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SimplyRed

A short report on Botswana with photos

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madaboutcheetah

If you guys are talking about Bait or Bate? (spelling???) ...... He probably was one of the LK trackers that is now a full time guide and a terrific one!!!! Met him at Lebala where he is based these days - full of energy and was nice to catch up at lunch time with him.

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madaboutcheetah

 

Not meaning to highjack your thread Red but I had two very bad experiences at a WS managed lodge in Namibia in April which came about because of management and lack of problem solving skills. My TA shot a letter off and I heard nothing. Finally took one of my gripes to Tripadvisor and they did respond - about both problems on the forum - to my satisfaction. I would have preferred just to include in episode in my trip report here, but needed acknowledgement of the problem and that steps were taken. So if someone from WS is reading this - thank you for your posting over at TA - the bitter taste has finally left my mouth.

It is worrying that such a large company has so little regard for customer satisfaction that they only respond to criticism on social media. I have never been to a WS camp and the more I hear, the less inclined I feel to do so

 

However, 'red, it sounds like you had a great trip. Also, what's not to like about wild dog puppies playing in the water??

 

 

It's probably easier for them to maintain a specific "standard product" for a huge chain of camps ..... after all, most safari-goers at their camps will have chosen them for their only trip to Africa - so, they won't know the difference and go home super happy with the experience.

 

Yet, it will be a tragedy if every one else (other companies) feels the need to standardize their product along the lines of the WS rigidity .....

Edited by madaboutcheetah

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ld1

@@graceland it was back in 2010 and it being 3 of us saying we don't want to do something I think they were keen we didnt raise it as an issue with our agent when we got home. We too are off on a private mobile safari for the first time this year. Heading to Mana Pools with a few nights at Chitake with Doug MacDonald. We leave in 5 weeks and I am beyod excited about this trip as Ive wanted to

 

@@madaboutcheetah it was Kenny who had acted as our tracker (guide was Steve) and Bait came out with us as tracker that evening. They were both a bit giddy as they were clearly young lads, they looked a bit like you do when your parents first let you go into town on your own of an evening. Both charming lads and I think Kenny is perhaps also now a guide (at least I hope so). Lebala was my favourite of the Kwando camps and I'd like to get back there one day along with Footsteps (guide was Paul) as that little camp was so simple and it was such a delight to be out on foot for a few days. Paul also took us to Four Rivers which is still the most beautiful spot for sundowners I've ever seen.

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madaboutcheetah

Oh Wow - you were very lucky. Steve Matija was a phenomenal guide .......... he's doing his own thing now, i hear. Yes, I agree about 4 Rivers - stunning!!!

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optig

Yes, I had Kenny as my spotter when I stayed at Little Kwara in 2011.I also can remember very clearly t Bait was showing me the constellations and it was simply unforgettable.

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SimplyRed

This post has taken a turn toward bashing WS and I want to be clear…..we loved every minute of our trip and all the WS camps. I would return in a heartbeat and I would use WS again.

 

I worked in the travel business for many years, so I have a very different eye than most casual travelers. I also have a very good relationship with my current agent. We trade viewpoints on the business frequently. The critique of WS management was for the purpose of learning. I hoped he would pass it on and that it would be received in the spirit in which it was given -- as a tool for tweaking a good product to make it just a bit better.

 

Let me leave you with some of our very positive experiences:

 

  • First, at each camp I had requested a specific guide and a specific room assignment. This was honored in all but one, in which the guide I requested was on leave.
  • At Tubu Tree, the camp manager and our guide put their heads together and came to us with a surprise plan for a wonderful all day outing; traveling to three other camps via water. It took two days for them to work out all the details….boat to a landing, vehicle waiting, brunch at other camps, another boat, another vehicle, another camp snack, another boat, a mokoro with guide, packed lunch, a fire starting lesson. It was a spectacular day that we would never have thought to ask for.
  • We commented on the less than stellar food at TT and two days later, the head chef from Jao camp had been brought in to work out new menus and sort things out.
  • The management at Xigera were worried sick over my bashed eye. Every single day they wanted to whisk me off for medical assessment.
  • At VP the staff worked with us to dine at VP-South camp with Shay-Tay one evening and then put on a spectacular anniversary dinner for us at our own camp later in the week.
  • At VP the staff put together a surprise bush brunch for us. There were lots of things offered to us like this because we stayed 5 days in camps. They just don't have the time to do these things on a visit of 2 nights.
  • We often drove much greater distances across the concessions for sightings that others didn't do.
  • As mentioned in my critique, we had a PV at almost every camp although we had only paid for two days at TT. As long term guests, the staff were very accommodating and reluctant to put a new set of guests with us each day, so we got our guides to ourselves. - - At Chitabe we had Phinley to ourselves (other than when we chose to share with Shay-Tay and Paula) for the entire 5 day stay.
  • Our requests to start out before sunrise were honored. Our requests to stay out late or return early were always honored.
  • At Savuti, we were comped a PV and guide to make our trek to see the Carmine Bee-eater colony, while our assigned guide took other guests to chase wild dogs.
  • When we asked for private dining, it was gladly accommodated. I simply didn’t ask because they would make such a big production out of it, that I felt uncomfortable.
  • Word had gotten back to our agent in the U.S. about my fall and my eye. Each camp would send him email reports on my condition, although I didn’t know this until the last camp.

