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Trip Report LONG Trip Report:Cyn's Great (S.Africa, Tanzanian,Kenyan) Adventure, Feb/Mar 2006;posted July 5 2006

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Here's our itinerary as it actually happened:

SOUTH AFRICA 2/5-10 ' all on our own
2/5 Radisson Waterfront, Cape Town
2/6,7 Akademie Guest Houses, Fraenschhoek
2/8,9 Table Bay Hotel, Cape Town

TANZANIA 2/10-18 ' with Royal African Safaris
2/10-14: Southern Serengeti, private safari camp, near Ngare Nanyuki River
2/15: Ngorongoro Crater Lodge
2/16-18: Mahale Mountains Greystoke

KENYA 2/19-3/5 ' with Royal African Safaris
2/19-21: Solio Ranch, private safari camp
2/22-23: Loisaba Wilderness, Loisaba Lodge
2/24-26: Lake Nakuru National Park, private safari camp, Soy Sambu campsite
2/27-28: Rusinga Island, Lake Victoria, Rusinga Island Lodge
3/1-3: Maasai Mara National Reserve, private safari camp, Roots Crossing on Sand River
3/4: Nairobi, Ngong House

After much hectic preparation, we left our VT home at 3:00pm Feb 3 for a 7:10 business class flight from Boston/London/Johannesburg/Cape Town. A few notes about the journey:
' Because of the length of the trip, we were unable to check in all the way through (we were traveling for more than 24 hours) ' but- the admiral clubs can work miracles with regards to seating and ticketing! For us, a big reason to fly business class (only on miles, of course!).
' We got a day-room at the Hilton at LHR, and would do it again if we had a long enough layover ' the 2 hour nap in a bed and the shower was heaven!
' If you have to connect through Johannesburg, leave yourself plenty of time if you need to clear customs. We had a 2 hour layover, and BARELY made our connecting flight ' they had 3 international jets arrive at the same time, and it overwhelmed their customs area.
' We had to change terminals at JBO, and used a porter to guide us ' glad we did, it was a little confusing.
' The Cape Town airport is fairly easy to negotiate.

SOUTH AFRICA
Upon arrival in Cape Town on Feb 5, we took a cab to the Radisson Waterfront hotel. It was a very nice property, with a nice view of the ocean, and it was a little more reasonably priced than the Table Bay. We were there so we could get a good night's sleep before heading out to Fraenschhoek in the morning, returning via taxi to the airport to get our rental car.

The drive from Cape Town to Fraenschhoek was beautiful ' highly recommended! We stopped at Spier (after missing it the first time around ' fire that darn navigator anyway ' oops, that would be me!) so we could pet the Cheetahs and have lunch. We chose to pet the cubs (and now I wish we had visited one of the adults) and it was great fun. There were 3 cubs' 2 males, 1 female, all of whom were sleepy and hot. The female purred like a kitten the whole time we were with her. One of the males thought Peter's butt might be fun to play with ' the keepers got a little anxious and made Peter move. They do watch and restrict your movements ' stay behind them, only touch their backs etc. as there is some concern about passing on disease. I'm glad we did it as I am always happiest being a tourist.

While driving through the 'pass', we stopped at a wine farm that had a shop called The Olive House. We did an olive oil tasting (rather than a wine tasting :-) ) and that was a lot of fun.

We managed to find the Akademie Guest Houses without any problems and were thoroughly enchanted by both the property and our hosts. Arthur and Katherine made us feel very welcome ' they had made our dinner reservations a month or 2 before we were to arrive, they include laundry as part of their service, they gifted us with a small bottle of champagne (oops 'sparkling wine), the gardens are beautiful, and the cottages (ours was Oortuiging) are very comfortable. Their pets (2 dogs, 3 cats) are friendly too, breakfasts can be as elaborate as you want, and it is all within walking distance to downtown. The only thing to be aware of is that the structures were built in the 1860's ' when people were shorter. Peter is 6'2, and he did bump his head a couple of times in various places on the property, and the bed, while being plenty wide, felt a little short ' even for me at 5'3'.

Dining in Fraenschhoek: We had dinner at le Bon Vivant ' outstanding!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Peter thought it was the best food he has ever had (I said this before, I'll say it again ' THANK YOU KAVEY :D ! ). We also had dinner at the French Connection ' which was good. Lunch was at la Petite Ferme. It was just ok (feels like I'm committing a sin saying that)- the dish that missed was Peter's duck breast; extremely fatty and a miniscule portion. However, the view at la Petite Ferme is beautiful!

We spent our time in Fraenschhoek doing some shopping in town, a long drive around the valley ' really gorgeous scenery, resting by our private pool, and acclimating to the time change.

We then headed back to Cape Town and the Table Bay Hotel for 2 nights. Nice hotel ' balcony, lovely view of the Table Mountain and the harbor seals, good service, convenient location, expensive. I was glad we were there rather than elsewhere (sorry Rocco ' we did see the apostles, but for us it would have been too far out for a first time visitor with very limited time). We enjoyed our time in Cape Town-Table Mountain is beautiful and the cable car ride was fun. The cloud formations are amazing ' we've never seen anything like it ' perfect, blue skies, with those clouds just POURING over the mountains like a waterfall. Beautiful and mystical! The drive we took around the cape was wonderful ' beautiful scenery, and some wildlife sightings. (Baboons, Penguins, Seals, Bontebuck, Rock Hyrax, Lizards) We had dinner at Baia ' an interesting place, but overpriced, average food, perfunctory service.

We are country-folk at heart, and we wanted to be well rested for when we got to the parks for the wildlife but we also really wanted to see Cape Town ' one of the world's most beautiful cities ' and it did not disappoint.

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    TANZANIA
    We flew to Nairobi to start the Royal African part of our adventure. We were met at the plane by 2 representatives from Peck Air, who guided us through the maze of NBO, (at one point giving Peter’s passport to one of the airport officials-yikes!, so we could meet the person who took our extra luggage). They then brought us to another gate to meet our owner/guide Jan and our connecting flight. We were very excited to see Jan – we had only talked with him once, on the phone – this was our first face-to-face meeting. After a very few minutes, he had the terrible job of telling us that David and Christof had been killed in a plane crash.

    David was to have been our owner/guide for the Kenyan portion of our trip. He first came to visit us in May of 2005, to help us plan our trip, and to answer any questions we may have had. (This is just one of the amazing things that Royal African Safaris does.) From the moment we met him, we knew we had met a friend for life. When he was coming back to the states in November, we were thrilled when he was able to fit in another visit with us – this time, spending the night. He also brought one of his best friends, Christof, who owned the Ngong House, where we would be spending our last night in Africa. I spent a month (or more) prior to their visit in a panic, because Christof is a professional chef, and I had never cooked for a chef before – I even did a post here asking if anyone knew him – and I do have that worry-gene from Mom. At any rate, when they arrived in November, we had a fabulous time. Ok, there was some red wine involved, and yes, dinner was fine – I will never forget watching Christof cleaning my cooktop after dinner. The 4 of us stayed up half the night just talking and laughing, and planning for when we would be together in February. I managed to get them aside to make arrangements for them to bring back some Budweiser beer for Peter’s birthday dinner in February…by then they were both friends. On that night, our trip changed from seeing the countries and animals to getting together with David and Christof. They literally became Africa in our minds, and we loved them. You all know how consuming a trip to Africa becomes, and for us, every conversation we had about Africa included “David said” or “Christof might” or some such thing.

