Safari & Beach in October 2005

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Jan 24th, 2005, 09:01 AM
  #1
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Safari & Beach in October 2005

My husband and I are planning a safari & beach trip for our 10th anniversary in early October (travel for the 1st 2 weeks in Oct). After much deliberation, we have decided on Kenya/Tanzania/Zanzibar. After doing much research on this website and others, I think I've narrowed down our itinerary and would like to get feedback from you all before sending this along to tour operators for pricing. I am planning to submit this to Roys, GoodEarth, and go2afrika. Any others you would recommend? From my research it seems that the migration is more in the Masai Mara instead of the Serengeti, and I am unsure if we should skip the Serengeti all together based on the itinerary below. Here is the itinerary:

Friday - Flight overnight to London
Saturday - Arrive Nairobi (flight arrives in the evening) - stay in Nairobi - Intercontinental? Norfolk? Serena?
Sunday - fly to Masai Mara - stay at Mara Serena
Monday - Masai Mara - stay at Mara Serena
Tuesday - Masai Mara - stay at Mara Serena
Wednesday - fly from Masai to Nairobi and then drive or fly to Lake Maynara - stay at Kirurumu Luxury Tented Camp
Thursday - go to Tarangire - unsure where to stay - Sopa Lodge, Kikoti, Swala, Treetops?
Friday - Tarangire (this is our anniversary)
Saturday - drive to Ngoro Ngoro - stay at Serena Lodge
Sunday - Ngoro Ngoro - Serena Lodge
Monday - fly to Pemba via Arusha - stay at Fundu Lagoon
Tuesday - Pemba - Fundu Lagoon
Wednesday - Pemba - Fundu Lagoon
Thursday - leave Pemba for Stone Town - stay at Emerson & Green
Friday - Fly home - via early flight to Dar es Salaam

Questions that I have: What is the driving time from (1) Nairobi to Lake Maynara (2) Lake Maynara to Tarangire (3) Tarangire to Ngoro Ngoro. Is the schedule for the locations in Tanzania the most efficient timewise? Or would you suggest doing Ngoro Ngoro after Masai Mara and then traveling southwest to visit Lake Maynara and Tarangire?

Please provide feedback on my accommodation choices. We are looking for upscale lodges, but do not want to spend an exorbitant amount per night. Your help is greatly appreciated.
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Jan 24th, 2005, 12:52 PM
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sandi
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lorib1 -
What a lovely way to celebrate an anniversary. You are correct that the migration should still be in the Mara at that time, though if the rains should come early, some animals get confused and start the return trip to the Serengeti. Then when the rains stop, they go back to the Mara. That said, the majority of the herds will still be in the Mara.

As to Nairobi - there is a wide difference between the Serena, Norfolk and Intercontinental. I'd choose either the Serena or Norfolk, with my personal preference The Norfolk.

In the Mara, the Serena is in an ideal position to see the herds. Though another choice if you want a tented camp, you can consider Mara Explorer which is a 10-tent camp at the junction of the Mara and Talek Rivers. The price at Explorer, however, will be higher then the Serena.

You can fly from the Mara (about 11am) to Nairobi (12:15pm). The connecting flight to Kilimanjaro is 12:30pm, but if they know you're coming, you shouldn't have a problem with this connection. Once you arrive in Kili you can drive into Arusha for Lunch, then continue to Tarangire (is closer than Manyara, by about 10-miles) on a straight road south (whereas with Manyara you go south and west).

At Tarangire, Swala is the most exclusive and expensive. Otherwise, Kikoti, then Tree Lodge would be my choices. I would spend at least 2-nts here as the mini-migration will still be on (bet. June-October) and Tarangire is such a lovely park, and those baobob trees are magnificent.

Lake Manyara isn't my favorite park, however, Maji Moto/now Tree Camp (or whatever they're calling it) is a lovely camp. And if this is your anniversary night, management will, I'm certain, do something special. But 1-nt is more than sufficient here.

The drive from Manyara to Ngorongoro isn't all that long, and you can do a morning game drive at Manyara and still arrive Ngorongoro for a late lunch. Here, the most expensive lodge would be the Crater Lodge and be a treat. As of July 1, you will no longer be able to do full-day Crater tours, so I'd arrange for the tour next morning. Afterwards, you can fly (from Manyara airport about 2-hrs away) to Arusha, or drive to Arusha and catch an afternoon flight to Zanzibar.

As to whether it makes sense to fly to Ngorongoro first and then work your way back - either way is okay, but the airport closest to the Crater is at Manyara, so you still have 2-hrs drive-time. I'd save the flying for the return trip as the distances going from Arusha/Tarangire, Tarangire/Manyara and Manyara/Ngorongoro aren't that great; Ngorongoro will be the furthest point, so it makes sense to fly that even if you have to drive to Manyara to make the connection to Arusha.

Fundu Lagoon on Pemba and Emerson & Green at Stone Town are excellent choices.

Let us know how you do with the outfitters you've selected. And if any other questions, do let us hear from you.
 
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Jan 25th, 2005, 08:49 AM
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Sandi - Thanks for your reply. So we will skip the Serengeti as I've indicated in my itinerary.

