serena or sopa lodges?

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Sep 8th, 2005, 11:53 AM
  #1
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serena or sopa lodges?

Hi,

From a comfort and money standpoint, which one is better in Kenya and Tanzania - Sopa or Serena lodges?

thanks in advance.
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Sep 8th, 2005, 12:03 PM
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C'mon africatravel, don't be shy; show us your itinerary.

I think Serenas are a bit nicer but alsoa bit more expensive. If you need to save money, go for the Sopas. But your itinerary could play a factor in choosing because one will sometimes have a "better" location than the other in different parks, at different times of year.

By the way, all this is hearsay, just stuff I've picked up from this board.

Regardless of your accommodations, you can have a magnificent safari! Take it from someone who has spent far too much time worrying about these things. The Serengeti is the Serengeti, wherever you've chosen to lay your head.

Let's see that itinerary!
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Sep 8th, 2005, 02:23 PM
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From a comfort and quality perspective, Serena are significantly better. Not sure how much more expensive they are but, assuming you're travelling from Europe or the US, I doubt it is THAT much in the whole scheme of things !
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Sep 8th, 2005, 02:33 PM
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Hello,

Both Serena and Sopa lodges are more like big hotels than safari camps -- if you want a more 'bushy' experience, consider spending some time in a smaller tented camp at some point in your trip. The Mara or the Serengeti would be ideal.

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 8th, 2005, 03:51 PM
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bwanamitch
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There only problem is, more 'bushy' camps means more $$ to spend, especially if you expect the same comfort that these 'big hotels' offer.

If you make a package tour by road and you have some $$ left in your budget, I would invest them in the 10-20% surcharge for a private vehicle. As a whole this is much more rewarding than one or two nights in a tented camp.

Julian, not all of these 'big hotels' are such as bad. If you've ever experienced the view from Serena Mara, I'm not sure if you still want to go to Rekero, Little Governors or Bateleur.

africatravel, in Tanzania Sopa is fine (especially their presence in Tarangire, and the imo much better location of Sopa Ngorongoro on the western rim), in Kenya I always would recommend Serena.

Mitch
 
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Sep 8th, 2005, 04:14 PM
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Mitch,

I don't deny that the Mara Serena has a great location, but personally I wouldn't stay there as I prefer the more personal atmosphere of a smaller place. I've also found that I feel much closer to the bush when I'm in a tent than I do when I'm in a lodge surrounded by solid walls. Since we have no idea what sort of budget Africatravel is looking at, it's certainly worth throwing the idea out.

Just my 0.02 pence...

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 8th, 2005, 04:15 PM
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Whilst they are lodges rather than camps, the Serena lodges I've just visted far exceeded my expectation. I went for camps last year (Intrepids / Mara Safari Camp) and actually had an even better safari experience this year. See my trip report just posted. Wherever you choose I'm sure you'll have agreat time !
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Sep 8th, 2005, 04:29 PM
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bwanamitch
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OFF TOPIC

Julian, if you choose Bateleur I would highly recommend a private vehicle, unless you prefer a very 'personal atmosphere'. When I saw CCAfrica vehicles last year in the Mara, the 'packing density' of those vehicles reminded me more on that of 1-day minibus beach safaris.

Mitch
 
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Sep 8th, 2005, 04:36 PM
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OFF TOPIC

How many people per vehicle? I often book a private vehicle at Londoz, but I wasn't planning to in Kenya. Do you know if the vehicles were from the main camp or from Bateleur?

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 8th, 2005, 04:48 PM
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Julian, can't tell you from which camp they were, but there were a lot of CCAfrica vehicles that had taken the long way to the Serena area. Packing density was 2*3+1 or 3*3+1 (can't exactly remember the number of rows).

Mitch
 
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Sep 8th, 2005, 05:51 PM
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Staying at tented camps (or small lodges) doesn't necessarily have to cost much more if any than staying at larger safari lodges. You can certainly spend as much as you want, but I've found tented camps in Kenya in all price ranges. BTW I agree with Julian on the lodge issue. I couldn't enjoy myself either at such a large facility regardless of the view. But I do understand that not everyone wants a 'bushy' close to nature experience either which is why there are all types of accomodations
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Sep 8th, 2005, 06:40 PM
  #12
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Thanks a lot for all your advice. Sounds like a lodge is perfect for me because I don't want too much of a bushy experience. This is my first time out on a safari and I would fall apart if I didn't stay in a proper lodge.
Perhaps the next time, I will stay in a tent... baby steps for the princess in me.
I am also quite scared of animals so a wall between me and them sounds great.

Please don't get me wrong, I love animals and can't wait to go on a safari, but I am really not rugged so I have to ease myself into a safari my first time.

