CLIENT TRIP REPORTS EAST, SOUTHERN & NORTH AFRICA: OCT – NOV 2021
Plains and Primates Safari to Tanzania and Uganda
Hi Kyle and team,
We returned last evening from our wonderful safari to Tanzania and Uganda. Thank you again for planning and coordinating another amazing trip. After our initial delay due to Covid test results not being available, the rest of the trip went extremely well. I actually think it was nice for Sherri and David to get to know Mkenda a little before Tom and I arrived. The best part of our safari was our guides Mkenda and Eric. Both of them managed to accommodate the varying interests and needs of our group including photography, birding, wildlife viewing, physical activity and time for relaxation and rest.
There were no crowds anywhere which made game viewing nice, but we could see that the decrease in visitors has been hard on the people working with tourism and I think on some of the upkeep in some camps. Service was excellent and very attentive.
We saw so much wildlife including an amazing river crossing which lasted over 30 minutes and all the major big species except rhino. We did spend time driving to look for rhinos in the Serengeti. Uganda is beautiful. We liked Queen Elizabeth Park, especially the boat ride on the amazing a Chanel and the Ishasha region, but the chimps, gorillas and monkeys were the biggest highlight.
We did not have as many social experiences because of Covid19, but we did deliver some school supplies and spend a little time in a Masai village and we visited a farm in Uganda with Eric and learned about some of the issues involved in human/wildlife interactions and mitigation strategies for communities near the parks.
With regards to Covid19, my professional assessment is that the industry has worked hard to have good sanitation and social distancing in place. Many of the staff and both our driver guides were vaccinated. We ate meals with only our group except in one location where a single traveler joined us (also vaccinated). We had some interaction around the campfire in a couple of places, but overall much less interaction with other Safari-goers than on prior trips. Most people in Uganda and Tanzania seem to be going about their life without covid concerns except in tourist areas. Most of our dining was outdoors except the Serena hotel in Entebbe where tables were widely spaced…
Overall, our accommodations were good or great. In Tanzania – at Entamanu we were in the private (new) camp with no other visitors. The rooms are spacious and views amazing. At Mt. Gahinga they upgraded us to the deluxe bandas which were very nice. Lemala Nanyukie was beautiful with great amenities. Olakira is perfect for a more traditional experience although they no longer have bucket showers.
In Uganda, I personally would have been happy with one-night Mweya and 2 nights Ishasha Wilderness Camp. It’s in a beautiful location. That would still give time for an afternoon and early morning game drive and Kazinga boat tour in Northern Queen Elizabeth Park with afternoon transfer and then a whole day in the southern part of the park. Ndali Lodge was a unique and beautiful place to stay. Gorilla Forest Camp was really nice. We loved our tented room.
Matemwe (Zanzibar) was a perfect break between two active parts of the trip. The Stone Town tour was interesting. We did a boat tour with dolphin watching, excellent snorkeling and a grilled seafood lunch on the beach.
Some of the newer more lux camps have wonderful features- amazing rain showers, plunge pools, swimming pools, large bath tubs, spa services etc that are nice, but not often used if you are going on long game drives…
We are already thinking about a next trip and will be in touch.
Vikki Canfield, Oct 2021
Private Safari to Kenya
I’d like to comment on just about everything in the hopes it will be helpful to your company as well as clients…
Alison, as you know, I was extremely concerned about Covid. I have to admit, we were much safer in Kenya than we are in the US. For example: Kenya Airways would not allow the couple next to us to check in because their PCR results had not come back. Everyone on the plane wore a mask (without any arguments) unless eating or drinking. Our PCR negative results were checked again as we got off the plane. You have to wear your mask almost everywhere, sanitize your hands before entering buildings, and have your temperature taken. Someone is at the door of every establishment to be sure all of the above are done.
It was wonderful to see Jonathan walking toward us! Absolutely wonderful! Cyrus, our driver for all airport transfers in Nairobi, was very friendly and helpful. All of our transfers went smoothly.
In Nairobi, we liked the Tamarind Tree Hotel very much. The staff was very friendly and actually paid attention to their guests. The food was very good. We enjoyed all of our stays.
Joining Haron Mbugua at the airstrip was a welcome reunion. Wildlife sightings began within ten minutes of setting out for our first camp when we saw a mating pair of lions!
