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Safari Trip Report

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I just got back from a fantastic trip! It's so easy to get home and fall into our routines, but I wanted to post a trip report and thank everyone here who helped me so much in the planning. We had a fantastic time!
-First, for those of you who helped me with selecting an operator, we ended up using Africa Dream Safaris. They gave me the most attention in planning and the least pressure to pay, plus were willing to hold my bookings the longest. I might do a separate post on my experience with a lot of different operators during the planning and reserving stage which might be of help to others planning.
-Day "-2 to 0" We had two days in Nairobi on the way. Did the tourist circuit there including the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, Giraffe, Utamuduni (sp?), city center, Karen Blixem, Carnivore, etc. Adopting some elephants at the orphanage was definitely a highlight!
-Days 1-2 After flying to JRO and going into Arusha, we spent the first two days in Tarangire. It was awesome. It felt like we had the whole park to ourselves, plus it was our first time to see all the wildlife! I think this is a great park. Our highlights were just seeing everything for the first time, watching elephants bathing, our first leopard sighting. We stayed at Swala Camp, which was great. Sitting on the veranda watching elephants in their watering hole is something I will remember forever!
Days 3-4 We drove to Lake Manyara. It was very interesting, with its different vegetative zones and bird life. I do understand, though, why several people advised me to leave it off the schedule. It's beautiful, but it's really just got that one main road in and out, and our lodge is at the far end on a terrible road, and when the lake is so dry you can't see much. But no regrets. Our highlights were seeing the hippos, some great birds, watching thousands of flamingos on the horizon flying and taking off, creating a glittering pink throughout the sky (Hollywood could never even come up with a scene like that!), and some very amusing baboons! We stayed at Lake Manyara Tree Lodge, which was over the top luxury!
-Days 5-6 We went to the Crater. Seeing it from the rim while you're driving in is so breathtaking, like being on top of the world. There's not much to say about the crater that hasn't already been said. We saw just about everything, including spotted hyenas chasing away vultures at a kill lions had just finished with, a pride of lions taking shade at our vehicle (fat and bellies full after feeding, with blood still stained on their faces), rhino with baby, jackals. We even saw a cerval! One of the most exciting parts was watching a cheetah for about 2 hours strategizing and moving towards some gazelles. She started to run but a nearby wildebeest panicked and alerted the gazelles. They do need to do something about the vehicle congestion and unethical drives who interrupt the animals' activities. (I'm also thinking about starting another post on this, and some of the outrageous behavior I witnessed from drivers and some tourists). We stayed at the Crater Lodge. Again, over the top luxury and I had a brief crisis of conscience on how I could stay in such a place in AFrica, but decided just to enjoy the experience.
Days 7-8 Off to Serengeti. We stayed at a mobile camp in Seronera. We entered through the southern gate which was still so dry. The rains hadn't come yet. In Seronera we saw some amazing sites. We watched a lioness hunt twice and miss, then finally kill a young zebra which had become separated from its mother. We watched a leopard drop out of a tree to try a quick opportune kill of a warthog passing by, but there were several which fought back and the leopard went right back up the tree after the fuss.
From there, we were supposed to go back to Kusini (which didn't make much sense since we had already entered from the south gate at Naabi (sp?), this was the only part of the itinerary which was strange),but it was so dry and we heard there was nothing at Kusini yet, that ADS was very accommodating at changing our schedule.
-So, we then went on to Stonetown a little early, and had one night each at Zanzibar Serena and Emerson and Green. We liked the Serena more. Thought Emerson and Green was a sweatbox and overrated.
- Lastly, we went to Mnemba Island which was a little bit of heaven. Sacked out and did nothing for three glorious days.
Our guide during the safari was sensational. He's been at it for almost 20 years, full of experience and knowledge. There wasn't an animal or bird he didn't know about. He knew the best places and habitats to look. I can see how a guide makes all the difference.
We're already back in our routine, but changed forever. I get now the "magic of Africa" that people speak of. The skies, the people, the wildlife, the music, etc. Seeing the challenges the people and wildlife face leaves us wondering how we can do more.
I definitely learned a lot during the planning process and the trip and hopefully can now help future first-timers!
Anyway, thank you again for all of your help in the planning process and a great holiday to everyone!

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