Review by: Janice, Melbourne
- Countries Visited:
- Botswana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania & Zambia
- Holiday Type:
The Masai Mara was amazing from the moment we stepped from the plane to the time we left. I saw a huge amount of wild life, including lions and cheetah. The twenty minute drive from the airstrip to the camp was like an open range zoo where there were elephants, giraffe, hippo, bush bucks, monkeys and more. The wide open plains provided great opportunity to see the animals as well as the most brilliant sun rises and sun sets. The vista and animal viewing experience was spectacular. &Beyond is a great company and all the camps and lodges I stayed in were well run, the staff are excellent and make the stays with them memorable, leaving you wanting to return in the future.
Everything about Hemingways Hotel was excellent. The rooms were well appointed with luxury everywhere, really comfortable bed, huge bathroom and a balcony with wonderful views over the well landscaped garden. The staff were really helpful and attentive and the food was great, so much so that we ended up having all our meals there. They also organised a driver to take visit the places of interest locally which was reasonably priced and well worth the money. I stayed there in October 2013, prior to the official opening and everything was perfect.
My 3 night stay at Bateleur Camp was my first experience of a camp and it was absolutely amazing. I arrived at the airstrip to be greeted by staff for the 20 minute trip to the camp. Along the way I saw a vast array of wildlife grazing, elephant, hippo, giraffe just to mention a few, I was amazed it was just like an open range zoo. My accommodation too was excellent, looking out over the wide open plains at the zebra and other animals grazing and waking up to the most spectacular sun rises. The permanent tents were well appointed with all the facilities of a hotel and very comfortable. The staff were great, nothing was too much trouble and the food and service was excellent. The game drives were amazing with our guide making sure that we saw as much possible in the three days, a big lion pride with cubs, cheetahs stalking, black rhino, hippos, zebra, elephant, it was just amazing the only one of the big 5 we didn't see here was the leopard. Everything was really well done, from tea and coffee on the morning drives and then drinks at sunset on the wide open plains. I would go back to this camp again and would recommend it highly to others.
Lake Manyara Tree Lodge is quite amazing, all the rooms are built in the tree tops surrounded by native bush. The rooms were exceptionally large with a sitting area inside and out, large bathroom and outdoor shower and huge indoor bath. All the staff went out of there way to ensure my stay with them was memorable and the food and service was excellent. Peter our guide was wonderful, great sense of humour and great guide, ensuring I saw as much as I possibly could in the time I was there. Two different monkey, giraffes, elephants, wart hogs etc. The terrain is dense with trees which can make it harder to see the wildlife but Peter had a keen eye, spotting the wild life. The flamingos on the lake were quite spectacular, hundreds of them feeding in amongst pelican and other wild life. There are also hot springs that come from the hills and pool around the lake and some of the animals graze around the area making game viewing easier. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at Lake Manyara Tree Lodge, everything was exceptional, the service, the staff and the close proximity to the wild life which at times you don't have to go too far to see as they come to the camp. I would highly recommend Lake Manyara Tree Lodge.
The rooms at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge all overlook the crater and below you can see the diversity of the landscape, forest and a huge sulphur lake and the open plains. I was blown away with the architecture and décor, it really is something from another era, a bit eclectic but amazing. The room was huge with wonderful views of the crater and all the amenities of a luxury hotel, the staff were exceptional and nothing was too much trouble. The meals and service were fabulous as were the game drives with Peter, who shared his knowledge of the wild life and the culture of the local people. I saw a vast array of animals on the game drive, huge herds of wilder beast and zebra, lions in the long grass, flamingos in the salt lakes and hippos in the ponds. The staff at the lodge from the night security to the dining room staff all contributed to an exceptional stay and I would recommend it highly to others.
The resort is quite spectacular; suits have a plunge pool outside and inside is all that you would expect from a five star resort. Situated on the beach front the resort is quite large with extensive landscaped grounds and a large pool with plenty of shade to make it comfortable. The food was good and plentiful and the service good. The pool side fruit cocktails were great, very refreshing and the pool side lunch menu had plenty on offer. It was quite humid in October during my stay and the pool and beach water were quite warm, good if you like it that way but not really refreshing to cool down in. There is not a great deal to do except relax as the resort is some distance from anything. The two nights here were good to relax after safari but for me any longer and I would be looking for more activity.
