Kenya & Tanzania itinerary help please

Feb 9th, 2011, 04:43 PM
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 8,583
Having traveled with ESS before--in the much-maligned minivan, eeps!--I would definitely go with a customized itinerary from them. Is that totally out of your price range if you scale back your accommodations?

Last year was my third safari and first time in a minivan. In my experience, the safari is all about your driver-guide, not the vehicle itself (mostly). Minivans are stigmatized primarily because people associate them with a certain kind of tour op, a certain kind of driver/guide and of course a certain kind of more more more faster faster faster safari-goer that creates the demand for that circus-type of safari.

A good driver-guide will be able to keep you away from the crowds--and mostly out of the mud. The vehicle is not something I would work myself into a lather over if cost is a concern. Of course in really bad mud you are more likely to get stuck. But that can be part of the adventure.

We had Ben driving us in Tsavo last June. Atravelynn also a-traveled with him.
Leely2 is offline  
Feb 9th, 2011, 05:16 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
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You likely saw the detailed vehicle comments in my report (thanks for your nice response) and I was in the minibus too, chosen for savings. You can ctrl F for the term "4x4" and find the comments if needed.

I agree completely with Leely's comments and I'm joining Windowless's I hate the SS club!

As to cost, I had 19 days on the ground with a solo E&S trip for a little over your stated budget. E&S offered lodging options that would have put me at your $7k limit for 19 days. For some parks I chose the more expensive lodging options to benefit from the location--especially in the Mara, where location was a bigger deal in Sept than it would be for you in Dec.

But my trip was all in Kenya, which is less expensive than Tanzania. E&S and many other companies can certainly offer Tanzania too, but it tends to be more expensive. One reason is that 4x4s are the more common vehicle in Tanzania.

Having done fewer days in more secluded, intimate areas at a higher cost and having done more days in lodges in non-private, more populated settings, I conclude they are both worthwhile and I got what I paid for.

There is value added in a Porini type camp (though I have not stayed with them specifically) that justifies the higher cost and may translate to fewer days.

On my last trip, I wanted to go certain places that totaled 19 days. The short spurts of enduring extra vehicles was a price I gladly paid so I could pay less in dollars and visit where I wanted.
atravelynn is offline  
Feb 9th, 2011, 08:39 PM
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Warped comment of the day: "I need to find a guy to marry one of these days. Traveling alone is too expensive."

I got a couple funny looks from coworkers for that one, they just don't understand.

Leely, I'm trying to put together ideas to suggest for a customized itinerary with ESS, but they have to return my emails first. I'm being utterly impatient and have to resist the urge to have a tantrum ("I want to go to Africa, and I want to go NOW!"). One of the problems I anticipate is that many of the tour operators don't seem to be interested in dealing with solo travelers. Everything says minimum of two people.

I want to see what kind of responses I get to a customized itinerary, and then if need be I can go back to the 2Afrika tour with additional time added before starting the tour or the ESS tour discussed previously (depending on the single supplement and assuming that I can still afford it).

One thing I've noticed is that every tour seems to start in Kenya and then go to Tanzania. Is there a logical reason for this? Looking up various lodging rates online, I noticed a couple patterns. 1. Tanzania is definitely more expensive and 2. the prices go up for the holiday season on/around Dec. 23. If I flip my trip and start in Tanzania, I can get the more expensive lodging at their cheaper rates before they increase.

How are the Serena lodges? Better locations and facilities than the Sopa lodges? I put together an idea for an itinerary that should stay within my budget, depending on the costs of getting from one place to the next.

Does this idea make sense? The prices show lodging prices per night. Arusha and Nairobi are guesses, but should be reasonable. The prices for Ngorongoro, Serengeti and Amboseli are for the Serena lodges. Masai Mara is a guess for Kichwa Tembo (it's $200/nt sharing for a tent and $300/nt sharing for a luxury tent and I assume the single supplement shouldn't be more than $100/nt).

