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Nipo   –  
Finland FI
Visited: March 2024 Reviewed: Apr 10, 2024

Email Nipo  |  50-65 years of age  |  Experience level: 2-5 safaris

Zimbabwe & Botswana Game Tracker - worth the price, some challenges

We did Sunway Safaris Zimbabwe & Botswana Game Tracker (ZBa16) in March-April 2024 with a Sunway Safari truck and all together 12 participants and 2 guides. Here is a summary of the trip. All in all, the level of the tour operator was reasonable by Arfica's standards and the trip was generally worth the price. The guides were of a good average level and the arrangements were generally smooth. The food was average.

The car's safety level had some shortcomings (three-point seat belts were missing and a lot of loose items were kept in the passenger compartment), but the driver's driving skills were good. It is worth noting that the car is built on a truck chassis and the suspension is therefore very stiff. Spending tens of hours on bumpy roads in Africa is therefore quite uncomfortable. In addition, the car's air conditioning is insufficient for hot climates, so you should be prepared for discomfort. Contrary to what is said on the website, there is no drinking water tank in the car, but passengers are advised to buy their drinking water from shops.

The itinerary was mostly good. The biggest disappointment was that a few weeks before the trip, the tour operator announced that Khama Rhino Sanctuary was removed from the plan, as seeing Rhinos was one of the main reasons we booked this particular trip. It was replaced by Goo Moremi Gorge, where we did a small nature walk in a large group of tourists and where there was practically nothing to see. The reason for the change was that one of the couples participating in the trip had booked earlier flights, which is why we had to be at the airport earlier and therefore travel further the day before and miss the Khama Rhino Sanctuary. In my opinion, it is not fair that the route of those who have already booked the trip is shortened and destinations are left out, so that those who booked later can book earlier flights.

Another big disappointment on the trip was the game drive arrangements of the Hvange nature park. The itinerary promises 4WD game drives in the park led by a local guide. We also booked the night game drive offered as an extra. In practice, we got an ancient truck from the 80s and a non-English-speaking driver who couldn't drive it and wasn’t interested in the animals or guiding. At the very beginning, we got stuck twice in the sand, from which we had to shovel the tires and push the car (the safety instructions prohibit not getting out of the car, but we had no choice but to push the car out of the sand). After this, the driver refused to drive on the dirt roads anymore and only drove back and forth on the main road of the park, with the result that we saw nothing but a couple of elephants that were in the middle of the road. Also, the night game drive light used by the driver was so weak that you couldn't spot animals in its light. Despite our complaints, the Sunway safaris guide didn't do anything about it, but went himself to another car, which drove small dirt roads and saw a lot of animals. When we demanded a refund for the payment, the guide didn't even try to find a solution, but bluntly stated that we should pay for these "game drives".

There was also one very dangerous incident on our trip. In the Okavango Delta, a hippo attacked one of our group's canoes. A local paddler barely managed to keep the canoe afloat by jumping into the water himself and hitting the hippo with a stick, which broke in a flash. Fortunately, no one was injured, only the clothes and belongings of the people in the canoe got wet. However, the situation was life-threatening.

The accommodations were mostly as described, some quite basic, some better and even luxury.
The Great Zimbabwe hotel turned off the electricity at night to save electricity from 1-5, with the result that the air conditioning did not work and we stayed up sweating almost the whole night. You couldn't open the windows because of the monkeys and mosquitoes, which was very uncomfortable.

Okavango Delta tent camp was very basic, as promised. It was quite nice there as long as the weather stayed good, but on our last day there it rained non-stop, which made it quite uncomfortable. We also had to leave the camp in the pouring rain, so all our things were soaking wet after the trip.

Hermits Peak Guest Lodge in Matobo, Nkosi Guest Lodge at Victoria Falls and Goo Moremi Gorge Resort were the best and good quality accommodations of the trip, the rest were quite ordinary.

Reply from Sunway Safaris
Reply from Sunway Safaris
Posted on Apr 12, 2024

Dear Nipo,

Thank you for taking the time to provide such in depth feedback.
Sunway Safaris would like to provide feedback on some of the points raised.

“The car's safety level”
Our Sunway Safaris trucks are built to conform to the latest safety regulations.
If we did not do this, then we would have multiple issues with fines and officials all over Southern Africa, including when our vehicles cross over borders between countries.
Each vehicle is fitted with a safety shell and each seat has a lap belt.
The Sunway trucks are built by a registered coach builder and we have a specific homologation design certificate.
Safety in our industry is of our utmost concern as Sunway is responsible for the clients and guides it carries on tour.
We do our utmost to ensure the safety of our clients at all times.

