Agent, Outfitter: NOMAD TANZANIA
Guide: FELIX MOLLEL
Been Before? NO
Nairobi – Holiday Inn
Near Ngorongoro - Plantation Lodge
Serengeti/Ndutu - Serengeti Safari Camp
Loliondo - Loliondo Camp
Arusha - Rivertrees
Let the trip reports begin! We are back in Toronto after 2 months in Africa - what wonderful adventures we had! Thanks as always to everyone who answered my endless questions.
I'm going to break the trip reports into sections for ease - this covers our arrival in Nairobi and safaris in Tanzania. I'll do Rwanda, South Africa and Namibia/Botswana/Vic Falls separately.
As we have been keeping a blog I'll try to keep this trip report more about the planning and execution of the trip (for newbies as I was) and insert links to appropriate blog sections for the actual trip report. Note the use of the word "try".
By way of background, we leave Toronto for the winter - going away for 8-12 weeks (depending upon the destination). We had planned to visit Africa in Jan/Feb 2009 (and I had done a lot of preplanning at that time), but then we watched our savings sink and decided it was better to pull the covers over our heads and stay home. Last summer, after we screwed up the courage to open our financial statements, we decided that life is too short and we had to get back on the horse, so to speak!
From the planning work I had done we knew that Africa was quite expensive so we decided we would go if we could fly on points. With barely 6 months before departure I wasn't very optimistic. I spent hours on the phone with Delta and much to our surprise we were able to book the following itinerary in Biz Class for 120,000 points each:
• Toronto to Nairobi (via Paris and Cairo - a bit clumsy)
• Nairobi to Jo'Berg
• Jo'Berg to Toronto (via Amsterdam)
At the time I booked I knew we would visit Tanzania and South Africa so basically set those arrival and departure points (Nairobi was the closest I could get to Tanzania with flight availability). We would book and pay for our intra-Africa air as our itinerary evolved.
Once that was laid in I started to research/plan the Tanzania portion. As mentioned, I had a rough itinerary from our earlier plans so revisited it. The usual highlights - the Crater, Ndutu area, etc over 10 days with a private guide/driver.
My main concern was the guide. 10 days is a long time to spend - in a truck - with another person. We have had wonderful experiences in our travels with the guides we have met (usually via Fodors) and knew how much the guide relationship adds to our trip. In the case of South America, Egypt and Cambodia we worked directly with guides to book our hotels and transportation as well. I couldn't identify a similar circumstance for the Tanzania portion (i.e. an independent guide who also books travel) so set out to find the best outfitter for our purposes.
I read a number of good reviews of Nomad Tanzania - particularly regarding their guides. Working with a local agent (Nomad doesn't deal direct) we worked out the following itinerary:
• 1 night in Nairobi at the Holiday Inn (booked using points)
• 4 nights at the Plantation Lodge - day trips to Lake Manyara, Crater and local sights
• 3 nights at Nomad's Serengeti Safari Camp - a semi mobile camp near Ndutu
• 2 nights at Nomad's Loliondo Camp - northeast of Ndutu, outside the park to permit bush walks and a night drive
• 1 night at Rivertrees in Arusha
We were able to take advantage of Nomad's 5 nights for the price of 4 offer which helped (hah!). (More details about our Nomad guide and itinerary later)
Once we were booked we turned our attention to cameras/binoculars, clothes, reading/guide books, etc.
• we bought a new Sony DSLR camera and Richard took 16 hours of lessons - he loves our Sony Cybershot (which I inherited) but wanted the flexibility of different lenses for this trip. He is very happy he took the 2 DSLR courses (basic/advanced)
• I went back and forth as whether to buy a small video camera like the Flip Video - we have video capability on our Sony Cybershot so in the end I decided we were carrying enough electronics and didn't need another one. I regret that - the Flip video is so small and so easy to use and would have been a great addition to our cameras - but we did still get some great videos on the Cybershot
• One absolutely fantastic suggestion here was for a Canon Backpack for cameras - Richard loved it - it easily took both cameras, lenses, binoculars and all the assorted cables/etc
• I debated whether to buy an additional pair of binoculars (we have a decent pair of Bushnells but they're big) and hemmed and hawed between the Canon Image Stabilization glasses or the Nikon Monarchs - in the end I bought the latter and LOVED them. I can't imagine going without your own pair of binoculars and this pair was perfect for me - lightweight with sharp images. I also bought a wide neoprene neck strap that made the glasses even more comfortable - link to binoculars here
• There is no better place to start for a packing list than LyndaS's (although we skipped the coffee and stapler!) - it is invaluable
• We were particularly challenged for packing due to our 2 month trip duration and need for safari clothes and regular clothes (for the SA portion). Flying in and out of Nairobi actually turned into a blessing because we could break down our safari clothes (into separate soft bags we had packed) and check our main luggage at the Holiday Inn. It was still a challenge to keep to the 15kg limit (checked and hand baggage) although no one ever really paid any attention to the weight of our luggage
• we pretty much kept to safari coloured clothes - and living in Toronto (the home of Tilley) we had the requisite hats/etc. But I am 6 feet tall and have enough trouble getting clothes (especially pants) without the added burden of colour/cotton/cost (the 3 C's I guess!) One day I was bemoaning this to my (equally tall) goddaughter who is pre med. She said "Aunt Liz - buy a surgical scrub suit - they're cotton, khaki coloured and cheap - $25". In fact she gave me a pair (set?) for Xmas and it was great - although people did assume I was a doctor!
• Books - we did a lot of reading and took several guides books with us - enjoyed the Peter Allison books (he was a guide in SA and Botswana) - "Whatever You Do, Don't Run", "Don't Look Behind You"; really enjoyed "Cry of the Kalahari" by Delia and Mark Owens. Re animals we bought "The Kingdon Pocket Guide to African Mammals", "Newmans Birds Of Southern Africa"and "Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching African Animals" - took the first two with us
More to follow......
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Agent, Outfitter: NOMAD TANZANIA