How Low can Wilderness Safaris Get?

Old Mar 27th, 2008, 12:11 AM
  #21  
sniktawk
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Shumba

You have clearly not understood the contents of this posting.

I have made no reference at all to the airstrip at LE (Linyanti Explorations), my observations were based on the refusal of Wilderness Safaris to allow the use of Chobe airstrip, this is what is stated in my initial comment. The use of the airstrip at Selinda would have been impossible as it was flooded!

Your comments about the camps in concessions are also incorrect, both of the Kwando concessions have limits of 16 beds and these are strictly adhered to.As proof of this Lebala will have a ninth tent for pilots/guides, this will not be used by paying guests, unlike those in Selinda. The hunting camps are within the concession limitations, as was Motswiri in Selinda.
Kwando is one of the many beacons in this storm, you may consider that it has become a laughing stock and you are entitled to your belief, it would be more relevant if it were based on any facts.
If we take your points individually the food standards have not dropped since our first visit 5 years ago, in fact they have improved, most notably in the abandonment of the 4 meals a day regime. The accommodation at Lebala is currently being upgraded and the tents will be similar to those at Little Kwara, refurbishment to Kwara and Lagoon will follow.
The rumour of a pull out is also false, and is another example of malicious lies spread by parties determined to undermine the remaining beacons.
You will no doubt be shocked when you here the latest news!

In my five years visiting Kwando the majority of guides have remained the same, with new guides being introduced only after sufficient training, an example of this would be Hector.
Some guides have left most notably Steve K, but that was for personal reasons of which you are obviously unaware. Rex has retired from Lagoon to return to his farm, I would not personally count this as a great loss.

The vehicles at Kwando are far superior in every way, other than the fact that you may not get a guaranteed widow seat. I have rarely seen a full vehicle and if anyone was concerned about this the costs of ensuring a maximum of 4 per vehicle are very reasonable in comparison to other operators.

I have no idea of the basis on which you judge a safari, but it would appear to be mostly on accommodation, rather than game viewing. Based on my own experience the Kwando area is far superior, we have seen Leopard on each and every visit, this compares with once in 8 visits to Selinda. The old Selinda pride no longer exists and the remaining pride spends so much time in Lebala that Selinda has found it necessary to send it’s guests into the Kwando concession so that they can see Lions.This abuse has been noted by Kwando, even though on one occasion they permitted guests from Selinda to visit the lions they were so desperate to see.
Also the quality and quantity of plains game and birding is far superior.It goes without saying that Elephants are another speciality!

I do not like Wilderness largely because it relies on LUXURY, it is a “safari experience”, rather than a safari.

I also hate that their indirect takeover of Selinda has lead to the destruction of Zibilianja.

 
Old Mar 27th, 2008, 03:36 AM
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It would also help if your argument was based on fact too. Whilst Concessions do have bed limit, the are also restrictions on the number of camps that are allowed to be built as well. Irrespective of whether they come within the concession bed limit.

Having worked in the delta during most of the late 90's and as a guide. Game viewing is top for me. Though I also believe that accommodations are important, that they are not tatty etc. You do not pay $$$$ for excellent game viewing and to live in ripped tent. As for the Kwadndo product, I know two management couples who became conitnually disillusioned with complaints from guests as things were not up to standard since K. Leo-Smith left.

Though what would I know compared to someone like you with his ear to the ground and first hand knowldege of the concession setup.
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Old Mar 27th, 2008, 03:40 AM
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Snik,

This is an interesting comment:

I do not like Wilderness largely because it relies on LUXURY, it is a “safari experience”, rather than a safari.

So could we please hear about your "safari" experiences?

Cos I suspect this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Who did you travel with?
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Old Mar 27th, 2008, 04:50 AM
  #24  
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Shumba
Your snide comments about ripped tents show you up for what you are, is your knowledge of Kwando based on visits or rumours. Which managers do you refer to?

Afterall
I see no reason to explain my comments they are self explanatory to anybody who has had experience of both types of providers.
My experience of safaris is quite limited having only spent 232 days on Safari since 1999, unfortunately I have only visited Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania, so I still have a lot to look forward to.
Although I can see no relevance to your question I will out of good manners provide a reply, I travelled with my wife and a friend from Australia, my agent is a friend in Johannesburg who we have used for 7 years to book our visits to Botswana
Clearly a black pot rather than a kettle!
 
