Kenya & Tanzania itinerary help please

Feb 7th, 2011, 09:08 AM
  #1  
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Kenya & Tanzania itinerary help please

I'm planning on a safari to Kenya and Tanzania in December 2011. I'll be traveling alone and I think this is creating issues with many of the tour operators out there. I filled out the contact forms and sent emails to quite a few operators and have so far only heard back from Go2Africa.com. I'm really tempted to go with an OAT trip that looks similar to what I want. I want time at Masai Mara, and I would like time at Samburu but that's not a requirement. I also wish to visit the Ng. Crater (I've given up hope on spelling that one correctly). My budget is $7,000 plus airfare.

From Go2Africa: This is the basic itinerary and uses 2011 prices. My departure would be under the 2012 prices as they switch pricing years in mid-December. Total so far: $5,524.

The skeleton itinerary will be as below.
23/12 Drive to Amboseli Porini
24/12 Amboseli Porini
25/12 fly to Nairobi continue to Samburu intrepid
26/12 Samburu intrepid
27/12 Fly to Masai Mara Mara Porini
28/12 Mara Porini
29/12 Porini Lion
30/12 Porini Lion
31/12 Fly 11h00 to Nairobi, connect flight to Kilimanjaro ETD 1240 ETA 13h55 hrs

I really like the lady I've been working with but the prices seem very high for what I want. Also, I keep trying to get her to add in the Ng. Crater and she's not really. I know that the single supplement adds to my costs and my budget limits my options but this just seems high. By the time I add in a night or two in Nairobi before I start my trip, adjust for price changes and any extras and I think my budget is gone.

OAT: I'm looking at "The Best of Kenya and Tanzania" trip. (http://www.oattravel.com/Trips/2011/...ania-2011.aspx ) with the Mara pre-trip extension. With that added in, and an optional balloon ride, the total is $6,040. The price for them to arrange airfare is an additional $1,750 which is about the same or even less than what I can do myself. I'm waiting for a response from them including what flights they would arrange for me.

The OAT trip doesn't include Samburu, would have more people (max group of 16) and includes a rotten drive from Arusha to Nairobi at the end. But, it does include more locations including the Ng. Crater, and is less expensive. I've traveled with tour groups before and have really enjoyed them, and I think that as a solo young woman, I might feel safer and more likely to go out and about with a group than I would alone.


Any opinions on either option? I really liked the descriptions and a recent trip report regarding Porini but I think they're out of my price range. Am I nuts to strongly consider a trip with OAT? I hate to commit to such an expensive trip only to regret it later. If I can decide yet this week and get a check to OAT, I save 5% (which about pays for the balloon ride).

With OAT I gain the Serengeti, Ng. Crater and more time at Masai Mara. I also gain more time and get to spend time with a group which has always been a bonus on my previous group tours. This would all be gained within my budget. I would give up Samburu and some of the flexability of possibly being alone. However I don't know if I would be alone with Go2Africa's proposal or if I would be joining a group, so I can't say for sure that I wouldn't be with a group using their proposal.

Thanks for any help and advice!
Iowa_Redhead is offline  
Feb 7th, 2011, 11:14 AM
  #2  
 
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Here are reports from those who went on an East Africa OAT trip

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34897294 report
http://www.winkflash.com/photo/publi...?u=ajennerjahn pics

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...a-gorillas.cfm

I liked the upfront extension of FOUR nights in the Mara at a tented camp, No single supplement. You are wise to include that.

ITINERARY
Day 1 Fly to London

Day 2 Arrive in Nairobi
Lodging: InterContinental Nairobi, or similar

Day 3 Overland to Lake Naivasha
Lodging: Naivasha Simba Lodge,

Day 4 Explore Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru National Park
Lodging: Naivasha Simba Lodge

Day 5 Explore Lake Naivasha/Overland to Amboseli National Park
Lodging: Amboseli Sentrim Tented Camp, or similar

Day 6 Spend A Day in the Life of the Irkirit School/Afternoon game-viewing drive in Amboseli National Park
Lodging: Amboseli Sentrim Tented Camp,

Day 7 Discover Amboseli National Park/Overland to Tanzania
Lodging: Lake Burunge Tented Camp, or similar

Day 8 Discover Tarangire National Park
Lodging: Lake Burunge Tented Camp, or similar

