WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY ABOUT US
BOTSWANA AND ZIMBABWE FLY-IN SAFARI, JUNE 2017
Thanks for checking in and apologies for the delayed reply. We LOVED our trip to Southern Africa. It far exceeded our already sky high expectations.
The wild life was phenomenal, the accommodations were luxurious and we left right at home with all the lodge staff, Wilderness Safaris did an excellent job on all the transfers even ferrying us to the head of the queue at cross country boarders. Everything was spot on and we are already planning our return adventure.
Thank you again for all your help and guidance along the way. You really made it an easy trip to plan and we will certainly recommend you to friends and family. The only suggestion I have is to highly emphasize how cold it gets at night! Tyler and I were both shocked by the temperature fluctuations.
Kevin and Tyler
SOUTH AFRICA AND BOTSWANA WITH WILDERNESS SAFARIS, JULY 2017
First off, we hope you are safe and haven’t sustained a lot of damage due to the horrible flooding conditions in Houston. Our hearts go out to all Houstonians.
We have been home now almost two weeks from our South African adventure and just wanted to send a quick email to tell you THANK YOU! We had an absolutely marvelous vacation. We loved all of our accommodations and met some wonderful people. The game drives at both Kariega and Mashatu did not disappoint at all. The length of time spent at each accommodation was perfect, and, lucky for us, the weather cooperated almost the entire trip! We did have a couple of rainy days but for the most part it was sunny and cool, sometimes almost most warm. We loved it!
So, thanks again for all your work in putting together our itinerary for us.
Alvin and Marcia
TANZANIA MIGRATION SAFARI WITH NOMAD TANZANIA
Hi Bert & Jason,
We have returned from our trip in July and just a quick feedback. All went well without any incident. We saw the migration and river crossing, plus lots of other animals/activities. Nomad was great – all the people we came across (from our transfer to/from Arusha to all the camps) were very nice. Our guides were very good and knowledgeable. At all 3 camps we got the rooms that were closest to the main area, especially at Lamai, big help. Food was excellent everywhere. At Kuro we got the enclosed vehicle, just as well, since there was so much Tsetse flies while we were there. We all had great fun! Thanks and looking forward to our next safari
UGANDA WITH WILD FRONTIERS, JUNE 2017
Before I fly off again, let me give you some feedback. We had a great time! Fabulous! As you know, we hiked to see the gorillas two days in a row. Each of these two days, one person was touched by the gorillas, and it was me! The first day, an adult female touched my shoulder, but the second day, a four-month-old wobbly baby crawled over and touched my knee. Incredible and exactly what I was wishing for.
Everything else was perfect too. We were afraid that we wouldn’t see the tree-climbing lions because we missed them at Ishasha. However, we did see a male in a cactus tree on our last-minute private safari that our driver arranged for us just after the cruise.
My constructive criticism is that I really did not like the vehicle. Why? Unless you were sitting in the front seat by the driver or standing up with the roof raised, you could not see what was happening in front or on the opposite side of the vehicle. Fortunately for us, it was a private tour with only two people. I sat in front, and my husband stood. Standing is okay for a little while, but it soon gets tiring. At least, it was not raining. I suggest a different type of vehicle.
The food was great. The best food was in Bwindi. The chef was great. The second best was our second stop.
The people were great. Our driver was great. The chip experience at the zoo was phenomenal, and the tracking was great.
Thank you for organizing everything for us!
KENYA WITH ORIGINS SAFARIS - JUNE 2017
Dear Bert and Steve:
First of all I want to thank Bert for directing us to origin safaris. Bert is always helpful in designing our personal wants and needs and destinations that will fit our requirements. My husband and i are in our eighties and i have a mobility constraint that requires assistance. Every moment on our trip was filled with admiration towards the location, organization and staff provided us.
The locations, Nairobi, Amboseli, Samburu and the Masai Mara were perfect choices:
We were met in Nairobi by Lydia and William who were a lovely sight upon arrival. The House of Waine where we spent two nights was simply elegant and provided a quiet rest from our travels. We loved kissing giraffes at the giraffe center, watching baby elephants being fed their milk bottles at the Sheldrick elephant orphanage and stopping at the kazuri bead factory and the Karen Blixen museum. Lydia and William were so gracious, professional and fun to be with. They left not a step unturned and we were grateful to follow them like dutiful puppies.
Tortillis camp in Amboseli was managed by the most engaging couple recently transferred from Tanzania. They were completely professional in a personal manner and we simply enjoyed their friendly company. Every detail was attended to and the staff was so helpful in directing us to every event, drive and the best bush breakfast ever with every need met such as bush “facilities”. We had so much fun with them. The drives were done with Jonathon who had us and another couple completely engaged with the elephant population and views of Kilimanjaro in spite of a sandstorm one afternoon that challenged us. The accommodations were tasteful and we felt a close connection with the natural world that only a tent can provide. We took a tour of a Masai village and were so impressed by the wonderful way these peoples have celebrated and preserved their culture.
Next stop was Samburu elephant bedroom camp where we were met by Zachary our personal driver and guide for the rest of our trip. We cannot tell you what a wonderful experience to be in his company. His knowledge of all things natural and particularly birds was stunning as I heaped many questions on him i needed answers to. He was so patient and took time to be an educator on the preservation of the natural world as well as the animal life. We felt like we were in a classroom in a very good way. The facilities at this camp were wonderful and we were escorted everywhere as elephants took the liberty of strolling through the camp mid-day as well as the middle of the night along with the roaring of three young male lions establishing territory. One staff member saw it his duty to care for us every moment with his sling shot directed at marauding baboons and vervet monkeys. How fun for us. We had an elegant sundowner by the river with hot hors d’oeuvres and special cocktails as we watched the sun go down
Last stop was at the Mara Ngenche safari camp. We were totally surprised at the location of this camp in the riverine woodland next to the Mara and Talek rivers. It was unfenced and at night hippos would feast on the grasslands surrounding and sometimes within the camp grounds. It such an adventure with masai escorts waiting for us every time we exited our tent. This was one of my best experiences. Zachary again was our driver and guide and we covered grassland, forest and riverine woodland searching animals and wondered at the beginnings of the migration from the Serengeti with thousands of zebras, and some topis leading the way. We saw a few wildebeest but they were to come later. The grasslands were so lush but we were able to see an abundance of wildlife and a gorgeous female leopard well known as “siri”. The tent was furnished elegantly and the loveliest moment was crawling into bed with hot water bottles to stave off Kenya’s nighttime chill. I was introduced to Kenyan tea and will keep that tradition here in the states – delicious.
We flew back to Nairobi to be met by our ever efficient and welcoming Lydia and William and rested in the day room at the eka hotel before leaving for home.
In summary, we could eulogize over the abundance of wildlife and beauty of landscape but we were most impressed by the care and diligence of all the staff members. Their friendliness and genuine concern that we have the best of experiences was ever present and we return home so happy and thrilled over our trip with origin safaris.
Many, many thanks to all.
Bill and Carole Edic.
BOTSWANA AND SOUTH AFRICA - MAY 2017
We had a great time on our trip.
We all agreed that the highlight of the trip was the Mashuta walking safari. Stuart and Mark were great and it was not nearly as cold sleeping outside as we expected it to be. We only really got close to one animal — a hyena — but the experience was great. We did get “hurried” by a small herd of elephants but nothing serious.
The Mashuta Tented camp was great as well. Great game viewing and we spent an afternoon in the hide — two small herds of elephants but not much else. This was probably our favorite camp. A great mix of game viewing and camp ambience. The game viewing highlight here was probably the leopard with her two cubs. Unfortunately one of the cubs was killed the next day by a male leopard.
We actually enjoyed the road transfer from Pontdrift to HazyView and the overnight at Casa Del Sol. We left Pontdrift at about 8:30 and arrived at the hotel just past 2 pm. It was nice to relax around the pool for few hours. The hotel was very nice. We agreed that this transfer was preferable to an overnight at JNB.
The Rhino Post lodge was a very nice lodge and a step up in accommodation from the camps we have stayed in before. We had 2.5 days of so – so game drives but then hit the jackpot on the last morning with buffalo, lion, elephant, and leopard. The downside was that we drove a LONG way in Kruger on this last morning.
Kirkman’s was a surprise to us. We did not expect a camp with the opulence of Kirkman’s — private butler, gourmet meals and all. The game viewing was great and provided the iconic photo of this trip — a hyena eating the impala kill he stole from a female leopard while she watches from a near by tree. (Photo attached). We saw 8 different rhinos completing the big five.
The guide at Kirkman’s, Matt Smith, was the best we have had in the 8 camps or so we have visited. But we certainly don’t need this class of accommodation in any future safaris — nice to experience once but we really like the the Mashatu Tented Camp better. We have always enjoyed getting to know the other guests at a camp but It was hard to mingle with the other guests at Kirkmans and it was not clear that the other guests really wanted to mingle.
You were certainly right about the exchange rate in South Africa. We stopped in Dubai for 4 days on the way to JNB and had to spend $10 for beer. We thought we were doing the exchange conversion wrong in the City Lodge when the beer as $1.50.
All in all, a great trip.
So, regarding the next safari, we really want to experience the Serengeti during the best of the migration. We don’t have any strong desires beyond seeing the migration. Some friends have recommended the gorilla trek but I know that is expensive and takes several days of travel. Other friends have recommended the Ngorongoro Crater but have cautioned that it is crowded with tourists. We have also heard about Masai Mara in Kenya but again don’t know anything about it. Since we really enjoyed the walking safari, I don’t know if it would be possible to do another walking safari in this part of Africa.
We are thinking about traveling in 2019 and we will probably have at least 4 people — Don, Peg, Kari, Rob. We might have others. Kari and Rob would probably only be able to be gone for 2 working weeks — plus weekends for travel. Peg and I could stay longer if there is a good reason. Peg has been interested in doing something “cultural” in a village or something if that is possible.
As I said above, we are happy with “middle of the road” camps as long as the camps are clean (preferable with in suite bathrooms) and the guides and game drives are good.
When you get a chance, could you put together some options for a next safari with rough pricing — no hurry. Our decision timeline would probably be driven by when you say we have to book the reservations to insure we get good camps.
Thanks for a great trip.
NORTHERN TANZANIA WITH NOMAD TANZANIA - AUGUST 2016
Just like the ubiquitous starling which marked Celia’s first encounter with African wildlife after landing at JRO, our trip was absolutely superb in every way and constantly dazzled us with its surreal brilliance! It definitely exceeded our high expectations and we deem it to have been our best ever which as #7 is saying quite a lot since all of them have been quite sensational. Celia was totally swept up in the experience and enthusiastically loved every moment of every day and formed memorable relationships with our guides, Felix and Philip, and all of the charming staff at the camps. It was our supreme joy to share in her journey of discovery. She quickly became an avid birder, excellent spotter and impressively fine photographer who was keenly intrigued by every insect, bird, tree, reptile and mammal. Her experience was a rich total immersion into all the wonders of the African bush! There were countless wildlife highlights (such as 15 playful lion cubs, hundreds of elephants in the Silale Marsh, and drifting through an endless sea of 750,000+/- wildebeests and zebras on the plains) but the most unexpected and notable were both of our sightings of a pack of 19-22 wild dogs in Tarangire!!!! Beyond our wildest dreams, we were able to observe this group for 45+ minutes one late afternoon as they socialized and played and curiously came within 8 meters of the vehicle to have a closer look at us. Very early the next morning, we found them again romping and mobilizing for a hunt and watched and followed them in close proximity for another lengthy period of time until they headed off on their mission in a direction we couldn’t follow. WOW! What a thrill!
I intended to keep this message brief but I could gush on forever about all the superlatives — fantastic lodging and camps throughout, outstanding salad buffets at lunch, so many wonderful and generous-hearted individuals among the guides and staff, and such abundance of animals offering so many high-quality observations that the sum total of all of it is still hard to grasp. All of us are happily glowing and heartily appreciate your excellent advice and collaboration in creating such a fully rewarding safari. Asante sana!!!!
FYI – There was one disconcerting snafu by Nomad at Tarangire that bears mentioning. Following our orientation and first of many fantastic salad buffets, the relief manager at Kuro, Jeffrey Trollip, escorted us to our tent. What a shock: a standard tent with 3 twin beds crammed in a row leaving barely enough room on either side of the tent to pass back to the bathroom area. Protesting that we had been confirmed in the family tent, we learned it was occupied. Recognizing our dissatisfaction with this ridiculous crowded arrangement, he went off to investigate and returned chagrined that he had made a careless error. Because one of two standard tents booked by another family had a dysfunctional shower, he had placed them in the family tent a day or two before but failed to re-settle them into other tents to assure the family tent was available upon our arrival! He was most apologetic, assured us they would be vacating in the morning and that we would be able to have the family tent then. He compensated us with a night drive – that I hadn’t realized wasn’t included in our package — which we were planning on so we welcomed his gesture to make amends. After being disgruntled for about an hour, we easily left it behind us and were thoroughly caught up in the magic of the place and our afternoon game drive and all was more than fine thereafter. Oh well…these things happen.
If I had to do this trip over again, I would add another night at Tarangire to have one more blissful encounter with all the elephant families browsing in the Silale Marsh until sundown. As well, Felix was such a gem of a human being that it felt too soon to say good-bye after only 3 nights. That said, our northern Tanzania safari was fully gratifying and ranks as a perfectly magical experience for all of us! Our only concern is that we may have spoiled Celia for what we hope will be another trip to Africa in her lifetime. It’s hard to imagine anything could be better than this!
Thanks tremendously! Nomad receives the highest marks of excellence from us. I’d be happy to share more or answer any questions about our experiences.
Best wishes –
Claudia, Steve and Celia
NAMIBIA & VIC FALLS WITH WILDERNESS SAFARIS - JUNE 2016
ZIMBABWE WITH WILDERNESS SAFARIS - JUNE 2016
KENYA AND TANZANIA WITH ORIGINS SAFARIS JUNE 2016
Mashatu, Botswana & MalaMala, Sabi Sand South Africa - June 2015
We’re back in Montana after a great trip. The walking trails, Mashatu, Mala Mala sequence was perfect. We saw progressively more and more game as the trip developed but had a good background on tracks, behavior, ecology from the earlier time. The kids had a super time and Josie is enthusiastic about a return trip sometime in the not too distant future.
Stuart Quinn was not our guide on the walking trails. His operation is growing and he is apparently bringing in guides to help him. Our guide was Craig Beaton and he was excellent. He was the developer of the Serolo Camp and sold it to Stuart some 10 or so years ago. Craig has 25 years of experience in the bush and together with his tracker, Gilbert, did a first rate job. Absolutely no complaints on our part but you need to be aware that Stuart may not be the guide.
Incidentally, all the logistics went smooth as can be. The combined efforts of Fish Eagle and Wilderness were very impressive. Thanks for a great job.
I think I told you that the kids keep a daily journal and then we integrate their story of the trip with the photos. It’ll be a while in production, but I’ll see that you get a copy. Regards.
Cape Town, Vic Falls & Northern Botswana - May 2015
Mashatu & MalaMala - May 2015
Botswana and Zimbabwe fly-in safaris - April 2015
Mashatu and MalaMala - May 2015
Just wanted to give some feedback on the walking safari with Stuart Quinn. We felt this was the best activity we did on the trip. Malamala was exceptional for wildlife (saw the Big 5 one morning) and loved Mashatu too. However, the experience on the walking safari was just a totally different experience. It’s hard to describe how using your feet instead of a landrover changes the whole experience but it does. Stuart is a great guy and gives an excellent education on tracking. Probably the best experience we had was sitting around the fire at night with a pride of lions roaring a few hundred meters away.
