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Trip Report Trip Report: Tanzania, Kenya & Zanzibar with MICATO May /June 2006

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'IT IS SAID THAT GOD DOES NOT SUBTRACT FROM ONE'S ALLOTTED TIME, THOSE DAYS SPENT ON SAFARI'
-unknown author (or at least unknown by me)

As promised, here I am sitting down the day after we returned to get this trip report out to everyone out there ASAP! WARNING: THIS REPORT WILL BE LONG, AND DETAILED!!!!
As mentioned in my return home post, it was an INCREDIBLE, AMAZING trip. Africa is securely in my blood now, and I know it will never wash out, no matter how much time passes, or how many times we return. This was our first safari and our first trip to East Africa ' but, we had been bitten by the bug previous when we visited South Africa and Namibia in 2003.

THE PLANNING AND DREAMING:
This trip was 5 years in the making ' in the summer of 2001 we booked a cruise with Orient Lines that would have taken us from Mombasa, through the Suez Canal and up to Athens in March 2002. Orient Lines included a 3 day safari, but having dreamt of a safari all my life, I knew that would not be enough, so we changed it to the 'optional' 7 day safari. With some research I found out that this safari would be handled through Micato Safaris. Plans went ahead, time marched on, but, as you can all imagine, that cruise was cancelled by the cruise lines by the time Sept. 2001 drew to its disheartening close. No problem we said, we rebooked for March 2003, the next time they said they would offer the cruise/safari. Again I planned, and again I dreamed of waking up in a lodge listening to the sound of the lions in the wild. But, as fate would have it again; as the war in Iraq heated up, with the final straw being the bombing of the hotel in Mombasa, Orient Lines changed it bit by bit until it no longer had ANY ports the same, which negated the safari completely. And I cried, but not for too long as our three week cruise/1 week safari ended up to be a 5 week cruise/ 1 ' week land tour that took us from India to Rome, with many wonderful stops in between. But I never let go of that dream of the land safari.
Having by this time ordered the brochures from Micato to see what we would have been doing, I was convinced that someday, we should just book the safari separate from the cruise. And that is what we did ' against all odds (our 'job' situations) in August 2005 I took the plunge and said YES ' BOOK IT!! By this time I had done quite a bit of research on the type of safaris available (independent/private/group) etc., as well as some of the options of the companies we could use. Jim and I decided that we wanted to go with a group, as we are very social 'animals' and love to be with and meet new people, as opposed to going with just ourselves and a private guide. Also, I wanted a break from the 'nitty gritty' of planning logistics (I get enough of that in my day job). I wanted a company that would hand-hold us from start to finish ' I turn over my credit card for a pre-determined amount and they in turn hand over a well-run, smooth-as-ice, hassle-free 3 week safari. And, as I by this time knew every word by heart in the Micato brochure, it was hands down Micato.
We booked MICATO'S Stanley Wing Safari, as it would give us a good variety of parks in Kenya and Tanzania; and the Zanzibar extension that they offer. I booked direct through the email with Fran, the NY Micato representative, that had been patiently answering my endless questions on the safari since Sept 2003.

THE PACKING:
As you all know, I had quite a time with this one. In April, a huge box from Micato arrived. In it was a well-made, huge, green duffle bag for each of us to use; a wonderful flashlight; an 'America Shares' bag, luggage tags and a personalized detailed safari destination/itinerary book for us.
The America Shares bag is a program that Micato runs separately. They support an orphanage in the Mukuru slums in Nairobi. They send the bag out to those who request it ' we in turn fill it full of stuff that they need (a list is sent with the bag), such as kids and babies clothing, toys, school supplies, medicines, toiletries, etc. ' pretty well anything kids will need, new or used, or whatever. We then take it with us on the plane as one piece of our checked baggage, store it in the Nairobi Hotel while we are on safari, and then take it to the orphanage after we get back to Nairobi from the safari. More details on that will be in my report as it was a very moving experience.
My problem though was with packing our one duffle bag each. The well-made very heavy zippered bag in itself weighed 8 lbs. See the thread below for details of what I took:
http://www.fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=4&tid=34802443
So, that left 25 lbs. each, and that very exciting day of 'oh my gosh, we are going to Africa today!' was spent weighing and re-weighing each article of clothing or item to see what would go and what wouldn't as we were both SERIOUSLY overweight. I started this at 7 am on the morning we were to leave (at 8 pm that night), by noon, I was pretty well in tears wondering how I could cut it down anymore when Fran (Micato representative) phoned to wish us Bon Voyage. 'Don't worry', she said as I sobbed the overweight blues to her, 'take what I think we will need, it will all work out'. A voice from heaven I thought! My bag weighed 40 lbs., Jim's weighed 41 lbs., and that is what we went with.
All of the clothes that I listed went (they weighed 13lbs), but in the 'things' list, I cut things here and there to cut down on the weight. As you can all imagine, the ultra tiny coffee maker and coffee did NOT go. (Yes, Dennis, the tiny stapler and the tiny tape did go- more on that later!)

WHAT WORKED & WHAT DIDN'T ON THE PACKING LIST:
Here is a good place I think to tell everyone a few highlights of what I thought worked and didn't work on my packing list ( I promise, I'll TRY to be brief!)
I LIVED in the convertible pants. I had two pair, but only took one. I probably should have given something else up and taken both pair. Those convertibles owe me nothing ' I bought them brand new for this trip over the internet. They are a smokey/olive green kind of colour which was ideal to hide the red dust/clay/coffee spots/food slops/etc. I literally wore them every day; they started out as pants every morning and usually ended up as shorts in the afternoon, to become pants again at night. Every two or three days (at the most, I promise') I would rinse them out in the sink with the Magellan's concentrated Sink Wash, hang them on my wonderful 'stretchy-no-clothes-peg-twist clothes line' from Magellan's, and they would, without fail be dry and wrinkle free the next morning as they are almost like a nylon. They don't look like nylon, but when I went to iron a new 'hem' down before I left, the material burnt like nylon. (lucky it was just on the old hem which I didn't need).
I had enough tops, I felt I took the right number (4 t-shirts, 2 short sleeve shirts and 1 long sleeved shirt). The Tide-To-Go pen was a life saver here as I am slop. We sent our shirts out at least two or three times each for laundering at the lodges, it was cheap enough.
The Tilley safari vest was incredible too ' it is light weight, not too many pockets so I didn't feel like a marine in the field. I wore it every day, it was invaluable. I carried film (yes, I still use film), an extra camera battery, my point-and-shoot camera, my field notebook, a pen, sunglasses, a roll of Magellan's toilet paper-to-go, some packets of sani-wipes, a very small first-aid kit (Imodium, After-bite, Neosporin and band-aids), 'Off' wipes and a small bottle of sunscreen. I wore a hidden wasitpouch for the money, an Amex card, a MC, a Visa and a bank card. I could have left the Amex at home, I didn't use it, same with the Visa.
I didn't use my Tilley hat ' Jim used his all the time, but I liked the green 'Micato' issued hat (it's like a Tilley), I used it instead.
I used the fleece hoodie on a few occasions ' Ngorongoro crater for the game run in the morning, as well as the evenings on the crater, the Mara in the morning for the balloon ride and one of the evenings in the Mara.
The packable rain/wind jacket that folds into its own pocket came in VERY handy in Zanzibar when it rained for 2 ' days solid. Tropical rains at that ' it poured. Things sure are green there'
I wore the capris in Zanzibar ' they were great especially when we were slopping through the mangrove swamp in the pouring rain, or walking through the open market in the pouring rain - no pant legs to get mucky! The shorts could have stayed at home ' I didn't wear them.
The 'slippers' (they are really Clarkes slip-on sandals) were invaluable when I had to wash my Mephisto walking sandals out which I wore every day. Three times I had to give my Mephisto's a shower ' once after visiting the Maasai village ' it was authentic I could tell by the cow dung; once after trekking through the fish & live chicken market in Zanzibar; and once after slopping through the Mangrove forest in Zanzibar. Without those Clarke's I would have been sunk as they took many hours to dry.
I should have left the Rockport closed in shoes, as well as the socks, at home ' only saw the light of day for the Mara balloon ride and in retrospect the Mephisto sandals would have been fine. It really wasn't that cold. I didn't used the gloves either for the balloon ride, could have left them at home.
The 4 pair of quick dry underwear was a little tight ' 6 pair would have been better, I felt like a scullerymaid washing underwear out every 2nd or 3rd night. The throw-away-undies worked great for the travel there and back days ' a godsend.
I wish I would have had time to use the bathing suit and cover up, but I didn't. I'd still bring it next time though.
The PJ's were great ' they were quick-dry from Magellan's and they really did dry quick.
As for the THINGS (non-clothes):
Toiletries ' the small wash cloth (many places didn't have), hair conditioner, body wash & facial cleanser were needed, not needed was shampoo as all of the lodges & tents supplied this at least. Some places had conditioner and body wash, others didn't.
OTC drug stuff ' Contac C is all gone ' Jim ended up with a cold that tried to start. Chapstick, band-aids, Neosporin and some antihistamine were used. Didn't need the Visine, gravol, throat lozenges or Imodium.
Sun & Bug stuff ' We only used the 'off-wipes', the Afterbite, the anti-itch cream (Benadryl brand) and the sunscreen ' didn't use anything else.
Bush Loo stuff ' used one toilet paper dispenser toll (Magellans), and lots of Sani-wipes.
Laundry stuff- used the clothes line, the laundry sack, the tube of SinkWash and the Tide-To-Go pens extensively ' invaluable.
Books & Writing stuff ' used the animal field guide once but didn't really need, 1 paperback book (not much time for reading), field notebook (my own), small tape, tiny stapler, white-out, small note cards for driver tips, small FX calculator and the plastic file pouch. Didn't use anything else on my list.
Security stuff ' used the colourful zap straps, the wire cutters to cut the straps extensively, the waist money pouch and the zippable document money holder, and the luggage locks for the camps/lodges. I'll revist this subject later in my report'..
Comfort- Jim used his Magellan's comfort 'touche cushion' extensively for the bumpy roads, I didn't use mine at all.
Camera stuff ' used it all ' Jim took 2700 images on the Nikon ' he said he would upload a select 'few' to the Kodak Gallery soon ' but I'd give him a month to do this as there is so many!
Miscellaneous ' used the Kleenex, binoculars, travel alarm clock, the converter, the adaptor plug and the multi plug outlet, lots of ziplocks, all of the 'bubble wrap' I brought, lots of extra batteries, the duct tape, the Micato flashlight, and the small basic sewing kit. Didn't use, or didn't bring (ditched before going) anything else on my list in that category.
The 'candy result' was a surprise to me ' well, I did eat some, but I just didn't have the craving to eat much of it - it was either too hot, or I was too busy, or just plain too full to eat those wine gums ' could really have left that at home after all! And, never bring chocolate ' I threw a bar in at the last moment and two weeks later discovered it melted all over the bottom of my carry-on bag! What a mess'.

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    “ONCE YOU HAVE VISITED AFRICA, YOU NEVER LEAVE IT. AND AFRICA NEVER LEAVES YOU. IT’S DUST, MOSTLY RED, SOMETIMES WHITE, OFTEN BLACK, SETTLES ON THE HEART…AND REMAINS FOREVER…”
    -writer Don Steffen

    THE JOURNEY THERE:
    The day started with a bang – there we were sleeping at 5:45 in the morning when the phone rang. Now who could be phoning that early I thought? Anxiously, I jumped out of bed, grabbed for the phone only to hear that someone had hung up. Jim, meanwhile had awoke too, and was actively listening, motioning me to stay quiet while whispering that someone was coming in the front door. Confused, all I could think of was that a break-in right now would put a big damper on our travel plans for this most exciting day of our lives! But a break-in? No, not in our peaceful area, it couldn’t be. With my heart beating a mile a minute, we stood shock-still while we heard the front door open, and someone come in.
    “Hello?” Mr. & Mrs. Swain, I hope I didn’t scare you, but I used my key to get in as no one answered the phone. Are you guys still asleep? Shouldn’t we be leaving for the airport at 6:00, it’s getting late, you don’t want to miss the plane to go to Africa!”
    Going from fright to peels of laughter, I thought I was going to have a heart attack! It was our son’s best friend, our ‘second-son’, Andrew who was coming at 5:45 to take us the the airport at 6:00 for our 8:00 flight. Our 8 PM EVENING flight!!! Only Andrew could be 12 hours early for this I thought! We had a good laugh over this one!
    After spending all morning fighting with the weight issue, in the afternoon I got down to the nitty-gritty of being excited about going to Africa! Today was the day – I couldn’t believe it! The afternoon sped by with all that I had to do, but I was ready on time at 6 pm when Andrew came back (at the right 5:45 this time…) to take us to the airport.
    Checking in was a breeze – I had checked in on-line in the afternoon, all we did was drop our luggage at the Fast Drop and that was it – no check in line ups, very civilized! The BA flight (Vancouver – London) was delayed by 1 ½ hrs though, so we had a nice supper at the Vancouver airport while building up the anticipation for our exciting trip ahead. The flight over was really good, we had paid extra for BA’s World Traveller Plus and was thankful that we had – the seats are much roomier, recline further back and have way more leg room, which makes for a much more comfortable 8 hours. After an uneventful flight (the type we all like) it was finally time to go into the eternal holding pattern that happens all the time at Heathrow, followed by a grateful landing.
    Originally, I had booked a room at the Novotel Hotel as our layover was 7 hours, but, we decided to cancel it as our plane was a full 2 hours late landing, which only left 5 hours. From what we saw of the passport control line up, we figured this, along with getting to and from the hotel, could take up the whole 5 hours, so we decided to cancel the room. Thankfully our TA had suggested that we take it on an up to 6 pm cancellation term, so it was just a matter of trying to figure out how to dial the hotel from those confusing pay phones the airport has! The 5 hours passed by slowly, but eventually did pass, and soon it was time to board the plane for Nairobi! Not very many people on this flight – we only had 5 other people in the World Traveller Plus section so we all had plenty of room! But, even with all this room, it didn’t help us get a good sleep, as the arm rests in between the seats on this plane did not raise up and we could not stretch out. After a restless time of trying to sleep in the seats, we arrived in Nairobi, a little early at 7:05 AM Sunday morning. Nairobi at last! I couldn’t believe it! All I could think of as we excited the plane was Nicole’s (BostonGal’s) very descriptive phrase ‘as we stepped into the hot, exotic Africa air’!


    DAY 1 – SUNDAY MAY 28TH, GRAND REGENCY HOTEL, NAIROBI
    We had pre-done our Visas by mail at the embassy, but we still had to go through passport control, which took about ½ hour. I took note of the line up time for the people who were purchasing their visas on the ground, and it seemed about the same as those of us who had the visas. So, for all who are wondering whether to buy the visa in advance or not, it didn’t seem to make any difference time wise – the lines took about the same amount of time. The deciding factor then would only be the cost of the postage there and back to the embassy.
    Walking downstairs to the luggage claim area (stairs, no escalator here), we ended up right at the baggage claim carousel, with plenty of carts available to carry our two Micato duffle bags! And, if I thought we had luggage, I stood beside a couple who kept pulling off bag after bag after bag – I was amazed! They actually had 10 bags between them, I couldn’t believe it! And that was 10 big bags! The lady volunteered to me that her husband was originally from Nairobi and that they were bringing lots of things for his relatives. Hmmm, a likely story I thought….
    Now here is where I was first to fall for what would become the norm for me – falling into the trap of ‘service’ for money. I just seem to attract these guys I thought as one guy raced up to me with a cart to give me. Handing him a dollar, I took the cart for our two bags. At this point I have to mention a sign Jim noticed – it has to be the best sign I have ever seen in an airport. Beyond the carousel is the inside luggage handling area, it is separated by a big glass window. In this area, where the handlers unload the luggage is a sign “EVERY BAG YOU HANDLE LIFTS KENYA HIGHER”.
    Customs was a breeze, they asked why we came, we said ‘safari’, they said ‘of course’ and off we went through the door into the throng of safari outfitters waiting for their guests. The Micato guys were easy to spot, no sign was necessary, their outfit gave them away. Introductions were made; Juma, our Nairobi driver, and Daniel, our safari director who would be with us for 24/7 over the next two weeks. We were the only two coming in the morning – the rest of the group (13 more) were coming in the evening.
    As I told everyone I would remember the first wildlife we spotted – it was egrits along the road from the airport and a tree full of Maribou storks. There were SO many people walking along the roadside, I couldn’t get over it! Daniel explained that Africa walks, he smiled and said they can’t afford fitness club memberships so they walk. At that point I knew I would be in for 2 weeks worth of great humor, and I loved him already! I spotted my first colourful matatu, as I spotted it I exclaimed ‘ oh a matatu!’ Daniel was impressed that I knew what one was and offered me his job…. Then, too soon, we were at the hotel, the GRAND REGENCY, which, as Daniel explained, Micato uses as it is a nice hotel in a ‘quiet’ area of the central city. Through the ‘checkpoint security’ which I would see would be the norm in this city. The lobby is beautiful, not ‘over-the-top’, but just very attractive and nice. We were greeted with a hot towel and tropical fruit juice; Daniel asked us to take a seat at the Micato concierge desk, while he obtained our keys. Keys! I was so happy as it was so early, Jim and I were worried that the room wouldn’t be ready until 2 pm or so and we were concerned that we would have to take on Nairobi without the benefit of a shower since Friday morning. At the same time that Daniel came back with our keys, I saw Kennedy walk in to the lobby (Kristina from this board had sent me a picture of him on Friday, the day we left). I called ‘Kennedy’ he stopped, looked at me and gave me the biggest longest hug I have ever had from someone I had never met – it was incredible! I felt as thought we were long lost friends. Daniel actually thought he must be a long lost friend; he was surprised when I told him we had never met before! Telling Kennedy that we had the room and would like a shower before going out, he said we could skip breakfast plans and he would be back at 10:30 for us.
    The room and the hotel were awesome. All rooms overlook a central atrium; there are 12 or so floors. On the back wall is a gigantic sparkling painting of a beaded Maasai wedding earring; and on the opposite wall are three glass elevators. The rooms are really big, air conditioned, with two queen size beds, a sitting area with a couch, chair and table, a writing desk, a vanity desk, in-room safe (easy to use) and a big picture window. Our view overlooked a nice park. The large bathroom is tasteful with lots of marble and comes with lots of great amenities such as combs, nail files, q-tips, shampoo, bath foam, body lotion, razor kits. There is a hair dryer, and robes to use. The carpets were a little shop-worn, but everything else was in great shape.
    At 10:30, feeling much more human (and cleaner) we were downstairs to meet Kennedy for our exciting first day in Nairobi. First off, though, Daniel walked me over to a bank machine to get Kenya shillings, I had decided that I would take US money for drivers/guides tips (Micato picks up all camp/hotel tips) in cash and TC, but get the Kenya shillings for spending, souvenirs, hotel/lodge incidentals etc. from the ATM.
    Finally, it was time to take on Nairobi. Hopping into Kennedy’s nice black Suzuki Vitara made me really feel as though were on safari! Lions Ho! Talk about rough roads, pot holes and no infrastructure! I had read that the tax dollars collected in Kenya do not end up in the roads and we found out first hand that was true. I kept looking at Jim in the back to see if he was still alive with his bad back – but he was fine – grinning from ear to ear like a little boy on his first Disney ride! I had warned him, and he had brought that wonderful Magellan’s cushion! We visited DAPHNE SHELDRICK’S WILDLIFE TRUST (entrance fee by donation) first to see the elephants. Sheldrick’s was very crowded, it was truly standing room only. I was surprised though at how many people ‘passed’ by the donation box without giving it a second thought. I thought of Jan Goss with all of her dedication of coming here 5 or 6 times a year, and others on the board that I know give so freely from their heart and soul and I felt bad for that poor ‘donation’ box. I put a 20.00 USD in, hoping that that might cover the three of us. Kennedy told me he was surprised to see so many pass it by as well. We listened to the information one of the handlers was giving out on the elephants, took some wonderful pictures, and I got to pet one of the younger ones as it came right up to me when a few of the people had dispersed. It was a wonderful experience to see these elephants.
    UTAMADUNI CRAFT CENTER was next, for lunch. This is a lovely spot for lunch, eating out in the very pretty garden was quite an experience, and the food was good. Not very African, but, hey we would get lots of that in the days to come. Kennedy told us all about life in Nairobi during lunch, while Jim regaled him with stories of our travels. Just as I had thought from our emails, Kennedy is an incredible person – a great sense of humour, very knowledgeable, and a terrific guide. The craft center was nice to look at – the carvings were beautiful, but, it was pricey. We didn’t need anything to add to our weight anyways!
    And then, it was time for that Cheetah hug!! We made our way to the KENYA WILDLIFE SERVICES ANIMAL ORPHANAGE (entrance fee 8.00 USD) at the gate of Nairobi National Park. Kennedy turned us over to Noah, who works for KWS and would be our guide around the orphanage. Noah told us the history of each of the animals as he pointed them out, and gave us some in depth information of their habits as a species. We saw warthogs, cranes, lions, parrots, sokoke forest cats (looks just like our kitty cat only with pointed ears!), serval cats, hyenas, ostriches, baboons, bushbucks and monkeys. And then, finally, Sharon, Misa and Teva – the three adorable cheetah sisters! Amongst many curious stares Noah took us into the cheetah pen, introduced us to the three girls and turned us loose. I could hardly believe it as I knelt down to pet the Sharon, she was so friendly! I hugged her, snuggled my nose to her, (she smelled like mint!) and hugged her again. She returned my hug with ‘sandpaper kisses’ on my hand. She was being lazy and wouldn’t stand up for long, but she did sit up long enough for Jim to get a picture of her and I a few times. Noah told us they were usually lazy like this. After spending some time with her, I went on to hug Misa, and then Teva. Jim did too, and even had Teva pose with his Tilley hat. She looks so cute in it! It was truly an incredible ½ hour; I just couldn’t stop smiling I was so excited! Many jealous people came over to watch us in the pen with the cheetah, one guy was begging the staff to let him in – not sure whether he got in in the end or not. We didn’t get to see Mandera (the new little guy they just brought in that Lynn (Atravelyn) sent the link to the article about a month ago) as he had been pretty overwhelmed as late with all the people that were around him, Oh well, guess we’ll have to go back someday to see him!
    As nothing could top this for the day, and it was around 4:30 by this time anyhow, we decided to call it a day with an early ‘sundowner’. Kennedy took us to the Pan Afric Flametree Restaurant – it is an open deck terrace restaurant/bar. There was a live African band playing – they had most people up and dancing, it was great to sit and listen to them. Jim tried on his first ‘Tusker’, which he said was an excellent smooth beer. It is his self-appointed duty to try every beer in the world, wherever we go, he takes on this task. Someone’s got to do it, he says…. It was an wonderful close to a wonderful day. Kennedy took us back to the hotel where we rested up until 7:00, when Kennedy came back with his wife Valentine, and his two daughters Sarah and Agnes. I had brought ‘goodie bags’ for all of them, and we were anxious to meet them. The girls loved their goodie bags full of chocolate, bath products, school supplies, bears and dolls, while Valentine loved her goodie bag full of bath products.
    Knowing how tired we were after flying since Friday evening, they didn’t stay long. Jim and I went to Roberto’s - the Italian Restaurant in the hotel for a fire brick oven pizza and a drink before finally retiring to that comfy bed in the room, with visions of an exciting upcoming safari dancing in our dreams.

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    Lynda -

    You shame me. Guess I have to get on with my own trip report. As expected, you provided details, details, and more details... but that's Lynda.

    Your quotes sound very familiar to me!

    Great start and introduction to Africa. Waiting to read more.

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    OMG Lynda - I have butterflies!!! What a trip report.... I'm waiting with baited breath for more.

    I have a couple of questions (what's new!)
    Where online did you get the convertible pants?
    Would you skip the Utamaduni Craft Centre next time?

    And those Cheetahs, I have butterflies and more butterflies in my tummy in anticipation.... WOW!

    Imelda

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    Hi Lynda,

    I am too tired to start all that reading so it shall await me at work tomorrow. Glad to hear that you had such a fantastic trip and that you shall be able to cut down on your luggage for the next trip.

    Kind regards,
    Kaye

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    Lynda,
    Karibu nyumbani. I’m really looking forward to the continuation of your looong and detailed report. It seems like it has reminded Sandi of what she has to do ;)
    Asante sana.

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    Lynda:

    Is this a record for quickest posting of a trip report? :-)

    I'm really enjoying it - thanks for taking the time to do it in such detail. You have to share your secret of no-jet lag!

    Cyn

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    Lynda,

    Welcome home.

    Your travel day wakeup tale is hilarious. I can't imagine what was going through your head when you heard the door open!

    I love the convertible pants also and always pack two pairs.

    Can you enlighten me on the zap straps and wire cutters?

    The cheetah smelled like mint? Did you slip it some minty wine gums?

    Looking forward to the rest of your report including the role of tiny stapler and mini tape on safari.

    Glad this trip that was 5 years in the making went so well. Let the details begin.

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    Thanks for the start of your very detailed report (we expected nothing less from you ;) ) and yes, I believe you've set the record here for quickest report posting! Looking forward to more.

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    Lynda we are also flying Traveler's Plus through British Airways to Nairobi in September...how would you rate Traveler's Plus? Was it worth the extra $$ to upgrade from regular coach? Thanks!

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    Hello Lynda,

    A great start to what looks like a great trip report!

    Interestingly, the cheetahs I petted in SA definitely didn't smell like mint (though they didn't smell like Patchy the wild dog pup, who smelled vaguely like BO). Maybe it's something in their diet?

    Cheers,
    Julian

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    Thanks guys for all your kind comments! I am working on the second day at the moment - should be finished tonight, or tomorrow at the latest within the next couple of days.

    Sandi- can't remember where I got those quotes from, I think maybe from Gary Clarke's I'd Rather Be On Safari - I have a few more really good ones I will intersperse in my report!

    Imelda- I am a plus size person, so I got the pants from a plus-sized outfitter called Junonia. It was the only website in cyberspace that had plus-sized convertibles, so I guess I lucked on the versatility! No, I wouldn't skip Utamaduni, we had a great lunch - I really enjoyed the atmosphere, the food, the gardens, and of course, Kennedy's wonderful company. And, looking in the shop was great too, I had decided early on though in the planning of this trip that all I was going to buy this time was a carved lion. And, as much as Jim can't believe this, I only bought one other thing other than the lion on the whole trip! (and that was Patty's fault... :-) )

    Cyn- I am convinced that the secret to the jetlag, is to get on the plane at departure, sit down, do up your seatbelt, and change your watch to the time of where that plane will land. Most airlines seem to try to do this also for you by serving the meals in conjuction with the time zones where they land, as well as turning out the lights, etc. And then think in terms of that time for the rest of the plane ride. If you are transferring to another plane, and another time zone, do the same thing when you get on the second plane. I have done this on all of our trips, and I have never once suffered jet lag, it really does seem to work. And it works for me forward and backwards, long or short flights.

    Lyn- loved that comment on the minty wine gums, you made me chuckle! Before I left I promised you guys I would listen to the lions in the night, smell the cheetah when I hugged her, etc etc. so when I was snuggling into her fur, she actually smelled like mint! I commented to Noah (the guide who took us in) that she smelled like mint, he said it was an herbal solution they had rubbed on the cheetahs in the morning, but he didn't volunteer why! Smelled nice though :-)
    The zap straps and small wire cutters
    were for locking my carry-on bag. The morning we left, I packed it, zipped it shut, and pow. The zipper broke. It wasn't even stuffed full, and the darn zipper broke! A little distressed at first, I realized though that there was two zippers on it, so I ingeniously thought, hey, why don't I zap strap the broken zipper on the one side to the back strap so that it can't move, then I will zip it up with the good zipper pull and lock the two zippers together when I'm out of the room. Ingenious but I could only find two suitcase locks, which I needed for our duffle bags. So, I threw a bunch of the small coloured zap straps and the small wire cutters (to cut them) in the outside pocket of my checked bag in order to use them as a lock. Anyone can cut through them, yes, but I figured I would know when the seal had been broken. More on the result of this later - watch for it in my 'Serengeti' report.

    Teri- I read your report over coffee this morning - it was FABULOUS! Well done, I felt as though I was right there with you, and I couldn't agree more with what you said about the greetings and the friendliness, I too brought that home with me.

