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Southern Africa in February??? Kenya Safe to travel to?

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Sep 26th, 2015, 01:30 PM
  #1
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Southern Africa in February??? Kenya Safe to travel to?

Hi, We are planning a trip to Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Johannesburg - Entabeni Conservancy, Victoria Falls and Chobe through Collette, a tour company that Marriott Vacation Club uses (so we can use our vacation club points). We unfortunately missed September and October this year so we would like to plan for February or March when they still have dates available. For us the main reason to go is the safaris and to see all the wildlife we can. However, we've been told and have read that's not a good time for wildlife viewing. Is this true? I hate to wait another year. Our original plan had been to go to Kenya but my husband is concerned that it's not safe to go there anymore. Any opinions or advice on these two topics? Thank you.
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Sep 26th, 2015, 04:40 PM
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Wildlife viewing will be fine. It may not be the "best" time, but fine. Funny - the "best viewing" is June-Sept, but that is low season because it's cold. Go figure. I am one of the few people who has actually been to Entabeni. We really only went because the golf would be fun (and their 19th hole is nothing like what you imagine!!!!!), but we had so much fun there. We had a good experience there. It's 3-4 hours north of joberg in the Waterberg region, and a great value. Ask to do a real bush walk - you'll likely have to pay extra on top of the tour, but it was fun. If you golf, it was fun there.

I hear people say Kenya isn't safe. I looked at the Botswana State Dept equivalent travel warnings, and they say Baltimore, S Carolina and Ferguson are unsafe for Batswana to travel due to violence against the residents. It's all a matter of avoiding unsafe conditions. Kenya is fine - just like anyplace, be aware of your surroundings. I was in Paris during the riots and had no idea it was happening until family called to make sure we were ok. Safari lodges are very safe.

That tour doesn't really do a lot of wildlife. CT, Stellenbosch and Vic Falls cities. You could arrange a better wildlife vacation without using a tour and have a much better experience. And you can go any time you want and spend a lot less time on a bus.
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Sep 27th, 2015, 02:40 PM
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I would read your country's travel advice for Kenya and then decide whether it is safe for you to go or not. Some part of Kenya are considered safe and others are not. It's prudent to take note of where it is not recommended to travel to as you might not be covered by travel insurance if you travel to those regions and something happens.
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Sep 28th, 2015, 01:25 AM
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That itinerary doesn't sound like it includes that much wildlife viewing. In Botswana, I wouldn't choose Chobe in February- I would go into the delta at that time of year. If you are tied to this particular tour company and that is the best they can offer in Southern Africa, then I wouldn't bother to be honest. Not if wildlife viewing is your priority.

At that time of year, I think Kenya would be a better choice. February is between the short and long rains so usually pretty dry and I think it's a great time. Those people chasing the migration are in Tanzania, so Kenya is not busy and well priced.

I wouldn't have a problem visiting Kenya at the moment, or at least any of the game reserves that are likely to be on a tourist itinerary. Unfortunately, people are scared to visit the entire country, but for those who are prepared to go it means you can pick up some excellent special offers.
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Sep 28th, 2015, 06:06 AM
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Thank you for all the replies. We aren't tied to this tour but I don't think I'm quite adventurous enough to tour Africa on our own. We used this tour company for an Amazon, Galapogos and Machu Pichu tour. It seemed nice enough but then I had nothing to compare it to. Except...we had friends do a similar trip and they saw much more wildlife. I guess that says something.
This tour claims 7 safaris, 5 which seem to be in the Entabene Conservancy and one elephant safari and one cruise safari. Sounds pretty tame.

Who knows if I'll ever be back to Africa so my priority would be to make it the best trip possible. A "luxury" tour would not be in our budget but spending more, choosing the right time would take priority.

Can anyone recommend another good tour company? It sounds like February is not a good time. I think I'll look into Kenya again. If Kenya is only as violent as S. Carolina, we should be ok! : )
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Sep 28th, 2015, 06:59 AM
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JUST CHECK YOUR TRAVEL ADVISORY BY YOUR COUNTRY. THE REGIONS THAT WE DONT ADVISE AND WHICH THOSE ADVISORIES ADVISE IS PLACES LIKE LAMU, GARISA. BECAUSE THE BOARDER THE WAR TONE COUNTRY OF SOMALIA WHICH ARE FIGHTING. AND IN THOSE PLACES THERE IS NO SAFARI ITINERARIES, SINCE ITS PURELY BEACH HOLIDAYS BECAUSE OF THE INDIAN OCEAN COAST.

