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Anybody here been to Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania???

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Nov 22nd, 2003, 07:52 AM
  #1
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Anybody here been to Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania???

My Fodor's guide tells me that this is more off the beaten track and I will not encounter nearly as much traffic here as I will in the Serengeti.

Since I am already including the Masai Mara, on the Kenyan side, by some accounts part of the same ecosystem and similar to the Serengeti, I would like to learn more about Selous Game Reserve in order to consider it as an alternative to the Serengeti.

Then again, maybe since I can see the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Crater and Selous all within the Tanzanian border (not to mention being nearby Zanzibar), perhaps it is the Masai Mara that I should consider scrapping??? It doesn't seem like it would be too out of reach to do the following itinerary:

Day 1 - Arrive Dar Es Salaam. If morning arrival is possible, air transfer to Arusha. 2 nights at Nogorongoro Crater. Ngorongoro Crater Lodge or Ngorongoro Serena Lodge (although 60 rooms at anyplace in Africa other than Joburg or Cape Town seems undesirable). Are either of these two places outside the National Park, making night drives possible and offering greater exclusivity???

Day 2 - Ngorongoro Crater.

Day 3 - Land transfer? to Serengeti. 4 nights. Klein's Camp, outside the reserve and offering night game drives or, if also outside the reserve and offering night game drives then I would also consider Kiriwira Camp.

Day 4 - Serengeti

Day 5 - Serengeti

Day 6 - Serengeti

Day 7 - Air transfer to Dar Es Salaam. Overnight 2 nights at best hotel possible. Maybe the Royal Palm Hotel. 2 nights may seem like a waste of time, but after six days in the bush, my wife and I will probably welcome some city life, even Dar Es Salaam city life.

Day 8 - Dar Es Salaam

Day 9 - Transfer to Selous Game Reserve? 4 nights. By off the beaten track, I am kind of expecting South Luangwa type isolation. If I am wrong, stop me right here and maybe I will add a couple more days to the Northern Tanzania area, shave Dar Es Salaam down to one or zero nights and add Zanzibar for three or four nights.

Day 10 - Selous Game Reserve

Day 11 - Selous Game Reserve

Day 12 - Selous Game Reserve

Day 13 - Transfer to Dar Es Salaam. Long journey home.

Note: I will be arriving from Europe so I should be okay to proceed directly into my itinerary without an initial stay in Nairobi or DES.

I know this is a lot for one post, but what sized planes may I expect flying into Arusha, into and out of the Serengeti if land transfers are not reasonable, and to Selous???

Thanks.
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Nov 22nd, 2003, 08:06 AM
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Sand Rivers looks like the best place available in Selous. Here is what the press has said about it:

http://www.sandrivers.com/press/

In the same link it is possible to view the rooms and other pertinent information about Sand Rivers. While a tad expensive at about $400 per person per night, that is nothing compared to the top South African lodges.

I think I had better revise my average nightly budget to at least $300 per person for this entire itinerary.

Is the Masai Mara a must if you are doing the Serengeti? It seems like a hassle to cross borders, etc., into Kenya, if I can get a great experience out of solely Tanzania.