We’ll do another trip to visit some new camps in the future but will definitely return to Stuart’s camp. If any of your clients ever want more information on the experience feel free to have them contact me.
Kenya - February 2015
It was a dream of a life time and you made it so very special. Lydia, William, Joel and Edwin were all wonderful and took great care of us. I always felt very safe and did not have to worry about anything due to your wonderful people.
And the camps were great. My favorites were Tortillis and Lewa Downs. All the safaris were great and different. Thanks for making it memorable. Jane Barrett
Southern Africa - February 2014
How do I begin?!
All went perfectly well except for the flights to and from the USA. Never again will we fly in economy, we will need business class. All organization went smoothly re. flights, etc. within Africa. The Wilderness Safaris agents were extremely helpful and guided us to our pick up points to the camps. All were polite, conversant and the Wilderness pilots were outstanding and well-trained experienced young people.
Each camp was a perfect choice for us. Rhino Camp was intimate, quiet, friendly, helpful, etc. – all you could ask with the experienced staff. The accommodations were so comfortable with personal greetings on our pillows upon arrival and every day spent. The guide, Allee (sp) was incredibly grateful for his well-earned position which was held in high esteem by all. His patience, education, dedication and thoughtfulness was simply without measure. I was a challenge with all of my questions which with my enthusiasm felt pertinent. I do think he appreciated the time with us and our accompanying safari companions – two young travel agents from Germany. There was a great deal of laughter and revelry amidst the awed appreciation of the amazing landscape. The walk to see the Black Rhino was rewarded with a female with a young male who rested by her side. I was impressed by the respect and diligence of the Rhino game tracking professionals.
We will never forget the moonscape impressions and geology. One evening we saw the moon come up in the East and the sun go down in the West at the same moment. The lighting in the evening was so gorgeous and we stayed up late with the other guests around the fire discussing the stars and how we had to get up early to see the Southern Cross. Before dinner we were often treated with the native language describing our evening meal. Many delicious dinners featured native game such as the Oryx that was so delicious. One evening we enjoyed the singing and dancing of most of the talented staff – we got to try and dance with them.
Ongava Lodge was a complete surprise. The steps leading to the dining level, gift shop, pool and accommodations was like a hilly maze. One never got lost but how rewarding was the natural and appropriate landscape around every turn. Our arrivals at all camps were met with staff and a moist towel and often a special lemonade or South African Port. The dining area at Ongava was on a terrace overlooking two watering holes. This was a special problem for us at it was lit at night and we could view so many different species visiting (often, one species at a time) such as Eland, Kudu, Water Buck, Impala, Giraffe, Wart Hogs, Hartebeast, Zebra, etc. Just too many to mention and there was little sleep peeking out of our bath area window. On the deck, we had two Hyrax battling it out for territory – fun stuff. The cuisine was delicious and plentiful. One special moment was when one of the staff ladies helped me adjust a new scarf I bought at the gift shop – very fine ideas to share. We went to Etosha a couple of days and were rewarded by viewing a White Rhino near the salt pan – a rare and happy sight for our Guide. We saw lion for the first time and elephant bulls wallowing in the mud. One bull elephant forced us to back up on the road as he had a special mud wallow in mind – we were simply in his path. A male lion was near the resort and let out such a roar everyone ran out of the shops with a shocked expression. We saw him the next morning near the camping area – a lovely animal. We saw plenty of White Rhino and a Black Rhino was seen browsing on a small tree near our accommodation. By the way, the air conditioning was a welcome and unexpected treat.
Flying to Dumatau over the Okavango Delta was a totally new landscape – water everywhere. Our beautiful tent was on the Savuti Channel – totally flooded. We arrived on a Monday evening so there was a Boma (sp?) where all the staff collected before our dinner and entertained us with a most lively dance and song fest. At the end we were privileged to stomp around a fire pit with them, arm in arm – lovely experience.
The major interest was following a group of wild dogs – well known to our guide. We were able to observe them with no limits on time spent. We were able to follow them on a hunt and see them take off at a run. They along with most all other mature animals were totally at peace with our vehicle as being no threat. Case in point was a pride of lion – 16 in all and one male with mature females and all sorts of various ages of cubs. They were resting at a water hole having just fed and were oblivious to our vehicle parked about 30 feet away. An impala showed up at the hole, caught their scent and stayed for the longest time – not moving but hissing a warning. Only one female went into a crouch position to watch him.
We had a lovely barge run on the Channel – of course with hors d’oeuvres and our favorite cocktails and a tiny red-headed swallow going along for the ride on one of the floats. We did see a crocodile sunning on a rare bank without reeds and rushes and we disturbed his peace. Riding late evening along the water we spotted a female leopard walking slowly in front of us so we had a good view. We did run into a large – many hundred strong -herd of Cape Buffalo. We were able to drive among them and they took little notice. We did see a Cape Buffalo carcass with a male lion and an unusual androgynous female feeding. She apparently was born with both genes and kept a low profile being submissive with the pride to stay safe. The next day we spotted many vultures which apparently are endangered with the native people reducing their numbers poisoning carcasses of farm animals (cattle) to kill predators – of course the vultures are the clean up committee.
Our last stop was Little Mombo, a low impact, quiet and small yet plain and luxurious camp. There were only three other guests and we enjoyed their company yet maintained our privacy. We had a guide all to ourselves and spent a great deal of time at a large watering hole that attracted two different large groups of elephants. Both groups had many babies that the adults stood guard at the edge of their play. We have never seen such joyful fun. Close by was a resident hippo that took little notice and a crocodile that kept his distance. We were treated with an outdoor brunch at the edge of this watering hole and what a treat. The cuisine was particularly delicious and beautifully presented at this camp.
In all cases our expectations were greatly exceeded. Each camp had its unique personality and we would select the same again. The other guests had much the same interests and we enjoyed keeping contact sharing pictures after our trip. Everything was so well done from the accommodation, staff, location, special interests, etc. The cleanliness and personal small notes and gifts are so appreciated. We were kept very busy with a 5 to 5:30 wake up “good morning” call outside our door. After a late 8pm dinner we would collapse and sleep very well. Our afternoon naps after lunch were so welcome and we were able to organize for the next day.
So, this is the attempt at my brief summary. A very special thank you, Bert, for your time and advice designing our trip.
Bill & Carole E.
South Africa, Botswana & Zimbabwe - September 2014
In short, it was a fabulous, fantastic trip. In 2008, you put together our trip to Kenya – and I didn’t think anything could top that. But – I think we loved this one even more. I’ll try to keep control of myself:
Fell head over heels in love with Cape Town – and we could NOT have enjoyed a hotel more than Four Rosmead – perfect in every way…Jade and the staff were so friendly and helpful – and it is gorgeous. We had a lovely view out over the pool and on to Lion’s Head…but you should ask for the one next door to ours – same view but also a side view down over Cape Town. Jade fixed us up with George, who took us on our Cape journey. We loved a restaurant not far from the hotel – Paradisio…and came home loving So. Africa wines.
MalaMala was perfect for us…I didn’t want anything that was so over the top that I’d feel like I was in a Ralph Lauren phony commercial…but it’s about the animals for us. So – MalaMala Main Camp and our absolutely incredible guide – Bens – were fantastic…what a wild man – we felt like we were cowboys crashing through the bush…and we saw practically every animal & bird imaginable in the first 24 hours. WOW. Our bungalow looked on the river with animals there every day. Food was good – not fabulous – but we’re not there for the food.
Fairlawns…a luxurious break – and we loved being out of the city a bit – but the accommodations are (for us) a little pretentious…dinner on the terrace overlooking the beautiful garden was fantastic.
What can I say about Botswana?…simply the best. I was only going to go to Tubu Tree – and you talked me into DumaTau too. Both wonderful and yet so very different from each other. We loved them both. We were at Tubu Tree on the night of Botswana Independence Day – and at the Boma – the singing & dancing and speeches were from the heart and we felt so grateful to be there. There aren’t words for how sweet, dear & helpful the Tubu staff is… great game viewing & magnificent sundowns and sundowners with Cruise. Duma Tau – so very happy you talked me into it. Wonderful room on the river…INCREDIBLE GAME VIEWING with Evans…and fantastic food. Be sure and sign up for brunch/lunch on the barge – one of our highlights.
Before this trip, I couldn’t understand what the big deal was about African Wild Dogs…now I positively love them – we saw them often and loved watching their greetings to each other when they wake up and how sweet they all are with the pups. Love those guys!
The Vic Falls Hotel is lovely…and I liked the ambiance and being able to walk to the falls…BUT, after reading on-line about the Stanley & Livingston, I asked our fantastic Wilderness Safari representive (a super helpful woman) in the lobby to make a lunch reservation for us at the S&L. We took a 10 minute taxi there and fell in love with that hotel/resort/inn…I don’t know exactly what to call it – but it’s like a little piece of paradise. It’s a bit out of town – and that’s good…but their shuttle will take you anywhere you want to go. It is exquisitely beautiful and has a fabulous water hole right in front of the rooms and terrace restaurant.
So you get the best of all worlds there…and there are only 8 or 10 rooms there…so you feel so safe and peaceful. I hope you & Kathy get an opportunity to stay there – or at least visit. We met a couple from JoBurg there and they’ve been to many, many camps – but said the guide there at S&L – an older man – was the best they had ever had.
And last – Little Mak…hard to have a favorite – but I think maybe Little Mak was my favorite. I loved how secluded it is…absolutely fabulous staff & food…and we were so lucky – I had asked you to request Tent #6 – and…WE GOT IT! It’s like winning the lottery because you can sit on your little patio outside the tent – and the water hole is just in front of you. And spending 3 hours in the hide was indescribable. We actually got splashed by the elephants frolicking in the water – and of course they had no idea we were there. I felt teary saying goodbye to Bee, the manager, and Livingston, our guide.
The park Little Mak is in is so enormous that you don’t see quite as much game on the drives as elsewhere….but, the water hole and the camp itself more than make up for it.
Thank you, thank you…Doug & I nearly always travel with one or two couples of our good friends and we didn’t know how traveling on our own would be – but now we think we prefer it…you meet so many more new & interesting people at the camps than when you are with a group.
Now I’m already planning (in my mind, anyway) going back to So. Africa & Botswana in 2016 and taking my sister (who lives in Texas – we grew up in Dallas).
Everything went like clockwork…very smooth. Never a wrinkle. Can’t say enough wonderful things about Wilderness Safari – and, of course, of you.
M & D Lloyd, California
Zimbabwe & Botswana Fly-In Safari - October 2014
I just had to write as well and say it was the most AWESOME trip EVER. Africa is amazing and You planned it perfectly. We are so appreciative of your ideas and help. I caught a big tiger fish on the Zambezi river and we canoed with the hippos and saw a pride of 22 lions and 3 different packs of wild dogs, just to highlight a few huge memories. I can’t believe how AWESOME it was. We felt safe and everything went perfectly. YOU ARE THE BEST and I am recommending you to several people in my office.
Thank you so much and I want to save for another African adventure.
L. King, AK
Zimbabwe & Botswana Fly-In Safari - October 2014
Thanks for arranging this incredible adventure for us.
K. Miller, AK
Botswana (Chitabe) With Wilderness Safaris - April 2013
Everything went perfectly including the flights. I guess I missed all the government grandstanding on FAA, customs, immigration and TSA. This morning was very efficient. I walked off the plane at 7:10 in Atlanta; immigration, luggage, customs, recheck luggage and TSA security and was at the gate in another terminal for my LAX flight by 7:45.
Chitabe was a dream. I was very fortunate to be there when the owners were visiting. A wonderful couple!!!; just delightful. The guide was excellent. Very hard working and really expert tracking animals normally difficult to get close to; mainly the leopards and dogs. He was ready to go every morning no later than 5:30; sometimes earlier. He brought my coffee, started the bonfire and was ready to drive away as early as I wanted. We stayed out most evenings until 6:00-7:00 and had a bush lunch noontime.
The wildlife was awesome. Probably not as densely populated at Masai Mara; but excellent. I loved the wild dogs. We saw them four different times; feeding, hunting and just plain running. We saw leopard every day but one and three times on one day and also on a night drive back to the camp the last evening. I took a lot of pictures of elephants, dogs and lions drinking at the various ponds. I didn’t see any kills (not a big deal), but saw the lions, leopard and dogs feeding.
A big plus for me (I’m sure you can’t use it in selling Chitabe or safaris), but the animals in and near the camp were a dream for me. I LOVE that. One morning three lioness, a young male and four cubs surrounded my tent. I left my tent by getting directly into the truck that the guide backed up to the deck. The last morning a leopard in camp, but I didn’t see her. And frequently we could hear lions and dogs at night.
It was funny on Delta and checking for visa pages. Sure enough they did it the last 30 minutes before boarding. However South Africa immigration never checked. They just stamped the first available spot both times coming into and leaving the country. The first stamp was on a double page that was almost completely filled. They never looked for blank pages. Did your customer have their trip delayed or spoiled by that. Too bad if they did because it certainly isn’t an issue there.
Southern Africa with Wilderness Safaris - March 2013
We had a splendid trip, thanks to your expert guidance in helping Jane and Kathryn choose our itinerary and thanks to your adroit arrangements of everything.
Not only did the adventure exceed my expectations, it vastly exceeded them.
Thank you for donating this trip to Rice and thus for inspiring Jane to decide we should go.
I was particularly impressed with the 3 camps in Botswana and especially with the guides and the camp management. The people everywhere were so welcoming and gracious.
Vic Falls was beautiful but so much water it was hard to see the falls for the mist (more like a Houston tropical downpour). We were very honored to have a special suite at the Victoria Falls Hotel — a suite the management said was at your insistence.
MalaMala was also excellent and the differences between it and the Wilderness Safari camps interesting.
I’ll have some photos organized in a few weeks and will be happy to share them with you. I took several thousand photos and got some amazing animal and bird shots.
Also, we met some other customers of yours at one of the camps (Duma Tau, I believe) — Jane may remember their names or at least where they are from. I recall the woman had traveled with you once before maybe 6-8 years ago and this time had her husband with her. She admitted she had never met you.
If you have potential future customers from Houston, I am happy to visit with them. I know how important it was to Jane and Kathryn to visit with your wife and get a personal perspective on what to take.
As a result, we packed well — the only thing I took that I never used was the swim suit. We were just too tired to do anything other than nap during our down time in the camps.
I managed to misplace two items on the trip — a pair of prescription Ray-Ban sunglasses in a hard tan plastic case in Chitabe and a Blackberry charger either the first night in the hotel in Johannesburg or in Chitabe. Luckily I had taken an old pair of prescription sunglasses as a spare and an extra blackberry charger.
Overall, the adventure was really great.
Southern Africa with Wilderness Safaris - March 2013
Just a fairly quick note to say thank you again for arranging this wonderful experience for us, to give you a brief update on our trip, and to ask a couple of questions.
Tubu Tree was a wonderful camp as you indicated. GT was outstanding as our guide and worked hard to give us a great game viewing experience. Several leopard sightings were a highlight as well as an amazing close up look at a pair of African Giant Eagles sitting on a tree branch above the jeep. Monday night traditional bush dinner was very enjoyable and interesting.
Kings Pool is an absolutely beautiful camp, also with outstanding game viewing with our guide, ND, —a small pride of lions with the reigning male of the territory helping himself to a small zebra killed by the females, and also a coalition of 2 males who were apparently considering trying to take over the area. Lots and lots of elephants. A delicious “bush” dinner presented beautifully. Amazing service at this camp.