 

These are but a few of the ways the WS management cared for us. I didn’t mean to leave the impression that WS management are complete dolts. There are just a few things that they do that I personally feel could be handled differently – in many cases making life easier for staff or guides. It’s a hazard of my past profession, to constantly critique for a better product.

 

Cheers,

'Red

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ld1

@@madaboutcheetah Yes, Steve was fabulous, a lot of fun. He used my camera quite a bit as I used to pass it to him and I can still pick out some of the great shots he took for me. My favourite being during a night drive when he got a great shot of a torch lit chameleon.

 

At Lebala we had Bali guide us and he was like an elder statesman, a quiet considered man but we liked him a lot and after a full day drive one day he came over to our tent and shouted "dogs we need to leave now". We ended up chasing through the bush watching a pack root out several wildcats and eventually take a Tsessebe - exciting stuff indeed. Those Kwando guides certaily earned their crust and some whilst we were there. Maybe one day we will go back, only green season for us though as we can't stretch to Botswana high season rates sadly.

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VeeR

Red - Thanks for your last posting. I didn't mean to start any bashing. My own problems were at just one camp and that was one out of seven WS camps.

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graceland

@@graceland it was back in 2010 and it being 3 of us saying we don't want to do something I think they were keen we didnt raise it as an issue with our agent when we got home. We too are off on a private mobile safari for the first time this year. Heading to Mana Pools with a few nights at Chitake with Doug MacDonald. We leave in 5 weeks and I am beyod excited about this trip as Ive wanted to

 

@@madaboutcheetah it was Kenny who had acted as our tracker (guide was Steve) and Bait came out with us as tracker that evening. They were both a bit giddy as they were clearly young lads, they looked a bit like you do when your parents first let you go into town on your own of an evening. Both charming lads and I think Kenny is perhaps also now a guide (at least I hope so). Lebala was my favourite of the Kwando camps and I'd like to get back there one day along with Footsteps (guide was Paul) as that little camp was so simple and it was such a delight to be out on foot for a few days. Paul also took us to Four Rivers which is still the most beautiful spot for sundowners I've ever seen.

Oh good to hear ; you will have a great time with Doug McDonald; I only hear superb references of Doug.

 

You know I believe Kenny (very boyish, small stature; but quite smart) was also our spotter in 2012 - when we had the unfortunate incidents with the guide at LK. Now he could be a great guide I am sure!

 

With @madaboutcheetahs reports, I am sure I could head back to Kwando Concession!

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graceland

This post has taken a turn toward bashing WS and I want to be clear…..we loved every minute of our trip and all the WS camps. I would return in a heartbeat and I would use WS again.

 

I worked in the travel business for many years, so I have a very different eye than most casual travelers. I also have a very good relationship with my current agent. We trade viewpoints on the business frequently. The critique of WS management was for the purpose of learning. I hoped he would pass it on and that it would be received in the spirit in which it was given -- as a tool for tweaking a good product to make it just a bit better.

