Safari & Beach in October 2005

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Feb 2nd, 2005, 12:25 PM
  #21
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Ok - my apologies b/c I posted my message earlier today in some haste! I just received a quote on our itinerary from A-Way-To-Africa, the company that handles US based inquiries for Roy Safaris. I have also received a quote from Good Earth. Still waiting on 2 more from Wild trek and SunTrek.

For the most part, both quotes follow the itineraries I laid out to the tour companies. However, there is quite a disparity in the pricing of both itineraries, though - in the area of $900 a person, with the lower quote coming from Good Earth.

The quote for Good Earth is still well above our budget that I noted in an earlier post for both of us (ex-airfare from the US) of $6000-7000. I was expecting the quotes to be in line with my budget (or at the high end) based on my research of rates at the various accomodations, flight prices, etc.

Why would the quotes be so different, if the itineraries are nearly the same? I could understand a few hundred difference per person, but it is nearly $1000 differential per person.

How negotiable are the prices? Do the tour companies "price-match" each other?

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Will post accordingly when the other quotes come in.

- Lori
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Feb 2nd, 2005, 01:49 PM
  #22
sandi
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lorib - Remember that October is still prime season. Prices won't go down before November 1 thru Dec 14, but then November is the time of the "short" rains. And if all outfitters are pricing the more expensive accommodations, your only alternative is to come down to the next best level. Instead of Crater Lodge, go with the Serena. Instead of Swala, it's Kikoti or Tree Tops, or Sopa. Instead of Mara Explorer, go with Intrepids or Serena.

But remember, the prices cover everything, except your tips, and in some places your bar bill if not included and should be so stated on the proposals you receive, laundry at some places (if extra it's at minimum cost). The price included the accommodations and associated taxes, all meals daily while on safari, park fees ($30/day person), the vehicle, and exclusive use of same, petrol, and your guide/s.

Also, flights, if you've chosen these between some destinations, are costly and there isn't much any of the outfitters can do with these - (maybe $5), but otherwise they're set.

No, the outfitters, do not "match prices" and there isn't much negotiating you have on your end - except choosing less expensive lodging.

But what does "for the most part... they followed my itinerary" If there are differences, what are they, are they major, better or lesser quality... then you might not be comparing apples-to-apples.

But you're still waiting on two more proposals. See what you get, and compare apples-to-apples. If they all come in over your budget then you know you have to select different lodgings or omit some flights. While $1,000 is quite a difference, I would't be put off by anything less then $500. In the end, it has to be your decision, with the company you feel best able to provide the services they've committed to.
 
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Feb 2nd, 2005, 03:00 PM
  #23
 
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Lorib

Welcome to the complex world of East Africa safaris!

There are many factors at play here so to be brief I can only give some highlights:

1. Some local outfitters don't have good relationships with luxury camps such as CC Africa and Sanctuary Lodges. Roy in particular is known to charge too much for camps such as Swala and Crater Camp - they are more competitive with Sopa, etc. Others such as Sunny Safaris offer very good rates with the luxury camps.

2. You are doing a multi-country/region trip. Roy is not the best option for Kenya. They are not a Zanzibar specialist either. You may want to try Albatros or Raylenne, etc.

3. Jul-Aug is more expensive than Sept-Dec 20. You should get good rates in Oct.

4. I know Roy is recommended (maybe unfairly) on this board. IMO they are not special enough to warrant the prices they charge. In the field, they look much like everyone else - especially when you stay in lodges.

5. On a private safari, the driver/guide and vehicle quality are the 2 most important differentiators and there is no guarantee that your guide from Roy will be better than the guide from Good Earth!

6. Good Earth (Arusha office), Sunny, Ranger, Albatros, Raylenne and many others offer excellent value for money especially for exclusive-vehicle lodge safaris. Camping safaris are a different matter and the list will be different!

Where does this leave you? You have done the hard work already. Take your itinerary to some of the companies above and let us know how they compare!

Eben
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Feb 3rd, 2005, 05:21 AM
  #24
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Thanks for your input. I apologize if I am being super anal about this - but I just want to plan the best trip. Also, this is the first time that I am planning a trip of this magnitude, and don't want to get "taken" by any of the companies.