OTHER PARTS LIKE THE SOUTH COAST AND NORTH COAST IS VERY SAFE HAVEN FOR ANY VISITOR.

MYSELF I CAMPED AT LEOPARD BEACH HOTEL AND SPAR AT SOUTH COAST FOR FOUR NIGHTS AND FIVE DAYS WITHOUT ANY ISSUE.

SECONDLY YOUR DESIRE TO SEE WILDLIFE, ITS ONE PLACE THAT HUMAN ACTIVITY IS VERY MINIMAL. THEY HAVE DESIGNATED TWO OR THREE GATES THAT ANY VEHICLE CAN USE AND NO TERRORIST CAN DARE GET BY FOOT TO THE PARKS WHICH HAVE THE CARNIVORES LIKE LION AND LEOPARDS. THOSE CAMPS AND LODGES ARE VERY SAFE.

HOSY SAFARIS
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Sep 28th, 2015, 07:08 AM
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It's not necessarily a question of doing it "on your own". There are tailor made tour companies that will organise a bespoke trip that includes exactly what you want rather than an off the peg itinerary or a group tour. I use Expert Africa in the UK to organise many of my trips. Whatever company you use, I would try and find one that specialises in Africa.

As an example of the sort of place in Kenya that I've seen excellent specials- I've seen the Saruni group of camps offering excellent rates for Jan and Feb (http://www.sarunisamburu.com/signatu...d-feb-2016.htm).

I haven't been to their Mara camp but I've been to Saruni Samburu and it's stunning.
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Sep 28th, 2015, 10:05 AM
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Check with Sandi at Africa Serendipity if you're looking at Kenya. She looked after my 1st safari there and she's really great to work with. I liked how she offered several options for accommodations in a particular area.

http://www.africaserendipity.com/

If wildlife is your main interest the Maasai Mara will not disappoint and you can find accommodations in every price range there.

Look at making up your own itinerary, with the aid of an operator, rather than simply joining a group tour where too much time is spent moving around and in transit. I don't stay less than 3 night in any one camp.

Am in the process of arranging a trip back to the Mara for Oct 2016 and do not have concerns about safety in Kenya being any different than anywhere else in the world.

Have fun planning!
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Sep 28th, 2015, 11:00 AM
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What I did for our first safari was look at tours from Tauck, A&K and others to see where they go. Then I contacted a safari agent to arrange where we chose - they had a lot of input, but at least we narrowed it down to general locations we'd love. It turned out almost perfect.

For a good safari and good value, you are looking at a good time to consider S Africa. Their currency has drastically devalued over the past few months. We travel to SA during their winter months - end May - beginning September - for best wildlife viewing. We prefer June because the nights are longest and we get a great night's sleep, while still getting great viewing. It can get cold, but I'd rather be cold than hot, and daytime is beautiful and warm.

Not knowing how long you would like to visit, here is a general itinerary that has different ecosystems so you get to see lots of wildlife. A good safari agent will arrange it seamlessly and you don't need a tour:

Cape Town for however many nights you choose. There's lots to do, I would go for three nights minimum and add a couple if you want to also visit the winelands. Great wines in SA, but they are available everywhere, so we don't go. It is very pretty, just not my thing. You can use the Hop On Hop Off bus, cabs, private drivers in Cape Town, so you don't need to rent a car.

Fly to Kruger and spend a minimum of three nights in a lodge on a private reserve. High end I recommend Kirkmans Kamp because they quote in Rands and it's currently a bargain! There are many affordable lodges like Gomo Gomo, Africa on Foot and their sister camps including nDzuti, Arathusa and others.

You can then choose another lodge nearby or head to another great area, KwaZulu Natal near the coast south of Kruger. You can fly to Durban or Richards Bay and get a transfer to Phinda, a high end sister camp with Kirkmans. It's higher end, but a really good value (Rand) and great game viewing. There are some good specials when you do both. Or you can choose my favorite reserve - Zululand Rhino Reserve and stay at Rhino River Lodge. It's much less expensive, but they do great work, are very friendly and have good guides. If you want to add some beach time on the gorgeous, warm Indian Ocean, head east to St Lucia in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park where you can do every water activity imaginable, or Thonga or Rocktail for quiet beach time. I love KZN - so relaxed and beautiful.

