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TRIP REPORT - Kenya/Tanzania July 25-Aug 13, 2006 (Including travel through Heathrow with travel restrictions)

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Hello All-
We have returned from our 16 days in Kenya and Tanzania, including living through the heightened security at Heathrow and traveling all the way from Nairobi to US with only a plastic bag of travel documents as we hit the height of security and could not take even a book or eyeglass case. It can be done and all gifts, camera equipment, etc. etc arrived home with us completely intact.
I figure if I start this thread and at least a first post it will embarrass me into getting the actual trip report completed. (Un)fortunately :) our trip was relatively mundane compared to the likes of Imelda and others. We did not disembark in the wrong city, get bit my tse tse flies, or have any other frightening or near death experiences, except for a dicey boat ride across Lake Naivasha to Crescent Island.
We did see a wildebeest river crossing in the Mara, a botched lion hunt where the wildies actually chased off two young males followed by the same pride of lions attacking a mongoose until Mom decided to take down a wildie single-handedly, giraffe babies, 5 separate leopards at close range, rhino, cheetah at rest and cheetah cubs, and lots of other wonderful animals and birds that I will document as part of the report. We also visited five schools and a Samburu village at Sarara and delivered soccer balls and pumps to all which gave my son and daughter a great experience as they went into the classrooms and talked and played with the kids.
In terms of accomodations, the tented camps at Sarara, Governor's Il Moran, Larsen's and Swala were unbelievable, one better than the next. We loved Lloldia House on the shores of Lake Naivasha where we were able to horseback ride among herds of impala and gazelle and we luxuriated in the decadence that is the Crater Lodge.
I won't say that the Ark was "disappointing" because we knew what to expect, but the rooms were really pretty shabby and the place was freezing -- temperature inside and out a lovely 55F. The only truly disappointing accomodation was at Kifaru between Karatu and the Crater, but more later on the details.
For those first time travels struggling with packing and tipping and how much cash to take, or traveling with kids I have these few words:
Packing:
We each had a wide mouth duffle bag with side pockets from Timbuktu that fit as carry on and a pack back and we were overpacked (and that includes each of us carrying 4-5 deflated soccer balls in the duffle along with our clothes). I didn't even wear all my shirts and could have packed less. I will say that winter in Africa (July and August) was much cooler than I expected and I could have used one or two thin light sweaters to have for dressing at dinner. There were many days when our zip off pants did not get zipped off and we were thankful for the hot water bottles in our beds at night.
I brought an extra empty nylon bag for gifts and that was perfect. I also loved my travel clothesline, my maglite flashlight (husband liked his headlamp even better), my Keen Newport shoes,my endless supply of small zip loc bags and my travel packets of baby wipes. One bottle of purell was more than enough (even a tiny bottle would have done).
Tipping:
Having never traveled with a guide and driver or stayed in tented camps and lodges with "butlers," I too was somewhat skeptical/confused by the general tipping guidelines that I saw everywhere that would have us averaging for a family of 4 about $40 per day for our driver and a littleless for the staff when we had already invested so heavily in the trip. After one day of driving from Nakuru to Naivasha in Kenya, it became clear that the drivers earn every penny of the tip that you give them. This is hard, hard work and if they are good, in addition to changing tires, driving over raods that are numbing, they are spotting animals and birds and showing endless patience. I am true convert on the tipping of drivers. Similarly, these lodges have a lot of staff and where the staff is very good, the tipping ranges are accurate, although I still feel a little high compared to the value that the drivers provide.

Money:
Bring more than you think you need. We decided to buy some tinga tinga paintings at a gallery only to learn after all of the selection and negotiations that they could not take our VISA. That one unexpected cash transaction had us searching for an ATM in Arusha (we found a Barclays where our Citibank card worked fine) and an ATM in Karatu (the Wells Fargo card worked but the Citibank did not, go figure). You cannot add staff tip to your lodging bill (it just doesn't work that way) and it really is hard to bargain at the curios if you are going to use a credit card, so bring extra cash.

Kids:
We traveled with our 13 y.o. son and 11 y.o. daughter. They are well traveled and brought plenty of books to read, each had their own binoculars (KEY!) and ipods, although we did not allow them to bring ipods on the game drives. They shared a room or a tent and were completely fine at each place we stayed, even when there were lions roaring at Swala, and hippos and hyenas roaming at Governor's. My daughter did not like the school children touching her hair at first, but she got used to it. They did not like the bargaining at the curio places and so they chose to stay in the 4x4. A friend that had traveled with his children two years ago had an invaluable tip for me -- do NOT force them to go on every game drive because "we paid a lot of money for this trip!" Sometimes, they just need to sleep in or just chill. My daughter missed the wildie crossing at the Mara because she slept through the morning game drive . . she got over it in a few minutes and would have been awful to have in the car if we had forced her to wake up. The staff knew she was sleeping in and they kept watch on her tent until we returned and I never had any concern about leaving her alone. My husband and I enjoyed a great early game drive in the Crater (we were the second car down) alone because we told both kids they just needed a morning to re-charge and they listened.

All that, and I haven't even cracked my journal to actually start the trip report. As to pictures, we are old fashioned and use film, so that will be a little while.

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    PLANNING:
    We have close friends that previously traveled to East Africa with other families using Hoopoe Safaris. Although I did contact and received helpful information from CC Africa, ATR and Go2Africa, there really wasn't much doubt that we were going to use Hoopoe and that we were going to go with a private guide. The primary reasons for this decision were the desire to maximize the educational experience of the trip for the entire family by going with an experienced guide who would be knowledgable not only of the flora and fauna but of the culture, history and political climate as well. The second reason was safety and security, we wanted to be with a Company and a guide that would be able to deal with any emergency situation that may arise. As it turned out, we did not have any issues, but another group that arrived at the Crater when we were there had been held up at knife and gun point on the road between Lake Manyara and Kiririmu and lost everything of value on day 2 of their trip. Their guide and driver (also Hoopoe) were able to file a police report and start processing insurance claims within hours and they proceeded with their plans to climb Kili.
    I have never used a travel agent in my life or traveled with a guide, so this was all a new experience. We worked together to create an itinerary that would include Kenya and Tanzania and that would include several different types of parks. The original itinerary had too many one night stops, so we worked to refine it to include as many two night stops as possible. I also kept coming back with questions about different accomodations as we wanted to include as many tented camps as possible. My final requirement was to stay at the Crater Lodge even though it meant a longer haul in and out of the Crater. As Patty and others witnessed and assisted, we went back and forth on starting in the lake district versus straight to Samburu or a detour to Tsavo, but eventually stuck with Lake Nakuru and Lake Naivasha and I am very glad that we did because it provided a very different landscape and more lush climate to start out the safari.
    In hindsight, after visiting Sarara, a 60,000 private conservation area with only ten tents, I would have tried to include at least one more conservation lodging (Kirirumu, but it was booked more than a year in advance)as it offered by far the most quiet and personal game drives and opportunity to interact with the local Samburu families.
    The decision to go with a private guide was, for us, a great decision. As we hoped, it added a depth to the experience that we simply could not have gotten just from going from lodging to lodging even with the most experienced drivers. More, as the report continues.
    As to time of year, we were limited by school vacations, so we opted not to try and go to the Serengeti as the migration would hopefully be in the Mara. This made getting FF flight to from Denver to London a little challenging, but ultimately, we were able to get four tickets on the days we wanted to travel. We decided to spend a few days in London to acclimate and because we love the city before catching an O/N flight on BA to Nairobi. On the way back we did it on one long slog -- O/N flight on BA from Nairobi to London with a 4 1/2 hour layover (and we would need every bit of it) before the United return flight to the US.
    Our final itinerary was:
    7/23 - Arrive London (Holiday Inn Mayfair)
    7/25 - O/N flight to Nairobi
    7/26 - Giraffe manor, lunch at Rusty Nail, visit two schools. Norfolk Hotel.
    7/27 - charter flight to Lake Nakuru, game drive in Nakuru. Drive on non-existent road to Naivasha. O/N Llodia House on the shore of Lake Naivasha.
    7/28 - O/N Llodia House
    7/29 - Full day drive through the Aberdares. O/N Ark. This is an unavoidable one night stop and as we discussed and discovered, there are no really good accomodations available on this side of the Aberdares. On reflection, this still wa a worthwhile day in the Aberdares. The alternative would be to fly to Samburu and spend an extra day at Larsen's or Sarara which would also have been very good options.
    7/30 - Travel to Larsen's Camp in the Samburu National Park with stops at the Equator and in Nanyuki to visit the Nanyuki weavers cooperative.
    7/31 - O/N Larsen's
    8/1 - If we though the road between Nakuru and Naivasha was bad, it is a paved highway compared to the road between Samburu and the conservation area in the shadow of Ol Lokolokwe. O/N Sarara
    8/2 - O/N Sarara
    8/3 - charter flight to Wilson. SafariLink to Arusha. O/N at Arusha Coffee Lodge.
    8/4 Lake Manyara and O/N at Kifaru, by far the worst accomodations of the trip. In hindsight, I would have pushed to get in and out of Arusha and pushed for two nights somewhere around Lake Manyara, either at Tree Lodge, Kirirumu or some other accomodation. We arrived at Arusha at 3 and easily could have driven 2 more hours to get to Manyara and we would have avoided two back to back one nighters. If I had know the distances and that the roads in Tanzania are so good, I would have pressed for this.
    8/5 Afternoon game drive and O/N Crater Lodge
    8/6 - O/N Crater Lodge
    8/7 - O/N Swala
    8/8 - O/N Swala
    8/9 - Drive to Arusha, Fly to Kili,Wilson, Mara and still arrive in time for a late afternoon game drive (and lion kill). O/N Il Moran at Governors
    8/10 - Il Moran
    8/11 - Il Moran
    8/12 - morning game drive and safarilink flight to Wilson. Walking tour of nairobi. Day room at the Norfolk and on our way home!

