Travel reviews by Mr & Mrs LN from London
Total number of trips
Lodges stayed in
A mixed bag indeed
Kenya between 8 Jan 2020 and 27 Jan 2020
Kicheche Valley in Naboisho Conservancy and Il Moran in the Mara Reserve were wonderful places to stay. The welcome, the location, the staff, the food and the guiding were all very professional and we would certainly go back to both of them.
Satao Elerai is in a beautiful location especially if you are lucky enough to see Kilimanjaro. Satao Camp is tired and would benefit from some energy from management.
The guiding problems we had with Southern Cross definitely affected our safari in both Amboseli and Tsavo East. Guides are vital to the enjoyment of these wonderful places and make a huge difference to what you see, learn and enjoy. If they are not of a suitably trained standard, temperament or not enthusiastic about all wildlife, long-anticipated (and expensive) trips will be spoiled. Quick fixes, such as offers of treats or bottles of wines, do not detract from the very bad taste of having to complain and try to get someone to take us seriously.
As travellers are told to do, we complained to the management and sent emails with our concerns and experiences to Expert Africa. Although Richard was liaising with Southern Cross what he was being told was often not what we were experiencing on the ground. In fact, he was being given false information. Six of the last 7 days on safari had problems. Julius at Satao Elerai did discuss things with us and try to sort out a solution. The problem with that is that the low standards should not have been acceptable to the Lodge or Southern Cross in the first place. During the last 4 days with the final guide, neither camp management nor Southern Cross management dealt with us directly. We are left feeling frustrated, angry and disappointed with a reasonable part of our trip."
While we were pleased these travellers enjoyed their stays at Kicheche Valley Camp and Governors’ Il Moran Camp, we were extremely unhappy with their experience with their private driver-guide. Southern Cross were deeply apologetic for his exceptionally poor performance and offered a substantial refund to these travellers for the very poorly conducted latter part of their safari. We agreed entirely with these travellers that such poor standards should never have been allowed to happen. Southern Cross told us that they had never experienced such feedback before. This driver-guide was suspended and the company is examining its training methods in light of this complaint to ensure a repeat episode never occurs.
Aero Club of East Africa
"Convenient stay at Aero Club"
" Lovely Kicheche Valley"
Governors' Il Moran Camp
"Another wonderful visit at Il Moran"
"Could have been so much better."
The owners of Satao Elerai, Southern Cross, sent us their sincere apologies to pass on to these travellers for the poor quality of their initial transfer from the airstrip. They explained that having a vehicle out of action had led to a shortage of lodge vehicles and the need to bring in a contracted vehicle and driver for their transfer, which they agreed was sub-standard and promised us was a one-off, not to be repeated.
At Expert Africa, we were very unhappy with the impression given to these clients while in camp that their needs and wishes were only being met when they kicked up a fuss instead of (as we would expect with such a close Kenyan partner), anticipating exactly what any guest would look forward to and providing it professionally and as booked by Expert Africa. Southern Cross were very sorry indeed that these clients did not feel their compliant was taken seriously: they emphasised how seriously they did take it and that their deep concern was reflected in the refund passed on to these travellers.
We were happy to hear that their last guide Benson and the camp’s manager Julius made every effort to make these travellers’ stay enjoyable and rewarding, but we were very sorry and felt let down on their behalf that this wasn’t the attitude throughout their stay. On the question of drinking water, the policy at Southern Cross is for every guest to be provided with one litre per day while driving in vehicles. There was no explanation for why that had not happened in the case of these clients, and Southern Cross has promised they will ensure this lapse never happens again.
"Mixed time at Satao Camp"
Shortly after these guests stayed at the camp the owners sent a senior staff member to give the camp a thorough inspection and to review staff standards and management style in order to improve communication between the management and guests and upgrade standards throughout the camp. They agreed that poorly prepared and unsuitably stored packed lunches are completely unacceptable. They also confirmed that a litre of drinking water per client, stored in an ice chest, should be provided as standard on every day’s drive. There was no explanation from Southern Cross as to why this didn’t happen in the case of these clients and they sincerely apologised for this inexplicable lapse of care.
The Charming Lonno Lodge
"'Charming' is the word!"
