Tanzania/Zanzibar Honeymoon advice June 2006

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Aug 2nd, 2005, 03:34 PM
  #1
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Tanzania/Zanzibar Honeymoon advice June 2006

Hi,

My fiance and I have been planning a honeymoon to Africa to begin in early June 2006. After much discussion with a tour operator who was extremely helpful, we came up with the rough itinerary below.

Flying out of US
day 1: Arusha -Rivertrees
2 days: stone town, Zanzibar
3-4 days: Mnemba or Chumbe
4 days: Serengeti: nomads camp
3 days: Chada Camp (Katavi) - OR 4 days Sand River (Selous) -including 2 day walking safari (in which case, the order of camps might be slightly different)
3 days: Greystokes (Mahale)
Return to US via Europe, where we'll spend some time relaxing (about a week).

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In general, we were looking for a romantic setting (obviously), but we're also active and really want to stay in personalized, small and unique camps. I definitely don't want to feel confined in a car for our entire trip. Like probably most people looking to go on safari, we love animals, savor open and uncrowded spaces, and want to be in an environment where we have the option of doing our own thing and not being lumped into a gigantic noisy crowd. We also love food : )

I did have some concerns about our itinerary though. Mostly the fact that it's quite $$$! We're also trying to make some final choices on the places we're staying. I've listed our questions below for easy reading:

1. It seems that a lot of posters recommend booking with a local operator. We've been involved throughout the planning process with a fantastic small company called uncharted outposts. Has anyone used them before? I just worry when I hear that you can save thousands of dollars booking locally. I think they've done a great job in helping us plan, and would feel badly about not using them at this point. However, I haven't even gotten another quote from anyone else. Do the prices vary that much?

2. We are still trying to decide between Sand River in the Selous and Chada, in Katavi. Logistically, Chada would be easier since we're going to Mahale (relatively nearby). I heard that the game viewing isn't as great at this time of yr in the Selous. However the camp seems really wonderful, and the option of a two day walking safari with fly camping is really cool. At Chada we'd be able to walk, but not as part of a camping journey. However, I've heard great things about the amount of game and the remoteness of Chada. That really appeals to me. Any comments? Has anyone been to both, or have an opinion of the selous at that time of year?

3. We're still debating whether to stay at Chumbe or Mnemba... Chumbe really resonates with our values (ecoresort, etc.), but I worry that the lodgings might be very basic, and there is no real beach. I wonder whether it will be that "romantic" although I've heard lots of raves about it. The positives are the price and snorkeling and the simplicity of it all. Mnemba seems to have it all (beaches, fantastic cuisine, privacy, luxury) but for a hefty price. It's hard for my fiance and I to reconcile ourselves to the price. But if it truly is amazing, we might as well go on our honeymoon.

Any comments on our itinerary in general or our specific concerns would be very welcome!!

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Aug 2nd, 2005, 04:01 PM
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bwanamitch
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Miss_K,

I havn't been in Selous, only in Katavi, but all what I've heard about Selous so far wouldn't change my decision to prefer Katavi.

Four years ago Chada offered sleep-outs in Katavi, not a fly-camp but sleeping under a mosquito net on the big plains. Maybe you ask them if this is still available, it might be a good alternative to the Selous fly camps.

Mitch
 
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Aug 2nd, 2005, 06:35 PM
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Miss K,

I think you have a great looking itinerary. I would probably go with Katavi, given its proximity to Mahale, but Ruaha would definitely also be a consideration (Mwagusi Camp, especially).

If it were me, I would prefer the safari first and then the time in Zanzibar. It would just make your travel home much easier, even though I do see you are stopping in Europe.
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 03:59 AM
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sandi
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Miss_K -

For travel beginning of June, note that Selous and Ruaha will have just reopened after the wet season. Likely grasses will be very high and much of the land still wet.

Katavi and Mahale are better at this time of year.

Likewise, the grasses will be high in the Serengeti and there may still be rain. If you wish to visit here, I'd opt for a permanent tent camp (raised off the ground) rather then a semi-permanent (for comfort and lux reasons) and you probably don't need more then 3-days here.

