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tour operator & park advice

Southport, North...
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tour operator & park advice

I am planning our first trip to Kenya and Tanzania for 3 during summer 2011. We are looking a private tented Ker & Downey, A&K, &Beyond, but prices vary madly for 11 days. So do their suggested locations. 2 of 3 tour operators say that Ngorongoro Crater is too touristy, but this may be our only trip to Africa, so is it a "must see"?. Also, one highly recommends Lewa Conservancy and Amboseli over the Sarengeti. We want luxury tented camp experience, but also want some evening interaction with other couples at camp. Any suggestions for tour operators and locations to visit??

Thanks!

Michigan
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1. Re: tour operator & park advice

When I visited Ngorongoro Crater in March 2009 as part of a group tour, I loved it. We saw other vehicles, but it is not like we were on top of each other. But I'm sure that because it is not the height of the tourist season. I had friends take a Tanzania tour in July 2009, they visited the crater and she said she liked that place the least because of all the tourists. The variety of wildlife in the crater was fantastic. I was also in Amboseli, Lake Nakuru, Masai Mara, Tarangire, Serengeti and I liked the crater the best. My last trip, this past January, I traveled solo and just concentrated on Kenya locations. My next trip, I'll be going back to the Serengeti and to the crater and other locations in Tanzania.

I've been to Amboseli both trips because I enjoyed the elephants so much. I enjoyed staying at Ol Tukai lodge which is inside the park. Tarangire in Tanzania also had lots of elephants. The worst part of Tarangire and part of the Serengeti was the tse tse flies. Nasty things, even with DEET. They seem to wait until you are occupied taking pictures to strike.

I went to Samburu this last trip and enjoyed it because of the variety of different species. But since I was on driving safaris and it is quite a ways north, I don't feel I'd go back. I would however, go back to Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Lovely place - but I would skip the chimp sanctuary and rhino reserve because it was more like our zoos. I thoroughly enjoyed staying at Sweetwaters Tented camp and will go back.

I would imagine that since you are planning a summer visit, a lot of places will be busier because of the migration than when I went in January and March.

Southport, North...
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2. Re: tour operator & park advice

Wow, thanks for all your great information, it is very helpful!

nyc
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3. Re: tour operator & park advice

11/days can be tight for visiting both countriesm, besides Visas for each and need of Yellow Fever inoculation to pass between the two.

A&K and andBeyond are probably the two most expensive operators offering "group" departures on set dates with accommodations they select and not always in the lux category for which you're paying; if choosing a private safari with your choice of where to visit and stay will be even more expensive.

June-Aug is the peak and busiest time in both countries so there will be lots of others visitors.

Also, depending on into which country you arrive/depart will determine routing.

If interested in the migration, note that it is often located:

June thru mid-July - western Serengeti, Tanzania

mid-July thru Sept - Masai Mara,Kenya

Ngorongoro crater can be the best place to visit though others feel it's ho-hum, but for sure it's often the busiest place for it's small area.

There are three (3) elephant parks between these two countries:

Amboseli and Samburu in Kenya - Samburu the nicer as they also have species not found elsewhere

Tarangire in Tanzania where besides ellees, there's a mini-migration between July/Oct.

You can find luxury tented camps in both countries and yes you do have the opportunity for interchange with other guests around camp fires and meals; also during game drives if you share these with others... will vary from camp-to-camp.

The must sees can differ from traveler to traveler, and depending on which month you travel.

Suggest you pick up a guidebook for each country or Fodor's Complete Safari Planning Guide that covers the various safari countries, where to visit when, names of reputable tour operators, safari planners, whether in-country or in the US, UK or elsewhere... other very useful info for planning a trip as this. You will also find reputable outfitters listed here on TA that you can consider.

A private safari is what most do, so you can select 4-5 such operators, outfitters, planners... send the same email info to each: when traveling, where you'd like to visit, type of accomm (lodges/camps), estimated budget... on their reply, compare apples-to-apples. If you find one or two you like but want to "tweak" work with them in doing so and joila... you'll have the safari you wish.

Good luck!

Southport, North...
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4. Re: tour operator & park advice

Thanks 4sandi, great information, and you seem to be very experienced in Africa because I see a lot of your posts!