If you would rather visit Vic Falls instead of KZN, (or do both!) fly up to VF and then also include a couple of nights in Chobe.

Then fly to Johannesburg and fly home.

Honestly, any good safari agent can arrange it for you and you won't miss that you aren't on a tour. Wild Wings Safaris and Sun Safaris get good reviews here, and will arrange anything you choose in SA. Not sure if they do a East Africa. You will spend more because you can't use your Marriott vacations, but it will be outstanding. I gave you options where you can save if preferred, and the Rand is ridiculous. No matter what you choose, it will be great. S Africa or Kenya - all good. Don't try to do Cape Town and Kenya, though. It doesn't make sense.

Have fun!!
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Sep 29th, 2015, 07:59 PM
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I think I've been convinced that an organized tour as we had planned is not the best way to go. Our neighbors did a South Africa tour through an African company that planned all their tours for them. I guess I thought that was a riskier way to do it. Although they had a great time.

I've checked out the companies that all of you have recommended and will spend more time on this. Thank you!

So, for wildlife viewing, my priority, Kenya or South Africa? (If I can convince my husband that Kenya is safe to go to!) Kenya it seems would be great for February but not South Africa??? Waiting for next September for the best time to go to SA seems way to far away!

I haven't used forums like this much but I'm so glad to have found all of you.

Thank you SO much for taking this time to offer your advice and opinions.
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Sep 29th, 2015, 08:47 PM
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Who said September for SA? End of May to beginning of September are best for game viewing. May isn't so far off, and it starts to get hot and a little rainy in mid Sept. If your husband is really put off by Kenya, go to SA and visit Kenya next time. Flights to JNB (I don't watch Nairobi) are less than flights to Europe in the summer (their winter) - just go back! Africa, no matter where you go, gets into your heart and pulls you back. Fair warning! I wish someone had warned me about that...

But I hear you - the earliest we can return to southern Africa is June and it's making me a little crazy that we have to wait so long! And I might have to wait until 2017, which might just send me over the edge.

Enjoy your planning!
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Sep 30th, 2015, 08:27 AM
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Hi ammartin!

I am in complete agreement with what others have posted here. I agree that there's not as much game viewing as there could be in your itinerary and if that's your primary interest, then I'd reconsider. Many "canned" itineraries look appealing at the outset but as you pick them apart, they typically fall short of your goals.

It's great to include places like Cape Town and/or Victoria Falls. Both add an incredible dimension to your stay and round out your time on safari. And certainly while you are in Victoria Falls, for example, adding in some water game viewing is a nice switch up from land based drives. But beyond that, I think your trip could include more time experiencing the bush. I prefer to view your time on safari as in days and not in terms of number of "safaris" (they say "7 safaris" for example). There's so much more to it all: the lodge(s), the food, the warm and welcoming staff as well as the game drives!

Please take a close look at their proposed itinerary and ask a lot of questions: Are you staying in private reserves vs national parks? Which hotels and lodges do they book? How are transfers conducted? Are you flying? How long are your layovers? Are you sitting in a bus and driving for hours? These are all important questions as they significantly impact your trip. I have worked with clients many times after they have done such an exercise and they have found that the trip isn't exactly what they thought. For example, just looking at transfers.. More time is spent in long transfers by road and when flights are used, they are selected as suitable to meet the company's budget for the itinerary but not particularly easy or good for the traveler. In the end, moving around like this results in less time in the bush and in places like Cape Town, for example.

Lastly, as others have said, you can totally build your own trip to Africa without the "tour" concept. A good operator will listen closely to your needs, interests, style of lodging and budget. They will work with you to design a trip where all transfers are taken care of, flights work around your needs and meet the itinerary's objective and you maximize your time on your trip all within your budget. In the end, the result is YOUR OWN "TOUR" completely customized and everything is handled in advance. I highly recommend you explore this possibility. A good travel planner will address your concerns and fears, if any, and go through all of this with you in an effort to make you feel comfortable. I really think you'll be very surprised at what you can create for the price.

Nothing really against East Africa but I'd deeply consider South Africa. The Rand is at a historic low. It makes luxury travel even more affordable and/or staying longer easier. Nothing better than that for a traveler! The time is ripe to go there!

