Safari itinerary help needed

Jun 23rd, 2006, 06:55 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 183
Safari itinerary help needed

Help me please! The more I read the more confused I get. My wife and I are looking to take a safari within the next year or so. This will probably a once in a lifetime experience so we want to make sure we do it right. That doesn't necessarily mean spend a lot of money, but make the best decisions based on our needs.

Here are our parameters based on what I know:
*We can go almost anytime except Jan - March. That is tourist season and we need to be here.

*From what I have read, I want to go to Ngorongoro Crater. Other than that we are open.

*We don't want to change camps everyday. I think we would rather hit 2 or 3 camps at the most, 7 or 8 nights.

*Would like a little luxury for at least one of the stops. Can't afford the best at every stop.

*True camping is out for my wife. Need a shower and toilet. Can go without shower for a day, but that's about it.

*We really, really would like to see part of the migration. Preferably a crossing. I know nothing is guaranteed, but want to know what our best chances are.

*Do not like the cold so maybe winter is out?

*Not really interested in birding, going for the large animals.

OK, so that is my wish list. Please help me. When is the best time and place to see the migration. Any suggestions would be great. I guess our first decision is when to go, so if you can offer suggestions, that would be great. Then, once I get our tickets, I'll bug you some more.

Thanks a lot for your help.
Duane is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2006, 07:33 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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I think you would be very pleased if you repeated a portion of the safari that I just did this past March. Although I started with Tarangire and Lake Manyara, you could certainly start right with the Ngorongoro Crater.

An itinerary like this would be really nice, although you may need an overnight in Nairobi or Arusha to start:

Nomad's Tarangire Camp, 2 nights
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, 2 nights
Nomad Semi Mobile Tented Camp or CCAfrica's Tanzania Under Canvas, 4 nights in the Ndutu area. Definitely focus on the Ndutu area at this time of year, especially late February to late March as this is where the Migation will likely be AND it is one of only a couple areas in the entire Serengeti where offroading is allowed. Plus, it is not nearly as crowded as the Seronera area of the Serengeti.

Unfortunately, for my own stay, Nomad Tarangire was not yet an option...I am not even sure it will be an option in February/March, but if not, then either Swala or Olivers Camp would make excellent options. I stayed at Tarangire Treetops and while it was very nice, it was just too far from the entrance to the park.

Take a look at my photos from Tanzania:

The only downside to my own trip was that I did not have good ground handlers for the first half of the trip. It was not until I was turned over to Nomad that my guiding and vehicle improved. Be very careful when visiting Tanzania that you know who the ground handler will be and what type of vehicle will be used. A Land Cruiser is suggested over a Land Rover for comfort.

January to March is high season but if you waited until April 01st, prices drop drastically while I doubt gameviewing will suffer much. It will NOT be cold in April.
Roccco is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2006, 09:56 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
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best place for migration in August and September and possibly into October is the Masai Mara in southwest Kenya.

I believe staying at the Mara Serena lodge right in the park would be the best value.

Others more expert than I will have better ideas.

If you are in the US, you might try African Serendipity for advice.

stakerk is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2006, 10:37 PM
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Hi Duane - caviat my answers as being someone who has yet to travel but is addicted to the Africa forum.

So - talking through this - since you cannot go in Jan - March and don't want to go in the winter (can get very cool in morning hours in Ngorongoro) Jun - August might be too cool and additionally want to hit migration...

You might think about December time frame for Ngorongoro and a trip to central Serengeti for predators and then on Masai Mara. Logistically you may have couple flights to get to Masai Mara from Serengeti though. This is presuming that Ngorongoro is a must as well. Or consider Ngorongoro and Masai Mara in Kenya.

