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Where to begin? Safari/beach Kenya/Tanzania?

Where to begin? Safari/beach Kenya/Tanzania?

Old Mar 24, 21, 2:43 pm
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Where to begin? Safari/beach Kenya/Tanzania?

Hi, I am in the very early stages of looking at a safari for 2023 and frankly, it is overwhelming! I have never been to Africa, and would love to get some pointers on where to begin (and ultimately I think this is a trip I need to book through a great travel agent - if anyone has Canadian recommendations please share!) I am looking at maybe Jan or Feb 2023, just because that works with my works schedule and seems to be mid range (not really rainy, but not super popular either) Happy to be told if I am wrong!

I am looking for decent accommodation without an absurd price tag - as this means different things to different people, of the ones I have looked at so far, &beyond look to be the right sort of style / amenities / price point, but that's only because they came up first on google! Like the idea of all meals and drinks included for ease, but I don't know what the norm is. Open to other suggestions. I would like somewhere with a little character, decent food (for a vegetarian!) and running water / power. A pool or bath /hot tub would be lovely, although I appreciate not always possible. I am thinking of maybe 3 different places over a week or so, but am very open to guidance. I am also open to the idea of one or two great accommodations, and one boring, if it is in the right place / has other reasons. I am not a princess, but will probably only make this particular trip once, so am a little bit more flexible in seeing how I can make things work - I don't have a fixed budget in mind, but am also not a millionaire.

In terms of animals, I am not super fussy, I would love to see zebras, giraffes, elephants, etc. and it would be great to see lions, hippos, rhinos etc. but I won't be massively upset if I don't (I don't have a MUST see type list). Variety would be good. Apart from snakes. I do not want to see those!!! From what I have been reading about the migration etc. I am not sure I feel the need to be in the thick of it - if there are less tourist-swarming options, that would be cool too. I am not an avid photographer or anything either, I am going for the experience, not Insta! Quite like the idea of a hot air balloon ride. I've read about walking safaris and night safaris, only possible in certain places - are there particular reasons I would prefer / need those over a standard vehicle?

Places that have come up so far that look good to me (again, as a complete novice!) include Ngorongor crater, the Maasai Mara, and Serengeti. I would like a few days at a beach at the end. I have no idea if it is better to fly or drive between places (my gut says fly but ???) I like the idea of having everything cohesively arranged so I don't have to do much (completely alien to me, I am normally a micro manager of my travel arrangements, but this is way outside my comfort zone) but I am also not prepared to do the 'group' thing on a bus, I want to be on Emma-time and frankly, making small talk with Mr and Mrs Jones 8 hours a day is my idea of hell! I also want my tourism to be ethical, meaning I don't want to be supporting trophy-hunting, or organizations that don't respect indigenous people.

I would really appreciate any pointers, advice, first hand recommendations. I also don't know when I need to book this, a year out, 6 months out, 2 years out?

Many thanks!
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Old Mar 24, 21, 7:52 pm
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I was in your exact situation last year. Here is a thread I posted. Members were amazingly helpful.


While I had to change my plans to this May, Feb is a great time to go to the Serengeti. Prices are much lower and youll probably encounter lower crowds. I am also a micromanager when it comes to travel, this is flyertalk after all But I ended up going with a TA. Initially I contacted all the major providers directly, but prices are the same or lower with a TA and you don't have to stick to one lodging company.

Are you planning this as a solo trip, or will you be with others?



Last edited by FlyingFrZ; Mar 24, 21 at 8:01 pm
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Old Mar 25, 21, 1:18 am
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Look at Zanzibar for the beach. There are a lot of options from very high end and touristy to less so. Another option could be the coast in Kenya. You would need to fly to both.
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Old Mar 25, 21, 1:31 am
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For the Kenya coast consider Watamu, south of Malindi.
Do not stay in Malindi, but that is where the airport is. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malindi

The game parks are in central-west Kenya-Tanzania. --> Ngorongor crater, the Maasai Mara, and Serengeti.
For the game parks an group tour is best. Can get small groups in a small van/SUV.
There is a snake park in Watamu: interesting

Do not drive or be in a car/bus at night.
Fly to the coast. A train did/does run NBO-MBA

Get a copy of Lonely Planet East Africa: buy or from a library. If its a year or so old won't matter. Just gives you the flavor of the place.

Last edited by Mwenenzi; Mar 25, 21 at 1:48 am
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Old Mar 25, 21, 5:40 am
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We went through the same process for our first safari together a few years ago (I had been on one in Kenya 25 years ago), and I would suggest that you consider widening your options.

