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Kenya with Rwandan Gorilla trekking

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Looking for opinions on camps/lodges for our trip in Aug/Sept 2014. We have 2-3 weeks, prefer game drives as opposed to walking safaris, private use of vehicles with a guide(2 of us),medium range accommodations with flush toilets, flying between camps, lots of game viewing, would like to see 2-3 different areas in Kenya, 2 days of Gorilla viewing.

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    If you're looking for the densest concentration of game, I would say a Laikipia/Mara or Samburu/Mara combo. I'm not up to date on camps and pricing but it might be helpful if you stated a per night budget.

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    Great time for those activities. A while ago I was planning the same thing for the same time frame. Here is that plan.

    1 Leave home
    2 In transit
    3 To PNV – I stayed in Kinigi Guesthouse this trip
    4 gor trek
    5 gor trek
    6 to Kenya
    7 Aberdare I stayed at Fishing Lodge (Kenya Wildlife Service lodging)
    8 Aberdare
    9 Meru Kinnas Bandas (Kenya Wildlife Service lodging)
    10 Meru
    11 Meru
    12 Samburu – I stayed at Simba Lodge
    13 Samburu
    14 Shaba – I stayed at Shaba Sarova
    15 Mara -- I stayed at Fig Tree
    16 Mara
    17 Mara – I stayed at Mara Serena
    18 Mara
    19 Mara
    20 Depart
    21 Get home


    I ended up doing 2 separate trips—Rwanda in Aug, then Kenya in Sept of the following year.

    Meru, in the above itinerary, is less visited, less dense wildlife destination with few people, interesting birds, and lesser kudu. Also home (and grave) of Elsa and it has an enclosed rhino sanctuary.

    Medium accommodations in Rwanda include Mountain View Lodge and Gorilla’s Nest. I’ve stayed at Gorilla’s Nest and it was good. Then it had problems and I think it is better now. Kinigi Guesthouse is less fancy than either of these, but the location is closest to the ranger station and it is where I’d stay again. For ensuite toilets, request guestrooms and not dormitories.

    My Kenya accommodations are medium. The KWS accommodations are actually a better bargain than medium. Below is my comparison of KWS lodging and high end luxury tented camps. Kenyan-based safari providers are more likely to offer KWS lodging than agents in your own country.

    For pricing, check out Africa Travel Resources site. Your safari provider may be able to work some deals with certain properties, but this gives a good starting point and comparison guide for pricing. Their commentary is entertaining as well.

    http://www.africatravelresource.com/africa/kenya/sw/mara/triangle/


    Bandas are the Bargain of Kenya!
    If you do your own meal prep and drive yourself, they’d be even more of a bargain, but I wasn’t willing to go that far. In comparing and contrasting the 2 Kenya Wildlife Service Bandas I used with some Premier Luxury Camps of Botswana (or elsewhere) costing many hundreds or more per night, the bandas come out very well.

    Fishing Lodge was in Aberdare and Kinnas was in Meru.
    Kinnas might also be known as Bwathernrongi Bandas, the nearby river.

    Similarities between low cost bandas and expensive luxury camps:

    Small, intimate setting--Fishing Lodge allowed 2 parties and Kinnas had bandas for 4 parties.

    Remote location without many vehicles—I saw 4 other safari vehicles during activities in Aberdare, all going the opposite direction. I saw 5 other safari vehicles in Meru, actually there were 4 separate vehicles, but we encountered one twice.

    Lovely setting with resident wildlife—Aberdare’s Fishing Lodge had 360 degrees of beautiful mountaintop scenery. Spoor indicated lots of animal visitors and I saw a Duiker, Jackson’s Francolin, and Waterbuck. With less rain, I’d have seen more wildlife around the banda. The nearby Magura River could be heard flowing, even from inside, but I was warned not to venture down the path to the river without an armed guard due to buffalo. Meru’s Kinnas Bandas were near the Bwathernrongi River and boasted an abundance of animals and birds—herds of impala, troops of baboons and vervets, agama lizards, two resident genets, woodpeckers, a variety of weavers, even several appearances of the Paradise Flycatcher with its flowing white tail feathers. Some nights there were non-stop baboon alarm calls and internal squabbles, plus lions roaring to each other. One night we could hear lions chase an antelope around the building and the tracks we saw the next day confirmed the pursuit.

    Personal service--If you have a private vehicle, guide, and chef as I did, then you cannot get more personal service than that. Each banda had KWS staff on site. At Fishing Lodge the staff frequently delivered wood for the fire. At Fishing Lodge I spent an entire day in a different vehicle with a driver and a KWS ranger, plus my own E&S guide so that was 3 people attending to moi—very personalized.

