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Tanzania birding and wildlife trip: proposed itinerary

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Aug 27th, 2011, 03:55 AM
  #1
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Tanzania birding and wildlife trip: proposed itinerary

We are in the early stages of planning a two week Tanzania trip for either August 2012 or February 2013 (I'm leaning towards February because of the migration possibility, but it seems an awfully long time to wait. Because of spouse's work these are really our only windows of opportunity.)

We are serious birders and therefore need to travel with a birding guide, so we are planning with Birding and Beyond in Tanzania http://www.tanzaniabirding.com/ My first question is whether anyone has used them? (doubtful on this forum, but may as well ask!) I am also a serious photographer.

My bigger question for Fodor's folk regards the itinerary. The first proposal they sent included the Usambara mountains (a lot of endemic birds) but I felt it was too far in the opposite direction to fit into a two-week trip, so we've ditched it. Maybe next time..

I asked for mid-range accommodations. I did specifically ask for Ndutu based on great reviews on this forum (although now wondering based on cary999's poor experience this year (crowds.) Still--I think its worth keeping.

The new proposal is this:

Day 1: Arrive Kilimanjaro International Airport,meet and transfer to Arusha night in Arusha –Korona House Bed & Breakfast
Day 2: Arusha NP Birding & big Game. Night in Arusha at Korona House
Day 3: Drive to Tarangire,birding & Big game viewing ,Night at Tarangire Safari Lodge
Day 4:Tarangire Birding & Big game viewing – Night ata Tarangire Safari Lodge
Day 5: Tarangire Birding & Big game viewing – Night ata Tarangire Safari Lodge
Day 6: Drive to Ndutu area ,Night at Ndutu Lodge
Day 7: Ndutu area / Night at Ndutu Lodge
Day 8: Ndutu area / Night at Ndutu Lodge
Day 9: Drive to Central Serengeti Night at Seronera Lodge
Day 10: Central Serengeti,night at Seronera Lodge
Day 11: Serengeti,Night at Seronera Lodge
Day 12: Drive to Ngorongoro,Night at Rhino Lodge
Day13: Full day Crater Tour, night at Rhino Lodge
Day14: Drive to Gibbs farm, walking and Lunch and afternoon drive to Arusha to catch evening International Flight OUT

My questions--I may ask for another day in Arusha to do the lark plains area (this was in our first proposal but got deleted with the change.) If so, where do I remove one night? (or, I may just add one more night as I think we could swing it.)

Wondering if Seronera is a good choice for the central area? Is it too close to Ndutu? Is the habitat different? Also, Seronera gets pretty mediocre reviews on TA. Is there another option in the same price-range?

Finally, Rhino Lodge looks really basic. Should we spring for a bit more money to upgrade this?

Any comments appreciated.
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Aug 27th, 2011, 07:21 AM
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Glad to read you're planning your first trip to East Africa, Tanzania specifically during Feb 2013.

Arusha NP is good for birding and game, but NOT big game... no preadtors (you'll find these elsewhere).

Tarangire NP is also excellent for birding and as you show 3/nts, I see no reason to add another day in Arusha, unless you choose 3/nts Arusha (2/days for birding emphasis) and 2/nts Tarangire... but that's your decision.

Ndutu and Central Serengeti - with 3/nts each, and as you're read there's no guarantee exactly where the migrating herds might be, you've covered both.

Once at Ngorongoro, know that there are no longer "full-day" game drives on the Crater floor; they're limited to 6/hrs, though that's not to say you'll be told to leave... rather just be aware. You may want to consider on arrival day at Crater, for 'out-of'vehicle' time, do the Olmoti Crater Trek or Crater Rim Walk in the afternoon. Next moring head down into the Crater.

Regarding the lodging: not familiar with that in Arusha; at Tarangire, many love the Tarangire Safari Lodge which are actually tented camps; view from their terrace is outstanding. Personally, I feel the tents are too close to one another, but that's me.

Ndutu Lodge is always in high demand and if you can get the space, go for it. However, the Lake Masek Camp here is outstanding and great for birders; yes a bit more expensive, but inquire and consider.