Our brief was to prioritise experience over unnecessary comfort or luxury, and getting as close to the wildlife as possible. We found a safari company that we liked who encouraged us to consider choosing somewhere where they offered walking safaris, and were recommended Zambia (specifically South Luangwa/Bushcamp Company), where there was a very good variety of wildlife. This location put us relatively close to Livingstone/Victoria Falls where there is a protected Rhino herd, which was an animal we wanted to see, as well as offering some cultural exposure. We then went onto Zimbabwe (Hwange), which also offered walking safaris.

It was recommended that we go in Oct/Nov since this is shoulder season, so a little cheaper, less busy, and better wildlife sightings due to the height of the dry season (no greenery), but it was hot (40C+ some days).

Our experience of all three locations was mixed, but we loved South Luangwa/Bushcamp Company because it ticked so many boxes - immersive, personable, simple, yet comfortable. Small camps (3-4 huts), each with its own character and charm. Great staff and guides. Food was very reasonable (considering the conditions), but can't comment about availability of vegetarian.Very good wildlife sightings, and we found the walking safaris bring you much closer to nature since you can focus on the smaller things, and things you miss when in the vehicle. However there are limitations - power only for charging, no internet, no air-con, only one camp has rooms with a pool. This was what we wanted but we understand that others have different priorities. Bushcamp Company are very involved in supporting the local community, primarily through a charity they operate.

The one night in the lodge in Livingstone was the complete opposite. Luxurious (in some ways but in some ways it also tried too hard) but not at all personal, and the safari features were Disney like. Redeeming qualities were the setting on the Zambezi, and air-con for one night. Other than a respite from the heat though, and a chance to enjoy a little luxury, we regretted allowing ourselves to be convinced this was a worthwhile stay. We would have been happier somewhere simpler. We could still have experienced everything in and around Livingstone that we did.

The camp in Zimbabwe was a bit of a disappointment - simple but without much character. Some good wildlife, and a great guide, but all too far apart so lots of driving.

Jan/Feb might not be ideal, especially for the locations we were in. Many camps shut, and there is a high risk of rain I believe. I don't know if this applies to Kenya/Tanzania.

Depending on how you plan to transfer between locations, I would not try to squeeze in too many places, since you may find that you spend a lot of time transferring.

Definitely recommend walking safaris. In both Zambia and Zimbabwe the afternoon game drive always ended with sundowners and then a night game drive on the way back to the camp. I found the night game drive less appealing, but we did occasionally spot some interesting animals.

My experience in Kenya was that most operators used closed in minivans, whereas Zambia/Zimbabwe were open tiered vehicles. I don't know if that has changed since I went, but avoid minivans at all costs. You don't get the same experience.

We liked South Luangwa/Bushcamp Company so much that we had planned to go back this year, although likely next year now, but in July/August for a different perspective.

I would try to book as far ahead as possible, or least have a provisional itinerary in mind.

Happy to offer more insight if you are at all interested.
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Old Mar 25, 21, 11:01 am
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Hi Emma,

I agree completely with SimonAB. There are amazing safari experiences in a variety of different countries, and I recommend you connect with one or a few companies to talk through what it is you want out of this trip. The professional(s) you speak with can make a recommendation personalized to you. You may find Kenya or Tanzania to be the right choice for you, or you might discover a new safari destination that fits your style even in better.

It is never too early to start planning a safari. Generally, I recommend planning about 12 to 18 months in advance to guarantee you will get the exact trip you want. With that said, if you are ready to start the planning process now, there is no downside to getting started. Rates do increase each calendar year between 5% and 12% depending on the supplier, so if you are planning for 2023, be prepared to get a quote that is an estimate since 2023 rates are not out yet.

For a first trip to Africa, I recommend 6-10 nights on safari split between 2 or 3 ecosystems. You should plan to spend 3 or 4 nights at each location. The only exception to this is the Ngorongoro Crater where 2 nights is enough (depending on what you go there to do). You will need 1 or 2 nights in Arusha or Nairobi prior to your safari and then can add 3 or 4 nights on at the end for the beach. I recommend Diani Beach for a Kenya trip and Zanzibar for a Tanzania trip.

January/February is a great time to be on safari in Kenya and Tanzania. Most of the safari destinations in Kenya and northern Tanzania are considered equatorial, thus the temperature variance between seasons is minimal. The main difference is the amount of precipitation. Roughly speaking, the green season in East Africa commences in November and lasts into May. The heaviest rain falls occurring during the months of November, April and May where the rains can be heavier and more persistent. The shorter rains occur December – March where you may encounter drizzly days. The lushness and color contrast is great for photography and also to capture images of baby animals. But with this said, animals can disperse this time of year (outside of southern Serengeti where the migration will be taking place), the grass can be taller and trees fuller taking away for your line of vision. In addition to the natural beauty of green-season, may places will enjoy smaller number of tourists (outside of southern Serengeti) whereas during the peak months of June – September, crowds can become an issue. Note, it will be hot and humid this time of year at the beach.

