Affordable Comfortable Authentic Masai Mara Safari Not Luxury - Sep 16 - Sep 27, 2018
Hi Susan and Kimkim,
Re: star ratings above: Susan was very nice (five stars) and booking on your site is excellent (five stars). I put three stars because of value of trip to us.
My computer has been in repair but I’m up and running so here is our review.
Accommodations and Sites on Each Stop:
Fairview Hotel: Wonderful. We would love to have rested up here for first day as you know.
Sites: Baby elephants and giraffe fun to see. Suspect in hindsight that a drive through the Nairobi National Park would have been a more robust and exciting day…more of an “A” than a “B” site.
Camp Carnalley: Cheryl enjoyed the environment (birds, lake, trees). William was very uncomfortable with the rustic cabin with no windows. William was only warm by the fire in the restaurant…everything else open air and cold. Food very bad except pizza and cocktails. Cheryl and William both feel the camp does not meet with the “comfortable” standard we purchased.
Hells Gate: Hike good exercise but views not “A” rated. Walking with animals lovely (prefer hiking with animals on a hiking trail..but it was nice nevertheless). William not at all excited about Hells Gate. Cheryl was engaged and interested with walk and the gorge hike. She would have preferred arriving early in the morning for pink cliff and more animals. Hindsight.
Maili Saba Camp: Wonderful. We both enjoyed the view, cottage, food, environment, service, pool. Best accommodation of the trip.
Nakuru National Park: Wonderful. We both really enjoyed the scenery an animals of Nakuru.
MARA, MATIRA BUSH CAMP S IDE
Matira Bush Camp: Could have been perfect. Wonderful setting in the bush, good service and food. Problem upon arrival after dark: they took us to a tent surrounded by bush, no view, very dark and claustrophobic. I told them it did not match what I saw online in pictures. They said pictures can be misleading. They said platform tent might be better but was booked. So we tried to sleep in the dark tent but gave up early am and I got some pads from the reception area and put them on ground around the fire. Got some rest there but it required “going rogue” and it woke up some of the staff. At dawn I found the platform tent with lovely view and no one was in it. We moved into that tent the second night and I really think it was unfair that they did not eagerly change our tent the night before. Lost almost a whole night sleep after a long drive. Did not meet with the comfort standard purchased for the first night. We were able to relax and very much enjoy the platform tent the second night
Game Drive out of Matira
Beginning to be concerned we were not seeing many animals in the Mara. A Swedish couple seriously advised us to go to two places to see cheetah, leopard, and a touch of the remaining migration. Duncan was extremely defensive when I suggested this itinerary. Swedes had warned me this might happen and advised me how to handle driver with gentle persuasion and offer of larger tip. So I did this and he did as requested and we saw the wonderful animals. His attitude cast a pall. We managed to keep things cordial with humor. Did not like having to “manage” driver.
KEEKOROK SIDE OF MARA
Keekorok Lodge: Did not know that there are two sides of the Mara and that Keekorok is located on a side of the park that has fewer animals and a lot of wide open repetitious views (maybe not so empty when there is a migration or on different roads?). Cheryl really enjoyed the hippo pool and wandering the grounds of Keekorok. William was ok with the lodge but felt it was poor value for cost of trip. Food was quite good. Loved presence of monkeys but missed the bush emersion of Matira .
Game drive out of Keekorok: Did not see many animals. Resorted to visiting high end camp which was intereting. Sand River views lovely for Cheryl, but William missed seeing animals. Not good value game driving day. A lot of driving on not very intereting roads.
BACK TO NAIROBI
Hilton Garden Inn: Very comfortable. Nice rooftop pool. We were considering staying in the Fairview Hotel instead of Hilton since Duncan insisted on leaving early from Keekorok. We were headed for Fairview when William asked to go to the stores at the lunch place you recommended after giraffe visit. Without letting us know how long it was going to take (we had no idea where it was), Duncan drove to the store which added so much driving time (and in heavy traffic) to the day that we no longer had time to enjoy Fairview. Arrived late to Hilton and enjoyed it very much for the two hours left in a looooong day of driving, some which could have been avoided. We were having a hard time communicating with Duncan…felt “cut off” from information about what was going on and how his decisions would impact our day. We would not have gone to the store if were knew it would eliminate ability to enjoy Fairview again. He acted quite unconcerned and was very self absorbed (except when we could make him laugh…William was good at that and luckily Duncan was receptive to a laugh once and a while).
OVERVIEW OF ITINERARY
This is a tough one to analyze as I do not know what the rest of Kenya is like. Overall less exciting and I expected for cost of trip. Too much “work” for a tour. Trusted that all destinations would be “A” rated, but this was not the case for us. Did not know I should have worked harder myself on the itinerary. My primary disappointment was the lack of scenery for a majority of the driving. We back tracked over long stretches which were not particularly interesting. The bumpy roads were very hard on William; he would have preferred a shorter trip with flights. I accept bumpy roads as part of safari experience but do expect good scenery as an important part of an itinerary. I’m very careful in California to “stay scenic”. I undertand you cannot predict client response to bumpy roads.
I have recalculated the cost of trip before Kimkim fees as best I can and I come up with cost of driver and accommodation to be about $4,700. (I did not assess hotel nights as “per person” as they are not billed that way online…rates are for two people. The only time I see per person rates is when you are using the lodges safari services). Duncan said his rate is $300 per day. There is a chart below.
We paid $8000. Duncan said he is paid $300 per day ($2,700 for our days). I estimate the lodging at $2,000 for two. Hotels based on prices for two not each searched online or at sites: Fairview $175 one night (I did not include the one night tobe refunded; Camp Carnalleys (generous estimate $150/night); Maili Saba $400 for two nights meals included two people; Matira Bush Camp rate not listed so I estmate about $250 per night max for two; Keekorok two nights $500 for two; Hilton Garden Hotel generous upward estimate $200 for two).
I thought that since we were not receiving the kind of full blown attention and services of a Roads Scholar type tour that using Kimkim would be a good value way to go…more like a travel agent than a tour company. I thought that we would enjoy consistent comfort, that the driver would be congenial and trustworthy and while not a guide would convey an eagerness to please, that we would have comfortable lodging, and that the itinerary would be full of “A” rated experiences.. I thought that without steep middle man fees and additional fees for a professional guide that cost would be much lower than a standard tour like Roads Scholar. Unfortunately, little of this turned out to be true for us.
I did not have a bad trip…I was quite happy most of the time. William suffered more…he kind of “gave up” and used a lot of humor to cope. We are both glad we went, but feel like we way overpaid for what we got.
I am of course open to your response to my concerns and you are free to call me 415 7305305. If there is a way to address these concerns and continue working with you that would be great.
Cheryl Chester (and William Baker)