African Safari Help

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Mar 18th, 2005, 01:21 PM
  #1
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African Safari Help

I have been reading all the emails regarding the plans for a Kenyan/Tanzanian Safari this autumn with great interest. I have just started researching a trip for my husband and I for 2006 (we are also from L.A.). I have many more basic questions I am hoping someone can help me with:

1)For about a 10 day (not including travel from the US) safari, should we just stick to Kenya, Just stick to Tanzania, try to combine both or what about South Africa?

2)What is the best time of the year to go - I have been given different answers from different tour operators.

3)have any of you gone on group tours? My husband is very social and he likes to meet new peeple. I on the other hand prefer to create my own itinerary.

4)I have emailed with many tour operators in S. Africa Kenya and Tanzania. How do you pick the best? How do I find out who is reputable?

4) Can anyone recommend a tour company?

We want to make this trip very special - my 50th birthday and our 5th anniversary, and my husbands first foreign foray.

Any help with the above would really be appreciated - planning this kind of trip seems overwhelming without all the basics.
We do not have an unlimited budget, but we are not starving students either. I want to stay in the nicest places we can afford - lodges and tented camps.

THanks everyone.
csuss


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Mar 18th, 2005, 11:29 PM
  #2
Lin
 
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You ask a lot of questions! You should spend some time reading these boards because a lot of things you want to know have been discussed here. Here is my opinion. Definitely do not try to combine South and East Africa. Assuming you want to go to East Africa, it is really easy to combine Kenya and Tanzania or do each alone. What is really important here is to find out the exact number of hours involved in transfers between camps. Ask for fly-in safaris where possible but really look into this as it can affect the quality of your safari. I am in the middle of planning a trip to Tanzania for my son and his father, and I was working with several operators, but ended up choosing Pulse Africa and mainly their agent named Sandy, who is UNBELIEVABLY quick to respond and very knowledgable. Website is http://www.africansafari.co.za/ Also, we did use them about 5 years ago for a safari to So. Africa so they are definitely reputable. I am not sure whether the seasons change at the equator. Summer and winter are totally different in southern Africa. Have not gone on a group tour, but you can rest assured that you'll meet the most friendly and interesting people at each camp. You always eat meals with the other lodgers and they are from all over the world. You spend 4 hours every game drive in a car with other guests too. You don't need a tour. Pick a country and get a good operator, then you don't need to think about much else except paying and enjoying!
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Mar 19th, 2005, 08:54 AM
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I sent you an email.
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Mar 19th, 2005, 11:45 AM
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1. I think trying to combine South Africa with East Africa in 10 days is too rushed. Kenya and Tanzania in 10 days is OK, although personally I'd prefer to stick with one country given that amount of time, but that's just me.

2. For Kenya/Tanzania, the two dry seasons - Jan-Mar and Jul-Oct - correspond to the high seasons and Christmas/New Years is peak season. The low/shoulder seasons are Apr-Jun (long rains) and Nov-early Dec (short rains) with the former being the time of year when prices drop to their lowest. We've gone in Jan/Feb (great weather) and will try to return this Nov.

3. No and we generally try to stay away from them Even on a private custom tour, you'll meet people at camp and if flying from camp to camp, you'll go out on game drives in their vehicles so will meet people on game drives as well.

4. There have been many, many reputable agencies that others here have used and recommend. Do a search and read through some of the trip reports. Go with an operator based in whatever country you end up deciding to visit.

5. I used Eastern & Southern Safaris in Nairobi for my recent Kenya safari and was very pleased with their services.

Happy planning!
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Mar 19th, 2005, 03:12 PM
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I copied and pasted this June itinerary from JazzDrew, plus some comments.