    Cindysafari - We had American Express points which we converted into $ to cover the extra for the World Traveller Plus. (WT Plus was about 2500.00 CDN extra, we had a 3000.00 credit from the points) So, I kind of felt as though I got it for free, which is why we did it. But had I paid for it, would I have done it? In retrospect, yes. Economy was pretty crowded on all legs of the flights, and the extra room was very noticiable. Not so much the width of the seat - it's only a few inches bigger as I recall, but the space between the seat in front and yours is WAY bigger. And the way that the WT Plus reclines way back is really nice, plus the leg rests are a big plus. I was disapointed though that the arm rest didn't go up on the seats, but then, maybe they didn't in economy either. Try for bulkhead seating if you can get in WT Plus - tons of leg room there!

    Julian- somewhere, I can't remember exactly where, there was a grass that smelled like mint along the road - oh, just came to me - it was in Tarangire - there was a lion party that was happening in the middle of the road, so we had to drive around them, when we did, we could smell mint. Maybe that was the herb that they rubbed on the cheetahs! And maybe we should suggest this for Patchy? ;-)

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    ‘IN THE HIGHLANDS, YOU WOKE UP IN THE MORNING AND THOUGHT ‘HERE I AM, WHERE I OUGHT TO BE’
    -Karen Blixen, Out of Africa

    DAY 2 – MONDAY MAY 29TH, GRAND REGENCY HOTEL, NAIROBI

    With this quote running through my head, I jumped out of bed at 6:00 and recited it to Jim. ‘Yes’, he said, ‘true, and we paid a lot of money just so you could say that!’ 
    It was the start of the safari – my dream come true and I just couldn’t wait to meet the other 13 people that would become our friends and family for the next 13 days! At breakfast I looked around the room, trying to guess which people would be with us, but I can’t say though that I got any of them right! The buffet was good, I love omelet stations on a buffet and was happy to see this.
    At 9:00 it was time to meet in one of the conference rooms for our safari briefing. We were the first there; the Micato concierge, Fidelis, greeted us with a lovely wooden animal necklace, a package of pre-stamped postcards, a wildlife checklist and of course, those famous green Micato Hats. We sat down and watched as the rest of the people came in. Everyone appeared to be our age or a bit older, with the exception of a mom and her daughter who were there on a ‘university graduation’ present. The daughter was in her early 20’s and the mom looked like her sister. Six people from Massachusetts were friends who had booked this trip together; there was a couple from New York, a couple from Florida, and a single guy from Michigan. Our safari director, Daniel appeared to be in his early 30’s. And this would be our family over the next 13 days. Daniel would be with us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to direct us, take care of logistics, requests, etc. He would eat with us, sleep in the same lodges with us, and, as we were to find out, be a very important and integral part of our vacation. His knowledge of the wildlife was vast, he had an incredible sense of humour, and it seemed that no request was too big, or too small to at least attempt. And sometimes, as we would see later, he really did work miracles for us.
    The briefing ran for an hour, Daniel covered everything he could think of and then turned the meeting over to Rakita, a Maasai who told of their way of life. Next up was Jane and Felix Pinto’s (owners of Micato) personal assistant to let us know that she would be hosting the dinner at the Pinto’s that night for us as they were away in London for a few days. And then ‘let’s go – let’s start!’ Along with Edwin, a new guide who was in training with Daniel, we boarded the ‘Micato’ bus. This bus, with approximately 20 seats, was to be our transportation in Nairobi. As Jim and I were the last people on it, we sat right in the back – I was soon to find out why Bat (from this board) told me not to forget that heavy duty sports bra.
    First up was a city tour. We drove past the government buildings (now, no pictures of these Daniel said!), the National Center Newspaper building, past the Stanley Hotel with its original Thorn Tree, the Hilton Hotel, past the library, the conference center, the matatu gathering grounds, and the site of the original American embassy where a memorial tree now sits. Even as a Canadian, I felt a great sadness as we paused there. What I didn’t understand though is why they charge people to get into the little park they have made there. Maybe someone on this board can enlighten me on this?
    Driving south of the city, Daniel pointed out Kibera slums. Having started reading the ‘Constant Gardener’ while on the plane, I knew of it as it was the slum where Tessa worked. It was incredible to see, I couldn’t believe how big it was – 1 million people apparently, with ½ of them being under the age of 15. We had visited a township in South Africa on our trip in 2003, but this was probably 3 times the size. I found myself thinking of this slum all the way to our next stop, and it would continue to haunt my thoughts for the rest of this trip.
    Soon, we were at LANGATA GIRAFFE CENTER. This was an incredible place – those Rothschild giraffe as so cute! A man gave us a talk inside the pavilion on the three different types of giraffe, and then turned us loose to feed them and get giraffe ‘kisses’ in return. It was great fun, and made for wonderful memory pictures.
    KAREN BLIXEN MUSEUM was next. This house was pretty awesome to see, I like looking at houses and contents that are done up with period antiques. And, even if some of the furniture was a just a replica, that was OK, I could still picture Karen Blixen sitting in her study at night, telling her stories while Denis listened at her feet. Must be the romantic in me… ‘I had a farm at the foot of the Ngong Hills…’
    B-u-m-p-i-n-g 35 km northeast of the city to KIAMBETHU TEA FARMS in Limuru, we enjoyed the country scenery, as well as the local ‘small towns’ along the way. Greeting our bus was Fiona Vernon, the granddaughter of one of the original settlers who started this once massive tea farm. With blue Colubus monkeys playing on the roof of the lovely farmhouse, and her corgis at her feet, Fiona offered us a drink in her beautiful gardens while she told of us the history of tea growing in Kenya and the process of growing, and marketing tea here. A delicious lunch was then served in the garden, featuring hand churned butter, fresh vegetables from her garden, and home made ice cream.
    A shopping option at the Collectors Den was up next, most went, but not us, we flaked out back at the hotel. Walking into to our room it was a pleasure to see a dozen red roses on the desk, and a beautiful (and delicious) fruit basket as a ‘welcome’ gift from the Pinto’s.
    At 5:30 we all met downstairs at the Micato desk, for a ride through Nairobi’s busy rush hour to the outskirts in Lavington for a wonderful ‘mixer’ cocktail party and dinner at the Pintos. It was a wonderful opportunity to get to know one another, first over cocktails and then while having a wonderful traditional African & Indian buffet meal together. And a wonderful surprise for desert – there we were socializing at the tables after we finished the main course when we witnessed the first of what was to be a few of the traditional Swahili ‘celebration’ processions. There was Daniel, leading the pack of the staff, holding a very large cake, singing ‘Jambo, jambo bwana ….. hakuna matata’ (anyone who has been in Kenya/Tanzania will know which song I am speaking of – I swear it is their National Song & VERY catchy!) The procession went around all the tables with the cake, only to rest in front of Jim and I!! It was an anniversary cake for us!! What a wonderful surprise, and a wonderful way to remember our ‘first day on safari!’.

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    Lynda, thanks, this is great. The sense of emotion and excitement really comes through, and I can say, with only 8 days until leaving for my sixth safari, that sense of excitement does not lessen. Looking forward to hearing about the game viewings.

    Michael

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    LyndaS,

    The reason they need to charge a "very nominal" fee to get into the Embassy memorial is that it is right in the middle of town. And if it were free entry, the general public would enter it, and idle/sleep/hang out as is common in the other city parks. If it were free, it would obviously be too crowded (like the other city parks) and security would become an issue (like the other city parks).

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    I'm with Nyamera :)

    You are keeping us all on tenderhooks waiting for more!... It's definately like a good book - I don't want to stop reading.

    Thanks for such a fab report.
    Imelda

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    Great report, Lynda! Can't wait for the next installment. My wife and I are spending a couple days with Kennedy next month. Sounds like we will have a great time with him.

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    Your enthusiasm is totally infectious and we do hope that the report doesn't end soon with the footnote...

    "At this point unfortunately Lynda literally exploded with joy; we will all miss her, but it's how she would have wanted to go....
    Jim"

    ;-)

    Love the detail Lynda. Reckon you'll have paid us all back with interest by the end!

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    Thanks all for your great comments!

    Jed - I did put spaces in word, but for some reason when I pasted it , they didn't appear; I will try double spacing between paragraphs this time!

    Susannah and Paul, your comments gave me a good morning laugh - great epitaph for me Paul! Now how could I have missed describing the Collectors Den !! Oh, wait, I didn't go in then, I went back to the hotel ;-) catch me later for that as I went at the end of the trip.....

    Michael I was glad to read that the excitement doesn't wear off after even the fifth trip - wow your sixth, that's is fabulous - i can't wait to say that too!


    Thanks Simbakuwa for the info, it's makes sense now to me.

    Erika - sometimes you can get in to see the cheetahs, if the timing is right, by just asking apparently, but, the best way is to pre-arrange it before you go as they cannot let everyone in the cage to hug them, they would be overwhelmed.
    Those of us who have gone, or are going, have pre-booked it in a Nairobi day tour with an incredible Nairobi guide named Kennedy - he owns Waymark Safaris (private or group guide/driver for safaris as well as Nairobi guide/driver) and he will arrange it with KWS in advance for you. Here's his info -
    Kennedy (Waymark Safaris)
    E-mail Address(es):
    waymarkt@nbnet.co.ke

    Kumasawa, you & your wife will have a great time with Kennedy next month - he is one fabulous person and a wonderful, knowledgable guide! We came home with a new friend!


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    I want more!!!! What a great report, Lynda! Can't wait for the next installment! Your report has gotten me through a very long-boring day at work! My boss is on the golf course & left me with nothing to do...so....I am reading stories from this forum all day!
    Dory

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    Lynda, I'm enjoying your report immensely, however I'm sitting on pins and needles waiting to see how the stapler came to be used! Great style of writing and love the quotes. I'm sure glad you and your husband enjoyed it so much!
    Thanks!
    Aloha,
    Dennis

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    ‘BEING ON SAFARI IS LIKE OPENING A NEW PRESENT EVERY DAY!’
    -an unknown safari enthusiast, from Gary Clarke’s ‘I’d Rather Be On Safari’

    My first game viewing day!! The call to meet everyone in the lobby was early today at 6:30 am – but that was OK as I was so excited, I don’t think I slept a wink! Our flight from Wilson Airport, on a regularly scheduled Air Kenya flight (Dash 7 – about 40 seats) was scheduled to leave at 8:00, but first, we had to get through that dreaded baggage ‘weigh in’! Cutting to the chase, they took all our green bags (1 per person), weighed them all together and multiplied 33 lbs x 15 people to come up with our allotted weight. Carry on was not included in this – just our green Micato bags. And, we were 70 lbs overweight. What a way to start! Daniel took care of this for us – and, I even told him we were two of the guilty party by approximately 7 lbs each and to charge us accordingly. I have no idea to this day what was done, by who or how, but possibly we were ‘let go’ as the flight was no where near full. Or maybe some of the other passengers had no luggage or something, I’m not sure.

    We arrived at Amboseli at 8:45. How exciting it was to spot our first wildlife from the plane! It was, as most would assume – elephants. Dividing up into 3 Micato pop-top vans, we met our driver, and proceeded on our first game run en route to AMBOSELI SERENA LODGE. Even this was an exciting moment for me to see who our van mates might be! The mother and the daughter – Audrey and Lucrece joined us, as well as the couple from New York, Roberta and Michael. Our driver’s name was Samuel, he had been with Micato for 3 years, and even though he was on the quiet side, he sure knew his animals and where they might be. Our first animals, from afar were wildebeest and Thompson’s Gazelle, everyone in the van was so excited to see them in the distance! It was a wonderful game drive, we saw ostrich, crowned cranes, elephants very close up, buffalo, Grants gazelle, spotted hyena, warthogs, Burchell zebras, Tantulus monkeys, impala – and lions, but just from afar. But that was OK, as you guys can all imagine, I got pretty excited when Samuel pointed across the field and said – look – lions – way over there!

    We arrived at the lodge just before lunch – what a beautiful quaint lodge it was! The concept of the design was meant to be ‘Africa’, and I would say they have attained this. Checking in to the hotels, on a Micato trip, as I was to find out, was a breeze – while the lodge staff was handing us the warm towels and juice, Daniel would get our keys and hand them to us.

    We were in Room 5 – very close to the pool, with a nice view from our large picture window into a sparse wooded area. The room was small, but quaint. Two single beds (and here we were on our anniversary trip!!!), a writing desk, an open closet, a nightstand, a chair and an average size bathroom that offered up shampoo, shower caps, body lotion/bath gel and nice smelling insect repellent wipes. There were huge, tastefully done murals on the wall of local wildlife; I enjoyed looking at them at night lying in bed. There were no mossie nets, but there was a can of bug spray and that seemed to take care of any bug problem at night in the room. The lodge itself had a restaurant, a gift shop, a computer for internet use (but be aware – it’s in an open area – lots of mossies bit me here) a pool and a TV/conference room. The food was good, it was buffet for each meal – the supper would include Indian dishes as well as a fish and a meat dish for the entrees. The vegetables were fresh and tasted incredible! The restaurant was big, but not noisy, it was spacious and well laid out. We had two large tables just off the terrace, it had a great view. Around and about the lodge during the day were many monkeys, I enjoyed watching them, taking pictures of them, and I never tired of hearing them play on the roof of our room.

    Jim and I missed the afternoon game run (and yes, of course they saw lions up close!) as he was pretty tired, and just as I was ready to go, I got very violently ill. Just bang – hit me suddenly! Jim called the desk to let Daniel we weren’t going so they wouldn’t wait, and we both slept the afternoon away. I felt fine for supper, which was pretty bizarre. It went as suddenly as it came. After supper the lodge was running a showing of the documentary on Echo, most did watch it, but I had some serious journal notes to write so that I could be sure to bore all my Fodorite friends to death with MANY details when I got home!!!

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    Lynda, sorry to hear you were sick and missed the Lion 'close up', hope you got another chance at it!
    The Serena sounds really nice - I hope the Mara Serena is as nice!

    Can't wait to hear more.
    Imelda

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    Lynda, I am sorry that you missed the lions. While I was in Amboseli, I only saw one lion and it was far far far away.

    Looking forward to seeing some of your Amboseli pics.

    Had there been any rain lately in Amboseli?

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    Thank you Lynda for allowing to relive your travels with you. Loving this report although I've been slow to catch up.

    Hope you recover well for rest of the trip. It's like reading a book you don't want to put down!

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    DAY 4 – WEDNESDAY, MAY 31ST, SERENA LODGE, AMBOSELI NATIONAL PARK

    I literally bounded out of bed at 5:00 – which is no small miracle for me who does not usually take too well to even a 7:00 AM rising. I was looking forward to an early exciting game run, maybe even seeing some lions after missing the ones yesterday afternoon! The lodge had coffee available from 5:00 AM at an outside bar, this was a very welcome sight so early in the morning. We filled our ‘just-got-for-Xmas small stainless steel sealed coffee mugs’ and ran to the van. Today, I thought would be my LION day! And, it didn’t disappoint.

    At this time, Amboseli Park was still pretty dry. There were patches of green occasionally, but mostly dry, not too-tall brown savannah grass (or at least that is what it looked like to me) with lots of bald patches. Sammy, our driver told us this was good compared to what it was during the drought. Mt. Kilimanjaro had not been visible to us yesterday (behind clouds), and it was still that way when we set out this morning.
    ‘It will appear later’ Sammy said. And, it did.

    Sammy took us past the employee camp and straight into a troop of Olive Baboons. Not one or two, but hundreds – on the road, in the trees, all over! We had great fun watching them; they are really neat to watch. More buffalo, waterbuck, wildebeest, hyenas (I really liked these guys –definitely an underloved animal), warthogs, cranes, zebra, gazelles – but where were those illusive lions??? With no luck on this morning’s game drive, we headed back to the lodge for lunch, some outdoor journal-writing time and time to talk to the young Maasai men that were there to socialize with the guests.

    But, not for too long – those lions, I just knew, had to be out there. Refuel the coffee mug, jump into the van at 4:00 and off we went again. ‘Going on a lion hunt’ – that kid’s camp song kept jumping into my head. Mt. Kilimanjaro, just as Sammy had said, had poked its head through the clouds – what an incredible sight. I kept staring at it, thinking of BostonGal, Darren, Eben and all the others on this board that were brave enough to climb it. We saw more zebra, impalas, and various birds. Then, just as I thought we weren’t ever going to find any lions – there was Daniel, who was riding with us in our van, turning to me and saying – ‘look to your right, Lynda’. Ohmigosh!!!! There was a whole pride of them, a bit off in the distance under a tree, but I wasn’t being fussy! I could see the female, the kids and the teenage male! We stopped the van, we watched. And it wasn’t long before the mom decided she needed a drink – which was on the other side of the road. One by one they got up, and one by one they crossed in front of us – what a thrill!!! Word had spread fast once we spotted them – about 20 vans pulled up behind us, and in front of us. ‘The park internet’ Sammy explained.

    We watched for a bit more, they drank from the stream and then laid down in a classic ‘lion pose’ on the grass. There was a lone wildebeest further out, we could see they were watching it, but I guess they weren’t hungry; they just sat there in the grass watching it. Everything else paled by comparison after this (‘oh, just another zebra’)

    Kili was showing us all its glory this afternoon, so Daniel suggested that we go the Normatior, better known as Observation Hill to take a look at it. The van took us as far it could, and then everyone walked the rest of the way up the hill to observe Mt. Kilimanjaro. When we got back down, the three vans had moved to a good vantage point, and, there standing beside a table spread with wine, beer, pop, chips and peanuts were Daniel and the three drivers. Our first sundowners! It was a great way to close a day, watching the sun set around Kilimanjaro and socializing with the rest of the people from our group. Jim assured me that the Tusker he had tasted great in the great outdoors!

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    Welcome back Lynda!

    What an absolute pleasure to meet you both in London after your trip and an honour to be able to deliver the Tomboy print in person!

    I was, as you know, utterly in AWE at the amazing journals you created both before and during the trip - I have NEVER seen anything quite like them and am very impressed indeed!

    Looking forward to reading more and to seeing pics online - it was fun to see a few of J's pics on the storage device but can't wait to see his favourites processed and on a large screen!

    :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D

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    Hello and welcome back Lynda,
    I just finally got to your wonderful report as I've been away.
    Your enthusiasm is contagious. You really do make me want to drop everything and head back to Africa. So glad you enjoyed and look very forward to hearing more of your adventures.
    Sherry

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    DAY 5 – THURSDAY, JUNE 1ST, SOPA LODGE, TARANGIRE NATIONAL PARK


    Today was going to be a fairly involved traveling day. We left Amboseli at 7:15 with a small game drive as we drove to the park gate. We didn’t see many animals but we did see lots of ‘sellers’ at the gate. Maasai swords, masks, carved giraffes – the works! I didn’t buy anything, but it was great fun to watch two of our van mates, Audrey and Lucrece (the mother and daughter) bargain. And at $15.00 for the sword, we think Lucrece got a great deal! In case anyone is wondering why we had time to sit at the gate, Rule No. 1 of group travel had been broken – ‘never be the first to leave anything behind’. Chad, the single guy in the group, had left his jacket, with his passport in it, back at the lodge, and we were waiting for it to ‘catch up’ with us.

    The vehicle, with Chad’s errant passport caught up to us, and we were on our way! We drove for about an hour on fairly decent roads – not much to see out here – before stopping at a ‘pit stop’ in Namanga. More goods to buy, but for some reason, I just couldn’t get into the swing of ‘buying’ on this trip. This is unusual for me, probably due to the weight restriction, as I always had that in mind. We arrived at the border at 10:00, went into Kenya immigration to give up the yellow exit cards, and watched Lucrece bargain for a box of carved animals for $6.00 with the street vendors. There was a yellow line painted in the middle of the road; no street vendor was allowed to step over it. It was comical to see all the vendors standing in a neat little row shouting out prices! Oh, and if anyone wants those wooden animal necklaces – here is the place – only a 1.00. Then through ‘no-man’s land’ over to Tanzania where we had to fill out blue cards and stand in a big line up to clear our entry. Nowhere here did I see where one could obtain a Tanzanian visa if one needed, so I could not take note of the ‘line-up’ time for that. Micato had asked us to obtain the TZ visas in advance. All cleared now, we said goodbye to our drivers, and got into a very comfortable Micato bus, all of us in the one bus. And off we went to Arusha! The roads were actually pretty good, it was a very comfortable ride, and I enjoyed looking out the window at the Maasai tending their goats and cows, the little villages we passed, and the daily activity of the people in Tanzania.

    We arrived in Arusha at noon. It was a much bigger town than I imagined it to be after reading some of the reports from the board. For some reason I had pictured one dusty road filled with chickens, people and bikes, with a nice hotel at the end of it. Daniel pointed a few buildings out to us – the downtown section, and the courthouse where the genocide trials are being held. We ate lunch out on the patio overlooking the garden at the Arusha Hotel, a very classy and pretty hotel. The buffet lunch, all Indian food, was excellent – I could have stood by the fresh Naan bread all day and munched on it – it was wonderful!

    But, we had a plane to catch at the regional airport at 2:00. Daniel gathered us all up at 1:30 – or so he thought. Once on the bus, hmmmm, seemed two were missing! Oh oh! – Rule No 2 in a group – never be the last on the bus! Daniel sent out one of the Micato ground staff, and when she didn’t come back, went and looked himself! But, meanwhile, they came back; they were just enjoying that lovely garden at the hotel.

    Micato had chartered a flight through Regional Air – an 18 seat twin prop plane. (and Sandi, these bush pilots were really good looking!!) Daniel gave out what was to be the normal ‘goodie bag’ as the flight started out – 3 candies and a set of ear plugs! It made me chuckle every time we got those nice little bags with the neat little animals drawn on them, never did use the ear plugs though, and I have quite a collection now if anyone needs! (I ate the candies …) After a smooth 40-minute flight, we landed in the middle of nowhere on a small strip in Tarangire National Park.

    Three Micato vans were waiting for us; these were the extended Land Cruisers with the pop tops that I spoke of in Imelda’s post, as 4 x4’s would be needed for the Ngorongoro portion of our trip. Somehow, Jim and I ended up in the van with Chad, just the three of us. Oh oh, I thought, alarm bells went off, - could be a problem coming here - but too late. I knew, from my emails to Fran that a family of three, a mom/dad/8 yr old boy was joining us for 5 days in Tanzania. If we were the van of three, that meant we had the 8 yr old as a van mate. Now, not that we dislike kids, but we just aren’t used to being around them anymore. We did our 10 years as Boy Scout leaders, but that was a long time ago, and I was worried about a post I had seen on the Fodors board a few years back from a woman who had a mom and two kids as van mates – and had a miserable time as they bickered, fought, whined and said they were bored. I was very apprehensive as we went on a game run while waiting for them to land.

    Bernard, our driver was an incredible guide. He was very personable, and really knew his stuff; he has been with Micato for about 10 years. We saw lots of impala, Grants gazelle, and dik-diks while we waited. And, of course boabob trees – what a grand looking tree they are! They really do look as though they have been planted upside down. Soon we saw the plane flying overhead, and we drove back to pick up our new van mates. And, to make a long story short, I needn’t have worried a moment – Andrew, the 8 year old was an incredibly well-behaved young man. He was actually a pleasure to have in the van; he was a terrific spotter, very enthusiastic about seeing the animals, and in general, just a really nice kid! And, his mom and dad, Sylvia and Craig were really nice too!

    We did another game run on the way to the lodge. The grass, just as Eben and a few others on this board had told me to expect, was long and it was a little hard to spot the animals sometime. But they were there; we could see an ear here, a tail there. Our first sighting was a family of bat-eared foxes; they were on the air strip actually. A very rare find, Bernard told us! Our sightings on this run included go away birds, impala, elephants (now those you could see very clearly in the grass!), Maasai giraffe, dwarf mongoose, and waterbucks. The elephant sighting was incredible; they were right beside the road, very up close and personal.

    We arrived at the Sopa Lodge around 6:00. I was immediately impressed, the reception area was very open, really roomy and bright and very nice to look at – lots of marble, and incredible carved doors. Certainly not ‘over-the-top’, but very impressive. Daniel retrieved our keys while we relaxed with our welcome fruit juice and hot towels in the lounge. The rooms (ours was Room # 42) were huge! Two double beds with a mossie net (needed…), two night stands, a writing desk, a sitting room with two comfy chairs and a table; all done up in a wonderful green African print décor. The bathroom was huge and very nice – it had a walk in shower, a hair dryer on the wall, and it was very bright. Amenities included insect repellent, sun lotion, shampoo and showercaps. The view from the balcony was nice, we could see the pool, and the park beyond the pool. The restaurant inside the lodge was very roomy, very open and very bright. The food was a buffet the night that we were there, but, I believe they alternated buffet with menu each night as the other Sopas did. The food was good; nice salads, a selection of African, Indian and ‘American’ style dishes – we had a choice between lamb or fish that night. The pool looked great, but I could never seem to find the time to go in any pool. Audrey and Lucrece did, they reported that it was refreshing, but really hard to swim in as it was in a circle around an ‘island’, which meant that there was a shallow part on one side that made it impossible to swim all the way around.

    As you can probably guess, with just arriving at 6 pm, there was only time to shower, eat and do just a tiny bit of socializing in those comfy lounge couches after dinner before we fell asleep!

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    Oh Lynda, You are making my wait to go on Safari unbearable - I can almost 'taste it' .... and bat eared foxes, they are sooo cute, I was just reading about them last night ( I got my new LP East Africa and Watching Wildlife East Africa throuogh the post yesterday!).
    Can't wait for more!
    Imelda

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    Glad to hear things worked out OK with the family. I was beginning to fear the worst :O

    I was wondering if it's just one line for everyone at the Namanga border and they just sold visas to whoever needed them.

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    ¡¥AFTER ONLY A FEW DAYS IN THE BUSH YOUR ENTIRE SYSTEM BECOMES ONE IN HEARTBEAT WITH THE EARTH. YOU ARE IN TIME WITH THE RHYTHM OF LIFE BECAUSE YOU ARE IN AFRICA!¡¦
    -Gary Clarke ¡§I¡¦d Rather Be On Safari¡¨

    DAY 6 ¡V FRIDAY, JUNE 2ND, SOPA LODGE, NGORONGORO CRATER RIM, NCA
    We were, truly, in the rhythm of life here in Africa now. No longer did Jim have to get me up in the early mornings by bringing coffee and gently coaxing me out of bed, since being in Africa I found that I was getting out of bed even before the alarm rang ¡V anxious to open my new ¡¥present¡¦ every day!

    Our game run was called for 7:30 this morning. We saw lots of the same animals, but that was OK , we never tired of watching the graceful elephants, the cute and tiny little dik-diks, the regal Maasai giraffe, those herds of impalas, or pondering that age-old question while watching a herd of zebra. (Black with white stripes, or white with black stripes? Donkey or horse?) Interesting too about the zebra, Bernard showed us how they would stand in a clump of three, with their head resting a different way on each other¡¦s back ¡V scouting he said ¡V this way they had a complete 360 view. I found all of his facts about the animals just fascinating; it¡¦s amazing to me how all these animals know to do all these things by instinct.

    Andrew, right from getting in the van the day before, had been dying to see a lion. He had made a bet with his dad that he would see them first, and Andrew did see his lions this morning! They were a bit far off, but binoculars brought them in a little closer, we watched them down in the dry riverbed just lazing around. Full from a recent kill, Daniel told us. And that became evident when an impala came down to take a drink from the water across the way a bit ¡V the lions didn¡¦t even look. New on this morning¡¦s game drive were rock hyrax (they are so cute!), a marabou stork and black-faced monkeys.

    We were back at the lodge by noon, where a wonderful buffet lunch had been set up outdoors by the pool. And then, off to Ngorongoro we went. We drove to the gate of the park (Tarangire), and then on a ¡¥not-so-bad¡¦ highway, followed by that wonderful new highway stretch that the Japanese built for Kenya! It was a nice afternoon drive up to the crater rim gate, with a few pit stops along the way; to fill up with gas and buy bananas from a street vendor in a small town just after Mosquito Creek, and a washroom & shopping break. And, speaking of shopping breaks ¡V little did I remember until right now that I actually DID buy something other than my ebony carved lion and the item that was all Patty¡¦s fault as mentioned before ƒº (you just have to wait Patty to see what it is I am talking about). At one pit stop, somewhere along the road to the gate, I bought 3 Maasai blankets, well, actually Bernard told me it was two Maasai blankets and one Mburu blanket. They were only 10.00 US each, and I thought ¡¥what a great quilt¡¦ these would make! Roberta and I drove the guy selling them crazy; we had him unfold many of them so that we could compare what would look nice together. And, I know, I really didn¡¦t need the extra 3 lbs in weight that it probably added ¡V but they will look nice when I¡¦m done!