Best
Dianne
Africa Direct USA
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Oct 1st, 2015, 10:22 AM
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If you plan on visiting East Africa, I would consider Tanzania instead of Kenya. It seems all of the safaris for Kenya begin with a stay in Nairobi. To answer your question regarding safety, both are safe but avoid Nairobi like the plague. It is dangerous and filthy.

If you do consider an organized tour, avoid Micato. I recently returned from The Stanley Wing Safari by Micato on June 14, 2015 and definitely would not recommend them. The prices are absurd for what you receive for your money.

My advice, pay attention to the people who have taken a safari. Not a magazine like Travel & Leisure.
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Oct 1st, 2015, 05:37 PM
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I respectfully disagree about Nairobi, Eric, and I certainly would never rule out Kenya with such a broad brush. I know you didn't have the best safari experience, but I've been to Kenya and Tanzania each one time on two different safaris, and I'm returning to Kenya in February, and purposefully spending more time in Nairobi. I'm going to the elephant orphanage and spending two nights at Nairobi National Park. But I worked with a professional safari planner who has put together a custom itinerary for me based on my interest and experience, I didn't sign up for a package tour where I had no control over my itinerary. The hotel I stayed at in Nairobi last time for one night before heading to the bush was completely safe and secure, and I'm returning to it again. I would hesitate to offer advice like "avoid Nairobi like the plague" especially considering how (understandably) jaded you are from your grossly overpriced experience with Micato.
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Oct 1st, 2015, 07:43 PM
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I was wondering myself why not Tanzania if you are considering East Africa in the first place and worried about safety in Kenya. The northern circuit of Tanzania offers so many wonderful parks and the calving season in February, plus easier to drive among them which helps keep costs down (i.e., no need to pay for a flying safari)
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Oct 2nd, 2015, 03:03 PM
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Agree with amyb's comments entirely.

I enjoy Nairobi, plan to return for a few days in 2016 and never once felt unsafe there or anywhere in Africa for that matter.
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Oct 3rd, 2015, 12:22 AM
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You have extremes of opinions here. It's great that people can say they never felt unsafe in Nairobi or anywhere else in Africa. That might be true but doesn't mean it is safe.

We enjoyed our trip to Nairobi and would not have missed the elephant orphanage or the giraffe manor, Karen Blixens house etc. We stayed in a B&B as the Fairview was full. But it is not totally safe, nowhere is and some areas of Kenya are a no go area for tourists. These places are not on tourist's itineraries anyway. But how can anyone say that a hotel was completely safe and secure? You don't know that for a fact. And as for other countries in Africa, South Africa is definitely not safe although we have been many times. We know it is not safe but we still go. Take note of your country's travel advice because if you don't, you might not be covered by travel insurance, if that matters to you. I would never advise to avoid Nairobi either, but I would advise to exercise caution rather than tell someone it is completely safe.
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Oct 4th, 2015, 09:51 AM
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Thank goodness Fodors has Odin to tell us what we can and cannot say.

Odin, perhaps because you had to settle for a B&B you missed out on the hotel experience that I and many other safari-goers have. I stayed at the Eka Hotel, as many others do, as it is midway between NBO and Wilson. It is gated and secured by guards. No one gets on the property or into the hotel without passing through locked gates, car being searched and checked in by guards. Speaking with others on the Safaritalk forum as well as three coworkers who have returned from Kenya (and one woman who's daughter lives there now working at a consulate) this is quite common at many western-chain hotels and those accommodating western tourists. Would you continue to argue that my hotel was not completely safe and secure? Or will you continue to be the thought police for Fodors and advise me that I cannot say that? I *never* said Nairobi was safe, but I can without hesitation say that my hotel was completely secured.

Not only are hotels routinely similarly secured, but other tourist destinations are: Wilson Airport is, as is Carnivore, a restaurant that is popular with the tourist set. Am I wrong to say that I felt completely safe and secure eating there, as well as shopping next door to the restaurant? Kenya has a vested interest in safari-goers not dying on safari, that's why these measures are in place.

I've been all over the US and Europe, to China and Russia and to Africa twice in the last five years. Honestly I felt more "threatened" in a hotel in NYC, where non-guest bar patrons were tearing up and down the hallways late at night on East 57th. Traveling in Africa is no different than anywhere else: know your surroundings, don't go to sketchy places alone and/or at night, secure your belongings. You can meet an untimely end just as easily in London, Madrid or NYC as you could in Nairobi. It's an inherent risk of travel.
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