Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Africa & the Middle East (
-   -   I'm taking my boyfriend to Africa. I need HELP! (

sharpei Jan 21st, 2009 06:32 PM

I'm taking my boyfriend to Africa. I need HELP!
PLEASE help! I need to get my trip booked ASAP. So far, this is my itinerary. Leave L.A, on July 9th, 2009, via London to Nairobi, arriving on July 11th AM. Fly to Kilgali and then drive to Virunga Lodge for a 4 night stay . (2 Gorilla Treks and 1 Golden Monkey Trek). July 15th fly back to Nairobi and then on to Johannesburg arriving late that night. Overnight in Johannesburg. Next morning, July 16th, fly to Maun, Botswana, to Duma Tao Camp for three nights 16-18, then to Stanley's Camp for two nights, 19-20, then to Duba Plains Camp for four nights, 21-25. July 25, back to Johannesburg via Maun for overnight. Next morning, July 26th fly to Nairobi for overnight, July 27th fly to Tanzania to Sayari Camp or to Klein's Camp for 3 days or so. July 30th fly back to Nairobi and fly out that night to LA via London. My question is:

1. Will I hit the migration at Sayari around July 27-30?
2. Is this worth the trip to Sayari Camp for 3 days?
3. Which would be better for the migration at the end of July, Sayari or Klein's?
4. Will the Serengeti be that much different than what I will have seen in Botswana?
5. Would I be better off going to Zanzibar instead for the three days?
6. Am I trying to do too much in this three week span?

Thanks so much for any advice!

cary999 Jan 21st, 2009 07:18 PM

Sorry, since I have not been to any of the locations you plan, (except Joberg, Maun, Nairobi :-) ) I'm no real help. But curious, so a couple of questions. Have you been on safari before? Who put this itinerary together for you, you or a travel agent?

regards - tom

sharpei Jan 21st, 2009 07:34 PM

No, this is my first safari, although I have traveled extensively on my own in different parts of the world. I am working with a TA in Canada that specializes in Africa. I keep on adding on new destinations and she thinks that I may never come home!

cary999 Jan 21st, 2009 09:04 PM

You may come home - but for sure you WILL go back to Africa!!!!

You live in Canada, asking 'cause you're flying out of LAX, right?

regards - tom
ps -my first safari was 2005, next one, my 6th, is Sep 2009 :-)

Lillipets Jan 22nd, 2009 03:15 AM

Personally I feel you are trying to see EVERYTHING in one trip. No matter where you go you will be thrilled and will no doubt start planning another trip before you even get home from this one.
If you are going to see the gorillas (worth every stinking penny!) then I would combine that with East Africa and leave Botswana for you next trip.
Or just do Botswana and leave the gorillas and East Africa for your next trip.
Maximize your safari time with less flying from one end of the continent to the other.
You've come to the right place to get help! Everyone on this board is amazingly helpful.

luangwablondes Jan 22nd, 2009 04:06 AM

Your timing is right for the migration. Stay in East Africa. Maybe add the Seychelles or Lamu instead of Zanzibar.

sdb2 Jan 22nd, 2009 05:58 AM

The advice you're getting here is spot on. That is, stay in one region (east Africa or S.Africa/Botswana) and don't get too ambitious---you'll have a better and more relaxed time. Most of us writing are suffering from mal d’Afrique, an indefinable feeling of loss that compels us to return to Africa time and again. Assuming you'll have a wonderful experience, I agree with C999 that you'll be heading back before you know it.


sharpei Jan 22nd, 2009 06:48 AM

Thanks for all the advice.

Tom, I live near L.A.. My TA is in Canada, someone that a friend of mine suggested.

When I mentioned to my TA that we might want to break the long trip back home by stopping in Barcelona for a rest, she suggested that since we were going to have to stop in Nairobi that we might want to do Kenya or Tanzania instead since we may be able to hit the migration. I am not so concerned about the money, just wondering if I will be seeing the same things that I saw in Bostwana. Is it possible to ever be burnt out on animals?

sharpei Jan 22nd, 2009 07:17 AM

If I were to nix Botswana and do the Serengeti, starting July 15th after Rwanda,

1. where should I go to hit the migration?

