Kenya or South Africa

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May 13th, 2003, 11:54 AM
  #1
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Kenya or South Africa

Because of the SARS situation, we have decided to postpone our February 2004 trip to Vietnam. When the disease is brought under control, we'll rebook, but until then, there are other wonderful places to explore. Right now we're leaning towards Kenya with South Africa coming in a close second. We are locked into a February departure, and we understand that animal viewing opportunities are better at that time of year in Kenya than they are in South Africa. There are strong State Department travel advisories (the last dated March 2003), however, regarding terrorist activity in East Africa. We're almost inclined to ignore them and hope for the best. Does anyone out there have any input which might help us decide? Has anyone taken a February trip to South Africa? And if so, how did you find animal viewing opportunities. We would really appreciate any feedback.
Thank you.
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May 14th, 2003, 05:55 PM
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Hi Bo:

We were under the same dilema last spring when we were in the process of booking our trip. At the time I was working on a project out of town and was discussing the situation ... turn out one of the guys grewup in Cape Town and another had lived in Johannesburg for a year - both indicated (seperately) that while South Africa & South African Safaris were 'nice', to get to see the 'real Africa' you needed to go to Kenya. So we immediatly refocused on Kenya and had an amazing trip.

Hope this helps,

Z
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May 14th, 2003, 08:08 PM
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Hi, Z--
Thank you so much for your input and also that of your South African acquaintances. In my heart of hearts I want to have that same amazing Kenya experience that you had. I just wish that safety were not an issue.
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May 14th, 2003, 11:15 PM
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While your odds of personally encountering terrorism in Kenya are probably much smaller than having a car accident in your hometown, you should be aware that the March State Dept travel advisory you mentioned was superceded today (5/14) by a new stronger one at http://travel.state.gov/eafrica_announce.html
and they also issued a specific warning against Kenya (http://travel.state.gov/kenya_announce.html

There is also an interesting article at the kenyanews.com site where a local reporter discusses why his country invites terrorists.

Again, people do travel successfully against state dept. warnings and who knows what the situation will be like next Feb. I have friends who went there last year and had a great time. And this warning expires on 9/12/03 (how do they determine these dates). But if you'll both have anxiety over this until then, perhaps this isn't the time. Kenya will always be there.
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May 15th, 2003, 03:28 AM
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Hi...I'm on the same page with Clematis.
But I'm a bit partial to South Africa because I lived there in 1995 and used to spend my summers there (my parents worked there in the 90s).
It is my understanding that Kenya has better game viewing, but you won't be disappointed with South Africa's (I've never been).
Re: Terrorism in Kenya...yes Clematis is right, the State Dept re-issued the travel warning, probably in response to the Saudi bombings...we now have proof that Al-Qaeda is alive and well...and we know for a fact they have or had training camps in Kenya (remember the U.S. embassy bombing?).
Listen, chances are you'll be fine if you decide to go to Kenya, but make sure you're comfortable with your decision. You certainly want to fully enjoy this wonderful African experience.

 
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May 15th, 2003, 03:33 AM
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Hello

You may find this recent thread of interest:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/pgMessa...4&tid=34414510

Kind Regards
Kavey
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May 15th, 2003, 08:07 AM
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so i just found out why the u.s. re-issued its travel warning for kenya. they believe the mastermind of the 2 embassy bombings (kenya and tanzania) is back in kenya (he reportedly had escaped to somalia after the bombings).
 
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May 16th, 2003, 04:02 PM
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In '98 we were scheduled for my second trip to East Africa (had been in Kenya in '96)... this trip would arrive in Kenya for one day, then on to Tanzania. After the bombings of the embassy, my travel partner wanted to cancel and it took every ounce of energy between myself and our travel agent to convince her she'd be fine. And we were... in fact, she insisted we stop by the embassy to take a photo of the bombed out building (some people are strange). We felt perfectly safe while in Nairobi with a guide wherever we went. Took the local bus to Arusha and for the next eight days on a private safari with guide in Tanzania met only two (2) other Americans. All the other travelers were European.

As to the animal viewing between East Africa and Southern Africa... well, in Kenya they're out there for the taking in the open plans mostly, not difficult to spot them, whether we were north in Samburu, down to Nakuru, Amboseli or the Mara; while in Southern Africa you have to do a little more work as you don't find that many open plains. They're just different experiences.

February will be summer in So.Africa while in Kenya your weather is relatively constant year-round temperature wise, though I believe you get rains in February, so check that out before making a decision.

Listen, I had made three trips to Africa before I saw my first leopard, so there are no guarantees. Both are wonderful destinations.
 
