Kenya Safari Vehicles

May 14th, 2006, 05:33 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 3
Kenya Safari Vehicles

My girlfriend and I are going on safari in Kenya this summer. Originally we were going to go to Tanzania, where it seems that most of the vehicles are 4x4WD with pop-up roofs. But Kenya seems different. All the tour operators seem to use minibuses with pop-up roofs or you pay significantly extra for a landcruiser or landrover. Is this normal? Are we being silly for wanting a 4x4WD? We wanted to do a private safari and plan to drive from Nairobi to the Mara for that very reason. But I'm not sure it's worth it to do the extra driving and then have a minibus to view animals in. Also, if we do use a landcruiser, is it better with a pop-up roof or open? So the question is, which option: 1 private safari with minibus, 2 pay extra for private safari with landcruiser or 3 fly to the Mara and go on the gamedrives provided by the lodges. Thanks.


gorba is offline  
May 14th, 2006, 06:23 PM
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You can get 4x4 minibuses.... The disadvantage of using the lodge vehicles is that unless you pay quite a bit extra you will have to share with a lot of other people and can only really go out at scheduled times - with your own vehicle you can do what you want, as long as you make it clear that you don't want tight mileage restrictions when booking. (This will be much, much less of an issue if you are thinking of the smallish, luxury camps). Advantages are that the lodge driver/guides should know the area very well and that you save time by flying (however, for the latter you can actually fly and have your vehicles meet you there if you've got the resources to pay for both). Unless you love eating dust more than most you can't drive to the Mara in an open vehicle so that option is kind of out - unless you pay for a private vehicle at the lodge.

Many people will say you are not being silly for wanting a 4x4. When this was previously discussed there was no consensus, but from my point of view those who held that in Kenya a properly maintained 4x4 minibus would do fine won a tight split decision (if for no other reason than the extra money would be better spent extending your holiday or upgrading accommodation) although I could be biased. ;-)

Obviously if money is no object and you're already in the best accomodation, get a Landcruiser with pop up roof and air conditioning.

kimburu is offline  
May 14th, 2006, 07:58 PM
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I dont know, where in the Mara you are staying.......but, i recommend taking a flight to the Mara directly into your lodge/camp and using their open roof vehicle. It is going to be the best game viewing experience. You will just miss out on the drive from Nairobi to the Mara......which, i havent done myself but lots of ppl recommend it.
May 15th, 2006, 06:15 AM
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We've got a couple of options. Do you know where the thread was where this was discussed before? Thanks for the advice. We don't want to spend more than we have to, but we also like to explore, so don't know how we'd feel about being tied down to set times, etc. Originally we wanted to camp, but that doesn't look like it's as good of an option as it is in Tanzania.

Day 1 Nairobi drive to Kigio Conservancy and o/n Malewa River Lodge
Day 2 Drive to Nakuru o/n Lion Hill Lodge
Day 3 Drive to Mara o/n Sarova Mara Camp
Day 4 o/n Sarova Mara
Day 5 o/n Kicheche Mara
Day 6 o/n Kicheche Mara
Day 7 fly back to Nairobi
$1855 with a landcruiser w/pop-up roof

Option 2
Day 1. Drive Nairobi to Nakuru o/n Mbweha Camp
Day 2. Nakuru o/n Mbweha Camp
Day 3. Drive to Mara o/n Fig Tree
Day 4. Mara o/n Fig Tree
Day 5. Mara o/n Ikeliani
Day 6. Mara o/n Ikeliani
Day 7. Fly to Nairobi
$1632 with 4WD minibus

Option 3
Day 1. Drive to Nakuru o/n LIon Hill
Day 2. Nakuru
Day 3. Drive to Mara o/n Mara Sarova
Day 4. Mara o/n Sarova
Day 5. Mara o/n Sarova
Day 6. Mara o/n Sarova
Day 7. Fly to Nairobi
$1933 with 4x4
or $1740 driving back to Nairobi from Mara

Option 4 (i don't know lodging, or if we have private vehicle)
Day 1. Nairobi fly to Samburu
Day 2. Samburu
Day 3. Fly Samburu to Mara
Day 4. Mara
Day 5. Mara
Day 6. Mara
Day 7. Fly Mara to Nairobi
Day 3. Fly from Samburu to Mara
May 15th, 2006, 08:41 AM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 1,252
I can't find the recent thread.. sometimes they seem to disapear. Anyway, here is one from last year with similar content - but I think the more recent one had more contributors - including discussion of using camp vehicles.
Try searches for "4x4" "pop-up roof" and "camp vehicle" and you should get some hits and a good idea.

Actually the condition of the vehicle is probably of most concern, and whether it is a private or group trip. On a group trip, with a full load of people the ordinary 4x4s I saw wouldn't give everyone enough room to get their heads out of the roof - although there are stretch versions specially for safari viewing. Anyway, I'm sure you'll find lots of interesting points of view if you do the searches.
By the way, the last itinerary will probably be with lodge vehicles. Some people reckon you're better off to book that kind of trip direct with the lodge, but the jury's out on that... unfortunately that thread seems to have gone walkabout too! If you wanted opinions on that you could post another question.
Anyway, if you're going this summer and haven't already booked, then if you are already happy with your operators and choices of accommodation I'd book today and sort out the transportation and stuff later.
kimburu is offline  
May 15th, 2006, 09:55 AM
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I'm wondering why Option 2 has you moving from Fig Tree to Ilkeliani as they're basically right next to each other. Is it because of availability?