I had one night at the Hyatt Regency Dar es Salaam, arriving very late and leaving really early in the morning. Everything from the room service dinner to the 4.30am breakfast in the restaurant (organised specially) was really good. The rooms were reasonably sized and comfortable and the service, in the short time I was there, was great.
The grounds at the Royal Livingstone are part of the national park so there were zebra wondering around at quite close proximity, along with monkey's and impala. The room was reasonably sized with a porch that overlooked the river which was about a 100 meters away. The close proximity to the river meant there were quite a lot of bugs, particularly a lot of mosquitos which were hard to keep out of the room, although they do provide bug spray and light candles to keep the bugs at bay. The food was average and the serves quite small, although breakfast which was included was a plentiful buffet. Service was hit and miss, it really depended upon the staff member, some were very helpful whilst others not so. We stayed here specifically because of the close proximity to the falls but they were quite disappointing as the water flow has been diverted to the power station and the flowing water was confined to just one spot which was quite a distance away and not at all what I had expected. There might be a better vantage point from the other side so if visiting specifically to see the falls ensure the best time of year and vantage point to see the flow as October certainly wasn't the best and all in all was a big disappointment. There are activities like helicopter flights and visits to Livingston Island that may have provided a better vantage point but these activities were all quite costly and the risk was I would have still been disappointed, so never took up them up. Also need to remember that the animals are wild and keep well away from them, whilst staying here somebody was kicked by the zebra and the monkey?s, who come very close looking for food, grabbed my dress and then scratched my friend. The staff do try to keep the animals away from such close proximity but it can be a danger. The other issue for me in Zambia was my credit card was compromised over $3,000.00 of fraud before the bank stopped the card. Given I had only used the card in reputable hotels this was a real surprise and very annoying.
Had an amazing river cruise prior to the drive to the to Chobe under canvas, saw hippos, elephants, crocs and all manner of birds on the banks. Arrived late in the afternoon at the camp which consisted of 6 tents and was very hot and dusty in October with masses of bugs. Tents were very comfortable and provided all the modern amenities, shower (canvas bucket) toilet and nice big bed. Meals were good, amazing what the staff could produce out in the middle of nowhere e.g. roast chicken and chocolate pudding. The game experience was also good as lots of animals can be seen along the rivers edge, particularly on the early morning and late afternoon game drives. Our guide was excellent and spotted a carcass of an impala in a tree (not sure how it blended so well), and located a mother leopard and a cub feeding, then playing. He also managed to locate a different mother and cub, the mother lazing on a branch of the tree whilst the cub played in the fork below. He was exceptional and spotting things whilst driving along and our game viewing experience was made all the better for his skill. Also saw huge numbers of baboon heading from the grassy area of the river back into the shelter of the bush, buffalo just lazing under trees and a large herd of elephants heading to the river to cool off and drink. Only down side of this camp was the time of year made it extremely hot and uncomfortable particularly during the time between the morning and afternoon game drive (around 5 hours). The heat was over the top at about 40c and the bugs were just so annoying you had no choice but to sit in the very hot tent to escape the bugs, other than this I would certainly return but at another time of year when it isn't so hot.