    We were (and still are) heartbroken. I felt bad for Jan – he knew David better than we did, so it was sad for him; plus he had to tell us. We got on our plane, and flew to Kilimanjaro airport. From there, Jan brought us to the Dik Dik hotel in Arusha, where we had a wonderful dinner (that we were not interested in eating), and Jan went to his home. Peter and I tried to figure out what to do. We talked about just going home, because we were so sad, and we knew that the trip would now be filled with “if only”. Sandi and Sherry – this was where I thought about you, and your courage and grace. Obviously, we decided to stay. And just as obviously, the entire trip was now colored with sadness and a certain sense of bewilderment. How do you lose the only 2 people – friends - that you know on an entire continent and just…go on with your vacation?

    Well, we held tight to each other, and relinquished all decision-making to Jan.

    Serengeti
    Jan arrived early the next morning, so we could drive to the Arusha airport for our flight to the Seronera airstrip in the Serengeti. We got to meet his beautiful wife Gaby (she should be a model!), and their 2 gorgeous daughters, and then we were off. The drive to the airport was fascinating – Arusha is a city of at least 300,000 – and I think we saw half of them out walking. Our flight was fine – but it was apparent that we were in the midst of a terrible draught. We flew over Empakai Crater, where we could see the pink of the flamingos in the green water. When we landed at the airstrip, there was a family of warthogs nearby to greet us. Jan handled the paperwork, we met Pauli (our camp truck mechanic/driver), and we all got into our first Safari vehicle, and headed out – “brimbled on” - towards camp. Jan immediately sets the tone for our time with him: Peter asked me for some sunscreen (he’s very fair skinned, and has had some pre-cancerous lesions removed) and Jan says to Peter: “kind of girlie, aren’t ya?” Huh.

    Of course, by then we had started driving him nuts: – ooh- what’s that? …a grant’s gazelle… a thompson’s gazelle…that’s another grant’s gazelle… yes, that’s a scarlet breasted roller, that’s still a grant’s gazelle…no, that’s not a grant’s gazelle, that’s a thompson’s gazelle…those are wildebeest…yes, zebra are always with them…no, that’s not a thompson’s gazelle, that’s a grant’s gazelle…a hartebeest, a cape buffalo (no, they’re similar to water buffalo, but they’re cape…) no, they’re not called fletchers, they’re francolins, and there’s a leopard.

    Yep – not 2 minutes from the airstrip, and there was a leopard in a tree…what a treat! And a bit later, lion! Of course, now we think that’s just normal… b( On our way in to our very first camp, we saw 3 of the big 5 – simply amazing.

    When we got to camp (our first night), Jan said we had good news – there had been lions in camp the night before! There is a gully near the campsite (a football field away), and they had a kill in there. During dinner, they started roaring. If I understood Jan correctly, the roaring is a communication to other prides establishing territories, laying out their pride’s boundaries – we heard 3 different groups – really thrilling. That night – 1, 2 am? I was awakened by a lion – roaring – I swear – right behind my head. My head, the tent “wall”, the lion. Roaring. Loudly. I had SUCH an adrenaline rush – and there’s Peter, peacefully sleeping next to me, while this lion is …roaring. Loudly. Right behind my head. It was really thrilling – and in fact the lion was within 10 feet of our tent – Jan checked out the tracks the next morning. (A silly aside – the next night, we were hoping for a repeat occurrence. Peter brought his video camera to bed, so he could record the sound (really, the SOUND >:-) )– it is really an amazing sound! I had to keep waking him up – they’re roaring, they’re roaring. Peter records for a little while (remember, we’re in the pitch dark), and then plays it back to see if he was able to pick up the sound. Well, I got a fit of the giggles – there we are in our dark tent, playing back lion roars, surrounded by other lions - that are roaring to establish territory. I could barely choke out the words – “I don’t think this is a smart thing to do”)

    We did love our time in the Serengeti. Jan is an incredible guide – the things he could see, from huge distances away astounded us time after time. And he did it all – he drove, spotted, navigated, and educated us all by himself. Camp life was extremely comfortable – we were well cared for, had great food, and there was such a nice rhythm to the days –up at 5:15, breakfast, out for a drive, back to camp for lunch and to rest/read/write during the heat of the day, back out at 4 for an afternoon drive, back to camp by dark (park rules), much-needed shower, drinks, dinner, campfire, bed. We were off-road the whole time, and once we got away from the airstrip, we never saw another vehicle. (Maybe 1). At the time, we didn’t know how good we had it, but by the end of the trip, we realized just how special our time in the Serengeti with Jan was. We witnessed the birth of a Thompson’s gazelle (the entire thing took 20 – 30 minutes from the moment she started giving birth until the baby stood and suckled), we saw a mama lion with her 2 very-young cubs, a leopard leaping out of a tree as we standing right next to it, we saw the beginnings of the migration – our last day we saw a herd of thousands…and….(so many firsts) - we’re pretty sure – Jan fed us cat food. :D :D :D Which leads me to:

    “The wrong side of the river”
    We headed out for our afternoon game drive on Feb 13. It had rained a very little the night before, and we were all still hoping for rain – it was so incredibly dry, and the animals and people were suffering – all but the predators. That afternoon, it started sprinkling, and then it started to actually rain. We didn’t see an awful lot in terms of game, but we didn’t care – we were thrilled it was raining. We drove down a gully, but then we couldn’t make it up the other side–we were stuck. They call the dirt black cotton, and it becomes like grease when it gets wet. Well, now it’s not just raining – it’s a torrential downpour. We’re stuck in this little gully, and I am literally watching the water pour into this gully – rapidly. Jan gets out to hook up the winch – he’s very matter of fact about the whole thing – and I start to get worried. The water in the gully had risen 2-3” in 5 minutes…all I can think is – flash flood! We’re going to get swept away!!!!! Peter pooh-poohs me, and poor Jan is still outside – in the pouring rain – hooking up the winch. All of a sudden Jan jumps back in the land rover, and says “It hurts!” Peter says, “What hurts?” Jan replies, “The hail!” Sure enough, now it’s torrential rain AND hail. Peter says (and I love him for this!) “Kind of girlie, aren’t ya?” I don’t think Jan appreciated the humor at that moment – probably still doesn’t - but I’m sitting in the back of the land rover roaring in silent hysterical laughter. (Gosh, I’m still laughing about it). By now, the water has risen another 8-10”, and I’m worried (thanks for the worry-gene Mom), - we’re still sitting in the gully…Jan starts up the winch, and we finally get out of the gully- although, but now we’re stuck in a thorn bush. So, he had to get out again (still pouring) to unhook the winch from the first tree, and move it to another. Back into the vehicle, starts the winch, and now we’re free and clear, and I start breathing again. Until…

    We drive for a little ways, and Jan says, “we still have a problem.”
    “What’s that Jan?”
    “We’re on the wrong side of the river.”
    Uh-oh. “What river?”
    “That one.”
    We look. Where there had been a bone-dry river bed when we left camp, we now had a raging river, 30’ wide, and more than 6’ deep.
    “Well, is there any other way across?” Jan: “Yes, 4 hour drive from here.”
    “Ok, let’s go.”
    “Can’t. Going to be dark soon.” (remember, we’re off-road…)
    “Huh.”
    Jan radios camp - by now we’re only a few miles away – and tells them to get in a truck and follow the river until they find us. Well, actually I have no idea what Jan said to them – it was all Swahili. At any rate, Augustino, Pauli and Nico come in one of the 6-wheelers and find us. They’re on the right side of the river. We’re on the wrong side. And Jan says he has a plan.
    “What’s the plan, Jan?”
    “We’ll tie a rope around your waists, you jump in the river, and they’ll pull you across.”
    “Huh. No.”
    “But I really need to get you back to camp. It’ll work, and you’ll be perfectly safe.”
    “Huh. No.”
    “But if we don’t do that, I don’t have any other way to get you back to camp.”
    “Fine by us. We’ll just stay here until the water goes down, or in the morning, we’ll drive the 4 hours to the bridge, and cross that way.”
    “Huh.”

