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col4bin
12th of February 2010 (Fri), 14:45
I am in the beginning stages of planning an African Safari. Can someone recommend some safari operators? Google brings up a lot of hits however nothing beats first hand experience. Thanks in advance.

matman1975
12th of February 2010 (Fri), 18:14
Hello from Greece,

I could recommend you excellent and reasonably priced tour operators in Kenya and Tanzania in case those two countries seem interesting to you (well they should be:D)

Regards
Teo

col4bin
12th of February 2010 (Fri), 18:27
Teo...that would be great. Thanks.

matman1975
13th of February 2010 (Sat), 04:55
Ok lets get started with Kenya
I have used twice in the past a tour operator called "As you like it safaris"
www.asyoulikeitsafaris.com (http://www.asyoulikeitsafaris.com)
The owner is an American lady named Vivien Prince. This is a small, family style company with few vehicles and drivers but their services are top. Your itinerary will be executed with precision and care. This tour company even runs it's own permanant tented camp in Masai Mara (Nyumbu camp).
I have used this company during my two previous safaris in Kenya (August 2008, August 2009) and can surely highly recommend them.
There is also another tour company in Kenya which I have used and also highly recommend. It is called "Wilderness Photo Safaris"
www.wildernessphotosafaris.com (http://www.wildernessphotosafaris.com)
This is a small, family style company as well.
The owner is a middle aged Kenyan, called Gabriel....this guy is passionate about wildlife photography. If his client is a wildlife photographer (amateur or pro) he will not send one of his guide drivers but will be the guide-driver himself..just to join the photographer!!! This guy knows about photography and is very experienced as a guide driver doing this job for almost 30 years!!
Now a few words about Tanzania.
I have visited Tanzania only once (July 2007) and used a tour operator called "Base Camp Tanzania"
www.basecamptanzania.com (http://www.basecamptanzania.com)
Again this is a small, family style company with excellent services.
The owner is a Britton, called Achmed Philips.
This company specializes in itineraries which include the famous northern circuit of Tanzania, such as lake Manyara, Tarangire, Ngorongoro and of course the Serengeti.
You can't go wrong with this company either... my itinerary back in July 2007 was quite difficult with many transportations and use of various camps (mobile and permanant) as well as lodges and they managed to arrange everything with precision and perfection.
As long as you decide which country you will finally visit I could help you (based on my personal experience all these years) "design" your itinerary, choose the right national parks and reserves, choose the right lodges and camps in order to maximize this unique safari experience.
I'm a professional wildlife photographer and travel every year in Africa ;)

Regards
Theodore Mattas

col4bin
14th of February 2010 (Sun), 10:52
Thanks Teo. I am just now starting to plan my trip. What is the best time to visit Kenya and/or Tanzania? Given their proximity to the equator, I would think that temperatures are fairly consistent throughout the year.

matman1975
14th of February 2010 (Sun), 13:20
Thanks Teo. I am just now starting to plan my trip. What is the best time to visit Kenya and/or Tanzania? Given their proximity to the equator, I would think that temperatures are fairly consistent throughout the year.

The best time to visit Kenya is mid to late August-September, cause this is the time when massive herds of wildebeest and zebras cross the Mara river in Masai Mara national reserve.
It is THE most spectacular nature sight on earth. Although this event has been filmed numerous times in wildlife documentary films the thrill of seeing it with your own eyes can't be described!!
The best time to visit Tanzania is either February or late June-July.
If you visit Tanzania in February you will probably witness the unbelievable massive wildebeest births...thousands of wildebeest calphs being born in just a few weeks, predators ( mainly cheetahs) attacking constantly, trying to take advantage of the situation and gain an easy, literally free meal.
If you choose July you will witness the biggest animal gathering on earth in Serengeti (almost 2.000.000 wildebeest and 300.000 zebras) en route to Kenya and Masai Mara...a truly jaw-dropping sight!
As you can see the choises are plenty...whatever you choose will change the way you see the world....I can promise you that;)

col4bin
14th of February 2010 (Sun), 13:39
Thanks. From what you said, it sounds like best times to visit each country do not coincide. I am leaning towards Kenya for my first trip and thinking about going for 2 weeks. I would like to get a little beach time after the safari portion.

Riaan van Wyk
16th of February 2010 (Tue), 14:58
I am in the beginning stages of planning an African Safari. Can someone recommend some safari operators? Google brings up a lot of hits however nothing beats first hand experience. Thanks in advance.

Col, hi.."African Safari" is a bit general perhaps? It is a large continent:) I could maybe help if South Africa is part of the idea?

col4bin
16th of February 2010 (Tue), 15:13
Hello Riaan van Wyk....

After doing some additional research, I am leaning towards South Africa. Botswana seem like an interesting place to go. I want to avoid the mass budget tourism market. I am not high society by any stretch of the imagination but I like to travel away from where most tourists go.

Riaan van Wyk
17th of February 2010 (Wed), 13:20
Hello Riaan van Wyk....

After doing some additional research, I am leaning towards South Africa. Botswana seem like an interesting place to go. I want to avoid the mass budget tourism market. I am not high society by any stretch of the imagination but I like to travel away from where most tourists go.

South Africa and Botswana are two different countries Col..Sorry can't help with Botswana, just to get to the border is 13 hours drive from where I live :) I could make some enquiries though if you want.

col4bin
17th of February 2010 (Wed), 13:44
South Africa and Botswana are two different countries Col..Sorry can't help with Botswana, just to get to the border is 13 hours drive from where I live :) I could make some enquiries though if you want.

Thanks. I am currently working with 2 booking agents to see who gets better pricing..

go2africa.com (based in Cape Town)

ultimateafrica.com (based in Seattle, WA, USA)

They both seem to be reputable (and I know someone that has uses go2africa).

aryaah
20th of February 2010 (Sat), 14:20
Singita Game Reserves
www.singita.com

Very personalized, private game reserves, and excellent lodges with all the amenities/support you need. I have been to several of their reserves in Tanzania and South Africa last year and it was a photographer's dream. The staff and guides could not do enough for you. The reserves are private and the total number of guests are less than 32 for the entire lodge (usually less.) There were three of us with a tracker and guide the majority of the time during our excursions. There are no other people unless you travel to the Serengeti National Park for example.

Their web site is very helpful.

Larry

col4bin
20th of February 2010 (Sat), 14:36
As I continue to research, I am getting more and more confused. I am also looking at Tanzania and going on a photography specific trip. I have been looking at Thomson Safaris and attending an Andy Biggs workshop.

riyazi
4th of March 2010 (Thu), 04:44
Having decided to do some wildlife photography safari tours this April, we planned on going to Kenya. The info from matman is very useful (thanks) but it seems April is not a good time to go for wildlife? Can you please confirm matman? I know April is quite short notice.

robloeffel
4th of March 2010 (Thu), 05:20
We did a 2 week tour through S. Africa with go2Africa (2 safaris, Cape Town, Garden Route, Wine Country). Great service! We had a complaint about one leg of the trip (not their fault) and they reimbursed us for that day.

matman1975
6th of March 2010 (Sat), 01:25
Having decided to do some wildlife photography safari tours this April, we planned on going to Kenya. The info from matman is very useful (thanks) but it seems April is not a good time to go for wildlife? Can you please confirm matman? I know April is quite short notice.

April is not the ideal month to visit Kenya, cause wou will probably be there during heavy rainfalls.
The period from February to early June is called "wet season" it is quite cheaper but....mud will be present everywhere, making game drives very difficult and photography not very comfortable since you have little chances to take your shots under the glorious African sun!
The last two years due to extensive drought there was no "wet season" which pressed wildlife to it's limits but this year seems to be normal again.
If April is your only choise..... go for it. The massive herbivore herds will normally be in southern Serengeti at that time (following their annual migration journey) but the 'local" wildlife will still be enough to dazzle you!!

riyazi
6th of March 2010 (Sat), 03:15
Thanks for the reply Matman

We are hoping to see the Big Five animals - is there less of a chance of seeing them during April? And if it is raining there now this will limit wildlife viewing and indeed getting out of rooms? I believe it is heavy rainfalls rather than light drizzles!

Our other choice would be to go during August but I hear the crowds are terrible at that time and this again limits wildlife viewing as well as push up costs quite a bit

matman1975
6th of March 2010 (Sat), 06:43
Thanks for the reply Matman

We are hoping to see the Big Five animals - is there less of a chance of seeing them during April? And if it is raining there now this will limit wildlife viewing and indeed getting out of rooms? I believe it is heavy rainfalls rather than light drizzles!

