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heymo Jan 12th, 2011 04:01 PM

Possible Kenya Itinerary for October...any thoughts, suggestions?
Hello all! Though I am not new to the Fodors forums it has been quit some time since I have been on here.

My husband and I are planning a two week trip to Africa this fall to celebrate my 50th birthday and our 20th wedding anniversary. We are quite well traveled, but have never been on a safari before. We are semi-professional photographers (meaning we've sold copies of our work, and I run my own portrait photography busniess) and our goal other than celebrating those 2 milestones is to get some amazing shots from Africa.

I received an itinerary from Wildtrek Safaris that sounds very appealing. I told the person that we were debating between Kenya/Tanzania and Zambia, ( I have 2 friends who go to Zambia reguarly and rave about it). Zambia sounds great- but there are several small flights involved and with camera equipment that becomes problematic as to weight restrictions. We also don't want to be in overcrowded vehicles fighting over the best vantage point for photography. He suggested smaller parks and reserves in Kenya, and sent the following itinerary. Would you mind looking it over and making any suggestions?
(I don't have a detailed itineray yet- this is the overview.) This would be a private tour with just my husband and I, driver and guide.

12 October: Arrive in Nairobi. Transferred to Stanley Hotel for overnight.

13 October: To Laikipia: After breakfast, transfer with your WildTrek guide to El-Karama Ranch. Afternoon game viewing drive and/or walk. B/L/D

14 October: El-Karama Ranch: Morning & afternoon game drives and/or walks with WildTrek and El Karama guides. Ovenight at El Karama. B/L/D

15 October: El-Karama Ranch: Morning & afternoon game drives and/or walks. Ovenight at El Karama. B/L/D

16 October: To Samburu National Reserve: After breakfast, drive with your WildTrek guide to Samburu Lodge or Similar . Afternoon game viewing drive with your WildTrek guide. Dinner and overnight at Samburu Lodge. B/L/D

17 October: Samburu Game Reserve. Morning and afternoon game viewing drives with your WildTrek guide. Dinner and overnight at Samburu Lodge. B/L/D

18 October: To Meru National Park: After breakfast, drive to Elsa's Kopje, rated by Africa Magazine as the best camp in all of Africa. Afternoon game viewing drive with your WildTrek guide

19 October: Meru National Park. Morning and afternoon game viewing drives with your WildTrek guide. Dinner and overnight at Elsa's Kopje. B/L/D

20 October: To Ol Pejeta Conservancy: After breakfast depart with your WildTrek guide for Ol Pejeta Ranch and Sweetwaters Tented Camp. Afternoon game viewing drive with your WildTrek guide. Dinner and overnight at Sweetwaters. B/L/D

21 October: To Lake Nakuru National Park: After breakfast depart with your WildTrek guide for Flamingo Hill Camp. Afternoon game viewing drive with your WildTrek guide. Dinner and overnight at Flamingo Hill. B/L/D

22 October: To Maasai Mara National Reserve: After breakfast, depart with your WildTrek guide for Keekorok Lodge. Afternoon game viewing drive with your WildTrek guide. Dinner and overnight at Keekorok. B/L/D

23 October: Maasai Mara. Full day game viewing drive with WildTrek guide. Dinner and overnight at Keekorok Lodge. B/L/D

24 October: To Lake Naivasha: Breakfast and depart with your WildTrek guide for the Elsamere Conservation Centre. Afternoon boat ride and walk on Crescent Island.

25 October: To Amboseli National Park: Early breakfast and depart with your WildTrek guide for Ol Tukai Lodge. Afternoon game viewing drive. Dinner and overnight at Ol Tukai Lodge. B/L/D

26 October: Amboseli to JKIA: Ol Tukai Lodge. AM game drives. Afternoon transfer to JKIA for flights home. B/L

I would appreciate any advice!


nycjv Jan 12th, 2011 05:30 PM

I've only been on one safari last August, so I'm by no means an expert, but I did a lot of research and read the forums often and received a lot of great advice from many people on the Fodors Kenya forum.

I'll let the experts comment more thoroughly on your itinerary, but I'm always surprised that tours have only 2 nights in the Masai Mara, I spent 4 nights and wish it had been longer as the wildlife sightings and photo opportunities from the Mara were by far the best. I went to Ol Pejeta and found the wild life sightings not at all up to par with the Mara although there were a few species that were different, but predator sightings were more challanging than in either the Mara or Amboseli, but maybe I was unlucky. Only thing that I saw an abundance of were Rhino, but I also saw Rhino in the Mara. I was lucky in Amboseli as I had good sightings and your itinerary only has one night which leaves you with just two game drives in Amboseli.

