Input needed - Rwanda, Kenya & Tanzania itinerary

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Nov 10th, 2008, 09:31 AM
  #1
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Input needed - Rwanda, Kenya & Tanzania itinerary

Background:
This would be a self-drive camping trip, no guides, except for Rwanda which we will do on a tour - given the situation in the Congo.

Two Canadians, mid-50s, have done 3 previous self-drives through southern Africa in SA (including the Eastern Cape), Namibia & Botswana. Lived in SA in 2004-2005. Have not visited any of the three countries previously.

Equipment: Fully-equipped Land Rover with a roof-top tent, GPS and Tracks 4 Africa maps

Time frame: Last week of July and first 3 weeks of August 2009.

Itinerary:
Fly Calgary to London to Nairobi
Overnight Nairobi because flight won't arrive until ~9pm

Day 4:
Fly Nairobi to Kigali - drive with tour group to hotel near the park - maybe Gorilla's Nest - I have read a huge assortment of good/bad reviews for this place but don't want to pay the Silverback Lodge rate.
Overnight: Gorilla's Nest

Day 5
Gorilla trek in the morning - we may stay another day and add another gorilla trek - that seems to be what everyone on this forum recommends
Transfer back to Kigali
Overnight Kigali

Day 6
Visit the genocide museum in the morning
Fly Kigali to Nairobi
Overnight Nairobi

Day 7
4x4 handover and stock up for trip
Overnight Nairobi

Day 8
Drive Nairobi to Maasai Mara

Next 6 nights - camping in Maasai Mara in a "special" campsite - the special campsites are isolated and within the park and can be reserved ahead of time - as opposed to the public sites that tend to be at the gates

Day 14
Drive from Maasai Mara to Speke Bay in Tanzania - Oloololo Gate C13 to Lolgoriem and then Suna, south to the border on the A1 and then south through Tarime to Speke Bay
Overnight Speke Bay Lodge - showers and hot water! yahoo!

Day 15
Speke Bay to the Serengeti - the Western Corridor
Two nights in a special campsite in the Western Corridor

Day 17
Western Corridor to Seronera area
1 night camping in the Seronera area

Day 18
Seronera to Lobo area
2 nights camping in the Lobo area

Day 20
Lobo to Seronera - 2 more nights camping in the Seronera area

Day 22
Seronera area to Ngorongoro with stops at the shifting sands and Olduvai Gorge
2 nights at Lemala Tented Camp - our splurge for the trip - we want to be on the eastern edge of the crater so that we can use the Sopa raod - it will time for a little luxury!!

2 morning visits to the crater - would we be better doing one morning and one afternoon? We will go into the crater at 6am and hope to beat the breakfast crowd - afternoon visit to Irkeepusi Cultural Boma 2km NE of Lemala Gate - anyone been there?

Day 24
After a morning drive in the crater, drive to Lake Manyara
3 nights at a special campsite in the south of the park

Day 28
Drive Lake Manyara to Tanangire NP - 3 nights in Tanangire NP in a special campsite in the south

Day 30
Drive Tanangire NP to Arusha
Return the 4x4
Overnight Rivertrees

Day 31
Land transfer from Arusha to Nairobi for 11pm flight to London

Any input would be appreciated - too long in certain parks? Wrong area of the Serengeti? We enjoy scenery, birds, all animals - we are not just going for the migration!
Thanks! Robin

canadian_robin is offline  
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Nov 10th, 2008, 01:37 PM
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If you can afford it, do 2 gorilla visits.

Gorilla's Nest was fine when I was thre. I'm not using it again because of increased costs. I'm using Kinigi Guesthouse.

If you are not counting your days, you might consider a group trip that also does Akagera or I'd even more strongly recommend Nyungwe. My recommendations are based on research only. I'll be going to both on my Rwanda visit.

Could you do Tanzania first and then the Mara? Or would that entail more flights?

