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Old Oct 7, 04, 1:53 pm   #1
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Border Crossings between Kenya and Tanzania

Is it possible to organize a private safari which crosses the Kenya/Tanzania border at both Namanga (between Nairobi and Arusha) and between the Serengeti and Masai Mara preserves? I am planning a December trip that will follow our Hilton Safari stay at Salt Lick. When I look at a map, it looks as though i should be able to do a circular tour thru Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the Serengeti, up to Masai Mara, over to Lake Navasha, and down to Nairobi. I've seen organized safaris from National Geographic and the like that follow this path. However, the companies that I have contacted are insistent that I need to cross the border at Namanga. This forces a figure 8 trip, which seems to me to be excessive driving. It also forces an overnight stay in Nairobi in the middle, which i do not prefer.

If this is indeed a valid requirement - crossing near Arusha - am I better to give up going to the Masai Mara and concentrate on game parks in Tanzania? (I could stop in Amboseli before leaving Kenya.) I've got 11 days for the post Zanzibar, post Salt Lick, pre Nairobi portion of my trip. Do I understand that the migration will be in Tanzania at that time of year?

And one more question regarding crossings - if we want to come straight from Salt Lick to Arusha, the Himo border crossing is closest on the map. Again, my question - will I be able to cross there?

I need help! Thank you if you can offer it.
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Old Oct 16, 04, 11:19 am   #2
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Habari, bwana... The border crossing situation changes often, but Namanga is the one that is always open - I've also crossed at Taveta, if memory serves, and I do know folks who have crossed into Tanzania for a day's drive after a "gift" of a case of Tusker to local officials... but... (I also crossed "extralegally," shall we say, swimming Lake Chala with a couple of friends, Kenya - Tanzania - Kenya, but this is NOT recommended, and crocs have been found there as well; almost got it from a hippo exloring an area adjacent to Tsavo for walking safaris on that same trip - that's another story!)

It all becomes easier if you put your group together and deal with a local org to cover it. We actually had someone from Tazania Sengo Safaris - most of the staff arenow part of locally-owned and reliable Swala Safaris) meet us at the border and did a portion of our Tanzania safari with them. Swala has tented camps and they know where the game is...

You are quire correct, in December, the migratory game are in Tanzania, not in the nothern sector (Masai Mara) in Kenya. Not that there's no game mind you... Tazania and Kenya are quite different for game viewing - Tanzania is much less crowded, for one, unless you go out of the way in Kenya or stay at a private reserve (expensive.)

(Ah, you got me started! I used to be an Assistant Sysop for Africa and South America areas on CompuServe's Travel Forum - those were the old days! Drink an ice cold Tusker for me...)
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Old Oct 17, 04, 7:34 am   #3
 
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I agree with JDiver that Namanga is the only reliable boarder crossing. It is a historical legacy. For many years in the seventies and eighties, relations between Kenya and Tanzania were both testy and tetchy, and for many years it was not possible to cross the border between the two countries at all, much to the detriment of tourism, especially in Tanzania.

Four all the obvious reasons, a borderpost on the Serengeti/Masai Mara boundary would be most welcome.

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Old Oct 17, 04, 8:38 pm   #4
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Thank you, JDiver and johan rebel. I couldn't get an answer from any of the safari operators with whom I was exchanging emails. Thank God for knowledgeable and helpful FlyerTalkers!

Since there is only the one border crossing between the two countries, and since I am coming in December when animal sightings are better in Tanzania, should I give up going to the Masai Mara and concentrate on game parks in Tanzania? What about Amboseli? It is on the way from Salt Lick to Tanzania; is it worthwhile?
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Old Oct 17, 04, 8:49 pm   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SanDiego1K
Thank you, JDiver and johan rebel. I couldn't get an answer from any of the safari operators with whom I was exchanging emails. Thank God for knowledgeable and helpful FlyerTalkers!

