Tanzania, Rwanda and Zanzibar advice

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Apr 4th, 2012, 06:53 PM
  #1
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Tanzania, Rwanda and Zanzibar advice

Hi,
We are planning our second trip to Africa. The first was 6 years ago to South Africa and we are thrilled to be going again. We have had some trouble booking flights and so our itinerary has needed revising. Our safari is worked around Gorilla trekking in Rwanda on August 29 and 31. We could not get permits for 2 days in a row so guess that we will see the golden monkeys in the between day. Any thoughts on other things to do around the Virunga lodge? We will go from Kigali to Zanzibar on Sept. 1 and leave for Ny on Sept. 4th.Advice on where to stay in Zanzibar or other places?
We will start off in Arusha
Day1-Lamala Mara camp
Day2-Lamala mara camp
Day3-Buffalo Springs camp-Lobo Valley and upper Grumeti woodlands
Day4-Buffalo Springs camp-Has anyone had an experience or heard of this camp??
Day 5-Bilila Luxury Lodge-Central Serengeti
Day 6-Bilila Luxary Lodge
Day 7-Soba Lodge-Ngorongoro Crater
Day 8-Gibbs Farm
Day 9- leave 9:00 flight to Kigali
Day 10-Gorillas
Day 11- Golden Monkeys
Day 12-Gorillas
Day 13-leave for Zanzibar
Day 14 and 15 Zanzibar
Day 16 leave for NY
We had to give up Tarangire camp but we could do 1 night at Buffalo springs and add Swala camp -1 night at the end, if you thought this would be a better option
We really want to see the great migration and a river crossing if possible. Any advice on our trip and anything you might offer up is greatly appreciated.
Thank you
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Apr 5th, 2012, 07:07 AM
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In place of Buffalo Springs Camp, which is outside the park, you might consider using the Simiyu seasonal camp in the Bologonja area of the northern Serengeti. Given the time of year you'll be in the north (mid-August), I'd be surprised if you saw a crossing. Usually, the Migration has moved into the Mara by then. Still, you might get lucky at Lemala Mara Camp. If seeing the Migration herds is important to you, you might consider foregoing Zanzibar and going to the Masai Mara after Rwanda.

Personally, I wouldn't stay at the Kempinski "hotel" in the Serengeti (Bilila Lodge). I prefer tented camps and this place has been somewhat controversial.

If you want to keep Zanzibar on your itinerary, it will take you all day to get there from Rwanda. Stay in Stone Town the evening you arrive (Day 13) at the Serena or Tembo House. Do a walking tour of Stone Town the next morning, then head for a beach resort on the east coast. You could do a spice farm tour on the way over. I like Pongwe Beach Resort (will be there in August myself), but it's probably booked by now.
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Apr 5th, 2012, 07:27 AM
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For Zanzibar you may want to consider the new 5 star Gold Zanzibar Hotel, which opens up on the 1st of July. http://www.goldzanzibar.com/index.php
Check out the location (ideal for the beach lovers) and the photos of the property.
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Apr 5th, 2012, 08:07 AM
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For the day in between Gorilla Trecking, potentially you could go into DRC and do one of walks to Nyiragongo. Not too many places on this planet with a permanent lava lake. I bet there are agencies that can arrange that from the Rwanda side.
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Apr 5th, 2012, 01:32 PM
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Thank you so much for your help. OUr Tanzania safari is not finalized yet. What is the controversy about the Bilila lodge? Also, we were recommended to go to Buffalo Springs because we could have an option of going to an authentic Masai village. We are open to other possibilities. Unfortunately, we will be flying home from Dar es Sallem-just confirmed so not sure that Masai Mara is possible. I suppose we could go from Nairobi to Das es saleem? Any other thoughts very welcomed!
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Apr 6th, 2012, 05:11 AM
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The controversy is how Kempinski managed to get permission to build a 75-room hotel in the national park, which wasn't supposed to have any structures like that built within the park boundaries. You'd have a much better safari experience in a tented camp.

Yes, you can fly to DAR from NBO if you wanted to replace Zanzibar with the Mara. Kenya Airways, their partner Precision Air, and Fly 540 all fly that route. Are you flying out of DAR on KLM? That flight leaves close to midnight, so you could fly from the Mara to Nairobi, arriving at around noon, have lunch and do an afternoon tour around the city, then catch a 6pm flight to DAR. Go into Dar es Salaam for dinner at one of the hotels, then go back to the airport for your flight.
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Apr 7th, 2012, 04:00 AM
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I agree with ShayTay that the migration will mostly be in the Mara by mid-Aug.

