Seeking Safari Advice

Old Jan 28th, 2020, 05:42 PM
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I've now got (18) pages of notes and links for itineraries from various planners and I'm trying to consolidate it into something I can share here and get feedback.

First question... One itinerary that looks quite good (put together by Emily at Wild Source) would begin the very beginning of October. The others are late August or September. Are there advantages or disadvantages to Aug/Sept versus early October?

Thank you all so much!

Last edited by Songdoc; Jan 28th, 2020 at 06:36 PM.
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Old Jan 28th, 2020, 09:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Songdoc View Post
leely2 & sundowner: Since you didn't mention safety in the city, I'm assuming that's not an issue. I would want to be able to wander around during the day.
I have limited vacation time and usually spend every minute on safari. So I cannot personally speak to the safety but I haven't heard anything negative. Other than don't wander around alone after dark.

I can't remember being in Africa in October other than Botswana where October is "suicide month" because of the heat. And I can vouch for that.

I've been in Kenya in mid to late September and there was still a lot of the migration there then. It all depends on the weather and the rains. I've seen the migration there in June which is supposed to be a slow month.

I would probably leave that itinerary in the comparison. Advantage = less people (I assume) Disadvantage = possibly no migration. But the animals live in the Mara year round.
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Old Jan 29th, 2020, 04:23 AM
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My last time in Kenya was the first 2 weeks of November and it was wonderful (especially considering it's supposed to be the start of the short-rains). There were still some migration herds around in the Mara too. I wouldn't hesitate going to Kenya (if that's what you're looking at) in October. Fewer crowds nice weather but not the heat of Jan-Feb.

I can't speak to how safe I felt in the center of Nairobi as I've never spent time there. I land and want to get on safari asap. I have been to some shops and restaurants around NNP and the Karen area and it felt fine. Just prepare yourself that most hotels, restaurants and shopping villages have gated parking with armed guards who'll check your cars before you can enter. That was unsettling at first but I've gotten used to it.
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Old Jan 29th, 2020, 06:46 AM
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We've also done as plambers did - arrived at night (8pm?) - stayed at Eka. They offer room service for a minimal fee... so we took the opportunity to shower, eat some dinner, and head to bed. It was nice to wake up the next morning and be adjusted to the time zone with minimal jet lag. We then drove to Wilson and took off from there -
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Old Jan 29th, 2020, 09:44 AM
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Thanks for the input. I think it's important for me to spend two full days with nothing scheduled when we arrive. The flights (with layovers) from Hawaii can take more than 50 hours and we will have a 12-hour time change. DH has a very rough time with jet lag. I'm now thinking of spending those first nights at Macushla House instead of staying in the CBD.

I keep getting more itineraries. A couple of them suggest Tanzania instead of Kenya. I think I will start posting some of the suggested trips to narrow them down. With more than 20 itineraries to compare it's getting overwhelming!
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Old Jan 30th, 2020, 11:30 AM
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I stayed at House of Waine in Karen which is a small boutique type hotel. I just looked up the price and it seems to be around $430 per night for late Sept/early Oct which includes a nice cooked to order breakfast. A travel agent may be able to get you a deal. I know that I didnít pay that much but I was there over 4 years ago. Youíve got to go see the orphaned baby elephants at Sheldrick! I had a baby elephant who had just taken a mud bath come up to me for a head scratch, (you can touch them if they come to you) then he changed his mind, wrapped his trunk around my arm to fling it off and covered me in red mud! I was a mess ... but it was hilarious to everyone around me.

We also went to see the giraffe preserve where you can feed food pellets to the giraffes - one of the helpers told me I could put the pellet in my teeth and the giraffe would take it.. true but the way he does is to stick his tongue in your mouth and scoop the pellet out from behind your teeth. French kissed by a giraffe. Ewww!! Wished Iíd brought my tooth brush along. A group of children watching were thoroughly entertained.

We also went to Karen Blixenís house which was very interesting and at my request we went to a bead factory I heard about where they provide women with a job, teach skills, get a hot meal each day and have guards to protect them while working - many come from abusive situations. They have a store of course) and I bought some beautiful necklaces as souvenirs. The store is staffed by these women as well. it was a relaxing couple of days while we got used to the time change and recovered from our flight. Itís important to have that time to unwind so you feel rested before your safari.

