Our trip was from August 5-21, 2012 and the price included all in-Africa commercial flights, 8 bush flights between camps and countries, camp accommodations, meals, transfers and all activities, game viewing and excursions. We booked our trip with Jeanie Fundora at Travel Beyond and use did a magnificent job organizing everything from beginning to end for us - our group was comprised of my 13 year old daughter and myself (43 year old mom). This was my daughter's 2nd safari and my 3rd.This is what our itinerary looked like.
-Arrive Jo'burg - overnight at Intercontinental Hotel - you literally walk out the international arrivals area and the hotel is right there. Excellent hotel, clean, comfy and the restaurant food is excellent. The hotel concierge was kind also, they booked us a private guide to spend the afternoon visiting Soweto. Our guide was professional and very knowledgeable, we had a fabulous experience and saw a lot.
-Jo'burg to Harare commercial flight - hotel porter literally walked our bags all the way to the check-in desk to ensure we didn't get lost. I loved it!
-Bush flight from Harare to Ruckomechi Camp at Mana Pools, Zimbabwe
-3 nts. at Ruckomechi Camp
-Bush flight from Ruckomechi Camp to Little Makalolo Camp in Hwange Nat'l Park, Zimbabwe
-3 nts. at Little Makalolo Camp
-Bush flight from Little Makalolo Camp to Victoria Falls airport where we were greeted and picked up by a rep. from The Elephant Camp
-3 nts. at The Elephant Camp (this place was a fabulous break after being in the bush, we did a lot of different activities here)
-Bush flight from Victoria Falls to Kasane airport (20minute flight) and I recommend flying - we met some other guests who were being driven to Kasane airport and it is a 2 hr drive and very long and uncomfortable, when we crossed paths with them at Kasane, they were exhausted). In Kasane, we cleared Botswana customs.
-Bush flight from Kasane airport to Little Vumbura Camp, northern Okavango Delta, Botswana
-2 nts. at Little Vumbura Camp
-Bush flight from Little Vumbura Camp to Chitabe Lediba Camp in southern Okavango Delta, Botswana
2 nts. at Chitabe Lediba Camp
-Bush flight from Chitabe Lediba Camp to Maun, Botswana airport
-Commercial flight from Maun to Jo'burg where we cleared customs then re-checked in for our international flight home.
You can specify or book a "private guide" at each camp which ensures that you will be the only ones in your vehicle and I think it costs extra. We did not request private guide for this trip (other trips we have or our agent Jeanie has done it as a VIP upgrade for booking multiple trips) but I can't remember if we've ever paid extra or not. On this trip we not only met people from all around the world at each camp, but each camp your "car mates" as they're called are usually whoever arrives the same day as you or a day before or after. Some camps my daughter and I had our vehicle and guide all to ourselves and some camps we shared with 2 other people. When you stay at Wilderness Safaris "CLASSIC CAMPS" they only ever put a maximum of 4 people in the car UNLESS your group is 6, then all 6 of your group will ride in 1 vehicle together unless you request otherwise when you book the trip. If you stay in lower category camps called adventure camps, then those camps put the maximum number of people in a vehicle which is 7. So I recommend sticking with classic camps.
During all of our bush flights in Botswana, we flew low and bumpy, so we could view the beautiful topography of the Okavango Delta. There are NO words to describe how beautiful the delta is from the air, you have to see it to truly appreciate its' beauty!
When traveling to Africa, I recommend picking camps based on the type of wildlife you want to see. That is the most important factor when organizing a safari. All Wilderness classic camps are fabulous so I prefer to concentrate on what wildlife I want to see and choose my camps based on that.
The only exception to this rule is that if you want to see Rhino in Botswana you have to go to Mombo camp which is a PREMIER camp not classic meaning it is like a Ritz-Carlton bush experience and is expensive, but it's the only place to see Rhino in Botswana (that's for our next trip) - heard this from a number of sources.
If you want to see wild dog, we saw a pack of 25+ on the hunt at Little Vumbura in August which is early to see them there, because they den until end of August in neighboring concession so viewing them is typically best there in September onwards, we felt very fortunate that they came out early. At Little Vumbura and Chitabe Lediba we saw lots of predators on the hunt, with their kills and much more. At Little Vumbura we saw many hyena dens with young pups of varying ages.
