Questions on Kenya / Tanzania / Zanzibar

Jul 9th, 2008, 04:33 PM
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Questions on Kenya / Tanzania / Zanzibar

Greetinga all... Jambo!!! =)

My wife and I, have finally decided to take the plunge, and booked a two week safari through Kenya and Tanzania. We will be travelling with my 70-year old mother, and a good family friend. We are leaving Canada, at the beginning of Sept. '08, and have already booked a tour via an agency call Trek vacations ( The itinerary is as follows:
Day 1 - Nairobi
Upon arrival in Nairobi you are met and transferred to your city hotel. Overnight Hotel.
Day 2 - Mt Kenya
After breakfast drive to Mountain Lodge to arrive in time for lunch. Mt. Kenya is an imposing extinct volcano dominating the landscape of the Kenyan Highlands, East of the Rift Valley. Spend the afternoon gameviewing from the balcony of your hotel. Overnight at Lodge.

Day 3 - Samburu Game Reserve
After breakfast continue north to Samburu Game Reserve arriving in time for lunch. Afternoon game drive in the area. The patches of forest and doum palm dotting the landscape provide an ideal setting for primates, hippo and crocodile. Elephant families visit the river's shallows to immerse
in the cool water. Overnight at Lodge.

Day 4 - Samburu Game Reserve
Full day in Samburu with game drives in the morning and afternoon. Overnight at Lodge.

Day 5 - Lake Nakuru National Park
After breakfast drive to Nakuru for late lunch. It is set in a picturesque landscape of surrounding woodland and grassland next to Nakuru town. The area is home to a wide array of wildlife but best known for the
Flamingos that give the lake it's name as the 'pink lake'. Afternoon game drive. Overnight at Lodge.

Day 6 - Masai Mara Game Reserve
After breakfast depart very early and drive to the Masai Mara. The Masai is the Kenyan section of the Serengeti Plains and wildlife abounds. While on game drives, you will often notice young Maasai tribesmen herding
their cattle amongst the plains game. There is plenty of game in the Mara. Afternoon game drive. Overnight at Lodge.

Day 7 - Masai Mara Game Reserve
Spend the full day in the Masai Mara with morning and afternoon game drives. Overnight at Lodge.

Day 8 - Speke Bay
Drive to Speke Bay via Isabenia with picnic lunch. Overnight at Lodge.

Day 9 - Serengeti National Park
After breakfast drive to Serengeti Serena Lodge arriving in time for lunch. The Serengeti is Tanzania's first national park and remains the flagship of the country's tourism industry. Afternoon game drive. Overnight at Lodge.
Day 10 - Serengeti National Park
Full day in Serengeti with morning and afternoon game drives. Overnight at Lodge.

Day 11 - Ngorongoro Crater
After breakfast drive to Ngorongoro for lunch. Descend down into the crater for a half day crater tour. Called the eighth wonder of the
world and stretching across some 8,300 sq km, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in northern Tanzania boasts a blend of landscapes, wildlife, people & archaeology that is unsurpassed in Africa. Overnight at Lodge.

Day 12 - Ngorongoro Crater & Lake Manyara
Half day Ngorongoro crater tour with a picnic lunch. Drive to Lake Manyara National Park for an evening game drive. Overnight at

Day 13 - Amboseli National Park
Drive to Arusha and continue to Namanga border with picnic lunch enroute. Continue drive to Amboseli National Park with spectacular views of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa's tallest peak. Afternoon game drive. Overnight at Tented Camp.

Day 14 - Nairobi
Morning drive to Nairobi and lunch at the famous Carnivore restaurant before transfer for your outward flight or consider a beach stay in Mombasa or the spice island of Zanzibar.

We have also booked ourselves on a Hot-air balloon ride over the Masa Mara, which we're very excited about.

We will be ending our wonderful trip, by heading out to Zanzibar Island, and staying at the Ocean Paradise Beach Resort. It is about an hours drive from Stonetown.

OK, there... you see our plans. Now, what I'm hoping from this fine community, is some Hints / Tips / Do's and Dont's. Most of our accomadations are at the Serena lodges. Any comments out there as to how we can enhance the stay?

We have been to Egypt preveiously, and experienced the aggressiveness of the different markets / vendors. Is the situation similar at different places in Kenya/Tanzania, or will it be a more relaxed experience? We honestly don't mind it...just want to be prepared for the experience. =)

As mentioned abouve, we will be staying on Zanzibar Island for 5 days. I am hoping to have an opportunity to do a little snorkling while staying there. Can any of you suggest any good areas to keep my ears open for, for a possible excursion participate in?

We are planning on bringing small items along, to offer as small gifts to any children that we may cross paths with (i.e. pencils / baseball caps). Is this a common practise, or should we consider other things? Again, your suggestions are most welcome.

I realize that the questions are pretty generic, but I'm just trying to get a feel from the community out here, for suggestions/hints, and how we might be able to enjoy this trip to the max. Thank you so much for your opinions all.

