Doohickey's Tanzania Safari March '07 Trip Report

Mar 23rd, 2008, 05:22 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 271
Doohickey's Tanzania Safari March '07 Trip Report


We began planning our trip last June (2007) when we unexpectedly found ourselves with the ability to go on a special vacation. Within a few weeks we had decided to go on a private tented safari to Tanzania. Here is a link to the thread containing more details about our preparation:

My husband is a talented amateur photographer so I ended up consulting with Andy Biggs (thanks Andy!) and got quotes from 4 companies. We ended up going with Thomson Safaris. Which company any one of us goes with depends on so many factors, many of them personal, so I see why there are so many different outfitters out there. Everyone can find one that will fit their personal parameters.

In July we put down our deposit and began the long list of necessary preparations including gathering Montana-specific gifts to give to people we might find special in some way. Thomson had assured me when I booked that a car battery would be provided to power my CPAP throughout my trip, including at Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel. However, only two weeks before, our pre-departure specialist emailed me that since the hotel had electricity I should just be sure to bring a converter and adaptor on the trip. Little alarm bells went off in my head but I didn’t act on it. Instead, I hunted around town but couldn’t find what I needed in stock. I had to special order it. It arrived only the day before we left. I was so pressed at that point that I just threw it in my duffle that night without even opening the box.

Our friends and neighbors, Jerry and Judy picked us up and took us to the airport early the next morning. We left Bozeman on Friday, March 7th at 840am, transited MSP and AMS and landed at JRO at 845pm on Saturday, March 8th. All three flights had been overbooked. We had a 15 minute delay leaving MSP when, after pushback, the engines wouldn’t fire up properly. They emitted a tremendous volume of grey and brown smoke each time the pilot tried which, I must admit, DH and I both found alarming. Finally, about the 4th try something “unstuck” according to the pilot and we were on our way. Our stopover in Schiphol was long enough to allow me to get a pedicure for our beach time at XpresSpa as I had run out of time to get one at home. On our final leg a native Tanzanian sitting next to me taught us the greeting “Mambo” with its reply “Poa” which proved to be wonderful to know.

This was our planned itinerary while in Tanzania:

Sunday, March 9– Safari briefing, church in Arusha, game viewing in Tarangire NP en route our camp. Overnight Thomson tented camp (Thomson calls them Nyumbas.)

Monday, March 10 – Game viewing, Tarangire. O’nt Nyumba

Tuesday, March 11 – Drive to Ngorongoro Thomson camp w/arrival in time for lunch. Game viewing drive in the afternoon. O’nt Nyumba.

Wednesday, March 12 – Visit with Maasai in the morning, Game viewing in the crater in the afternoon. O’nt Nyumba

Thursday, March 13 –Game viewing in Serengeti en route Thomson camp. O’nt Nyumba.

Friday, March 14 – Game viewing in Serengeti, celebrate 15th wedding anniversary. O’nt Nyumba.

Saturday, March 15 – Game viewing in Serengeti while changing to different Thomson camp. O’nt Nyumba.

Sunday, March 16 – Game viewing in Serengeti. O’nt Nyumba.

Monday, March 17 – Game viewing en route to airstrip, fly to Zanzibar via Arusha. O’nt at Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel.

Tuesday, March 17 – Full day at Ras Nungwi at leisure.

Wednesday, March 19 – Full day at Ras Nungwi at leisure.

Thursday, March 20 – Morning in Stonetown, fly to Dar, day room at the Slipway. Catch late night KL flight.

Friday, March 21 – arrive back home in Bozeman.

Next up – arrival, questionable water practices, church, our first game viewing and tse tse fly zapping.
doohickey is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2008, 05:32 PM
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Thanks Sandi and Patty for the title suggestions for this new thred but awww, shucks! I meant the title to read "March '08 Trip Report!"


doohickey is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2008, 05:37 PM
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Saturday March 8th – arrival at Kilimanjaro Airport

Quite a number of folks rushed the visa purchase window upon our arrival making us glad that we had purchased ours in the States. Only one party was ahead of us at Customs and Immigration. Our guide for our entire safari met us right after we’d collected our bags – Adam Mlay. A 45 minute drive in our Land Rover Defender (the vehicle we’d use for the entire safari) took us to Ngare Sero Lodge for the night. When we arrived Adam told us we’d have an early wake up call in order to be able to get to Arusha NP for the morning excursion. Whoa, there! Not so fast! That had been the original idea when we booked but months earlier we had scratched that ANP in favor of going to church. Turns out Thomson’s Arusha office had given Adam an old itinerary and not the same updated one that we had. Hmmmmm…Whassupwitdat?

