Travel reviews by Mr & Mrs A from Edinburgh
Total number of trips
Lodges stayed in
a great experience
Botswana and 1 other country between 28 May 2014 and 14 Jun 2014
The camps were, on the whole, well run and the staff hospitable and friendly. The guides were passionate and knowledgeable - always keen to answer questions and reveal the secrets of their country. We not only learned a great deal about the wildlife but also the traditions of the people and how the country has benefited from the flourishing tourist industry. Other struggling African nations could learn a great deal from the shining example posed by Botswana.
We had a fantastic time and hope to return at some point in the future, Expert Africa's recommendations and organising skills were spot on. Flights, pick ups, drop offs etc etc all went like a dream, so well done to Megan and her team. These things don't happen without a lot of work going on behind the scenes.
One negative point, perhaps worth mentioning, is that we were told it would be difficult to book the holiday as late as January as the good camps would be full. As it turned out, none of the camps were anything like full, and Duba Plains, probably the best camp we stayed in, was half empty for two of the three nights we stayed there. I know that travel companies want you to book early but it did not suit us on this occasion to do so.
Another useful service Expert Africa could offer, as some other companies do, is a breakdown of the costs of each camp. This would allow the client to compare like with like and assess, at least in a cost sense, the quality of individual camps.
Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:
Just keep doing what you do. I can think of nothing to criticise in the organisation of the holiday. Obviously, very expensive but a lot of the tourist cash does filter back to the people of Botswana which is vital in maintaining the passion and commitment of guides and staff.
It would help to receive some feedback from Expert Africa re my observations and comments above. We did not receive any feedback to our comments regarding a previous holiday in Tanzania. Perhaps a phone call discussion with Megan would be a useful way of showing that our feedback was valued."
Arranged By Megan Green
"great stay on Sindabezi Island"
Duba Plains Camp
"buffalo and lions drama at Duba Plains Camp"
After two days tracking a pride of lions, we were fortunate enough to witness them attacking and killing a buffalo in the water followed by intensely dramatic interaction between the two species as the Buffalo herd attempted, without success, to drive the predators from their prey.
We also saw a huge variety of other wildlife on safari, ranging from elephants to Lilac Breasted Rollers, and have many great photos to prove it.
Overall, a memorable safari experience,"
"wild dogs at Lagoon Camp"
The highlight for us was the discovery of a wild dog den after bumping many miles over terrible roads. We arrived early and witnessed the dogs waking up and welcoming each other in anticipation of a hunt which sadly did not materialise on this occasion. However, it was great to be there watching them interact.
Another highlight was the arrival of three male cheetah into the area after a six month's absence. Again, it was great to follow these beautiful animals through an entire day as they relaxed and attempted to find prey, which, unfortunately, they failed to do. It was much more unfortunate, of course, from their perspective than from ours.
Sadly, we missed a highly dramatic encounter between hyenas and a male lion as the latter failed to protect its kill from the huge pack of scavengers.Those fortunate enough to witness it returned with tales of awe inspiring savagery. A case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, but that is the nature of the safari experience, I suppose.
We saw many other species, including a huge variety of bird life which never disappoints. On our final day, not long before our onward flight, we rushed to see the only leopard of our entire trip. I got one outstanding photo of the predator staring at us through the thick grass.
Overall, we enjoyed our stay at Lagoon Camp although the standards of catering, while adequate, were not in the same league as Duba Plains Camp."
Khwai Tented Camp
"luck runs out at Khwai"
I think it needs to be said that the very early morning routine i.e. beginning the drives at 6am worked against us as the weather was so cold many animals had not emerged at this early hour. Starting game drives so early is fine in the summer when the temperatures rise quickly and the animals are most active in the relative cool of dawn and dusk, but in the winter this is not really an issue, and, as I said, can be inimical to great sightings. Camps should be more flexible in this regard and on cold mornings visitors could happily set out at 8 or 9am and get a better viewing experience in my view. Having said that, it was great to see the sun rising through the mists at Duba Plains.
