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Which Tour Operator do you recommend for our August Kenya Safari?

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Jan 5th, 2006, 04:47 PM
  #1
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Which Tour Operator do you recommend for our August Kenya Safari?

Which tour operator do you recommend we use to book something like the following:

LAX to London on Thu., Aug. 3rd.
We would spend two nights in London for jetlag.
Sun. Aug. 6 London to Nairobi, spend night in Nairobi
Mon. Aug. 7 Nairobi to Aberdare, night there
Aug. 8 to Samburu
Aug. 9 Samburu
Aug. 10 Samburu to Sweetwater
Aug. 11 SW to Lake Nakuru
Aug. 12 Lake Nakuru
Aug. 13 to Masai Mara
Aug. 14 and 15 Masai Mara
Wed. Aug. 16 to Nairobi and plane to LAX via London
Thu. Aug. 17 arrive back in Los Angeles

I understand availability will be tough in the Mara. We want to stay at a great place if possible.

I look forward to your thoughts,

Kevin Staker
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Jan 5th, 2006, 04:57 PM
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Hi Kevin,

I worked with Africa Serendipity (www.africaserendipity.com) for a last-minute trip to see the Migration, and they were great. Very competitive pricing as well -- I also got quotes from Eastern and Souther Safaris, and Africa Serendipity was quite comparable, with the addded security of booking with a bonded US company.

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 5th, 2006, 05:02 PM
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Kevin:
Have you read lynda's trip index thread? She gives a concise description of the reports so that you can tell which ones involved Kenya (and gives you the link to the full report). Lynda also indicates in her precis which operator the posters used. Look at Patty's for example.

I was also going to mention sandi's company Africa Serendipity. If you read her own trip report and follow her postings then you know that she is quite knowledgeable about Kenya-as jasher mentions, her company is U.S. based if that is an extra attraction.

Here is the link to lynda's index

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34725679
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Jan 5th, 2006, 07:13 PM
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The first post I can add something to!

Kevin

I think I know exactly why you did this itinerary like you did , because it is almost exactly what I would have done first time in Kenya if I had known what I know now. However, if I were you (and I'm not) I would make two tiny adjustments. If you ignore them the itinerary will be just great anyway, but here goes....

1. Go to Serena Mountain Lodge rather than Aberdare (if you are thinking of the Ark/ Treetops). From all I've read and heard Mountain Lodge is the superior of the three. Treetops in particular seems to have disappointed a lot of people.... Do a search for the names on this forum and elsewhere to form your own opinion. I have only stayed at Mountain Lodge. Leave Nairobi at the absolute crack of dawn to spend as much time there as possible.

2. I note you potentially have time for four game drives in Lake Nakuru. It's certainly worth a visit but are you aware that the park is very small and you can cover it thoroughly in two? Also I think it is totally apart from your previously expressed desire for a "real safari experience". I guess you want to rest up and understand that totally, but would recommend you plan to leave SW as late as possible and set off for MM as early as possible. Should leave you enough time to not feel rushed while allowing a little more time to enjoy SW and MM. The main road from SW to Nakuru is pretty smooth nearly all the way, but there is also a potentially quicker and more interesting "back way" which I have noted during my planning for next trip...
http://www.serenahotels.com/kenya/sw...rs/areamap.htm
If you are doing a private safari it might be fun to try it?!!

Hope you are enjoying planning your trip as much as I am. Get to an operator ASAP with the basics though, because you will probably need to go on "waitlist" for some of your chosen accommodation and the quicker you get on that list the quicker you will get confirmed.

Going back to a previous post of yours, I understand what your wife is interested in re. shopping and you should read the trip reports for ideas on that - there really is a lot of shopping going on in these stories. My own report talks rather frankly about shopping with the masaai but it wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea!

Contact the companies mentioned by jasher and bat today if you are dithering - these two do know what they are talking about.

Pinch of salt,
Paul
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Jan 5th, 2006, 08:47 PM
  #5
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Thanks for the posts. This Fodor's site has been marvelous. People have been very helpful.

I spoke with Sandi at African Serendipity today. She is very helpful and my suggested itinerary was worked out with her.

I liked the idea of two nights at Lake Nakuru to gather our breath before the last push at the Mara.

I have looked at Lynda's trip index before. Will now look again more closely for names of operators.

