Review: Guided Namibia and Vic Falls Safari

Review: Guided Namibia and Vic Falls Safari #1
Review: Guided Namibia and Vic Falls Safari #2

A personal review from our clients after their 20-day Namibia and Vic Falls Safari

Guide

Our guide, Vincent Brehany, provided outstanding service throughout our trip through Namibia. From the moment that he picked us up at the Windhoek airport and drove us to the Auas Game Lodge, Vincent's extensive knowledge of his country became evident. We learned so much about the flora and fauna, geological aspects of the landscape, historical perspective and a hint of culinary delights to follow by the time we arrived at our lodge. At the first dinner together, we further developed an appreciation of Vincent's understanding of the areas that we were to visit. Vincent is an excellent communicator and we always knew the agenda for each day, the timing of our progress and the leaving times required to achieve our maximum objectives. His choice of the appropriate vehicle for the four of us was appreciated, especially when we could travel into areas requiring four-wheel drive and when we were observing the animals in Etosha and other places on our travels.

Vincent is an excellent driver whose knows the various road conditions and weather patterns. We felt safe with him at the helm throughout our trip. At all times, he considered our needs, choosing appropriate stops for breaks and sightseeing along the way. We especially enjoyed Moose McGregor's streusel at Solitaire and the antique cars on display. The Welwitschia Drive and Moon Landscape were fascinating vistas especially as we traversed the valley route, carved by the river into Swakopmund. On the hills descending towards the low level track, we saw a pair of klipspringers, the only ones we saw on our entire journey through southern Africa. Where feasible, we always took the lesser roads that afforded little traffic and incredible enjoyment of the particular environment in which we found ourselves. We were impressed in the support Vincent gives to the local people in providing opportunities for us to engage with roadside vendors with their handicraft and rock displays. In each place we stopped, everyone knew Vincent!

Vincent proved his mettle effortlessly during our time in Etosha, with his knowledge of where to spot particular animals. His tenacity was appreciated in our attempt to find the elusive elephants; although unsuccessful, we enjoyed our evening drive north of Namutoni, with darkening skies contrasting with brilliant evening light, shore birds on the pans, cheetahs in the distance, and the array of zebras, steenbok, wildebeest, shore birds, flamingos, blue cranes and a tawny eagle that we spotted. Vincent's knowledge of birds is encyclopaedic which was greatly appreciated by the avid birder in the group and the rest of the neophytes who learned to identify such interesting birds as the secretary bird, the snake eagle, francolin, go-away bird, weaver, hornbill, korhaan, and the beautiful European bee-eater and lilac roller. Even the ever-present guinea fowl provided opportunities for comic relief along the way. After the long drive back to Windhoek, we were sad to say good-bye to such a great guide whose love of his beautiful country has been imparted to us in so many ways. Thank you so much Vincent!

Accommodation

We were extremely pleased with the level of accommodation provided on our holiday to Namibia. We experienced a variety of accommodations whose amenities and levels of comfort exceeded our expectations, considering the reasonable pricing for each. Of particular note, the Desert Homestead gave us a unique opportunity to spend time in a beautiful landscape, with individual rondavels, and a high quality of service provided by the staff. The Swakopmund Guesthouse was located in a residential area within walking distance to the major attractions, especially Tug's restaurant and Kuchi's where we dined while in town. Our rooms were done in seascape motif - spacious, with a fridge, a large shower area and bathroom. The breakfast buffet was exceptional.

The Twyfelfontein Country Lodge occupies an incredible position nestled into the ochre rocks at the base of the mountains. The thatched roofs and open-sided dining room enhance the visual impact of this bush environment. An extensive evening buffet gave us a chance to try various local meat dishes. We made the right decision to stay inside Etosha at Okaukuejo and Halali resorts. The rooms at the former were large, with separate sitting and air-cooled bedroom areas while the waterhole was a unique place to observe wildlife and birds in the setting sun. We appreciated the option of taking a "mains only" buffet as we don't eat desserts. Halali provided a smaller AC room, with a walk-out to a small private patio with a table and chairs. A high level of service at the restaurant, with a menu-ordered dinner was offered.

The Onguma Bush Camp on the eastern border of the park gave us the experience of a private reserve with personalized service. Individual rondavels afforded a large private space for rest and relaxation during an afternoon shower. The raised dining room overlooking the floodlit waterhole gave us a ring-side seat for the thunderstorm in the distance while we enjoyed the delights of the menu, a three-course selection. Our final accommodation was The Olive Grove Guesthouse in Windhoek. It is a quite upscale property located on a hillside near the city centre. The rooms are huge, designed with industrial style materials, particularly in the bathroom area. A separate area with a table and chairs was suitable for computer use; another outside upper patio was similarly equipped. The breakfast tables opened onto a porch looking onto the pool area. It was a nice place to relax before our late afternoon onward flight. One caveat: excessive charges (120 NAD each couple) were included for a for a five minute ride down the hill to Joe's Beer House and return, provided by guesthouse staff. As we were not informed of any tariff on the offer to transport us to dinner, we tipped generously; hence our surprise the next morning with this charge on our bill. We also liked the Auas Game Lodge, but with our late arrival, had little chance to enjoy the property. The good service there and spacious room after the international flights was appreciated.

In all, Namibia Tours and Safaris has provided a great range of accommodation options for the traveller who wants a mid-range level of comfort at affordable pricing.

Vehicle

Our vehicle was the Land Cruiser with the pop-up roof which we highly recommend for tour parties travelling through Etosha and other wildlife spotting areas. Although not air-conditioned, the large windows could be opened to provided adequate breeze at all times. Sight-lines were excellent from each seat position in the vehicle. There was ample space in the back for the luggage of five people and the cooler fit easily between the two back seating areas. The four-wheel drive capabilities allowed us to travel beyond the 2WD Car Park into Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei, "must-see" venues in the park. In addition, we took many secondary "D" roads, stopping for lunch in places like Ganab, and for pictures along the way in Damaraland.

Game viewing was a pleasure with the pop-up roof that gave the photographers a place to steady cameras, and provide 360o views of the surroundings. Once, while tracking a hyena's progress along the road by those standing, I spotted a leopard slinking through the tall grass right beside our vehicle, sitting down at eye level, looking out the window. On our subsequent travels in southern Africa, we were able to further appreciate the flexibility of our transport in Namibia, compared to other vehicles.

Itinerary

13 Feb: Olive Grove Guesthouse
14 Feb: Auas Game lodge
15 - 16 Feb: Desert Homestead
17 - 18 Feb: Swakopmund Guesthouse
19 Feb: Twyfelfontein Lodge
20 Feb: Okaukuejo
21 Feb: Halali
22 Feb: Onguma Bush Camp
23 - 24 Feb: Olive Grove Guesthouse
25 - 26 Feb: Chobe Safari Lodge
27 - 2 Mar: Victoria Falls hotel

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