First safari - advice sought

Old Nov 6th, 2006, 05:47 AM
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First safari - advice sought

My wife and I are nearly 50 and live in an urban area near to London. We want to go on a safari holiday followed by a period spent relaxing.Though it will be lovely seeing all the bird and animal life, we really want to see elephants and lions, and consider any other animal or bird sightings a bonus. We wish to book our holiday with one company (or agent) rather than making several individual bookings. I have looked at various reviews and though the smaller more intimate camps are lovely, I think we are probably more suited to Serena type properties, as they offer us our creature comforts which I think we would otherwise miss.

Our suggested programme is :
Driven by minivan from Nairobi to serena Sweetwaters tented camp (stay 2 nights)
Driven by minivan from Sweetwaters to Samburu Serena (stay 2 nights)
Fly to Mara Serena (stay 3 nights) exclusive use of 4WD vehicle during our stay for game drives
Fly to Nairobi and then driven by minivan to Kilaguni serena (stay 2 nights) before being driven by minivan to Mombassa Beach (stay 4 nights)

I would ask two questions:

Firstly - should our safari be good for seeing our favourite animal - the elephant. I have not considered the Serena Amboseli as it did not get the same high rating in Fodors and Traveladvisor reviews as other Serena properties get.

Secondly - cost - the quote I have had from Serena works out at $470 per person per night - this is high season and the rates are for 2008. Do they seem reasonable?

Thanks to all of you who help us to make the right choice with our holidays
offtokenya is offline  
Old Nov 6th, 2006, 06:09 AM
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would eliminate one night at sweetwaters. I understand not too much there to experience. Would add a night at Samburu. Would fly from Mara to Lamu via Nairobi. I understand Mombasa not as nice. You might want to see my trip report from August.

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...p;tid=34868269

Please note I am no expert. Only have gone the one trip.

Price sounds high. Are you booking directly through Serena? Otherwise try Southern Cross or Eastern and Southern.

Good luck,

Kevin from California
stakerk is offline  
Old Nov 6th, 2006, 07:20 AM
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If you want to see Elephants I would make 2 suggestions.

1. Go to Tsavo
2. Go to Tsavo

You can't miss the elephants there. You may also consider a trip to the Sheldrick Animal Orphanage whilst you're in Nairobi. You'll have a very close baby elephant experience.

There are no guarentees to see lions wherever you go BUT Seen lots in Tsavo and Maasai Mara.

$470 per person per night sounds like daylight robbery.

I would talk to Eastern and Southern
Pumbavu is offline  
Old Nov 6th, 2006, 07:41 AM
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You can check out this thread containing East Africa safari reports

http://fodors.com/forums/threadselec...p;tid=34860283

What months are you looking at?

Samburu and the Mara are good for elephants and lions. I've seen many in both places without difficulty. I've never been to Sweetwaters but it does have night drives and rhinos and a chimp sanctuary. I believe it will be your only place for night drives, based on your itinerary, your best shot at rhinos, and the only place in Kenya to see chimps (though they are not wild, but rescued and living in a wild setting.) These are real assets, but you mentioned lions and eles with "other birds/animals as a bonus," and I don't know how Sweetwaters ranks for eles and lions.

If eles are a goal, I'd include Amboseli, because they are present in abundace. Some of my favorite ele photos were taken in my very short stay in Amboseli. I've been in the Serena in Amboseli, but never stayed there and it was very fancy. Or you could stay somewhere else--Tortelis Camp (I was there and loved it) or Ol Tukai (gets great reviews, esp for location). I tend to pick places by the wildlife in the vicinity and am tolerant with the accommodations. But I can't imagine Amboseli Serena being unacceptable. The downside of Amboseli, regardless of where you stay, is dust. Especially in the dry season it can be dustier than other places.

The $470 per night per person sounds high, but I don't know what is projected for 2008. Certainly shop this around.

One coment on the smaller more intimate camps. I cannot think of a creature comfort they do not provide, other than solid walls and maybe a little more warmth in the night. Usually they have better food, more upscale furnishings, and certainly more personal service. Of course that comes with a cost that exceeds Serena properties. Having written that, nothing against Serena, which have fine lodgings and food.