This is starting to get exciting! STD has already told me I can drop dead about Kenya/Tanzania, echoing the same sentiments that she did about South Luangwa and Chile before dutifully following along. Additionally, I have already paid my deposit for the Radisson Diamond Cruise, not knowing if it is refundable or not. In other words, everything is right on track for an incredible adventure to East Africa!!!
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Nov 22nd, 2003, 10:04 AM
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Roccco: We visited Selous last year and absolutely loved it. It was a completely different safari experience than what we had experienced in the Mara, Amboseli, N-Crater, etc. First off, Selous is huge (21,000 square miles) and because of its remoteness is closed April and May due to the rains and roads becoming impassable. Despite its size, only the portion of it north of the Rufiji River is open to tourism. In all honesty, the vast majority of the rest of the reserve is used for big game hunting. But the tourism and hunting paths never cross in Selous. Unlike the Mara and elsewhere where there are wide open plains, Selous has a lot of shrubs or scrub. You have to work to see the animals. They are not accustomed to humans and are understandably skittish. Having said that, however, I think Selous is fantastic. On all of our drives, we never saw another vehicle. We came upon three lion cubs left alone while the rest of the pride was hunting. A pregnant lone lioness sought refuge in the shade of our vehicle. Giraffes galore (in fact an area is referred to as "Giraffic Park.") Elephant, buffalo, impala, gazelle, etc. It is the best place to try and see Wild Dog. You can walk in the reserve (with an armed ranger, of course), take a boat trip down the Rufiji River and generally feel like you are in a non-tourist area. Because of its remoteness, you are not in a touristy area! Let me tell you, walking along the shore of Lake Tagalala (which has an incredibly high density of crocs), with hundreds of sets of eyes watching us was quite an adrenaline rush. It was also fantastic to see all the crocs make their way into the water as we approached. One morning we tracked lion spoors for several hours (with an armed ranger at our side, of course.) We stayed at Sand Rivers and thoroughly loved the place. Each chalet has hardwood flooring, enormous bathrooms (with flush toilet, of course!), open air showers, ceiling fan over the bed - yet underneath the mosquito netting. The decor is decidely shabby chic. Each chalet is completely open on one end - no glass, no screens -nothing, zip, sero, zilch. At night it gives you the feeling of sleeping outdoors. Meals are a communal event, whereas the guests all sit at a large dining table. Makes for interesting conversation and you never know who you may meet. Our first night we were introduced to "Leo" and his wife, "Bea." Found out after their departure a few days later that it was actually Prince Leopold and his wife, Princess Beatrice. Sand Rivers, however, is very relaxed and making their clients happy is of the utmost importance. It has a lovely pool area just steps away from the Rufiji River. At night a log is placed over the pool to keep the hippo out. The decor throughout the lounge area is also "shabby chic." When we stayed there, laundry and alcoholic beverages were included in the rate. As for your choice between the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge and the Serena, there is no comparison. The Serena is very nice, but it is not comparing apples to apples. The Crater Lodge is an experience. The Serena is a nice place to spend the night. The Crater Lodge is decadent, discreet and we never saw any children there. The Serena, in my opinion, is more family-oriented. As for Dar Es Salaam, I loved the little city. Unlike Nairobi, never felt worried walking around by ourselves. It may not be your kind of place, but we stayed at the Holiday Inn - which is not the regular kind of Holiday Inn. Marble and granite floors, elegant doormen, very new and one of the best locations in the city. Anyway, how I do go on! If you need additional info about Selous, give a shout.
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Nov 22nd, 2003, 12:00 PM
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SusanLynn -
You describe the Selous so beautifully. I've had this on my list for years, but possible travel partners seem to get put off by the vastness of the area which doesn't even show up on some maps, though if one knows where to look will know where it is.

The Selous is one of the biggest (if ot the biggest) park in Africa; the least visited, has only 4, or 6 places of accommodation, otherwise, you're "one with nature". Gotta get working on convincing someone this is the place to be for my next trip.

Roccco -
This would be an experience for you and STD (I can just imagine her response to this one) and most people who travel here, do the Selous only for about a week. There will be no comparison between the Selous and the rest of the Tanzanian parks, nor comparison of possible accommodations.

Read up and learn as much as you can find and then decide "just how wild an adventure you want" - to be real daring you can pick up a vehicle in Dar and drive there on your own, a friend of mine did and it was really quite easy - how adventurous are you.

And if you want to include Zanzibar, I'd hold it for the end of your trip after you've bumped all around the safari environments if you take in Serengeti and the Crater.

There's also an interesting island off of Dar, called Mafia that is suppose to have good diving - check that one out while you're at it.
 
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Nov 22nd, 2003, 01:00 PM
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SusanLynne and Sandi,

Thanks for the fabulous responses. Selous sounds like a place that I would like as much, if not more, than South Luangwa.

--Driving to Selous from Dar Es Salaam...that sounds like quite the adrenalin rush. How long would that take and if more than a full day, where is there to overnight between places?

I am now aiming to depart LAX - Rome on May 26th, arriving on May 27th, which will allow STD and I to celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary out on the town in Rome, if we are not too tired.

After a nine night tour, that would leave us finishing up in Milan on June 05th, flying into Dar Es Salaam and arriving on June 06th.

I think that Zanzibar sounds nice but that I do not have time. With the description that has been provided for Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, I believe that it may be worth a third night, especially if this is the first stop and I arrive without spending anytime in Dar Es Salaam (meaning that I will likely get in late on the first day).

Therefore, I think the following itinerary would be possible, if the flights all jived:

Day 1 - Arrive Dar Es Salaam. Air transfer to Arusha, road transfer to Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. 3 nights.

Day 2 - Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. Oh, I am going to detest the crowds in the actual crater, but I think I will love the comfort offered by the lodge.

