Clients Trip Reports – April – June 2015 (Southern Africa)
Wings Over South Africa Luxury Safari Including Tswalu and Phinda
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Phinda. Wayne, our guide, and Chris, our tracker, were spot on. Both were very knowledgeable about the area and wildlife. We enjoyed them immensely, as well as the other staff who looked after us and ensured we had a comfortable stay. We got to see the rhinos – both black and white. We were thrilled. We also went to the wild African cat sanctuary which we thoroughly enjoyed, especially petting the cheetahs. Wow!
Adding a bit of excitement to our stay at Phinda – a leopard visited the camp one night just after dusk (caused quite a stir), and monkeys rampaged our porch (made quite a mess).
Our first day in Cape Town was rain, rain, rain we went out and bought our first souvenirs – Gortex rain hats. Excellent choice… Clive, our guide for Cape Town and environs, gave us a half day tour of Cape Town the next day and rearranged our schedule so we wouldn’t miss a thing we wanted to see/do, and that he thought we shouldn’t miss. Remarkable man.
We enjoyed listening to him reel off his vast store of knowledge about the area and talking with him about the places we visited, the history, wines, politics, what-have-you. And, we appreciated his recommendations for good restaurants.
We liked the setup of the shark breaching experience – small boat limited number of people, dedicated staff (personable and friendly). We only saw one shark, and none breaching. Just wasn’t the day for it. But the crew did their best and were sorely disappointed that they couldn’t get Mother Nature to work for us.
The drive to the Cape of Good Hope with Clive, and our visit to the wine country were fun. We always smile now when think of those times.
Our hotel, the Victoria & Alfred Hotel, on the waterfront was perfect – staff and location. It was so nice to be able to walk out of our hotel and onto the waterfront with all the shops and restaurants at hand.
Tswalu was a treat. Our thatched roof bungalow was perfect, fireplace and porch and all! Our pattern was to try to take a nap after lunch and before the afternoon game drive; that was hard to do at Tswalu because there was no way to know what animal would come strolling by when and we didn’t want to miss any of them.
The food was excellent. I got spoiled with the Eggs Benedict each morning – best I’ve tasted in long time. The first few days were really cold in the mornings and after the sun went down because of the front that had moved through while we were in Cape Town. We were thankful for the fireplaces in the main lodge and the blankets our guide provided on the game drives.
Here we saw Aardvarks for the first time though none would stay still only enough for us to get a good side or front-on shot. I did get one butt! We also saw a creature we’d never heard of – the pangolin. Closest we could come to that is the armadillo. Fascinating! Loved the Meerkats, of course, as well as the Roan and Sable antelopes, and the wild dogs. And, John (and I) got to see the black-maned Kalahari lions. Two more or less escorted us part way to our plane as we headed back to Jo-burg.
Our guide and tracker, Callam and James were excellent. We enjoyed James’s irrepressible enthusiasm. We very much enjoyed and appreciated Callam’s knowledge of the area and especially of the animals and birds we were seeing. I think he forgot from time to time that we were on our 4th safari trip to Africa and just couldn’t get hyped up about seeing (yet) another warthog.
The highlight of our stay at Tswalu was the surprise birthday they staff helped me plan and execute for Johns 75th. Pieter, Isla, and Wendy, and the rest of the Tswalu family were the ones who made it happen. Callam told a teensy fib to get us up to the tented hut overlooking the valley, so John never expected anything. John was so moved he teared up. Callam, with James supervision fixed us a grand dinner on the grill. Everything we could have wanted to nibble on or drink was provided. We sat out on our deck watching the stars till I got too cold and turned in. John stayed longer; he just didn’t want let go of it. The chef had even baked a birthday cake – very fudgy and yummy. The outdoor bathroom was the crowning touch! Now, that was quite a throne.
All in all, we really enjoyed our trip to South Africa, and we are really glad we went, and we will recommend the trip to our friends. We were well cared for, we had wonderful adventures and we met exceptional and kind people wherever we went.
And, Elena, you know we will recommend you and Africa Adventure Company! Thank you so much for putting this amazing experience together for us.
