Another exciting trip!

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Oct 12th, 2003, 09:58 AM
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Another exciting trip!

Just returned from another exciting trip to Kenya. Am pleased to report that thankfully tourism is now on the upswing. The lodges and tented camps where I stayed were really starting to get busy.

Arrived in Nairobi on 9-22 in the evening and was taken to the Norfolk Hotel. The next morning Southern Cross Safaris drove me to see Daphne Sheldrick and the orphaned elephants (I have adopted 12 of them). Returned to my hotel in the afternoon for some jet lag recuperation.

The next morning I flew from Wilson Airport to Amboseli. Wilson has now installed an X-ray machine and bags are X-rayed and passports checked (something new since January trip). I spent the next week at Ol Tukai Lodge watching all the amazing sights. Liz, you will be pleased to know that I think I saw as many wildebeests at Amboseli this time as you saw in the Mara! Haven't ever seen so many there. Same with zebra. Heard the stallions braying all day and all night. So many of them it was wonderful. I got my usual "elephant view" room overlooking the swamps and it was amazing.

On my first game drive we watched an elephant family coming very slowly to the swamp. Then we realized why they were coming so slowly. The last elephant, a baby of about 3 years old, had a recently fractured right rear leg, so the family was going so slowly so he could keep up. When they got to the swamp he greedily started drinking, and a very young baby accidentally bumped his sore leg. He trumpted and then when the baby got in front of him he took his trunk and gently shoved the baby into the swamp. Despite the sadness of his injury, we couldn't help but laugh at his antics.

I had also been told by the elephant researchers that a 60 year old bull who is often mentioned in Echo of the Elephants named Dionysis had been speared by the Maasai moran several weeks prior to my arrival. The veterinarian had already been once to drain the infection, but it had recurred. Thus on my second day there the vet came again. They darted Dionysis and re-drained the infected area. When they woke him up, he couldn't get up on his feet, so they tied together two vehicles and then tied ropes around his tusks and literally pulled him to his feet. We checked on him twice a day, but were very discouraged to find him not moving, not eating and not drinking. We feared he may have died. Then two days before I left Amboseli one of the researchers called me to the bar with the good news that she had found him, he was walking, eating and drinking!!. She took me out to see him the next morning. What a thrill. The researchers are the only ones able to drive off road. She drove her vehicle up within about 6 feet of him. He recognized her and knew she was no threat. When we moved closer he just watched and listened as we talked to him. I got about 45 minuetes of video tape of this. I would never in my life have believed anyone could get so close to a large bull without being threatened. However, it was only because he knew her and her vehicle that this was possible. DO NOT TRY THIS ON YOUR OWN!!!!

Later in the day my driver Lemomo, (Isaac), and I found Dionysis again, and he had walked some distance across the road from where we had seen him in the morning and was eating, so I have hope and fingers crossed that the infection remains localized and has not become systemic so that he will survive.

Another exiting thing that happened that week was the Princess of Thailand stayed at Ol Tukai's Kibo Villa with her entourage. She didn't mix with us common tourists, but it was certainly intesting to see all the added security brought in for the occasion (GSU with their machine guns, KWS police, Kenya police, etc). Two days before she arrived I had the opportunity to see what Kibo Villa looked like inside and was able to get some pictures. Hope they turn out because one of the physicians I work for is from Thailand and he will be interested to see where "his Princess" stayed.

As you regulars know, I love Ol Tukai. The employees there are so warm and caring. They surprised me on my last night by having singers, dancers and a cake for me. I can't say enough for this lodge. It used to be managed by Block Hotels, but apparently Block fell back on payments and it was taken over by Amboseli Wildlife Resorts who owned it. Luckily almost all the employees who were "sacked" by Block are now back and keeping very busy indeed. Most days I was there it was full to capacity.

An interesting story I heard was that the Princess' scouting party went to see the Serena first and was told by Serena that they were the only lodge in the park. When the scouts got back to Nairobi they discovered there were other lodges in the park, and immeidately checked out Ol Tukai. It was then and there they decided it was the place for their Pricess to stay.

