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Doohickey's Tanzania Safari March '07 Trip Report

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Planning:

We began planning our trip last June (2007) when we unexpectedly found ourselves with the ability to go on a special vacation. Within a few weeks we had decided to go on a private tented safari to Tanzania. Here is a link to the thread containing more details about our preparation:
http://www.fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=4&tid=35093114

My husband is a talented amateur photographer so I ended up consulting with Andy Biggs (thanks Andy!) and got quotes from 4 companies. We ended up going with Thomson Safaris. Which company any one of us goes with depends on so many factors, many of them personal, so I see why there are so many different outfitters out there. Everyone can find one that will fit their personal parameters.

In July we put down our deposit and began the long list of necessary preparations including gathering Montana-specific gifts to give to people we might find special in some way. Thomson had assured me when I booked that a car battery would be provided to power my CPAP throughout my trip, including at Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel. However, only two weeks before, our pre-departure specialist emailed me that since the hotel had electricity I should just be sure to bring a converter and adaptor on the trip. Little alarm bells went off in my head but I didn’t act on it. Instead, I hunted around town but couldn’t find what I needed in stock. I had to special order it. It arrived only the day before we left. I was so pressed at that point that I just threw it in my duffle that night without even opening the box.

Our friends and neighbors, Jerry and Judy picked us up and took us to the airport early the next morning. We left Bozeman on Friday, March 7th at 840am, transited MSP and AMS and landed at JRO at 845pm on Saturday, March 8th. All three flights had been overbooked. We had a 15 minute delay leaving MSP when, after pushback, the engines wouldn’t fire up properly. They emitted a tremendous volume of grey and brown smoke each time the pilot tried which, I must admit, DH and I both found alarming. Finally, about the 4th try something “unstuck” according to the pilot and we were on our way. Our stopover in Schiphol was long enough to allow me to get a pedicure for our beach time at XpresSpa as I had run out of time to get one at home. On our final leg a native Tanzanian sitting next to me taught us the greeting “Mambo” with its reply “Poa” which proved to be wonderful to know.

This was our planned itinerary while in Tanzania:

Sunday, March 9– Safari briefing, church in Arusha, game viewing in Tarangire NP en route our camp. Overnight Thomson tented camp (Thomson calls them Nyumbas.)

Monday, March 10 – Game viewing, Tarangire. O’nt Nyumba

Tuesday, March 11 – Drive to Ngorongoro Thomson camp w/arrival in time for lunch. Game viewing drive in the afternoon. O’nt Nyumba.

Wednesday, March 12 – Visit with Maasai in the morning, Game viewing in the crater in the afternoon. O’nt Nyumba

Thursday, March 13 –Game viewing in Serengeti en route Thomson camp. O’nt Nyumba.

Friday, March 14 – Game viewing in Serengeti, celebrate 15th wedding anniversary. O’nt Nyumba.

Saturday, March 15 – Game viewing in Serengeti while changing to different Thomson camp. O’nt Nyumba.

Sunday, March 16 – Game viewing in Serengeti. O’nt Nyumba.

Monday, March 17 – Game viewing en route to airstrip, fly to Zanzibar via Arusha. O’nt at Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel.

Tuesday, March 17 – Full day at Ras Nungwi at leisure.

Wednesday, March 19 – Full day at Ras Nungwi at leisure.

Thursday, March 20 – Morning in Stonetown, fly to Dar, day room at the Slipway. Catch late night KL flight.

Friday, March 21 – arrive back home in Bozeman.

Next up – arrival, questionable water practices, church, our first game viewing and tse tse fly zapping.

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    Saturday March 8th – arrival at Kilimanjaro Airport

    Quite a number of folks rushed the visa purchase window upon our arrival making us glad that we had purchased ours in the States. Only one party was ahead of us at Customs and Immigration. Our guide for our entire safari met us right after we’d collected our bags – Adam Mlay. A 45 minute drive in our Land Rover Defender (the vehicle we’d use for the entire safari) took us to Ngare Sero Lodge for the night. When we arrived Adam told us we’d have an early wake up call in order to be able to get to Arusha NP for the morning excursion. Whoa, there! Not so fast! That had been the original idea when we booked but months earlier we had scratched that ANP in favor of going to church. Turns out Thomson’s Arusha office had given Adam an old itinerary and not the same updated one that we had. Hmmmmm…Whassupwitdat?

    Also as we were checking in, staff members told us the tap water was okay to brush teeth with but Adam privately told us we should use the bottled water he gave us. I truly meant to use the bottled water for brushing my teeth but forgot. Arghhh!

    Ngare Sero seemed a nice place though a nearby neighborhood dog barked loudly just about all night. Thankfully I had earplugs because I don’t think I could have slept through the racket without them. Adam had provided me with a battery for my CPAP but it was much smaller than a standard car battery which had been promised. It looked like a golf cart battery. It lasted me only 4 hours. Also, my CPAP has an integral humidifier that takes almost two cups of water to fill. I filled it with the tap water rather than bottled water for that night and the next. This may have been a mistake as well.

    Sunday, March 9th – Briefing, Church, Tarangire NP

    At our lovely breakfast we learned we were the only tourist guests. One other couple was there but they were locals who were just there on a get-away weekend. We had our safari briefing right after breakfast and then left 15 minutes after that.

    We went to the Greek Orthodox Church in Arusha which is about a ¼ mile from the Arusha Cultural Center tourist trap. We thought the Divine Liturgy began at 10:00am and were upset that somehow we wound up arriving at 10:20am. We were relieved when it turned out the service began at 10:30. The priest (Fr. John, a native Tanzanian) gave an outstanding sermon and greeted us warmly after the service was over. We chatted with him and a couple of parishioners a bit and then we were off. While we had been in church Adam had gotten rid of the small battery and obtained a brand, spanking new full sized car battery.

    We stopped at the Cultural Center right after church to pick up some postcards so we could get them written and mailed from Karatu on the way to the NCA. The clerk tried to cheat John out of an extra dollar.

    At 2pm we ate our boxed lunches at a pastoral spot off the road en route to Tarangire NP, finally entering the park at 3:20pm. (Great bathrooms here ladies!) Right off the bat we began seeing loads of wildlife – towers of giraffes, parades of elephants, herds of zebra, constellations of starlings... We saw 14 species each of animals and birds by the time we reached camp 3 hours later.

    We had begun employing our battery operated fly swatter right after entering the park clearing a path through the tse tse flies and leaving a trail of fried flies in our wake. Our guide loved that fly swatter; we all three used it with gusto. I was soooo grateful that I brought it. It was a last minute packing item that worked out fabulously.

    Next up – Thomsons Tarangire Camp and cultural discoveries.

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    Sunday, March 9th, cont.

    The Thomson Tarangire camp was at a Burungi Lake campsite in a lovely location with a view of the lake. Nearly the entire staff turned out to greet us with fresh cold juice and a warm wet cloth upon arrival. This was to be repeated at each Thomson Nyumba camp. Our guide introduced us to the Camp Manager who, in turn, introduced us to his staff. We greeted each one individually. There were 18 tents but John and were the only guests during our two nights there so the whole time we were there it felt like a private camp. A large group had left the morning of our arrival and another was scheduled in the afternoon of our departure. The camp manager briefed us about camp operations and then took us over to a demonstration area and showed us how the toilets and bucket showers worked. Both took a day for me to get used to but they certainly worked fine. It was a bit disconcerting at first to take a shower and later hear someone just on the other side of the shower “wall” ask if you needed more water. Let it now be said that in every camp, we never were in want of additional hot shower water whenever we needed it. :)

    The “sink” consisted of a stainless steel bowl and a nearby covered large jug of water with a ladle. To use the sink one was instructed to ladle in the non-potable water, wash, dump the water in the bucket underneath the vanity, ladle in more water to rinse and dump the water again. This was not what I expected based on the brochures and frankly it was a hassle. It turns out that Thomson’s Serengeti tents are the only really fancy top-of-the-line ones at this time with double glass vessel sinks with drains in the bathroom area.

    The tents are lighted with solar lighting which is really more ambient than anything. We had wisely brought extra lighting. John brought a small LED flashlight and I brought my LED Petzl headlamp - both proved invaluable even in searching for something in the depths of our duffels during daylight hours.

    Even though Thomson’s tents in Tarangire and Ngorongoro were not as fancy as I expected they were still very nice and very comfy. We very much enjoyed each tent we had during our entire safari – especially the last two :)

    Dinner was at 730p and was very nice and served by a warm and attentive staff. We fell into our comfy king bed shortly after dinner and were sound asleep by 830p but not before clearing a trespassing dung beetle out of our tent. Btw, Thomson sprayed our tent once a day for those dang tse tse flies.

    Sidebar:
    John and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the camp staff and chatting them up. We acted upon the cultural and social cues we read about and observed and made a point of not overwhelming them with our typical American-isms of speaking loud and fast and took care to never rush around. We were asked upon arrival how we wanted to be addressed. We said each of first names but within a day or so we had become Mama Heilman and Mzee Heilman which we both loved. They were titles of dignity and respect. We loved it and took care to never do anything to cause us to lose the honor. Those monikers stuck with us during the entire trip.

    Next up – Our first full day game drive. Ah, the glory of God’s creation!

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    10 March, Monday – Tarangire NP. Game drive via Silawe Swamp.

    After hearing lions throughout the night (well, John did – I sleep with earplugs :)) we got our wake up call at 615a with coffee per our request and a pitcher of hot water for washing up at the same time. From my previous experience I knew I’d want a shower every afternoon after coming in from the last game drive of the day rather than in the mornings when a good wash-up would be fine. On a hospital stay a few years ago I was introduced to packaged bath wipes manufactured to bathe bedridden people. I had brought two packages of eight with me; in concert with the morning pitcher of hot water they worked out wonderfully for wash-ups in the absence of a shower. This is also how I side-stepped messing with that dang stainless steel bowl for a sink. :)

    I had brought my duffle, a large sturdy Columbia backpack and a smaller, inexpensive but sturdy Coleman backpack. The latter was intended for use in the Landy as I thought the large backpack would be overkill. Well, I learned after 1 ½ days of safari that the smaller backpack was too small for my purposes and therefore useless to me. I determined to give it away before leaving Tarangire. It wound up with Adam for his library of books which he’d previously been carrying around in a deteriorating cardboard box. We were pleased throughout our trip to see it get used so well.

    We did not see any cats this day but John spotted something in the water during a river crossing. We hung around there watching for whatever it was he saw and passed the time observing a hammerkop. It was intently looking in the water for food and completely ignoring us even though we practically right on top of him. We were also admiring a spectacularly beautiful African pygmy kingfisher perched on a branch when lo and behold, a monitor lizard came up fully out of water. This is what John had seen! The lizard sat there glistening in the sunlight for us, massively long tongue flickering and eventually snapping up something to eat – we couldn’t see what it was because it happened so freakin’ fast. So cool!

    Later Adam spied a group of oryx. He hadn’t seen any of these shy creatures in over a year. Near the Silawe swamp we came upon something that looked like dead green birds in the middle of the red dirt road. It turned out to be a couple of European bee eaters warming their splayed iridescent green wings in the sun. It was so odd looking yet so graceful and pretty at the same time. John managed to get one picture off before they flew away but we lament that it’s a little out of focus.

    We had lunch at the pretty Silawe Swamp lunch site (again, great bathrooms here ladies!) Afterwards we headed back to camp via another route. We came upon a Leopard Tours Land Cruiser stuck in the mud at a river crossing. It was just offloading it’s passengers into another Leopard LC with its own group. They all crowded in together and drove off. The driver of the stuck vehicle was in the process of jacking up the rear end when the LC slipped off and crashed back down into the river. It looked like the rear axel or spring broke when this happened. We hung around and tried to pull the vehicle out but it was seriously stuck; we had to leave after a half-hour of futility, our Landy easily passing the stuck LC.

