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Tanzania & Kenya forum

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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Tanzania & Kenya forum

DH has requested a safari next year, but I'm the family trip planner, so the ball's in my court now. It looks like August or September would work for us. Being semi-retired, we can take as much time as we want, but the longer we go, the more it costs, so that limits us a bit. I'm thinking 3 weeks door to door--but we can be flexible about that. We haven't set an exact budget; like many other people, we want a good value.

For the past few days, I have been reading guidebooks, surfing the Internet, asking friends, and reading the forums--not sure if I'm starting to get a handle on things or am just getting more confused. As I read, every park/reserve starts to sound wonderful, so I'm trying to figure out where we want to go and how long to spend at each stop.

Right now, I'm thinking about some combination (in a logical order) of Serengeti, Masai Mara, Ngorongoro Crater, Amboseli--and I'm not quite sure what else. Are those good choices? Other spots suggested to me include: Samburu, Lake Nakuru, Lake Victoria, Ol Pejeta. Is there something I'm missing? Something I should skip?

Is it recommended that I come up with my own itinerary, including accommodations, and then email it to several tour operators and get quotes? Or do I just give them an idea of what we'd like and let them propose a trip?

We don't want bare bones camping, but aren't rich enough for a luxury trip. How specific do I need to get with the tour operators? It doesn't have to be fancy, but I'm not fond of a hole and two footprints as a toilet. Does that make me too much of a princess?

We'd rather not spend hours and hours getting from one park to another, but don't want to sacrifice seeing something special. So, some long (4+ hour) drives are OK, but now a whole bunch.

I'm not asking anyone to plan our trip, but some guidance about the process would be wonderful. Thanks!

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1. Re: Tanzania & Kenya forum

Your plan seems correct, but Kenya's Masai Mara will be teeming with animals at this time of the year. Expect Serengeti and Ngorongoro to be pretty dry and with slightly unhappy wildlife than seen in jan-mar time frame. Good to hear you added Amboseli, I love that park, it's beautiful ! If you start talking to operators, remember that not all are allowed to operate in both countries (unless they have an affiliate in the other country). You might want to ask about road Xfer or just take the short 1 hr flight from JRO to NBO to cross over to the other country. I would start with Kenya (if you are going in Aug/Sept), visit Lake Nakuru NP (on the way to Mara) and visit Amboseli NP (3 hrs by road on the other side of Nairobi). Then come back to Nairobi and transition for the TZ portion. If the same operator can do both countries for you, then great, else you will have to send questions to separate operators in both countries. Do remember that a private vehicle for 2 (4x4 Rover or Land Cruiser) will cost you much more than a group trip with strangers, but then the experience will be different and you won't be in control of sightings and won't have a lot of freedom to choose where to go. If you hire a mini van in Kenya, you could save some money, rather than a 4wd jeep, fyi. For Tanzania you will need a 4wd vehicle (private or semi private). Ask all questions right from accommodations, vehicle types, safari hours, fixed or flexible itinerary, food, past customer feedback/contacts. You will need an open-jaw ticket for this type of trip. One way ticket from TZ to KE can cost you $300-400 on,say, Precision Air which flies daily. It is going to be peak season in both countries, ask for standard lodging, not luxury accommodation(tented camps) you should be ok. Try and stick to Sopa and Serena properties, they are decent enough with all board accommodation (3 meals and bed). Btw, definitely stay at the Mara Serena in the Mara triangle, if you go there, it's a lovely place, right next to the river. Keekorok Lodge is decent for the vicinity to the river crossings on the Narok side. Amboseli Serena is also good, and so is Ngorongoro Sopa and Serengeti Serena. Do not stay in Southern Serengeti (Ndutu and nearby) during that time of the year. You could also visit Tarangire (3hrs from Arusha, but in southern direction compared to the other TZ locations), Baobab trees exist here an so do large elephant herds.

If you fly USA -> NBO(kenya), then do this route : Drive to Amboseli (3 hrs); spend 2 days there, maybe. Drive back to Nairobi (3hrs), stay overnight or drive to Lake Nakuru (3 hrs). 1 night in Nakuru and Drive to Mara (3 hrs), spend more time here at this time of the year. On the last day, drive back to Nairobi. Fly to Tanzania, drive to Lake Manyara NP (4 hrs) (spend a day here at the Manyara Serena, lovely place on the escarpment), then move on to Ngo Sopa (2 hrs). Spend the next day in the Crater or just do a half day morning tour the next morning. Expect the Crater to be dry. Then drive from there passing by Oldupai Gorge (2hrs) and visit a Masai Village enroute to Central Serengeti (5 hrs). Spend a couple of nights here, you might see Leopards and Elephant herds here. Drive back to Arusha, fly out of Arusha back to USA.

