Travel reviews by Mr T & Mr L from Amsterdam
Total number of trips
Lodges stayed in
Meru and Amboseli
Kenya between 30 Sep 2021 and 13 Oct 2021
Everyone was beyond welcoming and emphatic that we tell friends and family that Kenya is open for business and welcoming travellers.
At a personal level we were aching to return to the bush having had to reschedule this trip three times. We had been in Ethiopia and Kenya (the Mara conservancies) in February and early March 2020 and got home just as the world went into lockdown and it was a privilege and pleasure to finally return.
There was some additional hassle with paperwork, testing et cetera but once on the ground it felt almost like old times and was totally worth the effort. And in Meru we barely saw another visitor during our stay. Just awesome.
Planning was inevitably very last minute due to travel uncertainty and changing entry requirements but Richard was very patient and did a great job. The entire trip went like clockwork and we couldn't be happier with the arrangements made for us. We have already made plans for another trip in early 2021.
Last minute trips are great :-)"
Arranged By Richard Trillo
"Fabulous Elsa's Kopje"
"Tortilis Camp review"
The lodge itself is larger than we would normally choose with big tour groups passing through for one or two nights. This did make it feel more commercial than our very intimate Elsa's Kopje experience. But I think this is a consequence of being in Amboseli which is a popular and easily accessible park. However, the camp was extremely well run by Moses and his team and coming from a sister property meant that we didn't need to sign additional paperwork et cetera. They had even called Elsa’s to find out what we were drinking for sundowners so they could suggest the same. And overall we were very well looked after by David and Jackson
Food was less compelling than Elsa's with a pre-prepared buffet lunch with a different theme (middle-East, Indian et cetera) and David was happy to provide excellent sandwiches as an alternative when asked.
By our fifth day we also found we were being offered the same food as day one but the camp explained that most guests were staying for a much shorter period than we were.
As with Elsa's there was a small pool (with lots of birds) and plenty of game to be seen from the room (tent) and from the bar area overlooking the floodlit waterhole. There were a few biting flies at night but nothing too bad.
We were in tent seven which was comfortable but showing some signs of wear and tear. And monkeys were an absolute menace, able to access the tent via the worn velcro flap even when the tent was fully zipped. So we made good use of the monkey proof chest. They took an especial liking to the blue Delft KLM houses we were given by KLM and the chewed wax seals on those houses is a nice souvenir of the trip :-)
This was also the first time we had been to Amboseli and the park itself was a revelation. A range of habitats (quasi-desert, lake bed, swamp and marsh, forest, rocky hills) and the variety of game was enormous. Huge herds of wildebeest and zebra, fantastic elephants and buffalos, plentiful bird life and some lovely cheetah (and in spite of our best efforts we also saw lions). The only downside was the park was very busy with lots of vehicles, especially over the long weekend at the end of our stay.
Our guide Soloman was excellent, again very respectful of our wish to avoid lions and happy to allow us to spend long periods simply watching the big herds of elephants and buffalo. At our request, he was adept at finding quiet areas of the park, away from other vehicles and we never felt rushed. And again it was great to have our own vehicle which maximized flexibility.
One observation about the location of Tortilis. It is quite a distance (45 minutes plus) from the marshy areas of the park which meant that it was almost impossible to get deep into that area in the afternoons. Instead the afternoon drives tended to be more cursory, staying close to the concession where it was possible to drive after 18h when the main park was closed. So the mornings started early with a long drive to the marsh area and lasted six hours or more. This was fine (indeed we had some amazing morning drives) but as a night owl it was a shame that the afternoon excursions were not able to be similarly epic. But lovers of morning drives will the very happy!
One benefit of the early start on our first morning was some jaw-dropping views of Kilimanjaro at sunrise. But be warned. If you see the mountain, be appreciative. We took that view slightly for granted and then never saw the mountain again during our stay."
