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MonicaH Jul 1st, 2006 05:12 PM

Please critique itinerary for Tanz/Kenya and Rwanda

Thanks Patty, Imelda, thit_cho and Simbakubwa for your suggestions on a recent post of mine. I would appreciate any suggestions on the following itinerary (lodging in parentheses) for a February 2007 trip:

Day 1: Arrive Nairobi
Day 2: Nairobi to Tarangire (Swala)
Day 3: Tarangire (Swala)
Day 4: Ngorongoro Crater area (Ngorongoro Crater Lodge)
Day 5: Ngorongoro Crater area (Ngorongoro Crater Lodge)
Day 6: Serengeti (Kusini)
Day 7: Serengeti (Kusini)
Day 8: Maasai Mara (Bateleur Camp)
Day 9: Maasai Mara (Bateleur Camp)
Day 10: Rwanda to see Gorillas
Day 11: Rwanda to see Gorillas
Day 12: Rwanda back to Nairobi and back to California

Am I on the right track? It is our 20th anniversary, so we want to have nice accommodations. We are planning on a private safari. Thanks for your help!!!!

Roccco Jul 1st, 2006 05:50 PM


As a fellow Californian, I must say that you are likely going to go home very tired after jumping around so much on this itinerary. I would suggest you save the Masai Mara for another time (when the Migration will be going through) and add those nights to the Serengeti. Here are my two cents on your itinerary:

Swala x 2 nights
Crater Lodge x 2 nights
Tanzania Under Canvas x 4 nights (although this is a semi-mobile camp it is very luxurious)
Rwanda x 3 nights

Chances are that you will need an overnight between the Serengeti and Rwanda.

At least with this safari, you will spend four nights around the Migration in the Serengeti.

I just had a fabulous safari to Tarangire, Lake Manyara and the Serengeti last February/March (2006). However, had I not cancelled one of my destinations to extend my Serengeti camp to 4 nights, it would not have been nearly as enjoyable.

Although Sanctuary Lodges runs a top notch operation, I do think you may be better off with a company that follows the Migration in semi-mobile camps. I stayed with Nomad, and I loved it, but you may find the accomodations a bit basic compared to CCAfrica's Tanzania Under Canvas.

But, here is the website for both:

Pricing is about $100 - $150 per person per night more at Tanzania Under Canvas but it is a higher level of luxury. The guides at both Nomad and CCAfrica are fantastic.

Be sure that you know who your ground handler will be and come back and ask opinions of the ground handler. For example, I prefer to send my own clients with either Nomad or CCAfrica. This has been a hot conversation topic on the forum, such as in this recent thread:;tid=34828074

Finally, if you do decide to pass on Masai Mara to add more time to the Serengeti, there is no need to fly into Nairobi. You may then instead fly directly into Kiliminjaro (JRO), Tanzania.

Good luck and congratulations on your upcoming 20th anniversary!

ShayTay Jul 1st, 2006 05:55 PM


Nice itinerary! How will you travel from Nairobi to to Arusha and meet your driver there?

I would drop the Mara from your itinerary for February, as you'll be able to see the Migration in the Serengeti. Add those days to the Serengeti. If you wanted some variety, you could stay in the Seronera area, (central Serengeti) which has a good resident population of wildlife. Another reason would be that you will have to travel back to Arusha and go through Nairobi to get to the Mara, which is at least a day.

ShayTay Jul 1st, 2006 05:57 PM

We were answering at the same time, Rocco! You given MonicaH some great ideas.

MonicaH Jul 1st, 2006 06:30 PM

Thanks Rocco and Shaytay! I read both of your responses to my husband and he liked the idea of staying in one place a little longer. So, we may drop the Kenya portion of the trip. My only problem is that I already have frequent flyer tickets that fly into Nairobi (and I was hard pressed to get those).I will try and see if I can change them, but if I can't, I guess I will just have to take a connecting flight over into Tanz.

Do you think Swala is a good place to stay in Tarangire?

Rocco, I have been reading your many posts and I have to say your trip reports are truly the best!

MonicaH Jul 1st, 2006 06:44 PM

One more husband isn't as passionate about seeing the gorillas as I am. I have read that seeing the gorillas is a an experience of a lifetime. But getting to Rwanda seems to be difficult and time consuming. Maybe I should drop that portion of the trip and then use that time for a park in Tanzania or Kenya. Any thoughts?

Roccco Jul 1st, 2006 06:47 PM


Well, thank you very much for the compliment! :)

Now if only I knew how to write a good screenplay, I would be set. ;)

You could still fly into Nairobi, but then from there you would fly to Kiliminjaro. Whether you fly into Nairobi or Kiliminjaro, you may still need an overnight in Arusha to kick things off. If so, the Arusha Coffee Lodge would be nice for one night.

