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Feedback on Kenya accomodations with a little bit of Tanzania - long post!

Feedback on Kenya accomodations with a little bit of Tanzania - long post!

Apr 13th, 2005, 01:49 PM
  #1  
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Feedback on Kenya accomodations with a little bit of Tanzania - long post!

I'm primarily looking for feedback on our accomodation choices, but any general comments on our itinerary are welcomed as well. We could be traveling anytime from late October to early December. We prefer small camps or lodges, slightly off the beaten path, and a mix game viewing and non game viewing activities. I guess we fall into the category of those who start to get 'game drive burnout' after 5-6 straight days. Since this trip will be longer than our first, I'm trying to keep the activities/scenery/accomodations varied (no big lodges though). Cost is also an issue. We can't afford the top places and are trying to keep our nightly budget on safari to $500 for both of us. Will consider spending more if a place is particularly 'splurge worthy'.

On to the outline - approx number of days is 18, not counting flights to/from LAX:

Nairobi - we'll probably stay at the Hilton using HHonors points again. Hard to pass up a 'freebie'. One or two nights here depending on our flight schedule. I want to visit the National Museum which we didn't get a chance to see last time, do some shopping, and recover from jet lag.

Samburu - 3 nights here staying at Larsens Tented Camp. I picked Larsens over Intrepids due to its smaller size and the fact that I was told it's been recently redone. But if anyone thinks Intrepids is superior, let me know. Intrepids is slightly cheaper by about $40pp per night.

Lake Nakuru - 1 night here at Mbweha Camp. I haven't found much info on this one but it seems like the only choice in the immediate vicinity of the park other than the two big lodges. We also considered Kembu Cottages in Njoro but it's probably not worth going out of our way for a 1 night stay.

Lake Baringo - 2 nights at Island Camp. Again haven't found much info about this camp either. Sounds a bit rustic but maybe fine for 2 nights. Here we can take a break from game drives and just relax, go for boat rides around the lake, enjoy the views, the birds, go for walks. I've asked for a price to stay at Samatian Island too (the open air cottages look lovely) and am waiting to hear back. Perhaps here's a good place to splurge a bit.

Lake Naivasha area - 2 nights at Malewa River Lodge in the Kigio Conservancy. Another area with different types of activities both on site and nearby. I thought about visiting the Elsamere Conservation Center, has anyone been there? If so, was it worthwhile? How about Hells Gate National Park? As an alternative to Malewa River Lodge, we may stay at Malu which is a little closer to Lake Naivasha. Both properties offer horse riding which is a plus. I think Malu might provide more of a contrast to the other places we're staying. I'm waiting for a price on Malu as well.

Masai Mara - 3 (or possibly 4) nights. I was pretty set on Kicheche here until I found Ilkeliani camp yesterday. Is Ilkeliani a newer camp? Does anyone know exactly where it's located? It's not on any of my maps or guidebooks. The advantage I can see is that Ilkeliani set along the river, and the chaise lounges in front of the tents look inviting - I can see myself spending many hours lying in one of those On the other hand I've gotten good feedback on Kicheche and Ilkeliani is more of an unknown. I believe the two are comparable pricewise. If they're located in different areas and I can stretch our stay to 4 nights, maybe we should try both?

Right now the Kenya portion is pricing out at $2407pp for 11 nights staying at Larsens, Mbweha, Island Camp, Malewa River, and Kicheche. This is an all drive safari. I know we have 4 very long drives on the itinerary, but we didn't mind the drives last time. Probably wouldn't want to it a third time, but for this trip, I think it's OK. We still might add a flight back from the Mara depending on where we're headed next.

One other place I originally wanted to stay on this trip was Il Ngwesi but just found out that no traffic is being permitted through Lewa Conservancy from Oct 21 to Dec 1. We could fly and I'll have to find out exactly what the situation is - whether we have to fly to the Il Ngwesi airstrip in which case it would be a charter or if we can fly Air Kenya into Lewa and transfer to Il Ngwesi. I'm not sure whether they mean no outside traffic is permitted to drive through or no traffic period. If the only option is by charter, then it's probably too costly for us.

