Our itinerary for two weeks in Kenya - comments and suggestions welcome





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  1. #1
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    Default Our itinerary for two weeks in Kenya - comments and suggestions welcome

    My wife, our adult daughter an I will be in Kenya from December 25th until January 8th. We will have exactly 14 full days available to be on the road / in the bush. It will be our first time in Kenya, but we have quite some experience as selfdrivers from other popular destinations in Southern and Eastern Africa (SA, Botswana, Zimababwe, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania).

    We will be renting Landrover from the company that is based in Kampala, Uganda. So, in case of some serious problems with the car, I assume the help from them will not be right around the corner. With this in mind (among other things), I decided to to avoid any too intrepid adventures and off-the-beaten tracks and stick to more "mainstream" routes and destinations. Following is the skeleton of our planned itinerary - all comments and suggestions are more than welcome.

    The main sources of info in this planning phase were "Slow donkey" blog (slowdonkey.com) and especially an "essay" that Wazungu Wawili has prepared for me. Thank you, both Stan and Morag, for being so methodical and devoted to this fantastic forum, always prepared to offer well-founded advice.

    Day 1:
    Land in Nairobi at 4:15AM. Plan is to be at Jungle Junction (taking a taxi from the airport) at around 7:00 AM. There we will take over our car, do main shopping in one of the shopping centers in the area and then drive toward Masai Mara. As we will probably get there sometime in the late afternoon (and as we plan to leave Mara in the morning of our last day there), the plan is to camp for our first night just outside the Mara reserve at Sekenani gate. Possible camps I've located so far (that offer camping and self cattering) in the area are "Oldarpoi Mara Campsite" and "Mara Explorers Camp".

    Days 2-5:
    Four full days in Masai Mara (Game Reserve and Mara Triangle). First night we'll spend at Sand River public camp, followed by three nights at Eluai public camp.

    Day 6:
    Leave Mara early in the morning and drive to Lake Nakuru. Spend the afternoon (and possibly part of next morning) in the National park. Not yet decided about where to spend the night there.

    Days 7-8:
    Drive from Nakuru to Nanyuki and to Ol Payeta in Laikipia. Spend 2 days there in one of their campsites (probably Hippo Hide campiste).

    Days 9-11:
    Three days in Samburu and Buffalo springs National Reserves. Camp at Samburu public camp (Riverside campsite).

    Days 12-13:
    Two days at Meru NP. Camp in Bwatherongi public campsite.

    Day 14:
    Drive from Meru NP back to Nairobi, should be back at Jungle Junction at around 18:00 to return the car. We have flight back home next day at 05:45 AM, don't know yet how to kill time until then.

    So, what do you think about this itinerary?
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    Default Re: Our itinerary for two weeks in Kenya - comments and suggestions welcome

    Looks good, Ortelius. Thanks for your nice comments. It is a pleasure.

    However... (there always has to be a "however")..

    Day 1 - looks like it is Christmas Day
    The shops won't open to 9.30-10.00 and it will then take a good hour or two to do your shopping (even if they open at 9.30, you can't buy alcohol until 10.00 and I am sure you would like to celebrate Christmas). That will leave time very tight for getting safely to a campsite outside the Sekanani Gate into the Mara Game Reserve. I know it is only approx 150 miles, but the last section from Narok to the Sekanani Gate is in terrible condition. Did I not read on the carhire website that this road was forbidden for renters of their vehicles - although I think this is silly? I have heard of Mara Explorers, but they both sound fine for a safe place to overnight.
    A proposal: As we will be in Nairobi before Christmas, would you like me to do the shopping for you (if you send me a shopping list) and deliver it to Jungle Junction? You can repay me by bank transfer. Unfortunately, as we will be tied up with my family on Christmas Day - and we are heading off driving to Ethiopia on 26th December - it doesn't sound likely we will be able to meet up. What a shame...

