Travel reviews by Mr & Mrs C from Bristol
Total number of trips
Lodges stayed in
Laikipia and Mara North Safari
Kenya between 21 Feb 2020 and 29 Feb 2020
It met all our hopes and expectations for going out on foot, driving after dark and generally being flexible with the activities on offer.
As Oliver Twist might say, please can we do it some more?
Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:
No, the service is more than satisfactory."
"Sosian Review Feb '20"
"Offbeat Mara Review Feb '20"
We did not have any breakfasts in the camp as the opportunity was offered to take a picnic as part of the morning activity. This meant that we were out from 6:30am until lunch time, with no pressure to rush back. On one morning we broke our drive to meet a ranger and then continue on foot to the breakfast stop; on two other mornings we drove further afield and were thus able to have sightings of a leopard, and some lions which had killed a warthog. Not being constrained to a strict schedule was a definite bonus.
This included extending the evening game drive beyond sunset, which gave us the opportunity to observe the nocturnal behaviour of some of the more familiar daytime species and also to see a spring hare, nightjars and white tailed mongooses.
Our Masai guide, Joseph, was experienced and knowledgable, not only about the wildlife and birds but also about the workings of the Mara North Conservancy. As community-owned land, cattle are allowed to graze but under a managed system of zones, and this seems to be working well. There was an abundance of herbivores enjoying the shorter fresh grass, courtesy of the cows, and we had good sightings of carnivores, too.
My wife celebrated a birthday during our safari holiday and we very much appreciated the surprise that Jennifer arranged – thank you!"
Multi-centre safari & beach holiday in Kenya
Kenya between 7 Oct 2017 and 21 Oct 2017
We were not altogether straightforward clients as there were certain aspects that were arranged independently, but Expert Africa was nevertheless helpful and accommodating and worked to sculpt our safari to fit.
Their suggestions of where to visit and stay and how to travel were very helpful, taking into account our budget requirements and main interest in game viewing, including the option to go on foot."
Arranged By Richard Trillo
"Tortillas Camp – Excellent Base for Amboseli"
The accommodation, as is fairly typical for tented camps in our experience, comprises a spacious tent pitched on a solid base with a thatched outer roof, incorporating a bathroom at the back, behind the (very comfortable) double bed, and opening onto an outdoor sitting area at the front. There is a good degree of separation and vegetation between tents to provide privacy. From our tent we had views of Kilimanjaro – when it wasn't shrouded in cloud – but we were not able to see the waterhole or anything much of the wildlife that came to visit it. However, up at the main lounge / bar / restaurant area there was a better view and we were able to watch various animals come to drink, including some elephants while we were having lunch, one day!
The food was excellent, with a good range of options. Buffet for breakfast and lunch; à la carte in the evening. One morning's game drive included a bush breakfast, which was very pleasant out on the plane in the shade of a tree, looking at Kilimanjaro before the clouds rolled in. This was also outside of the park boundary, which again was something of a technicality and it certainly did not deter the family of 3 cheetahs that we saw immediately afterwards. (Maybe they fancied one of the cooked-to-order omelettes?)
The activities provided by the camp were morning and evening game drives, which were in an open-sided safari vehicle with a canvas roof for shade. At this time of year most of the park is a dustbowl except for the areas around the lake and marshes, which are what makes Amboseli such a magnet for wildlife – and tourists, although we were not overly aware of too many of those at the various sightings where we stopped to view the wildlife. There were lots of elephants, hippos, buffalo, wildebeest, various antelopes and giraffes, and loads of birds, both waterfowl and other species. We are not mad-keen bird watchers but easily spotted at least 40 different species without trying particularly hard.