Our other choice would be to go during August but I hear the crowds are terrible at that time and this again limits wildlife viewing as well as push up costs quite a bit

The only reason not to choose August is the final cost which during dry season is alsmost 25% higher.
Beside this..yes crowds are there BUT not enough to ruin your safari. Even Masai Mara which is quite small in comparison with the majority of African reserves and national parks is big enough to give you a lot of "private moments" with the animals.
If you choose August you've got serious chances witnessing the Mara river crossing which is a sight NEVER to be forgotten. Grass during dry season is yellow and short leaving no space for the animals to hide.
Grass during April is green and high, providing good cover for predators, making this way your photography task much harder.
Now a few things about the big five....Lion, Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo sightings are 100% guaranteed, cheetah sightings guaranteed as well...the only "problem" is the elusive Leopard.
You need at least a full week in the bush in order to have good chances seeing the spotted prince.
If you stay only for 2-3 days the chances are very slim (although sometimes with extreme luck you may see your first leopard the very first 10 minutes of your first game drive...who knows?).
You maximize your chances by spending a couple of days in a lodge or camp located at the eastern part of Masai Mara...( Masai Mara is splitted in half by Mara river...the western part called "Mara triangle" consists strickly of plains which is the cheetah's paradise but not a leopard's habitat. The eastern part is full of accacia trees, rocks ect which are typical leopard habitat!
DO NOT skip "Lake Nakuru" from your itinerary. This is probably the best place on earth for birdwatchers and also literally guarantees Rhino sightings. Lions are present in big numbers but quite difficult to spot cause they prefer to stay hidden inside the forest. If you are lucky enough to see a leopard in Nakuru...the chances of getting the photograph of a lifetime are pretty high....why???.....because Nakuru national park is a thick forest close to the lake with trees which have tree barks with a strange yellow-reddish color combined with vivid green leves at the top. If you have the luck to take a shot of leopard resting in such a tree...colors will be dazzling!!!! (yellow leopard in a tree with yellow-reddish bark and vivid green leaves)
The fact that the forest canopy is very thick guarantees the absence of the sky in your frame which most of the times
"ruins" the color combination of a leopard shot (this is a typical problem in places like Masai Mara and Serengeti...where leopards are mainly seen in isolated trees!!)

Regards
Teo

AdamJL
6th of March 2010 (Sat), 07:13
The next safari I go on, I'm going on a SELF DRIVE tour of the Serengeti.

Yes.. you can really do it.

Best idea ever
http://www.safaridrive.com/index.htm

matman1975
6th of March 2010 (Sat), 18:45
The next safari I go on, I'm going on a SELF DRIVE tour of the Serengeti.

Yes.. you can really do it.

Best idea ever
http://www.safaridrive.com/index.htm

This is not the smartest thing to do!
Serengeti is a huge place (It is the size of Wales!) where an inexperienced driver can easily be lost...even if you don't get lost you minimize the chances of seeing predators. Most of the times lions, cheetahs (and mainly leopards) take cover and only the experienced eye of a professional guide-driver can reveal them! By driving your own vehicle you are not in a position to spot the animals the same time!

AdamJL
6th of March 2010 (Sat), 18:52
pffft whatever. Best idea ever, statement stands!

riyazi
7th of March 2010 (Sun), 08:08
Thanks a lot for that Teo - much appreciated. We are going to try and go in April and hope for the best that it doesn't pour and that we see some animals. August seems out of the question now due to other commitments. Understood about the sightings - sometimes its just luck - learnt that the hard way when we went on Leopard Safari down in Sri Lanka.

Adam - have to agree with Teo - unless someone is experienced and knowledgeable about the area, it might be better to go with a guide. Some guides can be annoying and the freedom of driving on your own is great, but if you want to take some good shots and want to find those elusive places where animals reside which only experienced guides will know, then self drive might not be a great option

col4bin
7th of March 2010 (Sun), 10:17
Has anyone traveled with Unique Safaris in Tanzania?

riyazi
12th of March 2010 (Fri), 03:14
Hi Teo

I hope I can pick your brains a bit more about costs, accommodation and travelling. We have decided to go in April and looking at some tour operators. Got a few itineraries and costs on which I hope you can advise on. We have been told that due to it being the rainy season that we should try to get 4X4 vehicles instead of mini vans and to stay in the lodges rather than camps - is this correct? The following costs reflect this.

Itinerary in brief:
Day 1: Arrival in Nairobi - at Sarova Panafric Hotel
Day 2: Nairobi – Tsavo West National Park - Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge
Day 3: Full day at Tsavo West National Park - Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge
Day 4: Tsavo West National Park – Amboseli National Park - Amboseli Sentrim
Day 5: Amboseli National Park – Nairobi – Lake Nakuru National Park - Sarova Lion Hill Lodge
Day 6: Full day at Lake Nakuru National Park - Sarova Lion Hill Lodge
Day 7: Lake Nakuru National Park – Masai Mara Game Reserve Day - Ilkeliani Tented Camp
8: Masai Mara Game Reserve Day - Ilkeliani Tented Camp
9: Masai Mara Game Reserve Day - Ilkeliani Tented Camp
10: Masai Mara Game Reserve Day - Ilkeliani Tented Camp
11: Masai Mara Game Reserve – Nairobi

Cost - 2,370 per person on double sharing.

We thought the above was a bit expensive and got another quote for this (http://migrationkenyasafaris.com/pages/Kenya%20Safaris/11_maasai_nakuru_samburu.html) with the following amendments
1. Drop Tsavo East as it is same as Tsavo West with same ecological system
2. Addition of Lake Baringo in to itinerary
3. Stay in a budget hotel while in Lake Nakuru and Lake Baringo
4. Stay at semi permanent lodge in the Masai Mara.
5. Retain the 4x4 with a pop up roof because of the rainy season and
comfort ability as you take the pictures

Cost quoted is US$ 4,650 for both

Are these reasonable prices? Do you know of any place where I can get cheaper rates for the above or similar packages.

Any help will be much appreciated.

Thanks

matman1975
12th of March 2010 (Fri), 10:58
Hi again,

Yes they are right about the 4X4 vehicle and the tented camps. If it rains a lot (which is normal in April), mud will conquer everything making game drives with mini-buses a nightmare...in fact a heavy rainstrom will make things difficult even for the strongest 4X4. Tented camps are not ideal during the rainy season for the same reason...mud!
Now a few words about your itinerary. If this itinerary you posted is a private one (only you and your wife in the vehicle), then the price is ok....if not (other people present in your vehicle as well) then it is expensive.
I have no previous experience regarding Amboseli and Tsavo. Till now I have visited many times Masai Mara, lake Nakuru and Samburu...Amboseli is a future targer due to the fact that you can take there scenic photos of wild animals with mountain Kilimanjaro in the background.
My advice for you is to try minimize transportations from national park to national park. Choose only a couple of national parks (it is not wise to try cover all of Kenya in just 10 days) and maximize your time in the bush NOT in the dusty roads en route to the national parks.
In my first posts I have already recommended a couple of other tour operators in Kenya...why don't you give them a call and take price quote from them as well? You've got nothing to lose!

Regards
Teo

riyazi
12th of March 2010 (Fri), 11:21
Thanks for replying Teo. I got another itinerary which included Sambura, Lake Bongoria as well as the above!!! That would been really hectic. The tour is only for my wife and me. I didnt realise that you had posted websites - I sent inquiries to both of them - thank you very much for that. But based on the price on one of those sites, my quote above seems reasonable.

Will keep you updated.

Thanks again

riyazi
18th of March 2010 (Thu), 06:16
Thanks for all the help and advice Teo. Of your 2 recommendations I think we are going for Wilderness one even though they are a bit more expensive (but private safarri). I have the itinerary below - do you think that is ok? We have limited to just 3 parks even though we would like to go to Amboseli and Tsavo, we feel we might stretch ourselves a bit too much if we do. Can you comment on the places we are to stay - whether they are any good?

Wilderness 1 (10 days)

Day 1 Samburu Samburu Lodge
Day 2 Samburu Samburu Lodge
day 3 Samburu Samburu Lodge
Day 4 Nakuru Nakuru Lodge
Day 5 Nakuru Nakuru Lodge
Day 6 Masai Mara Keekorok Lodge
Day 7 Masai Mara Keekorok Lodge
Day 8 Masai Mara Mara Serena Lodge
Day 9 Masai Mara Mara Serena Lodge
Day 10 Nairobi

Thanks

hollis_f
18th of March 2010 (Thu), 11:21
Thanks for all the help and advice Teo. Of your 2 recommendations I think we are going for Wilderness one even though they are a bit more expensive (but private safarri). I have the itinerary below - do you think that is ok? We have limited to just 3 parks even though we would like to go to Amboseli and Tsavo, we feel we might stretch ourselves a bit too much if we do. Can you comment on the places we are to stay - whether they are any good?

That looks very nice. We stayed in two of those places - Samburu and Keekorok - when we went there in Spetember 2007. Instead of staying at Lake Nakuru we opted for Naivasha - but I'm not sure if the difference is that great.

You can read about our experiences on Didi's trip report - Link (http://www.didiphoto.co.uk/OUTnABOUT/AFRICA/2007-09-Kenya/KenyaTravelLog.shtml).

riyazi
19th of March 2010 (Fri), 01:20
Thanks a lot Frank - very interesting

matman1975
19th of March 2010 (Fri), 07:45
Thanks for all the help and advice Teo. Of your 2 recommendations I think we are going for Wilderness one even though they are a bit more expensive (but private safarri). I have the itinerary below - do you think that is ok? We have limited to just 3 parks even though we would like to go to Amboseli and Tsavo, we feel we might stretch ourselves a bit too much if we do. Can you comment on the places we are to stay - whether they are any good?

