Mombo - how much, and is it worth it?

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Jul 18th, 2005, 06:38 PM
  #21
bwanamitch
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tashak,

that was really a nice place! The only luxury thing was a hammock in the shadow behind the tent (I loved it).

Mitch
 
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Jul 18th, 2005, 06:52 PM
  #22
bwanamitch
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tashak,

re DO: I see your point.
My main problem is weight. I always must be a very good actor when passing with my "feather-light" photo backpack through the airport gates. With the 400DO Canon has reduced the weigth to a 1/3 of the old one... and test reports of this one aren't that bad.
Nevertheless, interesting to hear your experiences with the 75-300DO. Do you use it on walking safaris?

Mitch
 
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Jul 18th, 2005, 07:40 PM
  #23
 
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No, I haven't used it on a walking safari...yet. I didn't have it when I was walking. But it is probably the one I would take for that, unless I just opted for a point and shoot. Seriously. While I have gotten good photos when we were on the ground for a while during a drive, I have never been lucky when walking. So I'm thinking just a p&s in the pocket, and I'll use the binoculars more. Of course as soon as I do, I'll be sorry.
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Jul 18th, 2005, 07:52 PM
  #24
 
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Mitch - do you have the 400 DO? I've wondered how that lens performs. I also have the weight problem and pretend my backpack isn't heavy. I do okay waist high but lifting into the overhead bin is a bit of a problem.

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Jul 18th, 2005, 10:33 PM
  #25
 
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Back to Mombo vs. Chiefs:
It sure looks like Chiefs is a good bet for those who have more time. During shoulder season, you could get 3 days at Chiefs for every one at Mombo, and even during high season it is almost 2:1.
Of course if you have more money and limited time, more nights at a camp don't necessarily help.
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Jul 18th, 2005, 11:18 PM
  #26
mv
 
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Jasher

I have only been to Chiefs (2002) and not Mombo (yet?)
My guide at the time was an ex Mombo guide so I asked him about the differences and he said that Mombo was definitely better than Chiefs in terms of game.
Although we saw lots and lots of plains game at Chiefs the predators were very elusive with only Lions putting in an appearance.
For several days before and during my 2 day visit no Leopards were spotted. It was only 4 days later they spotted Leopard (but 3 in one drive!).
Food was fantastic at Chiefs and really no snobs in camp.

MV
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Jul 19th, 2005, 01:30 AM
  #27
bwanamitch
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sundowner,

No, I don't have the 400DO. My workhorse is the 100-400 with 1.4x extender, and for the real long shots I'm using the 500 with 2x extender.

Mitch
 
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Jul 19th, 2005, 06:14 AM
  #28
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Hello everyone,

Thanks for your replies, though I'm not quite sure where the long lens discussion came from..

Is there anyone there who has stayed at both Mombo and Chief's?

Cheers,
Julian
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Jul 20th, 2005, 07:44 AM
  #29
 
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Julian

I'm sure there is at least one Fodorite who has been to both camps as I do recall someone contributing to a similar thread a while back but I can't for the life of me think who it was!

What I find most sad is that so many who have been to one or other camp only like to denigrate the choices of those who opted for the other. It's so unecessary!

I've only been to Mombo but I'm certainly not going to start making any assumptions about the kind of people who go to Chief's. It's a shame some people who opt for Chief's choose to make those assumptions about Mombo guests!

As for my Mombo experiences:

We stayed at Little Mombo for 4 nights in June 2001 and another 4 nights in June 2004.

On both trips we saw more game at this camp than at any other on our trip. We were particularly pleased with the viewing of leopards and cheetah. We also saw wild dogs on the first visit and the recently reintroduced rhino on the last visit.

Our guide on the first visit was astounding whereas our guide on the second trip was merely satisfactory.

We'd read about a real slip in standards at Mombo in around 2003 so were not sure what to expect but judging from our experience and that of other visitors, WS seem to have resolved those issues fully.

Accommodation is indeed beautiful but doesn't play any part in our reasons for choosing the camp. If WS offered a standard 5 paw camp in the Mombo location instead we'd be delighted, especially if the prices dropped to match.