    We arrived at the gate at 4:00, got out, stretched, took lots of pictures of the baboons and wandered around the tiny ¡¥crater knowledge¡¦ display inside one of the buildings. After what seemed like an eternity, we came to the junction where there is a lovely viewing spot. From here, we headed east around the famous ¡¥rim¡¦ road. Now all of your reports had prepared me for a ¡¥bumpy, cliff-hanging¡¦ road, but I tell you, not in a thousand visions did I once imagine it this bad! The ruts were big enough to hide Volkswagens in them! It was, without a doubt, in my travels ALL over this world ¡V the worst road I had ever been on. It was pretty hairy in spots ¡V well, no, maybe not in spots, all over! After an hour of this I just wanted to see the lodge appear, but no, so far no lodge in sight¡K. ¡¥Just another few minutes¡¦ Bernard would say as he jogged over, around and under the ruts. And then, finally ¡V ¡¥look, you can see the lodge over there!¡¦ Yeah, like WAY over there! But it did eventually get closer, and just before we got to the turn off for the Sopa ¡V BONUS! There were two lions walking across the road! (not sure how they managed to walk on that road!) A not quite matured male lion, and a female lion. ¡¥Honeymooners¡¦ Bernard called them. What an incredible sight to see, they stopped, looked at us and then went behind a bush. We stopped the vehicle and waited only a few minutes before they both popped their heads out, and laid down in a very classic lion pose, with the lioness laying with her head on her paws, and the male¡¦s head towering over her ¡V both of them looking straight at us. Probably wondering how we made it on those roads this far¡K

    We arrived at the lodge just before 7:00 (we watched the lions for quite a bit, plus stopped to take pictures of the sunset through the acacia trees over the crater). What a welcome sight! It is an incredibly beautiful lodge; again, like the Sopa at Tarangire, very open, very bright and very nicely decorated. Big glass windows overlooked the pool, which seemed to be on the very edge of the crater. The bar area was very inviting with its huge fireplace, armchairs and couches scattered around. The restaurant had a fireplace in the middle of it as well. It was a fairly large room, but there were too many tables, it made it hard to walk between the tables. The meal on the first night was from a menu; there was a soup, two appetizers, two mains, a traditional Swahili dish, a vegetarian dish, and two deserts from choose from. The meals were really good, the appys and the deserts were the best! The second night was a buffet. Breakfast was served buffet, all the usual suspects plus an omelet station. The service here though was not the best, the staff were friendly, but really slow in getting to you.

    The room was awesome. Nicely decorated, it contained two queen size beds with mossie netting, a wardrobe, a dressing table, and a wonderful closed in sitting area with huge picture windows that looked down into the crater, with rocking chairs and a small table to enjoy that view. There was also a separate sitting room at the front door entrance, but there was only a bar fridge in it, nothing else. Probably ran out of ideas¡K The bathroom was huge also, but we were back to the type of bathtub that you needed a ladder to get into it. I did wonder why they make their bathtubs so tall in Kenya! One thing I should mention though ¡V this room must have been the reason why were given those Micato flashlights ¡V it truly had the poorest lighting of all the places we were in, including the tented camp. I tried to write in my journal at the desk, and could hardly see the journal. Roberta mentioned to me that she tried to use it as a make-up table, but for sure it didn¡¦t work for that!

    So ends another day in paradise as we fall asleep with the blinds for the window wide open, hoping to wake up in the morning and catch the dawn over the crater!

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    Lynda,I am just back yesterday from my Micato safari, and am already having fun reading your trip report and reliving my experience as well. We had such a fabulous time; it was really remarkable. Thanks for all the time and effort.

    Mary

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    Hi Mary!

    Welcome home!!!

    I would love to read how you did on the packing, and all about the trip - are you going to do a report? (it doesn't have to be long like mine if you don't want!)

    Did you do the America Shares program, ie did you visit Mukuru?

    Can't wait to hear! There was one more person going with Micato that had posted on this board, I believe it was someone going in early July if I remember correctly - someone with two kids I think? My memory fails me.

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    From Lynda:
    "...followed by that wonderful new highway stretch that the Japanese built for Kenya! "

    We sang songs about that wonderful 'Japanese Road' that led to the Crater area. We had had such an awful time with roads and vehicles breakdowns up until that point that when we reached 'the Japanese Road' we all wanted to started crying with happiness.

    Another great memory.

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    Okay, Lynda, next installment please! Reading this report makes me feel as if I'm still there.

    And I'm pleased as punch that Kennedy worked out for you. He's a very nice guy, isn't he?

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    I'm writing, I'm writing Leely! (next part should be up late tonight/early tomorrow AM)

    Yes, Kennedy was AMAZING!!! We came home with a whole new family for friends, he really is a keeper!

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    “OHMIGOSH – THIS IS LIKE OPENING A BOX OF POST RAISIN BRAN CEREAL AND GETTING ALL RAISINS AND NO CEREAL!”
    -Lynda Swain (that’s me)

    That really was my comment as we descended into the crater – I could not believe all the ‘pockets’ of animals! Ah, but I get a little ahead of myself here, first I have to tell everyone how I thanked the safari gods that we had pulled the ‘Sopa’ lodging, instead of the ‘Serena’ lodging.

    After reading many reports on this board of what it was like to descend into the crater, I couldn’t believe it when we went down this small, gently sloping, very scenic road. Lovely acacia trees, with a huge herd of elephants wandering through them were to our right and left, which then gave away to tall grass, spotted with wildflowers, along both sides as we descended.

    “Is this it?” I asked Bernard. “No potholes, no winding teeth-grating roads on the edge of some precipice or other?”
    “Yes”, he assured me, this was it. “They are talking about the descent road over on the Serena side” said he. For months I had been dreading that descent – but hey, I could do this again I thought! And then, that’s when I looked around – WOW! All the animals just hanging about – a big patch of wildebeest here, a gigantic patch of zebra here, etc. And, just like everyone had said in their reports – it was really quiet early in the morning on this side – I don’t think we saw another vehicle (except the other two vans which were in our group) for the first few hours.

    For the next few hours, as we drove from animal patch to animal patch (someone else on this board had said that very recently & I must say I couldn’t have described that better!) we saw zebra, a pride of lions, cape buffalo, wildebeest, more zebra, and a ton of different birds (can you tell I am not a birder at heart?).

    Thinking it was time for a pit stop soon, Bernard headed to the picnic spot, and there we were driving along, when we could go no further. A road block of lions just lyin’ around on the road! Andrew (the young fellow in our van) and I were so excited that everyone locked the doors so we wouldn’t jump out…. This was truly the most amazing thing I had seen – there they were, 2 feet in front of us, not even seeming to care we were there. By this time our other two vans and one or two others had caught up to us. But that was OK – we had the best vantage point of them all! We watched them for about ½ hr, there were 5 of them, one of them was a teenage male, and his mane was just beginning to grow in. At first, they just laid there while we watched – they weren’t really sleeping as each one would roll over, which in turn would make the next one roll over too. But, probably thinking that it was time to perform for us, finally one decided to get up and wander down to our third van. Plop! That was enough energy for that one. The next one got up, and a little more ambitious, went over to the grass on the side of the road and struck up a classic lion-standing-looking-in- the grass pose for us. By this time the others had decided to get up too, they were, I believe trying hard to please us all as they all took up different positions in front of the 4 or 5 vans that were watching them. What a highlight this was for us!

    The picnic spot was beautiful with the hippos in the pond beside the washrooms. Our 5 performers were back in the middle of the road as we drove back, by this time word had spread and there were 2 or 3 different vans watching them. We joined them for awhile again (can’t get enough of lions up close was our thoughts!), and then set off in search of flamingoes on Lake Magadi – which didn’t disappoint. There were just tons of flamingoes – greater and lesser, which made for wonderful colourful pictures, with the standard crater wall backdrop! There were a few other animals that had come down to the lake too, a few hyenas, and Grants gazelles. Then, off to the hippo pool, it was amazing to watch all of them rolling over, it seemed like they were playing when they did this.

    As it was after noon by this time, Bernard headed back to the picnic site, on our way we saw some more of the amazing pockets of animals – zebra, wildebeest, gazelles, cape buffalo, and then stopped for a hyena that was sleeping by the side of the road. This was our first hyena up close, and I must say, these guys are definitely underloved and underrated. This guy was so cute with his fluffy little round ears and his spots! He woke up as we stopped the engine, looked at us and got up. He meandered over to the van, walked right past my window, stopped and looked at me. Then, went to the front of the van, off to my side a bit, dug a hole in the road, peed in it and then plopped down in it. He had all of us in the van in peels of laughter.

    We drove back past the lions just lyin’ around on the road again on the way back to the picnic site. We couldn’t help but watch them some more. Upon arrival back at the picnic site, I could not believe that it was the same place as where we were in the morning. There were probably 50 vans, Land Rovers, Land Cruisers and other such vehicles there. I couldn’t believe it. Our three vans managed to find a spot by the hippo pond, at the far side. Off to the washroom we went, (that was quite the hike) to come back to a wonderful surprise! Daniel, and the three guides, had laid out a picnic spread that must have been the envy of all with those famous ‘box lunches’. They had a full table set up in between the vans, with salads, samosas, cold steak, chicken, buns, cookies, crackers & cheese, chocolate bars and a fruit salad – a huge spread. Real plates, glasses, real cutlery, and drinks of course, juice, water, beer, wine and spirits. I just couldn’t help but feel smug when I looked over to the couple eating the box lunch with the hard boiled eggs and the sandwich beside us. But, little did I know that karma would get me for that thought the next day as we too had to endure one of those boxed lunches!

    Driving over to Lerai Forest after lunch, we found two more lions in the road – so close that Jim could have reached out and touched them. It was a young male, and a young female, both had fresh small wounds all over them which was attracting the flies. I felt sorry for them; they just couldn’t seem to keep the flies off, no matter what they did.

    We didn’t go far into the forest; the blue-balled monkeys were near to the entrance by the washrooms. They really are bright blue! The rest of the afternoon was spent seeing ‘repeat’ animals – more lions, wildebeest, zebra, and gazelles. We started back up on that lovely smooth, ever-so-gently curved road; almost at the top we stopped to watch a herd (pack?) of elephants feeding on the acacia trees. One huge elephant didn’t like the looks of us; he walked right up to the side of the van and trumpeted, right beside me. I had a momentary scare out of that, for a few seconds there I really wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but he backed off and moved on.

    We arrived back at the lodge right around 6:00, which gave Jim plenty of time to set his camera up to get a fabulous sunset shot over the crater. Spunky (my very small travelin’ bear who has gone all over the world with me, and yes, I know he weighs about a pound…) and I sat in the rocking chairs and watched the sunset go down from the wonderful picture windows in the room.

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    Just amazing Lynda! What a great visit to the Crater. Appreciated the info on the road conditions.

    Sounds like you didn't have to leave the Crater and could stay out the full day. Anyone know if that's possible on a private safari with the changes to half-day tours?

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    Lynda,
    Your day in the Crater sounds even better than ours! And your lunch certainly does.

    I know you have a new job, but I am hoping you find the time to scan at least a few of your photos. And then convert to jpegs. And then set up on kodakgallery or something. And so on.

    Not too much to ask, is it? ;)

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    lynda - i returned from safari with micato june 24th and have been on a natural high ever since. have never dealt with a better group ever!! i am going right along with you and can't wait to get to serengeti and maasai mara. Kichwa Tembo was my favorite place! I hope you were able to try the macadamia nut flan on the buffet. the chef was kind enough to give me the recipe.

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    Oh my goodness aowens - that macadamenia nut flan will haunt me I swear! The day it was on for lunch I was full and didn't have desert - and everyone raved about it! And of course, it wasn't on the next day... I would LOVE the recipe if I could so that I could make it and try it!
    I'm glad you like reading the report - they really are a FABULOUS company!

    Leely- Jim is working on the pictures, but I would give him a bit yet - he has 2100 images to go through plus mine, which were films but are also on CD! I've asked him to put up 100 of the best shots in the Kodak gallery. That lunch really was awesome - but, I did pay for my thoughts (there's that Earl again!) the next day....

    Wayne - I thought of you guys and that 'looking' thing as we were driving to the Serengeti - oops, I'm ahead of myself here....

    and, thankyou so much Dennis, and lovetodiscover!

    I'm back to writing about the next day now!!

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    DAY 8 – SUNDAY, JUNE 4TH, SOPA LODGE, SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK

    “ON SAFARI, I FEEL LIKE A BOTTLE OF COCA-COLA THAT HAS BEEN SHAKEN ON A HOT DAY – EFFERVESANT & OVERFLOWING WITH SIGHTS, SOUNDS, IMPRESSION, EMOTIONS”
    -Gary Clarke, ‘I’d Rather Be On Safari’

    Every evening, Daniel would give us our schedule for the day, and at the end of it, would ask what time we would like a wake up call, along with coffee. This more than made up for that tiny little coffee pot that we couldn’t bring with us due to ‘weight’!

    This morning we awoke with our coffee at 6:00, as the leave time wasn’t scheduled until 8 AM – pretty late by our usual standards – this felt like a ‘sleep-in’. As packing was easy when one never unpacks, and showers are done before dinner, this gave us enough time to laze in bed, to reflect on our wonderful day in the crater the day before, and catch the colours of the sunrise through that huge picture window.

    And, just like I did that morning, I would like to reflect on the crater before we leave it here in this report. Before we left for the safari, I read Gary Clarke’s ‘I’d Rather Be On Safari’ (thanks, Carrie – a great book!). He had a chapter dedicated to the crater, and I could see why. In his book, he writes about the demands that the international tourist market will take on this rather delicate eco-system, as time goes by. He describes a nightmare he had, and this is what I couldn’t get out of my mind that morning. In his nightmare, he envisioned the crater with ‘tourists arriving from around the world to stay in upmarket hotels or on board a cruise ship in the Indian Ocean’. From there, they would be transported by helicopter to one of the ‘necklace of luxury lodges that circled the Crater rim’. Here they would enjoy the casino, or the lavish pool. The next day they would be transported by a loading platform at their lodge and descend into the crater by cable car, then transfer over to a monorail system where they could view the animals on the crater floor. He even described the photograph at the end that they would receive as a ‘souvenir’.

    I reflected a great deal on this, and it was a scary thought. The solution to prevent this? Well, I don’t know, I’m just good on reflecting on things I guess – not coming up with a solution. But it is thought provoking. I didn’t see all of the vans that others had described roaming the crater – until we got to the picnic spot for lunch. And then it hit home what people were talking about. And, it hit home that something will have to be done before it does get to the point that Mr. Clarke saw in his nightmare. I felt good about being in a group of three vans that each had 6 people in it, and I wonder if this may be a good compromise – could the individual private safari people who are only two in a van do a ‘group’ trip into the crater for just that one day, along with 4 other people? That would save on the eco-system a bit, and every little bit could help – and it is only for one day! As most of you guys out there are die-hard private safari goers, what say you? Would that be an OK solution? Sounds better to me than cable cars! A thought to mull over, anyhow.

    Anyhow, I will get off of my soapbox (which is usually Sherry’s!) and continue on my day! I had neglected to mention that at some point in Tarangire Park I had developed quite the rash on my left arm – and it was getting uglier by the day. At first I thought a mosquito had had a hay day on my arm, but they never went away, so I knew it couldn’t be that. To this day I am not sure what it was, I suspect a heat rash; it started out as raised red welts (small) which then went into ‘blisters’ or ‘pimples’ (oooohhh, yech). I don’t know why I wanted to mention this now, but….

    So, off for breakfast we went after my little reflection. A great breakfast – now why does breakfast always taste better in the brisk cold mornings than in the hot muggy mornings? But, I lingered too long, and realizing that it was almost 8:00, ran up to the reception (hold on – there’s a story here!) to pay for our laundry and Jim’s ‘beer’ tab, as well as rescue our travel pouch from the safe. Everytime we would change lodges or camps, Daniel would remind us that we needed to put our valuables in the safe, and every morning before leaving he would ask if we all had retrieved them as it would be an easy thing to forget and leave behind. I quickly paid our tab, got the ticket pouch from the guy and ran out to the van. Everyone else was there, I jumped in and apologized. No problem they said, it was only a few minutes.

    Breathless, I sat back and enjoyed the view of us ‘bumping’ along on the entrance road for the Sopa. We were just about to the rim road, when I thought, possibly I better have a sip of my coffee in that wonderful stainless steel mini travel mug that our son’s best friend, Andrew had bought us for Christmas, before going onto the rim road. I reached for the mug – OH OH! I paled as I realized that I had just broke RULE # 3 of group travel – NEVER be the person who leaves something sentimental behind! I told Jim, and meanwhile the others in the van heard. I apologized to every one for what I was about to do, but the gift meant a lot to me, and besides, coffee on game runs was such a welcome thing for us! Everyone said, no problem, it wasn’t far. I told Bernard, he also said ‘hakuna matata’ as he put the van in reverse and actually BACKED up that entire terrible access road to the lodge! I sunk in my seat as we passed Daniel in one of the other vans going the right way. I didn’t understand all of the words him and Bernard spoke (in Swahili) but I bet I understood a few….

    I had indeed left it at the reception desk as I was in such a hurry. The guy behind the desk saw me run in, reached behind his desk, smiled and handed it to me! And, of course as we were now a good 20 min behind the rest, Bernard thought he might make up for it on the rim road! I knew I wouldn’t live this one down for a while.

    The road didn’t seem as bad as it did the night we were coming in – maybe it’s actually better over on the other side, or maybe it just didn’t seem as bad in the daylight. The descent off the crater at Windy Gap into the valley below was gentle, the road was no hell, but the slope was gentle at least. We descended into a heavily populated Maasai area, it was very scenic, but of course I heeded the warnings about taking pictures of the Maasai and did not take any! Well, OK, maybe I took one out the window when no one was facing the camera…

    This road to the Serengeti is long, dusty, bumpy and just a little boring. Andrew was amusing us by telling us all that he had learned on this trip so far, so we were kept occupied. But I couldn’t imagine doing this long drive just by yourself – which is what many of the guides have to do when their charges fly back from the Serengeti. Bernard told us he is quite used to it, but he still prefers it when there are people in the vehicle with him. We saw a few jackals up close – that was exciting as we hadn’t seen any up close up to that point. Our van caught up with the other two around 11:00 at Oldupai Gorge – and yes, I did get razzed – everyone had heard what we back for and who the culprit was. Daniel just smiled though and said it was OK, I felt better once he said that!

    The museum was small, but interesting – it does need a little updating though, as everyone said. The Maasai beadwork for sale here, according to the shoppers in our crowd was not a very good price. The talk from the museum employee was interesting, and it was certainly interesting to hear about the excavation of ‘Lucy’. The washrooms on the edge of the gorge were very rustic indeed – but, hey, I was getting used to this.

    After our little stop there, it was back on the road again. After another dusty, dry road with lots of bumps, we crossed a dry river bed just before Ndutu Gate, the entrance to the mighty, fabled Serengeti. Daniel ‘issued’ us a Sopa picnic lunch box – oh no we thought – and pointed us in the direction of the picnic area. This was karma. The lunch box was by far the worst lunch I have ever ‘not eaten’. It was terrible! I tried the sandwich – was it a sandwich? I’m not sure; it was a big hunk of bread with ½ slice of ham and something brown. Dates? Figs? Chutney? I don’t know. A pasta salad that didn’t taste very good, an apple that had seen better days, a cookie that had no flavour and a juice box. And that was lunch. I tried everything, but ended up packaging it up and plunking it in the garbage can. No wonder there was so many rats around the benches I thought! They were just waiting for me, and everyone else to do that. This was the ONLY complaint that I put on my form to Micato at the end.

    But I soon got over it once we started driving into the Serengeti. Here was the land I had dreamed about for years with the acacia trees, lions playing, leopards hunting, wildebeest gnuing and zebras standing around. Now, of course we didn’t see many of them right away, but… We drove through ‘cheetah plains’ (just past the gate) and didn’t find one cheetah. Hmmmm. Then, off to Simba Kopje – there’s ALWAYS lions there Bernard told us, and sure enough, there were two lions lying on top of the kopje. The ‘Circle of Life’ song ran through my head, and I could almost see Mufasa and Sarabi holding Simba out for all of the animal kingdom to see. Continuing on to the lodge, this park was much vaster than I ever imagined, it was huge! From here we went to the Seronera area to find us some ‘dangling tails’ (leopards in trees). But, to no avail – they just didn’t want to be spotted I guess and had gone further back from the road than we could see. And then, just as we were getting on our way to head to the lodge, Bernard got a call on the radio – one had been sighted by another van, but it was WAY back from the road. ‘We’ll take it’ we said – we were all anxious to at least say we ‘saw’ a leopard. We watched for about an hour, along with about 5 or 6 other vans, hoping that he/she would jump down. Jim took some shots, but could not even bring it close enough with the 300 zoom lens. We could see it with his 30x binoculars though, so at least we saw it! Unfortunately, this was to be our only leopard on the whole trip – a great reason to go back on another trip I guess! The luck of the draw Bernard told us.

    A little depressed, we started out once again for the Sopa Lodge. I was still checking out trees for dangling tails (even though it was the wrong area) when Bernard stopped the van. I looked out – OHMIGOSH !!! There were 1000’s of wildebeest and zebras all around us! How could I have forgotten about the migration I wondered! I had spent months dreaming of seeing it, and then forgot completely about it until looking up! What a great surprise. Bernard was grinning from ear to ear; he thought this might make up for distant leopards. And it sure did! As far as the eye could see, we were surrounded. The sights, the sounds, it is unforgettable. We stayed and took in these sights and sounds for about an hour before starting, once again, for the lodge.

    And finally, around supper time, we arrived. We showered and freshened up and joined everyone for supper at 8:00. This was a menu night here, it was really good – steak and potatoes, you just can’t go wrong with that! The chocolate orange ganache for desert was incredible.

    The lodge was really nice – but as it is WAY past my bedtime right now and a cat wants in, so I shall leave the description of the lodge and the rooms until my next posting!

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    Lynda,
    Get a cat flap! You have to devote all your free time to report writing and not to some silly cat. I’m happy you got your mug back. :-D I don’t know how to save the Crater. The obvious Fodorite answer would be “raise fees”, but poor people are already excluded from the Crater and over the top luxury doesn’t seem (from what I’ve read in innumerable posts) like something only “a few” can afford. Unless fees were raised to “Bill Gates and friends” levels, only some lower impact budget camping travellers would be excluded and people who are now only going to Botswana out of fear of coming across the riffraff would start visiting the Crater to mingle with other “quality tourists” and as those people can’t go on shared game drives, the Crater would become REALLY crowded. Only permitting shared game drives is a start. Not permitting any vehicles except mountain bikes would be a lot better and also providing the lions with some additional prey.

    You’ll see lots of leopards on your next safari.

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    Still enjoying Lynda, thanks.
    You can have my soapbox back in a minute
    re: turning down the building of a mega hotel on the rim recently was a good sign that building is not being taken lightly by the government or the conservation people.
    I still don't, however, understand why they don't just simply restrict the amount of vehicles allowed to enter each day. Someone once said that they thought that the tour operators are/would be opposed to this. I guess they don't realise that no crater floor = no tourism.

    One more thing and then I'll jump off, I promise.
    The LUNCH BOX FOOD:

    There are so many hungry people in Tanzania that remain unseen, many come to the hidden employee doors of the lodges and camps at night looking for food. Rather than throwing food away, please ask your guide to save and hand out for you. You can also, with your guides help/advice hand food out to local folks. They so appreciate it.

    The soapbox is yours again, Lynda, sorry for the hijack. Look forward to hearing more.
    My daily sermon;
    Sherry

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    Restricting the number of vehicles would be good if you could restrict the number of people staying at the lodges that rim the crater. If people are paying to stay at a lodge (and/or those camping), they're not about to wait around for "their turn." Nor are the lodges not going to keep their properties full. Not everyone visiting here can find alternative activities... not everyone wants to trek, or sit at a pool (only the Sopa has, and it's rather cold on the crater rim). And that doesn't count for those staying at lodges some distance from the crater - at Karutu, for example.

    I believe they should have kept the full-day tours and just raise the price. Only one set of vehicles would enter/depart daily, rather than vehicles moving in/out twice daily, that are doing the damage to the infrastructure.

    Now that the prices have been raised, it's time to go back to full-day visits to the crater floor.

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    Susanna- I am going to suggest that cat door to Jim - there's a good project! An interesting theory on the mountain bikes... :-))

    Sherry, I never thought of giving that lunch box to someone (human), I really should have - and WILL nextime! I saw that the rats were following me (hmmm, pied piper stuff) and went to put it in the garbage can over by the little store. There was a 'park' lady, or at least someone in a uniform, who took it from me, I asumed at the time she put it in the can, but maybe she gave it to someone. I hope so. Well, it's MY story I gues, so I am going to say YES, she gave it someone! There! I feel better now. Soapbox is turned over to you again!

    Restricting the number of vehicles would help, but I can see what Sandi is saying - the lodges would never go for that, as that woudl restrict their income. I am glad to hear building has been restricted.

    And, as a side note, Daniel mentioned to the family in our van, when they asked why we didn't just fly from Tarangire to Ngorongoro to Serengeti, that the NCA will not allow passenger helicopters or planes near the crater or the rim. There's one good thing.

    Sandi - I don't understand about this 1/2 day rule - how we were down there all day if there was that rule? When we went descended, we passed no gate, nor when we came back up. Or, not that I noticed anyways. At least for sure no one stopped us. And, not only that, but wouldn't the other 50 or so vehicles I saw at the picnic spot at lunch have been there all day too?
    (logically if they brought a lunch...) Most were private safaris, or at least most of the people sitting in front of the vans and jeeps were 2 to 3 people plus the driver sometimes. I only saw one other group safari and that was a Micato group.

    I asked Bernard what the cost for this would be, he told me it was 30.00/vehicle to get into the rim area to get to the lodge, and then, an optional drive down into the crater was 100.00/vehicle. There was a per person charge somewhere in there too, but I can't remember if it was to get onto the rim, or down in the crater.

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    The powers that be, whomever, have been fussing around with this half-day on the crater floor since it was announced a year ago. First it was to go into effect January 1. Many tour operators to accommodate visitors, therefore, set-up back-to-back half-days - afternoon on arrival and following morning. But January 1 came and went and they seemed to still be allowing full-days tours. Then sometime in April or May it was announced that the half-day rule would go into effect July 1.

    So, Lynda when you visited, in June, the full-day was still in effect.

    Yes, the fees were raised last year, for the vehicle, and for individuals entering the parks/reserves.
    Your fee/s for the Ngorongoro, Serengeti, Manyara, Tarangire, etc. were included in the price you paid Micato (as was the vehicle cost, a portion of which each person in your group paid).

    And, of course, Tanzania didn't stand alone with increased park/reserve fees - Kenya increased their fees as of July 1; Precision Air and ATC added fuel surcharges to many of their flights as July 1.

    For 2007, we've yet to see (though some prices have been published) where the prices for accommodations, vehicle petrol, flight fuel surcharges, etc. are heading and what other changes in either country are on their way????

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    Lynda,
    The blisters on your arm sound like bites from sand flies, but they normally only bite on feet and ankles, so I don’t know.

    The problem with the Crater is that three monster lodges – Serena, Sopa and Crater -were built during a few years in the 90s against the wishes of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority and without environmental impact assessment. At least there seems to be a stop now.

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    Full day Crater tours are allowed through 1/1/2007. It will be discussed again at that time. This was emailed to me by two outfitters.

    Also, I was quoted firm prices for 2007 by a number of operators.

    Also, the fee (as emailed to me today) is $70.00 total for our vehicle (2 peeps + driver/guide). This is for 2007.

    These are taken from emails I have received.

