Back from Kenya/ Tanzania (Aug-Sep 2008)!

Sep 14th, 2008, 09:07 AM
  #1  
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Back from Kenya/ Tanzania (Aug-Sep 2008)!

Just a quick note to say that we're back from our trip to Kenya and Tanzania and had a marvellous time!

A reminder on our itinerary:

*2 nights in Nairobi - 1 day city tour with Kennedy/ Waymark Safaris
*3 nights Elsa's Kopje, Meru
*2 nights Saruni Camp, Samburu
*5 nights Ngare Serian (upgraded from Serian main camp) - including a night at the mobile camp
*1 night Arusha
*3 nights Oliver's Camp, Tarangire
*1 night EUnoto, near Lake Manyara
*1 night Sopa, Ngorongoro Crater
*1 night Gibbs Farm
*3 nights Sayari Camp, NW Serengeti

Booked with Cheli and Peacock (Kenya) and Roy Safaris (Tanzania) via Africa Serendipity (safari planner).

Great trip, many, many highlights, a few (minor) disappointments.

Kavey is offline  
Sep 14th, 2008, 09:16 AM
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I hope your highlights overshadowed your disappointments. Welcome back!
atravelynn is offline  
Sep 14th, 2008, 09:21 AM
  #3  
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More, more, more than!

I'll report them only because I always appreciate reports that give me writer's whole impressions rather than just the cherry-picked positive bits...

But our experiences were overwhelmingly good!
Kavey is offline  
Sep 14th, 2008, 01:27 PM
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Karibu nyumbani!
Nyamera is offline  
Sep 14th, 2008, 02:20 PM
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Welcome back Am looking forward to your detailed report (and pictures!). I leave in 2 weeks and am also at Olivers and Serian, so will be interested to hear your thoughts.

whiskey
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Sep 14th, 2008, 02:55 PM
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Kavey welcome back!
I'm not going to put you under pressure to write your report,
but, I am sitting here waiting to read it, hehehe
sallysaab is offline  
Sep 14th, 2008, 03:06 PM
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Welcome back Kavey.

You've been in my thoughts lately as I edit my pics.
Can't wait to see yours and hear more about the trip.
cybor is offline  
Sep 14th, 2008, 03:42 PM
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Hi Kavey,

Welcome back! How was Serian? Trust you had a good time......

Hari
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Sep 14th, 2008, 06:32 PM
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Welcome back Kavey! I heard that you met our 'granddaughter' Sarah when you were with Kennedy, she wrote me that night and said that she met you and Pete.

Can't wait to hear all about it and the whole trip!!
LyndaS is offline  
Sep 15th, 2008, 02:28 AM
  #10  
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Thanks for the welcomes, everybody!

We had a wonderful trip!

Here's some preview snippets:

Lynda, we did indeed meet Kennedy's daughter, Sarah as well as his wife, Val. It was a real pleasure to do so and we had a great day with Kennedy too.

Whiskey:

Oliver's Camp is just wonderful. I was a bit confused at it's location having read about the camp being on the banks of a river but apparently the location was moved (from just outside Tarangire to within it) last year. The new location is not by a river but up on a hill with lovely views. The managers, Rudolf and Helen, have been there 6 months and are very nice indeed and the ambience they and their team create is very warm and friendly. We did drives with our own guide/ vehicle (which is a shame as I'd liked to have done activities with their own guides, in retrospect). My favourite times in the park were our afternoons which we spent by the edge of the swamp nearest to the camp. In the afternoon the many, many elephant herds head out of the woodlands and down into the swamp waters to drink, bathe and play. Then, later in the afternoon, they come out onto the banks, the road being close to these, and dry, take red sand baths, play and feed. Just magical! Oh, by the way, the tents are spacious and well-designed (better than Sayari) and we really liked ours. The bathroom is next door with half-height adobe walls and stone paved floor with bucket shower, chemical loo (I'd prefer a regular drop one with sand myself) and bottled water for teeth brushing.

