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KIBOKO Apr 3rd, 2007 03:02 PM

What is the preference for a safari vehicle Kwando or Wilderness? What is the difference? We are serious photographers but do not wish to pay for the private vehicle. We are planning a Botswana safari for August 2008. Should this be considered in deciding Kwando vs Wilderness?


napamatt Apr 3rd, 2007 04:10 PM

The Kwando vehicle is the Uri, it has 8 seats. The driver and a passenger sit up front, with two rows of 3 individual seats behind. The tracker sits up front on the hood (bonnet). Kwando likes the intimacy of all guests being close to the guide. Issues with the layout, 3 people can be very uncomfortable, its better than an airline seat, but not much. Furthermore there is no space for large bags / backpacks full of lenses, spare bodies etc.
However if there are four in the vehicle then the middle seat would be available. Obviously with six in the vehicle, keen photographers may want to be on the outside, lets hope not everyone is that keen, or fights may ensue.

Wilderness vehciles have driver and passenger, followed by three rows of three. They do limit occupancy to six guests, so effectively a full vehicle uses 60% of capacity, leaving middle seats free for camera gear. A full Uri uses 85% of capacity and 100% if the tracker needs to vacate his perch, such as at Lion sightings.
I think it should be a consideration if two of you have lots of equipment that you want to get to easily and the camp is full. But remember even if occupancy is not 100%, you may still be in a full vehicle.
Most of the Kwando fans on the board, stump up for the private vehicle.

KIBOKO Apr 3rd, 2007 04:33 PM

Thanks nappamatt I really appreciate the excellent comparison of the two safari vehicles. We will certainly take it into consideration. We will also be spending 4 nights at Mala Mala main camp. Are the Mala Mala vehicles similar to Wilderness?


lisa Apr 3rd, 2007 05:02 PM

Occupancy will be key. When we were at Kwando, on our first game drive there were only 3 other people in the vehicle (plus the two of us and the driver), so 6 total -- no one had to sit in the middle. Then after that for the other three days there was only one other person besides us and the driver, so only 4 total in the vehicle. It was perfect. But that was in the low season. In August you may not be as lucky.

nyama Apr 3rd, 2007 08:10 PM

I found the WS vehicles are the worst in Botswana, compared to Kwando, A&K, Uncharted, etc, I would say even the worst of all my safaris. The first row is okay. 2nd row is for people with very long legs, and since I never put my photo equipment on a seat (if things can fall then they will) I had sometimes difficulties to get it in time; even worse: since the foot space isn't separated, your photo bag can slide through the whole vehicle. 3rd row is for very short people (or people with amputated legs); you sit like a monkey and there's not much space for equipment; you're also quite far away from the driver and sometimes have problems to hear what he says.

loru100 Apr 4th, 2007 08:24 AM

We just returned from Kwando last week. I can't tell you how many times my husband and I commented how happy we were that we paid extra for the private vehicle. You have more room to take photos, you have more room for your equipment and most important you decide when you leave camp, when you return and what you see. Every vehicle we saw (at Kwara, Lagoon and Lebala) were always full (and March is considered low season) and we noticed that the group vehicles didn't stay out as long as the private vehicles. Pay for the private me...when you see those Uri's going by crammed with people you'll be glad you did!

nyama Apr 4th, 2007 09:45 AM

If cost is an issue - you can get fantastic photo opportunities even in a shared vehicle. Talk to the driver and tracker, show them your interest in all aspects of wildlife, ask intelligent questions, in short, motivate them to do a great job. Don't let you just drive around, experiencing the "normal program". If you do it right then there isn't much difference between a shared and private vehicle. It depends on you and your fellow travellers.

napamatt Apr 5th, 2007 09:41 AM

Mala Mala uses Landrovers very similar to Wilderness. Again they limit occupants to six, plus driver and tracker, who sits at the back. The layout of these vehicles is more comfortable than WS, I will agree with Nyama on the back row of WS vehicles, though at 5'10" I've never been uncomfortable. Lst time I was at Kwnado, the vehicle was open at the side, no door, which meant I was in constant fear of losing my bag.
Again private vehicle is the best, but failing that I'd take my chances in WS over Kwando, just my $0.02.

nyama Apr 5th, 2007 12:20 PM

napamatt, if you can't leave the vehicle open doors give you a good opportunity to make some low-level shots. Some photographers prefer this. To secure your bag just put it between your feet. My two cents.

safarichuck Apr 5th, 2007 12:52 PM

This issue concerns me as well. It seems as though at Kwando, considering the small number of tents, that once one or two couples decide to take a private vehicle, they will fill the remaining vehicle with everyone else. There really isn't much difference in price anymore between the two groups of properties. I know the guiding is supposed to be fabulous at Kwando but those who go to Wilderness have equally good things to say. It is unfortunate that the Kwando management can't appreciate that a lot of us are serious about photography and their overfilling vehicles is just not acceptable. I see no justification to seat people three abreast on safari. Even less justified in view of the high cost of these properties. Just my two cents. I have really learned a lot reading this thread, thanks KIBOKO for starting it.