Metcourt Suites worked well for our 2 nights in Joburg. Nice to not have to leave the complex for dinner. Talked to a missionary group on their way to Mozambique at the Joburg airport whose shuttle had been held-up going from the airport to their hotel the evening before (didn’t get the name of the hotel) and who lost most of their belongings including their camera gear. We felt very safe with the shuttle to and from the Metcourt Suites and being able to stay inside the complex.
Damaraland: Probably the most wonderful, hard-working, staff we’ve encountered, in that very desolate place. Interesting visit to a nearby village with tour by 19 year old, Warren. Sad story of how the elephants had torn down the electric fence around their garden 3 years ago and they were still waiting for help to replace it. Scenery was spectacular and reminded us of Arizona! There wasn’t much game in the area, but our guide, Nestor, tried very, very hard, unsuccessfully, on long, bumpy rides, to find the desert elephants. Saw 4 black rhinos from a distance the morning we spent with the “Save the Rhino Trust” trackers. Wonderful bush breakfast and dinner with the best singing and dancing from the talented staff. Unfortunately it was very hot and the cabins only had a ceiling fan which ran at one speed, very slow, and moved no air. The temp in the cabin in the afternoon reached 98 degrees. A better fan would have helped greatly!
Ongava Lodge: Amazing, a beautiful camp, and we wanted to stay longer. It’s was fortunate for us this year (and I feel guilty in saying that because they need rain so desperately) that the area has had little rain, so there was a constant parade of animals at the 2 man-made water holes in front of the lodge and which we could also see from our cabin. One evening there were 14 rhinos, including 4 black, drinking at the waterhole. We even saw a young white rhino nursing. In Etosha there was also lots of water hole activity and we sat for long periods just watching. Our guide, Abram, was terrific, knowledgable, very easy to understand, and a hard worker.
Little Kulala was the only camp we were disappointed in. It’s very beautiful in a sleek, modern way. Unfortunately, it was very hot, and the air conditioning in the room couldn’t keep up with the temperatures being 104-105 in the shade outside our cabin and got up to 97 inside the cabin in the afternoons. They also need a fan in the room to move some air. In the afternoon we wet the robes and sat in the shade trying to stay comfortable and declined to do the quads or walks in the afternoon/evening because of the heat. Stargazing on the roof is a nice touch. Both mornings we went to the area for the hot air balloon take-off, and both mornings the wind was blowing from the wrong direction so it couldn’t take off. It was too hot to climb a dune by the time we arrived, so we walked around Dead Vlei, and the next day went to the canyon. There was lots of wind and blowing sand in the afternoons. Our guide, Willy, seemed less than enthusiastic, and helped himself to cold drinks from the cooler without offering us any. This surprised us as, without exception, every other guide we had on this trip and also in September, was helpful, thoughtful, and enthusiastic. The Sossusvlei area is definitely a photographers dream and we are happy we saw it. However, you were so correct, Bert, two nights there is long enough.
Four Rosmead was great. Thank you for arranging the upstairs room with beautiful views from 3 sides! Jade or Nadine were constantly available for anything you might need. Breakfasts were delicious. When the rental car was delivered, the Budget fellow didn’t seem to know how to work the Tom-Tom GPS unit. We asked him to program in the hotel so we could find our way back, and after trying for awhile, he said “You’ll have to do it yourself after you drive off.” Well, after we drove off, we couldn’t get it programmed in either, as well as the GPS never seemed to find our location. It was no help and was actually confusing, so we packed it away and never used it and stumbled along with the map Nadine had provided for our drive to and from Hermanus.
Other than the heat at Damaraland and Little Kulala without sufficient air movement in the cabins, the March weather was just fine. We had one afternoon of rain at Kings Pool but with ponchos and a roof on the Land Rover, we had a great game drive anyway.
Thanks again, Bert. Sorry to end this on a bit of a negative note, but all in all, the trip was amazing. We love Southern Africa and hope to return again!
Paul and Mary Ellen B.
Botswana & Zimbabwe with Wilderness Safaris & Kwando - March 2013
Lauren and I returned home last night. We cannot thank you enough for putting together what we are calling the trip of our lifetime! It was wonderful.
Your recommendations for places and modes of travel were the envy of many of the travelers we met in Africa. Personally, I add that your cost estimates were the most accurate of anyone I have ever known in any sales-related business. ($25,000 budget and we spent $25, 021!!!) We highly recommended you to other travelers and will be glad to be listed as a reference for your company if you so choose.
Here are some very brief notes. I can provide details on these and other items, as well as photos, if you wish—just let me know and give us some time to cull over 4000 photos taken. Of course, any questions you have will receive our quick attention.
(1) Zimbabwe entry: Visa US$30 pp plus US$15 pp airport tax. Vic Falls Airport processing seems to have speeded up—took us 12 minutes from end of customs line to Wilderness van. Other travelers reported similar experiences.
(2) Both Kwando and Wilderness are highly recommended companies. Ground crews at all en-route locations were top-notch and deserving of high praise in this often-overlooked phase of travel.
(3) You may wish to alert travelers to indicate how much walking they are prepared to do in some camps between sleeping tents and the dining areas. We love to walk (and needed it after the game drives!) and so did not mind the 6-minute walk (Vumbura Plans North Camp) nor the 8-minute walk (Dumatau Camp).
(4) The village tour from Little Makalolo is very highly recommended, both for culture and for the game/scenery enroute. This activity was not publicized very well, but we got to do it on a quickly-arranged basis.
(5) Unfortunately, we saw no rhino’s; nor did we expect to see any. Poaching, even by game-protecting rangers, is increasing with the price of rhino horn going up astronomically. (Guides stating US$100,000 per kilogram.) Fellow travelers reporting rhino sightings at Mombo and River Club (somewhat like a zoo setting they said!).
Botswana with Wilderness Safaris - February 2013
We had a wonderful trip and will gladly recommend Fish Eagle Safaris and Wilderness Safaris to our friends. Botswana was amazing– We took thousand of photographs and enjoyed seeing such a variety of animals and birds. Both Tubu Tree Camp and Vumbura Plains were very nice with great staff, delicious food, and very comfortable–really huge and impressive at Vumbura– rooms. Our guide at Tubu, Kambango (?), was especially good and knowledgeable, as was Eloise, the hostess at Tubu. Kambango remembered your son Jason from a previous trip. We had elephants, hippos, baboons and warthogs walk right through our camps! It was such fun to see them up close like that.
The hotels in Johannesburg were very nice–especially Mount Grace. The balloon ride went well with an excellent “pilot”, Tracey. Our only glitch the whole trip was when we got to Mount Grace and no one knew anything about the balloon ride. The hotel called the balloon company and got it worked out. The driver they sent at 5 a.m. was grumpy and not a good choice, but the rest of that experience was great.
We appreciate all of your help and suggestions. We were impressed with the pilots and drivers and I never felt unsafe–except on a boat ride through hippo territory and plowing over bushes in the jeep after lions and leopards–but our guides assured us we were safe even then!
We are glad that the Pack for a Purpose donation made it there safe and sound.
Botswana & Zambia with Wilderness Safaris - February 2013
Cannot believe that I have been back from my trip for 3 weeks – first week I was quite sick with sinusitis – possibly a result of 22 hrs in a plane?! And since then have been trying to catch upon my tax return, so apologize for the long delay before writing to thank you for recommending and arranging such a terrific trip.
The three camps that I visited – Kalahari Plains, Tubu Tree and Toka Leya were all great. Each one very different from the others and I also liked the order in which I visited them. Each of the locations had something special about them. The Kalahari location reminded me a lot of the desert area between Phoenix and Tucson – except for the cactus – we lived in that area for a number of uears and I always enjoyed the desert. At this location we had the besta guide nd driver (Rogers). Rogers had an incredible way of driving at quite high speed on the very rough tracks while at the same time avoiding the bumps – giving us a very smooth ride. I would also single him out for keeping a careful watch on his people. On the “Bushman Walk” which we took in the desert there was a bad dust storm that day and the dust was causing my asthma to act up. When we finished our walk to the furthest point where they demonstrated a bushman hut and how to make fire without matches, there was a long walk back to the camp. Rogers pulled me aside and told me that he had arranged a ride back to camp for me (unasked) and there – out of sight – was a land rover parked and which gave me a ride back.
At Tubu Tree I was amazed at the size of the baobab trees – they certainly give our redwoods a competition for largest trees – at least for girth! Saw a lot of animals there also – too many to mention but I did see all of the “big five” during my trip and scores more. The Tubu Tree camp was certainly well run by Michele and her husband – she even came out to rescue us when our land rover broke down on the last stretch home one evening – and was there extremely quickly.
Toka Leya – This is an incredible location. Took my breath away when first walked in and onto the patio over looking the Zambezi. The service here was also excellent – arrived at the camp about 4:00 pm and by 5:00 pm was out on a boat on the river for an evening ride. They also arranged for me to see the Falls from the Zimbabwe side and my guide took me to the border and met me there on my way back. Saw that side of the falls with another tour company that they had arranged.
The peninsula tour in Cape Town was excellent. Had a very good guide and saw a lot – however the small tour bus broke down while climbing a steep hill about three hours into the tour and it took them nearly two hours to get another to us.
The only negative thing that I would note on the whole trip was the journey from Cape Town to Maun. Leaving Cape Town at 7:00 am we were in Jo’burg by 9:30 am but the direct flight to Maun was not operating that day and we had to go via Kasane. So did not get into Maun until 5:00 pm. I learned at the camp that this happened every week or so. So next time I would opt for a direct flight from Cape town to Maun – even if it meant choosing a different day. I should add that the pilot of the Cesna 506 was waiting for me at Maun and we then got to the camp very quickly.
Have not had time to organize my photos yet – but here is one of that tree that impressed me so much!
Very best regards,
Little Kulala Lodge, Sossusvlei - December 2012
The best things about the place were the sky roof (we had amazing skys) and the chalets, though in the summer the poor AC unit struggled to keep up with the 39 degree heat. Luckily, the plunge pool was great, as was the pool just off reception. The staff was excellent (as always with Wilderness) and our guide, Willhem ended up being ours exclusively as the other guests decided to self drive.
All the best for the new year,
Southern Africa - November 2012
We flew Emirates Airline to Dubai where we spent four days mostly to recover from jet lag and the fifteen hour flight from Houston. We had a very comfortable stay at an Arabian hotel just two blocks from Dubai Creek in the old part of town. We enjoyed visiting the souks and were dutifully impressed by the Dubai Mall. It is a bit overwhelming with 620 stores. I found it curious that the burqa clad ladies were shopping for ostentatious gold necklaces in the gold souk and stiletto heeled shoes in the mall.
Dubai is a fascinating city and I marvel that it is built on a pile of desert sand.
We were in Africa to see the wildlife, and I will start with our impressions in this endeavor. First of all the skill of the guides is the true key to sighting the wildlife. The guides understand the animals’ habitat, habits and even their mood. They have conditioned the animals so that the Land Rovers are not a distraction. The animals simple ignore them as being neither predator nor prey. The guides have developed skills in sighting the animals. They can find tracks or other evidence of an animal’s passing when these signs are invisible to the untrained. They can also discern patterns that separate an animal from the bush in which he is hiding. They are skilled professionals and I have never met one that was not also a wonderful person to know. A final tribute to the guides is the care they took in getting the best possible position for taking a photograph.
This was our third trip to Africa, and on this trip neither I nor Rob felt the need to see as many different animals as possible. Completing a list of animals sighted was not a major objective. We were primarily interested in watching the behavior of the animals in their native environment. However, the best way to learn from the trip is to keep an open mind to whatever might happen. We saw a lot of different animals and many for the first time, and there were many opportunities to watch animals at length.
Leopards became our favorite. They are a beautiful animal. They have an interesting life and are methodical about their business. Compared to a leopard, lions appear lazy, and antelopes are nervous and easily frightened. Among the big five, hippos and rhinos are too sedentary to remain interesting subjects. Elephants have a lot of personality and do warrant a lot of patient observation. Zebras and giraffes have some charm, but leopards remain the best.
Our trip was in the shoulder season and the camps were not full. This meant that we had a private guide much of the time. I think our guides shared our enthusiasm for the leopards.
Robin was our very capable MalaMala guide. The preserve is noted for having a large and diverse population and variety of game. We were not disappointed. I was pleased to have my first sighting of a nyala, a beautiful animal that is not common. Cheetahs are not common and we were privileged to watch a pair of males lingering around a water hole. They totally ignored our vehicle and seemingly posed for photos. They have a lean muscular form that showed well in our photos as they crouched to drink. The waterhole also attracted a very large herd of cape buffalo that also ignored our presence. We encountered a pack of eleven wild dogs and a big group of rhinos napping in the road. There was no shortage of game.
We had an opportunity to watch Robin demonstrate his guide skills while watching a large male elephant. The animal was in musth and was demonstrating the agitation common in this period. He began to approach our vehicle. Robin raised his voice and said something like, “Get back! That is far enough!” To our surprise, the elephant turned and walked away.
There was ample opportunity to watch the leopards. We watched a mother and her cub at intervals over a three day period. The mother killed a large impala that they shared for two days. The carcass was still too large for the mother to carry it up a tree when the hyenas found it. Hyenas are dangerous predators and leopards never defend their kill with hyenas present. We watched at length as a hyena claimed the carcass and crunched the whole, meat and bones. The mother could only watch. We ended our MalaMala stay with another opportunity to watch mother and cub shortly after the kill of an impala. This was a very satisfying end to a very satisfying stay.
Our leopard sightings continued with activities of mother and cub leopard and a hyena. We first observed the mother walking through the brush. A hyena was devouring the remains of her kill. Meanwhile, a large cub was in a tree with the fresh carcass of a small impala. We watched as the mother climbed the tree and joined the cub. All of this allowed the potential for great photos. On another occasion, Citizen spotted a leopard sleeping in a tree. Naturally, we took more photographs.
There was a lot of animal activity that was just as thrilling as our leopard watches. We saw two packs of wild dogs, one a pack of about ten, the other a pack of nineteen. We saw the larger pack while parked in a large clearing. Elephants and zebras were also in the clearing. The interaction of this group was a joy to watch, the juvenile dogs annoyed the elephants just for the fun of it. Lions at Tanda Tula were patient with our parked vehicle so we had a lot of opportunities to take close photos. I was pleased to get more photographs of nyala and kudu. They are beautiful animals and are among my favorites. They tend to be nervous and are not easy to photograph.
Leopards remained our favorite game, and I think Isaac had a personal relationship with every leopard in the area. He knew how to find the residents and was very patient with me in explaining his methods. We watched one at length walking through the brush and took lots of photographs. Later, we had the opportunity to watch the leopard move through the brush and then climb a tree to better her potential for spotting prey. She was not passive; she periodically moved around the tree, rested and moved again for a different vantage point. The next day, Isaac did his magic again. He found the leopard’s cub barely discernible in a clump of bushes that appeared identical to 50 other clumps. I documented it in a photo even though the cub is barely visible.
Tubu Tree had more to offer than just leopards. Impalas are plentiful and are a primary food source for all of the large carnivores so they stay alert to any danger. They are somewhat difficult to watch or photograph because they run away so readily. The females were dropping their babies while we were there. Within a herd, all will be born within a day or so of each other. This ‘floods the market with prey’ and improves the chances of survival for the whole. Tubu Tree had a large population of impala and we did add to the photographs taken at other camps.
Monitor lizards, elephants, giraffes, zebras, baboons, kudu, cape buffalo and warthogs kept our game drives interesting when there were no leopards to watch.
All of the game camps were great. At MalaMala we were treated with an upgrade to Rattray’s whose accommodations are unsurpassed in luxury. We enjoyed the opportunity at Rattray’s although we had little time to fully appreciate the extras. Other camps that we visited were built to retain the ambiance of a game safari without compromising comfort. Little Makalolo, Selinda and Tubu Tree were located in very remote areas, yet they had every comfort we needed. We could not have been more pleased with our stay at all of the camps.
