Planning Safari to Tanania, Help!

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Mar 16th, 2006, 02:15 PM
  #21
 
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Are those the dates you arrive and depart? That gives you 15 nights on the ground to work with (and if flying KLM, your first night will have to be in Kili/Arusha), am I correct?
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Mar 16th, 2006, 04:20 PM
  #22
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We are flying from NYC so if we leave on 8/21, we won't arrive til 8/22 in the evening. After everyone's comments, I am now holding air into Nairobi and out of Kili -- I am still going to try and change it one last time to the reverse (into Kili and out of Nairobi) so we don't have to make the stop in Dar on the return. I am just hoping we can get our top choice accomodations -- whatever those may be . . . I will keep you posted. Thanks!
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Mar 17th, 2006, 03:51 AM
  #23
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Hi guys -- another question . . . if I added on gorilla trekking in Rwanda or Uganda at the end of my trip, what would be the best air in and out? I am still holding the two sets of air Nairo/Kili and Kili/Kili with the return stopping at Dar which will add several hours to the trip. Would I try for Kili/Kigali and do northern circuit in Tanzania, southern Kenya and then exit from whichever country I do trek the gorillas? I am so exhausted and it is only the beginning stages of planning here! I can't wait to have a final itinerary. Will I have enough days for all with a trip of 8/21-9/5 or should I forget about the gorillas? Or forget about the migration . . . Oy! I have to finalize the air this weekend, although I secured another day. Thanks again!
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Mar 17th, 2006, 05:19 AM
  #24
 
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Don't count on surviving Olduvai...I was treated with kid gloves when it became apparent to MKSC (the ground handler) that I was an agent, and I am not so sure that the average client would be treated the same way.

I had to request clean bedding at Olduvai after I found my bedding to be unacceptable.

Also, the chemical drop toilet was a bit difficult to accept.

Finally, I had to DEMAND that I be provided with my "sunset walk" with a Masai guide. The first time I asked very nicely, I was told that because it was cloudy and may rain (as it had earlier) that there would be no walk. I reminded them that one of the main reasons I had stayed was for this activity and that I had therefore paid for such activity. It was only then that they agreed to provide the walk...about a 15 minute walk up to a kopje that overlooked the Serengeti, while also overlooking the Olduvai Gorge.

It was major shock to go from the comforts of Crater Lodge to the destituteness of Olduvai. Even our 15 hours there seemed like an eternity, and we did choose to sleep on clean clothes, at least from the neck up, rather than sleep directly on their pillows, although they were supposedly now a fresh set of pillowcases.

ATR has the company line down very well that Olduvai is an excellent camp. Everyone from my agent to the ATR rep that we were met by in Arusha will convincingly tell you that Olduvai is a great place. Also, it was like pulling teeth, to get ATR to agree to booking me into a different Tarangire camp than Mawe Ninga, which, surprise surprise, is also owned by MKSC.

MKSC is the preferred ground operator by ATR and owns at least three camps...Olduvai, Mawe Ninga and Ronjo Flycamp.

We met a HONEYMOONING COUPLE at Nomad who was very unhappy with ATR for sending them to Olduvai and planned to have some words with ATR about it upon their return home to the UK.

Sueblue, whoever you book with, I would advise that you be very careful about the camps and vehicles used. A Land Cruiser, in my experience, is far more comfortable than a Land Rover 110. The Land Rover 110 that we were provided with by ATR/MKSC, for example, had bolted down armrests in the middle seats, basically making this row of seats useless to us (although had my wife been 100 pounds and I been 150 pounds, I do see where it may have been comfortable).

Also, the vehicles from MKSC seem to be largely aging (I saw many of them at Olduvai) and my own vehicle had two broken rear windows and a front passenger door that jiggled incessantly. When I complained to the ATR rep in Arusha about the vehicle, before departing to Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater and Olduvai, she told me to basically give the vehicle a chance and if it didn't work out for us, that the vehicle could be switched later.

Well, the very next day from Tarangire, I again requested that it be switched, as it was evident that my wife would need to sit in the front passenger seat next to the driver and I would need to sit in the third row of seats for the entire duration.

At that point, I was advised that they would switch the vehicle and upgrade me to a Land Cruiser. Oh, but there would be an additional fee of $150 PER DAY to make such a switch and that they could make the switch the following day (with 6 days remaining on the MKSC part of my trip). So, it would cost me $750 in total to "upgrade" from a vehicle with an incessantly rattling door and two busted side windows (greatly comproming both my comfort and my ability to take photographs) to a different vehicle. I declined and now must decide what kind of credit I feel I am due for the unacceptable vehicle.

Whoever you use, I would make sure that you have an itinerary that is exactly what you would like and know that many operators or at least ground handlers have an ownership interest in some of the camps that they recommend.

(Forgive me if I copy and paste this onto my trip report, but being so passionate about my experience with ATR/MKSC, I wanted to go into greater rather than general detail about my own experience).
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Mar 17th, 2006, 06:21 AM
  #25
 
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sueblue,
Which airline's miles do you have? KLM doesn't serve Kigali but does serve Entebbe (3x weekly on Tu/Fr/Sa), so you could try to arrange to fly out of Entebbe. However the drive from Entebbe to Bwindi where the trekking is done is very, very long and a charter flight would be costly. I'm also not sure about permit availability in Uganda. I believe you have a better chance of getting a permit in Rwanda than you would in Uganda.

