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Found 7 results

  1. I largely wrote this trip report shortly after we got back – however due to having a really bad year it got put on hold. However things are calming down and we have finally got a bit more back on track – so here is our trip report for Southern Namibia September/October 2016. Wednesday 28th September It is four o clock in the afternoon and I’ve been in work since quarter to eight this morning – so now I can put the out of office on, turn the phone to voicemail and lock the laptop in the cupboard. I grab the bag carrying my travelling clothes and get changed in the ladies room before waving goodbye to my colleagues. That’s it, no more work for three whole lovely weeks – I’ve a tube to catch to Hatton Garden where I meet J and then we head off to Heathrow to catch our South African flight to Johannesburg. Thursday 29th September It’s an overnight flight from Heathrow, arriving around nine in the morning, and we head off through transit – only to come to a grinding halt. Johannesburg airport are carrying out some new biometric procedures which mean that (like the USA) they are taking photos and fingerprints – and it is slow; slow, and even slower. The queue is barely moving at all – they actually have someone walking down the line pulling out those who have transit times close to departure and moving them up to try and get them through quicker, but it’s making the rest of the queue move even slower. We have nearly four hours for transit and are actually grateful for the long transfer. It takes over an hour to get through the queue. We still have nearly three hours left so we head to the business lounge and pay our entry fee, and settle down to have a wash up in the bathrooms and a nice meal, before heading off to catch our flight up to Windhoek. So finally we get to Windhoek - about three pm. We head to the Avis desk in the airport to pick up our car. We hand over our paperwork and J signs all the various paperwork (in blood) – confirms that we have a second spare tyre (pre-paid for), and that we need a letter to take the car across the South African border. (They seem to have forgotten the letter but once reminded they prepare it immediately without any argument – so no problems.) We were expecting a Toyota Hilux, but are told that we have been upgraded to a Toyota Fortuner. The car, which was South African registered was almost new, there was 14840 kilometres on the clock, and in fact it was a new model which had only been released fairly recently (according to various people we ran into). Even so it already had one small-ish ding, and a number of other little issues on the paintwork. We made sure that all of the marks were annotated on the documentation and also took a number of photos so that everyone was clear what condition we collected the car in. We had to chase the second spare tyre and as it was not brand new took photos of that as well. We checked that we had a jack – roads in Namiba are notorious for eating tyres – and indeed there was one – but dear lord it looked pathetic when you consider the size and weight of the vehicle. We hoped we wouldn’t need to use it often. Then we headed off out of Windhoek airport and down towards the city, and our first night’s accommodation at The Olive Grove. The Olive Grove is a pretty little hotel, with secured parking, and a nice little patio area with a small plunge pool. We are allocated room 10 which is down on the ground floor. We repack the bags for the actual holiday (rather than airport travel), and then decide we will go out for dinner. The last time we were in Namibia, just over three years ago we arrived into Windhoek a lot earlier in the day, did not stop in Windhoek – and therefore did not have a chance to go to the famous “Joe’s Beer House”. The Olive Grove is fairly close so we booked a taxi and headed off to see if it could possibly live up to its reputation. It does. The place is amazing. On a Thursday night it is packed. It is a largely outdoor restaurant, although most of the tables are covered by thatched umbrellas. It is lit with candles and lanterns and buzzes with the energy in the place. We sat at the bar while waiting for a table and chatted briefly with another couple who had just finished their tour. Within five minutes we were seated at a big round table with a number of other people, mostly German, but also with a group who were working in Namibia. We chatted about the roads, and some suggestions for things to do whilst we ate. I had a beautiful Gemsbok steak (the only complaint was that there was a bit too much meat) whilst J had the Jaegerscnitzel. Joe’s has a reputation as a great place to go before and after safari – and it is certainly a well-deserved reputation. It’s also reasonably priced - our meal and drinks came to less than N$350. Back at the Olive Grove we tumbled into bed – exhausted from lack of sleep but excited for the real start of the trip tomorrow.
