Masai Mara OR Serengeti in July??

Old Feb 4th, 2006, 01:01 PM
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Masai Mara OR Serengeti in July??

Hello everyone,

I have lurked on these boards for a while but this is my first post. I have just started planning and I need some help with my upcoming trip.

We plan to fly to Nairobi sometime around the mid - end of July (around 20th although that is flexible) and fly home about 10 days later. We are looking at doing possibly Lake Nakuru, Samburu and either Masai Mara or Serengeti and also do Gorilla Safari in Rwanda (booked independently hopefully - following sunny_days advice). Here's the thing, would it be better to view the migration in the Masai Mara or in Northern Serengeti?? Where will it be more prominent duiring our stay?? Also, I have read various different opinions on the Masai Mara about it being crowded and the Serengeti being less so - any opinions?
We did our honeymoon in South Africa 3 years ago and really enjoyed the experience of the Honeyguide Tented Safari Camp. There we saw hardly any other people in the areas in which we drove. I suppose I'm a little worried about 'overcrowding'.

Also, any suggestions for itinerary / order of itinerary? The above 'plan' is my INITIAL thoughts on where to go and I'm sure by the time everything is booked, will have undoubtedly changed. I have heard about Sweetwaters and am enticed with the tame rhino and sanctuary but don't know if it would be worth sacraficing something else for it? Does anyone have any information on its location (i am having trouble finding a map with it on it)? . Any other recommendations for lodges (DH is insisting on them rather than tented camps - bug thing!). If we decide on the Masai Masa I like the look of Mara Serena Lodge and a lot of you have given it thumbs up. We plan to fly between locations where possible (I have a bad back and I believe the roads will do me no favours).

Sorry for so many questions all at once and thanks for any replies.

OnlyMeOirish is offline  
Old Feb 4th, 2006, 03:31 PM
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I would suggest you arrive Nairobi and head to Rwanda for the Gorilla Trekkings. This will be more active than the safari portion which is mostly driving in a safari vehicle and/or some game walks.

If considering late July, then definitely the Mara. Of course it will be busy as everyone wants to be here. Though there is likely to be spill over of wildebeest and zebra herds in the very Northern Serengeti, it's a long way to go when the rest of your time is in Kenya. There is no crossing point between the Mara/Serengeti even if they are part of the same eco-system. Also, there are few properties at that area of the Serengeti and all are expensive.

Your gorilla trekking is going to take at least 5 or 6-days, not leaving much for Kenya. And if the Mara is of interest it deserves at minimum 3-days, preferrably 4. I would also suggest you book soon, as much is already gone. The Serena Lodge - that makes me laugh; most clients booking at this late date are on a waitlist. But there are other properties here, all dependent on whether you want lodges or camps and your budget. This will be high-season.

As to your DH and "his bug thing" - no matter whether lodges or tents. Besides the tents are as sealed as the lodges. I can't ever remember, over a 12-year period, seeing a bug in our rooms or tents.
Old Feb 4th, 2006, 04:44 PM
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I completely agree with sandi on being in the mara late july as the migration would be there,, Sonali
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Old Feb 4th, 2006, 04:49 PM
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Thanks for the reply Sandi but now I'm panicking a little! How difficult will it be to get a fairly decent lodge in Masai at this stage??? Can you suggest any lodges for around the same price or a little higher than Mara Serena ?? We are not looking for 'pure luxury' but want something 'nice' and comfortable and in a decent location. The background behind DH's 'bug thing' is that when we stayed in the Honeyguide Tented Safari (SA) there were insects that buzzed around the oil lamps at night (even though the zippers were closed), there was no electricity and the en-suite wasn't completely sealed (ie there was an intentional gap of about 500mm between the roof and walls)and based on that, DH is insisting on basically 'rooms with doors'.

Getting back to the itinerary, my thoughts were that we could do Rwanda in 3/4 days - basically flying in, spending the first night there (or second night if we have to overnight in Nairobi), doing the gorilla treck the next day and overnighting again and then flying back to Kenya on the third day. Then I thought that we could do 3 nights in the Mara.
I was then considering spending say 4 nights between Samburu and Lake Nakuru but now I'm unsure, having found a very basic map showing both, they seem to be quite far apart. Do you have any other suggestions? Would Sweetwater be any nearer?? I really am lost at this stage. I think my main difficulty is figuring out distances between locations and finding how to get from one to another. For example - how would I get from Rwanda to Masai Mara - are there any flights or is it a long journey by road??

