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Ash Clouds and Airline strikes be darn, we are going on safari!

Ash Clouds and Airline strikes be darn, we are going on safari!

Jun 2nd, 2010, 06:10 PM
  #1  
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Ash Clouds and Airline strikes be darn, we are going on safari!

We just arrived home after six flights from the Serengeti to StL! I am a little loopier (thats a word, I think) than usual, but safe.
Just thought I would post to say that this was the MOST fantastic travel experience we have ever had. The combination of Daniel at DKGrand and Clamian at Warrior trails was fantastic and very complimentary in skill and ability to lead a trip. We were "blown away" by how smooth everything went.
The list of animals we sotted and photographed is endless and I will add to this report later, however we did see the "big five" plus a six -seven foot spitting cobra and a puff adder (wait to you see the pictures) . The Mara was green and the grasses tall. The migration was about 10K north of the Serengeti Serena and the herds were somewhat scattered.
I have about 2k images to edit and 10 hours of video clips to sort through before I add to my report.
My head is spinning, I have to get some sleep, but again, thanks for all of the advice from those on this board.
Ron
Old_dude is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2010, 06:14 PM
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Welcome home, loopy or not. Glad it went so well! Another "most fantastic travel experience we ever had."
atravelynn is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2010, 06:16 PM
  #3  
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Correction: that was animals we spotted.
I knew I should get some sleep before trying to type!
Old_dude is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2010, 06:27 PM
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Welcome back! Glad you had a great time. Looking forward to more.
Patty is online now  
Jun 2nd, 2010, 06:54 PM
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Welcome back, Old Dude! Can't wait to read more.
Leely2 is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2010, 06:58 AM
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When are you going again?
Marija is online now  
Jun 3rd, 2010, 04:49 PM
  #7  
 
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Welcome back, and thanks for the report on the Mara with the grasses green and tall. I will be going in August and so looking forward to the adventure!

Did you visit Amboseli? I am curious to find out how it is since the drought last year?

Looking forward to your trip report!
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Jun 4th, 2010, 01:00 PM
  #8  
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Elizabethj, Amboseli was green and the grasses tall. Great view of Kili one day.
Marija,
As soon as my checkbook allows!
Our itenary changed at the last minute, but a brief synopsis is; Nairobi Norfolk 3 nights, Day trip to Lake Nakuru, city tour with Giraffe Cntr and Sheldricks. Then drive to Tsavo West Finch Hattons (1). Then Amboseli Sopa(2) followed by flight to Mara Bateleur for 3 nights. Fly Mara to Kili Airport drive to Lake Manyara Serena (2), Ngorongoro Serena(2), Serengetti Serena(2). Return home via Serengeti to Arusha to Kili to Nairobi Wilson. Day room for much needed shower and Dinner before flights home. BA to London, AA to ORD then home in STL.(Whew, it makes me tired just typing it!)
Just finished un-packing. Weekend of Graduation parties and B'day parties. Trip report will start Monday or Tuesday, maybe the rest will clear my head.
Regards,
Ron
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Jun 4th, 2010, 03:02 PM
  #9  
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Trip report part 1

The preparations;
The St.Louis Zoo (our Hometown) offers trips and programs visiting East Africa, but timing, election violence and various other events resulted in cancellations. Having travelled with groups in the past and neither of us in the best of condition we decided that this trip should be at our own pace. The decision to spend the extra for a private tour with a tour director to smooth the wrinkles was an easy choice.
After months of reading reports on Fodors and TA, I felt I was ready to jump in. Off to Africa and fulfill a dream that my wife and I have shared for years of visiting the nature reserves of Kenya and Tanzania and seeing the animals that were standard fare on Discovery, Animal planet and numerous other TV shows and documentaries. We solicited similar itineraries to several companies and solicited advice on Fodors. After reading LyndaS' trip reports and reading her descriptions of Daniel at DKGrand we also sent him a request for quote and while not the lowest, he offered us suggestions that made sense to us. Lynda was kind enough to share with us a DVD that inspired us further to use Daniel. While the itinerary changed, even at the last minute, we choose his company and his partner in Tanzania, Warrior Trails.
Next came the hard part, (for me at least) the leap of faith to wire transfer that much money to someone that I had not yet met. After securing our flights (AA ff), I sent the deposit via bank transfer and we started shopping Cabellas and Bass pro shops for Khaki clothing. Of course I could not travel with only one camera so my trusty Nikon D40 found a mate in my bag as well as a 70-200VR and a 70-300 VR zoom and a Cannon FS 200 for videos. I even took a class in F-stops and the like, but found that I liked the auto setting better, there just was not time at an animal sighting to try to adjust the settings.
This was September and our trip was not until May….
Well, we all know about the ash clouds and the cancellations and then the impending cabin attendant strike, then the floods at Samburu! By mid April my nerves were about shot. I started exploring alternative routes to travel and had my standby list of airlines and their routes and phone numbers. We were going on Safari no matter what!
More to follow.
Old_dude is offline  
Jun 4th, 2010, 05:08 PM
  #10  
 
