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For those who had the patience to wait! Trip Report - Tanzania & Kenya, May/June '07 (Sandi)

For those who had the patience to wait! Trip Report - Tanzania & Kenya, May/June '07 (Sandi)

Old Nov 19th, 2007, 05:09 PM
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Hurrah! I, like Dennis, thought you'd joined the writers' strike. Instead you're back, with cheetah sightings at that.
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Old Nov 29th, 2007, 10:48 AM
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Just got caught up with your report. Thanks for continuing!
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Old Nov 29th, 2007, 11:03 AM
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Lynn -

All the jackals we saw that night were in pairs. The Tommie that didn't make it wasn't full grown... a little one. Sadly, he wasn't "born to run"!
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Old Nov 29th, 2007, 03:06 PM
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Now that born to run comment makes more sense to me and so does the jackal behavior. Must have been sad to see.
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Old Dec 1st, 2007, 03:15 PM
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Monday, June 4, 2007

After breakfast, I took the short drive to Mara Intrepid’s Camp, the sister camp of Explorer. I wanted to see the recently refurbished tent which Heritage Hotels had been undertaking at most of their properties.

As it was dusk when we left Intrepids the day before, I didn’t notice the entry to the camp. I must say, the driveway to the camp is quite impressive with lovely fully grown acacia trees. Here I was met by an Assistant Manager to walk the property. With the exception of the last few tents still being worked on, most of the new ones were now set on concrete base (formerly all were on raised wood platforms, though I did see a few refurbished tents still on platforms at the farthest end of the camp). With a total of about 30/tents, they are in three sections. Each section has a Family Tent which consists of two tents joined by a screened airway with chairs/tables. Each section also has a “honeymooners” tent with access from the side (rather than the front) and river facing offering more privacy.

The furnishings are all new with warm safari colors, twin or queen-sized beds, new bathrooms with separate commode and shower stalls, modern twin wash basins. Though I didn’t see provided hair blowers, there were plenty of outlets, so assume visitors can use their own. But one must always check or burn down the place! Lighting over the sinks was very good. There are a few dining venues on the property, a pool, large duka (shop).

From the number of visitors coming/going, whether game drives or other activities at this mid-morning hour, I figured about half the camp was occupied, which is quite impressive for early-June. Also, noticed quite a number of families, some even with infants. The Intrepids Camps are known for their Children’s Adventure Program for the young-uns; the Rangers Program for young teens. Both are very well received. Like Explorer, the Intrepids Camps do three game drives daily. I finished this hectic part of my visit, bending elbows and exchanging “tales of Afree-kah” with the manager.

Returning to Explorer Camp, I was met by Marianna and as we strolled to the deck where we were about to have an early “sundowner” – hey it was 12N and the flag must have been up over the yardarm somewhere, a little frog jumped in our path. Well, you would have though it was a snake or a lion. I had never seen a grown women panic so! Of all things, Marianna is scared to death of frogs. I didn’t know whether to get her a wet cloth, a fan or provide a tranquilizer… it was so unexpected. Once she calmed down we both laughed. Hey, you just never know.

After lunch, another game drive, again with the Spanish honeymooners. And, we were going to look for cats. Well, we drove and drove, and the cats weren’t favoring us. We saw lots of zebra, elephants, topi, antelope and birds… but no cats, till late afternoon. The grass here was quite high, so it was difficult to spot them, but found them we did eventually, when I spotted a tail. It was their nap time, so they were down deep in the grass. It was a small pride of four - two each male and female, where we were joined by a vehicle from Ilkeliani Camp.

It was so nice to be out here in quiet solitude. We didn’t stay long as the skies started to turn dark and looked as the rains would come any minute. But they didn’t… just threatening. Time to head back to camp.

Returning to camp, there were new guests, two women from the UK whom we joined for sundowners. Surprisingly, while the fire was roaring, I noticed that the dining area was dark and didn’t see anyone preparing the tables for dinner. Stored this in the back of my mind and let it pass. The threesome from the UK and SA returned from their game drive, new introductions made, we then caught up on the day’s sightings. Soon after, one of the askaris arrived to tell us there was a leopard nearby, if we wanted to have a look-see? Antenna up! This sounded strange, hoping the camp wasn’t baiting the animal. Apparently now, but this group wanted to take showers and return later and went their way, jokingly one of them said, "I'll return with my spear"! Little did he know.

The rest of us followed the askari back thru the entry path – in the dark – towards an area where I saw lanterns positioned. Ok, jigs up, I immediately realized they had set up for a bush dinner and I was right.

At a long table there was soup, salad, veggies, breads, deserts; a separate station with BBQ meats on the spits – beef, chicken, lamb, ribs – a chef to carve and which we all dug in to enjoy.

While I was enjoying my meal, I noticed (even in the dark) an unfamiliar, but very tall man walking towards me. As I focused on the figure, what I saw was the most amazingly beautiful smile, attached a very very handsome man that took my breath away. I put down my utensils and stared at the voice that introduced himself as the Manager from Intrepids. He apologized for not being at the camp when I visited earlier, but did want to meet. Be still my heart! I don’t believe I said anything but my name. That smile lit up the night... what a wonderful way to end my day!

