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I Don't Know What to Call It ... (Tanzania Trip Report June/July 2006)

I Don't Know What to Call It ... (Tanzania Trip Report June/July 2006)

Old Aug 3rd, 2006, 08:28 AM
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Great trip report Cathy! Keep it coming.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2006, 08:37 AM
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<i>No words I can compose will ever be able to describe how I felt at that moment – to see THE site I’d waited a lifetime for was almost too much. I was in heaven and could hardly contain my excitement ...</i>

I know the feeling. Felt that way standing before the Serengeti. But my first Crater view was amazing also.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2006, 11:26 AM
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continuing to enjoy your report.
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Old Aug 4th, 2006, 09:26 AM
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A nice percentage of the 25,000.
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Old Aug 4th, 2006, 11:42 AM
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Kirawira and Serengeti

It was with some sadness that we left the Ngorongoro Crater, but at the same time we anticipated the experiences awaiting us in the Serengeti with excitement.

Oldupai Gorge – about ½ hour drive from the Crater is the Oldupai museum where we learned of the Leakey’s famous excavations. Imprints of hominid footprints from 3.6 million years ago are among the fascinating exhibits in the museum. On a completely different tangent, Oldupai was where we first experienced “squat” toilets … something we’d become quite adept at (if not enamoured with) using.

Shifting Sands – Just a short drive beyond Oldupai is the beautifully symmetrical crescent of sand appropriately named Shifting Sands, with its two slender “arms” pointing in the direction of our travels. These sands have religious importance for the local Maasai people, and it is fascinating to see how far the sand has moved since it was first marked in 1969. We walked up the warm, dark sands in our bare feet and relished the views of the Serengeti plains beyond.

At the juncture between the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Serengeti National Park is a rather insignificant looking little “gate” with a couple of trees on either side of it. The largest of these trees was planted in 1979 by our guide’s uncle who was the head ranger in the Serengeti at the time, so of course we had to stop for a picture – yet another interesting story from Clamian about his ties to his beloved country.

Naabi Hill Gate – After the requisite paperwork had been processed and after the quick hike up to the Lookout, we passed into the vast grassy Serengeti plains by way of the most popular entrance through Naabi Hill. Here was the Serengeti I’d come to know through films, books, magazines and travel brochures and it was stunning! It was a vast sea of golden grasses stretching to every horizon, but with unexpected discoveries everywhere … kopjes, rivers and of course ... wildlife!

Simba Kopjes – we had our Ngorongoro Serena boxed lunches at these beautiful, ancient rock outcrops that are a trademark of the Serengeti. Our guide scrutinized the rocks very carefully before suggesting to us that we disembark from the chariot to have our lunch. We didn’t venture further than an arms length from the vehicle. Of all the kopjes we saw in the Serengeti, not once did we find lions at them!

That afternoon we spent several happy hours game driving our way to the western corridor. Kirawira camp was a welcome site as we’d come a long way since leaving the Crater that morning.

Kirawira was our most extravagant accommodation during the trip, but we could never have anticipated the level of luxury at this lovely place! Dreezy commented during one of our fabulous meals (served by the most attentive staff imaginable) that she felt a little out of her element. Well we were … but we sure lapped it up. Our tents (we had 2) were gorgeous and huge. Talk about opulence! The views from our tents were extraordinary and we fell asleep that night to the sounds of wildebeest snorting and grunting all around the camp.

We spent the following day exploring the woodland and grassland savannahs from the western corridor to as far east as the Retima hippo pool. Thankfully, our plan of capturing some of the wildebeest migration paid off. We saw thousands and thousands of them! The noise was amazing – it was as endless as the nose-to-tail lines of creatures making their way north. What a spectacular wildlife event. We got to experience the 360-degree “picture”, along with the noise and the smells that just cannot be captured by the best film makers. What a day!

Next up: the Northern Serengeti (and the one disappointment of the trip)

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Old Aug 4th, 2006, 12:24 PM
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Oh dear Carlo I hope the Northern Serengeti wasn't all bad as I am heading there myself in a coule of weeks
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Old Aug 4th, 2006, 01:11 PM
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Mmmmm Lobo...
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Old Aug 4th, 2006, 03:28 PM
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Please don't leave us in suspense about the Northern Serengeti. We've booked 4 nights in tents there at the end of September.
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Old Aug 4th, 2006, 05:42 PM
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The Northern Serengeti