2 nights Ngorongoro
4 nights Masai Mara

1 Night Ngorongoro - Serena or Sopa unless you want to splurge on this part for the Crater Lodge
2 nights Central Serengeti - Serena or Mbuzi Mawe perhaps
4 nights Masai Mara

Logistically this may be a nightmare, so others please speak up.
lovetodiscover is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2006, 10:55 PM
Join Date: Apr 2006
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Duane - as to the temps being cold - how cold is too cold? Heard some people mentioning temps in 40 degrees F range in mornings at Ngorongoro but warming up as the day progresses. You'll have more options on timing if you are willing to bear some cooler morning temps and potentially see migration then in Tanzania saving flight costs to Kenya.
lovetodiscover is offline  
Jun 24th, 2006, 06:07 AM
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For the Migration:
In Tanzania:
mid-Jan - Mar - Southeast/Central Serengeti
Apr - May - "long" rains, lower prices, less tourists - the herds are somewhere in the Southeast/Central Serengeti
Jun - July - Central/Western Serengeti
mid-July - Western/Northern Serengeti
late-Oct - Dec - Northeast/Central Serengeti

In Kenya:
Mid-July - end-Oct (sometimes even November and December) - the Masai Mara.

River Crossings are more likely to be seen while in the Mara, as there are a number of places where crossings can take place... but there are never any guarantees.

Tarangire in Tanzania - good from mid-June thru Oct - a mini-migration.

Ngorongoro - year-round

Samburu, Amboseli, Lake Nakuru - in Kenya are good year-round, though in the dry season, Amboseli can be very dusty.

Remember - the wet seasons:
April/May - "long" rains in both Kenya and Tanzania. You may or may not have rain. It's rare to be daily, often a morning or afternoon, sometimes a full day or rain overnight.
November/mid-Dec - "short" rains in both contries. Usually brief afternoon thunderstorms, then the dust has settled and it's rarely humid. Occasional showers overnight.

Advantage of the rainy seasons - lower prices, less tourists and it's green everywhere.

Disadvantage - can get bogged down on wet roads, some properties closed, though rarely the lodges).

Temperature - cold - The seasons are different than in the Northern hemisphere. Though located on the Equator, their summer is Jan-Mar; fall is April-June; winter is August-early Oct; spring is late-Oct - December.

Mornings and nights year-round will be cooler (high 30s - 40s [lowest always at rim of Ngorongoro Crater, it's at 7,000-ft] in winter; rest of year high-40s/low 50s) than mild daytime temps (from high-60s in winter; 70s in fall/spring; 80s-90s in summer.

Hope the above provides direction on time of year, where and weather that may be ideal for your safari.

And, it's not too early to be working on plans for 2007.
Jun 24th, 2006, 06:11 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 183
Thanks everyone. 40 degrees is probably too cold, especially if we stay in tents or a tented camp. Brrrr. Living is South Florida makes us weather sissies I can't imagine getting out of bed if the temp is 40. We'll actually I can, but my wife wouldn't like it to much and we want to make this an enjoyable trip. But, if that guarantees the best chance at seeing the migration, we'll consider it. We do not need to go to Ngorongoro Crater, it's just that I have heard so much about it.

Rocco, I have already looked at your awesome photos - twice. They are all great, but I especially like the one with the 2 cats laying there and both of them yawning. Great photo!

To narrow this down more:

*April/May the migration will be in the Central Serengeti right? Can I still go to the crater then over to see the migration. Too much travel? Not enough migration happening?

*November/December it will be closer to Ngorongoro Crater. True?

*But, if we went in August we would want to go to Masai Mara. Is it possible to go to say Tarangire and Ngorongoro for 2 days each and then fly to Masai Mara? Cost too prohibitive? Take too much time?

Realistically we can go from the middle of October to the first week or so in January, or April through the middle of August. April and May work best for us, but from what I have read, the viewing is not the best at that time.

One thing I don't want to do is spend a lot of our time traveling unless that is the best way to see animals. I read some of these trip reports and they are always on the road going from site to site. One night here, next night somewhere else. Maybe that is what a safari is all about.

Just trying to nail down the time so I can book tickets. I know this is a personal decision, but you folks know a lot more about this than I ever will.
Thanks for your advice.
Duane is offline  
Jun 24th, 2006, 06:44 AM
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Thanks for the info Sandi. It really helps! I posted my reply at the same time you were posting.

Decisions, Decisions.....
Duane is offline  
Jun 24th, 2006, 03:59 PM
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A well planned safari will rarely have you doing one-nighters. And, unless you choose a flying safari, you do have to drive from one destination/park to another. But it's the journey, not the distance... there are sightings to see along the way.