The late afternoon drives were better and our highlight at Kwai was the hyena den where four youngsters had been whelped a few weeks previously. It was great to see these much maligned beasts playing with their cubs and showing a caring and gentle side to their natures.
On the winter note, the weather can be seriously cold overnight and in the mornings, so it's therefore important to take as much warm clothing as can sensibly pack in your suitcase. We did not pack enough despite Expert Africa's warning."
"great elephant experience at Stanley's"
Stanley's Camp is a very well run and pleasant spot to spend a few days and great sightings are possible. On our final day, a pack of wild dogs passed through the camp while we were relaxing yards away in our tent. The same pack was later viewed by those visitors who had had the good sense to go out on the afternoon drive. Having not expected to see any such thing at Stanley's, the irony was accentuated by the fact that this was the first and only occasion we had taken time out from the punishing safari routine. It just goes to show that anything can happen at any time. While furious at the missed opportunity, the humour of the situation was not lost on us."
Xigera Safari Lodge
"a great end to our holiday at Xigera"
Our guide, Lesh, was the epitome of patience and friendliness, always willing to answer questions and ensure our experience was the best it could be.
We left Xigeria refreshed and already anticipating our return to this beautiful country and its generous, friendly people."
a great trip
Tanzania between 29 Sep 2010 and 16 Oct 2010
Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:
Arusha Coffee Lodge
"Very pleasant stay-both times!"
Breakfast was fine but the service was not good. Nobody seemed to be in charge. The buffet ran out. We had to look for someone to bring missing items etc. So that could be improved. Of all the places we stayed obviously this was the most like a normal hotel; and therefore seemed a bit impersonal. But I think that was just because of the kind of lodges we had been staying in.
The staff were very friendly.."
"Fantastic stay at Sayari"
We were lucky to be at Sayari just at the right time. Migrating animals were everywhere. It was amazing to see. After our introduction to crossings on our first morning we saw a few more; all equally exciting. Generally game viewing was great; in addition to all the "usual" animals, we had a great sighting of a cheetah.
Our guide Frank was super. He was totally committed to us having a good time and seeing what we wanted to see. There was no clock watching or doing what he wanted to do.
The camp and the rooms were beautiful. The food was delicious. The only very minor complaint I would have was about the quality of service at lunch. It was a bit slow and sometime a bit hit and miss.
The countryside around the camp was lovely and open. When we were there it was raining most evenings and it was spectacular to watch the rain clouds approaching from Kenya in the late afternoon, mixed in with the sunset.
All in all a memorable visit."
"Greystoke was out of this world"
We were collected by Lazaro and Hamza two of the guides and taken by boat to camp. The colour of the lake was the first thing that hit me! It's so turquoise blue. Its quite a long trip by boat to camp but we were served an absolutely delicious lunch and drinks and were quite happy to lie back and enjoy.
When we finally arrived, we were given a warm welcome by the managers Steve and Kerry and the rest of the staff. Steve, Kerry and the rest of the staff could not have been more helpful or friendly. I should also say that Steve and Kerry had the whole place working like clockwork; it was very well managed.
Our banda was delightful; so different from a standard hotel room. It had everything you could possibly need but also had so much character.
The food at Greystoke was the best we had. Every meal was delicious and different. But it all felt quite healthy! Lots of salads and fruit. It was hard to imagine we were so far from the closest market!.
And now to the stars of the show at Greystoke - the chimps. On the first day, the group could not be found. As the morning drew on, a few of the guests including us went for a walk into the forest with one of the guides while the trackers kept looking. We did eventually see a few individual chimps including a mother and very small baby, as well as some colobus and other monkeys. While we were a bit disappointed not to have seen the group, we were glad to have seen the forest and to have had our first chimp sightings.