nyama Apr 5th, 2007 01:33 PM

Let's do some basic arithmetic. As far as I know most of the WS and Kwando camps accommodate 10 clients and have two vehicles for shared use plus one extra for private use. That means you usually have a distribution of 4 and 6 clients per vehicle if no private vehicle is used. If 2 clients have hired the private vehicle, you have the remaining 8 clients in one vehicle??! Sorry, that simply doesn't work with a 2-row Kwando vehicle, and I'm not aware that WS do that with their 3-row vehicles (at least if not requested by an 8-head client group).

safarichuck Apr 5th, 2007 04:13 PM

Must be new math :-)

nyama Apr 5th, 2007 05:37 PM

safarichuck, you are right in one point: if you got the 6-client vehicle at Kwando, you have at least one row with 3 clients (1+3+2). You might call this an overfill.

However, I've never experienced a game drive with six enthusiastic photographers and big equipment in one vehicle. So in most cases even this configuration works fine for the photographers.

cary999 Apr 5th, 2007 06:01 PM

I've never been in a game vehicle where 3 people had to sit in one row. (Lucky me ???) And if they tried to seat me in a row of three, even if on the outside not middle, I'd "have kittens" as we say. There would be some serious talking with the office after the game drive.

FWIW, I have never been to Kwando nor to any Wilderness camps.

BTW, I don't like the idea of the tracker setting up front on the hood/bonnet. Although I have not been on a game drive that did this, it just seems as if the tracker is going to be too much in your line-of-sight. (The radio aerial on Mala's vehicles is bad enough :-) ). But will probably soon see this in some of the camps I go to in May (Madikwe Hills, Kings Camp, Leopard Hills).
regards - tom
ps - Uri?? Is it a model of Toyota or Rover?

nyama Apr 5th, 2007 06:43 PM

tom, I guess you have to put a lot of camps in Botswana/Zambia on your black list. This combination of 10 clients and 2 vehicles is quite common, and so far I only know 3 operators who are using 3-row cars.

The tracker is only in your line-of-sight if you sit directly behind him, beneath the driver.

I prefer the tracker in the front. It's quite interesting to see how he's doing his job and, more important, in which direction he is looking. Sometimes this gives you the crucial opportunity to make a good photo before an animal is running away.

buzztechie Apr 5th, 2007 06:46 PM

Since y'all are talking about safari vehicles and photography, where is the ideal place to sit in the vehicle if you are taking photos.

This May, I am on a WS Mobile Safari in Botswana. There are 7 on our safari of which 3 are my traveling companions. They are pretty much relying on me for the photos on this trip.

I am not sure if WS Mobile safaris use a different vehicle on their mobile safaris than the one napamatt mentioned earlier. Has anyone here been on a WS mobile safari and know what vehicle is used and the seating arrangements?

Just wondering if the experts here feel there is a "best" seat in safari vehicles for photography?

nyama Apr 5th, 2007 06:57 PM

I prefer the first row behind the tracker (or the driver if no tracker is on board). It's the best place to see in which direction he is looking.

If there is a radio antenna in front which can't be removed I try to sit just behind the antenna. In this position it only needs small movements to shoot around it.

atravelynn Apr 5th, 2007 07:23 PM

The Wilderness mobile I did had that vehicle described by NapaMatt.

brandywine Apr 5th, 2007 08:06 PM

I don't think I understand the reference to 10 people in camp in one of the above posts. All the Kwando camps have more than 5 tents, except perhaps the new Little Kwara, and I believe there are only a few Wilderness camps left with 5 tents. Most camps have 6 or 8 tents, and some have 9 or 10 tents.
In any case, I don't believe there is any way to guess ahead of time how many people may be in each vehicle. Too many variables-whether the camp is full or not, how many vehicles the camp has on hand, how many private vehicles have been reserved, whether some people are on a water activity instead of a game drive.
Based on all the trip reports I have read, it appears that Kwando routinely places three persons across the seats, unless a private vehicle is reserved for yourself or your party. So it would seem to me that you should be expecting that, maybe you will luck out and have only 4 in your vehicle, but that can't be counted on. If that is not acceptable to someone, then they should probably reserve a private vehicle or go to another camp. If three people are seated across drive after drive, I assume that it is only polite to rotate the seats, so that the same person isn't always stuck in the middle.

nyama Apr 5th, 2007 09:17 PM

brandywine, these calculations are simple worst case scenarios. You can do the same for 16 clients, in this case Kwando needs at least 3 vehicles for shared use. This number is fixed.

If the camp isn't full, clients make a water activity or just need a break and stay in camp, or book a private vehicle, the situation is even getting better.

If it's not, there may be a simple reason: for instance, management decided to send only 2 instead of 3 vehicles out. If you know these little calculations, then it's your time to complain, and I guess in most cases you will succeed.

You also should have a closer look at those trip reports. Did people experience an overfilled vehicle, or did they just see it? This could be an important difference. For instance, last September I was the only person in a shared vehicle for two days although the camp was fully booked (not Kwando). The reason: the other 8 clients were travelling in a group and decided to use the same vehicle (which was really overfilled then).

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