I would not have missed seeing Africa for the world. The trip was fabulous. The baby elephants at the David Sheldrick orphanage and the giraffes at the Giraffe Centre were exceptional - We adopted a baby elephant and so were able to attend the 5pm smaller viewing - we so enjoyed our visit to both and will continue to support the cause at the orphanage. The hotel was great - we loved it. Our hosts were super efficient - they met us on time and took us everywhere we need to go as scheduled. A great company! The bush camp flights on safari link went on time and were interesting to say the least. An experience everyone should have at least once in their lifetime. The managers and support staff at ALL camps were great - there was nothing they couldn't or wouldn't do for us. It would be hard to say which one I like the best as they all had different personalities and styles but I think our host at Mara North had the same passion for animals as I do. - she perhaps a little more realistic. I intend to look for her newsletter on facebook as I want to hear how the lion cubs make out. The safari guides were well spoken and equally prepared to answer all the questions we through at them - and there were lots. The social aspect that evolved amongst guests was really good too - even though we had just met other guests we all seemed to click immediately. Some we will continue to stay connected with.
Overall the tour company met my expectations.
ANIMALS - it was all about the animals - all of them!! especially the elusive cats - we saw lions and cheetahs but sadly no leopard. The first night at the first camp we found a pride of 5 cheetahs who had just caught a gazelle - these graceful cats are stunningly beautiful. The next camp a mother lion, her 2 sisters and 3 baby cubs. The mother is constantly on guard - so many predators after her babies she can rarely drop her guard. We found this family a couple times after they had killed an Impala or a hartebeest. Although I don't enjoy watching one animal eat another I realized it is part of what goes on in the wild - it was fascinating. Seeing and being with these wild animals in their natural habitat without upsetting or interrupting them was the best. They should never become complacent as it would be fatal but they seem pretty trusting - I still don't understand why they are not intimidated or frightened off by the jeeps.
Following the elephants was pretty amazing too - they are so large and yet so balanced, stepping one foot in front of the other. I learned so much more about them that I never knew from the well informed guides. They are so much like humans in their concern for their babies. They actually have feelings like humans.
Bush breakfasts and sundowners - wow!!
Standing on both sides of the equator
Gazing at giraffes standing so tall against the horizon or any backdrop - they are so majestic. I have fantasized about giraffes and elephants for a long time and they did not disappoint. Zebras are pretty handsome too - especially the way they stay together and look out for each other
Night time cocktails with other guests in front of a warm fire before dinner
A wrapped hot water bottle in our beds at night to keep us warm
And the food - I can't say enough about the food - excellent - first class at every camp ... our compliments to the chefs was extended - how they did it with their primitive equipment is amazing
Hope I haven't left anything out - pictures to follow as they have not as yet been downloaded
It's always a lot easier to look at things after the fact ....... My feeling is that the safari portion was 1 day too long at each camp except Tortelis in Amboseli which had more amenities - a lounge separate from the dining area where you could sit and chat with other guests and watch animals at the waterhole, read, enjoy drinks any time of the day, a swimming pool and a spa. However the other 2 camps had none of this. Two nights at both Kicheche and Masai Mara would have been enough. My husband said that to me when I was making the arrangements but not knowing then what we know now I went along with the plan as presented to us. The down side of this was that we had had enough by the 2nd day at Mara North and opted to leave 1 day sooner - doing that cost us an extra $1500 as it was too late to cancel or change the paid for night at the camp and the flight on Mombassa Air Safari. We enjoyed an extra day at Afro Chic in Diani Beach though, which was lovely. Instead of 3 nights I would have upgraded the last 2 camps to the same level as Tortelis and stayed at Sand River instead of Elephant Pepper Camp in Mara North. I'm not sure about the 3rd camp Kicheche in Laikipia but I would have stayed with the Elewana Collection of camps throughout the trip. Additionally I might have booked the camps in different order finishing at Tortelis in Amboseli which would have made the flight from there to Diani Beach shorter.
Having said all this I should have done a little more research myself before booking and looked at reviews and comments from other travellers as to suggested lengths of stay and lodging.
That's it for the negativity!!
TRAVEL COMPANY COMMENTS:
#1. About traveler's comments on the Overall Trip and the Travel Company:
We are delighted that you had such a great time in Kenya, its truly a magical safari destination with a huge amount of diversity to offer. The Sheldrick Elephant orphanage is a special place and thank you for fostering an orphaned elephant, Africa’s diminishing wildlife need’s all the help it can get. And, we are delighted that we met your expectations…from planning your trip, finding the right camps, ensuring all the transfers and flights worked perfectly, ensuring the guiding was excellent, assisting you on a Saturday evening with your self-booked flights, and ensuring we were available within 30 minutes of your email to assist you with your requested logistical changes while actually in camp on safari, it’s what we are enjoy and are passionate about.
#2. About traveler's comments on the time spent in each camp:
Thank you for this valuable feedback and you are correct hindsight is 20/20. Our experience (over hundreds of travelers) has been that most travelers who spend a large amount of money and time (24-36 hours) to get to Africa prefer to spend at least 3 nights in each camp. The primary reason is because 2 nights only offers 4 game activities or 1 full day on safari. If for some reason, the lions have made a kill and chased the antelope/prey species out of the area, or there has been a little rain pulling animals out of an area, it takes 24-36 hours for the game viewing to recover. And, if you are only in an area for 2 nights the area may not meet your expectations. We choose the camps in each area with a view to diversifying each itinerary in terms of complementary ecological niches, animals, camp styles etc.
This particular itinerary was also planned with the following in mind: availability at the time of travel, long stay discounts, and budgetary parameters. If we were to cut down the amount of days on safari and upgrade two of the properties there would have been at least a 20% increase in total cost (from the loss of the long stay discounts and increase in cost to stay at a higher level property.) Additionally, the time of the year to travel was chosen for optimal game viewing (high season) and therefore all the premiere camps were not available, however they are also considerably more expensive.
#3. About traveler's comments on “doing that cost us an extra $1500”:
Unfortunately all the camps in this itinerary are small, 12-20 rooms at most. Therefore, if a customer cancels a night unlike a large hotel chain in a major city, the remote safari camp cannot fill that one room immediately. On these style trips due to the tight availability during peak game viewing season’s the majority of travelers have to pre-book and confirm their trip 6 months to 12 months to ensure they secure their ideal accommodations. The result of this is that most camps have a 100% cancellation policy applicable from 60 days before travel. Additionally, in this case all the flights from the Masai Mara to the Kenya Coast were full, therefore as with all airlines only the highest fare base was available.
#3. About traveler's comments on booking the camps in a different order:
Thank you for this feedback and you are correct that the flight from Amboseli to the coast is slightly shorter. However, its our experience from having sent hundreds of travelers to Kenya that 99% of everyone prefers to end in the Masai Mara due to its famed large numbers of animals and of course seeing the Great Migration with the high possibility of experiencing a crossing. Due to the way the charter flight schedules work and taking into account efficiency, cost, and time spent in the air most of everyone prefers starting in Amboseli, visiting a 3rd camp, and ending in the Masai Mara. Of course if you are visiting the coast at the end this may differ.
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