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Julia Brown

How would you rate your trip overall? Excellent
Comment: The few things that I found disappointing were not so major as to knock the rating down to Very Good.
What was the most important reason for choosing AFRICAN PORTFOLIO? Referral
Please Specify Anthony (Tony) Olbrich and Nancy Napier
Comment: While the rapport with Vanessa Hensley and the realistic estimate were factors, I only knew about Vanessa because of Tony’s recommendation.
How many safari companies did you consider before selecting AFRICAN PORTFOLIO? Three or Four
Comment: The few disappointments were in Namibia and Johannesburg. 1) Getting to Okonjima from Windhoek took nearly 4 hours of driving. We were under the impression that there was no other transport available to get there. However, we discovered upon arriving that there was a flight from Windhoek that would have taken about 45 minutes, and have given us the opportunity to go on an afternoon game drive that day. (2) The many surprise celebrations staged at various camps were wonderful. I enjoyed every one of them. (more on that later) The champagne in a custom-engraved bottle was a nice touch at Okonjima, though saving that bottle as a souvenir was impractical and so we had to leave it there. The heavy canvas bag and the folio inside it would have been welcomed had we been on a self-driving tour. They added another pound+ to our already heavy baggage. We endured, but wished we hadn’t felt obligated to carry them.  (3) Camp Kipwe is beautifully situated in geologically fascinating territory. The accommodations were spacious, the views amazing. The wait staff needs some intensive training. There were only a couple of the waiters who greeted us with a smile. Most were sullen, and poorly prepared for serving. We didn’t get to the ancient stone carvings because the weather was unusually hot, and we had learned that it was a hard climb up to where they were. (4) Finally, Johannesburg. The driver was able to accommodate our change in schedule. He was very knowledgeable about Joburg’s history, but focused on Nelson Mandela and his monuments, homes, and status to the exclusion of any information about Bishop Desmond Tutu. He dropped us off for lunch but seemed frustrated and/or annoyed that we did not want to go through one of Mandela’s homes or offices when he picked us up.That this was the last day of a very busy 3+ weeks probably was reflected in our interest and demeanor.
What additional information (if any) would you have liked to receive prior to your departure from home? Vanessa’s very thorough and complete explanation about the tipping practices was invaluable. However, we could have planned for the additional $$ better had it been part of the initial discussions about miscellaneous costs. We withdrew twice as much cash as we needed.
How would you describe your accommodation, facilities and meals? Please provide the name of the hotel, lodge or camp you are describing. Chobe Game Lodge: accom=luxurious, deluxe, spacious, comfortable, special; facil=expansive, manicured, well-equipped; meals=very good, occasionally exceptional. Activity focused.
Camp Xakanaxa: accom=deluxe, well-cared-for, more relaxed and/or casual than some, great views from deck; facil=special, summer camp-like (a good thing), open spaces; meals=wonderful, tasted like homemade, new flavor combinations, variety, African porridge. Guest  focused.
Leroo La Tau: accom=much like Xakanaxa, slightly more polished; facil=beautifully designed, some manicured, mostly wild; meals= very good, awesome breads, accommodating schedule. Community & school donation focused.
Okonjima-Africat camp: accom=deluxe, unique, expansive, comfortable, spacious; facil=much like the above two; meals=very good to excellent. Animal preservation focused.
Camp Kipwe: accom=deluxe suite, looonnng walk to get there, with many steps and poorly lighted at night; facil=had a step with no markings on it at the transition from lounge area to dining area. Advised of its presence during the quick walk-through tour of facil. A hazard, nevertheless – I tripped on it, as did Mitch; meals= very good, but nothing remarkable. No specific focus, but definitely not guest focused. Wait staff needs intensive training.
Hoanib Valley Camp: accom=”honeymoon suite”! tent, spacious, comfortable, special; facil=all tents, entire camp runs on solar power, well-cared for, spacious; only problem was the 2-hour drive necessary to see much on drives – with much to see; meals= excellent.
Kulala Desert Lodge: accom=comfortable, except for chairs; facil=close to Sossusvlei, very spread out with about 20 separate units, paths poorly lighted, very steep step to tent with no handrail or means of assistance to tackle it, same for various other steep steps on different paths; meals=ambitious menus that were not always successful, overall very good but some odd combinations that were clearly leftovers thrown together. No apparent focus other than proximity to dunes.
What and where was your favorite meal of the trip? I could not possibly identify one from so many excellent meals during our trip of 3.5 weeks at 7 different camps.
How would you evaluate your safari guides and staff? Please provide the name of the person you are describing. Our guide, Festus, at Hoanib Valley Camp, is “sine qua non,” without equal. Ask him any question and he has the answer, the history, the context, the impact on surroundings, and more. Soft-spoken, calm, centered – we’ll remember him always. Tjaime, the manager, was also helpful and very responsive. The entire staff was friendly and made a point of relating to the guests.
Our guides, “TS” at Camp Xakanaxa and “G” at Leroo La Tau, were fun and very knowledgeable.
Camp Xakanaxa manager Mox was very good at setting the tone for staff interaction with the guests. All were very friendly, especially the ones helping me learn some Setswana words!
With the exception of Camp Kipwe, the staffs of our camps/lodge were friendly and aware of the concept of service.
Was there anything you would have liked more of, less of, or done differently? Would like to have had more sense than to pack twice as much as I needed. Would have stayed longer at fewer places, I think. Had I known the difference it would have made, I would have bought a 400mm lens for my camera.
What was your most memorable moment in Africa? Unable to answer this. Too many to pick just one.
If you could give future travelers one word of advice, what would it be? GO!

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