CLIENTS TRIP REPORTS EAST & SOUTHERN AFRICA – JAN-MAR 2019
Rwanda Gorilla Trekking and Private Safari to Tanzania
A BIG THANK YOU to you especially, Kollin and the entire Africa Adventure Company team who helped planned our safari! We had a fantastic trip! Your guidance, planning and professionalism ensured everything went smoothly and I truly appreciate your hard work! We also really appreciated your team on the ground and the wonderful job they did with our arrangements as well.
Rwanda- our guide, Tharcisse (Tarzan) Branyeretse was an excellent ambassador for his country. Always punctual and informative, we learned so much about Rwanda from him. Our two treks to see the gorillas were unforgettable! We saw the Susa group on the first one so hiked up 2,000 feet to find them in the trees and surrounding area. The guides and trackers were very knowledgeable and professional and having a porter was a great idea! We saw the Agashya group the second day and hiked in for about 30 minutes. They were in a totally different setting and very playful and active. Amazing hanging out with them! A big silverback walked right by Erik and brushed his shoulder and I had a mama holding her baby come up the trail right by me! Both the Kigali Serena and Bishop’s House were wonderful accommodations and we really enjoyed our city tour, genocide museum visit and driving in the countryside. The beautiful land of 1,000 hills!
Tanzania- our guide, Ernest Okeyo was outstanding!!!! A walking encyclopedia of knowledge about EVERY animal we saw. Not only did he identify the numerous species we encountered, he relayed interesting facts that would help us remember them. A true ambassador of his country, he spoke English flawlessly, kidded around with us, was patient, (especially at a waterhole as we watched warthogs for 30 minutes!) and was instrumental in making sure we had everything we needed and were having a good time! He was very good at his job and it was clear he enjoyed it as well, sharing a mutual love for the animals we saw. Thank you so much for arranging a private guide for us, I couldn’t imagine jumping from guide to guide in each camp.
About the camps. We loved every experience! Ehlane Plains was a great location, the staff warm and welcoming. The food delicious and filling and accommodations comfortable and restful! We encountered a herd of elephants on our second evening game drive and just parked to the side as they walked and ate just by us as we watched the sun lower in the horizon. Truly unforgettable!!!
Zebra Camp was wonderful too! We loved the location and the experience of a mobile camp. The food was again delicious, staff courteous and thoughtful and the animal show was unbelievable! Hyena cackles and lion roars at night, zebras in Zebra Camp at all hours, ring necked doves and guinea fowl birdsong in the evening and morning…..and the bucket showers! Fun! Ernest mentioned we were lucky to have so many animals near us. We were in the heart of the great migration and experienced seeing a newborn wildebeest calf just minutes old wobble to her legs and walk with her mama. We also saw lions after a recent kill with full bellies resting, only getting up to chase off the 20+ vultures that had gathered to take their turn at the carcass. All the antelope, giraffes, hippos, cheetahs….even dung beetles, we appreciated everything we saw and Ernest made animal spotting fun and exciting!
The Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge was wonderful too! Nice to have a bigger, comfortable room and shower at that point in our trip and the amazing sunsets were spectacular! We were lucky in that the morning and evenings were fog free and warm. The staff there was again courteous and helpful, food delicious. Our full day game drive in the crater was wonderful! We saw 22 lions in various positions of repose, 7 rhinos, numerous cape buffalo, elephants, antelope, flamingos and many other birds and animals..and many more. Off to Lake Manyara and the Lake Manyara Tree Lodge….unforgettable experience!!! Outstanding staff and service and accommodations. Really fun being out in the middle of the forest in a private villa. We were rewarded with an early start to our game drive with a leopard on a rock, welcoming the sunrise. The bird life at the hippo pool was really neat and the giraffes, wildebeest and zebra at the lakeshore was a wonderful sight.