    Day 6
    This will be a long day's drive. Interesting, though. You may or may not have time to get to the nicest public campsite in Lake Nakuru NP which is Makalia Campsite (all the other campsites are special campsites except for one public campsite just at the Nakuru gate which will be noisy due to the nearby town). Makalia is near a waterfall, but I understand it can be beset with baboons. If you are running out of time to get into Lake Nakuru NP, then there are hotels in Nakuru, but they are all local hotels and the town is busy and noisy nowadays. If I were you and were running out of time, I would go to the Nightingale's Farm at Njoro. I presume you are planning on taking the route I recommended from the Mara to Nakuru - which is via Sotik and Kericho?

    Day 14
    I am sure you will be able to wait around at Jungle Junction - or go out for dinner nearby. You will need to give yourselves plenty of time for getting through the heavy security going into the airport.


    Driving in Kenya is not for the faint-hearted. Although Kenya is one of the more sophisticated countries in east and central Africa, the standard of driving is deplorable and the road surfaces can be shocking. Take it very slowly and carefully and do not presume that other drivers are aware of your existence - or the rules of the road. It takes longer to drive what looks like a short distance.

    Your itinerary will give you a taste of some of the best places in Kenya. Let me know if you need any other help.

    Safari njema!

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    Default Re: Our itinerary for two weeks in Kenya - comments and suggestions welcome

    Hi Ortelius, I am green with envy, great trip planned!

    W.W. would give you a better indication, but the wet should not be too bad at the end of the short rains in the Mara. I think it will be drier in the north.

    If you pre-arrange it, Jungle Junction can arrange for Whycliffe their shuttle driver to pick you up at the airport even earlier than 7H00. The cost will be about the same as a taxi and it will mean you will be able to get away earlier for the long drive to the Mara. Also book one of JJs excellent breakfasts.

    For your shopping look at going to the Crossroads Shopping Center in Karen rather than to Galleria. They are both on T4A, look under Nakumat. I prefer Karen Provision Stores to Nakumat but at Crossroads you can visit both. KPS has better meat, cheese and bread and all the rest you may need. At KPS park behind the store, safer and you do not have to pay. You can also walk to Nakumat from there.

    I am not sure if flamingo are a priority but I don't think they have returned to Nakuru yet. They left because of rising water levels and decreased salinity. The animals including rhinos are better at Nakuru but if you want to see flamingos perhaps better to head for Lake Bogoria.

    Stan.

    P.S. I see I cross-posted with WW. Learn some basic greetings in Swahili, it goes down well.
    Last edited by Stan Weakley; 2016/09/27 at 11:50 PM.
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    Default Re: Our itinerary for two weeks in Kenya - comments and suggestions welcome

    Hi Ortelius, I look forward to hearing about your trip as we plan a similar tour in either April or end May next year. Wawili may I bugger you with a few questions too? Especially the weather is my concern in April as we need to use the school holidays now. Would you also share the trrip plan you did for Ortelius with me? Thank you all and Safari Njema Ortelius.

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    Default Re: Our itinerary for two weeks in Kenya - comments and suggestions welcome

    Monstercruiser

    I am only too pleased to help you plan a trip around Kenya.

    However... The long rains are from March to May - although with climate change, this is not so predictable nowadays. My advice would be to avoid going on safari in Kenya in April and May unless you like camping in the rain and digging yourself out of black cotton soil. Many of the lodges and tented camps close down during those months, and the staff go on holiday. For example, the rainfall this year in the Mara area (Narok statistics) for the months March to May 2016 were just under 400mm.

    However, in the semi-arid areas in northern Kenya, the rainfall is, obviously, much less, but the rivers will be full due to the rain falling on the water catchment area of the mountains and hills. This also means that the wildlife is dispersed.

    But, as you are committed to school holidays, you could go to the Coast and not go "on safari". It will be wet at the Coast as well, but warm wet - as opposed to cold wet in the Highlands - and the rain tends to fall in short sharp bursts as opposed to all-day rain.

    Some of the southern African countries market the rains as the "Emerald Season". Hmmm...

