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Where to begin for planning a safari?

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I'm at the very beginning stages of planning a safari for next December and would really appreciate any advice for planning. Are there any guidebooks that people have found really useful? I've been lurking and reading trip reports and clicking every photo link I see. Unfortunately that doesn't necessarily help narrow down my options but just makes me with I had the time and budget to go NOW for the next 6 months or so. :)

My time frame is late December 2011. I'll be leaving between Dec. 10 and Dec. 17 and returning on Jan 1. My total budget is about $7,000 (including airfare). A quick look at airfare yields results of $1,500 - $2,000, leaving me around $5,000 in my budget. What can I do with $5,000? :) I want to spend as much time as I reasonably can, but I'd rather have an amazing two weeks than try to stretch my budget further than I should and let that impact the quality of the trip. I don't need anything fancy, but I don't want to miss out on something purely to save money and be there longer.

I know I want a good chunk of time on Mara, and someone's photos of the Samburu tribe were amazing. I've been following another trip report that focuses on the Porini camps and all of the camps sound fantastic. Basically if you tell me there will be wildlife and landscapes, I'd probably be happy with just about anything. Lions, elephants and giraffes are the ones I think I'd drool over the most, but again, just about anything will probably knock my socks off. :P

I've read a lot of comments about operators. Is there a listing of various operators somewhere, or is just using google and noting names from trip reports my best bet? Someone mentioned regularly scheduled flights within the country, is there a listing of this sort of information somewhere (I'm used to traveling to large citites where your transport options are subway, taxi or train and you go to a website to find the correct route).

What else do I need to be figuring out? I know so little that I don't even know what I need to be learning. :)

Thank you for any help!

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