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Moggy

First Safari Help Please

6 posts in this topic

Hi All

 

It’s took 44 years to get myself into a position to start planning my first actual Safari and although I am very excited and “buzzing”, I am also very nervous too. Nervous about making the wrong choices in regards to travel, parks and camps. Also nervous about security (safari security as opposed to Country security!).

 

Also taking my 13 year old Autistic Son too so it is important I get this trip as perfect as possible for him too

 

The above is the reason why I have joined this forum – to try and obtain as much guidance and advice as possible from both professionals Safari companies and independent travellers alike to enable my Son and I to have the best time possible on our first trip. After all due to health and finances, it may be my only opportunity. I may not be able to repeat this type of trip again, so I have one shot at getting this right.

 

Therefore, any help, advice and guidance anyone can offer would be very much appreciated.

 

So, the type of advice I am looking for is the following:

 

· Camps – Looking for solid structure accommodation as opposed to a tent that looks like it has “been thrown into the middle of a field”. Also customer service has to be second to none. Absolutely hate staff who cannot be bothered or have a poor attitude.

· Masai Mara or Serengeti? – Everything considered, which one do people prefer? I suppose on my trip the importance is the “Big 5” as not really a bird fan.

 

· Fly or drive transfers between airport and camps? Pro’s and Cons for both?

 

· How strict are Safari link on baggage allowance? If my bag weighed 18kg (for example), would they turn a blind eye to the extra 3kg, make me pay for the extra 3kg or insist that I reduce the weight by 3kg meaning I will have to “bin” some items?

· Best to book the whole lot (flights, camps, transfers etc) with a tour operator or use separate airline and Safari companies (if so, any recommendations)?

 

· What can I actually expect on my first Safari as opposed to public perception?

 

· Anything you think I may need to know that I may not have thought of to make my trip enjoyable?

 

Any help, guidance or advice would most appreciated

 

Thanks

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I'm pretty sure I recognise your question from the dreaded Tripadvisor, so I won't repeat what I said there, but you've added a bit more here, so...

 

 

· Camps – Looking for solid structure accommodation as opposed to a tent that looks like it has “been thrown into the middle of a field”. Also customer service has to be second to none. Absolutely hate staff who cannot be bothered or have a poor attitude.

 

Are you happy with a luxury tent (i.e. with a proper bed or ensuite bathroom) or would you prefer a lodge made of bricks and mortar? The former tend to be smaller and intimate and I would guess is what most people on this forum prefer, the latter tend to be larger safari hotels in the particular parks that you mention. As for service, this is a tricky one- I have generally found staff in African safari camps to be nothing other than very sweet, friendly and often very charming. However, I would say that you probably shouldn't expect the style of service that you might get in Asia for example. If an elephant stops you in between taking a customer's order and getting to the bar, it can be easy to get delayed or get orders wrong- I have at time been in camps where I've asked for a lemonade and had a coke come 20 minutes later for example. This is by no means universal, but I think if you are prepared for the possibility of this it might make your safari more enjoyable. Generally I think that the long history of tourism in Kenya means that you tend to find more experienced staff there than in Tanzania. Again NOT universal and Tanzania is rapidly catching up, but still true to an extent.

 

 

· Masai Mara or Serengeti? – Everything considered, which one do people prefer? I suppose on my trip the importance is the “Big 5” as not really a bird fan.

 

 

Depends a lot on time of year, but my personal preference would roughly be 1. Mara Conservancy (any season) 2. Off Season northern Serengeti 3. Mara Reserve/Central Serengeti

 

 

 

· Fly or drive transfers between airport and camps? Pro’s and Cons for both?

Depends on camp. Flying generally more expensive, but more time on safari. Driving in N. Tz means you get your own vehicle for game drives.

 

 

 

· How strict are Safari link on baggage allowance? If my bag weighed 18kg (for example), would they turn a blind eye to the extra 3kg, make me pay for the extra 3kg or insist that I reduce the weight by 3kg meaning I will have to “bin” some items?