We have another 4-5 days free and this is the part we've been going back and forth over. I started looking at Selous, but the flight connections coming from Nairobi aren't ideal and I think it may be better left to another trip devoted primarily to southern Tanzania. Thought about gorilla trekking in Rwanda but the cost is scaring me. What's looking most promising right now is a horseback safari in northern Tanzania (I posted a separate question about that yesterday with more details). It sounds interesting and would provide a very different experience than the rest of our trip.

Whew! That's it for now. If you're still reading this, thanks for taking the time. Thoughts, comments, suggestions appreciated.
Patty is online now  
Apr 13th, 2005, 03:14 PM
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Patty, I can't answer your questions--just wanted to say you've obviously gotten your husband to sign on. Good for you!

$2400 for 11 days in November sounds like a great price to me. Maybe I'll have to rethink Kenya. It sounds very reasonable.

I did look at the Makoa Farm web site. Wow. I take it you are both experienced riders? I would love to do something like that. My if-money-were-no-object itinerary involves all luxury mobile tented camping and leisure riding, etc.

OH: go to Rwanda go to Rwanda go to Rwanda. Please. Is there no way you can get blood from a stone at the bank?

Best of luck--I'm off to google all your camps.

Leely is offline  
Apr 13th, 2005, 06:18 PM
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Patty,

You are spending a good deal of time around the lakes. I have thought about a trip that focuses on the "lake district." Are you and your husband lake and water people? I am interested in your motivation for including over half of your scheduled time so far in these areas.

I would encourage Rwanda also, however late Oct to early Nov could be a bit rainy and muddy for your treks. But some of the professional photographers I ran into said they preferred the rainy season because the overcast skies made for better gorilla face shots. The contrast of black fur faces and bright sun made the gorilla facial features too dark. They were cursing the cloud-free days of July and planning a return in late October!
atravelynn is offline  
Apr 13th, 2005, 09:11 PM
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Patty -

I'm going to check out all your itinerary too! I think we're also going to drop Southern Tanzania for another trip - logistics are tough for the flights and it ends up expensive. I think we might substitute Elsa's (it ends up being the same price as going south!) or Il Ngwesi. Can't wait.

Thanks for sharing all your research.

bigredoso is offline  
Apr 14th, 2005, 03:59 AM
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Patty

Mbweha Camp - I have stayed at this camp and like the area very much but the drive to Mbweha is on a road that was being repaired so not so great. But you can access Mbweha from the park gate nearby so driving through the park with a game drive would be better.

For Lake Naivasha I would suggest you stay at Crater Lake Camp which is a romantic hideaway. I haven't heard of your choice. Try and do a boat ride to crescent island and have a picnic and a walk there.

Masai Mara - I believe I have stayed at Ilkeliani Camp. It used to be called Enkang Oloren. It has a super setting on the Talek river close to Fig Tree with easy access to the game reserve. I suggest you split 4 days between Kicheche and Ilk. However, you will need a 4-wheel drive.

Il Ngwesi - if you are going to Samburu then charter a flight direct to Il Ngwesi from Samburu or from Nanyuki. Once you have done Il Ngwesi charter a flight to Nakuru where you will meet up with your driver or can charter back to Nanyuki and drive from there to Nakuru. You can actually drive from Samburu to Il Ngwesi but need a 4x4. From Il Ngwesi you can drive to Nanyuki via Borana Lodge so you don't need to drive through Lewa. you will need to confirm all this with your operator.

Gorillas - I have been thinking of doing this for sometime and have got some good rates for Rwanda Gorilla treks including return flights from Nairobi from Vintage Africa.
king is offline  
Apr 14th, 2005, 12:13 PM
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Thank you all for your replies!

Leely,
I hope you'll be able to fit some time in Kenya on your next trip. I think the costs are very reasonable too. While Kenya does have its share of places that charge upwards of $1000 a night or more, there's also plenty of choices on the affordable end, something that I had a more difficult time finding when researching Tanzania. But perhaps I just didn't dig deep enough.