Old Mar 27th, 2008, 06:23 AM
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Interesting comments, snide remarks and all.

Skimmer's summary is a theory that makes sense to me. Those with the most money will have the most control over the limited resource of Africa wildlife viewing areas and their desires will shape what happens there. But that's no different from anything anywhere else in the world.

Do those of you posting on this thread give some credit to Wilderness and other organizations that give back to the local community or support environmental causes? What are your thoughts on that aspect of the operation? Do you believe it is really meaningful or just part of the marketing strategy to look good?

So for the guest who wants wildlife viewing as the priority with excellent guiding and who wants accommodations where tents zip up properly and you don't have rain coming in if you travel during green season and food is prepared with high standards of hygiene and the staff is treated properly--where should we go?

I am always interested in recommendations based on these standards.
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Old Mar 27th, 2008, 07:41 AM
  #26  
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Atravelynn

I am afraid that I have to agree with the "money talks" part of Skimmers comments, it is highly likely that those who only wish to go on safari to see animals will be ousted by those who perceive it as the latest fashion. In short term economic terms it makes sense to operators to go for this market, virtually no investors wish to think long term nowadays.

I give no credit to anyone who claims to be doing it for the good of the community or indeed the wildlife unless they prove it by publishing accounts which include details of this. This information is notably absent from most operators, the only "not for profit" operator I am aware of is CC Africa.
Granted that our old friends WS do take over and manage community properties but they pay very little for it and I do not believe it undertaken with solely charitable intent.

I have no answer to the question, where can us people who "do not like change" can go whilst this is happening!

I also do not care if my tent leaks or the food is not up to Western standards as long as the game viewing is good and the guides and management are friendly and knowledgeable. It is for these reasons that I do not go to WS camps and other similar places.

 
Old Mar 27th, 2008, 08:30 AM
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Sniktawk,

There is nothing snide about the comments I have made. I am stating fact that has come first hand from those managing the lodges. I have even seen photos showing the tired or should i say rustic look. I have been to Kwando, though it was in the days of K Leo Smith.

My reason for posting is your continual criticism of Wilderness. It has not real justification. So they are generating more moeny, well, that is supply and demand. They are reacting to the market. For the same price as Kwando high season, you can stay at a Wilderness 5 paw. Where the overall quality is much higher and investment is being made in the camps.

Is it not true that zips at Lagoon constantly break and don't do up properly? - This is just one example.

Kwando does have good game viewing, though they charge high end for a mid market product. So agents I know, will steer their clients towards wilderness for this reason. This is not based on commission, but wanting return guests and delivering on expectations.

The difference between wilderness and Kwando in their more rustic look, is in the detail. Though it is these small things that make the difference when paying $800 pppn. A ceiling fan in the tents to make the hot season more comfortable?

For me, know ing that the camps have barely changed since my visit around 5/6 years ago, yet the rates have jumped dramtically, leaves a lot questions to be answered. Whilst Wilderness may be accused of a lot of things, they have invested lots in maintaining their camps on a coninual basis. Kwando have raised their rate, yet not invested in the camps. To me that is worse than any criticsim of wilderness, as it just speaks of sheer greed.

I was considering letting you email me and letting you know the who said what. Though having seen your inability to treat off the record information emailed from the guys at LE in the correct manor, I think it is in the best interest not to. I am not into revealing their names either, as they still work in the industry. Neither have I commented on a lot of what they have told me, as it is not my place to do so. I have highlighted one or two things that put into perspective your 'beacon of light' attitude.

Each company has its negatives. Kwando has LK to LE's changes at Motswiri. Kwando is overpriced when comparing the overall product to a similar game viewing area like Duma Tau. Wilderness can feel a little regimented at times.........The argument can go round in circles.
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Old Mar 27th, 2008, 09:23 AM
  #28  
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Shumba

You are clearly demented none of what you say is true and you are obviously unable to substantiate your statements. Go to Wilderness if that is what you want, I do not care a fig.
 
Old Mar 27th, 2008, 10:26 AM
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Yes Sniktawk, I am demented. I have not desire to stay at Wilderness Camps as it is not my style. I far prefer the mobile safari option.

