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E. Africa Trip - should i go for expensive or reasonable price

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Mar 23rd, 2004, 12:00 AM
  #1
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E. Africa Trip - should i go for expensive or reasonable price

E. Africa is my dream destination for years. Recently more and more local (Hong Kong, that's where I am based currently) tours are going there and I think it's time for me to go. Most of the tours I find cost about USD$250/day including air, hotel, food and park admission, but one operator charges USD800/day excluding air!!!! The huge difference in price makes me really wonder if I should just pick the more expensive one believing that it can really offer exceptionally good experience for me. This may be my only chance to go to E. Africa and I don't mind paying a bit more if I can stay in a nicer or more luxurious lodgeand most importantly, get to see the animals!!! But is $800/day really too much out of the line?? Would appreciate if anyone has any good recommendation for local tour operators (based in Africa), game lodge or suggested itenary. Many thanks!!
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Mar 23rd, 2004, 12:20 AM
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Robert
As with any service sometimes more money means better experience and other times it just means more profit for the vendor.
I would suggest you give details here of exactly what the different operators are offering and it would then be easier to input.
There have also been a lot of fantastic threads here full of advice for travellers to East Africa, I'd definitely do a search and read through as many as you have time for.
Kind Regards
Kavey
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Mar 23rd, 2004, 12:46 AM
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I think one of the reasons for the high price is that the tour and the tent/lodge will be exlusive for my own group but no one else. Also, the price for the more expensive tour explicity states that it includes: Bush dinners and sundowners, horseback riding with giraffe, tracking elephant on foot, balloon trips at masai mara, and photograph leopard from a blind. B
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Mar 23rd, 2004, 12:56 AM
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Robert
If you want more detailed input I'd definitely post the proposed itinerary for the tour you're considering.
There are many here who have taken so many trips to East Africa that they can surely tell you whether you can find a similarly inclusive and exclusive itinerary for less with someone else or just to run and take the offer right now!
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Mar 23rd, 2004, 01:03 AM
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robertmmm,

Do yourself a favor and create your own itinerary and then e-mail it to a few local operators. If you are unsure about a good itinerary, borrow one from Micato or A&K, using the same very high quality lodges.

Here are some very competitively priced local operators:

Tanzania Serengeti Adventures
http://www.habari.co.tz/tsa/

Roy Safaris
www.roysafaris.com

Peacock Tours & Safaris
www.peacocksafaris.com

All of the above operators gave me much more favorable pricing than any American or European operator. You can be almost 100% sure that the American & European operator will subcontract the trip to a local tour operator, anyway. May as well cut out the middleman and save 20-40%.

I'm telling you, find the most expensive tour that you can find but then send it to one of the above operators (without the price) and watch how the price plummets.

Good luck.
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Mar 23rd, 2004, 01:07 AM
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I agree with Rocco that you can often obtain a better price with a local operator than a European or US agent.

However, I would add that, should anything go wrong, if you use an agent in your own country, you will find it easier to claim compensation/ get support and help etc. Using an agent overseas may make this much more difficult.

If that's not a major issue for you, then go ahead and look for other quotes, as suggested.
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Mar 23rd, 2004, 02:32 AM
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Robert: If time allows, I would do as Rocco suggests and either make up an itineray of your own or find one that you like and have a Kenyan or Tanzanian tour operator price it. Before going on our trip in 2002, I was thinking of going with one of the more "well known" operators until a friend suggested I contact an Arusha-based tour operator. The price difference was astonishing. It really is worth doing your homework for something like this. Since it is going to be a dream trip for you, you should make it everything you want it to be.
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Mar 23rd, 2004, 03:24 AM
  #8
sandi
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Robeert - all of the above information is correct, but as Kavey mentioned, if you would post the itnerary from both suppliers (the less expensive, and the more costly - there is plenty of room for them on the site - many of us here do just that) we'd be able to compare apples-to-apples. Include:

day-by-day,
the Park,
the name of Lodging,
unusual activity (ballooning, etc)
- and don't hesitate mentioning the name of the provider of each tour, we've heard about most all of them; if not then we all learn something.

