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A fantastic trip, worthy of a solid gold 5-stars if it werent for a couple of disappointing particulars.
The BA flight from Jo'Burg to Victoria Falls went without a hitch. On arrival at Victoria Falls we joined the inevitable queue for immigration and the purchase of a Visa. This was not a problem but nowhere in the any of the booking documents or advice from Viator or the Tour Operators was there any advice about the cost or kind of Visa required. Our own investigations online found the the advice to purchase a Double Entry visa as a second border crossing occurs on the way back to the Victoria Falls airport from Chobe. I find this failure to provide such important information down to a lack of attention to detail on Viators part.
On pickup from the Airport for transfer to the Victoria Falls Hotel we were given a copy of our itinerary for the following days activities by the Wild Horizons the local tour organiser driver. This gave a time of 13.45 1.45pm for a Walking Tour of the Falls. With the morning free we decided to take a Helicopter ride over the Falls and surrounding area - Brilliant! Not only magnificent views of the Falls but also the local wildlife. However, on return to the hotel, we received a rather terse eMail from Wild Horizons castigating us for missing our 8.30 booking for the Walking Tour. Another sad lack of attention to detail. We took the Tour under our steam - a guide is totally unnecessary as the path is well paved and signposted and, armed with an leaflet given free by the hotel, we had all the information we needed to enjoy the spectacle in our own time and at our own speed.
The Booking Confirmation for our trip came not from Viator but from African Images Tours apparently a subsidiary of British Airways operated by Comair via Springbok Atlas Travel. This confirmed that our accommodation at the Victoria Falls Hotel was to be a Deluxe Double Room. On arrival at the hotel we were given a Twin Room - which was what, they said, had been reserved for us and, anyway, all that they had available for our time there.
The Hotel itself is wonderfully sited, with breathtaking views of the Zambezi Gorge and the rising mist from the Falls on the horizon. The service from the staff was friendly and professional, the food excellent. However the general feel of the hotel was one of a fading old dowager duchess, still living on the name and reputation of her long dead husbands family name. The rooms had a careworn shabbiness about them ill fitting windows, bathroom doors with the unfilled fixing holes for at least three generations of door locks - but not one working one. Fortunately the lock on the door to the adjoining room did work though the door was so thin that the conversation of the couple in the next room was clearly audible. With that, the noisy wall mounted AC unit and the sounds of the hotels wildlife drifting in through the gaps in the window frame, we were very glad of the airline issue complimentary earplugs from the flight!
The Sunset Cruise upgraded to the Luxury option in recompense for the missed walking tour was excellent. Sailing down the Zambezi in the light of the setting sun, sipping cocktails and nibbling canapés whilst viewing Elephants, Hippos and Crocodiles in their natural habitat was a great experience.
The road transfer to Chobe National Park was as good as could be expected on African roads and with another border crossing. Our arrival at the Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero Lodge could not have been better - we were met with cooling towels, refreshing drinks and many, genuine, smiles. After a lovely lunch we were introduced to our Guide, Moshe, and set off on our first safari drive. Elephants, families of Lions, mums with cubs, Zebra, Giraffe, Impala, Kudu, Hippos, Vultures - I learnt more from Moshe that afternoon about Africa and its wildlife than I had from decades of watching BBC nature programs. Moshes knowledge, his ability to impart it to others and his obvious pleasure in the subject is second to none.
Dinner, overseen by Phineas, the Chef, was excellent. As was our 6.30am breakfast the following day, in time for our second safari drive departing at 7am. Moshe once again guided and entertained us. Then back to the Lodge for lunch, a siesta and, then, off on a river safari - more drinks and snacks as the sun set over the wetlands.
A wonderful 5star experience that Id recommend to anyone.
And then back to Victoria Falls Airport and the BA flight back to Joburg with the worst cabin crew I have ever travelled with - unfriendly, impatient and contemptuous of the passengers. Having virtually thrown the inflight snacks at those impudent enough to request them, the crew adjourned to the rear galley to loudly slag off the cheek of certain passengers - clearly audible to those of us sat in the rear seats.
Overall the trip was a marvellous, unforgettable experience, spoiled but not ruined by the action, or lack of it, by the few
Overall the trip was good, but you would be better to arrange some of it on your own.
The Victoria Falls was great and we stayed at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge which was great however, you will have to pay 50 per night more to get a room that views the waterhole. No problems with this part of the trip.
We loved Botswana but would not stay at the lodge we were at, Chobe Game Lodge. The lodge itself is beautiful and the staff was great, however, they are on a big green electriciy kick at this lodge which is great, but their electrical vehicles all travel at about 1/3 speed of the other safari trucks I think it is because they break so easy. Thus you get to see 1/3 what everyone else in the park gets to and we were continually passed by everyone else. Trust me it was brutally slow. We had to leave a pack of lions hunting before everyone else since it took us so long to get back to the lodge and we missed them kill a Buffalo. One other thing, there is air conditioning but it is limited by the lodge on the temperature you can set it at which was about 2 degrees Celsius to high I would go back to Botswana but not this lodge unless they get new trucks.
Finally, the other issue was the flights that they set up. Chobe National Park is about 15 minutes from Kasane airport in Botswana which has a direct flight back to Johannesburg which everyone else in the lodge was doing. This is the way to go. They booked us on British Airways flight back out of Victoria Falls which is a 3 hours drive have to back through customs, so you need a multi entry visa to Zimbabwe which cost 40 more back to airport. The flight then leaves Victoria Falls and goes to Livingstone, Zambia where you get to sit on the plane for an hour while the plane fuels and reloads passenger before going back to Johannesburg.
Unless they fix the vehicle issue at the Chobe Game Lodge and fix the return flight from Botswana, I would book this trip somewhere else or set it up yourself.
Booking and receiving confirmation for this trip was the hardest travel arrangements I ever experienced. It took at least 10 calls, where each call resulted in at least ½ hour waiting to speak to a sales represented.
The booking confusion was frustrating at the least. Perhaps this was due to their coordination with the travel group in Africa. I never received a clear travel itinerary and luckily I decided to fly to Zimbabwe to see if the tour representatives would be on the ground to greet me.
Once on the ground in Zimbabwe and Botswana the tour itself was very rewarding as it is hard not to enjoy Victoria Falls as it is spectacular. Chobe National Park is full of animals and the guides professional so that part was amazing and well worth it. The accommodations were nice.
I am giving this a 4 star due to the frustration in the initial booking, otherwise it was well worth the price.
My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our 5 day tour to Victoria Falls and Chobe National Park. We just loved it. We were taken care of every step of the way. Loved our luxurious accommodations. And the staff at each lodge was tremendously helpful and kind. We were sad to have to say good-bye to Botswana and Zimbabwe at the end of our 5 days. We look forward to exploring more of Africa in the future.
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