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Finally - My Trip Report - Tanzania & Kenya - May/June '05

Finally - My Trip Report - Tanzania & Kenya - May/June '05

Jul 12th, 2005, 01:48 PM
Posts: n/a
Finally - My Trip Report - Tanzania & Kenya - May/June '05

Hi Friends -

Finally, the Trip Report - it'll be in sections, so please bear with me.

The itinerary was:

Tanzania and Kenya – 2005

Thu, May 26 Lv. New York (JFK)
Fri, May 27 Arv. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (JRO)
- Ngurduto Lodge

Sat, May 28 Fly to Western Serengeti – Kirawira
Sun, May 29 Western Serengeti – Kirawira
Mon, May 30 Western Serengeti – Kirawira

Tue, May 31 Fly (via Arusha) to Zanzibar – Karafuu
Wed, Jun 1 Zanzibar – Karafuu
Thu, Jun 2 Stone Town, Zanzibar – Emerson & Green

Fri, Jun 3 Fly to Nairobi, Kenya - Intercontinental

Sat, Jun 4 Fly to Nanyuki, then Laikipia - Sabuk
Sun, Jun 5 Laikipia – Loisaba – Starbeds
Mon, Jun 6 Laikipia – Loisaba – Starbeds

Tue, Jun 7 Fly (via Nanyuki) to Masai Mara
- Cottars 1920s
Wed, Jun 8 Masai Mara – Cottars 1920s
Thu, Jun 9 Masai Mara – Elephant Pepper Camp
Fri, Jun 10 Masai Mara – Saruni Camp

Sat, Jun 11 Fly to NBO
Lv. NBO (via AMS)
Sun, Jun 12 Arv. New York (ERW)

Another year, another adventure. And what an adventure.

While earlier this year, I had planned this trip for both Henry and me… life happens, as does death. Just as I was getting prices for another trip to Africa – this time, East Africa – including Tanzania, which Henry hadn’t yet visited and some return time in Kenya – Henry passed.

Life takes a turn and things were hectic for all concerned. Once the necessary formalities of death were over, I made the decision to continue with these plans and asked Eileen if she’d like to join me. Eileen and I had traveled together to Egypt/Jordan and Southeast Asia… Thailand, Cambodia & Myanmar (Burma). She hadn’t been to Africa and had recently shown interest in doing so. So plans went forward.

The initial idea though wasn’t really mine. Susan had mentioned that Michael had surprised her with a ticket to Africa as a Christmas present. When telling me this, my mind starting contemplating “why not” – so why not? I wanted to visit the Southern route of Tanzania – Selous and Ruaha, Zanzibar and the Western Serengeti, hoping to get in on part of the Migration which often occurs here in late-May / June. And these were places Henry hadn’t seen on our previous trip to East Africa. I also wanted to experience the ranches in the Laikipia area which would have been new for both of us.

And with Susan having additional days in June, after Michael would return home from their Tanzania time, we figured she could then meet up with me in Kenya for time in the Masai Mara. In this instance, I would have told Henry he’d be heading home after our time in Laikipia, not join me in the Mara… he had previously been. It would be “just us girls.”.

The itinerary came together with flew glitches… in fact none. Without Henry whose schedule was open to whatever amount of time we would need… not so with Eileen. She didn’t have the liberty of three-full weeks. With the Selous and Ruaha still being closed at end-May (still the wet season)… Tanzania would be the Western Serengeti only and then off to Zanzibar, including a day in Stone Town. In Kenya, all the places in Laikipia were available, as were the camps in the Mara.

The only major difference from my other trips which were combine drive/fly – this time we’d be flying between major destinations. Even with flights, there would be plenty of road travel… I just wanted to reduce the amount of time on the roads, if not necessary. In total, we had seven (7) scheduled flights and two (2) charter flights. Interesting that the cost of all these flights amounted to more then our International air and on that we got a good price of $1,200 each.

So, here goes.

Day 1 - Thursday, May 26, 2005
Day 2 – Friday, May 27, 2005

Like old friends… again, the KLM flight to AMS, which I’ve taken often on previous trips to East Africa. This time, however, we’re flying into Tanzania first – to Kilimanjaro (JRO). Departing at 6:10pm (KL#642) we overnight into AMS arriving early the next morning 6:30am. Our layover is short as layovers go. At 9:45 we start boarding for our 10:30am continuing flight (KL#569) which got us into Kilimanjaro at 8:00pm.

Our flight out of JFK was on a Boeing 777 with a 3-3-3 configuration. We get two aisle seats (C&D) in the same row… no climbing over anyone and hopefully, no one climbing over us. The ongoing flight out of AMS was a Boeing 767 with 2-3-2 seating. Here we sat in A&B.

Between the two of us, we manage sleep on both legs of the trip. A vodka or two and a few pills do wonders for the sleep process. Surprisingly, the flights seemed rather quick… probably our anxiety to get to Africa. It’s the feeling one gets on the return, not wanting to go home, that makes that flight seem so much longer… and it’s not.

On arrival at JRO, we obtain our Visas on site. With application in hand, USD$50, we’re processed rather quickly… maybe 7-minutes, then out to baggage claim. Our driver is waiting outside – Adam, who whisks us off to the Ngurduto Lodge for our first night.

The Ngurduto Lodge is a few years old; the same owners as the Impala Hotel of Arusha. The lodge is on the outskirts of Arusha – a country club environment with golf course, large pool and conference/meeting facilities. Upon registering, we are taken to our room by golf cart right to the front door. The Chalet buildings are two-story, each containing about four suites. And the suites are more like a small apartment. There is a large bedroom with fireplace, comfy beds/mattresses and covers. There is a living room fairly large also with fireplace, sofa and chairs and a television. Between the two rooms is a sizeable bathroom with Jacuzzi tub and stall shower… hairdryer provided. Besides these “chalets” there is a regular hotel building.

We are exhausted, so we shower to remove the “eau de Boeing”… we’re in neverland none too soon. Tomorrow we have an early wakeup for our flight to the Western Serengeti.

Day 3 - Saturday, May 28, 2005

Early breakfast today, the sun is just over the horizon. Our pick-up is at 7am for an 8am flight from Arusha to Grumeti in the Western Serengeti – our first camp where we’ll be staying at the Serena Kirawira Camp.

We board a small plane with seating capacity for about 12… there is only half that number on board. On our way, we set down at Lake Manyara to pick up other passengers, then off to Grumeti. (from Grumeti the plane will head back to Seronera).

On arrival it is raining and I need the loo desperately… it was rather chilly aloft. I’m pointed to a hut across the field, which I have no intention of crossing/using… who knows what’s in that field/hut? So we hop into a Grumeti River Camp vehicle (this is strange as we’re staying at Kirawira and I know they have vehicles, but hey – “it’s got four wheels and hopefully going where I have to be”). We drive around a few bushes and there in the middle of nowhere is a hut with a full loo, running water, toilet paper and cloth towels – interesting. Then I realize this is the loo belonging to Grumeti River Camp. It’s right on the edge of their property… for clients who arrive here and “just can’t wait to get to the camp and their own tent facilities.”

That nature call taken care of, I’m back in the vehicle and assume we’re heading to Kirawira. However, we soon learn that the Grumeti River is running high and instead of crossing the river by vehicle, we come upon a suspension bridge that spans the river. Oh, No! This isn’t for me. I hate heights and didn’t do well on one of these years back. But what choice do I/we have? None, I guess.

To work up my own courage I suggest that Eileen cross first – hopefully once she’s over, I’ll be able to do so. Eileen sets her foot on the bridge and I’m behind her encouraging her to focus on the far shore… don’t look down, just take one step after the other. All of a sudden she exclaims that she’s stepping into “mushy” stuff. Hearing this comment, the guides mention that the baboons also use this bridge. She’s actually stepping into baboon poop! Oh, shit! Brave me, I still talk her thru and within no time she’s on the far side.

Now, I’m next. I suck it in and place my foot on the bridge, face forward, eyes on the far shore and place one foot after the next. Sure enough I’m stepping into the same poop! Dear Lord, “how dare you start my trip like this?” As I’m nearing the other shore, there’s Eileen taking a photo of the fear on my face. But I’m over and really proud of myself and Eileen as well. City Gals aren’t supposed to do this… but we did.

Good start.

Somehow, here we find a Kirawira vehicle with our guide and our luggage. How did the luggage get here? We didn’t see anyone carry our bags over the bridge. Damn them if they actually drove across the river. Time to rip into someone once we’re at the camp. But Eileen and I are hysterical with laughter, considering there were crocodiles in the muddy water below. We did it and survived, but our shoes have got to go right into the sink to be soaked, washed… and we have to shower off the muck!

We’re properly introduced to our guide, Eranst who drives us to Serena Kirawira Camp. We check in and are assigned Tent #10, “Swala-Impala,” – all tents have animal names. This tent is located down the hill from the public areas. As I remembered from a visit almost 8-years ago, the tent is a fair sized room with twin beds, plenty of closet and shelf space, a desk/dressing table, sufficient electrical outlets for hairdryer – though they provide one – charging batteries for cameras. There is a separate bathroom at the rear of the tent containing a shower and separate enclosed toilet, both little rooms are tiled.. There is one vanity containing a sink, another has a dressing table. There are lots of fluffy towels, including wash cloths, and, of course, bathrobes and slippers.

When checking in I had inquired about my friend Susan and her husband Michael who would be here for three-days having arrived a day earlier, and leaving a day before us. We were told that they were out for the full day. Ok, we’ll meet up tonight.

After tossing our shoes into the sink to clean off the baboon poop, freshening up, changing clothing, we head to the dining tent for lunch. Again, as I remember, the service was flawless with plenty of choices, but I can’t remember what I ate, except the best tomatoes ever… all was filling and hit the spot.

