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Trip Report - Kenya & Tanzania - Jan 26 - Feb 14, 2006

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We just arrived back from our Eastern Africa trip late Tuesday evening. It was our first Safari and all I can say is wow - what a trip! We had an amazing time and have already started planning our next safari. We saw some amazing game, stayed at some beautiful tented lodges, ate some great food but best of all we met some incredible people along the way. We booked with Tanzania Serengeti Adventure (TSA) and the trip was absolutely seamless.

We would like to thank those of you who took the time to answer our questions, and give us advice while we were in the planning stages of our safari. It is our turn to repay your kindness with our trip report.

Our itinerary and accommodations were as follows:

January 27 – Feb 12, 2006

Kenya
Day 1 and 2) Arrive Nairobi Kenya overnight Norfolk Hotel
Day 3) Fly to Samburu overnight Samburu Intrepid
Day 4) Full day Samburu overnight Samburu Intrepid
Day 5) Fly to Nairobi, and drive to Amboseli National Park overnight Tortilis Tented Camp http://www.chelipeacock.com/camps/tortilis.htm
Day 6) Full day Amboseli overnight Tortilis Tented Camp
Day 7) Drive from Amboseli to Namanga for transfer into Tanzania.

Tanzania

Day 7 Continued) Drive to Arusha and stay at the Mt. Village Lodge overnight.
Day 8) Drive to Tarangire Park, overnight Swala Camp
Day 9) Depart for the Ngorongoro Crater, overnight Ngorongoro Crater Lodge http://www.ccafrica.com/reserve-1-id-2-12
Day 10) Full day Crater floor overnight Ngorongoro Crater Lodge
Day 11) Depart Ngorongoro for Ndutu overnight Ndutu Safari Lodge
Day 12) Full day Ndutu, overnight Ndutu Safari Lodge http://www.ndutu.com
Day 13) Full day Ndutu, overnight Ndutu Safari Lodge
Day 14) Fly from Sereona Airport to Dar Es Salaam and drive to Ras Kutani Beach Resort http://www.selous.com/coverpage.htm
Day 15) Overnight Ras Kutani
Day 16) Overnight Ras Kutani
Day 17) Drive from Ras Kutani to Dar es Saalam transfer to airport for out bound flight to Nairobi.


Planes, trains and automobiles
January 25-January 26th

We departed Calgary at 8:00 pm on Wednesday January 25th via Air Canada. We flew business class on aeroplan points and were treated to exceptional service for the nine hour flight to London. One of the great things about flying business class is being comfortable enough to get some sleep which makes the travel a little less wearing. We arrived at Heathrow airport in London and after getting fast tracked through customs (another bonus of flying business class) we grabbed our luggage and hopped onto the "Heathrow Express" subway for a short four minute train ride to terminal four where we checked into the Heathrow Hilton for the night.

The room at the Hilton reminded me of a cruise ship room, small and compact. We were fortunate to receive an upgrade to the executive level which included access to the business lounge. The lounge was a great place to have a snack and utilize the internet. We also accessed the web to check-in for our next flight to Nairobi on British Airways. We had an early night due to our jet lag and the fact that we had to be up for our morning flight to Nairobi.

The flight to Nairobi on British Airways was excellent. We flew economy, however the plane was almost empty which gave us a row of four seats to stretch out in. We were served two meals during the flight and we thought the service was great.

We arrived in Nairobi at 9:30 PM and it only took about 15 minutes to go through customs. We already had our entry Visas but we noticed that the line for passengers requiring Visas was moving just as fast as our line – so I would not hesitate to get my Visa upon arrival next time. We went through customs (a simple and painless process) we grabbed our luggage and we were out of the terminal in less than 45 minutes. A driver was waiting for us and soon we were off to The Norfolk Hotel for the next two nights.

When we drove up to the Norfolk Hotel we could not help but notice the historical feel to the place. The hotel was first opened in 1904 and it had a real colonial feel to it. Our room was a good size and faced onto a garden courtyard. The room had all amenities including a hairdryer and seemed a perfect start to our adventure.


NAIROBI – Day 1 & 2
January 27-28

We set our alarm to wake up about 7:00 AM, but due to jet lag and the change in time (a full ten hours difference) we were up very, very early. Fortunately, the Norfolk Hotel serves an early breakfast which is included in the rate. We were pleasantly surprised with the quantity and quality of the selection. Freshly squeezed juices, carrot, mango, orange, and passion fruit were available as well as fresh fruit and cereals, granola and breads. A hot buffet was also available and included pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausages (chicken and pork), French toast, bacon and fried potatoes. To top it off a chef was cooking omelets to order! It was a wonderful breakfast and we ate and ate and ate.

We decided that the best way to see Nairobi given that we only had one day, was to inquire about renting a car and driver for a few hours. The front desk was very helpful and soon we had booked a car for four hours for $5000 Ksh which is a little more than $US80.

Our first stop was at the Kenya Wildlife Animal Orphanage where we had an opportunity to visit animals that were rescued. Most of the animals were found abandoned as babies and were reared to full adulthood at the orphanage. Because these animals were raised by humans most could not survive in the wild and lived full and happy lives at the orphanage. Lions, Cheetahs, a variety of monkeys and even a crocodile and an Ostrich live in harmony at the sanctuary. The highlight was having the opportunity to have a close encounter with a Cheetah. At first I was terrified but the guide assured me that it would be safe to enter into the cage of the resident three Cheetahs at the Orphanage. Of course, I made my husband go in first and test the waters - but it turned out that the Cheetahs were indeed very friendly. In fact as I was scratching one under the chin it actually began to purr! It was a great time.