On the second day, the whole group of chimps were found just behind the beach along from the camp and so, with very little effort, we were able to see them. It was fabulous to see so many and catch a glimpse of them interreacting with each other (and us!). The only downsides were the heat and shortness of time to see the chimps. It was very, very hot and quite enclosed amongst the thick undergrowth. With the addition of face masks it was a bit uncomfortable.
We were allowed one hour with the chimps. While I understand why, and objectively I can see why it is thought necessary to have such restrictions, it felt very short particularly as we had not seen the group the day before.
Apart from chimp searching, we loved just enjoying the views and relaxing in our banda or in the main camp buildings, reading all the fascinating material they have on the chimps. But we also tried kayaking and fishing, and I spent a lot of time in the lake swimmming. So there was certainly no shortage of things to do; just not enough time in our brief stay to do them!.
Each evening drinks were served up in the bar overlooking the lake, with dinner either in the main buildings or on the beach. It was very special to be sitting out on the beach in the middle of nowhere, but in such comfort and luxury!
There were a number of guides at Greystoke. Our main guide was Lazaro. He was a great guy, friendly, helpful, very well informed about the chimps and full of enthusiasm. Hamza had arrived just a short time before we arrived and was still learning about the chimps. However he was a very knowledgeable guide and as his english was near perfect, we were able to have more in depth discussions with him about Tanzania and its wildlife etc. We know he had previously managed one of the other Nomad camps. So I am not sure where he would go next; whether as a guide or manager. But we were really impressed by him and he is definitely an asset to Nomad who they should hold on to if they can!
Paul was the other guide. While he never guided our group and so we did not get to know him quite as well as the others, he was also clearly knowledgeable with a great sense of humour.
If I was recommending Greystoke to others-which of course I would do - I would highly recommend that they tried to go for the 4 nights rather than the 3. Having only two opportunities to see the chimps made it quite pressurised. Also you just want to stay at Greystoke as long as possible - it is so beautiful - and it is such a long way to get there!
The only other observation I would have is this. If I was going again I would go earlier-perhaps late August. There are a couple of reasons for that. First, it was beginning to get very hot and humid when we were there in early October and August would I think have been much less humid but still dry. Also there were quite a few tsetse flies around. We did not get too badly bitten but they were very annoying particularly when out in the kayaks and in the boat, even when swimming. Going earlier would also have avoided this problem.
Also apparently the chimps come to eat the fruit from some trees right behind the camp - right behind the managers' office - and if you go when the fruit is there - apparently August /September - we were told you have a fairly good chance of seeing the chimps on a daily basis without even leaving the confort of the camp"
"Very remote and quiet camp"
Chada camp was nice. Obviously our room/tent was less luxurious than the ones we had in the previous two camps, but we expected that and were very happy with it. It was good to have a change and a spell in a more traditional camp.
The only problems with the tent at Chada were (a) it was very, very hot and so almost impossible to go into the tent in the afternoon for a siesta; and (b) there were bees living in the drop shower which made having a shower in daylight extremely hazardous! We only tried it once.
We soon found that the camp was no stranger to large visitors. Elephants were common sights. One came to try to get the dregs of the water from our shower and gave us a bit of excitement; another reason for being a little wary of using the shower! We also had giraffes and at night there were numerous passing hyena.
Our guide, as I have said was Philip. We really enjoyed being with him. He had a great sense of humour and was very knowledgeable and intent on ensuring that we had a good time. We were lucky to be sharing the safari vehicle with a South African who was also a guide (and who was doing a tour of Tanzania for work purposes) so we did not miss much with two pairs of eagle eyes in the vehicle!
I think it would be fair to say that the concentration of animals in Katavi was not as high as some places, although we did see a lot - but the great thing was when you did see something you did not end up with lots of other safari vehicles converging on it - as did tend to happen at Sayari. We spent quite a bit of time watching the poor hippos packed in to disappearing pools and the crocs.
