East Africa Trip Report

Old Feb 3rd, 2009, 04:35 PM
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East Africa Trip Report

This is a little late but I wanted to post a brief trip report. I found this site to be so useful. I asked many questions and everyone was so helpful and supportive. We (me, my wife and our 17 year old son) traveled to Kenya and Tanzania Jul 11- Jul 25, 2008. We booked through Good Earth. Narry was extremely helpful. They used SafariLine in Kenya and Good Earth guided us in Tanzania. I highly recommend both companies. We planned the trip about a year in advance. Bottom line, the trip was wonderful and we canít wait to return. All the worries about what to wear, what to pack, how do you do laundry, how much do you tip, etc. all disappeared as soon as we landed and we had a magical time. Everyone we met was extremely nice. We have traveled quite a bit but nothing compares to an African safari. You can see our video and photos at http://bodem.smugmug.com/. This is a bit long and I apologize if itís boring but I decided to share my dairy with anyone interested.

Days 1-2 Nairobi
After a long trip Boston to Heathrow to Nairobi and a very slow immigration line at Kenyatta airport, we were met by SafariLine and taken to the Norfolk Hotel. Even though we had been assured that the construction would be complete, the hotel was still being renovated. Still our room was very nice and we enjoyed it nonetheless. We visited Sheldricks Elephant Orphanage. The baby elephants were very entertaining. We sponsor four elephants. What a treat to see them again on 60 Minutes last Sunday. We also visited the giraffe center. Ate dinner at Haandi Indian restaurant. Excellent food. Otherwise we didnít do much in Nairobi other than try to get over jet lag.

Day 3
Early morning flight from Wilson airport to Samburu. As soon as the plane lands at the airstrip, I can really tell I am in Africa. We were met by our guide Peter who we truly appreciated. He is extremely nice and very knowledgeable. We had a short game drive where we saw weaver nests hanging from trees like Christmas ornaments. We also saw dik-diks, waterbucks, gazelles and elephants. All this on the way to our camp. We were already hooked. Our vehicle was brand new and spotless. We stayed at Larsens Tented Camp. What a great way to start the strip. Larsens is a wonderful place. Our tent was large , comfortable and well appointed. The tiled bathroom rivaled many nice hotels. The food was excellent and the staff and service were very attentive. Unfortunately, many people had cancelled Kenya trips due to the unrest earlier in the year. There were only a few other guests. This is a shame because tourist areas were not really affected and the Kenyans are so nice. The innocent were being punished in this case. However, no one complained. We had to ask to find out what they thought. After lunch we did another game drive. This time we saw a female Cheetah and her two cubs enjoying the motherís fresh impala kill.

Day 4
6AM wake up, 2 coffees, hot chocolate and some cookies. Now I know why our waiter Henry asked us what time we wanted to awake at dinner last night. Morning game drive, saw gerenuk, grevy zebras and a lion with two cubs. I am amazed how close we were able to get to the animals and just watch them go about their lives. We then went to a Samburu village. Samburu are cousins to the Masai. They had not had many visitors lately so we really felt welcomed. We enjoyed the dancing, singing, jumping up and down as well as visiting their nursery school which was in session. We, of course, bought jewelry and trinkets that they make there. It did not feel like a tourist trap at all. On the afternoon game drive we saw giraffes and an enormous elephant. Wow, what a magnificent creature.

Day 5
Drove up to Sweetwaters in Nanyuki at the equator. Some of the roads are quite rough but overall not a bad drive, In fact, I enjoyed seeing the countryside from ground level. We saw a brief demonstration of water swirling down a bucket with a hole in the bottom 100 meters north of the equator (clockwise swirl) and 100 meters south of the equator (counter-clockwise swirl). Sweetwaters is nice but nothing like Larsens. They have a large watering hole/pond so many animals are attracted to it. We also saw Morani the tame rhino. Took a night game drive. We followed a pack of lions as they stalked their prey. Some lions went around in front the prey and the others basically drove the prey into them.

