Holiday review by Mrs. Julia Ensor
Name: Mrs. Julia Ensor
Date of trip: 09/04/2017
Number of people: 2
There are so many special moments! Seeing a male lion within an hour of arriving at our first lodge. Sitting with habituated meerkats all around you/on you. The amazingly different noises of each area both day and night including lions roaring during the night. In the Okavango 'driving' down 'roads' which were more like rivers/fords and water pouring in and out of the vehicles so the driver had to open his door to let the water out as we sat with our feet up the whole way! Small planes arriving to schedule along "airstrips", one minute covered with zebra/warthogs and the next taxiing planes! Seeing leopard 'hanging out' in trees at night! Taking part in an elephant experience at Baines Camp and learning so much about the animals and being able to touch them and walk with them and ask whatever questions you could think of. Smiling staff greeting you at each lodge on arrival with singing/dancing and welcome warm towels/refreshments. Evening bubble bath experience on our balcony at Baines with wine/candles/lanterns in the moonlight. Hippos grunting below our 'lodge'. More than ample food!! Being the only guests at Ghoha Hills, Savuti for one night and being treated like royalty. A back massage in the middle of a thunderstorm! An elephant pulling the water pipe out at night cutting off the water supply until a group of staff went to sort it out in the dark! Amazing animals and birds. The Chobe River in flood and so much green everywhere and the odd rainbow. The experience of the Pangolin photography boat with expert tuition and superb lenses! The sheer force of the Victoria Falls seen up close (you get absolutely drenched) and from a helicopter with a partially transparent floor beneath my feet! 100+ vultures being fed at our lodge at the Victoria Falls and learning about their plight. Having dinner overlooking waterholes! Being the only two on a sunset cruise on the Zambezi! An extra bonus was that all the lodges offered a free laundry service and you got it back the same day!
It surpassed our expectations in EVERY way.
We took your advice and trusted the information you gave us as you are the experts and we are glad we had a really good chat at the beginning so you knew what our expectations were and the sort of experiences we were hoping for. You listened so well and used your expertise to find the perfect lodges for us. The Vamos app you sent before the trip was great and we enjoyed the count down to departure. We cannot thank you enough for making this trip so memorable and of course we have now caught the safari bug!
We appreciated the fact that my dietary requirements had been passed on ahead of our arrival and each lodge did their best to accommodate me.
Each guide was incredibly knowledgeable and willing to go the extra mile to make sure we saw as much as possible within their ability. We got to know quite a bit about them/their families and were able to find out about the country and associated culture/way of life. All the guides we had were very responsible and managed to make us feel comfortable and safe. We were pleased we had read up on the internet about how much to tip.
Social & Environmental Responsibility:
This is more difficult. Everyone we met was so respectful of their country, animals and whole environment and also to us the tourists. They rely on tourism and many work away from their families for many weeks/months in order to be able to give their family what they can. We felt that they were very in tune with their local environments. We met the Bushmen on the Salt Pans who are all educated but still able to teach their own children their traditional skills by spending 3 months living in a lodge sharing their knowledge of plants, animals, crafts, hunting skills etc with tourists and their youngsters at the same time. They were amazingly fit, knowledgeable and so interesting to listen to, especially when talking about which plants are good as medicines.
The places you stayed
Very friendly place/staff. A real family atmosphere. They could not do enough for you. Bart our guide was amazing. He loved the place and it showed with outstanding knowledge of animals, plants and birds. He took us out at every chance and we loved the night drives and the fact there were so few other vehicles around. Our morning with the habituated meerkats was fun and informative. As it was my husband's 60th coming up, on our last night they set a table up for us by the plunge pool with bubbly and candles. Although you did not have a choice at lunch/dinner, the food was excellent and our 'tent' on stilts was pretty new and set away from the others so you did not feel crowded at all. We were sorry to only have 2 nights there.
There were only 5 thatched lodges here and so the service was very personal. We enjoyed a trip in a mokoro canoe the first night, a boat trip to the hippo pool straight from the jetty at the lodge and amazing day and night drives seeing a spotted hyena, leopard and elephants at close range. The roads were more like rivers and you got thrown about a bit but it all added to the atmosphere especially when you had water monitors swimming alongside the vehicle. We pre-booked the elephant experience run by Sandy and Doug Groves which was very informative and lots of fun.
Chobe & Savuti
This place felt unique - an amazing thatched treehouse on several levels overlooking its own waterhole. Lots of different seating areas and a plunge pool with an amazing view. We had the lodge with the best view of the sunset from its balcony. It is an eco lodge so no hairdryers, straighteners etc but they provide everything else you could possibly want! They have their own hide but it was the wrong time of the year for us to benefit from this. We had a spectacular thunderstorm and the amount of water was incredible so they had to pull some shutters down which did little to stop the water coming in but they soon swept it out. Amazing views, friendly staff and the on site managers Abram and Nanette were informative, friendly and they could not do enough for you. They joined us for dinner one night and we learnt so much from them. Our guide Ran was a real character, full of fun and very knowledgeable. We witnessed the true cycle of life with a poorly elephant becoming a carcass and food for lions and vultures. A lioness was sat in the middle of the road and we were able to sit and watch her closely from just a few feet away. Our picnics were packed up beautifully, accompanied by notes each day from the chef which we have photographed as they were such fun and made each day special.
Chobe & Savuti
This place felt more like a hotel but our thatched lodge was stunning with its own small garden, outdoor shower etc. The lodges were closer together here but sufficiently private it did not matter. It had an amazing view of the Chobe River from the back lawn and the staff were very attentive and friendly, greeting us on arrival and on return from each trip. There was a good shop here so we were able to buy a few bits and pieces to take home to family. Leonard our guide was friendly, knowledgeable and extremely accommodating. We chose to pre-book the Pangolin photography session for my husband's birthday which was fantastic despite being up at 4.30 am. We could have done with longer! They gave you use of a Canon camera, zoom lens and an SD card to take away with you. Janice was patient and a great teacher. As a result we only managed to fit in one game drive but found there were more vehicles in the park than we were used to in other places. We had simply been spoilt! The food was very good rather than excellent and you had a chance to taste some different things like crocodile tail, Kudu, Impala, caterpillars etc. There was a spa here so you could book anything you liked and you had a free foot massage on arrival which was a nice touch. On my husband's birthday they made a special cake (of my choice) and the staff sang and danced at high tea which made him feel very special.
This lodge is 4 km outside the main street and we were glad as this area is very commercialised and people are constantly trying to sell you their wares. There is a courtesy bus from the lodge to four stops including The Falls and this was very useful. One building is the Safari Lodge and the other is the Safari Club and we had a room at the latter. You have access to all areas and the views are lovely. There is a watering hole which is floodlit at night so you can dine watching the wildlife with a table right on the edge of restaurant if you book ahead. We did not attend the Boma drum night but gather this was fun. We watched 100+ vultures being fed at 1pm and learnt a lot about their plight and the fact they are becoming an endangered species. The staff were very helpful and we booked a sunset cruise and helicopter ride over The Falls through them. We turned out to be the only two on the sunset cruise and they did not cancel it!