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Friendly Planet Tour-Best of Kenya & Tanzania Wildlife Safari

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Sep 22nd, 2012, 11:28 PM
  #1
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Friendly Planet Tour-Best of Kenya & Tanzania Wildlife Safari

This 15 day Friendly Planet tour tour running about $4,599 per person with air from New York has been around for quite some time and we were wondering if anyone has been on this one or knows more about it? It seems to offer a lot of sites and quite a few Game Drives. It also states there are "long scenic drives between destinations" as well. I don't mind that.

They say that Great Migration into the Mara takes place each year between June and september. Although their june 11-june 25 is sold out , i wonder if we might see some of this in the May 14 to May 28 tour, or would this date definitely be too early.

We have gone to other areas with Friendly Planet a few times in the past and have been quite pleased with htose tours.

Any thoughts about all of this would greatly be appreciated.

Thanks Very Much

JH
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Sep 23rd, 2012, 08:13 AM
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During May the migrating herds are still in Tanzania, usually in the Ndutu area, maybe Central or Western Serengeti... so as I understand the Friendly Planet itinerary... you miss it. However, during my visits during '09/'10 the migration arrived early in the Masai Mara; this year '12... not till mid-July. But, in both countries there are resident wildebeest herds that never migrate.

A friend did this itinerary last year first-quarter and admitted it did entail lots of long transit times (rather tiring, dusty and often late for lunch), especially that from Kenya to Tanzania... an entire day. Otherwise, she enjoyed but did indicate this isn't the way to travel if planning a return visit... good price for sure, still too exhausting.

Group departures are what they are, and with int'l air included is very tempting, so if this is the way you enjoy traveling... go for it.

That said, if you wish to travel mid- to end-May* and catch the migration, and this still being 'low' season, consider a 'private' safari where you can design where to visit, accommodations and length of stay, concentrating mostly on Tanzania with a few days in Kenya at Masai Mara... it's doable for sure. Prices will be competitive and even the int'l air prices often good if departing prior Memorial Day.

*as 1st June rates go into peak season in Tanzania; most places in Kenya are at mid season thru June.
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Sep 24th, 2012, 10:36 AM
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I went to Tanzania in August (a few years back) with Thomson Safaris and more recently to Kenya for their short safari trip in May. I don't think you can beat Friendly Planet for the value and the quality. There were 11 in our group, ranging in age from late 20's to early 60's. Although we did not witness the migration on either trip, I could not even estimate the amount of wildebeests we saw. On the Friendly Planet trip, we got close to a pride of lions who had made a kill a few hours earlier and were still enjoying their "feast."
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Sep 24th, 2012, 11:18 AM
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Thanks for your opinions regarding the Friendly planet "Best of Kenya & Tanzania Wildlife Safari"----15 days with air from NY .
I just did a pretty careful review/comparison of the offerings
for VERY similar itineraries between Friendly Planet, Smart Tours (12 day Kenya Wildlife Safari with 4 night extension in Tanzania and OAT travel's 13 day Safari Serengeti and extension 4 nights Kenya's Masai Mara.

The respective prices are: Friendly Planet: May14-28 $4,699
and Mar 19 to April 2 $5,299

Smart Tours: July 6-21 $5,950

OAT Tours: July 11 - 27 $6,715 pp

So, considering that all three are very similar, the best value here seems to be with Friendly planet, although the dates are not as good. Would it be very chancy if we went with Friendly Planet dates considering Rains and maybe roads being washed out or too muddy or too over cast to see anything?? I reaslly don't know. More thoughts and opinions appreciated . Thanks so much.
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Sep 24th, 2012, 05:23 PM
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I would check Lion World Tours prices also. We did their Kenya trip and it was phenomenal.
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Sep 25th, 2012, 06:39 AM
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Smart Tour and OAT prices are higher as travel is during peak season... so not comparing apples-to-apples.

