between the countries, while traversing multiple, small buildings, in either direction. She also took the time to find out about details in the helicopter flights over the falls i.e. how many people in the cabin, can the windows be opened for photography and the like. It was obvious to us that most folks don't really care about such things but Sharon took the time to find out every last detail we inquired about. Kudos (not Kudus) to her."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Good
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Good
San Camp

San Camp

"San Camp Review"

3 nights Arrived 11 Jun 2019
"This camp, like the others nearby, are unique in their salt pan location. This is not a camp for first timers to Africa who might expect to see "the big five". This is the place to see "the ugly five" and some unique mammals. The air is pristine here and the sky is great for star photography, just not around full moon time, however. San Camp is the destination for friendly, gregarious meerkats for sure and with a little luck, a brown hyena or even an aardvark! We did see one, albeit running for its burrow. That photo will not be an award winner however. Be prepared to stay up late in the search for them i.e. we got back to camp at 1:30 am. The guide, Vasco de Gamma (his real name) was persistent in looking for the unusual mammals!

In late June, the weather was cold at night. We slept in long underwear and the camp has heavy comforters and hot water bottles that make things warm. You will get dressed very quickly in the morning in time for the early game drives. Afternoons were a warm 70 F and the time to shower. The camp provided a sun downer on the salt pan that was accompanied with a full bar as well as a quiet, serene sunset. On another occasion the camp provided a full dinner on the pan with an opportunity to sleep out there for the night! If it weren't so cold we would have done it. None of the guests opted to do this either for the same reason.

A trip to see the bushmen of the Kalahari was excellent and put to shame the "hokey" encounters with other tribes one might see in Africa.

There is electricity for limited room lighting only in the tents but not for any phones, computers or camera battery charging and downloading of images. This must be done near the dining area and even that is limited. We left all of this equipment in the area rather than dragging it back and forth to the tents which are very spread out. The folks at the camp did help and go along with my plan to bring one of the small reading tables next to the electric area to work on. This assuaged the problem a lot. If more folks were doing this it would have been a problem however.

Other animals seen but not on your list included: porcupine and baby; bat eared fox; black backed jackels; spring hares; yellow mongoose; pukus."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Good
Facilities
Good
Kaingo Camp

Kaingo Camp

"Kaingo Camp review"

5 nights Arrived 14 Jun 2019
"Kaingo Camp is a first class, well thought out and run camp where attention to detail is as perfect as it gets, for those wishing to do wildlife photography, bar none! The vehicles are open and tiered. The side bars and front bar (in the first row) are all accompanied with soft rests for support of your camera and lenses. You can move and adjust them as well. Who else does this? Leave your bean bag at home. The guide/driver during the day is not only knowledgeable but knows where and how to position the vehicle for the best viewing possible. No instructions are necessary. How cool is that for a change? You concentrate on shooting only. If you don't get the shot its not the drivers fault! At night, there is a tracker who also has a spotting light to help with focus. By the way he also carries a large caliber rifle in case the wildlife gets a little too friendly. Together this duo will get you to the best spots to see leopards (with or without a cub) in the trees with a kill at night. That's 2 nights with kills out of a 5 night stay. Hard to beat that statistically speaking.

The wildlife is abundant and can be "in your face" close, for all the big game. This makes for good video as well. But there are other less common species here as well including the Crawshay's zebra and the Cookson's wildebeest. Both are not difficult to see.

You can walk out of your tent to a separate overlook on the river (each tent has it's own). The camp also has "hippo hides" but these hides make most hunting hides look destitute in comparison. Again, there are places to sit and support for your heavy lenses, if required. You are at eye level with the animals in the water. Some effort went into their design including taking into consideration the sun. You will not bake inside these enclosures.

