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climbhighsleeplow Jul 26th, 2005 11:45 AM

Rocco vs. the big boys
I just could not resist this comparison! I always wanted to know how an upscale private safari would compare against an upscale international outfitter!

While there is probably room for price-tweaking in Rocco's itinerary, it looks quite impressive (assuming my accounting is correct!).

A&K Tanzania Hemingway Safari – Feb 2006 – GROUP TOUR

10 nights - $6910 pp sharing – max group size 12 as published on their web site

Arusha – Mt Meru Game Lodge (1)
Tarangire – A&K Tented camp (2)
Lake Manyara – Plantation Lodge (1)
Ngorongoro – A&K tented camp (3)
Serengeti – A&K tented camp (3)
Fly back from Serengeti to Arusha

About $691 ppn

Rocco “We created a monster” Tanzania Safari – Feb 2006

12 nights - $5850 pp sharing – private safari for two!

Arusha – Moivaru Lodge (1) (prorated down from 3 nights)
Lake Manyara – Tree Lodge (2)
Ngorongoro – Serena (2) (don’t have your Crater lodge rates!)
NCA – Oldupai Camp (1)
NCA – Nomad Masek (2)
Loliondo – Nomad Piyaya (2)
Serengeti – Mbuze Mawe (2)
Fly back from Serengeti to Arusha (prorated from Zanzibar)

About $488 ppn

bwanamitch Jul 26th, 2005 11:55 AM

I have only one question:
when will Rocco build up his own travel company?

bat Jul 26th, 2005 12:12 PM


fun analysis.

I am cutting and pasting this question from a thread that I posted recently that did not receive any advice--I was particularly hoping for advice from you because you had expressed an opinion without elaboration. I am confident that Rocco will be interested in the answer now that he has indicated that he has upgraded to Crater Lodge.

"What are the differences between the camps at Crater Lodge (the views from the rooms, from the communal areas, and the rooms themselves)?

It is my understanding that each of the camps has its own dining room and communal lounge. I also understand that North and South camps are identical and that Tree Camp is different in terms of size (smaller) and location. I have read that some people think that Tree Camp has "better" views but that North and South camps have "better" rooms. [climbhighsleeplow, I saw your comment in a thread of Rocco's. Would you elaborate--your detailed descriptions are very helpful.]

A rep from CC Africa indicated that the views are better from N/S camp because they are higher and that the rooms at all the camps are the same.

Comments and opinions are appreciated."

thit_cho Jul 26th, 2005 12:15 PM

I have been making that very same point since my first safari (to Kenya and Tanzania) in August 1999. While planning that trip, I ordered the catalogs from A&K, Micato and others, and used those to plan an itinerary.

With itinerary in hand (and one that substantially mirrored an A&K trip), I went to the Kenya Consulate in NY and they referred me to several Nairobi-based operators, who were able to put together an identical trip (exact same lodges), but with private, instead of shared vehicle, for much less than the A&K price. All we sacrificed was the silly A&K hat.

Since August 1999, I have been on four safaris, and I have always used a local operator (Taga for South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Malawi) and others for Uganda and Kenya.

Sure, its more leg work, but I enjoy the research and the savings. With the savings, I can buy my own silly hat.


climbhighsleeplow Jul 26th, 2005 01:14 PM

Hi Bat

Sorry I missed that post. We are renovating the house and my online time is erratic.

Tree camp vs. North/South Camps. I stayed at the Crater Lodge only once (21st September 2003)! It was empty then so the manager showed me the Tree Camp from where I could do the best filming of the crater.

The famous CCAfrica crater picture with the dining room table in the foreground was taken from the Tree Camp. This lounge/dining room has the best views. The guest rooms are smaller than the rooms of South camp and the views are not as good.

While on safari, I spend very little time in my room. The lounge areas are more important to me and I like good views and fewer people. For this reason, I prefer the Tree Camp.

But it is a personal decision.

Roccco Jul 26th, 2005 01:41 PM

Unfortunately, I was only able to beat A&K by 41%.

Had this been Southern Africa, I would have beaten them by 65% minimum, but this whole East Africa thing is new to me and I was under pressure to get this booked quickly.