Plus, I overlooked the fact that you need to get to Rwanda, and chances are that you would need to go through Nairobi to do it.

You have read my trip report, but just in case you have not seen my Tanzania photos, here they are:

The best photos were from my four nights with Nomad at their Ndutu area Serengeti camp. I figure that both Nomad and CCAfrica's Tanzania Under Canvas would be in this area in February.

Roccco Jul 1st, 2006 06:51 PM


If you do drop Rwanda, I would strongly suggest a 2 night visit to Lake Manyara Tree Lodge. It is an amazing camp, set very deep within Lake Manyara National Park. It will make for a natural stop on the way to the Ngorongoro Crater. Try this itinerary on for size (it is the same as my own except switching Swala for Tarangire Tree Tops...I wanted Swala but it was not available for my nights).

Arusha Coffee Lodge x 1 night
Swala x 2 nights
Lake Manyara Tree Lodge x 2 nights
Crater Lodge x 2 nights
Tanzania Under Canvas (or Nomad Serengeti) x 4 nights (although this is a semi-mobile camp it is very luxurious)

Honestly, the Migration will likely be the highlight of any safari, so ending with the Serengeti may prove to be your very best option.

climbhighsleeplow Jul 1st, 2006 06:54 PM


You are on the right track with Rocco's comments!

You may also want to consider the following:

1. Do Rwanda first. Depending on your arrival time you can connect the same day to Kigali. In February, the migration may not be in full swing so the longer you can wait the better you chances of seeing the huge herds ready to give birth. This is why it may be better to do the Serengeti last. On certain days you can fly direct from Kigali to Kilimanjaro so timing is everything!

2. Swala is an excellent choice but nowadays there are 2 more intimate options to consider. Oliver's upgraded their camp and they offer the best walking safaris - very exciting depending on the rains! Nomad has a small camp there too and if you decide on Nomad for the Serengeti you may qualify for discounts! Olivers and Swala pics are here: and

3. Rwanda pics and maps are here:

4. In the Serengeti, three of the better mobile options are Olakira, CCA Under Canvas and Nomad. See pics here: and and

5. If you want to do the gorillas last, then be aware that you can fly from the Serengeti to Kigali! No need to back track via Nairobi. On certain days you can also fly Kilimanjaro-Kigali.

Happy anniversary!

climbhighsleeplow Jul 1st, 2006 06:56 PM

I forgot to add - don't give up on the gorillas. It is an incredible experience! It is very easy and comfortable to get to Rwanda and back.

MonicaH Jul 1st, 2006 07:11 PM

Rocco and Climbhighsleeplow-

Thanks for the feedback, you both rock!


lovetodiscover Jul 1st, 2006 08:15 PM

Monica - like the options proposed, not convinced on the Manyara N.P. stay as a trade off for gorillas. Money being no object and wanting to see primates, you might also consider Mahale Mountain National Park for a very isolated, exclusive visit to see and track chimpanzees. Beautiful setting and set on Lake Tanganyika. I'm planning a trip there early Jan 07 as part of a N. Circuit Safari. Nomad's camp is Greystoke at Mahale.
Few people go there, many have expressed interest. Would go for 3 nights to fit with your timeframe.

Here's a link:

Roccco Jul 2nd, 2006 03:43 AM


Mahale would be an excellent alternative for the camp that lovetodiscover suggested.

You would be able to fly right out of Ndutu (where Tanzania Under Canvas and Nomad will be in February for the Migration) and onward to Mahale. However, this would only be possible on a Monday or Thursday but it would work out perfectly as it is a mandatory three night stay.

Rack rate pricing would be:

AIR = $830 + $180 supplement for pickup from Ndutu + $120 supplment for dropoff at Kiliminjaro, so $1,130 per person on the air.

$450 per person per night rack rate pricing for Mahale x 3 nights = $1,350 per person on the accomodations.

$80 per person per day park permits x 3 days = $240 per person.

Altogether, a cost of $2,720 per person sharing in GREEN SEASON.

(Camp is closed from March 15 - May 15th annually for maintenance)

Activities at Mahale include chimp tracking, forest walks, birding, boat trips, kayaking, snorkelling and fishing.

I don't know how this cost compares to the Rwanda extension, but it is a hefty price. If you are not passionate about seeing gorillas (or chimpanzees), you may be better off with adding even more time to the Serengeti, perhaps doing both Kusini for a couple nights AND four nights with Tanzania Under Canvas or Nomad.

climbhighsleeplow Jul 2nd, 2006 07:54 AM

Hmmm, Mahale is a long way to go for only 3 days considering you can stay with the chimps for only an hour and you may not even get good sightings!

