My first trip to Masai Mara

Dec 13th, 2010, 01:49 AM
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Join Date: Dec 2010
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My first trip to Masai Mara

Hi everyone,
I am planning a trip to Masai Mara in Sep-Oct 2011 with my family of 5 (including one child). My main purpose of visit is to witness migration, big five and wildlife photography. I have done some research on net (mainly Fortunately I found this forum and decided to seek advise from all of you.
I am planning to visit only Masai Mara (as visit to other places will cost me more) as I could make out from reviews that I can achieve my objective by doing so. Moreover less travel means less fatigue. For my entire family I have a small budget of $3500 only (excl international airfare). Despite this short budget I want to stay in a respectable and comfortable lodge located at river Mara (near crossing sites). I am not sure how many nights I can stay there with this amount. I would appreciate if experienced people like you can advise me on followingbr /> 1. How many nights can I stay in Masai Mara (in a comfortable & very well situated lodge / tented camp)?
2. Reliable tour operators, who can assist me in planning my visit once I finalize my itinerary?
3. Lodges / tented camps located on Mara river near crossing sites?
4. Is it safe to travel by road from Nairobi to Masai Mara with family in a 4x4 vehicle?
5. What about visiting Masai Mara in Oct? Will I still be able to witness migration?

Since this is my first safari therefore, any recommendation / suggestion is welcome.
Thanking you in advance.
shabbirzafar80 is offline  
Dec 13th, 2010, 05:23 AM
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Five people will likely require 2 rooms or if available a suite. You can inquire about a cot in a room, but don't count on being able to do that.

1. Depends on price of where you stay. Here is a site that lists prices.
Comfortable, well situated, and affordable brings to mind Mara Serena. I've been there 2x, most recently in Sept.

2. There are many. I've used The Africa Adventure Company in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and Eastern and Southern Safaris in Nairobi, Kenya. Both reliable and provided great service.

Some others that have been used with success here include:
Good Earth in Florida and Tanzania
Africa Serendipity in NYC
DK Grand Safaris
Gamewatchers in Nairobi, #s in US and GB

There are a lot of other companies too. If you go to the KATO site, there are a lot listed, along with their level of sales.

3. Near crossing--Serena is probably the most economical for its ideal location. Others could be $500-$800 or more per night in Sept-Oct.

4. No personal experience--I encountered several self drive families to the Mara and elsewhere.

5. Migration in Oct? No guarantees with nature. I'd go early in Oct or in Sept. Allow enough time while you are there. I've been in the area for 8 nights and seen only one crossing. I've also seen 3 crossings in one day. Just depends.

Good luck in planning this wonderful family trip.
atravelynn is offline  
Dec 13th, 2010, 07:00 AM
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If a group of 5 and choosing to drive, the price of vehicle/guide that you will have for your exclusive use throughout... cost is divided by the 5/paxs. More economical than if flying. Generally you have to figure between $450-$500/day person including daily park fees.

You can certainly ONLY visit the Masai Mara for 3-4/days along with spending a day in Nairobi for sightseeing - Karen Blixen, Giraffe Center, Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and others. Or maybe drive north to Lake Nakuru or Naivasha for a day or two; or to Nanyuki for stay at Sweetwaters (2/days) where you can also do night game drives; then south to the Masai Mara for remaining days.

Anytime from late-July thru early-Oct is good, but the river crossings can never been guaranteed... it's luck and patience.

The Serena Lodge in the Mara is well situated, but there are others, mostly camps that are also relatively close to river crossing sites.

Best you contact a few tour operators/outfitters as indicated above for a preliminary price from which you can determine what to keep, add and/or make changes. But it's still a good idea to be somewhat flexible with where and your budget.

Note that the drive to/from the Mara is about 5/hrs each way and the road can be terrible some portions. Likewise, the road from the Lakes area is 4-5/hrs and again on some "iffy" roads.
sandi is offline  
Dec 13th, 2010, 08:15 AM
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Check this site for a Mara map and you can click on the camp names on the right for rate info. Some say "contact us."

