Opinions on first safari Kenya please

Nov 29th, 2006, 03:06 PM
  #1  
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Opinions on first safari Kenya please

Hi, I've been reading here for weeks and here's what I've come up with: NYC to Nairobi(1 stop) 1 nt. Nairobi, 2nts. Masai Mara in Keekorok Lodge, 1 nt. Lake Nakuru in Lake Nakuru Lodge, 2nts Samburu in Samburu Lodge, 1 nt.Abadares in Ark, 2nts. Amboseli in Ol Tuka Lodge, return to Nairobi. 7 game drives are included. We are planning for July, 2007. Please give me your opinions. One main reason we are considering this is cost- $3700 each including air from NY. What are your thoughts? Be gentle. Thanks very much.
billr137 is offline  
Nov 29th, 2006, 03:35 PM
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I would add a night in the Mara and the Samburu and drop Amboselli. I have been to the first two but not Amboselli. Doubt you will see anything better at Amboselli that you would not experience better in the Samburu and the Mara. By staying three nights each you will have a much better (enjoyable, richer) experience. IMHO.

I like the stops in Aber. and Nakuru.

Kevin from California
you might want to look at my trip report from August:
http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34868269
stakerk is offline  
Nov 29th, 2006, 03:59 PM
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What month are you traveling?

Could you possibly spare one more night for the Maasai Mara? I think 3 nights is the minimum for such an amazing place. Though it would cost more, if those Mara nights could be in a tented camp, I'd also suggest that. It would be a nice complement to your lodges. But perhaps you chose lodges and not any camps on deliberately. The lodge I've stayed at in the Mara was Serena. It was lovely and had a good central location. Someone on the board said you can now do night drives at the Serena. If that is true, it would add to its appeal. I don't know anything personally about Keekorok, other than I've heard it is nice.

The pro's and con's of The Ark have been debated here and I've included a summary of what I recall.

Pro's--The reputation of wildlife viewing here is as good or better than other lodges/camps in the area or those with the same lit-waterhole setup. It is a legendary place and a unique experience to be awakened in the night for gameviewing. Reasonable cost.

Con's--It is a big lodge and touristy. Before getting to The Ark, you stop at the Aberdare Country Club for lunch, and a stroll of the grounds (complete with wandering peacocks) delaying your Ark arrival. At other similar camps/lodges you are not required to delay at the country club and can settle right in and enjoy the more intimate atmosphere. It is harder at The Ark to get a regular game drive through Aberdare NP, since schedules are more regimented. A drive through Aberdare is worthwhile because the habitat is more jungle-like than the other areas you'll visit and you can see the beautiful colobus monkey.

My personal experience in Aberdare is limited to 1 night at The Ark. I did it on my first safari night in Kenya. I'd recommend any Ark stay to be done early in the safari (1st accommodation, or 2nd if transport requires it) because it is more touristy. Overall I thought The Ark was a hoot. I was able to see elephants and a variety of antelope up close from behind massive fort-like protective barriers. It still remains the best mother-baby rhino viewing I've had anywhere.

I'd definitely ask about spending some time in Aberdare NP, in addition to just being transported through it to The Ark.

Lake Nakuru Lodge--Spent one night & it was very good.

Samburu Lodge--I loved the little cottages and there was plenty of vervet monkey activity on the grounds. You can do a camel safari here that was fun and allowed a visit to the Samburu people. If you do the camel trip, try to get it between game drives, not instead of.

Ol Tukai--has a great rep on the board.

I would do the camps in the reverse order of what you listed, ending big with the Mara. Again 3 nights if possible.

The above comments assume you have control of the itinerary. If it is a tour, then you may not.

With air included, I think this is a good deal, provided the operator is sound and you always have your own window seat. Even on a tour you can sometimes extend a day at the end to make the Mara a 3-nighter.

Assuming this is a group tour, it cannot hurt to ask an Africa specialist what a private safari would cost for these same properties or with any changes you'd like. With that information, either you improve on this trip or have confirmation that you have booked yourself a bargain.

