Mombo?

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Aug 27th, 2004, 09:48 PM
  #1
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Mombo?

Is it worth it to include Mombo in our safari? We're choosing between the following options (2 nights each)

1) Xigera, Chitabe, Savuti, Royal Livingston
2) Kwetsani, Mombo, Savuti, Royal Livingston

Option #2 is about $1000 more per person, largely because of Mombo. This seems like a lot! For those of you who's been there, is it worth it?

Thanks,
Judy
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Aug 28th, 2004, 04:32 AM
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hi linjudy,
from my 3 safaris to botswana, mombo has had the best game and accomodations. that being said, for $500 more per person per night, it's hard for me to justify staying there. when i went to mombo this yr, it was about $200 more per night and that i could live with, but apparently for 2005 they have massively increased the price of mombo relative to other WS camps. very disappointing for me as now i probably wont be visiting mombo again. chitabe has a great mix of game so substituing that probably wouldnt be the worst thing in the world. one thing i may suggest and others can add there input. i havent been to either but i have heard that kwetsani has great big cat sightings and i havent heard the same about xigera. by combining kwetsani with chitabe and savuti, you may be able to save a lot of money and still get to see plenty of the predators. hope this helps and let me know if you have other questions.
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Aug 28th, 2004, 07:20 AM
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Hmmm
You don't mention what month/season you will be travelling, which could influence the choice...
A couple comments first:
1) Bigcountry is on to one issue: I was told that Xigera is considered more of a "true" water camp in that it concentrates on water activities. Your travel agent should be able to access info that breaks down the % of activities by water or land for each camp, by month. (This is NOT available to tourists on the WS website, only to agents). When we saw this, we decided to do Kwetsani instead of Xigera, because we wanted a camp that offered both.
Kwetsani was fabulous, and I adore that camp. I think the camp is prettier than Mombo (although the rooms are smaller, they are lovely, and the site is probably on of the most beautiful of all the camps. Just my opinion of course! Also: The Jao concession camps (Jao, Kwetsani, Tubu, one more...) are probably the best managed of the WS camps, and the service and attention are excellent. Kwetsani offers both drives and mekoro, and the drives are on Hunda island-- a big island with lots of game, including lots of big cats. (It's a short boat trip from Kwetsani's smaller island). During the dry season the plain right in front of the camp is full of game, and that attracts predators. Even during the wet season it can be exciting-- we saw a lion pride immediately after a kill right in front of camp, and the cats stayed close to camp for days. (Check the WS website by camp, and read the monthly newsletters for reports of their action.)

2) Chitabe has one of the most diverse set of wildlife of any camp. Mombo is not as diverse-- the lion and leopard there have grown so dominant that you no longer see many other small predators-- no cheetah, no smaller cats, etc. But it is a superb place for leopards-- probably the best anywhere. (Right now National Georgraphic is shooting a leopard documentary there, and many wildlife films are made in this area.)
Mombo is beautiful, and really delivers the big cat sightings...also it has probably the best year-round activity (it's on a big, prolific island) but with that $1000 pp you can spend nearly 2 ADDITIONAL days at another camp like Chitabe...or Vumbura, which also has great wildlife and beautiful water activities.

So if you are not time limited, this is what you might consider. Two additional days at another good camp would increase you wildlife sightings, and would probaly equal or surpass Mombo. (Unless you want to concentrate on super lion and leopard sights...and possibly have a chance of rhino,as its the only place in Botswana to see rhino in the wild.)
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Aug 28th, 2004, 08:24 AM
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Jacana is the other camp of the Jao concession and they are run by another company and simply marketed by WS. Jacana is a full water camp (especially in winter months) and is just magical. I think it had the most intimate atmosphere of any camp we visited. It's ideal for those who really want the water camp to be about water activities.

We saw plenty of cheetah both times we were at Mombo - both in 2001 and just recently in 2004 but tashak is right to say that lion and leopard are dominant. It's an excellent camp for extended viewings of leopards in particular - these can be more fleeting at other Botswana camps. That said if budget is an issue you will still get great game viewing at other camps and shouldn't feel bad about dropping it.

I have only been to Chitabe once and didn't really enjoy it that much - on our visit (2001) game viewing happened to be disappointing though this is something that is so variable you must go on the weight of more than one report and most guests do report good game viewing. We also found management less polished, warm and flexible than elsewhere - I recall reading recent accounts that suggest this may still be the case.

