OAT Tanzania Trip with Extensions


Jul 7th, 2005, 03:59 PM
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OAT Tanzania Trip with Extensions

My friend and I just booked an OAT Trip to Tanzania for February 6th. Now we have to decide about the two extensions offered. I think the pre-trip extensions sounds really good and wonder if we would be missing much if we did not take the post-trip extension to the Masai Mara. If we did both, we would be away for 23 days which might be a bit too much, but perhaps very worthwhile. I have listed the itinerary for the pre-trip, the post-trip and the base trip.

Pre-Trip is for 3 nights and 2 Ĺ days of game drives, "Meet the Maasai: Life in the Foothills of Kilimanjaro". This trip is in a private game preserve at Sinya Camp, uses open vehicles, includes several game drives and a trip to a Maasai village and school. It begins right after our arrival in Arusha.

Post-Trip is "Kenya's Masai Mara" and is for 5 nights, 2 full days and 2 half days of game drives. It begins right after our return to Arusha with a flight to Nairobi. We would be staying at an OAT tented camp.

The game view part of the base trip includes:
1 day at Arusha Park
2 nights in Tarangire at the Tarangire Tented River Camp
2 nights at Ngorongoro at the Ngo Farm House
3 nights at an OAT tented camp in the Serengeti
A stop at Olduvai on way bach to Arusha

This is a lot to ask of you folks, but it would be terrific if you would review this with us. What are your thoughts about the extensions? Both or just one and which?

evelyntrav is offline  
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Jul 7th, 2005, 05:03 PM
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I know nothing about the agent OAT but on the ground you will be in the very capable hands of Kibo Safaris so you're going to have a great safari!

I am a little hesitant to rave too much about the Sinya area since I've only been there once (in May) and I don't know what the game patterns/viewing will be in Feb.

But I do know Kibo's wonderful Kambi Ya Tembo camp and I do know the vistas that awaits you if you choose this option! Have you seen my West Kilimanjaro pictures?

The Mara Extension is a bit vague. Who knows where the tented camp is because a)OAT is simply an agent with no camps and b)Kibo is Tanzania based. So I have no idea who the operator is and cannot comment on the camp. It may be outside the park.

It is not the best time of year for the Mara and the terrain will remind you of the Southern Serengeti (where your Kibo camp is).

If you like to learn a bit more about the Maasai, like to take pictures with breathtaking backgrounds and spend some quality time away from the packaged tourist crowds, then Sinya gets my vote!

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Jul 8th, 2005, 05:30 AM
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Evelyn - Did you hear back from the gentleman who took this trip? It sounds like you've made your choice - I hope it's everything you hope for. I still may be going with OAt as well. I still don't know WHERE I'm going yet, I am sooo torn. I can't help you with your questions, but I think either one of the extensions sound great and knowing me the decision would be very hard to make! ;-)
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Jul 10th, 2005, 03:08 PM
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Thanks for giving your personal view of our options. We will definitely do the Sinya extension and forget the Mara extension. You confirmed our initial hunch.

FYI, OAT (Overseas Adventure Travel) is a branch of a larger travel group called Grand Circle Travel. It is geared for ages 50+ with groups of less than 16. I have found it to be more upscale than its parent organization, therefore, the hotels and restaurants are of better quality. Naturally, they are more expensive. We have traveled with them on other trips. OAT often uses an operator based in the area, in this case Kibo. Someone on this site said that Kibo assigns terrific guides to OAT so that was another plus. We chose them rather than touring independently because we could not be guaranteed the camps we wanted and time was getting close. We chose them over 2Afrika because they stay in tented camps and not just lodges.

Cooncat, I did not hear back from the person I contacted.
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Mar 3rd, 2006, 09:29 AM
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We have returned from our OAT trip to Tanzania and will make some quick comments. Kibo was the ground operator for OAT. We decided to do the pre-trip to the Sinya area and not do the post-trip to the Mara which I believe was the best choice. The complete itinerary is in the OAT literature and there were no deviations.

I feel the need to mention that I had been to Botswana and Nambia with Wilderness two years ago. In my opinion, the Botswana area is far superior for game viewing because of the ability to go off-road and get closer to the action. In TZ, we were limited to the park roads limiting closer viewing. The guides, lodging and food in the places we stayed in Botswana were also far superior than those in TZ. However, in terms of todayís dollars, it was probably three times more expensive.

Lodging and meals: I really enjoyed the tent experience and am pleased that we decided to go this route rather than the big lodges. Our tents were in very isolated areas which was just ideal. Our four-night stay in the Serengeti wilderness was a highlight. We did have two nights in the Ng farmhouse and two nights in Arusha which are both larger facilities. All of the facilities are owned by Kibo. The food was mixed in quality, some meals excellent and some just fair. Other than the farmhouse, the meat portions were skimpy. I did not gain weight on this tour. All facilities were capable of charging my camera batteries.

Guides: Our guides were good, but not excellent.

Game drives: The morning drives started early and lasted until about 11 and were excellent. We followed the same paths as the other tour operators mentioned on the site so I donít think there is much of a difference in what is seen. We had two all-day drives which were also terrific. I was somewhat disappointed in the afternoon drives which started at 4 and ended at 6. The park closes at 7 and I did not get a satisfactory answer when I questioned why we could not stay out later. Personally, I think it is because of food preparation. This is a problem with a group tour.