Also as we were checking in, staff members told us the tap water was okay to brush teeth with but Adam privately told us we should use the bottled water he gave us. I truly meant to use the bottled water for brushing my teeth but forgot. Arghhh!

Ngare Sero seemed a nice place though a nearby neighborhood dog barked loudly just about all night. Thankfully I had earplugs because I don’t think I could have slept through the racket without them. Adam had provided me with a battery for my CPAP but it was much smaller than a standard car battery which had been promised. It looked like a golf cart battery. It lasted me only 4 hours. Also, my CPAP has an integral humidifier that takes almost two cups of water to fill. I filled it with the tap water rather than bottled water for that night and the next. This may have been a mistake as well.

Sunday, March 9th – Briefing, Church, Tarangire NP

At our lovely breakfast we learned we were the only tourist guests. One other couple was there but they were locals who were just there on a get-away weekend. We had our safari briefing right after breakfast and then left 15 minutes after that.

We went to the Greek Orthodox Church in Arusha which is about a ¼ mile from the Arusha Cultural Center tourist trap. We thought the Divine Liturgy began at 10:00am and were upset that somehow we wound up arriving at 10:20am. We were relieved when it turned out the service began at 10:30. The priest (Fr. John, a native Tanzanian) gave an outstanding sermon and greeted us warmly after the service was over. We chatted with him and a couple of parishioners a bit and then we were off. While we had been in church Adam had gotten rid of the small battery and obtained a brand, spanking new full sized car battery.

We stopped at the Cultural Center right after church to pick up some postcards so we could get them written and mailed from Karatu on the way to the NCA. The clerk tried to cheat John out of an extra dollar.

At 2pm we ate our boxed lunches at a pastoral spot off the road en route to Tarangire NP, finally entering the park at 3:20pm. (Great bathrooms here ladies!) Right off the bat we began seeing loads of wildlife – towers of giraffes, parades of elephants, herds of zebra, constellations of starlings... We saw 14 species each of animals and birds by the time we reached camp 3 hours later.

We had begun employing our battery operated fly swatter right after entering the park clearing a path through the tse tse flies and leaving a trail of fried flies in our wake. Our guide loved that fly swatter; we all three used it with gusto. I was soooo grateful that I brought it. It was a last minute packing item that worked out fabulously.

Next up – Thomsons Tarangire Camp and cultural discoveries.
doohickey is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2008, 05:51 PM
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Sunday, March 9th, cont.

The Thomson Tarangire camp was at a Burungi Lake campsite in a lovely location with a view of the lake. Nearly the entire staff turned out to greet us with fresh cold juice and a warm wet cloth upon arrival. This was to be repeated at each Thomson Nyumba camp. Our guide introduced us to the Camp Manager who, in turn, introduced us to his staff. We greeted each one individually. There were 18 tents but John and were the only guests during our two nights there so the whole time we were there it felt like a private camp. A large group had left the morning of our arrival and another was scheduled in the afternoon of our departure. The camp manager briefed us about camp operations and then took us over to a demonstration area and showed us how the toilets and bucket showers worked. Both took a day for me to get used to but they certainly worked fine. It was a bit disconcerting at first to take a shower and later hear someone just on the other side of the shower “wall” ask if you needed more water. Let it now be said that in every camp, we never were in want of additional hot shower water whenever we needed it.

The “sink” consisted of a stainless steel bowl and a nearby covered large jug of water with a ladle. To use the sink one was instructed to ladle in the non-potable water, wash, dump the water in the bucket underneath the vanity, ladle in more water to rinse and dump the water again. This was not what I expected based on the brochures and frankly it was a hassle. It turns out that Thomson’s Serengeti tents are the only really fancy top-of-the-line ones at this time with double glass vessel sinks with drains in the bathroom area.

The tents are lighted with solar lighting which is really more ambient than anything. We had wisely brought extra lighting. John brought a small LED flashlight and I brought my LED Petzl headlamp - both proved invaluable even in searching for something in the depths of our duffels during daylight hours.

Even though Thomson’s tents in Tarangire and Ngorongoro were not as fancy as I expected they were still very nice and very comfy. We very much enjoyed each tent we had during our entire safari – especially the last two

Dinner was at 730p and was very nice and served by a warm and attentive staff. We fell into our comfy king bed shortly after dinner and were sound asleep by 830p but not before clearing a trespassing dung beetle out of our tent. Btw, Thomson sprayed our tent once a day for those dang tse tse flies.