Jane and John Craig, June 2015
Luxury Safari to Southern Africa
I want to tell you that Gabi and I had the MOST amazing trip to Africa!! It was so much more than we expected!!
In Cape Town, the Ellerman House was soo nice. The views were gorgeous, the food was fantastic and the service was amazing. Paul, our guide for three days was the BEST!!! He totally “got” us and took us everywhere we wanted!
MalaMala and Singita, while very different from each other, gave us two different experiences that were fantastic! We absolutely loved our guides at both places and were very sad to leave them and the animals, both.
Zambia and our experiences there were great too. However, the accommodations were less than we expected. The food was yucky and we thought the hotel rooms were a bit run down and dirty. We understand that it’s Zambia.
All of our transfers and connections were amazing and created a completely stress free experience throughout the entire trip.
Like I mentioned above, this trip was an experience both Gabi and I will never forget. We learned and experienced so much and we can’t wait to go back as soon as we can!!
Thank you for making this trip one of the most special experiences of our lives!!
Marissa Hollander, June 2015
Family Safari to Namibia and Botswana
The order of the camps we visited was in retrospect very appropriate. At the Hoanib Camp, it was beautiful but spare environment and viewing any game takes skill, patience and a bit of luck. The Ongava Tented Camp was, on the other hand, full of animals even those that were not native (waterbuck)! But it gave us the chance to see a lot of different species of large mammals and birds — important for everyone but especially the kids. Chitabe Lediba was also full of game but the area we covered is larger and the area more spread out with the wildlife in more of a natural setting. Finally, finishing up at Jacana was perfect — completely different — wet not dry — and very different things to see. Vic Falls was a good stop simply because the Falls are iconic and amazing but doing it at the end was a good way to start the decent from the Vacation High.
Papa G at Hoanib was excellent and worked very hard to find things — used extraordinary skill and patience to find the desert-adapted lions. He knew the terrain and the animals very well.
Bono at Ongava — very engaging as was his wife Patience. A very curious man asking as many questions of us as we of him. Was willing to engage in a broad range of topics and frequently we found ourselves discussing politics or government or science while the kids were urging us on to the next beast or bird on their list. I am sending him a series of science textbooks for his he and his son.
Brooks — a most capable man full of knowledge and good cheer. Clearly the most experienced and entertaining of many guides we observed — he stayed with us from Chitabe to Jacana which was our good luck. He has many ideas, is ambitious in life and was a pleasure to be around with his broad smile and his high-pitched laugh. It was clear that the other guides looked up to him but he was very gracious and respectful of them.
Excellent everywhere though Ongava was exceptional. At each camp they tried very hard to fatten us up for no obvious reason though we imagined it might be for sacrificial reasons or just provide the carnivores something different to chew on. We ate constantly and in quantity.
One might have thought that visiting four camps was a bit redundant but the difference between Hoanib and Jacana was night and day — it must be emphasized that geography and geology are as much a reason to visit as are birds and beasts. To wit: there are no beasts in the Grand Canyon and yet it is a grand place to visit. Chitabe and Ongava are more similar but there are enough differences — wild dogs and rhinos versus cheetahs and leopards that to see them all (and we did and more) that the experiences overlapped very little. It is better to make more than one bet on seeing the various animals and people — two camps are better than one.
At Vic Falls both Sophret and Esther could not have been more helpful. Ester is a very unusual woman. She was the only person who noted AND asked about my daughter’s condition perhaps because she herself had a child afflicted with very serious problems which she saw her through to adulthood. Our time spent together was brief but she made a deep impression on all of us.
We drove up to Livingstone for lunch and walked through the markets — very worthwhile. Reminded us how lucky we are and what work we all have to bring the world up.
Children under 11 probably get a lot less out of this kind of trip than teenagers. I think our daughter Beatrice, at 11, however, had a very memorable time and got a lot out of the trip — she was very assiduous recording each species and even counting the specimens each day. (We all did our part.) But many of the younger kids we observed seemed to get bored with the daily routines so I would not encourage families with younger kids to make this sort of trip.
