Help with private 5 night safari in Kenya

Reply

Oct 15th, 2005, 01:26 PM
  #1
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 121
Help with private 5 night safari in Kenya

My wife and I have five nights in Kenya following a primate safari through Uganda and Rwanda next August. I realize we're a bit late (Aug 29-Sept 3) but our top priority is to see the migration. Before I contact operators for I wanted to fine-tune our plans. I'm hoping to keep things below 1200 USD per person for everything except the balloon ride. Here is the itinerary I had in mind:

Day 1: Arrive NBO around 13:00 and transfer to Lake Nakuru. Afternoon game drive if possible and night drive at Mbweha lodge.

Day 2: Transfer to Masai Mara, afternoon game drive and O/N Mara Serena.

Day 3: AM balloon flight and full day game drive. O/N Mara Serena.

Day 4: Morning game drive and transfer to Kicheche camp. Afternoon game drive or walk.

Day 5: Full day at Kicheche.

Day 6: Final game drive, afternoon flight to NBO, and fly home that evening.

I would appreciate general advice but I also have some specific questions:

1. Lodging: I wanted to spend time at Mara Serena because of its location. For the second camp I want a more intimate atmosphere and the opportunity for game walks. I don't think we can afford Governors-caliber camps, but should I consider something besides Kicheche?

2. Private vehicle: I like the flexibility of having our own vehicle for an all-day game drive at Serena. Since we're flying back to NBO, I was thinking that upon transfer to the tented camp we'd switch to an all-inclusive format and let our driver return to NBO. Does this make sense?

3. Cost: If my budget is unrealistic what modifications would you recommend to cut costs?

Thanks for your help.

-Matt
99mkw is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 15th, 2005, 07:05 PM
  #2
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,824
I think $1200pp might be a bit on the low side for next year's high season. You may be able to save some money if you keep your driver/guide and opt for a road transfer back to Nairobi versus flying. You can request a quote with both options and see how they compare. Don't forget to check the cost of the safari walks if going the non-inclusive route at your second camp.

Basecamp is another reasonably priced small camp that offers walking safaris and you can ask for a comparison quote -

http://www.basecampexplorer.com/masaimara/en

I believe Nyamera has stayed there so perhaps she can tell you more about the camp.

Good luck with your return flights. Keep checking as the award inventory does change from time to time. Last October when I reserved my flights for our February trip, I initially had to settle for economy on our AMS-NBO segment, but a month later some seats became available in business.

It looks like JRO-AMS is still scheduled to be operated on the MD-11 next September. Even if you're unable to make the switch into business class, at least the 2/4/3 economy seating configuration allows the two of you to sit next to each other without either having to occupy a middle seat

Hope others can offer some more suggestions.
Patty is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 16th, 2005, 04:58 AM
  #3
sandi
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
A recent trip report indicated that the expected 2-1/2 hour drive to Lake Nakuru, took almost 5+ hrs, so you may not get to go on an afternoon game drive... arriving instead in time for dinner.

For the next day, in order to get to the Mara, it's a good 5-6 hour drive (on rather lousy roads), so that's an early start to get you down there for lunch. Doing it this way will be a very hectic 2-day schedule and not much game viewing.

If you want to spend time at Lake Nakuru, I'd shorten the time in the Mara and stay at only one camp. Your original guide/driver can drive you to the Mara and do your game drives. To pay for a private vehicle can run $200+/day and believe this will bust your budget.

Then when you complete 3-1/2 days in the Mara and since you plan to take the late flight from here, your guide/driver can head back to NBO late morning/early afternoon; make arrangements for your lodge/camp to transfer you to the airstrip for fly back to NBO.

Day 1 - Arv. NBO, drive to Lk. Nakuru - o/n here
Day 2 - Lk. Nakuru - o/n
Day 3 - Drive to Masai Mara - o/n
Day 4 - AM balloon* flight at Mara - o/n
Day 5 - Masai Mara - o/n
Day 6 - 4pm flight to NBO, connect to homebound flight.

*do rearrange when you want to do the ballooning as it's very busy at this time of year and you might be locked-out if not doing so.

I believe this will work better for you and not be so rushed.
 
Reply With Quote
Oct 16th, 2005, 06:53 AM
  #4
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 2,309
Basecamp is very good for walking safaris and itís better situated for the migration than Kicheche. I was there in June 2003 and was told that the plain you see at the other side of the river - from the restaurant, watchtower and some of the tents - become completely black with wildebeests. The staff and the close co-operation with the local Maasai make it a very interesting place to visit. Itís not that small (15 tents), but smaller than Governorís and certainly smaller than the Serena. Kicheche has 11 tents, I believe. When I stayed in Basecamp it was very intimate, but I canít tell you what itís like when itís full.


Nyamera is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 16th, 2005, 08:52 AM
  #5
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 121
Thanks for your advice, especially to Patty whose flight advice made the trip possible (the Delta agent was dumbfounded when I gave her the exact dates with availability).

