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Hunting out the Best East African Safari – Kenya vs. Uganda

June 5, 2016

As you would expect, our safaris in Kenya and Uganda were amongst the main highlights of our trip to Africa; what surprised us though was just how different they were to one another.  Though the animals were relatively similar, there were some fairly significant differences between our two experiences.  How might you decide on the best safari for you?  Read on to learn more about the differences as we saw them…

Price

In Kenya we booked with Safe Ride Tours and Safaris on their ‘3 day Masai Mara Camping Safari’ at a total cost of USD360 per person.  By comparison, in Uganda we signed up for the ‘3 day Murchison Big 5 Safari’ through Red Chilli Hideaway at a cost of USD380 each.

The Kenyan tour was slightly cheaper and included food so beat Uganda out by a nose in that regard.


Transport

In Kenya, we travelled in a converted Toyota Land Cruiser (which had pretty comfortable seats) whereas in Uganda we were in a converted van (with noticeably less comfortable seats).  Each had a roof that raised up and windows that slid open to allow safari-goers to get their perfect photographs; whilst the Kenyan 4WD was more comfortable to sit down in, the van in Uganda was at a slightly better height for standing up in.  Regardless, try to get a seat in the middle or towards the back if possible to position yourself well to stand up – we were in the front of the main cab and found ourselves leaning back quite a lot to stand in the opening.   

If we had to pick the better transport option, the Land Cruiser in Kenya would by our preference, simply because you’ll spend so much time sitting down so comfort is fairly important.


Accommodation

Kenya – 2 nights accommodation in a permanent double tent with ensuite and power (between certain hours under generator).

Uganda – 2 nights in a permanent twin tent (unpowered, bathroom blocks within close walking distance) + 1 free night each in a 4 bed dorm.

Let’s call this a tie as Uganda offer an extra night but Kenya had an ensuite and power in the tent. 


Food

Included in Kenya (breakfast and packed lunch was great, normal lunch and dinner pretty average). It was an additional cost in Uganda but tasty.

Winner = Kenya for value for money, Uganda for quality/choice. 


Included Activities/Itinerary

Kenya – Sundowner game drive, full day game drive and sunrise game drive (+ optional Masai village tour for USD20 per person). Uganda – Walk to Murchison Falls, morning game drive, afternoon Nile river cruise, rhino sanctuary visit.  We paid more to join the tour that went to the rhino sanctuary but knowing what we know now (and having talked to other people), we would recommend going on the cheaper tour that includes a final morning game drive instead.

If your main aim is to see as many animals as possible then Kenya would win because of the extra time spent on game drives.  If you’re after variety, then Uganda offers more – both the game drive and river safari in Uganda were awesome, though the walk to the falls and rhino sanctuary didn’t compare as well in our opinion.


Quality of Game Viewing/Drive

The most important part of any safari comparison, because, after all, you’re on safari to see animals!  We were most surprised to find such a variation between the two game drives and although both experiences were amazing, it is worth understanding how they vary.

Masai Mara stretches out as far as the eye can see (and beyond).  On our full day game drive, we covered a significant area of the park but it still felt like we barely made a dent.  At one point, in the heat of the day, we drove for a good half hour through the long grass without seeing any animals, whilst at other times, we saw relatively well-sized herds.

By comparison, we didn’t go the long periods without seeing animals at Murchison Falls, but nor did we do a game drive in the midday sun.  Generally the best time to spot animals is around sunrise and sunset, when the temperatures are more comfortable, so it may not be surprising that our hit-rate was better when we only managed to fit in a sunrise drive.

The tracks varied greatly between the two parks – Kenya had countless smaller tracks which allowed our driver to get off the main ones and really go exploring.  Uganda didn’t appear to have many smaller tracks at all, instead favouring key tracks through the park.  We were lucky in Uganda and managed to spot a number of animals near the tracks, but when they decide to hang back (like a jaguar did, in a distant tree) there’s really not much that can be done.  Kenya was better in this regard as the additional tracks increase your chances of getting in on the action.

Comparing these two is too close to call. The roads in Uganda were more comfortable but Masai Mara felt like more of an adventure. We were fortunate to see plenty of game at Murchison Falls but can imagine this would not always be the case of the animals decide to stay away from the main tracks.  We saw far more lions at Masai Mara (and think you’d have a better chance of spotting the Big Five there) but there were generally bigger herds of animals at Murchison Falls. If you can get to both parks to see the difference for yourself, we’d highly recommend it. 


What time of year should I go?