    Peter and I started collecting firewood (it had almost stopped raining by now), and Jan instructed the guys to go back to camp to pick up some provisions and extra clothes for us. Remember, poor Jan was soaked to the skin from the winch episode, so we gave him one of our shirts, but he was still cold, and miserable, and he was just beside himself that we were not going to be back in camp…but we were fine – hey – when snowmobiling, we were in a situation that actually was life-threatening – this was just sitting by a new river…and it was an adventure. Jan used some elephant dung as tinder to start the fire, and as it started to burn, I kept hearing these noises behind us. Finally Jan says, “Yes Cynthia I hear it too – it’s just rocks tumbling through the river”. (And I’m thinking… that’s the river you wanted to drag us through. Huh.) The guys get back from camp with our supplies, which they wrapped in plastics bags, and Augustino wound them up and tossed them over the river – really quite a feat – everything made it over - including the bottle of wine! They started a fire over on their side of the river. There was really nothing else they could do for us, and Jan had told them they didn’t need to stay – we were with radio contact distance if we needed them, but they chose to stay, just for moral support. It was one of the sweetest things that anyone has ever done for us, and I will never forget it.

    We unpacked the supplies from the bags, as by now we’re kind of hungry…and …there it was: the cat food. :-d. Eliosi had packed these small tins (that looked just like cat food cans) with some kind of a ground beef mixture (that looked just like cat food). So of course, we just couldn’t resist teasing Jan about feeding us cat food. We sure did laugh. And the cat food tasted great! ((@)) Darkness settled, and after a while, I got into the land rover to try and get some sleep. Not an easy feat –makes coach class look comfy - but I did manage to get a little. Peter tried too, but he only lasted 15 minutes or so, then he got back up. Every hour he and Jan would walk down to the river to see how much the water had receded. It was going down, very slowly. During their hourly river visits, they saw 4 crocs… ( … that’s the river you wanted to drag us through. Huh.) Around 2 or so, Peter and Jan both got in the land rover to get some sleep…at around 3AM, it started thundering…and raining again…uh-oh. So now we’re all up - both sides of the river. Jan radios to the guys that we’re going to drive along the river to see if he can find a place we can cross. The guys follow on their side -very slow progress. Eventually we come to a point where the water was only about 12-18” deep, so Jan decides that we’re going through there – it’s raining again, and now we all know how fast that river can fill up, and it really felt like this was our chance to get through. The guys meet us at the point, get their winch attached to ours, hook us up, and drag us through – and HURRAY!!! we’re on the right side of the river!!!! But...we’re not quite out of the woods yet, so to speak. We still have to find camp – and it’s dark, we’re off road, it’s raining, and now we have 2 vehicles to try and maneuver back. Even during the daytime, Jan would navigate using a gps system. He asked Peter to hold the unit, and to keep him on the right direction. Poor Jan – he had no idea that: a.) Peter can’t see things close up without his glasses, (which he did not have), and b.) Peter is a technophobe. I was ready to switch places so I could try to run the gps, but Jan just took it back out of Peter’s hand, and held it himself, while driving and trying to avoid the huge termite holes/nests, logs, ruts, rocks, thorn bushes etc for both us and the guys behind us…. It was a very long, slow drive. Finally Jan says, “Do you see any lights? We should be there by now.” No, no lights…wait…lights! Yes!!! We’re finally back to camp – at 4:30am. Our adventure ends safely. And we did not get up at 5:30 for our morning game drive. :-)

    The remainder of our time in the Serengeti was not quite as eventful as that day. For our last night in Jan’s camp, Eliosi baked Peter an early birthday cake – very thoughtful! On our last day, we were driving from the Serengeti to the Ngorongoro Crater. As I said earlier, the draught was really heaven for the predators, and we saw many untouched dead animals. We came across the Mama lioness with her 2- 1 ½ to 2 month old cubs –so adorable – and affectionate with each other. Jan was surprised they were out at such a young age. We also were present for a kill – Peter was thrilled, and filmed it – I was horrified – it was even worse than I feared. The lioness was after a baby gnu, and as I did not want to see it happen, I was watching the large herd that had formed – unfortunately, that was also the direction the frantic mama was racing back and forth along the edge of the herd, watching her baby get killed. I kept trying to console myself with the whole “circle of life” concept, except that…as soon as the lioness killed the calf, (and yes, I heard the calf’s cry) she just got up and started hunting (read playing) again. There were 11 or 12 lions there, and Jan said it’s just instinct, like a house cat will play with a mouse, but it was very hard for me to see.

    Ngorongoro Crater
    We eventually arrived at Oldupai to see the site and the museum, and continued on to the crater. It was beautiful, but, after the untouched wildness of what we had just left, it felt Disney-like with the well-maintained roads, and the signage (hippo pool that-a-way kind of things), and of course the large number of other tourists. We saw our first elephants, hippos, and I loved the crowned cranes. The Crater Lodge was great – unlimited hot water was so appreciated! Our butler’s name was Safari, and he was a gem. Jan had a great description of the style of the lodge – African Baroque.

    We were completely unprepared for the “social-ness” of the lodge. We had gone to the lounge area for a drink before dinner, and immediately someone says to me, “Well you’re new.” Um, yes. And we were then bombarded with questions from all sides – it was fine – I was just not expecting it. By the time we got into dinner, my head was spinning, and we got a little silly. Poor Jan was trying to tell us about the next segment of our trip – flight connections and that sort of thing, but we simply could not concentrate.

    Up the next morning for our drive to Lake Manyara airport for our flight to Mahale (via a fuel stop at Tabora airport). We did some shopping at the little stand at the airport, our plane came, we said goodbye to Jan and headed to Mahale.

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    Mahale
    The style of the bandas was unique, and the setting was beautiful. However, it felt as if we had joined a tour group – not something that we like. All activities (ahem, what there are of them) and meals at Mahale are done with the group. We were there for 3 nights (everyone else in our “tour-group” was there for 4 nights). We got to see the chimps on the second day we were there, after about a ½ hour hike. That part of the Mahale trip was outstanding. Watching the interaction between the alpha and the rest of the troop is fascinating – Peter actually saw one of the babies go over to the alpha and give him a kiss - charming beyond words. And hearing the vocal interaction was amazing. We were very close, and after our allotted 1 hour (plus a little) of time, the alpha and 2 of his buddies followed us down to the path. We stood still, as instructed, and they walked right amongst us, and passed us by. Quite a thrill. The next day it rained all day, and we happily left the following day. If anyone wants more detail about the accommodations at Mahale, please email me at cdspjf at globalnetisp dot net. Be sure to put fodors question or something in the reference line so I don’t just delete your message.

