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Wondering about things

Sydney, Australia
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41 posts
203 reviews
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Wondering about things

We are trying to plan a trip for mid year, and expected to spend 20 days in Kenya and Tanzania.

Looking at tours offered we note:

1. Few are that long

2. those that are, often have very weird routes around the territory, almost as if its not feasible to cross the border in Masai Mara/Serengeti. They seem determined to avoid that bit.

3. Vehicles seem more suited to the long distances than the game viewing. I am becoming concerned that unless you are very careful, you will spend most of the time travelling, and not game viewing.

My previous experiences have been in RSA, Zimbabwe, Botswana, where getting to the camp is quite separate from game viewing. Possibly the roads are better?

Geoff

Nairobi, Kenya
Destination Expert
for Kenya
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1. Re: Wondering about things

G'day Geoff

You may need to combine a few safari's to get 20 days.

You cannot cross directly from the Mara to the Serengetti. You need to drive around through the border crossing and then in. This can take up a full day.

I agree with you, that you do end up spending too much time driving from one place to another. This can be avoided by booking a flying safari. This means you either fly commercially or charter from property to property, and use the property's vehicles for game drives. These tend to be the more open type vehicles.

You can also drive from camp to camp, but then use the camp vehicles for the game drives. This will work out more expensive.

Best option would be a flying safari:

1 night Nairobi

3 nights Laikipia

4 nights Masai Mara

2 nights Amboseli

4 nights Serengeti

3 nights Lake Manyara

2 nights Ngorongoro

Good luck with planning.

Sydney, Australia
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41 posts
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2. Re: Wondering about things

Hi roadwarrior,

Many thanks for your thoughts, that helps a lot.

Geoff

Mombasa, Kenya
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607 posts
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3. Re: Wondering about things

Hi Geoff,

Another thought is to have a safari specialist company to put an individual trip for you, that way you are not tied up to any particular ready made itinerary, you can choose what you want to see and how many days you want to spend in a particular park, and most importantly (for me at least) you are on your own timing, routing and schedule. If you have a good specialist company, they will work with your wish list and tailor make your safari for you.

With a lot of research you can put such a trip together yourself as well - some camps and lodges offer flying packages. You can always email the places your like and ask for their advice. I think it is easier to do when the trip is simple, when it involves loads of transfers and many camps/lodges, probably a specialist company is the way to go, but there is no rule, any property will accept your direct booking and you can purchase all tickets online.

With the length of time you have you can see lots of places. Distances here are long and roads are not too good, so as roadwarrior suggested, flying will be the answer, and it does not work out much more expensive, at times it is the same as road transfers anyway.

Most camps/lodges have their vehicles for game drives. Some include game drives into their prices, some do not. In any case if your budget allows, you can book a vehicle at the camp/lodge for individual use, although it is to cheap. Usually there are no more than 4-6 people per vehicle anyway, so unless you are very particular it is not necessary.

You can combine some air transfers with some road transfers if it is more convenient and the distances are not too long.

For Kenya have a look at the schedules of Safarilink, Air Kenya and Mombasa Air Safaris, this will give you an idea of schedule services and prices from Nairobi to the parks and between the parks - agood starting point!

Good luck with your planning!

Larissa

Tijara Beach Hotel

Mombasa, Kenya
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607 posts
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4. Re: Wondering about things

One more thought, especially if you are putting your trip together yourself, but also if it is done by you. Pay a very careful attentions to what's included in the prices:

- park or conservancy fees

- air strip transfers at the camp/lodge in case of air transfers

- game drives and how many per day (usually 2 per day)

- usually everyone includes full board, but some are all inclusive

Larissa

nyc
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15,035 posts
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5. Re: Wondering about things

Rare at all that 'group' safaris with set dates, set routings, set accommodations will always go where you wish to visit, type of lodge/camp, and have rather long transit times. However, their prices can be quite temping.

As you have more than the traditional 10, 12, 14 or 16/days to visit both countries and depending on time of year... best to design your own itinerary.

With 3/weeks and the various accommodations you'd want, whether driving or flying, and rather than have lots of pieces of paper and have to wire funds to each to confirm your space... seriously consider a specialist who can handle all that will be under 'one umbrella' so only a single contact. Also, a specialist will more often than not have... 'contract' rates, which are discounted from the 'rack' (highest) rates that a particular lodge/camp would charge you. Besides price, the specialist will handle all from: meet/greet/transfers, lodge/camp, park fees, game drives, guides/vehicles, flight as needed along with flight taxes and all other taxes.