Since there is only the one border crossing between the two countries, and since I am coming in December when animal sightings are better in Tanzania, should I give up going to the Masai Mara and concentrate on game parks in Tanzania? What about Amboseli? It is on the way from Salt Lick to Tanzania; is it worthwhile?
Please don't give up on Kenya and Masai Mara. Our tour was arranged by
http://www.micato.com/. They were wondereful. I highly recommend them. BTW, for all of the talk about border crossings: I have a photograph taken with one foot in Tanzania and the other in Kenya. Be sure to take the hot air balloon ride which will take you over both.
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Old Oct 23, 04, 7:28 am   #6
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A reliable bus transfer collects you from the Hilton NBO and drives you and luggage thru Namanga to Arusha.

Only takes a couple hours and no need whatever to have a private driver, although I can't see what his problem would be to do this.

Get Tanzania Visa at Namanga - faster and cheaper than outside the country. We did that a couple months back.

There is no comparison between Kenya and Tanzania re game. I have seen both.

Kenya parks are largely ruined as they have had no controls on them for decades. Govt has allowed short term bucks ruin the pace for everyone. Actually the national park out near NBO airport will show you more game than the parks near Kili. Strange but true.

Tanzania is an object lesson on how to manage wildlife carefully and sustainably.

NgoroNgoro crater you will not see in Kenya.

Carnivore Restaurant you will not see in Tanzania - a MUST.

All you can eat Ostrich, and Kudu, crocodile, impala, eland, giraffe, etc lunch on skewers right from the coals for about $US20 a head. Every city tour type deal of NBO adds this for even less than $US20 and that included transfers.

Everyone in the area should add Zanzibar for a few days at either end. You can fly there direct from Arusha cheaply.
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Old Oct 23, 04, 5:13 pm   #7
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Very helpful comments, Oz. We will be going to Zanzibar from Dar Es Salaam at the start of our trip, btw.

I have some questions about transits to and from Salt Lick.
  1. Can we arrange for a driver to take us to Salt Lick on arrival at Mombasa Airport, or do we need to do so in advance? We have a quote from a travel agency for a considerable sum of money, implying it is unsafe to use a taxi for the trip. The agency touts the ability for their driver to stay in touch with their office on the drive.
  2. How do we arrange to go from Salt Lick to the border crossing at Namanga, or even better to Arusha? I'd rather not have the additional hours on the Kenyan roads to go to Nairobi, and then south to Arusha.
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Old Oct 24, 04, 3:05 pm   #8
 
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Well discussed (with details) in Fodors

Working on the identical (well, almost) issue. Here's what's been posted on Fodors.com, talk, Africa