John and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the camp staff and chatting them up. We acted upon the cultural and social cues we read about and observed and made a point of not overwhelming them with our typical American-isms of speaking loud and fast and took care to never rush around. We were asked upon arrival how we wanted to be addressed. We said each of first names but within a day or so we had become Mama Heilman and Mzee Heilman which we both loved. They were titles of dignity and respect. We loved it and took care to never do anything to cause us to lose the honor. Those monikers stuck with us during the entire trip.

Next up – Our first full day game drive. Ah, the glory of God’s creation!
doohickey is offline  
Mar 24th, 2008, 06:46 PM
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10 March, Monday – Tarangire NP. Game drive via Silawe Swamp.

After hearing lions throughout the night (well, John did – I sleep with earplugs we got our wake up call at 615a with coffee per our request and a pitcher of hot water for washing up at the same time. From my previous experience I knew I’d want a shower every afternoon after coming in from the last game drive of the day rather than in the mornings when a good wash-up would be fine. On a hospital stay a few years ago I was introduced to packaged bath wipes manufactured to bathe bedridden people. I had brought two packages of eight with me; in concert with the morning pitcher of hot water they worked out wonderfully for wash-ups in the absence of a shower. This is also how I side-stepped messing with that dang stainless steel bowl for a sink.

I had brought my duffle, a large sturdy Columbia backpack and a smaller, inexpensive but sturdy Coleman backpack. The latter was intended for use in the Landy as I thought the large backpack would be overkill. Well, I learned after 1 ½ days of safari that the smaller backpack was too small for my purposes and therefore useless to me. I determined to give it away before leaving Tarangire. It wound up with Adam for his library of books which he’d previously been carrying around in a deteriorating cardboard box. We were pleased throughout our trip to see it get used so well.

We did not see any cats this day but John spotted something in the water during a river crossing. We hung around there watching for whatever it was he saw and passed the time observing a hammerkop. It was intently looking in the water for food and completely ignoring us even though we practically right on top of him. We were also admiring a spectacularly beautiful African pygmy kingfisher perched on a branch when lo and behold, a monitor lizard came up fully out of water. This is what John had seen! The lizard sat there glistening in the sunlight for us, massively long tongue flickering and eventually snapping up something to eat – we couldn’t see what it was because it happened so freakin’ fast. So cool!

Later Adam spied a group of oryx. He hadn’t seen any of these shy creatures in over a year. Near the Silawe swamp we came upon something that looked like dead green birds in the middle of the red dirt road. It turned out to be a couple of European bee eaters warming their splayed iridescent green wings in the sun. It was so odd looking yet so graceful and pretty at the same time. John managed to get one picture off before they flew away but we lament that it’s a little out of focus.

We had lunch at the pretty Silawe Swamp lunch site (again, great bathrooms here ladies!) Afterwards we headed back to camp via another route. We came upon a Leopard Tours Land Cruiser stuck in the mud at a river crossing. It was just offloading it’s passengers into another Leopard LC with its own group. They all crowded in together and drove off. The driver of the stuck vehicle was in the process of jacking up the rear end when the LC slipped off and crashed back down into the river. It looked like the rear axel or spring broke when this happened. We hung around and tried to pull the vehicle out but it was seriously stuck; we had to leave after a half-hour of futility, our Landy easily passing the stuck LC.

We saw many baby eles this day, several of which were so young they could easily pass under their mamas, and a giraffe that must not have been more than a month old. Many lions sounded throughout the night on this night as well.

11 March, Tuesday

Arrrgghh! I was struck with traveler’s tummy twice in the night and intestinal pain. Dry toast, a little water and yogurt for breakfast. TD struck twice more before leaving the park. 2 Immodium seemed to stop it but I was exhausted. I finally felt hungry about 15 minutes after leaving the park and ate a granola bar stashed in my backpack. I convinced myself that it was just a passing thing (pun intended ) so I did not take any Cipro.

I was snoozing in the back as we approached Lake Manyara NP but was most rudely awakened by a bee sting on my arm. OMG! I’d passed all of my 55 years without this and boy, now I understand why people scream when they get ‘em! I zapped that bee with my electric flyswatter like there was no tomorrow. By a fluke I had a stick of Afterbite in my backpack as that’s where I had stashed my toiletry bag for our transit to Ngorongoro. I don’t think I have moved so fast in recent years as I did then in ripping it out and applying it. It gave me immediate and total relief. I remain eternally grateful for whoever included Afterbite on their packing list because I brought it that sole recommendation; I had never heard of it before.