Thanks,

Kevin

P.S. Still open for any more advice
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Jan 5th, 2006, 10:47 PM
  #6
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Hi Kevin
first i do not agree that Mt. Lodge is the best.. i've been to all 3 night-viewing lodges many times & although it is a one night statistics Ark has a much better chance of seeing a wild black rhino for example (It is very rare 2c. mind you the rhinos u c at Nakuru r introduced south african white rhinos).
As 4 your itinerary - i think u must b in a fresh water lake like Naivasha or Baringo. What to give up? either Sweetwaters or 2nd night at Nakuru.
at Naivasha u can walk among wildlife at Crescent Island see hippos & waterbirds from a boat, see Crater Lake - a beautiful place with Colobus monkeys (u might miss at Mt. Lodge or Ark)& fantastic birdlife.
about Sweetwaters - the main experience there is not a wild one (game far inferior to other parks) - mostly people come to touch an orphan black rhino ("Moranni") & see chimpanzee rehabilitation center - again it is not a true wild experince u nless elephants come to the waterhole
(better usually at Mt. lodge / Ark/Treetops)
as 4 a safary company - i recommend Liberty http://www.libertyafrica.com/
qualitative company address Annie or Richard
Aby. (been guiding safaries in Kenya as a naturalist for over 20 yers )
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Jan 5th, 2006, 10:54 PM
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If you're just looking for a tree hotel experience for 1 night on your way to Samburu, I'd also advise looking at Serena Mountain Lodge in Mt Kenya rather than the Ark or Treetops. Believe this will actually be logistically easier as you don't have to be shuttled to/from Mountain Lodge. If however you're interested in actually seeing the Aberdares, I would plan a few game drives inside the park in addition to your stay (or in lieu of and just spend your night(s) outside of the park) at a tree hotel.

I've used Eastern & Southern Safaris in Nairobi twice and have been very pleased with their services.

Paul,
What's the back way from Sweetwaters to Nakuru?
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Jan 5th, 2006, 11:16 PM
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I don't agree that the game viewing at Sweetwaters is far inferior to other parks. I thought the game density was quite high and both nights we saw a black rhino (not Morani ) come to drink at the waterhole. Also we saw many zebra, various antelope species, warthogs, and birds at the waterhole throughout the day during our 'down' time between game drives from our tent (ask for a tent in the front row, we had #4 which had a good view). You can also go on night game drives here. We saw herds of elephants and buffalo as well as an aardvark and a zorilla. Much of game viewing is luck, but I wouldn't so quickly dismiss Sweetwaters as only a place to touch Morani and see the chimps - those weren't even the highlights of our stay.

I do agree that the reserve doesn't provide a 'wilderness' experience as it's a completely fenced sanctuary, but Nakuru also feels like that. To me Nakuru in many ways feels more like an urban safari park.

I don't think you have time for Baringo unless you eliminated one other location completely. It's about 2 hours north of Nakuru (and you would have to drive back down the same way to head to the Mara) and you really need 2 nights there to soak up the atmosphere - 1 night rushing back and forth doesn't do it justice.

Naivasha however can easily be added to your itinerary if you wish and if you decide to go there, I would do it after Nakuru, but that would give you 3 one nighters in a row. You could also visit Naivasha as a day trip from Nakuru.
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Jan 5th, 2006, 11:39 PM
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Hi Patty,
Sorry, I confused myself. Of course the "back road" I saw is just the main road from Nanyuki to Nyaharuru. I should keep my map musings to myself

I remember from your trip report you did a lot of driving around that area.

But now I have your attention, I have noticed that you seem to enjoy (like me) maps and route planning, but that unlike me you appear to be pretty good at it. I will post a driving-planning question (on a new thread so that the answer is not lost to others)which I would really appreciate your help with.
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Jan 5th, 2006, 11:48 PM
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Darn, and here I was so excited when I thought you'd found a new route

I'd be glad to try to help if I can. I've gotten such a kick out of your trip report so far!
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Jan 6th, 2006, 12:05 AM
  #11
aby
 
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Clarifying my message :
Still maintaining that Sweetwaters is incomparable to either Samburu or Mara & anyhow does not add anything in contrary to a freshwater Lake...
# Baringo can b reached from Samburu through Maralal junc (& "Pokot-land" meeting some of the most remote & authentic tribe ) the day after u can spend another half day (boating etc) at Baringo and then travel to Nakuru for the 2 nights stay !!
(i have done many times 1 night at Baringo & 1 night at Nakuru so it is possible ...)
i noted Baringo or Naivasha - though Naivasha is easier and shorter drive.
*** another recommended possibility is adding 3rd night in Mara instead of Sweetwaters. Mara is awesome in August & having another full day can b really rewarding
# again i must say' my personal preference is Ark (Mt. lodge is a good option)- though i noted it is a one night sample...
same as the AARDVARK mentioned - some african drivers have not seen one in 10 years...