But, neither the day nor night was yet over, as we watched the Masai perform with some of the guests joining the dancing and jumping. The guy who returned with his spear was having one heck of a good time. Believe the Tusker he was drinking was also having its effect. It was really lots of fun.

By about 10pm we were all escorted back to our tents. Tomorrow I’ll be leaving the Mara... six days goes so quickly.

... to be continued
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Old Dec 1st, 2007, 03:39 PM
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Hi Sandi!

I love your trip reports...definitely better late than never!

Moira
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Old Dec 9th, 2007, 01:47 PM
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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

It’s 7am; did I know where I was? Absolutely, sitting in bed, propped up by pillows, listening to the river and birds, enjoying my morning java, when I heard footsteps on the path. Rather quick steps, kind of running up the path. What could be happening? As my tent flaps are always open, I immediately realized it wasn’t one of the askari, but the husband of the Spanish couple... totally engrossed in getting to “his” tent. He pops up the one step, grabs the zipper pull and opens the tent and is caught completely off guard when I greeted him with a big smile and “buenos dias” - holding back a laugh. Embarrassed and apologizing profusely, I told him hakuna matata, as he backed out, re- zipped the tent and went to find “his” tent.

Guess, it’s easy enough to walk down the wrong path, to the wrong tent. Oh well, a fun way to stay the day. Showered, dressed and packed, I headed to breakfast, where on taking my seat, my morning visitor again apologized. I reassured him, it was nothing.

With an 11am flight to Nairobi, we’re off to the airstrip to find some others waiting (not all heading to NBO... believe others to Mombasa). The plane was a few minutes late, but boarded, myself only and one stop at the Serena for another pick-up, arriving Wilson 12:30pm, where Solomon was waiting for me. Bags retrieved and into the van, we’re off to Ngong House, but first a stop at the office. Had things to drop off (they were holding a bag for me with items I had to take home), get final information for my next few days... and to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in some months.

Finished here, Solomon hands me over to the driver from Ngong House for the 20-minute drive to this lovely property in Karen. Here, I’m met by the manager from whom I request a cool “real” drink... no fruity one, regardless how delicious and refreshing they are. As I enjoy my vodka, I notice there are a few guests finishing their lunch on the lawn. The property is lovely, with tables set out for meals a nearby pool and lounge chairs.

I’m then escorted to my room, with two of the women taking my bags on their heads. Don’t know how they do it, and then have to climb a narrow winding stairway to one of the four tree-houses. These are set about 15’ above the ground with a small outside sitting area, where meals can be taken. Inside, it’s lovely, with a queen-sized bed. There’s also a ladder leading to a small sleep loft, ideal for a child or third person. Adjacent to the main sleeping area, is a sofa and chair and table with lots of reading material. The bathroom in this particular tree-house is down a long hallway where I come upon a tub. But, no ordinary bathtub, rather one set in a mokoro (dug-out canoe)... how wonderful, just what I need after six days in the bush. Showers really don’t do it for me... there’s nothing like a bath. Here in the rear are also the twin wash basins, commode and separate large shower stall. And, on the wall is hanging - guess what? Yup, a hair dryer. Can’t wipe the smile off my face.

The balance of the afternoon, I simply relaxed, read some, even fell into a deep sleep with book on my lap; probably needed it. Next thing I realized, it was dark and the hour was coming on 6:30pm. With dinner scheduled for 7:30, I figured it was time for sundowners and though I had been told someone would escort me, I didn’t wait. I heard voices not too far from my room, so with my handy Maglite, I followed the voices that were already at the fire.

Here I met Paul, the owner and the other guests, Martha and Dick from Charleston, SC with their agent, David. David is a member of the Kent family (of A&K fame) who as many of the family, since A&K has been sold, is providing services independently. With drink in hand, we caught up with stuff before Paul and David took their leave and left the three of us for dinner. We were escorted to an enclosed boma (it had a roof... grass as do the tree-houses) with fireplace, where we found set a lovely table for the three of us.

Needless to say, true to everything I had heard, this was probably the best meal I’ve eaten anywhere – in Africa, New York, California, even France. The chef is a genius. After the second appetizer, none of us thought we could eat another morsel, but that didn’t stop us. My main course was beef, theirs was fish. And, dessert... well, just the right amount of chocolate to carry the taste to bed, but not keep you from sleeping! We left lots of “dead soldiers” at our table... between, reds and whites and dessert wines.

Martha and Dick were heading off on safari very early next morning, so we said our good-byes and all managed to return to our rooms with no assistance (though provided). I even managed that spiral staircase without falling on my face.

... to be continued


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Old Dec 9th, 2007, 02:09 PM
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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Since I didn’t have to be at Wilson till about noon for a 12:30pm flight, but still up at 7am, I had coffee in my room, ran the tub and enjoyed a leisurely soak. Hair washed and giving the hair dryer time to do its thing, I ventured to the lawn, where a lovely table was set for my breakfast. Seemed, I was the only guest in residence, though Paul and the dog did join me for a few minutes. The air was cool, warming by the minute; breakfast was perfect.

