direct crossing between serengeti and masai mara

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Oct 17th, 2004, 06:15 AM
  #1
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direct crossing between serengeti and masai mara

We are planning a trip to Tanzania and Kenya in Aug 2005. With advice from this board, we're trying to finish up in Masai Mara in mid august to catch the best part of the migration (rather than the Serengeti which we'd visit earlier). A tour company we're working with (Roy) has advised me that they only cross the border at Namanga which means we'd have to go from Serengeti back to Nairobi and then to Masai Mara from Nairobi. Aren't there any border crossing that would enable us to go directly from Serengeti into Masai Mara without having to backtrack? Is this a company issue or geopolitical one? Thanks.
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Oct 17th, 2004, 06:21 AM
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hi there, as of sept when i was there. my maasai driver was telling me. they are working on a border crossing between the two. to make it easier for everyone. when it will be all set, i have no idea. but they are working on it. not sure who you could contact for updates.
cheers, david
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Oct 17th, 2004, 10:15 AM
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What Roy says is not true. I have crossed the border at a place called Isbenia which is 2 to 3 hours west of Masai Mara. I spent a night at Speke's Bay Lodge on the shores of Lake Victoria in Tanzania before proceeding to Serena Lodge in Serengeti the following day. However, if you are willing to stay at Kirawira in Western Serengeti then it is possible to avoid a night at Speke's Bay Lodge. I thought Spekes Bay Lodge provided a welcome change from the safari programme.

It may not be in Roy's interest to recommend such a crossing so perhaps you should contact the company I use called Vintage Africa and see if they are willing to help you.

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Oct 21st, 2004, 05:43 PM
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There is a border but not always attended by officers, sometimes they just leave and close... also when it is closed you need to get back and find transportation. Better not to try!, but you can take a flight via Mwanza, to masai Mara, It's around 400 USD p.p
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Oct 22nd, 2004, 03:03 AM
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What border are you talking about? The border crossing at Isbenia appeared very similar to the one at Namanga and had substantial traffic passing through. We were taken to the border by Vintage Africa and collected on the Tanzania side by Vintage Africa, just the same way it would work with Namanga crossing, and we encountered no problems. And what do you mean by someone having to find transportation back if the border is closed. The driver that took us to the border waited until we had cleared immigration and were safely on the other side with our Tanzania driver. I saw about 3 other safari vehicles doing the same crossing without a hitch.
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Oct 22nd, 2004, 02:05 PM
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I'm curious to know more about this. Last year we were told specifically by two tour agencies (one in SA, one in Arusha) that there is no border crossing allowed near the Mara. And our hot air balloon guide echoed this in November.
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Oct 22nd, 2004, 02:35 PM
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sandi
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king -

Since you seem to be the only traveler who has successfully crossed at Isbenia, and there are so many inquiries regarding this crossing, could you please provide some information?

You indicate about 2-3 hours from the Mara to this border crossing, to then -

1) How long from Isbenia to Spekes Bay?
2) Quality of this road? It appears to be at least blacktop on the map. Is it?
3) How long (in time and km/mi) is drive from Isbenia to Kirawira?
4) How long (in time and km/mi) is drive from Isbenia to Serena Serengeti?
5) Quality of roads for both #3 & #4.
6) I know you've stayed at Lobo Camp off the NE area of Serengeti, how long is drive from Serena Serengeti to Lobo?

I belive this information would satisfy all of our interests. Thanks.
 
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Oct 23rd, 2004, 02:44 AM
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Anything to help you Sandi.

BTW the name of border town is Isebania. If you typed that in Google you will be able to see who else does the same border crossing - just to put you at ease and also to update your supreme East Africa 'expertise'.

Isebania to Speke Bay - approx 3 to 4 hours. State of road when I did it was average African paved road similar to Namanga road, perhaps slightly worse. Don't know status now but it seems Tanzania is doing more to upkeep its roads than Kenya so probably better now.

Speke Bay to Park Gate in Western Serengeti - 20 minutes

Park Gate to Kirawira - 1 hour with game viewing

Kirawira to Serena - 2 hours - road is in similar state to other parts of Serengeti but more stony and more ruts.

Serena to Lobo - approx 4 to 5 hours

In fact, the Lake Victoria route is the ideal route when the wildebeest migration is in the Western or North Western part of Serengeti and crossing over to the Mara. A lot of the migration spills outside the Serengeti park.

Just to be clear, it is NOT possible to cross from Serengeti directly into Masai Mara. Isebania is 2 to 3 hours west of Mara Reserve. Namanga is almost 6 to 7 hours from Masai Mara.
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Oct 23rd, 2004, 04:25 AM
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sandi
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king -

...and good morning to you too! If I had all that expertise I wouldn't have inquired to one who has a bit more then mine. Truce!

This questions has been asked for years and all who have inquired have gotten all kinds of responses. But you have done this crossing successfully, the reason I asked for the details, which are much appreciated by me and I'm sure all the others who have inquired/commented, at least recently - sharon815, steve007ny, hlphillips2 and myself.

Based on the information you provided, I believe the reason most tour operators don't do this crossing is (and I'd welcome yours and others comments on this):

1) Most Kenyan outfitters are based in NBO; and Tanzanian outfitters based out of Arusha.

2) Each would have to send a guide/driver to Isebania* to drop-off or pick-up clients.
*sorry, but you spelled this Isbenia in your first post from which I copied.

3) From Arusha or Nairobi this would be a full-days travel, give a few hours more or less. Would have to be done in daylight, especially if crossing thru parks/reserves where they have to be off grounds before 6:30am or 6:30pm.

