- Route plan

   Africa is a call that any traveler must take sooner or later. The time has come for us after cancelling the plan the previous year because of the news about tourists kidnapping in Lamu, the place we thought for spending our beach days.

   That is finished now and, just in case, we’re not going to go near the Northern border with the dangerous Somalia. For beach, instead of going to Lamu – which is close to that border as can be seen in the map below – we will go to Diani, exchanging North by South.

   But even before doing any choice for the beach, the route plan had changed a lot from the first one. It was based in the typical itinerary for travel agencies combining the southern parks of Kenya with the Northern ones in Tanzania, finishing in Zanzibar Island. Thinking even about taking the train leaving from the capital of Tanzania, Dar Es Salaam, to Zambia and be able of visiting Victoria Falls. But this option needs too much time for a train travel and it is too difficult or expensive by plane. I found out it is more comfortable and cheaper visiting this falls with a flight from South Africa than doing the same from closer countries as Tanzania or Kenya.

   Then I focused this travel in Kenya – the most touristic country and, therefore, with better infrastructures – with a short trip to Tanzania for visiting Ngorongoro mainly and ending in Diani or Tiwi beaches, in Southern Kenya, after passing through the most popular parks of the country: Amboseli, Nakuru and Maasai Mara.

   Tanzania was difficult to discard because going to Amboseli makes us be close to the border pass and I had found good allocation in Nogorongoro , but problems kept appearing one after the other. It seems rented cars need to pay more for the insurance to be able of passing the border into Tanzania but, even with that, it seems you can be tried to purchase an additional insurance in the border as a bribe. Once in the country, the foreign cars must pay 40$ for going into the park, to be added to the 100$ (50$ per person) for, for example, conservation fee at Ngorongoro. Later, I found out 200$ per vehicle more must be paid for going down into the crater for 6 hours. I looked for alternatives, as going into the Reserve but, instead of going down the crater, driving to less popular crates inside as Empakaai, but then you must hire a ranger to go with you and our thought is taking a car for two persons. All this did a couple of days in Tanzania were as pricy as a one week route around through Kenya, but still I was close to accept it until I read we are forced to get the yellow fever vaccination for crossing the border to Tanzania because we’re going to come from a country with this disease, Kenya, even if we just were a few hours in it. This was the last point making me giving up and closing definitively that border for us and getting better hotels in Kenya with the savings.

Itinerary in Kenya    A budget of 2000€ for two persons (1000€ per person) in such a travel like this one is possible, but we’ve set it to 2500€ looking for lodge upgrades. But, yes, in 2013 is still possible for a 10 days trip through Kenya, visiting the main parks by 1000€ per person, including flights, rented car, hotels and parks fees. Basically, you only need to take our travel, change some of the lodges and removing the beach part of it. In “Hotels” section we will explain the cheaper option too.

   With Tanzania out of the table we could explore Kenya deeper. First we found out the activities we can do in Nairobi are more than we thought, so we would spend the first whole day there to enjoy them and doing some needed tasks for the travel, like getting a phone card, buying some food and water and getting the card we need for entrance to parks belonging to KWS as Amboseli or Nakuru, and a different card for Maasai Mara we must acquire in an Equity Bank branch.

   The extra days we’ve got for Kenya could be spent on places out of the list before as Thompson Falls, Lake Bogoria, Ol Pejeta reserve, 14 falls and even Mount Kenya.

   Ol Pejeta was quickly removed because there are no lodges in there with reasonable rates and, if you go there by your own, you must pay 68$ per person as conservation fee. It was the hotel what took us to Nyahururu and the Thompson Falls and, from there, the chance of visiting Lake Bogoria. This lake has the biggest flamingo colony in a wonderful environment within Rift Valley, and the area is also geothermal, with geysers and bobbling mud.

   Reaching Nyahururu takes us to a long drive from Amboseli. The first plan to go there was passing by Thika and its 14 Falls and Nyeri and Mount Kenya views but, depending on the time we thought about taking the more straight and quicker way by Naivasha, passing at West of Aberdare instead of East.

