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confused between safari in national parks or a private reserve

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Nov 2nd, 2015, 08:25 AM
  #1
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confused between safari in national parks or a private reserve

I keep reading about these. If I focus on Tanzania where the safaris are in national parks, does this mean no off road driving or night hikes?
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Nov 2nd, 2015, 03:57 PM
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Yes, generally that is what it means. And by night hikes I assume you mean night drives? The private reserves have more flexibility. In the NPs, when you take an afternoon drive, you are supposed to be back in camp by dark. That can get stretched a little bit depending on how far you are from camp when you turnaround to come back.

Driving off-road is not quite as clear cut. I don't think the definition of road is cast in stone, because it seems wherever there is a previous set of tire tracks can be viewed as a road.

If you are taking this trip because you are seriously into photography, this may be limiting. Tanzania is the only safari destination I've been to where we went to a NP (private reserves in SA, Zam, Zim and Bots), and while I noticed the difference (mostly the crowds), the game viewing was still pretty good.
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Nov 2nd, 2015, 06:07 PM
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Yes-Tanzania. We are looking at the national parks so trying to figure out if we want this or a loction with more private reserves. Not a photographer but others have been praising off road private reserves.

Just researching and getting so confused...
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Nov 2nd, 2015, 10:04 PM
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Hello Plambers,
Broadly speaking the private reserves offer more flexibility, with late-afternoon-into-evening game drives, and also a fair amount of off-road, where 'off-road' refers to taking tracks off the main roads.
You refer to hiking, I'm not sure if mean to actually walk on foot?
This is do'able, there are reserves offering this activity, where highly trained and specialised guides walk with you in the bush, but it has to be specially booked and arranged.
Generally speaking, getting out of your car is a very big no-no in any of the wild life areas.
In terms national parks, the rules are generally to be back by sunset, and to stick to the main roads.

Hope this helps,
Best
Debbi - Travel Guru, Southern Destinations
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Nov 2nd, 2015, 11:33 PM
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Hi plambers!

Generally speaking, National Parks and Private Reserves differ on a number of fronts. National Parks are open to the public and there are many rules in an attempt to protect the public as well as the animals. For example, the gates open and close at a certain time, off-road driving is generally forbidden, as well as night drives and walking safaris are restricted. When game viewing, it can be disappointing when you see an animal but can't drive off road to track it or stay with it to learn more about their behavior or to take a closer photo.

Since Private Reserves or Private Concessions are not open to the public, the number of jeeps is limited basically to those who are staying in a reserve's lodges. With that said, you get a more exclusive experience. The guides/rangers at the lodges maintain respectful rules at sightings by limiting the jeeps to 2 to 3 at any one given time and this also gives a more private experience. Guides also typically work together from different lodges by communicating on sightings for their guests. Driving off-road is allowed and it gives you the opportunity to stay with an animal. This is great when animals are stalking and on a hunt. Bush walks are typically allowed with a guide/ranger.

So that's a general overview of the difference. With regard to Tanzania, if you're focus is the northern area such as Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater, both of these would fall under the National Park definition. It is possible to stay in places such as Klein's Camp which is located in a private concession adjoining Serengeti North or Singita's Grumeti Reserve but both offer the safari experience of a private reserve at an extra cost.

It's great that you are asking these questions. I recommend that you explore your options prior to booking and ask specifically about your day and night game viewing options so that your expectations are clear.

Best
Dianne
Africa Direct USA
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Nov 3rd, 2015, 01:19 AM
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At the end of the day, there are pros and cons to both.
Yes, in private reserves you can go off road and do night drives. But in national parks, night drives are often possible too (just sometimes you might have to pay an extra fee). In private reserves they will limit the number of vehicles at sightings but the flip side of this is you might have to "queue" to get onto a sighting, or you might be bumped off in order to let other vehicles have their turn. This may not be noticeable to you because the guides are very good at disguising the fact that they are waiting their turn for a sighting- ie they might be told on the radio about a leopard (not in English of course, so you don't know), then they just drive around in circles until someone tells them it's their turn, and you just think you are looking for animals.

Personally, I dislike crowded sightings, but I also dislike heavily "radio controlled" game drives. I find a good balance is to seek out the less visited national parks where vehicle numbers are naturally low. Personal favourites are South Luangwa in Zambia and Ruaha in Tanzania.
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Nov 3rd, 2015, 03:52 AM
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Thanks all. Yes we were focusing on northern Tanzania and my concern is that all the suggested safaris were in national parks and also that there was alot of moving around. For a 9 day safari, we change lodging every night but for 1, and we stay there 2 nights.

this is not what I want so think this area might not be the correct one for me to focus on. I'd like to stay in spots 2-3nights if possible. It seems more relaxing and I don't want to have to drive 2 hrs every day in addition to checking out of lodging.