After seven nights at Ol Tukai I sadly took my leave. Each time I leave I leave a little part of my heart there -- that way I need to go back and retrieve it next time.

Flew to Wilson (where our passports were again checked!) and then to JKA for the flight to Mombasa. Was again met by Southern Cross (SXS) and taken to the Tamarind Village. Again had a lovely condo for the night. Was picked up early the next morning for the two hour drive to Satao Camp in Tsavo East. We didn't spot much game on the way in to the camp, but when they showed me to my favorite tent right in front of the waterhole I was ecstatic. Hundreds of elephants! The dry season was even more obvious in Tsavo. Everything looked burned and one wondered what on earth the elephants were getting to eat. Despite lack of food, none of the elephants looked thin or starving. I elected not to go on game drives here but just stay on my veranda video taping all the elephants coming and going.

There is a new chef at Satao and the food was even better than before. I think we all eat better on safari than we do at home. I enjoyed every minute and every calorie!

KWS has a ranger assigned to Satao who is tracking the movement of the elephants in the park. I met him on my second day there and what a responsible young man he is. Only 23 years old, but has loved wildlife all his short life. He was out walking in the bush very early every morning until afternoon. Wasn't concerned about elephants, lions, snakes or anything!! Just doing a job he loved so much. Wish more young people were as dedicated as this young man.

Luckily for me, Martin and I would talk in the afternoons and tell each other our elephant stories. Last Monday I was sitting on my veranda talking with Martin when he grabbed by hand and said, "Madam, you have a visitor, stand up slowly". I thought perhaps one of the young monkeys was on the veranda and when I looked I didn't see it. Then he pointed to the very far corner of the veranda and I immediately spotted a green mamba (the 7-step snake - if you're bitten you take seven steps and drop dead". Martin grabbed a long stick and tried pushing it off the veranda. Unfortunately instead it slithered up the roof pole and onto the makuti roof above the tent! At this point I said, "Martin, bet you didn't know how fast a 63 year old woman can run huh - just watch me" and I was gone to the bar for a Coke!! The camp askari and a helper started taking the makuti apart and were able to kill the mamba.

This makes me think that perhaps I am a jinx. Twice on safari our vehicles have broken down and with the snakes - this is also the second time. Luckily I watch a lot of Animal Planet and Discovery channel. At least I can identify what type of snake it is. However, I still hate them and am scared to death of them.

I know very few camps in Kenya have antivenin on hand. I inquired as to why and was told that it costs a lot, the antivenin outdates within two months, and apparently some people are very allergic to the antivenin itself, so they feel it is safer to simply rush a bitten individual to the nearest clinic or hospital that they know has antivenin on hand - quicker than calling Flying Doctors. Since the antivenin is not the ideal way to go, I am going to purchase snake handlers tongs and catch bags and take several pair with me the next trip for each of these places to keep on hand. At least the men having to disperse a snake can safely do so. When I saw then in bare hands and sandled feet it really shook me up. They say snakes are common in the wet season, but in the dry season they may see one only every several months. Also it is common to find snakes under the tents, so I'll not walk in my tent in bare feet any longer.

After I knew the snake was no longer a problem I settled down. However, a warning to all tourists. WATCH YOUR SOURROUDINGS!! All too often I saw people walking in the grass and off the paths and treating Africa as though they were visiting a safe zoo. We are in a place that might be dangerous and it is up to us, as tourists, to watch where we are walking and follow the rules. Even saw one German tourist walking up to the borehole and when asked where he was going responded "he wanted to get closer to get a picture of the elephants". He was lucky one of the elephants there at the time didn't charge after him.

While at Satao we drove to Voi to see my older elephant orphans. What a thrill. There are now 7 orphans in Nairobi National Park and 28 older orphans in Voi, as well as many now living free in the wilds. The men at Voi had just rescued a young elephant from Salt Lick Lodge in Tsavo West who had fallen into a septic tank (see SheldrickWildlifeTrust.org for the complete story). They named him Taita and flew him diretly to Nairobi for possible medical care. The men also showed me their "snare room" full of wire snares they had collected in the
bush. It was turly horrifying to see a whole room full of these snares and realize how many injured and dead animals it accounted for.