The migration generally ends in the Mara in October and personally I'd want to be certain to catch this incredible experience at it's best, and not wait until the end of October. You can never predict when the migration will start/stop each year and I'd personally prefer knowing I wasn't at what is generally the tail end of the migration. It is true (and I usually agree) that many tour operators and people will tell you to save the best for last, but as your itineary puts you in the Mara at the end of October, I'd personnaly want to take my chances of catching the migration at it's best earlier in the month. Again, I'll let the experts address this as they may have experienced the Mara at the end of October.

No matter what you decide upon, I'm certain you'll have an incredible safari and take thousands of photos which you won't have time to sort through before you start planning your second safari!

qwovadis Jan 13th, 2011 03:19 AM Safar Camps get best reviews here

present many great photo ops...

might check tham out also to truly get out there

with the game...

sandi Jan 13th, 2011 06:16 AM

I would never do less than 3/nts in the Masai Mara... take 1/nt from El Karama to do so.

Also, and I've seen this often but don't understand why some companies have you visit Lk. Nakuru and then drive (1/hr south) right past Lk. Naivasha on your way (4/hrs south) to the Mara, only to then return from Mara (north 4/hrs) to Naivasha. Besides, staying at Keekorok (which as the some of the herds commence return to Serengeti is good location) which is at the farthest south in the Mara will be an even longer drive (5-6/hrs north) to Naivasha... instead, suggest you visit Nakuru, then Naivasha, then the Mara.

Leaving the Mara for Amboseli will be a long drive, but doable.

Otherwise, good itinerary and mid-priced lodging, with Elsa's being the WOW!

atravelynn Jan 13th, 2011 09:14 AM

A double milestone like yours can only be properly celebrated with a trip to Africa—good choice!

Based on your photo goals, I think you are on the right track. You can celebrate #25 in Zambia. Or go there much sooner.

As the others have mentioned 2 nights in the Mara is insufficient, especially for photographers. I like Sandi’s idea of -1 from El Karama and +1 to Mara. Nyjcv’s comment of wanting more than 4 nts in the Mara is typical. I’ve never done less than 6.

With the additional night in the Mara you have a very nice trip that will show you some of Kenya’s best areas. I wonder if you are envisioning more hours on the savanna looking for unique shots, though, and less time driving park to park on a highway with minimal photo ops.

Here are some approx. drive times and comments. My suggestions would likely increase the cost of your trip and even add a day or so.

NBO to El-Karama = about 5 hours, I don’t know El Karama, but it is 5 hours to Lewa Downs, in that same general area

You could fly on a scheduled flight to Nanyuki Airstrip and have your guide & vehicle meet you there and drive to El-Karama. Or there is a scheduled flight right to the Lewa Downs Airstrip if you stayed there instead. Lewa is a top notch place for wildlife, conservation, photography. May be the best place in Africa to see black and white rhinos. Likely more expensive than El Karama. Lewa is worthy of 3 nights for sure.

El Karama to Samburu = about 2 hours, again not sure just where El Karama is

Samburu to Meru = 3 hours (but we took a bumpy dirt shortcut, so maybe more on a real road)

Meru does not have the wildlife of other areas. I was just there in Sept and enjoyed my 3 nts in search of Lesser Kudu, among other things. We could easily drive an hour with no mammal sightings. This area also has tse tses, though I’ve been told not where Elsa’s Kopje property is located. I’ll include my photo album to show the kinds of animals I saw. The 2 cheetah were extremely lucky, not typical, and the only predators in 3 nights.

You might also find this helpful regarding Meru:

It will be extremely hot in Oct. in Meru. It was probably in the 90s midday in Sept. Not trying to discourage you on Meru, but you should be go there knowing what to expect. Elsa’s is your nicest accommodation of the trip, but you could put in a fancy place somewhere else.

Meru to Ol Pejeta = Elsa’s Kopje info sheet shows 3 hours.