Day 6
Our guide Peter drove us to the airstrip for our flight to Mara. We really liked him. He seemed to know what we wanted and really accommodated us. We landed at Mara and we met by the Governors Camp. Governors is quite nice. We enjoyed an afternoon game drive seeing many lions including a couple mating. We also saw a croc eating a zebra. The have rangers patrolling the grounds to keep animals away or maybe to keep us away from the animals. I should note that at all the camps, there is no wandering around at night. You wave a flashlight and someone will come and escort you to dinner, etc. I heard Hippos munching the grass outside my tent one night. There were hot water bottles in our beds at night Ė a nice treat.

Day 7
Early morning wake up for hot air balloon ride over the Masai Mara. This was a real treat. I really enjoyed gliding over at treetop level. Although the balloon is usually silent, the hot air generator engine (whatever itís really called) is extremely loud so we had bursts of loud noise followed by lone periods of silence. A strange juxtaposition. We landed sideways. After crawling out we enjoyed a nice champagne brunch in the middle of the Mara. Very cool.

Day 8
Morning game drive and then off to the airstrip. We fly to Arusha and were met by our guide Paul. Again our vehicle was new and very clean. Drove to Lake Manyara. Lovely park and we saw hundreds of thousands of pink flamingos in the lake. A very spectacular scene. We stayed at the Lake Manyara Lodge. When we arrived we were greeted to applause by the staff, given hot towels, and tamarind juice. Unbelievable. The rooms was beautiful. Each room is a separate cabin up on stilts. Beautifully decorated with a lovely bathroom and a private outdoor shower. The food is fantastic. So now I see what is so special about CC Africa properties.

Day 9
So this is way longer than I though it would be so I will only discuss highlights. No need to repeat. Needless to say the game drives were all interesting and everyone was different. Early breakfast and a morning game drive then we drove to Ngorongoro crater. Quite an interesting place. The crater is flat with an alkaline lake in the middle. Many animals were seen. Technically it is a caldera but calling it a crater will do fine. We stayed at another CC Africa property, the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. This is also a spectacular place where each room is a separate cabin. The architecture is quite unique. One guide book called it Lord of the Rings meets Versailles. We had a great view looking out over the crater. I would liked to have stayed an extra day both here and at the Lake Manyara lodge. Maybe next time.

Day 10
Visited Olduvai Gorge where Leakey found early hominids. Not that much to see but quite interesting nonetheless especially the small museum. We had a game drive through north central Serengeti to the Mbuzi Mawe Lodge located on Kopjes (small rocky hills). The vegetation noticeably changed as we entered endless plains. They do controlled burning of the short grass. We didnít see any fires but we did see large charred sections of ground. I trust they know what they are doing. The tents are quite nice but overall this place is nothing special. As always, the staff was very friendly. Like Sweetwaters, this is Serena owned property. One very nice touch was a very spirited dance show in the evening.

Day 11
Wow for the first time we slept in late with no wake up call. We spent time talking to other visitors. We met a family that was volunteering by bringing bicycles to small villages. I really admire them. Our next game drive was exciting because we heard there was a leopard near by. We found the leopard up in a tree and spent about 90 minutes watching and photographing this beautiful, magnificent animal. There was a pack of lions about 100 yards from the leopard. They were very aware of each other. I donít think they attack each other but they do prey on the same animals so they are not friends. Arrived at Migration camp in early afternoon. Very nice patio overlooking the Grumeti River, Baboons were everywhere, hippos grunting in the river and wart hogs roamed the property. This is really cool. The tent is very nice and the food was excellent.

Day 12
Early wake up call and we head up further north of the Serengeti looking for the migration. We did indeed see about a million wildebeest . They would blanket a hill and then form a line at the bottom as they march toward Kenya. We had a picnic lunch in the middle of the migration surrounded by wildebeest who gave us a wide berth and they pass around us. What a treat. We saw the Serengeti change from plains to trees. We saw any hippos and large herds of elephants.