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    Hi dx,
    This must have changed as it was 100. per vehicle.

    p.s. I still think that limiting the vehicle traffic per day could work as it has for gorilla walks etc. but for different reasons. One would have to reserve prior to arriving. Studies are now being done to see what the max. traffic should be to not impact the grounds or wildlife. Some TO are a big rally factor here in deterring this limitation idea.
    Sherry

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    Lynda - here is the recipe. i made it last week and it is as good as it was in Kichwa Tembo!! For the crust i cheated and used the pilsbury refrigerated and it was fine. i couldn't see wasting the time to make it from scratch! i couldn't wait that long, but i will include that part anyway. i have not converted those measurements.
    Crust:
    125 G Unsalted Butter
    1 1/2 C plain flour
    1 whoe egg lightly beaten
    50 g fine sugar

    combine butter and sugar in bowl. beat with mixer til combined. pour in egg. beat til combined. stir in sifted flour - knead til smooth. comver and frig for 45 min. roll out and put in lined baking tin. trim and cover with greaseproof paper, fill with dry beans. bake in moderate over for 10 min - remove beans and paper and bake 3 more min.

    Filling:
    9 oz macadamia nuts
    7 oz fine sugar
    1/2 cup cream
    1 3/4 oz unsalted butter (about 1/2 stick)

    combine butter and sugar in saucepan. stir constantly over med to low heat without boiling until sugar is dissolved . add remaining ingredients, bring to boil. remove from heat then pour into baked pastry and let cool for 10 min, Serve!!!

    yum yum!

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    Lynda:

    Thank you, thank you , thank you, for not being done. I am playing catch up. So I look forward to being able to read this in the next day or so. I know that it will be fabulous.

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    Lynda, my husband and I are waiting with baited breath for the next leg of your journey. What a fabulous trip you had. We REALLY appreciate all the little details. Sorry about the chocolate recommendation...it was meant for the trip over, actually! ('cause that's how long it would last in my own carryon!!)

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    DAY 9 – SUNDAY JUNE 5TH,2006 SERENGETI SOPA LODGE

    “THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT SAFARI LIFE THAT MAKES YOU FORGET ALL YOUR SORROWS AND FEEL THE WHOLE TIME AS IF YOU HAD DRUNK HALF A BOTTLE OF CHAMPAGNE”
    - Karen Blixen

    ‘Ah, yes, I do love this Safari life’ I thought as I awoke VERY early this morning. This would be one very expensive day for us, although I didn’t know it at the time…

    This was a charming room to awake to. It was spacious, had great décor, but it was still a little dark in both daylight & evening (like the Ngorongoro Sopa was). Two queen size beds, with mossie netting around them, along with a writing desk and nightstands didn’t even begin to fill the room. The décor was attractive, and the private balcony had a great view over the plains. But, there were no chairs out on the balcony to sit on, and none in the room that you could haul outside to sit and enjoy the view. Very strange, I thought… There was a separate sitting room at the front, and it was very comfy. Other than sleeping, this is where we spent our time relaxing, reading, or catching up on journals in the room. It had a coffee table, a table with a small fridge on it, a love seat and a chair. Oh, and a great view through the window of the sidewalk going to the lodge, so we had to be careful not to sit in our skivvies out there. Everyone who walked by seemed to look in – habit I guess! Which brings me to the other strange item of this room. The bathroom. Spacious – yes. Floor cold – yes. But – the shower/tub was right against the front wall, and, on that wall was a window – not frosted, nor curtained. Looking right over to that very same front walkway. That, I thought was weird and I felt a little strange when using the facilities, hearing people walk by knowing they could look right in! Closing the shower curtain worked for the facilities, but I just sucked it up and got over it when needing to use the shower – nothing I could do!

    The rest of the lodge was really nice too, it was large and airy as well, but it just seemed ‘cozier’ than the others we had stayed in. There were hardly any people there; even at meal times it seemed that we were the only ones around in the restaurant. Dinners, both nights that we were there, were from a menu. There were two appetizers to choose from, a soup, a meat or fish or an African dish for an entrée, and a desert. The food was really good here; the lakefish, which we kept running across was incredible. And, I am not usually a fish eater, so that is saying something. The restaurant had a nice patio that you could eat on, while looking for animals out on the plains – many passed by as we were eating lunch one day out there. There was TV room which looked quite cozy, the only time I saw people in it though was when there was a World Cup game on. Funny – three weeks of no TV, radio, hardly any internet and no newspapers, but yet we all knew who was playing in the World Cup and what the score was. And, for me that’s pretty good, as I wasn’t even aware the World Cup was on until I got to Africa. The pool, again, looked inviting, and according to a few in the group – it was.

    But I digress. Back to 4:45 AM when we awoke to the sound of hyena’s laughing, or whatever that is that they do. It was to be a very early morning game run this morning, as the photographers in the crowd did not want to miss the opportunity to get a desktop photo of the ‘Serengeti Sunrise’. And, I must say it is a spectacular photo, Jim will be putting 100 or so of our pictures on the Kodak Gallery at some point, but we are still going through them, it may be a while. We hightailed it down to the waterhole, making it in plenty of time for Chad and Jim (the photographers in the van) to get those lovely pictures. Flamingos in the foreground, acacias in the background, with the sun reflecting orange on the water, mmm mmmm mmmm. Perfect.

    Once we were all sunsetted out, we went back to the migration. – wow, really is all I can say. EVERYONE in the world should see this, it is really incredible. I’m not sure what it is, but something just comes over you as you sit in the middle of the wildebeest and zebra, with the dust kicking up around you, drinking in the wonderful sounds of these funny looking animals. Mind you, the downside of this, as Leely pointed out in her report – tons of tse tse flies go along with this migration. Bat was right – if she had seen the migration in February, she would have been eaten alive! At least with that rash all over my arms, they couldn’t bite me there….

    Leaving the migration, we drove for what seemed like an hour – not an animal in sight. Where was everyone we thought? Simba, Nala, Rafiki, Zazu, Pumbaa, Shenzi, Banzai, Ed? Where did they all go? Even Bernard was mystified; he told us it wasn’t usually this barren! Finally though, he spotted a lion up on the kopje, and then, a warthog, and then a few hyenas. And buzzards. And where there are hyenas and buzzards….there is a fresh kill. All three of our vans seemed to converge on the sight of the kill at once (that Serengeti internet really does work); we could see the drag marks across the road, and, the lioness and her cubs, sitting under the tree just over the other side guarding the kill. Unfortunately the grass was a little long and we couldn’t see what it was, nor could we get a good sighting on the cubs. But the lioness looked great! And all of the hyenas on the other side of the road picking up the pieces of the kill were fun to watch.

    As these guys were making us hungry, it was time to go back to the lodge for breakfast, a good rest and then lunch. Lunch here was from a menu as well, which amazed me. Now, the afternoon game run was an experience. Not because of the animals, but because of what happened. Our three vans were parked outside waiting for us, and as not everyone wanted to go on the afternoon game run, a few people decided to switch vans. Not sure why, but fate was working against Jim and I this afternoon. In our van there was just Jim and myself, and the two lovely ladies (mom and daughter), Audrey and Lucrece. (now remember this guys, this is important to my story!)

    Many times on the run we crossed through the migration again, we just couldn’t get enough of it. At one spot where Bernard stopped the van, we could see a long line of wildebeest behind us. Audrey and Lucrece asked Jim if he could take a picture of them standing in the van, with the line of wildebeest behind them. ‘Why certainly’, Jim said. Lucrece handed him their camera, a brand new small red Casio shirt pocket kind of digital. As Jim was trying to rearrange them so that the wildebeest showed in the background, Bernard said ‘hey, just jump out for a quick second, and take the shot from the ground, you guys will all be OK, the wildebeest won’t come too near”. What a GREAT idea we thought! We all got out, as the ladies invited me to get in on the shot. Jim took one of the three of us, with the wildebeest all around us in the background, and I must say, it’s a nice shot. But… When he finished taking it with their camera, he put it in his shirt pocket, and took one of us with the Nikon. Right at that moment, as luck would have it, a ranger pulled up. We scrambled to get back in the van, and their camera fell out of Jim’s pocket. And, it was toast; the lens was ‘unmovable’ and jammed halfway into the camera. And Bernard got a ticket from the ranger for letting us jump out. What an expensive shot that turned out to be! We felt just awful, both Lucrece and Audrey were trying not to cry, but that was the only camera they had between them, and to add insult to injury, their ipod wouldn’t charge the night before and they couldn’t dump their memory cards, which were filling up. Well, that problem solved itself, I guess. The rest of the run seemed a bit of a blur, we were all feeling pretty awful. Jim and I assured them that we would pay for the broken camera to be replaced – but, how does one go about getting a camera in the Serengeti?

    After watching the ‘migration’ take a drink from a waterhole (quite a sight), we met the other two vans at a kopje. I am sure that it has a name, but for once, I wasn’t writing every spec of info down that Bernard was telling us. Actually, I felt so bad, I don’t even think I heard him. So, if anyone out there can fill in the name of the kopje that everyone stops at with the ‘hollow rock’ and the petroglyphs that you climb to, I’d appreciate it. After Daniel and the drivers sprinted up the rock to check for ‘wildlife’, most of the group climbed up to the top, and somehow one of the drivers even convinced me. Sure thing, going up was easy! Coming down, another thing! At the top, as Daniel was showing me the hollow rock, I told him what happened with the camera. He already knew about Bernard getting a ticket, the ‘internet’ must have taken care of that. Daniel told me not to worry; he would try his best to solve the problem of them not having a camera for the rest of the trip. What an incredible guy – to make a long story short, he actually did! When we got to the Mara the next day, he had a camera waiting for them to be used – it was one of the guys at Kichwa Tembo, it was a film camera, but it was a good one! And, once we left there, he arranged for them to borrow another one for the Mt. Kenya portion of the trip – this time it was a digital – Jim dumped their card onto his Epson, and they used their own card in the borrowed camera. I couldn’t believe the lengths that Daniel went to for us – he was just INCREDIBLE!

    Meanwhile, though back at the kopje, the four of us were still feeling pretty bad, Jim especially. It was a ‘sundowners’ event again – while we were up on the kopje, the drivers were setting up for sundowners below. At this point, even I, who does not drink, thought one would go over pretty good!

    From here, we drove back to the lodge, had a very tasty supper, and an early night. But, before I leave this day, I must relate another story, at the risk of getting ahead of myself; it belongs on this ‘day’. All throughout the trip, every time we would change lodges, Daniel would faithfully tell us to make sure to put valuables in the safe at the front desk. Well, every time we got to a new lodge I faithfully did. Except it seems I didn’t here, no good reason why I didn’t – just an oversight. I had a portfolio, with our passports, health cards, travelers cks, and the currencies that we didn’t need at the moment (English £, and Kenya schillings) in it. Its home, when not in the safe, was in my carry on bag, which, unfortunately had one side of a two-zipped zipper broken – it broke on the day we were leaving for the trip. I was able to jury-rig it to lock it though; I secured the broken side with a zap strap to the strap of the case, which kept that zipper secure. Then I would use the other zipper, and lock the two together. Although I didn’t know it until we got to Kichwa Tembo the next day, the zap strap had been stripped, which meant the zipper was free to move. And, I guess someone had done just that. Interestingly enough, the Kenya shillings were still there, but the majority of the English pounds were gone. I had £105.00, with the £5 note sitting on top. At first glance it looked as though it was all intact, as the £5 note was still there. But once I pulled it out, the rest of the notes were gone – 5 twentys. I was just sick about this, as it was my own stupid fault! But, what can you do, someone must have needed that £100.00 more than we did. I didn’t mention it to Daniel until the end of the trip, as I didn’t want anything to be done about it, I should have not kept in a case that wouldn’t lock securely.

    And that’s my expensive day story! Oh - subscript – the ending to the camera story. We replaced their camera once they got back home, and Lucrece is happily snapping away at her new job in NYC with her shiny new red Casio! It doesn’t replace the lost picture ‘opportunities’ on a trip of a lifetime, but hopefully we can fill in those holes for them with ours.

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    Lynda,
    It is a thrill to read your journal, since I will be doing the Stanley Wing safari in February 2007 with my husband and in-laws and had been waiting anxiously for your report! It barely seems real that six months from now we will be experiencing everything you've described. Thank you!

    So sorry about the camera but these things happen. I'm sure they didn't blame Jim and it's very fortunate that they were able to borrow cameras the rest of the way. I'm sure they will be grateful to get some of your pictures, especially since it sounds like Jim is a great photographer! (Can't wait to see them!!) I had a similar traumatic experience with my own brand-new camera on a once-in-a-lifetime trip several years ago but fortunately my mom also had her point-and-shoot camera along so we still got some photos.

    Your money loss is a lesson for everyone. I've been fortunate never to have had anything stolen on my travels but obviously you can never be too careful. I think you have the right attitude though - whoever got the money probably needed it more than you did.

    Can't wait to read the next installment!

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    Lynda, that camera incident must have put a real dampner on your day but I'm really glad that Daniel came up trumps... he really sounds like nothing would be a trouble for him.. and then to find your money gone, that was definately not one of your better days but you definately have the right attitude.

    Those showers sound 'interesting' too!

    Imelda

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    I feel like I am right there with you for the many lion sightings, the young hyena, the leopard through the binocs. Your quotes are marvelous, including the one you made up.

    Recovering the passport that was left behind and overcoming the camera problem is the mark of a great guide and outfitter.

    I am sorry about the loss of your money. Thank you for including that unpleasant detail as a learning experience for the rest of us.


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    Thankyou aowens, for that recipe. We have to make a cherry pie this weekend (cherry season here, you know) but next weekend - macadamia flan it is! And, I do hope that this report is bringing you good memories of your trip.

    Carolines- well, the idea was a good one really on the chocolate, had I remembered I had it. I certainly would have eaten it before it even got half a chance to melt, but, I forgot all about it!

    Bat- caught up yet? - you are mentioned in this report a couple of times I think.

    Dennis - I keep forgetting to mention HOW I used the mini tape and the mini stapler. Well, at one point we were given some wonderful bone (looks like ivory but I know it isn't) butter knives with a giraffe painted on the end, as well chopsticks (?) and small spoons to match. So, I took my bubble wrap, wrapped them well and used the tape to hold the bubble wrap around the gifts. Almost ran out tape doing that (it really was a 'mini' roll) - and one end wouldn't stay closed around the chopsticks, so I stapled it at that end!!! Worked like a dream and the spoons, chopsticks and butterknives look great all in one piece on my table. I also used that little mini stapler to staple all of the bills (laundry, drinks) together at one of the lodges as they handed them to me in a loose pile when I paid! See, everything a purpose, and a purpose to everything as mom used to say..... :-)

    Hausfrau- I am so excited for you! (and wish I was going again...) You will love the trip, Micato really puts on an incredible safari - all you guys will have to do is be in the lobby at whatever time your director tells you, and sit back, relax and enjoy the animals and the incredible learning experience. Are you on the Zanzibar extension, and, will you guys participate in the America Shares program?

    OHMIGOSH, I wish I was back in Africa....

    Thankyou so much Lynn for your kind comments - hey you must be off pretty soon on your trip, right??

    Imelda - WOW - 5 days to go now! I will try and get as much written as I can for you! You must be SO excited!!!

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    Lynda,

    As I sit here, finishing my second cup of tea, I want to say thank you for a really great trip report. We live in Namibia and truly enjoy seeing the animals, just as often as we can.

    We are waiting excitingly for our trip in December 2006 to Masai Mara, Samburu, Lake Nakuru, Nairobi and Zanzibar all arranged by Sandi. We just can't wait to see that part of Africa!

    Thanks again,
    Bill

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    Oh Yes Lynda, I am SO SO excited. I've got a serious case of 'butterfly tummy' :). I haven't actually started packing yet because if I do I KNOW I'll be second guessing and pulling things out and putting things back in. I've laid some of it out in the spare room though and I have the washing machine getting things ready for taking with me -we're having a 'heat wave' here right now and I've worn some of the stuff I'm taking to Africa! So I guess we will be ready for the heat (it's actually around the same temperature in Nairobi / Nakuru as it is here right now :-D).
    I have gotten Kennedy a really nice Parker pen & pencil set and have a nice pampering set for his wife but I'm a little stuck on what to take the kids. I thought about some little 'dress up' cosmetic things but that may not be such a good idea. I will definately take some chocolate, what about cute hair ties, note books etc.. any other ideas??

    Sorry Lynda, I've just run away with myself on your thread, hope you don't mind, it's all that excitement ;). If you get a chance, I'd love to read some more about your trip..and if you don't then it will be something to look forward to when I get back :)

    Imelda

    Imelda

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    Another great installment, thanks Lynda! And the use of the mini stapler and tape is finally revealed :))

    Bill,
    What days will you be in Samburu. We're staying at Larsens camp Dec 2nd & 3rd. Just curious if we cross paths.

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    Lynda, so sorry about the money. But reading your report makes me think you're a "life gives you lemons, make lemonade" traveler. Who else would be thankful for having a rash (rash=no tsetse bites)?

    I'm very much enjoying taking this journey with you and Jim and the rest of the Micato gang.

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    Lynda,
    We are not going on the Zanzibar extension because our time is limited, but we are interested in the America Shares program, so I will be interested to hear if you did it what you thought of it.

    Everything you've said about Micato is EXACTLY why we chose them - this is our first trip to Africa and whereas normally I NEVER travel on tours, this time we wanted everything done just right and didn't want to worry about planning a thing! (One reason for this is that my husband and I are currently expats living in Germany - hence my screen name, in case you were wondering - where just getting along with day-to-day life can be a bit difficult sometimes, so we wanted our Africa trip to be totally worry-free!) Suffice it to say that I'm thrilled to hear you rave about Micato. (I just wish I could hug the cheetahs too - that sounds incredible!) Oh, but I do hope we don't get the room with no curtain in the bathroom window! ;-)

    Can't wait for the next chapter!

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    Patty-
    What did I miss when I was away - are you going to East Africa and not South Africa now? Or did I muddle up something in my head and get you mixed up with someone else - sorry if I did!

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    Lynda,
    I think you may have gotten me mixed up with someone else. My final itinerary is in this thread http://www.fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=4&tid=34781265

    I've changed my flights (and actually it's since changed again to AMS-ATL-LAX) so sorry we won't be able to meet for coffee at YVR!

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    Sorry Patty! Maybe I was thinking of Lisa? I just recall someone saying they were going to South Africa this time around?? I hadn't read the last part of your post as it was while I was away, sorry we won't get to have that coffee :-( - I was looking forward to meeting you! Well, you never know, you just may have to fly through here some other time - and I will always make myself available when you do!

    Your itinerary sounds heavenly though, I can't wait to read all about some of those camps, a few I don't recall seeing any reports on.

    Hausfrau -
    Yes, we did the America Shares program - it would be hard to describe in one sentence - but yes, if you can, you should do it. I will post details about it in a few days - once I get caught up here...

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    Patty,
    We'll miss you at Samburu...we are there 21 & 22 December, then on to Masai Mara Intrepids for Christmas! We are really looking forward to this trip. We have quenched our thirst for Safaris by travelling all over Namibia since our arrival 2 years ago.

    Bill

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    Lynda, Could you please tell me exactly what are "zap straps"? Where do you find such things? Thanks!

    Still waiting on pins and needles for the next episode! Eager to hear your observations on the "tented camp" experience!

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    Carolines-

    Zap straps are those white (or various colours now) things that electricians use to hold wire together. They have one way teeth - once you do them up, they do not come undone unless you cut them. People began using them to secure luggage after 9/11 security measures began to disallow locks. The idea was that if someone had opened your bag, you would know because the zap strap was cut - and, there, miracously in your bag was a note that customs had done this.

    I guess my plan fell down when I didn't check that someone had either cut the strap, or stripped the tiny teeth, which is what they did in my case. How, I don't know, but Jim tells me it is possible. Then they just do it back up and the person is not the wiser that it has been opened until the strap slips out.

    I find these things in Jim's box of wonders, but I have also seen them at dollar stores now. Jim I believe gets them from Home Depot - they are really cheap.

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    DAY 10 – MONDAY JUNE 6TH,2006 KICHWA TEMBO CAMP, MASAI MARA

    “I WENT TO AFRICA BECAUSE I DID NOT WANT TO DIE AND DISCOVER THAT I HAD NEVER REALLY LIVED. I KEEP GOING BACK BECAUSE I NEED ANOTHER DOSE OF THE MAGIC. SOMETIMES YOU FIND THE COURAGE TO FOLLOW YOUR HEART TO WHERE IT NEEDS TO BE”
    - Shari Meyr, The Tanzania Tales Journal

    That quote has been on my wall map, at eye level, right in front of my desk, for a few years now. During the busiest of times, I would gaze up at the map and that quote – so sure that my time would never come. But it did. And it will again – soon I hope.

    Today, at one point or other, I learned something new. Something that I must have missed in all my research before this trip – and believe me that was extensive. What was it you ask? Well, I learned that the Maasai ‘people’ are spelled with a double ‘a’ (as in their language ‘Maa’), while the area of land they reside in and our destination today, was spelled ‘Masai’. How I missed that I will never know! I just had to mention that, in case someone missed that in their research too.

    We had a fairly early call to leave this morning, at 7:15. Even though I was sad to be leaving the Serengeti, I was really looking forward to the tents at the camp in the Mara, along with # 2 on our list of ‘101 Things To Do Before We Die’ list – take a balloon ride over the Serengeti or Masai Mara. I was really excited about that ride!

    It took about an hour to get to the airstrip to catch our flight. Hmmm, what was that on the runway? A giraffe just lumbering down the strip to get to the trees near the ‘open-air control tower’. That made a great picture! We said our goodbyes to Bernard, as he would be driving back to pick up his next set of ‘charges’. Our two planes came in – one 8-seater for the family; and one 18-seater Regional Air twin prop for the rest of us, with the same pilots that we had the other day. We were on a ‘milk run’ today; we flew north to Musoma, Tanzania, on the shores on Lake Victoria. We arrived at 10:00, and cleared outgoing customs by 10:45. By now we had the exit/entry cards down pat. Then, on to a 19-seater wide body twin turbo prop – now we fit everyone (the 18 of the group plus Daniel), we flew to Kisumu, in Kenya, landing about 11:15. After clearing incoming customs this time, we got back on the same plane taking off about 12:00. Forty minutes later we landed at Bateleur/Kichwa Tembo’s private airstrip.

    There were three ‘South African’ style vehicles waiting for us – the dark green, fully open 4 tier-vehicle (each bench seat graduates higher than the one in front – the back seat is quite high up) with the canvas roof overhead for sun protection. These belonged to Kichwa Tembo; I thought I had read that all people staying at this camp had to use the camp’s vehicles, but our driver said no when I asked him that. He said you can use any vehicle that you come in, they had no restrictions. It was probably more of a convenience thing then for Micato to use the camp’s vehicles, rather than sending driver/guides all the way out from Nairobi just for the sake of two days.
    Our new driver was Benson. We arrived at the camp around 1:00, and went to lunch right away while the camp staff was getting our luggage to our tents. All along we had been noticing that the porters were not using the wheels for the bags, most would pick them up and sling them over their shoulders, but here, they actually used the wheels. Probably because everyone’s bag was getting heavier by the day with ‘shopping’ additions! The lunch, by the way, was the best that we had – it was incredible. BBQ beef kabobs that you actually went out to the BBQ to get, grilled vegetables (mmm, my favorite), salad bar, potatoes and some steamed vegetables as well.

    This camp was nothing short of fabulous! Now, I know that many of the Fodorites out there have probably stayed in places that are probably even better than this, but to me, this was incredible. The dining area was open, as well as the bar area. There was a huge gift shop, but I can’t honestly say I even looked at the goods for sale other than to get some film for Audrey & Lucrece’s borrowed ‘film’ camera (yeouch, very pricey by the way – 10.00 USD per roll). The grounds were really nice – very open, lots of space. They were fenced, but the fence was low and didn’t ruin the view of the rolling hills of the Masai Mara. The resident ‘warthogs’ were really cool – heads down constantly, mowing the grass. Before we dispersed for lunch, Daniel warned us not to ‘hug’ or otherwise ‘pet’ the warthogs (probably looking straight at me while he said this) as they were friendly only as long as you left them alone. I had to admit that this was a much more ecological way to mow the grass than a John Deere. There was pool surrounded by lots of lounge chairs, I did occasionally see people swimming and sunning. In front of the restaurant/lounge area there was an open pit camp fire with seats around it, both ‘log type’ and regular wood chairs.
    The tents. Wow. They were fabulous! And, they actually were tents – I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I must say I was surprised that they were real tents. Two ¾ beds, a luggage rack, and a desk/vanity was in the main room, with dressers behind the beds. Behind a closable flap at the back was a delightful bathroom – a beautiful stone (not rough though) floor, a vanity dresser/sink combo, a walk in shower, and of course the toilet. The tent was beautifully done up in dark green (fast becoming my favorite colour).

    There was a nice little sitting area in the front – almost like a ‘deck’, with two comfy chairs and a small table. In front of the tents in general (not one per tent) were hammocks strung across the trees. I figured if I got in one of those I’d never get out, but they looked comfortable. And lights. Now that I didn’t expect in a tent – again not sure what I expected though! They were strung, as ‘kerosene lamps’ from the ceiling, and as I recall, ‘pulled’ on by a cord.

    The tents were all set back amongst the trees, it created ‘atmosphere’, but it did make for a hot tent to some extent. We were in H5; it is set further out from the forest than the others, which gave us a nice breeze. The monkeys (brown-tailed I believe they were called) would romp and play during the day, scampering over the tops of the tents. I laid on the bed and listened to them – wondering if I could just arrange to stay there doing this for the rest of my life. But no, at 3:30 it was time to get up and over to the camp fire spot as a Maasai (the chief’s son) was coming to talk to us before our visit to his village.

    Hi name was Andrew (there are a lot of Andrews about, aren’t there?) Andrew spoke to us about their way of life, which, as everyone knows, is far different from ours. And then, off to see his village. It wasn’t far from the camp –there were 2 villages close together, the one on the upper side of the hill was the one we were going to see.

    It was a very interesting, and a very eye-opening visit. The huts are completely enclosed by thorn bushes that are built in a circle around them. Each family has its own entrance, Andrew explained, through those bushes. And, even if this was just a ‘tourist’ village now, as soon as I stepped in I could tell that at one time it had indeed been, in the very recent past, a ‘real’ village – the smell of cow dung was very noticeable. And you had to watch where you stepped. The women, in their very colourful kangas lined up for us and sang some songs, pulling us ‘tourists’ in for the second song. Then the older boys of the group – you know those that should have been out goat herding – jumped and danced for us. This was followed by a fire lighting demonstration, which fascinated our young Andrew (from the family in our van) and a visit to a hut. It was quite dark inside; and it didn’t occur to me to take my sunglasses off until we got right in, which didn’t help! As you come inside, the first thing you see is the goat pen in the middle of the hut, where the goats sleep at night. And I thought we were hard done by when the cats take up too much room on our bed at night… Walking around the goat pen, there is a small window with a small fire pit where they do the cooking, and then, around the bend are the ‘bedrooms’. Or, some fair facsimile thereof. The beds are sticks tied together, with a cow skin on top. In the hut that we went in, there was a young child sleeping with an older sibling that was sitting with him/her. There were so many flies on the child, my heart just broke!

    Then, it was off to the ‘mall’ to shop. We exited through the other side of the thorn bushes (I can see why they would keep the wild animals out), and there, all spread out were the women with their wares. In some reports from Fodorites I had read that you gathered the articles you were interested in buying and then went in the center to negotiate for all of them, but we didn’t do that. I pointed to 2 bracelets, a young Maasai asked the seller how much, she said 10.00 each, and we came to a quick negotiation, right then and there. (I ended up paying 5.00 for each – well worth it to me, they were nicely done). They really did have some beautiful articles, but, this trip I just didn’t seem in the mood to shop, which was odd for me. Too worried about luggage weight I think, and I already had those beautiful Maasai blankets, and was saving the ‘big’ purchase for a carved lion.

    I sincerely believe that this had been at one time, if it wasn’t still, an authentic Maasai village. Maybe I do live in a rose coloured world with too many teddy bears and cats, but this is MY story and sticking to that belief!

