“We would return in a heartbeat using Jono and the team again.”
While we have travelled internationally many times without using travel agents, we were a little reluctant to do so when visiting Africa, not knowing the region and aware of the huge scope of travel and tours available. We approached Encompass Africa after finding their name online.
From the moment we met Jono and his team at Encompass Africa in Brisbane we had confidence in his ability to provide us with an outstanding experience. Pre-trip he was always available and cooperative, and produced for us an extremely detailed itinerary that left nothing to chance. His itinerary provided first-class accommodation, car rentals, tours and air travel, and we put our absolute trust in his suggestions for a 17-day holiday in South Africa and Botswana. We were not disappointed.
“Jono’s itinerary provided first-class accommodation, car rentals, tours and air travel, and we put our absolute trust in his suggestions for a 17-day holiday in South Africa and Botswana. We were not disappointed.”
In South Africa we experienced Cape Town (three days) and the Garden Route (six days), and were amazed at the wonderful variety of landscapes and other attractions of the region. While we felt a little insecure before we left to drive the Garden Route, we had absolutely no problems. Roads were excellent, locals cooperative and efficient, drivers far more courteous than in Australia, and we always felt safe wherever we went. Sure, when parking the car anywhere there is always a local to guide you into a space and expecting a small tip, but we quickly got used to this and quite enjoyed chatting with them.
“The roads in South Africa were excellent, the locals cooperative and efficient, the drivers far more courteous than in Australia, and we always felt safe wherever we went.”
After returning to Cape Town we flew to Maun in Botswana and from there a light plane to the first of two safari camps, Kwando Lagoon. Within 90 minutes of our 4pm arrival we were following two cheetahs for at least 30 minutes, almost within arms’ reach. We were told this was our lucky day because they had not seen the cheetahs for two months. The rest of our three days there were amazing, with a huge array of wildlife including witnessing lion and lioness hunts and one kill, hippos, elephants and giraffes, to name just a few.
Kwando Lagoon was an incredible introduction to the Kwando group of safari camps. Facilities were five-star and the staff efficient, courteous and willing to do anything to make our stay more comfortable. The routine doesn’t vary in Kwando camps: there are two safaris each day, rising at 5am or 5.30am for a 6am start, out for five hours, then lunch and a siesta, before going out again at 4pm for another 4-5 hours of day and night animal spotting. Then a beautiful meal and wines, conversation with other guests, and early retirement to prepare for the next day. It did take a while to become accustomed to the noise of dozens of hippos at night in the river a few metres from our tent.
After three days we left Kwando Lagoon for Kwando Splash camp (a 30-minute light plane ride), thinking nothing could better where we had been. We were wrong. Kwando Splash had the advantage of being newly rebuilt, so everything was sparkling. The animals were literally everywhere. We left camp for safaris and within a few minutes were photographing lions, jackals, zebras, giraffes, a honey badger, elephants, hyenas, etc etc. On the first day we found a leopard, under a bush right next to our vehicle and patiently waiting for us while we took a thousand photographs. Our wonderful Botswanan guide Dave and tracker KB had just finished telling us the leopards were very elusive and difficult to find, they were at least as excited and amazed as we were. Like Lagoon camp, Splash had wonderful facilities, outstanding staff and excellent meals and drinks. My wife’s birthday was celebrated there with a delightful performance by the staff, followed by a cake with the other guests. Staff are more like a big family than employees.
“On the first day we found a leopard, under a bush right next to our vehicle and patiently waiting for us while we took a thousand photographs.”
A couple of things to note: the camps are in an environment that is barely disturbed and it is not uncommon to see wild animals in the camp or on the tracks to accommodation tents. We saw elephants baboons and warthogs in camp. Staff are always on hand to escort guests to and from accommodation, and after dark it is policy not to leave the common area or tent without a staff escort. The animals are not in reserves or sanctuaries and are not fed or nurtured by staff. They are completely wild and rely on traditional hunting methods for survival. We never felt afraid or insecure because guides trackers and other staff are so professional and well-trained. The period recommended by Encompass Africa of three days in each camp was exactly right – any longer and we would have been exhausted with excitement and 5am wake-ups.
We left Africa unable to think of one deficiency or criticism of our holiday, travel agent or hosts in South Africa and Botswana. We cannot recommend Encompass Africa and Kwando camps more highly (although we haven’t been to any others), and would return in a heartbeat using Jono and the team again.
View their itinerary
Jono’s suggestion for Kym and Lyn’s next African adventure:
“We know that seeing the wildlife in its true wilderness was a real highlight for Kym and Lyn, so I would suggest a safari in Zambia next, visiting both the South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi where there is amazing wildlife and fantastic down camps and lodges that are both down-to-earth as well as being luxurious.”