Day 3 - Ngorongoro Crater Lodge.

Day 4 - Road transfer? to Serengeti for four nights at either Klein's Camp, Kiriwira, or similar.

Day 5 - Serengeti

Day 6 - Serengeti

Day 7 - Serengeti

Day 8 - Dar Es Salaam. One night at Royal Palm Hotel or possibly even the Holiday Inn, which is also recommended by Fodor's guide book to Tanzania/Kenya.

Day 9 - Road or air transfer to Selous Game Reserve. Four nights at River Sands. I would have liked five nights, but I am just about out of time. Four nights at a single camp should suffice.

The only thing that made my five nights at Kafunta in South Luangwa seem short was the fact that it was broken into two nights at Kafunta River Lodge, then after a four hour road transfer, two nights at Kafunta Island Bush Lodge, returning four hours by road for a final night at Kafunta River Lodge.

Day 10 - River Sands.

Day 11 - River Sands.

Day 12 - River Sands.

Day 13 - Air transfer to Dar Es Salaam and then all the way back to LAX.

How does this budget appear:

3 nights Ngorongoro Crater Lodge - $2,500 USD total.

4 nights at Kleins Camp or similar in Serengeti - $3,000 USD total.

1 night at Royal Palm or Holiday Inn in Dar Es Salaam - $250 total.

4 nights in River Sands in Selous Game Reserve - $3,400 total.

Air transfers from Dar Es Salaam - Arusha, round trip, and from Dar Es Salaam to Selous, round trip - $850 total.

Total budgeted, excluding air from LAX-Europe and Europe-Dar Es Salaam (likely taken care of entirely by my available frequent flier miles) = $10,000.

With approximately $4,000 for my little 9 night Globus "Italy At Leisure" tour, it puts me at about $14,000, but for 21 nights lodging at some pretty fabulous lodges. Unfortunately I will have to slum it with the Eurotrash for 9 nights before making my way to Paradise (Africa)!!!

Is the above itinerary reasonable??? I don't care much about Tarangire because I have read there are 300+ different species of birds there and the last thing I want to do is to get stuck on game drives with "birders", whom would rather squint through binoculars at the pretty birdies than to go out and find the lions, leopards and elephants that are all around.

Thanks again for those great responses about Selous. I can hardly wait. If anybody knows where I can pick up a tranquilizer gun so that I can get STD on the plane, under MY own free will, please let me know!
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Nov 23rd, 2003, 03:31 AM
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Rocco -

I can contact my friend who did the drive (Dar-Selous) and find out, problem is I have no idea where in the world he is these days (he hasn't picked up his email recently) - but you can check with the hotel in Dar for info on car rental, type of road, distance and how long a trip.

An extra night at the Crater Lodge would be interesting if for the "decadence" only. Rarely do people spend more than 1-day in the Crater. And the Crater is very large, so crowds might not be an issue. Yes, most all vehicles enter the crater around the same time, but once inside, vehicles go in various directions. Only at lunch, where vehicles meet at the hippo lake, do they congregate, then you're off on your own way. However, if you are traveling in a vehicle provided by the Crater Lodge, you may have to share; whereas if you have your own driver/vehicle, or specifically request a vehicle only for the two of you - will you be alone.

I'm certainly not a "birder", but surprisingly, on our way to the Serengeti, we got a very interesting lesson in "birds" and by the time we had reached Kirawira the two of us were so excited that we were able to spot birds and mark them in the little books provided by many camps/lodges. It's not all that off-putting, just a different experience, though I agree with you in that I wouldn't want to be with a group specifically interested in birds - but it's something new to learn about.

Which air carrier are you planning to use from Europe/Dar?

I'll email my friend and see what info I can get re the road trip to Dar - will get back, if I get a reply.
 