12/12/2011 Arusha - 150.00
12/13/2011 Ngorongoro - 235.00
12/14/2011 Ngorongoro - 235.00
12/15/2011 Ngorongoro - 235.00
12/16/2011 Ngorongoro - 235.00
12/17/2011 Serengeti - 235.00
12/18/2011 Serengeti - 235.00
12/19/2011 Serengeti - 235.00
12/20/2011 Serengeti - 235.00
12/21/2011 Masai Mara - 300.00
12/22/2011 Masai Mara - 300.00
12/23/2011 Masai Mara - 300.00
12/24/2011 Masai Mara - 300.00
12/25/2011 Masai Mara - 300.00
12/26/2011 Amboseli - 270.00
12/27/2011 Amboseli - 270.00
12/28/2011 Amboseli - 270.00
12/29/2011 Nairobi - 150.00
12/30/2011 Fly home

That idea would cost $4,500ish, plus another $1,000 for park fees would bring the total to $5,500. I'm pretty sure all of those prices were for full board so the only additional meals would be in Nairobi and Arusha. I would need to check to be sure the Serena costs included game drives in that cost. That leaves me roughly $1,500 for transfering between locations.

Transfer from Arusha to Ngorongoro
Transfer from Ngorongoro to Serengeti
Transfer from Serengeti to Masai Mara - fly?
Transfer from Masai Mara to Amboseli - fly
Transfer from Amboseli to Nairobi

Does that seem reasonable, would it be reasonable if I gave up a night somewhere, or am I just dreaming now? Would this be a reasonable itinerary to suggest to ESS and similar operators as a customized itinerary?

Thank you again for all of the help, I really appreciate it! I have a planning a safari book but it pretty much says "contact the tour operators and compare".
Iowa_Redhead is offline  
Feb 10th, 2011, 11:27 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 8,675
Why restrict yourself to Serena only properties though there may be an "extended stay" discount. But, why 4/nts at Ngorongoro or 3/nts at Amboseli (though that I can go with). Their lodge in the Serengeti is in Central which is actually too far north for that time of year when the migrating herds are often in the south or Ndutu. Or 5/nts in the Mara in December?

Serena does not have a lodge at Tarangire (Sopa though does), but does at Lake Manyara, but there are lovely camps at these areas that can be just as competitive or better priced.

And, then there are the flights between areas (if not driving). And, if driving... Serena doesn't always provide those transfers and who knows what they'd charge if they do. Serena will probably outsource the transfers to an outfitter in Kenya and/or Tanzania, not their peeps.

I realize you're trying to get in as much as possible within budget, but though you have 19/days, why not consider a shorter visit, at the parks that are best to see, for the number of days each deserves, with accommodations that meet your budget as a solo traveler.

Goodness, if you have to return to work as soon as you get home, I'd sure like to have a few days to recoup before doing so.

As to why most itineraries start in Nairobi... well, because more carriers fly in here - British, Virgin, Kenya, KLM, Swiss, Emirates, Brussels, Turkish, etc. etc. and only KLM or Ethiopian into Kilimanjaro/JRO.

However, you can fly into NBO, spend a day or two with one sightseeing and then head into Tanzania to take advantage of possible lower prices till 20th/23rd Dec (not all properties have the same cut-off date), then return to Kenya for visit to the Mara and home.

You've got more work to do.
sandi is offline  
Feb 10th, 2011, 12:47 PM
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Thanks for your help! I was picking Serena properties because I was under the impression that those were considered nicer (i.e. generally better locations) than Sopa's and they're cheaper than any of the tent camps that I've seen prices for.

I picked the parks and number of nights that I did because those are the locations that I keep reading over and over about how wonderful they are and I don't want to keep changing parks every other day. If it takes 5+ hours to get to the next place on crummy roads, then why not simply move around less and spend the time at a park instead of inbetween? I don't know how much time each park deserves and was just trying to guess. In many trip reports I've seen people discussing wanting more time at Mara so I put in a lot of time at Mara.

As for starting at Arusha I was thinking to fly into Nairobi, but have a connecting flight over to JRO immediately. Can I just take a small flight from NBO to JRO, or would I need to transfer across Nairobi to Wilson airport?

Using the Serena Lodges as a price guide, it saved a LOT to start in Tanzania and go north to Kenya because the holiday increase in Tanzania was about double what the increase was in Kenya. If there's different lodging, then I would have to see when their holiday prices kicked in. I'd love to stay with the camps instead of lodges, but all of the ones I could find prices for were about 2-3 times as expensive as Serena. I like the idea of the small'ish camps, but not that much more!

Where can I get some of this information instead of just blundering about like a blind fool?? I have a couple guidebooks but they seem less than useful really since the main idea seems to be "contact tour operators". How do I know how much time each park deserves? All of the tour itineraries I've seen seem to give you 1-2 nights at each place and that's it, but I've seen many comments saying people wanted more time.