   As we have a clear idea of enjoying the train trip from Nairobi to Mombasa, we got our route through Kenya, starting in a late arrival at Nairobi, and it was like this:
Road route in KeniaRoad route in Kenia
1: Arrival at Nairobi in the early hours and transfer to hotel. (A)
2: Visits around Langata Road. (A)
3: Rest of visits in Nairobi and going to Amboseli. (B)
4: Amboseli and route to North to Nyahururu. (C)
5: Lakes Bogoria and Nakuru. (D)
6: Lake Nakuru and Route to Maasai Mara. (E)
7: Maasai Mara. (E)
8: Maasai Mara. (E)
9: Drive to Nairobi where taking the night train to Mombasa. (F)
10: All inclusive in Diani Beach's resort.
11: All inclusive in Diani Beach's resort.
12: Snorkel in Wasini Island and evening in Mombasa.
13: Flight to Istanbul in the small hours and city tour. Final flight to Barcelona.

   From this plan Lake Nakuru was soon exchanged by Lake Naivasha. Having a better version for the main attraction of Nakuru, its colony of flamingos, we could see a chance of saving the high cost of this visit. Lake Nakuru is pricy because it is very accessible, just along the third bigger city of Kenya. You can even do a game drive by taxi. IT is also a very controlled environment, as it is fenced. So we see a chance of taking advantage of being by our own discarding this pricy visit because of its convenience to travel agencies and exchanging it by two cheaper – and even prettier – ones: Lake Bogoria and Lake Naivasha. This last lake gives us the chance of enjoying some other birds as the fishing eagle and, over all, being in a walking safari in Crescent Island.

   Other change came from realizing that route for day 4 is too long and the recommendations are always avoiding to drive by night. So, we made the drive for that day shorter by forgetting about Mount Kenya and finishing in Naivasha, to reach Nyahururur the next day. The long drive is moved then to the day we leave that city and must reach Maasai Mara after visiting Lake Bogoria, but we understand that visit is quite shorter than the one could be in Nakuru.

   With this we definitively completed the route plan, shown in the map above, and with a final budget a bit over those 2500€ per couple we mentioned at the beginning because some extras we add happily and even including in most of the cases the meals. Anyway, it is an incredible budget and difficult to imagine when starting to look for prices for such a travel.

   So, finally, the definitive route plan (number of day and where we sleep) is the following, starting by September 10th of 2013:

1 y 2: Nairobi
3: Amboseli
4: Naivasha
5: Nyahururu
6, 7 y 8: Maasai Mara
9: Night train to Mombasa
10 y 11: Diani Beach
12: Mombasa
13: Barcelona

- Flights

   It was a quick search this time. Mi idea was getting the tickets as close as possible to 500€ per person and I found a rate in Turkish airlines of 1079€ for the two of us for the dates we wanted, around 200€ cheaper than the second option. Also, this airline has a plan for free tours around Istanbul for international transit passengers with more than 6 hours between flights, including meals, tickets for attractions and guide. A very tempting offer as, although I’ve already been in Istanbul, my wife hasn’t. The only disadvantage of these flights is the arrival and leaving times as they’re on the earlier hours.

   At the beginning of January Turkish airlines’ rates started to raise and I had to move our dates for the travel one week to meet the good prices again (400€ more for the original dates). I even looked for alternatives and found better rates in Emirates: 1050€ for two persons to Nairobi.

   Somehow, Turkish Airlines kept being the best option as we get the free tour and this airline fly to Mombasa too and the rate is the same if we took incoming flight to Nairobi and the outgoing one from Mombasa, which saves us the domestic flight I thought we should take to return to Nairobi from the coast with a rate of 54 per person with Kenya Airways.

   With all this I decide to take the flights in January for preventing later raises and definitively closing this part. We chose making Istanbul tour in the return for various reasons.

