Help with First Dream Trip to Africa!

Jan 18th, 2007, 09:51 AM
  #1  
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Help with First Dream Trip to Africa!

Hello all,

I've been researching safaris to Africa for my girlfriend and I. I've read so many great comments on this site from so many helpful people I decided to join and ask you all for your help.

Here is what I know so far:

Want to fly from Washington DC on June 29th to Nairobi and return flight on July 9th (donít have a flight yet).

We want a private tour with a 4x4 (not a bus so that we are able to travel off road) so that we have the flexibility of changing our itinerary.

We are willing to compromise on our sleeping accommodations in order to fit the private tour into our budget and our budget is $2,000 max per person (excluding intíl airfare).

We want to spend most of our time in Masai Mara. Also, has anyone spent time at any of the Porini Camps? Has anyone heard of Graduatetours.com?

Any advice would help!

Thanks

DC2Africa
DC2Africa is offline  
Jan 18th, 2007, 10:10 AM
  #2  
 
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So you have about 8 nights for safari (assuming you arrive on the 30th and spend your first night in Nairobi)?

You may want to contact Gamewatchers Safaris. They own the Porini camps and use Landcruisers. Do a search here for Porini. There have been a few reports.

Your budget might be a little low though for a high season trip given your requirements. Are you willing to camp?

What do you mean by "flexibility of changing our itinerary". If you mean changing your location or accomodation during your trip, that's not going to happen (unless maybe you're camping). If you mean have some flexibility in your game drive schedule, i.e. full day drives, etc., that's fine.
Patty is offline  
Jan 18th, 2007, 10:18 AM
  #3  
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Patty,

Your assumption is correct (I arrive on the 30th and spend first night in Nairobi).

I am willing to camp but it seems that there are so many "levels" of camping. I guess at the minimum we would want a private bathroom with a bed for two.

Flexibility in the game drive schedule is what I meant.

Thanks for the Porini info!

DC2Africa
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Jan 18th, 2007, 10:39 AM
  #4  
 
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OK I think that rules out any affordable camping options

Also try Gametrackers Safaris (not to be confused with Gamewatchers). They have some Landcruisers and have been mentioned favorably on Lonely Planet Thorntree. I don't think we've seen a review here though.

Good luck!
Patty is offline  
Jan 18th, 2007, 10:47 AM
  #5  
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Thanks Patty.

What is a reasonable amount to spend considering my trip parameters? Also, considering this is a trip of a lifetime, I am willing to spend to do it right but I need to be very budget conscious. How do I prioritize?

DC2Africa
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Jan 18th, 2007, 11:04 AM
  #6  
 
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Lucia did a private safari through Gamewatchers last year and posted her cost in this thread http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34906746

I would expect a bit higher prices for this year. My guess is you're not going to find what you want for under $300pppn but I'm willing to be proven wrong. Check with those 2 operators and see what they come back with. Post their proposals here and perhaps we could make suggestions on where/how to trim the budget if necessary.
Patty is offline  
Jan 18th, 2007, 01:01 PM
  #7  
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I'm working on getting itineraries from the companies you suggested.

I want to stay in 2 different places in a week (the mara and samburu?) but don't want the restrictions of having to be part of a set schedule that most of these websites are offering.

How do I make this work?
DC2Africa is offline  
Jan 18th, 2007, 01:14 PM
  #8  
 
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If you're planning a private safari, just let the operators know where you want to go. The itineraries listed are just examples. You don't have to go with those.

If you're driving from Samburu to the Mara, you'll need to make an intermediate stop somewhere in between, probably Nakuru, as it's too far to drive in one day. You could fly but that adds to the cost.
Patty is offline  
Jan 18th, 2007, 02:49 PM
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Patty gives really great advice and if there is any way you could squeeze it into your budget you should try to fly to the Mara and Samburu, you will loose a lot of time driving between both those parks. i would really consider it especially with only 8 days for Safari.
joeyi is offline  
Jan 18th, 2007, 03:04 PM
  #10  
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I didn't realize that, thanks for the warning!

Actually, if you only had 8 days and didn't want to be on the road much (besides game drives of course), what 2 parks would you feel is a must see for a first timer?

I'm going to assume Masai Mara is one of them...
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Jan 18th, 2007, 03:28 PM
  #11  
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Just received this from Africa Point...