    We saw many baby eles this day, several of which were so young they could easily pass under their mamas, and a giraffe that must not have been more than a month old. Many lions sounded throughout the night on this night as well.

    11 March, Tuesday

    Arrrgghh! I was struck with traveler’s tummy twice in the night and intestinal pain. Dry toast, a little water and yogurt for breakfast. TD struck twice more before leaving the park. 2 Immodium seemed to stop it but I was exhausted. I finally felt hungry about 15 minutes after leaving the park and ate a granola bar stashed in my backpack. I convinced myself that it was just a passing thing (pun intended :) ) so I did not take any Cipro.

    I was snoozing in the back as we approached Lake Manyara NP but was most rudely awakened by a bee sting on my arm. OMG! I’d passed all of my 55 years without this and boy, now I understand why people scream when they get ‘em! I zapped that bee with my electric flyswatter like there was no tomorrow. By a fluke I had a stick of Afterbite in my backpack as that’s where I had stashed my toiletry bag for our transit to Ngorongoro. I don’t think I have moved so fast in recent years as I did then in ripping it out and applying it. It gave me immediate and total relief. I remain eternally grateful for whoever included Afterbite on their packing list because I brought it that sole recommendation; I had never heard of it before.

    We made a stop in Karatu at the shop of woodcarver Charles Bies (www.charlescarvings.com). We learned of him from Safarimama on the Fodor’s boards. It was wonderful to meet him. He ethusiastically and professionally told us all about his craft while we were surrounded by his fantastic work. We spent about an hour there dropping a small bundle in the process. Some of it we took with us but the rest he is shipping. He is hooked up with FedEx, DHL and the postal service. We highly recommend him to any travelers as you would be buying direct from a master carver. His work is far above the stuff one finds at the Arusha Cultural Center and the like. His prices are more than fair. One can bargain with him as well but please remember to respect his work and not try to go too low. It would be helpful if you know what the schlock looks like and sells for before you go there because it will give you a true appreciation of his exquisite craft.

    While in Karatu we also bought some airmail postcard stamps in a little market in order to send off our postcards. The proprietress asked us if she could ask us a question as she helped us apply the stamps. We cautiously said, “Yes”, not having any idea what was up. She asked if we “accepted” Barak Obama for president. We couldn’t help but enjoy her question and laugh because people had been engaging us about this from the day we arrived! Even driving down the road, children to adults would see the Thomson Safari logo on our Landy and yell, “Barack Obama!” as we passed. And, believe me, everyone – even in the far reaches of the bush – was following the debates and issues. So, we had a lively talk with the proprietress and would continue to discuss Obama all the way through Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam. We had no idea that Obama was so popular in Tanzania. In our discussions we learned that it all has to do with America’s long time financial aid packages to Tanzania and many other African countries. Tanzanians have high hopes that whoever becomes the new president – and they hope it is Obama – will be good for Tanzania, indeed all of Africa, in the continuance of aid and perhaps raising the levels.

    We continued on to the NCA gate where, of course, I had to make another potty stop. The ladies bathrooms, while not of the caliber of Tarangire, were acceptable. We stopped at the crater overlook where John got out and admired the jaw-dropping vastness of the crater. As we drove to our camp (Tembo A near Sopa Lodge) the road continued to climb. I periodically called out our elevation as I had brought a watch with altimeter along. It was always fun to see what elevation we were at in many places throughout our safari. Adam got a kick out of it.

    We got to camp in time for lunch and met the staff including its Maasai guard. I chose to stay at camp to sleep and recover my strength while the men went into the crater for a late afternoon drive. Our camp was just a 15 minute easy drive to the crater floor. I missed an amorous encounter between two rhinos in the crater. Lover Boy was rebuffed despite his foreplay efforts. Later, as he was crossing a road in front of John and Adam, Lover Boy did a mock charge on our Landy which was real enough to make Adam throw it in reverse and quickly back away. Adam and John thought he was just frustrated ‘cause he didn’t get a little nookie :)

    We shared camp this time with a party of 4 who just finished climbing Kilimanjaro. They were fairly quiet when they arrived in the afternoon because they were pretty tired and so their arrival did not awaken me. My first indication that others were there was a man loudly talking to someone on his cell phone just outside my tent. Then, later in the afternoon, one of the women from the group went into the dining tent and demandingly asked in a fairly insulting and condescending tone why she couldn’t get a decent bottle of red. Geesh! I heard that even though our tent was 50 yards away! Of course my immediate thought was, with that kind of attitude and demand, she shoulda booked the Crater Lodge across the way! Well, perhaps she was testy because she was overtired. Not!

    Next up – Mating lions (oh, my!), ballerina hippos, loser jackals, tumbling lion cubs and more rude breaches of safari etiquette.

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    Hi doohickey, I confess I thought this report was from 2007. Now I'm just catching up and so far, so good. Well, except you appear to have had a few bumps the first couple of days. Bee stings, traveler's diarrhea, bratty campmates. Luckily it doesn't sound like any of this dampened your enthusiasm.

    Thanks for reporting back so soon. Looking forward to more.

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    Judith, Thanks for posting this; I'm enjoying every word. I've traveled with Thomson and found them to be great.

    I'm so pleased that you had a chance to visit Charles, the woodcarver in Karatu and that you found his work to be great, as I did.

    What is a battery operated fly-swatter? Is it light weight? Where do you get it? Tse-tse flies really bother me and gives me huge welts that itch for days. This sounds like the answer.

    Keep it coming,

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    Hi Doohickey,
    I'm loving your report, can't wait for more. I traveled with Thomson's 2 years ago and am enjoying reliving the memories thru your report.
    Did you by any chance meet Willie or Leonard (Thomson guides) along the way?
    Teri

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    Great report. Between the electric flyswatter and the bee attack, your trip was insect intensive.

    Nice itinerary and Happy Anniversary. You write so young at heart and that's a compliment. My clue to your age was the number of years you evaded a bee sting. At least your first one was memorable.

    I'd like to bust the bottle of red wine over the Red Whiner.

    Looking forward to mating lions, etc.

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    Thanks every body for your encouraging feedback! I'll post more as soon as I can.

    Safarimama - Yes, Charles Bies was great. He stressed to us that purchases can be made from the States through his website (even custom carving orders) and he would ship them. The payment can be wired to his account.

    The electric fly swatter looks like a badminton racquet on steriods. It's fairly lightweight; the batteries probably weigh more than the racquet. It's handle contains two D batteries. I put fresh ones in before our trip and took a spare set with us just in case. We never had to use the spares. I borrowed the swatter from a colleague but now I've got to buy her a new one. As you can guess, it was so fantastic and our guide loved it so much that we left it with him when we said our goodbyes. Boy, was he excited :)

    I'm not sure where my colleague got her swatter but here is a link to the exact model we had:
    http://www.electricflyswatter.net/
    If you do a google on "electric fly swatter" you'll find lots of choices.

    Countingdown - Unfortunately, we did not meet Willie or Leonard. I would have loved to though as I've "heard" lots about them on the boards.

    - doo




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    Wednesday, March 12

    We got a 530a wake up call so we could set out early in hopes of catching some predation action. After a quick stick-to-the-ribs breakfast for John and Adam we set out for the crater.

    We never spotted any cats in the morning despite some serious searching. We continued our search after a quick pit stop for guess-who at the edge of the forest (3 stalls in the ladies room – 2 porcelain pit and 1 western one missing the seat and lid.) Thankfully it was early enough that the toilets were deserted. Eventually we were pleased to watch troops of playing and grooming baboons, lots of skulking hyena, a few shy bat-eared foxes and hippos doing horizontal pirrouettes by repeatedly rolling over in a pool doing complete 360s. We also saw a mama impala successfully chasing a black backed jackal away from her baby by repeatedly charging it. Later we come upon a golden jackal trying unsuccessfully to nab a flamingo from a huge stand at the edge of a lake. Poor jackals; they were not having a good day.

    We waited out a morning rain shower by a waterhole. Adam seized that opportunity to pull out maps of the NCA and the crater to educate us further about our travels. Since we were pulled over, a Land Cruiser came by to see if we were looking at some choice wildlife (No, just looking at a map, folks!) Adam waved him off but the Cruiser couldn’t get a grip on the slick mud. It started sliding and came to within a foot of bashing us broadside. John and I were yelling, “Look out!” and Adam fired up our Landy and backed away really fast while the LC’s driver tried to gain control. It finally got out of there but shortly afterward another Cruiser came in and had real difficulty getting out again. Not wanting to attract more trouble, we scooted out of there.

    We went back to camp for lunch and a bit of afternoon rest. John and I got to meet Joyce the chef and her assistant, another woman in the camp kitchen. These were apparently the only women Thomson employed in the field. We were amazed to see the completely wood fired operation that produces such delightful meals. No Viking ranges or Sub-Zero fridges here folks!

    Still troubled by TD despite repeated doses of Immodium I swore off Malarone and, with hope and a prayer, went on a 3pm game drive. We immediately spotted a line of safari vehicles and, driving by, saw a lion and lioness totally sacked out at the edge of the road. This was a mating pair. We hung around hoping for some action but eventually left after 10-15 minutes of nothing. We decided to come back around later. 200 yards down the road we saw a lioness sleeping in some light brush. Figuring there were probably more around we repositioned the Landy on the other side of a creek where we could still see her but also look for more. I spotted a lioness and at least one playful cub in some heavy brush. They were really difficult to see but they were most definitely there. As we were looking at them through our binos a stretch CC Africa/Ngorongoro Crater Lodge Land Cruiser with 3 occupants drove up between us and the shrubbery we were looking at and completely blocked our view. Unbelievable! John and I couldn’t help but make loud protestations but the driver of the LC looked at us, gave a big grin, and stayed right where he was for at least 5 minutes so its 3 occupants could look at the lone lioness across the way. The irony is that they never saw the mama and cubs. This blatant rudeness still shocks me as I write this almost two weeks later.

    Well, the mama and cubs looked like they were gonna be there a while so we left and came back about an hour later. The mating lions were still sacked out down the road. The lone lioness was in the same place and the mama and three cubs were still in the brush. We were the only ones there as all the other vehicles were still down the road waiting for the mating pair to hop to it. We truly didn’t think anyone else realized the treasure in the brush except for us. Well, in short order mama sauntered out of the bushes towards what we think was her sister. We quickly re-positioned in time to see the three cubs come tumbling out the brush behind her. They began playing with auntie’s waving tail and pouncing around. They were only about 2 months old and so stinkin’ cute! They were very playful and affectionate with both lionesses. Eventually mama turned onto her back to allow nursing. This was so cool!

    Eventually the auntie got up and moved to the edge of the road to lounge and watch the movements of some distant zebra. We were in a great position to watch it all while I still kept my eye out for some action from the still sleeping mating pair. Another CC Africa/NC Lodge vehicle came up and positioned itself so that its lone occupant could video the lioness. That darned vehicle cast the lioness in complete shadow while John was taking pictures of her! Again we were stunned at this breach of safari etiquette and made protestations as loud as we dared given our close proximity to a killer beast.

