Just back from amazing Tanzanian safari!

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Dec 7th, 2005, 12:28 PM
  #1
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Just back from amazing Tanzanian safari!

Just walked in the door after a long series of flights home from Kilimanjaro to Amsterdam to Newark and finally home to DC. Couldn't wait to post here to say what an incredible time we had. I really think it's the best trip we've ever taken and that's saying something. We were in Tanzania for 15 days & nights and it was all just fantastic in every way. Our guide and driver, Saidi from Good Earth, absolutely made our trip -- he was like a good friend from the moment we met him and so accommodating and eager to share, not to mention an expert at spotting and identifying all sorts of birds and animals, endlessly patient with our questions and so helpful when it came to repositioning the vehicle for the best light for photos or for the least obstructed view possible.

Our favorite places that we stayed were Migration Camp and Swala but all of the places were really nice. Gibbs Farm was very special too.

We kept a list of our sightings each day and in total we saw over 260 different species of animals, including over 190 different kinds of birds (plus a few more that we were not able to identify for sure). We aren't birders, but Tanzania will make bird-watchers out of anyone!

We did experience large herds of wildebeest and zebra in the northern Serengeti not far from Migration Camp, and then some ENORMOUS herds in the central area of the Serengeti around Seronera where it really felt like the "great" migration. Even saw four different attempted kills by lions at rivers & waterholes, of both zebra and wildebeest, but none successful -- although we saw lots of feasting on kills that we apparently just missed witnessing -- including hartebeest, buffalo, zebra, and wildebeest. Also had an amazing sighting of a leopard in a tree who seemed riveted by something we could not see on the ground, which we watched for a long time -- and what she was watching turned out to be a lioness in the long grass stalking some hartebeest! Watching the leopard watch the lioness was most entertaining. Other amazing things -- lots of leopard sightings in Serengeti and one in Tarangire where we least expected it, a female cheetah with five very young cubs near Ndutu, a family of bat-eared foxes playing at dusk in the Ngorongoro Crater, a huge 10-foot long African rock python digesting something massive at one of the picnic areas in Ngorongoro, a rhino calf suckling in Ngorongoro (in fact we saw a total of 7 different rhinos in Ngorongoro), being charged by elephants in Tarangire, 2 different sightings of beautiful serval cats (one in northern Serengeti and one at Naabi Gate), watching a gorgeous pride of 12 lions including lots of cubs playing at sunset along the Seronera river and then watching as they attempted to ambush some approaching wildebeest, etc. etc. Hearing lions roar in the middle of the night while sleeping in tents at Migration Camp and Swala was an experience I will never forget! And the Tanzanian people we met were so warm and welcoming. We had a really nice visit at a Maasai village on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater.

Weather was fantastic and I have to say that I think Nov-Dec is a great time of year for the areas where we were as it was low season, not crowded at all -- in fact, the night we stayed at Gibbs we were the only guests, which was also the case for one of our nights at Swala and one of our nights at Migration Camp. The quiet suited us very well.

I will have to post a real trip report later but couldn't resist just posting this to say how terrific it all was. Already can't wait to go back. With everything that we saw, there is always more to see! (As we were driving out of Tarangire on our last day we met a couple who had just arrived and who had seen 3 wild dogs on their very first game drive...needless to say we were green with envy but also thrilled for them.)

Feel free to post questions and I will respond once I've gotten some sleep!

P.S. Every baby animal we saw was the cutest ever, one more adorable than the rest. If there is anything cuter than a baby elephant it can only be a baby dik dik...or a baby cheetah...or a newborn zebra...or the tiny little monkeys and baboons...even warthog piglets are irresistable! We even saw a baby leopard tortoise.
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Dec 7th, 2005, 12:33 PM
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Wow, sounds amazing. Especially glad about the number of black rhino in the Crater. I was there in 1999, and only saw one, and that was from a distance.
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Dec 7th, 2005, 12:35 PM
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Welcome home...glad you had a fantastic time!

Photo album, as soon as possible, please!
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Dec 7th, 2005, 12:39 PM
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Lisa, welcome home and WOW! Your trip sounds incredible! Talk about some special animal sightings =D>!