While Mar-Apr is the 'long' rains, doesn't mean it will be and if any, usually brief amazing thunderstorm or overnight/morning showers. Roads might get muddy, but sure doesn't inhibit safari. Hey, it's even been known to rain during the dry season - July-Sept... so whoever knows for sure when it comes to weather?
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Sep 25th, 2012, 10:03 AM
  #7
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Hey Sandi and others. thanks for your thoughts.

So we were almost going to commit to the Friendly Planet Best of Kenya & Tanzania Safari for the May 14 to 28 date at @$4,699 pp from NY when I told my wife that in May, average rainfall is over 4 inches and that there were , on average 12 days in month of rain or showers and possibility of muddy roads and, of course, mosquitoes. Where there is warm, wet, humid there are mosquities and she absolutely HATES mosquitoes............She then said to forget Friendly planet and go with Smart Tours for similar itinerary for $5,950 per person for the July 6 to July 21 date which is dry season and touristy season. Smart puts together a group of 35-40. Hmmmm. Should be OK, i guess. I think this is still a good price compared to the OAT one at about $6,700 pp, but, of course, they put together smaller groups of 15-20 , i think.

We decided would rather not do any more research and would rather leave it to a "tried and true" company which has been around and which so many people swear by for their travel needs. In addition, Smart states that they currently have 10 openings left for this date.

If we do this we need to commit by this Thursday to take advantage of their $800 per couple discount.

Everyone we mention this trip to says, "Do It, Do It, we wish we could and it is on our bucket list."

Sooooo, what is the verdict? Time is running out.

Final thoughts please. Thanks.

JH
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Sep 25th, 2012, 04:14 PM
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Go for it!! "Just do it" I am jealous, JH...and you will save $800! Yes, there's a lot of travel time, and there will be period when you are cussing that van, but you have a better chance in July of seeing the migration of the animals across Masai Mara...an unforgettable sight.
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Sep 25th, 2012, 04:20 PM
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p.s. Tellyour wife to trymy forumla for now mssi bites: Sawyer's lotion, topped with Bug Off hebal oil ( smells strong but woody and nice, and the scent dissipates quickly) Don't know if it is that particular combination, or just one of those repellants, or just luck... but in an entire month in Africa (including Kenya) i got only bite, and was able to walk the gauntlet of mosquitoes at a place in Naivasha(by far the worst place for mossies, something about the lake this year having mor water than usual??) with not ONE of the little buggers zooming toward me.
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Sep 25th, 2012, 05:49 PM
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First ask yourselves what you want out of the trip--to see many different locations or to maximize time with wildlife? If the former, this is highly affordable opportunity. If the latter, you may be disappointed.

Day 1: Depart USA. Depart from JFK this evening on your overnight flight to Kenya via Brussels.
Day 2: Arrive Nairobi. Arrive Nairobi. Accommodations: Intercontinental Hotel Nairobi.
Great

Day 3: Nairobi. Karen Blixen Museum,
Next, you'll visit the Langata Giraffe Center, Breakfast provided.
Nice way to spend day #1, to recoup, take advantage of what NBO offers, spare day in case of delays or lost luggage. Doesn't say where you are staying, probably IC again, but check. Looks like lunch and dinner on own.


Day 4: Mt. Kenya National Park. Arrive at the lodge in time for lunch. Experience game viewing from the lodge. Accommodations: Serena Mountain Lodge or similar. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Great, what are the other options besides Mountain Lodge? Mountain Lodge has a great water hole.

ABOUT 3 HOURS ROAD TRANSFER TIME

Day 5: Samburu Game Reserve.Following breakfast, travel north to the remote Samburu

ABOUT 3.5 HOURS ROAD TRANSFER TIME

Accommodations: Samburu Game Lodge or similar. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.


Day 6: Samburu Game Reserve. Enjoy another day of game viewing drives in the Samburu Game Reserve. The first is early in the morning, after which you'll return to the lodge for breakfast. Good, get out before breakfast Spend the day relaxing, then set out again in the early evening. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.