Although the water provided by the lake and marshes makes for great wildlife densities at this time of year, there was not a huge variety and predators, in particular, seemed to be difficult to find. We were fortunate to see the cheetahs after our bush breakfast, and the same 3 the following morning as well, as it happened, as they had not moved that far away. We also had two hyena sightings, including a cub which had popped up from its den. However, the variety of birds was extensive and perhaps the one area where our guide could improve his knowledge. We are not expert ornithologists by any means but our experience on previous safaris elsewhere has been that the guides have a pretty good eye and knowledge of what they are looking at – that is why they are safari guides! They may not know everything (who does?) but usually have a good initial idea, with the relevant well-thumbed guidebooks on-hand for confirmation. It was slightly disconcerting, therefore, to have occasions when we would see a bird and appear to have more of an idea about it than our guide. For example: asking what type of bee-eater we were looking at, to be told it was a fly-catcher because the single page quick ID guide said so, was not really very good. (For the record, when we persuaded our guide to look the bird up properly in his guidebook, it was confirmed as a cinnamon chested bee-eater.) In conversation we understood from our guide that he had been working in Amboseli for 20 years; we would expect a slightly better grasp of the local birdlife after all that time.
This last point aside, our guide's general abilities in terms of driving us around safely, knowing the geography of the park and surrounding areas, and looking for and finding animals, were absolutely fine. He also drove us safely all the way to our rendezvous at the Tsavo West gate as part of our transfer at the end of our stay."
Severin Safari Camp
"Review of Severin Safari Camp"
The tented suite was similar to accommodation in other tented safari camps – canvas walls, solid floor, thatched roof, bathroom at the back – but with the addition of a second closely adjacent tent, which we did not use, providing a further 2 beds. Also, the outside seating area had an extra upper level with sun loungers, which provided good views of two small waterholes. One of these seemed to be quite busy, with a steady stream of zebras, wildebeest, antelopes and giraffes visiting it, and also, apparently, the occasional leopard. This was reported by the night watchman, and is significant because Severin Safari Camp is not fenced; wildlife is free to roam through it and so after dark guests need to be escorted.
As part of our package we had an hour's evening bush walk around the camp, escorted by a Masai guide called Dickson (or maybe Dixon; not sure how it was spelt). He was also on the night watch rota and so was well acquainted with the recent comings and goings of wildlife in the area, pointing out to us the tell-tale signs that various animals had left, and how to interpret them. He was very engaging and knowledgable, and we were delighted that he was also going to be our guide for the full morning's walk we had planned for the following day.
Before that, we had a full-body massage. This was a non-negotiable item included in our package (it seems that everywhere is a spa, these days) and although it was a pleasant experience to have one's muscles rubbed and kneaded, it is not really the sort of thing that we would pay to do otherwise.
We also had to eat. The restaurant operated a buffet at breakfast and a set menu with 2 or 3 choices for lunch and dinner. This was slightly strange to us in that dessert choices were requested at the same time as the starters and mains, but that wasn't a problem, really. The reason was to facilitate serving large numbers of guests efficiently, and it seemed to work reasonably well. The consequence was that the menu tended to comprise food that was amenable to being prepared and served quickly, so it was perhaps not the culinary highlight of the holiday, but on the other hand we were in the middle of the bush, not in some cosmopolitan city centre!
The 4 hour morning bush walk was definitely one of the trip highlights for us. In addition to Dickson the Masai we were joined by an armed KWS ranger, Robert, but no other guests. The outline plan was to walk down to the river, cross it, then do a loop around to a hill overlooking the camp before wending our way back again. This started well enough, and we did manage to find a suitable river crossing away from any hippos or crocs, but unfortunately there were elephants with young on the other side which were best avoided. So, we walked beside the river instead, spotting some terrapins, young crocodiles and a pair of adult crocs courting noisily and with great amounts of splashing. On land we had glimpses of various antelopes and other wildlife, with Dickson's informative commentary on the tracks and droppings that we passed along the way. When we reached the top of the hill he provided some drinks and snacks while we looked out over the plane at the small groups of animals either resting in the shade of the scattered trees or making their way along the well worn trails to or from water. In terms of wildlife viewing we may not have had the thrill of being just feet away from a lion or some other big beast, that the security of a vehicle provides, but that is not why we do it; being out on the ground on foot, able to hear and smell the bush without a diesel engine getting in the way, and to look at all the little details – that is always very satisfying, and the walk was over all too soon.
