My original idea was to go to Botswana anyway, but we’re starting to look at tour books (which are FARKING BEAUTIFUL) and wondering, how do you know what the political climate is going to be like when you have to plan so far ahead? I really need to know pretty far in advance in order to plan leave - and anyway, 2009 isn’t far away at all as trip planning goes.
Should we just assume Kenya is out?
And regardless, what do you do if civil unrest breaks out and you have a deposit down? Will they refund? Will trip insurance cover that? How do you even go about planning long term to go to places that might be unstable?
Actually, I’m looking at doing a safari this fall, and I’m not counting Kenya out at all. These things have a way of changing, and I’m not booking my trip for another couple of months. I am, however, leaning toward doing a Namibia-Botswana-Zambia route, just because it looks pretty cool.
I would stay out of Kenya for the time being. When things go south in that part of the world, it brings out the worst in people. Even though your safari would take you to the Masai Mara, you would have to pass through Nairobi and outlying towns, which could be problematic.
I can HIGHLY recommend either Botswana or Tanzania as alternates (from personal experience). The Okavango Delta is spectacular in winter (July or so). In Tanzania, you’re on the Serengeti, which is just the other end of Masai Mara and you’ll see the herd migrations in December/January. On the way to the Plain, you pass through Ngorongoro Crater, which is not to be believed, Olduvai Gorge, and Lake Manyara. Make sure that you plan your trip around rainy seasons, or you’re not going to enjoy things quite so much. Tanzania is more friendly for road travel, as the Okavango is mostly accessed by small plane, which adds a lot of expense. The nice thing about many of the preserves is that they are not state run, so game drives can take you off-road, where you’ll actually see something. I recommend Wilderness Safaris. If you choose Botswana, I’d recommend Mombo Camp and King’s Pool for starters.
I don’t think you are missing a ton by not going to Kenya.
I went to Masai Mara and Lake Nakuru National Parks in Kenya (on 2 different safaris actually). Masai Mara is really just the Serengetti and not quite as nice. Lake Nakaru has the spectacular flamingo populations, which you probabaly won’t see in Tanzania. You will see some flamingos in Ngoro Ngoro crater, but not like the gazilion at Lake Nakaru ( by the way, this lake is usually hit on the safari going west from Nairobi to Uganda and Rwanda anyhow). The Serengetti, Ngogro Ngoro Crater and Kilimanjaro are all in Tanzania.
The biggest problem is that Nairobi (Nai-robbery ) is a convenient stopping point for the Victoria Falls to points north trek. I suppose there will be some way to end up in Dar es Saalam ( and a great opportunity to go to Zanzibar, which you shouldn’t miss if you have the time).
The Okavango Delta is one of the most enchanting places on the planet. Don’t miss it. Victoria Falls is pretty spectacular too.
I agree with much of this, although one can see large flocks of flamingos at Lake Ndutu on the Serengeti. The Ndutu Safari Lodge is simple, but comfortable; it’s quite startling to look up from your dinner and see a genet cat looking down at you from the rafters. The Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is spectacular, but spendy. Every room in your bungalow has the same view of the crater; the game drives inside the crater are worth the trip. We went to Victoria Falls, by the way, and never came anywhere near Nairobi.
We’d be going with a group, by the way - it’d be me and my mom, and my mom’s getting a little old to wander through Africa by ourselves. We were looking at a book by Micato Safaris, which is enough to swoon over. Pricey, though. But it really has to be comfortable, as Mom will be, what, 67 by then? And she’s in good shape, tough, but she’s gonna want a nice bed after a day in the Land Rover, you know?
Go to Tanzania - you will not be disappointed, guaranteed. We went on a Tanzanian safari just last October (26 Oct - 5 Nov, specifically), and it’s amazing. The country itself is one of the stable countries in Africa - Bill and Melinda Gates are specifically targeting Tanzania as headquarters of one of their charitable organizations, it’s where the Rwanda genocide tribunals are being held, Bill Clinton is looking there for African headquarters of one of his initiatives, and on and on. While we were on an organized tour, there was never any time we felt unsafe in any way. Yes, the people we primarily saw were all involved in the tourist industry, but everyone was very friendly and very open. Due to some of the measures the government’s taken (which I’m not certain I agree with, but they do seem to have helped), Tanzanians don’t seem to have the same strong tribal affiliations that have been so damaging in other African countries, and they seem to be very proud of being Tanzanian first, democratic first, and whatever else second.
I’m certain that Kenya is equally as beautiful, but the current instability there would be too much for me. Our safari was simply amazing - the most amazing and wonderful trip I’ve ever been on. We booked through Globus Tours, who partners with Ranger Safaris there, and everything was perfect (except the early starts - we’re not morning people. But we could sacrifice for that trip.).
There’s no need for worry, particularly if you are booking through a tour company. My wife and I got there on our own, and then ended up going on game drives with whomever was there. The accommodations in Botswana with Wilderness were top-notch, with comfortable beds and en-suite bathrooms. No way I’d want to go outside to use an outhouse at night in a game park, not with lions wandering through the camp.
Dang, you were arriving in Tanzania just as I was leaving. My parents spent most of the last 15 years living in Tanzania and they have often stated that it’s one of the most stable countries around.
If you go, look at some of the less well known game parks. I’ve been to Ruaha National Park 3 times now and I love it. It’s so much less crowded then the more popular parks. We stayed in the park and the camp we were at had maybe 12 people staying at it? We went on game drives with 3-4 people in the truck. The guilds were incredible. How the heck do they see those animals? I find it much more enjoyable to look for animals and birds when I’m not surrounded by tons of other people. You don’t mention what time of year you are looking at going, but if you want to see animals, take a look at the end of the dry season. All the animals have to come to the waterholes and the lack of vegetation makes them easier to see. This page has some of our pictures.
I would second the suggestion of visiting Zanzibar. I stayed in Zanzibar City, in the Stone Town, which is a World Heritage Site. It’s a totally different feel then the mainland. Much more Arabic.
FWIW, my school is getting all of our exchange students out of there as of now. Despite the fact that the students were with wealthy families and had guards protecting the houses, they were confined to the property and couldn’t even go to school, it sounds like things are pretty serious for foriegners there.