Honeymoon Advice for Kenya/Tanzania 2006

Old Apr 7th, 2005, 10:20 AM
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Honeymoon Advice for Kenya/Tanzania 2006


We are in the final stages of planning our Honeymoon to Kenya and Tanzania and we're looking for any advice/comments on our plans before we hand over the (substantial!) deposit.

This is our agenda - we are going Feb 2006

1 - Arrive Nairobi, stay in Norfolk
2 - Travel to Mt Kenya, stay in Mt Kenya Safari Club
3 - stay in Mt Kenya Safari Club
4 - Travel to Masai Mara, stay at Governers Il Moran
5 - stay at Il Moran
6 - Travel to Amboseli, stay at Ol Tukai Lodge
7 - stay at Old Tukai Lodge
8 - travel to Lake Manyara, stay at Lake Manyara Serena
9 - Travel to Ngorongoro Crater, stay at Ngorongoro crater lodge
10 - stay at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge
11 - Travel to Seregeti - stay at Oldupai tented camp
12 - stay at Oldupai tented camp
13 - Travel to Zanzibar, stay at Stone town Zanzibar Serena
14 - Travel to Mnemba Island, stay at Mnemba Island lodge
15 - Stay at Mnemba Island Lodge
16 - Stay at Mnemba Island Lodge.

These are my questions.

We wanted to be in the Southern Serengeti in February, our first choice (Kusini) is waitlisted, and it looks like accomodation is slim pickings in this part of the Serengeti. Our travel agent suggest Kirawira but we thought that was too far away from prime game viewing, so went with Oldupai camp (although she said it was not going to be as nice). Any thoughts on this?

I had originally wanted to stay at either Il Moran or the Mara Explorer. Any thoughts about which is nicer?

I'm concerned that Ol Tukai Lodge might not be that ideal for a honeymoon (for starters they seem to only have twin beds!). We had originally considered tortilis camp which looks much nicer, but is Ol Tukai lodge nice enough?

Can one get to Stone Town on a day trip from Mnemba Island easily enough? I really want to explore there a lot and one night at the Zanzibar Serena may not be enough if we can't get back there during one of the days from Mnemba.

Lastly, is anyone has any comments on what these lodgings are like, advice on possible better alternatives etc we'd be very appreciative.

I believe the company we're booking with is Somak Safaris.
drkath is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2005, 11:12 AM
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We stayed at Ol Tukai in February and have some pictures of our room and the lodge in general. If you'd like I can email them to you. We found the accomodations comfortable if basic. Rooms are grouped 4 to a cottage and could benefit from slightly better soundproofing. I think for a honeymoon I would prefer to stay at Tortilis camp. Also consider that Tortilis is much smaller with fewer guests whereas Ol Tukai has more of a family and group atmosphere. On the other hand you can see plenty of game right from the cottages at Ol Tukai as it overlooks the swamp area, which I don't believe you can do from Tortilis.

As for your other accomodations, I haven't stayed at any of them but just a couple of brief comments. The Mt Kenya Safari Club is a large lodge with a country club type atmosphere - perhaps this is exactly what you're looking for, I don't know but others have commented that it felt out of place and 'unsafari' like. For the one night at Lake Manyara, you may want to consider staying at one of the farm/plantations like Gibbs Farm or Plantation Lodge or Ngorongoro Farm where a frequent poster, Liz, stayed recently (all located in or around Karatu about 1/2 hour from Manyara) for an altogether different type of experience. Again I think it would be more charming than staying at a big lodge. Oldupai camp is probably your most rustic accomodations on this itinerary (maybe a bit of a shock after the Crater Lodge ) but it's some place that sounds very interesting from a cultural point of view, as long as you are prepared for very simple accomodations. It has gotten good reviews here.

