Kenya Safari Itinerary August 2019

Jan 5th, 2019, 10:28 AM
  #1  
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Kenya Safari Itinerary August 2019

Hi All!

I have flights booked to Kenya/Zanzibar, now I need to figure out my safari itinerary. There are so many places to go, I'm hoping experienced safari-goers can provide some insight on how to best use our time.

Information about the trip:
-Traveling with my spouse, in our mid/upper 30's
-Neither of us have been on safari or to Africa before
-We fly in to Nairobi on August 12, 2019, so we will be starting safari on the morning of Aug 13.
-We fly out of Zanzibar at 3:40 AM on August 21.
-We are planning to use Spirit of Kenya to book a private safari with unlimited mileage. They have been very helpful and responsive. I would be interested in your experiences with this tour company

This is our tentative itinerary
-Arrival in Nairobi (1 night)
-Amboseli, Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge (2)
-Lake Nakuru, Lake Nakuru Lodge (1)
-Masai Mara- Ilkeliani Camp or Basecamp Mara (2)
-Flight to Zanzibar, 2.5 nights in Zanzibar (the flight from Nairobi to Zanzibar isn't booked yet, so we could stay one less night in Zanzibar and stay another in Kenya)

Of course, our primary goal is to see as much wildlife as possible. From what I have read, Amboseli is a great place to see many elephants. However, it is an eight hour drive from Amboseli to Lake Nakuru. Is visiting Amboseli worth the time it takes to get there/return, or is there a better option for our itinerary? Is one night in Lake Nakuru enough time? Are there any other places that we should consider visiting?

Thank you!
kh54828 is offline  
Jan 5th, 2019, 12:03 PM
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Good for you! This is exciting!

One question before many of us weigh in, are you planning to drive or fly between safari destinations? If you’re driving, please consider that that will eat into a considerable part of your game driving time, especially on 1 and 2 night stays.

No matter the case, the Mara deserves a lot more than 2 nights. If you arrive midday, you’ll get one game drive that day, two game drives on your full day and then whatever you can fit in before your flight to Zanzibar. Is 1 1/2 days of game driving there really what you want? With only 5 nights for safari, and especially if you’re driving, I’d spend it all in the Mara, to be honest. Maybe split between 2 camps, one in the Reserve proper and one in a conservancy. That’s your biggest bang for the buck. Just my two cents....
amyb is offline  
Jan 5th, 2019, 02:24 PM
  #3  
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This is good information--thank you for the reply!

We are driving (rather, the tour guide is driving us), which is why I was concerned about the 8 hours between Amboseli and Lake Nakuru.
kh54828 is offline  
Jan 5th, 2019, 03:51 PM
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Yeah, that would give you very little actual time at Nakuru that day. So you’d arrive, sleep there then see it quickly the next day before you move on. It’s not maximizing your time on the ground for wildlife viewing!

Amboseli is spectacular for elephants. I’ve never seen so many at once as I have there. But this itinerary has a lot of time on the road and not as much doing game drives.

In all seriousness, the Mara is a treasure trove and worth spending your brief time there. You’ll have extremely reliable lion, cheetah, elephant, plains game (zebra, buffalo, wildebeest, antelope, giraffe), hippos. Leopards are a bit more elusive but if your guide knows where to look, you should see one. About the only thing that’s no guarantee is rhino, which is tougher to find there (Mara Triangle mostly). The cats are (for better or worse) quite used to vehicles so they come closer than you think. I’d combine a stay in the Reserve with a conservancy (where you can go off road, do walks and night drives) for a very well-rounded experience.
amyb is offline  
Jan 5th, 2019, 04:30 PM
  #5  
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Thank you again for the quick reply!
I would be interested in looking into a longer stay in the Masai Mara and spending part of our stay in a conservancy, as you suggested. Do you have any recommendations of tour operators or resources that would assist me in finding a guide for this type of trip?
Thank you!
kh54828 is offline  
Jan 6th, 2019, 09:54 AM
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Any safari planner familiar with Kenya ought to be able to help you, but I have just used (and am using again for this year) Wild Source out of Colorado; they were by far my best overall booking and safari experience (#5 and counting). They can book their own camp in the Reserve or any other camp in the Reserve and any camp in the conservancies. I've also used Gamewatchers and Africa Travel Resource. Most safari planners have access to the same camps (which is basically all of them, except Enaidura which is Wild Source's own camp) and may have different arrangements with different families of camps to get discounts or specials.

