A&K vs Micato....opinions?

Jan 13th, 2007, 04:12 PM
  #21  
 
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Lynda, that was a crucial manuever.

As has been pointed out, there are many routes for getting to Africa, as well as to returning again and again.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 14th, 2007, 05:11 AM
  #22  
 
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My kind friend Lynda,
You are hitting below the belt . The services of our lovely guide were finished in Arusha, thusly, we were then placed in the hands of our ground transport people who were not allowed into the Nairobi airport for security reasons - only those holding tickets were allowed in. This may be standard at the Nairobi airport - not sure though, as there were some security breaches that day.

Not even the Dali Lama could have got us unbumped if he managed to get past the guards.
Peace;
Sherry
cybor is offline  
Jan 14th, 2007, 09:17 AM
  #23  
 
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Bingo! That's the point Lynda was trying to make, cybor. That's precisely the difference between a driver-guide and an escort.
safarimama is offline  
Jan 14th, 2007, 10:01 AM
  #24  
 
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s.mama,
The difference here, however, is that we were dealing with Kenya Air rather than Air Kenya - 2 different breeds of cat, IMHO. I may be totally off base, but I don't think Kenya Air cares who you are.

If an escort could have convinced Kenya Air to remove the already seated passengers to give us back our seats, then indeed he/she does have the finesse of the Dali Lama.

I do understand what your saying. However, my friends said they wouldn't be willing to pay extra for this.

Please don't get me wrong, I do believe that there is indeed a place for these types of services and my intent isn't to badmouth.
cybor is offline  
Jan 14th, 2007, 10:14 AM
  #25  
 
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I believe in both cases were referring to Kenya Airways as Air Kenya doesn't fly to the Seychelles.
Patty is online now  
Jan 14th, 2007, 02:25 PM
  #26  
 
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Did I understand the Dali Lama has entered the personal escort business?
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 14th, 2007, 02:55 PM
  #27  
 
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Yes, that's about all the Dali Lama has available to him. He is in exile, the Chinese have devastated Tibet and its culture.
regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Jan 14th, 2007, 03:24 PM
  #28  
 
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The information here is priceless (and overwhelming). We are just researching our dream trip to Africa for 2008 and none too soon based on what I'm reading from you folks. Unfortunately the discussions of memorable experiences doesn't always include where you were and what time of the year it was.

Here is what I have concluded so far:
- We want to feel part of the environment, be in fixed tents mostly,with a sense of being with the animals but not sleeping on the ground; we want creature comforts (read that coffee in the am and good, hot, easily acessed showers/toilets. In this environment, is private out of the question?
- dinners feeling more outside than in a restaurant setting and a campfire at night with weary, excited travelers sharing experiences.
- we want elephants/lions/giraffes. Based on data here, I can put off the wildebeest migration for another trip.
- We're using Tauck for China in May, but not sure it is the Africa experience I want. I'm looking at Tauck, Micato, and others like Green Footprint , Good Earth, ATR (Thanks again to fodor). I have eliminated A&K as too upscale.
- we prefer the 'agent' to handle all the planning, booking, transfers, etc. and we want to fly between locations -- fodorites taught me that you can waste a lot of time if you drive between locations.
- we want 4x4 jeeps with 4-6 people -- we don't want to fight to see. Our group can be larger, but we don't want to feel 'herded' (pardon the pun!) as part of a big group trip.
Questions:
1. Can we get the 'real' wilderness experience from Tauck/Micato and not feel we spent the whole trip as tourists.
2. What is a reasonable size group, if we do use an agent like Micato?
3. When is the best time to go and and where to see the 'big 5'? Our inclination is Kenya/Masai Mara in Aug.
4. Will we miss a lot if we concentrate on Kenya and S. Africa and skip Tanzania this trip -- I'd really like to do Tarangire and the Crator.
5. What camps give us the the essence we want? Research shows that maybe Govenor's Little Camp or Mara Safari club are what we want, at least most of the nights. Can't get used to the concept of "beauty svcs" at Masai Mara Serena Lodge, but maybe after a day of safaris, a massage would feel good.
6. We do want to see South Africa- Cape Town, and J'burg and Victoria Falls while we are there, and it looks like I may have to suffer chilly weather to get good weather on safari. True?