"We just booked our Tanzanian and Kenyan safari with Roy Safaris. I spent months researching outfitters and am very comfortable with chosing Roy's. I am glad that you have found this board as I believe the people who contribute here have provided me with excellent advice. I try to read posts daily. We started out to "go to Africa"...not knowing even what country to consider first. After lots of research we chose East Africa for our first safari, then selected Tanzania and Kenya, hoping to catch the Great Migration (June 2005). Once we decided on Kenya and Tanzania I continued research of over 25 operators, both US and local. I bet I have 30 catalogs and brouchures on East Africa alone! After many emails and calls were chose Roys for the best service and price. Roys contacted Wildtrek to manage the Kenyan segment. Our itinerary:

1. Fly to Amsterdam - Overnight there at the Hilton.
2. Fly to Nairobi - Giraffe Manor
3. Fly to Amboseli Tortilis
4. Amboseli Tortilis
5. Drive to Lake Manyara Tree Lodge
6. Lake Manyara Tree Lodge
7. Drive to Ngorongoro Serena
8. Ngorongoro Serena
9. Drive to Serengeti Serena
10. Drive to Kirawira
11. Kirawira
12. Kirawira
13. Fly to Arusha. Fly to Amsterdam.
14. Overninght Amsterdam.
15. Return to US

Remove the flights and you have about 10 days.
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Mar 19th, 2005, 06:06 PM
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Thank you all for your suggestions! This is my first time using message boards/chat rooms so I am still getting used to the protocol.

I have pretty much settled on Kenya/Tanzania.

I feel like I know many of you now from reading the other postings.
Atravelynn - I am gald you sent me that itinerary - i knew I had seen it but I couldn't remember which posting it was in (how do you keep track of all the threads you are chatting with?)
Roys seems to be very popular with people on this site. I will definitely check them out along with a few others that caught my attention. I had not seen PULSE mentioned before in any of the threads I have read but I will add it to my list. Like JazzDrew you can get carried away with the catalogues etc.

Now, some more questions:

Are the costs of the flights between camps included in the cost quoted by the outfitter?

The outfitter arranges all the travel between camps right? Basically when I went trekking in Thailand I had someone with me or there to point me in the right direction on every leg of the trip. I am assuming this is the same kind of thing?

I am so excited about this trip I can't believe I have to wait another year!

I would like some opinions on what peopele's favorite lodges were and tented camps. I want to make sure that we have at least one or two nights in a really spectacular accomodation (the pictures of Ngorongorn Crater Lodge looked pretty nice .

Also, I noticed on the JazzDrew itinerary they did not include Masa Masai. Any opinions? Is there something you might drop and then add Masai?

Thanks all!
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Mar 19th, 2005, 06:48 PM
  #7
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ONE MORE THING EVERYONE - please excuse my spelling!
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Mar 20th, 2005, 05:44 AM
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csuss -

To answer some of your questions:

If inter- or intra-country flights are part of your itinerary, these will be arrange by your tour outfitter and included as part of your costs.

You will also have someone meet/greet at the airport on arrival (this may or may not be your guide); if a private safari, you will have the same guide/driver throughout; if also mobile camping on your itinerary you will have support persons with you to set up camp and prepare meals.

As to favorite lodges/tent camps - there are so many, much of which also depends on your budget. Those that are expensive are also usually very small with room for maybe a dozen or so guests. These have to be booked way in advance - sometimes a year ahead of time of travel. You will also find in some areas, you are limited in your choices, as there aren't but two of three properties.

Listing which are peoples' favorites can actually be a separate thread as everyone is looking different things. Crater Lodge is a beauty, but also very expensive in the range of $600+ per person/per nite. Likewise, the CCA properties at Klein's Camp, Grumeti River, Tree Lodge in Tanzania are expensive. Kirawira which is a Serena property is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, a great and lovely; Migration Camp is a Sopa property and newly refurbished with large tents - both of these, too, are expensive. There are many more in Tanzania. When it comes to Kenya, here too depending on the area there are lots of choices. Way too many to start listing.

The reason JazzDrew's itinerary didn't include the Mara, was because of their time of travel - June. At this time the action is in the Western Serengeti, therefore, the stay at Kirawira. I don't recall that you mentioned when you plan to travel... this can determine the ideal itinerary.
 
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Mar 20th, 2005, 11:28 AM
  #9
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I haven't read anything about Kirawira yet and haven't seen it listed on too many of the brochures so I will have to do some more research on this. I am thinking that maybe July 2006 will be the right time for us (or February)we are open. FOr those months what do you suggest? I am planning far in advance because I know it is difficult - doubly difficult because we would like to use miles to upgrade on our flights to and from. We have american miles which I know partners with BA but I have to check and see if it partners with KLM.

I have heard Giraffe Lodge in nairobi ia wonderful.

My husband wants confirmation that there are elephants in this region- that is the one animal he most wants to see.

