Game Drives at Samburu Game Lodge or Larsens

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Mar 2nd, 2012, 01:28 PM
  #1
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Game Drives at Samburu Game Lodge or Larsens

I'm thinking about going to one of these two. The information I'm getting indicates game drives are ~2 hrs, which seems short to me. Can anyone who's been to either tell me about their game drives? Is 3 days much better than 2? Thanks, Steve
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Mar 2nd, 2012, 02:31 PM
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If you can manage 3 days, it is well worth it. I had my own driver so I was not dependent on the lodge vehicle. I agree 2 hours is too short.

I do know that SGL is on the river, which allows nice views when you are in camp. There is lots of game activity around the lodge as well.
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Mar 2nd, 2012, 03:51 PM
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Thanks, AT! With whom did you arrange your car? I take it the driver knew his way around Samburu. I was planning on flying up but the driving option is worth considering.
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Mar 2nd, 2012, 06:57 PM
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I stayed at SGL last June for 2 nights and wished it was 3.

Samburu was my favourite place and altho I can't recall exactly how long the game drives were I am pretty sure they were longer than 2 hours.
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Mar 3rd, 2012, 04:29 AM
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Steve -

Our experience has been that some drivers (not all), will happily announce that "we will do a two hour drive in the morning, and a two hour drive in the late afternoon". I think its more prevalent in Kenya (vs. Tanzania) due a longer tradition of business tourism. If they can get away with that schedule, its a great deal for the Driver-Guides, but not so good for you unless you came to Afrika to sit around the pool all day in an ill-fitting Speedo.

With a private safari, this is easily remedied; expectations should be clearly expressed at booking or prior to arrival, and Driver-Guides should be receptive to input while on safari. If in a general group or using lodge/camp drivers, good luck. If you are stuffed 5-8 people in a truck, perhaps two hours is plenty.

It's certainly true that there is more activity early and late in the day. One the other hand, even in the heat of the day, there are still animals to see and the beauty of Afrika is 24/7; if you've made the journey to get there, see as much of it as you can. A box lunch can taste pretty darn terrific when you are sitting at an amazing sighting, even in the noon-day heat.

Speak up or regret not doing so later. Jim.
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Mar 3rd, 2012, 04:40 AM
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Steve - Forgot to add this: Samburu/Buffalo Springs is wonderful, wherever you stay. We stayed two days at Samburu Serena in August 2008, would have enjoyed three. Serena rooms were not that great, other than being right on the river; lodge was beautiful. Desert scenery and game-sighting was terrific, very different from other places in East Africa. Jim.
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Mar 3rd, 2012, 05:40 AM
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KathBC, thanks! Just wondering how you got to SGL. Did you drive up (perhaps as part of a tour) or did you fly up (either booking flights and SGL accommodations separately or booking a Flying Package they offer)?

Jim, trust me, when it comes to precious time in Africa, even if I looked like Arnold S in his salad days wearing a perfectly-fitted Speedo, I still wouldn't spend any time at the pool.

The info I got regarding the 2-hr drive was associated with quotes given to me for the Flying Package. I'm in Africa to spend as much time as I can with photography, so 2 hrs is just bupkes. In other places in Kenya and Tanzania, I'd always had the option of up to 6 or 7 hrs out in the morning and 2-3 hrs in the pm; sometimes full day outings were offered (and never with up to 8 people---SCARY!). Hence the original question about 2 hrs.

Atravelynn's post made me start wondering about hiring a car/driver, and I think your comment "that some drivers (not all), will happily announce that "we will do a two hour drive in the morning, and a two hour drive in the late afternoon"" was also referring to a hired car/driver as opposed to the camp's drivers.

Jim, if you can recommend a car/driver provider I'd appreciate it. That route is beginning to look to me like the way to go. Thanks for all your coments, Steve
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Mar 3rd, 2012, 07:02 AM
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Steve - I should have checked to see that you have some experience in EA. We flew in/out of Samburu on our way to Mara. We arranged driver and car through SafariLine (entire trip booked through Good Earth in Arusha/Tampa,FL); our Driver-Guide Jesse met us in Samburu airstrip (he drove up from Nairobi), and provided us good service while we were at Samburu. There's a trip report posted here on Fodors. Have a great time at Samburu. Jim.
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Mar 3rd, 2012, 08:19 AM
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Steve - further to my comments on TA, as Otis72 mentions, consider having guide/vehicle drive up from NBO to meet and then you can have the game drives as you wish. However, you have to compare the prices as doing so can often be as costly as EUV. And, I don't believe Game Lodge offers EUV, but Larsens's should.

