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Traveller reviews

Travel reviews by Tony from Bangkok

Review Distribution

Excellent
Good
Average
Poor
Terrible

Total number of trips

1

Countries visited

1

Lodges stayed in

4

Excursions taken

0

2nd trip to Mara - all expectations exceeded

Kenya between 31 Aug 2019 and 8 Sep 2019

Trip rating: Excellent
"All aspects of the trip exceeded our expectations, which were already high given our previous trips to Africa, and the fact that this was our second visit to the Mara region.

Olivia and Richard were of invaluable help in planning and executing our trip, and I particularly appreciated their commitment to understanding our needs and expectations and ensuring that the trip they recommended was the best possible match for us. They found us late availability at popular camps and secured us competitive pricing that matched direct rates with the lodges concerned, but came with all the advantages of dealing with an experienced agency and a single point of contact.

Unlike other agencies, I never felt that they were promoting or selling specific camps with whom they may have preferential commission arrangements - I genuinely felt that their only objective was to meet the needs of their customers as best they could. This, in my view, is the key to a successful agency and repeat business, and we will certainly be using Expert Africa for our next trip.

It's also worth mentioning that the lodges were aware of our backgrounds, travel experience and preferences / objectives before we arrived, thanks to the information passed on in advance by Expert Africa. This was another plus, reflecting a high standard of customer service and attention to detail.

The team also did an excellent job of managing our expectations in terms of areas where the camps we visited might be different from places we had visited in the past. Our past travel history did include one of the most famously luxurious camps in the Mara, and so we were prepared that certain aspects of the camps we were visiting may not quite match what we had experienced before, but the overall safari experience would still be first class.

I'm pleased to say that the safari experience and the guiding matched or exceeded the best of what we had experienced in the past, exactly as the promised by the team. And in terms of the relative simplicity of the camps themselves, I can honestly say that I didn't notice all that much difference from what we had experienced before, and that this aspect of the trip far exceeded our expectations.

Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:

Keep up the good work."

Serian Nkorombo

Serian Nkorombo

"Classy secluded camp in riverine setting"

3 nights Arrived 31 Aug 2019
"Exceeded our expectations in every way. We were prepared for a very simple and 'rustic' experience, but this small and intimate camp really did exude class.

Décor of the central camp area is gorgeous, luxurious safari-chic if you were, and the entirely local front of house team are extremely hospitable and welcoming. Tents are relatively small by high end camp standards, but perfectly adequate, and décor is tasteful and new. Located at a bend in the Mara river, the sound of the flowing water adds to the 'close to nature' feel and ensures a good night's sleep. All groups have private vehicles, but meals are communal - we had a great time with the other guests at this camp, all of whom were on a similar wavelength which made for a great atmosphere in camp. Food was wholesome, varied, and of great quality, accompanied by various homemade condiments, including a few different varieties of chili oil which was a great hit.

Despite being in a generally busy area of the reserve, we barely saw another vehicle on our drives to and from camp, other than at the river crossing points and around certain sightings. Unfortunately this can't be avoided as the main crossing points are located in the main reserve and do attract quite a number of vehicles - fortunately our expert guide Jonathan (who appeared to be something of a river crossing expert) was able to secure us the best spots - and seemed to command enough respect that he was also able to ensure that other vehicles followed the rules.

We chose to stay in the main reserve specifically to look for river crossings and we were spectacularly rewarded. But for other sightings, the game viewing in the reserve is a long way behind the surrounding conservancies, owing to the large number of vehicles that congregate around predators, often following them at unreasonably close distance. This is a well known problem in the Mara, but needs to be put into perspective - even at the most crowded sightings, there are seldom more than 10-15 vehicles - compare this to Yala National Park in Sri Lanka, where there are often 50+ vehicles surrounding a single leopard. Also the open nature of the landscape means that despite the vehicle density, it rarely feels overcrowded. Vehicles are great for viewing, fully open top and sides, but can get very hot during the day when the roof is open (which is recommended for best viewing) - so be sure to take a hat and high factor sunscreen. Only other tip would be to take a head torch - the tents can be a little on the dark side at a little extra light did help at times."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Kicheche Bush Camp

Kicheche Bush Camp

"Superb camp with uniquely genuine hosts"

2 nights Arrived 3 Sep 2019
"Kicheche Bush has a reputation in the industry for being the camp of choice for photographers and filmmakers, and attracts a large number of repeat visitors, some visiting up to three or four times a year - we can see why, and we are sure we will visit again. Wildlife viewing is superb - that goes without saying in the Olare Motorogi conservancy - and guiding is industry leading (with guides able to provided valuable photography tips to amateurs like ourselves, as well as being expert spotters and possessing encyclopaedic knowledge of the ecosystem) - but it was the hosts, Darren and Emma, that we really felt set this camp apart. Having managed the camp for nine years, they were much more than managers - they felt more like proprietors, uniquely invested in the success of the camp and utterly committed to ensuring each and every guest felt equally welcome, comfortable, and had the best possible experience. We've stayed at a number of top end safari camps over the years, but the hosting here was by far the most warm and genuine of all.