Thanks to Sandi for the suggestion of extending Nakuru. Initially I thought it would be nice just to get out of NBO that first day and hopefully enjoy those iconic images of the flamingos in the lake. Then I got more excited about the night drive possibility and considered leaving Rwanda a day earlier so our time there wouldn't be rushed.

Since the budget is tight the 2n Nakuru, 3n Mara might be more affordable. On the other hand, perhaps I should just drop Nakuru and focus on the Mara. I could either overnight in NBO or fly in a day later, and perhaps opt for a 4 night flying package just to the Mara. Would that offer any savings?

Alternatively, maybe I should step down a notch with the Mara lodging. I've heard time and again to avoid the eastern portion of the park, but I was really impressed with sunny days pictures and he seemed happy with Keekorok. Thanks again.

-Matt
99mkw is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 16th, 2005, 11:08 AM
  #6
sandi
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Whether you decide to forego the trip to Nakuru or not, spending a day in Nairobi just to get your landlegs back after Uganda and Rwanda might be a very good idea.

As to fly-in package, they are probably available, (the air portion runs about $250+ r/t... then your accommodations). But if flying in/out you'll have a seat in a shared lodge/camp vehicle, unless you want to spend for a private vehicle at the numbers I mentioned above. And not every lodge has private vehicles unless arranged well in advance.

Because it will be high season when you travel expect that these packages will be priced accordingly based on the lodge/camps selected and availability.

Send off to a one or two outfitters for pricing of a combo Lk.Nakuru/Mara and a Mara only and see whether you are even in the ballpark when it comes to your budget.
 
Reply With Quote
Oct 18th, 2005, 08:44 AM
  #7
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,824
Matt,
I get a kick out of it too when the agents are shocked because every date I choose is available

As to flying or driving, generally a flying package will cost more than a driving one provided that the itinerary and accomodations are the same and you have 2 or more people.

I think the warnings to avoid the eastern park of the reserve apply more to the northeastern section and also the areas outside of the reserve to the northeast. Many of the larger lodges (Sopa, Simba, Sarova) are located here, but I think Keekorok's location further into the park is relatively isolated.
Patty is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 19th, 2005, 07:56 AM
  #8
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 121
Patty-

I went ahead and sent my original itinerary to a number of local operators, including ESS. I followed your advice and requested quotes both for all driving and the road/air combo. I also substituted Ilkeliani for Kicheche since it sounds like that is a better location for the migration.

The first quote I received was about 50% over our budget. I was a bit crestfallen and emailed back with some of the cost saving modifications. Since then I have received quotes from ESS and Naked Wilderness and the all-road options are within a few dollars of my budget! The flying combo was about $200 extra per person for both companies.

In addition to saving the drive back to NBO, I had considered switching to an all-inclusive format at the second camp in case our driver wasn't the greatest guide. As I'm leaning toward ESS I was wondering if I could remove that variable by requesting the guide you had before and are using again. I was trying to find that original trip report but I had trouble finding it. What was his/her name?

Also, I had a general question about Ilkeliani versus Basecamp. Their locations looked quite comparable on Eben's map and one site (www.porini.com/gamewatchers/maasai_safari.html) listed Basecamp as a bit more expensive. I also just found Ilkeliani's website more appealing. I realize that's a dumb reason to pick one over the other. On the other hand, perhaps the game walks at Basecamp are better. Should I go ahead and ask for a price comparison?

Thanks again for all the advice. I'll keep you posted and I'm sure bug you with more questions.

-Matt
99mkw is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 19th, 2005, 10:02 AM
  #9
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 2,309
Matt, I havenít stayed at Ilkeliani Ė I believe Patty will soon go there - but I agree their website looks and sounds very good. Basecamp is a lot better than its website though. If Ilkeliani really were less expensive than Basecamp maybe Iíd choose it, but thereís not much about walks on their website and Iíd miss some legendary characters at Basecamp, so I donít know. Gamewatcherís prices for an extra night look a bit high. Last year I wanted to return to Basecamp and was quoted $ 195 per night (single, including game drives and park fees). I thought that was too expensive, so I went to Tsavo instead. Yes, do ask for a price comparison Ė I would like to know

Itís so irritating not to be able to use Google Earth.
Nyamera is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 19th, 2005, 10:22 AM
  #10
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,824
Matt,
First of all, I'm so glad to hear you were able to find some options that were within a few dollars of your budget!

I found very little mention of walks on Ilkeliani's website, only nature walks which could just be a short walk around the camp area whereas it sounds like Basecamp offers a variety of bush walks according to their website. I'd ask for more specific information on the types of walks available if it's important to you. I'd also ask for a comparison quote with Basecamp. It's very possible that Basecamp may cost more than Ilkeliani through one operator but not through another operator. I believe their locations are very close.

Did you decide to stay 3 nights at one location in the Mara and spend 2 nights at Nakuru or are you still considering the 1 night/4 night combination and splitting your time at two Mara accomodations?

Since I don't predict that we'll be in Kenya next August, feel free to ask for Julius as your guide
Patty is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 20th, 2005, 05:40 AM
  #11
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 121
Patty-

Right now I'm sticking with the Serena-Ilkeliani split. I've rearranged the first part of our to do Uganda only and it looks like we'll arrive in NBO a few hours earlier than our previous plan. Hopefully that will make for a more relaxed first day in Kenya.