Though if I had to make the choice when spending my $ it would be wilderness. They have camps that game viewing as good as Kwando. Vumbura is better than Kwara in terms of game viewing. Duma Tau is as good as Lebala. Though at least I can see why the cost is so high. Not a desert and delta level safari quality lodge experience in a private reserve.
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Old Mar 27th, 2008, 11:08 AM
  #30  
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I don't write this to upset anyone but just want to add some more thoughts.

I wouldn't surprise any frequent reader of this board when I say that Lebala is one of my favourite camps in Botswana.

This is mainly based on the quality of wildlife and the superb guiding by Steve K., Spencer and Charles. Also my relationship with the management was very good while I was there.

But I wouldn't say that other companies don't have a good product too. F.e. guides like Phinley-Newman (Chitabe) and Cilas (Duma Tau-Mombo) are as good as their counterparts of Kwando. The experience at Duba Plains is the way I like it (wouldn't be a surprise either if you screenname is Skimmer).

When we look at the current accomodation of Kwando, we have to be honest it is not up to the standards of WS. Personnaly I don't care, but other people do.

We have to admit when Kevin left, things didn't always change for the better and to my opinion based on personal experiences at Kwando Shumba knows very well what he is talking about.

I believe that the better option for Kwando would be to work on a certain segment of the market which WS is not that much interested in and not trying to compete with WS on a segment they can't.

In general I think I have more or less the same thoughts about safaris (guiding/lack of comfort/food) like Ken but stating that everything Kwando does is good and everything WS does is wrong, wouldn't be fair for me at all.

If both companies have a good product, they would both prosper if not ...


Greetz,

Johan


 
Old Mar 27th, 2008, 11:33 AM
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Atravelynn has raised the point that I have tried to turn my focus to, which is to hone in on how operations are really conducted with regard to benefiting local communities and protecting the environment. I find this most important as long lasting conservation can only be established if local people are receiving ample benefits (money and opportunities) from maintaining the land and animals on it. Virtually every operator claims to deliver in these areas so as sniktawk says it is important to see such claims documented in a meaningful manner. I was very excited last night to discover the details on the arrangement for the new Sankuyo Plains Camp. The local community, which owns and retains 100% of the concession lease fee, will be a 50/50 joint venture partner with Lodges of Botswana (marketed by Footsteps in Africa) for the daily operation of the camp. I believe this sets a tremendous new precedent for local community profitability working with an excellent operator. Meanwhile this concession will continue to be the heart of predator research within northern Botswana hosting long term research projects. This is the kind of development that I am watching for and hope to see become a new trend.




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Old Mar 27th, 2008, 03:10 PM
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Some promising developments, Predator. You also mentioned similar properties in your Botswana report. Encouraging.

Sniktawk,
Food does not have to be up to western standards in my opinion, but the hygiene must be sufficiently high as to prevent temporary diarrhea or a longterm intestinal ailment. Those are the standards I apply to my own food preparation.

A trickle of water along the side of the tent is ok, but I would not want a deluge that ruined my camera equipment. Just like there are leaks if the wind is from the south when it rains where I live, but it's not so bad that all my stuff gets soaked.

As for zipping up the tent, I feel better at night when the flaps are not wide open, inviting creatures to spend the night. Though I recall a pang of jealousy when I read about guests who got to sleep with a friendly genet.

What has me concerned is that in this economic environment, the little guy who likes Africa and wildlife and is happy with simple accommodations will be even less likely to afford a trip now. The uber-rich who demand the luxuries of home will be able to continue to travel and therefore will make up an even greater percentage of Africa and Botswana visitors. If you are uber-rich and enjoy more rustic accommodations, then I am not referring to you.
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Old Mar 27th, 2008, 07:51 PM
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My contribution to the thread at the moment is nothing to do with WS vs Kwando as the thread seems to appear to be ...... but, Ken i don't want to comment on WS as i haven't been there in almost 5 years now. I was at LE last year, though - that trip was Selinda/Zib/Lebala/Lagoon all in the same trip and i have mentioned enough and more about that trip on these boards ...............

Why are the Botswana threads on fodors the most debated? is it the pristine wilderness? is the quality of gameviewing and the animals? or is it due to the $$$ involved?

Also - to add to the reasons, i think we all build a personal friendship with the guides and staff ....... Example, great people like Spencer or Charles and we all do hope and want nothing but the best for them and their families.

Let's say peace for now!

