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Drive times and lodge choices in Kenya

Nashville, Tennessee
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Drive times and lodge choices in Kenya

I am considering an itinerary with Eastern&Southern safaris. They have included a detail including drive times.

They have listed driving the first day from Nairobi to Amboseli to the Serena Lodge. They listed a 5 hour drive. Two nights there.

Then, we leave amboseli and head thru Nairobi to Mt. Kenya to the Serena Mountain lodge. They listed only 3 hours?

After one night in the mountain lodge, we head to Samburu to the Samburu Game Lodge. They listed 3 hours.

After 2 nights in Samburu, we go to Sweatwater Sanctuary. 3 hour drive. Sweatwater game camp.

After only one night, we head to Lake Nakuru to Sarova Lion hill lodge. 3 hour drive.

After one night, we head to Lake Naivasha to Sopa lodge. 2 hour drive.

After one night, head to Masai Mara to Sarova Mara tent camp. 5 hour drive. Three nights there.

Head back to Nairobi, 6 hour drive.

These times seem like A LOT of time driving, and not much time relaxing or viewing.

Also, how can you drive 5 hours south from Nairobi to amboseli and then only 3 hours back thru Nairobi to Mt Kenya?

Are these times realistic?

What about the serena lodge, I've heard only mediocre things.

Nashville, Tennessee
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2,264 posts
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11. Re: Drive times and lodge choices in Kenya

The total trip would be 2 nights in Nairobi and 9 nights out on safari for a total of 11.

What about the Sarova Mara camp. I also see pretty good things, but not great.

They are working to keep our budget down, but once agan I am looking at value, not cheap.

We don't mind simple and even plain, but not dirty, unsafe, or very inconvenient.

Hell's gate seems interesting.

Thanks

Stephen

nyc
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12. Re: Drive times and lodge choices in Kenya

While drive times are always estimates, some that Eastern & Southern who are very good and reputable, might have been a simple errors. Still you have to remember that distances are great and if not flying, these should be broken up.

However, while many do visit both 'elephant' parks - Amboseli & Samburu, with your limited time, I'd prefer Samburu where you will also find species not found elsewhere.

And, when driving north, the stops along the way as Serena Lodge at Mt. Kenya breaks up what would be a straight-on 6/hr drive... so this makes sense.

Then heading south, Samburu to Nanyuki where Sweetwater's located is about 3/hrs; and then onto Lake Nakuru is 3/hrs. So, without stop at Nanyuki it would be another 6/hrs (Samburu/Nakuru).

From Nakuru to the Masai Mara is 5-6/hrs depending on where in the Reserve your lodge/camp located, but many do stop 1/hr south of Nakuru at Lk.Naivasha for some 'out-of-vehicle' time. Then head farther south onto the Mara.

So the changes made - adding the 2nd nt in Nairobi (good for jetlag and if a bag is delayed), then omitting Amboseli and Nakuru and adding an extra night in the Mara is good.

Mara Sarova Camp is a sister property of Lion Hill Lodge, and while larger than some other camps... the price is right for your budget. Though I'd inquire about Kichwa Tembo, a bit smaller and does get excellent reviews and believe the price will work. Samburu Game Lodge is a sister property of Keekorok Lodge in the Mara, but I believe you'd like the experience of sleeping under canvas for a true African experience.

Good luck!

London, United...
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13. Re: Drive times and lodge choices in Kenya

Stephen,

In my mind, Lodges are never good Value or for that matter a great African experience; yes it is lovely to play the big white hunter in a cavernous tent, but the reality is you just have people tugging their forelock and scraping like any other 4-5* place, for which of course you pay well over the odds for.

There are some places where you cannot get away from Lodges, the Mara, Meru (unless you really want to get down with the folk) and Samburu are too remote to give you an alternative.

I think you are becoming far too reliant on someone arranging things for you and you are losing site of what I believe your original script was. Let us take Hells Gate for example; there is a great deal of accommodation in that area; you can stay at one of the many Lodges which will cost you 100s per night or you can stay at somewhere like Carnelly’s which will cost you a 100 a night?! The Lodge will have a pool, spa treatments, etc, which you probably won’t use; they will have an al la carte menu, which you can get anywhere, and those who serve you will smile for tips, why if you want somewhere that is just ‘clean and plain’ would you entertain that. In Carnelly’s you will have a Banda, with a veranda, hot water, clean sheets; the menu is basic, but good (Naivasha Beef is normally my choice), but the 2 biggest bonuses are, staff that talk to you and laugh with you and locals and expats, who if you make the effort, will happily have a beer with you and the kids, tell you about living in Africa and give you some of the best tips you will get for the area. It is truly a far greater experience than being led by the nose and waited upon. The same can by said of places in Nanyuki, a stones throw from Mt Kenya and Ol Pejeta.

As I said last week, have a really good think about what you want out of this trip, an organized safari holiday is very different than a Kenya experience.

GJ

London, United...
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14. Re: Drive times and lodge choices in Kenya

sandi,

Sweetwaters to Lion Hill in 3 hours! Which route is that on?