  2. My OH has been shortlisted for the third consecutive year in this competiton (DSLR fauna). I have never been shortlisted. What am I doing wrong???!! I actually take a lot of credit for this shot. I was driving and couldn't get an angle from my side of the car and so I positioned it for him. I saw the second kite appear and told him when to press the shutter. It was his first photo of our 2016 KTP trip! It is the first photo in my TR (can't seem to work out how to put photos in from gallery directly on the iPad)
  3. As we had proven that it was possible to drive the 1100 km to get to the park, to cater for ourselves and yet still have a holiday back in January 2015 (, we decided it was time to return. South Africa has been our September safari destination for the past three years, due to the strength of the Pound to the Rand. Now we have Brexit, it may be the sole destination for years to come.... I have also worked out the best use of air miles and had managed to book the flights with a one way upgrade to business using miles (no availability in the opposite direction). September is peak safari season in South Africa and supposedly the best time to go, so it would be a nice contrast to our summer and "wrong" time to go trip last year. Given the ever increasing popularity of the park, especially with locals, with the huge bang for small buck (Rand not Spring-) and the ability to camp and self-cater, booking was going to be the main issue. For our January trip, I just booked a few months out online and took what was available (3 main camps and 1 wilderness camp). It was not an issue. The idea of being so organised 11 months in advance is a bit of an anathema to me, but needs must. There are tales of people queuing in person at the SANParks offices at the crack of dawn and still not getting the dates and camps they wanted, so I was very nervous. The SANParks booking system opens 11 months in advance on the first weekday for in person, phone and email bookings and on the following day for web bookings. With the time difference, using the phone was not an option as this would coincide with my commute to work. So email it was. No-one could really answer how they prioritise these, so given my friend is a Travel agent, we figured that his email may get priority over one from me. This may be completely false, but it was worth a go. I gave him our dates and preferred camps with alternatives and crossed my fingers. To my joy, we got rooms for all the nights we wanted and mostly at the right camps! Wilderness camp availability was an issue, so they substituted my desired Kieliekrankie or Urikaruus with Mata Mata. Given that we had Kalahari tented camp, this was a bit annoying, as we would then have 6 nights in the same small area, however, at least this would be separated by 3 nights in Nossob. C'est la vie. When the online bookings opened the next day, there was almost zero avilability. A few campsites here and there and some nights at TR but nothing at all at Nossob. Good job we didn't wait for this! Almost immediately I was able to change the Mata Mata hut to a riverside room and grab one night at Urikaruus, reducing to 5 nights the stay in the area. That was the last change I was able to make though, despite checking a few times a week, including after the deposit deadline (when some people lose their bookings) and at payment deadline (the one that I nearly missed - our itinerary was: Joburg (1 night) Upington (1 night) Twee Rivieren (2 nights) Mata Mata (2 nights) Urikaruus (1 night) Nossob (3 nights) Kalahari Tented Camp - Honeymoon tent! (3 nights) Upington (1 night) Joburg (1 night) With 11 nights in the Park, we managed to fit in one more than our last trip. Just had to wait for the 11 months to count down....
  4. 1) Name of property: !Xaus Lodge - Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (S.A. sector) 2) Website address: 3) Date of stay: 5th August 2016 4) Length of stay: 1 night 5) Why did you choose this camp or lodge to stay in? Based upon what? Several reasons: first of all we decided to spend 3 nights in KTP but since we book late, all other camps were full. Secondly we would explore an "hidden" area of the park, since you can get there only if you sleep in the lodge. Last because we would have 1 night of comfort. 6) How did you book the property, direct or agent? Were your enquiries dealt with quickly and efficiently? Booked through an Italian Tour Operator (South African Dream). I had some questions about timing for picking up and they answered fast by email. 7) How many times have you been on Safari? 3 in 3 years 8) To which countries? South Africa, Namibia, Madagascar 9) Which properties have you been to previously that you are comparing this one to? Fish River Lodge, Red Dunes Lodge (both in Namibia). The former because of the position, on the top of the dune (the canyon in Fish River case), the latter because of the environment (Kalahari) 10) Was the property fenced? NO, the units are connected to the main building through a boardwalk (the director said once they found a leopard drinking at the swimming pool) 11) What tent or room did you stay in? Did it have a good view? Was it overlooked or private? Number 1, which was the nearest to the main building. We could listen people chatting on the terrace but it was not a issue. We had a really good view of the pan and the waterhole (even if not close). Probably chalet 2 or 3 have more privacy. 