As far as the horseback safari, I used to ride a lot but don't do that much of it anymore. These days our riding is mostly limited to vacations. I've tried to be very upfront with them about this and what they've suggested is that we try to view game from a distance, rather than try to approach potentially dangerous game like elephants closely, which is fine with us. I think even the non-game viewing rides from the farm through the coffee plantation will be nice.

I have one more hurdle to conquer (actually 2, but the other is relatively minor) to make this trip happen and that is to find award seats using our Delta miles so we can fly in business class. My husband will only go along with the plan on the condition that we don't have to fly in economy! We spoiled ourselves last time, emptying both our FF accounts for two business class tickets and taking advantage of the free stopover to stay 4 nights in Paris on our way to Kenya. I honestly didn't imagine that I'd want to return so soon. At the time, we figured we'd have a few years to build our accounts back up before returning to Africa. Right now I'm waiting for a batch of miles to post that I'm supposed to get from opening a home equity line (the lengths I will go to just so I can travel ) which hopefully will show up in my Delta account the first week of May. The waiting is driving me nuts! After that happens, I'm going to try to put 2 tickets on hold and hope that seats are still available (I am reasonably confident). I still won't have all the miles necessary and will end up having to buy some more, which isn't inexpensive, but it's far, far less than the best price I could find of $10K for 2 legitimate (not other people's brokered awards) business class tickets. Wish me luck!

Oh and don't tempt me with the gorilla trekking, remember I have that home equity line now Just kidding, I would never actually do that. Part of the condition for getting the miles was that we had to draw the full amount of the line at closing. Of course, I wired it all back immediately, but it was nice looking at all those zeros in my bank account if only for a few days and dreaming about all of the places I could have gone

atravelynn,
We wanted a good balance of game viewing days and just kickback and relax days on our itinerary. Since the rift valley lakes are located in between Samburu and the Mara, it seemed like a logical choice to spend some extra days exploring this area. I've also read that the bird viewing around Lake Baringo is at its very best from Oct-Dec. While I wouldn't have thought of ourselves as birdwatchers before, we had a really great time doing just that on our last trip.

bigredoso,
Good luck with your plans. I'm so excited for you! You have to promise to post a trip report.

king,
Glad to hear you liked Mbweha and thanks for the tip on the best way to arrive.

Crater Lake Camp was on my original list for consideration but I thought we might prefer a change in scenery/setting having just come from Lake Baringo which is why I was leaning more toward Malewa or Malu. I may have to give it some further consideration though.

I'd wondered if Ilkeliani used to go by a different name. I'll have to do a search on its former incarnation and see what else I can find. It seems that the 2 camps are located in different enough areas to warrant splitting our stay. That's just what we may end up doing.

Our original plan was to drive from Samburu to Il Ngwesi but it sounds like this wouldn't be possible during our time frame. Is there a route from Samburu to Il Ngwesi that doesn't go through Lewa (without having to detour some distance out of our way)? My tour operator is checking on the flight options for us. If it gets too complicated or costly, we may just skip it. Something to save for another trip.

I know you probably haven't had a chance to finish your trip report but I'd love to hear a quick impression of your stay at Kipungani when you have time.

Thanks for your feedback. I really value your opinion (and this isn't meant as a slight to anyone else so I hope no one takes it the wrong way). One of my all time favorite threads on the Africa board is the one you started (and contributed to by many others) entitled Location, Location, Location. I tried to keep that in mind when planning our first trip and refer back to it often.

For anyone who hasn't come across this thread before, I think it should be required reading when planning a safari -

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34489939
Patty is online now  
Apr 14th, 2005, 12:48 PM
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Patty -

Can't believe I actually missed an East African thread. But it seems you got a good handle on your plans, and have received great input. The news is that you're seriously planning a return trip (as is Leely) and so soon after your first... It's so great to hear of return trips and how first-time visitors come to realize how wonderful a trip to Africa is and what an impact it has on their lives. And it looks like you may have a third trip in there if you can't coordinate Il Ngwesi this trip.