Finishing lunch I had a few minutes to speak with the resident manager especially about the adventure of crossing that suspension bridge and what we encountered. He was half smiling – making fun, or was it just plain funny – but he said we should just have everything we were wearing picked-up to be laundered. He said, they’d do all the laundry and have it back later in the afternoon.

My comment was – “and how will anything dry with so much rain still?” His response, “Sandi, just to remind you, Kirawira is a 5* Luxury camp… so we have a dryer.” What could I say to that? But I did ask, “and what kind of iron do you have? One of those that use hot coals?” To which he laughed and replied, “not that kind, but something called Rowenta and it spews steam.” Needless to say, I was in heaven. Eileen and I handed over every piece of clothing we wore and sure enough all was back later that evening, neatly ironed and folded. They even laundered a few pairs of “wears.”

Another thing we learned… Kirawira has their own gas pumps… located out back for the camp vehicles and those used by local outfitters. I remembered that on our first trip out across the Serengeti, we traveled with a few cans of petrol stored under the seats… It is a long drive and one wouldn’t want to get stuck out there with an empty tank.

On the way to the camp earlier, I had mentioned to Eranst that when last staying here we had our own guide, as we had driven here – his name was Carlos and at that time worked for Bushbucks Safaris. Sure enough, Eranst says that Carlos is here. And, sure enough, after lunch Carlos joins us in the public area… he’s not sure who I am, but does remember the women I had traveled with then – she was a tall 5’9” redhead… not easy to forget. But conversation ensues… I ask about his son, who is now in high school and we catch up on life these years since we last saw one another. It was rather nice renewing acquaintances.

The rain had stopped, but still cloudy and overcast. So out we go on an afternoon game drive. What surprises me is the high grass. Having previously only traveled in late November/early December the wildebeests, zebra and Tommies had eaten the grasses. So high grass was unusual and difficult to see animals that might be hidden in there. No problems seeing giraffe and we did see some.

Then I spot a female lion on the grass only about 5-ft from the road. She’s just sitting there, no reaction to us. We look about and see no sisters and wonder why she’s out there on her own. Eranst says that she’s probably got cubs nearby. I scan the area and the only place where I think cubs could be hidden seems to be a rather full bush across the road. But no, there’s a small clump of green weeds about 3-ft behind her… sure enough, two cubs. You could just about see their ears. We waited a bit to see if the mother would move or the cubs would become curious – no way.

So we were on our way. During our time out we did come upon vervet monkeys, baboons, impala.

We returned to camp by about 7pm.

After showering, washing and blowing my hair and dressing in clean clothing, we head to dinner. Arriving at the lounge, I see Susan and Michael and there are wonderful greetings all around. Susan and I have been email buddies for two- or more years and it was good to finally meet. Both of them were exactly how I expected. We all had a few drinks before heading into the dining tent. Dinner was excellent and as I had expected, the four of us were the last to leave… “closing the joint.”

A well deserved great sleep followed. I was in Africa and so far, Eileen seemed to be enjoying herself… even with having been introduced to the place by having to cross that bridge and the poop! As Carol Joyce Oats wrote “Play it as it lays!”

Day 4 – Sunday, May 29, 2005

Having learned from Eranst and Susan and Michael that the Wildebeest herds weren’t in the area, rather still in the Seronera, we chose not to go out on a “crack of dawn” game drive. In fact, Susan and Michael had spent yesterday in Seronera and said it was great. So our plan was to head that way for the day and also visit Mbalegati Camp which was on the way.

We had breakfast at 7am and departed camp by 8am. Mbalegati wasn’t too far from Kirawira, but where it’s only 6km from the road turn-off to Kirawira – once we got to the turn-off for Mbalegati, it’s 16km to the property. But trudge on we did. The roads were still wet as the rains hadn’t completely ended… quite a few muddy spots.

Arriving at Mbalegati, we immediately noticed that they have a lovely position overlooking the Serengeti plains. It kind of reminded me of the positioning of Ulasaba’s Rock Lodge at Sabi Sands in South Africa. Amazing views. The décor of the public space was lovely, with traditional African motif, swimming pool, lounge chairs – very warm and welcoming.

We were introduced to Charles, the Manager… a South African who is “breaking in” the place. Mbalegati had once been a semi-permanent camp, but no longer… certainly not with a permanent pool. There are 26 chalets, stone buildings. These are divided 12 each on the sunrise and sunset sides of the hill. There are also 2 suites (one a Presidential suite containing a flat screen TV and DVD player and other “toys.”) Not very African to me, but the premise here isn’t solely game drives.

Their registration area is a wide space and rather “cold.” There is also a lodge with individual rooms; while nicely furnished, they don’t compare to the individual chalets. The chalets themselves have hand embroidered cases on the bed/s, an adjacent separate sitting area and nice size bathroom. Let’s hope guests don’t steal the linens.

We spent about an hour here, thanked Charles for his time and headed on our way. On our way out of the property, Susan and Michael were arriving to do their “look see.”

Heading to Seronera we came across giraffe, baboons and lots of hippos in the Grumeti. The wildebeests were found in the woodlands around Seronera. We couldn’t tell the number, but we could sure hear them. The zebra we saw were few and not part of the thousands that should normally be moving with the wildebeests. All very strange… the animals seemed a bit confused with the wet grasses. But give them a week or two and I’m sure they’ll get it together and be on their way West and then into Kenya.

We later heard from Susan (when she met up with us in the Mara) that the majority of zebra and Tommies were actually in the open plains of the Southeastern Serengeti… duh! But we’re talking animals and I certainly can’t tell you what they’re thinking… why or why not what is expected isn’t.

Having taken a boxed lunch from Kirawira, we ate our lunch at the visitor’s center at Seronera. There were a number of other vehicles here, and I bumped into Carlos again. While Eileen went to the Open Air Museum the two of us were able to sit and chat… learned that he never did remarry – his wife, son’s mother had died in childbirth. So he’s a happy bachelor and a great guide doing what he does well and something he really enjoys. We exchanged email addresses and will try to keep in touch.

When Eileen returned, she mentioned that she couldn’t really get into the Open Air Museum as the area was roped off. A lion had some cubs up in the rocks and wasn’t too happy having people nearby. In fact, Eileen said that when she heard one growl from the lion, she couldn’t get back to the vehicle too soon.

It was a full day with stops on the way back – seeing a leopard in a tree (the photo is rather dark, but got one), stopped at the Grumeti River to watch the baboons, vultures and hoping to see some crocs… no luck on the latter. We were back to camp around 7pm.

Of course, the same routine… shower and change and up to the dining area. We meet Susan and Michael for cocktails and then sat down for another delicious meal. Not being a fish or seafood person, nor spicy foods… I stick with chicken and beef… but the beef wasn’t tender enough. Something I was to find all too often while in Tanzania. Other then the beef, everything else was excellent.

Again, it seems we’re going to close the joint… there are few guests remaining in the dining tent when all of a sudden we hear singing in Swahili.

Surprise, surprise! The chef and his assistants and the wait staff are bringing in a birthday cake. Now, who can this be for? Oh, it’s for Eileen who celebrated a birthday a few days before departing the States… I just didn’t have time to do anything special… so why not in Afree-kah!

Eileen is certainly surprised… and only two candles on the cake… how thoughtful. The cake was homemade, white cake with chocolate icing and red/white lettering. There was enough cake for everyone staying at the camp, but most had left… so we had it all to ourselves.

This was so much fun. And we’ll still have cake for dessert tomorrow night.

Day 5 – Monday, May 30, 2005

We have breakfast at 7:15am and then meet Susan and Michael to say our good-byes. They’re heading south for a stay at Nduto for two-nights, then to the Crater for one-night (at the Sopa). After, they’ll stop at the Farmhouse for one-night, ending at Tarangire Tree Tops for two-nights. That’s the plan. With the exception of being in the Western Serengeti, hoping to see the herds, they didn’t pick the stops based on best game viewing, or quality or property – rather, just to be in Afree-kah!

And it was later when we met up with Susan in the Mara that we learned about the herds of zebra and Tommies in the Southeastern Serengeti. Also, she had raves about Tree Tops.

We finally left the camp at 8:15am heading to Lake Victoria. Along the way we came across hyenas and vultures fighting over a kill. Who killed, I don’t know, but for a moment we thought the hyenas would give up, but they returned to take what they thought was theirs.

Right outside the Serengeti gate, we hit the loo… another of those hole-in-the-ground things – sorry, not for me; it’ll have to wait.

We drive about 10km to a local village along Speke Bay. The village is called JS’ Paradise and houses a community of Sukuma people. The Sukuma are the largest tribe in Tanzania, numbering about 4.5 million. Here, their primary source of income is fishing and offering visitors canoe trips on the lake and walk-thru of their community. The representative of the village was Joseph who was well spoken in English and handles these “cultural tours.”

The village is very poor, without electricity or running water. The housing is shoddy brick block homes… the bricks made by the occupants. The sand, straw and water bricks found throughout third-world communities. As expected, the children – lots of them, all ages – attached themselves to us. I had some bamboo bracelets that I had bought in Cambodia – maybe 20-40 of these and handled them out to the little girls. We gave party favors to the boys.

In the middle of the village we came across a group of women who were rather chatty… which was interesting and surprising. Between the two of us and Joseph, we all seemed to understand one another. Here I distributed some of the nail polish I had brought with the understanding that the women could share these amongst themselves. One woman was so excited she actually curtsied… I was taken aback, but that’s how they show appreciation.

Mostly we noticed the women did lots of the work… though the men may have been out fishing earlier in the morning. Now, most of the men were in a “bar” or playing cards. Many of the women plant their own gardens and sell vegetables to one another or at the market. Those tomatoes sure did look good.

What was evident is that this community and I’m sure others like this one, sorely need mosquito nets and insect repellent. Eileen and I left some money directly in Joseph’s hands to use for whatever purpose he felt best. Though I’m sure our small amount will make barely a dent.