Day 9 Discover Lake Manyara National Park/Overland to Karatu
Lodging: Tloma Lodge, or similar

Day 10 Karatu/Visit Iraqw village
Lodging: Tloma Lodge, or similar

Day 11 Explore Ngorongoro Crater/Transfer to Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Lodging: Lake Masek Tented Camp, or similar

Day 12 Explore Oldupai Gorge
Lodging: Lake Masek Tented Camp, or similar

Day 13 Overland to Serengeti National Park
Lodging: Mbalageti Lodge, or similar

Day 14 Serengeti National Park/Optional Serengeti Sunrise Balloon Safari/Game-Viewing
Lodging: Mbalageti Lodge, or similar

Day 15 Explore Serengeti National Park
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Lodging: Mbalageti Lodge, or similar

Day 16 Explore Serengeti National Park
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Lodging: Mbalageti Lodge, or similar

Day 17 Fly to Arusha/Overland to Nairobi
Lodging: InterContinental Nairobi, or similar

Day 18 Explore Nairobi/Depart for London or begin your
optional post-trip


My comments on the itinerary:
I like it, with your extension.

Big question on Serengeti: Nights 13-16 is Serengeti. 4 nights there is great, especially coupled with 4 nights in the Mara! But the question is are you at Mbalageti in Dec/Jan? Mbalageti is in Western Serengeti, which is not the place to be in Dec-Jan. If the “or similar” lodging option is used for your trip that would be better. You’d want central or southern Serengeti for this time of year.

Note the long drive Amboseli to Tarangire. Never did it, but I bet it is 7 hours.

My comments on your comments:

No Samburu: If eles are your goal, you do have Amboseli AND Tarangire. Most itineraries don’t give you 2 ele parks.

Max of 16 participants—as long as you each have a window, that’s ok. That should mean about 6 people max per vehicle. Maybe 4 vehicles of 4. If they plan to stick 8 in a vehicle, find out if it is a bigger vehicle with a window for all. It's not how many people on the trip, but how many in each vehicle.

Arusha-NBO drive: You can sleep. There is also a 7ish hour drive between Amboseli and Tarangire.

Crazy to use OAT? No, not if it delivers what you want. Their pricing is hard to beat. You've had good experiences with groups in the past. 2Afrika sometimes rivals it. (2Afrika is not Go2Africa).

Go2Africa’s Porini: (1) Unless the itinerary states private, you share the vehicle with others. Although it is possible you’d end up alone for some drives by luck. You can, of course, pay additional for a private vehicle. (2) Other companies can put together Porini so if cost was the only issue, you could contact a different company such as Gametrackers who works directly with Porini.

Porini price range—out of my range at this point too, which is why I went with Eastern and Southern, but if you did opt for Porini, I am positive you would not “commit to such an expensive trip only to regret it later.” E&S provided a private Kenya trip for more days for less cost than a shared basis with Go2Africa when I was looking. My accommodations were much more simple, but I loved them.
atravelynn is offline  
Feb 7th, 2011, 12:12 PM
  #3  
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atravelynn,

Thanks for your help! I contacted E&S but haven't received a response from them. I only heard back from one of around 12-15 tour operators I contacted.

I'll add your questions regarding the camp in Serengeti and if everyone is guaranteed a window seat. I'm short so I usually end up coerced to the middle seat and I do NOT want that on this trip. I'll sit in the middle as long as someone doesn't mind me half in their lap when I want to see something (aka all the time).

I'll look into Gametrackers and 2Afrika and see if I get a response. I ended up looking at Game Watchers (Porini) and thought that was the same group as Gametrackers, but apparently not.

I want to get things sorted out as I have very specific times when I can travel and want to get any early booking discounts I can, as long as I'm sure of what I want.

Thanks!
Iowa_Redhead is offline  
Feb 7th, 2011, 12:35 PM
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Agree with Lynn re Mbalageti Camp if visiting Dec/Jan. Being in the West is best in June/July, but they do show a few days in Ndutu at Lake Masek Camp which is ideal for a Dec/Jan visit. Besides, Mbalageti is a nice bit of luxe while on safari.

Drive from Amboseli, Sentim Camp can be long as this camp is way at the other end of Amboseli and will take sufficient time to just exit the park on the way to the border and then to Arusha. Here, no doubt, you'll stop for lunch and then head 2.5/hrs down the road to Tarangire... so it's not all that terrible though Burunge Camp is quite a distance south of the park. But this is two (2) elephant parks, just so you know... still nothing terribly wrong.