At Serian we were upgraded to Ngare Serian, the smaller but more luxurious tents on the opposite side of the river. Infact, no-one was staying in main camp and even Ngare wasn't full every night we were there. I think, from what I understood, the other guests at Ngare also booked maincamp and were upgraded. I know Hari expressed a preference for maincamp but I loved Ngare (I crossed and took a tour of main camp including the public area and the tents). The 4 Ngare tents are up on low wooden decks with wooden floors throughout. In the centre is the main bedroom tent, spacious, with the normal canvas walls with netting "windows", most of which we had completely open during the day. Next to the bedroom tent is the bathroom. This is open but don't worry, animals don't come up onto the deck and lanterns are left lit during the night. This has loo, sinks (with bottled water for brushing teeth), clothes storage, shower and a bathtub with view over the river. All tents are directly on the river. To use the loo during the night, you'll need to unzip the bedroom tent and step out onto the open deck. It's not a problem and the bathroom facilities are slightly nearer the bedroom area than they are in main camp. We were assigned to tent 4 which meant the hippos were always in the water directly infront. They made quite a racket till 9 or 10pm and started again at 5 am but we loved having them there to enjoy during the midday break. Our game viewing at this camp was exceptional, absolutely amazing and our guide and driver were great. I was concerned about whether there would be much wildlife in the conservancy or whether we'd have to trek into the reserve for each drive but some of our best viewings were in the conservancy so we split our time between that and the reserve. We did spend one night at the mobile tent, which we had to ourselves. We loved it and had stellar lion viewing within very short distance of it but we only stayed one night as the cot beds were too short for my 2 metres tall husband. We'll definitely be returning though and will likely do 3-4 nights at Ngare and 3-4 at the mobile camp. With advance planning we'll work out a solution to the short cot problem. But, we did love the small simple mobile camp tents with their bucket showers and drop loo. Just a wonderful location. We did have some problems with service at this camp but these stemmed from absence of management - neither Alex Walker (owner) nor Isaac (manager) nor Nico (I think another manager) were present and the camp was being looked after by a sweet but very young and inexperienced girl who was actually there to run a new lion research project. She'd only been there 6 weeks and although she was eager she simply didn't have the knowledge and initiative to effectively run the camp fully and guide the staff, which they clearly needed more of. Once Isaac returned, for the last couple of days of our stay, things improved.
Kavey is offline  
Sep 15th, 2008, 09:45 AM
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Welcome back Kavey!

I know I am not the one to tell you that I am very cuious to read your report, but...;-)

How was Saruni??? I think I made the very wrong decision and chose SaSaab instead... And I am very very curoius about your thoughts of Sayari, which is still my favorite camp.

And I will try hard to finish my report...

regards
steff
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Sep 15th, 2008, 09:46 AM
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... oh, and Elsa's? We saw it from plane, took some passengers before final landing at Samburu.
Looked so nice and cosey.
steffid is offline  
Sep 15th, 2008, 12:24 PM
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Welcome back, Kavey! Can't wait to hear more!
Patty is online now  
Sep 15th, 2008, 04:53 PM
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Welcome back, Kavey!
Leely2 is offline  
Sep 16th, 2008, 04:25 AM
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Kavey thanks so much for the info on Serian and Oliver's - I am now even more anxious for Oct 1st to arrive (my first safari). Interesting about the crowds (or lack thereof) - was this generally the case at all your camps? I am booked for the main camp at Serian - had you booked the mobile camp in advance?

Looking forward to your pictures and report - and again thanks so much for the detailed reply

whiskey.
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Sep 16th, 2008, 04:50 AM
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Saruni Kalama (Samburu):