    Our flight from Mahale to Kilimanjaro was a little tiny bit bumpy, because it was raining. (This will sound silly, but I think it bothered the pilot more than us – he had to really concentrate.) We had a wonderful surprise waiting for us when we landed – Jan’s wife Gaby and their 2 girls were there to greet us! And Jan would be flying in from Nairobi within 10 minutes to hook up with us as well. We had about an hour or so layover before our Precision Air flight to Nairobi, and it was so much fun to see Gaby and Jan. Jan immediately quizzed us on our Mahale experience, and took excellent care of everything. They escorted us to the security point so we could check in for our flight to Nairobi. The Precision Air plane was the worst of all the 21 flights we had from Boston to Africa and back. The seat-spacing was so small, that even MY knees were up to my chin – poor Peter was like a folded-up sardine. Thankfully, it was a short flight.

    KENYA
    Our plane was ½ hour late leaving Kilimanjaro, and we were now getting worried – we had another flight to Solio after getting to Nairobi, and they don’t allow the small planes to fly at night. Plus, this time we had to clear customs in Nairobi. Once again, Royal African had arranged for a Peck Air rep (Benedict) to meet us at the gate, and guide us through customs and to our next flight. I will always have this image in my mind of Peter standing by the luggage belt waiting for our bags, while Benedict and I run around the terminal from counter to counter, me with a $10 bill clutched in my hand, trying to give it to someone – anyone - so we can go to our next flight. I still don’t really know what that fee/tax was for… Thankfully, we had gotten our visas prior to arriving, or we would have never made it, and thankfully we had Benedict, because I might STILL be there looking for someone to take my $10.00.

    Solio Ranch
    After a beautiful flight, we landed at the Solio airstrip, and Bobby and Piggy were there to meet us. Bobby had worked with David for 9 years as his lead guide. Piggy was our Samburan spotter, and had also worked with David for many years. David’s dad, Peter was at camp waiting for us. We were the first to be camping on the Solio Reserve - it was something that David had negotiated with the owner, and it was truly a privilege. The ride into the campsite was magical – we saw more Rhino, both white and black, than I ever dreamed we would get to see. On our drive, it was dusk. All of a sudden, a small bat landed on the window visor in front of Peter. He reached up to shoo it away, and it flew INTO the vehicle – in the back, where I was sitting. Bobby says, “Oh, I think he flew back out.” I’m not so sure… but then we couldn’t find it, so maybe. We continue on, and I keep looking around the vehicle, and all of a sudden, we hear this clicking-noise. Piggy says something in Swahili to Bobby, and Bobby very calmly says, “Cynthia, don’t move.” I feel the bat crawling up my back! I slowly lean forward, and very forcefully say, “Get it off me!”, trying hard not to panic. (I do really like bats – just not on my back! :-) ). Bobby reaches around my back, grabs a hold of it, and tosses the little guy out the window – after it first bit him! Oh dear; welcome to our world Bobby. It didn’t break his skin, but I still worried about rabies. He claims no worries there. :[

    We get to camp – and it was like entering a fairyland – they had all the lanterns lit – just beautiful. We were very glad to meet Peter, and our camp crew. Our tent steward, Paul, took us to our tent and gave us very detailed instruction/demonstration on how things work – right down to who should use which sink, and which side of the bed we should each sleep on. We really liked Paul – I can still hear his voice in my mind “Good morning Peter. Good morning Cynthia. Did you sleep well?”

    Solio was amazing for the Rhinos – we saw so many of them. We also saw a ton of other wildlife – mammals and birds. David’s dad Peter went out on a couple of drives with us, and then he headed back to Nairobi. We took a day trip to the Aberdare National Park, where we got to see a Giant Forest Hog family, and then 2 more in the trees, as well as our first truly wild elephants. We went into an area that had gorgeous waterfalls (a scene from Out of Africa was shot there), and had a lovely lunch. This was Peter’s birthday. That night, he had the Budweiser that David and Chrisof brought back for him, and the staff had baked a birthday cake, and all came in and sang to him. Really very sweet – and bittersweet.

    Loisaba
    While we spend the next couple of days at Loisaba, our camp crew packs up and heads to our new campsite at Lake Nakuru. We had a marvelous flight to Loisaba, and on the way down, we saw a herd of elephants very close to the airstrip. Our pilot Daniel went with us to see them – he is very involved with the rescue of the orphans with Daphne Sheldrick – he had flown 3 in within the last month. The draught is so harsh. We met our spotter/driver Solomon, and off we went. There were 30 or so elephants, including the tiniest baby elephant we saw the whole trip. After seeing them, we headed to the lodge. It’s gorgeous, and our hostess, Rachael is very gracious and hospitable. She escorts us to our room – ahh –running water and flush toilets! :-) , and the most amazing view of Mt Kenya in the far distance and a watering hole in the “nearer”-distance off our front deck. Beautiful! I could imagine spending weeks there, just enjoying the view.

    Our game drives in Loisaba were great. Loisaba, land of the DikDik and the rabbits. We saw hundreds (if not thousands!) of those sweet little creatures. This is also where we saw the nosy baby silver-backed jackal, and the mama cheetah with her 2 cubs. That sighting was worth some detail: We just left baby-jack, and Peter says in a very excited voice,”cougar! leopard!...CAT.” It’s the cheetahs, and they’re racing after a herd of hartebeest. They actually knocked down one of the babies, but it was able to get up and run away. Because the cheetahs had expended all their energy in that one chase, they need to rest. This is the astounding part to me: as the Mama cheetah headed towards a shady spot, 2 of the Hartebeest actually turned around and “escorted” the cheetahs away from their herd, and then they stood guard! Fascinating.

    We did spend a night at the Star Beds, and that was fun, although I didn’t get much sleep – too many sounds and no tent wall to protect me. Peter, of course, slept fine! :-) Sandi has a great description of the Starbeds in her trip report from last year, so I won’t duplicate that.

    Loisaba offers a lot for people to do – in addition to the game drives, they have a pool, the starbeds, camel riding (yes, we did, but not good for Peter’s back) and I’m not sure what else – but there’s lots! You can check out their website – loisaba.com. We really enjoyed Loisaba, and our spotter Solomon was a wonderfully charming young man.

    Lake Nakuru
    Piggy and Evans(mechanic/driver) were waiting for us after our ½ hour flight in from Loisaba, and I think Bobby was relieved to be back in the driver’s seat again. We headed towards our new camp (campsite Soy Sambu in the Lake Nakuru park), a lovely location where we watched vervets and baboons off our “patio”. It felt like coming home – it was so good to see the crew, and to get settled back into our tent. No need for demonstrations this time – we’re old hands now!