We made a stop in Karatu at the shop of woodcarver Charles Bies ( We learned of him from Safarimama on the Fodor’s boards. It was wonderful to meet him. He ethusiastically and professionally told us all about his craft while we were surrounded by his fantastic work. We spent about an hour there dropping a small bundle in the process. Some of it we took with us but the rest he is shipping. He is hooked up with FedEx, DHL and the postal service. We highly recommend him to any travelers as you would be buying direct from a master carver. His work is far above the stuff one finds at the Arusha Cultural Center and the like. His prices are more than fair. One can bargain with him as well but please remember to respect his work and not try to go too low. It would be helpful if you know what the schlock looks like and sells for before you go there because it will give you a true appreciation of his exquisite craft.

While in Karatu we also bought some airmail postcard stamps in a little market in order to send off our postcards. The proprietress asked us if she could ask us a question as she helped us apply the stamps. We cautiously said, “Yes”, not having any idea what was up. She asked if we “accepted” Barak Obama for president. We couldn’t help but enjoy her question and laugh because people had been engaging us about this from the day we arrived! Even driving down the road, children to adults would see the Thomson Safari logo on our Landy and yell, “Barack Obama!” as we passed. And, believe me, everyone – even in the far reaches of the bush – was following the debates and issues. So, we had a lively talk with the proprietress and would continue to discuss Obama all the way through Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam. We had no idea that Obama was so popular in Tanzania. In our discussions we learned that it all has to do with America’s long time financial aid packages to Tanzania and many other African countries. Tanzanians have high hopes that whoever becomes the new president – and they hope it is Obama – will be good for Tanzania, indeed all of Africa, in the continuance of aid and perhaps raising the levels.

We continued on to the NCA gate where, of course, I had to make another potty stop. The ladies bathrooms, while not of the caliber of Tarangire, were acceptable. We stopped at the crater overlook where John got out and admired the jaw-dropping vastness of the crater. As we drove to our camp (Tembo A near Sopa Lodge) the road continued to climb. I periodically called out our elevation as I had brought a watch with altimeter along. It was always fun to see what elevation we were at in many places throughout our safari. Adam got a kick out of it.

We got to camp in time for lunch and met the staff including its Maasai guard. I chose to stay at camp to sleep and recover my strength while the men went into the crater for a late afternoon drive. Our camp was just a 15 minute easy drive to the crater floor. I missed an amorous encounter between two rhinos in the crater. Lover Boy was rebuffed despite his foreplay efforts. Later, as he was crossing a road in front of John and Adam, Lover Boy did a mock charge on our Landy which was real enough to make Adam throw it in reverse and quickly back away. Adam and John thought he was just frustrated ‘cause he didn’t get a little nookie

We shared camp this time with a party of 4 who just finished climbing Kilimanjaro. They were fairly quiet when they arrived in the afternoon because they were pretty tired and so their arrival did not awaken me. My first indication that others were there was a man loudly talking to someone on his cell phone just outside my tent. Then, later in the afternoon, one of the women from the group went into the dining tent and demandingly asked in a fairly insulting and condescending tone why she couldn’t get a decent bottle of red. Geesh! I heard that even though our tent was 50 yards away! Of course my immediate thought was, with that kind of attitude and demand, she shoulda booked the Crater Lodge across the way! Well, perhaps she was testy because she was overtired. Not!

Next up – Mating lions (oh, my!), ballerina hippos, loser jackals, tumbling lion cubs and more rude breaches of safari etiquette.
doohickey is offline  
Mar 24th, 2008, 08:36 PM
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Hi doohickey, I confess I thought this report was from 2007. Now I'm just catching up and so far, so good. Well, except you appear to have had a few bumps the first couple of days. Bee stings, traveler's diarrhea, bratty campmates. Luckily it doesn't sound like any of this dampened your enthusiasm.

Thanks for reporting back so soon. Looking forward to more.
Leely is offline  
Mar 24th, 2008, 09:03 PM
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Judith, Thanks for posting this; I'm enjoying every word. I've traveled with Thomson and found them to be great.

I'm so pleased that you had a chance to visit Charles, the woodcarver in Karatu and that you found his work to be great, as I did.

What is a battery operated fly-swatter? Is it light weight? Where do you get it? Tse-tse flies really bother me and gives me huge welts that itch for days. This sounds like the answer.

Keep it coming,
safarimama is offline  
Mar 25th, 2008, 05:26 AM
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Hi Doohickey,
I'm loving your report, can't wait for more. I traveled with Thomson's 2 years ago and am enjoying reliving the memories thru your report.
Did you by any chance meet Willie or Leonard (Thomson guides) along the way?
countingdown is offline  
Mar 25th, 2008, 05:59 AM
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Great report. Between the electric flyswatter and the bee attack, your trip was insect intensive.