Staff personnel were consistently personable and accommodating. Personnel at Little Makalolo deserve special notice. I arrived at Little Makalolo with a respiratory infection and was quite ill for a day or so. Vee and Rania took care of me, my mother could not have done any better. Thanks to their care, I missed only one day of game drives. Little Makalolo is in the Huange National Park in Zimbabwe. I felt real empathy for the natives there. The cheerful staff seems misplaced in a country with so much political turmoil.
Lizzie at Selinda was another staff person that provided extraordinary help. Rob awakened in the middle of the night with a severe vertigo. The next day Lizzie arranged a telephone call between Rob and a doctor. The doctor recommended that Rob get examined in Johannesburg. Lizzie, Wilderness Safaris and Fish Eagle Safaris made the necessary arrangements. This required a charter flight on a Wilderness Air light plane to Maun, commercial flight to Johannesburg and ground transportation from the airport to the Hospital Emergency. The emergency Room doctor attributed the vertigo to an inner ear disturbance. In two days we were back on schedule at the next camp.
Overall, we had a wonderful trip. Fish Eagle Safaris was our primary contact and they were superb. The pre-trip package contained all of the essential trip information in a well organized format and supplemental material that we found very helpful. We were met by Wilderness Safari representatives between flights. All were personable and helpful. I could not ask for anything more.
Rob and Anita R.
Kruger Park & Botswana - April 2012
I won’t be able to do justice to our fantastic adventure in S. Africa & Botswana, but I’ll share a few details.
Our first camp, Tanda Tula was delightful. We enjoyed the opportunity to meet and spend time with the other guests as well as the staff. The chef there was amazing – the gourmet meals we enjoyed there were spectacular! Our wonderful guide, Scotch, was very knowledgeable – he continually amazed us when he would point out a bird and announce the guide book page number by memory. We were quite excited to have two sightings of a herd of wild dogs, a leopard with a kill, as well as lots of lovely birds and of course, rhinos, elephants, giraffes, zebra, and water buffalo.
Our stay at Mala Mala was wonderful. I really appreciated the wheelchair accommodations: they gave me an easier few days during this rigorous trip. Our accommodations were comfortable and our guide Jonathan was impressive. The variety and abundance of wildlife was amazing and we enjoyed the beautiful surroundings. Some of the highlights included the pair of young male giraffes fighting, a pair of mating leopards, a bachelor herd of 7 rhinos cooling off in a mud pool, following the Styx lion pride, and a beautiful pair of cheetah. On our last afternoon drive, we found ourselves in the midst of a large herd of elephants that just enchanted us. Each game drive afforded us another very memorable experience!
Janet and the staff at Nxai Pan went out of their way to make us comfortable. Before we arrived they built a ramp to make it easier to get my wheelchair on the boardwalk and a set of steps to ease my climb into the Range Rover. I was really touched by their efforts! . The accommodations were not as luxurious as the other camps and we were the only guests in camp for part of the visit. The animal sightings were not as plentiful and frequent as the other camps, but it was interesting to see a different environment (We missed the migration by a couple of weeks). We did have 2 different cheetah sightings, several ostrich sightings, a lion sighting and herds of springbok, zebra, and blue wildebeest.
Unfortunately, we did have one bad experience on this trip. The Moremi Air flight that was scheduled to transfer us from Nxai Pan to Chitabe showed up 3 hours late and never notified the camp. So we sat at the airstrip for over 3 hours in the noon heat with nothing to protect us from the sun. Every time the camp contacted Moremi they were told that the plane would be coming shortly, so we never could return to camp to wait. Although we were drinking plenty of water, I got dehydrated and nearly passed out. After we arrived at Chitabe, it took me several hours to recover and I missed the afternoon game drive.
We really loved our stay at Chitabe. The accommodations were very luxurious and the staff very nurturing. Every game drive was more amazing than the one before. We had several sightings of a pride of lions with 3 females, 3 sub-adults and a small cub. We had two different opportunities to watch them feeding on kills and to observe their behaviors. It was fascinating! We observed a leopard hunting and feeding on a squirrel and huge community of baboons settling in for the night. On our last game drive on our way to the airstrip, we came across a herd of wild dogs!
I’ve included a few highlights but as I said there is no way to do justice to the amazing sights we enjoyed. The impalas, the zebras, the giraffes, the elephants, THE BIRDS! So much to see and to learn. It was a delight!
Bert, we really appreciate the care that went into the planning of this trip for us. Each of the camps you selected worked well with the wheelchair and the staffs were all very helpful. Your careful planning made this adventure possible for us.
Southern Africa - May 2012
Our trip was WONDERFUL – we can’t wait to go back. Your selections of camps was perfect for us – thank you very much! It was simply mind blowing to see how close we were able to get to the animals. We met some wonderful couples at Chitabe that we were fortunate enough to see again at other camps – including Norm and Kathy from Miami.
Our favorite camp was Chitabe due to the incredible animal sightings (leopards, lions, elephants, giraffe, baboon, hippos, cape buffalo and so much more) and the camp management. Trevor and his team were perfection – very gracious and professional and our guide Ebs was very patient with everyone. Although I am sure that he has to answer the same questions over and over again, he graciously answered questions from everyone in the Land Rover and he was able to get us very close to the leopards and a couple of lions that were consuming a cape buffalo.
Tubu Tree was a lovely camp and the mokoro ride was very peaceful. Although the camp was not aware that we were there to celebrate my 50th birthday, the day following my birthday the camp manager, Eloise, surprised my husband and me with a private champagne brunch near the pool, a birthday cake at High Tea and a wonderful guide book on the Okavanga Delta. Animal sightings at Tubu were not at the same level as Chitabe, but we enjoyed the game drives as we were treated with elephants wading through the water, as well as hyenas, ostriches and a few species of birds that we did not see at the other camps. Tubu’s leopards were a bit elusive – saw one on a night drive and another briefly when we left to catch the plane out to the next camp.
At DumaTau we were delighted to see the wild dogs in pursuit of water bucks and impalas. Plus we were able to see new animals including monitor lizards. There more elephants that we could count and each herd had a great number of very small babies. Our guide at DumaTau, Lazi, was our favorite guide overall as he was extremely funny, knowledgeable and took care to reduce the roughness of the Land Rover in the deep sand. After brunch, Lazi even took us by boat to see the new camp that is under construction just a short distance from the current camp.
We loved ending our trip at Toka Leya as that camp had more amenities than the others (menu options, expresso machines, pizza ovens and Internet) and we really enjoyed the sundown cruise, trek out to see the rhinos and of course, Victoria Falls. Our guide Histon was able to get me seated next to the pilot on the fly over of the falls and I was able to take some incredible photos. We arrived back late from activities a couple of times and although the regular dining hours for breakfast and lunch were over, the staff graciously provided us with delicious meals made to order.
We really, really did have a wonderful time but did want to let you know of a few things that were less than perfect:
- Issues with the Wilderness Air flights including waiting at the Chitabe airstrip for two hours in the heat after being on a game drive for 3.5 hrs (no toilets at airstrip and I am not one to use the bushes), scheduling issues and numerous long delays and of course the timing of the flight to Livingstone that prevented us from any activities that afternoon);
- We learned quickly to speak up and ask questions to camp management. For game drives and activities, each camp placed us with four other people and activities were determined or limited based upon desires of the entire group. Everyone had to do the same activity. For instance, our group at Tubu did not want to do mokoro or boating as they had done those activities at other camps. We expressed our disappointment to Eloise and after finding out that we would not have the opportunity to do mokoro at any of our next camps, she was able to schedule mokoro for us. We experienced a similar issue at DumaTau. We requested a boat ride but were told that the entire group would have to agree to forgo a game drive and replace it with the boat activity. Unfortunately the others grouped with us were only interested in the boating activity if it was a “booze cruise”. By working with the manager, our guide was able to take us out separately but it was right after lunch during the heat of the day.
- Excessive talking during the game drives which prevented us from hearing the birds and other wildlife. At DumaTau the others we were grouped with talked non stop about everything but the animals and then were amazed that we didn’t hear a pride of lions taking down a baby giraffe even though it was extremely close to the rover.
Thank you again so very much for scheduling our trip and working with us to make it amazing. My husband and I would love to go back to Africa next year.
Southern Africa - April 2012
As you may recall, when we first approached you about planning an itinerary, I mentioned that between the four of us we had a total of twelve safaris and wanted something “different”. I must commend you on your choices because this safari was above and beyond all our expectations! Mashatu was a good re-entry into the bush. There were only eight of us at the tented camp and the staff pampered us accordingly. The food was terrific and the animal sightings were constant, including a new born giraffe, lion, leopard, elephant, large antelope, as well as lots of beautiful birds. I had mentioned that I preferred fish or chicken to red meat and the kitchen staff made sure there was a special vegetarian dish for me at every meal. However, I caused quite a ruckus when on the last night I decided to try the kudu filet. I guess they thought I was a “confirmed” vegetarian! My sister and I like to shop so were disappointed that there was no curio shop. When we left Mashatu our driver stopped at the Main Camp where we had ten minutes to check out the local crafts.
The drive to the South African border took several hours but the van was air-conditioned and the driver had an ice chest full of drinks and sandwiches and kept us entertained w/stories about the area. The road were paved and occasionally we would see some monkey, elephant or antelope in the trees.
Our next camp was Pafuri at the northern end of Kruger National Park. This tented camp was built on a vast boardwalk overlooking the Levuvhu River and our accommodations were quite luxurious. We had an indoor and an outdoor shower, comfy beds w/mosquito netting, and daily laundry facilities. The atmosphere was lovely and the food plentiful but not nearly as delicious as Mashatu. A computer was available for sending emails and there was a small shop which sold safari clothing and locally made crafts. The area vegetation was thick and dense and when our guide showed us the “fever tree” forest, I felt as though I was in the Garden of Eden. It was that beautiful! We also saw Crooks’ Corner (where three countries converge) and a beautiful gorge carved from the Luvuvhu River. Animal sightings were wonderful, but perhaps the most memorable was a flock of fifty plus vultures fighting each other for a morsel of flesh from an impala carcass. We also saw a pride of lions (mama and her six male cubs) stalking their prey, a pod of hippo, a variety of antelope, zebra, giraffe, hyena, Cape buffalo, baboon, warthog, crocodiles, and more colorful birds. Our guide was well educated and delighted in sharing stories about the history of the area and the age of the Baobab trees.
From Pafuri we flew in a 14 passenger plane to an airstrip close to Tanda Tula Bush Camp. In typical bush fashion, the pilots had to abort our initial attempt to land because a giraffe was walking along the runway! And, since there were no facilities there, we waited under the wing of the aircraft for our guide to transport us to camp in the Land Rover. If ever the old adage about “saving the best for last” was true, it was here at Tanda Tula. Our tent was not quite as posh as the previous camp but the amenities were wonderful! Imagine being awakened each morning at 0530 w/the delivery of hot drinks and biscotti! We had another coffee/tea break midway during our morning game drive before we enjoyed a full breakfast in the bush. There was a table laden w/various fresh fruits, yoghurt, cereals, cheeses, breads and jam, and cooked-to-order scrambled or fried eggs, tomatoes, potatoes and toast. The chef was extraordinary and should be commended for his varied menus at lunch, tea, and dinner. Our favorite “watering hole” before dinner was the open air lounge and bar area where we played Scrabble and sipped Sundowners before a roaring fire.
The guide and his tracker did a fabulous job of finding animals. We saw one of the most beautiful male lions ever mating w/an equally beautiful lioness, a female leopard w/her six month old cub, a pride of lions w/the granny, mama and six young male cubs, zebra, wildebeest, numerous antelope, a lone hippo, four different rhinos including a mother w/her adorable three month old baby, elephant, hyena w/their kill, and giraffe.
The only disappointment here were the “star beds.” The wooden two story building was several miles from camp, overlooking a watering hole. The steps to the open air sleeping cots were narrow and steep, and the toilet situation was more primitive than we expected. We ladies like “adventure”, but decided the star beds were too rustic for us. Fortunately, a young couple on their honeymoon offered to take our place!
At Tanda Tula we also had the opportunity to use a computer and to browse in the tiny curio shop. The staff was exceedingly friendly and eager to serve. I felt that they were as happy as we were to be there.
I didn’t intend the blather on like this. Just wanted you to know how much we enjoyed our safari and look forward to our next adventure w/Fish Eagle. Thank you again for your great suggestions!
Kenya with Origins Safaris - March 2012
Just wanted to follow up with you and let you know how awesome our safari was! Thank you so much for all your hard work on all the plans. Everything went great and Felix (Origin’s driver) was the best! We had an amazing time and are still in awe of everything we saw and did! Felix found lots of animals for us (big 5 plus many, many more!) and made sure our trip was so great. We saw both white and black rhinos, lots of lions (including cubs and even saw one hunting an ostrich), hippos fighting in the river, a pack of hyenas with a kill, cheetahs with cubs, leopards (Felix took us on fun, wild ride to get to the first one!), elephant families, buffalo, lots of warthogs, topi, dik-diks, giraffes, zebras and more, more, more. (One day I kept track and we had 21 different types of animals on that day alone!) The accommodations were very nice and the food was delicious at every place we stayed. It was an experience we’ll never forget.
Thanks again for all of your help in making this happen, we truly appreciate it!
If possible, it would be great if you could forward this onto Origins so they hear how great Felix was for us.
Laura, Tony, Katie and Johnny
Kenya with Origins Safaris - February 2012
I think that I left behind something of value at the end of our mid-February safari, and I am wondering if Edwin might look for it for me. I don’t think it is in the truck; we checked that pretty carefully. I expect it is along the road, perhaps in the Aberdare National Park, or in the grasslands of the Masai Mara, but most likely it is in Tsavo East. I think it is there that I lost a piece of my heart to Kenya. I had hoped that this excursion would be “the trip of a lifetime.” I was disappointed in that goal. It will have to be just the first of many such trips. I am convinced that if God, or the gods, or the makers of this earth were to return to the planet today, they would first come to Kenya. It is the place that that most captures the beauty of ecosystems that still operate largely as they evolved, filled with an overabundance of mostly wonderful people who retain the civility that the United States has lost in its day-to-day interactions, but also has most of humanity’s problems of overpopulation, poverty, and the dangers of unfortunate neighbor countries all wrapped into one place. It is both the jewel of the continent and a flawed place with serious human needs. Mind you, my own country is a flawed place as well, but I see our problems as of our own making from deliberate if misguided moves while I see Kenya responding to a history of acts done to it. Overly simplified, to be sure, but this is not a thesis on the history of either country.