Often flexible. Probably make you pay, possibly cut some weight/leave something behind. It's very do-able though I promise. Those soft bags weigh barely anything- I've regularly done a sub 12kg safari, and although I have a pretty poor camera, an extra 3kgs of camera kit would be loads.

 

 

 

· What can I actually expect on my first Safari as opposed to public perception?

 

Golly- depends on where you go. Chances are it will be amazing. I've organised hundreds of first safaris and rarely had any other reaction. In terms of perception, well, depends on where you go and what you expect. I think people often don't expect the quiet patches- the moments of peace pottering around the bush in between the exciting bits. They often don't realise how fun the communal nature of safari is- most people feel horrified by sharing a vehicle and dinners and come home loving it. I think if you go after the migration you might be surprised by how many other vehicles are at crossing points.

 

 

Also taking my 13 year old Autistic Son too so it is important I get this trip as perfect as possible for him too

 

 

 

Actually- as you ask about what might make your trip more enjoyable, I think it's thinking about what your son is comfortable with and what he enjoys. In my experience for most family safaris, if the kids are happy, the parents are thrilled. Safari is fundamentally an amazing trip, so I think if you focus on getting it right for what he enjoys, you'll pretty much enjoy it inevitably. Although be prepared for the fact that sometimes kids find washing vehicles or looking at hyeana poo waaaaaay more interesting than a couple of lions sleeping under a tree.

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Hi and welcome Moggy...

I think a lot of the answers will depend on your son's tolerance levels. Camps have fewer people as they tend to be smaller. If you stay at a permanent camp the tents may have canvas walls but they are pretty solid and have all the amenities of a hotel room. You can usually zip up the flaps at night if you are worried though the thing I love the most about tents is listening to the sounds and having the fresh air so I "fight" with every camp I stay at about keeping the flaps open. Smaller camps are quieter too as there are fewer people. Not sure how your son will feel about seeing something getting eaten or chased down and killed- it is a reality on safari. I personally have never seen an actual kill (and I am thankful for that despite 7 safaris), but have sat in on the aftermath which can be a bit harsh. Smaller camps will also get you more personalized service and I have always had great care from staff at camps. Flying vs driving...depends on how much time or money you have. Flying costs more, but if you are time limited it gets you around quicker. Planes are often small and loud so anyone with a great fear of flying it can be scary. Driving also gives you the opportunity to sit back and just watch the country go by. Just so many options. You didn't say what time of year or how long you'd have so all that plays into the planning too. I haven't been to Kenya or Tanzania for a few years though that was my very first safari and both the Mara and Serengeti are magical. The time of year may determine the best choice there, but you can't go wrong with either one. And you say you aren't a bird fan and I thought the same thing but after my first southern Africa trip I bought a bird book on my way home- it's addicting :) I will never forget my first sight of a secretary bird. It was sitting in a nest at the top of a tree and then it stood up....whoa....shock of the century :) With regards to booking...I've always booked everything through one agency- I just find it simpler and agencies who specialize in this kind of travel do a great job. You will get lots of good advice here so you came to the right place and you will have the trip of a lifetime. I look forward to hearing more :)

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Hi All

 

It’s took 44 years to get myself into a position to start planning my first actual Safari and although I am very excited and “buzzing”, I am also very nervous too. Nervous about making the wrong choices in regards to travel, parks and camps. Also nervous about security (safari security as opposed to Country security!).

 

Also taking my 13 year old Autistic Son too so it is important I get this trip as perfect as possible for him too

 

The above is the reason why I have joined this forum – to try and obtain as much guidance and advice as possible from both professionals Safari companies and independent travellers alike to enable my Son and I to have the best time possible on our first trip. After all due to health and finances, it may be my only opportunity. I may not be able to repeat this type of trip again, so I have one shot at getting this right.

 

Therefore, any help, advice and guidance anyone can offer would be very much appreciated.

 

So, the type of advice I am looking for is the following:

 

· Camps – Looking for solid structure accommodation as opposed to a tent that looks like it has “been thrown into the middle of a field”. Also customer service has to be second to none. Absolutely hate staff who cannot be bothered or have a poor attitude.