direct crossing between serengeti and masai mara

Author: sharon815Date: 10/17/2004, 10:15 am Message: We are planning a trip to Tanzania and Kenya in Aug 2005. With advice from this board, we're trying to finish up in Masai Mara in mid august to catch the best part of the migration (rather than the Serengeti which we'd visit earlier). A tour company we're working with (Roy) has advised me that they only cross the border at Namanga which means we'd have to go from Serengeti back to Nairobi and then to Masai Mara from Nairobi. Aren't there any border crossing that would enable us to go directly from Serengeti into Masai Mara without having to backtrack? Is this a company issue or geopolitical one? Thanks.
Author: tuskerdaveDate: 10/17/2004, 10:21 am Message: hi there, as of sept when i was there. my maasai driver was telling me. they are working on a border crossing between the two. to make it easier for everyone. when it will be all set, i have no idea. but they are working on it. not sure who you could contact for updates.cheers, david
Author: kingDate: 10/17/2004, 02:15 pm Message: What Roy says is not true. I have crossed the border at a place called Isbenia which is 2 to 3 hours west of Masai Mara. I spent a night at Speke's Bay Lodge on the shores of Lake Victoria in Tanzania before proceeding to Serena Lodge in Serengeti the following day. However, if you are willing to stay at Kirawira in Western Serengeti then it is possible to avoid a night at Speke's Bay Lodge. I thought Spekes Bay Lodge provided a welcome change from the safari programme.It may not be in Roy's interest to recommend such a crossing so perhaps you should contact the company I use called Vintage Africa and see if they are willing to help you.
Author: hamitzerDate: 10/21/2004, 09:43 pm Message: There is a border but not always attended by officers, sometimes they just leave and close... also when it is closed you need to get back and find transportation. Better not to try!, but you can take a flight via Mwanza, to masai Mara, It's around 400 USD p.p
Author: kingDate: 10/22/2004, 07:03 am Message: What border are you talking about? The border crossing at Isbenia appeared very similar to the one at Namanga and had substantial traffic passing through. We were taken to the border by Vintage Africa and collected on the Tanzania side by Vintage Africa, just the same way it would work with Namanga crossing, and we encountered no problems. And what do you mean by someone having to find transportation back if the border is closed. The driver that took us to the border waited until we had cleared immigration and were safely on the other side with our Tanzania driver. I saw about 3 other safari vehicles doing the same crossing without a hitch.
Author: hlphillips2Date: 10/22/2004, 06:05 pm Message: I'm curious to know more about this. Last year we were told specifically by two tour agencies (one in SA, one in Arusha) that there is no border crossing allowed near the Mara. And our hot air balloon guide echoed this in November.
Author: sandiDate: 10/22/2004, 06:35 pm Message: king - Since you seem to be the only traveler who has successfully crossed at Isbenia, and there are so many inquiries regarding this crossing, could you please provide some information?You indicate about 2-3 hours from the Mara to this border crossing, to then -1) How long from Isbenia to Spekes Bay?2) Quality of this road? It appears to be at least blacktop on the map. Is it?3) How long (in time and km/mi) is drive from Isbenia to Kirawira? 4) How long (in time and km/mi) is drive from Isbenia to Serena Serengeti?5) Quality of roads for both #3 & #4.6) I know you've stayed at Lobo Camp off the NE area of Serengeti, how long is drive from Serena Serengeti to Lobo?I belive this information would satisfy all of our interests. Thanks.
Author: kingDate: 10/23/2004, 06:44 am Message: Anything to help you Sandi.BTW the name of border town is Isebania. If you typed that in Google you will be able to see who else does the same border crossing - just to put you at ease and also to update your supreme East Africa 'expertise'.Isebania to Speke Bay - approx 3 to 4 hours. State of road when I did it was average African paved road similar to Namanga road, perhaps slightly worse. Don't know status now but it seems Tanzania is doing more to upkeep its roads than Kenya so probably better now.Speke Bay to Park Gate in Western Serengeti - 20 minutesPark Gate to Kirawira - 1 hour with game viewingKirawira to Serena - 2 hours - road is in similar state to other parts of Serengeti but more stony and more ruts.Serena to Lobo - approx 4 to 5 hoursIn fact, the Lake Victoria route is the ideal route when the wildebeest migration is in the Western or North Western part of Serengeti and crossing over to the Mara. A lot of the migration spills outside the Serengeti park.Just to be clear, it is NOT possible to cross from Serengeti directly into Masai Mara. Isebania is 2 to 3 hours west of Mara Reserve. Namanga is almost 6 to 7 hours from Masai Mara.
Author: sandiDate: 10/23/2004, 08:25 am Message: king -...and good morning to you too! If I had all that expertise I wouldn't have inquired to one who has a bit more then mine. Truce!This questions has been asked for years and all who have inquired have gotten all kinds of responses. But you have done this crossing successfully, the reason I asked for the details, which are much appreciated by me and I'm sure all the others who have inquired/commented, at least recently - sharon815, steve007ny, hlphillips2 and myself.Based on the information you provided, I believe the reason most tour operators don't do this crossing is (and I'd welcome yours and others comments on this):1) Most Kenyan outfitters are based in NBO; and Tanzanian outfitters based out of Arusha.2) Each would have to send a guide/driver to Isebania* to drop-off or pick-up clients.*sorry, but you spelled this Isbenia in your first post from which I copied.3) From Arusha or Nairobi this would be a full-days travel, give a few hours more or less. Would have to be done in daylight, especially if crossing thru parks/reserves where they have to be off grounds before 6:30am or 6:30pm.4) Vehicles, petrol, meals, sleeping accommodations must be provided, as well as guide's daily rate.5) Vehicle/driver have to then drive one way empty and someone has to pay for this. So I believe the client will be billed for this, not unlike a guide/driver leaving clients to fly from the Serengeti (W,N,C) and driving back to Arusha empty... the client pays. The same would be true for a Kenyan guide/driver leaving from the Mara to Isebania and having to return to NBO empty.So because NBO and Arusha are home base it's more practical to return/cross at Namanga which is just about two hours from NBO and an hour from Arusha. Yours or any other thoughts?
Author: sharon815Date: 10/23/2004, 09:50 am Message: Thanks to all who've replied. In addition to everything I've learned here, I hope you can follow up on something sandi mentioned - that if you do a "one way" trip, you still have to pay for the guide to return to Arusha/Nairobi? So if we flew from Serengeti to Zanibar, for example, at the end of a safari, we would still be billed as tho we'd returned to Arusha? Thanks for helping me sort this out. (Also, Sandi, I'm still working on the final itinerary and will post shortly.)
Author: Steve007NY (Steve007NY@aol.com)Date: 10/23/2004, 10:09 am Message: Let me add my voice to the grateful Fodorites...and, if things go as planned, we'll make this crossing in 3 weeks and be able to give up-to-the-minute details!Steve
Author: ABB_90Date: 10/23/2004, 12:27 pm Message: Hi Sharon815I think no body among all who advice you know exactly what you were meaning about crossing boarder from Serengeti to Maasai Mara. Between the Masai Mara Reserve and Serengeti National Park there is a boarder posts known by the name of Bologonja.I hope that is the boarder post you were asking about. That boarder post have been closed so long time ago and is no longer in use. The boarder post is near the Mara River which migration cross there to Masai Mara. We arrange our Safaris with the outfitter by the name of Sandgrouse Safaris Ltd to the Mara River and found that boarder post closed for tourist and any other foreigners. for more info you can check with this outfitter as they have information in hand. Sandgrouse_Safaris@yahoo.co.uk
Author: kingDate: 10/23/2004, 03:18 pm Message: SandiThe safari operator can give the difference in costing, not me. But if one is contemplating combining the Masai Mara and Serengeti then the Isebania route makes sense to me. It may work out cheaper than going back to Nairobi, then to Namanga, then to Arusha....This would generally not be attempted in a day in any case and one would normally spend a night in Nairobi unless one flies(this would be expensive). The cost of one night in Nairobi would probably outweigh the trip to retrieve someone from the Isebania border. The other advantage of Isebania is that one gets to see Lake Victoria.Also as you know even with the tour starting from Arusha, the car has to drive to Serengeti and then back from Serengeti, with passengers or empty (if they decide to fly from Serengeti). With Isebania, the car has to go to Serengeti like it would with the Arusha tour(except it goes empty) but then comes with passengers just as it would with the Arusha tour. Whichever direction one chooses, the car has to go to Serengeti and back. Yes Isebania involves extra miles to pick-up the passengers but so does Arusha to Namanga and back. Look Sandi I think you are trying to complicate things. It almost appears to me that you are trying desperately to dissuade people from doing it when you have not even experienced the route yourself. The route does work and there are companies who offer this route - google proves it. As to whether the route is more expensive then the standard route, I suggest whoever wants to attempt it should find out from the operators who offer it.


