Honeymoon in East Africa

Jul 18th, 2005, 12:39 PM
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Honeymoon in East Africa

We are looking at East Africa as a possible honeymoon destination in August-September of next year, 2-3 weeks.

Don't know where to start - we definitely want to visit Maasai Mara or Serengeti, Ngorongro crater and possibly finish off with a few idyllic days on the beach in Zanzibar (or Pemba?). We have friends who have been to East Africa last year and they have convinced us that is the ideal place for a honeymoon.

I have been looking at all the interesting threads on this site (and other travel forums) for days and am now confused as there is so much of information yet dont know where to start. Which parks offer best game viewing at that time of year, what is the ideal time to be on safari, what lodges and beach hotels are private (not too many people)and which companies would you recommend?

Nicola_683 is offline  
Jul 18th, 2005, 02:54 PM
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I think you can have a wonderful honeymoon in East Africa and August/September is a good time of year, though high season so be sure to secure your reservations early (you have plenty of time as of now).

I agree that the initial research can be quite overwhelming! For years, a safari in East Africa wasn't much more than just a vague notion that I had in my head but which I'd never really seriously considered. Then in October of last year, an opportunity presented itself and I found myself with holding tickets to fly to Nairobi in January before I even knew what I was going to do or where I was going to stay! That led to a mad scramble for information and I remember how utterly confused I was then (OK I still am utterly confused sometimes by the enormous amount of choices).

I spent weeks reading through the threads and trip reports here, pored through guidebooks, and got some great advice to my posts. I would advise doing the same, keeping in mind that some of the advice you receive will seem to contradict others and a lot of the answers to your questions are very subjective, such as 'what is the ideal time to be on safari?' - some may say 3 days while others say 3 months So in the end you just have to read everything, absorb what you can, think about what the two of you really enjoy because you know your own likes and dislikes much better than we do, and don't second guess yourself.

Our first trip turned out to be fantastic, but only 10 days in country (most of it on safari) and I felt that I'd only gotten a glimpse and definitely wanted to experience more, so we're returning this November for 3 weeks. I just finalized all of my bookings and paid my deposits and can't wait to go!

Other than not too many people, do you have any ideas as to what kind of accomodations you'd like and what your budget is? Would you prefer something ultra-luxurious or more of a rustic, traditional 'bush' experience (but very private)? By rustic, I don't necessarily mean no showers or toilets or anything like that, but rather something more low-key and simple. Or a mix of both? Without know anything else, my general recommendation is to look into the tented camps that are available. These can be permanent, semi-permanent, or mobile, and can range in size from just your tent (the ultimate in privacy) to 6 to a dozen to a lot more. 'Not too many people' is somewhat subjective too, so if you have a max occupancy in mind, let us know. There are some nice smaller lodges too which can be mixed in with your tented camp stays, but stay away from the larger chain lodges as these won't provide the type of atmosphere you seek.

Also, since you mentioned the privacy factor, I don't know if you've given any thought to parks/reserves in northern Kenya or southern Tanzania, places more off the beaten path that aren't usually on the 'standard' safari circuit? They may be a little more difficult (and more expensive) to get to, sometimes requiring the use of charter or scheduled charter flights, but almost guarantee remoteness, whereas in Maasai Mara or Ngorongoro, you may be amongst many other vehicles.

Even in southern Kenya/northern Tanzania, there are parks which are less heavily visited and can provide uncrowded alternatives (I didn't mean for it to sound like all of this area was crowded) that aren't difficult to get to. The game density may not be as high in some of these parks, so sometimes it's a quantity vs quality tradeoff. Of course, if it's the migrating herds you want to see then you'll want to include the Mara in Aug/Sep.

If you have a full 3 weeks, my ideal would be 2 weeks on safari with a week of beach time (although we're spending all of our time on safari for this upcoming trip). If more like 2 weeks, then maybe 10 days safari and 5 days on the beach. To me a weeklong safari is a bit too short, so I tend to vote for more safari time, but I know how stressful wedding planning can be (I lost 10 lbs before mine and not intentionally!) so you may prefer more time to decompress on the beach.

