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Advice needed for my first safari

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I'm from Australia, and have been planning this safari for awhile and have received some wonderful advice from people on another site...hi to those of you who know me from there....but I thought I'd also ask for advice and suggestions here too.

I will be travelling solo and I am looking for a budget to medium type road safari in Kenya and Tanzania using lodges and hopefully some tented accommodation, and I'd prefer a private safari, if possible.

My intention was to go in February, but my son has just set his wedding date for June 10th in New York, so I thought I'd combine the trips, going to East Africa either before the wedding in late May/early June or afterwards towards the end of June. It works out better with my job if I do it that way.

Places I want to visit are:

Kenya: Samburu, Lake Nakuru, Masai Mara and Amboseli.

Tanzania: Serengeti, Lake Manyara, Tarangire and Ngorogoro Crater.

Plus I would like to spend a couple of days in Stone Town, Zanzibar.

I realise that this will mean quite a lot of travelling, but as this is almost certainly the only time I will be able to do this, I want to see as much as I can.

I need suggestions for reliable tour operators, reasonably priced accommodation in Nairobi, Arusha, and Stone Town, and anything else anyone can think of which might help.

Many thanks :)

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    How many total days planned to be in-country.

    If late-May, rates in both Kenya/Tanzania are 'low' season (end of rainy season, but little if any and won't inhibit safari); as 1st June, rates go to 'peak' in Tanzania, but is at 'mid' in Kenya (though some properties go to 'peak' mid-month).

    Samburu with ellees and unique species and Amboseli also with ellees and possible views of Kilimanjaro are both in Kenya. Tarangire with ellees and the amazing baobab landscape is the third "elephant" park. No reason to be visiting all three.

    Serengeti and Masai Mara the same eco-system, separated by a border. If the 'migration' is of interest, by end-May thru end-June the herds are usually in the Western corridor or the Serengeti, but over these past few years... herds have been arriving early into the Mara, so stopping at both is a good idea.

    Ngorongoro is unique to Tanzania.

    Lake Nakuru/Naivasha in Kenya are small parks, with flamingoes, Rothschild giraffe, rhino; at Naivasha you can do 'out-of-vehicle' activity as walking safari on Crescent Island.

    Lake Manyara in Tanzania also a small park, with much the same game as Nakuru/Naivasha, and can be covered in about half-day most.

    Stone Town/ZNZ - entails a flight from the mainland KEN or TNZ and then flight back to whichever airport for your homebound flight. Minimum 2/nts required, but this can be hectic at conclusion of safari... though visitors do this.

    Actual routing for safari, whether driving or flying, depends on your international flights: where you arrive and then depart.

    As a single, there will be that dreaded 'single supplement' but you can pretty much have a private safari especially in Tanzania; in Kenya, likewise you can have a private driving safari, but often it's easier to fly* from one area to another and doesn't necessarily cost more than have a private guide/vehicle.

    *certainly easier to fly between KEN/TNZ, at minimum

    Road conditions aren't the best and spending hours doing so can be tiring, bumpy, dusty. Flights often suggested for the longest segments.

    Visas are required for entry to both countries, obtainable on arrival at each; malaria meds are required; Yellow Fever inoculation required for Tanzania (and probably for reenty to OZ). You'll also require funds for: tipping, beverages (if not included), souvenirs, misc. and Trip insurance.

    'Reasonably priced' accommodations will vary from traveler to traveler. As I've mentioned many times 'one person's luxe is another's Motel-6'

    So, what kind of budget are you considering/working with?

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    Hi Sandi, thanks for your reply.

    I am thinking 2-3 weeks with a budget of perhaps $4-5000.

    Sounds like it would be best if I can go in May if it's low season in both Kenya and Tanzania.

    I want Samburu because it is different to other parks and has some unusual animals…..Amboselli was because I had hoped to get a view of Mt Kili…..And those baobab trees fascinate me, plus I heard that there are many animals in Tarangire…..that said, which one would you suggest I delete if I need to cut down?

    Yes you’re right about ‘reasonably priced’ varying from traveller to traveller, so while I am absolutely not looking for luxury accommodation, I do want clean and comfortable, with private bathroom facilities. I have no interest in fancy swimming pools etc, but I am a bit past backpackers accommodation. And I really would like to spend at least one night in a tented camp.

    What if I had a day or so in Nairobi, then went to Arusha and did the Tanzanian part from there, then 2-3 days in Stone Town, back to Arusha for a couple of days, then to Kenya for that part?

    How long would you suggest in Samburu, Masai Mara and Serengeti? And do you have any suggestions for operators?

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    www.zambezi.co.uk/safari/tanzania/maptzmig.html

    Good map of best migration areas and months

    From Oz especially if including air you budget is

    super tight... www.porini.com camps are great for me

    tucantravel.com good personal experience for me in past

    might keep you within budget.

