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First Safari? Time of Year? Where?

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Oct 5th, 2012, 12:40 PM
  #1
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First Safari? Time of Year? Where?

Sorry, yet another first-timer post but we are having a really difficult time even approaching this trip. We are 3 women planning our first trip to Africa, some time in 2014. We will fly from Vancouver or Seattle and want one stopover each leg, for 1 or 2 days, perhaps NYC or London or Rome, depending on carrier (we can handle budgeting and building these add-ons). We've done a bit of reading about Botswana and South Africa and are thoroughly confused. Our criteria:
- not too hot. One of us is sensitive to heat, and would prefer 20 to maybe 25 C max during the day;
- elephants, giraffes, some cats and whatever else we happen to see;
- no Victoria Falls, perhaps a couple of days in Capetown;
- at least one safari with a 3 to 4 star level of comfort. However, we each have a $10 K budget including airfare and hotels in NYC/London (I'm estimating $3K for this) and I haven't found anything yet for the remaining $7K and my friend's comfort level;
- happier flying into camp rather than driving for hours;
- or maybe we should consider other countries as Botswana seems fantastic but expensive...;
- am I right that we would be best served getting a safari packager to assist us?

Thanks in advance for all of your help!
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Oct 5th, 2012, 01:14 PM
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I'd suggest East Africa for your first safari. There you'll find the classic African landscapes and also more wildlife such as the Migration herds. You could go in June/July timeframe to Tanzania when it's cooler and perhaps catch the Migration herds in the western corridor area of the Serengeti. I'd add Tarangire NP and the Ngorongoro Crater to the beginning of the itinerary. On the northern safari circuit of Tanzania, the drives aren't all that long, except for the one from the Crater to the Serengeti. You could "backtrack" to the Lake Manyara airstrip and fly into the Serengeti, though. Then fly back to Arusha from the Serengeti, which should be your last stop. The roads from Arusha to Tarangire and from there to the gates of the Crater area are all paved and you get to see villages along the way, always interesting, so I wouldn't fly those segments.

I use Bill Given of The Wild Source in Colorado as my safari planner. He's got an excellent guide in Tanzania, Deo Magoye, who's also guided film crews. We used his services this year and had a great safari. With your budget, you should have no problem booking this trip. From Seattle to Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO), you can fly Delta/KLM via Amsterdam. The return flights usually list 2 stops, but that's because the flight out of JRO continues on to Dar es Salaam before returning to Amsterdam. You wouldn't deplane there.

You might consider adding on a 4-day trip to Zanzibar after the safari. I use Indoma Tours in Zanzibar. One of the owners has guided me in Zanzibar for several years. Stay in a beach resort like Pongwe Beach Lodge, then move to Stone Town (I like Tembo House) for a night. Then, hop over to Dar for your flight home. It's a nice way to relax after a safari and is a chance to experience the Swahili culture.
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Oct 5th, 2012, 01:42 PM
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Agree mostly with Shay Tay about East Africa, where she puts emphasis on Tanzania, for the traditional open plains safari. As June/July arrive, while mid-day temps are usually in the mid-70s, evenings/morings are much cooler.

Likewise, from SEA you can pass on NYC, London, Paris or Rome and head direct to AMSterdam, a small city that if you choose a day or two to layover on either the outbound or return flights... is charming, easy to get around, great museums, restaurants. Then onto Kilimanjaro/JRO, Tanzania where as mentioned the 'migration' will be found in the Western Corridor during June, likely a bit farther north if you select July... they're animals and never any guarantee where. And even without the migration, there is game to be found at other areas as Tarangire (a mini-migration from mid-June-Oct), the Ngorongoro Crater and then the Serengeti.

I do differ with Shay Tay regarding ZNZ, especially if one in your party wants to avoid heat, as the coast is tropical, hot and humid year-round.

If you want temps somewhat lower than June/July... Aug & Sep, which are so-called 'winter' months, even on the Equator, are a bit cooler daytime and nights/mornings can be downright cold some areas.