The choice of Classic Camps was appropriate…The food in the Classic Camps is outstanding and very abundant, our guides were excellent, the animals very cooperative. It might have been just a great a trip at the Adventure Camps as I did 20 years ago but with a family of five one of whom has some limitations, the Classic Camp was just right. And my kids love good food and were delighted with all the new breads, forms of maize, and the game. We took a vow not to eat any animal that might want to eat us and thus had no close calls with crocodiles.
The staff and guides make great sacrifices in their work — in some cases three months on and one off with many miles to go to get home. We spoke to many of the staff about these personal hardships and it reminded us of our good fortune to find good work close to home.
The unexpected cultural displays of singing and dancing which happened at most of the camps seemed very genuine and was of interest to all of us — especially a musical family like ours. There is a great danger of it being too staged or accommodating to the tourists but there was not a whiff of that in these performances…
My first trip to Africa with AAC in 1996 or thereabouts was a profound experience — the big land, the sentience of the animals, the warm people. One can never have that same initial feeling again but I was hoping my family would. I feel certain Africa has touched their souls (though they have been in the Sudan for 2 weeks and Morocco for one on vacations past.) But seeing the wild world, the unpeopled endless land, eating and laughing with the proud citizens of these countries, especially Namibia and Botswana, was new for them and made a permanent mark, and a curiosity which will impel them to further explore and even return to make their own adventures.
With best wishes,
Hugh Y. Rienhoff, Jr., June 2015
Group “Desert & Dune” Safari to Namibia
Hello Alison and crew,
Oh My God!!!!!! Why did I wait so long to take this trip? ! ?
I could go on and on for pages. Absolutely spectacular!!! We are so happy with the tour we took and all the details involved. Wilderness Safaris does an outstanding job. You are definitely partnered with the right company.
Our guide, Jeremia Mwapopi, was incredible. We simply could not have had a better guide. The lodges are out of this world from every angle – amenities, locale, staff, food and drink, comfort – world class! Then there is the Hansa Hotel in Swakopmund – one of my all time favorite hotels I have ever stayed in – absolutely loved it !!
The activities : such a great variety and so much to see it is hard to say what I liked best. There is scenery that is out of this world, wildlife that is out of this world, adventure (Swakopmund) that is out of this world, travel by Land Rover and Cessna that is out of this world, dining that is out of this world !!!
* Jeremia Mwapopi – guide extraordinaire
* Flying over the Namib in a Cessna – even cooler than watching the desert aerials in “The English Patient ” – and you get to do it twice !!!
* Catamaran cruise and 4 x 4 excursion into the Namib are off the chart – I could go on and on about how much fun we had this day – not to be missed
* Dining at the Hansa Hotel (and staying there, too!!!)
* The rugged and powerful and diverse scenery and wildlife at all the different camps while staying in some of the most unique, luxurious accommodations I have ever seen complete with fine dining
* Dune roaring (I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t done it )
* The Skeleton Coast – endless beauty complete with shipwrecks
* The privilege of seeing a black rhinoceros
* More stars at night than I have ever seen before, and did I mention the completely visible Milky Way
* Jackals, hyenas, elephants, giraffes, baboons, seals, flamingoes, pelicans, hyrax, lizard, horned adder, gecko, oryx, springbok, kudu, birds galore
I am 250% happy with our trip. I really labored over which of the options to choose and I am sure I picked the best one for us. Couldn’t be happier.
Just like our 2008 trip with Africa Adventure, I did not want to come home. Your trips are that amazing.
Tim & Linda Corcoran, May 2015
Luxury Flying Safari to Botswana’s Okavango Delta and Moremi Reserve
Vumbura Plains again lived up to expectations. Omang was our guide and I feel he is one of the best Wilderness guides we have ever had. He was always enthusiastic and worked extremely hard to entertain us. Our highlights here were spending full days out following leopard, lion and dogs. On the one evening drive we arranged with the camp to set up a special camp fire setting out in the sticks where we were joined by one of their bushman staff. Under an amazing night sky we asked questions and learned about their fascinating culture. It was a great evening and we loved it.