The biggest message I'm getting here is that what you want to see dictates where you go and when. Since we're just starting and we are retired, we can pick any time, so the prospect for animal sightings is the driving factor.
lexia is offline  
Jan 14th, 2007, 05:24 PM
  #29  
 
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lexia - reading your last post, here's my 2 cents. The most important thing to you is the safari camp(s). And like us, game viewing is the real reason we go on safari. Select that/those camps and find someone who has them already on their tour itinerary or who can arrange it for you. It is easy to find an agent, tell them you want to go to this camp then here then there. They will put it all together for you. The hard part as you realize is choosing the safari camps. How many days would you like to be in Africa?

Sounds like you want a more "intimate" camp experience. A safari camp with no more than maybe 14 tents/huts, 28 guests. Taking your example, Little Governors Camp would be good (I have been there) but Mara Serena Lodge would not (I have not been there). Little Gov uses totally open top Land Rovers and typically 4 persons per vehicle. Large fixed tents, en suite, wonderful buffet meals outside. Private, creature comforts. Just marvelous.

Kenya and S. Africa are both great, all though not that close as say Kenya and Tanzania. But last Sep 2006 we went to both Kenya and S. Africa and to Zambia, 22 days all total I think. You could do a lot worse than fly into Nairobi, 5 nights at Lil Gov, fly Livingstone/Victoria Falls, fly Johannesburg, 5 nights in Sabi Sands area safari camp, fly home or fly Capetown then fly home.
August/September is perfect the time to go. May be a little chill in early morning but a jacket will take care of it and the rest of the day will be shirt sleeve. You have some time to work it out for 2008 so don't be in a big rush - yet.
regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Jan 14th, 2007, 06:32 PM
  #30  
 
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Hi lexia-

Welcome to the board! First off, take a look at the New East Africa Trip Report Index at:

East Africa Index:
http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34860283

And then-

Southern Africa Index:
http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34858382

Both of these indexes list trip reports (both in chronological order, the most recent ones are towards the bottom - mind you I am behind in my duty and have only up to Sept 06 done...)

They will give you an idea of how many outfitters there are out there, and how many didfferent ways & means you can go to Africa! Lynn, our local 'agent & operator info gatherer' on the board can list the ones that most people use.

I'd start by saying though that doing both East Africa and South Africa would take lots of time (to say nothing of money), so I'd suggest you should choose one or the other. Patti, our flight & logistics expert on the board can help you by letting you know how long & how easy (or not) it is to get between the two. I personally would use it as an excuse to do two trips to Africa....

I have been to both, and it's a tough call. But I think Sfaridude, one of the guys on this board put it so well as he was leaving East Africa-
"Southern Africa fulfills you -you feel like you were in absolute paradise; East Africa breaks your heart! " (I believe he meant when you leave it). Yes, it does. I loved South Africa for the scenery (can't beat it), the winelands, the people, the food, the history, the culture and the animals that we did see. But I LOVED East Africa for the people, the culture, and all of the wild animals that are just literally hanging around waiting for you to watch them go about their daily lives.

As I have ONLY been on a Micato trip in East Africa, I can answer some of your questions with regards to Micato, but others will chime in on the independant safaris, and you will plenty of info to absorb!

If you want to feel a part of the enviroment, close to the ground but not quite on it, but with creature comforts consider Micato's Grand Safari for the small, luxurious tented camps. It's 15 days, it takes in Amboseli (Tortilis tented camp), Mt Kenya Safari Club, the mara (Bateleur or Governors Camp), the Serengeti (Kirawira Camp) and Crater Lodge on the rim of Ngorongoro Crater. All very luxurious and you fly betweeen them all, except a short drive to & from the crater to Lake Manyara for your flight. All of these camps listed will give you a 'near to the animals' experience, will have campfires at night (exception would probably be the Crater Lodge, but you won't miss a campfire there when you are in your bathtub overlooking the crater...) and will have pretty intimate dining experiences (again the crater Lodge may be the exception here, but as I haven't been there I can't say for sure) But here again, as people will let you know, a private trip doing the same is not out of the question. Oh, or did you mean private toilets? Oops, sorry - I thought you meant the trip in general. No, private facilities is NOT out of the question, most of the lodges & camps I have read about in East Africa all have private facilities.