When considering a longer safari, you may want to think of working a variety of activities into your itinerary other than game drives - some of these activities can be safari walks, boat rides, camel/horse rides, etc. to give you a perspective other than from a vehicle.

Many here (including me) prefer to work directly with safari operators based in Kenya/Tanzania to arrange custom itineraries. If you do a search on this board, you should find many previous recommendations, as well as recommendations for US/UK based agents. I would contact a few different outfitters to get a feel how they operate. Ultimately, it's whoever is most responsive to your needs and who you feel most comfortable communicating with that matters. Two different clients can have very different experiences with the same outfitter as a recent thread on Roys shows.

Hope some of this information is helpful and you decide to spend your honeymoon in East Africa. It will be an amazing experience!
Patty is offline  
Jul 18th, 2005, 03:47 PM
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Thank you Patty for your valuable advice and suggestions.

I think we would prefer accomodation in quieter places - the tented lodges/tentd camps (same thing???) sound ideal and give the apperance of being tucked away in the wild with more personal attention (hot showers and flushing toilets would be a priority for us although I think we wouldn't mind a couple of days of "roughing it" to capture the sense of adventure in Africa) I have been reading various posts and came up with Migration Camp, Kleins Camp, Kirawira Tented Lodge, Manyara TreeLodge and Tarangire Treetops Lodge (one of these tree lodges would be great!) and perhaps Ngorongogro Crater lodge (is there a tented lodge in Ngornogoro - dont seem to have come across any mention of one), Tortillis Camp, Governors Camp and Elsas Kopjes sound great too. Our friends highly recommend Fundu Lagoon in Pemba, and I have heard a lot about Breezes in Zanzibar. Mnemba island lodge in Zanzibar sounds lovely but may be too expensive for us.

We have a budget of about $13,500 not including return flights.

AS far as my research into tour operators is concerned, there are a number of names that keep coming up often: African Dream Safaris, ATR, OAT, Roys Safaris, Good Earth, Tanzania Seregneti Adventures - I am assuming all these are local operators? There seem to be some good remarks about some of these operators and some contradictory threads by other posters. All this adds to the confusion - just when I thought reading up on people's personal experiences would count towards helping me shortlist a few operators. I suppose there are others like me who are merely here for advice and assistance from those who have actually been and have factual information to share than one can read in brochures.

There seem to be people like yourself, Sandi, Kavey and others who seem to have a lot of experience of Africa and am hoping to get some sort of rough idea of a program to get me started.

To begin with, do you think 2 weeks on safari and a week on the beach sounds okay? Should I write to some of the operators posted here to see if they can suggest something in that time frame? Or should I first draft something up myself (have no idea on how much time to allocate to each park although I gather Serengeti is a huge park and it would be better to spend more time there?)
Nicola_683 is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 05:17 AM
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Nicola -

Patty got you started in the right direction. Sure, it's pure confusion at the start, and even after years of doing this... but it's doable.

With three week, I would definitely save time at the end for R&R on the beach, whether Zanzibar, Pemba, Mnemba - all in Tanzania; or Mombasa, Malindi, Lamu - in Kenya.

Also for August/September - I would concentrate on the Migration which will be in the Mara in Kenya. I'd skip the Serengeti altogether as there isn't much happening there at that time of year. If looking for intimate space and privacy, alternate activities to game drives and beach, I would suggest a combination of Kenya and Tanzania including the following:

Tanzania - Tarangire 2-nts (Swala or Tree Tops); Ngorongoro (Crater Lodge, but only 1-nt as it's tres expesive)

Kenya - Fly north to Laikipia - Sabuk 2-nts (intimate bandas, camel safaris, close contact with local people); close-by is Starbeds at Loisaba 1-nt (very romantic sleeping under the stars, close contact with locals); Samburu 2-nts (Bedouin Camp or Elephant Watch) OR Meru 2-nts (at Elsa's - said to have the most romantic bathroom in Africa); the Masai Mara 4-nts (too many choices here - Bateleur, Saruni, Oloonana, Naibor, etc. etc.)

