Travel reviews by Nick & Kate from Sussex
Total number of trips
Lodges stayed in
The Motse at Tswalu
South Africa between 16 Jan 2023 and 1 Mar 2023
The Motse at Tswalu
"The Motse: lovely lodge and exciting tracking"
Spectacular river crossings and great game
Tanzania between 10 Aug 2022 and 23 Aug 2022
The lodges were of very high standards, and the trip was comfortable, well-run and hugely enjoyable.
A special word must be reserved for the friendliness of the Tanzanian people - gentle, helpful, kind, considerate and well-mannered, extremely eager to do their best for you. It’s wonderful for veteran travellers like us to see how far the country has developed in so many ways since we were last here, and in particular to see how the Tanzanians themselves now occupy all the senior positions in camp management, guiding, and flying, doing so with their customary charm, efficiency and commitment to customer service."
Arranged By Lyndsey Marris
Rivertrees Country Inn
"Pleasant place to start"
Our room was very comfortable, a lovely big bed, and a real treat in a nice deep, warm bath. The room was a little dark and chilly, on a cloudy, overcast, cool day.
The staff were all lovely, and the food at lunchtime and dinner was super, really fresh and tasty, and we dined outside. Breakfast was a bit disappointing, not much of a spread in a buffet, average coffee, and a rather gloomy terrace.
The much-vaunted birding walk by the river was a bit of let-down, with no birds and lots of mosquitoes. Breakfast was, however, made more fun by the cavorting vervet monkeys in the gardens."
" Very nice, BUT, with a major caveat"
The lodge is reached via an unmade road, taking about half an hour. Although some have complained about this, this is part of the safari experience, and we saw ostriches mating, and zebra and giraffe on the journey. The access road comes out right by the descent road into the crater, meaning we were the first vehicle down on the crater floor (a 15 minute descent on a paved road, rather different from our 2 hour descent on a bumpy track when we last visited in the 80s!). The ascending road for your return is about an hour away from the access road to the lodge, so about 90 minutes to get back after the safari.
The canvas tent rooms were well-equipped, lovely bed, a heater and hot water bottles at night to keep you warm, attractively designed. The room had a nice Verandah overlooking the crater, but this wasn’t that important - for the reason given below. Be aware there are no shower caps and there is no hair dryer. Morning coffee is brought to your room for your early wake up call.
And so, the caveat - we stayed two nights here. The first night was very windy, and the tent flapped, banged and crashed like a ship in a terrible Atlantic storm, all day and all night, seriously disrupting our sleep (it was the main talking point in our shared vehicle the next morning). This is not just a minor inconvenience, nor is it a romantic selling-point. It was quite miserable being in the room, and far too cold and windy to sit outside. However, the second night was much calmer, and we slept well. The wind does, nonetheless, howl around the camp and makes it unappealing to sit, or even stand, outside to look over the crater."
Safari in Ngorongoro Crater
"Garden of Eden Safari"
13 Aug 2022 • All-day excursion
We travelled with another couple and their teenage daughter, in a closed vehicle, the roof of which could be opened to allow you to stand up and gaze around. This type of vehicle is essential here, as it’s quite cold for the first few hours (we had an overcast morning, and a sunny, warm afternoon).
The park is crowded, but it never felt oppressive (except once when we had to join a 10 minute queue to view a sleeping python by the roadside). We saw four good active lion sightings, a wonderful serval on the move, elephants, huge flocks of crowned cranes, hyenas and many antelope and gazelles. We might have glimpsed a sleeping rhino, but we didn’t count that.
All in all, this was a very enjoyable start to our African trip.
"Best place for migration and river crossings"
There’s plenty of game here, and we saw active leopards, cheetah, a hyena kill, lions and so on, as well as the awesome hordes and hordes of wildebeest, a spectacular sight in its own right. But, the absolute stand-out experience was the river crossing, and we saw two short ones (half an hour or so), and two mega-crossings of over three hours non-stop, with crocodile attacks both successful and unsuccessful. It was breathtaking and mesmerising. Yes, there is a bit of a vehicle scrum to race down to the banks once the animals have entered the water, but you forget this once you’re in position - and Daniel was always in the right position.
Be aware of how chilly this area can be - you are best off taking a bobble hat/beanie, and several warm layers. Blankets and hot water bottles are provided if you’re under-dressed!
This is a mobile camp, that moves twice a year. Nevertheless, it’s well-appointed and luxurious. The tented rooms are spacious and comfortable, with a nice seating area looking out over the plains. There’s plentiful hot water in the shower, but none in the hand basin, so you have to make sure you order a flask for hand-washing - the camp doesn’t automatically provide this, so we were rather caught out on our first morning.