We visited at the start of the long rainy season and it was spot on! Prior to arriving, we’d read warnings of the rain causing grass growth to the point that game couldn’t be seen, and animals hiding away, without any need to come out to watering holes.  It barely rained the entire time we were in these two beautiful countries and when it did, it was almost exclusively when we were in bed at night tucked up in our (thankfully waterproof) tents.  The up-shot of visiting during the offseason was that we practically had parks to ourselves.  During peak season, our Kenyan driver explained that the reserve can easily be mistaken for Disneyland, with waits of 45 mins-1 hour for the vans and trucks in front to move aside, finally allowing you to get a good look at that lion (and to quickly snap your prized shot before moving on again).  Instead, we often stumbled across animals without anyone else around us and got to enjoy them in relative seclusion.  Our accommodation was quiet and everything felt very relaxed due to the small group numbers; both of our safari’s only have two other people respectively.


So who wins?  Masai Mara, Kenya or Murchison Falls, Uganda?

The million dollar question and one that we really couldn’t answer!  We enjoyed both of our safaris for different reasons.  Kenya and Masai Mara will stay in our mind as the first place we saw such amazing animals in the wild and for the sense of adventure as we 4-wheel-drove our way through the savannah.  Uganda and Murchison Falls on the other hand will always stand out for it’s variety (the river safari was fantastic!) and the amount of game that we saw within a relatively small area.

Regardless on whether you choose to go on safari in Kenya or Uganda, there is no doubt you’ll have a memorable experience – if your time and budget allows, we’d certainly recommend doing both!

Have more time up your sleeve?  Check out these awesome Kenyan itinerary additions!

PS: If you’re wondering what to wear on safari, don’t worry.  We were told that (as long as you’re in a van), colours don’t really matter – if you’re on a walking safari though, be sure to blend in with examples like you’ll find over on The World Pursuit.

Have you been on safari somewhere else in Africa?  If so, we’d love to hear of your experiences!


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 Safaris can be expensive. Having been on safari in Kenya and Uganda, we break down which African country offers the best value. Hunting out the Best East African Safari - Uganda or Kenya? Safaris can be expensive. Having been on safari in Kenya and Uganda, we break down which African country offers the best value.

Accommodation Africa Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Eco Tourism Itineraries Kabale Forest Kampala Kenya Masai Mara Murchison Falls Nairobi Tanzania Tours Uganda Zanzibar

Our East African Itinerary – Two Weeks in the Motherland

May 28, 2016

East Africa – I don’t think it would be over-reaching to suggest this could just be the dream destination for every animal lover!

If you’re considering a getaway to Africa this post will (hopefully) help you decide how you might split your time between Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.

Happy planning (and stay tuned for more detailed posts regarding the following)…



Zanzibar, Tanzania – 3 days/3 nights.  Flying through the night from Dubai, UAE (via Muscat, Oman), we touched down in Dar es Salaam before quickly taking off again for Zanzibar in Tanzania.

 

Nairobi and Masai Mara, Kenya – 5 days/4 nights.  Morning flight from Zanzibar to Nairobi

Kampala, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kibale Forest and Murchison Falls, Uganda – 7 days/8 nights.  Late afternoon flight from Nairobi to Entebbe, then pre-arranged transfer to Kampala

  • Kampala – 1 night
    • Accommodation:  Red Chilli Hideaway in a 4 person shared dorm (one night free of charge when a safari is booked through them)
  • Uganda Tour – 4 days/3 nights.  Tour:  Wild Whispers Africa. Pick up/drop off from Kampala and the following was all included in the tour:
    • Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – 2 days/2 nights
      • Accommodation: Trekkers Tavern
      • Activities:  Visit to the equator, gorilla tracking, community tour
    • Kabale Forest – 2 days/1 night
      • Accommodation: Chimpanzee Forest Guest House
      • Activities:  Chimp tracking
  • Kampala – 1 night
    • Accommodation:  Red Chilli Hideaway, this time in a private double room (shared facilities)
  • Murchison Falls – 3 days/2 nights (organised through Red Chilli Hideaway)
    • Tour: Red Chilli Hideaway: Big Five Tour – the following was included in the tour:
    • Accommodation:  Red Chilli Rest Camp in a double tent
    • Activities:  Guided walk to Murchison Falls, morning game drive, afternoon river cruise/game drive on the Nile, visit to the Rino Sanctuary
  • Kampala – 1 night
    • Accommodation:  Red Chilli Hideaway, again in a private double room (shared facilities).

