Ker & Downey "Tradition Safari"?

Old Dec 31st, 2006, 09:03 AM
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Ker & Downey "Tradition Safari"?

A group of my friends are planning a Kenya/Tanzania safari for Christmas 07/New Years 08. They have narrowed down to working with Simon Belcher at Ker & Downey "Tradition Safari" based out of Nairobi. Has anyone had experience working with this group?

They are different from the larger organization, Ker & Downey:

MrAloha is offline  
Old Dec 31st, 2006, 11:01 AM
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I do not recall Tradition Safaris being mentioned on Fodors and have not heard of it, but Ker & Downey is well known. It looks like they specialize in Africa, which is good. What has attracted your friends to this company?

When you get an itinerary from Tradition Safaris, please post it and then you can get specific advice.

You could also take the itinerary given to you by Tradition Safaris and ask some other Africa agents to cost it, or if they would recommend changes. You can get a good education that way and end up with exactly what you want. Starting a year in advance allows you the time to solicit different opinions and itineraries.

Here are a variety of agents that have been used by Fodorites with success in East Africa, some are in the local countries and some US based.

Africa Adventure
Africa Serendipty
Eastern & Southern Safaris
Good Earth
Green Footprint Adventures
Southern Cross Safaris
Sunny Safaris

Below is a link to an East Africa index with numerous trip reports where you can get an idea of what other people have done.

Please post again as your safari planning progresses. You have chosen an outstanding way to ring in 2008!
atravelynn is offline  
Old Dec 31st, 2006, 01:27 PM
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FYI, the founders Donald Ker & Syd Downey had a falling out and went their separate ways. Ker & Downey in Houston (Katy), Texas has no connection whatsoever with Ker & Downey in Karen, Kenya. They are two completely separate companies. Ker & Downey USA, Ker & Downey Botswana and Ker & Downey South Africa are not in any way affiliated with Ker & Downey Kenya or Ker & Downey Tanzania. Both Ker & Downey Kenya and Ker & Downey Tanzania have different ownership groups. And now someone posted to this board that Ker & Downey has been sold. What a complicated mess!
I have no experience or knowledge about the Kenya based company. However, I have seen their building in Karen and the offices look impressive enough. I would guess that you'll be OK with them.
safarimama is offline  
Old Dec 31st, 2006, 01:41 PM
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Thanks, atravelynn. Very helpful thread.

The reasons for choosing this company: (1) They are based in East Africa. (2) Cost is about same as A & K and Ker & Downey USA, but they seem to be a smaller more responsive staff---the co-owner/main guide, Simon Belcher has come to US to meet with group; (3) a French speaking guide is needed for an 11 year old; and (4) They will come up with itinerary for just the group of 12.

The itinerary: Three nights in tented camp near Amboseli at a private concession owned by a Maasai tribe. Two nights at Greystokes lodge in Mahale Mountains. Six nights in tented camp at two sites in the Serengeti. Two nights at Ngorogoro Crater Lodge. Flying between most sites.

What do you think?

Many thanks.
MrAloha is offline  
Old Dec 31st, 2006, 02:55 PM
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The Ker & Downey family tree history was helpful.

That is impressive you received a visit from the owner of Tradition Safari.

Is the camp near Amboseli Campi ya Kanzi? If so, this is a link by someone who stayed there and really enjoyed it.

You must have a private plane if you are doing just 2 nights at Mahale and I see you stated you are flying between most sites. That seems to be a short time in Mahale, but it would allow for one chimp tracking.

In December you will want to be in the Southern part of the Serengeti and staying in two locations is a good idea because the migration is unpredictable.

Since youíll have your own group at the crater, you may want to request a breakfast box and head into the crater early to beat the crowds that descend from the various accommodations after breakfast.

You should have a fabulous trip.
atravelynn is offline  
Old Dec 31st, 2006, 03:56 PM
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Sorry, westernsafari posted that Ker & Downey based in Katy, Texas has sold their Botswana camps and airline to DDS not the entire company. K&D Katy, Texas and K&D Botswana IS the same company. Most of their concessions have been given to Wilderness after their leases expired and they have since branched out into other parts of Africa and also to South America and India, so this makes sense. The company is going in a different direction now. Their camps aren't what they used to be anymore. BTW, K&D did not own Okuti or Edo, which they manage. They were down to just Kanana and Shinde plus Footsteps Across the Delta. 10-20 years ago Ker & Downey practically "owned" Botswana.

safarimama is offline  
Old Jan 1st, 2007, 03:23 PM
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Safarimama: Thanks for the K&D history. Helpful as it has been a bit confusing for us to tease apart.