The camp doesn’t wash any underwear, male or female. There’s no shower cap or hair dryer.
Morning coffee and biscuits are delivered to help with that early morning start. Hot water bottles make the nights comfy, as this area of the Serengeti in august was cool and wet most evenings and nights. You have a dedicated ‘butler’ to look after you and your room. The ten tents are spread out along a long track so, if you’re infirm at all, ask for a low-numbered tent near the central area.
You can have pre-dinner drinks around a nice boma (when it’s not raining), but there aren’t enough chairs, so it’s a bit irritating having to wait for a chair to be found. Dining is at a communal table under canvas, with an open-front, but you can also arrange your own private dining. Dinner is served at 7.45 pm, and there’s not much flexibility about this, meaning that if, as often happened with us, you got back a bit late around 7 pm, it was all a bit rushed (you had a choice of either a shower or a drink round the boma, but not both).
Dinner is a self-service buffet, which isn’t all that convenient, but the food was very good. Lunch was also very nice. We mainly had picnic breakfasts in the bush, which were great fun and delicious. When we had breakfast in the camp, the service was really slow. There’s also a drinks tent, and you can have drinks or afternoon tea there, theoretically at any time, although there wasn’t always a staff member around to serve. Wines here are mediocre.
Staff can be a little over-zealous in their interaction with guests. There is a tendency for an intrusive (but well-intentioned) stream of staff lining up to interrupt your meals with questions about how much you are enjoying the food/safari/lodge/life in general. It would be nice for the management training to address this."
"Stunning lodge, less prolific game"
You have a ‘butler’ to look after you - ours (Joyce) was lovely. As in other Asilia camps, the staff are unintentionally obtrusive, constantly walking up to interrupt your drinks or meal to badger you about how wonderful a time you might be having. I can see what the idea is here, but the execution is clumsy and annoying.
Rooms are superb, spacious, with a large wrap-around verandah. There’s no shower cap, but there is a hairdryer. Morning coffee is served in your room before your early morning departure.
The team here have achieved a nice balance between game viewing and afternoons at rest, and there’s time for a quick shower and change of clothes when you come back from the afternoon drive before heading for drinks. It’s really well-orchestrated and you feel relaxed. The afternoon drive always has a wonderful sundowner out in the bush.
The variety and quantity of game in this part of Ruaha has decreased over the last ten years. The roan and sable are no longer here, having moved a long way south, and nor have wild dogs been seen for a long time. Nonetheless, we had excellent sightings - great up-close views of three cheetah on the move, a leopard under a tree (with about 10 vehicles crowded around him), and five lions who we followed walking for an hour. We saw lesser kudu (very rare) and we had a fabulous night drive seeing bat-eared fox, two pairs of porcupine, genet, and a cheetah moving along the dry river bed. We also saw some of the stunningly majestic greater kudu, an otter briefly crossing the road, mongoose and nesting ground hornbills (not on the ground!).
All in all, this is a wonderful lodge, but Ruaha is less well-stocked with game than other parks on Tanzania, perhaps because the area has been suffering a drought for a year or more."
Another memorable safari
Namibia and 1 other country between 24 Sep 2017 and 8 Oct 2017
Out of the whole trip, there was just one unsatisfactory lodge, which was Little Kwara in Botswana. We travelled in late September-early October, which is a very, very hot time of year, and on some of the afternoon drives the animals were still sheltering from the 38 degree afternoon heat.
Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:
One idea would be to give in your advice, and in your camp descriptions, details of where and when you might see some of the rarer animals.
So, for example, we wanted to see eland, sable and roan, but this was not possible at any of our camps, but we had not thought to ask about it specifically before we went."
"Beautiful hotel, slow service"
The rooms are reached at the bottom of a steep stone stairway, which was no problem for us but obviously difficult for those with mobility issues.
The staff member who showed us to our room was lovely but other members of staff were not particularly warm and friendly, and service in the restaurant depended largely on your ability to attract the attention of the occasionally present waiting staff. The restaurant is on a terrace with fine views over the hills and countryside. The food was good, but not as gourmet as some reviews have suggested.
All in all, a nice place to start or finish your trip."
"Stunning waterhole, terrible food"
The room was on two levels, with large beds on both floors, and showers upstairs and downstairs. Mosquito nets and air con all worked well.
The animal life at the waterhole was amazing, with rhinos at night and elephants night and day, as well as large herds of antelope, giraffes, zebras, jackals and so on.
