Just starting to plan for 2019 - help please

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Feb 11th, 2018, 02:31 PM
  #1
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Just starting to plan for 2019 - help please

Hello! My maiden voyage on the Africa forum. A friend and I, 60-ish women, are in the early stages of planning a trip to East Africa for next year. The rough plan so far:

Uganda, ~7 days
- Two gorilla treks
- Chimp trek
- Kazinga Channel

Kenya, ~10 days
- Nairobi - Giraffe Center, Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, Karen Blixen, stay at Giraffe Manor
- Masai Mara
- ???

Budget ~$12,000 per person total (including tips, etc.), excluding airfare

We have no particular emphasis in what animals we see, just want a good variety of the usual suspects.

Some early questions:

1. When would be best to go: March, April, or October?

2. Should we have one planner for Uganda and one for Kenya, or are there some good ones who do both well?

3. What planners do you recommend in our price range?

4. Where do you recommend for our second park in Kenya?

5. Anything else we should know or consider at this early stage?

I've been thinking about this trip for three years now, and it is exciting to finally be starting to make concrete plans!
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Feb 11th, 2018, 04:17 PM
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No advice as I always have to get a planner myself. But this sounds like a great adventure. Good luck!
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Feb 11th, 2018, 05:35 PM
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March and April are considered rainy season (long rains) in a lot of Kenya and many camps close for the month or two because it’s so wet/flooded and very difficult to get around to see game. Of your available dates, October is better for Kenya.
https://www.expertafrica.com/kenya/weather-and-climate

I’ve not been to Uganda, but it seems that April/May are the most rainy there as well. With the rain forest already being muddy I’d not want to trek there in rainy season.
https://www.safaribookings.com/uganda/best-time

I recently booked with The Wild Source for Kenya for later this year, but Bill there also handles Uganda, I believe. I did my gorilla trekking in Rwanda last year at this time and it was absolutely magical. You’ll love it.
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Feb 11th, 2018, 05:37 PM
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In Kenya, for other parks, consider Amboseli if you love elephants (your mind will be blown by the numbers of them, and how close they get!) or Ol Pejeta for rhinos, including one of the remaining 3 Northern white rhinos in the world. The Mara though, is really heaven on earth for big cat fans, as I’m about to return for a 4th time for that reason! I’m a big fan of Nairobi National Park, where I saw 12 rhinos in one day plus the best leopard sighting I’ve ever had, plus you can visit the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and meet the 30 or so babies in their care until they’re old enough for re-release to the wild.
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Feb 11th, 2018, 09:12 PM
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I forgot, one more question. My friend needs wifi access to stay in touch with work - not negotiable. How difficult is this going to be to achieve?
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Feb 12th, 2018, 04:36 AM
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Despite your not acknowledging my previous responses, I'll answer this one. Wifi is difficult in many places. Where I've had it outside of Nairobi or Kigali (capital cities) it has been slow and unreliable. I use safari as a great excuse to go off the grid. Some camps that have it will turn it on for an hour or so around dinner time, but know that with everyone in camp using it all at once, that makes it worse. Larger lodges (where I'd never stay, I prefer small tented camps) may have better facilities for you.
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Feb 12th, 2018, 06:38 AM
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I'm sorry not to have acknowledged you, amyb. You always offer such great help, and I'm grateful for your responses. I too would prefer smaller camps, but for my friend, it's the only way she can take a vacation of this length.
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Feb 12th, 2018, 06:57 AM
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It's not impossible, but it will limit the camps you can stay at. I had nearly no access at all gorilla trekking in Rwanda. They said they had wifi but it was horrible. I did have a weak 3G signal, which I used to text my family that I survived gorilla trekking. Bring this consideration up to whomever you work with to book the trip. Read Trip Advisor reviews of any accommodation to see what other visitors say about the internet connection. Most places will say they have it, but how reliable/consistent it is, is the question.
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Feb 12th, 2018, 11:43 AM
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we stayed at 3 camps and wifi was spotty and then was down for 2 of the 4 days at our last camp. there is nothing they can do about it and they wont guarantee it.
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Feb 12th, 2018, 11:45 AM
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Hi. We stayed at 3 camps-it was spotty at the first 2 and down for 3 of the 5 days at our last camp. I doubt there is access while on safari.
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Feb 12th, 2018, 04:47 PM
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Hi Artsnletters. Very wise to plan well ahead---you'll need a long lead time to get your permits for Uganda.

For your second Kenya camp... consider Samburu!!!!!

You can fly in from Nairobi, and then from there to Masai Mara, or vice versa. Fascinating topography, and some animals that y ou wont see in other parks, inlacing the standing-up gazelle!

