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Traveller reviews

Travel reviews by Mr & Mrs R from Hants

Review Distribution

Excellent
Good
Average
Poor
Terrible

Total number of trips

2

Countries visited

2

Lodges stayed in

8

Excursions taken

0

Southern Tanzania - great holiday!

Tanzania between 8 Sep 2012 and 21 Sep 2012

Trip rating: Excellent
"We started with 4 nights at Mdonye Old River Camp in Ruaha, a simple but comfortable and friendly camp, before moving on to the excellent Beho Beho in Selous. Both camps provided excellent game viewing, supported by knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides.

Both camps have significant wildlife in their immediate areas but both are some distance from the permanent wet areas that attract most animals during the dry season. If you accept this (as we did), you will have a excellent holiday at these camps - but if you want to minimise your travelling, other camps might, in our view, be more suitable.

We then had 3 nights on the coast at Ras Kutani - a very comfortable, friendly and laid-back location for a couple of days relaxation.

The internal logistics worked excellently with the Coastal Aviation flights all being more or less on time (or even early).

However our return BA flight was delayed by over 2 days due to mechanical problems which resulted in an unexpected (and unwanted) weekend in Dar es Salaam - a situation compounded by a lack of information from BA on the status of the repairs.

Despite that final hiccup, this was an excellent holiday in a great safari area - and a complete contrast to the more popular and crowded north of Tanzania."

Arranged By Elizabeth Chapman


Mdonya Old River Camp

Mdonya Old River Camp

"Mdonya - frendly camp with excellent guiding"

4 nights Arrived 9 Sep 2012
"We had 4 nights at Mdonya Old River Camp in the September dry season. The staff are enthusiastic, efficient and friendly and the manager (Nicole) was a bundle of energy and seemingly ubiquitous - I don't know when she ever slept. The camp is comfortable but simple, with large well-spaced tents overlooking the long dry river. We were well aware before travelling that (apart from the office) there was no electricity in the camp but found this more of an inconvenience than we expected. The use of log fires and kerosene lamps works well in the communal areas but we feel that the combination of kerosene lamps, candles and a wind-up torch was hard work in the tents for dressing and washing. We accidentally knocked a kerosene lamp over in outr tent - luckily it did not break but it did make us think about fire risks.

Small solar panels that could provide lighting in the tents are now available (we are associated with a charity in Uganda which is supplying personal panel and lights to schools for under £15 each) and we feel that these would be a significant improvement. We did discuss this with Nicole who replied that they wanted to retain the "traditional safari" atmosphere: we think this is right for the communal areas but that some change is needed within the tents. At the very least, we suggest that you stress to your clients that they should take head torches!

Food at Mdonya was always substantial and hearty, if not "haute cuisine" - bush breakfasts and lunches were particularly welcome and varied. During our stay, the camp varied between half-full and full, with a range of nationalities which made for some interesting conversations.

Our guide Zak was excellent - he has been at Mdonya for over 6 years and during our stay had 2 returning couples who had asked for him again. There is wildlife close to Mdonya: there was an elephant virtually in the camp when we arrived, there were usually impalas or giraffes wandering past, and Zak could usually find groups of 20+ elephants within 15 minutes, not to mention the occasional lions and a leopard - but at this time of year, it is necessary to drive some distance to find the bigger numbers (which we certainly did). Half- and full-day safaris from Mdonya are therefore particularly attractive and "good value" (we had a "half" day of 7 hours, and day trips were about 11 hours). Zak was always keen to find out what we were hoping to see but also careful to manage our expectations (for example, there had been no wild dogs in the area for some time). Being a National Park, Ruaha is crossed by public roads and has some local tourism - however, although we did see a number of other vehicles including small coaches, it never felt crowded or intrusive.

As previous reviews have mentioned, there is a band of tsetse flies near the camp. However use of high-Deet repellents and avoidance of blue/black clothes (combined with the burning of elephant dung on the backs of the vehicles) seemed effective whilst driving through this area - we actually suffered more in Selous.

In summary, we thoroughly enjoyed Ruaha and Mdonya and had some great wildlife viewing in terms of both variety and quantity. Judging by comments from other travellers we met, Kwihala or perhaps Mwagusi may be closer to permanent or semi-permanent water and therefore to the bigger game numbers during the dry season (it would be interesting to visit Mdonya in the green season). We have expressed above our thoughts about lighting in the tents. However despite these reservations, and thanks to the enthusiastic and professional camp staff and guides, we had a great time."
Good
Location
Good
Service
Excellent
Activities
Good
Rooms
Good
Food
Good
Facilities
Average
Beho Beho

Beho Beho

"Superb lodge.............................."

