Please rate your favorite Botswana camps in order...

Old Jun 21st, 2005, 05:07 PM
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Please rate your favorite Botswana camps in order...

1. Mombo?
2. Tubu Tree?
3. Etc.
4. Etc.

Thanks!
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Old Jun 22nd, 2005, 04:45 AM
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1 Little Mombo
2 Duba Plains
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Old Jun 22nd, 2005, 07:58 AM
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I think this is an impossible question to answer simply, as I loved all three of my camps which were all totally different. So, here it is based on various criteria.

Best for general plain game and elephants:
1) Duma Tau
2) Mombo
3) Kwetsani

Best for "big game"/predators
1) Mombo (30 lions, 3 leopards, 2 rhinos)
2) Duma Tau (13 wild dogs, 3 cheetahs, 2 lions)
3) Kwetsani (one lion, 2 leopards each for a few seconds).

Most beautiful area surrounding camp
1) Mombo
2) Kwetsani
3) Duma Tau

Most beautiful camp/room
1) Kwetsani
2) Mombo
3) Duma Tau

Most diverse range of activities
1) Kwetsani (drive, walk, fishing, boat, mokora)
2) Duma Tau (day/night drive, boat)
3) Mombo (nothing but day drives, but oh what day drives they were!)

Best (e.g, most friendly/engaging) staff:
1) Duma Tau
2) Mombo
3) Kwetsani

Best guide - very difficult to answer as they all had their strengths, so I will rank only chonologically
* Duma Tau: best balance between teacher and driver/tracker
* Kwetsani: best teacher. best sense of humor. most interesting person
* Mombo: best tracker/driver

Best food
1) Duma Tau (Botswanan chef really knew how to use spices. Everyone was just blown over by her cooking. Roasted lamb best I've ever had)
2) Mombo (wine was a notch above, but food was pretty bland. Scottish chef)
3) Kwetsani

Best shop
1) Duma Tau (by far. big selection of baskets including ones made by staff)
2) Mombo (nice but mostly common things you can by at the JNB airport. no baskets at all. only open between 12-3)
3) Kwetsani (very small)

Most beautiful birds:
1) Kwetsani
2) Mombo
3) Duma Tau

Best for seeing wildlife right in camp
1) Mombo (buffalos, lechwe, other grazing game in front of camp all the time)
2) Duma Tau (elephants in camp nearly all the time)
3) Kwetsani (nothing much visible from camp)

Best guest interaction
1) Duma Tau (camp manager really made an effort)
2) Kwetsani (small camp was better for this)
3) Mombo (too many people who were there just because they can afford it vs. being genuinely interested)

That's all I can think of for now! Sorry if it made your choice even more difficult!
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Old Jun 22nd, 2005, 08:29 AM
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1. Duba Plains
2. Duma Tau
3. Mombo
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Old Jun 22nd, 2005, 09:58 AM
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I've only been to 4 but I add another two next month.

Chiefs
Savuti
Sandibe
Lagoon


I expect Mombo to be top of the list with Kings Pool in the top three.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2005, 10:38 AM
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Mombo no. 1 for location and wildlife followed by Kings Pool where we were able to do a bush walk and night drives.

Our third location was Chobe Chilwero which was good but definitely did not give one a remote bush experience. Did see a great deal of wildlife in the park though, especially large herds of elephant.

Was glad to have done Chobe first and then the experience at K. Pool and finishing at Mombo before heading to Cape Town.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2005, 05:46 PM
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Of the three I've visited:

1. Kwetsani
2. Chitabe
3. Little Vumbura

*Kwetsani had the nicest accomodations, best game viewing, most predators and just a spectacular view. There were large herds of lechwe and wildebeast grazing just off the deck during most of your stay. Also, Kwetsani has traversing rights to Handa Island, which is the concession shared by Jao, Tubu Tree and Jacana. There are only five elevated "tents" at Kwetsani, which makes for an intimate setting.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2005, 06:11 PM
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Thanks for all of the excellent responses!!!

Wow...of course, I am just more confused than ever!

Confused over the camps...confused whether or not I should go in April for the warmer weather...confused whether or not I should wait until mid-May or later for the floods but COLD weather...confused on whether or not I should split 4 nights between Mombo and Chiefs Camp...confused about Tubu Tree vs. Kwetsani...confused about choosing either Duba Plains or Vumbura Plains or both...just plain confused.