Our next stop was the Giraffe Center located in Langata and is the creation of the Kenyan Conservation Organization. The purpose of the Giraffe Center is to educate visitors both local and international by giving them the opportunity to come into close contact by feeding the world’s tallest species. It was a great experience. We spent our time with Daisy the Giraffe who happened to be expecting a baby in the near future. We learned that there are eight species of Giraffes and you can actually tell them apart by the patterns on their skin. It was very educational and we really enjoyed the experience. For more info see their website at: www.giraffecentre.org

Our final stop for the day was a craft centre operated by non-profit collective. UTAMANDUNI is located on Langata Road and consists of about 18 little craft shops in a converted mansion. Crafts included woodcarvings, antiques, jewellery, toys, leather crafts and other handcrafted items. There was also a wonderful garden restaurant that looked and smelled exquisite. For further information see their website at: www.utamadunicrafts.com

We finished off our first day in Nairobi with a light dinner and bed early. We were being picked up at 6:45 AM for the flight to Samburu and we were excited to experience our first tented camp and game drive!

SAMBURU – Day 3 & 4
January 29 – 30
Is it considered good luck when a monkey poops on you?

We arrived in Samburu via Air Kenya at 9:00 am. While flying over Samburu we could not help but notice how grey and dry the landscape was. We landed on a tiny little air strip in the middle of no where. Our flight was a little early so the vehicle from the lodge had not yet arrived, but we were picked up a few minutes later and we were driven to the Samburu Intrepid Lodge. On our way to the lodge we noticed that the Samburu landscape is very rugged and has an arid semi-desert feel to it. We arrived at Samburu Intrepid Tented Camp and were greeted with a fruit juice and cold towel. Our first impression of the lodge was that it felt rustic yet cozy and very comfortable. We were placed in tent #9 and it was on a raised platform with ensuite bathroom, and hot and cold running water and a shower. The tent was very comfortable. We had a view of the Uaso Nyiro River which was unfortunately, dry and completely void of any water. The staff told us that this is the first time in about five years that the river had completely dried up. Local people were volunteering to dig down to the water table to assist the animals with their search for water. We could just imagine how spectacular this area must be when the river is flowing and the wildlife utilizes it for their water source.

We were assigned a driver (Solomon) and a guide (Steven) from the lodge and we went on our first game drive at 4:00 PM. I’ll never forget the feeling of seeing my first elephant quietly gazing on a bush – just going about his business. There is nothing like observing these gentle giants as they live their lives in the wild. I admit that it was emotional and I could not speak for a few minutes. We saw a variety of animals such as giraffe, zebras, water buck, dik diks (who became one of my favorite of the trip) and Gerenuk also known as 'giraffe necked Antelope' who have very long necks and also can stand on their hind legs in order to feed from tall trees. The highlight was a lioness nursing her three cubs sitting beside a fresh zebra kill. We were also very impressed but the number of beautiful birds we saw as well.

Our first evening at Intrepid Camp was excellent. The lounge area was the main gathering place for the guests before dinner. The food at Samburu was very good and we had steak with lost of fresh vegetables, salad and for desert chocolate cake with bananas. We were accompanied back to our tent by security personnel and had an early night.

The following morning we were greeted with a tray of hot chocolate, coffee and cookies. We were warned to bring our tray into the tent right away or else it would be the monkeys that would enjoy the freshly baked cookies rather than us. Our morning game drive began at 7:00 am and we saw a lot of animals such as elephants, more zebra, lots and lots of dik diks, impalas, and many others. Being our first game drives we were a little ‘shell shocked’ by it all and had a hard time recalling all the animals that we saw. We were back at the lodge by 9:00 am for breakfast.

In the afternoon we went on a two hour nature walk. We were accompanied by our guide, Steven, and an armed guard (just in case of any trouble) but luckily there was none. About one hour into the walk our guide suggested that we take a rest under a large shaded tree on the bank of the river. All of a sudden I felt a large plop on my shoulder, and as I looked down I realized that we were not welcome under this tree, when one of the resident monkeys demonstrated his unhappiness by pooping on me. You can imagine my shock but I think that the guide was more shocked than I was! Luckily I had some handiwipes on me and I was cleaned up in no time. We all had a good laugh – even the armed guard had a good chuckle. I mentioned that it must be a lucky omen to have a monkey poop on you. For the next few days every time we saw something special we would remind ourselves that it was the luck of the pooping monkey!

Our final afternoon game drive was spent in the neighboring park called Buffalo Springs Park. It was amazing how different the terrain was here, rockier with larger plains – lots of volcanic rock as well. We saw for the first time an Oryx and we had our first leopard sighting as well. The leopard was sitting under the shade of tree however there were many other vehicles around but he didn’t really seem to mind. He was very beautiful and we enjoyed watching him for quite a while.

We really enjoyed our time at Samburu and the lodge was very comfortable and the staff exceptional and friendly. We would not hesitate to return to Samburu and hope that that the region will see some rain very soon. We bid goodbye to our guide Steven and driver Solomon and left on a flight to Nairobi.


Next Installment: Amboseli or “Hey there’s a monkey in my bed….no, it’s just an elephant”. And Arusha – “Don’t leave home without it…your PIN number that i

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