Anyway u decide will certainly b a lifetime experience

Aby
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Jan 6th, 2006, 12:19 AM
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Aby,
How long is the drive from Samburu to Lake Baringo via Maralal?

I believe Kevin does have 3 nights planned in the Mara. I mentioned the aardvark sighting because it's so rare (kind of like your rhino sighting). You just never know what you might see.
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Jan 6th, 2006, 01:17 AM
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I agree totally with aby - I'm really surprised by some of the negative comments about the Ark on this and other threads. Particulalry as some of it comes from people who haven;t even been there !! Over 20 years, I've been to all the Aberdares forest lodges on a number of occasions and would rank the Ark significantly ahead of Mountain Lodge and Treetops. The transfer from the Aberdare Country Club is very interesting. On every occasion I've seen loads of game on the way up and down. The wildlife visiting the waterhole has always been excellent - way ahead of Mountain Lodge. In my four visits I've seen leopard (three of the four times), and most of the other forest animals (including rhino, buffalo, hyaena and giant forest hog) on every occasion. In my opinion it's only downside is the rooms which are very small but we spent must of the night awake watching the animals at the floodlit waterhole. It really depends what you want. A word of warning though - in August its very cold at night in the Aberdares if you sit out in the open ! Still great fun but cold ! I see you've got it planned for the start of your safari - that is absolutly the right place as you start with the animals coming to see you and then you move on to finding them ! Have fun
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Jan 6th, 2006, 02:09 AM
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Phil

Thanks.. we needed a good vigorous defence of the Ark. I am one of those that hasn't been there and I just passed on what I had heard; glad I did so I can learn why you like it - and you write well and persuasively, sir.

However, in the end as you say it does all really depend on what you want,for which reason all posts should finish with a..

pinch of salt

Paul
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Jan 6th, 2006, 04:32 AM
  #15
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Patty
from Samburu to Baringo you'd get in time for lunch (even if u need to get to Island Camp. during the rains there maybe a short section of muddy black cotton soil near Suguta-marmar.
# I have looked into the yearly statistics of observations at the Ark
& in those years i've checked it was about 80% of the nights that a rhino appeared !! (makes it one of the places most probable to get a glimse of it) my owm experience - in most of the nights they came more than once!! but i gave it only as an example
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Jan 6th, 2006, 09:05 AM
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I like that pinch of salt comment - a good name for a forum !
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Jan 6th, 2006, 10:26 AM
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kimburu:
I am with you--
How cool that you got to jump in on a thread so quickly that you knew something about!
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Jan 6th, 2006, 11:44 AM
  #18
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Mt. Lodge vs. Ark - summary

At Mt. Lodge more action by Sykes monkeys,at close range, on your verandah sometimes in your room... View of Mt. Kenya; better chances of bush-pig & giant forest hog
Ark: The TIP: Suni!-at afternoon bird feeding look down from the walk way u'll c this elusive antelope (where else can someone guarantee a suni in Kenya?). Stay quiet on the walk-way & u'll get the closest to Touracos feeding!
Ark has better probability for rhino, leopard, lion (though coming for 1 night remember it is only chance_)...
Elephants buffalo & bushbuck - no difference.in both a genet comes every night + mongoose spp like white-tailed-M marsh-M ...
aby
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Jan 6th, 2006, 01:04 PM
  #19
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Wow!

Thanks for the advice. You folks are awesome!

Any more advice on a tour operator. I have spoken with a couple who have sounded very well informed.

Kevin
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Jan 6th, 2006, 01:22 PM
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I worry we have hijacked Kevin's thread with the battle of the Ark vs. Mountain Lodge. Sorry Kevin. I didn't mean to start this! Nothing to do with tour operators any more! Hasn't anyone got any more names for him?

aby.. For the summary, what about the viewing facilities? You can sit and watch the waterhole from every room at Mountain Lodge, so when they woke me up I only had to go the balcony. My understanding (from pictures only) is that the rooms at the Ark do not have balconies and most do not face the floodlit waterhole. However, the Ark appears to have a lot more public space for game watching which would mean it would certainly be better for a group - as you know only about 15 of the 40 people staying at Mountain Lodge could sit and watch comfortably from the public viewing areas on the 2nd and 3rd floors.

I also felt Mountain Lodge was a very quiet place because everyone spent their time in their rooms watching the game. Don't know if this would contrast with the Ark in any way?
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