Reviews of Somalisa Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Somalisa Camp Review
A few ragged edges did not serious distract from what was a very enjoyable stay.
Excellent and friendly upper echelon staff. Mike was a brilliant guide. All were very accommodating.
Hwange Park is a bit challenged for wildlife due to limited water. Consequently, the park might not be the best choice for a first visit to Africa. Unless one wants a bush camp experience as opposed to the more usual lodges. Then, it's excellent.
Very peaceful, too. You can design what you do to get all the rest you want.
We're definitely planning on go back fairly soon.
So So Somalisa
Somalisa Acacia is a new addition to the main camp and we were lucky to have it to ourselves along with the Baileys. This made for a very private experience. However it is some distance from the main camp kitchen which has its own problems. Food was often luke warm and service was somewhat slow. We were looked after by Betha who we feel requires more training. Dudley was good guide but as he was also camp manager his duties meant he had no time to recharge himself between game drives.
The brand new tents were excellent but our bathroom area needed further screening for complete privacy. The wasbasin and wc could be seen from the mess tent. This was mentioned to Dudley but was not resolved during our stay.
It was great to see huge herds of elephant, buffalo and zebra. Big cat viewing was limited to one brief and distant sighting at dusk. As the concession is quite small the game drives were routine and repetitive. Not much guiding was required.
Somalisa Camp review
We stayed at the smaller, Somalisa Acacia camp which backs onto the larger, original site. We were given the family room which had two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Wonderful beds and duvets, and bathrobes were provided but out of four nights, we had no water (except a dribble) for two nights and hot water on only one of the other two nights.
Food would have been given a "good" score but the kitchen was at the main site so the hot food was warm at best and the sorbet was a puddle. I understand that a new kitchen for Somalisa Acacia is planned. However, the recipes were good and Smart, our chef, passed one on to me which I plan to make and serve to my family - hot!
Whilst the huge herds of elephant and buffalo are incredible to see around Somalisa, the driving is limited in area so the same waterholes were driven to on a repetitive basis.
First stop - Somalisa Camp
Having arrived in the dark it was good to see such an interesting location on the first morning. The close proximity of the water hole to our tent made for excellent game viewing, especially of the huge number of elephants that came on a daily basis to wallow and play. It was also an enormous privilege to be able to sit in the guests' plunge pool while elephants came and drank from it! To be no more than eight feet from a wild elephant, and at ground level, as it drank was completely mind-blowing and a great photo opportunity.
The tent was comfortable and clean but a little short on storage space for clothes etc. We were consistently unable to get hot water from the shower and wash basin.
House-keeping service was good at all times. Our laundry was completed quickly and efficiently; washing powder was provided for guests to wash their own underwear. General organisation was a bit haphazard and we were never quite sure where we were supposed to be and at what time or who was in overall charge. This wasn't helped by the fact that rather than the six tents we had expected, there were in fact ten, with two separate dining areas and we were never sure which one to go to.
Food was generally excellent with good vegetarian options. There was always plenty of fruit and vegetables.
The only activity available was game - driving within a fairly limited area and we would have liked to walk. We found that the guides were predominantly interested in finding the big cats which, it must be said, were few and far between. There was very little attempt to spot and identify birds and rather too much time was spent driving at speed to possible cat sightings only to find the cats had moved on!
We asked if we could visit the Painted Dog Conservation Centre, having seen at its conception in 2002; we had noticed it on our way to Somalisa and Dudley arranged for us to visit on the way back to Victoria Falls. It was a thrill to see it in operation and to learn that over 6000 children had stayed there since it opened in 2003.
Great for elephants.
We feel that Somalisa is distinctly 'well worn' and that seems to be reflected by the owners who are expanding and updating. Unfortunately we had a tent that wasn't new or modernised even though at least 1 other Expert Africa guests were in a new tent.
For 3 days we had to ask at least twice for the water for our shower even though we had agreed a time; so service didn't overimpress.
We were also unlucky I suppose with game given that we were there for 4 nights and saw no hyena, leopard, rhino, only 1 solitary lioness and only cheetah on our transfer back to V Falls.
There seems to be no flexibility in activities. Every day it's just the same old game drives round the same roads at the same times. Compared to our other camps and previous safaris we were not hugely impressed with the quality of guiding although the 2 guides we had were both knowledgeable and pleasant.
Expert Africa comments
Expert Africa passed these comments to Beks, the owner of African Bush Camps who own Somalisa Camp. He thanked these travellers for their feedback and explained that on the days that these travellers were staying at Somalisa, the camp had experienced 10 days of wildfires which nearly destroyed the camp completely. Many of the staff and management left the camp to help fight the fires which resulted in the camp being short staffed and limited the game drive routes and wildlife experience.
Beks regrets that these travellers’ visit coincided with the period of fires that disrupted the camp’s normal operations. However, the fires are now out, the wildlife has settled and the camp operations have returned to normal.
With regards to the tents – the only difference between the two tents is that Somalisa Acacia’s wash basin and showers are plumbed (because the camp caters mainly for families and groups), whereas Somalisa Camp has bucket showers and unplumbed wash basins.