First, let’s talk Tanzania. When one who has never been to Africa is asked to imagine what “Africa” looks like, it’s often images of Tanzania that comes to the mind’s eye. Vast open savannas, acacia studded woodlands, massive herds of animals, and the classic African sunsets. It’s the quintessential safari experience and often the go-to destination for first timers.

Tanzania is primarily comprised of National Parks. These are protected areas in Africa, often for wildlife protection/resource management, that are operated by the country’s national government or local council. Generally speaking, National Parks are more laxed on the number of tourists, meaning, you can expect larger crowds compared to what you experience in private conservancies (more on that below). National Parks also impose fairly strict regulations on do’s and don’ts. In most cases, you will be restricted to the designated road networks and not permitted to off-road or night drive. Walking safaris areas are limited. Game drives will be your primary activity.

You can fly or drive between locations. If you drive, you will generally have the same safari guide at each camp since he/she will be coming with you! If you fly, you will meet a new guide at each camp.

For a northern Tanzania circuit, I recommend 3 nights in Tarangire National Park, 2 or 3 nights at the Ngorongoro Crater, 3 or 4 nights in southern Serengeti, and then you can end with 3 or 4 nights on the beaches of Zanzibar. I do highly recommend visiting the southern Serengeti at this time of year to see the calving season for the Great Migration!

Kenya is a bit different to Tanzania in that in additional to National Parks, Kenya has many Private Conservancies/Concessions. These area areas often land leased or bought by private entities (such as lodge holding companies, conservation organizations etc.) from the local communities or government to set up safari operations. As these safaris are conducted on private land, the conservancies can control and restrict the number of people in their concession and manage the number of vehicles per sighting (usually max 3) to allow for a more exclusive experience. In most cases, one can off-road, night drive in search for nocturnal species, and depending upon the camp, participate in an array of active safari options such as walking, biking, canoeing, boating, horseback riding, quad biking etc. In short, there’s more exclusivity and flexibility in terms of activities. In many cases, private land is adjacent or bordering National Parks or Game Reserves without fence lines delineating the two areas. This allows many private concessions/conservancies to enjoy the abundant wildlife viewing often synonymous with National Parks/Game Reserves without the crowds and restrictions.

Although Kenya offers plenty of variety on how you see the animals, game drives are the best way to see wildlife. The advantage to more variety in activities is that if you are an active individual you may find being in a vehicle for 6-8 hours a day to be too much. More active travelers seek safari spots that offer alternative ways to explore these ecosystems.

If you pick Kenya, I recommend spending 3 or 4 nights in the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and 3 or 4 nights in the Masai Mara. There are plenty of options for that third stop. I suggest look at Meru, Samburu, and Amboseli areas. My personal favorite place is Loisaba.

Lastly, most properties include meals and most drinks in their rate and can accommodate vegetarians easily (I am one myself).

Happy planning!

Rachel David, Travel Beyond
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Old Mar 26, 21, 4:03 am
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Very good suggestions. I agree about the closed mini vans in Kenya. Not an optimal experience at all. While I certainly do not regret visiting Kenya (I was in Lake Nakuru Natl Park, Masai Mara and Lake Amboselli), the Tanzania experience of Serengeti, Ngorongoro and a stop in Arusha to buy Tanzanite and coffee was superior. Not a beach person so didn't even think about those options.

Oh... and every lodge and camp had ample vegetarian fare.

Last edited by nsoltz; Mar 30, 21 at 5:25 am
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Old Mar 29, 21, 5:10 pm
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Highly, highly, highly recommend Wild Wings Safaris. We used them for our first-ever trip to Africa in August 2019.

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Old Mar 30, 21, 8:01 am
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I did a similar trip at a similar time of year, with the addition of a Mount Kilimanjaro climb. Mine was in 2005, so the prices are well out of date, and quite possible some (or maybe all) of the travel companies booked with are no longer operating, but it was definitely a great time to be there.

I did a safari starting in Arusha, which was a five-day, four-night safari consisting of 1 day at Lake Manyara, 3 days in Serengeti National Park and 1 day in the Ngorongoro crater. The trip also included a visit to a Maasai boma village and a visit to Olduvai gorge, though we had to pay separately for those items. Saw lots of wild life, and definitely all your must haves in abundance, and all of your nice to haves as well.

