Please Help - Kili & Tanzania Safari

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May 20th, 2003, 02:35 PM
  #1
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Please Help - Kili & Tanzania Safari

Hi!

I'm trying to organise a two week African adventure in October this year for a group of friends living in the UK. The first week (for all of us) will be "climbing" Kilimanjaro via the Machame route, the second week (for some of us) will be a safari covering Lake Manyara, the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti. We're working to a budget of MAXIMUM £600 for Kili week and MAXIMUM £700 for safari week, both excluding flights.

I've not been there or done anything like this before and am hoping someone out there has had experience doing either of these two types of holidays and may have answers to some questions I have below and maybe a few tips or suggestions too. I would appreciate any help or advice dearly, as there aren't too much time left for me to decide before booking this hols.

1. Tour Operator - I have narrowed my choices down to 4 Operators: Zara Travel, Predator Safaris, TSA and Wild Frontiers. Anyone used any of these before and have any feedback on whether they met expectations / value for money / travelling needs / etc?

2. Flights from the UK seem to be VERY expensive, running at around £600 for the cheapest I could find, and these are very limited by the looks of it. Flights become more available as price increases, but I don't fancy paying £800 or £900 for flights only! Anyone have any suggestions of where I could find cheaper flights or are these standard rates? Is it standard to fly overnight (this seems to be the only option if you want to fly for less than £600)

3. As I said, we aim to rough it with the Machame route over 7 days (1 day longer than most operators suggest, simply to promote acclimatisation and increase chances of a succsesful summit). We aim to fly out to Kili airport with transfers to Arusha for the first night and on to Machame gate the next morning. Not much in this itenerary, it's pretty fixed. Still, any advice / tips on how to make this as much "fun" as possible will be much appreciated.

4. Safari week - this is my biggest headache. I don't know where to start, where to drive to, where to stay at reasonable standards, how bad transport between parks are, etc. Initially I thought Lake Manyara (1 day), Ngorongoro (2 days) & Serengeti (3 days), in that order, then fly back from Serengeti to Arusha. Flights will push up prices though, and driving back on the last day may not be a good idea, especially if we're returning to the UK overnight that evening. So alternatively I considered changing the order to Lake Manyara, then Serengeti first, followed by Ngorongoro, with the same number of days as before. That should shorten the journey back to Arusha on the last day. We're aiming to minimise travel between parks, even if tour operators say game viewing en route I don't think there's muc to be seen at an average speed of 50 km/h! So the questions I have are:

a) Which order of parks is preferable?
b) Does this cover the best parks sufficiently?
c) Should we stay longer / shorter in each of these parks?
d) Which other parks would you recommend instead (keeping in mind we'll have to sacrifice our time spent of the above-mentioned parks in that case)?
e) Where are the best places to go to within these parks or do the drivers / guides pretty much know where to take you?
f) What type of accommodation is preferable? (It looks like we'll be able to afford permanent tented camps at $130 pp per night)
g) I've also heard Tarangire National Park is worth a visit - is this en route to one of the above-mentioned parks and worth a visit or is it far out?
h) Anything else you can help with or give adivce about?

