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Flight options from SFO to NBO for JUL-SEPT '10, fav agents?

Flight options from SFO to NBO for JUL-SEPT '10, fav agents?

Feb 17th, 2010, 11:11 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 266
Flight options from SFO to NBO for JUL-SEPT '10, fav agents?

Hi, folks,
Just beginning(mentally) to plan a trip to the Mara for Jul-Sept timeframe (peak, I suppose) ? It will most likely be a Mara only visit or should I add Samburu to the list? 10 days max, private safari, serious photography, is the intention.

Checked out a couple of sites for airline quotes and the prices that show up are insane -$3500 USD for a roundtrip !!

Wondering what my choices are going out of SFO to NBO, where do you guys book tickets from ? My SFO - JRO was pretty cheap compared to what I see for NBO.

Also, if anyone has any favorite (kenya based) safari outfitter, let me know. Safari companies with stretch jeeps with large windows will be my preferred choice.

Btw, what's the off-peak/budget time to visit the Mara ? I am tired of paying peak season prices..haha

Thanks !!!
TigerPhotog is offline  
Feb 17th, 2010, 11:41 AM
Join Date: Apr 2005
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You should check out www.kayak.com for airfare quotes. The website searches airline and travel websites for fares and you can choose what works for you, time and price-wise.

If you have 10 days, I'd suggest splitting your time between Samburu and the Mara. They are quite different environments and Samburu has different subspecies of wildlife, as well (Grevy's zebras, reticulated giraffes, Somali ostriches, etc.)

If you're going to those two areas, you'd want to fly to them. That would mean that you'd book a game-drive package with the camp and use their vehicles. By doing so, you may find that the camps use open vehicles, rather than the enclosed "pop top" vehicles necessary for road trips between the parks.

For Nairobi "meet and greet" services, airport transportation, lodging, etc., I'd recommend Kennedy Muthoka at Waymark Safaris. I'm sure you could work with him to book the entire trip, including the Mara and Samburu, as well. Many of us Fodorites highly recommend Kennedy.
ShayTay is offline  
Feb 17th, 2010, 11:56 AM
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Just checked Kayak at www.kayak.com using dates Sep 7 - 17 and come up with prices of $1,587 on Swiss and $1,602 on Emirates, then comes BA at $1,794.

Those are generally the rates for travel from SFO.

The low-season Kenya is Apr/May and some places into mid-June. June is mid-season. July-Sept is hi-season. Then back to mid-season many places Oct, but most as of Nov to mid-Dec before Christmas/New Years which becomes hi-season before returning to mid-season 3rd Jan thru Mar.

If planning 10/days know that some of the lux properties are offering "special" rates for extended stays, i.e, using Cheli & Peacock, a combination of 6+/nts at their properties a 15% discount which comes to about 1/day free. And some of their properties are offering "stay 4/nts, pay for 3/nts. You can combine offers but not at the same property. These are good till 18th Dec '10.

Try 5-6/nts at one property (Mara) and maybe 4/nts another (Lewa or Ol Pejeta or Meru... even Samburu)... total 10/nts you might get 2/free.

C&P has properties at Ol Pejeta, Lewa, Meru, Samburu, Laikipia, Mara, Amboseli and a few others. Note though if going to C&P directly, they'll charge "rack" rates, while if thru a tour operator, travel agent, safari plannner, who get contract (lower) rates that these should pass onto client, even more savings.

Good luck!
sandi is offline  
Feb 17th, 2010, 12:59 PM
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You can fly between parks without necessarily having to book a game drive package with the camp. Another option is to have a Nairobi based tour operator send their guide and vehicle ahead of you. This sometimes works out to be less than paying the camp private vehicle supplement (I'm assuming you don't want to share the vehicle). The camp would then be booked on a full board basis similar to a driving safari though not all camps offer this option.

ShayTay makes a good point about open camp vehicles (in some cases, not all camps have open vehicles) vs enclosed tour operator vehicles if you have a preference.

Serian Camp (main camp outside of the Mara to the northwest, also sets up mobile camps) includes a private vehicle in their rates but their rates are on the higher side.

Have fun planning!
Patty is offline  
Feb 17th, 2010, 01:54 PM
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... and, Serians daily park fees are high, depending on the areas in/around the Mara you wish to traverse.
sandi is offline  
Feb 17th, 2010, 04:23 PM
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Sandi, Patty, Shaytay,

Thanks a lot for the detailed replies (as always) !!

kayak.com to the rescue..cool !! I think it's doable now.

I am thinking of going in late june 2010 now just to keep the expenses a bit on the low side and since I've seen the migration recently in TZ, it's not a deal breaker for me. Besides, some of them might cross over into the Mara in june..who knows? (wishful thinking).

Anyway, I intend to do lodging this time (believe it or not, I liked the lodging experience in TZ) and I believe it's light for the wallet as well.