What a tremendous trip.
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Nov 10th, 2008, 02:40 PM
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We had planned to do Tanzania first - starting in Arusha and ending in Mara - but unfortunately, the 4x4 will be in Kenya (from the previous clients) - we have asked for the cost of having Safari Drive move the 4x4 to Arusha for us.

I had decided on Gorilla's Nest until I read (in the last few days) that the new owners have raised the prices prior to doing the planned renovations - they are receiving a lot of criticism on Trip Advisor at the moment, especially from travelers who didn't learn of the increase until they had arrived. In fairness, it does sound like there has been some improvement, but not enough to justify the price hike. I don't wish to support that attitude of pay while we renovate! We are looking at Virunga (a tad far away, I know, but it will put us on game-drive hours). I will check out Kinigi - thanks!

We were thinking of using Volcanoes Safaris - has anyone tried them? Robin
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Nov 10th, 2008, 03:48 PM
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Just to chime in on the Rwanda lodging issue, since I was there about a week ago...

We were originally booked at Gorilla's Nest, and then our TA changed it because they hiked their rates up and most members of our group did not want to pay the difference. We ended up spending a night at La Palme Hotel and a night at Kinigi Guest House, and I thought both places were fine. La Palme felt more like a "hotel," with a spiffy lobby and nice rooms (but very hard beds!), very nice staff and plentiful hot water. I actually preferred Kinigi Guest House for its location (beautiful views! and close to where you'll be gorilla trekking), even though the hot water was much less plentiful. It was a comfortable place to stay, good bed, good food, and a nice little fireplace lounge and patio to hang out on with friends. We were somehow put in a "VIP" room which had its own sitting room with a fireplace, too (although we never had time to use it). If I'm ever fortunate enough to go to Musanze again, I would stay at Kinigi Guest House.

Disclaimer: Keep in mind that both these places are on the "budget" end of things (although not quite "backpacker" style). If you are picky about your comforts you might not like them as much as we did. But then again, if you are planning a self-drive camping trip, you are probably tougher than I am!
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Nov 10th, 2008, 07:29 PM
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Thanks - I will look into both. Compared to camping, I am certain both will seem luxurious!

If we go on the gorilla trek with a tour company, will we be limited in our choice of accomodation? - do tour companies dictate which lodge you stay in? We are thinking of using Volcanoes Safaris. Robin
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Nov 13th, 2008, 09:00 AM
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No matter where you end up, you will be in Rwanda and it will be AMAZING! Have a great time.

I wonder if with the upgrades at the Gorilla's Nest if they are putting some heaters in the rooms.
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Nov 13th, 2008, 10:44 AM
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We stayed at Gorillas Nest in September and didn't pay extra, although we booked through a tour company, R&N Xplorer. I would highly recommend them as a tour company, although I had my doubts at first due to having to do a bank transfer since they don't accept credit cards. I thought the Gorilla's Nest was fantastic and would stay there again. Our treks were so long that we weren't in our rooms that much and it doesn't make sense to pay the extra for the Silverback Lodge.
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Nov 13th, 2008, 11:42 AM
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We stayed at Le Palme and it was nice enough. Basically across the street from the Muhubura which was/is a popular spot. We used Amahoro Tours and they were very good too, wired money in advance, no problems at all.
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Nov 13th, 2008, 11:47 AM
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Robin

Ask Safari Drive if they will arrange the paperwork to cross into the Serengeti directly at Sand Rivers Border Post. This is possible. With the amount of $$ you are spending with them, they should be able to do this. It will save you bueaucoup time, driving and money on fuel. Give you more time wildlife viewing also.
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Nov 13th, 2008, 11:49 AM
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I highly recommend Volcanoes. We were in Rwanda at the end of September; we did two gorilla treks and stayed at Virunga Lodge which was beautiful. We were in a group with two women who also booked through Volcanoes but who stayed at the Gorilla's Nest - they weren't able to do the second trek because one of them could hardly walk after sleeping on the sagging bed! (this might have been more her issue than Gorilla's Nest's, but they both said it wasn't terribly comfortable.)
The process of being assigned a guide for the gorilla trek is very political, and the drivers who know the guides do the best. Our Volcanoes driver managed to get us Francois (who was the guide for Bill Gates)for our first trek because he knew my husband had been sick that morning, and needed an easier trek.
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Nov 13th, 2008, 04:31 PM
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Trip looking good, Robin!
I can't contribute with advice but looking forward to learning more here with an eye to following in your footsteps!
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Nov 13th, 2008, 04:36 PM
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Canadian Robin,

I'm with Volcanoes for Aug 2009, staying at Kinigi Guesthouse for most of the nights with a stop over at Virunga Lodge on the way back to Kigali.