King - I'm also waiting to read the balance of your trip report?
 
Apr 14th, 2005, 02:35 PM
  #8  
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Links for Leely (in case you haven't had a chance to search yet):

Larsens Tented Camp - I understand it's been redone since these pics - http://www.africanmeccasafaris.com/k...arsenscamp.asp

Mbweha Camp - http://www.vintageafrica.com/WWAWP/W...SYNC_140561897

Island Camp - www.island-camp.com

Samatian Island Lodge - www.samatianislandlodge.com

Malewa River Lodge - www.malewariverlodge.com

Malu - www.malu-kenya.com

Kicheche Mara Camp - www.kicheche.com

Ilkeliani Camp (formerly Enkang Oloirien) - www.ilkeliani.com - wow, I just noticed that they've completely redone their website since yesterday!
Patty is online now  
Apr 14th, 2005, 02:44 PM
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Oops, that second link doesn't seem to work. Go to www.vintageafrica.com and on the right hand side choose Kenya under Select Accomodations, then click on Classic (right side orange bar), go down to Rift Valley and click on Mbweha Camp.
Patty is online now  
Apr 14th, 2005, 03:07 PM
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Thanks, Patty.

I'm sure these links will help a great number of people.

Even what you think may be a bit rustic (Island Camp) looks wonderfully atmospheric to me. But I have to admit Larsen's and Ilkeliani have captured my heart.

Who was the poster who said it is like being at a buffet where every choice is tempting?

(Believe it or not, I *have* to make a quick trip to Rome in May. Then I have a feeling it will be just long weekends in Tahoe for me until 2006.)

I really appreciate your willingness to share all the results of yor research with us.
Leely is offline  
Apr 14th, 2005, 03:56 PM
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Patty -

I got a price quote from Let's Go for $860 fly-in/fly out for 3 nights, each for two people to Il Ngwesi. I think we may go for it! Elsa's came in $1300 for a fly/in out package - sounds amazing, we could strech but I fear we need to set aside more for the Seychelles.

Any ideas on reasonable places to work off jet lag near Nairobi?
bigredoso is offline  
Apr 15th, 2005, 03:39 AM
  #12  
sandi
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bigredoso -

For Nairobi, at reasonable prices you can consider:

1)The Inter-continental - an International chain hotel, but they offer reasonable prices to many in-country outfitters.
2)The Hilton - if you have Hilton Points
3)The Mayfair
4)The Jacaranda - has a pool
5)The Fairview - small family hotel with lovely gardens

More expensive, but might have "deals"

1)The Norfolk
2)The Stanley
3)The Serena
4)Safari Club


Below properties are on outskirts, and on the expensive side, but deals might be found:
1)Windsor Golf & Country Club
2)Macushla House
3)Ngong House
4)House of Waine

Not knowing your budget, it's difficult to be specific, but a Google search for "hotels Nairobi Kenya" will bring up a few hotel booking sites where you can get an idea of others available and approximate prices.

 
Apr 15th, 2005, 11:36 AM
  #13  
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bigredoso,
Does the price for Il Ngwesi include game activities? If so, that sounds pretty good.

As for Nairobi, I've only stayed at the Hilton and will probably stay there again. It's located right in the center of the city. Just down the street is the Intercontinental. Both of these places occasionally have web rates starting around $80 a night. Just go to www.hilton.com or www.intercontinental.com.

I don't know if you have a preference for location. If you're not a city person, you might prefer staying somewhere around the southern suburbs of Karen and Langata. This area is more residential and green and has the advantage of having a lot of the usual tourist sites nearby (check this thread for things to do in Nairobi - http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34581311 ). The less expensive ones here are Macushla House or the Blixen Coffee Garden cottages, although I think they're still pricier than the downtown hotels.

You could try the Lonely Planet Thorntree board for less expensive suggestions.

This place also looked interesting to me - www.palacina.com - and it shows that their one bedrooms are $105 per night double occupancy. Does anyone know anything about it? I'm unsure of its location. I think it's to the east of the city. The pictures certainly make it look attractive!

