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What is the minimum time needed to have a quality safari in Kenya/Tanzania?

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Nov 17th, 2003, 05:30 PM
  #1
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What is the minimum time needed to have a quality safari in Kenya/Tanzania?

I will be in Europe next May, and the only definites are that I WILL run a marathon (need to scream that at myself, after flaking on a couple this year) and I will go on a 9 night Globus tour of Italy.

Although already booked, I am considering scrapping a 7 night Radisson cruise, in favor of 7-9 nights in Kenya/Tanzania.

I could possibly do the Vienna Marathon on May 16th, spending about 3-4 nights in Vienna, before hitting the skies and flying overnight to Nairobi. Once to Nairobi, however, I don't have a clue on what to do next. In the interest of time, I burden my fellow Fodorites to tell me how I would get to an exclusive place like Cottar's 1920's Camp and then onto possibly the Ngorogoro Crater.

Even if I only spent 6 nights between two different game camps, and possibly a mandatory night in Nairobi, it is still worth entertaining. In the end, I would fly to Rome for my Italy tour (something that my wife wants to do with her family).

Would I be flying around the whole time in Kenya/Tanzania, and if so, what kind of planes would I need to fly in to get to Cottar's 1920's Camp (located in the Maasai Mara, right on the border of Kenya and Tanzania).

The one thing I do like about Kenya is that it is about 4 hours each way closer than South Africa. That isn't a big deal when coming all the way from Los Angeles, but it is when coming from Europe.

My entire budgeted time allowance for this trip is about 22 nights, with a minimum of 13 nights in Europe and 9 extra nights to either go on the Radisson cruise or take a little sidetrip to Kenya/Tanzania.

Help. Thanks.
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Nov 18th, 2003, 04:25 AM
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Roccco -

I like the way you think - if the choice is between a cruise or a safari, you go with the adventure of safari.

The flight from Europe to NBO will still be about 8-hrs. and suggest you spend at least 1-day the settle down. Depeding on when flight arrives - i.e., morning arrival - you can do the NBO sites of Karen Blixen Home, Giraffe Center and grave of Denys Finch Hatton, have dinner at The Carnivore. If arrive in evening - do the above the next day and a brief tour of the city - all with driver/guide. For hotels you can choose The Norfolk (old (1903), established, the "grande dame") or the Serena. This would be either 1- or 2-nts.

The next day you can fly from Wilson Airport (domestic airport) to the Mara and spend time at Cotters if that's the camp you've selected. Spend 3-nts. Then return flight to NBO to catch flight to Tanzania (I believe flight goes to KJO arriving early afternoon) where you should be able to catch a flight to the Crater. This should get you to the Crater mid-afternoon due to schedules. The next morning early you go into the Crater for a full day. Accommodations can either be The Crater Lodge (completely over the top and expensive) or the Serena Ngorongoro for 2-nts. You don't need more than 1-day in the Crater (but it's a 2-nt stay because of flight schedules).

Next day, with guide/driver to Klein's Camp passing Olduvai Gorge into the Serengeti for 2-nts. From here return flight to KJO for connecting flight to NBO and then return flight to your European connection (most leave in the evening late).

As usual, all depends on flight schedules, but see how this works for you. The inter- and/or intra-country planes will either be 6-seaters, sometimes 19-seaters (the latter usually to/fr the Mara) - really all depends on number of pax they have scheduled for any flight/day/time.

Of course, in each country you'll be dealing with their respective Regional Air Carriers.

You aleady have your inocs, but will need Malaria meds - but do check whether you'll need Yellow Fever inoc.

You best best at to currency is to use USD, everyone accepts; can use credit cards for restaurants or major purchases.

I think that's all you need to make a decision. Hope it works for you and STD. Have fun!
 
