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Late Tanz & Rwanda trip report!

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Tanzania & Rwanda Feb 2007

First of all sorry for the lateness of this. Secondly it is likely that this may be one of the worst reports you will read in a long time. I am not good at putting it all down in words but am more than happy to elaborate on anything and answer any questions. Thirdly and by no means least, THANK YOU to all you helped me out here.

Flights; Outbound ; LAX-AMS-JRO all on KLM with a one night stopover in AMS. We like the direct LAX AMS flight which does not connect with the JRO flight but does give us a chance to break the journey before getting to Tanzania.

From Arusha to Kigali we took the Rwanda Air express flight which is direct to Kigali on the day we flew (Friday)

Homebound: Kigali – NBO –AMS- LAX. I have to say I was surprised when this group of flights went off without a hitch but with layovers that were far too long. When we checked in in Kigali the Rwanda Air express person carefully hand wrote out our baggage label for all the above flights and one more on to our final US destination after LAX. I thought at the time that I would be surprised if our bags made the trip! But with nothing of any real value in them I wasn’t too worried! I thought the whole thing would be compounded by an 6 hour layover in NBO and an 8 hour layover in AMS. But the bags arrived and then even Delta managed to get them to our final destination after clearing customs in LAX! Yes the layovers in NBO & AMS were long and we had been dreading them but they were not as bad as they could have been. In NBO we went to the KLM lounge (we were flying cattle class all the way) and ended up spending the whole time chatting to a Scottish man who spends months a year in Malawi doing volunteer engineering work since he has retired from his “real” work. It was great to talk with him.
In AMS we were able to get seats in the comfort recliner seats. (the transit hotel was full) Surprisingly we both got a pretty good rest there and with a shower also did not feel too bad at all when it was time to board the next flight! I think it helped that we arrived at 530am so the airport was quiet.

I booked the KLM flights online through NWA. The Rwanda Air Express flight was booked for us by the agent handling our gorilla tracking. They booked the tickets and then FedEx’ed the tickets to us. All worked out perfectly.

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    The Tanzania Portion.

    We had a 16 night safari in Northern Tanzania. This was our second trip there the last one being in 2005. We covered a lot of the same parks through our choice but added some new areas for us also. Our itinerary was
    Day 1 Arrive Arusha O/N Impala hotel
    Day 2 Arusha – Tarangire O/N Sopa Lodge
    Day3 Tarangire
    Day4 Tarangire – Ngorongoro crater O/N Sopa Lodge
    Day 5 Ngorongoro crater
    Day 6 Ngorongoro – Ndutu safari Lodge
    Day 7 & 8 Ndutu Safari Lodge
    Day 9 10 & 11 Mobile camp in Ndutu area
    Day 12 Ndutu – Serengeti Sopa
    Day 13 Serengeti Sopa
    Day 14 Serengeti – Ngorongoro Sopa lodge
    Day 15 Ngorongoro – Arusha O/N Impala hotel
    Day 16 Arusha – Kigali

    Bookings
    Booked the Tanzania section through Roy Safari. I did everything through Nancy in Tanz and she was great. Absolutely no complaints. She answered my constant stream of questions and came back with changes we requested quickly. We would happily use Roys again.

    Highlights & Lowlights
    I am happy to say that I cannot really think of anything I would class as a lowlight. We had an incredible time. I should point out that my hubby & I are very into being out and about all day and as such we would head out straight after breakfast & not get “home” until 6.30 or 7pm. This was perfect for us. It of course means the yummie boxed lunches everyday but we were fine with that. Our driver Tesha was fantastic. He had a lovely personality and suited us well. He very quickly caught on to what we liked and aimed to please. We would often bypass the well viewed spots with multiple vehicles to find a quieter less populated spot we could stop at. In Ndutu we sat watching a lepod for 5-6 hours with just one other vehicle. We were in heaven!! (Not for everyone I know) .
    We had lots of amazing animal sightings and experiences. I think one of the joys of return trips of reasonable lengths is that you start to see things that you could otherwise miss. For example just watching the behavior & interactions of the animals. Jackels barking at lions who had 2 kills waiting to be eaten. A zebra running back after a couple in his “pack” who hadn’t followed the rest of the team across a river. This leader “barked” (I think zebra sound like they bark!) at the wayward zebra rounded them up to join the others which they did. There was just so much that we totally enjoyed sitting and watching. Had a small adventure between Ngorongoro & Ndutu when we got to the Little Olduvai river and found it totally flooded with dozens & dozens of vehicles lined up on either side unable to get across. We got there about 4pm and there were people who had been there since 11am! About an hour after we got there one vehicle got across and then we followed shortly after. I should mention we were there in Feb when there had been lots of rain from all reports we seemed to get break in the weather and only had one day where it rained during the day. We loved the Ndutu area and 6 nights in that area were almost not enough! We had 3 decents into N Crater 2 for full days. Supposed to be enforcing the half day rule from June (?).

