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Kenya and Tanzania Trip Planning Help

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We are about 8 families interested in a 2 week trip to Tanzania and Kenya in December 2014. We have the following places in mind and am looking for assistance with planning out an itinerary and lodging, transportation, safari planning etc:

Maasai Mara National Reserve
Ngorongoro Crater
Mount Kilimanjaro

Any and all suggestions welcome.

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    8 families? How many people will that be, approx? You'll want no more than about 6 to a vehicle. You're going to have great negotiating power with that many people going.

    Some questions:

    Can you give a budget?
    What are the approx ages of the children who are going?
    Are the 2 weeks in Africa, or 2 weeks total travel time? About 3 days of flying to/from are required for travel from the US, for example, so a distinction is important.

    I see Mt. Kilimanjaro on the list. Were some of those in your party interested in climbing it? If not, views of Kili are most often enjoyed from Amboseli Park in Kenya..

    Are you going at Christmas? If you can go early Dec you can save on costs. Christmas is high season.

    Especially if going at Christmas, it is good you have started planning early because if you have 20+ people you'll be taking up a lot of beds and could have availability problems.

    "itinerary and lodging, transportation, safari planning etc:"

    itin--If 2 weeks includes flights, consider just Kenya or Tanz to cut down on transportation costs and time. The wildebeest and zebra migration will be in Tanzania in Dec. if that is important to you.

    lodging--budget plays a role. Are you interested in only solid wall lodges, only luxury tented camps for the safari part, budget camping in pup tents with transport by large trucks (not for young kids or older family members) or a mixture of lodges and tented camps? In general the lodges are less expensive than the tented camps, which might seem backwards.

    safari planning--I see you have Zanzibar included. Do you want safari and beach (Zanzibar) or just safari? Consider that you may be able to do a beach holiday more easily and less expensive near home. The most unique features of Kenya and Tanzania tend to not be beaches.

    Check out this chart of the best parks in various months, including Dec. As weather patterns become less predictable, this chart or any chart becomes less useful.

    The temps are also included, along with what animals are generally seen where.

    If you choose Kenya, definitely include the Maasai Mara. If you choose Tanzania, definitely include the Serengeti.

    What a wonderful multi-family adventure awaits you!

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    "itinerary and lodging, transportation, safari planning etc:"

    I omitted transportation. Self driving is not a common way for first time visitors to visit Kenya and Tanzania, so I assume you'll be driven by a trained guides who will also help you spot the animals. As mentioned above, about 6 people per vehicle is max. If no one in the vehicle cares about photography other than for memory snaps and you like togetherness, then you could add a couple more. As for the vehicle, the white mini buses cost less. The 4x4 land rovers/rangers/cruisers cost more but in December, when the rains can make the ground muddy, the extra price may be worth it.

    Ask for drive times to be included in your itinerary. In general the drives between parks do not produce wildlife sightings and are on highways.

    You can arrange a trip that is entirely driven by your guide except that Zanzibar is a flight away from the safari destinations. It is also possible to fly between some parks. With your #s, I think driving would spread out the fixed costs of guide and vehicle and be more economical than flying. But that goes back to my 1st question of budget.

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    This is a major logistical challenge. I'm assuming you'll be a party of at least 25 people, and maybe 30 or more? That's an unfeasibly large number of people to move around by road. You'll need to do this trip by air, as a seamless, tailor-made fly-in safari and beach trip, and with that many people, using chartered planes for some of the air transfers will be cost-(and time-)efficient, though some of it would also work using scheduled safari airlines. You wouldn't be escorted by the same guides throughout, but simply transferred from A to B, met and then looked after on the ground. Those flights will deliver you to where you do the safari and beach stays. On safari, every camp and lodge has a nearby airstrip (shared or exclusive to the camp) and the camps you'd be using all have their own on-site 4x4 safari vehicles and qualified driver/guides who would take you out on game drives (animal-watching excursions) shortly after dawn for a few hours, and again in the late afternoon for a few hours. In the middle of the day you'd rest in camp, laze by the pool (if there is one), lie in a hammock, absorb the environment…

    With such a large group, you'll be somewhat limited in the choice of places to stay - many of the best camps with six to eight tents (12-16 beds), couldn't accommodate such a large party, and those that could will have partly or largely sold their beds for that period – so you need to choose very carefully for a good experience. There are unfortunately too many cheap and poor-quality lodges on the fringes of East Africa's safari lands or sometimes right inside the parks.

