Travel reviews by Miss P from London
Total number of trips
Lodges stayed in
My Oct 2022 trip
Zambia between 6 Oct 2022 and 23 Oct 2022
Despite many trips to Luangwa this was only my second visit to Lower Zambezi, and I was quite blown away by the density of wildlife and the beautiful scenery. The atmospheric Winterthorn forests make a stunning backdrop for photography.
Thanks to Claire for the tireless rearranging of multiple trips over the last 2 years!"
"Pioneer Camp review"
"Takwela Camp review"
The design of the chalets is very well thought out- the "side on" arrangement maximises the view from the bedroom and the shower. My shower had the perfect view of the Luangwa/Mwaleshi confluence.
The seating area at the front of each room is very comfortable, well shaded and with a built in table for a cold drink, and the perfect place to relax with your binos between activities. Alex is an excellent guide and host, and I particularly enjoyed the walking, with highlights being watching lions from across the river and sneaking up on a pair of Pels fishing owls that were calling to each other.
The area is very beautiful, the acacia woodland around the river is quite different to the main parts of South Luangwa."
Some further subtle improvements have been made to the rooms - especially the seating areas at the front. I think the roof has been extended forwards to provide shade, and some very comfortable built in seating provided. At the end of my stay, they very kindly offered me an air transfer down to Mfuwe (at no charge) since the pilot was picking up guests to take to North Luangwa.
Thanks to Nick for showing me the African Broadbills that frequent the back of house area! I also stupidly left my camera battery charger behind and they arranged to get it to me in Lower Zambezi in a few days, which I was very grateful for."
Chula Island Camp
"Chula Island Camp review"
It should be noted that due to the length of the boat ride to the island, no night drives are offered here, so the game drive ends with sundowners on the boat ride, but this was fine for me to skip night drives for 2 nights. Also, as there is only one scout shared between the two camps, walking needs to be coordinated between the two camps, although I understand they hope to have a scout for each camp next season. Again, this wasn't an issue for me as the camps were quiet and I walked one morning at each camp.
I very much like the simple (but very comfortable) mobile style of both this camp and Kutali."
Regarding the guiding and scouting issues, there has been a shortage of scouts (and guides) in Zambia in 2022 following the covid epidemic. This was certainly a factor behind some of the problems that this traveller experienced at Chula Island and its sister camp Kutali.
We’ve had extensive discussions with the owners about this issue and they hope that this will be rectified for 2023.
Going forward into 2023, it’s likely that all guests in camp will be doing the same activity, whether it be a game drive, boat trip or walking safari – and that the choices will be limited by the availability of scouts and guides. However, the owners have assured us that travellers should always be able to experience their full range of activities during their stay.
"Kutali Camp review"
As with Chula, the scout is shared between the two camps so walking is not always possible (but there are plans to have a scout for each camp next year). A boat ride is still required to get to the vehicles.
Unlike at Chula, this is done at night after a night drive, which I was not entirely comfortable with. There was no moon when I was there, and on one trip we did bump something (submerged tree or a hippo, I'm not sure). I couldn't see any sign of lifejackets in the boat, either. Although our night drives were quite successful with several leopard sightings, they were not quite as productive as elsewhere, perhaps because we didn't take a spotter.
I think, all thing considered, I would rather have skipped them and taken the boat back to camp with sundowners as at Chula."
We have subsequently had extensive chats with the camp’s owners. They have assured us that the safety issues experienced were an anomaly; that life jackets are always provided on boats, and that boating is not usually done at night. They assure us that they have put measures in place to ensure that what this traveller experienced will not happen again.
We’re aware that there was a shortage of scouts (and guides) in Zambia following the covid epidemic, and that this was one factor behind the problems that this traveller experienced at Kutali, and its sister camp Chula Island, with a limited choice of activities.
The owners hope that this will be rectified for 2023. However, going forward, it’s likely that all guests in camp will be doing the same activity, whether it be a game drive, boat trip or walking safari – and that the choices will be limited by the availability of scouts and guides. However, we’re assured that travellers will always be able to experience the full range of activities during their stay.
Old Mondoro Bushcamp
"Old Mondoro Bushcamp review"
The food and wines are excellent, and the rooms pretty much bush camp perfection, and the hosts Mark and Madelaine look after the guests very well. But it's not all about the camp, there is as much emphasis on the safari activities. I was particularly keen to see the well known huge pack of dogs (well over 20 adults plus puppies) that had been denning and hunting in the area. Unfortunately the pack had just gone walkabout and had been roaming outside the western boundary of the park (at the cost of 3 puppies who were hit by a truck).
