Natasha’s clients sent through an incredibly detailed account of their safari holiday to Africa. They analysed the highs and the lows, and ultimately loved their entire experience. They stayed at Tau Pan in the Kalahari for 3 nights, Kwara Camp in the Okavango Delta for 2 nights and Kwando Lagoon for 2 nights.
Thanks for your mail.
We did indeed have a wonderful time in Botswana. The lodges were great, and the staff very friendly. The food was good, everything was clean and efficient. The guides were extremely well-trained and knowledgeable; we were very impressed.
We saw lots of animals and quite a lot of birds. We’ve been to Africa a number of times before, including Namibia twice, so we had seen most of these, but we knew that would be the case.
However, we did get several new large animals: we got to see brown hyaena up close (Tau Pan), and side-striped jackal (Kwara) – both of which are mainly nocturnal and quite localised in distribution. We also saw a pack of resting wild dogs (Kwara) right up close (immediately after we had spent 30 minutes following a leopard around, and just before that the jackal – so that was a pretty good morning).
Those were all highlights of the trip, but the special highlight was watching an aardwolf for about five minutes next to the truck on a night drive on the way back to camp at Lagoon (just after we had spent an hour watching a pride of twelve lions hunting (unsuccessfully), and also seen a sable antelope adult male and youngster (so that was a pretty good afternoon also). We saw a lot of lions, including a complete family at a waterhole. The main disappointment was that almost everyone else we met got to see honey badger except us. Still that leaves something to look for on a future trip.
I also got to see quite a lot of birds, including a few new ones, of which wattled crane was special (it’s endangered).
As you requested I have attached a few photos. The outline of the trip that you gave us was excellent also, so we had a pretty good idea of what to expect.
However, there were a couple of small details that could have been clearer, and would have helped us. This is not a complaint; just these small details would have made your outline perfect, and saved us a small amount of embarrassment.
1. Your outline said: ‘The Rates include: All meals and selected beverages.’
We took ‘selected beverages’ to mean ‘water and maybe some soft drinks will be included, but you will have to pay for alcoholic drinks’. (This has been the case on all our previous seven Africa trips, including Chobe, and in Namibia.) Therefore we thought we would need pula or some kind of cash for beer or whatever. But in fact all drinks were included; in fact you could skip the drives and spend the day drinking brandy and it would still be included. Obviously camps run by other companies may be different, but it would be clearer if you said ‘All meals and all beverages including beer, wine and spirits are included’. Since we visited nowhere except these camps, there was no need to have any pula at all. As it turned out (see point 3) we couldn’t get any pula anyway, but we were worried we might end up having a ‘dry’ holiday. Indeed, apart from tipping, in Botswana we didn’t need money at all.
2. You guide to tipping amounts was very helpful, because coming from far away, it’s difficult to know what is appropriate. This is especially true if you come from Japan where tipping doesn’t exist at all, or Australia or NZ where it’s not universal. However, there was one detail that could be clearer. You suggested that $10 is appropriate for a ‘Camp, Game Lodge, or Specialist Guide’. Elsewhere, you suggest that $5 is appropriate for a ‘Mokoro Paddler or Tracker’. We took ‘Guide’ to mean the person leading a drive, and ‘Tracker’ to mean the person leading a walk. But at Kwando camps anyway, you have a team of both a guide/driver and a tracker in the vehicle at all times (we have never seen this system of two people on any of our other trips; an Italian lady we met who had been to Africa fourteen times had never seen this either). So, we underestimated the money we would need for tips, because we thought there would be either a guide or a tracker, not both. (And the guide and tracker at Kwara did the mokoro activity themselves).
3. We brought some dollars that we got at the airport in Japan. We also had some rand left over from our day in Johannesburg (we went to Sterkfontein for half a day). But we assumed that there would be an ATM at Maun airport, and we were planning to get some more cash there. On arrival at Maun, it took more than an hour to clear immigration (there was one officer for the entire plane), and we were moved directly from the international arrivals area to the domestic departure area without going through the main section of the airport. So we couldn’t get any money there. On the way back from the holiday, we looked for an ATM at Maun Airport, but there didn’t appear to be one. There was a money exchange office to convert rand, dollars or euro (not £) into pula, but this would have been no help to us, because we needed to get cash from our credit card, or to convert Japanese money, neither of which were possible. An Australian couple we met had the same problem. Giving tips in yen or Aus$ would be pointless because the recipients would have no way to exchange them.
Combining 2 and 3: we didn’t have enough appropriate cash for tips. What I did was to explain the problem to the manageress at Tau Pan, and as a result I gave a tip to the guide and tracker there with a credit card via the souvenir shop. But it was a bit embarrassing. After that, I then had enough dollar / rand cash for tips for the other two camps (if we have an especially good time, as we did, we like to give a little above the recommended amount).
In retrospect, we would have got more dollars from Japan, or rand at Johannesburg, but we assumed wrongly that we could get some pula from an ATM in Maun Airport. I guess most of your customers – from South Africa, the US or EU will usually have appropriate spare cash, but at least two other groups we met (one from Australia, one from Belgium) had the same problems as us (I think they just gave small tips or none at all). But we might easily have assumed that we could get all the local cash we needed at Maun AP, and brought no dollars or rand at all, which would really have been embarrassing.
In summary, it would be good if you stated clearly:
At Kwando company camps, absolutely everything including all drinks is included, so the only money you need is for tips.
At Kwando company camps, you will be allocated to a team with both a guide and a tracker who will look after you for your whole stay.
Get cash for tips in rand, dollars or euros before arriving in Botswana. There is no ATM at Maun airport, or if there is it is well hidden (the souvenir shops in the airport and in the Kwando company lodges will accept credit cards).
But, to repeat, we had a great time. Apart from that small niggle about cash, everything went perfectly. Thanks for your organisation and planning. I hope wew will have a chance to use Sun Safaris again.
- Below images are courtesy of Eamonn.