12) How comfortable was the bed - were suitable amounts of blankets/duvets/pillows provided? Very comfortable, we had 2 pillows each and as much as blankets we would. We had the hot water bottle as well. 13) Did you like the food? If yes, please state why. If no, please state why. Yes, the food was good, but not memorable. Probably they should improve a bit. In partiular meat was not too tasty. The breakfast was rich and good, but also in this case a luxury lodge should give "something more" or "something special" to give an upper level experience 14) Was there a varied menu offering multiple choice? If vegetarian was a suitable alternative offered? (Did you have to request this in advance?) We met a vegetarian guest and he told this to the director. So he had vegetarian food for dinner and breakfast as well. Not sure if there are vegan solutions... The menu was fixed, so a starter, a main course and a dessert. There was a good (considering the situation) wine list. 15) Can you choose where you eat, ie privately or with other guests, guides? Single tables or communal dining? There are only 3 big tables, so basically can happen that you eat with other guests. Guides never eat at the same table. 16) How good were the packed breakfasts/lunches if staying out on game drives? We didn't have a morning/afternoon drive, so I don't know. 17) What are the game drive vehicles? Please include photo if possible. They have a landrover. It seems quite new. 18) How many guests per row? 3 guests per row 19) How long were the game drives and were they varied in the routes taken? Morning/afternoon game drives are included only for guests who sleeps at least 4 nights. If not are arranged and paid separately. We didn't take part in daylight drives but I head by other guests that basically they explore the area around the lodge and the Aoub riverbed. The night drive was around 1 hour/ 1 hour and half in the surroundings of the lodge. 20) Are game drive times flexible: ie, if agreed in advance, can you go out earlier than suggested and stay out later, ie not returning for lunch but taking supplies with you? I don't think so. The drives are scheduled (maybe can change of half an hour...) 21) What wildlife is this property known for? Did you get good sightings? !Xaus lodge is not famous for the wildlife around it. It is more related to the environment and landscapes. Anyway we sow: - DAYLIGHT: Red hartebeests, mangoose, hyenas, ostriches, secretary birds, sprinboks, gemsboks, meerkats - NIGHT: hyenas, jackals, Bat-eared foxes, Cape foxes, spring hares 22) How was the standard of guiding? Guides were good considering the few wildlife there. They were good also in the morning walk explaining the plants and the environment of Kalahari. 23) If you had a bad experience with a guide, why? Did you report the issue to management, and if so, how did they deal with the issue? No problems with guides 25) Were staff attentive to your requests/needs? Yes, they were always open to our needs (we didn't ask much) 27) Any other pertinent details you wish to add: As I wrote the day game drive is included only if you stay 4 nights. For less it is included the night drive, the morning walk and a visit to a bushmen village. This latter probably is the less interesting activity also because it is declared it is a fake experience. The point is that !Xaus Lodge lies on old motherland of San and Meir people. So they are actually the owners of the land and this "visit" is a way to help their culture. In the night it is cold (in winter) like all the other camps in KTP, but here there is an heater and the hot water bottle. Electricity is turned off at 22.00 The water comes from the pan in front of the lodge, so it is really salty! You can use it to wash or brush teeth, but not to drink. There is only a pitcher in every room with freshwater, so don't waste it! To reach the lodge there is a meeting point at the Kamqua Picnic Site all the days at 14.30. You can follow the lodge vehicle by 4x4 or leave your car in a fenced private area (with shadow) and go with them. There is a 1h 30m - 2h drive through 90 red dunes. The coming back is more flexible, usually after breakfast, but you can negotiate it... 28) Please add your photographs of the property.
  5. Just got a reminder email from SANParks reservations as to why I had not paid the outstanding balance on 13th July. Because I had it in my diary as 30th July All of the planning and successfully obtaining accommodation for the dates we needed in September and now I was going to lose it? I phoned immediately but didn't have my passport number to hand (required to process card payments) and the reservation is in the OHs name (could he please email with authorisation?). After lots of time on hold and my desperate explanations, the lady who I originally paid the deposit with was eventually able to charge my card and the rooms are secure. Phew. Not what I wanted to hear on a Friday morning. I'm not sure what we would have done if they had given away the reservations as the park is booked up. So what have I learnt? A) 13 and 30 sound the same, so check the paperwork they give you an overdue reminder C) they do not automatically cancel your reservations Now I need to go and lie down!