Sandi - Including the park fees/etc. accounts for some of the differential from my estimates. However, I have to go back to both Good Earth and Roys and indicate some changes. For example, Roys has us at the Serena in Nairobi and I requested the Intercontinental, as it is cheaper. The rest of the itineraries are essentially the same --
Mara Serena 3 nts
Arusha Coffee Lodge 1 nt
Swala 2 nts
Ngoro Serena 2nts
Fundu Lagoon 3nts

The final night which I had requested Emerson & Green in Stone Town differs - Roys has us staying in Dar the last night, and Good Earth in Stone Town.

I need to find out which type of room was included at Fundu in the Roys itinerary - this could account for $300/pp difference b/w the 2 quotes.

I guess that my big concern is for the private, exclusive use safari - would a $750-1000/person differential in rates be warranted for service provided by the various safari companies? And, it does seem from all I've read on this forum that Roy's has better service, guides, etc.

Sorry to beat this to death... I am overly grateful for all of your input.

- Lori
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Feb 3rd, 2005, 09:04 AM
  #25
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lori - If you want the Intercontinental say so, as I'm assuming you'll be arriving late and only need a place to lay your head. Though the Serena is a nicer property.

As to the room at Fundu, check whether you have beach front or garden or even a view and difference in prices. Beach is probably higher cost, and if this is the case, go with a less expensive, but ascertain - size of room, where located, view, whatever - then make your decision.

As to the last night in Dar - this might have to do with your flight next morning which is a very very early one. By staying in Dar near airport, you don't have to be up as early versus taking an even earlier flight from ZNZ (Stone Town) to make your homebound connection.

If this is the case, and you indeed want to spend a day and "night" at E&G in Stone Town, you might have to cut a day from Fundu. Realize that it'll take a flight and long drive traveling from Pemba to reach Stone Town.

Ask the questions and be sure you get and understand the answers. In the end it is your safari and you have to be comfortable with your decision based on responses you receive.
 
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Feb 10th, 2005, 05:58 AM
  #26
 
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Dear Lori
Had a thought, don't know if it will appeal to you or not.
We also planned a special trip to Africa to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, though we decided to travel in a different month to our actual anniversary date, for seasonal reasons.
During the trip we held a wedding renewal ceremony. We wrote to our favourite lodge and asked if a member of staff we'd gotten on with well on our first trip would be willing to participate. Then we wrote a ceremony to reaffirm our vows which included a personal passage from each of us to the other thanking them for the last 10 years. We included some of our favourite readings too, which a few staff at the lodge read out. We didn't know in advance whether it would just be us and the one person we'd asked so it was all kind of loose. We also chose to exchange new rings as we'd lost one of our originals, plus we did a small ceremony based loosely on a hindu one. We basically could do what we wanted because the ceremony wasn't legal in any way as we're already married, of course.
It was absolutely lovely and really special.
Thought you might like the idea of incorporating your own renewal ceremony, however simple, somewhere during your trip.
Please feel free to write to me or ask here for any further info, if the idea appeals.
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Feb 10th, 2005, 04:58 PM
  #27
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Kavey -

That sounds like you had a really special 10th anniversary. We hadn't thought about doing something like that, and maybe we will. We are scheduled to be at Swala Camp the night of our anniversary, and will have a private bush dinner that evening. Our itinerary is under the posting on Good Earth tours - which I posted earlier today. I am so excited for this trip and can't believe I have to wait 7&1/2 months to go! Thanks again for the great idea.
- Lori
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Feb 11th, 2005, 05:39 AM
  #28
 
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Lori

We stayed at Pemba for 4 nights after Safari in Kenya and Tanzania. It was super. The staff is really friendly, it is totally unpretentious there. The water is gorgeous. To my knowlege all of the huts are beach facing and there is one super-luxury honeymoon suite. You will want to go out to Mesali Island to dive and go to the beach, the beach right by the lodging isn't so great. The snorkeling is super (we did not dive) and ask to see if there are any sea turtles being kept by the rangers. They scoop up the stragglers and care for them until they are strong enough to survive in the wild.

I think you will enjoy Pemba, it is laid back and a bit of paradise after Safari.

Enjoy!