For way off the beaten path there is:

Far north Kenya - The Desert Rose
On Tanz/Kenya border - Shompole
In Tsavo (Chyulu Hills) Kenya - Campi ya Kanzi

On the Coasts - Tanzania options: Mnemba is lovely, but very expensive; Pemba at Fundu Lagoon is good; also Pemba Afloat if you're divers... live aboard boat for a few days; Mafia Island short flight from Dar-es-saleem, again if you're divers; Chumbe Island off Zanzibar a small eco-resort.
Kenya options: Lamu Island at Manda Bay; Diani Beach at the Alfajiri (where Brad and Angelina "escaped"!!!)

Check the website for those named and see which appeal. Then put your list together and submit to a few tour operators. Your best bet for pricing will be thru in-country outfitters. Many of those you listed (except OAT which is US based and does group trips and an older age-group) are Tanzania based. You have to find one that works with both Tanzania and Kenya. The only one that I'm aware is Roys who works with Wild Trek in Kenya and vice-versa... not sure about the others.

You have some homework to do... but take your time (not much) and come up with an itinerary you think both of you will enjoy... then we'll go from there.
Jul 19th, 2005, 07:45 AM
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Thanks Sandi

You and Patty have been extremely helpful and have given me a lot of pointers.

Elephant Watch and the Bedouin Camp (real bedouins in Kenya? or is that just the name of the camp?)sound very interesting. Is it possible to have a night or two in Samburu as well as Maasai Mara and should we do the Kenyan bit before or after the Tanzanian bit. (Bearing in mind we are hoping to round it off with R&R in Zanzibar or Pemba - or even Mombasa - we hadnt considered that. Diani Beach sounds great although I am not sure we can afford the price if the likes of Brad and Ms Jolie frequent the place!)

I will do a bit more research and try and draw up a shortlist of companies to approach. Roy Safaris has certainly been getting a lot of good comments, as have ATR. What about Tanzania Serengeti Adventure - there are a few posts about them - are they East African based and can they arrange tours in Kenya as well as Tanzania?
(I have been doing a few searches on the few companies shortlisted). Not so sure about Predators who seem to come up in some posts (I believe I read in one of the posts here that they are affiliated with a US based company 2AFrika?) and there have not been very good reports on all their tours by some of the people who have been with them.
I didnt realise Africa Dream Safaris adn Good Earth were not based in East Africa; we would be happier going with local companies - feel we need do our bit for local development. We also like to have guides who are local to the area. Learning more about the history, traditions and different cultures appeals to us almost as much as if not more so, than wildlife and tropical beaches which is why we want to visit East Africa. We previously had a holiday in Namibia which was very good but the guide was not native/local although he had fair knowledge on wildlife and the surrounds - the element that was lacking was about local culture.

Is there any company you know of that incorporates cultural programs with safari or would we have to arrange that part ourselves when we get there? We would prefer to have everything organised so that when we arrive all we have to do is follow the plan and enjoy, whilst ensuring we havent overlooked an important part of what makes Africa so unique.

Are we asking for too much?

Any suggestions would be very welcome.

BTW, I am hoping to look at some of the photographs posted here by people who have been to East Africa - any particular ones to look out for that may help me visually decide on places to visit?
Nicola_683 is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 10:05 AM
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I like to start with a rough outline in mind before contacting tour operators, which then gets further fine tuned and tweaked and tweaked some more as I get more input from various sources.

Of the companies you mentioned, Africa Dream is a US based agent specializing in Tanzania. I'm not sure which Tanzania operator(s) they use. Africa Travel Resource (ATR) is a UK based agent specializing in various African countries using several different operators in Tanzania. Both Africa Dream and ATR offer custom itineraries, but I don't know if either of them can offer a combined Kenya/Tanzania itinerary as they both seem to concentrate on Tanzania. OAT is a tour packager that offers fixed itinerary group tours throughout the world. They use Kibo Safaris as their ground operator in Tanzania. Kibo is well regarded and you may want to contact them directly as I don't believe OAT does custom itineraries. 2Afrika is another US based agent and they use Predators Safaris in Tanzania and Naked Wilderness (last I heard, I believe they were using another company previously) in Kenya for both group and custom itineraries.

Roys, Good Earth and TSA are all Tanzania based tour operators and by tour operator I mean the actual company that provides the 'on the ground' services. I believe Roys and Good Earth also have US numbers/contacts. I don't think TSA maintains a US presence. Whether all of these ground operators are wholly or partially owned by local Tanzanian citizens, I don't know. That's something you can research further if it's important to you.