5 nights Arrived 13 Sep 2012
"Given the praise that Beho Beho usually receives, we feel a bit like party-poopers in having to qualify some of our experiences from our 5 night stay in September!

Firstly, the lodge itself is superb. The location on a ridge gives amazing views, the bandas are superb, and the food and hopsitality brilliant (lobster thermidor around a swimming pool in the middle of the bush was memorable!). There was usually a procession of wildlife past the lodge during the day, and the waterhole received a steady stream of elephants, hippos, buffalo and hyena (not to mention a leopard) in the evening - all supported by the chorus from the hippo pool which was just out of sight (and luckily out of smelling range). We also found waterbuck on the hill behind the lodge and some spectacular racket-tailed rollers on the way to "Beho Beho International" airstrip.

My wife has some mobility problems which prevented us going on walking safaris, so our stay focused on vehicle-based trips, usually in the early morning and again in late afternoon (there seems to be no end of spectacular locations for sundowners around Beho Beho!). The Lake Tagalalla trip was superb, with large numbers of water birds, hippos and crocodiles on the boat trip, plus the brilliant "surprise" bush breakfast and the ultimate "loo with a view" (If you've been, you'll know what I mean!). There was usually wildlife in the dry river areas and "savannah" areas (including elephants, eland, giraffe and buffalo) near Beho Beho but for larger numbers (especially zebra and wildebeest - and therefore also lions), most of our drives seemed to take in the Lake Manze area. No two safaris are ever the same, and we had excellent sightings of land animals, birds and lake life - including lions withe very recent kills (one wildebeest was still alive whilst being devoured) - but we did get to know the routes fairly well!

You do not have an "assigned" guide at Beho Beho. Each days is assessed in terms of what you want to do: all of the guides were enthusiastic, knowledgeable, approachable and flexible but we were especially impressed by Salum's seemingly permanent cheerfulness and smile!

Our last night at Beho Beho was our 35the wedding anniversary - we were very pleased to find a bottle of very cold champagne in our room when we got back from the afternoon drive (thank you!)

Sarah Bailey, wife of the original owner of Beho Beho, arrived for a stay while we were there and accompanied us to Lake Tagalalla - she is marvellous company and a font of (sometimes indiscreet) stories about Africa and some well known people in the UK! We were delighted to be asked to lunch with her at Bailey's Banda on our last day (if you think that the views from the guest bandas are good, Bailey's will take your breathe away).

So, if it was all so good, what are our qualifications?
- firstly, as above, all roads seem to lead to Lake Manze. We had some excellent sightings but the routes did become repetitive. We discussed this with the guides and particularly Walter, who felt that it was inevitable that it would be necessary to travel some distance to find water and therefore animals in the dry season (and we did accept that the routes towards Lake Manze were varied each day, usually with differing results). Walter did stress theat it would be different in the green season when the savannah would be teeming with animals (which is probably just as well, as many of the tracks would be impassable, even to 4X4s). We have no concerns about the game viewing but, ideally more variety in destination areas would have been welcome.

- secondly, we had one somewhat surreal day when we set off on a full day drive in search of some wild dogs which had been reported in the area of Selous Safari Camp. As we had to go fairly near to the Selous Reserve HQ, our guide decided to take us there to see the school and dispensary and to talk to some of the managers to get a view of how the reserve is run. Although it would have been nice to be consulted on this first, it was not in itself a bad decision. However having initially been told that the overall reserve manager (who had visited Beho Beho the previous day while we were out on a drive) was not available, we were subsequently told that he was now free and would like to see us: he was an engaging man who shared his views on how to manage the reserve with limited resources and then regaled us with his experiences in Aberdeen and Clacton-on-Sea! Incidentally, somewhat to our surprise (and that of our guides) there were a lot of tsetse flies near Beho Beho - the manager said that this was a fairly new experience for Selous and he was considering getting advice from Ruaha on how to tackle it. This extended our visit somewhat, which was compounded when we had a puncture half an hour later. Unfortunately our vehicle did not have a serviceable spare tyre - a major issue in an environment where punctures are so common. There were 2 spares on the vehicle - but one had not been repaired since a previous puncture and the other had been secured with an additional locking nut for which the vehicle did not carry a suitable spanner! Another vehicle had to be sent out from the lodge with a spare tyre and a spanner. These delays meant that we did not reach Selous Safari Camp until early afternoon: we then found out that no-one knew exactly where the wild dogs were but it was thought that they'd moved towards Lake Manze - when we got to Lake Manze, it seemed that many other guides had heard about the dogs but no-one had seen them, and we therefore got much conflicting advice! Our guide made extensive efforts to find the dogs from the info he had but, given the earlier delays, our time was limited. And then we had a second puncture on the way back to Beho Beho (at least we had a spare this time)! I understand that there were some red faces in the Beho Beho maintenance area about the lack of usable spare tyres on the vehicle!

