Advice on safari companies in Kenya / Tanzania

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May 26th, 2004, 10:26 PM
  #1
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Advice on safari companies in Kenya / Tanzania

Hi all. I'm planning a safari in Kenya and Tanzania in July 1st fornight. First time in sub-Saharan Africa, though I went to Egypt a couple of years back. As a first timer, the itinerary I've planned is pretty standard - Masai Mara (2-3 days), Lake Nakuru (1day), Amboseli (2 days), then on to Arusha and Serengeti (2 days) / Ngorongoro (2 days).

I usually prefer organising things myself, since it is more fun that way. Through research / refs I shortlisted 3 safari companies in Nairobi (Bushback Adventures, Best Camping Tours and Safari Seekers) and likewise 3 in Arusha (Equatorial Safaris, Sunny Safaris and Classic Tours & Safaris). My reasoning was that through this shortlisting, I wouldn't end up getting a raw deal on vehicles, accomodation, guides, costs etc. irrespective of which one I finally confirmed with.

I sent each of these companies a tour itinerary, specifying dates and routes and asked them to revert with costs for a camping safari, a lodge safari and a combination.

My problem is that the quotes I've received are significantly different (upto 70% difference b/w highest and lowest) for the same tour, especially in Kenya. All of them promise good, well maintained vehicles, stay in good lodges etc.

If anyone has travelled with any of these companies, please help me decide.

Thanks
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May 27th, 2004, 04:36 AM
  #2
sandi
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freddy123 - Sorry, but I'm not familiar with any of the tour operators you list in either Kenya or Tanzania. But 70% is sure a big difference in price. Is this difference due to the accommodations they've suggested? Is there any flying between one location and another? Are these companies putting you in with a group on a set itinerary or are you traveling independently; having determined where you want to visit? Is there a big difference for the single supplement?

If you would let us know what these tour operators have put together for you and the accommodations; also the price range from lowest to highest, we might be able to determine why the wide range and offer possible alternatives and suggestions.

In the meantime, may I suggest the following companies:

In Kenya:
www.wildtreksafaris.com
www.southerncrosssafaris.co

In Tanzania:
www.roysafaris.com

I gather you will be arriving in Nairobi, if so, will you be spending at least 1-day here? Where (which hotel) and are you taking in any touring in NBO?

If not staying in NBO, I pressume your first stop is up to Lake Nakuru. From Lake Nakuru, you then head to the Masai Mara for 2-3 days (the Migration should be arriving in the Mara, but never any guarantees as it's all dependent on the rains). Be aware that the drive from Nakuru to the Mara is long, about 5-hrs. Then from the Mara, I would suggest you take the early flight back to NBO (the drive would be 5-hrs and then you'd still have to drive to Amboseli), where you pick-up a driver to take you to Amboseli. Two-days here is fine.

From Amboseli your transfer will take you via the Namanga border for Immigration clearance and change vehicles - onto the Ngorongoro Crater. Here you only need 1-full day to tour the Crater, but since the driver from Amboseli to the Crater is long, you definitely need 2-nts.

As to the Serengeti, being July, the herds of the Migration heading to the Mara in Kenya, will be located at the Northern top-end of the Serengeti and this is where, ideally, you should find accommodations. This too is a long drive, though some people stop mid-way and stay at the Serena Lodge. If you decide not to go further north, from the Serena area you can still tour the northern Serengeti daily.

Regardless how you do this last leg, it's a long drive back to Arusha; many people choose to fly, something to think about. Hope this information helps.
 
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May 27th, 2004, 10:22 AM
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Freddy:

We used SunTrek Safari's (www.suntreksafaris.com) which are also Nairobi based and we had an excellant experience. They provided us with a private safari and were quite reasonably priced. We did everything with them via e-mail & they were very responsive, so you may want to send them a note as well.

Z
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May 27th, 2004, 10:50 AM
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Sandi - Thanks for the detailed reply - your tips will definitely come in handy.

As regards my original query, I received the answer from the high-priced operator (I had written to him directly). Turn out he had planned an exclusive trip for the two of us (in a 5-seater 4 WD), while the other operators had us sharing with other tourists in a 9-seater pop-up roof minivan. Also this operator was using Serena Lodges throughout, the others weren't.

I am not flying within Kenya / Tanzania all my transfers are by road. I have planned for an extra day in Nairobi and 2 extra days in Arusha (one before I start off to the Serengeti and one after I return from Ngorongoro) to provide some breathing space in between various legs.

