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Please advise on Kenya itinerary

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Well, I could wait a little longer but I am sitting here with this itinerary spinning around in my head and it has stopped changing every six hours now...so let's post it and see what happens. Digressions are welcome and only Meru "must" be done this time.

Here is the background (but we're fairly flexible people)
1. We just got back from Kenya 4 weeks ago did Mara-Nakuru-Baringo-Mountain Lodge and do not want to return to any of these places...yet
3. We drive only - with driver/guide and 4WD van
4. We want a mix of peace and beauty and great game viewing
(who doesn't? ... but we are willing to have them at different times if necessary)
5. Our budget depends on how many unnecessary luxuries we do without this year but in any case we will have to mix "perfect" places with some cheaper or tourist lodge options - no credit card debt allowed as trip no.3 will follow ASAP! Therefore, no limit on the cost of some nights but would have to compensate elsewhere, so self control required.
6. Trip No. 3 is likely to be Tsavo (West?), Amboseli and Northern Tanzania but I will resist posting that itinerary just yet ; )

We will probably be travelling in early to mid December (maybe 3-18 and maybe 9-24) so this could be a very long thread by then. I hope so!

Our current tentative itinerary is
1 Roadside inn - any ideas?
(we arrive midday & go straight from airport - it's 3 hours out of Nairobi I guess)
2-5 Tsavo East NP
6. Thika or Nairobi outskirts (roadside inn)
7 -9 Meru NP
10 -13 Samburu NR
14-15 Laikipia
16 Nairobi
17 Home

Days 14-15 (but not necessarily Laikipia) may have to be dropped; it depends on flights, success of vacation requests and self-control over budget elsewhere

CURRENT camps/lodges are
Tsavo East - Satao
(for tented isolation,no fences & waterhole)
Meru - Elsa's (it's my dream park so it has to be my wife's dream accommodation)
Samburu - Serena?
Laikipia - Impossible to choose (thanks for suggestions of previous thread)

It is Nyamera's fault** that we are not decided about Samburu ...the best places seem to discourage animal encounters and we really want to (safely and sensibly)be on the ground close to the animals as much as possible this time - if we can (there is a realist in me somewhere). Serena is the early favourite because it seems to have a very good location and the best policy on "mothering" - but it might be a bit wierd to come from quiet Meru to a big lodge (it's nothing against Serenas, which we have had good experiences with - it is just the contrast and these could be our last days).

Any ideas to redistribute costs (actually I haven't had it priced yet but we can guess) wisely, move the itinerary around, try somewhere different ... all welcome!

I have posted before to get specific information about some of these places but please feel free to restate views. Remember it's December because I am a little concerned about the effect of that on wildlife viewing (especially in Tsavo East)-I do not want to hope for two "dry" short rains in a row.

**That is a "good fault" Nyamera : )

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