Wilderness 1 (10 days)

Day 1 Samburu Samburu Lodge
Day 2 Samburu Samburu Lodge
day 3 Samburu Samburu Lodge
Day 4 Nakuru Nakuru Lodge
Day 5 Nakuru Nakuru Lodge
Day 6 Masai Mara Keekorok Lodge
Day 7 Masai Mara Keekorok Lodge
Day 8 Masai Mara Mara Serena Lodge
Day 9 Masai Mara Mara Serena Lodge
Day 10 Nairobi

Thanks

Your itinerary is excellent and the lodges chosen perfect as well.
The only change I would do is to remove one day from Samburu and add it either to Keekorok lodge or Mara Serena lodge.
Two days in Samburu are enough for you to scan the whole Samburu park (this is a very small park almost 130sq km).
Masai Mara in the other hand is 10 times bigger (1500 sq km) so 5 days over there is the minimum required!
Above all give my best regards to Gabriel, who as I can guess will be your guide-driver. As I stated earlier he is very passionate with wildlife photography and all these years I travel to east Africa I consider him as one of the best (if not the best) guide-drivers I had.
In any case prepare yourself for an experience that will change you as a person...Africa is a truly magic place!

Regards
Teo

matman1975
19th of March 2010 (Fri), 07:54
That looks very nice. We stayed in two of those places - Samburu and Keekorok - when we went there in Spetember 2007. Instead of staying at Lake Nakuru we opted for Naivasha - but I'm not sure if the difference is that great.

You can read about our experiences on Didi's trip report - Link (http://www.didiphoto.co.uk/OUTnABOUT/AFRICA/2007-09-Kenya/KenyaTravelLog.shtml).

The difference between Naivasha and Nakuru is there to be seen! Naivasha is a small lake which offers the ability to rent a small boat and do a game drive in the lake....this gives you the advantage of taking great Hippo shots from a relatively close distance.
Nakuru in the other hand has been declared by UNESCO as the number 1 bird sanctuary worldwide and offers EVERYTHING....over 600 bird species, all short of predators (except cheetahs?) black and white Rhinos in sufficient numbers as well!
Nakuru is a must during a visit in Kenya!

hollis_f
19th of March 2010 (Fri), 08:33
The difference between Naivasha and Nakuru is there to be seen! Naivasha is a small lake which offers the ability to rent a small boat and do a game drive in the lake....this gives you the advantage of taking great Hippo shots from a relatively close distance.

Yup, it was the boat trip that was the clincher. I've found on previous trips that the birds, in particular, will totally ignore a boat drifting alongside. This means you can get really close - and you get never be too close when trying to shoot birds.

riyazi
19th of March 2010 (Fri), 10:54
Thanks for the reply Teo

I am still waiting for Gabriel to get back to me on a few questions and while waiting I got a couple of more quotes / itineraries which seem promising

From Vivien at As You like It
Day 1 Lake Naviasha
Day 2 Nakuru Nakuru Lodge
Day 3 Nakuru Nakuru Lodge
day 4 Masai Mara Nyumbu Camp
Day 5 Masai Mara Nyumbu Camp
Day 6 Masai Mara Mara Serena Lodge
Day 7 Masai Mara Mara Serena Lodge
Day 8 Nairobi Comfort Hotel
Day 9 Amboseli Amboseli Serena
Day 10 Amboseli Amboseli Serena
Day 11 Nairobi

We are landing in Nairobi at 6:15AM so I have asked Vivien to amend it so that we do Naviasa and then go on to Nakuru on Day 1 itself - this will reduce the tour by a day (and hopefully the cost) or allow us to add on another day at Masai Mara as suggested by Teo

The other one is by Kenyan Adventures & Beyond - they have been highly recommended on Tripadvisor - not sure about how good they are for accommodating photographers but a few people have said that they are good.

Day 1 Sweet Waters Sweet Waters Lodge
Day 2 Lake Nakuru Flamingo Hill
Day 3 Lake Nakuru Flamingo Hill
day 4 Masai Mara Mara Leisure Camp
Day 5 Masai Mara Mara Leisure Camp
Day 6 Masai Mara Royal Mara
Day 7 Masai Mara Royal Mara
Day 8 Naviasha
Day 9 Ambsoeli Kibo Camp
Day 10 Ambsoeli Kibo Camp
Day 11 Nairobi

I am not sure whether a trip to Sweet Waters is worth it cos it increases our travelling time considerably. I rather prefer taking that out and including Naviasha to Day 1 as per the above schedule.

Both these exclude Samburu as both of them say that it is flooded - though Gabriel said that Samburu lodge is operational. We would really like to go to Samburu but wondering whether it will be worthwhile with all the flooding. The new itineraries seem to give a better range with least travelling. Maybe do Samburu later on?

What do you guys think of these new itineraries and accommodation places?

Thanks for continuing to answer my questions

matman1975
19th of March 2010 (Fri), 13:48
Thanks for the reply Teo

I am still waiting for Gabriel to get back to me on a few questions and while waiting I got a couple of more quotes / itineraries which seem promising

From Vivien at As You like It
Day 1 Lake Naviasha
Day 2 Nakuru Nakuru Lodge
Day 3 Nakuru Nakuru Lodge
day 4 Masai Mara Nyumbu Camp
Day 5 Masai Mara Nyumbu Camp
Day 6 Masai Mara Mara Serena Lodge
Day 7 Masai Mara Mara Serena Lodge
Day 8 Nairobi Comfort Hotel
Day 9 Amboseli Amboseli Serena
Day 10 Amboseli Amboseli Serena
Day 11 Nairobi

We are landing in Nairobi at 6:15AM so I have asked Vivien to amend it so that we do Naviasa and then go on to Nakuru on Day 1 itself - this will reduce the tour by a day (and hopefully the cost) or allow us to add on another day at Masai Mara as suggested by Teo

The other one is by Kenyan Adventures & Beyond - they have been highly recommended on Tripadvisor - not sure about how good they are for accommodating photographers but a few people have said that they are good.

Day 1 Sweet Waters Sweet Waters Lodge
Day 2 Lake Nakuru Flamingo Hill
Day 3 Lake Nakuru Flamingo Hill
day 4 Masai Mara Mara Leisure Camp
Day 5 Masai Mara Mara Leisure Camp
Day 6 Masai Mara Royal Mara
Day 7 Masai Mara Royal Mara
Day 8 Naviasha
Day 9 Ambsoeli Kibo Camp
Day 10 Ambsoeli Kibo Camp
Day 11 Nairobi

I am not sure whether a trip to Sweet Waters is worth it cos it increases our travelling time considerably. I rather prefer taking that out and including Naviasha to Day 1 as per the above schedule.

Both these exclude Samburu as both of them say that it is flooded - though Gabriel said that Samburu lodge is operational. We would really like to go to Samburu but wondering whether it will be worthwhile with all the flooding. The new itineraries seem to give a better range with least travelling. Maybe do Samburu later on?

What do you guys think of these new itineraries and accommodation places?

Thanks for continuing to answer my questions

Samburu flooded????? Well these are incredible news!! Samburu suffered a severe drought the past 3 years....herbivores simply dying due to complete lack of grass....elephants in particular were in very crirical condition as they need huge amount of grass and water in daily basis!
I'm so happy to hear that at last Samburu is recovering:D
Skip Samburu (due to the flood, game drives will be a nightmare) and focus on Nakuru, Masai Mara and perhaps Amboseli...(only if you have enough time). Amboseli lies south, far away from Nakuru and Masai Mara.
I have used twice in the past Nyumbu camp in Masai Mara. It lies in a strategic place east of Mara river and game density in the area was beyond any description. I particularly remember that sleeping during the night was an issue as wildebeest and zebras were passing near the camp for 2 days and nights!!!!

hollis_f
19th of March 2010 (Fri), 14:46
Samburu flooded?????

Forgot about that. It made the BBC news (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8550840.stm) - helicopters having to rescue people from the camp.

riyazi
20th of March 2010 (Sat), 01:55
Wow - having to be airlifted and 4x4 being swept away by the floods must have been a (terrible) experience. Yes - it seems like this year are more than the last couple of years - which is good for the animals but not much for us! Anyway hope it doesnt rain too much when we are there.

Thanks for the input Theo (BTW - Viviene sends her best regards to your wife and yourself) - Gabriel confirmed that they had started doing safaris in Samburu now but I am a bit concerned about travelling in there so I think I will give Samburu and sweetwater a miss (this time) and do only Naviasha, Nakuru, Masai Maara and Amboseli. Waiting for a few more clarifications from Vivien and Gabriel

Thanks for all the help guys

riyazi
21st of March 2010 (Sun), 23:58
For those planning a safari, this link (http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/Safari-Tips.shtml) has some good info about what stuff to take. A little old but good article nonetheless

I am in a bit unsure of taking a few items so would like some advice from the experienced guys

1) Storage - Already have 2nos 4GB CF cards and 1 2GB CF card and am going to buy an 8GB Extreme IV and 4GB Extreme III cards as well. These are going to be shared between 2 cameras (40D and 5DMKII). Also have a CF Card backup device with about 60GB storage. Would all that be enough for 11 days?
2) Batteries - considering whether I should get a Canon or 3rd party 2nd battery for the 5DMKII - From current usage, I am sure the LP-E6 battery will last me a couple of days even with extensive shooting but just want to make sure I have a backup just in case. 40D already has 2 batteries
3) Laptop - I normally like to look download the pics on to the laptop to view/edit them - but maybe taking one on safari is not advisable because of weight/security issues? It would be a good way to get online as well but I am thinking lodges down in Masai Mara don't have wireless internet :D
4) Tripod, monopod or both? According to what I have read a tripod is going to be not very useful because most of the safari will be in a vehicle.
5) Macro lens and macro flash - would there be any point?

hollis_f
22nd of March 2010 (Mon), 12:51
1) Storage - Already have 2nos 4GB CF cards and 1 2GB CF card and am going to buy an 8GB Extreme IV and 4GB Extreme III cards as well. These are going to be shared between 2 cameras (40D and 5DMKII). Also have a CF Card backup device with about 60GB storage. Would all that be enough for 11 days?

