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sandi Jun 20th, 2010 05:25 AM

I'm back (home that is)!
Well, after almost 35/hrs of "awake" time (not including snoozing on flights) ... that trip home is a killer :) Or are the years catching up!!!

But glad to be, though still would rather be in Afree-kah! Outstanding as always! Great properties, game viewing and weather... only some brief showers, often overnight. Some wildies have arrived in the very southern Mara, but far from in numbers, though it may see like "lots" to those who have never seen. However, for as many that arrived (though zebra few and they're needed to eat down that tall grass), almost the same were returning back to the Serengeti... so they'll get when they get.

Did, though meet up with Nancie at Lewa for a game drive and dinner... haven't viewed the photos, but from your comments, will as soon as. She sure had some amazing equipment in that "camera bag"! Also met for dinner with Leely when I (we) reached Nairobi; so nice to see you again after a meet/dinner in NYC a few years back... do hope you enjoyed Rwanda and met up with Patty and Mark for Ithumba.

Have lots to catch up with now and so probably won't have more till the "catching" is done... eventually.

All for now.... later!

Marija Jun 20th, 2010 05:40 AM

Welcome back! Glad you had another wonderful trip.

atravelynn Jun 20th, 2010 06:25 AM

Welcome home. You were a social butterfly (or maybe that's a bee eater) on this trip!

Percy Jun 20th, 2010 06:41 AM

Welcome home sandi , I was wondering when you were coming back.

Will be looking for trip report when you are ready. :)

I agree that trip home is a killer.

doohickey Jun 20th, 2010 07:01 AM

Welcome back Sandi!

sandi Jun 20th, 2010 09:51 AM

No butterfly or bee eater, but the mossies (or whatever critters [grass flies] they were) sure enjoyed, as usual, my ankles. OK, Sandi bad... I don't take my own advice to wear socks starting at dusk! Actually, just looked and bites/marks are all gone... whoopie. And, hankfully they didn't itch! :)

cary999 Jun 20th, 2010 01:24 PM

Welcome back, happy to hear you had great time and looking forward to hearing much much more.
35 hours "non-stop", know what you mean, same for me to get home to California. But though you are in NY which should shorten time by 6-8 hours?

regards - tom

joeyi Jun 21st, 2010 04:46 AM

welcome back

sandi Jun 21st, 2010 05:53 AM

tom - you're too funny being so specific!

Might have been shorter if flying thru Europe, but on Emirates thru DXB, somehow adds a few hours. Regardless, it's a long time being a silver bullet. :)

AKR1 Jun 22nd, 2010 04:05 PM

Welcome back, Sandi. We are off to the Mara & the Serengeti this weekend. I realize you just got back and probably are not up to writing a trip report but a few brief comments on Saruni, Mara Plains & Sala's camp along with any comments on Tanzania would be most appreciated.


kimburu Jun 23rd, 2010 02:27 AM

Way too much time on a plane! Look forward to hearing about the trip.

Kavey Jun 23rd, 2010 03:25 AM

Welcome back Sandi, so glad you had a good trip! Can't wait for mine in a couple of months' time!

Khakif Jun 25th, 2010 02:03 PM

Hey Sandi, welcome home. Yep, the distance carries its own punishment, but I trust you were rewarded with another sublime safari. May we have a teaser from your upcoming report..please! pretty please?

sandi Jun 26th, 2010 05:38 AM

OK guys/gals -

I'll be brief:

House of Waine in NBO - outstanding as always; given my favorite room which had a recent upgrade, change of colors,, bedspread, etc... nice.

Palacina Suites in NBO - quite lovely and large suite rooms with large terrace that accommodates table/chairs (for a meal), plus two other soft chairs and table; a living room with wet bar and dishes/glasswear and goodies to eat at reasonable prices, wide-screen TV, loveseat sofa and soft chair; bedroom with large king-sized bed; separate closet/dressing rooom w/hairdryer; very large bathroom with Jacuzzi soaker tub and large shower stall; great restaurant on grounds and pool.

Ol Pejeta Bush Camp - traditional bush camp, solar/generator power, all 6/tents river facing; nicely furnished with warm blankets; loo/shower and washbasin outside main sleeping area; good healthy meals; wonderful hosts Alex & Diana who make this their home and involved in many aspects of OP operations from fields of barley, the chimps and lion project; the conservation land is 100K acres; saw half-breed Grevy/Burchell zebra which weren't thought to mate, but did... the male Grevy/female Burchell. Plenty of rhino around.

Lewa Safari Camp - great camp, recently upgraded; all tents are privately set; well appointed with linens, in bathroom and nice outside terrace; public space is very comfortable and the meals were outstanding; game viewing was diverse with lots of Kori Bustards (believe Nancie claimed seeing 40+ in one day :) ); largest population of Grevy's in the world; also lots of rhino.