Zanzibar- after a tearful good bye to Ernest we boarded our charter and headed to Zanzibar. Baraza was a wonderful end to our magical time in Africa. We really enjoyed our Stone Town and Spice Tours and were by then ready to relax and enjoy the resort…The food at Baraza was superb, service outstanding and accommodations roomy and comfortable.
I would like to thank you also for providing the tipping guidelines. It was very helpful to have that money set aside and also to bring along more. So many people made our stay comfortable and we were happy to thank them both with a note and monetarily…
We enjoyed our trip so much as you can see from my lengthy description of only some of the highlights. I have already shared your planning book with a neighbor and can’t wait to share the many pictures with friends and family. I intend to share our wonderful experience with your company with everyone and would not hesitate to highly recommend Africa Adventure Company for a truly unforgettable safari experience.
Thank you again so much Kollin and please keep us on your email list for future safaris!
Michelle Meyers, Mar 2019
Iconic Safari to East and Southern Africa
Thank you for your welcome home email; and thank you, Szilvia, for putting together an amazing itinerary for our safari. You read us completely accurately with regards to what we were looking for, including the pacing, and the timing of everything was impeccable!
Here is some feedback, as you requested:
Local Ground Operators:
From the first moment we landed at the airport in Kilimanjaro and were met by your team who took care of getting our VISAs and navigating us fairly quickly through the big crowds, to the last drive to the Mauritius airport; all local ground operators were always punctual, friendly, reliable, and respectful. Their reliability and welcoming service quickly relieved any anxieties about our many transitions throughout our trip. We strongly support their continued service through AAC because they played a key role in the success of our trip.
Standards of Guiding
You provided us with your best guides in East Africa and Victoria Falls…Thank you very much!
Ephata readily shared his knowledge and passion of his country, culture and wildlife with us each day. He demonstrated deep respect for us, the people, the animals and the natural environment. At all times we felt safe and secure with him; both on and off the road. His driving skills were exceptional in different conditions and traffic; whether sand or mud and anything in between. He listened to us and was very attuned to meeting our daily needs with flexibility, wisdom and experience. We thoroughly enjoyed our safari with him; he made our safari safe, exciting and educational. Without hesitation, we would recommend him for guiding.
Precious also readily shared her vast knowledge of Victoria Falls and Zimbabwe with us. Her friendliness, humor and expertise made our Victoria Falls trip very rich. We would also strongly support her for future guiding.
Both our drivers to and from the camp airstrip, as well as our driver to the mokoros were exceptional, knowledgeable and skilled drivers. They demonstrated respect for us, the animals and environment, and showed a pride of their land and people. Their combined efforts and the accrued safari experience we had with Ephata made our time in Botswana worthwhile; we would recommend these guides.
Nothing short of stellar!
Customer service, food and quality of bedding were superior from beginning to end. The people were always warm, welcoming and available. As this was a joint retirement trip, there were also several places that gave us a surprise celebration and dance! All our accommodations were very suitable and without hesitation we would recommend them to others.
Beyond our expectations and imagination!
As it was early March, we benefitted from the January/February calving season and saw many newly born or young animals (as well as the adults). Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crater were teeming with wildlife; we were able to view the migration in the Serengeti. We saw the “Big 5”, and lots of cats (which was a bonus we didn’t expect), birds and other mammals. Botswana gave us herds and herds of elephants!
This was a great time to go and we were lucky to get in before the rains of Eastern Africa!
Rose Mumm & Evelyn Willis, Mar 2019
Botswana Flying Safari to the Okavango Delta
Hello. Thanks for your email. We had an amazing trip. Victoria Falls was beautiful and awe inspiring. Botswana was amazing as well. The people that took care of us were beautiful. The guides were amazing and extremely knowledgeable. My favorite guide was Lazi. He had an awesome personality. The animals were more than I expected. I didn’t know we could get so up close and personal. My favorite were the lions, and we saw a bunch! It was sad to leave.
It was definitely an emotional experience. Thanks so much! Cheers.