    Seeing the flamingos was a real treat – although, because of the draught, there were a lot of dead ones. Again – predator’s heaven – the eagles and vultures were stuffing themselves on the dead flamingos – and the smell was not pleasant. We saw a lot more Rhino again – at one point, we watched 2 white rhinos play-fighting with each other, against backdrop of pink flamingos and green water. This was also where we got our best leopard sightings – the first was a big female (Bobby guessed about 90#) who we watched just meandering around for ½ hour before she simply disappeared before our eyes. We then headed down a side road, that slowly became a cow-path…(and now I’m having visions of a “stuck in the swamps of Lake Nakuru” night, as it’s heading towards dusk)… when we come around a bend in the path. There is a small leopard and “something” else – they moved too quickly down into a gully for us to see. Bobby stops the land rover, and we hear a pitiful mewling – it was the leopard’s cub. We were enchanted listening to this tiny voice – when all of a sudden, Mama peeks her head around the clearing in the gully – looks at us, turns around, and sends out her THREE babies, and then she follows. She was very small herself, and those babies were tiny – maybe 3-5 pounds? What a joy! A thrill! We simply couldn’t believe our good fortune – even Bobby was beginning to be impressed by the variety of wildlife we were so fortunate to be seeing.

    Lake Nakuru is the smallest, and most heavily used of Kenya’s national parks, so we saw a lot of other tourists, and the most litter. (Felt like home…) We also had an odd encounter – and I pass it on as a warning – a vehicle drives up next to us, and the driver asks Bobby if we have seen any elephants – he wants to show them to his “guest”. Bobby simply answered no, haven’t seen any, but after they left, Bobby explained that there are no elephants in this Park, and the driver was one of those who represents himself to tourists as a guide, but in fact has no training or knowledge. I guess I’m just suggesting caution, and make arrangements before arriving with reputable organizations.

    Rusinga Island
    Our 17th flight since leaving home, from Lake Nakuru to Rusinga Island, made me chuckle: We had 2 pilots (who shall remain anonymous :-) ), one of whom was having his annual evaluation, conducted by the other (SOP). As we’re flying along, Pilot A gets out a map. Both Pilot A and Pilot B are looking at the map, but, to my astonishment, the map is upside down!!. Almost immediately, they did see their mistake and righted the map; and it turns out the only reason they had the map out was so they could show us our flight path… but it sure did leave me with a smile. We saw tea plantations during the flight, and then landed on the island, right at the doorstep of the Rusinga Island Lodge – and we were in heaven. There were hundreds of birds on the grounds, our chalet was the most spacious and beautiful accommodation we had at any of the lodges, and the shower was pure heaven (funny how one comes to appreciate running water after camping!) We were the only guests, and our hosts were Wayne & Tanya. Wayne has had a bizarre life – and I will leave it at that – go to Rusinga Island, and listen to his stories! The setting of the lodge is beautiful – right on Lake Victoria. They are concerned about the level of the lake – it has dropped by I-don’t-know-how-much in a fairly short period of time, due to diverting for other uses – power plant(s?), primarily.

    After lunch and settling in, we took a speedboat ride to Bird Island – the lake was quite rough, and poor Bobby & Peter got soaked. Lucky me – I was up front, and made out fine! Bird Island was a sight well worth visiting – quite literally thousands of birds nesting (mostly 2 types of cormorants, egrets, sacred ibis, some Egyptian geese, and a few African Open Billed Stork), and many monarch lizards inhabit the island. One does not disembark on the island – but boating around it is enough. We were accompanied by Alfred (captain) & Eddy. They accompanied us on all of our excursions on the island. They saw a cormorant in distress, and without hesitation or second thought they went to its rescue. It was tangled up in some fishing line, and had a fishing hook through the webbing of its foot. Alfred maneuvered the boat (remember –very rough water), and Eddy scooped up the bird. Then between the 2 of them, they removed the hook, untangled the fishing line, and set the bird free. Eddy suffered a bite from the bird that drew blood, but it didn’t matter to him – they were both happy to have rescued it – as were we.

    After the boat ride, Peter decided to get a massage while I took a walk to the Mary Leaky excavation site on the island. I was accompanied by Bobby, Alfred & Eddy. It was really a fascinating place – and we all played paleoanthropologist, searching for hominid fossils. Alfred showed me that the area is littered with black garnet just lying on the ground (no monetary value, but pretty!), so I asked him if I could take one for a souvenir. He said sure, one is not allowed to remove fossils, but the garnets are fine. Next thing I know, I have a pocket full of them, because both he and Eddy started collecting them for me, and then, 2 very young (and shy) boys came along and started collecting them for me too, so now I have a wonderful souvenir of a very special afternoon!

    Two comments on the lodge: The shower is beautiful – built like a waterfall; and the room is the darkest I have ever slept in – I actually woke Peter up in the middle of the night because I couldn’t find him – sleeping right next to me in the same bed!

    Next day, we went to the mainland to Ruma National Park. It was a Tuesday, which meant Market day in Sindo, the mainland town in which one lands on the way to Ruma. That was fascinating – people walk for miles to get to the market.

    We had breakfast in Ruma – the lodge sent someone ahead to get a fire going, along with provisions for a cooked-to-order breakfast in a beautiful setting. We enjoyed Ruma – it is very small, and not many people use it (we saw no one), and there is a nice variety of animals – giraffes, impala, cape buffalo, topi, waterbuck, oribi (the first we saw), and of course the endangered Roan antelope (we saw 5 – they are beautiful – and big!)

    Back to the island, and in the afternoon, we went into the nearby village, again accompanied by Alfred & Eddie. We read that 40% of the island population is HIV positive. When we started walking in town, Peter, Bobby & I were immediately surrounded by children – each tiny child would grab one of our fingers, and hold on for all they were worth. At one point, I had 6 children attached to my hands…they were a delight and one of the saddest thing I’ve seen, all at the same time. I was wearing sunglasses when we got there, and 2 of the very young children kept repeating something to me, that I couldn’t understand. Finally, I asked Eddie what they were saying – he said they want to see your eyes! Off come the glasses, and then we started playing the “show me your eyes, your nose, your mouth” game – they were learning English, and were practicing on us!

    There are programs in place in the village to educate about HIV, as well as the many other waterborne diseases that they have to deal with. Many of the children have intestinal parasites that could easily be dealt with – but they would only be immediately re-infected…

    This is a fishing village/island. We saw the boats they use to harvest the minnows that are then dried and used for both food and agricultural uses. They are trying to improve the sanitation. They have a unique method of fishing for the minnows – at night, they set floats out on the lake that have a kerosene lantern on top. Attached underneath, in the water, are nets. Insects are attracted to the light of the lantern, the fish are attracted to the insects, and then they are caught in the nets. We got to see it in operation on our second night there – it is weather dependant, and the lake was too rough the first night. They look magical out on the lake at night. There’s also a hippo (or 2?) that really enjoy the lush green grass of the lodge, and frequently comes up to graze…unfortunately, not when we were there.

    Rusinga Island Lodge is beautiful – well maintained, very hospitable hosts, lots of fun things to do, gorgeous sunsets. The bungalows are lovely, and the staff was very interested in what we’ve seen, and if we’re happy – one simply couldn’t ask for anything better.

    Maasai Mara
    Another terrific flight (with Daniel as pilot again – the one who flies the baby elephants) to the Mara, and Piggy, Evans & Steven were again waiting for us at the airstrip. Evans & Steven were heading back to Nairobi with Daniel – they had to go get another truck for the next group coming in, so Peter, Bobby, Piggy & I adhered to the lovely custom of waiting to wave off the departing passengers. Every flight we took, we were both greeted and waived off – another thing I’ll always remember.