Thanks for your help!
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Sep 8th, 2005, 07:27 PM
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Patty,

Booking a tour with only one lodge/camp operator is always less expensive (package price) than splitting it up with different operators and keeping the same quality. That is true with Sopa, Serena, but also with WS or CCAfrica.

And sorry for this, but sometimes I also wonder whether you (or other Fodorites) have any problems with other people. I, too, don't like noisy big lodges where you can't hear the sounds of the bush anymore and where you're tortured by 'Jambo Bwana' and 'Hakuna Matata' the whole evening long. However, I've also experienced big lodges where the noise level was not higher than in a small tented camp, where all the clients were very interested in wildlife, and where you only became aware of a big lodge if you really want to see it. So I can't generalise on this issue, especially if I don't know the area where a lodge is located.

Mitch
 
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Sep 8th, 2005, 08:20 PM
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Mitch,
I don't quite understand your last point. Are you saying we're an anti-social bunch?

I don't know about other Fodorites, but speaking for myself only, when I go on vacation, I prefer a more intimate atmosphere. Maybe it comes from living in a huge city. Is there anything inherently wrong with that?
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Sep 8th, 2005, 08:24 PM
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Oh and do you ever sleep?
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Sep 9th, 2005, 06:46 AM
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Even with lodges, whether Sopa or Serena, we're not talking Las Vegas numbers of 5,000 room properties. It's about 65-90 rooms, at max. So Lodges aren't massive hotels.

I've stayed in both lodges and camps,and when you realize the Kichwa Tembo Camp (not Bateleur) is 40-tents - which is worse, 40-tents or 65-rooms? It's a wash. The reason there are options.

Maybe because we've always traveled during shoulder season, we've never been in a full lodge or camp... sometimes the only guests at a camp or one of a handful at a lodge. That's been to our advantage.

I'd opt for the Serena's, but the Sopa's are fine - loved the one at Tarangire and the rooms are big. However, if you can get at least one-tented camps into your itinerary you'll realize that there's nothing quite as exhilarating as "sleeping under canvas." They're perfectly safe and comfy.

 
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Sep 9th, 2005, 07:03 AM
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I have stayed at the Serenas in Masai Mara and Samburu, and the Sopa in Ngorongoro and Serengeti, and in my opinion, they provide excellent value.

Unlike some others, my primary interest is wildlife viewing, and I have hired a private vehicle for our group at these places, and we were able to spend the entire day (from 6 to 6) on safari, so we're only at the lodge for a very few non-sleeping hours. And its not worth it, to me, to pay triple the price for the few non-sleeping hours. And the food is fine -- I'm not looking for fine dining on safari, just comfort food.

As between Serena and Sopa, I think Serena is nicer, but I chose based on location (the Mara Serena has the best location in that park, and the Sopa has the best in the Crater). And as someone else wrote, you can get a better quote if you stick to one group.

Michael
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Sep 9th, 2005, 07:04 AM
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True, there are some tented camps which are just as large as the Serena/Sopa lodges. I believe Mara Sarova has 75 tents. The largest accomodation we've chosen for this trip is somewhere around 12 tents (the smallest is 4 cottages), so even at maximum occupancy there should be no more than 24-30 guests. At that size, I think there's a striking difference. This is something I wasn't really aware of on our first trip, and in hindsight, wish I had paid more attention to. That's what repeat trips are for, right?
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Sep 9th, 2005, 07:07 AM
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A/travel.
Choice of lodge is too a large degree going to be dictated by the time of year that you travel and where.
1) Sopa. OK, nice public areas, reasonable food, but small rooms. Also in Tanzania they are sold out in high season, due in part to massive allocations to the eaurpoean charter market. If that is your choice and time that you travel you are going to be challenged to get a room.
2) Serena. All of their properties typically have great public areas, nicely decorated, airy and spacious, however like Sopa their rooms are small. The Nairobi serena was recently refurbished and offer good value.

3) A group you haven't considered and might find of better value is the SAROVA brand.
Their Mara property is really great, tents have been upgraded (all new & larger) bath rooms beautifully and cleverly rebuilt too. Food at all their proerties is a delight, great variety and enteratining preperation.

Challenege with Sarova is: Located in Shaba (and Mara nothing in TNZ), not Samburu, which is a bonus as there are less vehicles there, Samburu is full up with Intrepids, Sarena blah blah.. Samburu, game although sparse can be veryy good, if it is slow the guys will slip into the quieter side of Samburu to keep you happy.
Also the have the Lion Hill in Lke nakuru, which is very popular (and for good reason, great game)

Hope this helps and hasn't further muddied the water
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Sep 9th, 2005, 07:56 AM
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Michael,
It's only triple the price if you stay at 'Rocco Approved' accomodations
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