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“TERRIBLE Experience, would not recommend it at ALL”

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Wilderness Safaris Desert Rhino Camp
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed July 7, 2012

Just came back from there..the experience was awful.
The camp is badly kept, badly mantained.
The jeep and equipment are old and not functioning. We had one day our jeep borke down and the radios di not work, so after being 5 hours out of the camo, there was no way to cummunicate with anyone,;luckily one fo the other jeeps passed by, so we had to get on that one all of us, plus the trackers, etc and go directly back to the lodge....so we lost a whole day after seeing nothing and the camo manager did not worried at all..they said, "bad luck".
The place has NO animals, there are 20 rhinos in 50000 hectares, so you drive for hours (literally 4 or 5) without seeing nothing.
The second day we stayed there, we had to dive for a whole day, 11 hours to see 10 mins of a pair of black rhinos....nothing more..
The rooms were dirty, the bathrooms not working, no hot water, etc..anything more??
to add to all this , it is so remote and is is such a pain to get there that after 2-3 planes and many many hours you arrive to a terrible EXPENSIVE experience...
I see some other reviews from years ago that are somehow fine, but this from last week....
Many other places in Namibia, much better to spend your time and money, save yourself the harrasment...

  • Stayed: June 2012, traveled with family
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2  Thank gamuzo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Management response:Responded July 11, 2012

Apology and refund from Desert Rhino Camp

Valuable guest feedback remains crucial for Wilderness Safaris to be able to continue improving our delivery of world class African safari experiences. Wilderness Safaris sets high standards and we are truly disappointed to learn of this exception. For which we sincerely apologise, and have processed a refund through the Guest’s Tour Operator prior to this social media posting.

For ecotourism to offer the economic support for conservation we have to provide an extraordinary wilderness experience for discerning, globally caring world travellers. As this was not the experience of ‘gamuzo’ party we would like to unreservedly tender our wholehearted apologies for the inconvenience.

To respond in detail – the vehicle radio was 100% in-service when the activity commenced. We later learned that the Repeater System (boosters stationed on remote mountain tops) conspired to go down during the game drive that the ‘gamuzo’ party were on.

The rough terrain has material impact on vehicles, and the mechanical break down of the Land Rover was terribly unfortunate.

That the Radio Repeater System conspired to fail on the same day was particular bad fortune. Travelling in highly remote areas has inherent perils, in this case a second Land Rover came to the rescue. Were the party not rescued rest assured as soon as the non-return of the game drive became apparent a search party would have been rapidly dispatched, and our expert Trackers would have little difficulty tracing a stricken vehicle.

Regarding impressions of the cleanliness of the tents, practically the low-impact design of the camp has natural footpaths connecting the Guest tents to the central area. The Guest tents are on low raised decks, the timber decking is slightly separated to account for natural swelling and shrinkage of the wood. Unavoidably the tiny gaps between the decking does collect dust from Guests shoes where it aggregates out of reach of conventional sweeping and washing – which takes place upwards of three times a day. Periodically this debris is physically removed. We are investigating options for a flexible, yet durable, filler or resin to seal the decks (suggestions welcome).

The Camp managers report that the solar panel hot water was 100% functional throughout the stay, and has proven consistently reliable. If the insulated tank is emptied with extended showers then Guests have to wait for the sun to reheat the water.

The flush toilet issue was reported on the third evening of the visit, this was immediately attended to and reset.

The leadership of Desert Rhino Camp are under no delusion of the impacts these issues had on your experience of Namibia, and they are truly sorry for the affect this had on your safari. Please be assured of all of our commitment to constantly improve on our delivery of service. And I sincerely hope that this will not discourage anyone from visiting Namibia, and Desert Rhino Camp again in the future.

If we may add some background, charitable donations remains the major source of funding of Save the Rhino Trust (Namibia Welfare Organisation no. 53) (SRT). SRT in an attempt to diversify and bolster their resource base, selected Wilderness Safaris as their private sector partner for a rhino-based eco-tourism business. Together with the indigenous community and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism – who granted permissions on an experimental basis – Desert Rhino Camp (with no less than four partners: Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the Community, SRT and Wilderness Safaris) came about in May 2003. Extensive research of the HID (human-induced disturbance), indicate the project is sustainable.

The exceptional result of this Community- and Public-Private Partnership shows yet another increase in the Black Rhino population, in fact, we are now confident that the Kunene sub-population has tripled (300% increase) since SRT’s inception in 1982. In the face of the recent increase in rhino poaching across Africa (particularly in southern Africa), this is a hugely positive outcome.

The species has generally shown catastrophic declines all over Africa including the presumed extinction of a west African subspecies recently. Namibia is exceptional because a large part of the population exists outside formally protected areas on communal conservancies. Building on this success the MET has orchestrated several translocations out of the unfenced Palmwag area into neighbouring conservancies to achieve two things:

1) Achieve optimum growth rates for the population (recruitment in Palmwag has slowed presumably as a result of reaching a certain density but suitable habitat exists in adjacent areas).
2) Allow neighbouring community areas to achieve some returns from ecotourism as a result of a more comprehensive suite of large charismatic mammals.

