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To past visitors of Tarangire National Park in Tanzania...

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Dec 17th, 2003, 04:15 PM
  #1
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To past visitors of Tarangire National Park in Tanzania...

Please let me know where you stayed, how you enjoyed your stay and whether or not the lodge was located inside or outside the actual National Park. If located outside the park, please let me know how long it took to enter the park and if there was much game outside the park where I assume your night drives would need to take place.

I am receiving conflicting reports on Kikoti and Tarangire Tree Top Lodges, and I think that these two camps are the only ones worth staying at outside the park, although I could be wrong or just unaware of a new park.

I would have more options if I were staying inside the park but that would take away the ability to do night game drives, something that I really enjoy.

A couple tour operators are really trying their best to steer me away from Kikoti in favor of Tarangire Tree Top. Kikoti looks very interesting to me because it has game walks with Masai guides, but then again, if Masai's are too involved in the camp I suppose this could also lead to sub-par service?

I was told that Kikoti also has problems with water sometimes, and since water is involved with sewage, I don't want to think too much about that one. It does look like a great place but so does Tarangire Tree Top Lodge.

Anybody been to either of these camps, any other camp outside the Tarangire National Park or even any camps inside the park. If inside the park, were there any evening activities other than eating and drinking???

Thanks.
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Dec 18th, 2003, 01:36 AM
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The "Tarangire River Camp" is being touted by my leading tour operator as being better than Tarangire Tree Top Lodge and better than Kikoti.

Really, it doesn't look like much and there is no fancy website. Here is just about the only link I could find:

http://www.wildland.com/trips/other/...river_camp.asp

It is supposed to have a great location and is only 3.5 kms from the park entrance, as opposed to a 90 minute drive like Tarangire Tree Top Lodge.

By appearances alone, it does not appear to be in the same league as Kikoti or Tarangire Tree Top but I don't see what a tour company would have to gain by sending me here instead of where I requested, since I will only turn around and get quotes and opinions from other operators anyway.

I would say that Tanzania Serengeti Adventures is about 6% less than any other operator I have dealt with so far, and has provided me with a long list of referrals and has communicated with me as if they believe that others will be cheaper but not as high quality as their operation.

This camp just looks a bit rustic after what will amount to a 7:30AM flight from Venice to Amsterdam, stopping over in Rome or elsewhere, arriving in Amsterdam at Noon, 8.5 hours in Amsterdam, where I think I can find an appropriate sleep/relaxation natural sleep inducement for my overnight 8:30PM flight to Kiliminjaro, arriving at 8AM, followed by the two (?) hour transfer to my selected camp in Tarangire.

I only wish that Tarangire Tree Top was closer to the park entrance. Also I am getting very conflicting reports on Kikoti, being told that it is very far, yet it is reported in my guide books to being within 5 kms to the park entrance. I don't know how many different entrances there are to the park, but Tarangire River Camp is only 3.5 kms to the "park entrance." Does this mean that it is 1.5 kms from Tree Top Lodge?

Looks like I will have to bombard all the tour operators with 20 questions about Tarangire and its available lodging options. Although I am sure the location is great, Tarangire River Camp would be the most rustic camp I have ever stayed in, almost making Kafunta Island Bush Camp look like Singita, in comparison.
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Dec 18th, 2003, 06:21 AM
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Roccco: Why do you think that there would be "sub-par service" at Kikoti simply because the Masai are involved with it?
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Dec 18th, 2003, 06:42 AM
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SusanLynne,
Maybe that is a terrible generalization, but just from experience at Matetsi and even at the Lanzerac Manor, I have found that the locals do not put the same emphasis on service or understand what is expected from guests staying at 5* lodges.
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Dec 18th, 2003, 02:08 PM
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Roccco - I have to agree with SusanLynne. Have no idea what you experienced previously, but we have found that the Maasai are wonderful hosts. In fact, throughout East Africa and many other countries, more and more of the local (indigenous) tribes are involved in or part owners of some very reputable camps.

If you are talking about "staff" at a 5* hotel or lodge where you had a bad experience, then that's the responsibility of management, as it would be right here at home. Management is responsible for their staff, how they talk to guests, handle problems, serve food, clean rooms, handle any guest request, etc.

I was surprised at first by the calmness in the way that the Masaai approach their guests - they speak softly, don't seem to get excited, and then simple take care of whatever has to be taken care of. Sometimes not as quickly as we (American's specifically) expect things to be done - but we've got to "slow-down" - we are on vacation, where do we have to go, but another game drive.

If Kikoti has a water problem, that can be an issue; but I'd have no problem whatsoever, staying at a camp or lodge staffed by (and most places are) or run by the Maasai.
 
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Dec 18th, 2003, 03:12 PM
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Sandi and SusanLynne,

(As I backpeddle furiously)

I agree that it is ultimately whether or not a place has strong management. For example, some of the best customer service that I have received ANYWHERE was at the Michelangelo Hotel in Johannesburg. The second I looked up from my plate or away from my wife at the Picolo Mondo Restaurant (in the Michelangelo), there was always someone at my beck and call within about two seconds flat, yet they did not at all crowd us.