Departing after a few hours, we head back toward the Western Serengeti gate. Along the road we see a nearby school with lots of children going to and fro, all in uniforms. This reminded me of the schools we saw on our very first safari – everywhere in Kenya with mostly boys attending, though I learned that girls had separate schools. But that was 10-years ago. Here we saw lots of girls at school. Glad to see this.

Arriving at the gate… this time I had to use the loo… there was no way I could hold out for 54km to Kirawira.

We’re back at Kirawira in about an hour, no animal sightings. We have a late lunch and Eileen schedules a massage. I plan to catch up on my journal notes and read and just relax for a few hours.

The masseuse brings the table soon after and is about to set up on the deck when the skies open. So indoors the table goes and on top Eileen gets. I had some entries for my journal and the light shower was nice and clean smelling so I stayed outside... when all of a sudden the skies go crazy and rain is pouring down in every which direction, there is no way I can remain out here. So inside I go, hit the bed and in no time I’m out cold.

Massage over and Eileen is feeling wonderful. “What hands she had!” is all Eileen could say… and just what she needed.

Earlier… while at lunch… we heard loud noises and saw more people then usual around the camp; we learned that a sizeable group had arrived when we were at Lake Victoria. When we arrived for cocktails, we could hear this group already in the rear dining tent… to themselves. It was strange just sitting at a table for two now that Susan and Michael were gone, but a table for two it was.

As we were enjoying birthday cake dessert, a couple from the large group passes us and I noticed the women had on a t-shirt, same as one I bought on one of my earlier trips. While I’m sure there are many like this shirt, this was the only other person on whom I ever saw it. The writing on it “dreaming and when I awoke I was in Africa” – so perfect. We learned this was a Tauck group from the States. It was an 8-day trip, staying at mostly Serena properties (except, I believe in Arusha… not sure where); traveling with a tour director. I wondered how much they paid for their tour and when I got home found out – too much! Believe it was almost $4K and that was without International air. Well, someone had to pay for the tour director… but why they needed one, is beyond me. Well, not the time to dwell on this, as it’s been discussed often here on Fodors.

Moving on… this group would also be leaving with us from the Grumeti airstrip. We said our good-nights.

Before heading to our tent – always with an askari escorting us (to/from with a torch and rifle), the camp manager advised us that the Grumeti was still flooded and we’d have to re-cross on “that suspension bridge” – not something either of us wanted to sleep on. But how else were we supposed to get out of there. Not that either of us wanted to leave, but our schedule was our schedule. My mind, however, went to the Tauck group and wondered whether they knew about this!! We’ll find out tomorrow morning.

... to be continued

Jul 12th, 2005, 02:43 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 4,222
Sandi, you beat Dick Snyder (barely!). I can't wait to get home from work tonight so that I can pore over both of these slooowwwly.

I appreciate all the detail--feels like I'm there. And I'm eagerly waiting for the next installment.
Leely is offline  
Jul 12th, 2005, 02:59 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 250
It's so exciting when I log on and there are suddenly all these wonderful trip reports to pore over.

Thanks Sandi - please don't make us wait too long for the next instalment.
RuthieC is offline  
Jul 12th, 2005, 03:09 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,843
Anxiously awaiting the next installment! Love your style, felt like I was right there with you stepping in the baboon poop
Patty is offline  
Jul 12th, 2005, 05:43 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,354
What great reading! It's very much like being there! Especially since we were not that far away at the time!

Sandi, I am perplexed by one thing - why did you have to cross a bridge to get to Seronera from Kirawira? Or were you using the CCAfrica vehicles and had to go to Grumeti for this?
climbhighsleeplow is offline  
Jul 12th, 2005, 06:04 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,536
Love the report, Sandi. Well worth the wait!
sundowner is offline  
Jul 12th, 2005, 09:36 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 48
Great report so far, can't wait to read the rest!

How did you like putting Zanzibar in the middle of your trip rather than the beginning or end? I know most people usually choose one of the latter but I've been playing around with my itinerary and I like the idea of putting it in between the Mara and Serengeti for a little break.
safari274 is offline  
Jul 13th, 2005, 04:07 AM
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safari274 -

I put Zanzibar in the middle only because I have this "thing" about not backtracking. So since I was already in Tanzania - Zanzibar came before heading off to Kenya. Even if we had done Selous and/Ruaha (had they been open) we still would have done ZNZ before moving onto Kenya. Yes, of course, we could have done the coast (Mombasa or Zanzibar) at the conclusion... but zig-zagging isn't my idea of smooth transitions. Also, upon returning from ZNZ, we did a day in NBO before heading north. Both ZNZ and NBO were still hectic, but at least we had a few days of not bumping along the roads of these countries. It's just alternative routing.

Climbhigh .....

No, we didn't cross the Grumeti to get to Seronera (unless my writing/explanation was confusing... will check it again). As you know the Grumeti airstrip is on the Grumeti River Camp side of the river; Kirawira is on the other side. So we crossed the Grumeti on arrival, having been picked up by a Grumeti River vehicle and found the Kirawira vehicle on the other side. For our trip to Seronera, we drove on the roads from Kirawira - no river and... never to cross that bridge again - thankfully.

RuthieC, nice to hear from you again.

Everyone else - thanks for your comments. Will do my best to get the rest of this adventure to you as quickly as possible.
Jul 13th, 2005, 09:53 AM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 6,159
And I thought all your other posts on this board were informative and helpful---this report post is informative, helpful AND exciting! Thanks!
schlegal1 is online now  
Jul 13th, 2005, 02:23 PM
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Part II

Day 6 – Tuesday, May 31, 2005

We finish our packing this morning before heading up to breakfast. I believe the two of us have accepted the fact that we have to cross that bridge again… and we’re prepared to do so. Not happy, but prepared.

While eating breakfast, we learn from the manager that we won’t have to cross the bridge… that despite yesterday’s heavy rains, the river water had actually receded. With a deep sigh, we continue our breakfast.

Saying our good-byes to everyone here, we’re in the vehicle at about 9am for a brief game drive on the way to the airstrip. The river water is indeed lower and we cross with no problem. The plane is already there, offloading crates/cartons of produce and other items for the camps in the area – Grumeti River, Kirawira and Mbalegeti. Another vehicle brought our luggage which the manager drove as he’d be transporting his crates back to the camp.

We say more good-byes and board the plane. There is one other passenger onboard and I wonder where the Tauck group is. We’re ready to leave, but waiting for another passenger. Soon enough the last passenger arrives – and it’s Charles from Mbalegeti. He’s on his way to Arusha where there is a trade show taking place. We depart and land in Seronera to pick-up passengers. And here we see the Tauck folks waiting to board. Because of the high water level at the Grumeti and feeling this group wouldn’t all be able to manage crossing on the suspension bridge, they had a very early wake-up and breakfast and drove to Seronera. They boarded our plane and another that was brought in; our plane departed with a full load.

Arriving in Arusha at about 11:45am, we are scheduled for a transfer to a Coastal Air flight departing at 12:30pm to Zanzibar. But first, I was to meet up with a friend who lives in Tanzania and had made our arrangement. Besides, she had a package for me to take back to the States and this was the only place we’d be able to connect.

In the meantime, Eileen and I checked into Coastal Air and were told we’d be leaving in about 30-minutes. I go outside to look and/or wait for my friend, but she’s nowhere to be found… delayed, forgot? Before we know it, we’re asked to proceed through security which we do. We board our flight which is full. With a window seat, I’m checking to see if my friend has arrived, expecting her to come running on the runway yelling, “my friends are on the plane, I have to speak with them” – or whatever. But nothing!

We taxi and are aloft at 12:15pm. So much for maintaining schedules. The flight to Zanzibar is about an hour – give or take… I wasn’t watching the time. Landing here – it’s sunny, hot and humid. There are but two luggage carts at Baggage Claim, so I leave the terminal to find our guide or driver; our guides comes in and takes our bags to the car. Traveling with duffle bags without wheels, we’re not about to carry these, even if they did weight in at just under 15Kg.

Our guide is Tahib of Island Express and the first thing he mentions after the introductions all around – “Your friend missed you at the airport.” She arrived on time, as had been told by Coastal it was a 12:30pm departure. She arrived with a few minutes to spare… we knew it would be a brief meet…only to find out that “her” friends were already onboard and the plane was readying to take-off. She wasn’t a happy camper and I was rather disappointed. Oh, I’m sure it’ll all work out somehow.

Though our vehicle was air conditioned, it is quite hot and humid in Zanzibar, so we did better with the windows open. The ride to get out onto the road that would take us to the northern tip of the Southeast coast took us through parts of town. Much as I had expected, not unlike many Caribbean islands. Depressed, but lots of people in the street, smiling faces… that’s all that matters. The scenery was rather interesting in some places once outside the town center – especially the ¾-miles of mango trees that cover (shade) the road. Passed thru Jozani Forest, but unless visiting you’re not permitted to stop. You can see Colobus monkeys in the nearby trees.

The road was paved and pretty good until we got to the turn-off onto the road that takes you north along the Southeast coast. This was not paved and was rutted in many places. I have to guess this stretch was the longest in terms of time. Total time to get to Karafuu Resort was 1-1/2 hrs. Along this stretch of road, and the like, though in worse condition, the road along the Northeast coast – lots of hotels, resorts, cottages, bungalows – all for tourists. Some properties are exclusively for Italians (not unlike some places on the Seychelles). Along the way we passed Breezes, The Palms, Sultan’s Palace and more that we couldn’t see behind the greenery. But you could see the palm trees that line their beach all the way north.

It was a relief to get out of the car at the hotel. What a sore bottom and ache in the back… thank goodness I brought plenty of “drugs” to get me through situations like this. We thanked Tahib and the driver… we’d see them again in two days for our return to Stone Town. For today and the next – R&R only.