Entim Camp was phenomenal! The tent was great, the staff was amazing, and the food was 5 star! Every member of the staff was fully vaccinated. We could not have been happier with every aspect of Entim…I wondered what, if anything, we would see this trip that we hadn’t already seen during our three prior trips. However, every day we saw something new and very exciting – at Entim as well as Speke’s and Tortilis. I would have to say the most exciting thing we saw were four young male lions guarding their kill (a cape buffalo) from a very large number (I’d guess 20 – 25) of hyenas. We watched for four hours because it was so interesting! In addition, we saw more lions and elephants than I’ve ever seen before, cheetahs (including a mother and three cubs), serval cats (including a mother with two cubs), male ostriches doing the mating dance, several leopards, mongeese, baboons, rhinoceros, hippos, cape buffalo, a fantastic variety of birds, etc. We saw everything!
Speke’s Camp was very good, but a very different experience than either Entim or Tortilis. I took my first bucket shower!…The food was very good although there wasn’t a choice as to what you wanted to eat like at Entim or Tortilis. We did get to know the staff better than at either of the other two camps. Leko, Shinka, and the rest of the staff were exceptionally friendly and I enjoyed having conversations with them. That was a major plus because I like getting to know people…
Going back to Tortilis was great. Many of the people Jonathan worked with when we met him were still there so it was quite a reunion for him. The camp was the same as in 2011 – excellent tent, amazing staff, and 5-star food. I consider Tortilis to be the same level as Entim…
I would highly recommend Entim and Tortilis. Speke’s was very good, but perhaps a 4.5 star as opposed to a 5. All staff members were fully vaccinated at Entim and Speke’s, but not at Tortilis.
Our visit to Jonathan‘s village was beyond all expectations. It was so good to be back with his family and to meet his wife, Anastacia, and children, Richard and Gwendolyn. The children were afraid of us when we arrived (white people wearing masks), but quickly warmed up once the suitcases were opened and gifts distributed. I was able to hug and kiss them both by the end of our first visit. The Maasai are such friendly, welcoming people. I was surprised to see how happy I looked when I saw a photo of myself with Jonathan’s mother, Noolosiyo, and a baby lamb that I had fallen in love with. I wasn’t just smiling for the photo, I was smiling because I was filled with joy. It was incredibly difficult to say “goodbye” the second day. There were a lot of tears. Little Gwendolyn keeps asking Jonathan to bring me back from Nairobi. I cried for three hours the morning after we arrived home simply because I miss everyone so much. Visiting the village and being surrounded by such loving people is a blessing I hope to experience again in the near future.
The morning of the first day we drove to the village, we saw a young elephant alone in a marshy area. Jonathan and Haron reported the baby to park rangers. I don’t know if they did anything because it was still in the same place six hours later as we were driving back to our camp. We drove to Amboseli Trust for Elephants and spoke with a man named Katito. He said he was aware of the elephant, that he would keep an eye on it, and for us not to be concerned. We weren’t satisfied with that response so Jonathan called Edwin (he is one of the managers) at the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. Edwin immediately sent a local group to the site to guard the baby from predators overnight. The elephant was rescued the very next morning. He is now safely living at the orphanage. Edwin said he is approximately 2 1/2 years old and they have named him Oldepe. We will sponsor him, in addition to Musiara, as soon as he becomes available for sponsorship… Jonathan and Haron did everything possible to get that baby rescued. It was an extraordinary end to a wonderful trip!
Words cannot express what a fantastic time we had with Jonathan and Haron. Both are excellent – very professional, knowledgeable, and clearly passionate about their jobs. I was constantly astonished at their ability to spot animals so far in the distance. They were also very intuitive with regard as to how the various species of animals would behave – their accurate predictions often resulted in us getting the best positions for observation and photos…I have to say, this was easily our favorite trip of the four we’ve taken to Africa and it was largely due to Jonathan and Haron. They were awesome!…
My brother and his wife (Andrew and Becky Walsh) have been in contact with AAC as they are planning to go to Africa in the future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to go together.
Alison and the AAC team: Thanks for yet another fantastic adventure!
Cheryl Hillery, Oct-Nov 2021
Chimp and Gorilla Explorer Safari to Rwanda
Thank you! I simply can’t tell you what an incredible trip this was! Absolutely the best I ever took. Not only was I up close and personal with gorillas, I had a very easy chimp trek and fell in love with the Colobus monkeys. To end the trip, I actually got to see mating RHINOS! That was surely something I will never see again.
