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CH2016

Advice for "best of" safari for Tanzania and Keyna?

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Does anyone have recommendations for Kenya/Tanzania during the Great Migration, including the highlights for each? May 2017 timeframe.

We're looking for the best guides and lodges (or camps) - would like to come as close as possible to our Namibia wildlife safari with Apex Expeditions. Unfortunately, their Tanzania safari is sold out and does not include Kenya.

 

Following safari, we'd like to spend one week in Rwanda for a gorilla trek, but the dates may not line up. Most seem to start in June or July?

 

Thank you for any guidance, we've gotten a rather late start on the planning... Claudia

 

 

 

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is May the only time you can go ?

 

if the migration is your main interest they move between Kenya and Tanzania , so it is best to be where they are likely to be

 

if you use local operators you can book for any date not just the ones selected fir a tour

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I agree with Cosmic Rhino

 

This map shows you where the migration generally is month-to-month as it moves around Tanzania and Kenya. So you can time where you want to be with where the migration is. Any safari planner or safari operator should also be able to advise.

 

I'd not bother with canned/prepackaged tours that limit your dates and itineraries. Contact a good operator or two, get some quotes and put together the safari you want. For my next one, I went with Treks2Rwanda for gorilla trekking and Offbeat Safaris for the Maasai Mara. The only thing I had to book myself was the flight between Rwanda and Kenya, but T2R would have done that for me if I wanted. You could try some place like Africa Travel Resource who can arrange the entire thing for you. Contact a few providers with a budget and your wish list and see what they come up with.

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Looking at the camps you visited in Namibia, I think you would probably want to be looking at Nomad or Asilia Camps in Tanzania (or a mixture of the two) and some of the higher end camps in Kenya. Rwanda your choices are a bit more limited but I saw a few lovely places there lat week.

Be prepared for May to be pretty wet. This is not to put you off, but it's the middle of the long rainy season. Incredible light between storms, amazing colours, lots of young animals frolicking, rutting wildebeest scampering around kicking their heels, torrential downpours at times, but certainly not all the time and some skidding about on muddy tracks. During May you are safe to assume you will not see river crossings of the migration, unless you get very lucky, however you still have a good chance of seeing the herds. I caught them around Mbalageti in late May a few years ago or if you go earlier you may wish to be a wee bit further south. Gorilla trekking- you can do this at any time of year provided you do a bespoke tour. However... May falls towards the end of one of the rainier periods in Rwanda. It can rain at any time, so I wouldn't let the weather overhead make too much difference. BUT travelling at the end of a long rainy period is going to make it pretty wet underfoot which is going to make the climb a lot more challenging. Tales of knee-deep mud are not exaggerated.

So, if you were to travel in May, I'd probably suggest going for something like:

Kenya: Mara (unmissable in anyone's book), Amboseli (rarely the top of my list but May should be lovely) and possibly one of the Lakipia Camps to add a bit more diversity of activities. This could depend on how long you have- typically I'd recommend at least 3 nights in each park, if not more.

Tanzania: Serengeti (for migration), the crater (it's busy even in May, but it remains very beautiful and you'll be right by it anyway), possibly Manyara or Tarangire.

However, depending on what you want to see, I might be tempted to suggest going a little later on in the year, to improve your gorilla tracking experience, and (if your definition of seeing the Migration includes seeing river-crossings, which many people's does) improving your chance of seeing a river crossing.

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That's a really comprehensive advice from you, @@ExtraordinaryAlex !

 

Let me throw in my two thoughts:

 

Apart from Mara, I would suggest Samburu in Kenya. It's a beautiful game reserve / national park. Great landscapes, red sand and I've seen many different kinds of animals there, in April 2010.

 

In Tanzania I rate Tarangire highly, visited in November 2013. You don't have to spend a lot of days there, but if you're driving to Serengeti, do an afternoon gamedrive in Tarangire, stay at a lodge with views of Lake Manyara and continue the next day to Serengeti.

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If it is May it is probably not going to be the best of Tanzania and Kenya, other than perhaps Singita. I'd switch to June if I could just for the drier weather most places, although of course it's not necessarily wet all the time and weather is not predictable. Long grass and wet, muddy roads have to be expected though. There is a reason many places close this month. On the plus side it will be beautifully quiet and @ExtraordinayAlex has listed the rose-tinted version (and good on her for that). Just for fun, as it is Saturday lunchtime and I am prevaricating over what to do this afternoon, this might be good (others should pick holes in it though please - it will be considered helpful, not offensive if you do so).

 

Singita of course. This is the only part that late booking might be a problem with. They have a lovely web site so you can choose your accommodation, but whatever your budget do peep at the prices first here because for true luxury I reckon you're better off blowing your budget on guides and transportation in May. Here is where you have a chance of seeing some river crossings, and megaherds of wildebeest, although the wildebeest will form megaherds and cross rivers when they want to do so. Spending 5-6 days here will increase your chances massively but is a bit of a risk. You have to imagine you fly in there and find out the wildebeest are already further north or are still somewhere in Central Serengeti and be content with that. Maybe mix with Central Serengeti for two shots (although of course you won't see any river crossings there). Fly here from Kilimanjaro for me. Ngorongoro is very tempting but it'll eat up two days to take in - do it if you can extend your trip to do so for sure or decide to skip the Mara. Namiri Plains is really very much worth looking at too, but keeping in mind this is not "what I would do" if seeing the big herds is an absolute priority you will be more certain to be able to reach them in a 2-hour drive with a more central location I guess.