From the start, both Fish Eagle Safaris and Origins have been excellent in their work with us, and although we came to Kenya with high expectations, we had our expectations exceeded at nearly every turn. Bert and his group took care of logistics, connected us with Origins, booked our flight, answered my many questions, and fully lived up to the reputation we were told to expect from Fish Eagle Safaris. We wanted a wildlife oriented safari, and Bert delivered. His first-hand knowledge of Africa and of Origins convinced us early on to go this more expensive route, and we did not regret it. He listened to my request for an ecologically oriented trip that would not focus on the big five, and he “insisted” we wait for a particular guide. Fantastic advice. On the ground, Origins was superb. Each person was expert. It starts with the small things. To be greeted at the airport in Nairobi after 20 hours of airport time, whisked to the hotel, and told to just relax in the lobby so Lydia could handle all of the arrangements took my breath away. In a country where logistics and connections and accommodations may not always work as planned, the Origins group handled everything professionally and seamlessly. Our driver maneuvered safely and effectively in a traffic stream that was turbulent at best. When Nate needed a phone, Lydia knew where to go, and Edwin showed him how to use it. When I badgered Lydia or Edwin with an endless stream of questions about Kenya, Nairobi, or whatever, they acted as if they enjoyed it. Where Origins really stood out was in the selection of accommodations, and the route that Bert and Steve, if I understand correctly, worked out. The camps were beautiful, comfortable, clean, and each was ecologically interesting in its own way. We saw a half dozen different ecotypes, from the ground and the air. We logged (for want of a better word, 200 species of birds, about 50 of mammals, a dozen herps, and countless plants. We often compared notes with other travelers. Ours was singularly the best set of arrangements. I can truly say that when I next set foot in Kenya, it will be with an Origins driver waiting for me and an Origins guide to accompany me. I have already been steering several friends your way. Origins focus on serious wildlife safari, on comfortable accommodations, and a quality experience rather than simply on cost cutting actually made this a better value than the many bargain safaris that are out there. You can go to Kenya cheaper, but I do not think you can see Kenya as well as you can with Origins.
Most deserving of praise is our guide. Bert highly recommended him. Steve brags about him on the web site. Edwin Selempo is simply the best. His knowledge of all things great and small rivals, no, it exceeds any field guide. His ability to see things far away and well hidden, while driving, and then point them out eludes the physical limits of the human eye. In all matters he was patient and professional, even when he broke his arm. He worked constantly to provide us an outstanding experience, always squeezing in one more valuable sighting or another piece of ecological background. His patience with our questions and our halting attempts to learn Swahili phrases were most appreciated. He began as the most gracious host a person could ask for, and by the time we left, I felt I was leaving a friend behind. When he broke his arm, we feared our safari was lost. We had waited six extra months to travel just to have Edwin. Much to our delight, he was eager to continue if we would have him. And since the doctor assured him he would not further injure his arm, we were delighted to keep him. I cannot offer enough superlatives to describe Edwin. He was both guide and companion, knowledgeable resource but also a thinking challenge to our own ideas, concerned for our safety and comfort, and committed to educating us. I look forward to seeing him again, especially after he bones up on the details of Kenyan geology!
In short, thank you. It is not common to deal with companies that deliver more than promised. Or maybe I am so used to people delivering less than they promise that I am surprised when someone makes good on their word.
With deepest thanks s for a life-changing two weeks,
Botswana Green Season = February 2012
The trip was absolutely great. In fact, I would leave tomorrow to go back if I could. We totally enjoyed the Vic Falls Hotel. It was like going back in time. DumaTau and Tubu were my favorite safari camps. Nxai Pan was excellent but because it is in a national park, we could not go off road and had to be out of the park by 7 p.m. Sometimes this was frustrating because with lions, cheetahs, etc., you could only see them from a great distance. however, the guide at Nxai Pan and the lodge staff could not have been better.
Our accommodations, our guides, the lodge staffs were all the very best. There is nothing that we could improve upon.
Metcourt Suites was OK, but typically a big city hotel and we did not find the staff that helpful when we made requests. On a scale of 1=10, I would rank Metcourt suites at a 7. All the others were 10s.
I look forward to more travels in Africa and I am providing your contact information to several people whom we met at the safari camps.
Thank you for all the trouble you went to to make this trip so special. When I have time I will send you a few of the great pix I took.
Mary B, LA
Botswana Green Season = February 2012
Rick C, Houston TX
PS – We did bump into a couple of ladies traveling together named Pam and Frances at Tubu Tree Camp who said you had help plan their trip for them. Small World.
Botswana & Zambia with Wilderness Safaris & Kwando - March 2011
Yes, we had a FANTASTIC time. As usual, none of us was ready to come back when it was time to return home. We were joking with the guide in Jo-burg that because it was April 1st, we’d hoped he’d say it was all an April Fools joke and we really didn’t have to go home!!! Unfortunately it wasn’t.
Tubu Tree is an amazing camp – our favorite by far on this trip. Tim and I put it up there with Sausage Tree camp in Zambia as one of our top 2 favorites from our 5 visits to Africa . Lisa said it is definitely her favorite of her 2 African safaris. Someone at that camp told us we had started with the best of the ones we were to visit and they were so right. Saw LOTS of leopard there – at least one on every game drive – sometimes 2. We were totally amazed as we’d expected to see less animals on this trip just because it was the green season and therefore more food and water for them to find. We were pleasantly surprised. Jackey and Justin were great hosts and the staff was above par for sure!!! Our guide told us of some of his friends at Chitabe and we lucked out and got one as our guide there.
Chitabe was excellent as well. We had one of the best guides ever… he was absolutely amazing!!! We lucked out and had the truck to ourselves and he was very happy to hear that we didn’t care what we saw, we just wanted to see it all – including trees, birds, insects, etc. We had an absolute blast with him… While there, we saw wild dog which was unexpected… it’s just the luck of the draw I guess and we were lucky enough to see them.
Lagoon was nice — they’d just updated their tents and they were large and spacious. The hippo right outside in the river was wonderful of course. Much less animal sightings there due to the high grasses, but still a nice place to visit. The staff was amazing.
Toka Leya — have to say this was a great way to end the trip. I think we were ready for A/C and being catered to. We had actually said ½ way through Chitabe that we should have stayed at a hotel in Vic Falls. Little did we know but the Toka Leya was better than a hotel. And of course Vic Falls was amazing. Tim and I were there in the late 90s in Oct and it was a very different experience.
All 3 of us really enjoyed out trip…. Thank you so much for all of your planning, coordinating and dealing with our constant questions and changes. We’re talking about doing another one in 4 years – TBD on location – as we seem to be doing them every 4 yrs recently…. This one was for my 50th bday and in 4 yrs Lisa will be 50, so what a better way to spend it… We’ll definitely be in contact with you as you’ve always provided us with the greatest service and made sure our trips were just perfect.
Hope you had a great time in Namibia, Botswana and So Africa. Hope you got to see lots of animals as well as time to visit family. Sorry we missed you by just a few days. Would have loved to met the man who makes our vacation memorable!!!
Mary – Washington D.C.
Botswana, Victoria Falls & Cape Town - September 2010
I just walked in the door. Yes we had a great time and would use you and Wilderness again in a minute. They were always on time always pleasant and made everything a pleasurable experience. The camps were the best along with the employees. The food was great at Okavango (Tubu Tree) and our guide was the best. We had a bull elephant walk right into the jeep with us in it. The food Savuti was good but not as high end as the other. You could tell the chef at Savuti was cooking in her local fare, while Okavango he was really experimenting and doing a good job. They also got much higher quality ingredients than Savuti. Warren and Cheri gave Karter and I a private dinner on the terrace with our own waiter our last night. They said we were part of the family and they wanted to do something nice for us. It was very special.
Both Karter and I would love to go back and would really like a life style change so keep us in mind if you need help over there with anything. My restaurant is on the market, my house in Mexico is on the market and I am working towards putting my home here on the market when the time is right.
Victoria Falls were beautiful but one night there would be enough. It was soooo poor there and the people never stopped begging and trying to sell us stuff. It really brought home the difference in life style and culture we have with the rest of the world. I could tell how segregated it still is all over Africa. I can’t imagine how bad it was 50 years ago. The Victoria Falls Hotel has such a black and white seperation. The staff there was very timid or outright bitter towards us. The penthouse on Loader was off the charts great and a great location. We took a tour of the peninsula and both said we could live there in a second.
Our guide from Wilderness was great also he was Muslim and we enjoyed talking with him and getting his views on life, Cape Town and the world.
Thank You for all you did and if you can get word to Mia and Rynhart and Warren and Cheri please tell them we loved being with them at both camps.
P.S. I am now a total birder…. I think I enjoyed them more than the animals. We also saw the Channel Boys. 5 Male lion brothers that know how to kill elephants. Their fathers are famous for killing elephants and I have seen the show documenting them so was really thrilled when we came upon them sitting by the channel. An elephant, very large crossed the channel and they all looked, got up then thought better of it. Being there makes you realize how unimportant cell phones, computers, TV etc. is.
David and Karter, AZ
Great Namibia Journey with Wilderness Safaris - September 2010
– The Olive Garden Guest House in Windhoek was perfect– the staff was so welcoming and the meals were tasty– although we probably should have done so, we never had to leave the facilities to search out other restaurants. We highly recommend the Olive Grove to your other clients. I mentioned the Hilltop Guest House to Rickey ( I remember you mentioning this in our early discussions)– he said that the level of service has dropped off in the last year or so. Other members of our group stayed at the Elegant Guest House (no restaurant) and Villa Verdi (not a great area of town).
– We liked all of the camps–especially Damaraland Camp, Rhino Camp, and Ongava Tented Camp. We wished that the itinerary had included an extra day in each so as to fully enjoy the camp and surroundings. On the other hand, the Skeleton Research Camp was more basic, but fine except for the water situation. At each camp, solar systems were effectively used to heat the water. The solar system at Skeleton Camp, however, was simply not up to the job and except for one night when they ran the generators, we never had hot water. Considering the harsh conditions, it was amazing what they could do!
– Wilderness Safaris does a great job of hiring the camp staffs– everyone was so friendly and accommodating. The food in the camps was also very good and filling. We especially enjoyed the singing and dancing– at first, I thought that it may be a bit put-on, but I came to understand that singing is in their blood and they sing at any occasion (we even encountered a group singing outside the Jo-Burg Airport).
– We are happy that you recommended the Metcourt Suites in Jo-Burg. While relatively basic, it was quite comfortable, had a reliable shuttle to the airport, and was within a short walk of the wide range of restaurants at the Emperor’s Palace (we ate at the seafood and pizza restaurants, but as you know, there is also Indian, Greek, Portuguese/Angolan, and the Taste of Africa). Other hotels near the airport probably do not have a similar variety of cuisines to pick from.
– While we knew that the number of animals would be far less that what one sees in Botswana (we saw plently, nevertheless), we had the impression that others were a little disappointed. It is all about getting yourself educated and having honest knowledgeable agents. We believe that you were very clear on what to expect and we assume that your other clients are well prepared. The smaller numbers of animals is far outweighed by the marvel that any can survive in the harsh desert conditions and by the unbelievable scenic beauty of the countryside.
Rickey talked about other safaris in Southern Africa– he was very high on Zambia and Malawi. We assume that Wilderness Safaris has trips there. We may be back in touch with you to help set something up in the future.
Again, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves– we were so pleased with the arrangements and recommendations you provided, the high standards of Wilderness Safaris in terms of their guides, staff, vehicles, and camps, and the natural beauty of Namibia.
Thanks, Bob and Charlene S, AZ
Botswana & Zimbabwe with Wilderness Safaris - August 2010
It is really interesting to see the changes from year to year. I am not sure about the refrigerators at Mombo, but they are convenient for the late afternoon glass of wine! Kwetsani had tons of water – we were totally unable to drive anywhere from camp, but the boat trips were great, and I do like to have a break from the dust. Two nights is perfect there. Three is way too much. In fact, our friends took several drives “off” and just enjoyed the camp. Selinda is nice, though I missed having an outdoor shower there. Other than that, we had fabulous sightings. I told Sharon and Bill they were so spoiled and not to expect this from all the other drives! We saw 2 cheetah, huge herd of buffalo, a kudu killed by another kudu (apparently, from the hole in his side!), hyenas on the kudu, then 2 leopards later on. Just the first drive. Second day more leopards in a tree (mom and young one) and lions and wild dog pack with babies. Fabulous.
Cairo and Luxor were added on because we had that routing on our frequent flyer tickets. I am glad we went but it was a bit much after our Botswana trip. Enjoyed it though.
Vic Falls was nice – we even went over to Zambia and Wilderness arranged for us to have lunch at Toka Leya. They did a nice job of it – pizza from their pizza oven!
Great time was had by all and thanks so much for your help.
Patty S., CA
Kenya with Origins Safaris - August 2010
Please forward this report on my safari with Origins to Steve Turner. I had hoped to meet him, as I think we’ll be collaborating on more safaris in the future.
First, let me say that if anyone ever had a better safari in Kenya, I’d find it hard to believe. This comes from a veteran of ten Kenya safaris.
Let me count the ways it was spectacular:
First, when you see a kill, it’s always a privilege, but when you see a kill that no one else has ever seen, it’s incredible. No guides can recall anyone ever seeing 3 cheetah brothers stalk and kill a giraffe. It was amazing. The 3 brothers in peak form took a young giraffe right in the midst of its leg-thrashing, mother. Her vigil for at least 36 hours afterwards over the baby’s body was a testament to motherhood instinct and something none of us will ever forget.
Hitting the migration perfectly is something I’ve always strived for. I’ve actually never missed it in August, but Steve’s suggestion to go to Mara Intrepids was a brilliant coup. I will ALWAYS go there now at this time of year. To see the wildebeest and zebra cross the Mara River, of course, is the ultimate experience here. To put it in proper perspective, the BBC spent two weeks in July to capture it. WE WITNESSED THE CROSSING FIVE TIMES DURING OUR SAFARI!
It was like a dam bursting open. Once one zebra or wildebeest dared brave the current and the threat of crocodiles – often leaping into the rock strewn waters – others followed in a never-ending line. THOUSANDS!
As we watched in amazement, I could see coming up the river, what looked like submarines: they were, of course, thousand pound crocs, homing in on kills. First we saw them take wildebeest: always small ones; then we saw them take zebra: again, they seem to have known to go for the yearlings. As we were watching the attacks, unknown to us was a lioness hiding in the bush nearby our vehicles. The wildebeest exerting much effort to climb the banks on our side, once they crossed, had no idea that there was a trap laid for them in what they must have thought was safety on land. Yes, another kill! The lioness took the neck of the yearling, dropping the animal as a cowboy would wrestle a steer.
Five kills, five crossings (2 more crossings witnessed from the air as we flew out of the Mara!). Rarities like striped hyena, klipspringers, and nearly a couple hundred species of birds (despite this being a safari that included mostly non-birders). 12 cheetah sightings, 4 leopards, numerous prides of lions: we aced the cats.
Henry provided great commentary, he being a Masai, when we visited their manyatta.
Bert and Steve, you did it for me!
I will have Henry as my next lead guide. His voice and unsolicited commentary, as well as his instinct as to when to move or when to stay put was excellent. If I have birders with me, I definitely will have Zachary. His knowledge and enthusiasm on birds was superior. It could be wasted on groups that don’t care for birds, though.
A few suggestions: Consider upgrading the fleet of vehicles by putting viewing hatches in the front. That would allow one more person (14%) more client viewing space. The driver would also have the option, when appropriate, of being able to view things better as well. (Although, I’d want him with his hand on the wheel and ignition whenever we’d be around elephants, rhino, and hippo, of course!)
The ride from Lewa all the way to the Mara took all day with essential stops. If you’re not flying, I’d say definitely break it up with Nakuru.
I was disappointed personally with the balloon ride, although it did get us to Lookout Crossing, where we saw many thousands cross over the Mara on our way back. The New Zealand pilot tended to fly too high for much of the time. Being low over the herds is altogether more exciting. Maybe I’ve done it too many times, but I no longer relish being packed in a tight compartment, 16 to a balloon. My clients will go next time, but I’ll do a game drive.
As for Nairobi, the Kenya wildlife orphanage was more like a zoo and very crowded with people. I wouldn’t do that. I was surprised how much people enjoyed feeding the Rothchilde’s giraffe. The best was the elephant orphanage. The National Museum was worth it, but it didn’t have Joy Adamson’s portraits, something I had built up. I wouldn’t bother doing the snake museum again.
Safari Park Hotel was a good stop. The acrobatic show was unforgettable. The food tended to be overcooked on the barbecue, though. I’m used to medium rare, and everything seem to be served medium.