Breakfast finished, Paul and I walked the property. Surprisingly, one other room was occupied, the others being cleaned and set for guests that were actually late arriving from the airport. All rooms are similar in size, slightly different design, each very private from the others... you really don’t know anyone else is on the grounds. For those who may have issues with the spiral stairs, there are two rooms on ground-level... one attached to the main public space. The other, a short walk away is actually a private house perfect for families or a group. With beautiful floor-to-ceiling glass walls, two bedrooms each with private bathroom, a living and bar area with fire-pit, pool table which converts to a dining table and small kitchen. There’s additional sleeping space in a sofa area, easily converted to beds. Like the tree-houses, set in these lovely gardens.

I spent a bit of time at the atelier of Penny Winters, Paul’s wife who has her own line of custom designed clothing and unique jewelry. No, website, folks... I asked. It’s was so refreshing to watch her place patterns, pin to lovely silk fabrics, cut with a scissor and know, it’s hand sewn. There are items for men and women, with all kinds of fabrics... cotton, linen, silk, leather, at nice prices... expensive, but not ridiculously so. The jewelry items are mostly one-of-a-kind with unique and semi-precious stones. Taking my leave, and knowing I was going onto Campi ya Kanzi, she gave me a package for Antonella... a baby gift. Lucky little boy, I had gifts also.

With a few minutes till my drive to Wilson, I met the other guest here who had just seen his wife off for her airport transfer and homebound flight. He was on R&R from his military duties in Afghanistan. This was a perfect place to meet, though from Canada, his wife was hesitant about traveling to Africa and all kinds of (untrue) tales from people who had never been. What else is new? Needless to say, she didn’t want to leave, it had been so wonderful. And, surprise, surprise, they had just spent a few days at Ndolwa House, where I would be in two days. As I listened to him tick off all the game they had seen in Tsavo West South and on the private conservation lands, was looking forward to my own stay at Ndolwa. You just never know, who you’ll meet where. A place few have heard of and here was someone who had just been.

Well, it’s time for my transfer, so with adieus and double-cheek kisses, 20/minute later, I’m at Wilson. While visitors to Campi ya Kanzi can fly on the scheduled flight early morning to Finch Hatton’s airstrip, it’s then a road (1+/hrs) transfer to CYK and this was how I was initially routed. However, there’s also a CYK plane, which lands only a 10-15/minutes drive from the camp. Though there’s a minimum of 2/pax for this flight and since I’m only one person, at last minute (why I stopped in the office yesterday), there was a honeymoon couple flying to CYK, so I flew with them.

Waiting for the pilot to load the plane with all our bags, we make our introductions and guess what? A Spanish couple... this must be Spanish Month. Third couple. With me in the co-pilot seat, we take off for the 1/hr flight. It’s fairly clear and so green below. As we get closer to the Chyulu Hills, even greener because of the volcanic ground. On landing, we’re met by Stefano, for the short drive to camp. Stefano is a longtime friend of Luca and has been with him in Kenya almost as long as the camp has been open. Arriving at camp, we’re greeted by the staff and welcomed by Luca and Antonella and Lulu (their 5/year old daughter). The other guests (a couple from San Francisco) are just finishing lunch, though the table has been reset for us.

Introductions made, the newcomers are escorted to their tents. The honeymooners were taken to one of the suites, while I went to a twin tent.

Here are traditional safari tents, mine with twin beds, with ample walking space; bathroom to the rear with commode and bidet, shower stall and single wash basin, good lighting. Towels and bathrobes are waffle-weave, of which I have a few sets at home, and wonderful to find here. A lovely wide deck outside with chairs and small table... view of the waterhole and if it were a clearer day... Kili is out there.

Sitting down for lunch, Stefano joins us. Luca spends some time discussing the camp, the history, the community, the various projects, then leaves us to enjoy our meal. The dining area is under the same roof as the public space, open floor plan, with lots of soft sofas and chairs and a large library – this is Tembo House.

Though Stefano, naturally, is fluent in Italian, it was interesting how our conversations went. The wife had a better handle on English, so what Stefano said to me in English, he then conveyed to the wife in Italian, who translated for her husband into Spanish. Believe me... after two days, we all seemed to be speaking the same language. And the husband’s English was greatly improved by the next day!

For the afternoon activity, it was to be a walking safari, but not me. Though safe enough, I prefer to be in a vehicle and Barbara (wife of SFO couple) felt likewise. We would go with Stefano by vehicle to the mountain, while her husband (Jim) and the honeymooners (Paulo and Sandra) would walk and meet us here. Barbara and I met Stefano at about 4pm, for the short drive to the 850’ “mini-Kili” we were to climb! The others had started out at about 3:30 with a tracker with rifle. Surprise of surprises, the climb wasn’t all that bad, following the track made by many animals who proceeded us sometime during the previous 24/hrs, as the animal droppings indicated. We’re almost to the top, when we hear a yell from below... the others had caught up and made it from the bottom to where we were a whole lot faster than we did initially.

Once on top, the view was amazing. And, I was so proud of myself, I couldn’t resist a “Rocky” photo. We had our sundowners, took pictures, chatted and told stories. But, as those who know, the sky begins to turn dark real fast once the sun drops down below the horizon, so we started down. It’s easier going down than dragging the butt up! We’re all in the vehicle and get maybe 100’, when we stop dead. The hood comes up, some fiddling, but the engine isn’t turning over. With a call to camp, we wait for another vehicle to come and retrieve us.