Another option at Samburu would be Elephant Bedroom Camp that gets excellent reviews and they tend to be more liberal with their game drives.

Others to consider on the private conservancies, adjacent to Samburu and where game drives can be done on conservancy/in Reserve:
- Western Conservancy - SaSaab
- Kalama Conservancy - Saruni

These two are can be considered expensive, but during June can be rather competitive in price. Benefits, not being inside the Reserve - bush walks, meals and have night game drives. Something to consider.

And while most here know I rarely go out on morning game drives, when I do eventually get to breakfast, everyone is gone from the camp and don't seem to return till lunch, having taken breakfast with. They then enjoy lunch at camp during the hottest time of day (both camps have pools just for this reason). Then go out about 3:30 for game drive that leads into a bush dinner* and night drive back to camp.
*maybe only sundowners and dinner at camp.

These camps custom the schedule to the camp guest, you don't have to go out with others on theirs... often your own vehicle. When visiting either of these, I might see others only at lunch and dinner, or not till late-afternoon drive/dinner.

Granted the 'per nt' rate might be higher than those located inside the Reserve, but the extra $$ sure covers exclusivity.

Idea of Rack Rates thru 30th June:
- Elephant Bedroom, $385/ppnt sharing + $80/ppnt pk fee; if a solo it's $495/ppnt
- SaSaab, $545/ppnt sharing + $110/ppnt pk fee, if solo $656/ppnt
- Saruni, $520/ppnt sharing + $90/ppnt pk fee, if solo $630/ppnt

No doubt if booking thru an agent, a lower per nt rate. Park fees remain the same.
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Mar 3rd, 2012, 08:32 AM
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We've stayed at Larsens which is also has a nice setting on the river but haven't stayed at SGL so can't offer a comparison.

We had our own vehicle and driver/guide as our stay was part of a longer driving route but as mentioned above you can fly and have a vehicle and driver/guide meet you at the airstrip too. Are you going anywhere else other than Samburu? The drive from Nairobi is about 6 hours.

We had some interesting sightings in the middle of the day in Samburu/Buffalo Springs and the best part was no one else was around

We used Eastern & Southern Safaris on that and several other trips. If you click on my screenname, you'll find my trip reports.
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Mar 3rd, 2012, 09:27 AM
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Thanks, Sandi for all those possibilities! I'll go over it all carefully. I'm a single. Not only does my wife not want to get up for a morning game drive, she doesn't want to get up for breakfast. Who knew I married an owl.

Patty, thanks for the info. I'm aware of E&S and will probably contact them for info. I'm planning on heading to the Mara afterward. If I find driver/guide from Nairobi is a decent option I could drive up, spend 2-3 nights and drive back, then catch an afternoon flight to Mara, or fly Sam to Wilson, then on to Mara (I don't think there's a Samburu to Mara flight that time of year??).

For reference sake, Wilderness quoted the following for EUV: Half day exclusive use of vehicle 300 (Nett) or 350 (Rack) and Full day exclusive use of vehicle 550 or 600. One would think I could do better with driver/guide from Nairobi, no????
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Mar 3rd, 2012, 11:40 AM
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Hey, if you wife doesn't want to go out at 6am or have breakfast, guess she and I should travel together Still doesn't matter what you choose to do with the mornings (I assume). I often left whomever I was traveling to do what they wanted and I what I did. There are really no set rules.

As to driving up and then back... makes no sense. From Samburu you can fly direct to the Mara. So why another 6/hrs south to then catch the 3pm flight to Mara (arriving 4-4:15) when you can be there by 11am or earlier. Samburu/Mara flight flies year-round (I'm often on it)... maybe with a stop at Nanyuki, but that's no big deal.

Sure the driver will have to head back empty (dead-head), which is already included in your price, but why would you put yourself thru that? Not me!
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Mar 3rd, 2012, 03:01 PM
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That's funny, Sandi! No question she'd much more appreciate your approach to Africa travel (and any other travel for that matter) than mine. While I'd want to be happily clicking away at big cats, she'd be content having a warthog sniff around her table while she had some coffee and cookies at camp.