We heard they were back on the far western boundary at Chongwe, and the Old Mondoro team (thanks to Mark, head Guide Sebastian and my guide Samura) kindly arranged for Samura to take me, with a pre-dawn departure, on a long drive to the far side of the park. I was rewarded with an amazing sighting of the pack running along the Chongwe river, calling to some separated members of the pack, 3 puppies, who then appeared on the other side and, one by one, bounded across the river to be reunited with the rest of the pack.
A wonderful experience."
Week at Nkwali
Zambia between 8 Apr 2022 and 18 Apr 2022
The mix of guests is always very interesting too, with more local residents or people visiting residents or adding on safari days to a business trip.
Although I have managed some trips during covid, Nkwali was quite busy during my stay, and this is the first time I've really felt like some sort of normality is returning to the safari world. With testing now dropped for most destinations, there was a sense of relief and optimism from staff and other guests alike.
Pioneer was the only low point of the trip, and I think perhaps it's time Expert Africa looked at some new options for overnights in Lusaka for guests who don't need a luxury boutique hotel."
"Pioneer Camp Review"
My main issue this time was that they failed to pick me up at the airport. I was left standing outside for about 45 mins while I called Expert Africa. Thankfully Claire picked up, and contacted the camp who sent a driver to pick me up. I tried calling the camp directly on the number provided in my information but that number wasn't working.
They then compounded the mistake in the way they dealt with it, by pretending it hadn't happened - neither the driver nor the lady who checked me in at the camp even acknowledged I'd been left waiting, let alone offered any sort of apology. It was only the next morning at breakfast when the manager came over to ask me how my stay was, that I raised it myself. He initially blamed Expert Africa for not providing my arrival details, which I thought was unlikely but could easily be ascertained when I got back. Later, at lunch he came over and admitted he'd found the email with my arrival details and that it was their fault. I was offered 50% off a future stay and I already have 2 further Zambia trips planned using Pioneer, so I will see if things improve.
There were a few additional minor things - when asking about my departure, one staff member first told me I'd need to pay 100 Kwacha per hour to keep my room after 11am, then also told me a departure time that would have me at the airport 3 hours before the flight (I'd said I was flying to Mfuwe).
The hot water in the chalets has never been amazing, but seems to be worse than ever - you have to wait ages for it to get hot, then it's a feeble trickle that's impossible to adjust between freezing and scalding. Hair dryers in the rooms would be welcome, as it's often not that warm in Lusaka and no one likes to sit around in the cold with wet hair. I'm sure the rooms used to have them but I could be mistaken."
It's always such a friendly and welcoming camp. At this time of year, it's lovely to see a mixture of faces from all the RPS camps and even the mobiles. The location on the river can't be beaten, and the rooms really make the best of the views and bring the outdoors in. I also love the amount of wildlife around the camp, from the cheeky vervets bounding between the rafters in the room, to the elephants visiting the lagoon during lunch time, to the beautiful bushbuck in front of my chalet during siesta time.
This is traditionally thought of as a weaker time of the year for game viewing, and certainly the big cats are not as prolific as in dry season, but the wild dog sightings were exceptional (as they were last time I visited at this time of year) and the birding is great too, so personally I think it's much under-rated. We saw a big pack of 20 dogs almost every day, including a sighting of a full hunt and kill of a puku from start to finish. The park is also really stunning at this time of year. We had only one leopard sighting but it was a really excellent one, with the leopard trying to hunt a rock monitor and then being chased off by zebras. Other guests who made more of an effort to find leopards saw several more, but I was quite happy to spend time with the dogs.
This is my second trip to South Luangwa during green season, and if Luangwa River Camp had been open I would have split my time between the two camps. However, the Nkwali location is very central for accessing all of the area that is possible to drive in at this time of year, by using the boat crossing to enter the park directly and occasionally driving up to the main gate. The dogs were mainly up in the area around the main gate which is a bit further from Nkwali but the guides were always happy to adjust game drive times to leave earlier in the afternoons. I had Obi as my guide, and he was excellent.
Finding options for walking can be tricky as many areas are boggy and those that aren't are used for driving, but we did manage to do a nice morning walk by taking a boat up to the area where the pontoon usually enters the park.
Overall, a superb stay."
My Oct 2021 trip
Zambia and 1 other country between 1 Oct 2021 and 25 Oct 2021
It was wonderful to be back in Zambia, and I was determined not to go another year without a Zambia safari, so I departed for this trip before Zambia was removed from the red list. The 10 days in Kenya were to "launder" my red list trip, although this was rendered unnecessary during the trip by the removal of Zambia from the red list.