After six wonderful nights at Satao I headed back to Mombasa for the flight to Nairobi. I was lucky enough to have lunch with the Managing Director of Southern Cross Safaris and I asked him why most safari companies "tout" the Serena chain, was it that Serena paid more of a kick-back. He stated that it was honestly because the Serena was more consistent in all its lodges. He stated if someone were staying 2 nights in each park the consistency of Serena at each place would be known. However, if he had someone staying more than two nights, he would favor other places - so now I have my answer.

Returned to Nairobi to the former Landmark (now back to the Jacaranda). I like this place because it is right across the street from the Sarit Center and I can safely walk over there and go souvenir shopping). The next morning I got up and went back to Sheldrick Trust to see the new orphan Taita, and so far he is doing well. They worry about possible pneumonia because of his being completely submerged in the septic tank (except the tip of his trunk was above water). Will keep our fingers crossed for this little guy also.

All in all, it was another fantastic trip. I am truly amazed every time I go at how different the wildlife is and how different the weather is. I have never had to wear a sweater or jacket before while on safari. However, this time at Amboseli I wore shorts and sleeveless blouse every day, but upon returning from afternoon game drive took a quick shower and had to put on my only sweater because the wind (probably about 40 mph) came up and it got cold. Even used an extra blanket at night. Tsavo was hot as usual during the day, but comfortable at night.

On my last day in Nairobi I wished I could call my boss and request another three weeks but I'm not stupid enough to push my luck. Thus I'll dream about returning, hopefully in August.

Jan
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Oct 12th, 2003, 01:28 PM
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Welcome back, Jan. I was anxiously awaiting your report and it was well worth it! I am seriously considering going to Tsavo on my next trip (about this time next year) and would like feedback on Satao Camp vs. other places to stay in that part of Tsavo. When you catch your breath and come back to earth (I know you are daydreaming about Africa!), please jot a few lines down about Satao and if you have seen or stayed at Galdessa Camp. Thanks in advance and, again, welcome back!
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Oct 12th, 2003, 02:50 PM
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Jan, fabulous stories, loved the one about the poor ele pushing the baby in the water and the snake one. Great to hear the tourism is doing better in Kenya too.
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Oct 13th, 2003, 03:49 AM
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Jan - great report. So wonderful to hear that tourism is picking up, Kenya certainly deserves good things to be happening for them. The ellee encounters were great; as to snakes, I'm with you - prefer not to encounter these, but if so, I'd be right there behind you. I can't stand to even watch nature programs about snakes. Welcome home.
 
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Oct 13th, 2003, 04:35 AM
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My husband often asks why I watch so many wildlife programs about Africa. To which I respond, "Hon, would you know the difference between a puff adder, a black mamba or a boonslang?" Jan, your green mamba story is exactly why I watch those programs! I what to know what kind of snake it is if I see one! Ugh!!!
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Oct 13th, 2003, 05:00 AM
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So wonderful to hear about your latest trip, Jann. What a pleasure to read it. Will you be putting any photos online anywhere?
: o )
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Oct 13th, 2003, 07:35 AM
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Jan-
I have been soooo worried about you. Somehow I thought you were to be back sooner. So glad to read your report. I really love Amboseli. After the Mara, that is my next fav park in Kenya. Sorry I didn't get there. Whoda thunk! Wildebeests there. Wow, they are all over the place.
Your report is just wonderful. Loved all of the details about the camps and food, people, friends, elephants and the whole maryanne.
Sounds like you had the trip of a lifetime. You are recognized by everyone as an elephant specialist it seems. Are you emailing Cynthia on a regular basis? I can never be too serious.
I will watch to see if you put up any photos. Since you shoot mostly video I don't know if you can post individual pictures or not.
Anyways welcome, welcome, welcome! I can put my worry beads away for this year. Liz
 
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Oct 13th, 2003, 07:57 AM
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SusanLynne:

Thanks so much for your note. I'm glad to impart what I know and feel about Tsavo. I truly love the park. It is so vast one really can't imagine a park the size of the state of Massachusetts. One doesn't run into nearly as many tourists as at other parks.

