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Hello From Mbuze Mawe, Serengeti (introductory trip report from Rocco)


Mar 8th, 2006, 09:09 AM
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How exciting! Enjoy the rest of your trip, Rocco.
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Mar 8th, 2006, 10:13 AM
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Wheh! Made it back to the room in one piece, but it was a scary little walk with a 5'6" "security guard" armed only with a flashlight.

Even the baboons were barking their alarm calls just minutes before we returned to our room. I am sure the lions will be back in camp later tonight and we have a 4:15AM wakeup call for our hot air ballooning. They will have one more chance at a couple juicy Americans.

Just now it has started raining and there is lightning on the horizon, so who knows what will happen tomorrow morning. I very carefully wrote in on my registration card for the ballooning that if the flight was cancelled for any reason, including weather, that I would be refunded 100%. The ballooning rep did not like this but allowed it, and I was only repeating what he had said verbally.

Signal is barely coming in, but I am able to get a Wi-Fi connection in my room if positioned correctly...just have these damn insects all over my screen as I write!
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Mar 8th, 2006, 10:21 AM
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OMG they have wi-fi at Mbuzi Mawe?!
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Mar 8th, 2006, 10:24 AM
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Patty - My thoughts exactly. Isn't that just crazy?!
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Mar 8th, 2006, 10:40 AM
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$5 per every 15 minutes if you use THEIR computer...FREE if you tap onto their unsecured Wi-Fi network. Shhhhhh!

After being off the internet for the better part of the last two weeks, it is a very welcome addition to have internet access.

Basically, I consider my safari over...but then why am I hiding from lions?

I will have one final game drive tomorrow but expect it to be very anti-climatic since off-roading is not available around here and there are soooo many more visitors to this part of the Serengeti. On the way up here from Ndutu we encountered visitors who were coming all the way from Kusini or from Seronera down to Ndutu...that is a brutal 3 or 4 hour drive minimum in each direction!

Also, Kusini (A&K) had considered closing their camp and relocating their guests to Nomad's Ndutu camps, from what I understand, but then did not do so after all. The reason for this was heavy rains and bad roads in their own area.
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Mar 8th, 2006, 01:03 PM
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You will have an amazing trip report when you get back! Enjoy the rest of your trip - we don't want it to end before it has to.
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Mar 8th, 2006, 09:15 PM
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It truly sounds like a thrill a minute trip......easily, the most interesting and entertaining thread on this board at the moment.......can't wait to read more.......and bombard you with lots of questions.....

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Mar 9th, 2006, 03:12 AM
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Reading about the Kusini camp and the hours of driving to view animals brings back dreadful memories of my one and only experience of Tanzania. I was there in February 2001, and due to heavy rains in the area, it was a four hour drive each way to gameviewing. That is 8 hours driving each day with no gameviewing other than tsetse flies, then a quick hour of gameviewing then back to Kusini. At least a twice daily event was getting stuck in the mud and waiting for someone passing to help us out. To say it was a disappointing experience would be putting it mildly! Luckily it did not put me off gameviewing, but did put me off Tanzania!

Kind regards,
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Mar 9th, 2006, 03:30 AM
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Sorry to hear about your bad experience. For the very experience you had, I think it would be worth it for you in the future to give Tanzania another opportunity with an option such as Nomad or CCA's Tanzania Under Canvas. These are more mobile options that will move you into the best areas and set up camp for the duration of your stay.

The gameviewing I experienced in the Ndutu area was tremendous and even this morning coming back from my hot air ballooning, I saw a cheetah on a small kopje (boulder), as well as a lion pride. Moreover, on the way to the ballooning, right on the Mbuzi Mawe property as we were exiting, we saw six adult lions (four females and two males) surrounding two Dagga Boys. Unfortunately, we only had time to watch for a couple minutes while the Dagga Boys stood back to back...for sure I thought at least one of the Dagga Boys would be lying there half eaten on our return, but fortunately for them, they somehow managed to escape, or so it seems.

The major difference for me between Tanzania and Southern Africa has been the overland safari vs. the fly-in safari, but it has allowed us to see so many beautiful landscapes that I did not mind it at all.

My next trip, however is the following in November/December:

Ntwala Island Lodge, Caprivi Strip, Namibia (2)
Susuwe Island Lodge, Caprivi Strip, Namibia (2)
Kwando Lagoon (2)
Kwando Lebala (2)
Kwando Kwara Island (1)
Kwando Kwara (3)
Michelangelo Hotel, Joburg (1)
Kings Camp, Timbavati (2)
Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, Sabi Sand (2)
Leopard Hills, Sabi Sand (2)
Madikwe Hills, Madikwe (2)
Mateya, Madikwe (2)

It will be a completely different experience than Tanzania but will allow me to explore some very highly regarded lodges.

However, I will be itching to return to Tanzania in July 2007 to possibly explore Katavi, Selous, Ruaha and the Grumeti area of the Serengeti. It really is a wonderful country and can be as luxurious or as basic as one wants. The Crater Lodge, for example, in my opinion, for accomodations, food and service, was on par with Singita.

Anyway, time for my final game drive, although it is thundering in the distance and lightly raining. It would be nice to see one more cheetah and possibly one more leopard.
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Mar 9th, 2006, 03:37 AM
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Hm Saw quite a few Lions on and around moru Kopjes.
Including Lions at kill with a couple of black backed jackals trying to get a piece, and failing. The whole area was crammed with animals in Feb.
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Mar 9th, 2006, 11:10 AM
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What a great report! I can't wait to see these pictures!

