Anybody stayed at Leopard Hills in Sabi Sand?

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Feb 7th, 2006, 05:38 AM
  #21
 
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Santharamhari

I think that the SSGR properties tend to be much more regimented than in Botswana, with the Kwando camps in particular being very loose and go with the flow. Your point is well made and taken.

My point on Lions is that most people never see them kill, because most of us witness the start of their hunting around dusk, most of the time it takes them several attempts to be successful, the guide was just calling the odds.

As to the game viewing in general, I have only visited MM in SSGR, but several other posters have been to many different including Londoz and Sabi Sabi and where very clear about where the best game viewing is. So much of game viewing is luck, that a couple of lucky sightings will leave you with a great impression of a place.

Londolozi has been touting their Leopard experience which a lot of us were interested in, until Kaye did it and said it was a waste of time and money, so for the stay out all night kind of trip, I would recommend Kwando and Wilderness in Botswana.

Rocco - still no clarification to your post.
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Feb 7th, 2006, 06:40 AM
  #22
 
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Hello Matt,

Thanks for your post about MM game-drive policies. However, Hari's report does bother me...shouldn't the client's desire to stay an watch the hunt take precedence over the meal, particularly when this is something the client (Hari) has wanted to see for a long time? Even if lion hunts are common at MM, they aren't necessarily common for the client, who may not go on safari very often, or who may be on a once in a lifetime trip.

Cheers,
Julian
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Feb 7th, 2006, 06:46 AM
  #23
 
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Hi Matt,

I've done the Leopard Specialist Safari at Londoz, and spent five wonderful days in the company of leopards. With a private vehicle and a specialist guide (Maxine Scott) I was able to spend as much time as I wanted with the leopards, getting to know them and their individual personalities and having some incredible sightings. IMO it was one of the best safari experiences I've had -- leopards, leopards, and more leopards!

This is not to say that every second was a National Geographic moment -- of course not -- but that the overall value of the experience for someone who loves leopards and wants to focus on them was very high.

However, as you pointed out, so much of game viewing is luck, and as Kaye only spent 2 nights on the specialist safari that may well have been a factor. She saw nine different leopards and three different lion prides during her five days at Londoz -- most people wouldn't have any complaints about that sort of game viewing!

It seemed to me that Kaye's complaints focused more on the accommodation at Bateleur Camp (which has been upgraded, BTW). I did recommend that she try for Tree Camp or Pioneer Camp if accommodation is an important factor. If she had raised this in camp, she could certainly have been moved to another room. One way or another, she's going back next year, which speaks volumes.

It's true that the rangers at Londoz don't eat with you every night. However, people have different feelings on this point; personally, I would find spending as much time as you do with your ranger at MM a bit claustrophobic. On my last Londoz safari, Maxine would have been happy to dine with me every night, but I like having a bit of time on my own every now and then.

I think that both Londoz and MM have a lot to offer, and that people can have fantastic game-viewing at either lodge. Your reports on MM have certainly tantalised me, but the single supplement is just too steep

Cheers,
Julian
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Feb 7th, 2006, 08:00 AM
  #24
 
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Julian

Agreed on the single supplement. As for rangers eating with you, you can give them the night off if you choose.

I think if you pushed the issue of staying out and not eating then you might get what you wanted, but as I said, if you are seeing something then they will stay out.

Hari stated she had not seen a Lion kill in six trips. We had a ranger this time who has been doing the job in SSGR for four years, who has not seen any kills. I saw the Lion kill the Buffalo on my 103rd game drive, three new guests saw it on their first. I really do think it's a matter of luck.

Kaye did have problems with accomodation, but I had thought she mentioned that there didn't seem the willingness to be out late at night, which is one of the features of the Leopard experience. Maybe I have that wrong if so apologies to all.
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Feb 7th, 2006, 02:42 PM
  #25
 
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Hi Matt,

It may be that the willingness to stay out late differs from ranger to ranger, and may depend on other circumstances -- you were able to stay out late at MM and Hari wasn't, and I was certainly able to stay out late at Londoz even if Kaye wasn't. If that's the case, it may be unwise to generalise about a reserve's policy on late night drives.

