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Modifying a Safari: Chyulu Hills, Amboseli, Masai Mara?

Modifying a Safari: Chyulu Hills, Amboseli, Masai Mara?

Mar 8th, 2007, 01:11 PM
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Modifying a Safari: Chyulu Hills, Amboseli, Masai Mara?

We're planning to take a Kenya Flying Safari in late Jan/Feb 2008 that can be modified. Off the rack,it includes three nights in Tortilis camp in Amboseli, which I think is one night too many.
Then, we fly to Samburu, Larsen's Tented camp for 2 nights. As much as I'd love to stay here, I feel uncomfortable with the past reports I've read of armed banditry and shootings in northern Kenya near the border areas. So, I'm wondering if it would be better to substitute two nights in the Chyulu Hills area, at Ol Donyo Waus...has anyone stayed here? Is it a scenic area that's different from Amboseli?
We're also going to Masai Mara, staying at either Little Governors Camp or Mara Explorer. Does anyone know which is a better experience?
As much as I want to see wildlife, I also want to see the scenic beauty of Africa, besides the plains of the Mara. Does anyone know about the safety concerns of Samburu? Thanks much for any insights.
barefootbeach is offline  
Mar 8th, 2007, 01:25 PM
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Samburu is nowhere near the northern borders of Kenya. Geographically it's actually more in the middle of the country though in terms of safari itineraries, it's often referred to as being "northern". And not to scare you, but incidents of banditry, though extremely rare, can happen anywhere and aren't just confined to the north. That said, personally I have no reservations about going to any of the places you listed for safety reasons.

I agree with you that 2 nights at Amboseli is sufficient. What a park in "northern" Kenya adds to your itinerary are species which you won't or won't likely see in southern Kenya. Samburu isn't the only option here, Meru or Shaba are others which are less visited. That's not to say that you can't have a great safari by combining Amboseli, Chyulu Hills, and the Mara. Each area is different and has its unique qualities.

For scenic beauty, IMHO it's hard to beat Tsavo West and Shaba.
Patty is offline  
Mar 8th, 2007, 01:34 PM
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Which border areas and what banditry specifically in the Samburu area. The Somali border is actually closer to Tsavo/Chyulu Hils than a border anywhere near Samburu. And the Ethiopian border is even farther away from any of the places most tourists visit.

And between either of these reserves and any of the borders is miles and miles and miles and hours and hours and hours without seeing another person or vehicle. Ain't much of anything out there.

If looking for something different, consider Samburu, the Masai Mara and Shompole on the border with Tanzania. It'll be summer and it's nice to have your own pool at which to relax and cool off, beside the totally different environment.

Amboseli and Ol Donyo Wuas Chyulu Hills are right next to one another. The former relatively flat and easy to spot game especially elephants and the Kili views. Chyulu Hills in Tsavo has many more different environments and game a bit harder to find. Though in the dry season will tend to find their way to waterholes.

Samburu offers species, besides elephants, you won't find elsewhere - reticulated giraffe, gerenuk antelope, Beisa oryx, Somali ostrich, Grevy's zebra and maybe even painted dogs.

Mar 8th, 2007, 02:25 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
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I agree with Patty and Sandy. No qualms about Samburu.

Amboseli for 2 nights, Samburu for at least 2 nights, and the Maasai Mara for 3 nights would be an excellent combo.

I loved L Gov, but either Mara location would be good.
atravelynn is offline  
Mar 8th, 2007, 02:54 PM
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Thanks Patty, Sandy & atravelynn for your great thoughts. Sounds like I should keep Samburu in....would you stay there at Larsen's or the other option is to stay at Joy's Camp in Shaba...is one area/camp better than the other?
My other question, is about Amboseli...I just looked up Campi Ya Kanzi and it looks wonderful...the idea of flexibility in game drives or walking since you're not in a park sounds appealing...and the place looks beautiful. Would it be better to not stay at Tortilas in Amboseli and stay at Campi Ya Kanzi instead? Thanks again for any insights....and if anyone knows anything about the advantages/dis of Mara Explorer vs. Lil governors I'd love to hear about them.
barefootbeach is offline  
Mar 8th, 2007, 03:28 PM
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I stayed at both Larsens and Joy's Camp in December. Keep in mind that my comments are based on one stay each and I was there when it was unseasonably rainy. I felt that game viewing was better in Samburu (in terms of overall density and number of species) than Shaba. However, Shaba is incredibly scenic and I found myself staring in awe at the landscape trying to take it all in. Shaba also had a more wilderness feel to me and we didn't encounter any other vehicles there whereas there were congregations of vehicles at some sightings in Samburu which to me detracts from the experience. I also felt that the service at Joy's Camp was more personalized and enjoyed my stay there more than Larsens overall (not to say Larsens isn't a good camp). I'd go back to Shaba before Samburu, but that's based on my personal preferences and I'm sure there are others who may feel just the opposite.