You are seeing the major game areas of Kenya that will provide a good variety and lots of excitement.

atravelynn is offline  
Nov 29th, 2006, 04:09 PM
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I like Amboseli because that was my first experience in the African bush. If the weather cooperates, you can see Mt. Kilimanjaro from there. However, Kevin makes a good point about extending your stays in Samburu and the Mara. That's where you'll have your best game viewing. You say that there are only 7 game drives included... usually you would have one to two each day. Of course, you're traveling between locations some days, so you wouldn't have them then. Still, it seems to be too few.
ShayTay is offline  
Nov 29th, 2006, 06:25 PM
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I'd also like to see where those 7 game drives come in because it seems you should have more than that, unless some are all-day drives.
atravelynn is offline  
Nov 30th, 2006, 04:31 AM
  #6  
sandi
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Absolutely, more time at the Mara and Samburu. This is apparently a driving safari of which most of your time will be taken up on the road just getting from place to place.

From Nairobi to the Mara, and Keekorok at the southern end, is easily 6+ hours. You should have a game drive the first afternoon and two drives the next day.

From Mara to Lake Nakuru is another long drive of 6+ hours, allowing for an afternoon drive.

Heading from Nakuru to Samburu is about 5/hrs, allowing for an afternoon game drive and two drives the next day.

By my count, we're at 6 game drives.

The Ark isn't a game drive, but viewing from the platform.

Finally, the drive from Nakuru to Amboseli is another 6+ hrs, so won't arrive till late at Ol Tukai, and have time for 2 drives the next day.

I now figure 8 game drives.

Unless there are some internal flights, you'll be spending most of your time on the road. While road travel can be interesting and give you a close to ground feel for the country, small towns, the children and daily life, you're not spending sufficient time at the major game parks/reserves.

If doing Samburu, you really don't need Amboseli. You might actually be able to get a better itinerary at a slower pace and improved connections, by doing a private safari. The Mara definitely deserves 3/full days. However, a private safari may be a bit more expensive and not likely to include your international air.

With which tour operator is offering the itinerary you show?
 
Nov 30th, 2006, 08:10 AM
  #7  
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Wow! I'm blown away by such great answers. Thank you so much. The tour is run by Friendly Planet for late July,2007, so it's not flexible. I've been to New Zealand with them and know they run a good tour. I've priced some tours without air -Mt. Safari, HITS, Sardius, Guerba and Shoor. Are you familiar with any of these? Any feedback on them or other private tours? The problem is the air from NY is close to $2000 alone. Our very top budget is $4000 each total, so that's a problem. (I finally had to replace my 57 year old boiler, so that cut into my fun.)
billr137 is offline  
Nov 30th, 2006, 08:29 AM
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I have heard of Guerba. I don't know the other companies you mentioned. You are right about what airfare costs, making the pricing for the package attractive.

Other Africa specialists that could price a private trip for you include

Africa Adventure
Africa Serendipity
(ATR) Africa Travel Resource
Gamewatchers
Good Earth
Sunny Safaris

These have been used successfully by Fodorites. It would be hard to beat your price, but cannot hurt to talk to the pros and get their advice and ideas.

I'd still see if Friendly Planet can let you stay longer in the Mara, on your own without the group. Looks like you'd need to arrive early.
atravelynn is offline  
Nov 30th, 2006, 09:18 AM
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Here is a Friendly Planet link for Africa trips
http://fodors.com/forums/threadselec...4&tid=34775700

I checked out the Friendly Planet website with your trip and got an answer to my question about having your own window seat--you do.

I counted 9 game drives in their itinerary. I did not count when it stated you can see animals on your way into Amboseli. Then it could actually be 10. I'd check the number of game drives with them.

atravelynn is offline  
Nov 30th, 2006, 10:23 AM
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Again, I suggest you drop Amboselli.

Also, may very well be able to make your own trip without group. I suggest you get quotes from African Serendipity, because she can get you both good airfare and land cost. Southern Cross or Eastern and Southern will get you very competitive land costs but you then would need to fiind a airfare consolidator or use kayak.com or other source for low airfare.

Good luck.
stakerk is offline  
Nov 30th, 2006, 05:20 PM
  #11  
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Again, thank you. Yes, there are 9 game drives. I've made so many notes, I can't read them. I didn't realize that everything was so far apart. I agree that, looking at your times between places, too much time would be spent driving and not enough time in each place. I'm going to email the outfitters you suggested. However, I'm stuck. Could you please suggest your perfect 10 night safari in Kenya in the most efficient order? Thanks again.
billr137 is offline  
Dec 1st, 2006, 09:10 AM
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Sandy is the expert but my attempt:

Nights:

1- Nairobi
2- Ark or some other place in Aberdares. Sounds to me like to Ark is not that nice and not worth the hassle. You will see plenty of game elsewhere.
3-5 Samburu
6 Lake Nakuru
7-9 Mara
10 Nairobi

My humble opinion

Kevin from California
stakerk is offline  
Dec 1st, 2006, 11:34 AM
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To help decipher what “perfect” means to you, here is a list of questions. If answering them becomes too tedious, then just go with Kevin’s itinerary and be done.