All of the guides we had along the way were very educational and knowledgeable and they were good trackers too.
In Zimbabwe, at Mana Pools are guide Darmish was very educational and took us out tracking in addition to just traditional game viewing and we found wildlife based on what he taught us about tracking. We love Ruckamechi camp because the elephants are in camp all of the time, they come right up to your tent and so there are photo ops all of the time in camp. Because the camp sits along the Zambezi River, you see lots of Hippo in and out of the water, waterbuck, impala. Baboons and vervet monkeys are everywhere in and around camp also. At this camp you can also do water activities and walking safaris. I recommend doing a morning walking safari, the landscape is colorful and absolutely amazing and the game viewing was excellent. Meals, tea and sundowners were always fabulous.
At Little Makalolo (or Little Mak as it's nicknamed) - our guide Honest is the son of one of Zimbabwe's most famous guides and trackers and he is following in his father's footsteps. We did all game drives here, but you can also do a walking safari. We saw lots of animals and in big numbers too. On night drives we saw animals we had never seen before like Serval, Civet, Genet, Bush Babies, Bat-eared Fox and various owls - awesome! The staff at this camp really won our hearts too, Tracy and V are just so welcoming and made us always feel like friends at camp and not just tourists. They made a birthday cake and sang to my daughter - one of the guides Bully sang extra songs for all of us afterwards and it was fabulous. They also organized a bush bbq lunch out at the hide (the camp watering hole) and that was truly a special experience. The hide - yes this is one camp that has a watering hole right in front of camp where the animals are coming and going all day long. We went out to sit in the hide 2 days during the siesta time, you go out for an hour at a time with an armed guide and book it directly with your guide the morning of the day you want to go. Both my daughter and I loved it - we had so many up close moments especially with elephants and just watching the behavior of the animals at the water so close is special. Meals, tea and sundowners were always fabulous.
At The Elephant Camp which is just outside of Vic Falls town, we did a morning elephant back safari there with Wild Horizons - it's very personalized and educational on top of also being fun. We did a horseback riding safari(2hrs) at a local ranch and saw lots of wildlife. We had our driver drop us off at the Falls and we spent an afternoon visiting them independently - you get dropped off at the entry to the park, pay $30 per person entry fee and then it usually takes about 2hrs to walk the trail and for an additional $1 you can get a map at the entry. The Elephant Camp manager Jonathon organized for us to walk the resident cheetah Sylvester one afternoon with his caretakers Ed and Gift - this is not a commercial activity, it's something they typically offer guests to do in the morning in order to raise cheetah conservation awareness in hopes of receiving donations to continue their efforts, so we were the first to do an afternoon walk and my daughter being an animal lover was in heaven. The 2 hr. walk was very interactive and educational and our photos with Sylvester up close and personal will remain a highlight of our stay there. Also we were truly glad to have chosen the Elephant Camp over staying in town. This place really preserves the "being in the bush feel" but you have all the creature comforts and a spectacular view. The managers at camp are always available and whenever you need to go somewhere there is always a car and driver ready. They will also wait for you if needed. Our driver took us to a grocery store, we like to visit one in every country we go to for local products to bring home - and for Chloe to look for Nutella :-). All meals are also included here which was nice so we didn't have to think about where to eat. And the food was excellent - lunches being our favorite.
Little Vumbura Camp - We wish we would have stayed longer here and recommend that if you have a choice to stay at least 3 nts and if you can afford it stay 4 nts. This is a small camp like the others, but what makes it so incredibly special, wonderful and different is that it is situated on an island and you take a small motor boat to and from the island for game drives. There is also a nice variety of water activities offered here in addition to game drives, for example Mokoro outings. And the game drives are out of this world. Ask to have Savara as guide, he will make your game viewing experience so memorable. No tree was too big for us to drive off road and he made sure we saw and stayed with the wild dogs while they hunted. If he's not available ask for Rain. When we first met Savara, we explained that this was not our 1st safari and that we were interested in some very specific types of experiences and gave him a short laundry list of animals we were hoping to see. So keeping our expectations low and hopes high, we saw it all, but cheetah. Savara delivered an amazing and memorable game viewing experience during our entire stay here. Every game drive was not just "viewing" animals but rather there was "action" - lions and cubs feeding on fresh kill, mama hyenas babysitting multiple litters, leopard patrolling his territory and much more. It was the most interactive game viewing experience of our trip. We participated in a boma dinner fiesta here where the camp staff sings traditional songs and then dinner is an African bbq. They also organized a champagne sundowner out near our leopard sighting - great time!!!
