My name is Louis Varga . You prepared an African trip for us in 2010 ; Botswana , Great Migrations -May 12th ~ May 27th , 2010. Absolutely one of the best trips we've ever taken. Your handling of the arrangements was of the highest professional caliber . Wilderness Safaris' itinerary was exceptional . They say once to Africa , you'll return . Well, it seems the "Dark Continent" beckons us to go back.
Just a quick note to let you know our trip went well and the choices you made for camps, time at each and sequence were all good. The only negatives were associated with Rocktail in South Africa and we always knew we had the least control over that part of the trip.
Traveling from Livingston to Duma Tau to Xigera to Mombo was right on: We moved from a nice hotel environment to the camp closest to nature, notched up a bit at Xigera and Mombo is without doubt the finest of the Wilderness- Safari camps in terms of facilities and staff training. In general, ALL the staff in Botswana, as well as the local guides and village people are very nice, and very in-tune with making Botswana a tourist destination. We were assailed with surveys coming into & leaving every point of transit, with the aim of improving the experience and encouraging more tourists to visit.
As to viewing animals, they were pretty hard to locate at Duma Tau (we saw lots, but we had the real experience of having to really search for them, especially less common ones like the wild dogs), a bit easier at the water camp and at Mombo you practically fell over all the animals. In fact, the interest changed from simply seeing some animal to seeing how they behaved in large groups and how they interacted with other animals as part of a system. Very cool.
Wilderness Safaris has a very solid operation, the camps and staff are all very high quality, and the other guests we met were all people we easily interacted with. There were some signs of reduced tourism at all the locations except Mombo, which was and is 100% booked every night irregardless of the cost: NOBODY in that camp had managed to book a reservation less than 6 months in advance of their visit, so the fact that we locked up our reservation fully a year in advance was spot-on and very necessary.
Overall, the pace was good, with 2 night stays and a final 3 days at the best (Mombo): We didn't feel cheated in time or like we had over-stayed.
At Rocktail Beach, we arrived to find that they closed the Lodge for a major overhaul in June (we had no advance knowledge of this) and constructed a new Rocktail Beach Camp, which is where we stayed. It was by far the most primitive camp we visited on this trip (but was still pretty nice, for a camp) and while I would have hoped to acclimate my family to the camping experience at the lodge, with it's solid walls and common facilities as opposed to the fairly cold weather and flapping canvas walls we got instead, it did make moving to the hotels at Johannesburg and Livingston very welcome. The Rocktail facilities would have been easier to overlook had we been able to dive, but the seas were unusually rough for June and we never got to do our scuba diving. That happens and I can't fault anyone for the weather.
Still, a very successful trip and we want to thank you for you efforts in setting it up. The SA flights were very comfortable with the lay-flat bed / seats and if they can just figure out a way to fly the Johannesburg to JFK route non-stop (it refuels at Dakar at 2 AM and we had to empty the overhead compartments so they could make a security check, which kind of messed up the nights sleep for 2 hours) as the JFK to Johannesburg part is, it would be perfect. (The jet stream works with the plane going and against it returning, explaining the difference.)
If you have a client who can only visit 1 camp, send them to Mombo and they'll see all the animals and be pampered the most. If they can visit 2 camps I'd add Duma Tau in because they have some animals not in the Delta (cheetah and wild dogs, for example). The water camp was basically a break in Land Rover riding and we floated in canoes and got out in small fast boats to see how the animals we had already seen on land behaved in and on the water, and made a good 3rd camp. Has we been able to only travel 10 days instead of 15, the two land camps would have been the best option. Putting Victoria Falls up front is definitely better than at the end: We ran into several groups going the reverse path, from camps to Livingston, and it diminishes the effect of the camps and makes for a less-satisfying overall experience when done that way. Getting into and out of Zambia is a bit of a pain, what with the "bribes" to get in and out at the airport, and while they have animals at the hotel (which were thrilling when they were the first time we were seeing them, having not yet been to the camps), coming from Mombo with all its animals to the Royal Livingston with it's 5 zebra and 3 giraffe would have completely taken that experience of discovery away.
Thanks again. I'm attaching a couple favorite photos.