Bear in mind that using the Go2Africa dates, not only as a solo traveler, this is over the Christmas Holiday when prices are highest regardless whom you choose as an operator.

If price is a deciding point, OAT usually can't be beat. However, do verify the number of paxs per vehicle and assurance of a window seat. Though groups do tend to arrange participants to change seats through the trip.

Good luck!
sandi is offline  
Feb 7th, 2011, 02:43 PM
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IowaRedHead,

I am always shocked at how few responses I get to serious travel inquiries. Twice in my E&S correspondence over a year's time, my email to never made it to them. So you may want to try them--or others--again.

You are right that it is GAMEWATCHERS. I wrote TRACKERS by mistake, which is wrong. Gamewatchers are the Porini people. Someone else recently wrote they had problems getting ahold of GAMEWATCHERS.
atravelynn is offline  
Feb 7th, 2011, 02:50 PM
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Like sandi said, you are looking at dates (obviously) over Christmas Holidays. This may cause problems with your desired booking/camps and certainly peak $$$ lot of places. Go any other time?

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Feb 7th, 2011, 04:50 PM
  #7  
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Atravelynn, I'll try sending those emails again and see if I get any info this time. I haven't heard back yet from OAT. I have to admit that I'm not very patient sometimes.

Tom, I can't really go at other times. My office closes for the week between Christmas and New Years so I get a free week of vacation essentially. Plus I can't really take any other time off between September and February.
Iowa_Redhead is offline  
Feb 7th, 2011, 06:30 PM
  #8  
 
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Anyone use Go Ahead Tours for Kenya & Tanzania? We just booked for July 8th. Any suggestions or tips about packing etc. We know to pack neutral colors and keep luggage to minimum- one bag per person.
MARISAL3 is offline  
Feb 8th, 2011, 07:16 AM
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Marisal3 -

Suggest you do a "search" on this board... lots of queries and replies as to packing.

And, best you start your own thread, as this will only get lost amongst specific questions/answers from/for Iowa_Readhead.
sandi is offline  
Feb 8th, 2011, 05:25 PM
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Help please?

I want time at Masai Mara, Ngorongoro Crater, and would like either Amboseli or Samburu (both would be nice). I want lots of time (I can leave as early as Dec 10 and have to be home by Jan 3). A small group is excellent, I don't expect a tour to myself as I can't pay for that. I don't want luxury but I do want good locations. My budget is $7,000 after airfare.


Now, that all seems to point me to the OAT trip described in earlier posts but I've read a lot of really bad reviews of the OAT trip. Many people seem to say that they've traveled with OAT before and liked them but they really cut corners here and people didn't always get what they had been told they would get in the planned itinerary and that the lodges were really far out from the parks. Someone also said that they traveled with OAT in Africa in 2004 and were thrilled, but then when they traveled on a different Africa tour it was like it was with an entirely different tour company, and not in a good way.

I like the price and the amount of time for the OAT trip, but I'm hesitant to sign up with a company that is currently getting such bad reviews.



On the above advice, I've looked up 2Afrika and there's a trip that looks like a possibility.

http://2afrika.com/site/safaris/safari.asp?SafariID=192 The details are way too long to post, but it includes 2 nights at Sopa Safari Lodge at Masai Mara, 2 nights at Amboseli Sopa, 2 nights Serengeti Sopa, 2 nights at Ngorongoro Sopa (plus a couple others). 16 nights total including travel time. With the single supplement, $4,350. That still leaves me over $2,000 to add a few days at Masai Mara if they'll work with me on that one as it's the first camp and the one I really want more time in.

Any other ideas or opinions on this itinerary and it's lodging?

Thank you all btw for your help!
Iowa_Redhead is offline  
Feb 8th, 2011, 07:36 PM
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The 2Afrika safari lodging looked comfortable, fine. Maybe not my first choice of location, but I'd stay at any of those places. Don't know Safari Park in NBO.

I saw they stated 7 persons max. I'd ask about the vehicle to see if the 7th person sits next to the driver and if there is a pop top above the passenger seat so #7 can stand up. Otherwise the passenger seat is too confining.

I understand your concern about OAT and recent poor reviews.