· Masai Mara or Serengeti? – Everything considered, which one do people prefer? I suppose on my trip the importance is the “Big 5” as not really a bird fan.

 

· Fly or drive transfers between airport and camps? Pro’s and Cons for both?

 

· How strict are Safari link on baggage allowance? If my bag weighed 18kg (for example), would they turn a blind eye to the extra 3kg, make me pay for the extra 3kg or insist that I reduce the weight by 3kg meaning I will have to “bin” some items?

· Best to book the whole lot (flights, camps, transfers etc) with a tour operator or use separate airline and Safari companies (if so, any recommendations)?

 

· What can I actually expect on my first Safari as opposed to public perception?

 

· Anything you think I may need to know that I may not have thought of to make my trip enjoyable?

 

Any help, guidance or advice would most appreciated

 

Thanks

 

I have been driven twice and flown once from Nairobi to the Masai Mara and I must say that flying is by far my preference. It is a very long drive -- particularly the 2nd half over rough roads.

 

I am heavy and I carry a lot of gear (60+kg) and so having spoken to both SafariLink and the camp reservation teams I ended up buying 1 seat for me and 3 child/freight seats - I might have been able to get away with less. One of my bags was 30kg. None of this was a problem. Full Fare Return Flights were about $380 return. Whereas a vehicle with driver is less than $200 per day. So it is a trade-off.

 

I also travel with a CPAP machine (to help me breath during the night) and since the power in the camps turns off at 11pm and does not start-up again until 4am - I invested in travel batteries for the CPAP machine. You may want to consider whether your son's power needs require 24hr power or not. If you do then will batteries do? If not the Serena Lodge in the Mara Triangle is great, but watch out for your property and the baboons.

 

I have stayed 3 times at the Entim Camp and it is fantastic -- quirky but great and right next to the Mara River and a crossing point.

 

My first photo safari trip was in February 2016, lasted 24 days, and included Samburu, Lake Nakuru, Masai Mara, Amboseli, and then Ngorongoro crater, Ndutu, and the Serengetti. All arranged though Wild4PhotoSafaris who use Sunworld in Kenya. It was flawless. February is when the Wildebeests give birth in Ndutu and so there is lots of action.

 

I would strongly advise looking for a structured trip like the one Stu and Justinya from Wild4 arranged for me - the first leg was my own but the trip from Nairobi to Amboseli and beyond was one of their regular trips. Please note that Wild 4 provide Safaris targeted at good photographers.

 

Sun-World Safaris and their partner business in Tanzania have more Land Cruiser safari vehicles and well trained drivers/guides than almost any other firm in either country. Ask for Wilson or Silus if you are starting in Kenya. Sun-world can arrange transport and accommodation.

 

You absolutely must avoid the white buses or staying in locations outside the parks/reserves if at all possible.

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Posted (edited)

@@Moggy, what are your son's weak areas? For my 22 year old high-functioning autistic son, food is a big area of contention. We just returned from a week in Orlando and by the end he was stressed about the food choices. 4 years ago, we had to cut our European trip short (from 3 weeks to 2.5 weeks) because he just couldn't deal with the food differences anymore. Be aware, plan for contingencies. Perhaps plan for fewer days in better locations.

 

Incidentally, I was nervous in planning my first safari too, which is two months away. SafariTalk is a great place to read trip reports and to get a feel for what works for you.

 

Best of luck in your travel planning!

Edited by AmyT
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@@Moggy, what are your son's weak areas? For my 22 year old high-functioning autistic son, food is a big area of contention. We just returned from a week in Orlando and by the end he was stressed about the food choices. 4 years ago, we had to cut our European trip short (from 3 weeks to 2.5 weeks) because he just couldn't deal with the food differences anymore. Be aware, plan for contingencies. Perhaps plan for fewer days in better locations.

 

 

Very good question @@AmyT . I am sure the anwser will help provide the right advice to @Moggy

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