First safari and route help appreciated!

Jan 27th, 2006, 11:52 AM
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First safari and route help appreciated!

Hello from Canada,
We are planning our first trip to Africa for Feb. - March 2007 and have long dreamed of Kenya and Tanzania. For three years we've drooled over the Stanley wing safari in the Micato brochure, but now after all our reading - guides, magazines and Fodorite postings - our thinking has changed and our priorities are : open vehicle game drives (at least half the time if possible), walks, three day stays at luxury camps (longer if our budget weren't a consideration!) and time to soak up the feel of a place rather than rushing off to the next destination. Yet as this will probably be our only opportunity to visit Africa, we need to see the Crater, the Serengeti, the Mara.

We'd like to fly in to Nairobi and see the Blixen home, Giraffe centre, stay at the Norfolk (must-do's for us.) Would it make sense to then:

fly to the Chyulu Hills (Ol Donyo Wuas) for 3 nights;
fly to Sand River in the Selous for 3 nights;
fly to Ngorongoro crater (Serena lodge)for 2 nights;
drive to the Serengeti Serena for 2
fly out to the Little Governor's camp in the Mara via Nairobi for 3 night;
then fly to Lewa Downs for 3 nights
and back to Nairobi?

Can anyone recommend a suitable operator for such a route?
The more we read the more questions we have! For instance, we got the impression that if an operator is hired and they provide a guide/driver to take you from place to place, you must use that guide for game drives and not the vehicles/drivers supplied with the camps (even though their
vehicles might be lovely open ones?)
Thank you for any advice! It's still baby steps but our priorities are finally beginning to crystallize and we are so appreciative of the comments on the forum! They really do help!
carolines is offline  
Jan 27th, 2006, 12:10 PM
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The Serengeti and the Mara are both part of a single ecosystem, and the movement of the Migration gives them complementary seasons -- when one is at its best, the other isnt't. I'm not sure that visiting them both makes sense given the logistical hassles with crossing the border. At the time you are thinking of travelling, the wildebeest will be calving in the Serengeti. On the other hand, both areas have resident wildlife which will still be around when the migration is gone.

jasher is offline  
Jan 27th, 2006, 12:36 PM
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I agree with Julian that you may want to consider skipping the Mara and spending more time in the Serengeti instead. Can you arrange to fly home from DAR? If so, I think you could go in this order - Lewa, Chyulu Hills, Ngorongoro, Serengeti, Selous - to minimize travel time rather than backtracking to Nairobi. You can redistribute the 3 nights you had in the Mara elsewhere. This way you don't feel like you're moving around all of the time and you still get to experience a good cross section of different parks/ecosystems.

I don't see any reason why you couldn't pay extra to use the camp vehicles for your game drives even if your tour operator is providing a vehicle/guide on a driving safari. It looks like you're flying everywhere for the most part, so I don't see much conflict on that issue anyway. I believe only enclosed vehicles are allowed in the crater. I'd check with each camp at your other locations to make sure they have open vehicles if that's a priority. You might want to check out the seasonal camps in the Serengeti for that time of year -

Sounds like a great trip!
Patty is offline  
Jan 27th, 2006, 01:59 PM
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Thank-you Julian and Patty! First of all it is music to my ears to hear you
confirm the wildebeest (and babies!) would be in the Serengeti in February. Would the Migration Camp be too far north to see this? Should we stick with the Serengeti Serena?

The route you describe does make a lot of sense, even if we do decide to keep the Mara in our itinerary - I guess we would begin there and back track to Lewa! Have either of you spent any time there, or in Ol Donyo Wuas?

Is a single day (two nights) really enough for the Serengeti I wonder?

Is it a bad thing to miss Amboseli and Lake Manyara? All the tour operators seem to include these! We would hate to miss out on elephants!!

Also, has anyone travelled with Thomson safaris? We picked up a brochure at an agent's last week and would be interested to hear from anyone that's used them. We've also read about a company called Big Five - any advice?

Thank you so much!!!!
carolines is offline  
Jan 27th, 2006, 02:05 PM
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I got ding-ed on this just yesterday (oops!), but I think I now know that you very much would want to spend some time in the Ndutu area of the Serengeti in February--right, guys?

Thomson is a well-respected outfit, but of course you could probably do better pricewise--if that is a concern--using an in-country operator. Roy is one that comes up again and again on this board, although there are certainly many others.

I would say definitely, definitely, definitely spend more than two nights in the Serengeti!

Manyara can be a one-day affair. You're right: no shortage of elephants in Manyara, although you'll see them elsewhere. I haven't been to Kenya other than Nairobi.