Also, I don't know if it because we had a suite at the Michelangelo, but the Bellboys never forgot our names and always gleefully welcomed us back to the hotel or wished us well as we left the hotel, telling jokes and making small talk in the few seconds spent together in the elevators or to and from the room.

Back to Tarangire...I am again leaning towards Kikoti. I am hearing more bad about Tarangire Tree Tops, primarily the management, than I am about Kikoti. I will do more research on Tarangire River Camp, but there is only one website that I could find that shows pictures of what I think is the right camp, and although the location looks very good, the tents look more basic than the ones I have seen at other camps.
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Dec 18th, 2003, 07:47 PM
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Roccco: I think Sandi's remarks sum up what I was going to say, so I will leave it at that. Have you checked out Tamarind Camp Tarangire? According to a book I have here, it is just outside of the park and notes that "night drives are possible." Small, with only 10 luxury tents. It has the same management as Kirurumu at Lake Manyara, and that place has an impeccable reputation. Also, I don't know if this place opened yet, but there is one called Boundary Hill Lodge, which is supposed to be just outside the park boundary. Oh, so many options ...
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Dec 19th, 2003, 08:31 AM
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My group stayed at Tamarind camp for two nights in September. We were the only ones there the first night and a group of three stayed there with us the next night.
I really enjoyed Tamarind. The tents are nice but don't have any electricity or running water. For showers they fill a bucket up with hot water and raise it above the shower to drain out over you. This is actually a lot better than it sounds. They chemical toilets in the bathrooms.

Tamarind was about a 30 minute drive to the Tarangire park entrance. We did go on a night game drive while there but didn't really see much. In fact as soon as we left for our night drive a herd of elephants came through the camp.

I had originally wanted to stay at the Tarangire Treetops lodge but it seemed too far away from the park entrance and not worth the extra money.

I would recommend this camp. The staff were great and the service felt very personal.
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Dec 19th, 2003, 08:40 AM
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Hi, have been away for so long and there is so little time.

Here's from my experience :

Tarangire - June is the beginning of the dry season and the migratory wildlife will start arriving in July so you will only be spotting the resident wildlife. I have stayed at Kikoti and yes you only get a bucketfull of water -about 15ltrs - due to water shortage. Also not a very personalised camp. Kikoti is 2hrs drive through the park from the main gate but you can do some game viewing en-route.

I truly recommend Oliver's Camp (www.oliverscamp.com), a semi-permanent camp. It is also 2 to 2.5 hrs drive through the park. 3nts here would be just fine as long as you have good company so check the booking charts and find out if the owner will be present.

The other option instead of Tarangire is Lake Manyara. Eunoto Lodge (www.maasaivillage.com, a new Lodge near Lake Manyara is run by the Maasai community and offers very comfortable accommodation plus some culture understanding. Truly the best way to test whether the Maasai or locals can be wonderful hosts.

Selous - am not sure if this is the best time to go as it is just after the rains and the wildlife will be pretty difficult to spot. Also beware of Tsetse flies during that period. Find out more about their numbers in June. They can make game viewing painful. If you do decide to go, then definitly use Sand Rivers.

So what would I recommend:

3nts Olivers or Eunoto Lodge - with canoing on Lake Manyara if staying at Eunoto

3nts Ngoronogoro Crater Lodge - Tree Camp which is right on the edge of the crate and offers better views than North or South Lodge.

4nts Grumeti River Camp with option of Rubondo Island 2 nts (flights from Serengeti)

OR

2nts Kirawira
2nts Rubondo Island Camp, Lake Victoria as an option and alternative to going to Zanzibar
2nts Grumeti River Camp

I think Grumeti River Camp is superb.
Please note that the drive from Ngorongoro to Grumeti River Camp is almost 6 to 7 hours so it is best to fly. Kirawira is only 30 mins to 45 min drive from Grumeti. I suggest you fly to both Kirawira and Grumeti

Sand Rivers in Selous is alluring but think you should find out more about game viewing in June. In August/Sept/Jan/Feb it is very good.

Do not expect the food to be like South Africa, howver, the experience will be several times better.

Good Luck!

BTW this is my opinion - I agree that going direct can be beneficial but it is now time to choose an operator and stick to one as I think it is unfair to keep on getting quotes after quotes from several operators.

Also from my experiences, 'locals' have been brilliant and I prefer 'locals' to 'others', especially in their own continent.
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Dec 19th, 2003, 10:16 AM
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King,

Thanks for the feedback. Because I want to break up the trip with a couple nights in Zanzibar, the maximum amount of time that I can spend in Tarangire and Ngorongoro Crater is two nights each. I really cannot imagine spending any less than four nights in the Serengeti but I think I will definitely take your advice to fly there from Ngorongoro, as long as it still allows for a Oldupai Gorge visit. I see no reason to tolerate 7 hours of driving while I am on holiday. One of the real lowlights of my December, 2002, trip to Chile was the seven hour drive, including penguin excursion, to and from Torres Del Paine.

Regarding getting multiple quotes from operators, I see nothing wrong with this practice as I am not sharing one tour operators prices with the others. This is all an evolution and I am nearing completion, looking only to solidify my choice on a lodge in Tarangire.

