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Reviewed 10 June 2018

We heard the lions roar! The "7 Day Best of Botswana" tour had us camping inside the National Parks. No fences! Inside our tents with elephants roaming around outside... and lions. When a lion roars at night you wake up - instantly. They can be heard up to 8kms. One night after the elephants had passed us by maybe 100 meters from our tents I started to hear a male lions deep roar... that kept getting closer... I must have dozed off till a hugely loud roar seemed just meters away. Later roars told it was moving away. We jumped up early into our LandCruiser and quickly found the lion tracks as close as 300 meters from our camp.
If a close up adventure with the animals is what you are after there is nothing I can recommend better than camping right along with them.
I booked through African Budget Safaris - Bronwyn is great - our Acacia Tours trip through Ocavango Expeditions. It has an expert driver/guide (Morgan) and a chef (Noga). All we had to do was put our tents up and they did the rest, from feeding to educating us.
We had 7 on our trip which is just about full so there's not a whole gaggle of tourists but a small group of really interesting people.
My memories of sleepless nights under the stars with wild animals so close to camp will remain with me the rest of my life. At any price a life-time memory is worth it... that this safari is one of the cheapest available is a gift to the adventurous traveler.

Date of experience: June 2018
Thank AussieMark1
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sabine_Acacia, Manager at Acacia Africa, responded to this reviewResponded 14 June 2018

Dear AussieMark1 - it is always a pleasure to recieve a review such as yours. Thank you for taking the time to write about your experience and including the details of what to expect on this tour. The Best of Botswana camping trip is a firm favourite and we agree, well worth it in terms of experience and value for money. I do believe those memories last a lifetime and hope that you'll consider visiting Africa again soon. Regards, Sabine

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Reviewed 8 June 2018

Please read before considering Acacia. I know the discount they are offering seems like a great deal, but it's not.

My husband and I are seasoned travelers who have spent time in Africa before this tour. We know the value of a good tour, and we appreciate the 'This is Africa' mantra. The tour we experienced, however, was a massive disappointment. Upon expressing our dissatisfaction with the way we were treated, one of the company's co-founders, Vivian, who is also the head of customer service, reached out to us to tell us that 'overlanding isn't for everyone.' Here is a list of our complaints:

1. Our tour group was sexually and verbally harassed by a patron at our hotel in Zanzibar to the point where we feared our safety. Upon telling Acacia and asking them to work with the hotel to make sure the offending drunk man didn't return, Vivian replied that he doesn't personally know the man who harassed us and that this location has 'high approval ratings, a good facilities, and a great location.' Nothing else was done to help anyone in our group feel at ease. The drunk man returned to threaten us while we were laying on the beach at the hotel.
2. The majority of the optional activities weren't available to us. Because of drastically downplayed travel times in the itinerary, we would show up to our campsite hours after intended, set up our camp and have to go to bed in preparation for another early travel day. This left little time to explore our surroundings.
3. The itinerary was basically a lie. Drive times were sometimes double what was stated. For drives up to 15 hours, you are given one bun to call lunch, with few, if any, stops for additional food for purchase. Bathrooms were rarely available so you will be reliving yourself in a bush on the side of the road. OK, fine, but why not tell us that in advance so we can pack toilet paper and hand sanitizer?
4. The truck lockers leaked and our things got *really* moldy. Vivian simply blamed rainy season and was not willing to provide funds for new pillows. The windows also leaked on us while we drove and the seats were ripped. No A/C also means it's hot and smelly when you can't put the windows down due to rain.
5. Our tour leader did not provide us with any valuable information. He told us at our welcome meeting that he didn't like to talk so we'd have to ask questions if we wanted to know anything. Then he scolded anyone for asking questions. This made for a long 3 weeks with no one telling us what we were looking at.
6. The vegetarian lunch options sometimes consisted of moldy bread, shredded carrots, and cheese. When someone in our group was served something that she had stated many times she was allergic to, she had a severe reaction and Vivian's exact reply to her was, 'choices were very limited.' No apology.

Overall, I would NOT recommend Acacia Africa for any tour, due to their lack of empathy for their customers and the subpar quality of their equipment and tour. You are much better off planning your own itinerary, buying a tent and renting a car (or even flying and staying in hotels!). You will save a TON of money and have a much better experience, as you will actually get to explore the places you visit rather than just sleep there and get right back on the road.