This is just a rough guideline. I've done this sort of trip before and Kenya was a much better experience than Tanzania (unless you go further North to the Kenya Border - no lodges there) at this time of the year (Aug/Sept).


Edited: 16 September 2013, 03:01
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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2. Re: Tanzania & Kenya forum

TP, thank you so much for the detailed information--I'm going to study it carefully.

I think I'll stick with one tour operator for both countries--seems like it will be simpler.

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3. Re: Tanzania & Kenya forum

You are headed in the right direction looking at guidebooks, researching on the internet, etc. One way to get an idea of a typical itinerary is to look at some company websites and see that they propose for their standard safaris. This will give you a general feel for routing.

You mentioned about wanting one tour operator for both countries. If you are working with a US TO, know they will subcontract to TO on the ground in Africa. Even if you work with a TO in Kenya or Tanzania, they typically partner with another operator in the other country. These companies may be owned by the same parent company, or be independent and just have working arrangements. You will have a driver/guide for one country, then switch to a different driver/guide in the other country. But they will make arrangements to make the transfers at the borders if by land. Otherwise, if flying, you will typically be met at the airport by your TO.

Since it sounds like this is your first safari, you probably want to get a feel for what you are looking for. Will it just be your family in the vehicle, or will you be sharing with others? What do you wish to experience on the trip - wildlife, cultural, mixture, etc.

When you have come up with a general itinerary, know the number of days you have to spend, your budget, then contact several companies. Send them exactly the same request for pricing. Be very specific that you wish it to include your lodging, meals, park fees, unlimited mileage, etc. But request the same of all of them and then wait and see what happens with your requests. What will likely happen is this, some will get back to you and will have come up with an entirely different plan (i.e. not even listening to your requests); others might take your requests, come up with a plan incorporating your ideas and proposing some others, and then there will be some that don't even get back to you for whatever reason. After you get a few companies that you feel closely match your desires (and sometimes you have to go with your gut feelings), then present these on the forums and I'm sure you'll get some specific feedback.


Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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4. Re: Tanzania & Kenya forum

Thanks, Laurena--that's the type of process information I was seeking.

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5. Re: Tanzania & Kenya forum



for 3 weeks including flights would give you about 16-19 good clear safari days maybe a few more.

I am one of those who think Tanzania is better than Kenya any time of the year.. A lot of reasons well documented here if you do a search.

I would fly into Nairobi and save back tracking and try to get some even flow and the best way for me is a round trip.

Many Tanzanian or Kenya operators can do both countries..two ways... they will change vehicles and guides at the border

or they will buy a permit to operate in Kenya.

Let me concentrate on the type of doable itinerary and trying to fit in as many parks as possible.

Fly into Nairobi

o/n Then Lake Nakuru... 2 nights

Maasai Mara 3 nights

drive to Lake Victoria 2 nights

Serenegti 5 nights central and North close to the Mara River here you wil then see the migration from both side of that river.

Ngorongoro 1 night

Tarangire 2 nights is a beautiful park especially at that time of your travel.

then from there drive to Ambroseli spend 2 nights there and finally drive to Nairobi.

This way you will see plenty.

A flight can be included if you wish but then you will miss a lot...my opinion..I like road trips.

I agree Serena properties are nice Sopa less so but I would try and stay at some smaller boutique camps as well.

A safari needs a good mixture of lodges and camps small and large...ie Serena Manyara if you want a large lodge with a rift view is okay.

But there are also smaller lodges on the lake shore.

I do disagree with the previous post (post 1) small item I know but visit the Maasai villages if you want at Tarangire or Manyara not at Ngorongoro there are some very bad reviews on this type of cultural tourism.

I would do a private safari in both countries.

Any operator worth their salt can combine a trip liek the above and make it work. There is a list top questions 4th post down Tz operators though and many can organize trips in both countries.

Edited: 16 September 2013, 04:24
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6. Re: Tanzania & Kenya forum

If you find the budget binding - safari prices are high because there is a great investment in personnel and equipment and park fees and so on... you can save on each end of the trip by having the experience of self-directed travel.

In 2011 we spent four weeks in Tanzania. We could only afford 10 days of safari, but we had several great days in Arusha (food and lodging and taxis for two were around $120 versus typical safari price of $600-700.) In January we will be spending a month in Kenya and Tanzania... 5 days of safari and the rest of the time doing our own thing, including several days in Nairobi... lodging and touring costs will probably run $150 - 200 a day (for 2) while we are on our own...

Of course, wildlife safari is a wonderful activity - don't miss it and be prepared to spend some serious vacation cash...

but we wouldn't give up our "cultural safari" experiences in cities and villages. We maneuvered reasonably well with our Idiots' grins and shrugs and the occasional infusion of cash...

and though they can be pricier than the lodges, don't miss the opportunity to sleep under canvas... the tent camps are our most memorable safari lodgings.