Day 13

Last game drive. We traveled along the Grumeti River watching zebras and wildebeests. Suddenly the wildbeests were frantically running and out of nowhere we saw a cheetah sprinting into to herd and take down a wildebeest which is much larger than the cheetah. The mother cheetah watched over the kill, breathing hard, cooling off as her cubs enjoyed their meal. She joined them after a while. Back at camp we watched hippos lounging next to the river then the elephants show up and all the hippos leave. Nobody messes with the elephants.

Day 14

Early rise for our long trip home. We had a very brief game drive and arrive at the airstrip. We fly to Arusha where we had a long layover. We were met by Good Earth and taken into town for some sightseeing and shopping. The Cultural village is a very nice place to shop as they have a shipping facility on sight. We fly to Nairobi, rest and shower in our day room then it is off to the obligatory dinner at Carnivores. We had a lot of fun there then on to the airport. Overnight flight to Heathrow. We slept the whole way.

Day 15
Heathrow to Boston. Arrive home tired but with the memories of an amazing vacation and already looking forward to returning. I loved all the animals but to my surprise my favorite is the elephant. There is nothing like seeing them in their world. They are fascinating to watch. They are intelligent and majestic with different personalities. The babies are very cute (although lions cubs are cute, too). To anyone planning a trip, I suggest you take advantage of the Fodorites here as they are immensely knowledgeable and helpful. Once you make your plans, just enjoy the trip. Youíll meet the nicest people both locals and fellow travelers. Oh, as many people have said, your trip will probably not be the trip of your lifetime because youíll be back. I know we will.
lbodem is offline  
Old Feb 4th, 2009, 08:36 AM
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sounds like you had a fantastic trip! thanks for the report.
aknards is offline  
Old Feb 4th, 2009, 09:34 AM
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Video was way to short!! Nicely done. Thanks for sharing.
rsnyder is offline  
Old Feb 4th, 2009, 11:29 AM
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Thanks for the interesting report.
Jed is offline  
Old Feb 4th, 2009, 03:26 PM
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Glad you had a good trip - certainly reflected in your photos! Your report is not at all boring, I love to hear all the details, it helps to plan possible itineraries for the future. Doesn't sound like it could have gone any better - the picnic lunch in the middle of the migration surrounded by wildebeest sounds fantastic.

How come Morani the rhino was so tame ... had he been brought up there in captivity? Elephants are my favourites too, could watch them for hours. I'm sure you will indeed be back, have you ever heard anyone say otherwise??

tockoloshe is offline  
Old Feb 4th, 2009, 04:34 PM
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You had a great trip with lots of variety and some lucky cat sightings on kills. Nice contrast in the properties.

You commented that lions and leopards don't attack each other. Lions will kill leopards for the reason you mentioned. They eat the same prey. Having lions and leopard within the same view is quite lucky if you are a visitor and could be tense if you were the leopard.

"We have traveled quite a bit but nothing compares to an African safari." A quote worth noting and you're right!
atravelynn is offline  
Old Feb 4th, 2009, 04:42 PM
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That might be the best marabou stork photo I've seen and the warthog looks better than some portraits I've seen.

You caught the gerenuk on its hindlegs browsing! Many cat pictures. A wonderful family trip and the family photo with the rhino should be you Christmas card.
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Old Feb 6th, 2009, 03:39 PM
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Thanks for the kind remarks. Our "real" video is about twice a long but we had to make it less than 10 minutes to post it on the site we use.

I am glad that others love the elephants as much as I do. I can't wait to see them again - especially the baby elephants. They make me smile and laugh.

Morani was orphaned when he was young. I assume his mother was killed by poachers so he is now quite tame. It is a thrill to touch him and feed him. BTW, our picture with Morani was in fact our Christmas card.
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