Botswana Breakaway Safari
(operated by Jenman Safaris, offered in Germany by e.g. Explorer Fernreisen at the time of writing)
Would we do this trip again: No.
Reasons: Besides some issues special to our trip (below), the following reasons let us come to this conclusion:
1. -5- of the in total -14- days are just travelling days where you will rarely see any wild animals (done in a Mitsubishi Fuso 4WD without aircon: from Ivory Lodge to Elephant Sands (though we partly drove through Hwange NP), from Elephant sands to the Bedouin camp, from the Bedouin camp to Thamalakane Lodge (despite the possibility to do a scenic flight), from Thamalakane to Guma Lagoon camp, from Guma Lagoon camp to Namibia, from Namibia to Chobe NP).
2. the trip is offered as a camping as well as a fully accomodated safari - means a compromise for campers as well as people taking part in the fully accomodated tour, which in the end does not make this tour a perfect one for either of both.
3. Drinks (including WATER) are NOT included and you are required to buy them yourself (no matter if camper or fully accomodated participant). The tour stops regularly at supermarkets where you can buy drinks. A litre of the cheapest water costs approx. 40 US cents.
4. Meals: it came as a surprise to realise that 3 dinners and 1 lunch were not included in the package.
5. -12- people seem to be to many for this trip. Comfortable size would be no more than ten people.
Some issues regarding our trip:
1. The company started the tour with an already broken vehicle -the air conditioning was not working- which it was not able to fix over the whole trip. During the long travel days the temperature in the vehicle rose to 30°C and more - which is not at all a comfortable travelling temperature for a 6 to 8 hour drive with 14 people in the bus.
2. The fridges (including the one supposed to cool the food) of the vehicle did not work properly all the time. The fridge that was supposed to cool the drinks of the participants did only work when the car was running.
3. Jenman managed to loose the booking for our transfer back to the airport. This left the impression of being unprofessional. Since Jenman did not want to accept the voucher provided by our travel agent (Explorer) at the beginning, we ended up calling the travel agent, which finally managed to get the transfer arranged (funny thing is, it took the agent 30mins to get everything sorted with Jenman. Before that, Jenman and our guide discussed half a day the validity of our voucher).
4. Often, departure for the next campsite was delayed, due to insufficient time management of the guides to get the car loaded. As a consequence of such a delay a part of the programme (a bush walk at Elephant sands) had to be skipped.
5. For Day 5 there were three game drives scheduled - one morning, one afternoon, and one night drive. We only had two, with the afternoon drive made a short evening drive combined with a short night drive.
Things that could be skipped from the tour:
Tsodilo Hills: Though this is a UNESCO world heritage site, the way it is visited during this tour does please neither people interested in rock paintings nor those that don't care about them: From our point of view it is questionable, whether it is worth taking a 2 hours detour just to have 20 to 30 minutes to watch the rock paintings. Time could have been used better if either there was not so much time pressure when visiting the rock paintings (meaning give the group the chance to watch more paintings than just three) or instead do another game drive in Namibia.
Nata Bird sanctuary: The most exciting thing about this was that we got stuck. Nearly no animals, and the landscape is definately not a highlight.
Thamalakane Lodge: Staying on a parking lot as a camper is not really nice. In addition, the showers and restrooms were dirty. By the way: a German tourist guide states that this lodge does not offer camping since 2010... At least some of the staff does not speak English very well.
The meals provided were good, and sometimes it is quite surprising what a delicious meal can be created with only basic equipment, and how nice a table can be prepared.
Highlights of the tour:
Hwange NP, Moremi game reserve, scenic flight over the Okavango delta, Chobe NP (especially the boat cruise)
The camping sites:
Ivory Lodge (2 nights): Very nice camping site close to a water hole, lots of game could be viewed from our tent. Electricity as well as quite clean restrooms and showers provided. (Cold) Drinks could be obtained from the bar at the lodge.
Elephant Sands (1 night): camping site is ok, however, the showers and restrooms lacked cleaning. There is no fresh water available for cleaning - the water provided is salty. (Cold) Drinks could be obtained from the bar at the lodge.
Bedouin camp (3 nights): the most beautiful campsite - that was ecactly how we had expected camping in Africa. no electricity. Ice-cooled drinks available.
Thamalakane (1 night): campers were put on the parking lot, and treated like second class people (laundry was delayed, only after discussion with the guide the requirement to clear the bill immediately despite travelling with the Jenman group was cancelled). Restrooms and showers dirty. NOTHING FOR CAMPERS!!! Food and lodge accomodation, however, is excellent.
Guma lagoon camp (2 nights): nice and clean campsite (first one on grass instead of sand). drinks available from the bar. Here we saw our most beautiful African sunrise.
Mahangu lodge (1 night, Namibia): Beautiful campsite right next to the river, with hippos. nice showers and restrooms. drinks can be obtained from the bar.
Chobe Safari Lodge (2 nights): Showers and restrooms nice, nice campsite with river view. At the main area (bar and restaurant) billing for campers was ony possible after discussion.
Lokuthula lodges (1 night): Very comfortable 2 to 3 bedroom chalets, though one needs to be especially careful with respect to mosquitos.