We check in and are taken to our cottage. Rather to the wrong cottage – one with a king size bed, when we specifically requested twins. A call to the desk gets this straightened out and we’re moved. At Karafuu, you find individual cottages. All seem to be the same, but depending on location – on the ocean (more expensive) or set a row or two behind, determines prices. These consist of a small house, about the size of a very large studio apartment in NYC. Each has a garden entry with a large wooden door that the area is known for. You enter a foyer where there is a built in luggage rack. To the left is a large walk-in closet with more then ample storage and hanging room. And adjacent to the closet a very large bathroom with two washbasins, large shower stall (can fit 4 people) plenty of floor space, a commode and a bidet…. and a hairdryer. But, surprisingly, bottled water is not provided. The lighting, however, could use some improvement.

Walking right from the foyer down a hallway about 15’ you reach the sleeping area… another very large room containing a king or twin beds, also a daybed (for a child or third adult… there’s enough room for a second daybed, if needed.) The floor is made up of ”paver” stones with an area rug. Doors lead from this room to a small low-walled enclosure/terrace with chairs and table – not fancy, but functional.

Probably because of the heat, the color scheme here is warm in browns, beige and white against light taupe walls… but is actually rather drab. I’d much prefer bright with blue, yellow and green against off-white walls. And the lighting can be improved. Whether it’s the wattage of the bulbs I can’t say. And even though I don’t like bright lights… some improvement in this area would be nice. But the best thing here – air conditioning and the ceiling fan. Surprisingly, not many properties on Zanzibar have air conditioning, especially the smaller properties – with “cottages” “bungalows” etc. in their names. While some people are fine with the ceiling fans, we knew we wouldn’t be sleeping well without the air conditioning. So if hot and humid is an issue – be sure to inquire about both fans and air conditioning.

Eileen can’t wait to get to the beach and she’s out as soon as she' in her swimsuit... with towel in hand, she's gone. I hit the shower which is wonderful and while at it wash the hair and blow it dry. We had some bottles of wine (from KLM, our own supply), so I pour a drink and relax outside. When Eileen returns, she joins me for a drink and we realize this has been the first time we could actually relax. How wonderful. We almost don’t want to leave that terrace even if it is hot, but the mossies are attacking. No problem with mossies on the mainland, but here, it’s to be expected. My ankles must have been an entre to these criters.

Inside we spray all exposed skin and head for dinner. Naturally, service is buffet… what I detest, but if I want to eat, gotta serve myself. Admittedly, I’m a snob when it comes to “eating out” – restaurants, hotels or resorts – if I want to serve myself, I could stay at home.

What is immediately obvious is that there are mostly honeymooners… which I expected. And other guests of a “certain age” as well. No children that we could tell. But, we’re the only Americans. I knew that Karafuu catered to mostly Europeans… the reason I selected it. With few exception though, everyone spoke English – some fluently, others less so – but there were no communication problems. The staff had a pretty good command of English, so this was good.

Dinner was okay – sufficing in the nourishment area, especially the salads and those tomatoes. The shrimp they were preparing looked beautiful to me (not a fish or seafood eater), but Eileen said they were overcooked. Pasta’s were pretty good, as were the desserts… what else does one need?

Tomorrow we’re going to have a full day of sun and quiet.

Day 7 – June 1, 2005

It’s a pleasure to get up when your body tells you… and yet it’s still early… but no game drive. In fact, we don’t have to do anything or be anywhere (except for breakfast before 10:30am). And that’s where we’re off for – food.

Breakfast is also buffet… but I deal better with this earlier in the day then for dinner. The eggs are fine, as are those tomatoes. The croissants and petite pasties were outstanding.

Finished, we’re off to the pool. From what Eileen explained upon returning from the beach yesterday… at low-tide the beach is full of seaweed, so to get to the ocean the hotel has provided a boardwalk out as far as low-tide takes it. The infinity pool (with pool bar) is a better choice. But shortly after we get comfy on a lounge it starts to drizzle. No problem… we stay awhile until the drizzle becomes a shower. Off to the bar – hey, the yardarm is up somewhere in the world, so why not? But at that hour it was only a Coke Lite.

The rain is over almost as soon as it started… one of those passing black clouds. So we’re back at the pool and set for the day. While hot and humid, the breeze here is just perfect. We have no problem spending the remainder of the day laying out like dead fish! The honeymooners are delightful and in the pool there’s conversation in every language – including broken English, Italian, French and whatever else; no one has any problem understanding one another, especially since everyone uses their hands… the international language!

Later in the afternoon we have a conversation with a honeymoon couple from Amsterdam who had before arriving here had been on safari. They loved their safari experience… and why shouldn’t they have… now spending a week on Zanzibar

When we return for dinner at about 8pm, we notice that there is no one at the restaurant – indoors where food was set last evening or at the outside dining area? What’s going on? Images of the Twilight Zone! The only people left on earth, at minimum at Karafuu! A plague? Who knows? So, we go to Reception and learn that the hotel is having a themed night –
a Masai Village dinner; if we’d read the bulletin board, we would have known…. So told to follow the lanterns to this area. And sure enough, there are stone tables with seats set around a dance area… at the far end are buffet tables (again) with plenty of food. Naturally, Eileen goes to check the offerings – for a little person, I’m amazed at her affinity for food; a healthy appetite… tasting everything – good for her. At the buffet she finds a roasted whole baby lamb. Needless to say, she’s probably never going to eat lamp chops again. A chop is one thing, but the whole lamb… something else.

The first food we devour are those tomatoes prepared with mozzarella slices and outstanding Balsamic vinegar. We do justice to everything else, except the baby lamb. While eating dessert, a large group of French folks arrive and are set up at tables on the far side of the dance area… and closer to the food. Seems like a full house tonight… but with only about 80 cottages, I’m sure there were still many not occupied.

Since we didn’t read the notice on the bulletin board and didn’t know about the dancers, we were sorry hat we didn’t bring out cameras. But we did notice that the Dutch honeymooners had theirs… so asked if they’d be good enough to send us these pictures. Nicole and Patrick did and are included in our photo album.

We stayed for most of the dancing, but having spent a full day in the sun and checking out tomorrow morning, we call it a night… back to repack and sleep.

... to be continued
Jul 13th, 2005, 03:02 PM
Posts: n/a
Part III

(tried posting Days 5 - 9 at one time, but Fodor's wouldn't accept... maybe file too large... so I'll post by day and see how that goes)

Day 8 – June 2, 2005

After breakfast we settle out hotel bill which doesn’t amount to but $30, including a few bottles of water.

Tahib is at the hotel by 10am and we’re reading to drive into Stone Town for the day. With my drugs, I feel no pain. When we arrive in Stone Town, we immediately head to Emerson & Green to check-in and leave our luggage. The driver parks in a small lot near the outside wall of Stone Town. From here, it’s about a three-block walk to Emerson & Green. We do not take our own bags; the hotel sends their porters to pick them up from the car. Upon arrival we check-in, but our room isn’t ready. So we leave our bags and head out for a day of sightseeing.

On our ride into Stone Town, Tahib mentions that my friend had sent the items she had for me on yesterday’s afternoon flight. They were already in the car… I could take them home with me. Nice of her, except this package is over the weight limit for internal flights… we’ll have to find a way to ship this back to the States.

The first stop is the former Slave Market and the nearby Catholic Church. People have to remember that everyone participated in the slave trade and this occurred throughout Africa, by blacks selling blacks, whites buying from blacks and coloreds involved as well – from every coast to all areas of the world.

It doesn’t take us long to realize that we need more water then we brought with us… and we pick up a few bottles of frozen water which we hope will last longer – they do, but not by much.

Then off to the public market, where everyone shops. It was amazing to see green lemons, very tiny green limes, lots of different apples, bananas; interesting to see how oranges are peeled for sale with the rind left on so the fruit doesn’t dry out. The guys who do this are “fast fingers” – great performance and good juicy oranges. There were lots of spices to smell and packages to buy… we did. We passed on visiting the butcher where meat is displayed raw and not a piece of ice or refrigeration to be found… I’d become a vegetarian in a New York minute. The same for the fish monger – no ice. Oh, please people – someone has got to get ill! Tahib says that some might and probably do, but the blame likely goes to something other then the meat or fish. I don’t know and don’t want to find out.

For those women who are not wearing the traditional kangas over their skirts – seen in Tanzania and Kenya, the other women (Muslim) are covered in black. It’s not called a “chador” but another name (I can’t recall) and wonder why in this heat they’re not covered in “white?” But on closer look, I notice that many of these coverings are very pretty… some with scalloped edges, eyelets, even pearls and dainty sequins. And underneath, the women are wearing western clothing. Many of the women cover their head, but not so the young woman. It’s amazing to see just how beautiful these women are. But customs are customs…

And I want one of these cover-up. Well, not exactly, but I’d love to find a Panjab – those long tunic tops over pants – seen in India and/or Pakistan. Tahib promises he’ll find a shop where I can buy one. In the meantime, we’re on a side street where locals shop and there are lots of kangas with great designs and colors; also great pashmina-type scarves which are great gifts. I received one of the latter from a friend who
recently returned from Libya and happened to be wearing it that day as a wrap-around belt. Eileen made a few purchases, but hesitated on the kangas as the “sayings” written on these in Swahili should have meaning for the wearer… and who would be the wearer. Besides, the fabrics shown were rather stiff, still with the sizing used in the manufacturing process. They wouldn’t be soft until the first washing.

We now find ourselves at the Dhow Palace Hotel located on one of the inner streets of Stone Town; we ask to go inside and check out the place. Learning from the manager that they are still closed… to open mid-June, the rooms aren’t yet made up… but we’re allowed to see what we wish. The hotel is built around a center court with wide landings where the rooms are situated. Ceiling fans and great breezes circulate here and it’s quite comfortable. From what we could tell, the furnishings are similar to those at Emerson & Green (these we didn’t see until later in the day). Made from heavy dark wood, many from old dhow boats; antique chests, wardrobes. The rooms are air conditioned. There is a recent addition of a swimming pool. We thanked the manager and were on our way.

