Review by: Robert & Katharine McClenathan

Overall Impressions

It matters, quite dramatically, how much water is in the delta. Visitors should do their best to discover how the rainfall has been in the Angola Highlands 6 months prior to arrival in the delta in order to best estimate what they are likely to experience. This is not easy.

Countries Visited

Botswana

I rate Botswana, and specifically the Okavango Delta, highest among the parks we have visited (so much so that we visited twice within 14 months). Friendly staff, knowledgeable guides, options for private guiding (which I recommend), options for off road searches (in some cases), and stellar accommodations made our experience spectacular.

Accommodation Visited

Shinde Camp

Extremely friendly and professional staff and great game viewing were a bit overshadowed by underwhelming food. Please don't misunderstand, the food was fine, but in comparison to premier camps, it was not up to that level. Also, a personal experience, we were awakened by two roaring lions on our last morning there, literally 100 to 150 meters away from our tent as they passed by. It was dark, so we didn't see them, but we dressed quickly so that at first light we could slam down a breakfast and catch up to them. The staff failed to monitor their position and we spent the morning driving around looking for tracks. I felt that this was a failure on the part of management and the guide group. There are several ways this could have been overcome (like having our guide follow the lions in a vehicle and having another vehicle take us to our guide when the other guests set out). As it was, one whole "half day" safari involved looking for tracks in the sand instead of burning through SD cards. Anyway, no hard feelings, we know sometimes "stuff happens".

Vumbura Plains

Best game viewing of the trip for us. Best guide we've ever had (without meaning to disparage our many excellent guides). We would specifically request Mocks on any future visit and would seek out a camp where he is located if he is moved. Maybe we just clicked with him, I don't know, but he was great and very attentive and detailed (just the right amount). All food was amazing and included MANY choices at each meal. Accolades to Chef Grant.

Mombo Camp

This dry camp was not quite up to our expectations, almost certainly because the rainfall had been so poor and the region so dry. We were fortunate to see two Aardwolves at some distance. The food was great, thanks to Chef Johan and his team. Guide was Reuben. He was pretty good, too, but because of the dryness, much time was spend tracking critters. This is a very fun experience and, although the guide did most of it, we felt like we were participating in the "hunt". Ultimately these tracking experiences lead to a female leopard and to a large male leopard. Each presented nice photo-ops.

Staff Review

As usual, and as with all our interactions with Mahlatini, we've been ecstatic with the service, professionalism, knowledge, and responsiveness of our travel expert, Nikki O'Hare. Only because I hope to help improve the safari experience of other who travel with you guys, I'll mention that I wish there were a way to anticipate water levels (with a greater lead time and accuracy) in the delta. I probably would have reserved Mombo Camp for a future visit when water levels were higher. Of course, it is just a guess on my part that the water levels impacted our experience there. As an aside (and this relates to previous trips as well as this one), for many camps there are "plunge pools" at each tent or cabin or unit. I can not understand why these camps fail to use some type of passive solar to heat the water above "freezing". The high air temperatures for our first few days were around 104 degrees (F) or 40 degrees (C) but the water in these pools was unusable.