1st July 07 Arrival at the airport Nairobi > transfer to Boulevard hotel

2nd July 07: NAIROBI Ė MAASAI MARA > overnight at Mara Sopa

3rd July 07: MAASAI MARA > overnight at Mara Sopa

4th July 07:MAASAI MARA - NAIROBI
0630 hrs -Early morning game drive. After breakfast return to Nairobi arriving around 1300 hrs. To Boulevard hotel

5th July 07:
Nairobi at 0730hrs to Arusha at Impala Hotel at 1230 hrs. Depart for Ngorongoro Conservation Area at 1400 hrs Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge

6th July 07 NGORONGORO / SERENGETI (half-day morning tour of the crater) after lunch, depart at 1400 hrs for Serengeti National Park passing via Olduvai Gorge. Dinner and overnight at Serengeti Sopa Lodge

7th July 07: SERENGETI / LAKE MANYARA
0800 hrs on a game drive in the Serengeti National Park. Return to the lodge for lunch.
At 1400 hrs proceed to Lake Manyara National Park via Ol duvai gorge and check in at Kirurumu Tented Lodge.
Overnight at Kirurumu Tented Lodge.

8th July 07: LAKE MANYARA
After breakfast, start at 0800 hrs with a morning game drive at Lake Manyara National Park. Drive back to Arusha at 1000 hrs to arrive for lunch at Impala Hotel at 1200 hrs. After lunch take Impala shuttle back to Nairobi arriving in the evening. Overnight at Boulevard hotel.

9th July 07
Breakfast at the hotel then transfer to the airport for your homebound flight.

The cost per person sharing is US$ 2150 x 2 people= US$ 4300

There is a little too much wasted time in traveling from place to place but I can remove a few places... has anyone used Africapoint?

Could also use some advice on how to tweak this itinerary.

Thanks all (especially Patty)!
DC2Africa is offline  
Jan 18th, 2007, 04:08 PM
  #12  
 
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"what 2 parks would you feel is a must see for a first timer?"

that is such a hard question to answer. I would agree the Mara for sure. Maybe one of the mountain lodges would be good option as the drive from Nairobi to there is not too long and the roads are pretty good.

not sure why Africa Point would send you to the Mara and Serengenti, they are really the same eco system just separated by a border.
joeyi is offline  
Jan 18th, 2007, 08:07 PM
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If you are in Africa in early July, the Serengeti is a great place to be. You could add two more days in the Serengeti to Africa Point's itinerary instead of the Mara for less running around. I think I'd choose the Serena and/or Seronera Lodge for location.

But if you are set on the Mara, and I can understand why, and you have 8 days, then I'd go with your original plan of Mara and Samburu. That keeps you on safari and not on the roads.

Good luck!

atravelynn is offline  
Jan 19th, 2007, 06:01 AM
  #14  
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Thanks all!

I think my girlfriend and I have decided that we should stay in Africa more than the 8 days planned -- more like two weeks (Leave DC Friday 6/22 leaving Nairobi Friday 7/6).

I guess to make that work (budget wise) we think that we may have to camp for a part of the trip.

Does anyone have any experience camping in Africa? Any suggestions on how to make this work?

I'm beginning to get a bit overwhelmed by all the options but at the same time I'm getting soooo excited!

DC2Africa is offline  
Jan 19th, 2007, 06:20 AM
  #15  
sandi
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A number of posters here have used Africa Point and have been pleased. They do offer good prices, but be certain they confirm any of your accommodations ahead of time. You don't want any surprises.

However, AP does seem to cram in too much, too fast, too much time on the road. You can ask them to slow it down a bit, so you can catch your breathe somewhere.

For end-June/July, you should try to get space in the Serengeti, but accommodations are limited in your budget to the Serena, Sopa or Wildlife; even availability at this late date. However, camping is available in the Serengeti - can be budget on public sites, or semi-lux on private camp sites... depends on how rough you want your camping. And, as a private safari you'll have your own cook to prepare meals...

Camping is available in Tarangire, Manyara and the Serengeti. At the crater, it's just too cold on the rim for camping, my personal opinion, though some brave hearts do this.

If you have time after visiting Tanzania and want a few days in the Mara, there are camping options, which AP should be able to advise. These are mostly drive to/from the Mara, so be prepared for 5+/hrs on lousy roads.

