Both Tsavos and Samburu by road?

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Jan 6th, 2006, 12:19 AM
  #1
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Both Tsavos and Samburu by road?

Anyone know the Kenyan roads well enough to help, or just give me the bad news and tell me ANOTHER trip to Kenya is going to be necesssary!

If I have 15 days, arrive midday on day 1 and leave midnight on day 15 and

- I want to do around six nights visiting both Tsavo East and Tsavo West and spend around 5 nights in the north (Samburu for 3 plus 2 somewhere else - Meru ideally)
- I cannot fly on small aircraft
- I want a leisurely pace and to avoid drives of more than 4 hours a day, except for game drives/excursions

Is this a folly? On paper it seems practical enough, but I have been to none of these parks and know you need to know the roads in Kenya!

We're starting early December (if anyone wants to go to the extent of taking the weather into account) and we can do it any way round you like.

By the way, this is a logisitcs question. I don't need destination advice at this point - assume for now that there are suitable stopovers at just the right places.

Thank you
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Jan 6th, 2006, 12:47 AM
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I haven't been to Samburu but from what I understand it's about 2-2.5 hours north of Nanyuki which would put it around 5-5.5 hours from Nairobi. In order to avoid drives of over 4 hours a day, you'd need to stop somewhere in between coming and going (same with Meru). The road to Nanyuki isn't bad but I don't know beyond that. Likewise, Tsavo West is a good 5 hours from Nairobi (depends on where you stay in the park, could be longer as the park is huge) and Tsavo East a bit further. The road to Tsavo is also not bad. You could travel via Amboseli and overnight there if you want to break it up.

It's certainly possible to do it with 14 nights. However with all of these extra stops to avoid longer drives, I think it might make the pace feel less leisurely even if the driving distances are shorter between stops, particularly if you're thinking of these stops as one nighters. It's something I've struggled with trying to balance too.

I'd consider one or two longer drives as a compromise, perhaps driving directly to or from Tsavo West and Nairobi. That drive though very long didn't 'feel' as long as the drive to the Mara to me.

Possibly a third trip is your best option
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Jan 6th, 2006, 01:38 AM
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Thanks Patty.. food for thought. How was the road to Tsavo? And how are the roads inside the parks? Comparable with Masaai Mara/ better/ worse? With the size of the parks I guess we do really need to take these into account when we decide where to stay. Wish we could just do one flight!

Anyone else driven to Samburu/ Meru? Could be the death blow for this plan if the roads are shockers
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Jan 6th, 2006, 02:01 AM
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Samburu is great - second only to Mara in my opinion - but the road to get there is not ...my recollection is that it is around 3 hours from Nanyuki. The road from Nanyuki to Isiolo is fine (one hour) but the road from Isiolo to Samburu (about one and a half to two hours I think) is dreadful ! Just about Ok if someone else is driving you but would never tackle it myself ! My wife also said she would never get in a small plane but she was fine in the end ! In the remote parts of Kenya small planes are like taxis (and probably safer ....)
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Jan 6th, 2006, 02:37 AM
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There's been a lot of work on the Mombasa highway. From Voi to Nairobi is pretty good. Maybe break for a night in Nairobi before carrying on to Samburu if you don't want too long drives. I love Tsavo East and West... the Rhino Sanctury, The Lava rocks, Mzima Springs... and the view from Voi Lodge!

An alternative is to go to Mombasa... do Tsavo from there, and then fly commercial aircraft to Nairobi?

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Jan 6th, 2006, 03:44 AM
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The roads in Tsavo East are a lot better than in the Mara, but you should expect a lot of red dust.

Already in 2004 the Nairobi-Voi road was quite good. Voi-Mombasa was not that good, but if youíre not driving yourself and itís not your vehicle thereís not really anything to worry about.
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Jan 6th, 2006, 05:28 AM
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I've driven from Nairobi to Samburu (actually, I had a driver in a 4WD vehicle), and its a nice drive and very smooth until Isolio, but the road is terrible for 90 minutes or so after that until you get to the park. I would not have felt comfortable making that drive myself. If you leave early and stop for lunch, its a nice drive (you can stop at Mt. Kenya Safari Club for lunch -- its overpriced but a nice setting). Samburu is a terrific park.
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Jan 6th, 2006, 06:22 AM
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Kimburu
Best Options IMHO
NBI--> Amboseli (overnight) -> Kilaguni Lodge (West) --> Ngulia Lodge (West) --> Voi Safari lodge (Tsavo East)... The way back to Nairobi should take somewhat more than 4 h.
If critical stop at Makindo Sikh Temple
(have rooms for hosts) or Hunter's Lodge (haven't been there for years)