Asante Sana!!!
Travelling_greg is offline  
Jul 10th, 2008, 09:04 AM
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TTT / bump =)
Travelling_greg is offline  
Jul 10th, 2008, 09:35 AM
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Hi Greg,

The first part of your itinerary is similar to what we did last September/October. I have a few suggestions for your stays at the Serena Lodges that might be fun to add to your itinerary.

1. At Mountain Lodge, if you get there early enough in the day you might be able to sign up for their forest walk. We didn't have time to do that, but talked to some people who had and they said it was fun (and different from what you'll be doing in other parks, where you'll be in the vehicle all day). I would definitely recommend exploring the lodge a bit -- the views from the roof top level are great, there is a nice outdoor balcony at the bar where you can watch the waterhole (especially handy if monkeys are bombarding your private balcony, as we saw them doing to some people!), and there is also a hide connected to the lodge by a tunnel, so you can get close to the waterhole at ground level. We had a great night at this lodge, with lots of elephant activity around the waterhole.

2. For the Mara Serena, check to see if they are still offering night game drives. If so, don't pass this up! You never know what you'll see, but nothing compares to driving around under the African stars, and you have a chance to encounter some critters you won't see during the day time. Also, this lodge offers a "breakfast with the hippos" which is a buffet set up along the Mara River right above a pod of hippos -- that was fun! Finally, be sure to walk all the way down to the last room on the left hand side of the lodge (as you're facing the view of the river) and climb up the stairs. There is a spectacular viewpoint from here, and we never saw anyone going up there (we found it because that last room in the row was ours).

3. For Lake Manyara, you might also be able to do a night game drive here. Of the three night drives we did in Kenya & Tanzania, this was our favorite. The night drives at this park are run by Green Footprint Adventures, and they use an open vehicle, which you don't always get to do in East Africa. We had a bush dinner beforehand, and it made for a terrific, exciting evening. GF works with the Serena lodges, so you should be able to have your operator set this up for you, or you could probably book it directly through the lodge when you get there.

4. As for vendors, we did not think the situation was as aggressive as we found it in some parts of northern India, but they do give you a hard sell if you stop at curio stands or visit Maasai or Samburu villages. Just be prepared to bargain! It's helpful to peek into the lodge gift shops to get an idea of what things cost there before you go out to a village visit. But you're not going to find many "bargains" on the safari circuit -- just consider it a donation to the local economy.

5. There are lots of differing opinions on whether or not to hand out gifts to kids along the way. It's good that you're thinking of giving useful things rather than candy. But a lot of people (I'm in this camp) worry that handing gifts out randomly to kids who ask encourages them to beg from tourists. You might want to consider bringing school supplies, inflatable soccer balls, etc. and asking your guide to stop at a school or orphanage along the way. We visited the Rift Valley Children's Village (near Karatu, Tanzania) where we sponsor a little boy, and spent a wonderful afternoon with the kids there... but there are lots of places that you could stop off briefly and visit, and they would be happy for any donations you can give. Just ask your guide or tour operator and I'm sure they will have some suggestions.

Hope this is helpful. You're going to have an amazing trip!
MyDogKyle is offline  
Jul 10th, 2008, 09:40 AM
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You are very excited I can tell so the last thing I want to do is put a damper on things here. But...

Your mom is hopefully a very youthful, healthy and adventurous 70-year old?

Your itinerary makes my head spin. The distances are very long, the roads very bad and I do hope you have a later-model comfortable vehicle with A/C? As she is living in Canada I do not know how your mom especially will handle the heat and dust?

Anyway, have a great safari!
climbhighsleeplow is offline  
Jul 10th, 2008, 09:49 AM
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Hi there. Thank you so much for the responses. Very informative.

Yes... one of the first questions, with the tour company, was about keeping Mom and companion comfortable. This was one of the desiding factors to give this company a try. Thankfully, they are both still healthy, and more than willing to give this trip a go. =0

And, yes... I might be getting excited, just a bit...=0
Travelling_greg is offline  
Jul 11th, 2008, 11:02 AM
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MyDogKyle - I found your comments about night drives, quite interesting, and will investigate these options further. Thank you. Are there opportunities at the lodges, to find 'Darker' observation points, to view the night skies? Some of my fondest memories are the night-sky experiences, I was lucky to have, while visiting the Outback in Australia, and am hoping to have some of these moments during this trip.
Travelling_greg is offline  
Jul 11th, 2008, 11:22 AM
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About stargazing... the bigger lodges generated enough light that we didn't see as many stars as we would have liked in those places, but you can always give it a try. We had out best luck when we were at the tented camps, or else on the night game drives. If you click on my name or check the East Africa Trip Report Index, I have detailed descriptions of our night game drives at Sweetwaters, Mara Serena & Lake Manyara that will tell you more about what it was like and what animals we saw. We also saw a lot of lightning (in the distance) during our night drive in the Mara, which was quite a show!
MyDogKyle is offline  
Jul 11th, 2008, 05:50 PM
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I like the idea of school supplies given to the adults in charge. I would discourage handing gifts directly to children.