 

Let me leave you with some of our very positive experiences:

 

  • First, at each camp I had requested a specific guide and a specific room assignment. This was honored in all but one, in which the guide I requested was on leave.
  • At Tubu Tree, the camp manager and our guide put their heads together and came to us with a surprise plan for a wonderful all day outing; traveling to three other camps via water. It took two days for them to work out all the details….boat to a landing, vehicle waiting, brunch at other camps, another boat, another vehicle, another camp snack, another boat, a mokoro with guide, packed lunch, a fire starting lesson. It was a spectacular day that we would never have thought to ask for.
  • We commented on the less than stellar food at TT and two days later, the head chef from Jao camp had been brought in to work out new menus and sort things out.
  • The management at Xigera were worried sick over my bashed eye. Every single day they wanted to whisk me off for medical assessment.
  • At VP the staff worked with us to dine at VP-South camp with Shay-Tay one evening and then put on a spectacular anniversary dinner for us at our own camp later in the week.
  • At VP the staff put together a surprise bush brunch for us. There were lots of things offered to us like this because we stayed 5 days in camps. They just don't have the time to do these things on a visit of 2 nights.
  • We often drove much greater distances across the concessions for sightings that others didn't do.
  • As mentioned in my critique, we had a PV at almost every camp although we had only paid for two days at TT. As long term guests, the staff were very accommodating and reluctant to put a new set of guests with us each day, so we got our guides to ourselves. - - At Chitabe we had Phinley to ourselves (other than when we chose to share with Shay-Tay and Paula) for the entire 5 day stay.
  • Our requests to start out before sunrise were honored. Our requests to stay out late or return early were always honored.
  • At Savuti, we were comped a PV and guide to make our trek to see the Carmine Bee-eater colony, while our assigned guide took other guests to chase wild dogs.
  • When we asked for private dining, it was gladly accommodated. I simply didn’t ask because they would make such a big production out of it, that I felt uncomfortable.
  • Word had gotten back to our agent in the U.S. about my fall and my eye. Each camp would send him email reports on my condition, although I didn’t know this until the last camp.

 

These are but a few of the ways the WS management cared for us. I didn’t mean to leave the impression that WS management are complete dolts. There are just a few things that they do that I personally feel could be handled differently – in many cases making life easier for staff or guides. It’s a hazard of my past profession, to constantly critique for a better product.

 

Cheers,

'Red

 

 

Exactly Red, WS did come through on every issue that arose, excepting the late night transfers.

 

Kudos to those managers. They worked hard to make our 3-4 night stays memorable! I enjoyed every camp immensely.

Edited by graceland

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Dam2810

 

Not meaning to highjack your thread Red but I had two very bad experiences at a WS managed lodge in Namibia in April which came about because of management and lack of problem solving skills. My TA shot a letter off and I heard nothing. Finally took one of my gripes to Tripadvisor and they did respond - about both problems on the forum - to my satisfaction. I would have preferred just to include in episode in my trip report here, but needed acknowledgement of the problem and that steps were taken. So if someone from WS is reading this - thank you for your posting over at TA - the bitter taste has finally left my mouth.

It is worrying that such a large company has so little regard for customer satisfaction that they only respond to criticism on social media. I have never been to a WS camp and the more I hear, the less inclined I feel to do so

 

However, 'red, it sounds like you had a great trip. Also, what's not to like about wild dog puppies playing in the water??

 

 

@ veer and @ simplyred. Same for me, my experiences with WS remain largely positive despite the fact that i don t like this jet setification of the safari experience. WS is a wonderful company for which I have lots of respect. They are i believe an example for many. They do a lot for the local communities and are sponsoring many projects (children in the wilderness, scientific research...have a look at http://www.wilderness-safaris.com/about/the-4cs/community & http://www.wildernesstrust.com/projects/current-projects/). The main critics I have are regarding the price increases that we are witnessing (but it s more due to the irrationality of the market than the fault of WS) and some details that could make the game drives more enjoyable for people for who the gameviewings are the most important aspect of their safari experience.

 

@@SimplyRed, if you have been to Jao island in November 2013, maybe you saw the small lions pride and were lucky to see the cubs. Otherwise you saw maybe the 2 "nomadic males". The camp managers did a little video with great pictures (pictures of Daniel Myburg,camp manager at kwetsani). I thought it might interest you (hope you don't mind that i posit it under) :

 

Edited by Dam2810

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Jochen

After having read the whole thread, including Red's remark and then her later post to put things in perspective; I think I might share yet another viewpoint.

 

My wife and I are currently doing an online "Game Lodge Management" course from WildlifeCampus.com. Their course material has been put together with the help of WS. Actually, all course material has the WS logo on page one of every chapter.