Cutting back a few days is fine, but I can't seem to get numbers on anything (except Serena lodges) and I can't balance the value of cutting back a couple days against a nicer place if I don't know the prices and don't know what is actually better and what is just fancier.

I rebound from a trip pretty well and have only ever had slight jetlag once and that was coming from China. I would plan on taking vacation time if needed at the end so that I have a day between getting home and starting work again. If I flew out on 12/30 then I would get home either the 30th or 31st. The 1st is a Sunday, and the 2nd will be a holiday at work since the 1st is over a weekend and I'd start work again on the 3rd.

ESS did respond this time and said that they won't put me in a group with other people so it would have to be a private itinerary with them, and that the 16 day itinerary discussed above would be $8,640 (well outside my budget).

I've heard back from Africa Adventure about the tour Atravelynn suggested above, but they didn't answer my question about what it would cost.

If I can put together an outline of an itinerary that works well, then I can send that back to ESS, Go2Africa, etc and ask what they can do with that itinerary or something very similar.
Iowa_Redhead is offline  
Feb 10th, 2011, 01:00 PM
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I've not been to Amboseli so won't speak to that, but you do not need that many nights at Ngorongoro unless you have a very specific reason to want to stay for so long (photography reasons or you want to hike the highlands or...?). I'd rather spend some time in Tarangire and/or Manyara than four nights Ngorongoro. And I love the Crater!
Leely2 is offline  
Feb 10th, 2011, 01:49 PM
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Thanks Leely! I seem to have the issue of "if 2 nights is good, 4 is better".

I'm so used to planning trips for large cities where there is such a variety of attractions and more time is generally better. I just returned from Beijing and after 5 or 6 nights, I still could have stayed longer happily. When I wanted to move cities I simply hopped on an overnight train and voila. It's hard to switch gears so completely in every way, especially when I don't find websites that give me the exact details I want. I'm used to being able to plop prices and dates into an Excel spreadsheet and run with it.

Hiking the highlands would be fun, but I should maybe leave that for another trip. I'm already trying to put too much in as it is.
Iowa_Redhead is offline  
Feb 10th, 2011, 02:14 PM
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I don't know what the most practical way to determine the order of the parks is, but I'd visit Amboseli before the Mara instead of afterward, if it can be arranged. Given the rains, etc., the game at Amboseli was not as concentrated as it was in the Mara when I visited the two places this past December; I would suggest saving the highlight (Mara) for last, if possible.
WindowlessOffice is offline  
Feb 10th, 2011, 02:38 PM
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Unlike cities - London, New York, Paris, Rome, Shanghai, Jerusalem, etc. where there's so much to see and marvel at, where there's an infrastructure and transport, no wonder people stay a few days and still return again and again.

It's a bit different in Africa, but maybe for South Africa and even there, can be somewhat challenging without transport and need for car rental or flights.

But back to Kenya/Tanzania - Yes, you can arrive NBO and if early enough in the day make a connecting flight to JRO and so start safari there. While Tarangire (min. 2/nts) usually isn't at it's peak in December, with the weird weather... lots of people find this gem of a park, wonderful even if not at peak. Lake Manyara (1/nt), though smaller seems to be preferred more by Europeans than Americans, but can be investigated and with luck maybe even come upon those blackmaned or tree-climbing lions. Ngorongoro, is unique to Tanzania where each crater floor tour will cost $200/per vehicle besides your $50/days 24/hr park fee... you don't need more than 2/nts and that's only if you want to do the 2nd crater tour.

In December the migration is found in the Ndutu area of the NCA or Southeast Serengeti, why people often say "wish I had more time" (as they do for the Mara when the herds are there between mid-July-Oct)... so a stop here for 4/nts is great, 5 if you can.

Back in Kenya, Amboseli is lovely for possible views of Kili if the clouds cooperate, but a nicer park is Samburu with diverse eco systems and species not found elsewhere. But Samburu is a 5+/hr drive north of Nairobi, but you can stop along the way at Nanyuki/Ol Pejeta private conservance for a stop-over at Sweetwaters. And after a few days at Samburu (min. 2/nts, but 3 is good), fly to the Masai Mara for at least 4/nts.

And, don't forget Nairobi... for sightseeing, maybe best on return from Tanzania for a day.