Day 7: Lake Nakuru National Park. Early this morning, travel to Lake Nakuru National Park.

ABOUT 6 HOURS ROAD TRANSFER TIME

Visit Lake Nakuru,

Accommodations: Flamingo Hill Camp or similar. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
1 night here is typical

Day 8: Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. After breakfast, set out for the Masai Mara National Reserve,

ABOUT 6 HOURS ROAD TRANSFER TIME

Accommodations: Keekorok Lodge or similar. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.


Day 9: Masai Mara National Reserve. Today you will take two safari drives,

You'll have the option of replacing one safari drive with an optional Hot Air Balloon Safari ($450),

This afternoon you'll have the opportunity for an optional visit to a Masai Village for an in-depth look at this colorful and pastoral people in their natural setting ($25). Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Less than 3 nts in the Mara on a trip of this length is the mark of a cheap and rushed trip. If you went nowhere but the Mara, you'd have a wonderful time and see many animals, granted you'd miss pink flamingos. If you opt for the balloon, you're giving up another game drive in this highly productive reserve. This is a flaw of this trip, but is typical of trips cramming in as much as possible.

Day 10: Masai Mara & Nairobi. After breakfast enjoy your final game drive departing the Masai Mara Park.

ABOUT 5.5-6 HOURS ROAD TRANSFER TIME

This evening, join your fellow travelers for an "all you can eat" dinner at the world-famous Carnivore Restaurant.. Accommodations: Intercontinental Hotel Nairobi or similar. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
ok

Day 11: Arusha & Tarangire National Park, Tanzania. This morning, fly to Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania,
Continue to Tarangire National Park

ABOUT 3 HOURS ROAD TRANSFER TIME

There was a picture of a rhino and egret in Tarangire, labeled as such in the itinerary—No rhino in Tarangire. So that is inaccurate.

Enjoy a game drive en route to your lodge located deep within the park. Lunch will be served at the Lodge followed by an afternoon game drive in Tarangire Park. Accommodations: Tarangire Sopa Lodge or similar. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Having stayed at Sopa and other places in Tarangire, Sopa would not be my choice. Even worse is only 1 night in Tarangire. If you are going to make the effort to get there, stay 2 nights.

ABOUT 2 HOURS ROAD TRANSFER TIME

Day 12: Lake Manyara National Park. After breakfast drive to Lake Manyara National Park. Accommodations: Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge or similar. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
OK but since you have Lake Nakuru, I think this day could be allocated to something better.


Day 13: Ngorongoro Crater. After breakfast, Your destination is the Ngorongoro Conservation Area,.

ABOUT 2.5 HOURS ROAD TRANSFER TIME

Taking along a picnic lunch, descend into the craterAccommodations: Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge or similar. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Generally a morning visit to the crater is better than an afternoon.


Day 14: Ngorongoro Crater & Nairobi. your picnic lunch to Kilimanjaro Airport for your short flight back to Nairobi.

ABOUT 5 HOURS TRANSFER DRIVE TIME TO JRO AIRPORT


Continue to your hotel and enjoy the balance of the day at leisure.. This evening, bid farewell to Africa as you transfer to the airport for your return flight via Brussels. Accommodations: Intercontinental Hotel Nairobi or similar. Breakfast & lunch provided.
Day 15: Arrive USA. Your amazing adventures come to an end


ON TRANSFER DRIVES you don't do wildlife vieiwng, it is just highway driving. It may be long and scenic, but it is more long than scenic after a few of those several-hour transfers.

No migration in May in Kenya but there are large resident herds of wildes and zebra.


• Guaranteed window seat and access to pop-up roof hatch, maximum 6 guests per safari vehicle
That is an important positive for the Friendly Planet trip.

Again, if it is animal species you want to see pick about 3 parks and spend time in them, not on the highways.