Atravelynn: The Amboseli site is in the Kitirua Woodlands (?). I believe it is southwest of the National Park. Don't know the name of the Maasai tribe land owner.

Yes, it does seem like a short time at Mahale/Greystoke. Sadly we had wanted a longer stay, at the end of the trip, but it was already fully booked.

Yes, we are using a private plane from/to Arusha, but think even this will not allow for >1 chimp tracking during the two nights we are there. Sigh.

The breakfast box is a great idea for N. Crater. Thanks!
MrAloha is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2008, 07:11 AM
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For clarification purposes I want to say that the original Ker and Downey started in Kenya in 1946. The two founding partners took on a third partner in 1950, Harry Selby. About 1955 Harry moved to Botswana and under a gentleman's agreement continued to use the Ker and Downey name. Upon his retirement in the 80's he sold this company to an American company based out of Texas. This new owner continued to operate under the open license which he acquired with the company. He also registered the name in USA and Tanzania. Since then the Texas and Botswana side was sold on to a new owner and the Tanzanian side remained. The Kenyan company remains the first and original Ker and Downey and now belongs to the guides who bought it off Donald Ker and Syd Downey in 1980. All a bit confusing to say the least! It would be fair to say that if you want a tailor made itinerary designed by your guide after consultation and perhaps a face to face meeting but which costs alot then Ker and Downey Kenya has a great reputation. Their guides also plan trips to other destinations around Africa with their clients but the main stamping ground is East Africa. Each partner in Ker and Downey Kenya sells his/her safaris individually and some have created extra tags such as Tradition to try and differentiate themselves from the other Ker and Downeys. If you want a good quality safari which is more 'off the shelf' but well guided and a little easier on your pocket then Ker and Downey (Katy)Texas is a good option.
BrymerKenya is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2008, 07:45 AM
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Re Amboseli: it's Kitirua Conservation Area, some 90 sqkms, a joint venture between the local maasai community and Ker & Downey, Kimbla Mantana and Cheli & Peacock (Tortilis).

nyama is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2008, 08:33 AM
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Mr. Aloha,

Iíve been on safari with Simon Belcher in Kenya. He just started visiting the U.S. about 5 years ago, trying to build a reputation and business. Wife is Amanda (behind every man there is a great woman and she is superb operationally; they have two children & live in Nairobi. The original K&D is a good outfitter, more like a collective of guides sharing the same equipment commissary and resources. Simon is ok. His business partner, James Robinson, is more experienced. Simon did not have his own crew or camping equipment when I went with him, the camp was looking a little ragged as it was all borrowed from the K&D inventory.

In my opinion a superior choice, at about the same price, would be either Donald Young or Billy Winters (all were at one time affiliated with K&D, and may still be).
Khakif is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2008, 02:39 PM
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Hi, Khakif:

Thanks for the comments. Weíre actually just back from our trip (I just filed a trip report). And I have to say that things have clearly changed since your last safari with Simon Belcher. Our tents, particularly at the Ker & Downey (Kenya) Concession in Amboseli were in great condition, well outfitted, and exceedingly comfortable. And a large and very picky group left with nothing but admiration for the depth of Simonís knowledge and expertiseónot to mention his professionalism and affability. One thing hasnít changed since your experienceóAmanda is still awesome. Clearly, choosing a guide is a very personal decision that relies as much on chemistry as on capability. And maybe Simon still isnít for you. But given the long and highly interactive process (3 face-to-face meetings plus tons of emails) of designing a bespoke itinerary, travelers will be able to get a clear sense of whether Simonís the guy for them well before they have to put down a deposit.
MrAloha is offline  
Old Jan 20th, 2008, 12:05 AM
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Ker & Downey also offer hunting safaris therefore I would NOT support them on principle.
crassman is offline  
Old Jan 20th, 2008, 02:58 PM
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Mr Aloha. Thanks for the update - it is true that all things change; few expereinces remain the same. Will read your trip report with interest. Did you provide a link to photos as well?
Khakif is offline  
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