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back from 3 weeks in Africa

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Just back from three weeks in Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa. Going to give some highlights and tips in case anyone's interested in checking some of these places out.

In Tanzania, stayed at Grumeti River Camp, Tanzania Under Canvas and the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, all CC Africa camps.

Grumeti is rustic but fine. Very wonderful location on the river so you hear hippos all night -- quite fun. Outdoor showers, no heat in the room, but we were never cold. Recommend rooms 9 and 10, both private and on the river. Great staff, good game drives. In Tanzania, they can't drive off road, like they can in some other countries, so sometimes the game is far away, but they do their best and we saw a lot. Also: if you're in the Serengeti, you're going to run into tsetse flies. Don't wear blue or black, as those colors attract the flies.

Tanzania Under Canvas is supposed to be a mobile camp that follows the migration of the wildebeest. You stay in a tent with a bucket shower and no heat; there's no power, but the game-drive vehicles have electric outlets, which is very convenient for charging batteries while you drive. The staff is very hardworking and the guides are excellent. But unfortunately for us, the camp was set up only a few kilometers away from Grumeti, so we saw virtually the same game on every drive, except for the time they drove us to see the migration(which was several hours away on the Masabi Plains -- the animals had turned around and gone back the wrong way, and the camp isn't mobile enough to move on such short notice). Personally, I would rather have just stayed an extra night at Grumeti and had them drive us to see the migration on one of the days.

The Ngorongoro Crater is amazing and anyone going to Africa should make a stop there. The area is beautiful and the animals have never been hunted or poached, so they come very close to the roads and vehicles. We saw amazing game there -- lions eating after a kill, wildebeest fighting, hyenas greeting, elephants eating, all sorts of great stuff. The Crater Lodge is stunning and luxurious, with incredible views and huge rooms. We stayed in Tree Camp, but all the camps are good and almost all the rooms have great views (a very few don't -- so be demanding when you book!).

In Namibia, we stayed at Sossusvlei Mountain Lodge. This part of Namibia is one of the most beautiful places in the world with scenery unlike anything you've ever seen -- stark and majestic and breathtaking. The Lodge is private and isolated, so it's set up to be very peaceful and serene. Unfortunately, they also allow children of all ages so when we arrived, there were six screaming, ill-behaved kids who basically took over the lodge for two days. We stayed in our rooms till they left. The staff was pretty powerless to stop them. Once they were gone, our stay was fantastic. Not a lot of game, but what's there is very interesting, like aardwolf, bat-eared fox and African Wildcat. A few notes: the Sossusvlei Dunes themselves are incredible, but they're also crowded with tourists, so get an early start (we saw that they're building a new camp inside the park with the Dunes, so that would be a way to see the Dunes before anyone else). The walk up the dunes is very, very hard, sometimes almost vertical, so be prepared for a workout. Advice: take your shoes off and put them in a backpack.

Also at the Mountain Lodge, the walk to see the Cave Paintings is almost as tough as the climb up the dunes, so don't do it on a whim -- you've got to be fit.

The Mountain Lodge also has their own astronomer who's very knowledgeable. The star sightings are wonderful.

In South Africa, we stayed at Phinda Vlei and at Rattray's at Malamala. Phinda Vlei is quite nice --it's only 6 rooms, so it's much more intimate than other lodges at Phinda and it's also closer to the wildlife -- we had warthogs and nyala drinking from our plunge pool. The guides are excellent and found us some lions mating and the rare black rhino. They drive off-road here, so you get right up to the game.

But the very best game viewing of the trip was at Rattray's --we saw the Big Five on almost every drive! They have the rare wild dog there now with a litter of puppies! Every day was overwhelming. It's pricey, but to be away from the crowds at Malamala main camp is worth it (only 4 people per vehicle at Rattray's). The staff was superb. Just know that you're paying for all your alcohol and soft drinks, unlike other camps.

One other note about South Africa: we had to fly back to Johannesburg each time we switched countries, so we stayed right at the airport at the Airport Sun Intercontinental and left an extra bag there with different clothes for the different countries, so we could swap out each time. Because you can only bring one back, weighing 15-20kgs on each trip.

It was an incredible trip. Hope this info helps some of you out

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