Good luck and let us know what you decide. Oct 2, the deadline for the discount with FP, is approaching.
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Sep 25th, 2012, 06:03 PM
  #11
 
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"Would it be very chancy if we went with Friendly Planet dates considering Rains and maybe roads being washed out or too muddy or too over cast to see anything??"


Those things you mention would not deter me for a May trip. High grass would be more of a deterrent. But fewer people in May so that is a positive.

Even high grass is less of a deterrent to me than the # of hours spent on asphalt or gravel going from place to place. If you add up your # of hours on GAME drives and your # of hours in transport, that ratio of highway time/park time is too high for my tastes. It is not as though you will see new and different animals in each park. The scenery will be different, though.

If you have a 6 hour road transfer midday and include packup, meals, and checking in time, then there are not that many daylight hours in the day to go into the parks and look around before and after the transfer. Plus all those transfer times listed are approximate. Throw in some heavy traffic or detours or who knows what and the times increase.

But if you wish to cover ground, see many different places, and do it very economically, while staying in nice places and having that all important own window seat, the Friendly Planet trip does it.
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Sep 26th, 2012, 02:19 PM
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I know the same person Sandi mentioned in her first post that did the Friendly Planet trip. Sandi actually understated the friend's response to her Friendly Planet tour. The guides were horrible and she was really disappointed in the trip. Guides can make or break a safari and are critical to a successful safari. The OAT Safari Serengeti trip uses Kibo Guides in Tanzania. I've traveled with them several times, using Kibo for my personal travels. I've found their guides to be outstanding. OAT doesn't offer this trip in April for a reason... not a good time to go. The roads in the parks aren't paved and trying to get around when it's wet is difficult.

I don't know who OAT uses for their Mara extension, so I can't comment on that extension. I love going to Zanzibar after a safari, but if your wife doesn't like "mozzies", that's probably not in the cards.
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Sep 26th, 2012, 04:04 PM
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Is Jaydh going in April or May?
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Sep 26th, 2012, 04:58 PM
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I only mentioned April to point out that this is not considered a great time to go. I'm curious to see what the OP decides, but thought I should point out the experience Sandi's and my friend had with Friendly Planet's tour.
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Sep 26th, 2012, 08:23 PM
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Poor guides are unacceptable. If that's how Friendly Planet keeps costs down, then it is no bargain.
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Sep 26th, 2012, 08:55 PM
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OK everybody, thank you all for discussing our situation. Things are changing by the minute now...well not actually by the minute......

We are now definitely looking at July with either Smart tours or OAT which is 13 days at $4,620 + 4 night extension in Mara at $1495. The OAT one seems to concentrate more in the Serengeti (excuse spelling) and includes Oldevi Gorge while the Smart tours concentrates more in the Mara of Kenya. Even though the OAT one is about $600 more pp we may be leaning torward it rather than Smart tour one and OAT has about 18 people max in a group vs the Smart tour of 40 per group. ...and it definitely makes sense that the tour guide can make or break a trip such as this. As I write, I'm having my wife Ingrid go over both descriptors with a fine tooth comb and I'm letting her choose which one....I don't want to end of being the bad guy because i made the wrong choice.
In addition, If a friend who has been on OAT refers us we each get $100 credit toward our first adventure with them.

Comments please!! We must make a decision tomorrow before close of business.

And what about shots ? Seems like we will need Yellow Fevor and to take malaria pills even in dry season?? What's the consensus here?

Thanks again for throwing out your opinions.

F.Y. I. We live in Southern California, in a suberb of Los Angeles.

JH
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Sep 27th, 2012, 06:53 AM
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If a friend who has been on OAT refers us we each get $100 credit toward our first adventure with them.

This should be do-able on a forum like this. ShayTay, calling ShayTay!

