Specialist Guide Nic Polenakis’ Trip Report – Guiding the Dan Wright Party to Uganda
Thank you for your continued support and for this amazing safari. The guests had an incredible time.
Here with my trip report for Dan, Bonnie and Marsha.
Hotel No 5
My flight to Entebbe went well and, in the morning, I met up with Marsha where we planned our next couple of days together in Entebbe. We managed to keep ourselves busy by going on a tour around town and think one of our highlights was visiting the Kings Palace and torture chambers of the Idi Amin regime. No doubt the main highlight was visiting the swamp where we managed to locate an adult shoebill as well as a host of other intriguing birds.
Hotel No 5 was a perfect place to relax and be based before our adventure began and the staff were all friendly, extremely helpful and the food delicious.
Bonnie and Dan’s flight on the 17th was delayed so after I picked them up we decided to take it easy in the late afternoon and prepared ourselves instead for our journey the following day.
Our flight and logistics to Kidepo worked very well and we were met by Eric who picked us up at the airstrip who slowly drove us into Apoka safari lodge.
Most of the staff were amazing, friendly, warm and welcoming and the food was generally very good. The general game viewing was exceptional with thousands of buffalo every day! We had good ele’s, lion, Jacksons hartebeest, bohors reedbuck, defassa waterbuck, oribi, warthog, Uganda kob and amazingly one white eared kob! (A first for me). The birding was also really good although we spent most of our time looking for the illusive cheetah which we never could locate!
The trip to the Karamojong village was great where they put on a dance for us and allowed us to explore their manyatas.
The day before we departed for Ndali we took an early morning walk and then had a lovely bush breakfast. Eric left for Ndali and we continued with the open game drive vehicles which worked out well. Dan had a back problem on safari so he was able to stand in all the vehicles which really helped relieve his pain and discomfort.
From Kidepo we flew to the Kasese airstrip, another great flight where we were once again picked up by Eric. The drive to Ndali lodge was great and the guests really loved their stay in this beautiful location. All the staff were really lovely, extremely friendly and the meals were perfect.
On our first afternoon we took a guided tour around the farm where we learnt about their farming operation and a little about the history of the farm.
The following morning, we departed extremely early for our Chimp trekking and unfortunately after an epic walk in the forest and 30 min before locating the chimps the heavens opened and it rained for the remaining couple of hours! We did finally locate the chimps however as the ground was wet the chimps decided to remain in the canopy, so the viewing was not great…We once again managed to check off a few stunning bird species which Dan really appreciated.
Ishasha Wilderness Camp
After an early morning breakfast, we drove to Queen Elizabeth National Park and arrived at Ishasha Wilderness Camp in time for lunch. Our guests LOVED this camp and mentioned it was their best camp of their trip. They also loved the area and mentioned they would have loved staying longer!
It is amazing just how much we saw in the two game drives and think the highlights were the Shoebill in the swamp, leopard in a tree as well as the incredible hyenas on our early morning drive. The Uganda kob, buffalo, elephant, warthog and of course birding did not disappoint! Despite all our efforts unfortunately there were no tree climbing lion, but I guess the leopard and shoebill made up for this!
After an early morning game drive on the 24th we returned to camp for a quick breakfast and then departed for the mountains and gorilla forest camp.
Gorilla Forest Camp
This was my first time to visit Gorilla Forest Camp and must say I really loved it. The camp is conveniently placed and nestled nicely at the base of the mountains. The trees are lovely and bird life ever present. The food was great and staff generally friendly.
Eric and I spoke about the importance of trying to track the closest gorilla family of which we managed to arrange. In saying this it was still hard going for Dan and Bonnie however we did finally catch up with them and were spoiled by the silverback and a 4-year old youngster who sat right in front of us and allowed us to capture their images and enjoy their antics! During the walk Bonnie hurt her hand and so decided to rest the remainder of the day in camp to recover whilst Marsha, Dan, Eric and I paid a visit to the veterinarian. This was very informative, and we really enjoyed the visit.
The following day Bonnie and Dan decided not to trek again and so it was agreed that I accompany Marsha on the gorilla trek and Eric would accompany Bonnie and Dan to enjoy some birding and visit the community center.
The gorilla trek was a tough hike and after a two-and-a half hour trek we located the gorillas! It was worth every step up the mountain and was probably one of my best gorilla experiences to date! The group had 19 gorillas in total with 3 silverbacks and multiple infants and juveniles. We followed them for over an hour as some of them gave us the run around as we tried to follow them on the saddle of the mountain. Marsha of course loved her experience and I of course wish Bonnie and Dan had been with us however it would have been impossible for them to follow this group.
We returned to camp at 2:00pm and then after a quick lunch went to join Bonnie and Dan at the community center who had a fabulous morning. After purchasing half the store and truly supporting the community we went for our PCR tests and then returned back to camp just intime as the heavens opened once again!
The following morning, we woke up early in time for our road transfer and then flight back to Entebbe…
This was a great Uganda safari! Thanks again and as usual if you require any further information please don’t hesitate to ask.
