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Ulinda Safari Trails reviews

3 reviews

T: 267 741 26667

“Thirsty cheetah drinking water for 15+ mins and then immediately giving chase to springbucks with her buddy. They didn't catch anything.” - Steve_c

Stuck in the Kalahari with a flat tire, beer, cigarettes and regrets

Views: 68 Visited: Jan 2019 Reviewed: Feb 11, 2019

We did a 5-day mobile (tented) safari with Ulinda Safari Trails. Our driver and guide was Jane Bettenay, Head Guide and Director of the company. I had read positive reviews about the company and was excited to be going with Jane. Unfortunately, my experience with the company fell short of expectations. I’ve been on eleven or so safaris with as many different companies and guides so I can compare and rate my experiences accordingly.

When we arrived at Maun airport Jane was there. She acknowledged us and then walked to the vehicle for our long drive to the Kalahari. We just followed behind, wondering why the silence.

My first impressions: Jane appeared taciturn and withdrawn. The vehicle was dated and wasn’t in great condition nor particularly comfortable. A fire extinguisher was loosely attached and kept rattling, not what you want on those bumpy roads! There were two spare tires, neither was in good condition. There were 500ml reusable drinking water bottles provided for the three of us as well as some cans of beer and sandwiches for the ride. The water was insufficient for the long drives so often I found myself hydrating to beer – and I’m not big on beer. My bottle looked like it was purchased before World War II, it was banged-up and scuffed.

En route to the Kalahari we alerted Jane to a flat tire as we felt a vibration and heard a flapping noise. The tire was so hot we could barely touch it let alone remove it. There were no gloves so we had to use our bare hands. My father-in-law and I took an initial stab at removing the flat tire. Because it hadn’t been fitted properly it wasn’t coming off. We asked Jane to contact her team or anyone to get help. She had no way to contact them, no radio contact, no Iridium Satellite Phone --which her company website states they have in case of emergency. With all the flights, connections, etc, we hadn’t slept for at least 24 hours.

Working on this tire in the scorching heat was the last thing we wanted to do, nor should have been tasked with, but we had to do it. During the three gruelling hours the two of us (her guests) worked on it, Jane sat on the ground, not talking to us, not offering us any help, no towels for our greasy hands, no water, no equipment. When we did ask if she had a certain sized spanner, because she did not have the equipment needed for this task, her answer was always 'no' with no apology and no attempt to find something else. It was as if she did not care.

The other option was spending the night in the vehicle and waiting until the morning when hopefully someone from Jane’s team would come looking for us. From the two spare tires attached to the vehicle we couldn’t get one of those of either, luckily the other came off. Jane was equipped with a limited set of tools and as the two of us desperately worked at it, three hours later and covered in grease, we managed to replace the tire.

Just before entering the park boundary we had to stop and get out of the vehicle. Jane just got out without saying one word to us. We're all wondering what is going on when and official comes over and says we need to wipe our feet to prevent foot-and-mouth disease being spread. This was the start of non-existent communications.

Our next challenge was to make it to the Kalahari National Park gate by 19:00 when the gate is closed. We got there by 19:45 and it took some time for Jane to plead with them to let us through. They eventually let us through. When we got to camp we were so exhausted from the travel and stress that we had little appetite for dinner and retired to the tent in order to be ready for the early morning game drive.

Much of the game drives consisted of Jane driving non-stop and us doing the spotting and asking Jane to stop in places. We almost drove right past some lions, bat-eared foxes and a cheetah without stopping. Luckily I spotted them and yelled STOP! With other guides I was used to them imparting lots of knowledge of the area, flora, fauna, animal behavior and tracks, stopping at points and using binoculars to have a quick gaze around. Jane just kept driving, barely talked and when she did she had her foot on the gas, we were going over bumps and it was hard to hear her. Occasionally her team member joined us on game drive as the spotter, which helped somewhat.

The pros were Jane had a good team, they were very polite, always had the camp set-up nicely and the food and wine was great. Jane also treated them well, which was refreshing to see. Often in camps you see a significant distinction between the food and living quarters for the workers vs customers. Jane’s team had the same set-up as we did and we had the same food.

In summary I wish Jane were communicative. I felt like we were on safari alone with a driver and not a guide. On our last day we learned the chef had cooked his favorite dish the first night we arrived when we were too tired and stressed. Simple things as this if Jane had shared and communicated, our experience could have been better despite some of the major hiccups. I would not recommend Ulinda safaris to anyone, and that is because of Jane. This has no bearing on her team.

Visited: Botswana Botswana
Meet and greet team
Quality of vehicles
Responsiveness of staff
Knowledge of guide
Quality of itinerary
Overall rating

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