    The vehicle moved on when the client was satisfied with her film (gee, perhaps her images are too dim because of the darkness of the shadow her vehicle cast!) We were left with just our vehicle at the lionesses and cubs while two vehicles down the road waited for some X-rated action. Well, lo and behold, the lion stood up, the lioness stood as well and next thing ya know, they’re doing the dirty! We were far enough away so that I couldn’t hear it but I could fer shure see it in living color through my binos :) We got there within a minute of it being over. By that time the lion was comically sacked our on his back with his legs spread wide and the lioness was asleep again, too. What a hoot. The other two vehicles had left. But as we sat there for a few minutes another huge lion came sauntering out of some brush next to the road about 50 yards ahead of us. He crossed the road right in front of us and just stood there looking at us in a regal and majestic pose. This was really funny to me. That lion had been in the brush the whole time while everyone in all those safari vehicles had had their backs to him waiting for some hot sex to happen on the other side of the road. John snagged a great picture of him just after he laid down in the grass with the setting sun lighting up his eyes. Then we booked outta there making it through the gate at exactly 6pm.

    Next up – Tea & Pole, thank goodness for Cipro and living like a Bedouin queen on the Serengeti Plain.

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    I appreciate the responses to my in-progress trip report. It gives me encouragement to keep plugging away so - asante sana! :)

    Thursday, March 13

    Today, like most days at our Ngorongoro tented camp, we woke up to rain for breakfast. It rained with thunder and lightning 2-3 times a day while we were there. And it is indeed comparitively chilly on the rim. But we came back to our tent after dinner to always find hot water bottles in our bed. We kept them at our feet and stayed snug and warm all night. I also slept with my Smartwool beanie liner on my head, too, to keep the heat in my body. Mmmm, it was all good :)

    I awakened in the middle of that night and decided that I was in denial about my TD. I was being foolish to think of abandoning my Malarone without giving Cipro a try first. Duh! So I took both right then and there and went back to bed. I felt fine in the morning and had spot of tea, dry toast and a bit of yogurt for breakfast. However, at a fuel stop at Crater headquarters I was struck with another bout of TD in some crummy porcelain pit bathrooms. Oh, it was a miserable time! After taking another Imodium, a second Cipro, getting a hug from John and accepting a “Pole” from Adam (the Swahili expression of sympathy) we set off for the Serengeti via Naabi Hill.

    The drive was dusty and bumpy and, yes, I was feeling blue after that horrible pit stop. But that second Cipro dosage and the ones following stopped the TD. Hooray! I had been scrupulous about hygeine even to the point of gentle ridicule from DH. And John and I had consumed virtually the same things during the entire trip. My guess is that I’d gotten the TD from brushing my teeth with the tap water at Ngare Sero Lodge or inhaling the tap-water-supplied humidified air from my CPAP that first couple of nights. It had to have been one or the other or a combination.

    We arrived at the Rongi 4 campsite where Thomson has its Migration Camp set up at this time of year. It’s located in the central Serengeti in a lovely setting. They call it Elmakati. In May this camp will be set up in the northern Serengeti near the Kenyan border.

    Now _these_ were the tents I had been expecting! These tents were a bit larger than the first two we were in. They had room for 2 corner bookshelves in addition to the standard camp chairs. The shower had a caddy and double towel rod unlike the other two. The vanity held double vessel sinks made of pretty amber glass with blue trim and matching glass pitchers and water glasses. The sinks drained outside the tents and had stoppers. A large mirror was mounted between the sinks and there was a wastebasket under the sinks as well as in the toilet area.

    The tents were of a beautiful and gracious design both inside and out that seemed like a cross between something medieval and Bedouin. The tents have arched netted “windows” and “doors” on three sides of the bedroom area with floor length drapes on the inside that one can pull shut for privacy. The décor is very nice and tasteful with Swahili flair. The floor is heavy tarp material (part of the tent) covered by a nice sisal mat. Therefore the floor can be a bit uneven in places which threw us off from time to time. I really, really liked these tents and felt very at home and comfortable in them, even pampered.

    I should point out the things that the Thomson tented camps provide for their guests (based on our personal experience) that are not necessarily written about in their brochure:

    • Endless litres of bottled water
    • Endless supply of hot shower water
    • Bars of soap though no shampoo nor hair conditioner
    • Washcloths, hand towels and bath towels
    • Our king bed always had 4 pillows, top sheet, comforter and another thinner layer. No headboard made sitting up in bed to read an uncomfortable proposition. But this was moot for us because we were always falling into bed exhausted and ready to turn out the light at 830 every night!
    • Coffee with your wake up call (upon request only)
    • Mandatory hand washing (at a hand washing station) before every meal. I thought this a smart move of Thomson. They are scrupulous about cleanliness in food prepartion and service. Making sure clients clean their hands with warm soapy water followed by a warm rinse helps ensure no spread of germs. I thought it also a subtle community-building exercise whether Thomson intended to or not.

    Joining John and me at this camp was a group of 8 adults on a family reunion. It looked and sounded like they were having a great time together. Only problem was that this dynamic group of 8 easily overwhelmed our party of 2. I had a hard time coping with this only because they were often loud and calling out to one another across distances that really should have been walked rather than yelled across. They even called out to one another across me a couple of times effectively yelling in my ear and making me jump. Much to his credit, this group did not bother John at all. However, I had come for serenity and to enjoy the sounds of silence and nature. Because of that I had to really work at not fuming about their loudness (mostly one person in particular) as it served no purpose but to yank me out of my happy place. I must admit that I failed miserably sometimes at not getting angry. Believe me, this was not a state I was pleased to be in and certainly, my happiness made no difference to them one way or another. Sigh. Well, I’ve digressed long enough on a situation that I hope no one else ever finds themselves mired in.

    Next up – Slip slidin’ away, a wildie spared, and Mzee & Mama get feted.

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    Thanks for all this wonderful information and also bringing back lots of fond memories. Willie was our guide and in February 2006, we were one of the first to be in those new tents. Now everyone else has imitated them, I think.
    Anyway, you are so full of new information for me. I have ordered two Electric Fly Swatters from www.sevendeals.com, which is where your link took me. They are on sale for $9.95 right now plus shipping. I'm also going to look for a tube of Afterbite creme in case of a sting. I hope it works for tse-tse fly bites also. I never used to have any reaction at all and then last November - these horrible welts that itched like crazy for days appeared out of nowhere, it seemed. I thought at first they were spider bites. I was bitten the worst at Kirawira inside my netting at night ... of all places!!! The price is worth paying though, if it comes down to that.

    I checked out Charles' website. NICE! This is new. He's come a long way. My Maasai head is the one for $220. It's gorgeous!

    Keep this report coming! You're keeping me in stitches,
    kwaheri sasa,

    Kristina

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    Kristina, your feedback is great! Thanks! Yeah, I’m gonna order a couple of those fly swatters, too. One to replace the one my colleague loaned me that I left in country and another for me :)

    More information about Afterbite can be found at this link: http://www.tendercorp.com/product.asp?page=afterbite

    I took the Afterbite Original with me. It is a liquid that comes in stick pen form. But Kristina I think you should consider the Xtra version because it sounds like you’re really tortured when you get bitten.

    Judith

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    Friday, March 14

    When we awoke this morning John proposed an African safari as a present for our 15th Anniversary. Pretty funny guy, eh?

    As planned at dinner the previous night, we determined to hunt down the migration today. The weather was clear in the morning though it had rained heavily at times the day before and during the night. In fact we had rain showers every day while we were on safari indicating how hard upon the rainy season we were. None of this rain dampened our spirits. Most of it sank into the ground pretty fast and we were actually happy that it cut down on the dust.

    Within a couple of minutes of driving out of camp we were amidst many giraffe, buffalo, zebra and warthogs. A bit farther away we saw hippos grazing and got a full-on tutorial from our guide about their behavior, weight, enemies, etc. He also pointed out their tracks to us. Our first couple of days with Adam he didn’t go into detail about any of the fauna and birds we were seeing. But we talked with him about how we like to know the full scoop and, boy, did he become a font of knowledge. It turned out the guy was a walking encyclopedia.

    We stopped to admire the beauty of the Moru Kopjes. Then we continued south for a long time through some seriously slippery mud and deep puddles and by 10am began to encounter the fringes of the migration by seeing a huge, and I mean huge, herd of zebra. We continued over hill and through slippery dale never seeing any other vehicles and driving parallel along the park boundary with the Maswa Game Reserve towards Kusini determined to find the migration. Adam was doing some great driving and our Landy was handling the conditons beautifully. And our electric fly swatter was wreaking some serious havoc to the local tse tse fly population, too :))

    Finally, at about 1230p near Kusini airstrip, we entered a vast break-off pack of the migration that went on for miles. We drove on a diagonal towards Ndutu, the pack stretching for 20km along that diagonal. Adam estimated it might have been 40pct of the migration. Had it been the main migration I don’t think we would have been able to see the ground. Adam was sure the main part was in the Maswa Reserve which, of course, we could not enter.

    Anyhoo, we stopped a few times during our drive through the migration to look at it in awe as it stretched from horizon to horizon. We enjoyed it all - the mighty dung beetles pushing a softball size ball of dung around, the galavanting baby wildies, the mud-wallowing hyenas… Suddenly I saw a wildie running pell mell off in the distance with a tawny streak racing after it. I excitedly reached for my binos and, just like that, lost sight of them! No tawny streak, no wildie racing for its life. It had happened so fast that Adam and John missed it. But Adam noticed that a large group of wildies were standing in stark attention looking at something. We booked over there and found a lioness laying in the shade of some brush panting heavily, trying to catch her breath. She was totally spent; the wildie had escaped her clutches.

    After a bit we left the hungry lioness to recoup in peace and eventually exited the migration near Ndutu Lodge. We were so happy that the sun had shone while we were amidst the migration because shortly after passing Ndutu Lodge it began to pour buckets of rain. We worked our way back to camp via Naabi Hill and relaxed for a while before dinner.

    Dinner at Thomson camps is always a nice affair…tablecloths, cloth napkins, candles…and the menu, including desert, annouced by an earnest staff member. This evening, desert was “tea and coffee”. But the sweet guy couldn’t keep a secret; he came to me and whispered that something special was to be served for desert :)

    Dinner was fabulous as usual. The waiters bring around a dish each, tell you what they are offering and serve you up however much you’d like. Then they come around again asking if you’d like seconds. Oh my, gosh - it would be so stinkin’ easy to gain a lot of weight on a Thomson safari! It’s not exactly like you can just step out your tent and go take a 10 mile run whenever you’d like.

    Adam slipped away from our table ostensibly to go find a staff member to get a question of ours answered. A few minutes later we heard singing and instruments and, the next thing you know, we were encircled by the entire staff – including Adam - in humorous costumes, playing improvised musical instruments and singing “Jambo Bwana” to us. John and I loved it! And I was crying from laughing so hard! The group of 8 enjoyed it, too, as the dancing troup circled around their table as well before coming back to us. I couldn’t help but jump up and start dancing with the leader, our camp manager, Ali. I have absolutely no rythym and probably looked like a complete dork but I enjoyed myself thoroughly and the staff thought it great fun.

    Then an iced layer cake with several lit candles was brought to our tables. Written in script was “Happy Anniversary Mzee & Mama Heilman”. I was sooo touched. Happily, I had my camera with me because Adam had gotten me to bring it to dinner by a ruse. I snapped a picture of the cake before cutting the first piece and had taken pictures of the troupe while the singing and dancing was in progress. Unfortunately, most of the pix came out badly aimed or with my finger in them because I was laughing too hard while taking them to concentrate properly on composition. It was a lovely, lovely fete that will forever remain very special to me.

    Next up –Rovers v. Cruisers, Thomson’s flagship, and birding bonhomie.

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    What a lovely anniversary surprise. Good spot on the lion chasing the wildebeest. In your previous installment I forgot to mention the abundance of fascinating jackal activity.