The Safari we just completed was a journey that exceeded everyone's expectations. Every aspect of the trip was first class. From the time we left Chicago, the steps we took were well thought out and maximized our time and enjoyment. The planned stops started with the Mountain Lodge and each move after (Sambura, Sweetwaters, Lion Hill and Masi Mara) increased the excitement. The order of stops was very inciteful. Our driver (Martin) was excellent in every way. His knowledge of the area and all animals we saw added invaluable information to our experience. He was always polite and went out of his way to make our trip a memorable one! I would recommend him to anyone thinking about a Safari. All in all, it was a trip that no one in our group will forget and we will always reflect fondly on our brief stay in Kenya.
Please pass these comments on to Safariline and tell them Job Well Done.
Our driver guides Simon & Daniel were absolutely Super. The staff at the Serengeti Mobile Camping were Great!! The entire trip was more than we ever expected. The mobile campin in the Serengeti was a wonderful experience... and the staff fantastic!
I have the have your final documents in my file - it was compiled with just the right infomratoin. It was a trip of a life time. it was much more than I imagined. I had no expectations as I had never traveled there and I found each lodge or tent wonderul and perfect for our experience. I would do the same trip again with no changes. The Bushdrifters were excellent - very knowledgable and made the experience so much more than just a trip. I would recommend them to anyone planning a trip to Tanzania.
This was the most organized prepared trip I've taken and the information provided before the trip was extremely helpful and easy to understand. Thank You!!
P.S. KLM is fantastic - like the "old days"!
Our safari went extremely well and all 8 of us were more that pleased with the service we received, the guides, the housing and the meals. Of course we were able to view all the wildlife both furry four footed critters and feathered friends up close and personal. What glorious photos we have. One client shot over 3000 photos!!
So here is a resume of my thoughts and suggestions.
Lodging: all properties were very good, particularly our 2 night stay at Gibbs Farm. We cannot say enough wonderful things about this property. Serena Mountain Village Hotel in Arusha was a welcome introduction to the safari. The breakfast was very good and the rooms very comfortable. The staff was very helpful. Tarangire Safari Lodge was also a good introduction to tenting and we enjoyed the view, the animals walking thru camp at night, the meals, and the staff.
Gibbs Farmwell what can one sayWow!!!
The mobile camping in the Serengeti was wonderful. Everyone was overwhelmed with the large tents and ensuite facilities. We do suggest that lighting be increasedperhaps having lamps that could hang from the center top of the tent. The crew was excellent and worked so hard to make everything happen correctly.
The meals were very good and served with care and professionalism. The soups were outstanding and the choice of menu items varied and good. I would, however ,make two suggestions. First, the last morning the chef prepared a mixed tray of fruit for breakfasta great plan rather than the individual plates we were served the other days.
Arumeru River Lodge is quite new, but the design was well thought out and the staff very cordial and helpful. The gardens are beautiful. And it is very close to Arusha National Park so our drive there was very short. We enjoyed the park and had several sightings of Colobus monkeys, but no Mt. Kilimanajaro!
Let's get down to some nitty-gritty thoughts!
I cannot say enough wonderful things about Bushdrifters. They were caring, professional and Simon and Danny could spot wildlife at unbelievable distances. They shared their knowledge and kept us on track most of the time with some input from me as I acted as coordinator for the group.
Would I use them again for another group? Absolutely!
So thank you to all of you who put this together for me. Hopefully I will be able to do it again in a year or two with a new group.
"When my bag was lost, everyone helped to return it to me the next day! "
"Our agent was helpful in all aspects and put together an excellent trip. She listed to what we wanted and planned appropriately. Great Job ! Our accommodations were all exceptions. Thank you for a spectacular trip"
" The trip was wonderful. All onsite companies, guides were fantastic. Accommodations were great. Ngorongoro Sopa Lodges seemed like it might be hvaing some problems - worn towels and shortage of dishes. But was still nice. Great Job !! "
Well, I had my initial meeting with two of the gentlemen planning the trip to S. Africa next October. It went very well. They really loved the fact that you had so many options to work with on your sample itinerary. It will make it much easier for them to just decide what parts they do not want and just fine tune it to meet everyone's needs.
Just wanted you to know that it went well and they were extremely impressed so far. All of the brochures were a real hit. They are meeting with the other couple over the weekend and they are wanting to get this trip on the books very soon.
Once again, thank you for all of your help and expertise. That is exactly why I wouldn't want to deal with anyone else.
Leisure Travel Manager
Hobson Travel, Ltd