5. I've heard it's worth taking old clothes along to trade for craftsmenship items? Is this true for this area?

I can't think of any more to ask, but would really appreciate any additional feedback you have. Thanks VERY MUCH in advance and hoping to hear from you shortly!
Scatterling is offline  
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May 20th, 2003, 02:56 PM
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Can't tell you a thing about climbing Kili but I took a group to Tanzania in '99 and we did the parks in the order you are suggesting. Roads were pretty awful....lots of ruts and bumps, but we were with friends and we laughed and sang a lot. Manyara is small but we had one of our best days there with elephants heading directly for us in our jeep and our friends in another jeep to their rear. So we have photos and videos of both perspectives and that was really a highlight of the trip.
Ngorongoro is a must with lots to see. And Serengeti has lots to do too. Drivers know exactly where to go and when. You let them take you where they will. If you have a good company the drivers will be very knowledgeable. I'm in the US and don't know any of the operators you mentioned but I'm sure someone else out there can comment on the operators. You will have to fly from the Serengeti to Arusha on the return as the drive would take forever. 1 full day in Manyara, 2 at Ngorongoro and 2 or 3 in Serengeti works well. IF you can spare the money a balloon ride in the Serengeti was another highlight. Since we had a large group, we pre-booked. Good thing, since at the time there was only one operator and without pre-booking we would not have been able to go up. Best of luck on both parts of your trip. You will LOVE Africa.
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May 20th, 2003, 03:40 PM
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I too must preface this by saying that I have not climbed Kili. But, if I were to climb Kili and try a safari, I would use a company called Roy Safaris, based out of Arusha. They did our trip last year and were fantastic - less expensive than most, but fantastic customer service. They do Kili hikes. Anyway, I think two days at the Crater is more than enough, but I would like to try and convince you to visit Tarangire. It is fantastic!!! Some of our best photos came from Tarangire. Giant baobab trees, animals galore!, unbelievably blue sky ... it is a gem that national park. It is relatively close (by African standards)and on the way from the crater to Arusha, so maybe a pit stop there? It is worth it.If you have an experienced guide, there is no doubt he will know the best places in the parks to see wildlife. Besides, the guides exchange information with one another, all with the goal of keeping their clients happy. So if your guide stops to "chit chat" with another guide, let it happen. More often than not they are exchanging information on what was seen where and when. As far as accommodations, if you want a permanent tented camp, you will pay for it. Lodges are less expensive. But, if you want a real sense of adventure, I've heard the adventure camping is a blast. Heard this from one of the people I contacted when researching Roy Safaris. I am sure you will get loads of ideas, so suffice to say, have a fantastic trip!!!
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May 20th, 2003, 09:34 PM
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I have climbed Kili via the western breach/Shira Plateau. You are quite wise to add an additional day on for acclimitization. Your chances of success are far greater the more time you have at altitude.
The only tip I can offer for the climb is to make sure you are not overnighting in the huts - they are nasty, and you do not want to go in them. Tenting is far preferable.
Pack warm clothing! You will have a blast.

Concerning airfare, I assume you are looking at KLM from Amsterdam? They fly from AMS at 11 am and arrive at 21:30. Less expensive options would be to fly to Nairobi, and take the 5 hour bus to Arusha, but that would require an extra day of travel time, and perhaps an overnight in Nairobi (and for US passport a $50 visa - unsure what UK requirments are). Swiss does get you into Nairobi in the morning, KLM in the evening, not sure when (or if BA) is going to Nairobi. Kili airport is very, very convenient.

Another possibility would be flying to Dar Es Salaam, but again this would require more travel time.

My last comment is that I would not 'trade' old clothing for goods. Just give your clothes away! Those people are so poor. I also bring along lollies and crayons/balloons/paper/frisbees/for the kids.

The people are wonderful. The scenery breathtaking.
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May 21st, 2003, 05:08 AM
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sandi
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Scatterling - Since there is limited schedule and few carriers to KIL the reason for high fares. You can fly into NBO which arrived from AMS in the evening (and is best continuing connection when arriving on Continent in morning from US). Most of the other carriers depart in evenings, arriving following morning in NBO. When we traveled, European carriers BA,KL,LH average prices between $650-$900 r/t, but we lucked out on second trip with KL at $650 to NBO, our first trip on LH cost about $850.
Do you have "consolidators" in the UK that offer reduced rate tickets? Check them out.

If arriving NBO at night you can overnight near airport at inexpensive hotel then there is flight to KIL from Wilson Airport - r/t about $260, so you avoid drive from NBO to Arusha.
If arrive in morning you can transfer to Wilson and fly from NBO to KIL. Flight leave NBO about 12N or 1PM, about 1 hr flite; returns from KIL about 1:30pm.

We did not do the KIL climb.