Though the temps at the Crater can be chilly at night, you're not going to be sleeping in a tent here (unless you're into budget camping); rather in a lodge and some actually have heat. But it's warm inside and there are more than enough blankets if you need.

Even though it will be cool to cold in the morning/evenings/nights, with a thermal-t, a crew neck sweater and a windbreaker-type jacket, even Flordians can survive for an hour or so. By the time you return for breakfast, you'll be peeling off the layers. And, unless you choose a tent camp option, you can do a lodge only safari.

If you choose migration in the Mara between July-Oct, you can certainly visit Tanzania first with a few days at Tarangire and Ngorongoro; then returning to Arusha, fly to Nairobi Kenya and a connecting flight to the Mara for 3 or 4/days.

Flights add to your expense, but they do save time and long drives. And, unless doing a budget/backpackers itinerary (I don't believe this is what you have in mind), the difference in cost vs driving isn't all that great, as if driving you have to pay for a vehicle, petrol, insurance, guide.

Jun 24th, 2006, 04:27 PM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 258
Staying for at least 2 nights in one park is good and if you do go to the Masai Mara - staying minimum 3 due to travel time to get there and during migration time may even be considered a short stay.

Travel from Ngorongoro to Serengeti is possible in the time you have, actually okay to travel across N. Circuit in 8 days driving one direction and flying on the return or vice versa.

If you do want to include Kenya, plan at least the 8 days itinerary time. Sandi's got good advice for you.
lovetodiscover is offline  
Jun 24th, 2006, 04:34 PM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 258
Duane - one research tool I used was reading through the group travel itineraries to learn about what was possible and/or is a highlight at each location. Here's a link to OAT on a 19 day itinerary that has detail about each stop they make. You might find this helpful.

Other group travel companies include Abercrombie & Kent, MT Travel Sobek, and Ker and Downey. Their itineraries may help you sort out the locations you want to visit and make some trade-offs.

What animals are a key highlight to you?
lovetodiscover is offline  
Jun 25th, 2006, 05:29 AM
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Thanks everybody. Great ideas! I need to ponder these responses and do some more reading. But, you have cleared up a lot for me.

Sandi, again, great advice - thanks. lovetodiscover, thanks for the link and idea to check out group travel. Rocco, you mentioned to be careful with our ground handlers. How will I know who is good? If someone with your experience ended up with bad ground handlers, what chance do I have? Sure wish we could come in the Jan-Mar timeframe, but that is out.

We are mainly interested in the migration of course, but after that we are more interested in the larger animals. Giraffe, Lion, Elephants, Rhino, etc. I want to plan the trip around having the best chance to see the migration and maybe even a crossing, although the chances are slim. Even if we don't see it, that's OK, but I want to give us the best chance.

Somewhere along the way we would like to stay in one of the luxury tent places. I don't want a hotel atmosphere the whole time.

Couple of more questions if you don't mind:

* If I decide to go in winter, say late August, early September, would I be best served by just going to Kenya and not stopping in Tanzania? What would I miss by not going to Tarangire and Ngorongoro? Will I see the same animals in the Masai Mara area? This would save a lot of travel.

* How far is Arusha from Ngorongoro? And Nairobi from Masai Mara? I'm trying to get a feel as to how much of a pain it would be to spend 4 days in Tarangire and Ngorongoro and then fly to Masai Mara for 4 days.

*lovetodiscover - you mentioned possibly driving from Ngorongoro to Masai Mara? How long world that take? Is it doable? This way I could fly into Arusha and out of Nairobi and not have the hassle of flying around when I am there.

* If we decide to do both areas, does it matter which way we travel? Any advantage of going to Masai Mara first or going to Ngorongoro first?

*Last question, yea right. If I wait until December, some of the maps I have been looking at show the Migration coming down through the Tarangire area. Can I just stay in this area the whole time or is there not really a migration in this area?

I'm sorry this that turned out a lot longer than I thought. Can you tell I am excited. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer. If I am going in August, I'll need to start booking the tickets soon.

