Kenya: Booking tented camps/lodges


May 25th, 2003, 06:14 PM
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Join Date: May 2003
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Kenya: Booking tented camps/lodges

First, this is a really lively message board - thanks for all of your insights and tips.
I am a female traveling solo to Kenya for several weeks. Am considering a 6 day overview safari with Vintage . However, I do not want to sign up for the longer trips because i"d like to escape the hectic pace
So, in addition to my package safari, I'd also like to book several days at the lodges/tented camps in a couple of different parks - for example, the Mara and perhaps Samburu or Tsavo.

Is it better to arrange these with my safari company -or with the lodges themselves?
I'd also love some recommendations for specific lodges from the veteran Kenyan travelers out there.
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May 26th, 2003, 09:06 AM
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Hi Sundance-
What places will you be going to on the package safari? Will you fly or drive between parks? Have you ever been to Kenya before?
It seems that each person is attracted to a different area or type of animal. If one particular animal interests you it matters to which park has the most of them. One lady here likes (rather loves) elephants. She fell in love with Ol Tukai Lodge in Amboseli. She returns there and is in Africa heaven.
Some others of us fell in love with the Masai Mara and we found our spot there.
Whether you book direct or through your agent is up to you. If you are familiar with the areas you can book yourself. If not its pretty hard to put it all together on your own with transfers, etc.
Its been 10 years since I went to Kenya so I won't recommend specific lodges, but we have lots of others here who have been in the last year or two and I'm sure they will offer up lots for you to consider. I do think the answers to the questions will help.
Be prepared for a life altering experience if you don't already know about "Africa magic". Liz
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May 26th, 2003, 04:05 PM
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As Liz mentioned - my immediate reaction is where are you going on your safari package? What areas? What lodges? Depending on where you're already scheduled, could help in suggestions.

The three locations you mention are all over the map of Kenya - Samburu up North, Tsavo out East and the Mara down South and they're all a relatively long haul from Nairobi on terrible roads, and flying can be costly. It also depends on how many additional days you're thinking of.

If the Mara is your last stop before returning to Nairobi and if you're staying at a Lodge here, you might want to arrange to stay another few days at a tented camp in a different area of the Mara, and have your tour operator arrange this for you.

Give us some idea of what your itinerary looks like and I'm sure we'll be able to come up with ideas.
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May 26th, 2003, 05:42 PM
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Liz, Sandi,
I will be in Kenya for 21 days. I haven't even left yet and it's already been an adventure, but that's another story..

My current plan is to arrive in Nairobi at 6:30 am, transfer to the Fairview Hotel, and stay there that night and an additional night to get acclimated. On the 3rd day, I hope to go on a 6 night road safari with Vintage Africa. Tomorrow I should hear from them about availability on 2 different trips (but I'm only going on one of them)
First choice:
Lion Safari ($1083). Two nights -Samburu Intrepids; one night Mountain Serena Safari Lodge, one night Rift Valley Lodge and Golf Resort, 2 nights Siana Springs Intrepid Camp in the Mara

My second choice was the "Twiga Special" ($947). one day mountain serena lodge, one night Sarova Shaba Lodge, one night Lake Nakura Lodge, 2 nights Sianna Intrepids.

So, this leaves about 10-11 days on my own . My preference in traveling to a place for the first time is to experience some different areas to get an overview. And then to spend a few extra days immersing myself a little deeper in those places that really call to me. The Mara is one of those- and Liz also reminded me of the elephants in Amboseli.

Sandi, you're right long drives on bad I'm hoping you folks can help me focus in what IS really workable. The whole idea of extra days in the parks --is to avoid the frenetic pace of safaris - and truly experience each place with some time for reflection.

After Liz's message, I went back to some internet sites -like "lets go safari" and Block Hotels (they own the Ol Tukai). Both of these sites offer some reasonable fly-in rates. For example, Ol Tukai- $424 for the flights, 2 nights, plus 2 game drives. Extra nights are $85.

I think I might be able to stay a couple of nights at the Mara as that is the last destination on my safari. Nights at Keekorok are $104. Mara Simba is $150. Sarova Mara is 120. All are full board, but game drives are extra.

Liz and Sandi, your questions and comments really helped me to focus in on what's important on this first trip to Kenya.

