Attempting to plan our first trip to Africa was overwhelming - what countries, where to stay, what time of year, etc. So, after a bit of searching, we turned to this safari travel company; we were extremely pleased with the results! They start out by interviewing to try and get a feel for what a customer is all about. Questions like "What is your favorite vacation, and why?" are meaningful to clarify whether luxury, food, or the setting is more important. They were always available for questions, extremely responsive, and very reassuring, doing a bit of appropriate handholding where necessary. Finally, they passed the true test of a customer-oriented agency - they reached out to us post-trip to determine what worked or didn't.
As for the trip itself, it exceeded our very lofty expectations. Yes, there were moments and areas better than others, but overall, we would rate the trip simply as 'magical'. Everything was taken care of for us, we were met at the Nairobi airport and never felt like we were abandoned. The choices of camps and lodges we stayed in were perfect for what we were looking for (ranking wildlife viewing over luxury), and each camp had excellent service, food, and accommodations. After 9 days or so of staying in tents,our safari travel company knew we'd be ready for something a bit more luxurious and arranged for our final nights to be at the Ngorongoro Farm House - simply spectacular.
We are now huge believers in Porini camps. We love their model of investing in the local Masai community, creating a conservancy out of Masai land, paying a rent and fee per visitor to the Masai, and employing the Masai in camp and as guides. The Selenkay Conservancy is such a great story - grazing by the Masai driving out the wildlife, creation of the conservancy, and now 17 years later, it is full of almost all that you can imagine viewing. Gives one hope that, if allowed, nature can repair itself.
The Porini Lion Camp was even more special than the Amboseli one. Again in a private conservancy (where the number of vehicles is tightly controlled, and you are able to drive off road right up to the wildlife), it provided the best viewing of the entire trip, and in an intimate fashion. The lions around the camp are so special, extremely social and playful with each other. Years from now, when we think of this trip, most of the memories will be from the Porini Lion Camp.
Landing in the Serengeti after a long day of crossing from Kenya to Tanzania, full of consulate lines, long van rides, and multiple flights, we were a bit disappointed. The Masai Mara area seemed full of wildlife, viewing something almost any direction you looked. In the Serengeti, the animals were more clustered together, so at least on first blush, we were wondering why we left the Masai Mara area. In addition, the towering smoke clouds and charred grass from the controlled burning practices they do there made us question our decision. The wildlife viewing in the next days tempered this concern, but we'd likely leave it off our next visit to the area. We were told by our travel company that they had tried to get us in to private reserves similar to the first part of the trip, but couldn't due to timing issues.
Similarly, Ngorongoro Crater, definitely a spectacular sight, was a bit of a letdown. At the tail end of the trip, we were admittedly getting a bit jaded by our prior viewing experiences - it would have taken quite a bit to impress us. Yes, we did see a Black Rhino in the crater, but it was probably 3/4 of a km away. Our thought is that we'd much prefer to see the crater during the rainy season, as the grass is a beautiful green and the animals are a bit more accessible.
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