The two days walking in Chikoko were a highlight of the trip and I wish I could have done more walking, but my timings were constrained by needing to fit in the 10 day "quarantine" in Kenya.
One disturbing development I found in South Luangwa was the proliferation of film crews, both on the Kaingo side of the river and the Nsefu side. These do negatively impact game viewing for tourists as the crews monopolise access to certain high profile animals and either don't allow tourist vehicles to approach or at least only allow access when nothing interesting is happening. I understand that next year there will be SEVEN film crews operating in the north part of South Luangwa. I appreciate that some operators have had to find other sources of income in the absence of tourism due to covid, but when tourism returns to normal levels (hopefully next year) I can see this becoming a major issue."
"Mwamba Bushcamp review"
The hide is a great asset at this time of year and I was lucky enough to catch lions coming down to drink. The hide is also great for those things that are normally a bit small to photograph well, like smaller birds such as Lilian's lovebirds coming down to drink.
The rooms are nice and I like the open air bathroom but the bedroom felt a bit enclosed- I prefer the more open style of some bush camps.
I think the main disappointment was the guiding. My guide seemed to lack enthusiasm and spend most of the drives chatting to the spotter and didn't really communicate much to ask me where I'd like to go or what I'd like to see, despite the fact that I know the area very well. We just repeatedly headed to areas where he knew the Kaingo guides had seen lions until I insisted on exploring some of the more scenic areas. His bird knowledge seemed a bit shaky.
I know Shenton's pitch themselves at photographers, but I wasn't overly convinced he had much understanding of vehicle positioning for photography either. I don't wish to sound overly critical as I've experienced a lot worse, but given Shentons have a reputation for top guiding I felt my experience was just average."
Naturally we were incredibly disappointed to hear that you were not overly impressed with your guide. As you say, Shentons are renowned in the industry for our first class guiding. We have an above-average number of repeat guests who come back year after year specifically because of our guiding team and their photographic expertise.
Your experience was an exception to our normal high standards. We won’t attempt to offer explanations or excuses, only our heartfelt apologies that you left feeling this way and our assurance that the matter is being looked at by the Shentons and guiding team as we speak.
I noticed some changes in the camp which improved comfort without adversely affecting the "bush" feel. The lighting in the rooms is improved, the doors now swing on hinges, and there is some useful hanging shelving. I also noticed a big improvement in their wine offerings. The food, as ever, is superb and they do the best lunches I've had on safari.
Game viewing was a little less productive than previous visits, perhaps due to some early rain, and I was sad to miss the wild dogs who were around in Sept and I think returned to the area after my visit (of course!). However, I did have one very exciting night drive of lions vs puku vs hyenas vs crocs vs hippos. Guiding from Lloyd was great.
The wifi is unusable, which is not something that would normally concern me as I prefer to disconnect on safari. Unfortunately travel in the time of Covid now necessitates a lot of tedious online form filling for international travel, and I was glad of the few hours I had with internet access in Lusaka (there is no wifi at Lusaka airport) in order to complete the required forms. If the current circumstances persist, I wouldn't want to be in the position of departing direct to an international flight from Tafika, with passenger locator forms and such to be filled out online. I think this is an issue a lot of camps will need to address.
But overall, another wonderful stay and I look forward to returning next year."
Chikoko Tree Camp
"Chikoko Tree Camp review"
Food was excellent, and as at Tafika I appreciated the new wine selection.
Amon is a great guide and I really enjoyed my 2 days here. It was also lovely to meet the new shareholder, Mark and his friend who were great company. A highlight of our walks was a sighting of a male lion, but I also enjoyed the birding.
In the end, I thought my two days at Chikoko was the highlight of my whole trip. There is something very relaxing about being in an exclusively walking area."
Aero Club of East Africa
"Aero Club of East Africa review"
The location is very convenient for Wilson, the room was comfortable and the bathroom nice. Probably not the place to stay if you want a lie in as it's right next to the runway and the planes start taking off about 7am, but for my purpose it was perfect.
The bar area looked nice, and I'd like to come back when I might have a chance to use it!"
"Encounter Mara review"
At lunchtime you would also have an individual buffet with another member of staff to provide an audience of two. Also, the habit of the waiting staff leaping forward to pull the chair out for you and push it under you as you sit down is just weird and unnecessarily formal. The manager didn't do much to facilitate any mingling or socialising between guests at the camp fire, and also seemed to have no knowledge or interest in safaris or wildlife. I am not sure why Asilia feels it appropriate to employ managers with no bush experience (I had the same experience at Kwihala 2 years ago). Managing a safari camp is completely different to managing a city or beach hotel.