I traveled with Eyes on Africa once and all went great. Not to East Africa, though.
atravelynn is offline  
Dec 13th, 2010, 08:34 AM
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Thanks a lot for your precious advices. It will definitely help me planning my trip to Kenya. Is "Africa Travel Source" a tourist company or otherwise. Is it reliable to travel with them?
Thanks a lot once again.
shabbirzafar80 is offline  
Dec 13th, 2010, 11:00 AM
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ATR (Africa Travel Resource) is a travel company in England. I have not gone with them, but you can do a search here and find results that range from pretty good to outstanding. I would not hesitate to book a trip with them.

Please post again as your planning continues.

How old is the child?
atravelynn is offline  
Dec 13th, 2010, 11:06 AM
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I was in the Mara 11 Sept to 15 Sept this past year. This is an album of photos of 112 photos (last 45 are of river crossings) from the Mara Triangle, an area you are asking about. Stayed at Serena.
atravelynn is offline  
Dec 13th, 2010, 05:05 PM
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Thanks "atravelynn" for your constant support.My daughter is 7 yrs old.
shabbirzafar80 is offline  
Dec 13th, 2010, 05:10 PM
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Check on minimum ages up front. Some lodgings may have a minimum age older than 7. Any agent or operator you choose can help you out on that.
atravelynn is offline  
Dec 13th, 2010, 05:22 PM
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Lake Naruku is daybtrip from Narobi and is well worth it. Lots of animal and birds.
Elainee is offline  
Dec 13th, 2010, 08:00 PM
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Atravelynn I saw your photographs.....these vare very good. What camera did you use?
shabbirzafar80 is offline  
Dec 13th, 2010, 08:02 PM
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You are right Elainee, I will plan a trip to Lake Nakuru as well. Sandi has also advised me the same. Thanks
shabbirzafar80 is offline  
Dec 13th, 2010, 08:27 PM
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With assistance of all of you I have shortisted few of the lodges / camps and these arebr /> 1. Mara Serena Lodge (Mara triangle area)
2. Royal Mara Lodge (Mara north river area)
3. Karen Blixen Camp (Mara north river area)
4. Nkorombo Camp (Mara confluence area. Camp is located southeast of Mara Serena Lodge along Mara river OR close to Mara - Talek river junction.
I also intend increasing a night at Masai Mara and stay in two different camps (two nights each). All lodges are located at Mara River. I have heard that "Mara Confluence area" is best for migration. Your comments please.
shabbirzafar80 is offline  
Dec 14th, 2010, 01:00 PM
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With a 7/yr old, you'll most likely have to arrange for vehicle/guide for your exclusive use. While these properties are fine with children staying and enjoying the safari experience, most are booked on a "shared" basis for game drives with other guests. And, sorry to say... many other guests prefer not to have a "child on board." Why the Exclusive Use of Vehicle, which daily price can range from $250-$400/day and should be pre-booked to assure there's a vehicle/guide available. Strongly suggest you ascertain the specific before booking any of the properties shown.

Of those you show, Royal Mara Lodge is actually a "camp" with 8 lovely large and well appointed canvas tents. Karen Blixen Camp has 22 tents; Nkorombo Camp is the Serian Camp mobile option and may be "too rustic" especially for your little one and also more expensive than the others. So, I'd go with the Serena Lodge for the services provided, location which is perfect, pool (for down time). Even if larger (more rooms) than any of the "camps." Besides, if you have your own guide/vehicle, "confluence" won't make much difference... game drives, for however long or short you wish, will take you anywhere at any time of day.
sandi is offline  
Dec 14th, 2010, 07:59 PM
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With 5, your own vehicle is likely anyway, which should help in negotiating the price. Picking 2 out of the locations you list, I'd go with Serena and Royal Mara for your situation. I'm assuming Royal Mara is not a lot more expensive than Karen Blixen, but I don't know. Staying at 2 places is a good idea if you have the time and it's what I did.

