East Africa Night Game Drives...WHERE?

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Jul 13th, 2005, 10:55 PM
  #1
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East Africa Night Game Drives...WHERE?

Considering that I wish to visit East Africa in February, when the weather will be nice and warm, I sure would like the possibility of night game drives somewhere.

I am thinking that my only possibility, at least in the Northern Circuit, will be on the outskirts of Tarangire. Anywhere else?

Unrelated, but just wondering, has anybody visited the Gol Mountains / Ol Karien Gorge area of the Serengeti. I hear it is really scenic with good wildlife.

Here is an article about this area:

http://www.amazingtanzania.com/news/...11jackman.html

Thanks for any feedback on the night game drive question and/or the Gol Mountains / Ol Karien Gorge.
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Jul 14th, 2005, 05:23 AM
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It cost me that little but oh so important thing called SLEEP last night, but, in exchange, I did manage to come up with this new and improved itinerary for hopefully mid-February:

Impala Hotel, Arusha (1) (I don't know this hotel...it has just popped up from a tour operator, but since I will likely arrive at 9PM at night, I just need someplace safe and clean to rest my head for a few anxious hours before starting my safari)

Swala, Tarangire (3) . I am also, however, strongly considering Mawe Ninga, as it is the most recommended by Africa Travel Resource and should be as much as $200 pppns less expensive than Swala. If anyone has an opinion on Swala vs. Tarangire Tree Tops, please let me know. Tree Tops offers night game drives, but Swala appears to be nicer and with better food.

Piaya Camp, Serengeti (3) located in the South Central Long Grass Plains. Located just outside the park, thus allowing night game drives!

Best of all, there are only four tents, allowing me to avoid the bigger lodges.

Masek Camp, Serengeti (3) located near Ndutu but a smaller camp. I believe this is the same company of Piaya Camp, as again there are only four tents. Africa Travel Resource rates this camp as "Excellent." http://www.africatravelresource.com/...hort/03/01.htm

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge (2) Probably a bit overpriced, but much nicer looking, in my opinion than the Serena or Sopa lodges. I am reassured that Africa Travel Resource rates it as "Superb" despite its luxury, which is often the downfall of some lodges when they are being rated by ATR.

Emerson & Green, Zanzibar (2) I am not going to try to pretend like I am some beach boy and that I will really enjoy the Palms Zanzibar, Fundu Lagoon or Mnemba Island. Just let me soak up a couple days of culture in Stone Town at the end.

Is this itinerary a winner??? I will be with private guide and vehicle and don't want to screw it up by going to some big lodges. I think I am staying at some pretty nice "under the radar" places that are highly regarded by sources a lot more reputable for true Africa lovers than any Conde Nast Traveler "Best Of" list!
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Jul 14th, 2005, 07:58 AM
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Roccco --
We too are arriving late at night, after 9pm on the KLM flight from Amsterdam, so Kia Lodge was recommended to us and that's where we've booked for our first night in Tanzania -- it's only a few minutes from JRO airport so more convenient than a long drive after a lengthy flight. Check out http://www.kialodge.com/ and
http://www.africadreamsafaris.com/lodges/kia-lodge.html.

We are staying at Swala in Tarangire for the last two nights of our safari. Briefly considered Mawe Ninga because the price is better but ultimately decided to splurge for our last two nights in TZ. Treetops was tempting too, but it is outside the park which is either a disadvantage or an advantage depending on how you look at it. To compare all 3 check out http://www.africadreamsafaris.com/lo...awe-ninga.html and http://www.africadreamsafaris.com/lo...la-tented.html and
http://www.africadreamsafaris.com/lo...-treetops.html.