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    Thanks for your comments davgai1 and Patty. I'm happy to hear my report transports you.

    I have safaried vicariously many times since I came upon the trip report thread that Lynda put together. I have been "in the moment" with many of those reports to the point of being sad when the trip came to an end :( There are a bunch of really talented writers writing trip reports!

    Judith

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    Saturday, March 15

    As usual this morning, because were changing camps, we settled our bar tab, gave the tip envelope to the manager and quietly gave Montana gifts to a person or two who had been particulary kind to us or had personally touched us in some way. We’d been doing this upon leaving each camp and now Murdoch’s Ranch & Home Supply t-shirts, ball caps and some Yellowstone Nat’l Park ball camps are scattered around Tanzania. We gave the entire bag of miniature toy animals (Holstien steer, bison, wolf, moose, elk…) and miniature toy John Deere farm equipment to the Maasai guard at our Ngorongoro camp for the children in his village.

    We set out from Elmakati at 830a coming upon a sleeping lioness and four teenager lions who were awake and playful with one another. Then we went to a nearby lake and watched the birds, especially flamingos and storks for a while. They were so pretty and graceful and their behavior fascinating. This was a very peaceful place I could have hung around for hours at. But we left because I really hoped to see cheetahs on this trip and though Adam was working hard to find some for me we had had no success yet.

    I think this was the morning that one of those dang tse tse flies flew in my mouth. Eeeeew, gross! John was wondering what I was violently sputtering about in the back of the Landy. I was spitting that darned thing out and making sure it was good and gone. Yuk! But, hey, whatcha gonna do? You just smile, forget about it and keep on going :)

    At one point during our search for cheetahs we were following a moderately muddy path (not even close to as muddy as the day before) when a Land Cruiser in front of us turned around and began to go back. The driver stopped to chat with Adam for a bit. Apparently the conditions were too poor for his vehicle to safely continue. I was so surprised. This track was nothing to us. It was this LC driver, too, or another that same day who told Adam that he had tried to follow the same route to the migration that we had but had had to call it off because of the road conditions.

    This is what I don’t get – Why do so many people want to go on safari in Land Cruisers if they aren’t very nimble and sure-footed on the roads? Time after time John and I saw for ourselves that they have problems in anything even moderately wet. Are the LCs really plush and comfy inside or something? Our Landy had certainly seen better days but John and I were comfortable and very confident that Adam could get us to where we wanted to go even under appalling road conditions.

    Hmmm, maybe someone can pipe in here and shed a bit more understanding on the Land Rover v. Land Cruiser issue for me.

    Anyway, we made our way to our final camp for the next two nights, Thomson’s Robanda Camp not far outside the Ikoma gate in the western Serengeti. Nice camp! Pretty awesome really. 18 tents in a boomerang layout with a dining, bar and lounge structure at the apex. The common structure was on a concrete base with a palapa-style roof. It was quite large, roomy and very comfortable. The camp faces southeast and the netted “walls” of the palapa were open on three sides. During one of dinners there we had a driving rainstorm with thunder and lightning. The staff lowered the flaps to keep the horizontal rain out. We also later found they had done this for our personal tent as well.

    The staff situated the group of 8 on one arm of the boomerang and John and me on the other. I appreciated the arrangements as it gave us distance from one another. I immediately turned over my remaining laundry for washing. And after a huge buffet lunch I went back to our tent and washed out a few smalls, the staff having provided me with a bucket of warm water at my request.

    That afternoon I found a big spider on the backside of one of our door curtains inside the tent. I’m telling you, this sucker was 2” across!! Oooh, whee! I jumped for that electric fly swatter and nailed him. It took three zaps before it stopped moving. Then I made like the carcass was a hockey puck and knocked it outside our tent. In a few minutes it was gone; I think one of the birds had a nice filling lunch.

    At about 5p we set out on a bush walk with Adam and a guard, a local fellow from Ikoma village in fatigues and jump boots carrying bow and poison arrows. Yikes! In 1 ½ hours of walking we spotted a whopping 11 new species of birds, 2 kinds of ants on impressive moves and animal tracks galore – hyena, zebra, baboon, impala, jackal and maribou stork. John also spied a black back jackal checking us out. Adam carried his birding books in his new backpack and pulled them out off and on to help identify a couple of obscure birds. Our guard was into this bird business as well though I sometimes thought he should be keeping a bit more of an eye out for the stuff that might want to eat us.

    The sunset was incredible – like fire in the sky. Dinner was very nice. But, much to my consternation, the cessastion of my TD had also brought just plain cessation. Now I was uncomfortable in a whole ‘nother way. Argghh! The next day was to be our last full day of safari. I still hadn’t seen any cheetah or leopard. I hoped something would happen soon!

    Next up – Breaking loose, a robbery scare, and “To the trees!”

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    Doo - I keep reading about all the gifts you gave out on your trip. Where in the world did you pack them all? We are going on our trip in Sept and plan to each just take a carry on.

    SD

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    Leely and Lynn:

    Thank you both for your comments and observations. I just noticed I accidentally didn't acknowledge them! Your input matters to me greatly along with all the others.

    More will trip report postings will come this weekend. We're still working on our photos - including ones of our tents, inside and out - and hope to have them available for viewing within the next week.

    Cheers!
    -doo (Judith)

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    I really prefer the Land Rover too over the Cruiser, but just about everyone else but Thomson uses the Cruiser now. You see very few on safari these days. Ranger Safaris, the biggest in TZ is phasing out theirs and only use them on request. Nobody is ordering new ones that I'm aware of.

    Thomson takes extremely good care of theirs and keep them in tip top shape all the time. They operate their own garage.

    It's my understanding that the Cruiser is a much cheaper vehicle to purchase by a third of the price and also much easier to maintain. It doesn't brake down as much either and can take more abuse. However, the Cruiser doesn't stand a chance on wet black cotton soil, as you found out Judith, like the Rovers do. A Rover can pull out 3 stuck Cruisers at the same time!!!

    The driver/guides also prefer to drive the Cruisers. They are easier to maneuver and more comfortable for them behind the wheel.

    Personally, I found the new Cruisers to be uncomfortable. The seats are tight and the view through the front window from the back is obscured by the sloping roof above the front seats. I also didn't much care for the space when the top was opened. Only 2 people can comfortably fit to stand up at the same time. I like to stand up the entire time and in the new Cruiser, it takes two seats with one foot on each to be comfortable. If you stand on the last two seats (don't stand on the frig), the side of your head hits the roof on bumps as it doesn't go all the back above you there and you have to lean backwards and be outside and behind, not under the sunroof. I'd take a Rover any day!!

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    SDtravelers:

    If you plan to just take carry-on then you just won't have room for the kinds of gifts we took. Our gifts weighed 12 pounds and were distributed between our two duffles.

    They consisted of:
    4 t-shirts (regular weight. Rolled up they didn't take much room)
    6 ball caps (they nested together)
    A bag of miniature toys
    A couple of more small items

    We replaced almost that whole 12 pounds of gifts with items we purchased for ourselves and as gifts for loved ones back home.

    I think the key for you with your carry-on is to find some very small gifts that pack a big punch :)

    Btw, later I plan to post one of those "What especially worked, what I wished I'd left at home, and what I wished I'd brought" packing lists that that I've found so valuable on this forum. It won't be my whole list because that ground has been covered so ably already by others.

    -doo

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    I am really enjoying your trip report. Thanks for all of the entertaining details. I am living vicariously, pretending I’m right there with you, except of course for the obnoxious camp companions. Was the guy on the cell phone the wife of the red whiner?

    When I heard you missed the afternoon Crater trip, I was hoping you had more than one trip into the Crater planned, and you did. I’m glad illness didn’t prevent you from seeing it. The mother impala protecting her baby from the jackal is an exciting way to start the morning, and the lion activities during the afternoon made for an excellent day. Shame on the CCA guides. Too bad one of them wasn’t stuck with the red whiner.

    Just when I thought you’d gotten rid of obnoxious camp companions, along comes the loudmouth in the family of eight. You say you failed miserably at not getting angry. Personally I’d consider it a success that you let them know how you felt. Your description of the tents, especially those in the Serengeti and a comparison of camps, is great. It will let others know what to expect.

    I can’t imagine a better way to spend your anniversary. The camps sound absolutely lovely, you saw the wildebeest migration including a lion chasing a wildie, had a wonderful dinner, they sang for you, and for dessert you had an anniversary cake. What a special day.

    I bet everyone loved your gifts. That is something I’ve never done, and you’ve now inspired me to do so in the future. I love the idea of the miniature toys, particularly animals indigenous to your part of the country.

    Great Report. I can’t wait for the next installment.

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    I've purchased the Afterbite Xtra and also some StingEze just in case. The electric flyswatters just arrived today ... boy that was quick ..., but one is broken, just the part that goes over the batteries. They are much smaller and lighter than I expected. I'm sure they'll be perfect. I like your description of the spider being bird dinner that night!!! you're a hoot,
    keep it coming,

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    Safarimama:

    Your discourse on Land Rovers v. Land Cruisers was enlightening. I remember our guide Adam saying that Thomson keeps their Rovers in shape by putting them into their shop for overhauls after every safari. He also said parts were expensive. I guess it really does come down to cost v. terrain handling ability as the bottom line for the outfitters. Apparently cost usually wins out.

    Did I read your post correctly about having to stand on seats to look out the pop top? Whassupwitdat?! We stood on the floor and always had a great view. But you also mentioned a fridge in the Cruiser. Our Rover didn’t have one (there was never a time I thought we could have used one) though I could see where this would be a nice little extra. But it’s an extra I’d happily give up in favor of being able to go more places, see more things and have little risk of getting stuck.

    I never looked inside the stretch Land Rovers that the group of 8 was using so I don’t know the set up inside there. Adam did tell us that Thomson is phasing out the regular Land Rovers like the one we were in favor of the stretch version. He said it’s heavier of course than the shorter version but still exceptionally nimble. Thomson will make the shorter ones available on request.

    It was in the news this week that Ford Motors has just sold Jaguar and Land Rover to Tata, an Indian automaker. Hopefully the Rover survives and only gets better.

    I’m glad to hear you’ve gotten hold of a couple of those electric fly swatters and the Afterbite Xtra. I hope the Xtra and/or StingEze do the trick for you. When’s your next trip over?

    Judith (Doohickey)

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    Dana_M:
    I’m glad you’re enjoying this report. Yes, our anniversary was very, very special for all the reasons you mentioned. It was a real wowza :)

    The guy on the cell phone was talking to his wife. Presumably she was in the US because it wasn’t the Red Whiner (Atravelynn – thanks for coming up with that perfect moniker!) This little group was all supposed to go on to the Elmakati Camp, like us, after the crater. But, interestingly, the Red Whiner and the young couple (who seemed pleasant btw) cut their trip short and flew home. Only the cell phone guy went on to the Serengeti. He was there just for one night. He headed back to the US immediately after ballooning the following morning.

    -doo

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    I love being on safari, so I don't want to miss anything. My eyes aren't what they used to be any longer, so I like to see out without obstructions. Looking out the windows doesn't do it for me. Of course, I have to sit there sometimes when others want to stand up. That's usually when all the action is on the other side!! Standing on the floor, only my head sticks up through the hatch and you can't see around the other people in front, so I like to get all the way up to my armpits through the hatch for greater views; therefore I stand on the seat. I found in the Cruiser that the seat was too narrow to just stand on your own seat and still be able to take pictures. The hatch wasn't wide enough, so you had to hang onto the rim or fall over back into the car.
    Yes, the new Cruisers all come with battery operated fridges, which is a great luxury for keeping water cold. But you can't stand on it or move it.

