Kwando vs CCAfrica

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Apr 13th, 2004, 06:41 PM
  #1
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Kwando vs CCAfrica

Following up the Kwando vs Wilderness Safaris thread, I'm also curious how everyone thinks Kwando and CCA's camps in Botswana compare - Kwara/Lagoon/Lebala vs Sandibe/Nxabega.

From what I can tell, they both get great reviews in a lot of important regards, but there are some differences.

Location - both seem to have great locations, with water nearby, etc. A Kwara/Lagoon combination sounds like it might provide a little more diversity than a Sandibe/Nxabega combination, but I could be wrong. I'm basing that statement largely on the fact that they are further apart, which clearly isn't necessarily right.

Size - Kwando camps are smaller with 12-16 guests, vs. CCA's 18 guests. How much should this matter?? I've heard how great small camps are, but does one really notice the difference between 16 and 18?

Game - Both seem to have great variety and are not going to be crowded, since they are on private reserves. Given my lack of experience here, I can't really tell a difference from what I've read about each - am I missing anything?

Guides - both get great reviews for the amount of staff in camps, willingness to be flexible about scheduling, what to see and do, actively tracking game, etc. Kwando might have a slight advantage here since game drives are limitted to 6, rather than CCA's 8. Kwando also uses guides and trackers - I can't tell if CCA does this also or not. Does anybody know? I realize that this has been a controversial topic lately, and no need to rehash the "is it better to have a tracker or not" conversation, but I'm still curious if CCA uses trackers.

Also, Kwando claims to do all transfers in between activities, so you never miss a game drive transfering between camps. Again, I don't know about CCA in this regard. Seems like an important difference to me, if CCA doesn't - for what these places cost, I don't want to miss a thing!

Accomodation - CCA's photos frankly look a lot nicer than Kwando's. Is this just good photography, or are the CCA camps that much more "polished" looking/feeling? The campfire dining area at Sandibe looks fantastic, the CCA beds and bathrooms look like a luxorious hotel's, the pools look like they have comfy lounge chairs. Kwando looks like, well, green tents. I know this isn't the most important criteria, but to judge by the photos CCA looks 5-star and Kwando 3-star in terms of accomodation. Am I wrong? Should this not matter at all in your opinion??


Ok, I look forward to everyone's thoughts. I've tried to stick to King's outline from a few days back in evaluating these camps, but if there are important criteria I'm missing, let me know.

Thanks.

chooch is offline  
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Apr 14th, 2004, 01:51 PM
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Chooch,

Thanks for the useful summary. I don't have any real wisdom to add unfortunately (since I've never been to Africa never mind any of these camps!) but in researching them, I've come to a lot of the same conclusions / questions as you. I keep hearing people say in this forum and elsewhere how important location is, and that the quality of the tents is really secondary....but then I look at the Kwando website, and the photos just don't look nearly as nice as some other camps like CC Africa's.

Personally, I think I want to go with Kwando anyway, but I'll be curious to hear what the old pro's have to say about this....
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Apr 14th, 2004, 07:08 PM
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Personally, I have only been to a single CCAfrica lodge, and that was Matetsi Water Lodge in Zimbabwe.

Perhaps Zimbabwe is not a good example due to its recent tempestuous political situation.

However, I will say that while the accomodations were excellent, I was disappointed in the management and the lack of a tracker on the night game drives. We had the very best guide that we have had to date, Casper. I thought it was such a waste to have Casper at Matetsi when he seemed superior to our guide at Singita, but there are politics of a different sort at the top South African game lodges (at least in my very limited experience) where guiding positions are seemingly reserved for whites and tracking positions, if any, are reserved for blacks, but that is a whole different subject, but one that the South African government has tried to address.

The food was okay at Matetsi but nothing special.

The setting was spectacular, right on the banks of the Zambezi River, with each chalet featuring its own private plunge pool, perfect for March, but useless for winter months (June, for example), as I would later find out at Djuma Vuyatela.

