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Lots of details questions for our Kenyan and Tanzanian safari

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Mar 8th, 2005, 02:19 PM
  #1
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Lots of details questions for our Kenyan and Tanzanian safari

Lots of “detail” questions that I will also ask our tour operator, but any insight from the experts here would be appreciated!

1. Has anyone had a massage at any of these camps/Lodges?

Giraffe Manor
Tortilis
Lake Manyara Tree Lodge
Ngorongoro Serena
Serengeti Serena
Kirawira
KIA Lodge

If so, how was the quality? How much? How did you pay/tip?

2. Has anyone done a night drive at any of these locations? The Lake Manyara Tree Lodge web site suggests night drives are available. Is there an extra charge? Was it worth it? I really want to do a night drive but don’t want to waste time or money.

3. How about a canoe safari on Lake Manyara? Same questions.

4. How are drinks dealt with at these lodges? I know that some are all inclusive including all types of drinks (alcohol included) and others exclude alcohol. Do you have to go to the bar to get a soda or beer? Or is there a cooler in some of the rooms? I have read that in some of the nicer places there is a butler provided. How does this work? Does he arrange a sundowner for us if we want? Is this included? Any limits on drinks? Is Diet Pepsi (Diet Mt. Dew is even better) available?

5. Has anyone used a “babysitter” at any of these places? My wife and I might like to enjoy a meal alone while our 11 year old was busy doing something else. Is there staff available for this sort of thing? Again, cost and how to pay/tip?

6. Can anyone recommend a guide from Roy’s and or Wildtrek? Anyone to avoid?

7. How about Land Rover vs. Land Cruiser? Is one better than the other? (I want the Land Rover because I just bought a new one, but Roys indicated that I’ll get a Land Cruiser. – I got the silly car largely because we are off to Africa!)

8. How about cultural visits? We want to see a school and a massai village. Any suggestions?

9. Local donation – We are working with Roys to sponsor 2 local children (the same age as our son) for their yearly school fees. We would also like to bring something helpful and fun for them as well. Any suggestions? I thought small solar powered calculators for the class? Mechanical pencils? T-shirts or hats? My son would like to get a couple of Gameboys for the children. Any comments? Would the batteries be a problem for them?

WOW – That is a lot. I hope not too much for one post. Any info is sincerely appreciated. Only 102 more days!!
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Mar 8th, 2005, 03:00 PM
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Jazz - Skip the Gameboy! Your son is very thoughtful and generous, but I don't believe this is a a good idea. These are not American children you will be visiting. Besides the cost of batteries, they can be difficult to come by. Also, who will have control of these and how will the other children react. It's best to stick with the basics. At age 11, you can definitely consider books (same for younger children)... which you can send after your visit and have determined what would be of interest to the children.

As to the specifics at the various accommodations, you should get those details direct from Roy Safaris and/or WildTrek, as this will be different at each property. The prices you received from RS or WT should detail what is included and what is not.

For instance, Kirawira has butler service and all drinks are included (except Champagne), same should be at Tree Lodge and Giraffe Manor. Of course, the Butler is there to get your drinks if you wish sundowners on your own deck. Dinner service at Kirawira, Tree Lodge and Tortilis is sitdown, 3- or 5-courses, so you don't have to do anything but eat and bend your elbows. If I recall, at Tortilis and the Serena's alcohol is extra and maybe soft drinks. Diet sodas are "iffy"... some have, some don't. But you can stop into the market in Arusha to pick up whatever diet or softdrinks you might want along the way. The vehicles have a coolbox holding water, with sufficient room for a few cans of soda. Extra soda can be kept in the vehicle and when arriving at camp, just swap out a warm can for a cold one from the camp.

If there is no babysitting service, some have "listening" service. But I believe there might be some activity for an 11-year old, while you're having a private dinner... so ask specifically about this. Likewise, if you want a cultural visit, request one, either for while you're still in Arusha or at any of your stops. Find out what is available and which would best fit your expectations.

Check which camp provides massages and the prices; maybe at Kirawira, though massage has never been a priority when I've been on safari; manicure and pedicure was and it was the most expensive I've ever paid... so be prepared for sticker shock! I've done a few night game drives and personally, I could take it or leave it, so if it's included go on one; if I had to pay, I wouldn't. Check the CCA site for Tree Lodge to see if there is a fee for nite drives.