Next, shopping - I wanted a Panjab, so Tahib walked us to a lovely store “Memories of Zanzibar” with A/C and I was in heaven. The saleswoman was very helpful and found a few items for consideration. Problem, I was so wet from the humidity, it was embarrassing to even think to try on anything. So I stood under the A/C till I was dry. I found just what I wanted for a top in the finest cotton and the price was right… but we couldn’t find matching pants. In the end… no sale, no Panjab. I guess when I get back to NYC, I'll just have to give in and get on the No.7 train which runs thru the borough of Queens - here each stop on this line is another Asian community - Korean, Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, etc. I'm sure to find a Panjab, a larger selection and even a better price.

In the meantime, Eileen was at the jewelry display and found some amazing necklaces – unique and definitely won’t be seen elsewhere. Choices, choices… but decisions were made. I even found one for myself and again, it won’t be seen on anyone else. While paying for our items, I noticed that the owner had henna on her hand and I asked about having mine done. She immediately asked if we were visiting for the wedding taking place that evening? Wedding? Whose? Well, an American girl was getting married and she assumed we were guests. Henna is often done for weddings – on hands and feet. No we weren’t guests, but it was interesting to learn about the wedding.

By this time, it was probably 1:30 or 2pm and time for lunch. We had a number of choices – fish at a shore restaurant – not! Others, but most were outdoor restaurants – not! But Emerson & Green did have a restaurant at the hotel with air conditioning, so that’s where we headed. We asked Tahib and the driver to join us, but they declined.

The menu at Kidude Café was limited, but they did have pizza, hummus, pita and other Middle Eastern-type food. Eileen ordered the hummus and I the pizza… the hummus was terrible, but then we’re spoiled as Eileen’s brother-in-law makes the best hummus. So instead we dug into the Margarita Pizza which has some strange spices on top. Thought Margarita was just cheese and sauce… guess not so, here. But it was cool indoors, so we lingered over this and my Coke Lite. Once finished, we went into the hotel and got ourselves settled in our room – The Crystal Room. Very big. The porter was quite pleasant and gave us a tour of the buildings and we got to see many of the interiors of the rooms (and took photos). E&G is quite interesting, but not quite what I had expected. The décor was certainly different… but went with the atmosphere of Zanzibar and its’ history. The dark heavy wood didn’t sit well with me. However, it was nice to see what can be done when you have a good imagination. Besides, there were lots of antique pieces… this I liked. What didn’t thrill me… insufficient light in the bathroom or vanity table in order to put on make-up… and this light situation (or lack of) was at just about every place we stayed. I can well do without make-up, but give me sufficient light for a touch of shadow, lipstick and mascara without someone when looking at me, saying “didn’t the girl check the mirror before leaving home.” A mascara wand in the eyes is not the way I like to start my day.

We finally left the hotel and met Tahib to continue our adventures in Stone Town. I still had that package that I wanted to ship back to the States, so we went looking for the post office or a FedEx-type shipping company. First stop - the post office, but this local branch didn’t do International shipping, so we were directed to the main branch (which we were told was air conditioned - whoopie!). A short drive and inside the building which was empty except for us… and sure enough, though only 5.5Kg, the cost to ship was about $80. I don’t think so. So we drove to a DHL office… here it would cost about $110. Guess I’ll just have to pack it in my folding bag and take it with me as checked baggage on our homebound trip.

Leaving the DHL office - across the street from the Serena Inn… next door was a relatively new hotel – Beit al Chai – or the Tea House. A non-descript building; you’d never know it was a hotel… I didn’t even see a sign. But we entered and asked to see the rooms. There are only six (6) rooms here and though the manager had no problem showing them to us… she did tell us we couldn’t take photos. Fine! The guests staying here were some of those attending “the wedding” and were all out and probably enjoying the nuptials.

The rooms were of decent size, some fairly large and decorated very much like those at Emerson & Green – similar, but not as ornate. Color cement floors with area rugs, large beds, plenty of closet space… interesting bathrooms. All rooms were ample for a comfortable stay. As would be expected, luggage was askew everywhere and the rooms were far from made-up… you needed a good imagination. The hallways on each floor were wide; there was a sitting room on the main level which also serves as their breakfast room – the only meal they provide. This hotel is owned by the same guy who owns The Blue Bay on the Northeast coast, which I heard from a number of people, gets excellent reviews.

Leaving Beit al Chai, we could have, but didn’t, go across to see the Serena Inn, which I believe is probably the most comfortable and western in style of the accommodations in Stone Town, with rates to match. Even though a small property with about 50 room, still the largest of the five well known hotels – Serena Inn, Emerson & Green, Dhow Palace, Tembo House and Beit al Chai.

So we headed over to Tembo House which has a nice circular driveway which is amazing with such limited space in this "dolma" (stuffed - the Turkish term used for shared taxis in that country) of a town. Tembo House is located right on the beach… and was actually my favorite. Again, the rooms are decorated in a similar style as those at E&G, not as ornate, but perfect for a stay. All rooms are air conditioned. Again, no elevators, but only three floors; the hallways are easy to navigate. The hotel seemed to be pretty much occupied (remember, Dhow Palace hadn’t opened for the season) and is the sister property to the Dhow Palace. Neither of these hotels serves liquor in the Muslim tradition. A pool is a recent addition in the center of the property; also a new wing which brings the total number of rooms to about 36. The room we visited was for a “family” as the crib indicated.

Leaving here, we remembered seeing an Internet Café on one of the hearby streets and asked to stop there – Eileen wanted to check her mail - I didn't care about mail or phone calls or anything to "connect me" as I was on vacation. We drove the few blocks and admit it would be hard to resist... the price was only 500Tsh (about $0.50) for 1-hour versus what most hotels were charging $5 for 10-minutes. We spent about 20-minutes and then met up with Tahib.

The hour was getting late and there was more to see, but we had dinner reservations at E&G, the Tower Top Restaurant. It’s best to arrive as the sun is setting, so Tahib returned us to the hotel and we said our good-byes. He would not be driving us to the airport next morning… too early.

After showering and dressing for dinner, we got ready to walk upstairs to the restaurant. The staircase happened to be right outside of our room (hadn’t noticed it earlier as it was blocked… breakfast and dinner the only meals served here)… and as in most old building, the stairs are very steep. I always wondered why at a time (even back to the Romans and the coliseums they built) when people were shorter then we are these days… the steps were so steep. But we made it upstairs and it was lovely.

The sun was setting and the view over the town was amazing - TV antennas, satellite dishes, children being bathed, young woman washing their hair - life going on all around us. There were a few diners already seated and while we were about to take seats in one area (seemed one could sit wherever) one of the waiters directed us to another place. Apparently, the restaurant was expecting a large group from the Serena and the area was being held for them. This was fine with us and the young couple sitting on the cushions where we were directed welcomed us to join them. Yes, and why not - dining is on floor cushions with low tables… very informal. So we plopped down and hoped we’d be able to get up at the conclusion of the meal.

This is where we, again, realized that the world is really a very small place. The young woman (Desiree) and ooung man (Sia) introduced themselves, and we did likewise. Also sitting at a regular table (there were two) right behind them in a small terrace around the main room – her parents – Terry and Jack from Austin, Texas. Hellos done with, we learned that Sia had just finished an internship with the UN working on the Rwanda Prosecution that is being held in Arusha. Hearing this, I mentioned that I knew of a young man who had just arrived to begin his internship… sure enough Sia knew Daniel. I had referred to him as Danny as that is what his mother Sharon calls him. Sharon who is “sharon815” that I met online at Fodor’s Africa/Middle East Board… and who I assisted with her plans to visit Kenya and Tanzania, at the end of July. This is when Danny would be finished with his internship and join his folks for 2-1/2 weeks of safari in Kenya & Tanzania and beach-time in Zanzibar. Sharon and I have tried, without success, to get together before they leave on their trip… and hope to do so before they eventually fly-off.

Needless to say, this was the perfect place to be seated, with absolutely fun people. We all had so many things in common and there were lots of laughs and plenty of elbow bending.

The meal – as a non-fish person, my choice was their beef dish, though everything else was brought out as hors d’ouvres and served family style. Wine flowed and was pretty good, not great. I stuck with the vodka, but they didn’t have Absolut; Smirnoff had to do. As expected the food was a bit spicy for my taste, but edible. However, the beef just wasn’t tender. For that matter, none of the beef in Tanzania was tender… even at Kirawira, and certainly not at Karafuu. But we were having such a good time… the food almost became an after-thought.

By 10pm, aware that we had an early wake-up next morning; the others were also heading out for safari on the mainland – goodbyes were exchanged - we headed downstairs to pack and get to sleep. But first I went down to the desk to close out our bill. And I did mention that the beef was a disappointment and in need of improvement… like “did you folks ever hear of Texas, Argentina, Australia, Kobe?” I don’t know from where they buy their beef, but they’ve got to find another source. This didn’t, however, get me a free meal… which was only about $25, plus our drinks. Really a bargain for a great evening!

Back up the stairs and entering our room – kind of reminded me of entering an ancient castle with the bolts, chain locks and raised door saddles – were we captives? White slavery came to mind which brought howls from Eileen when we thought abot the entrance to our room!

A shower and off to bed… under a sheet only with the air conditioning on high as it was so humid even at this late hour.

Tomorrow, we’re off to Nairobi, Kenya

... to be continued
Jul 13th, 2005, 03:26 PM
Posts: n/a
Part IV

Day 9 – June 3, 2005

We had an early wake-up today, as our flight departs at 7:30am. Arrangements had been made for our breakfast to be delivered to our room – juice, coffee, croissants – and we were set for another day.

Our pick-up was at 6:15am by a different driver then yesterday. We were at the airport within 15-minutes. Check-in was a non-event as was boarding. Because we were scheduled on an International flight, there was a departure fee, payable at Zanzibar in the amount of USD$25 (for internal Tanzania flights, it’s a USD$10 departure fee). All paid, we boarded a Precision Air plane with capacity for about 40, but only 25 passengers. We were airborne right on schedule.