Can't wait to read the full report and will you be posting any photos online?
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Dec 7th, 2005, 12:45 PM
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Welcome home.

Can only imagine what the trip report will contain, if this was just a taste?

Catch your Zzzzzzzzzzzzs - we'll be here to read your report,and, of course, the photos.
 
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Dec 7th, 2005, 01:01 PM
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bat
 
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How wonderful--glad that you had such a great time.
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Dec 7th, 2005, 01:26 PM
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Welcome home Lisa and thanks for sharing. You got my attention when you mentioned Rhinos and dogs - it all sounds wonderful. We'll be going to Tanz. in Feb. so I can't wait for your report and photos after you adjust to rentering the real world.
Get rested;
Sherry
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Dec 7th, 2005, 01:55 PM
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Welcome home Lisa and thanks for reporting before going to bed. What an amazing trip! Iím really looking forward to your trip report. Sleep peacefully.
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Dec 7th, 2005, 01:59 PM
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Welcome back, Lisa. What an amazing trip; I can't wait to hear more details.
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Dec 7th, 2005, 02:26 PM
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Looks like you had an amazing trip. A mother cheetah with 5-wow! Hope they all make it. Your species count is impressive. Looking forward to your report.
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Dec 7th, 2005, 02:32 PM
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Lisa:

Sounds wonderful - can't wait to read the full report!

Cyn
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Dec 7th, 2005, 02:50 PM
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Welcome back, lisa! We just returned home two days ago ourselves. Can't wait to read your full report. I'd better get working on mine too
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Dec 7th, 2005, 02:53 PM
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Patty:
please, pretty please [-o<

Besides it is the only thing that is going to stop me from chasing you all over this board with smiley faces
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Dec 7th, 2005, 03:02 PM
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Excellent, Lisa and welcome back! I cannot be happier that you enjoyed Tanzania so much!
Eben
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Dec 7th, 2005, 03:26 PM
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Great report so far! Glad you had such a great trip. Look forward to hearing more about it and, of course, seeing photos.
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Dec 7th, 2005, 03:37 PM
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Hi Lisa,

Your report got me so excited for our trip at the end of the month with Good Earth!

Also looking forward to your photos - I just posted a response to a photography Q about needed a special zoom lens for bird photos - what was your experience?
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Dec 8th, 2005, 02:24 AM
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Thanks ever so much for posting Lisa. Your descriptions are vivid. Only 15 days before we leave and 23 days before we arrive in Tanzania. Patty, I'm looking forward to your report.
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Dec 8th, 2005, 02:28 AM
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Thanks everybody, and thanks so much to everyone for all of the advice here in the planning stages.

I just slept like a rock for 10 solid hours -- ahh. Home sweet home.

Photos: I shot only film on this trip; my husband shot digital plus video and a little film. On all of our other trips -- South Africa, Thailand, Australia, etc. -- I have found that if I bring 1.25 rolls of 36-exposures for each day of the trip, that is enough for me. I usually throw in a couple of extra rolls for good measure just in case. So for this 15-day trip, I brought 20 rolls, and threw in 3 extra. Big mistake. I have never shot so much film in my life. I ended up shooting 30 rolls. Where did we end up getting the extra film you might ask? Yes, we sold our right arms for them at hotel gift shops. Ugh. In Tarangire we decided to stop at the Sopa lodge just to pick up a couple more rolls since I was running out again -- we pulled the car up, I ran into the shop and picked up a roll of film and asked the clerk how much, and he said $10. "Ten dollars?!" I said in disbelief. "For you, $8" he replied. (Gee, thank you sir, may I have another...)

So we'll have to see when we can get all this developed. I will be interested to see how these come out as this was my first major trip using my 75-300mm image stabilized lens. My husband used his new Minolta 7D with a 100-300 mm lens. We bought one of the new video iPods to store the photos on which we absolutely love -- nice to have a little music when we wanted it, plus so easy for showing the photos to our guide & others who were interested. He also brought a Wolverine storage device as a backup. I'm sure it will take him a while to edit through the thousands of images he took but hopefully we will start this weekend...and yes we will try to share some of the better images as soon as we can. Dust was a major problem for many portions of this trip but we did the best we could and cleaned the equipment most nights.