    From here, we went on a game run before going back to the camp. This is where I discovered that off-roading was the norm here – not that I hadn’t read that in numerous trip reports, but I just hadn’t remembered! It was wonderful to be able to drive closer to the animals, although Benson was very respectful of the animals and never went closer than he thought would disturb them. I was sitting in the front with him on the game drive and had a chance to talk to him – he is a Maasai, and it was very interesting to talk to him about the way of life in his villages. I asked him if he got too used to a comfy bed when he stayed at the camp – he said, ‘well, yes, a bit perhaps’. He did say though that when it was time to go back to the village he got used to the stick/cowhide beds again very fast. The guides work a set amount of months at the camp, and then return home for a break.

    On this game run we saw the usual suspects – elephants, impala, gazelles, buffalo, ostrich and ‘nyamera’ – topis. I could see why Suzanne was fascinated with these animals as we drove up close to them. Blue jeans and yellow socks our driver said – easily recognizable. And then, as we were nearing the camp, just as it was getting to be dusk, Benson drove off the road very slowly for a bit and stopped the engine.
    ‘Look over there’ he said. It was a mom cheetah and, from what we could see, 3 cubs. What a thrill this was!! Up close and personal to our first cheetah! And cubs thrown into the mix! Only trouble was that I could not see them very well as I was sitting in the front (had a little trouble climbing into the van the day before so Benson suggested I sit up front with him), and the view from there was not the greatest to see the little cubs in the tall grass. Benson went to move closer, and now, here guys, is the ONLY time I could have smacked someone else in this wonderful little group of ours!
    ‘No, don’t go any closer, you will disturb them’ I heard from Sylvia in the back seat (Andrew’s mom). Benson tried to assure her that he does this all the time, he knows how close he can get, but she insisted. OK lady, I thought, you are going over – time to toss you out! She was adamant though, and Benson, who probably had been told the customer is always right, did not go any closer. And me, such a wimp, a person who hates to make waves, stayed silent. Jim had stayed behind this afternoon to catch up on some R & R at that beautiful camp, so I didn’t even have him to come to my rescue and say ‘no, we will go as close as Benson sees fit’, or at the very least – take some good pictures with that fabulous zoom of his. My point and shoot just didn’t cut it. The good news though? I think it was the same cubs Martyc and Janischa from this board saw, so I did get to see their wonderful pictures! Oh, and I didn’t toss Sylvia out of the van.
    And that was our day – back to the camp at 7:00 for a wonderful supper of chicken, fish, salads, wonderful vegetables and that incredible macadamia nut flan that I missed! An early night was needed tonight in order to get up for that incredible, exciting balloon ride that I had been anticipating, and yet, at the same time, worrying myself sick over the fact that I may be doing the ‘pee-pee’ dance up there!

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    Hi Lynda,
    You've redeemed me with that proper Maasai spelling. =D> (only you, the queen of research would know this). I was recently given a 'what for' about spelling it that way by a fodorite. I just assumed that it was just my usual bad spelling - mucho thanks for that.

    So sorry about the money loss - that's such a bummer. :-<

    I hope you did eventually get to see cubs out in the open. Very honorable of you, btw, to not throw Mama from the Jeep :)

    Re: The offage of the colors
    I couldn't figure how to turn a good thing gone bad off either - hence the obnoxious amount of blue in my last post to you.
    I think I have it, but it's probably the long way - <color of choice> then
    after the highlighted word/s do the same with black.
    Sherry

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    Lynda,

    I'm kind of new around here and I haven't posted much. I just wanted to tell you that I'm enjoying your trip report very much.

    I leave on my first trip to Tanzania in about 2 weeks!


    Jenn

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    Maasai is a complicated tonal language. When "translating" into English or other languages you trying to spell words so they sound as much as possible as they do in the original language. (For example, there are several systems for "spelling" Chinese words in the Roman alphabet, pinyin being the current standard.) It appears that the Maasai pronunciation of the language and people is closer to our double "aa" than the single "a." It's for this reason that the preferred spelling by some of the Maasai seems to be with the double "aa." The British spelled it with a single "a" and that's now viewed as "incorrect" by some.

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    Thanks Jed, I got it - I do believe! I was missing that slash.

    Jen24 - I envy you! Have you posted your itinerary somewhere on the board? You are going to LOVE it!

    See Sherry, I'm getting real good at this now! Thanks for filling in that blank too - now I am an expert. So gald to redeem you with that spelling - you spelled it correct and got hauled over the coals? Hmmmmm... We should find that post...

    No, we didn't find any more cubs - we did however find a REAL close adult cheetah the next day and thankfully mama skipped that game run!

    Thanks Marija for the explanation - I guess that's why the area ended up with the single 'a' - it was probably the British who named it.

    When we were in Oldupai Gorge, the fellow that gave us the talk explained how all the confusion came about on the Oldupai/Olduvai name. Eben had at one time pointed out on this board that the correct name was Oldupai, so I knew which was correct, but I didn't know why. The plant that the Maasai make rope out of, that grows in the area is 'Oldupai', and the area is named after the plant. 'Other than locals' came along and decided that everyone was saying 'Olduvai' and renamed the area incorrectly.

    I have always been a stickler for name correctness, when in Roma....

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    Lynda,
    I was having the same problem turning off bold, colours etc. Thanks for asking!
    I’m sorry about the camera and the money and I’m glad that you understood the fascination of us topis!

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    Lynda,
    I have a Maasai friend in Seattle Kakuta Ole Maimai, whose quote I'm allowed to use in my signature line. I'm sure you've seen it. He says he's honored that I like it, when I'm the one who is truly honored. His precise wording of my feelings gives me chills up my spine. "A Maasai without his culture is as a zebra without stripes". See his website at http://www.maasai-association.org

    He explains the spelling of maasai as this: Maasai is the correct spelling not Masai. Masai with one 'A' is incorrect. In the future please spell Maasai with two AAs. We prefer Maasai, not Masai. The title Maasai derives from the word Maa. Maa-sai means my people. Kristina

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    Lynda:
    Looks like you got the < b > bolding < / b >, < u > underlining < / u >, < i > italics < / i > and < colorname > colors < / colorname > down pat!

    This report is a delight - thank you for taking the time to share the details! I just got caught up again, so I'm ready for more! :-)


    Cyn

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    "Maybe I do live in a rose coloured world with too many teddy bears and cats, but this is MY story and sticking to that belief!"

    I'm packing up and moving to your world. See you soon!

    p.s. Love your report. As always, waiting for more.

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    Lynda,
    Finish this report and then you can continue with the “improvement” of the amazing East Africa Trip Report Index. ;)

    Hej Kristina
    Det verkar som om du har väldigt intressanta vänner!

    Excuse me for writing in Maa.

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    DAY 11 – MONDAY JUNE 7TH, 2006 KICHWA TEMBO CAMP, MASAI MARA

    “APART FROM THE OCCASIONAL HISS OF THE BURNERS, A LIONS ROAR, ELEPHANTS CRASHING THROUGH THE BUSH, BABOONS PERCHED IN THE TIPS OF THE TRESS STARTLED AND SCREECHING TO SEE SOMETHING ABOVE THEM, THE FLIGHT ABOVE THE MASAI MARA PLAINS IS MAGICALLY SILENT”.

    - a web site advertising the hot air balloon rides.

    I awoke with a start at exactly 4:45 this morning, thinking ‘oh no, we slept in’! But, once I opened my eyes, I realized that Jim was handing me my coffee; he was up, showered, dressed and just sitting down to eat his early morning porridge (or some fair facsimile thereof depending where we were) and coffee that had just been delivered to our tent.

    What an incredible morning this would be! With much anticipation, we met everyone at the reception; there were 10 of us in of our group going. Hey, we all thought – here some people had bought an optional night game last night, and here we were out in the early morning darkness looking for animals on the ½ hour drive to Governor’s Camp for our balloon ride! There was lots of activity going on as we arrived – but first and foremost on my mind were the washrooms. Two huge tents had been set up as the loo – one for the ladies and one for the gents. Caution to anyone taking off from here though – even though that tent looks large enough to hold 10 toilets – it only has one, so call out before you go in. There were many ‘surprised’ ladies this morning!

    Contrary to what I read – the pilot doesn’t weigh you, and the basket is not on its side. There were two baskets, and two pilots (both young and good looking of course, Sandi…). The pilots eyeballed everyone, and decided that our group of 10 could go in the bigger balloon that normally held 16 – our pilot, Steve, asked one of the workers to come with us, as well as his wife to make an even 12 in the basket – 3 in each ‘quarter’ section of the basket, with him in the middle. The other basket was smaller – it would have held a maximum of 12 people, but there weren’t 12 there either. Another group of 7 people from Bateleur camp were supposed to be here, but they never made it. Probably got the wrong day, the pilot said. I would imagine there were 7 really pissed off people over at Bateleur Camp that day.

    Also contrary to what I read – it wasn’t cold. A jacket (I wore my fleece hoodie & my vest) is certainly in order, but it would have been warm enough to leave the closed in Rockport shoes at home (AHA!! 2 lbs less in the luggage!) as well as the gloves. I never felt the need for the hat either, but I DID wish I had brought the sunglasses cord that rode all the way from Vancouver to Africa and back in my luggage without seeing the light of day. They weren’t going to do much good back at the tent. It wasn’t, by the way for sunglasses – I was wearing a brand new pair of prescription glasses and I was worried about them dropping off my face over the edge! They are tight enough, but I just need something to worry about I guess.

    They did not ask us to leave any camera cases, shoulder bags, etc in the van. No problem at all taking a small camera case or a small daypack.

    So, on to the logistics. Steve, our pilot, asked us to stand with our SO’s so he would know who goes with whom, then he told us where each of us would stand in the basket. Now the getting in part…. Hmmm. The top of the basket, going from my pictures of us standing on the ground in front of it after we landed, was about 5 ft off of the ground – just up to my neck. There was one open section at the height of about my knee to step into – then you were supposed to swing yourself over the edge and hop into the basket. I watched 12 other people, some much older than I, do this with great ease. But, no, not for me. I couldn’t get my leg over to swing myself in until two guys came to help! (and Jim pulling from inside the basket). Embarrassing, but, hey, I got in & that’s what counts right? Once in, I thought “Ok, now I’m here for the duration of this safari as I will never be able to get back out…”.

    The inside has a false bottom that you stand on – so it is not 5 ft high from the inside – the edge came to between my chest & my waist. Good sightlines from everywhere in the basket! Steve hooked up a camera on the outside of the balloon and told us to smile every once in a while as he was going to try and take pictures for the first time while in flight. Just like the Thunder Mountain ride in Disneyland he said!

    It was still dark when we took off gently into the sunrise at 6:30 am. I was surprised to see that we had even lifted when I looked down, as it really didn’t feel like we had moved. And what can I say about the rest – it was, without a doubt, the most AWESOME experience of my life! Expensive for one hour, yes, but worth it – YES YES YES! I do have somewhat of a fear of heights – I couldn’t do the glass bottom walkway on the Skytower floor in Auckland New Zealand, I was terrified of the glass bottom floor on some cable car lift I was on – possibly Cairns in Australia, and I don’t do elevators or edges very well at all. But, this, no problem – it truly was like floating on air, and not once did I feel queasy from the height. How far up we got, well, I’m terrible at that kind of thing, but it wasn’t much higher than the treetops – and that suited me just fine. At one point I really wondered if the other balloon was going to make it over those tree tops, but they did!

    Sunrise was at 6:47 that morning (Jim brought his GPS). And, true to the brochures on the balloon rides – it was awesome to see it from a balloon. We saw many animals on the ground, no lions though. We saw bushbucks, Nile crocodiles, common Eland, elephants, Maasai giraffe, a spotted hyena, hippo, hartebeest, topis and waterbuck. My favorite was the giraffe in the forest – ‘Giraffic Forest’, our pilot called it.  Oh, and the crocs and hippos on the Mara river below. The scenery was incredible too – absolutely breathtaking. The hour sped by all too quickly, Steve instructed us on the landing procedure. We had to sit on the seat, facing forward, stow our gear tightly on our laps and hold on firmly to the straps in the basket just in front of us. He said we would feel a few bumps and that would be it. Well, he was right – we felt a little bump, and then another little bump, and then nothing. We just slid down the grass a bit – it was great! But, now came the hard part – getting out, as we were upright.

    Once again – all 12 other people, including the over 70 crowd, seemed to just hop out. It was easy to get onto the edge of the basket (sitting) as the seat makes it easy to get up there – but…. There I was, sitting on the edge of the basket terrified to jump off, even from a sitting position. The pilot’s wife Caroline, saw me, and called two guys over to help me down.
    On the ground, first, a celebration of a successful flight! (and celebrating me getting out…) Steve and Gary (the other pilot) had champagne ready for us set up on a table complete with flowers, white linen table cloth, etc. (and a tip box just in case any one wanted to). Even I, who does not drink, thought, yes, this morning I will have a little in with the orange juice!

    And now, it was time for breakfast. Their staff had set up the tables right beside the river, and, no word of a lie, this was the BEST breakfast I have had since camping with the Boy Scouts oh-so-many-years-ago. There was plenty of food (as they had cooked for the other 7 that didn’t make it as well) – sausages, bacon, croissants, buns, scrambled eggs, french toast, mushrooms, coffee, tea and lots of fixings – jams, jellies, etc. All set out on a lovely table with a checkered tablecloth and lots of lovely flowers with camp stools all around it. Absolutely awesome! An open air ‘loo’ was set up over behind one of the vehicles – it even had flowers and a roll of TP there – all we had to do was call out before going behind as Steve and Gary pointed out ‘it was co-ed’. :-))

    We lingered over breakfast for quite a while and then wandered over by an access ‘hill’ to the river where there were ‘hippo bones’ to explore. Looking at the crocs further down, we didn’t need anyone telling us not to get too close….

    Three jeeps arrived to pick up our group of 10, with most of the rest of the people that didn’t go. I say most of the rest as the ‘family’ was not there in our jeep – they had decided to take it easy and sleep in. And, it was a VERY wise decision for our sake! We set out on our game run, not that we thought that anything could come close to the excitement of that balloon ride – but we were wrong! We weren’t too far into the run when Benson spotted a cheetah in the grass! We off-roaded to get closer, we had to cross a mighty big ditch, but with his excellent driving skills we did not dump – it was so exciting! We got within 5 feet of the cheetah – it was INCREDIBLE!!!!!. She turned and looked at us, my heart jumped when she looked right at me, and then she hopped on an ant hill that was about a foot closer to us. Wow. Benson radioed to the other vans; soon we had about 6 vans all around. No matter, we still had the best view! She sat on the hill, posing for pictures for us for quite a while (’did you get my good side? No, here, I’ll look the other way’). We watched her for a good ½ hr., thinking maybe she was hungry as she was eyeing a small gazelle in the distance, but she didn’t move far from the ant hill. I guess she had eaten breakfast already.

    Reluctantly we left her as there were many other animals to see, but all else paled in comparison to my lovely cheetah. We saw many Thomspson gazelles, Grants gazelles, Cape buffalo, Plains zebra, impala, topis and waterbuck. We stopped by the river for a bush break, and to view the Nile crocodiles up close, they are huge critters indeed. It was our turn at this point to be on the receiving end of the radio calls – someone has sighted a lion with a kill way off somewhere else. So, off we went, in search of the lions. Once we got close, it wasn’t hard to pick out where they were – the vultures in the tree were a ‘dead’ giveaway  (just had to say that). We saw plenty of hyena on the right side of the road, feasting on what seemed like ‘miscellaneous stuff’ from a kill in between the tree with the vultures and the road. On the left side of the road was a mom lion and a few cubs sitting majestically under a tree – we couldn’t really see the cubs as they were in the tall grass, and, for some odd reason we didn’t go off the road. Not sure why, maybe it wasn’t allowed in this particular spot? Or, maybe out of fear that there were smaller critters in the grass – all three of our vans, plus two others that were there stayed on the road. That was OK though; Jim has a strong zoom… After about 5-10 min of watching the lioness regally sitting under that tree, just as we were going to go, she got up. And then we saw the carcass – it was hiding in the grass beside her. We watched her drag it into the bushes, and although we couldn’t see, we assumed the cubs followed her. And, this was the closest we came to a kill on our trip.

    After going on a unsuccessful rhino hunt, we got back to the camp about 1:00 and had a wonderful lunch. Nothing like outdoor air to stimulate one’s appetite I say! BBQ chicken, salads, fresh snap peas and large roasted potatoes were on the menu – hmmm hmmmm good.

    The rash on my arm, by this point, had become quite itchy, I showed it to Daniel, who became immediately very concerned. He went off to find the camp doctor, but he wouldn’t be available until later Daniel told me. We went back to the tent, I took 50 mg of Benadryl and I was out like a light for the afternoon – completely missed the PM game run. Mind you, we had been up since 4:45, so that sleep was well needed. I slept right through until 5, with barely enough time before supper to shower and relax on the deck outside writing in my journal. This trip was proving to be so busy that I was barely finding time to jot down notes in my journal – good that I have an incredible memory for ‘trip stuff’!

    Supper, again was excellent – freshly stir fired beef, pasta, herb-boiled new potatoes, wonderful fresh steamed veggies and salads. I really could have stayed at this camp forever – this was where I think I gained 6 pounds. After supper, the staff treated us to the ‘Jambo Bwana, Hakuna Matata’ celebration parade – it was, incredibly, the 60th anniversary of one of the couples in our group, Cass and Katherine. You know; the two that hopped out of the basket with the greatest of ease that morning….

    After supper the ‘doctor’ came to see me. I was quite surprised at how young he was – I couldn’t get over the fact that this guy looked younger than my son – when he used to play nurse and doctor with his little friends that is! I guess that is just a sign of how we have aged lately – teachers look that way to me now too. The doctor looked at my arm.
    “Hmmmm, yes” he says “Looks like you are having a reaction to something”.
    When I inquired as to what, he said “oh, plants, grass, or sun, maybe food, or water”. Hmmm, yes indeed I thought, that is exactly what I would have thought….. He prescribed a steroid to me, and told me to see him in the morning before we left. On the plus side – this whole exercise was very cheap – the consultation, and the drugs were only about 15.00 all totaled.

    And that was the end to our pretty exciting day!

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    I am leaving for safari with Micato on September 3. The postings I have read here hav been invaluable. I am still a little unsure about what to take for money. Meaning how much and should it be half in TC and half USF? I am so excited. Do you have to dress up in the evenings at the clubs?

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    Maxygirl-
    Which safari are you going on? I can then give you a better idea for USD vs TC etc...
    Oh, I do so wish I was 'going' !!!

    As to dress - no, you don't have to dress up. If Mt Kenya Safari Club is on your sched they like you to be dressed up a bit - but not overly so. I wore a black pair of pants, white top and burgandy blazer to travel in, I sent it to the laundry in Nairobi upon arrival and after that it doubled as my MKSC dinner outfit - and I didn't feel out of place at all. At all of the other camps - my convertibles were worn as pants to dinner - once or twice when I washed them out early (before supper) I wore my capris, or those black pants with a t-shirt.
    Your bag will not leave much weight for any clothes - have been through my packing list before and after?

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    Lynda,
    So great to read your report...we are doing the balloon ride, and this makes me all the more eager to go, and so glad we opted to go the extra expense of it!
    Thank you!

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    Lynda, I am going on the Micato Grand safari. Yes I sure did look at your list, very helpful. Where do you leave your actual luggage, purse etc..I am stopping in London for 3 days before Africa.

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    Such luck with the cheetahs! Glad you could get the photos from an alternative source.

    Just like the pilot's saying of "Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing," same thing with the balloon. As long as you get in and out, that's what counts.

    I will spell it Maasai from now on.

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    Thanks, Wayne, Lynn, and cindysafari!

    I am actually still a little confused Lynn on whether we should be spelling Masai Mara with one A or two. Benson (who is a Maasai) said the park was Masai, but as someone else pointed out, it was spelled wrong to begin with. But I guess an official name is an official name? Maybe if Eben is reading this thread maybe he can help?
    By the way, Lynn, I read your INCREDIBLE panda reprot - FABULOUS! I'd like to go to Chengdu now to see them - not to work, but be a tourist. Can tourists pay the $ and go in the nursery or is that just for the workers and volunteers?

    Maxygirl-
    You are going to LOVE that trip! I looked up your itinerary this morning (still trying to figure out where the 7 flights come in though when you only have 6 legs and you are driving on one of them! (Serengeti to Ngorongoro). Wow, great trip though , camps sound wonderful! I hope you get Daniel as your safari director - you will LOVE him!

    Anyhow, no, nothing special needed for evenings as I mentioned - dockers kind of pants for the men with a nice shirt or golf shirt, and nice pants/top for the ladies should do it at Mt. Kenya. Some people were all dolled up though, but I bet their bags weighed more than 15 kg!

    Can you clarify what you meant about the luggage and the purse? We didn't have any extra luggage - we bit the bullet and just packed in the Micato duffle bag. We were two days in London after - I wore the same black pants in London that I traveled down in, and used for Mt. Kenya - laundered of course though! :-)
    You can indeed though leave a bag at your hotel in Nairobi (Norfolk I think you have) as you will be back there at the end of the safari for at least the day.

    I did use a purse to travel there and back with - during the whole time in Nairobi and the safari, as well as Zanzibar though, I didn't use it. I just put it in the duffle bag - it is very softsided, squashes well, no hard sides or bottoms on my travel purse!

    As for the money, I can give you a guide line of what we took - with a little disclaimer first though!

    Disclaimer-
    We may not be the average spenders. Hubby loves to try each country's beer, and is an incredibly social guy. Mix the two together, and that sometimes = high bar bills (am I not right, Julian and Kavey??? ;-) ) The saving grace is that I don't drink at all, but I certainly send out laundry! Every lodge got a sale of laundry form us!

    OK, now that the disclaimer is out... Oh, and keep in mind we had one day in Nairobi before the safari (not with Micato - before everyone arrived) and 4 days in Zanzibar afterwards on a Micato extension.

    We took 500.00 USD in cash, 700 USD in TC. From bank machines in Kenya we got the equivalent of about 550.00 USD more. - BUT - we brought back 220.00 in USD TC. (there was a good reason for this...)

    Here's the breakdown (all in USD):

    Misc tips that we felt were necessary (in our circumstance) over & above above what Micato paid at camps/lodges/hotels: 85.00 USD

    Tips for Micato drivers, guides & safari director - 712.00 USD

    Expenses Sunday prior to Micato portion starting (guide/entrance fees/lunch, etc) 217.00 USD

    Hotel/Lodge/Camp bills (laundry, beer :-) 231.00 cash + 210.00 CCard

    Purchases & gifts - 229.00 cash + 60.00 CCard

    Miscellaneous unaccounted for - 56.00 USD - probably misc tips.

    The expenses are for the KY/TZ portion only - London was a little different!

    The KSH from the ATM was in two parts - 220.00 on the first day in Nairobi so I would have KSH to spend, the last 330.00 was to cover some tips - as we only had 220.00 in USD TC left and I needed 330.00, it only stood to reason that I had to go to the ATM for either the difference or the whole thing. I opted for the whole thing as TC's didn't cost us anything to buy and can be redeposited into our bank at N/C.

    Hope this helps maxygirl! You can always email me at lyndadswain at telus dot net as well!

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    Thanks again Lynda. I cannot figure out the 7 flights either. I am traveling by myself so I suppose the tips will be half of yours. although I am not a typical spender either. I think I may reduce what I was going to take after reading your answer.

    I am going to London for 3 days prior to Africa and I have social commitments there. Dressy ones. Therefore I will have a lot of things that I won't need for safari. VERY good to know I can leave my luggage at the Norfolk. I was in a bit of a panic. I have just found out this morning that my final documents are coming from Fran this week so I am really anxious. I will surely be calling on you for more help.

    Thank you so kindly.

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    DAY 12 TUESDAY JUNE 8TH – MT. KENYA SAFARI CLUB

    “LIKE MANY OF EAST AFRICA’S PRE-WAR DREAMS THE THEN “MAWINGO” AND NOW KNOWN TO US MT KENYA SAFARI CLUB WAS BORN OF A LOVE AFFAIR, AND ONE THAT HAD ALL THE INGREDIENTS OF AN EPIC ROMANCE, A HANDSOME OLDER WOMAN, A DASHING AVIATOR AND, FOR THEIR PLAYGROUND, ALL OF AFRICA.”
    -from Mt. Kenya Safari Club’s website on their history
    And now they had us too…

    A sleep in day today for us! Last night, after supper, Daniel gathered his little family around him to go over a few things. First off, he mentioned, the airline pilots the other day were NOT impressed with the weight of our bags. Without saying it, he gave us the impression that some pretty fast talking had to be done in order to get them to take all of the bags on one of the legs of the flights. To this end, he asked if everyone who was in a couple could pack whatever they needed for Mount Kenya Safari Club for 2 days into one bag, and the other would stay at the Grand Regency awaiting our return to that hotel on Saturday. A brilliant idea we all thought!

    Next, he gave us three options for this morning – a morning game run, a morning bush walk (not of the paying kind – of the included kind), or sleep in and repack. Guess what we chose – we figured it was high time to sleep in and laze around the tents, and repack at our leisure. All too soon though it was 10:00 – time to go.

    We flew out from Kichwa Tembo’s private airstrip on a 52-seat Air Kenya Dash 8 at 11:30, arriving at Wilson airport in Nairobi at noon. We transferred to three vans, met our driver, Patrick and settled in for a nice country drive from Nairobi to Mt. Kenya Safari Club. As the family would not be with us on this leg – their Hearts & Splendour trip was finished – we had a pretty empty van. Audrey and Lucrece came with Jim and me so that we could take whatever pictures they would like for them, and that was it, just the four of us. To eat en route, whenever we chose, was a HUGE lunch box on each seat, from the Nairobi Hilton Hotel. Before peeking though I prayed to the lunch box gods that it would be better than the last one – and, hey it worked! It was actually a fabulous lunch: 2 sandwiches, (one ham and tomato, the other cheese and tomato, both on a bun), an apple, and a banana, a bag of chips, a pound cake (big slab!) and a fruit juice. It was really good, very tasty, but no way could any one of us finish that huge lunch!

    The ride was nice, but it did seem to take an extraordinary long time. Congested traffic in the city contributed to this I am sure, along with many, many police road checks along the way once we got into the country. We were waved through the majority of them; but a couple of them did check Patrick’s insurance and his credentials. The roads are good, and the scenery was varied, lots of good picture taking-out-the-window stuff. At 3:30 we ‘pit-stopped’; at a curio shop of course. Strangely enough, there was only one real shopper in our group of 15 – very unusual. Lily, one of the ladies from Massachusetts was the shopper in our crowd, but the rest of had such fun watching her bargain and ultimately buy, that we didn’t mind waiting.

    The roads after the pit stop were very scenic; we were climbing into the foothills around Mt. Kenya. At one point there was a huge traffic delay, just before Nanyuki; we crawled along the road at a pace near ‘stalled’. Whatever could it be, we wondered? Patrick said probably an animal crossing the road, but it turned out to be an accident – a huge truck had slid off the road, they were towing it back up. As we came into view we saw that it wasn’t just ANY truck – it was a TUSKER beer truck! All kinds of injured Tusker bottles lying at the bottom of the hill – all broken and unsalvageable! Poor things! Oh no, we thought, will Mt. Kenya SC have any Tusker in stock?? :-))

    We arrived at MKSC around 5:30, given what seemed to be by now, regulation warm towels and a fruit juice drink and a seat in the bar. (I could see a few Tusker bottles on the bar….) Just as we got comfy, Daniel was back with our keys, we would all be staying in the Riverside cottages. The public areas of the club were amazing – lots of open airy space for the halls around a central courtyard, with wonderful cozy rooms on the other side of the hall. Lots of fireplaces, overstuffed chairs, and some great décor – despite having to take down some of the trophies of old due to ‘a new age’, they still managed to maintain the air of an exclusive member-only hunting club (a few scattered trophies were still displayed). The outside grounds were well-manicured and incredible – there was a maze, many gardens, an inviting pool (except it was a little cold up here), tennis courts, a few gift shops, an animal orphanage, a putting green, and a golf course. I decided right then and there that this would become one of my favorite places.