I do know that I want 12 - 15 nights on safari, and that I will likely need all the time I can get on a normal safari, rather than sharing time with Jacks Camp. Now that I believe myself to be progressing a bit as a photographer (but still a total novice), I do want to have as many wildlife spottings as possible. While the recent meekrat battle seemed interesting, other than that, I just don't think there will be too much action at Jacks Camp.

If someone put a gun to my head right now, I would go with the following itinerary, and I would probably do my safari starting around May 16th, and preceded and followed by a different European city each time (Amsterdam, Paris, London, Vienna)

Duma Tau (3)
Kwetsani (3)
Duba Plains (3)
Vumbura Plains (3)
Little Mombo (3)

The biggest fear with this itinerary is cost. If Vumbura Plains goes year-round high season pricing, this itinerary is probably not possible.

A couple things that jump out at me are the fact that Predator Biologist only ranks Mombo 3rd (behind Duba Plains and Duma Tau) and the fact that NapaMatt ranks Chiefs Camp 1st ahead of Savuti, Sandibe and Lagoon. Also worth thinking about is that fellow Fodorite, Clematis, did not have such a great experience at Mombo but did enjoy Chiefs Camp, if I am recalling correctly.

It does make me wonder whether or not I should do Chiefs Camp as my second to last camp and save Vumbura Plains for the grand finale.

I wish that Kwando Lagoon had nicer accomodations and better vehicles, as it seems to enjoy an excellent location that is primetime for wild dog viewing. I am definitely interested in seeing their new Kwara Island camp but unfortunately their website seemingly has not been updated for years!
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Old Jun 23rd, 2005, 06:19 PM
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Rocco, we never found the temperature to be a problem in late May and early June. If fact, at Kwetsane, we used the ceiling fan every night! Of course, you are from California, so warm/cool might feel different!
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Old Jun 24th, 2005, 01:07 PM
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girlpolo,

Perhaps it was just unusually cold last year. While the South Luangwa temperatures were perfect, the Lower Zambezi nighttime temperature was VERY COLD. I mean it was about 5 degrees celsius (41 degrees farenheit) at night.

It was similarly cold for our June 2003 visit to Djuma Vuyatela in mid June, while our just completed stay in South Luangwa was perfect weather-wise (probably mid-50's at night).

If I do end up going in late May / June, then I will just be better prepared. I do appreciate comfortable daytime temperatures, but I just go crazy when it gets too cold. Anything under 50 degrees farenheit really bothers me.
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Old Jun 24th, 2005, 06:29 PM
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Napamatt,

What time of year were you at Chief's Camp? Why do you rate it #1?

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Old Jun 24th, 2005, 06:30 PM
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Roccco, The one advantage of the colder mornings and evenings is less insects to deal with. We found this on our trip a few years back when we were in Botswana in July. Just remember to take along some nice wooly gloves for those early morning drives.

I ended up buying a pair at Kings Pool because I forget to take some along and my hands were so darn cold. They were the last pair ( lucky me ) and I recall another guest offering me a good deal of $$ for them, but there was no way I was going to part with those gloves, ha! ha!

The temps. did warm up nicely throughout the day and people who weren't diligent about wearing their hats and sunscreen did end up getting burned. WIth the cool early temperatures they just assumed that it wouldn't get that warm later on or that the sun wasn't that intense, I had my new gloves, a scarf and a wool cap to wear in the mornings and brought along my wide brimmed Tilley sun hat for later on.

I would choose June/July again because there were so few insects.

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Old Jun 24th, 2005, 06:35 PM
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We just got back from Botswana in early June. The temperature was very comfortable. I would say high 50's at night and mid 80's by day. About same as Northern California weather right now.

Interestingly, it was MUCH colder at the River Club near the Zambezi River. We were freezing in the middle of the night.
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Old Jun 25th, 2005, 08:39 AM
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Roccco: (this will be a little long) I'm following up on my #3 ranking for Mombo. I had some guide -- guide w/ a trainee issues where they were chatting away with each other, twice driving past lions which luckily for the other guests I spotted and had them back up to find them. Besides those and a daytime wildcat (unusual) spot that I also had we saw no predators (Jan. of 2003). Our guide was claiming that there were no cheetah left in the area due to lion concentrations and that there had been no wild dogs in almost 2 years. That was a huge sticking point for me as the entire reason I ponied up the big bucks was Mombo was still being touted as the place to see dogs. As someone who looks for rare species for a career I clearly understand that you can't always find the animals but to learn there isn't even an opportunity to find them made me feel cheated. The saving grace was I had already seen a pack of 21 on a kill at Duma Tau -- I knew better than to put all my eggs in one basket so I picked two camps that were known for dogs. Had I not seen them at Duma Tau I think I would have been furious about Mombo since I could have spent twice the nights at Chitabe instead to increase my chances for wild dogs. I did complain in writing about advertising something that hasn't been there in two years -- I got the typical drivel about wildlife movements and fluctuations but the next catalog did not hype wild dogs at Mombo anymore at least.