Internet nonnegotiable? IF you friend needs it every single day, every hour of the trip, I daresay she should lower expectations. It was available but intermittent in some, but not all, the camps and lodges I've stayed in. Last trip was 2014 and connectivity options may have improved. As AmyB said, the larger lodges are more likely to have it. For that, consider as examples: in Kenya, Serena Sweetwaters in Ol Pejeta, and Serena Mara in Masai Mara (the best view in the Mara, by the way). I 've stayed in these, other lodges, as well as small tented camps. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the larger lodges...it's just a different sort of experience which, interestingly, will cost less per night and should be reflected in your tour package.You'll see the animals either way once outside on the plains, and they'll be right AT your lodging at Sweetwaters' water hole (like a large pond) or warthogs visit under your little balcony at Serena Mara.
In Samburu Intrepids Lodge/tents) there was definitely wifi --on and off--which my teenaged grandson appreciated

For Uganda, for lodges, consider Mweya Lodge (which has both standard rooms and luxury tents) in Queen Elizabeth park, as it is right above the Kazinga Channel which is the highlight of QE Park, and in Bwindi, at the amazing Buhoma Lodge (note--not the same as the Community Lodge). Mweya had intermittent wifi in its lobby and dining room and bar terrace, BUT in addition, there is a business center for guests, with desktop computers, from which your friend code get online (I used it). At Buhoma Lodge, there is also wifi, but IF it is "acting up" there is a big wifi tent in the nearby Buhoma Village, next to the Community Hospita. I used that too and had a great time meeting local folks who were using it too. I assume it is still there.

Your budget is excellent and should be easily doable! Have fun planning! you're going to have a fantastic time!
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Feb 12th, 2018, 04:58 PM
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If you' ve not already read it, I highly recommend Inquest's Fodors trip report on Uganda!
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Feb 12th, 2018, 05:18 PM
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Thank you everyone for your suggestions and information. It looks like picking our second camp is going to be a challenge! Knowing how scarce rhinos are getting, I sort of feel like we should make a point to see some. It sounds like Nairobi National Park might be the best for that, but are rhino also present at Amboseli and Samburu?

I have really enjoyed Inquest's report and am watching the photos being posted now. I also read a great report by live42day a while back, and she also went to Uganda and Kenya. Really whets my appetite! If you know of any other reports that are particularly good, here or elsewhere, please let me know!

Any other recommendations for safari planners besides The Wild Source? I feel like, when the time comes, I should do due diligence and check with at least three. I could consider separate planners for Uganda and Kenya.
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Feb 12th, 2018, 08:29 PM
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Although I've not been to Kenya in years, I believe Ol Pejeta is still good for rhinos (and wild dogs, if you have time to devote to it).

Enjoy your trip! When I was in Rwanda I stayed at a little guest house outside of Parc National des Volcans and there were two senior age women there who had been trekking in Uganda first.. hard, they said, but wonderful! They were trekking in Rwanda "just to relax."
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Feb 12th, 2018, 11:16 PM
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Easy to see rhinos in Uganda, if you take the route between Kampala and are heading to Murchison (falls and park) which most itineraries will do.
youYou and also feed Baraka, the blind rhino. Pretty amazing. In Ol Pejeta, Sweetwaters (which i mentioned above ) is very close to the rhino home.
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Feb 13th, 2018, 05:03 AM
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artsnletters, I booked directly with Offbeat Safaris for the Kenya portion of my last safari, but I knew what I wanted and what they'd be able to provide for me, which usually first time safarigoers don't know. It went smoothly and my stay with them in the Mara was excellent, so good that I'm going back later this year. They also have other locations I've not stayed in but only in Kenya. I always get quotes from Africa Travel Resource (their site alone is a wealth of knowledge) and they are competitive but in the end I've not gone with them since they either don't have access to a camp I want or won't book a part of the itinerary I need. (On my next trip I'm staying at a camp owned by The Wild Source and two of the best guides in all of Africa, which can only be booked through TWS). You might also try Gamewatchers who can book most countries in Africa. They own the Porini camps, which has locations in Ol Pejeta and the Mara as well as a tented camp in Nairobi National Park.
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Feb 13th, 2018, 08:47 AM
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Hello artsnletters,

For Uganda, 7 days will be sufficient to accomplish everything you are looking to do and staying within your budget parameters. For the chimp trekking, recommend Ndali Lodge which is Kibale’s best accommodation option. They’ve got wifi on property and the setting here is absolutely stunning. From here, you can continue onto Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP) and stay at Mweya which was recommended by another poster. The location has a commanding view and adjacent to the Kazinga Channel launch site. This property is a rather substantial build with wifi access as well. Finally, for Bwindi, I recommend Gorilla Forest Camp by Sanctuary Retreats. It’s arguably the best lodge in the Bwindi area, also with wifi access. For the Uganda segment, I recommend something along the lines of the following:

1 night Entebbe upon arrival: something like the Protea Hotel
2 nights Ndali (w/ drive from Entebbe – can take around 6-7 hours)
2 nights Mweya (w/ drive from Kibale)
2 nights Gorilla Forest (w/ drive from QENP)
Fly from Bwindi to Entebbe. Connect to Nairobi for overnight at Giraffe Manor.