Melissa
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Feb 11th, 2005, 06:16 AM
  #29
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Melissa -

Thanks for the note on Pemba. Did you stay at Fundu Lagoon? We are upgrading to the suite with the plunge pool - figured it will be a luxurious end to the trip. We snorkel and are looking forward to that. We may try to get certified to dive prior to the trip as well.

Fundu looks amazing. How was the food there? Also - can you let me know what the dress code is? thinking ahead - I don't want to have to bring many "nice" clothes if possible b/c we are going to do some of the small flights & I know about the weight limits with the luggage.

Which month were you there? How was the weather? Thanks in advance for answering my questions.

- Lori
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Feb 11th, 2005, 07:23 AM
  #30
 
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Hi Lori

We did stay at Fundu.
The plunge pool suite is the best, you will love it. The diving is supposed to be excellent and they have a good dive center.
The food was good, more american than the food on Safari and you always have choices (we didn't have choices on Safari)
Dress code is V. casual. You wont want to eat in your swimsuit but a coverup is fine.
About clothing....We packed one backpack each for a 17 day trip. We just kept wearing the same clothes (our camps did the laundry for us), no one cares about what you wear.
We went late Sept-October. Let me warn you...Kenya was COLD. We wore hats, gloves and many layers for our morning drives. Make sure to take warm things -you will wear them!
We also did the hot air balloon trip over the Mara. It departs from Little Governor's and we loved it. It ends with a champagne breakfast which was delightful.
In terms of NICE clothes...leave them at home. Dress up your daywear with costume jewelry or a scarf. I am a fashion girl and I was amazed that I could care less about what I was wearing and more interested in its function and warmth. NO ONE was dressed up at our resorts (we stayed at all CCAFRICA resorts which are pretty luxurious...and it didn't matter at all!)

It was truly the most amazing experience of my life...we are now in love with Africa and cannot wait to go back.

-ENJOY-

Melissa
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Feb 11th, 2005, 10:40 AM
  #31
 
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Lori
You're welcome...
Our ceremony was preplanned/ written but very informal - we wore regular jeans/ trousers and Ts - very much in keeping with the trip.
I have photos online so drop me an email if you'd like to see them.
I'm sure your trip will be marvellous whatever the details!
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Feb 11th, 2005, 11:35 AM
  #32
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Melissa -

Thanks again for the info. I am a fashionista myself, and always think that at even the beach resorts you need to dress nicer. We are going away the 1st 2 weeks in Oct. - similar time to you. You say that Kenya was cold in the morning - what about in the afternoons? How was the weather in Tanzania/Pemba in the morning/day/night? Clothing wise, I expect that we are going to be taking a bunch of our nike dri-fit clothing with us - keeps you both warm & cool. I am glad that you say to bring a hat/gloves for Kenya. Any other items you'd definitely recommend to bring (or wish that you had brought)?

- Lori
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Feb 16th, 2005, 05:21 PM
  #33
 
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I wouldn't skip the Serengeti for fear of missing the migration. My wife and I stayed at Klein's Camp in the Northern Serengeti in late September 2004. The heards were already moving south (back into the Serengeti from the Mara) at that time. Although they had not made it as far as Klein's camp, Klein's is close enough to Kenya to do an extended game drive to the Mara river and into Kenya. On such a drive, we saw throusands of wilderbeast and were lucky enough to see several hundred cross the Mara river. That being said, Klein's camp is in the northern Serengeti. If you are staying the the southern Serengeti, you probably won't see the migration in early October. Nevertheless, the Serengeti is well worth seeing, migration or no migration.
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Feb 18th, 2005, 10:00 AM
  #34
 
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climbhighsleeplow:
May I ask you a quick question about your posting: you mention Raylenne as a good tour operator for Kenya. I am in the process of planning a 7 day Kenya safari for mid March and the best deal I have found is with Raylenne. The problem is that the only review or 3rd party reference I can find to Raylenne on the entire www is your posting here! I take it you are familiar with them and know them to be honest and reliable?

The reason I am so concerned is because they require us to send them a deposit by bank transfer in order to book with them - I can't think of anything worse than to be arriving in Kenya to find that I have been 'done' so to speak!

The other tour operators I have been dealing with include Planet Safari and Ambicabre, however their lodge safaris are priced significantly higher than Raylenne's... this is another thing that concerns me a little - Raylenne seems so perfect that I wonder if am I missing something!?

