Trip Advice Needed for First Time Visitor to Africa

Old Jun 11th, 2009, 06:07 AM
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Trip Advice Needed for First Time Visitor to Africa

I will be traveling to Djibouti, on a government assignment, for 6 months in the Fall. Based on what I'll be doing for work, I don't believe I'll have many opportunities to do sightseeing outside of Djibouti for most of my trip. However, I have learned from others who have recently worked where I'm headed that I'll likely get one week during some portion of while I'm there to do some traveling of my choice. For me, that "break" will probably come sometime around February or March 2010. My understanding is that some folks go to Mt. Kilamanjaro, others on safari to the Serengeti, and still others to Mombasa. There's a part of me that has always wanted to go on a safari. I've been reading all of the information I can find on this forum and still have questions.

Here's what I'm wondering. Based on my travel restrictions, I'll probably only have enough time to do a 4-5 day safari. Is it still worth it to do one if it's that short? Will I still see animals? Most of the folks I've talked to (in my situation) have based their initial travel out of Nairobi, Kenya, so I'd probably be looking to do something similar.

I'm looking to do this 4-5 day safari for under $1500/person (not including airfare). Is this possible? I don't need posh accommodations but am interested in finding a reputable safari company and would like to stay somewhere with shower/bathroom facilities, if possible. I've read about several safari companies on this board, but many of the postings are not recent. Can you recommend a company in my price range? Also, when I go to several companies' websites, I see pricing information, but it's typically based on at least 7 days. Are safari companies willing to do shorter trips?

Finally, if I only have a good 4-5 days of travel time, would Mombasa or Mount Kilimanjaro be a better bet? Really, I enjoy all types of travel. I'm not much of a shopper - much prefer seeing wildlife or hiking or hanging out at the beach. Thanks!
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Old Jun 11th, 2009, 08:40 AM
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For Kilimanjaro (in Tanzania), a climb requires minimum 6/days - up/down - and a day to recover and prepare for return trip; you'd need the full 7/days at minimum and would be hectic, I feel.

If you wish to catch the Migration in the southern Serengeti (Ndutu area of the NCA), you can fly into NBO, shuttle bus or flight to Kili, fly to Serengeti, spend a few days safari. Fly back same as on entry. Driving to/from the Ndutu area will take up a good portion of daylight whether going out or returning. Feb/Mar is hi-season in Tanzania, so with the flights... budget likely to be too tight.

Or just visit in Kenya, a day sightseeing around Nairobi; fly to/from* the Masai Mara which is always great for game. Prices during this time are at mid-season rates so you might be able to pull it off, depending on type of lodging/camps chosen.

* You can also arrange drive (5-6/hrs each way) and have your own guide/vehicle.

Do remember though if traveling solo, there's that darn single supplement in both countries!!!

Assume you'll require inoculations for stay in Djibouti, but for entry to Kenya or Tanzania, besides need for malaria meds, also a Yellow Fever inoc and proof of same. And, of course Visas ($25 for Kenya, $100 for Tanzania).

Disregard those 7/day set safaris. You can contact any of them and request a simply 1//day NBO w/sightseeing: Blixen Museum, Giraffe Center, Sheldrick Elephant Orphange and some shopping (of course ) and transport by air or driving for 3/days in the Mara. They can do it.

Or contact:
- Kennedy at Waymark Safaris
- Joyce at Wildtrek Safaris
- Eastern or Southern Safaris

These get good reviews and used often by regulars.

Keep us posted.
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Old Jun 11th, 2009, 06:26 PM
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"There's a part of me that has always wanted to go on a safari." Here is your chance rather than a Kili climb that takes longer than what you have or Mombasa which has wild life of a different sort.

Sandi has given you great advice.
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Old Jun 12th, 2009, 02:16 PM
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I would also suggest Kenya based on your budget. Here's an example of a 4 day itinerary http://www.essafari.co.ke/essk012.htm Keep in mind that the pricing is based on 2 people traveling so would cost more for a solo traveler as you wouldn't be sharing the safari vehicle (this particular example is a driving safari so it would be your private vehicle) and would be paying a single supplement for the accommodations.

Another option to consider would be a flying safari where you'd fly between Nairobi and the park or reserve. Your place of accommodation would pick you up at the airstrip and take you on game drives which would generally be on a shared basis with other fly-in guests. This might be more economical than a private driving safari for a single traveler.

You could also consider finding a group to join on a driving safari though it's usually easier to find a camping rather than a non-camping safari to join. http://www.gametrackersafaris.com/ puts groups together.

I wouldn't worry about not seeing animals even on a short safari. You'll see plenty.

If you'd prefer hiking or mountain climbing, I believe Mt Kenya can be climbed in 4-5 days. As mentioned, you don't really have enough time for Mt Kili. Hiking/walking is also possible in the Aberdare range. I believe the chances of seeing wildlife would be higher in the Aberdares vs Mt Kenya and you could combine walking with game drives. However it's still high altitude forest so the game viewing wouldn't be comparable to the open plains like you'll find in the Masai Mara, but it's an idea if you want to combine hiking with more limited game viewing.