As for Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, to me the idea of crystal chandeliers in such a setting is the epitome of the gilded lily, which simply did not appeal to me -- too over the top for my taste -- and all reviews of Ngorongoro Serena were excellent as well, plus I could not justify the massive price differential in any event. But to each his own! Again, to compare see:
http://www.africadreamsafaris.com/lo...ro-serena.html and
http://www.africadreamsafaris.com/lo...ro-crater.html.
(Of course neither of these would qualify as "under the radar"; both have been highly rated by various travel sources.)

Have fun planning!


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Jul 14th, 2005, 08:55 AM
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Forgot to mention, you might also want to look at the lodges' own websites:

For Swala:
http://www.sanctuarylodges.com/swala.aspx

Ngorongoro Serena: http://www.serenahotels.com/tanzania...ngoro/home.htm

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge: http://www.ngorongorocrater.com/
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Jul 14th, 2005, 09:29 AM
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I believe Mawe Ninga is a Tanganyika camp and can only be booked by guests using Tanganyika Expeditions as their ground operator. I recall someone mentioning that other tour operators like Roys/Good Earth weren't able to book them into this camp. Same with Piaya and Masek which I believe are operated by Nomad. It gets really confusing with some of the semi-permanent camps as to who can book what and I'm still trying to figure it out myself. Are you planning to have ATR put together your trip?
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Jul 14th, 2005, 09:51 AM
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Rocco,

regarding Impala Hotel: I don't know why you prefer a town hotel if there are so many other options available at Usa River and the Moshi-Arusha road. Also, if you arrive at KIA, the way to Arusha town centre is the longest way. I assume that you know my website, so have a look at the Usa River and Arusha listings.

Piaya & Masek Camp: As far as I know these are the Nomad Serengeti Camps (www.serengeti-safari-camp.com). (Sometimes the ATR info seems a little bit out-dated.)

Ngorongoro Crater: Sopa is the only lodge located at the eastern crater rim which allows great sunset photos. All the other lodges are on the western rim which is good for sunrise shots, however, because of the different climate zone at the eastern rim, sunrise is often clouded. Also, all of the western lodges share the same descend/ascend roads.

night drives: you should check the Green Footprint Adventures site (www.greenfootprint.co.tz) for night drives in Lake Manyara NP.

Tarangire NP: what about Oliver's Camp?

Mitch
 
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Jul 14th, 2005, 09:54 AM
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Patty,

What is your full itinerary and when are you going?

As far as some operators not being able to offer some of the camps, I just ran into that problem. The small Serengeti camps that I mentioned were unavailable to a couple operators.

I don't know if this is true or not, but I was told that the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge was going to raise its rates by 25% by next year. It is already double the cost of the Serena, so a 25% bump seems excessive.
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Jul 14th, 2005, 10:43 AM
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Hmmmm...didn't realize that Kusini was a Sanctuary lodge...that may change things a bit.

http://www.sanctuarylodges.com/kusini.aspx

It looks absolutely gorgeous. Perhaps 3 nights Kusini and 3 nights Olduvai? or 2/2/2 at three different camps? I do prefer getting settled in a bit with a minimum of 3 night stays whenever possible.

Anybody stayed at either Kusini or Swala? Would love any feedback.

Thanks.
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Jul 14th, 2005, 10:47 AM
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Rocco,
My next trip in November is mostly to Kenya. I'll only be in Tanzania for 5 days and all of that time will be spent in the Kilimanjaro area staying at Makoa Farm and going on a private horseback safari with them. In Kenya, we'll be visiting the Rift Valley Lakes and Masai Mara plus somewhere else which I haven't decided yet.

I spent some time researching Tanzania (both northern and southern) but ultimately decided to spend the majority of our time in Kenya this trip. So now I have quite a long list of places I want to visit in Tanzania - next time

I believe another poster, bat, is going to Tanzania about the same time of year and staying at some of the same camps that you're interested in.

