Our Safari Honcho, Jeff Ward, recently spent a week exploring the beautiful country of Tanzania. The below are excerpts of his trip as he recounts his amazing experiences… Day 1: I arrive at the Mount Meru Hotel in Arusha after a long spell of travelling. It’s the perfect spot for a one night pre [...]
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Good morning, Yes, we are back and had a wonderful vacation! I'll give you our honest feedback. We just loved Kirkman's Kamp. In truth we actually saw more animals just driving in our rental car through Kruger National Park ourselves, but the experience of the drive was awesome. For example, we saw a leopard eating it's impala kill and had the ability to sit under it in our land rover for about 45 minutes while a hyena was nearby. This is something we wouldn't have seen on our own car drive. The staff there gave us first class treatment - with greeting us as we arrived and giving us fresh moist towels to clean up with. For the game drive, we loved the touch of having hot water bottles and blankets to keep us warm! They wound up giving us two game drives (we thought there was just one evening one and a walk). The food there was excellent and the room/accommodations superb. Everyone needs an escort to their room as animals can be everywhere. In fact, they said the night before a lion chased an impala through their camp! Too bad we couldn't have afforded another night because we might have been able to spot the only animal of the big five we never got to see, the lion. Riley's Rock was unique. My sister was disappointed with it initially feeling it was too 'rustic', but the rest of us really loved the look and 'feel' of it. She wound up coming around to really loving it - who wouldn't with all the dinners under the stars around a fire? We were blessed with having our first dinner with Ted Riley himself. Apparently he had guests that were in for some important conservation business and it allowed for some very serious and interesting dinner conversation with all of us...a great and memorable experience. Interestingly, they asked about how we booked their hotel and we told them about you (and they were quite grateful). How had you heard about them? We also loved the Swaziland excursions we took through Swazi-Travel. Kosi-Forest Lodge though beautiful, was probably our least favorite. The place was truly lovely yet simplistic. We loved the look of the tiki torches around so we can find our room at night. It would be a much better place to stay in the spring or summer as it was too cold to go snorkeling. It was also more geared for honeymoon couples. The food was tasty and it's presentation very nice. Thula Thula was nice, though disappointing for game viewing. If I had it to do over again, I would have stayed one day there (just because my wife read the book), and two days at a big game reserve hotel. They don't have the big 5 there - and really the main thing to see is their signature elephants, which are breathtaking. The tracker and driver were magnificent, but they excelled more on the bush walks. We only got to see elephants and rhino there...they have no lions and in 3 game drives we never saw buffalo or leopard either. In fact they hadn't seen a leopard since last December. The tented accommodations were nicer, in our opinion, then Kosi-Forest Lodge. They were bigger. Both had family tents, which might have been preferred for us - if less expensive. The meals were good and we especially liked that there was a game meat option each day. We wound up downloading the South Africa map for our GPS and we are glad we did. While it wasn't perfect, it did fill in missing spots when using the directions provided. The GPS did wind up giving us totally wrong directions to Thula Thula though. Looking back, it would have been better doing the trip in reverse...as it is hard to top seeing so many animals (Kruger and Kirkman's Kamp). Again, thank you so much for organizing the trip for us - it was really a once in a lifetime experience and our whole family has memories that won't be forgotten! P.S. - your telephone call to us at Kosi Bay was a wonderful touch and much appreciated. The Toro family
Hi Ilze- Nicole and I are back in the US and wanted to thank you again for all the help that you gave us to make our trip truly fantastic! We're happy to give you some feedback on some places that stood out to us, as well as some learnings for future travelers. I'll also try to address your questions in the respective sections. Below is a quick summary: South Africa
- Cape Town accommodations were fine. Nothing "special" but we knew that going in. It was very comfortable, clean and convenient.
- The lodge in Franschhoek was really nice.
- The Elephant Lodge was a really nice location. Very unique and charming.
- You definitely warned us about the distance between all locations - we probably should of listened. While it was great to see the towns that we did, it was often after a long day of driving only to have to leave again first thing in the morning.
- All in all, the locations and lodges were all lovely in S. Africa.Mozambique
- Everything was amazing! LOVED Islands of Siankaba.
- We've already given feedback here. It was an amazing island. Beautiful, tranquil, etc.
