Expert help & opinions needed East Africa Safari

Nov 24th, 2007, 01:43 PM
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Expert help & opinions needed East Africa Safari

Hi guys-

Knowing how much I love Africa, and (wrongly) presuming I am knowledgeable about it, a dear friend of mine has asked me to help her plan a family trip to East Africa.

So far over a few lunches we have done a preliminary itinerary, but as I have never done a private safari I must turn to the experts for a few questions.

They are a family of 4 - mom, dad and two twenty-something's. The mom and the dad have done the usual safari circuit once before, some years back, the kids have not. They want a variety of flying and driving. They are thinking of spring 2009, I suggested end of May as we have enjoyed May both years.

My first opinion needed is this:

Do you guys think that the crater is an 'absolute must be seen' for the two kids? (parents have seen it) Would you as a first timer have felt deprived if you didn't see it?

Their time is limited, we have worked it out to 15 days on safari including some beach time at the end. With this in mind, I have suggested that they stick to Kenya for a 11 day safari and then go to Zanzibar at the end for 4 days as trying to combine KY and TZ regular circuit may be a little rushed in 11 days.

Here is the itinerary that I have come up with for them, using all my opinions & knowledge that I have gathered from all of those trip reports that I read!

Day 1 & 2 - Nairobi Norfolk Hotel (the day they get in and one full day to explore the usuals spots)
Day 3 & 4 - Fly to Tsavo, stay two nights at Denys Finch Hattons (this because of Patty's wonderful trip report!)
Day 5 & 6 - Drive to Amboseli, stay two nights at Ol Tukai Lodge (this because of sundowners in front of Mt. Kili)
Day 7 - Fly to Nairobi, drive to Lake Nakuru one night at Lion Sarova Lodge (this to see the rhinos, flamingo & maybe even leopards)
Day 8 & 9 - Drive to Mount Kenya Safari Club for two nights (this because I loved it there & it's relaxing with plenty to do but only if you want)
Day 10& 11 - Fly to the Mara, two nights at Mara Safari Club (this because I LOVE the Mara and Dana's pictures & description of the Mara Safari Club)
Day 12 & 13 - Fly back to Nairobi, transfer to Int'l airport and fly to Zanzibar, stay two nights at the Stonetown Serena. (this because I think EVERYONE should eat the lobster here & appreicate the view!)
Day 14 & 15 - Transfer to Matemwe Beach Resort for two nights at The Matemwe Retreat or Bungalows (this because the kids want beach time & that last trip report from hguy47)
Day 16 - back to Nairobi, back to home.

My next qeustion:

Can they fly from the Mara to Nairobi to Zanzibar in one day? In May we flew from the Mara to Nairobi , we left at 11:00 am and arrived at Wilson at about 12:00. Is there an afternoon flight to Z/bar?

And, in general any comments of logistics or the accomodations as I have them? Will it work?

I appreciate all your help guys!
LyndaS is offline  
Nov 24th, 2007, 02:15 PM
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Lynda -

duh! end/May-June in the Serengeti!

Kenya is my favorite, and the Mara deserves a visit, but for this time... Tanzania, Tanzania, Serengeti, Serengeti.

15/days is more than many people have, so they can do both Kenya & Tanzania and Zanzibar.

And, no it wouldn't be a crisis to skip the crater; personally, it happens to be one of my least favorite places... blasphemy!

Also, I'd do Tsavo or Amboseli, but not both. In fact, but for the views of Kili, I believe Samburu is a better park.

Trying to combine fly & drive, will entail dead-heading of a guide/vehicle in some places in Kenya, to catch up to where clients took flights; some drive distances are quite long. In Tanzania you can do mostly driving.

Even though May (maybe into June), some prices will be high, i.e., on Zanzibar, Matemwe Retreat, even Bungalows (and both may be closed in May). And the Serena is probably the most expensive on ZNZ. There's plenty of beach on this island at more reasonable prices.

As with anyone, they'll have to have an idea of budget. Prices for '09 will go up still farther than those for '08. Remember, May is low season in both countries, by June Tanzania is at peak, while Kenya is at mid-season rates.

That's a start to consider.

sandi is offline  
Nov 24th, 2007, 09:38 PM
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Hi Lynda,

I have only been to East Africa once back in 2005 but I have just planned a trip for myself and 3 first-timers for June 2008 and my thinking might be of help to you.