Probably not, especially if you're shooting raw. And you really do want to shoot raw. I've been processing my safari pics from past trips. All shot in raw apart from the first one in 2005. It breaks my heart to think how much better some of those shots could be if I hadn't thrown all those bits away into the Kalahari sands.

I use a Hyperdrive Colorspace with a 320GB drive. It's fast and has very good battery life. Last time I shot around 60GB - and that was with a 50D.

2) Batteries - considering whether I should get a Canon or 3rd party 2nd battery for the 5DMKII - From current usage, I am sure the LP-E6 battery will last me a couple of days even with extensive shooting but just want to make sure I have a backup just in case. 40D already has 2 batteries

I'd get another Canon battery for the 5D MKII (what happens if the one you've got dies/drops in a river?) I'd also get another 3rd party one for the 40D as they're so cheap.

3) Laptop - I normally like to look download the pics on to the laptop to view/edit them - but maybe taking one on safari is not advisable because of weight/security issues? It would be a good way to get online as well but I am thinking lodges down in Masai Mara don't have wireless internet :D

WiFi not common. Last time I took a netbook. Small, long battery life (8 hours), 160 GB for backup (as well as the Hyperdrive - belt and braces), lighter than a proper lappy with a screen good enough to give a decent slideshow using FastStone image viewer.

4) Tripod, monopod or both? According to what I have read a tripod is going to be not very useful because most of the safari will be in a vehicle.

Taken both in the past. Rarely used them. I prefer to shoot handheld most of the time anyway. Next time I'll be taking my new, ultra-light, monopod.

5) Macro lens and macro flash - would there be any point?

Never felt a need for one. Definitely wouldn't take either. Might think about taking some extension tubes for macro stuff next time.

riyazi
23rd of March 2010 (Tue), 17:13
Thanks Frank

I was worried about the storage especially since my CF backup plays up sometimes - your hyperdrive solution looks really good - will look in to that

Battery - after considering a long time whether to get an original LP-E6 or 3rd party, I went for the 3rd party

Tripod - got some advice from Theo as well who says the tripod might come in use in some instance like in Nakuru where we might be able to get down at places.

Macro - leaving the lens but will pack the extension tube

Thanks guys for all the help and advice. Will give an update once I come back. Just about 10 days more to go till departure date :D

col4bin
23rd of March 2010 (Tue), 17:17
I second a hyperdrive. I use one whenever I don't travel with a laptop. If you do decide to get a hyperdive, get the empty case and buy the hard drive someplace else. It is much cheaper this way. I saved a lot of money going that route. I have a 320gb HD and have never come close to filling it and I put video and my wifes pictures on it.

When we go to Africa I will not bring a laptop.

Have a great trip.

hollis_f
24th of March 2010 (Wed), 05:17
Thanks guys for all the help and advice. Will give an update once I come back. Just about 10 days more to go till departure date :D

Hope you have a great time. If you're like most people you'll be planning your next trip while on the way home from this one. I'm very envious, I've got to wait until September before I go back.

col4bin
24th of March 2010 (Wed), 09:23
Hope you have a great time. If you're like most people you'll be planning your next trip while on the way home from this one. I'm very envious, I've got to wait until September before I go back.

I have to wait until September too....September 2011.

InternetJunky
14th of April 2010 (Wed), 10:15
There is some great info in this thread, and I wanted to say thanks even though I'm not the OP.

I'm curious as to how easy it is to bring along a 500mm or 600mm on a trip such as this. I have gone on some trips in Peru's rainforest and mountains where bringing along such a lens would have been a nightmare, even if it means I missed some great pictures. I would think the same applies here, especially if you opt for some of these mountain journeys.

Is it safe to leave equipment behind if needed?

huntersdad
14th of April 2010 (Wed), 14:20
I'm going to back InternetJunky here. Thanks to all for providing some valuable information. This is a trip that I am looking forward to.

matman1975
24th of April 2010 (Sat), 16:28
There is some great info in this thread, and I wanted to say thanks even though I'm not the OP.

I'm curious as to how easy it is to bring along a 500mm or 600mm on a trip such as this. I have gone on some trips in Peru's rainforest and mountains where bringing along such a lens would have been a nightmare, even if it means I missed some great pictures. I would think the same applies here, especially if you opt for some of these mountain journeys.

Is it safe to leave equipment behind if needed?

Owning a 500mm f/4 L or a 600mm f/4 L super tele and not bringing it in Africa is a major, huge, unbelievable crime....and the photographer who does it should be arrested immediately:cool:.
These lenses were made in first place with the african plains in mind, so please leave your spare clothes behind to make room.....BUT don't you ever think of traveling over there without such a lens!

riyazi
26th of April 2010 (Mon), 03:27
Well I am back - after a 2 week safari and 5 days stuck in Nairobi because of volcano/flight cancellations!!!! Word of advice - never, ever, ever, ever take Kenya Airways - they are truly the worst airline in terms of customer service and passenger welfare. Not blaming them for the volcano and airport closures which was not their fault - they just couldn't be bothered helping passengers and even their flights (both going in and out) were terrible!

Have to agree that this thread was very useful and special thanks to Theo (matman1975) and Frank (hollis_f) for answering all my questions. We had a wonderful time being able to see lots of lions (including lions with a hippo kill), elephants, rhinos, cheetahs and various other wildlife and birds. Only disappointment was not being able to get a good glimpse of the Leopard - we were only able to see the tail of one hidden in a tree!

Anyway, our safari operator - As You Like It Safaris - was great! Everything was planned to every little detail and Vivien Price was a great help especially during the time we were stranded. The vehicle and driver/guide were fantastic as well. Have no problem recommending their services to anyone interested in organising a trip out to Kenya.

InternetJunky - I carried a 150-500mm lens and as Theo says - it would be an absolute crime not to take a lens like that on Safari in Kenya - its almost essential. Are you concerned about the weight / carrying the lens around or about leaving it in the hotel room? Since most of the safari will be done with a vehicle, you would have no problem with regards to weight etc. If I am not mistaken, your trip to Peru would have involved a lot of hiking (which is why you are concerned about the lens)? There wont be any hiking or walks as you can only use vehicles to travel in the parks.

InternetJunky
26th of April 2010 (Mon), 10:51
InternetJunky - I carried a 150-500mm lens and as Theo says - it would be an absolute crime not to take a lens like that on Safari in Kenya - its almost essential. Are you concerned about the weight / carrying the lens around or about leaving it in the hotel room? Since most of the safari will be done with a vehicle, you would have no problem with regards to weight etc. If I am not mistaken, your trip to Peru would have involved a lot of hiking (which is why you are concerned about the lens)? There wont be any hiking or walks as you can only use vehicles to travel in the parks.
A lot of the African tours I was looking at seemed to include some hiking to Mount Kenya or Kilimanjaro, but if it's at all like the hiking I did in Peru then I think the heavy big lenses would just be too much. On safari in the vehicles I'm sure they're not an issue. Is there a safe place to store the lenses if you're going out and not bringing them for some portion of a trip?

This thread has got me excited and planning my own trip now. :)

riyazi
26th of April 2010 (Mon), 11:05
Ah I see - I have heard about the hiking to Mt Kenya, in which case the lens would be a problem. A safe place would depend on where you stay - if it is in tented accommodation (not camp sites) then it will not be safe as the tents (for obvious reasons) are not secure. But if staying at mid range lodges (like Serena lodges) then leaving the lens in the room would be quite safe. Also, if you are doing a hike as part of a tour organised by someone, you can ask the tour operator (or even driver who might not accompany you on the hike) to hold it for you during the hike portion of the trip

Andrushka
26th of April 2010 (Mon), 11:06
quick advice - fly KLM (connect thru AMS) than fly straight to Kilimanjaro (JRO).

Safari to Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara - you will have the chance to see all of the "Big 5" and its not a horrifically long drive once you leave the airport on a recently paved (foreign sponsored) road.

I know a guy named Wilson who is the best guide and all around legit person (a really find in East Africa!) Ive been to his house, met his fam & driven all over creation with him. PM if you want his contact info.

I have another lady who I and my fam have worked with repeatedly over the last 6 or so years who hooks up tour packages, but i dont have her site info off hand (even though i helped set it up :-) let me try to find it.


EDIT: here is the site - Dazana Adventures (http://dazanaadventure.com/safaris.htm) I totally forgot making that little slide show - all the pics are mine from Ngorongoro Crater with my first DSLR :-) hahaha good times... oh PS i have no gain from anyone using either of these services but I know they are legit people, and thats a good thing to find!

Andrushka
26th of April 2010 (Mon), 11:12
Ah I see - I have heard about the hiking to Mt Kenya, in which case the lens would be a problem. A safe place would depend on where you stay - if it is in tented accommodation (not camp sites) then it will not be safe as the tents (for obvious reasons) are not secure. But if staying at mid range lodges (like Serena lodges) then leaving the lens in the room would be quite safe. Also, if you are doing a hike as part of a tour organised by someone, you can ask the tour operator (or even driver who might not accompany you on the hike) to hold it for you during the hike portion of the trip


Serena Lodges are stylin! very nice places

matman1975
27th of April 2010 (Tue), 14:41
Well I am back - after a 2 week safari and 5 days stuck in Nairobi because of volcano/flight cancellations!!!! Word of advice - never, ever, ever, ever take Kenya Airways - they are truly the worst airline in terms of customer service and passenger welfare. Not blaming them for the volcano and airport closures which was not their fault - they just couldn't be bothered helping passengers and even their flights (both going in and out) were terrible!

