gorilla and big 5

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Dec 18th, 2005, 05:22 PM
  #1
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gorilla and big 5

I have posted this type of message before but were not unable to go to Africa. NOW we are. We have already decided to go to Rwanda for trekking gorillas. What outfitter would be best for this trek- Good but reasonably priced? Where to stay? Best time to view gorillas? We were planning to go in June. Also we wanted to see the most of the 'big 5'. Should we choose Kenya, Tanzania or Uganda? Is June a good time? What is a good reasonably priced outfitter? Is there an outfitter that will allow you to stay in your choice of accomodations? We would rather stay in a tent, possibly a luxury tent, but certainly not a lodge. We want to be as close as possible to the animals. Where should we stay in the country that you think best? Leaving from San Francisco, how is it most reasonable to book flights? Thanks for all your input.
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Dec 19th, 2005, 07:47 AM
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KITTI0005

Rwanda
How much do you mean by reasonably priced? Which company to use and where to stay will depend on your answer to this information. Gorilla permits are US$375 so bear this in mind.

Combined with where?
Rwanda combines most easily with Kenya since there are a couple of flights between Nairobi and Kigali every day.

Is June good?
Not bad at all. Not long after the rains of April/May so areas will be lush and animals in reasonable condition. Since there is a fair amount of water they can also be dispersed but it's a good month.

Outfitter & where
As someone said in another thread any outfitter tailor making trips should allow you to stay in camps to suit you and suggest tented camps if that's what you want. Where you go will come back again to your budget and more detailed discussion about what you want to see.

Routing from San Francisco
I suggest flying to London using cheap transatlantic flights which you book and then use a specialist tour operator (perhaps Uk based) with a contract with Kenya Airways to arrange your flights to Nairobi and onward to Kigali. This makes economic sense and you can stay over in the UK if you want either to visit or get over jet-lag before heading to Africa.

Hope this helps, Richard
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Dec 19th, 2005, 10:08 AM
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Kitti,

Try http://www.consolidatorwebfares.com/afspecials.htm

I also fly from SFO, and agree with Richard; the cheapest flights tend to be to Nairobi via London. Because your flights (say, to Entebbe and then to Nairobi or Kili and then home) get complicated, I'd do a little internet research and then call either the consolidator or the airlines you're interested in.

Tanzania would make an excellent choice as a Big 5 supplement to Uganda and gorillas. However, I think Kenya would also offer wonderful safari opportunities. There's a thread here too about Uganda as a safari destination outside of gorilla tracking, so perhaps you can find it.

Good luck. Uganda is on my shortlist.
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Dec 19th, 2005, 10:12 AM
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It's also possible to arrange gorilla trekking independently if budget is an issue. See Lawrence's trip report - http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34688363

All trekking starts early in the morning and the length of the trek depends on the location of the gorillas. You're allowed to stay one hour with the gorillas. Park service guides conduct the treks in groups of up to 8(?) tourists. If your only activity in Rwanda is gorilla trekking, then your outfitter just provides transportation, hotel and permit booking. There's no 'guiding' aspect. Where to stay depends on your budget. There are inexpensive guest houses, the moderately priced Gorilla's Nest, and the more expensive Virunga Lodge. This latter one is located some distance from where the treks start, so I don't think I'd choose this option unless you're interested in the most luxurious accomodation available.

Here's another thread on arranging gorilla trekking in Rwanda including a few outfitter recommendations which may be helpful - http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34683068

Check this thread for the name of an air consolidator and compare their prices with what you can find elsewhere - http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34718788

I would only advise booking separate US-UK/UK-Africa tickets if the savings are substantial. The potential problem with two tickets is that neither airline will be responsible in case you miss your connection. In the very worst case scenario, you may be forced to purchase a new ticket. If you decide to go with separate tickets, make sure you schedule lengthly layovers or possibly an overnight in between.

I mentioned the outfitter issue in your other thread (in case you can't find it, just click on your screen name and all of your previous posts with appear in the left hand column). Once you decide on a country, we can make more specific recommendations.
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Dec 19th, 2005, 10:17 AM
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Here's the thread that Leely mentioned on Uganda as a safari destination - http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34696781

Uganda would also be easy to combine with Rwanda, but I think your opportunities to see the 'big 5' are greater in Kenya or Tanzania. Uganda would provide some unique primate experiences though.
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Dec 19th, 2005, 02:24 PM
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Richard, I have only found one outfitter so far that offers gorilla tracking in Rwanda, 2afrika.com. She quoted a price of $2600 pp, 4 days/3nts,including accommodations, meals, 2 days of tracking and RT flt Nairobi to Kigali. Is that something we should snatch up? Way too expensive? I have nothing to compare it to since I only received one quote.Is July a better month since you mentioned the presence of water in June? And Leely,I will definitely use your suggestion on flight reservations.
Good tip. Leely, where have you stayed in Tanzania that you enjoyed game viewing? Patty, are you saying that we will be basically standed to do for ourselves in Rwanda? I definitely will look into that issue. I will also look into Lawrence's trip report and other Rwanda recommendations you provided. Also, wouldn't travel insurance take care of the 'missed' flights/delays in booking separate flights? Quite a lot of details I hadn't thought of. Thank you all so much for this insight.
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Dec 19th, 2005, 02:44 PM
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Kitti,
I don't know why I misread your post as Uganda rather than Rwanda. Just wasn't paying enough attention, I guess.