Hilton Whitworth, Mar 2019
South African Safari and Cape Highlights
Good morning Jessica,
We had an amazing trip to South Africa. The safari at Savanna Lodge was certainly the highlight of the trip but Cape Town exceeded our expectations as well. The staff at Savanna Lodge was amazing and truly catered to our every need. They have clearly thought of every little detail and make you feel like family during your stay. The reserve is just beautiful and we saw so many amazing animals. We saw 4 of the big 5 on our first outing and did see all big 5 during our trip. Our ranger Derrick and tracker Edward were especially awesome. We cannot recommend Savanna Lodge highly enough. We have been talking about the safari and Savanna Lodge since we left.
In Cape Town we enjoyed our guided tour of the Cape with guide Lucia Earl. She was extremely knowledgeable and showed us a great time. She was very accommodating of any requests we had and always ready to provide any recommendations as well. She was even kind enough to drop us off across town for our dinner reservations at the end of the day. We would highly recommend Lucia to future travelers. Lucia was also our guide for our day in the winelands and we had an amazing time there as well. She was once again very knowledgeable of the region and offered many great recommendations for wineries. It was such a great excursion for us.
Our accommodations in Cape Town at Welgelegen were great. We weren’t exactly sure what to expect but the staff were incredibly nice and the room was great. Well located for all that we wanted to do and had an amazing view of Table Mountain.
The Franschhoeck Country House was also great. The pool felt great after a long day of riding around. Our stay here was short but would recommend it to others…
We had an amazing trip. Thanks for all the planning and booking you did for us. We would recommend Africa Adventure Company to anyone we know.
Jay Cowart, Feb 2019
Big Five Safari to South Africa’s Private Game Reserves
Hi Elena – Thank you so much for planning such a spectacular trip!!!WOW!!!!! Every single place we stayed was just absolutely stunning. You really know how to pick them! La Residence was the perfect place to start the trip and our room was just amazing – with its own pool and peacock roaming the grounds! We really appreciated our guide Chris powering through our whirlwind trip of Cape Town so my mom was able to see it all.
We loved Singita Ebony with its stunning decor and my mom had lots of adventures with the monkeys in her room (they broke in – which she thought was fantastic, the staff was very gracious about removing the monkeys) and the hippo floating around the river outside our rooms.
Singita Lebombo was spectacular. We absolutely could not believe we had that amazing family compound entirely to ourselves (they said the other suites were booked but we literally never saw anyone in the other room and so were able to fully utilize the common space and had lunch at it on one of the days). The food was unbelievably good and the staff were all so wonderful. And we managed to see all of the big five within the first 24 hours after arriving at Ebony, even with the rain! We got so lucky with the weather as it only rained the first two drives, which my mom thought was a fun adventure, and then it was sunny and absolutely perfect all of the other days and not too hot.
Thank you so much for organizing the birthday celebrations. Boma night at Ebony was something I will never forget – my mom was so surprised! I can’t wait to get all my pictures organized!!!
Linda and Jason Ephraim, Feb 2019
Anniversary Safari Celebration in Southern Africa
Our trip exceeded our best expectations. Your handling of all the pre-departure as well the actual travel details was impeccable. We were always comfortable knowing we would be met on time by a knowledgeable and quality person and taken care of beautifully.
The choice of all the safari lodges and hotels was perfect for us. We loved every one. You told them it was our 50th anniversary and they all made a fuss…champagne, rose petals – the works. Singita Ebony Lodge outdid themselves! They had a breakfast in the bush for only ourselves, guide and tracker in addition to the champagne etc.to celebrate our anniversary.
All the guides and drivers were lovely and extremely competent. They helped to make this trip very special.
So, thank you all for doing an outstanding job for us. We will recommend your company to all our friends! We thank our friend, Ruth Maisel, who introduced us to you and insisted that we use your services.