We have partly funded (mostly through the Wilderness Trust but also through Wilderness Safaris Namibia) parts of these translocations, the habitat suitability assessment that preceded it, the community attitude survey that followed it and currently a training programme to ensure effective security on communal and private land.

I think therefore that it is a great home-grown success story for MET and other conservation authorities such as SRT that deserves exposure as a potential model for the rest of Africa, and if not a model then an example of what can be achieved. Obviously a critical part of things is the low density of people living there, but the successes of these communal conservancies in effectively bridging/linking formal conservation areas cannot be overstated.

In my view what makes the story unique are the following:
1) The fact that it has been a success
2) The fact that it is sustainable
3) The fact that multiple stakeholders are moving in the same direct (state, NGO, community and private sector)
4) The fact that this is all taking place on communal land

Wilderness Safaris is only very peripherally involved so this is not about us, but rather Save the Rhino Trust, Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC), the individual communal conservancies, upon whose ancestral land the rhino’s roam and tourism is conducted.

Desert Rhino Camp is a specialist destination, Guests who expect a more routine safari experience such as offered at Etosha and elsewhere throughout Africa should be sensitized to this. To comment on the 'no wildlife' statement, it could be stressed that Desert Rhino Camp operates in one of Africa's last true wilderness areas and the wildlife, especially in the arid landscape, are free to roam and move with the highly variable food and water sources. Unfortunately, the area around Desert Rhino Camp received very little rain this past year thus most of the wildlife has moved into other areas. That is simply the nature of the ecological system, which could also be seen as a privilege to experience due to its global rarity. In fact, the entry “Come here after you've done the big five” posted by SATravellerMaryland spells this reality out quite nicely, and even frames it in a very positive light.

While this may do little to assuage the disappointment of the ‘gamuzo’ party, we take this feedback very seriously and it will be used to learn and improve our service standards in order to make a difference for future visitors and, ultimately, for the benefit of wildlife and the community upon whose ancestral land we are so privileged to live and work.

Please feel free to contact me for any further information

Yours sincerely

Rob Moffett
Director Sales & Marketing – Namibia

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114 - 120 of 156 reviews

Reviewed April 24, 2012

At Desert Rhino there is a very different approach to game-viewing. The experience is based on very brief sightings of the animals, so that guests do not encroach on the rhinos in any way. Trackers go out in the morning to locate rhinos; they were successful on 2 of the 3 days that I was there. Once located, guests are brought as close as possible and allowed to view them. When the rhinos move on (and they are always on the move), they are not followed and the guide has to find something else to keep you engaged for the rest of the drive. Different areas of the reserve are visited on a rotating basis so that the rhinos are not exposed to multiple visits over multiple days. Though the website describes "healthy populations" of elephants, giraffes, etc., there is no attempt to locate them and you have to wonder how accurate that description is. If you expect an organized effort (as at most lodges) to know where various types of animals are and to bring you into viewing range of them, you will be disappointed. The only way that you will see anything other than oryx, springbok, zebra and jackal is if something happens to wander across your path. Happily, a lion and a hyena did cross our path very briefly. This is not a place to come if you are expecting to see a variety of wildlife, or if you are expecting to spend more than a few minutes with rhinos. On the other hand, if you have been at camps with a great variety of wildlife and are growing bored with large herds of elephants and easy viewing, this is a great place to visit. Tents are very comfortable, food is quite good, camp staff is pleasant and capable, and the family-style dining allows you to make new friends. Some guides seem more personable and hospitable than others. The trackers from the Save the Rhino Trust are truly dedicated to the well-being of the animals and are very knowledgeable but are a little on the shy side and it takes some time to get the conversation going with them.

  • Stayed: March 2012, traveled solo
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5  Thank SATravellerMaryland
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 13, 2010

Our two families (each with a teen) stayed at this “classic” Wilderness camp two nights for viewing the endangered black rhino (not to confuse with the rather common white rhino …) at the occasion of our brilliant Botswana, Namibia and Victoria Falls fly-in safari guided expertly by Ultimate Safaris (sightings included the Big 5, cheetah, wild dog and sitatunga, more details of this safari you will find in my blog http://swisstraveller-franziska.blogspot.com/).
The camp is situated on a windy (at least during our stay) plane amongst rocky hills far away from any civilisation. The tents (total of eight) have been refurbished recently and shall satisfy also the demanding travellers as we are ourselves. There is a tented restaurant (one long table) and a lounge area, apart from that there is no public space. All meals are included in the rate, i.e. (simple) breakfast, lunch (we had a delicious picnic during a drive), (good) cake in the afternoon and a served dinner (we had twice tasty meat). We considered service as good, the staff usually was helpful and courteous. Activities in this camp are (of course) focused on tracking the endangered black rhino by vehicle (and when tracked) on foot. As these animals are more aggressive than their counterpart (the black rhino) you cannot go really close to them but it was nevertheless quite something!
The bottom line is a good camp in beautiful surroundings (when you like rocks) with a different game viewing (focused on black rhinos).

