Jan 2010 - Masai Mara and/or Serengeti?
Like I mentioned previously, I'll be heading to Arusha for my medical elective in Jan next year. I've been researching on safaris and looking at tour groups etc. Basically I'll be flying through Nairobi, so I was thinking of doing a 10 day or so safari, starting from Kenya, covering Lake Nakuru/Masai Mara/Serengeti/Ngorongoro/Lake Manyara (eg as in http://www.africanservalcatsafaris.com/ ... faris.html), and ending the tour at Arusha where I'm meant to be.
1. What is your opinion on that? Am I trying to cover too much in too little time - if so, which one should I forgo? And given than I'm a student on a budget, is it worth going to that many places? I know no 2 places are the same, but are they similar enough to skip either one?
2. Is there any tour operators that you would recommend for the combined tour? Cos not many operators offer that.
3. If say I need to catch the bus from Nairobi to Arusha, will that be safe given that I'm a female solo traveller? Lonely Planet recommends Impala or Riverside, does anyone have any experience with them?
If you're looking at doing the safari in Jan, then i would give the Mara a miss and go straight to TZ and the circuit there.
Lake Nakuru can be done as an overnighter from NBO and would still get decent game drives as its not too far from NBO. Then you could head straight to Arusha and do a Serengeti/Ngorongoro/Lake Manyara circuit return to Arusha from there...
The reason i'd miss the Mara in Jan is that the large herds will hv moved into Serengeti by then. Mara is awesome between June to Oct (around the time the migration moves in/out of the mara) but outside of these times, it can be quite empty as the remaining game disperses into the adjacent conversations etc and the concentration of game is just not there.
Lake Nakuru and Ngorongoro are small enough parks that 1-2 nights are more than enough with good viewing opportunities. Lake Manyara, i'd recommend 2 nights and 3-4 nights in Serengeti...
Just my 2c worth.
Both Riverside and Impala are perfectly fine. Just be prepared for a pretty long bus ride, upwards of 6 hours. The roads both on the Kenya and Tanzania side of the border are under construction, making for slow going. Make sure you have the Yellow Fever immunization to enter Tanzania (and your immunizaiton card!), since you are entering from Kenya, which is considered in the yellow fever zone.
For your safari in Tanzania, you should END your safari in the Serengeti, as that will be where you have the most game. I highly recommend 2 nights in Tarangire National Park, rather than at Lake Manyare. Lake Manyara is rather polluted. Most tour operators only stop there because the drive to or from the Serengeti is LONG. Ideally, you could fly one-way, though it is expensive. If you do drive, then overnighting at Lake Manyara makes sense to break the distance. If you decide to fly from the Serengeti to Arusha, then you could easily do a game drive at Lake Manyara the day that you are en-route from Tarangire to the Ngorongoro Crater (without spending the night at Lake Manyara). For the Ngorongoro Crater, try to find a tour operator that still does FULL-day game drives (not just one that promises it). The crater is huge, and you can cover much more ground (more diverse habitats within the crater) on a full-day game drive. The more nights you can afford in the Serengeti, the better! And make sure the tour company you are using does not impose mileage restrictions on their driver/guides.
Have a memorable safari, and time in Africa!
If you visit the Masai mara you can also visit Lake Navaisha and Nakuru which were both brilliant and also Samburu - brilliant for leopards. I also visited Amboseli which is a personal favourite for the massive herds of elephants everywhere - we got totally surrounded - amazing.
But if short for time then I would agree for the most dense amount of animals then the Ngorogoro crater is absolutely second to none.
As far as tour operators - I have travelled with GAP before who are very good and I can totally recommend them - and they have a whole raft of different options - see here:
http://www.gapadventures.com/trips/sear ... mit=Search
However, if you did not see the masses of animals in the Serengeti in February, you were NOT in the right area. That is why I specified SOUTHERN Serengeti. I have pictures from different trips with wildebeests and zebras as far as you can see (and in the Serengeti, that is for miles). Granted, you cannot go off-road, but the road network is pretty extensive.
I personally find Tarangire more scenic than Amboseli, and there are at least as many elephants. I would choose Amboseli for a Kenya safari, and Tarangire for a Tanzania safari. Combining Amboseli with a Tanzania safari, and Tarangire with a Kenya safari is costly, mostly because Kenya drivers and vehicles may not cross into Tanzania, and Tanzania drivers and vehicles not into Kenya.
I've just returned from Kenya 2 weeks ago. I spent 6 weeks there this time leading a couple of safaris for clients. I tend to go back there 4-5 times a year at various times depending on business..
AFRICAHOLIC - the road to the Namanga border has already been finished and is fine. There is some construction work going on around Nairobi end (near the Athi river area) but once you clear this, the road is as new and there are no delays. Same applies for the roads to Nakuru/Masai Mara. They have finished construction so roads are fine.
re Serengeti - AFRICAHOLIC is correct that game concentrates around the plains in SOUTHERN serengeti. The northern areas are wooded/forested and game viewing will always be difficult there, but if you go to the southern sections of the parks where there are open plains, its similar country to the mara and game viewing there will definately will be more rewarding than Mara for the time of year that you are looking at. That being said, Serengeti is VASTLY bigger than Mara so dont expect to it all in 1-2 days. If you allow for 3 nights, this is a good time frame.
LAke Naivasha doesnt have much to do - just a place to relax and enjoy. You can take a bicycle into hell's Gate NP, but personally i'd rather spend time at Lake Nakuru NP and watch game.
I enjoy Amboseli even if just for the views etc. The game concentration there is good all year round especially since the migration corridor between Amboseli and Nairobi NP has now broken down due to heavy settlement around Nairobi NP. Again, there is drought throughout Kenya at the moment, so because of Amboseli's lake and marshes, game concentration there at the moment is very good.
The Ewaso Nyiro in Samburu is BONE DRY - They are expecting SOME rains in Oct/Nov/Dec but how much falls in the highlands will depend on whether the Ewaso Nyiro flows or not.
I was in Samburu GR during my last visit to Kenya and its the worst i've seen it in a number of years in terms of game numbers. Game has dispersed to where there is water and to the watering holes in the private conservancies at the outer edges of Samburu/Shaba/Buffalo Springs GR...
Other than that, i agree with AFRICAHOLIC re Tarangire as an alternative to Lake Manyara - i had not thought of that one only because tarangire deserves atleast a 2-3 night stay instead of just one and also it's been sometime since i've been to Manyara so i'm not aware of the condition of the park/lake.
anyway, as has been said enjoy your trip and feel free to post more questions..
I will be going early/mid Jan, and I think I'll probably then head to Serengeti & Ngorongoro, plus/minus another 1-2 more places that you've suggested depending on time and budget. Now that I'm looking at taking medical supplies to the hospital I'll be doing my placement at, it makes more sense for me to get to Arusha first to unload some stuff, then head on the tour, rather than start a tour from Nairobi.
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