We were in Tanzania in July of 2004, and have booked a safari for the last two weeks of June 2006. Were money (and timing) not an issue, I'd certainly go more often. And I would dearly love to go gorilla tracking; I'm hoping perhaps late 2007 for that.

Our Tanzania itinerary for next June is as follows:

fly SFO-AMS-JRO
arrive Arusha, 2 nights in Arusha
Tarangire--2 nights Mawe Ninga
Ngorongoro Crater--1 night Wildlife Lodge (gulp!)
NCA--1 night Olduvai Camp
Serengeti-- 1 night Ronjo Fly Camp, Seronera valley
Western Serengeti--3 nights Nomad camp
fly back to Arusha from Serengeti

Too brief! But still wonderful.

However, I think Kenya would be wonderful too, and might be easier in terms of flights to/from Kigali.

Good luck.
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Dec 19th, 2005, 02:55 PM
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Travel insurance may compensate you for the missed flight if you had to purchase new tickets depending on the cause for the delay, but read the policy fine print carefully. I'm basically saying that it would take more than a couple hundred dollars difference in total flight cost for me to be willing to take the risk of booking separate flights without overnighting in between, but that's me personally.

Regarding Rwanda, what I'm saying is that you can either choose to organize the trekking through a tour operator or organize it yourself (check the 2nd thread link I posted for how to do this). It's a bit more work organizing it yourself. I only mentioned this since you raised the cost issue. If you're more comfortable working with a tour operator who arranges everything for you (permits, hotel, transportation), then by all means do so.

Here's a quote that I received from Magic Safaris for a 3 night gorilla safari for comparison with the 2afrika quote -

$768pp full board accomodations with 2 nights at Gorillas Nest at Volcanoes National Park and 1 night at Milles Collines in Kigali, all transportation (from Kigali to the park, from the hotel to the start of the trekking location each day, and back to Kigali, airport transfers)

$750pp for 2 gorilla permits

$370pp for flights Nairobi-Kigali-Nairobi

Total $1888pp

Those were prices for 2005. They may have increased for 2006. The Rwanda Tourism website has a list of local tour operators that you can contact for comparison quotes - http://www.rwandatourism.com/guide.htm#4

At no time will you be stranded. What I was trying to convey is that your tour operator only provides transportation. All guiding for gorilla treks is provided by the park service and it is done in groups, so whether you book through operator A, B or C, your actual trekking experience is not likely to be any different. This is unlike a regular safari where your driver/guide makes a huge difference.
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Dec 19th, 2005, 02:58 PM
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Just to clarify, Patty. When my friend and I flew SFO-LHR on Virgin and then LHR-NBO on Kenya Air those weren't, strictly speaking, separate tickets, were they? We booked all together and I just assumed, perhaps mistakenly, that it was similar to flying Northwest to Seattle then KLM to AMS or something.
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Dec 19th, 2005, 03:50 PM
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hello Kitt,i visited the uganda gorillas & chimps last june. got lucky with the rain.
i went with greatlakes safaris. a handful of people on here are going to or have used them also.they can also take care of rwanda.if you contact them request to talk to: Jaynefer Mukasa.
please don't count on seeing the big-5 anywhere you visit. it might not happen.
you have to go with an open mind and take what africa gives you. because you never know.
i only visited southern tanz and kenya many time now. i never expect to see the big-5 in a whole trip. never mind in one park or reserve.
kenya is bit less expensive then tanz.
june you say? i also visited again the masai mara in june. all the migration herds were gone. BUT! it was still good. many many lions. other game. oh, and cheetah. just be sure you have a real 4x4. if not, you will not be able to get to some areas. 4x4's are more fun anyway.
tsavo west & tsavo east is very wild and hardly anyone there. one of my fav places. also much history with that place. any ways, hope this helps. if you would like my regular tour ops info in kenya. let me know.
cheers, david
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Dec 19th, 2005, 03:51 PM
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Leely,
If it's booked as one itinerary, then it's not considered separate tickets. For example, if you go to Travelocity and book a ticket from SFO to NBO with a mix of different carriers, it's still considered one ticket.
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Dec 19th, 2005, 03:57 PM
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Patty, thanks. That's what I thought, but I can always use something new to worry about.
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Dec 20th, 2005, 02:05 PM
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Patty that seems like a pretty good price from Magic Safaris perhaps I will have to contact them to see what their prices are for 2007!
Thanks
J
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Dec 20th, 2005, 03:59 PM
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hi jules, i was in contact with magic for a couple of yrs. trying to decide to do that kind of trip. kept putting it off. ok so when it was time to go this pass june. i had asked for ref. they wouldn't give me any. i even said they could send them my email first to some american clients. then they could email me. they still wouldn't. it's the first time i had an issue like that. so right away i brushed them off. really, after two yrs of on and off contact. refuse me ref!! don't think so. glad i did brush them off. greatlakes safaris is awesome. also great people and good friends of mine now. worked out great! for what it's worth. thats how it ended up for me.
cheers, david
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Dec 21st, 2005, 09:05 AM
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KITTI0005

Sorry, been too busy to post for a couple of days.