Nice itinerary and Happy Anniversary. You write so young at heart and that's a compliment. My clue to your age was the number of years you evaded a bee sting. At least your first one was memorable.

I'd like to bust the bottle of red wine over the Red Whiner.

Looking forward to mating lions, etc.
atravelynn is offline  
Mar 25th, 2008, 06:38 AM
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Thanks every body for your encouraging feedback! I'll post more as soon as I can.

Safarimama - Yes, Charles Bies was great. He stressed to us that purchases can be made from the States through his website (even custom carving orders) and he would ship them. The payment can be wired to his account.

The electric fly swatter looks like a badminton racquet on steriods. It's fairly lightweight; the batteries probably weigh more than the racquet. It's handle contains two D batteries. I put fresh ones in before our trip and took a spare set with us just in case. We never had to use the spares. I borrowed the swatter from a colleague but now I've got to buy her a new one. As you can guess, it was so fantastic and our guide loved it so much that we left it with him when we said our goodbyes. Boy, was he excited

I'm not sure where my colleague got her swatter but here is a link to the exact model we had:
If you do a google on "electric fly swatter" you'll find lots of choices.

Countingdown - Unfortunately, we did not meet Willie or Leonard. I would have loved to though as I've "heard" lots about them on the boards.

- doo

doohickey is offline  
Mar 25th, 2008, 07:22 AM
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Wednesday, March 12

We got a 530a wake up call so we could set out early in hopes of catching some predation action. After a quick stick-to-the-ribs breakfast for John and Adam we set out for the crater.

We never spotted any cats in the morning despite some serious searching. We continued our search after a quick pit stop for guess-who at the edge of the forest (3 stalls in the ladies room – 2 porcelain pit and 1 western one missing the seat and lid.) Thankfully it was early enough that the toilets were deserted. Eventually we were pleased to watch troops of playing and grooming baboons, lots of skulking hyena, a few shy bat-eared foxes and hippos doing horizontal pirrouettes by repeatedly rolling over in a pool doing complete 360s. We also saw a mama impala successfully chasing a black backed jackal away from her baby by repeatedly charging it. Later we come upon a golden jackal trying unsuccessfully to nab a flamingo from a huge stand at the edge of a lake. Poor jackals; they were not having a good day.

We waited out a morning rain shower by a waterhole. Adam seized that opportunity to pull out maps of the NCA and the crater to educate us further about our travels. Since we were pulled over, a Land Cruiser came by to see if we were looking at some choice wildlife (No, just looking at a map, folks!) Adam waved him off but the Cruiser couldn’t get a grip on the slick mud. It started sliding and came to within a foot of bashing us broadside. John and I were yelling, “Look out!” and Adam fired up our Landy and backed away really fast while the LC’s driver tried to gain control. It finally got out of there but shortly afterward another Cruiser came in and had real difficulty getting out again. Not wanting to attract more trouble, we scooted out of there.

We went back to camp for lunch and a bit of afternoon rest. John and I got to meet Joyce the chef and her assistant, another woman in the camp kitchen. These were apparently the only women Thomson employed in the field. We were amazed to see the completely wood fired operation that produces such delightful meals. No Viking ranges or Sub-Zero fridges here folks!

Still troubled by TD despite repeated doses of Immodium I swore off Malarone and, with hope and a prayer, went on a 3pm game drive. We immediately spotted a line of safari vehicles and, driving by, saw a lion and lioness totally sacked out at the edge of the road. This was a mating pair. We hung around hoping for some action but eventually left after 10-15 minutes of nothing. We decided to come back around later. 200 yards down the road we saw a lioness sleeping in some light brush. Figuring there were probably more around we repositioned the Landy on the other side of a creek where we could still see her but also look for more. I spotted a lioness and at least one playful cub in some heavy brush. They were really difficult to see but they were most definitely there. As we were looking at them through our binos a stretch CC Africa/Ngorongoro Crater Lodge Land Cruiser with 3 occupants drove up between us and the shrubbery we were looking at and completely blocked our view. Unbelievable! John and I couldn’t help but make loud protestations but the driver of the LC looked at us, gave a big grin, and stayed right where he was for at least 5 minutes so its 3 occupants could look at the lone lioness across the way. The irony is that they never saw the mama and cubs. This blatant rudeness still shocks me as I write this almost two weeks later.

Well, the mama and cubs looked like they were gonna be there a while so we left and came back about an hour later. The mating lions were still sacked out down the road. The lone lioness was in the same place and the mama and three cubs were still in the brush. We were the only ones there as all the other vehicles were still down the road waiting for the mating pair to hop to it. We truly didn’t think anyone else realized the treasure in the brush except for us. Well, in short order mama sauntered out of the bushes towards what we think was her sister. We quickly re-positioned in time to see the three cubs come tumbling out the brush behind her. They began playing with auntie’s waving tail and pouncing around. They were only about 2 months old and so stinkin’ cute! They were very playful and affectionate with both lionesses. Eventually mama turned onto her back to allow nursing. This was so cool!

