First Time in East Africa

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Apr 15th, 2005, 07:42 PM
  #1
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First Time in East Africa

I have just started planning a trip for September/October 2005 to East Africa. We are interested in visiting more remote locations where it is less likely that we will see other vehicles (with the exception of the Crater). Our budget is flexible and where possible, we prefer more luxurious accomodations. Here is the itinerary I have in mind. All comments and suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Day 1 - Overnight in Dar es Salaam.
Day 2 - Transfer by air to Selous for 3 nights at Sands River
Day 5 - Return to Dar es Salaam. Depending on flight schedules, I am guessing we will have to overnight again.
Day 6 - Fly to Mahale. Our objective here is to spend 2 nights at a camp where we can view the chimps. I'm still researching camps in this area, so any recommendations would be great.
Day 8 - Transfer to Rwanda for 2 days of gorilla treking. I assume we will need a night for travel to and from Volcanos National Park, so I've allotted 4 days here.
Day 11 - Fly from Kigali, Rwanda to Arusha (-Is this possible?) Then fly/drive(?) to Ngorongoro Crater Lodge for 2 nights.
Day 13 - After morning in the crater, transfer from Ngorongoro to Kirawira for 3 nights. Will it be necessary to fly, or do we have enough time to drive?
Day 16 - Would it be possible to drive from Kirawira through the Mara to Nairobi?
Day 17 - Fly from Nairobi to Meru for 3 nights at Elsa's Kopje.
Day 20 - Return to Nairobi.

This is my first draft of an itinerary, so it may be totally unrealistic. Any feedback from those who are more familar with East Africa would be wonderful.

Thanks.
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Apr 15th, 2005, 09:25 PM
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From all of the reviews I've read, Sand Rivers sounds like a great choice.

Have you considered a charter from Selous to Mahale instead of returning to Dar? I couldn't locate any scheduled services from Dar to Mahale. I believe Greystoke is the best camp here.

There are scheduled flights from Dar to Kigoma but that would require overnighting in Kigoma both directions and a long boat ride to/from Mahale, so that's 4 nights minimum.

I think it would be better to schedule your gorilla trek either last or just before the start of your Kenya portion as it's most convenient to fly to Kigali from Nairobi. There are daily flights on Kenya Airways and Rwandair Express. Depending on the time your flight arrives, you may be able to transfer directly to Volcanoes National Park, stay 3 nights and do 2 treks in between.

See sandi's post here about the drive from the Crater to Kirawira -

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34594583

It's currently the 6th to the last post on that thread.

From Kirawira, you can drive to the Mara and then onto Nairobi but not all in one day. It will be an 8 or so hour drive to the Mara, crossing at Isebania. Then another 5-6 hour drive from the Mara to Nairobi. Unless you're planning to spend some time in the Mara, there's no reason to travel this portion by road. Perhaps you should drop Kirawira altogether and go to the Mara instead? See what others say.
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Apr 16th, 2005, 04:01 AM
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sandi
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strand -

Patty's suggestions/recommendations are good. Your Gorilla Trekking is best done at the beginning or end of your time in Kenya & Tanzania.

And I concur, check availablity of a private charter from Selous/Sand River to Mahale rather then return to Dar with a possible overnight. At Mahale, Greystoke is the camp of choice.

From Mahale you can get a flight to Arusha (about 4-5 hours) from where you can continue to the Ngorongoro Crater. Depending on flight schedules, you may require an overnight at Arusha.

From Arusha you can drive to the Ngorongoro Crater (about 5-hrs) or fly. The closest airport is Lk. Manyara; from there about 2-1/2 hrs. drive to the Crater.

If traveling to the Serengeti (assume late September into October) I would suggest, either, Migration Camp or Klein's Camp (over Kirawira) - both located in Northeast or Northern Serengeti, respectively; the area where wildebeest herds would be returning from the Mara this time of year. This depends, of course, if the rains have started, otherwise, the herds are likely to still be in the Mara, especially if you're traveling more in September.

The drive from Ngorongoro to either camp is a very long one - a full day easily, though safari most all the way. Because of the distance, many outfitters require a midway stop (overnight) in the Central Serengeti - rest for the guide/vehicle, as well as for their clients. An alternative would be to fly, but you'd have to return to Lake Manyara (2-1/2 hr drive back) then fly to the Northern Serengeti areas.

Unless you plan to spend time in the Mara, it doesn't make sense to attempt the crossing at Isebania. This too would be a long drive, often with a stop at Speke Bay at Lake Victoria before going onto the Mara. If you're not planning to spend time in the Mara, you can return fly from the Serengeti to Arusha/Kili, get an ongoing flight into Nairobi and then a connecting flight to Elsa's Kopje - here too, you may require a NBO overnight.

Once the above is completed, and you've returned from Meru to Nairobi you should be able to do your Gorilla Trek portion. Of course, if you wish to do the Gorilla Trek at the beginning, you can simply turn the itinerary around.

Realize flight schedules will impact your itinerary... some scheduled flights may not be "daily" nor are they coordinated from country-to-country. The alternative is private charters, so obtain this prices for comparison.

Hope this helps.
 
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Apr 16th, 2005, 05:53 AM
  #4
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Thank you Patty and Sandi for your very helpful responses. I thought Mahale might be close enough to Rwanda to make the transfer directly, but I will revise this portion of the itinerary. Thanks again.
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Apr 16th, 2005, 07:01 AM
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What a great trip you have planned!

Though I have not been to Mahale, the itineraries I have investigated often allot 3-4 nights, rather than 2. This means you have 2 full days of chimp tracking. I have heard wonderful accounts of Greystoke.

Here is a common practice for Rwanda gorilla tracking to save an extra day.

-Arrive in Kigali and overnight.
-Depart Kigali very early, about 4:30 am, to arrive at Volcano National Park in time for the gorilla tracking. Overnight near park.
-2nd gorilla visit (2 is recommended) and return back to Kigali.
-Leave Kigili.

I did not do this very early departure because I don't like upsetting my sleep patterns anymore than necessary and I'd rather not travel at that time anywhere (including my hometown). However, it was a very common practice.

In addition to the gorillas, you can also track the beautiful golden monkeys in Rwanda. There are two troops with at least 60 members per troop. They jump from tree to tree just above your head.

For accommodations in Rwanda: In Kigali
I stayed at Novotel and found it very nice. For the gorillas I stayed at Gorilla Nest. Their standard rooms were good, but not real luxurious. They also had upgraded cottages that were quite lovely. Virunga Lodge, about an hour away from where you start gorilla tracking just opened last year. I visited, but did not stay there. It was very beautiful, overlooking two lakes.
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Apr 17th, 2005, 07:42 AM
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Again thank you for your helpful replies. When you are doing gorilla and chimp treks, do you see many snakes? (We'll be going in September/October). I don't mind seeing snakes from a vehicle, but on foot may be a little scarier.
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Apr 17th, 2005, 12:53 PM
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Only once have I seen a snake while in an area for gorilla or chimp trekking. On a forest walk to some waterfalls in Bwindi we saw one snake that completely ignored us. For me it was the highlight of the walk!

But there was a lesson to be learned from this sighting. We were heading back from viewing the waterfalls and the 19-year old girl in our group was taking the lead. Both the guide and her mother encouraged her to allow the guide to lead. The guide regained his lead position and took only two steps in front of her and leaped into the air, off the path and told us to halt. He saw the snake just laying across the path. We walked around the snake, giving it plenty of room and nothing happened except for the photos I took.

That's why the guide goes first!
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