"CHOOSING THE RIGHT TOUR OPERATOR" Kenya Travelogue by Homanded
Kenya Travel Guide: 4,352 reviews and 11,831 photos
After 1 month of non stop research which included posting on VT pages, talking to members (and some non members we'd approach at the local bookstores who were browsing Africa travel section), reading the general guidebooks we finally narrowed it down to only members of KATO: Kenya Association of Tour Operators.
Our logic was as follows:
WHENEVER we conduct business with a local business here in the US we always do background checks through the BBB (Better Business Bereau)
We check out their complaints, resolved/unresolved issues as well as their general overall satisfaction ratings.
Only stands to reason that when sending out thousands of dollars to an overseas company the same logic should apply - even more so. Often times the tour operators will insist on a 25-50% deposit up front via bank to bank money transfer.
Because of the overwhelming amount of credit card theft, unscrupulous business dealings and "mystery" accounts originating in Africa (you only need to look at many of the current spam mailings going around) we chose to cover ourselves as best we could by locating an association that would do quality control for us; KATO.
We began by googling KATO and found the following website:
FROM THERE, we contacted several of the operators listed on their site using a general introductory Email indicating our interest in safari, introducing ourselves, naming our ideals and expectations of points of interest we'd like to visit including preferred hotels/lodges and length of stay.
We came up with the "ideal" itinerary after comparing basic itineraries recommended by various tour operators and guide books designed to maximize our 9 day stay and offer us the best possible experience and game viewing while offering us a certain level of comfort.
The following is what we came up with:
Arrival into Nairobi and overnight stay at a comfortable 4 star hotel
We would certainly need to be rested after a long 28 hour transatlantic flight between Miami and Nairobi including a 4 hour layover in London.
Our arrival time was due to be at 19:00 hours (about 7:00pm) and with prior long distance travel under our belt we realized getting to sleep, adrenaline rush and the anticipation of begining our journey would make for a difficult fist night! We needed to make our transition as smooth as possible for that first full day!
After numerous postings on VT and getting invaluable advice from members such as Krumel: who has been to Africa many times as well as
Wiley Coyote we knew we wanted to cover the following points of interest:
Amboselli (Mt. Kilimanjaro) - ever since I saw that movie with Elisabeth Taylor)
Lake Nakuru (for the flamingoes and Rhinos)
Masai Mara (for the Wildebeest Migration)
and finally the rift valley for Dr. Leeky's discovery of the oldest human fossil.
Additionally, we wanted enough time on our return to Nairobi from our safari and before embarking on our trip to Cairo, Egypt to overnight at the famous Stanley Hotel - (we have a thing for Ernest Hemmingway living close to Key West) and historical hotels, as well as dining at the World Famous "CARNIVORE RESTAURANT" considered a "must do" by the guidebooks and fellow members of VT.
The responses to our Emails were overwhelming with several tour operators offeing a wide array of tours with all sorts of different inclusions and add-ons.
It was then a matter of cross communicating, counter offering and tailoring our ideal package to suit both our needs as well as the requirements we had established.
is who we eventually decided on. Not only was Moses the most curteous and willing to tailor our trip to our needs but also met our needs as to hotel stays, lodges and even CARNIVORE RESTAURANT which they ended up throwing in with the complete price of the safari! Additionally, knowing we would be staying an extra night in Nairobi, they managed to book us into the Intercontinental Hotel on day 1 complete with a welcome dinner, and personal escort including p/up and return to airport on final day of our stay. A big bonus since we would be staying an additional day after safari actually ended before continuing on to Egypt.
If that wasn't enough, Moses arranged for a private guide (at no charge) all the next day for our choice of sight seeing in/around Nairobi as well as discount lunch menu at a local restaurant and finally (we couldn't believe our luck) personally arranged our flights between Nairobi and Cairo through Kenya Airways at a much better rate than we could've possibly have gotten from state side!
It is all these little extras that bond you and your guide!
We were additionally (one of the few) given the choice of bank transfer or payment by credit card - which we opted for as it was #1) Secure in case of any disputes and #2) we would be able to accrue the additional mileage points on our frequent flyer program!
A full and more detailed description of Moses services, including pictures and experience with company after our return.