This was our first time at this camp but if we go back it will not be our last. Only the Masai Mara can come close to the experiences you will see here. The best thing is there are only a fraction of the visitors. We have now been to Africa some 8 times so these comments do not come from inexperience or naivete. Yes, the rest of the camp is first class also: good food, rooms, staff service and general facilities."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Radisson Blu Hotel

Radisson Blu Hotel

"Radisson Blu Hotel review"

1 night Arrived 19 Jun 2019
"Needs a repair.

This is a great looking hotel, very modern, clean and the food was good. Having said that there are problems. The hotel generator that kicks in during power outages is very noisy and affects guests staying on the left side of the hotel. A notice is on the table regarding this problem and is addressed to the guests. We moved to the right sided rooms. However, after unpacking, and after having dinner, we found that there was no hot water in our room. Too tired to move, we just took showers that I'm sure were fast enough to save the hotel on the water bill. The hotel was otherwise quite nice and I would return there but check out the hot water on the first floor first!"
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Good
Facilities
Average
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Machweo

Machweo

"Machweo review"

2 nights Arrived 2 Jul 2019
"This is a place with great ambiance and views of the mountains but unfortunately, is located in a noisy niche of a rural, Islamic cultural, neighborhood of impoverished lots, with farm animals and dogs. It is about 1 hour hair raising drive from Kili airport and 30 minutes from the Arusha airport. Driving there from Kilimanjaro (Kili) airport at night is like a game of "chicken" and "demolition derby". Nobody turn on their car lights and the street lamps either don't work or come on. The two lane highway is crowed with pedestrians and trucks, cars and buses trying to pass one another...in the dark. We sat in the back and put our seat belts on.

We arrived at about 8 and after getting settled went to dinner straight away. We ordered at the same time we got a couple of beers. The service was glacially slow! 55 minutes until the main course arrived. In truth, the restaurant was pretty full. We complained and were told to come earlier the next night. OK, so off to bed we went. We left the window open as it was warm but had lots of trouble with falling asleep because of the dogs barking and the farm animals joining the chorus. This went on and off all night. Closing the window was useless as they were very thin and the animals close by. At about 5 am the call to prayer was broadcast over the loud speakers from a mosque located close to the hotel. About 15 minutes after that another call to prayer, or something or other, occurred and this one lasted a very long time. This was not the normal length that one normally hears in other parts of the world from Istanbul to Tashkent, from even the largest of mosques, including the Blue Mosque with 6 minarets. This was downright disturbing of the peace and intolerable to even open minded folks who would have otherwise been mildly irritated but not disgusted with the normal short call to prayer waking them up once and then again just when they fall asleep again. After the second long call to .... we were up for good and very hopping mad over the event.

We headed off to the Arusha National Park for a game drive. The driver was on time and ready for us. We requested an earlier start i.e. 8 am as they originally wanted us to go at 9 am. Most game drives start at 6:30 am so you can see our concern. Things started out "slowly" but got progressively better as the drive continued. All in all, a good day.

But then there was dinner, again. We showed up at the bar for a couple of beers and the guy there had heard about our complaints of slow service the night before and offered us two drinks "free of charge". We still ordered two beers that were probably included free anyway, just so you know we are not opportunists. We were in the dinning area at 6 pm and were actually the 3rd couple there. No matter, the service was just as painfully slow as the night before when we were there at 8 pm and the place was packed. Nothing changed. I was upset enough I went to the desk and told the man I was now not very happy regarding these events and the slow service...again. He told me the owner was actually here having dinner and he could arrange a meeting, to which I readily agreed.

Mr. Axel Janssens, the owner (his card says "chef" ??) came over to our table and we talked about the issues mentioned above. He was a class act, so it seemed. No excuses, no BS, just facts and information. Regarding the slow service: He has had these complaints before and said he would pass them on to the kitchen. OK, but we won't be back to check it out. He explained that he had to make the road ( its pretty long) from the highway to the hotel. He has complained about the call to prayer and said that the Imam wants a "house" to keep him "quiet". He stated he has lost significant business with a company that was split into two, one of which is Expert Africa and the the other is ???? (sorry I forgot the name). It is from the ???? company that he has lost 803 rooms a year in booking because guests have complained of the noise. If all this is true, we really feel sorry for the guy. He will go out of business because of the noise. The kitchen problems are "his" to fix. The junk yard dogs and farm animals (mostly chickens) is another problem just like the mosque. To be complete, the 2nd night was just as bad.

