Serengeti Serena vs Mbuzi Mawe

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Dec 1st, 2005, 11:54 AM
  #1
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Serengeti Serena vs Mbuzi Mawe

My operator says the Serena is overbooked for June. Should I stay at the Wildlife or Sopa, which I understand is closer to the Seronera Valley (where the big cats are)?
Mbuzi Mawe is about an hours drive to the valley. It is a very intimate camp for 16.Please let me know your thoughts. I appreciate any help you can give me
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Dec 1st, 2005, 12:06 PM
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In addition to the location question, which others on this board are better qualified to answer, there will likely be a BIG difference in cost between the lodges and Mbuzi Mawe. Does this make it a deal breaker to you?

For what it's worth, I have stayed at the Wildlife. Not a great lodge, and I understand it's changing hands (again), but it's beautifully positioned. You can go anywhere from there, and lions lions lions.

What time of the year are you visiting, and what does the rest of your itinerary look like?

And FYI: you're going to have to change your screen name to loveintanzania after this trip. Have fun planning.
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Dec 1st, 2005, 12:26 PM
  #3
bat
 
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Loveintravelin and leely:

Re $$

The Serena websites have the rate for Mbuzi Mawe less than for the Serengeti Serena. I think that MM's pricing may be "softer" now because it is still in its first year of operation. There are plans for a pool which is not in yet--so the prices may continue to rise (2006 is more expensive than 2005).

I would expect, as Leely has mentioned, the Sopa and Wildlife to be less.

I'll be interested in what others have to say about the location but some of it may come down to personal choice--how much do the accommodations matter to you vs the potential extra hour of driving. I know that you can do the balloon ride from MM as well as the others--but you have to get up earlier and drive farther to get to the start.
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Dec 1st, 2005, 12:48 PM
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What is your main aim of going to serengti??? Do you want to be in a luxurious place, then u have to be in mbuzi mave/serena/sopa. But for prime wildlfe viewing the best place to be in serengeti is the wildlife lodge. The property is not in good shape but the wildlife viewing is fantastic. In october I was in the wildlife lodge for 4 nights and it was fantastic. Just tip some of the staff in the beginning u will get good service.So if your main aim is to relax and take leisurely game drives then chose the luxurious properties other wise if u are really interested in wildlife then chose wildlife lodge.Mostly the migration will be in seronera area in june so that is an added plus in staying there
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Dec 1st, 2005, 01:26 PM
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I much prefer the seasonal camps above any one of these lodges (Mbuze Mawe is the exception). But since you asked about the lodges...

In reality, the Serena is only slightly more expensive than Mbuzu Mawe in peak season.

During high season, Mbuze Mawe is slightly more expensive than the Serena.

In general, the Full Board going rate for either is about $360 per double in peak season and about $300 or so in high season - some outfitters will charge more and others will charge less!

Seronera Wildlife goes for about $210 per double full board in peak season and $190 in high season. Give and take a few dollars.

Sopa double full board rooms are about $320 in peak and $270 in high.

I am very familiar with all four and there is little to choose between the Serena, Sopa and Wildlife. During high and peak seasons you should go for the one with available rooms.

Here are some comparisons:

Wildlife has a great outside bar and views and is closest to central Seronera and the central wildlife viewing areas. This can be a negative because of traffic when everyone departs in the mornings going to the same spots!. Rooms are plain but bigger than Serena. Food is about the same as the others. Dining room can be crowded. It is a better choice/value than Serena IMO for most of the year.

Serena has tiny hobbit rooms that can be unbearably hot at times - and the fans can be noisy at full blast. Restaurant is split in 3 or more sections so it never looks crowded but trust me it is! Pool area is nice with great views. Most of the time it takes 25 minutes or so to get to the wildlife viewing areas - while you may see wildlife in the distance from the hotel, there are no roads to get you closer! It is my least favorite of the 4 mentioned.

Sopa has the biggest rooms (including a lounge area and fridge. The dining room and bar are both too small for the amount of people. Sopa is quite a drive from Seronera but closest to the best game viewing for most of the year. The Serengeti plains, Mbalagheti river and Moru kopjes are nearby. I would choose Sopa for most of the year including June.

Mbuze Mawe is a different experience (but a bit too big to be called "intimate") and best in June, July and early August.

I reserve the right to change my mind but this is how I feel after recent visits to all of them!
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Dec 1st, 2005, 02:02 PM
  #6
sandi
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You don't mention when in June you will be in the Serengeti. Howevever, during the beginning of the month the herds are likely to still be in the Central/Seronera area, so the Sopa or Wildlife are fine. Only issue with Wildlife besides the fact that it desperately needs refurbishing - with new owners, who knows when they'll be refurbishing. I'd hate to have to scramble for space if they close up other than April/May (the wet season). Just personal opinion.

As you get to the later part of the month the herds start moving west, but can also head kind or towards Mbuzi Mawe. Hey, they're animals and from day-to-day can be almost anywhere.

However, if you are on a private itinerary, you should be able to drive daily where the herds are. We drove from West to Central and back - no big deal, about 2-hrs and game viewing both ways. Be be sure that your outfitter has unlimited mileage so that your guide/driver can accommodate the vagaries of wildebeests!!!

If you wish to participate in hot air ballooning, it's easiest done from Serena, Sopa, Wilderness area as that's where they lift-off and land. Mbuzi Mawe is further north and you'd have to be up/out in the dark to get down to lift-off by 5:30am.