Savuti is an excellent camp and I'm glad to see it in both your potential itineraries. We particularly enjoyed the wild dog sightings there as well as cheetah, ele and so on.

Personally I don't know that I'd choose Chitabe as the alternative to Mombo - I'd look into Tubu Tree which offers accommodation that is larger than most standard camps (but not on the scale of Mombo), a great mix of game and bird viewing and two excellent guides. Grant was one of the best guides we've been lucky enough to have. Tubu is a newer camp than many, it celebrated it's 2nd birthday whilst we were there in June, and it looks like they've really learnt so much from their operations in other camps.
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Aug 28th, 2004, 03:20 PM
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Thanks for the responses! We will be going in early-mid June next year. Given it's our first trip to Africa ever and we have relatively limited time, I thought a "mixed activity" water camp like Kwetsani would be better than a pure water camp like Jacana even though it seems really beautiful. In terms of the animals we're interested in seeing -- we want to see them all of course But I think I'm just excited about seeing zebras and giraffes as I am the major predators. Given all that, what would be your recommendation as a substitute for Mombo? How about Chief's Camp which I think is on the same island? Should I definitely pick something in the Moremi area for diversity?

BTW, the quotes I got from South African agents are about 20% cheaper than the American agent recommended by Wilderness Safari.
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Aug 28th, 2004, 03:32 PM
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Linjudy
Mombo is particularly good for the big cats. If you're happy with more general game viewing (which may still include the cats, of course) then I'd personally not advise you to fork out for Mombo on this trip.
I don't think you have to visit Moremi for that diversity - you'll get a lot of animals at Savuti and game viewing is good in most of the delta camps.
I'd still recommend looking into Tubu. It's very well run with a very warm touch. Guiding is excellent. As I mentioned tents are larger than the standard classic WS camps yet the camp is priced as a standard camp. We saw lots of the regular animals (giraffe, zebra, warthog etc) plus lions, genet and porcupine and even leopards mating. That last sighting is very rare and we saw them from the comfort of the dining room of the camp. As you can imagine the soup was forgotten pretty darn quickly!
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Aug 28th, 2004, 03:32 PM
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PS American agents do seem expensive. UK agents also come in cheaper than US ones.
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Aug 28th, 2004, 03:52 PM
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Thanks, Kavey. Tubu does sound really nice. Is it a water or mixed camp like Kwetsani or more of a land camp? Is it different enough from Kwetsani?

Judy
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Aug 28th, 2004, 05:48 PM
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Hi again Linjudy,
I should mention that I stayed at Chitabe Trails (the small camp with tents on the ground) not at the bigger Chitabe Main Camp. I really recommend staying at least once in tents on the ground (rather than tehts elevated on a platform). It's just a different experience, and you should try it at least once. (Not sure what the Savuti tents are like.)

My experience with Chitabe Trails in Sept 2001 was that they were definitely not as polished as some of the other camps, but they were very flexible--among the most flexible of camps that I visited in fact. This was the one camp that very enthusiastically arranged for us to go out earlier in the morning (most say they will do this, but there is a subtle discouragement that takes place as it might bother the other guests in the vehicle. Instead Chitabe Trails switched around guests and arranged for the 2 who preferred to sleep late to go out with a vehicle of late-sleepers from Chitabe main camp-- they really went out of their way to make arrangements to everyone's satisfaction. I also visited Chitabe main camp (the night of Sept 11) and management there was wonderful in helping guests through the tragedy. However, my impression is that main camp tends to get more groups (there was a zoo group there at the time). I think this attests so the good game viewing in this area, but also might make it a bit less attractive to independent travellers. (The place may be dominated by a large group travelling together.) So consider CT as an alternative to Chitabe.

Also, I think Tubu and Kwetsani are too similar-- they are on different but close islands in the same concession. It's just a short drive, and the camps often help each other out (rescuing stranded trucks, sharing big sightings, etc.) Kwetsani is a much smaller island (still gets plenty of cats however!) and Tubu is on the larger island. In the wet season they use boats and vehicles to get people where they need to be to see good game. So on this one, you will have to pick just one of the two!