The game drives were enjoyable with great sightings, particularly of lions, and my guide was personable and friendly although a bit lacking in bird knowledge. The camp itself was nice but the atmosphere meant I just couldn't wait to leave."
They engaged with all the guests and encouraged conversation and mingling at the camp fire and tea time, and Becca and/or Lewis ate with me at meals and were interesting and entertaining company. Both of them have an obvious passion for safari and love to share it with their guests. They clearly can't wait to get back to communal dining and I'm sure this would make Rekero an even more enjoyable place to stay.
My guide, Francis, was excellent, clearly very experienced with great birding skills. It was good to see that he was keen to avoid some of the worse "circus like" sightings that you get in this part of the reserve, and to leave sightings when we felt the animal was being harrassed.
Not mentioned in your wildlife list so I will mention it here - we had some lovely sightings of serval with kittens."
Great trip to Kenya
Kenya between 26 Sep 2020 and 10 Oct 2020
I picked Kenya due to direct flights and because I saw an opportunity to catch the wild dog pack at Laikipia Wilderness with their puppies fresh out of the den. I knew Laikipia Wilderness could be accessed by road transfer, so I could be picked up straight from the airport. It was a good decision to avoid internal flights - it seems they are subject to cancellations if passenger numbers are low- another couple I met had their flight to Amboseli cancelled. Overall, everything went smoothly and it was a relief to be back in the bush.
The trip was a massive success in terms of finding the dogs with their puppies, and the pandemic has provided me with an opportunity to travel at a time of year that would usually be out of my budget, especially as a solo traveler with single supplements to contend with (all waived now due to so few travelers).
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend a safari in Kenya to anyone who wants to travel at the moment - it's the ultimate "socially distanced" holiday and Kenya is easy to get to from the UK and the testing requirements for entry to Kenya provide some peace of mind that all passengers on the flight should have a negative test."
"Dogs are back in town"
This was a success and I enjoyed some fantastic sightings of the pack and their five puppies. The atmosphere at Laikipia Wilderness is very relaxed with no overtly strict "Covid protocols".
It's a lovely authentic owner run camp and it was a pleasure to spend time with the owner, Steve Carey and his children and hear about their bush adventures. I did a few great walks with Steve and also Barend, although it was a constant dilemma of whether to walk or track the dogs!!"
Ol Pejeta Bush Camp
My guide Duma had exceptional bird knowledge, one of the best I've come across in East Africa. This was my first visit to Ol Pejeta and it's not the wildest place and hard to escape views of fences or buildings, but in these Covid times there were hardly any other vehicles around so we had all our sightings to ourselves.
Highlights included many rhinos and a couple of visits to hyena dens, one where the youngsters seemed determined to dismantle our vehicle. For some of the time, we used the camp's electric vehicle which was a first for me. Asilia are taking Covid protocols quite seriously, with separate dining and staff wearing masks."
Four Points Nairobi Airport
Covid protocols here were extreme, with guests given plastic gloves to serve themselves from the breakfast buffet. I would rather have had breakfast in my room but I noticed room service breakfast was not included in the B&B rates."
Tafika was the highlight
Zambia between 12 Jul 2018 and 29 Jul 2018
In my own defence, there had been some surprise changes in camps I thought I knew and had visited previously - such as no communal dining at Kafunta and a management change at Lion Camp leading to the introduction of new dining arrangements and a new activity/meal schedule. This changed the whole experience of the camp, rather than just the cosmetic refurbishment I had been expecting.
A last minute switch to include Tafika in the itinerary really rescued the trip. Tafika is a class act. It's a comfortable, welcoming, characterful safari camp run by people who understand what's most important about the safari experience. It remains one of my favourite camps in Africa."
It was a pretty cold night and the chalets are not well insulated- hot water bottles would be much appreciated."
Kafunta River Lodge
"Kafunta River Lodge review"
For a couple of lunches due to new arrivals and departures I was the only guest present from my vehicle. I did manage to join another group for some meals but I ended up having several meals just seated with my guide. He was not very communicative and I ended up feeling I was hosting him rather than vice versa. Most of the hosting was done by the guides.
Really, I felt the management should put more effort into being involved in hosting rather than leaving it all to the guides. As a solo traveller, I felt like a spare part most of the time and I missed the fun, inclusive atmosphere of other camps.
I also had concerns about the guiding. My guide seemed overly reliant on radio communication to find sightings, his bird knowledge was sometimes questionable, but worst of all on two separate night drives he picked up a chameleon from a bush and brought it over for guests to touch. On one occasion he actually passed it to one of the guests (a 10 year old girl) and it promptly bit her and she tried to shake it off. This isn't the kind of responsible guiding I expect from a Luangwa guide, and on the second occasion I voiced my concerns. One of the managers had joined our game drive that night, and he said nothing."