The guests come from a wide range of backgrounds - some seasoned safari goers, others first timers in Africa, some retirees, others honeymooners, some professional photographers, others armed with nothing more than a cellphone - but all are made to feel equally important and at home in camp. It takes real skill to welcome guests day after day with equal enthusiasm, and to facilitate the interaction of such a diverse group of guests so that strangers at camp feel like members of the same family - but Darren and Emma were masters of this art, and it created a wonderful atmosphere in the camp.

Tents were really spacious, comfortable and beautifully appointed, and the shower was, hands down, the best safari shower we've ever experienced. In fact, I would almost go as far as to say it was the best shower we have ever experienced, safari or not! Do not be put off by bucket showers - the only difference between these and normal showers is that you have to order them rather than water always being there, and the water lasts only six minutes at a time. But on the plus side you always have good water pressure and the water is always piping hot. The shower has to be believed to be seen - a sunken panelled wooden affair that feels more like a spa than a safari tent, and is about ten times the size of any of the other safari showers we have experienced.

Food was also exceptional, the highlight being the selection of cheeses, Kenyan made, but rivaling anything we've had from France.

And if in the oasis we ever needed reminding how close we were to the real bush we only needed to look in the tree outside the tent, where the remains of a gazelle's leg was still hanging, having been stashed there by a leopard resident in the area the previous week!

Vehicles are extremely well equipped, open top and sides, but still with some shade from the strong daytime sun, and complete with multiple power outlets and USB sockets - uniquely designed with the needs of the photographer in mind. Guiding was top notch, and management were briefed in advance of our previous safari experiences and interests and so were able to tailor our experience appropriately. We had reserved a private vehicle, but we noted that among those that did not, every effort was made to pair up groups with similar interests and experience levels, so that everyone was able to get the most out of their stay.

The only minor 'downside' was that the camp do not offer night drives, and we were always back in camp shortly after sunset. The reason given was wanting to limit disruption to wildlife and to their nocturnal hunting activities - this is admirable, but we noted that other camps in the conservancy do still offer limited night drives, and so one would question how much impact this restraint really has. We are not talking about full on night drives here, but wonder whether the camp might consider offering slightly extended evening game drives, perhaps staying out for an hour or so after sundown, enjoying a slow return to camp with a red-lamp to spot nocturnal species without disturbing predators. We were, however, able to take a night drive at their sister camp Kicheche Valley in Naboisho conservancy, and so this was no problem for us in the end."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Kicheche Valley

Kicheche Valley

"Safari resort in raw and remote conservancy"

2 nights Arrived 5 Sep 2019
"Kicheche Valley camp is beautifully appointed, spacious, and in many respects could be described more as a 'safari resort' than a 'camp'. Tents are modern and roomy, the central camp area thoughtfully appointed and aesthetically pleasing, but the stand out feature of the camp is the view over the valley from the elevated location of the camp high on the hillside. The camp is secluded and small (as are all the Kicheche camps), but the location is what really makes guests feel as if they are alone in this one small part of Africa. Perhaps the most unique feature of this camp is the acoustics of the valley - the roar of lions and the cackling of hyena are amplified by the topography and can make for something of an 'exciting' night. During our stay, a wildebeest was taken down by a clan of hyena shortly before dawn, perhaps 200m from our tent down in the valley, but in the quiet of the night, with cries echoing off the hillsides, it sounded as if the kill took place literally right beyond the netting outside our tent.

Whilst food, service and accommodation were all of a high standard, it was the first class guiding that made our stay here so memorable. We witnessed some of our most unique wildlife experiences ever here in Naboisho conservancy, all thanks to the knowledge and passion of our guide, Mika Kaleku. Mika not only possesses the exhaustive knowledge of the local flora and fauna that is the hallmark of Kenya's top guides, but he is also a well-educated naturalist and conservationist with a fascinating depth of perspective and understanding of the issues affecting the Mara ecosystem today - something he enthusiastically shared with us during our two days with him. As someone who asks a lot of detailed questions, I found his obvious intelligence and the structured nature of his thought and communication to be particularly engaging - something helped by his high level of English fluency and unusually comprehensive formal education, as well as years of practical experience. With Mika, observing the social interactions within a herd of impala one afternoon was every bit as fascinating as watching a cheetah stalk her prey the next morning. Whilst the predator density in Naboisho doesn't appear to be as high as in neighouring Olare Motorogi, I would say that it was here with Mika that we found the most authentic natural experiences of our whole stay across three camps in the Mara region - and for the most part, we had them completely to ourselves."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Four Points by Sheraton

Four Points by Sheraton

"Way beyond the normal airport hotel standard!"

1 night Arrived 7 Sep 2019
"We were expecting a typical airport hotel, but this is actually a destination hotel in its own right, with probably the best restaurant of any airport hotel we have ever visited. The rooftop grill showcases local produce with African and Indian spices in an outdoor setting overlooking the airfield. Rooms are new, comfortable, with modern minimalist décor, and staff are all extremely helpful.

The only downside is being inside the airport complex perimeter which means having to alight your vehicle and go thru security whenever arriving back from a trip outside the miniature city that is the airport area. Fortunately, Uber ride share vehicles are allowed within the perimeter and so securing a reasonably priced ride from the hotel was no problem. Highly recommended as a stopover hotel."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent

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