In Nairobi, we won't be there very long and I'd rather save some $$ there - we'll just need a comfortable bed after our long journey. Which is more expensive - the Serena or the Norfolk?

I think for the Mara, I'll get pricing for both the Mara Explorer & the Serena. The Mara Explorer looks very romantic!

Sandi - would you recommend not going to Lake Maynara at all and doing a night in Arusha after the Mara?

How far is the drive from Tarangire to Ngorongoro? Could you do a morning drive in Tarangire and arrive Ngorongoro in the late afternoon?

Other than the 3 tour companies I noted above in the orig. message - any others I should try out?

Thanks in advance!
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Jan 25th, 2005, 09:00 AM
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Prices are likely comparable between the Norfolk and the Nairobi Serena, but in my opinion, the Norfolk is much nicer. The Serena is a nice hotel, but nothing special. The Intercontinental is a 3-star hotel, but it has a casino -- rooms are OK, nothing special.
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Jan 25th, 2005, 09:01 AM
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Also - I realized that I never provided our budget - it is about $6000-7000 without airfare from NY. It seems that this should be doable based on some rates that I've found on the internet. Do you agree?
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Jan 26th, 2005, 06:37 AM
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lorib - If just a place to lay your head after the long trip, look into the Fairview, which is a small family owned hotel, lovely gardens for morning breakfasts and very very reasonable. Or go with the Intercontinental, which though a major chain hotel, is very reasonable and close enough to get to Wilson Airport for flight to the Mara.

Arusha after the Mara (instead of going straight onto Tarangire) is good. It'll give you time to catch your breath. You can check out Mountain Village or Ngurduto (sp) Lodge - there's a golf course nearby - something different for a few hours, if either of you golf. And Arusha is an interesting city. Or you can inquire for a cultural tour - Roys has one, but I can't recall the name offhand - and it's "not touristy"

While Manyara might not be my favorite, if this works out for your anniversary night I'm sure TreeCamp can do something special, but then so can Swala, or the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge - all depends on where you'll be that day. Be sure to mention this to whichever tour operator you work with, as it's important to you.

You can definitely do a morning game drive at Tarangire, have breakfast and definitely make it to Ngorongoro by afternoon, with time to spare for "sundowners."

I believe you should do quite well with the budget you present. As to additional tour operators, certainly others can be recommended, but Roys and Good Earth are East Africa specialists. Roys is Tanzania based and has their own operation in-country with their own vehicles, guides, right there if the need arises. Good Earth is US based and likely (not sure) subcontracts to an incountry outfitter. go2africa is South African based and subcontracts their itineraries. Often obtaining more than three bids only confuses the situation. You've already got three good operators. Again, that's a personal decision.
 
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Jan 26th, 2005, 07:12 AM
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Sandi - thanks for the response. I think we may try Arusha in place of Lake Maynara as I'd like to see some of the sights there. We don't golf, but I know from reading so many posts here that there is lots to do in Arusha. We will be in Tarangire on our anniversary, so a splurge for Swala or Kikoti could be in order! I will be sure to let whichever tour company we end up with know.

So here would be the final itinerary
1 nt Nairobi (Intercontinental)
3 nts Masai Mara (either Serena or Explorer)
1 nt Arusha (Mt. Village or Ngurduto)
2 nts Tarangire (Swala or Kikoti)
2 nts Ngoro Ngoro (Serena or Crater lodge)
3 nts. Pemba (Fundu Lagoon)
1 nt Stone Town (Emerson & Green)

Thanks for all of your help. I will probably email this to the tour companies over the weekend. If anyone else has other input - I'd love to hear it!!

- Lori
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Jan 26th, 2005, 07:41 AM
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Lorib1

Itinerary looks good!

In Arusha, the Coffee Lodge is better situated for your safari departure and is the top lodge in Arusha.

You may want to consider Rivertrees if the Coffee Lodge blows your budget.
Rivertrees is very romantic with a great atmostphere (I love the outside pub).

The Mountain Village has a bad reputation for overbooking and sending their clients to lesser lodges at the last moment so watch out for that. If you stay there, make sure you get a new rondavel - by Oct all should be upgraded but they are moving very slow.

Ngurdoto is a conference resort. If you are not into golf you may find the place very crowded if a conference is happening. At the very least, ask for a chalet (very nice with spa bath, etc)- don't stay in the hotel itself as the rooms are much smaller and quite noisy.

The Ilkiding'a Maasai (near Mt Meru) cultural trip is IMO the best one in Arusha.

Go for Swala on your anniversary. I like Kikoti but they have expanded with more permanent tents and it is losing a bit of intimacy since many budget tour groups now stay there.

Eben

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Jan 26th, 2005, 08:16 AM
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Eben -

thanks for the Arusha recs - will look into your suggestions before sending the itinerary off to the tour people. Swala seems to be winning the race for the anniversary evening....