Nic Polenakis, Mar 2022
Photographic Safari to Kenya – Part 2
I wanted to share my trip report from my safari to Kenya and Tanzania last month. All the of the connections and covid testing went very smoothly with no issues. Beforehand I was a little apprehensive about the how the covid testing would work and the potential logistical issues getting the proper test result codes and forms needed for entry and exit. But the instructions were spot on and the pre-arranged testing went as planned. In fact at Naboisho, the test that I needed for entry into Tanzania was arranged so that we did not even need to return to camp and miss time on game drive. We met the nurse under a particular acacia tree on a particular plain; no line and no waiting.
Because of the prolific sightings, I will write one report for Naboisho, and follow-up in a week or two with a separate report for Namiri Plains.
My first stop at Naboisho in Kenya was simply fantastic! Lots of game, cheetah chases at least every day, and lots of lions. Every single night lions could be heard from the tent. Lions were even in camp. The very first morning when the askari came to my tent before sunrise to get me for game drive, as I stepped out of the tent he waved his flashlight in front of the tent to show two male lions strolling by. And then on the path walking to the vehicle, he flashed his light under a bush off to the side of the path to reveal a lioness sitting underneath it watching us walk by. It would be a sign of things to come.
Over the course of a week, we followed a mother cheetah with her two one year old cubs for several days as she hunted, and then a different mother cheetah with her three six-month old cubs for several days. With the plentiful game and opportunities for the cheetahs, it was still very difficult for them. We saw numerous cheetah chases, but most ended with hyena stealing the kill before the cheetahs had a chance to eat. It made for a lot of action throughout the days as the cheetah moms had to keep at it, while in between the rambunctious cubs would play, sometimes even drawing mom into the fun. We also encountered the Ilkisiusu lion pride several times. The Ilkisiusu pride is currently 23 strong, making it one of the small fraction of lions prides to reach super pride status. One lioness had three tiny cubs that are still too young to introduce to the pride. We found them with her hidden under thick brush close to camp. On several mornings we found the big males calling and strolling the plain in front of camp. One morning while we were sitting with the tiny cubs, camp radioed to us that there was a lion mating pair in front of my tent. Another morning we found the entire pride on a wildebeest carcass that they had taken down early in the morning.
This time of year, everything is very green and lush. It rained every afternoon but only for an hour or so, but it did not prevent us from going on game drive. In fact, it made the cats frisky and provided quite the atmosphere for fun and games with the cats. It also made for some difficult driving. We got stuck in the mud in a couple of times which made for a different kind of adventure.
There were several sightings of particular note. One was with the cheetah mother with three six-month old cubs. We had followed them for several days, seeing the mother catch prey several times only see her lose it to hyena. So the whole family was now getting very hungry. Very late one afternoon, we were watching her close in on a Grant’s gazelle; a large target for her but quite the meal if she could manage to catch it.
We had followed the cheetah mother and her three six-month old cubs for most of the day. As the afternoon rain eased up she was on the move. She is spotted as she moves through a small herd of Thomson’s gazelles. So she keeps going.
She takes a short rest as she assesses the area ahead.
Very late in the afternoon she spots opportunity. She sees a small herd of Grant’s gazelles. One of them has lagged behind the others.
She stalks through the whistling acacia, closing the gap while the cubs stay back and watch. This is what she sees; a Grant’s gazelle.
She inches closer and closer, step by step, until finally the gazelle spots her and turns to run. The mother cheetah instantly launches and takes chase. She chases the gazelle behind the far side of a thicket.
In a matter of only twenty seconds, we round the near side of the thicket to find that a hyena has already stolen the gazelle from the cheetah. The gazelle is back up but now the hyena has a hold on it. The hyena pulls it back down. But the cheetahs want the gazelle back. The hyena starts to feed but the bold cheetah cubs move in hissing and provoking the hyena.
The hyena repeatedly jumps at the cubs… causing them to quickly jump back. This is very dangerous for the cubs.
But the cubs are very hungry and have not had a good meal in several days. They are irate and keep taunting the hyena. They actually try to push the hyena off of the kill, each time jumping back as the hyena pushes back.
It’s chaos as the cheetahs also try to keep the annoying jackals at bay. The cubs keep pushing. But the commotion draws in another hyena.
One hyena is already a huge problem. But two?
The mother cheetah knows it’s now a lost cause. She’s gives one last look at her stolen kill and withdraws. The cubs also know they have no chance, but they linger a little longer, watching their meal disappear.
Another exciting sighting… Early one afternoon the rain started to pick up. Despite the poor weather, we were not about to be deterred and decided to press on rather than return to camp. The sky turned ominous. We could see a wall of rain closing in. So we quickly unrolled the canvas flaps on our vehicle and hunkered down. For nearly half an hour, the rain hammered us while we scurried around inside trying to plug holes and keep water from pouring onto camera equipment.
About thirty minutes later, the rain eased, turning to a sprinkle. We hopped out to open up the vehicle again and tie the flaps up to the roof. The rain came so fast and hard that the water accumulated on the plain we were on. It would take a bit of time for all of the water to sink into the soil. We would have to be careful not to get stuck in the mud. Just as we finished tying the flaps up and climbed back into the vehicle, we spot a lion on the plain heading in our direction. Then another. And another. And another. It was the Ilkisiusu pride! We don’t even have to move the vehicle… they are headed right toward us. We count 10 lionesses and sub-adults, and two little cubs that we estimate to be about 3 months old; about half of the pride is here.
