Chapter 1 Sept Kenya-Tanzania Trip Report

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Oct 7th, 2004, 01:11 PM
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Chapter 1 Sept Kenya-Tanzania Trip Report

Trip Report to be Posted on the Fodors.com forum for Africa travel

We started our journey at JFK international airport where we took an American day flight (leaving at 8:30am) to London. This was far better for us than taking a night flight because we arrived refreshed rather than exhausted. Also, thanks to American?s efforts to create more space in coach, we had a window and an aisle seat and were very comfortable. Once we reached London we took the Hoppa bus (ticket booth was easy to find and round trip tickets were about six pounds) to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Ariel. This was a great four star airport hotel that we booked on Priceline for about $65.

The next morning we got up at 6:15 for a 10:30am flight. Our hotel was close to terminal 4, but because of traffic the ride on the Hoppa bus back to the terminal was about one hour. We checked in and had plenty of time to eat breakfast at a café and do some shirt shopping for Mark at Thomas Pink.
Our British Airways flight from Heathrow to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi took about eight hours with a two hour time difference. We were a bit cramped in coach but were glad to have one area of the trip where we decided to save some money.

Once we arrived we were met by Rose and George from CCAfrica. They were both friendly and amiable, seemed to know everyone at our hotel and helped us check in. We gave each of them a $5 tip.

We stayed at The Stanley in Nairobi, which was a stately old hotel built originally in 1902. Home to the Thorn Tree Café, The Stanley has played host to Ernest Hemingway, Edward Prince of Wales, Ava Gardner and Clark Gable, among others. Our rooms were comfortable, and we were made to feel very secure by the armed guards on every floor. The next morning the breakfast in the Thorn Tree Cafe was sumptuous.

After breakfast we were met by Andrew from CCAfrica and taken to Wilson, the domestic airport in Nairobi. Once there we were met by Rose who assisted us in checking in against a manifest for our Air Kenya flight to Kichwa Tembo Bateleur Camp. Again, we tipped each of them $5. Our plane was not so small, maybe 40 passengers, and stopped at several airstrips before reaching our final stop.

Once we arrived we were met by Daniel, who would be our ranger for our stay. We also met Isabella and Fernando from Brazil, who would be traveling in our vehicle on game drives. I will never forget that first little game drive on our way to camp. The vehicles were tremendous, dark green open Land Rovers with canvas sunshades. We later appreciated these vehicles a lot once we saw that most other vehicles were covered with pop-up roofs. It was so nice to be in the open air (dust was non-existent). We went off road and got very close to a giraffe, a wart hog, and some cape buffalo. I felt like I was in paradise!

We were met in camp by several uniformed butlers, including our butler, Kiruwi. They gave us steaming hot herb infused towels to cleanse our hands, and then gave us a welcome drink and a warm ?Karibu!?. Stanley, the camp manager, then ushered us into the beautiful sitting area where we would later have dinner. It was filled with antiques and chairs upholstered with Masai beaded skins. Stanley assisted us with check in and told us a bit about the camp and the schedule of meals and game drives. Then we had a couple of hours before lunch, so we went back to our tent, where our luggage had already been deposited, and explored our surroundings a bit. We had a lovely king size bed (really the size of two queens put together!) with high thread count linens, leather chairs on our private veranda, a lovely en suite bathroom with double sinks and stone shower with fabulous natural soaps. No sooner had we settled in watching giraffes with our binoculars when our room steward Anthony brought us two shots of chilled Vodka with elegant slivers of watermelon on the side. We were being spoiled!

Lunch was served on the grass looking over the plains. After a light cold cucumber soup they brought us a several tiered tower decorated with salads and the main course, which included baboti, an African corn fritter of sorts served with chicken, corn, and beans. We had delicious homemade strawberry ice cream for dessert. We could tell we would be gaining weight on this honeymoon!!!