Thanks for the results, CHSL! :)

thit_cho Jul 26th, 2005 02:03 PM

Yes, but what will you wear on your head? For another $4,000, you could get an A&K safari fedora, with their logo front and center. I don't think I'd wear that if they paid me $4,000.

sandi Jul 26th, 2005 02:33 PM

... and what about the green duffle bag that Micato provides their clients, along with a hat!

Recently, during our stay in Tanzania we met up with a group traveling with Tauck (Westport, CT, USA) based. They were on an 8-day trip staying at Serena properties, with only Kirawira being in the lux category plus 1-flight returning from Grumeti to Arusha - grand total $3,790 or $474pppn. And this was in June. Duh!

Most of us know we wouldn't pay those prices, but there are many who not only have the money, but prefer a known entity. And A&K and Micato and CCA have those... especially when it comes to a destination like Africa.

Hopefully, when these same clients decide to make a return visit, they will have learned - then maybe not. There are just too many choices and admittedly, lots of people don't have the time or care to bog themselves down with the work that goes into saving thousands of dollars.

That's the way of the world!

wallybrenda Jul 26th, 2005 02:34 PM

I wouldn't wear it either but I'd might pay to see Rocco wearing a fedora!
What a killer itinerary...thanks Rocco, now I am torn between East Africa and Zambia!
I am really motivated now to go on the beans and rice diet to save for our next Africa trip!

napamatt Jul 26th, 2005 02:50 PM

Did I miss something? Is Rocco off to East Africa now?

Leely Jul 26th, 2005 03:02 PM

napamatt, you must have gotten lost in the vineyards! You have missed the most interesting metamorphosis of a trip I think I've seen on this forum.

It started as something relatively low-key, low-cost and simple. But it's Rocco. You can imagine the rest.

(just kidding--I'm jealous jealous jealous.)

Roccco Jul 26th, 2005 07:53 PM


I just could not sell myself on Botswana for whatever reason. I attribute it mostly to not wanting to go on a low season safari and not wanting to wait until August / September 2006 for my next safari (after my rapidly approaching Zambian safari).

Also, I mistakenly thought that East Africa was going to be less expensive than Botswana, but for the camps that appealed to me, it was just about the same price as Wilderness Safaris 5 paw camps or Kwando's camps would have cost in high season.

One other attraction of East Africa was Zanzibar. My wife and I have been singing our own made up stupid song about Zanzibar for years now, and I don't have the first clue on how it got started! Goes something like this:

Zanzibar, Zanzibar, everybody loves Zanzibar! (sorry, that's the whole song, but maybe after we visit we will add to it). ;)

Then what really sold me was when I heard about the Kiliminjaro Marathon on February 26th. I thought, "Wow, how cool...that will be a really good marathon to sign up for and then flake out on!" ;)

I am as surprised as anyone. I just wasn't going to suffer through a full year of not going on safari, and my only other options were low season safaris to Southern Africa.

I am at 13.5 months since my last safari and I am going out of my mind. The time between returning from my next safari to Zambia (and the Sabi Sand) and leaving to Tanzania, will be 22 weeks, rather than the 65 weeks or so between my June 2004 safari and my September 2005 safari. Helps me make up for lost time! :)

bat Jul 27th, 2005 05:03 AM


Thanks for the Crater Lodge info--my instinct was to go for Tree Camp (based on that famous picture and that I had read that it was perched on the rim more so than N/S camps). Once again you have helped me stop second-guessing a decision.

Rocco, did you see the post so you can decide if you have a preference?

bat Jul 27th, 2005 05:11 AM


I know what you mean about Zanzibar--there is something so exotic and evocative about the word. When I started telling friends about my trip and they asked me why I chose Tanzania, I said it was because I like saying the words serengeti and zanzibar aloud (of course, then I told them about the migration so as not to sound completely mad). A number of people said that they did not realize that Zanzibar was a "real" place or existed today.

thit_cho Jul 27th, 2005 05:18 AM

I went to Khatmandu for the same reason (very exotic name), and it lived up to its reputation. Now, I need to get to Timbuktu, but Mali's not on my radar screen.

Kavey Jul 27th, 2005 06:25 AM

I remember reading some (fairly average, nothing amazing) mystery story when I was a kid called Escape from Zanzibar and have wanted to go ever since but just haven't got around to it yet...