Date of experience: March 2018
2  Thank dany_poll
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sabine_Acacia, Manager at Acacia Africa, responded to this reviewResponded 19 June 2018

Dan77706 and her partner /husband are bloggers who travelled on our 21-day East African Explorer, which departed Livingstone on 30 March. In return for providing images and social media content they received a generous discount off the tour price. Unfortunately they did not enjoy the trip and emailed a complaint shortly after finishing. We investigated what they said and emailed them a reply. I then spoke to them on a Skype call, in a friendly conversation that lasted over an hour. Most of what follows is drawn from my email reply sent to them or from the Skype conversation.

Dan77706 mentions an incident at the hotel in Zanzibar where a local man attached himself to the group and wouldn’t leave when asked. She says it was a case of sexual harassment but that is not how we understood it and not how the female passenger involved described it. She told us the man asked her out for a drink and then became offensive and rude to other members of the group when she refused. Eventually he did leave. Nothing sexual was alleged and the police were not called. The man was not a staff member at the hotel and not known to Acacia. The property was our regular hotel, superbly located just off the beach at Kendwa. I don’t wish to minimize what happened but Acacia has groups on Zanzibar regularly and frequently (5 groups in the time since their trip plus a 6th group due this week): incidents are very rare. Most people love being on the island and Zanzibar is a real highlight.

Dan77706 writes the tour itinerary is ‘basically a lie’ and refers to long driving times. In fact their tour stayed at the regular scheduled campsites each night and all major highlights were seen or visited. It is therefore not correct to make such an allegation. What is correct to say is that some of the driving days were longer than estimated because of the wet weather experienced and there were several incidents of flooding. Estimated driving times are calculated from previous season’s averages and are as accurate as we can make them but they are subject to change and Acacia drivers are instructed to drive to the conditions, in particular when it’s wet: they drive more slowly. Needless to say anyone hiring their own vehicle will have been affected the same way, possibly more so if they were not experienced driving in such conditions.

Dan77706 mentions water leaking into the truck, pillows getting mouldy, and no air-conditioning. Air conditioning is not something we provide on overland tours but leaking can occasionally occur if the rain is persistent enough (it’s due to the vehicle chassis twisting on the poor roads) and I regret anyone’s belongings getting wet. Drivers made running repairs and that is what their driver did when he was alerted to the problem.

Dan77706 says the tour leader did not give sufficient information each day. The tour leader (whose name was Philile) on this tour was an experienced crew member but I said to Dan77706 we would talk to Philile so he knew what had been fed back. It was good to have her view and Philile said he would try harder. I did point out to her that her fellow group members had given both Philile leader and his driver (Khumbu) positive reviews on the feedback questionnaires. It was also positive for meals but it’s true - vegetarian options can be limited in some areas of Africa. The situation has (however) improved greatly over recent years and it quite normal nowadays for us to have clients with various dietary requirements (vegetarians, gluten-free, vegan etc) on tour. The allergic incident she mentions was an isolated matter. Flooding in the Serengeti caused considerable delay and the group was temporarily accommodated at a private lodge and a meal arranged at short notice. The message re the allergy was not properly understood but fortunately the items were spotted in time and no harm resulted. (I should add that staying at the lodge that evening meant our group could relax in relative comfort in the lounge while the flood waters subsided; it was far more comfortable than other companies’ clients that evening who were stuck in their vehicles all night.)

