We stayed at Alex Walker’s Serian- Serengeti north camp in September 2013 for 4 nights. This was the 1st of 4 camps we stayed at on our 14 night safari in north and south Tanzania. This was our 2nd safari holiday (18 nights/5 camps) in Africa and 2nd visit to the Serengeti Mara.
The guiding was good, the car was good, location was great, the tent and camp were excellent, the food was very good, drinks included, laundry included and were treated with a bush bath. However there were a few inconsistencies with the service and therefore I rate this experience very good relative to cost/night and comparative to my experience at other camps. While it may appear that I am nit-picking over small things, these small things are what makes the difference between a very good stay and excellent stay, especially when other camps hit the mark on everything! This is the most I have ever paid/night to stay anywhere in the world and I wanted it to be perfect.
The camp is in a great location, not far from the Mara River, airport and interesting and diverse areas of the park which we visited on game drives. The open plains and abundance of wildlife make it easy to see a variety of animals and we saw everything we wanted except rhino. There was a good amount of wildebeest in the area and there were at least 3 crossings (crossing no. 1, 2, 4) while we were there. There were no Mosquitos, a few flies and a few tsetse flies in the park.
Robyn was the camp manager. She is lovely and we enjoyed our lunches and dinners with her. She was always there to see us off and welcome us back from all game drives. On arrival at camp Robyn debriefed us on the running of the camp and checked any food allergies. We were also asked to sign a disclaimer form. All drinks and alcohol were included in our rate. Laundry was included in our rate. We had our own car, guide and spotter and we arranged with them directly what time we wanted to do the game drives. The routine was completely flexible and based on what time and where we wanted to do things. We organised a 5.30am wake up call. We had a 6-1pm safari with a packed breakfast followed by lunch at the camp. We had a 4-6.30ish afternoon safari. You can ask your guide to radio camp to organise a hot shower so it's ready when you get back from safari in the day or at night.
At camp there was a tent with a lounge area and small dining table we used for lunches. There was a campfire and chairs out the front at night. There was a large dining table in a tent which was used for dinner. There were 8 tents with a maximum 16 guests.
The camp uses a generator and solar power so power was available in the tent and at all times. The tents were large and roomy and beautifully decorated. The bed was firm and it had 5 types of pillows. Bed linen was great and towels so fluffy and soft. Hot water bottles were not in our bed on the first night, but were every other night after that. A medium weight duvet is perfect for the cold nights. Blankets were available from Robyn if you are still too cold or you think the duvet is too hot. The bathroom had 20L hot bucket showers for each person. The toilet and the shower are in individual zip up canvas rooms. Shampoo, conditioner, soap, washing powder, body lotion, insect repellent, talcum powder and soap were in the bathroom. 1.5L plastic water bottles were provided in the bathroom and on each bedside table. The tent was absolute luxury and can't be faulted.
The food was very good but lacked some variety at breakfast and lunch. Wake up call included a plunger coffee or tea bag with boiling water and cold milk plus shortbread biscuits or small muesli bars. Packed breakfast was the same all four mornings for the 4 of us: 4 boiled eggs, 4 pikelets, 4 white (stale) bread rolls with either peanut butter or honey and 4 pieces of watermelon. You serve yourself from the back of the car. The guide makes you either powdered coffee or English tea/herbal teas. On day 4 there were no English tea bags left at breakfast. We ate sitting at a small table for 2 in 4 different locations looking over the Serengeti. I didn't really enjoy the food at breakfasts but the experiences were good!
We ate buffet lunch at camp and Robyn eats with the 6-8 guests who were around. Wine or spirits were offered at lunch. The lunches were delicious. Lunch on 3 days was Napolitano pasta with 2 salads, a cheese board with 4 types of cheeses, crackers and fresh bread. There was cold chicken or meat loaf on 2 days. On the table was butter, olive oil, vinegar and chilli chutney (which was so yum). A plated dessert and coffee were also served.
No snacks were offered before or on game drives during our stay. Between 7-8pm guests met around the fire for drinks, appetisers and star gazing! Bliss. I enjoyed the time given to this. Dinner with the all the guests was at 8pm. It was 3 courses such as soup, main which included meat and vegetables and dessert. Food was restaurant quality but there were a few dishes that weren't to my taste (rock melon and tomato layered salad!?!). As I am vegetarian I had a separate main meal. Staff bought the food around the table so guests were able to receive the amount of food they wanted to eat. I really enjoyed the communal dinners and Robyn was on hand to oversee the meal.