2. Is it too late to get reservations?

climbhighsleeplow Jan 22nd, 2009 07:26 AM

It is not too late for July in Tanzania!

Western & Northern Serengeti are recommended if you want to see big herds. Note, they may be spread out in clusters - this is not the best time to see near a million as far as the eyes can see.

The famous images of thousands of wildebeests and zebras swimming across croc-invested rivers are filmed in the Masai Mara in Kenya during August, September and October. The Mara River is deep and fast-flowing - a dangerous obstacle for the herds and many will drown during the crossing stampedes.

Crossings occur several times a month; to be at the right place at the right time is a matter of luck and persistence. I recommend a stay of at least 5 -7 days in the Mara Triangle area to experience a crossing.

The Grumeti River in the Western Serengeti is also home to huge crocodiles but it is not deep enough to be much of an obstacle. In June and July the herds gather in the Western Serengeti but the water levels are often very low due to the lack of rains. They don't have to swim across the river - in many places they can walk across and barely get wet! The biggest action is when the crocodiles ambush the herds when they come to drink. To get the best footage, one often has to wait for hours at the river waiting for the herds to quench their thirst!

In the Northern Serengeti, the Mara River offers yet another opportunity to see wildebeest vs. crocodile but river access is restricted due to the lack of access roads. It takes a fair amount of luck to see a large crossing with crocodile action - late July or early November is recommended. But several smaller crossings occur from August to November!

Where and when to see the biggest herds on the open plains?

For a few months each year, the plains of the Mara-Serengeti region are dotted with animals as far as the eyes can see.

My 2nd favorite - From August to October, the big herds can be seen in the Masai Mara in Kenya. The Masai Mara is largely open plains with several ridges and high points from where to witness the herds in all directions. In addition, there are also large herds of buffalo and even more wildebeests coming from areas outside the Mara.

Thanks to controlled burning by park authorities and fresh green growth, large herds of wildebeest will often move back and forth between the Masai Mara and the far northern Serengeti area (near the Mara River). Our clients in the camps near the Mara River continue to report river crossings, large herds and very few other vehicles in this area! During these months we often combine the Masai Mara and the northern Serengeti in a single itinerary!

My favorite - In February and March, the southern Serengeti and NCA are home to the large herds and thousands of their new-born young. This area is huge and the herds can be spread out over tens of miles. For the predators (large and small) this is a time of plenty and each day brings several exciting interaction between the hunters and the hunted, including the elusive wild dogs in our secret areas!

My 3rd favorite - In April and May, long lines start to form as the young are strong enough to travel and the food resources on the plains diminish. The herds move NW towards the western Serengeti. Some lines are so long it appears never-ending. Big herds can still be seen but they move quickly - more than 20 miles in a night! The rains make traveling difficult but the rewards are incredible - fewer people and beautiful green landscapes.

What about June, July, November, December and January?

During June, July and November the migrating herds generally favor the more woody areas to the west.

The plains have dried up and the herds are looking for water from perennial rivers. Most of these rivers are near Seronera and surroundings and in the western corridor. The animals assemble in smaller herds and can often be found in forest areas where tsetse flies are bothersome and viewing is restricted. The western corridor has limited game routes and the hilly terrain will often obscure the true scope of the migration. A few special places such as the Grumeti Reserves, the areas near Lobo and north near the Mara River are open and with great viewing with no obstructions - timing is everything and you need a specialist to book you in the right places for optimal viewing during these months.

December and January are hybrid months - if November and December were blessed with good rains the woodlands will have large tsetse concentrations and zebras in particular prefer the safety of the open plains so they will lead the way to the plains where they will reduce the grass much to the liking of the wildebeest and eventually the Tommies. During rainy periods, the herds may well move quickly to the Ndutu area in the south. From there they will move great distances in all directions until they drop their young (have to stay put for a few weeks).

During dry periods in November, December and January (as in 2005/06), the Serengeti plains (with no surface water) will be void of water-dependent wildlife and you will find the herds in smaller groups in the woods in the western areas and elsewhere.

sdb2 Jan 22nd, 2009 07:31 AM

First, Botswana (especially the Okavango Delta, a great destination) and Tanzania (the Serengeti) are two distinct ecosystems, so each offers a different feel. You may see many of the same animals, but perhaps in different amounts/concentrations. African Wild Dogs, only numbering about 5000 and a beautiful sight, won't be seen in the Serengeti (but may be further south in Selous), but can be seen, with lots of luck, in Botswana.