After play time the pride settles down as the sun sets.
Photographic Safari to Kenya – Part 1
The trip was absolutely superb! The game viewing was fantastic and everything went very smoothly, including the covid testing. While the multiple covid testing and having to upload to Panabios and getting QR codes was a pain, getting the testing done was seemless. At Naboisho the test was administered while on game drive so we would not have to take much time out from game viewing.
I need some weeks to write up a proper trip report. But for now, in summary, I have never seen so many cheetah chases. So many cheetahs, some with cubs. Many chases ended with kills only to have it stolen by hyena. One cheetah mother caught a Grant’s gazelle, only to have it stolen by a hyena before she could even suffocate it. We had followed this cheetah family for several days during which the mother either missed or had her kills stolen, so they had gone several days without a proper meal. So this time the cubs were so outraged that all three kept running in trying to antagonize the hyena and actually tried to push it off the kill. All the while jackals were coming in and the cubs were also trying to chase off the jackals. It was pandemonium.
We saw the entire Enesikiria lion pride at Naboisho, which numbers at 23 lions, all together in one spot including with the males one evening. It rained many afternoons but only for about 30 minutes. So we had fun with Enesikiria pride playing in the water that accumulated on a plain. Other highlights included lions nearly catching a zebra, lionesses at play with their cubs, a lone baby wildebeest that somehow became separated from its mother was targeting and chased by a cheetah. We thought that it was all over for poor baby wildebeest, but went berserk and completely surprised the cheetah and so turned the tables and chased the cheetah off, a caracal on the hunt, another cheetah family losing their kill to another hyena then was chased by lions, cheetah getting chased off kills by baboons on multiple occasions, another occasion of a lion stalking a cheetah family, and much more.
Like I said, I need some weeks to write a proper trip report and sort photos. But for now, here are a few teasers.
Chris Swindal, Feb-Mar, 2022
Highlights of Rwanda Safari and Gorilla Trekking
Dear Elena – We are back! We can’t thank you enough for planning such a fabulous trip. It was truly special and we couldn’t have thought of a more unique and special anniversary trip.
Magashi was wonderful – our guide Isaac was so much fun and we got very lucky having just one other couple in our vehicle who were experienced travelers. On the last afternoon and morning we had the vehicle to ourselves! The game viewing in Akagera was great – less animals than Okavango or Kruger of course but they were less used to humans and that made it feel more wild and very fun (especially the close elephant encounters – all the elephants were so curious as to who and what we were!). The food at Magashi was the best we have had anywhere – it was unbelievably good. The boat rides on the lake were really special.
Bisate was out of this world. We felt so lucky to be there over the other camps/lodges because it was so unique. The rooms and the views are spectacular. Our room was incredible. We had massages in our room on two of the afternoons. Finding the chessboard in it was such a surprise! Thank you so much for that thoughtful gift – we will treasure it. The gorilla treks were unforgettable. Due to the fact that the park is still at 30% capacity we had small groups and it was easy to get put on an “easy” level hike. We were blown away by how stunning that area is. I thought it would be hours of hiking uphill through dense brush in the rain and instead we had a gorgeous 30 minute (relatively flat) walk through farms with lots of flowers before we did the uphill part through the bamboo forest (and that wasn’t too bad or hard despite the fact I was not in good physical shape). And it was sunny both days! All of the covid testing felt seamless – we couldn’t believe it. Our last covid test was in the wine cave at Bisate!..
Linda and Jason Ephraim, Feb 2022
Private Safari to Tanzania
After taking a week to allow our safari to Tanzania to distill a bit, I can reflect on it more thoughtfully.
Thanks to your company and to Szilvia in particular for guiding us through this “trip of a lifetime”, which is an overused phrase but is the only way to describe it. While it took four years to come to fruition (from planning, continuous and constantly changing disruptions from Covid, changes to family participants, ice storms) it was a grand, fabulous, well planned and executed trip.
Hillary was, of course, an excellent guide, host, and educator. We enjoyed getting to know him personally as well as professionally and was a wealth of knowledge; he was a great facilitator when any questions or needs arose and was good at changing plans on the fly to expedite our trip. He was perfect for us. Naomi was friendly and efficient. All transfers and facilitators were on time, friendly, and knowledgeable. It was reassuring to be navigated seamlessly in what could have been chaotic and confusing situations.
The accommodations were varied (exactly as we had requested) and positioned well in our safari. Staff throughout were friendly, well spoken, and open to any request or question. It turned out that our stay at Kilimamoja Lodge was especially well placed as Brian was not feeling well when we arrived and all the staff were very concerned and caring towards him. A waiter (don’t have his name) and the Chef went out of their way to make sure he was comfortable and to create a special menu brought to the room to help him feel better. We were disappointed that the Treetop walk had to be cancelled and have not yet seen the refund for that; is it still being processed? The night drive in that area was not very productive (understandably can happen) and I am glad I had the experience (Brian didn’t participate) but would not do it a second time. Camp Zebra was quite an experience and we enjoyed being so involved with the animals and appreciated the staff. . We did have a few problems with chronic very low water flow, toilet malfunctions, and a lot of confusion with laundry. In fact, we only had laundry service twice and they not only confused our items with other clients both times (the camp was occupied by three of Szilvia’s groups including us) but I never got back a pair of socks that were apparently lost. Hillary inquired for me but they could not find them.