I welcome any other suggestions, insights, recommendation you might be able to offer,
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May 26th, 2003, 07:33 PM
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Hello again-
I did a search and found where Jan had returned from her last trip which included Ol Tukai. She also traveled solo and there is a lot of info in that thread. It starts out "Just returned from a two week safari" or something like that. I can't see it while I'm posting and its a rather long title. Good luck. Liz
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May 27th, 2003, 05:51 AM
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I tried to find Vintage Safaris on the internet and I couldn't find them under that name as lots of places have vintage class trips. I wanted to see what all they included.
I don't want to comment on the prices you included because I don't know what all they include. I will say this. I checked and saw prices that were better than those and were for 9 to 12 days. Since they include airfare from the U.S. I couldn't be sure how much to allow for that, but I assume $1500.00 is the consolidator price from the U.S. to East Africa, so that makes those trips less.
Since I've mentioned that site before on Fodors, you might have checked it out already. I haven't used them but quite a few of the posters here have and they have great reports upon their return.
When are you going? I'm sure if you put 2 Afrika and Kenya in the search here you can pull up some of the previous posts. Liz
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May 27th, 2003, 06:41 AM
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Sundance - Thanks for posting your possible itineraries.
The Lion Safari is the one I would select.
Samburu Intrepids is a tented camp with lovely mahogany wood furnishings and "very Africa", we loved it. Plenty of elephants, waterbuck, Reticulated giraffe, antelope (all kinds), lions, and the "infamous" vervet monkeys that know how to open tent zippers - do not keep food in your tent. If you get a tent close to the river you can see the elephants when they come to drink, but this is usually about 4-5am, you'll see their dropping and know they quiety walked past during the night. It is a long drive from NBO and you'll notice scenery changes along the way. The last part of road into Samburu is real rough. The people who reside here in town of Isolo are probably from Ethiopia from their dress - lots of camels and cows.

Returning South the stop at Serena Safari Lodge is at Mt. Kenya - Serena properties are very nice. This stop kind of gives you a break in another long trip that next takes you to the Lake area.

Lake Navaisha (Rift Valley Lodge and Golf) - I'm not familiar, but this is near the soda lakes and you'll find Flamingos here.

Leaving here you'll be traveling South (long trip, lousy roads) via Narok to the Mara. The Siana Springs Intrepids kind of confuses me as I know there is a Siana Springs Camp orginally an A&K property and lovely tents, outside the Sekenani Gate to the Mara - and there was a Mara Intrepids tented Camp inside the Mara near the Tally River - so not really sure which camp they are referring to.
But realize over the years, many camps have change ownership, so I might not be current on who owns what these days.

I would definitely suggest you spend an extra days at either Siana or Intrepids (which ever is which) and then transfer to a camp on the other side of the Mara. I would suggest Kichwa Tembo which had been an A&K property, now a CCAfrica property - likely to be more expensive than the others, but check. I'd spend another 2 - 3 days here. Governors and Little Governors camps are here too, but not sure how they fit in your price range. You're also closer to the Mara River here, but do know that most days you take long drives withinin the Mara from camp into the reserve and driving around looking for animals.

When you finish at the Mara, I would strongly suggest to "fly" back to NBO. You can do the drive one-way, but it's 5-6 hrs. drive back to NBO. I'd fly.

When you first arrive, on your first full day in NBO you can arrange for "the usual" tours which are all interesting - Karen Blixen's home, the Giraffe Manor, Denys Finch Hattons Grave, maybe the Museum in NBO. Have lunch or dinner at the Carnivore (an interesting experience).
Then when you return from the Mara do another overnight and next day you can hire a driver for the day for a town tour, shopping at the Hilton "The Collectors Den" - good prices for inexpensive trinkets (for things you didn't purchase along the roads while traveling around Kenya). They also have quality items, And there are other places to shop (but you must be with a guide). Later in the day you can drive to the Norfolk Hotel for "sundowners" on the terrace. Everyone meets there. Across the street is the University.

Next day you can go out to Amboseli. The drive to Namanga (border with Tanzania) is blacktop and an easy drive, but once you turn left onto road to Amboseli - it ain't a road, rathers sandy ruts and amazing how driver's get thru which will take a few hours to finally reach Amboselli. Sugestion: for all road trips - wear a sports bra.

The choices you listed for Ol Tukai (located inside Amboseli) is good and with the fly to/fr is a better deal than the drive to (I would have suggested you fly back if you drove down) and stay at Amboseli for 2-3 nites. Try to make arrangements to get to see the Amboseli Elephant Project.
An alternate accommodation, a bit more expensive is Tortillis Camp - absolutely lovely, located outside Amboseli, but the best food ever, they have their own gardens, everything is fresh, and the Cheli Family are wonderful hosts.

Again back in NBO and depending on amount of days remaining, then you should go to Tsavo West - Here you will find Finch Hattons (Tented) Camp or Taita Hills Lodge, both probably a bit costly, but there are others at less cost. I'm not familiar with quality of roads getting to/from Tsavo, but again if you drive one way, fly the other.

All intra-Kenyan flights to/fr camps are from Wilson Airport - the regional NBO airport, so you'll have to get taxi on own or arrange transfer to/fr NBO or to the International Airport.

Hope this has given you some ideas, but you'll have to check prices to see what fits your budget. And when prices are quoted, be sure they include your safari activities.

While on the scheduled safari, you're tied to their schedule as to when you go on safari drives. As a single traveler, you are likely to have your own driver at the additional camps and you can choose when you want to go out on drives. I didn't enjoy early drives so except for one day when my partner went out at 6:30, returning 9am - Bkkfst - then out at 10am - 1pm - Lunch - then out 4pm - 6pm. Most days we had our breakfast at about 7:30am - then went out from 8am-1pm (it saved having to come back for Bkfst [and I wasn't thrilled with having a "boxed bkfst"]and were able to stay out a full 4-hours). You can also arrange for "game walks" at any of these camps, more so if you're on your own.