Prices though for Tanzania are at peak starting June 1st thru October, but if you choose Kenya, know that June prices are still at mid-season rates, not into peak till July 1st - Sept (some places till Oct). As with Tanzania, Kenya also has diverse areas for all kinds of game, and here the 'migration' starts to arrive in the Masai Mara (same eco-system as the Serengeti separated by a border) mid-July though some years, earlier, staying usually thru Sept. Prices also tend to be less expensive in Kenya than Tanzania.

Both countries have known 'elephant' parks, two in Kenya at Amboseli with views of Kilimanjaro, Samburu to the north where you'll find unique species not found elsewhere; for rhino, the areas of Lewa and Ol Pejeta are great. The elephant park in Tanzania is at Tarangire (mentioned above)... so, it's only the Ngorongoro Crater that is unique to Tanzania, but will also probably be the busiest stop on a Tanzania itinerary.

Of course, both of our replies take you away from the southern African countries - Botswana which tends to be the most expensive of the safari countries, or South Africa - I must say you won't find a city like Capetown in Kenya or Tanzania.

You've heard from two of us, now lets see what others have to offer to get you on your way.
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Oct 5th, 2012, 02:20 PM
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I would agree with the above. Went to Tanzania with a friend (2 women traveling) for my first trip and just fell in love with everything there! Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Manyara. Tented camps, private guide and vehicle throughout. Did not go to Zanzibar. Was there in mid June and temps were fine - saw some of the migration in the western Serengeti.

My second trip was to Botswana and Zimbabwe. Yes, it's more expensive, but I also went alone which increases cost. I was there in late Aug and early Sept. Mid day was very hot, morning and evening nice. I loved it there too, but really prefer East Africa - so am now planning my next trip for 2013 to Rwanda and Kenya, and once again with my first time travel buddy.

Whichever you choose, you will have a wonderful time, but really consider East Africa
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Oct 5th, 2012, 03:38 PM
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Really helpful responses, thank you, Shay, Sandi and Cate - lots of detail so we have some starting places for further research.

Shay, you've provide the name of an outfitter and I appreciate that, and your comment re our budget is encouraging. I keep reading the $1K per person per day rate which is daunting. Sandi, I know you have been to Africa numerous times. Did you use an outfitter you can recommend on your first few times? Ditto, Cate, did you use an outfitter for your first trip?

And are any of you aware of 3 to a tent/room or are we looking at two doubles, one of us bunking with a stranger or paying a single supplement?

Thanks, again.
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Oct 5th, 2012, 05:30 PM
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For my first trip and now for my upcoming trip I used Eben Schoeman (http://www.ebensafaris.com/). Even though his web site says "luxury" he will do any level you want. I consider my trips with him to be "mid level" - nice places to stay but nothing over the top. Less than $1000 per day by a fair bit. For my trip to Botswana I used Africa Adventure Company (http://www.africa-adventure.com/). Although the latter's web site lists many scheduled trips, I had Lynn Glasgow custom make a trip for me. Both companies were great to work with and I can recommend either one. Not sure how it would work having 3 people. When I traveled solo to Botswana I did have to pay the dreaded single supplement. I'm sure they would not try to put one of you with a stranger! No one would want that.

I believe Sandi has her own Africa travel company - so she'll likely respond to your inquiry.
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Oct 5th, 2012, 08:46 PM
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Hiya Bowen Island!!

sandi can be reached thru Africa Serendipity

[email protected]

She planned my customized Kenya trip last year and is great to work with. Very concise, detailed and really knows her stuff as we've all seen by her numerous responses here.

I was very happy choosing Kenya & Tanzania for my 1st safari last June( now planning my second next year in Bots & S.A.) as it really is your quintessential Africa with sprawling savannahs that you see in all the films.

Must say Kenya scored higher of the 2 countries because of Samburu for it's reticulated giraffe, grevy zebra and beisa oryx and the Masai Mara for it's sweeping plains and amazing wildlife.

