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Help! Need guidance for safari to Kenya and Tanzania late May

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Jan 30th, 2015, 02:18 PM
  #1
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Help! Need guidance for safari to Kenya and Tanzania late May

Hi all,

I'm hoping to gain some guidance. I am trying to book a safari in Kenya and Tanzania at the end of May/beginning of June to celebrate my 30th birthday. I love to travel and this is the trip of my dreams to mark a milestone year. My husband and I normally book on our own when we travel internationally, but this time I was a little hesitant and was thinking about using a travel agent. When I started researching itineraries through travel agents, it was killing me to pay so much more to go through them. I am now thinking about booking my own flights and going through a local safari agent to get the itinerary I want for hopefully a little less expensive. Has anyone ever had experience with this? I was looking at DK Grand Safaris, Natural World Safaris and Gamewatchers Safaris. Our budget isn't huge (ideally $3,000-$4,000 per person), but I was hoping that I could benefit by going in low season and since many people have had Ebola fears and have cancelled. I am looking for about a 12 day safari because I would like to spend some time around Nairobi before or after the safari (14-17 total, additional money spent on time in Nairobi area). Since this is the most exotic location we will have ever been to, I am so nervous and overwhelmed! Can anyone offer guidance regarding booking on your own vs. through an agent. Also, can you shed light on the best areas to visit during that time of year? Thank you all in advance. I greatly appreciate everything!
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Jan 30th, 2015, 02:58 PM
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I used Gamewatchers in Feb 2014 and am talking with them now about returning in Feb 2016. I loved Kenya and the Porini camps that Gamewatchers has there THAT much. I've also been to Tanzania and loved that as well (trip report on here if you click my name you'll find it, I used Access2Tanzania)

Both Gamewatchers and Access2Tanzania give you the personal planning touch and you don't have to sign on to a big group tour. I'd highly recommend either. Or work with one of them to help you plan both countries, I've know people who have done that as well. I would not by any means use a local general travel agent, you want someone with people on the ground where you're going who specialize in where you're going.

I did both of my safaris in February. First to escape Boston winter and in the case of Tanzania, to be near the Serengeti for wildebeest birthing season.

Not to deflect from Fodors but there is a great safari planning thread for every African country as well as a ton of trip reports on safaritalk.net It's a much more active forum with 100s of people who have been on dozens and dozens of safaris and they have great tips there.

Good luck!
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Jan 30th, 2015, 09:17 PM
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Looking at your budget, check out

Good Earth http://www.goodearthtours.com/safaris/kenya/safari-2/
Kenya OR Tanz is within the $3k-$4k
No personal experience, but I see their vehicles a lot and they get nice reviews.

A consistently good price comes from Lion World Safaris for both Kenya and Tanzania. My friend went and loved her trip. I never went with them.
http://www.lionworldtravel.com/safar...er-east-africa

You might consider a camping trip, like this one in Kenya with Lion Trails. I have not used them but my fav Kenya guide now works for them, so I would go with Lion Trails.
http://www.liontrailssafaris.com/ind...camping-safari

These group camping trips are how you can realize substantial savings. Lion Trails would have a Tanz partner for camping in that country. They'd set up the transfer.

Overseas Adventure Travel is always a good value. No personal experience. https://www.oattravel.com/trips/land...ripinformation
This one does come in higher than your limits for Kenya and Tanzania.

Advice on local agent vs. home country agent:
Best way to find out is to get some quotes and compare. The difference is not always as much as you would think. Going direct to the lodges I have found actually costs more because agents sometimes have deals.

Good luck and happy birthday.
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Jan 31st, 2015, 07:54 AM
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I went to Kenya and Tanzania in Oct with Overseas Adventure Travel and I loved it- not a complaint. They only have small groups - there was only 9 in our group due to some cancellations. What I like about OAT is that they give back to the community- fund some local schools, which we visited and they expose you to some cultural experiences- the afternoon at the school, a visit to a Maasai Village, a visit to a handicapped work shop- as well as lots of game viewing.
And they don't charge a single supplement for singles-
I have nothing else to compare to of course, but I was very happy with their services
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Jan 31st, 2015, 09:15 AM
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Backing off from providers and dollars, and looking at your time frame, here are some more comments and questions:

What are hopes for this trip? What sorts of things are tops on your list to see? Maybe you don't need to visit 2 countries to meet your travel goals.

Take note of the drive distances between locations. Good Earth lists them, maybe others do too, or you can ask for them. With few exceptions, driving between safari spots is on highways without much wildlife. It is very interesting to see the homes, people, and their daily activities, but you don't do a lot of stopping for that. In sum, more time in fewer places means more safari time and less transfer time. It also means less packing and unpacking.

It's not like each place has animals that cannot be seen anywhere else. That is true to some extent. For example colobus monkey probably only Aberdare in Kenya or Arusha in Tanz. Rhino seen most likely at the crater in Tanz or Aberdare, Sweetwater, or some of the more expensive concessions in Kenya. Though it's possible to see rhino in the Serengeti or Mara.

You may wish to spend all of your time in Kenya, since you want to spend extra days in NBO. The transfer between Kenya and Tanz, whether by road or air can take half a day or more and eats into your $3k or $4k. Also you'll need 2 visas. Prices may have changed but Tanz was $100 and Kenya $50.

Then, going Kenya to Tanz may require a Yellow Fever shot, more expense on the front end of the trip.

To save $$, Kenya usually comes in a little less costly than Tanz, depending on accommodations. All things to consider on your budget.
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Jan 31st, 2015, 10:58 AM
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Atravelynn raises a good point that including two countries will add to your costs and generally speaking, Kenya is the less expensive of the two.