Later that afternoon it was time for our first game drive! We saw a lion pride on a fresh wildebeest kill, two male cheetahs relaxing in the sun (Daniel explained that usually cheetahs are solitary but sometimes two male brothers will hang out together), a black rhino (yes!), several giraffe, herds of cape buffalo, zebra, and wildebeest. We also saw warthog, impala, Thomson?s gazelles, grant?s gazelles, a dik-dik, waterbuck, topi, ostrich, secretary birds, lappet-faced vulture, griffon vulture, white backed vulture. We found Richard Estes book A Safari Companion to be very a very interesting compliment to Daniel?s commentary, most of all because it is something to read once at home to recall what Daniel told us. I was fascinated by all the animals.

That night Daniel drove us to an idyllic spot in the forest where we had dinner under a dining tent lit up by candles and lanterns. There was a campfire, and our butler, Kiruwi, introduced us to a special signature Bateleur drink which consisted of lime juice, honey, and Vodka. Very delicious. Later a group of Masai warriors jumped out of the bushes and sang songs and did the traditional jumping contest to see which warrior could jump the highest. Afterwards the Masai spread out their wares for us to look at and buy, and I bartered for a beautiful beaded bracelet. After a wonderful dinner of lamb and beef, we went back to camp where we found our bed turned down and hot water bottles warming the sheets. We sunk into slumber and slept well!

The next day we were woken up by Kiruwi who brought us tea and biscuits in bed at about 6:30 the next morning. We woke up and had breakfast, then went with Daniel to pick up Isabella and Fernando who had gone ballooning from Governor?s Camp. That day we went on two wonderful game drives where we saw hippo and croc, as well as herds of wildebeest coming right up to the edge of the river. Unfortunately they did not cross, but we later heard from another couple that they had seen three crossings the two following days, including two croc kills! We also saw two male lions, two spotted hyenas, and some female elephants with calves at very close range.

Lunch and dinner that night were equally as delicious as the day before, only I won?t tell you more because I realize this trip report has to cover three weeks and I might bore you! We went to sleep enjoying the sounds of the wild again, but were woken up by Daniel at 6:30 who said ?We?re waiting for you are you coming on the game drive?? Kiruwi had mistaken the time that we wanted to be woken up! We rushed into our clothes and out to the Land Rover where Isabella and Fernando were already ensconced with blankets. Thank goodness Daniel hadn?t left without us! It was the only time on our whole trip that there would be any glitches.

After the morning game drive we came back to camp and prepared to leave. We asked Stanley the camp manager about tipping and he said that the CCAfrica guidelines include $10 per couple per day for the staff box, $10 per couple per day for the guide, $10 per couple per day for the butler. We thought that seemed a bit low so we gave $15 per day for each. Of course, for the same service in the US you would tip much more. The service was really top notch at Bateleur. Everyone came to see us off when we left, Kiruwi our butler, Anthony our room steward, and Stanley the camp manager. Then it was off to Klein?s camp on a small plane operated by Precision Air???.
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Oct 8th, 2004, 03:56 AM
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Looking forward to reading the rest of the chapters. Don't worry about the details boring us I for one enjoy detailed trip reports.
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Oct 8th, 2004, 08:44 AM
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styeleoracle-

Great beginning and looking forward to the rest of your report.

I also like all the details if you decide to include them. Whatever you're comfortable with will do.
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Oct 8th, 2004, 10:32 AM
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Styleoracle: More!!! More!!!! More!!! Love the details!!!!
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Oct 9th, 2004, 11:17 AM
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Thanks for all the nice feedback on my trip report! Here's chapter two...

We arrived at Klein?s camp airstrip midmorning and were met by Ivan our ranger and Karpoi our Maasai tracker. They had already set up a little picnic table with all kinds of drinks, and so we had some coffee right there at the airstrip. We watched the plane take off again, and met Lisle and Yan, who were from South Africa and would be joining us on game drives during our stay.