- The Banguerra Lodge had a lot of potential. It was beautiful, the food was good.
Overall Feedback Aside from the above, we were very very happy with all the other elements of our trip (food, boarding, activities, transfers). That said, we thought we’d summarize some things that may have made our trip a bit more seamless so that you can pass along to future customers. Looking forward to connecting at your convenience. Thanks again for your help in planning a truly amazing, life changing trip. I hope the feedback above is helpful, and in the context that it was intended - which is that all in all, we are VERY happy. Have a great day. Colby
- We really loved the Stanley.
- Travel time between parks.
Hi Sarah, Xaranna was the most remote place we visited while we were in Southern Africa. It's about 45 minutes by air from Maun to the Pom Pom airstrip, then 10+ minutes by vehicle to the landing and 30+ minutes by water to the camp. The + depends on the wildlife one encounters en route. Our tracker and guide met our plane and the safari began as we drove away from the airstrip. The tents, lounge and dining area were well-designed and decorated, well-maintained and very comfortable. (Special treat: hot water bottles in the beds at night!) Meals were delicious and served beautifully. I am a vegetarian and was impressed with the vegetarian options. Service in all respects was first rate: we were very well cared for. Despite the casual, laid-back feel of the camp, everything ran like clockwork. They were completely flexible about activities, dining arrangements, etc. Our tracker and guide were knowledgeable and did an excellent job. Although, as I understand it, game in the delta at this time of year is not concentrated and still a little leery of vehicles, we saw really good variety on land and got very close to birdlife(and hippos) on the water. & Beyond/Xaranna are involved in a project to relocate hippos to Botswana (Hippos Without Borders). A PhD student from the UK working on the project for the next two years is staying at Xaranna and provided a wealth of information about her research and the project. There is nothing to keep wildlife out of the camp, and wildlife do come through, during the day and at night. While we were there one couple encountered a young elephant on the path outside their tent at mid-day; we had kudus eating leaves from branches just outside the screened wall of our tent in the middle of the night, and on our last evening a hippo grazed alongside the dining deck during dinner. Talk about a real wildlife experience! The warmth and good humour of the staff really struck me. On arrival at the camp we were greeted by perhaps 10 of the staff who were on the dock singing a welcome - in fact, we heard the singing before we saw the dock. Throughout our stay we were treated with warmth and there was lots of laughter. It felt like a large happy family welcoming us to their home. Because the camp is remote, the staff put on the boma entertainment themselves and all the staff participate. They even managed to get the guests up dancing and singing! The manager and all staff are indigenous Botswanans and welcomed questions about their country, their culture and their lives. We were seen off, as we were welcomed, by the staff singing on the dock and waving. It was very touching. I'd go back in a nanosecond. Sincerely, N. Smith
Dear Jeffrey, Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping me plan probably the best trip of my life. You and Liesle helped me look like a pro in the eyes of my family! Everything went smoothly. There are so many highlights. I'd like to list just a few. We all fell in love with Charlie. He was the perfect fit for our family. The kids were still talking about him days later when we were on safari. We also really enjoyed our driver/ guide at Savuti. (Richard) He was really informative. We also felt very safe with him. I really felt like we were in the wilds while we were there. We were not as enamored with our guide at Chiefs but really enjoyed the rest of the staff. There was a couple there studying the plant life. Since I love to garden I tagged along with them one session instead of going on a drive to see the animals. I finally swallowed my fear of Class V rapids and decided to go rafting. It was so much fun. The hard part was walking/crawling my way down the hill/ mountain. I was very shaken by the time I got to the bottom. JIm gave me about two seconds to gather my wits and then he threw me in the raft. Believe me when I say there's no way I would be able to hike back out. My thighs hurt for three days. One guide was nice enough to help me down. Again our guide was great fun and we felt very secure with him. The other raft lost people after the first set of rapids. There's nothing like going with your family and spending a great deal of time with them without the interruptions of cell phones, TV. and computers and discovering you still like them at the end of your trip. All kidding aside everyone had a great time. They'll already dreaming up the next big trip. Lori
It was an absolutely great trip and we loved every minute of it. It was so worth it to upgrade and the accommodations were excellent and all our guides were superb! I am very glad you used you and will absolutely recommend you to everyone I know who will want to see the gorillas!