Olonana vs. Mara Intrepids and more...

Old Jan 30th, 2011, 08:44 AM
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Olonana vs. Mara Intrepids and more...

Hi all. Still working on anniversary trip for mid-November, 2011. I have been reading lots of posts and thank you for your responses.

A few questions:

For the large (14-16 ppl w/kids) family trip to the Mara, I am considering Olonana or Mara Intrepids. Which one will be best for game viewing and hosting a large group beginning November 18 for 2-3 days.

After that, we will go to Mombasa. After vows, my husband and I will go to Tanzania.

For the two of us to see the migration, we are considering, And Beyond Serengeti Under Canvas, Lemala Ndutu or Ewanjan, or Migration Tented Camp. We want somewhere really special but also want to see the migration if possible. The timing at the end of November seems tricky.

Lastly, we would love to go to the Crater after and maybe also Shompole for something different. I would like to do the Crater Lodge for this special occasion. Any feedback on Shompole or if this is doable? We can drive or fly.

Thanks. Trying to get this together!
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Old Jan 30th, 2011, 01:53 PM
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Olonana is lovely, but be aware that although children of all ages are welcome in the camp, children from 5 years of age to 9 years of age may only go on the game drives at the managements discretion. So depending on the ages of your children, this may be problematic, especially in view that children under 5 are not permitted on game drives for the reasons of safety. Instead, you should consider Mara Intrepids, which in addition to being a deluxe camp, offers special programs for children, "The Adventurers' Club". Also they have two luxury family tents which can come in handy for families with children.
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Old Jan 30th, 2011, 04:07 PM
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I too would suggest Mara Intrepid's for a large group with young children, those under 16/yrs for their Adventurers and/or Rangers Programs that gets excellent reviews.

Olonana is lovely and your group would probably take up half the camp (12/tents total), but it's also way more expensive than Intrepid's. And, then you have the issue as mentioned above with young children not being allowed on game drives. Have been here when a family with young child, they had to leave behind with an aya (nanny, which service can be provided, at small fee). Something to consider.

For Nov as I mentioned to your earlier post, in Tanzania, split the time between Central and Ndutu or Ndutu only.

Shompole is in Kenya on the border with Tanzania and is special and very romantic. Getting here would be by private charter flight out of Nairobi or from the Mara.

Crater Lodge is just that at the Crater in Tanzania, though quite expensive and if you're into crystal chandeliers, rose petal bubble baths and velvet draperies as a safari camp, go for it!

I've seen and stayed at many properties in both countries and from someone who likes "fluff" and being pampered, I find this property so out of place. Besides, recent reports have indicated that service and food quality aren't what they used to be, especially for what one pays.
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Old Jan 30th, 2011, 06:44 PM
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Thanks Sandi and Mkulove.

Really sounds like Mara Intrepids is the best place for this trip. My kids are seasoned travelers and have been on safari 4 times -- once in East Africa and 3 times in Southern Africa beginning at age 2 and 4! But, I cannot say the same for the kids in our extended family.

Sandi -- would it make sense to do Ndutu region of Serengeti, the Crater, and Shompole last on our way back to Nairobi? Thanks for Crater advice too. I will look into all of the properties.

You guys have been helpful. I am really beginning to see what this trip is going to look like.

Have a great Monday!
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Old Jan 31st, 2011, 03:58 AM
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We have been to both Olonana and Intrepids .

Olonana back in 03 when camp was almost new. We were a group of 8 ( 4 adults and 4 kids 7,9,11 and 12 ) . No problem with game drives but we had 2 private vehicles.
Camp was very nice and the tents where so big that we prefer to stay 2 adults and 2 kids in each tent.
I´m not sure but i think it took 20 minutes to the Mara gate every drive.

Intrepids is much bigger , not luxury but perfect location in the middle of the action.It is also a very busy area of the Reserve so , if you want to avoid the crowds make sure to tell your guide to do so.
I agree it is better for such a big group.

They have 2 family tents , i requested them for my last visit but they were not available.However we had one familyy tent at Samburu Intrepids ( same owners and type of camp ) and it was fantastic for a family , 2 big tents connected.

Paco.
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Old Jan 31st, 2011, 04:12 AM
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Thanks Paco. Did you like Samburu Intrepids as much as Mara Intrepids. It seems as if the Mara location has better reviews. What do you think? I do like the idea of the family tents.

Take care.
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Old Jan 31st, 2011, 05:25 AM
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The advise above sounds spot on, and for a family, Intrepids sounds perfect.

I have not stayed at Intrepids, but Olonana was our favorite of our whole 21 days on safari. Loved it. Very close to the gate, lovely tents, but for my mom and I, we enjoyed sitting right on the decks, both in our tent and in the lounge, over the river and watch wildlife from our door - elephants, hippos, baboons. And the resident warthog joined me at the pool one afternoon. He was a hoot. Plus, the camp felt more intimate than it's size. Really great staff.

