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2 weeks in E Africa in 3 short weeks- Update with many new questions!

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Oct 22nd, 2004, 06:04 AM
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2 weeks in E Africa in 3 short weeks- Update with many new questions!

Folks-

We spent much of the last five days working on itineraries and educating ourselves about Kenya and Tanzania John (my partner and travel partner) has pretty much done nothing but read about safaris, lodges, wildlife and pricing, while I'd been busy checking out access to free air travel using my frequent-flier miles.

I feel like now, finally, were able to post fairly sophisticated questions. Though to be honest, our itinerary is still very much up in the air. What we do know is that we will be arriving in Nairobi at about 3 p.m. on Friday (will call that day one) November 12 and leaving out of either Cape Town or Johannesburg leave on Saturday, November 27 (will call that day 16).

We?ve been lucky enough to be able to arrange to free frequent-flier seats on South African Airways from London through to Nairobi and can either fly, Nairobi-Cape Town-London or Nairobi Johannesburg London. We will fly in first-class to Africa in flatbed overnight seats so theoretically at least we should be arriving rested and ready to "hit the road". There seems, in fact, to be availability in business class within Africa and first class, en route to London on virtually all of the flights between Nairobi and Cape Town or Johannesburg, so we do have flexibility. as long as we fly on South African Airways.

There are quite a number of issues were struggling with. One is how to adequately mix luxury and less expensive lodging throughout the trip. It appears quite difficult to come up with the cost of various options. Web sites seem to be giving " rack rates." While the few safari planners we?ve been corresponding with tend to give quotations only in total dollars at the end of working out the itinerary. What we would like to do is find one or two superb lodges to splurge on mixed with less expensive sites. Advice on the trade-offs between views, service, and something being truly special is most welcome. Overall, we'd like to try to spend less than $8,000 on land and food arrangements between the time we wake up at the Hilton in Nairobi, and leave we Africa.

Another core issue revolves around the same problem Sharon 815 is having on whether we'll be able to cross the border at Isebania [sp?]. In many ways, given the shortness of our itinerary, this becomes critical to the entire overall structure of the trip since spending the time to double back through Nairobi, doesn't seem possible. One final, but critical, consideration is that John WILL NOT fly on non-jet aircraft so all transportation needs to be overland once we arrive.

I?d like to post the broad outline of our itinerary and then, day by day pose relevant questions that I'm hoping that the informed readership of this column will help with!

JOHN AND STEVE AFRICA 11/10-28

WED 11/10 JFK-LHR

THU 11/11 SAA235 LHR-JNB 1800--

#1 FRI 11/12 AR JNB ---705A
SAA 182 JNB-NBO
0950 1455
HILTON HOTEL (ON HILTON POINTS)

#2 SAT 11/13 DRIVE TO AMBOSELI
STAY AT TORTILIS CAMP

#3 SUN 11/14 O/N TORTILIS

#4 MON 11/15 DRIVE TARANGIRE
STAY AT TREETOPS

#5 TUE 11/16 O/N TREETOPS

#6 WED 11/17 DRIVE TO NGORONGORO
STAY AT NGORONGORO SERENA

#7 THU 11/18 O/N NGORONGORO SERENA

#8 FRI 11/19 DRIVE TO SERENGETI
STAY AT SERENGETI SERENA
#9 SAT 11/20 O/N SERENGETI SERENA

#10 SUN 11/21 O/N SERENGETI SERENA

#11 MON 11/22 DRIVE TO MASAI MARA
CROSS AT ISEBANIA CROSSING
STAY AT MASAI MARA SERENA

#12 TUE 11/23 O/N MASAI MARA SERENA

#13 WED 11/24 DRIVE TO NAIROBI
SHOPPING, early dinner/late lunch at Carnivore?
PLAN 1
O/NITE TRAIN TO MOMBASSA 1900-0825


#14 THU 11/25 MOMBASSA WHERE TO STAY?

#15 FRI 11/26 MOMBASSA

#16 SAT 11/27 BA 8658 MBA-NBO 1200-1300
SAA 183 NBO-JNB 1345-1905
SAA 236 JNB-LHR 2150-0720

OR
PLAN 2 somewhat less attractive
OVERNITE IN NAIROBI
SHOPPING, CARNIVORE

#14 THU 11/25 NBO-CPT (CAPETOWN)
SAA 183 NBO-JNB 1345-1905
SAA 375 JNB-CPT 2310
O/N CAPETOWN

#15 FRI 11/26 O/N CAPETOWN

#16 SAT 11/27 SAA 222 CPT-LHR 2120-0730+1

SUN 11/28 NOT CHOSEN FLITE YET LHR-JFK



Now for the specific questions:

1)Our allocations of time reasonable given that will be traveling in the last two weeks of November? The issue for us was, in part, to get to the part of the Serengeti where we were likely to see the migration in late Nov. Is our assumption that that will be the place to be in late November correct?

2)In Amboseli-is the Tortilis Camp the place to be? One agent suggested the Porini camp. Does anyone have experience is there? Other suggestions of where to stay are also quite welcome.

3)In Tarangire- We are thinking about a stay in the Treetops Lodge. I know that it's been recently refurbished. Does anyone have any updated information? Other recommendations have included the Kikoti camp, as well Swala. We?ve been warned that Swala is quite expensive. Is this THE splurge? Or, is it Tortilis?

4)In Ngorongoro, there?s another treetop- like camp at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. , right? Our other alternative is the Serena lodge. Would you all suggest splurging on this one, or the one in Tarangire? (The brochure price is $1300/couple/nite which, if true, takes it WAY out of our league (or at least pocketbook)! An alternative is the Serena Lodge. Other thoughts?