Mombo – Five male lion are wreaking havoc in the region at the moment which has changed the dynamics of the game. This didn’t stop us from trying and as usual we spent a lot of time out tracking and searching for some interesting behavior. Our guide was Dr Malinga and as you already probably know is fantastic. Our manager was excellent and did everything in his power to make our stay comfortable. They arranged a rhino talk, a visit to the rhino boma and surprised us with a romantic private dinner.
Sandi and Keith Cunningham, May 2015
Safari to Mana Pools National Park and Visit Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe
Dear Mark, Szilvia, Saskia, Cinthia, and Kollin,
Thank you so much for arranging our safari! We all had a fabulous time. Both lodges were great, and all the transfers worked very well.
Imbabala was in such a beautiful setting, overlooking the Zambezi. We loved the family room and being all together there. The temporary manager, Himal, was very welcoming, and our guide Richard was great. We saw lots of animals, both in variety and quantity. I especially wanted to see giraffe, because there are no giraffe at Mana Pools, and we saw lots, up close. Zach was so impressed with how many animals there were- hippos, elephants, crocodiles, jackal, hyena, buffalo, and the beautiful giraffe. The river cruise was great- we got very close to 3 elephants- 2 adults and a baby- drinking form the river. A hippo joined us for dinner near the outdoor table the first night, then at the outdoor cook-out away from the lodge the second night, a big male lion came to see what was on the menu!
Esther was a great guide to Victoria Falls- we really appreciated both her knowledge and warmth.
Mana Pools was amazing. The folks at Vundu – Nick, Amy, the new manager, and especially our guide Henry-were very welcoming. We were pleased to have been upgraded, even though we did not get the family tent- both our tents were surprising large and very comfortable. And the food was great! We were lucky to see both a leopard and the wild dogs, plus a lion and all the rest. We all enjoyed the canoeing, especially Zach, and were very impressed with Henry’s knowledge of the river. Mana is again a very beautiful setting by the Zambezi, with the mountains in Zambia in the background. It was still very green, but we still were able to see lots of animals, especially elephant, hippo, crocs, zebra,baboons, Eland, and impala. We also saw 2 pythons!
We hope to return to Zimbabwe and see more of the country. The people there were all so friendly and warm! When we do, we will definitely be calling you! In the meantime, we are talking about a possible trip to Morocco- do you all have any suggestions?
Mary Henslee, May 2015
Best of Southern Africa including Sabi Sand, Chobe and Victoria Falls
As promised I want to give you a more detailed review of our trip which was probably the best we have ever taken.
In Cape Town, Thomas was an excellent guide and the Cape Grace Hotel, along with the Victoria Falls Hotel, ranks among my top three out of hundreds of hotels in which I have stayed in the U.S. and around the world. The tours were just right for us even though the weather wasn’t the best, but that was to be expected.
At MalaMala we saw the Big Five by the first morning. Roan was an excellent ranger and companion, and it seemed like we were seeing a new animal every 15 minutes. Our upgraded room was huge and very nice…
Getting from MalaMala to Chobe was an adventure in itself with the charter plane from MalaMala to Kruger, and the Zambezi River crossing from Zambia to Botswana. The Ngoma Safari Large was a first-rate property with great ambience and probably the best food on the trip. Again, we had a very good guide with Bevan. Judy, the temporary manager, was a gracious host.
The safari experience in Chobe was much different than in MalaMala and at first we thought we preferred MalaMala with its emphasis on tracking individual animals. But, by the end we came to appreciate Chobe maybe even more than MalaMala because we saw animals in large herds and the interactions among the wildlife. I will never forget on the first night being surround by hundreds of cape buffalo in the dusk as we approached the lodge.
Victoria Falls was spectacular with the falls and the hotel. We loved the hotel’s architecture, grounds and ambience. Esther was a very good guide. On our free day we shopped at the Elephant Walk market, went across the Victoria Falls Bridge, and took a sunset cruise on the Zambezi.
Thanks again for a wonderful vacation.