The downside was a serious deterioration in the quality of the food since our last visit, and the arrangements for getting a table for dinner could only be described as chaotic. Nevertheless, this is a star attraction and also well located for some other waterholes out in the park."
Onguma Tented Camp
"Superb luxury camp"
Beautiful rooms, excellent restaurant, and a delightful waterhole frequented by many antelope and giraffe.
All in all, a really good choice for exploring the eastern end of Etosha, located as it is a 20 minute drive from the eastern gate to the park."
Sandibe Safari Lodge
"The most awesome safari experience"
Every room has a large private pool to cool down in - we saw a passing hyena on our first dip, and an elephant on our next. The service is faultless, the food is fantastic and they have thought of every conceivable way of adding that extra touch - for example, there is nice freshly brewed coffee on the morning drive, not instant coffee.
Add to this the spectacular wildlife - wild dog hunting, plenty of leopard, one with fresh kill, another with a small cub, a cheetah with tiny cub, lion, rhino, elephant, wattled cranes, bat eared foxes, and so on - and this really does represent one of the truly memorable safari experiences. Our guides were outstanding - Jonas and Trust."
"Overrated - has seen better days"
Our reception on arrival was cursory to say the least, and the temporary relief manager could hardly muster any enthusiasm. Despite arriving at 12.30 pm, no food was offered to us and there was a reluctance to provide any, as the service had finished at noon. Our room had clearly seen better days, with insect screens stapled together, often leaving gaping holes, and the furnishings had clearly not been updated since the camp was first opened. The rooms were suffocatingly hot, even with a fan on full speed (one guest recorded a 100 degree temperature in his room in the afternoon).
There are many old-fashioned touches, such as not washing underwear and serving instant coffee, whereas other camps have upped their game. There was no hot tea offered (it was provided when we asked, as we had to do every single day). Staff were not present a lot of the time, and in consequence baboons ran riot all through the communal dining area. At one point two baboons ripped apart some tin cans to suck out the sweet juice, and then deposited the sharp debris by the swimming pool. No member of staff cleared it up. When some baboons threw some lamps on the floor, staff members came out to see what the noise was, and then retreated without clearing up the mess.
Unusually, there were 11 guests rather than 10, but still only 10 seats were put out for breakfast and drinks round the boma, meaning one guest always had to stand. The management was simply not on the case. The communal sitting area was tired, and so badly disposed that there were only three seats not in the sun in the afternoon. It was configured in such a way that two seats had their backs to the rest of the seating so guests could not congregate properly. There were two huge sofa-seats, where you could not sit with your back upright and your feet on the floor. The cane furniture had seen better days.
Another Expert Africa guest had made similar criticisms about the tired nature of this camp a few years ago and his comments had led to the reply that the camp was expecting an imminent upgrade. No such upgrade is evident. Overall, this was a camp which was resting on its laurels (it still seemed to attract guests), was tired and run down, with management and staff making very little effort. It has been surpassed in many respects by its competitors who are constantly seeking ways to improve and enhance the tourist experience.
We would not recommend staying here."
"Stunning camp in great location"
The communal area was well laid out, large, open, with great views and fresh breezes, and included a lovely little swimming pool, a viewing deck, and a place to have afternoon tea and communal dining. There was also a boma and you can ask for private dining if you want (we did this on our last night, and the camp will come up with a surprise location!).
There is a very good wine list, and you can choose your own bottle direct from their cellar. The rooms are big, and airy and comfortable. The staff were delightful, and the temporary managers we encountered (Alistair and Jessica) were dedicated to ensuring everything was designed to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable stay.
The game was perhaps a little sparse for Botswana, although we had two outstanding sightings (over 3 days) - a pride of lion hunting (unsuccessfully, needless to say) and two six week old leopard cubs hidden in a fallen tree. Although these were amazing sights, there was very little other activity in the park while we were there."
Scenery as much as wildlife in Namibia
Namibia between 17 Sep 2014 and 3 Oct 2014
Having said that, there is plenty of fun to be had, the accommodations are delightful, the light aircraft trips are spectacular, the scenery is indeed amazing - and, of course, there are the unforgettable black rhino. We did not self-drive, and met many people who were finding that experience fairly challenging (but others we met were loving it). All in all, we enjoyed the visit, but probably would have wanted to speed it up here and there, and maybe cut down some of the 2 night stays where one had done everything within 24 hours.
Not sure either about Etosha - some marvellous moments, but not up there for us with the truly great African game parks.
Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:
1. People can do Erongo fully in one night if they have a late afternoon flight home from Windhoek.
2. On private safaris, issue guests with a voucher making it very clear what is included and what is not (eg local beverages)
3. Seriously consider whether Kulala Desert Lodge is suitable
4. Wolwedans and Sossuvlei did not merit 4 nights - could this be done in for speedy types like us?
5. Clarify that Erongo and Damaraland scenery are actually really quite similar - we had expected Erongo to be a sort of green and pleasant land!"
"Pleasant option in Windhoek"
There is an open kitchen/dining area, where it’s not clear whether you help yourself to tea and coffee, or beers from the fridge, or wander around looking for service. Breakfast was delicious, although service was painfully slow (45 minutes).
You can also take dinner here, which is nice, with a range of decent, well-priced wines, and avoid the hassle of taxis into town and back. Staff are all very friendly."
Wolwedans Dune Camp
"Spectacular location - shame about mosquitoes"
Tea and biscuits are left outside for you at dawn, a thoughtful touch. Accordingly, you can take tea while you watch the sunrise from your bed. The central area is quite small and indoor dining is a bit dark and gloomy. Outdoor dining and drinks around the campfire are charming, and the food is very high quality indeed. Drinks are included. Dining is communal but can be private if you wish. The dining area overlooks a small waterhole which attracts a lot of oryx, who wander through the camp. Overall, this is a tranquil, beautiful spot in the rocky desert, where you get a real feel for the climate and the landscape. The night skies are astonishing.
On the down side, the manager was rather defensive and not too energetic. There were meant to be such options as riding and massage, but neither was available. Bedroom make up service was slip shod, with towels left where they were found on chairs, the bathroom not tidied up. The worst offence was the complete absence of mosquito protection – no nets, and open-sided cabins. When we asked for insect spray we were told it was ‘out of stock’. Accordingly, sleep was a problem (for all guests – a breakfast topic of conversation!). We were in cabin 7, furthest away from the dining area, and it was rather a trudge through deep sand there and back – perhaps a walkway would be a good investment here.
Activities include all-day drives in the park, which I would highly recommend. Although game is sparse, the park is very attractive and the scenery changes. Our guide informed us about the geology and we walked around a bit to look at animal tracks. We saw oryx, springbok, zebra, one of the 3 giraffes in the park, big herds of red hartebeest, ostrich, a monitor lizard at a waterhole, mongoose and ground squirrels, and various birds (including the endemic dune lark – nothing much to look at but one to tick off). We even saw two aardwolf right by the side of the road."
Kulala Desert Lodge
"Sprawling camp which lacks character"
The resort’s attempt to emulate Moroccan-style huts doesn’t come off and the camp is rather ugly. The central area is large and airy, with a big deck overlooking the little waterhole. You can take meals out here on warm nights, which is very pleasant (although the food is no more than serviceable). Oddly enough, the resort makes little of the waterhole, which is poorly illuminated at night, and the terrace too hot to sit on by day. This is a shame as we saw many jackal, a kudu and the African wild cat during our stay.
Rooms are simple but mosquito precautions are effective. Sleeping on the roof is a bit of a gimmick – it would be very uncomfortable, really cold and you’d be eaten alive by the insects. The camp was very hot in the daytime (40 degrees), and there is a small and icy-cold swimming pool to help cool you down. Drinks are included, as is laundry. Service is friendly and quite efficient.
Activities are arranged like a military campaign, but are largely unsatisfactory. The early morning trip to the dunes is by far the best thing, and the camp is located perfectly for an easy entry to the park, ensuring that you are up on the dunes by 8.00 am before it gets too hot – and before the hordes arrive. But it is quite crowded nonetheless. The other trip, to Sesriem Canyon, is a bit of a waste of time, and the sundowner game drive quite boring (until you get a drink) as there is so little game here. Our guide was clearly totally jaded and fed up with the tourist routine, and could hardly bring himself to smile. He compounded this by forgetting the milk for our breakfast stop on the dunes, so a cup of horrible black instant coffee was all he had to offer.
Overall, we felt that this lodge has grown too big to offer a genuine luxury desert experience, and there will undoubtedly be better options in the area."
The water hole is on the opposite side of the river and sometimes it is difficult to see the wildlife there, especially at night. The camp doesn’t publicise this so as not to raise unreasonable expectations; wildlife is scarce in this desert area – despite these travellers having some lucky sightings here. A floodlight does give some illumination, but there is concern over moving this closer lest it disturbs the wildlife.
The dunes at Sossusvlei are the major draw card in this area, but can sometimes get busy. The guides here try hard to avoid the busiest parts … but that can be challenging.
