Kenya Safari & Zanzibar-best lodges/travel agent?

Jan 12th, 2006, 04:42 AM
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Kenya Safari & Zanzibar-best lodges/travel agent?


My wife and I wish to travel to Kenya and do a safari for 8 days and then 3 days at Zanzibar. I hope to get some input from fodor's readers as to the following choices we are considering. We love photography and wish to stay at places that provide game drives and scenery for such.


1. 4 nights= Samburu[ two nights at samburu serena & 2 nights at samburu lodge]
2. 4 nights=Masai Mara[maybe serena lodge or sopa lodge? any suggestions?]
3. head to Zanzibar=3 nights at Breezes

We are trying to plan this and book with a good travel company. Any input is greatly appreciated since this will be our honeymoon and once in a lifetime trip for us. Are are choices recommended? good travel agent? anybody hear of Ďafricameccasafarisí?

Kind regards,

bflogwm is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 05:04 AM
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1. the 2 lodges in Samburu r very close to each other - no real difference in game drives. why bother to pack ?
2. Depends when r u going !
Sopa is on the(eastern) border of the park - sometimes very far to go on Gamedrives, (Keekorok is more central on that part of the park)
Serena is on the western part. if u come on the right time there is a gnu river crossing point within reach ...
4 nights in Sopa will make u drive over and over again on the only 2 roads leading into the park - forget it unless the migration is right there
3/ Breezes is a nice choice.
if u do read some threads u' ll find out that many of the fodorites don't like such lodges but prefer smaller more intimate camps - though of course more expensive...
Enjoy it
aby is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 05:20 AM
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Thanks Aby,
We are planning on the middle of September. Is there any chance for wilebeest migration? Are there any travel companies with trip plans that you can recommend?
bflogwm is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 05:22 AM
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1. I visited Samburu in August 2003 and stayed at the Serena, and had a very nice room along the river. Its not a very large park so I don't think you'd gain much by switching camps, and four days may be a day or two too long for that park.

2. In my opinion, the Mara Serena has a much better in-the-park location than the Serena.
thit_cho is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 05:23 AM
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2. should read "... than the Sopa, which either at the edge of the park or outside its border"
thit_cho is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 08:04 AM
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sandi of african serendipity is a good tour operator here in the u.s.
stakerk is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 08:18 AM
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mid sept is great! u'll see the migration. (herds start coming in usually in mid july)
on the plains the grass would b cut short & Tomson's Gazelles will gather there. great time to see cheetahs...
# u can consider, in Mara, to stay at different locations e.g. Serena & Keekorok. Keekorok location, as the first lodge erected, is at the center. within easy reach of Talek, Sarova, Sand River, Sopa and even the mara river. Serena will cover the west north-west sector.
* consider the possibility to shift one day from Samburu. like thit_cho wrote Samburu is a much smaller park.
my guess is that many would vote for 5 nights in Mara.
But if u wanna stay 4 nights in Samburu that's fine. Since u mention photographing - Samburu is a better place for photographing birds ! (even at the lodge u can spend hours photorgraphing them) Samburu has beautiful Scenary and "African" backgrounds for photos. In my eyes it is more scenic than Mara: the river, the rocks, Tha Acacia tortilis "classical" african background especially with lots of hanging weaver nests; The different palms: beautiful Doum palm the only dichotomous palm; "mother" of date palm- wild palm Phoenix reclinata - best seen at Buffalo Springs Lodge (go in for a cold drink break) & borassus palm. you hardly see palms in Mara (though nice stand of wild date palm on the river crossing on the keekorok-Sopa road).I personally love the fractal-like ("Chaos") branching of Commiphora trees (best seen towards Archer's Post)but it took me years to observe it this way.