Saruni/Kalama (Samburu) - still amazing, with views that go on forever; with only 4/cottages (2 single with living/dining area; 2 family that contain 2 bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, sharing the living/dining area); didn't do a game drive here, but other guests raved about their sightings on the private Kalama conservancy (no other camp/lodge here) and inside the reseerve. Did an extended "sundowner" with manager... just the two of us and our Samburu hosts... all that wine, great nibbles and sky to ourselves. :) :)

SaSaab - on the West Gate Conservancy adjacent to Buffalo Springs; lovely with 9 very large well appointed open air cottages; set on hills, so better have good legs*; camp has pool, but the individual cottages have plunge pools; outstanding meals, wonderful hosts - Tony and Ally; game viewing was great with guests returning from wild dog sightings; also lion (they're maneless and don't growl); leopard, ellees, zebra and lots of others; they did have damage to two of their cottages from the "river rising" in March, but all fixed now.

*had been given the honeymoon suite down a steep hill overlooking the Ewaso Nyiro, so then sent a "chariot" (vehicle) to retrieve me whenever I didn't feel like walking "up" (down was easy) :)

At Samburu - it obvious how high the water got and damage caused, but SaSaab repaired theirs; Larsen's camp has reopened; Ashnil claims to be reopened, and maybe Elephant Bedroom will be sometime during upcoming season; no date yet for Elephant Watch and Serena seems to have pushed their date into late-'11 or 2012.

Will continue....................

sandi Jun 26th, 2010 12:54 PM

In Tanzania -

Swala Camp - at Tarangire, completely redone on a new site in the same vicinity as the former. All redone start-to-finish in 3/months. With 9 octangular shaped tents, wrap-around deck, all with a view and private. Drapes on screened windows which if you don't want the canvas rolled down is a nice option. Large king or twin beds, 2 soft chairs, desk; well appointed bathroom behind sleeping area with twin washbasins, separate loo and shower rooms with adjacent outdoor shower; hairdryer. Public space is lovely as is the dining deck, with fine china, glassware and silver; outstanding meals; attentive staff. Unfenced, as you'll see plenty of impala trapsing thru the camp at all hours and, of course, the vervet monkeys that can be a pain in the butt if they weren't so cute. Managers have been with A&K (Sanctuary properties, as is Kusini at Ndutu and Olonana in Masai Mara) for quite a number of years, originally from South Africa. Drive from park entry, straight on south without any stops for game viewing is 1.5/hrs. Camp about a 30-45/min drive south of Kuro airstrip.

Lemala - Tarangire; seasonal camp, just opened as 1st June to mid-Oct; then camp moves to Lk. Manyara from mid-Dec thru March. Even the park rangers had no idea where the camp was located, so with my guide we went into "recon mode" and sure enough found it... we're getting good finding these hidden gems. Sited on a former "special" campsite, about 30/min. north of Swala and short drive from Kuro airstrip. With 7/tents, 2 of which were temporarily on load to their new Ewanjan Camp at Seronera for the migration (will be returned to Tarangire in July); nicely appointed with 2/double or 1/king bed; instead of usuall canvas floor have wood planking which avoids slip/slide; storage chests as end-tables, wooden wardrobe, desk, dressing table, soft chair; ensuite bathroom to one side with loo, bush shower and nice washbasin set-up; public space has ample seating with dining area adjacent. Unfenced, naturally. No guests in attendance when we visited, but if this and their other camps (Ndutu which moved to No. Serengeti Jul/Oct, Ewanjan at Seronera) are managed as well as the original camp at Ngorongoro... it's a great "seasonal camp" option.

Oliver's Camp - also at the southern end of Tarangire, about 1.15/hrs from Lemala; now in new area since move about 2/yrs back, on banks of Tarangire River; tents are private and traditional bush camp; with twin or king beds; some large enough for third bed; nicely appointed, but a bit of disappointment as too much overstuffed furniture in public space and they looked worn, though they did have a very good selection of alcoholic beverages at their bar :); tents are private, but the sand walkways were a surprise and strange underfoot. Unfenced. While Oliver's has a long history, of the three visited at Tarangire, was the least appealing, though many rave about the place.

All three above camps are in the vicinity of the Silale swamp which is excellent for game once they return to the park during the dry season.

Back to Kenya....

