Namibia or Kenya for our first safari?


May 1st, 2009, 12:48 PM
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Namibia or Kenya for our first safari?

My family and I are beginning to plan a trip to Africa to do a safari, our first one. We are all animal lovers. I've been trying to figure out the main differences between the safaris in both countries. I am very honest to say that this is a total strange subject to us.
We would love to visit (and possibly have a closer encounter) the Cheetah Conservation Centre in Namibia. That's perhaps our main interest in that country. But on the other hand, I've heard, but I'm not sure, that in Kenya we can do the best safari of Africa.
I'll be very happy to have all the tips from you, fodorites, who had helped me so much before with our previous trips.
Thanks in advance.
lery is offline  
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May 1st, 2009, 04:14 PM
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Kenya hands down. We saw many, many cheetahs in the Masai Mara in August two years ago so there is no need to get up close and personal with them at a Conservation Center. You will find a much larger quantity of animals in Kenya for sure. Hope that helps!
Besser is offline  
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May 1st, 2009, 05:31 PM
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First, if you want to have a close cheetah encounter, probably Namibia is your choice.
There are 2 organizations

Cheetah Conservation Fund headed by Dr. Laurie Marker
I believe there are volunteer ops here, but this is not where you stay for 1-3+ days as a visitor and see the cheetahs and other animals

Africat is another project with Okonjima, where you can stay in several levels of accommodations and do a variety of activities.

Here are some Okonjima reports and comments good and bad

I know someone who went only to Okonjima as her only Africa experience and spent 3 nights and was swooning, mostly over the wildlife, but she also liked the accommodations.

Here is a link on where to find cheetahs that might be of interest to you.

To round out your Namibia holiday, you’d probably want to include Etosha, where it is easy to do an economical self drive. I wouldn’t self drive, but many others have and everything is set up for that kind of safari. Here are some links on the Etosha camps.

I could not find this link, so I copied the info given to me from Thit Cho (Michael) on Etosha and the different options. I thought it was useful.

“Message: Ongava is situated on private property adjacent to Etosha, and Ongava does conduct game drives within Etosha, so on these drives, you certainly will see the large number of animals within the national park. However, for afternoon game drives, Ongava tends to drive on their own property, where game is much less prevalent than within Etosha.

Etosha has three lodges (Okakuejo, Halali and Namutoni), but they are not luxurious.

As to the waterholes. Waterholes are scattered throughout the park, and they don't contain benches. But each of the camps has its own waterhole, and there are benches at those waterholes. They tend to attract those staying at the lodges since you can't drive out of the lodge at night.

Etosha is nothing like the delta. It would be more like visiting Yellowstone, or another popular park in the US. There are many visitors, especially in high season. Frankly, if you're considering a July visit, you may not even be able to get into Etosha or Ongava. You should check soon. We visited in August, and booked in the prior January.

If you are looking for exclusivity, Etosha may not be the park for you, and even if you stay at Ongava, where we did for one night, on the drives in the park you will definitely see other vehicles.

But this is Namibia, and the number of visitors is still much less than other very popular parks, like Masai Mara, Chobe or Kruger.

But, my answer to your initial question still stands -- the amount of game in Etosha is enormous, and the landscape is quite different from other parks.

We spent four days -- one night at Ongava and then one night at each camp within the park. I really preferred staying in the park, as I'm always willing to sacrifice luxury for game viewing (so long as I'm able to have a personal bathroom and hot shower -- I'm not willing to sacrifice that


Another comment:
I've been puzzling over this one, and I think that notwithstanding some stays at luxurious lodges, including three in two countries operated by Wilderness Safaris, my favorite is Okaukuejo in Etosha (Namibia) for a few reasons. First, after five safaris, I find that I much prefer self-drives since you can spend the entire day (from early morning to night) on safari, and needn't "waste" the afternoon at the lodge -- on safari, I'm paying for animals, not luxurious accomodations. Second, the waterhole provides non-stop action, and allows for true late night observations. Most of the so-called "night drives" that I have been on return to the lodge around 8:00 (give or take an hour or so), in time for dinner, eliminating the chance to observe extended nocturnal activity. I have spent many late night hours at the Okaukuejo waterhole, and have always observed activity.”

A good resource for Namibia that I’ve contacted and been impressed with is Cardboard Box. They offer all sorts of Namibia travel and can answer your questions.

Most people who go to Namibia also are intrigued by the desert and sand dunes. In Damaraland, you can track black rhino (as you can in Ongava, the private area next to Etosha) and nearby are rare desert elephants. Then there is the stark, deserted Skeleton Coast—not a wildlife destination, but unique in the world.