Larry Keller, May 2015
Family Flying safari to Linyanti Reserve and Okavango Delta in Botswana
Dear Mark and Saskia,
Thank you so much for planning such an incredible trip to Africa for us.
Everything that you promised or arranged was absolutely accurate and top-notch. Every air or road transfer went smoothly and was on time. Every person we met, guides, drivers, airport helpers was unfailingly kind, patient, helpful, and cheerful. Esther Gewerkerere was phenomenal. Her guided tour of Victoria Falls was so informative and exciting. I had no idea how drenched we’d get, but she arranged for floor-length rain ponchos, so we were well protected. The man who drove us to Botswana from Vic Falls, was fascinating and gregarious. We all learned so much about life in Zimbabwe and how people feel about the current (and forever) government. He handed us off to a terrific fellow in Botswana and then we were off to those incredible safari camps. You mentioned when we first spoke, that with all of your experience in Africa, you could arrange the best guides for your clients at every camp in Botswana. You certainly do!
We had Mocks and Emax (a trainee guide) at Duma Tau and saw so much! Mocks was hilarious and informative and drove like the wind over every obstacle with verve and exuberance. The camp is spectacular, such luxury, incredible food, and we all felt so pampered at all times. Our guide at Little Vumbura was Sam whose tracking skills and knowledge of animal behavior are phenomenal. We saw so much in two days. The highlight for him was seeing 4 lionesses at night trying to attack 3 porcupines. We loved seeing that, especially since the lionesses went away without a kill, but we had no way of knowing how rare such a sighting is. Driving through the watery channels was amazing, and so much game! So many birds! So many mosquitos!! It was magical. Chitabe Lediba was fantastic. The camp manager was omnipresent and incredibly cheerful and outgoing and clearly loved his camp. The tents were wonderful and the staff were incredibly thoughtful and kind. Apparently they had received word that we drank A LOT of seltzer water and were prepared. MoaLosi (camp mgr) chortled that they were finally able to clear out ancient seltzer water stock thanks to Amanda and Dwight’s preferences!! Gordon was our guide at CL, and he was hilarious. He’s a very skilled tracker and has the eyesight of a hawk: spotting creatures well before we did, birds, beasts, and insects! He also loves all of the animals and would provide a running commentary whenever we saw something.
There are a few things that I was completely unprepared for. The Boma night at the camps, the singing and dancing on other nights, the singing welcome at LV, the moist and cool towels provided after a game drive, the hot water bottles in camp and in the jeep along with blankets for the morning rides, and incredible food at every meal. I didn’t expect the wonderful and formal presentations about Botswana history, culture, and politics at LV and CL. I am very glad that we brought extra cash, we ended up leaving more than the recommended amounts for tips because the service was extraordinary. I didn’t realize how vast Africa is, our fears of terrorism and Ebola were absolutely unfounded. I didn’t expect Cape Town to be so gorgeous, interesting, and cheap and we absolutely loved staying at Kensington Place.
Thank you also for reserving separate tents for Amanda and Emily and us. I might have assumed the “family” tents would suffice, but they were so relieved and delighted to have their own, separate tent. You are inspired! After spending all day together in the jeeps and at meals, I know that they loved having a retreat that was all their own.
This was such an incredible trip, I don’t even know how to describe it to my friends and family, because words fail to capture the beauty of the scenery, the diversity of wildlife, the excitement of tracking for an hour, seeing nothing at all, and then suddenly: 2 lions and 5 cubs playing, and the warmth of the people. The luxury and the fun of the camps and the vastness. The sunrises and sunsets that capture all the colors of the rainbow. The majesty and power of Victoria Falls, still in the middle of nowhere.
Thank you all so much for all you did for us. I am in the process of going through all of my photos, but I will definitely send a few in for your annual photo contest.
Best wishes and with great gratitude,
Gillian Weatherhead, May 2015
Safari to South Africa’s Sabi Sand and Visit to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe
Elena, Just returned from my month long trip to Africa. Just wanted to say thank you to your and your team for arranging for such a fabulous adventure… truly an experience of a lifetime. The accommodations were great with quite a mix of different style properties, all with great food and very good service, I really appreciated the on time transfer service to get back and forth to airports. All in all everything went flawlessly.