Lodge not featured by Expert Africa
My Sep 2018 trip
Botswana and 1 other country between 1 Sep 2018 and 24 Sep 2018
Tracy Lederer take a bow as your help, suggestions, comments and patient answers to our many questions made this trip work as well as it did. Everywhere we stayed added something special to our overall experience and your suggestions of adding a private safari and a trip down to San Camp made a great trip a spectacular experience. Our private safari with Kazuma will always be very special and you may have spoiled us for the future!
We did not know what to expect from Botswana. The old mantra was Botswana was high cost because of low vehicle numbers/tourists. In our experience that is not totally true any more. Chobe around Kisane is so busy from the land and the river that it is unpleasant in places and it looks like development is continuing at pace. Some of the companies who run river trips are aggressive and do not consider the animals or other boats. Having said all of that, seeing the hundreds of elephants on the Chobe River near Kasane and being able to watch them swim makes this still a wonderful place to visit. Moving quietly in boats is a fascinating way to see wildlife from a different perspective. Savute and Khwai are both busy with Khwai being particularly so at times. In Khwai and Savute you can, however, leave the crowds around the lions or the dogs and go off and find your own wonderful wildlife which we could do with our private guide.
The wildlife is not the wide variety of plains animals that you see in Kenya or South Africa. Botswana is not the place for a quick tick-list safari. What you do have is much more intense and lengthy experiences with the animals you see. We found most of the animals to be very relaxed and not bothered by vehicles or boats. The variety of landscapes is breathtaking. The guiding is very, very good in general.
We are used to travelling in a variety of little planes which are used like taxis so they were not a shock. The routes are not finalised until the day before you fly so be prepared for short hops to drop off and pick up other passengers from a variety of dirt air strips. You may not get to leave at a time that suits you. The small planes we took were a mixed bag but the young pilots all seemed professional. The planes could get a little bumpy but nowhere near as bumpy as the road trip would have been!
We did not expect to come away with an understanding of how the different management styles between Botswana and Namibia affected the wildlife and the land. Although explained to us several times we are still struggling with the geography of the Delta! We did not expect to learn so much about the Salt Pans and how everything managed to survive such a harsh environment. We learned so much about animal behaviour by being able to take the time to sit and watch what was going on and have everything explained by well-trained and enthusiastic guides. We listened to the calm debate about the possibility of reintroducing hunting in Botswana. We met some wonderful like-minded travellers and some that were not so pleasant but that is what happens on safaris: you learn when to speak and when to leave subjects alone! We met some really special Batswana people whose enthusiasm for their country is wonderful.
This was a special holiday for us that we had wanted to do for a long time. We have been lucky enough to travel to many African countries, some repeatedly but had never made it to Botswana before. We would llike to return!
A few hints.
- A number of tourists did not realise how cold it can get at night so take clothes you can layer, a puffer jacket or fleece and even gloves and a hat.
- Take a torch and spare batteries.
- Take a kanga or a kikoy with you so that when the temperature gets unbearable you can soak it and wrap it around your neck to keep you cool. It also helps when it is very dusty to cover your mouth and nose.
-Laundry is done almost everywhere so you do not need as many clothes as you think and it is certainly not a fashion show.
-Almost everywhere we stayed provided shampoo, conditioner, soap and mosquito spray so you can save weight on not bringing too much of these.
- Stick to the baggage size /weight recommendations if you are in small planes. They really can not take suitcases! Have something different like a bright ribbon on your handle. We saw one group of around 20 all travelling with the same bags that were just like ours!
- Cross pack with someone you are travelling with in case one bag goes missing somewhere!
- Money: Botswana Pula is not available out of the country. There is no cash machine in the new airport at Kasane. There is a cash machine at a shopping strip in Kasane town so your driver may stop for you if you ask. I do not know about Maun. We carried US dollars cash with us for tipping (with a number of small bills for porters) and we carried more than we thought we would need.
Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:
You are streets ahead of the opposition and I recommend you to anyone and everyone. The knowledge of your staff is first-hand and they always take our likes, dislikes and experiences into account when suggesting holidays. Seems simple but not often done!
Your web site is amazing however too many of your description pages that I was browsing now say that the lodge has not been visited since ... (quite a few years ago) I know it is impossible to keep totally up to date but a lot of pages are well past their use by date so maybe time for some more visits to keep your pages up-to-date and the comments relevant. Chris and I will volunteer to help whenever you like! :D
You do not have Aardwolf or Elephants on your San animal list."