We also had a game drive while at Severin, with a driver who was also called Dickson. We wanted to visit Mzima Springs, which we did, and then it was fairly typical drive, meandering around and stopping to look at whatever we happened to spot. Towards the end of the drive, as the light was starting to fade and we were heading back to base, Dickson heard a great commotion from some baboons, leading him to suspect that a leopard was in the area. He followed his hunch and sure enough he found it, by this time just a silhouette on a branch of a tree, on the opposite side of a gully from where the baboons had been trying to settle for the night.
So to summarise: our stay at Severin Safari Camp was pretty busy, with a range of activities which we enjoyed very much. Both Dicksons (Masai guide and driver) were very good, although for us the highlights were the walks."
Tanzania between 8 Feb 2015 and 21 Feb 2015
Staying at Ubuntu camp and driving around the Ndutu plains and seeing zebra and wildebeest assembling at the start of the migration certainly gave us an idea of what was about to happen. We had excellent sightings of cheetah and lion.
Our trip into the Crater was absolutely wonderful - what a magnificent place. Juma - our driver did an excellent job of avoiding sightings alongside an excess of vehicles so that we were barely aware of other vehicles in the park. However, we were not short changed with what we saw.
Expert Africa organised a private guide for these travellers; they commented:
Juma was our driver guide for 7 days and accommodated our requirements very well. We had not visited this part of Tanzania before and were happy to be advised by him to ensure that we got the best out of our trip.
We have visited Africa on many trips previously, but found that his knowledge and experience and ability to locate birds and beasts was awesome! He knew the geography of the Ndutu plains very well and could navigate the featureless plains without a hitch.
Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:
Very well organised and works exactly as planned."
"Overnight at Lemala Manyara"
We selected this camp so that we had good opportunity to explore the park widely including the less often visited southern parts and hot springs. The camp really is located in the heart of the bush!"
Lodge not featured by Expert Africa
"2 nights at Gibbs Farm"
We had booked to stay at Gibbs Farm so that we could day-trip into the Ngorongoro Crater and this worked very well. There were plenty of activities advertised at the Farm including walks around the coffee plantations, but sadly we didn't have time for any of these."
The tent and bed were very comfortable. We had some minor water supply issues in the bathroom, but as soon as these were reported - Anna - the camp manager waved a magic wand and water was flowing normally again.
Catering was excellent, with generous picnics provided for lunches."
At the time that we were in camp, there were only a couple of other guests and consequently we had very special treatment. One of the guests was surveying the bird and butterfly species in the area, which meant that we had extra exposure to these and reptiles as well - who needs to see the Big Five? We really enjoyed a trip to Lake Tagalala with a very extended boat trip viewing fish eagles catching breakfast and crocodiles basking in the sun.
We did two lovely morning walks stopping for a breakfast picnic along the way - this enables a much closer inspection of flora, the opportunity to track spoor, hearing and being aware of other animals not normally seen from a vehicle."
Africa Trip 2014
Kenya between 20 Jan 2014 and 25 Jan 2014
We did well with cats, seeing both lions and leopards, but they can never be guaranteed. Birds were abundant, especially raptors, and we saw many eagles, buzzards and goshawks. Kingfishers, bee eaters and waterfowl were also plentiful. Overall, a good game viewing holiday but after 5 nights we felt we had done it thoroughly and seen all that Samburu had to offer.
En route back home we had several hours to spend in Nairobi, during which we had the services of a driver. He collected us at Wilson airport after our flight from Samburu and ferried us to several interesting sites (e.g. the giraffe sanctuary, Karen Blixen's house museum, hotels for lunch and tea) before taking us to Jomo Kenyatta International airport for our flight home. This made the wait much more tolerable – airports are not the most inspiring places to spend hours of time!
Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:
All good, nothing to add."
"Elephant Bedroom Camp"
The accommodation was very comfortable: in our case, 2 double beds in a large safari-style tent with a bathroom (hot and cold water) at the back. At the front there was a deck with a plunge pool for cooling off when it became too hot, and which also afforded good views of one of our nocturnal elephant visitors, as he munched his way through the adjacent vegetation. It was also good for bird watching, but beware leaving anything out as the monkeys will be quick to come investigating!
The food was excellent, with amazing meals coming out of the camp kitchen under the guidance of Francis, the head chef. The staff were all helpful, courteous and attentive, and our guides (Anthony and James) were well-informed and knowledgable. We had some good game drives, including 5 leopard sightings, which were a direct result of our guides' local experience."
Southern Tanzania Safari
Tanzania between 26 Jan 2013 and 8 Feb 2013
We did experience some rainfall in both parks, though more in Ruaha, but this did not unduly affect our activities and did not present a problem. We had some excellent sightings even though the bush was green and leafy, and it was actually quite good to have them scattered throughout the parks rather than being all in one place next to a water hole.
Both camps were excellent, in their different ways.
Can't wait to go again!
Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:
Mwagusi Safari Camp
"Mwagusi Safari Camp Review"
The afternoons were quite short, with not a lot of time between the leisurely lunch and tea at around 4pm prior to the evening game drive. The daylight is partly responsible for this, as it was dark soon after 7pm, but it did give a sense of being quite busy most of the time. After dinner at 8pm we were quite happy to retire for the night!
All meals were served as a buffet. Presentation, quality and flavour were all excellent and special dietary requirements were happily accommodated.
Our guide and our driver, Samson and Moses, were both competent and engaging. After it rained the roads were quite difficult but Moses handled them with aplomb. Samson was very knowledgable about the whole ecosystem, including animals, birds and plants.
Although the bandas do not have Wi-Fi or electricity for charging cameras etc., mobile phone coverage is good (the guides themselves use it to keep in touch) and batteries can be recharged in the camp office. The lack of Wi-Fi was not an issue for us as we go on holiday to escape such things!
The camp manageress was welcoming and accommodating, and performed her duties as a hostess very well.
We really enjoyed our stay here."
"Beho Beho review"
The rooms were very comfortable with arm chairs and couches to relax in, and also had electricity available for fans, hair dryers, chargers etc. Wi-Fi was provided, too, although we did not use it. The bathroom had a shower open to the sky (from where we were able to observe nocturnal elephant activity on a couple of occasions) and double wash basins. The front of the room is completely open to allow unhindered views, although there is an electric fence to deter unwelcome visitors.
Meals were excellent, both in terms of the taste, quality and presentation of the food that was served and also in the imaginative use of different venues around the camp to eat. Alcoholic beverages were included (some perfectly palatable South African wine) and the staff were always attentive to empty glasses. Dietary requirements were readily accommodated.
The game viewing activities were generally split into morning and afternoon sessions, with the morning one starting at around 6.15am and the afternoon one at 4.30pm. The morning activity included a picnic breakfast, even if it was a walk and the guide had to carry it all! Lunch was served at approximately midday, so there was time to snooze between activities. The guides were very flexible and would take us on drives or walks as requested. The ability to do walks was fantastic, as they were proper walks in the bush with the possibility of seeing anything and everything, and not just a sanitised little pootle around the camp. We even had the privilege of exploring a new area with our guides, where they had not walked before. At the end of our week we were treated to a full day's excursion of some 11 hours and covering 130km, to see some of the more remote areas of the park that were beyond the reach of a normal game drive. We thought this was fantastic! The other activity that was offered was a trip to lake Tagalala, where there was a short excursion by boat. This afforded some good views of crocodiles and water birds and we would have liked it to have lasted longer, but a sighting of wild dogs rather upset the schedule!