    I will post a shortened version of the route I recommended to Ortelius on a separate thread on the forum. I think it might be useful for other people planning a trip to Kenya. This circular route covers some of the best of Kenya.

    If you would like me to send you my "essay", please drop me a PM with your email address.

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    Default Re: Our itinerary for two weeks in Kenya - comments and suggestions welcome

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Weakley View Post

    For your shopping look at going to the Crossroads Shopping Center in Karen rather than to Galleria. They are both on T4A, look under Nakumat. I prefer Karen Provision Stores to Nakumat but at Crossroads you can visit both. KPS has better meat, cheese and bread and all the rest you may need. At KPS park behind the store, safer and you do not have to pay. You can also walk to Nakumat from there.
    I think I might have converted Stan into an East African!

    Undoubtedly do your shopping at Karen Shopping Centre rather than Galleria - and it is on the road out to Kikuyu and thence on to the Naivasha road en route to the Mara.

    Karen Provision Stores is an Indian Kenyan owned "duka" (Swahili for shop) and has been there since just after Karen Blixen sold the estate in 1931. Me and my friends used to hitch our horses (and park our bikes) on the verandah of KPS. Those days are long gone, but KPS is still the shop of choice for Karen people. KPS and the Patel family have recently re-opened a shop at the newly re-built Hardy Shopping Centre in Langata which is just at the bottom of the road on which Jungle Junction is situated. I haven't been to their new Hardy shop, but I am sure it will be good - I don't know if it has a butchery section, but it is likely to have frozen meat.

    What worries me is that Ortelius will be shopping on Christmas Day. Although KPS will undoubtedly be open on the morning of Christmas Day (they open at 9.30), the butchery and bakery section may well not be (or they have been cleaned out by the pre-Christmas rush).

    One other thing, download the latest edition of T4A. There are new bypasses around Nairobi and we have sent these new routes to T4A. Also, please be aware that there is a strange "gap" on T4A on the main road A104 just between the Kikuyu entrance/exit and the Limuru entrance/exit. If you have your GPS/Sat Nav set on the "go to" function, then it will send you on a detour round by Limuru. As you will see from a map, there is no need to do this (unless, like me, you hate the "Great Wall of China" section of the main road from Kikuyu to where the dual carriageway stops).

    Also, for getting to the Mara from Nairobi, you need to turn off the main A104 just near Limuru and go on the "old" road down the escarpment of the Rift Valley (unfortunately, along with all the trucks). The turn-off is not marked except for a sign saying "All Trucks" and is just near where the road stops being a dual carriageway. This "old" road was built by the Italian Prisoners of War in World War 2 (check out the Italian POW chapel at the bottom of the escarpment), and takes you to a town called Maai Mahiu where you turn left towards Narok. The Narok road is in good condition and was recently rebuilt by a non-Chinese consortium.

    Sorry - another essay!
    Last edited by Wazungu Wawili; 2016/09/28 at 06:13 PM.

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    Default Re: Our itinerary for two weeks in Kenya - comments and suggestions welcome

    WW, how about posting the information you compiled for me for East Africa, as well including the information on what to do in and around Nairobi. If you no longer have it I can mail it to you for editing. Tourism in East Africa especially those places off the beaten track require a bit of a boost. This forum could then become a great repository for those seeking East African information.

    Or perhaps you are not seeking a major project right now?
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    Default Re: Our itinerary for two weeks in Kenya - comments and suggestions welcome

    Awesome debate, thanks all for contributing!

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili
    Day 1 - looks like it is Christmas Day
    Indeed, unfortunately we will arrive in Kenya exactly on Christmas Day. I was aware that this could make our shopping a bit more complicated and probably more time consuming. And your proposal to do shopping for us beforehand is just in your stile: always willing to lend a helping hand, even to the people you have never met before in person. I will never be able to thank you enough! We will probably take advantage of your offer, I will contact you privately about this in due course. Perishable goods should not impose any problems, as our car will not have fridge, so we will have to buy only products that are durable without being stored in cold.