I have to rate the safari a 10, and it’s largely because of both you, Bert, and Steve. I’m indebted and will continue any safari to Kenya with you.
Mark B., MA
Zimbabwe & Zambia with Wilderness Safaris - June 2010
I got back to South Carolina on 2 July and have been busy organizing trip photo albums. John and my sister told me that they had been in contact with you. I had suggested that their feedback might be of interest to you.
The fact that everything you arranged went absolutely according to schedule was not a surprise to me but I was impressed as usual. Ethiopian Airlines did pleasantly surprise me ..first by upgrading me on the Dulles-Rome-Addis segments and secondly by being only one hour late getting us to Lusaka.
Except for Little Makalolo which was fully booked the various camp managers did gratiously agree to give John and me separate tents. That was greatly appreciated by both of us. All of the group were impressed with the accommodations, meals and especially the competent and friendly guides and other staff. The Shumba Camp substitution for the Busanga Bush Camp due to high water was an unexpected opportunity to experience a Premier Wilderness Camp.
The game viewing was exceptional and I don’t think the others really appreciated how lucky they were. The wild dog experience was super and leopards three nights in a row during the Kafue Rivers and Plains was an unexpected treat. My luck continued during the 15 June -1 July time in South Luangwa with my friends. I saw 12 more leopards including one in a tree in the daytime.
As always upon departure I said “I hope I will be lucky enough to come back again”.
Thanks for your excellent service.
Bob F. SC
Namibia Fly-In Safari - May 2010
I was just thinking of emailing you to tell you what a lovely job you did arranging our trip. On our return I instantly jumped into my summer teaching, and then got a bad case of laryngitis, so I’m just on the mend and am picking up the pieces!
In case it helps you and future people I’ll detail a bit our experiences which were colored by our interest in nature/wildlife. Remember that we shortened the Kulala Desert Lodge to spend more time at Skeleton Coast because they had scheduling issues? That worked out fine because the focus at Kulala seems solely on the magnificent dunes rather than wildlife. Only by chance did we fortunately get to see bat-eared foxes on the way to the landing strip, but that was wonderful. The accommodations were great (both rooms and food), the guides nice and it was pleasant. We weren’t sure what to expect given it was our first destination. The guide unobtrusively assessed the nimbleness (lack!) of our group (we had two older English people in the vehicle) and so we ended up not hiking up Dune 45, which was fine.
We thought of the hot air balloon but they were having poor winds that required previous people to reschedule. The flights were all great; nice pilots who escorted us through the airports so no worries. We kept getting comments of “that’s all your bags?” because we hewed to the limits you sent and had soft-sided duffels (really important for the little Cessnas).
Skeleton Coast was very well set out as a camp. It might be useful in the future if people knew the size of the accommodations–for instance it was great that they have a max of 12 guests (and only 9 while we were there). The group naturally split between the 4 Swiss and the rest (2 Americans, 1 Brit and a South African/Zim couple on their honeymoon). The latter had worked for Wilderness in the past (dive instructors) and got special handling I think. Our guide Gert was very knowledgeable and hard-working (ran to catch lizards), but the whole time there was a lot of driving, in part due to the distances between sights, but perhaps it was easier than shepherding individuals. We wold have liked to hike more but we didn’t want to stand in the way of their agendas. A very slim chance of lions kept most people away from night hikes, though once again Gerat went beyond call and took us out to see the neighborhood porcupine. He was also sensitive to letting us take pictures of, for instance, a chameleon or an adder (very exciting) when the Swiss wanted to press on.
There was a bit of sticky point when they thought we didn’t want to see the Himba, when we had to explain that it wasn’t that, it was that we didn’t want to be culturally insensitive. We went along, and it was fine, but a bit odd. Nice that the other guide knew the Himba language (one of his parents). One of the Swiss men got right up in the face and body of one of the Himba women to take pictures as though she was just an object (which she may have been to him). But the Himba were unperturbed and pleasant (no haggling about pictures like in some areas where people are charged).
We did our part to support the local economy and bought a handicraft at their market, as most did. At one point in the trip we were supposed to go fishing, but it seems the S.A. couple had commandeered attention and poles for their own thing so our vehicles didn’t go. Overall we had some very good wildlife sightings, though in our whole trip we didn’t see any hyenas nor the famous Welwitchia (we’d feel better if you said it wasn’t at Skeleton Coast!).
One unscripted highlight was the manager Willie offered to show us behind the scenes and was quite up front about what worked and what was a challenge. (I see that the website says that is a mark of Wilderness to show behind the scenes). He is an amazing strategist; the logistical details are overwhelming; for instance they had troubles with the water tanker and were apologetic (we were amazed we got showers at all in a desert). It’s amazing how many problems Land Cruisers have; they’ve got to be really strategic about what to fix and when. Willi is a real gem for a place like that; a jack-of-all-trades and cheerful and diplomatic to boot. He pointed out the research tents and Shahid and I discussed whether the research camp would be a place to bring Columbia students some day. Willie would clearly be very supportive.
Finishing off at Ongava (rather than a different order) was good. It was the more classic wildlife area (more water), so we saw lion, warthog and secretary birds. Of course that meant also that there were more people, and it was a bit distressing to be part of a half-dozen vehicles jockeying for position around the lion pride feeding on a zebra kill. The vehicles got within a few meters of the cats, who got irritated and moved off a few more meters with their kill. We didn’t think we could say anything about hanging back because we were sharing the vehicle with another couple.
The Ongava management was glimpsed rushing by and clearly disinterested (understandable) so nothing like the family-spirit of Skeleton Coast. Much more of a flow-through operation. It was hard for us to figure whether we should spend time at Etosha or on the Concession land. Fortunately our guide kept us away from too much crush at the Park watering holes.
All the details of the trip worked well, so thank you for double-checking flights, and the itinerary that spelled things out was also very reassuring. We have played with the notion of returning during the rainy season some time. If any of our friends are looking for help for a trip to Africa we will be sure to recommend your services.
Sara T. (NY)
Kenya with Origins Safaris - January 2010
All went well with no hiccups. Mara Explorer and every staff member starting with Mariana and Steve were a 10. Food, staff and accommodations were five star in every respect.
Having the three cars and spotters worked well giving the seven people flexibility as to when to be out, what to see and when to go back to camp and have meals and/or a nap. Each of the Masai spotters was loved by all of us. They added a lot. I believe it is the first time we have had Edwin as a guide. He also was rated a ten each of us. Very flexible. No drama.
The flights went well with East African Air Charters. Virgin Atlantic was excellent. They ran bit late because of some of the security “enhancements” and snow in Europe; but nothing that affected connections. The delays were less than an hour. Overall it wasnt’ any big deal. Because of security, some secondary screenings and not getting up the last hour; all understandable and handled efficiently.
Wandering around one day we stopped and had a look at Naibor Camp. I think it is rated high by some, but Dan and I weren’t impressed and didn’t think it was even close to the quality and people at Explorer.
Thanks for handling everything for us so professionally.
Northern Tanzania with And Beyond Safaris - November 2009
We had a great time on our recent trip to Tanzania. &Beyond did an excellent job–we were met by its representatives on time at every stop, the rangers and drivers were superb, the accommodations and meals were wonderful and the game was cooperative. At each camp, we were given a tent which was closest to the reception/dining area so we did not have to walk very far. &Beyond must have notified the various camp managers of our advanced age and asked them to make the trip as easy as possible for us, and they did.
Betty and I want to thank you for your work in arranging this trip and the previous trips (three, I think). I would also like to send a thank you note to &Beyond. Could you furnish me an e-mail address and name of someone in their organization responsible for customer relations so I can thank them also.
We recommend your company at every opportunity. I am also considering writing to ITN on this trip. If I do, I will let you know first.
Happy New Year!!
John and Betty, AZ
Kenya Family Safari - August 2010
Just returned from Kenya today. I am writing to thank you for arranging an outstanding trip for us.
We travel quite frequently to far off destinations but I can honestly say that this was one of the most memorable and enjoyable trips for our family. Origins Safari company in Kenya did a fantastic job. All logistics including airport pick ups/drop-offs, transfers, private airplane charters etc were flawless. Origins staff were all superb (especially Lydia who was our guide in Nairobi).
We spent 4 nights at Mara Plains camp and it was spectacular. Service, accommodations, guides, vehicles, food etc. could not have been better. You were right in that the Masai Mara is the place to go in July / August due to the migration of 1.5 to 2 million animals. We saw an amazing number of animals and were also able to see the wildebeest crossing the Mara river.
Ol Duonyu Wuas was also fantastic. Accommodations were over the top luxurious. We had a great time cycling on the flat plains and hiking in the hills.
Our final stay was at Al Manara in Diani beach and was also great. The villas are beautiful and having a personal staff of 3 (including private chef) was amazing.
Prior to our departure I was a little concerned since we had never met and all booking arrangements had been done over the phone and via email. However, after having returned from Kenya I cannot think of a single thing to complain about. On behalf of all 10 of us I would once again like to thank you for an unforgettable trip.
Dr. Atif H, TX
Botswana Fly-In Safari - July 2009
Thank you for our e-mail We had a fantastic trip. Duba Plains as you know is very luxurious and the landscape is spectacular. Lots of water and some magnificent bird life- as well as Duba’s famous lions.
Sankuyo Bush Camp was an excellent surprise. The camp is very well appointed – nice tents- showers and toilets are outside the tents. The food was excellent – every bit as good and as much variety as Duba.
The camp is managed by “Doctor” a well known guide- who is excellent! His wife Tsogang also mananges with him. They offer great hospitality wonderful guiding and great food and accommodations.
The landscape here is not as beautiful as Duba- no water. But the wildlife viewing was excellent- we saw a leopard! We also saw many lions- and many creatures of the night- the drive back to the camp at night was excellent for night viewing and Doctor was expert in finding animals.
We had the trip of a lifetime.
Agnes G, Maine
Zimbabwe - August 2009
Bob and My trip ended well as we expected and we are home safely.
Makalola and Little Makalola were the top of our list for hospitality, food, and especially the variety of animals every day. We will be wanting to go back to them next year as our finishing camps. The transfers went well.
The Hide was nice but a little upscale to our liking. The first night there were eighteen people at the supper table. It felt like we were at a convention. The facilities get a rating of at least four paws. The animals and birds were average but not comparing to Makalola Plains. Note: Please be advised that because the Hide is not in the park proper, there is $60/person charge for three day entry to the park. We were not expecting this and it caught us a little short for Victoria Falls.
Our fourth camp of Somalisa has a good setting but the camp has fallen on hard times. At the end of two days the generator burned out shutting the water pump down so the elephants were without water and started tearing up the water hole and pool. The nearest pan had a problem with the pump working only when attended closely. Our tent had some plumbing problem which got corrected the second day. The hostess was new and inexperienced. The activities were pretty much centered around Ngweshia every day to see animals. The camp shut down for two weeks until next clients check-in.
Our last camp of Ruckomechi has a very pleasant setting with good game drives including a nice pair of Cheetahs. The river cruises were a highlight for birding. We took three canoes down to old camp site but met up with enraged hippo bull that had been disposed from the pod. While trying to portage around his pool, he came roaring out behind us and got within 30 feet of me before the guides stopped his charge with the paddles. Not satisfied the hippo made one more serious run at us. It certainly didn’t give me a warm and fuzzy feeling to see that mouth full of teeth aimed at me. The game drives were clouded with tsi-tsi flies once we drove into bush from the river. There are no plan to place traps on the concession to rid of the nasty pest.
The final two days in Victoria Falls were as pleasant as usual at the Ilala lodge mainly because we have been regular customers.
Paul and Bob, MD
Botswana & Zambia - August 2009
Botswana was great. Stanley’s was a good stop in the Okavango for us we thoroughly enjoyed visiting Doug and Sandi’s Elephant Experience – in fact we loved it! And Evelyn and Harry made us feel as tho we were visiting old friends. Baines Camp would have been too pretentious for us so I made the right choice (there was British “royalty” there – not the friendly types that you meet at so many other camps). In Botswana we saw cheetah, lions, ellies, more giraffe than i had ever seen etc… though fewer ellies than in the past probably because we skipped Chobe this trip. As for Savute, it was almost devoid of animal activity – which was a great dissappointment for us, but who knew the channel would have water in it so close after being dry for so long, things out of their control. But we did see the wild dogs there, right after they devoured an impala (2 wild dog sighting in Botswana this trip after never finding them in the past – was pretty nice). But there were simply too many people at Savute as well.
I must say though that the Kwara Camps were wonderful, and the hosts very gracious and accommodating, the guides and trackers were excellent (some are former wilderness safari people). Lebala was fab as before and Little Kwara we loved and would like to return someday there as well. The tents are wonderful, elevated with bathtubs and outdoor showers, very nice.
As for Zambia… I have lost my heart to the country and the people! We found Zambia to be more wild, primitive and pristine, less touristy and more undeveloped than Botswana – which we loved. (Next trip will probably be exclusively camps in Zambia, or so the plan is). Mfuwe Lodge was a good stopover for a night on the way to Kaingo. Mfuwe had lots of animal activity in the area. We saw 16 lions at once there (a new pride of 17 had invaded the area 2 weeks before) and another 3 the night before along with 6 others of another pride (a pride of 12 that had been there for years) the same night. We plan on staying there or close by for 2 nights next trip, although I must admit Mfuwe lodge is too large for more than a stopover for us. I wish there were a tented camp in the area more to our suiting, but you cannot ignore the abundant game life there, so it is worth staying a second night next time just for the game (much like Chobe).
As for Kaingo, Kaingo was fabulous. Although the cabins were unimpressive and much more rustic than any of the tented camps we had been in.. (not exactly luxury camping here) we had some problems with frogs (in toilets, etc…) and the puff adder that was BEHIND our cabin – kind of made me nervous (he could easily have slipped under the door since the gap was so large)… it took a day for me to acclimate to this type of lodging, it was not exactly a place for romance, but it was worth it. We loved the guides (Mayam was ours and he is sweet, but Freya from San Diego was downright awesome!). Derek and Jules were terrific hosts (their little girl was a doll too) and the staff was great (Tom and Allison were particularly lovely). Their hides were incredible, all the bee eaters were coming en masse when we arrived, and the hippo hide was awesome (we could have stayed there much of the day – sometimes there were 100+ right in front of us).
The sleepout in the ellie hide had me a bit apprehensive beforehand, but it turned out to be a great nights sleep and was quite refreshing and lovely in itself – though we did pass this trip on sleeping by the water hole in a sleeping bag on the ground (I would pass on that every trip after the puff adder incident). Like you, we saw lots of animal activity in the area and plenty of leopard. We plan on returning but probably for only 3-4 nights next trip as there is so much more to see in Zambia.
As for Chiawa, while I agree the animal life was sparser, it was a lovely way to end the trip for me alone (I loved the milk bubble baths there). I had lions next to my tent at night as was evidenced by their tracks there in the morning (I was in tent 8 – far away from main camp – with only 4 tents occupied) … and I did see mating lions at Chiawa. Mostly I loved the staff there and the variation of game viewing, it was nice to be on the water and out of a vehicle for a change. And although I am NOT a fisherman, I was coaxed by my guide for the day to TRY and I caught a tiger fish… nasty thing hard to reel in, real fighter… looked like a small shark! Kayla and Jason were absoltuely wonderful as hosts there were lots of hugs when I left (I did not meet Grant as he was away when I was there). I plan on returning there as well next trip (the tents were incredible and the food was 5*!).
Thanks again for everything.
Cindy M, OH
Botswana Fly-In Safari - August 2009
We are home from Africa and what was an amazing trip. Every moment was special. And we cannot thank you enough for your meticulous planning and help throughout the whole process.