Have to agree that this thread was very useful and special thanks to Theo (matman1975) and Frank (hollis_f) for answering all my questions. We had a wonderful time being able to see lots of lions (including lions with a hippo kill), elephants, rhinos, cheetahs and various other wildlife and birds. Only disappointment was not being able to get a good glimpse of the Leopard - we were only able to see the tail of one hidden in a tree!

Anyway, our safari operator - As You Like It Safaris - was great! Everything was planned to every little detail and Vivien Price was a great help especially during the time we were stranded. The vehicle and driver/guide were fantastic as well. Have no problem recommending their services to anyone interested in organising a trip out to Kenya.

InternetJunky - I carried a 150-500mm lens and as Theo says - it would be an absolute crime not to take a lens like that on Safari in Kenya - its almost essential. Are you concerned about the weight / carrying the lens around or about leaving it in the hotel room? Since most of the safari will be done with a vehicle, you would have no problem with regards to weight etc. If I am not mistaken, your trip to Peru would have involved a lot of hiking (which is why you are concerned about the lens)? There wont be any hiking or walks as you can only use vehicles to travel in the parks.

Don't say I didn't warn you:lol:.....
You are back home but your heart and mind remained in the African plains;) and you already make plans to return!
Glad to hear that you saw and photographed almost all big game. Don't be upset though about the leopard "failure"....I was fortunate to see my first one only during my third trip to Africa!!!
So just to "tease" you a bit... here is how a wild african leopard looks like!

Regards
Teo

matman1975
27th of April 2010 (Tue), 14:45
...and a couple more!

riyazi
27th of April 2010 (Tue), 16:04
LOL - thanks Theo..... thank you very much..... NOT!!!

condyk
2nd of May 2010 (Sun), 02:10
I have to wait until September too....September 2011.

Ha, ha ... that is a long wait! Some great advice in this thread.

I will be organising a photo safari on a shared costs basis around that time for two weeks, likely be South Africa: Marakele National Park, Kruger North to South, but will decide around July time this year. Will likely involve flying in and out of Johannesburg, self drive in 2x 4x4s and use of parks accommodation and catering. My guess based on the last three I organised (which were for 21 days not 14) is costs would be around 1400-1600 per person plus flights, non-camping.

This is the kind of trip location you could also organise yourself as a first timer as can be done mainly online -facilities are very good in parks like Kruger. You just need to sort flight, vehicle, accommodation. You can also sort self-drive safari's in Botswana fairly easily if you know what you're doing, or at least have common sense, and is much cheaper than equivalent commercial tours. Same applies to Namibia, where you can have a very varied and satisfying trip if you have a bit of an adventurous spirit.

I do think photo safari's are rather different to 'all comer' style trips where photography is not the main purpose. Make sure on a commercial trip that your needs are accommodated in advance, or could be very frustrating.

riyazi
24th of May 2010 (Mon), 11:03
Finally got around to editing the Kenya pics - just completed 2 days for now. Lots more to do.

This is from Lake Naivasha
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3548/4611837793_40edc4fd4d.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/21096178@N03/4611837793/)

Some shots from Lake Nakuru in this thread (http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=877277)

MCAsan
11th of June 2010 (Fri), 22:57
We just got back from 2 weeks in South Africa. The first week was spent in and around Kruger Park. The second week was around Cape Town. For the Kruger Park we has a one week photo safari by Stu Porter at wild 4 photographic safaris. Stu is a degreed photographer. He only leads small photo safaris in South Africa (where he lives) and in Kenya area. I highly recommend you consider a safari is only for and about photography...not general tourism. We now plan to go back next year for 2 weeks with Stu on another great trip.

Wildcats
22nd of June 2010 (Tue), 01:01
Hi Riyazi:

I am very interested to hear about your trip in more detail...did you by chance post a review of it anywhere on the 'net? BTW, I think your images are amazing!

Do you have any cheetah pictures? My husband and I are going to Kenya to "chase the cheetahs" because I still haven't seen any in S. Africa!

riyazi
22nd of June 2010 (Tue), 03:57
Thank you very much Wildcats

We have done a general write up about the trip on our blog - links below

Lake Naivasha - Blog (http://rimmich.blogspot.com/2010/05/kenya-lake-naivasha_2700.html) - More pics (http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/rim.kenya/LakeNaivasha#)

Lake Nakuru - Blog (http://rimmich.blogspot.com/2010/06/lake-nakuru-kenya_10.html) - More pics (http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/rim.kenya/LakeNakuru#)

If you want more details (about the tour operator, etc) just pm me.

We saw Cheetahs in the Masai Mara - we missed out on a cheetah kill but we did see cheetahs being chased off by elephants, a cheetah on the hunt passing right in front of our vehicle and a lazy half attempt to bring down a young Imapala. I still have not got around to processing these shots but should be up in the blog soon

fatcat2000
4th of July 2010 (Sun), 12:52
461785

butterfly2937
4th of July 2010 (Sun), 13:13
461785
Stunning! Is this the 500 f4? Was it difficult to travel with?

fatcat2000
4th of July 2010 (Sun), 17:16
Hi again. I just replied to your post about cost. No it's not the 500. Its the 100- 400 on a 1DM3. Can't remember the f stop and it is cropped quite a bit but turned out great. Wasn't sure what I'd get with that lens since I bought it right before the trip and never really used it. Thought about taking the 7- - 200 with the extender. I am very pleased with this lens (100 - 400). I tried not to open it all the way so I am thinking it is f9 or so. I also took another body and 24 - 105. I'll have to post more photos with this lens. If only I had more time. So excited for you if you get to go.

MCAsan
4th of July 2010 (Sun), 20:53
We were in Kruger in May. We had our 100-400s and rented 500s locally. We were so close to the animals most of the time the 100-400 was used much more often that any other lens. We shot the 500s with and without 1.4 converters.

DragonSpeed
6th of July 2010 (Tue), 14:06
We were in Kruger in May. We had our 100-400s and rented 500s locally. We were so close to the animals most of the time the 100-400 was used much more often that any other lens. We shot the 500s with and without 1.4 converters.
We found the same thing Tanzania. We had lion cubs come closer than the MFD of the 100-400 at one point!

rossmtbiker
7th of July 2010 (Wed), 07:50
Thanks col4bin for starting this thread.
And thanks also to matman1975, hollis_f, riyazi, and others for your contributions. I've been lurking for a month or so and have learned a lot. My wife and I are going to East Africa in October and we received a few proposed itineraries. One has suggested going to Speke Bay on Lake Victoria (as well as Lake Manyara and Lake Naivasha). We are thinking of asking them to drop Lake Victoria in order to get an extra day on the Serengeti or Ngorongoro Crater. Is Lake Victoria a "must see"?

hollis_f
7th of July 2010 (Wed), 09:09
We are thinking of asking them to drop Lake Victoria in order to get an extra day on the Serengeti or Ngorongoro Crater. Is Lake Victoria a "must see"?

Well, obviously not for me because I've never been. And it does look like there's quite a bit of travelling on poor roads - so missing it out is likely to give you at least two, possibly three, extra days.

matman1975
7th of July 2010 (Wed), 12:11
Thanks col4bin for starting this thread.
And thanks also to matman1975, hollis_f, riyazi, and others for your contributions. I've been lurking for a month or so and have learned a lot. My wife and I are going to East Africa in October and we received a few proposed itineraries. One has suggested going to Speke Bay on Lake Victoria (as well as Lake Manyara and Lake Naivasha). We are thinking of asking them to drop Lake Victoria in order to get an extra day on the Serengeti or Ngorongoro Crater. Is Lake Victoria a "must see"?

An extra day in Serengeti is a day well spent. Of all the African national parks I have yet visited (and they are quite a lot)....Serengeti is my favourite. It is worth visiting even if it didn't host any animal at all!!!
Six full days in Serengeti is the minimum required....only to "scratch it's paint"...it is huge, it is vast...it is magnificent.

DragonSpeed
7th of July 2010 (Wed), 14:17
An extra day in Serengeti is a day well spent. Of all the African national parks I have yet visited (and they are quite a lot)....Serengeti is my favourite. It is worth visiting even if it didn't host any animal at all!!!
Six full days in Serengeti is the minimum required....only to "scratch it's paint"...it is huge, it is vast...it is magnificent.
And the north, Lobo, is undervisited. We came across more relaxed animals up there. Of course the Tse Tse flies were a little more aggressive.

rossmtbiker
19th of July 2010 (Mon), 09:01
We are still planning our trip, hoping to finalize the outings this week. One tour operator told us that the Kenya/Tanzania border is onerous and recommended we tour either Kenya or Tanzania, but not necessarily both. Has anyone else here heard that or had a similar experience?

We had wanted to visit Nakuru and Masai Mari in Kenya and Serengeti and Ngorongoro in Tanzania, but are now re-thinking that.

DragonSpeed
19th of July 2010 (Mon), 12:02
We are still planning our trip, hoping to finalize the outings this week. One tour operator told us that the Kenya/Tanzania border is onerous and recommended we tour either Kenya or Tanzania, but not necessarily both. Has anyone else here heard that or had a similar experience?

We had wanted to visit Nakuru and Masai Mari in Kenya and Serengeti and Ngorongoro in Tanzania, but are now re-thinking that.