While I had mostly a good time at Matetsi, unfortunately I stayed here AFTER Singita, instead of before Singita. After Singita, most everyplace would be disappointing, although I still think that $2,000 per night is a ridiculous price that I would refuse to pay.

Also, the assistant manager of the Matetsi was responsible for reconfirming the guests flights, and after confirming that our flight was on track, we were off to the Victoria Falls Airport, about an hour away. Only upon getting to the airport at about 2PM, for what was to be the final flight of the day on Zimbabwe Airlines, did we find out that this flight had been discontinued many weeks earlier and the assistant manager had, in fact, failed to reconfirm our flight.

Returning all the way back to the lodge, and very irate, we expressed our extreme displeasure with the manager and we were now stuck in Zimbabwe for an additional night. The manager immediately made some phone calls and surprisingly put us up in a suite at the Victoria Falls Hotel and we had Carte Blanche...dinner, toiletries from the gift shop and any other thing that we wanted (without abusing the privilege), transfers, etc.

Regarding Kwando, I have heard such good things about them that I do not even look at CCAfrica. I know CCAfrica may offer similar pricing and beautiful lodges, but I do not think that any game drives have a tracker, and I have just not read the glowing reports on CCAfrica's lodges that I have on Kwando, although that may admittedly be because I am looking for Kwando and not looking for CCAfrica.

Kwando just seems like a more personalized experience while CCAfrica seems more like a manufactured experience, but that is just my opinion.

However, I will not hesitiate for one second to also stay at Savuti (Wilderness Safaris) or Chief's Camp (???, I forget the name of the operator for that camp).

My two favorite lodges have been Singita, which is now $2,000 per night for a couple sharing followed by Kafunta Island Bush Camp, where I can likely stay for no more than $300 per night for a couple sharing. For that $300, Kafunta (in South Luangwa, Zambia, an absolutely beautiful national park) will drive for an hour to the airport and pick you up and drop you off back at the airport, while the $2,000 at Singita will not even get you a transfer if you happen to fly into anything but their private airstrip on a chartered flight, although Hoedspruit or whatever bigger airport is closest is not likely more than 45 minutes away.

Sometimes the intimacy of a small camp can match the extravagance of a place like Singita, especially if you can stay at such a place for about $1,700 per night. That is free airfare from LAX - Johannesburg and possibly onto Lusaka or at least Victoria Falls/Livingstone!

I have heard better things about Kwando Lagoon and Kwando Kwara than I have about Kwando Lebala. Songwe Village also looks like a very nice place. However, with Kwando, obviously more importance is seemingly given to the location of the lodge, the quality of the game viewing, and the service than just the accomodations.

In closing, I will say that one of the best selling tools for me has also been that other Fodorites whom have visited both Wilderness Safaris camps and Kwando's camps seem to rate Kwando on an equal level with WS. Considering that Kwando is usually 25-50% less expensive than Wilderness Safaris, that is enough to convince me.
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Apr 15th, 2004, 06:14 AM
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Roccco,

Good food for thought. I certainly started with the same idea as you - I read more about Kwando, how good they are at tracking game, having small lodges, in great locations, etc., and haven't heard quite the same enthusiasm for CCA. But then in the Brandt travel guide on Botswana, I read that the staff at Sandibe and Nxabega "make real efforts to organise activities to suit you...If you've ever wanted to do a late-night dirve after diinner or a mid-day boating trip, Nxabega is a good choice" and that both camps "have a large enough staff complement to be better than most at tailoring activities around what guests want and when they want it." Well that sounds good!

So now I'm finding this a tougher comparison than I thought it would be. I had thought that CCA was going to be plush accomodations but worse service and guiding, and that Kwando would be roughing it a little more but with great guides and trackers. Now I'm not sure it's that clear. You might think about making this comparison for your trip as well (of course, by then you'll have the benefit of my trip report....on whichever option I end up choosing! Another good reason to wait on that deposit....)