As each day passes we have both found we miss Africa and our experiences more. We can understand why people do multiple trips, feel a connection to the people, land, animals, and landscape, and skies. We hope to return again sometime, with more family members. Thank you all at Africa Adventures for what you do so well and for what you did for us.
Kindest regards and thanks,
Bob Joe, Feb 2022
Galloping Gnus Safari to Kenya and Tanzania
First and foremost AAC did an outstanding job making our 14 day safari as special as our first safari in 2014. We enjoyed connecting with Emmanuel Mkenda and making new friends along the way. The COVID testing was made easy and everyone was willing to help us get our results and prepared us in presenting those results to the authorities. Of course, your team on the ground was especially helpful in helping us navigate through the exit customs of Tanzania and entry into Kenya. They are a valuable resource during this transition.
As for the safari itself, there are no words to describe the adventure we had. Other than, it was absolutely amazing, action filled and breathtaking. Our camps were perfectly located in the areas to start our game drives each day.
We enjoyed the conveniences of Lion’s Paw Camp inside the gates of Ngorongro Crater. Hershel, camp manager checked in daily to see if we needed anything to make our stay more comfortable. The food was delicious and boxed lunches were tasteful. We would be happy to stay there again.
The Zebra camp in the Serengeti was also a nice camp…The staff were friendly, kind and wanted to make our stay memorable. The food was delicious, other than it would take the staff several minutes to serve the next course. Staff were on time when we scheduled our showers and morning wakeup calls. The camp was clean and our tents were always made up and ready for us when we returned from our game drives.
We were very fortunate to stay at the new Offbeat Ndoto camp. This was a huge surprise and a welcome luxury after having a rough start to our safari. I thank Jennifer, manager of Offbeat Mara, Bob, manager of Offbeat Ndoto and his staff for being so accommodating and making our stay the highlight of our trip. Chef Dominic was outstanding. The food was definitely 5-star. Abigael, tent assistant was our little magical fairy. We would leave our tent and come back to the most magical setting in the Mara. Paul, forever will have my heart for making me the best cup of tea I ever had. Stanley and Capin were the most animated and excellent guides. I enjoyed Capin’s history lessons of the Mara and his view on the future of his home. Stanley was always accommodating in maneuvering the truck to get the most light and compositions for our photos. He tried so very hard to get a giraffe silhouette for a sunset photo, Alas, it didn’t happen, but we still enjoyed Africa’s most beautiful orange sunset with an Acacia tree.
The game drives are always dependent on the wildlife, nature and weather. This trip showed us a little piece of what it would be like to safari in the wet season, The rains came late this year and the grasses were lush green. What would be dry roads, they were muddy and soggy. A very different adventure for sure. The wildlife seemed content and happy to have the abundance of food and cooler weather.
As always, we think the amount of days will be long enough for a safari in Africa. But, once we are home and reviewing our photos and reminiscing about our stay, we wished we would have made our visit longer. Szilvia, you have been an excellent point of contact. We always enjoy your input, direction and management of our Safaris. You are a valuable source to Africa Adventure Company. Ken and I thank you from the bottom of our heart for your efforts.
Have a wonderful day. Until next time when Africa calls…
Doreen Lawrence, Feb 2022
Tanzania Flying Safari
Just back from a wonderful safari in Tanzania. The rains finally arrived with us and we watched the plains turn green and the migration arrive. The highlight was witnessing the birth of a wildebeest from the placenta showing to the first walking and nursing by baby. The strength of the little one and the mother is amazing and watching the imprinting occur among thousands of other wildebeests is remarkable.
We felt so safe and free in the camps, Covid seemed a world away. It seems a great time to take advantage of the low volume of travelers and the camps are so grateful for the patronage. All the staff is vaccinated and guests have been tested twice before their arrival in camp. AAC set everything up and we were handled seamlessly from start to finish.
Mara Perkins, Feb 2022
The Best of Tanzania and Kenya
We are finally recovered and sort of caught up from our marvelous trip.
Just like our trip to Southern Africa in 2019, this trip was amazing. From the logistics (made MUCH more complicated by COVID) to the places, accommodations, guides, etc., everything was outstanding. You all do an amazing job!
– saw the Big 5, including 6 rhinos in one day at Ngorongoro Crater.
– achieved our goal of seeing cheetahs (way overachieved this goal, which is great). In fact, we saw 7 cheetahs in one day and also watched a cheetah stalk, chase, take down, kill and eat a baby wildebeest!
– watched a herd of wildebeest cross a river. Another Circle of Life moment as wildebeests are not well designed for swimming and several lost their lives!
This was our first experience with tented camps, both permanent and mobile. We were very pleasantly surprised at how wonderful the tents were. Very luxurious. It took a little getting used to the camps where there was no running water in the tent for showers. But it was a fun experience. Loved having coffee delivered to our tent, especially Tanzanian coffee.
We enjoyed all our accommodations but the tent at Olmara Camp was our favorite – spacious and relaxing. Too bad the weather didn’t cooperate for the Stargazer part of our tent! The road into Olmara was atrocious- thank goodness, we didn’t have too much rain or we might never have made it in or out of the camp!