However, that said, Tsavo is different every time I go. It all depends on when the rains have come. I have now been there in January, February and October, and I must say from the standpoint of photo taking and elephants I prefer January or February because everything is lush and green, photos turn out beautifully. However, if there has been recent rain, many of the other herd animals such as zebra, wildebeest, buffalo, etc. may be on holiday. It's an eerie feeling. I've seen it full of all kinds of animals and at other times very few animals except elephants and lions. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit this past week, but I am now just transposing my 8 mm. video film to VCR tape and the pictures aren't as vivid as they were in January because everything is so burned looking (grass and land brown as well as the elephants) and some game is more difficult to see in the dry season.

Satao versus Galdessa? I have never been to Galdessa but studied it prior to my first trip. The cost is far more - $378 two people sharing to about $170 at Satao with two people sharing. Galdessa is on the Galana River about 3 hours drive north once you enter the park. It is north of Lugards Falls where we drove in February. We drove for two hours and didn't see one vehicle or animal other than ostriches. Satao has its own borehole as a water source and is only about a 45 minute drive once you enter the park. Galdessa uses open Landcruisers for game drives and Satao has LandRovers and one open vehicle. Personally I prefer one with sides and open top. I used the open vehicle this past week to travel to Voi. Lions had killed a baby elephant the night before and we were trying to get pictures to show the elephant people to see if they knew the baby. The lions were still nearby and I felt very uncomfortable with no sides on the vehicle to protect me should one decide to challenge us.
Galdessa also does game walks which I personally don't believe in. If an armed ranger goes with walkers, and an animal does charge, the animal gets killed because of the tourists need to "walk in the bush". I personally don't feel right about that.

Satao's tents can accomodate just about any size family. They have ones with regular queen-sized beds, some with twin beds and some with beds for three people. They have refrigerators, fans, desks, wardrobes and attached bathrooms. I have always been very comfortable here.

I have been most satisfied with Satao. I have stayed there on all four safaris and feel I have been well taken care of.
You might want to consider breaking up your stay by staying several nights at Voi Lodge and several nights at Satao Camp. Voi Lodge is nice. The bathrooms could use a little redecoration but the views from the lodge are fantastic.

Aruba Dam is about half-way between the two places. Last week it was most unusual because Aruba Dam was completely dry!!! I couldn't believe it because normally it looks like a lake. Every other time I have gone it has been full with many animals using it for their water source.

Please tell you husband I agree with you 100% about watching animal programs. Had I not forced myself to watch all those snake programs I wouldn't have know my "visitor" was a green mamba. On the way home from Voi my driver stopped the vehicle and told me to look at the snake in the road and I knew immediately it was a puff adder soaking up the last of the warmth in the sandy road. You never know when being able to identify an animal might save someones life.

Hope this helps. If you have any further questions please don't hesitate to ask.

Jan
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Oct 13th, 2003, 08:05 AM
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Kavey and Liz:

Thank you both so much for your notes. Good to hear from you. Yes, it's back to work time for me tomorrow! Though I love my work, I was also spoiled while away by no telephones. Hate to think that ends tomorrow morning!!

I did take some regular photos. I took about 12 rolls this time as opposed to 30 last time. I have asked to have them put on a CD. Does this mean they could be uploaded to a site such as Ofoto? If so, I will look into doing so. I took six full video tapes this time but as I said above, they aren't nearly as vivid as when there is a lot of greenery around.

Thanks for the welcome home and to Fodors.