I don't know if there are any options at the crater rim other than the lodges. You might want to investigate further. The Crater Lodge just seems too over the top to me and definitely too expensive for my budget. When I was contemplating a northern Tanzania circuit, I was either going to stay at Plantation Lodge or another small place near Karatu and deal with the long drive or skip the crater all together as I'd read so many comments about the crowd levels. I know it's considered a 'must see' but I personally have a very hard time enjoying myself when surrounded by dozens of other vehicles regardless of how plentiful the game might be. I know a few people have mentioned seeing relatively few vehicles so maybe it just depends on the time of year.

I'm still haunted by the image of 29 vehicles surrounding a lion kill at Amboseli earlier in the year. Yes it was the only kill we witnessed on the trip and there was the majestic backdrop of Kili but I really could have cared less at that point. I just wanted to get the heck out of there!

Sorry, I seemed to have gone off on a tangent about my crowd adversion

Here's a link to the thread that I started for my itinerary. Skip to the bottom if you want to see the almost complete version - http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34602040

If you're willing to take a risk on a new camp, the one Eben mentioned yesterday seems very interesting and affordable to me - http://www.emcmobilesafaris.com/

Also I don't know if you've checked out all of his recent reports and photo albums of various camps and lodges in northern Tanzania -

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34645281

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34644982

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34644805

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34644698

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34632954

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34628643

Good luck with your plans and I hope you do decide to visit East Africa!
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Jul 14th, 2005, 10:58 AM
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Liz stayed at Kusini in March. Her trip report - http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34595582

You might want to have a tour operator check their availability in Feb as I think most of the southern Serengeti camps are fully booked already. Olduvai is another Tanganyika camp.
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Jul 14th, 2005, 11:58 AM
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Rocco:
I posted my Feb. itinerary on your other thread--did not see this one at the time. I think that you will need to find an operator who can get you in--Kusini was wait-listing for Feb two months ago when I started my research. I would not give up but I would see if an operator will tell you about availability before you invest too much time agonizing over an itinerary. You might ask ATR if they will tell you availability. I would also check with Africa Dream Safari about their private mobile camping--I get the impression they reserve the campsites and then fill them with their customers (rather than waiting for a customer and then trying to get a campsite--I could be wrong though.)Africa Adventure was also willing to check availability--they can book Nomad--but they got back to me more slowly than did ATR. Another U.S. based company to contact--has not been mentioned here but friends of mine were very pleased and they won an award from the Tanzanian tourist board for their efforts in increasing U.S. travel to Tanzania--"Deeper Africa." They seem to have a nice sensitivity to travel there.
[BTW, I am not trying to dissuade you from checking with local operators--I am merely passing on what I have learned.]

Confirming what Patty has told you: Masek and Piaya are Nomad; Mawe Ninga (Olduvai and Ronjo) are Tanganyika/Mt. Kilimanjaro. Re Tanganyika's camps, ATR, Africa Dream, and Africa Adventure told me that they can book them--some, if not all, local operators such as Roy's cannot.

Ndutu Lodge takes reservations without asking for any deposit--deposit is made 60 days(if I remember correctly) before arrival. They told me that dates open later--but you would be left hanging.

Hope this helps. Get a booking and we will meet there!
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Jul 14th, 2005, 01:30 PM
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I think Ndutu is already fully booked for next Feb., judging from the date check on their website.

Also, note that others here have posted that TZ park fees are increasing dramatically for 2006 over 2005, so as you get prices from any operators, I would recommend double-checking as to whether they are subject to change if park fees increase (as they are expected to).
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Jul 14th, 2005, 09:06 PM
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Roccco,

We had a day room at the KIA Lodge and it was nice and extremely close to the airport. A good choice for a place to stay on arrival.

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Jul 15th, 2005, 06:08 AM
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Another night drive option is Klein's Camp (CC Africa) just outside Serengeti. The rooms are not as nice as other CCA properties like Crater Lodge or Manyara Lodge but the staff are fabulous.

When I visited 2 years ago, we saw 3 leopards and a pack (4 to 5) of hyenas in one night.
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