Camps in the conservancies I'd recommend: Offbeat Mara, Serian, Asilia, Kicheche, Porini (specifically Porini Lion which is excellently situated with extremely good and reliable leopard sightings).
amyb is offline  
Jan 8th, 2019, 03:12 AM
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Given your time, I would skip Amboseli and spend two nights at Lake Nakuru National Park and three nights in Maasai Mara. It's still about a 6 hour drive from Nakuru to Mara so one of your days will be driving. But with those two parks you have a good chance to tick off all the Big Five - rhinos are hard to spot in Maasai Mara but a bit easier in Lake Nakuru, there are no elephants in Lake Nakuru but you should see them in Maasai Mara, although they can be a bit more difficult to find in August when the wildebeest migration is in town (they don't like the noise of millions of grunting gnus!).
Alternatively, fly between parks and do your original itinerary.
Zanzibar is beautiful and there's a lot to do there both beach/watersports and culture in Stone Town. It depends on your own preferences and priorities for your trip whether you spend an extra night with the wildlife or on the beach. You could easily fill an extra day either way.
Your itinerary is fairly straightforward, so any decent tour operator should be able to sort it out for you. The three parks you have included are the most popular places in Kenya, it's more a matter of finding the lodge/camp that suits you in terms of budget/comfort level/etc. And location - in August you probably want to be over near the Mara River as the migratory herds tend to be there at that time of year (although nothing is guaranteed). So if your tour operator suggests Sopa Lodge, for example, I wouldn't go with them.
Tracey_Bell is offline  
Jan 10th, 2019, 09:09 AM
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Thank you, Amyb and Tracey, for providing such useful information. After reading your replies and reading other threads, I think we are going to fly instead of drive, saving a lot of valuable safari time. Going to Amboseli makes the trip a bit more affordable (plus my partner wants to see the elephants) so we will plan on going there.
Our current plan is (assuming there is availability)
Amboseli-2 nights
Mara area-3 nights (either Karen Blixen camp or Kitchwa Tembo—any preference?)
then 2.5 nights (flight leaves at 3am) in Zanzibar.
kh54828 is offline  
Jan 10th, 2019, 12:30 PM
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For location, Blixen is better situated by most accounts. However, I was at camp with a family of frequent safari-goers in November who'd given up Blixen after several repeat visits there. Their complaints were food quality, degrading tents over the years and not as good guiding as they were used to. They were at Offbeat Mara with me, in the same conservancy as Blixen, and seemed happier. Two of them work for a US zoo in management and seemed very particular about the high quality safari they expected, but their complaints sound reasonable. This is purely anecdotal but current as of Nov 2018. I'd check to see if Trip Advisor reviews back that up. I don't know anyone who's stayed at Kichwa Tembo, but it's in a further off conservancy not known for the high level of reliable big cat sightings that Mara North (where Blixen is) is. Other camps in Mara North are Kicheche and Serian, which you may want to look into instead.

Flying definitely maximizes your time available, so that's a good call.
amyb is offline  
Jan 11th, 2019, 07:04 AM
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You are a wealth of information-thank you!
One more possible variation-what are your thoughts on Laikipia and the Ol Pejeta conservancy? One option we were kicking around was staying there for two nights instead of going to Amboseli, then heading to Mara.
The opportunity to see rhinos in the wild is very appealing. Although we won’t be able to see Killi if we made this change-I’m hoping we will still see elephants in the Mara area?
Africa travel experts, what are your thoughts? Pros/cons to visiting Laikipia vs Amboseli?
Thank you again!
kh54828 is offline  
Jan 11th, 2019, 08:37 AM
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You'll see elephants in the Mara, but not to the extent as you will in Amboseli. I thought Amboseli was worth it just for that. The numbers of ele are simply mindblowing!

If you want to see rhino and very reliable sightings of them, you might want to have a driver take you through Nairobi National Park on your last day in Nairobi. Since your flight leaves so late at night, you'll have the day to kill anyway, yes? I've spent time on two different safaris there and my rhino sightings have been exceptional. They are also very reliably found by drivers who know the park. I did see rhino in Ol Pejeta, but some distance off and only a couple times. In NNP they came right across the vehicle and crossed the road in front of us a few times! I've also had wonderful lion and one very impressive leopard sighting there. I guess what I'm saying is I wouldn't drop Amboseli for Ol P or Laikipa just for rhino when I think you can see them easier in NNP if you indeed have that day to fill coming back from the Mara. (I would ask your safari planner for a day room at a hotel somewhere near NNP and that usually includes a game drive before an included dinner before you head to the airport around 9 p.m. It's a nice chance to shower and change before your flight out)
amyb is offline  
Jan 11th, 2019, 09:39 AM
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We fly out of Zanzibar, so spending a day in NNP wouldn’t work with our flight schedules.

Given that we won’t be able to visit NNP, would you would recommend Amboseli over Ol Pejeta?

Thanks again!
kh54828 is offline  
Jan 11th, 2019, 10:47 AM
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Yes, given the choice, I think you're more likely to get more out of Amboseli than Ol Pejeta. The elephants are always there and you can't miss them. The rhinos in Ol P aren't as easily spotted and no guarantee you'll get a great sighting.
amyb is offline  
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