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Trip Report Atravelynn's 1st Safari Report

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Motivation for this Report
For years now I’ve meant to whip those first July/Aug 1994 safari journal impressions and crude notes into shape. I wanted something in a more readable form as a reminder of that magical first trip to Africa. A request from a fellow Fodorite for a link to my first safari report got the ball rolling. Thanks, RickMck!

Creating this report was a great trip down memory lane (or more appropriately memory game trails) so let me extend the favor. Do some of you have long ago safari experiences swimming around in your head or jotted on old itineraries? Before you forget them or the ink fades, why not record a few, even if they are bits and pieces and not a whole LONG report like this one? Then post them on Fodor’s for the rest of us.

I’ve changed or omitted a few names. The final sentence at the end of the report is not true.

Motivation for 1st Trip
If I was going to lose my job, I wanted to fulfill my life long dream of traveling to Africa while there was still income. I had participated in a recall election of a man who was my boss’s boss’s boss. Of all those involved in the recall effort, I obtained the most signatures to initiate the action, so I was a visible player. That was not good because the man survived the recall and remained my uber-boss. I resigned myself to going out with a bang by going to Africa.

Preparation
I went to a local travel agency to ask about Africa and pick up some brochures. The agent on duty tried to steer me toward Costa Rica if I was looking for “something eco.” Nothing against beautiful Costa Rica, but that was my first clue that using an African specialist was a good idea.

African Travel books from the local library and a check of references with the Better Business Bureau produced a couple African specialists. I called them up and gave my detailed requirements for a successful African safari: “I want to see animals!” I settled on Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda,

Itinerary and pricing fell into place with The Africa Adventure Company. Then Rwanda’s horrendous genocide in the spring of 1994 made it was obvious I would not be going there. I pushed to replace Rwanda with Uganda so I could still see gorillas, even though it would have cost more. AAC priced it out for, but discouraged the higher cost Uganda option because they believed the gorillas in Uganda were not sufficiently habituated at that time.

Instead of gorillas, I added time in the Maasai Mara and saved a bundle without the gorilla component. Though I was very pleased with my itinerary, I remained slightly disappointed that I would not be seeing the gorillas on my once in a lifetime trip to Africa.

Nairobi Boulevard 2
Tarangire Safari Lodge 2
Lake Manyara Lodge 1
Seronera Wildlife Lodge 2
Lobo Lodge 2
Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge 2
Boulevard 1
Samburu Serena Lodge 2
The Ark 1
Lake Nakuru Lodge 1
Mara Serena 3
Little Governor’s 3

I already owned an ample supply of neutral colored clothes, but my concern was my bright white tennis socks. I was worried they might scare away the animals if light reflected off of my ankles at the floor of the vehicle. I know that was a long shot and Africa Adventure assured me that sock color would not matter. But with all the emphasis on wearing khaki, I wanted to take no chances. I dyed my five pairs of white socks beige and was ready to depart.

Arrival
Wycliff collected me at Kenyatta International Airport shortly before midnight and we settled into the vehicle for transport to the hotel. After introductions, his first comment was, “Please tell me that wrestling is real. If not I will rip up all my posters.”

I found it odd that I’d be perceived as an expert on the sport, but not wanting to dash his hopes, I emphasized the athleticism of the wrestlers and their tumbling skills. I don’t think I was too convincing on the authenticity of wrestling. I tried to make up for it by stating that a neighbor of mine was a former professional wrestler was still very muscular and strong. (The Crusher was alive and well at the time.) The fact that Hulk Hogan sometimes worked out at my gym was also a hit with Wycliff. So we were off to a congenial start.

Next, Wycliff asked why so many Americans came to Africa to see elephants and giraffes. “Don’t you have those in your country?” he asked. When I replied we did not, he pondered, “You probably did have many, but you just killed them all. Now you come to see ours.”

There was a hotel mix-up so I was dropped off for the night at Sixty Eight Hotel in downtown Nairobi instead of The Boulevard. Sixty Eight still exists, but I don’t hear much about it. The next morning I got a free cab ride back to The Boulevard, where the ever-present background music by Abba seemed out of place, but was pleasant enough.

Nairobi National Park
Fearing I might be unlucky and not see many animals in my three weeks of safari, I booked yet another chance for a glimpse of wildlife with a Giraffe Manor-Karen Blixen-Nairobi National Park all day combo tour, leaving from the Norfolk.

Shortly after entering Nairobi National Park, Animal #1 for me was The Giraffe. Forever more, the giraffe holds a special place in my heart. The only personal souvenir I brought home was a giraffe batik, offered to me by a shop owner at Thomson’s Falls for $100 and bargained down to $25, which probably was still too much. My mother got it framed for me as a gift and it hangs on my wall today.

Not only did I see a giraffe, but I had views of its eyelashes when it strolled by our vehicle. I saw hippos and could appreciate their nostrils. A prize—the elusive cheetah was spotted and I clicked some close-ups and observed the cat’s whiskers. I was absolutely stunned by how close everything was, not only to me in the vehicle, but to the bustling city. (Poaching has since taken a toll, I believe, but then very recently I read that Nairobi National Park is making a comeback.)

My notes of wildlife sightings also included zebra, ostrich, jackal, baboons (referred to as rats by our driver) and “many antlered things.” Next to that vague, inaccurate entry, I vowed in writing that by the end of the safari I’d be able to identify the animals and know their Kiswahili names. Though falling short of that goal, my wildlife knowledge did improve from “many antlered things.”

At dinner that evening my love affair with Kenyan Green Bean Salad began while the melodic tune Dancing Queen filled the air.

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