  6. This trip to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) was longer in the contemplation than the planning. We had been put off by the need to self-cater and hence shop for every meal of the trip. It is supposed to be a holiday after all! Last year we had considered going to the newly opened private lodge, Ta Shebube, on the Botswana side, but were put off by their lack of engagement with inquiries and a bizarre change of pricing structure, so we went to the Kruger instead. Whilst we were there and having been forced to self-cater for 3 days after an abrupt cessation of the restaurant service in Satara, earlier than advertised, we felt that cooking could be part of the holiday vibe and decided that the next January trip could be to the KTP. After our September trip, we finally decided to bite the bullet and make pans. The long drive was not so much an issue, as we often drive about 3-4000km in a two week trip to RSA, although going to KTP does really require an overnight rest stop en route (most people stop in Upington) and therefore eats into the actual game viewing days (10 days rather than 12 from a 14 day trip). Although it is possible to fly to Upington and hire a car from there, this is really just an additional expense and does not really buy much time. As we have friends in Joburg, it made sense to see them first and borrow their coolboxes, solar lights, GPS, mobile phone etc. Therefore we did all of our supplies shopping in Joburg and froze things down in their freezer before setting off on the 9 hour drive to Upington. The shopping itself was like a minor military operation. A comprehensive list is vital as you need to buy everything, including lots of bottled water. We had been warned that the park shops were not well stocked. If you arrived in the park with nothing, you wouldn't starve, but most of what was available was tinned food and drinks as well as braai supplies. We had booked Riverplace guest house in Upington for the first night, on the recommendation of fellow STers, but despite taking full payment 3 months in advance, they moved us at short notice to a different B&B down the road, presumably to accommodate a large group. I was not happy about this as I had spent a long time deciding where to stay to make it an integral part of the trip, rather than just a room to sleep in. Also, we had the issue of frozen and chilled food to be stored, which Riverplace are well used to doing. Our alternative accommodation (Sun River Kalahari Lodge) was OK, just not really our taste. It was in a lovely setting on the Orange River. However, it was cheaper than Riverplace and it took a further month to obtain a refund from them I had managed to book our flights using miles (a first for me) but as I was not aware of the intricacies of this booking system , which opens 355 days in advance (and having flu at the time), we ended up going a week later than we would normally. However, we flew out premium economy on the A380 (lovely plane - really quiet) and came back business (another first for us), on the top deck of a jumbo - fabulous!! And all for the not insignificant cost of various airline taxes (about £580 each) So the itinerary was: 24th Jan Joburg 25th Upington 26-28th Twee Rivieren 2 nights 28-30th Kieliekrankie wilderness camp 2 nights 30th-2nd Feb Nossob 3 nights 2-5th Mata Mata river front chalet 3 nights 5th Upington 6th Joburg 7th Fly home Although it was not peak season so I was able to book only 3 months in advance, this meant that we only got one wilderness camp and this was a different one to what I was initially planning after looking at availability! Having never been before, I took longer than usual, double checking that there was enough time to transfer between camps, especially as we had been looking at going north of Nossob. During this time, the other wilderness camp got booked up. This turned out to be a perfect itinerary though, as it allowed us to see the different areas of the park. Although most KTP aficionados prefer the wilderness camps, they are very small and so get booked up well in advance. The main camps are still small (compared to the Kruger) and are well positioned for the different areas of the park. The main camps are run on generators, which are switched off overnight, so no electricity between about 10pm and 5am, depending on the time of year, whereas the wilderness camps are on solar, so they have 24 hour light (but no sockets for charging). I wouldn't have thought this significant, but we did end up washing up after a braai in the dark on more than one occasion! We had a high clearance car - looks like a 4x4, but was only 2WD, which we usually have for summer game viewing in the Kruger, affording better views over long grass. This was useful as often the sandy roads were at a lower level than the surrounding ground. We spent most of the journey to Upington listening to the South Africa vs. West Indies test match on the radio, until the final few deciding minutes where the station cut to the news and did not return, meaning we missed the conclusion There seems to be only one restaurant recommended to tourists in Upington, which is a casual bar-style place, which also serves sushi (about 800km from the sea)!! We had a good meal and an early night to recover from the long drive.
  7. Recently returned from a 6 day KTP safari where we were lucky with lion, seeing 7 individual mature males with handsome manes and 2 separate African Wild Cats. In addition to the cat lotto, we enjoyed 2 separate Spotted Eagle Owl sightings, one of which included a chick. The full length KTP trip report featuring meerkats, ground squirrels and much more begins at post #24 in this trip report in the Botswana forum.

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