Our guide would wander off so he could smoke a cigarette without being seen during tea and sundowners -- gone for 10 or 15 minutes. The trainee was coming back from an accident and was physically in bad shape limping with a cane. Our rover broke down by some lions and this trainee and a repair guy stood behind the vehicle to relieve themselves in mixed company. I don't want to speak for Clematis but we exchanged e-mails and she had many similar issues a few months after me. To top it off the camp managers were like a Ken and Barbie fresh from the uppity mall. It was the only camp I have ever stayed at where I felt like the staff were servents and the managers were wealthy bosses. I know at the prices paid many people like it that way but I absolutely love to talk to the staff about where they are from, their culture, politics, etc. It is typical for my heart to hurt when I say goodbye to at least a couple of staff at most camps. We had just come from Duba Plains where there were only 4 guests and we were like family, hugs all around. In fact one of the managers parents were there and they invited us to their home in Joburg. To top it off our guide wasn't going to be there to take us to the airstrip and when I told him I had to give him his tip he begged me not to give it to the camp managers but to another guide because he didn't trust them to give it to him. On one game drive I listened to him and the trainee talk for 15 minutes about how the white South African managers didn't know anything and they were the masters of the bush -- all the while I had to make most of the spots for 3 days. Luckily I'm good!

To boil down a long story -- it appears that there was a 6-9 month drop in quality at Mombo. Virtually all reports in the last year or more seem to be very happy folks that saw so much. The tents are amazing, and I've never had better lion and hyena calls through the night -- a wonderful feeling I will never forget! Despite quite a few frustrations I saw my first rhinos, lots of general game and had a good time -- just nothing like Duba and Duma. I would go back in a heartbeat now that the guides and managers have changed. Hope that helps clarify things.
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Old Jun 25th, 2005, 09:55 AM
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Re. Mombo I really think things have changed since the bad experience PredatorBiologist had and we were just there 2 weeks ago. The camp managers were fine. The one who gave us the intro was a local Botswanan. Our guide was the most amazing tracker who seem to find leopards at will. We saw so much "big game" that on two of the drives we didn't have time to stop for the sundowner/coffee break, and one lasted 5 hours.

They're very upfront about dogs and cheetahs being quite rare now there are so many lions. I think this brings up an important point. Wildlife does move. It's really important to base your choices on the most recent information if you're set on seeing something particular. Even so, by the time you actually get there, things may change.

I loved all 3 of the camps we visited, but Mombo is the only one I will keep for our next trip. Like I said in another thread, if I didn't have any money I would sell off some possessions just to go to Mombo . The game is THAT much better than at the other camps. In the end, what we will always remember is the 30 lions and 19 cubs we watched playing together, not the extra money we spent.
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Old Jun 25th, 2005, 11:12 AM
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linjudy-

What other camps in Botswana would you recommend? We are going in September 06 and the only camp that is a definate is Mombo. We have about 10 nights on safari.

Thanks!
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Old Jun 25th, 2005, 01:00 PM
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I'm going to have to follow LinJudy's example and qualify the list depending on criteria:

Best for predators:
1) Mombo (In both 2001 and 2004, excellent on leopards, cheetah and lions)
2) Tubu Tree (2004, lots of lions, leopards mating, some of the smaller cats too)
3) Savuti (2004, great cheetah and wild dog experiences)

Best for wild dogs:
1) Savuti (2004)
2) Mombo (2001 trip not 2004 though they are present)

Best for variety of wildlife:
1) Mombo
2) Tubu Tree

Most beautiful area surrounding camp:
Can I qualify this by saying that Wolwedans in Namibia beats these for me hands down but... for Bots:
Joint 1) Mombo (such a variety of what one can see, water flooded areas, little islets, large trees...all stunning even without wildlife but that's there too)
Joint 1) Jacana (2004, magical view out from tents and main camp area over the waters which came right to tent decking, covered in lily flowers and pads and reeds and interrupted by little islets of trees)
2) Jack's (2004, not a lot to look at but the flatness of the pans and the miniature oasis of palms within which the camp sits, are quite impressive)