And, if mid-year means between June-Sep/Oct, know that these are peak travel months with prices to match. Seasons though are a bit different Kenya vs Tanzania, with June in Kenya at most places at mid-season prices (though some raise as mid-month), where in Tanzania peak season begins 1st June. Also, busiest means places are already booking up, especially Aug-Sep.

Suggest you put together a list of areas of interest, contact a specialist (or a few of them direct in Kenya and/or Tanzania though some outfitters do handle both countries), and see what they recommend and costs. Do provide them with your expected dates in-country, # of pax in your party, type of accomm. preferred and an estimated budget per person (or total for group).

When you receive a few replies, feel free to return here for comments/further input.

Good luck!

Edited: 11 February 2013, 17:57
Sydney, Australia
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41 posts
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6. Re: Wondering about things

Thanks folks for your input.

I have been looking for a specialist operator, and will look at those suggested here, because when I looked at one, admittedly I think predominantly road based, their web site put me off as it looked like they mostly did day trips, even though they had so many recommendations on this site I half-heartly wondered who they were paying. The prices I have been looking at have varied enormously, so I am not sure a custom tour will in fact be more expensive. Some claim "escorted" tours but my very first thought about that is you would still need a local guide. No one can know all parks intimately, surely?

A last point, is it common to share radio "tips" here between guides on game drives? I know this is done in all the private camps in RSA, and even occasionally between competing lodges, but in the public parks I visited in Botswana that never happened. getting feedback on where certain elusive game has been spotted vastly improves your experience. So, if this does occur, how do I find out which lodges/camps will offer this?

Geoff

Mombasa, Kenya
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607 posts
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7. Re: Wondering about things

Geoff,

There are different level of safari you can book - all depends on your budget and expectations.

There is what is called en elite group of safari guides who take their clients on safari personally - they specialise in various parks and they do know them intimately - usually they would have many years of working in some lodges or parks and then they start their own business, and usually they have a small association as they "share" their clients based on the speciality of a particular guide. These people deal with so called A-list clients and are usually book their personalised safaris with their clients well in advance. This is very expensive but you get top notch safari experience, amazing insight and stay in the most amazing places, etc.

There are safaris with your own guide provided by the tour operator, this is more to do with a road safari whereby you have a guide for the entirety of your trip. These guys are knowledgable to an extend as they go on safari regularly and are experienced, they have reasonable knowledge, but they are often not specialists. Some are better than others, of course.

If you take a game drive from the camp/lodge, you get a guide-driver or a driver and a guide. These guides usually have very good knowledge as they specialise in a particular park or conservancy. One has to qualify to become a safari guide and if the lodge/camp takes it seriously they would definitely have really good guys who can track animals, etc.

Sadly in my personal opinion, but I guess good for visitors, radio communication is wide spread in Kenya parks. For me personally half the fun of a safari is to find an animal yourself rather than drive from location to location to see somebody without actually looking for them. But I understand the difference: we live here and go on safari regularly, tourist come here, for some it is once in a lifetime experience, so the more they see the better. So yes, radio communication is there.

In your case I think it will be better to look for specialist who put together tailor made safaris, usually these are smaller companies as bigger once specialise more on group safaris with set itineraries. You also are not tied up to any company in Australia or Kenya, look broader - these day and age this business is global and it does not matter where your consultant actually sits as long as they have knowledge and specialise in East Africa.

Larissa

Tijara Beach Hotel

australia
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366 posts
30 reviews
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8. Re: Wondering about things

Hi

We are going on a safari in two days! Very excited

We have been dealing with Fred at east Africa adventure tours, I contacted three or four and he was the most helpful n great prices.

His website is average, so I just email with what we where looking for. Ended up flying to Masai n as everyone says-very good prices

I will let you know when we finish. But so far I am very impressed plus he answers emails very quick. Something I find rare lol

Good luck

nyc
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15,035 posts
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9. Re: Wondering about things

Let me suggest an excellent tour outfitter, located in Nairobi with wide knowledge and years of experience of travel in both Kenya and Tanzania,

The Safari Company - www.thesafaricoltd.com

... has excellent prices for accommodations at all budgets and where you can combine both driving and flying.

Good luck!

Sydney, Australia
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41 posts
203 reviews
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10. Re: Wondering about things

A friend who was in Tanzania last year, and Kenya, indicates that the roads in Tanzania are good enough to drive around, but that he would have preferred to fly in Kenya.

He also felt the vehicles he had in Kenya were what he called "Toyota troop carriers" and there was no forward visibility, as the passengers are seated higher than the driver. I wonder if this is a common issue? Obviously its only an issue when actually travelling. But you can be doing that for many hours on end.

Thanks for the additional suggestions, its coming together slowly, I am almost ready to ask for some prices.

Geoff C

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