Animals: We saw a great variety and loved every minute of it. The elephants at Sinya were more plentiful than I had expected, the giraffes at Tarangire were magnificent, and the lions in the Serengeti were numerous. We saw herds of wildebeast in long lines migrating south. It was the end of calving season, so we saw many wildebeast babies. Also saw lots of you zebras (my favorite), baboons and vervet monkeys, all with babies. We watched a hippo chase two lions that were in his path, almost got rammed by a one-horned cape buffalo, and watched a dung beetle do his thing. The birds were spectacular, too.

Vehicles: The roofs of our vehicles opened rather than popped up. This had been a concern of mine, but worked out really well. The seat belts were not satisfactory and I notified both OAT and Kibo that this is a concern. Everyone had a window seat.

Maasai Visits: We visited two villages and three markets. The inhabitants of the village really welcomed us and we had a good deal of fun with them. We visited a womenís cooperative handicraft center and also received a warm welcome. Our visits to the markets were not particularly comfortable and I felt like an intruder.

Itinerary and pacing: The itinerary was just great and a great mix. One cultural visit day was boring to me, but many other really enjoyed it. I would have liked long game drives and later afternoon drives. The itinerary follows basically the same route of many private tours and is the reason I chose this trip. It was very fairly priced, too. The people on the trip were extremely compatible and we enoyed one another. All were over 55, except for the 23-year old son of one of the members.

I hope this helps anyone who might be considering this trip. Let me know if anyone needs more information.
evelyntrav is offline  
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Mar 3rd, 2006, 10:00 AM
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Thanks for posting. Where was the women's handcrafts collective?
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Mar 3rd, 2006, 10:12 AM
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I did OAT's Tanzania trip in 2004 and have noticed that they have now cut 2 national parks out of their intinerary: Arusha and Lake Manyara. I assume that it is to cut down on the costs of the trip, which is unfortunate. I have also used Kibo privately for a bank club trip and found them to be excellent.

The food was great, especially in the mobile tented camp. In fact, the bank club director, who travels for a living, called it the best food she had ever had on a trip. The meals are served in a different style than we are used to in the US; you get smaller portions of more things, which I enjoyed. The food at the Farmhouse is served buffet-style, so you're able to get more of one item, such as meat.

It's really hard to compare Botswana, even OAT's trip, and Tanzania. I've been to both places twice and each has something special about it. Botswana is my favorite African destination, with Tanzania a close second.

As to the shortened drives, were they in the Serengeti? I know that park rules require them to be off the roads by dark, not just by a certain time. We pushed it right up to dusk on a couple of occasions, though. Supposedly, the reason is that, if you break down, the park rangers don't have to risk their lives after dark to come and rescue you.

Who were your guides? I've had both great and mediocre guides with Kibo. How were the temperatures? Any rain? Did you visit a school in Karatu? Thanks for your trip report!
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Mar 3rd, 2006, 10:28 AM
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Thank you for your report. I'm sure it will be a great help for everyone considering an OAT trip.

Glad you had a good time.
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Mar 3rd, 2006, 10:58 AM
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The women's handicraft was a group that is funded to teach local women how to make items and sell them. It was interesting as the people were actually making the baskets and beads and gave us lessons in the techniques The women were very friendly and we had a fun time with them.

We heard that the reason the Arusha NP trip was eliminated as the previous groups thought it was redundant and requested more cultural visits. That would have been fine, but the two "cultural visits" did not feel authentic and while I was displeased, others enjoyed them. One was to a potter who had wonderful credentials but produced very ordinary items. The other was to an all-purpose touristy farm-like area called Mama Anna's. The only part I enjoyed was seeing the two cows that were funded by Heifer International.

We passed Lake Manyara and it was probably 80% lower than usual. I don't know why it as eliminated from the itinerary. The trip was very fulfilling and I would not want to have missed any time in the other parks. As a side note, didn't think the Olduvai Gorge site was noteworthy except that it was a nice break during a long ride. The bathrooms there were the very worst on the entire trip.

All our afternoon drives ended at 6:00, including the Serengeti. I was told we could have stayed out until 7:00, but that was not the plan so the guides stuck to their itinerary. I cannot fault them for following the regulations. I suggested a change in my evaluation to Kibo.

We did visit a school which was interesting. Three students at each table/desk. We observed two classes teaching English. We were told that Kibo and OAT help fund approx. three schools in the area.

Almost all our days were sunny with some clouds. It rained twice during the night for brief periods of time. It was great to see the green grasses appear the next morning.

We had three guides. I don't really feel comfortable mentioning names except for the one guide I really liked who was Julius. I think the other two are still working on improving their English and leadership skills. They were satisfactory, just not great.
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Mar 3rd, 2006, 11:34 AM
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The reason your afternoon game drives ends at 6pm is because vehicles have to be off national park lands by dark. And from wherever you were in the Serengeti (or other parks) as the sun begins to set it takes awhile to return to your lodge.

It's also possible that OAT arranged a specific seating at the lodge dining rooms for their guests. Not to have to wait... but just a guess on this.

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Mar 3rd, 2006, 12:05 PM
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Thanks for your update, evelyntrav.
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