 
Jan 19th, 2007, 12:36 PM
  #16  
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Hello again and thanks for all the input. I've put together a rough itinerary from e-gnu.com let me know what you guys think...

1 23-June> Flight From Washington DC
2 24-June> Flight Arrive Nairobi Transfer From NAIROBI Airport To Norfolk Hotel
3 25-June> Transfer From Norfolk Hotel To Samburu Serena Lodge
4 26-June> Samburu Serena Lodge
5 27-June> Transfer From Samburu Serena Lodge To Sweetwaters Tented Lodge
6 28-June> Sweetwaters Tented Lodge
7 29-June> Transfer From Sweetwaters Tented Lodge To Olonana Tented Camp
8 30-June> Olonana Tented Camp
9 1-July> Olonana Tented Camp
10 2-July> Olonana Tented Camp
11 3-July> Olonana Tented Camp
12 4-July> Olonana Tented Camp
13 5-July> Transfer From Olonana Tented Camp To Nairobi Airport

I don't have the estimate from E-gnu yet but I'm assuming it will be close to 3k. Any thought from you seasoned fodorites?


DC2Africa is offline  
Jan 19th, 2007, 12:58 PM
  #17  
sandi
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So much for budget, Olonana's rack rate as July 1 is $545/person/nt. And their net rate isn't that much lower. That doesn't include your daily park fees. You may want to rethink that one as 5/days here will eat up that $3K in a flash! Besides 5/days is quite alot of time in the Mara early July.

You don't indicate whether getting to Samburu is by road or flight. If by road, I'd stay a 3rd day here. Even if flying, Samburu is good for 3/days.

From Samburu to Sweetwater's is that a drive or flight into Nanyuki with a transfer to camp? From Nanyuki you can fly to the Masai Mara.

And, each of these flights will add to your costs, though is an easy way of getting from place to place.

You can do Samburu and Mara only in the original number of days you had, at a camp in the Mara that costs less than Olonana, with flying between and probably keep close to budget.

From Africa Point (a wholesaler) to e-gnu... one end of the budget to the other. Would be interesting to see the figure they come up with.
 
Jan 19th, 2007, 01:15 PM
  #18  
 
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It may make sense to fly on scheduled flights (Air Kenya) between Nairobi and Samburu and Masai Mara, and stay at the Serena hotels. By staying in Serena's, you may be able to afford private vehicles on your budget. Your new itinerary will be very pricey.
thit_cho is offline  
Jan 19th, 2007, 01:15 PM
  #19  
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Thanks for the response Sandi. I must say that I used e-gnu more as a reference since you can build an itinerary with prices. E-gnu gave me a price of 297 pppn at the Olonana for the days asked but it's not for sure until I get the quote back.

What's a good camp in Mara that is comparable to Olonana but cheaper?

I chose Olonana because I wanted to end my trip at the nicest place I could afford in the best park...

My goal I guess is to tweak this thing to death until I come with the right itinerary at the right price.

Thanks again for everyones input!

DC2Africa is offline  
Jan 19th, 2007, 01:28 PM
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I agree with sandi. Olonana is one of the more expensive camps in the Mara in peak season and that portion alone would cost $3K or more.

You didn't mention if the itinerary is driving or flying but I assume at the very least, the Sweetwater to Mara leg would be flying. If you fly, keep in mind that you generally use the camp's vehicles for your game drives on a shared basis with other guests unless you choose to pay for a private vehicle. At Olonana, I think this is an additional $350 per day.

Your other alternative for private game drives is to have a tour operator's vehicle drive to the Mara and meet you on arrival (assuming you fly). This will probably cost less overall than paying the camp's private vehicle surcharge depending on your length of stay but will definitely be more than an all drive itinerary.

Camping is generally divided into budget, semi-lux, or lux. Budget camping is really the only type that saves you money. You'd use public campsites with shared facilities. Hot water isn't always available. Based on what you said your minimum requirements were earlier, I don't think you'll like this type of camping.

Semi-lux camping costs as much as staying in moderately priced lodges. Semi-lux camping is usually chosen not for cost savings but because you enjoy wilderness camping. Private campsites with no facilities are used and your tour operator brings in and sets up everything. Normally there's a bucket shower and toilet tent near but not connected to your sleeping tent which is generally a medium sized dome tent with twin sized cots or mattresses. If you go this route, you should check the specifics with each operator as standards in the definition of semi-lux vary between operators.
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