If you end up with the majority of your time in Kenya, you can also look at Kenya based tour operators. The one that I used earlier in the year and will be using again in November is Eastern & Southern Safaris based in Nairobi. Other Kenya based operators that I've seen mentioned here are Suntrek Safaris, Wildtrek Safaris, and Southern Cross Safaris.

Most of the locally based operators whether Kenyan or Tanzanian work on a custom basis and will be able to offer you an itinerary combining the two countries if that's your preference (I know for sure that E&S does). They usually work closely with a ground operator in the other country to coordinate your trip. The 'hand off' whether crossing by land or air should be a fairly smooth and easy transition.

You can also choose to work separately with two locally based operators, one in each country, if you'd like. I know others have done this and this is what I did for our upcoming trip. The main reason is that we're doing a horseback safari in Tanzania and I wanted to communicate directly with the operator who will be guiding us. If we were doing a more traditional safari, I probably would just as soon book everything through my Kenya tour operator. So do whatever you feel is best in your situation.

Hope that clarifies the tour operator issue a bit. You can also go to www.tatotz.org or www.katokenya.org for a listing of member operators. I'm sure there are lots of reputable ones out there that aren't frequently mentioned on this board.

As far as cultural programs, I would mention this to the tour operators you contact and see what they suggest. I'm sure they can coordinate this for you. I believe there are some programs in and around the Arusha area.

Something that really interested me but I wasn't able to fit into this trip is a visit to the Hadzabe bushmen in the Lake Eyasi area of northern Tanzania. They are one of the last hunter/gatherer tribes. It's a few hours drive from Karatu and can be organized as a day trip from there or there's a camp at Lake Eyasi called Kisima Ngeda which looked interesting to me. A side trip here could easily be worked into a northern Tanzania driving route.

Other than small suggestions here and there, I'm really not very good at coming up with itineraries for other people. Sometimes I think my own ideas are a little on the quirky side. I also get the feeling that I'm less concerned with the when's and where's of optimum game viewing and the migration patterns than most, so those types of question I feel are much better left for others to answer. For me wildlife viewing is just one of many facets which I find fascinating and contribute to my overall enjoyment of the trip.

Will your beach time be at the end of your trip? I'd let which country you choose for your beach stay be a guide as to whether to do your safari portion in Kenya or Tanzania first. Visiting one country first, then the other seems more logical to me than crossing back and forth between the two, and I think may prove to be logistically easier. In Kenya you can also look into the resorts around the northern coastal area - islands like Lamu, Manda, and Kiwayu have very private, barefoot, thatched hut on the beach variety of accomodations. There are daily scheduled flights from Nairobi and most will involve a boat transfer upon arrival as well.

There are so many terrific East Africa album links posted here. Sandi posted hers recently, as well as JazzDrew, cookndoc and others. Eben (climbhighsleeplow) has posted several albums and reviews recently of various camps and lodges in Tanzania - they're entitled Serengeti Slideshow, Tarangire Slideshow, etc. These should all still be on the first few pages of threads. Hint - if you click on a posters name, you'll see a list of all of their previous posts in the left hand column in case you didn't know that.

Here are a couple of not so recent albums -



And a few travelogues of Tanzania that I've enjoyed reading -



Lots of research for you. Happy planning!
Patty is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 11:37 AM
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Wanted to add - Africa Dream and ATR's websites have good reviews & photos of camps/lodges in Tanzania -



African Mecca has descriptions, photos, and low res video clips of camps/lodges in Kenya and Tanzania -


And beach resorts -


Vintage Africa has descriptions and slide shows of camps/lodges/resorts in Kenya & Tanzania (go to Select Accomodation and choose the country) -


These should give you a good overview of what's available, but may not cover all of the seasonal camps. Many camps also operate smaller fly camps where you can add a night or two during your stay at their main camp. Some are offered in conjunction with walking safaris, others you would arrive by vehicle or other transport. This could be your rustic adventure if that's an option that appeals to you. We'll be spending a night at one as part of a walking safari in the Mara.
Patty is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 11:38 AM
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Nicola -

Bedouin is the name of the camp. And the areas north are much desert, so the name is appropriate. I guess if you live in a tent in the desert you are a bedouin!