    NEXT UP -- PACKING and STARRINT THE TRIP

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    Amy, It all sounds fantastic. I leave at the end of August for Kenya and Tanzania. The money part was difficult to figure out. So you think just following the guidelines provided for tipping is fine. I am only taking a visa for a charge card. I hope that is ok.

    The part about the people getting held up is very scary.

    Looking forward to your report.

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    Amy:
    I am glad that you had a great trip.

    3 times I have started to post and 3 times I have deleted but IMO this requires more discussion:

    "but another group that arrived at the Crater when we were there had been held up at knife and gun point on the road between Lake Manyara and Kiririmu and lost everything of value on day 2 of their trip."

    Definitely not trying to be an alarmist--still more at risk in a car in the US, etc, etc . . .

    Still, have not heard of this before.

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    Hi Amy,

    Thanks so much for the informative report. Can't wait to see the finished product. I too still shoot with film, and, after thinking that I will be able to carry it on board with camera equip. for our Africa trip in Sept. I just got an email from a BA rep stating that I will have to check my camera gear.

    She's wrong I think (I hope) and will find out more soon, but I wonder what reassurance you were given about having to check your film. Everything I've researched suggests that film is destroyed by the hi powered scanners used for checked baggage--unlike the lower powered xrays that are used for carryons which should not damage lower ISO films.

    So, I will be anxious to see/hear how your pictures turned out--beyond my wish to experience your experiences vicariously. Thanks,

    Jim

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    Some quick answers -
    We flew United to London and BA from London to Nairobi and back. What was fine to carry on for United (our bags and backpacks) was not fine for BA, and this was before the whole security thing on the outbound portion of our trip. They looked at our duffles and even though they fit in the little boxy thing, they weighed them and because they were about 10-11 kg each told us we had to check them . . very odd, but we really did not argue. What was strange but consistent with what has been posted is the my husband's backpack that has a frame and had all his camera equipment definetely weighed more than 10kg, but because that was his carry on bag (and he had it slung over his shoulder so maybe it was a little hidden) it was not weighed and he could bring it on. As to the film and how it survived being in checked baggae all the way home do to all the security measures . .we will know in a few days. We had both color, B/W and some HD film.

    On the road bandits, it is definetely a reality and I was not trying to be alarmist at all. The story was told to us in front of our kids and they didn't even blink. It was on the road to Kiririmu tented camp from Lake Manyara Park. As I understand it, the bandits were actually waiting for a car that they knew was going to contain lots of cash as it was members of a local church group (not tourists). The 4x4 came along and interrupted the plot and so they got caught up in the robbery . . an added bonus for the robbers if you will. The driver remained calm as did the mother and two 18-20 ish kids. The Mom asked the robbers if she could have her passports back and they obliged! At one point it looked as if they were going to forget to take their cameras that were in back packs, but at the last minute one of the robbers remembered they were there and took the backpacks too. The driver was able to call ahead to the police station and two or three of the robbers were arrested withing 7-8 hours (of course, they were not able to recover any of the property).
    That is really all I know, so I am not sure if we can have any more "discussion" of the incident or the topic in general. I will say that we were concerned/aware of the possibility of road bandits on a particularly desolate stretch of a washed out road as we drove to Samburu and again as we drove to Sarara camp. Our driver and guide made it clear on both roads that bathroom breaks needed to be taken before we embarked as we would NOT be stopping on this road. We got the message loud and clear as we passed trucks transporting tanks and armed soldiers up to the Somali border.

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    "They looked at our duffles and even though they fit in the little boxy thing, they weighed them and because they were about 10-11 kg each told us we had to check them . . very odd, but we really did not argue."

    You're right, that's very odd since BA eliminated any weight restrictions on carry on baggage effective July 5th so as long as you were within size limitations, they should not have made you check them.

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    PACKING AND STARTING OUT

    I really won't spend too much time on packing as there as so many packing threads on this board and they are very good. As I stated, even though we packed very lightly, I still could have packed a few less t-shirts but also needed one more light sweater as the evenings were so cool. Basically, I had the following-
    2 pairs zip off pants (Mountain Hardwear)
    1 pr lighweight short (also Mountain Hardwear
    1 pr lightweight sweats for sleeping and sleep shirt.
    2 sports bras
    2 reg bras
    5 pr underwear
    2 button down 3/4 cotton shirts for dinner wear.
    4- t-shirts
    2 tank tops
    1 long sleeve polartec shirt with thumb holes (The kind you wear for skiing or running in cold weather). Should have had 2 of these.
    rain jacket in a stuff sack about the size of a soup can. Only used once, but it hardly took up any room.
    1 pr flip flops (Keens w/ toe cap)
    1 pr of lighwight wedge shoes (for dressing up my clothes for dinner).
    And I wore my Newport sandals on the plane and my fleece, along with a pair of capris and a three quarter T.
    I meant to take and forgot a cheap-o dollar pair of knit gloves for morning game drives and I missed those, along with a thin ski cap, hubbie had his and I was jealous.
    I also would have taken out a t-shirt and replaced it with a nice thin long sleeve sweater or even two.
    In terms of gear, each person was responsible for their own stuff in their back packs. I had the usual array of CIPRO, immodium (this got used), tylenol, band aids, tissue packs, toothpaste, toothbrush,shampoo and conditioner mini bottles, a few tide packets, my laundery line,mag lites, bug spray and sunscreen, purell and several packages of baby wipes along with lots of zip loc bags that could be used to hold used tissues and wipes if making emergency bush toilet stops. Books and binoculars -- Nikon 7x35, about $50 each pair -- ipod, and a small journal notebook and some extra pens.
    My husband had our Bose travel speakers for the ipod which also serves as a charger. It was nice to be able to put on some classical music as we read in the afternoons. He was also in charge of all the prescription meds -- malarone, and ambien and CIPRO and zithro for the kids.
    We brought and did not need travel towels.

    On game drives, I would have my binoculars and the following only in my back pack: Sunscreen, bug spray, purell, baby wipes and a few plastic bags. Kids had their binocluars only. We are mean parents and did not allow ipods on game drives. Hubby had the big pack with all his camera gear . .I can't even tell you what he had but it was pretty basic. The cars were always equipped with drinks but I don't know if that is true in all cases.

    STARTING THE TRIP

    Flights to London were uneventful and we took the Tube from Heathrow right to the Green Park station, only two blocks from the Holiday Inn Mayfair -- one of the few hotels in London that actually has rooms with two double beds and can fit a family of four .. comfortably. We have stayed in Mayfair before in a rented flat so we knew our way around. It was nice to have two days in London to hang out before our night flight to Nairobi. We again took the tube, but had to transfer to e shuttle bus as the Terminal 4 stop is not open. Again, no big deal, even with the bags.
    Check in was fine and we did not mind that they checked our duffles until they were the last ones off the carousel in Nairobi and at this point we were so anxious to get going! J and our driver James were waiting for us with cold drinks and the LandCruiser and we were off to check in at the Norfolk . .

    Next up, Nairobi, Nakuru and Naivasha.


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    Amy
    Enjoyed your posting - especially interested in Larsons Samburu - I have just booked to go there with our Son his wife and our two teenage grandchildren!

    Any further info re Larsons would be very much appreciated.
    Thanks

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    Hi Amy,
    I haven't actually gotten 'round to reading your report (except for the very first bit) but I wanted to say WELCOME BACK AMY!!! I am really glad to hear that your trip was uneventful and you didn't 'pull an Imelda' as someone described our experience! And FIVE leopards AT CLOSE RANGE, I'll say it now - I'm envious!! Please tell where you saw them?? I won't ask any more questions yet as I don't want to spoil your report but I'm itching to know about the leopards.

    Hopefully I will catch up with your report soon. I'll have to 'do a Lynda' on it and print it out although I'd better not try to read it on the way to work or the guy in the next lane might get a fright :D

    Imelda

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    bix 6 - we absolutely loved Larsen's Camp . . the setting by the river, the tents were beautiful, food was probably the best of the trip.

    Leopards were spotted in the Aberdares (crossing the road and staring at us)Samburu (crossing a road and in the classic leopard on a tree branch), Sarara (two different night drives). I'm missing one, but don't have my notes.

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    Amy:
    I did not think that you were being an alarmist and all that I meant re more discussion was more details to put it into context--get a sense of how anomolous it was, etc and see if other posters knew about other incidents.

    I had never heard of any such incidents in TZ on the safari routes.

    Thanks for the extra information.

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    NAIROBI

    We dropped our bags at the Norfolk and headed out of Nairobi to Giraffe Manor. A good way to start the trip for the kids with up close encounters with the Rothschild Giraffes that will eat out of your hand. We spent some time there and then asked J if there was anywhere that we could go for a walk . .we needed exercise! Luckily, across the road there is a nature area and we are able to go for a walkabout for 1/2 hour where we can get a close look at some of the old men giraffes and get our first glimpse at what a serious birder J is. Immediately, it is infectious, and by the end of our trip, we are all calling out when we see lilac breasted rollers, superb starlings, maribou stork and other of the more popular African birds. We have lunch at the Rusty Nail in Karen, a very delightful spot with excellent curry and a wonderful cheese plate of Kenyan cheeses, and, of course, our first Tuskers of the trip.