Thanks gain,
Duane is offline  
Jun 26th, 2006, 08:47 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
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After months of wandering sites, I found a wonderful operator, so far so good, we leave next week for 12 days in Tanzania/2 in Zanzibar. Check out Journey to Africa - with offices in Arusha and Houston, TX. We patched together a few pieces from each of their sample safari midrange offerings. The friendliness and cheer of the Tanzanian people has already abounded! Wish you well!!
wildebeestus is offline  
Jun 26th, 2006, 10:41 AM
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I think the highlight of Ngorongoro is the sheer concentration of game in one location. I'm no wildlife expert, but I don't believe there's any particular game in the crater that doesn't exist elsewhere but the crater gives you a good likelihood of seeing certain species like black rhino which may be harder to find in other areas. If you want to see black rhino in Kenya (as opposed to white which is an introduced species), I would say the reserve with the highest probability of seeing them is Solio. Elephants, lions, giraffe are all readily seen in the Masai Mara.

Travel time from Arusha to Ngorongoro by road is about 4 hours, I believe. From Nairobi to the Masai Mara by road is approx 6 hours give or take depending on which camp or lodge you choose. There are flights from Kilimanjaro airport in northern Tanzania to Wilson airport in Nairobi that connect to the afternoon flight to the Mara. You'd leave Kilimanjaro at 2:00pm and arrive in the Mara close to 4:00pm. I don't think it would be that much of a pain to spend 4 days in Tarangire/Ngorongoro and fly to the Mara. The flight schedules are coordinated to allow you to accomplish this easily.

That said, I think you can also have a great trip to Kenya alone. With 8 days you could combine 2 or 3 parks and experience a range of environments. A northern park like Samburu would allow you to see some different species than you'd encounter in the Mara.

You can't drive from Ngorongoro to the Mara in one day. With your limited time, I don't think driving is a good option if you decide to include both Kenya and Tanzania.

The migration that you'll hear about in Tarangire is something entirely different than THE migration that occurs in the Serengeti/Mara ecosystem. Here's some info on the various seasonal changes in Tarangire -

You can read about others experiences with their ground handlers in the East Africa trip report index -

Hope this helps. Good luck with your planning!
Patty is offline  
Jun 26th, 2006, 04:00 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5,553

Well, about the ground handlers, you could use the process of elimination method. I did not have such a great experience with MKSC (the ground handler for ATR). I have seen others post negative reports about Ranger Safaris ground handling.

Find out who the ground handler is that your agent is using and then ask if anybody has experience with such ground handler.

I found Nomad to be excellent with its ground handling, but as a disclaimer, yes, I am an agent, and, yes, I do sell Nomad. However, most on this board know that I am very upfront and bitingly honest. For example, while I have every opportunity to sell the Palms Zanzibar for $1,000 per night, I made little hesitation last week about posting, not one, not two, but ELEVEN different reasons why one person who enquired about it may want to reconsider.
Roccco is offline  
Jun 26th, 2006, 06:21 PM
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Thanks everyone. I just need to make some decisions. That's the hard part....

Duane is offline  
Jun 26th, 2006, 10:25 PM
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Duane - I agree with Patty on the suggestions for Ngorongoro + possibly Tarangire and on to Masai Mara being possible. Don't suggest the driving though - rather fly from Tanzania to Kenya. The driving I was suggesting was within Tanzania between Ngorongoro to Serengeti National Park (no borders crossed).

If this is your once in a lifetime trip, although many here seem to return several times, do it your way. See Ngorongoro and don't wonder "what if..". Too much money to spend to not structure it to your liking.

It'll get easier as you make a few of these decisions. Next choice will be the camps/lodges.
lovetodiscover is offline  
Jun 27th, 2006, 05:58 AM
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Thanks lovetodiscover,
That clears up the driving part. And yes, this is probably once in a lifetime. Not that I won't love it and want to go back, because I am sure it will be fabulous! But there are so many places still left to see. We have traveled a lot, but have only scratched the surface of the world. About the only places we go back more than once are here in the states that I can get to rather quickly without much expense.

My next steps will be to look for tickets, first trying to fly into JRO and out of Nairobi. If that doesn't work, I'll try just going to round trip to either JRO or Nairobi.

Thanks all for the advice
Duane is offline  
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