We were very sorry to read about dissatisfaction with the guiding; this is a relatively unusual comment here. The guide in question is meeting with the Guide Trainer and the Regional MD to discuss how to make improvements to his guiding – and the provision of food and drink on activities.
Sleeping on the roof can be a great experience, but this is weather-dependent. These travellers visited when nights were cold – then whilst some brave the roof with a hot water bottle, but most will choose to sleep inside. By contrast, when it’s hot several of our team members have loved sleeping on the roof – the stars are magical here!
Desert Rhino Camp
"Desert Rhino Camp review"
Dining is communal, but very atmospheric, with staff singing to you and dancing at the end of the meal (this is more fun than it might sound, trust me). Dining outside and drinks at the campfire are both magical, although the indoor dining area is less successful. Johann’s tour of the night-sky is unmissable. Food is adequate without being interesting. Drinks are charged extra, and dining is communal. There is no waterhole at the camp.
The rhino tracking on foot is a bit of a lottery. The park is divided into 4 zones, and no zone is visited on two consecutive days, to avoid any chance of the rhino becoming stressed by too much human contact. While this makes sense, it also means that your chances of seeing rhino are dependent on which zone you get (some are far better than others). The trackers set off ahead of you, and then you drive around looking at what little game there might be, until the call comes that rhino have been found. Then you drive to join them and walk (usually a short way) to view the rhino from 200 metres away or so, for 15-20 minutes.
Try to arrange two morning treks to maximise your chance of seeing rhino in a good zone. We spent six hours on our first trek without sighting rhino, and then the camp messed up our onward flight the next day and couldn’t fit us in for a second trek. Luckily, we had a truly amazing encounter with an adult male rhino on our short sundowner drive, at much closer quarters and for far longer (an hour) than would have happened on foot, so it didn’t matter all that much. We also saw the elephants and a pack of 13 hyena after a kill. This makes the park sound packed with game, but it isn’t).
Staff are lovely, although there was clear evidence of tension between members of the management team, and indeed between guides and the rhino trackers. The camp is now on the New York Times list of The Top 10 Places in the World to Visit, so expect long waiting lists."
There were issues with the timing of their onward flight which Expert Africa rectified (at our cost) for these travellers. Flight time changes led to a misunderstanding about their departure time, and the option of rhino-tracking on their final morning was offered but as something of an afterthought. This led to these travellers missing that activity, for which we gave them a refund.
Mowani Mountain Camp
"Lovely camp and great elephants"
Good mosquito precautions, but no mosquitos. Annoying flies which buzz around your eyes prevented us sitting on our terrace with its delightful views across the valley at the back of the camp. The rooms at the front looked to us to have better views, and would also benefit from the afternoon breezes. Rock dassies run around the camp, along with beautiful lizards. Management were friendly and helpful, although they didn’t plan our second day’s afternoon activity, so we had to initiate that ourselves.
There is a tiny swimming pool. More effective is the splendid rocky ledge which serves as the sundowner terrace, affording wonderful valley views as the sun goes down, accompanied by your favourite cocktail served by obliging and friendly staff. Service was horribly slow, particularly at breakfast, where I failed to get my hot order in time to make the morning activity, even though I arrived the moment the restaurant opened.
The activities are good. The highlight of course is the morning drive to find the desert elephants. We had a herd of 14 in the dry river bed, just half an hour from camp, and the interaction with the 3 vehicles present was fabulous – I could have reached out and touched two elephants as they ambled by our jeep. The trip to the rock engravings at Tywfelfontein is intriguing and very interesting, and makes a nice diversion from game drives. The park has very little wildlife apart from the elephants, although an afternoon birding drive yielded three different types of hornbill."
"Underrated, lovely resort with waterhole"
Rooms are surprisingly large and comfortable, with good mosquito precautions. The park itself has other camps to stop and have lunch or whatever in the middle of the day, and the food is simple but tasty.
The waterhole at Okaukuejo is astounding, both by day and night. On our visit, the tourists were well-behaved, quiet and respectful of the animals. Our guide suggested we dine early (when the restaurant opened at 6.30 pm) so we could bag the best seats at the waterhole for the evening. In the four hours I was there from 7.30 pm, I saw 15 black rhino, including a suckling calf and mother, and two male lions, both of whom were eventually chased off by bad-tempered rhinos. There were also lots of jackals and giraffe. By day there was a huge concentration of giraffe, springbok, impala, zebra and various birds.