How are you coming along with your other mini safaris? I noticed Ilkeliani has very reasonable fly-in rates too - $415pp for 2 nights with air and game drives if you can stay before June 30. It's located on the Talek river near Basecamp which you were also considering.
Patty is online now  
Apr 15th, 2005, 07:47 PM
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Patty & Sandi - thanks for all the posts.

I checked Orbitz and had lowest rates for Nairobi Hilton - $75. Better than Hilton's own site. Pretty good.

Il Ngwesi includes game drives - got huge difference in price quotes - Let's go cheapest.

Elsa's - still thinking about it vs. Il Ngwesi (and $1000 difference). Vintage came in cheapest so far at $1275 for 3 nights.

You've both done lots of research on the Mara camps - I'm about to book Basecamp - but if prices are similar at Ilkeliani or others then I could switch. What to do? An ideal world - small camp where we could see/hear hippos from our tent. May have to wait for Selous.

Interesting place in Lankata - was looking for places to stay in Surburb and ran across this http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/ that is a base point for "green safaris". I emailed and asked if I could stay two nights ($30/person/night)and the woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize emailed me back. I think we'll stay here at least a night to support the center and talk to this interesting woman. Will definatly trip report on this center as I can find no info on this.

Okay - gotta take a break from honeymoon planning and get back to wedding planning...
bigredoso is offline  
Apr 15th, 2005, 08:37 PM
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FYI if you end up at the Hilton -

There's an internet cafe right out the front door of the Hilton that charges 1 KES per minute (with a 20 KES minimum) versus the Hilton business center which is 20 KES per minute.

There's a Nakumatt store (local grocery chain) a short walk down the street. You should be able to see it from the Hilton or just ask the doorman to point you in the right direction. It's actually right across from the Stanley.

Either of those Mara camps sounds nice. I don't think you can go wrong here.

For hippos right from your tent, I don't think you could do any better than Finch Hattons, at least in Kenya. We even encountered one out of the water as we were being escorted to dinner one night. The funniest thing was the morning we were leaving Tsavo, we actually saw a hippo right on the road and it was very late for this guy to be out. He saw us coming and starting running away. The sight of this hippo galloping off was hilarious!
Patty is online now  
May 9th, 2005, 08:42 AM
  #16  
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Our updated itinerary for Lynn (as it stands now) -

Samburu - 3 nights at Larsens
Nakuru - 1 night at Mbweha Camp
Baringo - 2 nights at Samatian Island
Naivasha - 2 nights at Malu
Mara - 4 nights split between Kicheche and Ilkeliani

12 nights total with 5 nights in the rift valley lakes. We'll also overnight in Nairobi on both ends. And after that ???

I'm waiting for Eben to return from his stay at Ndarakwai ranch before making a decision on the riding safari
Patty is online now  
May 9th, 2005, 09:56 AM
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Since Friday Mbweha Camp has its own website at www.mbwehacamp.com. It needs more and better pictures though.
Nyamera is offline  
May 9th, 2005, 10:43 AM
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Thanks for the reminder, Patty

I'm making an entry in my notebook: "report on horseriding!".

I am visting Makoa, Ndarakwai and Uto farm and any new upstarts.

Have you heard of Uto?

Plan is to arrive this coming weekend!
Eben
climbhighsleeplow is offline  
May 9th, 2005, 11:09 AM
  #19  
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Nyamera,
Thanks for letting me know about the new website!

Eben,
I figured you'd see this before you go

I've heard of Uto farm and looked at their riding itineraries too. I haven't contacted them because it seems that they offer group trips, and we want to organize something just for the two of us (and at the same time not prohibitively costly).

I'm glad to hear you'll be visiting Makoa too. Tell Elisabeth that Patty (who's been emailing her about a possible trip in November) says 'hello'.

Any other places on your list this trip?
Patty is online now  
May 9th, 2005, 12:33 PM
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Thanks for the updated itinerary, Patty. I'll be interested in the riding parts of your safari.
atravelynn is offline  

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