Booking Last Minute Driver for Maasai Mara and Amboseli is part of the South America & Africa Points Heist Trip Report.
The concierge of a hotel can enhance your trip if he/she is in tune with a guest’s needs. The problem with upscale hotels is that they will recommend and book upscale restaurants and excursions because that’s what they think guests want (see The Prison of Posh and Food in Milan: Tourist Places But Good Nonetheless). With no plan in place for a safari in Maasai Mara (a five hour drive from Nairobi) and no logistical solution to get to Amboseli (six hours in the other direction), I hoped that the Four Points Nairobi would point me in the right direction. Since this was a Four Points and not a St. Regis, I also hoped that they wouldn’t try to recommend a lavish, overpriced safari.
Fly or Drive?
Driving is obviously the cheaper option between the two and the one recommended by the hotel in order to see more of the country. If you have the means, I would pay the $200 each way to fly. I would never recommend renting a car and driving to Maasi Mara. The roads, if you want to call them that, are ‘a complete disaster’, to quote a well-known buffoon.
The Game Plan
I wanted to go to both parks because Mara is famous for its cats, and Amboseli is famous for the elephants and breathtaking views of Mount Kilimanjaro. The plan was to leave first thing in the morning for Mara, spend two nights there, then make the arduous 11 hour journey to Amboseli for two nights before heading back to Nairobi.
The hotel proposed packages that included accommodations. Do not go with those options as the hotels are not quality and are way overpriced. I booked my own hotel, Keekorok Lodge (where President Obama stayed), for $200 a night on bedfinder.com and negotiated the price for a private driver with the hotel.
The driver would be both the chauffeur to the parks and the guide within the parks. I was confident that I would receive a competent driver because it was going to be arranged by the hotel. We agreed to a price of $1050 for the five days this trip would take. From what I’ve researched, this is a pretty good price for a private driver. The one recommendation I would give is perhaps to spend a bit more for a Land Cruiser instead of a van. This will make the bumpy ride to the park and within the park more pleasant. Also, the driver will be able to go to more isolated areas without fear of getting stuck due to wet or challenging terrain.
The hotel charged my room for the tour which is great because I get tons of SPG points.
The hotel packed a great breakfast for the journey which included fruit, croissants, and a continental breakfast.
Like everything I’ve done this trip, this tour was booked last minute and on site. The prices on the Internet for booking in advance are too high. Unlike booking a flight, there are last minute safari deals to be found if you can wait till the 11th hour to do so. Staying at a reputable hotel like the Four Points also makes last minute bookings easier.
I’ve read the cases for self-drive versus hiring a driver. For Maasai, I certainly would hire a driver because the park is huge. For Amboseli, the drive to the park is mostly on normal roads and the park is small. Self-drive may work there. If you’re doing both with no break in between, hiring a driver is the way to go. I have no idea how he drove from Maasai to Amboseli in one day and still had energy to take us out first thing in the morning.
- Stay at Keekorok Lodge. It’s within the park.
- Booked Kibo Safari Camp, not as good as Keekorok. It’s not within the park but a quick drive.
Kenya vs. South Africa for Safari?
If you’re looking to see the Big Five and save considerable sums of money, I recommend doing the safari in South Africa. Even though I did not go to Kruger in South Africa, I researched prices and it was considerably less and you can self-drive.