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-   -   Safari with Natural Habitat? (https://www.fodors.com/community/africa-and-the-middle-east/safari-with-natural-habitat-1657693/)

PatriceMcB333 Sep 4th, 2018 03:19 PM

Safari with Natural Habitat?
 
My husband and I are looking into our first safari next year, most likely in Kenya or Tanzania. I have read the many posts on safaris and tour operators in these areas and the information has been great. Lots of information on Gamewatchers/Porini Camps that we are now considering. I had a friend recommend Natural Habitat Safaris that certainly look good but seemed to be quite a bit more expensive and I wasn't quite sure why. Has anyone been with them and have any comments?

Thank you, Patty

amyb Sep 5th, 2018 04:55 AM

I have my eye on several Nat Hab trips myself, but I can say with all certainty (after 4 safaris of my own) that you can get an excellent private safari for just the two of you for far less than what Nat Hab offers! You are wise to look at Gamewatchers. I'd also throw Kicheche, Offbeat and Asilia camps into consideration. You'll likely want a safari planner to help you as they can facilitate the transfers, intra-Kenya (or Tanzania) flights, etc. In addition to Gamewatchers, I've used Bill Given at Wild Source who has been great and very responsive to my incessant itinerary tweaks and budget. For Tanzania, I booked with Access2Tanzania, Karen there is awesome and works well with budget and scheduling.

PatriceMcB333 Sep 5th, 2018 06:34 AM

Thank you Amy, good stuff to check out. Having personal experience help is what I had hoped for. Very envious of yours! I'll check out your recommendations.

amyb Sep 5th, 2018 06:58 AM

Another thing you might want to play with is the Africa Travel Resource website. They have all trips they've ever created for any client saved there. You enter the month you'd travel, how many nights and where you're interested in (you can search as narrowly as conservancy or camp level) and they will spit out any itinerary they have already created with your criteria. I've lost many hours just playing around in there, but it'll give you a good idea of the cost of various combinations of locations and camps. Also the photos of the camps are helpful if you want an idea of what you're in for. I've almost booked with them a couple times now, but other itineraries that they haven't been able to match have won out. Their agents are qualified and helpful.

PatriceMcB333 Sep 5th, 2018 07:16 AM

Ha ha! I'll get ready to lose some hours on that website as well! Thanks Amy

michele_d Sep 5th, 2018 06:52 PM

I can also speak highly for Offbeat in the Mara. We loved our five days there. Very authentic safari experience...not a disneyfied type of trip. We felt the price was very reasonable for the two of us. We had a jeep all to ourselves with our guide, the food was phenomenal and the accommodations were perfect...rustic but quite lovely. Would return in a heartbeat.

PatriceMcB333 Sep 6th, 2018 07:10 AM

Thanks Michele, always good when more than one gives a personal recommendation on a tour operator. The more I look, the more I see how many safari operators there are out there!

amyb Sep 6th, 2018 08:49 AM

Patrice, of all the camps I've stayed with, Offbeat Mara is the first that I'm returning to later this year. I absolutely loved my guide and spotter, the Mara North conservancy, the camp experience there. It was all perfect. You can book with them directly and they will handle your transfers and airfare too (which a lot of camps won't do without a safari planner intermediary). Offbeat Safaris also has camps in other parts of Kenya so maybe you'd be interested in those too for variety. But know that safari planners can also book them along with other companies' camps too. You have so many options!

PatriceMcB333 Sep 6th, 2018 09:05 AM

Thanks Amy, a second trip says a lot!

michele_d Sep 7th, 2018 04:02 PM

More about Offbeat... The guides ask you daily what YOU want to do that day. They make a schedule: morning drive, afternoon drive, evening drive, shower time, just lying around doing nothing time. Your schedule is based on your wants and desires. Are you a 'birder'...they will give you an expert 'birding' guide. Do you want to see interesting plants and trees? Then that is what they will plan for you that day.

Our guide told us that because of the Mara being a conservancy that they are not required to stay on the roads. You see an elephant over there..you drive over there. A giraffe over there...you go there next. You are right up close and personal with the animals. The guides are very in tune with the animals so they know when the animal is frightened or upset. The guide will park the jeep, turn off the engine and you will just sit and observe quietly.

The sundowners are a lot of fun. Near the end of your afternoon drive your driver will take you to a safe scenic location where you will exit your jeep. He will provide refreshments, alcoholic or not, and some chips or crackers. While you sip and munch you will watch the sun set on another perfect day! Then back to camp for a little rest before dinner is served.

The accommodations are quite lovely. Solar lights were all that was needed. A gravity toilet and Bucket showers completed the experience. I especially loved mornings when 'the hand' would appear above your restroom sink to replace your water pitcher. I will let you experience this for yourself without spoiling it for you.

You will also have the opportunity to experience a 'Bush dinner'. This was one of the highlights of our trip. Staff prepares dinner and sets up a lovely dinner setting literally out in the bush, away from camp. The table for two is set with fine china and silver, candles and real linens. Surrounding your dining area are lanterns, giving off a soft glow. You hear the sounds of the animals in the distance, and sometimes rather close by! Dinner and dessert are served while the Masai build a roaring fire. After relaxing for a bit and visiting with staff, you head back to camp, taking in an evening spotlighting ride on the way back.

Another morning we had a 'Bush breakfast'...breakfast out in the bush, along a river with the hippos and crocs splashing about! There is no extra charge for anything in camp except if you want to do a ballon ride or visit the Masai village.