Three Rivers Camp
The rooms at Three Rivers are lovely and the game/bird viewing from the camp was excellent.
I was aware in advance that game viewing in this area would be a bit challenging, as the bush is thick and the game skittish. So I had planned to mainly walk, but I did have to be quite insistent about this as my guide seemed reluctant to do afternoon walks. Despite me having made it very clear that I wanted to walk on every activity, nonetheless on the second afternoon it was announced we were driving, at the last minute. The newly arrived guests (who I had already met at Kafunta) said during the drive (which was uneventful and conducted in near silence by the guide) that they had been expecting to walk, so on our return I queried why we had gone on a drive and the guide tried to say it was because of the other guests, but in fact he hadn't even asked them what they wanted to do. They were just as disappointed as me to drive as they were only staying one night at Three Rivers. I insisted on walks for the remainder of my stay. On one morning we also had to drive over to join walkers from Island Bush Camp due to lack of available game scouts - but at least I got to walk, at one stage I thought I might not be able to (thanks to TJ for "making a plan").
On the walks, I very much enjoyed the birding, but game sightings were few."
Kafunta River Lodge
"Return to Kafunta"
"Under new management"
The new activity/meal schedule is not to my taste- coming back from the morning game drive at 9:30am for a 10am breakfast, then having lunch at 2:30pm, with standard afternoon game drive time being 4pm. Lunch has been moved even later from the 2pm it was in June, meaning the earliest you could realistically get out in the afternoon was 3:30pm, which we did just to scrape a little extra game viewing time, but it was still a rush. This schedule made for an incredibly long down time just sitting around camp. In contrast, at our next camp we were out at 6:15 every morning, and not back until 11:30 or 12 for lunch at 12:30, then out again at 3:30pm after tea at 3:15pm.
They have also abandoned communal dining in favour of separate tables for each game viewing vehicle (or completely separate for each party at dinner it seemed). Mixing with other guests is something I really enjoy at safari camps, and I much prefer the atmosphere at camps where dining is family style. I was with my parents for this part of the trip, but I certainly would not enjoy this new arrangement if travelling solo as I often do.
Lion Camp food was always exceptional, and with the extra training the chefs have had I was expecting to be blown away. In fact, the food was disappointing and not up to the standard of the old Lion Camp. Breakfast was simply cereals, toast, fruit, and one hot dish (no choice). Lunch had no choice either- on the first day there was one dish of lasagne and one bowl of green salad, followed by a dessert. This is compared to the old Lion Camp brunches which had a wide choice of different salads and meat/fish dishes. Dinners were OK but unimaginative compared to the previous Lion Camp menu which had the chefs making fresh pasta starters or interesting salads for starters. Tea no longer featured in the schedule- the old Lion Camp teas were also a well thought out and beautifully executed sweet and savoury option as well as a different home made cold drink (eg lemonade with ginger or rooibos iced tea with cranberry). Despite the attempts made to create an air of luxury in the rooms with fancy toiletries and bed linen, for me the new menu felt like cost cutting compared to the Lion Camp of old. In contrast, the wines were better quality than the old choices.
On the plus side, the rooms are a vast improvement on the old ones (good as you spend so much time in them), although they have some strange features such as precarious steps in odd places and a shower that automatically runs cold after about 5 mins- some sort of safety feature apparently, but I had to restart my shower twice during one shower. They also don't automatically roll the mesh front of the tents up during the day. One of the features of the rooms is the view, and as the decks are in full sun, it's not appealing to sit outside in the day. If the mesh is rolled up you can enjoy the view from the sofa in the shade, but this is fiddly to do yourself. I asked for this to be done in my room, which it was, but they should do this automatically in all the rooms (my parents had to try and do it themselves).
The main area has been opened out, but I personally found the new decor a bit bland compared to the old bright colour scheme.
Overall, the feel of the place is now more like a soulless luxury hotel in the bush. It lacks the warm, inclusive and sociable atmosphere of a safari camp. I can see that the owners are attempting to create a more upmarket camp, but it is possible to do this without losing the safari camp feel.
Sadly, I very much doubt I'll be returning to Lion Camp. The best thing about our stay was the excellent guiding by Meyam but even that is not enough to make me want to return. The game viewing in the area is superb, but there are other camps in the same area which I think will suit me better."
"Nobody does it better"
It was a last minute decision to switch to include Tafika in our trip, and so it was only possible for us to take the family chalet. We'd been a little sceptical about this but it turned out to be a perfect choice. The chalet has 2 separate showers and 2 toilets and a shared basin area, and it has a lovely position overlooking the river so it was nice to sit outside and chat in the afternoons and watch the hippos mating (yes, really!).