I can't guarantee that all my answers are current, so it's best that you obtain most up-to-date answers direct from your outfitter/s.
 
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Mar 8th, 2005, 03:25 PM
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JazzDrew,

After we returned from TZ we sent some books to a school, as well as to our guide's children individually.

I am so glad we decided not to bring things with us because...I don't know, it's a bit delicate choosing things for people, particularly children, whose lives are so different than ours. Who simply do not have all the THINGS that we all take for granted.

It sounds like you and your family are quite sensitive to these issues. There's a fine line here, and I don't think I can really articulate it adequately, but you may be better able to decide on gifts after you've been there.

That said, I think pencils, calculators, etc., would be great.

Have a wonderful, wonderful time! It's so exciting. Your son will love it.
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Mar 9th, 2005, 06:07 PM
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Thanks for the comments. I wondered if the Gameboy was a poor choice. We will communicate more with Roy Safaris concerning these details.
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Mar 9th, 2005, 07:14 PM
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I brought pencils and "Sweets" for the children. They will be at the gates of all the reserves that you enter. Towards the end of our trip I ran out of things and was digging in my purse for a very sweet boy. I handed him a ball point pen, and his face lit up like there was no tomorrow. If you take candy, please make sure you have a handful if you are going to offer. The children will fight for it. We had an excellent driver. He spent 21 days with us. We tipped him 800 US dollars, handed over our binoculars and my husband's nike shoes. The man almost started crying. The people in Kenya really like sports team hats, caps and t-shirts. We brought a bunch of Laker stuff and used it as money at the roadside shops. By the way, your guide will stop at every single one. He gets a kick back. We bought all the laker stuff on e-bay. It was the biggest hit!
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Mar 10th, 2005, 01:51 AM
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Don't want to start anything controversial but just thought I'd throw in a comment.

Sweets are not recommended by most of the non profit organisations working in Africa because many of the recipients don't have access to dental care/ toothpaste etc.

I have also been advised that handing out things such as pens and sweets has a huge impact on education and culture as many of the kids forego school to instead try and beg more items from visitors which they can then sell.

It may be better to take pens, writing materials and give them to teachers of local schools for use and distribution at school.

I know it makes the giver feel great giving out sweets, pens and coins and leads to lots of smiles from the kids but strikes me as less than best idea in the long run.
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Mar 10th, 2005, 04:27 AM
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Kavey is absolutely correct regarding the sweets. Not that there are no dentists, but may of the children and adults outside of major cities, just have no access to dentists. Likewise, it's not a good idea to give pencils and other items out along the roadside stands or at park/reserve entrances. While those little faces are so enchanting, it's best that you arrange a visit to a school or another organization where you can present the items to a teacher/supervisor. Let this person determine the best use and how to distribute.

But, please, as tempting as it may be... NO CANDY OR SWEETS! Thanks.
 
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Mar 10th, 2005, 07:57 AM
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Of course both Sandi and Kavey say it so much more succinctly than I could...

But lest JazzDrew think "we" are chastising him, I believe he was referring to things for his sponsored children and/or his/their sponsored school, the giving out of which I would imagine would be handled by the school's administration or a teacher.

Now how's that for wordy?

In other news, I think with an 11 year old, you may want to do the canoing just because it would be something interesting to do outside of your vehicle. But I guess that would depend on expense, etc.
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Mar 10th, 2005, 08:21 AM
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Hi Leely,
I just saw your earlier post. Were these textbooks that you sent? How did you determine what to send, were they books that were specifically requested? Thanks.
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Mar 10th, 2005, 09:01 AM
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Hi Patty,

It was actually pretty difficult choosing books. The friend I went with is a second grade teacher, so we did a little guess-timating about reading levels, etc.

Then we looked (hard) for books that didn't place a lot of emphasis on material possessions. We chose some wildlife, earth science for kids type books, geography, etc., and a couple of the Jane Goodall storybooks, and few more fun novels for kids.

p.s. Shipping them cost a fortune!

p.p.s. If you find out any more flight info/deals, post. I've been following your plans b/c I fly from SFO and don't need to fly business, but I can't seem to find anything (economy) for less than $3000. Yikes!
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Mar 10th, 2005, 09:29 AM
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JazzDrew