But Madagascar is still at the top of my wishlist, as it has been for quite some years. I was hoping to include it on our 9 week trip to Southern Africa last year but the added costs just made it unworkable and other trips have ended up usurping it's position... but I'm hoping to get there in 2006 or 2007. Hope the new film doesn't make it too much of a hot destination in the meantime.

Rocco, way to go on prices...

We booked the accommodation and car hire for South Africa 5 weeks directly and made big savings...

napamatt Jul 27th, 2005 07:20 AM


I haven't got to Mombo yet on the trip report, but let me share one thing. In 15 hours in the landrover I would estimate the longest time gap between mammal sightings was around 3 minutes. I am not joking, I have never seen so much game and I have done this an awful lot, even on our spectatcular October 2003 two day trip to Mala Mala, we saw nothing like this. Added to the fact that the secenery is spectacular, I have to say that I am sold.

Roccco Jul 27th, 2005 07:59 AM


I will get to Botswana and to Mombo, but I wasn't willing to pay $1200 pppns for low season at Mombo. Okay, even if Mombo is the best safari lodge in the world, it is surely better in September than it would have been in April or May.

With Tanzania, I was able to push up the schedule all the way to late February for my HIGH SEASON safari! :)

tashak Jul 27th, 2005 08:01 PM

Matt, we had the same experience last year at Mombo. So many predators that there was no time for "tea" breaks. It was pretty excruciating actually. I finally decided that maybe dehydration wasn't such a big risk.

Kavey Jul 28th, 2005 12:42 PM

:D It's never dehydration that does me in - it's the finite time my, ahem, bladder, if that's not too direct for polite conversation, can be ignored. After all, with all that Amarula and coffee it's hard to resist the liquid refreshments!

welltraveledbrit Jul 28th, 2005 05:52 PM

What a's going to take a while to get the image of Roccco crooning about Zanzibar out of my head!

On the question of going places for the names I billed our nine week honeymoon in 2000 as Timbuktu to Zanzibar and I'm still working on one upping it.

Other favorite combinations involve mentioning trips to Mali and Bali in one sentence.

Thit cho I think you should definately add Mali to your's quite fascinating both historically, culturally and architecturally.

Roccco Jul 29th, 2005 01:08 AM


Okay, sing along with me...

Zanzibar, Zanzibar, everybody loves Zanzibar! ;)


I did follow that thread about the different room locations at the Crater Lodge. I told ATR that I wanted the best view possible, so hopefully they take care of this for me. CCAfrica is such a big company that it is not like I may e-mail the Crater Lodge direct, unlike with smaller lodges/camps, as I am accustomed to doing in Zambia. Toto, we're not in Zambia anymore! ;)

About the topic of this thread...while I did not do bad, I do think that I may have done better had I booked further ahead and had I not possibly burned a few bridges. From my prior safari planning on safaris that never materialized, I was able to get some really nice looking quotes from Tanzania Serengeti Adventures and a couple other local operators, but this time they didn't seem to keen on answering my requests for a quotation. However, just for the opportunity and convenience of charging this to my American Express, and being able to pick up the phone and call London to speak to ATR, I don't mind paying extra, but I do think I may have saved 10% or more with a local company, but I believe I made the right choice for me.

After having been through this a few times, the best price is not the deciding factor anymore. That does not mean that others should be taken advantage of by the likes of an A&K or a Micato (that reminds me, I need to order one of their fancy brochures for my coffee table), but when there are companies out there like ATR, who are very knowledgable and fairly priced, then by all means this is an excellent happy medium between an A&K/Micato and a Tanzania Serengeti Adventures/Roys.

Roccco Nov 11th, 2005 01:27 PM

Done deal. Remarkably, I was able to get frequent flier seats in Business Class/First Class from LAX - Amsterdam - LAX.

This was quite unexpected as I was only trying to find business class seats to Buenos Aires next month but when that didn't pan out, I thought since I had Delta Skymiles on the phone, I may as well ask. Ask and ye shall receive. :)

Moivaro Coffee Lodge (3) Kiliminjaro Half Marathon.