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May 16th, 2003, 05:02 PM
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Yes Sandi is right..there are no guarantees.
We were REALLY lucky when we went to Kruger Natl Park in SAfrica for the very first time. We saw some amazing things. We saw 2 cubs tracking a gazelle with mama lion watching, then the 2 cubs went after the gazelle who leapt over the car parked in front of us!! She got away, which made me happy because I didn't really want to see them eating her! Anyway, that was the most amazing thing we had ever seen. We saw a leopard relaxing on a tree (sorry sandi!). We saw a pack of wild dogs (it's believed there are only 5,000 of them left in the world!). We saw a pregnant hyena lying on the side of the road. All those sightings were in the middle of December when it's suppose to be too hot for the animals to be out in the middle of the day...so who knows??
That was our first 2-3 days at Kruger. After that, we went to a private lodge for 3 days where we only had one amazing experience. We were going up a hill and when we got to the top, there was a herd of elephants right in front of us...with a baby one. When they saw us, the leader started flapping his ears (not a good thing) and our driver SLOWLY backed the jeep away. My heart stopped and that day I realized how insignificant we (humans) are in the scheme of things.
Anyway, when we were at that private lodge, there was a British couple that had been there for 2 days and hadn't seen a thing yet...how awful was that? So Sandi is right...But I hope that wherever you decide to go, you'll get as lucky as we did.
 
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May 16th, 2003, 08:34 PM
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Carib, I'm curious which lodge were you at?

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May 17th, 2003, 04:46 AM
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Caribtraveler - It was finally at Singita that I saw "my" leopard which we found in a tree early morning then tracked her for the rest of morning. Watched a baboon get into a fight with her and leave a gash in her hind quarters. I had told my Ranger that I was specifically there to see a leopard so that "I could die a happy woman"... kind of intense, but our ranger made sure I'd get my wish, and I did.
We've seen different things in different camps/countries. While in Botswana at Chilwero in Chobe which is known for large elephant herd... we saw only three... hey you can see more than three elleees at your local zoo. So you just never know.
One night on return to camp at Honeyguide in Manyeletti Reserve at Kruger we came across a pride of lions (about 20) who were finishing off a baby giraffe they brought down earlier in day... we simply pulled into this track into the middle of the pride and just sat and listened. Without big spotlights, we managed photos with only our camera flash and got unbelievable photos.
And then there is the time at Samburu in Kenya I had breakfast with the Vervet monkeys who opened the zipper of my tent and went for the cookies that came with my morning coffee... and I was sitting a few feet away blowing my air. Scared the heck out of me, but it gave me a good laugh. The Vervets have actually learned how to open the zippers! And don't think that little devil wasn't back at the zipper a few moments later hoping for more cookies... another reason to never have any food in your room/tent.
Those are the memories no one can ever take from you. I'm sure there are lots of you out there with similar tales.
Africa is an amazing continent... not only the animals, but the people and unless bombs are dropping, it's an experience not to be missed.
Enjoy, whatever country you choose.
 
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May 17th, 2003, 05:29 AM
  #12
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Sandi: That is great. It sounds like your experience was as amazing as mine.
Clematis: I wish I could remember the name. The trip was in '95 (in my mid-20s). My stepfather actually surprised us with the trip. He did all the bookings. He unfortunately passed away 3 years ago or I would ask him. I just took a look at my pictures to see if I had something with a name on it, but I don't.
I really need to start a website with travel pix so you can see them. I have some pretty good stuff.
 
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May 17th, 2003, 09:07 AM
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Carib, yes, I'd love to see your pictures. Sandi, I'll be at Singita in a couple of weeks. Did you stay at Boulders? Who was your guide there if you don't mind telling. Loved your story about the monkeys.
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May 17th, 2003, 09:13 AM
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Sandi - forgot - you shot the leopards with camera flash? So how close were they for that flash to work...
And the animals are not spooked by the flash then?

Has anyone here accidentally scared off an animal from the flash or camera sound?
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May 17th, 2003, 03:02 PM
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Clematis - No we didn't stay at Boulders even though we booked a year in advance, but we were wait-listed. Stayed at Ebony and we just loved it. While Boulders is in all the SAA ads, Ebony was their first camp and there is a warmth to the place that just wraps its' arms around you, very intimate feeling. One morning, we did take the shuttle over to "see" Boulders, though only able to see the public area and not any of the "houses". Regardless, both will make your heart go "pitta-pat".