Back at camp, we had time to wash up, make pit stops and then have cocktails before sitting down for dinner. The other vehicle, is back soon after... whatever it was, was repaired.

Dinner and conversation were wonderful. When we were finished and about to be escorted to our tents, we had to wait. The askaris had scanned the area and there were “eyes” everywhere... buffalo eyes. So we waited, had another round of after dinner drinks and finally, with the area cleared... the buffalo had continued to a nearby waterhole. We then returned to our tents and a well deserved good night to sleep.

... to be continued


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Old Dec 9th, 2007, 05:04 PM
  #29  
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sandi:
Thanks for the most recent installment--I happened to be able to read them all in one swoop--looking forward to the next one.
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Old Dec 10th, 2007, 09:19 AM
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Sandi, great details in your report for those of us trying to choose locations, lodges, etc. Though most trip reports concentrate on game viewing, I believe reports such as yours provide much needed advice on the "secondary aspects" of a safari - where one goes and stays.
And it is most refreshing to get back to what I love most about this forum...reading intersting trip reports. Thank you! Cc
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Old Dec 10th, 2007, 05:22 PM
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Sandi, the next time I'm having a drink and about to head off for bed, I dearly hope someone says, "Oh, we have to have another--too many Cape buffalo out there."

Still enjoying all the details.
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Old Dec 11th, 2007, 05:50 AM
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I've committed the same faux pas as your unexpected Spanish visitor. At least in my case, the tent was empty. Best meal ever! Africa is just so full of surprises.
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Old Dec 11th, 2007, 06:49 AM
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Lots of great info here, thanks so much for all teh detail, Sandi.
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Old Dec 16th, 2007, 12:18 PM
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Thursday, June 7, 2007

Another morning to sleep-in, if being wide awake by 7am is considered “sleeping-in?” After shower, I walk up for breakfast between 8:30-9am where I meet Barbara. Jim had gone out with one of the guides/trackers while Paulo and Sandra were out with another. The two of us enjoyed our coffee leisurely and chatting, about where they had already been (Borana) and would be going (Saruni at Masai Mara, Crater Lodge at Ngorongoro and Sasakwa at Grumeti Reserves), then about the bed linens... asking whether mine were soft or rough. Strange, as when I hit the bed after all that fresh air, was off to dreamland so fast, I barely had time to notice. Seems, the ones in their tent were rough, appearing to be linen rather than cotton. Well, well – I’d have to check mine when I returned to my tent. Barbara also mentioned that when we first arrived, she thought I was the mother of one of the couple! Excuse me? I believe the days of sending a chaperone with a couple (married or not), is way over. Guess, having given up the bottle and letting the lovely silver sprinkle my hair is a give-away; I could probably be the mother of one of the honeymooners, but for the fact “no habla espanol.” Anyway, a good laugh is always welcome to start the day!

Somewhere around 10am, Barbara and I headed to the dining area for breakfast with Jim, Paulo and Sandra not far behind; Antonella, Luca, Lulu and Stefano also joined us. With a new baby (born in April), Antonella, for these first few months has only been joining guests for breakfast and lunch. Lulu and Luca were discussing a surprise for us for dinner and wanted to know our favorite flavor. For whatever the surprise, we voted on chocolate, but we'd have to wait till evening for whatever was being planned. Lulu was then off to school, where a young women teaches both Lulu and young girl from the local village.

For me, it was going to be a leisurely day. The others went off to do something, somewhere... maybe the local village; I was back to reading. I get so little time at home to read or just relax, I treasure my time in Africa to do as much or as little as I choose. We had something planned for the afternoon, so that was sufficient activity for a day.

Back at my tent, I did check my bedding and realized the sheets were linen, not cotton; mine though were soft. I had to wonder whether those in the other tent were new, maybe not laundered before being put on the bed? Sure enough, when Barbara and I met up for lunch, that was it, the sheets hadn’t been laundered. But the staff took care of this immediately, removing those on the bed and replacing with a set having a softer hand. No further questions, problem handled.

As breakfast was rather late, so too was lunch... we probably didn’t gather till well after 1pm and enjoyed a very leisurely meal; so very continental. In fact, by the time we concluded, we had maybe 30/minutes to get ready for the afternoon drive.

With all of us guests in one vehicle with Stefano driving and a tracker, we’re off for a forest walk. The sun was hanging in the sky offering a lovely warm afternoon and amazing colors everywhere, whether on the ground or in the sky. Climbing way up into the Chyulu Hills, we did pass scattered game, mostly antelope and quite a number of giraffe. The higher up, the better the views looking down on the plains.

We finally stopped and proceeded to follow Stefano. The tracker remained with the vehicle, only to later realize he drove it to the end of the forest walk, then backtracked and met up with us. And, you never hear them! Never!

The grass was high, with lots of vines, but no one got caught up in the undergrowth. Once inside the forest, the trees were large and quite magnificent, lots of great moss covered root systems and blanketing the forest floor. This reminded me of a camp experience when I was about 12/yrs old, where we got lost in an environment so quiet and yet surprising around every bend. As kids we were somewhat scared, but not this time. It was simply so peaceful and different. And, safe - not an animal around, but we could hear birds in the trees, yet difficult to see.