Had fun in Nairobi for 3 days visiting Sheldricks Elephant Orphanage, a must for any elephant lover and check out their fostering programme before you go which allows you to come to the orphanage at feeding time.

Will never forget kissing my 1st giraffe at the Giraffe Centre!!

I'm also not a fan of high temps and wasn't really uncomfortable with the heat & humidity in Zanzibar in June, just make sure your room has A/C. Wouldn't have missed my time there for anything!

Here's my rather long trip report designed for first times like myself.

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...ejune-2011.cfm
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Oct 5th, 2012, 10:52 PM
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Sandi makes a good point of perhaps skipping Zanzibar if heat can be a problem. The ocean breezes keep things comfortable as KathBC notes, except perhaps in Stone Town away from the oceanfront. If you'd rather have more safari time and are in Tanzania, you could spend your first day in Arusha NP and stay over in Arusha a second night. I really like that park, but it's often overlooked. If the weather is clear you can see both Mt. Meru and Mt. Kilimanjaro from there. Also, there are black and white colobus monkeys in the forested areas of the park and you can do a walk to a lovely waterfall. It's a nice way to ease into the safari and shake off a bit of jet lag. Stopping over in Amsterdam for a couple of days works, too!

I, too, love Kenya, KathBC! A safari there would also be good, although by the time the Migration herds reach the Mara, it might be mid- to late August and it starts to warm up by then. In Samburu and points north, the elevation is lower and it's a lot warmer than the Mara. We had a Nova Scotian on our safari this year and, even in July in the Mara at its mile-high elevation, she went into heat shock one day. Fortunately, she was a nurse practitioner and instructed us how to treat her.

I, too, have used Sandi at Africa Serendipity and appreciate her expertise (she booked a Mara extension for another safari of mine.) However, in Tanzania I think that Bill's guide Deo is hard to beat. I think he and Bill are setting up their own outfitting company in Tanzania. No matter which safari planner you choose to use, give them a general budget, what you want to see, issues like what you've noted about the heat, time of year if that's a concern, etc. A good planner will work with you on all those points to design a safari that gives you all that you want.
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Oct 6th, 2012, 10:18 AM
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Cate, thanks for those reccs, much appreciated.

Kath, started to read your TR and will finish it up after work. I'm now in Vancouver and my friends and I are the same age as you so your TR opening is very encouraging...

Shay, again, really helpful info.

My friends and I have a lot of reading/research to do but everyone's advice/info has really helped focus me. I think an East Africa trip looks like the way to go, especially for a first visit, and altho we have each budgetted $10K, I'd really like to spend a fair amount less. I'm meeting with my friends (from grade one no less!) in a couple of weeks. I'll let you know what we decide...
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Oct 6th, 2012, 03:29 PM
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The one thing about Tanzania is that you're usually visiting national parks, so the places available to stay can be as luxurious or budget. Wherever you stay, you'll still be game viewing in the same places. First priority... a great guide! Then, I'd book as many tented camps as fit your budget. You'll find a wide range of prices on those, but still find something that fits your budget. Get some quotes and let us look at them for comment.
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Oct 6th, 2012, 06:17 PM
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Linda, if you are often in Vancouver, and are interested in meeting up, KathBC (above) and I meet at least once a month to get our 'Africa fix' from one another & chat all night. Or - even Saturday or Sunday during the day as that way we can chat longer, and if your two friends live here, we could all get together. We can fill you full of all sorts of information & give you lots of advice on where to go and what to see. I am just in the midst of planning our 4th trip to East Africa (can you tell I'm hooked?) and have been to South Africa & Namibia once.
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Oct 6th, 2012, 07:00 PM
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I go alone and never pay even close to $1k per day in high season for guide and vehicle and lodging, all costs borne by one person.

Why the stopover to and from? If it is because you want to take advantage of landing in another country and you have something particular in mind, then it's a great opportunity.