The Masai warriors were lovely and very friendly. They patrolled the camp at night while we slept. In the morning they would relay to us what animals had been roaming about while we slept peacefully in our tents.

I highly recommend booking your flights and transfers through them. Offbeat met us at out hotel in Nairobi and transferred us to Wilson airport for our flight to the Mara. As soon as the plane landed, our guide, Josephat was waiting for us. Our safari began the moment we left the airport. From that moment forward, for the next five days, Josephat was with us all day.

Dinnertime is a fun part of the day: comparing notes and sightings with the others in camp. It is a small camp, only 7 of us in camp at the end of Feb....a fantastic time to see the baby animals.

Just remembering our trip makes me want to head right back over there!

PatriceMcB333 Sep 8th, 2018 05:04 PM

Michele: So I gather that each tour that Offbeat arranges is just for you specifically - a custom tour for two? Not a pre-set tour that you join? Pretty amazing to be in the reasonable category - especially with the likes of your bush dinner for two.. And you had a guide and 4x4 just for the two of you?

michele_d Sep 8th, 2018 08:22 PM

Yes, pretty much. You can arrive on whatever day of the week you want and stay for however long you want. Others will be in camp when you arrive, having been there for days and other will arrive while you are there. We had a jeep totally to ourselves with our guide. Another couple had their own jeep and another three guests shared a jeep.

amyb Sep 9th, 2018 07:46 AM

Patrice, that’s the best part about doing your safari this way rather than with something like Nat Hab. How your safari goes is really up to your desires. Want to sleep in? Get up for sunrise? Go out for a night drive or go to bed early? You like birds but hate reptiles — tell your guide, they’ll go crazy looking for birds and keep you away from snakes and lizards. Love cats or elephants? They’ll focus on that. If you’re in a big group like with a tour of a dozen or more, you’re tied to the group’s schedule and what the group wants to see. I really love the big cats. I’ll sit for hours watching and waiting for sleeping lions to wake up, or waiting for cheetahs to attempt a hunt. And with a private safari I can wait all day if I want. I don’t have to worry about anyone in the vehicle who doesn’t want to do that. I can’t recommend this type of safari enough!

PatriceMcB333 Sep 9th, 2018 11:03 AM

Michele and Amy: I have looked at so many pre-arranged tours and really thought anything custom like you describe would be out of our price range, so that it interesting and surprising. I am also blown away by how so many people seem to go on a safari once and then are immediately planning their next safari - sounds addictive! Thanks for the help!

amyb Sep 9th, 2018 01:41 PM

​​​​​​​Patrice I’ve never even come close to what some of those tours cost, even when I’ve traveled solo and had to pay the single supplement. And the bonus is it ends up being exactly what you want to do, not a larger group! That’s why I say, I’ve eyed some of those tours, particularly in hard to get to places, but haven’t yet bitten with them yet, because I really think I can do better on my own with some research.

If you read Sundowner’s report on here now (should be listed just above or below yours now) they recently went with Ping on a Mara safari. You might also want to look at Safaritalk.net where there are tons more trip reports with all sort of useful info on many of the camps we’ve mentioned. (Although you could lose hours reading it all and looking at photos!)

CaliNurse Sep 9th, 2018 09:18 PM

"Just remembering our trip makes me want to head right back over there!"

Michele-D, I felt that way reading your detailed description of how the day flows on safari. Trip reports do that to me and others, but there's something about yours... perhaps because you give also a sense of what to expect--and what those of us who've been have been fortunate to experience -- in terms of the days activities, meals, sundowners. Figured I'd next (within 2 yrs, fingers crossed) go again with Gamewatchers, but AmyB's and your descriptions of Offbeat make it hard to resist!

PatriceMcB333 Sep 11th, 2018 07:30 AM

Amy, I have spent some time on safaritalk.net and just looked at Sundowner's thread and photos! I am so glad I perused this forum and posted -- I feel I have come a long way in a short time thanks to everyone sharing their thoughts, photos and experiences.

michele_d Sep 11th, 2018 10:24 AM

I never thought we would be able to afford a safari, after hearing price tags of $10,000 per person with other companies. Originally I thought we would have to give up items in order to have a true safari experience, and that was alright, as we most definitely did not have $20,000 to spend on a safari for two. Plus the traveling in a bumpy jeep for 6-8 hrs to get to our next location left me wondering if this was the only way we could stay in our budget. That is why I was so extremely happy to find Offbeat's website and prices. Since it wasn't unreasonably expensive, I thought we would have an 'okay' experience but nothing along the lines of a more expensive safari. Boy was I wrong!! I couldn't have asked for better. We wanted a rustic, true safari experience and it was exactly what we got, plus so much more. Book them today is all I have to say!!

PatriceMcB333 Sep 11th, 2018 10:57 AM

Michele: I was going through the same price shock and then wondering why the big price discrepancy with the tour guides that have been brought to my attention on this forum?! And it sounds like its not just way more bang for your buck, but very customizable.

amyb Sep 11th, 2018 11:51 AM

I'd also add that it's the all inclusive price, except for tips basically. At least on the safaris I've done, including Offbeat, all meals, accommodation, all transportation within Kenya and all your sightseeing/game drives are included. I figure out what my tips are going to be and bring that as cash and that's it unless I'm spending time sightseeing in Nairobi otherwise. It's not like a trip to Europe where you'd have to bring money for hotel, restaurants, museums, shows, subway, taxis, rental car, etc. once you book your airfare.

Glad we've helped you out Patrice. You'll be ready to book your SECOND one in no time!!


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