If these comments appear hypercritical, I believe that we are entitled to expect the highest standards from a lodge of the reputation (and cost) of Beho Beho. I am certainly not saying theat these factors spoilt our holiday. I doubt whether we would have found the wild dogs anyway and, in retrospect, we can laugh at the puncture situation and the way thee day evolved - but it shouldn't happen at Beho Beho (and they were suitably embarrassed!). And, we had excellent game viewing - despite the lack of "variety" in routes."
Good
Location
Good
Service
Excellent
Activities
Good
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Ras Kutani

Ras Kutani

"Ras Kutani - very relaxing"

3 nights Arrived 18 Sep 2012
"We had 3 nights at Ras Kutani for relaxation following a safari in Ruaha and Selous.

Ras Kutani certainly lives up to its reputation as a great place to unwind and was a very welcome couple of days to recover from being bounced around in safari vehicles for upwards of 8 hours a day. The laid-back atmosphere was helped by the lodge being no more than half full while we were there - the staff seemed to try to place tables at dinner as far away from each other as possible, including "hiding" some by the swimming pool. Rooms are comfortable, food is excellent (especially the fish) and staff are friendly and efficient. The fastest anybody moved was when we reported a problem with our hot water which was repaired almost instantly.

The beach was very peaceful, although the sea in front of the lodge was quite rough even at low tide and rocky underfoot - however the pool had some good shaded areas and was usually deserted."
Excellent
Location
Good
Service
Excellent
Activities
Good
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent

A superb and memorable trip

Namibia between 12 Sep 2011 and 24 Sep 2011

Trip rating: Excellent
"This was our second visit to Namibia, combining some new areas with revisits to previous haunts.

The new area was the Skeleton Coast, on the 4 day Schoeman's flyng safari. This was a truly spectacular journey with 4 busy days way off the beaten track in this amazingly varied wilderness - a trip brought to life by the knowjledge and enthusiasm of Andre Schoeman.

After this, we revisited Etosha, staying at Okaukuejo and The Fort at Onguma Plains. Wildlfie viewing as excellent, particularly in eastern Etosha. The heavy rains this year meant that there was still water in the Pan which made it look completely different. We finished with night a Okonjima on the way back to Windhoek.

This trip was not inexpensive and it is difficult to talk in terms of "value". However it was a superb trip and the Skeleton Coast element in particular was truly memorable and unlike anything we have ever done before. However we may do it again - we're thinking about doing it again in 2013 (probaly a new trip that the Schoeman's may start based at their new Leylandsdrift camp).

Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:

No suggestions!!"

Olive Grove

Olive Grove

"Olive Grove review"

1 night Arrived 13 Sep 2011
"We stayed one night at the Olive Grove at the start of our Namibia trip - our second stay, one having alos overnighted there at the end of our holiday in 2008.

The Olive Grove is a very comfortable but unpretentious guesthouse with easy access to central Windhoek for restauarants etc - although it does serve light lunches and excellent limited-choice 3 course dinners (currently NAD230) for those who, like us, just want some R&R.

The 11 rooms are large and cool and well-equipped, although the grey decor and stonework is starting to be in need to some maintenance (a new hotel under the same ownership has recently been built on adjoining land, which have been a distraction!).

Staff are very friendly and helpful, and there is internet access in the lounge. Good use has been amde of the limited grounds, with some very comfortable sunloungers and a small plunge pool. There is enclosed car parking for self-drivers.