    The cottages were incredible – we could see the river from ours, but as we were quite a bit uphill from it, we didn’t venture down. The cottages are convertible to either a large family size cottage, or 3 individual accommodations. Ours had a huge comfy bed, a cozy fireplace, a nice sitting area with chairs that weren’t as comfortable as they looked, and a writing desk – all in the one room. Lucrece and Audrey’s, which adjoined ours, had a separate bedroom from the sitting room. All rooms had a wonderful open deck, with wooden chairs and tables, along with 2 very comfy lounge chairs. We could neither see our neighbors, nor hear them, despite having 3 suites in one cottage, it seemed very secluded. The grounds were lovely, lots of pretty flowering bushes. Oh, but the bathroom – did I mention the bathroom?? Incredible – all slate and marble – and huge. That room had to be bigger than my kitchen! Sunken tub hair dryer, double sinks and walk in shower – it was amazing. But guess who left the very small travel size bubble bath in the suitcase that STAYED in Nairobi?

    Supper was incredible. Breakfast turned out to be buffet, while lunch and supper was order off the menu. For supper each night there was three choices – a fish, a meat and a vegetarian dish for an entrée, along with a soup, a salad or an appetizer, and desert. The service was impeccable – even at our noisy & boisterous table! And, the food was delicious. Usually a die-hard meat eater, while in Africa, I found myself eating the fish dish quite a bit. And loving it! The tilapia comes from Lake Victoria, and it is way better tasting than the tilapia we can get here (which I believe is imported from Vietnam).

    Not too long after dinner, we retired back to our wonderful cottage. Most people walked, but they do provide transportation to and from the cottages as it is quite a distance. We snuggled into our warm and cozy bed with the hot water bottle (scarred Jim, he thought it was a cat – memories of home), and fell asleep listening to the crackle of the glowing fire in the fireplace.

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    hmmm, with your crazy glue, scotch tape, duct tape and stapler, you could have salvaged some of those poor bottles of Tusker! LOL! Still enjoying this Lynda, excellent writing!
    Thanks! Dennis

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    Lynda -

    I would have been in tears seeing that Turker truck flipped off the road. All that wonderful brew being soaked into the earth. What a shame.

    We loved the Riverside Cottages for the 1/nt here. The best being the fire waiting for us on return from dinner. The next morning we were awakened by a vervet monkey knocking on the window. Too funny!

    The grounds are lovely, but the one afternoon and night was more than sufficient to stay here. For me, the stop was so I could have a manicure... (princess, moi). In those years, there weren't many options for spa treatments, let alone a manicure.

    A great read.

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    Lynda,
    We just got our first packet of info about our Stanley Wing tour in the mail last week! It is starting to feel real...only 5 months away!

    I am really looking forward to MKSC and all its romantic history.

    I check back here every day - keep the wonderful travelogue coming!

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    Lynda,
    I too love the tilapia in East Africa. It tastes totally different than what we get here. Did you visit the animal orphanage at MKSC? I'm thinking of stopping there as we'll be passing through Nanyuki a couple of times.

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    bat- it really is a small world!

    Patty - yes, we visited the animal orphanage - I loved it - but then I'm a sucker for animals no matter where they are! You can't go in any cages :-( (such as the cheetahs - the guide was horrified when I asked...)

    It's a very pretty, well laid out zoo/orphanage - and not too big, so it's not exhasusting. There was a lynx there though that I REALLY felt sorry for - it didn't have a very big cage and I did make note of that to the guide - although I know all of the good stuff that orphanages and zoos do WHEN they have the proper facilities - and I agree with them - sometimes there are one or two animals that I know would do better in the wild. The MKSC lynx (the mom) is one of them - she was sad, and she didn't hide it. All the rest were fine though - they were happy!

    I think you should stop - if you haven't already seen it you should also take a look around the MKSC - the orphanage is on their grounds.

    A full description of the orphanage(hey, you know me) is in the day that I am working on right now, as well as my 'fabulous mystery purchase' that was your fault! :-)) I'll bet you have guessed what it is already....

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    No, I still don't have a clue :)) but I'm glad to hear the "fabulous mystery purchase" will soon be revealed.

    How long do you think we should allow for the orphanage? One hour enough or more? Thanks.

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    One more question, do you actually enter MKSC to access the orphanage? How was lunch at MKSC? I'm wondering if we should arrange to have lunch there as well if we visit the orphanage (I've never been there). OK, I'll hold off asking more questions for now until you finish the next installment ;)

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    Lynda, I'm glad to have caught up with your fabulous trip report. I can just imagine that guides face when you asked about entering the cheetah pen!!!! You had me in stitches reading that, although I have to say I would probably have asked the same thing myself. I too feel sorry for some of the animals in orphanages / zoos and know exactly how you feel for thet Lynx. I thought the same thing about the Pigmy Hippo in KWS in Nairobi. He just hid in the corner and didn't look at all happy. The Colobus monkey cage was quite small too and I felt a little sorry for them also... what did you think?
    The Mount Kenya Safari Club sounds beautiful - I'm envious :)

    We don't have tilapia here in Ireland and Hubby isn't a big fish eater but he did try it in Kenya and thought it was lovely.

    Can't wait until you reveal that mystery purchase!!

    Imelda

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    Patty-

    Yes, you have to enter MKSC grounds (it's gated) to visit the orphanage. I wouldn't think there would be a charge to enter, I think it was just to know who's entering - but I could be wrong there! Oh, as a matter of a fact, I remember seeing a sign - I think you pay the ticket price for the orphanage at that gate & then in you go. As we were already on the grounds, we had to go to the gift shop to get a ticket (MKSC's logo shop)- it was 1000 ksh pp by the way.

    There is a web site for the orphanage - hold on, I'll dig it up - I'm back -
    http://www.animalorphanagekenya.com/

    I think that would be a good idea to have lunch there - it certainly is a good meal! I have no idea how much it would cost though - probably not the cheapest, but at any rate, it would be a good choice. I'd say it would have to be pre-arranged though as the MKSC accomodations only come as full-board.

    Allow for 2 hours - it is small, but I went in at 4:00 and closed it at 6:00. I do dawdle sometimes though....

    Imelda - what are you doing reading????? We're all waiting anxiously for your repot :-))

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    Ha ha, I'm catching up on the other reports before I start writing my own!!! I think it is the fact that it realy is at an end when I start posting it and I was a bad girl on safari and didn't write up my journal every day so now I'm finishing it before I start writing (I know, I know ... bad bad!!). Anyways, I'm nearly there and I promise as soon as I finish that I'll start posting! ;)
    In the meantime I'm enjoying everyone elses reports and I think Julian has a LOT to answer for as I'm now starting to read up about Botswana as a possible future trip (after I picked my jaw up off the floor after finding out the price of Mombo and ruling that one out!)!!

    Promise I will get writing very soon,
    Imelda

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    DAY 13 WEDNESDAY JUNE 9TH – MT. KENYA SAFARI CLUB

    “I’M SO HOMESICK FOR AFRICA AND I HAVEN’T EVEN LEFT YET”
    -Ernest Hemingway

    This was our final day on safari. Well, that is if one could consider the luxury of the Mt. Kenya Club as being on safari…

    But, yes, I could. To me, it evoked memories of my childhood dreams. Wandering the halls with the huge tusks spanning the doorways, the wonderful black and white photos of Don Hunt and William Holden on the walls, the rattan furniture, the ever-so-polite white-gloved service personal walking down the hall with a silver tray laden with tea and biscuits – this all brought to mind an age gone by. To me, not the age of the hunters and the hunted – just the age of the gentry folk who enjoyed the facilities of the club. That’s one thing about history – we can be selective if we want in our recalls.

    This morning we were given two options – lounge around the property, play golf or tennis or visit the animal orphanage; or we could go to Sweetwaters in search of Jane Goodall’s chimps and Morani, the tame white rhino. It was pretty much a split down the middle – with half the group opting to enjoy the facilities at Mt. Kenya Safar Club, and the other half opting to go in search of tame wildlife. As Jim and I are the type of people who hate to miss anything, we opted to go to Sweetwaters. After a yummy buffet breakfast of omelets and sausages and fruit, we set out, in 2 vans to Sweetwaters, a game reserve on the other side of Nanyuki.

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    LYNDA, You NEVER said you went to Sweetwaters!!!! That was on my original list of places to go but with so little time it got left out:(. I can't wait to read all about it!

    Imelda

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    It was a 45 minute drive away, but it was an interesting one. Nanyuki was quite the lively town; I would have liked to get out and wandered around there soaking up the culture. We passed by an outdoor goat auction (wonder if those goats REALLY knew what was going to happen to them), lots of interesting roadside markets, a great view of Mt. Kenya, and some camels. Camels? Hmmm, we would find out why later when we were at the Carnivore the next day in Nairobi.

    Once inside Sweetwaters we saw zebra, impala, reticulated giraffe, and cape buffalo before arriving at the Jane Goodall Chimpanzee sanctuary. This is a rehabilitation center for orphaned and abused chimps, not native to this area, but rather from Burundi (remind you of anything Imelda???). Due to political instability there, both governments agreed to relocate the sanctuary inhabitants from Burundi to Kenya. Currently there are 41 chimps living there, the most famous being Poco, who was rescued from a very small birdcage hung from the roof of a garage. The chimps are in an area behind a fence, a few came out to see us while a ranger gave us the rundown of their history and the work that they are doing there. Easel and Socrates were the two that came out to see us, the ranger pointed out Poco back in the bush, but he did not come out to view us. Easel was the entertainer of the crowd; he would pick up a stick and run along the fence banging it as he went. I was not entirely convinced that he was happy doing this, but the ranger assured us he was.

    He took us up to a viewing platform where there was a little history on each chimpanzee, and then down by the river to see Amharo (sound familiar all of you Rwanda trekkers???) He was a fairly big chimpanzee, he was sitting down on the other side of the river when we approached the edge. Once we arrived though, he stood up and started running back and forth, plunking himself down with great ceremony at each end of his run. Again, I was not entirely convinced he was happy doing this for us, but it was exciting to watch him.

    After a small game run where we saw lots of buffalo and zebra up close and personal, we went to visit Morani, the tame black rhino who has his very own 100 acre enclosure, and 24 x 7 armed guards to protect him. Now, he looked happy! Found wandering near his mother who had been killed by poachers in Amboseli NP, he was taken to 3 or 4 other locations before coming to Sweetwaters. Realizing that he had not learned to avoid poachers or attacks by other rhinos, there was no choice but to keep him somewhere in his own enclosure. He could be anywhere on his huge acreage, you do have to walk to see him, but his guards are in radio contact at all times, so you do not really have to search for him, armed rangers will take you to him. We had about a 20 minute hike (on flat ground) to get to him; but it sure was worth it! It was great fun to go up and touch him, and feed him.

    At 12:00 we set off to Nanyuki, and Patty, here is where you come in!!! Remembering Patty’s report from last year on this very worthwhile project, the night before, I had asked Daniel if we could see the Weavers & Spinners. He had said that we certainly could if anyone wanted to, and out of the group of 9 of us that went to Sweetwaters, only 2 opted not too. So, one van took Audrey and Lucrece back to Mt. Kenya, while 7 of us stopped in at the Nanyuki Weavers & Spinners. It was fascinating! There on the floor when we walked in was a pile of dirty brown sheep’s wool, probably just freshly shorn. One of the women who worked there took us through the factory; she showed us how that dirty brown wool gradually became an incredible piece of woven art! The wool is combed, washed, (no bleach is used, I could not believe it!), and washed and washed again until it is white, then it is spun on wheels to make yarn, which then is woven into wonderful placemats, wall hangings and other such good stuff! As much as I had set out on this trip determined not to buy much at all, well, here was something that I just could not resist, the place mats were so beautiful, and the project is so worthwhile, It is set up to give unmarried local women a job, a purpose, and a place in society. So, THANKYOU Patty, I am the proud owner of two wonderful wall hangings that will be above the bed soon, I love them, they are incredible. And, I must say, I was not the only one; the other 5 people all bought items too, one lady told us that we had put them over their goal for June, and it was only the 9th!!


    We got back to the club at 2:00, just in time for a wonderful lunch, followed by relaxation for most, but I had a mission to accomplish, no time to relax for me! Jim walked around the property taking pictures of all of the wonderful gardens and amenities, while I went on a wild animal hunt to the orphanage. This orphanage is operated by the neighboring ranch along with the William Holden Wildlife Foundation. There is an entrance on the property, and you buy the tickets from the logo shop in the main building of the Safari Club. It was started by Don Hunt’s wife, Iris. Don was a TV personality in 1964, when he decided to give up the Hollywood life, move to Kenya, and co-found the Mt. Kenya Safari Club with William Holden. He has passed away since, but the orphanage is still operated by Iris.. It was a wonderful visit, a guide named James took me under his wing as soon as I came in, and he gave me a personal tour of the orphanage, telling me all about each of the animals and why they were there. My favorites of course were the cheetahs and the cats in general. James looked at me in amazement and disbelief when I asked him if I could go in to pet the cheetahs. He also raised his eyebrows a bit when I told him the mother lynx was not happy there, and asked me how I knew. They communicate, I told him. She really didn’t look so happy, I think she needed more room to run. Sokoke, the forest cat was adorable, I have a cat at home that looked just like her! And George, the black & white Colubus monkey was just adorable. James handed me some peanuts or something similar and told me stand in a certain spot. No sooner did he show me where when George jumped down from his tree and landed on my shoulder, what an incredible animal, and what an incredible experience! Their fur is so soft; it was great fun to pet him. I fed him for a bit, James took some pictures of me with my camera. I closed the orphanage, there are tons of animals there & I really did not want to leave.

    Daniel had called for 7 pm sundowners in the bar, I had to really shower quickly for us to make it there! Our last night together, he said, deserved a good send off. Micato had arranged for one of the lounges with a nice cozy fireplace, it was sad to think that our little family would all be going their separate ways tomorrow. But the cocktails and appetizers were great! And dinner was fabulous too; an incredible corn soup and beef roulade was on the menu. But the best was in the bar after dinner. A few of us went to the bar for a last mingle, it was such fun! Roberta and Michael, the two New Yorkers in the crowd had us all up dancing the congo-line, even Daniel! It was great fun, the whole bar was up and dancing.

    It was sad to think that our safari was over, but Jim and I, along with Chad, another guy in the group knew we still had our Zanzibar extension to look forward to!

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    Wow, that was tough to post - everytime I went to post it it would put those funny symbols on the dashes (which I use too much of anyways) and the apostrophes. And, it would not not let me edit it. So if it sounds a little formal, I went back and took our any contractions. And then when I posted the new one, I notice it posted the possesive contractions OK anyways! Go figure...

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    Aha! I'm so glad you stopped at the spinners & weavers project. I too was fascinated by the whole process, particularly the different types of plant materials used to create different colors. I'm planning to get another rug when I go back this year.

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    Lynda,
    Thanks so much for describing the spinners and weavers project. I know I am going to have a terrible time deciding what crafts and souvenirs to buy and these wool crafts sound perfect (easy to travel with too!). My parents have a collection of ethnic rugs and wall hangings as well so I am sure I will be able to find something for them. Hopefully when I go I can help the women reach their goal for February, 2007!

    We just bought our plane tickets for our trip - with each step it becomes more real! Next is figuring out the best way to get our travel visas since we are American citizens living in Germany...

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    Lynda,

    I've been thoroughly enjoying your trip report thus far (so sad to see it ending)! I was wondering if you had any extra info about the cheetah petting visit in Nairobi. I'll be there for two days in January and would love to add this as part of the experience! Thanks!
    Laura

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    Patty - are you going to buy one of the big rugs when you go? They were absolutely incredible and I would have loved to buy one for our moved-out-son's room which is now being converted to yet another 'Africa' room in the house. They were just incredible, but I spent so much time looking trying to decide on just the little ones that I didn't even ask if one of the big ones could be shipped. You know, come to think of it, I guess I could have enlisted Micato's help on that - they do put that in their brochures. Looks like I have to go back...

    What did you think about the animal orphanage at Mt Kenya - are you going to go? As you can tell, I really enjoyed it - feeding George on my shoulder was a real highlight!

    Hausfrau - When you are at Mt. Kenya, the first day, be sure to ask your safari director if it is possible to stop to see the weavers - I am not sure if it was on the itinerary, or if Daniel added it in when I asked. He mentioned to everyone that it was a requested stop by me, but that it was a very worthwhile stop as he really believes in the work they do. It wouldn't hurt to ask to make sure though and I am sure there wouldn't be any problem in your director arranging the stop.

    The visas - wow, never thought of that! I would say that if there was a TZ or KY embassy in Germany that it wouldn't matter what nationality you are, you should still be able to use them to get the visas. Or, maybe Express post to and from the embassies in the US is an idea? But I have always thought that the embassies in any country could be used by anyone who happens to be there - after all it is a Kenyan embassy that just happens to be in Germany!

    You can always get your KY visa at the airport on arrival - are you arriving on the Sunday night or the Sunday morning? But Micato does ask that you get your TZ visa ahead of time as the lineups are long enough at the border without adding trying to get the entry visa there.

    You are just going to LOVE this trip - are you doing the Zanzibar extension?

    Laura-
    Not to worry - I have 5 days of report to go yet - we went to Zanzibar after! :-) Thankyou so much for your kind words, I am glad you are enjoying it - I love re-living it when I write it!

    Yes, don't miss the cheetah hug! It was truly a highlight - it was incredible!!! They are so cute and cuddly and the three girls (the cheetahs) do seem very happy and they love to have company! One especially seems to just love people - that's Shannon. She kept giving us 'sandpaper kisses' - what a thrill that was - or when she started purring, that waas incredible.

    For information on the hug - go to Kennedy's website at
    http://www.waymarksafaris.com/safaris/excursions.htm
    He has made arrangements with the orphanage to bring his clients for the hug, and he gives a GREAT city tour as well! He can customize the tour for you as well if the regular one is not exactly as you would like. All else pales in comparison though to that cheetah hug!
    Kennedy's contact email is on his website.

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    Lynda,
    I purchased a rug for our living room last time and they shipped it for me by postal service. I don't know if they'll ship courier service like UPS or DHL, but I wasn't in a hurry and wanted the cheapest shipping method so postal service was fine. More details here http://www.fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=4&tid=34725584

    Had I wanted it faster, I'm sure I could've asked my tour operator to send it by courier service for me in case spinners & weavers couldn't.

    We're going to try to visit the Mt Kenya orphanage on our way to Laikipia. Do you happen to remember what their hours were?

    hausfrau,
    Another women's project is Kazuri Beads in Nairobi. They make beautiful handmade beaded jewelry and pottery. The workshop where they'll give you a tour is in Karen, not far from the Blixen Museum, Giraffe Centre, etc., but they also have other branches in shopping centers in Nairobi like the Junction and Village Market that sell their products (no tours in the other branches though).

    Have a great trip!

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    Thanks Leely - I am working on the last day of the safari as we speak. Zanzibar was indeed exciting though!

    Patty - I really should have thought of that - those larger rugs were just incredible, mind you I didn't look at the price of them so it may have been a bit more than I could afford. I was just so taken by the wall hangings and I couldn't decide between two of them, so I bought both (smaller ones).

    The orphanage hours - I know they closed at 6 pm, and do believe they were open in the morning - my guess would be they would be open by 9 or 10. It was quite hot in the afternoon walking around, morning just might a little better.

    Also Patty, on one of your other posts (I believe it was on Imelda's 'I am home' post) you mentioned that you would skip the cheetah hug if it was officially frowned upon - just to let you know Kennedy has straightened all that out if you were interested in doing it - he mentioned to me yesterday that it's OK for him to bring people there as long as he clears it before hand with the powers that be - which of course he always would. Just thought I'd let you know in case you were interested - but do go see my friend George as well at MKSC!

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    I paid 7800 shillings for an approx 5' x 7' rug plus 4000 shillings for shipping. I plan to get a smaller one this time for our home office. Depending on how heavy it is, I may try to carry it back.

    Thanks for the info on both orphanages.

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    Lynda,
    Thanks, I will definitely ask about stopping at the spinners and weavers project. As for the visas, I am going to call the company that Micato recommends and find out what the best approach is. We don't get to Nairobi until Sunday night, and I agree that we should have the visas ahead of time so we don't slow everyone down. I am not sure we should send our passports out of the country, so we may end up having to take a trip to the embassies in Berlin to get the visas. We'll figure it out one way or another!

    Unfortunately we won't have time to do the Zanzibar extension as my husband can only take 2 weeks off work, but I'm looking forward to your report about it!

    Patty, thanks for the info about Kazuri Beads!

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    DAY 14 SATURDAY JUNE 10TH – GRAND REGENCY HOTEL, NAIROBI

    Our last day together started with a nice leisurely breakfast, the call to order was not until 10:00, when we would leave this incredible place and drive to Nanyuki for our 11:00 flight back to Nairobi. As the flight was early, we had to skip the obligatory picture-in-front-of-sign-at Equator. See, sometimes cell phones are NOT a useful item! In the ‘good old day’s’ the plane would have just had to wait for us.

    Boarding the 18 seater Air Kenya was a breeze – after all there was only half of the luggage now to load. We arrived early at Wilson Airport in Nairobi at 11:20, which in turn had us sitting at the entrance to the Carnivore Restaurant by 10 to 12 – waiting for our 12:30 table to become available. But it was worth it – what a fabulous place! I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but we all enjoyed it. If there was a vegatarian in the crowd they didn’t complain – but then again we were all having so much fun that I think eating was secondary. Something to do with the last day together and the ever-flowing “Dawa” (which by the way means ‘medicine’) drinks. We had an incredible table outside in the garden area, complete with cats. (the domestic variety). My little calico buddy behind me received plenty of juicy little tidbits from me! The food was wonderful – well, I wasn’t too excited by the camel, but the rest was fabulous. I especially enjoyed trying all of the salsas and sauces they had on the table. For anyone who hasn’t been yet, it is a one price menu (well, there is no menu as such). You start with a soup (ours was leek) and buns, then they bring salad, salsas and sauces to the table, followed by the spears of open flame-roasted meats – all kinds of varieties –we had sausages (mmmm good), leg of lamb, chicken wings, spicy chicken, roast beef, roast pork, ostrich, camel, croccodile, and pork ribs. They will keep coming around until the last person at the table raises the white flag in the middle. And then, desert and coffee – the cheesecake was really good. And, they do have a vegetarian substitute for the meat should anyone need, but I have no idea what that is.

    Jane Pinto, the owner of Micato, along with Duncan Scott, the director of operations, joined us for lunch; this was a really special treat for us. It was great to ask questions on the backstage workings of the safari, and it was especially nice to be able to convey to Jane how much we had all enjoyed our safari together and how much we all LOVED Daniel! A group that melds so well is indeed a wonderful experience, and I would bet most of us will always keep in touch.

    After lunch, everyone else but us went back to the Grand Regency to freshen up and shop - dayrooms were provided for the 11 flying out that night, as well as overnight rooms for the 5 of us that had an extension. Three of us (Chad, Jim and myself) were going to Zanzibar with Micato the next day; while Roberta and Michael (our New Yorkers) were going on to the Seychelles independently on Air Kenya the next day. (set off any alarms for you, Sherry? Just wait until you hear…).

    Jim and I though had a mission. Remember that America Shares bag that I packed before leaving with tons of toys and clothes and school supplies? Well, it was time for us to visit the orphanage and bring it to the children. It had stayed all week at the Grand Regency, waiting for us to return, and now it was packed safely away in the back of a van that would take us to the orphanage. Well, almost that is. Actually, as Micato sends out the bags to those who request, they are of course all the same. A couple from Seattle had accidentely taken ours last week to the orphanage, which left us to take theirs. But, what the heck, it all got to the same place. It’s just that this couple packed way more clothes than we did, and hardly any toys, and no school supplies. But…

    Benedict would be our guide. He had grown up in an orphanage himself, it was his dream to help others, and for sure, he was doing this. We drove for quite a while, out to the industrial area by the international airport. Turning off a main road, we bumped along a bit until we came to ‘no road’, and the Mukuru slum, situated alongside the Ngong River. I felt as though we had left reality and driven into a movie set; but it was not – it was reality. With a poulation estimated to be around 400,000, half of them are thought to be under the age of 16. Shanties, people, chickens, garbage, a few goats – but no vehicles other than ours. People sitting around, watching us go by – the luckier ones had a ‘store front’ to try and earn income by selling phone calls, basic electronics such as small TV’s and radios, plastic kitchen wares, small toys, coal or used clothes and shoes. Benedict (just like the Pope, he said…) told us that most of the other people that lived her did one of three things – walked for miles and miles every day to go to a job if they were REALLY lucky; looked after the children; or were prostitutes – these were mostly young women. I could easily pick them out, they were much better dressed than other young girls. The drive through seemed to take forever, many of the children, as well as the adults, waved to us as we jostled by on the crude pathway through the shanties. Benedict told us that they were fine with us going through, as they knew the Micato van, and they knew the people in it were always there to help. No one even seemed to mind when we stopped to take a few pictures. Everyonce in a while we would pass a makeshift-clinic with a red cross painted on the door. But only once did we pass by a set of outdoor latrines – and they were all padlocked shut. I asked Benedict why there were so few, and who had the keys. ‘Only a priveledged few’ he told us ‘were able to use these outhouses’. If you could not pay for the use of them, which most people couldn’t, then you used what he described as a ‘flying toilet’. A plastic bag, saved until the night when they would pitch it on a rooftop – thus the name ‘flying toilet’. I wasn’t sure if it was at this point that my eyes misted over, but I can tell you they are now. And I can still smell the ‘smell of it’ in my head.

    Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we pulled into a church parking lot that had a huge security fence all around it. This was the orphange, run by a Catholic parish. We got out of the van, took the America Shares bag and went inside the basic meeting room to meet the local Father, and one of the sisters, along with a few of the kids. Benedict took us on a tour, showed us where the new permanent dormitory will be that Micato is building for the kids, and explained to us about the trials and tribulations of trying to get a water/plumbing permit, which was holding things up. And then, it was time to meet some of the people. First, he took us to meet the ‘Ladies Auxillary’. This was a group that young women from the slum had formed – everyday they come to the orphanage to make worry beads and Maasai dolls to ship out to other countries that have contracted them to do this. The money they get helps to run the orphanage. The ladies sang and danced for us, and explained about their work. Before leaving them though, I bought one of the Maasai dolls, they were just incredible, they even had a little baby on their back in a sling! They had no idea what to charge as they didn’t ususally sell them one by one, but I left a substantial donation, hoping it would help someone, somewhere.

    We were taken to meet the kids next. We were given the chairs of honour at the head of the room, while the children and the sisters sat on the benches around us. A group of girls danced and sang, while some of the younger boys recited poetry, both in Swahili and English. The performers were then invited up to get something from the bag, after each one selected they would turn to Jim and I and thank us in English. Well if I wasn’t crying by now…..

    It was then time to go back through the slum, and back to meet Daniel and the others at the Collector’s Den. I was overwhelmed though, and really did not feel like shopping. But, as we were delayed by traffic, we didn’t have much time anyhow. By this time, everyone else had gone back to the hotel to get ready for supper, and Daniel was waiting for us. All we had time to do was pick up an ebony carved lion that I had wanted to buy, along with a chess set for our son and a soapstone box for his girlfriend.

    Supper was, well, unusual! It was a set menu at a local brewery called the Sierra Brewing Company – the beer drinkers in the crowd said they had tasted better, and I know, for sure, I had tasted better food. It was all right, just nothing to write home about. It had recently opened, and we were the guinea pigs for Micato – I think perhaps they should look elsewhere in my opinion.

    It was then time to say tearful goodbyes to everyone but Chad, Roberta and Michael. We went back to the hotel, originally thinking that the five of us would have a night cap in the bar, but neither Jim nor I felt like it. We thought perhaps an early night would be in order after a repack and a phonecall home to Jamie (our son). And, we almost did make that early night – 10:00 we shut the lights off, and were just drifting off to sleep when the phone rang. ‘OHMIGOSH’ I said to Jim, ‘who could that be – something must have happened back at home!’ Well, it was ‘back home’ all right – but nothing had happened. It was Andrew (remember him – our son’s best friend who came to take us to the airport 12 hrs early three weeks before?). And what did he need?
    ‘The John Deere isn’t picking up the grass’ he said to Jim!
    Well, once Jim stopped laughing and established with Andrew that perhaps it was just too wet to mow (we do live in Vancouver after all), we finally were able to go back to sleep!