We can then provide comments, suggestions... and then you can go from there. More than likely you'll be able to stay with one of the companies in HK, and if it's thought that an in-country operator/s would be better, such information can be provided.

Whichever way you go, this trip will be outstanding, exciting, adventurous and an opening to a new world.
 
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Mar 23rd, 2004, 04:46 AM
  #9
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Robert-
Since you haven't been, building your own itinerary is impossible. The more expensive is nice if you know all of the people. If not, go for the cheaper. Once you go, then upon return you are more equipped to go where you want. You will like either trip. If you know the folks, the more expensive one will surely be much more fun. No dragggy people whining or complaining. That can be a real downer. Just my .02 cents. Liz
 
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Mar 23rd, 2004, 07:30 AM
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I agree completely with Liz -- not worth the stress and advice of others trying to build your own itinerary for a first trip.

If you can post the specific lodges each tour operator is suggesting, perhaps you can get a good feeling whether the lodges with the high priced operator are worth it. Some of those extras you noted sound incredible and from personal experience are well worth the expense (balloon ride, bush dinners). But if you're not interested in photography would you miss the leopard shots from a blind? Some extras may be optional additions at the less expensive lodges. So perhaps you can take a look at the extras and find out what might be most meaningful to you, then add it to the less expensive tour.
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Mar 23rd, 2004, 08:06 AM
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There ia a lot of information on this subject available, but I'll throw in my 2 cents on what was good for us. The advice you have so far is good. That is, make an itinerary and shop it around. I know it sounds a little backward because how do you know where you want to go when you havn't been there yet to know? (??!!) My 2 cents:

1.Go to both Tanzania and Kenya. Food and facilities are better in Kenya, the experience is more rustic and 'real' in Tanzania and not completely overrun by tourists.
2.Stay at the Windsor Golf and Country Club for 2 days on arrival in Nairobi for jet lag relief and round of golf and a swim(bring your shoes and rent clubs...in spite of luggage restrictions, I brought stuff like that, I left it in storage at the hotel while on safari and retrieved when we stayed another night on the way out).
3. Fly to Tanzania from Nairobi if possible (in to Arusha, out from Serengeti), we drove and the roads are nasty and time consuming. Some people argue its the only way the see the real Tanzania, but...You'll travel from Tarangire to the Serengeti seeing Ongorongoro (sp?), Lake Manyara, and the usual sites, etc. The Fodors guide you buy has good lodge info.
4. Stay at Little Governors in the Mara, see http://www.governorscamp.com/main%20camps.htm...relax there for 4-5 days so you can stop running from park to park! Depending on the migration and/or wether you have a special interest in seeing certain birds that can only be found in another area, you will see every animal and then some without going to 4 more parks in Kenya. Why not just go to the best and spend longer afternoons watching and enjoying (and not constantly taking pictures!)?
5.Buy small field glasses.
6. Keep a diary. Have people you meet write remembrances in it for you...

This itinerary cost us about $450 per person per day not including international airfare about 6 years ago with A&K. A trip back a couple of summers ago was about the same although we were not with a group and had a private guide. The camps provide drivers and guides and meals as part of their tariff. Consider buying a Tanzania tour with the Governors Camp/Mara visit as an add-on. If you are even considering a high-end tour (ie you can afford it), I say do it. you can get more good opinions at http://www.virtualtourist.com OK, that was 3 cents worth.
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Mar 23rd, 2004, 06:28 PM
  #12
sandi
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robertmmm -

On average A&K will advise that their trips run in the range of $500-$600/day, so curious as to who is the company that has the prices up to $800/day and what in the world are they providing for that?

"horseback riding with giraffe?????"
Camel safari, yes they are available, but giraffe????
Bush dinners and sundowners are not unusual for an East Africa itinerary, rather quite usual; nor do you mention what time of the year you are planning this trip, nor how many days and where in Kenya.

I happened to have come across an itinerary a few weeks back that was all hi-end, with camel safari and outstanding camps, but that price was only $600/day including internal air.

What I can say though, is that whoever this company is, their marketing piece is good - who can guarantee a leopard?
 