   Finally, then, Turkish Airlines flights are like this, by 1079€:

09/10/2013   BCN  12:25    IST   16:40
09/10/2013   IST   19:50    NBO  02:25
09/22/2013   MBA  04:10    IST   10:55
09/22/2013   IST   21:05    BCN  23:45

- Hotels

   Some of the facilities we use to find in hotels is so basic as per we didn’t think about it and its importance, but resulted that finding good and cheap lodges with power in the middle of a National Park is not that easy. If we cannot charge the batteries for our cameras we can find ourselves in the middle of a photographic safari and unable to take any photos! So this point was a priority for us.

   The search of hotel for the coast was easily solved as booking.com already offered what we were looking for: an All Inclusive resort in Diani Beach. It is the Papilion Lagoon Reef Hotel, by 125$ per day. At the beginning the idea was spending three days here, but as one of them was thought to be spent in a whole day tour by a marine park, we have finally booked two days here. I also considered the nocturne time for our return flight from Mombasa.

   For the third of these last days, instead of paying for an All Inclusive day we cannot take advantage of, as the tour includes meals and transfers, we can ask for being delivered in a hotl in Mombasa, optimizing resources this way. So we need a hotel in this city where we’re not going to sleep as we must leave at midnight. For this we’ve taken one of the best valuated hotels in Mombasa’s mid-range: New Palm Tree Hotel.

   Our choice for Nairobi was Wildebeest Eco Camp, sited in Karen district, where are all the highlights we want to visit in the capital city. Here, we would optimize the cost by taking a Garden Tent for the first night (45€), when we’ll arrive so late and one Deluxe Safari Tent (90€) for the second day. The main difference between them, apart from the rate, is the last have power and the first have not. This would be the option for the 1000€ travel. Somehow, when we tried to book here in April we find the only day we wanted a Deluxe Tent they were not available. Plan B then, was taking the same room for both nights in a similar place in the same district: Hotel Bush & Camp by 85$ per night.

   For Amboseli we looked after the KWS allocation inside the park: a simple bungalow with kitchen and bathroom by 80$, as Nyati Banda, but finally went for the luxury of a bungalow in Amboseli Sopa Lodge by 140€. Both have incredible views of Kilimanjaro, as must be on their locations, but we’ve chosen for some luxury here and it includes dinner and breakfast, swimming pool and a splendid garden with animals as monkeys or mongooses. Even there is a Maasai dance show at dinner time. There are a lot of different rates for this place in Internet going, from the most expensive in the same Sopa website, to the cheapest in Clever-hotels.com.

  For Maasai Mara we chose, after a complete seek through all the camps, Aruba Mara Camp because in Safarinow.com it appears by 90€ per all inclusive day, but when contacting them the error came up as there is really twice that price: when it says “per unit” should say “per person”. That was the only acceptable option in Talek Gate, so we looked in Sekennani and chose Oldarpoi Camp but, again, prince in Safarinow.com was not real. We have finally booked three nights in Rhino Tourist Camp with full board by 90$ per day. It looks like a good value for money as per having this same camp for the 1000€ travel, but for lower budgets, there still is the Spurwing Camp, where one can get a bed and tent by 25€ per day, although more basic.

   There is no search for lodging in Nyahururu as there is only one option: Thomson's Falls Lodge. It is just in the falls and has the only website for a hotel with no option of contacting it. No email, phone number, address… anything! I should look for their phone number in directories using Google and book a room with half board for the dinner by 6600 KSH.

   Only the night at Naivasha Lake remained and, after looking in a list of similar offers there, we chose Carnelley's Camp. We could book a New Banda here, including breakfast, by 8000 KSH. We should transfer 40€ to their bank account as deposit. For the 1000€ travel this same camp can be the option too, in a double room by 39€.