If you've decided on the Serengeti, I believe the migration (I saw the tail end of it in November and it was something! The Serengeti was great.) will be in the western and northern parts of the Serengeti. I stayed at the Grumeti River Camp and I highly recommend it for a true African experience (it sits right next to a busy, noisy hippo pool). You can check with, who run Grumeti, to see what they can tell you about the migration and availability.

With photography my main interest, I've never had enough of animals.

Good luck.

sharpei Jan 22nd, 2009 07:38 AM

Would I see a crossing at Sayari Camp the last week of July, and would there be crocs there?

climbhighsleeplow Jan 22nd, 2009 07:49 AM

Crocodiles yes.

Crossing? maybe, maybe not. It is a big gamble to go there for only 3 or 4 nights with the hope to see a crossing! You may not even see large herds of wildebeests!

The northern Serengeti is perhaps not what you think it is. Hilly, with plenty of bush and few game circuits. Even if the herds are in the area they may decide to cross the Sand River instead which is further east.

You can split your stay between Kleins and camps to the west.

See map here.

sharpei Jan 22nd, 2009 08:15 AM

Now I am not sure what to do.... If I nix Botswana and do Tanzania for 10-12 days I may not even see the migration...

climbhighsleeplow Jan 22nd, 2009 09:06 AM

No, I did not say you won't see the migration! I said you may not see a crossing with crocs in a feeding frenzy!

In July you have a good chance to see pockets and lines of migrating wildebeests/zebra in the Serengeti. They will most probably be spread out, stretching from the west to the north.

But the experience is different than seeing them on the open Southern plains and in the Mara because of fewer game circuits, hills and areas with bush.

Regardless of the herds, you will see beautiful scenery, lots of cats, and plenty of other wildlife.

If you book seasonal or mobile camps you increase your chances to be closer to the hot spots.

What does your TA recommend?

cary999 Jan 22nd, 2009 09:51 AM

FWIW, there's three different things here: the migration, a crossing of the river, and croc feeding. When we were in Kenya Maasai Mara (Sep 2006) we stayed five nights at Little Governors camp. We saw scattered small herds of about 100 wildebeest daily, not really the big huge migration scene. Once we saw about 100 wildebeest and zebra crossing the Mara, and a croc take a zebra. Here's a photo of that (not ugly) -

regards - tom

ekscrunchy Jan 22nd, 2009 11:04 AM

You've received good advice so far so I will just chime in with a couple of comments: First off, I agree that the itinerary you posted is all over the place and pretty crazy to me. Second, Botswana is very different than Serengeti.

I spent 3 nights at Stanley's in 2007, so if you do decide to go there,I would be happy to answer any questions bout the Camp. (My thoughts are very positive).

Last, you can have a fantastic, unforgettable, amazing experience without seeing the migration. If money is not an object, I think I would choose Botswana, perhaps combined with Sabi Sands. (But I've not been to Rwanda, so cannot weigh in on that..)

I wrote a report about my trip; although I did not complete the section with King's Pool, Linyanti (Bots) at the end of the trip, there is info here on Stanley's, Sabi Sands (I stayed at Lion Sands Ivory Lodge) etc.
that you might find helpful:;tid=35088021

cary999 Jan 22nd, 2009 11:13 AM

Have you taken a piece of paper and added up the time you will be in transit between camps? Not in hours - but in days!!! If you have the patience, energy, time and $$$$ to do that all in three weeks, then "You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!" (Rudyard Kipling).

regards - tom

atravelynn Jan 22nd, 2009 01:41 PM

Sharpei, while you're adding up the transport time and cost on your scrap sheet, write down what are your priorities for this trip.

If you think you will be able to return to Africa, that will make a big difference in what you try to do on this trip.

ClimbHighSleepLow, Your Kenya-Tanzania migration comments are a keeper!

sharpei Jan 22nd, 2009 02:26 PM

Thanks so much for all your advice. I am re-thinking the trip with all your advice! Thanks!

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 01:30 PM.