The other accommodations you show in Seronera (a good 2-2.5/hrs north of Ndutu... different environment) and Ngorongoro are in the budget category as you surmised. Maybe in Seronera, consider the Serena Lodge or Kati-Kati, Mbuzi Mawe or Lemala Ewanjan Camps. At Ngorongoro, many prefer the Sopa Lodge which has it's own access road into the Crater. All of the options to inquire about will be more expensive, but ask.

You may also want to modify the routing and instead of driving back to Arusha, fly (it's only about $200/person) from the farthest distance:

Arusha (3), Tarangire (2), Ngorongoro (2), via Oldupai w/stop to Seronera (3), Ndutu (3)... fly to Arusha.

You've got a good start, now it's time to "tweak." And know, prices for 2013 won't be available before mid-'12 earliest.

Good luck!
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Aug 27th, 2011, 08:12 AM
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Thanks for the info Sandi. I did specifically ask about the Ngorongoro day, because I'd read that 6 hours was the max, but they said its no problem--that they just pay extra to stay longer. They are based in Arusha so I would think they know what's what--but I'm not too concerned. As you note, if we can't stay all day there is walking/birding to be done outside of the main crater.

Re Arusha, the reason for the extra day is to go to an area known as the "lark plains" which harbors some endemic birds. I think we can actually do it without cutting back on another day.

We are definitely trying to keep within a budget so I think flying back to Arusha is out--I'd rather put that money towards upgrading the lodges. Also I'd like to avoid internal flights and their weight restrictions (lots of camera gear!)

I will ask them about alternatives to Rhino Lodge and Seronera and look into the alternatives you mention. Especially Ngorongoro, it would be nice to have a crater view.

As you note, we can't yet get 2013 prices; she's given me a 2012 price which is just about at our max already and I'm sure there will be increases for 2013, so not sure how much leeway we have.
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Aug 28th, 2011, 08:57 AM
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The outfitter is correct in that if you want an extended stay or 2nd visit to the Ngorongoro Crater, they charge you... but know that it's another $100/person which is charge for vehicle to go down. Most first time visitors find that the 6/hrs is more than sufficient. So what you might want to consider is on the day you arrive at Ngo, you do the options (Olmoti Crater Trek or Crater Rim Walk) and then next morning go into the crater. Be down there with a boxed breakfast when the gates open at 6am, and have the place much to yourselves (of course, there will be others who were as smart as you... but not many) for about 2/hrs before the sleepyheads who take breakfast first, eventually arrive. Being down in the morning, you also see all the animal activity from the night prior... their kills.

Then, instead of spending the o/n this day, depart by 1pm via Oldupai to the Seronera area. This also saves a day's park fee at the Crater.

Realizing you're working on a budget, and by '13 rates can increase by maybe 10% (some less, some more, or some none), good idea to leave yourself some leeway and consider the flight from the Serenera or Ndutu areas back to Arusha. Bags are NOT weighed when departing from the bush, and many visitors have lots of camera equipment; to be sure... just pack less clothing You don't need but 3-4/changes of clothing when you can have laundry (except women's 'smalls') done at the lodges at very reasonable prices.
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Aug 28th, 2011, 09:55 AM
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We carry as little clothing as possible but the more 1 or 2 night stops, the harder it is to have laundry done in time, so may need those 3 to 4 changes of clothes.
x
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Aug 28th, 2011, 10:30 AM
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Ngorongoro - we did three drives in it in Feb 2011. One drive afternoon and two morning drives. I thought morning drives better, as sandi said, at sunrise there is still activity from the night. Also, if you get into the Crater ASAP, ie 6am from Sopa Lodge, the crowds have not arrived, many vehicles start coming in about 9am. And that continues all day so of course into the afternoon drive.

About AM and PM game drives in general everywhere, I find the AM drive to be the most productive. Although have been some remarkable PM drives at sunset when the cats may start hunting.

regards - tom
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Aug 28th, 2011, 11:16 AM
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Thanks Tom.

Do people really not go out until 9 am? LOL That's nuts As birders we are always out pre-dawn on these trips, or as soon as the gates open.

As we know, no two game drives are ever the same and its always a tough call, there is always something to look at, especially for a birder. I AM going to request upgrading to Sopa Lodge, hopefully it won't be too horribly more expensive, but I think I'd really like a nicer place for our last nights, the crater view and the easy access are selling points as well.