    We then made our way to visit our first secondary and primary schools to bring our soccer balls and pumps (and whisteles for the teachers) to the kids.
    We toured both schools and talked to the principals. They are proud of their facilities and have plans for expansion. The primary school has a room for its library, but no books yet. The primary school has over 500 students and about 15 teachers. If they want more teachers, the community has to the raise the funds to pay for extra teachers. The students are all in uniform and classes are taught in English in the secondary schools and Swahili in the primary schools although they also have an English class. The primary school is mandatory and supported by the governement so attrition is not too bad -- most of the tribes and farming community want their kids to go to school. Secondary is mostly private and there is a much higher attrition rate, about 50% between Form 1 and Form 4. It is more typical for families to choose which of their childern are going to go to secondary school and then to go the village elders or work to get the necessary tuition funds.
    Both schools are neat and organized and the secondary school has a computer lab even though the bathrooms are pit toilets (outhouses) with no running water. This is Africa, a series of constant juxtapositions and seeming incongruities that somehow work.
    The students are thrilled with the soccer balls and immediatley ask our kids to join them on the pitch. The girls all touch my daughter's long brown hair. At first, she is uncomfortable but over time comes to accept this little ritual. At the primary school, the principal asks the students to sing to us and they sing beautifully, in English, a Christian spiritual, as almost all of the schools have some church affiliation. It is a really great introduction to the people of Africa.
    We return to Nairobi winding past the the endless slums that surround the city and that were featured in the movie the Constant Gardner. They are rampant with malaria and AIDS. I can't help thinking that these families have left their bomas of cow dung for this . . and it is so much worse. A quite night at the Norfolk and off to bed, our first day in Africa complete.

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    Amy,
    Can't wait to hear about Sarara...we are meeting up with friends in September who will already have been in Kenya for a week before us, and one of the places they are staying at is Sarara. Hope you liked it there!

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    NAKURU AND NAIVASHA (LLODIA HOUSE)

    A relatively leisurely start as we head to Wilson for our charter flight to Lake Nakuru. Given the state of the road between Nakuru and Naivasha that comes later, I am very glad we opted for the charter flight. In an hour (as opposed to 4), we are seein cape buffalo and giraffe on the fringe of the airstrip. They have sent a Land Rover and driver, Sammy, down from Llodia House, with a cooler full of drinks and a picnic lunch and we are off for our first game drive in Africa through Lake Nakuru National Park. It is a perfect place to start the trip as the animals are abundant, easy to track, and it gives the kids a chance to get used to using their binoculars and practicing using their quiet voices when they see something exciting, like a mother and baby white rhino going for a stroll!
    J and Sammy (and soon the kids) are great trackers. Together, we find black and white rhino (Wow! That tree over there has a really wide trunk. That's not a tree trunk, it's a rhino . .good spot), impala, gazelle (grant's have pants and thompson's don't) vervet monkeys, baboons, herds of zebras, giraffes and, of course, tons of birds, not including the lake of flamingos and pelicans. It is relatively quiet in the park, very few other vehicles. We avoid the crowds and go for lunch at a more secluded picnic area -- Acacia, ask for it. Lunch is yummy chicken pasties, quiche, eggs, chocolate cake and thermoses of coffee and tea.

    We drive out of the park and start on the "highway" to Naivasha -- a horrificly pot holed filled road that is jarring from start to the 2 1/2 hour finish at Llodia House on the far shore of Lake Naivasha. I have already learned that the driver tip is key and should not be messed with in any way.

    Llodia was built by Italian POW's brough to Kenya by the British. Our room (#1) is quite large and sits in the front of the house with leaded glass windows facing the lawn and the Lake. There are also two separate cottages, but we did not check out those rooms. We tried to take a walk to stretch our legs at around 6pm but are told it would upset the cape buffalo that are on the property so instead we are "escorted" from a distance around the grounds by one of the staff members.

    We go out in two cars for a night game drive before dinner. We are back with Sammy! We see spring hare, and two hippo that have left the water to start their nightly feast of grass. After dinner, they will join us on the lawn and around our windows for most of the night.

    Dinner is a communal affair, with Peter the manager quite the story teller. We are joined by a Frecnh couple that live in Portugal and an Italian couple from Tuscany. Dinner is a multi-course affair and it is delicious. No weight loss on this trip. It is quite damp and chilly. Luckily, we have water bottles in our beds to ward of the chill and off we drift to sleep to the sounds of hippos chomping and a steady rain.

    7/28 - CRESCENT ISLAND

    We leave our son home in bed as he is not feeling well and the four of us join the French couple for a rough and cold crossing to Crescent Island where some of Out of Africa was filmed. Our guide, Moses, meets us and it is good to be able to walk. Most of the animals on the island were actually brought there for the filming of Out of Africa and to make the island an attractive location for film crews and are quite domesticated. Our daughter is impressed that parts of one of the TombRaider movies with Angelina Jolie were filmed on the island as well. I am impressed with the baby giraffes that still have their umbilical cords! Our first viewing of love birds and wildebeests, and, of course, zebra, gazelle, giraffe and polo horses.
    We walk for about 3 hours. The French coupple is continuing on to Hell's Gate and we cross the lake with our very able captain navigating some significant swells.

    After a rest, my daughter and I go for a two hour horseback ride on the Llodia grounds. We ride through hers of gazelle and antelope and up a hill overlooking the Lake. It is a wonderful ride. In the meantime, my husband tries to go running by himself but when he heads stright for an area where a cape buffalo is lurking in the bushes, he winds up with three staff members chasing after him (he had his ipod on and did not hear them warning him to turn around)until they catch up and pair him with a Kenyan marathon runner to join him on his run.

    The power goes out in the middle of the night, so this morning our wake up call is our coffee on a try and the staffer lighting all the candles in our room. It is quite romantic and beautiful . . a few extra minutes in bed can't hurt . .

    Next, the Aberdares and our first leopard.

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    I am doubly jealous!
    You saw hippos at Naivasha. When we got to the Naivash Sopa, the hippos were done for the day. And yes the road from Nakuru to Naivasha was... well you already said it.

    I can't wait to hear abou the leopard in Aberdares. I had started to think that was just a myth.

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    7/29 ABERDARES (The Ark)

    Luckily, work is not too busy today, so I am going to keep typing . .

    We wake up to a steady rain. James has rejoined us from Nairobi and will be with us as our driver until we leave for Tanzania. The kids are happy to see him again as he is quiet nice and has lots of stories to tell. It is a long and cold drive to the gates of the Aberdare National Park. At this point in time, we grow to love the unpaved dirt roads as they are smoother and far les rutted than the Kenyan "highways." Apparently, there is an election in November and it is likely that the government will miraculously work on and finish the Nairobi to Naivasha road in time for the elections to remind everyone of their good works.

    Inside the park, it reminds me of the type of Africa you would expect to see in the high jungle -- all misty, tundra ferns and shades and varieties of moss that I have not encountered. We stop and hike at two waterfalls, Kitaro (sp?) and Chando. We have lunch at the foot of the falls at Chando and take a little break to give the boys a chance to do some fly fishing. All morning, we have been following the signs of an elephant pride foraging through the forest . great gouges in the sides of the road as they search for salt and ripped up bamboo trees, we know we are close but we don't see them until we head over to the east side of the park. It has warmed up a bit on our descent to the Ark and we are all keenly looking for the ellies when we come around a turn and see a leopard just beginning to walk slowly (pole pole) across the road about 20 ft in front of us. He politely stops and turns toward us so we can take a few quick snaps . .and then disappears into the forest on the other side of the road. And there you have it, our first leopard of the trip!

    Now, as the climate warms and we descend further, the park comes alive with groups of warthogs, hyenas, groups of elephant moms and aunts and young, more gazelle and antelope, our first look at waterbuck and bushbuck, vervet monkeys and baboons and finally the blue monkeys. We had searched for colobus monkeys, but no luck.

    We arrive at the Ark. While the common areas are still nice, in particular the huge fireplace in the lower level and the viewing areas, the actual cabins are really run down and quite shabby. It is also very cold, both inside and out. You come for the salt lick and it does not dissapoint. We see a group of elephants very up close from the turret room that extends toward the edge of the salt lick and we watch the family interaction for a good while. Later, two males fight for territory with the younger male giving a nasty gash below the eye to the older male who skulks away in disappointment only to slowly return about twenty minutes later. It is also a birder's paradise here but my son is the one who has kept the animal and bird list and it is at home . . sorry!

    We enjoyed dinner and everyone settled in to wait for the night alarms to ring to alert us to new game at the salt lick. Alas, it has begun to rain again and the salt like is completely shrouded in fog.There would be no alarms this night which gravely disappointed the children.

    As I said above, there are really no great alternative accomodations in this area, and the salt lick game viewing is quite unique, so there it is. A damp and chilly night spent at the Ark but we had seen our leopard.

    NEXT UP, SAMBURU and LARSEN'S CAMP

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    Patty- Our guide spent a long time chatting with the current manager at the Ark whose name escpaes me and I did not note it in my journal. Apparently, the rnews is that the Fairmont is going to close the Aberdare Country Club very shortly . .whether for a complete overhaul or permanently closure is still unclear. They also have changed their mind and do not have any current plans to renovate at the Ark. My guess is that given the scaricty of beds in this region and the unique appeal of the Ark, they really don't have to make any changes and can still fill the beds.

    OUT OF SEQUENCE NOTE - NAIVASHA

    I forgot to add that while we went riding at Llodia and H was being chased by Llodia staff, Peter took our son to visit another primary school, one that some of the staff's children,including Sammy our driver's son, attends. A large school of over 600 students, they appointed our son as the guest of honor for the day during closing ceremonies and he was sung to and spent a great deal of time playing with the boys and the girls.

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    7/30 - EQUATOR, NANYUKI, SAMBURU(LARSEN'S CAMP)

    We awake and it is still foggy, rainy and cold. We leave the Ark in a bus and head down to the ACC to meet James, get our boxed lunch and start our jounry to Larsen's Camp in the Samburu National Park. We are really looking forward to our first tentted camp experience. First stop is at the equator outside of Nanyuki. Along the way, we see lots of evidence of the growing flower farm industry both here and in and around Naivasha. Kenya is exported airplane loads full of fresh cut flowers to Amsterdam on a daily basis where they are routed to the rest of the world. There is some impact on the lakes and the roadways, but it is a good industry overall and creating many jobs.

    There is a collection of shops at the equaot crossing and I decide to roll up my sleeves for some bargaining. I slowly visit most of the shops and settle on the small ebony animal figures that I have decided will make perfect gifts. I wind up trading a few rubber bracelets I had brought just for the occassion and $15 for 10 ebony animals. Another $10 for five larger wood animals -- leopard, rhino.