As you suspected, Duma Tau was our favorite, although they were all wonderful. The people were so warm and gracious. They had a special anniversary dinner for us, and Arthur was even selected Associate Chief at the final dinner!
Our guides were exceptional: so knowledgeable and willing to share all they knew. The staff people were so accommodating and professional. And their music! My what harmonies.
One thing that might be helpful to people like us who have never been safari before is to know, in advance, that the guides meet you at the air strip and “take care” of you throughout your stay. We thought it would be sort of like a cruise experience where you get there and have to sign up for safaris and could miss a few.
Again, thank you for everything.
Susie and Arthur, Chicago IL
South Africa - July 2009
Yes, all went well on our trip. We did experience credit card theft (the card wasn’t physically stolen but the card #’s were copied and numerous purchases were made once we were back in the US).
In Sun City we went zip lining and 4 wheeling and both activities were wonderful.
In Cape Town our Guide was Wayne Milne with Take2Tours and he was fabulous! Our visit with Baboon Matters was one of my favorite things on the whole trip. The weather in Cape Town was wonderful while we were there. They even reopened Robben Island so we got to visit there too. It was supposed to have been closed for maintenance during our visit.
Lion Sands 1933 Lodge was absolutely exquisite. Words cannot describe that place. We would love to return to Lion Sands. The Ivory Lodge looks fabulous too. Since I doubt we can afford 1933 again, we would likely stay there. We saw lots and lots of wildlife. Everyday there we saw the Big 5. And we got to see my favorite thing, a leopard in a tree eating his impala kill. I couldn’t believe how far up the tree he was!!
We saw lots of lion cubs, and a week old elephant. The hippos were very abundant too. All in all it was just fabulous. We thought Lion Sands was better than Singita and far better than Mala Mala.
Thanks for helping us plan the trip. I have recommended you already!
Susan H., Houston TX
Botswana, Victoria Falls, Kruger Park - June 2009
Just wanted to write a note while things were fresh in my mind. The trip was incredible. It was my favorite trip of all time (Kenya held that place before). I want to make sure you got my email about Zimbabwe. They have no currency at this time and take absolutely no credit cards at the hotels and activities. EVERYTHING must be paid in cash. If your clients are staying on this side of the falls and plan to do any activities, they must pay in cash and plan the amount of cash they take on the trip accordingly.
1) Jao- loved the camp, loved the staff, loved the food. Eric (my son) had an encounter with a leopard at the lodge restroom, so that was exciting and a trip highlight. I would highly recommend this camp although the people that we talked to that had been to Little Vumbura loved it and we would opt for that camp next time. The family tent consists of one regular tent and an additional bedroom that you have to go outside and across the walkway to enter. We were advised not to cross the hall after dark because of leopard activity (we had one on our deck and roof the first night) so we divided up one adult/one child on each side. It would not work to put two kids together in the room without an adult unless they were teenagers. We had a great guide, Chief.
2) Duma Tau- the camp was great, staff good (guide was Ollie), food good, game sighting very good. The family room consists of one regular tent with an additional bedroom that opens into the one open bathroom. The second bedroom did not have mosquito netting over the beds. Luckily, the camp had vacant tents and they immediately assigned us to a second regular tent (we did no request the second tent). The family tent would work nicely with younger children but not so great with teenage or older children of opposite sex because of the open bathroom and floor plan. I think the staff recognized that as soon as they checked us in. With 2 tents, the camp worked out great for us and we loved it.
3) Vic Falls- loved the hotel. Gorgeous old British Empire hotel. Felt like you were stepping back in time. Rooms were fine, common areas incredible, grounds beautiful. The hawkers on the walk to the falls and into town make me crazy, but that was expected. Cash needed for meals, etc. as noted above. Vic Falls is a place you go to once but no need to return.
4) MalaMala- our flight was 3 hours delayed and we spent that time in the Jburg airport waiting area with a large family group (30+) that were headed to MalaMala. They were all having a jolly time and sort of rowdy so we (even the kids) were tired of them even before they got to camp. Their group pretty much took over the camp. We were allowed to eat and use the Sable Camp facility the first night and morning because of the group. The rooms have every creature comfort imaginable and the family room had 3 bathrooms. Our game sitings were incredible (did not see cheetah, however) but the concentration of game was actually better at Duma Tau. Our guide, Mike, was great. Very much a luxury safari experience rather than a more “classic” experience. If we returned, we would upgrade to the Sable camp just to have less people. I did ask to see the Rattray’s camp while we were there. It would be perfect for a honeymoon couple or someone celebrating a special occasion. Lovely “khayas” but not really any character at this time. Looks like a luxury hotel that is too pretty to relax in.
5) Oceana Resort- Please recommend this place to your clients. We stayed in the owner’s house which was incredible. 3 huge master suites with decks and views of 4 miles of private beaches and dunes on the Indian Ocean. Upstairs sitting area with tv, downstairs room with woodburning fireplace. Entire back of house slides open for views. Staff was incredible as was the food. There are 3 suites (individually and beautifully decorated) at the main lodge that open up into the game room. Would be great for families. Some, or all, have wood burning fireplaces and open air decks with views. The freestanding suites are also beautiful and each a different theme, with more privacy. The staff will cater to your every need and schedule things at your convenience. They dropped us off down at the beach one morning with a cooler, snacks, beach towel and radio (to call them when ready to go back). The kids had a great time running down the HUGE dunes and walking on the ocean front. It was exactly what we needed after sitting in a Range Rover for 18 game drives!! This piece of property is breathtakingly beautiful. On our next trip to SA we plan to go here first for 3 days to get over jet lag. They do not tell you that you have to show up for breakfast by 10 am or go without. They are there for you and your schedule. They do have game drives (mostly antelope varieties and rhino with no predators) but you do not go to this place for game. They told us that their summer is the time to come because of the beach, however, we loved it there now when it is cool and we could have a fire in the fireplace (also down comforters and heated stone floors!!) I shed real tears when I left this place as it was such a fantasy world (and the end of a wonderful vacation).
We spent the last couple of days tossing around ideas for our return trip to this part of the world. Are we going to try Mombo and Little Vumbura? Namibia? Zambia? Morocco? Any suggestions??!!!!
Thanks for helping to put together this great trip, Bert!
Denise H., TX
Mashatu, N. Botswana & Kalahari Safari - May 2009
Our trip was just wonderful! Thanks so much for helping to set things up. Gayle took over 1500 pictures. The logistics, including the luggage weight issues, all worked out just fine. Just wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed it all. I am getting lots of queries from other people interested in similar trips, so I will fwd them your email address.
To follow up on George’s email and thanks, here is a summary account of our trip:
Our Botswana trip was a very intense experience, which we are still absorbing. As requested, the three-week itinerary you put together let us sample a wide diversity of wildlife, scenery, and lodging. I think the most unique aspects were being able to get up-close and see natural interactions between the animals (and the equally interesting way the animals almost totally ignored the guests and vehicles, apart from a rare glare or contemptuous glance) with occasional incidents to remind us as to how scary some of the larger animals and predators could really be. The quality of light could be extraordinary, which made for great pictures. At night, the stars were spectacular, so now we’re good at recognizing the Southern Cross and spotting the Large Magellenic Cloud. The guides were generally terrific and with a couple of notable (but fortunately brief overlap) exceptions, so were our fellow guests. Food and drinks were omnipresent and quite good, although I thought later we should have arranged a few in-room dinners to expand our rest time.
Your recommendation of Mashatu was spot on. We really enjoyed the different experience, terrain, and fall colors of the vegetation, although of course we didn’t know how different it would be from the rest of the trip at the time. It was there we saw larger groups of impala, zebra, elephant, giraffe, warthogs, ostrich, wildebeest, kudu (a favorite), and both rock and yellow-bellied dassies. Watching a pied kingfisher dive-bomb the water at high speed was enthralling – later in Jao, I eventually caught pictures of one hovering in place like a hummingbird. A demonstration of “off-road racing” by our guide to see a cheetah was particularly memorable followed by locating a hyena trying to nap under a bush. I should have reviewed your email more carefully – we saw eland several times there (the only place!) and I missed my chance to get a photo. This was also the best night spotting place for us – a spotted leopard, an African wildcat, civets and genets (and of course hundreds of impala eyes). The local lion pride seems to have sort of broken down, but there were females with cubs and a young male (apparently his brother was killed after wandering into South Africa although the hunter is now in jail). The bushwalk was one of the best and longest we went on, covering the grassland and the mostly dry Majele River bed. The guides, staff, and researchers were all extremely friendly and informative. George was taught the appropriate guide tipping methodology there…
Although Toka Leya was really about Victoria Falls, we did manage to see all of the white rhinocerous in Zambia (a total of five, although four were South Africa transplants) + their armed guard vehicle, as well as hippos, birds, and a selection of other wildlife in Mosi O Tunya park and on the river. The camp on the Zambezi has a great setting and view of the river. We took a very worthwhile helicopter flight over the falls – the only vantage point from which we could really see most of it as the mist was so great that you couldn’t get good views on the walk, although as the guide put it you could certainly “feel it” like a drenching rainstorm. This year supposedly was the highest water level since the 1950s.
The smaller camps like Savuti were particularly enjoyable for us, because they felt more intimate and we generally got to know many of the staff better. Although when we originally booked, this was supposed to be the “dry camp”, the Savuti Channel is filled almost up to the Savuti Marsh now. Our tent had a great view of the water with elephants crossing and impala grazing during the day and hippos, hyenas, and rutting impalas calling at night. On drives we enjoyed seeing giraffe gingerly deciding to cross the water, Cape buffalo, tssesbe, elephants, zebra, saddle-billed storks, hippos, a pregnant giraffe and elephant, and many young calves, cubs, etc. Highlights were catching three female hyenas loping across the water in the channel one day and running into 10 members of the Selinda Pride early one morning and tracking them for a couple of hours. We also experienced a number of mock elephant charges. Our guide “Goodman” was particular entertaining with a great sense of humor. George really enjoyed being temporary “Chief of Savuti” during traditional night and the dancing performed by our guide and others.
We met Wilderness Safari’s CEO Malcolm (McCullagh) at dinner in Savuti. We realized he must be a big-wig due to the extremely deferential behavior of the staff, although we didn’t know exactly what his role was until we searched the Internet later. We had a very interesting conversation with him about South African and US politics as well as the economics of running the camps. He recognized you and taught us how to correctly pronounce your last name!
Although Duma Tau was more similar in environment to Savuti than anticipated, we benefited from the two additional days in Linyanti by getting to track two cheetah as well as see a wild dog pack. We also got to watch the other two male lions of the Selinda Pride plus a mother and two cubs with a wildbeest kill. The father lion “Silver Eye” snarled and chased the cubs off from chewing on the carcass, so the mother let them nurse as a consolation.
Jao was extremely luxurious and the water was quite high although the levels were slowly dropping. Highlights were a male and two female lions crossing the Jao floodplains (back and forth on different days) to hunt. The male lion got into a hunting crouch halfway across and started tracking a couple of makoros until the polers sat down for awhile. He came over the bridge into the camp and left giant footprints on the dirt road that night! We watched red lechwe run through the water to escape the lions. One or both of Beauty (a female leopard) and her son were spotted each day resting, hunting and game spotting from trees. We also got our one glimpse of a sitatunga in Jao camp itself, George saw a hippo directly under our “tent”, a genet was up in the tree just outside the main lodge, and an African wildcat was on our walkway one AM. The makoro, boat rides, and game walk broke up the game-drive activities and let us get close up views of night and day lilies, a painted reed frog, malachite kingfishers, and a praying mantis (we then found a much bigger one hunting by using the light right outside the door of our tent). We’re still carrying a couple of lucky berries picked by our guide.
Duba Plains of course was primarily about the buffalo and lion interaction, but we also got to see aardwolf, lechwe leaping through the water (spectacular!), young male elephant sparring, baboons mating / feeding on sausage tree pods / watching their babies a side-striped jackal, and a mother and baby civet; experienced getting stuck in the water/mud; and viewed some of our best sunrises / sunsets. The water was extremely deep on the roads with a semi-decrepit “Golden Gate Bridge” leading (we enjoyed the name) into the airstrip camp. The first day the Tsora Lion pride was primarily comatose and lying about, the second day five females were stalking the herd (followed by the male lion and a female with a cub), and on our final morning we witnessed an attack by six female lionesses, the takedown of a cow and calf, and the buffalos fighting off the lions – mesmerizing and hard to follow with the action going on all around us. The repeated cycle of buffalos chasing the lions and lions chasing buffalo that followed was extremely entertaining. Our guide “Lets” obviously had a great knowledge of the lion-buffalo hunting cycle and did an amazing job getting us close to the action. We found the camp staff to be particularly outgoing and friendly.
It was kind of a shock coming to Maun and running into people, cars, and fences (not to mention donkeys and cattle). The drive to Central Kalahari Game Reserve was a little long (it will be nice when a closer airstrip is open), but for the first time in twenty years water was reaching the Boteti River from the Delta. Deception Valley Lodge was very comfortable. We did an interesting San walk there and enjoyed listening to their language and sampling the raisin berries! The almost white grass fields and dry mud pans of Deception Valley and Sunday / Leopard pans were quite startling after the Okavango. Our guide tracked down and found a black-maned lion and three females by noticing the only shade tree cluster without springbok or oryx sheltering under it (the only other group of guests spotted them mating later in the day!). We also ran into wildebeest, meerkats, bat-eared foxes, secretary birds, crimson-breasted shrikes, and other small wildlife.
The only downside was the excrutiating plane trips (34 hours on the way back) only made somewhat better by the Red Carpet Clubs and business class to/from London. They were so long that the jet lag was never obvious, since we were so exhausted.
George and Gayle, CA
Northern Botswana & Victoria Falls - May 2009
Brad and I had an awesome time in Africa and can’t wait to go back
We loved Kwetsani and the guide there, TJ was amazing. Her knowledge
about the birds, wildlife and area was extensive. She took very good
care of us and used caution whenever we stopped for a break. TJ made
sure the area was safe, checked out a good spot for a loo and set it up
for the girls. Safety was her first concern. I highly compliment her.
The people at Kwetsani made us all feel like family and was such a great
place to start our safari experience. While wildlife was not plentiful
close by, we did see lions, plenty of baboons all around the camp, red
lechwe galore. We even had a midnight visitor by our walkway….an
elephant getting a late night snack. Brad even picked out a spotted
hyena outside as well the same night. The food there was great as well
and we made lots of friends. One day TJ took us over to the area of
Tubu Tree since we really wanted to see more elephant and giraffe and we
sure did. It was fun being so close and combining over the road with
water. We spent about 9 hrs out that day and had a picnic lunch which
we all enjoyed. By the way, the tent was beautiful! One of the things
we really enjoyed was the size of the camp. It was intimate and more
DumaTau was nice, but I didn’t care a lot for the tent accomodations.
We sure did see massive amounts of every animals every drive and had a
great time everyday! The guide there had no trouble locating lions and
wild dog! I think we took over 2000 photos! It was fun hearing the
hippo talking at night! We could see them from the room. The camp was
visited often by a rogue elephant who liked to knock down the posts of
the boardwalks. He even blocked my way to the room one afternoon but I
saw Brad up ahead snapping his pictures. The elephant gradually made
his way around our tent and started feasting on the trees up against our
porch. How cool to be 2′ away from him!