Eventually the auntie got up and moved to the edge of the road to lounge and watch the movements of some distant zebra. We were in a great position to watch it all while I still kept my eye out for some action from the still sleeping mating pair. Another CC Africa/NC Lodge vehicle came up and positioned itself so that its lone occupant could video the lioness. That darned vehicle cast the lioness in complete shadow while John was taking pictures of her! Again we were stunned at this breach of safari etiquette and made protestations as loud as we dared given our close proximity to a killer beast.

The vehicle moved on when the client was satisfied with her film (gee, perhaps her images are too dim because of the darkness of the shadow her vehicle cast!) We were left with just our vehicle at the lionesses and cubs while two vehicles down the road waited for some X-rated action. Well, lo and behold, the lion stood up, the lioness stood as well and next thing ya know, they’re doing the dirty! We were far enough away so that I couldn’t hear it but I could fer shure see it in living color through my binos We got there within a minute of it being over. By that time the lion was comically sacked our on his back with his legs spread wide and the lioness was asleep again, too. What a hoot. The other two vehicles had left. But as we sat there for a few minutes another huge lion came sauntering out of some brush next to the road about 50 yards ahead of us. He crossed the road right in front of us and just stood there looking at us in a regal and majestic pose. This was really funny to me. That lion had been in the brush the whole time while everyone in all those safari vehicles had had their backs to him waiting for some hot sex to happen on the other side of the road. John snagged a great picture of him just after he laid down in the grass with the setting sun lighting up his eyes. Then we booked outta there making it through the gate at exactly 6pm.

Next up – Tea & Pole, thank goodness for Cipro and living like a Bedouin queen on the Serengeti Plain.
doohickey is offline  
Mar 25th, 2008, 06:23 PM
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Glad you saw the lion and cubs. Unbelievable rudeness by the other driver.
atravelynn is offline  
Mar 25th, 2008, 06:30 PM
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Agree with Lynn: rude driver. Tut tut.

Sorry to hear you still weren't feeling well. Can't wait to read about Tea and Pole.
Leely is offline  
Mar 25th, 2008, 07:24 PM
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Posts: 271
I appreciate the responses to my in-progress trip report. It gives me encouragement to keep plugging away so - asante sana!

Thursday, March 13

Today, like most days at our Ngorongoro tented camp, we woke up to rain for breakfast. It rained with thunder and lightning 2-3 times a day while we were there. And it is indeed comparitively chilly on the rim. But we came back to our tent after dinner to always find hot water bottles in our bed. We kept them at our feet and stayed snug and warm all night. I also slept with my Smartwool beanie liner on my head, too, to keep the heat in my body. Mmmm, it was all good

I awakened in the middle of that night and decided that I was in denial about my TD. I was being foolish to think of abandoning my Malarone without giving Cipro a try first. Duh! So I took both right then and there and went back to bed. I felt fine in the morning and had spot of tea, dry toast and a bit of yogurt for breakfast. However, at a fuel stop at Crater headquarters I was struck with another bout of TD in some crummy porcelain pit bathrooms. Oh, it was a miserable time! After taking another Imodium, a second Cipro, getting a hug from John and accepting a “Pole” from Adam (the Swahili expression of sympathy) we set off for the Serengeti via Naabi Hill.

The drive was dusty and bumpy and, yes, I was feeling blue after that horrible pit stop. But that second Cipro dosage and the ones following stopped the TD. Hooray! I had been scrupulous about hygeine even to the point of gentle ridicule from DH. And John and I had consumed virtually the same things during the entire trip. My guess is that I’d gotten the TD from brushing my teeth with the tap water at Ngare Sero Lodge or inhaling the tap-water-supplied humidified air from my CPAP that first couple of nights. It had to have been one or the other or a combination.

We arrived at the Rongi 4 campsite where Thomson has its Migration Camp set up at this time of year. It’s located in the central Serengeti in a lovely setting. They call it Elmakati. In May this camp will be set up in the northern Serengeti near the Kenyan border.

Now _these_ were the tents I had been expecting! These tents were a bit larger than the first two we were in. They had room for 2 corner bookshelves in addition to the standard camp chairs. The shower had a caddy and double towel rod unlike the other two. The vanity held double vessel sinks made of pretty amber glass with blue trim and matching glass pitchers and water glasses. The sinks drained outside the tents and had stoppers. A large mirror was mounted between the sinks and there was a wastebasket under the sinks as well as in the toilet area.