Back to your original post--What a hoot you bought a Land Rover in honor of your upcoming safari!
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Mar 10th, 2005, 10:19 AM
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Thanks, Leely. We're thinking of bringing items like books with us next time but didn't know what was best/appropriate. I'll top my airfare thread and ask you some questions there so I don't keep hijacking JazzDrew's (sorry!) post
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Mar 10th, 2005, 07:01 PM
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Again thanks for the insights. I never thought about how candy/sweets could be a problem. While we certainly contribute to the locals at the macro level through church, we also wanted to make a small impact at a more personal level, and to have our son participate as well. That is why we are working with our operator to put us in contact with a local school to provide the yearly school fees for a couple of children. It seems that a couple of hundred dollars will take care of a kid's school fees for a complete year. I also questioned what sort of books to bring. I like the idea of providing pencils, calculators, clothing to the school officials to distribute equally. We'll be sure to avoid passing anything out in transit, especially sweets!

atravelyn - The Land Rover is fun - the first time I test drove it I imagined I was in Africa. The dealership is a hoot - Made me feel like I was in a lodge ready for a game drive. Then they take you through this little off-road course over boulders and through streams in front of the dealership. I couldn't resist! The vehicle is really pretty amazing. I decided I needed to see what it was capable of... The next week I took it out to this 4x4 area where the local ATV and motorcycle guys try to get stuck. Here I was with the new Land Rover (with street tires) going half a mile and hour through these enormous ruts and water holes with my wife and son all in nice clothes when I decided to show off. I put it in diff lock and went into this waterhole that ended up deep enough for the water to almost reach the hood! Next thing I knew my brand new Land Rover was stuck! I got out, water and mud up to my waist with water pouring in the door. Luckly these 2 guys on ATVs had stopped to watch the city slickers in the new Land Rover and offered to get their enourmous 4x4 with all the extras and winch me out. They really enjoyed bailing me out. They even videotaped the whole thing! I'm sure they still show the tape them pulling the family that got their new Land Rover stuck in the mud!! We got out of there and drove straight to a car wash - not so much for the vehicle but to hose myself off! My wife still hasn't let me forget that. Now she's worried that we'll get stuck in some stream in Africa and a crazy hippo will charge us.

This is going to be an amazing holiday for our family
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Mar 11th, 2005, 06:13 AM
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What a hilarious test drive story. Your wife should have nothing to fear about being charged by a hippo in Africa, as long as you let your guide drive.
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Mar 11th, 2005, 08:37 AM
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I can comment on Lake Manyara Tree Lodge - as I've said ad nauseum on this board it's my absolute favorite spot in Tanzania. Quality was exceptional - though important to note that it's not a "tree lodge" that you might expect. Imagine a screened porch on stilts with Park Avenue furnishings. And lots of bugs, noise and an outdoor shower. Bugs were manageable, though the only spot in E.Africa where we experienced them.

We did a tour with CCAfrica so costs were included except tips, and we paid the top daily amounts recommended here (can't remember off the top of my head).

At the time night drives weren't allowed, but since the lodge is actually in the park I'm not surprised if they are now. As it was, we came back late one night and pulled into the lodge when it was pitch black. I don't recall seeing animals those last ten minutes or so, but the mosquitos were starting to bite so stopping the vehicle wasn't an option in my book. Based on other CCA lodges in Tanzania, they didn't charge extra for night drives but you should recheck with the operator. In general though I've loved other night drives I've experienced.

Can't comment on canoe safari since it wasn't offered at the time. As for drinks, there was a cooler in the room with complementary soda & water. There was someone assigned to our lodge who tended to us butler-like. Coincidentally we encountered his brother at our next lodge - such kind people! He was close at hand whenever we needed anything, including drinks and was charged with waking us in the morning with fresh coffee, cocoa and biscuits (complementary). Any alcoholic beverages we consumed were tallied on a bill that my husband paid in the main office before leaving. He was able to use traveler's checks, if it matters. There didn't seem to be a limit on drinks at the lodges, as evidenced by my husband's last night at Klein's Camp with some South Africans the last evening, drinking brandy and discussing politics and hunting until the wee hours.

Highly recommend the Maasai village, and in Serengeti area if you can. If you have a chance to see a school, or to go into local shops I'd do it. But I have no idea where to start with planning anything beyond the village, which can be arranged through your operator at various lodges (Manyara is not one of them).

The other horse is sufficiently beaten, but ditto to Kavey's comments - not to mention it can be dangerous to encourage children to run towards vehicles expecting a handout.
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