I loved your team in Rwanda – such a great group that you are using. Everyone was extremely professional. Everything was perfection!
Debra Umhofer, Nov 2021
Kenyan Safari Collection Luxury Adventure
We had a wonderful time. Thanks so much. Here are some comments:
Every camp gave me a birder for a guide. Thank you for setting this up! While I hadn’t thought of this ahead of time, this meant all the guides were great because if they’ve added birding to their repertoire, they’re bright and ambitious enough to be way ahead of the others even in their knowledge of wildlife in general.
The lodges were very conscientious about David’s food preferences. Each prepared special dishes and explained how they had addressed his needs…
Kenyan lodges never have much light at night, in the rooms and in the pathways. I found it difficult to manage because I have very poor balance which is worse in the dark. I needed the askari to hold my arm to get back and forth from lodge to room. The askaris were great! I recommend putting something in your literature noting low light levels and suggesting a flashlight, head lamp or small camping lantern.
Because of my difficulty with walking at night, Sala’s Camp alerted Sasaab to put me in the room nearest the lodge. This was critical to my enjoyment of the place. All the other rooms required a walk down steep stairs. If you know a traveler has walking issues, I would not recommend Sasaab unless they could be assigned to the closest room.
The small size of the Rhino Sanctuary makes it a bit repetitive to do more than 2 or 3 game drives. We found the day in the Aberdares to be a great view of a very different ecosystem. The visit to the coffee lab was also a fascinating excursion.
Thank you again for a great safari.
Sara Winkler, Oct 2021
The Best of South Africa including Madikwe and MalaMala
Hi Elena! We made it back on Saturday with the only problem being jet lag. It was a fantastic trip! You did an amazing job with our bookings and guides…
In Johannesburg, Sterkfontein was pretty good. The museum could have been better, but the caves were wonderful. Cosi was great! From there we flew into Madikwe. Amazing! Saw our first wild cheetah! I’ve been waiting a long time. Lazi was our guide and he made sure to try find the animals we most wanted to see. We almost drove over them as they were resting in the tall grass as we were looking at a giraffe. It was wonderful. The only thing we missed out on were the wild dogs and Lazi tried so hard to find them. The accommodations were over the top.
From there it was on to Blyde River Canyon. The canyon was mostly fogged in the entire we were there. I was unaware it’s like a tropical rainforest there! It was beautiful at Highgrove House, but the fog was definitely disappointing.
From there we went to MalaMala. Thank you for the upgrade! Rattray’s was amazing. Talk about over the top! The accommodations were wonderful. We had wildlife wandering in front and back of our bungalow. Also thank you for my Birthday surprise! They brought out a beautiful cake and the staff did some performances for us. Our guide was Reggie and he was fantastic. Always trying to put us in the best position to get photos! The wildlife was spectacular, but once again, no wild dogs or cheetahs.
From there we flew to Cape Town. Our guide, Howie, was great. He had so much information he shared with us, from history to demographics to geography! I can’t say enough about Cape Town. I think I would like to live there. Just a beautiful city and the people were so nice.
All in all, it was an amazing trip and you did a wonderful job, we can’t thank you enough. We’re still working on our pictures and will send some soon. Thank you!
Donna and Tom Dallinger, Oct 2021
Luxury Botswana Flying Safari
Michael and I loved our trip to Botswana! I would have to say it was our favorite safari so far. Three things made the trip incredible: the concentration of wildlife, the amazing camps, and the quality of the guides.
We really saw everything. We could have gone home after our first afternoon in Chitabe (lions, leopard, zebra, impala…) We saw lots of wild dogs, lions, baboons, hippos and 137 types of birds (we kept track). We never went a few minutes in a jeep without seeing wildlife. We loved being near/on the water, which guaranteed you always saw animals and birds.
The camps were perfect. Like our trip to Namibia, you started perfectly and they got better and better. DumaTau and Mombo are truly spectacular. Both had tents that were larger than our first 2 apartments put together. The staff everywhere were so friendly and attentive. Top notch. With so few guests, the extra personal attention was lovely. Food and drinks were delicious and plentiful everywhere.
The guides were wonderful, friendly, and exceptionally knowledgeable. They were all impressive.
I think we were a little unprepared for how hot it was going to be. I did not expect temperatures of 100 degrees in our tent in the afternoon. Not that it would have changed anything in our planning or packing, but a head’s up would have been nice.