Manyara Tree Lodge (2)

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge (2)

Olduvai Camp (1)

Nomad Masek (2) (Nomad Mobile Safari)

Nomad Piaya (2) (Nomad Mobile Safari)

Mbuzi Mawe (2)

Palms Zanzibar (3)

Serena Inn Zanzibar (2)

(I am switching over to Serendipity Africa for my Zanzibar accomodations. I just feel that Sandi is very approachable and very accessible being that she is in the USA rather than in Europe, as is ATR).

Intercontinental Amstel Amsterdam (2)

While the weather will not be that great in Amsterdam, I would like to spend a couple of days exploring Amsterdam. This makes for a very convenient Zanzibar-Nairobi-Amsterdam flight, followed by a Amsterdam-Cincinnati-LAX Delta flight.

On the way over, I fly Delta from LAX - Atlanta - Amsterdam, arriving 2.5 hours before my direct flight to Kiliminjaro (JRO).

I was going mad with the air...I mean spending days racking my brain...and then, like magic, it just all came together, with the grand finale being the frequent flier seats from LAX - Amsterdam - LAX. The LAX - Atlanta and Cincinnati - LAX flights appear to be in First Class. The total mileage required was 90,000 miles per ticket. With the rate that Delta Airlines is going I wanted to dump all my Delta Skymiles and this about accomplishes that goal.

I am flying economy from Amsterdam - Kiliminjaro and from Zanzibar to Amsterdam, but the cost was just under $1,100 pp including all fees.

While it would be absolutely perfect if I had Business/First class all the way through, given the fact that it is a short 8 hrs 15 mins. to Kiliminjaro on the way over makes it completely acceptable.

Also, it is about 10.5 hours for the Zanzibar-Nairobi-Amsterdam flight, but then I am at the ultralux I/C Amstel Amsterdam for two nights before getting to fly home in the comfort of Business Class & First Class.

Thanks for everyone's help in advising me with East Africa. Hopefully I have made mostly the right decisions with this itinerary. :)

thit_cho Nov 11th, 2005 02:36 PM

Great trip. The Amstel is nice, but take a look at the Hotel d'Europe (or something like that), which has a much better central location and to me, at least, is much cozier. I think its also, or used to be, a member of LHW.


PS -- Amsterdam is absolutely great, with more than enough to keep you busy for a couple of days.

Roccco Nov 11th, 2005 05:39 PM


Here is another interesting looking place, although not nearly as over the top as the Amstel. Given the weather, however, I may be better off choosing a bigger luxury hotel like the Amstel for all of its amenities.

It will likely be mid 40's in the day and low 30's and night. I don't take it that the Amstel has its own "coffee house?" ;)

Roccco Nov 11th, 2005 05:39 PM

thit_cho Nov 12th, 2005 05:39 AM

I know the Canal House -- its near Ann Frank House, and I think offers much more charm than Amstel. I stayed at Amstel, but only on business trips, and on vacation prefer the cozier hotels with more personality.

There are no shortage of coffee houses. The most tourist friendly are the Bulldog chain, especially the one on Leidseplein. If you partake, which I recommend, start with the mellow stuff -- the Dutch have a very high (no pun) tolerance, and the top shelf stuff can knock you on your ass.

I have a friend who recommends Blake's, where we haven't stayed, but it also looks nice.

I know you'll probably hit the top restaurants, but a fun, good breakfast place is the Pancake House a 100 yards or so from Ann Frank house. Also, when you walk around, you'll see sandwich stands (I think they call them broodje or something like that), and they're great.

I probably have visited 5 or 6 times, and there's always plenty to do. Definitely wander thru the Red Light District -- its perfectly safe, and if you're VERY discrete, you can take some interesting photos. It also has some of the nicest architecture in town and surrounds some beautiful canals.

Roccco Dec 12th, 2005 04:24 PM

(And the final itinerary is as follows)

Moivaro Coffee Lodge (3)
Lake Manyara Tree Lodge (2)
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge (2)
Olduvai Camp (1)
Nomad Masek (2)
Nomad Piaya (2)
Mbuzi Mawe (2)
Palms Zanzibar (3)
Serena Inn Zanzibar (2)

Given that I read a recent trip report of one Fodorite whom had visited Mbuzi Mawe being trapped in their room by lions and not having much help from the staff, I imagine that my subconscious will soon get to work and start giving me lion nightmares! :(

Lions are incredible animals but unless you have been close enough to reach out and touch them (as I was at Puku Ridge in South Luangwa), it is hard to get a full appreciation of their awesome presence.