However, I recorded the call to prayer in the morning. It was at least 12 minutes long and I had switched off the recording but turned it back on when the Imam continued. This is a legal issue for Axel but in the meantime not the fault of the guests. We have that recording if you want it for legal evidence or if Axel does. He can also make one for himself if so inclined, just start recording at the early am wake up with the call to prayer. Considering the fact that there are plenty of Christians living in town, this is a mess for the Tanzania courts to fix. In the meantime, don't send guests to this hotel. To be complete, we were in room one. The toilette in the bathroom is not on the same level as the sink, neither is the shower. They are both 1/2 story down a twisty flight of stairs that is difficult to navigate at 2 am for a potty call. 'nuf said! Look elsewhere for a hotel."
Poor
Location
Average
Service
Poor
Activities
Good
Rooms
Average
Food
Good
Facilities
Terrible
Safari in Arusha National Park

Safari in Arusha National Park

"Safari in Arusha National Park review"

3 Jul 2019 • All-day excursion

Not a great park but saw blue monkeys, and 3 giraffes neck fighting for dominance.
Average
Greystoke Mahale

Greystoke Mahale

"Greystoke Mahale review"

4 nights Arrived 4 Jul 2019
"This park is a journey to get to but delivers on chimp sightings. You will waste a day going and coming so go for the 5 day stint.

The 3 full days you are there, go on the morning chimp treks and prepare to exercise, huff and puff and get down and dirty sweaty. Hot showers await upon return. You will see chimps, young and old, playing and all sorts of other antics. Expect a 3-4 hour ordeal to accomplish this. There is not a lot else to see but for some common vervet monkeys and red tailed monkeys.

Yes, there is other wildlife, bush pigs are the most common, but you are not likely to see much else. This is primarily a one species trip for chimps that are not common in most places in Africa. Lake Tanganyika is pristine here. Looks more like the ocean near a coral reef than a lake. You can swim in it and it's good enough for shower water.

Getting there is an adventure with 2-3 stops on a small plane. You will see Tanzania from Arusha to Tanganyika on this flight. The "tents" are over the top cool. You get an "upstairs" lounge, a separate shower and toilette area, in addition to a porch deck and a great "bedroom".

As a helpful tip, my lens of choice for the chimp treks is the 70-200 mm f 2.8 lens set at 1/200 - 1/300 sec at f 4 - 5.6 and let the ISO on "auto" to accomplish these settings or set the ISO yourself but you'd miss some action then, I believe. Second choice, a 100-400 mm or a 75- 300 mm lens with the same settings. A 24-105 mm lens will be "short" on most occasions and the ability to carry two lenses with two bodies in that forest would be near impossible to manage. Most shots were at ISOs of 5000 to 6400, for those that are curious. Many were at higher ISOs."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Good
Facilities
Excellent
Airport Planet Lodge

Airport Planet Lodge

"Airport Planet Lodge review"

1 night Arrived 8 Jul 2019
"Very close to Kilimanjaro airport. Clean, quiet and good food."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Crowne Plaza Nairobi Airport

Crowne Plaza Nairobi Airport

"Crowne Plaza Nairobi Airport review"

1 night Arrived 9 Jul 2019
"Great location to the airport. Not your typical "Crown Plaza" as it was another hotel first. It's much better.

We needed to leave a 2 am for a 4:20 am flight. The included breakfast was not going to happen so the folks gave us a free buffet dinner instead. However, we passed on that and ordered our dinner from the deck and pool area on the top floor outside and with a view of the national park. It was worth paying for!

Nice shuttle service to the airport as well."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent

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