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I dreamed I was in Africa....Csuss Trips Report - Tanzania June/July 2006

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Jul 17th, 2006, 03:40 PM
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I dreamed I was in Africa....Csuss Trips Report - Tanzania June/July 2006

Hmmm... Where to begin- I have so many wonderful impressions and memories flooding my mind - they all want to busrst forth at once in a single very long run-on sentance.

I guess I will just go step by step and I will have to do this in pieces I am sure. But first I have to say that it was indeed the trip of a lifetime as well as a life changing adventure. Everything was perfect - with the exception of one delayed flight there was not a single glitch - even the animals cooperated. Our safari company - Matembezi Ltd. gave us a flawless experience every step of the way. I'll post a thread to our photos - of which there are many - in a few days.

Flights - LAX - Chicago-London-Nairobi. It was the easiest long distance travel I've ever done - even our luggage was first off in Nairobi. I think this was because Jim had to provide some medical assistance to another passenger on the LA-Chicago flight so we were ensured good Karma for the rest of the trip.

We arrived in Nairobi at 9PM and were in our hotel by 10PM - our driver was waiting for us and off we went. We stayed at the Holiday Inn- which was really lovely and perfect for our quick overnight stay. We had a garden room and fell asleep to the sounds of the frogs.

Thursday June 22: Early breakfast and then our driver arrived for the long drive to Arusha. This was the ONLY tedious drive for the whole trip. Nairobi traffic was worse than LA and it seemed to take us hours just to get on the road to Arusha. It was an uneventful drive although we did get a great viewing of Mt. Kilamanjaro in all its glory. We had a bit of a glitch getting our visas when we arrived at the border. Tanzanian officials temporarily "lost" our passports, understandbly, we had a bit of a meltdown situatition after our long drive, but fortunately a British tourist yelled out "anyone here named Jim?" They had gotten our passports by mistake. Crises resolved - we were on our way. Our Driver got us to Arusha where we had a lovely lunch, met our guide, Zefania (Zefa) and finally got to meet Ilan from Matembezi Ltd. with whom I had been emailing for over a year while planning the trip. I felt like I was meeting an old family friend.

After lunch we were off to Sinya (West Kilamanjaro ) and our camp - Kambi Ya Tembo. As we approached the camp we saw our first real game sighting a family of Giraffes enjoiying some late afternoon family time. I couldn't believe it - I almst started to cry they were so beautiful and so oblivious to our gawking. The wierd thing was that I had to keep reminding myself that we were not in some theme park somewhere that we really were - finally - in Africa.

We arrived in the camp in the late afternoon and were met by the camp manager (Sylvester) and several Maasai with a welcome song and a drink. We had time to wash before joining Zefa at the campfire for a drink then dinner and a discussion of the next days events.

KAMBI YA TEMBO - We loved, loved, loved this camp. It has a wonderful ambience with Maasai making up most of the staff. This is a wonderful start for our safari because we got to immerse ourselves in history and tradition of the people before really getting into the game viewing.

It is a small camp. Our tent was lovely, simple and clean - beautifully appointed with a real toilet and shower ensuite. The dining area is open with spectacular views of valley and mountains and Kenya beyond.

In the morning Zefa and our Masai guide were waiting for us as we started off for a morning af game viewing and a walking safari with our Maasai guide.They even wrap you in a Maasai blanket - which feels (and looks) pretty silly (wait till you see the photos) but it really gets you into the spirit of things (and keeps you warm). The first thing we see as we leave the camp is a gorgeous clear view of Kilamanjaro - a good omen for the day! It is so hard some days to tell wether you are seeing the snow covered top or just clouds - but today we definitely saw the peak.

There is not a huge amount of game in Sinya - but as Spencer Tracey would say, what is there is choice (cherce would be his exact words I think). It was really important to Jim to see Elephants , and see them we did - up close and personal. As well as Giraffe, and Wildebeest, Zebra and baboon, dik, dik - gorgeous flamingos, vervet monkees, gazelle and ostrich - which are way bigger than I expected. Another nice thing about Sinya is all the Maasai herders and their herds. Just out there in the middle of all the game, doing their thing. Also - we did not see one other vehicle on our game drive. What a great first day.

Our afternoon was reserved for a visit to a Masai Boma - and this was fascinating and done far better than I'd expected from reading some of the posts on this board. It did not feel staged (although it obviously is). There were no children begging at our car or adults demanding money to have their picture taken. We were greeted by the chief who gathered everyone together for a welcome song Q&A and a "tour" of his newest wife's hut. I've been in alot of third world villages in Asia and South America, but I think this was definitely the most "rustic" (putting it kindly). The huts are so small with no light or air I can't believe they get people, animals and a fire all into that little little space (with no windows or chimney). When we were done with all the questions and photos, the women & kids spread out all of their wares for a bit of shopping. I was pretty impressed that on any item I chose, I negotitated with the head man, but gave the cash directly to the individual that made the item (including the children). I don't know if they get to keep the money, but at least it felt very democratic. I liked the idea that I was actually giving them money for their crafts, rather than just giving them money. And in the end - there were so many beautiful things to buy - we did all of our gift shopping in one place and we for sure made a nice "donation" to the village.