Patty Dec 12th, 2005 05:24 PM

I wouldn't get too excited about Air France's business class if I were you ;) I assume you're on AF 72 from CDG to LAX which is operated on a 777-200. I don't think these 772's will have the retrofitted premium class cabins by the time you fly in March. Check with AF when you call for seat assignments. If it turns out to be the new configuration, then consider it a nice surprise :) I would rate the old business class seats and configuration on AF below that of KLM or Delta.

The seat pitch is about 50" (compared to 55"-60" on most intl configurations now) and the recline is rather limited. The good news is that the catering ex-CDG is pretty good (much better than ex-LAX). The business class cabin is divided into 2 sections - a front cabin consisting of rows 4-6 and a second cabin with rows 7-11. Seating is 2/3/2. For 2 people traveling together, I'd recommend a window/aisle (either A/B or K/L) in row 4 as a first choice, followed by row 7 - both of which are bulkhead rows. AF will assign seats 90 days in advance.

Your AMS-CDG flight will be intra-European business which basically means coach seating with the middle seat blocked off by a tray in a 3 seat row (so only 2 pax every 3 seats). It doesn't really matter which seat you choose for this flight.

At AMS you can use KLM Crown Lounge 25 which is newly renovated, and at CDG the AF Affaires lounge (there's a separate lounge for first class pax) at terminal 2C.

Which Delta flight are you on from LAX to ATL? In any case, it will be domestic first class seating with about 40" seat pitch. Your ATL-AMS flight will be Business Elite seating with about 60" pitch and more recline than the AF seats. Some people find the seats a bit on the narrow side, but I thought they were very comfortable. I don't think there's a bad seat in BE, but you can go for rows 3 or 4 if you want to avoid being too close to the lav or galley. Seating is 2/2/2 on the 767-300, so it just depends on whether you prefer window/aisle or aisle/aisle. You'll get access to the Delta Crown Room Club at LAX and the Business Elite lounge at E concourse at ATL.

Hope this gives you an idea of what to expect. Sorry to be the bearer of somewhat bad news but in any case, you'll be far more comfortable than you would be in economy.

Roccco Dec 12th, 2005 06:18 PM


Oh well...I will keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best. I am just thankful that I don't have to pay for these flights in economy class now.
It is always easier to book an expensive itinerary than to pay for an expensive itinerary! ;)

Leely Dec 12th, 2005 06:38 PM

On the bright side, I don't think there's anything but economy from Zanzibar to Nairobi, so you'll be getting the absolute best (available). ;)

I am very much looking forward to the deluge of trip reports in Feb./Mar. Especially yours, Rocco. Should prove quite interesting!

bat Dec 13th, 2005 01:12 PM

It looks like a great itinerary to me. I will be interested to read your report to see the comparison/contrast to Zambia.

ShayTay Dec 13th, 2005 05:00 PM

Rocco, you're going to LOVE Tanzania and Zanzibar! Look for the Monsoon Restaurant in's next to the tunnel by Forodhani Gardens and has great Swahili fare. The restaurant at the Serena is okay, but overpriced. It's a great place for Sundowners, though.

I hope you have better luck than I did on your flight from Zanzibar to Nairobi. My flight was delayed over an hour because of "bad vegetables"! I'm still trying to figure that one out.


Roccco Dec 13th, 2005 10:47 PM


Thanks for the vote of confidence on the itinerary. Really, the part that scares me most will be my two nights in Amsterdam in its mid-March weather. I cannot stand cold weather and I think it is no coincidence that I have been sick for the majority of the last two weeks with the cold weather that we have been having.


Thanks for the recommendation to the Monsoon Restaurant...I will check it out. Hopefully I don't get "bad vegetables" on my Zanzibar - Nairobi flight, as I have little desire to overnight in Nairobi! I think it is a 2 hour layover in Nairobi before continuing onward to Amsterdam.

bat Dec 14th, 2005 11:36 AM

re Amsterdam--I convinced my SO to pass on Amsterdam because of the weather and now I am really sorry that we did--it seems to be too special a place to pass up. I am sure that you will enjoy it.

merrittm Dec 15th, 2005 10:09 AM

ttt for research

parisbrit Dec 30th, 2005 05:07 AM

I think i have joined this a bit late and got a bit lost around about amsterdam....
am also hesitating btw/ ATR and a local operator , its a tough one.
Out of interest Rocco how much was your final cost for the AMAZING safari??