The flight was about 1-1/2 hours. The best part of this flight was flying directly over Kilimanjaro – amazing. Arriving in Nairobi, with completed Visa application in-hand and $50, we were second on line at the counter. As soon as this was done, we went to baggage claim and found our guide waiting for us.

A guide/driver and vehicle had been provided for us for the day and this was John who met us. With him, was our friend Joyce who had arranged everything. After all the hellos, we were off to the Intercontinental Hotel… maybe a 25-minute drive with morning Nairobi traffic. At the hotel, all vehicles are checked with mirrors underneath, trunk open – before permitted to enter the property. While we checked-in and got settled in our room, John waited our return… we had a full day ahead of us.

The Intercontinental is a westernstyle hotel and very much so a businessman’s hotel. Most guests, other then safari guests were in business clothing. Our room was standard, but large, with potable water (their own purification system), hairdryer, TV, internet connections, etc. On each floor you’re greeted by a security guard who watches the comings and goings and for anyone who doesn’t belong.

Back downstairs, into the van and we’re off to the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. Joyce had gone back to work, but would meet us for lunch. Believe it or not, in all my visits to Nairobi, I’ve just never had time to visit here. And this being Eileen’s first trip to Africa, we were going all out. By 11am we were at Sheldrick, but I didn’t have Kenyan Shillings… never thought to convert money as we hadn't in Tanzania and I’ve never done so before when visting Kenya. However, seems, these days, Kenya Shillings are preferred for admittance fees. John was nice enough to lay out whatever we’d need… I’d straighten out with him at the end of the day.

The Ellees and lone baby Rhino were great. The woman who gave the presentations “everything you ever wanted to know” about the Orphanage, the Ellees and Rhino – was outstanding and very knowledgeable. There was a sizeable crowd, about 50 people… a few tour groups (we saw their vehicles in the lot) otherwise, ones and twos and threes. Everyone was enjoying tremendously. There were also a few school groups visiting. This visit was the best and I was so glad I finally made the time. We took so many photos as my photo link shows.

From here, at about 11:45 we headed to the Giraffe Center, also nearby in the Karen district, a suburb (high-end) of Nairobi… all homes/estates surrounded by high walls, gates, security systems… some even with guards. At Giraffe Center, like at Sheldrick, everyone has a great time. As many times as I’ve been, I’ve enjoyed. The upper viewing/feeding platform was closed, so everyone was on the ground level. Also, lots of school groups of all ages from 1st grade to teenagers. And, the tourists, naturally. It’s a hoot to see people’s faces as they feed the pellets to the giraffes and their long tongues reaching for your hand that hold “goodies.”

Now coming upon 1pm, we called Joyce who said she’d meet us at The Carnivore and we headed over that way... also is in the Karen area - all of these close to the Wilson (domestic) airport. How Joyce got to the restaurant (from downtown NBO) before us, I don’t know… we were actually closer from the Giraffe Center. Anyway, we asked John to join us… and were escorted to a table in the garden, which is really nice. Even though a Friday, by the time we arrived, most diners (tour groups) were gone… except for another table, we were the only guests.

We started with a drink… don’t know what it’s called, but combines vodka, honey and lime/lime juice… potent. Since Joyce had to return to work and John was driving and it didn’t appeal to Eileen, I was the guinea pig. Not bad… different.

Then the food began to arrive… first were BBQ mini ribs – mouthwatering and outstanding; then wildebeest, camel, crocodile, impala – all tender and delicious; I lost track after each was presented, but did ask for more of the ribs… which were really really good. Tanzania should take a lesson as regards the quality of the meat; everything was perfect and so many offerings. To finish our meal, we had ice cream.

Joyce had to return to work, but said she’d see us when we returned from the Mara the following week. Then we were off again with John. Next stop was the Karen Blixen Museum. I’ve been before, so waited while Eileen went in for the brief tour. This is such a peaceful property… quiet in the bustling city.

From here we went to Utamandani, which I recalled from our very first trip and remembered I didn’t like it then – too expensive, so didn’t know why we were here again. We left almost immediately. Instead we went to Kazuri Beads and were in heaven. The variety and quality of beaded jewelry is excellent, as are the prices. There is so much to choose from, I was at a loss and walked out empty handed… but Eileen did buy two necklaces for her nieces. While she was doing this, I went next door to the factory and found this most interesting. From beginning to end you follow the process from design to how the beads are created, painted, heated, glazed, checked and double-checked for quality. The women who work here are welcoming and will tell you about what they do, how they do it… or any other questions you may have. Besides the regular pieces they work on, custom designed pieces were also being worked on. While we didn’t see anyone working on pottery pieces, Kazuri does sell pottery – dishes, cups, serving pieces, etc.

Finally, it was time for some souvenir shopping, so we drive to the Collector’s Den at the Hilton Hotel. The shop has been here some 14+ years and I immediately recognized the same salespeople from my previous trips. I was only looking for a new/different designed pendent for a wire necklace I purchased years ago and get compliments whenever I wear it. But, no luck. The owner knew exactly what I wanted, but they no longer carried this item. So with nothing else on my list, I wasn’t spending any money. Besides, over the years I’ve brought back so many gifts for friends and family, I don’t think anyone was hoping for another “something” this time. Eileen, however, wanted some souvenirs and she went about buying all kinds of trinkets.

In the meantime, John was outside and I wanted to settle up the money he laid out, so went to find him and take care of our finances. However, he was standing in the street and sorry to say, but “I do not conduct business in the street.” He laughed when I insisted we get into the vehicle so I didn’t have to delve into my bag for money. While doing this he got a call on his cell from this guy I wanted to meet up with and who wanted to meet with me. Taking the phone, I told this guy that I had some time untill Eileen finished and sure he could pick me up at the shop to return to the hotel for a drink. John would be able to return Eileen to the hotel whenever she was done improving the Kenyan economy.

Within a few minutes my ride was at the shop and we drove back to the Intercontinental… practically around the corner from the Hilton (it’s only three-blocks). We took a table in the lobby bar – I ordered a Coke and he had tea. In a few minutes the hotel’s Marketing Manager stopped by… introductions made and the three of us were still at it when I saw Eileen walk into the Lobby and joined us. We learned that the hotel would be renovating rooms during the upcoming months, which was nice to hear, though our room was probably only recently refurbished. Sean also mentioned that there was a Casino at the hotel which I noticed immediately pleased Eileen… guess I know where she will be tonight.

My new friend had a meeting to attend, the reason for the early and brief meet but that was okay. He was good enough to offer to pick-up dinner for us, but I declined… we had only finished lunch at 2pm… couldn’t even think food, though the smell of garlic from the hotel’s Italian restaurant was tempting. Saying all around good-byes, Eileen and I headed upstairs.

There were a few messages for us… who would be calling, but apparently there was a package waiting for me downstairs which I went to pick-up. Sure enough, contained inside were the Waivers of Liability from Cheli & Peacock. We had to sign our lives away, but then I’ve done so with all other trips I’ve taken when booked by a tour operator/outfitter. Completing these, Eileen was definitely going to the casino and I was definitely doing my hair… who knew when I’d have another opportunity to plug in a hair blower. After - all that was on my agenda – a good night’s sleep.

I must have dozed off a little after 10pm, CNN in the background, but heard Eileen return around 11pm. She had a great time in the Casino – didn’t loose, didn’t win. She was the only woman among lots of men, playing Blackjack… what more could a gal want?

Back to my pillow… tomorrow is another early wake-up as we head north to Laikipia.

... to be continued (you're going to have to wait a few days for the remaining report - patience, please!)

Jul 13th, 2005, 03:40 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 4,222
Sandi, you girls sure know how to live!

I told my friend/TC about you on the bridge at Grumeti--she thinks it's a conspiracy, "Why do they make everyone cross that bridge all the time???"

Thanks for taking the time to write this. I'm really enjoying it.
Leely is offline  
Jul 13th, 2005, 04:10 PM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 1,790
Thanks also.
bat is offline  
Jul 14th, 2005, 12:23 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 424

Great trip report and so descriptive. Had to laugh out loud when I read about stepping in the baboon poop. Had a similar experience at our first camp in Botswana ( Kings Pool ) on the evening after our arrival. The guide came to our tent to escort us to dinner as it was dark out but didn't bother to turn on his flashlight along the first part of the walkway and of course I managed to step in a large pile of baboon sh##. Didn't know this was a favorite past time of the baboon population especially after dark, ha! ha!

He then turned on his light to show me what I had managed to do to my brand new walking shoes and said that of all the poop to step in, baboon doo was just about the worst. I felt like saying " well thanks for not turning on the flashlight in the dark "

Anyway my dear spouse found a stick and had the fun job of picking doo doo from all the crevices on the bottom of my shoes before we were able to continue along the walkway and on to dinner.

Thanks again for a good laugh...
DJE is offline  
Jul 14th, 2005, 02:41 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,218
Dear Sandi
Many thanks for sharing your trip with us!
Kavey is offline  
Jul 15th, 2005, 05:01 AM
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Part V

Day 10 – June 4, 2005

Up and out and down the elevator to breakfast. The room for breakfast was lovely with plenty of choices.

While eating, a guy passed the table and recognizing Eileen from the Casino… they acknowledged one another and we asked him to join us. Eric was a sweet guy from Brussels… here in Nairobi trying to get his divorce, from a Kenyan woman, finalized. A really nice guy, that got himself into a situation I wouldn’t wish on an enemy. So nice, that he has the words “sucker” written across his chest… and boy was this situation a mess. But, I’m sure it’ll all work out… he just needed someone to talk with… and we were it, at 7am.

