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Itinerary + Questions. Itineraries incl - thoughts? HELP!

Windsor, Canada
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Itinerary + Questions. Itineraries incl - thoughts? HELP!

Heya,

First of all - this is going to be a very long message... going to include it all - so please be patient for me and I am SO sorry for this entire post!!! I appreciate any help/feedback.. anything I can get. Every post adds more to my understanding!

Need help with my itinerary/choosing a company. I know this is asking to much and I hate myself for doing so. However, this trip will cost over $23,000++ for me (paying for the trip entirely) and I don't usually have that lying around (been saving for a long time) - might be my only trip for a couple of years so I am very nervous and anxious and I want to make this perfect! Even if it means paying a bit more for certain aspects - my initial estimate was $3,000-$5,000... already over budget but I have a plan to make the rest by January.

Also.. I feel like I need to say that TA is my only advice/honest feedback that I have going for me which is why I keep coming back with ridiculous posts. I did consult Fodor's Guide... sorry to say this but it was pretty useless - good starting point - not worth $20 - could have spend 10 minutes on the forums here and learned more!

Real quick:

-3 People (me), mother (57 years) and brother (25).

-Leaving Detroit (DTW) for Thursday January 15 -> Arriving RJO on Friday January 16 @8:45PM ****May Possibly add an extra day at which we will leave on January 14 and arrive on Thursday 15**** <-- leaving one day early will save approximately $300 in flights!!! Will need approval from my future boss though. I can make this work though!

-Leaving RJO on Saturday January 31 to arrive on Sunday Feb 1 (this is FIRM! My brother starts rotations in February)

Also through the process of posting here, I learned that Canoeing with Hippoes is a big no-no (dangerous) and that "off roading" in Serengeti is extremely harmful to small animals/plants. I had no idea that was the case - imagined it to be differently... guess I was ignorant there. Thanks to those who explained this to me

Onto the post:

I have a couple of questions first:

1- What are your thoughts on Travelling Doctor Insurance?

2- Night Game drives - are they worth it? What time do they start (since I thought they go from 6AM to 6PM)? I understand they are provided in Lake Manyara and Tarangire - which would you recommend?

3- I read that Canoeing in Arusha National Park or Lake Manyara can be fun? What can I expect to see and which would you recommend?

4- Some companies suggested adding Game Drives in Arusha Park... how do game drives rank in Arusha Park vs other parks? I'm thinking a Canoe + Walking Safari in Arusha park and leave game drives to other park...

5- Serengeti park is HUGE!! How large (amount of driving) is it? I know there is Ndutu (South), a lot of mention on Central Serengeti plains... I'm assuming with game driving you move from one location of the Serengeti plains to another... sorry it's hard to image

6- Driving from one location in another... I was looking at the map - the parks seem to flow from one to another. The drive from location to another - is it just that? Or it is like an "en-route" game drive? Sorry I'm trying to understand this. I'm not used to driving a couple of hours at a time (again I haven't been on many trips).

Now onto the itenerary:

I contacted 9 companies from the sticky post #4. Heard from all companies back except Access 2 Tanzania.

I compiled a chart pdf form...

https:/…

^GOOGLE Drive - Reliable (never used google before - but wanted a "trusted" site to share for TA).

[EDITING POST] Just noticed, link doesn't show but the "http" does. Just click on it. If don't trust since can't see directory... use: …google.com/file/…

-Included transfer times/types of activities etc to the BEST of my abilities (there are more details on the actual e-mail which I can include)

-Included pricing/company names

-All companies include "unlimited" safari miles (park times being the limit at 6AM and 6PM) and private car

-All rooms = Triple Accommodation

-Included Lodge names + RATINGS. These ratings are TRIPADVISOR exclusive (ex, 4.5 stars = based on TA review ratings)

-Roy/Hoopoe/Good Earth Tour Safaris shorten the safari by a couple of days. Roy + Hoopoe said it would cost upper $7000 if it were for a full day

-Looks like if "flights" are included in the itinerary the price is $$$

-I didn't realize how expensive some lodges can be >.....<

-Personally I felt that Easy Travel and Tours Ltd was easy to deal with and they were VERY fast to answer my questions and come up with an itinerary

What are your thoughts? I know certain companies handle safaris different, have different lodges, guides etc.... I'm trying to see which "routes" (aka the circle - Arusha to one location to another and back to Arusha) work out best.

Again I am leaning towards Easy Travel and Tours Ltd - if I were to go with them I'm thinking instead of:

A- Visiting Mt. Meru on Day 2, I would visit Arusha National Park and do a half day walking safari + canoeing.

B- Instead of a hike the last day (assuming I would be VERY tired at the end). I might add an extra day at Tarangire or Lake Manyara any thoughts? Which means "day 15" itinerary would be the last day.