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7. Re: Tanzania & Kenya forum

Most tour outfitters whether in Kenya or Tanzania work with a 'partner' in the other country and when reaching border crossings, whether by land or air, the other takes over. Important to know who the 'other' outfitter is and their rating as both companies might not be comparable in quality of services.

Where mentioned above Lk. Nakuru, if for flamingos, know they're not here these days... too much water for them, but who knows what next year will bring. But you will find Rothschild giraffe and white rhino here. And, the drive from Nakuru to the Mara isn't anywhere near 3/hrs (we can only wish), rather minimum 5/hrs and often longer.

And, as far as vehicle if doing a land crossing from the Masai Mara (there is no direct crossing) rather via Isebania, you need a 4WD vehicle as the road from the Mara to the boarder is brutal and anyone who provides a mini-van should be fired. It's still a long haul, and then you have 2/nts at Lake Victoria (if you wish) or the ongoing drive into the Serengeti will entail a full-day (8-10/hrs) from the Mara. As shown by noexpert, even if spending 5/nts in the Serengeti whether Central or North, it will take an entire day to the Ngo Crater.

From the crater it's a 3.5/hr drive to Tarangire; and from here if onto Amboseli... it'll take most of the day, so wouldn't be worth 1/nt only.

As you can see from my comments on the Kenya forum and input here on Tanzania - many options and some long hauls on nasty roads if not flying. And, depending on budget... the longer in-country, more impact on your budget during peak season as highest prices.

Suggest you take sometime to decide which areas are 'must' for time of visit, species of interested, distances between all, type of accommodations, why kind of travelers you are and finally how far your budget will take you. Once you send requests to a few outfitters, watch carefully for those who might be offering too many 1/nighters (you don''t need, unless a place where justified to shorten an otherwise long road trip) and don't hesitate inquiring about internal flights, that in the end are often worth the cost.

Be sure you're also comparing apples-to-apples - routing, where visiting, type of accomm and prices.

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8. Re: Tanzania & Kenya forum

What would you like to see is the big question, we can then help you with where to go, there is no right or wrong answer. In the perfect world you would have enough time and money to go see as much as you want. This is not the case so you have to if not for yourself ask your group who you are planning this for what your main reasons are for coming to East Africa. If they are along the lines of lion, leopard, interaction, wildebeest migration, vistas, some comfort, gin tonics around a camp fire and good general game viewing then you are on the right track.

If you are a bit more specific with regards to what you want to go see, like migration river crossings, un-crowded areas, good guiding, walking and safe activities, a seemless positive and pleasant expereince then you need to dig a little deeper and who provides the transport, where exactly you go, where you stay and if you do Tanzania and or Kenya becomes more relevant.

You should see both countries with the time available, this year proved again that the migration is unpredictable and if you quess or take risk you might not see them. It is all about experiencing more than 1 place, to see the empty plains of the Serengeti, to enjoy the migration both sides of the Mara river and perhaps enjoy a private conservancy where you can walk, night drive and go off-road.

Dont believe people who tell you only do this or only do that, do as much as you can with good reliable operators. Why take the risk of only going to one side where going to both sides are easy and similar cost wise. There is no point driving back the same road you came into the Sereneti out again, there is no point flying back to Kilimanjaro to just land in Nairobi again to change planes anyway. You might as well start at Kilimanjaro and end in Nairobi and have a complete journey in-between that will show you everything along the way.

good luck and enjoy your safari, luckily you will never know what you missed out on :)


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9. Re: Tanzania & Kenya forum

Carel, you make some excellent points. My "group" is just DH and me, unless we can find anther couple interested in the trip. No matter where we go, I remind myself that there is no perfect trip--but lots of very, very good ones. And I always say that I could plan the same trip much better the second time around, as some things I can't learn until I'm actually there.

Time to get more guidebooks from the library, read and take notes, surf the Internet--all things that help me get my thoughts in order.

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10. Re: Tanzania & Kenya forum

Well, we're a little bit farther along in the planning process. We'll go in July or August--any preferences? I think we can spend up to 3 weeks away--but that includes 2 days of travel time in each direction.

Another couple has decided to join us: I think we'll be very compatible travelling companions, but it is a bit different for me to have a planning partner. DH does no trip planning, so I'm usually on my own. I like having someone else to share the responsibility, but I've never had to consider anyone else's opinions.

We've settled on just Tanzania: Tarangire NP, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge, Serengeti NP (probably both central & North), a couple of days in Zanzibar to snorkel and visit Stone Town. We're considering touring a coffee plantation and a Masai Vilage, Arusha NP.

Now to fine tune an itinerary and start contacting Tour Operators.

Edited: 07 October 2013, 17:48