Some on another board have suggested just one night at Ngorongoro and then our last night at Lake Manyara, doing that our last morning instead of the Gibbs Farm option. Thoughts?
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Aug 28th, 2011, 03:01 PM
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Lake Manyara is great for birds, I also found the forest itself enchanting. We didn't spend long there, I think maybe half a day, but I'm glad we didn't skip it, as I considered.

On the other hand, I loved Gibbs Farm and it's prettily planted gardens did seem to attract birds, though whether it counts as prime bird viewing, I'm not sure. I found their new chalet rooms darling and it was a good stop en route, for us.
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Aug 29th, 2011, 05:31 AM
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Sopa - I'm not sure of room rates but my impression is that Sopa is mid-price range.

Lake Manyara has reputation as great for birds. I was there in Feb 2011 and there were lots of birds. But I wanted mammals which were few and far between. Unless you count baboons and vervets which were also plentiful.

regards - tom
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Aug 29th, 2011, 01:30 PM
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If you want to o/n at Karatu/Lake Manyara, and while Gibb's is lovely, it's also expensive, though lunch is reasonable. However, right next door to Gibb's is Tloma Lodge at a more reasonable price. Both are technically in Karatu.

For Lake Manyara closer to the park itself, for an o/n consider the Kirurumu or Losirwa Camps... again, more competitive pricing. There are also a few others in the area, even lower priced... so ask.
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Aug 30th, 2011, 04:13 AM
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Thanks all. Right now I'm leaning towards keeping the current itinerary, because I really don't relish one night stays, especially at trip's end, it would be nice to be two nights somewhere. However I've inquired about swapping out Ngorongoro Sopa for Rhino Lodge--although it may be too pricey for us.

The agent assures us that Gibbs Farm is excellent for birding and it would be nice to be able to get out and do a walk on our last day, as well. We wouldn't be staying there, just lunch and a birding walk.
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Aug 31st, 2011, 06:47 AM
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Fwiw, I liked the Ngorongoro Farm House (a TWC property) just outside the NCA gate....
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Sep 1st, 2011, 03:30 AM
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Well I got the price for using Ngorongor Sopa and its A LOT more--but I hope we might be able to do it. If we can find another couple to join us, it would be feasible.

Now it seems there is really not much we can do until the 2013 prices come out. Birding and Beyond said to get back in touch with them around November. I am a little concerned about Ndutu but B&B says they can't (or won't) book that at this point, until dates and prices are finalized. They also told me that if by chance we can't get into Ndutu Lodge they usually use a mobile camp in the area at the same cost. Not sure what to think about that.
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Sep 2nd, 2011, 11:53 AM
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In Ndutu area I've stayed only at Ndutu Safari Lodge (seven nights total Feb 2011). It was ok, but nothing to "write home about". Wouldn't bother me to try another camp in the area. Assuming I have my own guide and vehicle.

My Fodors report on Ndutu (and more) if you did not catch it -
http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...-tanzania-.cfm

regards - tom
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Sep 2nd, 2011, 02:01 PM
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Thanks Tom, yeah I did read your report and saw the photos--a lot of good info. I was a bit dismayed at the pile-up of vehicles around Ndutu! But, I also read through the responses and it seems that is not an all-the time thing, I'm not really sure how to avoid it entirely. It does seem to be the best option in the area--at the most reasonable price. The whole tented camp thing might be fun but I actually prefer a place where there is at least a bit of area to walk around and photograph birds, bugs and other things during any downtime.
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Sep 2nd, 2011, 02:54 PM
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Ndutu is "manageable" as long as off-roading continues to be permitted. The vehicle pile-ups were around any of the big cats. No such problems around birdies . Of course if you go into that area other than Jan-Feb, e.g. May, I was told the crowds are gone. And prices down. But birds - do birds migrate through there at certain months or is plumage better certain months? I don't know.