After what you said about your ranger, I count myself very, very fortunate to have witnessed a lion kill and a wild dog kill on my visits to Africa.

Cheers,
Julian
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Feb 7th, 2006, 05:16 PM
  #26
 
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Hi Julian and Matt,
I was not going to enter into this as the whole exercise seems pointless - we all have our favourites and that is not going to change, but as I have been brought into this discussion, I will say something.

To clarify a few points -
I did have problems with my accomodation at Bateleur Room #110. Besides being very tired, it lacked comfort and thanks for your tip again Julian about mentioning it to be moved, but I was unaware that the chalets were so different in size, so I believed moving us would not have made any difference! Also I would add that luxury accomodation is not the most important thing to me by a long stretch, it is definitely the gameviewing! Ivory Lodge at Lion Sands was fabulously luxurious, but the gameviewing wasn't great, in my opinion, so I would not be returning there. But that is no excuse for us not to be comfortable or to pay an outrageous amount for a room! On the specialist safari - Matt is quite right, I thought it was a waste of a large sum of money. I believed we saw very little over anyone else doing normal gamedrives. And never in any of my gamedrives have I seen the tracker given a choice of whether he would accompany us or not! What a surprise when he said no! One night we remained out until 11pm, but it was hard for the ranger with the driving and the torch, as you could well imagine! So no apologies are necessary Matt! I would not do the specialist safari again in summer, and if I did it in winter - before I left home, I would have the hours I wanted to do gameviewing in writing and agreed upon by both parties as there did seem a huge difference in what I was told by their office as to what the rangers were prepared to do, and I know that they are addressing this problem.
I am returning to 3 CCA camps in July of this year, one of which is Londolozi which Julian states, but I had paid a deposit on this trip prior to my last trip, and I had always decided to do the two camps in Botswana, I wasn't sure about Londolozi. But the general manager at Bateleur, as I did complain about the room to him, did give me rooms at both Pioneer and Founders, no recommendation by him for Tree Camp which I found interesting. I have also had email conversation with their head office, and what has been said back I have been happy with, but I would not return to Bateleur Camp, in the near future.

Kind regards,
Kaye
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Feb 7th, 2006, 05:27 PM
  #27
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NapaMatt,

You know what your problem is?

You never stay at a neighboring lodge of Mala Mala's and therefore you never get the dirt on them!

I have a map somewhere that shows Mala Mala's actual traversing areas. I believe another Fodorite recently e-mailed it to me. It may be like finding a needle in a haystack at this point or it may have even been deleted by now.

But, simply stated, there is privately held land within Mala Mala, or so I have been told, that is off-limits for game drives.
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Feb 7th, 2006, 05:48 PM
  #28
santharamhari
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I fully agree with Julian and Matt, that it all depends on luck to see anything........maybe on my 7th trip, things will change....who knows.

Rocco,

Quick clarification.....what is the point of holding private land at MM and not using them on drives? Maybe the game there is not great compared to the other routes? or that is a newer area and the animals are more skittish? Who knows.........
 
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Feb 8th, 2006, 08:14 AM
  #29
 
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Rocco

There is some land within Mala Mala that is owned by Mala Mala, over which the previous owners maintained traversing rights when they are at their own camps. These camps are used 2 or 3 times a year for around a week. At those times the area is off bounds. I'd love to see the map.

The area in question is Beaumonts and is not big. Furthermore it is in the south of the reserve, on the west side of the river, away from the major portion of MM land.

Result MM is not significantly smaller than stated on the map.

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Feb 8th, 2006, 08:52 AM
  #30
 
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Hello Kaye,

I'm sorry if you felt offended by my post -- from your trip report, it wasn't clear what your opinion of the specialist safari was. It sounds like, for whatever reason, we had very different experiences. We went in different seasons, had different rangers and trackers, and my specialist safari was 5 nights rather than 2 -- any or all of those factors may have played a role.