Check out this from E&S. If there is a group going that you can join, this has Amboseli, Samburu, Crater, 3 nts Mara.

http://www.essafari.co.ke/esskt018.php
atravelynn is offline  
Feb 8th, 2011, 07:42 PM
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I've gone with Africa Adventure too. I think it is the same as 2Afrika. Never traveled with 2Afrika.

http://www.africa-adventure.com/safa...a_and_tanzania
atravelynn is offline  
Feb 9th, 2011, 06:03 AM
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On our first trip in 2008 we stayed at the Sopa lodges you mentioned. Nothing to complain about-excellent and plentiful food-lots of variety, lovely and clean accommodations, great staff. Game drives were astounding. Our driver/guide/tracker delivered everything we wanted. We were with another couple from LA so only 4 of us in the vehicle which made it so much more comfortable than others we saw that had a full vehicle. Pollmans was the Kenyan part of the trip and we added on a post extension to Samburu Intrepids Camp. We used the driver/guide supplied by Samburu and he was fantastic also. We also did Tanzania.
chris45ny is offline  
Feb 9th, 2011, 06:36 AM
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"and we added on a post extension to Samburu Intrepids Camp"

That's why I logged back in--to mention that possibility and there it is--tack on Samburu up front or at end, wherever it would fit best, if you really wanted this location. You can fly there and back on daily scheduled flights from Nairobi. A variety of lodgings exist for various budgets and you can use the lodging's guide.

http://www.africa-adventure.com/best_time_to_go

If you check this chart, you'll see Samburu is not at its peak in December, but with unpredictable weather who knows? There's always something going on in Samburu even when not prime.
atravelynn is offline  
Feb 9th, 2011, 07:38 AM
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In looking at the 2Afrika and ESS itineraries, there's no comparison. ESS is much better when it comes to routing, time on the road, accommodations, even on last day the option to fly from Tanzania to Nairobi airport rather than the bus and all those hours on the road. It might be more expensive than 2Afrika, but justified for what they're offering.

Both have some very long drives, but with 2Afrika, using Sopa at Amboseli which is located clear over the other side and outside the park is a longer drive into Tanzania. And, Sopa in the Mara, is also located outside the Reserve. The Sopa's at Serengeti and Ngorongoro are well sited. And, by 2Afrika using all Sopa properties, can offer the reduced prices.

Then, looking at their "options", they are very high priced even after the discount for pre-booking; and there's little time in which to fit any of these unless you give yourself an extra day in Nairobi; as to the hot-air balloon safari, those in the Serengeti will be higher than if in the Mara, but the price shown in the Mara is higher than it should be.
sandi is offline  
Feb 9th, 2011, 08:35 AM
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Thanks for the advice!

Sandi, is the ESS tour still better if I can only afford the minibus option and not the 4x4? It's going to be pushing my budget even with the minibus.

For the 2Afrika tour, I was considering 2 nights in Nairobi to allow for time to visit Sheldricks and give me time incase of a flight delay (not unlikely of coming out of the midwest in December), then depending on price 2-4 nights extra at Mara before I joined the tour. 2Afrika does offer a flight from Arusha to Nairobi at the end so I wouldn't have the daylong drive.

I tried contacting ESS once but I'll try again for that tour to see what info they can give me regarding prices for my dates. My last trip was so much easier because I simply checked a couple websites and made reservations from there and just did my own thing. However, I doubt traveling without a tour would be cost effective for this trip.

If I still don't hear back from ESS, is the 2Afrika tour a bad option or is it just that ESS is better? I'm also waiting for information back on the African Adventure tour.

Thanks again for all of the help everyone, I really appreciate it!
Iowa_Redhead is offline  
Feb 9th, 2011, 09:26 AM
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I'll leave the more comprehensive advice to the experts, but one question I'd ask myself if I were confronted with your choices boils down to the old "what is most important to me?" standard. More precisely, I'd ask myself whether more days on the ground/in the parks was the priority or whether to possibly trade off a day or two in order to get a better vehicle, lodging, etc.

Having seen people packed into minibuses when I was at Amboseli (vs. the occasional 4X4s I saw elsewhere), I have to say that I personally would pay extra for the better vehicle. And if it's raining even a little bit in the Mara (as it was when I was there, and as is distinct possibility in December), know that the 4X4s will be much better equipped to handle the extremely slippery mud. But a good driver would probably know what the vehicle is/isn't capable of, so this is a judgment call for you.