    Heading toward Ethiopia? That sounds just fantastic, I'm sure you'll have wonderful adventure there.


    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili
    Day 6
    Makalia Campsite now marked on my T4A as preferable campsite in Nakuru NP. As far as route from the Mara to Nakuru goes: T4A report the more direct route via Narok and east of Mau forest to be about an hour shorter than the one you recommend via Sotik and Kericho. But I suppose yours is much more scenic and interesting, so we'll probably take that one, yes, despite being quite tight with our time on that day.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili
    One other thing, download the latest edition of T4A.
    Already downloaded, with free upgrade guaranteed in October when new version is released. All your remarks about directions on leaving Nairobi toward Mara duly noted.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Weakley
    If you pre-arrange it, Jungle Junction can arrange for Whycliffe their shuttle driver to pick you up at the airport even earlier than 7H00. The cost will be about the same as a taxi and it will mean you will be able to get away earlier for the long drive to the Mara. Also book one of JJs excellent breakfasts.
    Thanks, Stan, will follow your advice. Also, your and WW's recommendations for shopping locations in the vicinity of JJ noted.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Weakley
    I am not sure if flamingo are a priority but I don't think they have returned to Nakuru yet. They left because of rising water levels and decreased salinity. The animals including rhinos are better at Nakuru but if you want to see flamingos perhaps better to head for Lake Bogoria.
    Flamingos are always nice to see, however I'm aware about their recent situation in Rift Valley lakes, so I don't really expect to see them in great numbers in lake Nakuru. I was contemplating on visiting lake Bogoria for them, but then realized it is too much of a detour on our way between Mara and Lakipia. I think some decent rhino sightings in Lake Nakuru NP will have to do.

    Asante sana!
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    Default Re: Our itinerary for two weeks in Kenya - comments and suggestions welcome

    Quote Originally Posted by ortelius View Post

    Indeed, unfortunately we will arrive in Kenya exactly on Christmas Day. Perishable goods should not impose any problems, as our car will not have fridge, so we will have to buy only products that are durable without being stored in cold.
    Hakuna matata! We have lots of cold boxes stored in Nairobi and we can lend you one/two. If we pack it with frozen meat etc then, with careful management, it should last you for - at least - your Mara trip. We have been on a camel safari in northern Kenya and we still had cold drinks on day 10. Let me know your shopping list including perishables and I will pack it for you.

    Quote Originally Posted by ortelius View Post
    As far as route from the Mara to Nakuru goes: T4A report the more direct route via Narok and east of Mau forest to be about an hour shorter than the one you recommend via Sotik and Kericho.
    That is a surprise. My Basecamp has Olololo Gate (Mara Conservancy) to Lake Nakuru NP via Sotik and Kericho as 329 kms and 6 hrs 38. And Olololo Gate to Lake Nakuru NP via Narok, Maai Mahiu and Naivasha as 316 kms and 7 hrs 20. Basecamp did, however, come up with a completely unacceptable route of Olololo Gate, Narok, Mau Narok and the south end of Lake Nakuru NP (which, I am pretty sure doesn't have a gate). This is not a viable route via Mau Narok unless you want an off-the-beaten-track adventure...

    Whatever, I would add a few hours on to these Basecamp/T4A calculations as you will want to stop and stretch your legs, have a drink and refuel.

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    Default Re: Our itinerary for two weeks in Kenya - comments and suggestions welcome