The walk took about 45/minutes, coming out on the other end, to find our chariot waiting. On the way down, we stopped at a great viewpoint for sundowners where we stayed to see the sun drop below the horizon. We could see giraffe on the slopes and down on the plains.

Returning to camp about 7pm, I freshened up in the loo adjacent to the dining area, then curled up on one of the sofas, with sundowner in front of me and a choice of reading material. The others headed to their tents, returning about half-hour later for dinner.

As was expected, the meal and conversation were great, joined by Stefano and Luca. Oh, and Paulo’s English was improving by the hour. Finishing our main course, Lulu joined us and announced the “surprise.” She and Luca had earlier, prepared homemade ice cream. And, boy was this good. Very good and so decadently chocolate, the back of my teeth hurt. Needless to say, thumbs up all around.

No buffalos tonight to delay the return to our tents. The herds probably made their way to the waterhole earlier.

Tomorrow, I’m off to my last stop on this, so far, really great visit.

... to be continued


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Old Jan 18th, 2008, 10:09 PM
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Hi Sandi-

Just loading this wonderful report into the index - I was trying to locate the thread with your pictures this year (I'm sure I remember one, yes?) and I fell asleep at my desk looking through all of the posts so I must have missed it! Can you add the link into this post for me?

Thanks!
Lynda
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Old Jan 19th, 2008, 04:17 AM
  #36  
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Been caught up with "stuff" as you can imagine, so if Lynda askes, I provide

My photo link,

http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=...1&y=nebvzo

There are still a few more days - at Ndolwa. If I can get out from under, will try to have report completed this weekend. Thanks for being patient.
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Old Jan 19th, 2008, 07:31 AM
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Sandi, now I’ve caught up with your report and I’m looking forward to reading about Ndolwa and the little genet.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2008, 02:59 PM
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Friday, June 8, 2007

Dressed and packed, and as I’ll be leaving camp before 10am, I head for an earlier than usual breakfast. The others were probably out early, so I’m alone for a few minutes when they return. Both couples would be staying another day, so with goodbyes, cards exchanged and thank-you all around, I’m off with a driver and guide to Finch Hatton’s Camp.

Here, I’m to meet up with Marcus Russell and Shikha for the drive to Ndolwa House. Drive time from Campi ya Kanzi to Finch Hatton’s is exactly 1-1/2 hours, over the rocky volcanic grounds, with game sightings along the way, then crossing the main road that goes west to Amboseli and soon at my drop-off point.

Right on time, I’m met by my new hosts and Marcus’ 10-year old son Blaide who is visiting for a few weeks, along with one their guides. As I’m out of one vehicle, thanking my guide/driver, I then meet up with the Manager of Finch Hatton’s, who was my lifesaver last year with a great anti-itch cream which I desperately needed after my ankles had been attacked by pepper ants. We exchanged pleasantries, I hit the loo and then we were on our way south.

After the rocky roads in Chyulu, it was a pleasant surprise to be driving on excellent roads. Dirt, yes, but there were no ruts and we were able to move at a good speed. This area is often referred to as the Serengeti of Kenya, with wide open plains, game often at a distance. On Blaide’s suggestion, a game where we would all get points for the species each could spot before the others. Blaide was real good, as he was sitting atop the vehicle, but I was doing pretty good myself... one after the other. It was fun and my points were adding up. Would there be a prize at the end? Probably not, but fun!

Blaide also kept saying he had surprises for me once we got to camp, and seemed to want to tell me what it would be, but Shikha told him “then it wouldn’t be a surprise.” Kids! Too cute.

All of a sudden, Marcus comes to a dead stop, gets out of the vehicle and returns with a chameleon; a pretty (subjective) yellow thing that if he wasn’t a great guide with amazing sight would have rode right over - one dead chameleon! Having a small box on the front seat just for such findings, in it went with a reminder to all in/on the vehicle that we remove the critter when back at camp. I could only surmise, they’ve on occasion forgotten, only to find a dead something, when they did!

Blaide also wanted to see the Lions of Tsavo… those big guys, some of which they saw on their way to pick me up, so off we went in search. Sure enough, Marcus remembered where these guys had been and there they were. Well, kind of. The brush was very thick, but we could see the two mane-less, really, really large lions. That’s right, no manes, which is common for the lions here. Supposedly because of the thick brush and thus to avoid getting caught on twigs and branches, this no-mane has been bred into the species. These were big lions... the largest I’ve ever seen; one more skittish than the other. And as soon as the skittish one moved, so too did the other. Guess they don’t see visitors often!

On our way again, the next stop Blaide wanted to make was at the Tsavorite mine! Tsavorite, as with Tanzanite, are only found in certain areas. Tsavorite, named after where first found – Tsavo (naturally), is a green stone, often referred to as green garnet which is used as an alternative to emeralds, even by jewelers as Cartier and Tiffany’s. The emerald is a very soft stone and is almost always set surrounded by diamonds (hard) for protection. Tsavorite, on the other hand, is a very strong stone. The stone was originally unearthed sometime in the 1920s, about the same as was Tanzanite. There are a number of legitimate mines in the park, that unearth the stones for market. But also some smaller mines that few know about. Don’t ask, as I won’t tell, if I could even find my way if left out there on my own. Believe me though, if KWS could cordon off a 10/mile radius secured area, to mine and sell stones, they’d have sufficient funds for their work, salary, vehicles, communications… for years to come.