Ol Pejeta to Lake Nakuru = 3 hours

Nakuru to Mara = (see Sandi’s details)

You could fly from Nakuru (actually from Naivasha, which is where the airstrip is for guests flying out of Nakuru--about an hour from Nakuru) and meet your guide—a different guide. If it seems odd to be dropping off and picking up guides, it is not. I did that on my last trip and it worked well. Of course the flights and having a couple of guides driving with an empty vehicle adds to the cost. But I found it was worth it. I stayed in lower cost accommodations to make the cost work out.

Mara to Naivasha = (see Sandi’s details)
From a photography standpoint, I think you’d be better spending a day somewhere else. I have not been to Naivasha and even have a recent question posted on Crescent Island, but I think this day could be put to better use—such as yet another night in the Mara for 4 nts. Since you are going to Nakuru, that is more reason to swap Naivasha for more Mara time.

I think Naivasha is in there to make the drive more logical. If you drove Mara to Amboseli, I think it would be close to 10 hours of driving.

Naivasha to Amboseli = 4.5 hours

Just one night in Amboseli? I've actually stayed just one night that and it was fine, but I was not a semi-pro photographer who probably would like a decent chance of getting Mt. Kili. If photographing the mountain without clouds is a goal, I think you need 2 nights to increase your odds. If Mt. Kili is not a goal, I'd drop Amboseli altogether for more another night elsewere.

Amboseli to NBO = 4 hours

Ask any semi-pro photographer how many days they’d spend in the Mara on a 2 week trip, and you’d never get 2 or 3.

The discussion on this thread may interest you.

atravelynn Jan 13th, 2011 09:28 AM

Just saw your concern with flights and equipment. So you may prefer the extra hours in the vehicles. There are threads on cameras on planes that may ease your mind. Safari and photographers are a common combo.

heymo Jan 13th, 2011 01:02 PM

Thanks to you all for your imput.

In general- we told Wildtrek that we were concerned about large crowds of vehicles at sites in Kenya- which is why they recommended smaller parks and reserves.(and less time at the Mara) I've requested a map with the locations marked so I can see just where we're going, and avoid backtracking as you mentioned, Sandi.

I agree about Amboseli, atravelynn- I think I'd like to stay there at least one more night. After all- it's not every day you can shoot Kilimanjaro!!!

I also have a question about vehicles. Since we'll just be the two of us in the vehicle, the only ones we'll have to fight over prime picture-taking spots are each other. But I have a question about the vehicle itself. They used closed vehicles with pop-up tops, as opposed to open vehicles. From one standpoint it would be good to have a little less dust to worry about with the cameras, but are we sacrificing viewing opportunities for this?

will check out the camera/plane threads...thanks! Smaller planes only allow 30-33 lbs. pp...that's cutting it pretty tight. But maybe they've come up with other ways to get around it!

sandi Jan 13th, 2011 01:47 PM

If doing driving safaris around Kenya or Tanzania, by law you have to be in closed vehicles for safety reasons. Lousy roads, dust, gravel, wet, etc. The vehicles with pop-tops and windows work just fine for photo taking.

If you were doing a flying safari using vehicles/guides of particular lodges/camps, often these will be "open" sides, but not all properties use open vehicles. And, they'd be on a shared basis with other guests unless you pay for "exclusive use of vehicle" at a sizeable daily fee.

Yes, you're limited to 33/lbs on small planes, but unless your camera equipment weighs as much as the duffle containing your cloths, you can often get away with reasonable amount of equipment that sits on floor between your feet. Much more than that... they'll assess an overweight fee (even at few $$s per Kg, it's a fee).

While many of us return visitors may prefer to spend more time at one area (i.e, the Mara) vs another, the stop at Naivasha, while no game per se (though Oserian Wildlife Conservancy is nearby), people stop here as an "out-of-vehicle" day with visit to Crescent Island for walking amongst tame game. Or visit at Hell's Gate for climbing.

As Lynn mentions, there is a flight from Naivasha to the Mara, departing 3:15pm, arriving a bit after 4pm, where you're met and with game drive to your lodge/camp. This can be an alternative, but you'd then have WT send another vehicle/guide for your use. Likewise, from the Mara, there is a 2pm flight to Amboseli, where here too you either use the vehicle/guide of the lodge shared with others, or WT provides another vehicle/guide. If not the 2pm flight (as some properties assess a surcharge for late departures... usual departures are 10am), you can fly 11am from Mara to NBO, connect here for 2pm flight to Amboseli. No matter whether you drive to Amboseli or fly, you won't arrive till late-afternoon on that first night.