Any comments or suggestions you may have would be most appreciated! Many thanks in advance.
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Feb 18th, 2005, 11:20 AM
  #35
 
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Hi Beroccstar

I am trying to look back to see if I recommended Raylenne...if I did it was unintentional since I have not been on safari with them.

Instead, I think I was trying to use them (and Albatros) as examples of licensed outfitters (KATO, etc) with good rates in both Kenya and Tanzania since they operate in both countries.

I've read a few trip reports about them and they seem ok. Here's one: http://www.traveljournals.net/stories/5053.html

I also like the fact that they publish their safari prices. I cannot offer more assurances though.

It is common to ask for money upfront via wire transfer.

For private lodge-based safaris, I am of the opinion that there is little to choose between the many licensed outfitters in East Africa. I design my own itineraries and use the outfitters just for lodge/park booking services, vehicles, guide services and companionship. Rates are important.

I've had great safaris with outfitters never mentioned on this board. And I've been disappointed with some that are mentioned here. Since the whole experience is somewhat unpredictable I don't like to recommend anyone!

I will say that I've never been cheated by a licensed East Africa oufitter. Some of the bad experiences were due the lack of explaining my expectations at the start.
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Feb 18th, 2005, 12:19 PM
  #36
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We booked our trip yesterday with Good Earth and are buying our plane tickets today. We are so excited for our first trip to Africa - even though we have to wait 7 months to go!

On Good Earth - I am very pleased with their services thus far. Narry, the US contact and owner of the company, has been extremely prompt in answering all of my emails/questions/etc. And, as I've stated before, Good Earth gave us a very good price for our custom, private safari. They are throwing in a bush dinner (for our anniversary) and side trips to Olduvai Gorge and a Masaii village into our package.

Thanks again for everyone's help! I will continue to read/post/ask questions as we wait the long 7 months until we leave!
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Feb 18th, 2005, 12:28 PM
  #37
 
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Excellent Lorib1

Can you post your final itinerary?
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Feb 19th, 2005, 12:49 PM
  #38
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Here is our final itinerary:

- Leave US - overnight flight thru London onto Nairobi
- 1 night Intercontinental Nairobi
- Fly to Masai Mara
- 3 nights Mara Serena
- Fly to Arusha from Mara thru Nairobi
- 1 night Arusha Coffee Lodge
- Drive to Tarangire
- 2 nights Swala Camp (one of these nights is our anniversary & we will have a bush dinner that evening)
- Drive to Ngorongoro
- 2 nights Ngorongoro Serena (while in Ngoro - we will do a side trip one afternoon to Olduvai Gorge & to a Masai Village)
- Drive to Arusha & then fly to Pemba
- 3 nights Fundu Lagoon in Beachside suite with Plunge Pool
- Fly to Dar es Salaam
- 1 night Dar es Salaam Holiday Inn
- Early morning flight home to US

We are really thrilled about the itinerary, as it includes both countries, and also beach time at the end.

- Lori
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Feb 20th, 2005, 03:07 AM
  #39
 
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climbhighsleeplow:

Thanks so much for your reply, that makes perfect sense. I'm in a bit of a quandary here - you are right, many of the operators seem quite similar.
I've done some more enquiring and am now at the point where I have a choice between similarly priced safaris from both Raylenne and another operator called Wild Trek (also KATO registered). The thing is, they both offer different things for the price I have requested, so I was wondering if you or anyone else might have any opinions as to which they would choose between:
(a) Raylenne: 4x4 minibus (whatever that is) with max 7 people; or
(b) Wild Trek: regular minibus but with just my partner and I - no others.

I guess what I am trying to figure out is how valuable the 4x4 option is and whether having it would be better than privacy... ah this is all so hard!

Thanks in advance!
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Feb 20th, 2005, 03:52 AM
  #40
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beroccastar -

Your comment:

>>I have a choice between similarly priced safaris from both Raylenne and another operator called Wild Trek (also KATO registered). The thing is, they both offer different things for the price I have requested,<<

Then you're not comparing apples-to-apples. One if obviously being priced as a "private safari" the other not.

Why not list the individual itineraries (park/reserve, no.of days, accommodations) for comparison, as both companies are reputable. With more details we can then make viable comments.
 
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