Jul 5th, 2005, 08:09 AM
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We are planning a safari in July 2006 for our 10 year anniversary. We want to go Luxury and probably fly-in. I've done quite a bit of searching and we are thinking of spending 3 nights in 4 locations: Maasai Mara(Bateleur,maybe), Western Serengeti (Grumeti), Northern Serengeti (Migration Camp), Ngoronogoro Crater Lodge. We are also considering adding Zanzibar or other beach location for 3 nights.
We are planning on mid-late July for departure from Los Angeles, Ca.
Any recommendations for tour operators for customized safaris?
I found several on the internet and their prices vary quite a bit. I don't want to be surprised with hidden costs, or passed from one company to another.
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Jul 5th, 2005, 08:32 AM
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Of course I mean 3 nights in each of 4 locations.
Also, any opinions on the accommodations I specified?
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Jul 5th, 2005, 11:15 AM
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Sounds like a great trip. There are many expert posters here who I'm sure can advise you more better than I can, but you're not planning on spending 3 nights at the Crater, are you? I understand the Crater Lodge is fantastic, but IMO 3 nights at the Crater is overkill.

As for operators, here are a few (but if you scan old threads I'm sure you can find many more):

Roy Safaris
Africa Travel Resource
Eastern & Southern Safaris
Southern Cross Safaris
Good Earth

Also, the website for the Tanzanian Association of Tour Operators is tatotz.org.
For Kenya, check on katokenya.org.

Best wishes.

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Jul 5th, 2005, 12:23 PM
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Congrats on planning to spend your 10th anniversary in East Africa - excellent choice. While you might want to go lux and do a fly-in safari, you also have to consider what areas will give you the best game viewing.

The Mara is always good and by end-July the wildebeest herds might just be arriving here. Likewise, the Western Serengeti can be good if the herds haven't yet left to arrive in the Mara. The Crater Lodge at Ngorongoro is lovely, but 3-days is overkill and not really necessary. And as to Migration Camp, while also lovely, game will be minimal (this is good for late October thru mid- to late-November).

There are plenty of other luxury camps that you rarely find listed here or in brochures or on websites that most people read/visit.

In the Mara you might want to consider:

Mara Intrepids Camp - located right at the Mara and Talek Rivers with only 10-tents.

Saruni - on private conservation lands and about 15-minute drive from the Mara River; you can also do night game drives here.

Cottar's 1920 Camp - also on private conservation land, with great views into Tanzania... you can see the herds out on the plains from your lux tent (there are only 6 here) and you definitely won't see other safari vehicles but those of this camp.

Though not in the Mara, the area north of Nairobi, in the Kenya - known as Laikipia has a number of wonderful accommodations with the feel of being a "house guest" all with maybe 6-8 rooms/cottages. Here you can consider Loisaba Wilderness, Sabuk, and even a night at the Starbeds... tres romantic... all of which we recently visited and found outstanding. See the Cheli & Peacock website at:


for information on the properties they handle... including Manda Bay at Lamu off the coast of Kenya.

Or consider the area around Samburu where you'll find animals not seen elsewhere in East Africa - Grevy's zebra, reticulated giraffe, gerunuk - Bedouin Camp, Larsen's Camp, Elephant Watch

In Tanzania - instead of 3-days at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, 1-day is sufficient. And since Migration Camp isn't a prime choice for game viewing at this time, you'd do well at Tarangire National Park, which has a mini-migration between June-October. Though a small park compared to the Serengeti, it's definitely good for 2-days, minimum, so consider Swala Camp.

For Zanzibar, if you want to go completely "over-the-top" there's Mnemba Island (off the NE coast), private, with only 10-thatched cottages. Or you can consider Chumbe Island, totally eco-friendly. On the Southeast coast, The Palm and Sultan's Palace get excellent reviews; on the northern tip there is Ras Nungwi. On Zanzibar's sister island, Pemba, there is Fundu Lagoon. With the exception of The Palm which is small, the others have on average 30-40 rooms.

If you're looking at Abercrombie & Kent, Micato, Tauck or Travcoa - yes, you'll get sticker shock. Leely, listed a number of outfitters that get excellent reviews from the Fodorites and can probably cut prices by at least a third.

While the properties you listed are known, you may want to think "out of the box" and have a unique celebration for your anniversary.
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Jul 5th, 2005, 12:33 PM
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Oh, I almost forgot... for romantic beach, there is the Alfajiri on Diani Beach south of Mombasa, Kenya. The place where Brad and Angelina hid away from photogs. LOL! It's pricey, but lots of "named" people stay here if they're not on Mnemba Island.
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Jul 6th, 2005, 02:49 PM
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Thanks for the heads up on Ngorongoro Crater. I am looking into the places you mentioned.
When it says "twin" accomodations, does that mean the lodges/camps have twin beds in them?
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Jul 6th, 2005, 03:19 PM
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jenymemo -

"twin" can mean twin beds; it can mean double occupancy (two people). Beds can be* twins (39" W), two individual three-quarter beds (those are 46" W), doubles (54" W), or king (78" W). And in some places even super-kings which are two three-quarters together... in other words a playpen!!!

*these are American dimensions; European dimensions differ somewhat.

Most accommodations have twins and doubles beds - some have kings. The high-end places do have kings, but you have to be specific in your requests regardless the accommodations you select.
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Jul 7th, 2005, 12:32 PM
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Thanks for the input. We are including Tarangire in our itinerary. We still have not committed to a particular company.
The bulk of our trip is in Tanzania. Is it better to arrange our international flight to Tanzania, or Nairobi as many companies quote?