    I would focus on two or three key destinations. Assuming you want to include Zanzibar for say a third to a half of your trip (easy - plenty of good sized hotels, but I kind of agree with atravelynn that you might want to just focus on safari throughout and skip the beach), the other half should be in one – or at most two – safari locations. If you're doing a beach stay, I would start with 5 or 6 nights in Laikipia, northern Kenya, or split the safari between Laikipia and the Maasai Mara, before heading to the coast to chill and relive the adventures.

    Okay, that's a start - hope it helps. It's an ambitious plan - Safari njema!

    Richard Trillo
    Author: The Rough Guide to Kenya
    Kenya Programme Manager: Expert Africa

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    Thanks atravelynn and Richard.

    2 Weeks includes travel time from the US as well. Looks like it is best to skip Zanzibar and include Amboseli instead and keep it a pure safari trip. As for lodging, we are cost conscious and do not need luxury lodging in all places, but for a day or two where we can splurge!

    Looks like we will be about 30 of us in total, with kids ranging from 10-18 and one below 5. As for budget, we are looking to do this under $2500 per head, excluding air travel.

    From what I hear and read, it looks like it may be best to seek a local tour company to help with the arrangements. Any recommendations/suggestions?

    Thanks all!

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    So you'll have about 10-11 nights on safari. That's $250 pp/pn or less. As mentioned, many of the camps would not have accommodations for 25-30. Looks like lodges for you, which is more in your cost range anyway.

    While moving 25-30 people around by road is a lot, a sizable company could certainly have 4-5 different safaris going at one time. You'll just be all together, I am assuming.

    I'm not sure if your budget would work with flying. I think Kenya would offer you more savings than Tanzania to fit with a $2500 budget.

    Since you mentioned your interest in a local company, you may want to contact KATO Kenya Assoc of Tour Operators to ask about companies that can accommodate a group your size.
    [email protected]

    Though I have not gone with Good Earth personally, take a look at some of their offerings and pricing, which is within your budget. It can at least give you some ideas. With your group size, you don't have to go with a packaged plan, you can customize. In fact you may have to customize to find lodges with availability--especially around Christmas.

    Good luck planning and have a wonderful trip.

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    If you have two weeks, I recommend you stick in one country, to avoid long transit and other border crossing cost e.g Visa, etc.

    For the 2 weeks I highly recommend Tanzania as during the Month of the season is among of the best month for wildlife concentration in the Parks, warm weather and best time for the Great Migration Viewing at Serengeti National Park. So you can spend 8/7Day on Safari and have a beach relaxation moment on either Zanzibar or Mafia Island(still part of Tanzania.

    On you arrival you can fly in via Kilimanjaro International Airport(JRO) and fly out at JK Nyerere International Airport(DAR) after a beautiful holiday in Zanzibar/Mafia Island.

    For Lodging and accommodation Tanzania offers a wide selection depending on your budget and preference, there are seasonal/mobile camps, permanent tented camps, and many safari lodges. You can have your homework to find out more

    For Tanzania Safari Outfitter I highly recommend Happy World Safaris a Tanzania Tour Operator I used them and real exceeded my expectation, excellent staffs and vehicle, great services. Overall I felt value for Money, reasonable quotes and great Itinerary

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    $2,500 is a low-end budget for 11 night safari. Unless you want a city-experience, I don't see why Nairobi or Arusha are destinations on your list. Nairobi would be an arrival city for a Kenya trip. Arusha is nothing special, but the typical starting off point for TZ safaris. Also, don't count on seeing Mt. Kili, except from the air if you fly into Kilimanjaro Intern'l Airport, due to cloud cover. I don't think you have time to actually climb it. Best viewing is from the Kenya side (Amboselli) but you'll find it awkward to get to Tanzania from there without returning to Nairobi and flying in. In Kenya, you'll likely be put in mini-vans rather than land cruisers which is less desirable. Maasai Mara and Serengeti are the same plain but border crossing between Kenya and Tanzania can be cumbersome (i.e., doing both the Mara and Serengeti are probably not necessary given your time and budget). Also flying-in safaris add significantly to cost and distances between parks in Kenya can make for long drives. I am not well traveled in Africa, but did go to Tanzania and so would consider just a Northern Tanzania Circuit trip. If you are determined to include Zanzibar, then you'll probably need to limit the safari time to just a few places (e.g. Serengeti + Ngorogoro Crater) or Masai Mara + Amboseli (maybe Tsavo) in Kenya. If you dispense with Zanzibar, you could add Tarangire National Park to your TZ safari which I found refreshingly different from the Serengeti and Ngorogoro.