Kambi Ya Tembo has this system worked out with all the Maasi bomas in the area rotating tourists through the different villages on an equitable basis, but making the experience feel as genuine as possible while avoiding the big tourist money grab I've read about in other areas.

We get back to the camp just in time to toast some Spanish honeymooners with champagne as the sun set and to participate in the Maasai Enkang (celebration & dancing). Sylvester and Jim had bonded the night before over the campfire and drinks (alot of them I think) so Sylvester made Jim and honorary "whitey Maasai" (his words, I swear) and invited him to join the singing and dancing. What a hoot to see Jim try and do that jumping thing.

So I feel like I've written an endless diary and I've only finished the first day. I can see this is going to be a long thread everyone, so please bear with me...
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Jul 17th, 2006, 04:13 PM
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Great start! We are going to Tanzania in February, and KYT is our first stop, so I am loving your report so far. Keep it coming, I can't wait to see where else you're going.
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Jul 17th, 2006, 04:15 PM
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csuss,

Make this report as long as you like. It helps future travelers, but it's also for you. Include all the details you'd like to remember.

I'm happy you had a great trip.
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Jul 17th, 2006, 04:27 PM
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Marvelous to read. Please do continue.
 
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Jul 17th, 2006, 06:33 PM
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I'm excited about your report, keep it going.
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Jul 17th, 2006, 08:27 PM
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A wonderful start. I cannot believe having your passports given away to start things off. To get a visa, you have to surrender your passport. Who would think it would get misplaced? That advice about making copies of your passport could save the day in a situation like yours.

The wrapping in the Masai blanket is a nice, cozy touch.
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Jul 18th, 2006, 01:59 AM
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I'm liking your report so far, thanks for taking time out to write it - but one shouldn't feel silly wearing the "shuka": mine was bought in a small Maasai market, chosen for me by a friend who is a moran.
http://www.smartgroups.com/picvault/....jpg/saf38.jpg

matt
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Jul 18th, 2006, 10:23 AM
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I love your report so far. My first safari is in February, 2007 and the more details I get the better.

Keep it coming and thanks.
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Jul 18th, 2006, 10:47 AM
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Csuss,
Kambi ya Tembo sounds wonderful. Iím looking forward to more.
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Jul 18th, 2006, 10:59 AM
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Thanks for starting your report. Can't wait for more!
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Jul 18th, 2006, 01:40 PM
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As I was saying...

Saturday Juen 24 - early morning departure for a long drive to Arusha National Park - arriving around 11:30 AM. The plan is to see the park a bit from the car, have lunch, do our canoeing expedition and then meet up with with a ranger for a short hike.

Arusha National Park is just lovely - very different than any of the other parks we visited. It has so many different types of eco-systems. It is green & lush with hills and lakes and jungely areas and forrests, trees you can drive through, beautiful waterfalls and Colobus monkees - which we did not see any where else - with their big fluffy white tails dangling from branches. And blue monkees as well.

We stopped for a picnic lunch on a hill overlooking a lake before we met up with our canoeing guide.

Unfortunately the day was a bit gray and VERY windy, so it was really not the best of conditions for canoeing. Jim and I were in one canoe and the guide in the other, which was not great because it was very difficult to hear what the guide was saying as we were paddling (not to mention the fact that I hadn't been in a canoe for like 30 years and I had forgotten that it is alot of work. We had one minor crash into a tree, but other than being covered in spiders, and my utter embarrasment - we were unscathed). We canoed to the hippo area - and there they were - just waiting for us. They were almost completely submerged and definitely keeping an eye on us, but those little ears were peaking out of the water. I took lots of photos (which all look just like little rocks in the water) before we had to head back.

As I wrote in another post, the canoeing was a really nice break from all the driving - but I'm not sure it was worth it to spend the extra money - our canoeing guide was not very good - or maybe it was just the bad weather, but the experience was not as relaxing and pleasant as I had hoped.

Back on land we picked up our ranger (and his big gun) and headed to another area of the park for a short walk to a beautiful waterfall. We saw tons of buffalo and warthogs - which never cease to amuse me (I am convinced that the only reason most people even know wart hogs exist, and what they look like is because of Lion King. Even our guide kept pointing out Pumba, anyway - the wart hogs crack me up).