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    Thanks bat & Leely for sticking it out with me - I don't mean to drag it out, work is making me do that.....

    But I guess I have to earn the $ somehow in order to get back to Afreekah don't I?

    And Maxigirl- I do hope you are not TOO stressed & found time to read this day before you set out on yours tomorrow!!!!

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    Oh Lynda,
    This has been 'SOME' trip report and I completely understand what you are saying about work interfering with writing. You have been fantastic to post so much and in such detail and in reading it I lived through it along with you. I too am sad that this wonderful report is soon coming to an end.

    Imelda

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    Lynda, Have enjoyed not one, not two, but three long cups of coffee and your delicious detailed trip report! "I went to Africa because I did not want to die and discover I had never really lived. I keep going back because I need another dose of the magic." YEPPER - says it ALL!!! Learned a lot this morning, what a cheetah lick feels like/smells like, the uses of a stapler on safari, the perils of jumping out in the Seregeti to take pictures of the migration, how to bold and unbold, where I need to visit on the next trip to Nairobi, how to fool my brain about jet lag. Really, I'm more like you, although I sleep the sleep of the dead, I was up before the thought of dawn every morning on safari! MICATO should give you a commission fee for the great raves you are providing! Can't wait to read about Zanzibar, but I understand about posting and having it really come to an end. FOR NOW. Thanks again, Deb

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    Lynda,
    Thanks so much for such an interesting and detailed trip report. I have been reading your reports intermittently, and enjoyed them immensely. Although our experiences with Micato were very similar, they were not identical, even though we took the same tour, which I think speaks very highly of their ability to be flexible. I just got some pictures from our traveling companions on safari, and have had a great day reminiscing about the trip through those pictures and your report. I'm so glad you took the time and hope that people realize what a great outfit Micato is -- 1st class all the way.

    ~Mary

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    Lynda, I have been enjoying your trip so much. Thanks for sharing all of this. I didn't read the whole thing through at one sitting and have tried to pick up where I left off each time. BUT I didn't read where you used the stapler so I know I missed some of it. I'll have to go through it all again :-d

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    DAY 15, SUNDAY, JUNE 11TH, 2006 ZANZIBAR SERENA INN

    It was back to getting up early this morning, just like on our early game drives day! After polishing off our last Nairobi breakfast, gathering our luggage, and going for one last run to the ATM, we were all ready set to go to the airport at 7:00. Chad and Jim and I were not due to fly out to Zanzibar until 9:50 AM, but Roberta and Michael’s flight to the Seychelles was leaving at around 9:00, so early we would be!

    Now, here’s where a little déjà vu comes into play for at least one Fodorite in our midst – Sherry. The night of the Pinto’s dinner, two weeks back when I heard Roberta say they were going on Air Kenya to the Seychelles, I thought of Sherry and her ‘bad luck’ in getting there, so I advised Roberta to make sure that they confirm their seats on that flight. Not that that helped Sherry any, as she had confirmed her seats the day before the flight and they gave them away anyways; but I thought maybe it would be a good start! Or, failing that I said, I had hoped that Roberta and Michael had always wanted to see Dubai.  She said no, they were booked into one of the plushest resorts that they had stayed in as of late (The Banyan Tree) and she was quite looking forward to it – not Dubai! So, Daniel took their information, and said Micato would confirm the seats. Well, two weeks later, on this morning….you know the rest!

    Jim and Chad and I checked in on our flight with no problem, while Jim went for a smoke and Chad went to find the boarding gate, I decided I should report a very small, but irritating incident that we had outside to an airport official. When the Micato driver took our luggage out from the van, he put it on the sidewalk and went off to get 3 carts for us; but neither Jim nor I heard he was doing this. A guy with a cart came up, loaded on our 2 bags and started pushing it towards the airport. You see, it really is me – I attract these guys – I think I have ‘easy mark’ plastered on my forehead. So we shrug our shoulders and say ‘oh what the heck’. The guy goes exactly 10 feet and stops, takes off our luggage and says he can’t go into the airport; this is as far as he could go. We looked at him very strangely and just a little shell-shocked, but thought again ‘what the heck’. Jim pulls out a 100 ksh and gives it to him. The guy says ‘no, sir that will be 200 ksh’. Now really shell shocked, we actually gave it to him; mind you he had one of our bags in his hand so that did contribute to the decision. But I was a little miffed and thought I should report this to someone. I went to the ‘manager’s office’ and asked where I could tell someone why I was a little miffed. The lady directed me to another lady who was standing with Roberta and Michael – who looked more than a little bit upset. I went over; Roberta turned to me and told me that Air Kenya had no seats for them!!! She couldn’t believe it, as Daniel had confirmed them the day before.

    Neither Roberta nor Michael were going to take this in its stride – they had three days in the Seychelles, and they were going to enjoy ALL three days, no matter what. The Air Kenya supervisor had a few suggestions; overnight tonight to J’Berg, with a flight out tomorrow evening from there to the Seychelles was one. Roberta basically said ‘are ya nuts?’ Roberta called Daniel, who actually had not even left the airport (just in case, he said). And although he was not allowed inside the check in area, he called the Micato air representative who happened to be over in the other terminal. As Micato books a tremendous amount of their inter-Africa air with Air Kenya, I would think that she held a few aces in her hand in that conversation. Soon, others who had been ‘bumped’ joined their little group, in total there was 9 very disgruntled people. For an hour Air Kenya kept insisting there was nothing they could do, but they finally said “OK”, we have room. For all 9 people yet! It wasn’t too clear how they suddenly came up with the room – just as their departure time rolled around.
    And, meanwhile while that drama was unfolding, Jim was out having a smoke and he mentioned to the security guards what happened with the ‘porter’ demanding a 200 ksh tip to go ten feet. The security guard went to see who it was, as he said they had no porters outside as the carts were free to use. He came back, radioed someone, and then Jim got to watch a little drama of his own as they cuffed one of the guys that were ‘pretending’ to be porters. One ran away before being caught, but they caught the one that scammed us. Later on, a security guard came over to us and thanked us for pointing this out, as he said, this type of thing does not attract tourists to come back!

    So much drama and it was only 9:30 in the morning! We went through passport control, through security and then upstairs to the departure gate, more security, and eventually out on to the tarmac to board the flight. When I read Imelda’s report about being in the wrong country, I originally thought that maybe they had boarded the wrong plane, as that would have been very easy to do! Three or four planes were sitting out there, we had to check with the stewardess at the top to make sure we were on the right plane. Our Precision Air flight (about 74 seats) was delayed a bit, there were some bags sitting out on the tarmac and they wouldn’t load them until someone identified them. As we had passed by the luggage cart, they had asked us to point out our bags; once we identified them they put them on another cart. I’m not sure whatever did happen in the end, but we eventually did take off. The flight was smooth, and a highlight for sure was seeing Mt. Kilimanjaro up close. It was awesome; it was a pretty clear picture out the window. Jim raised his can of Kilimanjaro beer as we passed….

    Flying over Stonetown was spectacular too. The water was so blue, and the buildings were such a wonderful contrast to the ocean. And there was our hotel – the Serena – I could see it! We landed, walked off the plane, and as we were seated in the back row, we were the first in the terminal. Wow, what a small terminal I thought! Passport & visa control looked at us strangely; ‘what, you don’t have the yellow cards filled out?’ As no one had given us any, that would have been pretty hard! So, a nice delay here while everyone filled out their cards; I wondered why they hadn’t passed them out on the plane, I hardly thought this was the first time Precision Air had flown into Zanzibar from Nairobi!

    And now here is where I fall into yet another scam. Jim, who has a bad back and cannot stand very long, went to sit while Chad and I went to get the 2 Micato duffle bags. I chuckled when I saw the baggage handling area, it was just an empty room off of the main room with a huge open window that the handlers chucked the luggage through. Chad retrieved his bag, and went to get Jim’s while I got mine. I no sooner started to lift it so that I could clip the pull strap on it (the duffle bags have wheels) when a guy whisked it out of my hand and had it on a cart along with Chad and Jim’s. Whoa, wait, wait, I said – but he heard me not. In two seconds flat he had us standing at an ‘express’ customs official’s post that had no line up. The customs guys murmured something (not sure what) and then waved us to go out the front door after ‘pretending’ to look at Chad’s bag, but he didn’t even actually open it. Before I knew it we were outside running after the guy with our bags on his cart. When the guy stopped, in the midst of a throng of people, he got the point across to me very well that he wanted some ridiculous sum of money; I can’t remember what it was, but it was steep. In a panic, I looked around for the familiar Micato hat and shirt; as soon as I saw it I ran to him and he came over to rescue us. Mussa, our guide-to-be said a few things to these guys in Swahili, raised his voice a bit, and still the guys wouldn’t let go of the trolley. Meanwhile it was raining cats & dogs and we were getting drenched. Mussa called his driver Ilias over and between the two of them, they got the luggage back – and no money changed hands. I am not sure what was said. I felt so bad that I fell victim to this, but really, it happened so quick that I did not have time to assess the situation. And, I think I really do have a mark on my forehead.

    The ride (with our luggage intact!) into Stonetown was interesting. SO much culture – so much to see! We have traveled the world over, in many developing nations, and I have seen the same pictures time and time again; but I never tire of it and I always marvel at it. There is just something so magical to me in seeing people go about their daily life that is so different from ours. I do not see the poverty, I see the life style. And I see the smiles on the people’s faces as we pass by, but not the wrinkles that are the sign of so much hard work in the hot sun. I see the colours in the people’s clothes, not the tears or the stains of dirt on them. Anyhow, I digress. We get to the Serena Inn, and it is beautiful. The doorman greeted us as if we had just been there last year, and the hotel manager came over to welcome us to his hotel with some hot tea while Mussa registered us. And the lobby is spectacular, just as I had pictured it, lots of dark wood with oranges, whites and burgundies used in the décor. Reminded me of Arabia, not that I have ever been there, but…

    Once Mussa had registered us, the manager came back over and apologized that he would have to put us on the ground floor for the first night, instead of the usual top floor that his Micato guests enjoyed. We told him we had no problem with that. The room was just off the lobby, hey pretty convenient for going for meals I’d say! It was a small room, with two twin beds, lovely décor and a fabulous view of the inner courtyard with the ocean just beyond it from our balcony. Concerned, the manager asked us again, once we went back out to the lobby if it was OK for one night. We assured him it was, but I did mention that tomorrow was our 30th anniversary and if he could find us a double bed up there tomorrow we’d be very happy! Skipping ahead here – he outdid himself – the next day when we moved up to the third floor not only did we have some amazing coloured glass windows that the sun would catch in the early evening, but it had an AMAZING view of the Indian Ocean and a huge king size bed!! We were, as you can imagine, VERY pleased!

    Back to the first day – it was an afternoon at our leisure, or, Mussa offered us his services to take us shopping on foot in some of the local stores in Stonetown. We were pretty bagged though, and the three of us were looking forward to a nice relaxing afternoon enjoying the facilities at that lovely hotel. Lunch was incredible; it was an a-la-carte menu, complete with lobster, steak, chicken stuffed with lobster, wonderful appetizers and salads and of course great deserts. Chad, Jim and I must have spent the better part of two hours at lunch that day; it was so amazing to sit there and watch the dhows and the fishing boats coming and going on the Indian Ocean right next to the table through the open windows. Mmmmm good.

    We spent the afternoon exploring the facilities and napping until it was time to go for ‘sundowners’ at the bar on the deck while listening to the taarab band. Fabulous music, fabulous cocktails (no alcohol in mine) and a fabulous sunset. Next time we go to Zanzibar, I think we shall spend the entire 3 days sitting on that deck, or our balcony! Dinner was a set menu with two meat/fish choices and a vegetarian option, the food was every bit as good as lunch.


    DAY 16, MONDAY, JUNE 12TH, 2006 ZANZIBAR SERENA INN

    OUR 30TH ANNIVERSARY!!!!

    We awoke early this morning as Mussa was coming for us at 9:00 for our Stonetown tour. Our 30th anniversary and what a wonderful place to be! Breakfast, a buffet, was very good, except for the porridge Jim said – too sugary. By the time we set off on the tour, it was raining buckets. It was supposed to be a walking tour, but Mussa said we could drive for a bit and then maybe the rain would slow down enough to do a little walking. We liked Stonetown, it is old, it is run down, but it has CHARACTER! And, I did look for Corbin’s cat (vacationbennett – he took a photo of a fat calico cat that was snoozing on his back on a step). But I didn’t find him. Jim probably thinks that is a good thing, as I would have snuck him home in my luggage. Anyhow, we saw the dispensary from the outside, and then stopped at the market. What a wonderful place that is! I loved it, not so much the smell mind you, but I loved walking through it, hearing the vendors calling out, looking at all of the ‘unusual’ items (especially the cow’s head, that was just plain strange) and seeing all of the pretty colours of the vegetables and fruits. We didn’t buy anything, but we should have, this was the cheapest place I saw the spice gift packs – they were 1.00 USD. So, even if you are going to the spice farm later like we were, stock up on the spices here. The chicken area is quite the sight. Mussa asked us if we wanted to go in there, not for the squeamish he told us. We did go in, and this is the only place that we encoutered the locals asking us to please not to take pictures. I could see why.

    My camera quit working right smack dab in the middle of the market. It’s a 5 yr old Olympus, film camera though, so probably time I changed over to digital. The zoom quit working, and then the film advance quit right after that. But what a disapointment! Jim of course had his Nikon, but him and I, well, we see different things and I really felt bad asking him all of the time to take a picture of this, or that. But we made do, and Chad was there also with us, he had his Cannon (I believe), and he is an avid photographer. So I was covered.

    After the market we visited the Anglican Church and the Slave quarters, it was quite moving, especially the original holding quarters. Very cramped and small, I could feel the anguish down there of ghosts past. Meanwhile it had stopped raining, so we walked through some of the narrow streets (alleys?) and explored. It was quite the sight, I loved it.

    After a great lunch (lobster again) at the hotel, Mussa picked us up at 2:30 for our spice tour out in the country. And, of course it had started raining again! The drive out was interesting – much utamaduni (culture) which of course would have made for great pictures had my camera not broke! The spice farm tour was very interesting, it was quite a bit of walking, but it was over flat land. We saw many of the different spices, I really can’t say I have ever thought of where pepper comes from before!

    Chad, Jim and I celebrated our anniversary that night at supper, Chad bought us a bottle of wine, and lobster was even featured on the set menu. Originally we were going to go up to the Terrace Restaurant, there is a cover charge there of 15.00 pp, but we thought it would be nice for this special occasion. Unfortuantly though, they don’t open it in the rain, as it has no overhead protection. Oh well, another year.


    DAY 17, MONDAY, JUNE 13TH, 2006 ZANZIBAR SERENA INN

    Another day in paradise! I really could have stayed here forever. Breakfast was rushed again, we hadn’t seen the National Museum yesterday, and Mussa wanted to take us there before setting out to see the Red Colobus monkeys in Jozani Forest. The National Museum was very interesting, the exhibits are very well done, we enjoyed it.

    The drive through the country to the forest was lovely, lots of culture and lots for Chad and Jim to take pictures of. But, of course it started to rain as soon as we got there. That’s what umbrellas and rain coats are for though! We saw a family of Colubus monkeys on the side of the road just before we got there, they are bigger than I pictured them. And that red really shows! Once we got out of the van and walked through the forest though, they were too high in the trees to see really clearly. The zoom on both Chad and Jim’s cameras sure came in handy here!

    From here we drove to the mangrove swamp across the way – that was sure interesting, but it was really wet and we were soaked to the bone. Back at the hotel we dried off, changed, went for lunch (before they stopped serving – lobster again of course!) We spent the rest of the afternoon R & R’ing and enjoying the lovely facilities and napping. Sundowners had been called for 5:30 at the bar, it was dry, it was warm and the sunset was incredible. Sure, just as we had to leave the next day ….

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    Lynda, I agree with your assessment of Stone Town.
    Interesting/ugly/messy/beautiful/breathtaking all at once. And I'm not nearly the rose-colored-glasses type that you are. I hope I don't have that "Chump" sign on my forehead either. ;)


    I don't want this report to end.

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    since we don't want it to end, and it has taken 3 months to finish, I think it's time for you to go back Lynda! I've really enjoyed it all. You could have thrown the stapler or office supplies at the man who ran off with your bags, next time keep it on you at all times! Thanks for all the pre-safari and trip report amusement! It's been great!
    Dennis

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    Hi Lynda,

    We leave Oct 26 for Micato's Stanley Wing Safari..can't begin to tell you how much your trip report has helped...especially with packing and $$. I tried not to read everything..sort of like hearing the end of a movie before you see it, but looked for tips. You are a gem to do all this work.

    Tell me how many people were in your tour? You don't mention Deet once...did you use it? How about the stuff you spray on your clothes to keep away the mozzies?

    Is there room enough for a small daypack in the vehicle on the game drives? Is water provided for the drives?

    May have more questions once I actually start gathering items to pack.

    Mish45

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    mish45-
    You are going to have an incredible time! Not a day goes by that we don't think of something we did, or someone we met in East Africa. It really gets in your blood, and Micato certainly does an INCREDIBLE job!
    Our group was choc-a-block full - they close the groups at 18, and that's what we had. But not all the time - our group, on the Stanley Wing was 15, but once we got to Tarangire, 3 people from the Hearts & Splendour tour joined our group for the rest of Tanzania & the Mara. I believe they closed our group at 15 so that they could accomodate the three on that tour along with us. I liked the group at 15 actually, it gave us enough people to interact and get to know each other, but at the same time we could maintain an independence if we wanted.

    I actually never used the Deet at all. Our first lodge - Amboseli Serena - had some very convenient packs of 'bug wipes', and our second lodge - Tarangire Sopa had nice little bottles of repellent as amenities. I used those, didn't even touch mine. Besides the fact that Sherry and Sandi et all scarred the beejeebers out of me for using anything over 35% - I think I was little leary to use it all! Actually I really never noticed the mosquitoes much - maybe only one place and I think that was at Kichwa Tembo. Tse tse flies, yes... another story....

    I have the stuff you spray on your clothes from a previous trip to South Africa - but I didn't bring it. Never thought of it actually until you mentioned it just now! :-) But, had I remembered, I probably wouldn't have used it, I never really felt the need! Save some room - just bring some 'Deep Woods off wipes' or something similar just in case.

    Yes, there is plenty of room in the vans for day packs - I loaded my vest with the stuff I thought I would need, but a daypack would work great. There are huge pockets on the back of each seat, you could throw your day pack in there - or there is always extra seats even if you have a full group. The vans seat 8 passengers, and they only ever take 6 in a van max. If you are sitting at the back, you will have the extra space beside you.

    There is always water in the cooler, the driver keeps it stocked. Sometimes there was juice and pop also - but always water. Each van has 6 prs of binoculars also - but if you like small binoculars - take your own - Micato's are huge and they are only 7x. Bean bags were in every vehichle, probably 4 or 5 of them. The van is ideal for photography with the pop top roof - BUT - if you have a film camera (like I did) WATCH the bar!!!! With a digital you would see right away that you were getting the bar in, but with film in a point and shoot (non SLR) I didn't know until I got home & developed my films. That stupid bar is front and center on quite a few of my shots - you have to raise the camera higher than you think in order not to get it in!

    No problem on questions - keep them coming!

    And - I WILL be finishing this report - company is gone now and maybe I can even finish the last day this weekend!!!

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    Hi Lynda,

    I can't wait....thanks for all the good info and tips

    Do you think 8 x 42 binoculars will be ok..not just adequate, but good? The deet is quite a controversy....our travel docs said it is an absolute neccesity...so I bought 30%..what was the deet warning from Sherry? What did you do about the tse tse flies?

    Did you lock your valuables (for me, that would be my medication) and passports at the lodge when you left for the day? Did you bother to bring anything resembling "dress up" clothes...packing seems to be anxiety provoking for me at this point..take less, take more..I change my mind day to day.

    Can't tell you how helpful this all is to me..thanks.

    marsha

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    Hi marsha-
    8 x 42 sounds like they would not be compact and light, but they would have a reasonable width of field. The ones in the van were 7 x 35 as far as we can remember, which made them really heavy to hold. Jim's were 10-30 zoom x 25 and very lightweight and we could see much further with them then the ones in the van for close up (ie that elusive leopard in the tree). For that leopard we REALLy needed the 30x zoom. You are so restricted in weight that if yours are heavy you maybe should reconsider! But the zoom and the width of field on yours would be good for most viewing, yes.

    Hmmm, nowhere in my docs did it say deet was necessary - but you are going at a different time of year - so maybe that is what the difference is. Wouldn't hurt to bring it then. Sherry was talking about the near 100% deet - it can be a killer if you put too much on, or put it on the wrong spots! I really liked the 'off' wipes that were individually packaged, really light & easy to carry.

    Light, light, light - that's wahat packing in that duffle boils down to! :-)

    I swatted the tse tse flies with my journal book. Not sure whether that hurt my legs more than them biting or not....

    For the security question - go to Day 9 in this report and read the last paragraph - I let my guard down once and paid for it. YES, lock your valuables in the front desk's vault each time you change camps. Your medication will be OK in the room, but lock your money in the vault.

    No, you don't need anything even remotely dressy. For Mt Kenya you will need something more than shorts or convertibles - but I just wore my pants, white top and jacket that I traveled in (after cleaning of course!) and I felt just fine. I sent them to the laundry as soon as we got to the Grand Regency in Nairobi on the first day (Sunday), and asked for them to be back by the next afternoon in time for the Pinto's dinner that night. It worked great. Some of the group though I noticed did bring cocktail dresses, they looked really nice - but really not required.

    For the packing have you seen my comprehensive thread on the packing before we went? I have a packing list now AFTER the fact - it's really brief - let me know if you would be interested & I will post it here. Next time I know for sure I will not be overweight!

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    Ok - here goes Marsha - this is TRULY all you will need on the Stanley Wing Safari:

    CLOTHES
    - 4 t-shirts
    - 2 short sleeved shirts or blouses (to go with black pants for Mt Kenya)
    - 1 long sleeved shirt for evenings when mossies are out
    - 1 'travel' type of blazer or jkt (ie doesn't wrinkle) for Mt Kenya & traveling in
    - 2 pr convertible pants
    - 1 pr plain black pants for Mt Kenya and travelling in
    - 1 pr capris
    - 1 safari vest – (optional)
    - 1 fleece hoodie for warmth
    - 1 rain/wind jacket
    - 1 pr walking sandals
    - 1 pr closed-in shoes
    - 1 pr pyjamas if you wear
    - 2 pr socks
    - 6 pr underwear/bras
    - 1 bathing suit
    - 1 cover up

    PERSONAL TOILETRIES: take basic stuff in small travel containers, but you won't need shampoo. Take some conditioner, not all lodges had. Take a small washcloth, most had, but some we had to ask.

    OTC DRUG STUFF: a small travel pack with Band-Aids, Gravol, Imodium, Contact C, Advil, Neosporin, and non-drowsy anthistamine.

    SUN & BUG STUFF: a few packages of 'off' or similar wipes, or a small bottle of insect repellent. I looked up my notes - it was Amboseli that had the most mossies (at night only), anti-itch cream, sun lotion if you burn

    BUSH LOO STUFF: a travel roll of TP (invaluable), antiseptic wipes, and a few sandwich bags in case for 'waste'

    LAUNDRY STUFF: a small bottle of hand wash soap (like Zero) and a clothesline - the best type are the ones that need no clothespegs. And if you are a slop like me throw in a Tide to Go pen, you'll be everyone's friend.

    BOOKS & WRITING STUFF: one paperback book (not much time to read on this trip!) journal, a few pens, pencils & eraser if you sketch or do crosswords, small note cards with envelopes for tips for drivers & guides (rest of tips are prepaid by Micato), small calculator, cheap dollar store plastic file pouch for any papers you may want to keep (ie Balloon certificate if you are doing that, or animal checklist, hotel bills, etc)

    MISCELLANEOUS:
    - airline neck pillows (inflatable) which will also double for a back cushion in the vans if you need!
    - cameras & gear
    - some bubble wrap (it's light...) for purchases or gifts given to you,
    - small pkg of Kleenex
    - converter and an adaptors for the area
    - a very small multi-plug outlet (2 - 3 outlets on it)
    - binoculars
    -travel alarm clock
    -extra batteries
    -extra glasses & sunglasses, and sunglass cords
    -really small basic sewing kit
    -some duct tape (wrap some around the end of a pen as Sandi has suggested)
    -your Micato issued flashlight/reading light

    And, really - that is all you will need!

    We took small travel mugs for coffee - we loved bringing coffee on the game drives with us.

    I took the documentation Micato sent us on the details of our trip - and didn't look at it once, but someone said she read it everynight before going to bed to see where they were going the next day. Me, I could have been the tour leader I knew the itinerary so well!

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    what Lynda, NO stapler????
    anyway, I found some of those wine gums that you talked about and they are quite good! Will be bringing some along with me next week to Zim.
    Aloha, Dennis

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    Lynda,

    One week to go and with your absolute list, I have everything set out and ready to pack. You are a treasure for your trip report and all the tips.

    Somewhere along the way, I read that it is good to bring pens, paper, pencils for the children we encounter along the way...is this something you are familar with? Did you use TSA locks for your luggage?

    Oh, the excitement.

    Marsha

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    Hi Lynda,
    Yup, I'm still reading and soaking it all up! I LOVE YOUR LIST. I know it is going to come in handy when we all really start thinking about packing in another couple months! (Our departure - for me, DH, and my in-laws - is early February 2007.) I'm sure I'll have questions for you later!

    Can't say I want your trip report to end...maybe you can just keep telling us more stories????

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    Dennis - OHMIGOSH you are right! How could I forget that tiny stapler AND the tiny tape? They definitely came in handy to taple and staple the bubble wrap closed!
    So, please, yes, consider those two items added to my packing list! :-))

    Aren't those wine gums incredible? If you are flying through Heathrow, go to one of the little stores there that sells candy, newspapers etc and look for the Maynards 'sour' winegums - mmmm mmm mmm good!. I really am addicted to them

    Wow, next week to Zim - are you still going to do the Lion Walk?

    Marsha see note above - take a tiny roll of tape, or a mini stapler, or elastic bands to close up the bubble wrap around the purchases!

    We did the America Shares program, which is where I had tons of pencils & pens, but others in the group did bring some. Our guides asked that we only give them out to school children - ie children walking to and from school in uniforms, as that way children are not encouraged to skip school to hang around tourists for pens etc. On the way to Mt Kenya, probably somewhere around Nanyuki, the other van in front of us (part of our group) threw them out the window as we drove past a group of school children! It was SUCH fun to see this - the girls were estatic! (I guess it was a girls school....) They dove for them as Lilly threw them out the window, it was such great fun to see!

    TSA locks could be used - we zap strapped them going to and from on the international flights with cable ties, and then during the days on safari, we locked them with our regular combination travel locks. I left the front and one of the side pockets unlocked and just kept 'incidentals' there - dirty laundry, bubble wrap, zip lock bags, etc. The other side I kept zapped with a zap strap and just cut it and used a new one everytime I needed to go into it.

    Hausfrau, I am SO glad you are still reading!!!! One more chapter to go, thanks for the nice words on my stories!

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    Lynda,
    I would think that throwing items out of a window while driving could be very dangerous as children would be running toward the vehicle (and possibly other traffic) to retrieve them.

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    Yes, you could be right Patty - I shouldn't have said it quite that way! oops...

    The driver slowed down and stopped when Lilly threw them out the window. At first we wondered why they would pull over and stop and what the girls were diving for, it took us a few times to figure out what was going on. It wasn't on the highway - it was on the dirt road that goes up to Mt. Kenya Safari Club off the highway. (ie read 2 mph for normal travel...)

    Sorry about that for giving the wrong impression!

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    Hi Lynda,

    Well, my husband is totally envious now that I have the "absolute" packing list. He has asked if you or your husband would be willing to share the "guy" version of what to bring re clothing. Today is the first day he has been extremely excited about the trip..giddy, actually!