They have been pre-trip.
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Nov 14th, 2008, 11:39 AM
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Thanks to everyone for their input regarding the gorilla trek. I must admit, I am close to abandoning the whole idea. With flights to and from Nairobi, 2 treks for 2 people (we have been warned that the permits will likely be $1000pp by the time we go and that we will have to pay the higher cost even if we book now), the cost of the tour and accomodation (with Volcanoes), we are up to almost $10,000 CDN for two hours with the gorillas. I can see a lot of Africa for $10,000. Is it really worth it?

Luangwablondes - I had read that you could get permission to cross at Sand River, but thought that it was a thing of the past. I will certainly ask SD about it - the trip through Speke Bay is certainly much longer. Thanks for the tip! Robin
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Nov 14th, 2008, 11:53 AM
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One thing to keep in mind. When renting a 4x4 and you will be going to Tanzania and Kenya, compare park fees and rentals in both countries. The difference in Tanzanian park fees between a Tanzanian registered vehicle and a non Tanzanian vehicle is substantial. So it may be worth it to you to start in Arusha or Dar for example with a Tanz. 4x4.

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Nov 14th, 2008, 11:54 AM
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Crossing at Sand River is not illegal. It just has specific requirements to be taken care of in order to do it.
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Nov 15th, 2008, 07:48 AM
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I have put the question about Sand River to SD and we'll see what they say.

We will be in a Tanzanian vehicle for the entire trip. Your quite correct - there is a huge difference in the the vehicle fees - US$40 for 24 hours for a foreign vehicle vs 10,000 tshs (about US$8 at the moment) for a local vehicle. Good thing we will be spending most of our time in Tanzania!

Have you driven from Nairobi to Maasai Mara? SD has suggested that we fly from Nairobi to Serian and pick up the 4x4 there. As we will have little opportunity to see Kenya, we prefer to drive. I wondered if it (the drive) is more difficult than I think. Robin
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Nov 15th, 2008, 08:29 AM
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I just got back from Tanzania/Rwanda. I would suggest 2 gorilla tours if it isn't $1000 per permit yet. If it is, I'd possilby do the chimps or something on the second day.

I went with Volcanoes in Rwanda and stayed at Virunga and would highly recommend it. We left the lodge at 6am for the gorilla trek, it really wasn't all that far and the road is new and easy. The Virunga rooms are beautiful, food is great, service is great They will get the mud off your clothes and welcome you back with a massage.

I agree that it seems like who you know helps with group selection. I got an easy hike to a group with 10 baby gorillas thanks to my Volcanoes guide.

Also, I'd recommend going to the genocide museum before heading to the gorillas. It was an amazing experience, and I think what I learned there made the drive through Rwanda more interesting and meaningful. I also got to ask lots of questions of my guide.

I would also recommend a hot air balloon ride over the serengeti. It gives you a totally different perspective on the park. Mine left from the Serengeti Serena Lodge.

Also, make sure to get to a Maasi village.

Have a great trip!

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Nov 15th, 2008, 12:16 PM
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Robin

They must think you will get lost or the roads have deteriated worse then ever. I would suggest you drive it anyway for the experience.

I am sending you a email about another route to the Masai Mara.
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Nov 15th, 2008, 03:31 PM
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I'll watch for the email. Thanks!
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Nov 15th, 2008, 06:10 PM
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Robin
You'll be watching for quite a while. Can't find your email address.

http://tinyurl.com/2km8rz



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