As far as safety goes, Iím sure some will disagree, but I do not think it is safe to be out wandering on your own in Nairobi. I was told not to take a public transportation and to be sure that any taxis were called for me by the hotel. We had a Driver/guide with us at all times while out touring and he told us not to wander out on our own when he was not with us. I brought a duffel bag with medical supplies at the request of a doctor friend who goes on medical missions, serving small villages outside of Nairobi near the Somali border. She gave me safety advice: She said that while being transported to Karen from the Nairobi airport to be very cautious because traffic is incredibly congested and is at a complete stop many times. She said - do not be looking at your phone, have your watch visible or be rifling through a purse, backpack, etc while sitting in traffic. It makes you vulnerable to a smash & grab where they will come to your passenger window, smash it and grab whatever you have in your hands.

So I may sound a little paranoid but we followed her instructions and were fine. and as a a further, very tragic story - on our last full day on safari, I checked my email after a morning outing and found out that a dear friend of my sonís had been murdered in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, the night before. He had arrived that day to work as a volunteer for a month, along with his girlfriend who was already there for a year assignment. They got on a public bus to go visit a friend of hers and were robbed and he was stabbed on the bus. He died later that night in a small hospital while his mother (in the US) was frantically trying to arrange a medical transport.
So please do be careful in the cities. Once you are on safari, you will be in paradise.
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Old Jan 30th, 2020, 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Songdoc View Post
The flights (with layovers) from Hawaii can take more than 50 hours and we will have a 12-hour time change. DH has a very rough time with jet lag.
Question - do you have any other overseas travel planned for 2020?

The reason I ask is that it *might* be worth your time to investigate a round-the-world ticket. They're good for a year, can include up to 16 flights and 15 stopovers, are fairly easily modified, and can offer decent value if constructed properly. I posted a big thread on the Air Travel board some time back that might be worth reviewing - Round-the-world and multi-continent airfares

Basically these tickets enable round-the-world (RTW) travel provided you cross both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in the same direction, but because they're good for a year, you can the ticket to start somewhere overseas, travel to some destination, then return home as a "stopover" partway through the ticket, then finish the loop (back to the starting country) before the year's up. For example, if you used, say, miles to get to Europe (I seem to recall you're AA frequent flyers) and started the RTW ticket there, you could travel to Africa, then return to Hawaii via Asia, and "stop over" at home for some number of months. Then you could use the same ticket to bounce around the mainland and cross the Atlantic back to Europe, maybe for a second or third vacation or business trip, before ending where you started. You'd have earned enough frequent flyer miles in the course of this that you could probably return home on those miles. Hope that makes sense.

The tickets are priced very differently depending on where the travel begins and ends. The US is quite expensive for most of these, Japan and western Europe less so, sometimes much less so. Even RTW tickets bought in Canada are often 30% cheaper than the same tickets bought in the US.

Any, maybe look at that thread and see if anything resonates.
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Old Jan 30th, 2020, 09:44 PM
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Gardyloo: I don't think it will work for this trip. I'm hoping to fly using AA FF miles -- business class at least one-way. And I don't know when I'll return to Europe. I won't do it until it's work-related. It's likely it'll happen, but I don't know when.

Ellenbw: Thank you for that info.

I am trying to narrow things down before I post. Two planners are suggesting that I consider an all-Tanzania safari. These would include private guides and require less flying--but more driving--which lowers the costs. But that's not a deciding factor.

Any thoughts about Tanzania before I start posting some itineraries?

PS. Several planners are putting a lot of effort into this and I hate that only one will get chosen. They are all willing to put together whatever I want and I'm now wishing I had just chosen one instead of letting several of them invest so much time. Please tell me that it's their job and that I'm being too sensitive. ;-(

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Old Jan 31st, 2020, 05:30 AM
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songdoc, for me it would depend on the Tanzania itinerary. While I loved my Tanzania safari (the Northern route), it was my first, and involved a lot of driving to get from park to park, which, now that I know how safari is in Kenya, would drive me crazy now because it wasted daylight hours better spent game driving. I want to be out there looking for wildlife every stinking minute, not on tarmac or in traffic. That said, there are places in Tanzania that are more like that. So I'd want to know where in TZ you're looking before I comment further. So that's the long way of saying I'd limit the driving. For me, it's worth the cost of the bush flights to get me on game drives faster.