Of the people we shared Little Mombo with most struck us as similarly interested in the wildlife rather than the accommodation or reputation of the camp - as could be told by the fact that their other chosen camps were not all the 6 paw camps but chosen for the diversity of game and environments.

We did encounter one awful couple of fellow Brits - the husband was the worse kind of camera snob and convinced he knew it all. The funniest thing was when he tried to prove it by coming up with little statements about how perfect the light was (one midday when it was particularly harsh and unflattering) and what a waste of time it was taking the photographs I was taking of hyenas in the shade as there would be no catchlights in their eyes (which made me smile as I was using a digital camera and could see even in my small LCD preview that there were indeed catchlights in their eyes, and besides I would have taken the shots regardless for the memory of the sighting alone). He also treated his poor wife as an assistant, interrupting her viewing with curt demands for this lens or the other. What a prat! Luckily we only overlapped with them for one night. And there was one American visitor who was only interested in the big cats and would get quite rude when the rest of us would show interest in birds, smaller mammals and flora. Luckily our guide took the fairest middle path and balanced his requirements and the rest of the group's.

One thing we did pick up though was that all our fellow guests who had experienced any other camps agreed that game viewing at Mombo was much better.

None had also been to Chief's so none of us could make any fair attempt at comparison.

Other camps I am comparing Mombo to in Botswana are:
Savuti
Tubu Tree
Jacana
Jack's
Little Vumbura
Chitabe Trails
We have also visited Namibia and South Africa.

For us the cost of Mombo is worth it for the game viewing experience. For someone else it may not be.

No one can possibly answer a question on whether it's worth it for anyone else as none of us share quite the same finances, priorities, previous experiences and preferences.

Julian, best of luck with your decisions.

Kavey
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Jul 20th, 2005, 09:41 AM
  #30
bwanamitch
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Kavey,

maybe these Brits were a good example of those "bores" tashak mentioned. He also said that you can find this kind of people in every camp - and I agree with him.

But my comment that even a WS camp manager made similar statements to me is also true. So what would be your conclusion, as a guest, if a leading employee of your hosting company told you things like that?

Nevertheless, my decision not to go to Mombo has absolutely nothing to do with you and other guests of this camp. I made this decision after looking at an aerial photo of the camp in the "Mombo: Okavango's Place of Plenty" book. The reason is simple: I don't like land safari camps with wooden walkways, where you're not allowed to walk on the natural ground - in such camps I feel like being in a prison. I also don't like another WS specialty (not Mombo specific): room safes in the tents of a remote intimate safari camp. You see, I just have different perceptions of a safari camp than you and other people. And if there's a camp in the same area where I probably feel more comfortable I always will choose that one.

Mitch
 
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Jul 20th, 2005, 10:00 AM
  #31
 
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Mitch

I often find that employees in one part of a large business don't always have an accurate picture of what's going on in another and their opinions are often coloured by their unique experiences of working for the business. I am NOT saying I ignore their opinions but that I balance them with opinions from as wide a range of sources as I can possibly find.

I have heard so much conflicting information both from staff at WS, from others in the safari business (not WS) and from fellow travellers about so many camps - WS ones, Kwando ones, CC Africa ones and many more.

Even the opinions of those working within WS may be based on isolated incidents and on their own personal experiences, all of which differ from person to person.

That said, I think it's worth noting that I have heard more than one WS staff member differentiating between the clientele that book into Little Mombo and Main Mombo. This surprises heck out of me as they are priced the same, they have the same amenities, same tents and everything. But it's something that's oft been repeated.

I wouldn't argue the existence of a minority who do choose Mombo for the accommodations alone - and then hop on to Jao and King's Pool. Their choices are based not on the environments and wildlife but on the 6 paw status of these camps. I'm just saying that we didn't encounter these people at Little Mombo on either of our visits. But our visits amount to only 8 nights within the last few years.

To little experience to base any conclusion on!!