The road to Samburu depends on when was the last motor-grader working on it. from Isiolo expect a corrugated road though it is considered a trans-African "highway" the road is rough. with the 4 h limit, make a night stop between NBI and Samburu:
Aberdares, Mt. Lodge, Sweetwaters, Naro Moru river lodge, MKSC...
aby
PS if u decide to rush straight from NBI to Samburu - still stop to see the Karatina market on the way
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Jan 6th, 2006, 07:41 AM
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Hello! Unfortunateely the bad kenyan roads do tend to lengthen the journey. The drive from Nairobi to Samburu is approx 6 hrs but overnight stops are possible in Nanyuki or Mt. Kenya region. The road is good and tarnmacked up until Isiolo town, after which the rough section starts up until the park gates (approx an hour away!). Samburu is a great park to visit having diverse landscape and unique wildlife such as the beisa orynx, long necked gerenuk, reticulated girrafe etc. Meru is also a beautiful park to visit. Being off the normal touristic route, the game is scarce and shy, not being used to people and vehicles.

It is important to have a good 4 x 4 vehicle while travelling through Kenya as they are stronger and specially built for safaris.

Tsavo East / West are also approx 5 hrs drive from Nairobi and depending upon where you're staying.

December in Kenya is summertime with hot temperatures during the day. The nights are cool and pleasant.

Other parks which would good to visit are the Masai Mara where game viewing is good virtually throughout the year; Lake Nakuru National Park, famous for its pink flamingoes and one of the best places to see the endangered black and white rhino etc.

I hope the abvoe info's useful to you...
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Jan 6th, 2006, 09:28 AM
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Thank you, that is all very useful. I will digest this, get my maps, ruler and calculator out and see whether I have a folly or a plan.

We may have to come back to Meru later. I know most people fly there and it may take a separate post and some time to find people who have driven there fairly recently.

By the way flying in small planes is completely out - nothing to do with cost - my wife has overcome her fear and done it in the past but she still has the phobia and she is a sorry sight. She is a flight attendant by profession .... ironic isn't the word, but she works intercontinental. We've got her as far as coping in a Lear jet over the years, but anything with propellors and she's still a wreck.
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Jan 6th, 2006, 10:38 AM
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Kimburu, in Tsavo East I recommend Tarhi Camp. Voi Safari Lodge has a splendid view, but Tarhi is a smallish (10 tents) camp and you get very close to the animals Ė and itís not more expensive than Voi Safari Lodge.

The planes to Meru are 18-seaters. Just in case your wife is thinking theyíre 5-seaters or something like that Ö

For my last trip I wanted to take the bus to Isiolo and then get picked up by a camp to go to Samburu, but I was told Iíd be charged the same as for the flight. If itís 90 minutes on a terrible road I understand it a little better.


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Jan 6th, 2006, 11:11 AM
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as 4 the vehicle: 4X4 is not compulsory - the majority of tourists use Nissan or Toyota 9sitter minibuses.
They r hardyenough (springs fitted to roads) and more comfortable than 4X4.
If u don't want to travel more than 4h & afraid of road condition - i strongly recommend a minibus !!
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Jan 6th, 2006, 12:59 PM
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Nyamera
You are ahead of me. I was going to ask you if you could tell me a little more about this camp later. I remember "the Web site doesn't do ti justice" because I had seen the Web site and they manage to make it look like a refugee camp. It looks much better on the African Mecca Web site! http://africanmeccasafaris.com/kenya.../tarhicamp.asp

I also remember "lots of wildlife outside and inside the tents" and wonder what was inside.

You can tell me now or wait until I post questions about various places to stay - whichever is more convenient. In either case, thank you.

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Jan 6th, 2006, 03:41 PM
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The road from Nairobi to Tsavo West (Mtito Andei gate was as far as we went) was very good in comparison to other roads in Kenya, much better than the drive from Nairobi to the Masai Mara I thought. I'd have no hesitation doing the drive again.

Pumbavu also brought up a good point in that there's commercial jet service between Mombasa and Nairobi, so another option would be a one way drive Nairobi-Tsavo West-Tsavo East-Mombasa and fly back or the other way around. I believe the drive from Tsavo East to Mombasa is much shorter than back to Nairobi. Jan Goss would know as I believe that's the way she usually travels to Satao camp. You might want to check some of her trips reports (she usually goes twice a year).

The roads inside Tsavo West were in good condition as well. You could probably get to Kilaguni within 45 min or so of entering the park. We stayed at Finch Hattons which took about 1.5 hour.

I haven't been to Meru either, but our driver for one afternoon in Nairobi had just returned from Meru and he said it was approx 3 hours from Nanyuki - the driver was Jamal and you may want to email Serah and confirm this with her again. There's a trip report from 2004(?) by SusanLynne - they drove between Samburu and Meru so you might want to do a search for that one as well.

A good compromise is getting a 4WD minivan. Then you still have 4WD capability in case of rain but a more comfortable ride.
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Jan 6th, 2006, 08:05 PM
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Patty
That is the most amazing post. How do you remember all this stuff? 2004(?) indeed!