Rgds
Hari
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Old Mar 28th, 2008, 04:01 AM
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It would appear I am not the only demented person..................
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Old Mar 28th, 2008, 04:49 AM
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snik,

"I see no reason to explain my comments they are self explanatory to anybody who has had experience of both types of providers.
My experience of safaris is quite limited having only spent 232 days on Safari since 1999,

Question 1: please elaborate on what you mean by "both types of providers".

Question 2: that's a lot of days "on safari". Jeez - 23 days a year. Did you ever think of spending some of your time in "Africa" doing other things? Don't you even think there are other parts of the world worth your attention.

Maybe it's just me, but 9 years of going to see "animals" without any apparent interest in the country or the people is a sign of someone with very limited horizons.

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Old Mar 28th, 2008, 04:55 AM
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Afterall, I will come to Sniktawks defence when it is justified. I do believe he lives in somewhere in SA.
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Old Mar 28th, 2008, 05:40 AM
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Very interesting thread with some hot bed and volatile issues. My take however is that this is all about business and profits. The Wilderness model is obviously successful or its camps wouldn't continue to be sold out many months to years in advance. I don't think Wilderness really cares who visits their camps just that they are full. When they raise their rates and continue to book it is an indication that there is still a market despite high costs. Yes it does drive some of us from booking with them or reducing the number of days or going every 3 years rather than every year or two but that's irrelevant to them. My Wilderness experiences have been mostly wonderful with a few exceptions based on poor guiding including at Mombo. Cost apparently has no bearing on guiding quality. I see no reason why one shouldn't expect a tent that doesn't leak or zippers that work or decent food...I don't think that constitutes luxury. I am one of those that gets up, eats and gets out before the rest of the camp is even awake and doesn't return till dinner time so it is obvious my focus is the game drive. Despite that I enjoy good food and a hot shower. I like the more rustic accomodations but found that Little Vumbura, Savuti and Chitabe all offered a good combination of game viewing with good accomodations without being over the top.
I have no experience at all with any of the Kwando camps which have their champions as well as their detractors as well. It seems to me that it is Wilderness's price increases that irk people. At least as they raise prices they upgrade the physical plant. It is not my god given right to be able to afford their properities and if I can not I will decide what I can afford and go to properties within my budget. But to debate how a company goes about its business is folly.
It is not for us as travellers to do that.
Eric
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Old Mar 28th, 2008, 05:49 AM
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If it is truelly Wilderness' airstrip, then they have every right to decide who can use it. Especially if the use increases their costs, is hazardous, or a is major inconvenience to their customers. They are a business after all and would prefer not to decrease their profit, be sued, or lose clients.
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Old Mar 28th, 2008, 05:52 AM
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Hi Eric,
Very well said indeed. I couldn't agree with you more. Glad to hear you like Little Vumbura, I'll be there in September.
Cheers-Chuck
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Old Mar 28th, 2008, 05:58 AM
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Very interesting thread. I would like to make a comment.

I do believe that rustic should not be taken too far. Tents have a lifespan (if looked after) of about 7 – 10 years. When they start to look shabby they should be replaced and maybe the furniture etc. I think if this happened everyone would be happy. Unfortunately the more ‘shabby’ places often do not do this (not management but owners fault!) and often ones that do change their whole identity to ‘keep up’ with the market – and on some occasions this can be a pity but money talks and lets all be honest, all these destinations are businesses. I once worked at a camp that was so run down (in my opinion) that I was embarrassed at being the manager. Most people though did not notice and I would say about 98% had no clue. We did get a few complaints from agents and wiser guests for good reason but at the end of the day, the place was not generally one to get return guests and so therefore 99.99% of guests were first timers (to Africa as well!) and in the opinion of the owner why change it. This does make complete business sense but obviously you cannot explain this to the odd agent/guest that did complain.

Shumba I agree with what you have said as I have heard and experienced much the same.
I would like to add something about Snik. From past threads I have observed his opinions and many are flawed. I do remember guides being mentioned many times and a few of the ones he mentioned were fantastic but one or two in my opinion were less then useless and made some of the most basic but unforgivable mistakes. I say in my opinion but some of the things they did went totally against my grain (as a former guide) and so I believe that he sees what he wants to at the end of the day. No, I will not mention names Snik as I do not want to bash guides in this thread.




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