Is this typical with northern Tanzania? What areas would allow us less changing of hotels/tents?
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Nov 3rd, 2015, 05:50 AM
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I've only been on two safaris with a third coming up. But one thing I can't stress enough is NOT to move every day. The moving takes up a good chunk of your day, from the packing up, driving/flying to the next camp, greeting the new camp staff, getting settled in. That can be 2-4 hours of game ride time. I'd say nothing less than a 2 night stay to make it worthwhile, 3 would be preferable.

For my first safari I did the Tanzania northern circuit (Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro, Ndutu and Serengeti National Park) and only in Ndutu could we go off road. Does it make a difference? Yes, but I really didn't know how much it did until I went to Kenya where just about every place I went (in conservancies) was off road and after dark. It made the difference between seeing one leopard all week, but being kept 75 yards away with 100+ other vehicles in Serengeti National Park to having a leopard pass by and under our vehicle with only one other vehicle nearby in Olare Motorogi Conservancy in the Mara.

One plus to the route I did in Tanzania is I felt that a lot of the driving was along gorgeous landscapes that I just don't see at home. So while not game rides, they were beautiful to take in.
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Nov 3rd, 2015, 07:26 AM
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I agree totally with you and amy on not moving around, and this is in part why Northern Tanzania has never greatly appealed to me, as this is how itineraries there tend to be. I like a minimum of 3 nights in one place, and my longest stay so far in one camp has been 8 nights.

Assuming you want a 9 day safari, but with longer stays I'd suggest a fly in type safari to Kenya, with 3 camps. Maybe one in an area to the north (Laikipia, or Meru, or Samburu or Lewa) and then two different camps in the Mara area- either on in the reserve, one in a conservancy or two different conservancies.

Alternatively, try Southern Tanzania with 4 nights Selous and 5 nights Ruaha. My personal favourite camp in Ruaha (and one of my favourites in all Africa) is Kwihala. That's where I've had my 8 night stay (and another of 7 nights). Ruaha is awesome for game viewing without the crowds, and Selous is a lovely contrast with river activities for a change from game drives. The scenery in the two parks is very different.

I can't find anywhere what time of year you are looking at but that would make a difference to what area I'd suggest.

I've just found your other post and see you will have teenagers with you. I'd suggest Kenya then, and I'd look at somewhere like Laikipia Wilderness Camp where they have more fun adventurous activities for kids- beyond just sitting in a vehicle doing game drives. Things like tubing in the river, sleep outs etc.
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Nov 3rd, 2015, 08:20 AM
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wow and thanks for this info. We are looking June-Aug time frame.

Amyb, your first safari is the route that we were looking at. Too much driving and too much moving around.

S Tanzania looks interesting-can I ask which outfitters you used and if you were happy with them. What airport do you fly into?

I want a lodge experience and some tent experience (or so I think!) We were terrified in an open air house in the jungle in Costa Rica for first night w all the monkey and nature sounds!)

Stokeygirl, what is a fly in safari?
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Nov 3rd, 2015, 08:43 AM
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Kwihali and Laikipia Wilderness camp both look perfect. I want small and intimate but comfortable (we aren't into roughing it) and contact with the staff and other travelers.

Any recs in Selous? And are these off road preserves? Seems to be a national park..
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Nov 3rd, 2015, 09:38 AM
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By "fly in", I mean one where you fly from camp to camp and do game drives in the camp's vehicles with the camp's guides, sharing with other guests (although if you are a family of 4 you will almost certainly have a vehicle to yourself). Compared to having a vehicle and guide from the safari company, where the camps then just provide accommodation and meals- this is more normal in Northern Tanzania. With fly in safaris, you usually get open safari vehicles which I prefer also.

For Southern Tanzania, you would fly to Dar, and then catch internal flights with Coastal Aviation to get into the parks, and each camp will pick you up from the airstrip. I've booked my trips to Southern Tanzania with Expert Africa in the UK.

In Selous, I'd suggest Selous Impala camp. If you can afford it, Beho Beho.

Selous is a "Game Reserve" not a National Park so you are actually allowed to off road there (but no night drives). Ruaha is a National Park so you cannot drive off road. You can do night drives for an additional park fee.

Selous and Ruaha would be a great choice for June-Aug (so would Kenya). If you can, I'd go in June as it's usually not peak pricing in the camps until 1 July. The 8 nights I spent at Kwihala were in early June and it was fantastic. I've stayed there twice in August, and once in Aug at another camp and I don't think there's much difference in quality of game viewing between June and August, yet June is less expensive.