It was a shame to miss John and Carol, but Heather and Bryan were doing an excellent job in their absence. I love Tafika, it is still one of my favourite safari camps in Africa. Full of character and with a warm welcome and run by people who appreciate the important aspects of the safari experience. In a world where safari camps seem to be in a battle to "out lux" each other, resulting in an experience that is increasingly divorced from the natural environment, Tafika remains a beacon of authenticity. I wish there were more camps like it.
Game viewing was superb with some stand out leopard sightings, including a mother with 2-3 month old cub and the same mother chasing a younger female up a tree."
Green Season Luangwa
Zambia between 23 Mar 2018 and 7 Apr 2018
The birding too was excellent, and interesting to see all the migrants and birds in their breeding plumage.
It was amazing to see the change in the landscape and this was most apparent from the trip up to Nsefu and travelling along the river by boat.
Robin Pope Safaris continue to impress with their levels of service with a very flexible approach to make sure every guest is happy. I was given a vehicle to myself most of the time and my guide was more than happy to be flexible about game drive timings."
Luangwa River Camp
"Luangwa River Camp"
RPS were very sensitive to guests' needs and even when there were only 3 guests in camp, they sent out two vehicles as they realised we had slightly different priorities. This was much appreciated. My guide Yona was great and quickly picked up what I was interested in.
I was keen to look for wild dogs and we had great success. On three of the four full days I had here we were able to find the dogs in the morning and go back in the afternoon to watch them wake up and go hunting. The cat sightings at this time of year were definitely tricky compared to dry season. We had a great sighting of Ginger and Garlic's pride who had just killed a baby buffalo and the herd were trying to keep the lions away from the kill.
Walking options were very limited due to the boggy conditions underfoot. I was pleased I had the 3 days at Nsefu to walk, as there were not many suitable areas around Luangwa River Camp."
The walking and boating is great for birding and taking in the scenery and enjoying being the only people in this area at this time of year. A unique experience."
We went to a very interesting talk by the Carnivore researchers on one afternoon before the afternoon drive.
We continued to have great wild dog sightings, including one of a different pack to the one we had been seeing previously.
They dealt very well with a mixed group of guests with quite conflicting interests."
Best Safari Ever in South Luangwa
Zambia between 22 Jul 2016 and 6 Aug 2016
The game viewing was truly amazing, with wild dogs and leopard cubs being the highlights. We had some excellent guiding, and the camps were stunning and very varied in style.
South Luangwa is a little piece of paradise and I think still under rated as a safari destination."
"Great friendly stoppover"
As ever, Pioneer is a friendly, relaxed and convenient stoppover, and it's nice to be in a more peaceful location than a city hotel."
However, something was amiss. The host was absent, and a young hostess from Chinzombo was there, but seemingly specifically to entertain one particular group of guests (including joining them on game drives). It wasn't clear what the relationship was, but it was very flirtatious and made me feel uncomfortable. Norman Carr seem very flexible and happy to have guests at Luwi who are not much interested, or not at all interested in walking. As I wanted to walk the whole time I did end up feeling somewhat out of place. Not due to the guide, Lawrence, who welcomed me as someone after his own heart. But somehow it felt like Luwi had lost its soul."
The other guests were lovely, but as a solo traveler, the hosting was lacklustre. Prince was a great guide, and we had some wonderful sightings. With regret, I feel I must mention the behaviour of the ZAWA scout and guide on the walk from Luwi to Nsolo. The scout was throwing things (clumps of earth I think) at a herd of buffalo to get them to move along."
"Friendly, efficient hosting"
The only downside to Kakuli was the same problem I experienced in 2012 at Mchenja and the reason I confined my visit this time mainly to the Norman Carr walking camps rather than the more driving based camps. For anyone remotely serious about photography, an early start to a game drive is crucial, and there is just too much faffing around over a fancy breakfast. On one morning it was 7am before we left!! This is compared to the Robin Pope camps and Lion Camp, where there is no mucking about, the guides are on the ball at getting everyone out in the vehicles promptly after a simple but adequate breakfast, and as early as possible.
Perhaps this is a Norman Carr business decision to pitch themselves at the more relaxed safari goer, but it doesn't suit me personally."
"Awesome photography guide"
He also caught on we were interested in birds, and spent plenty of time on bird identification. In general at Lion Camp I was also impressed with their prompt early starts in the mornings - great for photography. We had some wonderful sightings of lions and leopards, but also spent time with elephants and buffalo, and even caught a couple of honey badgers in daylight..
