Image: A male lion
Pedro Ugarte  /  AFP/Getty Images file
See lions and other wildlife on the Masai Mara plains on SmarTours' nine night tour, which includes round-trip airfare, accommodations, meals, game drives, and transfers from $2,999 per person if you book by July 22.
updated 6/27/2008 12:19:28 PM ET 2008-06-27T16:19:28

The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare, nine nights' accommodations, meals, game drives, and transfers from $2,999 per person — plus taxes of about $195.

When: Depart on Nov. 15, 2008; add $100 for Nov. 1; $200 for Oct. 11; $300 for Sept. 20; $400 for Sept. 6, 2008, Jan. 10, Feb. 7, March 7, 2009; $700 for July 5 and Aug. 2, 2008.

Gateways: New York City; add $400 for D.C., available only for the Sept. 6 departure.

The fine print: A total of 24 meals (nine buffet breakfasts, seven lunches, and eight dinners), hotel taxes, airline fuel surcharges, and all transfers are included. Guided sightseeing tours, game drives on a six-person safari vehicle with a guaranteed window seat, and the services of an experienced safari driver guide and game spotter are also part of the package. Airport taxes and fees are an additional $195 per person. Prices are based on double occupancy; single supplement is $699. In order to enter Kenya, travelers must have a visa, which can be obtained for $50 at the airport upon arrival, or in advance (see our story on visas for details). Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.

Book by: July 22, 2008; add $400 for reservations made after the book-by date.

Contact: SmarTours, 800/337-7773,

Why it's a deal: According to a recent search on Kayak, the lowest round-trip fares between New York City and Nairobi in mid-November start at $1,234 (multiple carriers). For an additional $1,960 (including estimated taxes), the SmarTours package includes nine nights' accommodations, hotel taxes, meals, safaris, tour guides, and transportation. Try to make reservations by July 22. After that book-by date, the starting rate jumps from $2,999 to $3,399 — a $400 per-person increase.

Trip details: The package includes a round-trip New York-London flight on a Virgin Atlantic carrier and a round-trip London-Nairobi flight via Kenya Airways. The main mode of transportation during the nine-night trip is a six-person safari vehicle with a pop-up roof hatch.

You'll begin your adventure in Nairobi, Kenya's capital. You'll visit the home of the author of "Out of Africa", coffee farmer Karen Blixen, and stop at the Giraffe Center, where you can see rare Rothschild's giraffes. You'll spend two nights at the 204-room Safari Park Hotel.

From Nairobi, you'll drive toward the Central Highlands, crossing the Equator to reach Samburu National Reserve by the Ewaso Ng'iro River. You'll spend a full day exploring the country's wildlife-rich northern frontier. Some of the local animal species you may encounter include hippos, Grevy's zebras, long-necked gerenuk antelopes, as well as leopards, cheetahs, and lions. The Samburu Lodge will be your base for two nights.

After exploring Samburu, you'll continue on to Mt. Kenya National Park and stay one night at Serena Mountain Lodge. The tree-hotel, set in the slopes of Mt. Kenya, has a game-viewing deck that overlooks a floodlit water hole where buffalo, elephants, and other wildlife come to drink in the evening. The property also boasts panoramic views of the surrounding mountainous landscape and the ancient rain forest nearby.

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From Mt. Kenya, you'll venture southwest to visit majestic Nyahururu Falls before arriving at Lake Nakuru National Park. In addition to being host to a large population of pink flamingos, this region is known as a rhino sanctuary. You'll spend two nights at Lake Naivasha Simba Lodge, on the banks of its namesake lake.

Next comes a drive to the Masai Mara National Reserve, home to a wide range of animal species, including the big five: elephants, lions, buffalos, leopards, and rhinos. You'll stay two nights at the Mara Simba Lodge. Between the morning and afternoon game-viewing drives, you can lounge by the hotel's pool or splurge on an activity like a hot-air-balloon safari (an additional $400 per person). The program also includes an evening performance of traditional tribal dances by the Masai Warriors, as well as a farewell dinner on the final night of your stay.

On your final morning in Kenya, you'll enjoy an early safari tour before driving back to Nairobi. SmarTours will reserve a dayroom for you at the Safari Park Hotel. This way you can freshen up and spend the rest of the day at your leisure before being transferred to the airport in the evening.

Not ready to leave? You can add a four-night extension to Tanzania for $1,099 per person based on double occupancy; single supplement is $200. Before you go, visit the official Web sites for the tourist boards of Kenya and Tanzania.

A word on safety:Kenya, one of Africa's most popular and best-known tourism destinations, made headlines early in 2008 for a contested election that sparked riots in outlying slums of Nairobi and other areas of the country not typically on safari itineraries. The State Department has an information sheet on travel to Kenya and issued a travel warning, which was updated in March:

"Threats of political demonstrations and violence have dramatically receded following the widely accepted power-sharing agreement signed on February 28 ... The U.S. Department of State continues to recommend that private American citizens in Kenya and those considering travel to Kenya evaluate their personal security situation in light of continuing, potential threats from terrorism and crime."

Getting there:If you don't live in the New York City area, you can still take advantage of this package by booking airfare from your home to New York City. For instance, a recent search on Kayak showed that the lowest round-trip fares to New York, for travel in mid-November, start at $199 from Miami (American), $319 from Chicago (United), $336 from Houston (United), and $342 from L.A. (Frontier).

Copyright © 2012 Newsweek Budget Travel, Inc.


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