Dan77706 believes you are better to not to do a tour. She suggests hiring your own vehicle or flying to each country and ‘doing it yourself’. She is entitled to her view but I think she is wrong – at least in Africa where most of the highlights are outside the cities, sometimes in remote areas. To me, overlanding is unbeatable. It gives group members, many of whom book and travel from their home country alone, the means of travelling through areas they would never see any other way. Driving a hired vehicle from Zambia through Malawi and Tanzania to Kenya is not as simple as it might sound, and indeed can be a challenging experience even for experienced travellers. Flying from country to country is possible but is expensive and you still need ground transport when you arrive. Far easier is to join an overland group which will carry you in one main vehicle throughout, help manage the culture shock, deal with border crossings and local officialdom, and take you through some very remote areas (often with little or no phone signal) to some of the best gameparks in the world. Many of our clients have never camped before and almost all are new to Africa, and even experienced travellers often treat Africa differently because of the lack of local infrastructure in rural areas. For some clients, overlanding is a one-off experience, for others it is the first of many such trips and they return to Africa repeatedly. The East African Explorer is one of our most popular trips because it passes through a range of landscapes, cultures and peoples and visits 3 of the best game-reserves in Africa – the South Luangwa, the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater (their group reported some really wonderful game-viewing). Like many overland tours the trip covers a lot of ground and conditions can be difficult at times but one point must be borne in mind: if travel is difficult for your Acacia driver and vehicle, it will be doubly difficult for someone driving his /her own vehicle (or a hired one) along the same routes.

In finishing I want to emphasise what I stressed to Dan77706 and her partner when I spoke to them. It is that we welcome client comment and feedback, and genuinely appreciate anyone taking the time to write to us following his/her tour. Positive comments are received with thanks; criticisms are taken more seriously and read by myself and senior colleagues. They are investigated and a reply sent once investigation is completed. Information received about a particular area is used to benefit future groups; and notes are made so itineraries and tour dossiers can be updated periodically. This is a continual process; Africa is always changing and overlanding is a dynamic business. It is our task to stay ahead of the changes: client feedback helps us do that.

Vivian McCarthy, Director

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Reviewed 28 May 2018

My wife and I did the small group safari beginning and ending at Victoria Falls and covering Chobe, Savuti, Moremi, Okavango, and the salt pans in Botswana. Roxy at Acacia was very helpful and always responded to my e-mails within a day (and I ask a lot of questions!). Acacia handled the transfers to and from Kasane and were prompt both times. The actual tour was conducted by Okavango Expeditions. We did the small group full participation safari with a group of 9 in total. We put up and struck our tents and helped with loading/unloading the truck, washing dishes, setting up the bush toilet, etc. Yes, it's work, but honestly now that I've done it like this I can't imagine doing a safari where everything is done for you.

Date of experience: May 2018
1  Thank Max_from_NY
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sabine_Acacia, Manager at Acacia Africa, responded to this reviewResponded 14 June 2018

Dear Max_from_NY - thank you for taking the time to review your holiday in Botswana. We're so pleased that you enjoyed the experience and hope that you'll come visit Africa again soon. We'll pass your compliments on to the team at Okavango Expeditions and Roxy who I'm sure will be pleased to hear their hard work was appreciated so. Regards, Sabine

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Reviewed 1 March 2018

I did the camping option of this tour, and having previously overlanded around Africa with other operators, I was not disappointed. The truck/tents/day-to-day is much the same - so long as people accept that sometimes there will be long driving days, you need to pitch in with chores, and also take responsibility for yourself and your stuff there will be no problems. There is no point coming to Africa and then complaining you don't have free towels and soap every night, or your bed was creaky. Again, it is always just one or two people who genuinely don't seem to have read the dossier rather than the norm.

Our guide Colin was hands down the best guide I have ever had, there is honestly nothing he could have done better. Our driver Philip was also a great guy with the biggest laugh. Joe was also learning the route, and was quiet but a great cook.

We knew our plan for each day, were told plenty of facts and stories as we went along (Colin would research anything he didn't know and tell us all the next day), so much food, and a few nights were actually accommodated which were a nice surprise after it did rain for a few days. The glamping in St Lucia was perfect!
The itinerary was a good mix of game parks, beach, city, and mountains - my only slight issue is we had 6 straight days of hiking with two nights each in Drakensberg, Ampitheatre and Lesotho. But, understandably, if that is where the places are, then that is the order we will visit.

My only complaint would be having both accommodated and camping tours together. No-one realised there was another option and it meant the group was often quite divided as accommodation was far from the truck and people would disappear to their rooms rather than socialising or doing their turn at the chores. I have spoken to other people who had everyone camping on their tours, so maybe this was just because more chose the other option.

If you want to travel, see as much as you can, and don't mind getting a bit tired and dirty along the way then overland! I will definitely be back again.