Micato will definitely handle all your arrangements and you will fly between all locations. You just have to get your travel shots, your visas and passports and show up at the Nairobi airport on the right day - they will take care of the rest until it's time to go home.

Micato uses extended Toyota land Cruisers (4x4) that are very comfortable and roomy - there is never more than 6 to a vehicle (it has room for 9 passengers).

Again - answered only in regards to Micato (as that's all I have experience with)-

Your questions:
1. - we NEVER felt herded and we always felt like we got the real Africa experience.
2. Micato closes most of their safaris at 18 people, the Grand and South Africa they close at 12 per group.
3. experts more expert than I can answer this question as a general one.
4. If you skip Tanzania on this trip you won't see the crater or Tarangire as they are both in Tanzania.
5. The camps on Micato's Grand Safari, as I listed above will give you the experience you want I believe - I haven't been to any of them, but I am basing my answer on reading hundreds of people's trip reports over the last two years on this board!
6. You can see Capetown and J'berg in South Africa, but Victoria Falls is on the border between Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

AAAH, I jsut noticed in the Micato book that they do indeed have the very trip you described, starting in Capetown, taking in the Falls, J'Berg, Nairobi, Tarangire, Ngorongoro, the Serengeti and the Mara. There's a lot of flying inbetween countries in that trip, I can see logistically it works, but I still think the best is to do both - on two separate trips. This particular trip would give you a whirlwind overview of lots of places, and you would be really 'yearning' to go back to many of the places to see more.

Although I guess that in itself is a good thing too!











LyndaS is offline  
Jan 15th, 2007, 08:41 AM
  #31  
 
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Here are a few more words to overwhelm you.

1. Short Answer = Yes.
Lexia, you seem to be alluding to a travel phenomena that I find deceptive when comparing Africa (and other wildlife destinations) with travel to cities. I find the less I spend while traveling in cities, the more authentic the experience. Unfortunately not so in Africa when wildlife viewing and appreciating cultures in remote regions is the goal. The more intimate, secluded locations with few tourists, the more the cost.

Also in the bush, you are constantly reminded that you are a tourist (or guest) regardless of cost or company. You cannot wander the around the grounds at will. You are unlikely to spot animals as well on your own as with your guide/driver. You will be escorted to your tent/lodge at night. You cannot stroll to the local village because you could be killed by an animal en route.

2. The biggest factor for me is everybody gets a window. Micato, or any reputable company adheres to this. A bigger group is divided up and uses more vehicles. You may go out together in a convoy, which can increase your odds of finding game with more eyes. Or the vehicles may separate, perhaps still keeping in radio contact.

3.
http://www.africa-adventure.com/dsp_besttime.html
This site shows best game viewing where. Best also means highest cost. Mara in Aug is a winner.
The big 5 includes leopard and rhino. Lewa Downs is probably the best place in Africa for rhino. Also Nakuru, Sweetwaters, other northern private concessions. I think Samburu is the best place in Kenya for leopard--leopard is a tricky one almost anywhere except maybe Chief's Island (Botswana) or the Sabi Sands in South Africa.

4. You’ll miss no major animal species if you do only Kenya. You’ll miss interesting terrain, fascinating geography, concentrations of animals in the crater. You can easily add Tanzania onto Kenya because I think these are highly worthwhile destinations, especially in August. My 1st safari included Kenya and Tanzania and the combo is quite common.


5. I loved Little Gov’s and it seems to fit with your stated goals I think you’d also enjoy Lewa Downs, I did. Or Elsa’s Kopje in Meru. Mara Serena has a good geographic location and I saw a good variety of game while staying there. No massages though.