On our way to camp we saw lots of zebra and giraffe, and even some baboons. The camp is up on a hill and is very secluded by trees. All of the buildings were round and made of stone with thatch roofs. As we arrived we were greeted by Fonary, the assistant camp manager, and Massay our butler, who gave us a welcome drink as another fellow got our luggage. We walked along a winding dirt path and down the hill to the main bar and sitting area, where we met with Fonary and Ivan. After a brief presentation about the camp schedule and an explanation of the butler system (similar to the check in we had at Bateleur), Ivan gave us a presentation about CCAfrica and their properties. After that Massay took us back to our room, where he was very funny in describing the surroundings. ?Drink all the brandy you can, it?s complimentary?, he smiled widely, gesturing to a beautiful crystal container on our side table. The room was all white with a beige and white striped extra large king size bed. Gauzy white curtains hung dramatically from the ceiling, giving the bed both a function (mosquito netting) and the beautiful form of a canopy. The bathroom was lovely, again with a stone shower, a bidet, enormous bath sheets for towels and herbal soaps. It was however a bit dark and there wasn?t much water pressure for the shower, but that was fine since our main objective was to get clean and not hang out for hours in the shower. Outside we had a lovely veranda with a table and chairs that looked out over the valley below and the escarpment in the distance. Not far away was a wood burning brick oven which served as the hot water heater for our room.

We had lunch in the round stone dining area, which was open during the day. Later we took a nap until tea at 3:30 with our ranger. This was a fun opportunity to get to know Ivan a bit while taking in the gorgeous views from the bar and sitting area.

That afternoon?s game drive would prove very exciting. We saw all the animals listed in my previous post, with the addition of some guinea fowl and a lilac breasted roller, one of the most beautiful multicolored birds I?d ever seen. Then later on we saw a zebra giving birth! She was having a bit of a difficult time of it, and Ivan wanted to give her some privacy, so we didn?t stay long. Ten minutes later we heard a pitiful cry as she began to have some birth complications. We stopped and sat quietly because no sooner had she cried out than three lions came running down through the trees from one direction, and two hyena from another. By the time we got back to the zebra she was still mid birth and the lions had already killed her and the baby zebra and were feeding on both. We were very stunned and quite upset because we had just seen her alive and therefore had quite a connection to her. But such is life in the wild!

One of the great things about Klein?s is that they are on a private concession and therefore you can do night drives. So once it got dark Karpoi (our Maasai tracker) got out of the Land Rover and sat on a tiny chair that was attached to the hood of the vehicle. He did have a seatbelt, but I still marveled at how adept he was at staying on when we went over some pretty hilly and bumpy areas. He used a powerful search light to seek out animals as we drove. Once he would find something, he would turn the light to infra-red so as not to disturb the animal. We saw a puff adder, bush babies, and got quite close to the ever elusive serval cat!

We came back to camp around 8:00pm just in time for a cocktail in the bar and dinner. The bar area had been transformed by a large fire in a centrally located circular fireplace, and dark canvas tarps had been pulled down to make the area enclosed. It was very cozy and rustic. Dinner was delicious but I don?t remember what I ate (after that first meal at Bateleur, I didn?t really keep track of the other meals, but food at Klein?s was very good). I just recall that food at Klein?s, in keeping with the style of the place, was a bit more countrified than food at Bateleur. Later that night we were walked back to our room by one of the askaris who enthusiastically shook both our hands at the door and said LALA SALAMMA! (good night in Swahili). I think he was expecting a tip, but we didn?t tip him until the end of our stay.