As to Alfajiri, yes expensive, but Brad and Angelina had two rooms/suite and I believe the rate is $500/$600 person/nite... the same as on Mnemba Island. So it depends on your budget. But Fundu Lagoon on Pemba is a good option as is Ras Nungwi on northern tip of Zanzibar. There are lots of options.

As others know, I believe in "not" backtracking. I also believe in "saving the best for last" And for Aug/Sept that would be the Mara before heading to the coast. If this be the case, the Mombasa area would make sense - including Lamu and the surrounds as Patty mentioned above. But the flight to Mombasa is 1-hr; to Zanzibar it's closer to 1.5 hrs. Also, alot will depend on which airport you're flying out of... and as well into. Flying into Kilimanjaro (JRO) in Tanzania is easy enough with KLM. KLM also flies out of JRO, and Dar-es-Salaam (DAR) both in Tanzania and Nairobi (NB0) in Kenya. I find KLM to be the best carrier for this area, but depending on from where you're traveling, whether with FF miles or other concerns, you may have to opt for another carrier.

If you're interested in cultural activities in addition to safari just ask for it and see what options are offered by the tour outfitters. And do be specific if you know what is that interests you.

I recently returned from Tanzania and Kenya and posted my photos which you can find at:


It's a big album with over 600 photos - more a photo journal. And the status of my trip report is only on Day 11, so I've got more to post. You can find this under the title of "Finally, my trip report......" something, something - I don't even remember, but if you click on my name it'll show up in the left column.

And there are other recent photo postings and trip reports, as Patty mentioned. So look thru and read-away... these should keep you busy for awhile.

As soon as you have a preliminary idea of an itinerary and places to stay, just post it here and we'll be able to comment before sending on to three or four outfitters you choose.
Jul 19th, 2005, 12:58 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,845
One more thing - you asked if it was possible to combine a night or 2 in Samburu with Masai Mara, definitely. There are daily flights linking Samburu-Mara. Domestic scheduled flights in Kenya can be found at www.airkenya.com and www.safarilink.co.ke and Tanzania domestic flights at www.regional.co.tz and www.coastal.cc - these aren't the only carriers but their sites will give you a good idea of fares and schedules to help you with planning.

Other destinations may require the use of charter flights, which while not prohibitively expensive in East Africa, does start to add to the costs.

The other option is a driving itinerary or a combination of flying and driving. If doing a northern Tanzania circuit and including parks like Tarangire & Ngorongoro, this will generally be done as a driving safari as there are no scheduled flights into either park. If you decide to include the Serengeti, then a one way flight (either direction) may make sense. In Kenya, some of the driving distances are long. It can take about 6 hours to reach Masai Mara, Samburu, and Tsavo from Nairobi, all in opposite directions from each other. Here it may be easier to fly as Kenya has a very developed network of scheduled flights. If considering a driving itinerary in Kenya, you can still include some of these parks, but would need to add a night or 2 at other parks in between to break up the drives.

Whether you fly or drive will also determine how your game drives are conducted. If driving, you generally have the same vehicle and driver/guide who provides both your transportation between parks and conducts your game drives (except at a few camps that require the use of their own vehicles/guides), and if it's a custom itinerary, then it will be just the 2 of you. If flying, then you'll use the camp's vehicles and guides for your game drives, usually on a shared basis with other guests, unless you opt to pay for the private use of a vehicle.

I think we've given you a lot to digest, so take your time and post back with any additional questions you may have.
Patty is offline  
Jul 20th, 2005, 01:45 AM
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Thanks to both of you. I have a lot to digest and will post back when we have picked out our favourites.

Thank you for the links to the photo albums - am sure will enjoy going through them.

You two sure are a treasure on this board! Many thanks for starting me off in the right direction!

Nicola_683 is offline  
Jul 25th, 2005, 10:48 AM
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Great photos Sandi! the kopjes look great!

Patty - thanks the photo albums you posted have given me some ideas, as do the travelogues - great resource!

Many thanks
Still doing my research to find the ideal itinerary
Nicola_683 is offline  

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