One of the guides I'm working with (works for Ker & Downey, Silver rated, lives in Kenya, plans everything directly with customer) suggests for late July:

Arrive Nairobi, Giraffe Manor - 1 night. drive to,

Amboseli NP - private camp - 3 nights, fly to,

Lewa Con. - Sirikoi lodge - 2 nights, fly to,

Masai Mara - private camp - 4 nights, fly to,

Nairobi, day rooms Giraffe Manor

His alternative if we want to go to Tanzania is to start with 2 nights Serengeti, 2 nights Ngor. Crater, then Masai Mara and Ambroseli. He suggests we add two more nights if we do this, but I'm at the top of our budget ($15,000 UDS pp).

Any thoughts?

Edited: 13 November 2010, 15:35
5. Re: tour operator & park advice

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6. Re: tour operator & park advice

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nyc
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7. Re: tour operator & park advice

kt -

Are you saying the itinerary with Giraffe Manor on arrival and dayroom at end is at $15K/pp or is that if including Tanzania? Know that Giraffe Manor is lovely and romantic, but if arriving night, big bucks (approx. $400/pp) for dinner, sleep and breakfast next morning; the dayroom is also quite expensive.

If choosing Ngong which is also a gem, a bit less expensive but not by much, know that both GM and Ngong include excursions, but you pay entry fees. House of Waine in Nairobi is a nice alternative, B&B with only 11 large rooms and less expensive.

As to the "private camps" what are the specifics - where in each reserve, type of tents, beds, staff, what's included/excluded. Also, 3/nts at Amboseli is often a day too many, when most spend 2/nts. Samburu, up north is a nicer "elephant" park as well unique species not found elsewhere. I'd consider this and do 3/nts. Or if you wish to stay with Amboseli, then do the 3/nts at Lewa or even Meru with stay at Elsa's Kopje.

With 11/days during July/Aug, I'd stick with one country... Kenya.

For costing purposes during this peak season you have to figure luxury properties will cost between $550-$650*/person/nt + daily park fees ($60-90/person/dy + the flights to/from/between. Accommodations at these rates are almost all inclusive, but for champagne and branded spirits.

*some can be even more expensive.

day 1 - Arv. NBO - o/n House of Waine, Giraffe Manor or Ngong

day 2 - Fly to Meru - o/n Elsa's Kopje

day 3 - Meru - o/n Elsa's Kopje

or Fly Lewa for these 2/nts - o/n Sirikoi or lewa Safari Camps

day 4 - Fly to Samburu - o/n Saruni, Sasaab, Larsen's or Elephant Bedroom

days 5 & 6 - Samburu - o/n Saruni, Sasaab, Larsen's or Elephant Bedroom

day 7 - Fly to Mara - o/n Rekero (quite rustic), Elephant Pepper (honeymoon tent), Mara Plains, Olonana, Royal Mara - there are many others in this category

days 8, 9 & 10 - Mara - o/n

day 11 - Fly to NBO; dayroom; depart

Southport, North...
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8. Re: tour operator & park advice

This trip is inclusive of everything; private guide, parks, internal air, private K&D camps, all drinks (including top shelf), food, etc. It seems expensive to me too, but with the beautiful private camps (with en-suite toilet, sink and bladder shower) in private concessions where we can do walks and night drives, plus the daily parks, sundowners and a silver rated private guide - I can't seem to find anything that compares, but welcome suggestions.

Los Angeles
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9. Re: tour operator & park advice

Just back for 15 day safari in Kenya and Tanzania. Definitely Serengeti over Amboseli, that shouldn't be a choice. And, Ngorongoro is a must. I also understand Tanganire in Tanzania is a good choice. We mixed tented camps with lodges and were happy with the mix. We did not like Sweetwaters.

For 11 nights try 2 nights in Samburu, Masai Mara, Amboseli, one night in Lake Nakuru OR Tanganire , 2 nights in Ngorongoro and the Serengeti.

At all of the lodgings you will mix with others in the restaurant and bar areas at each meal. Game drives occur usually twice a day, no matter private or tour arrangements.

We stayed in Serena, Sarova, and Sopa lodges and tented camps. All were very well appointed and even luxurious (for the bush). In Samburu, if you go there, I would stay at the lodge/tented camp by the river (not the Sopa). It was fun, but rather isolated.

We used Raylenne Safaris for our booking of a private tour.. They were most accommodating of our every request.

Michigan
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10. Re: tour operator & park advice

Jerie

Curious as to what you didn't like about Sweetwaters. I stayed there in January, tent #1 (the first replaced tent on the water hole - nice light tan canvas) and it was one of my favorite places of the 3 week trip. Watching a small group of elephants graze just before I went to sleep was a definite highlight.