If gorillas are not of interest then the chimps should be even less so! For me, the gorilla experience has always been a bit more exciting and interesting than the chimps. Depending on the time of year, the chimp families may be scattered and on many occasions you may only see a couple of males and nothing else. Many times they are up in the trees feeding or on the ground sleeping.

Gorilla families tend to stay together - mostly on the ground for good sightings and the youngsters always fool around in front of the cameras!

It takes two hours from the Serengeti to Tabora in the little plane, then 30 minutes of refueling then almost 2 more hours to Mahale.

Watersports at Mahale are available (kayak, fishing, some snorkeling and certainly swimming) but there are hippos and crocs so while swimming in front of the camp is fine, you need a guide for the other activities - these are mostly group activities when the camp is full.

That said, Mahale is very special but I strongly recommend a combination of Mahale and Katavi to make the hours of travel worthwhile. Katavi is like paradise for me and when combined with Mahale it makes for an unforgettable safari experience.

In this case one can skip Tarangire and combine Mahale & Katavi but I still think the gorillas in Rwanda are more exciting than the visiting only Mahale!

Mahale pics and maps are here:

Patty Jul 2nd, 2006 09:52 AM

Which carrier's FF miles are you using? KLM (Skyteam) flies into Kilimanjaro (JRO) from Amsterdam. With Star Alliance or Oneworld carrier miles, I don't believe there's a way to fly into JRO on an award.

When you say Kigali-Kilimanjaro direct, I assume you mean the flights that route through Nairobi? Or do you actually mean nonstop?

Do you have more info on the Serengeti-Kigali flights? Is this a scheduled flight or charter? What carrier and frequency? Thanks.

Patty Jul 2nd, 2006 10:38 AM

Nevermind about the Serengeti-Kigali flights. I found your earlier post about the Coastal flight -;tid=34795028

Looks like the flight routes Seronera-Grumeti-Mwanza-Kigali. In case anyone is interested, the schedule is on Eben's site (I don't believe it's on the Coastal Aviation site) -

Still curious if you mean JRO-NBO-KGL or is there another alternative from JRO (other than the above)?

lovetodiscover Jul 2nd, 2006 11:15 AM

Eben - I don't hear too much about Katavi on the board. What are Katavi's strength that make it a paradise? Fewer people? Are there any camps there similar to Oliver's at Tarangire?

climbhighsleeplow Jul 2nd, 2006 11:17 AM

Hi Patty

Yes, there are 3 ways from Tanzania to Rwanda:

1. Rwanda Air Express - twice a week from Kilimanjaro-Kigali direct. This is new but on Rwanda Air web site already:

I just flew Rwanda Express (from Nairobi) and it was very nice - even had a business class but poor us were in steerage as usual!

2. Nairobi to Kigali - at least twice or three times daily. The good news is that one can take the 5pm flight from Nairobe and arrive at 5:15pm - with enough daylight left to make it to Gorillas Nest or Virunga Lodge (driving in the dark is actually quite safe)

3. Serengeti to Kigali - Coastal. It is a bit expensive and one has to trust the Coastal schedule to book this but it is available for those with thick wallets! Count me out!

climbhighsleeplow Jul 2nd, 2006 11:32 AM


I remember reading about your Mahali plans and assumed you are including Katavi!

I realized I never posted pictures - sorry.

IMO Nomad Chada Katavi is the better overall camp but Flycatcher (not sure what's up with this company) and Katavi Wildlife Camp both have slightly better locations (at least for now since they are very near the river and there are talks about moving the camps further away to lessen the impact on the wildlife depending on the river.) I don't know when and if this is going to happen though.

Katuma Camp is new and another great option with great views over the Katisunga Plains.

Katavi is magical because less people for sure, beautiful scenery (palm and other trees, escarpments, and many hidden valleys and open plains). And the wildlife is super but one has to mind the seasons to see cats.

I now have an updated map here and will post pics soon:

lovetodiscover Jul 2nd, 2006 11:49 AM

Thanks, Eben. No, didn't include Katavi, rather gave the time to Serengeti. Was limited on how much time could take off of work (consecutive days off). If I were to think of adding it - it would mean a minimum 3 nights stay at Katavi (due to limited intra-country flights) and changes now to paid airfare (~$175 change fee for 3 tickets). Still it's raised my interest. Maybe could get a discount on the Nomad piece since that would make 7 nights in Nomad camps.

As it stands going from Arusha - Tarangire - Ngorongoro - Ndutu - Central Serengeti (Mbuzi Mawe) - Mahale - Arusha, starting on December 26 2007.

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