We drove out of the camp and visited a few waterholes in the daytime, at one seeing a small pride of lions staking out zebra and then being chased off by a male elephant; and at another, a large herd of white-dust stained elephant drinking, with ostrich, zebra, impala and even a sleeping rhino. Etosha is based on driving across the rather dull landscape and settling down at a waterhole and hoping for the best. The concentration and variety of game is relatively poor compared to other African parks – so we saw no leopard or cheetah, for instance – but there are plenty of elephant, the unforgettable black rhino, and some interesting scenes at waterholes, as antelope (kudu and eland among those we saw) come and go."
Onguma Tented Camp
"Onguma Tented Camp review"
Food was good to very good. Some of the staff had poor English, so it was not always possible to make yourself understood, but there was no shortage of effort, and everyone worked to help us have a good time. Drinks around the campfire was a lovely moment. Dining was separate, although we combined tables with another couple we had met over drinks.
The afternoon game drive we took netted three lions just by the camp, as well as a marvellous pair of bat-eared foxes, jackals and a brooding group of white-backed vultures quite low down in the palm trees. But game was by no means plentiful."
Erongo Wilderness Lodge
"Erongo Wilderness Lodge review"
The food here is excellent, among the best we had, and the staff are really lovely, in the restaurant and the guides. The scenery is similar to Damaraland, beautiful but not a revelation if you've already been up north. There isn't a great deal to do here, to be honest - there is practically no game, and the drive in the park is badged (accurately) as more of a nature drive than a game drive. - but we did see dik dik (quite tame), and a klipspringer or two high up in the rocks. There is a nice cave to visit with interesting early paintings.
The early morning hill climb is quite strenuous but a nice way to work up an appetite for the fabulous breakfast on your return to camp at 9.30 am. There are large numbers of rosy-faced lovebirds just outside the dining area. Dinner is taken outside on the terrace, at separate tables, and is great fun. Retire afterwards to the enormous boma for drinks with your fellow guests. If you're flying out of windhoek in the later afternoon or evening, it should be possible to stay just one night here and fit in both evening and morning activities.
Overall, this is a really nice camp, one of the best, and it was so nice for once to find a management team who were present, took an interest in their guests, and helped manage your stay. This style of active management was absent from all other camps on our trip."
The ultimate game experience
Botswana between 22 Oct 2009 and 2 Nov 2009
2. The lodges are run very well, and are also high quality - albeit, they lack any individuality or idiosyncrasies. The Wilderness experience is, therefore, very reliable, but a bit corporate. Nevertheless, it does what it says on the tin, and does it very well.
3. The company needs to be more thoughtful about how it manages interaction between staff and guests. The staff are a constant presence - breakfast, coffee breaks, brunch, tea, pre-dinner drinks, dinner - and, while always lovely people, are not necessarily the most gifted conversationalists (true of quite a few guests, mind you). It can be quite oppressive having to 'manage' the conversation, and it can interfere with one's ability to socialise easily with other guests. One can in theory choose to ignore the staff, but this is hardly British. I understand that safaris are meant to be communal, and that the company doesn't want an atmosphere of servile staff and snooty guests (not at the classic camps, anyway) - but the balance is absolutely not right at the moment.
4. Standards of guiding, while competent and friendly, falll a long way short of the standards we have experienced in Tanzania and Zambia from guides trained in Zimbabwe. The knowledge of the guides is often superficial, and they can get quite flustered by questions which take them out of their comfort zone. Standards of tracking seemed low. There is a need for significant investment in training if the standards are to reach the levels whereby a guide can transform your experience of a game drive.
5. There should be more active management of a variety of options for activities - too often, it was assumed that a day drive was all that was ever wanted.
6. Except at Chitabe, the main meals were very uninspiring as a rule.
7. On the other hand, I have never had such a mosquito free trip! Well done to the camps for making the nights a really relaxing time for sleeping."
"Stunning game in a great setting"
Guiding was competent rather than outstanding (here and elsewhere). It was unusual, however, to be asked to interrupt my close-up leopard viewing and sit back, to allow the guide to take photos (we don't take any photos ourselves). And once or twice the game wandered off as we sat there, while he reviewed his digiital gallery of recent shots! But we took it in good humour, as the overall experience was amazing.
We saw a pack of 20 wild dogs on 2 separate occasions; a group of 3 cheetah about to hunt, 2 who had climbed a tree to get a better view; 3 different leopard sightings, 1 by the camp at night, and one extraordinary encounter. We came across an apparently abandoned tiny baby baboon, and followed it until it led us to his mother's corpse. As we drove away, a leopard emerged from the bushes and dragged his new baboon kill off into the thicket and ate it in front of us - leaving the tiny baby orphaned and crying for its mummy. No sentiment in the bush. We saw plenty of lion too, honey badgers on the road at dawn, monitor lizard right by the car, and lots of elephant - including one lone male who joined us for our sundowner.
