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Botswana veterans...please share your favorite lodges

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Mar 24th, 2004, 03:16 PM
  #1
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Botswana veterans...please share your favorite lodges

While I am committed to Kwando Lagoon, I am not so sure about Kwando Kwara and Kwando Lebala. So, I am looking for a couple great lodges.

Of course lodges like Mombo, Savuti, Kings Pool and Duba Plains immediately pop to mind, but I love to hear Fodorites personal accounts, rather than trust what I have read or may have heard elsewhere.

So, which lodges do you Botswana veterans include amongst your favorites?

Thanks.
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Mar 24th, 2004, 03:17 PM
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(While I am sure that Kwando Kwara is an incredible water camp, I, like fellow Fodorite bigcountry, prefer to see the predators in action over the more tranquil water activites)
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Mar 24th, 2004, 04:02 PM
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Roccco: My trip to Botswana this May will include Macatoo Horseback Safari, Little Vumbura, and Chitawbe. On this trip, I wanted to explore the Moremi area of the Okavango Delta. Little Vumbura has both land and water activities...both little Vumbura and Chitawbe offer day and night game drives. Other than Mombo and Jao, these two properties seem to offer everything I was looking for. I look forward to reading what others think about the area.
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Mar 24th, 2004, 06:23 PM
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hi girlpolo,
You are going to two wonderful camps...I have been to Vumbura and Chitabe Trails, which are different camps ...but drives are in the same concession. I did spend one night at Chitabe, and it was lovely...probaby even nicer as it has been rebuilt since the big fire. (Chitabe was on raised platforms and walkways while Chitabe trails had tents on the ground) Both Vumbura and Chitabe were excellent, with superb guides. I just can't say enough good stuff about those guides... Vumbura of course has the advantage of both incredible land and water activities. We spent a long morning with a pride of lions-- 2 males, 4 females and 7 small cubbies in 2001. I really hope they are all doing well...and that you will see them. There were also 2 cheetah brothers that were incredibly relaxed and habituated to people. ..I could go on and on...

I would return to either place in an instant...but there are new camps beckoning too. I think you will have a superb time!
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Mar 24th, 2004, 06:42 PM
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my favorite camps that i've been to in botswana are:

1. mombo- incredible amount of animals and tents fabulous

2. vumbura- followed a leopard for 2 hours as it stalked and nearly killed a sable baby and then had a warthog killed but hyaenas came in and chased it up a tree

3. kwando lagoon- wild dogs and very few other people around. we followed them hunting pretty much every day

4. duba plains- has 3 prides of lionesses and they hunt buffalo almost exclusively. unfortunately 2 of the prides had just given birth so the were dispersed and had their cubs hidden so we didnt get to see much lion/buffalo action. maybe it would be higher on teh list if we did. general game isnt as good as the other camps. ie wont see impala, giraffe, cheetah

5. kings pool- saw decent wildlife but the trees were all destroyed and thick foliage made it difficult to follow predators

6. lebala camp- close to lagoon but not as good

7. pom pom- great for mekoring, birdwatching and game walks ( which i enjoy immensely) but only predator seen was hyaena. by far my favorite thing on safari is seeing predator/prey or predator/predator
interaction.
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Mar 24th, 2004, 09:49 PM
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bigcountry,

Thanks for sharing details on each lodge. I do hope my finances are in such a position next year that I will be able to visit Mombo and probably Savuti, with Kwando Lagoon as my third lodge in the visit.

3 nights Kwando Lagoon - $900 USD pp

3 nights Savuti - $1,200 USD pp

3 nights Mombo - $2,200 USD pp

Transfers between camps - $400 USD pp?

Johannesburg to Maun - $300 USD pp?

Grand total for 8 night Botswana safari - $5,000 per person sharing???
This works out to a whopping $625 per person per night sharing and is nearly triple the cost per night of my negotiated prices for some of the top lodges in Zambia to be sure.

However, I am dying to get to Botswana. I would be a fool to go all the way to Botswana and not visit the most revered game lodge in possibly the entire world, at least if my budget allows as much.

Has anybody here been to Savuti???

