Final itinerary - any comments?

Jan 13th, 2006, 05:40 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2006
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Final itinerary - any comments?

Have finally decided (I think) on the following itinerary of 10days/9nts for end of September 06:
2 nts Samburu Serena Lodge
1 nt Serena Mountain Lodge
2 nts Island Camp Lake Baringo
1 nt Sarova Lion Hill in Nakuru
3 nts Mara Sopa Lodge
This is to be a private tour with Eastern & Southern Safaris.
Patty, unfortunately our budget wouldn't stretch to the Samation Camp in Lake Baringo but it did look lovely.
After reading various comments re position of Mara Sopa I'm wondering if we should look at other options keeping in mind that we're trying to limit costs. Our Aussie dollar is only about 3/4 of the US dollar so, to us, the costs are considerably higher!
joode is offline  
Jan 13th, 2006, 06:19 PM
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Hey joode (couldn't resist),

Nice itinerary. Only suggestion I have is that you might want to consider the Mara Serena. My family was in Kenya and Tanzania for two weeks last summer, and out of all of the lodges we stayed at, the consensus favorite was the Mara Serena. Great location for game drives, beautiful site on a hill overlooking grasslands, very nice accomodations, good food, etc. If you go, watch out for that baboon that likes to run through the smaller of the two dining rooms, grab a bite, and hightail it before anyone knows what's happening! Jack
wjsonl is offline  
Jan 13th, 2006, 06:32 PM
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That's a great trip. I too would opt for Serena over Sopa for location. I've enjoyed a stay at Serena, but have not been to Sopa. But with a private vehicle, you can stay out all day with a packed lunch and drive to wherever the action is.
So you are not as tied to the Sopa location.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 13th, 2006, 10:25 PM
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i'll sum up my view:

@ I would change the order of the tour
for 2 advantages: first less driving; secondly passing through a more remote less touristic area with encounters with some more traditional ethnic Pokot & Samburu + beautiful viewpoints.
{if u do it this way i'll give u very detailed TIPS)
NBI-> Mt. Lodge -> Samburu --> to Baringo through the northern road c-77
(Kisima etc').

@@ In Mara i agree there r better locations as we've already discussed.
Serena is certaily one of them - esp since there's a chance 2c river crossing by the gnus. Secondly it is less crowded by tourist cars
BUT there r other options if budget is dictating (all should b cheaper):
1) Keekorok - excellent location. i think it was burnt down & refurbished recently (or stay in the tents)
2) Mara Simba - again better location
3) Fig Tree Camp - if u stay in the Tents (if the old cabins r there dont even consider). there had been some complaints on food in the past
4) Even Sarova - though near the SEkenani gate has a somewhat better location than Sopa. It is much closer to Talek (good game & lions), closer to keekorok area (another v good game area). & u can also drive to Sopa area easily... It is a really nice place and the food is good!

BUT if u stay in Sopa - and i have, (many times!) u shall still see a lot !!
tip: take a breakfast box on more than 1 day (the lodge is used to people going as far as the Mara river hippo pools taking breakfast boxes) & make a long game drive from 6:30 to noon time. Tip the driver extra. (Even u caome back at 13:00 - there r 3 hours to rest eat & swim before afternoon g.d.)
If u decide to drive to the river do it on the second full day. there may b long stretches of drive with little wildlife on the way.
On the first full day take a breakfast box & go to Talek & Keekorok area, so the afternoon shrter game drive u can stay around (though u can reach keekorok etc' if u wish to return to a certain spot like a kill ...)

@ Island camp is beautiful (Canvas condition is minor)

@ (i know again others will think differently)i still think Naivasha is an excellent experience (knowing it intimately) it is possible to leave mara after lunch thus "losing" only one afternoon game drive. half a day in Naivasha if planned carefully is really rewarding & different . u r now very close to NBI so can stay later in Naivasha depends when is your flight

Anyhow u have an exciting experience awaiting U

aby is offline  
Jan 13th, 2006, 10:58 PM
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Did you consider renting like a suzuki and driving it yourself? That will cut expenses considerably and it really is quite easy to self drive. Maybe fly into the Mara to a bit of a better camp/lodge. I did something similar in '87 and had a great time. Still remember getting up early before breaksfast, and doing a game drive from Lion Hill. At dinner the previous nite they said there were no predators in the park. On the other side of the lake the next AM saw a leopard. The staff didn't believe me till I bet them money that I had a 1/2 roll of film that said otherwise.
luangwablondes is offline  
Jan 14th, 2006, 12:07 AM
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I wouldn't recommend self drive for a first time. The driver guides have the advantage of local knowledge and radios!
Pumbavu is offline  
Jan 14th, 2006, 05:46 AM
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Because the Serena has such a great location (and no other property in the area/side of the river) it is well booked for the season. Most every date is being waitlisted as the likes of A&K, Micato and other "big guys" are holdng blocks of rooms. These won't be released until about 60 days prior client's arrivals.