If you are trying to reduce jet lag, I'd suggest adding one buffer day up front to your trip and just fly straight through. If there are luggage problems, it gives you a day for the bags to catch up with you. If you are delayed a day, then your trip is not disrupted.

For 3 people, you'll be able have your own private trip easily, costwise, in East Africa.

Can you give more specifics on the one friend whose comfort level is not being met? What does that person need?

You are right to get a safari specialist. Some good hints given here.

Here are some past links on a first safari.

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...ny-options.cfm

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...ng-my-trip.cfm

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...yatanzania.cfm


http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...ica---2008.cfm
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Oct 7th, 2012, 09:45 AM
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From comments above, you do know where to reach me if you wish. And if for 2014, you do have time to plan as prices won't be available before mid-'13.

In both countries there are many lodges and tented camps that can accommodate the three of you, thus no need for the dreaded single supplement. With three, your daily cost for guide/vehicle is divided between you... reducing individual cost, and room/tent is also lower vs if two or even solo. However, each pays their own for daily park fees, any flights (recommended for the longest distances, but your decision).

>>by the time the Migration herds reach the Mara, it might be mid- to late August and it starts to warm up by then. In Samburu and points north, the elevation is lower and it's a lot warmer than the Mara.<<

Shay Tay's comment - granted there's no guarantee exactly when the herds arrive in the Mara (usually mid-July latest, if not earlier), but for sure 'it doesn't start to warm up' assuming Sharon was referring to the temps... Aug/Sep are 'winter' months with lovely mid-day temps and rather cool (if not downright cold) mornings/nights. She's spot-on re Samburu and other areas north, but still will have cool mornings/nights.

Altitude, whether in Kenya or Tanzania will always vary temps from area-to-area.
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Oct 7th, 2012, 10:10 AM
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Shay, that's good to know re Tanzania parks' "luxury" levels.

Lynn, I think my one friend's request, and really all 3 of ours, is that we want that on-site elevated (?) tent experience with meals made for us, western-comfort toilets and good viewing transport... We have another friend who returned from a self-drive self-camping trip to S.A. and we all agreed that's not the way to go for us. So maybe that "luxury" label doesn't quite apply to us.

And I don't think we want a "private" trip but rather be part of a small group so I imagine that will help with cost.

Another major want for us is not to have to jockey with dozens of other vehicles for viewing, but I assume that's something we can take up with an outfitter.

Good to hear you've done trips for much less than $1k per day per person.

Great point about arriving one day early re luggage, hadn't thought of that. We want an extra day or two both legs mainly for jetlag (I now get antsy just flying to Europe) but also because we love NYC and Euro major cities and thought it would be fun to really pack this trip (it's for one of those major birthdays). Yes, those extra days add major coin, something to think about. Perhaps we'll just do it one leg.

Lynda, I now live in Vancouver (too lazy to change my log-in name) and I'd love to meet up with you and Kath. You can email me at [email protected] .

Again, thanks everyone for their comments/advice. Any more suggestions always welcome.
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Oct 7th, 2012, 10:23 AM
  #15
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PS Anyone care to share their info from their recent trip:
1. # of days on the ground;
2. total cost separating out airfare;
3. which country;
4. private tour or tour group or independent ?
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Oct 7th, 2012, 12:16 PM
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Sandi, I know it's "winter" in East Africa in August and even into early September, but I wanted the OP to understand that this doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be cool all day. That's why I noted that her fellow Canadian had problems with the heat in July in the Mara, to the point of going into heat shock. And that was at an elevation of about a mile. At Meru, the days were actually hot, given that it's at 2000' elevation. It's all relative, but to those of us living in the Pacific Northwest, "hot" can mean something different that it does to someone in, say, the South. The nights are wonderfully cool, though, at that time of year.
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Oct 7th, 2012, 01:41 PM
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ShayTay -

You got me there where 'mild' can mean something else for us who have those ugly northeast NYC summers... ugh! Mid-day temps below 75 is delightful and heavenly. But in Kenya/Tanzania, if the sun is shining that 70-75 can definitely feel much warmer.