By the way (and to make things more difficult) I think the photos of Kwetsani in the brochures and on the WS website vastly under-represent the beauty and charm of the place. So reviewing photos may not be of much help here. On the other hand, I have heard nothing but good things about the newer Tubu Tree this year, both from people here (like Kavey) or in Botswana itself.
Personally, I'd skip Jacana (the one I forgot!) if this is a first, short trip to the area (and with only 2 nights at 3 Botswana camps, it is) A water only camp is great for people who have more time OR for people who love birding and are less interested in wildlife. On a first trip, I'd say go for a water/land camp like TT, Kwetsani...or possibly Vumbura (NOT Little Vumbura, which emphasizes water activities more.) Vumbura has beautiful water channels AND superb, diverse wildlife viewing.

Finally, you just mentioned Chief's Camp-- haven't been there, BUT it is on Chief's Island. My (US) travel agent tells me that he thinks it is quite comparable to the Mombo wildlife viewing experience but considerably cheaper.
AND since you are going in mid-June, I think Chief's Camp is what I would do...Chief's Island is considered one of Botswana's best bets year round BUT the May/June highwater period makes it even better than usual (and this came from several wildlife people not associated with Mombo, WS or tourist camps at all.) That would be my Mombo-replacement for this time of year.

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Aug 28th, 2004, 08:15 PM
  #10
 
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hi linjudy, i am curious what travel agents you quoted in the us vs africa. i have talked to a us based operator and was surprised at how expensive the quote was so would like to cross check the price with an african based one. if you dont feel comfortable posting on this site, you can email me at [email protected]. if you dont mind doing this i would be very appreciative. thx
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Aug 29th, 2004, 07:48 AM
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I'm sorry, I can't compare Tubu and Kwetsani as I haven't been to both. So I can't comment on how similar they might be.

Tubu is essentially a land camp though in wet months, especially with the unusually high water levels this year, it was not as far to drive from the camp to water as usual.

We stayed in Jacana and then did a boat transfer most of the way to Tubu before transferring to landrover.

It was chitabe trails I stayed at in 2001 too though we took a walk through main Chitabe camp too - identical except for Trails tents being on the ground and main camp tents being raised on platforms and linked by walkways.

When we went on our first trip to Botswana in 2001 we had no idea we'd be so interested in the bird life. I'm glad we were advised to include time at a water camp - we chose Little Vumbura that time and loved it. That said we were there only 2 nights and realised on departure that we wished we hadn't wasted time on game drives when this was the only camp at which we could enjoy the water activities. Water is so central to what the Delta is about...

But Tashak may be right that a camp offering both land and water may be best incase you find that you aren't as smitten with the mokoro trips as we were.

This latest trip in Jacana we spent 3 nights and all our activities were water based - didn't get bored a all!

To be honest, I know this doesn't help, but, just to reassure you... you're going to have a marvellous trip whichever of these camps you opt for - all of them have excellent locations and reputations!

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Aug 29th, 2004, 09:57 PM
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Linjudy asked: "$1000 more per person, largely because of Mombo. This seems like a lot! For those of you who's been there, is it worth it?"

No. Just my personal experience, as you can see from other good posters above. I have also been to Chief's Camp and would pick that one instead.
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Aug 30th, 2004, 09:59 AM
  #13
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Mombo is #1, and I'll post back after my week there, coming up soon. Also have Savuti and Duba Plains scheduled, where expect excellent sightings.

Regarding costs: suggest talking with an agent and not necessarily going with what you may see on line.

I also recommend Phinda in SA, which is less money, and simply an excellent place to see it all, plus lots of birds, and accommodations are 10x better than Mombo!!!! And that's taking nothing away from Mombo, which I dearly love.
 
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Sep 1st, 2004, 08:10 AM
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Hi Judy,
Great thread...am planning a similar trip in May or June 2005. Curious what agents you have gotten quotes from.
Brenda
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Sep 1st, 2004, 08:20 AM
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PS that $1000 more per person - is that over just 2 nights or over 3?

Have you asked whether shifting your dates slightly would move you into a lower rate period?

Have you asked more than one agent for a quote?

My instinct is that you could skip Mombo and have a marvellous trip. But I also don't want to underplay it's attractions - we went in 2001 and were willing to pay the rates again in 2004 so that gives an indication of our feelings about Mombo - and we are glad we included it in our trip.

It's not like you're intending this to be your only ever ever ever trip to Southern Africa, right?
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Sep 1st, 2004, 09:45 AM
  #16
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As expensive as Mombo and Little Mombo are, they are consistently rated at the very top for delivering game sightings up close.
 