I just want to try to get this booked asap, I am not used to rushing booking vacations like this but unfortunately we couldn't book or decide on anything before now because of a job change and not knowing if / when we could take holidays.

Hope I'm not asking too many stupid questions and thanks again for the reply.
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Old Feb 4th, 2006, 04:59 PM
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Sonali, thanks for the reply - our posts must have crossed. The Mara it is then!
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Old Feb 4th, 2006, 08:29 PM
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u can drive from Nakuru to Samburu - though long drive - and make it for lunch !
4 nights Nak+SAm r ok. It can b done within 3 nights.
Samburu is much preferred over Sweet Waters. but - i have an idea - to combine.

let me do the itinerary for u:
1 NBO to Sweetwaters
2-3 to Samburu 2 nights
4. Nakuru
5-7/5-8? Mara

@ This way u have shorter drives from NBI to SW & SW to Sam.
@@ In Mara the later the better cause the herds keep coming in July (slight differences sometimes matter)
@@@ is one night in Nakuru enough ?
i've done it numerous times. Nakuru is a small NP & u can see main highlights - flamingoes, hard to miss rhinos (remember most likely u'll see introduced square-lipped /"white" rhino)
If u feel u need more than extended afternoon game drive - u can eat very early + short drive in the park & off u go to Mara. Or take a breakfast box from the lodge and leave early...



aby is offline  
Old Feb 4th, 2006, 08:52 PM
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contact Serena direct try to reserve one room 4u ! (

i agree with Sandi about the tents. (Though it is possible to have insects in a built room as well...)
If u don't get Serena, Try Simba, Keekorok (heard refurbished after fire).
Sopa has also doors etc' - since it is near the gate u may have to drive a long way some times. If u r lucky migration may b there
aby is offline  
Old Feb 5th, 2006, 05:06 AM
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I was in the Mara for 2 weeks during July 2005 and the migration didn't arrive properly until mid-August. The Mara in July can be a bit of an expensive gamble, as you will be paying peak Migration-fees for camps & lodges. I have done about six trips to the Mara, and September has been the only month with a guaranteed Migration during my trips.
Africa is offline  
Old Feb 5th, 2006, 05:30 AM
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I would suggest you determine exactly how many days you require for Rwanda. Three-days seems too short to me. Once you know the amount of time you need from arriving NBO, to Rwanda, days for gorilla trekking, return to Kigali to NBO - will you know what's left for Kenya.

From Rwanda, no flights direct to the Mara or Serengeti. Have to fly from one Intl airport to another... and it would be Kigali to NBO. Once in Kenya and depending on budget, you can drive to Sweetwater's for 1-nts; next day drive to Samburu for 2-nts. From here you can fly to the Mara for your remaining days.

There are any number of lodges in the Mara area, though few directly in the Mara itself. Most lodges or camps are located on the eastern or western lands from where you have to drive to hopefully see a "crossing" at the Mara River.

Of course, you can request Mara Serena and luck-out, but consider alternatives. Keekorok has recently been refurbished after a kitchen fire last May... so it's practically new. There's the Simba and Sopa Lodges.

Many prefer to stay on the Western side of the Mara and here, while not many lodges, there are lots of tented camps. Some small, intimate, but more expensive than the larger camps with maybe 40+ tents.

As to a guarantee of the herds being in the Mara by end July - yes, a major portion should be. Last year, in fact, they had arrived mid-July. But once here they spread out everywhere; from day-to-day they move and can be anywhere over the next few months thru mid-October.

But make your decision as soon as.
Old Feb 5th, 2006, 12:57 PM
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Thank you all so much for all your help. I have e-mailed Serena to check on availability in July (just on the off-chance) and if they have availability I can work around any dates they have.

We really don't want to ruin the whole trip by trying to do too much. I know that I want to do the Masai Mara above any of the other Kenyan reserves / parks - migration or no migration I'm sure I won't be dissapointed.

Abi, Your itinerary looks good but (isn't there always a but!)I really want to do the Gorillas in Rwanda ... SOOOO..
This is our PRELIMINARY plan!