    Thanks,
    Marsha

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    Hi Marsha-

    The 'guy' version gave me a chuckle as this is what it consists of in our case:
    -no list made or thought of
    -a bit of thought beforehand, but only when I probed him by asking 'hey, do we need to buy anything for you before we go next Friday?
    -his packing was started on the Friday afternoon by this sentence: 'What did you say we needed, dear? Socks? Shoes? Shirts? Shorts? and some convertibles? OK here you are....'
    :-)) :-))

    But, since I was the one who put them in the duffle, I could make a list, more or less, for your husband!

    3 short sleeve shirts (2 were Cool Max)
    1 long sleeve shirt
    2 polo shirts (Cool Max)
    1 pr khaki pants (like Dockers)
    2 pr convertibles
    1 pr walking sandals
    1 pr closed in walking shoes
    4 pr socks
    8 pr underwear
    1 fleece jacket
    1 stuff-in-sack rain jacket
    1 multi-pocket vest
    1 bathing suit
    1 light weight cotton bath robe (not a fuzzy thing...)
    His Tilley hat (I wore my Micato hat, but he preferred his Tilley)

    All of the clothes & the vest were Tilley clothes (that's really all he wears normally) so he didn't need anyhting different for Mt Kenya or travelling - as Tilley looks dressy enough. All of his pants/convertibles were khaki or olive green while his shirts were white or khaki or plaid in the khaki tones.

    As for the things - well, most of that was covered on my list as it was for the two of us, other than his personal toiletries, a Leatherman tool, and a TON of batteries and some electronic type stuff - a GPS for one. I don't know what was in that one bag that had tons of wires and chargers in it.... Guy stuff I guess!

    Hope this helps - and HAVE A GOOD TRIP! Is it next Fri you leave?

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    Hi Lynda,

    This made me laugh out loud....my husband just realized we are leaving next Friday (even tho' the date has been confirmed for months and he has the itinerary). I, too, have been buying him clothes for the trip which I thought he needed so after a moment of panic (his) this morning, I reassured him he is ready. His idea of packing is to grab a handful of clothing from each drawer and announce he's "all set". Gotta love 'em!

    Appreciate the list.

    Marsha

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    Lynda, don't take this personally, PLEASE...but if you are saying various tacky stuff was thrown from a (even slow) moving vehicle to a group of kids who had to scrabble around on the ground to get them, that's pretty awful behaviour. Sure, the kids enjoyed it, and they'd enjoy it if an extremely wealthy white person threw a pile of coins over the fence into a school playground in a less affluent area of predominantly non-white kids in the US... but I think the teachers and parents wouldn't be too happy - especially if it was an area which had a history of racism and disenfanchisement - as Kenya does. It might even make it into the newspapers (sorry if the analogy is weak but I think it'll help you to see what I'm driving at).

    The key word is dignity. Sensitivity and the responsibility of privilege are also something to think about.

    NOT a poke at you Lynda - would that the world had another few million of you - but I was just so surprised to see what you had written and thought you'd in turn be surprised (and want to know) that someone else felt fairly strongly about it (although being British maybe I have a guilty conscience).

    I'm really sorry to post this on this thread - it's been such a fun thread to read and is still turning up chuckles and smiles ...just ignore me (at least as far as posting goes) and move on. :-D

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    No problem Paul on your post!

    Upon thinking about it, you are probably right - even though it wasn't dangerous, that wasn't very dignified. Sometimes you get caught up in the moment though - we were all laughing along with the girls that were picking them up (it was pens & pencils) and laughing and smiling - but yes, once you think about it, it probably wasn't the wisest thing to do.

    Our guide asked that we did not give out the pens and pencils to children that were begging on the street, and I could see his reasoning. For ourselves, we participated in the America Shares program, which put a walloping duffle-bag full of school supplies etc right at the orphanage with the school. But, I must admit, I had a few 'Canadian' pencils in my bag, and I did give some to kids at a gas station in Mosquito Creek when we were fueling. There was this little guy - he was just too cute to resist....

    Anyhow, again, no problem on your post - I don't take it personally and I appreciate it when someone points out things that I may not have seen or thought about!

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    I just returned from a"Stanley Wing" with MICATO, and I have to say Lynda's list for men is pretty close to right on. I had quick dry underwear from Ex Officio and they dried overnite so I only took 3 pair instead of 8. Some areas (at the crater) it was foggy early morning and night at the lodge so socks and other things didn't dry as well.
    Convertable pants two pair were perfect. I had the "Titanium" brand from Columbia. They are a little heavier synthetic and don't look as flimsy as some of the others I tried. The other important feature to look for is the bottom of the pant leg zips open a little so it is easy to remove without removing your shoes.
    Laundry services were good at all the lodges if you needed it. One thing to remember is the water you will be washing out your clothes in will be "tan" in the white sink before you begin the wash so the concept of clean is relative.
    We have traveled extensivly, but this was our first trip to Africa. My wife and our friends we were with were celebrating their 60th birthdays which was the premise for the trip.
    We chose MICATO after a little research and we couldn't have been more pleased with our entire trip.
    ( I have read the other thread re: professionals on this site. I am a dentist in California and have nothing to do with the travel business)
    There were only six of us on our trip and we eventually merged with another Micato group for a portion of the trip while in Tanzania. We were all impressed with how smooth everything seemed to run. I know there were many people working in the background to make it seem that way for us but it was quite impressive. All the plane connections were timely and went smooth.(can't say that about the U.S.) The border crossings and transfers from Kenya to Tanzania were seamless.
    We never had Africa near the top of our list of destinations. I think my wife envisioned snakes, heat , bugs etc. It was none of those things. In fact at the end of the trip she said she would go back again without me if she could go with Micato as she felt so secure with them.
    Africa was a real adventure and we both have a desire to return and see some other areas. We were fortunate to see the big five several times in various areas. Our driver spoke three languages, had been an auto mechanic for 8 years, was an expert in birds, and had the eyes of an eagle! He saw things we couldn't belive were really there, but sure enough he would always be right. I don't think we would have had the opportunity to see the things we did without him.
    We took four duffle bags for the America Shares program. We had childrens clothes, school supplies in two of them, and the other two were full of toothbrushes that I got Butler to donate.They were generous enough to send me two large cases. Most went to the orphanage in Nairobi, but we packed what we could in our green bags without going over weight and had the opportunity to distribute some along the way. I had no idea the impact they would have. One toothbrush costs as much as a months supply of sugar so no one has one. I have a great picture of about 40 Maasai all holding toothbrushes smiling with a small sign labeled "ASANTE BUTLER" I sent it to the company with a letter thanking them for the donation. Hopefully they will continue.
    This board is a great resource for everyone thinking about Africa. I actually found out about the America Shares program on this board, as Micato doesn't mention it in their brochures.
    I learned alot of usefull information prior to leaving. I think most people's trips will vary according to the weather at the time they go, but we never had any problem with mosquitos or tse tse flies. A few downpours in the afternoon. There were ponchos in the trucks if we needed them but I had a Pac-lite Gore Tex windbreaker which worked great. I had a pair of Bose noise reduction earphones for the flights. I found them useful on two of the long drives as the road noise can be loud depending on where you are.
    Managed to use my roll and my buddies roll of duct tape out at Oldupai Gorge helping another outfitter repair the coolant overflow resevoir that had been punctured when their shock absorber broke off the mount and punched up through it and the hood. Used the rest of it to repair a broken zipper on a zip off pant leg (very attractive).
    As Lynda says it gets in your blood and we will return.

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    RonHB - I'm so glad to hear that you had a good time, they really do put on a good trip! And, some really good info you posted - I never would have dreamed of that particular use for duct tape, that must have been priceless!

    Where will go when you return, will you do East Africa again?

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    LyndaS... I am waiting for all my VISA tabs to clear befor I plan my next trip!(15 nights of bar tabs and wine with dinner)
    We had originally planned to start in South Africa and go to some of the game parks there. I know so many people that have gone back to Africa multiple times so I put it at the top of my list. We just picked a trip that coincided with the aforementioned birthdays....very little research. I think when I go again I will try to glean some information from this site and customize my second trip. I asked our guide with Micato what he would do if he could go anywhere and he gave me some great ideas as he has guided with Micato for over 20 years. All I know is I will return, most likely with them.

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    Lynda -

    A stapler, but not duct tape! Surprised.

    I never leave home without duct tape wound around a thick black marker. Duct tape is the miracle "fixer" of the 20th Century and can be used for just about anything - torn luggage, shoes, holes in screens, rubber hoses, etc.

    Be sure to pack this on your next trip, anywhere.

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    funny Sherry!

    Duct tape, melita-type coffee filters (let's not go over the reason for those, again), a Mark Furman mini-maglite. And, I'm sure some other "only in her handbag" items.

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    Sandi - the duct tape WAS on my list - and you are even credited with the wrapping around the pen bit!!! (see my list for Marsha about 8-10 posts up from the bottom in this thread....)

    I travel with both the little stapler & the duct tape - mine is a mini roll that I bought from Magellans , but that was before I read your suggestion of wrapping it around a pen. When this mini roll runs out (I've had it since 2001 & there is still some left) I will use your incredible idea!

    But oh yes, it has come in handy over the last 5 years!

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    DAY 18, WEDNESDAY, JUNE 14TH, 2006 NOWHERE IN PARTICULAR
    This would be a very long day for us – that dreaded travel day. Knowing this, we took our time getting ready, and barely made breakfast before they stopped serving! One thing about living out of a suitcase (or duffle bag in our case) is that it is REAL easy to pack up on the last day. Basically we just made sure that anything we needed for our stop over in London was on top and presto! We were done. As we hadn’t yet gone shopping in Zanzibar, we decided the rest of the morning could be dedicated to this task. The Serena is right in Stonetown, which made a real short walk to browse some of the small shops along the waterfront. We bought a ‘mini’ Zanzibar chest in a shop at the Africa House, just a small, but nicely made chest to give to our son’s friend Andrew back home.

    A cute story here – after much deliberation we chose one of the nicest ones, bargained for a price and said ‘OK, we’ll take it’. One clerk literally beamed at us and said ‘yes, you chose well and drove a hard bargain, I will just wrap it up’. And, being experienced travelers, Jim was watching for what came next – the old ‘bait & switch’. The second clerk came over to us and tried to interest us in some paintings. We politely looked at them, and by then our package was wrapped, I handed the clerk the money. Jim proceeded to unwrap the package (taped up in newspaper) and the clerk said ‘no, please it is wrapped for traveling!” Without saying a word, Jim handed the guy the chest, which was not the one we picked, it actually had a broken hinge. The guy smiled a crooked smile, took the chest back and gave us the one we had chosen. No word was spoken, just the smile. Jim smiled and said ‘thankyou’. And some say travel experience only costs money, never saves! Huh!

    After one last delicious lobster lunch, followed by an incredible chocolate mouse at the Serena; we were ready to go, Mussa was waiting for us. We checked out, and were surprised to find, in an envelope that Mussa handed us as we were getting in the van, $50.00 USD. It was from Micato he said, to pay for the departure tax at the airport! Wow, I was impressed – only one other time had this ever happened and that was when we cruised with Orient Lines, they would give us vouchers for any airports that levied a departure tax. We arrived at the airport at 3 pm, and Mussa and Ilias made darn good and sure that I didn’t fall into any more ‘sucker’ traps with porters here. (Jim’s the savvy traveler, not me) Actually, they almost got us for overweight baggage, but Jim stepped up and said – ‘no, we are going through to Nairobi en route to London – here are our forward tickets.’ The guy looked at them, hummed and hawed and then said – ‘OK, that’s fine’. Whatever works, right?

    We hugged Mussa and Ilias goodbye, promised to come back, and then proceeded into the airport. If anyone out there ever needs a good driver and guide for Zanzibar – I would highly recommend Mussa, he was fabulous. He doesn’t work for Micato; he is a local person, working for a local agency who was hired by Micato.

    Security checked the baggage; we paid the departure tax, went through passport control and then got to security. Oh, I should mention that on the way past we read the sign that said it was illegal to give any airport official or worker a tip. It was illegal to ask, and illegal to give it. Nice, we thought. You guys know what’s coming, I’ll bet! There were two security personnel at the scanner – a man and a woman. The man informed us that the scanner was broken and the he would have to check our bags personally. No problem, we said, go ahead. The woman checked Jim’s camera bag, and the guy took my purse and my carry bag. He only glanced in the carry bag, but literally pulled my purse apart. There was 2 Canada pins in it, he held them up and said ‘what are these?’ He looked at me with a look that indicated he wanted them. I told him we were from Canada, and would he like them? Yes, he said and put them in his pocket. I sure didn’t mind. The guy seemed to be looking for something else that he couldn’t find. My wallet perhaps I thought? I don’t carry one when I use this purse, I keep money in a zipped pocket at the front of the purse, and the change in a little change pouch. And, truthfully, I didn’t have anything but a couple of coins left. He held out his hand and said ‘tip, please’. I couldn’t believe it! At the same time I caught out of the corner of my eye, who had heard this, say to the lady – “well, that’s all I have, you guys will have to share it”! (and that was the truth) He handed her 1500 TSH, which is all we had. She took it, said something to the guy, he snarled, and put my purse back together. I was shell-shocked, I really couldn’t talk. As we sat down, Chad, and two other ladies who were on a Micato extension as well, said they had been shaken down too.

    Chad kept saying not to worry about it, it’s a small amount, but I was doing a slow burn, and did all the way back to Nairobi. Odd for me to feel this way, but they were standing not 20 ft from a sign that said it was illegal!

    But I did get over it, the flight was nice, we passed very close by Mt. Kilimanjaro, which was incredible. We landed in Nairobi at 6, and there to greet us was Daniel. He said Micato would take us for dinner, but I hadn’t expected that and I had emailed Kennedy asking him if he and his family would like to have dinner with us, as our treat. Daniel said no problem, made sure that we met up with Kennedy, we hugged goodbye, and he took Chad for supper. Thinking we didn’t need our luggage for supper, we went into the departures airport. On the way in, our luggage was hand searched not once, but twice! Now that’s what I call security. Over at the BA counter they said we were a little early, but they would check us in and check our luggage. We went back outside to meet Kennedy to go for supper.

    But Kennedy had other plans for us, not a supper out. What a WONDERFUL surprise; we climbed in the Suzuki, and set off to his place for dinner! Valentine (his wife) had cooked us an incredible home made African meal, and I must say, this was one of the most AWESOME experiences of our trip. To go to someone’s home in another country has always been a special treat for me, but to have a meal made was just awesome! These are friends that we will hold near & dear to us for the rest of our lives, I only hope someday that I can return the favour and show Kennedy and his family around our lovely town and have them stay with us someday!

    We were back to the airport by 9:30 pm and found out why the girl had told us to be back by 9:30 for a midnight flight. Security going into the airport checked us over again, our hand baggage this time. We went past passport control and upstairs to the gate. There was another security check on our hand luggage to get into the gate. And – you won’t believe this – ANOTHER one inside the gate! Each time they took almost everything out of the bag! But finally we reached the lounge where we sat, and sat, and sat until 11:30. And then sat on the plane for an hour while they removed some freight that was apparently making the plane overweight. But, finally, we pushed off at 12:30 and winged our way to London, England.


    DAY 19, THURSDAY, JUNE 15TH, 2006 SHEPISTON LODGE, NEAR HEATHROW

    As this is an African forum, I won’t bore you guys with too many details of the London portion – except of course about the dinner with Julian and Kavey!

    Needless to say, we were late arriving as we had been put in the eternal hold pattern over Heathrow. After an hour, there was still no gate for us on the ground, but I guess we were running out of fuel as they told us to come down, and then put us in a freight terminal, on the tarmac. We were bussed to T4 and were just in time for MASSIVE line ups for passport control. And then, if all this wasn’t enough – there were no green bags to be seen on the luggage carousel. Ah crap, we thought, it was because we had checked in early! We waited ½ hour, along with some of the other passengers and then set off to find a desk to register the lost luggage. As we set off, I could see green bags way at the back of the terminal, way behind the luggage carousel. I walked over, and there was a ton of luggage there – ours included! Seems someone took them off the carousel and set them down at the back, probably as we were waiting in the massive passport control lineup. Note to self on that – get my British passport for next time… (I was born there) At least that way I can go get the luggage while Jim is stuck in the ‘foreigner’ line up.
    We hopped a cab, (and cabbie never complained because we were only staying at a close hotel), checked into the Shepiston Lodge (nice place, I liked it), showered, rested, changed our clothes and then took our all day bus passes that we had pre-bought and set out on an adventure. Two busses, a train and a subway later we were at The Eye – just in time to catch a quick lunch, by pass the ticket line up and go straight to our meeting area of a ‘small group pre-booked tour with a guide’. Jim kept telling me that the only reason he married me was because he knew I would do research and find out how to by pass all of the extremely long lines of life.  The Eye was incredible – it wasn’t there last time we were in London. It was a clear day, we could see forever, and the guided tour was worth EVERY penny. Or Shilling.

    After the EYE we set off double decker bus # 453 through the city, catching the sights of this incredible city from the ground. We disembarked at Baker Street, and walked to – you guessed it, 221B Baker Street – the Sherlock Holmes museum. You see, Jim has a Sherlock Holmes pipe and we needed a picture of him smoking that pipe in Sherlock’s den!

    Another bus later, we were walking along in Camden Town – a pretty funky area! Over the bridge just over the locks, down the street past a pub with TONS of cheering World Cup fans (England was playing someone that night) and then – there was Kavey sitting waiting for us at Fogg’s Restaurant! We hugged as old friends, almost like we had known each other for years and while waiting for Julian (the bus from Oxford was delayed due to an accident on the road) we talked and talked. Julian arrived, we ordered dinner and the four of us had a most incredible time!! What a treat it was to meet 2 other Fordorites!

    AND THAT’S MY STORY AND I’M STICKING TO IT !!

    CONCLUSION

    (did you guys think I’d ever get here?)

    Here’s my best conclusion – it was the BEST, most AWESOME trip of our lives. But, I have some fears.

    I fear now that all other trips, in the future, can never measure up. And, I fear that the rest of my world map may never get coloured in as we visit each of the 181 countries in the world, which has been # 1 on our 101 Things to Do Before We Die list; as I fear that we will no longer want to go to any other countries after East Africa.

    And, I am sure no conclusion is necessary as to whether or not I would go with Micato again – YES, in a heartbeat! Although I know a group trip is not for everyone, for those that do like group trips, I highly doubt few companies can deliver the same kind of consistent quality that Micato does. To me, it was a first class operation; they delivered, with a special delivery stamp, everything that their incredible brochure said they would – and more. A few surprises, of the nice kind, not mentioned in their brochure; and no surprises; of the nasty kind, that no one likes. It is a first rate operation, their staff was incredible, their drivers were very knowledgeable, their vehicles were clean, comfortable, reliable, roomy and well-stocked, and the logistics worked as smooth as ice. And had anything not gone as we expected, we knew they would be right there fixing the problem. For this we do not mind paying a little extra.

    And it is really true what Travel & Leisure says – “they treat everyone like out of town guests”. They really do.

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    Oh oh - forgot my ending quote:

    "Twenty years from now you will be more disapointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did too. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the saffe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

    -Mark Twain


    A good friend gave me this quote a few years ago. "Words we should all live by" she said as she handed it to me - "It reminded me of you".

    As she is now my new boss, she has regretted giving me that as I have already put in requests for the next three vacations! :-))

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    Oh Lynda, I'm so glad I caught the end of your report - the entire thing was wonderful, but I got chills reading "These are friends that we will hold near & dear to us for the rest of our lives..." I know exactly what you mean. And your ending quote is one that I am constantly giving to people - I actually have a list of people to whom I have given it!

    Your trip was fantastic - thanks for making the huge investment of time to share it!

    Cyn

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    Lynda,
    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your incredible experience in such fabulous detail! I can't tell you how helpful and motivating it has been to have your report to read as we went through the process of selecting a Micato tour. We are now about three months from departure. My first task is to start working on getting the travel visas (remember we are in Germany so we'll probably have to go to the embassies directly).

    I am sure I will have more questions as we start thinking seriously about clothing and packing (although honestly, I think you've answered it all in your report!), but one thing that springs to mind (and forgive me if you mentioned it) is what vaccinations and/or malaria medication did you need? My information from Micato says we only need malaria medication, but I am curious to know if you had any other vaccinations before you left. I will be going home to Michigan in December so I can go to my own doctor if I need to get vaccinations and prescriptions (the idea of navigating the German medical system with my limited language skills is still quite frightening!).

    That's it for now. Thanks again for taking us along on your journey, and please go to Africa again soon so we can read more! :-)

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    Linda,

    Thanks for such a wonderful report. I love all the quotes you used at the start of each section. I will be using a lot of them when I do my safari scrapbook/memory book. Like a previous poster said, hurry and go back so we can get another report!
    Bravo for a job well done!
    Lily

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    Thanks guys, I do appreciate it!
    And, I will go back soon, I promise!

    Hasufrau - nothing is required for either TZ or Kenya (or wasn't when I went, but things do change occasionally). We already had our TwinRX (maybe not the proper name, but something like that) Hepatitis shots (A & B I believe) that are now good for life, as well as we updated our tetanus, polio, diptheria (one shot). We did get the Yellow fever said, the travel clinic docter said it couldn't hurt, so we did - but it wasn't required. Well, it hurt the pocketbook come to think of it - it was 100.00 each (cdn).

    We used malarone, and even though it was quite expensive, I think it was worth it. Neither of us had any reaction to it, and we both actually remembered to take it every day!

    Are you by any chance on the Feb 10th Stanley Wing?

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    Great conclusion. I'm glad you got to meet up with other Fodorites. Your comment on the I'm done! thread that you can now start thinking about another trip since you have finished this report is not quite accurate. I recall some exploratory posts about trip #2 before this completion. Anything happnening with #2?

    I share your fear about not seeing the rest of the world due to the pull of Africa. Maybe it should be a comfort that you've found your home away from home and don't need to search more. Plus Africa is a big continent to explore. What a lucky problem we have.

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    Thankyou Lynn! You are right, it is a nice problem to have - you seem to be doing really good on colouring in those countries though! (I really do have a 'teachers' map that I colour in the countries on)

    No 2 - well, it definitely hit a small brick wall last week. Not too tall of a one though, I am trying to climb over it at the moment. Basically our son & his girlfriend probably will not be able to go, so I am seeing at the moment where this road might lead us. No one says we can't go by ourselves though, right???

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    Oh Lynda, what a wonderful, wonderful ending. The perfect end to a perfect report and I concur with the other comments on your ending quotation..... Now, it reminds me that I never actually posted the last day of our trip - I definately will do once we get settled back home (we moved back in Friday night and we're still sorting out the mess but there's no place like home:) )

    Imelda

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    I hope trip #2 works out in some shape or form. I recall in your first posts that you wished to avoid surprises of the negative kind on your trip. I'm glad your safari lived up to that goal and produced some positive surprises as well.

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    Thanks for the vaccination info, Lynda. We should probably get updated on a few shots - I'll talk to my doctor in Michigan about it. The last time I had to go through all this was for Costa Rica over 10 years ago and my husband has never had to get travel vaccines or medication.

    We're one week earlier - arrive in Kenya on Feb 4th, I believe. Do you know someone going Feb 10th?

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    Hi Lynda:
    The dinner at Kennedy's home --what a lovely finish.

    As Lyn indicated, there are alot of countries in Africa, so you can continue to "color in" countries for awhile. And yes, the two of you could go alone.

    Thanks for the report.

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    Lynda,

    I am almost fainting from shock: you have finished your report!!! No way!

    Loved it. Thank you so much for taking the time (and then some >:) ) to turn your adventure into such riveting reading.

    I hope hope hope that among all the other countries and continents you and Jim have in your future, there's room for a return to Kenya and Tanzania.

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    Hi Lillipets,
    I'm not a native Michigander but have lived in Rochester (about 25 miles NW of Detroit) for 9 years, and am currently in the middle of a 2-year stint in Stuttgart, Germany (DH works for DaimlerChrysler). We'll be returning to Rochester at the end of next year. It's nice to know there's another Michigan Fodorite out there!

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    LyndaS, if you are still checking this, we are going Micato in June 2007, do you have your postings on a disc or something, this is very big, was going to print the list of what you took but the thread was also very large.

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    DrewC

    Here is a link to just the packing post that Lynda started. There are more posts on that one too.
    http://www.fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=4&tid=34802443

    To print just part of that post you can highlight the section you want to print, pull down File from the menu on top, Click Print and then in the pop-up box click next to selection. Only what you've selected will print.

    Here are some more packing links.
    http://www.fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=4&tid=34639696
    http://www.fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=4&tid=34782437
    http://www.fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=4&tid=34606894
    http://fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=4&tid=34934728

    Have a marvelous safari.

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    Hi Lynda,
    How exciting it was to read your trip report! My husband and I are going on the same safari with Micato the same time frame this year. Ten weeks to go and counting! Thanks for all the info!
    Joanie

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    Hi Joanie-

    That is so cool! Are you guys on the Stanley Wing? We are back with Micato on the Hemmingway (LOVED it so much we HAD to go back!)on May 16th!!

    Maybe we will meet up somewhere - let me know when you are going!

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    Hi Lynda,
    Yes, we are on the Stanley Wing. We arrive in Nairobi May 27 and depart June 9. That is incredible that you are going back again this year! I hope I love it as much as you obviously did.
    Joanie

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    Joanie-

    Which hotel are you at on the 27th? We are at the Norfolk on our last day that day! (Hemmingway is shorter than the Stanley Wing)

    You really are on the exact same one I went on - outs started May 28th last year!

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    Hi Lynda,
    We are staying at the Norfolk Hotel as well for our first night May 27th! BUT, our flight does not even get into Nairobi until around 9pm. So, by the time we get to the hotel, it will most likely be very late.
    Joanie

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    Hi Lynda!

    Believe it or not, I just recently came across your fabulous report about your safari of last June! I loved every line of it and, in a way, I was sorry when I finished reading it. (I enjoyed reading it over the course of several days). I think that I will read it again. I am so impressed that you began writing it the day after you returned home!! (I am guessing that you kept pretty detailed notes all along the trip?) We are now even more psyched for our trip to Africa, even though we are going to a completely different area and we are not departing for a little less than 6 months from now! Your writing is beautiful; I loved your quotes and descriptive anecdotes. I believe that you mentioned that you were planning another safari....if so, where and when? (maybe you even went already)!
    Thank you so very much for taking all that time to share your wonderful and exciting trip with all of us! Reading it was a real treat!

    Carole

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    Thankyou SO much Carole, that was so nice to read your comment - it made my day at work SO much lighter!

    I love to write, and I am glad that someone enjoyed reading it. I do keep very detailed notes, before I go I make up a 'research' book with any kind of info that I will need while there - maps, pictures, wildlife charts, Swahili phrases, etc and then I write each day while I am there as well. When I am finished I have a wonderful keepsake.

    We are just about to set off again - May 13 - just a little more than a month away, I am SO excited! We are going with Micato again, but on a different safari - 3 of the parks are the same, but the lodges are Serena this time, whereas they were Sopa last time; and we visit two new parks. We requested Daniel, our guide from last year as he was FABULOUS! There are some things we just don't want to change!

    Where are you heading to in that wonderful continent of Africa?

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    Hi Lynda!

    That is wonderful that you are going on safari again so soon (Mother's Day, I believe)! I remember how thrilled you were with Daniel, your guide, last time! I am certain that you will enjoy another fabulous safari! (Do you actually do all that beautiful writing each night while you are away, and then it is all completely ready to post upon your return? What great self-discipline). Are you going with the same travel companion(s) as last trip? Have a fantastic and safe time!

    To answer your question, my husband and I are going to South Africa (CT, Ngala, Mala Mala, Vic Falls, Jo'bg). This will be our 1st trip to Africa! We have been to a good number of other places. Have you posted about other areas, and if so, where and under what key words would I find your excellent reports? (I have only recently found out about this Fodor's board; but upon our return next Fall, I look forward to sharing our experiences with everyone here).

    I neglected to mention the other day how much I appreciated your packing list; thanx so much.

    Carole

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    Sorry everyone to resurrect such an old trip report, but I have just finished my album for this trip - Africa 2006 - on pbase at:

    http://www.pbase.com/lyndas/africa_2006

    I have arranged it into daily albums that I have tried to include only 20-30 pictures in each, but I can tell you, that didn't always work!

    Just wanted to 'complete' my trip report!

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