I booked all 6 of my Kenya/Tanzania trips through local ground operators. Since my husband and I aren't good group travelers, we came up with our own private, custom itineraries for each trip which is not necessarily more expensive than a group tour if there are two of you.

I haven't used Gamewatchers but they're a very reputable ground operator that owns and operates their own Porini camps in Kenya (they can also book any other camp).

My past trips have been mostly booked through Eastern & Southern Safaris. However one of the former owners has moved on to start a new company called Africa Safari Discovery taking my favorite guide with her so that is who I would book future trips with. A friend of mine is using them next month.

June is one of my favorite months to travel to Kenya. It's low season and quiet (maybe even quieter this year, things are really slow from what I've heard) and everything is green if the rains have materialized though the higher grass/thicker brush can also be a deterrent to viewing. Overall for me, the positives outweigh any negatives to travel at that time of year.
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Jan 31st, 2015, 12:38 PM
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Repeating what Patty says - June is still at mid=season rates in KEN and by sticking with one country avoid and 2nd Visa and YF inoc if going to TNZ. I too often travel end-May/early-June.

And, decide whether you prefer a 'group' or 'private' safari... most prefer private as you set your own routing/itinerary and select own accomm whether lodges or tented camps. The latter a must when on safari and perfectly safe.

Good luck on your further research.
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Feb 3rd, 2015, 03:38 PM
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Hi Travelbug56!

If you wanted to go to both Kenya and Tanzania as you describe, you could consider something like this 11 day itinerary:

Nairobi arrival / Mt Kenya Nat'l Park, staying at Sweetwaters Tented Camp / Lake Nakura, staying at Sarova Lion Hill Lodge / Masai Mara, staying at Masai Mara Serena Lodge / Serengeti Nat'l Park, staying at Serengeti Serena Lodge / Ngorongoro Cons, staying at Ngorongoro Serena Lodge / Lake Manyara, staying at Lake Manyara Serena Lodge / ending in Nairobi.

This would work with your budget as long as you travelled in May or most of your travel time was in May. Rates go up in June. Camps are all good and well-regarded. This is a very customizable itinerary and just a sample of what can be put together. The local operator is highly reputable. If you'd like more details, let me know. Happy to help.

Best
Dianne
Africa Direct USA
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Feb 4th, 2015, 04:25 AM
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We had a fabulous safari in Tanzania (it was our choice to only visit one country) with Easy Travel. For 4 of us, a private safari was cheaper than any group tour (like OAT) that I could find.
They will arrange safaris at whatever price point you want. Our 12 day safari in July-August was about $5000, but you have less expensive lodging choices that will lower the cost.
Mussadiq, the general manager, was incredibly helpful, answering all of our questions, and guiding us with his expertise, but we never had the feeling he was "selling" anything.
If he's available, request Emmilian as your guide; I can't imagine anyone better.
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Feb 9th, 2015, 09:24 AM
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Thank you all very much for all of your help! I'll let you know what we decide to go with
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Feb 10th, 2015, 08:42 AM
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Hi. I love travelling between July - Oct as over this period I am guarantee of watching the Masai Mara migration. But over this time the costs are at their pick.Your time of travel is slightly low Low season is April and May also Nov to mid Dec.
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Feb 10th, 2015, 09:31 AM
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With your kind of budget you would probably go for a camping safari in Kenya and Uganda. My recommendation for you would be http://www.ugandalastminute.com/Kenya-Safaris/
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Feb 23rd, 2015, 09:39 AM
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Thank you all for everything! My husband got a new job and it looks like I may have to shave a few days off my trip (10-12 with travel from the US). I think it may make more sense to focus on one country now, rather than two. If you had to pick one to go to, which would you recommend? I hope to go back one day, but since you can never guarantee it I'd like to get the best overall experience I can. I keep going back and forth, so any input is greatly appreciated. Thank you all!
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Feb 23rd, 2015, 07:24 PM
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I don't think you can go wrong either way. I'm partial to Kenya but that may be a case of falling in love with the first country I visited. I've never heard anyone come back and say they were disappointed with either. I agree you should stick with one country with your now shorter time frame especially if that includes flying time to/from the US.
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Feb 24th, 2015, 07:39 AM
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Thank you! I feel like both countries are beautiful and will be the trip of a lifetime. It's just so hard to pick which to go to first! Have you ever went to Kenya in May? I am trying to go the last week in May and I'm a little concerned the weather will be worse in Kenya with more rain. Nothing is a guarantee, but I would like to avoid a major downfall every day.
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Feb 24th, 2015, 08:19 AM
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I don't think there's a big difference in weather between the two countries. The majority of safaris take place in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania with not much distance separating them. The closest I've been to the last week of May is mid-June. You can't really predict how much it might rain. Our wettest trip was actually one in November/December. It did rain quite heavily almost every day but it didn't rain all day long and it would clear up in between.
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Feb 24th, 2015, 01:22 PM
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I've often visited both countries end-May/early-June and by then the wet is almost nil. Doesn't mean none, but most wet during these 'long' rain months often comes in April. In fact I can recall only one visit that we had more than one brief amazing thunderstorm when in Tanzania (lasted maybe 45/min), another visit in Kenya it was likewise and in both countries a few showers overnight (when you're tucked in under your covers). Never gotten stuck in mud.

Even if the skies look threatening, it's rather fun to follow where the wet is falling and your guide does his best to avoid it and usually successful in doing so.

You're dealing with weather and there is never any guarantee regardless where visiting worldwide, but there shouldn't be any more or less in one country vs the other by end-May. And as Patty says 'rarely daily or all day' and if you're lucky, maybe none at all. Besides, even during the dry season months it's been known to rain.

With an even shorter trip, I'd go for Kenya.
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