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A compelling lead up. I can sense your enthusiasm and concerns. I'm impressed with your commitment to F-stop training. At least you can make an informed decision on whether to use auto or not.
atravelynn is offline  
Jun 5th, 2010, 11:57 PM
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Looking forward to reading the rest... the ash clouds were a real pain, weren't they, but sounds like you sliced straight through them!
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Jun 6th, 2010, 04:15 PM
  #12  
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I am still going through my cards, but I thought I would try Smugmug and see how it worked. This is only a sample of some of my pictures. They are not in order and not the finished product. Just a trail for me.
Please enjoy,comments are welcome.
Ron
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Jun 6th, 2010, 04:15 PM
  #13  
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Helps if I include the link;
http://old-dude.smugmug.com/photos/s...AlbumKey=zzFby
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Jun 6th, 2010, 08:57 PM
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Loved all the birds & the chameleon (?) in the foreground of the lion picture.
Thanks for sharing.
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Jun 6th, 2010, 09:48 PM
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Great photos, especially the birds, the ellies, and all the beautiful portraits--lions, topi, etc. The two impalas (or are those Tommies?) head to head are gorgeous.
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Jun 6th, 2010, 10:33 PM
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Welcome back, old dude! FABULOUS photos - wow!!
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Jun 7th, 2010, 10:45 AM
  #17  
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Trip report part 2
Well the day finally came. We had packed, weighed, repacked with the items we forgot, checked the packing list and reweighed. The carry-ons were our lifesavers I am still amazed at the volume you can stuff into a backpack. The key flight for our trip was the ORD to LHR AA86 that had been cancelled the evening before, a quick check before we headed to STL showed it was still scheduled for this evening.
I will skip the flights as you have all been there before, I will say that noise-cancelling headsets are one item I will not travel without.
We were met at NBO by Daniel and his intern Judy and driver Ben. Getting the visas at the airport was no problem, except I had to replace one of my $20s (it had a crease!). Culture shock! It took a while to get used to riding on the other side of the street. We were the first to use DKGrand’s new truck as they had just picked it up from the dealership and it still had plastic covers on the seats.
The Norfolk Hotel was our home base for the next two days and I was impressed by the stateliness and this older but well maintained property. The staff were always smiling and very attentive to our needs.
May 19.
Breakfast, wow what a buffet, (you can tell by my picture that I do like to eat). More culture shock! People were actually walking, lots of them, something that I do not see very often in the US. Well after a leisurely breakfast we prepared our day-bag and my camera bag for our first game drive to Lake Nakuru NP. My wife has Fibromyalgia and it was important that we always had her medications with us at all times, thus the day-pack.
The next culture shock, at the gate to Nakuru my wife decided that it was time to try the local facilities. The look on her face when she exited the long-drop facility was priceless! Well it was time to see the animals, and see we did. The lake had received a lot of rain recently and was just receding into its normal banks. The grasses were green and high and the pot holes were holding water still. White and Black rhino, Hyena, Cape buffalo, Giraffe, Impalas, Zebra, greater and lesser flamingo, lots of monkeys, Thompsons gazelle. We stopped at Lions Hill Lodge for lunch and I could see that my waistline was in for battle.
A quick note, while I have seen some discussions about the number of people in a vehicle, I was amazed to see several minivans with 8-9 people stuffed into each. One such vehicle had 4 people across in the front seat.
