Planning first trip to KenyaThanksgiving 2006


Apr 1st, 2006, 12:31 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2006
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Planning first trip to KenyaThanksgiving 2006

Im pretty new to using a forum so bare with me. I found this site last weekend and have found it to be a wealth of information and a little addicting. I have read almost every report in the east Africa index and some of them numerous times. Plus all the pictures are wonderful, it is really nice to see what these places really look like compared to what you think they may look like after seeing their website or reading about them in a book.

I have to thank Patty again for all her help so far as I took a baby step with posting and posted on her thread a few times. But I realize its time to start my own.

My husband and are planning 3 weeks in Kenya, leaving on Thanksgiving Day. What got the travel ball rolling for us is his sister was transferred to Nairobi last August. Its taken her a bit to get used to the change (had been living in Rio for past 12 years) and the internet access is not as good so we havent been able to communicate as much as I would like to plan this trip. Plus she has a job to do, a husband and a 10-year-old son.

We are planning to leave from San Diego Thanksgiving Day, which will get us to Nairobi Friday night. I know well need the weekend to get over the jet lag and spend time with the family. Then we will do some traveling on our own and some together. The first week my husband and I will head to the Mara for 2 -3 nights. have been debating flying or driving. They have a 4 wheel drive vehicle that we may be able to use. From here out Im still in the very basic planning stages as Im waiting to hear back from my sister in law as to what time off she can get and what traveling they can do with us. We have til Dec 14.

Other places on my list our
And being the beach bum that I am I would love to see the Indian Ocean, so possibly Lamu or Watamu for the last few days. Although a few people my husband included have said we can go snorkeling in Hawaii were going to Africa to see the animals.

Again thank you Patty for your help and report. You and your husband like the smaller places and so do we. Ive really enjoyed your report and all your posts. So we are looking for small-tented camps and lodges. Figure we will probably fly at least one leg of the trip as even though 3 weeks is a good amount of time, there is never enough time to see it all.

Thinking I can plan this all over the internet but some days get overwhelmed and want to run to a travel agent. Or at least use a Kenya agent for some of it. Not sure if its a cost saving to do it your self or use an agent as they may get discounted rates?

Not as fortunate as many of you, we do not have miles so we will have to purchase tickets and they will be in the back of the plane. Wanted to do BA, LAX LHR NBO, but BA does not seem to have the LA to LHR flight on thanksgiving so looking at other routes possibly SAN JFK LHR NBO. Using AA and BA. Has anyone used Swissair lately, they had a good sounding flight I saw on Orbitz but I know they had financial difficulties a few years back and I really want to book with an airline that will be there in November.

Feel trip insurance is probably necessary as this trip will be pretty expensive (for us). Any recommendations would be appreciated.

Ive also been reading a lot about the safari vehicle in the last few days and getting a little confused. Could someone recommend what they feel is the best vehicle and do you arrange that with the lodge or if we use our in-laws vehicle does that become our safari vehicle and we just need to hire a guide. Do not think we want to be in a minivan but maybe that is a misconception on my part

I think this enough for now and I hope I did not ramble on too much.

joeyi is offline  
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Apr 1st, 2006, 12:45 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
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hi, thats great your going to kenya for a bit. do you need a good driver? my masai guy would be glad to game drive you guys and even from place to place.
you mention amboseli-from nairobi do that park first. then you will have to go back to nairobi for a nt.or you may be able to take a plane that same day/eve to samburu.not sure though-then from samburu work your way towards the mara. back to nairobi.
when there, take a plane towards the coast.i havent been to the coast-i'm sure others can be more help about that.
ditch the mini-bus please- you wont be sorry.
cheers, d
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Apr 1st, 2006, 02:21 PM
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I don't know how adventurous you and your husband are or where else you've traveled/lived, but if you're going to the Mara first and it sounds like this part will just be the 2 of you, you may want to consider easing into your first experience by flying and do a self drive later in the trip. Or start with some place like the Aberdares which would only be 2-3 hours drive from Nairobi on fairly good (for Kenya) roads.

