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Trip Report - Kenya/Tanzania 9/2 - 9/23

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My wife and I returned from our East Africe trip on September 23rd. This is a bit tardy, but here goes...

Quick hits (questions I had before leaving that are no answered):

1.) Safari clothes - we looked either great or out of place as we were the only ones that missed the memo that blue shorts and t-shirts were allowed in the Serengeti (actually our driver wore this and was a tse tse fly magnet). Fellow tourists wore anything and everything and did just fine. Dirt was a problem in some areas, but in general clothing choise doesn't matter as you are inside the vehicle all day. Purchasing khaki clothing for the trip is not necessary (as we know now).

2.) Leopardmania - we saw 10 leopards in 12 days in all capacities. Although we were told that we were extremely lucky, everyone else seem to spot them without a problem. Cheetahs seemed to be our phantom menace (5 total).

3.) Food - the food was great everywhere we stayed, but grew tiresome. How many buffets can one person take? The last day we had our driver take us to Arusha to a local joint for wonderful ugali and greens. We ate anything that wasn't bolted down and had no GI problems. I would still recommend bringing Cipro 500mg.

4.) Mosquitos overrated - I brought 5 tubes of Ultrathon 30% deet and used 1/4 of one tube. I stopped applying after day 3 and had two small bites. Rather disappointing...

5.) Tse-tse flies a nuisance - only saw these in the Serenegeti but they do bite. It wasn't any different than a horsefly, but they are persistant. Oh, and Ultrathon doesn't work on these.

6.) Spiders/Snakes - saw one spider in our room (at Migration camp of all places- poor bastard ate a can of Raid) and one snake - a baby Black Mamba while on a night gamedrive in Sweetwaters. Overall, Africa seemed no different than California in this category.

7.) Roads - Tanzania wasn't bad but Kenya sucked. The roads to Lake Nakuru from Nairobi and the road from Isiolo to Samburu were horrible. The road to the Kenya/Tanzania border (Isebania) from the Mara was even worse. However, this was part of the experience - we finally realized we were not in the Western World while driving these roads. It was actually a great experience (for the first 4 or 5 hours).

8.) Electric adapters - every hotel uses the 220v Great Britain plugs. Bring a simple US to GB adapter without a converter (all camera chargers have built in voltage converters).

9.) Camera - I gave in and bought a Rebel Digital XT 8meg camera with a 300 zoom image stabilizer. I quickly realized it was absolutely necessary for the trip. Although I am a total photo novice (as may be evident with the pics), I shot some photos that would have been impossible without a zoom lens. I felt very bad for the many tourists using a 3x zoom lens on a leopard in a tree 50 feet away. Spend the extra two grand - it is worth it.

9.) Gift shops - try to avoid these if you hate to barter (as we do and did). Perhaps the most uncomfortable part of our trip, we were continually taken by these bartering pros. I ended up purchasing an ebony lioness for $100 that was $10 in the hotel gift shop. After accepting the hit to my ego, I realized that this money is relatively nominal for us compared to the gentleman that received it. It did become uncomfortable after the 6th or 7th stop and as we quickly ran out of money.

10.) Tipping level - absolutely unexpected. We brought one-hundred $1 bills and ran out on the last day. We perceived that tipping was expected at every opportunity (bags from room to check out, then from check-out to vehicle, at every meal, etc.). We generally tipped $1 per bag, $1 at every meal, and $1 at the bar. However, we did observe that most Europeans did not tip with the same fervor that we did.

11.) Money - U.S. dollars are gold.

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