Another Namibia thread that may be of interest

Kenya is a typical first safari destination and it was mine and I’m planning a 5th trip there. There are cheetah in the Maasai Mara and in other parks, but the Mara is the most likely location for them. You can easily get a guided safari for just your family in Kenya and design an itinerary that perfectly suits you. You may want to spend many days in the Mara. I do.

Kenya probably has the most variety of species (flamingos, rhinos, different kinds of zebras & giraffes) and some of the biggest herds, especially if you are in the Mara around the migration time of July-Oct. If you look at any standard itinerary, you can get an idea of where you might like to go in Kenya and then tweak it.

Here is one last link of the best time for different parks throughout Africa.

Good luck in your planning and please post your progress.
atravelynn is offline  
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May 1st, 2009, 05:56 PM
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as 'animal lovers' - Kenya is more suitable for lots of animal sightings... Namibia is more a wilderness destination

personally, i always prefer to see wild animals in their natural environment

depends how long you plan your trip, you can also add to Namibia some parks in neibouring countries (e.g. Botswana / S.A.)

When? this may have a meaning for destination choice

aby is offline  
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May 1st, 2009, 06:37 PM
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Thank you everybody! I'm going read all the links you posted, Atravelynn. Some , I aready did. Wonderful!...
lery is offline  
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May 2nd, 2009, 07:36 AM
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Fro a first safari - Kenya! The diversity of parks/reserves and game, wins hands down.

Plenty of cheetah out on the open plains especially in the Masai Mara, and if you want close-up-and-personal, you can "pet a cheetah" at the Nairobi Natl Park during a day of sightseeing.

You can also hand-feed giraffe at the Giraffe Center; visit and play with an adopted ellee orphan at Sheldrick's Orphanage.
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May 2nd, 2009, 09:32 AM
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Another enthusiastic vote for Kenya. We've done both and Kenya was the clear winner (for us) in terms of animals.
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May 3rd, 2009, 04:36 PM
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I loved Namibia and would return in a heartbeat. We saw giraffes and ostrich and springbok and oryx and eland on the side of the road. And we saw lions in a camp and cheetah at a refuge, and elephant tracks in the road. And at Etosha we saw elephants, zebra, lions, giraffes, springbok, and more of other animals we had already seen. But the most amazing thing about Namibia was its majesty and grandeur and the genuinely nice people. Don't know about Kenya.
jrwolf is offline  
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May 3rd, 2009, 05:57 PM
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I agree that Kenya is a top destination for a first safari. If you are transitting thru Jo'burg you might be interested to visit the De Wildt Sanctuary, for a close encounter with cheetahs - maybe even stay overnight?

More details on De Wildt available in my trip report at for 21-22 July. Some photos available at and earlier photos from my 2005 visit,


Treepol is offline  
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May 3rd, 2009, 08:18 PM
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One thing you might want to consider, in case it is a deal breaker for you and your family, is that in the US there is and has been for years a State Department warning on travel to Kenya. The wording of the warning has been continually scaled down since it first appeared.

Numerous travel companies that are conservative, reputable, and highly responsible have been sending clients to Kenya without incident for years. I plan to be there this August and probably next August and am not worried.

But if the fact that the warning exists means you would not consider Kenya, it doesn't make sense to do all sorts of research on a Kenyan itinerary.
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May 11th, 2009, 01:52 PM
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I'd vote for Namibia. We did a self-drive starting in Windhoek, going down to Sossusvlei (the sand dunes from a not air balloon!), then up to Swakupmond and the Skeleton Coast, across Demaraland with a stop to see the rock carvings in Twyfelfontein, then on to Etosha. We stayed at two different camps: Okaukuejo and Halali. WE hadn't meant to, but we could only get two nights at Okaukeujo - so had to move on. It turned out to be a good thing - two different waterholes and a slightly different group of animals. The camps are very basic, but being able to stay up all night watching animals at the waterholes was wonderful! The funniest thing we saw were two rhinos playing chicken: they would take turns charging each other - very fiercely - until one would lose it's nerve, whirl around, and run off squealing - sounded exactly like a pig squeal. The other would stamp around for a bit - until the loser returned for another match.

Everywhere we went we saw animals - from the tiny dune beetles in the Namib on up. I would do our exact same trip again - and spend more time in every place we went. I second Cardboard Box as a good resource - we set up our car rental and lodging through them. Have fun!
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