Thanks for all your insights. I'd been looking at SafariLink, who I think runs Samburu-MM on a seasonal basis, but have just seen that AirKenya does fly that route in June. No question, I'd do that. At any rate, I'm on the case and, with all the good info offered by everyone, will work this out in good fashion.
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Mar 3rd, 2012, 06:55 PM
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Steve I flew from NBO to Samburu SGL and used their vehicles for my game drives. It was June and the lodge was pretty quiet so was lucky enough to have the vehicle all to myself for the whole 2 days.

Then flew to the Mara via Wilsons however my flight got switched from Kenya Air to Safarilink as I was the only passenger booked on the Kenya Air flight. This made for a lay over of about 3 hrs at Wilsons before flying on to the Mara.
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Mar 4th, 2012, 07:22 AM
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Whether Safarilink or Air Kenya, visitors have to be prepared for the possibility that with whom and exact time or even if stops along a route, might change. TIA... just go with the flow and know you'll still get to your destination.

In June or low-season months especially not unusual for flights (carrier, route, time) requires being patient and mostly flexible. If as KathBC mentions insufficient paxs on one, you'll fly on another.

Also as KathBC mentions, with June rather quiet you may luck-out to be with your own vehicle guide for all or most of your time/game drives. Still, I wouldn't count on it and just plan as you want it to be and then... don't look back, rather forward and enjoy.

Steve - tell your wife she's not the only one who enjoys relaxing mornings, and maybe one day the two of us may meet up and 'chat' over our 'ladies breakfast.'

Oh, and to earlier query - 2 or 3/nts... go for 3. Samburu is actually one of my favorite Reserves for diversity of game and landscapes.
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Mar 4th, 2012, 08:25 AM
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There's no question after all the input I've received here but that I'm staying Samburu 3 nights. I've got an inquiry out to EBC---I'd love to stay out most of the am. I've had some decent luck in Kenya and Tanzania with having a car to myself and, given it's June, I'm holding thumbs (as they say in S. Africa) that will happen again. Thanks, KathBC and Sandi, for the heads-up on the iffy nature of the flights. I've experienced, though am not really used to, waiting on flights. It is what it is, though.

Sandi, as a native New Yorker my wife's favorite safaris, a beloved trip to Botswana notwithstanding, are to Broadway. Her favorite wildlife for the last 8 years has been Hugh Jackman. During the Boy From Oz run, my wife was a regular at the stage door, always with camera in hand. When he made the Great Migration with the show to Australia, we safaried there. By then his security was high, I'm sure not entirely because they knew my wife was hot on his trail, so close-up picture ops were nil.
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Mar 4th, 2012, 08:31 AM
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So, Otis72, how did you know how my Speedo fits?

Have a great trip, Steve.
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Mar 4th, 2012, 09:27 AM
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hguy, Funny!!

Thanks.
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Mar 4th, 2012, 11:20 AM
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Sdb2
I think Patty answered your question for me. I used Eastern and Southern for the whole trip, including Samburu.

I did Samburu, then flew to Mara, like you are planning. I had two different E&S guides, one for the first part of the trip that ended in Samburu and one that met me in the Mara and went to two Mara locations, and then drove me back to NBO to finalize the trip.

But here's how you could keep the same guide throughout. It is an option I would have done if I had had just a little more time. Fly Samburu to Nanyuki and do 2 nts at one of the nearby spots, such as Ol Pejeta or Serena Mountain Lodge, or anyplace else you fancy. Use the lodge/camp guide probably in a shared vehicle.

Then fly from Nanyuki to the Mara and meet up with your own guide, who had driven the distance from Samburu to the Mara.

A slight variation of the above that I also looked into was: Fly Samburu to Nanyuki and do just one night at one of the lodges with the local guide, most likely in a shared vehicle. Then fly Nanyuki to the Mara and be met by one of the camp/lodge guides and do that day with the camp/lodge vehicle, perhaps sharing the vehicle. The next day meet up with your own guide again, who had driven down from Samburu.

Whatever option you choose, as always, the speedo remains optional.
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Mar 5th, 2012, 05:57 AM
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Thanks, atravelynn, for more food for thought. As I get older I become more decision-challenged and now my circuits are starting to melt down. One decision is clear: when it comes to Speedo (picture Dana Carvey), "Nah gonna do it... Wouldn't be prudent."
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