If you r into Hiking - Ol Doinyo Sabbachi - the table mountain to the north is one awesome hike!!! take a ranger + lots of water. Up there you can see the nesting colony of Ruppell's vultures (those nesting on trees r white-backed or Lappet-faced V), u can see where the warriors eat the meat of raided cows far from the eyes of the women...
You can hikewith camels & Samburu warriors etc'

last point: if u insist of shifting accommodation in Samburu - u can consider moving to less touristic Shaba (Sarova has a nice lodge with great pool). Game is usually better in Samburu but Shaba has its own scenary (& chances of course) - one night would b enough

U r gonna have FUN !!!

aby is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 09:01 AM
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If you have not yet done so, take a look at this trip report from Phil who stayed at the Samburu Serena and Mara Serena in late August. (Phil booked directly with the Serena hotel company and they used shared vehicles but there were 4 of them so they often had the vehicle to themselves--since you are on your honeymoon you'll probably want your own vehicle/guide).
bat is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 09:13 AM
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Thanks for the help everyone. A few things I forgot to ask about. One, I wish to book a balloon ride while on safari, does anyone know which is better[Samburu or Masai Mara]?

And, I wish to visit a village to photograph [people/scenery] [ I read that the Masai tribe with red garments.. where would I go to visit this?] any preferences/advice would be greatly appreciated so we know what to plan in advance. Thank you so much!

Best regards,

bflogwm is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 01:27 PM
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Hello George,

Youíve got some excellent replies, but Iíd like to repeat them.

4 nights in Samburu is just fine and more would be even better. But, 4 nights in the Mara is too short, so maybe 3 nights Samburu/5 nights the Mara is the best option.

No need to switch lodges in Samburu.

The Serena has the best location for the migration and the Sopa has not. Maybe youíd like to stay in a smaller more intimate camp.

African Mecca Safaris keep popping up when I search for information about camps, but I donít think Iíve ever heard of anyone going on safari with them.

Iíve never heard of balloon rides in Samburu. In the Mara there are balloon rides flying from Keekorok, Governorís, Fig Tree and Serena.

Both the Samburu and the Maasai are partial to the colour red. Iíd say any camp could arrange a visit to a village. Ask the operator you decide to use. Some that are often recommended here are: Eastern and Southern, African Serendipity and Southern Cross.


Nyamera is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 08:00 PM
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@ Baloon - Mara (cross fingers u'll c migration)

@ anywhere u stay in Mara u can get out of the gate & meet Maasai
*** why not Samburu?
they r as red as Maasai, speak the same language and have probably split from main Maasai in the last couple of years. There r a few villages around the Park. If u do not have time to go far there should b a village near Samburu Serena as south of the river is out of the park. If Adam is still the chef there he will organise ir 4u.
alternatively ask the warriors performing the dances during lunch breaks (at either lodge).
U can visit the 2 tribes thus observing how ecology affects the style of huy building (& even customs concerning warriorhood)
aby is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 08:07 PM
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correction - i meant: probably split within the last couple HUNDRED years ...

sorry if i repeated - i;ve written the most of it hours ago' but just completed now
aby is offline  
Jan 13th, 2006, 03:42 AM
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If you are going for 8 days I would personally split it 3 days Samburu / 5 days Masai Mara but 4 days at each place woudl also be fine. I did 4 days at Samburu Serena and 5 days at Mara Serena in August 2005, had a great time and got some excellent photos. bat has already given the thread link but be careful of the links to the photos - they changed and the new links are listed towards the end of the thread. I recommend the Serena lodges in these parks and, if you choose them, I would personally book directly with them ....
philw is offline  
Jan 13th, 2006, 09:38 AM
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Your itinerary sounds great; I should work harder to emulate your keep-it-simple approach. Since Sept is high season for migration I would try to book ASAP. I will be in Kenya in late August with visits to Lake Nakuru and the Mara. As far as tour companies are concerned, I had a post in November detailing my interactions with several Kenyan companies. You can find it by searching the term "Shopping local operators" or following the link below:

Here's the summary if you don't want to read it all: I booked with Eastern and Southern Safaris, but I got similar prices and service from Naked Wilderness, Good Earth, and Southern Cross. I would contact three or four of those companies and compare to booking directly w/ Serena.