Arranged By Tracy Lederer
Ichingo Chobe River Lodge
"Surprising stay at Ichingo"
Muchenje Safari Lodge
"Very happy with Muchenje!"
"Splash Camp review"
Private Mobile - DC
"Kazuma Trails exceeded our expectations."
Lodge not featured by Expert Africa
"What an unexpected and special place!"
Kenya again - Sept-Oct 2015
Kenya between 30 Sep 2015 and 11 Oct 2015
My husband and I lived in Kenya previously and have visited regularly but this time I took my Canadian 24 year old nephew on a safari that he had been promised since he was a child. It could not have been a more successful nor enjoyable trip!
We stayed for 2 nights at Macushla House (Nairobi), 1 night Aero-Club (Nairobi), 2 nights Elephant Bedroom (Samburu), 3 nights Governors (Masai Mara), 2 nights Encounter Mara (Naibosho Conservancy - Mara).
Nairobi traffic jams are crazy and are only going to get worse. Choosing your hotel and what you want to do needs to take this into account. We wanted to visit the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage (please go there), the Giraffe Sanctuary (good fun) and Nairobi Game Park (much underrated) and a few shopping areas. Staying at Macushla House meant this was possible without having to deal with much traffic which suited us. We decided to use taxis for one day and then a driver for the second. In hindsight having a driver means you can really please yourselves and change your plans if you want to and I would do this in the future rather than taxis. If you want to go into the city and experience the restaurants and city life then possibly a more central hotel would suit you better.
We had a very early flight out the next morning so rather than chance the traffic and have a ridiculously early start we stayed at the Aero Club which is on Wilson Airport. This is a Nairobi institution and the bar (where we also ate our dinner) was welcoming and interesting and, best of all, was a 5 minute trip from the terminal. The accommodation is very basic but it worked for us. I do not think it would not suit most people.
Elephant Bedroom in Samburu was fantastic in every way. My only complaint is that we did not have time to spend 3 nights here as we usually do. It is one of my favorite Reserves and very different from other locations. This was my second stay at Elephant Bedroom and all of the tiny problems have been dealt with now and the welcoming and efficient staff were fantastic. The animals have the right of way through camp and that makes for wonderful experiences especially with elephants. My nephew's many questions were answered with accurate information delivered with enthusiasm from the guards through to James our guide. Because it is usually so dry you do not get the quantity of game here you get in the Mara but you get varieties of animals you can not see elsewhere and the elephant sightings are incredible. The scenery is also fantastic.
We mixed our time in the Mara between Governors (in the Reserve and a large camp) and Encounter Mara (in Naibosho Conservancy and a small camp). This was the best mixture and each offered us something different and special. If you want to see animals you can not beat the Mara and boy, did we see animals in both places. It should have been the end of the migration but there were still lots of wildebeast and we actually saw a crossing. Where there is food there are predators and we saw lots of them as well. The Mara was still busy so going to Encounter Mara meant we saw wonderful cat sightings with very few vehicles. Encounter Mara also allowed us walking safaris, night drives and a (non-commercial!) boma visit. With their lovely guides and staff we will go back there and I hope others do too as it deserves to do well.
I think the balance of Nairobi Game Park, Samburu Reserve and the two locations in the Masai Mara gave my nephew a varied glimpse of Kenyan wildlife and countryside. He has not stopped talking about it. He absolutely loved the trip but confessed that he did not realise that sitting in a vehicle and looking for animals could be so exhausting! As for me, Kenya has so much to offer that I will return again (and again and again)!"
"Macushla House review"
Aero Club of East Africa
"Aero Club of East Africa review"
"Elephant Bedroom review"
"Governors Camp review"
"Encounter Mara review"
Namibia between 9 Sep 2011 and 3 Oct 2011
Wolwedans Desert Lodge
"Wolwedans Dunes Lodge review"
Sossus Dune Lodge
"Sossus Dune Lodge review"
"The Stiltz review"
Coast and Sandwich Harbour
"Sandwich Harbour trip"
17 Sep 2011 • All-day excursion
Kayaking with seals
18 Sep 2011 • Morning excursion
Cape Cross Lodge
"Cape Cross Lodge review"
"Camp Kipwe review"
Etendeka Mountain Camp
"Etendeka Mountain Camp review"
"Okaukuejo Camp review"
"Halali Camp review"
Onguma Tented Camp