Forgot to mention we also saw a HUGE green mamba at Mbuzi Mawe crossing the path right in front of us when we were on foot -- over 2 meters in length. it was beautiful, bright green -- but by the time got our cameras out it was up a tree and we couldn't see it anymore. We also saw a boomslang very close up and got lots of pictures of that so hopefully some of those will come out.

kstyle -- We only had one minor glitch with Good Earth which was in Arusha before the safari actually began. We had originally planned to stay our first night at Kia Lodge at Kili airport since our flight arrived at JRO at 9pm at night and we didn't want to have to drive all the way into Arusha that night. A few weeks before we left, Narry asked if we would mind switching to the New Arusha Hotel for our first night at the same price, since our flight to northern Serengeti the following morning was scheduled to leave at 8:45 am out of Arusha. So we agreed (somewhat reluctantly, since we had been hoping we might wake up to a nice view of Mt. Kilimanjaro our first morning at Kia Lodge, but we thought logistically Narry's suggestion made sense). We were picked up at Kilimanjaro airport on arrival by Joseph from Good Earth, and driven the 45 minutes or so to the New Arusha Hotel, where we ate dinner (very good) and went straight to bed for our flight the next morning. We did not sleep well because the New Arusha Hotel had no air conditioning and we had to sleep with the window open, which meant we heard lots of stray dogs barking all night. The next morning Joseph picked us up and drove us the 15 minutes or so to Arusha airport. But there was noone at the airport, and it was clear that some kind of construction or improvements or something were being made to the airstrip outside. One woman outside the airport said there were no flights that day out of Arusha and all flights were leaving out of Kilimanjaro airport. But our tickets definitely said Arusha, not Kilimanjaro. Joseph called Ndashy at Good Earth and asked him to check on where our Air Excel flight was leaving from. At this point we were getting nervous since it was by now 7:45 am and our flight was scheduled to leave at 8:45 and it was going to be very close to make it all the way back to Kilimanjaro airport in time. Ndashy called back and said that there must be some mistake as our flight was definitely out of Arusha. But there were no Air Excel personnel at Arusha airport (and noone else for that matter). Ndashy finally called back again and said go back to Kilimanjaro. So Joseph drove us back to Kilimanjaro airport where the pilot and copilot met us at security and helped us hurry onto the plane, 15 minutes late. It was a tiny plane and we were the only ones on it! We told the pilot what had happened and he said that there were no Air Excel flights on Tuesdays out of Arusha for several weeks because of the work being done there and that they had told everyone months ago that those flights would be out of Kili instead. At that point we were somewhat annoyed because it seemed like if either Joseph or Ndashy had called a day or two ahead to confirm our flight they would have known it was leaving out of Kilimanjaro instead of Arusha, and we could have stayed at Kia Lodge as originally planned and avoided the long drive to and from Arusha, and gotten some sleep! Oh well. In the end it was fine, it was a great flight with amazing views, and everything for the rest of the trip was perfect. So we really can't complain. But if I were you I would ask Narry or Ndashy to reconfirm any domestic flights or other arrangements like that. Also reconfirm with them anything else that is important to you. For us, the vehicle itself was important because we knew we would be spending a lot of time in it and we wanted something with a pop-up roof with a cover for shade. We ended up in a Toyota Land Cruiser which was not the newest vehicle we saw but was very dependable and spacious and did have a canvas cover (which we just left up all day every day) over the pop-out roof segments. So it worked well for us. We saw lots of people with no covering for shade on their vehicles which I really would not have liked.

By the way, we had a dayroom at Kia Lodge for our last day and really liked that place and wished we had stayed there instead of New Arusha Hotel regardless. It was nice and quiet, with comfortable rooms, good service, and had a very good restaurant.

More when I can...
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Dec 8th, 2005, 07:24 AM
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Loving your report - thanks for sharing!

Eagerly waiting for more...
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Dec 8th, 2005, 07:29 AM
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Your excitement is contagious--I feel like I was on your trip you speak so enthusiastically. Great report. Cna't wait for photos.
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