I happen to agree with you on walkways - I really like camps on the ground myself. You might like to know that Savuti Camp has now created walkways between all the tents and public areas. That said I just don't feel it a major aspect of my stay so it happens not to play a part in my decisions. I can totally understand that it may be a higher priority for others.

For me, whilst I don't hanker for Mombo style tents, I do find the general beauty of the camp (in terms of what it looks out onto and how the surroundings are enhanced by a well designed camp layout) adds to my overall enjoyment. I also do require an ensuite bathroom so the more rustic fly-camps where bathrooms are not ensuite wouldn't work for me.

I also agree that one must opt for the camp that fits best with one's personal preferences. The presence of a personal safe doesn't bother me. Some guests like them, some won't bother with them. The mere existence of them isn't really a sign of anything other than catering to the widest range of requirements possible. Buried as they are inside a wardrobe they hardly impact on most visitors' stays! IMO just because another camp doesn't provide them shouldn't be read as anything more than that it doesn't provide them. It certainly can't be said to mean that the people who visit those camps are more trustworthy, less materialistic or anything else.

Whatever you choose, as long as you're happy with it and enjoy the trips, then that's the most important thing, no?

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Jul 20th, 2005, 10:02 AM
  #32
 
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To little = too little!
GRRR I wish we could edit our posts!
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Jul 20th, 2005, 10:15 AM
  #33
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Kavey,

Thank you so much for your post - most informative. I was intrigued by what you said about WS staff differentiating between people staying at Mombo and Little Mombo -- what did they say?

If I go, I was leaning towards the main camp because as a single traveller, I don't want to be the 'fifth wheel' in a family group (which could conceivably happen at Little Mombo, but is less likely at the main camp because of the size).

Cheers,
Julian
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Jul 20th, 2005, 10:23 AM
  #34
bwanamitch
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Kavey,

I totally agree with you.

And thank you for the info on Savuti Camp. This camp was like a dream destination for me, based on a picture I saw in a WS brochure back in the 90s. Unfortunately, in 2003, it happened to be the worst disappointment I've ever made during my Africa travels - the first and only time I've ever cut short a stay at a safari camp. And even today I get really angry about this, since even after two years WS havn't managed it to mention these walkways in any brochure or on their website. Other people would sue them...

Mitch
 
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Jul 20th, 2005, 10:47 AM
  #35
 
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Interesting, about Savuti Camp, because we had a great experience, but we measure our safaris more in terms of game viewing, with a modicum of comfort, than whether or not there are walkways, in-room safes, etc.

I have been on five safaris and to date, I have only seen aardwolf, caracal and wild cat at Savuti, and this is what I remember.

Its a great place to see animals.
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Jul 20th, 2005, 11:48 AM
  #36
 
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Julian

I can only answer with hearsay as I haven't stayed in Mombo main camp. Firstly I've been told by both agents and WS staff that groups tend to opt for main camp precisely because they are groups and, with only three tents in Little Mombo, it's extremely hard for them to book far enough in advance to secure all three. Larger groups (of 6 or more) of course also opt for main camp. Secondly, I've also heard that those who opt for the 6 paw route tend to book Mombo main. I don't know why though would hazard a guess that it may be because they don't really envisage a difference between the two and therefore go for whichever they can get into.

Staying in smaller camps is something that's important to us. I don't think being a single traveller would have any impact as you'll be in a group on game drives and for meals and around the fire in the evening as well as in the bar and so on. But I haven't done a safari as a single traveller so that's just an impression.

Michael, I have to agree with you on your comment that our strongest memories tend to be based on what we saw and the staff too. Julian, we too had a disappointment at Savuti - having arranged our safari about 18 months in advance, WS promised us the one tent in Savuti that had a bath tub as well as a shower. We just absolutely adored the idea of sitting in the tub looking out over the bush. When we arrived we found out it had been demolished several months previously (when the walkways were added) and they had neglected to pass it on to our agent/ us. Given that it was a specific detail of the booking this annoyed me but I still can't say it was any major element of our stay. That was our encounters with wild dogs, elephants, cheetahs and other animals.
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Jul 20th, 2005, 12:05 PM
  #37
 
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Hi all,
I guess I'll chime in here...