The following is a list of the hotels recomended and finally chosen for our Kenya Safari along with the complete itinerary:
Day 1) Arrive Nairobi and check into INTERCONTINENTAL HOTEL
Day 2) Nairobi - Amboselli - check into OL TUKAI LODGE
Day 3) Amboselli - OL TUKAI LODGE
Day 4) Amboselli - Mt. Kenya with lunch at famous PANARI RESTAURANT
Continue on to the TREE TOPS LODGE and overnight
Day 5) Mt. Kenya - Lake Nakuru with lunch at MOUNT KENYA SAFARI CLUB and overnight at SAROVA LION HILL LODGE
Day 6) Lake Nakuru - Masai Mara -
SAROVA MARA TENTED CAMP
Day 7) Masai Mara -
SAROVA MARA TENTED CAMP
Day 8) Masai Mara - Nairobi - SAROVA STANLEY HOTEL & Dinner at CARNIVORE RESTAURANT
Day 9) Nairobi Sightseeing & onward flight to Cairo
We feel this gave us the widest, most inclusive highlights of what we wanted to see & do. By having an open communication with Moses, going over our itineray, making necessary changes we found him extremely easy and willing to make necessary changes in order to accomodate our needs.
Best of all, he actually came in 2nd lowest price wise from all others, including one Party Tours who, although very willing to accomodate us as well in the end, due to their lack of accepting credit cards and having less all inclusive rates such as Nairobi hotel and Carnivore dinner and not being registered through KATO was our deciding factor for choosing MADUKHA.
I don't mean to imply that some of those others are any less reliable nor, any less professional. It is a personal preference (and our recomendation) when booking through ANY agent; that you cover your basis as much as possible.
a) Make sure they are backed through a larger, reliable organization
such as KATO or KENYA MINISTRY OF TOURISM.
b) Make sure they are licensed and bonded whenever possible.
c)Try to choose a company that accepts credit cards in case of
discrepancy or misrepresentations.
d)Whenever possible, insist on references and list of contacts.
e)Decide on your ideal itinerary including needs/wants and lodging
preference. See how tour operator is able to meet your needs.
f) See and compare tour operators inclusions such as meals, additionals
such as private safari vehicles and escorted sightseeing tours.
g)Finally and most important, get a feeling for your rep and guide and
make sure this is someone you feel comfortable working with by
gauging n overall knowledge, friendliness and willingness to truly
make your safari a dream of a lifetime be realized.
We found this in Moses at MADUKHA TOURS & SAFARIS LTD....should anything change, we'll
certainly let everyone know!
Alot of safari tours and operators lump a flight in with their packages. In some cases this may be the most economical way to go - however, having been in the travel industry for many years I knew that by booking direct and keeping an eye out for air fare wars and specials you can also oftentimes end up saving a couple hundred dollars.
This is what happened in our case.
Overwhelmingly so, British Airways had by far the best rates and class of service flying from our home country to Nairobi. Having been past passengers on BA flights, we knew their service is wonderful.
We booked on line and were able to take advantage of a promotion they had going on their website.
Our flight was $1603.00 Round trip with an open leg return from Cairo.
Kenya Airways was booked by Moses at Madukha tours who acted as our booking agent and saved us big bucks once we gave him the necessary information. He even did so w/out charging us a booking fee nor service charge which others had insisted on wanting to charge us for their "trouble".
Now that we had the safari of our dreams organized and booked, we had to deal with the miscellaneous incidentials such as requirements, packing lists, Visas, vaccinations, etc.
We found the following websites quite useful. Again, our buddy Krumel "Birgit"; was quite helpful in clearing up several misconceptions we had about jabs, and necessary paperwork for entry into Kenya as opposed to Tanzania.
The following weblinks are good for health requirements to enter Kenya:
Following are good sites for Visa/Entry requirements:
Embassy of Kenya, Washington, DC
Finally, due to recent terrorism and travel warnings for all Western citizens, including citizens of the UK and USA, registering with the goverment your trip, including next of kin, passport number, detailed itinerary and contacts while in Kenya are a recomended MUST!
The following web site is where to do this just follow prompts to "Register my trip"
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