Thanks Sandi for all the info.
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Mar 20th, 2005, 11:39 AM
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Tell your husband not to worry--more elephants than you can shake a stick at. (Warning: do NOT shake a stick at an elephant.)

Sandi and the other experts will advise you with more specifics, but July, I believe, would be good in Northern Serengeti and/or the Mara. Great time for Tarangire.

Have fun!
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Mar 20th, 2005, 01:08 PM
  #11
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Leely's right on - if July in Tanzania, definitely do Tarangire, the Crater, and if the Serengeti, it's got to be North, though if early in the month, the West will be fine. Otherwise, the Mara in Kenya.

If in February, then the Southeastern Serengeti (where the wildebeests are "calving") is the place, either at a lodge or a camp... consider Nduto Lodge, or Kusini Camp. You can also do a day in the Central Serengeti. The Crater is good for a day. Not so much Tarangire or Manyara, but the landscape in Tarangire is always amazing as are the birds, so not to be totally discounted. Instead, you can spend more time in Kenya. The Samburu area is good, if a bit hot, as is the Mara alway, even if not the Migration period.

 
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Mar 21st, 2005, 10:39 AM
  #12
 
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csuss,
To my knowledge, you cannot use AAdvantage miles to upgrade paid tickets on BA. You can redeem them for free award tickets on BA and I believe it's 150,000 miles per person for a business class award from North America to Africa. Very seldomly can you use frequent flyer miles from one airline to upgrade paid tickets on flights operated by another airline even if they're partners or part of the same alliance (there are a few exceptions like Delta and Air France), so do double check on this. KLM is part of the Skyteam alliance and does not partner with AA or Oneworld.
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Mar 21st, 2005, 12:53 PM
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I just saw your questions under the Shared Safari Etiquette thread. Thought I'd post the following here to consolidate everything:

Since you've decided on Kenya/Tanzania, you'll have your own driver/guide and vehicle if you choose to travel by road on a private safari. In that case, the vehicle that's used to transport you between parks will be the same vehicle used for your game drives. Same with the driver/guide. If you choose to fly between camps, then you'll go out on game drives using the camp's vehicles on a shared basis unless you choose to pay the additional cost for a private vehicle. This is how it generally works in East Africa.

Lodges/camps in Kenya/Tanzania often have 2 prices, one with game drives included and one without, depending on whether or not you have your own vehicle. I'm not sure which price you're looking at. I think there are a few camps where you're required to use their vehicles but not that many.

A price quoted by a safari operator will include game drives per their itinerary regardless of whether that is with their own vehicle or using the lodge/camp vehicles.
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Mar 21st, 2005, 01:13 PM
  #14
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You guys are amazing - thank you. I'm so annoyed about the mileage thing, whenever I try to use them it seems they are no good. That is a big reason why I am strating to plan this trip so early. I'll have to start using my credit cc cards alot more. I did think, however, that if I fly AA to London and then switch to BA for the Nairobi leg (that is how AA would book it) I could upgrade all the way.

I just got my first price quote on a sample itinerary I sent to an operator - it ended up at about 5K per person wiithout int'l air. Big Gulp - I'll have to look at sacling back my plans a little. I would like to do it for 3500-4K per person. Is that possible and still do a fly and drive and stay in at least one great lodge?
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Mar 21st, 2005, 02:02 PM
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You'll be able to use AA miles to upgrade the US-London leg. I don't know about the London-Nairobi leg on BA - this is the part you should look into now before you start charging everything to your credit card Also keep in mind that AA now charges a co-pay fee each way in addition to miles for upgrades, i.e. to upgrade from a discount economy fare to business class from North America to Europe costs 25,000 miles + $250 each way.

As far as the itinerary, would you mind posting the sample itinerary that you submitted to the safari operator here? Indicate the lodges/camps quoted and where flights are included. Then maybe others can advise where best to scale back or perhaps substitute one accomodation or another. I think your budget is do-able for 10 days as long as you don't want the top accomodations at every park.
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Mar 21st, 2005, 02:29 PM
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csuss -

AA doesn't necessarily book the leg to NBO on BA, be ready for them to route you on Swiss Air thru Zurich and it's a long layover, making it almost a 3-day trip. As Patty mentioned you cannot use AA miles to upgrade on BA, but you might be able to on Swiss Air.