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Mar 23rd, 2004, 10:00 PM
  #13
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The tour operator for the more expensive one is called Walker and Hammond Safaris, located in Nairobi.

The $800/day is for a 10 day trip, with the first 4 days at the Great Rift Valley Lodge at Shompole. Then the next 4 days at the Western Maasai Mara (like Ol Kineyi) with "moveable private luxurious camp" and Mara river with the balloon ride and a night at the Il Moran Iodge.

They also said they use 4x4 Range Rover rather than mini-vans.

I checked out the lodges shown in Tanzania Serengeti Adventures, Roy Safaris, Peacock Tours & Safaris
and they do look like what I'm looking for.

The US$200/day one covers Amboseli Serena Lodge at Amboseli Park, The Art at Aberderes National Park, Samburu Serena Lodge, Lion Hill Lodge at Lake Nakuru and Mara Simba Lodge in Talek, Maasai Mara.

I am planning to go around Aug or Sept. Good chance to see the migration?

I also wonder if it's worth going to Victoria Fall, the Crater and Uganda for gorillas?
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Mar 24th, 2004, 02:36 AM
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August-September is a wonderful time for the Mara. As an aside, the Ngorongoro Crater does not have gorillas. Virtually every other form of wildlife, but no gorillas around that area. We used Roy Safaris for our 2002 trip to Kenya and Tanzania and we will be using them again for our October trip this year. Are they the least expensive? Probably not, but their service is excellent, use only custom designed (even down to cup holders!) 4X4 Land Cruisers and they can deliver what they promise. I am sure there are others that do as well, but then there are others which do not. Isn't planning a safari fun??? And, oh, it is so very worth it!
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Mar 24th, 2004, 04:08 AM
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as of March 12, 2004: The State Department lists e. africa as potential terrorist targets, warning us to take care, lest we fall victim to attacks or kidnappings. What of this?
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Mar 24th, 2004, 04:28 AM
  #16
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robertmmm -

>>The $800/day is for a 10 day trip, with the first 4 days at the Great Rift Valley Lodge at Shompole. Then the next 4 days at the Western Maasai Mara (like Ol Kineyi) with "moveable private luxurious camp" and Mara river with the balloon ride and a night at the Il Moran Iodge.
They also said they use 4x4 Range Rover rather than mini-vans.<<

Shompole is a beautiful camp, but it is not located in the Mara, rather on the border with Tanzania - mid-way between the eastern end of the Mara and Namanga the border crossing between both countries. It's actually at the north top-end of Tanzania's Lake Natron. And the balance in mobile-tents look lovely. Use of 4x4s is not all than unusual for travel here.

Question: Are you traveling along or with a partner. If with a partner, the $800/day is fine, but for one person it's a bit much.

Check with some of the other in-country tour operators and see if you can get a better quote. All should be able to get int you Shompole, but they will have their own mobile-tents/staff to manage this part of your itinerary.

If you want to consider another luxury camp, but located right inside the Mara (practically the center) near the river where the Wildebeest attempt their crossings - ask about the Mara Explorer Luxury Tented Camp.

Being in the Mara during Migration is a great experience.

 
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Mar 24th, 2004, 04:30 AM
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Robertmmm,

>>I checked out the lodges shown in Tanzania Serengeti Adventures, Roy Safaris, Peacock Tours & Safaris
and they do look like what I'm looking for.

Just to clarify, these companies can offer any lodge that is offered by A&K, Micato or any other operator. As another Fodorite said, the only thing that you will miss out on if you go through one of these operators instead of, say, Micato Safaris, is dinner at the Micato's private home and a baseball hat...a small price to pay considering that you will probably save $2,000+ USD per person for a 10 night itinerary.

Again, go out and find your favorite lodges at each destination, build your dream itinerary, and send it to Tanzania Serengeti Adventures, Roy Safaris and Peacock Safaris for price quotations. Oh, and don't forget to give it to a local Hong Kong operator, as well for comparison.

Good luck.
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Mar 24th, 2004, 06:37 AM
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Hi Robert

I am from HK. Don't think there is any operators in HK who books safari lodges in Africa (but if you happen to find one, pls let me know).