You didn't specify but I assume you're flying between Nanyuki-Masai Mara-Amboseli on your Kenya portion. The distances are too long to cover comfortably in one day. I also think that your overall itinerary may benefit from cutting one location and placing additional nights in the Serengeti and/or Mara so that the pace is more relaxed. But then again I don't know your travel style and perhaps you enjoy something a bit faster paced

Is this a private safari that Somak has customized for you? I don't know if you've already been working with them a while to plan this itinerary but just for your information you should be aware that you can probably save some money by booking directly with a Kenyan or Tanzanian tour operator.
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Old Apr 7th, 2005, 11:18 AM
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When I said 'better soundproofing' I don't want anyone to think that I meant blocking out the sounds of nature. I love listening to the birds and animals! I meant blocking out the neighbors' sounds
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Old Apr 7th, 2005, 11:25 AM
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Oh and that other sentence should say - The distances are too long to cover comfortably in one day BY ROAD. Left out the 'by road' part.
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Old Apr 7th, 2005, 11:31 AM
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I don't know about this itinerary ;((

February is a very special time in the Serengeti (and for you ) so I think we can do better! Having visited both Kenya & Tanzania in February, I would arrange the holiday around Tanzania and visit Kenya only for specific reasons.

1. Don't give up on the Southern Serengeti yet! Various companies offer shared private camps (some very luxurious) near Ndutu and also at Moru Kopjes. In-country outfitters know these camps better than overseas agents since these camps change often (location and ownership).

2. What do you expect to experience at Mt Kenya Safari Club! The reality is different from the brochure!

3. Ill Moran is one of my all-time favorites and while the Mara is always good, in February the Serengeti comes to life!

4. Are you driving or flying between Kenya & Tanzania?

5. Stone Town can be done in a day or so unless you are really interested in it. It is not like a little Greek Village! Personally, I find it a bit boring after a day and night.

Are you willing to work with other outfitters who can book you in private camps in the Serengeti? If so, we can provide a list here (of camps & outfitters) and you can take it from there!
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Old Apr 7th, 2005, 12:03 PM
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My comments are similar to Patty's. While Mt. Kenya Safari Club is pretty, you can just as easily stay in Nairobi. I would suggest the House of Waine if you're looking to get over jetlag and have the same sophistication and probably more lux. While in NBO you'll have some time to take in some sights - the Daphne Sheldrik Ellee Orphanage, Karen Blixen Museum, Giraffe Manor.

You can then fly to the Mara - the road is terrible and best to fly to/from. My personal preference is Mara Explorer Camp, and since this isn't Migration time, Il Moran doesn't have the advantage of it's position. Besides, Mara Explorer is at the point where the Talek and Mara Rivers meet. I also think Mara Explorer is more romantic.

Then fly back to NBO, and drive to Amboseli... arriving about the time of the afternoon game drive. Here I'd go for Tortillis over Ol Tukai. They do have king size beds and a more intimate surrounding and the best pasta and Italian food.

You can then do a road transfer to Tanzania and head to Lake Manyara area. Patty's suggestions of accommodations in the Karutu area are better choices then the Serena.

The situation with the Ngorongoro Crater as to whether you will have half-day or full day tours still seems to be up in the air, and with Karutu relatively close to the Crater, you might want to spend only one night at the Crater Lodge for the lux and pampering and add the extra day in the Serengeti.

I'd try to get as many days in the Serengeti, where the wildebeest "calving" is happening. However, there aren't many choices for lodges or camps in this area. Kusini is probably the best, but you can check on Serengeti Camp as an alternative to Oldupai Camp. But keep your name on the Kusini waitlist... as many of major tour operators hold these places for their tour groups and release them as the time gets closer - so there might be hope. Kirawira, while lovely, is not where you want to be in February.

You should fly from the Serengeti (Seronera-Central area) to Zanzibar via Arusha/Kili. To be here for the flight, it would be a good idea to stay at the Serengeti Serena for 1-nt.

By the time you arrive ZNZ, it will be afternoon and daylight is limited on the Equator - sunset at 6:30pm, so you won't have much time to investigate Stone Town. But if you want romance, Emerson & Green might be a better choice, over the Serena.

Mnemba Island is on the other end of ZNZ, off the Northeast Coast... taking over an hour to return to Stone Town (short boat ride and then drive to ST and return).