We also tried very hard to see lions hunting successfully but while we watched a few attempts, none was successful. One day we drove to an area called "Paradise" which was quite a distance from the camp and had it all to ourselves. There we saw large herds of buffallo which were impressive. We also went on an enjoyable walking safari.
We went fly camping. That is something I would definitely recommend. It was amazing how they managed to take every comfort-pretty much-with us-and the food was great. While the main camp was not exactly in a metropolis(!), in fly camping you do really feel out in the middle of the bush. However there was one thing which rankles a bit with us. We were asked when we arrived on which of the 4 nights we wished to go fly camping. I think we were the only guests that had booked it (although our safari-vehicle- companions ended up coming and one of the other guests who was a Nomad manager from another camp). We decided on the 3rd night of the 4. However having planned with our guide what we were going to do that night etc, -which was to go to the Paradise area - we were then asked if we would mind changing it to the last night. While we did not mind which night it was, we were looking forward to it - thinking it would be a bit of a highlight - and did not want the morning to be rushed. We suspected it would be rushed if we had to get back to the airport. But we were assured that it would not be rushed as we would camp in the direction of the airport. So we agreed.
Admittedly we were not pressurised to agree but we did get the impression that for some reason it would be awkward for them if we did not, as they needed the vehicles that would transport the equipment etc somewhere else. However what we feared happened. Our guide was obviously tense on the last morning about getting packed up to go. We had a very short walk but it felt very time pressured. Then at breakfast we felt we had to hurry. So I am afraid while we enjoyed the experience, we felt that it was a bit spoiled by this.
The food was really good at Chada as well and the staff were very friendly again. The managers were great raconteurs, of an evening particularly! Because it was such a small camp, similar to Greystoke, it was easy to get know everyone and felt like a house party.
The tstese flies were a big problem here. They were appalling. We got very badly bitten as did some of the other guests. We had to constantly fan ourselves while in the vehicle but it did not work. We were particularly badly bitten on the ankles, even with socks on. I think this may have been the worst time of year for them but I think you should probably warn people. We met a few people on our trip who said they would not go to Katavi for that reason.
I should also mention that as far as we were aware at none of our first four destinations did we get troubled by mosquitos, or even see one. Again that is no doubt a seasonal thing."
Arusha Coffee Lodge
"Already commented before"
Mchanga Beach Lodge, Zanzibar (this camp has since closed)
"A beautiful hotel"
The owners are very friendly and helpful - whatever you need they will try to help. The staff too were excellent - very friendly and willing to chat about themselves and the island. So it was interesting.
The room was fine. It looked very attractively decorated in blue and white. But there were a couple of minor issues. It had no windows, just vents. So while it had air conditioning that could not work all that well, although it did keep the bed area cool -which was the main thing. Perhaps again because of the vents, it had a bit of an odd damp smell in the room; I suppose to be expected in the humidity. But the result of this was that the room was not a particularly attractive place to go for a siesta during the day. It did not really matter; but it is sometimes nice to get inside away from the heat.
The sea was beautiful for swimming, except when it was out and was too far away to get to.
We were fairly lazy when we were at Mchanga. We did go on a day trip snorkelling out to the reef. It was brilliant. We thought of going twice but could not face the drive along the most dreadful road, if you could even call it a road! We also went to Stone Town for an afternoon. It was not too far and Gloria arranged a car for us.
The food was delicious at Mchanga and had lots of local fish and fruits and vegetables that we had never heard of. It was great to try all these."
Lodge not featured by Expert Africa
It was a very relaxing and beautiful spot, made all the better by having the place to ourselves with chef and butler almost entirely at our disposal.
The activities were excellent with sunset/sunrise boat trips on the beautiful Zambesi River and visit to the Victoria Falls obvious highlights.
The staff were exceptionally friendly and helpful.
A stay at Sindabezi Island, either at the beginning or end of a safari holiday, is thus highly recommended."