Don't feel badly about the planners. They all know that you're looking elsewhere, this is what they do and they know you're looking for them to be competitive. What I would caution you against though, is the amount of back and forth you do in tweaking. Multiple tweaks and back and forths gives an implication that you're interested in them and it'd be bad form to walk away after they've tweaked it a whole bunch to customize for you. It's unlikely that any first draft was super-unique, it's probably a starting point they used for many clients before. At this point I'd narrow it down to 3 max that seem a good fit to you and let us help you narrow it down and tweak it further!! ;-)
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Old Jan 31st, 2020, 07:17 AM
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Don't feel badly about the planners. They all know that you're looking elsewhere, this is what they do and they know you're looking for them to be competitive. What I would caution you against though, is the amount of back and forth you do in tweaking. Multiple tweaks and back and forths gives an implication that you're interested in them and it'd be bad form to walk away after they've tweaked it a whole bunch to customize for you. It's unlikely that any first draft was super-unique, it's probably a starting point they used for many clients before. At this point I'd narrow it down to 3 max that seem a good fit to you and let us help you narrow it down and tweak it further!! ;-)
Amy. that is really helpful and wise advice.
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Old Jan 31st, 2020, 10:07 PM
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I've only been to Tanzania once, in September, 2009. The southern route (Mikumi, Ruaha, Katavi & Mahale for chimps). It was my very least favorite, worst trip. Tsetse flies everywhere. Couldn't get close to the animals. So I'm not one to ask. ;-)

We did stop in the Mara for 4 or 5 nights on the way home from Tanzania and it was excellent. As usual.
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Old Jan 31st, 2020, 10:17 PM
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Iím finally narrowing things down. These are the Kenya options that look best to me. The planners all emphasize that they can customize these itineraries in any way. After I narrow these down I will post the proposed Tanzania itineraries. I can go any time in August, September, or early October. I havenít listed all the prices, but they are all within my price range so that isnít a big consideration. Iím just looking for the best itinerary. FYI, Iím especially interested in big cats, but I want to see it all.

Itís amazing how far Iíve come (thanks to your help!) from when I started out thinking I would be part of a group tour. Any comments will be much appreciated.

10 Nts. Kenya Savannah Safari GWPC1

https://wetu.com/Itinerary/Landing/0...D-0E99D5D39E62

US $7735 per adult sharing / 1 July - 30 September, 2020; US $6090 per adult sharing / 1 - 15 October, 2020

This 10-night fly-in safari visits some of Kenyaís finest game parks and reserves. Starting in Nairobi National Park it continues to Ol Pejeta Conservancy Ö then visits two varied and award-winning Conservancies in the Masai Mara Ė Ol Kinyei and Olare Motorogi Conservancy Ė as well as the famous Masai Mara National Reserve.

Day and night game drives are by 4◊4 safari vehicles with expert guides, and exciting bush walks are included giving you the opportunity to get close to flora and fauna often missed from drives.

Summary

2 nights at Nairobi Tented Camp located in Nairobi National Park.

2 nights at Porini Rhino Camp located in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

3 nights at Porini Mara Camp located in Ol Kinyei Conservancy.

3 nights at Porini Lion Camp located in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy adjacent to the Mara Reserve.

Includes one-day visit within Masai Mara National Reserve

* NAT1

11 nights Ė Nairobi Park; Mara; Amboseli

2 nts. Ololo Lodge (Nairobi Park)

5 nts. Spekeís (Masai Mara)

4 nts. Tawi Lodge (Amboseli)

https://wetu.com/Itinerary/Landing/E...5-329B6959B2EF

Or

11 nts

2 nts. Ololo Lodge (Nairobi Natíl Park)

3 nts. Spekeís (Masai Mara)

3 nts. Tawi Lodge (Amboseli)

3 nights at Porini Lion Camp located in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy adjacent to the Mara Reserve.