    I agree that a group of 30 is going to be hard to book together and that picking either Kenya or TZ, but not both makes sense. Plus traveling en masse may degrade your experience. Also, with children of the ages you have, I cannot imagine foregoing cultural experiences on such a trip by focusing purely on wildlife viewing. Whatever operator you work with, try to find one that supports a school or other project that will allow you to have a visit. For us, one highlight of our trip was an elementary school visit. We also visited a family in their home and had a lengthy visit one day to Masaai tribe, plus a visit to a craft-making project for the disabled, without shortchanging wildlife viewing. Also, lodges tend to be more economical than tent camps, but do try to stay in a tented camp for at least a few nights as part of any Serengeti or Mara visit, even if you have to split your group in half for a few days. One other thing to consider is to check availability, pricing and schedules for your overseas arrival to both Nairobi or Kilimanjaro International (consider also open jaw returning from Dar Es Salam if going to Zanzibar). This might help you decide on whether it's Kenya or Tanzania you want for your safari.

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    Thanks all for the valuable input. Looks like we will just stick with Tanzania and visit Tarangire, Ngorongoro, Serengiti and Zanzibar. If that is the case, should we fly into Kilimanjaro Int and fly out of Dar Es Salam? Also, what should be the sequence? Any suggestions on tour operators?

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    I use Bill Given at "The Wild Source" in Colorado. They have their own outfitting company in Tanzania. Your budget is quite low for a Tanzania safari, but they might be able to work out a budget camping safari (domes tents in public campsites) or low-end lodges like the Sopa and Wildlife lodges. With that many people. Zanzibar would entail two flights, one from Arusha and another one to Dar es Salaam for your departing flight. I think going to Zanzibar would definitely bust your budget. On safari, you'll have the costs of the drivers and vehicles, camps (and campsites if in a mobile camp), park fees, etc. If Bill can't help you at that budget point, post again and I'll suggest another local outfitter.

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    Back to your sequence question:

    1-2 Fly and arrive JRO

    3 Drive about 3-4 hours to Tarangire, depends on where you o/nt upon arrival how long the drive takes.

    4 Tarangire

    5 Drive about 1.5 to 2 hours to Manyara
    (Why is Manyara in here? You can't go from Tarangire to Serengeti, too far. You could go from Tarangire to the crater, then the next day to Serengeti. But coming back you can't get from South-Central Serengeti back to JRO or Arusha without a stop. Also Manyara tends to be better after Nov than Tarangire, though Tarangire always has stunning scenery and surprisingly good ele activity has been reported lately even in rainy months.)

    6 Morning game drive Manyara then about 5 hours drive to South-Central Serengeti, at least half of your drive will be a game drive.

    7 South-Central Serengeti
    8 South-Central Serengeti

    9 Drive about 4 hours to Ngorongoro Crater, most of this is a game drive. Do an afternoon drive in the crater.

    10 Drive to JRO and then to fly to DAR, begin Zanzibar
    <Maybe do your crater visit in the morning here instead of the previous afternoon. Both a morning and an afternoon are ideal, but the crater is a pricey spot>

    11 Zanzibar

    12 Zanzibar
    no personal Zanzibar experience

    13 Depart fly DAR to
    14 home

    I am certain this will be more than $2500 per person.

    To cut costs, stay at Seronera Wildlife lodge in Serengeti, which is more Central than South-Central. Very nice and where I choose to stay in Central Serengeti for location near the Seronera River and to cut costs. You can drive to where the wildebeest migration action may be in 2-3 hours, so plan on at least one of your days in the Serengeti to be an all day outing with a lunch (and perhaps breakfast) box.

    Also to cut costs stay in Wildlife Lodges where possible in other locations—there is one at Manyara and at the Crater in addition to the Seronera Wildlife Lodge. While I prefer Sopa at the Crater for its own access road, the general road, which many of the other lodges use, has been upgraded and improved. Wildlife Lodges are some of the least expensive options. I like these to cut costs and because these were some of the first government lodges, they chose ideal locations. Less fancy, more basic, still very comfortable, great locations.

    In Tarangire, the Tarangire Safari Lodge is one of the less expensive options. It is actually a tented accommodation. As one of the first (if not the first) lodge in the park, the location chosen is one of the best in Africa for wildlife viewing from the lodge. There may be fewer animals along the river views in December, though. A downside of going to Tarangire first is everybody may like the tented experience, which will likely be followed by lodges for cost savings.

    All of these lodges mentioned have many beds so your odds of getting bookings go up. But around Christmas everything is tight.