    Next stop is the Nanyuki Weavers and Lynda has done a very nice job of describing this women's cooperative that was started by an American in the 1970's. It is a great story. The women have grown in number from 10 to 137 -- some are spinners of the "'ool" and some are weavers and the cooperative takes painstaking track of the amount of wool that is spun and how much is woven by each women. They use wooden spinning wheels and looms to spin and weave the 'ool and the dye process is all done with natural plant extracts. The farmers with the sheep have become less reliable as other larger companies want the wool, so the Nanyuki Weavers have purchased their own sheep and will keep the entire process on the church grounds where the cooperative is located. It was Sunday so not very much work was going on but it was a fascinating tour nonetheless and very effective . .although we had no plans (and no need) for a wall hanging, there we were deciding among several before we made our purchase.

    Sunday school was in session, and so there were plenty of children curious to look at us . .a perfect time for another impromptu soccer gift and game!

    We drove down through the valley to embark on 22 miles of the world's worst road -- it was something out of a Mad Max movie, particularly as we passed tanks and troops headed for Somalia. We crossed the "border" into Samburu and headed for the park gate. It made the Nakuru to Naivasha road look like iw was paved smooth.
    On the way to Lrsen's, we see our firt gerenuk . . such odd creatures as thye stand on thier hind legs to eat from shrubs. We also have our first encounter with the wildly striped Grevy's zebra and reticulated giraffe along with the requisite dik dik, Peter's subspecies of grant's gazelle and an abundance of thompson's.

    Larsen's Camp is beautiful, spectacular, everything you see in pictures about the tented camp experience, fill in your own superlatives. The tents are well spaced apart and all overlook the river that flows from the waterfalls we had seen only a day earleri in the Aberdares. We are welcomed by Florence, the camp manager, who also happens to be Peter's (the manager at Llodia) daugher. She hands us cold towels and cool watermelon juice and describes the camp, including warnings to close the tents tight as the resident vervets have figured out the zippers. The tents are large and spacious and handsomely appointed with desks and other wood furnishings. The bathrooms are large and also very nice although hot water is somewhat sporadic.

    We go out on an afternoon game drive and see our first ostrich, beautiful blue legged males and the "duller" females, as well as large groups of giraffe and elephant. As we drive along, I think I spot the curved tail of a leopard as we pass a cross road. We slowly back up and, sure enough, there is another leopard in the road headed into the brush but in our direction. We inch forward and are able to visually intersect him as he cuts a corner from one area to the next. We have a good opportunity to watch him until another car comes along and proceeds to radio to several others. Soon there is a hunt on to spot the leopard that by now has disappeared into the brush. Having spotted him first (and with just a little smugness) we leave the others to the chase. All that is left of the Big 5 is the lion and although james is intent over the next two days to find us one, it will have to wait until later in the trip as our group is long on leopards and short on lion until we get to the Crater.

    Dinner is delicious red snapper and others have steak. The next day, lunch is New Zeland spring lamb with a chutney sauce. The food at Larsen's is the best of the trip.

    We melt into our beds and think it can't get any better than this!

    Will finish the Larsen's report and move onto Sarara on Monday.

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    Amy:

    Sorry we failed to meet you in the Mara. We asked but they were not aware of any plan to get us together that Friday afternoon.

    Glad to hear you had a good time,

    Kevin from California

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    Maxygirl:

    We jus got back. I would change U.S. dollars into Kenya shillings as much as possible for you on arrival. Almost all places (villages, shops, people who receive tips) take dollars, but would prefer shillings, especially instead of small U.S. bills. Exchange rate is over 70 sounds like they only get 65-66 shillings per dollar when they cash in. Dollars really force them into a 10 percent discount. I really disliked doing to our guides, especially.

    Kevin

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    Well, I am just into the first few days of planning our first trip to East Africa next year. I really have no idea where to start to search all the necessary information, so I've saved all your updates so far as I am sure the masses of information will prove invaluable!

    It makes great reading and I'm looking forward to the next installment.

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    ODD's and END's

    Simba - We only went to the Ark because we spent a day crossing the Aberdares and had to sleep somewhere before heading on to Samburu. I would not make the Ark a destination in and of itself.

    Kevin- Sorry we missed you too. We actually had them call over to Governer's to extend a late lunch invitation for Friday . .we had a table set and everything. I was hoping that if you were too late for lunch, you would send back an alternate plan, but we never heard anything. Oh, well. Can't wait to hear about your trip. Hope you enjoyed Larsen's and the Mara as much as we did.

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    7/31 - SAMBURU (LARSEN's)
    We meet James and J for a 6:30 game drive. James is intent on finding some Samburu lions and although we see plenty of cat tracks, there are no cats. Instead, we discover a greater kudo, a hard to find antelope species, oryx, and a group of pygmy mongoose frolicking in a dead ant hill.

    We decide to go out again after brekfast for another game drive. This time, we spot a lioness sleeping under a tree near the road. She is beside a dead baby oryx, but the oryx has not been eaten. J tells us that there has been a story circulating about a deranged lioness that kills the adult Oryx and adopts the babies as her own. We now believe that the story may be true and that either the other lions killed this baby oryx but the lioness stepped in to protect it from being eaten or that she may have killed it but does not want to eat it. In any event it is a very strange and unusual sight.

    We also spend time watching a mother elephant and her 2 y.o. offspring at very close range -- the mother is destroying a little tree and the baby is doing her best to imitate mom but her trunk skills are not as developed as they need to be so it is a very humorous scene. We follow a group of 7-8 giraffe, including a very pregnat female that will probably give birth in the next day or so as she is very clearly dilated. We also see a very quick mating of Grevy's zebra and some courting ostriches. We spend lots of time searching, but no cheetah or lion.

    On a third game drive of the day (after a loong lunch and a rest in our tents), we cross over to Buffalo Springs in search for lions. No luck, of course, but it is the Hartmans, so we spot another leopard (#3) striking a perfect pose across a fallen log. He is easy to spot as he is surrounded by mini-vans and more are on the way as it is the end of the day and groups must rush in, get their pics and rush out before the gate into Samburu is closed.

    We absolutely loved Larsen's camp -- the camp itself is very spacious, the dining area and bar is very comfortable for sitting and having a drink or playing cards before dinner and the food and service are really beyond reproach. The location is simply stunning, with the tents along the river, we are steps away from elephants coming to water, crocodiles sunning themselves and at night, we hear hyena and other game. I had though that this would be the first place where the kids would ask to share a tent with an adult and was prepared to switch up the tents, but it did not happen here or anywhere else on the trip. They enjoyed the sense of adventure and independence and together they were a fine team . always remembering to zip their tent, bring their flashlight to dinner and reading and going for short walks during the afternoon rest times.

    Samburu is a beautiful park, very dry and desert like, it reminds us of the US Southwest - the painted deserts of Arizona. There is certainly plenty of elbow room, but this is our first park where there are large concentrations of vehicles around the animals, set circuits to drive with no off roading allowed and just a feeling of congestion. On the other hand, as J points out, all these cars and vehicles raise significant money for the parks and conservation efforts and it does improve your chances of viewing exciting happenings as it is almost assured that if there is a congregation of cars, they are not simply stopped to watch a herd of zebra or elephant but are most likely looking at a kill or feed or one of the cats. Still and all, we prefer being alone as much as we can even if that means the animals are more elusive to spot and observe. Our wish really comes true when we head tomorrow to Sarara, which for me, is my all around favorite place of the trip.

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    You should try to catch Heart of a Lioness if they replay it on Animal Planet. It's about the lioness that adopts baby oryxes in Samburu http://www.douglas-hamilton.com/films/lioness/index.htm

    Can you tell me a little more about the layout of Larsens? Any particular tent you'd recommend or do they all have good river views?

    We wanted to stay at Sarara this trip but the camp isn't re-opening for the season early enough for us. Still can't wait to hear about it.

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    Patty- had to call home to ask the kids the names of our tents. Hornbill and Weaver and our guide was in Flycathcer. Facing the river, we were in the tents to the left of the reception/dining area and I think these were quieter and closer to the river than the tents that were closer to the dining tent. All the tents are along the river.

    Thank you for the information about the Animal Planet show on the lioness and the oryx, I will look for it.

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    8/1 - NAMUNYAK CONSERVATION TRUST (SARARA)

    The drive from Larsen's Camp in Samburur National Parl to Sarara in the Namunyak COnservation area near the Mathews Mountains and Ol Lolokwe. It may have taken a bit longer than usual because we had to take the back road into the camp as the main road was washed out. Part of the way is also on the desolate "Mad Max - worst road in the world" and part is driving through pretty deserted stretch of road with only the ocassional camel herder and Samburu bomas here and there. Inside the conservation area, I have no idea what road James was following to get us to the camp because it seemed like just sand tracks that doublebacked on themselves repeatedly. We did see lots of dik dik, antelope, bushbuck, gazelles and gerenuks on the way into camp as we bounced around. I have taken the liberty of cutting and pasting a little from the website description of Sarara and the Conservation Trust HERE:

    The Namunyak Conservation area encompasses 75,000 acres and one tent camp - Sarara, with only 5 tents. The Namunyak Conservation Trust was set up in 1995 specifically to promote wildlife conservation and to assist the local community to benefit from tourism, in return for protecting the wildlife species living on their land.

    The main lounge / dining hut is constructed from all natural materials and surrounds the base of a gnarled tree, overlooking the fantastic natural swimming pool and waterhole, and always surrounded by an incredible variety of birds gathering at natural feeding tables.

    There are few roads here, and the emphasis here is mainly on walking excursions, with local Namunyak community game scouts as guides.

    END COMMERCIAL, BACK TO ME!