Chitabe Lediba was our last camp of the trip and yes it was very luxurious, seemed more like a premier camp than a classic camp. Game viewing here is excellent too. Lots of predators and we actually found a dead giraffe that had died just minutes before we found it. It was a very sad experience, but it died of old age so it was a natural part of the cycle of life. What it meant though is that there would be lots of action here over the next few days and we were right. The next morning Bateleur eagles were eating the eyes and a hyena had begun feasting on the inside abdominal area. As the carcass began to decompose the odor traveled and in the night we heard the lions roaring all night long and well into the morning. They had found the giraffe and were feeding on it. When done they moved aside for a nap and in came the jackal for a taste. It was awesome to witness. We also saw a female leopard with her impala kill which she fed on for days, we witnessed her feeding on it, then hiding it, then napping. We followed the Chitabe pride of lions while they hunted. We also saw 3 other leopards here 2 different ones on the hunt and 1 in a tree napping on our way to the airstrip. We also witnessed a baboon fight - they were fighting over a female, and then we saw who won, as he strolled off with his girl afterwards. Meals, tea and sundowners were always fabulous. We also had the good fortune of meeting wildlife photographer Grant Atkinson here, he was here as a guide for a private family safari. Being avid amateur photographers, my daughter and I were thrilled to have met him!! One important note is that Chitabe Lediba has lost its' resident wild dog pack for now. There was once a pack of 31, but it split up and then the remaining pack lost its' alpha female - killed by lion, so there were then only 10 left, and now there are currently only 4 dogs left, no one knows what happened to the other 6. The remaining 4 have not been seen for a couple of months.
All the camps were great experiences, all were very different from each other, yet all were very typical classic camps except chitabe lediba which seemed more like a premier camp. Classic is excellent for us cause this style of camp really preserves the being in the bush feeling, the eco-friendly environment and the sense of being one with mother nature without over doing the "luxury" type feeling which is what we prefer.
This trip report was actually an email response to a fellow trip advisor reader who emailed me for details about our trip, our experience and who organized it for us.
Here is a small BEST of list we made to give you an idea of what we especially liked- This list excludes The Elephant Camp in Victoria Falls simply because we did not have guides or do any game drives here. Elephant Camp stay was to visit and experience different activities from what one experiences in the "bush".
BEST game viewing experience - Little Vumbura with guide Savara
BEST (our favorite) camp - Little Vumbura - loved it being on an island, so different from the others, 2nd place Little Makalolo - loved the ambiance and going to the hide, plus chatting with Honest and Tracy.
BEST camp staff - Little Makalolo - they are fun, social and always present and really have a sense of fun ! Plus the bush BBQ was very special. Loved Kay at Little Vumbura - always there for us!
BEST experience of animals in camp - Ruckomechi cause we loved how the elephants were always there around camp and our tents.
BEST food - Little Vumbura, excellent variety and lots of veggies all of the type, creative cooking.
BEST breakfast experience - Little Makalolo, nothing beats breakfast by the campfire when it's below freezing! LoL
BEST flights - from Kasane to Kihwei airstrip and onto Vumbura and flight to Chitabe and from Chitabe to Maun, all flying low and bumpy over the delta for exceptional views of the landscape and larger wildlife- spectacular!
BEST managers - Tracy and V at Little Makalolo
Now our ranking of our guides -
1. Savara at little Vumbura
2. Darmish at Ruckomechi and Honest at Little Makalolo tied
3. Gordon at Chitabe Lediba