Excellent trip with group of close friends
Zambia and 1 other country between 10 Sep 2015 and 21 Sep 2015
Saw some great game, especially in South Luangwa (plenty of leopards) although Lower Zambezi was a little patchy. We also enjoyed the novelty of travelling as a group and staying in private houses (although having done this, my preference would probably be to take over small camps in their entirety rather than staying in a single house). But it certainly made an interesting change and the trip was awesome overall."
"Great Stay at Robins House"
Excellent staff, very willing to help and cooked up a great breakfast (other meals were eaten elsewhere).
Have marked location as average because of proximity to ramp down to river which meant that vehicle noise was intrusive at times"
Chongwe River House
"Dramatic private house overlooking river"
Overall this was an excellent and very comfortable stay although the open plan nature of the house meant that the rooms lacked privacy and there was quite a lot of noise in the morning as people congregated downstairs.
Probably the nicest thing was the proximity to the river which allowed us to take a boat deep into the park and be met by a vehicle and driven slowly back. This was especially helpful since the game in the vicinity of the gate was pretty lacklustre compared to what could be seen deeper in the park. The team also put on an awesome lunch by the Zambezi as well as a fun sundowner on a sandbank in the river."
Victoria Falls Hotel
"Short but sweet stay"
Really good swimming pool area and obviously a prime location above the Falls (which were exceptionally dry when we visited)."
Excellent short break in Savute
Botswana between 18 Mar 2015 and 24 Mar 2015
Would totally recommend Savute, especially if the channel starts to flow again. But be aware that you're in a national park so not totally away from other visitors and some restrictions (no off-road, back by dusk). But nothing we weren't aware of ahead of time and in no way an issue for us.
Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:
would be nice to have the booking form online and not need to fill it in again every time we take an Expert Africa trip :-)"
Savute Safari Lodge
"Exceeded expectations although some flaws"
We booked this trip at the very last minute (two days prior to leaving) afetr deciding on a whim to take another look at the (rapidly drying out) Savute Channel. This lodge wouldn't have been our choice as I much prefer smaller less mainstream lodges and Savute Safari Lodge is neither of these things with 24 beds and what seemed to be quite a lot of larger groups staying. But it was all we could find for the days we were there.
However, notwithstanding our misgivings, it was a great choice. The staff were charming, Gwis, our guide was absolutely excellent as was Action, the manager who clearly led a very well run camp. The chalets were not your standard fantasy Africa lodging (they had rather ugly tiled bathroom, sliding glass patio doors, built in wardrobes etc) but they were actually very comfortable and practical which more than compensated for the optics
Savute channel / marsh continue to be fascinating and we saw excellent game (leopard, lion kill, 1000s of zebra, huge eles and so on) so Savute as good as ever and we were very happy with the guiding as mentioned above. And since you're in a public area, it's not as if by choosing one camp over another, the experience would be radically different, at least not where it matters out in the bush."
An excellent trip
Zimbabwe and 1 other country between 31 Oct 2014 and 9 Nov 2014
It was very hot but the camps had fans and the heat was manageable."
Anabezi Luxury Tented Camp
"Excellent new camp in Lower Zambezi"
The camp was very new but not obviously so. The managers, Matt and Annette were clearly very experienced at running a camp and everything felt very smooth and well managed, especially for such a new operation.
Patrick was our guide and he was very good (if somewhat aloof). But aloofness aside, he knew his stuff and we saw excellent game, especially leopards and elephant. He was also very willing to go look for specifics such as the carmine bee eaters on the river so we were very happy with what we saw.
