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How much say does one really have on a private East Africa safari???

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Nov 5th, 2005, 08:07 PM
  #1
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How much say does one really have on a private East Africa safari???

Okay, it is now a 100% go that I will, in fact, be going to Tanzania at the end of February. While this will be my fifth trip to Africa, it will be my first to East Africa, and my first with a private guide and vehicle.

My question is will I be able to dictate 100%, within reason, the time and length of my game drives, of course taking into consideration the rules of the national parks?

If I want to go out on three game drives per day, is this possible? If I want, perhaps, only a single eight hour game drive, will this be a reasonable request?

Will I be able to exit the vehicle for better photos if it is reasonably safe?

Also, does anyone know if I will be able to get nighttime game drives at any of the following camps:

Olduvai Camp (1)
Nomad Masek (2)
Nomad Piaya (2)
Mbuzi Mawe (2)

Lastly, is it possible to enjoy birding in a closed top vehicle?

Thanks.
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Nov 6th, 2005, 04:59 AM
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I would suggest you discuss your wishes with your safari outfitter. Only they can answer your questions.

If you want 3-game drives or full-day game drives, let ATR know. If you want to be able to leave your vehicles, let ATR know. If you want your guide to eat meals with you, ascertain at which camps/lodges this can be done and the cost associated.

None of your requests are unusual.

Rocco, it's your safari - discuss it with ATR.
 
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Nov 6th, 2005, 05:46 AM
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Rocco, on my first safari, to Kenya (Masai Mara and Amboseli) and Tanzania (Crater and Serengeti), we had a private vehicle and guide, and we had a lot of control over our days. Since it was our first safari, and it will be your fifth, we followed the guides suggestions to a large extent, as to where we should be and when we should be there, but what we didn't want to do, and generally avoided, was to spend the entire afternoon at the pool or lodge, and we very often were one of the few, if not only, vehicle on safari between 11 and 2. In fact, we had lunch on top of our vehicle while surrounded by the wildebeast migration in the Masai Mara, which was much better than the meal back at the lodge.

We were also able to get out of the vehicle, subject to the guides sense of danger and safety, and in fact, we spent a lot of time on foot at the Masai River, watching crocs, vulture and storks devour drowned wildebeasts.

Looking at my photos, though, there's little, if any, noticeable difference between photos shot from the vehicle or from foot, but I guess it depends on the circumstance.

Also, $10 goes a long way to adding flexibility, if you need to persuade your guide a bit (not to violate any rules, but to be a bit more receptive to extended drives).

Also, the vehicle are not "closed" on top, but typically have pop-up roofs and I found myself standing on the seat, viewing out of the roof, and, in my experience, this perspective is better than the open vehicles found in Botswana and Zambia. You'll have much better perspective to photograph birds.

The vehicles with the pop-up roofs are great, and you'll find no discernable difference in your ability to photograph game and birds.

Michael
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Nov 6th, 2005, 05:55 AM
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Sandi,

Thanks for the suggestion. However, I am hesitant to bring up such things to ATR out of fear that they will try to charge me extra for any special requests.


Michael,

I think you hit the nail on the head. I have heard it said before that it is not a bad idea to give the guide a tip at the very beginning of the safari...perhaps not the entire tip, but if I were to slip him $20 right at the beginning it may go a long way in helping me get what I want out of my safari.

I actually will have two different guides and I do like this diversification just in case I am not thrilled with my guide. For Crater Lodge, Manyara Tree Lodge and Olduvai (5 nights total), I will have one guide, and then I will be handed off to another guide for Nomad Masek, Nomad Piaya and Mbuzi Mawe (6 nights total).
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Nov 6th, 2005, 11:29 AM
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Rocco,

Do you know who your guide will be? Have you requested anyone in particular?

Sorry to answer questions with questions, but we will be using ATR in June, and after having only done 1 safari, I don't know anything about requesting specific guides. I know climbhigh had some recs re: partic MKSC guides.

And to answer your questions, we basically followed our guide's suggestions, but he always asked us the length/times/types of game drives we wanted, usually the evening prior. For example, we were staying in the Seronera valley, and he asked us if we would be up for a looong day to head out to the Western corridor to see if we could catch some migration stragglers or whether we'd prefer early a.m./late afternoon drives the next day, etc.

In our case, we definitely got the feeling that we could direct (within reason) our drives. That said, as total newbies, we were up for just about anything.

Good luck!
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Nov 6th, 2005, 11:43 AM
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Oh, and just out of curiosity, what was Alexsandra's reaction to the "We're going to Tanzania" news?
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Nov 6th, 2005, 12:40 PM
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Leely,

Well, fortunately I have no contusions, concussions, laceractions, scratches, bites or any other physical harm to my being. Let's just say she was not very pleased about it but that I was able to go from a "No ****ing Way!" to a bedgrudging acceptance in about two hours flat.