Thanks again to you and your team.
John A Andross, April 2015
Luxury Flying Safari to Botswana
Absolutely great experience and hope to do it again soon and again especially when my granddaughter gets older
Everything was A+…If I were to compare Moremi to Kings Pool I would have to give the nod to Moremi – the wildlife there came fast and furious – amazing and the guide Yompy was just as amazing. At Kings Pool we saw African Painted Wolves – a pack of 13 – put a bow on the trip. They were an absolute treat.
I have included a picture of my Moremi girlfriend – she is gorgeous and was so cooperative in her photo shoot
Lee Harkleroad, April 2015
Family Safari to South Africa
Thanks for your help in making our trip incredible and very memorable. The Cape Grace is amazing and the staff is as good as it gets. Every single person we interacted with at the hotel was fantastic. Andrew Brink as our guide was also great. He has a deep knowledge of the area and the history and was just a nice guy to spend time with.
Mala Mala was great and the game viewing was off the charts. Our guide, Morne was so impressive with his knowledge of all of the species we saw and the dynamics of the bush. He is a relatively young guy and was perfect for our family. We all really enjoyed his company and we had lots of laughs together. I didn’t realize how important it is to have a private guide when at a reserve where the guides spend all the meals with the guests. It was perfect. My 10 year old daughter’s comment sums it up “I thought I had been on some pretty great vacations before but this is just a different level.”
Thanks again for a great adventure!
Rob Leupold, April 2015
Flying Safari to South Africa’s Private Game Reserve and Botswana’s Okavango Delta
Thank you all for putting the pieces together for an outstanding travel experience!
We only have positive things to say about our experience. All of the details of the trip worked extremely well. The flights, the people who met us at each of the locations and smoothed our transfers, the lodges, the guides, the food; even the animals did their part.
We enjoyed each of the camps and each stands out for different reasons.
Cheetah Plains: By far the best game viewing was in the Sabi Sand camps. Our guide was Craig. We saw the most variety of wildlife here, including all of the big five, ugly five, etc. The weather was about perfect for us. The camp was able to do dinner outside each night in the Boma under the trees with lanterns all around for a really magical setting.
Tubu Tree: Lovely setting in the Okavango Delta. The facility was lovely. Our guide was General, and we also saw a lot of another guide, Cruise. Different terrain, more tropical and green than Sabi Sand. Good game viewing especially elephants. We were able to get out on the water both in Mokoro and outboard skiff. Saw first giraffes here.
Duma Tau: despite the name, no lions around. Our guide was “Name”. Beautiful setting on the river and the camp was beautiful. The staff surprised us with a lunch by the pool one day, a dinner at a separate lounge area on another. We saw alot of game especially elephant and hippo, but not the variety we saw in Sabi Sand or even Tubu Tree. Got out on the water here as well. Bird life the best here.
Our favorite camp: Duma Tau, for the whole experience, food, the setting, and the staff. But I really don’t want to downgrade the other two locations, we had to pick one, someone else might have a different opinion.
The guides were all equally good in our eyes. The breadth of their knowledge about the animals, vegetation, and the birds was amazing. Again we each had our favorites, probably because of differences in personalities. The staff in each of the camps really went out of their way to enhance the guests experience.
We thoroughly enjoyed Cape Town as well and would HIGHLY recommend Welgelegen B and B. They set up excellent peninsula tour as well.
Can’t even begin to name favorite experience, the vistas around Cape Town, flying over the delta, driving round the bend and coming face to face with that first elephant, rhino, leopard, pack of wild dogs, lion or… depends on which memory pops up at a given moment!
Again, many thanks to the whole team for your knowledge and skill in making your recommendations of camps, and arranging all of the details. We enjoyed it all! Oh yeah, you should warn people up front that they may need to go on a diet after spending time in these camps!!
Bill and Carolyn McMullin, April 2015