Park East ??

Old Dec 15th, 2004, 12:36 PM
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Park East ??

My husband and I are experienced international travelers, but we have never been on an African Safari. After a recent trip to the Galapagos Islands, we now know that we must try a safari.

Like most first timers we have decided on East Africa, and are looking at doing a couple of weeks either late August or early September.

Park East has a great itinerary, in my opinion. My local travel agent (who does all of my company's business, so clearly wants to please) is strongly recommending either A.K. or Micota. Not only do I not like their itineraries as well, they are quite a bit more expensive.

The Park East has the following accommodations:

1 night Mountain Village Lodge
1 night Manyara Serena Lodge
3 nights mobile tented camp in the Serengeti
2 nights Ngorongoro Serena Lodge
2 nights Tortilis Tented Camp (Amboseli)
2 nights Samburu Intrepeds Tented Camp
1 night Mount Kenya Safari Club
2 nights Mara Intrepeds Tented Camp

What do you pros think?? I don't see what is wrong with this plan. Have any of you used Park East before? Are they reputable?

Birdmom is offline  
Old Dec 15th, 2004, 01:20 PM
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Just about any safari is good for me, but I'll throw my hat into the ring and say that this is a busy one with too little time in the Masai Mara - the main event in Aug/Sep.

Do you know where your camp is in the Serengeti?

Are you driving to all these places or flying?

You may want to do less Amboseli and I think the Mount Kenya Safari Club is way overrated.
climbhighsleeplow is offline  
Old Dec 15th, 2004, 01:38 PM
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Of course the TA wants to use A&K because they are expensive and pay the highest commissions. Park East and Micato are both reputable companies, but you will find that many here prefer to deal directly with in-country providers.

Traveling August/September is the time of the Migration which takes place in the Masai Mara in Kenya and yet this Park East itinerary is giving you only 2-days which won't really be 2-days with travel and transfer. Nor from this itinerary do you indicate how you're getting from place-to-place, country-to-country. This is a set itinerary from Park East, with a taste of everything, which is fine, but has stops that aren't really necessary, like the Mt.Kenya Safari Club - good for lunch, but not necessary for an overnight. With this set itinerary, Park East doesn't take into account the time of year you wish to travel. And if you ask Park East to do a custom itinerary, they'll charge extra.

Since you're arriving in Tanzania, the overnight in Arusha on arrival is fine. I'd skip Manyara, instead go to Tarangire which has a mini-migration during this time and is an overall nicer park. From there head to Ngorongoro, then onto the Serengeti, where you only need 2-nights. Then fly back to Arusha, transfer by road to Amboseli, then fly via Nairobi to Samburu, then end by flying from Samburu to the Mara to enjoy the amazing Migration.

Day 1 - Arv. o/n Arusha - Mountain Village.
Day 2 - Drive to Tarangire - o/n Kikoti or Tree Lodge
Day 3 - Tarangire
Day 4 - Drive to Ngorongoro - o/n Serena Lodge
Day 6 - Ngorongoro - full day crater tour
Day 7 - Drive to Central (Seronera) Serengeti - here you can do mobile tent camping or do a lodge; the Serena is lovely, for 2 nts.
Day 8 - Serengeti
Day 9 - Fly to Arusha, road transfer to Amboseli - o/n Tortilis
Day 10 - Tortilis
Day 11 - Fly via NBO to Samburu - o/n Intrepids
Day 12 - Samburu
Day 13 - Fly to Masai Mara - o/n Intrepids, or Mara Explorer, or Saruni*
Day 14 - Masai Mara
Day 15 - Masai Mara
Day 16 - Fly to NBO, connect to homebound flight.

*Intrepids and Explorer are sister camps, Explorer the more expensive; Saruni is a small beauty of a tented camp.

For in-country outfitters, you can contact
Roy Safaris (in Tanzania) at [email protected]
or Wild Trek (in Kenya) at [email protected]

Either company can design what you want at very competitive pricing, but realize this time period is very busy and in demand and many places are already booked.

Old Dec 15th, 2004, 03:19 PM
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When I started researching my upcoming Kenya trip, one of the best recommendations I received on this board was to arrange our safari through an in country tour operator. By doing this, we were able to customize our itinerary, choose the camps/lodges where we wanted to stay, have our own private vehicle and guide, all for less cost than many of the set group itineraries that are offered by US based tour operators.

Now I do understand that there's a certain degree of comfort in dealing with a well known US based company, but I feel that I'm getting a far better return by booking with a Nairobi based operator. There are many that have been recommended on this board in both Kenya and Tanzania so it shouldn't be a problem finding reputable ones.

I arranged 2 other trips this year (one to the Galapagos, the other to Tibet) the same way with great success.
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Old Dec 15th, 2004, 03:56 PM
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Could not agree more with Sandi and Patty!