The only activities offered were day game drives, although a spotlight was held up as we returned after dusk to camp - prepare to see lots of scrub hares and not much else.
On our last night, the camp staff gave us a delightful surprise, welcoming us back from our afternoon drive with a private dining outside our room, complete with candles, oil lamps and personal at-table service. Very romantic and charming way to end our stay there.
The park was beautiful, with lots of green open spaces and water, to offset the dryer areas. All in all, awesome as the young people say nowadays."
"Beautiful camp in a watery setting"
Adelaide on the staff was simply wonderful, and a real asset to the camp. Activities included a motor boat trip, a mokoro trip and day drives. No game really came through the camp. The camp is set in the lagoon, and you are taken by motor boat whenever you go on a game drive, which is a wonderful way to start and end the day.
Our guide was delightful and made a big effort to make our experience memorable. His tales of elephant encounters were brilliant, if not for the fainthearted! We saw lions at the kill, chasing off vultures (on one occasion knocking one to the ground); sable antelope; huge herds of elephant; another pride of lion huntng buffalo at dusk; a leopard; and, on the mokoro trip, close up sightings of painted reed frogs (beautiful), fish spiders and dragonflies hunting and killing on the wing.
Again, overall, a superb stay at a camp not quite as abundant in game as the others, but with a particular atmosphere and serenity."
Game here was frankly amazing. We began with a lovely sighting of 10 lions baskng in the late afternoon sun, including 3 playful juveniles, and getting up to drink water, and generally being a bit more active than these inert but fine beasts usually are. The park was exceptionally beautiful, with the ability to drive for a long time alongside the river. There were simply hundreds and hundreds of elephant crossing the river, drinking, bathng, and generally taking their usual healthy interest in the game vehicles in their midst - lots of trumpeting, ear flapping, mock charges - a good time was had by all.
We saw roan antelope drinking at the river, a lioness in a bush looking after 3 tiny new-born cubs, 2 giant eagle owls, a leopard right out in the open in the late daylight, as he began hunting impala, lions at a kudu kill, cheetah walking at dusk, a lone wild dog eyeing up an impala which the pack had chased onto an island in the middle of the river - unreachable, it turned out.
Perhaps the most awe-inspring sight was a day-time viewing (on a cool and overcast morning) of the rarely seen pangolin. It crossed the road ahead of us while we were enjoying ourselves at an elephant convention, and we followed it as it walked off through the bush on its hind legs. It then curled up into a ball, and we were allowed down from the vehicle for a close encounter. Mind-blowing! Staff from the camp came out to see it, it was such a rarity.
This was the only camp to set out clearly what the different activity options were, and to arrange them with you in advance. So, we did our one and only 'proper' night drive, going out for 2 hours after dinner. We saw lion too, with one male wandering along the road and roaring to his companions.
Our guide was delightful and made a lot of effort to give us a good time.
The management team made it clear that we could opt for private dining if we wished - the only team to make this offer - and gave us a fabulous last night private table with a view, and complimentary champagne. How's that for service?!
Once more, a triumph for Botswana and the game!"
Zambia excellent for safari veterans
Zambia between 28 Sep 2007 and 9 Oct 2007
Wilderness somewhat corporate experience.
Pleased that most people were veterans - no honeymooners.
Very very hot - quite a lot of tsetse."
"enjoybale safari, good camp, some issues"
Mike was a competent, but by no means outstanding, guide. He was extremely nice.
The scenery in the park was beautiful, but the game not plentiful. Nonetheless, we saw good lion, a couple of resting cheetah, servals at night, side-striped jackal, large buffalo herd, loads of antelope, including a big herd of Roan that let us get right in the middle of them, and just missed the wild dogs coming through.
The diversity was slightly disappointing - no elephant, hyena, zebra. One weakness at this camp was that they had only one vehicle, and as many as 8 guests in it at any one time.
Our stay was badly marred at the end by one of the staff stealing some valuable rings we had left in the room on checking out. The follow up to this by Wilderness was lacking in urgency and proper attention."
There’s perhaps a wider lesson here: when we travel we often carry with us items that are costly beyond the reach of many of the people who live in the developing world.
If these are left lying around, even in your rooms, then they can prove very tempting indeed. If possible, when travelling in Africa it’s best to leave non-essential valuables behind in the UK – or keep them on your person.
Lunga River Lodge, Zambia (this camp has since closed)
"Beautiful park and river, sweltering lodge"
The approach to the camp had recently had a serious bush fire, and was scorched and black, giving an overall rather woebegone first impression. The communal areas were very well sited over the river, but rather cramped and small for the number of guests. The swimming pool was more like a slightly large bath. The bedroom was unbearably hot, with no through breeze.
