accommodations in the mara

Mar 20th, 2009, 06:20 AM
  #1  
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accommodations in the mara

My question is I have 6 nights in the mara planned. After much consideration, I think I have 2 decisions left.
1) Should we spend all six at the Serena or Kichwa Tembo or 3 nights at each?
2) I also have the option of driving to/from the mara and having a private guide/vehicle vs. flying to/from and sharing. It seems like the drive would be a no-brainer, but my wife struggles with long, bumpy drives (but also with small, bumpy flights). Please give opinions on this as well.
Thanks.

Below is my whole itenerary if you want to see it.


Day 1 - Arrive JRO; met and transfer to Arusha for overnight (o/n) - African Tulip, Serena Mountain Village, Kibo Palace or Impala Hotel (BB)

Day 2 - Arusha - full-day visit to Arusha National Park, for walking and canoe safaris - o/n African Tulip, Serena Mountain Village, Kibo Palace or Impala Hotel (BL)

Day 3 - Drive (2/hrs) to Tarangire NP, known for a mini-migration between mid-June/October with large herds of elephants, zebra, predators, birdlife and the amazing baobab tree landscape - o/n Sopa Lodge, Tarangire Safari Lodge or Tarangire River Camp (FB)

Day 4 - Tarangire - morning, afternoon or full-day game drive - o/n Sopa Lodge, Tarangire Safari Lodge or Tarangire River Camp (FB)

Day 5 - Drive (2.5-3/hrs) to Ngorongoro Crater; afternoon crater tour - o/n Sopa or Serena Lodges (FB)

Day 6 - Ngo - option: morning crater tour; afternoon at leisure or optional trek to Olmoti Crater - o/n Sopa or Serena Lodge (FB)

Day 7 - Drive (4.5-5/hrs) to Arusha; connect to 1:45pm flight to Wilson (domestic) airport in Nairobi; met and transfer for overnight - Intercontinental or Fairview Hotels (B)


Day 8 - Nairobi; morning sightseeing: Karen Blixen Museum, Giraffe Center, Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage; lunch at The Carnivore or Tamarind; transfer to Wilson for 3pm flight to Masai Mara; met and transfer for - o/n Serena Lodge or Kichwa Tembo Camp (or combined Serena and Kichwa Tembo) (LD)

Days 9, 10, 11, 12 & 13 - Masai Mara; morning and afternoon game drives daily; option: hot-air balloon safari can be scheduled - o/n Serena Lodge or Kichwa Tembo Camp (or combined Serena and Kichwa Tembo) (FB=full-board, BLD)
Day 14 - After morning game drive and breakfast transferred to airstrip for 11am flight to Wilson; met and transfer for day-room at Intercontinental or Fairview; evening transfer to NBO/JKIA for homebound flight (B)
photowannabe is offline  
Mar 20th, 2009, 09:49 AM
  #2  
 
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Have you priced out the option of flying to/from the Mara and private vehicle? Your tour operator can send their vehicle ahead while you fly. The drive to/from the Serena is particularly long because it's on the south side of the Mara river.

What time of year are you going?
Patty is offline  
Mar 20th, 2009, 10:05 AM
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Just saw your planning thread and see that you're going in September. Some people choose to split stays for different game drive areas or alternative activities, i.e. walking, but if your primary focus is the migration, then the Serena is well positioned for that.
Patty is offline  
Mar 20th, 2009, 01:16 PM
  #4  
 
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1) Looking at the rest of your itinerary, you have a chance to stay at a tented camp in Tarangire. It would be nice to include one of those and Tarangire River Camp would allow that without paying a high price. If you went for the tented camp with Kichwa Tembo, you'd be paying more. I think KT would offer the most secluded and remote atmosphere, of all the properties you listed, with excellent food and service, and great guiding if you used the resident guide.

If you did include KT, I'd put it last. For pricing, Mara Serena would be better. The location is great for the migration as well, but you could easily drive to the bulk of the wildebeest migration from KT. I'm looking at something similar for Aug of 2010 and for pricing and location in Aug, I have chosen to stay at Serena the entire time and not split. I was there once before and it was nice. I prefer the atmosphere of tented camps in the Mara, but the price & location combo of MS won me over. (I am going alone, which is always more costly.)

2 If you are a wannabe photographer, then a private vehicle is more important for you than other people on safari. I'd do what it takes to get the private vehicle in your case. In my case, I am driving there and back with the guide and will not be sharing a vehicle. It will be a long, bumpy road but I'm doing it to save $$.

I'd consider Patty's suggestion of having your guide meet you while you fly in to the Mara. If your wife has trouble with bumpy conditions, the flight is a lot shorter than about 6 hours of driving and it's not a tiny plane. Mara Serena costs may make the creature comfort of a flight and/or the photographer's requirement of a private vehicle more affordable.