Now there is no big rush in analyzing your options. Please do consider a private trip for the two of you. There is now time to lay out that possibility as well, which you can accept or reject without time pressure. If you contact a safari specialist or two about a private trip, you can also get some insights and a good education that will help you out, whatever you decide. You can apply what you learn to the group trip you want, if you are set on a group departure.

Sandi, who have some advice here could help you out if you contact Africa Serendipity. She already knows what you're looking for. There are other companies too. I've used The Africa Adventure Company in Ft. Lauderdale. Many choices. Info can't hurt.

A private trip for 2 in other parts of the world would likely be cost prohibitive. Not so in Africa, so do at least give it a shot. I think you owe it to yourselves as part of your comprehensive trip planning. You can post some of the findings here for more input.

Yellow fever--if going from Kenya to TZ, it is required and your yellow card is proof. If not doing that routing, it is best to check with international travel doctors. I know more, expense. Malaria prophylactics are prescribed year round in East Africa for visitors.

The nice thing about Africa is that it is almost impossible be the "bad guy" especially on a first trip where everything is so new. Barring an awful guide, Kenya and/or Tanzania will produce for you. Awful guides are really rare. Here's a hint to help in case you happened to get one. Keep the contact info of the safari provider with you and pen/paper to document problems. Don't hesitate to call the office and explain the problem immediately if one arises. I don't keep pen/paper just to tattle on the guide, but for notes during drives because it is easy to forget all you see unless you write it down while it is happening. I never had a bad guide in Africa. I never called the home office about a problem. The worst guide I ever had in Africa (and I've had dozens upon dozens) was merely Good. Most are so good that their skills in spotting are a big part of the entertainment, aside from what you end up seeing.

With any reasonable itinerary and company, the trip will be wonderful. Just make sure it is in line with expectations. If you don't like 6 hour drives on highways, then don't sign up for several, for example. If your main goal is to see elephants, then spend several days in a park known for eles, such as Tarangire, Samburu, Amboseli. Those kinds of things.

40 on a trip is a bit much, but the big thing is how many IN YOUR vehicle? There are likely to be 40 other people staying at your lodge, even if you are on a private trip.


I'll look at Smart and OAT and throw in my 2 cents later.
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Sep 27th, 2012, 08:44 AM
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I know you said you would rather not do more research, but I'm with atravelynn in that you don't have to rush into this and should at least consider a private trip and possibly limit your trip to one country so that it's not so rushed. That would also eliminate the requirement for YF (usually $100+) and 2 visas ($50 for Kenya and $100 for TZ).

That said, if you only want to choose between Smartours or OAT, I would prefer the OAT itinerary as it's less hectic. I wouldn't say the Smartours one concentrates more on the Mara as they spend 2 nights there vs 3 nights with the OAT extension. It looks like Smartours spends 13 nights on the ground vs 15 nights with OAT. I like that OAT has their own camp in the Serengeti and it looks like a better trip overall.

Do a search for malaria on this forum as there are lots of threads.

Good luck with your decision!
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Sep 27th, 2012, 09:46 AM
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July is that time of year when the herds are moving into the northern Serengeti (depends on if it's early or late in the month) and perhaps even into parts of the Mara, which is simply an extension of the Serengeti ecosystem. If you have a particular date in mind with OAT, ask them to find out where the mobile tented camp will be set up for your group. They should be able to get the Special Campsite name from Kibo and we can see where it is. I think you'd want to be in the northern Serengeti, rather than the Western Corridor if it's later in the month. I was in the northern Serengeti around the first of August this year and saw 2 crossings of the Mara River by the wildes. I'd be happy to refer you to OAT. Just e-mail me at divedive99 at aol dot com and I'll give you the pertinent info.
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Sep 27th, 2012, 01:48 PM
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That's right - ShayTay and I do have the same friend Thus her comments re the Friendly Planet safari... not the best overall. Again, she was most disappointed in the guides (though believe one was better than the other, but don't recall which was better/worse). And I sure can't say whether same guides do the same routing for each of the FP safaris.
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