Barbara Bilgre review 5 Jan 2017
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?
The elephant by the side of the road in the wildlife corridor when we stopped to use the 'bush toilet'. The driver had not noticed it behind the solitary tree
before we got out of the vehicle. I would also say the group of people I was with: the other tourists, and our driver and cook. Camping in the Khama Rhino
Sanctuary and the Okavango Delta were amazing because these were the only times we truly were around nature and wildlife when not on a scheduled tour.
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?
There were several things not explicitly stated in the detailed documents provided by the tour operator:
1. Very little of your 9 days is actually spent amongst wildlife or doing touring. Most is at your lodge campsite or in the transit vehicle.
2. The tour operator DOES NOT provide drinking water for you. Although they ask you to bring a reusable water bottle to refill to avoid the use of one time
plastic bottles, you will be expected to buy 5 liter water bottles and provide your own water during the trip.
3. This trip was not really sustainable as advertized. The amount of plastic trash we generated was pretty astounding.
4. You absolutely must bring your own towel even though it was not on the Essential Packing List. You also should bring a smaller bag for the 2 nights into the Okavango because you will not be able to bring your entire pack with you; this was also not explicitly stated in the literature.
5. The tour operator outsources ALL the tours to different outfits and takes no responsibility for what happens when we are in the hands of the actual guides.
This was an issue on the Chobe River cruise. Although we signed up for a small group tour (12 people max), we were put on a giant pontoon boat with at least
50 other people. In addition, the boat operators made a habit of getting too close to the animals and harassing the animals.
6. There was almost no opportunity to purchase souvenirs until the end of the tour, so don't expect to spend much on trinkets to bring home for family and
7. When in Maun, there is nothing to do but sit by the pool. You will spend almost a full day there (and 2 nights). You can organize a fly-over the Okavango
Delta, but if you have less than 5 people that want to do it, it will cost you a fortune. Therefore, there are no real safari or exploration activities to do whilst in
8. They don't tell you this, but you will have to tip the polers in the Okavango Delta, so have 150 pula available per tourist when you go into the Delta.
9. You need to keep ALL your shoes with you on the bus as you travel through Botswana as there are many places you have to disinfect to prevent the spread
of many diseases to the wildlife and livestock. Our guide would sometimes forget to tell us early enough to keep them out, and so many people did not get
their shoes disinfects or we took excess time unpacking and re-packing the truck.
You hopefully will end up with a better tour leader than we did who will actually help you organize the optional activities and who will share information about
the history, culture and wildlife. This did not happen on our trip until the final 3rd of the trip after I registered a complaint with the tour operator.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
I don't think it truly met the specifications of an eco-tour. Yes, local people were supported, but on our program, animals were harassed, and we generated a
lot of unnecessary waste. This was not an environmental or conservation benefiting program (other than helping to support the Khama Rhino Sanctuary).
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?
The places we visited were amazing. The wildlife viewing was incredible. I also was lucky to be in with a great group of tourists. This is why it got 3 stars. If this
were just based up on the tour operator I would have given only 1 or 2 stars.
Victoria Falls is an amazing place, but the campsite we were at was not safe. There was a theft from one of the tents at night while the guests were asleep. We were also set up right next to a bar where the music blared until after 11:00 PM and night and began again at 1:00 AM IN THE MORNING. This was definitely a cut-rate facility.
The Tour Operator customer service was very poor. It's been 6 days since I emailed them about trouble on the trip and they have yet not responded to me.
This company has high ratings and I have friends who've done different trips with them who have raved about them, but I was shocked at the inexperience of
our Tour Leader on this trip, the incomplete literature from the company, the rudeness of the people from the South African office. I had been in the eco-tour
business for over 9 years, and I know that our leaders were not meeting expectations.
The tour operator lists this tour as basic, BUT it is considered their medium level (not the cheap-end) tour. This was run as though it was a cheap end tour.
Also, finally, as they promote this as a safari tour, it made no sense to spend 11 hours traveling in a bus using one of our full days to drive to Soweto to have a
historical bicycle tour the next day. They should have offered that as an optional extension as it was completely irrelevant and unrelated to the rest of the trip.
Read the operator's response here:
Hi Barbara, we are sorry to hear you felt your recent trip to south Africa was not in keeping with our much valued ethos on responsible tourism. As with any wildlife tour, particularly with a safari aspect, many people are traveling to the country in the hope of seeing the unique wildlife the country has to offer. When on game drives, it is often the case that a relatively high proportion of people are in the area where wildlife has been spotted. There is a practice across all wildlife reserves whereby rangers communicate with one another the whereabouts of animals to ensure all visitors have equal opportunity to engage with the wildlife. There are strict restrictions in place regarding vehicle density in the park and around any one animal sighting. It is paramount to us that wildlife is in no way harassed. Drivers and guides must never use their vehicles to get an animal to move, or drive off-road to get closer to the action.
We do all we can to encourage our travelers to reduce their waste while on tour, and we are sorry to hear this wasn’t adequately communicated to your tour group. We really aim to reduce our waste as much as possible and will work with our ground operator to make this happen.
We believe that by encouraging our travelers to see wildlife first hand we increase the intrinsic value of nature and wildlife for both travelers and locals. As with any trip of this style, we do use vehicles to travel from place to place and we try to mitigate the impacts of this in any way we can. We support local people and economies not only by using locally-run accommodation and transport wherever possible but also investing in various programmes in the area via our foundation. We work with TRAFFIC, by raising money to aid the leading wildlife trade monitoring network. We also work closely with ActionAiD to support female farmers across rural Africa in gaining much needed land rights. We also have close links with World Animal Protection in reducing animal captivity for tourism purposes, this is something central to all our wildlife tours. To find out more about what we are doing across Africa and worldwide, please feel free to ask.