Thanks.
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Mar 25th, 2004, 01:04 AM
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Rocco it's been a long time (2001) since I went so keep that in mind as you read this:

Little Mombo (identical to Mombo in every way except for number of tents and hence size of dining/ bar areas)

I loved our time here. Although the accommodation was lovely - luxurious but still some rusticity to it - it was the game viewing that blew us away. Our guide, B.K. was absolutely incredible, he was the lead guide and trained many of the others, he was so enthusiastic and really could read the sounds and smells and sights of the bush, and we saw and learned so much. He has since left and I know some travellers haven't had such good guides or game viewing. I'm there in June so will report back with a comparison to what it was like back in 2001.

Little Vumbura (didn't see main Vumbura but it's no doubt very similar)

We loved this camp - such a warm and friendly place - beautiful location and we adored the water activities - we didn't bother with much land based - just one drive - because we wanted to really get the most out of the water location. Just a beautiful, serene and calming experience.

Chitabe Trails (similar to main Chitabe except tents are on ground, whereas the identical tents in main are raised and connected by walkways)

We did like the camp but just didn't have as polished or special an experience here which we think was down to the staff and guides. But I don't want to exaggerate, they were still nice enough. We picked the camp to see wild dogs - at that time Wilderness Safaris made a big deal in their brochure of the huge wild dog pack that, they said, lived right by the camp - they have since removed that passage. I know Thit_Cho saw them. We only saw wild dogs at Mombo and I don't know which camps have any nearby anymore.

On the following trip I'm going to Savuti, Jacana, Tubu Tree, Little Mombo, Gudigwa and Jack's Camp and can report back on those in July.
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Mar 25th, 2004, 01:37 AM
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Kavey,

Were the prices at Mombo as high in 2001 as they are now?

Was Mombo just like 10x better than any of the other camps, or was it only slightly better? In other words, do you feel strongly enough about it to pay double the price as another lodge?

It will be difficult for me to get to Botswana next year, as I really do want to see India with Scared To Death in early 2005, and it all depends on how much time we spend there. For example, if I add Nepal, then that kills my chance at Africa for 2005. But, if I keep it simple...2 nights in Agra, 4 nights in Jaipur, 3 nights in Delhi, then I should have an opportunity to return to Africa next year. I am even willing to leave out Ranthambhore, because although I would love to see tigers, we are talking about the best park in India being only 100 sq. miles and having as few as 40 tigers. This may be a tremendous disappointment after having the wide open spaces and tremendous wildlife in Africa.

Then, once I do get back in 2005 to Africa, the next biggest challenge is the itinerary. If I go to Durban for three nights and Johannesburg for one night, then I will only have about 9 nights to spend in Botswana. But, in all honesty, although I intend to push myself like never before, the Comrades Marathon is still more of a pipe dream than reality, so I may very well just be going to Botswana alone, allowing for a fourth game lodge to be added.

If I had four to pick from, I think I would pick these four:

1. Mombo
2. Kwando Lagoon
3. Savuti
4. Kwando Kwara

However, if price became a factor, I would have to sacrifice Mombo and just keep it to the other three for nine nights in Botswana and possibly two nights in Johannesburg in the beginning, and maybe even two in the end if I could get four nights at The Michelangelo on Luxury Link (it's been running for at least a year, so maybe it will run for another four-five months until I book?). It is just UNBELIEVABLE how expensive South Africa has become. I was pricing out the Michelangelo earlier tonight and it would be about $600 USD per night for a junior suite. I bought a package for four nights in a junior suite for $570 USD and it included a four course dinner, breakfast daily and a bunch of other stuff.

Anyway, it is hard to imagine a trip to Southern Africa without Mombo, but I just hope that it is not as overhyped as Singita. While I loved my time at Singita, there is no way in the h*** that anybody should fork over $2,000 USD per night. I am just wondering if I should be forking over $1,450+ per night to Mombo in shoulder season???

Already I have heard from one Fodorite just yesterday on this board that they preferred Kwando Kwara to Singita, so I do ask myself why I should spend more than the $300 USD per night per person sharing that Kwando's camps charge their guests, which is why I have two Kwando lodges on my list.

Anyway, I should just concentrate on my running for now and look forward to an incredible time in Zambia. Now there is a place that is so reasonably priced that it can easily become an annual destination after I visit Botswana, Tanzania and Namibia.