You have a good itinerary at a good time of year, so whatever you choose, you'll enjoy it.
atravelynn is offline  
Mar 21st, 2009, 04:21 AM
  #5  
 
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atravelynn is 100% correct , your itinerary is great . And for photography you will need a Safari Van with pop up roof for the clear view . Look no further than on www.viamigo.com for a private guide who will take you at your own pace . It will be more rewarding and less expensive . I do use Nyikuri based in Nairobi whose email is [email protected] . A great Kenyan guide based in Nairobi, Kenya . Ejoy !
J.
jaluointhehouse is offline  
Apr 8th, 2009, 04:11 PM
  #6  
 
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Please let me know who you ended up choosing for your tour. I am agonizing over several tour operators and this sounds ideal. Who did you make your arrangements through?
Thanks and thanks to atravelynn and Patty. I often read your posts.
LindaReal is offline  
Apr 8th, 2009, 06:41 PM
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Lynn,

Kitchwa Tembo didn't appear to be remote or secluded to me...... If at all, they have way too many vehicles going out on safari. If I remember right, last year when the Mara was quiet in terms of visitors - the KT area was the only place where I found a lot of vehicle density.

Also, i wasn't too impressed with the general KT area in comparison to the Serena vicinity.
HariS is offline  
Apr 8th, 2009, 09:32 PM
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Hari, that is interesting. We stayed at Kichwa Tembo in 05, but it was the low season so not many visitors and we didn't have many vehicles about. For our next visit we are considering different areas and Serena was one, due mainly to its' closeness to river crossing points. The trouble is, you always worry that you will decide on the wrong location and miss out on some amazing sights.
We will probably stay in two locations just to hedge our bets! Then we will still miss something.
twaffle is offline  
Apr 9th, 2009, 05:15 AM
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HariS comment:

"Kitchwa Tembo didn't appear to be remote or secluded to me...... If at all, they have way too many vehicles going out on safari. If I remember right, last year when the Mara was quiet in terms of visitors - the KT area was the only place where I found a lot of vehicle density."

Realizing the Kitchwa Tembo camp is large, and if full, there would be lots of vehicles, private or camp's own. Also in the area is the Ktchwa Tembo lux Bateleur Camp, now with 18/tents, so figure 8+ vehicles. Olonana Camp is next door to KT, with 6+ vehicles. Then there are the camps on the hillside of the escarpment... all use the Oloooono (sp) gate for entry to the triangle/reserve.

And, then there the three (3) Governor's Camps (Main, Little and Il Moran) actually inside the triangle, so yes, the area can be considered busy.
sandi is offline  
Apr 9th, 2009, 06:00 PM
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Very interesting. It appears lots of small camps together can result in the same # of vehicles as a lodge like Serena, but at a greater cost.

But I still think you have less foot traffic and bustling in a camp (even a large one) than a lodge like Serena with 70+ rooms. For my next Kenya trip where location is important to me, I'm not willing to pay the premium for less bustling and foot traffic. For vehicle traffic, maybe there won't be that much difference between Serena and some of the other camps. That makes Serena an even better deal.

When I stayed at Little Gov or the now defunct Mara River Camp, I never noticed too many of vehicles.
atravelynn is offline  
Apr 9th, 2009, 06:34 PM
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Lynn,

Location wise you can't beat the Serena area. Think about it - may take longer for the other folks to get there - so, you are always in the midst of everything!
HariS is offline  
Apr 11th, 2009, 10:12 AM
  #12  
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Thanks for everyone's thoughts. From the suggestions above I have gotten a quote to fly to the Serena area and have our private vehicle meet us there (about $400/person more - reasonable?). I think we are looking at staying at both Kichwa Tembo and the Serena for 3 days each. Are we likely to be driving right back the Serena area from KT? I was choosing both locations so we might have more options. I am thinking that my wife will need options to be out of the car by then. She does not do well on long bumpy days in the car.
LindaReal - We contacted several companies. I am working with Sandi at Africa Serendipity. I believe this is the US travel company that Roy's safaris uses. I contacted Roy's and they put me in touch with Sandi.

Thanks again everyone. I hope to report our final itenerary soon.
photowannabe is offline  
Apr 11th, 2009, 10:29 AM
  #13  
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I meant to mention that that Serendipity has been very patient with me as I have asked for new options and slight variations. I have probably reworked my plans 5+ times and they have given me 3-5 options each time. I am a first time traveler - not trying to promote one company. Many companies as well as many Fodorites have been very helpful - thanks.
photowannabe is offline  
Apr 12th, 2009, 03:53 AM
  #14  
 
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We booked our EAfrica trip with African Serendipity last year and Sandi was, as always, patient, helpful and a pleasure to work with.
Kavey is offline  
Apr 12th, 2009, 04:16 PM
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Flexibility is important. Thanks for the positive comments on Africa Serendipity.
atravelynn is offline  
Apr 15th, 2009, 07:46 PM
  #16  
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We plan to go in September 2009. Any estimate of the time to drive from Serena to the Kichwa Tembo area?
photowannabe is offline  
Apr 16th, 2009, 05:17 AM
  #17  
 
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It's about 30/miles the way the crow flies.
Drive time is probably 1.5-2/hrs straight out if you don't stop for game viewing along the way.
sandi is offline  
Apr 16th, 2009, 07:34 AM
  #18  
 
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It took us about 1.5 hours to drive from Oloololo gate to the Serena with a few stops for game viewing along the way. KT isn't too far from Oloololo gate.
Patty is offline  
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