I posted a trip report and photos if you'd like to read it http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34920145

sundowner & divewop stayed at Joy's Camp and Campi Ya Kanzi recently and we're still waiting for their trip report
Patty is offline  
Mar 8th, 2007, 03:37 PM
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Thanks Patty,
You can ignore my same question that I posed at the end of your trip report...our replies must've passed in email heaven. You had mentioned that the vehicle in Larsen's normally held 6 people...was it a similar vehicle at Joys? Thanks again.
barefootbeach is offline  
Mar 8th, 2007, 04:05 PM
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I uploaded a pic of the Larsen's vehicle we saw (we used our tour operator's vehicle in Samburu) and the Joy's Camp vehicle we used http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=...&x=0&y=-3j9jf9

The vehicle we had at Joy's Camp only holds 4 passengers in the back but it's possible that either camp could have other vehicle configurations that I didn't see. Hope this helps.
Patty is offline  
Mar 8th, 2007, 04:14 PM
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In lieu of a 'trip report' I'll give my two cents on Joy's and Shaba. Since I haven't been to Samburu, can't comment.

Pros of Shaba & Joy's:

I loved Shaba. Probably the most scenic of the camps we visited. As Patty said, the landscape is breathtaking. It is truly a stunning park.

The tents are beautifully decorated too.
Sundowner and I had the whole camp to ourselves the first two nights and were given separate tents during our entire stay.
The service was great. I especially took a liking to the bartender, Julius, whose company I really enjoyed. He was a sweetie.

Con's of Shaba & Joy's:

The downside to the camp (for me) was the electric fence to keep away the 'wild' animals. It was not in the original design by the owner and was only after the camp opened as a precaution. It made me feel like I was in Safari 101 class. Africa is Africa so let the animals roam where they may.
Get rid of the fence.

Being located near a swamp, it was also the 'buggiest' of any of the camps we stayed at. Lots and lots of insects. Especially trying to dine at night.
Even had a visit from two scorpions in my tent, which I'd never encountered before. Yuck! Then again, it is Africa!

One other thing that bugged me (no pun intended;-) ) was that our driver/guide wouldn't let us get out of the truck to take a photo. I mean we couldn't even walk within 5-10 feet of the truck. Unless we stopped for a potty break, sundowners or to eat breakfast away from camp. I never understood that and did complain to the camp manager.

All that being said, I would go back to Shaba just for the landscape alone to work on my landscape photography. It is one of the neatest places I've seen. The rock formations are incredible.
(Rock climbers be warned!) ;-)

Sundowner's on the hill were unmatched. You could see forever when up there. I completely understand why Joy Adamson chose to live there.

divewop is offline  
Mar 9th, 2007, 05:27 AM
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Haven't been to Joy's yet, but as game hasn't acclimated themselves to the area if seeking elephants and the other unique species I mentioned above, I would suggest Samburu. And having had the game here, I'd then recommend Campi Ya Kanzi in Tsavo for "something different." Then, of course, the Mara.

Explorer and Little Governor's are two different animals. Explorer is definitely more lux; Little Governor's a bit more rustic and you take a boat across the river to reach. Depends what you're seeking.

I'd suggest flying to Samburu first, then to the Mara and finally Tsavo. After bumping around at the first two, it's nice to conclude with something a bit more relaxing where you can pretty much set your own schedule during your stay.
Mar 9th, 2007, 09:07 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I too was surprised to find Joy's fenced. What's even worse, we returned to El Karama to find that they'd also put up a fence around their cottages. At both locations, we were told it was for elephants (though at Joy's an elephant had already learned to step over it). You can see the fence at Joy's in photo #81 in my album (captioned "View from our tent"). During the trip, I kept thinking back to the Richard's camp incident last year and couldn't help but think that must have had some influence in the fence decisions I totally agree with divewop on the fence issue.

FWIW, Larsens is also fenced. If you want an unfenced camp, there's Elephant Watch Camp in Samburu. We visited this camp (not open for the season yet during our stay) and I loved their organic design and lovely spot along the river. I have pics of EWC in this album (starts with #219) http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=...&x=0&y=-cbpxy0

EWC is located on the west side of Samburu away from the other camps and lodges (but not too far away, Samburu is a pretty small reserve) so perhaps there would be less congestion on game drives.

I didn't find the bug factor to be a problem while dining at Joy's or while in our tent. I did get bites on my feet and ankles from walking on the grass near the pool and on game drives. Also there were a lot of flies on the game drives, though thankfully just non-biting house flies and not tsetses. There were a lot of flies on our game drives in Samburu too but not as much as Shaba. Overall, I didn't find Shaba to be buggier than Meru and IMO neither holds a candle to Lake Baringo or Selous in that department!

In Shaba, we did see all 5 of the "northern" species that sandi listed earlier though not as up close as in Samburu, but the only elephant we saw was one that came to camp at night and interrupted our dessert The game is not habituated to vehicles in Shaba like in Samburu and that's one reason why we like it better. I enjoy seeing "wild" animals behaving like "wild" animals. But I can certainly understand getting the "check list" out of your system in order to enjoy a place like Shaba.

While Samburu and Shaba are considered part of the same reserve system and separated only by a road, in terms of the experience they're like apples and oranges and it depends on what type of experience you think you'll enjoy more.

Good luck with your decision!
Patty is offline  
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