Thanks, I am following up on those references.
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Jan 7th, 2006, 04:40 AM
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Hereís the most informative website for Tarhi Camp. Itís in German only, but I understand most of it even though I donít speak any German at all:
http://www.camp-tarhi.de/

The price pppn full board for a double tent is $ 60 and $ 65 for a single. By Fodorite standards itís a basic camp, but most people would find a tent with a bathroom, a restaurant tent, a bar and a shop tent quite luxurious. Best of all was being very close to wildlife as itís completely unfenced and the tents are on the ground. Itís in a very green part of Tsavo, next to Kanderi Swamp and there were impalas and waterbucks grazing in front of the tents almost all the time. Several times a day elephants passed by ten metres from the tents and one afternoon when I was out on a game drive an elephant took a camera from outside the tent of some members of a BBC film team. At night there were spotlights on the grass in font of the tents and the campfire and two big buffalo bulls were grazing there. This was in June and I was told that in July and August lions come to drink from the water tank in front of the tents and thereís a lot more wildlife. One evening when I got out to have dinner a buffalo was grazing less than two metres from my tent. Thatís almost inside the tent Ö What I really found inside the tent, besides all kinds of insects, were frogs, geckos and a bat Ė in the bathroom.

If I get the time I think Iíll write a retrospective trip report about my 2004 trip to Tsavo.
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Jan 8th, 2006, 04:17 AM
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kimburu:

You might also want to look up www.
sataocamp.com. Fantastic place. I've stayed here on eight occasions, will be staying there again for 9 days the beginning of February and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.

Jan

Jan
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Jan 8th, 2006, 07:01 AM
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Jan
Thanks to Patty I looked out your trip report with photos. I think we need to get the itinerary sorted before we decide exactly where we are going to stay but it certainly looks and sounds like a really nice place from your (superb) photos and descriptions.

By the way Jan, you have only ever been there via Mombassa, right? So you would have no idea for driving time from there to Voi or another of the gates on the western/southern side? Or the type of roads we'd be facing?

Nyamera
I would love you to write a retrospective trip report for Tsavo (or anywhere else because I liked reading your last report a lot). I think we're going to take a chance on tsave and spend more than half our next trip there and the more information we get the better. I like the look of the "dik-dik" camp - it looks like real camping but with extra comfort and staff and the advantage that the animals are used to it being there. Will have to see what my wife is ready for, though.
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Jan 8th, 2006, 11:11 AM
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kimburu:

From Mombasa to either Bachuma Gate or Voi gate of Tsavo Easdt is roughly two hours by road (includes a quick stop at a curio shop and loo break). The road at the Mombasa end is atrocious but once you pass Mariakani it is a good two-lane tarmacked highway.

The drive from Tsavo East to Nairobi takes approximately six hours. The drive from Nairobi to Samburu takes approximately seven hours. December could still be the light rain season, and if so some of the roads could be muddy and slow.

Since we all know you will fall in love with Kenya, would suggest perhaps you do southern Kenya this time (both Tsavos, Amboseli and Mara) and then on return trip do some of the northern areas such as Samburu, Meru, Nakuru, etc.

Jan

Please keep in mind that weather will determine how much game you see in any of the parks. If they have had recent rains, often most of the game has disappeared. I have had this happen on one of my trips and it is eerie.

Sorry to hear your wife has a thing with the smal airlines. I actually prefer flying with them than with the internationals because you can see the gorgous countryside and wildlife below. You can be from Nairobi to almost anywhere in 30 - 60 minutes and use your time relaxing at the pool or on a game drive
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Jan 8th, 2006, 05:15 PM
  #20
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if Tsavo is your focal point, i would recommend remote Lake Jipe on Tanzanian border - fantastic place
(though it means staying in bandas bringing food etc' - as far as i understand the camp does not operate.
anybody has any different info?)
If u take a local fisherman's boat watch the hippos!! i've had mesmerizing (lifetime) experiences with Hippos leaping out of the water right next to the boat...
for the feline-lover fodorite community: for years i've seen reports at TaitaHills Lodge / Salt lick of MELANISTIC (black) SERVAL seen on the road from T.H.lodge to Lake Jipe & wondered 'cause usually the mellanistic form occurs at forests - also leopards- (Aberdares / Mt. Kenya)
Untill i saw one on the way to Jipe.
BTW - in case u pass through or stay at Kilaguni - check 4me if they still have the african CIVET coming every night for the bait (just like the genet). Haven't been there a few years but never missed the Civet before (only place i know which 'guaranteed' a live one). Ngulia used to have a good chance of a visiting Honey Badger (Ratel); few guys i know have seen interactions between the badger & leopard both coming for bait )which i'm against!)

missing Tsavo (Shetanni Lava, the klipspringers, Mudanda Rock, Aruba Dam, the water holes at night, Mzima springs...)
aby
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