    We were in the short Rover with Willie and that was a great vehicle, although old. Willie said it was their oldest, but I thought it was just fine. There were just the two of us and I wouldn't have wanted any more. The seats were tight for my husband with his very long legs. He sat in the middle in the back with his legs between the two seat behind Willie.

    I'm popping back over in May, then again in July and also in September. None of these trips to TZ where you're most likely to encounter tse-tses. Maybe I'll get attacked again in Zambia. I'm prepared now!!! :)

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    Sunday, March 16

    This was our last full day on safari. And this is the day I finally had serious relief from my longstanding, ahem, backup. Whoo-hoo! Everything got back on track. I was mightily embarrassed though to be interruped during one of my important bush loo stops when another safari vehicle suddenly appeared. There I was in all my glory in the road facing this oncoming vehicle! OMG! Ladies – can you imagine? No – don’t. Luckily I was able to stop and pull up my drawers and dash to John who was standing beside the Landy beckoning me to hide behind him. Wow, did I appreciate that. I would have been mortified had someone been able to recognize me at our lunch stop later in the day!

    Well, we eventually made it back to the central Serengeti still in search of our first sighting of leopards and cheetahs. Well, it was important to _me_ but not as so to DH. Our first stop was the Orangi River just inside the Ikoma gate. There we saw crocodiles for the first time on this trip. We were able to get out on foot and watch them move about and sun themselves.

    Just before we left the river overlook we encountered another American woman on holiday with a European friend of her’s who was currently living and working near Ikoma village. Her friend, upon learning we’d be going to Zanzibar, warned us that he and his brother had been robbed at gunpoint in their hotel lobby. He recounted that the Monday before he’d been at the Cristal Resort on Paje Beach on the eastern side of the island. He and his brother had been passing time in the lobby by playing cards, their luggage nearby. Suddenly some robbers with AK-47’s came in, shot the hotel dog, and demanded their money and belongings. They bandits looked through wallets before they left, didn’t think enough money was in one of them and demanded to know where the rest of the cash was hidden. This fellow I was speaking to was left with only his old film SLR camera and case which fortunately he had stashed a little money in. His money, passport, luggage, digital camera and cell phone were stolen.

    Well, needless to say, this alarmed John and me quite a bit. We didn’t know anything about the security at the Cristal nor at our intended place, the Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel. Adam doubted the veracity of the report as he later spoke to the fellow’s driver/guide who said the guy hadn’t mentioned this to him at all. But it prompted John and me to immediately distribute our cash, credit cards, and passports amongst our belongings.

    As we continued into central Serengeti we heard a bunch of chatter on the radio (which was rarely on btw) and Adam began to drive faster. Adam told us there was a leopard in a tree just ahead. In my excitement I stood up to enjoy the fast drive, forgetting to make sure the chin strap to my hat was in place. Rats! It wasn’t. “Stop, Adam! My hat blew off!” So there we were backing up instead of going forward in order to retrieve my grimey Tilley.

    It was easy to see where the leopard was because there were 15-20 vehicles pulled over next to a stand of trees along the Seronera River. We’d never seen so many vehicles at a sighting, even at the mating lions in the crater. Most of the vehicles were situated so that the occupants could only see the back of the leopard which was 50’ up in a tree. We positioned ourselves so that we could see the front. All I had was my little Nikon Coolpix because I was counting on John to get the distance shots. But this leopard was just too far away for his 800 lens. It was a tough shot. The critter had chosen the tree wisely in respect to proximity to the road; nobody could get a decent picture of it unless they had a lens longer than an 800. But at least we got a good view of it through our spotting scope. We’d pulled it out many a time on the trip and were glad to have taken it.
    After our fill of this we worked our way to the Seronera Tourism Center for a conventional loo stop (thank goodness!) and consumption of box lunches. Adam lunched with the other driver/guides while John and I chilled in some shade being entertained by the many rock hyraxes. I don't _think_ anyone there recognized me from my bush loo earlier in the day :)

    We moseyed around the site for a while then headed off again. Adam was determined to find me a cheetah but John and I talked about it and told him that though it would be nice if we saw one, our trip would not be ruined if we didn’t. I guess it was seeing the leopard that made this okay for me. That was one cool cat.

    We worked our way back to our camp by driving along the river and some water holes. As we often did, we came upon a tower of giraffes on the move. Adam could see they were moving toward some water and we wondered if they’d stop to drink. Now this was something I had always been fascinated with but had never had a chance to see. I know that drinking water is a very vulnerable time for them so it had inherent drama for me. Sure enough, the group got to an access place.

    A couple of giraffes slowly approached the water’s edge and peered closely at/into the water. They moved away but lingered about, all looking around in different directions. Then a giraffe near the rear of the line approached the water, walking back and forth along the edge for a bit while also peering at the water. Soon she stopped, incrementally spread her front legs waaaay apart and took a really long drink. She stood up and raised her head, shaking it and flinging a big glob of water aside. Then she repeated this process, taking another long cool drink. She stepped away and a younger (much smaller) giraffe came alongside her. We figure this was her young because she (forgive my anthropomorphism here!) sweetly nudged him/her on the backside towards the water as if saying, “Go ahead honey, it’s safe to drink.” The young giraffe appeared hesitant so mama nudged again. Then the younger giraffe also took two long drinks. All the while the other giraffes were standing around as if on guard and at attention looking all around them. This was riveting! I LOVED it and felt privileged to watch this whole intimate scene play out. It was a wonderful gift. Now it was really, really okay that I didn’t see a cheetah.

    Next up – Mzee & Mama go to the movies, a howl in the dark, and a Spice Island meltdown.

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    Monday, March 17

    While we were at Thomson’s Robanda camp a film crew joined us. The crew was putting together a video for Thomoson clients and corporate one for Thomson as well. We had been told several days beforehand that we’d be joined by the crew; Thomson hoped we didn’t mind. Well, I’m camera shy but John thought it fun to be filmed and interviewed. The lead guy filmed all kinds of stuff that we and the group of 8 did – everything from arrival at camp, to game drives, to washing hands before meals. Happily for me he spent more time with the group of 8 which, I am sure, they enjoyed immensely. The plans are to have a 15-20 minute video available for clients sometime next year.

    This morning we packed up to leave the safari portion of our trip. The night before, as we were preparing for bed, we heard a weird intermittent howling kind of sound approaching camp. It was spooky. The animal, whatever it was, came through camp and then continued on past. Of course, we were zipped in good and tight but John insisted on going outside with his tiny little flashlight to see if he could see what it was. Of course, I threw a fit and nearly had a heart attack when he did it anyway. He wasn’t able to see it and came back into the tent within 1 minute. The next morning at breakfast we learned it had been hyena.

    I was wistful about our safari being over but I was looking forward to going to Zanzibar for the first time. We left camp at 8a and, after a little side trip through Ikoma Village, drove to the grass airstrip to meet our flight. At dinner the night before, we had given Adam his tip and a couple of little gifts. But at the airstrip we said our real goodbyes to him. I made a solemn presentation of two D cell batteries which I said were spares that we really could not use and so was giving them to him. He was confused about why the heck we’d give him two lousy batteries; this confusion was exactly what I counted on :) Then I announced, “Because they go to _this_”, and held out the electric fly swatter for him to take. Boy, oh, boy! Did he light up with the biggest grin and laugh! He was happy, happy, happy and sooo surprised. John and I got the biggest kick out this. He gave us both a big hug and ran his hands over the swatter like it was a treasured thing – which for him it was. That man is just tortured by those tse tse flies so giving the swatter to him was a very satisfying thing.

    Our Cessna Caravan 12 seater had been chartered by Thomson to bring supplies to Robanda Camp and pick us up, the group of 8 and the main film guy, Robin. This plane has very tight quarters. Seating is 3 across in a 1-2 configuration. The aisle is between seats 1 and 2 and is only about 18” across – if that! Anyone tall will have their knees in their chest unless they sit directly behind the pilot and co-pilot. There is no under seat or overhead storage.

    On this flight the young woman with the big voice sat directly behind the pilot and directly in front of me. Her brother and his girlfriend/wife sat next to her. At some point while we were in flight, the woman and her brother both suddenly turned around and yelled, “Dad!,” to get the attention of their father, who was in the back of the plane, for a photo. Geesh! I’d been quietly looking at the scenery and had no warning. Happily this was the last time that I’d have occasion to jump out of my seat during our holiday. Much to the pilot’s credit, the plane didn’t jump, too.

    Baggage was not weighed for our flight back to Arusha. Adam, who has lifted quite a bit of luggage in his day, knew by feel that our duffels were below 33 pounds. My daypack was a hunker though; there was no way it would fit on my lap so thank goodness we were all able to put our daypacks in the back of the plane behind the seats. The flight was uneventful. We flew over Ngorongoro Crater (what a great view!) and made a brief stop at the Lake Manyara airstrip to drop off Robin who was meeting up with a Thomson family safari group for film purposes. Then we popped back up again for the short hop to Arusha Airport. I had hoped that we’d be able to see Mt. Kilimanjaro but all but the top half was obscured by clouds.

    Mohammed from Thomson and an assistant met us. He got us checked in for our connecting flight which wasn’t going to leave for another couple of hours. Our duffels were weighed. Then he dropped the group of 8 off at the Arusha Coffee Lodge for lunch after which John and I popped into the Arusha Cultural Center so DH could find a particular gift for a friend back home. He did a good bargaining job, too, getting an old, used Maasai boys necklace with warthog tusk down from $40 to $25. Then we popped back over to the airport and tried to eat our box lunches. But it was only 1130a and we weren’t hungry yet; we only got halfway through them. The lunches had been packaged in some really nice woven baskets with lid and clasp. We didn’t have a way to carry these to Zanzibar and back home so we had to give them away before leaving the airport. Too bad, I would like to have kept them.

    We went through a rudimentary screening when our flight was called. Hand baggage trundled through an X-ray machine that was not manned. We went through a metal detector gateway and though it went off when I went through, the hand scan afterwards was very minimal in comparison to US standards. The flight to ZNZ was on Coastal Aviation and on another Cessna Caravan that was also fully booked. It took 1 ½ hrs to get to Zanzibar and we had to climb to 13,500’ because of bumpy weather. The air was a little thin up there prompting uncontrollable yawning almost the whole way in an effort to get more oxygen into my bloodstream.

    John and I were seated right behind the pilot on this flight so we had a great view approaching Zanzibar. I was so excited to be going there despite the reported heat and humidity. I’m not a person who handles heat very well but I thought that for three days I could handle it, especially since our room had A/C and the pool and Indian Ocean were right there. Well, we got off the plane and were assaulted by, what for us, was sweltering heat and humidity. The temp was in the mid-high 90’s with humidity in the 90’s as well. We started dripping right away. Let me put this in perspective for you - We live at 5, 000 feet in the dry air of the Montana Rockies and had only 1 ½ weeks before been in snow. I am accustomed to walking about in t-shirts in 35 degree weather and don’t put on a sweatshirt until the temp gets down to 30 degrees or so. We had been fine with the 80-85 degree weather while on safari but THIS – this was in a whole other realm of existence! Goodness gracious!

    Sayedi, our Meet & Greet person from Gallery Tours, met us just outside baggage claim. He was holding a sign with our name on it and marked “Party *2”. Crowding him at these glass doors were a bunch of men in neon green vests with “ZNZ” marked on the back. We walked into bedlam as soon as we pushed through the doors. All the green men crowded about us yelling in Swahili and trying to grab our duffels out of John’s hands. It was insane! We didn’t know if these guys were porters or trying to steal our luggage so John hung onto our duffels for dear life only releasing one to our greeter after we pushed our way outside the crowd. It turned out the green men were allowed to be porters by the airport but we didn’t know that. Sayedi acknowledged that this behavior was highly alarming and very off-putting for westerners to come into and that the airport ought to do something about it.