Roccco Dec 30th, 2005 08:23 AM


My ATR portion cost me $13831, but by the time you include credit card charges, and the like, I am sure that it will go up another 3% to about $14,250. This covers the following portion:

Pickup at Kiliminjaro Airport on Feb 24th and dropoff at Moivaro Coffee Lodge. First two days are on my own and the ATR guide/vehicle is not on the clock until the third day when I will be picked up for the Kiliminjaro Half Marathon.

Moivaro Coffee Lodge (3)
Manyara Tree Lodge (2)
Crater Lodge (2)
Olduvai Camp (1)
Nomad Masek (2)
Nomad Piaya (2)
Mbuzi Mawe (2)

Then on the final morning, I will be driven to the Seronera airstrip and then that completes my portion of the trip with ATR. Beginning with the flight out of Seronera, it is Africa Serendipity for the remainder of the trip.

Palms Zanzibar (3)
Serena Inn Zanzibar (2)

For the Africa Serendipity portion, I am looking at $4250 total and for this I am wiring all the money, thus saving me on credit card charges a bit, although the savings would have been huge had I done the entire thing with Africa Serendipity. If I am paying 3% extra for credit card charges with ATR, then that translates into an extra $400, while a couple wire transfers would have only been $80.

So, altogether, this trip is costing me $14,250 + $4,250 = $18,500 excluding the air from LAX - Amsterdam - Kiliminjaro and Zanzibar - Nairobi - Amsterdam - LAX. The LAX - Amsterdam - LAX flights are with frequent flier miles and I am only paying tax of about $150 total. The Amsterdam - Kiliminjaro and Zanzibar - Amsterdam flights are just over $1000 per person.

So far that gets me to $20,650. Throw in my two nights at the Canal House and now it is another $700, for a grand total of $21,350. Likely I will add a day of touring in Arusha National Park, booking it through Africa Serendipity so I will have a chance to compare Roy Safaris (Africa Serendipity's ground operator) with the ground operator of ATR, for future reference.

Why would someone as experienced as I am not book directly with Roy Safaris or one of the other Tanzanian ground operators? Because I LOVE being able to pick up the phone and talk to Sandi at Africa Serendipity whenever an urgent question comes to mind. For the minimal savings of booking direct with Roy Safaris, it just is not worth it, in my opinion.

Parisbrit, are you planning a similar trip to Tanzania?

Richard_Smith Dec 30th, 2005 08:49 AM


Why not wire to ATR as well? Just curious.

Like ATR we are (in our own small way) a UK tour op as well. We do not charge for credit card payments (we absorb the 1.75% we get charged) when people want to pay that way. We do however encourage them to wire us the money, which most US clients don't find too difficult.

Just interested why you didn't wire to ATR rather than incur extra costs?


parisbrit Dec 30th, 2005 09:02 AM

Hi there

Sounds amazing , am planning a similar trip but much shorter only 15 days for my honeymoon and my budget is a lot less.

I am looking at Tropical trails and ATR .
Interesting to note the ATR credit card fees I hadn't even thought of that. I thought they said we could wire it to their US office? Will have to check on that .
Is Roys the best ? I have been looking at Tropical trails they seem good and a lot cheaper than ATR . Its so difficult to decide !

Our June safari would look something like this
Day 1 - Arrive JRO - arrive at Arusha 8.50 am - Moivaro lodge
Day 2 - Safari 1 - Kirurumu Tented Camp
Day 3 - Safari 2 - Olduvai tented camp
Day 4 - Safari 3 - Kirawira Camp
Day 5 - Safari 4 - Kirawira Camp
Day 6 - Safari 5 - Ngorongoro serena or olduvai
Day 7 - Safari 6 - Drive back to Arusha - Moivaro lodge or fly out directly from manyana to zanzibar - anyone have any advice on that ?? Is

then on to pongwe beach for five nights and Dhow palace for two or three

Trying to get that in to about $6000 !!
plus int flights. Which as you said are around 1000 E

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