The "tents" were over-sized (in a good way) with a nice plunge pool with a view over the floodplain. I'd normally be a little dismissive of luxuries like a plunge pool but in 45 degree heat it was lovely! Also a good outdoor shower and an indoor bath. I personally didn't especially like the aesthetic of the double patio doors but they were very practical and made it easy to get on and off the terrace. And they did a good job in keeping out dust so what they lacked in charm, they made up for in practicality. Food was excellent too; always very well cooked and plenty of variety. And good wine :-)
Lower Zambezi remains one of my favourite Zambian parks with it's combination of riverine and bush environments. Anabezi was hard to fault with its choices of water and land based activities. I'd certainly go back again"
"I love this camp"
If you're looking for somewhere where it's all about the game, this camp could well be for you. Don't get me wrong though; it's also very comfortable and well run with all the basics (good food, comfortable beds, hot water, cold drinks) done well. But it's first and foremost a game viewing operation and they take this very seriously so if you just want a quick drive round the bush before breakfast or dinner you might want to choose somewhere different.
But if you want some serious guiding and full-on engagement with Hwange National Park, then this is an awesome camp. But expect to be out for loooong drives or walks; we would leave by 06h and not come back until 13h and then be out again for another 4 or 5 hours so it's intense. But the game was fantastic. Lots of lions if that's your thing (it's not mine especially!) and (when we were there just ahead of the rains) enormous herds of eles and buffalo. We also saw a lot of leopard (to my slight surprise as these aren't always easy to see in Hwange). We even had the dilemma of having to choose between leopard and serval sightings one evening (we chose serval which was wonderful)
So overall I really don't think you can go wrong but I'd say it's for the genuine safari enthusiast, not someone looking for a little safari between meals and down-time.
Lastly we were lucky enough to be guided by Dave Carson again (this was our second visit) and he is great; super-enthusiastic about everything, especially lions (but willing to go and look at other game too with a little coaxing lol). I cannot recommend him highly enough"
Victoria Falls Hotel
"Recently renovated old school colonial hotel"
Recently seen some renovation work which was well done but still feels authentic. And well run and staffed too."
Great migration trip
Tanzania and 1 other country between 24 Aug 2013 and 9 Sep 2013
We tend to stay in southern Africa so this was a little off our normal beat but we had a good time. Only downsides were tsetse flies in the Serengeti and an annoying lack of open vehicles. For future booking I plan to check the vehicle type and only book camps with open cars :)"
"Good stay during migration"
"Good stay at Naboisho Camp"
Not as much game as I'd expected overall and hard to persuade the guides to stop focusing on cats and show us different animals. But a good camp with great staff"
Great trip. Pretty much faultless
Zimbabwe between 29 May 2012 and 4 Jun 2012
Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:
Keep on doing what you're doing."
Victoria Falls Hotel
"Iconic Hotel overlooking the Victoria Falls"
So it was good to get the chance to stay and the experience lived up to expectations although the hotel was somewhat shabby. Staff were super-friendly and the food was good.
The terrace is one if the nicest places to sit and chill in the area. We "wasted" a complete afternoon drinking wine and watching the warthogs and vervet monkeys
One word of warning. The hotel is older (of course) but has very limited facilities for the mobility-impaired and the suites (which we had booked to allow more space) were up a sweeping flight of stairs without any lift. My mum wasn't able to manage the stairs and we had to move her to a much less-attractive room but one that she was at least able to get in and out of. Even then there were challenges with the new room (high bathtub etc). But in the circumstances, it worked out and the hotel did the best they could."
"Great & flexible guiding in charming new camp"
Because of mum's somewhat impaired mobility, we weren't able to spend as much time walking as we would have liked but in all honesty, this wasn't a big deal. We were lucky to have Dave himself guide us for our visit and he was outstanding, spotting prodigious amounts of game at sometimes implausible distances from the vehicle (although much of it was extremely close!).
Having spent time in Somalisa a couple of years ago (another excellent camp), we felt this was the better location in terms of game (lots) and people (we saw maybe three other vehicles in four days which was great). All the animals were in fine condition and very good densities, especially elephants which numbered concentrations in the hundreds as well as Dave's beloved lions. Our only regret on the game front was missing the Aardwolf but we did see a spitting cobra which was a nice treat (honestly!)