I'm looking forward to hearing how your itinerary develops. Good luck!
Leely is offline  
Jan 27th, 2006, 02:36 PM
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Migration camp is pretty far north. The Serengeti Serena is considered central serengeti, and you want to be in the southern serengeti in Feb-March.

From my own research, Thomson is a highly regarded operator. However, everything I've read indicates that they're very expensive for private safaris. Other operators in this class include Africa Dream Safaris (US) or Africa Travel Resource (UK). I believe ADS focuses on Tanzania, though.
lifelist is offline  
Jan 27th, 2006, 02:38 PM
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Agree with the others that the Mara isn't at optimum,though if time allows can deserve a visit. However, depending on your point of entry/departure - Nairobi (NBO), Kilimanjaro (JRO) or Dar-es-Salaam (DAR), you can still do a bit of both countries.

How many days do you have in total?

And apparently from the itinerary you show, flying from place-to-place something you are willing to consider. This said, note that most Scheduled flights within Kenya depart in the mornings... with the exception of to/fr the Mara with have a morning and afternoon flight. To make for smooth transfers from place to place you may have to consider private charters which will add to your budger.

Once in the Serengeti, if you also want to visit Selous, this is a long flight from the Serengeti via Arusha to the Selous in the southern Tanzania area.

You show yourself going north Kenya, south Kenya, west Kenya; then Southwest to Tanzania at the Crater and further west to Serengeti before backtracking to get to the Selous. It's all doable, but will take time and lots of flight tickets, some of which may have to be private charters; particularly in Kenya there is no scheduled flight to Ol Donyo Wuas.

The Stanley Winged safari is interesting, but doesnt cover much of what you mention above; they basically use mid-range lodges and is quite expensive - about $8K/person.

Advise what are your "must sees" and then we can comment.

Jan 27th, 2006, 02:44 PM
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I'd spend more than 2 nights and look at the accomodation options in the southern Serengeti. Ndutu is a small lodge and Kusini is a permanent tented camp both located in this area. In addition there are several seasonal camps that set up here - Olakira, Nomad, etc.

If you're able to use Google Earth, I would download the Serengeti and Ngorongoro maps from this website - - which will show you the location of all of the lodges, permanent and seasonal camps. There are also photos and descriptions of accomodations on that site.
Patty is offline  
Jan 29th, 2006, 09:50 AM
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Suitable agents for your trip: Here are some that have been used by Fodorites that work with Selous accommodations.

Africa Adventure
Africa Travel Resource
Good Earth
Southern Cross Safaris
WildTrek Safaris

Changing ground operators: Kenya looks like it would be well suited to using the lodge's/camp's guide and vehicle. I did that when visiting Lewa Downs and a camp no longer operating in the Masai Mara. Little Gov's was outstanding when I visited on my 1st trip to Africa.

You'd likely have the same vehicle/guide for the Crater and Serengeti. Selous would be a separate excursion requiring a flight and vehicle/guide at Sand River.

As for the type of vehicles (open or popup), make sure your wishes are known to your agent. There are park restrictions that must be followed as to vehicle type. Best to consult an agent on that.

In Feb/March the most action is in the Serengeti vs. the Mara. I'd spend at least 3 days in the Serengeti and focus more south. Patty mentioned Ndutu for a permanent lodge or Nomad for mobile camps. If you chose Thomson's they would have you stay at the best location for the time you are traveling.

As for missing Manyara and Amboseli, if you could add more days and go there too, I would. But time and money is limited. Without these parks, you have a good itinerary. Never been to Chyulu Hills, but my impression is that it is an exceptional accomodation with game that would be less than Amboseli/Manyara. You might look into trading the 3 nights at Ol Donyo Wuas for 2 at Amboseli and 1 at Manyara. I'm speaking from a game perspective only and from recollections of enjoyable stays at Amboseli (Tortilis Camp) and Manyara (just a lodge). No Chyulu Hills experience.

Have a great trip.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 29th, 2006, 10:28 AM
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Hi Carolines
I know exactly where you are at. When we started our planning we wanted to do everything but quickly settled on Northern Tanzania. I can only comment our our exerience there. I don't think you can use open vehicles in the Serengeti but I did see one in the crater. I think it was a private vehicle owned by the Crater Lodge. Perhaps you could contact them directly to confirm?

We stayed at the Serena Ngorongoro for one night and weren't overly impressed. The food was mediocre compared to the food at the Serena Serrengeti. We spent an afternoon at the Serena Sergenti and it is in a great position and the lunch was fantastic.

I would only go to Lake Manyara at the beginning of a safari as you would find it disappointing after the Crater and the Serengeti. We saw elephants at Lake Manyara but the sightings around the Serinora River outweighed Manyara.