    Sayedi was ebullient and personable. He gave us a running narrative on many aspects of Zanzibar as we drove in his air conditioned van up to the north end of the island. The road was in really good condition and we learned that the tarmac, extending all the way to Nungwi village, was only 4 months old. It was a good hour’s drive to the end of the island so we were glad to have arrived after the road was paved. Only the final ½ mile to our hotel was unpaved and bumpy.

    Remembering the hotel lobby robbery story we were pleased to arrive at a gate that was only opened for our arrival by a posted Ras Nugwi Hotel guard. Later we were to notice that two guards were always discreetly posted on the beach as well. Perhaps the Cristal Hotel where the robbery had happened the week before did not have the kind of security that the Ras Nungwi had.

    Next up – Check-in surprises, beating the heat, and life in an island paradise.

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    If it makes you feel any better, you're not the only one with an embarrassing bush loo moment. I was behind the vehicle when 2 trucks pulled up in Namibia. We were on a 6 hour excursion and I absolutely had to go, so I didn't bother stopping at that point. It's probably on YouTube ;)

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    I am not in Zanzibar yet but have finished your safari.

    Cipro has saved the day a time or two for me. Better living through chemistry! Glad it finally got you back on track and kept you from spiraling downward.

    It's good you can laugh at your loo fiasco because you know the people you encountered are. When I was a kid we had a neighbor who claimed she never worried about finding a bathroom when traveling. She'd just squat on the side of the road with a bag over her head. Maybe Tilley could sell an accessory for that purpose.

    Drinking giraffes is a rarity I'd love to see.

    I have not heard of mandatory hand washing before. What a brilliant idea and a win-win setup by Thomson.

    There was a reason you did not see the cheetah. It means you have a reason to return!

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    Well, I'm in Zanzibar with you, in the h e a t and humidity. Looking forward to more!

    Question: do you get nauseous on those wee planes? I remember feeling pretty bumpy jumpy in my stomach on the lfight from Zanzibar to Dar.

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    Well, ordering my two flyswatters from http://www.electricflyswatter.net which took me to www.sevendeals.com when I clicked on "click here to order" button has turned sour. Order yours somewhere else. They just throw the flyswatters in a box and they don't care about how they arrive ... broken. There's no customer service attached to this company and no way to call them; and you got what you got. The postage to send them back cost more than the item and there's no guarantee that they will replace it and send another one that doesn't break in transit. This is too bad!! Just my 2 cents worth!

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    Leely:
    Whooo! That h e a t and humidity was sumthin else! My next installment is nearly done; I hope to have it posted tonight or tomorrow...got caught up in work :(

    Safarimama:
    Bummer about that link! I haven't ordered from it and suspect my friend got it at a local retailer here in MT. So I'll avoid that internet vendor and find a replacement somewhere else. Thanks for giving us all the heads-up warning!

    -doo

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    It's not a big loss, just annoying! One of them works fine though. Like I told you privately, I couldn’t help myself despite the warnings. I put my entire hand on the racket/swatter and pushed the button. I’m blond!!!!! It works just fine!!!!!!!!!!! ZAP! SPARKS!! It didn’t take long; what a charge!!

    I’m happy now and …. Wiser too!!!! :)

    Amazon has the iTouchless Rechargebale Portable Handheld Electric Bug Zapper/ Swatter for $15.99. I may order one of those instead.

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    Monday, March 17, cont.

    The desk staff at this hotel are lovely folks. As is typical for Tanzanians, they speak and walk in a slow, gracious and professional manner – even when faced with someone from another country who’s talking to them at a mile-a-minute which was something we witnessed a couple of times.

    When we checked in the staff was surprised to learn we were a couple as they had been expecting a single. Luckily they had a double available and quickly made it ready. Also, our Thomson documents showed that our breakfast, lunch and dinner (BLD) had been prepaid. However, this hotel is a Modified American Plan in which just breakfast and dinner can be pre-paid. We were informed that we’d have to pay for our lunches while there. Well, this was a rude surprise but one we’d deal with and discuss with Thomson after we got home.

    The reception area was very nice and open air. And what we saw of the rest of the hotel and grounds on the way to our room was also very attractive and inviting. Everything is built papapa-style. There are many inviting seating areas spread about. An exchange library is available, board games, ping-pong, gift shop, a spa and a dive/snorkel/watersports “shack” staffed by the requiste blond, tanned young Aussie guys. The dive shack is where I heard a telephone ring for the first time since leaving the States.

    Our room was in a round bungalow divided into two guest rooms with their own entrances. We were assigned Room 4, a Superior Chalet. The stairway to the door was so steep that it was almost like climbing a ladder. Two handed use of the banister was necessary to stay surefooted. It could be done with one hand but only with great care. The most prominent feature in the room was a huge oversized king bed with a beautful carved headboard and footboard. It had a canopy with full mosquito netting. The most _appreciated_ feature was an air conditioning unit :) We were both really happy to have the “Japanese air”, as Sayedi had called it, and the ceiling fan. We nearly broke the A/C unit from running it so much during our stay!
    The floors were tile. The bathroom was small but sufficient; shower only, no tub. Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, sunburn relief lotion, and non-DEET insect repellant were provided as well as shower caps. The bathroom had one electrical outlet but it was for a shaver only. The main room had two electrical outlets. Both were fully used and in locations that required contortionist-only access. A minor-league in-room hair dryer was plugged into one of the outlets.

    It was just as hot and humid inside our room as out because all the windows and drapes had been open when we got there. As soon our bellboys left we slammed shut the windows, closed the drapes agains the sun, turned the “Japanese air” on to high and even turned on the fan. Then we stripped and lay/sat still in our underwear; we were just dripping with sweat. Two hours later we finally began to cool down. It was only then, when we began to stir, that we realized we had a CPAP crisis.

    When I tried to plug my CPAP in I realized my converter accepted only a two-prong plug – my unit requires a 3 pronged plug. Oh, no!! I hadn’t even considered that when I had belatedly gotten my converter and adaptor just hours before our trip. DH and I went to Reception and asked if they had an adaptor for my plug. They had some all right but they were checked out to other Americans who had been caught short in the same manner.

    Oh, man, was I in a bind! I kicked myself for not listening to that little warning voice in my head when our trip departure specialist suddenly changed things on me a couple of weeks before we left when, instead of providing a car battery as initially promised, he told me to just get a converter and adaptor instead. On the surface it had sounded reasonable but nevertheless…

    DH was none too pleased at this situation as well. A wife who does not get enough sleep – and poor sleep at that – for three nights running doesn’t make life for hubby too good. I hoofed it over to Reception, paid $6 bucks for internet access (1 hour worth) and fired off an email to Thomson detailing the problems. It was still business hours in Boston so I figured they’d get it right away. I cc’d the sales supervisor, too. Thomson called the hotel lickety-split. Everything was taken care of. The hotel provided me with a battery and promised to re-charge it every day. And though we’d have to front the money for our lunches, Thomson would reimburse us when we got back home.

    All was well by the end of dinner. When we got back to our room we found that the turndown service had been there. The mossie nets around the bed which had been tied back were released and the bed was fully enclosed. DEET had been freshly sprayed (the room was also sprayed every morning at housekeeping time.) We climbed into that romantic bed and slept like babies.

    Tuesday, March 18

    Breakfast, lunch and dinner at this hotel were really good. Sure there were some dud offerings here and there but generally one could get a very nice, even classy, meal without any problems. The ambiance in the open air dining area was very nice. One could have lunch delivered to ones chaise on the beach or to the pool area as well. Dinner on Mondays and Fridays at Ras Nungwi is an elaborate buffet with loads of food options. Dinner is at 8p every night. Perfect for Europeans but a stretch for most Americans I think. Dinner while on safari was at 730p every night and even that took a bit of getting used to for us.

    After breakfast DH and I browsed the hotel’s nice little gift shop. I bought a beautiful scarf with matching straw purse and John bought a batik shirt. Afterwards we changed into our swimsuits and moseyed on down to the beach each grabbing a comfortable hammock. The beach attendant made sure we had mats for the hammock, beach towels and pillows. There are plenty of shade opportunities on this beach which is nice given the equatorial sun.

    Ahhh, the water and sky colors in this location are soooo beautiful! They were so many gorgeous colors and shades of blue and green. After a read and a snooze John swam in the ocean. Later I did, too. I went down and waded out a loooooong way until I was up to my neck in the Indian Ocean. Depending on the tide, the shallow first 100yards from waters edge at Ras Nungwi had a lot of rocky stuff to walk through to get out deep enough to swim. The water was too warm until I got in past my waist whereupon it became a very pleasant temperature. Ever since I had a run-in with a sea urchin I always wear dive booties in the sea. When John told me about the rocks I was really happy I’d packed them along; the booties protected my feet from harm.

    John went on a snorkeling trip in the afternoon while I just lazed around reading under a palapa with loads of sunscreen on. The rest of the day and evening blissfully drifted by.

    Wednesday, March 19

    This was our last full day on Zanzibar. John and I thought about making an excursion inland but it was a very brief thought. It was just too stinkin’ hot and humid for us to do anything but lie around or go in the water – which we once again did all day. John was a bit adrift all day with nothing to do but I wasn’t :) I went to the spa and got a long relaxing treatment, nosed around the gift shop some more, read my book, napped, frolicked in the pool…you get the drift. John eventually rented a kayak and paddled the ocean for a bit. We hung out at the beach bar in the late afternoon watching some hotel guests kite surf. In the evening we had another delicious meal and closed out our wonderful, wonderful safari and relaxing time in an island paradise.

    Next up – Life & politics in Zanzibar, a circuitous trip to the mainland, and swimming in the Dar es Salaam Airport.

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    Patty,

    Yes, Thomson resolved the issues very quickly. I'm glad I fired off that email when I did instead getting rotten sleep and stewing about it all the while until we got home. That wouldn't have done me or DH _any_ good. It also wouldn't have given Thomson the opportunity fix it right away and make us happy campers again.

    I've heard of people who don't do anything about a mix up when it happens. They just work up a serious head of steam about a situation until they get home and blow off at their travel agent or tour company. What the heck good does that do anybody?!

    Btw, our credit card account has already been credited for the lunches - including beverages and tips!

    So Thomson is still tops with us :)

    -doo

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    Airport Security

    Here's an odd little airport security fact. I have a knee replacement. All that steel and titanium sets off the alarms at 99% of the metal detector gates at I have to go through in the US. It's so normal that I always have to allow an additional 15 minutes to get through security.

    However, my knee did not set off the alarm at the Amsterdam airport in either transit nor at Dar.

    The alarm went off at the Arusha airport but that could have been my super-sized watch which I had forgotten to remove. Then there was the oddity of requiring our bags go through a machine on a belt but no one staffing the viewing screen.

    There was no metal detector at the Zanzibar airport.

    Airport security at Amsterdam surprised me the most. In addition to my fake knee slipping by undetected, John and I were allowed to travel with the wrong boarding passes. We accidentally had each others boarding passes for the flight back home. When we checked in separately about 20 minutes apart the document mix up was not noticed even though we each were pulled aside for screening interviews and our documents examined.

    Like I said - odd.