Norfolk Hotel - having stayed here 16/yrs ago and being under different management a few times since, along with refurbishing each time, wanted to see for myself. The facade of hotel and inner courtyard are the same, the interiors have all been redone and though initially impressed, realized it's lost the historical charm. Once inside the buildings, the hallways look much as any other hotel anywhere, as well the rooms. While they did a great job with the crown molding in the rooms, they could be a room anywhere, even the bathroom which has the worst hairdryer any property can install (and I told the desk so). The small dining room on main level no longer has the black/white tile floor, the traditional windows are all gone replaced by sliding doors; the Delamere Terrace is still there, but it's NOT the Delamere Terrace and the prices sure have gone up. It is a beautiful property, no doubt, and weddings take place here regularly (two, in fact, the day I visited)... but it's just not the same!

To the Masai Mara -

Saruni/Mara - On the Mara North Conservancy where I always visit to catch up with owner/management and favorite guide... a wonderful small piece of heaven in the hills overlooking the park; with the exception of new chandelier in the public space, no other changes. Unfenced. Game drives on the conservancy and in the Reserve.

Mara Plains - about a 1.5/hr drive to the Olare Orok Conservancy; the camp with 9/tents, each with wrap around decks, river facing (not Mara or Talek, but a small offshoot whose name I can't recall); well appointed with twin or king beds, soft chair, storage space; as others with ensuite bathroom to the rear of sleeping area, twin washbasins, decent lighting; hairdryer on request when generator is on; a honeymoon tent which was my home-away-from-home; public space is nice and comfy with amazing view of lone desert date tree out there on the front lawn (the conservancy); kitchen is excellent as is the attentive staff and guides. Unfenced. Manager is young Kenyan borne guy with great background. Game viewing on the conservancy and in the Reserve.

Sala's Camp - after transfer at Talek gate, game drive south about 2/hrs, located on the banks of the Sand River, about 1/hr west of Keekorok and Sand River Gate. Another traditional bush camp with 7/tents, with twin or king beds; a honeymoon/family tent. Ensuite bathroom with loo, shower and washbasin, decent lighting; All river facing and you can watch the game moving to/fro between Kenya/Tanzania, even experience a river crossing. Public space is small, but comfy with dining family style. Food is basic, but very very good, with interesting touches and plentiful. Desserts were amazing especially the souffle... yummy yummy. Manager a lovely Kenyan borne gal who has years of experience, is a guide herself and an outstanding chef. Sala's is a sister camp of SaSaab and Solio, as well as Giraffe Manor in Nairobi. Unfenced, naturally... escorted between tents at night by KWS security. Game drives are everywhere in the southern Mara up to Talek.

Guess that summarizes for now!

rsnyder Jun 26th, 2010 01:22 PM

Sandi, welcome back! Grand to hear Larsens is back in business. Looking forward to seeing photos and reading more details of trip. Dick

Percy Jun 26th, 2010 05:51 PM

I am following all this :)

doohickey Jun 27th, 2010 02:04 PM

Great stuff, Sandi. Thanks!

HariS Jun 27th, 2010 06:31 PM

Hi Sandi,

Thanks for the updates ......

Quick question on Mara Plains. You said it's a hour plus drive to the Olare Orok Conservancy? So, where is their exact location from the reserve? How far? Did you think their immediate area is in a prime location?


Khakif Jun 28th, 2010 03:43 AM


Thanks for the write up on Swala. Heading there in a few months with new husband for a mini-honeymoon before we join our group for private safari. It will be DH's first safari and I thought Swala perfect for privacy and time to recover from our long-haul flight. We have a private guide. Tarangire is such a charming little park: the vistas just speak "safari" and great backdrop for photography (DH's hobby).

You've described my kind of safari: great game-viewing, good guides, a comfy bed, and ahhh yes...yummy desserts. Look forward to reading about your memorable moments and the visuals (pics)!

(Pity about the Norfolk Hotel; I was last there in the early 80's. Loved the quaint cottages on the grounds. Guess it is a natural cycle - the ole (historical) breeds die out to make room for upstarts.)

sandi Jun 28th, 2010 05:26 AM

HariS - The drive time of 1.5/hrs was from Saruni on the Mara North Conservancy. Otherwise, Mara Plains is practically right on the border with the Reserve... so a 3/min drive.

Early June is a difficult time to determine good, bad or so-so game viewing. Game is widely dispersed, but found everywhere though not in numbers... even if we did see different herds of 35-40 ellees two afternoons.

And, the wildie herds we came upon, were small in number... not really what people are calling "early migration." (sounds good in the blogs :) ). Appeared to be resident herds normally dispersed in the reserve and some from Loita, acting as welcoming parties for their buddies that will soon be coming up from the Serengeti.

HariS Jun 28th, 2010 06:01 AM

Thanks for the info.

Kavey Jun 28th, 2010 12:54 PM

Wow, what a trip!

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