The short game drive back to the park entrance was interrupted as we had to slow for herds of Zebra on the roadway. My first day and I had already shot almost half of a card on each camera! I used two Nikon D40s, one with the standard 18-55 lens for wide shots and the other with a 70-300VR for most of my shots. I found the VR lens was excellent for hand held shots for those of us over 60.
Back at the Norfolk we relaxed and enjoyed a nice dinner at the hotel restaurant Tatu. The end of our first full day in Africa, the plane rides almost forgotten. The next day and another fantastic breakfast buffet (A pattern is developing here). The city tour was interesting and I could see and hear the pride in the guide Ben’s words describing his city. The giraffe center was a hit with us and the Sheldrick elephant orphanage were the highlights of the day. Both of us were covered with red clay from the baby ele bumps. The Karen Blixen Museum followed by a late lunch at the Carnivore restaurant completed our day. Back to the Norfolk to rest and pack for tomorrow’s trip to Tsavo West and Finch Hatton’s for our first night under canvas.
Old_dude is offline  
Jun 7th, 2010, 04:33 PM
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great start to the trip report! thanks for sharing the info re: being covered in red clay from the baby ele bumps. Hadn't thought about that!
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Jun 8th, 2010, 12:48 PM
  #19  
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Trip report part 3
May 21
After another wonderful breakfast, we received a briefing from Daniel Kikemu, our soon to be best friend and owner of DK Grand Safaris. He explained what to expect and the results of the last minute changes to our itinerary (we had originally planned on Larsen’s in Samburu next, but that was not to be). Good excuse to return to Africa when Larsen’s is rebuilt!
Road trip; a drive to Tsavo West with a brief stop at the outskirts of Nairobi to show us the Beauty School that he is starting for children from his village. It was very nice and my wife and I were impressed at the attentiveness and politeness of the students.
We finally arrived in Tsavo West and after a short game drive we arrived at Finch Hatton to fresh warm towels and a glass of fruit juice. I think I could get used to this!
After the formalities we followed out porters to our tent, WOW! This is how we had envisioned Africa under canvas, only better! Hippos grunting in the pool, crocks lying almost motionless in the stream, Black faced monkeys playing in the tree next to the deck. Beautiful hardwood floored platform with a stone bath attached, the adjectives cannot get out of our mouths as we try to take it all in. Our only regret is that we had not booked this for longer. Lunch by the big Hippo pool followed by a nice nap and it was time for Dinner, The wait staff are in “Out of Africa” style costumes that, while sounding campy here, really helped to set the mood for an elegant dinner. The food was fantastic and I was already trying to figure how to punch another hole in my belt without tools.
After another wonderful breakfast we set off for a game drive and onward to Amboseli. The roads were in what I call “rough shape” after the rains and while the crews were out working on them, they had not yet made much progress. The Shetani lava flow was an impressive sight as was the parade of animals sighted; Elephants, Giraffe, Impalas, Gazelles, Zebras, and many more. We made the obligatory stop at the gate for an escort and the look on my wife’s’ face when two armed rangers climbed into our vehicle was again in the priceless category.
The road to Amboseli from Tsavo was again a bit rough as the road crews were again at work. Amboseli Serena was to be our home for the next two nights as we were again welcomed with fresh towels and juice (No, I was told, do not expect my wife to greet me at the door with towels and juice!). What a sight with the monkeys running up and down the walkways and a very attentive staff and Killi in the background! The buffets were delicious, plentiful and varied and I have now grown a fondness for creamed soups. (note to self, bring a leather punch next time).
Game drives included sighting of Elephants, Oryx, Ostrich, Hippo, Goliath Heron, Buffalo, Crested Crane but no predators.
May 24
After another breakfast, we left Amboseli airstrip for the flight to Masai Mara and Bateleur.
Old_dude is offline  
Jun 8th, 2010, 01:57 PM
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Old dude, I believe Daniel carries a leatherman's tool, there should be a punch awl on it....
LyndaS is offline  

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