Flight out that morning back to Dubai.

There you have it!  Within two weeks we managed to get a good feel for Eastern Africa; of course it was only an introduction to these gorgeous countries but as someone who grew up dreaming of going on safari, it was a mind-blowing trip.

If you’d like to read more about our thoughts comparing the Masai Mara and Murchison Falls safaris, you can read on here.

Please let us know if you find some of the information included above helpful in planning your next African experience!


2 weeks in East Africa - Explore Kenya and Uganda.  An amazing highlight itinerary including safaris, game drives, chimp and gorilla tracking and more! 2 weeks in East Africa - Explore Kenya and Uganda.  An amazing highlight itinerary including safaris, game drives, chimp and gorilla tracking and more!

 

Accommodation Africa Holidays Kenya Nairobi

The Ultimate Camping Experience in Nairobi

May 20, 2016

As travellers, we float in between budget and more luxurious options.  If there appears to be a decent low-cost option, we’ll stay there, but if we need to spend more to ensure a good nights sleep, we will.  Nathan will tell you ‘it’s all about the value proposition’ and I spend far too long on TripAdvisor talking myself in and out of places to stay based on the reviews of other travellers.

With that said, when we stumbled across a potential camp in Nairobi, it was clear that we’d be splurging (a relative term for us), and not because of the lack of other suitable options around town but because we were onto something special.

The Wildebeest Eco Camp is nestled amongst the bush in Karen, one of the outlying suburbs of Nairobi. Not far from the Giraffe Centre and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (where you’ll meet and learn about orphaned baby elephants), the camp is well positioned to take in the best of Nairobi, and is within easy access to a mall should you need any supplies.

In total we spent two nights at the camp; one in a deluxe safari tent (the Eco Camp’s glamping offering) at the beginning of our time in Nairobi and another in an equally-comfortable-but-more-budget-friendly garden tent at the end of our safari.  Also on offer, was the ability to pitch your own tent, borrow one of theirs, or hook up your van.

One of the many sculptures around the campsite.

The deluxe safari tents are perfectly located, overlooking the camp’s pool and their gorgeous pond which (means as you drift off to sleep, you’ll be relax to the sound of the local frogs – bliss) and come with more than you could ever need in a tent!  Full power, a bathroom (with the most gorgeous shower), a deck to unwind on and of course, proper beds.

IMG_1720

One of the local monkeys coming to say hello!

The fanciest camping ensuite ever?

The garden tents aren’t quite as luxurious, but they do come with a solid floor, power and again, a real bed – and they are of course a tremendous upgrade from a traditional tent.  They’re an excellent option for couples, as it costs very little to upgrade from using one of their temporary tents (for two people) to these permanent ones.  If you are travelling by yourself, there was also the option to purchase a bed within the dorm tent which also looked comfy.  All of these options require use of the shared bathrooms, but they’re never far away and were kept spotlessly clean and tidy whilst we were there.

It was the beginning of the long rainy season in Eastern Africa when we stayed in Nairobi and though the days were dry, there was a wicked thunderstorm our last night at the Eco Camp and we were certainly pleased to be tucked up in one of the permanent tents.  We stayed dry as a bone, even in one of the most extreme downpours we’ve ever experienced.

Wifi is free and is available throughout the camp and breakfast is included in the cost of your stay (but is upgraded if you stay in the deluxe tent, yahoo!).  The on-site restaurant is affordably priced and makes delicious food which is great, as although everything is only a taxi ride away, the camp itself isn’t really walking distance to any other restaurants.

Though the tents were gorgeous, it is worth noting that the beds we slept on were both fairly firm (as were the majority of beds we experienced in Africa), so if you like a relatively hard bed, you’ll be in luck in this part of the world!

If we return to Nairobi, we will absolutely book in to stay at the Eco Camp again – we had a great time.  The staff were friendly and went out of their way to help, the accommodation was well priced, the grounds were gorgeous, and best of all, we got to stay in a memorable spot not far from one of East Africa’s biggest cities.

If you too would like to stay at the Wildebeest Eco Camp, you’ll find current pricing and information on their site.  Happy travels!

Africa Eco Tourism Kenya Stop Overs & Quick Trips

The Giraffe Center – Nairobi, Kenya

May 10, 2016

Looking into their gorgeous deep brown eyes, framed by fluffy eyelashes, there’s no doubt there’s something special about the lanky (but adorable) giraffe.

If you find yourself with a little spare time in Nairobi, you may like to pop along to the Giraffe Centre (open from 10am – 5pm every day) to get up close and person with these African beauties.