Some keywords for any spouse to use who is ever in a similar situation:

"Crater Lodge voted #1 destination in the world this year, above Singita" (this works especially well if your spouse has BEEN to Singita and knows how wonderful it is).

"I booked Crater Lodge just before it was voted #1 before crazy price hikes."

"Manyara Tree Lodge is also on the same level of luxury as Crater Lodge with our own private butler."

"Private guide in private closed vehicle throughout."

"Zanzibar will be like being in the Middle East but surrounded by the ocean"

It helps if your spouse has seen a brochure for the Palms Zanzibar, as well. It is a magnificent brochure and the rooms are the best I have seen anywhere...better, in my opinion, than Singita's rooms.

Plus, it also helps if you are starting your own tour operation and the neighboring country (Zambia) is the specialty. I do honestly see a great potential for Zambia and Tanzania to be marketed together. I mean Selous from South Luangwa must only be about a 2.5 hour flight, about the same as it takes to get from Victoria Falls (Livingstone) to South Luangwa.

Also, it helped that this was only 11 nights of safari, 4 nights fewer than our recently completed trip which featured 15 nights on safari.

I tried to use the weather as a good thing since we will be in our winter and Tanzania weather will be beautiful and warm, but these Arctic like Southern California winters just do not have the same effect on a person from Chicago (as my wife is) as they do on the average Californian!

I also tried to use the angle that she would have the opportunity to hang out with her jeweler in Lusaka (who was staying at our house). Our jeweler is my wife's age (32) and I figured that my wife may want to hang out with her while I did a South Luangwa visit in hopes of seeing the wild dogs. This would have been in place of Zanzibar. Unfortunately, staying in Lusaka for a few nights just does not have the same effect as staying in Paris or even Los Angeles, for some reason!

Anyway, it was about time I broke the news and now a huge burden is off my back and I can finalize my Zanzibar extension. More than likely I will switch operators for my Zanzibar extension and book through Sandi at Serendipity Africa. ATR had me by the short hairs to honor my original booking but they do not hold any such influence over my Zanzibar extension.

I do think that the fact that I have been a very willing partner in dance lessons and I have been ambitiously doing other things such as sports photography (did you see my photos of the heavyweight champ in the other thread?) did earn me some brownie points. I mean we have gone from total couch potatos to hardly ever home and rarely turning on the TV in the last month, and it's about time! There is no reason why someone living in a large metropolis like Los Angeles cannot live as if they are on a constant holiday with all of the activities available, and we are finally starting to take full advantage of this.
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Nov 6th, 2005, 03:02 PM
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Rocco, you didn't even have to mention that a portion of your trip may be tax deductible. I'm not an accountant, but if you begin to run a Zambian safari operation, there must be a way to deduct some of your travel expenses. I own a piece of two restaurants in LA, and my travel expenses to visit the restaurants are generally deductible.
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Nov 6th, 2005, 03:27 PM
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We had quite a bit of flexibility with our game drives in Kenya as far as what time we wanted to go out and whether we wanted to do multiple shorter games drives that day or opt for a full day out instead, so I think your requests sound reasonable.

We never tried getting out of the vehicle for the specific purpose of taking photos of game, so I don't know how receptive our guide would've been to that. We did get out of the vehicle for other purposes, like a picnic, just not for photography.

Unless you find that your guide needs extra 'persuasion' I don't think that a pre-tip is necessary. Again, we found our guide very receptive as far as timing and length of game drives.
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Nov 6th, 2005, 06:50 PM
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Michael,

Great point. Yes, tax deductible luxury travel. As that Russian comedian, Yakov Smirnoff, used to say, "What a country!"


Patty,

Thanks for the feedback. Like Steve Martin's character in My Blue Heaven, I don't like to tip, I like to OVERTIP, at least when I am in Africa! It cannot hurt, right?

This is all to good to be true. I mean I have not even started ordering my larger prints yet from my last safari and I will have to get ready to go back to Africa very soon. Canon just came out with the Canon 5D, a 12 Megapixel camera with full sized sensor for $2,995. It will be tempting, but I think I will have to pass for now. I would, however, like a Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 lens for about $1,800. With the conversion factor on my Canon 20D, I would be looking at a 192 - 480mm f/2.8 or with the 1.4x teleconvertor it would become a 269 - 672mm f/4. While I am able to achieve similar zoom currently with my 80-400mm lens, it comes at f/7.

Oh boy, I had better start looking for some photo classes, both to help me with my wildlife photography, as well as my sports photography. This particular photo has now appeared in two different stories...not the most spectacular photo but apparently not all photos need to be!

http://www.fightnews.com/996.htm

I wish I could fight in his place for $8 million...oh what a safari lodge I would build!

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Nov 6th, 2005, 06:53 PM
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Oops...math error...I actually achieve 680mm currently at f/5.6 and this with an Optical Stabilizing lens. Forget it, I'll need that $1,800 (and then some) for a Tanzanite. How thoughtless of me!
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