    Plunge Pool--Kinnas had one that I did not use and Fishing Lodge was way too cold for plunging.

    Rustic and authentic safari feel—That’s definitely the vibe. No electricity at either banda so we used lanterns. The E&S vehicle could charge batteries even if it was not running.

    Comfortable and clean—Absolutely.

    Mosquito netting—One is provided at Kinnas, but there was no “tie up” service each day, so I left it unfurled. It was tied upon my arrival. No netting is needed in the higher altitude Fishing Lodge.

    Ensuite facilities—Flush toilet, hot water, and shower all were available a few steps away in my own bathroom, all under one roof. Fishing Lodge provided towels. Kinnas was bring your own towels, so that is a difference from a luxury tented camp.

    Good food—Not only was the food good, but you can have personal requests with your own chef.

    Differences:
    The price!

    Bandas are not tented; they are solid wood or brick walls and floors. Most luxury tented camps are under canvas.

    Library, resources, and onsite CD backup of your memory card—None at the bandas

    Electricity—None at the bandas

    Afternoon tea and pastries—I think you could request this, which I did not. But the fancy desserts at the luxury camps and tea served on fine china would be tough to duplicate at the bandas.

    Wait staff and beautifully set tables—There was no staff at mealtimes, just Chef Martin. Some of the dishes and silverware he brought along and some were provided at the bandas. All were clean. There was no napkin art at the table but we did have some placemats.

    Beautiful furniture and decor—Fishing Lodge had some nice pictures on the wall and attractive furniture; Kinnas had an airy screened porch (that I forgot to photograph, darnit) but nothing stunning at either banda. The banda beds were comfortable, though.

    Raised wooden walkways—none at the bandas

    Towels—Fishing Lodge had fine towels; Kinnas was BYO. I arranged a stop in Nairobi to buy a bath towel enroute to Aberdare, rather than bring one from home, which would mean my luggage would be too bulky to carry on the plane. In contrast, the luxury tents often have terry cloth bathrobes provided. I left the towel with my driver before I flew out to the Mara.

    Laundry service—none at the bandas so I did mine in the sink.

    Hot water bottle at night—None needed at Kinnas. This would be a good item to request in advance for Fishing Lodge, especially if there is no additional source of body heat to warm the bed, as was my case.

    Wine and spirits—E&S asked me about beverages in the planning stages so that would be the time to request any special drinks. I did not ask for wine or other alcohol and didn’t see any.

    Mingling with others—Other than a nod or a wave, there was not much interaction with the other couple people I saw at the bandas. At the luxury camps, tea and mealtimes offered excellent opportunities to interact with others.

    Guide Quarters—The bandas had a common center area and bedrooms with their own bathroom were on either side. I stayed in one of the bedrooms and Guide Ben and Chef Martin used the other. I think at Fishing Lodge there was yet another little room near the kitchen for the chef. At the luxury tents, staff has their own quarters or village.

    Tipping the staff—At the end of the stay, I gave a standard daily staff tip to the guy who supplied us with wood for the fireplace several times a day at Fishing Lodge. At Kinnas, I left an amount on the pillow similar to what I would for maid service for my 3-night stay. At the luxury camps, there is usually a tip box for staff.

    In sum, I loved the KWS bandas and not just as a means for saving money on lodging. The reason I did not stay at bandas throughout the trip was they are only available in the national parks that are operated by Kenya Wildlife Service. The reserves of the Maasai Mara, Shaba, Samburu and Buffalo Springs do not offer these bandas.

    Here is a link to banda rates. http://www.kws.org/export/sites/kws/tourism/downloads/KWS_Banda_Rates.pdf

    Complete trip reports, with photos, can be found at these links.

    Rwanda (more than gorillas. Post #21, which is numbered in the upper right corner) has additional info on Kinigi Guest House
    http://safaritalk.net/topic/5948-sept-kenya-private-drivefly/

    Kenya
    http://safaritalk.net/topic/5948-sept-kenya-private-drivefly/

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    I did this trip a few years ago, but in June. Cannot add anything to the excellent info Lynn has provided except to agree that this is a marvelous combo.

    I went to Rwanda first:first day did Golden Monkey trekking, then next two days gorilla treks, an overnight at Lake Kivu, visited the Genocide Memorial in Kigali, then flew to NBO and off to Tsavo and then finished my safari in the Mara.

    Last trip I just went to Kenya and did a Laikipia/Mara/Tsavo combo.

    Time to go back!

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