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    Hakuna matata! We have lots of cold boxes stored in Nairobi and we can lend you one/two. If we pack it with frozen meat etc then, with careful management, it should last you for - at least - your Mara trip. We have been on a camel safari in northern Kenya and we still had cold drinks on day 10. Let me know your shopping list including perishables and I will pack it for you.
    Wow, asante sana 100x!!! This is an offer we simply can't refuse.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    That is a surprise. My Basecamp has Olololo Gate (Mara Conservancy) to Lake Nakuru NP via Sotik and Kericho as 329 kms and 6 hrs 38. And Olololo Gate to Lake Nakuru NP via Narok, Maai Mahiu and Naivasha as 316 kms and 7 hrs 20. Basecamp did, however, come up with a completely unacceptable route of Olololo Gate, Narok, Mau Narok and the south end of Lake Nakuru NP (which, I am pretty sure doesn't have a gate). This is not a viable route via Mau Narok unless you want an off-the-beaten-track adventure...
    Yes, now I see what you mean. My Basecamp indeed suggested that last route via Mau Narok and now looking at it on Google maps it really looks that this road C57 is one of those "minor" roads. So, we will definitely follow your suggestion, using B3 + C27 via Sotik and Kericho.
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    Default Re: Our itinerary for two weeks in Kenya - comments and suggestions welcome

    [QUOTE=monstercruiser;3358223 Wawili may I bugger you with a few questions too? Especially the weather is my concern in April.[/QUOTE]

    Hmm, travelling in April may well bugger you... it can be very rough towards the end of the rains. As an example, it once took us four days to travel 340km from Songea to Mtwara on the Tanzanian coast in the rains at the end of April, and that was on what was regarded as a major road. Similarly, what should have been a one day trip through the Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda from the Kazinga Channel to Ishasha took us four days in the rains (the following April).
    The rainy season has many advantages, and as was mentioned, in southern Africa it is touted as the Emerald Season, which it is, but fast travel is not one of them. And a drawback is that although most of the rain comes in downpours that don't last more than a couple of hours, once you get to slightly higher altitudes (like around the base of Mount Kenya, the Mau Escarpment, Aberdares, the Chyulu Hills etc, the rain can set in for a couple of days.
    Last edited by Tony Weaver; 2016/09/29 at 01:12 AM.
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    Default Re: Our itinerary for two weeks in Kenya - comments and suggestions welcome

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Weaver View Post
    Hmm, travelling in April may well bugger you...

    The rainy season has many advantages, and as was mentioned, in southern Africa it is touted as the Emerald Season, which it is, but fast travel is not one of them. And a drawback is that although most of the rain comes in downpours that don't last more than a couple of hours, once you get to slightly higher altitudes (like around the base of Mount Kenya, the Mau Escarpment, Aberdares, the Chyulu Hills etc, the rain can set in for a couple of days.
    Not that I want to put anyone off coming to see the glories of Kenya, but the long rains is perhaps not the season to visit. Travelling between the months of mid/late March to the end of May can be a challenge - and one's visit a disappointment. It is not unusual to have torrential rain in highland areas during the long rains. After all, it is a monsoon. I have been in a deluge of 8 inches (203mm) in 8 hours and that is, probably, not record breaking.

    Every country has its prime time to visit.

    Stan: Habari gani? As you will have seen, I have posted a Kenyan highlights circular tour. I am wary of posting my "Things to do in and around Nairobi" as Kenya is a rapidly changing country and things/shops come and go. For instance, since you were in Karen, a new enormous shopping mall - called The Hub" - has opened on Dagoretti Road. It has a Carrefour supermarket, of all things, as well as numerous shops and restaurants on what had been a friend's 20 acre garden and horse paddocks. Gone is the lovely Karen bungalow, gorgeous garden and a view of the Ngong Hills.

    However, the main things to do in and around Nairobi don't, I suppose, change - the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust orphan elephant nursery, Nairobi National Park, the Rothschild's Giraffe Centre in Langata, and some other old stalwarts.

    My main project at the moment is planning our return trip to Ethiopia - amongst other things here at home. Best salaams to you and Anne. Do keep in touch.