My only comment about the proposed itinerary would be to suggest splitting camps in the Mara to get a few days of the tented camp experience. I don't know if your budget will allow Little Governor's (ours didn't) but you could look at Kicheche (quite a ways N of park), Ilkeliani or Basecamp (both on Talek river near Talek gate. We chose Basecamp for its superior walking safari options and the chance to do a night drive. Patty recently stayed at Kicheche and Ilkeliani and visited Basecamp, and she wrote about them here:

To get a rough idea of prices for Mara lodges, Patty mentioned this link some time ago:

If you like, you can subtract ~180 for the flight to get a sense of the rate for two nights. When you contact operators, ask to compare costs for using camp vehicles versus having a private vehicle and guide. Good luck and don't let us complicate things too much for you.

99mkw is offline  
Jan 14th, 2006, 03:19 AM
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I would like to thank everybody for their help and time to respond....we will be booking shortly using input from all.

Kind regards,
bflogwm is offline  
Mar 24th, 2006, 02:28 AM
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Hi George
Below please find an itinerary as you requested,


Upon your arrival at the Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta international Airport met and transferred to Nairobi Serena Hotel on bed and breakfast

Breakfast at the Nairobi Serena Hotel depart from Nairobi via the great North road through the famed Kenyan highlands arriving in Samburu Game reserve-The Kenyans rugged semiarid part of the North Eastern province in time for lunch at Samburu Serena Safari Lodge-followed by the afternoon game viewing drive in the samburu game reserve
Dinner and overnight at the Samburu Serena safari lodge.

Breakfast at the samburu Serena safari lodge. Then morning and afternoon game viewing drive in the samburu game reserve. The surrounding terrain is renowned for rare game-long necked gerenuk, gravyís Zebra, reticulated giraffe and Beisa Oryx .Leopard is a frequent passer-by. Game drives and bird watching safaris are the ideal way to experience the native wildlife in its natural splendor.
Dinner and overnight at the Samburu Serena safari lodge.

Breakfast at the Samburu Serena safari lodge. This morning depart to Nakuru via Thompson falls. Arrive Nakuru national park. Lunch at Sarova lionhill.After noon game viewing at Lake Nakuru national park-famous for masses of flamingoes, the white and black rhinos and the buffaloes
Dinner and Overnight at the sarova lion hill

Breakfast at the sarova lionhill.This morning depart to Maasai Mara to arrive in time for lunch at the sarova Mara camp. Afternoon game drive.Maasai Mara is the world famous richest wildlife sanctuaries
Dinner and overnight at the Mara Sarova tented camp

Breakfast at the Sarova Mara camp then continue on a game viewing drive en route to the Mara Serena safari lodge-set on the saddle of a hill overlooking rolling plains, woodlands and rivers that make up ĎMara triangle; lunch at the Mara Serena safari lodge. Afternoon game drive
Dinner and overnight at the Mara Serena safari lodge

Breakfast at the Mara Serena safari lodge. Full day at the Maasai Mara with morning and afternoon game viewing drives. Lunch at the lodge followed by afternoon game viewing across the plains. Vast herds of wildebeest and zebra wander across the Mara grass land, their numbers increasing during the annual migration from the Serengeti National park. Lion, leopards and cheetah follow close behind while crocodile and hippo congregate in the Mara river
Dinner and overnight at the Mara Serena safari lodge

Breakfast at the Serena safari lodge. Early morning wake up followed by breakfast depart for Nairobi to catch up a flight to Zanzibar. Arrive Zanzibar Serena inn. Lunch at your own arrangement

Day 10,11,12, at Zanzibar
Day 13
Fly Back to Nairobi to catch up a flight back to your home

I believe with this itinerary you will enjoy your honeymoon.

mwangimuchai is offline  
Mar 24th, 2006, 04:54 AM
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I just returned from the Palms last week. I was there for three nights before heading to the Serena Inn for two nights.

The Palms and Breezes are neighbors, but while guests of the Palms can use the facilities of the much larger Breezes, this courtesy is not reciprocated back to Breezes guests, so the Palms, despite being on a smaller than expected property, is still quite exclusive.

I will write more about the Palms this weekend in my trip report.
Roccco is offline  

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