Kavey, best of luck on your upcoming trip. After the photo album from last time, I can only imagine the amazing photos that we have to look forward to in a few months. Hopefully I can better capture the beauty of the South Luangwa this year, as I don't think my pictures did it justice last year, but then again, I have never been accused of being a good photographer!
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Mar 25th, 2004, 02:04 AM
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Rocco

Re India, my dad is there right now and the last email I received from him a few days back said that he and his cousin who were in Ranthambhore, had seen 13 tigers so far. Whether they were unusually lucky or that is the norm, I can't tell you.

The fact that I have included 4 nights at Mombo again on this second trip should tell you that, yes, I think it's worth it. But don't forget that, when you're booking an extensive itinerary, you'll not end up paying full prices. And their prices are seasonal. I really don't know whether we'll have as special an experience this time as we did before. I'll let you know.

I will tell you that the accommodation is not in the league of Singita et al. It's really similar to standard camps in terms of canvas, feel of accommodation etc, but larger, much much larger. But there are still ants and spiders and standard stuff like that. We loved it but I don't know if STD will enjoy it if she feels it doesn't live up to the "best" in all respects. And as I said, food is good but not gourmet. Food wasn't relevant to us - as long as it was good and filling we were happy - but some like to compare with other camps that are aiming at a very different market.

Regarding what you hear from others about camps they like best, don't forget that this is HIGHLY personal and dependent not just on camp, location, game sightings but also on their own preferences and just the memories they made.

Wolwedans is my favourite but many would look at it and say Sossusvlei Lodge must surely be better...

Thanks for the well wishes.

Am getting the Kenya trip out of the way first before this biggie to SA, Bots and Namib.
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Mar 25th, 2004, 02:25 PM
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Tashak: Thanks so much for your insight...it really adds to the anticipation for an amazing Botswana experience!
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Mar 25th, 2004, 05:07 PM
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Rocco, I don't think Mombo is worth 10x the money. Of course we had a particularly disappointing Little Mombo gaming experience which you know about. Kav, last year after we arrived at Mombo we discovered the wild dogs had moved on, they hadn't seen them all year. I did run into people who saw them at another camp, forget the name. They said they smelled awful, btw - (who cares!)

What's great about the rooms/tents at Mombo is that they are on stilts at the base of the swamp so you hear an amazing chorus of frogs and then magically they quiet down around bedtime. The view during the day is wonderful. You could have buffalo scratching themselves on the posts, causing your room to sway a bit. But the bugs were the worst there and I hate using that poison spray. There are a million flaps to zip up at night unless you want to freeze and I caught a bad cold because the second night the housekeepers did the zipping and they left the one above the bed open (it was not obvious). Scared to Death may not really get why you're spending so much there. Now if I had the gaming experience that I know others have had in the past, I wouldn't say that. But I also ran into a guy who'd been to Africa 10 times (married a Kenyan) and he had heard from others that Mombo wasn't up to what it used to be. If you're going to spend a lot of your precious travel budget on a high end camp, it's nice when they (like Mala Mala, evidently) can offer consistently great experiences.

I've also been to India, Nepal (and Kashmir, once upon a time) and I would say that while it's not Africa, you will enjoy trekking in Nepal. You're so close it's a shame not to see it.

Another camp I enjoyed a lot was Chief's Camp even though I was only there 1 night. Prince William chose it. It's very simple and unassuming but with terrific managers. It's also not outrageous, I think it's in the $300 range.

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Mar 25th, 2004, 05:45 PM
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Roccco:

Has anybody here been to Savuti???

Wife and I will be there in May of 2004 (along with Tubu Tree). Our first safari and trip to Africa as well. Let me know what you want to find out, ill post some pictures as well for the wonderful group we have here on Fodors when I get back. About a month to go now.
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Mar 25th, 2004, 05:53 PM
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Wulfstan,

Thanks. I will be most interested in:

1. Game viewing.

2. Accomodations.

3. Food.

4. Service.

5. Warmth Of Staff.

6. Beauty (or lack thereof) of surrounding area.

7. Value compared to other lodges you may visit.

8. Ease of transfers between camps.

9. Proximity to other lodges. (Did you encounter Savute's vehicles from nearby)

10. Comments of other guests about anything having to do with camps they visited and how they ranked Savuti to the others.