Day 1 - Arv. NBO; fly to JRO - o/n
Day 2 - Drive to Tarangire - o/n
Day 3 - Tarangire - o/n
Day 4 - Drive to Ngorongoro; afternoon crater tour - o/n
Day 5 - option: morning crater or onward via Oldupai Gorge, then to Ndutu or Southeast Serengeti (here to catch up with the migration) - o/n
Days 6,7 & 8 - Ndutu/SES - o/n
Day 9 - Drive to Manyara - o/n
Day 10 - Drive to Arusha; fly (1/hr) or shuttle bus (5-6/hrs) to NBO - o/n
Day 11 - NBO - sightseeing - o/n
Day 12 - Drive to Nanyuki/Ol Pejeta - o/n
Day 13 - Drive to Samburu - o/n
Days 14 & 15 - Samburu - o/n
Day 16 - Fly to Masai Mara - o/n Kichwa Tembo* or Kicheche*
Days 17 & 18 - Masai Mara - o/n
Day 19 - Fly to NBO; dayroom; transfer to JKIA for home

*believe these two they don't have a single supplement!
Believe that covers the best of the best... now you'd just have to find accommodations that work for your budget.
sandi is offline  
Feb 10th, 2011, 06:21 PM
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Windowless, good point with saving the best for last.

Sandi, thank you for all of your help with this. I didn't realize that Ngorongoro is a $200 vehicle fee in addition to the park fee. The trip you outlined sounds exactly like the kind of trip that I want. I thought that moving around less would give more time for seeing things and also help keep costs down.

Where do you get all of your information? Are there websites or books you would recommend, or is it mostly personal experiences?

Now to try to figure out ways to try to coerce that itinerary into my budget. Thank you!!
Iowa_Redhead is offline  
Feb 10th, 2011, 09:22 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 94

Friends and I are planning our first safari for Sept 2011 and after much confusion we decided to have Sandi (Africa Serendipity - help us with the arrangements, partly based on her expert advise on this forum and recommendations from other posters.

We're waiting for our final confirmations, but are very excited about the trip!

Good luck!
PA_Kathy is offline  
Feb 11th, 2011, 06:50 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
Sandi's itinerary would offer you a great trip. If the cost were $400 per day total, that would come in at just about your budget. But the NBO-JRO round trip would have to fit into the $400/day to make it all come out to the low $7ks. The E&S trip quote for you alone was over $500 per day. My Kenya only solo trip in high season with inexpensive banda lodging and one internal flight was mid $400s per day.

If Africa Serendipity had a group going on that itinerary during the time you want to go, it would be ideal because you could share the fixed cost of the guide/vehicle.

One thing you may want to consider to either bring down costs or allow more time in certain parks is whether you want to go to both the Maasai Mara and the Serengeti. They are part of the same ecosystem, separated by a river and country borders. In Dec/Jan, the migration will be in the Serengeti rather than the Mara. But the Mara is always good. On my first trip, it was important for me to go to both.

At least you are asking the right questions and exploring your options early on.
atravelynn is offline  
Feb 11th, 2011, 01:14 PM
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Lynn - "groups" - sorry don't do groups

Iowa - drop me a note vis the Contact page thru the link provided and I'll try to help.

I show flights to JRO upon arrival NBO, but that can be costly, so there is the Shuttle Bus $35/person and though 5-6/hrs... it's an adventure. I even did it once and survived as being part of the experience of "being in Africa." Likewise, you can shuttle bus back to NBO. Of course, your decision/budget.

When you consider the return air NBO/JRO/NBO is about $400-500, you might want to just fly direct into JRO. KLM allows for "open-jaw tickets... arrive one city, depart from another... and JRO/NBO are the two allowed in this area of the world.

And, as long as you get out of Tanzania before 20th or 23rd Dec, the prices here will be at their "high" season (vs "peak") most other times of the year except for the "low" season on Apr/May. Then, once in Kenya while rates will go into "holiday" /peak mode, rates here are still lower than if in Tanzania.

I'm here if interested.
sandi is offline  
Feb 12th, 2011, 05:44 PM
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Sent! Thank you Sandi!
Iowa_Redhead is offline  
Feb 13th, 2011, 10:03 PM
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Bookmarking thanks.
trumps is offline  
Feb 20th, 2011, 07:54 AM
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This was great! I have two weeks off in a similar time frame and turns out not to be the ideal time frame for me to visit my primary choice, so I went looking for a secondary choice. Thank you Iowa_Redhead and all the other responders here for doing so much of the legwork I'm a solo female traveler as well so this is all relevant. Looking forward to more planning
sjk1976 is offline  

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