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I dreamed I was in Africa....Csuss Trips Report - Tanzania June/July 2006

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Hmmm... Where to begin- I have so many wonderful impressions and memories flooding my mind - they all want to busrst forth at once in a single very long run-on sentance.

I guess I will just go step by step and I will have to do this in pieces I am sure. But first I have to say that it was indeed the trip of a lifetime as well as a life changing adventure. Everything was perfect - with the exception of one delayed flight there was not a single glitch - even the animals cooperated. Our safari company - Matembezi Ltd. gave us a flawless experience every step of the way. I'll post a thread to our photos - of which there are many - in a few days.

Flights - LAX - Chicago-London-Nairobi. It was the easiest long distance travel I've ever done - even our luggage was first off in Nairobi. I think this was because Jim had to provide some medical assistance to another passenger on the LA-Chicago flight so we were ensured good Karma for the rest of the trip.

We arrived in Nairobi at 9PM and were in our hotel by 10PM - our driver was waiting for us and off we went. We stayed at the Holiday Inn- which was really lovely and perfect for our quick overnight stay. We had a garden room and fell asleep to the sounds of the frogs.

Thursday June 22: Early breakfast and then our driver arrived for the long drive to Arusha. This was the ONLY tedious drive for the whole trip. Nairobi traffic was worse than LA and it seemed to take us hours just to get on the road to Arusha. It was an uneventful drive although we did get a great viewing of Mt. Kilamanjaro in all its glory. We had a bit of a glitch getting our visas when we arrived at the border. Tanzanian officials temporarily "lost" our passports, understandbly, we had a bit of a meltdown situatition after our long drive, but fortunately a British tourist yelled out "anyone here named Jim?" They had gotten our passports by mistake. Crises resolved - we were on our way. Our Driver got us to Arusha where we had a lovely lunch, met our guide, Zefania (Zefa) and finally got to meet Ilan from Matembezi Ltd. with whom I had been emailing for over a year while planning the trip. I felt like I was meeting an old family friend.

After lunch we were off to Sinya (West Kilamanjaro ) and our camp - Kambi Ya Tembo. As we approached the camp we saw our first real game sighting a family of Giraffes enjoiying some late afternoon family time. I couldn't believe it - I almst started to cry they were so beautiful and so oblivious to our gawking. The wierd thing was that I had to keep reminding myself that we were not in some theme park somewhere that we really were - finally - in Africa.

We arrived in the camp in the late afternoon and were met by the camp manager (Sylvester) and several Maasai with a welcome song and a drink. We had time to wash before joining Zefa at the campfire for a drink then dinner and a discussion of the next days events.

KAMBI YA TEMBO - We loved, loved, loved this camp. It has a wonderful ambience with Maasai making up most of the staff. This is a wonderful start for our safari because we got to immerse ourselves in history and tradition of the people before really getting into the game viewing.

It is a small camp. Our tent was lovely, simple and clean - beautifully appointed with a real toilet and shower ensuite. The dining area is open with spectacular views of valley and mountains and Kenya beyond.

In the morning Zefa and our Masai guide were waiting for us as we started off for a morning af game viewing and a walking safari with our Maasai guide.They even wrap you in a Maasai blanket - which feels (and looks) pretty silly (wait till you see the photos) but it really gets you into the spirit of things (and keeps you warm). The first thing we see as we leave the camp is a gorgeous clear view of Kilamanjaro - a good omen for the day! It is so hard some days to tell wether you are seeing the snow covered top or just clouds - but today we definitely saw the peak.

There is not a huge amount of game in Sinya - but as Spencer Tracey would say, what is there is choice (cherce would be his exact words I think). It was really important to Jim to see Elephants , and see them we did - up close and personal. As well as Giraffe, and Wildebeest, Zebra and baboon, dik, dik - gorgeous flamingos, vervet monkees, gazelle and ostrich - which are way bigger than I expected. Another nice thing about Sinya is all the Maasai herders and their herds. Just out there in the middle of all the game, doing their thing. Also - we did not see one other vehicle on our game drive. What a great first day.

Our afternoon was reserved for a visit to a Masai Boma - and this was fascinating and done far better than I'd expected from reading some of the posts on this board. It did not feel staged (although it obviously is). There were no children begging at our car or adults demanding money to have their picture taken. We were greeted by the chief who gathered everyone together for a welcome song Q&A and a "tour" of his newest wife's hut. I've been in alot of third world villages in Asia and South America, but I think this was definitely the most "rustic" (putting it kindly). The huts are so small with no light or air I can't believe they get people, animals and a fire all into that little little space (with no windows or chimney). When we were done with all the questions and photos, the women & kids spread out all of their wares for a bit of shopping. I was pretty impressed that on any item I chose, I negotitated with the head man, but gave the cash directly to the individual that made the item (including the children). I don't know if they get to keep the money, but at least it felt very democratic. I liked the idea that I was actually giving them money for their crafts, rather than just giving them money. And in the end - there were so many beautiful things to buy - we did all of our gift shopping in one place and we for sure made a nice "donation" to the village.

Kambi Ya Tembo has this system worked out with all the Maasi bomas in the area rotating tourists through the different villages on an equitable basis, but making the experience feel as genuine as possible while avoiding the big tourist money grab I've read about in other areas.

We get back to the camp just in time to toast some Spanish honeymooners with champagne as the sun set and to participate in the Maasai Enkang (celebration & dancing). Sylvester and Jim had bonded the night before over the campfire and drinks (alot of them I think) so Sylvester made Jim and honorary "whitey Maasai" (his words, I swear) and invited him to join the singing and dancing. What a hoot to see Jim try and do that jumping thing.

So I feel like I've written an endless diary and I've only finished the first day. I can see this is going to be a long thread everyone, so please bear with me...

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