When I went to Tanzania last Sept (my first time to Africa), I stayed at CC Africa lodges and book directly with them, they also handle all ground arrangements for me in Nairobi. I think they are excellent.

Last year, I also thought it could be my only trip to Africa but last week I just confirm my itinerary to Okavango Delta and NamibRand this May. Once you have been to Africa, you will fall in love with her.
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Mar 24th, 2004, 06:43 PM
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Terroist warning again? Geez, where can we find a safe place to travel these days?

The $800/day is for a minimum of 4 people...

I didn't think I would be able to see gorillas at the Crater. I've to fly to Uganda to do that, right? How far is Uganda from Kenya?

LLee, I recently found two operators from HK which organize trip to Kenya: American Express Travel and Memory Travel (Tel: 23161678). Both of them charge roughly US$200 to 250 per day including air. Because of the rather low rates, I'm not too confident if the quality is good. I've posted a list of the lodges they use in my earlier message and if anyone has comments for those lodges, that would be great.

I certainly would love to go back to Africa again (even though I have not even been there yet). It's just that there are so many places in this world I have not been (like India, or Nepal or Amazon...), it could be years before I can go to Africa again and that's why I really want to do it right and see the max I can.
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Mar 24th, 2004, 09:11 PM
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Robertmmm,

You are really all over the place with your itinerary and should not even be considering booking until you have a firmer grasp on this whole thing.

Ask yourself where you would like to visit. Next, do a search for lodging on those specific areas and find the lodges that best fit your personality, or at least your budget.

Find out what other destinations are in the area. For example, if you are committed to visiting the Ngorongoro Crater, you will most likely want to visit the Serengeti and Tarangire, as well. Those three destinations alone should not be attempted in less than about 9 nights. In an earlier post you stated that you were considering a 10 night itinerary, so this wouldn't possibly leave time to go to Uganda. It would be very cost prohibitive and to be honest, foolish, to go to the Ngorongoro Crater alone and then rush off to Uganda or Rwanda for gorilla watching.

Perhaps you should focus on Tanzania alone. Just in case you have a bit more time, here is a 14 night itinerary that I priced out just three months ago, before finally deciding to go to Zambia, which should also be a consideration of yours. Anyway, here is the 14 night Tanzanian itinerary and its price from, I believe, Tanzania Serengeti Adventures:

For the 1st Option
June 05th - morning arrival at JRO. Transfer to Tarangire. 2 nights at Tarangire Tree Top. Day and Night game drives included.
June 06th - T.T.T. Day and night game drive requested.
June 07th - Transfer to Ngorongoro Serena Lodge. Half day game drive requested.
June 08th - Ngorongoro Serena Lodge. Full day game drive excursion requested.
June 09th - Transfer to Western Serengeti with stop at Olupai Gorge and lunch at Serengeti Serena, en route. 4 nights at Kirawira.
June 10th - Kirawira.
June 11th - Kirawira.
June 12th - Kirawira.
June 13th - Air transfer to Zanzibar. 2 nights at Zanzibar Serena Inn.
June 14th - Zanzibar Serena Inn.
June 15th - Air transfer to Selous. 4 nights at Sand Rivers.
June 16th - Sand Rivers.
June 17th - Sand Rivers.
June 18th - Sand Rivers.
June 19th - Air transfer to Dar Es Salaam for evening international flight home.

The price will be $ 4850 Per person.
The price is including All Park fees,Transport during safari , Transfer from airport on the day of Arrival before safari and after safari,Accommodation in Serena lodges Ngorongoro and Serengeti and Tarangire Tree Top in Tarangire National Park.
We are sorry that by the moment we are not dealing with Kikoti as it is not a nice place to stay so we chooce the best hotel for you and find that Tarangire tree top will be the best.And it has the best facilities as well as nights game drives.
Also price is include Air fares from Arusha- Zanzibar- Selous,Selous game drives and Accommodation,Accommodation in Zanzibar,and Balloon Safari Serengeti.
The price will exclude:All things of personal nature,Tips,Alcoholic drinks,Airport taxes.
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