The food was excellent – we are still trying to figure out how they get their supplies as many of the camps were VERY remote. The best food was at Offbeat Mara Camp – it was unbelievable! And they sure did Valentine’s Day right – roses, chocolates and champagne in our tent!
Our guides….wow! The camp guides at Tortilis in Amboseli and at Offbeat Mara were awesome. Knew their area and wildlife very well. And Servuli – our guide in Tanzania! What a wealth of information he was. So knowledgeable and educational! We learned so much from him. He clearly loves what he does and loves sharing it with us…
Thanks again for a trip of a lifetime…again!
Ann and Tom Slaughter, Feb 2022
Private Safari to Tanzania
Hi Szilvia and team,
We had a FABULOUS time! Once we got all the pre-paperwork complete, and all the COVID related items taken care of, it was smooth travels. At every step of the way, we felt cared for, safe and pampered! This includes the multiple PCR tests we had to take. All went so smoothly, we even had a test in the middle of the Serengeti! We loved the choices of accommodations, the food was outstanding, the people we met were so kind, happy and friendly. I felt as if we made friends at every stop. I especially want to highlight Emmie and Ana at the fantastic Acacia Farm Lodge as well as the chef. The entire staff at Ndovu Tent Camp were so fun and wonderful. The entire staff at the Zebra Tent Camp were FANTASTIC, but especially Peter and Andrew. The chef was kind enough to let us “tour” his tent kitchen. The meals that came out of that small tent were 5-star!! The young Masai man who escorted us and guarded the camp had the most beautiful smile, so even though we couldn’t communicate well, he was such a kind and friendly young man.
The stop at the Masai village was very educational. We had fun dancing and interacting with the people. We also enjoyed our conversation with the chief. It is impressive what he is doing to move his people toward education.
Last of all, Wilson, our guide, had such a passion for Tanzania, and a love for the wildlife that our trip went from outstanding to EXCEPTIONAL!! He was so calm, mature, wise, and knowing. He answered all our questions about not only the wildlife that we saw, but the system of government, tribal affairs, conservation efforts, collaboration with other nations, etc. He also guided us in the fine art of negotiations when purchasing souvenirs! On the first day alone we saw antelope, warthogs, hartebeest, ostrich, about 20 varieties of birds (which he was expert on identifying), steenbok, elephant, giraffe, 2 types of gazelle, lions (which we saw 8 days in a row!), waterbuck, leopard tortoise, vervet monkey, mongoose, and baboon!! Add to that cheetah, leopard and rhinos on the following days. He was patient with our questions, taught us lots of Swahili, and we all laughed a lot!! When we return to that region, I will be requesting Wilson again.
I left Tanzania with such a love for the people, the country and the wildlife, and a very good impression of the Tanzanian efforts to protect their resources.
Thank you for your professionalism, your patience with all the rescheduling, and your care of us on the trip.
Cheryl Minnick, Jan-Feb 2022
Highlights of East Africa – Safari to Kenya and Tanzania
To all of you who enabled our journey to Kenya and Tanzania, We truly enjoyed the trip of a lifetime! The trip was seamless except for a few minor hiccups…….like our lost gourmet lunch that might still be traveling back and forth from Kilimanjaro right now and a late pickup when we arrived in Nairobi. Some long days traveling…….I continued to tell our group that no matter how many hours we traveled, we would be over the top happy when we arrived. I was right every time!
The people, the camps, our guides and the animals were extraordinary. We miss them all! We pinched ourselves hourly to remind us of where we were and what we were honored to participate in and observe. We danced, we sang, we rode horses, we hiked, we observed animals both great and small, we ate way to many incredible dishes and drank way too much with great pleasure with new local friends and old friends.
There are no words to describe how full our hearts and memories are right now and forever, due to this adventure you orchestrated. We try to describe it to people but have found words cannot describe what we “lived” We find we tell people they must go with your website and name. We do believe many are listening!!
Thank you all for the paperwork support, the hand holding, and the amazing planning!!
We are looking forward to 2024 when we hope to return……..start planning for us to hopefully return with our 14-year old grandson!!!
Ellyn and Bruce Olander, Jan-Feb 2022
The Best of Southern Africa
Here is my more detailed report which was fun to write as it brought back such memories.
Glad to be back in the Good Ole USA but to live life go to the African Bush. Where else can you
–have a sundowner under a tree gazing up at a leopard
–see an ostrich being chased down by a pack of wild dogs though thankfully we missed the kill
–be absolutely drenched by a downpour but get rewarded with sightings of rhinos, an active pride of lioness and wild dogs
–see flying rainbows otherwise known as bee-eaters and lilac breasted rollers
–have your Land Rover bested and turned around by a single lone elephant
My brother’s favorite African saying was, “Why does anyone want to come to Africa?”
Away from the camps we wisely chose to see Soweto — learned so much and saw sites that were difficult but needed to be seen — and Victoria Falls — yes it smokes and thunders! Guides, Precious at VF and Pisho in Johannesburg, were both A+ as were all the guides. They are not only highly skilled but most attentive. Is good to be with them over several days as they start to relax and you see their humor and passions. We were never fearful but always felt secure and knew we’d be ok whether we were catching a small charter flight on a grass runway or getting across a border or being in the bush after dust trying for that last sighting of the day.