5)How much of a quality difference is there between the Serena lodges at the next few sites? Is it worth ?downgrading? to Sopa for some, and upgrading to some of the spots we?ve mentioned at others, in order to try to stay within our $7000-8000 budget?

6)Finally, we haven?t even BEGUN to think about Mombassa beaches. (HEY, YA GOTTA ADMIT I?VE COME A LONG WAY FROM THE TOTALLY-AFRICA?NAÏVE GUY WHO POSTED JUST FOUR DAYS AGO!!!!) Is there some special place we shouldn?t miss on one of the beaches there? Hotel/resort recommendations?

7)Last question (for now, anyway)?.pop-top vs canvas topped vehicles? Any way of our using one type, then another? I know Nov. is likely to bring some rain daily, but the idea of open air is SOOO attractive.

Thanks so much, you all!!!!

Steve and John
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Oct 22nd, 2004, 06:36 AM
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Steve,

No answers to your many questions, as I have not yet visited East Africa, but will you please let me know how many frequent flier miles you were charged.

I paid 80,000 pp for London - Joburg and had a free add-on flight from Joburg - Lusaka (Zambia) - Joburg.

I would love the option of doing perhaps 10 nights in Tanzania and then finishing with a week in South Africa.

Thanks.
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Oct 22nd, 2004, 07:03 AM
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We are paying out of pocket for JFK-LHR. it was 120,000 miles each FC LHR-JNB, and an additional 50,000 miles JNB-NBO....so a 'mere' 340,000 Delta miles roundtrip. Had we planned further in advance, might have saved $$ and gotten JFK-africa, but that's the price of last minute travel.

Steve
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Oct 22nd, 2004, 10:12 AM
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Hello Steve and John,

Sorry, I can't answer your questions about East Africa.

However, there is something about your overall itinerary that leaps out at me, and that is the post-safari portion.

I would consider it to be more ideal to visit the coast relatively close to where you'll be going on safari.

HOWEVER, I would not recommend flying NBO - JNB - LHR. Even taking into account the fact that business and first class seats will give you a far greater degree of comfort, that is an unnecessarily long journey, IMO. Then, after that, you still have to fly LHR - JFK. Holy Batman!

So I consider Plan 2 to be more feasible.
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Oct 22nd, 2004, 12:56 PM
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Only a couple of comments:

1. Are you looking primarily for a safari to see the animals or super-luxurious places to stay? Thetorical: apply that to your NG question.

2. With the option of Mombasa or Cape Town, skip the first and get right down to CT and enjoy.
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Oct 22nd, 2004, 01:58 PM
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Steve,
I'm also more familiar with southern Africa so I can't comment on alot of this...however I would be inclined towards Capetown as it's a great time of year and I love the city and the surrounding winecountry...if you or John are foodies you'll love it.

However, that having been said I see it's really only 2 nights in Capetown and that's really too little time to make it worth chasing all the way down there.

I haven't taken a train in Kenya but I have used several overnight trains in Tanzania and Zimbabwe. The trains were fine in a 1st class couchette...a great chance to meet local people they give you a different picture of the country however at least in the places I've traveled they were often late. The question to me seems to be is it worth heading all the way to Mombassa for two night?

Personally I'd consider cutting down on the 11 safari nights to 8 and adding 3 nights to the nights in Capetown or Mombasa which would allow you to relax and reduce your overall costs.

Either way I'd consider going to 3 nights rather than 2 per camp as this gives you 2 full days at each and leaves you feeling less rushed.

Hope that helps!
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Oct 22nd, 2004, 01:59 PM
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I can respond to a few of your inquiries:
1)No telling for certain where the animals will be - the rain will dictate that - but I'd suggest checking out www.ccafrica.com and click on Wildwatch for "The Greatest Show On Earth" - sometimes you can get dated updates of what's happening in the area camps, and last year that's how we knew the wildebeast were still in the Mara end of Nov.

2)Tortilis Camp has been highly recommended here and in articles I've read. I don't have personal experience there, but it's high on my list of "want to stay there" for a future trip!

4)Ngorongoro Crater Lodge isn't a treetop but is a very luxurious splurge. There are pros and cons to it. If you have a strong consideration for it, I'd be happy to elaborate!

7)I *really* prefer canvas top. Pop-tops are only allowed at Ngorongoro Crater, but I'd say if you can manage it for the rest of the trip, canvas is SO much easier for photography and gives the feeling of experiencing nature, not just observing from the interior of a car.

I'm pretty sure, unless things have changed in the last year, you cannot go directly from the Serengeti to the Mara. BUT - you could spend that extra time either at Lake Manyara (the Tree Lodge would be a lovely splurge - though it's not a treetop lodge, the lodges are built on stilts and the trees are growing into the wrap-around porches) or in Tsavo (though I've heard the wildlife is not great in November). I'm sure there are other ideas too.

Good luck! You've come a long way in such a short time!
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Oct 25th, 2004, 05:00 AM
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THANKS!!

Please DO elaborate on Ngorongoro...it's getting close to choice time. Also, is there a way to make sure we get canvas tops? Any particular agency, etc use them more extensively?

Rest of you....I'm jealous that some postings get so many responses, and our departure is a mere 2 1/2 weeks away!
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Oct 25th, 2004, 06:59 AM
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Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is beautiful and luxurious. And they will treat you like royalty. Everything at the lodge smells wonderful, even the laundry we had done (included in the room cost). The New York couple we met while there commented that the Lodge rooms were bigger than their apartment.

While we enjoyed it immensely, I'm not a fan of being spoiled THAT much (my family might argue). With crystal chandeliers in every room, your own private butler who is literally at your beck and call, we felt a little guilty seeing the poverty in the rest of the country. And the food was a bit more bland there - though the meat choices were slightly more exotic, like duck rather than chicken or rabbit versus pork.
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