Eve and Jim Starkman, Feb 2019
African Journeys Safari to Kenya and Tanzania
Dear Lynne, Jessica et al:
Let me begin by saying that our trip met or exceeded our expectations in all respects. All of our accommodations were first rate and all of our arrangements went off without a hitch. Marilyn and I were delighted to have chosen the flexibility of a private tour and to have had the benefit of your detailed advice and planning. More specifically:
Starting our trip in Tanzania with Emmanuel Mkenda as our guide for six days was a great gift or stroke of luck. When we met Mkenda at the Kilimanjaro airport we instantly developed a rapport that continued throughout our time together. It’s hard to imagine having a more personable, knowledgeable, thoughtful and enthusiastic guide. As we conversed and got acquainted during our 180 km drive from Kilimanjaro to the Escarpment Lodge, Mkenda proved to be knowledgeable about a wide array of subjects ranging from geology to geo-politics.
When I mentioned having had a geography book as a child in which modern-day Tanzania was then known as Tanganyika, he launched into a full-blown history of colonialism in East Africa, the merger of Tanzania and Zanzibar in the 1960s, and the country’s political history since it gained independence! By the time we reached his home town of Arusha we had developed a new appreciation for the country and its history, including why its beer is of such good quality (German influence). For the rest of our time together Mkenda was not merely a guide, but also a cheerful companion and fountain of knowledge. His guiding skills, including his ability to find and identify animals and birds, and to put us in a position to see them up close, were also exceptional. In the Serengeti we spent four hours patiently watching a pair of cheetahs track down and kill a young wildebeest – an event that we will never forget and which most of our fellow travelers did not experience. As I told some friends, Mkenda could be Tanzania’s ambassador to the U.N., and we would be pleased to travel with him any time.
As I noted above, all of our accommodations were very nice and the staff and service at each were excellent. When time permits I will post reviews of each on Trip Advisor. There were not many other guests at either the Serengeti Shared Explorer Camp and Larsen’s; in fact at each we had at least one night when we were the only guests present. Little Governor’s was about 60% occupied.
Our game drives at both Little Governors and Larsen’s were, of course, guided by camp employees. At the former we were paired with a delightful couple from Australia who shared our enthusiasm for exploring as many areas of the Mara as possible. One of our daily highlights there was having our breakfasts under the sky while zebras, gazelles and even lions looked on. Our guide, Robert, was not as gregarious and voluble as Mkenda, but he was well-informed and assiduous, particularly in his determination to find leopards, which no one at the camp had seen for several days. (He did.) Our game drives at Larsen’s were much more limited in duration, so we supplemented by visiting a Save the Elephants facility and by visiting the Samburu village suggested in our itinerary. Despite the heat, we would have liked to have the option of taking longer drives.
Thank you for your detailed advice about tipping. Per your suggestion I prepared envelopes for each category in advance; happily, the ones I chose could be opened and re-sealed, which enabled us to adjust the specific amounts as necessary. Prior to the trip I was concerned about carrying so much cash. We dealt with this by dividing the money between us and having each of us wear a money belt, which provided peace of mind and did not prove to be particularly uncomfortable. Some of our accommodations provided safes for valuables, which we of course took advantage of.
I will send along some photos as soon as I have processed and edited more than 1,500 that I have uploaded. In the meantime, we will be happy to answer any questions that you may have. Thanks again for your careful planning and thoughtful advice.
High Stevens, Feb 2019
The Best of Botswana, Cape Town and Victoria Falls
We wanted to let you know that we had an absolutely amazing time, and were thrilled with the trip you coordinated for us. Aside from the magical experiences of key sights such as Table Mountain, the Cape of Good Hope, and obviously the safaris… all of the ground services, guides, and accommodations were phenomenal. Some highlights were:
- Our guide, Rob, was fantastic. From an operational aspect: he was prompt, the vehicle was clean and comfortable, and he has snacks and water available at all times. From a personal standpoint: his personality, his insights about the history of the county and city, spot on restaurant recommendations, and his overall demeanor were fantastic. We very much enjoyed our time with him.