It does sound like the ranger was willing to stay out quite late when you were on the specialist safari, which was similar to my own experience. However, I've never experienced the sort of thing you report about the tracker. To be honest, I was very surprised to hear about that, and I think you were quite right to be annoyed -- I would be really annoyed as well!

Since your concerns seemed to focus on the accommodation, I thought that accommodation might be an important factor for you. There's nothing wrong with that -- I like nice accommodation as much as the next person, and if I felt a room was too small or otherwise inadequate I'd certainly address it with the management ASAP.

I did have a problem with the lights flickering in my room at Londoz last year. When I mentioned it to the management I was offered another room immediately, and the staff relocated my luggage whilst I was on a game drive so I didn't have to deal with it.

I'm happy to hear that you were offered rooms at Pioneer and Founders for next year -- personally I would recommend Pioneer for more peace and quiet as Founders tends to have more families. Both camps are smaller than Bateleur. If you want to provide your email address, I can send you a map of the Londoz camps so you can take a look and request a specific room if you want.

Tree Camp is all-suites and is more expensive than Pioneer and Founders, so this is probably why it wasn't offered as an alternative to Bateleur.

Anyhow, I'm glad you're giving Londoz another shot, and I hope your safari in July is the type of superb experience I've come to expect from my stays there.

Let me know if you'd like the camp map.

Cheers,
Julian
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Feb 8th, 2006, 11:41 AM
  #31
 
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Kaye

Apologies for bringing you into the discussion.

Posting photos soon of some of your friends
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Feb 8th, 2006, 12:14 PM
  #32
 
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I am planning to stay at Leopard Hills in July as part of my honeymoon, a bith disappointed to hear some of the negative comment's, is it really bad or just not that great. comfort is important but at the end of the day I don't want to travel all that distance and not see much wildlife. Any good experience's of Leopard Hills would be greatly appreciated.
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Feb 8th, 2006, 12:35 PM
  #33
 
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Speranza

I'm sure it will be terrific. My comment about a ranger previously employed there might have appeared negative. He was very positive about the viewing at Leopard Hills, but recognized it was probably not quite as good as Mala Mala (his opinion) and so didn't try and convince me to go there.

The only other negative I saw was that, the beautiful view shown on the website pertains to just one room.

Hopefully on honeymoon you'll have that room, of course if a well known travel agent from CA is visiting, then you'll likely be bumped
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Feb 8th, 2006, 04:18 PM
  #34
 
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Hi again Julian & Matt,

Julian, I do not get offended that easily, so do not worry about it and I would love any information or maps you have of the camps. My email address is [email protected]. Thank you in advance.

Matt, I look forward to looking at your photos and my some of my friends. I miss them all already!

Kind regards,
Kaye
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Feb 9th, 2006, 12:57 PM
  #35
 
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Thanks for the reassurance, does anyone have any experience of Lion Sands, would be interested to hear about game viewing at this camp.
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Feb 9th, 2006, 06:55 PM
  #36
 
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Hi Speranza,

I was at Lion Sands Ivory Lodge this past December. The rooms are super luxurious and really can't be faulted. Perfect for a honeymoon, I actually was in the honeymoon suite, though I do not know why as I was with a 22 year old niece! The view over the Sabie River and looking towards Kruger is beautiful, I doubt you would get a better view anywhere in the Sabi Sands.
The gameviewing is reasonable for a short time. I feel there are common areas with other properties that need to be policed in as much as way too much traffic! One Sabi Sabi vehicle we passed had 12 or 13 passengers on it, some were certainly children but it did not look safe and way too many people to have to listen to when you pulled up to them! I would not want to stay there for a longer period as I think the traffic would really get to me. We did see some good gameviewing -5 different leopards, lion pride + 2 territory lions, various antelope, ele, great hippo viewing in the Sabie River, giraffe, rhino and various birds. This was in a 1 night stay followed by a 2 night stay about 10 nights later.

Kind regards,
Kaye
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Feb 10th, 2006, 02:10 AM
  #37
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speranza,

I wouldn't worry about Leopard Hills one bit. One of the negative reports from Fodors is five years old. There are more recent glowing reports about Leopard Hills. I just don't think that a company that would spend the kind of money it must have cost to build Madikwe Hills, www.madikwehills.com, would allow Leopard Hills to suffer.