    To really cut costs, you may want to ask about pup tents/dome tents and public campgrounds. But spots are limited in those campgrounds and I’m not sure the grounds can accommodate a group of 25-30, along with the other campers and group permits that may have already been taken out.

    Back to agents. Kibo Guides are often the ground operator for Overseas Adventure Travel, which routinely do groups of 16. You may want to contact Kibo Guides in Tanz. ShayTay, posting above, has used Kibo on several occasions. I have not, but I see their vehicles often.

    Or even contact the parent company OAT because on their packaged set-date group departures, with air included, the pricing is just about the best there is. For 25-30 people, maybe they could do an itinerary with air for you.

    If you want the agent to include international air for you, most of the Tanzanian based companies do not do air. Even Wild Source, which I mentioned above and am using, does not do air. The Africa Adventure Co in Ft. Lauderdale will book air for you. With your #s it is worth shopping your trip around. But don’t shop too long especially if you are going around Christmas. The higher bookings at that busy time, also mean price increases that will likely make $2500 per person impossible.

    Now back to the itinerary. I wrote nice things about Tarangire, but in December Tarangire is not a standard part of every itinerary because Tarangire is at its peak June-Oct. If you nixed Tarangire, you could add a second night in Manyara where there are a lot of cultural options that another day would accommodate nicely.

    If you nixed Tarangire, you could spend your first day in Arusha National Park. When you arrive you’ll stay near Kilimanjaro or about 45 minutes away from the airport in Arusha. So you’ll be right there. The advantages of a day up front in Arusha National Park are:

    -In case of delays it serves as a buffer day. In December delays are more likely if you are coming from a cold climate or if you are flying through one, such as Amsterdam.

    -Not moving out on the first day allows for any lost luggage to catch up with you.

    -With a group of 25-30, especially with people of varying ages and if they are unaccustomed to long international flights probably in coach, odds are an extra day of recovery upon arrival will help bolster at least one or two for the rest of the trip. With a first day in Arusha, some members of your party could spend the day at the hotel rather than going on safari that first day. Many group trips incorporate such a day up front and yours is certainly a group trip.

    - Arusha is the only opportunity in this itinerary for a jungly-forested habitat. You may see the beautiful black and white colobus here. Odds are 99% I believe.

    -Arusha offers an opportunity to walk with a ranger or canoe. I don’t know if there are enough canoes for 25-30 people, but some of your party could canoe. The ranger walk would go with groups of 6 or less most likely. Few to zero other opportunities to walk in the parks—or canoe—in your itinerary.

    - The big draw of Arusha is the colobus and it is not necessary to go seeking them at the crack of dawn, so a departure at 8:00 am or even a bit later is typical, meaning your first day you don’t have to get up so early if jet lag is affecting some of your party. For the rest of your trip, to get the most out of each day you should leave much earlier—like when the parks open just after 6 am.

    Finally, based on personal experience, it sounds great to all go on a trip somewhere as a whole big group. When costs start rolling in, participants start rolling out. Another reason to plan early in case this itinerary undergoes several reincarnations based on # of travelers and the wishes of those who maintain their commitments.

    Happy travels to all of you who go. You'll be planning again for a future safari before you finish this one.

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    Thanks again for all your valuable input. We are 22 confirmed in our party. We will most probably fly to Nairobi and cover Amboseli, Lake Manyara, Serengeti and Ngorongoro and fly out of Arusha.

    I reached out to the few companies mentioned here - Goodearth tours, Wild Source and Happy World Safaris. I came across Sunworld Safaris and 4X4 Adventures as well. Has anyone here used them in the past? What has been your experience?

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    Used sunworld safaris 2 years ago, extremely impressed and would highly recommend them, I have planned another safari with them this October. Everything planned for you, you just need to relax and enjoy.

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    If you do the itinerary as stated, there are some drawbacks.

    Going from Kenya to Tanz means you'll have to show yellow fever vaccination proof within the last 10 years, which adds to your cost by way of doc/travel clinic, along with minimal risk. For those 60+ the vaccination risk is greater. You'll have both a Kenyan visa ($50 I believe) and a Tanzanian visa ($100 I believe). Those aren't huge costs but would add up with your $2500 per person budget.

    It appears you would visit only one park in Kenya (Amboseli) before heading to Tanz. You'll have the time and expense of traveling between countries. If you go between countries by land, often the border is crossed between visiting the parks of Amboseli, Kenya and Tarangire, Tanzania. Or take a shuttle of about 5 hours between Nairobi and Arusha, Tanzania, which would mean a non-safari overnight in either NBO or Arusha. You can certainly fly between countries but that increases costs.