    Personally never wire money always insuremytrip.com

    Be very careful with "other" sites with helpful "experts"

    Many including "experts" are online fake agents/scammers.

    Have seen folks lose thousands there.

    Happy Travels!

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    Thanks for your reply qwovardis.

    Actually that budget amount was for time spent in Kenya and Tanzania, not air travel, so although it wouldn't cover luxury travel, I don't think it is really so tight.

    If possible I'm looking for either a private safari or with a very small...like 4 people tops...group.

    Thanks for the warning, I appreciate it, but the site I referred to is very reliable, and deals with regular people's personal safaris and photos, not reviews or recommendations of operators, lodges etc.

    Have you used Porini yourself?

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    Excellent question for qwovardis and I look forward to reading his reply!

    Re Porini, I've used them and have been in contact with them for the past 4 years. Jake, the owner, is a nice guy and they have a big company in Kenya. You don't have to stay in their camps either so it will depend on what you like and they will accommodate your wishes.

    At the same time, I think it's fair to point out that one of the most helpful poster on Fodors and Tripadvisor is also the owner of an agency - sandi. She has never advertised that fact and because of her knowledge and willingness to share many of us have had wonderful holidays through her advice!

    From my very limited safari experience I can only suggest that you choose small tented camps. More chances of you meeting and getting to know your fellow travelers and hence enjoying your safari more.

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    Asante sana Hanuman -

    Gangurru - With $5,000 for a private safari of only 14/days, this averages a bit less than $360/day.

    Included in this 'daily' price has to be: room/tent, meals, park fees, guide/vehicle, game drives, flights (if needed), taxes.
    Not included: Visas, malaria meds/inoculations, gratuities, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, trip insurance, misc spending money (souvenirs).

    When you consider that a private guide/vehicle can run between $175-225/day, parks fees average $50-$100/day... doesn't leave much for a place to lay your head (less than $100) and even in low-season and as a 'single' may be difficult to find... you may have to rethink your budget for a private safari.

    Of course, there are 'group'* safaris (whether from your home country, other countries, even from in-country outfitters), where costs are shared by the group, especially the guide/vehicle, all the rest are much the same though room rates might be lower (bulk purchasing), but you're then stuck with an itinerary someone else designed: which areas visited, number of days at each, lodging selected, will mostly be driving itineraries... and that single supplement.

    *Companies as: OAT/Overseas Adventure Travel (out of Boston), Friendly Planet, Smartours, etc. will give you an idea of their itineraries/lodging, costs.

    The unfortunate situation many of us run into when planning a holiday anywhere... 'so much to see, not enough time (or money)'

    All three elephant parks are wonderful, but sometimes you have no choice but to select one. If in May, at Tarangire (best July-Oct) the grasses are very high and but for elephants or giraffe, some of the smaller game are difficult to spot. At Amboseli, it's still always 'possibility of seeing Kili' as it's often covered in clouds. And, while Samburu is a favorite of many especially for the unique species... it's a 6/hr drive from Nairobi on not the best roads; flying though is only 1.15/hrs. Any of these elephant parks deserves minimum 2/nts.

    When it comes to the Mara and/or Serengeti, a minimum 3/nts... so much to see/experience in each. Ngorongoro can be done with 1/nt (1/ half-day crater tour... these limited to 6/hrs). You'd have to fly to Zanzibar to visit Stone Town (going by bus [about 10/hrs] and then ferry [2/hrs] is just too darn long, even if less expensive). From ZNZ you don't have to return to Tanzania, but can fly direct to Kenya.

    As to the actual routing, there really isn't any right/wrong, but should be that without zig-zagging back-n-forth... from point A-to-B only, and if driving with sufficient breaks along the way. So whether Kenya first, then Tanzania or vice versa... is up to you.

    A recent poster, believe 'KathyBC' visited this past May/June, as solo traveler. Do a search on her name for her Trip Report for an idea of where she visited and though no price was indicated, I can assure you even in mid-priced accommodations (a few luxe tossed in there on her own), exceeded the $5K.

    Some things to consider! Yes!

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    My thanks to everyone who has posted replies, you have all given me much to think about.

    Your posts are very informative Sandi, thanks a lot.

    So I will need to make some changes...the possibilities being:

    1. A larger budget... my son's wedding in NY is costing an arm and a leg, so I'd hoped not to have to go over $5000 for the land part of the safari, but if I must, I shall.

    2. Cut down on places I'd like to see.

    3. Go to Kenya or Tanzania but not both.

    4. Scrap Zanzibar.

    5. Join a larger group....perhaps an American or Canadian, as the Australian ones are hideously expensive.

    Thanks KathBC I'm sure that reading your trip report will also give me plenty to consider.....and looooog is fine, I'm a big reader LOL.

    The main park I want to visit is Samburu, and not many tour companies seem to offer it in their itineraries. Any ideas how I can add that?

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