The next day we did an all day game drive in the Serengeti. We went all the way up to a crossing site at the Mara River. Again, we saw many crocs and hippos, and herds of wildebeest looking like they were going to cross (only to retreat later). We were excited to find a cheetah with a fresh kill that day. At lunchtime we stopped and Ivan and Karpoi set up a sumptuous picnic on a small table near the vehicle complete with brightly colored table cloth. I think what I loved most about being in the Serengeti was the great variation in topography, first hilly, than unbelievably flat, first dry, later green where areas had been recently control burned, then dry again. That night there were only several guests in camp, and so we all ate in the bar area at one big table. It was nice to be joined by Hein and Alison the camp managers. Fonary wasn?t there as he had left for his ?off days?. Most of the CCAfrica employees work for two to three months straight then get two to three weeks of days off.

The most notable part of our third and fourth days at Klein?s were the bush walk on our third day, and our visit to a neighboring Maasai village on our fourth day. Our third day we were woken up by Massay at 5:45 with tea and biscuits so that we could start our bush walk at 6:30. We were joined by Lisle and Yan the South African couple (Lisle?s mother had been pregnant when the Sound of Music film came out, thus her name was inspired by Lisle Von Trapp!). Ivan walked in front of us all with a rifle, and Karpoi walked behind us with a spear. The walk was wonderful because we were able to concentrate on a number of birds, trees, and plant life. At about 9:30 we all started wondering when we would start heading back to camp for breakfast (we had wandered pretty far afield) when we suddenly came upon Elias the chef and Massay our butler, who had set up a lovely breakfast table and chairs right in the bush. In addition, there was a plentiful buffet, and a stove for cooking eggs to order. All in all it had been a wonderful morning, and what a nice surprise to top it off! A memorable way to enjoy sausage and eggs! Later that day we had lunch around the swimming pool. I really appreciated how difficult it was to serve us in these locations that were so far away from the kitchen!

Then our fourth day we went to see the Maasai village. Fonary had advised us to go at sundown when the cattle would be coming home for the night, which we did. As we drove up, all the little children started running towards us and saying hello. Ivan told us to greet the children by putting a hand on their heads while saying SOBAH, which means hello in the Maasai language. He told us all about how they live in the boma, and the different phases of life, including the phase when a young man goes out into the wilderness and lives for several years, away from the tribe. During that time period the young man must kill a lion with his spear. Then he comes back to the village and gets married. As he acquires cattle, he marries again, until he has several wives.

We had a chance to go into a Maasai house, which was made of dung and sticks. It had a short and narrow hallway which led to a central room with three beds made of skins. The room was dark and only lit by the small fire in the middle. There was a tiny lamb in the house, which had just been born and which the lady of the house was trying to keep warm by the fire. We conversed for about fifteen minutes with the lady of the house and her little boy who was about two years old, using Karpoi as our interpreter. Then we went outside to look at some jewelry. The necklaces were not as sophisticated as the ones I had seen at Bateleur Camp, but I chose two and bartered for them, just to be polite. We also gave the woman $40 for the privilege of seeing the village (a CCAfrica policy I believe), which she would then share with the other members of the tribe. That night when we got back to camp there was another surprise for us. Hein and Alison the camp managers had arranged for our room to be decorated with candles, and a table set up right in our room for a private honeymoon dinner. Massay came and served us right in our room, kindly asking us how much time we would like between each course. It had been a truly fantastic stay! The next morning we would be off to Grumeti Camp in the Western Serengeti.
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Oct 16th, 2004, 05:42 PM
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The airstrip for Grumeti camp is literally five minutes from camp. We were greeted upon arrival by Karen the camp manager and a chorus of singing and clapping butlers. The welcome drink at Grumeti was particularly refreshing, being made of watermelon juice, 7-up, and several other yummy ingredients which I don?t recall. We loved this camp because it is right on a tributary of the Grumeti River, and hippos lounge in the waters grunting and snorting and chomping on the Watter Lettuce plants that cover the surface of the river. Our tent was luxurious but also had a rustic feel to it, being zip-down, and being very close to the river?s edge. Our bed was magnificently carved out of wood and the head board extended all the way up practically to the top of the tent. The décor of Grumeti is pan-African, so we had a brightly colored striped bedspread and plush purple chairs. The bathroom had a wonderful shower open to the sun and stars, and our bathroom mirror was regularly covered with little sticky notes from our room steward that said KARIBU! or LALA SALAMMA! (Welcome or Goodnight!). From our viewing deck which had sun loungers and table and chairs we could see hippos in the river in front of us. The sounds at night were amazing, it sounded as though the hippos were inside the tent with us!