Yes, flights as mentioned add to your costs(between $160-$200/person per segment), and if you then have new private vehicle/guide meet at each, know that there's one leg they drive empty and you pay for that.

Review the info provided and discuss further with WT.

Kimani_Nduta Jan 14th, 2011 12:08 AM

Sounds like you will be up for a very active " Safari time" born in Kenya to a family in Safari business, hence lots of safaris till now, and also working on the whole tourism business, id advice that you will probably need a break in between, or you could have taken your last days at the coast in Kenya or Zanzibar "washing the dust off" we call it, just relaxing at the beach, and enjoying the sun i would advise to places like tiwi beach or diani where there is not so much husstle and people or in Lamu, Watamu or Zanzibar before jetting off, i like the fact that you chose Maasai Mara and Amboseli as your last trips as you know this places are full of wildlife and once you go there and see everything it gets hard to find other parks as interesting.

PacoAhedo Jan 14th, 2011 02:18 AM

You plan to stay 14 nights in Kenya and your itinerary have you sleeping in 9 different places ( including 1 night in Nairobi ) In my opinion too much moving around .

You want to avoid large crowds of people and vehicles .
Nakuru is very beautiful but is not a good place to avoid crowds.Is a very small park with lots of vehicles ( even some buss ), electric lines and houses in the background , maybe not what you are looking for.

In the Mara you can avoid crowds , just tell your guide you want that and he will be able to do it most of the time . You could also visit a private conservation in the area ( like Olare Orok ) Excellent wildlife with no crowds at all.
The Masai Mara has no comparison in terms of wildlife viewing and photography opportunities , plus October you have a good chance to hit the migration which is unique .
In my last visit to the area i combine 2 days inside the reserve with 3 in the conservancy , it was perfect for me.

In Laikipia i would choose 2 location ( maybe Samburu and a private reserve ) Samburu has more visitors than Meru but better wildlife viewing and much nicer scenery ( in my humble opinion )

I Have never been to Amboseli but going there just for one night does not seem a good plan to me . Either skip it or go for 3 nights.

Finally , my camera backpack weights more than 10 kilos and i never had problems flying small planes in Kenya??

heymo Jan 14th, 2011 11:46 AM

Thanks you for your input!

Paco- that's good to know that you haven't had issues with your luggage- how much did your clothing bag weigh? I assumed the total on the plane had to be 15 kilos per person, including clothing and camera gear. Am I wrong?

So- if we were to reduce the number of parks and/or lodges down to just a few- where would you suggest?

cjryan Jan 14th, 2011 06:40 PM

Worrying about weight limits is common before a safari. I've been to Africa three times and on safari twice. For both safaris I was crazy with worry over the weight of my bags because I was on small planes with the 33lb limit. However, both times it just wasn't an issue. Here is my advice for what it is worth:

1) Pack as light as possible and do laundry at the camps. The pants that dry overnight are a Godsend!
2) If you are over the limit on bags, take your camera out and wear it around your neck (the bonus: aerial photos!;-) )
3) If they aren't weighing and just "eye-balling" it, make sure you have the pack on your back and stand behind someone who has much larger bags than you do.

I did both of my safaris successfully with just a carry-on and a camera bag (with 1 SLR, 3 lenses, 1 back-up small camera along with battery chargers, memory cards, and a memory card back-up device). One good thing about traveling to Africa - it really teaches you how to pack and what you really can live without! My parents were very impressed that I could do Italy with just a carry on (which included a week on land and then a 12 night Mediterranean cruise with formal wear). I told them that Africa has taught me many valuable lessons - not the least of which is efficient packing!

moneyburns Jan 15th, 2011 05:00 AM

How I envy you; I have severe Kenya we were there in Sept. Loved Laikipia immensely; so glad I chose it and never waivered as I was trying to go everywhere! Agree that you must stay at least 4 n in Mara; you will have so many photo ops and of course you need to take time to put the camera down and just enjoy. I think it takes a full day just to get the lay of the land and talk to your guide about your wants and needs...

Laikipia is remote and full of amazing animals to photograph - Grevy Zebras - one of the most beautiful animals I've ever seen, Retriculated Giraffe, also very photogenic and of course ellies, which are there but also abundant in Amboselli.

We had issues with our bags and I think the gate agent at Safarilink was just testing us - a lttle over, not much money, but DH smiled at her and joked and she waved us on. I had gifts in there and explained it and she agreed gifts were impt to her country! Never looked.