For the Kenya segment, finding accommodations at the Giraffe Manor will not be possible for October 2019 is about full. Giraffe Manor has perhaps the highest occupancy rate of any property in Africa with the exception of Hoanib in Namibia. I recommend you make a move here quickly. If you are at Giraffe Manor, I suggest you skip the Giraffe Center visit which is on the opposing side of the property. I highly suggest doing the private Sheldrick visit – there is only 1 time slot per day and definitely worth the splurge for this option over the “public” or “foster” visit which is certainly a bit more impersonal. Karen Blixen Museum, Kazuri Beads and the Langata shopping areas are all within 15 min drive from one another, thus access for this day’s touring is very easy.

As for the Kenyan safari component, I recommend you do 2 different safari destinations/ecosystem for 3-4 nights each. The Mara ecosystem should definitely be included. It's arguably the most productive area for game viewing in the whole of Africa. The Mara Reserve is roughly 300,000 acres. The surrounding community based private conservancies account for roughly an additional 300,000 acres. The private conservancies will offer more flexibilities in terms of activities (think off-road, night drives, walking and some camps offer horseback) and lower density tourism. For this reason, I prefer to stay in private conservancies. Many camps private conservancies will give you 1 day access into the reserve if you so wish. As a general rule of thumb, with a few exceptions, camps in the Reserve cannot access the private conservancies. I really enjoy Richards River Camp and Cottars 1920s (only camp in the Mara that I know with 2 Gold rated guides). Kicheche Bush or Valley are also very lovely and all of their guides are silver rated.

*side note: all bona fide guides in Kenya are rated Bronze, Silver or Gold. Bronze is very common, Silver is very coveted. Gold is equivalent of a PhD. You want to go for camps with a high density of Silver guides, not Bronze. It's indicative of the camps emphasis on the field experience!

In addition to the Mara, I recommend you look into an area or destination that will complement the itinerary with diversity in species, activities and scenery. Places like Loisaba, Lewa Wilderness, Elsa’s Kopje, and Sarara come to mind. Different camps have various focus on community and conservation, but in terms of diversity, I’d stick with Lewa. Alternatively, you can opt to make a circuit of using 1 porfolio and do Kicheche Laikipia in Ol Pejeta combined with Kicheche Valley in the Mara for a pay 6, stay 7 special (valid in 2018, likely will continue into 2019).

For the Kenya option for 9 nights/10 days, I recommend the following to keep your costs I line with your budget:
2 nights Giraffe Manor (standard room)
3 nights Kicheche Laikipia
4 nights Kicheche Valley

In regards to your early questions:

1. Best time to go will be October. March and April can see significant rains.
2. You can have good tour operator do both the planning in Uganda and Kenya. There is no need to break out the two segments by country.
3. There are lots of good safari planners all over North America. I suggest you do an internet search for safari specialist companies and chat to them to see who would be the best fit for you.
4. The second park recommendation has been addressed.
5. You are early in the booking stage so nothing really urgent to consider with the exception of booking Giraffe Manor as soon as possible.

Kota Tabuchi

Last edited by TravelBeyond; Feb 13th, 2018 at 08:50 AM.
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Feb 13th, 2018, 09:15 AM
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Apologies, i omitted (or my top did) omitting the name of where yo see rhinos inUganda. it is Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. A fantastic place en route between Kampala and Murchison. Don't miss it!!
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Feb 13th, 2018, 09:19 AM
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Apologies, i omitted (or my top did) omitting the name of where yo see rhinos inUganda. it is Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. A fantastic place en route between Kampala and Murchison. Don't miss it!![/QUOTE]
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Feb 13th, 2018, 05:24 PM
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Artsnletters, hi again. Being compulsive, I will repost that garbled rhino recommendation.
IN Kenya: At Ol Pejeta (Laikipiea) you can see rhinos up close and personal, feed Baraka, and pet Sudan. The latter may cost extra--$40--but the money goes to conservation and considering this particular kind of rhino is nearly extinct, well worth seeing.
Uganda--Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. A UWA guard will walk you to where the rhinos are at that time, which when i was there, was under a big shade tree. You'll likely see armed UWA guards nearby, as they are protecting the rhinos from the horror of poaching.
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