Author: hlphillips2Date: 10/23/2004, 03:35 pm Message: That's a great piece of information to have - thanks for educating all of us king! I wonder if a private guide might be willing or able to travel through the border crossing, omitting the need to pay for a guide on each side of the border? Considering that some private guides might travel with their guests from Masai Mara to Nairobi to the border crossing near Kilimanjaro and into Arusha, it would be so much easier (and more scenic) to go the Lake Victoria route.
Author: NoFlyZoneDate: 10/23/2004, 04:08 pm Message: According to my contacts in Nairobi the issue of the western border crossings is more that of safety than anything else. Some operators have no problems and so use the route; others avoid it for now.Yes, private guides can go across the border and provide services on both sides. However, the vehicle cannot and separate vehicles are required on each side; plus Tanzania requires national drivers. There are costs associated with repositioning and deadheading but, if you had knowledge of specific costs, you would quickly agree those costs are quite insignificant compared to the cost, both timewise and monetarily, of the customers returning "the long way."
Author: sandiDate: 10/23/2004, 05:00 pm Message: Excuse me "king" - I'm not dissuading anyone, rather seeking information as have been lots of others who have posted here and other threads over the years - about an alternate crossing. Once you mentioned that you had indeed used this border crossing, I asked the questions, which I and others others were interested to know and which you answered. For the same reason that some travelers choose to fly rather then drive, others either prefer not to fly in small planes or just don't want to spend the money, I also felt travelers should be aware of the need for guides/drivers in either country to drive one way or the other empty (deadheading) and the associated costs, though minimal, compared to a flight. Now, individual travelers can decide what works for them - time versus money, flights versus road, Namanga versus Isebania!Neither I nor others have been able to obtain this information elsewhere, so your input is valuable to everyone - and you accuse me of dissuading others to consider this route - wrong!


