Lodges vs, Tented Camps - Private safari Oct.2009

Jul 12th, 2009, 07:58 AM
  #1  
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Lodges vs, Tented Camps - Private safari Oct.2009

After reading Lynda's and Sandi's entries, am in contact with two providers in Tanzania...both recommended on this site.

Question....some of the lodges suggested in the Serengeti have 50+ rooms. Does that detract from the Safari experience? I'm not against staying in one or two luxury sites during our 2 week safari...but while in Tangire, the Crater, or Serengeti, a more mainstream approach is not out of the question either.

We'll travel around Oct.20-November 2...so climate is a factor. The way I read it, Northern or Central Serengetti would be best. Am I right?
SandraJoy is offline  
Jul 12th, 2009, 10:06 AM
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SandraJoy, we have been blessed to be able to visit EA 4 times since 2002 and have a fifth trip in Nov. Have enjoyed a mix of lodges/permanent tented camps (but not mobile camps). The larger lodges (ie, Sopa and Serena chains) do cater to larger numbers of guest but except at meal time we never felt overwhelmed and they are hardly luxury in regards to what some smaller/larger and more intimate lodges/camps offer. And, in no way did they detract from the safari experience. Part depends on the expectations of the traveler. We wanted clean and safe accommodations, decent food, knowledgeable guides and high on the list, proximity to wildlife. Early on in our travels for budgetary reason we shied away from the high end lodges/camps, but did enjoy a mix of tented/regular building lodges to enjoy the experience. In some cases, location may be an important factor in lodge selection. I am glad we stayed at the N. Crater Sopa if for no other reason than the access road into the crater was so close. Minimized travel! And the sunsets were extra special.
Besides input from other travelers as to lodges/camps you might also check out specific ones for formulating thoughts particularly if you include prices. Another travel web site offers reviews on dozens of lodges/camps many with pictures. Sometimes in reading those I wonder if I stayed at the same place as opinions varied so much. But, different expectations. One person was greatly alarmed with the proximity of wildlife to her tent (a permanent tented lodge) while another contributor was delighted with giraffe and the like right outside her tent!

Hope these comments help. Dick
rsnyder is offline  
Jul 12th, 2009, 11:00 AM
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Sandra-

My apolgies I just realized that I never got back to you on the costs of the trip - see the entry in my trip report on the costs!

I agree with Dick above - in no way did the larger lodges detract from the experience at all. I love the Serengeti Serena - we have been there twice and I'd book it again! The food there is really good, and the accomodations are very comfortable. In 2007 when we went it was full, while this year I am betting that there would only have been maybe, at best 40-50 people there. The experience was still the same though for me both times. It's a good location, great for going in lots of directions (Seronera, the lion kopjes, the hippo pool, the plains, the migration, etc).

We have also stayed at the Sopa in the Serengeti, it was alright, but not 'memorable'.

On the crater rim we have stayed at the Serena, the Sopa and a semi-permanent camp, Lemala.

I loved the view from the Serena, but the beds were REALLY hard & very uncomfortable. The road they have to use is scarry, I didn't find them very friendly there, & the food was cold, tough & chewy. It was full the year we were there, and it felt full. Lots of people, all of the time.

I really liked the Sopa, it was a comfortable room, a wonderful view, the food was good and I loved the road into/out of the crater. The year we were there it was full but it didn't have that 'full feel' to it. I hardly noticed the other people at all.

Lemala, well, what can I say about that - it was wonderful, but wonderful comes with a price tag! There were only 3 other guests in camp, so we really did have the undivided attention of the camp staff. The tent was comfortable, the dinner was extremely tasty, but we really only spent 12 hours there. It was on the Sopa road, which was really nice.

What would I book for the crater the next time? Well, honestly, I would go for the Sopa again, as the cost difference between Lemala and Sopa is quite a bit, and I think I would rather save that difference for the 'next trip'. The 'experience' just didn't justify the cost to me.

In Tarangire we stayed at the Sopa, I really liked that place too. The rooms were nice, we had a great view, the food was good, but it did have a 'large' lodge feel. It was full too the year we were there. That being said though, it didn't seem as crowded as it should have been, even with that 'large-lodge' feel to it.