We had 2 guides as well as Walter, the manager, when we were out on our various activities. All were exceptionally knowledgable and enthusiastic about what they were doing. In addition, Walter and Karin, the catering manager, did a fine job of playing the host and hostess at meals and other times.
Other facilities of the camp included a very refreshing, if compact, pool and a full size snooker table.
The weather was generally very good during our stay, but following one heavy shower the insect population exploded. This proved quite a nuisance as they got everywhere, making that evening's meal an occasion for extra vigilance. Fortunately the net curtains around the bed were sound and our sleep was not disturbed by the extra bugs.
Overall a fantastic experience and we'd do it all again tomorrow."
"Oyster Bay Review"
The location is immediately across the road from the beach, giving some fine views of the ocean, but is also unfortunately the other side of Dar es Salam from the airport. The traffic is dire (although our driver assured us that we had seen nothing like its worst) so transfers can take some time."
Botswana between 1 Nov 2009 and 13 Nov 2009
Every request was granted: if we wanted a boat trip, we had a boat trip; a walk in the bush, and one was arranged. We had some excellent sightings of lions and leopard, although the wild dogs and cheetah were hiding on this occasion. Two big thunderstorms added to the excitement of the trip!
We greatly appreciate the expertise of Expert Africa in advising and organising the details of the trip which we enjoyed without any hassle whatsoever! Definitely an experience for the discerning tourist."
Arranged By Lucy Copson
"Selinda Camp review"
We encountered a thunderstorm during our stay, which was to be expected as our holiday was at the beginning of the rainy season, but this was an adventure in itself and didn't really alter our activities."
"Mapula Lodge review"
The lodge is situated overlooking a permanent lagoon, which is brilliant, with constant calling of fish eagles.
The mokoro trip introduced us to small reed frogs, water snails, spiders and fish. Hippos thankfully in the distance! Matt, the guide and K.T. the tracker were excellent in locating game: lion feeding on a recently killed buffalo, and vultures just hanging around expectantly."
"Shinde Camp review"
The guide we had in the boats and mokoro, Bonolo, was very good: knowledgeable and personable with it."
"Motsentsela Tree Lodge review"
Being able to walk around the game farm gave us the opportunity to spot antelope we hadn't come across so far in our holiday, such as springbok and blesbok, but beware the anteater holes designed to trip the unwary!"
The other change from the usual offered at Sosian is the opportunity to go out on horseback (if a competent rider; we are not) or on a camel (no experience necessary). We went for a camel ride one afternoon as a precursor to the evening game drive, which was great fun. The back of a camel is quite high, providing a good view over the bushes and scrub, and we had a couple of good sightings of elephants in the river and some kudu.
Being a ranch, rather than a national park, it is also possible at Sosian to extend the game drive beyond sunset and to try to spot some of the nocturnal wildlife. This seemed to consist mostly of scrub hares during our excursions but it was still good to have the opportunity.
As a game viewing location, one comment we would make about Sosian is that the wildlife seemed to be less habituated to safari vehicles and more shy than in other places we have visited. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it did mean that a lot of our sightings were from a slightly greater distance.
Our guide, Simon, was very knowledgable and enthusiastic, which made our game drives interesting and informative. He was preparing to sit his Silver Guide exam, which has hopefully gone well. From our point of view he deserved to pass with flying colours!
Something we particularly liked about Sosian was their flexible approach to the activities they provided, without being driven by a particular schedule or agenda. This meant that there was never any feeling of being rushed or following a particular timetable; having said that, we were not there during peak season, when it must be much harder to try to keep everybody happy!
And finally, a comment about the food and accommodation, both of which were of very high quality. Delicious meals and a very comfortable bed to sleep in after a hard day watching wildlife – what could be better?"