We chose the Northern Circuit in June to catch the migration and have included the Crater as I enjoyed my 2005 visit. For some of the party who have limited time the Crater offers an unbeatable chance to see such a diversity of animals and birds in a short space of time due to the high game density.

Returning to Kenya in early July I chose Samburu over Tsavo because we have the opportunity to visit Shaba which I have read offers a contrasting landscape with neighbouring Samburu.

I know that Tsavo and Samburu both have species such as gerenuks and the reticulated giraffe that are not found in other parks and I have heard from other travellers that game viewing can be challenging in Tsavo due to the dense vegetation following the long rains.

Due to my doubts about the ease of game-viewing in Tsavo after the long rains and some photos (Kimburu's?) I saw of Samburu after the long rains this year, we chose Samburu over Tsavo.

However, I still have Tsavo on my list for another visit. I haven't been to Amboseli, so I can't comment on that destination, however, those sundowners against a Kili backdrop sound good. Maybe you might like to consider an Amboseli-Samburu combination? Its possible to fly to Samburu and then arrange a charter flight (approx $474 USD for 2) to Nanyuki to continue with the Laikipia and Nakuru sectors of your plan.

I dropped Zanzibar from my itinerary in order to spend more time on safari, although I can see the cultural and beach appeal and may well include ZNZ in a future visit.

This is just my $0.02, hope the reasoning is helpful to you,


Treepol is offline  
Nov 24th, 2007, 11:43 PM
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I'm with Sandi...Tanzania if your friends are going in late May. I personally like the Crater, though. There's a lot to see and the setting inside the Crater is beautiful; the crater wall makes a nice backdrop to photos. Zanzibar is part of Tanzania, so you only need one visa. My favorite Tanzania outfitter is Kibo Guides. For Zanzibar, I'd recommend Ocean Tours Zanzibar.
ShayTay is offline  
Nov 25th, 2007, 08:21 AM
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Well, Sandi, Pol and Shaytay, you have certainly given me food for thought!

Last night after reading Sandi's, I tried to fit in 2 days for the Serengeti, and 1 day for the crater (which due to logistics turns out to be 2 days). I don't believe the migration was a concern to the mom, she didn't mention it anyways, but I know, as with most people that go to Africa, seeing the big cats WOULD be a concern. And, by looking at Dana's Sept Mara pictures and comparing them to my own in May, I am guessing the cats follow the migration.

The mom was the one that was concerned about not seeing the crater again, and the kids being deprived of it, so I thought that if the Serengeti was going in, then the crater would have to go in too, as I personally loved the crater and agree with Shay Tay.

So I took out Tsavo and Nakuru, and then added a day, which seemed to work on paper at least!

I'll take this to my friend next week, we have lunch every second Wed. and see what she says! Any recomendations for a good place to stay in the Serengeti? By taking out Tsavo they will be missing a camp, which they like, so a camp as opposed to a lodge would be good. They have the same opinion of budget as Jim and I do - if it's worth it, price isn't a concern, but over-the-top is certainly not neccesary.

Pol, I actually had Samburu in there originally instead of Amboseli, as we liked Amboseli but we LOVED Samburu. Then I thought of the twenty-somethings having to see Kili with sundowners in their hands and I changed it. Jan Goss's & others decription of Ol Tukai has always intrigued me too, so I changed it to Amboseli.

Gosh I never thought of the fact that Matemwe may not be open in May, I will have to check on that!

Or, the other thing I could do I guess is suggest they go in the fall instead of the spring and keep it to all Kenya?

I now KNOW why I like to just hand my credit card to Micato and say 'book it' - this is HARD!!
LyndaS is offline  
Nov 25th, 2007, 08:27 AM
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Lynda, can you list the latest version of the itinerary now that you've made some changes?

Your friends may not have mentioned the migration because they are in the initial stages of planning and don't know about it. Or they may not think they have a shot at seeing it. I think such a spectacle should be brought to their attention and then they can decide if they'd like to see it or if it is not important.
atravelynn is offline  
Nov 25th, 2007, 08:35 AM
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Yes, please post the latest version.

