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Wilderness Safaris trip to Botswana and Zambia

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This is the first time I've posted anything and I'm hesitant to post, since my comments aren't as positive as some of the others. I thought, however, that prospective travellers might be interested in what we had to say. We just spent a month in South Africa, Zambia and Botswana, of which part of the trip was a Wilderness Safaris trip. I believe most of the postings for Wilderness Safaris are for either their lodges or their "Discovery safaris." We went on an Adventure safari, which is the least expensive trip they provide. We certainly didn't expect luxury - we are very happy staying in backpackers lodges - but were quite disappointed with some of our experiences with Wilderness Safaris (with the one exception of Shackleton's Lodge in Zambia which is phenomenal). Although the description noted that accomodations would be in tents, they were described as having comfortable simple beds with luggage racks and a table and lamp as well as a small veranda. The reality is that the tents were very very small (in most of them an adult wouldn't be able to stand fully), the beds were very uncomfortable, only two of the tent locations had a lamp or any kind of lighting, there was no place for backpacks other than on the floor and none of the tents had any kind of a veranda. As well, at several camps we had problems with the zippers on the tents which were broken and couldn't close and the staff was unable to fix them properly - lucky that I had brought a roll of duct tape since that is what we had to use to close parts of the tent at night. As well, we weren't very happy with our guide, for a number of reasons. Also, the car we were in for the 9-10 days, while being open on the sides and top, had some serious viewing limitations from the front. It was almost completely covered in the front, so you could really only see out the sides. The guide told us that they were planning on redesigning the car to take that into account, but in the meantime it does impede wildlife viewing. As well, people should be aware that the "all-day game drive" consists of 12 hours of very rough driving, with a brief 15 minute stop for a quick lunch. The road is very very rough, though we did have some good animal viewing on that day. We are young and fit and it was still tough for us, and we wondered how older guests would handle it, particularly since our guide told us stories about some of the older guests passing out on that particular drive. All in all, from what I have read, Wilderness Safaris can provide a very good experience - and in fact we made a pit stop at one of the Discovery campsites to refuel and there was a phenomenal difference. Anyone booking an Adventure camp should be aware that the accomodations are very rough (at least they were on our trip) and frankly, I would not repeat the trip. We are definitely not the type of travellers who are looking for luxury travel nor are we uncomfortable with somewhat rough situations - both of us have travelled extensively and lived in less-developed countries. In fact, some of our favorite experiences on this trip were with the least luxury and least expensive accomodations, but unfortunately Wilderness Safaris fell far short of our expectations.

All in all, now that we know better, we would either go with the Wilderness Safaris Discovery safaris (still a mobile tented safari but the accomodation difference is drastic), or select two or three lodges, carry on activities in those areas and do some self-driving, which is tough in Botswana but not impossible.

Lest anyone think we were completely disappointed with our trip, I want to point out a few places we stayed that are absolutely phenomenal. In South Africa in Kruger, we spent five days at Rhino Walking Safaris - two days at Rhino Post, two days at Plains Camp and one night at the sleepout. I cannot recommend a place more highly. The guides were the best we had, the 6 - 8 people who were with us were great, and the managers of Rhino Post were the best you can hope for. It is not over the top luxury the way I hear about some of the private lodges in the Kruger area, but it strikes just the right balance of luxury and adventure. I cannot recommend it highly enough. We will absolutely be back.

For the more adventurous, we absolutely loved Planet Baobab in Botswana and this is another place where we will defintiely return. It caters to backpackers and more adventurous travelers - their accomodations range from a spot to pitch your own tent for around USD10/night to bushman huts to mud huts (absolutely wonderful). They have a great bar and now even have a pool. We didn't want to leave - an absolute must do at PB is the 4x4 overnight on the Nxai salt pans. That might have been the best part of our trip.

If anyone wants more details or has questions about my trip, I'm happy to provide more detail. I just want anyone considering an Adventure safari with Wilderness Safaris to be aware that the accomodations and transportation are not quite as they are described in brochures, etc.

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