I used a 12x and a 15x optical zoom, image stabilization Sony DSC H2 and H9. They are good quality point and shoots. The newest Sony P&S is 20x optical zoom with panorama. Canon, Olympus, Nikon and Panasonic have similar cameras with similar features.
atravelynn is offline  
Dec 15th, 2010, 11:36 PM
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Thanks Sandi & Atravelynn. So my final itinerary will bebr /> 2 nights in Royal Mara
2 nights in Serena
I am in contact with DK Grand Safaris so I will have my jeep and driver/guide. I am also getting quotations directly from Royal Mara & Serena so that I can negotiate well with Daniel (DK Grand Safari).
shabbirzafar80 is offline  
Dec 16th, 2010, 07:29 AM
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Even if you don't want to give exact #s, it would be interesting if you could tell us if the quotes you get from dealing direct are less. You'd think they would be, but that was not my experience or that of several others. Things can change though, so I'd like to know.

You'll have a wonderful time.
atravelynn is offline  
Dec 16th, 2010, 01:18 PM
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Just re-read your post and see $3,500 for entire family of 5 for 3/nts Masai Mara... comes to avg of $235/person/day. This to cover room/tent & meals, daily park fees (can range from $60-$90/person) plus taxes/VAT, leaving barely $175/day person for somewhere to lay your heads. And, this doesn't cover the daily cost of vehicle/guide at about $175-$200, as you'd have to drive to/from Mara; flights would be too expensive with your budget.

That's going to be very very tight for travel in hi-season which Sept is, though some properties reduce rates as Oct. even considering the child price will be discounted.

A quick look at the Serena site shows "rack" (highest) rate for a double between Sept/Oct at $595/nt and doesn't include the daily park fee. Granted an outfitter (DK or others) can get better rates, it's still possible your budget won't work. Likewise, Royal Mara will exceed your budget.

You might have to look at lower cost accommodations.

Just so you're aware. But do tell what you come up with!
sandi is offline  
Apr 1st, 2011, 07:17 PM
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You might consider looking at Nomadic Encounters. Not sure how it compares to the other places you are considering but we had a group of 6 there for several nights in July and enjoyed our stay. They have three homes. We stayed at Acacia House which was pretty far north but enjoyed our drives through the other areas and did see a river crossing the one day we went to Masai Mara itself. Topi House seems to be right on the border of the Masai Mara reserve, so you might find that more convenient.

Here is a quote from the mini-trip report that I wrote in Nairobi after our stay:
"We had a wonderful stay at Acacia House. In just two and a half days, we saw over 25 different species of mammals and 35 different kinds of birds. We saw 4 leopards within a 30 minute period, a cheetah, wildebeest crossing the Mara River, hyenas, lion cubs with lioness, and so much more. We could not have been happier with sightings of wildlife and the information supplied by our excellent guide, Saalash. The home itself is absolutely beautiful with 2 large bedrooms and luxurious bathrooms, a study, living and dining areas, and a veranda looking out over the Rekero waterhole. We found the food to be delicious and the service superb. In other words, we could not have asked for anything more."

Here is a link to the thread where I talked about Acacia House in response to a question posted on the forum:
Sapphire is offline  
Apr 1st, 2011, 11:13 PM
Join Date: Dec 2010
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Hi shabir.
Am sure you will have great time in Masai Mara and especially the said months of visit since you might be lucky to witness the migration.

As it has been pointed out, doing a road safari will save you more than flying.if you fly in you will share the Jeep with other visitors to your camp/lodge. Also, if you do a road safari, the vehicle will be at your exclusive use.
Contacting a local outfitter will be great. They are always ready to bend their prices! and who knows, they might negotiate for better rates with the hotels/ lodges.


They have excellent review especially on trip advisor.

Wish all all the best.
smileyd is offline  
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