    -Judith

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    Thursday, March 20

    This morning John prepared tip envelopes for the room maids and kitchen staff, presenting them to the hotel manager upon checkout. I had really appreciated the international clientele at this hotel; many were from Europe and Britain. The guests at this hotel were subdued which was wonderful since I’d had my fill of loud, brash ones. But many were quietly eager to introduce themselves to other guests and get to know each other a bit while in lounge area before lunch and dinner. We found it a pleasure to meet folks from Britain, Switzerland, France, etc.

    Sidebar: I would guess that Thomson Safaris clientele is probably 95% American. If international exposure is important to you while at Thomson’s Nyumbas, well, you’re probably not going to get it. I don’t think Thomson allows other safari outfitter’s clients to stay at their camps.

    Our luggage was picked up at 945a and our driver/guide from Gallery Tours was there to take us away as soon as we got to the lobby. We asked him to drive us through Ras Nungwi Village before heading into Stonetown as we hadn’t done any exploring since our arrival on the island. The village was depressingly poor. But, as with so many very poor places, there was a video rental shop. Escapism is universal, eh?

    As we drove south to Zanzibar Town and Stonetown we engaged our guide (I wish I could remember his name!) in conversation about the Island and its relationship to the mainland. Seeing abject poverty during our drive up and down the island we were curious about the distribution of the 20%VAT attached to all the hotel room rates. On the assumption that there are thousands of hotel rooms on the island, the hotel VAT has got to be a huge sum of money. Our guide really opened up when we mentioned this. Apparently all that tax money goes to the central government which is on the mainland and then is distributed throughout the entire country. There is a growing political party on Zanzibar which would like to secede from the mainland and keep that money on island. This was very interesting. Of course, it’s all a bit more complex than that; I’ve recounted it very simply here. But you get the gist.

    Our guide told us the average monthly income of a non-professional family (guides are considered professional) is $100 a month. Suburban Zanzibar Town is mostly inhabited by professionals.

    We headed into Stonetown but first passed the market area that all the Zanzibarians go to. I was startled to see a Maasai warrior in full blown Maasai dress walking with purpose into a shop. Our guide told us there were several warriors on island acting as hotel guards. Boy, I wonder what the result would have been if Maasai had been guarding the Cristal Hotel when it got robbed! An interesting scenario, eh?

    On into Stonetown we went where I found the perfect scarf for my neighbor Judy and where DH found a couple of other last minute items for friends. There weren’t any crowds and there were very few touts. This day was a religious holiday so many of the regulars were spending time with their families. We went to the Archipelago Restaurant for a tasty and very filling lunch. Our guide didn’t join us but was extremely prompt in picking us up. He drove us past the Serena and Tembo hotels, the Africa House and a few others that could be seen from the streets cars are allowed on.

    We arrived early at the airport for our flight to Dar. Check in was easy and bag inspection superficial. We were asked to unlock our TSA locks for the two inspections ladies who then began to gently push a couple of things aside. My inspector and I engaged in conversation about some pretty things I’d purchased on island. Then she noticed my Thomson Safari baggage tag, quietly read it, nodded to herself and turned my bag back over to me. The other inspector took that cue and did the same thing with John’s bag. What that was all about, I don’t know. But, hey, I’m happy I didn’t end up having to repack my duffle!

    There were some nominally operating air conditioners in the passenger waiting area but the doors to the tarmac were kept open. So we sweltered in 97degree heat and high humidity waiting for our flights.
    Our pilot was a high energy kind of guy – a little kinetic really. After we were all buckled in he turned around and told us that we would arrive in Dar in 20 minutes – “InshAllah.”

    We were probably 5 minutes late landing in Dar because the pilot was on VFR and tried to land before a South Africa Airways jet that was gliding in. First he circled near the airport to reduce altitude. Then he dropped in for a landing hoping to beat the SAA jet to the punch. But he had to pull up when the jet landed first and taxied too close to the runway our pilot was about to land on. So our pilot pulled up and circled a third time. We were in a Cessna Caravan again and I, being seated right behind the pilot, watched this whole thing happen up close and personal so-to-speak. When we finally landed the pilot simply stopped on the runway, did a 180 right there and taxied to the gate. No passing go, no collecting 200 dollars. This I have never seen happen before and don’t know if I ever will again. And that’s all right with me :)

    We were met by Coastal Travels and driven to the Slipway Hotel. By now it was over 100 degrees (38centigrade) outside with high humidity. The Slipway was about a 45 minute drive. Because of the Muslim religious holiday there wasn’t as much traffic as normal; the drive should have taken much longer. The Slipway Hotel was an odd place for us. It’s on an estuary and consists mostly of little gift shops. The Terrace Restaurant is there (a decent dinner though nothing special), a hookah place, juice bar and an ice cream shop, too. There is also a little bookstore.

    There are probably no more than 20 rooms at this hotel. It’s a strange setup in that the rooms are above the shops and are accessed on the same walkways that any shoppers can easily walk along, too, though I don’t think any came up there. Our room was drab, plain, worn and strictly utilitarian. A small bedroom, small bathroom, all tile floor. There was a TV but we did not turn it on. Thankfully there was an A/C unit. I was glad we were only in the Slipway a few hours. It was here that I brought out my blow dryer for the first time on the entire trip. I promptly tripped a fuse shutting off all the electricity to the bathroom. The only good thing about this room was that the fuse box was in the room which allowed us to easily flip the trip.

    Coastal Travels dropped us back off at the airport for our 1145p departure in a vehicle with no A/C. Our driver did not escort us in or assist us in check in. The airport was – hmmm, how shall I say – STINKIN’ HOT AND HUMID inside. There was no functioning central A/C. None. There was one fan operating in the whole general waiting area. It was just as well that I hadn’t been able to blow dry and curl my hair because it would have been a waste of time.

    After check-in we just sat there swimming in our own sweat. It was pouring off John’s face and body; he was wet as a fish. The best that can be said about the ladies room is that they aren’t pit toilets. They are old and in disrepair with no circulating air. When I closed myself into a stall I broke out into an intense steam. It wasn’t until one passed through a final security check just before boarding that any chillers could be found. I know you’ll believe me when I say I nearly knocked people aside making a beeline for one of those chillers!

    While cooling down and waiting for our flight to be called I couldn’t help but think about how much tourists spend on safaris and idyllic beach vacations in this country. I couldn’t help – still can’t help! - but wonder where the heck all those tourist dollars – and 20% VAT – are going! Certainly not to the infrastructure of the most major airport in all of Tanzania!

    Happily none of our return flights were full so many people had extra space in coach. I tried to spend my remaining Euros at the XpresSpa in Schiphol again but the spa was short staffed and couldn’t squeeze me in before I had to check in for my flight back to the States.

    We landed in Bozeman at 7pm on Friday, March 21; our journey home took 28 hours. The same neighbors who had taken us to the airport, Judy & Jerry, picked us up and brought us back home. Judy presented us with a wonderful surprise by having prepared a delicious full meal and desert for us that we only had to warm up to eat. Once we got our pooch back later that evening we could begin to relax and reminisce on how wonderful our holiday had been and how blessed we were to be able to visit such a lovely country and people.

    Next up – Things I’m glad I took, things I wished I’d taken, and things I could have left at home.

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    Thanks Doo,
    What a wonderful experience you had and shared with all of us.

    I can't wait for your next installment. Packing light and having everything you need is such a challenge ... for me anyway!!

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    Things I’m glad I took, things I wished I’d taken, and things I could have left at home.

    What each of us takes on safari is very personal. Some things of course are no-brainers – pants and shirts for instance. But there are lots of things that for some are options but which for others are necessities. Safari Fodorites have posted lists similar to this which I have always found interesting if not downright helpful. Here’s my own personal selection :)

    Glad I took and would pack again:

    1. Battery powered fly swatter! Though our Rover was equipped with several standard fly swatters I found the electric one better to use. We cleanly killed tse tses and a bee with no muss nor fuss. We didn’t have to clean up smashed flies on the windows and it was very efficient when nailing a fly on upholstery. Besides, it was very entertaining :0

    2. Two packs of disposable washcloths by Sage Products – “Comfort Personal Cleansing Bath, Pre-Moistened Washcloths.” “Hypoallergenic, Aloe & Vitamin E enriched formula” is written on the front of the blue and white package. Each pack of 8 was $3.33 at my local drugstore. They were great for morning wash-ups at our Tarangire and Ngorongoro camps where the bathroom sink operation was a pain-in-the-neck and not as easy as at the Serengeti camps.

    3. Head lamp. Invaluable in our tents which had warm and inviting but dim solar lighting. It was great for additional light at all times, even during duffel foraging in the middle of the day. The extra batteries got used as well.

    4. Blow up neck pillow. I didn’t need it for any of our flights but it was a great lower back cushion on bumpy game drives. After a couple of days of lower back discomfort I remembered I had the darn thing. My back discomfort was immediately relieved.

    5. Second CPAP mask. I took it as a “just in case” back up. Well, the just-in-case happened when I broke my main one in the middle of our safari. I’d have been screwed without it.

    6. Afterbite. See my bee sting account in a previous post. Need I say more? :)

    7. Cipro, Imodium, Advil, Tylenol PM, antacids…Oh, yeah, baby – I used them all!

    8. For the ladies only – Ahem, lots of panty liners. Kept those pants and shorts fresh in the heat, especially on Zanzibar.

    9. A small bottle of Woolite and a Tide stick for washing out smalls and getting food dribble stains out of shirts :) Thank you to LyndaS for the Tide stick recommendation.

    10. Two pair of good binoculars – one for each of us. Thomson does not provide binos for their guests, only their guides.

    11. Our spotting scope. At 5 pounds we almost didn’t take it but we’re glad we did; we used it many times.

    12. Multiple colorful bandanas. With no ability to use a hair dryer and curling iron these covered up a multitude of hair sins. I took about 8 and ended up giving two of them as gifts to the women chefs at our crater camp who wore them, too.

    13. Bubble wrap and duct tape. The bubble wrap doesn’t weigh anything but has bulk. The duct tape is heavy depending how much you bring. We used the wrap and tape to protect delicate souvenirs. I also used the tape as a temporary patch on my broken CPAP mask though it held for only one night. It would have been great to patch up a duffel had one of ours gotten torn in all that travel.

    14. Dive booties and Rx swim goggles. See my trip report posting about the shore at Ras Nungwi for the booties. The Rx swim goggles are ones I use for swimming laps at home. But I took them along because I once got hit by a rogue wave in the Pacific while wearing my regular script glasses without which I’m nearly blind. The glasses were lost forever. I can see pretty well with the Rx goggles and they strap tight around my head. Yep, I probably looked like a dork wearing them at Ras Nungwi but it was nice to be able to see what direction I was headed in while in the ocean :)

    15. Gifts for special people we’d meet along the way.

    16. Euros for our layovers at Amsterdam Schiphol. Also, exchange rate cards for Euros and shillings that I’d downloaded from oanda.com a few days before our departure.

    17. A broad brimmed hat. Mine was a Tilley that I’ve had for years. I’m sun sensitive and despite the hat, 30 or 45SPF sunscreen during all daylight hours and a pop top Rover, I still came home with a tan on my face. Btw, if you need strong sunscreen you’d better pack it along because all I saw over there were max 25SPF.

    18. Face masks for the long-haul flights. I feel and look like an idiot wearing these things but it’s worth it as it keeps the air I breathe warm and humidified. I suffered terribly from sinus infections as the result of the dry air on long-hauls before I discovered this solution. All the other OTC preventions never worked for me.

    19. A skirt and nice pair loafers. I did this for church. And while I only wore the skirt twice on the entire trip and the loafers only three times, I was glad to have taken them.