The River Club was gorgeous and one thing we both said was we wished we
had one more day to enjoy there! Everyone was treated like royalty, but
that happened all over. It was just a bit different here because it was
more a resort than a camp. It was a perfect way to end the trip. We
saw tons of hippo in the river both during the sundowner cruise, as well
as from the pool or room. The falls were amazing and the market there
really with great buys! Those guys really are desparate to sell and I
came home with several giraffe pieces. Brad did the bungee jump off the
bridge at the falls which he still talks about. We had to rush back for
lunch and then go off for the Elephant safari. This was fun, and we
were lucky to see both giraffe close up and some elephant down the road,
but I think a little expensive for only one hour on the elephant. I had
expected much more. They do a great job on the video and I ended up
buying it much to my surprise. I think that since the River Club is
probably as expensive as the other camps, but has no safari expenses,
just a trip into town and the falls included (and the boat ride) that
the elephant ride should have been included.
On the way to the airport we stopped off at the Simonga Village and that
was memorable. We had very little time, and I would have liked to visit
much longer and spent time with the people. We were told to take
photos, but if we did to forward them to the River Club so they could
share them with the people. If you know what their email address is we
will gladly do this.
I can not rave enough about the kind of service Wilderness provided to
us. The hospitality was awesome, food great, people wonderful and the
planning so good we never had to worry about anything. They knew our
schedule everywhere we went and took excellent care of us. So rare when
you are not on a “tour”!!.
Thanks again for all you did for us.
Leigh L., TX
Botswana & Victoria Falls - April 2009
Well, what can I say? We are still trying to come to grips with the life changing experience we had in Africa.
From the camps, to the wildlife to the people we met along the way, the trip was absolutely phenomenal.
I thank you for putting together an ideal program for us and I very much look forward to booking the next tripJ!
Thank you again and my very best regards,
Natalie M, France
Botswana Fly-In Safari - February 2009
Just wanted to thank you for your help. We had a great time in Botswana. Of the two camps, I sense we liked Little Vumbura a bit better, both because we saw more animals as well as the relaxed and positive time with the staff and guests. A very intimate camp and a lot of fun. Dumatau was great too, so all in all, we had a great time.
I hope we can use you again!!
All the best,
Botswana & South Africa - September 2008
I hope this note finds you well. I just wanted to let you know that we had a FABULOUS trip ! Everything ran like clockwork. We especially enjoyed Botswana – the camps were wonderful and the ability to go off road certainly made for an outstanding experience. We never thought we’d get this close to animals – and that’s after a trip to Kenya and Tanzania We will probably be planning another trip one day to go back to Botswana and probably Namibia – and maybe somewhere else too! We highly recommend the wilderness safari camps of Duma Tau, Duba Plains and Chitabe. Everything was top notch ! Thanks for planning a trip of a lifetime for us !!!
Jan & Larry H.
Botswana Fly-In - February 2009
We had a fantastic time. Your arrangements were flawless. Can’t wait to go back to Africa.
I won’t bore you with the other 2000 photos. I’m sure you’ve go millions, but here’s a couple.
I’ll look at the Tanzania info shortly.
Tom J., TX
Namibia - July 2008
Yes, I returned Monday the 7th, and it was a great trip, thank you. My travel companions (3 plus guide) were all terrific and contributed to my enjoyment of the experience. The camps were comfortable even though the Skeleton Coast camp was fairly primitive, but just so I didn’t have to use a sleeping bag on the ground, I was happy. Food at a couple of the camps could use improvement, but certainly there was enough to eat. Camp staffs were outstanding. Scenery gorgeous for the most part and animal sightings exciting Didn’t see any cats, though, but that’s the way it happened for our group and one has to be philosophical about it. Hilltop House was great and I enjoyed the evening at Joe’s Beer House – thanks for that recommendation. Southern Sun was fine and I appreciated that they let me stay beyond the usual checkout time on the second stay. One gripe, but its minor: I was the only person who paid attention to the 26 pound weight limit. The other 3 had much bigger bags with wheels, and therefore more clothing variety. I could have used wheels…. Thanks for putting this fantastic tour together for me. I certainly will recommend you to anyone who wishes to travel to the southern part of Africa. Best wishes,
Marjory G., NY
Botswana & South Africa - October 2008
In brief – what an AMAZING trip!! Thanks for everything and I have to say that the flow was PEFECT! Ending in King’s Pool was brilliant, and the animals in South Africa stunning. All in all we were very very happy indeed!
Settling back to reality now…..not so fun! But some amazing memories. Thank you once again
Callum G., CA
South Africa & Botswana - October 2008
Just a note to let you know we had a fantastic trip. We really enjoyed Mashatu, Malamala, Franshoeck & Hermanus. We saw everything we wanted & more (except cheetah, none). That was about our only significant disappointment. Cape Town was absolutely beautiful & very interesting. Kirstinboch Gardens was splendid in its spring colors. Table Top was spectacular. Robben Island was interesting, powerful, & moving.
Just for future reference (as we are planning to go back to Africa in the next few years) we want to let you know about our evolving preferences/style for this sort of trip.
We found Malamala a bit pretentious & unnecessarily luxurious for our needs & tastes. Most of the guests were a bit older & a lot wealthier than us. We truly enjoyed the “Tented” accommodations in the Delta more than the fully walled rooms with granite counters etc., The “tented camps” in the Okavonga just “feel” more Africa like. That said, the game at Malamala was incredible & we had a great time.
We liked the somewhat more relaxed environment at Mashatu., though even Mashatu was more luxurious than we require. The game viewing & trackers there were superb (except no cheetah). We spent some time there with Peter & Jane LaRue & David Evans & we told them what a great job you do. They called ahead & Mr. Rattray met us at Malamala & he gave us a warm welcome.
We also saw your family name in Franshoeck in the museum & elsewhere & wondered if they were your distant relatives? Just so you know ‘The Plumwood Inn’ turned out to be very, very nice, for the price (apprx. $150 per night). One medium sized pool, one smaller soaking pool, great breakfast, delightful Dutch hosts. We also liked it because it was a 4 mins walk to town center, yet very peaceful, quiet & picturesque.
We also very much liked the Whale Rock Inn in Hermanus, & our other accommodations. The Ritz/Cape Town was a little funky, but the price was right, good breakfast, & the view (20th floor) was priceless, & we weren’t in the room much.
Anyway, Bert, thank you for putting together a wonderful & memorable trip for us. We can’t wait to go back. Maybe Tanzania next time.
Hope you & yours are well. Stay in touch.
Guy and Eva J., OR
Botswana, Zambia & Victoria Falls - August 2008
Anyway, we did have a wonderful time – saw some new country, new camps and some new critters, too. Many more birds added to my list. We especially enjoyed Duba! I thought it might be the lower point in the trip, but we had a great young guide Carlton and the managers were a lot of fun, we saw wonderful lions (my goodness they are big there!) good buffalo and wonderful birds.
Kwetsani was nice but our experience was tempered by our guide, who we did not like. The luck of the draw I guess, but it makes such a difference. I really enjoyed seeing that area again and the camp, as I had been there when it first opened (1999?).
Wow Zib is a great camp. Fantastic amenities – things that you would never imagine but just nice touches in the tent – they have ice chests with cold water (or whatever you desire), a mono-pod in each tent, and oh the gas stove heater was a nice touch on those chilly mornings! We were impressed with their new camp. We loved seeing water in the Savuti Channel having been “regulars” at Duma Tau. We saw great game there (our only cheetah and leopard) and a good guide.
River Club is still a nice respite, but the rooms needs a refurbishment and it is never the same if Mr. Jones is not there. Still like it though!
Our time in Zambia was sure different. A very long plane ride but it is interesting crossing the forests and all that wilderness. We were concerned by the fires that seem to be everywhere from the air and the air quality certainly showed it! Made for great sunsets, though. It is such a huge area that we didn’t see as much game as we usually do in Botswana. We did a charter trip in the helicopter while there, and we really enjoyed that. Went to another camp and they put on a lovely brunch in the river (literally). Great pilot gave us a wonderful 5 star ride with game viewing and along the river and over the plains. Whew I needed a drink when I got there to settle my nerves, but I loved it. That is a great thing to recommend to clients, by the way. The camp didn’t really offer it – we thought it up on our own and they were happy to organize it, but it would be easy to just mention it to people as an option there.
Toka Leya is a nice new addition to the river area. They did it quite well and entertained us with falls trips and anything else, but we were mostly done with game driving by then. Nice camp though. Better than the big commercial hotels, for sure.
Thanks for all your help. Bob and Marsha were talking about taking some family on another trip, so hopefully you will have a new Africa convert!
I am still sorting my photos but will send some if you like. Let me know what you would like to see.
Patty S. CA
Botswana & South Africa - September 2008
I hope this note finds you well. I just wanted to let you know that we had a FABULOUS trip ! Everything ran like clockwork. We especially enjoyed Botswana – the camps were wonderful and the ability to go off road certainly made for an outstanding experience. We never thought we’d get this close to animals – and that’s after a trip to Kenya and Tanzania We will probably be planning another trip one day to go back to Botswana and probably Namibia – and maybe somewhere else too! We highly recommend the wilderness safari camps of Duma Tau, Duba Plains and Chitabe. Everything was top notch ! Thanks for planning a trip of a lifetime for us !!!
Jan & Larry H., VA
Botswana & Namibia - September 2008
Jim E., TX
Botswana & Victoria Falls - July 2008
We had a fabulous time in Africa. Cape Town has to be one of most lovely places we’ve been – perfect weather every day – and a really good value. We loved both Kings Pool and Jao. Kings Pool was Susan and my favorite – we saw four lions on the first afternoon drive and an elephant eating just yards from our room deck. Thom and Fish like Joa better – and it is a beautiful place. We especially enjoyed the other travelers at both camps. The only thing I think we all agreed we’d do differently was not to stay in Zimbabwe. We had a wonderful time visiting the falls and did both the helicopter ride and elephant safari. The hotel was very nice – but unfortunatlly the political unrest made their ability to attract other guests and get food (no chicken or catchup or mustard available) a little dicey. And the poor town was just a ghost town. Other guests at our camps stayed on the Zambia side and I’m glad that’s what you recommended for Leigh.
Many thanks for your excellent advice and help planning. I’ve given your name to several co-workers – so I hope you’ll hear from more.
Mary W., TX
Northern Botswana & Victoria Falls - August 2008
In total, it was one of the greatest safaris ever put together. Thank you all. The staff in Botswana commented that they had never seen a combination of qualities in a group taking over a camp that was both EASY in terms of non-idiosyncratic personalities and demands, and great passion, leading to being in the field for the maximum possible time.
Special accolades: Wilderness has incredible leadership that filters down to its staff at each camp, where the attitude, personality, charm, smiles, and warmth are consistantly fantastic. I terribly miss a couple camp managers like Soly and Paul Thierry, but Connie and Noku are fabulous in that same vein, at Savuti, and the managers at Little Vumbura are as good as they get, as well, and Dudley is fun. But let me talk about the fantastic driver/guides:
The best of the best is Brian. He was incredible as my main partner at Little Vumbura and is training his apprentices well. They are really learning birds in a superior fashion, as a result of his mentoring. You can tell how he makes a difference. JAMES at Duba was fantastic. I appreciated him so much that I am inviting him to the U.S. to stay with us next May, and for me to guide him to see our birds and wildlife at my research station. I MUST have him for my group next August 09! At Savuti, Sefo was tops, and I want him, definitely, along with Goodman.
Little touches that were greatly appreciated: the hot water bottles in our beds; the escorts to/from our tents; the flashlights provided; the FABULOUS PONCHOS that keep people from getting too cold, morning and evening. At my suggestion, we came up with “Botswana Coffees”: — (like Irish coffee with Irish whiskey) — made up of coffee with Amarula. Everyone went crazy over this. By the way, I found a wine in South Africa at the airport hotel that you might want to investigate: Tall Horse shiraz. People went crazy over this wine.
Bert, you are incredible with your professionalism and personal touches. You and I are a great team, and I appreciate all that you do for my safari groups. I will be loyal to you and Wilderness for this unparalleled performance. The booklet that you provide each safari member is invaluable, professionally created, and something that no one in the business surpasses.
Wildlife highlights: Duba: seeing the aardwolf, civet, bat eared fox, side striped jackal and African wildcat — all with James. Seeing Milkey Eye again, still alive, but considerably beaten up by other lionesses was dramatic, as was seeing the single male that now is trying to hold onto the territory and pride after the demise of the last two Duba Boys. His tenure, I would guess, is very shakey, as any substantial coalition of two or more should end his reign. But he is magnificent, and hearing him call to his pride was viscerally thrilling.
Finding a female leopard just coming into heat, calling out in the night at Little Vumbura, and hearing a male respond in the far distance was thrilling, as well, especially since we found them both in a tree together the following morning. We watched her, her hormones/pheromones obviously building up, sacheting her tail in his face and trying to get his attention to mate, but with no success. The allure was not yet powerful enough for the big male. That late afternoon, we rightly suspected that her pheromones would be even more alluring, and we were rewarded with the follow up of our suspicion by finding them mating, in perfect position for filming. To my surprise, this initial, first-day mating was not occuring every fifteen minutes or so, the interval which I have become used to, on previous safaris. Never before had I come upon leopards that had just started their mating. They actually mated initially every two minutes! (Timed.) After half a dozen of these growls/neck-bites, ejaculations, the intervals finally did get to about fifteen or twenty minutes, and we reluctantly returned very late for a celebratory dinner.
Savuti at first disappointed me because I wanted to show my people the incomparable log hide, which in dry years attracts elephants and other wildlife up close, in your face, like no other camp in Africa. The filling of the channel, the first in 26 years, brought crocs, fish, large numbers of shore birds and waders. It was historical and magical. I was delighted we also found cheetah, leopard, and the Selinda Boys, the magnificent males from another pride, who divided and conquered the four Savuti Boys which had previously ruled the area. The two Selinda Boys violently defeated, in two separate encounters, two pairs of Savuti Boys that made the tragic error of traveling in pairs rather than in their indominatable group of four. But what topped everything for me at Savuti was watching honey badgers, a species that can be hard to find almost anywhere in Africa. We encountered them twice. The second time, we were withing 15 yards of one frantically digging out a big rodent that he smelled under ground. Dust was thrown up everywhere. My team got full frame photos of him crunching down his breakfast. Talk about symetry, to end our whole safari, with little time left before departing for Victoria Falls, we had a bush breakfast arranged for us, not far from the airstrip, so we wouldn’t have to waste game drive time going back to camp. We were rewarded with an intimate encounter with the two Selinda Boys, marking their newly won territory, and staring us down, giving their big epiglotis-revealing yawn, showing sets of canines worthy of bragging rights.
Dozens of other encounters with smashing good birds and mammals made this a safari of a lifetime, which few people deserve. My safari team was really impressed with the camps and locations, especially considering the fact that they were filming along side a National Geographic team that is doing a production on warthogs that should be finished next year.
Thanks for all your invaluable help. Please pass this information on to the great staff at Wilderness. They should know how their hard work pays off. I look forward to seeing you all and working with you for my next group in August 09.
Mark B., MA.
Cape Town & Botswana - August 2008
We had a wonderful vacation in Africa, all of the arrangements for travel, accomodations and transfers were perfect. Wilderness Safaris is a great professional organisation and the camps were fabulous.Our favorite camp was Dumatau,the accomodations, the wide variety of game, great food and a superb experienced guide (Mr. T or Theba) who had over 20 yrs in that area. He made our stay there a special experience, trying to meet our every need and expectation for game viewing and photography.
We got back to the US on the day of the storm, so could not return to Houston from DC, i found a flight to San Antonio,stayed overnight and drove home on Sunday.
I have recommended your services and Wilderness Safaris to a close friend and colleague who may be calling you.
Thanks again. Hope you were safe during the hurricane. We will be back in touch for our next safari to Africa!!
Ranjit and Danuta C., TX