 

You can but shouldn't miss the Masai Mara. In May it will be quiet and probably the best place in Africa to see big cats in the wild. Stay in one of the conservancies. Olare Motorogi is currently the most exciting but there is a lot to be said for Mara North, especially the very short, rocky grass plains and rolling landscape, which give you great visibility for spotting cats in the wet. Not to be underrated as a consideration. Mara Plains is the obvious choice with access to two conservancies, but Ngare Serian is a wiser choice budget-wise and super-nice and really there are a lot of options. Naboisho is worth a look too - you'd feel like you had the place to yourself some days and that would be quite an experience.

 

Many camps and top-end lodges in Kenya are closed in May. I'd have recommended you look at Sarara and, Ol Malo and others otherwise, for different reasons. However, Samburu is very interesting for May, as it'll be green and super pretty but rainfall is generally quite low. Weather permitting look at Saruni Samburu and Sasaab and a helicopter trip up to Lake Turkana from there. Personally I'd favour Saruni but if you read up about them the pros and cons are quite obvious. If you want to see rhino Saruni now have a very interesting second lodge opened a little further north. You could also look at a night or two as Desert Rose if you like the look of - not so much wildlife up there but if it appeals it has a very interesting range of activities and rain is less liikely to be an issue (bet it would be a spectacular scene if it was too).

 

Do expect to see some cattle in May in the Kenyan conservancies. It's an important part of the conservancy model.

 

Negatives of going in May.

 

Wildlife and elephants especially will tend to be very spread out and also accessing areas that have no water in the dry season. Predators will not move much though, although they will likely be more mobile (could be a positive too as you may have fewer flat cat sightings).

The longer grass can make spotting much more difficult.

The rain can make activities impossible or very difficult some days (but rarely will a whole day be rained off)

A majority of the very best camps are closed

Not good for walking, especially great apes.

One of the few months where it is still wet everywhere.

 

As for guides, the camp guides at the places I mentioned should all be very good and personally even if I had the budget I wouldn't take another private guide with me - better to spend on a private vehicle and scenic flights. However, if you want one the best in East Africa will quite likely be on holiday I'd guess. Haha...

 

Seriously, I am not the person to day but Squack Evans has guided some of my Safaritalk friends with excellent reviews and he'd also do an excellent job at recommending where to go in May in his home area. There are places I am aware of that I dare not recommend as I have no real information about them beyond a few words at the dinner table or the bar. Someone like Squack should know these places and be able to work out whether they would fit your needs. Most of the guides work for multiple operators but any agent should e able to hire them. You can google the name to see who they are working for if they have their own companies. The Map's Edge has always been my favorite name for a safari organiser and they have Squack and a couple of other guides who even I have heard of. They are also small and specialise locally which = sexy for me. I'd seriously think twice about taking a stranger's recommendation on a guide for a whole trip though. .Definitely read up.

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Posted (edited)

@@pault Ah- it might be the rose tinted version, but I think in this case, the "off" season isn't so clearly a bad time to go as it is in some other areas. There are some parks that to me feel frankly unpleasant or rather unrewarding in low season- next to no animals to watch/horrendously hot/miserably muddy. Now it might just be my inner Brit coming out, but to my mind the only real major downside of Kenya/Northern Tanzania at this time of year is the rain, which I can live with at a price that is often 30-50% lower than peak season, and in parks that are much less busy (I'd find 30+ vehicles at a migration river crossing way more off putting than anything the Tanzanian long rains have ever thrown at me.) I've certainly never had a game drive rained off during May, though as you say, walks aren't generally possible at this time. Migration aside, the animals don't really move that far, so they're there- sure, a little more dispersed than during the end of the dry season, but still more impressive in quantity and quality than many other game reserves also ranked amongst the best parks in Africa. And while the rain does make the grasses grow up, I've never found it to be to such an extent that I didn't get good sightings of even relatively short animals like cheetah.

You are I think quite right to point out that in purely game viewing terms I wouldn't say that May is the "best" time of year, but I guess the point I was trying to make was really that if that's the only time of year that works, it's certainly still very good, and I think @@CH2016 could still go and have an absolutely incredible safari, which I don't think would be the case in all countries during low season.

Edited by ExtraordinaryAlex
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@@ExtraordinaryAlex. Actually I mostly agree with you and I am sure you know Serengeti better than me, especially at that time of year, but someone had to play devil's advocate in this "best of" game.

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My family and I did a Kenya/Tanzania safari in late May and early June and had one of the best experiences of my life. I have visited East and southern Africa five times at various seasons and I prefer early June to any other period.Lower costs, fewer tourists and beautiful scenery. It is true the game is more scattered and you may not see the migration in all its splendor but with good planning you can have a great time. We visited Samburu, Sweet Waters, Lake Nakuru, Mara, Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Arusha NP, Amboseli, Tsavo West and Tsavo West over a twenty-two day period and saw an amazing variety and number of animals and birds. We used Destination Consultants (or KenyaTanzania Safaris as they are also listed on the web) and the planning and execution were amazing. The best I have experienced in Africa. Niko was the owner and our main guide and went with us into Tanzania. The guides who worked with him were very good and equipment was comfortable and reliable.

 

If you have the right guides and planning I believe you will find May/June to be a great time to visit.

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