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    Default Re: Our itinerary for two weeks in Kenya - comments and suggestions welcome

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post

    My main project at the moment is planning our return trip to Ethiopia - amongst other things here at home. Best salaams to you and Anne. Do keep in touch.
    Have a look at my post in the North Africa section re this weekend's developments in Ethiopia. Troubling, but not necessarily a problem if you avoid the major centres. We spent three months in Ethiopia if you need any regionally specific info - if you are into flyfishing for trout, Ethiopia is paradise.
    Safari njema.
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    Default Re: Our itinerary for two weeks in Kenya - comments and suggestions welcome

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Weaver View Post
    Have a look at my post in the North Africa section re this weekend's developments in Ethiopia. Troubling, but not necessarily a problem if you avoid the major centres. We spent three months in Ethiopia if you need any regionally specific info - if you are into flyfishing for trout, Ethiopia is paradise.
    Safari njema.
    Thanks, Tony, seen and replied to. We have been monitoring the situation in Oromia for a few months. Not off fly fishing, but searching out endemic birds in the Harenna forest of the Bale Mountains, on a community trek in Tigray with Mark Chapman's exemplary example of community tourism (TESFA treks), and then into the Danakil. The three things we didn't do in our 5 weeks in Ethiopia in 2013 on our south bound trip from the UK. We have also been to Ethiopia previously in 2008 when we went trekking on the Meket Plateau in North Wollo (south of Lalibela), Gondar and Lalibela. Ethiopia is an amazing country - and like nowhere else in the world - but it is a hard place to travel through in one's own vehicle. We loved it, but I know others find Ethiopia unrelentingly tough.

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    Default Re: Our itinerary for two weeks in Kenya - comments and suggestions welcome

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    Thanks, Tony, seen and replied to. We have been monitoring the situation in Oromia for a few months. Not off fly fishing, but searching out endemic birds in the Harenna forest of the Bale Mountains, on a community trek in Tigray with Mark Chapman's exemplary example of community tourism (TESFA treks), and then into the Danakil. The three things we didn't do in our 5 weeks in Ethiopia in 2013 on our south bound trip from the UK. We have also been to Ethiopia previously in 2008 when we went trekking on the Meket Plateau in North Wollo (south of Lalibela), Gondar and Lalibela. Ethiopia is an amazing country - and like nowhere else in the world - but it is a hard place to travel through in one's own vehicle. We loved it, but I know others find Ethiopia unrelentingly tough.
    Ethiopia is extraordinary, my favourite country in Africa despite the hardships of travelling there. Bale Mountains are exceptional for endemics (and for trout). We got snowed in there on the Sanetti Plateau. King Fassilides (spelling?) Baths in Gondar also have a number of endemic birds resident in the gardens.
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    Default Re: Our itinerary for two weeks in Kenya - comments and suggestions welcome

    Yes, the Ethiopian highlands are extremely cold. We had frosts every night/morning on a 10 day trek in the Simiens and were very grateful for our down jackets, hats, gloves and Arctic sleeping bags. Apart from South Africa from early September to late October, the coldest I have been in Africa was in Ethiopia - and, perhaps, above the snow line in the Rwenzoris in Uganda and, of course, the top of Kilimanjaro. Extraordinary how some people think Africa is hot...

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    Default Re: Our itinerary for two weeks in Kenya - comments and suggestions welcome

    I will post a shortened version of the route I recommended to Ortelius on a separate thread on the forum. I think it might be useful for other people planning a trip to Kenya. This circular route covers some of the best of Kenya.

    If you would like me to send you my "essay", please drop me a PM with your email address.[/QUOTE]

    Thank you WW, I sent you a question on the other post regarding timing. We will now be travelling beginning of June 2017 as we have no other option. Sitting on the coast won't do - too itchy to drive and camp and all the rest I will have more questions once I get down to planning this route in detail.
    Last edited by monstercruiser; 2016/11/20 at 11:54 PM.

  20. #18
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    Default Re: Our itinerary for two weeks in Kenya - comments and suggestions welcome

    Quote Originally Posted by monstercruiser View Post

    Thank you WW, I sent you a question on the other post regarding timing. We will now be travelling beginning of June 2017 as we have no other option. Sitting on the coast won't do - too itchy to drive and camp and all the rest I will have more questions once I get down to planning this route in detail.
    Replied to on the other thread. Please note that I will be out of contact for most of December 2016 and all of January 2017.

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