What did he mean by "onerous"? We crossed into Tz from Kenya via shuttle. It wasn't a problem.

Our actually safari consisted of just Tz. We had arrived in Nairobi and shuttled down to Arusha.

Andrushka
19th of July 2010 (Mon), 18:23
We are still planning our trip, hoping to finalize the outings this week. One tour operator told us that the Kenya/Tanzania border is onerous and recommended we tour either Kenya or Tanzania, but not necessarily both. Has anyone else here heard that or had a similar experience?

We had wanted to visit Nakuru and Masai Mari in Kenya and Serengeti and Ngorongoro in Tanzania, but are now re-thinking that.

ive had several friends and family cross the border there for several times over the last few years and they have never had problems

rossmtbiker
19th of July 2010 (Mon), 21:49
What did he mean by "onerous"? We crossed into Tz from Kenya via shuttle. It wasn't a problem.

Our actually safari consisted of just Tz. We had arrived in Nairobi and shuttled down to Arusha.

Thanks DragonSpeed and Andrushka. The tour operator said there will likely be long delays at the border and often tour operators have to change vehs, drivers, and guides.

riyazi
20th of July 2010 (Tue), 02:51
Thanks DragonSpeed and Andrushka. The tour operator said there will likely be long delays at the border and often tour operators have to change vehs, drivers, and guides.

Didn't go in to Tanzania during our trip but from the discussions I had with our guide, we were told how Tanzania doesn't allow guides from Kenya to do the tour there. The tour operator we went with do plenty of Kenya/Tanzania combined tours so don't think it is an issue but I do believe there might be a bit of a hassle in changing over vehicles, guides etc.

Andrushka
20th of July 2010 (Tue), 03:54
i have a friend who is a Tanzanian guide and he has driven a lot of tours in Kenya - I can't comment on Kenyan guides in Tanzania though - sorry...

hollis_f
20th of July 2010 (Tue), 05:57
When we went to Tanzania, three years ago this week, we flew in to Nairobi and get driven to the border where we swapped vehicles. The changeover was very smooth, no hassle at all. I wish I could say that the whole crossing was hassle-free, but there were hundreds of people trying to sell things on the Kenyan side. I entered the border post with around 20 unwanted bangles on my arms. Luckily the would-be sellers all knew just which ones where theirs as they removed them again on exit. I wasn't fazed as I'm large and mean-looking. But my friend, who's not keen on crowds, felt quite unnerved by it all.

riyazi
20th of July 2010 (Tue), 06:33
Ahhh - the same thing happens at the park entrances as well especially at Amboseli. We kept our windows closed but one of the other vehicles had bangles and ornaments thrown in to the vehicle and sellers "demanded" payment for them!

DragonSpeed
20th of July 2010 (Tue), 09:51
Ahhh - the same thing happens at the park entrances as well especially at Amboseli. We kept our windows closed but one of the other vehicles had bangles and ornaments thrown in to the vehicle and sellers "demanded" payment for them!
Ah - Roadside negotiations :) I just smile and hand the goods back. It's part of the game.

matman1975
21st of July 2010 (Wed), 01:02
We are still planning our trip, hoping to finalize the outings this week. One tour operator told us that the Kenya/Tanzania border is onerous and recommended we tour either Kenya or Tanzania, but not necessarily both. Has anyone else here heard that or had a similar experience?

We had wanted to visit Nakuru and Masai Mari in Kenya and Serengeti and Ngorongoro in Tanzania, but are now re-thinking that.

Visiting Kenya and Tanzania the same time is not a good idea..unless your budget and time allow it.
There is a shuttle bus which crosses the Namanga road from Nairobi to the Tanzanian borders...the "trip" lasts about 7 hours. When you finally arrive there you have to go to the custom office...fill in the visa application and wait cause this entrance point is very busy.:rolleyes:
Meanwhile you are surrounded by numerous local people who sell everything...from small artifacts to....helicopters:D...but they are not rude...as long as you clarify that you are not interested...off they go.
I completely agree with the idea of visiting only one of these countries and in fact limit your visit to 3 national parks per country the most.
Distances in Africa are vast so the more places you decide to include in your itinerary..THE MORE TIME YOU SPEND EN-ROUTE to those places...NOT DOING GAME DRIVES.
There is also another reason why you shouldn't visit Kenya and Tanzania the same period...the famous Serengeti-Masai Mara ecosystem hosts one of the most spectacular nature sights on earth...the annual migration...so depending on the month you decide to go over there...either you see the vast herbivore herds in Kenya's Masai Mara or in Serengeti...NOT in both of them.
So in summary don't get "greedy"....choose either Kenya or Tanzania and MINIMIZE your travelling time....you are not there to drive to dusty roads from national park to national park, but to do game drives and enjoy wildlife;)

decrink
4th of August 2010 (Wed), 23:17
I just got back from a trip that went to both Kenya and Tanzania. Although the drive was definitely lengthy and the boarder crossing took some time, it was definitely worth it. We saw the Wildebeest crossing at the Masai Mara but the Ngorogoro crater and Serengeti revealed a very different set of habitats and wildlife viewing. Our last day on the Serengeti on our last game drive of the 18 day trip, we saw a herd of zebras racing back and forth to a pond to drink and getting spooked by an alligator waiting for them, a family of lions feeding on a Cape Buffalo that they had killed, a herd of about 25 elephants crossing about a 1/4 mile of terrain at a fast clip to come and completely eat and destroy an acacia tree right in front of us, and a lion trio hunting a zebra. Oh, and then as we drove back to the lodge we saw a leopard chasing a gazelle. If we had limited our trip to just Kenya we would have missed this outstanding game drive. I disagree with the previous poster, it can be worth it to make the extra drive. Oh yeah, and the Masai women at the boarder selling necklaces are among the most aggressive I've seen anywhere in the world. But so what? That's how they try to feed their families, off the few dollars they might make with their sales job. If you want the jewelry and necklaces, they offer them at cut rate prices.

Safariholic
5th of August 2010 (Thu), 04:38
My Username's a fair reflection of one of my passions - we leave this Sunday for 15 days in Zambia ie. IF you're now sorted & have all the info you need - great. IF not, then let me know & I'll try & share some relevant thoughts

rossmtbiker
9th of August 2010 (Mon), 13:01
Ok lets get started with Kenya
I have used twice in the past a tour operator called "As you like it safaris"
www.asyoulikeitsafaris.com (http://www.asyoulikeitsafaris.com)
The owner is an American lady named Vivien Prince. This is a small, family style company with few vehicles and drivers but their services are top. Your itinerary will be executed with precision and care. This tour company even runs it's own permanant tented camp in Masai Mara (Nyumbu camp).
(snip)
There is also another tour company in Kenya which I have used and also highly recommend. It is called "Wilderness Photo Safaris"
www.wildernessphotosafaris.com (http://www.wildernessphotosafaris.com)
This is a small, family style company as well.
(snip)
I have visited Tanzania only once (July 2007) and used a tour operator called "Base Camp Tanzania"
www.basecamptanzania.com (http://www.basecamptanzania.com)
Again this is a small, family style company with excellent services.
The owner is a Britton, called Achmed Philips.
(snip)

Regards
Theodore Mattas

One more question, I have been in contact with several tour operators (including two above) and some of them do not take credit cards on booking, and if they do, they charge an additional 5% fee. They all want cash or wire transfer. I am a little uncomfortable carrying this much cash. Is this common?

For those who have booked safaris through the mid-priced operators, how have you paid?

Any other options?

One other point, MasterCard covers all our travel insurance, do you take out 3rd-party insurance?

TIA,
Ross

matman1975
9th of August 2010 (Mon), 17:34
One more question, I have been in contact with several tour operators (including two above) and some of them do not take credit cards on booking, and if they do, they charge an additional 5% fee. They all want cash or wire transfer. I am a little uncomfortable carrying this much cash. Is this common?

For those who have booked safaris through the mid-priced operators, how have you paid?

Any other options?

One other point, MasterCard covers all our travel insurance, do you take out 3rd-party insurance?

TIA,
Ross

Till now I have never used a credit card to pay a tour operator.
I usually send them via bank to bank transfer a 50% deposit of the total cost at the time of booking (which normally takes place about 10-12 months prior to my departure) and give them the rest of the money in cash when I arrive in Africa.
I'm always reluctant to provide credit card sensitive data to those tour operators NOT because I have doupts regarding their honesty, but mainly because I'm not sure about their credit card system being adequate enough against web fraud attacks;).

Regards
Teo

DragonSpeed
9th of August 2010 (Mon), 17:46
We bank transferred the deposit and then brought a small library of Traveller's cheques. It seemed like it would make us a LITTLE less likely to get robbed. Check if they take them. Sore wrist by the time we finished signing them all :)

condyk
9th of August 2010 (Mon), 23:39
Prac tice varies ... some will take CCs by phone or fax (the latter is not secure IMO), some want paying up front and some want a deposit with the balanced paid in cash when you check out. Deposit can vary, usually 20-50%. It is a pain doing bank transfers, for me at least, as I can't do it by internet, has to be by phone or go into my bank. If they do CC by fax then I fill in the form they send through in OPhotoshop and thern email as a JPG file attachment. Still not ideal but much more secure IMO than fax. All have email.

MCAsan
13th of August 2010 (Fri), 10:57
We had never booked an overseas trip with large depositi either. But after lots of research we picked out Kruger Park safari company. One that ONLY, and I want to say again, ONLY does photograhic safaris!!!