The camp itself is very new and we found it hard to find much to fault. Spacious rooms, hot water bottles and good en-suite facilities. It didn't matter much to us (as we didn't try to start too early) but maybe it would be worth considering bringing tea or coffee to the rooms in the mornings at wake up call. And though I loved the long morning drives (much longer than in most other camps we have stayed at), I did miss the full safari breakfast although we had that (and enjoyed it) on our last morning.
Julian and Ashley were also great and one of the things I really appreciated at the camp was their flexibility and willingness to work around our slightly different schedule, given mum's slow starts in the morning (and my own!).
I would certainly return again. I suspect that later in the season it will be difficult to walk to and from the rooms (even with an escort) given the number of elephants in the area but I never felt anything but well looked after with the safety protocols in camp so am sure that Dave and the team will have a plan in place if one becomes necessary."
Zambia between 15 Aug 2011 and 27 Aug 2011
The combination of bush walking (Zebra Plains), vehicle based (Tafika) and water based (Old Mondoro worked really well and we saw some great game. It did seem that some of the game denisty had dropped since our last visit to Zambia in 2003 but we were glad to be back.
As usual Maruska was a star; patient and helpful in knitting together a perfect trip at short (4 weeks) notice.
Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:
Zebra Plains, Zambia (this camp has since closed)
"Great walking camp"
The food was excellent; some of the best we've had anywhere. The wine glasses were some of the nicest and most delicate I've come across (although I doubt they'll last for long!). I know that's an odd thing to comment on but it was very typical of the attention to detail in the camp.
Tents were basic (bucket showers, solar lights, simpl flush toilets) but more than good enough and remarkably so given the location. The common areas were great too and the location by the river was lovely.
And the game was very good; elephants, buffalo, lions and so on. More than we had expected to see in a walking camp"
Lodge not featured by Expert Africa
"Lovely owner run camp"
This remains one of my favourite camps; charming, well run with great personal service led by John and Carol who were excellent hosts. Guiding (Brian and Greg for us) was excellent and the fact that we had the same guides as we had in 2003 speaks volumes for the loyalty this camp generates.
It's also nice to mix the guides up a bit and hand the tip to Carol for everyone rather than person by person. As to game, we saw some lovely leopard, serval and lion as well as some huge herds of buffalo and all the “usual” stuff.
The rooms were very spacious and comfy with hot water on tap and the food (thanks to Rhona) was good too. And the microlighting was a lot of fun too!"
Old Mondoro Bushcamp
"Great Camp in Lower Zambezi"
We saw great game here; lots of leopards again as well as some great birds and really nice smaller game such as civets, genets, honey badger, porcupines (everywhere) and bush pigs. We were disappointed to miss the aardvark that had been spotted a couple of weeks prior to our visit but that's a good reason to return.
Rooms were great; a nice balance of bush and comfort. A balance between Zebra Plains and Tafika in fact which worked nicely. We also had some big elephants in the camp which was interesting albeit made for some logistic challenges getting to and from the rooms. This was ably sorted by Jason and the guides with a shuttle service to the room when necessary."
We loved it
Zimbabwe between 28 Jun 2010 and 9 Jul 2010
We took in some football and then fled the vuvuzelas (which we actually quite liked) for Botswana and Zimbabwe. Maruska was outstanding and as usual Chris knew his stuff!"
"Lacklustre experience at Ruckomechi"
Overall though we were very disappointed with the camp which had an odd, tense atmosphere. It felt poorly run versus other Wilderness camps we have stayed in and not a patch on Somalisa down at Hwange. Lots of niggly stuff and the guides / camp were very inflexible in the way they treated and interacted with guests.
In summary by no means terrible but much better places to go in Zimbabwe in our experience."
Lloyd Wilmot's Mobile Camp, Botswana (this camp has since closed)
"A great personalised Savuti experience"
Savuti was looking great with water all the way down through the channel and into the marsh. Some wonderful game (wild dog, leopard, large herds of (big) elephants as well as some more esoteric animals like honey badgers).