OR

1 nt. Eka Hotel (Nairobi)

3 nts. Porini Amboseli Camp (Selenkay Conservancy) just north of Amboseli over the northern boundary of Amboseli Park

3 nts. Porini Rhino Camp (Ol Pejeta)

3 nts. Porini Lion Camp (Olare Motorogi Conservancy)

OR

Oct. 2 Ė 14; 12 nights

2 nts. Four Points Sheraton (airport)

3 nts. Eagle View (Mara Naboisho Conservancy)

4 nights Enaidura (Masai Mara)

3 nts. Ol Pejeta (Ol Pejeta Conservancy) Ė OR -- Ol Mara Lodge (Laikipia)


Last edited by Songdoc; Jan 31st, 2020 at 10:20 PM. Reason: it added code
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Old Feb 1st, 2020, 06:36 AM
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Songdoc, I’ve been to most of those camps. I will be bold and say you will not be disappointed at Enaidura, it is in fact the best camp I’ve stayed at, by a mile. My last safari was there (TR on here) and it was EPIC. If you can get them to commit to giving you Ping as your guide, I’d say go for it. I have zero hesitation in saying that. He was a Maasai guide who worked for other big camps in the Mara before he finally got the chance with another rock star guide (Paul Kirui) to open his own camp. He got every detail bang on perfect and I have NEVER seen someone read animals like Ping can. Time and again he’d get us in the right position so he knew where to be when the action played out.

The Porini Rhino-Mara-Lion was my first Kenyan safari and I loved it. If I did it over, I would drop Porini Mara and spend it at Lion or another conservancy camp. I didn’t love Mara Camp or its guides (I had a subsequent encounter with them on a later safari that reinforced that). But I lost two full days of safari with Mara camp due to broken down vehicles. Alternatively you could combine Porini Lion with Offbeat Mara in Mara North and get a great high density cat safari. Ol Pejeta will give you rhino most likely and a very different landscape than the Mara and Rhino Camp is great. I had some good lion sightings there but nothing like lion/leopard/cheetah in the Mara.

Amboseli — I’ve stayed at Tawi Lodge and it amazing. They have a watering hole right off the deck where you dine and near the pool where you can sit and watch game come to bathe and drink. I routinely saw elephants out there, not 30 yards from where I was eating! It’s very easy access to the national park. You go to Amboseli for the mountain and the elephants, anything else is gravy. I saw only one lion over a 4 day stay. But being swarmed by a herd of 200+ elephants as they silently glide past your vehicle is one of the most humbling experiences I’ve had. And it happens frequently...just amazing. The Porini camp is quite a ways out of the park and getting there takes a while (according to a friend of mine who just stayed there) but they are on their own conservancy, as Tawi is, with its own wildlife.

I’ve probably said it already but if your stay at Ololo includes game drives in Nairobi National Park, I’d do it. Yes it’s more safari but the rhino sightings are the best anywhere (even better than Ol Pejeta) and very reliable for both species, black and white. Otherwise Eka is good because it’s sort of midway between the international airport and Wilson where you’ll fly to the bush. But there’s not much you can do from there on foot as it’s on highway-like streets and not much nearby to do.

Sorry I rambled. You have some great itineraries there, I don’t think you can go wrong with many/any of them. What’s your gut saying?
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Old Feb 1st, 2020, 05:27 PM
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Songdoc I am sharing my trip report from a few years back.... We stayed at many of the places you are going to. We loved Porini Rhino. And Porini Lion is in the same conservancy as Kempinski. We loved our game drives in that area, but the Kempinski was probably our least favorite camp.

With what I know, this would probably be my preferred itinerary (although it is hard to go wrong with others). Putting my comments after each stop.
1 nt. Eka Hotel (Nairobi)
=> so nice to be able to get into a normal hotel for an evening after massive travel. Food is fine. Re-set the clock with a stopover.


3 nts. Porini Amboseli Camp (Selenkay Conservancy) just north of Amboseli over the northern boundary of Amboseli Park
=> Amboseli is supposed to have amazing elephant watching. I've heard that Porini Amboseli is further away from the park? We are trying Amboseli on our next visit. Can't wait!


3 nts. Porini Rhino Camp (Ol Pejeta)
=> LOVED this camp! One of our favorites.


3 nts. Porini Lion Camp (Olare Motorogi Conservancy)
=> LOVED Olare Motorogi area. We will be staying here our next trip also.