We did two transfers. The first was for the deposit. The second was for remainder plus the equipment (tripods, F4500s, Wimberly mounts). We did not have the slightest problem transferring the money, the company receiving it, or any arrangements of our safari. Everything was as advertised.

Please consider using only a photographic safari company. Ask how many persons per bench in the truck. The answer should be ONE person per bench. You do NOT want to have 6-9 persons rocking the trunk or crawling over each other at every shot opportunity. One person per bench gives you and your equipment plenty of room to spread out and shoot from both sides.

matman1975
13th of August 2010 (Fri), 15:36
We had never booked an overseas trip with large depositi either. But after lots of research we picked out Kruger Park safari company. One that ONLY, and I want to say again, ONLY does photograhic safaris!!!

We did two transfers. The first was for the deposit. The second was for remainder plus the equipment (tripods, F4500s, Wimberly mounts). We did not have the slightest problem transferring the money, the company receiving it, or any arrangements of our safari. Everything was as advertised.

Please consider using only a photographic safari company. Ask how many persons per bench in the truck. The answer should be ONE person per bench. You do NOT want to have 6-9 persons rocking the trunk or crawling over each other at every shot opportunity. One person per bench gives you and your equipment plenty of room to spread out and shoot from both sides.

"One person per bench"...is still not enough for serious wildlife photography...at least this is what I have learned by experience all these years.
You need a private vehicle of your own, a vehicle and a guide driver who will follow strickly your instructions, take you wherever you wish, whenever you wish...for as long as you wish, without other people messing up with your work.
This short of freedom is absolutely essential when your wildlife shots mean...business.
It doesn't matter if there is "one person per bench" or more, cause as long as people (unknown to you) share with you the same vehicle... you've got to respect their desires and wishes as well...which can be a major setback to your work.
I always request a private vehicle and guide when I book my safari trips (and I do that every year since 2005), although it raises up the final cost about 20%..BUT those extra dollars required are money well spent;)

DragonSpeed
13th of August 2010 (Fri), 15:52
I always request a private vehicle and guide when I book my safari trips (and I do that every year since 2005), although it raises up the final cost about 20%..BUT those extra dollars required are money well spent;)
When we booked, I didn't even consider whether it would be private or shared. I'm SOOOO glad we had a private hire. The guide did as you said... If we wanted to swing around to get a better angle on a flower or some bird... No problem. While it wasn't a "photo safari" company, he VERY quickly gleaned onto our needs (light shining the RIGHT way) and he said it was nice to have clients that didn't just keep asking him to find the next cat... :rolleyes: Africa has SOOO many amazing scenes and flora as well as fauna. Some of the small birds are just amazing too! If we had other people in the vehicle there would obviously have been a constant give and take as to who wanted to see what and go where.

Private. (It was my wife and I.)
PERFECT.
A little pricey but worth it.

MCAsan
14th of August 2010 (Sat), 08:10
One person per bench"...is still not enough for serious wildlife photography...at least this is what I have learned by experience all these years.


Fully agreed!!! We booked a bespoke trip where the DW and I where the only two on board...and the driver was a pro photographer. We never had to ask him to move the vehicle...he was at least one step ahead. That is one of the reasons we plan to go back for at least 2 weeks in 2012.

But if folks can not arrange such a trip, at a minimum book a photo safari where there is only ONE photographer per bench. Do not accept to be in with general tourists...or where there are 2-3 photographers per bench.

rossmtbiker
17th of August 2010 (Tue), 06:58
We finally booked. After receiving a couple of recommendations on this thread we booked with As You Like It Safaris operating in Kenya. We spent over a month trying to finalize our desired schedule with a few operators, then selected AYLIS based on recommendations and value. Our itinerary is:
day 1 - arrival in Nairobi
days 2-3 - Amboseli
day 4 - Mt Kenya
days 5-6 - Samburu
days 7-8 - Lake Nakuru
days 9-12 - Masai Mara
days 13-16 - Malindi
day 17 - fly to Nairobi and then back home

We are pretty happy that it will just be the two of us in the Land Cruiser :-)

Thanks to everyone on this thread for your recommendations and tips.

scottkinf
19th of August 2010 (Thu), 02:13
A quick couple of questions, and sorry about the redundancy.

I am planning Tanzania early March 2011. Chances of seeing wildebeest births? Rain a big problem?

Tripod- recommended or not? I couldn't find the definitive answer.


Thank you for your help.
Finally, information on http://www.africadreamsafaris.com?

riyazi
19th of August 2010 (Thu), 04:31
We finally booked. After receiving a couple of recommendations on this thread we booked with As You Like It Safaris operating in Kenya. We spent over a month trying to finalize our desired schedule with a few operators, then selected AYLIS based on recommendations and value. Our itinerary is:
day 1 - arrival in Nairobi
days 2-3 - Amboseli
day 4 - Mt Kenya
days 5-6 - Samburu
days 7-8 - Lake Nakuru
days 9-12 - Masai Mara
days 13-16 - Malindi
day 17 - fly to Nairobi and then back home

We are pretty happy that it will just be the two of us in the Land Cruiser :-)

Thanks to everyone on this thread for your recommendations and tips.

Hope you have a great trip. AYLIS will definitely make it a memorable one for you!

Eclyps19
25th of August 2010 (Wed), 07:06
I'm leaving for my Botswana/South Africa trip tomorrow. I'll be bringing a 30D, 7D, 17-50 2.8, 100-400L, 38GB of CF, 320GB external HD, 120GB Netbook, and an old PowerShot.

I'm seriously contemplating a tripod/monopod/both. The 100-400 is a rental and I spent the past couple of day shooting with it and boy does it take some getting used to. The lens in incredible, but I'm definitely worried about low-light situations. I could really use the extra few stops. I'd also love to take some long exposure night shots, as some of the camps we are staying at overlook some beautiful landscapes. Weight, of course, is an issue, though. Seems like there are quite a few conflicting opinions on whether or not a tripod/monopod would get much use, especially during drives. Oh... decisions, decisions, decisions...

condyk
25th of August 2010 (Wed), 10:02
From what you say I would take a tripod. I'd also consider whether you need two bopdies. yes, you get a back-up in case of problems, but if weight is an issue then I'd take the 7D and 100-400 and 17-50. I'd also just take the netbook. It's a risk, but you won't need two bodies with those lenses. On safari most of your shots qwill be with the long lens, like 98%, and the 17-50 will be handy around camp. So you can just swap as needed. Early morning and late afternoon are prime shooting time, so the 7D will give you decent ISO performance to enable the necessarfy shutter speed. The 30D I'm less confident about in that regard, but I have used the 30D on safari and never had a problem with shutter speed issues. I would absolutely take a bean bag. I don;'t think the 100-400 IS stabilisation is consistently good enough to hand hald - beanbag and tripod as necessary will be way better. The 100-400 aklso has issues with some filers so check with and without. If weight is not a big deal then sure, take the 30D and external drive. I usually shoot way less than 8GB on a day shooting - focus on composition rather than machine gun shooting style. You'll get better images IMO and have less junk to cull in the evenings.

Eclyps19
25th of August 2010 (Wed), 10:21
luckily camera bodies are pretty light, and if for whatever reason something DOES happen to the 7D, I really really feel like I need a backup.

I also don't want to be swapping lenses (at all, if I can help it) during the dry season. The 17-50 will always be on the 30D and the 100-400 will always be on the 7D.

If it comes down to it, I don't really need clothes... right?????? :)

I'm heading out after work to compare some tripods. Hate spending so much on something I won't use very often, but it'll be worth it.

condyk
25th of August 2010 (Wed), 10:29
You actually don't need many clothes as it is so dry you don't notice sweat at all. Shorts, short-sleeve shirts and sandles will do most days, but can be chilly early morning and evening, so a fleece essential too. Don't forget a ballhead: Manfrotto 488 is probably the minimum for the 100-400, but if just doing landscapes you can manage without IMO.

rossmtbiker
25th of August 2010 (Wed), 12:14
Hope you have a great trip. AYLIS will definitely make it a memorable one for you!

Riyazi, an especially big thanks to you and Teo. Your photos are outstanding and your blog was very helpful to us.

delaford321
1st of September 2010 (Wed), 18:36
In high school I went on a safari, I don't remember the name of it...but oh my goodness, you're going to have a great time! Our safari was in northern Tanzania...what beautiful countryside... Enjoy your trip!

riyazi
2nd of September 2010 (Thu), 04:04
Riyazi, an especially big thanks to you and Teo. Your photos are outstanding and your blog was very helpful to us.

You are welcome - glad that I could be of some help!

rossmtbiker
7th of October 2010 (Thu), 16:05
One more sleep! :-)

DragonSpeed
7th of October 2010 (Thu), 16:19
One more sleep! :-)
Have a GREAT time... Remember to soak up all of Africa, not JUST the animals.

Do what your guide tells you. :)
Negotiate like a banshee for souvenirs.

hollis_f
8th of October 2010 (Fri), 03:33
Negotiate like a banshee for souvenirs.

And make sure you know the proper prices. The roadside curio shops in Kenya all seem to have turned into major rip-off joints. I like to give malachite figures as gifts and wanted to buy two lions in one shop. I reckoned on $75 - 100 but he insisted that $150 was his best price and looked most disgusted when I walked away. Later in the week I picked up two, slightly larger and better quality, lion figures for just $87. And that was in the Nairobi Hilton! My friend, who can't barter, paid $120 for a Masai nanga and a beaded belt. Half that amount would have been fair.