4) Vehicles, petrol, meals, sleeping accommodations must be provided, as well as guide's daily rate.

5) Vehicle/driver have to then drive one way empty and someone has to pay for this. So I believe the client will be billed for this, not unlike a guide/driver leaving clients to fly from the Serengeti (W,N,C) and driving back to Arusha empty... the client pays. The same would be true for a Kenyan guide/driver leaving from the Mara to Isebania and having to return to NBO empty.

So because NBO and Arusha are home base it's more practical to return/cross at Namanga which is just about two hours from NBO and an hour from Arusha. Yours or any other thoughts?
 
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Oct 23rd, 2004, 05:50 AM
  #10
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Thanks to all who've replied. In addition to everything I've learned here, I hope you can follow up on something sandi mentioned - that if you do a "one way" trip, you still have to pay for the guide to return to Arusha/Nairobi? So if we flew from Serengeti to Zanibar, for example, at the end of a safari, we would still be billed as tho we'd returned to Arusha? Thanks for helping me sort this out. (Also, Sandi, I'm still working on the final itinerary and will post shortly.)
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Oct 23rd, 2004, 06:09 AM
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Let me add my voice to the grateful Fodorites...and, if things go as planned, we'll make this crossing in 3 weeks and be able to give up-to-the-minute details!

Steve
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Oct 23rd, 2004, 11:18 AM
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Sandi

The safari operator can give the difference in costing, not me. But if one is contemplating combining the Masai Mara and Serengeti then the Isebania route makes sense to me. It may work out cheaper than going back to Nairobi, then to Namanga, then to Arusha....This would generally not be attempted in a day in any case and one would normally spend a night in Nairobi unless one flies(this would be expensive). The cost of one night in Nairobi would probably outweigh the trip to retrieve someone from the Isebania border. The other advantage of Isebania is that one gets to see Lake Victoria.

Also as you know even with the tour starting from Arusha, the car has to drive to Serengeti and then back from Serengeti, with passengers or empty (if they decide to fly from Serengeti). With Isebania, the car has to go to Serengeti like it would with the Arusha tour(except it goes empty) but then comes with passengers just as it would with the Arusha tour. Whichever direction one chooses, the car has to go to Serengeti and back. Yes Isebania involves extra miles to pick-up the passengers but so does Arusha to Namanga and back.

Look Sandi I think you are trying to complicate things. It almost appears to me that you are trying desperately to dissuade people from doing it when you have not even experienced the route yourself. The route does work and there are companies who offer this route - google proves it. As to whether the route is more expensive then the standard route, I suggest whoever wants to attempt it should find out from the operators who offer it.
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Oct 23rd, 2004, 11:35 AM
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That's a great piece of information to have - thanks for educating all of us king! I wonder if a private guide might be willing or able to travel through the border crossing, omitting the need to pay for a guide on each side of the border? Considering that some private guides might travel with their guests from Masai Mara to Nairobi to the border crossing near Kilimanjaro and into Arusha, it would be so much easier (and more scenic) to go the Lake Victoria route.
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Oct 23rd, 2004, 12:08 PM
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According to my contacts in Nairobi the issue of the western border crossings is more that of safety than anything else. Some operators have no problems and so use the route; others avoid it for now.

Yes, private guides can go across the border and provide services on both sides. However, the vehicle cannot and separate vehicles are required on each side; plus Tanzania requires national drivers. There are costs associated with repositioning and deadheading but, if you had knowledge of specific costs, you would quickly agree those costs are quite insignificant compared to the cost, both timewise and monetarily, of the customers returning "the long way."
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Oct 23rd, 2004, 01:00 PM
  #15
sandi
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Excuse me "king" - I'm not dissuading anyone, rather seeking information as have been lots of others who have posted here and other threads over the years - about an alternate crossing. Once you mentioned that you had indeed used this border crossing, I asked the questions, which I and others others were interested to know and which you answered.

For the same reason that some travelers choose to fly rather then drive, others either prefer not to fly in small planes or just don't want to spend the money, I also felt travelers should be aware of the need for guides/drivers in either country to drive one way or the other empty (deadheading) and the associated costs, though minimal, compared to a flight. Now, individual travelers can decide what works for them - time versus money, flights versus road, Namanga versus Isebania!

Neither I nor others have been able to obtain this information elsewhere, so your input is valuable to everyone - and you accuse me of dissuading others to consider this route - wrong!
 
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Oct 23rd, 2004, 05:51 PM
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It's true! A simple google search of "Isbenian + crossing" or border gives lots of responses, including:
Day 4 Our drive today through the Western highlands allows plenty of time to appreciate the superb scenery. The road
then begins to descend and we leave behind the neatly ordered rows of tea bushes. We cross the border into Tanzania at
Isebania and camp in a pleasant spot at Musoma on the shore of Lake Victoria.
Day 5 We turn east and enter the vast Serengeti plain, one of the largest parks in Africa. There is a choice of routes into
the Serengeti, depending on the weather: if it is dry, the 130 kms of the Western Corridor, usually well stocked with all the
plains game, is open. If it is wet, however, this road, which is built on black cotton soil, turns to glue, and we have to enter
the park from the north, at Ikoma gate. We have plenty of time to enjoy the vast open spaces and the variety of game, and
eventually come to Seronera. Here there are various camping areas, all of them in open bush, with no fences to prevent

Leaving the park we stay overnight on the shores of Africa?s largest Lake, Lake Victoria. Then cross into Kenya at the Isebania border post and continue to Nairobi, a bustling city with its restaurants, shops and energetic nightlife.

Clearly, less inconclusive than one might have thought!


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