I have now packed for 2wks in Argentina - a small backpack like the ones full of schoolbooks - no frame, not bulky... and I wont be on safari either, but have learned to get by with less - buy the lightweight pants/shirts - Basspro for $25! You don't need much and laundry is usually done for you. If I can do it - always been an overpacker - you can.....Save the space for your gear and go minimally on clothes. If you need something there are stops you can make and buy it. I also would leave things behind for the housekeeper's kids, whatever that I purchased cheap at Walmart or sales at Target...they really appreciated it - and needed the tennis shoes, pants, tees, etc.

Came home with memories not clothes.

I stressed over our itinerary for a year...keep it simple, do not rush - I guarantee you will be going back and can see what you think you've missed on the next trip.

We've been to Zambia too, lovely place; but Kenya - stole my heart.

Also,Samburu Tribes are incredible to photograph. If you feel you need to give them something, give a donation towards a goat...that is what the women need. They refused money from us. I have pics here - you can see the Samburus and the landscape of Laikipia-not professional, but good memory keepers for us.[email protected]/532Lx8
HOPE it works; Flickr sometimes doesnt share like it should! I can send them to you if not.

Have a great time and don't stress; it will be wonderful...

heymo Jan 15th, 2011 06:13 AM

cjryan- thanks for your personal experience on the smaller planes with camera gear. Did you have your clothes and camera gear in the same pack?

moneyburns- I really appreciate your take on Laikipia! And your pictures are great- Ol Malo looked like a lovely place! We've traveled quite a bit and are pretty good about packing's just the camera gear that's the concern.

Have any of you stayed at lodges that only had power at the main house? How difficult was it to have your batteries charged, etc.? Our first days at El Karama will only have power at the main building. We'll definitely need to rechrge camera batteries, and upload pictures to laptop.

I'm getting SO excited for this...9 months and counting!

cjryan Jan 15th, 2011 07:18 AM

heymo, I had my camera equipment in a separate, smaller pack that I called my "purse." I may have put one of the lenses in the carry-on during my last trip.

Good luck with your trip planning - I know you'll have a wonderful time whatever you decide as far as itinerary! I was only in Kenya briefly during the migration and it was just a day drive (I was based in Tanzania) so I'll be interested to see how you like Kenya. I just found out that experts predict that lions will be extinct in 9 years...I was shocked! So I have to plan at least one or two more trips to see the cats before they are gone. Perhaps Kenya will be next on the list. I'll be looking forward to hear about your experiences!

Local2542 Jan 15th, 2011 07:23 AM

Congrats on your first safari planning! You will have a great time.

On charging: it was very easy to charge electronics in the main building where we stayed, like Ndutu. We would plug things in at the bar, along with lots of other people charging items, while having a drink. Not problem.

We did bring car charger adapters, so we could always charge off the car batteries when out on game drives. We used this option a couple times. Super easy, too. (Makes sure you know how all the pieces of your equipment works before you go).

Just to clarify about luggage: your main bag that normally gets loaded in the cargo/belly of the small planes can be up to 15 kilos per person, but you can have your camera bag or purse that can go on your lap or at your feet, which is separate from the 15 kilo bag. This was my understanding when we were on safari, and how we traveled. My camera bag also holds other items I might need within easy reach, and doubles as my purse.

We are in the middle of planning our second Kenya trip for early 2012, and will enjoy hearing about your plans. Have fun!

atravelynn Jan 15th, 2011 08:05 AM

As Local mentions, you can charge batteries in the car. Talk to your safari provider about this option in the planning stages. With only 2 of you, there should be no problem of getting enough recharge time in the car.

How many batteris do you pack? I like to take at least 4 for peace of mind just in case there is a problem recharging, or what if you lose a battery, or it malfunctions? I also take 2 rechargers for the same reason. With 2 people bringing items, you may not need to double up as much.

As to the type of vehicle, while I prefer completely open vehicles, that's not possible where you are going. Whatever vehicle I'm in, it always works fine. You can shoot from the side windows easily. I never find myself lamenting the transport option. The big thing is you are just two and can move around at will.

Since you are photographers, ask about bean bags to steady your cameras. Even if you have screw-on mounts, you may find yourself taking shots with an unmounted camera. You can even bring your own beanbag to be sure you have one.

To save on packing weight for flts: wear your binocs and wear a safari vest and put the heavy things in there.