Upon entering, you’ll be given a handful of pellets and run-down on how to feel the giraffes – surprisingly, it’s nothing like feeding a horse, rather than presenting them with a flat palm, you hold a pellet between your fingers and let the giraffe pick it up with their tongue – beware the giraffe slobber!

The centre is home to the endangered Rothschild’s Giraffe, of which there are sadly less than 750 estimated to be remaining in the wild.  What started as a rehabilitation centre (run by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife Kenya – AFEW) now plays a significant role in the continuation of this species and in educating the Kenyan youth in the importance of wildlife conservation.


Entry to the centre will set you back 1000KSH for an adult or 500KSH for a child (approx. USD10 and USD5 respectively) and allow you to spend as long as you’d like with the giraffes.  Entry also includes giraffe food, a perusal around their information centre and access to the bushwalk across the road.  

To get to the centre, we hired a taxi for 2000KSH (again from our camp in Karen) and the driver waited whilst we visited the giraffes.

To save on taxi fare, you could also tie your trip to the Giraffe Centre in with a visit to the Elephant Orphanage nearby (which is open from 11am – 12pm each day) and expect to pay just a little more for waiting time.

Africa day trip Eco Tourism Kenya Stop Overs & Quick Trips

Nairobi’s Elephant Orphanage – The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

May 9, 2016

Africa is top of practically every animal lovers travel wishlist and with even a short stop in Nairobi, you can get up close and personal with a number of gorgeous orphaned elephant calves, making your quick break in Kenya even more memorable.

The calves come from all around Kenya and are picked up by the Trust in response to the poaching or natural passing of their parents.  The team do an amazing job of providing medical assistance to elephants in the wild, and of course bring the babies into the sanctuary should they require help.  Once in the facility, young elephants will spend five or so years being fed up and looked after, before being transitioned back into the wild with a new family group of wild elephants.

To protect the best interests of the ellies, viewing is limited to between 11am and 12pm each day so be sure to arrive early enough to pay your entry fee (5,00KSH or approx. USD5 per person) and get yourself a good spot.

The MC gave us lots of information over the speaker, clearly explaining how the foundation works and sharing a great deal of specific information about the elephants and their background.  We enjoyed listening and learning as we watched the elephants (and even a couple of orphaned ostriches) getting fed and splashing around in the water and mud.

The team at David Sheldrick clearly had very close bonds with these animals and I don’t doubt, go out of their way to look after their elephants.  All the interactions that we observed were loving and respectful and it was a real pleasure to watch the elephants engage with each other, their keepers and occasionally one of the visitors.

If you’re planning a trip to Nairobi, we’d strongly suggest you consider supporting the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust – your nominal entry fee will be put to good use whilst you learn a whole lot about these beautiful creatures.  We’ll certainly be back if we manage to return to Kenya!

How do I get there?  Taxi fare will of course depend on where you’re leaving from, but from the Wildebeest Eco Camp (in Karen) to and from the Orphanage, we paid 2,000KSH (approx USD20) for our driver to collect us, wait until the visit was over and then drive us back ‘home’.  The taxis in Nairobi don’t have meters but operate on a set fare from area to area which makes it pretty easy to ensure you’re getting a fair price – just be sure to check with your driver first.  If you have time, you may also like to combine your trip to the Trust with a visit to the Giraffe Centre – they’re generally open all day though, so be sure to plan your schedule around the 11-12 elephant visit.

Africa Itineraries Kenya planning Tanzania Uganda

We’re off to Africa!

January 23, 2016

Since moving to the UAE, we’ve already been fortunate to travel to a new continent (Europe, we’re talking to you!) and I’m excited to say we’ll soon be venturing to another… the wild vastness of Africa!

We’ve pencilled together an itinerary that looks something like this:

  • Tanzania – Zanzibar for some beach time (snorkelling, diving etc)
  • Kenya – leaving from Nairobi for a three day safari to Maasi Mara (and possibly Lake Nakuru?)
  • Uganda – Murchison Falls for a three day safari (inc. a rino sanctuary) and then either a 3 day trip to trek with the gorillas or 4 days with the gorillas and chimps.

Our flights into Zanzibar and out of Entebbe have been booked and though I’ve got information on the other things we’re looking at, we are flexible there.

Have you been to any of these spots?  What did you love?  Is there anything you’d avoid?  It’s our first time in Africa and we’d very much like any guidance you can offer!

xx Sarah

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