UK
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for Malindi, Ukunda, Kenya
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15. Re: Drive times and lodge choices in Kenya

I think that sounds about right doesn't it?

Ol Pejeta (Sweetwaters) to Nyahururu is about 1 to 1.5 hrs on good dirt, and the same again to Nakuru on okay tarmac.

Richard

London, United...
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16. Re: Drive times and lodge choices in Kenya

Richard,

But we have to get out of S’waters and into Lion Hill; that alone can take long enough. The route using the C76 and C77 has gone down hill too, it was dire in August; the best route for both speed and safety is A2 and B5 via Nyeri.

Good to see you back by the way.

GJ

UK
Destination Expert
for Malindi, Ukunda, Kenya
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17. Re: Drive times and lodge choices in Kenya

Hmm, I was assuming leaving OP via the northern gate, rather than going out to to the east and via Nanyuki. But if the C76 is really bad, then via Nyeri it would have to be. So could be five hours?

Thanks for the greeting, I've been lurking somewhat, but in South Africa and then Mali, and very busy, so hard to respond as much as I'd like!

Richard

London, United...
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18. Re: Drive times and lodge choices in Kenya

Richard,

It is also at least half and hour in and out of both locations, I’d never consider speeding, well not in a Park! If going via Nyeri, the Rongal gate is the best, it cuts out Nanyuki and if nearer to S’waters Camp and if timed well, you can grab eats at Barney’s!

There was a Grader up there, so perhaps it is already improved; I will have a look in a few weeks when I’m swaning off again.

Now, get back to work; life can’t be all research and no writing!

GJ

Walnut Creek, CA
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19. Re: Drive times and lodge choices in Kenya

We just returned two nights ago from Kenya and Tanzania with Smartours. I was looking for a spot to post a warning to anyone booking this kind of trip that the driving is MOST unpleasant, and to try to avoid going to too many places. You will spend the majority of your time in a van (not built for comfort). We drove from Nairobi to Samburu (most of the day) then to Serena Mt Lodge --NOT recommended at all. It is old, walls of paper (no sleep) and we saw only water buffalos. You will see SOOOO many other animals during your trip, that there is absolutely no reason to go here at all. We drove from Serena Mt Lodge all across the rift valley , then south to Lake Nakura (great rhino sightings) and on to Lake Naivasha --all in one day. Over 10 hours in a van. OMG!. The roads are all two lane (narrow) , with lots of passing trucks, fumes, goats grazing along the road, speed bumps, pot holes, horrid pathetic strip mall "towns" that you pass through, lots of Death Valley desert type landscape. I would highly suggest limiting your safari to Masai Mara (we saw EVERY kind of animal possible --up close) and possibly Amboseli. This limits your driving and allows you to see the most wildlife. Samburu was very arid (like Death Valley), but we did get some great animal encounters because of the river running through it. Roads to the game parks (and inside the parks) can be grueling. Bone jarring bumps, pot holes, etc. Especially into Masai Mara. Over 2 hours of driving at about 2 mph with more holes than road. We were somewhat shell shocked by the time we arrived at the lodge. The last thing you want to do at that point is to get in the car and drive for a 2 hour game drive, but the viewing was incredible there.

I would advise that you really read up on the seasons as to when to go. Masai Mara was lush and green in October --and Tanzania was a desert wasteland of dead grass and bushes. The timing of the rains and the "green season" will make a big difference.

Our tour included mostly SOPA lodges --which were generally fine. Serena is a step up --and I would probably go that route. The food is the same everywhere. Edible, but nothing is actually good. And after 12 - 16 days it is always the same everywhere. The meats are bad. We gave up on any beef. Tough as shoe leather. Vegetables are cooked beyond recognition. BUT --one doesn't go to Africa for the food. I kept reminding myself of that.......

So ----I would suggest limiting yourself to fewer destinations and having time to enjoy each one. The "journey" from point A to point B is NOT usually very pleasant.

Good luck!

Bristol
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20. Re: Drive times and lodge choices in Kenya

Oh dear Travelgal you do sound a bit shell shocked!!

Yes you are right, no-one is going to pretend that the roads are good and if the travelling is really a problem for anyone then maybe a safari holiday is not for them ("safari" does mean journey in Swahili).

However I think with a bit of research and careful planning most people who are up for it can have an "amazing " holiday. You do need to bear in mind the road conditions and driving times and make sure you have accurate information (as the OP is trying to do). Don't be over optimistic about this. Then make sure you spend a reasonable about of time at each location before moving on to the next. Rushing from one place to another will not lead to an enjoyable trip.

We have done 2 safaris now, one in Kenya and one in Tanzania (Off to Kenya again the end of November). We know what to expect when travelling around and have not found this a problem. We have planned our itinerary fairly carefully and have generally found the travelling very interesting.

If you just want to go and try and spot "the BIg 5" then yes just go to the Masai Mara but if you really want to experience Africa (and see just how varied all these different places are) then don't be put off from travelling around. Just do your research, plan your trip carefully and go and have a great time.