I'll stick in a link to my report, below, in which I list # of vehicles per sighting in Kenya, including 2 spots in the Mara. You'll see at some predators there were many cars, but we managed to spend time ALONE or with just a couple of vehicles for cheetahs and a leopard. Easy to find lions to yourself.

It just takes patience and a willingness to stay out longer or go to areas further afield where you may spend a great time searching. Make sure your safari provider knows your goals up front.

As I state in the report, in general in the Mara (in Sept prime time)

"I’d break down the vehicle encounters throughout the Mara, with the exception of waiting at the river crossings as:

<b>80%</b> of the time, no other vehicles in sight—pretty good considering the landscape is mostly flat and it is possible to see for miles, viewing vehicles on the horizon

<b>15%</b> of the time, other vehicles were visible as we drove

<b>5%</b> of the time, we shared sightings with at least one other vehicle"

At the river crossings, there were a lot of vehicles most of the time. Again, plan to spend all day there with a lunch box and you may end up the SOLE vehicle at the river as I was, watching the herds mulling over the decision to cross.

That is yet another reason to extend days in the Mara. If you wish to see a crossing, it can eat up a whole day, or certainly many hours waiting. In Oct, the herds may be heading back across the river to the Serengeti. You can never guarantee or even predict crossings. This last trip I saw 3 in one day for a total of 4. Some people saw 12 in a week. In other trips, I saw 1 in 8 or 9 days, or 0 in 6 days, all during seasons when crossings occur.

Lots to consider, but none of what you've written so far is bad. It's just how to optimize your time and budget in accordance with your expectations.

sandi Jan 15th, 2011 08:12 AM

Technically the 15Kg/33-lbs is for everything.
That said, you can have a carryon and camera equipment bag at reasonable weight, to sit on lap or floor (there are few planes with overhead bins and if there are, no larger than to maybe fit a flat portfolio).:)

It's when arriving a weigh-in (only done in Nairobi, not out on the park/reserve airstrips) and if carryon/camera bags obviously look heavy or agent wants to weigh, that it can become an issue. Why it's best to just hand over the duffle for weighing and hold back on the other two.

You have to realize that these planes not only transport passengers, but also supplies and even equipment for lodges/camps, so pilot has to carefully distribute paxs weight, baggage and supplies properly inside.

PacoAhedo Jan 15th, 2011 08:14 AM

Beth, my clothing bag weighs around 12 kg ( including some photographic material ) plus 10/11 kg my backpack.
I put my carry-on bag in the cargo and my backpack goes under my feet.

When i had to charge batteries in the main area i never had any issue.There is always plenty of time between morning and afternoon activities and also after the p.m. activities.
Also i always have spare batteries just in case.

With your time frame and what you seem to like to see i will do 3 days in Samburu , 3 days in Laikipia ( many options here El Kamara , Lewa , Borana , Loisaba , Ol Pejeta , Sosiam and more ) 4 days in the Mara and 3 in Amboseli , maybe even more days in the Mara if you stay both inside the reserve and in a conservancy.
This will involve flying of course .

This is how i see it but i am not an expert at planning!!!
My last visit to Kenya was last October and our itinerary was 5 days in the Mara area and 4 days in Meru.

Good luck.

atravelynn Jan 15th, 2011 09:03 AM

Qwovadis gave you an option for reducing #s in the Mara--private reserves such as Porini or Kicheche. Of course these cost more.

I like Paco's advice of where to go. I'd take a day from Amboseli and add it to the Mara.

On my recent trip where I wanted to maximize wildlife sightings, I chose:

2 Aberdare for the possibility of giant forest hogs and sykes monkeys--beautiful forest scenery and several zones of varying vegetation

3 Meru--I was interested in Lesser Kudu

1 Shaba (next to Samburu/Buffalo Springs, Samburu/Buffalo Springs game drives possible) for stunning red backdrop of cliffs.

3 Buffalo Springs/Samburu--I agree with Paco that the scenery here exceeds that of Meru

FLY--the only flight
8 Mara, Talek are and Mara Triangle

I ran into a group of serious photographers who were spending 2 weeks in the Mara (and nowhere else) in mid-Sept. They were traveling on a budget and chose to stay at the 2 places I did: Fig Tree and Mara Serena

This was 3 weeks and I don't know if you have that much time. But the cost, using Eastern and Southern in Nairobi, was very good.

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