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Sep 1st, 2004, 11:01 AM
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It would help to quote who did the ratings if you're not giving an opinion based on personal experience. I say this because I went there based entirely on what I read here on Fodor's. My TA did not suggest it and when we added it she mentioned something about Mombo marketing this heavily in the states. And I respect the opinions of several people here who went to Mombo and had a great visit. But my personal experience was the exact opposite. (old-timers on Fodors, just skip this part please). We had very poor sightings (no leopards, no cheetah, no cats other than very sleepy lions one day). One woman said it wasn't what it was three years ago. And an old-timer at Chief's said he had heard about this change. Now obviously trustworthy people like Kavey have gone recently and had good game. I think the lesson is that there is no absolute when it comes to animal sightings. Of course my situation was more than just poor luck, they did not send out other cars so we only had one car searching and no tracker in the car. But the point is that if you're on the fence about spending the extra money, my experience is that you cannot do it at Mombo and feel guaranteed you'll see great game. Based on my personal experience, I feel differently about Singita Boulders - I would feel comfortable sending anyone there who wants to spend top dollar (!) because the way they are set up with various cars going out and radioing each other, the way the tracker will go out on his breaks to look ahead for you, the way we saw the big 5 twice in three days, I feel confident. Note that is only Boulders (and Ebony) that I'm referring to, the other camps are different.
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Sep 1st, 2004, 11:46 AM
  #18
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Clematis, Mombo is rated at the top by experts who managed lodges, and by TAs here in the states, formerly of SA and Botswana, who visit the lodges themselves annually, at least the ones I do business with do that, and in SA, the agents who book for Wilderness Safaris and other groups.

It was not by accident that NBC selected Mombo for their guest visit.

A number of us have been at Mombo before, and will be there in the future. We posted to aid potential visitors, and what we posted was accurate. I would say you were wise to listen to what we had to say. But like anything, life can be unexpected, and I'm sure no one on fodors offered an iron-clad guarantee you would enjoy the same experiences they had.

No, Mombo does not market heavily in the states, that is not how WS works. As you know, a TA has to make the arrangements. WS markets tru TAs, offering an array of places at varying degrees of cost and luxury.

I'm unclear on the relevancy of a particular TA, in this case yours, not suggesting Mombo. I would have to think myself that it would be unreasonable to expect every TA to be aware of what each Okavango Delta, etc. lodge had to offer.

You suggest game viewing at Mombo has changed. In fact, unprecedented water from East Angola has made the Delta an especially excellent place to see game this year, so yes, there has been some change, as there is everywhere. Change can be good, as it was at Mombo.

Finally, just to clear up a point or two. Mombo does not use a tracker, as they do in SA. The rangers are qualified to locate animals, read spoors and detect signs. That you ddn't have a tracker is par for the course.

You didn't see the cats. From personal experience at Mombo, one very good ranger took us to search for leopards, we looked for five hours. Nada. Later that same day, different reanger, and the darned leopards were literally falling out of the trees. If you have an explanation, I'd like to hear it.

I will say I have heard one or two say that for the money they spent at Mombo, they expected to see whatever they desired. It doesn't work that way. You see what you see.

I trust anyone who travels to see game will accept that fact ... if you do, it will save you some heartache and give you a reasonable approach to seeing game.

Mombo will be great, no matter what, and I look forward to it, come what may. Sorry your trip was less than expected, but that's hardly a reason to give it a general failing grade. I am sure Singita was great, but Kruger is Kruger, not Botswana. Each is terrific.
 
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Sep 1st, 2004, 02:25 PM
  #19
 
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ty ur on,
Can you clarify your comment about Botswana lodges not using/ needing trackers?
Why are they "needed" in SA, if the game is so easy to see...but not needed in Botswana, where it's supposed to be wilder than SA?
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Sep 1st, 2004, 04:36 PM
  #20
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Kavey,

The $1000 is per person for 2 nights. I've gotten quotes from 3 travel agents so far, 2 South African ones and one US one.

I've pretty much decided on Chief's Camp and not Mombo. Besides the cost, one reason is just to mix it up a bit and stay at one non-WS camp. Who knows, one of these days when we get really old and lazy, we may decide to take a vacation with A&K and this will give us a taste

Plus, the $2000 we'll save will pay for one night at Singita. I am half thinking about maybe ending the trip there as I still have 3-5 days I can fill in South Africa (suggestions welcome on my other thread .

Thanks all again,
Judy
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