I would love to be able to read a leopard's mind when he sees a big huge male lion in a tree.

"Oh **&^% they can climb trees? Now where will I hide?"

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Mar 9th, 2006, 11:43 AM
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I have great video from my last trip to Mala Mala of a Leopard thirty feet up a tree getting a whole lot higher as a Lioness launched herself up the tree. She got to about twenty five feet before losing her grip and falling to earth. Meanwhile the terrified Leopard was clinging to the canopy at about fifty or sixty feet up.
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Mar 9th, 2006, 01:06 PM
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Hi Roccco,

What a great time you have been experiencing on this safari and it's fun to read your entertaining commentary. How was the hot air balloon ride? I hope to do one while in Namibia this year as I chickened out on our last trip in '03. Thought it would be a bit bumpy but my spouse said it was as smooth as can be. Enjoy the remainder of your time away. DJE
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Mar 10th, 2006, 06:42 AM
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This is a great intro Rocco!

WOW about that lion in the tree, no kidding about the flies though. LOL about the annoying cheetahs, I got a good chuckle out of that.

I can't WAIT to see your pictures from this trip, they are always so fantastic!
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Mar 10th, 2006, 11:25 AM
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So you are planning your next trip in the intro report before even getting home! That's the spirit.

I'm sure the big male lion climbing the tree had been alerted that you were interested in seeing tree climbing lions. To oblige, was getting up that thing no matter what!

Glad all has gone so well.
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Mar 10th, 2006, 11:02 PM
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Hello from the Palms in Zanzibar. I have a few minutes as I await Alexsandra as she is in the tail end of her 3 hour Swahili class.

Last week, I e-mailed about 10 different companies (some local universities but mostly Zanzibar tour operators) looking for Swahili instruction for Alexsandra. Out of the 10 e-mails I only received 2 responses and of those two only one was able to assist. As a result, Alexsandra will have four mornings of Swahili instruction, as she has become quite passionate about the language, likely because her parents native tongue is a Middle Eastern language (Assyrian, which she is also fluent in) and because she is fluent in Spanish and she finds similarities in Swahili to each of the two languages.

The Palms is beautiful and each the rooms, grounds and service are excellent. I slept until nearly 10AM today and that was much needed.

Two more nights here and then onto the Serena Inn for two nights, Amsterdam for two nights and Paris for two nights.

I was ultimately disappointed to learn that I could have flown out of Ndutu...something that my tour operator did not make me aware of, or else I probably would not have gone up to Mbuzi Mawe, although the staff at Mbuzi Mawe was fantastic and we really enjoyed the company of three Americans we spent a lot of time with at the lodge. It was a bit of a surprise, however, when our first stop en route from Seronera to Zanzibar was in Ndutu!

There were four stops altogether and we felt like we were on a subway rather than on a small plane. Seronera-Ndutu-Lake Manyara-Arusha-Kiliminjaro-Zanzibar.

It is very hot and humid here and we are most thankful for the A/C in the room and in the common enclosed areas of the lodge (with only six rooms, it is too small to qualify as a hotel in my book).

The final couple drives produced more lions and more cheetah, but after being able to offroad in Ndutu, the sightings were somewhat anticlimatic, knowing that we could not pursue the predators had they decided to hunt.

On the final night at Mbuzi Mawe, it was pouring rain and after getting tired of waiting it out, we were escorted back to the room by each the "security guard" who was armed to the teeth with a plastic flashlight, and a park ranger, who was even better equipped with what looked to be an automatic rifle.

I am very tempted to extend Amsterdam by one night and save Paris for another time. Doing so would allow us to return home on a Saturday afternoon, as well as save about $1,400 on accomodations. Oh, and it just so happens that there is a heavyweight championship fight that I am tempted to watch on Saturday night.

I'll have to check the reservation policy on the Four Seasons in Paris as well as see if there are any flights home in business class a day earlier from Amsterdam. I am using ff miles for this flight...I will not change a thing if I can only fly back in economy class, as that is a very long 11.5 hour flight.

Well, times up...will probably go snorkeling right now...the beach is beautiful with the softest white sand and only with people from Breezes resort nearby (Breezes and the Palms are under the same ownership, but while the Palms guests can use Breezes facilities, Breezes guests CANNOT use the Palms facilities....nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah!).
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Mar 10th, 2006, 11:40 PM
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Hey Rocco,

Wonder if you are still online? Two questions,

1.) Tell me more about your cheetah sightings

2.) Will you recommend Nomad? How do they compare with the new CCA tents?

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Mar 11th, 2006, 10:47 AM
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You're missing all the foul weather in LA the last couple of days. I couldn't believe it when I looked out my window this morning and it was hailing!
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Mar 11th, 2006, 11:03 AM
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Did you balloon ride? You would not have been able to do that from Ndutu.

Alexsandra is very impressive immediately moving forward with her language lessons. That was one of my weak areas in terms of trip preparation. Good for her. Have fun lounging.
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Mar 11th, 2006, 11:34 AM
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Can't wait to hear your impressions of Stone Town. What our time there was missing was a really good historical tour. I hope you and Alexsandra can find such a thing if that appeals. I was thinking that given that there is a university there, a history student--or organized group of students--would be an excellent resource.

Yes, enjoy lounging. And I'm both impressed and envious of Alexsandra's Swahili lessons.
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