I don't know about this ranger with the rifle thing - I almost feel like it is mostly for effect (that theme park issue again) or just for tourist's peace of mind, but our ranger definitley needed a little more training in gun etiquette. Evey time he got back into our truck he would sit down with the rifle next to him with the barrel facing up - aiming right at Jim. Two or three times we had to ask him to please aim the barrel down (who cares if he shoots off his own foot).

So there we were driving through the park and right smack in the middle of the road was a gorgeous, big giraffe, munching away at the treetops. We were so close - you just want to reach out and pet them. We spent almost a half hour just watching him (and waiting for him to get out of our way).

Arusha has so many giraffes, Jim nicknamed it Giraffic Park (wait until you see the photo) because at times it really looked like the opening scene from the movie with all these pre-historic animals grazing in fields.

The other big item of note for our day in ANP is that a tick bit me on the butt! Apparently while I was availing myself the bush toilette. Just something for all you ladies to be aware of! Anyway - no problem, I just felt something on my butt - thought it was a thorn (from our canoe crash) and pulled. I guess I got the whole thing out becasue I had no further problems with it.

We were very weary by the end of the day as we headed on to Arusha. We arrived at Kigongi Lodge just after dark.

Kigongi is really lovely -both the setting and the room. I had not seen it mentioned on this board very often but I highly recomend it for a place to stay in Arusha. Our room had its own patio and fireplace, and a fire was lit for us after dinner. The pool area is beautiful and the dining room and bar overlook it. The hotel is just across the road from the large greenhouses that all the roses are grown in so there are fresh roses placed everywhere and all the coffee is grown there as well.
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Jul 18th, 2006, 02:32 PM
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Well, your trip continues to mirror our plans. After KYT, we drive to Arusha National Park for some driving and some walking with a ranger, and then some canoeing with Green Footprints. And that night we stay at Kingongoni Lodge. Go figure. We hope that our trip will be different from yours regarding the passport scare and the poor canoeing weather, but otherwise it sounds great so far.

A few questions re ANP -- do we need to arrange the walking with the ranger ahead of time, or can we do it when we are to ANP? And is there is a charge for the walking, and if so, how much?

I'll warn the ladies to beware of ticks, and we'll all be wary of the rifle, thanks for the heads up.

I can hardly wait to see if you go to Manyara next, and if so where you're staying. Keep up the good work, looking forward to the next installment.
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Jul 18th, 2006, 02:47 PM
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HGUY47 - I think you can arrange the ranger walk when you are there - your guide should be albe to do it. It seemed like all the rangers were just hanging out waiting for their next gig.

I'm not sure if there is a charge or not as ours was all pre-arranged and included in the cost of our trip.

Sorry to dissappoint - next stop Tarangire....
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Jul 18th, 2006, 02:48 PM
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Sorry, my bad, it's Tarangire, not Manyara, that wlll be next on OUR itinerary.
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Jul 18th, 2006, 04:14 PM
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Sunday June 25-Tuesday June 27

Zefa meets us early for our short drive to the Arusha Airport. Our plane to Tarangire is ready and waiting (Zefa is not going with us to Tarangire - he will pick us in Manyara in three days).

The plane is a small 6 seater which I love and we are the only passengers which I really love - kinda makes me feel like it is my private jet. Our pilot (whom we call Belgium) is exactly what you would think a bush pilot should look like - very confident and competant and a bit rakish. We have two more flights with him during the course of our trip so it really feels like our private jet.
The flight up to Tarangire is perfect and at the end he swoops down low once over the runway to check for animals and give us a bit of a thrill.

Our driver ( and guide in training) from Olivers Camp is waiting for us on the runway with coffee and biscuits and we are off on 4 hours of game driving in Tarangire on the way to the camp.

Tarangire is an interesting park. We were driving around and it is green and lush with lots of Ele's and giraffe, hartebeast & impala- very scenic - and the Baobob trees are fantastic. There were also alot of other safari vehicles which was startling to us as this was the first time we encountered them. But we keep driving and driving through all sorts of landscapes and we are seeing fewer and fewer vehicles and now we are driving through flat grasses then this huge marsh area and then there are NO other vehicles. I have no idea how the driver knows where he is it is so remote (and I, who is usually like a homing pigeon, have lost all sense of direction). There are burnt out areas from forced burns the rangers are conducting. It doesn't seem like there is much wildlife either (I was really wrong about that - just didn't know how to look for it).

We did see some Marabou Storks fighting over a big dead snake - our guide explained how the are called undertaker birds because they look like they are wearing black tailcoats, and like they are holding their hands behind their backs.

Finally we see the sign for Olivers Camp - we are very hot and tired by then - it was an extremely hot day.

Olivers Camp really is in the middle of nowhere on the other side of a swamp. It is a wonderful place to stay however - exactly because it is in the middle of nowhere, inside the park and without all the other tourists. In our case we were the only people staying there (a father & son team from New York were there but leaving early the next morning) so the service and attention we received were impeccable.