- The first hotel, Cape Grace, was also wonderful. They made us feel special and welcomed from the moment we arrived, and everyone from check-in to check-out was always willing to help with whatever question or requests we had (including off-menu green martini’s delivered to the room J )
- The second ‘hotel’, La Cle De Montagne was absolutely phenomenal (beautiful villa, private pool, beautiful views, very relaxing), and we wished we had more time to spend there. One night was definitely not enough.
- The Test Kitchen was as sublime as we had read about. Hopefully some more of your future guests can grab a table.
- Wonderful accommodations. Since it was off season, for two out of three days it was just us and one other person.
- The hostess Tonja was very personable, and we enjoyed her company and conversations during mealtimes. Since there were only four guests, we especially loved the way they were able to do a special dinner setup by the pool one night, and then by the campfire on our last night. These dinners were definitely highlights from the visit.
- Our safari guide Steve was also terrific, and managed to get us a sight of all the major animals… including some stunning views of the leopard and her two offspring. He was the perfect guide, and intuitively knew when he should stop to allow us the sights. There was also a ‘lion chase’ the final evening with him (our sunset cocktail was interrupted by a nearby lion roar) that was a highlight of the trip.
- Stunning accommodations
- Far larger amount of animals than Tubu Tree due to the location (though no leopard, they did have rhinos). I think we saw more giraffe and elephant on the ride from the airport to the hotel than we saw in the entirety of Tubu Tree visit. We also had elephants literally outside our rooms drinking out of the plunge pool one night!
- Old Drift – An absolute terrific accommodation and the transport from the airport to the hotel was seamless. One highlight was being taken by boat from our taxi for the arrival to the hotel. We were greeted with drinks, smiles and a very organized/ professional staff.
- The hotel is less than one year old – it is beautiful. The rooms sit on the river with gorgeous private pool and a/c in the rooms. The meals and staff were first rate.
- The guides and hotel staff were awesome. They sat with us at dinner and planned out our short stay (we only had 2 days and they wanted to make sure we hot everything in). We got an amazing guide (Cynthia) for the Falls – fun, smart – she made us feel like we were friends for years. We really enjoyed our day with her. She also arranged (on very short notice) a helicopter ride over the Falls – which was an absolute highlight. And lastly, we had a sunset cruise (just 4 of us on the boat) and a surprisingly excellent safari for our last night – we saw so much wildlife in the national park (which the hotel is situated in). Hippos, elephants and giraffes sipping from the Zimbabwe River as we sipped our cocktails – it was a wonderful way to end.
We are so thankful for all you did to make this such a memorable and absolutely flawless trip.
Bill Tew, Feb 2019
Honeymoon Kili Climb and Lodge Safari to Tanzania
Thanks very much for reaching out. WE HAD A GREAT HONEYMOON! The accommodations were great throughout the trip. Our safari guide, Wilfred, was super knowledgeable and informative. We were driving thru Manyara and Wilfred was able to hear monkeys communicating about a threat in what turned out to be a leopard below. We even saw the leopard briefly. Another time he stopped and spotted lions sleeping in a tree a hundred or so yards off, super impressive.
Our Kilimanjaro trek was great too! I suffered a bit of altitude sickness the last few days, but Hansy and Jonas were very helpful. They, too were very informative throughout the duration of our hike, and also super polite. The entire staff was great, and we were very impressed by the cuisine, as we expected to be roughing it, but three course meals every meal was very unexpected!…
It was seriously a great trip. Thanks for everything. Truly a memorable honeymoon!
JJ Woolley, Feb 2019
East African Adventure including Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda
Alison and the entire AAC team:
The bottom line is that we had an amazing trip. I can’t compliment you enough. Your planning and attention to detail was perfect. Every place that we went the handoffs and pickups were precise, friendly and reassuring. It seems like that each time we landed at an airport/ air strip there were some tourists looking bewildered and wondering where their contact was. Not us; someone was literally waiting for us and grabbing our bags. The logistics were flawless.