    We headed to camp, which was located at Roots Crossing on the Sand River. Once again, it was a lovely location. It was so good to see John and Franco and Paul again – it really felt like coming home! We had 2 odd things this time: We were accompanied by 2 armed guards (whom we never saw – they camped a little way away from the main area), and Bobby was concerned about our passports – he wanted to lock them up in the vehicle. Apparently there are transients that have been known to go into tents looking for bags to steal. We ended up just keeping ours in our possession the whole time, but it was strange.

    We saw a nice variety of wildlife in our 3 nights in the Mara. This is where we got to see the 3 lionesses with the 9 cubs – tumbling and roughhousing and sassing Mamas – and very curious about us! They were adorable, and again – such affection between them – it was so sweet and lovely to watch. We got to see a good number of hippos in the Mara river – including babies!, and croc, and of course all the regulars – the buffalo, impala, zebra, wildebeest, waterbuck, elephants. On our last evening game drive we got to see our last rhino – a black one. And on our very last game drive, we came across the very pregnant cheetah. We would have loved to have stayed with her – Bobby thought she might give birth that day, but we couldn’t – had to catch that plane to Nairobi.

    Nairobi
    Our last internal-African flight – again, a great flight. We really loved the small planes! Arrived in Nairobi, and our new driver Peter brought us to Christof’s Ngong House. It is truly a unique lodge, and it certainly has a lot of Christof’s personality in it. The food was great – Bobby said they were Christof’s recipes, and we met Christof’s dad Paul – a very nice man. We also met his 2 dogs – Junior and Skippy. Skippy joined us in our “tree house” – and decided he was staying – it would have made a very amusing funniest-animals video watching us trying to convince this 100# + dog that he had to leave – he simply would not budge – very stubborn, and very funny!

    We did some shopping, went to the giraffe center, and then went to Daphne Sheldrik’s elephant orphanage for our visit – and this was one of the highlights of the trip, and a fine way to end our stay. Getting to pet the babies, and have one suck on my finger was a delight – I didn’t know they have hair! And they are as curious about us as we are about them! We met Daphne’s daughter Angelina, who explained the work they do – it was amazing to say the least.

    The next day we boarded our flight for LHR, spent the night in London and then to Boston and home.

    Last Thoughts
    Things I wish I had brought: a laminated bookmark that had Fahrenheit / centigrade and miles/kilometer conversions on it; and an extra toothbrush – I was so relieved to toss the one I had by the time we got home!

    Things I’m glad I brought: Cipro (yep!), 3 camera batteries with charger, and an outdoor thermometer.

    Things I went overboard on: Hand sanitizers, bug sprays

    Something I wish I had done: changed the date/time function in my digital camera to local times.

    I never know how to answer when someone asks “how was your trip?” Royal African Safaris did an outstanding job for us - our trip was amazing – we saw more animals than we dreamed, we stayed in some fabulous lodges, we saw gorgeous scenery, we met some incredible people. And we would gladly trade all of that and much more, if only…

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    Cyn, we've had a lot of great reports here on Fodors, but yours has to be the most moving. I am truly sorry about the loss of your friends. Your trip celebrated life though and you told the story so vividly, I felt I was with you, trying to figure out how to cross that river. Thank you for this report.

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    cyn,
    clematis put it far better than I could.

    Thank you for taking time to share your amazing journey with all of us. The report matches the photos--I knew there'd be some excellent stories in there, especially of getting stuck. And by the way, you call this long? :)

    I'm sorry for the loss of your friends.

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    BRAVO, fabulous, heartwrenching.... I am so sorry, too, to hear about your firends. I remember when you were talking about cooking for them.... I can't imagine how you must have felt upon learning of their deaths.

    However - your report is just amazing. Enjoying it tremendously. I'm going to check the photos right now. Thanks for such a great read. I needed it tonight!

    Sharon

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    Cyn-

    This was the most incredible, most moving trip report that I have read, I am so sorry to hear about David and Christof.

    I printed this off after supper, intending to read it tomorrow on the bus, and I am glad I didn't - I for sure would have missed my stop and rode the route two or three times. As it was I started reading it before a friend of mine came to visit, put it down while she was here, and kept thinking, I must read it as soon as she goes! I just finishsed it, thankyou, it was truly incredible.

    I think Royal African Safaris sounds incredible - I looked them up on the internet, read what was on their website, but I can't see any contact information. How would one get in touch with them if one was interested? How did you hear of them?

    And, your pictures are incredible - as I recall (ah, so many wonderful people on this board sometimes I mix them up!) you have the Panasonic FZ5? I am in the midst of looking at the FZ7 and the FZ30 at the moment. (haven't seen either yet, but have got as far as looking them up on the internet!)

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    Cyn!
    Fancy schmancy on the green thread title! :D Niiice!
    Also, what a fabulous trip report! Skimmed just now but will settle down and read it properly later!
    Oh and you're welcome for Bon Vivant, so glad you both loved it!
    Glad you too the cipro too - like I said it's an absolute STAPLE of my med bag!
    Thanks so much for putting this together for us! Really appreciated!
    :D :D :D

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    i remeber when you first posted your pictures and couldn't write your report. i loved your pictures then and still do. i am so sorry about your friends but i am sure they would be glad that your finished your vacation and were able to experience Africa. thank you for being able to finally write about it.

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    Having now sat down and read the report fully I'd like to add my condolences for the death of your friends David and Christof. I'm so sad to hear about their untimely passing but it's nice that such a glowing tribute to them, in your trip report, is here for all to see.

    It's a fabulous report, so exciting. The leopard and her three cubs and the pregnant cheetah - how incredible! I'm going to look at the photos too, now but just wanted to say again, thanks for writing and sharing this with us.

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    Cyn,
    Your comments about Sandi and are touching and so kind. I'm sure Sandi will agree that the going to Afreekah part is very easy and really didn't require courage at all.

    I just loved reading your well done report, Cyn. You made me laugh and cry with everything else in between. You really have a knack for transporting one to Africa, all while seeing thru your eyes. Such memories for you and Peter. I'll bet that Budweiser will never taste the same for Peter again. Very bitter- sweet.
    Thank you for sharing your wonderful adventure Cyn.
    Sherry

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    Thanks for sharing your very moving trip report. Your river crossing sounded like quite an adventure. On top of everything else, I think you win the award for best use of accent colors and smileys in a Fodorite trip report :D

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    I just re-read through my report, and I have to clear something up. I wrote:

    “We took a day trip to the Aberdare National Park, where we got to see a Giant Forest Hog family, and then 2 more in the trees.”

    Giant Forest Hogs do NOT climb trees, nor do they fly into them….(and now I’m really wishing for a “smiley” of a pig flying). They were on the ground in the forest. :@) :-]

    Clematis1: Thank you – my very first post on this board was titled “cyn’s great adventure”. I didn’t know how prophetic that would be.

    Lucia78: I kept putting the writing off, but, because we received so much help from the people on this forum, I really wanted to share the trip. It’s been six months, and it is still so hard to think about David & Christof being gone. Thank you for your kind words.

    Dennis: You could have been quoting me many times during our trip! Thanks. :-)

    Leely: Well, it seemed long to me – probably because I kept re-writing and re-writing. :-) Getting stuck was actually fun – we knew we were pretty safe – we had fire, we had the land rover for shelter and protection from the elements & animals if needed, we had food & water – and we now have a fantastic memory.