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Nov 23rd, 2003, 04:59 AM
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Roccco: The drive from Dar to Selous is about six hours, one of the reasons we opted to fly into Selous. As for the drive from N-crater to Serengeti, it's about 3.5 hours. And to drive from Arusha to the Crater (on mostly well-paved roads) is about 2.5 hours. A problem you may encounter with your itinerary is trying to get direct from the Serengeti to Dar, as there are not nearly as many flights each day as there are, for example, from San Francisco to L.A. Because of that, you may have to spend the night in Arusha. I am so glad you are considering Selous. Sand Rivers also offers fly-camping on Sand River, which is supposed to be fantastic. A couple we met while staying at Sand River had done it (granted this was in September - when Sand River is completely dry) and awoke in the morning to find that elephants had dug for water no more than 20 feet from their tent that night. Fantastic! The lodge is located directly on the spot that Richard Bonham (a well-known conservationist, albeit former hunter) used for his camp. In fact, Bonham is still a frequent visitor there. Would love to hear some of the stories he could tell! Sand Rivers is actually built next to the Rufiji River, which has a good water source year round. Like I said, Selous will offer a completely different experience compared to the Serengeti or the Crater, but it is well worth the effort to get there. Keep us informed of your progress as I am sure I am not the only one who lives vicariously through your travels!
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Nov 23rd, 2003, 05:09 AM
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Hi Sandi!!!! Yes, I would urge you to convince your traveling partners to go to Selous. I love it there. You are right, many of the people we came across were honeymooning in Selous before moving on to Zanzibar or Mafia Island. While Zanzibar is reported to be fantastic (both culturally and scenic-wise) I must admit to being intrigued by Mnemba and Pemba islands. Mnemba sounds nice for those of us who can't quite afford a jaunt to the Seychelles - a private island with 10 thatched cottages! This island is only two miles northeast of Zanzibar! You may want to try to convince your traveling partners of a joint Selous/Mnemba trip!!!!
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Nov 23rd, 2003, 05:20 PM
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SusanLynn -

Thanks for the encouragement re the Selous. This is something I'm going to have to seriously think about, as Namibia & the Delta are on the list, along with northern areas of Kenya; so why not just add the Selous - should keep anyone going for a few years.

However, these days, I more seriously thinking of "getting a job" - so until then, I'm not going anywhere. So have to live "vicariously" thru you Roccco and the rest of everyone else - far too many to list.

In a most interesting way, we've all become one big family with a love of our experiences in Africa and we serve each other very well with good solid information and enthusiasm.

But the gray matter up top is still working overtime.

Bye the way - "Nomad" - most interesting, to the point that while Mary Anne is in Kenya (especially up in Samburu) I feel I'm walking right next to her - amazing!
 
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Nov 23rd, 2003, 07:31 PM
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Glad to hear that you are enjoying it. Look forward to your thoughts on her view of the Moi government. You can reach me at the other email address to "discuss" that!
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Nov 24th, 2003, 12:31 AM
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Regarding air transfer between Serengeti and Arusha, I flew with Precision Air on an 18(?) pax turboprop from Arusha Apt to Seronera Valley. This was a charter flight through a tour company - don't know if there are any scheduled flights.

Seronera Valley has only a grass strip, fine in the dry season. The pilot did one pass over the runway before landing to scatter the gazelle.
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Nov 24th, 2003, 05:11 PM
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This is for Rocco!

Eurotrash???? Please explain.
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Nov 24th, 2003, 08:56 PM
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Iflower,

Please do not mind me. I am just thinking about the LOST TIME that I will have in Italy that could otherwise be spent in East Africa. I mean with 9 extra nights, I could have my desired 13 night Tanzanian itinerary AND climb Kiliminjaro and have a couple extra nights in Zanzibar.

Europe just doesn't make me feel alive and completely at peace, the way that I feel when I am in Africa. Really, I have nothing against Europeans, I only took out my frustration of having to spend any time there.

Europe will be great when and if I ever am afforded the opportunity to have about 10-12 weeks of holiday time per year. I feel the same about every other place besides Africa, as well.

I only look back with regret at a two week trip I took last December to Chile, knowing that I could have instead been in Eastern Africa, if I wasn't so stubborn back then, thinking that only Southern Africa was worth visiting.

Who knows...God willing, in a decade or so, perhaps I will be able to have a seasonal home in Cape Town to use as a base for other African travels. While Eastern Africa is not exactly a leisurely Sunday morning drive from Cape Town, it is sure a lot closer than travelling from Los Angeles.

My apologies for any offense taken by my slam against Europeans.
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Nov 25th, 2003, 04:08 PM
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Roccco,
Thank you for responding and I am trying to understand your point of view, which really does not matter as we do not know one another. But thank you anyway for taking the time to resond. I go back and forth to Italy as my children were born there, with a son now working there. Therefore, you can understand my comment. If you need any suggestions with Florence and Chianti just ask. I have forgotten now where you will be going with your family?
I think, as you have read in previous posts, that I am also going to Tanzania. ( Feb. 2004 ) It may not be your idea of excitement, but have you ever heard of a fly camp?
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Nov 25th, 2003, 08:55 PM
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Iflower,

I will be visiting Rome for three nights (my third visit), Florence for three nights (my second visit) and Venice for two nights (my second visit).
There is a final night in Milan, but if I am able to go to Tanzania on the same trip, I will ditch Milan and just abandon my tour group a day early and go to Tanzania.

