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Last minute invite to Kenya - need reasonablebSafari tour operators

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Jul 14th, 2015, 03:57 PM
  #1
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Last minute invite to Kenya - need reasonablebSafari tour operators

Can truly use any and all advice - Hoping to go to Kenya the end of August - last minute idea for a 50th birthday surprise - for ME. As a single mom with 2 kids 18 and 9, I need to find a reasonable but good tour operator for a few days of safari for the kids to see as well. My inlaws...(past tense) went a few years ago with Micato and couldn't say enough great things about them but I know they were super expensive. Is there other great operators - possibly private tours? that offer similar quality but hopefully not the same price. I know we saw pictures of tented camps and heard they were incredible so we would like to do that to but my budget isn't exactly like theirs and since I am going to try to book asap and it's quite short (6 wks ) for a trip like this, I can use any and all tips and help.

Also, is it safe to travel to Kenya at this time as a North American tourist?

Thanking you in advance,
Lisa
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Jul 15th, 2015, 07:47 AM
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I would contact a few Nairobi based tour operators. Here are two to get you started -

http://www.africasafaridiscovery.com/ The owner and one of their guides were formerly with another safari company that I've used and had good experiences with.

http://www.porini.com/ I haven't used them but they have a good reputation.

Either can put together a private, custom itinerary for you. Actually that's mostly what they do as opposed to set itineraries. How many days do you have?
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Jul 15th, 2015, 02:13 PM
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Lisa, there are plenty of good tour operators out there, in North America, UK and Kenya (to cover the main English-speaking areas). I think you're talking about a bespoke/tailor-made trip that conforms exactly to your dates and requirements. I imagine you'll want to be met at Nairobi International Airport and follow an itinerary where you're looked after each step of the way, and include camps that offer a really good experience with great guides, without necessarily being super-luxurious. I would start googling the areas you're interested in and make some direct enquiries. Your timing is fairly last-minute, as you say, but some operators are used to organising trips at very short notice.

At the end of August, which is wildebeest migration season, you will almost certainly want to include the Mara ecosystem (that's the Maasai Mara National Reserve and the private conservancies around it), but watch out for being in large and busy lodges, with hundreds of other visitors. The small, tented camps, hosted by knowledgeable and attentive managers and guides, are far better, and your kids will learn a lot in that kind of environment, and will often have a good chance to meet and engage with staff from the local community.

If you're going all that way, you probably want at least a couple of contrasting bases for your safari - the Mara probably being one, and I'd suggest Laikipia for the other. I perhaps wouldn't include beach time, since you probably get other chances to do that, and August isn't the Indian Ocean's best month. Laikipia (northwest of Mount Kenya) gives you a different environment, a higher altitude (7000ft-plus) and the chance to do activities like horse riding (even if you're not experienced), guided walks, or walks with camels, among the wildife, even some leaping about in the rivers in one or two places, which my kids absolutely loved. Visitor numbers are much lower up here, but the wildlife can be fantastic – look at Sosian, Lewa, Ol Pejeta and Borana, which are all private ranches given over to low-key tourism and excellent conservation work. The species here include very rare wild dog and black rhino, as well as white rhino, reticulated giraffe, the big cats, elephants of course and lots of plains grazers.

Your question about security is a real concern for many people, but the dodgy areas are close to the Somali border, hundreds of miles from the wildlife parks and conservancies, and Kenya is still the second biggest safari destination in sub-Saharan Africa after the very heavily developed South Africa. I think you'd find any worries would melt away as soon as you got out into the bush.

I hope that's a help and gives you some food for thought –

Safari njema!

Richard Trillo
The Rough Guide to Kenya
Kenya Programme Manager at Expert Africa
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Jul 17th, 2015, 11:42 AM
  #4
 
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You're lucky--Kenya is wonderful! Yes, try Patty's recs. You can also contact Kicheche Camps, I've used them with success (they might be too pricey, but I do recommend them).

Offbeat has been recommended here too. You could contact them.

http://www.offbeatsafaris.com/

I'd try to stay on one of the conservancies for the Mara. It's going to be high season--could get crowded. I've only been in June: high grass, few people.

If these are all too high in terms of price, keep scouring this board. Driving itineraries and less popular parks should be less expensive and you can still have a fabulous trip.

I'm a North American and would return to Kenya in a heartbeat.
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Jul 21st, 2015, 04:43 PM
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August is high season in Kenya, so finding space might be difficult. I'd suggest using a safari planning company like The Wild Source who can check out all the options. Bill Given at TWS was able to find last minute space for another Fodorite, Sundowner, in Kenya.
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Jul 28th, 2015, 02:32 PM
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I totally disagree with your (past tense) in-laws regarding Micato.

Highlights: The guides and drivers were wonderful, but I will never understand the rave reviews regarding this company. The price is outrageous for what you receive. I recently returned from the Stanley Wing Safari on June 14, 2015. Coming home was the highlight of my vacation.

Advice: I would not recommend Micato. The price of the trip was hardly worth the money. Lodging was mediocre at best. Cost for vacation: $11,935 for the safari as a solo traveler, $1,950 for internal airfare, $535 for the extra night at the Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi, $1,009 for travel insurance, $470.02 for visas (a company they recommended), $100 for the required yellow fever vaccine and $3,056 for international airfare for a grand total of $19,055.02. If I had waited a couple of weeks to travel, the price for single occupancy would have increased from $11,935 to $14,835.
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Jul 29th, 2015, 08:19 PM
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JE Brooks, glad you wrote that. I have heard exactly the same negative comments about Micato from a variety of people. A friend "in the business" in Nairobi said that originally, they were excellent, but have gone downhill in last several years. She thought there might have been a change in management or ownership
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Aug 11th, 2015, 05:29 AM
  #8
 
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Hi @fizzeolisa - As the Fodor’s Editor for the African Safari guide, I thought I would chime in. Micato is one of Fodor’s top 10 African Safari operators (http://www.fodors.com/news/top-10-af...ors-11451.html), especially if you’re looking for an ultra-luxurious trip. They have been an industry leader for 25 years and our local Africa contributor has spoken with many who have enjoyed their Micato tours.
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Aug 11th, 2015, 10:10 AM
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Eric_W, I respect your opinion and response. I don't know if the other tour operators include the time for international air, but you can basically subtract approx. three days for the Micato Safaris due to their inclusion of international flight times. When you compare the prices Fodor's listed for the Top 10 African Safaris, I believe the price I paid with Micato was not justified especially due to the mediocre lodging.
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