- Lori
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Jan 26th, 2005, 03:07 PM
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This may be a silly question - but if you are doing a custom itinerary as we are, would this then be considered a "private" safari (just myself & my husband on the drives, etc.)? Or, I guess I should request that when I bid out the trip to the tour companies?
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Jan 26th, 2005, 05:46 PM
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Hi Lorib

Many of the commuter-train safari outfitters (departs daily) have scheduled safaris and if you did not book one of those specifically via email, they normally assume a private safari.

Others don't offer scheduled safaris and for them it is always private. Albatros, Roy, etc. for example.

However, it is best to be clear upfront since nothing is worse than stepping out of your hotel and seeing your minibus filled with camera-wielding strangers - joining you unexpectedly on your 5-day dream safari!

The term to use is "exclusive use safari" vs. "group safari".
Eben

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Jan 27th, 2005, 05:10 AM
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lorib1 - as you have designed your safari, you do, indeed, have a "private" safari, rather than a "scheduled" one. Just be certain to request "exclusive use of safari vehicle" so there is no misunderstanding.

You just never know that, by some fluke, someone else has designed a safari just like yours, but if dealing with a company such as Roys this is unlikely. Just stipulate as I indicated above.
 
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Jan 27th, 2005, 05:51 AM
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thanks again.

Also, I've read that there are elections in Zanzibar in October and that during the last election in Oct. 2000 there was unrest. I haven't been able to determine the exact date of the elections (which from prior elections seem to be in late Oct.), but am wondering if this could be a problem for our time in Zanzibar, which would be during the week of October 10th.

I ran all of the hotel options by my husband last night & he loved everything. He had few questions though - when you are at the safari lodges - who takes you on game drives? Is it someone at the lodge or someone from your tour company? Or is the tour co. just there to get you from place to place?

I hope the tour companies will be able to make good suggestions about when to drive or fly from place to place. We're considering flying back/forth to the Mara, then flying to Kili/Arusha. Driving from Arusha to Tarangire, and onto Ngoro. Then flying from Ngoro thru Arusha to Zanzibar. From all of your comments this seems like the most time efficient way, which won't add terribly to the cost.

- Lori
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Jan 27th, 2005, 06:10 AM
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lorib1 -

At this point, those last questions should be put to the outfitters to whom you are requesting your bid prices. Some might have different systems then others.

Usually if you are driving throughout, you have the same guide/driver in each country (you will have to change vehicles/drive/guide at the border crossings). That is, except if one of your stops is on a private concession at/near one of the parks, then your guide/driver leaves and the particular camp vehicles/guides take over. Also, if you are flying, you say goodbye to your guide/driver and someone else meets you on the other end. There's alot of detail to this, and will be specific to your itinerary, so the best answers will come from your outfitter.

As to the elections, agan, ask your outfitter and that's where an actual "in-country" outfitter, such as Roys will have first-hand information. Though being out at Fundu Lagoon on Pemba you'll be far enough away from conflict/protests, if any. Emerson & Green, on the otherhand in Stone Town will be closer to any such conflict. Again, inquire of your provider, but we haven't head of tourists being bothered by such situations.

As an alternative to Fundu Lagoon on Pemba, ask Roys about Pemba Afloat, especially if you're into diving! Just one more thing to think about!!!
 
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Jan 31st, 2005, 10:58 AM
  #15
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Just a quick note to all to let you know that I've sent my itinerary off to the outfitters - Roys, Good Earth, 2afrika, and suntrek.

Thanks for all of the advice & I'll keep you posted on what they all say.

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Jan 31st, 2005, 11:32 AM
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Be mindful that you will be in Zanzibar and Pemba during Ramadan. These islands are 90% Muslim. Try not to eat or drink out in public in deference to this time.

Also be prepared to hear the call to prayer in Stone town at 4:30 am. Its amazing.
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Jan 31st, 2005, 01:12 PM
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Queenie -

Thank you for the info on Ramadan. Much appreciated. Am I correct in assuming that eating/drinking within the confines of the resort/hotels during the day would be acceptable?

Please let me know.


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Jan 31st, 2005, 01:37 PM
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Of course you can eat in the hotel and at restaurants that are open wherever you happen to be. If not the hotel or restaurant would be closed. It's just not appropriate to be eating while walking the streets when many are fasting during the day.
 
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Feb 2nd, 2005, 08:40 AM
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How long should it take for the tour operators to respond to a custom safari quote request? Good Earth responded to me within 36 hours -- still waiting for others, including Roys.

Also - is there any negotiating of price with the operators?

Thanks in advance!
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Feb 2nd, 2005, 09:58 AM
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lorib1 -

The difference between Good Earth and Roys is the fact that Roys is right there in-country and this is very busy time of the year - lots of guests/clients going every which way.

So besides responding to proposal requests, they, or any other in-country outfitter, has to deal with everyday concerns of their clients - meet/greet, guides, vehicles, and on and on. Whereas, with a company such as Good Earth has someone other outfitter handling their clients in-country, while they (Good Earth) sits back here in the States.

Also, many of the in-country outfitters aren't large companies with office staffs of 25 or 50 people - they are much smaller operations. Remember, before the internet it would require a long distance phone call, fax, or snail mail - how soon we forget. You'll get a response - patience!
 
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