However, if I cannot get Business Class seats for my required dates, I will likely wait until August and then try to time my visit for prime time Migration, assuming that I will have an opportunity to get my Business Class seats sometime in late July or August. I hope I do not have to wait until then, but time will tell.

I am interested to learn more about fly camps. I have seen them mentioned on a couple websites but I am really not sure what fly camping entails. Please share more about fly camping and about your itinerary.

You must be getting very excited with your trip approaching so close! Don't worry, the torture will not begin for another few weeks until all you will be able to think about is being back (?) in Africa.
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Nov 25th, 2003, 10:30 PM
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Roccco, if you wait until August to see the migration, you had better plan on going to the Masai Mara.
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Dec 12th, 2003, 07:27 PM
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SusanLynne,

Just curious...how many nights did you spend at Sand Rivers and was that your only stop on the Southern Circuit?

I am again leaning towards three nights at the Palms-Zanzibar, although they haven't earned it with their customer service thus far. This will allow me to either arrive home on a Saturday or add an extra night in either the Serengeti, Zanzibar or Selous.

A more unconventional possibility would be to spend two nights at Kikoti in Tarangire and only a single night in Ngorongoro Crater. As long as I get a half day drive in the Crater, that is what counts, right???

For such a must see location, most that have already been to the NC believe that it can be done in one or two nights. Tarangire isn't be more than a couple hours away, is it?

Is this itinerary a possibility?:
Day 1 - Arrive Kiliminjaro. Transfer to Kikoti Lodge, Tarangire. 2 nights.
Day 2 - Kikoti Lodge.
Day 3 - Transfer to Ngorongoro Crater SERENA Lodge, with my half day game drive on the way to the lodge. 1 night. (Why pay so much for a few hours of sleep, right?)
Day 4 - Transfer to Western Serengeti. 4 nights at Kirawira Lodge.
Day 5 - Kirawira Lodge.
Day 6 - Kirawira Lodge.
Day 7 - Kirawira Lodge.
Day 8 - Transfer to Zanzibar. 3 nights at the Palms-Zanzibar. I considered the Fundu Lagoon, but they don't open until June 15th and my stay in Zanzibar begins on June 11th.
Day 9 - Palms-Zanzibar.
Day 10 - Palms-Zanzibar.
Day 11 - Transfer to Selous. Sand Rivers. 4 nights.
Day 12 - Sand Rivers.
Day 13 - Sand Rivers.
Day 14 - Sand Rivers.
Day 15 - Transfer to Dar Es Salaam in time for 11PM nonstop flight to Amsterdam, arriving at 7AM with plenty of opportunity for an early flight back to Los Angeles.

After seeing more pictures of Stone Town and Emerson & Green, I am fairly certain that Scared To Death, and probably myself, would hate it. After seven nights in the bush, the only places that I would want to be are Palms-Zanzibar or Fundu Lagoon.

Recap:
Kikoti Lodge, Tarangire (2)
Ngorongoro Serena Lodge (1)
Kirawira, Western Serengeti (4)
Palms-Zanzibar (3)
Sand Rivers, Selous (4)

Am I selling myself short in Ngorongoro Crater Lodge or is this an improvement on the previous itinerary of:
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge (2)
Kirawira (4)
Palms-Zanzibar (3)
Sand Rivers (4)

Thanks for your continued feedback.
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Dec 13th, 2003, 03:40 AM
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Roccco -

>>Recap:
Kikoti Lodge, Tarangire (2)
Ngorongoro Serena Lodge (1)
Kirawira, Western Serengeti (4)
Palms-Zanzibar (3)
Sand Rivers, Selous (4)<<

Using the above you'd have to leave Tarangire very early for the drive to the Crater, and by the time you arrive, might not even be interested in going into the Crater - too exhausted. If you fly from Tarangire, you still have to drive from LkManyara airport to the Crater - again you might not want to attempt the Crater, even for half-day.

That's the reason most itineraries call for 2-nts, so you have a good nights rest before doing the Crater, even if only for half day. But then assume you leave to the W.Serengeti after lunch (back to 1-nt at NC) it's a long drive to Kirawira - you'd need a good 6-hrs without stops along the way, and you can't be out in the Serengeti after sunset.