The West Kili area in Tanzania could be an alternative to Amboseli for views of Kili. There are some small camps here - Kambi ya Tembo, Ndarakwai and Hemingway.
Patty is offline  
Nov 25th, 2007, 09:23 AM
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Thanks Patti and Lynn! I did give Kambi Ya Tembo a thought, as I have heard that the views of Kili are really good, I will have to look into that some more.

Lynn, you may be right, they may not know about the migration, I will let her know about it.

Here's the latest version of the itinerary-

Day 1 and 2 - Nairobi - Norfolk Hotel (Day 1 is an evening arrival)
Day 3 and 4 - Fly to Ambolseli, Ol Tukai
Day 5 and 6 - Fly to the Mara (through Nairobi? not sure) Mara Safari Club
Day 7 and 8 - Fly to Nairobi, drive to Mount Kenya - 4 hrs, or fly to Nanyuki. Mount Kenya Safari Club
Day 9 and 10 - Fly to Nairobi, Arusha and the Serengeti, stay at ??
Day 11 - drive to Ngorongoro - overnight at Sopa
Day 12 - morning in the crater, drive to either Lake Manyara (Serena)or Arusha for an overnight stay, not sure which is better logistically
Day 13 & 14 - fly from Arusha to Zanzibar, Serena Inn Stonetown
Day 15 & 16 - Matemwe (if it's open, back to the drawing board if not)
Day 17 - fly to Nairobi, evening flight home
LyndaS is offline  
Nov 25th, 2007, 10:16 AM
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If heading to MKSC after the Mara, you'll need to drive (or charter) as the scheduled Wilson-Nanyuki flights depart in the morning. But you could do Amboseli-Nanyuki-Mara in that order all on scheduled flights. The flights from Amboseli to Wilson get in early enough to make the flights to Nanyuki. Or you could just keep it the order you have it and drive as it's not a bad drive.
Patty is offline  
Nov 25th, 2007, 12:02 PM
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Good food for thought, Patty, I am not sure how to look up the logistics of all these flights, I do thank you for this!

I just dug into the archives and re-read some of your first trip report, I see that you liked Finch Hattons better than Ol Tukai, but that the game was not as easy to spot at Tsavo. More food for thought!

I also read that you visited Kiambethu on the way back from Sweetwaters - this is interesting as we have been there twice, I loved it and I have recommended to my friend that she try and go there. I didn't realize it was north of the city (Micato was driving when we went) would I be safe to assume that they could visit Kiambethu easily (by making prior arrangements of course) if they drove back from MKSC to Nairobi? Or, if they decide to keep it all Kenya as in my original itinerary, then when driving north to MKSC?

On a personal note, I know you haven't been yet to the Serengeti or the crater - will you someday? As a person who hasn't seen the migration or the two parks in Tanzania mentioned, what did you think about the original itinerary?
LyndaS is offline  
Nov 25th, 2007, 12:18 PM
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Matemwe Bungalows (w/o a/c) is closed in May, opens in June; Matemwe Retreat the more expensive (w/ a/c) opens sometime in early June. Will vary from year-to-year.

If visiting the Mara or Serengeti or both, they each deserve at minimum 3/days. With 2/days only even if flying, is rushing the time in these areas.

I know you really enjoyed your stay at MKSC, but this is the place from which I'd take day/s to accommodate the Mara or Serengeti. If it's a must, then 1/day only MKSC.

If May and coming from the Central (hey, even Western) Serengeti to Ngorongoro, you can certainly do an afternoon crater visit. Next morning you can opt for a 2nd or head back to Arusha in order to fly to ZNZ avoiding an o/n Arusha.

I'm sure there will be plenty of tweaking before an itinerary is set, and if for '09 there's time.

sandi is offline  
Nov 25th, 2007, 01:43 PM
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You can use the following sites to look up flight schedules:

Some more carriers for Tanzania listed on Eben's site

Yes, they could visit Kiambethu on the way to or from MKSC.

I do plan to visit the Serengeti some day but have no real desire to visit the crater.

Since the parents have been to East Africa before, perhaps you could list where they've been previously and what they liked/disliked about their first trip and what their priorities are for their second trip. It's a bit difficult to comment on the original itinerary without knowing this as we all have different preferences and goals for our trips.
Patty is offline  
Nov 25th, 2007, 01:50 PM
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Oops, that 4th one should be
Patty is offline  
Nov 25th, 2007, 06:03 PM
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You are so right, Patty, I guess it's probably like a designer that designs clothes & uses her own likes & dislikes - there's a lot of me in that itinerary! Actually once this is all done I think I will print it out and keep it in case I ever need it!