Other general observations:
Our camps were wisely chosen for us as we experienced different terrains and animals from the dryness of Savute to the aquatics of Okavango to the wildness of Moremi and Xakanaxa but Sabi Sands is a gem of a reserve. Nowhere else did we see cheetah and white rhinos so marked off the big 5 and Notten’s is a great intro to Camps for first timers.
Big game are the stars I suppose but smaller sightings are special too. Dung beetles and owls and warthogs and the graceful impala and resident hippos at Camps O and X.
The food is very good and if you are adventuresome, you can try kudu stew and mopani worms. Yum. And how about High Tea and after dinner drinks by the bonfire? Now that is cultured living. The camp bars aren’t bad either.
Good people like to Safari. Met persons from all over the world which is a fun experience and Safari people are just kind and curious and thoughtful and fun.
The people of Africa are a joy. They are welcoming and care so much for family and community. It is just like getting together with old friends from KY.
So thank everyone at AAC for this adventure and when you see Szilvia pass on our regards and our many thanks…We hope to return to Africa (though the 16 hour flight across the Atlantic is brutal) so will give you a call. During my day I’ll find myself smiling as I remember an Africa moment. And all thru our 18 days on the continent we just kept saying, can you believe we are really here and can you believe how smooth everything is going and why did we wait so long to do this? And did I mention the African night sky!!! Wow, all those stars!
Julie Hurst, Apr-May 2022
Premier Private Flying Safari to Botswana
Everything was exceptional! The game viewing was spectacular – really, really lucky sightings.
All the lodging fantastic including Zimbabwe. All staff all at the lodges were very, very friendly.
Our specialist guide, Dave Carson, was perfect with the kids.
The team in the Johannesburg International Airport was excellent – very good with both arriving and especially at departure.
All in all, a very special adventure.
S.L, Apr 2022
Safari to Botswana and Zimbabwe
I am finally feeling like I am back in our time zone. You did it again! Another spectacular trip planned by you and AAC. The companies you use do a great job of keeping us informed and up to date with the status of our flights and meeting us when they need to. Everyone was amazed at the logistics involved in getting us from place to place. The guide at each camp was knowledgeable, passionate, and enthusiastic about our being there. We were the only group at Linyanti, which was very nice. I like the fact that all of the places we stayed at were very small. The only time we saw more than two people was at Thorntree. Loved being in Botswana at the time of the year when the grasses are green as opposed to the two other trips in August and September, when everything was brown.
A few things of note and highlights:
Loved every place we stayed. I imagine we stayed at camps in the order that the flights would make sense. When we got to Somalisa Expeditions, after the AC at Thorntree, it really seemed remote. But we liked it.
Your ground operators and guides are the best. We loved what the African Bush Company is doing in the communities where they have their camps.
* Banda, our guide from Khwai, gave us a tour of the community he grew up in and showed us how the African Bush Camps was helping his community.
* Joe, our guide at Linyanti, was a group favorite and we became known as Joe and the girls! He was the best tracker, teacher, and just so full of life!
* Philip at Thorntree took us through Victoria Falls and an amazing drive where we thought we would walk to the rhinos, but they surprised us and walked right out of the bush and right at us as we were getting ready to get out of the vehicle.
* The helicopter ride at Linyanti was really special and a real blast. So cool to see the area from above e.
* Great food at all of the camps. The chefs were just amazing and were very accommodating to those of us who did not eat beef, pork, or lamb.
* The staff at all of the camps were exceptional and very appreciative of us being at their camp.
This was my third trip with AAC for Africa, plus one trip to New Zealand and Australia and I will continue to recommend you and AAC to my friends and anyone else I know who is thinking about taking a safari trip.
Again, thank you for all of your help in putting this trip together, then rescheduling two times.
Diana Leferovich, Apr 2022
Safari to Botswana and Zimbabwe
Thanks to Elena and all staff. We had a wonderful trip. The attention to detail in all of the planning is amazing. We were very impressed with the ease of the all the connections on land. A very smooth return trip even with bad weather on our last day. Safari logistics took care of us every step along the way.
We enjoyed all of the camps and staff. The facilities were all great. The guides were extremely knowledgeable and accommodating to our every need.
I will highly recommend AAC to anyone traveling to Africa. Thankyou
Jill Meyers, Apr 2022
Safari to Botswana and Zimbabwe
The trip was wonderful and we all have commented on what a great job you and the staff at Africa Adventure Company have done regarding the logistics of each leg and who was meeting us when and where. Everything went like clockwork and there was a lot of logistics involved.
Regarding the locations, I would probably prefer to do the most remote and rustic location, Somalisa Expeditions, first and the more upscale camps toward the end of the trip when we are tired. All camps were great, different and fun in their own way. The guides were really knowledgeable and did a great job and the food was excellent! The staff at each camp was upbeat, happy and treated us like queens…
Thanks again for a great safari adventure and I recommend your company every time someone asks about my safari trips!
Janet Pellicciotti, Apr 2022
Photographic safari to South Africa’s MalaMala Game Reserve
Hi AAC team!