    Wish I would have packed along:

    1. For the ladies - more panties. I took eight pair but thought Tarangire camp was too soon to do laundry. Our next camp at the crater turned out to be too damp to have anything dry out in two days. By the time we got to the Serengeti I had a boatload of laundry to send out and was reaching the end of my clean underwear.

    2. A hanger hook for my toiletry bag. It has a loop to hang it onto a hook but there was nothing to loop it onto until we reached the Serengeti. This was no biggie but it would have been convenient and taken up little space and weight.

    3. More shirts. I got caught short by how quickly I cycled through them.

    4. More low socks. I brought 4 pair and some crew height pairs. I used the low type for all but the flights from and to the States and so was constantly washing them.

    5. Convertible pants. I didn’t take any. I really should have taken along 2 pair and left all but a pair of cute shorts and nicer pants at home. My husband took two pair of convertibles and one conventional long pair. That work out great for him.

    6. My pareo. I accidentally left it at home. I did fine without it but, let’s face it ladies, we all like to be fashionable on the beach don’t we? :)

    Could have left (at least 10 pounds of stuff) at home:

    1. A couple of pair of shoes. As one who always likes to keep her options open, I took several pair of shoes. It was foolish. They added bulk and weight when I didn’t need them and wore two pair only twice each. Like I said…foolish.

    2. My blow dryer and curling iron. Ah, how stupid vanity can be. I didn’t anticipate being able to use these until we got to Zanzibar. It was stupid weight and bulk for this trip. I just kept slicking back my hair and wearing bandanas a lot. And really, why would I have wanted to spend all that extra time frou-frouing my hair when I could have been out looking at wildlife or lounging on the beach?

    3. All but one pair of crew height socks.

    4. A second and smaller back pack. What was I thinking?! As you may have seen in one of my earliest trip report posts I gave this away really fast.

    5. One of two paperback books and the magazine I brought along. Who has the time or desire to read while on safari for Pete’s sake?! I’d also brought a stack of crossword puzzles that got attention only on the first leg of our flights to TNZ. DH and I don’t watch movies very often so the movies on the plane kept us entertained a lot.

    6. Claritin-D. I suffer badly from hay fever for a month every summer. It turns out that I didn’t need the Claritin-D but how could I have known until I was through with my trip?

    7. My Thomson Safari ball cap. I wore my Tilley 95% of the time on safari for the wide brim protection.

    8. A bunch of our one and five dollar bills. We would have been fine with 30 – 1 dollar bills and 25 – 5 dollar bills besides the larger bills and traveler’s checks that we took. Keep in mind that your travel itinerary, opportunities to spend money and personal level of frugality or spenthriftiness may be very different than ours.

    I accidentally left my eyeshades at home and was pretty upset when I realized it because I use them a lot on overnight flights and for daytime naps. I did fine without them.

    Last up – Final thoughts

  • Report Abuse

    Two lessons from your experience. Use a reliable operator that will fix problems that may arise. Notify that operator ASAP so you can benefit from any fix they may offer.

    When you first wrote about throwing your adapter stuff in your bag without looking at it, I knew something else was coming up.

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    Atravelynn,

    I couldn’t agree with you more about your two lessons!

    I had friends once who spent a week in Paris as part of a second honeymoon trip. Their room was tiny to the point of difficult to manuver in and the mattress was uncomfortable. Rather than seek relief while there they waited until they got home to complain. I remain dumbfounded about that.

    I’ll add another lesson to your list based on my two encounters with rude driver/guides and the numerous appalling accounts I’ve been reading about since my return –
    3. Select an operator who has a reputation for abiding by the field rules.

    And you were very perceptive about the foreshadowing :)

    -doo

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    FINAL THOUGHTS

    Introvert v. Extrovert/Private v. Group Safaris

    There’s no question about it – if you are an introvert you will do far better on a private safari than a group safari. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to mix with other safari-goers back at your camp or lodge. But if you’re an introvert and you’re in a Rover or Cruiser with a bunch of folks (perhaps even extroverts!) you’ll be exhausted by the end of each day. You’ll need to recharge your batteries in solitude and silence which may be in limited supply. If you’re an introvert and can afford it – go private.

    The pleasure and satisfaction of a private safari is fantastic. I’ve been on group trips before; the difference in stress level alone was amazing. Have you guessed by now that I’m an introvert? :) Additionally, we had the freedom to change things up whenever we wanted. Our appreciation of that grew larger every day.

    On tented safaris

    When John and I decided to go on a safari we quickly had to narrow down what kind of safari we wanted. This has mostly to do with ones quarters and the choice between group and private safari. My previous experience had been all lodges except for Serena’s Kirawira camp in Serengeti’s western corridor. I had loved staying at Kirawira mostly because it had allowed closeness to nature (sounds, smells, and nearness) that I had been insulated from before. So John and talked over the pros and cons and decided to go tented.
    Nearly every night we heard lions and other unidentifiable critters. A couple of times John commented on these sounds as if it unnerved him. But when asked if he regretted staying in tented camps he quickly replied, “No!”, he was glad we were staying in camps rather than lodges because we were so close to nature. The sounds were fun and awesome to hear and we both loved being able to walk right out our “door” into the wild. We were both really happy that we went tented though, admittedly, Thomson’s very nice tents contributed to our satisfaction :)

    On the Tanzania people

    Gracious, polite, patient, family cherishing, non-hurried (though not in a procrastination sort of way)… Eye contact and an exchange of pleasantries before getting down to the nitty-gritty are very important. We enjoyed every Tanzanian we met.

    On the possibility of another safari

    Gosh, we’d love to go on safari again! But, unless someone drops a potload of bucks in our laps it’s not likely to happen.

    Well, that’s it folks! Thank you for all your help and advice. It’s been a fun ride :)

    -Judith (tvlnut@aol.com)

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    Thanks Doo,
    I have read every word of your report; I've enjoyed all your frank observations and honest down-to-earth accounts of how you felt and learned a lot too. Thanks for your last two posts also; they are very helpful to most of us.

    I'm sure you will not be able to stay away from Africa; no way - you must be back!

    Kristina

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    Judith, I loved your report. I was just talking to my Africa travel buddy on the phone and we were discussing not if but "when." And I was thinking, Oh, but it's so expensive. Then I sat down and finished your report. Worth every cent and more. Thanks for the inspiration! :D

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks so much for a wonderful report! I enjoyed vicariously experiencing every day of your trip, and your sense of humor made for a very engaging read.

    I too hope you'll get back to Africa someday -- but if not, you had a wonderful experience that you'll be able to draw memories from for the rest of your life. Thanks for sharing with us!!

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    Safarimama:

    Thanks for all your encouragement and feedback as I wrote my report. Yes, I must go back - but how? :((

    Lynn:
    Thanks for your potload wish and all your contributions!

    Leely:
    Many "cents" to ya, girlfriend!

    MyDogKyle:
    Thanks for your support and kindness.

    To All:
    I'll continue checking in from time to time. Safari is in my heart so popping into this board is nice way to still get my fix and chat with y'all who feel the same way :))

    Cheers!

    -doo

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    Standby sometime this weekend for a couple of links to photos.

    Patty:
    No pix or You Tube links to bush loo photos! :))

    As embar-ass-ing as that was, it remains one of my funniest safari moments. I know you, Lynn and a bunch of other ladies here understand!

    -doo

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    Just one last thing, since it came up here (I guess I brought it up!):
    I gave up on dealing with www.sevendeals.com where Dooh's link took me. I considered disputing the charges, but it's not really worth the hazzle for me. I ordered a replacement on Amazon, since I trust them and it was cheaper too. It arrived well packaged and not broken. I recommend these people if you want to order one. It's the exact same item.

    Here are the details:
    1 of ELECTRIC FLY SWATTER - 1500 Volts - Easily Kill Flying Insects Such As Mosquitos, Flies, and Gnats., $5.37*
    *above item(s) sold by and shipped from As Seen On TV Guys LLC
    ----------------------------
    Item Subtotal: $5.37
    Shipping & Handling: $6.90
    Total: $12.27

  • Report Abuse

    But they are YOUR photos. The drinking giraffe, fighting zebra stallions, closeup of the European Roller, and the cake are all rare and unique sights! You have a wonderful collection of your own photos that will link to your own memories.

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    BIG WOW!!!! I love these photos. Don’t worry about being as good as Andy Biggs and Bill & Carolyn Hilton. None of us are. They are profs. And for sure, we enjoy their photos. Absolutely for Sure! However, ……

    You have nothing to be ashamed about and I love your commentaries. Your sense of humor shows through. I put on the slideshows on my big screen monitor and dreamed away!!! You saw more in one trip than most people see in 25 safaris. REALLY!!!!! Lynn’s comments also reflects this.

    PS. That giraffe not using a Kleenex is my favorite. How rude of him! :)

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    Giraffes are so comical when they are drinking. With those long legs splayed it almost looks like they are going to fall over. The mother coaxing her youngster to drink sounds like one of those moments when you appreciate the interaction so much more than just stopping to take a photograph of an animal. I’m glad you finally spotted your leopard.

    What a humorous way to present Adam with your fly swatter. I am sure he’ll make good use of it.

    Despite the heat and humidity you had a wonderful time in Zanzibar. Thomson really is very customer oriented, aren’t they? They really did a superb job for you.

    Thanks for all of the tips, there are lots of good ones in there. I may have to order myself one of those fly swatters, even though I don’t have an Africa trip coming up any time soon.

    I haven’t had a chance to look at the photos yet, but can’t wait. I bet there are some great ones given what a great trip you had.

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    Many great photos--even of birds, which I think are the most difficult of all! Lovely lions, giraffes, fox, ants :) etc., etc.

    Also, Ras Nungwi looks beautiful. That bed is humongous.

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks y'all for your comments on my trip report and the photos. Your feedback has meant a lot to me 'cause I'm having trouble giving up Africa!

    This morning I posted a stand-alone link to our pix before I saw these last two posts. That's what I get for doing anything before my morning coffee!

    Dana:
    I'm glad you found something useful in my ending packing list. I felt a little dorky posting it :)

    Leely:
    Glad you like the ants. Your comment on it made me realize that I don't think I've ever seen those little critter in anyones trip photos. Spiders, yes - ants, no :)

    -doo

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    Your photos and your trip report go so well together. While reading your report I was smiling, knowing what a wonderfult time you had, and the photos show that as well. My favorite is the last one, of course, the giraffe drinking.

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    Thanks for the compliment Dana!

    I wrote the trip report and posted the pix as much for myself as for others. I would like it to "transport me back" when I read it 10 or 20 years from now :) My hope is that they engender the same smiles and chuckles in me as they did in you!

    Cheers!

    -doo

  • Report Abuse

    Doo-
    I have my photos on a DVD, with music in the background. I started doing that in 2003 and have continued it for each vacation I take. I have a series now, title "On Vacation with Dana in (name of country) ". I didn't write trip reports until last year (when I found Fodors) and now I keep a copy of my trip report with my DVD. It's a great way to both preserve the memories and to share them with others.

    There are also on-line programs that you can use to make books. They take both photos and text. I read an article in The Wall Street Journal a year or two ago, that recommended this program for its ease of use. I have not tried it, but it looks pretty good. You can have a book created with photos only, photos with captions, or entire blocks of text/stories to go with the photos.

    http://www.mypublisher.com/

  • Report Abuse

    Dana,

    How sweet you are to give me a heads up about mypublisher. I did indeed look at cheweyhead's link - boy is she talented!

    I've just signed up for a year of smugmug and think I'll stay with that for now. My family, friends and I like the ability to look at larger versions of the pix; I don't see that capability on mypublisher.

    But, I must say, mypublisher sure is gorgeous and professional looking!

    Thanks again for the alert :)

    -doo

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