C- I'm thinking of doing a Night Drive - I heard the Tarangire one is fun. But that means we have to stay at Tarangire Lodge (Easy Travel recommends on at Lake Manyara). From my understanding it's a MUCH more expensive place... can't find pricing anywhere (but I found that Maramboi Tented Camp is over $500 for triple room).

D- Finally since I'm adding an extra day (if possible) - thinking of adding it to Ngorongoro... sorry not sure what's available there... but according to Fodor - it's got a great "rim walk" and the most dense animal concentration or something

HELP!!!??

Again so sorry about this really long post..... and I will read and appreciate any posts/feedback/advice given here.

Thanks

Edited: 07 April 2014, 19:30
Chicago
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1. Re: Itinerary + Questions. Itineraries incl - thoughts? HELP!

You have many questions, which is fine, but I will just address a few of them. In looking at the quotes and itineraries, I see that some are giving you many fewer days for even more money. Some are also keeping you in the area around Arusha and city areas to keep down the costs, as most of those lodgings are way under $100/night. I personally think that the itinerary that gives you the best deal for the money and gives you a good balance of cultural experiences and wildlife viewing is the one from Swala. I have no reason to push this one, as I used Shidolya, and I liked them. They were my cheapest quote. I do know that some on the Forum have used Swala and stand behind them. The only thing missing from this was the canoeing that you wanted. I am guessing if you went back to them to ask them to tweak it a bit and give you a day at Arusha NP at the beginning or end, they would, and it would make the cost go down a bit. It is also fine to go back to a company to say, that is a bit high for us, what can be done to get the cost down a bit. Anyways, that is my opinion-we will see how others weigh in.

One additional thing-with these high costs, I would recommend getting traveler's insurance, and also AMREF traveling docs insurance. Hopefully you would never needed, but there is safety if it is needed-money well-spent.

Edited: 07 April 2014, 19:55
Isle of Man, United...
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2. Re: Itinerary + Questions. Itineraries incl - thoughts? HELP!

I will bite the bullet and try to answer briefly without details.

(Canoeing where there are Hippo is not dangerous per se. It gets dangerous if you get too close. Same as any animal.)

1. Flying Doctor. Never travel without it. $50 annual.

2. Night drives. Yes , do try one. I find that those that strat off after dinner are generally best. Night is well established by then.

3. Canoeing? Water birds, maybe drinking animals.

4. Game drives in Arusha are a god opener. No Elephant or scarce Lion.

5. Serengeti. Drive as long and as far as you wish. Tell your driver your limits and he will stick to them.

Transfers may take half a day but it is all game drive.

6. If transferring parks then you are in non protected areas. Villages and people but some wildlife too. Two hours between most NPs. See 5 for Serengeti transfers.

A,B & c. Straightforward and answered above.

D. I don't bother with a Rim walk unless there is nothing else to fill my day. Worth it if you have.

melbourne
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3. Re: Itinerary + Questions. Itineraries incl - thoughts? HELP!

Just a few comments to add to those above.

Night game drives are fun usually about 2-3 hours the best place for them is at Tarangire.

I wouldn't bother with a Rim walk either unless you wish to stretch your legs....

I disagee with the canoe trip being dangerous I would do one at ANP. but stay there in or near the park and not driver to and from Arusha.

The Hoopoe itinerary with 2 nights Manyara then a visit to NGO then back to Karatu then again into the crater at Sopa on the Rim doesn't make sense. The middle of this trip is a waste.

On their trip Day 5,6,7,8 is really messy skip this trip.

Roys too expensvie and Good Earth as you said to short.

But some more generaI comments I wouldn't go to Lake Eyasi. I think it is a waste...there are better ways to spend safari time...so prefer the trips that don't include this. I don't like the hunting done there nor do I like (my opinion) the fact that the village visits are set up for tourists ie you pay at the village office on arrival and then once paid for the activities are organized. I would include Lake Manyara but stay in the park or near the park.

I wouldn't stay at Karatu.

The other trips are all different and offer different experiences ..different accommodation options for Manyara and Tarangire.

and some offer Lodge options for ANP. all the others offer a variety of cultural activities combined with wildlife.

It is now a matter of really narrowing down your operators and choosing the one that you are most comfortable with.

Interesting comment about Fodors I prefer other guide books myself.

melbourne
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4. Re: Itinerary + Questions. Itineraries incl - thoughts? HELP!

Baz

I am happy to go through each itinerary and give "my views" which might and usually do differ to others..or do you have now a general idea.

Windsor, Canada
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5. Re: Itinerary + Questions. Itineraries incl - thoughts? HELP!

@ noexpert - ANY advice you give no matter what - is good for me! It helps and teaches me more on what to expect. What books would you recommend at this point in time?