    The tents are simpler than the tents at Larsen's but just as comfortable and beautifully appointed. We have a queen size bed, desk and chair and end tables beside the bed. There is a separate dressing area in the tent where bathrobes are hung and extra hangars are available to hang our clothes. Outside the tent there is a basin and mirror set up, where hot water is added in the morning to do your washing up and brush your teeth. The shower and bathroom -- a full flush loo and bucket shower with ample hot water -- are up a few stairs and outdoors, so it is not for the faint of heart or those that need to make frequent visits to the loo in the middle of the night, although there is a chamber pot provided in the separate dressing room area of the tent for "emergencies." I do not remember the name or number of our tent, but we were close to the main dining room and our chairs outside the tent had a perfect and stunning view of the watering hole below the pool so we could watch the elephants come in and out from the privacy of our tent.

    The pool, a natural rock pool, that overlooks the watering hole for the animals, is simply the most stunning pool that I have ever been to in all my travels due to the setting. If you go on to any website with pictures of Sarara it will show the endless pool overlooking the watering hole. I think for the first time in all my travels I can say that the pictures accurately depict the setting . .usually there is some trick of light, or arrangement that enhances a picture so that it is not 100% accurate. Here, what you see is what we got, the most georgeous vista I have seen, leaning your arms against the edge of the pool and watching herd of elephant come in and out of the watering hole, next up, the baboons, than the greater and lesser kudo, all in their own time and pecking order, paying no attention to us.
    It did not hurt that there were no other guests!

    We said goodbye to James as we would use the local guides and cars at Sarara until we leave for Tanzania two days later.

    We go out on an afternoon walk with Mark, a local Samburu who works at Sarara. Mark shares his incredible knowledge of the local plants and trees and their various medicial purposes, and we get up close and personal with groups of elephants and giraffes. It is just getting dusky as we follow a group of elephant to a dry river bed where the singing wells are located. Our driver cuts the engine to the vehicle and everyone gets out and we are escorted down into the river bed where a huge bonfire and camp chairs have been set up for all of us to enjoy surprise sundowners and appetizers -- samosas and chapati and chutney -- as the sun sets, the elephants cross the river bed about 50 ft from us. I have chills just thinking about it and cannot even do the scene justice. We spend at least an hour enjoying each other's company, the sundowners (they have brought a full bar), the fire, and the elephants before Mark tells us that he has spotted another leopard and so we go off in search of the leopard and to make our way back up to camp.

    The leopard eludes us this evening, but we do see a tny bush baby on the way back to camp. The hot water buckets have been filled, so we all shower and dress for dinner with Tish, our hostess in Pier and Hilary's absence, and Kieran, a British born Nairobi native on his gap year before heading to University.

    Trish is an interesting women, a very neo-colonial brit that complains about the lack of training of the Samburu in the areas of hospitality at the same time lamenting any form of modern progress or industry for the African Kenyans as a corruption of their traditional ways and values. Things become a little tense as H makes it clear that he would like to go for a serious hike the following day and endless roadblocks ensue regarding his safety, health, timing etc. With the assistance of our guide we make it clear that our family is not joined at the hip and that the children and I wish to go to visit the singing wells in the morning at the same time that H goes on his hike. Arrangements are made for a security person and guide for the hike and for Mark to take us to the singing wells.
    Again, never having traveled in this kind of environement, we were not aware that arranging for hikes, running or other physical activity requires advance planning in order to have proper "staffing" to accompany you on these types of activities. Had we been aware, we would have more thoroughly gone over the itinerary with J and been absolutley clear on all the places where hiking, running were a possibility and set things up in advance. I was under the impression that we could arrive at Sarara and H could decide to spend the following day going uo Ol Lolokwe. It would have required much more advance notice than that. As it turned out, he had a great morning the next day on his four hour guided hike and we enjoyed the singing wells. . but, that's for another entry.

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    cindysafari-
    please let your friends know that Tish was a stand in for the normal hosts Pier and Hilary, whom we understand from our guide, are very, very warm and gracious folks and not as dominating as Tish. Also, I re-read my post and while she was not the most pleasant hostess, it did not at all detract from everything (and everyone) else at Sarara.

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    8/2 - SARARA
    It is nice to have a leisurely start this morning so that we are able to enjoy the coffee that has been brought to our tent and to have a nice look at the ellies, baboons and kudos that are sharing the watering hole. As an aside, at all of the tented camps, no alarm clock is necessary. Your wake up call and hot beverage order are set at dinner time and the following morning, you awake to a pleasant "Jambo" and the delivery of your morning beverage either to a table outside the tent or inside if you prefer. This was the operating procedure at all of the tent camps and at Llodia House as well. It was lovely.

    We have breakfast, H and our son discover that they actually like Marmite which pleases Tish and Kieran to no end, and at 9am we get ready to depart for the singing wells and H leaves for his trek. Tish has told us not to bring our cameras to either the singing wells or the Samburu village we will visit later this afternoon. The request makes sense at the wells but I wish we had ignored her and brought our camera to the village as it would have been just fine and was practically expected.
    The singing wells are located in the dry river bed below the camp. Each family has its own well and the cattle know which well to go to by the sound of the boys singing -- each family sings a separate song as they bring the water by hand up to the top of the well and into the watering trough. I am sure I am not doing a very good job of describing this at all, but here goes. The dry river bed is dotted with between 10-15 wells. Each well belongs to a particular family and each well is manned by a group of young herders. Each well has a wooden trough set up at the top of the well that is long enough to accomodate about ten cows. The herds are kept on either side of the river bed and must cue up for their turn at the family well . . ten cows in, drink, ten cows out and the next ten cows in . . it goes on all morning until all the cows for each family have received water. At each well, the water must be brought up by hand over hand, and depending on how deep the well is, the bucket brigade can go up to 7 boys (40 ft) deep. While in the well, the boys are, of course, naked (thus, no pictures!) and singing the family's rhythmic chant.

    It is interesting to observe these young Samburu boys and men. They will circumsized at an age between 12 and 20 and will then be expected to remain with the village as warriors for another 12 years before they can marry and have their own family. Alternatively for some, they attend boarding secondary school if the village or their family can afford it and they may come back on breaks or during the summer to rejoin the family and their place. They follow all of the traditional ways of the Samburu with regard to ritual and ceremony, symbolic ornamentation and some attire, and yet they also dress partially in Western clothes and are quite interested in "modern" culture. It probably sounds naive, but I did not appreciate the magnitude of the crossroadds that these young people face at the secondary school level until I was able to visually observe the way these two worlds collide.
    We ask Mark a lot of questions about rituals, marriage and education before we head back to camp to take full advantage of the swimming pool and the views. H returns and, of course, it is lunch, followed by swimming, followed by tea and cakes, before we set off at 5pm with Mark for the manyatta that is closest to the camp.

    On the way to the manyatta, we spot a grizzled, tailess leopard (#4) that looks like it was on the wrong end of a fight! At the manyatta, we learn much about how it is organized by family (each family has its own entrance to the manyatta), how the animals are protected from their predators (the baby goats are placed in pens that are elevated from the ground and the cows are placed in a pen in the center of the manyatta)and how the bomas are made and relocated and remade after a period of time. We tour the boma of one family and see the kitchen and sleeping areas and learn that the mother always has her own sleeping area, even in the smallest of bomas. H talks to the elders of the manyatta and our daughter uses hand signals to explain to the women that she would like to learn how to milk a goat and so she is given a quick lesson. Our son has brought another soccer ball, of course, which he quickly inflates. He becomes the pied piper of all of the children under 9 in the village (anyone older is out with the cows and the camels) as everyone comes out to kick the ball. The oldest boy is placed in charge of the ball and as we leave, he is organizing the kids into teams and drawing lines for imaginary goals. He must have learned the game in primary school. It would have been great (and perfectly acceptable) to have our camera for all of this activity. Oh well.

    On the way back, we have a good look at a larger bush baby and then Mark spots another leopard (#5) by the drive river bed near the singing wells. We follow it down into the dry river bed (no worries about off roading here, you can go wherever you want) and follow it to the opposite bank where he sits majestically in the spotlight that Mark has brought along. We sit and watch the leopard and an African eagle owl in the tree next door to him for a very long while. It is this quiet isolation that i love about our time at Sarara in the conservation area. There is no one to radio and no chance that five or ten other cars are going to join us at any moment. On the way back up to camp, we also spot a poisonous gambol snake.

    Dinner is outside the pool and the watering hole and we spot a cheetah down at the edge of the watering hole area but he is gone before we can really get a good look at him. Over a glass of Amarula, we sketch out the next few days, sad that our time at Sarara is coming to an end.

    NEXT UP, ON TO TANZANIA


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    Great stuff Amy. It's interesting you mentioned running ... there's a woman who has her own Web site warning tourists about Il Ngwesi Lodge because they allowed her and her family to go running and she got really badly stomped by an elephant - she's crippled and spent months in hospital. She had got the lawyers involved because the Suamburu who ran the camp at that time had not discouraged them from going on a run - or had even encouraged them to do so ... I have no idea who was in the wrong (if anyone)or if it has any relevance to your story at all... but your comments reminded me of her because they were in almost exactly the same situation as you - whole family only guests at the lodge and planning what to do the next day. And it's an interesting "aside".

    Enjoying this ... I am sure you are not correct that your trip was mundane.

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    8/3 - TRAVEL DAY (ARUSHA COFFEE LODGE)

    A pretty uneventful day as we had a leisurely morning at Sarara feeding the hornbills by hand and watching the activity at the watering hole until we heard the plane arriving at the little landing strip down from the camp. We did buy a necklace and ruanga (sp?) at Sarara as we were under the impression that they were unique and made by the local Samburu. Accordingly,we did not bargain and learned that we had paid way more than we could have when I found the same necklaces and ruanga at the gift shop at the Arusha airport for far less. Just an FYI for cindysafari and her friends that will be staying at Sarara!

    We boarded our charter flight to Wilson Airport and then after a delay, we board our safari link flight to Kili. No mountain views on either flight. At Kili, we are met by Joyful, who will be our driver while we are in Tanzania.