Saying our good-byes, we checked out of the hotel and into our waiting van. Within 20-minutes we were at Wilson Airport for our flight up north. Here our luggage was weighed… all pieces and sure enough… overweight! The guy said we owed 4,000 KSh (about $50+) and there was no way I was about to pay this… also thinking we had three more flights – and $50+ for each… I don’t think so. So I just put on my best smile and told him “I don’t have any money… it’s all been spent on this trip, and what’s left has to be used as tips.” Ok, that was a big one… but it worked, even though the guy did give me a sideways glance and smiling. Ok lady…

The waiting room fills with passengers for a few destinations. With time to spare we check out the souvenir shop, but Eileen did enough damage the day prior, so she’s “just looking.” I notice a young man (in late-20s with his father, a few small groups, a young family with two young daughters… one who is practicing a part she has in a play, and a beautiful young women – tall blond and slim – and play this head game of “where are they going, staying, etc.?” Sure enough, upon boarding, all of these people are on our flight – Nairobi to Nanyuki to Samburu. With no seat assignments, Eileen and I take window seats on the right side of the plane, me behind her. The young man and his dad are along the back seats, the family are somewhere up front and the “talk blond” takes the seat next to me.

We’re right on time for departure and once airborne, the young man recalls seeing Eileen and I at Sheldrick the day before; he and his father are heading to Samburu. The blond woman is heading to Lewa. In conversation we learn that she is Kenyan born, works for the Conservancy specializing in Grevy’s zebra. She was returning from flying lessons in Nairobi – she’s tired of always being in the back of the plane when the team is aloft tracking animals. Good for her taking the initiative to improve her position and money at the Conservancy. Eileen out of curiosity asks her “what’s your social life like?” and the response is “not very good.”

In less then an hour we’re landing in Nanyuki where we deplane for our connecting Private Charter to Laikipia. In doing so Belinda (this woman’s name) has to move so I can get out… and she actually steps off the plane to let the two of us off. All other passengers are continuing onward.

Here we meet our pilot, Eston (young, about 30, good-looking – later to learn “all the girls love the bush pilots” – and no wonder) who walks us over to our Cessna 182 and has our bags loaded. Being overweight, our duffles go under the plane, our carryons on the rear seats. In fact Eston was expecting another passenger, so we’re in a 6-seater rather then the original 4-seater… the other passenger is nowhere to be found. Maybe she changed her mind. Boarding, I take the co-pilot seat and choose earplugs over a headset; Eileen in the seat behind Eston goes for the headset.

It’s a beautiful day as we lift off and flying at maybe 10,000’ max. There are no mountains so we can cruise easily over the terrain. Below we can clearly see waterholes, animals, manyattas, farms, camels – it’s just lovely. The flight takes about 30-40 minutes and we’re landing at the Loisaba airstrip. While aloft we learned that while Eston and his sister are American born they arrived in Kenya as children when their father came over – as an Optomologist – to help in health care in Kenya. They’ve been living in Kenya since, though his sister had recently returned from the States where she had attended NYU in NYC. Where Eston received his education, we never learned, maybe w never asked.

Upon arrival and deplaning – without previously speaking, Eileen and I, in unison asked “did you notice the tall blond who deplaned in Nanyuki to allow the two of us off the inbound flight?” Before he could answer, Eileen and I broke into laughter – great minds working together. Unfortunately, he said he hadn’t, so we said “you should have” and proceeded to fill him in on his “next date.” He was very interested and said he’d pursue this. Matchmakers just doing their jobs – that’s us!

Here we’re met by Gabrielle, our driver – a Samburu in full regalia and quite handsome and a perfect command of English. We say our goodbyes to Eston and pile into our vehicle on our way to Sabuk. It’s about a 30-minute drive thru a desert-type environment… lots of brush, dry and beautiful; so unlike other areas in Kenya. Along the way we pass a number of small cattle groups with young men attending there animals.

Arriving at Sabuk we immediately see camels and all the staff, in their colorful clothing, come out to welcome us. As does Tamsin, the Manager and a young man – a spitting image of Prince Harry of England – but his name is Nick, and helping out as Sabuk has a full-house. We’re offered cool cloths and cool drinks and escorted into the cool public area – that contains soft cushioned hand-made furniture, a fireplace (for cool evenings), the bar and at the other end, the dining area. Walking in we notice that the other side is completely open to the wilderness with a viewing platform, telescope and the Ewaso Nyiro River below.

Besides having been greeted by the Samburu staff, so too are we introduced to the children and dogs. Now this was going to be different. The children – one little girl (about 6/yrs) belongs to Tamsin, the other little girl and younger boy (about 4/yrs) to friends of Tamsin visiting from Nairobi – Sharon and Peter (both Kenyan born). And the dogs – three of them who belong to Simon Ball the owner of Sabuk – all muts… one a lab mix, the others, who knows – who have the run of the place.

Tamsin has a full house of 13 guys from The Netherlands… fraternity brothers, here celebrating 25-years since graduating university, who besides getting together annually since, every 5-yrs schedule a destination vacation. This time it’s in Africa (the previous trip had been to Thailand). And they’ve taken up all the other bandas (Sabuk has six) except ours. So in many of the bandas the guys are doubled up; the lodge even having had beds made to accommodate all of them. So we’re escorted to our stone banda, the smallest, but more then sufficient for us. With two beds, and a skybed which hangs off the open edge of the banda (with mattress, pillows and mossie net) hanging over the river. The open side of the banda where the skybed is positioned has amazing views of the landscape just as seen from the platform in the public area. This is absolutely beautiful. Around back of the sleeping area is the bathroom, which contains a sink, combo tub/shower and the commode and completely opened to the sky. The banda itself is covered in makuti palm to protect from the sun and is very cool inside.

Freshening up, we return for lunch which is served family-style. Here we meet Sharon and Pete and the children join us for the meal, as does Tamsin and Nick. Apparently the fraternity brothers are eating out in the wilderness somewhere – I believe they went out walking and fishing in the river. The meal is delicious and those tomatoes are a big hit with the two of us. This is so because the tomatoes are grown for home consumption and not for export, there are no chemicals used, organically grown, so we’re enjoying tomatoes as tomatoes should be – all natural.

With little patience, the children leave the table – now adults only. We learn that Sharon is a jewelry designer – actually the designer for Kazuri Beads; it was her mother and another women who opened this business. Most interesting. All of a sudden we hear screaming and the kids are yelling “snake, snake” – except for us, the others go out to see what this is about and sure enough there is a snake hanging from a tree right over the head of where the little girls are playing on the walk. One of the Samburu comes over and identifies the snake as a small spitting cobra and promptly shoots it. One dead snake is fine with me.

Lunch complete, we have some time to relax before our afternoon camel safari. This area is so comfortable, we could have just as easily stayed here – the quiet, the view, the telescope for spotting animals – perfect. But the frat brothers arrive and are raving about the wonderful morning they had – all sharing in camel and horse rides… some went fishing, some even swimming in the river. Though at first glance the river isn’t all that inviting – it’s brown; that’s just the silt but the water is perfectly clear. They’re having a great time, spending two days at Sabuk and tomorrow heading down to the Mara for two days… then home – in other words they were enjoying “a guys long weekend.” And, why not…women do these weekends all the time.

Coming on about 4pm Eileen and I prepared for our Camel safari to “sundowners”… we walk out to the corral (boma) where the camels are saddled – heavily foam cushioned, covered with cotton cloth with wooden planks as steps to make climbing aboard easy; and wooden holds in the front for our hands. Under the cushioned seat is a compartment where the drinks and ice are kept, as well, blankets should it get cold out there. And we’re both provided walking sticks.
The camels are on the ground and Eileen is the first to board with the assist of the camel handlers… but as she’s about to swing her second leg over the camel decides he wants to get up. Thankfully, the handlers were each able to grab her under each arm and there she is floating in the air, legs waving in from of her – nothing beneath her but air. It happens so quickly, I barely have time to take the photos… which as you’ve probably seen is fuzzy… everyone had a good laugh. A second try, the camel stays down and Eileen is aboard. Now, I’m next and I get up on the camel as if I’ve done this everyday of my life – not!

Then the camel has to rise… this is the tricky part, so one holds on tight and hopes not to fall off as the camel make his jerky-kind of movement to get on all four. We’re both us none too damaged. Really, it was easy enough. And we’re set to go.

We have our guide and two camel handlers who lead these ships of the desert… singing to them – a clicking kind of sound. After a few steps your bottom picks up the rhythm and you move along. At this height it’s interesting to view things from on high. We come across a herd of camels traveling towards us; “oh, it’s rush hour, it must be as it’s 5pm.”We walk past staff housing, then into the wilderness on a road taking us to a large kopje we see in a distance. All along, my handler keeps asking “momma, how are you doing” to which I reply “I’m doing just find up here” This is all rather fun. Eileen looks back to me complaining that my camel is spitting on her… hey, these are camels and I have no idea what habits they have – spitting apparently is one of them. It’s good that she’s wearing a light denim shirt, it’ll be easy enough to launder.

After about 40-minutes we arrive at our “sundowner” Kopje, where we disembark… another experience, and I don’t break my finger nails as my Pakistan (my camels name – comes from the country where he was born… male camels only are used for these camel ride.) drop down to allow be to get off and on terra ferma. The guys gather all the goodies for our drinks and nibbles and pan for the camera while doing so. They’re so happy and really enjoy sharing this experience with their guests.

We do a short trek, with our walking sticks and about to climb the kopje. Well, Eileen climbs to the top… I stop midway. Heights just aren’t for me – little chicken that I am. But that’s fine with the one handler who stays with me half-way up the kopje. We have our own party at this position… and Eileen’s on top with three of the Samburu.

The scenery is lovely, it’s quiet and we’re enjoying ourselves. The young man who stays down below with me find a little mouse who loves our chips and periodically steals those we put out for him. The drinks just hit the spot. I learn that not too far, on a hill in a distance is a Catholic Church which many of the residents use, though this guy is actually a Seventh-Day Adventist. His actually home – manyatta – is nearby and he gets to see family regularly.