    Sharon: When someone says they have really bad news for you, there’s that instant when your mind races through a dozen different possibilities of what it could be. On that day, I thought perhaps something to do with the draught. Never in my wildest imaginings did I think it could be something as terrible as it turned out to be. Hope everything is ok with you – (re: ”thanks for such a great read. I needed it tonight”). ((F))

    Simbakubwa: Tougher question than it sounds. We loved the Serengeti with Jan, but were not that crazy about the crater or Mahale. We saw amazing sights in Kenya, and enjoyed the 3 lodges we stayed at there, as we able to be a bit more private than in the Tanzanian lodges. Kenya did not have the feeling of freedom and wildness that I got in the Serengeti. My heart keeps going back to the Serengeti – probably because it was our first wildlife experience. Why do you ask? :-)

    LyndaS:Yes, Royal African was a good fit for us. There is a contact page on their website once you enter – upper right/center side of the pages. You have to actually click on one of the people to get their contact info. We dealt with Petrina in the states (Petrina@royalafrican.com). We knew 2 different couples (one from Toronto that we met in China, and the other that we know locally) who had used them, and both were vehemently insistent that there was no other way to go.

    My camera is the FZ30 – and I was really happy with it. I’m no photographer, so I need the auto settings, and I was thrilled with the zoom.

    CarrieS: Yes, the BAT! That was quite an experience – and so typical of the really bizarre things that happen to us when we travel. I was very close to panicking – thankfully Bobby was able to grab it quickly. And I meant it – I really do like bats! :[ :[ :[

    joeyi: Jan kept saying basically the same thing to us – (David would have wanted you to go on), and I’m sure it’s true – it changed everything though, you know? Thank you for your kind words joeyi.

    Kavey: A confession: I somehow thought the safari world was smaller than it is. When we got back, I searched for some reference to David on the board, fully expecting that it would already be known and I wouldn’t have to deal with that part of it. Naive on my part I guess.

    I hope others get to enjoy the Bon Vivant – sooo good!

    Yeah, the cipro – pretty much every trip I take I have a little problem at some point. This time I suspect it was the emotions rather than the water that took its toll, but whatever the cause, the cipro handled it practically instantly. (Hmm…nice subject, eh?)

    The leopard and her 3 cubs were so special. All of us – Bobby, Piggy, Peter & I just stood there gaping in silent amazement at what we had just seen. And having mama-to-be cheetah as our last wild animal sighting before heading to Nairobi was truly a gift.

    And you know, that green heading is really easy to find! :D

    Sherry: Glad you saw what I wrote – and I meant it: courage, grace, and probably a whole lot of determination besides. And thinking of you did help me decide to continue with our trip. (Yep, getting teary eyed! :-) )

    Re: the Bud. Such a stupid thing to have so many emotions about, but I can practically hear them both grumbling to each other on their flight home about having to lug that *@_)(#)$& beer all the way from the states to Kenya in November for a birthday in February. They both had such horror stories about going though customs anyway, and now add the beer…that’s one of the stories I would have loved to have heard from them sitting around the fire some night.

    Nyamera: Thank you for reading my report, and your kind words. I really did try to follow the pictures that I had posted!

    Wayne: Yeah, I was glad that for once Peter and I were in complete agreement – no way were we going to be dragged across that river! Btw- thanks for posting comments on some of my pictures – it makes it fun to go back in and look!

    Patty <):) : After the mess I made when I replied on my photo-post, I knew I had to make good. (Leely’s comment about my speaking in code did make me laugh, though!) Do I win a gold star? ((*))

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    Cyn -

    I've been busy so couldn't take the time to read your amazing report in one sitting. Had to print it out, then read it last evening, finishing it this morning.

    It was difficult between my tears reading or your loss of two dear new friends. But once I got a handle on this very sad and unfortunate happening, continued the read.

    You had an amazing first-time safari experience from the southern tip up to the east coast of Africa; a great team from Royal Africa with you all the way. Though I recall the initial posting of your itinerary and so much camping, that when I saw a lodge interspersed, knew you'd appreciate those real showers when you arrived at them.

    Thanks so much for a winner of a report. So, when do you plan to return. There are still so many more places to visit and things to do?

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    Sandi:I am so glad you read this, and hope you know that my reference to you was meant as a compliment. And yes, it was an amazing first time safari. You noticed how many times I mentioned the showers at the lodges, eh? :d Next up? Well, we have some thoughts on that.... something completely different than this. I'll do a separate post, 'cause I'm going to need lots of help. It will be a different country - so far in our travels, we have only back-tracked once, and that was to Cairns, Australia for 1 night on our way to other places within the country.

    Kavey: ooo-weeeee! FIVE GOLD STARS! Thank you - it really does means something coming from you Kavey! You're advice is always so knowledgeable and kindly given.

    Cyn

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    Sharon: check out the following thread for instructions on bold, underline, italics and colors. http://www.fodors.com/forums/pgMessages.jsp?fid=134&tid=34820932

    I figured out how to get rid of the wild characters when copying a long doc from msword onto this board:type the long doc into msword, copy to notepad, then copy that doc to Fodor board. That way you get the benefit of spell-check (desperately needed by me!) without the junk. Just don't ask me why it works! :D

    Cyn

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    Heartwrenching to hear about your planned guides. Also related to not wanting to see the baby gnu kill.

    Thank you for sharing your report. Great work. I am very impressed with the clarity of your pictures, especially those in low light (Mahale). What was your trick? Was it the camera or lens or technique? One more on Mahale - what do you do when it rains? Know they offer the fishing, trips on Dhow, swimming (but that seems it with Hippos and crocs?). Any suggestions on things to take to enjoy the non-chimp treking time?

    Now that you've seen such a wonderful cross-section of Africa, which country tugs at your heart to return?

    Thanks,
    lovetodiscover

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    Kevin: Thanks for your kind words.

    (Ahem, didn't your mom tell you everything in moderation??? [-X ) :-)

    Sharon: DITTO
    ! But really - my pleasure! :-)

    Leely: thanks! btw, I've been loving your report - I need to get over to your thread and ask some stuff!

    lovetodiscover: I worried before we left how I would react if we were to be present for a kill. Given the length of time we were there, David had said it was likely we would see it...but I still wasn't prepared.

    I have to give all the credit for my pics to the camera and lens, and the fact that when one takes 2600+ pictures, one is bound to get lucky on a few! I really liked the zoom - I was able to bring things in so much closer than I ever had with any other camera. The mahale shots - I took SOOOO many more photos of the chimps that simply didn't come out well - the dark faces of the chimps with the dark forest and the light coming from behind them makes it really tough - I was disappointed with most of my pics of the chimps. If I had thought about it in advance, I would have been asking Phil & Julian & Kavey & Johan et al for advice on how to handle those shots. Just not smart enough to even know to ask.