Day 1 LHR - Nairobi arrive 6.20am Kenya Airways
Nairobi - Masai Mara Dep Wilson Airport 10am - Arr. 10.45am Airkenya
Day 2 Masai Mara
Day 3 Masai Mara
Day 4 Masai Mara
Day 5 Dep 11.00 - Arr. 12.15 Wilson Airport Nairobi Airkenya Dep 17.00 - Arr 17.20 Kigali Kenya Airways
Transfer from Kigali to Rugengeri and overnight in Gorillas Nest (or similar)
Day 6 Gorilla Safari
Day 7 Kigali - Genocide museums etc
Day 8 Dep 13.50 - Arr 16.10 Nairobi Kenya Airways - overnight.
Day 9 Nairobi
Day 10 Depart 11.35 - Arr 6.30pm LHR

Can I have opinions please?
Will I have enough time to transfer between domestic and International airports in Nairobi on Days 1 and 5? Anyone know how far apart they are?
Is 4 nights (5 days) in the Mara too much? (we don't plan on changing accomodations if possible but I think we might be a little jetlagged)
Is there a lot to do in Nairobi? - Should I try to add another day ath the end? - Might just be able to swing it with DH if necessary.

I think I know the answer for this one but DH wants a DEFINATE answer from those 'in the know':
Being in the Masai Mara - is there ANY way to get to Rwanda without having to backtrack to Nairobi? Would it be difficult to do it by road / would it be possible to cross into Tanzania near the Masai by car?? I THINK the answer to this is no but am open to being disproven!

The above itinerary is based on the price of flights (i'm going to phone for a quote tomorrow). If it turns out that the price is crazy then we will do Masai Mara 4 nights, Nairobi 2(or 3) nights, Kigali 3 nights using Rwandair flights between Nairobi and Kigali.

One final question, just to throw a spanner in the works - IF we did Tanzania and the Serengeti (!) instead of Kenya and the Mara (change flights to Arusha also), would it then be possible to go directly from Northern Serengeti into Rwanda without having to backtrack and how long would it take - flying / car?

Thanks again all for the much appreciated help and patience.

I also agree about the tents - it's trying to convince my husband thats the problem! I'm afraid that once he gets something into his head thats it - oh well - I still get to go to Africa so I'm not complaining too much.

OnlyMeOirish is offline  
Old Feb 5th, 2006, 02:10 PM
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Plenty of time to get between Wilson and Jomo Kenyata. They are about a thirty to fifty minute drive apart, matata dependent.
mkhonzo is offline  
Old Feb 5th, 2006, 02:58 PM
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(Sorry for the temporary hijack, but I would rather piggyback than start a new topic, as, perhaps, others will find the answers to my questions relevant)

What about mid to late May for the Masai Mara and any other Kenyan parks?

I am particularly interested in the Cheli & Peacock properties:

This would probably be for 2007. I would have a maximum of about 11 nights, as I would be splitting my time between South Africa and Kenya.

Some Cheli properties are open year round while others close between March - May.

I can deal with a little rain more than I can deal with cold weather, which in Kenya should not be a problem unless I am at very high elevation somewhere.

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Old Feb 5th, 2006, 03:52 PM
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Transfers on days 1 and 5 shouldn't be a problem. If you arrive Kigali at 17:20 on day 5, does this give you enough time to pick up your permit? I can't remember if you pick this up in Kigali or elsewhere but just make sure you've worked out the logistics if doing this independently.

To reach Rwanda by road from the Masai Mara would require traveling through Uganda or Tanzania. I can't imagine that this would take less time than flying Masai Mara-Nairobi-Kigali which I think is your best bet for efficiency.

There are no nonstop flights from Kilimanjaro airport in Tanzania to Kigali and you would need to route through Nairobi. There might be a way to cross by road, but I think this would involve quite a lengthy drive from the Serengeti.

Some things to do on your last day in Nairobi -;tid=34581311

Agree with everyone else that as far as bugs go, it matters little if you're in a tent or room. Except at Lake Baringo, I've never found bugs to be a problem in Kenya. If your husband is willing to consider a tented camp, that would open up a lot more possibilities. Otherwise your choices for lodges besides the Serena would be Keekorok in the southeast part of the reserve or Simba and Sopa in the northeast.

