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Yet another Tanzania/Rwanda itinerary outline - pls help with some of my questions - Long

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Following is the current outline for our trip in January 2009 (assumes all private guides/drivers) with questions inserted into it - any help is appreciated

Days 1-3 Arrive Arusha (via AMS) - 3 nights at Kigongoni Lodge. Perhaps one night more than we would have booked but we're flying in on points and are dovetailing with flights to Rwanda. In any event we arrive very late the first night so it's really only two nights.

Touring options on Days 2 and 3 - half day cultural tour and next day game drive and bush wask at Arusha National Park.

Question - I've looked at many of the Arusha lodges and am happy with Kigongoni - also considered Coffee Lodge - any strongly held opinions either way?

Day 4 & 5 - transfer to Kigali and to VNP - overnight at Kinigi Guest House - next day Gorilla Trek

Day 6 - return to and overnight in Kigali - Iris Guest House (day tour in Kigali)

Question - we were originally booked at the Mountain Gorilla's Nest but after recent negative reviews decided we like the idea of Kinigi Guest House (similarly with Iris Guest House in Kigali versus Novatel, etc) - any comments?

Days 7 & 8 - Return to JRO and transfer to Tarangire
- stay at Tarangire Safari Lodge

Question - Any recent experiences at this lodge?

Day 9 - to Manyara for game drive then stay at Plantation Lodge that night

Question - I have gone round and round on whether we should keep Manyara in the itinerary - some trip reports I've read dismiss it entirely; others are very happy to have gone. The one reason for me to keep it is we do like to see birds (I can't call us bird watchers but when we're in other environments we really do like birds) Originally the agent suggested Kirurumu but the reviews are iffy so now I'm looking at Plantation Lodge. Any and all comments about this night are really appreciated

Days 10 & 11 - Ngorongoro Crater. This stop is a HUGE highlight for my husband - and me too - but he has been dreaming about it since he saw a Nat Geo when he was 8 - I wonder what else was in that issue ;)

Question here is where to stay - current plan is Sopa but same story with recent iffy reviews. It would seem the renovated rooms are much better, but in order to get one it is suggested you arrive early. I'm not planning to travel all the way to Tanzania to see wonderful wildlife and worry about getting to a hotel in time. But the lure of the Sopa is two-fold - the crater view and the easy road access. Crater Lodge isn't an option (don't see the value) and Serena doesn't have the easy access (right?). Also considering the Lemala Camp which apparently shares the Sopa access road......but not view of the crater. (price is high, though).

Good grief - where is the question there? Do you actually get to enjoy the view - I presume in January the light will be there at the end of the touring day or does the crater have a lot of fog? Is the easy access road as important as I think?

Days 12 - 15 - 4 nights in Serengeti - hoping for Ndutu Lodge but we're waitlisted right now. Considering Lemala here (if not the Crater) - this part is still forming up - any suggestions welcome

Day 16 - transfer for Zanzibar - 1 night at Stonetown/Tembo

Question - still considering Zanzibar re high humidity but very interested in seeing it

Days 17-19 - 3 nights at Ras Nungwi - we're divers and although this is the part where we relax we'll probably be tempted to dive - if not, snorkel. Not married to this hotel - read a couple of negative reviews and probably need to do more research here. Also it's very expensive and assume this is a place we could save a bit of money - yes?

Day 20 - depart Zanzibar for .............................. well, that part is still a work in progress. We have 2 more weeks in Africa - sort of assuming we'll go to Capetown and rent a villa for a week in Simons Town (or similar) and drive the Garden Route but considering other options too.

Price for above:

- Tanzania safari portion - $4,770 per person
- Rwanda portion - $1800 per person
- Zanzibar portion - $975 per person

Total $7,545 per person

Most meals are included (ex Rwanda) and all guiding, NP fees, air/transfers etc.

I know this is a common itinerary to post here - I've read just about every trip report and hope that experienced travelers can help with comments!

Thanks!

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