Lloyd knows the area like the back of his hand and we felt privileged to be able to have him as our guide. We would certainly recommend a trip with him but not for the novice visitor. Mobile safari is quite full-on and can be hard work. It's something to do when you're looking for something more authenitc (but rather less comfortable) than staying in a camp. But I wouldn't suggest it for a first time trip."
Lodge not featured by Expert Africa
"Go to Somalisa; great little camp"
The staff were a highlight and gave the camp a considerable measure of charm. Attentive but not over-bearing, flexible and entertaining. Dudley was an excellent guide and Henrietta a charming hostess. We would certainly recomend the camp to anyone looking for a really nice place to stay in this part of Zimbabwe.
Really good food and plenty of game although a paucity of big cats. But some lovely elephants (drinking in the swimming pool) as well as some unusual sightings such as bat eared foxes."
Tanzania and 2 other countries between 4 Jul 2008 and 20 Jul 2008
"Convenient for Wilson Airport"
Lake Manyara Tree Lodge
"Great Little Lodge"
Lots of tree climbing lions."
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge
"Excellent Location and views"
We hired private vehicles which made a big diference to our visit and stayed on the crater floor all day. Mudy (Mohammend) was a really good guide (please do feed that back if you get the chance). Gets pretty cold at night.
The visit to Odupai Gorge was really good."
Grumeti River Camp
"Grumeti River Camp review"
Saw some great snakes (Mamba, Spitting Cobras) and Colobus Monkeys which was cool. Loads of Tetse Flies though, especially by the river
On the first night they did a "surprise" gathering in the bush with all the guests which was ghastly and just reinforced that we were staying at a full camp. It was much (much) nicer when we just did sundowners on our own (ie just our vehicle). Side trip to Lake Victoria was good."
Mnemba Island Lodge
Mike and Sarah were great hosts. Staff were always one step ahead with anything you wanted. Good diving though sometimes poor visibility and we were unlucky with the weather."
"Best Hotel in Stonestown"
Stonestown wasn't a great place though."
It was the first time we had visited Meru NP and we will certainly return. The park was great and the camp itself was quite lovely, very well run by Taro and his team. The camp setting was epic, on top of the Kopje with sweeping views. The food was excellent and well presented and served in quantity. Lastly the camp was not at all busy during our stay which was nice from our perspective. And the camp team looked after us extremely well.
We were in Room 2 which had a wonderful view across the plain below the Kopje from the large deck. This was accessed via a rope bridge which took a little getting used to but was great for privacy. More generally there were plenty of paths and steps so this isn't a great camp if you have mobility issues. But great for exercise.
Covid-wise, as with everywhere we travelled, staff were punctilious about protocols, with masks, sanitizer and temperature checks as required. Much more so than at home in Amsterdam.
Our guide, Wilson was excellent and very professional and we were lucky to have our own vehicle for the duration of our stay. He took his lead from us and although no doubt surprised when we said we didn't want to see lions (given we were staying at Elsa's Kopje!) he took the request very seriously as we hoped he would.
We did have a couple of brief encounters but he asked us in advance if we wanted to look and moved on quickly when asked to do so. But there are definitely plenty of lions around for those that want to spend time with them.
We also saw the "Big 5" (white rhino in the enclosure) as well as the "Specialist 5" (huge numbers of Reticulated Giraffe, some Grevy's Zebra (beautiful), Gerenuk, Oryx and Somali Ostrich). And there was a night time visit from a leopard and cub, drinking at the pool in camp.
The setting for the camp is lovely as mentioned and the bonus is a fabulous infinity pool with a sweeping view across the plain below the camp. A great place to spend a little time given the heat during the day.
Meru itself was beautiful with ample permanent water and very large numbers of game, including big herds of elephant and buffaloes.
After having been unable to get to Africa for nearly 18 months it was a treat to be back. We only stayed four nights at Elsa's and wished we had stayed longer."