Is trying to see the migration of wildebeest and zebras (or at least large herds if you miss the bulk of the migration) important to you? This could determine WHEN you go and also the # of days in the Mara.

Are night drives, where seeing nocturnal animals is more likely, something you want to experience? Or only if it happens to work out? There places in Kenya that offer these, but night drives are not routine as they are in other parts of Africa, so you have to plan for them.

Is seeing the Big 5 (lion, leopard, ele, buffalo, rhino) a priority?
Are there any animals or birds that you really hope to see?

Would an opportunity to see a Jane Goodall Chimp sanctuary with chimps that are not wild, but have been rescued from bad conditions, be a priority? Or just so-so if it works out? Or, no thanks?

Is seeing Kilimanjaro on the horizon important to you? Or not really? Would seeing Mt. Kenya be just as good? Or are mountains of any kind not a priority? This one gets at Amboseli.

Back to The Ark—does The Ark experience with the Aberdare Country Club lunch, sharing an ark-like accommodation with many other enthusiastic safari-ers, and the opportunity to be awakened in the night for certain animals of your choosing (or just staying up all night to see watch the waterhole) sound like fun? Or would you rather avoid that type of production? If seeing heavier, forested terrain, experiencing a lit waterhole at night, and having a decent chance to view the Colobus monkey is important to you, then you’d want to keep either The Ark or another Aberdare/Mt. Kenya accommodation. On the other hand, if you are more interested in the savanna than forest and viewing animals at a lit waterhole at night is not up your alley, then there is less reason to do The Ark or similar properties…unless rhino sightings are real high on your list because this region, along with Lake Nakuru, are your best shots at rhino.

Sorry if I missed this, but what time of year do you want to go? If you're flexible in dates, would low season with a little rain, fewer people, and probably a little less animal concentration be appealing for lower rates? That would be approx Nov-Feb. Or how about the rainy season of approx March through May or early June, with more rain likely but better prices? You pay a premium for high season of sometime in June into Oct, when wildlife viewing is better. You could play the game of going exactly on the cusp and be out of Africa the day before it becomes high season to save money.

We know your budget, which is important. Would you prefer lodges to camps in order to maintain your budget, since lodges generally cost less than tented camps? Or would you stick in some tented camps if the costs remain in line?



atravelynn is offline  
Dec 1st, 2006, 12:21 PM
  #14  
sandi
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kevin, you did very good with your suggestion for bill.

... but I don't do int'l air.

If Bill is considering July, it's already high-season, but a "lodge" safari is doable. As mentioned above, if Bill chooses Samburu, I'd pass on Amboseli. And though you can do a drive itinerary from Nairobi north to the Aberdare/Mt. Kenya area, to Samburu, back south to Nakuru and the Mara, consider flying back from the Mara. Adds to the price, but provides time for some sightseeing and last minute shopping.

Bill might want to contact Africapoint in Nairobi, who got favorable reviews from "producerkoff" and "wayne" for their recent safaris.
 
Dec 1st, 2006, 12:48 PM
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Again, thanks for your well thought out replies. We plan to go in July ,Aug. Sept.for the migration. As to our interest-Night game drives- maybe, Big 5 -yes, Jane Godall-maybe, Mts.-Yes, Ark maybe, rhino- yes, Lodges-yes, tented camp if within the price. We're pretty flexible, but would like to see as much as possible without spending the whole time driving from place to place. I liked your idea about spending more time in fewer places. Sorry for so many "maybes", but maybe the yeses will help you. Thanks again.
billr137 is offline  
Dec 1st, 2006, 01:19 PM
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Hi Bill,

To give you some price ideas. I did a 6 night, 7 day private safari with Gamewatchers (using a landcruiser over a minibus...higher in price). The total cost was $1900 per person for two of us(including the flight back from the Mara to Nairobi and excluding international airfare). I was very happy with them. Our itinerary is below:

Aug 8. Pickup NBO and drive to Kigio Conservancy in Great Rift Valley. Night game drive. O/n Malewa River Lodge.
Aug 9. Drive to Nakuru. O/n Lion Hill Lodge
Aug 10. Drive to Mara. O/n Ilkeliani tented camp
Aug 11. Mara o/n Ilkeliani tented camp
Aug 12. Mara o/n Basecamp bush camp
Aug 13. Mara o/n Basecamp
Aug 14. Fly to Nairobi. Arrive 5:15pm.
Lucia78 is offline  
Dec 1st, 2006, 02:23 PM
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1- Arrive in the eve & o/nt Nairobi
2- Sweetwaters in Mt. Kenya (night drive, it’s tented, chimp sanctuary, mountain views)
3-5 Samburu
6 Lake Nakuru
7-9 Mara
10 Leave for home from the Mara at approx 1600, in time for your night flight out or take the approx 1100 flight out if you want to shop in Nairobi or do other sightseeing.

If you can go in Aug or Sept, I think that would be best.

Good luck and please report back.

atravelynn is offline  
Dec 1st, 2006, 03:08 PM
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O.K., I've sent emails to 7 outfitters using your wonderful suggestions. Thank you all so much. I'm off to Florida for a birthday reunion (not my choice of places), so please don't think I've abandoned you when you don't hear from me for a bit. Thanks again. I'm so impressed by all of your thoughtfulness.
billr137 is offline  
Dec 1st, 2006, 03:55 PM
  #19  
aby
 
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Hi billr137

July is a bit early for guarateeing the migration, better travel later;
September is definitely a good season !

Now during September your $2000 flight shrinks to <$1400 !!! Oops - we've got some extra freedom-degrees (moneywise) for safari planning...
with 1 stop in Paris CDG you can make it for: $ 1308 (EWR-CDG; CDG-NBO)
or $ 1323 via London (JFK-LHR; LHR-NBO)

dubito ergo sum

aby

aby is offline  
Dec 1st, 2006, 04:51 PM
  #20  
aby
 
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Hi again Bill

about Game Drives: a decent company allows 3 GD on a full day - which makes 13 GDs on original itinerary
(4 on every park with a 2-nights stay)
2 GDs on a full day is minimal which make 10 drives within this itinerary !
offering 7 GDs is a riot!! forget about this company... (atravelynn - i don't believe they have a whole day GD - they either skip the PM GD upon arrival or have 1 GD on the full day ...)

Ark or similar
Kevin - i have a totally different view of the Ark
atravelynn -
"At other similar camps/lodges you are not required to delay at the country club"
TreeTops is usually just like the Ark - lunch is regularly at Outspan - an equivalent colonial house, but you can sometimes arrange to change lunch to Treetops .{ Outspan has traditional Kikuyu dancing there. worthwhile especially if the head-dancer, who should be around 70 years old, isn still performing.}
Bill
Ark (or Treetops or Mt. Lodge)is a 'Night viewing lodge" therefore it is a different ball game :
Here the animals come to you (hopefully) and in contrary to the vehicle-search-procedure, if u have some luck, you can sit & watch for hours: behaviour, interactions etc'
plus u can see some animals (e.g. forest spp) u are not likely to see im the other parks...

Amboseli
you've got reasonable suggestions about dropping it. but it all depends what do you expect from your safari. after reading Hemingway's "Thr Snows of Kilimanjaro" one may want to see the Mountain, so Amboseli is The place.

One may want to travel by car not to waste animal-watching time, but to encounter the land/people/ agriculture/ markets of the place one encounters for the first time in one's life... & what about taking a boat on a freshwater lake ? {some fodorites consider me as a missionary on this issue}
Not everyone wants only to 'tick' "big 5's", flying from one camp to the other
when it is his/her first safari ever...
& do yourself a favour - forget about big-5, forget about wish-lists and let Africa surprise you!! & you shall enjoy more!!
{in case u miss rare leopard & rhino you shall be only 60% satisfied??)
BTW most likely the rhinos you'll see in Nakuru are an introduced species not indigenous to Kenya... it is an important conservation issue but the rhinos there r held like in an open (but fenced) zoo & it is not "accountable" for completing the important list of 5 ;-)

all the best

aby
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