I have just now confirmed my November/December itinerary 100%. It will be as follows:

Ntwala Island Lodge, Caprivi Strip, Namibia (2)

Susuwe Island Lodge, Caprivi Strip, Namibia (3)

Kwando Lagoon, Kwando Concession, Botswana (2)

Kwando Lebala, Kwando Concession, Botswana (2)

Kwando Kwara Island, Kwara Concession, Botswana (1)

Kwando Kwara, Kwara Concession, Botswana (3)

Michelangelo Hotel, Sandton, Joburg (1)

Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, Sabi Sand (2)

Leopard Hills, Sabi Sand (3)

Madikwe Hills, Madikwe (2)

Mateya, Madikwe (2)


I am really looking forward to finally visiting at the right time of the year where plunge pools will be of use. 14 nights of plunge pools, altogether!

Oh, and between eight nights at Kwando's camps and four nights in Madikwe, I don't think the Wild Dogs are going to be able to hide from me this time!
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Feb 10th, 2006, 06:25 AM
  #38
 
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Thanks for all your help on leopard hills and lion sands. As part of our honeymoon we are also looking to travel to cape town and the winelands. We are currently looking to stay at Les Cascades guest house in Cape Town, but we are running into some difficulty in the winelands, not sure where to stay, any help would be great or should I start a new post regarding this request.
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Feb 13th, 2006, 02:05 AM
  #39
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After researching Timbavati's Kings Camp for a client, I have really liked what I have seen.

www.kingscamp.com

Here is an amazing video that was captured on one drive:

www.kingscamp.com/reports/fighting_lioness.htm

As a result, I am going to try to add a couple nights at Kings Camp for my November/December visit, even though it will mean one less night at Kwando and one less night at Leopard Hills.

My itinerary would change to the following:

Ntwala Island Lodge (2)
Susuwe Island Lodge (3)
Kwando Lagoon (2)
Kwando Lebala (2)
Kwando Kwara Island (1)
Kwando Kwara (2)
Michelangelo, Joburg (1)
Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, Sabi Sand (2)
Kings Camp, Timbavati (2)
Leopard Hills, Sabi Sand (2)
Madikwe Hills (2)
Mateya, Madikwe (2)

Although Kings Camp does not feature a private plunge pool, the rooms are very nice (featuring indoor & outdoor showers), the gameviewing seems to be excellent (very strong in leopards, lions and has regular cheetah & wild dog sightings, as well) and the price is very good, lower than Ngala, for example, which is another Timbavati lodge.

One thing that attracts me about Timbavati is that there are only about seven lodges there, compared to about twenty lodges in the Sabi Sand, yet Timbavati is the same size of the Sabi Sand. It will be a very interesting comparison.

I am just sorry that I am unable to extend my trip beyond 23 nights. I am only doing it for this long because I am confident that I will have a very knowledable person to back me up while I am gone, but 23 nights is still the limit. Otherwise, there is so much more I would like to experience such as Game Trails Botswana (www.gametrailsbotswana.com) and Mkuze Falls (www.mkuzefalls.com) in Kwa-Zulu Natal (this would combine well with Phinda).

I have been so wrapped up with the above trip, that I have hardly had time to think about this little weekend getaway that I am taking to Tanzania, Zanzibar, Amsterdam and Paris departing next week!
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Feb 14th, 2006, 12:31 AM
  #40
 
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I have been following this communication with interest, as I spend a lot of time in the bush in the areas you are talking about. King Camp is great and well worth a visit, great managment couple and staff.
Leopard Hills is my personal favorite, the re-vamp has been amazing, and the attention to detail awesome. The game viewing is probably the best I have ever seen, and the crossover period you talk about is no longer an issue. What makes Leopard Hills stand out for me in particular is the friendly staff and the homely atmosphere, you will go a long way to beat it anywhere. Hope this helps, I will definately be returning again.
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