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Nov 18th, 2003, 05:08 AM
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Roccco
Nice to see you back on the forum.
This trip sounds great. Good Luck!
Kavey
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Nov 18th, 2003, 05:45 AM
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Roccco: I like your way of thinking!!! Safari or cruise? Safari!!!! I would respectfully beg to differ with Sandi on one point, that being taking time in Nairobi for this, that and the other. I seem to recall that you are a wildlife buff, so I would urge you to get in to Nairobi and out as soon as possible for the Mara. You will be amazed by it. You may want to give thought to staying at the Mara Explorer, relatively new, small (10 tents), super luxurious and the first camp to be managed by a Masai woman! Believe me, that's a first for Kenya! Can't wait to read about what you have decided to do ...
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Nov 18th, 2003, 10:49 AM
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Thanks for the great responses.

I would really love to see the Serengeti, the Masai Mara, and even, despite the crowds, the Ngorongoro Crater.

I don't even care if I run a European marathon or not anymore. There are a couple really good ones in California in May (Avenue of The Giants in Northern California) and June (Rock N Roll in San Diege) that I can run.

That would allow for more time in Africa and Europe. I figure that if I want to see the Serengeti, Masai Mara and Ngorongoro Crater that I should allow about 11 nights and that would include Serengeti (4), Masai Mara (4), Ngorongoro (2) and an obligatory night in either Arusha or Nairobi (1).

While I am sure that I would enjoy the luxury of a Radisson cruise, I don't really want to spend $600 USD per night to be cooped up with people mostly older than my parents and having excursions to already visited places like Malaga, Spain. I would rather take the same money and spend it in Kenya/Tanzania and really gain a better understanding on the differences between Southern Africa and Eastern Africa.

I will have a battle on my hand with my "better half", but in matters like this, I usually have last say, or just book it without yet having to go alone.

Europe is nice and all, but it is NOT Africa. If I could continue going to Africa every year, I would few complaints.
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Nov 18th, 2003, 11:10 AM
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Your choice of a Kenya/Tanzania is certainly more preferable than a cruise to familiar ports with AARP members.

If I recall correctly, your safaris have taken you so far only to South Africa and Zambia, so you will be stunned by the shear number of animals in Kenya and Tanzania. My recommendation is to find out where the migration will be in May and focus on that park -- I have been to the Masai Mara and the Serengeti, and they are two parts of the same ecosystem, and are not nearly as interesting when the migration is not present. The crater, though, contains resident animals and is worth visiting year round.

There are many great places to stay in the Mara, and I think Cottars is outside the reserve so it will offer night drives.

The Crater Lodge is over the top, and while not my style, may be interesting.

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Nov 18th, 2003, 04:37 PM
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All I can say is this board is about to get lively again if Roccco is traveling to Africa!

I think ScaredToDeath will just have to get over it - Kenya/Tanzania is the only way to go!

I can't take off as much time as you so this year I will forgo Africa and be in Italy in March04. 2004 isn't even here yet and it's already killing me that I won't be going!
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Nov 18th, 2003, 05:30 PM
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Roccco,

Having been to Botswana, Zambia, and South Africa last year, we are off in Feb. 2004 for Tanzania and Namibia. Last year we did the quite famous places including Singita etc. so this time around we decided on a totally different kind of experience. Therefore, we are going with a company out of London ( Migrations ) who has hooked us up with Wildlife Explorer in Tanzania. This will be a mobile tented safari that will move us from a semi permanent tent for 5 days and then on to a mobile tent ( for another 5 days that is pitched where the migration is at the time. We are quite used to our creature comforts and have been assured that this is going to be an outstanding experience. Have you read " Ghosts of Tsavo" regarding Kenya? Their website does not do them justice however. This will be a totally private safari and should be spectacular with the migration arriving. As someone mentioned, it is best to find out what the wildlife is like in May for Kenya.
We also will be at the Norfolk in Nairobi to rest up from London before departing.
A cruise? Go for Africa and Italy.
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Nov 18th, 2003, 07:41 PM
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Thanks, guys. It has been a mixed bag year for me and if nothing else, planning a trip to Kenya/Tanzania will help me look forward to next year.