For us, the Lobo area of the northern Serengeti was not to be missed. By including it with our visits to the western and central Serengeti we would increase our chances of seeing the migration. This part of the Serengeti looked and felt quite different to us than the west and south, and we thought it was a fascinating area to explore and were constantly surprised by what was around the next corner. There were always little vignettes including the Grumeti River and wading animals, rock outcrops with klipspringers (which we hadn’t seen elsewhere), flat-topped hills studded with elephants, and grasslands loaded with flowering hibiscus. Bonus: we drove up as far as the Bologonja Park Gate and saw virtually nobody else the whole day! All in all, I’d say the Lobo area was very beautiful, with plentiful wildlife, and absolutely worthwhile seeing. BUT…

Our choice of accommodation – different yet again from anywhere else we’d stayed - was a big disappointment. Let me be more accurate … our actual room at Lobo Wildlife Lodge was pretty dismal, but the lodge in general was okay, with the potential to be great given its location and views which are spellbinding. The pool area was very nice and the bar and dining rooms were acceptable. The food was excellent.

More on our room – there were 3 beds with thin, soiled bedspreads, 2 of the 3 lamps in the room were broken, the window wasn’t operable, there was an odd wall hanging with a peacock(!) on it, and the bathroom was mouldy and had no water pressure. I was angry to learn that our beloved guide didn’t have water AT ALL his first night at the lodge. We were NOT impressed. Perhaps it was due to our feeling grumpy about the state of our room, or perhaps because we had been treated so exceptionally well at all of the other camps and lodges, but the staff didn’t seem particularly friendly or helpful either. So if anyone is thinking of staying in the northern Serengeti (and you should!), I’d suggest you consider accommodation options to Lobo Lodge. In reality, although we were disappointed in our room at Lobo, it absolutely did not put a damper on our fabulous time in this part of the park.

Up next: our last night and day in the Serengeti


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Old Aug 4th, 2006, 05:47 PM
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YvonneM and Marija,
Where are you staying in Lobo?
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Old Aug 4th, 2006, 06:13 PM
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We're staying at CC Africa Tanzania Under Canvas north of Klein's airstrip. Sorry you didn't like your lodge but I'm relieved to read the problem isn't the Serengeti itself! Thanks.
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Old Aug 5th, 2006, 12:35 AM
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I will be at Nomad's mobile northern serengeti camp. I too am relieved. Does anyone know where the Nomad camp will be exactly? Just wondering
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Old Aug 6th, 2006, 03:10 PM
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Our last days in Tanzania

We left Lobo Lodge and did a slow game drive en route to the Central Serengeti, stopping at the Serengeti Visitor’s Centre which is very nicely designed, with interesting history and wildlife displays. The centre is punctuated with whimsical metal sculptures of animals. Rock and tree hyraxes were everywhere. It is well worth a stop, and is a welcome opportunity to stretch the legs after a morning game drive.

We made our way to the Serengeti Serena Lodge by way of the Seronera valley where we had our first leopard sighting. Clamian has an amazing gift for finding game. He could detect the flick of a tail or movement in the grass at unbelievable distances that even we (with binoculars) had trouble honing in on! Our game driving experiences were very rewarding.

The Serengeti Serena is set on a ridge with panoramic views of the golden plains below. We had asked for an upper floor room which we were fortunate enough to get, and the view from our balcony was lovely. The circular rondavel accommodations draw their inspiration from the dwellings of a traditional Maasai village, and provided yet another type of accommodation different from the other tented camps and lodges we’d experienced in the previous days. We called it an early night and felt rested and refreshed for the long drive to Kirawira the following day.

Our last day in the Serengeti we saw 21 lions! What a way to exit this breathtaking park. And then we were back on the main road heading toward Naabi Hill, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Karatu and the Lake Manyara where we were booked to stay at Kirurumu Camp.

Kirurumu Camp
Before arriving at Kirurumu, Clamian took us to a couple of shops where we bartered our way to ownership of a few items. Although the kids weren’t particularly comfortable with the whole process of bartering, it IS expected and well worth it not have to pay full asking price for anything. I bought a little Maasai carved wooden stool, a shuka and a couple of elelphant hair bracelets. We didn’t go nuts with the buying and now we all wish we had brought more things home. Oh well…next time

Kirurumu camp is a very nice tented camp, a little older than the others we’d stayed at, so perhaps a bit tired looking, but very adequate. The staff were excellent and the food very good. At dinner that night Clamian was offered 200 cows for my daughter!! The offer came from our delightful waiter who followed protocol in speaking to Clamian who was a “second” in the absence of my husband. We were blissfully unaware that this was happening at the time (which was probably a good thing) as it went on in Swahili. I can't say I've come across a trip report that included such a story!

The following morning we were back in Arusha where we had the opportunity for a little more shopping before we were driven back to Roy Safaris where we said our goodbyes to Clamian. We had been so very fortunate to have had him as our guide and friend for our time in Tanzania, and he was such a large part of why our safari was so enjoyable. Shortly we were driven to the Kia Lodge for day use of one of their lovely rooms. Our flight to Nairobi left later that evening.