The vehicle was a 7 seater with 2 rows with 2 seats and a 3rd row with 3 seats. The vehicle had 2 sunroofs so you could stand up. An esky was placed on the floor between the 2-3 rows. Drinks were available during drives, but were never cold. Blankets were provided on morning game drives. The camp uses radios to communicate with camp and other cars. I found the guide used them occasionally and it was not too loud.
Our guide/driver and spotter were pleasant and we had nice drives with them. Our spotter was Masai and learning English and we had limited communication with him. On arrival our guide Madebe asked what we wanted to see and about our safari experience. Before we went out for drives he would discuss a plan which we all agreed on. He tried to find everything we wanted to see and answered all our questions. I feel our experience would have been enhanced if he had shared more information about the animals or the environment or anecdotes. We did not meet any other drivers or spotters during our stay.
When we arrived at Kogatende airstrip we were not greeted by our guide and therefore had to remove our luggage and go find him amongst the 20-30 cars. This is the only time I have experienced this. We were offered a drink and waited about 45 minutes for the previous guest’s plane to arrive and depart and for our paperwork to be lodged at the office. We had a 2 hour game drive before heading to camp for lunch. During the drive Madebe said sorry for not being at the plane when we arrived, it was because the plane was early.
On the 1st afternoon we let Robyn and Madebe know I would like white wine for my sundowner and my husband asked for beer. On the 2nd day we asked for a sundowner at 6pm but there was no wine and of course the beer in the esky wasn't cold so we drove back to camp to get some drinks and then we drove 3 minutes from camp to catch the sunset which was nice. On day 3 we were offered sundowners and none were offered on day 4.
On our 2nd afternoon game drive, us plus 6- 7 cars were lined up watching a leopard stalking an impala. Another car from Alex Walker camp drove between the row of cars and the leopard and stopped within a few meters of it. The leopard ran away and the car went on to follow it. We were frustrated with the missed opportunity but it was made worse when other guests and drivers from other camps told our guide off. Our guide handled the situation well but the mood of the afternoon changed for all of us. I discussed this with Robyn that night and she was very apologetic.
Our 3rd night was a highlight of our holiday. Robyn organised for our guide to drop us off at a bush bath. It was very romantic to finish our sundowner by a private fire. We waited impatiently for the unbearably hot water to cool but after an hour we decided my husband would go with the torch to find someone to bring cold water. Once he made it back and the bath was cooled down we only had a short bath because a Masai came to get us. It was an amazing once in a life time experience and we let Robyn know we were very thankful. We did mention the hot bath water and suggested having a bucket of cold water near the bath.
On our departure day (flying 10-3.30pm) Robyn organised a packed lunch for us which we really appreciated. We were given a bag with two small bread rolls with tomato, cucumber, pesto and two small muesli bars.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Thank you for all the positive comments – we so enjoyed having you and your husband to stay, and it really was such a pleasure to have your company in camp. The tips on improvements are also much appreciated… as much as you try to control all aspects of a guest’s experience, there are certain things you don’t know about until they happen, and it’s always helpful if these things are brought up at the time, so that we can make the necessary adjustments as we go along.
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Regarding the incident with the leopard sighting, we do take our conduct on game drives very seriously indeed, and by no means do we condone the kind of behaviour mentioned. Feedback like this is very helpful to us: as well as addressing the issue at the time, Alex reinforced the message in a subsequent guide’s meeting, and we can safely assure you that this is not an experience that will be repeated.
Though unfortunate, hopefully those reading this review will be able to discern that the situation described is by no means a reflection of our ethos or professionalism – as you will see from other posts in this forum, our guides usually receive the highest of praise, and the overwhelming majority of our guests are delighted by their experience with us.
Having a spotter in the car plus exclusive use of vehicle is one of the unique things about our camps, and we select people who really know the environment due to their culture’s interaction with it. This yields a blend of authentic bush knowledge and experience with the communication skills of the guide. We encourage people to spend a good few days with us, to be able to immerse into the wilderness and let the situations unfold around you, rather than feeling the pressure to rush from sighting to sighting with the fear of time running out.
We’ve also taken up this review with our kitchen, and picnic variety has been improved – we’re delighted that you enjoyed the food otherwise! We are working on the little inconsistencies you’ve mentioned, and with these improvements we feel confident that our guests will enjoy the experience we pride ourselves on providing.
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.