You might be accumulating AA miles, but KLM really has the best connections to NBO and JRO.

If you can use your miles to upgrade on AA the longest leg from LAX to LHR, go for it. Then you might luck out with a cheap LHR/NBO ticket in coach. We've never upgraded, always booked coach and have been fine with it. Though we were upgraded on a few trips by the airline, without asking... maybe they liked us. BC is nice, if you can get it, but it wouldn't make me cancel or pospone a trip to Africa. Hey, even in "steerage" we arrive at the same time.

I'm with Patty - post your itinerary and we can assist with suggestions.
 
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Mar 21st, 2005, 02:37 PM
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This thread on flyertalk seems to indicate that you can't use AA miles to upgrade a BA operated flight:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/showt...ferrerid=18562

BA does offer a premium economy cabin called World Traveller Plus which offers a slightly better seat and more legroom that regular economy with 2/4/2 across seating on the 747 and 2/2/2 across seating on the 767. It's located in between the Club World (business) and World Traveller (economy) cabins and usually priced a few hundred dollars more than World Traveller. You could consider purchasing a seat in WT+ if you can't upgrade and don't want to pay the business class fare.
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Mar 22nd, 2005, 01:54 PM
  #18
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Here is the sample itinerary I got a quote on from one company. It is for July 2006. Everyone please give me your thoughts on this as well as on the price (a little high for me). This is not the itinerary I have settled on but it seemed like a good place to start, so all comments are welcome:

Day 1 - fly from Nairobi to Kilamanjaro. Overnight at Moivaro Coffee Lodge.

Day 2 - transfer to Tarangire overnight at Tarangire Tree Tops

Day 3 - Tarangire; overnight at Tarangire Tree Tops

Day 4 - transfewr to Lake Manyara overnight at Lake Manyara Tree Camp

Day 5 transfer to Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

Day 6 Ngorongoro

Day 7 transfer to Serengeti Serena Lodge

Day 8 Serengeti

Day 9 back to Arusha and fly back to Nairobi. Overnight at Giraffe Manor.

Cost: $5300.

ATRAVELYNN: How do you think this compares with JazzDrews' itinerary?

Is this alot of Driving? Should I look more at fly/drive itineraries?

Should I skip Kilamanjaro in favor of an extra day in Serengeti or Taragrine?

What about the mara?

I would like to stay in one treetop camp but don't need to stay in two if it will save me a bit of money. Suggestions on this?

Thanks all.

CSUSS
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Mar 23rd, 2005, 04:31 AM
  #19
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csuss -

Of course, the price is high - you're traveling in High Season, and have picked some of the more expensive lodgings.

With the exception of the Serena in the Serengeti, the other properties are up there moneywise.

If you want a tree lodge, I'd pick with Tarangire or Manyara, but not both. My choice would be Tarangire as it's a better location for your time of travel.

And 2-nts at Crater Lodge is sending your budget skyward. If you wish to visit here, 1-nt is sufficient.

The Central/Seronera area of the Serengeti isn't at it's best in July.

Also the Giraffe Manor is expensive, just to sleep before departing next morning? Or are you staying the following day?

For July '06 I'd consider:

Day 1- Arrive JRO - o/n
Day 2- Drive to Tarangire - Treetops
Day 3- Taragire - Treetops
Day 4- Ngorongoro Crater - o/n
Day 5- Ngorongoro Crater - o/n
Day 6- Early drive to Arusha/Kili, fly
to NBO, connect fly to Masai Mara - o/n
Day 7- Masai Mara
Day 8- Masai Mara
Day 9- Masai Mara - 4pm fly to NBO - o/n
Day 10- NBO - day of sightseeing - depart (if you depart early, then no sightseeing, sorry)

Alternative: If you want to do some sightseeing/shopping, on Day 9, take 11am flight from Mara which will give you half day in NBO.


 
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Mar 23rd, 2005, 09:49 AM
  #20
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Sandi - excellent - Thank you. We will probably spend an extra night at the end in Nairobi to enjoy Giraffe manor and see a bit of Nairobi and relax before the long flight home.

Having said that - yes I do have champagne tastes so I really have to discuss with my husband how "special" we want to make this trip.

I don't think prices would be any lower if we went in June or August, am I correct?

Does every one agree that the Masai Mara is better at this time of year?

Thanks again all - this is fun!
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