The reason many who post here prefer in-country tour operators is that they do custom itineraries at accommodations "you" choose, not those they choose for you, and with prices as competitive, often better, then those in your home country.

I'd consider something like:

Day 1 - Arv NBO, House of Waine
Day 2 - House of Waine
Day 3 - Fly to Masai Mara, Mara Explorer
Day 4 - Masai Mara, Mara Explorer
Day 5 - Fly to NBO, drive to Amboseli, Tortilis
Day 6 - Amboseli, Tortilis
Day 7 - Drive to Namanga border into Tanzania, drive onto Karutu - Gibbs Farm, Plantation Lodge, Ngorongoro Farm House*
Day 7 - Karutu*
Day 8 - Ngorongoro Crater, Crater Lodge
Day 9 - Drive to Serengeti, tented camp
Day 10 - Serengeti, tented camp
Day 11 - Drive to Sereonera, Serena
Day 12 - Fly to Zanzibar via Arusha/Kili, onto Mnemba Island
Day 13 - Mnemba Island
Day 14 - Mnemba island
Day 15 - Return to Stone Town, Emerson & Green
Day 16 - Depart - the airport is 10-minutes from Stone Town so can fly from ZNZ to JRO or NBO, depending on from where you're departing. If departing late (around 10pm) from either JRO/NBO, you don't have to leave Stone Town till a late afternoon flight.

*Day 6 will be a long drive, that's the reason for Day 7 in the same area, but is close to the Crater.

Many on this board use Roy Safaris, Tanzania based, who can be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]. Or contact Wild Trek out of Nairobi who can be reached at [email protected]

Just send them an email, and see what price they can offer.

But remember, that February is "prime" season, especially in the Serengeti; many places are already booked, but see what these outfitters can do for you.

Old Apr 7th, 2005, 01:11 PM
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Wow, you guys are FAST! I didn't expect responses so soon. I have contacted one of the places you suggest for more advice. We want to make this the best we can - once in a life time kind of thing(the honeymoon that is, I hope we'll be able to go to Africa more than once!). Thanks so much for all the advice.
drkath is offline  
Old Apr 8th, 2005, 02:25 AM
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I think your honeymoon will be too pacy. And you don't need to spend two days in Nairobi especially for your honeymoon. You also don't want to spend two days in Karatu in Tanzania.

For a relaxed honeymoon I suggest you spend 3 nights at each camp and also select some low key camps. Perhaps you could do

1 night Nairobi Norfolk
3 nights Chyulu Hills Campi ya Kanzi - beautiful countryside with nice views of Kilimanjaro. Also very nice hosts.
3 nights Masai Mara at Mara Explorer Camp. You can also balloon here.
3 nights Serengeti at Kleins Camp if Kusini is booked however Ndutu Lodge in southern part of Serengeti though not as luxurious is comfortable and friendly.
2 nights at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge - relax and enjoy the pampering and the views
4 nights at Mnemba. Stay at Emerson and Green in Stone Town if you choose a stay in Stone Town.

king is offline  
Old Apr 10th, 2005, 12:41 PM
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I happened to visit Fodors and read your itinerary and the conflicting advice/comments given. I bet you are

I love Africa and have traveleld and have taken 5 safaris to the continent.

I planned and researched each trip as you are doing, seeking advice - there was no shortage of ideas, things to do and dont do. It was like a jungle.

After 1st trip, I learnt a lesson -
never to book a trip with a company thousands of miles away!!

I see you are thinking/planning to go with Somak, then you have the best people to take care of you.

They arranged my 2nd and subsquent trips to Vic Falls, and then to Tanzania and Kenya. We got the best value for our money -- excelent accommodation, food and the safari. Their guides and staff were just wonderful

They have offices in USA but their local offices in Nairobi and Arusha.

Good luck and enjoy your trip

Jambo is offline  
Old Apr 10th, 2005, 01:57 PM
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drkath -

In response to Jambo's comments "don't use a tour operator thousands of miles away" - you will get many who feel differently. In the end you should use whichever tour operator/outfitter with whom you are comfortable, confident, provides a price in line with your budget, and works with you in providing the itinerary you want.