If you look at Kenya and want to catch the migration you would have to go later (Aug) OR you could go in June and pay less but you would miss the migration (unless you're lucky and of course these things don't run to an exact schedule!).

If considering Kenya, as well as Laikipia Wilderness, I've also loved the Kicheche camps. If you want those sort of small (6 tents) intimate camps, they are great. I've also stayed at Saruni Samburu which is stunning and has great family villas with 2 bedrooms and a shared living area.
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Nov 4th, 2015, 11:47 AM
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What's your budget? July and August are high season in both Kenya and Tanzania and flying does add to the cost.

I've stayed at Sand Rivers in Selous but their tents have one side open to the river. Game drives are conducted in boats in addition to vehicles in Selous.

I can also vouch for Kicheche camps in Kenya. Look at Porini camps as well and El Karama Lodge for a more affordable private conservancy in Laikipia.
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Nov 6th, 2015, 03:55 AM
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I am currently looking at 3 Porini camps (2-3-3 nights). Not sure if they are too rustic...but I do like that they are all on private conservancies, have walking safaris and also night rides. Am considering the last week in June as there is a big difference in the price. I know nobody can guarantee that we see the great migration so wondering if this might be an ok option or if i should just suck it up and go in august.

Not sure I understand the one side tent issue-please explain.

I don't really have a budget but want to add 3 nights at beach at end and air will be close to 8k. so maybe 30k for whole trip, air included.

I think I am now focused on Kenya for the private conservancy option. I have also hear that tse tse flies are primarily in Tanzania. Is this true?

Thanks all.
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Nov 6th, 2015, 03:59 AM
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stokeygirl, I also called Expert Africa and am waiting to hear from them so thanks for the rec.
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Nov 6th, 2015, 04:24 AM
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plambers, which Porini camps? My last safari was at their Rhino, Mara and Lion Camps. I loved it, especially Lion Camp. My saying was "you can't swing a cat without hitting a cat". Rhino is good for a change of landscape and of course the rhinos, which are quite stunning, much more overwhelming to see them than I expected. I don't think you can go wrong at the Porini Camps, although I went in February, not sure about June. Even without the migration, I was utterly spoiled with game viewing. It far, far exceeded my expectations.

Re: too rustic...I'm one of those that has a problem with soaker tubs and pools in a land where water is a commodity, so the super-luxe places are out for me. I love being out in a tent (yet still in a bed) with my own bathroom even though I needed to learn to take a bucket shower! That's all I need. At Porini, the solid sides of the tents zip down at night, but during the day they're opened upward and the "walls" are just screens (much needed in the heat of February!) I didn't find Porini "rustic" but it was more than comfortable without being the lap of luxury. The food was excellent too, and the staff treat you incredibly well.
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Nov 6th, 2015, 04:41 AM
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plambers, also try reaching out to Chalo Africa too. They just booked my upcoming safari for me and I think it'll be even better than the last, I'm thrilled with what they pulled together in the way of camps in both Amboseli and the Mara. And I'm staying in conservancies this time again precisely for reasons you've already figured out.
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Nov 6th, 2015, 07:56 AM
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I meant one side is open air. There were canvas flaps which could be unfurled but they were more for privacy as it really didn't seal up anything. I only mention it since you mentioned the open air house in Costa Rica and it sounds like you don't want that? You will hear some night sounds no matter what kind of accommodations you choose. That's one of the best things about being on safari. The canvas type tents can be zipped up at night.

I've not found tse tses to be much of a problem in the areas I've visited in either Kenya or Tanzania. You'll find them in woodland areas.

June is my favorite time of year in Kenya but I've never been concerned with seeing the migration. It's less crowded and if the April/May long rains have materialized, everything is green. Game viewing is good year round.
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Nov 6th, 2015, 09:04 AM
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Patty, we loved the open air house but the first few nights were a little scary. Is it not scary in the tents? I do think the tents are the way to go-or did you do a blend of lodge and tents?

So there is plenty to see in June. I'd love to see the migration but kind of think bc this is our first it will be amazing anyway, without it.

Poroni camps-Lion, Mara and Amboseli. Amboseli is 2 nights and the others, 3. Good mix?

I don't want super lux but want comfortable so good to hear your comments.

Thanks all - the more info you give me the better I can be informed.
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Nov 6th, 2015, 09:20 AM
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plambers, I've not been to Porini's Amboseli camp but I'm returning to Kenya and Amboseli is on my itinerary in Feb 2016. Mara and Lion are somewhat similar in terms of landscape and game and not very far apart. I think you'd get more of a contrast if it were Rhino and Lion and Amboseli. A plus to Mara-Lion though is that it's just a hour or so game ride between them, rather than a flight, which you'd need from Rhino.
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