Hope this helps, let us know whre else you have chosen to go?
LyndaS is offline  
Jul 12th, 2009, 01:49 PM
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At Ngorongoro do remember that you are at 7,000' feet, where many visitors prefer brick/mortar with a roof than a canvas tent. That's not to say that a camp as Lemala won't provide down comforters and hot-water bottles under the bed covers to keep the toes warm.

At Tarangire and Serengeti evening temps, though cooler than daytime, will be warmer than the rim of the crater. So consider a combination of lodges and tented camps when putting together your itinerary. As example, you maybe offered all Serena properties, but realize that Mbuzi Mawe Camp in the Serengeti is a Serena property... a good option here.

While lodges do have 50+/rooms (and some camps might have half-that number), depending on when visiting and the occupancy, probably won't be an issue. Only time you're likely to come into contact with other guests is during mealtimes.
sandi is offline  
Jul 12th, 2009, 02:16 PM
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These lodges with 50+ rooms, 100 guests, do they also provide game drives? Or, are they basically set up only for room & board, that is, you are coming in with your own vehicle and guide like from Roy Safaris?

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Jul 12th, 2009, 03:25 PM
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SandraJoy,

On our Safari, Sept. 2007, we stayed at the Serengeti Sopa, Ngorongoro Sopa, Kirurumu Tented Lodge and Tarangire Safari Lodge. We enjoyed all of the lodges we stayed at, our favorite one was the Safari Lodge at Tarangire. It is tents right on a hill overlooking the river. Very basic accomodations but the view made up for it. The two Sopa lodges were large and full when we were there but they didn't seem full. I guess because you spend so much time out on game drives you don't really notice the other guests except at meals. At the Serengeti Sopa we went to tea and there were no other guests there and when my husband used the pool there was only him and our other travel companion. When researching our safari we found that the lodges were the least expensive way to travel, so we were fine with staying in them for most of the trip.

Tom, I know that the Mara Serena had game drives for other guests. We passed by them quite frequently, in their open trucks. There were usually 6 guests in them. I was glad we were in our own van with just our group of 4.

Julie
cougfan is offline  
Jul 12th, 2009, 03:32 PM
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SandraJoy, in Oct/Nov the Northern and Western Serengeti are excellent. Your daily game drives will allow you to cover most of the Serengeti wherever you stay. So, you could stay in the central Serengeti, for example, and drive to the north on a game drive one day, and to the west on another day.

Although I have a personal preference for tented camps over lodges, it is nice to combine the two in an itinerary. My experiences at the Ngorongoro Serena have been excellent, as have stays at the Serengeti Serena.

Here's a map to help get you oriented:
http://go-safari.com/images/Serengeti1.jpg The 3 yellow "tents" you see in the Central Serengeti are (from south to north) the Sopa, Serena and Mbuzi Mawe (a Serena property tented camp). In the middle of these, and not showing on the map, is the Wildlife (lower end) Lodge. There is also the brand new 74 room Bilila Lodge which was to have opened in the North/Central Serengeti in June this year. I haven't heard whether or not it has. Anyone?

The Serengeti Serena has less of a lodge feel than the Serengeti Sopa because of it's huts with upper and lower floor rooms: http://go-safari.com/images/SerenaSerenget1.jpg I stayed at Mbuzi Mawe last year and really enjoyed it.
Calo is offline  
Jul 13th, 2009, 08:43 AM
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tom -

Only the very smallest camps or those specifically set up to not accept guests with their own guide/vehicle, i.e., Klein's Camp... (this is GP=game package pricing) vs the others that provide facilities for the guides - sleeping, showers, meals on a FB-full-board basis for you the guest; guide/vehicle costs are included in the FB pricing.

If guests fly to/from lodges (Serena or Sopa) and camps, provide game drives for guests in their vehicles with their guides on a shared basis with other like guests who have flown in.

Always a good idea regardless means to transport to/from/between locations and properties, is to ascertain what is/isn't included in price being quoted.
sandi is offline  
Jul 13th, 2009, 05:17 PM
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"some of the lodges suggested in the Serengeti have 50+ rooms. Does that detract from the Safari experience?"

Somewhat while you are in camp. But once you depart with your private safari, which you mentioned in your title, then it does not matter. I almost always prefer camps to lodges for the surrounding atmosphere, but pricing means sometimes I end up in the lodges. Plans for my next Kenya trip include lodges or bandas due to pricing. Lodges, tents, volunteer housing, I've never been disappointed.