Like our last trip, Wilderness Safaris does it all right.
A big thank you for your team at AAC for putting together our last-minute safari. It was truly spectacular.
Next time, gorillas and lemurs!
All the best,
Jill Haas, Sep-Oct 2021
Classic Flying Safari to Botswana
It was nice to finally take our safari. I will share some of our experiences…and of course the Covid requirements which were omnipresent. As we looked around the airports, it seemed that all passengers had their folders of mandatory covid paperwork and health screenings.
The biggest kudos that I may give to you, which took so much stress away from our travels were the organized transfers and pre-scheduled Covid tests. The Menzies assistants at the Johannesburg airport were knowledgeable and efficient. I was a bit surprised to see them pre-passport control. But glad for this service. The Maun airport, albeit quite small, would have been a little confusing but not for the Moremi staff in assisting with tickets/luggage.
Our road border crossing from Kasane, Botswana and into Zimbabwe was a sketchy location. However, our Zimbabwe driver, Douglas, was of great assistance and offered a peace of mind that we would not have had without him. The hour ride to Vic Falls was much more pleasant than the one from Kasane to the Zimbabwe border as the air conditioning in his van worked.
The Ilala Lodge in Victoria Falls was very nice and the restaurant food was good. We must thank you for scheduling the wonderful tour guide Cynthia. She was a wealth of information, but delivered this with humor, so as not to sound like a lecture. She was proactive and contacted us the day before our scheduled tour time to recommend that we see the falls the day prior as the weather forecast for the next day was to be overcast, and she wanted us to see all of the rainbows that the falls make. Her recommendation did lead to an improved photographic viewing. There were very few visitors to the falls. We counted only 5 other groups of people.
Kwara Camp: Guide Johnson. He was very knowledgeable and punctual. We did a boat ride and also a mokoro ride. Our room was very clean and as expected when viewing the advertising pictures. We were one of only 2 couples for 2 of the 3 days. The greatest number of guests we counted including us was on our arrival day at 8 guests.
Lebala Camp: Guide Elvis. He was also quite knowledgeable and punctual. We did a walking safari which was very informative. The room was very clean and as expected when viewing the advertising pictures. During our 2-night stay, we were the only guests in the camp.
Lagoon Camp: Guide Posto Rico. At this camp, we saw the greatest amount of tracking. The room was clean, but of the three camps, this room seemed to show a little more wear and tear. Everything worked and the layout of the room was as expected from the pictures. Of the two nights, we were the only guest for one night and there was only one other couple during our stay…
Covid restrictions: One thing that your clients from the US may be interested in knowing before they go is the more extreme requirements regarding covid. As expected, all airplane travel requires masking. However, the protocols at the camps seem a bit extreme given that most all guests arrive from out of country and required a covid negative result to board the plane/ cross a border. They wish for everyone to be masked on game drives. They had us sanitize our hands when returning to camp from a game drive, even when the only people we were in contact with would be the other guests or the guide. Most staff reported that they had been given a vaccination. These restrictions are much more extensive than any we have had to deal with in the last year and may be more than what some individuals are willing to comply.
In general, the guests that we met all were of a similar mindset…..we are ready to travel, covid or no covid. We were in that camp too and as a result, I think that we had a more private/less crowded exploration of Africa.
Thank you for all of your hard work.
Sara Whittle and Andrew Elliott, Oct 2021
Desert and Dynasty Tour of Morocco
As promised, we wanted to provide some feedback to you on our recent trip to Morocco. Overall, it was quite the adventure and we feel the itinerary gave us a really good representation of the country. We are glad we made the trip and will have some great memories of the country and people. Thanks again for setting up the trip. While most of the feedback on our trip is positive, we have provided some feedback/suggestions for your consideration.
Your team on the ground did an excellent job stewarding us throughout the trip. Our guide, Jaouad, and driver, Khalid, were wonderful. Lots of history, culture and religion in the conversations. They are both excellent ambassadors for Morocco and we would highly recommend them. Also, the staff called several times during the trip to see how things were going. That wasn’t necessarily expected, but appreciated.
Hotels were off the charts amazing; wish we would have spent another night in the Desert Camp and possibly another night in the High Atlas. For the last night in Casablanca, it may have been more convenient for us to stay at a hotel near the airport (if available) as we had a very early flight the following morning. We didn’t have much time in Casablanca other than making a short stop at the Hassan II Mosque, which was interesting.