    Mahale: yes, you've hit one of the problems there - what to do with your down time. I took a look at your itinerary on the "how long 'til you go" post - you're going in January, correct? But I couldn't tell - are you there for 3 or 4 nights? We were lucky with the chimps - we only had to hike 1/2 hour to see them...but then that left a lot of "free" time. Even with the rain, you can still do some non-chimp-looking hiking, as it's so humid you're drenched within minutes of starting your hike anyway, so the rain doesn't matter. They do have a library of sorts that you can hang out in; there is kayaking if the lake is not too rough, rest, catch up on your journal, read. What to bring is tough, because of the luggage-weight restrictions. Books, deck of cards? Re: the fishing - they threw a line in the lake as we were driving back from the snorkel-site...but they also told us the lake had been very over-fished, and the chances of actually catching something were remote.

    To which county would I return....that's tough to answer. We have been privileged to visit many countries, and each one always has something so special that makes me want to go back...but there are so many more that we have yet to see, that we have made a conscious effort to not return anywhere (broke our rule once...) until we've seen it all - good luck with that, eh? I know - I'm not answering....I guess it's a toss up between Tanzania & Kenya. :-)

    Cyn

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    Thanks Cyn. Mahale for us will be a 4 night stay, due to the logistics of how the schedule worked out with the charter flights and timing for the rest of the safari. It will be 4-7 Jan 2007. At that time the chimps may be deeper into the woods, but I'm not sure about this. The down time has been my concern, but I've been determined to do the chimp trek. Given the remote setting, I'm expecting it to be like a beach setting without shopping and one choice for meals.

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    I have to admit - this Mahale report is interesting... it is definietly on my wish list because of the chimps, obvioulsy, but it also looks like a very alluring place to hang out. Perhaps I am wrong?

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    Nyamera -

    Thanks for the links, which I already have on file... I just don't have the time to play around with these.

    One of these days, when I have more than 5-minutes, I'll try to figure these out and play around with them.

    KISS = Keep It Simple Stupid

    This will soon become the Rainbow Forum!


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    Oh Cyn, What a moving trip report. I am so so sorry for your loss and realise how hard it must have been to relive it all when writing. You certainly took me through all those emotions, tears and much laughter - I had visions of that river and bat and also that poor Gnu and Gnu mum. What a tribute to David and Christof.

    I am about to have another look at your photos on my veerrry sloooowww dial up. From what I remember they are amazing! Can I ask one question? - I have the FZ30 and am an absolute beginner and will need that Auto function - which setting did you use mostly?

    Thanks so much for posting

    Imelda

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    Nyamera... I think writing certain sentences in beige is a great idea... then people only have to read those parts if they really want to...

    And what HAPPENED around here - I was only away 4 days and it's all colorful?!? :0

    Just a passing fad?

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    Teri (countingdown):Thank you for your kind words and for reading my post - sorry I missed you first time through! ((F))

    lovetodiscover: It is a beach setting, and yep - no shopping (aside from the resort gift shop that for some reason I never made it into). And yes, you eat what is served. The food is vey good - oh, and that's something else you can do if you're so inclined - the chef(s) will let you come in and play sous-chef - just ask! And they certainly seemed to appreciate the interest shown in their kitchen when we were there.

    Sharon: yes, it looks alluring. And I'm sure a lot of people loved it. But for us, it was a very good thing that the chimps were there.

    Nyamera: We were bored...and our life is pretty boring at home. :-) It rained the third day we were there, and that means there's really not much at all to do. Even when it's not raining,....

    Patty, Sandi, kimburu: Silly, ain't we? But that's me - put me on a crowded elevator and watch what I do! :-d

    Imelda: Thankyou - it did bring it all back when writing, and re-writing...

    I posted over on your thread to answer your camera questions - figured there's a better chance you'll see what I wrote! :-) Happy travels my friend!

    Cyn

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    You know, Cyn, I LOVE all these wonderful things that you have introduced, but you know how the thread title would turn grey when you have read it? Well, I have just discovered that your title doesn't change colour after I read it! Now how will I know if I've read it I wonder???

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    <b.Bat:Thanks, I appreciate it. I was wondering where you were - hope everything is ok with you!

    Lynda:Yes, I've noticed the same thing. But it the colored titles sure do make the board look cheery, don't you think? :-)

    Cyn

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    Need even more colour?
    Check out the thread titled "Please don't mess around w/getting your passport" on the US forum.

    http://www.fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=1&tid=34830506

    Starting at my (JAGIRL) question to Bayou gal on the 07/08/2006, 12:24 pm.

    This opens a new world!
    :))

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    cyn:
    How thoughtful for you to ask if everything was OK. Yes, I was traveling for a month--nothing to post here--and so I have to play catch up.

    Again, so sorry for the loss of your friends. I loved your report. As others have said--the wrong side of the river was great. You wrote so descriptively that I could easily imagine myself in that position--and here is the thing--I am not sure that I would have been able to say no to the idea of the rope and being "towed" across the river even though I would not have wanted to--so good for you.

    The wildie mom plaintively calling out for the lost calf was painful to read particularly because I know what she sounded like [our experience was slightly different--we did not see the calf killed; we ran across a forlorn mom--I was able to imagine they were temporarily separated and somehow -in never, never land--they were reunited.]

    Really appreciate your impression on Mahale. It was on the top of my list for a next visit and your comments will make me rethink it. However I must admit that I am a superb slug in domestic settings and so I am a supreme slug in exotic settings.

    I thought the fact that you met both “dads” was particularly poignant.
    But you also had so many wonderful, life affirming moments to balance it all out.
    Thanks again for a wonderful read.

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    With the tragic loss of your friends at the outset of your safari, your report enters a different dimension.

    Your itinerary is quite amazing and so are the results it produced. I was especially interested in your Mahale chimp sightings, since it is on my list.

    Tiny leopard cubs, three of them no less, are an amazing find. I hope the pregnant cheetah is now the proud mother of several. Rhino in the Mara are becoming harder to find, so you were lucky there. Plus all the other rhino at Solio.

    I'll be looking at the photos when I have time to browse.

    Thanks for the detailed report.

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    Bat: Thanks again for your kind words.

    If DH hadn't been there, I may well have ended up being dragged through that river - he is much stronger-willed than I - and I was so relieved when he immediately said "no way"! I later asked Jan if he would have really done that, and he said absolutely. Yikes!

    I know that your forlorn mom wildie found her baby! We had a similar situation, only it was the baby that lost its mom. The little one fixed on us, and was chasing along after our vehicle - and we were in the midst of 6 lions (who were spread out over some distance)at the time. We drove towards a herd of gnu, and eventually the little one left us and ran over to it, but Jan didn't have much hope for the baby. He figured the mom had been killed, and no other wildie will take on the nurturing of an orphan... I, on the other hand, am quite certain that Mom was in that herd, and they are both living happily ever after (and yes, my rose colored glasses are firmly in place! ((F)) ((h)) )

    Mahale was great for the chimps, and if all your life you have dreamed of seeing them, then by all means...If you get closer to booking, email me. cdspjf at globalnetisp dot net.

    Seeing David & Christof's dads was hard - when we saw Peter, it had only been about 2 weeks since the accident. We were the first safari out after it happened, and of all things, he wanted to reassure us that all would go smoothly....so kind. I think (hope) it was good for him to be out with us, just to reconnect with nature and have some quiet time. Paul was keeping the Ngong house up and running. I think about them both a lot.

    Atravelynn:Welcome back! And thanks for taking the time to read my report.

    Yes, those 3 tiny tiny leopard cubs were a highlight - so precious! And I am still amazed and delighted when I think about all the rhino we were so lucky to see.

    Cyn

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