BowenLinda - heads up! Please do not post your email address on an open forum, as you're game for scammers. If you wish to include an address, do as (sample) "linda dot smith at gmail dot com" - harder for the creeps to find you.

Private vs group... while the three of you would be 'the group' as a private tour, you have control - where you visit, how many days, accommodations and how long you spend game viewing of any species. With a 'group' departure, you're stuck with 'their' set dates, set routing (often not the best places for time of year), the accommodations and long transit times between areas. Actually, you won't really save that much money 'group vs private' and then have to put up with others who might not have the same interests, or after seeing one lion or elephant wanting to move on while you'd prefer to stay... it's decision by committee! Even some participants who are always late and throw off schedules. Besides with a group the guide will do things to try to accommodate all and that can wind up being quite frustrating.

There have been some recent threads re 'group' trips, as a Friendly Planet itinerary; there are also the OAT trips, and another thread earmarked three different itineraries, none of them being very good. That's why you'll find most of us recommend you 'do your own thing' and with three of you, can certainly get a safari within your budget with very nice comfortable accommodations (lodges or camps). You should scroll thru threads from the least week or so, even do a search on the forum for more info.

Also, pick up a few guidebooks... there's Fodor's Complete Safari Planning Guide, Lonely Planet's Kenya, Bradt Guide for Tanzania... all provide lots of useful information.

Regarding - too many vehicles at a sighting, well there's little you can do during peak season as others are there for the same reason. However, with your own guide you can pass by and return later (when a lion is sleeping, s/he are often then for quite awhile) or find your own sightings which is more likely.

Certainly 10/days will provide a great itinerary either country; with 14/days you can combine both being very selective where you visit in each. But know there is no right answer for everyone as safaris can be as short as 5-7/days and then the skies the limit depending on how far the budget will go.
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Oct 7th, 2012, 03:15 PM
  #18
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Good points, all, re temps. Yes, my (usual!) summer is much cooler than a NYC summer.

Thanks for the sugg, Sandi, re email addresses. The one I posted is a one-off set up minutes before my post for just that reason. I wish Fodor's had TA's PM or whatever they are currently calling it.

Great explanation, Sandi, re private and group tours.

I have a couple of travel guides but Africa is such a big continent with so many disparate countries that I know so little (or nothing) about... I am having a much harder time focussing on this trip.

Again, thanks all.
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Oct 7th, 2012, 06:42 PM
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Temps - Kenya in June was very pleasant, altho Samburu being closer to the equator was a lot warmer than say the Mara. In general the mornings and evenings were light polar fleece cool and mid day t-shirt/capri warm.

I would definitely research a private safari for all the reasons mentioned above and try for a canvas tent with ensuite where ever possible. Keep in mind these tents are not your typical North American tent but rather a hotel room with canvas walls.

Agree Africa is a very big continent which is why you'll likely be back once you've been...it's a bug we've all caught!
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Oct 7th, 2012, 08:19 PM
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"we want that on-site elevated (?) tent experience with meals made for us, western-comfort toilets and good viewing transport... "

That's standard, no problem. I was wondering if the friend wanted rose petals and caviar.

"And I don't think we want a 'private' trip but rather be part of a small group so I imagine that will help with cost."

Consider Overseas Adventure Travel or The Africa Adventure Co. AAA just advertised safaris in the last magazine I got from them. Sandi's group comments are valid. You'll only have 4-6 people in the vehicle anyway. DO NOT accept any size in which you do not always have a window.

Your "Botswana fantastic but expensive" comment--Correct, but doable as a mobile safari. You may not have raised platforms for tents, though. So probably no Bots mobile.

If Cape Town is a requirement, then East Africa is probably out.

When you get around to obtaining quotes get some group departure quotes as well as private trip (meaning your group of 3) quotes.

Back to your when to go question, within those several links I posted is this chart.

http://www.africa-adventure.com/best_time_to_go
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