6. A little chilly. I’ve been at Vic Falls and Joburg in Aug. and found it pleasantly cool. Light jacket weather. I have no Cape Town experience. Time and of course travel budget would be a bigger factor in my trip planning decisions than temps.

When you know how long you’d like to be gone, start a new thread, including your time of travel—looks like August.






atravelynn is offline  
Jan 16th, 2007, 10:43 AM
  #32  
 
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Tom, Lynda, Lynn,
Great info and guidance. I'm off to research camps and send some emails to companies to see what's available. I have ordered a Micato brochure.

Atravelynn's 'more intimate, selcuded locations, with few tourists, the more the cost' is a real help. I thought more $$ just meant more touristy.

You've convinced me Aug is a go.

Also Little Governors Camp is on the 'keep' list.
Thru-out these threads folks keep recommending Ngorongoro Crater Lodge -- altho on the rim with a view to die for, the web shows it is $500+ a person per night -- WHOA!

Also thanks to Tom and Atravelynn for letting me know that we really can add S.Africa and do it in Aug. just a matter of time, money and priorities. The question is: do we want to spend enough time to do both justice and it looks like it would be at least a 4 week trip.

Unfortunately good travel friends only want to do S. Africa. He's been on business and wants to show it to wife (she's not the safari type). So, if we want to travel with them, then we do S. Africa. I can't fathom being that close to Kenya and Tanzania and missing my absolute lifetime dream trip - a safari. Why go?

Once I nail down some specifics, I'll start a new thread.
lexia is offline  
Jan 16th, 2007, 03:40 PM
  #33  
 
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"Ngorongoro Crater Lodge -- altho on the rim with a view to die for, the web shows it is $500+ a person per night -- WHOA!"

I say WHOA too. I've stayed at Sopa in the crater with a beautiful view from the room and its own access road to the crater. I've stayed at the more budget-minded Wildlife Lodge with beautiful views, though not from my room. (Maybe just a cheaper room.) Serena at the crater gets good remarks, and is supposed to be a notch above Sopa. The second floor rooms have a better view at Serena.

Unless you want the best there is or are consciously splurging and will enjoy own butler, Crater Lodge is not necessary.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 16th, 2007, 04:37 PM
  #34  
 
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At the crater spending more does not buy remoteness since the lodges dot the rim of the crater. But you do share accommodations with fewer people at Crater Lodge than in the other lodges. And with the butler, your dining is more private.

Less lodge-y and more inn-like or B&B-like at the crater might be various farm houses a little ways away--like an hour or a little more. I've visited, though never stayed, at Gibb's Farm. Fantastic fresh-grown fruit & veggies from their garden for wonderful meals. These farm houses serve as lodging between the crater and Lake Manyara.

Oh, back to the Dali Lama. I think he might be pleased to be considered a personal escort, of the spiritual sort.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 17th, 2007, 10:18 AM
  #35  
 
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Thanks.
Multiple recommendations from fodorites for Sopa at the crater, so I think will put that one on the top of my list for the crater in my initial inquiries to agents and see where we go from there.
lexia is offline  
Jan 19th, 2007, 01:11 PM
  #36  
 
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I went with Micato in June of 2006 and it was truly the trip of a lifetime. I have no experience with A&K but we ran across them at almost every stop, so I assume they run a very similar itinerary. I did Stanley Wing Safari and in late June, the place to be was the Serengeti more than the Masai Mara. The timing of your trip is definitely important. My favorite stop was the Ngorogoro Crater. We saw the most amazing animals there, very up close and personal. Actually, it's hard to pick a favorite. I will say that going with Micato was one of my better decisions, particularly because my husband does NOT like to "rough it." He was very impressed with Micato, and he is not easy to impress. They have customer service down to an art form. I would highly recommend having a guide with you the whole time, if you can. There is a wonderful relationship that results and also you get to have great conversations about anything and everything. They get to know the personalities of their guests and what their expectations are, and they really do take care of anything you might need, big or small. Our group was six, and we had no trouble seeing everything from our vehicle. I would go on another trip with Micato in a minute.
mrm512 is offline  

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