I have my fav companies narrowed to Swala (due to reputation on this forum - but they are late to respond - I understand this because they are a smaller group. They are friendly) and Easy Travel and Tours (#1 in Tanzania of "activities" and they are quick/friendly to respond) - but honestly I haven't heard much of them on this forum (unless I'm not looking right)

Now my main focus is wild life... culture is definitely sounds great too!

My thoughts - and please let me know what you think... if I were to go with Easy Travel Tours (I haven't proposed any changes to them yet)...

Day 1 instead of Culture - go to Arashu National Park and do a canoe + walk trip. Now should I stay closer to the park or is The African Tulp okay? I believe it's like a 45 min drive from Arusha to ANP.

Make Day "15" itinerary my last day - it's "chilled", can shop, sleep, late breakfast next day and go to airport.

I want to add Tarangire night drive - meaning we'd have to change lodges to the Tarangire Lodge (fingers crossed on availability + pricing)

That leaves 2 days - my "extra" day that I will add (leaving one day early) + no hike on last day - where would you advice I place these.

@noexpert - which cultural tour would you recommend instead of Eyasi Lake - also, why not stay in Karatu?

If I am to change the Lake Eyasi culture visit, then it'll be Ngorongoro to Tarangire.

Anyway, I feel like I should already know this... but I feel like I'm confusing the parks/attractions seen on them/around them - Tarangire, Ngorongoro + Lake Manyara - how many days do you recommend for each?

To me: Tarangire = Elephants. Ngorongoro = Crater with large animal concentration. Lake Manyara = Small, 60% lake, pretty

Chicago
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6. Re: Itinerary + Questions. Itineraries incl - thoughts? HELP!

Just so you will know, Lake Eyasi is really not on the way to anywhere. It is off the beaten track on poor road. You really need to want the Hadzabe experience to go there. I loved the experience, and many do, but many also are upset about the hunting, and some think it is a set-up tourist experience. You need to decide if this is right for your group-to do it right, you do need to spend a night there.

Another idea with an extra night would be to visit Lake Babati to canoe in the lake, and possibly see the Kolo ancient rock art. This might be in place of Arusha NP also. This would be a cheaper experience, as are Arusha hotels, to keep the costs down.

Karatu is not a good base to stay to get to other places (like the crater), but it is sometimes used as a way station getting from one place to another.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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7. Re: Itinerary + Questions. Itineraries incl - thoughts? HELP!

We went through a similar process and ended up picking Easy Travel--our trip isn't until July, so I don't have the actual safari experience to report.

I agree that Easy Travel has been very easy to deal with--and we have found them extremely accommodating. As our research continued and we got more responses from other TOs, we kept tweaking the itinerary and our lodging choices, which was never a problem. For every question we asked, we got a good answer.

We have read some wonderful reviews on TA.

Ottawa, Canada
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8. Re: Itinerary + Questions. Itineraries incl - thoughts? HELP!

It is me back with all the doom and gloom. There have been upsets on the Tanzania forum in the past due to possible shady business when it comes to legetimacy of the 'activities' postings. The criteria is supposed to be day tours. A quick read shows that most to the posts are for multi day safaris and don't fit the criteria. You don't see some of the companies we recommend there as they were removed by TripAdvisor for not being 'day tours'. Anyway what that means is an uenven playing field. Also, consider who is posting the review? If they only post one or two reviews and no action otherwise, it could be suspect and for many, has little value in decision making. So please make your decisions on something other than those kinds of TA reviews.

Bristol
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9. Re: Itinerary + Questions. Itineraries incl - thoughts? HELP!

Hi there, I agree with QM that you do not want to place too much emphasis on the reviews posted in the Day Tours section. It all seems very odd as to who TA allows to post reviews here. I would look at reviews posted by people in the top thread that Karl has pinned. I don't really have time to go through all the itineraries and compare them all. I am sure by now you have a feeling for which you prefer. We have travelled twice with Swala and had very good trips both times. Their itinerary looks good to me and has you staying at some of my favourite places. But I really haven't tried to compare it to all the other itineraries you have so can't comment if others are better or worse.

As I have said previously even if your main focus is wildlife I would try and include some activities where you spend some time with the local people. School and village visits are always good for this. If you actually support a specific school before you go your experience will be even more meaningful. I have also enjoyed the walk with a Massai guide along the Rift Valley which can be done from Kirurumu Tented lodge near Manyara or the walk to the Elephant caves and waterfalls which can be done with guide from the Cultural Tourism Centre in Karatu. (organised by your TO).

Ottawa, Canada
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10. Re: Itinerary + Questions. Itineraries incl - thoughts? HELP!

Oh, I meant to mention, that the activities in Arusha NP is usually a canoe trip OR a walk. They need to arrange a ranger to accompany you and if there is a bit of time delay, then you miss the game drive portions of the trip...but maybe you are okay with that.