Even though Grumeti did not have the herds that we had seen at both Bateleur and in the Northern Serengeti, it was still exciting. We saw all kinds of birds, including the Slate-colored Boubou (whose terse call I really liked), the Fischer?s Lovebird, the Paradise Flycatcher, the Grey-backed Fiscal, the White-crowned Shrike and the Magpie Shrike. We also got to see a group of black and white Colobus Monkey. Wilfred, our guide, was an excellent spotter and found a large python one morning.

Probably the most exciting siting we had at Grumeti was our lioness encounter. After our first afternoon game drive, Wilfred drove us up to the top of a hill where the camp manager had arranged for us to have a sundowner and some freshly cooked hors d?oeuvres. It was a beautiful evening and we had a completely clear sky for a picture perfect sunset. One of the guests from another vehicle needed to use the bush facilities and came back saying she thought she heard some growling in the bushes. Luckily we had a fellow with us with a rifle, and he told us all to stay back, which we didn?t need to be told twice. There WAS a lioness, she was with her new born cubs beneath a thick bush and was not visible, but we could hear her. Twice she growled loudly and then finally we all slowly but deliberately packed up and left. It had been a very exciting sundowner and we were ready for a luxurious dinner back at camp in the beautiful open air boma. Skip forward to our final night after our last game drive:

We arrived back at camp and went to our tent to freshen up. Then we were escorted back to the main sitting area for cocktails, where we saw two golden winged bats hanging from the ceiling. We met some interesting girls who were cousins who had just climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and were going to spend a few days at Grumeti on safari. After cocktails Mark and I were escorted by Noel our butler to the pool area which had been decorated with lanterns and candles for a private honeymoon dinner. On my plate was a prettily wrapped package from Karen the camp manager, which proved to be a beautiful Maasai bracelet for me. How lovely of them to arrange such a special evening for us! We love CCAFrica! The next morning it would be off to the Ngorogoro Crater Lodge?
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Oct 17th, 2004, 12:26 PM
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Styleoracle - enjoying your trip through your words. Thanks for taking the time to post.
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Oct 17th, 2004, 03:23 PM
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Hi there

We were also at Bateleur, Ngorongoro and Kleins Camp Sept 30-Oct 7....did we meet you? We are Melissa and Jeff from Princeton......

Too funny. Your trip report matches ours quite closely..I still have not been able to write up my report yet.

We just arrived home late Tuesday night.

Would love to know who you are and if our paths crossed!

Melissa
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Oct 18th, 2004, 01:09 PM
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Wow, deja vu! My wife and I were on our honeymoon at Klein's, Ngorongoro and Mnemba from Sept. 21 to 30, so this brings back many fond memories from our own trip. We are Alex and Sarah from NYC, in case we might have met at at some point, although from your description of the other guests it doesn't sound like our visits overlapped. We did, however, meet Hein, Alison and some of the other wonderful staff members you mentioned at Klein's.

It sounds like you had as fantastic a time as we did! I look forward to reading your impressions of Ngorongoro...
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Oct 18th, 2004, 02:52 PM
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Hi there Melissa and Jeff from Princeton and Alex and Sara from New York! Actually we're from New York too (Andrea and Mark)! But no, we didn't meet because we were there Sept 1-21. Glad to hear you had as much fun as we did and that you are enjoying the report. Coming up are chapters from Crater Lodge, Zanzibar, and Mnemba.
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Oct 24th, 2004, 02:43 PM
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Hi,
Still waiting!!! anxious to hear more, what happened in the Crater, and how was the Crater Lodge?
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