It is now about 10 days since we returned from another exceptional safari adventure in South Africa. I am slowly and somewhat methodically going through 10s of thousands of images. While leopards were the stars of the show as we had sightings on 18 of 19 game drives, painted wolves (wild dogs), rhino, elephants, lions, monkeys, zebra, giraffe and birds played incredible supporting roles and provided me with some incredible photographic opportunities.
But, I’ll start at the beginning. After a 13.5 hour non stop flight from Newark to Jo’Burg we were met at OR Tambo airport and whisked through passport control. Fortunately, the lines were almost non existent and within minutes we were checking in at the Intercontinental directly across from the airport. The hotel is wonderful and the staff both helpful and friendly. We were able to secure an outside table for a delicious dinner accompanied by some lovely South African wines.
We had a 10am 40 minute flight to MalaMala the next day via Skukuza airport. While we could have easily taken our bags to check in the hotel bell staff wheeled our luggage to the check in gate and directed us to where our gate was located…
Once we landed at Skukuza a representative from MalaMala greeted us and once our checked bags had been retrieved we headed out to the camp.
Typically, I have a camera ready just in case but rarely have I used it during the transfer. On this trip however we saw plenty of general game and it was a nice preview of what we would see going forward.
We arrived at MalaMala and were greeted by Vusi the general manager and Kevan our guide for the next nine nights. Having been to Rattrays camp a number of times it felt like coming home. We were shown to our suite which had a wonderful view overlooking the Sand River. To keep us entertained while we unpacked there were a few male nyala (a beautiful medium sized antelope), vervet monkeys and some resident birds. The trill of the woodland kingfisher, one of my favorite bird sounds, greeted us as well.
Tea is served at 3:30 and the presentation is incredible and the food delicious. In addition the chef accommodated my special dietary needs not only for tea but for all my meals.
Game drives every day were fantastic. Kevan was a wonderful guide and put us in great photographic positions to get some very special images. He is both very knowledgeable and personable and so we hit it off immediately. He understood what we wanted to see and tried his best to put us in position to both experience the wildlife as well as get great photos. Sometimes the sightings were more sensory as when hyenas were on a carcass or when 6 lions were roaring in unison at night. The sounds of the bush, whether the morning chorus of birds, the low rumbles of elephants, snorting of rhinos or soft chuffing of leopards calling cubs are something that make the experience so much better. But when lions roar and you feel the sound waves hit your chest it is truly of a different dimension. That is Africa at its finest.
Rather than detail sighting after sighting I will simply say that every game drive, 19 of 19 gave us something special. Whether leopards with cubs, mating lions, painted wolves crossing a river, herds of elephants within touching distance, beautiful birds and being able to photograph a rhino whilst laying on my belly from 30 feet away we experienced everything I could have hoped for.
The staff at MalaMala Rattrays camp was just fabulous. From the wait staff and bartender to the housekeepers to security and everyone else we were made to feel at home. Boma dinners are always special but we even had a nice romantic dinner away from the rest of the guests on our last night.
Even though it has only been 10 days and the memories are fresh I cannot wait to return. Every trip is different, every game drive has the potential to experience something not only unique to me but possibly never seen by anyone.
Thank you to the Africa Adventure Company… Mark, you and your team have been my African safari specialist travel agents for almost two decades. The next safari can’t come soon enough!
All the best,
Eric and Karen Gurwin, Mar 2022
Luxury Botswana Flying Safari
Alison, we just returned from our recent trip to Botswana and would like you to know what a great trip we had. You and your staff did a superb job of arranging our itinerary for the entire trip.
This was our third trip to Botswana. Everything went off like clockwork. Again, the meet and greet team was outstanding, they met and greeted us as we exited the plane and helped us thru immigration and then off to the Intercontinental. The next day they collected us and issued us thru the airport for our flight out. OUTSTANDING!! It made going thru the terminal so much easier.
We visited our favorite, Duma Tau, first. The new improvements were over the top! Great staff, as always. The food was super good as was chef Shane.
We then went to Jao. Wow!! What a beautiful camp. Again, great staff, great food, and chef Emil was at his best.
Then we went to Mombo. The land of plenty lived up to it’s name. WOW, again. Great staff, great food, and great game drives. Outstanding views from the camp.
The game drive guides were all very good and as usual, were most experienced and knowledgeable.
Thank you and your staff for another great trip!
Stan and Carol Pugmire, Mar 2022
Safari to Botswana including Duba Plains Game Reserve
If you want to visit Botswana – come now! Camps are empty, very safe Covid protocols in place. It is probably safer here than the USA!
Wildlife viewing out of this world…come quickly!
Kathleen Sullivan, Feb 2022
Wildlife Safari to Botswana
Thank you, thank you for organizing such a great trip. It was completely magical — Botswana remains my favorite safari destination. I loved the 3 Kwando camps which were new to me. Everything at them was just right — unobtrusive but attentive service, great food, beautifully situated camps, eco-friendly, and most importantly, great guides and trackers. The guides were so very knowledgable and professional; I appreciate the big commitment Kwando makes to training. Wilderness Safari is always great and it was fun to go back to Chitabe, a favorite of mine with great guiding and sightings.