From Arusha, with driver, we were off first to Taragire, about 1-1/2 hr drive from Arusha, great park. Next day mid morning headed to Ngorongoro, long drive, but lots of town, schools, nature and animal stops along the way, arriving late afternoon. Next morning down to the Crater - a full dusty and hot day - interesting, though we found disappointing as you're not allowed off-road so sometimes difficults to get the up-front-and-personal contacts we've had in other places. From Ngrongoro, a stop at Oldavai Gorge, then onto the Western Serengetti (stopping at Serena Serengetti Lodge for lunch) near Grumeti River, the Kirawira Tented Camp. This was a long trip, but some of the best animal sightings "real up close", arriving by about 4pm. Next day an early drive (6am) - must see the crocs at the Grumeti River WOW, but no drive again till late afternoon (driver does need some time to himself), so we caught up on our diary entries, swimming and reading from the camp library. Next day an early departure across the Serengeti. Yes it's long and recommend you fly back to Manyara or Arusha, but though long we had opportunity to stop at Seronera in center of Seregetti - kind of a open-air museum about the migration with interesting displays, food - and still along the way stopped for many animal sightings. Arrived at Manyara about 2pm for lunch, then did late drive thru Manyara. Following (last) day drove back to Arusha, had lunch, then continued by road to NBO (we were leaving next day for The Seychelles).

In total is was Tarangire (1-nt), Ngorongoro (2), W.Serengeti (2), Manyara (1).

As another poster indicated, permanent camps can be expensive, but they are available within your budget and a good tour operator will know which works for you. Lodges are lovely, but be sure you spent a few nights "under canvas".


 
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May 21st, 2003, 03:50 PM
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Scatterling,
There's a great connection with KLM via Amsterdam direct into Arusha Kilimanjaro airport, this way you can skip the hotel price in Nairobi as well as the shuttle cost between two countries and save on the visa fees for Kenya. Also, i have used Predators safaris in the past and personally it was a bad, bad experience. I think you should be wary of operators and airlines who offer rock bottom prices unless you've done some reasonable amount of research on them. I don't mean to scare you or discourage you, but you need to understand that despite what operator may say Kilimanjaro is not an easy climb. If you progress to high too soon, and do not have a knowledgeable and EXPERIENCED guide it could turn out to be a very serious situation. Here is an article posted by a traveler detailing her experience on Kili, highlighting the importance of a good operator:

http://alpineascents.com/kili-article.htm

Also, here is some more excellent information for you on how to choose a good operator from Alpine Ascents' website:

Questions to ask a potential guide service:

1) Find out who is guiding your climb, how many times they have guided the trip you are interested in (not just climbed). Often the guide may not have been scheduled, but a guide service should be able to give you the names of 1-3 potential guides. Find out if the organization has more than one guide who can lead a particular climb in case of injury, illness etc.

2) Ask about the organization's safety record and if they have liability insurance for your particular trip.

3) How long has the organization been in business?

4) Are they permitted to climb in the area you are interested in? If not, are they climbing on an authorized organization's permit?

5) What are the climber to guide ratios on a particular trip or course? What is the maximum team size? How big was the last expedition to that area?

6) Is the guide service operating your trip or are they simply hiring a subcontractor and guide in that country? Why has the organization opted for this and in how many locations does this occur? (This will give you a sense of the company's commitment to that region. This is likely to occur in remote locations or where there are local laws that govern guiding). Ask which of the company's staff have visited the country and how the expedition was designed.

7) Ask about their success record and inquire as to why they feel individuals do well for a particular climb. Also ask where "summit success" factors into their philosophy of a successful trip. Also ask if they base their "success" on climbers who are actually guided or if they include unguided climbers who climb on their permit.

8) Ask about the other team members on the trip you are interested in.

9) Does the office staff handle your inquiries promptly? And are the company's materials equivalent of the type of quality you are interested in pursuing: Does the company have brochures, full-time office staff and the ability to answer your questions?

10) Use multiple sources of research and remember places like the web can be an excellent but sometimes unverified resource. If the guide services operate in the US, you may be able to get safety information from a government organization such as the National Park Service.

11) Decide what your priorities are such as summit success, safety, cultural interest etc. and question the guide service about those interests. Also quality of tents, food, logistical support, experience in dealing with a particular country. (Many times information on why teams turn around may be as important as their success. Learn what you can about the decision making processes of a guide).