Here's another thread discussing safari vehicles (however the thread focuses more on open vs closed than Landcruiser vs minibus) -
Patty is offline  
May 15th, 2006, 10:02 AM
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Yup, availability. Every operator seems to have their own "in" as I keep getting different confirmed locations and due to the time difference, I can't get the questions answered and the safari booked in the same day, so who knows what tomorrow will bring re: availability. But we are definitely staying 4 nights in the Mara over the migration and if our choices are Mara Sarova, Ikeliani, Fig Tree, Porini, or Kicheche, where would you stay? Also if we have to divide our time up and stay at two different places, what would you recommend? Thanks! By the way, we're driving in from Nakuru and flying out.
May 15th, 2006, 10:37 AM
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Posts: 12,999
For migration viewing, out of your choices, I'd base myself in the Fig Tree/Ilkeliani area. If you had to divide your stay, you may want to consider what kind of activites are offered at the second camp that might not be available at the other camp and whether you're interested in any of these options. For example, Kicheche offers day or overnight/fly camping walking safaris, and I believe Porini offers walks and night game drives.

Flying out is a good idea.
Patty is offline  
May 16th, 2006, 08:11 AM
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I know this is a personal choice, but I thought I'd solicit some advice, since you all have been unbelievably helpful! I now have itineraries confirmed--one with Gamewatchers and one with Eastern and Southern. Gamewatchers will include 2 nights in/around Nakuru and 4 nights in the Mara (2 in Ikeliani and 2 in Kicheche w/ 1 night fly camping--this is all because of limited availability), we will have our own 4x4WD (landcruiser) and the total cost is $1855 per person. With Eastern and Southern our itinerary is the same, only we'll be staying at Fig Tree instead of Kicheche and we will have our own 4WD minibus and the total cost is $1632. For the $223 difference, is it better to go with the landcruiser? Every bit of money helps, but we don't want to scrounge if our trip will be nicer in the landcruiser. We'll be driving from Nakuru to the Mara and flying back to Nairobi. Thanks!
May 16th, 2006, 07:08 PM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 1,252
I guess nobody replied yet because as you said it is a personal choice ;-)

I'd also guess people are - like me - thinking that the driver/guide and the camps are probably more important in the end!

Don't take it too seriously because I'm sure that whichever option you go with you will not regret it one bit.

kimburu is offline  
May 16th, 2006, 08:22 PM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 258
scot99, there are several regular fodorites who are getting ready to go on safari or who have just left. I'm not knowledgeable on Kenya. There are several on the board who have chosen to work with Eastern and Southern and may have feedback for you within the month or next several weeks - maybe not in time?

If the decision is simply on which type vehicle, and both operators are appealing, seems like you could ask for upgrade with the other. For me this would be as much a choice about the company as it was on the camp. Which one do you feel will give you the best service you need/want? Also, is the fly camping a draw for you - since the first one gives you that choice. To that point, Patty has good ideas to consider on activities too.

Check out the trip report thread and see if you find notes on the camps in there.
lovetodiscover is offline  
May 17th, 2006, 01:34 PM
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Did you ask Gamewatchers about camping? I know they offer a group mobile camping safari using private campsites but I didn't know if they offer it as an option for two people.
Patty is offline  
May 17th, 2006, 02:04 PM
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They only offer it on set dates and it's not private. But mostly, we just can't go on the dates that have. Thanks though.
May 19th, 2006, 09:27 AM
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Patty---do you think I could email you directly, I realized that my itinerary is starting to look like yours and I had a couple of questions after reading your trip report. Thanks!
May 19th, 2006, 09:48 AM
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Sure, pchang1972 at yahoo dot com
Patty is offline  
May 19th, 2006, 08:22 PM
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Posts: 1,493

first of all - anything u choose shall be a great tour

The big majority of Mara visitors use a minibus (not 4X4!) and it works.

Samburu - get an up to date report. In February during the draught the Uaso Nyiru River dried out, animals dispersed, Samburu was empty... Should be ok when u go though

Fig Tree - IMHO a hell of a location: very central, rather close gamedrives to Talek area & towards Keekorok, Sarova & Mara River. {some crossings towards governer's sometimes only 4X4 but can take alternative routes}
If Fig Tree still has the Cabins (i haven't been there for years), do not take it - demand a tent!! even if u have to scream, scratch the receptionist or break the reception table ! The tents r ok - one of them (don't remember the number) had the best Feng Shui i've had in my life...
The food in Fig Tree was not as good as the other places in Mara but if u ask me location makes it all (except if the cabins have not been demolished years ago)

Enjoy it

aby is offline  
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