To iflower...I encourage you to try and put together your own itinerary rather than booking a package deal. If you put in enough effort you may really be able to find some great deals, especially if you go in shoulder season or low season. I did the top of the line type trip last year, including Singita, Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town, Victoria Falls (both Matetsi Water Lodge and Victoria Falls Hotel) and finished off with the Mount Nelson Hotel. While it was expensive, it was still tolerable because the Rand was over 11 to 1.

This year, however, the Rand dipped under 8 to 1 (currently about 6.7 to 1) and in order to return, I had to make sacrifices. Instead of Singita for $1,800 USD per night, I stayed at Djuma Vuyatela for 1/3 the price, with nearly all of the same creature comforts.

Instead of either the Table Bay Hotel or Mount Nelson, I found a great deal at the Twelve Apostles Hotel, and would honestly pick this hotel in the future above any other Cape Town hotel, INCLUDING the Cape Grace, a beautiful hotel but right in the middle of the very commercialized Waterfront.

I substituted South Luangwa for Victoria Falls, although I did get great deals during my stay in Victoria Falls since I got the "In Case Civil War Breaks Out" Special, 5 days after Mugabe re-elected himself.

In the end, I put together a great itinerary for less than what I would have paid for a mediocre package that would have included places not on the same level. The controller for my company is going to South Africa at the end of March and he showed me a horrible looking package that he was considering and it was probably more expensive than I paid. Instead, I referred him to places like Nkhoro Game Lodge, a nice looking place, only a couple miles away from Djuma Vuyatela (they share almost the exact same traversing areas), but 1/3 the price in high season, meaining that it is 1/6 the price of Singita.

Bottom line, even staying at nice places, if you plan your itinerary yourself, you can save some major money. Some don't have the time, but I enjoy the challenge. Hey, it's either that or watching the idiot box or doing something responsible like pay bills!

Anyhow...the fun begins. Personally, I like the look of places like The Crater Lodge. Also, I like the fact that even the best places, such as Governor's Camp and Cottar's 1920's Camp, are nowhere near the price of the Singita's and Londolozi's of South Africa.

Anybody know where the migration will be in early to mid-May??? Thanks.
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Nov 18th, 2003, 08:57 PM
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wildwatch.com will give you an idea of where the migration "should" be at certain times of the year. However I've read that the wildebeasts are still in the Mara instead of moving south by now (let's hope they stay there at least until Sunday when we arrive!!!). So really no telling what will happen.
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Nov 19th, 2003, 08:32 AM
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I'm glad to see that you are interested in the migration. It's the most stunning animal pageant on earth. We reserved our own Land Rover so we were able to spend the entire day among the herds. We brought lunch, and ate on the top of the truck surrounded by tens of thousands of wildebeast, zebra, impala and gazelle. Truly an amazing experience.

If you are forced to overnight in Nairobi, suggest you stay at the Norfolk, which has a nice sense of history and is a member of Leading Hotels. Nairobi is not as bad as people say and a visit to the Giraffe Center and Carnivore Restaurant are worthwhile.

DO NOT visit Nairobi National Park. I visited first in 1999 and there was a lot of game, but during my most recent visit in August 2003, there was very little, and I was told that the increase in population between Amboseli and Nairobi National Park has cut off migratory path, and now animals stay in and around Amboseli and don't venture north to Nairobi.
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Nov 19th, 2003, 09:32 AM
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Anybody know the cheapest way to fly to Nairobi, using frequent flier miles???

I was quoted the princely sum of 180,000 miles per person for business class and 100,000 miles per person for economy class. Even from London, it is 100,000 miles for business class.

Are there any other airines that are partners with AMEX that I can use to Nairobi.

If I were to pay for economy class, it would set me back over $1,500 per person (the best rate I saw as of right now was $1,800), so even economy class is worth considering. The thing is, if I stuck Mrs. Rocco in business class, she would have few complaints about 3 consecutive years of Africa.