As Rocco mentions, I'd hold off the coastal areas for the end of your itinerary for R&R and pampering. And yes, Mnemba is very expensive, but there are alternatives here. Chumbe is lovely and good for maybe 2-days, but the waters are better on the East and North of Zanzibar, whereas, Chumbe is a short boat ride from Stone Town on the West side of the island.

Also, some properties in Zanzibar or Pemba that might still be closed in June (because of the earlier wet season). But others to consider are:
The Palms and Sultan's Palace on the Southeast coast. On the Northeast coast are Matamwe Bungalows and Pongwee (but check for air conditioning, if this is important)... we found that it was very hot and very very humid on Zanzibar in June. On the Northern tip is Ras Nungwi. And on Pemba Island there is Fundu Lagoon. You can end with 2-days in Stone Town which is also closer to the airport for your homebound flight (whether from DAR or JRO).

I know that it can be difficult after working with one tour operator, to possibly have to change to another. But if you'd get prices from a few in-country outfitters and their prices for an itinerary offer you a savings - then you have to make a decision. Or go back to the original tour opeator and ask if they can match the price.

Hope this helps.
 
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 05:40 AM
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There is an awful of travelling in the itinerary (especially coming from the US) with very little room for delays - you're almost travelling every third day (ie packing, unpacking, getting transport etc). Have you though about going to fewer places and staying longer in each. You could actually end up seeing a lot more and it would be cheaper as there would be less travel costs.
I can only realy speak for Chumbe (not Mnemba) where we stayed for 4 days this Jan (2004). We had a great time snorkelling and sleeping but I wouldn't in general recomend it for a honeymoon - compost toilets, no fans in the room (natural breeze only), extremely basic facilities. Superb coral reefs though and very friendly staff. Fundu Lagoon on Pemba might be a good compromise on price and facilities (and should also offer superb diving and snorkelling). We also stayed at Matemwe Bungalows on Zanzibar and thoroughly enjoyed it but its not that 'special' for a honeymoon (no aricon or fans - just natural breeze again which doesn't always turn up when you want it!).
From a safari point of view, have you considered just the north or south rather than trying to see bits of each. Split the 4 days in the Serengeti between extra days at Chada (who do offer sleep outs) and Mahale. You'll get to know the guides better and get more of a feel for the place. Given that you're flying from the US I can understand staying a couple of days on the beach at the beginning to recover.
Have a great trip wherever you get to and good luck for the future.
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 08:52 AM
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Thanks for the responses thus far. They've been very helpful! If we were going to cut out one of the camps between Mahale, Chada (Katavi) and the Serengeti, which camp would you recommend? It sounds like daviesg suggested cutting out the Serengeti -does this sound like a good choice? I thought there might be a chance of catching some of the migration in June, and was therefore thinking the Serengeti was a must-see. Also, my fiance has never been to Africa, so I tried in my choices to pick a balance of different environments to experience. We're considering the possibility though of cutting out a location. It's just so hard to decide which one ....
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 09:05 AM
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bwanamitch
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I would cut out Chada, Katavi is more something for experienced safari travellers.

Mahale is the best place I can imagine for a honeymoon. Very remote, no cars, the small camps, the white beach, the crystal-clear lake, and of course the chimps - just one of the last paradises on earth.

Mitch
 
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 01:54 PM
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sandi
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Miss_K -

Don't know your budget, but if considering both the Northern and Southern Circuit, the getting to and between is going to be costly. I don't know whether the order in which you listed the itinerary is the order in which it was proposed to you... if so you're jumping all over the place. What was this tour operator thinking???

Though another poster mentioned the positive of a few days R&R after trip from the States, you can just as easily do a rest day in Arusha at a whole lot less cost.

That said, you have to figure whether you're arriving at Kilimanjaro or Dar-es-Salaam. If DAR you can fly to Mahale and from there a flight to Arusha/Kili, but realize these flights are expensive and rather long - believe 4-hrs in a small plane. There are no roads into Mahale, so flying is your option.

If you fly into Kili/JRO, then I'd do the Northern areas - Ngorongoro Crater and Central or Western Serengeti for beginning of June. Then back to Arusha for flight to Mahale.

