back from 3 weeks in Africa

Old Jun 29th, 2007, 05:20 PM
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back from 3 weeks in Africa

Just back from three weeks in Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa. Going to give some highlights and tips in case anyone's interested in checking some of these places out.

In Tanzania, stayed at Grumeti River Camp, Tanzania Under Canvas and the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, all CC Africa camps.

Grumeti is rustic but fine. Very wonderful location on the river so you hear hippos all night -- quite fun. Outdoor showers, no heat in the room, but we were never cold. Recommend rooms 9 and 10, both private and on the river. Great staff, good game drives. In Tanzania, they can't drive off road, like they can in some other countries, so sometimes the game is far away, but they do their best and we saw a lot. Also: if you're in the Serengeti, you're going to run into tsetse flies. Don't wear blue or black, as those colors attract the flies.

Tanzania Under Canvas is supposed to be a mobile camp that follows the migration of the wildebeest. You stay in a tent with a bucket shower and no heat; there's no power, but the game-drive vehicles have electric outlets, which is very convenient for charging batteries while you drive. The staff is very hardworking and the guides are excellent. But unfortunately for us, the camp was set up only a few kilometers away from Grumeti, so we saw virtually the same game on every drive, except for the time they drove us to see the migration(which was several hours away on the Masabi Plains -- the animals had turned around and gone back the wrong way, and the camp isn't mobile enough to move on such short notice). Personally, I would rather have just stayed an extra night at Grumeti and had them drive us to see the migration on one of the days.

The Ngorongoro Crater is amazing and anyone going to Africa should make a stop there. The area is beautiful and the animals have never been hunted or poached, so they come very close to the roads and vehicles. We saw amazing game there -- lions eating after a kill, wildebeest fighting, hyenas greeting, elephants eating, all sorts of great stuff. The Crater Lodge is stunning and luxurious, with incredible views and huge rooms. We stayed in Tree Camp, but all the camps are good and almost all the rooms have great views (a very few don't -- so be demanding when you book!).

In Namibia, we stayed at Sossusvlei Mountain Lodge. This part of Namibia is one of the most beautiful places in the world with scenery unlike anything you've ever seen -- stark and majestic and breathtaking. The Lodge is private and isolated, so it's set up to be very peaceful and serene. Unfortunately, they also allow children of all ages so when we arrived, there were six screaming, ill-behaved kids who basically took over the lodge for two days. We stayed in our rooms till they left. The staff was pretty powerless to stop them. Once they were gone, our stay was fantastic. Not a lot of game, but what's there is very interesting, like aardwolf, bat-eared fox and African Wildcat. A few notes: the Sossusvlei Dunes themselves are incredible, but they're also crowded with tourists, so get an early start (we saw that they're building a new camp inside the park with the Dunes, so that would be a way to see the Dunes before anyone else). The walk up the dunes is very, very hard, sometimes almost vertical, so be prepared for a workout. Advice: take your shoes off and put them in a backpack.

Also at the Mountain Lodge, the walk to see the Cave Paintings is almost as tough as the climb up the dunes, so don't do it on a whim -- you've got to be fit.

The Mountain Lodge also has their own astronomer who's very knowledgeable. The star sightings are wonderful.

In South Africa, we stayed at Phinda Vlei and at Rattray's at Malamala. Phinda Vlei is quite nice --it's only 6 rooms, so it's much more intimate than other lodges at Phinda and it's also closer to the wildlife -- we had warthogs and nyala drinking from our plunge pool. The guides are excellent and found us some lions mating and the rare black rhino. They drive off-road here, so you get right up to the game.

But the very best game viewing of the trip was at Rattray's --we saw the Big Five on almost every drive! They have the rare wild dog there now with a litter of puppies! Every day was overwhelming. It's pricey, but to be away from the crowds at Malamala main camp is worth it (only 4 people per vehicle at Rattray's). The staff was superb. Just know that you're paying for all your alcohol and soft drinks, unlike other camps.

One other note about South Africa: we had to fly back to Johannesburg each time we switched countries, so we stayed right at the airport at the Airport Sun Intercontinental and left an extra bag there with different clothes for the different countries, so we could swap out each time. Because you can only bring one back, weighing 15-20kgs on each trip.

It was an incredible trip. Hope this info helps some of you out
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Old Jun 29th, 2007, 05:37 PM
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California9 - thanks for your good trip report, you certainly bounced around the countrys. Have you stayed at MalaMala main camp before?

regards - tom
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Old Jun 29th, 2007, 06:09 PM
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The issue of Serengeti Under Canvas location vs. Grumeti was discussed before on this board.

At that time I wrote that folks must be careful when booking both properties (or any mobile camp for that matter) unless you or your agent have a perfect understanding of the movements of the mobile camp!

The better mobile camps do not move randomly but follow a plan based on site availability, bookings (camp cannot move when clients are expected in camp!) and expected game movements.
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Old Jun 29th, 2007, 07:14 PM
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good report. just how "crowded" was crowded at MM? Going there in October and the place is fully booked. Not used to big crowds at camps.
pictures coming soon?
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Old Jun 29th, 2007, 07:29 PM
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Remember at MM there are three "areas", Main Camp, Sable, and Rattrays. So we need to specify when talking about specifics.
regards - tom
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Old Jun 29th, 2007, 07:44 PM
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true tom. still looking forward to it.
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Old Jun 29th, 2007, 07:46 PM
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Thanks for your responses. Malamala main camp was fully booked when we were there. Every one of their vehicles had six (sometimes seven) people in it. Though they all seemed to be having a good time. I have not stayed at Main Camp but my wife went over and looked at some rooms, which were fine.
Rattray's was also fully booked, but we never had more than four in a vehicle.

Wading through hundreds of photos since we just got back Wednesday.
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Old Jun 29th, 2007, 07:58 PM
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California9,

How was the activity schedule at TUC? Did you have all day game drives or the usual siesta breaks like at lodges? Did you go to Seronera area of the serengeti? and if so, how was the predetor viewing?

Thanks
Hari
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Old Jun 30th, 2007, 07:34 AM
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At TUC, they usually want you to break the drives up, as usual. But you can schedule them differently if you wish. We spent one whole day following the migration and driving to the Seronera area. Saw a leopard in the Seronera, but that area is hugely congested with vehicles and we had over 20 other vehicles around us. Better leopard at MalaMala. Saw lions and followed 2 cheetah hunting in the western Serengeti. That was fun.
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Old Jul 1st, 2007, 06:56 AM
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Do you remember room numbers at Tree CAmp in Crater Lodge with good views?
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Old Jul 1st, 2007, 12:41 PM
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Glad you enjoyed MM. It is a great place for safari. Enjoyed your nice report and descriptions of each place you visited. Very helpful.

- Granny Joan
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