Up next: Nairobi City Tour
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Old Aug 6th, 2006, 03:47 PM
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Nairobi City Tour and Home

Our early evening flight from Arusha to Nairobi was met by our WildTrek guide who we’d hired for our time in Nairobi. He drove us to our Fairview Hotel accommodation which was very nice. I wish I had known to ask for an inside room facing the gorgeous gardens, but the outside rooms were huge and comfortable. We ordered room service for a late supper and both that and breakfast the following morning were excellent.

Our guide picked us up the next morning to shuffle us around to the Giraffe Centre, Sheldrick Orphanage, Kazuri Beads, Utamaduni, Blixen Museum, Collectors Den, Banana Box and the Carnivore. It was a busy day but a good variety of places to visit so the time went quickly. Of all of these, I was least impressed with the elephant orphanage which was likely the place I was most excited to visit. There were 2 announcers speaking to the crowds at the same time. I think they were supposed to be connecting with either end of the extensive crowd, but ultimately it was confusing and we couldn’t hear anyone which was unfortunate. I can’t help but think that installing a few tiered benches would benefit everyone see what was going on. The crowds were such that we had trouble seeing anything, and in the end it was kind of a frustrating experience and I wouldn’t bother with it again, although I still support what they are doing at the orphanage.

Kazuri Beads was interesting and it was great to be able to speak to some of the workers there. The prices in the store are very reasonable so we did quite a bit of shopping.

The Giraffe Centre was lots of fun and it was quite an experience being able to interact with these huge creatures.

It was interesting to visit the Blixen Museum and actually be in the exact spot where Karen Blixen played out a large part of her life. It’s a lovely homestead.

We enjoyed an excellent (albeit slow) lunch at Utamaduni and then wandered the interesting little shops in the house. We really liked this place.

We had read quite a bit about the Collector’s Den here on the Forum and it was okay, but not fantastic. I preferred Utamaduni. My son bought himself a Maasai spear at the Collector’s Den and they carefully wrapped it for him in a tube that could be checked with the rest of our luggage. Unfortunately, it was stolen from either Kenya Airways or Air Canada somewhere between Nairobi and home which is a great sadness because it was the ONE thing he bought himself. According to Collector’s Den there is a store in Vancouver (BC) that sells them!, so we’re going to take the ferry across (from Victoria) to see if we can find a similar one. Unfortunately we’ll have to pay through the nose for it!! This place also sells Kazuri beads for about 5 times what we paid in Nairobi.

Banana Box was no big deal after having been to the other places to shop.

The Carnivore was really fun, even though I’m not much of a meat eater. We had a really good time with the staff, the atmosphere is neat, and I had a great meal from the vegetarian menu. I was skeptical about arranging to have dinner at the Carnivore but I’m sure glad we did. The exotic meats we tried included ostrich, camel and crocodile.

From the Carnivore we were taken to Jomo Kenyatta where we flew on to London, Vancouver, and home. Next time I would break the flights up and stay overnight in London. It was a miserably long trip home and we took days to recover.

So, there it is in a rather large nutshell…our fantastic trip to Tanzania. Please feel free to ask for clarification or more detail if you think there’s anything I can be of help with. Thanks to all of you for helping us to plan for such a wonderful safari. We are already planning to go again in 2008. Now it’s just a matter of deciding whether to go to East Africa again or try Southern Africa. I’d like to try Tanzania in Feb, but Bots &amp; Zambia are looking pretty good to me too.



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Old Aug 6th, 2006, 04:16 PM
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Very nice report Calo, I've enjoyed reading it. Thanks, Dennis
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Old Aug 6th, 2006, 09:22 PM
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Thank you very much for your report, calo. Glad to hear your satisfaction with Fairview, I'll be spending 4 nights there next year.

Siro
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Old Aug 7th, 2006, 07:11 AM
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Thanks for the report Calo.

Good reading
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Old Aug 7th, 2006, 09:27 AM
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Really enjoyed your report, thanks. Sorry to hear your son's spear was stolen. Was the bag locked? Was that the only item taken?
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Old Aug 7th, 2006, 09:41 AM
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Patty,
The spear was the only item stolen. It was wrapped by Collector's Den in a large tube that they said could be checked as luggage, and which Kenya Airways did happily check as luggage. We'll just have to go back for another one and take a piece of luggage large enough to accommodate it. We're planning our next trip for 2008 - Woo Hoo!
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Old Aug 7th, 2006, 10:06 AM
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Calo,
Thanks for your report. It does sound like a glorious trip. I’m sorry about your son’s spear.
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