The price for the Serena, Sopa and Keekorok should be the same, but based on availability. However, I would suggest you consider one of the tented camps in the Mara to end your safari on a high and "true African experience." The Sarova Mara fills this requirement and priced about the same as those listed above. Though a larger camp, will probably fit your budget.

Another camp, not too far from Sopa is Sekenani Tent Camp. About 10-tents, high in the hills, up a stone staircase. Sleeping tents and dining tent separated by a bridge over a shallow brook. No electricity, but regular showers and a big bathtub in the rear of the tent (plenty of hot water powered by a small gas tank at the rear of each tent)... wonderful after a full day of game viewing. It's been a few years since I've been here so can't advise when/if last refurbished, but do clearly remember that the waiters served you in their tuxedo attire. Check with ESS about this camp if interested.

Site for Sekenani Camp:

And remember, since you're on a private safari you can drive anywhere to find the game.
Jan 14th, 2006, 05:49 AM
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... just checked the Sekenani site, apparently the tents have been refurbished since I last visited. They look great. And, sorry... they have 15-tents, not ten.
Jan 14th, 2006, 06:22 AM
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i agree. (though different companies do have reductions on those lodges as compared to Serena.)

Sekenani again would b on the edge of the park
aby is offline  
Jan 14th, 2006, 01:49 PM
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There aren't all that many lodges/camps inside the Mara proper. Many camps are on the various surrounding conservations lands. To me, the driving doesn't matter as there's so much to see along the way to/from.
Jan 14th, 2006, 06:19 PM
Original Poster
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Posts: 89
Hi, I've been away for a couple of days and came back to all this great advice. Thanks for all your comments and inside info - it's very helpful to a first-timer like me!
Funny thing Aby, my husband (after looking at a map of Kenya) asked why we didn't go to the Mtn Lodge first and then onto Samburu so I will definitely ask ESS to change the route - good advice.
I will also request alternatives to Mara Sopa that you have suggested & depending on cost and availability, will probably go for the Serena. I suppose the accommodation will all depend on what's actually available at the time so we may have to accept alternatives wherever if it's very busy anyway! As Sandi commented it doesn't matter too much where you're staying as long as there's things to see during the drive.
The breakfast boxes sound the way to go too - good thinking - what a great way to have a picnic! I just hope our poor driver/guide doesn't mind getting up early also!
Will also take on board your comments re trip back to NBO re Naivaisha, sounds good.
Talking about TIPS: What is the norm for tipping the driver/guide, lodge staff etc.? Please help an Aussie out here! We are certainly happy to tip for good service and don't want to offend but it's just not as big a thing in Australia as it is in the States!
Now must do that email to Serah at ESS (she's been very patient so far).
By the way Jack, Hey Jude is one of my favourites!

joode is offline  
Jan 15th, 2006, 07:28 AM
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There are other threads about tipping, and it seems to depend very much on the person... $20 a day would be my minimum for good service, on the basis that it represents around 10% AND seems to correspond with general guidelines and with the normal level of a reasonable tip in Kenya (but with ceilings - if you are paying 10000 shilligns for a meal it is not expected that you would tip 1000). Personally I tipped a lot more, but that was a personal thing.
kimburu is offline  
Jan 15th, 2006, 01:43 PM
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Thanks Kimburu - should've thought of that myself. Anyway, have now done so and found more than enough info.
joode is offline  
Jan 19th, 2006, 01:50 PM
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We've booked! Excited, even though it's still months away. Just thought I'd mention that on requesting Eastern & Southern Safaris to change route from Smbru-MtnLdge-LBaringo to MtnLodge-Smbru-LBaringo Serah advised that they preferred not to use the Maralal Road between Samburu and Baringo due to security reasons even though it's a shorter route. So, in this case, I shall stick with the experts!
Also, we're now waitlisted for the Mara Serena.
Does anyone have any advice on obtaining a reasonable return fare on airlines/airfares between JOHANNESBURG and NAIROBI? I've been searching but they seem rather expensive. I was just wondering if the airlines run specials every so often or am I dreaming to hope to get one in late September? I would appreciate any advice.
joode is offline  

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