Also, in those report replies Andy Biggs mentions he likes a lot Kusini Camp in that same vicinity as Ndutu. Might be alternative.

regards - tom
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Sep 7th, 2011, 08:40 AM
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I've now received a second itinerary from another operator. I don't have a price yet and I suspect it will be substantially more than the first, since the lodges are most certainly more expensive. But, lodging aside--as I can always downgrade the lodges--I am wondering about the itinerary and order. This is the suggestion:


Day 1 Hatari Lodge: Arusha NP
Day 2 Hatari Lodge: Arusha NP
Day 3 Oliver's Camp: Tarangire NP
Day 4 Oliver's Camp: Tarangire NP
Day 5 Ngorongoro Sopa lodge: visit Lake Manyara
Day 6 Ngorongoro Sopa lodge: Ngorongoro Crater
Day 7 Ngorongoro Sopa lodge: Ngorongoro Crater
Day 8 Ndutu Safari Lodge: South Serengeti
Day 9 Ndutu Safari Lodge: South Serengeti
Day 10 Ndutu Safari Lodge: South Serengeti
Day 11 Ndutu Safari Lodge: South Serengeti
Day 12 Mbalageti Chalet: Western Serengeti
Day 13 Mbalageti Chalet: Western Serengeti
Day 14 Out-Kilimanjaro Flight out

My bigger concern is--Western Serengeti instead of Central Serengeti (Seronera area?) My understanding is that in February Seronera is better for game. Also, Western means a long drive back to Arusha, unless we fly back (which has been suggested, but it would add more cost...)

I do like having two morning crater drives and visiting Lake Manyara.

What do you think?
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Sep 7th, 2011, 08:55 AM
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I have no advise for you for Tanzania, but I just got back from Kenya and the birds were fantastic. With the combination of my guide being a great lover of birds and me having an 800mm lens - I am amazed at how many lovely bird pictures I came back with (still working on pictures but will post a link when I have it since you like birds). If Tanzania is the same you will love the birds! Good luck.
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Sep 13th, 2011, 04:25 PM
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New, and I think final, itinerary--with Roy's--similar to the first but with better accommodations, two morning crater drives, and substantially less money! I also like that it includes a walking safari in Arusha. Sanjay at Roy's has been super responsive and patiently answered all my questions. Think we will go with this. Even though they are not strictly a birding company he assures me that he will assign us his top birding guide, and I believe him.

Date Day Program
17.02 - Arrival at Kilimanjaro. Met and transfer to Ngaresero Mountain lodge for dinner and overnight.
18.02 1 Early birding around the lodge. Drive to Arusha National park. Walking safari/Birding in the area. Picnic lunch. Game drive. Dinner and overnight at Ngaresero mountain lodge (Evening birding around the lodge).
19.02 2 07h00 Drive to Tarangire. Tarangire Safari lodge.
20.02 3 Tarangire. Tarangire Safari lodge.
21.02 4 To Lake Manyara. Lake Manyara Serena. Birding around the lodge in the evening. Dinner and overnight at Lake Manyara Serena
22.02 5 05h00 Drive to the gate at Lake Manyara. Biriding/game drive. Lunch, dinner and overnight at Lake Manyara Serena.
23.02 6 To Ndutu. Ndutu Safari lodge.
24.02 7 Ndutu. Ndutu Safari lodge.
25.02 8 Ndutu. Ndutu Safari lodge.
26.02 9 To Serengeti. Seronera wildlife lodge.
27.02 10 Serengeti. Seronera wildlife lodge.
28.02 11 Serengeti. Seronera wildlife lodge.
01.03 12 To Ngorongoro. Ngorongoro Sopa.
02.03 13 Ngorongoro crater tour. Ngorongoro Sopa.
03.03 14 Morning game drive in the crater. Drive to Gibbs Farm area for birding. Lunch. Drive to Arusha. Quick showers at The African Tulip and transfer to Kilimanjaro airport for your flight home.

Comments welcome--we've yet to officially confirm this but I think we will. Remember this is for 2013 so we still have plenty of time.
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Sep 14th, 2011, 02:44 AM
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Hi,

just looking at those 2 nights at the Manyara Serena - has any operator offered you Kirurumu Tented Camp?

I have stayed at both Manyara Serena (2005) and Kirurumu Tented Camp (2008). I found that the tented camp compared favourably price wise with the Serena and the food was much better.


Have a great trip,


Pol
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