Also, definitely prebook your balloon ride to be certain you have space. On average these run about $400/person. There have been different experiences on whether to pre-pay or pay on site - some folks who paid missed out due to overbooking or some other circumstance and getting a refund was difficult, if at all. Just something to inquire about and consider.
 
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Dec 1st, 2005, 02:03 PM
  #7
bat
 
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So Eben, for June--if choosing between the lodges and Mbuzi Mawe--you would go with MM?
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Dec 2nd, 2005, 09:48 AM
  #8
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Bat...my concern is that by staying so far away, I'll miss the early morning cat action. That was a good question.

Eben...thanks so much for your detailed opinion. Do you know anything about the Gorilla Nest? Like how much it cost, or what the rooms are like?

Sandi....we will be in the central Serengeti June 14 & 15, then we move to Kirawira for two days. We are going to do the balloon ride, but haven't paid for that yet.
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Dec 2nd, 2005, 09:56 AM
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Sandi....We booked this trip in Sept and all our accommadations were confirmed. What went wrong?
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Dec 2nd, 2005, 10:54 AM
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One thing I've certainly learned over the last few years is that the migration patterns are changing!

During June, July and into August the herds are spread out from Moru Kopjes through Seronera, the Western Corridor, the Grumeti reserve area, the northern Serengeti and into the Mara.

My views and opinions are also in evolution! Instead of trying to predict where the herds will be, I nowadays like to select lodges & camps that put me in the best position to see the migration.

Unfortunately, as the lodges/camps tend to sell out many months ahead, I've also learned to accept that my first-choices may not be available and to accept a 2nd or even 3rd choice. To increase my chances of getting a bed to sleep in, I am working really hard to figure out where ALL the seasonal and short-term tented camps are located. This is very difficult but very rewarding at the same time - in late December our go-safari site will have all this information freely available!

In June, any place in the triangle between the Sopa, Kirawira and Mbuzi Mawe should be optimum (including the Grumeti reserves). As always, I suggest splitting the stay between at least 2 areas at opposite sides of this large triangle.

Kirawira/Mbalageti/Grumeti and Mbuze Mawe, Kirawira/Mbalageti/Grumeti and Sopa. Sopa and Grumeti Reserves.

Anywhere inbetween will also work - unfortunately availability (or the lack thereof) will dictate the choices and not the other way around!

As always, I prefer the smaller tented seasonal/mobile camps by a mile over any of the places I mentioned BUT ONLY IF THEY ARE LOCATED WITHIN THE TRIANGLE OR VICINITY.

I will write another thread about the seasonal/mobile camps - nowadays there are so many of these and they are all competing for a small number of optimal special camp sites!

CCAfrica is just the latest entry into the mobile market - starting in March 2006 with their 4-tent mobile camp in the Serengeti!

Not all of these mobile setups can be in optimal places despite the claims by their agents - Lookout!

A "private tented camp in the Serengeti" may very well translate to "everything near the migration was booked so we are camping about 50 miles away at an empty camp site with hardly any wildlife nearby"
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Dec 2nd, 2005, 12:32 PM
  #11
sandi
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loveintravelin -

If the Serena was available in September your tour operator should have put through provisional reservations at that time (for all your agreed upon properties) and requested your deposit at that time.

The upcoming 2006 season is practically completely booked through the end of the year. Not to say that some space may be available somewhere, that cancellations will open space or the blocked bookings are released. However, this very busy year has caught some outfitters off guard. Where in prior years they could hold off requesting deposits - not so this year.

Wish I had better news for you, but I wouldn't put off a decision much longer.
 
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Dec 2nd, 2005, 01:33 PM
  #12
bat
 
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sandi:
For some reason I think that I read somewhere that the Serena--perhaps only, or particularly, the serengeti location--has developed a pattern of overbooking. Have you heard any thing along those lines?

Eben:
Thanks again for the great analysis. Looking forward to your post-December trip report.
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Dec 3rd, 2005, 04:37 AM
  #13
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bat -

Yes, I've read of a few situations where overbooking at the Serena Serengeti has happened. Why or how? Similar to the airlines overbooking and hoping for no-shows. Another reason to get your deposit in as soon as, arrive early for check-in (my preference to get rid of your luggage... then immediately go out on your game drives) and be assured this will not likely happen. Thankfully, I haven't run into this problem.
 
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Dec 3rd, 2005, 06:43 AM
  #14
bat
 
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thanks sandi: Good point about checking in and then going for the drive.
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Dec 3rd, 2005, 01:55 PM
  #15
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Sandi....We each put down a $600 deposit,at the time of our booking, on Sept 28. I talked to my operator on Fri.He said he'd try to keep us at the Serena. I have a week to decide to stay or go to Mbuzi Mawe.

Eben....From your comments, it looks like I'm in a good area for the migration.

E
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Dec 3rd, 2005, 02:20 PM
  #16
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lovein.........

Glad to hear that the deposit was made, so can't advise what might have gone wrong. At this point, you'll have to depend on what your outfitter can do to fix this. But if not the Serena, Mbuzi Mawe is a good alternative. You'll be driving all over the Serengeti anyway, so the 1-hr drive to MM isn't but a blink of the eye... and is one of those in Eben's Serengeti Triangle for June.
 
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