    We decide to bypass Arusha as we had no shopping needs and head to the Arusha Coffee Lodge which is on the road heading toward the Arusha airport and Manyara. As Sandy described, the grounds of the Arusha Coffee Lodge are very pretty and the main restaurant/bar building is of attractive wood and stone. The individual cottages are quite large with king size beds and mosquito netting, a full sitting area and spacious bathrooms. The cottages, however, seemed dated, the bed linens were rough and the blankets were on the shabby side. The drain in our shower did not drain and the electricity was spotty. I would have guessed that the property was about 10 years old so I was shocked to learn from J that it was only 2 yrs old -- it was already in need of renovation and refurbishing. There is a small pool that had plenty of water insects to keep you company and was not well maintained. We had Room 10, I think, which was quite near the fence to the main road, so although the scene was idyllic, we did hear truck sounds as they rumbled down the road.

    We relaxed, the kids swam, but I was anxious and itching to go the entire afternoon. We arranged for a taxi to take us into Arusha for dinner that night at an Indian restaurant in the Impala hotel. After a dark and scary ride into town (our driver either kept his brights on, blinding the oncoming cars, or doused them on dark stretches and his gas tank warning light was on the entire way, both directions) which was full of trucks loaded with young men just driving around and a stop at the Barclays ATM, we arrived at the Impala. Our dinner was excellent Indian food in an outdoor patio area. We ate very well for the four of us, including two tuskers, for about $40. Our driver waited for us while we had dinner and the cost of the RT taxi ride and waiting time was about $30.

    As I stated above, I would really have preferred to skip this stop altogether and to continue to Lake Manyara for one or two nights. Even driving all the way from Kili, we could have easily made Manyara before nightfall. Alternatively, we could have taken the air shuttle hop from Kili to Arusha for a little more money and then made Manyara without difficulty. To go from Sarara to Arusha was a culture shock that I would have preferred to skip. Again, just an FYI for future travelers.

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    Amy,
    Your trip report is great! I am so glad you loved Sarara...I haven't read anything about it until your posts. I have forwarded this part of your trip to our friends, and they have very much enjoyed it, too! They say it makes them all the more excited to go, so thanks again!
    Cindy

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    Not surprisingly, Tish, the proprietess at Sarara who also 1) is a critical care nurse that works at Wamba; 2) knows both Ian Craig and Coco quite well, and 3) has herself been gored by an elephant, has a different view of the elephant attack and the events leading up to it than what Ms. Martin relays.

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    UGH!!

    Just read the account of that woman and also the photographer, both trampled by elephants.

    NOTE TO SELF: No walking safaris around elephants. I think I would rather be attacked by a lion than an elephant,.

    Some years back I read in Reader's Digest, the story of a man who survived a bear attack. The bear mauled him, picked him up, carried him around, shaking him. for a while the bear seemed to leave him alone, go off and do something. The man tried to crawl away, the bear caught him again... more mauling.

    The process repeated for a day or 2 before he somehow got away. It was like the bear was torturing him, but wouldn't finish the job. I think I read the account 25 years ago and I will never forget that.

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    Amy,
    Well what is Tish's feeling on the attack? It would be interesting to hear what she thinks...I myself would not think it wise to go for a WALK alone in the bush, let alone a RUN!
    Cindy

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    8/4 LAKE MANYARA (KIFARU COFFEE LODGE)

    The Tanzanian roads are brilliant, paved black top -- a welcome sight after our days of travel in Kenya. It is paved black top all the way to Lake Manyara where we spend a lovely day in yet another landscape . . more lush green foliage, the soda lake full of flamingoes, storks, heron and other birds as well as tons and tons (literally) of hippos in and out of the water. Ellies, giraffe, baboons and vervet monkeys. But no lions in trees, no cats of any kind although we were really expecting to see them here. It is very bucolic but I sense a little restlessness as we are really eager to see more cats and our daughter who started the trip declaring that she would not watch anything get killed or eaten has now declared that she wants to see some "action" in the form of a kill. . not to suggest that this is said in a Veruca Salt "I want it and I want it now" demand, it is just interesting how she has gotten acclimated to the animals, seeing the remains of animals, and I think is mentally prepared for the next step. By the time we get to the Mara and she does witness a takedown, she is perfectly engrossed in the entire process and not the least bit squeemish.

    We leave the park and continue past the town of Karatu (I stop for a little more shopping -- some masaii blankets and more wooden animal carvings) on to the Kifaru Coffee Lodge, about 15km off the main road and about 30 minutes from the entrance to the Crater Conservation Area.

    The grounds are quite lovely, we drive past a farm where vegetables and herbs are grown both for the house and for sale and proceed through the coffee plantation up to the grounds of the main house and outbuildings, a beautiful lawn and lovely gardens surround the house and there is a pool and a tennis court. We have tea and cake and a look at the very nicely appointed main house . . all seems well until we are shown to our rooms in the guest house -- the rooms are claustrophibically small and damp, have the most basic furnishings and are full of mosquitos. The bathrooms are quite old and not at all clean, the sheets are rough and old. I knew that this was not billed as a luxury accomodation, but it was definitely below my expectations.
    Dinner is a somewhat sparse affair and J is convinced that they have had supply chain issues and are running low of food. This seems confirmed the next morning as they can barely scrape together a few eggs to serve for breakfast. The staff is not pleasant or professional and J and H both have issues trying to settle our bill the next day as they first claim that they can neither take credit cards nor traveler's checks. I would have prefered to have booked Kiririmu, a tented camp on the rim above Manyara for our two nights in this area or to have spent one night in Manyara, perhaps at Tree Lodge and a third, bank breaking night at the Crater Lodge.

    My daughter and I did have a nice morning horseback ride as our only agenda was to reach the Crater Lodge in time for lunch and an afternoon game drive.

    And this will be the end of my complaints for the entire trip, but it is a down two days that I think we could have been avoided.

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    Amy,
    I'm really enjoying your trip report! I certainly wouldn't consider this "mundane"..! I was especially intrigued by your description of the singing wells. Do you (or anyone else here) know if it's possible to visit singing wells anywhere else in Kenya, or is this something very specific to Sarara?

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    Thanks again, Amy. Keep it up. A great report!

    Sorry to hear Kifaru has gotten more disorganized. The food was excellent when we were there 2+ years ago. Different management then and perhaps different owners.

    Ah well. :)

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    8/5 - NGORONGORO CRATER (CRATER LODGE)

    After a very nice horseback ride with Johnny through the coffee plantation and the vegetable gardens and back, we finish packing and head out to the Crater conservation area at about 10:30. We arrive at the Crater Lodge at about 12:30 and have some tea and hot chocolate while we receive our orientation and wait for our rooms to be ready in the North Camp (?) (someone may want to correct me, our rooms, #6,7, and 8, overlooked Tree Camp and were across the lawn from the gift shop -- I am slightly confused as to whether this is the North or South Camp).

    Here, you simply must fill in every superlative that you can think of to describe the elegance of the main lodge and the beauty and elegance of the individualized cottages that make up the Crater Lodge. If Sarara has the best pool I have ever been in, Crater Lodge is by far the most luxurious hotel "room" I have ever been in.Each cottage is very large, with a sitting area complete with roaring fireplace, sherry decanter and box of chocolates and other candies to be eaten while gazing at the fire or curled up with a book. The mahogany beds are enormous and fitted with luxury bedding, velvet throws, mounds of pillows, two seprate sets of wardrobe divide the bedroom from the bathroom area and the doors of the wardrobes can be opened to create privacy between these two area. There is a separate WC (with a door!) and then this immense bath area, complete with clawfoot victorian bathtub, open air tiled shower area and two separate his and hers sink areas, in addition to a dressing table and chair. Two chandeliers and plenty of other lighting as well as telephones to the main house and to the guest rooms. . Yes, the kids call us several times as they uncover more wonders of their room! On the lawn in front of the cottages are cape buffalo and zebra. We are given a stern warning that we are not to go anywhere unescorted after dark.

    We are the only guests at lunch at 1:00pm as most other guests either pack a picnic or have a later lunch, but we want to have lunch and head down for an afternoon game drive. Lunch is soup followed by a groaning board of mixed salads and duck confit. We skip desert as we have lingered over lunch too long and it is almost 2:30.

    We arrive on the crater floor after 3 and the timing is very nice as it is not very congested with cars at all. Joyful is very familiar with the Crater and he is a very skilled driver with great instincts and a very excellent knowledge of the flora of Tanzania. It is very, very dry and the lake is empty although from the downroad we can see that the Sopa side is much wetter and greener. We will head over there on tomorrow's morning game drive. Over the next 2 1/2 hours we see wildebeest, hyena, black backed jackal, male and female ostriches, hippos, warthogs, and hartebeest. From a pretty far distance, we see a rhino mom with its young and also a separate male rhino.

    The only crowd of vehicles is around a pride of sleeping lions, there bellies absolutely full to busrting from last night's kill. They stretch and yawn and roll over, but no one in the group is going anywhere any time soon! We leave this scene and turn down another path heading toward the up road, when Joyful slows and stops the car -- he has spotted another group of 5-6 lions that are also sleeping off their feeding. The difference? We are alone with this group as all the other vehicles are "around the corner." This group is also a little more active, actually getting up to switch positions before they flop back down into the next food coma. We have this group to ourselves for a good 10 minutes before a few other cars come by. By this time, we are ready to relinquish are prime viewing spot and head up the road.

    Upon our return, the fire is blazing and we order some tea. I draw a full, steaming bath and watch the ring doves and the zebra and the cape buffalo that are right out my window. We put on a Barber concerto using the ipod speakers and as I luxuriate, H enjoys a glass of sherry by the fire and reads. . have we been teleported back to a different era? It seems as if I am going to step out of the bath and have to lace up my corset and put on my petticoats before dressing for dinner.