The parents have been on a one-week safari, they won the trip, one week all inclusive plus international airfare - not a bad deal! It was a standard drive there/fly back Northern circuit Tanzania safari, started in Arusha, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro and Serengeti - Serena all the way for those three and she couldn't remember what the name of the hotel was in Arusha. They haven't been to Kenya at all, and did not see Kili as far as she remembers.

They did enjoy the game drives everyday, but she said she feared they would tire of too many game drives over the 11 days, and she worries that the kids may not want to sit in a LC everyday either, as they are very active. That's why I put MKSC in there, it was sort of like a mid-way refresh and renew, the kids could go horseback riding or play tennis, the parents could golf (they loved that idea!), or they could visit the orphanage. Or just lay out on the deck and read a book. Or visit the Nanyuki Spinners & Weavers, she really liked that idea too.

They all loved the idea of the tented camps, eyebrows were raised at first until I showed them our pictures of Kichwa Tembo, and then it was 'oh, more of those please!'. But they don't mind lodges either, and they have no preference as to whether it is an intimate affair, or a place where groups go - they are cruisers at heart and certainly don't mind crowds and buffet dinners, they are used to that.

They do want a private safari though, not a group safari, the one they won was of course a group safari.

The beach idea was totally for the kids at first, but when I showed them the pictures and told them about Matemwe Retreat, they were sold on that - totally. I think it was the plunge pool! I will tell them that they have to go in June, I looked up the website after you posted, Sandi, and indeed they are only open June 1st. That's OK, they can go in June, I am sure, they said spring 2009, that's close enough.

Thanks for all your help on this guys, I appreciate it - and as mentioned, am keeping all this for future reference for ourselves!
LyndaS is offline  
Nov 26th, 2007, 01:10 PM
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Do they want a private safari as in not traveling together with a group or as in having the vehicle to themselves? For the portions where they're flying to and from the park, they would generally use the camp's vehicle on a shared basis with other guests unless they chose to pay for a private vehicle. It's also possible that with 4, they may just end up in their own vehicle but this is not usually guaranteed except at certain camps. Another way to have a private vehicle is to have the tour operator send their vehicle and guide from Nairobi ahead of their flight to meet them on arrival.

Have you seen the activities offered by Green Footprint in Tanzania? Maybe the kids would enjoy some of these.
Patty is offline  
Nov 26th, 2007, 01:12 PM
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Patty -

"kids" - are we all that old, that twenty-somethings are kids?
sandi is offline  
Nov 30th, 2007, 12:58 PM
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Thought I should get back to everyone on the result of this!

My friend LOVED the new itinerary with the crater and the Serengeti, she was pleased that it all fit in, and will take this itinerary and send to some operators for pricing. I told her not to let them chop and change as EXPERT opinions went into this!

She said no problem on doing this itinerary in June in order to stay at Matemwe Retreat.

I will keep everyone posted as things progress with her - and rest assured I printed this out and put on file for myself in case our son and his girlfriend (Jamie & Laura) ever do say 'yes' to my offer of taking them to East Africa, and a private safari is then a necessity!
LyndaS is offline  
Nov 30th, 2007, 01:44 PM
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Lynda -

Kiambethu is only 20*/miles north of Nairobi. It's a half-day tour, arriving in time for lunch and tour.

*which, of course, has no relation as to how long the actual drive TIA

sandi is offline  
Nov 30th, 2007, 09:23 PM
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Sorry, Patty, I missed your last post on this one (along with Sandi's about the kids) when I was posting at lunch today.

They do want a private safari as opposed to going with a group the whole way, for sure, but they don't mind sharing vehicles at camps they fly to.

I will give her Green Footprints website address for her to look into the activities, I haven't previously been on their website, thanks for that info.

Oops, Sandi the 'kids' is my fault - even though mine is 29 now I still refer to him and his friends as the 'kids'! I laughed when I read that though, I really should be more conscious of that - especially when mine turns 30 shortly!
LyndaS is offline  
Dec 1st, 2007, 05:09 AM
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Lynda -

The term "kids" for these young adults, made me chuckle. Eventually we all grew up... didn't we?

sandi is offline  

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