The tents were of a beautiful and gracious design both inside and out that seemed like a cross between something medieval and Bedouin. The tents have arched netted “windows” and “doors” on three sides of the bedroom area with floor length drapes on the inside that one can pull shut for privacy. The décor is very nice and tasteful with Swahili flair. The floor is heavy tarp material (part of the tent) covered by a nice sisal mat. Therefore the floor can be a bit uneven in places which threw us off from time to time. I really, really liked these tents and felt very at home and comfortable in them, even pampered.

I should point out the things that the Thomson tented camps provide for their guests (based on our personal experience) that are not necessarily written about in their brochure:

• Endless litres of bottled water
• Endless supply of hot shower water
• Bars of soap though no shampoo nor hair conditioner
• Washcloths, hand towels and bath towels
• Our king bed always had 4 pillows, top sheet, comforter and another thinner layer. No headboard made sitting up in bed to read an uncomfortable proposition. But this was moot for us because we were always falling into bed exhausted and ready to turn out the light at 830 every night!
• Coffee with your wake up call (upon request only)
• Mandatory hand washing (at a hand washing station) before every meal. I thought this a smart move of Thomson. They are scrupulous about cleanliness in food prepartion and service. Making sure clients clean their hands with warm soapy water followed by a warm rinse helps ensure no spread of germs. I thought it also a subtle community-building exercise whether Thomson intended to or not.

Joining John and me at this camp was a group of 8 adults on a family reunion. It looked and sounded like they were having a great time together. Only problem was that this dynamic group of 8 easily overwhelmed our party of 2. I had a hard time coping with this only because they were often loud and calling out to one another across distances that really should have been walked rather than yelled across. They even called out to one another across me a couple of times effectively yelling in my ear and making me jump. Much to his credit, this group did not bother John at all. However, I had come for serenity and to enjoy the sounds of silence and nature. Because of that I had to really work at not fuming about their loudness (mostly one person in particular) as it served no purpose but to yank me out of my happy place. I must admit that I failed miserably sometimes at not getting angry. Believe me, this was not a state I was pleased to be in and certainly, my happiness made no difference to them one way or another. Sigh. Well, I’ve digressed long enough on a situation that I hope no one else ever finds themselves mired in.

Next up – Slip slidin’ away, a wildie spared, and Mzee & Mama get feted.
doohickey is offline  
Mar 25th, 2008, 08:47 PM
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 641
Thanks for all this wonderful information and also bringing back lots of fond memories. Willie was our guide and in February 2006, we were one of the first to be in those new tents. Now everyone else has imitated them, I think.
Anyway, you are so full of new information for me. I have ordered two Electric Fly Swatters from, which is where your link took me. They are on sale for $9.95 right now plus shipping. I'm also going to look for a tube of Afterbite creme in case of a sting. I hope it works for tse-tse fly bites also. I never used to have any reaction at all and then last November - these horrible welts that itched like crazy for days appeared out of nowhere, it seemed. I thought at first they were spider bites. I was bitten the worst at Kirawira inside my netting at night ... of all places!!! The price is worth paying though, if it comes down to that.

I checked out Charles' website. NICE! This is new. He's come a long way. My Maasai head is the one for $220. It's gorgeous!

Keep this report coming! You're keeping me in stitches,
kwaheri sasa,

safarimama is offline  
Mar 26th, 2008, 07:01 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 271
Kristina, your feedback is great! Thanks! Yeah, I’m gonna order a couple of those fly swatters, too. One to replace the one my colleague loaned me that I left in country and another for me

More information about Afterbite can be found at this link:

I took the Afterbite Original with me. It is a liquid that comes in stick pen form. But Kristina I think you should consider the Xtra version because it sounds like you’re really tortured when you get bitten.

doohickey is offline  
Mar 26th, 2008, 02:48 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 271
Friday, March 14

When we awoke this morning John proposed an African safari as a present for our 15th Anniversary. Pretty funny guy, eh?

As planned at dinner the previous night, we determined to hunt down the migration today. The weather was clear in the morning though it had rained heavily at times the day before and during the night. In fact we had rain showers every day while we were on safari indicating how hard upon the rainy season we were. None of this rain dampened our spirits. Most of it sank into the ground pretty fast and we were actually happy that it cut down on the dust.