Also, in the Maasai Mara, my husband narrowed it down to the Mara Explorer or Bateleur. I don't know the price difference, but that aside, which is better?

Serengeti- we are thinking 3 nights. But, we also like the looks of the lodging in both the north and west. We probably will still go to Migration Camp and hope for the best as far as game viewing. Our plan is to be there towards the end of July. But, what do you think about splitting that with Grumeti or Kirawira, spending 2 nts. in the west and 2 in the north?

Thanks for the advice,
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Jul 7th, 2005, 01:54 PM
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If you're including both Kenya and northern Tanzania, then ideally you'd want to fly into Nairobi and out of Kilimanjaro (or vice versa) to avoid backtracking. KLM is the most convenient choice as they fly directly to/from both Nairobi and Kilimanjaro via Amsterdam. If flying RT Nairobi, you can take Precision Air or Air Kenya between Nairobi and Kilimanjaro. More carriers serve Nairobi so fares may be more competitive, but keep in mind the extra one way flight which when added, may end up being the same cost as an open jaw ticket on KLM. See what combination of schedules and fares work best for you.
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Jul 7th, 2005, 02:31 PM
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Jenny -

In the Mara, I'd go with Mara Explorer as it is right smack in the middle of the Mara at the spot where the Mara and Talek Rivers meet. Perfect.

If staying at Bateleur, unless you spend all your time on their private area, driving into the Mara to the area where Explorer is located takes quite a bit of time. That's a big issue for some people.

Like Bateleur, Explorer is small and intimate, but unlike Bateleur, I believe, a truer African experience.

Apparently you have your heart set on Migration Camp, and though a lovely camp with a great honeymoon suite - not the best of game viewing, especially if you'll be spending 3-days here. So I won't try to dissuade you - end of subject.

Kirawira is a favorite of mine, having visited on two occasions, during different seasons and the place was to perfection. I have only visited Grumeti River and I wasn't impressed. The only advantage is that it is smaller then Kirawira (number of tents).

As with Migration Camp, you must be set on of these places regardless that the area they are located are not at peak for the time you are traveling. For all of these camps - you'll be paying top dollar... you should get more then "all drinks included."

Sorry, but that's my honest opinion.
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Jul 7th, 2005, 09:17 PM
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A safari company sent me info via email and were seemingly trying to discourage me from going to Kenya. Perhaps Tanzania is their specialty, but they said all we need to see is in Tanzania and Maasai Mara is crowded with vehicles driving all over the place.
Any thoughts on this?
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Jul 7th, 2005, 09:29 PM
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My family just returned from a 12-day "luxury safari" - our first trip to Africa. Kirawira was a wonderful camp in a lovely setting. I agree that 1 night in the crater is sufficient (we spent 2 at the Crater Lodge and it was interesting, to say the least). Our most romantic site was Lake Manyara Tree Lodge. It is a bit out of the way - 2 hours into the park - but it was truly luxurious and quite romantic. It is a CCAfrica property and there are plenty posts on this site about their properties.
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Jul 8th, 2005, 04:31 AM
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Jeny -

Certainly if you're traveling in July, so is everyone else. They all want to see The Migration and that's why they're all in the Mara. And between July to mid-October both countries are busy with travelers. You will also find the Crater and Tarangire very busy. The Serengeti won't be, because the game viewing is almost non-existent. Sure you'll find some animals, but even the predators - lions, hyenas, vultures - follow the herds for their next meals.

If you happen to be dealing with CCAfrica, they push their properties before considering any other properties. And in Kenya, they only have Bateleur Camp. In Tanzania they have more properties (Grumeti, Klein's, Crater Lodge and Tree Lodge) and promote those regardless the game viewing and season.

The reason a board like Fodor's will provide information beneficial to the traveler, regardless who the tour outfitter.
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Jul 8th, 2005, 05:08 AM
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Let me just add to Sandi's comments by saying that the western areas of the Masai Mara are not as as crowded as the eastern areas.

In the east, one has to content with the traffic from Nairobi (loads of budget safari trips) and any sighting will quickly be surrounded by 5 or more minivans.

In the west, however, the traffic is less as the camps are smaller and more exclusive. Sure, a lion sighting or river crossing will always attract a few cars but since one can drive offroad, it is easy to find a spot away from everyone else.

In late July, I would certainly include the Mara in my itinerary as there is a good chance that the herds will be arriving.

In general, it is too late for the Western Serengeti.

Let me tell you a secret:

There is a new camp just at the edge of the Serengeti next to the Mara River (near the border with Kenya). It is called Sayari. It is very luxurious and romantic. In late July this is a much better choice than Kirawira.

Acroos the Serengeti to the east, Klein's Camp is also a good option.

To summarize, go for Ngorongoro, maybe a stop at Migration Camp in case the migration has stalled, Sayari (or Klein's) and Bateleurs or Olenana or Little Govs or Il Moran (the most romantic) in the Masai Mara.

Also, arrange with your outfitter to get permission to cross into the Mara after your Northern Serengeti stay!
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Jul 8th, 2005, 12:55 PM
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Sayari does look very nice and very romantic(I've only seen it on the web). It is moved seasonally and so would give you a slightly different experience than the permanent tent camps I think. It is part of the Asilia lodge group that includes Matemwe Bungalows which would be a nice choice in Zanzibar and a combination stay might get a discount. There is a better description of Sayari on Siyabona's web site than there is on Asilia's.
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