We are in the final stages of planning our August E.Africa trip, and would appreciate some help.
Several months ago, as recommended here and elsewhere, I contacted a few operators, local and international, such as ATR, ExpertAfrica, www.itstartedinafrica.com, Good Earth Tours, and some others.
I talked to a few, and got somewhat conflicting advice. Some (ATR) very strongly recommended Tanzania over Kenya, others (Expert Africa and nearly everyone else), just as strongly felt about Kenya. I am generally a skeptical consumer, but for whatever reason, I found the ATR agent extremely convincing, and had him prepare an itinerary.
The itinerary was for 5 nights (2 Tarangire, 1 Ngorongoro, fly to Kogatende for 3 nights), and is priced around $13,000 for 4 people.
Their local operator is Tanganyika Expeditions aka MKSC.
When others prepared a similar itinerary, their cost was considerably higher, even for the same lodges (Mawe Ninga, Olduvai Camp, Lemala Mara, or Serena NgoroNgoro instead of Olduvai).
Checking their reviews online, I could find very little anywhere...other than most people calling them "very overpriced compared to others".
I found just the opposite.
I need to make a decision in the next few days. We travel a lot, and usually I am very decisive - but find myself very hesitant to pull the trigger here.
What my ATR advisor tells me is completely opposite to what everyone else is saying. For instance, in Tarangire, he considers Mawe Ninga to be the best option, second only to Oliver's at triple the price. Everyone else calls it a very simple and basic camp with better options elsewhere. Yes, I know MKSC owns MaweNinga.
My ATR advisor strongly recommends Olduvai Camp, with a signifcant detour. Everyone else says it's in a bad location with nothing to see but Maasai cattle. Yes, I know MKSC owns Olduvai.
My ATR advisor very strongly recommends Tanzania over Kenya. According to him, Kenya cannot rival Tanzania in terms of quality of safari, wildlife exposure, and much less crowds during peak times. Everyone else says "they like Tanzania but love Kenya". I wouldn't care one or the other, but it is so much easier for us to get into NBO than JRO (for various reasons). In fact, even if we go to Tanzania, we are likely to go through NBO, which means additional flights and additional visas and additional times spent in airports.
It would have been easier logistically to just stay in Kenya if we are going through NBO.
When asked, ATR did provide me with a quote for Kenya. If we were to go with 3 nights in Amboseli (Tortilis) and 3 night in Maasai Mara Naibosho conservancy, at Encounter. The quote was for $17.5K for 4 people. I am not sure that I am comparing apples to apples as Tortilis seems a lot nicer than Mawe Ninga or Olduvai Camp.
And perhaps most concerning is the fact that there are absolutely no reviews of either Africa Travel Resource or MKSC anywhere. there are mentions on Fodors and TA, but nothing substantial and mixed overall. Other companies have hundreds of reviews....
Yes, the ATR agent seems to have a strange mind hold over me...I tend to believe everything he says...sorry, have to run, he asked me wash his car now...