AND HERE IS STUFF I FOUND BY CHECKING THE WEB.
My insert
"Day 4 Our drive today through the Western highlands allows plenty of time to appreciate the superb scenery. The road
then begins to descend and we leave behind the neatly ordered rows of tea bushes. We cross the border into Tanzania at
Isebania and camp in a pleasant spot at Musoma on the shore of Lake Victoria."

"Leaving the park we stay overnight on the shores of Africa’s largest Lake, Lake Victoria. Then cross into Kenya at the Isebania border post and continue to Nairobi, a bustling city with its restaurants, shops and energetic nightlife."
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Old Oct 25, 04, 7:29 am   #9
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ozstamps
A reliable bus transfer collects you from the Hilton NBO and drives you and luggage thru Namanga to Arusha.
Yeah, unless it hits a truck head-on, like it did last week : eleven dead, eight tourists and three locals.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ozstamps
There is no comparison between Kenya and Tanzania re game. I have seen both.
With all due respect Steve, you may have seen both, but how often, how extensively and how long? Game viewing in Kenya can be as good as anywhere else, but it helps if you know where to go, and when.

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Old Oct 25, 04, 7:35 am   #10
 
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Misunderstanding?

*I* have NEVER been to subsaharan Africa....

all I did was cut and paste another discussion. Frankly, I didn't know what country Arusha was in 10 days ago, let alone border crossings!

I'm just trying to gather info, and be helpful where I can.

Steve
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Old Oct 25, 04, 9:00 am   #11
 
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Steve, I was responding to ozstamps comments in his post above, not your post quoting Fodors.com.

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Old Nov 6, 04, 3:01 pm   #12
 
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We're now scheduled to cross from Tanzania to Kenya at Isebania during the last week of November. I've been in direct contact with some folks who've done it during October, and will happily share our experiences when (if? )we return!
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Old Jun 24, 08, 6:54 am   #13
 
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Visas and border crossing at Isabenia, Tanzania

Hi,
My wife and I are travelling through Kenya and into Tanzania at the border crossing at Isabenia. We are both UK citizens. Does anybody know if you are able to purchase a visa at the border. If so, did you experience any waiting/delays etc or was it quite smooth? We will be in an overland truck with a group of 20-30 travellers who are nationalities of UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand. Any advice would be appreciated.
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Old Jun 24, 08, 8:25 pm   #14
 
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Originally Posted by walkleytravellers View Post
We will be in an overland truck with a group of 20-30 travellers who are nationalities of UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand. Any advice would be appreciated.
You overland truck operater will know this. Ask them. They do it all the time.
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Old Jun 25, 08, 3:57 am   #15
 
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Originally Posted by walkleytravellers View Post
crossing at Isabenia. We are both UK citizens. Does anybody know if you are able to purchase a visa at the border. If so, did you experience any waiting/delays etc or was it quite smooth?
I've no personal experiece of that particular border post, but have never had any trouble buying a visa for Tanzania at others. The process can be chaotic and time consuming, but it could just as easily be smooth, quick and painless. The latter is probably less common than the former.

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