I believe all the comments will be beneficial in enabling you, if you wish, to modify your original itinerary as to places to omit, alternate accommodations, number of days, all of which you can discuss with any tour operator/outfitter.
Old Apr 10th, 2005, 02:13 PM
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<After 1st trip, I learnt a lesson -
never to book a trip with a company thousands of miles away!!>

That's certainly a very sweeping generalization. Would you mind expanding on this? Who did you book with and what went wrong?

Lots of people (myself included) have booked with local safari operators and been very pleased with their services, not to mention happy to save hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars.

Of course, communication is key and one should look carefully for a tour operator who is responsive and interested in tailoring an itinerary to your needs, regardless of what country they're located in. I emailed several Nairobi, US, and one South Africa based tour operator when planning my trip and settled on the one who I felt I had the best communication with, took the time to answer all of my questions, and could provide me with the personalized service that I was looking for.
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Old Apr 10th, 2005, 02:15 PM
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Would you care to elaborate on your advice of not booking with a company in Africa? We can learn from any negative experiences people have had, in addition to their positive ones. Thank you.
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Old Apr 12th, 2005, 08:19 AM
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Somak Safaris is headquartered in Nairobi and run by an East African family. I think that qualifies them as an Africian company.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2005, 06:01 AM
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I just stayed at three of your places--the Norfolk (where RR stayed when filming Out of Africa), Mt. Kenya Safari Club and Ol Tukai. Our group was very pleased with all of them. Our other night in Nairobi was spent in the charmless Intercontinental which should be avoided at all cost if you have a chance to stay at the Norfolk. Huge demonstrations occurred in front of the Intercontinental and hotel security advised against us leaving even by taxi. Nairobi is quite different than Chicago, NY. When we arrived and departed, our guide told us to roll up our windows. A woman in another group we met was pistol whipped when her taxi van was hijacked in tyhe middle of the day. It happened so subtly that she did not realize the regular driver was gone and balked at handing over her wallet to the person she thought was the driver. The giraffe manor and the Blixen house was worth a visit if you have time but if it means staying another night in Nairobi, my recommendation is not to give up second night at Mt. Kenya. Mt Kenya Safari Club is delightful. The horseback rides, the sweeping lawn with spectacular views of Mt. Kenya, the stoked fireplace, the huge showers, the masseuse Margaret (who mentioned she did Barabara Bush a few years ago) the maze, the good dining and the charm of a bygone era. Note--at the Norfolk, you can get a massage for $22 an hour excluding tip. Same at Ol Tukai and maybe slightly more at Mt. Kenya. I bought our guide one at Ol Tukai. Ol Tukai was a treat because we were in #17 and the herds of elephants, zebras, etc were just yards away. I could literally see them from our beds. I also saw lots of couples at Ol Tukai and there are plenty of places to snuggle and take moonlit walks. The art and the ambience makes Ol Tukai quite special independent of the proximity of the game. If you do decide to have a massage, book on arrival because the slots fill up quickly.
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Old Jul 25th, 2005, 01:44 PM
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What days were you in Nairobi? As I understand there were demonstrations Tue/Wed/Thu of last week in protest over some changes to the draft constitution, but the protests have abated for now. The Intercontinental is very close to Parliament. Normally the area around the hotel is OK to walk around in during the day, at least it seemed that way to us when we were there earlier in the year (we stayed at the Hilton down the street). Glad to hear you enjoyed the rest of your trip.
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Old Jul 25th, 2005, 02:25 PM
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We stayed at the Intercontinental a few weeks back. And, yes it's located right smack in the middle of the business and government area, so a protest of some kind wouldn't surprise me. I wonder how many protest marches there were somewhere in the U.S. or the UK that day?

As to safety. We walked on a bright afternoon from the Intercontinental to the Hilton to do some shopping. Returned with our parcels in hand and weren't given even a sideways glance by locals.

I don't believe there is a city in the world where "incidents" don't happen daily... some involving locals, some visitors.

What we all have to remember when we travel (even if just a few miles, to a nearby town or city) is not to leave our common sense at home.
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