Babies Galore: Kenya in April

Hope this helps!
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Old Feb 1st, 2020, 06:09 PM
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surfmom: that was an EPIC report. Wow! Thank you.

I am strongly considering booking with Game Watchers and am a bit concerned that both you and CaliNurse had issues with not being picked up at -- or for -- the airport.
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Old Feb 1st, 2020, 06:37 PM
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Songdoc Glad you were able to find it helpful. As you can tell, it was written as we went...

We loved Gamewatchers. Julie listened to us and got the itinerary dead right for our first visit to Africa. I've recommended her to others who have also been happy. It WAS a hiccup... but afterwards, they stepped up and admitted fault and we were compensated.

Don't know if it makes you feel better or more confident... but we have booked again with Julie for August 2021. We are limited to when we can do a big vacation since our kids will be in college and have internships and vacations don't all line up... so we really are planning ahead. We are adding Amboseli, switching from Kempinski to Porini Lion and adding Uganda and the gorilla treks at the end. So I have confidence in her ... and them ... to get it right.

good luck planning!
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Old Feb 1st, 2020, 06:50 PM
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Thanks, surfmom. That's good to know.
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Old Feb 1st, 2020, 11:17 PM
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In 2012, we had 4 nights at Porini Mara followed by 5 nights at Porini Lion. We didn't like Porini Mara and on day 2 we asked if we could go to Lion early. The camp was not full so they let us move. Porini Lion was excellent. As noted by surfmom, it's in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy.

We've stayed at a private house in the same area (3 times) and although it's located inside the OMC, they don't have game drive privileges there so the game drives are in the Mara. Topi House. It's my favorite place. The guides, Fred and Mpatinga, are excellent. We usually stay there 4 or 5 or 6 nights and that means the guides know what you've seen the last few days. Then they feel ok about heading out on a long game drive to see if they can find a rhino. If I won the lottery I would stay there a whole season.

Ping. What to say about Ping. There are some top tier guides in the Mara and Ping is certainly one of them. I first met him at Mara Toto in 2013 (I think) and then at Enaidura in 2018. And while you sit and wait on something to happen, Ping has some pretty good stories.

With Fred and Ping, we sometimes have them load sundowners with the breakfast in case we don't come back all day. And they always take us to a hippo pool for breakfast.

You have some good itineraries to choose from and some great first hand recommendations!


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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 08:31 AM
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Sundowner, now Ping has a full lunch delivered midday when you’re sitting waiting for a sighting to play out! And he lets the camp staff stay with us to watch whatever is happening. I found it amazing that a lot of the staff who live in Ping’s own village had never seen any of this wildlife before they started working for him, and they were as excited as we were seeing it all.

One thing (of many) that I love about Ping is he might actually be the one person who loves cats more than I do. And when something special happens, he shakes his head and whispers “wow” to himself, almost as if acknowledging how amazing it is. I follow him on Instagram and he’s currently in Botswana with Bill for the first time ever, and in one of his videos I hear that and smile. I’m so happy he’s getting to play tourist somewhere else and obviously loving it like we would!

Back to business, if not going with Enaidura at all, I’d take surfmom’s itinerary, swap out Porini Amboseli for Tawi Lodge and go with it. It’s a better location and a far better accommodation overall, a cut above the tents of Porini.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 12:52 PM
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I'm going to see which dates I can use FF miles to fly business class ... then ask Gamewatchers to check availability and pricing for:1 nt. Eka Hotel (Nairobi)

2 nts. Nairobi Park (

3 nts. Tawi Lodge ( and compare that to Porini Amboseli Camp)

3 nts. Porini Rhino Camp (Ol Pejeta)

3 nts. Porini Lion Camp (Olare Motorogi Conservancy)
I only have enough miles for business class one-way, so we will return in steerage.
​​​​​​​
I think Ping would take this out of my price range. But I'm not ruling anything out just yet.

Re: Tawi versus Porini Amboseli ... is the difference the accommodations -- or the location and overall experience? I ask because luxury is not important to me on this kind of trip. I work at an annual "glamping" retreat in British Columbia where the tent is only large enough for a bed that sits on a wooden platform. No electricity (or anything else!) in the tents. The communal bathroom and shower is a hike through the woods. I love it.

Again, I am so grateful. You have all provided such awesome information and suggestions.
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