The Olive Grove remains continues to be a pleasant interlude at the start or end of a Namibia holiday."
Good
Location
Good
Service
Excellent
Rooms
Good
Food
Good
Schoeman's Skeleton Coast Safaris

Schoeman's Skeleton Coast Safaris

"Schoeman's Skeleton Coast Safari - stunning!!"

3 nights Arrived 14 Sep 2011
"This is a trip unlike any other - 4 days staying at 3 separate camps on the Skeleton Coast in the company of one of the Schoeman bothers who have a lifetime's knowledge of the area and a passion for explaining it.

Our trip, with Andre Schoeman as our pilot/guide started with a flight from Windhoek to Swakopmund via Conception Bay (via shipwrecks, seals and flamingos) and on to Kuidas Camp, including a landing on a deserted beach for lunch and a further landing in a seemingly inaccessible canyon for a geology and botany lesson. eaching Kuidas Camp. The overriiding memory of that first day is the sheer variety of the terrains, from rocky uplands to sandy dunes - often simultaneously.

Like the thrird camp (Kunene), accommodation at Kuidas is in comfortable 3 metre dome tents, with full beds, chemical toilets and buckets showers (far more effective than they sound). There are separate flush toilets. Meals are good home cooking - remarkable considering the logistics. Drinks are included (although our group had an affinity got gin-and-tonic which nearly caused a tonic shortage throughout the Skeleton Coast. After dinner, Andre brought out his telescope to give us a fascinating astronomy session against the clear starlit sky.

The morning of the second day was spent in exploring the area on foot (including old bushman habitats and petroglyphs) and by landrover, before flying on. The afternoon stop was at Terrace Bay for a drive into the roaring dunes. When Andre tells you to step off the top of a seemingly precipitious dune, it seems a natural thing to do - and, as the "roaring" starts as we slid down, it was a marvellous experience. Andre then found some even steeper dunes to take the landrover down, to the delight of all concerned, for more roaring.

The second camp at Leylandsdrift is new, having opened earlier this year to replace Purros (20k away). With a ten year lease on the site (the others are renewable one year leases), this is much more comfortable camp with much bigger tents with flush toilets. The location on top of a cliff overlooking a river valley is spectacular. The next morning is a memorable drive to expore the area, ranging from the open grazing to rocky plateaux and valley, the river valley, "clay castles" and massive dunes - giving Andre further opportunities to demonstrate that 40-year old landrovers can defy gravity.

From Leylandsrift, we flew on to the Kunene River on the Namibia-Angola border, where the final morning was a boat trip to see the river life (was it coincidence that all the crocodiles were on the Angolan side?). Some other reviews have suggested that this was a long way to go for a boat trip - perhaps, but this is also about the continuing changes in the terrain, scenery and habitats and tabout he Himba people - ie the sheer variety of this region.

From Kunene, we started the journey back to a more normal world - we dropped off at Outjo to be met by our guide for the rest of our holiday (after a minor problem when it appeared that there was no fuel at our refuelling stop).

This was a superb trip - just seeing this vast and varied region would be an experience and adventure, but the Schoeman's have a personal knowledge of and passion for the Skeleton Coast which brings it to life in an exceptional way. The journey is by no means luxurious but is extremely comfortable - and creates memories that will remain forever. Chris McIntyre said that this trip was "potentially lifechanging" - I don't know about that, but we do want to go back if the Schoeman's laucn a programme next based on 3 nights at the new Leylandsdrift Camp and its surrounding area."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Good
Food
Good
Facilities
Good
Okaukuejo Camp

Okaukuejo Camp

"Comfortable camp and superb waterhole."

2 nights Arrived 17 Sep 2011
"This was our second stay at Okaukuejo, having also spent 2 nights there in 2008. It is a large, busy and perhaps impersonal camp providing a variety of facilities for both "lodgers" and campers. The rooms are comfortable and well equipped and maintained. The restaurant had improved since our last visit - breakfast and lunch were always OK but dinner had been an exercise in taking a good joint of meat and roasting it to extinction - now the meats are barbecued, with much improved results, We also found the staff (with the exception of the woman in the Tourist Shop!) to be much friendlier and more helpful than last time.

The main attraction of Okaukuejo remains its waterhole. During the day there is a constant procession of giraffe, antelope, zebra and wildebeest (plus the occasional elephant) to the waterhole, although the numbers seemed lower than our last vist - possibly a result of the unusually heavy rain earlier this year whcih has resulted in more water still being available elsewhere. At night, black rhino are seemingly guaranteed and we also saw lion and elepehant, plus a numbr of balck-backed jackals.