12) Chat with former climbers, trekkers or students and ask for someone who has been on multiple trips with that company as a contrast can often be interesting and informational.

13) If you are interested in learning about climbing while being guided, you may inquire as to if your guide is also a teacher.

14) Ask why a guide service is more or less expensive and what you are buying (or not buying) for their fee. Ask them to compare themselves to other guide services.

----------


Also, Machame route is an excellent choice because the other common route [called Coca Cola or Marangu route] is overridden with tourists and does not afford the spectacular scenery that Machame offers.

To answer your question about lodges and game parks:

Sopa and Serena Lodges are great and have some of the best locations. I personally prefer Serena because of the food, Sopa also offers good food but mostly Indian vegetarian varieties [if you Indian food, then its great for you]. I don't like to eat spicy food when on safari [it'll mess with your stomach!] I am not sure however if the prices would suit your budget, and ofcourse as someone said earlier, with lodges you may miss out on the 'tented camp experience' which is really what Africa is all about. My suggestion is try looking for an operator that offers mobile camping safaris - that way you can get a guide, good meals, drinks, bucket shower [mostly hot], and 4-wheel drive game drives all in one convenient 'per day' price. Fish around on the internet for deals, you may across a few reputable operators with great prices but make sure they have full contact details [street address & phone numbers] on their website.

Game parks:
Manyara [1 night] - Ngorongoro [2 nights] - Serengeti [2 or 3 nights]
as you already have it in your original itinerary is a good way to do it. I would recommend staying atleast 3 nights at Serengeti and flying from there to Arusha rather than driving [about an 8 hr drive/ 2 hr flight]

Advise: The domestic Tanzanian flights are in small lightweight aircraft, carry some chewing gum or travel sickness medicine to avoid the air pressure building up in your ear [If you are sensitive when flying].

Carrying gifts: Please do not give candy to the locals. Studies have shown that over the years cavities have become more troublesome than before in the local tribes and dentists [or any medical practitioner for that matter] are very hard to find and afford for most African people living in rural areas. The best gift you can give them is stuff for their kids such as small story books, toys, balls, pencils and notebooks, or large and medium sized t-shirts. These are generally the most required items for the local people. Most children have never even seen an illustrated story-book, the gift of education will be the greatest that you can make to the African communities. Just my 2 cents.
soniya is offline  
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May 25th, 2003, 06:50 AM
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My daughter is taking a similiar tour using
good earth tours. She is flying into Nairobi and is taking the bus $20 to Arusha.

Her tour with extra day on climb is $1950.

Their site is
http://www.goodearthtours.com/
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Aug 24th, 2003, 06:15 AM
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LizFrazier
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Robert Collins-
Why do you recommend Sandgrouse? Have you travelled with them? What was good about them? Bad about them? Please add a complete recommendation or you sound like someone trying to get a free plug in for your own gain. Thanks, Liz
 
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Aug 24th, 2003, 11:30 AM
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Soniya, I don't recall the Sopa lodges being limited to Indian vegetarian dishes. We were at two (Serengeti and N. Crater) and unless my mid-50's memory is failing me we had what I would call typical meat dishes including pork, chicken, beef and even hot wings as an appetizer. Please don't get me wrong I am not "sold" on the
Sopa chain but I would not categorize the menu as such. I do appreciate your other tips however.

Dick
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Aug 24th, 2003, 01:46 PM
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sandi
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Soniya - Thank you so much for your comment "don't bring candy" (or gum or anything loaded with sugar) for the locals. On our first trip we saw people handing out candy and from and comments from others who traveled after us, I was amazed when people mentioned having given out candy! My comment - "and where do you expect them to find a dentist?"

Books and anything children can use in/for school are the best gifts (amazing how much you can find in 99-cent stores - picture books, lines notebooks, pencils, etc); for adults (young men mostly) they love T-shirts and we can get them at such reasonable prices (and good quality at that) 3/$10, how can you not bring some that have logos of sports teams, major cities, etc.
 
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