-Car rental

   After checking a lot of websites offering 4WD car rentals in Kenya, we chose Cruissing Cruisers, from which we could get a classic Toyota FJ40 for two persons by 80$ per day. This was a total cost of 80x7=560$ in total. Somehow, when I contacted they told me they are no longer renting cars so we should look for another option.

   And we found it in Rasul's, when we added to our search the companies rating by kilometer. This option makes us have no fixed rate for this as it is going to be based on the exact number of kilometers covered at the moment of delivering the car but, in exchange, we reduce a lot the expense for fuel from the 14 liters every 100 Km of Toyota to 6 liters by 100 Km of Suzuki Maruti.

   I needed three emails and three calls to get an answer, but we finally made our reservation for 8 days as we are going to use it in our day by Nairobi too. They told us car has lighter so we can charge batteries for devices in our way. It has also a door in the roof for nature observation.

   Our calculation, then, for this cost is approximated, based on the 1600 Kms we’re going to do and is like this:

 (1600 Ksh + 800 Ksh) x 8 days = 19200 Ksh for daily rate and insurance
 16 Ksh x 1600 Km = 25600 Ksh for mileage
 Total: 19200 Ksh + 25600 Ksh + 16% for the total for VAT taxes= 51968 Ksh (440€ approx.)

   For this car, the only we must provide when picking it up is 80,000 Ksh, whether by card or cash, as deposit from which they’ll take the total of the renting at delivering time.

   This same option can be used for the 1000€ travel but with a lower cost as it is less days, 6 instead of 8. There is the option of renting a RAV4 by 70-80$ per day with unlimited mileage in the multiple web sites appearing as result for looking for car rental in Kenya, although these cars have different insurance conditions and no roof door, which we think we must have.

-Other expenses

   The main fix expense for this travel is the conservation fees (admission) to the parks and reserves. I’m normally not including the admission fees to the sites to be visiting as it is something optional and small money, but in Kenya I found the different departments managing the nature areas are in a period where they’re checking how high the rates can be set without losing money as nobody will go there. These rates are in a bubble and its value has been increased multiple times in the last years. For the places we can go to visit in 2013 the rates are like this:

Park or Reserve Rate per person Administered by
Amboseli 80$ KWS
Lake Bogoria 50$ Lake Bogoria National Reserve
Lake Nakuru 80$ KWS
Crescent Island 25$ Crescent Island
Masai Mara 80$ Narok County council

   We must add a small amount (around 3-4$) by the car.

   Our plan now is maximize the balanze between cost and quality for the experience and it results to be at least one day in Maasai Mara, another day in Amboseli and exchanging Lake Nakuru by Lakes Bogoria and Naivasha. It makes a fixed expenses of 160$ for Amboseli + 160$ for Maasai Mara + 100$ for Lake Bogoria and 50$ for Crescent Island, which makes a total of 470$. We should add the cost of the car admission to it.

   Another fixed expense is the visa, which we can get in the airport at arrival in exchange of 50$ each.

   The last of these expenses is the trip in the Lunatic train from Nairobi to Mombasa on September 18th by night. Apart from being a night we save in a hotel, the first class ticket also includes dinner and breakfast. The rate is 4405 Ksh per person as we can see in the railways web site www.riftvalleyrail.com, althought in all other sites it appears rounded to 60$.

   There are additional activities and tickets which will be explained in the daily pages.

   Detailed plan, then, is like this:

Day Night Morning Afternoon
10 Nairobi Home Flying
11 Nairobi Langata Langata
12 Amboseli Route to Amboseli Amboseli
13 Naivasha Amboseli Route to Naivasha
14 Nyahururu Crescent Island Thompson Falls
15 Masai Mara Lake Bogoria Route to Masai Mara
16 Masai Mara Masai Mara Masai Mara
17 Masai Mara Masai Mara Masai Mara
18 Lunatic train Route to Nairobi Nairobi
19 Diani Diani Beach Diani Beach
20 Diani Diani Beach Diani Beach
21 Mombasa Diani Beach Mombasa
22 Home Flying Istanbul