At the time of writing, postcards that we posted at the Okaukuejo Post Office two weeks ago have not yet arrived.

Incidentally, whilst at Okaukuejo we met Dee, our guide on our earlier 2008 Wild About Afica trip - it was good to catch up with him."
Good
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Good
Food
Good
Facilities
Good
Onguma The Fort

Onguma The Fort

"Great stay at The Fort"

3 nights Arrived 19 Sep 2011
"Our second stay The Fort, having previously spent a night there in 2008 on a Wild About Africa trip. This time, we stayed for 3 nights.

Some people find the "moroccan" styling of the Fort and the "mini-Forts" incongruous in Namibia. However it works - providing stylish and cool accommodation in a superb location overlooking Fischers Pan.

We had our own guide with us, who took us into Etosha for several activities. The eastern end of Etosha seems to be more productive that the central area for game viewiing and we had excellent daytime sightings of lions, rhinos and elephants. The heavy rains earlier this year meant that there was still water in the Etosha Pan, which gave the whole area a different perpsective.

We went on the Night Drive and the Sundown Drive on the Onguma Reserve. The former was somewhat cursory, although we did see some bush-babies and a tortoise that apparentl shoudl have been hibernatiing, with the guide (Rector) seemingly being mainly interested in getting to an area where lions had been seen a couple of days earlier. The Sundown Drive also failed to find any of the big Onguma animals but Previous was an engaging and hardworking guide who poured a good G&T!

Meals at The Fort remain absolutely superb and would grace any 5-star city hotel. WE we delighted to find that Chef Immanuel is still there - he is an engaging man who takes great delight is describing the menu to the diners as well as leading the staff in singing after dinner on some evenings. It will be a massive loss to The Fort when Immanuel leaves shortly (apparently he is goig to a Kempinski property - we didn't find out which one, although it is not the neighbouring Mokuti).

The facilities remain excellent at the Fort, although there were some signs of slippages in service:
- on one day, we did not receive any hand towels, and it took 2 requests to staff to get some
- a waiter spilt a glass of beer down my wife's back (by accident!): although the staff were quick to clear the spillage and broken glass and to drive my wife back to our room to change, there was no offer to launder the soaked clothes (although admittedly, given the 2 day laundry service, that might have been difficult to deliver)
- the room book advises against drinking tap water but the only drinking water provided is for purcahse from the mini-bar. I cannot be sure but I recall that water was provided in the rooms on our previous visit.
The mamagers, Bronwen and Josef, were not there during our stay (Newman was in charge), so it is possible that the first two at least were temporary blips.

The Fort at Onguma Plains remains a spectacular and comfortable base from which to explore Etosha. However, given the increased competition at the top end of the market, it needs to avoid complacency. Whoever follows Immanuel as chef has a big act to follow!"
Good
Location
Excellent
Service
Average
Activities
Average
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Okonjima Bush Camp

Okonjima Bush Camp

"Great stay but too short!"

1 night Arrived 22 Sep 2011
"We booked a night at Okonjima Bush Camp on our way back from Etosha to Windhoek - and with hindsight wished we'd had 2 nights.

The accommodation is extremely comfortable and had constant entertainment from a succession of guinea fowl, warthogs and birds outside our room. The rooms are widely spaced (no noise from human neighbours) but the walk to and from the central area is very sandy and unpleasant in any form of open shoes/sandals. Meals, taken communally, were excellent.

Clearly with the animals being tagged and tracked electronically, there is a very good chance of sightings - although these are not guaranteed as the dense scrub can prevent animals being seen (about 1 in 5 leopard trackings are unsuccessful). However our Sundown drive very quickly found one of the 6 leopards in the 500 hectare reserve. In the morning, we went on the Cheetah drive, finding a group of 4 of the 9 cheetahs in the 16000 hectare reserve feeding on donkey they had killed. Okonjima are in process of removing the fences to combine these reserves to allow a greater cheetah population. In between these drives, we went to the night hide to watch porcupines and honey badgers feeding.

Once you accept that Okonjima is a rehabilitation centre and that the animals are tagged and at least partly habituated, this is a very comfortable and relatively easy way to see some rare animals. After a hectic 20 hours there, we wished that we had booked a second night."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Good

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