Your Park East tour is a group tour probably run by local outfitters anyway, you can just as well contact them direct! And you can most certainly get a private guide/driver for the same costs or less!

As for the itinerary, Sandi's splendid plan will work great.

Since the Mara and Serengeti offers the same kind of experience, you may want to include Lake Nakuru instead of the Serengeti. Camping is great but it must be done right and it's all about location, location!

Seronera is a long drive on a very dusty road from Ngorongoro and with the Mara on the list, I think Nakuru offers more, including rhino, flamingos, and lots of leopard. I would drive from Nairobi to Nakuru and on to Samburu and fly from there to the Mara.

2 nights at Amboseli is a bit much but not a problem really.

Finishing your trip in the Mara is excellent - it will take your breath away in Sept!
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Old Dec 15th, 2004, 11:24 PM
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You know, I am trying to get Africa out of my system, and it is no help when you post itineraries such as the one that you did!

Seriously, I am hoping that spending 15 nights on safari next time around will do me some good, but then I am reminded that I have not yet even stepped foot in Tanzania and Kenya.

And here I was, already already exploring a return visit to Chile and/or a first time visit to Argentina in 2006. I don't know what I was thinking! Fortunately I will not be booking anything major before my return from Zambian and South Africa next September.

Although it would be perfect to go to Chile/Argentina in late February/early March, 2006, and then take advantage of a late November Emerald Season Zambian special, I don't know how much longer I will be able to resist an itinerary such as the one you posted.

Then it doesn't help matters any further when I read from in another recent post from another Fodorite about preferring Southern Tanzania to Botswana. I will be long in the tooth by the time I see half of what Africa has to offer!

Sandi, so when are you making your way back to Africa and to where are you visiting next???
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Old Dec 16th, 2004, 06:04 AM
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Roccco - you're a hoot! Ain't nothing wrong with breaking up adventures in Africa with destinations in other parts of the world. I do likewise - Africa, Australia, Africa, France, Africa, Turkey, Africa, Thailand, etc. etc. and occasionally tag on a stop in Africa (if flights are fares work) on trips elsewhere. So we all choose the way that works best for us.

Last year you were working on some interesting Tanzanian itineraries - including the northern and southern circuita and coastal islands. You can still do this. Or as the itinerary above combine Kenya and Tanzania. Or only Kenya as there are lots of "off the beaten track" places most return visitors select after doing the traditional safari stops. Lots and lots of choices in East Africa, as there are in Southern Africa. Hey, doesn't Jan return to Kenya twice a year, she enjoys it so much... and, of course, to visit her babies!

So do Southern Africa this year, then visit South America, then come back to Africa - you've allowed a year away! LOL!

As for me - if I can get my act together, and after a trip to New Zealand in the spring, I hope to make a trip in early June to both Kenya and Tanzania. Not sure where, as I have friends to see and some business to take care of, but as plans come together, I'll let you know.
Old Dec 16th, 2004, 06:23 AM
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Birdmom - you already see from the responses that there are many options for stops when arranging a safari in East Africa. And while there are many set itineraries, based on what most visitors wish - those of us who post here can offer alternatives. Another reason to design your own and work with an in-country outfitter. And I'm certain you can get better prices then what Park East is offering.

As climbhighsleeplow mentions, the Lakes Area is most interesting and different then the wide open spaces found in the Serengeti, especially for the time of year you're planning to travel. And as an alternative to Amboseli (known for the elephants), you can consider a camp like Elephant Watch up north near Samburu where they have a most interesting elephant conservation program. May be a bit more expensive then Tortilis Camp, but an option which will allow for more time in the Mara for the Migration.

And as you read the many threads regarding safari travel, you will find there is so much to see and places to visit, most of us travel back year after year - a few of us twice a year - to see more, visit different areas, seasons; and we haven't even touched on the coastal areas.

Plan your first trip and know that if there is something you miss or time doesn't allow, you will be planning another trip soon after.
Old Dec 16th, 2004, 07:01 AM
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Birdmom, I went on my first safari to Kenya and Tanzania in August 1999, and prior to departure I ordered several catalogues, including A&Ks. I thought the prices for the trips advertised by US operators were off the charts, so, with the recommendation from the Kenya Consulate in NY, I contacted a few Nairobi-based operators.

I sent them a custom itinerary (substantially modeled on one advertised by A&K), and they offered a quote of less than 50% of A&Ks.

When I went on that safari, we stayed at the very same lodges as A&K, but while they shared a vehicle with several strangers, we had a private vehicle for two.

The only difference is that we didn't get to wear the silly A&K hat while in the lodge, but for the thousands we saved, we could have bought a hundred silly hats.

I have since gone on four other safaris and have always booked with a local operator.

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