Well, Marcus found the track and in we drove and there was this big hole, rather a few big holes that it seemed some trouble-makers have found and must have been mining on their own, obvious from the trash left behind - soda cans, water bottles, cold fires, etc. This was quite interesting and rough stones were everywhere, but whether they’d be worth anything, I couldn’t say. However, it was fun to run about the place with our apparent lack of concern for wild animals. I amaze myself sometimes.

Getting on 1pm, we were at Ndolwa, a lovely small camp. Located on a private concession, right outside the Tsavo boundary and not far from the Maktau Gate, are three (3) lovely large cottages, a public covered area with lounge and dining with two (2) single rooms to the rear. Though rough, natural surroundings, this was lovely.

I dropped my bags, washed my hands and gladly accepted the cool drink offered. Not two minutes later, Blaide appeared with a mongoose and a small cage which contained a tiny tiny stripped mongoose. Well, this was the surprise and it didn’t take me a second to play with the little one (as seen in my photos). At Ndolwa, there are all kinds of orphaned animals that are either picked up from the roads, while out on safari or they just find their way here. They’re cared for, nursed back to health, fed by bottle if needed, and eventually set into the wild. Besides the mongeesesessssss, there were three (3) almost 1/yr old ostriches that arrived as babies. All were still brown, as the male colors don’t show till sometime around 1/yr... so soon. Also, there were a few genet cats, small and large; the little one in the rafters and curious about the new guest. Sure enough, he eventually came down and sniffed about.

All of a sudden, I remembered. The chameleon which Blaide retrieved and brought to me. A cute critter, though it did nip at my pinky, but didn’t draw blood. Probably, not keen on being handled, so we placed him in a nearby tree, to live out his life in “chameleon heaven” and hopefully safe from larger predators.

Lunch was being prepared, so I had a few minutes to be taken to my cottage, unpack a few items and catch my breath. It had already been a full morning into afternoon. The cottage was large, about 16’ x 20’ with an outside porch about 8’ deep. Inside, I was welcomed with a king-sized bed, surrounded by mossie net on a track, though tied back during the daylight hours, two large closets, a small sitting area; separate bathroom with commode, single washbasin and vanity, and shower stall. The walls are hand painted and individual colored stones set in the concrete in great designs. This cottage was the size of my living room at home... very nice, indeed.

Returning to the lounge, lunch was being served family style. As the only guest, it was like having your own African home in the bush, spending time with friends for good food, plenty of drink and great conversation. We finished lunch around 3:30pm and could have gone out on game drive, but I really just wanted to sit on that porch and enjoy the quiet, but for the sounds of Afree-kah, and the view as the day came to an end, knowing the sunset would be outstanding. So it was agreed we’d meet at the campfire at dusk.

Back at my cottage, with book in hand, I settled in on the porch sofa for what I enjoy most about these trips, sorry folks... not always the game, but rather... “me time.” No work, no phones, no computer, no cars honking, no people! The waiter arrived with a cold beer and I was one happy camper.

The sunset was beautiful, so after taking a few photos, changed into a warmer sweater and off for “sundowners.” The closer I got to the campfire, I could hear an engine, only to see Blaide rolling over the hills in a small ATV. Does kind of upset the balance, but he was having so much fun, who could object. I was amazed he could see where he was going as it got darker, but he managed.

Settling down at the roaring fire, on stone couches, with colorful cushions, Marcus and Shikha soon joined me, as we nibbled on munchies... little meat patties, chips, dip and more beverages.

At 8pm we adjourned inside for dinner, which Marcus carefully carved and served to perfection. Each course eaten leisurely, with conversation about everything... we solved all the world’s problems! Finishing with an excellent dessert and after-dinner drinks, it was decided next day we’d head to Lake Jipe for a picnic.

Shikha and I walked back to my cottage and on entering noticed they had pulled the mossie net around the bed and closed the window curtains, which we both immediately turned back and opened. Hey, I’m in Afree-kah, I not only want to hear it, but also see it when I wake up! We laughed as she commented “you’re so African!”


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Old Feb 17th, 2008, 12:48 PM
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Saturday, June 9, 2007

As usual, I asked for my coffee by 7am, and though I was up before then, I didn’t even hear my coffee delivered, placed on the table outside along with a plate cookies. I walked outside, wrapped in blanket to see the mist rising above the plains... directly across from me was the road, with Tsavo on the other side. Sitting and enjoying a cuppa, I could only think of America in the early 1800’s when pioneers were crossing the country, with every day about to be an adventure, yet the beauty and quiet and peacefulness of the land. Sadly, every morning while in Tsavo, whether here in the south or up at Chyulu, the sky wasn’t clear enough to see Kili. I knew the mountain was due west from my little piece of heaven, but no luck. Drat! My only visit in this area, when I’ve been disappointed. Well, all the more reason, to return.

Ndolwa doesn’t have 24/7 electric, so when the power came on at about 8am, I went in for a shower; plenty of hot water, dressed and went for breakfast. It was the four of us again, one happy family. The usual buffet items and freshly made eggs, bacon, pancakes or whatever and more coffee.