Still, sounds like Intrepids has the whole family environment set up and ready.
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Old Jan 31st, 2011, 09:25 AM
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Local,

You make me want to stay at Olonana. But I know I will be back to East Africa and can save it for another trip since Intrepids sounds better for a large family. But your description sounds divine!

Thanks!
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Old Jan 31st, 2011, 09:55 AM
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We liked at Samburu Intrepids but the Mara is better for me.

When i travel with my children i like to go to bigger properties( they enjoy the pool , the buffet style meals , etc )but I like smaller , more intimate camps.
Last August we spent 3 fantastic days at Kicheche Busch Camp . Only six tents , bucket shower , private conservancy , the almost perfect camp for my taste, but not for a big group with children.

If you end up with Intrepids , request the family tents well in advance , we were told they fill up fast.

Mid November for the migration , maybe you could consider split your time between Loliondo and Serengeti ???
Hit the migration is never guarantied but November may be more difficult than other months.

Good luck.

Paco
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Old Jan 31st, 2011, 09:57 AM
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At Intrepid's, the family tents are two of the same tent (with either queen or twin beds each) connected by a screened breezeway that acts as a lounge area with sofa, chairs, etc.

The Intrepid's camps, Mara was refurbished in '08, while that at Samburu last year or late '09. Both are decorated in the same way and much improved from my earlier visits.

As to Paco's comment re Olonana and with children, of course, if you arrange for private vehicles, at a fee (avg. $300/per vehicle/per day), young children can accompany you on game drives.

But while Intrepid's is larger than Olonana (25 vs 12/tents), for your family group... feel Intrepid's is a better fit. They even have a larger pool and lots of activities going on; pool at Olonana is cute and works for size of camp, but is small!

Ndutu, Crater and then Shompole... of course. But that would require after returning to Nairobi, the charter flight to/from the camp.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2011, 08:35 PM
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How old are the kids in your group?

We stayed at Mara Intrepids on the last night of our safari. I think it would work for your group, but it does feel somewhat resorty (it's gated and you eat in a buffet area) compared to the more intimate camps (where you could perhaps take over the place.) Took a look at the family tents and they were quite impressive.

The pool was freezing cold and not very clean when we were there (July). Maybe that was considered off-season for swimming, but I wouldn't definitely count on it being swimmable. Also, the vehicles are excellent, but you just get one guide, rather than a guide and a spotter.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2011, 10:07 AM
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crosscheck -

"but you just get one guide, rather than a guide and a spotter"

Not all camps in Kenya have spotters. In fact, few do... even if staying at the luxe properties. At Olonana we only had a guide/driver. So this extra person is never guaranteed, and often not even needed.

I would believe the pool to be cold, as few are heated. But kids, especially young ones... couldn't care less if they want in. If the air outside is warm, they happy! Still best to test to see just how cold.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2011, 05:41 PM
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Hmmm....Interesting about the guide/spotter situation. I guess we were spoiled in the Porini camps.

Not sure I quite agree about the pool temperature. Kids these days are used to overly heated pools for swimming lessons and are often quite picky about water temperature, especially if the air is chilly. But either way, the Intrepids pool was not just cold, it was FREEZING - I would say around 60-65 degrees. It was also clearly unsanitary - full of mildew and insects. Nobody ventured in the whole time we were there, even though the air temp was in the 70s. As I said, it could have been because there is limited maintenance during the colder months, but that is not great for the pool.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2011, 05:42 PM
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PS - Not vetoing Intrepids - It has a lot going for it, but I would NOT go for a pool scene.
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Old Feb 4th, 2011, 05:02 PM
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Thanks all. Hmmmm. My kids will not swim in a cold pool as they are indeed used to heated pools. However, they are avid safari kids and really take advantage of all things Africa and don't really swim if they can do other activities anyway. My kids will be 3, 7, and 9 and it will be the 4th safari for the older two kids. The other kids in the group will be be between 7 - 13.

I must admit I do not love the buffet resorty description of Intrepids as I have stayed at some lovely intimate camps in Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa but I guess this is what I must give up for the joy of sharing this experience with my extended family. I do want them to really get the most out of this trip as most of them have never been to Africa and probably will not be coming back. As you all know, meal time can sometimes be almost as magical as seeing an animal sighting...

In terms of spotters and drivers, I had both at every camp I stayed at in South Africa and all And Beyond Camps in Kenya but not at other ones in Kenya or Tanzania. It is nice to have both for sure as it just gives you an extra level of expertise and an extra friend to get to know. However, when I did not have a spotter, when the guide was good and the game was good, the experience was still excellent.

Honestly, I have been so blessed to enjoy safari and am looking for the perfect place for my extended family now. So grateful for the comments. Should be getting back info any day now....
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Old Feb 5th, 2011, 07:15 PM
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I think Intrepids will be fine for those ages. I took a peak at the kids' camp and it was adorable. Plus, the family tent is fab. And it's not resorty per se, just in comparison to the unfenced camps. My kids appreciated the varied menu. I also agree that you don't need a pool when you're on safari. I just noticed that you're going in November, so the pool might be warmer then.
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