Have a great time. Savuti looks like a wonderful camp and at least it should not get too cold in May.
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Mar 26th, 2004, 01:04 AM
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Wulfstan, I know Savuti very well, Which camp are you staying at?
Savuti can be spectacular. But of course with every other area you have to have a bit of luck to have spectacular game sightings. It's not always fare to blame it on the game guide or camp manager (like in the Little Mombo comment above). Enthough you pay a lot of money to stay there they cannot 'book' the game to be there. But that's the exciting thing about a safari, isn't it?
Re: Mombo comments above. Mombo is probably one of the best known camps in the Delta. Especially on the American market. Wilderness got the concession again and they are lucky to have a camp in an area with probably the best game sightings in Botswana. That doesn't mean that you won't see brilliant stuff anywhere else. I personally prefer lodges and camps that still have a bush feeling to it. What is the point of going into the bush and stay ina chalet with aircondition? But that's just my personal preference.
Would love to hear about your Savuti experience when you get back.
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Mar 26th, 2004, 01:59 AM
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Karin
The comment above about the poor Mombo guiding was not a case of someone saying "we didn't have great sightings, obviously we had a poor guide" but actually a case of a visitor being assigned a guide who was a) still recovering from an illness and shouldn't have been working again yet b) not able to share information about what they were seeing and c) not motivated or able to put in the energy required to make the experience a good one. Most of us are very aware that game viewing is never guaranteed. I had poor game viewing in Chitabe which I think was a combination of bad luck (game just happened to be elsewhere that day) and an inexperienced guide who did not seem to me to be able to read the sounds and sights of the bush as well as some guides can.
You're right that one shouldn't blame poor viewing solely on the guide, but nor should one assume that all guides are equal in skills, experience and motivation.
Kavey

PS I'm going to be staying at Savuti Camp shortly. Your input, if you've stayed there, would be much appreciated.
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Mar 26th, 2004, 05:01 AM
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Karin,

Perhaps I am mistaken, but I think there is only one "Savuti." I do know that "Savute" (with an "e") has more than one camp (Savute Elephant and Savute Safari), but I am not so sure that these camps are as highly regarded as Savuti.

Here is a link to info on each of the three camps mentioned above:

http://www.botswanasafari.info/botsw...vuti_camp.html

http://www.botswanasafari.info/botsw...ari_lodge.html

http://www.botswanasafari.info/botsw...hant_camp.html

The problem with Savute's camps is that they are located within the actual Chobe National Park boundaries, therefore not allowing night game drives and possibly not allowing open air vehicles, if what I have read is accurate.

Savute Elephant looks pretty nice and is actually slightly more expensive than Savuti, but when looking at the three, Savuti looks the best and offers the most flexibility.

I could be wrong, but I don't think Savuti is related to the other two camps.
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Mar 26th, 2004, 11:11 AM
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I fully agree Kavey and sorry to hear that you had an experience that was't very satifactory.
Savuti is sometimes spelled Savute. DDS/Afro started doing that when they bought Lloyds camp now Savute Safari Lodge. Savute Elephant camp is not far from Savute Safari Lodge and belongs to Gametrackers (I think they are now called Orient Express Safaris). Savuti Lodge is also on the Savuti channel but just outside the CNP in the Linyanti region and belongs to Wilderness safaris. All three are brilliant camps. To be honest, although I always stay at Savute Safari Lodge (I used to work for this company) I do prefer the more rustic safari camps. But I mentioned that already in the last message.
Savute Elephant Camp is also very luxurious. I actually haven't been to Savuti Camp for a while but what I experienced last time was the 'old' Savuti feel in the days when only Lloyds camp was in this area. Savuti Camp has a much more intimate athmosphere. Should be great - have a good time!
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Mar 27th, 2004, 02:51 PM
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Sorry must have missed a day here!
Anyways the camp the wife and I are headed to is: 'Savuti Camp is situated in the Linyanti Reserve along the Savuti Channel in northern Botswana'. Don't know if that is the one you were talking about Roccco, Kavey or Karin. If it is I will surely take notes for you when Im there Roccco and (hopefully) post some pics of the camp and animals. Dont think it will be too cold at all as the high in May is 81 (tho it gets cold at night..which is perfect). Since we live in the Midwest and just now have lost our snow it will seem hot for us. Anything else you need please post here and Ill do my best to help any/all Fodorites.
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Mar 28th, 2004, 12:23 PM
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Wulfstan I'm staying at the Wilderness Safaris one, is that the one you're staying at?
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Mar 28th, 2004, 02:42 PM
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Yes Kavey it sure is. Be there in early May of 2004.
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