Most beautiful camp/room:
1) Mombo (Although not chosen for the accommodation, who could fail to appreciate it... it's stunning)
2) Tubu Tree (2004, tents are much larger than other 5 paws and nicely laid out too)
3) Jack's (2004, overall a beautiful camp with a magical feel, though the double beds are teeny and all the beds are so high they provide special steps to get into them which makes it harder to get out of bed for a loo visit if you're half asleep)

Best staff (which depends utterly on which managers and other staff are on duty during your visit so is not constant)
1) Jack's (2004, I was constantly amazed at how far the staff went for their guests and how friendly and knowledgable they were)
Joint 2) Tubu Tree (2004, two cousins jointly managing the camp lead a warm and efficient team)
Joint 2) Mombo (Elmari, manager of Little Mombo during our 2004 visit, was particularly engaging, thoughtful and helpful)
Joint 2) Jacana (2004, the young managers were such genuine people and the entire team was just a touch more friendly than elsewhere)
Joint 2) Little Vumbura (2001, a tightly knit team with the experience of working together to make things go so smoothly and friendly too)

Best guide:
1) Grant at Tubu Tree (2004, particularly excellent on birds and lions but able to find game
2) Graham Knowles at Jack's Camp (2004, even disregarding his tender age he was one of the most dedicated, knowledgable, enthusiastic guides we have had and also absolutely incredibly service oriented and wicked, wicked sense of humour, as we were all north londoners, himself included, in our vehicle during our stay)
3) B.K. Setlabosha at Mombo (2001, superb energy and his knowledge of the area around Mombo lead to incredible experiences hour after hour after hour)
* Honourable mention to James Tembe at Ndumo, South Africa who had a knack of knowing just exactly what his guests were most interested in and adapting his drives to that

Most beautiful birds:
1) Jacana 2004/ Little Vumbura 2001 (water camps rock for bird viewing)
Joint 2) Mombo 2001
Joint 2) Tubu Tree 2004 (perhaps these two are down to having such excellent guides?)


Best for seeing wildlife right in camp
1) Mombo (predators, mongoose, baboons, hippos, eles, hundreds of birds and so much more RIGHT in and around camp all the time)
2) Savuti (although we didn't see much other than zebras, the view onto the artificially fed waterhole is great and I can only imagine what it must be like when eles are present in the high numbers for which the camp is known, during dryer months)
3) Tubu Tree (the camp looks out onto a wonderful plain out back which is usually good for grazers but the highlight was the mating leopards one evening during dinner)

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Old Jun 26th, 2005, 03:08 AM
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Best guide, part of the sentence is missing:

1) Grant at Tubu Tree (2004, particularly excellent on birds and lions but able to find game like no-one else, really good at passing on knowledge, wonderful at reading the animals and birds, great sense of humour, just an amazing guide)
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Old Jun 26th, 2005, 10:18 AM
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Hi 24Lisa,

Re. which camps other than Mombo. We've only been to 3 camps, Duma Tau, Kwetsani, and Mombo. I would recommend all three without hesitation. They were all great, and more importantly, very different from each other. I think the diversity made for a great first trip for us. I don't know if we were just lucky, but there wasn't that much overlap in the "big game" we saw. For example, we saw 13 wild dogs, 3 cheetahs and an aardwolf at Duma Tau, but only one sleeping female lion, no buffalos and no leopards. At Mombo, we saw 30 lions, 3 leopards, 2 rhinos, hundreds of buffalos, but no cheetahs and no dogs.

With 10 days, you can pick 3 or 4 camps. To complement Mombo, I'd choose a water camp in the Jao concession, and another camp in the Linyanti since it looks quite different than the delta. To save money for Mombo we picked the 5-paw instead of the 6-paw camps in these other places (e.g., Kwetsani vs. Jao, Duma Tau vs. Kings Pool). I have no regrets on picking the 5-paw camps at all. They were both beautiful and very very comfortable. Regardless of which camps you choose, leave Mombo for last to end on a high note!

Judy
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Old Jun 26th, 2005, 10:25 AM
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Judy
We're with you - WS's 5 paw camps are so beautiful, perfectly comfortable, have all the facilities we need/ want and are just right for us. Mombo is the only 6 paw we opt for and that's down to the game viewing, not the accommodation, wonderful though it is.
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