If you fly out of Nairobi, you can still include Rwanda as there are daily flights between Nairobi and Kigali. From Kigali, it's only a 2-3 hour drive to Parc National des Volcans. I haven't done this (another on my "to do" list ) but from my research, I think I'd personally prefer to trek in Rwanda vs Uganda. You'll need a minimum of 2 nights on he ground in Rwanda if you want to do one trek.

If you really want to fit this in, I'd recommend that you skip the Serengeti altogether since you're already going to the Mara. So maybe 4-5 days for Tarangire/Manyara/Ngorongoro, 4 days in the Mara and then either your trekking last or in between. You'll have a very full trip if you decide to do it!
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Mar 18th, 2006, 09:06 AM
  #26
 
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We had an extended Land Rover last trip, with what I guess was a budget operator, and no cracked windows, rattling doors, bolted-down seat rests, etc. That may in part be luck (or bad luck) of the draw, though this time we're using MKSC/Tanganyika, so we'll see...

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Mar 18th, 2006, 09:28 AM
  #27
 
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Leely,

Take a look at your itinerary. My itinerary clearly stated a Land Rover 110, so I cannot really complain about the size of the vehicle, but I can complain about the armrests being bolted in place, the two broken windows and the rattling door.

Also, it is worth mentioning that Nomad's vehicle featured beanbags (for photography), a fully stocked cooler with soft drinks, beer and water and the vehicle was in tip top shape and cleaned twice daily. Also, the Nomad vehicle (a Land Cruiser) never leaked in the rain, as did the MKSC vehicle.
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Mar 18th, 2006, 09:47 AM
  #28
 
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Rocco,

Yes, it says Land Rover 110.

That's what I think is strange. I'm pretty sure our last operator would be considered "budget," and it was a Land Rover, but it was nice--not fabulous, definitely not right off the showroom floor, but we had zero problems with it. Of course because some of our trip was camping, we had a fully stocked cooler. Also, on the camping part there was no "veil" between what our guide and cook did each evening after returning from game drives and where we were hanging out. So we witnessed our driver/guide immediately cleaning and checking the whole dang Rover, inside and out: the tires, windows, engine etc. He was extremely conscientious and we had absolutely no problems. So while a crappy car is a crappy car, it was plain as day that he was taking excellent care of it.

Gosh I miss that guy.
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Mar 18th, 2006, 11:09 AM
  #29
 
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Rocco

Our English agent promised us a nearly new landcruiser for our private safari. What we got from rangers was a 4 year old landcruiser. Busted rear windows. Intermitent starter problems. Sometimes it had to be jump started and we had to video with the engine running. The interior was generaly shoddy and never properly cleaned out. I had to do this myself. By the end of the safari the pop up roof was hanging off!
Our expert guide couldn't spot much. He never cleared the bottles in the back. We had ice for the cooler box on the first day but none thereafter. He had malaria most of the time.
He had medication but couldn't take it
He didn't have medication as he had given it to someone else. He had stress and not malaria. the story kept changing.
Sorry to vent but it isn't much fun being driven around the crater rim by someone delirious with malaria. My point finally... is what you are promised at home and what you get in Africa may be somewhat different.
The animals didn't let us down though.
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Mar 18th, 2006, 11:49 AM
  #30
 
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Net Warrior,

Rangers Safaris, as is Predators, Leopard Tours and Bobby Tours, are about the biggest ground operators around on the northern circuit. Take it for whatever it is worth, but each of my guides (MKSC and Nomad) claimed that the bigger the ground handler, the lesser the quality of the guide, as they are basically looking for bodies to drive the vehicle and little more out of a guide.

I was mostly pleased with my guides, but I did find my Nomad guide to be a notch above my MKSC guide. My MKSC guide seemed to have just as much knowledge, but he did not seem as passionate about what he was doing. My Nomad guide, Chedial, however, was fantastic in every respect.
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Mar 18th, 2006, 12:20 PM
  #31
 
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I think also because they were so busy we got the bottom of the pile. Also private comes below organised tours. It's a shame the last time we went with rangers we had a very good guide. The driver we had now was the second driver on that tour! Luckily he had a radio and I turned out to be quite a good spotter. You can read all about it when I post my trip report.
Did you go on the night game drive at Manyara? We were there 27 Feb but were safari'd out did the day but not the night. Did you see the 4 liones's near the hypo pools?
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Mar 18th, 2006, 12:28 PM
  #32
 
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Rocco's guides' theory may hold water: although our last trip was a fairly budget affair, we went with a smallish company and our guide was great. He "provided" us with the Big 5, a few kills, cheetah on the hood, zero car breakdowns and many, many shared laughs.

net warrior, it's too bad you weren't able to get your same guide from your previous trip. Malaria and working! I can't even begin to imagine. A bad situation for everyone involved.
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Mar 18th, 2006, 12:36 PM
  #33
 
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Net Warrior,

I went on the night game drive on February 28th (with the Lake Manyara Tree Lodge vehicle and guide). Highlights were seeing two lionesses on a day old kill, a porcupine, an eagle owl and a bushbaby. However, with largely a red infrared spotlight, I wasn't able to get too many good photos, although the guide did agree to use his normal powered flashlight and this did allow me the best photo of a bushbaby I have yet captured.