“Air conditioning”
We specifically avoid the use of the term air conditioning when marketing or discussing the Safari trucks.
These vehicles are not fitted with an air conditioner.
They do have an air cooling system, which when used will reduce the temperature in the vehicle by around 5 - 10 degrees.
But, this relies on a number of factors such as whether all clients keep their windows closed when operational.
So, if it is 40 degrees outside it will still be rather warm inside the truck.
Also note that Southern Africa experienced unusually high temperatures towards the end of March 2024 which would have contributed to the heat inside the vehicle.

“Drinking Water”
All of the Sunway Safari Trucks are fitted with a water tank that is available to clients.
I have discussed this point with the guides and they say they informed the group of the tank, but that the clients chose to purchase water instead.
I have asked the guides to make sure in future that this point is clearly communicated to all clients and make sure that all clients understand what water is available.

“Khama Rhino Sanctuary”
Sunway Safaris sends out notification of changes at least 6 weeks prior to tour.
Notification of this change was sent on 29 January 2024 with a detailed explanation as to why this change was necessary.
We can understand that some clients may have been disappointed by the change, but overall this was for the greater good of the tour.
The reason provided for the change is not consistent with the reasons given in the detailed notification sent on 29 January 2024.
In short, the change was made to provide superior quality accommodation to the touring group on the final night of tour, combined with a nature based activity.
Goo Moremi Gorge Resort we feel is of a suitable standard to meet this need.
Further to this, clients do have an excellent opportunity to view Rhino on foot, earlier on in the tour.

“Game Drive in Hwange National Park”
I have had a look through all the feedback forms provided by all clients on the tour.
There is not mention of the poor quality of the vehicle by other clients, or a lack of animal sightings.
When speaking with the guides, they were aware of the unhappiness with the night drive, but recommended to the that this be dealt with after the tour as all clients were already waiting in the truck for departure.
The night drive is an optional activity operated by a third party from the lodge.
We will however get in touch with the operator to raise the clients concern with the quality of vehicle supplied for the drive, so thank you for raising this with us.
We always strive for clients to receive the same standard of experience.

“Hippo Incident in Okavango”
The Okavango is a wild environment.
It is one of the primary highlights of many of our tours.
We carry 1500+ clients per annum into the delta.
The poler mentioned to the group that this is only the second time that a hippo has come near a boat in the last 5 years.
So that’s 3000 bed nights per year, and 15,000 bed nights in the last 5 years (Covid excluded)
So, two hippo incidents in 15,000 bed nights is not unfathomable in terms the wilderness aspect, hippos, low water levels this year.
We’ve been doing this for 30 years now, and thankfully without a hippo injury to client.

Generally, the polers are aware of where the hippos are congregating during the day.
And thus, avoid contact with the hippos as far as possible.
The polers are very cautious, move slowly, and stick to the edges of any lagoons.

The short sunset Mokoro experience normally takes place at a lagoon close to camp site in the early evening.
It is normally a very relaxed situation with hippos either in the centre or far side of the lagoon, if any hippos at all.
Bearing in mind that hippos are an absolute highlight for many of our clients.

But as always wildlife is unpredictable and finding a “rogue” hippo out of place would be the exception.

Central southern Africa is experiencing very low rainfalls this year, worse than any of the last 40 years.
This means that the Delta is restricted to the main channels, but also that grazing is going to be challenging for large herbivores.
This of course puts pressure and stress into the environment and does make all of the animals a little less predictable.
The polers will of course be doing all they can to avoid hippos on these activities and would not have chosen to put the clients in harm’s way deliberately (the polers also have children they want to go home to each day).

As stated earlier, safety of clients is paramount to Sunway Safaris and we would not put clients in a high risk situation.

“Great Zimbabwe Electricity”
Zimbabwe and South Africa are known world-wide for electricity interruptions.
We are not aware of Great Zimbabwe Hotel “switching off the power” purposely between 1am and 5am.
But, we have contacted the hotel group to find out if this is the case and will act on it accordingly.
Unfortunately, bearing the countries power supply issues, sometimes things that are completely out of Sunway or the accommodation providers control can occur.

Looking at the feedback from tour, all other clients on the tour rated all accommodation on tour 4* and 5*, and commended the accommodation used on tour.
So, I am sorry to hear that you did not have the same level of satisfaction in terms of the accommodation used.

We value all client feedback as an important control mechanism, and always ensure that it is taken seriously and any issues raised are properly dealt with.

Thank you again for your detailed feedback.

Kind regards
Sunway Safaris Marketing

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