    In Arusha we stayed at the Impala hotel. I know there have been various reviews of this hotel but it suited our needs. Both times we had clean large rooms. The second stay we ate Indian food by the pool which was good. The buffet breakfast on the second visit left a bit to be desired but there was a meeting at the hotel and the attendees seemed bent on eating like they may never get the chance again an the kitchen could not keep up! Had lunch before heading to the airport and I had a good little pizza.
    Don’t know what else to really tell you except that the Tanzania portion of the trip was totally fantastic.

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    Rwanda Portion:

    We were only in Rwanda for 4 nights. But loved every minute of it. We made the arrangements through RNXplorers (Thanks Wayne Hazel!!) Rose there handled everything for us including booking and sending the air tickets to us. Everything went perfectly. Our driver, John, met us at Kigali airport he was a lovely man. Very soft spoken but a pleasure to be with. We stayed that night at the Mille Colline. I was tentative after reading some less than favorable reports but we did OK with our room. I had heard reports of less than clean rooms so I checked it out very carefully as soon as we got there and it was all fine. We had dinner by the pool which was good. The breakfast buffet we had the next morning was the best we had on the trip. Chocolate croissants were divine! My first impression of Kigali was how pretty a city it is in the hillside setting and how clean it is. We had 3 nights out at the Gorilla’s Nest. Did 2 gorilla treks. The Gorilla’s nest was fine. I had heard how cold it could be at night so I was prepared. Had a hot shower before dinner and got straight into the thin thermals I had brought for sleeping, regular clothes on top of that & I was ready for dinner! Did not get cool at all. During the night I was warm enough to push the blankets down occationally sleeping in just the thin thermals. The food at Gorilla’s nest I found boring really. The soup was good and the freshly made bread rolls were very good so that tended to be my staple. I did try some other things but nothing was very exciting. The gorilla trekking was totally incredible. I was lucky enough to do this 18 years ago in the Congo so was excited to return. My hubby had not been before. We both totally loved every minute. The first day we requested Susa group. A very long 7 hour hike & tough but worth every step. We were worn out but so happy at the end of the day. I was very glad to have leather gardening gloves for the scrambling sections and that I took my hiking boots. There was only 5 of us total hiking to Susa that day so that was a nice sized group. Spending an hour amongst 37 mountain gorillas was incredible and went by far too quickly. There was one 2 yr old gorilla who was totally fascinated by us and kept trying to get closer & closer it was so funny the way he was playing to us. The next day they allocated us to a close group and the hike was less than an hour. My hubby & I felt this was an extreamly easy walk but there were a couple of people in the group who were at the end of their energy levels. I am not trying to put people off but do try to do a bit of extra exercise before you go as the less worn out you are the more you will enjoy the hike as well as everything else. On this day we heard that the guides had to carry one tourist out of the Amorohrro (very bad spelling sorry) because she just couldn’t take another step. The second day with the gorillas was also great. A totally different group of personalities in these gorillas including one very playful teenage male who tried to grab jackets etc. The rangers we had for guides both days were great people and the guides who cut tracks for us as we scrambled to get to Susa worked so hard.

    The drive between the gorillas & Kigali offers some stunning scenery. Take time to enjoy it. From Gorilla’s Nest we took a drive down to the Congo/Rwanda border, also a lovely drive and it was interesting to see how this lakeside town is a bit of a resort area for locals.