    I did not write down the details of dinner . .it was multi-coursed, delicious and the wine was flowing. Both children are reaching a state of exhaustion and we decide that tomorrow will be an adults only morning game drive.

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    Amy H,

    A great, detailed report! Five leopards are fantastic, even if one was without a tail.

    Almost as amazing as the leopards is the fact that your son and husband like Marmite.

    Your account of Sarara was insightful and something new.

    What a memorable family experience.

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    Hi Amy. I have loved you trip reports. We are leaving for Tanzania and Kenya in 15 days. Not that I am counting. You mentioned that you bought Massai blankets and wood carvings. Do you know approximately where you bought them and if If can be so bold, how much you paid. We will be staying at Governors at the end of our trip. I see you also bought Tinga Tinga paintings. I also see you can buy them on line for about $60.00 where did you get yours? The ones on line look beautiful Thanks so much for all of your reports. I already can't sleep just thinking about our trip.

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    purple-
    The best prices I found for everything was at a tiny shop in the Arusha airport next to the cafe -- soapstone bowls for $3-4 and soapstone boxes for $5 and simple animal necklaces for $2 each (a single small wood carved elephant or zebra or rhino with a few beads on a leather string, I purchased 5 to give out as gifts to the neices and nephews).
    At the roadside shops near Karatu, we paid $9 each for the masaii blankets but I was told by a couple that we met at Tarangire who live in Dar that they get them for $5 each -- the maasai blankets that are in these shops are machine manufactured, acrylic blankets -- very colorful and great for throws and tablecloths but you are not getting wool or cotton blankets.
    The wood carved animals are of all shapes and sizes. I prefer the smallest size of the ebony figures and I would buy groups of 10 for $15 or $20.
    We purchased the tinga tinga in Arusha at a tinga tinga shop and they had all shapes and sizes so it is hard to compare.
    Hope that helps.

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    8/6 NGORONGORO CRATER (CRATER LODGE)

    We left the Lodge at 6am and were the second car down on our side of the Crater. based on our observations yesterday, we immediately head over to the Sopa side of the crater where it is greener and wetter. We spent a long time watching a pack of hyenas gnawing on what is left of a zebra and a wildebeest with one hyena playing keep away with a zebra leg. The jackals are also lurking but they are keeping their distance. The hyenas eventually have to cross our path directly to go and get water. They displace a group of zebra at the watering hole and we watch amused as the hyena with the zebra leg tries to figure out how she is going to drink without having the zebra leg stolen away by the other hyena. She protects the leg, drinks quickly and back in her mouth it goes.
    Back out on the plains, we see a gathering of cars observing the lone rhino that we had watched yesterday. There are about 7-8 cars and the rhino is fairly far off in the distance. Joyful leaves this group and continues down and around the long side of this open plain area. He has concluded from observation that the rhino is likely to be headed for water and so wants to position us on the road that the rhino will likely cross. It is a brilliant maneuver. As soon as we arrive, the rhino begins a slow zig zag path in our general direction, getting slightly closer, but he is still at least 50 -75 yards away.

    Within 15 minutes, we are surrounding by other vehicles, 2 vehicles deep on the road, everyone talking as loudly as if they were at a tailgate at a football game. The trail of cars winds down the road, and at one point we count over 35 vehicles watching this one rhino slowly making his way along . .it was quite a sight and J, our guide, took some pictures because he had never seen such crowds. Of course, the rhino was never going to cross and never even going to come close to this spectacle and after awhile, he just turned away.

    More hartebeest, wildebeest that are either too young or too old to take part in the migration, ostrich, zebra, hyena and jackals. We go by the lake for another visit with the flamingoes and our other feathered friends and then the plan is to go through the forest to take a look at the group of bachelor tuskers that have taken up residence (and abstinence, apparently). On the way, another large group of cars that have come across a pride of lions feasting on a wildebeest. There is also a half eaten wildebesst on the road, but everyone just covers their noses because the sight of the feasting lions justifies parking almost literally ontop of the wildie in the road.
    6-7 lions are taking part in the feast, while another 4-5, including one cub, are sunning themselves on the rocks above the kill site. It is amazing to watch and we spend a long time here. We do see the tuskers on our way to the up road.

    When we return, a bubble bath filled with rose petals has been drawn in our room. I can't resist, of course and is quite a treat.

    Joyful and J have arranged for us to go on a hike with a Maasai teacher and village leader, Daniel, this afternoon. Daniel will take us on a three hour hike past the primary school (500 students and approx 15 teachers) and the bomas of his village and up to a view point that overlooks Lake Eyasi and the great rift valley. It is beautiful afternoon for a hike, so Joyful joins us, providing a lecture on the flowers and treest in the area while Daniel discusses life in the village, at the school and the rituals of the Maasai, which are similar but distinct fom the ways of the Samburu that we had learned about with Mark at Sarara. For awhile, we are joined by a group of Daniel's students who are fascinated by H's tatoos. It is obvious, that they would like some money, candy or things to trade, but we were so rushed this morning that we have brought nothing with us! We feel terrible about that. Daniel invites us into his boma and to meet his children. Again, one is struck by the juxtaposition of the two worlds, the boma is very small and dark and the children are covered with flies. Daniel has a cell phone, a digital watch and a pair of New balance shoes. He charges the cell phone at the police station or at the hotels.

    We return to find that some bold elephants have decided to visit the gift shop and grassy area near our cottage. We are patient and they move off. Another rest by the fire in our room, another fabulous meal and we are sad to have to say goodbye to this land of luxury but also looking forward to getting beck to our tented accomodations. Tomorrow will be a travel day to Tarangire and the far end of the park where Swala camp awaits.

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    Oh, how I long for spell check so that I would not cringe every time I re-read my posts to figure out where I left off writing. I applaud all of you that diligently check and edit their entries, use colors and bold and all sorts of pictures. I should have apologized in advance for my laziness!

    8/7 - TARANGIRE (SWALA CAMP)

    We have two goals today -- a stop in Karatu to see if one of our ATM cards will work as we are very low on cash and to get to Swala camp for a late lunch -- success on both fronts with the addition of a stop for a few blankets and a flat tire change in Tarangire Park.

    Of course, the park is known for its ellies and we see many families as we travel down to Swala Camp. Swala has just 9 tents and is completely secluded, excpet for the elephants, zebra, waterbuck and impala that share the camp. The main lodge and dining area has a large deck that overlooks a salt lick that is kept salted to attract the local residents. The tents are similar in size to the tents at Sarara but with in tent flush loo and separate shower area. The tents are more spread out than at Larsen's and it has a more rustic feel. There are many more animals in camp and roaming around, including sparring impala and, at night, a very close by lion. We have a late lunch and decide that since we will go out for a full day game drive tomorrow with a picnic lunch, we will relax in camp this afternoon and enjoy our tents and the local action at the salt lick. The elephants and zebra are not shy and come very close to the deck.

    Before dinner, chairs are set up around the fire pit and we enjoy drinks and snacks with the Italian, French and Australian guests that make up the remainder of the guests. Alas, the choice of one particular snack is of great interest to the elephants . Maryiana has brought a tray of warm roasted nuts for us to snack on but it is the elephants that get excited and one decides to make begin a very concerted march toward the guests. Luckily, Steve, the other manager has discovered an effective method for discouraging the elephant from proceeding closer. He slaps two seat cushions together and the sound is very similar to a gun shot. because there are hunting camps nearby and these animals are used to being hunted, the sound has a strong deterrent effect and they back off without incident.

    Dinner is a delicious lamb curry, plenty of food and wine for all. We linger over coffee and tea and after dinner drinks before retiring to our tents. We hear lions and leopard during the night but no signs of them in the morning.

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    Amy,

    Being timely covers a multitude of sins, including typos! Thanks. I'm really enjoying your report. We're looking forward to experiencing the Crater Lodge for ourselves (in 4 weeks).

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    8/8 TARANGIRE (SWALA CAMP)

    A full game drive today with a very nice picnic lunch provided by Swala. We wound up covering a lot of ground today as the big hers of ellies were in the Northern part of the park, near Sopa, but still, I would not have traded Swala camp for anything.

    We have good viewing of both greater and lesser kudo and kingoni hartebeest and then we spot something more unusual, what appears to be a hunter's hartebeest or hirola. We clearly see the distinctive white chevron around the eyes and bridge of the nose and J is very excited -- there are only supposed to be 400 left of this species. It is too far off for a good picture, but 5 of us confirm the chevron and the more distinctive rack that make up this species. A very exciting find.

    We watch lots of ellie groups, including some babies nursing, but there is one mother child interaction that is worth the tell. The mother and child were about 20 ft from the road and near to a larger group. The baby elephant (a few months old as it had no control over its trunk at all), got it in his head to test his little feet and starting to walk away from the rest of the group, toward the road. Mom came loping after, but as the Mom would get closer, the baby would giddily pick up speed and continue trotting away from the group and parallel with the road. This continued for a few minutes, baby testing both the boundaries and what appeared to be his new found full mobility. There was alos a very large grey boulder at the cross road and we wondered (major anthropomorphizing here) if the baby mistake the large grey boulder for another ellie. The baby finally stopped and Mom came around and gave him a good swat with her trunck and ushered him along in the opposite direction. Even J, our guide, said that he had not seen such wilful disobedience on the part of a baby ellie before. We spent a great deal of time, making up the imaginary conversation that would be taking place as the baby was escorted back to the rest of the aunties.

    On our return to camp, we watched a pair of two female and two male greater kudo interact. The more dominant male (with a beautiful rack) decided that he was not going to share these lovely ladies and so chased the other male off.

    At camp, there was a surprise waiting for us. The entire camp was going for a bush dinner in a clearing about 5 minutes away from the camp. We all washed up and returned to the lodge for drinks around the firepit (no warm nuts tonight so the ellies in camp behaved)and then we were loaded into camp vehicles and taken to the site of the bush dinner where tikki torches surrounded tables with white linen and full glassware and candlelight. Under this canopy of trees, we enjoyed a buffet dinner and our last night at Swala. Tomorrow, we would have a big travel day and end up at Il Moran in the Masaai Mara. We were nearing the end of our trip and had seen many wonderful things and met many wonderful people, but our best game viewing was yet to come. . .