How does Mara Serena sound for base camp in the triangle (5-6 days)? I hear there's an airstrip right by the hotel.

Then, fly to Samburu (stay at Serena) for (2-3 days)

Can I get back fom Samburu to NBO direct or is there another flight involved ? (Samburu to Mara to NBO)

I like the idea of directly reaching NBO and taking a local flight from there(Will the agent book this for me?) to Mara Serena and start the game drives.Can meet the guide there directly.

One thing I noticed on go2africa (just googled for kenya maps and found the site), the rates for lodges are mentioned at $180/pp or so for june. I assume that's just boarding and does not include food/game drives etc etc.

For all you experts, who've visited the mara in or around june, what should I expect ? Don't tell me, I will see endless plains only....am interested in the big cats + other things.

Does Waymark have their own vehicles or do they outsource that part of the safari/booking to someone ? I could not see any pics of vehicles/info on guides on their site, hence curious.

Will send a mail to Kennedy Muthoka asking for an initial quote, thanks !

Btw, here's a leopard shots from the Serengeti trip.

TigerPhotog is offline  
Feb 17th, 2010, 05:19 PM
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Better to head to Samburu first, then to the Mara as there's a direct Samburu-Mara flight but not the other direction. You can fly Nairobi-Samburu and Mara-Nairobi directly. The main carriers between parks are Air Kenya (not to be confused with Kenya Airways) and Safarilink. Both operate out of Wilson airport, not NBO. Fly540 operates out of NBO but I don't think they go to Samburu. Your tour operator can book the internal flights for you plus provide any transfers needed between airports.

I'm guessing the $180pp rate is just full board + accommodation not including game drives.
Patty is offline  
Feb 17th, 2010, 10:21 PM
Join Date: Feb 2010
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Might want to check Virgin Atlantic --I've been checking the fares from LAX-Nairobi and the range has been ~$1400-1900, depending on departure dates. I've never flown with this airline, but have heard good things about them!
*Does anyone have experience with the other airlines Sandi mentioned (Swiss, Emirates)?
live_aloha is offline  
Feb 18th, 2010, 03:51 AM
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TigerP -

We did Samburu then Mara in August 2008, using internal flights Wilson-Samburu-Mara-Wilson. Stayed at Serenas in Samburu and Mara. Kenya arrangements made through TZ operator that handled initial TZ part of trip (many TZ and Kenya operators are partnered); Kenya operator driver/vehicle met us at Samburu strip and second driver/vehicle met us at Serena strip in Mara. No problems, worked great. Samburu was amazing, good lead-in to Mara.

If you like the "lodging experience", the Serenas are good choices. Samburu rooms were nothing extraordinary, but the location along the river was really neat. The lodge is very nice, we enjoyed the dining room and were treated very well. We had animals outside our room at Serena Mara every night.

I would prefer canvas, but Mrs. W. prefers lodges. All things considered, I am there for game drives, all else is details. Including the indignities of flying steerage there and back from the US.

Good luck, safari njema! Jim
Otis72 is offline  
Feb 18th, 2010, 06:11 AM
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I've flown Swiss and Emirates, as well as KLM.
Avoid BA (though fares often tempting), as prefer not to fly thru Heathrow.
Swiss flies via Zurich; Emirates via Dubai.
I liked Emirates the best for decor (no blue.... rather soft shades of lime green, fuschia, gold... so refreshing), comfy seats even in "steerage" but that first leg JFK/DXB at 12/hrs is one long haul. From DXB/NBO it's then only 5/hrs... unlike from most European cities that is 8/hrs for the second leg.

Some people feel DXB is a great airport, but can be very crowded and the shops aren't much different than elsewhere and prices still very high. Food service and entertainment aren't that important to me, but on these three haven't been disappointed in the food category. I read or sleep, so entertainment (which Emirate's is outstanding) doesn't much matter.

A plane is a plane is a plane. As long as it takes of, and lands, it's a good flight.
My carrier decision is almost always
1) fare
2) schedule
3) my frequent flyer program/s
4) food
5) entertainment
sandi is offline  
Feb 18th, 2010, 07:44 AM
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Waymark Safaris have their own vehicles and could meet you in the Mara. Samburu is a long way from Nairobi and I don't know if it would be cost-efficient. Kennedy can book whatever you need, including the internal Kenya flights. Check out Twaffle's trip report for her experience with Kennedy in Nairobi.
ShayTay is offline  
Feb 18th, 2010, 09:06 AM
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Travel time from Nairobi to Samburu is about the same as Nairobi to the Mara (both 5-6 hours) though the actual distance may be greater. The road to Samburu is currently in better condition than the road to the Mara.