I had made all arrangements for our trip and while I attempted to mention the price to my travel partner, he just said "do it, you never disappoint me". However, while in Botswana, he got to speaking to a couple who had just come from Londolozi (in the same range with Singita) and they mentioned the price to him and "he lost it" That was until finally arriving at Singita, we were taken to our accommodation. He was left speechless and though we stayed only two nights/days, on the last night he commented how wonderful the entire trip was "except for one thing", that we hadn't stayed a third night at Singita to take advantage of the privacy of the place - indoor/outdoor showers, own pool, private deck - if you like "naked" do it! nobody's there to see you - super-size kingsize bed (they put two 3/4 (46") beds together and have custom linens for these, the fireplace, a bathroom the size of most people's homes, a full dressing room, everything in the minibar is yours for the taking-only extra is imported wines, but SA and local wines are excellent. Both camps have wine cellars and do wine-tastings.

The Rangers are excellent and we had, I believe, the only Black Ranger (as most hi-end camps, such as Mala Mala only have White Rangers - not my place to question). Colin was great, smart and loads of fun. At SA camps the Rangers have meals with the guests (usually dinner), unlike in East Africa. They have to be good/great to be able to adjust to new guests' personalities every few days; one morning after breakfast Colin and my buddy went out to do some "skeet-shooting" as my buddy wanted to try the Elephant Rifle, kind of "mano-a-mano" and did they have fun, and did he have a bruised shoulder after only two shots!

Food and service was excellent-BBQ one nite, French another, indoor/outdoor seating; the managers go out of their way to accommodate anything you want, and most people are "not the rich and famous", just regular folk who want "something special" and it was worth every penny (dollars/rand) we paid.

As far as photos - not once on any of my trips (have done 4) have animals been scared by camera flash. The Leopard was in a tree and I managed to catch her on a limb and as she leaped off (in mid-air), but do remember to set you "red-eye", as some of the animal eyes did pop "red", so watch for that. Otherwise, the animals are all so acclimated to vehicles and people, except sometimes the eleees get protective of the babies, so watch for the flapping big ears; and the zebra are always skittish; and the giraffe are the most graceful. Remember to leave the windows open (they're screened) at Singita at night so you can hear the "night sounds", lions roaring or mating - amazing!

You'll enjoy every moment of your trip. Let me know when you return.

 
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May 17th, 2003, 04:52 PM
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Sandi: I've enjoyed reading your posts!
I leave tomorrow for SA and will be staying at Singita...your descriptions were perfect. Last May I had Collen as my Ranger and just loved every minute of game drive. I called him the "Zen Ranger" because he was so patient and seemed to possess a sixth sense when positioning the vehicle in anticipation of game. Thanks for sharing!
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May 17th, 2003, 07:42 PM
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Sandi, what a great post! You just gave me goosebumps the way you made it all come alive for me. Or maybe those goosebumps are because I'm leaving soon and I still have so much to do. I loved that part about him "losing it" until he got there!

As I'm in the last days of pulling the packing together, I'll ask what I've asked everyone of Singita - what did you see people wearing for dinner? Were you ever cold? Was there anything you wished you had packed but didn't?
Now girlpolo is probably gone now but I took her post to mean her "Collen" and your Colin were one and the same. He sounds terrific. Did anyone complain about their guide or were they all great I wonder?
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May 17th, 2003, 09:21 PM
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Any suggested help with preventing red eye in Zebras??? I could have sworn that I had my settings correctly but all of my photos of zebras had red eyes. Is this the color of their eyes???

Thanks.
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May 18th, 2003, 06:12 AM
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Clematis - Colin or Collen it's got to be the same great Ranger, and I like the reference Zen Ranger. Yes, he was just wonderful. Luckily his wife also works at the camp and their daughter is there too and goes to school nearby.
As to what people wear for dinner - some wear their safari cloths, other actually put on slack/jacket for men, women might wear comfortable dresses, even off-shoulder with a shawl. But just about anything goes. Because Singita is upscale people do tend to "dress", but don't get carried away. Slacks and a pretty sweater are fine, but some of the young honeymooners were a bit more adventurous and looked great. I was more the slacks/sexy sweater type, why my guy stuck to slacks and shirt and looked real smart!
And don't be surprised that there was lots of gold and sparklies (read diamonds) abounding; whether real of faux, but I never leave home with faux, don't own any.
 
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May 18th, 2003, 08:27 AM
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Gold and diamonds? Everywhere else (I think even in the Fodor's guide) it says to leave your jewelry at home, which I'll do. But I'm glad you warned me of what to expect at Singita. Great details.
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