Oh, and see how many equators you can cross in Kenya. We found five equators along the Nyeri to Nakuru road, anything from 200m to 25 km from the real equator (I had a GPS for geotagging).

DragonSpeed
8th of October 2010 (Fri), 10:00
And make sure you know the proper prices.
Too true! In Zanzibar, they were asking over $100 for a small "Zanzibar Chest". We ended up paying $35. Wow.


Oh, and see how many equators you can cross in Kenya. We found five equators along the Nyeri to Nakuru road, anything from 200m to 25 km from the real equator (I had a GPS for geotagging).
I bet you EACH one of those "Equators" has a half dozen roadside tourist stands and 30 odd guys holding beads and t-shirts :D :rolleyes:

Merlin Driver
11th of June 2011 (Sat), 23:22
Does anyone have any updates on planning a trip to Kenya or Tanzania??

TIA..

DragonSpeed
12th of June 2011 (Sun), 11:04
Does anyone have any updates on planning a trip to Kenya or Tanzania??

TIA..
Do you have any specific questions? A lot has been covered.

Merlin Driver
12th of June 2011 (Sun), 14:00
Do you have any specific questions? A lot has been covered.

True, I was wondering the same guides were in business and if things were still safe.

MCAsan
12th of June 2011 (Sun), 16:29
We did a quick photo safari last June in South Africa tied to a business tip. HUGE difference in tagging along with a camera on regular tourist safari, and being part of a purpose built photo safari. Look for key items such as no more than one photographer per vehicle bench. We rented 500mms, tripods, and wimberly mounts from Stu. We brought our 7Ds, 40Ds, 100-400s, and 1.4TCs. Most of the time I have a 500mm and 1.4TC on the 40D and the 100-400 on the 7D. Most of my shots were with the 7D. That has to do with the terrain around Kruger park. In larger more open savannas in East Africa, you might want your best camera body on the longest lens combo.

We used Wild 4 Photo Safaris: http://www.wild4photographicsafaris.com/. Most of Stu's safaris are in South Africa. He also does them in East Africa. We have already booked 14 more days for next June....all at our cost...not a business trip.

We wore the REI Safari line of shirts and pants. They are very compact to pack, wick away moisture, protect you from the sun, and hang dry overnight. The shirts are available in long or short sleeve. You can get shorts or long pants that have zip off legs (instant shorts).

Best of luck with your safari adventure!!!!!!!!!!!!

DivingPrincessE
12th of June 2011 (Sun), 17:36
Does anyone have any updates on planning a trip to Kenya or Tanzania??

TIA..

Have you looked at Trip Advisor? I am planning a trip to Kenya/Tanzania and found everything you'd want to know (and more) on Trip Advisor. I'm a planaholic and obsessed with details, so I spent a good 2-3 months reading every thread in the TZ and KY forums going back one year. There are A LOT more operator recommendations (plus lodge/camp recommendations/guide recommendations/trip reviews/etc) on Trip Advisor than here on POTN.

Merlin Driver
12th of June 2011 (Sun), 18:19
Have you looked at Trip Advisor? I am planning a trip to Kenya/Tanzania and found everything you'd want to know (and more) on Trip Advisor. I'm a planaholic and obsessed with details, so I spent a good 2-3 months reading every thread in the TZ and KY forums going back one year. There are A LOT more operator recommendations (plus lodge/camp recommendations/guide recommendations/trip reviews/etc) on Trip Advisor than here on POTN.


Thank you, I'll look into them....

Merlin Driver
12th of June 2011 (Sun), 18:20
We did a quick photo safari last June in South Africa tied to a business tip. HUGE difference in tagging along with a camera on regular tourist safari, and being part of a purpose built photo safari. Look for key items such as no more than one photographer per vehicle bench. We rented 500mms, tripods, and wimberly mounts from Stu. We brought our 7Ds, 40Ds, 100-400s, and 1.4TCs. Most of the time I have a 500mm and 1.4TC on the 40D and the 100-400 on the 7D. Most of my shots were with the 7D. That has to do with the terrain around Kruger park. In larger more open savannas in East Africa, you might want your best camera body on the longest lens combo.

We used Wild 4 Photo Safaris: http://www.wild4photographicsafaris.com/. Most of Stu's safaris are in South Africa. He also does them in East Africa. We have already booked 14 more days for next June....all at our cost...not a business trip.

We wore the REI Safari line of shirts and pants. They are very compact to pack, wick away moisture, protect you from the sun, and hang dry overnight. The shirts are available in long or short sleeve. You can get shorts or long pants that have zip off legs (instant shorts).

Best of luck with your safari adventure!!!!!!!!!!!!


Thank you

scottkinf
19th of June 2011 (Sun), 02:03
I am in the beginning stages of planning an African Safari. Can someone recommend some safari operators? Google brings up a lot of hits however nothing beats first hand experience. Thanks in advance.

Africa Dream Safari- ask for Lynn.

They go to Tanzania/Serengeti, etc. Great Great Great!

Sign up for 2 days of camping.

sek

Inchpractice
20th of June 2011 (Mon), 17:11
I've never been to Tanzania so I can't comment on that but I have been to Kenya.
We went on a 3 day safari in Tsavo West national park and Tsavo East. The company we used was called Kenyan Adventures Beyond Safari I think and they were excellent.

The guide could spot wildlife from 400 yards away and he was extremely knowledgeable about everything we saw.
He patiently waited for us to take our pictures and tried to take us to the most spectacular landscapes in the parks.

If you do end up going to Tsavo West you absolutely HAVE to stay in a safari lodge called Finch Hattons.
It is simply the best place we have ever stayed. We'll never forget the nights we spent in that lodge, absolutely magical.

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g303978-d506370-Reviews-Tsavo_Safari_Camp_Finch_Hattons-Tsavo_National_Park_West.html

Merlin Driver
20th of June 2011 (Mon), 23:10
Has anybody used Ambercrombie & Kent for there travels to Africa??

BurBunny
21st of June 2011 (Tue), 19:39
Has anybody used Ambercrombie & Kent for there travels to Africa??

I've worked with them for quite awhile, and am going with them this fall. Did you have questions I can answer?

Merlin Driver
21st of June 2011 (Tue), 21:01
I've worked with them for quite awhile, and am going with them this fall. Did you have questions I can answer?

A friend recommended them and they have a great web site and wonder if the company was as good as the advert's...

Thank you

BurBunny
21st of June 2011 (Tue), 21:38
A friend recommended them and they have a great web site and wonder if the company was as good as the advert's...

Thank you

There's a reason they've had the reputation they do since the 60s - they're the original and still one of the best.

DivingPrincessE
23rd of June 2011 (Thu), 11:05
Has anybody used Ambercrombie & Kent for there travels to Africa??

A&K (and Micato) do mostly group travel with set mid-scale locations and dates. If you go with a local African company you can usually get a private safari, at more luxury lodgings for the same (or often less) cost.

matman1975
17th of July 2011 (Sun), 10:53
Always book your safari in Africa using a LOCAL tour operator of the country you will visit.
This way you spend at least 30% less than if you book your trip with a major "international" tour agency (like some mentioned in previous posts)
These agencies always use local tour operators to organize the safari and their clients have to pay their "involvement", very expensive
So...whenever somebody recommends you a specific tour operator... always do your research and find out where this operator has it's base;)

Teo

MCAsan
17th of July 2011 (Sun), 14:46
Also book a photographic safari company, not the general tourtist day trippers. When we were looking for a safari in South Africa my wife had discussions with two interesting companies.

1 Company one had a good price point. They promised us the end or the bench when the trucks were loaded with 3 tourists per bench. :rolleyes:
2 The other company had a too good price. It seems as if the other 2 participants where picking up most of the cost. You see that is because they were game hunters. We did not ask who gets to shoot first.


We were lucky to find a photographic company. We had such a good experience in our one week at Kruger last year that next weekend we book our tickets to return to SA next summer for 2 weeks. You bet , we will use the same local safari company again.

Scott_online
28th of August 2011 (Sun), 05:26
Another resounding thumbs-up for Wild 4 Photo Safaris (http://www.wild4photographicsafaris.com).

I've just returned from a two-week safari in SA. It was an absolutely incredible experience. (Photos here if anyone's interested: http://www.flickr.com/photos/16866094@N06/).

Like previous posters, I can't stress enough the importance of going with a photographic safari company. It will make a world of difference to your enjoyment of the trip and the quality of the shots you bring back.

x_tan
28th of August 2011 (Sun), 05:40
Well, I'm going for this one for sure ;)

http://uncon-conv.com/ucc/Conferences.aspx?a=11&s=39

MCAsan
28th of August 2011 (Sun), 17:25
Scott,

So very glad you enjoyed your trip with Stu! The wife and I, plus a long time friend, are doing the 3 person trip next June. Can't wait!! :D

Inchpractice
28th of August 2011 (Sun), 17:27
Another resounding thumbs-up for Wild 4 Photo Safaris (http://www.wild4photographicsafaris.com).

I've just returned from a two-week safari in SA. It was an absolutely incredible experience. (Photos here if anyone's interested: http://www.flickr.com/photos/16866094@N06/).

Like previous posters, I can't stress enough the importance of going with a photographic safari company. It will make a world of difference to your enjoyment of the trip and the quality of the shots you bring back.

Awesome safari shots.