Within a couple of minutes of driving out of camp we were amidst many giraffe, buffalo, zebra and warthogs. A bit farther away we saw hippos grazing and got a full-on tutorial from our guide about their behavior, weight, enemies, etc. He also pointed out their tracks to us. Our first couple of days with Adam he didn’t go into detail about any of the fauna and birds we were seeing. But we talked with him about how we like to know the full scoop and, boy, did he become a font of knowledge. It turned out the guy was a walking encyclopedia.

We stopped to admire the beauty of the Moru Kopjes. Then we continued south for a long time through some seriously slippery mud and deep puddles and by 10am began to encounter the fringes of the migration by seeing a huge, and I mean huge, herd of zebra. We continued over hill and through slippery dale never seeing any other vehicles and driving parallel along the park boundary with the Maswa Game Reserve towards Kusini determined to find the migration. Adam was doing some great driving and our Landy was handling the conditons beautifully. And our electric fly swatter was wreaking some serious havoc to the local tse tse fly population, too

Finally, at about 1230p near Kusini airstrip, we entered a vast break-off pack of the migration that went on for miles. We drove on a diagonal towards Ndutu, the pack stretching for 20km along that diagonal. Adam estimated it might have been 40pct of the migration. Had it been the main migration I don’t think we would have been able to see the ground. Adam was sure the main part was in the Maswa Reserve which, of course, we could not enter.

Anyhoo, we stopped a few times during our drive through the migration to look at it in awe as it stretched from horizon to horizon. We enjoyed it all - the mighty dung beetles pushing a softball size ball of dung around, the galavanting baby wildies, the mud-wallowing hyenas… Suddenly I saw a wildie running pell mell off in the distance with a tawny streak racing after it. I excitedly reached for my binos and, just like that, lost sight of them! No tawny streak, no wildie racing for its life. It had happened so fast that Adam and John missed it. But Adam noticed that a large group of wildies were standing in stark attention looking at something. We booked over there and found a lioness laying in the shade of some brush panting heavily, trying to catch her breath. She was totally spent; the wildie had escaped her clutches.

After a bit we left the hungry lioness to recoup in peace and eventually exited the migration near Ndutu Lodge. We were so happy that the sun had shone while we were amidst the migration because shortly after passing Ndutu Lodge it began to pour buckets of rain. We worked our way back to camp via Naabi Hill and relaxed for a while before dinner.

Dinner at Thomson camps is always a nice affair…tablecloths, cloth napkins, candles…and the menu, including desert, annouced by an earnest staff member. This evening, desert was “tea and coffee”. But the sweet guy couldn’t keep a secret; he came to me and whispered that something special was to be served for desert

Dinner was fabulous as usual. The waiters bring around a dish each, tell you what they are offering and serve you up however much you’d like. Then they come around again asking if you’d like seconds. Oh my, gosh - it would be so stinkin’ easy to gain a lot of weight on a Thomson safari! It’s not exactly like you can just step out your tent and go take a 10 mile run whenever you’d like.

Adam slipped away from our table ostensibly to go find a staff member to get a question of ours answered. A few minutes later we heard singing and instruments and, the next thing you know, we were encircled by the entire staff – including Adam - in humorous costumes, playing improvised musical instruments and singing “Jambo Bwana” to us. John and I loved it! And I was crying from laughing so hard! The group of 8 enjoyed it, too, as the dancing troup circled around their table as well before coming back to us. I couldn’t help but jump up and start dancing with the leader, our camp manager, Ali. I have absolutely no rythym and probably looked like a complete dork but I enjoyed myself thoroughly and the staff thought it great fun.

Then an iced layer cake with several lit candles was brought to our tables. Written in script was “Happy Anniversary Mzee & Mama Heilman”. I was sooo touched. Happily, I had my camera with me because Adam had gotten me to bring it to dinner by a ruse. I snapped a picture of the cake before cutting the first piece and had taken pictures of the troupe while the singing and dancing was in progress. Unfortunately, most of the pix came out badly aimed or with my finger in them because I was laughing too hard while taking them to concentrate properly on composition. It was a lovely, lovely fete that will forever remain very special to me.

Next up –Rovers v. Cruisers, Thomson’s flagship, and birding bonhomie.
doohickey is offline  
Mar 26th, 2008, 07:17 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
What a lovely anniversary surprise. Good spot on the lion chasing the wildebeest. In your previous installment I forgot to mention the abundance of fascinating jackal activity.

atravelynn is offline  
Mar 26th, 2008, 10:42 PM
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 67
VERY nice thing goimg....keep it up. I want to be back there, bad...
davgai1 is offline  
Mar 27th, 2008, 09:36 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,987
I'm thoroughly enjoying your trip! Nice to hear more about Thomson. Congrats on your anniversary and looking forward to more.
Patty is offline  

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