If you decide on a traditional safari, you can still inquire about walking opportunities as some lodges and camps offer them. These would generally be shorter walks, more focused on game viewing vs a climb or hike in mountain terrain.

Hope this helps and good luck!
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Old Jun 12th, 2009, 06:24 PM
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Hi! Thanks for all of the good tips. A couple more clarifications/questions. I think I've decided (after reading your advice) that I prefer seeing wildlife rather than going on a very long hike. While hiking is cool, I've done a lot of it but have never seen African wildlife except in a zoo, so I think that'd be awesome. I think I'd rather do a traditional safari. The Masai Mara sounds very nice - is it disappointing in comparison with the Serengeti?

At this point, I am not really considering traveling alone - sounds scary and not very fun. In Djibouti, I'll be working with many others and hope to meet some new friends who might be willing to join in such an adventure - and my adventurous in-laws have even expressed interest in meeting me over there for a safari. Nevertheless, if I did decide to travel alone, I am unfamiliar with the term "single supplement." Does this mean, if you're traveling alone, it just costs you extra? (That's my assumption.)

Has anyone been on a camping safari? What was it like? Was it like backpacking for days at a time, or did you get a shower? Was it miserable or still fun? I'm in the military, so I'm no stranger to the occasional tent or outhouse, though I of course would prefer something nice. I guess I'm wondering how big the difference is between a lodge safari and a camping safari? Thanks again for all the help.
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Old Jun 12th, 2009, 07:09 PM
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Hi Daph - welcome to this board

Masai Mara is one fabulous park (and actually part of the same ecosystem of Serengeti)
During your vacation the 'big migration' will be in Serengeti, but still you'll see lots of animals in the Mara;
4-5 days in the Mara make a decent safari

showers - you can have even in camping safaris
"single supplement" - in a hotel you may occupy a room that may well serve a couple, hence the additional cost
in some camping group safaris they may not charge you that fee

homework:
read through this thread - safari trip reports
you'll find up-to-date companies/operators names
NEW EAST AFRICA Trip Report Index
http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...port-index.cfm

enjoy Africa

aby
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Old Jun 12th, 2009, 07:51 PM
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"single supplement." Does this mean, if you're traveling alone, it just costs you extra?
On a camping safari, you'd be joining others, but if you have a tent to yourself and don't share it, then it does cost you extra. The single supplement is sometimes reduced or waived. Can't hurt to ask.

The camping safaris I've done have had a wonderful bush shower. Water is heated in a bucket with a spigot by the sun for several hours midday. It can also be heated over a fire. When you want to shower the bucket is hoisted above the shower tent and you open the spigot for nice warm water. I hate cold showers and never had to endure one in Africa.

In a lodge you'd have your own bathroom and shower. On a camping safari the toilet facilities may be public or there may be a toilet tent for just your group. But when you are out on a game activity (which would probably be a drive in Kenya or Tanzania) then your guide just finds you a bush, rock, or you step behind the vehicle.

If you found a camping safari by a reputable company, such as Gametrackers, Eastern & Southern, or Good Earth, I am sure you'd enjoy it.
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Old Jun 12th, 2009, 08:02 PM
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Safari accommodations are usually priced per person per night and include at least full board (all meals) and sometimes game drives (depending on the package you booked and whether you flew in or have your own vehicle). If they can put 2 people in one room or tent, they get more money. If a single person wants to occupy their own room or tent, they're usually charged a single supplement to compensate. Some places will waive the single supplement depending on season and/or occupancy.

Budget camping safaris generally use public campsites where there would be other groups camping. There are usually shower facilities but maybe not always hot water. You'll have a driver/guide and a cook. You may need to pitch in to help set up/take down camp but a lot of times this is even done for you.

There's also "semi-lux" camping which is usually done on private, wilderness campsites booked by one party at a time. The difference is generally slightly bigger tents with cots or mattresses, shower tent with a bladder shower (though not necessarily attached to your sleeping tent, camp staff will heat up water), sometimes a dining tent or just table and chairs set up in the open. Semi-lux camping isn't cheaper than a lodge safari (because the sites cost more and your operator has to bring in and set up everything) but is chosen more for the privacy factor and just being out in the wilderness.

Then there are tented camps which except for the canvas aren't like camping at all. Tented camps cost as much or more than lodges.

You have enough of a budget, especially if you can find another person to travel with you, that you don't have to consider budget camping if you don't want to. If you decide on a driving safari, the more in your group, the cheaper the per person cost.

Here's a very brief budget camping trip report http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...report2007.cfm

Another one where the person decided camping was not for her http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...rip-report.cfm

One more http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...rip-report.cfm
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Old Jun 13th, 2009, 10:02 AM
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Thanks everyone! I will definitely read through all the trip reports. I appreciate all of your help.
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