We saw at least a hundred elephants at the Seronora River. They stretched from the river over to the horizon. It was magic.

Have a look at our trip report. The next installment is coming up shortly.
Sarvowinner is offline  
Jan 29th, 2006, 12:03 PM
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Echoing what others have said--For that time of year, definitely spend more time in the Serengeti/Ngo area preferably splitting your time between 2 locations. A couple of days in the Seronera valley (where the Serena is) AND a few days in the short grass area (as Patty and others have said, choices here are Kusini, Ndutu, and the seasonal camps). Ditto Patty's suggestion to look at Eben's website.
bat is offline  
Jan 29th, 2006, 01:02 PM
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If you want to get "it all in" consider:

Day 1 - Arv. NBO - o/n
Day 2 - Fly to Meru - o/n Elsa's Kopje
Day 3 - Meru
Day 4 - Fly to Masai Mara - o/n
Day 5 - Masai Mara - o/n
Day 6 - Fly to NBO/Wilson; drive to Amboseli - o/n Tortilis, or Serena or Ol Tukai
Day 7 - Amboseli
Day 8 - Drive to Namanga Border, to Arusha; lunch; drive to Lk. Manyara - o/n Serena Lodge or Kirurumu Camp
Day 9 - Drive to Ngorongoro - afternoon Crater tour - o/n Serena, Sopa or Crater Lodge
Day 10 - morning crater tour; w/boxed lunch drive via Olduvai gorge (brief stop) to o/n Ndutu Lodge
Day 11 - Ndutu Lodge
Day 12 - Kusini Camp or Olakira Camp
Day 13 - Kusini Camp or Olakira Camp
(you can divide your 3 or 4-days here between any of these, but not more than 2 of them)
Day 14 - Drive to Central Serengeti - o/n Serena Lodge
Day 15 - morning hot air ballooning; flight via Arusha to Selous - o/n Sand River
Day 16 - Selous - o/n Sand River
Day 17 - Selous - o/n Sand River
Day 17 late fly to DAR for late flight via JRO (on KLM)
Day 17 late fly to DAR o/n Holiday Inn
Day 18 - Early flight on BA via London

The above shows more than the 16-days notes. You can shorten it by eliminating Amboseli. But it's doable pretty much.
Jan 30th, 2006, 01:42 PM
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Hello again and thank you to everyone!My husband and I finally spent an afternoon with a travel agent (Africa specialist) on the weekend and we're waiting with bated breath to see what we can do on our budget , getting as much as possible "in" but still spending enough time at each location to relax and enjoy the scenery and atmosphere. We've asked him to do some investigating regarding price as I've read an operator can get a better rate on the camps than if one contacts them oneself, is that correct?

Thanks to the forum we were able to pretty much specify the camps we are interested in. But our agent was suggesting we might enjoy Ruaha more than the Selous. Any thoughts on this? Keeping in mind that Africa for us is not JUST the wildlife, we'd like to experience settings and scenery too!

Somehow the river setting in the Selous has a great appeal for us, a lush change in scenery from what I expect will be a very dry Serengeti and Mara (or am I wrong in this?)

Our agent agreed with Patti and Jasher, Leely et al that two nights in the Serengeti would be foolish especially at this time! So we've asked for three nights there!

Reading the posting today from Luckybee I noticed he/she has been in the same dilemma regarding logistics. Sandi, thank-you for your suggestions.
We've always travelled independently, and had our misgivings about the Micato trip because it is a "group" tour - but Africa is somewhere we definitely want to feel safe, and completely trusting in an operator "meeting and greeting" and transferring from park to park where necessary. I have forgotten which operator the travel agent said they have used for years, but will post it and ask for opinions!

"Atravelynn", I was excited to hear that you've stayed at both Tortilis and Lewa. The agent suggested Tortilis to us as an alternative to Chyulu. Could you tell us more about this camp, please? Is there a splendid view of Kilimanjaro (which is a MUST!!)? Also, Lewa had been in the running for us, partly because it's a private concession (open vehicles, walking safaris) but also because you can participate (I guess that means "following around") in the conservancy aspects of the ranch. Please tell us more!

We are getting really excited about our trip now - I wish it wasn't so far away! This will be our 25th anniversary celebration and, since my husband is indulging me in a childhood dream, I want him to enjoy every minute, as I know I will!
carolines is offline  
Jan 30th, 2006, 04:38 PM
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Tortilis--Yes there were splendid views of Kilimanjaro in the morning and early evening. That is usually when the mountain appears. The camp was lovely and secluded, in a park that can get rather crowded. Because it is on the edge of the park, it is possible to do some walking outside the park. I was there only a short time so spent that precious time getting better game viewing from a vehicle. Night drives were also possible outside the park when I was there.