The only thing complicating my choice is the fact that some operators are talking badly about Kikoti, others are talking badly about Tarangire Tree Top and I have read differing opinions on Oliver's Camp and Tamarind Camp. Plus, there is a new variable with a camp called Tarangire River Camp that I have only seen on a couple websites.

I, myself, am a contractor, and when someone asks me for a quote, I will jump to provide a quote. Only after I suspect that someone is giving my number away to the competition will I refuse to quote that individual.

It is through the flood of quotes that I receive that I really learn a lot about where I am visiting, often being given suggestions on places that I have not considered and hearing bad things about places I was considering (easy to dismiss if it is from only one operator, but hard to ignore if it is repeated by other operators).

Anyway, the tour operators will be thrilled now that I will require a new quote to include air from Ngorongoro to Grumeti, as I have no desire to spend seven hours on Tanzanian roads, or lack of roads. Thanks again for the suggestion to fly instead of drive.
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Dec 19th, 2003, 11:37 AM
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King: Welcome back to the Fodors site! Your absence has been felt. Glad to see your postings are as insightful as usual ... you have not lost your touch!
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Dec 19th, 2003, 10:35 PM
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king,

I did receive word back from a couple different operators regarding flying from Ngorongoro to Grumeti. I was told that it was a lot more trouble than it was worth and that it would contribute significantly to the cost of the trip.

I was promised that other than scheduled stops in Oldupai Gorge and the Serengeti Serena (for lunch), that the driving time would only be a little more than four hours and that I would be missing out on what would amount to an excellent game drive if I were to fly instead of drive.

By the way, you got me in trouble with one operator whom demanded to know who had told me that the transfer took seven hours. Of course, I had no choice but to turn informant and tell them it was "king"!

Really, if it takes 2.5 - 3 hours to Serengeti Serena, with another 90 minutes stopped at the Oldupai Gorge, that is not at all that bad. Even if I am driving for 2.5 hours after lunch, that is fine and will serve as my game drive for the day.
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Dec 19th, 2003, 11:36 PM
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I actually thought the long, long drives were one of the best parts. To each their own.
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Dec 20th, 2003, 01:10 AM
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Hi Roccco

Firstly, let me clarify - I said 6 to 7 hrs and not 7hrs. I should have said that included a 30min lunch stop and 15min at the Park Gate. It also all depends on how fast the driver is prepared to drive. I suppose you could get to Kirawira in 5hrs with a speedy driver. But believe me, by the end of the trip your beloved will be exhausted, just as part of my family was. So you may be a die-hard but also think of what others may have to go through. Secondly, the road if taken at a slow pace (8 to 10 hrs), like Sandi suggests, would be fine but that would be a long, long day in the heat and dust or rain (it could still be raining in June).

The road varies from OK to bad. Especially after the rains the first part upto the Park Gate can be bad if the road has not been graded, unless the government has done something about it lately I don't know. The second part has a lot of corrugations which makes for a particularly uncomfortable ride. The third part is OK.

The scenery is interesting but my bet is half the time you will either be concentrating on how to be comfortable or trying to doze.

Regarding having a game drive from one end of the park to the next - yes you will see lots of wildebeeste, zebra, antelopes, giraffe, some eles but you have to be fortunate that the wildlife is somewhere near the main road.

Tarangire Tented Camp is not the same as Tarangire River Camp

Sandi, my itinerary suggestion was 3nts Tarangire or Manyara + 3nts Ngorongoro + 4nts Grumeti (or 2nts Kirawira & 2nts Grumeti Camp)+ optional Rubondo Island Camp for 2nts instead of Zanzibar.

Roccco, whatever you do and whoever you use, I am sure you will have a lovely time. Enjoy the trip.
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Dec 20th, 2003, 04:10 AM
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Dec 20th, 2003, 04:23 AM
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Sorry to have to top this, but it's the only way I can test if "replying to messages" is working - and this morning it is.

King - Sorry that I misuderstood your itinerary - only picking up the Western Serengeti portion - maybe it was when you put in the "OR"

Yes, admittedly, it was the longest day for a game drive of any of my trips to Africa, but oh so exciting with surprises along the way. And, of course, when it comes to animal sightings there are no guarantees what one might see along the way "or" not!

We traveled end-November, which is the "short rains" season, though luckily the rains came at night, so the roads where fine the next morning; though the small rivelettes were overflowing from the previous nights' rain, but there seemed to be no impact on the Grumeti. The daytime temps were quite warm and there certainly was plenty of dust - but nowhere as much as when we were in the Crater the previous day.

But thank you for your comments on your experience about the drive. I guess that's why there are options.
 
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May 18th, 2004, 08:59 PM
  #17
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Stayed in treetops in August 2003. Yes it was a drive from the park but saw a few animals along the way.

The meals we had at Treetops were some of the best. Wonderful breakfasts and great dinners (soups were 2nd to none).

Our "treetop" was very romantic.

Next time we are staying at Kikoti to try something different. Olivers seems too expensive but maybe you get more it is just hard to compare or know what extra you get at Olivers.
 
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