By the way, I think Chief's camps is owned by Sanctuary Lodges (aka A&K).
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Apr 15th, 2004, 12:01 PM
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I've been reading Roccco's Kwando posts and now I see this one comparing Kwando to other camps.

Has anyone had any experience with Kwando? And what price range do they fall in?

I would like to go in the high season (July or August) and spend somewhere around $350-400 a night. My number one priority is game viewing/photography. I haven't found this place yet. Does anyone know where it is?

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Apr 15th, 2004, 01:13 PM
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i have been to kwando lagoon and lebala camps. unfortunately, i dont think they will fall into the sub $400 per night category in the high season. but in shoulder season that is possible. they are slightly cheaper than wilderness camps. i enjoyed both and would recommend either.
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Apr 15th, 2004, 03:52 PM
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Sundowner,

www.botswanasafari.info lists Kwando Kwara at $494 per person in high season. However, if you are willing to go before July 01st or after November 30th, the price drops to $318 per person.

I believe all Kwando camps are priced equally, but if you stay in more than one camp, I believe that you may get an additional 5% discount, which in high season would be about a $25 per night per person savings.

As far as your $400 per night budget for high season, here are a few lodges that fall in such category:

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

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

http://www.botswanasafari.info/botswana_camp_okuti.html

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

http://www.botswanasafari.info/botsw...%27s_camp.html

http://www.botswanasafari.info/botswana_pom_pom.html

Good luck.
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Apr 15th, 2004, 05:23 PM
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Thanks big country and Roccco - I just may have to reconsider my time frame to get the lower rates.


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Apr 15th, 2004, 06:05 PM
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As far as I can tell you have one thing right, your going to Africa and your doing a photo safari. Which camp you chose is a crap shoot. I haven't been to any other than Kwando Kwara and Kings Pool in Botswana. Kings Pool had by far the best lodging, being a step below singita. however, Kwara was a magical experience. We felt as if we were the only people in Africa. The game drives were wonderfull and the boat ride through the delta, which I thought would be PUKE, was actually very, well very. You have to experiance it yourself. Frankly, I cant wait to go back. My wife wants to go to Spain this fall and its her turn. But My next trip will be back to Botswana and one of the stays will include Kwara camp.
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Apr 15th, 2004, 07:19 PM
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B_Eames,

Stop it already, you are making me drool!!!

I still have at least 13 months before I may enjoy Kwara and Lagoon. If it were in my budget I would go this year, but I am expanding my business this year and I am lucky to even be going to Italy and Zambia.

I cannot even wait for next year, as I really think that it will be by far the best experience of my life, travelwise. However, this year will be good training in hopefully showing my wife that she will not really die each time she sets foot on a smaller plane, as she thinks she will!

I am completely sold on Kwando Lagoon, Kwando Kwara and Savuti. I am awaiting Kavey's trip report on Little Mombo before making a decision on my Chief's Island camp. Perhaps I am too optimistic but I really think that next year the sky will be the limit, hopefully allowing for Little Mombo if I so elect. Yet, I still have every intention of staying at Kwara and Lagoon over Kings Pool or any of the other fabulous wilderness safari lodges available.

B_Eames, please remind me how many nights you stayed at Kwara and whether or not it was enough time. Thanks.
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Apr 26th, 2004, 08:30 AM
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Kwando vs. Wilderness vs CCAfrica.

3 great companies! You should always pick camps according to where the game will be best at the time of year you travel

CCAfrica - not as much of a selection but excellent company good walking trips, good overland trips as well. Check into their scheduled depatures.

Wilderness - the best selection of all, tend to be a bit more upmarket then Kwando. Good scheduled Mopane/Jacana safaris as well


Kwando is more basic but with many activities and more hands on experiences in their camps. Good guides. Game viewing depends on the
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Apr 26th, 2004, 08:40 AM
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Rocco
You know I'll report back faithfully on all aspects: game viewing, staff, accommodation, food, guiding and anything else I can possibly think of.
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