Shikha asked my preference for sandwiches and drink, soda or stronger, and agreed we’d meet by 10:30 for the drive to Lake Jipe. The Lake is about 20/miles away, on the border with Tanzania. We drove out of the camp, across the railroad tracks (yup, a train, though not sure if it’s regular service and didn’t ask), waited at the Maktau Gate for the KWS guard to open one gate, then the other to let us continue south.

Again, the Serengeti of Kenya, with lots of game out there at some distance and there’s no off-roading; we played the game of who spots what. Most interesting, close to the roads were the giraffes. Yes, my favorite animal, but here I saw, for the first time, mixed-breeds, Masai and reticulated giraffe patterns in one animal. Unlike the Grevy’s (more ass than zebra) and Burchell zebras that do not mate, apparently the giraffe aren’t as selective. Some were Masai in the front and reticulated in the rear, others, the reverse. Also, quite a number of very dark colored giraffe, which ordinarily indicates an older animal, but these were young-uns! Specific to the area, Tsavo was presenting some interesting differences.

Then, dead stop... Marcus, did it again; this time, for a tortoise in the middle of the road. Blaide ran out and picked it up, handed it to Marcus, who was smart enough to hold it outside the window... they tend to panic when held and pee immediately. And, it did. It was a male, with the concave underbelly for mounting a female. He was then placed in the bush. Off we went, and then in the middle of the road – a dead Tommy! Obviously hit by a vehicle. We stopped, so Marcus and Blaide could move it into the bush.

We then turned south towards the Tanzanian border and Lake Jipe. Here the terrain changed and we came upon small herds of elephants, all covered in red dust which reminds me of Gone with the Wind... the “red earth of Tara.” A few minutes later we arrived at the Lake, driving along the edge to find a nice spot under protective trees. The sun was very strong. It was nice to get out of the vehicle, stretch our legs. And, for those who needed, found a bush to take care of nature.

Don’t know how wide the lake, but you could see the opposite shore in Tanzania, where there is some industry and villages... obvious by pockets of smoke rising; unlike the Kenyan side which is strictly a nature (birdlife) reserve. At the west end of the Lake is the Taveta border, another official border crossing, best used from Tsavo, rather than driving thru Amboseli to the Namanga border. A few people were walking about which is fine, but not those who were on bicycle, who appeared to have come from Tanzania. This is not allowed and Marcus let the folks know that doing so was illegal.

Ok, official business over, out came the picnic basket which we set up on the bonnet – sandwiches, munchies and cold drinks from the cooler. Sorry to say, but the chips weren’t Lay’s or Wise and didn’t quite cut it, but the sandwiches were great and cold beverages just what we needed.

From the various droppings on the ground, game, of all sizes, do come down to the water, so none of us wandered off on our own... rather some good conversation and tales of Afree-kah. After an hour or so, we packed up and started back and came across many herds of elephants, lots of little ones that the mommas and aunties protected. A few bulls were at a distance. We stopped to watch their antics, and could tell they weren’t all that pleased with the sound & sight of vehicles and humans.

With no dead animals barring our way, the return drive took a little over an hour, arriving back at Ndolwa after 2pm. Marcus asked whether I wanted to go out in the afternoon, but I was so relaxed and found the peace and quiet and scenery so magnificent, was content to simply chill, till it was time for sundowners.

There were a few workmen on the grounds, building a waterhole some distance from the main lounge area and I knew Marcus wanted to monitor the progress,so off he went to do so, Shikha to wash her hair and Blaide on his ATV. All such normal things, just like at home! Visiting here was much like the year before when we visited up north, near Lake Turkana at the Desert Rose.

I settled down to finish my book, with a cold drink; next I knew, I was waking up to the sound of a bird, a very loud bird in a nearby tree. Looking at the sky with the beautiful colors, I realized I must have slept almost two-hours. Wow, amazing what fresh air will do for this City gal.

Off with the t-shirt, into a warmer sweater, grabbing my pashmina (the nights were never really cold) and bag with camera, I was ready for sundowners, arriving as the waiters were setting the table. The workmen were gone for the day... didn’t hear them while sleeping; they’’d be back next morning. The fire was burning, my drink was before me and I was taking in the last sunset on this my last night in Kenya. It seemed like only yesterday I had arrived with three-weeks in front of me, and now time had gone too fast. If only I could stay forever? One of these years, maybe!

We went in for dinner, where a wonderful roast beef had been prepared, left to Marcus to carve, with veggies and great potatoes. Jibber, jabber – all of us, when we noticed the genet in the rafters. Paka spends most of his time up there, occasionally coming down to walk about. And, tonight when he did so, he found my lap appealing and, seemed perfectly at ease, as I was. I had my camera over in the lounge, which Marcus retrieved and took the photo. Shikha then said “Paka is a lover, so don’t be surprised if he follows you home tonight and sleeps with you.” “Excuse me?” “Yup, that’s what he likes, warm female bodies, even human bodies”. Well, we’ll just have to see.