You must be flying from Arusha to the northern Serengeti?

I'd be inclined to stay 2 nights at Lemala Mara, and then leave the north because there won't be much happening there (at least compared to a month earlier), and stay at Mbuzi Mawe or Lemala Ewanjan (or elsewhere) instead of Bilila.

If you can add a day or two in Tarangire I'd highly recommend it because it is great in August. However, if you only have 1 day in Tarangire, consider something other than Swala because it is quite deep into the park, a good few hours away from the beautiful central river valley, and you'd spend all your time in Tarangire driving to and from the camp.
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Apr 7th, 2012, 07:54 AM
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There are resident herds of wildebeests in the Lemai Wedge portion of the northern Serengeti year-round, so there could still be some action there.
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Apr 7th, 2012, 09:04 AM
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Thank you so much for your help. Our agent from ADS insists that the migration is in Tanzania in the middle of August and says that she doesn't understand why I am being told otherwise. Am looking in to alternatives to Bilia lodge she recommends samatu camp. She says that she would cut off Taranguire and agrees that it would be too much driving to go to Arusha from Swala Camp. we should finish at Gibbs farm and we will have seen lots of elephants anyway. Any thoughts? Am uncertain still about the Masai Mara at the end of Zanzibar. I have E mailed Pongwe to see if we can get a reservation.
Much Thanks again for your input and welcome more thoughts.
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Apr 8th, 2012, 03:41 AM
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It looks from your itinerary that you'd be in the northern Serengeti from Aug 20-23, so not really mid-August. At any rate, it has always been difficult to predict when the "bulk" of the migration will cross into Kenya. Last year I was at the Mara River in the northern Serengeti in mid-July and, although we didn't see a crossing in our 2 days there, the herds of 100's of thousands were mustering. I saw a crossing in early July 2008. It all depends on the rains which are unpredictable. As ShayTay says, there is always resident game in the area.

I've never heard of Samatu Camp. Please let us know about it.

Inclusion of Tarangire is dependent on whether you're willing to give up one of your 6 days in the Serengeti. Let us know what you decide on.
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Apr 8th, 2012, 05:16 AM
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August is a transitional month, when the herds a moving across the border. It's hard to say where the bulk of the herds will be, since it's a function of the weather and rains. Here's a map: http://www.wildwatch.com/great_migration/ Their blog is helpful, but it can change from year to year. I was in the northern Serengeti in September 2008 and the Migration "should" have been in the Mara, but the rains in the Serengeti had started early and the herds were all around us at Bologonja.

Yes, where is Samatu Camp? I can't find anything about it. I assume it's in the central Serengeti. I'm not sure why your agent is pushing Gibb's Farm. It doesn't fit in the itinerary you have, as it's just below the Crater rim near Karatu. Skipping Tarangire is a mistake, especially at this time of year. I think you'd do well to give up a night in the Serengeti for a couple of nights there. The wildlife in the park in August is outstanding. What's your current idea of an itinerary?
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Apr 8th, 2012, 10:29 AM
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Thank you again. I am going to try to add Tarangire. Where do you think that I should stay given that i must return and catch a 9:00am flight to Rwanda. We had thought that Gibbs farm was on the way? and an interesting place? Do we give up a night at Buffalo Springs or Billila location. We still don't know where we will stay instead of Billia. Wow! I wish that we had more days!!!
Thank you.
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Apr 8th, 2012, 10:38 AM
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FYI: IT os Seronara Samatu camp.
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Apr 8th, 2012, 11:10 AM
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FYI: It is Seronara Samatu camp.
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Apr 8th, 2012, 01:25 PM
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I think you're wise to visit Tarangire. I agree with ShayTay that it would be a mistake not to include it. However, do you have to be back in Arusha from Tarangire by 9:00am? Tarangire is 2.5 hours from Arusha. If you have to be at the airport a few hours in advance of your international flight, then this is problematic.

Karatu is about 2.5 hours from Arusha. Gibbs Farm is a great place; the food is fabulous. It looks as though you are staying there the night after your crater tour.

There are a lot of places to stay at Tarangire. I like Maramboi Tented Camp, but have also stayed at the River Camp. Tarangire Safari Lodge has the best views of any accommodation in the park. I don't like how close the tents are to each other, and it's located in a busy part of the park. I guess it depends on what you're looking for and what you want to spend.