Since it's your honeymoon I'd suggest for the Serengeti - Kirawira or Mbalageti in the Western Serengeti or Mbuzi Mawe just an hour north of Central Serengeti. While there is no guarantee exactly where the migrating herds will be (as I know only to well having just returned from an early June stay here) - any of these three camps will give you the opportunity of catching the migrating herds.

Of course, end your honeymoon on Zanzibar which is easily accessible from either DAR or Arusha/Kili.

As folks here know, I'm not one for zig-zagging back and forth, but if choosing both North and South you have to plan this very smoothly -nthe transfers, days that flights depart - and in the end your budget.

What is your budget (apparently sizeable based on the accommodations listed) and if you don't mind sharing, who is the tour operator? Since you haven't committed, we can probably offer options.
 
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 03:00 PM
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bat
 
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Sandi:

It looks to me that their 10 nights of safari are all Nomad locations and I read somewhere that if you stay 9 nights or more in a variety of their camps that there is a savings (as much as $100 per couple per night, as I recall). Something they might want to consider and calculate if they stay elswhere in the Serengeti. Plus, for a honeymoon a Nomad seasonal camp could be very romantic (as could your suggestions of Kirawira, etc). Miss_K, you'll have to decide which is more romantic for you. The seasonal camps are 4 tents only. You will have the permanant camp experiences at the other 2 Nomad camps so it might be a nice addition.
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 03:19 PM
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Miss_K:

I looked at Uncharted Outposts web site and the nomad serengeti camp may be a completely private camp just for you! [not the 4 tent one that I mentioned.] Check with Uncharted Outposts to see which they are including. BTW, it is not surprising that this itinerary is lots of $$$--these are all very high end, very small camps [and Mnemba is the most expensive place to stay on/near Zanzibar, I believe.]
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Aug 4th, 2005, 03:14 AM
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Chumbe is lovely, and there is real beach - though Mnemba wins on that score. The chalets are rustic, rather than basic, and very pretty. The snorkelling is world-class - and it's nice being somewhere run, and run well, by local people. The food is really good, too, though less "polished" than Mnemba's.
On the other hand, Mnemba has impressive "community" credentials - but has tended not to broadcast them. It is about to receive a journalist who is going to write about its links with Matemwe village.

On your first question, it depends on your attitude to risk. You could save a considerable sum by booking with a local tour operator, but you would have no comeback if things went wrong/the quality wasn't what you'd expected, etc. On a "fully-inclusive package", the tour operator is responsible - and that's what you're paying for.
Hope this helps.
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Aug 4th, 2005, 06:42 AM
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Dear Mitch,

I was wondering what you meant about Katavi being for more experienced safari travellers. Is this because it's more rustic? Harder to travel around inside the park? or just because it's a long haul to get to?
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Aug 4th, 2005, 07:51 AM
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In answer to your first question: Yes, prices do vary greatly from outfitter to outfitter. Just as an example, in planning our 15-night safari we were quoted prices ranging from a low of $3,850 pp to a high of $5,300 pp (with all operators quoting identical accommodations). But of course if you want to use the one that you've been working with thus far, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!

In answer to your 3d question, I know nothing about Zanzibar but a colleague of mine planning his honeymoon in December was grappling with the same issues re: Zanzibar & specifically Mnemba (too $$), and ended up booking instead at someplace called Fumba Beach Lodge...regardless, there are so many options in Zanzibar (have you looked at Matemwe?) that you should have no problem finding something wonderful with a lovely beach that better fits your budget, whatever it is.

Regarding your time in Serengeti: there are SO many options for small, romantic, personalized, unique camps. I'm sure Nomad's is wonderful but have you looked into any of the other small luxury tented camps in Serengeti, like Kirawira, Grumeti, Mbalagheti, Mbuzi Mawe, etc. to see how they compare pricewise?
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Aug 4th, 2005, 08:35 AM
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bwanamitch
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Miss_K,

Katavi can't compete with the Serengeti when it comes to abundance and diversity of game. You have big herds of buffalo and hundreds of hippos, but other species only rarely. It can be very hot and dusty, some spots are full of tsetse flies, and sometimes you can spend there several days without seeing one big cat. Most people like it because of its remoteness - one of the last spots in Tanzania where you meet very few people.

Since this is your fiance's first trip to Africa, I think the Serengeti would be much more rewarding for him.

Mitch
 
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