Am staying at budget hotels at both NBO and Arusha - Comfort Inn in NBO and Arusha Naaz in Arusha.

We are planning a mix of camps (at the MAra and in Serengeti) and lodges (at Amboseli, Nakuru and Ngorongoro), since we wanted to get a feel of both experiences.

I have one further question regarding the 9 seater minivan with a pop-up roof (I am likely to go for this option,since I don't really mind sharing - after all that is part of the joy of travel). Have you been in such a van before and does this allow for a clear view of game / pictures etc. In Tanzania we have a 4WD 5 seater. Thanks
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May 27th, 2004, 12:42 PM
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Our first trip to Kenya was on a tour which used these minibuses. They were fine. We shared with 2 other couples and the driver, meaning that everyone got a window seat. It was fine with six plus driver but I don't think it would be so comfortable if all the seats were filled.

You can get a good view from all of the seats and no problem taking photos. Usually what happens is that everyone stands up when the van is stopped & even when it is travelling sometimes. Of course, the animals are often on one side of the van so then you have to shuffle around a little when it stops so that everyone gets a chance to look / take photos. It is easier to stand if you are in the middle row of seats. For long distance travelling the front row is better because there is slightly more leg room. All 3 rows are OK but the middle and back are best for viewing and the front is best for travelling.

If you are travelling with the same people for a number of days then the fairest thing to do is rotate where you sit each day or between the morning and afternoon game drives. That way everyone shares the best and worst.

We met some interesting people this way and because we took it in turns to sit in different seats it was very fair. However we did meet some people who shared a van with people who wouldn't change seats and they weren't so happy - that's the luck of the draw when you travel with people you don't know.

Of course - if money is no problem then a private 5-seater 4WD would always be better. But the van is fine.
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May 27th, 2004, 01:33 PM
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sandi
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RuthieC - great information re the van with a group of people. Since we've always traveled independenty, I wouldn't know the specifics - switching seats, viewing vs traveling. Your explaination of the van with more than two paxs was perfect for anyone having to decide on group or independent travel.

freddy123 - Most responsible tour operators won't fill the van to occupy all 9-seats, because their clients wouldn't be happy campers if they did. And your explanation of the price differences between the higher priced itinerary compared to the lower priced itineraries makes sense. With a group, the cost of the driver, vehicle, petrol, driver accommodations and meals are spread across more people. And you might luck out and only have two other people as "your group."
 
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May 27th, 2004, 08:09 PM
  #7
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RuthieC, Sandi - thanks for the great tips! The advice on switching seats withing a group is very sensible and I will defintely suggest the same. I am also planning to ask my operator if he plans to pack the van.

Really looking forward to my vacation now
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May 29th, 2004, 12:44 PM
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Hi there, having been to kenya 2x's. Going to SOUTHERN TANZ & TSAVO EAST (AGAIN) this SEPT. I would like to suggest my tour op out of KENYA. Using them a 3rd time.
If interested my contacts name:
Melinda Rees.
e-mail: [email protected]
company: eco-resorts
site: www.eco-resorts.com
If you contact her, tell david from RHODE ISLAND said to call.
It looks like you are only spending 10 nights in the parks.
I would suggest: Fly into NAIROBI. Next day.Drive to TSAVO EAST 3NTS, Drive to
AMBOSELI 2NTS, Drive to the MARA 5NTS. Back to NAIROBI. Or, AMBOSELI 2 or 3NTS, MARA 5NTS, NAKURU 2 or 3NTS. Back to NAIROBI.
To be honest, I would hate to have you rush through these places. You miss out.
Take your time and enjoy it. TSAVO is HUGE, MARA is pretty big.Also a lot of action, but the longer you stay. The more you get to witness. You won't be sorry. The other itin. you had. Too much wasted time and not enough time in the parks. The SEREN you could really spend a week just in there. If you don't mind camping, thats the way to go.
You can come and go as you please. Stay out all day, or come back for tea like the other places do. They are the ones missing out. Also, Request a LAND ROVER 1ST , LAND CRUISER 2ND. Try to stay away from what are called there:
MINI-BUGGERS. You want that safari feel? Grab a LAND ROVER.
If you want more info. Mail me at:
[email protected]
Thanks, keep me posted.
David
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