You make a very good point about the walk description on the Ilkeliani website, so I'll definitely inquire about Basecamp. Thanks also for letting me know about your guide.

-Matt
99mkw is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 20th, 2005, 09:27 AM
  #12
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,824
Darn, I was hoping you'd go to Rwanda so you could tell me all about it Are you planning your gorilla trek in Uganda now?
Patty is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 20th, 2005, 03:13 PM
  #13
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 121
Patty-

I initially wanted to do our gorilla trekking in Rwanda for the following reasons:

1) It sounds like the cooler climate makes the hike more comfortable
2) People say the flora is more conducive to photography
3) You can also track golden monkeys in PNV
4) It's a shorter drive to an international airport to fly to NBO and we could move in a line instead of a loop

As I examined ways to fit our budget, I couldn't get past the fact that KGL-NBO is $100 more than EBB-NBO and there are more frequent flights out of Entebbe. Also, the PNV golden monkey trek will be $100 next August, whereas Jaynefer from Great Lakes informed me that you can track the monkeys in Mgahinga UG for $20. For those reasons the current plan is to do Mgahinga and Bwindi first, then up to Kibale via QENP, and finally back to Kampala. It will involve a ton of driving, but I think it will be worth it.

-Matt
99mkw is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 20th, 2005, 03:45 PM
  #14
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,824
Matt,
Thanks for the update. Hope you post a trip report when you return. I think I might like to add some time in Uganda next time (add that to my already very long list of places I want to go "next time" )
Patty is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 20th, 2005, 04:12 PM
  #15
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,916
I haven't followed your entire post, but I did read about your Uganda itinerary. I did a similar trip in August 2003, also by road, and the drives were very interesting -- its a beautiful country, lots of tea plantations, forest and nice villages. You get a much better sense of the country if you do some road transfers, as you are, as opposed to flying from park to park to park.

One thing about Queen Elizabeth. There is a gorge in the park (I forget the name) in which you can trek for chimps, and it has a decent success rate. We were one of the unsuccessful treks, however, but we did meet people on our trip who were successful.

Also, the flora in PNV and Bwindi, both of which we visited, is, at least to my unschooled eye, substantially similar, and we found the gorillas in large, open areas in both parks, and photos were easy.

Michael
thit_cho is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 21st, 2005, 04:43 AM
  #16
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 121
Michael-

Thanks for the reassurance; I hope we are lucky enough to encounter the gorillas in the open as you did. In any event, I will try to keep photography worries from detracting from the joy of that very special hour. Your trip report was a huge inspiration for our itinerary, so I thank you for that as well.

-Matt
99mkw is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 21st, 2005, 08:17 AM
  #17
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 391
If you want a coupe of nights out of Nairobi you may consider Sweetwaters Camp.... if you like primates they have a Chimp Sanctuary... and as it's a private ranch they can organise walking safaris.
Pumbavu is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 24th, 2005, 04:16 AM
  #18
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 121
Well, I'm still trying to decide between Ilkeliani and Mara Base Camp, but I have collected more information. As someone predicted, one camp is cheaper or more expensive depending on the operator. With Eastern and Southern, whom I am leaning toward, Basecamp is an extra 30 dollars per person per night and they mentioned that the full day safari walk would be $15 more than the half day. I also got an email back from Ilkeliani describing their nature walk:

We do provide nature walks with our very experienced Masai naturalist.  We have two sessions of the walk which takes approximately half an hour or two hours depending on the guests.  Morning session is between 9.00 AM - 12.00PM and evening session is between 3.30 PM - 6.00 PM

The nature walks are done along the river banks within the camp environs.  Our naturalist will brief you on different types of trees,plants,fruits,birds,lecture about Masai culture etc.

Looking forward to seeing you at Ilkeliani tented camp.

Patty, at some point you mentioned something about night drives at Ilkeliani. Do they offer those? At this point, I might be leaning toward Basecamp because of strong recommendations from Nyamera and the option of a more extensive walk. I would certainly appreciate any other comparisons of the two camps. Thanks.

-Matt
99mkw is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 24th, 2005, 05:52 AM
  #19
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,824
Matt,
I don't think there's the option of a night drive at Ilkeliani. On my itinerary, the only opportunities for a night drive are at Mbweha Camp and El Karama Ranch. Are you still planning to include Lake Nakuru or are you only going to the Masai Mara now? I'd be interested to hear the details of your Uganda itinerary too once you have it finalized. Thanks.
Patty is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 24th, 2005, 08:04 AM
  #20
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 391
I have used Eastern and Southern on a couple of occassions. They have some very good guide/drivers. They don't seem to use the "luxury" camps... but good well run camps. Went with then to Tsavo East amd West... Shimba Hills (probably wouldn't choose there again) and going with them to Sweetwaters in a few weeks. They will negotiate a bit on published prices... eg on price per head if your numbers are higher.
Pumbavu is offline  
Reply With Quote
 



Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 05:02 AM.