Camp life: 13 night trip: 6 nights there were other guests and 7 nights I was the only one in camp. I only shared a vehicle on 3 days (and they were a really great couple, so it was a nice break from traveling solo). One silver lining of covid is that I am asked if I want to eat alone or with others which is nice since I typically prefer to eat alone. The weather was very good — some rain, but the guides were really good at dodging storms to the minute. Like you said, the storms were exciting and also a relief from the heat. Also the birds were all in full mating mode — colors, nest building and displays. The hot weather meant I was happy with our early starts and long afternoon breaks.
I started at Tau Pan in the Kalahari where I saw TWO Caracals which are so rare — my guide hadn’t seen one since 2015. The birding was also great, but the real star for me was the flowering grasses: gold, green, silver, pink, orange, all different textures waving in the breeze — better than wildflowers!
Splash in the Delta was next — I love the contrast to the desert. I had an terrific guide/tracker team (Tejay and Eric). Tejay was amazing at picking up my interest level: when I wanted to stay, when I was done. He also understood how much I like to sit in silence. So we had “meditation” time each evening — just sat for 30-60 minutes when the light was golden, some animals around and listened to the bush without talking. I loved my Mokoro ride — so gentle and peaceful. The game was very calm here and at Lagoon which made for great photography opportunities. Super sightings: lion, cheetah, and leopard. Plus beautiful carmine bee-eaters.
Lagoon was the prettiest camp with the most luxurious rooms. They had lots of nooks to relax in and I fell in love with the elevated library, breezy, view, comfy seats, and quiet. We (this is the camp where I had companions in vehicle) had a beautiful evening boat ride. The guide’s expertise in weather sense was masterful since we got to watch the spectacular sunset and incoming storm and then arrive back to camp exactly as the rain started. Great cheetah and lion sightings.
Chitabe was my last camp for 4 nights. I had really good memories of the sightings at this camp from a prior visit and it didn’t disappoint. I focused on predators hunting and saw hunting by dogs, leopard, lions (twice) and cheetahs. We stayed one to four hours at each good sighting. We had such a good sighting of a hunting cheetah and her 5 half grown cubs (they hadn’t been seen for 4 months), that the camp sent out lunch. We ate it while another guide “babysat” the cheetahs until we were done eating. We also saw lion cubs suckling, very special. Goodman is a master tracker relying on the behavior of other animals — so impressive. He guided Alison Nolting (link to blog post) recently and was very pleased to be able to show me everything she had seen and some things she hadn’t!
A few things on traveling with Covid that might be helpful to others. I felt very safe in camp and protected while traveling. Compared with my trip 6 months ago, everything has gotten easier. I got my test at Newark a few hours before departing. Since this meant I didn’t have to be re-tested in Johannesburg and risk a quarantine there, I highly recommend it. On the return, the covid test at Chitabe was a trip highlight since they sent out a helicopter(!) to me on game drive! I didn’t miss a moment of safari. Sure beats adding an overnight in Maun and it was priced so reasonably. So many covid forms to fill out! Makes memorizing your passport number and dates worth it — I certainly had done so by the end!
A perfect trip! I can’t wait to go back!
Patricia Little, Feb 2022
EGYPT and JORDAN
Royal Egyptian and Jordanian Tour
What a fantastic trip. I had a wonderful 15 days touring Jordon & Egypt. Every one of the guides was knowledgeable, personable and very informative. I can highly recommend both Mr. Jihad Al Masri and Mrs Noda Sedky. On my return trip I had a second woman Egyptologist Abeer Hammad because Noda had a family emergency. She also was very personable…
I was taken to all of the promised sites in Jordon (except Shobak Castle only because we were trapped four hours in a sandstorm and the castle closed before we could arrive.) But to make up for the missed site, an unscheduled trip to Aqaba and the Red Sea was arranged…
Both Covid tests occurred without incident and the results were prompt. Thank you for taking care of that. The Egyptian doctor would not accept credit cards, only cash. I paid in US, but pounds were acceptable.
Getting the Egypt visa was most interesting. The airport assistant asked if I had the $25. I assured him that I did. He said give it to the gentleman. I did. The gentleman handed me the visa. Never asked to see my passport. Never asked a single question. The airport assistant applied the visa to my passport.
You should know that the admission tickets to the additional tombs in Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens could only be paid in Egyptian pounds. The area was so remote that the connection to use credit cards is unreliable. American money was not accepted. Luckily I had Egyptian pounds but another couple who tried to use a credit card had to have the guide pay in pounds and then reimburse him in US dollars. Luckily he had enough money to cover their tickets.
The ATM’s exchange US dollars for pounds, but tend to give large (200 & 100) notes which can be difficult to use.
Again the people are grateful for the American dollars, but I exchanged crisp US money for some really used cash that tourists had used and the Egyptian guides could not use because banks would not accept them. Luckily I had carried some large US dollars ($50’s & $100’s) so I was able to make this exchange for them. Of course that was less money I could use in country.
The Villa Belle Epogue hotel was a haven from the Cairo insanity. It is a little dated (as is the Winter Palace) but it was clean, quiet and comfortable. The food was excellent. I was very glad I chose this place over the chain hotel. Only drawback is that it took over an hour in Cairo traffic to reach the hotel.
Thank you for introducing me to Dan, Bonnie, Peter, Helen & Eric. I so enjoyed talking with others who have the same traveling philosophy and love of Africa.
Cindy Johnston, Mar 2022