The drive on day one from Casablanca to Fes worked out fine for us, allowing the stops at Meknes and Volubilis, which were interesting. You recall we did this because we had such a long layover for flights.
Fes was a part of the trip we will likely never forget. The walk through the alleyways of the medina and souks was quite the adventure. Sensory overload was one descriptor that came to mind. With each turn, we experienced the full range of emotions about what we saw, heard, smelled and felt. Some incredible, others disturbing. We found the history, culture and people very interesting. It was good to see how happy people were to see tourists coming to Morocco and they generally seemed happy to see Americans.
The Desert Camp was one of the highlights of the trip. As mentioned, we wish we could have spent another night there to really soak in the experience. Our hosts, Mubarak and Mohammed, took great care of us and accommodations were excellent, as was the peacefulness of being in the Sahara. The stars at night were amazing. However, the drive from Fes to the Desert Camp was problematic for us. Despite driving as fast as we could, we arrived at the camp barely in time to see the sunset. We ended up deferring our camel ride to sunrise, which ended up being fine, maybe even better. The long driving distance combined with a shorter day at that time of the year was an issue. Perhaps we could have left Fes earlier, which would have helped. Another possibility might have been to stay the night in Erfoud or Rissani so we could get to the Desert Camp early the next day in order to spend more time enjoying the desert experience.
The stay at Kasbah Bab Ourika was another highlight for us. Such an amazing and relaxing place in the mountains. We really enjoyed the hike with Hassan and especially the lunch in the forest.
After the medina in Fes and our experiences, we felt a bit mixed about the need to go to Marrakech, but that may just be us. We expect most people would probably insist on going there when planning a trip. We enjoyed it, but it was much more cosmopolitan and didn’t seem to offer as much as Fes. Denise did have the pleasure of wearing a cobra around her neck; an experience the rest of us will never forget, nor miss the opportunity to remind Denise of it.
We did not anticipate the number of hours that would be spent in the car. We realize that is simply the route we took, and we wouldn’t necessarily suggest changing that, as it allowed us to see so much of the country. It might be a good idea to inform travelers of this in case that is an issue for them…
We found that credit cards were not widely accepted in Morocco, other than the hotels. We were told by several restaurants that they had a “bad connection” for the CC authorization, so we needed to pay cash. Talking to Jaouad, we suspect they are reluctant to take cards due to the substantial fee required by CC companies. Not a big deal, but we might have been better prepared by having more cash on hand. There were plenty of ATM’s around, though, so it worked out ok.
Thanks again for the adventure.
PS, we are looking forward to our Zambia safari in ’22!
Jeff Dittman and Don and Kathy Miller, Oct 2021
Classic Exploration of Morocco
Looking back over our trip, we can’t tell you how glad we are that we went. Covid was a minor annoyance in the background most of the time, and a benefit through the whole trip in the lack of crowds, the number of room upgrades, the welcoming attitude of the Moroccans, who were thrilled to have even a few tourists returning and who love Americans. We did encounter a number of closed museums and sites, but even then, Moustapha took it in stride and quickly suggested alternatives. Sometimes it meant we had shorter sightseeing days, but the trade-off was more time to enjoy the wonderful riads. We are often reluctant to build in down time (a bit of FOMO), so having downtime and knowing we weren’t missing anything was a plus.
We continued to be high on Moustapha and Rachid, and would highly recommend them to anyone. They were informative, solicitous, accommodating, pleasant to be with. There wasn’t a place we stayed that we didn’t love, and some of them were so different from the others. The huge, comfortable van made the long drives not unpleasant (more built-in down time). We enjoyed all our activities and can’t think of anything we would skip. The quad biking was a highlight, but when people ask us what we liked best about the trip, we really can’t name any one thing. So much of it was special.
If you have any clients on the fence about Morocco, we would be happy to recommend it. Thank you for another excellent trip.
Sue and Mike Schaffer, Oct 2021
Adventure to Egypt and Jordan
Alison and everybody
We are in a huge suite for the next few hours at the Intercontinental waiting for our flight home. This has been an absolutely astounding trip, and we thank you for everything you have done for us. There is nothing we lacked for and so many unexpected wonders for us.
We’ll talk soon when we get back, but just wanted to take time to thank you for an incredible experience.
Craig and Kathy Woloshyn, Nov 2021