Good luck with your planning!
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Old Feb 5th, 2006, 04:20 PM
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Inside the Mara, Governors Camp has at least one brick chalet! Few people know about it and I've seen it but did not go inside. It's worth considering!
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Old Feb 5th, 2006, 06:01 PM
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Hi, it's me again.. I agree with africa on the migration being a hit or miss in july in mara... I think u should add some days in serengeti northern section, to be sure u see the migration

wow africa, 6 trips to the mara during migration, do u have some trip reports to share and photos, keep us posted,Is september first week good for viewing the mara migration??? Thanks, Sonali.
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Old Feb 8th, 2006, 02:15 AM
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@ U r making a real effort to observe gorillas, but giving only one chance to it. Maybe we should ask opinions about it (allow another day?)
- i've not been to Rwanda. I've seen gorillas in Zaire (now Demo'Rep' of Congo)- though i've seen both Mt.G. & Eastern Lowland Gorillas...
Gorilla trek can take between half to several (even 8) hours. What if it is foggy, rainy or any other problem?

@@ i like your attitude about migration. U'll have an amazing safari anyhow. If they come- welcome! Actually the season is marginal...
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Old Feb 8th, 2006, 06:15 AM
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Hi Sonali

September is great for the migration in the Mara....any week. The Mara Triangle area is great and if you stay around the Governor's camp area, you have a great chance seeing some Mara river crossings in September. Whenever I have been in September, the BBC's Big Cat Diary team has always been there too (this makes it alot easier to find all the cats, as wherever this is a BBC vehicle.....there is also a cat nearby).

I am really lazy, but if I ever did edit all my video footage, it would probably make a nice dvd collection.I will be in TZ next week (for 2 weeks), so I will try to write a trip report and I'll also be filming in Hi Definition (in my usual ameteur and unplanned way)
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Old Feb 9th, 2006, 07:30 AM
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Wow tanzania for 2 weeks. Can u pls share your itiernary with us all and post a trip report as soon as u come back, thanks, Sonali.
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Old Feb 9th, 2006, 12:10 PM
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I don't remember when the ORTPN office in Kigali closes, but as far as I recall they operate normal office hours, so the 1720 arrival will probably be too late to pick up your permits that day. Suggest you phone their office at the number on this website: Note that (250) is the country code, and there are no local dialing codes in Rwanda, so just dial 250 and the six digit number. Note also that Rwanda is GMT+2 time zone.
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Old Feb 11th, 2006, 04:51 AM
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Hello everyone,

Thank you all for your replies and my apoligies for not acknowledging them sooner - I'm afraid I was unwell and had to put the planning on hold.
Mkhonzo, I think we will have to change our international flight carrier - British Airways are €250 per person cheaper than Kenya Airways so we will be flying with them. This means that we will now arrive at Jomo Kenyata at 7.25am instead of 6.30, do you think we could still make a 10am flight at Wilson airport?? How would we get there? Taxi? Are there plenty of Taxi's at the airport??

Patty, with regards to picking up the permit in Kigali, I would follow sunny_days' lead and get the TA in Rugengeri to collect it for me and also use the same TA to drive us to and from the Gorilla treck etc. OR we might do the trip in reverse and do Rwanda first thereby arriving in Kigaly at 10.20am - plenty of time to collect the permits ourselves.

Climbhighsleeplow, thanks for the heads-up on Governors Camp.

Conali, Thanks for the info on the serengeti. It might be difficult to fit both in - we really don't want to feel like we are rushing around like 'headless chickens. BUT, that being said, if we could find a way to do it easily we would.

Sandi, I am a little confused,I know you said thet there is no way to cross from the Mara into the Serengeti nearby BUT in one of Exodus' itineraries (see link) it shows them crossing there - how? where?? . Am I missing something??

Aby, I know we are taking a little chance with one day Gorilla Trecking but I have read that, if you fail to see Gorillas on your trek, the park have in the past, offered a treck the following day. This is an 'unwritten' rule apparently. I can't find where I read it right now. We have a second day in Rwanda so if the worst comes to the worst hopefully we will have that option. The fact that it is SO expensive is putting us off having two trecks and as we aren't the fittest people (we're not totally unfit either)so we would be planning on going to the lowest group - would we be fit enough to visit a group higher up on a second day is also a thing to consider - I don't want to be the cause of slowing down a group by not being fit enough. Also, I haven't heard of anyone missing the Gorillas on their treck in Rwanda.

Again, thank you all for your help. I'm off to e-mail some TA's for prices now.
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