    NEXT, A missed kill, a wild mongoose chase, a wildie kill, cheetahs large and small and a river crossing in the Mara.

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    8/9 MARA (GOVERNORS - IL MORAN)

    Another big travel day. We game view as we drive from Swala to the north entrance of Tarangire Park and back to Arusha. At the Arusha Airport, we say goodbye to our driver, Joyful, and have some time to check out the airport gift shops where we discover the best prices for jewelry and soapstone bowls and boxes of the entire trip. best of all, the proprietor accepts all currency, so we use up the last of our British pounds, some Tanzanian shilling and some US dollars to make our purchases.

    A short hop to Kili, a longer hop to Wilson (hey, this looks familiar) and then a flight to Governors.

    We arrive at Il Moran at about 4 and are asked if we are up for a short game drive. We arrange to go out from 5-6:30, but first, we all want to fully unpack as we will be here for a delightfully long 3 nights! We are shown to our tents (7,8, and 9) which are each the size of a small mess hall! These tents are huge. There is a king size olive wood bed, a large desk and chair, a sitting area with a comfortable table and chairs and two other large pices of furniture to hold out clothes. This does not include the tabe and four chairs that are on our porch along with two additional deck chairs or the claw foot bathtub, double sink and large shower in the bath area. Like Larsen's camp, the tents are spaced out along the river, with loads of ellies across the way, crocs in the water and,of course, plenty of baboon and vervet monkeys.

    We meet up with our driver, Simon, and start our drive. It has been cloudy for a lot of our trip and it is nice to see the sun out with beautiful cloud formations and the tall grasses of the Mara. This is really just a spectucalr setting. We meet a new animal, the Topi, they are very elegant and graceful. There is a lot of radio chatter between the drivers at all of the Governor's properties and Simon gets a call that there are lions on a hunt. Although we are anxious to race right over, Simon has much more patience (and, of course, experience) so he deliberatley makes his way, but first stops to show us a magnificent male and his lady friend who are set apart from the hunting lionesses and other young males as they are in mating. We don't see any "action" but enjoy watching the male strike his classic pose. It turns out that he is on the outs, an older male that will soon be challenged by the three young males and probably exiled.

    There are several cars watching the female lionesses and the younger males as they slowly move on a line of wildebeest. Everyone is very well spaced and very respectful of the hun that is in progress. The lions are spread out in the grass, tracking the wildies and it looks as if they have the coordinated attack plan in place, they will flank the wildies and pick off a stray in a break in the line.

    The two young males at the back of the wildie line, can't wait, however, and they jump the gun and sprint toward the wildies at the back of the file. Incredibly, the wildies actually turn and chase the two lions off! The two young males are inexperienced and have been completely rebuffed. They make one more go at it, but the wildies again turn and chase them off.
    It is a very interesting experience to see this botched attempt . .embarassing almost as the wildies are so plentiful, dumb and slow moving. How could they have missed, we woner. But the males are young and inexperienced and Mom was just letting them have a go.

    The pride re-groups -- about 9-10 in all -- and most of the other vehicles move off as it is time to think about heading back. We stay, along with another vehicle to see what the lions will do. They are in a group, right by our car when the two or three young males start to chase something in the grass -- they are stalking a mongoose! Now this is truly hilarious, 4-5 lions all stomping around in the grass going after a mongoose. Mom is taking no part of this and has started to inch forward again as another file is far off but making its way within range. In the meantime, one of the males actually gets the mongoose in its mouth, but the mongoose twists and manages to get away. Now we have the 4-5 lions jumping around and the mongoose shrieking bloody murder around our car. It is all good entertainment until the mongoose decides to take refuge under our vehicle and we are surrounded by all of the lions, about 7-8 now. We immediatley quiet down and the kids slowly move down from the seats and more inside the vehicle. The other vehicle probably has great shots of this, but we couldn't photgraph ourselves! Simon slowly releases the clutch and backs the car up to show the lions that we have not taken their prey. Luckiliy for us, the mongoose darts of again and the lions move after it. Wow!

    Our focus turns to the mother as she has advanced far up during all this drama and the other females have started to regroup. We may see a kill yet. Sure enough, the mother moves down into a gully and out of sight. All of a sudden Simon shouts, there she goes and we watch as she runs and picks off a lone wildie at the end of the file and wrestles it to the ground. The other car has not spotted the actual take down, so we are alone as we arrive on the scene to watch her panting, arms around the neck of the wildie and strangling it to death. The rest of the pride join and we watch them all take part in trying to open up the wildie. Unlike leopard or cheetah, Lions teeth are not that sharp and the wildie hide is, of course, ver tough, so this is a relatively bloodless action until they are able to actually make it through the skins. We watch for as long as we can, but daylight is fading and Simon tells us we must head back for camp.

    We do have some very good footage and I hope to post it soon.

    Hard to talk about dinner in the next sentence, but it is delicious -- minestrone soup, homemade pasta, nileperch and apple fritters for dessert. We also learn the standard Governor's plan for game viewing -- 6:30-9:00 followed by breakfast, out again before lunch at 1:30 and then a late afternoon drive. Sounds like a plan although we are already talking about trying to range farther by combining the two morning drives and foregoing breakfast. We decide to follow the plan tomorrow and then make adjustments for the day after.

    TOMORROW - River Crossing.

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    I love topis!

    They can often be seen standing on termite mounds, keeping lookout
    waynehazleDOTcom/eastafrica/serengeti/roll15/036_33.html

    They have a great brown coloring and are lean and muscular.
    waynehazleDOTcom/eastafrica/Masai_Mara/roll7/025_22.html

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    An excellent day with the lions. You were wise to linger a bit after the first botched attempts. Look at all the cool stuff you saw.

    That must have been a little scary to have the lions surround your car in search of their prey. When the mongoose went under your vehicle you became more of a participant in events than merely a bystander.

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    8/10 - MARA (IL MORAN)
    We meet Simon at 6:30 am for a very eventful morning game drive. Not 15 minutes outside of camp, we see a lone female cheetah on a termite mound. She looks too full to be in hunting mode, but still, she is beautiful to behold and we spend a while just observing her natural beauty.

    We wanted to go back to the lion kill fom the night before but Simon tells us that the guides have agreed to allow those that did not observe the kill time to watch the lions and that we would go later on in the afternoon. Although we were disappointed, I thought it was a nice bid at some organized attempt to avoid overcrowding around the animals.

    Instead, the wildebeests are starting to mass close to the river and so we take a chance that we may possibly observe both a lion kill and a river crossing in a 24 hour span. Simon takes us to an overlook where we are treated to the site of several bloated wildies leftover from the last crossing as well as some completely stuffed crocs. The crocs are so absolutley full that all they can muster is to nudge the dead wildies but they have no interest in actually feeding on the carcasses. Even the vultures that are on the rocks and the embankment look to full to eat although they do take some nibbles.
    As so many have reported, the wildies are the dumbest animals we have ever encoutered. They mass, they head toward the water, they get skittish, the move away. . Lather, rinse, repeat. This goes on for awhile, but what is perhaps even more amusing is that we in the vehicles are starting to follow this same pattern and turn into wildies ourselves . park, no move, they are going to cross here, no there . .everyone moving in great circles.

    There are about 10 cars collected on one overlook, where the wildies have massed but Simon is not convinced this is where they will cross. He decides to head up river, convinced that either they will cross where we go or we will have a good view point of the down river crossing. We zoom around to this other overlook and we are the only car. Because Simon is very experienced, he backs our vehicle away from the embankment and towards the grass -- Simon does not want to give the wildies and excuse to be skittish or to turn away and he wants them to have full access to the river. This turns out to be a very smart move. From our vantage point, we can see them massing in great waves and then finally one wildie takes the lead and heads into the water . .Mayhem ensues. A few other vehicles (maybe 3-4) dangerously join the stampeding wildies to join us at the crossing and a few cars are across the river.

    What a sight. Instead of going across to either of the easy paths up the other embankment, these wildies head straight across to an impenetrable rock cliff! The try and claw their way up, trampling each other in the process and slipping back down. We find ourseleves quietely yelling at the wildies "go the other way" "Watch out for the croc, oh, too late" and other words of encouragment. One young wildie is knocked senseless and is getting trampled by the other wildies. In our car and in the car next to us, we are all pleading for the young wildie to get up and get out the way. Finally, he manages to stand up and make his way up the embankment to join the others.

    In the meantime, some wildies that were on the other side, decide to cross over to our side of the river, and there is, for a time, a double crossing going on, with some wildies clearly going back and forth several times! It is both a moving and hilarious sight.

    We are quiet late in returning,but they held breakfast for us. We decide to wait and go on an afternoon game drive.

    Our afternoon game drive started out with a bang and a whimper as our car stalled while we were among many vehicles observing a pride of sleeping lion. We are very impatient to leave and go and find what is left of the kill from last night but we are at the mercy of those in the other vehicles as we need a push start, but that can't happen until some of the vehicles clear out and we can maneuver around the sleeping lions.

    We are finally freed and spend the afternoon among the hartebeest, topi, elephants, giraffe . .

    TO BE CONTINUED

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    Yeah, those wildebeasts aren't rocket scientists of the animal world are they?

    When I got to the Mara, the migration was gone, but there were still lots of wildees just standing around. At the time I thought, what a bunch of lazy unmotivated animals.

    But now I realize they were the smart ones. Someone in the group said "Hey guys let's forget this migrating crap and just stay right here."

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  23. 23 Trip Report Saruni Samburu & Tortilis Amboseli - An amazing experience
  24. 24 Trip Report 2 Weeks In Iran: So Far Away From The Clichés!
  25. 25 Cairo Hotels and Safety
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