    It appears you are intent on trying to see Kili, hence Amboseli, Kenya. So why not just stay in Kenya? In general Kenya would be slightly less expensive too. First day in Nairobi where there are numerous activities such as Giraffe Center, Karen Blixen Museum, Sheldrick Ele Orphanage, National Museum and Snake Park. Amboseli stay at Sopa or Serena Lodge. Lake Nakuru for flamingos and rhino at Lion Hill Lodge. Maasai Mara stay somewhere like Mara Serena, Keekorok, Sopa, or Sarova.

    Or take the opposite approach and omit Kenya and just go to Tanz, including a place where it is possible to see Kili. Best views are usually from Amboseli in Kenya but it is possible to see Kili in Tanz. I’ve even seen it on the transfer drive to Arusha.

    Arumeru Lodge in Arusha has Kili views, though during 3 nights last March at Arumeru I never saw it, always covered by clouds. Neighboring lodges may have similar viewpoints. These are not views like from Amboseli, but it you could still see it.

    One of the best places to see Kili in Tanz is Kambi ya Tembo but it is a tented camp that probably could not accommodate a group your size. The price might be too high as well.

    You could try Mount Kilimanjaro View Lodge in Moshi, Tanz. (No personal experience.) Again group size could be a problem. But maybe you could spread out among several accommodations in that area if one place could not take everyone. Depends on how important Kili views are to you and how important the other Tanz destinations are to you.

    If you viewed Kili from Tanz (though Amboseli is usually the preferred location and my experience confirms that) then you could visit the other parks you mention.

    When entering Tanzania directly from the US or other country without the presence of yellow fever, you do not have to have the yellow card proving you received the yellow fever vaccine.

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    I would like to recommend a tour operator who organises camping safaris, which includes lodging and luxury tented camps safaris,beach holidays and mountain trekking...he took me on a trip last year to his local tribe and surroundings, his name is Sainga Musungu, I had a wonderful weekend and he was a great host, very professional, was always there to attend our needs, did not overcharge us for a thoroughly enjoyable weekend of exploring different locations in Tanzania, different tribes, and the price paid was quite reasonable. If you would like to know more you can contact him on email at: [email protected] or [email protected]

    Hope this helps you!

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    Won't deal with which country or itinerary, but you might have to split part of group at one property and some at another. Even lodges might not have sufficient space, mjore so if traveling over Christmas/New Years... even if earlier in the month.

    But importantly, have you even checked for international airline tickets? More air carriers into Nairobi at competitive fares. Kilimanjaro has only 4/carriers into JRO - KLM, Ethiopian, Qatar and Turkish. The latter often the cheapest but arrives 1-2am and departs 3-4am, which incur additional hotel costs on arrival and departure.

    Depending on from where in the States traveling air can cost in range $1500 to $2200/person, if not higher.

    Often trying to get 2-4 tickets can be a challenge, so can't imagine what availability would be for 25/paxs.

    All I can say at this point - good luck!

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    Good point sandi makes about flights and availability of tickets.

    My experience in recently trying to make a group booking (for more than eight people I had to go through their group booking desk; this was with United, don't know if other airlines are different) was that the cost per person was a fair bit higher than the price shown on their website when I did a search. When I asked why, I was told the main advantage was that the tickets wouldn't have to be paid for until closer to the travel date.

    As I couldn't book more than eight people at a time, I made the reservation in batches. Fortunately, the price didn't go up between completing one reservation and starting the next.

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    Continuing on with my previous message--somehow I managed to post it before I'd finished all I wanted to say--you might be wise to have each family make their own flight reservations. If anyone is nervous about making their own flight reservations, and folks who don't travel much or aren't very computer savvy understandably may well be, do not pay for them yourself until you've received the cost of their airfare.

    It would be helpful if you scoped out the best route, time and price, ensuring that you all arrive at the destination airport (i.e. Nairobi) on the same flight. Do the same for the return trip. Then present it to the others and urge them to make their reservations immediately.

    There may be some folks who'd like to arrive a day early, depart a day later, or stop over somewhere along the route home. Anyone who wanted to customize or deviate from your recommended itinerary would be able to do so, just as long as they are at the accommodation where you all are staying in plenty of time to leave on safari with the group. Make it very clear that if they aren't there on or before the departure time and date, they're on their own to catch up with the rest of you--there will be no hanging about waiting.

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