 

I'm not going to go into too much detail, but one thing that's a constant throughout the course is that the both of us regularly go "what?! Why?!" when reading the course material. I mean for example there's a chapter on minimal standards. It took us a while to understand it's a WS thing. Including the expression "'we care'-touches"; apparently those are the little to not-so-little attentions that are on top of the standard thing, to make a customer feel he gets personal attention.

 

This is just one example, but actually about every chapter has a few of those "surprises" that made our jaws drop. After a few chapters we really started to understand "this must be a WS thing". It's pretty funny actually. Somewhere in the beginning of the course it is mentioned that a manager should not forget that the guests are there in the first place for the wildlife, and that everything else (food, lodging, ...) comes second. And after that statement has been made there's about 20 chapters on all kinds of procedures and explanations on the way you should do things (or rather; on the way WS wants you do handle things), without much further mention of game drives.

 

Red, don't get me wrong, I don't mean to bash WS. I'm just saying that after having read what your trip was like, and how WS handled it, it was very clear to me that all those young folks have a hard time transcending all those rules and procedures, and giving a camp their own personal twist. Or otherwise put; for every remark you had, when we read it we went "yup, that's in the WS course".

 

You know, it's actually funny. Our course has online tests too. Quite often, you get some sort of tricky situation, and then a choice of possible answers. After a while we understood that it's best to opt for the most expensive and most cumbersome solution. Because surely that's what WS would do! :D And guess what; our tests scores are at least 10% higher once we started applying that technique.

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SimplyRed

@@Dam2810. Thank you for the video. We did see Rachel and Leah during our visit. We followed them for a long way, but they never lead us to the cubs. Everyone knew the cubs were near, but not exactly where. I think they had been recently moved. Lovely to see them in the video. Thank you for sharing.

 

@@Jochen. Very interesting reading your post. I would love to know more about the "WS way". There does seem to be a too obvious formula. Maybe they just need to teach the managers how to be more discrete. ^_^

 

Cheers,

'Red

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post-17518-0-54113500-1405971880_thumb.jpg

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janzin

Thank you for the great report and all the summary tips, pros and cons...its all very enlightening. I'm a Botswana newbie...heading there for the first time (although have done safaris in Tanzania and South Africa, very different.) Your report was especially interesting since we will also be going in November, although we are splitting between Wilderness and Kwando camps (Kwara, Lagoon, DumaTau, and Xigera.)

 

I am wondering if you could clarify one thing for me.

 

I'm a bit confused about "requesting a specific guide". It seems that you can request a certain guide without having to pay for a private vehicle? Is there a charge to request a specific guide? Since it sounds like by requesting one, you often gained the benefit of a private vehicle, or at least are put with others who have the wherewithall to also request that same excellent guide...I am thinking that we should go this route. My one really big concern with this trip is the inflexibility of a group vehicle (we've always traveled independently on safari.) As a photographer with a big lens, and also some specific interests/targets, I am starting to panic :o But we can't afford the private vehicle costs which I believe is around $360 a day (at least at Kwando camps; I can't seem to find the price for WS but I'm sure it must be equal or more.)

 

So what's the deal with requesting a private guide, and how do you go about figuring out who to request?

Edited by janzin

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SimplyRed

Hi Jan, I read a lot of reports on the specific camps on Trip Advisor. People post specifics like the names of guides, tents with great views, etc. I had our agent here in the States put in requests for specific guides and specific tents at each camp. No...there was no charge for doing that. We weren't guaranteed, but we did get out choices in all but one camp. That was at Xigera. The guide I wanted was on leave. As we've discussed here, WS moves staff around a lot, so someone great last year may no longer be in a camp during your stay. However, it never hurts to ask. As Graceland says, make your interests known loud and clear. The managers really try to please.

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Atravelynn

Up to just before Savuti. What a marvelous trip. Your predator and prey shots are extraordinary. That lion and warthog is stunning. Then the leopard and antelope and the many shots of the cheetah cubs in hunting mode. To get all of these sightings in one trip is highly fortunate.

 

Good thing you only had a black eye and didn't injure yourself in the bathtub in Botswana. The ele charge was familiar. Very strange behavior.

 

Thanks for letting us know how you are doing. You are certainly keeping on top of your health and have a very positive outlook.

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Miss M

WOW great photos Simply Red. Yes it's your old mate from Tubu Tree and Xigera here (Valma). Thanks for recommending this site to me. Can't wait to see more of the site and some more ideas for when we hopefully return to Africa and catch up again. I will also be buying a better camera!

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