I will be sharing the link to my photo album in the next couple hours. It will be about 100 photos, although there will be many more to come. Featured will be an adult male lion making a kill of a baby wildebeest and an adult male lion climbing about 30 feet up a tree.
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Mar 18th, 2006, 12:56 PM
  #34
 
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cheers rocco
I look forward to pics.
Leely
He shouldn't have been working. But he was keen to get from M'balageti to Manyara for treatment. Then we got another guide. It should have happened a few days previous. If something goes wrong there is no backup.
If I can locate some web space I will post up some video.
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Mar 22nd, 2006, 10:50 AM
  #35
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Hi, I'm back here again for more unbiased advice, which I hope this is . . . I have confirmed my flights into Nairobi and out of Kilimanjaro 8/22-9/6. As we are using miles, it frees up some more money in the budget. I asked my operator to check into gorilla trekking. We will arrive in Nairobi on the evening of 8/23 and she suggested flying us to Entebbe mid-day on 8/24, we would drive to the camp on 8/25 and do the trekking on 8/26 and possibly 8/27 and we would then drive back to Entebbe on 8/28 and depart for Nairobi on 8/29. This strikes me as a tremendous amount of time for only 2 days trekking. (At first she suggested only 1 day of trekking but I can't imagine spending approximately $2500 and all of the time to get there to be with them for only one hour.) Any thoughts here? I'm not sure how much advice I'm getting based on who this tour operator partners with and their availability or on the standard itineraries that most people use. (I know many of the tour operators had suggested routing that didn't really make sense for us because particular airlines were their preferred carrier, etc.)

This particular tour operator says Tanzania is very, very booked up and she doesn't imagine we will be able to get 3 nights in the Serengeti -- perhaps only 2.

I am wondering whether I should just book a tour and not have all of this work -- and also get a well thought out itinerary that makes sense and maximizes our time there. Any thoughts anyone? Thanks again.
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Mar 22nd, 2006, 11:08 AM
  #36
 
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Is Rwanda out of the question? I think I've read here that the drive from Kigali to the gorillas at PNV is shorter than driving from Kampala to Bwindi.

If my budget could accommodate both gorillas and traditional safari, I'd "make it work" somehow.
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Mar 22nd, 2006, 11:21 AM
  #37
 
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Have you looked into trekking in Rwanda? There are daily flights between Nairobi and Kigali and the drive from Kigali to Parc National des Volcans is only 2-3 hours compared to the drive from Entebbe to Bwindi which is more like 9(?) hours (not sure of the exact time but I know it's quite long). That way you could fly to Kigali on 8/24, drive straight to the park and trek on 8/25 and 8/26. You could then fly back to Nairobi on 8/27 after having spent the previous night either at the park or in Kigali depending on your flight schedule. That would save you 2 days time and you'd still get in 2 treks, assuming there are permits available. I believe there are more habituated groups (which translates into a higher number of permits available per day) in Parc National des Volcans in Rwanda than there are in Bwindi, so your chances of getting permits for Rwanda may actually be better.

It's very likely that Tanzania is very, very booked for late August/early September.

When you say book a tour, do you mean a scheduled group departure? If so, I don't think it's necessarily a better option. First of all, I don't think you'll have an easy time finding a tour which meets all of your requirements (gorillas/Masai Mara/Tanzania) AND fits into the dates you're locked into. I also don't think that all tours are "well thought out" in terms of an itinerary. Many tour companies offer the exact same itinerary year round which doesn't take into account variances for the time of year. I think you're better off designing your own itinerary with help from this board. Just my 2 cents.
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Mar 22nd, 2006, 11:33 AM
  #38
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The tour operator said she could only get permits for 8/25 and 8/28 -- so it looks like 8/28 would be the only day. Perhaps other operators are holding permits?
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Mar 22nd, 2006, 11:40 AM
  #39
 
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On 8/24, there's a Kenya Airways flight 474 leaving Nairobi at 11:20am and getting into Kigali at 11:40am. That should give you enough time to drive to PNV that afternoon.

Returning on 8/27, you could take Kenya Airways 473 leaving Kigali at 1:50pm and arriving in Nairobi at 4:10pm or if you're really keen to maximize your time, you could possibly take Kenya Airways 1107 (I think this is a codeshare with Rwandair Express) which leaves Kigali at 6:45am and gets into Nairobi at 9:05am (you'd need to drive back to Kigali after your trek on 8/26 and spend your 3rd night there).

If you can make that work, that would leave you with 10 nights to work with for the rest of your itinerary in Kenya and Tanzania. You fly out of Kilimanjaro on 9/6 right?
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Mar 22nd, 2006, 11:44 AM
  #40
 
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Those permits available on 8/25 & 8/28 are for where? Bwindi, PNV?
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