Date of experience: February 2018
5  Thank Emmalou2605
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed 6 February 2018 via mobile

Namibia is a beautiful country and without a doubt you will be impressed by the landscapes, but I would have preferred a different tour operator. I just did two tours with Intrepid, but a friend who did Cape Town to Windhoek advised this itinerary. I booked the reverse (Windhoek to Cape Town) - oops!

My driver and guide were in the final stretch of a two-month tour starting in Nairobi. They were polite and made sure we got where we needed to be, but both were exhausted and the guide especially seemed eager for the tour to be over. It was my first day and I felt the tour was being phoned in. The guide was most happy and social the last day, dancing around, being funny but he kept saying “it’s our last night”. There were other nice people on tour and locals were the ones to keep the energy and enthusiasm.

I think Acacia should be cognizant of over-working their staff. They even put the driver and guide up in a dorm room in Cape Town with other backpackers. That’s no way to rest! My Intrepid guide also stated that he had worked for Acacia for 6 years and refused his request for a raise (so he left). Also, I can imagine the staff was a bit unenthused to only have 5 passengers (so only 5 tips and 5 opportunities for commissions).

My whole group thinks Acacia was a bit thoughtless in their campsites near the dunes in Sossusvlei region. One is an hour north, one is an hour south, presumably so both north- and southbound tours can wake up early to get to dunes. Only thing is that you’re done by noon, and then they dump you at a campsite in middle of desert. Neither have visible staff, no entertainment, and only sell basic drinks from a fridge if you summon them with a bell. Now, if we had driven 4 more hours (which we had time to do), we would have made it to an actual town. Instead, we sat in the middle of the desert until the sun finally set and relieved the heat 8 hours later.

Speaking of Sossuvlei, I paid $20USD for an adventure pass for a guided nature walk in Deadvlei. This never happened?!?!

If I did it again, I’d go with Intrepid. The sites will be the same. The guide for that sat in back whole time giving info, and they kept the window open to communicate with driver. The Acacia guide was in the front 90% of time, and they kept window closed (“to avoid wind”)... I don’t care if a guide needs rest, but they were taking rest during “group time” and weren’t providing info. The driver did an excellent job, though.

I still enjoyed my trip. It seems I enjoyed it in spite of Acacia, not because of it though.

Thank AngieAllOver
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sabine_Acacia, Manager at Acacia Africa, responded to this reviewResponded 13 February 2018

Thank you for your feedback.

We want everyone who travels with Acacia to enjoy Africa, and the tour leaders play an important part in ensuring that happens. We are exceptionally proud of the guys (and girls) who make up our roadcrew. We believe the package we give them is competitive, not only in money terms but also for other benefits including medical cover and consistency of work. A number of crew have been with us 7 or 8 years or more, and most for over 2-3 years. In an industry known for the way roadcrew move about we think this is something to be proud of. Naturally people move on from time to time, as they do from any job. We’re always sorry to lose good staff but sometimes people just need a change. It’s as simple as that.

Pastoral care is important and crew get scheduled regular rest periods after each trip, but occasionally, like anyone, they’ll have an off day and I am sorry if Angie felt that happened here. In most cases crew are enthusiastic about their work, and it comes through on passenger feedback. As for group numbers, well, we would have loved to have had more in this group, but it’s partly a matter of trust. Once we guarantee a trip, it runs whether we have 5 people or 24 (24 is our ‘max’). The way we think is, if people have trusted us to book with Acacia, given up time and travelled far from home, then our role is simple: to return that trust and run the trip as best we can.

Angie says she didn’t get a guided walk at Deadvlei for the $20 she paid. I think she is referring to the $20 she paid for the Adventure Pass, which pays for the 4x4 transport into Deadvlei and which all passengers including Angie did. The guided walk is not at Deadvlei but at camp known as Sossus on Foot which we visit a day earlier. It is not something we include in the Adventure Pass because (unlike Deadvlei) it is subject to minimum numbers and in our experience not everyone wants to do it. We regret any confusion and will review our dossier to see how we can make this clearer in the future.

Finally, we’re sorry Angie says she’d choose another operator next time. We are grateful that she chose to travel with us and kind enough to say she enjoyed her trip after all. We take her comments on board but in the end that’s what counts.

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