The private comment makes me think you have your own guide throughout. See Sandi's first statement on the 7-13 post, which probably won't affect you.

As other posters have suggested, Sopa works well for the access road at the crater and it's a nice place with a lovely view.

"Oct.20-November 2" Northern and Central Serengeti would provide full coverage of where the migration might be in Tanzania. I'd also consider trying to see the migration in the Mara.

You've probably done your own migration research, but these maps are nice too.

http://www.thesafaricompany.co.za/Map_Masai_Mara.htm
http://www.ultimateafrica.com/Wildebeest_migration.html
atravelynn is offline  
Jul 16th, 2009, 08:48 AM
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IN response to Calo's post, Bilila Lodge Kempinski has opened - the President of Tanzania was there last week to officially declare it open. Take a look at the website www.kempinski-bililalodge.com for full details and images.
MissConde is offline  
Jul 16th, 2009, 09:43 AM
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I agree 100% with rsnyder's post. And with Sandi's comment about brick and mortar at Ngorongoro where it can be chilly at night! I would save your splurge for Serengeti or Tarangire and keep the budget in check at Ngorongoro and Manyara (if you visit).
Leely2 is offline  
Jul 16th, 2009, 02:37 PM
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WOW! So much informaton...gotta digest this all...Thanks so much.
SandraJoy is offline  
Jul 16th, 2009, 03:20 PM
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Sandi's reply on Lynda's stream brings up other questions...

For Tangire..would Maromboi Tented Camp be better located than Lake Burunge Camp? If not, which place would you recommend?

In the Serengeti..2 nights in "Serengeti Medium"(Tanganyika Wilderness)or Serena, Mbuzi Mawe, Wildlife Lodge, or the Sopa?

To get back from the Serengeti to Arusha and then JRO..

My choices are: Drive to Karatu..overnite at Ngo.Farmhouse or Bougenvillea Lodge then next day drive to Arusha - or: drive to Elewana Migration Camp in Northern Serengeti and then fly from Lobo to Arusha.

We spend about two weeks in Tanzania give or take a few days..and it will be somewhere between Oct.20 and Nov 5 depending on availability...air etc.
SandraJoy is offline  
Jul 16th, 2009, 04:06 PM
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At Tarangire, why not just stay closer: Sopa Lodge is smack dab in middle of the park. Many like Tarangire Safari Lodge (actually tents) and though a great/amazing view the tents are right next to one another and the beds are short. Or Tarangire River Camp right outside the park, on private land, larger tents, more privacy; even Kikoti Camp which from your apparent budget would also work and is really nice.

For Oct in Serengeti, either Central or North. In North though there is Lobo Wildlife with great views, otherwise mostly disappointing - dark, dirty, poor food - even if price is low. Others in the area are more expensive, such as Sayari or Lemala. Or mid-way between North and Central is Migration Camp which is great, but expensive.

In Central, Mbuzi Mawe or Serena are good choices. Wildlife is well sited, and though Leely was fine with this on her first safari, it's in the same category of Lobo, rather budget. Sopa is way too far south and west, better for a stay in April.

Sandra, your routing was driving me nuts And you were all over the place with property choices and budget - cheap, expensive, mid, expensive, cheap! Of course it can work to have a few really nice places to stay, but some of those less expensive places will have you asking "what were we thinking?" You can get accommodations mostly in mid-price and then maybe a splurge somewhere.

Consider this which is smooth and no backtracking:
Day 1 - Arv JRO, o/n Arusha
Day 2 - Arusha NP for walking/canoe safaris - o/n Arusha
Day 3 - Tarangire - o/n
Day 4 - Tarangire - o/n
Day 5 - Lk. Manyara - afternoon game drive; drive to Karatu for o/n Gibb's
Day 6 - At Gibb's - gives some out-of-vehicle time
Day 7 - Ngorongoro; afternoon crater tour - o/n
Day 8 - Morning crater tour; then to Central Serengeti - o/n
Day 9 - Central - o/n
Day 10 - Drive to Northern Serengeti - o/n
Day 11 - Northern - o/n
Day 12 - Fly to Arusha/JRO - homebound

Hope this helps.
sandi is offline  
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