The park was stunning and beautiful, with the river providing a glorious central spine. We saw elephant, jackal, monitor lizard, warthog. Not a great deal and limited big game. The river trip was a little odd, with a fast ride down, and then standing in the boiling sun on a rock surface while the pilot went fishing for half an hour.
Good birds on the river. Food adequate but not outstanding. Brian was a very good guide for our evening drive."
Lodge not featured by Expert Africa
"superb safari and a first-rate camp"
Outstanding leopard sightings on night drive (and in daytime), crocodile meat-fest on dead buffalo, lion at night, porcupine, genet, civet, serval, elephant, huge buffalo herd, lots of antelope, kudu, etc. Loved the structure of the day - early wake up, breakfast round the camp fire on the riverbank, tea break in game drive, fabulous lunch, wonderful afternoon tea, sundowners, and very nice dinners.
The hosts were charming, the guides were great, everything was good.
Small quibble - the quality of the wine was poor, and worse than at the other camps."
Taj Pamodzi Hotel
"Pleasant city hotel"
Nice bar for pre-dinner drinks and snacks. Excellent big pool. Fantastic and very reasonably priced massages in health centre
functional but acceptable rooms, with good view. Good buffet breakfast.
Failed to collect us from the airport on arrival and had to be chased up - almost an hour's wait. Shuttle to airport on morning of return flight to UK of no use, leaving at 5.30 (less than half an hour journey) for a 8.50 flight.
We ate out (Lusaka Club) - taxi easily obtained at hotel."
The lodge is lovely, with huge air-conditioned bedrooms that include outdoor and indoor showers, a large bath, a fully-stocked bar, tea, coffee, milk, biscuits and snacks, and a terrace which animals frequently pass. The staff are all charming and helpful. The food is excellent, and the dining times are completely open - you dine whenever you want, and dining is at your own private table. There’s a water-hole visible from the dining terrace, and it’s visited almost constantly by roan, kudu, sable, wildebeest. Your trip includes an evening at the gourmet restaurant, Klein Jan, which is a memorable experience and great fun (even if the food is a little over-hyped).
The park itself (in February, their summer) is surprisingly green and lush, and is exceptionally beautiful. You have your own vehicle, and a dedicated guide and an expert tracker (in our case, an outstanding duo of Khali and Sips). In the summer, game drives go out at 6.00 am for about 5 hours, then back out at 5.00 pm for a 7.00 pm sundowner, and what is effectively a night drive back to the lodge.
The park is fenced, and the animal population managed, so this is not quite an ‘authentic’ wildlife experience. Lions and cheetahs are kept separate, for example, to improve the prospects for the latter, and animals are periodically moved around, introduced, sold off, and so on. There are artificial water-holes to help with periods of drought. There is a meerkat colony that is habituated to humans, so you can literally walk amongst them. None of this really detracts from the experience, however, as the park is vast, and there is a real spirit of wilderness about the place. It’s also the case that you don’t encounter a rhino around every corner: on the contrary, the trackers have to work hard to find the star game for you.
Animals are ‘sparse’, not in the sense that you don’t see much, but that there are no large herds as in the Serengeti, for instance. But it’s almost guaranteed to see roan, oryx, wildebeest and giraffe on every game drive, frequent sable, and there is a pleasing variety of animals - we saw meerkats, cape fox, bat-eared fox, cape hare, scrub hare, spring hare, Cape Cobra, warthogs, baboons, mongoose, porcupine, chameleons, wild cat, and many nice birds. There is also a good range of antelope, including those already mentioned and also eland, hartebeest, springbok, steenbok. There is one small herd of male buffalos, and a few zebra. Unfortunately, there are no elephants. There is no river, so no crocodiles or hippos.
For the big animals, we went out on specific searches and had a series of exciting - and always successful - tracking adventures: white rhino, black rhino, black-maned lion, cheetah and wild dogs (the pack, decimated by canine distemper, is down to just 3, but they’re still great to see and follow). The skill of the trackers is quite breathtaking.
The blurb promises aardvark and pangolin, but this is misleading. These are both much more likely to be encountered in winter rather than summer, and the pangolin-tracking research project has now finished, so your chances of seeing one may not be that great.
The food on the game drives could be improved: the camp offers a large buffet spread at 5.30 am, when it’s quite hard to think about food at all, and then a snack on the game drive. The other way around would be much better. The sundowner snacks are a bit inadequate."