If anyone has any back troubles, you can buy a travel pillow for that to sit on in the bumpy vehicle.

Check with a travel clinic for malaria pills, Hep shots, etc.

Plenty of sun protection paraphernalia from wide-brimmed hats to sun protection lip balm.

It is a pain to share binocs. I'd work on getting a pair for each person going now. If you don't have your own, borrow some or get them used.

Do you have a camera with either a 200 or greater lens or a point and shoot with at least 10x optical zoom? That's important.

You can work on learning a little Swahili such as please, thank you, etc. Animal names are a hit with the guides. You've got Jambo mastered.

Have fun.
atravelynn is offline  
Jul 11th, 2008, 05:51 PM
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What do you know, here's the pillow info.
atravelynn is offline  
Jul 12th, 2008, 06:19 AM
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Asante sana! =)
Travelling_greg is offline  
Jul 12th, 2008, 09:41 PM
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enjoy your safari, while in samburu a late sundowner cocktail in the hills will enable you do a nice star gazing in clear skys next to a born fire. Wondefull experience i have had before.
Destee is offline  
Jul 14th, 2008, 06:11 PM
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One more thing if you are up to it and this is a private trip for just your group--Request a breakfast box at the crater and leave early, while everyone else is having breakfast. That way you are 1st to the crater, beating the crowds. If there are shy rhinos, you may have a better chance to see them too.
atravelynn is offline  
Jul 15th, 2008, 09:36 AM
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Sounds like a great plan! No doubt you will have a good time. I can also say you are getting very good advice from the folks here. Serengeti - Mara - Amboseli were all favorites of mine, I hope you enjoy them, too.

jvnoledawg is offline  
Jul 17th, 2008, 02:35 PM
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Hi again all. Once again, thank you for the great replies and wonderful information.

I'm still curious about any opinions / hints in reguards to the Ocean Paradise Beach resort on Zanzibar Island. Any snorkling hints?

MDK - I just finished reading your Trip Report earlier today. WOW...what a trip, and I enjoyed reading your experiences. I can honestly say, I'm even more excited about this trip now. (48 more sleeps!!!!)

A neighbor of mine has been to Kenya / Tanzania a few years ago, and he mentioned about going on a Bush Dinner excursion, where the company brought in an Astronomer for a 30-45 minute talk, after dinner. Have any of you fine people heard of this type of evening, available at one of the lodges? I tried searching the boards, but may not be looking for the key words correctly. I will also be trying to go and talk to the neighbor more, to try and get more specifics. He also mentioned the Breakfast with the Hippos, and I read about it in the Trip Report... which is definitely interesting, which I'll investigate further. =)

Asante Sana again, all!!
Travelling_greg is offline  
Jul 24th, 2008, 05:44 AM
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Hello again.

I'd just like to say, thanks again, for your opinions, and thoughts. In reguards to 'Gifts' side of things, my wife and I have been picking up typical school supplies (notebooks / pens / etc), and will be planning on asking our guide to stop at a school along the path of our itinerary, so that we can pass the items on to a person in charge. Based on the itinerary I posted above, I'm wondering if any of you might be able to suggest possible areas, to drop these supplies off at? Should we try for a school in Kenya, or wait till we get into Tanzania? We are also looking for unique gift ideas, for our guides, in addition to gratuities. I have found a few Baseball Caps, with Canadian symbols on them, which we'll be passing out. We've come across small sewing kits, which seem quite nice...but I'm wondering how practical they would be. Would something like that be useful for them, or their families? Thanks again all.
Travelling_greg is offline  
Jul 24th, 2008, 05:53 AM
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Re schools where gifts can be donated - find out from your tour operator who their ground outfitters are in Kenya and/or Tanzania. You can then, either, write to them direct or have your tour operator do so, advising your wish to visit.

Most outfitters in-country have involvement with a school, orphanage or other such community service (clinic, scholarship funds, etc).

This way, once they know you are interested they will set aside time on your itinerary and advise your guide accordingly.
sandi is offline  
Jul 25th, 2008, 02:17 AM
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Hi Greg,

Your trip sounds amazing. And I too love the idea that you will be handing out gifts, it would be so great if you could go to schools and hand them out there. They will be so pleased.

I stand under correction but the time you are in Tanzania I think the Hobie Cat regatta is on the go called the Tanzicat. It should be lots of fun to watch. Or even better if you are a sailor you might even want to take part... you never know. People are always looking fro crew.

Have a wonderful trip.
Drum_Africa_Tours is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2008, 05:59 AM
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Well....bags are packed.... 1/4 of them filled with school supplies. =) Starting on Malaria pills today... Ride to pick us up for the airport arranged for early tomorrow. we come... I just want to drop a note, and say thanks to the community for the tips and hints. I will try and have a trip report put together when we get back. Asante Sana to everyone!
Travelling_greg is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2008, 10:13 AM
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Have a great trip!
Patty is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2008, 05:38 PM
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Safari njema!
Leely2 is offline  
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