We left NC after breakfast and with brief stop at Olduvai, continued thru Serengeti with lunch stop are Serena Seregeti, then onto Kirawira arriving somewhere around 5pm.

So, personally, I think you can cut 1-nt at Kirawira (you'll still have 3-full days safari out there) or even 1-nt at Zanzibar - and stay with the 2-nts at Crater.

I'd revise the itinerary as:
Kikoti-Taragire (2)
Ngorngoro Crater (2)
Kirawira (3)
-fly to Arusha/Kili to fly to Zanzibar
Palms-Zanzibar (2 or 3)
-fly to Dar, to fly to the Selous
Sand Rivers (4)
- fly DAR, connect to homebound flight

Again, depends on schedule of flights from Kirawira to Arusha/Kili, to Zanzibar, to Dar and to Selous.

And what if you're really enjoying the Crater, you'd want the full day. And if in a vehicle with other guests, what if they don't want to leave just because you do - therefore I wouldn't cut the time at the Crater short.

 
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Dec 13th, 2003, 07:35 AM
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Sandi,

I must admit that until just this morning I had not done any real research at all on the Zanzibar Serena Inn. Surprisingly, it looks like a wonderful hotel to me with a very classic decor that defied my expectations. It is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group of hotels, something that I had been oblivious to before. Kirawira Lodge is the only other hotel/lodge in Tanzania belonging to the SLH group.

The Zanzibar Serena does appear to be very convenient to Stone Town, just not TOO convenient like Emerson & Green. I would qualify for low season rates of $180 per person per night, as listed on the SLH website. I am now completely willing to stay here for two nights which finally gets me to my point, that I would be able to have my cake and eat it too with the following itinerary:

Kikoti, Tarangire (2)
Ngoronongro Crater Lodge (2)
Kirawira, Serengeti (4)
Zanzibar Serena Inn (2)
Sand Rivers, Selous (4)

I estimate that I will find this package for between $5,200 USD per person to $5,500 USD per person sharing, including all transfers between lodges and non-international flights.

If the migration happens to be in the Western Serengeti by June 09th - June 13th, I would really regret trimming it down to three days. Plus, it is such a hassle to get all the way to Kirawira, appearing to be the westernmost lodge in the entire Serengeti, that once I am there, I think I will appreciate having four nights and three full days.

Lastly, I will be looking for a tour operator that does not require such a hefty deposit. One operator wanted a 30% non-refundable deposit and I think that is excessive, especially since I am not a fan of travel insurance.

So, that is where I stand today and each day I become better versed on Tanzania meaning that I think I am almost there as far as deciding on the final itinerary.
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Dec 13th, 2003, 10:29 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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Roccco: We spent three nights/four days at Sand Rivers, and yes, it was our only southern stop, except for the day we spent in Dar waiting for our outbound flight back to the states. I think you will really enjoy Selous and find it an interesting contrast to the other parks you will visit. You must do some walking in Selous - fabulous! And STD should feel comfortable knowing that whoever you walk with - beit the camp manager Alex or a Tanzanian ranger - are armed, should the need arise. From Arusha, Tarangire is only a couple of hours only mostly paved road. From Tarangire to the Crater Conservation Area is about three hours. Personally, while I felt the Crater was the most crowded of all the places we visited, I think a full day is warranted. But that is just my opinion. The first itinerary is certainly doable, but you need to make sure you can arrive in Arusha and get to Tarangire in the same day. Of course that will depend on when your flight from Europe gets in to Arusha. Also, there is not much game to be seen enroute from Tarangire to the Crater Highlands. I found the area more built up than I had imagined. But it is a pleasant drive through little towns and villages. As far as one night at either the Serena or the Crater Lodge, you can look at it as either a reasonable way to save money (Serena), or it's just one night, so why the heck not spend some extra bucks (Crater Lodge)? IMO, you are going first class all the way, so go to the Crater Lodge for one night. Live it up. Besides, I think STD will relish a good soak in a Crater Lodge tub, with a glass of wine in hand. I agree with Sandi and would stay in Zanzibar for one night less, but that is because I would rather be admist the wildlife in the Serengeti, Tarangire and/or even the Crater. Did that help at all or did I muddy the waters even more? Well, back outside I go to finish decorating for the upcoming holiday. It's about 24 degrees outside, but with a gusty wind from the north, resulting in a wind chill making it feel more like the single digits. Hey, let's hear it for a New England winter! Ugh!
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