Jan
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Oct 13th, 2003, 10:32 AM
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Yes it sure does which is great news for us!!
If you need advice on that I'm sure we can provide it.
You're always welcome to contact me via email, as above.
Kindest Regards
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Oct 13th, 2003, 12:14 PM
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Jan, thanks for taking the time to offer some insightful information on Satao and Galdessa. Satao it will be for us! Won't be able to break up our stay in Tsavo, due to a husband that is insisting on searching for rhino elsewhere in the country. Men! Don't they understand the bond between women and magnificent ellies and fantastic lions??? Ha! If he heard me whine like that he would leave me to fend for myself with the lions ... Puff adder, huh? Yuk! I know snakes serve a vital purpose to the ecosystem, but ... ugh!!!
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Oct 13th, 2003, 05:55 PM
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SusanLynne:

I understand completely about not getting everything you want when with a traveling companion. That is exactly why I leave my husband at home - don't have to consider what he wants to do and whine because he can't hear his country and western music!! Can just enjoy my animals (he couldn't go anyway because he has two very bad hips which have been operated on three times already).

If you are booking Satao you can have your travel agent contact Torben Rune or Joseph Chomba at Southern Cross directly in Mombasa or through their website. Ask them to book you either tents 18, 19 or 20. I have had tent 18 the past two trips and I loved it because the foundation is higher than most of the tents. However there is a little acacia tree which is starting to obstruct the view. Thus I thought next time I would ask for 19 or 20. Tent 20 is the one directly next to the path where the elephants enter and exit most frequently. Last week they were really raising a "ruckus" at night alongside tent 20 with a lot of trumpeting going on, and I was a little frustrated I couldn't see it. It was the night they had killed the green mamba and I was a little afraid to go on the veranda in the dark just in case mamba's brother might be there. I'll double check my videos this week. I think tent 20 may have a queen sized bed and a twin. Tent 19 has a queen and tent 18 has a queen I believe. I'll let you know if I'm wrong.

Gee, now that I think of it, I go on vacation to rest. However, everytime I hear an elephant whether it's 1 in the morning or 4 in the morning I'm wide awake and raring to go. I guess there really is no hope for me.

Tell your husband that Daphne Sheldrick has two rhinos at Nairobi National Park. She raised them but they are now living and feeding free in the park. However, they usually return every day around 11:00 a.m. just before the baby ellies have their mud bath. I saw the larger one, Magnum, last week and he is huge. His mate was poached last March. There is another 4 year old rhino Makosa who also comes back to visit. If you are going to Nairobi first you might want to visit. It is open to the public only from 11 - 12 daily and is well worth the trip just to see the babies getting their bottles and enjoying the mud baths. Since these babies have no famlies to teach them how to act like elephants, the keepers have to do so. They throw water on them, encourage them into the mud and then when they are through shovel dirt on top of them. The babies really love it. It looks like they are rolling around in chocolate pudding!

If you have other questions you can email me [email protected] and I'll be happy to help in any way I can.

Jan

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Oct 14th, 2003, 04:43 AM
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Thanks for your help, Jan. From one New Englander to another, believe me, if I could travel to Africa by myself, I would love to do just that. I saw numerous people solo-traveling on our trip, and I thought they looked the epitome of peace and tranquility. Not that I wasn't, but solo-traveling to East Africa is a dream for me. Anyway ... I have jotted down your email address. Thanks again.
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Oct 15th, 2003, 01:19 PM
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Another thing to share with you.

I forgot to mention that I found an alternative to pens and pencils for the kids you see along the way. I did take those, but in addition I ordered a dozen globe beachballs. They came neatly packed, fit beautifully in a suitcase and the kids absolutely loved them. Not only could they play with them, but they were leaning about the world at the same time. I got mine from Oriental Trading Company, but I am sure there are plenty of other places out there where you can find them (some companies require orders of 100 or more though).

Jan
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Oct 15th, 2003, 02:10 PM
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Jan, what a great report! Glad you had such a good time. When I get a little closer to planning my next trip, I hope it will be okay if I quiz you exhaustively about the elephants and the parks. Amboseli and the Tsavo parks are on my 'potentials' list for next trip.

I agree about traveling alone. It's great if you have a congenial companion, but traveling with someone who doesn't want/like to travel isn't worth it.

Hope your re-entry into your other life wasn't too hard.
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