    In Kigali we only really had time for a driving tour during which we went through some new housing areas with huge expensive homes. Also went to the genocide museum. This is a must see and very well put together. It is not a feel good place by any means but so much part of what Rwanda is that I feel it is an essential place to visit.

    Our only regret about Rwanda is that we didn’t have more time!! It is a beautiful country with lots of smiling children!

    Well I think that just about wraps up my report. I am sure I will remember something I really wanted to pass on! As I said I am more than happy to give more information.
    An amazing trip all around.

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    Hi moremiles. On the first morning we asked John our driver if he could find out if we could go to Susa on one of the days. When they are deciding who goes where all the drivers gather with the chief ranger and he put our request in, and we went to Susa.On the second day we just decided to leave it to fate. Whatever group you go to you will have a fantastic gorilla experience we enjoyed the long tramp to Susa.
    Have a fantastic trip.
    J

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    I love your Tanzania itinerary. Your wildlife viewing comments are very insightful. I'm sure it was a fantastic trip.

    What mobile camp did you use?

    What parts of this were group and what parts were private?

    You had Tesha for a guide and liked him. Nice to know.

    Did you split the time at Ndutu, with the mobile in the middle, for logistics?

    I took note of your comment that you felt the amount of time in the Serengeti was not too much. Other than staying longer, would you do the same mix of accommodations in the Serengeti again?

    Did game viewing differ between Ndutu Lodge and the mobile?

    How was the drive into the crater from Sopa? Others who went when you did (but may have stayed elsehwere) recounted some harrowing travel at the crater.

    On to Rwanda. Your report is exciting and contains useful information. Glad that part of the trip went so well too.

    Welcome back! Your report will help all of us out in return.

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    Jules - we leave this Friday and have almost the exact same itinerary as you do!!! We won't be doing Ndutu. We also booked with RNXplorer for the Rwanda portion/gorilla trek (based on WayneHazle and Toshi) comments/recommendations. We're getting very excited!

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    Atravalin
    Thanks for your comments. The mobile camp we used was http://www.kirurumu.com/camps%20and%20lodges/serengeti%20camp.htm

    I love camping and so really enjoyed the camp atmosphere listening to the hyena and lion at night. However, one thing I found a bit funny for me was fixed dinner at 7pm and they liked you to have your shower before while still light. We did not get back from drives until 7 often so I felt rushed by this but I think that is just me. I found Ndutu odge had a lot of camp feel to it with the night noises etc and with a 2 hour window to go to dinner I never had that feeling. The reason we split our time between the lodge and camp was that we could not get the consequtive nights at Ndutu. The camp was close enough that there wasn't any real difference in the game viewing but the game were all around Ndutu when we were there so things could be different in another year but of course no way to predict that! If we were to do it again I would again try for all the nights in Ndutu but I would have no problem re doing what we did either!

    Our entire trip was private. We did not have any problems dirving down into the crater from Sopa. Last time we were over at wildlife lodge and I think the road down from Sopa is a prettier road I think and was less traveled so I felt more "alone" Tesha was great at getting us around even the most crowded of places with the least amount of interactions with other vehicles. For example we would leave to go down into the crater say at 645am and it seemed like we were alone for an hour or more.

    Leely you are most welcome.

    Jill have an absoulutely amazing trip. Make sure you look deep into the faces of all the animals. The gorillas you really can see thinking!!!!

    I did forget to say anything about our vehicles.
    In Tanzania Roys supplied a brand new Land Cruiser. Big enough to seat 6 in the back. The back row of seats had the middle seat taken out and replased with a fridge. A real plugged in fridge which was great for very cold water & food! It had a winch on the front which came in handy for pulling us out of a tricky situation in Ndutu!

    In Rwanda we had a station wagon type vehicle can;t remember the type but similar to a Subaru Outback or the like. It was perfect.

    J

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    Jules,

    I am so thrilled when someone has a great time in Rwanda, and also thrilled when someone else uses RN. Sorry you didn't get Richard, but it sounds like you had a great guide nevertheless! Nothing like the gorillas. :D

    JillH, you probably won't get this till you return but I hope you have a GREAT time.

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