Well, it is probably different at other times of year but, during our visit, there was really very little game indeed either in the Kalama conservancy or the nearest areas of the Samburu Reserve. The result was that we had to drive nearly two hours to the Ewaso Ngiro (sp?) River between Samburu and Buffalo Springs in order to find much wildlife. What that meant is we couldn't realistically follow the normal pattern of morning drive, return to camp for hottest part of drive, and then afternoon drive. Instead we set off with packed breakfast, tore over to the game rich area of Samburu which we enjoyed for a couple of hours, and then drove two hours back to camp during the hotter part of the day, which I'd rather have avoided, arriving back in time for lunch. Neither us nor the couple we shared our vehicle with fancied an afternoon drive given that it wasn't long enough to get back into the game rich area. Because the early rains hadn't come the region was very dry which meant a lot of grazing within the Kalama Conservancy of camels, goats and cows. I suspect this contributed to lack of game, as did the lack of water in the locality - perhaps when the Kalama rivers have water the game spreads up to that side of Samburu and intot he Conservancy too. To be fair, the camp does have a resident leopard which was spotted a few times by various of us (we saw it drinking from the camp swimming pool, others encountered it during a guided walk), a few elephants and some birds and squirrels. The camp itself, built atop a rocky hill, is very pretty though, in my opinion, a little too much style over substance. The cottages are very spacious and attractive though some fine-tuning is needed. For each room, bedroom, lounge-diner and bathroom, one wall is completely open to the incredible views. The wind at night was extremely fierce when we were there and the net closures pulled across those open walls (and also over various windows) at night were designed in such a way that they rattled extremely loudly indeed. It's hard to describe how loud this noise was, suffice to say that I genuinely thought that parts of the building were being torn apart. I know that other guests also said that, on the first of our two nights, they too got no sleep until the wind died down at 5 am. Some simple adjustments to how the panels are secured should alleviate much of this. Personally, I was also not hugely enamoured of the Italian meal system with a pasta starter, a tiny piece of protein (or a very small slice of quiche or tortilla) for main served only with a green salad, and a single piece of bread, and then a small dessert. They didn't make enough to offer seconds. I found myself hungry on more than one occasion and, on the single occasion when we were invited to help ourselves to the pasta starter rather than receive pre-dished plates, I could see others were taking much larger portions than we were usually given, so I suspect I wasn't alone in thinking the meals very stingy. Tasty, but stingy. Lastly, whilst I really, really liked the manager, Neil, I realised I strongly prefer having both a male and female manager available. There are sometimes questions and issues which female guests feel more comfortable discussing with a female manager. Our guide was good and we liked him a lot. At the time of our visit, Nchoe (John), a Maasai guide, was over for several weeks, from Saruni Mara, there to train up the local Samburu guides and other camp staff.

Elsa's Kopje: I adored this camp, would not fault a single, single thing about it.
Kavey is offline  
Sep 16th, 2008, 04:55 AM
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Whiskey, we didn't book the mobile in advance but, because there weren't many guests at Serian, we were able to arrange it after our arrival and lucky enough to get it to ourselves for the night we stayed there.

We seldom encountered many other vehicles in the conservancy and only a handful in the area near the mobile camp. We did come across more vehicles in the heart of the reserve, especially in the area around Governor's Camp, but not outrageously many.

Given that so many camps were not full to capacity, that would probably explain it.

BTW for interested parties, Dave Richards, who's been manager at Governor's Camp for the last few years, has resigned. We had drinks with him late one morning, as I'd wanted to say hello having met him and gone on a very special game drive with him during my 2004 visit. Seems that the owners have really been acting up and he's simply had enough of it. We talked in detail about some of the goings on and whilst I realise I was hearing things from one side, I could absolutely understand why he wasn't willing to put up with it anymore. Will be interesting to see what happens. And by the way, for those Governor's fans who enjoyed their renowned lunch-time buffet, be aware the owners have canned it and replaced it with served meals lunch and dinner both. Just for info.
Kavey is offline  
Sep 16th, 2008, 09:28 AM
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kavey,
interesting info regarding governnors!
meals are a large part of any safari experience.
i am meeting with justin grammaticas, one of the owners, later this year and it will be a good opportunity to discuss also that point. will be interesting to hear his reasons...

div
divine54 is offline  
Sep 16th, 2008, 09:36 AM
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There were a LOT of incidents Dave told me about, a number of which involved one or other member of the family taking a dislike to one of the camp staff, for no real reason, and insisting Dave sack them, in one case, one of the most hard working, loyal staff who consistently went above and beyond his actual job and, in the process, saved them a LOT of money, in the other case for a decision Dave himself made, as he told the owners at the time. Lots and lots of other stuff though, not just these issues. Regarding the meals, they have a number of large group repeat visitors and at least one of the leaders of such a group had a right go at Dave about the disappearance of the lunch buffet (it was quite a event/ show with the chefs cooking for the guests infront of them and so on) because she hadn't been told in advance and had been telling her clients all about said buffet only to be out of date and also disappointed in the regular sit-down lunch. Dave called the owners and suggested they let other groups know in advance, but used the word "warn", not meaning a negative but simply meaning they needed to know of the change to ensure they advised their clients accordingly. The owner flew off the handle. It seems the owners often fly off the handle as well as look down on their camp staff as unimportant, dispensable minions, rather than loyal and hardworking individuals that many are. What a shame.
Kavey is offline  
Sep 18th, 2008, 07:13 PM
  #20  
 
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Kavey, we are travelling to Tanzania in early November - my understanding is we can obtain our Visa at the JRO Airport. Is this correct?

Our route:

Arusha
Ngorongoro
Tanigire
Serengehetti ( East and West).

Travelling with a guide.

Take care,

Leone
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