  • Stayed: October 2010, traveled with family
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Thank swisstraveler63
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 22, 2010

We stayed at the Desert Rhino Camp September 10th and 11th 2010. It was a wonderful experience. The management have done a great job of making the guests feel welcome and it has a very homely feel. The staff, accommodations and food were excellent. I would definitely recommend this establishment to anyone who wants a true african bush experience.

  • Stayed: September 2010, traveled with family
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Thank Teksas
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 5, 2008

Although it was a little while ago, memories of our stay at Palmwag remain vivid - and they are all good!

From the moment we arrived at the Main Office we were treated with the utmost courtesy and respect. Our Driver/Guide could not have been more friendly or informative - despite the fact that we had arrived late in the afternoon. He answered our questions and kept up an almost non-stop commentary as we drove into the darkness.

The Camp itself was exactly as we hoped (and imagined) it would be.
Although I had visited Namibia on a number of occasions previously, this was my wife's first taste of Africa and she was completely enthralled.

Everything was as it should have been - from sitting round the campfire, to enjoying an Al Fresco shower (with hot water brought from the fire), to gazing at a sky laden with stars - all was perfect. Then there was the Trek....Standing no more than 100m from a mother and her calf, eyes seemingly locked on ours, in total silence (and happy that we were downwind!), was truly amazing.

This was no stage-managed experience, with animals being treated more like performers than wildlife. This was real - no bars, no cages, no air-conditioned, black and white striped Combis full of camera-laden tourists, just wide open spaces with animals in their own environment - just as Nature intended.....

  • Stayed: September 2005, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank Nigel_n_Vika
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 1, 2006

We travelled throuigh Namibia for 3 weeks in October-November, generally without reservations, talking to people we met along the way and asking them for suggested lodging. We heard good reports about Palmway Rhino Camp and decided to stay there for 2 nights. It's a long trip in via 4 wheel drive and our driver said NOTHING during the entire trip in. How disappointiing to be travelling in some of the most remote and beautiful country and being told nothing. The tents were a little worn --- especially for the price ---- but that was fine. The food was OK but not again what you would expect for the price. Next day we left early for Rhino tracking. We did find a mother and her young which was interesting but not too exciting given not being able to get closer than about 250 meters. Unfortunately we had the same driver which meant 3 hours of little communication. Our return trip was much better as we had an excellent guide.

  • Stayed: November 2006, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank Mountainmann
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 8, 2006

We spent 3 nights at Palmwag Rhino Camp, which consists of 8 luxury tents, each with private 'open-air' bathroom and bucket shower (this system works suprisingly well and the water was nice and hot if you had a shower in the evening, but cold if you had it in the morning). The staff there are lovely and very efficient. The cosy evening campfires under the African sky are my favourite memory of our stay at Palmwag - great for stargazing and spotting falling stars.
However, if you plan to see rhinoceros, be prepared to be disappointed! This may be a rhino camp, but these creatures are far and few between. The precise number of rhino present is unknown, but we were given a figure of around 130 in an area of half a million hectares! We spent 10 hours each day in the safari vehicle tracking rhinoceros until at long last we saw a distant speck on the horizon, which even through binoculars provided us with only a very remote glimpse of a black rhinoceros. We were slightly luckier in finding a desert elephant, but on the whole, if you want to see animals, especially rhinoceros, go to Etosha. There you can see black and white rhinoceros by the dozen, at close range. Palmwag was a fun experience, but two nights would have been sufficient, and it should not be marketed as a rhino camp, which may be misleading for some visitors by creating false expectations. However, as far desert camp accommodation goes it was great.

  • Stayed: September 2006, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank Lady from Luxembourg
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Wilderness Safaris Desert Rhino Camp

Address: Palmwag Concession - South, Namibia
Location: Namibia > Otjozondjupa Region > Damaraland
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Restaurant Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #4 of 14 Specialty Lodging in Damaraland
Hotel Class:3 star — Wilderness Safaris Desert Rhino Camp 3*
Number of rooms: 8
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Desert Rhino Camp offers an original and exclusive wilderness experience and the possibility of seeing some of the largest free-ranging population of desert-adapted black rhino in Africa. The camp set in a wide valley sometimes flush with grass, has eight large meru-style tents with en-suite bathrooms. A tented dining and living area and plunge pool offers uninterrupted views of the desert and mountains, while extraordinary welwitschia plants dot the plain in front of camp. Activities include rhino tracking on foot and by vehicle with Save the Rhino Trust trackers (an NGO responsible for the conservation of the black rhino in the area), full-day outings with a picnic lunch, birding and nature drives. Other species seen in the area include Hartmann's mountain zebra, giraffe and lion. Desert Rhino Camp is run in conjunction with Save the Rhino Trust so in addition to gaining amazing insight into the ecology and conservation of this area, a portion of guest revenure goes to the Trust and its conservation operations. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Wilderness Safaris Desert Rhino Camp Namibia/Damaraland

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