My husband and I just returned from a 3-week luxury safari vacation in May, 2011. Since we opted not to travel to Kenya and Tanzania due to continued travel warnings by the U.S. State Department, we strived to duplicate the Kenya/Tanzania experience as much as possible and selected 4 luxury camps; 2 in South Africa and 2 in Botswana (Okavango Delta).
Since learning about Trip Advisor nearly 2 years ago, we utilized it to help come up with some potential candidates which we could investigate further, through the Internet and the use of a travel agent. Mateya came to the list immediately and we built the rest of our safari adventure assuming Mateya would be part of it despite our travel agent trying to talk us out of staying at Mateya. We have no idea why they didn't feel we would be happy with Mateya except that 1) they were not familiar with it and 2) and maybe more importantly, it wasn't one of their camps they received higher incentives / commissions and therefore, perhaps they were influenced by recommending just the ones where they could make the most money.
We made it clear over and over, we were looking for a luxury safari experience. We are not campers; we don't like roughing it and if we are going to be out in the "wild", we wanted to make sure we were very comfortable, the food and service was very good, and excellent game viewing.
We had extremely high expectations for Mateya and it was the most expensive of the camps we stayed at, but it was well worth every penny. In fact, I would say that even if people weren't looking for "top luxury" accommodations, you really need to consider Mateya because you know you can count on the luxurious accommodations, excellent food and service and the animals are there!
Our travel agent told us even though we were staying at luxury camps, you will get sick from the food. We didn't get sick and we didn't hear of anyone who had gotten sick. Chef Innocent met with us each meal and asked us what we wanted and even though we tried to simplify breakfast and lunch with something light & easy, he still amazed us with his food and presentation.
Another element (and perhaps the most important) of your safari experience is seeing the animals. Although it won't be guaranteed at any camp which animals you will see, we felt we had an edge with our ranger, Francois, and our tracker, Richard. It became clearly evident early on that Francois was the best and the other rangers at the other camps looked up him as the leader.
Since Mateya limits the capacity in their game drive vehicle to 4 people and they have a capacity of 10 people at Mateya (5 suites), there are two other vehicles and rangers/trackers. Your assigned ranger & tracker don't change during your stay so I can't comment about the other ones at Mateya. I have no doubt these rangers are also held in high regard by the other camp rangers.
Riding in the game vehicles at Mateya is like the difference between First and Economy. You have plenty of leg room to stretch out and there is even a leg bar to rest your feet/legs during the drive. Naively, we thought that all vehicles at the other camps were the same; NOT!! The only slightly negative thing I will say is the vehicle we were in was 6 years old and the newer Land Rovers have some more cushioning and separate seating versus bench seating (Mateya) may be more comfortable so you aren't sliding around.
We weren't served house wine like we were at the other camps, but at Mateya they have a 9,000 bottle wine cellar which they make good use of for offering excellent variety, quality and pairings with your meals (and you aren't charged for this opportunity for choice). You can even have dinner in the wine cellar if you like!
So, if Mateya is not on your bucket list, add it immediately and best yet, make your reservation soon before the rest of the world discovers this gem which certainly belongs as one of the best hotels anywhere in the world, regardless of whether or not you want to go on a safari. We never used room service, the spa, the internet while we were there. It was too cold to swim, but the private plunge pool for each suite is beautiful.
- Also Known As:
- Mateya Safari Hotel Madikwe Game Reserve