Rates for 2006
Rates in Uganda and Rwanda have jumped between 2005 and 2006, but for three nights and four days Volcanoes safaris are quoting just over $2,000pp which I think includes one gorilla permit (add $375 for the second) and is staying at their stunning Virunga Lodge (not as convenient as others nearer the park gates, but is incredible).

This is on their sceduled departure and would therfeore be more if you wanted tailor made dates and a private trip.

If you're interested have a look at their website: http://www.volcanoessafaris.com/camp-rws4.html

We tend to work exclusively with Volcanoes and have happy clients, but I have to admit I don't know much about anyone else mentioned on this thread so can't compare.

Richard
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Dec 21st, 2005, 09:44 AM
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Lots to say with little time on this. I see some people have already responded

In Rwanda, I went with RNXplorer. Did two days gorilla trekking. Stayed at Gorilla's Nest. Great place, you don't need more luxury than that. Just know it is FREEZING in those rooms. Have warm jammies, request extra blankets.

For a lot of things in Rwanda it doesn't seem to matter much which tour group you go with, especially if you ae only going for gorillas. You stay in the same places. We also did a drive through the beautiful countryside and saw more.

For Big 5. Kenya-Masai Mara
Tanzania-Serengeti & Ngorongoro.

If you can only do one country, do Tanzania. Though I think my only good rhino sightings were in Lake Nakuru of Kenya.

Don't poo pooh all lodges. The Serengeti Sopa and Ngorongoro Serena were AMAZING! The Sopa had a magnificent view of the Serengeti. If it was the right time for migration it would have been beyond belief. Though I will say the Ilkena Tented Lodge in the Masai Mara was the best experience of the trip.
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Dec 21st, 2005, 01:13 PM
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My turn to apologize writing so late. I have to flu and am trying to get this together way too fast. Leely, Thanks for your itinerary. It is very helpful. Patty, I really appreciate your information on magic-safaris.com but as tuskerdave mentioned this company chose not to give him referrals, which tell me plenty! Too bad b/c they were pretty reasonable in comparison to a couple of others I had just checked into. Do you have any email info or website 'contact' info on origins safaris? I was able get on their site, just cannot contact them in any way, even to book a safari. Tuskerdave, I am definitely interested in Tsavo e and Tsavo w. Where did you stay? I have heard that a few other people loved it there too. The wildebeast migration past north of you in June? Did I understand that correctly? Greatlakes safaris will be the next one on my list to contact. thanks. Richard, I also checked out volcanosafaris. They are just as expensive as 2afrika. In addition to the $2300, they want $1400 transportation cost divided by 7 (number of people that can fit in one car/van I assume). Do you know if they are talking about the transportation from airport to hotel to Park and back for the amount of days treking? I don't really understand that part of it. Of course, in addition to that is airline cost from Nairobi-Kigali RT ($300 I presume as well).It is quite an expensive safari, but well worth it too, I hear. Waynehazle, I printed out all of your infomation. Quite interesting and I will look into those areas as well. Thanks!
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Dec 21st, 2005, 01:24 PM
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PATTY, FOR SOME REASON I CANNOT RESPOND TO ONE OF MY EARLIER POSTS, WHERE YOU SENT SOME SITES OF THE VEHILE SHOTS-POP UP ROOF, OPEN HATCH, ETC. I COULD NOT OPEN THEM , BUT I APPRECIATE IT. MYSELF, BEING 5'2", I WOULD HAVE A WORSE PROBLEM THAN YOU WITH THE LAND ROVER. THANKS FOR THE SUGGESTION.
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Dec 21st, 2005, 02:07 PM
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Here's the contact info I found for Origins Safaris through the Kenya Tour Operators Association website -

MEMBER INFORMATION
Company Name rigins Safaris
Street :Fedha Towers, Standard Street,
PostCode :00100
P.O Box :48019
Town :NAIROBI
Email : [email protected]
Telephone :312137/342869
Fax :311361
Mobile :
Contact Name :Mr. S.M. Turner
Website:www.originsafaris.info
Activities : ; Adventure Safaris ; Bird Watching ; Cultural Tours ; Eco-Safaris ; Luxury Safaris ; Photography ; Special Interest ; Customised Safaris ; East Africa Safaris ; Family Safaris
Profile :
Specialist Safari Operator in East and Central Africa

I don't know if they take direct bookings. From their website it doesn't sound like they do (which may be why there's no contact info). Perhaps someone who has used them can clarify their booking policy.

I haven't used Magic Safaris myself. I've only received quotes and information from them. I found them to be very prompt and responsive in our email exchanges, though I never asked for references.

Sorry those vehicle photo links didn't work. If you go to my main album, you'll be able to see pics of different vehicle configurations - http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=...&x=0&y=-r5e7ji

When are you going by the way? Good luck with your planning!


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