Let me know what results you get from the above (prices etc) and if you have any other questions.

You'll notice I haven't send you back North of NBO, but keeping you south and east.

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May 27th, 2003, 06:56 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Quick note for Liz

2afrika actually uses Vintage Africa as their ground operator for a number of their trips in Kenya so I guess recommendations for either company reflect well on the other

If you are still interested in looking at the tours connects to their webpage - address is actually this rather complex address )on my browser anyway!)
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May 27th, 2003, 07:45 AM
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Thanks nkh-
As soon as you said that I remembered someone had mentioned on here that Vintage was the ground service 2Afrika uses. I usually refer people to that website to see what you can get for not much money.
So I think Vintage sounds great. I liked both safaris Sharon. My first trip to Africa (Kenya), was all driving and I enjoyed the experience because I got to see how the people live and the countryside. Beautiful driving past the coffee fields and the highlands.
I wanted that time to see how it would be to live there. Even back then. (1987). Just don't need to repeat that part.
I agree the drive to and from the Mara is just a long, long drive. Definately fly back. I loved the Mountain Lodge, was there 3 times. It was the only lodge in the Aberdares that had the bathrooms in each room. The rest were down the hall back then. Don't know about now, but I don't like 'down the hall'.
You're getting real good advice from someone who knows her stuff so that should make it easier for you. Enjoy! Liz
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May 27th, 2003, 10:24 AM
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I'm pretty sure 2afrika is using Predators Safaris for a lot of their safaris right now. You can check out Their website is a little erratic, so you may have problems getting to it.
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May 27th, 2003, 10:34 AM
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2afrika definitely do use Predators in Tanzania (that is who we are going to be with in 2 weeks for the Tanzania portion of our trip). However we get handed to another company for the Kenya portion. Vintage Africa is one of the companies they use in Kenya. In our case it will be "Naked Wilderness Safaris" - great name We will report on how they are (we have confidence in 2afrika choosing good operators!)

I don't think that Predators does Kenya tours (at least their website does not list Kenya options). Going by the logic "why would 2afrika change companies for Kenya if one company would do the job" may also suggest that I guess, but logic and reality do not always coincide
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May 27th, 2003, 11:48 AM
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Not sure why 2afrika is switching companies for Kenya. I am booking my safari portion of Kenya with Predators because I was able to get better rates through them (compared them with Vintage Africa and CC Africa).

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May 30th, 2003, 03:00 PM
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I shared your confusion in trying to decide what safari company to use. I had all the brochures from about 50 companies and couldn't decide on any of them. At the suggestion of Daphne Sheldrick who raises orphaned rhinos and elephants, I contacted Southern Cross Safaris in Mombasa and they set everything up just the way I wanted and were responsible for my well-being until I was again on my way home. I felt must comfortable and secure with this safari company. They are nice people.

First of all you have to decide if you want a general-type safari or for instance, if you are a cat lover you'd want to definitely go to the Mara. For elephants Amboseli and Tsavo East. Next you need to decide exactly what level of comfort you are looking for. When I go on safari I don't give a fiddler's damn if I am in a 5 -star place or not. I just want to know it will be safe and comfortable. Safety is my main concern as an older woman traveling alone.

As a woman traveling alone I would spend as little time as possible in Nairobi. Even when I stayed a the "5 star" Serena I went down to the lobby for a cigarette during the night and they had a HUGE chain and padlock around the door so no-one could get in. It just isn't safe for a woman traveling alone to be out and about at all. If you are interested in things in the Nairobi area sign up with someone like Southern Cross Safaris. They can pick you up and drop you off at the airport (JKA and Wilson) and take you to any of the sites that you wish to see. For instance the only reason I spend two nights in Nairobi is so I can go and see the 10 elephants I have adopted at the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust at Nairobi National Park. Then the next morning I am on the 7:30 a.m. plane from Wilson to Amboseli. I have stayed at Ol Tukai for the last three years and have been extremely comfortable there.

When I leave Ol Tukai (after a week in January) I fly back to Wilson Airport, am picked up and taken to JKA and fly to Mombasa. I am picked up at the airport there and driven to Tsavo East.

I have stayed at Satao Tented Camp there on my last three trips and found it to be just great.

One thing that I have learned from my three trips is, what you see in the way of animals will depend entirely on when
the rain last fell and how much water is available outside the parks in the waterholes. I have seen Tsavo when it was teemimg with animals, and again when it seemed they had all left this earth and very few animals. My best trip there was in February (dry season in Tsavo but things still green in Amboseli). My tent at Satao was directly in front of the borehole and I saw 500 - 800 elephants every day by just sitting on my veranda and videotaping them. It was really exciting.

I didn't notice in your note when you were going. I am hoping to return in late September or early October so perhaps we will meet there. I know that you will absolutely love Kenya. Its people and wildlife are amazing.

You can look up Southern Cross Safaris on the web or if you need further informaiton you can e-mail me at [email protected].

Good luck on your planning.

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