Somalisa Camp review
The camp felt a bit disorganised (although there was a large bush fire nearby). We did not have a welcome talk so subsequently they did not know when to provide hot water for the bucket shower.
The camp manager/host (I'm not sure what her job title was as she didn't tell us) seemed more interested in entertaining/reminiscing with the (almost) resident wild dog researcher than her paying guests. She was certainly very responsive to demanding Americans, but for us laid back Brits, she did not do much. In fact, whilst broken in a Land Cruiser down at the side of the road, she continued transporting her guests back to camp, without so much as a hint of concern about our situation.
More than excellent. We were the only guests in the camp and we were treated in the best imaginable way.
Our guide was very knowledgeable and we had the opportunity to learn a lot about african flora and fauna.
Hwange National Park is definitively worth a visit.
Somalisa Camp review
very exceptionell setting, nice tents (i was in one of the new ones), caring and friendly personel (e.g. mentioning that i did not have a mirror in the bathroom and would like to have a chair on the veranda, i could change my tent the following day, having had cold in the first night they provided me with a warm bedpan), great guide, good food (you get almost too much). With regard to animals it seems to me that the concession area is kind of limited, i.e. two days / three nights are probably enough to get to know the area and have a reasonable chance to see animals of different varietyRead more about the whole safari
Amazing bushcamp in the wild
In a nutshell: we loved Somalisa in every aspect.
It is a bit of a long drive from Livingstone, but the drive was made very pleasant by Sevious (from Silver Tours) who is a very friendly and open person and by the end of the trip we were friends - we were happy when he showed up to pick us up on our way back as well. He easily agreed to stop and visit the Painted Dog Conservation Centre near the park gate, which is by the way a very interesting project and really worth a visit if you are in the area.
Back to Somalisa: we were picked up from main camp by Raimond and Mike who took us for a drive and a picnic lunch near a waterhole. We were impressed by their friendly attitude and knowledge. We liked their philosophy of watching without disturbing the animals.
The welcome to the camp, where we met Dudley and Nic and the rest of the staff, was great and we loved it immediately. It is beautifully designed with a "bush feel" in a remote area but you have all the facilities you need. Our tent had beautiful furniture and a fun open bathroom with a bucket shower.
After a quick shower we walked back to the main area and were astonished to find an elephant drinking from the pool less a few meters away from the deck! He kept drinking while keeping an eye on us. The interesting story is that there is also a waterhole in front of the camp, but elephant like the clean water from the pool better!
Sitting on the deck you can watch elephants, baboons, zebra, giraffe.....amazing!
Because it was still a bit too hot for us we did a walk every morning and a drive in the afternoon (but they are flexible and you could stay out all day if you wanted to).
The great thing about this camp (and I am told in Zimbabwe in general) is that the guide acts also as a scout (armed) which allows you to stop the car and get off and walk whenever you wish for as long as you wish. For example during one drive we were so lucky as to find not one but four rhinos grazing near a waterhole. Raimond and Mike asked us if we were up for a closer look on foot and we jumped at the chance. This was the first time we saw rhinos in the wild and it was amazing. We walked checking the wind and hid behind a bush, very close to them. They did not see us and we had a great chance of taking good pictures but most of all a great memory to take back home.
All our walks and drive were great and we saw a huge number of animals. Once we walked very near to a herd of Kudus and everybosy back at camp was surprised we could get that close as they are normally skittish. We watched a huge elephant bull digging for minerals and stayed for a while enjoying the way he broke the soil with a foot and then used his trunk. He then turned around to show us how big he was before slowing walking away. We learnt to recognize the smell of a bull in musth as he followed a female herd. There are thousands of elephants in the park and we never got tired of watching them. We learnt that zebras in Hwange are slightly different as they have a brownish shadow between black and white stripes.
I need to keep this "reasonably short" so I cannot describe everything we saw, but the experience was great!
We deeply enjoyed the atmosphere at the camp including the meals with the giudes, we never stop talking! You can tell they are all bound togheter and friends and work in perfect harmony. It was a pleasure to have the chance to meet all of them and were sorry to leave. We will never forget our days at Somalisa.
We wish we could keep this hidden gem for ourselves only, but it would be unfair....so we reccomend to go there and enjoy the experience!
Finally we would like to mention that we felt perfectly at easy in Zimbabwe, everything ran smoothly for us, we met all friendly people and we think they deserve a growing number of tourists to visit as this may help the local people and the economy.
Somalisa is a very good camp, well run by Manager and Head Guide Dudley and the camp manager Henrietta. We were able to do guided walks every day of our stay as well as game drives.
Given the time of year (ie wet season) and the nature of some of the terrain around the camp, mammal sightings required some patience: but we were still able to enjoy two great dog sightings, quality time with a pride of 19 lions and sables as well as plentiful elephant and buffalo: other guests staying at the camp while we were there saw leopard, cheetah, rhion and roan antelope.
We understand that the camp is having a significant makeover in February/March so would expect an even higher standard in the 2011 season.