I then flew from Arusha to Stone Town, Zanzibar. I spent a couple days in Stone Town, and then some proper beach time in Kendwa. I only had three days, and would definitely suggest more (Mount Kilimanjaro had eaten up a fair chunk of time already). Stone Town was great, the fish market in the evening was an amazing value for dinner. The beaches in Kendwa were lovely, and the water beautiful. Not busy at all.

You can read my trip report here, which includes details of the companies I used and where I went.

Sounds like you'll have a great trip.
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Old Mar 30, 21, 8:22 am
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Thank you all so much for this wealth of knowledge and your recommendations. I will take a deeper look into everything you suggest, and I will be back with any follow up questions. I have a lot of work to do!!!
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Old Mar 30, 21, 11:06 am
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It is not for everyone, but I much prefer DIY. I like to drive my own car on safari and go where I want to go. Sometimes I will follow the tourist vans when they are racing to where someone spotted a lion or something, but in general I go where I want to go. I've DIY'd in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa. Always a very enriching, rewarding and thrilling experience.

As for an ocean-side resort, I might suggest Lamu. Type Lamu resort hotels into Google to see for yourself.
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Old Mar 30, 21, 11:50 am
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Originally Posted by stimpy View Post
It is not for everyone, but I much prefer DIY. I like to drive my own car on safari and go where I want to go. Sometimes I will follow the tourist vans when they are racing to where someone spotted a lion or something, but in general I go where I want to go. I've DIY'd in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa. Always a very enriching, rewarding and thrilling experience.

As for an ocean-side resort, I might suggest Lamu. Type Lamu resort hotels into Google to see for yourself.
Thank you! You are a lot braver than me - and I know so little I need someone who will see the things that me as a novice will totally miss. I will take a look at Lamu tho, thanks.
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Old Mar 30, 21, 12:11 pm
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Originally Posted by emma69 View Post
Thank you! You are a lot braver than me - and I know so little I need someone who will see the things that me as a novice will totally miss. I will take a look at Lamu tho, thanks.
I am not trying to convince anyone who is fearful of doing this. But I too was a novice the first time I did it. Some people here on Flyertalk (Johan Rebel as I recall) gave me good advice about Kruger. But ultimately I didn't know what it would be like until I did it. I made a reservation at a government run park hotel. Then I flew in to the nearest airport, rented a car, and drove into the park. Easy peasy.

Then when you are driving around the park, it is just you and the animals. It turns out that all cats behave roughly the same. So if you have a house cat, you should know. If your cat feels it can pounce on you while you are relaxing, then a leopard or lion can too! Stay in your car and be safe.

It is true that the experts know best where to find the animals. Moreover, they communicate with each other by radio so they know up to the minute where the animals are. That's why I learned to follow the guided tourist cars, especially if they are racing fast. But even just wandering around driving slowly I never failed to spot plenty of animals in these parks.
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Old May 4, 21, 3:10 am
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I would advice you to focus on Tanzania over Kenya, for some reasons, they are similary, but Arusha has a bit more . e.g The Ngorongoro Crater, and Kilimanjaro - just for a view of visiting one of the gates for a day, or enjoy the best view of Kilimanjaro. If you are coming in Tanzania for the first time, I would advice you to concentrate on the Northern part of Tanzania - which includes: Ngorongoro, Serengeti, Lake Manyara, Tarangire, and Kilimanjaro - if you do not plan to climb, then just have a day visit.

On the beach side, you have Zanzibar! very nice beaches, cultural and water activities! I would personal advice to have a night or two in Stone town, if possible during the weekend, and ejoy all the activities around the area, and a nice evining meals at forodhani (One of my best activity in Stone town); in general Tanzania has so much to offer, can be a bit pricey, same as Kenya, but there is everything for everyone!

You can go budget, luxury, etc, but when it comes to experience, is just the same, because most people have limited time, they will want to spend as much time as possible in game drives, and so you will sleep for just short time, and tired, so you just need a comfortable sleep, NOTE: Whether you pay $5000/night or $400/night, you see the same lion! I would recommend for a budget of a $500/night for double room - all inclusive - very, super, comfortable Safari.

Safari vehicle, very important angle, make sure you are 100% comfortable that the car is good, have friedge, everyone get window seat, and also talk to few people who have done safari with this particular company; dont look for surprises, because you will surely be surprised while you have no time and you have very limited resource and time to change your decisions!
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Old May 5, 21, 1:31 pm
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I would go with a travel company based in Africa.
I have used Rhino Africa for many trips to the continent and the service and attention to detail is amazing. There is a good reason they have been voted #1 for nearly 10 years. Give them your budget and they will do an excellent search for you.
That being said, for a first trip to the continent the" must see and do" is what I call the "Big Three"- Cape Town, a safari and Victoria Falls. You will definitely see the Big Five on any safari!
Africa is my happy place!
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