We were greeted by Peter (the camp manager Tim was away). Peter is the guide of all guides - literally - he was brought from Zambia to train the other guides. Crocodile Dundee definitly comes to mind when describing him. and ushered to our tent (there are only 6 tents in the camp). The sleeping are of the tent is extremely comfortable - king size bed and soft sheets - which were looking mighty attractive to me at that point, but it was only 2PM. The ensuite bathroom through me off a bit, and took ALOT of getting used to. Actually I think both Jim and were just hot and tired and getting a bit cranky and I just was not in the mood for "roughing it". It has a drop shower (fine) and a chemical toilet (not so fine but do-able)but the sink is a little funky - not really running water, a basin with a big bucket and spiget that is filled daily. THis was all fine but there was no floor or ceiling. Wonderful to shower under the stars, but not so great when you have to get up in the middle of the night and find your shoes so you can go. Also alot of bugs really liked our toilet (am I sounding like a real princess yet?). One of my funniest memories of Olivers will be of Jim, standing over me waving a towel, so I could go to the bathroom without alot of bees freaking me out. Now that is the true test of love!

So that is the worst I can say about Olivers - and by the third day we were totally used to it (oh yea - I forgot about the major ant problem I had in my luggage, but that was my own fault -
I left some goodies in there).

The rest of our stay at Olivers was great - more about that tomorrow...
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Jul 18th, 2006, 07:47 PM
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Thanks for the details on Arusha, a park I've always wanted to visit, especially for the colobus monkeys. About how many did you see?

You did canoeing and walking both in one day?

Sorry about the butt tick.





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Jul 19th, 2006, 08:51 AM
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atravelynn - we did canoeing and a short walk. The colobus were very cool - I'm trying to tell from the pictures - counting the tails but it seemed like a treeful (4-7)

If you want I can email you a photo.

Carol
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Jul 19th, 2006, 09:19 AM
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Carol,

I am thoroughly enjoying your trip report. I think you and I have similar tastes, becuase, I too, would be grossed out by bugs in the toilet, a chemical toilet, for that matter! Keep it up!
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Jul 19th, 2006, 12:16 PM
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Carol,

I'd love a Colobus photo.
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Jul 19th, 2006, 02:20 PM
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Atravelynn - I'll send you some photos tonight.

More on Tarangire & Olivers -

We were very lucky to be the only guests at Olivers, not only did we have Peter as our guide, we had a driver and a spotter with us - both being trained by Peter. We had some excellent game viewing - and a good education in tracking and spotting,

We had our coffee and tea delivered to the tent at 6AM every moring and would be on the trail by 6:30. At 9AM or so we would stop for our bush breakfast and then continue on until we returned around noon for brunch.

Meals at Olivers were in an open tented area - all around a big table, and the food was very good (Jim seemed to be suffering a side effect of the Malarone and never had an appeitite - so he hated the food everwhere. I was as usual, always hungry). Brunches were buffet , dinner more formal. The tables were always beautifully set and the service great.

After lunch -siesta, and then we would be off on game drives again at about 4PM.

One really special thing about Olivers - we had our sundowners while watching the sunset in the bush somewhere overlooking the savannah. We would stop the truck where there was a beautiful view of the sunset and out would come the gin and tonic - in real glassware, limes and all (very colonial).

Another great thing about Olivers is that because it is so remote you can drive off road, AND, we could take our time getting back to the camp so we had a night drive (although technically not allowed in Tarangire). So, we got to see our honeymooning lion couple in the dark (more about them in a minute).

We were booked for a night of fly camping but it was so cold at night and the grasses were so high (and the ticks were really hungry) that we decided against it (just for the record this was Jim's call). Since there was no one else in the camp anyway, we had the campfire to ourselves - and the open sky in the bathroom, it was kinda like did it anyway .

Game viewing in our neighborhood of Tarangire was very good - it was the marshes and high grasses so you really had to look for everything and our guides were amazing. One morning we even followed lion tracks on the road to where he entered back into the marshes and then - there they were - Mr. & Mrs. Newlywed - looking very content indeed. We were able to get quite close (they were sitting separately at this point) and just observe them for quite some time, just fascinating. We were able to find the same couple in almost exactly the same place later that night (on our night drive). We saw a pair of male lions in the grasses eyeing a herd of buffalo near by, and an eagle ascend from the grasses with a snake in its mouth - and then other eagles try to fight him for it in the air. And there was Mr. Pink Nose - a very large buffalo with, well you can figure it out.

By our third day - we were very acclimated to safari life and to Olivers. Many say, and I do agree, that Olivers comes closest to the most authentic safari experience. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys being very close to nature and very far away from anything else.





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