If you fly, you'll be using the camp's vehicle for game drives. If you have a preference, you should check with the camp to see what type(s) of vehicles they have as this varies. Some are closed with a pop top or fold back roof hatch, others are open sided with roof hatch and some are completely open. I haven't been in enough of a variety of vehicles to really have a preference, but one thing I do like to have is some sort of cover for shade. It may not make that much of a difference on shorter game drives, but I'd find it exhausting to be without protection from sun on longer drives.

If you decide to self drive, I don't think there are any rules in the national parks or reserves (someone please correct me if I'm wrong) that prevent you from doing game drives on your own. You can still arrange game drives through the camp and may want the expertise of a guide anyway. You could consider doing some game drives using the camp's vehicle/guide and others on your own.

Lewa is a private conservancy and operates differently. I believe they restrict vehicles on game drives to those of the camps operating on the conservancy or from nearby group ranches. I don't know if it's possible to make arrangements otherwise.

Compare the cost of booking directly with the camp vs booking through a tour operator in Kenya. One operator that I've not used but seems to be a good option for independent travelers is Let's Go Travel in Nairobi - from the comments of other posters here, they seem like an operator that offers good rates if you want to make a camp booking but not as much in the area of planning and advice.

The LAX-LHR flights on BA are scheduled to operate on Thanksgiving. I think the problem is that the overnight LHR-NBO flight that you can make a same day connection with doesn't operate on Fridays (only Tu/Th/Sa), so that option isn't coming up. The day time LHR-NBO flight operates daily, but neither of the two LAX-LHR flights arrives in LHR early enough to connect. If you must travel on Thanksgiving day, then it'll have to be another routing.

SWISS has merged with Lufthansa and I believe is safe to book. They're not really the same airline they were a few years back. If you're unsure and can find the time for another message board you can lurk around and read the posts on the SWISS board at Flyertalk

A good site to compare trip insurance policy coverage is

Good luck with your plans!
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Apr 2nd, 2006, 05:38 AM
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Thanks for clarifying the BA info. Do want to leave on thanksgiving as its our first day off and want to be to Nairboi for the weekend. Either way going from San Diego wed have to fly to LAX and switch planes so if we fly to NY its the same amount of switching, I was hoping to cut out the east coast cause you never know about weather at that time of year. But weve had our share of problems going in and out of LAX too.

I think were pretty adventurous as far as going to different places and getting off the beaten path. We never stay in resorts when we travel; we usually find our own self-catered accommodations in Hawaii or B&Bs when we traveled around New Zealand and England and Scotland. But were not the type that would hike Kili. My husband grew up jeeping in the CA desert so he will not mind the bumpy roads, me on other hand will probably not like them.

Have you used any of those travel insurance companies. That site was a little overwhelming. I think weve had travel guard before from a travel agent (fortunately we didnt need it).

Im going to paste the email I received today from my sister n law in. Im feeling better about the planning after receiving this from her. I think it sounds like a good plan with probably cutting out the Lamu portion and switching to Lewa Downs. (Reguindins is there last name and Henry our brother n law)

hi there,

don't worry, you will not be driving a car alone here! whatever is planned you will be driven either by Henry or a prof. driver from our office!

so you'll be here from Nov. 24-Dec 14, right? The Mara, Abedare, amboseli and samburu can all be done easily by car either all in one big trip or as several side-trips from Nairobi. We're planning to go to Lakes Nakuru and Naivasha over the easter break, April 14-17 and will tell you about that later. Naivasha is only about 2 hrs from here and there is A LOT to see there that is very pretty and interesting, so if you don't make it all the way to Nakuru, you'll at least get to Naivasha and see much of the same you would see at Nakuru. Yes, it might be a good idea to fly to Lamu/Watamu since that is quite a bit further from Nairobi than the other spots are. Yes we can do weekend trips with you as much as you prefer. Here's a tentative, possible itinerary to think about, subject to change as you wish:

Nov. 24-26 -- In Nairobi to rest up, visit Nairobi Game Park, Carnivore Restaurante and Reguindin hangouts.
Nov. 27-29/30 -- Drive (?) to/from Maasai Mara (Nov. is one of the best months to visit the Mara so that's good!) It's about a 4 hr drive each way. If you think this is too much driving, you can easily fly to/from NBO. If you fly, you might pare it down by a day and go from the 27-29 with a rest day in NBO before going to...
Dec. 1-3 -- Drive to Amboseli with the Reguindins. We'll take Reggie out of school for Fri. Dec. 1.
Dec. 4-8 -- You two fly alone to/from Lamu/Watamu.
Dec. 9-13 -- Drive to Abedare/Naivasha and or Nakuru/Samburu land. Logistics to be determined. We may do all or just part of this trip with you.
Dec. 14 -- Depart NBO

Comments to mull over:

As for the safari drives, most are using the mini-vans, not Land Rovers, however there are some hotels that do use the land Rovers so you'd have to check with the hotel. Some land rovers are all open affording great views, others are not. Mini-vans have the advantage of pop-up tops that you can peer out of.

Most people at the Embassy really like the Intrepids hotel chain so you may want to look more closely at what they have to offer.

Before you do any bookings, let me check with the Embassy travel agent first. I'm thinking that maybe if we pay for your arrangements up front, we may be able to get the resident discount for you which in some cases is a big difference, in other cases not so big. If the difference is not so big then you could probably book yourself over the internet.

Roads here are ROUGH and bumpy. You should definitely fly to Lamu since it would be about an 8 hr drive each way. It's easy to arrange flights to the Mara too and if we're going to do road trips to Amboseli, Abedare, the Lakes and Samburu then it might be better to fly to the Mara rather than drive. And once you're at the Mara, you'll be driving rough and bumpy roads for the safaris. It is tiring being bumped around so much, so I'm thinking that yes, indeed, you should fly to the Mara. OK?? If yo fly to the Mara then you could cut a day off that trip and depart NBO early AM on the 27 and return late PM on the 29. 2 full days at the Mara is enough, in my humble opinion.

So, do cogitate a bit over these suggestions and let me know what you think. Once you decide on an itinerary, we can work together on which hotels/air reservations you reserve and which ones I reserve for you/us. Let me know.

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Apr 2nd, 2006, 11:02 AM
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Sounds like you've got a pretty good plan lined up.

Just a couple of comments from me. I think 4 hours is a bit optimistic for the drive to the Mara unless you're staying at a camp on the far northeastern side close to Nairobi (neither Ilkeliani nor Olonana is located in this area).

I don't agree that you'll see much of the same at Naivasha versus Nakuru. They're different environments. Naivasha is a fresh water lake with hippos resident whereas Nakuru is a soda lake with an incredible amount of flamingo. Nakuru also has a population of rhino and is supposedly a good place to see leopard (though we didn't see one here). At Naivasha there's also Crescent Island which you can take a boat ride to and walk among game (mostly antelope species, zebra, giraffe). So I'd pick whatever sounds more interesting to you or do both. It was only an hour drive between the two when we were there, but I've heard there's some road construction going on currently, and I'm not sure when it's scheduled to be finished. Naivasha is a popular weekend retreat for Nairobi residents. Nakuru is a small, fenced park in a populated area so does have a bit of an urban safari park feel to it.

Minivans are used primarily by tour operators on driving safaris and not by lodges/camps. I can't recall coming across any camp vehicles that were minivans. Normally it's a Land Rover or Land Cruiser but can be closed, semi-open or open depending on the camp.

I agree that shopping for insurance can be overwhelming. I tend not to purchase insurance and have only done so twice. I've used Travelex before after comparing the policies on insuremytrip but I didn't have to file any claims so don't have any first hand experience as to how well they handle them.

Send me an email to pchang1972 at yahoo dot com and I have some more info that I can forward to you.
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