The only downside to Lion Camp has always been its more built up style compared to Zambia's more rustic bush camps, so I was very excited to hear about their plans for a bush camp which, if they get it right, should provide a perfect counterbalance to the style of the main camp. And come October I bet even the most hardcore bush enthusiast will secretly appreciate the guilty pleasures of an electric fan and a dip in a swimming pool............."
"Love Robin Pope"
The camp is lovely. The open fronted rooms are stunning, and I loved the amount of wildlife that could be seen around the camp. On our first afternoon there were lions and at one point a hyena on the riverbank opposite, then at various times during the day I had banded mongooses, bushbuck and baboons almost stepping inside my room.
Overall, Robin Pope continue to impress me massively and together with their "no single supplement" policy this makes them a firm favourite for repeat visits."
June in South Luangwa
Zambia between 31 May 2014 and 14 Jun 2014
The trip was a mix of new camps (for me) and old favourites but all were excellent in their own slightly different ways. South Luangwa truly is a paradise, and still my favourite part of Africa. I look forward to returning next year.
Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:
"One night stop"
"Great game viewing from the camp"
My guide Lameck was very enthusiastic and even took us out straight after lunch one day to follow up a tip off about wild dogs which I was keen to see. No luck, but it was much appreciated that he put in the effort. The managers were also very friendly and professional, especially Claire, and they quite sensitively allocated a very hardcore birding couple their own vehicle.
The main thing I didn't warm to was the lack of communal dining which, as a solo traveller, I really missed. I was sat with another solo lady but it would have been nice to have managers or guides join us for at least some meals. I realise not everyone likes communal dining, but other camps seemed able to accommodate those who requested separate seating.
I also prefer vehicles with no canopies, as at the RPS camps and Tafika, but again that is a personal preference."
They were also very flexible about activities, even sending over an extra guide from Nsefu at one point to accommodate everyone's choice of activities. The vehicles were very comfortable with a maximum of 4 guests and I prefer not having a canopy. Despite the lack of shade, for all round visibility, especially looking at birds or animals in trees, I think the vehicles without canopies are better.
The managers/guides were all very friendly and mealtimes were very enjoyable. It was nice to see a hostess/caterer (Rose) with some safari industry experience.
The food was mostly good, the lunches being better than dinners. I wasn't keen on the Mongolian BBQ idea, especially when I found myself chewing on raw chicken. Fortunately there were no nasty consequences.
I loved the tents, which aren't huge but that makes the outdoors seem closer, and I loved the outdoor bathrooms although the hot water in my shower was very temperamental. I have a fair bit of experience in coaxing these geisers to work, and I couldn't get a consistent supply of water of a moderate temperature out of it. They should do something about this.
But overall, I'd definitely go back to RPS."
"3rd visit, still awesome"
This was my third visit to Tafika, and as ever the hospitality, guiding, food, rooms, and everything really was excellent. I love the family atmosphere, pets and all, of this place. It was lovely to see Jenny taking her place in the family business, and maybe look forward to being guided by her next visit now she has passed her exams........
The only minor gripe, and not sure if this should go under the Tafika review or the walking camps review, is that at the walking camps the noise from the microlight is quite audible which slightly spoils the wilderness feel. There isn't much that can be done about the noise level, but on my last morning walking back from Crocodile it was particularly noticeable as I think they were taking 7 people up. I think they need to think about limiting the number of flights in one morning, to minimise the disturbance at the walking camps."
Chikoko Tree Camp
"Baboon ate my toothpaste :)"
We still saw plenty of game including watching elephants cross the river, just no cats this time. There was a naughty baboon stealing anything edible from the camp, including chewing on my toothpaste. I always thought it odd that Remote Africa provide toothpaste in the rooms, who goes on holiday without toothpaste? But it came in handy!
I believe there is a plan to replace all the steps in the chalets as these are getting a little precarious.
Food was excellent, probably the same as Tafika but I think it seems even better when you've been walking! It's amazing what they can produce from such a basic kitchen."
Big Lagoon Camp
There seemed to be some new decor touches around the camp and in the rooms since my last stay (Aug 2009). The walk in mosquito nets are a definite improvement and the robes are a nice touch. I also like the hammocks (but these aren't new).
As with Chikoko the grass was very high in places.
A lovely relaxing stay in a beautiful camp, and Brent was an excellent guide and host."
Ruaha and Selous
Tanzania and 1 other country between 22 Aug 2013 and 7 Sep 2013
Overall an excellent trip though."