I've spent a lot of time at Mombo over the past ten or so years and it is certainly a special place for me. I haven't spent nearly as many nights at Chief's (it hasn't been open as long either), but I have done a lot of driving down that way.

The big difference for me, trying to speak objectively, is in the game drive areas. I find the terrain further down towards Chief's has a bit more thick bush and less open floodplains than the Mombo area. For this reason, it makes the game viewing more challenging in general (though the game in both places is excellent).

I have seen Chief's vehicles on MANY occasions driving in the "Mombo game drive area" (quotes here as there really are no formal boundaries) - ususally in the Boro or Simbira areas (southern reaches of Mombo's typical driving area). That said, other than my own driving from Mombo down to explore Chief's, Mombo vehicles do NOT venture down into the "Chiefs drive areas." The simple reason, is that the game is just very good in Mombo and a bit easier (in general) to find and Chief's is a pretty long drive away.

Many individual predators (ie, the cheetahs known as the "Steroid Boys", many of the rhinos, wild dogs, and even some of the lion prides between Mombo and Chiefs) may be seen at either camp, depending on the timing of your visit.

As far as guides, camp staff, guests, etc. - you will get some of all kinds at either camp and they do switch companies some time so you may even find some who have worked at both.

Mombo's prices may dictate that it perhaps get more of the "demanding, rude, etc" guest, but I've run into this all over and I don't let it spoil my visits.

I can't say whether the price at Mombo is worth it versus Chief's - that depends upon the individual. The game at both camps is excellent though and I highly recommend both camps.

As for the walkways at WS camps, they are there for several reasons.

1. Safety of guests, especially elderly folks who may not get around on sandy soil as well as younger people. At Savuti Camp, there have been some nasty incidents with lions over the past several years and many close calls too (mainly with staff, not guests). While walkways are not "lion-proof", they are a deterrent.

2. The walkways provide a "smaller footprint" on the environment over time. The well worn paths at some camps do return to their invisible state after a camp moves or closes, but this keeps the area below a bit more pristine whilst it is running. They also discourage guests from going on their own little explorations.

If you take Mombo as an example, at Tent #6 there are almost always a group of 5-7 Dagga Boys (old male buffalos) sleeping underneath the raised tent during the night. Walking up to this tent on the ground at night without the raised walkway can be a bit dicey.

The safes in some camps are there because guests have asked for them. They give people a feeling of security and I use them just so as not to misplace things like keys, watch, etc.

James
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Jul 20th, 2005, 01:54 PM
  #38
bwanamitch
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James,

sorry, but this walkway topic is like a red rag to me.

1. In Savuti, why aren't there any walkways at that place where THE incident happened that caused this decision?

2. Why aren't there any walkways in the staff area? If you look at this aerial picture in the Mombo book, this area obviously has the "largest footprint" on the area.

3. Why don't you tell the real reason, that management told me at Savuti, and that even is written in the Mombo book?

Mitch
 
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Jul 20th, 2005, 02:12 PM
  #39
 
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OK, do tell!! My guess: does it have to do with either insurance or liability?

Also, I believe the walkways work for lion, buffalo, etc., but for leopard they are built to order! I understand that the resident leopard at one camp believes they were built for her, and she uses them accordingly.
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Jul 20th, 2005, 02:44 PM
  #40
bwanamitch
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tashak,

a transcript from Savuti Camp (shortened):

Q: Why all these walkways?
A: For security reasons.

Q: Security? Is it unsafe here?
A: We had an incident.

Q: What kind of incident?
A: An incident with a lion.

Q: What happened?
A: A lion attacked a staff member.

Q: Here, at the tents?
A: No, over there, near the staff building.

Q: So, why are no walkways over there?
A: They wanted it for the client area only.

Q: Aeehh?
A: Obviously there are two classes of people in camp...

Q: Is it more safe to walk on these walkways, I mean, doesn't a lion attack you there?
A: I don't think so. But statistically, yes. The insurance company believes it...

In the Mombo book, they mention the "footprint", and a few pages later they said, that the insurance company wants it.

Mitch
 
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