I am happy to see that there are many available dates in May and June and would this would essentially do would be to get me to Europe for free, at least to London, and then I would just have to make my way to Rome for my Italy tour. I cannot find a frequent flier seat to Europe to save my life, without including Africa in the mix.
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Nov 19th, 2003, 09:33 AM
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By the way, I only have about 270,000 frequent flier miles available, and don't anticipate reaching 360,000 for at least 3-4 months. By then, I would expect the seats to Nairobi to become unavailable.
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Nov 19th, 2003, 12:26 PM
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Rocco - for May, right now, you can get economy seats from LA to Africa for $1079pp www.consolidatorwebfares.com flying British Airways. An additional $50tax gets you a stop over in London. If you could arrange for that stop over to include enough time to complete your London trip, you might kill two birds, etc etc. and earn miles for a future trip. Of course, prices might go down again in a couple of weeks...
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Nov 19th, 2003, 12:27 PM
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obviously I meant to say to allow enough time to complete your ITALY trip....
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Nov 19th, 2003, 12:29 PM
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I have to remember that you're flying from the West Coast - so in fact both legs are long ones. For me thankfully being short (5'3") my legs do just fine on long hauls.

However, I would try for the cheapest ticket from LAX to Europe (London [BA], Amsterdam [KL], Frankfurt [LH]). Then buy the cheapest ticket from any of these hubs to NBO and upgrade to Business. Sorry, I can't help with which airlines are under the Amex umbrella.

I know BA & KL fly daily (not certain on LH), but what I like about the KL flight especially since the flights from East Coast gets in early morning, the connection is about 10 or 11am, no long layover as in London. That is, however, if flights from LAX get in later so you don't have as long a layover. Also, I believe the BA flight departs from LGW, while most (but not all) flights from the States arrive in LHR.

But a $1500 ticket from the West Coast is reasonable, since often from Europe to NBO the fares run between $700-$1000.

Like everything else, you're going to have to watch the fares and keep on top of it - but you love doing that, Rocco. And with luck you'll figure out how to get those Business Class tickets - if not for you, then definitely for STD.
 
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Nov 19th, 2003, 02:13 PM
  #17
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Sandi,

I think STD would be sad for about two seconds about not being able to sit by me, before forgetting all about me and loving every second in Business Class!

Still, for the opportunity to go to Kenya/Tanzania, it may be worth it. Nairobi will feel like a cakewalk next to last time when I actually had to fly all the way to Cape Town and then back to Joburg to start my last trip. It should be about 7 hours less than that hellride.

What is it about Africa that I (and others) cannot shake? I know there are other interesting places out there like New Zealand, India and Iceland that I have yet to visit, yet I really have no desire to go anywhere but Africa, be it South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania or Botswana (not to mention other places of interest like Malawi and Namibia). I think that it will take at least three more trips to Africa before I really will have had a good sampling of all the amazing places.

The fun part of this trip is just beginning. I love the challenge of putting together the best possible itinerary and then challenging myself to get the best possible prices. I may not be Picasso with an empty canvas, but it gives me the same sort of high.
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Nov 20th, 2003, 05:10 AM
  #18
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And there is still Mali (Timbuktu) and Burkino Faso (Oaugadugo [sp] - don't you love how those names roll off the tongue) and Morocco and the Western Desert of Egypt - while not safari - these are still safe destinations in Africa to challenge and educate us.

You're like the rest of us (been bitten), and we certainly enjoy the time when you're in the planning stage - it's so much fun and stirs everyone elses juices "to get started planning their own next trips"

Just do what you do naturally and we'll enjoy it with you.

P.S. Bit of minutea - Serena Hotels (owned by the Aga Khan - head of a small segment of Muslims - a very very wealthy person) - they have listed the (are you all ready for this?) the KABUL SERENA - DUE TO OPEN LATE 2004! Now that is something.
 
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