I’ve enjoyed travelling with Intrepid Travel, but trying to find reviews of their specific trips has been difficult. They publish snippits on their page, but those, of course, are glowing reviews. So I’m left wondering – how’s the food? How’s the travel? What should I know? Where should I get souvenirs? How many early mornings?
So here you go. A review of Intrepid’s Okavango Experience. Read here for my trip report, this is just a review of the company, not the company. (If you see what I’m saying).
Intrepid’s Okavango Experience is listed as 10 days, but it’s closer to 9 in reality. The first day consists solely of a meeting around 6 at the hotel with the guide, driver and other travellers. Bring a pen, your passport, and insurance information- you’ll have a few things to fill out.
Most of the 9 mornings will involve an early wake-up – anywhere from 4:30 to 6 am. You’ll usually be on the road by 6 to 7. The good news is that the roads are smooth enough that you’ll be able to sleep. The bad news – no a/c, so it’ll get HOT. Lunch was generally around 1, and dinner around 7. We usually arrived at the campground/hotel around 4, with a few free hours before we ate – several times we arrived a bit earlier and had time to enjoy the hotel pool before dinner. In the Okavango Delta itself, game walks were at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m., with the morning walks being longer.
The truck (bus?) is fairly large – a metal ladder is used to access it. It’s tiny – you’ll find it awkward going down, but you’ll develop a rhythm a day or two in. The seats are set up in four rows, in a typical bus style – two seats, aisle, two seats – and are comfortable. There’s not much storage room (other than the seat in front if you’re in the middle two rows) so make sure you only have essentials in your bag with you. There is a seat pocket on the back of the seat in front of you for smaller items. As I mentioned, there’s no a/c, but the windows open.
The canvas-dome tents used are in extremely good condition – no rips, tears, holes or the like. The windows and doors are a green-mesh – and they allow you to look out, but not for someone else to look in (unless you have a light on.) We only had rain one evening (and we had up-graded) but from what we were told – they’re waterproof. They’re also easy to set up and take down, the hardest part being trying to get the hooks to unhook from the poles.
Nearly all of the campgrounds are attached to hotels, with the exception of Khama Rhino Sanctuary, and the Okavango Delta (which are just campsites.)
Khama Rhino Sanctuary – very sandy campground, slightly wooded, quiet (the other campsites are situated far enough away that you rarely hear them.) Comfort stations are very clean, toilet paper provided, but no soap (bring your own.) Hot and cold showers!
Sedia Hotel – again, a very sandy campground, little shade, noisier. It’s a very open campground, so people camp very close to one another. It’s a very quick way (about 30 seconds) to the pool, restaurant and bar area, where the wifi works. Comfort stations are clean, toilet paper is provided, as are laundry facilities. Upgrades available – pester the staff, they’ll tell you it’s booked full.
Nata Lodge – another sandy campground. Very quiet – the campsites have a lot of separation. More tree coverage than Sedia Hotel, so your tent can be shaded. The comfort stations are clean, and again toilet paper was provided, but no soap. Slightly longer walk to the restaurant/bar and pool just over a minute, maybe. Excellent gift shop.
Thebes Lodge – finally, a non-sandy campground! A mix of dirt and grass, lots of trees, and a concrete area to clean/cook/eat. The restaurant/bar and pool are a bit away – several minutes walk. (I upgraded here, so I don’t know about the comfort stations). From what I saw, the campsites were very separated, so very quiet.
Victoria Falls Rest camp – a very nice, shady campground, located at the top of the camp, near the street (although, not near the entrance.) We upgraded at Vic Falls, first to a lodge (three bedrooms) and then to a private chalet.
The lodge wasn’t worth it. The windows had no screens, and you couldn’t open the windows because there was a family of monkeys right outside. The entrance opened into a dining area (complete with table and chairs) with the three bedrooms access of that. The third bedroom was at the back of the lodge (across from the door). Off the bedroom, to one side, was the bathroom, and to the other a small kitchen. The bathroom situation was a little awkward – we were sharing the chalet with other people from our tour, who would be sleeping in the third bedroom. (Additionally, this room did not have a fan; although the other two did.) The single chalet was great – a simple concrete room, with a fan and two single beds (that we shoved together under the fan) and three windows (with screens!). No bathroom, instead we were using the shared bathrooms/showers.
We had Timon and Gibson as our driver and guide, and the food they made was fantastic. We didn’t repeat a single dinner the entire time. Everything from the standard spaghetti in meat sauce, to chicken and rice in a white sauce, African curry and sadza in the Okavango Delta, and BBQ chicken….they even managed a shepard’s pie! We had two vegetarians on our trip, and they had vegetarian versions of the same meals, with the exception of the BBQ chicken, when they had stuffed squash (which was apparently excellent.) Timon made sure that all of their meals included protein – it wasn’t just ‘here’s a salad/pasta/carrots.’ Breakfast consisted of toast, musli/cereal and yogurt (plus tea and coffee), and lunches we got ourselves. We’d stop in a town, and hit the grocery store (or a ‘fast-food’ restaurant) for something. (Generally, sandwiches.) Get to know people early on, and you can share the first lunch – someone gets bread, someone else sliced deli-meat, a third person cheese or lettuce….
It was….difficult…finding souvenirs. Wait until you get to Nata – Nata Lodge has a nicely stocked gift shop. (As opposed to Sedia Hotel in Maun, whose gift shop was just sad.) In Nata, we found everything – postcards, magnets, key chains, baseball caps (all branded with the hotel name, but they were baseball caps), books (animals of Botswana, birds of Botswana, etc.) and t-shirts, scarves and even bathing suits! Once in Victoria Falls, you’ll find plenty of options for souvenirs, but if you want something in Botswana, it’s a good place to stock up.
So, yeah…..wifi. It’s going to be slow. The more people on the network, the slower it is. Try to save uploading photos to off-peak times. Generally – upon arriving at the campground/hotel, everyone wants to connect. A few hours in, things start to quiet down, although it’s not going to be fast. It’s going to be….dial-up speed, for those of you old enough to remember dial-up.