Masai Mara - is it a must see?

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Aug 3rd, 2005, 06:09 AM
  #21
sandi
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comtnboy -

If you're going in August, then the Mara should be at the end of your itinerary before going to Zanzibar.

Also the way your idea of itinerary is looking, I wonder whether you are considering flying between destinations; was this even offered? The drive to/from the Mara from NBO is 5-6 hours; likewise from the Mara to Lake Nakuru is easily 5-hrs. There are flights between Nairobi/Lake Naivasha/Mara/Nairobi if you wish to visit the Lakes area. But after driving to Lake Nakuru, why are you then driving back to Lake Naivasha. And from Naivasha to Amboseli - also very long. Too many places with too much time spent on roads and not enough game viewng.

Understand that I much prefer driving in Kenya, though the roads are often in worse condition then some in Tanzania (but under the new government roads are being repaired as this has been turned over to private industry). You have more opportunities to see how people live along the Kenya routes and places to stop and stretch your legs. Not so much in Tanzania.

Staying at one group of hotels, e.g. The Sopas you'll probably get better prices, but you can do the same with the Serena properties and get a similar good price and these are a step above the Sopas and a bit smaller and better situated. I wouldn't drive to Nakuru only to backtrack to stay at Naivasha for a Sopa. Stay at Lion Hill at Nakuru.

The Sopa at both Naivasha and Amboseli are relatively new/refurbished, but in the case of the Sopa at Amboseli, it's outside the park borders - you'd be better at Ol Tukai or the Serena here.

For August travel, I'd skip the Serengeti altogether, especially central where the Sopa and Serena located. Nothing much happening here. If you were spending bucks, then I'd stay at Klein's or Sayare, but very expensive and would require flghts to get to/from.

I don't know whether you put this together, or it was presented to you from a tour operator? I believe the latter... and it looks like a standard itinerary without much consideration for time of travel and accommodation offerings from whom they have the best contract rates - all Sopa properties.

You don't mention your budget, but remember that August will be high-season - something to consider, but you can do with better accommodations. Also, with what you show above, you're not spending much time where you should - more time driving. Of course, you're thinking this is going to be your one and only trip to East Africa so want to get in as much as possible, but you're trading off alot of places for better/more game viewing.

If you use my two sample itineraries above, you get the best places to be at the time of travel, it's just a matter of the accommodations you choose. Whatever places (parks/reserves) you miss on one of these itineraries you can do when you plan your next trip... which I'm sure you'll be contemplating on your flight home.

Don't know which tour operator offered your itinerary, but I'd select a few outfitters that are well received by Africaphiles/Fodorites (do a search on this board - some are Roys, Good Earth, ATR) - using one of my suggested itineraries, combining lodges with some permanent tented camps (review other itineraries here on Fodors for possible lodges/camps at the parks)... send off for pricing and see what you get back in return.



 
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 06:12 AM
  #22
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Thank you Sandi. That's a lot of good information. I will revise that itinerary. I did get that from a tour operator as we are neophytes when it comes to Africa and thought there would be more security in going that route. Sounds like I should be focusing more on Kenya than Tanzania even though I would not mind seeing both.
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 07:00 AM
  #23
 
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I didn't realize that you were traveling in August since you mentioned an "upcoming safari" and its likely too late to get into the lodges for August, which is high season. My first safari was in August, and the Masai Mara was incredible, the Serengeti much less so. Herds of wildebeast, zebra and gazelles in the thousands were in the Mara, but not one in the Serengeti. But we did see lion, leopard and cheetah in the Serengeti, and the landscape of the Serengeti is incredible. The Crater was great. I wasn't that impressed with Amboseli, but maybe that's because I visited after the Mara, which was the highlight. We stayed at Ol Tukai in Amboseli, and its fine (good location in center of park).

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Aug 3rd, 2005, 07:11 AM
  #24
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Acutally looking at August '06. Something like this I really like to plan ahead, book early, and study like crazy everything there is to know about where I am going. I am sort of anal like that.
Thanks everyone for the tips and information. Keep it coming as the more the better!
Brian
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 08:47 AM
  #25
 
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I can also recommend the Serena lodge in the Masai Mara!
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 08:48 AM
  #26
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Thanks sounds like Serena has a good following.
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 08:57 AM
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Check it out on the Serena website. Its definitely larger than the private tented camps, but the rooms are comfortable, there's a great pool overlooking the savannah (I literally had tears in my eyes the first time I took in the view -- you can see zebra, wildebeast, giraffe, etc.), and its in the very heart of the Mara. Its also priced very reasonably.
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 09:16 AM
  #28
 
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It's good that you're planning ahead as August is high season. I agree with sandi that the itinerary you were given looks like a very standard one that doesn't take into account the time of year. Those are also some very long drives in between. I think you should scale back a little, visit fewer parks, and spend more time at each location. I know it's a difficult decision and you feel like you may be 'missing out' if you skip a particular park, but I do think you'll enjoy your safari more if you include less 1 nighters and slow the pace down a bit. I would also stay 3 nights in the Mara rather than 2.

In Amboseli, the Sopa is far outside of the park and you're better off at either Ol Tukai or the Serena lodge. Or choose Tortilis camp if you want more a of luxury tented experience.

Even though Serena lodges are generally well regarded, I would still highly advise mixing in some tented camps in your itinerary for an altogether different experience. Once you've narrowed down your itinerary, we can make more specific accomodation suggestions based on your budget.
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 09:16 AM
  #29
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Wow, that does look nice. I will definitely add that to the trip.
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