Accommodation is that of luxury, with both indoor and outdoor showers and a huge bath and a king size bed, mine overlooked the lagoon, also all had a nice plunge pool to cool off in. Resident hippo live in the lagoon and elephants walk through the camp, so the wild life experience is right at the door step of the camp. One night sitting in the main hall the hippo and her baby came out of the lagoon and fed on the grass just below the deck of the main hall. This was quite amazing and by all accounts unusual as they normally went the other side of the lagoon away from the camp. There was also a resident bush buck that wondered around which enable up close photos. There is quite a lot of different experiences on offer, canoe rides through the lagoons, flat bottom motor boats around the vast lagoons and driving safari. The wildlife viewing is quite different in the delta, much harder to locate as there is a vast amount of reeds and vegetation so the animals can hide, also a number of island surrounded by water which are harder to get to. Whilst something of a challenge we saw giraffe, elephant, impala, zebra and buffalo, some much easier to spot than others. Bird viewing on the canoe and boat trip was also quite good. The staff were excellent, helpful and nothing was too much trouble. The food was great and plentiful with a different menu each night and plenty on offer for breakfast and lunch, not to mention the high tea prior to the game drive. You certainly never go hungry and staff are truly helpful. The only challenge in this area is with the driving safari, we did get bogged several times in the muddy terrain and the guide and tracker spent ages trying to get the vehicle free. Whilst this was just another experience for us I could imagine it could be quite frustrating for some and I felt particularly sorry for them working so hard to free the car in the hot humid conditions around 39c and very humid. I couldn't understand why the vehicle didn't come equipped with a winch which would have made the job much easier and would suggest this is something that &beyond consider to make the experience of the guest and the job of the staff better.
The flight to Nxabega was in a very small 6 seater flying very low over the delta enabling you to see all the lagoons and islands below, amazing landscape. There is masses of water with lily?s and reeds then all little island oasis's with palm and others trees growing. Staff at the camp provided a warm welcome singing their greeting and the accommodation is a tent on a platform with a separate area for shower and toilet, all the amenities of a hotel. It was quite hot in October with temp reaching 39c. and not much relief from the small fan in the tent and no fans in the main hall so it could get a bit uncomfortable during the down time between morning and afternoon safari. Lots of activities on offer, lagoon and road safaris. On the lagoon seeking the wild life saw an elephant crossing he was quite big and quite scary, fortunately the guide knew just how close we could get to ensure no danger and the best photo opportunity. Also saw a number of hippos and an amazing array of birds and spectacular sunset across the lagoon. During the sunset drive the guide and tracker tracked three wild dogs just lying in front of a bush quite close to where we were driving. The experience of the guide and tracker ensured that we saw a vast array of wildlife, some easy to find and others not so. All the staff were great, doing everything to ensure a pleasant stay. The food was plentiful and of good quality and each meal provided a nice variety. I would certainly return to Nxabega in the cooler months, October was just very hot and uncomfortable.
Cybele Forest Lodge 5
Had a one night stay at Cybele Forrest Lodge in October, staying in a garden cottage. The room was large, very comfortable and provided all the amenities. The food was great and the staff gracious and welcoming and very helpful with any request. The grounds were lovely and the area provided a nice opportunity for walks.
My room at Exeter River lodge, closest to the main hall, was huge with a separate lounge area that overlooked the river where you could see elephant wondering in the distance. The air-conditioned room was lovely with every luxury you needed, ice buckets, drinking water and beverages, including tea and coffee making facilities. The wild life viewing was great we saw a vast array of animals, saw three big male lions laying on the grass after having eating their fill of buffalo, watched the vultures hovering, saw a number of lions with their cubs (two separate prides), huge herd of buffalo, elephants grazing, baby giraffe, rhino and a number of leopards. The guide and tracker were brilliant (Prince and William) and did everything they could to locate the amazing array of animals we saw, William was also a natural story teller so very entertaining. The food and service was excellent and all the staff always very helpful. The menu offered a great variety of excellent food, which was different from day to day. One warning though the monkey's on the ground are not really scared of woman so need to steer clear and ensure you are not carrying anything they could see as food. Overall had an excellent four days at the lodge and would recommend to others.
Staff Review 5
Every minor detail was well organised and my trip went off with out a hitch. Jamie took the time to listen to what I was looking for and then set about developing an itinerary to meet my needs. Given I went through 5 countries I was expecting that something wouldn't always go smoothly but every transfer, every flight and every little detail was well in hand. I believe this was due to Jamie's attention to detail and thorough planning. The only thing I would consider more in the planning of my next trip is the distance between the countries and places I was staying at, some days the journey was quite horrific, one in particular with 3 separate flights, which I might have done differently if I knew, although if changed it might have meant missing a night in the wonderful camps and lodges, (hard call).