Another thing that I know was a decisive factor for me was exclusivity. I happened to be in the Tetons last summer just before booking my trip, and there were a couple of times that we stopped to see moose by the side of the road ... along with about a dozen other cars that stopped for the same reason. It really detracted from the wildlife viewing, in my mind, and I knew then that I didn't want that for my safari. I was happy that I looked into the private conservancies because watching elephants in the midst of a park with other vehicles is one thing, but watching lions mating when there's no other vehicle in sight is totally different. So again, you might want to ask yourself how much that sort of a thing would matter to you; I know I ended up taking a much shorter trip than otherwise because I needed to pay for the exclusive conservancies. (Of course, it's not as though you can ever count on exclusive viewings if you're at a place like Ngorongoro.)

This isn't to critique your potential itineraries (which are pretty impressive, to my mind), but it might be a way of focusing on what is more important to you. Do you want simply to *see* the animals, or is the total experience you have while seeing them (the vehicle, the likelihood of radio chatter by the driver, the presence of numerous other safarigoers, etc.) something that might also make a difference? Is more time on the ground necessarily more important than where to stay? How significant is the quality of guiding, etc.? I'm actually contemplating a return trip to Africa at the end of the year, myself, so I've been asking myself similar questions a lot lately. These are personal considerations, so obviously, the decisions will be, too.

Good luck!
WindowlessOffice is offline  
Feb 9th, 2011, 10:25 AM
  #18  
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Windowless,

You ask good questions and it's all things that I need to consider. Honestly it seems like I don't know enough to know which side of the trade off is better. I've been lurking here and reading trip reports, and I've read a couple good guidebooks, but I just don't know exactly what I want. It all sounds fantastic to me, and for many things I seem to have expensive wants and lack the budget to support those.

I would like it better if I felt like I had exact numbers (well, I am an accountant) and could compare "okay, if I go with this kind of vehicle, then I have to give up a night at this location" or something similar. It just seems like everything is already set up certain ways. I'm having a really hard time getting numbers for different options. I like the ESS tour, but I can't just shorten it a day or two to get a better vehicle because they don't offer that shorter tour. I liked the suggested itinerary from Go2Africa that included the Porini camps but I hate the idea of giving up so many days to do that when I don't know how different the experiences would be anyway. Eight days vs 18 days is quite a difference when they cost about the same.


On a side note though, I guess if ESS won't respond to me after two or three tries then it really doesn't matter what I think of their tour.
Iowa_Redhead is offline  
Feb 9th, 2011, 11:54 AM
  #19  
 
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Ha - I hear that. I guess the real question is what qualifies as a "dealbreaker" for you. I knew I'd have preferred a longer trip; who wouldn't? But I also knew that even if I spent weeks on safari, I wouldn't be happy if my memories were of awesome things like cheetahs or lions or whatever, but always surrounded by a ring of cars that would make me feel like I was at a Disney park instead of being out in nature. So I prioritized the private conservancies, at the tough cost of giving up some days/parks. The open-sided vehicles, by contrast, were on the "want" but not "need" list (although they were high up on the "want" list); it just happened that they were offered as part of the Porini camps I decided on.

To be fair, though, the itineraries I was deciding between were a little closer in length to begin with, so I do sympathize with your dilemma.

And I think we should start an "I hate the single supplement" club!
WindowlessOffice is offline  
Feb 9th, 2011, 12:57 PM
  #20  
 
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The issue with the 2Afrika itinerary, besides my comments above, are that by offering 2/nts each at the various stops - even the Masai Mara or Serengeti - is that you're spending more time transiting between than actual game viewing, so while it's 2/nts, you only have 1/full day game viewing at any of these areas.

However, if you plan to arrive NBO ahead and can spend a day sightseeing here: Karen Blixen House, Giraffe Center, 11am Sheldrick, Kazuri Beads, Utamaduni, other markets; lunch where you want. And, then fly out to the Mara for a few days (based on what your budget will allow), staying at a better positioned lodge/camp than the Sopa (though this may dampening your later visit with the group)- consider the Serena Lodge or Kichwa Tembo Camp... then go for it.

And, if budget allows... go for the flight, JRO/NBO which will take you right into the airport for your homebound flight.
sandi is offline  

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