If I was going to be really picky, I'd say one of the vehicles we had (the Defender) was really rather tight on legroom and got a bit uncomfortable on some of the longer drives. We got swapped to one of the other vehicles half way through our stay, which was a lot better."
Our guide was also a bit disappointing. Although his knowledge was good if we asked specific questions, he didn't volunteer much in the way of information either about the wildlife or about where we were going and why. When we suddenly found ourselves crashing off road into a gully nearly having our eyes taken out by bushes, we had to ask why to find out it was because a leopard with cubs had been sighted there recently. He did also seem to drive a bit too fast for comfort on the very bumpy Selous roads, and seemed reluctant to switch the engine off whenever we stopped. Even if I'm not taking photographs, I'd still rather sit in peace listening to the sounds of the bush than to the engine idling. Again, Selous Impala just didn't measure up to Kwihala on the guiding."
The only suggestion I would make is that if someone is using the upstairs sleeping area (as I was), there really needs to be some sort of monkey-proof storage area provided. We were told the monkeys would come in and take small items, even clothes etc so we should just secure all our belongings in the downstairs bedroom. Apparently they can even open zips eg on toiletry bags. But this wasn't a satisfactory solution, especially when I was getting up early to dive and didn't want to be going in and out of the downstairs bedroom disturbing my friend. Even in the bathroom there was nowhere to leave hair brushes, toiletries etc. Surely it would be possible to provide one monkey-proof cupboard or chest in the bathroom and one in the sleeping area? I felt like I was living out of my bag for the whole stay!"
Dhow Palace Hotel
Having stayed here before, I think I prefer the rooms in the old part of the building (we were in the new bit)."
8 Days in Ruaha
Tanzania between 31 May 2012 and 10 Jun 2012
Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:
I would like to see the website/brochure with a bit more information on pricing- at least guideline prices. Also information on special offers eg "stay 4-pay 3". As a solo traveller, information on single supplements and ideas for trips with low or no single supplements would be much appreciated."
Festo had an answer for every question about any bird or animal, as well as an in depth knowledge of the particular individual animals and prides of lions in Ruaha and their histories. Pietro is extremely passionate, not only about wildlife and conservation but also about his involvement in contributing to the guiding profession by the training of guides. The camaradarie within the team also makes for a fun atmosphere in camp and at mealtimes. I was the first guest of the season and their only guest for the first 5 nights of my stay and their enthusiasm was apparent when I found myself accompanied on a number of my early drives by the entire guiding team of 2 guides and 2 trainees who couldn't wait to get out there and see what had been going on in the 2 months of camp closure (or in Pietro's case, since he left last October).
The game viewing exceeded my expectations for what is, allegedly, not the best time of year . For only the beginning of the dry season I found it already looking very dry with no particularly high grass or thick vegetation. We saw a big male lion on the way from the airstrip followed by leopard and cheetah on my first afternoon drive, and continued with countless lion sightings, glimpses of serval and honey badger, not to mention Ruaha's herds of elephant and buffalo. There was plenty to see and, thanks to Festo, Pietro, Lorenzo and Tony my bird knowledge has improved significantly. Three lion cubs in particular provided numerous highlights including playing in the Mwagusi river bed and climbing a tree, and we also saw lions feeding on buffalo and giraffe. The piece de resistance was on my final morning, when I awoke to sounds of lions killing a warthog about 100 yards from my tent. We were quickly rounded up by Pietro and taken to watch two males (one of which was the aptly named Grumpy) feeding for 2 hours from darkness through sunrise, with the three cubs (Grumpy's offspring) arriving to beg for scraps.
Ruaha is a superb park with a lot to offer and can easily justify a stay the length of mine. It is huge with many different areas and Kwihala has a prime location close to the most productive game viewing area. I asked Festo what different lion prides they saw on a regular basis and I lost count at 10. In my stay we saw lions from 4 of them, as well as a shaky coallition of 4 new young males. The scenery is also very diverse, from the granite kopjes, boulder strewn river beds, to the open spaces of the "small Serengeti" to the wide sand rivers and the shady woodland along the Rufiji River. Best of all, I hardly had to share it with another vehicle.
I think Kwihala is definitely a camp which would be appreciated by experienced safari goers as the guiding is outstanding. Having said that, such enthusiasm is infectious and the three honeymoon couples who arrived during my stay (mostly first timers on safari) seemed to be loving it as much as me.
I would love to come back and see what Kwihala has to offer in "peak" season!"
Southern Sun Dar
"Southern Sun Dar review"
When I produced a voucher someone from Kersey's took me but no one seemed to have a record of me."
I had the same room as last time, the hot water is still impossible to use.
A cold shower might be OK in October, but I think this will be my last stay at Pioneer."