Lewa--The open vehicles are great and it is a beautiful camp with each luxury tent a good walk from the next. There is a hide/blind right in camp where herds of oryx, giraffe, elephant could be observed. Even rhino and lion, but I did not see them. I did a great camel safari there for several hours with Samburu herders. We saw rhino, hyena, elephants and giraffe at a distance from the camels. There are blinds near the water for observing birds and maybe a sitatunga.

You could do walking safaris there. Make your wishes known in advance if you want to walk because you would need a guide who is walking-certified, not just a driving guide.

A great place to see rhino and do night drives.

How nice you can observe the conservation activities. When I was there in 2001, that was not an option.

I'll see if I can find the posts from rsnyder and tuskerdave. I believe they went to Selous and Ruaha, respectively.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 31st, 2006, 07:59 AM
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Thank-you for the info! I didn't know you had to ask in advance about walking tours...thanks for the advice! Tortilis sounds good, too. Here's another question which I HAVE to ask as it is a concern with me...are there hairdryers in the permanent tented camps??? Or, if they aren't supplied, can you use your own? I mean, is there electricity for using one?
carolines is offline  
Jan 31st, 2006, 09:35 AM
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It depends on the camp and what kind of electricity they have. You'll need to inquire specifically for each camp. I believe sandi was able to have a generator brought to her tent at Cottars to run her hair dryer
Patty is offline  
Jan 31st, 2006, 11:34 AM
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Hairblowers - my favorite subject. I never travel without one. But this doesn't mean I can use it everywhere.

At most city hotels, yes, and many provide these, though the power may not be a strong as you wish.

If staying at lodges, most all supply 24/7 electricity and your hairblower should work. Be sure it is either a 220V or a dual voltage; if the latter be certain it's set to 220. Should your device still not work, then inquire at reception if one is not provided in the room... they have some for guest use.

At camps. Those that have 24/7 power and/or run their generator during hours 5am-3pm/6pm-11pm, then your hairblower should work... camps may even provide these.

Tortilis and Intrepids camps had sufficient power. Cottar's - though they have solar power, they were good enough to provide a portable generator so I could use my hairblower. Saruni had plenty of light via solar, but not sufficient for a hairblower.

Other recent places stayed:
Sabuk - no
Loisaba Lodge - yes
Starbeds - absolutely not
Elephant Pepper - no

Can't recall in detail all others, but I've always tried to alternate between those lodges/camps with sufficient power and those lacking. But thought - if I can survive even 3-days without electricity and the hairblower, then most everyone should be able to. An assumption, of course.

It's one thing to verify if a camp or lodge has electricity, another whether it's sufficient for hairblower use. You'll find most women, even those who normally wear long hair loose, just pull their hair back, put on a cap and go about going about. You can do likwise with short hair.

You're on safari... not out with "the ladies who lunch."
Jan 31st, 2006, 01:32 PM
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Sandi, thank you for the tips. Yes I do realize it's a safari and not a fashion show, but you're talking to the girl who wore full makeup in the Bornean jungle, travelling up river to visit the headhunter tribes! Our safari is meant to be a romantic second honeymoon and I'd like to feel my best at our champagne dinners under the African stars; the bedraggled rat look isn't what I had in mind! We all have our little vices, don't we...
But part and parcel of the hairdryer thing: can one take a butane powered curling iron on the small planes between camps?
carolines is offline  
Jan 31st, 2006, 02:15 PM
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Butane - Not the last time I checked. You can't take the butane canisters on your International Flights.

I've taken both hairblowers and curling irons, even to Africa. I rarely have problem using the curling iron with a converter and adapter plug - as long as there is electricity.

Read the thread - trip reports - of many honeymooners and those celebrating years later. See LyndaS's Index of trip reports, many with photo links which you should read and do check the pics.

I thought everyone (read: women) looked lovely and fresh and "perky" (don't you just hate that word, Katie Curic sure does, but... ) I'm sure some might have preferred rosier cheeks, brighter eyes and glossier lips. Believe me, in the dim light at romantic champagne dinners whether indoors, at camp or in the bush - we all look great!
Apr 1st, 2006, 09:53 AM
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Hello sandi, it's me again...on about HAIR! I was wondering, if you cannot take a butane powered curling iron on international flights, are there any department-type stores in Nairobi where one could purchase one?
Also, we have just had our safari plans confirmed and I would like to ask for any helpful hints, such as special requests I might make etc. Is this the place to do it? Or do I start another thread? (I am forum-challenged...)

Thank-you! Caroline
carolines is offline  

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