You could price it both ways and compare (using Serena vehicle vs tour operator's). You could also consider driving up to Samburu then flying the rest. I don't find long drives too bad at the beginning of a trip and this would save you some money.
Patty is offline  
Feb 18th, 2010, 09:11 AM
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Thx, folks (Patty, Elizabeth,Otis, Sandi,Shaytay) !!! The airlines issue is definitely solved now (although prices are fluctuating like crazy right now for june). Emirates sounds like the best bet currently, I could even do a stop-over abd meet family in Dubai. Anyway.....

Shaytay, yes, adding Samburu does seem to create some chaos due to the distance between Samburu and Mara (~700km). I've sent mails to Waymark and other outfitters....

One operator already emailed me back saying Samburu Serena will provide their lodge vehicle at that location and once I fly to the Mara from there, the outfitter's vehicle/guide will meet me in the Mara (to keep costs down).

I,personally, would rather have the same guide/vehicle in the entire trip like in TZ, but I guess that's not possible here due to distances...

Maybe, I will do a straight 8-9 day Mara trip only....set up base camp in the triangle and do the daily grind for the entire period, fly back from Mara to Wilson or NBO(?), fly back home.

Anyone have any negatives about the Mara in June ? Am I looking at dry/barren landscapes devoid of animals during that period? . Any chance of wild dogs ?

Will check Twaffle's trip report, thanks !!

Any other photographers reading this ? Walrus/Mike, Tom ? !
TigerPhotog is offline  
Feb 18th, 2010, 09:18 AM
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TigerPhotog, make sure to look at twaffle's report on safaritalk where her photos are posted.

I'll be in the Mara for a few days in June; sounds like you'll probably beat me. I haven't booked the Mara portion yet (laziness), so please let me know what you find out re: pricing, private vehicles, etc.

I've flown KLM, Virgin and KQ. Just pick the cheapest/best schedule.
Leely2 is offline  
Feb 18th, 2010, 09:23 AM
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I,personally, would rather have the same guide/vehicle in the entire trip like in TZ, but I guess that's not possible here due to distances...

Yeah, it's just not possible with a Samburu/Mara combination. It can be done if you add a stop between Samburu and the Mara like at Lake Nakuru or if you choose a different combination.

I've never been in the Mara in June but I doubt you'll see dry/barren landscapes devoid of animals. For one thing, June is generally right after the rainy season. I've been in a different off-season (Nov) and saw plenty.
Patty is offline  
Feb 18th, 2010, 10:15 AM
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Just finished reading Twaffle's report on safaritalk..what an amazing report and pics ! I've seen her pics (or 1) on BPN, I think.... (lioness with rainstorm approaching).

Leely, sure, will definitely let you know what I find in terms of rates/prices. You do the same. I can be reached at [email protected] for any communication. Wish fodors had a "pm" inbox or something .

Patty, Thanks for the info !

Awaiting tour operators' emails now....reading about the mara now...doesn't look like a very small area, time to do some internet research/ read maps. .
TigerPhotog is offline  
Feb 18th, 2010, 12:58 PM
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I often travel in June and so far the Mara hasn't been dry. As Patty mentions, coming out of the wet season, it's quite green. The dry season comes in Aug-Oct before the next wet season.

While you won't find the migration in the Mara at that time, the other game is there and can be plentiful, if spread out. For that reason you don't have to concentrate where you stay, whether lodge/camp inside/outside the Reserve/Triangle or on the adjacent private lands. Consider splitting the time between both.
sandi is offline  
Feb 18th, 2010, 01:17 PM
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Sandi, sounds perfect !! Are there any additional fees involved for driving onto the adjacent private lands, for eg ? Or re-entry fees coming back into the reserve?
TigerPhotog is offline  
Feb 18th, 2010, 01:38 PM
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Are there any additional fees involved for driving onto the adjacent private lands, for eg ? Or re-entry fees coming back into the reserve?

I believe so. This didn't use the be the case but I believe nowadays if one is staying outside of the reserve, in addition to the fee for the private land where the camp/lodge is located, one would have to pay the reserve fee when entering the reserve and vv. This is further complicated by the fact that the reserve itself is actually divided into 2 governing sections, the Trans Mara County Council side aka Mara Triangle/Mara Conservancy (to the south and west of the Mara river) and the Narok County Council side (everything else including the Musiara and Sekenani areas).

Not all camps/lodges outside of the reserve are located on private land that has a fee. Also certain private lands limit the number and type of vehicles allowed.

Confused? I am
Patty is offline  
Feb 18th, 2010, 02:19 PM
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Thanks, Patty, am on the verge of confusion..hehe.
Your info and this link made it a bit simple for me to understand.

So, 3 sections to the MARA:

1. The Triangle
2. Musiara
3. Sekenani

All 3 have separate fees each time to enter/cross ?

So, I guess, I should make it clear in my itinerary the number of visits outside the triangle or to any private land (which one do you folks recommend?) so that cost is calculated in advance?

Thanks !!
TigerPhotog is offline  

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