Here are some other comments:
- I think the Ngorongoro Crater was a great place to start the safari portion of our trip. Its vastness and abundance of animals is a terrific introduction to Africa. That said, when compared to (say) the eastern Serengeti the crater seems more “reserve-like” and certainly has a lot more vehicles and people. I feel like I might have been disappointed if the crater had followed the Serengeti.
- The Lemala Ngorongoro Camp is a two-hour ride from the Lake Manyara airport but the camp’s location is perfect. Literally minutes to the bottom of the crater (and you avoid the hellish other roads that lead in out of the crater). Staff at the camp was really nice and at times very funny (particularly the Maasai men who provided the night time security).
- One note, each time we took a flight to a new camp we arrived well before noon so we always got in a half day of animal viewing on travel days. It makes a big difference in the amount of viewing time we had.
- Namiri Plains was probably our favorite camp. Accommodations, food and staff were equal to the other camps but the location and the isolation make it very special. In the two and half days or game drives the only other vehicle we saw was from the camp. By the time we reached this camp we had seen enough sleeping lions but we never got tired of the cheetahs. We were lucky enough to have the time to view a pair of cheetahs on a stalk/kill. An amazing couple of hours.
- The Kigali Serena is a very nice place. And Kigali is certainly the cleanest city I have ever visited.
- Clouds Mountain in Bwindi is absolutely amazing. Beautiful rooms, excellent food, terrific staff…Overall one of the nicest places we have ever staying. The fact that we had a couple of days of doing nothing allowed us to catch on some sleep which made the flights home more bearable.
- The gorilla trek was definitely a highlight, but not exactly what I expected. There are two staging areas for treks in Bwindi. The upper area is located within two hundred years of the gate to Cloud Mountain. The second area is located lower on the mountain, about 30 minutes (back down the horrible road) from Clouds. The permits specify which staging area you are leaving from. In our case both trek days were for the upper area.
- Our trek started with a steep descent that took about three hours. When we found the gorilla family they were in a grove/stand of bamboo that was so thick that you could literally not see two feet in front of you. We followed a machete-wielding tracker into the grove and suddenly we would be standing/sitting (it was a steep sloop) next to a silverback or a mature female. So much for the rule that we were supposed to stay 21 feet away. Most of the time we only 21 inches away. Definitely up close and personal. Photo attached. It was a bit claustrophobic. The denseness of the grove made it impossible to see more than two gorillas at a time. It was also not particularly relaxing. I had pictured sitting in a jungle clearing observing the family while the adults ate and the juveniles played. That was not the case. Still thrilling but not what I had planned on.
Hope this information helps. Again, thanks for organizing a wonderful trip. Take care.
Terry Murray, Jan 2019
Private Safari to Tarangire, Lake Manyara, the Ngorongoro and the Serengeti
Dear Africa Adventure Company Team,
Thank you for arranging such a great safari adventure for us!
We cannot emphasize enough how great Ephata was in managing our safari as our guide. He was fantastic!!!
Also, everything related to the safari itself was very well planned out over the days we spent in Tanzania. We were very impressed. Making Taasa Lodge the last stop worked out really well for us, as we really enjoyed their Maasai village visit, which we felt was a much more authentic experience than the village near Ngorongoro (appeared to be very commercialized to us), and we were able to relax in a more ‘civilized’ environment before starting our long journey home.
It is hard for us to select pictures to share since we have so many (several thousand!) and are still trying to pick out the ones we want to use to “record” our trip.
We have recommended Africa Adventure to friends, some who want to plan a safari very soon while others want to do so in the near future. Everyone asks if we would recommend you and our response has always been “Yes!”.
Again, ‘Thank You!’ for a great safari adventure! We achieved more than we though possible, which we attribute a great deal to Ephata and your arrangements.
Leslie, Rob and Courtney Yewell, Jan 2019