Spending about an hour or more here, the sun is setting. Eileen comes down from the Kopje… I don’t have that far to go to get back to our camels who are quietly waiting for us. We go thru the boarding procedures again – without incident – and are on our return trip. Again, my handler asks “momma, how are you doing?” Hey, I’m no one’s “momma” – so the next time he asks, I’ll be off the camel and he gets atop and I ask him “how are you doing” As long as I’m still atop the camel, I’m doing fine. But “momma” is just a word used as a show of respect.

Arriving back at Sabuk, Tamsin is waiting to see how we enjoyed. Well, I certainly did – quite interesting to have that camel hump under ones bottom – almost like being a passenger on the back of a cycle. Rather sexy! She rolled with laughter!

Then we hear from the kids that they too had gone out on a short camel drive and loved it. Six-year olds and the little boy about 4-years… what a life and experience for them.

One thing I did learn about these animals – “Camels are not a pet.”

... this Day 10 to be continued

Jul 18th, 2005, 05:58 AM
Posts: n/a
Part VI

Day 10 continued...

When we arrive for dinner there is a long family table set for the fraternity brothers… nearby a smaller table for “family” in which we are included: Here are Tamsin and Nick, Sharon and Pete and the two of us. The children had eaten earlier.

Needless to say we had another marvelous meal. Tamsin is in charge of preparing menus for the meals and this was outstanding… down to the kiwi pie. During dinner conversation we learn that Nick is Kenyan borne is in the camp/lodge hosting industry, but without a permanent home yet, so is available for helping out where his assistance is needed… for a day, a week or however long. He would be leaving for a new assignment the next day.

The fraternity guys were having a great time at their table… lots of laughs come from where they were sitting. Just about when dessert was being served one of the guys rose to make a speech… for the staff. And Tamsin called the staff out to hear his comments. In general it was something like: “four days ago I wasn’t sure about traveling to Africa for our get together. But I did fly over and have to say the experience has been wonderful. Especially, here at Sabuk, where Tammy or Mamma Tam (both names that Tamsin hates); the staff and guides so helpful and friendly making our stay something I’ll remember for years to come. Thank you!” Short and to the point. All the guys rose to toast the staff.

Needless to say the staff was touched and it didn’t take too much for them to start dancing… and they did.

It was a wonderful evening… the guys left, as they had to be up early for breakfast and an ongoing flight t the Mara where they would be ending their “long guy’s weekend.”

The rest of us finished with after dinner drinks. We said our goodnights… Nick escorted us back to our cabin. We too would be departing tomorrow, but not at the crack of dawn. We’d have time for breakfast and to say “so longs” to our new friends.

Back at our cabin… even with a light that we left on – it was dark. Very dark. The beds had been turned-down, mossie nets were surrounding the beds… but dark. When we shut the light, it was way too black and for someone who still sleeps with a night-light… this wasn’t going to work. Especially, if either of us had to get up for the bathroom, we’d need a torch to find the walkway. So I left my Maglite set as a torch on the nightstand… this was perfect. Sure enough when I got up in the middle of the night the Maglite was out, so I grabbed the torch provided and found my way to the loo. On my way I could see a light in the dark night and realized it was coming from one of the cabins where the guys were sleeping. Guess I wasn’t the only grown-up who needed light… this brought a smile to me. Finished and ready to return to the sleeping area, I leave the bathroom light on.

In the morning we’ll be leaving for Loisaba and The Starbeds.

Day 11 – June 5, 2005

Showered and finished packing we head up for Breakfast. The guys are gone… only family and friends remaining. Joining us are Simon’s wife and their little girl who is adorable. As the children started before us, they were out playing by the time we took our seats.

This morning Sharon and Pete would be taking Tamsin’s little girl back to Nairobi, were she would be staying with them… starting school for the first time. So while they were getting together, Tamsin had time to show us the other cabins which were in the process of being put back together as they should be without all the extra beds provided to accommodate the big group. She was expecting only two for the coming day/night – photographers from a Netherland’s magazine – Residence.

We took about an hour or so to walk-thru the various bandas… all different in size, design, though décor similar except for different color schemes. All had sunken tub/show combinations… most with views into the wilderness. Some bathrooms were on the upper level; others had twin beds or king and one even a loft bed for a child. All done very well. We took lots of photos.

Finished with the tour of the place, we were given the choice of doing a camel ride to Loisaba – about 2-hours, or to drive. We chose the latter. The camel was fine for sundowners, but 2-hrs… we chose not. Before we left, we did gather the women who take care of the rooms – giving them nail polish which they were so appreciative of. Saying goodbye here is an experience… everyone comes out to wish you a pleasant journey. The cabin crew, the kitchen staff and waiters, the camel handlers and anyone else who wishes to do so… and everyone was there. This was so much fun. We must have shook hands with and said goodbye to about 25 people.

Into the vehicle with Gabrielle and his buddy, we drive over to Loisaba. The trip was only about 35-minutes. Arriving here, we were greeted by Rachel and Chris, the Managers. And, of course, the obligatory cold towel and drink. Although we wouldn’t be staying here, rather at the Starbeds…we were taking through the property which is beautiful. We couldn’t, however, see the rooms as they had a full-house – a large multi-generational family. There was one room that wasn’t made up that gave us an idea of the kind of rooms here for guests. From what we could see, these rooms were a decent size; all look out onto the wilderness. We had to use our imagination for when the bedding, spreads, pillows were in place. We didn’t take any photos.

We then walked past the pool – yes a big pool, not Olympic size, but perfect for the heat the area is known for. Most of the group were here and getting ready for lunch. The group was seated at a long family-style table. A separate table had been set up for Eileen and me… and Rachel and Chris would be joining us. Lunch was buffet and everything was beautifully presented and very tasty… especially those tomatoes in their salads. And Rachel had made a wonderful dressing for the salads… her own recipe – hit the spot. Dessert was lemon meringue pie

Rachel and Chris are a professional lodge/camp management team, recently incorporating and providing their services where needed. It’s not unusual that a manager at some camp or lodge leaves without notice and someone has to be brought in on a temporary basis till a permanent person/team is hired; or permanently. Rachel is Kenya borne; Chris is from the UK… he takes care of the business/computer end of things, while Rachel handles are the scheduling of activities for guests. A lovely and very competent couple.

Finishing lunch, we go sit on the deck that looks out on the Loisaba Wilderness… so beautiful. There’s a telescope for spotting animals and they are out there… not herds, but they’re there. And lots of beautiful birds abound.

While sitting out here another group arrives… American’s from California – two couples. This group had driven from the Samburu area (their previous stop) and actually got lost once in the Loisaba area, so the delay in arriving. I can sure believe they got lost as there are no signs out there… even the sign for Loisaba had the arrow pointing in the wrong direction. These two couples would also be staying with us at Kioja Starbeds.

At about 3:30pm we drive with Gabrielle to Starbeds… the others in their vehicle. Sure enough we come upon a suspension bridge over the Ewaso Nyire River. At least this one has straight planks and no baboon poop. No problem! Eileen and I are over this bridge as if we do this all the time. The others are right behind is.

At Koija Starbeds - there are two double platforms with ensuite loo and safari shower for couples; one family platform which actually has two platforms and shared loo and safari shower between each platform. Each Starbed is at a distance from the others, providing plenty of privacy. These sleeing accommodations are certainly different, but the beds are amazing. These are rolled out onto the open platform/s with only the sky above. They are completely covered with mossie nets… open to the sky. Should the weather be wet, the bed can remain further back on the platform where it is covered by makuti palms. The balance of the décor is simple – a closet with shelves, a shelf to place your stuff and two wooden lounge chairs. The platforms, themselves sit about 5’ – 6’ off the ground… all face the river.

We try getting into these beds… which are rather high off the ground, but are built with two pieces of wood that act as steps. Then it’s a matter of figuring out how to get in through the mossie nets, which are tucked in very tight under the well-made bed – down blanket covered with tradition Samburu blankets and plenty of pillows.

We’re staying in the double platform which is the furthest from the fireplace and dining area. So as sundown is approaching we head that way. It’s lovely. The fire is lit, drinks are being offered. Introductions made again. The staff here is very accommodating and shortly it is time for dinner which is set family style. We take our seats and each course is delivered in turn. For dessert – meringue pie! Everything is excellent. We haven’t had a bad meal yet in Kenya. Drinks were flowing and we were all ready for partying. And that’s just what we had. J.W was first to get up with the Samburu to get into the rhythm, then Sheena and Mike, finally Eileen. I played photographer and got some great dancing photos using everyone’s cameras. This was so fun.

Around 10pm we called it quits… everyone walked back to their platforms, but the guys did want to return for their cigars, which we presumed they did… we didn’t know for certain till the next morning.

Getting ready for bed, Eileen commented “don’t be surprised if you find company in bed tonight… not too sure how I’ll feel out on that platform all by myself.” Well, she did quite well, and I slept all by myself counting the billions of stars and identifying the Southern Cross – it’s the southern sky one see here rather then the northern one. It tested my knowledge. Next I knew it was about 3am and I needed the loo, but there was no way I intended to get out of bed to walk to it. I almost wished they provided a potty pan … ha! ha! – but managed to get through the rest of the night without the trip to the loo. A bit before 6am you hear the birds… the perfect alarm clock… and a few minutes later the sun is up over the horizon. At this point I was out from under the mossie net and into the loo.

... to be continued

Jul 19th, 2005, 01:29 AM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 1,479
After viewing your photos it is fantastic to read the narrative. The camel story is priceless and the Starbeds sounded out of this world.
Sarvowinner is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 04:02 AM
Posts: n/a
Sarvowinner -

As mentioned when I did the photos I realized it was more Photo Journal, so thought I could avoid the text! No way, as I need the text for my personal journal... so now you can all read and I can enjoy for years to come. I'm glad that you're enjoying. More to come...

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