Desert and coffee finished, I returned to my cottage. Tomorrow I have a 10am flight to Wilson. Originally, I was scheduled to leave from Finch Hatton’s where Safari Link picks up, but at the last minute, a change - there were new guests flying direct to the Ndolwa airstrip at Maktau, so I had a seat dead-heading to Nairobi. Lucky! Instead of a very early wake-up and breakfast, to be on the road for the almost 2/hr drive to Finch Hatton’s, only 7/minutes to Maktau.

Once back at the cottage, the drapes open, mossie net not surrounding the bed, while brushing my teeth, something caught my eye... something behind me, high in the rafters over the screened windows. I went to see what and sure enough, there was Paka. He was so cute, but it was a long drop to the floor. So, I closed the drapes, which forced him to the outside rafter where he jumped down to the porch sofa, I opened the door and in he walked. So there he was - a man, a man, a tiny beautifully patterned furry man. How exciting! I’ll be lucky tonight! He was as curious as I, so while he sniffed around, I returned to brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed. When I returned to my bed, there he was sitting in the middle of the comforter. Lucky! Lucky!

In bed, I propped up some pillows (there were lots) next to me, where Paka settled in. I got under the covers, turned out the lights and a few minutes later, found Paka took his place on the top of the pillow on which I had my head. Oh well, this should be interesting, much like my little dog (now gone many years) used to do. Thinking only “hope he knows to go outside to pee?” That was my last thought till about 3am, when I woke for the potty. Grabbed my torch and as I walked to the loo turned the light to the bed and saw that Paka was gone. I’ll have to have a serious discussion with him tomorrow “it’s not nice to leave a lady’s bed, like a thief in the night.”

... to be continued
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Old Feb 17th, 2008, 02:07 PM
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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Up from a deep sleep, I had my coffee outside and noticed a heavy layer of fog hanging over the plains. Not the dew as yesterday, but a thick layer which hung in there till after my shower, dressing and heading up for breakfast.

Today is my very last day in Kenya and I wasn’t happy to be leaving. I’m never happy to be leaving Africa, but leave I must... lots waiting for me at home.

After breakfast, good-bye to the staff and kisses for Shikha, Marcus, Blaide and I are off to the airstrip. A short 7-minute drive, thru the Maktau gate, we can see the plane descending for its landing. Deplaning is a family of five, husband, wife and three teens (probably late teens), along with their private guide who is a friend of Marcus’. Introductions made all around, and of course, the Boskees pilots, one of whom had flown me privately last year to the Mara. More kisses, exchanging phone numbers and regards to friends, the new arrivals left with Marcus and I boarded my (again) private flight to Wilson.

There was still some fog, which cleared half-way to Nairobi. The views were lovely and oh so green flying over the Chyulu Hills, landing right on time at 11am. Again, I was met by Solomon, for the short drive to Macushla House, located in Karen. Macushla House is a small B&B-type property, with six (6) charming en-suite rooms, lovely public space decorated with many items of the owners travels from around the world. A great pool and in the gardens are lovely free-standing pieces of artwork, a walkway to a viewing area where sundowners can be taken. With one of the rooms being refurbished, from the guests coming/going, it appeared all the other rooms were occupied.

Having a late afternoon flight for home, I only had time to meet with the owner, do a walk-thru and have lunch which was very, very good. Though breakfast is included in the rate, lunch and dinner, many vegetarian, are also available.

Solomon was back by 2:30pm, for the drive to JKIA and my Emirates flight to New York. Being Sunday, there was little traffic and we were at the airport in less than 30/minutes. I was also sad having to say good-bye to Solomon, who was there with a big smile every time I landed at the airport or had to get somewhere.

With my luggage on the cart and into the terminal, check-in was very quick. Departure cards completed, thru Immigration and up the elevator to the departure gates. Picked up a few gifts (coffee and tea) for myself and friends and then waited.

It was most obvious that the air conditioning was not working well, as I saw everyone fanning themselves, myself included and by the time we entered the departure gate where the sun was blazing thru the windows, even the Emirates flight crew appeared wiped out and we had yet to boarded. But, board we did right on time and it was wonderful on the plane with air-conditioning working full force. Everyone was relieved.

We took-off on time and I was fortunate to have a center row to myself which I took full advantage. Five hours later, we landed in Dubai for a short layover. Even arriving at 11pm, the terminal was busy, but nowhere like during daytime. I managed to find a lounge chair and caught about 1.5/hrs sleep before the boarding call. Thankfully, I didn’t have to walk through the entire terminal to my departure gate, though we all had to have our bags searched a second time.

This flight was full, but with an aisle seat, I was fine. Next to me two guys who with another friend seated in Business had been in Dubai for a “guys week-end” and some business; now returning to NYC and going right to work when we arrived Monday morning. The flight was uneventful, it took off and landed 12/hrs later. Cleared Immigration, collected my bag and out to my waiting car.

At 8am, in the midst of morning rush-hour, it took less than 30/min and I was at my apartment. As I was walking in, my friend who had been picking up the mail, was just leaving and invited me to her place for coffee. Since I didn’t have any milk for a cup of my own, I dropped my bags and walked down the street to sit quietly in her garden to catch up. Surprisingly, though I didn’t hear a car horn or other street noise, just the peacefulness of birds chirping, I knew it wasn’t Afree-kah! I was back in the Big City till my next trip. FINIS!

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