Have a wonderful time.
atravelynn is offline  
Old Nov 6th, 2006, 08:24 AM
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Hello Offtokenya,
2008? It’s not 2007 yet!
Samburu and Tsavo are “elephant parks”, and there are elephants in the Mara and Sweetwaters as well. There are lions in all the parks, especially in the Mara.
The price sounds frighteningly high.
Good luck.
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Old Nov 6th, 2006, 09:28 AM
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Thanks for all your replies - the booking would be with Serena direct, however I made an error in my calculations and the cost for the 13 day/14 nights holiday works out at $430 per person tonight. The trip is in February/March 2008 (Serena's high season). Most companies that I have been in contact with say 2008 prices will be 10 - 15% higher than 2007 prices. Serenas prices for 2007 are shown as $375 (I think the same at all their camps) therefore my transportation costs, increase in 2008 prices and exclusive use of a 4WD vehicle in the Mara and a Hippo Beakfast amount to $55 per person per night. Does this still seem too much? If so how much should I be looking at paying?
Thanks once again.
offtokenya is offline  
Old Nov 6th, 2006, 11:18 AM
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I think 430pppn is still high for all Serena properties even considering potential rate increases for 2008. I would contact a few other operators. They may only be able to provide you with quote based on 2007 rates but you could add an approx % increase and compare. Keep in mind that the rates posted on the Serena website are rack rates and tour operators receive discounted rates.

I've been to Sweetwaters, Mara, Tsavo West and Amboseli and though we saw elephants at all of these locations, the park where we encountered the greatest concentration of elephants out of the 4 is Amboseli (my stay in Amboseli was in February), so you may want to reconsider if elephant viewing is a priority. I haven't been to Samburu yet.

In Amboseli, we stayed at Ol Tukai Lodge which overlooks a swamp area and we could see eles from our cottage patio. I could be wrong but I don't believe that you can see the same amount of wildlife from the Serena.

You may also want to consider splurging at Elephant Watch Camp www.elephantwatchsafaris.com in Samburu as their guides would be intimately familiar with the ele families there. Jan has stayed there many times and written about the camp in her trip reports:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...p;tid=34523103

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...p;tid=34567725

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...p;tid=34668517

It sounds like a unique experience for elephant lovers and certainly you could "rough it" a couple of nights for the experience?

I believe you can now go on night game drives from the Mara Serena, so Sweetwaters wouldn't be your only opportunity for night game drives, but I agree with atravelynn that it offers your best chance for rhino viewing (guaranteed chance if you count Morani) on your itinerary. There's also a rhino sanctuary in Tsavo West which is open to the public for two hours in the afternoon, but sightings can be hit or miss.

Good luck with your planning!
Patty is offline  
Old Nov 6th, 2006, 11:27 AM
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On their website Serena’s high season full board rack rates for this year for Samburu and the Mara are shown as $275 for a double room (2 people). http://www.serenahotels.com/kenya/mara/rates.asp
Then you have to add park fees, vehicle, flights and % for 2008. You could compare with Eastern and Southern’s Kenya safaris http://www.essafari.co.ke/lodgesafariskenya.htm

Nyamera is offline  
Old Nov 8th, 2006, 07:51 PM
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hi Offtokenya

i totally agree with Pumbavu's
<b>&quot;$470 per person per night sounds like daylight robbery.&quot; </b> i'm shocked ...

When talking about LODGES, except maybe for Mara (location during certain times) i'd check the alternatives. (in Mara may check CAMP rates as well)
Have i missed th TIME of your safari??
In Samburu, a small park, Serena has no location advantages
(Samburu Game Lodge is actually somewhat better positioned)

Instead of Sweetwaters i'd go to a nightviewing lodge (Ark/ Mt. Lodge / TreeTops) very good chances for lengthy observations of Ellies (they come on most nights). from the hide u can also hear them breathing ...

i agree that Amboseli &amp; Tsavo should be considered for Elephant lovers.
i'd consider Tsavo East
In Samburu u'll probably see the ellies from closest range especially in the riverine forest
If u consider staying on south coast, u can visit Shimba Hills reserve
There's a night viewing lodge as well there
When walking on foot to Shedrick falls u may see some ellies as well (not at all guaranteed, but if so it is an experience though u should know how to behave)

aby
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Old Nov 20th, 2006, 06:12 AM
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Try Sun Trek Safaris - www.suntreksafaris.com I am an indipendent safari guide and use them as my ground gandler on escorted safaris. All safaris are conducted in 4 wheelers. Compettive pricing. thats about my 2 pennies worth for now. dont hesitate to ask for more info on Kenya and Tanzania!
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Old Nov 20th, 2006, 07:15 AM
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Aby,

Can you expound on what you know about lodge/camp locations in Samburu?

Why is Samburu Game Lodge in a better position than Serena?

Thanks.
atravelynn is offline  
Old Nov 20th, 2006, 07:20 AM
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are you dividing the total cost into the number of nights? if so, that doesn't give the accurate cost of per night at a lodge as your quote includes transportation from lodge to lodge including your flight to Mara Serena. Flights are not cheap. still comes out the same but you're not paying $470.pppn <b>just</b> for lodging.
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Old Nov 20th, 2006, 09:30 AM
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I believe that the replies in this thread stating that the price sounded high did account for both ground and air transportation costs between lodges. Most East African operators quote a total cost with everything bundled together as opposed to lodge/camp and transportation separately.

In any case, according to a thread on another message board, I believe the OP has chosen to book directly with Serena.
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