Maybe you could take out the 2 days at Buffalo Springs and change from Bilila to a tented camp. Then you can add Tarangire and return to Arusha for your overnight before your very early morning departure for Rwanda:

Day 1-Lamala Mara camp
Day 2-Lamala mara camp
Day 3-Central Serengeti (Lemala Ewanjan, Kati Kati or other)
Day 4-Central Serengeti
Day 5-Sopa Lodge-Ngorongoro Crater
Day 6-Gibbs Farm
Day 7-game drive Tarangire. Overnight
Day 8-game drive Tarangire. Return to Arusha early evening for overnight.
Day 9-leave 9:00 flight to Kigali

You're right...there are never enough days!
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Apr 9th, 2012, 09:24 AM
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Okay, it's "Seronera Sametu Camp"... found it on the ADS website. It's in the central Serengeti in the Seronera area. If you stay at the Sopa on Day 5, you'd do your allowed half day drive in the Crater on Day 6. Gibbs Farm is just below the Crater Rim near Karatu, so I don't see any need to stay there that night. You can go directly from the Crater to a lodge in Tarangire on the afternoon of Day 6. BTW, Gibbs Farm is further away from Arusha than 2.5 hours... more like 3.5 hours. Wow, your agent was mistaken in thinking you could make a flight out of JRO at 9am driving from Gibbs Farm! I'd go with Calo's itinerary, but replace Gibbs Farm with a night in Tarangire, giving you 2 nights there. If you stay at a lodge or camp in the park or on the other side of it such as Boundary Hill Lodge where I'm staying this summer, you'll get a game drive on the way to your camp. Maramboi and River camps are outside the park (stayed at both and they're nice.) Maramboi is on the east side of Lake Manyara. We walked towards the lake with some Maasai warriors and did a little "spear chucking" contest with them.

The road to all the game parks goes south out of Arusha. JRO (Kilimanjaro Airport) is about an hour to the east of Arusha, so you'd want to stay at a hotel or lodge on the east side of town, or even at the KIA Lodge, which is next to the airport. Your safari guide can take you there directly and you won't need a transfer the next morning. That would be the logical place to stay, given your early morning international flight. The lodge can shuttle you right over two or three hours before your flight for check-in.
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Apr 9th, 2012, 06:41 PM
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Thank you. My agent suggested Maramboi or Tarangire tented camp. Any thoughts as to which is nicer. Friends of mine went to Gibbs farm and loved it. Should I be giving it up??? We are going to Rwanda after Tarangire that is not considered international. Does that change the timing??? Also, contacted Pongwe and they only have a garden view room. Thoughts? How about Ras Nungwe? Do you know anything about it? Your help is much appreciated.
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Apr 10th, 2012, 03:56 AM
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Maybe you could stop at Gibbs Farm for lunch after your crater tour, on the way to Tarangire. I agree with ShayTay...skip a stay at Gibbs and head to Tarangire for 2 nights.

By Tarangire tented camp, which camp are you referring to?
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Apr 10th, 2012, 04:36 AM
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Tarangire River camp is what she is talking about, my mistake. Thanyou.
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Apr 10th, 2012, 05:07 AM
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Staying overnight at Gibbs Farm is wasting precious safari time on the short itinerary you have. As Calo says, you could have lunch there or at the Ngorongoro Farmhouse after leaving the Crater on your way to Tarangire. Tarangire River Camp was originally built by the same company that owns Maramboi (Tanganyika Wilderness Camps.) The big lodge at TRC that was built around a huge baobab tree fell into the river a few years ago, but the tented accomodations will be about the same as Maramboi. TRC is now owned by Mbali Mbali. I've stayed at their camps in Katavi and Mahale and they were well-run. TRC is a bit closer to the entrance of the park than Maramboi and sits on a cliff overlooking a river bed. Maramboi, as previously noted, is near the eastern shore of Lake Manyara and looks out towards the rift escarpment.

Tanzania to Rwanda... international flight any way you look at it. Give yourself plenty of time to check in, as things move rather slowly at JRO. You have to go through a security checkpoint just to get into the terminal, check in, go through another checkpoint, etc.

There is no A/C at Pongwe, so a "garden view" room won't catch the sea breezes and could be a bit stuffy. The temps in Zanzibar are about the same year-round... hot and humid. I haven't stayed at Ras Nungwe. The only other place on the beach that I've stayed at was Shooting Star. It has A/C, but I didn't like the beach area as much. Rather than being right on the beach like Pongwe, you're on a cliff above it. You access the beach via stairs and, at high tide, much of the beach disappears.
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