Just back from amazing Tanzanian safari!

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Dec 8th, 2005, 07:54 AM
  #21
 
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Hi Lisa,

Welcome back, and thanks for including little mishaps along the way in your report. We'll be flying into JRO in June and thanks to your comments, I'll be double-checking things as we get closer. Jack
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Dec 8th, 2005, 08:03 AM
  #22
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Thaks Lisa:
Re the Ipod--which one was it? We were thinking of doing the same thing but I read somewhere that it takes a long time to download photos. What was yourexperience? Do I understand correctly that you downloaded twice--Ipod and Wolverine? Thanks for the advice.
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Dec 8th, 2005, 11:16 AM
  #23
 
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ttt
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Dec 8th, 2005, 04:19 PM
  #24
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bat -- It was the new video iPod, the 60 GB one with 2.5 inch display. I will have to ask my husband about the download time.

More soon...
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Dec 8th, 2005, 09:22 PM
  #25
 
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Wow! We go in a less than a month. This report makes it even more exciting.
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Dec 8th, 2005, 09:37 PM
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Glad to hear you had such a great experience. My daughter and I are leaving Sunday, December 11th, for Tanzania and are using Good Earth Tours also. We leave Tanzania on the 21st. Hope we have good weather too. I'm looking forward to seeing all the different kinds of animals. If we see half as many as you we will be pleased. We won't be going up to Migration Camp but will spend more time in the Central and Southern Serengeti (Seronera, Ndutu) and visit Tarangire, Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater as well.
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Dec 8th, 2005, 09:43 PM
  #27
 
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Oh, forgot to ask my questions: How much did you tip your guide and did you have any treats/favors for children in the villages? Did you use laundry service in any of the lodges and were you satisfied with the service and the cost? How about safety of belongings (Cameras, binoculars, etc.) at the lodges and in Arusha? Were the mosquitos bad and how cool was it at night in your room / tent?
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Dec 8th, 2005, 11:33 PM
  #28
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eleven920 -- In answer to your questions:

Good Earth's suggested tip for guides was $15 per day (for both of us) which would have worked out to $225 total. But we were thrilled with Saidi's guiding and driving, and felt it was so central to our enjoyment of the trip that we ultimately decided to tip him $300 total. We also gave him a bottle of wine as a gift to take home and share with his wife, as a thank you to her for "sharing" him with us for 15 days and nights, which I'm sure could not have been easy as they have two young sons.

We did bring some pens with us which we gave to children (and teenagers) who asked for them.

One tip is to bring some ziplock bags, and when you leave your lodge or camp each morning, throw into your daypack one or two of the extra bars of soap that they give you. Many times the park rest areas had sinks in the bathrooms but no soap, so it came in handy and we left them there for others to use. (In addition, at one petrol stop an elderly maasai woman knocked on the window of our car and asked for soap, so my husband gave her some.) We also brought lots of antibacterial hand wipes with us but could have used more.

Laundry service was included for us at Migration Camp and Swala, and we also paid to have it done at Serengeti Serena Lodge which we thought was very reasonably priced at between $1-2 per item. At Migration Camp and Serengeti Serena we were thrilled with the laundry service. At Swala I would not have it done again. They had to wash it by hand and then they dried it outside, and the clothes came back smelling like a wood fire and had some kind of bugs in them that gave both of us huge red itchy bite marks all over when we wore them! (Thank goodness we had brought some anti-itch stuff with us, and this was at the tail end of our trip, and we did have a few other things left to wear.) This was the only minor annoyance we had at Swala and all of our other experiences there more than made up for it!

We never left anything of value in any of the rooms or tents. None of the rooms had safes. I carried my camera and our money and credit cards with me at all times, even to meals, and my husband carried our passports and all of his camera equipment in a backpack. But that was largely because we wanted our camera stuff with us all the time, not because we felt it was unsafe.

The mosquitos were not bad, but we drove through some areas where the tse tse flies were bad. They bite, and the bites kind of hurt! We joked that the only animals we hunted were tse tse flies. Saidi always liked to let us know when he made a "confirmed kill" of a tse tse in the vehicle (one down, 592 billion to go).

Amazingly, the temperature in the rooms and tents was always comfortable. We only had one day where the weather was cool and overcast and a bit sprinkly, which was at Migration Camp. Some of the tents/rooms had electric fans which we used at times. Most days the highs were in the high 80s/low 90s and sunny. The lows were mostly around high 50s/low 60s in the mornings. Coolest temps were at the crater rim where I wore layers.
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Dec 8th, 2005, 11:50 PM
  #29
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ANIMALS & BIRDS SEEN, ROUGHLY IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE:

Day One: Arusha to Kili to northern Serengeti

Hedgehog
Warthog
Ostrich
Helmeted guineafowl
Cliff chat
Hartebeest
Impala
Topi
Pygmy Falcon
Long-tailed shrike
Magpie shrike
Dik dik
Thomson's gazelle
Grant's gazelle
Lilac-breasted roller
Giraffe
Zebra
Ring-necked dove
Superb starling
Wildebeest
Baboon
Vervet Monkey
African grey-headed vulture
Egyptian goose
Lion
Monitor Lizard
Tawny Eagle
Bateleur
African Fish Eagle
White-headed buffalo weaver
Red billed firefinch
Elephant
Buffalo
Leopard
Rufous-knobbed lark
Yellow-throated longclaw
Hildebrant's starling
Agama lizard
Reedbuck
Bush hyrax
Greater blue-eared starling
Ruppell's long-tailed starling

Highlight of our first day: Saw a pride of lions eating a fresh buffalo kill. One of the cubs kept getting distracted from the kill by a huge monitor lizard sunning himself nearby. The cub was fascinated by the monitor and kept approaching it cautiously but then running off as soon as it moved.




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Dec 9th, 2005, 12:10 AM
  #30
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NEW ANIMALS & BIRDS SEEN ON DAY TWO, ROUGHLY IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE (Northern Serengeti, around Migration Camp)

Hammerkop
Marabou stork
Bare-faced Go Away bird
African grey hornbill
White headed vulture
Long-Crested Eagle
Lappet-Faced Vulture
Eland
Paradise flycatcher
Grey-headed kingfisher
Martial Eagle
Cheetah
Red-headed weaver
African wattled lapwing
White-browed scrub robin
Leopard tortoise
Little bee eater
Banded mongoose
Fischer's lovebirds
Steinbok

Highlight of day two: Each day on the road going to and from Migration Camp we ran into the same herd of elephants. One of the ellies we nicknamed "donut" as he had a big round hole right in the middle of one of his ears. On this day he let our vehicle get very close to him when he was on his own. We also encountered some large herds of wildebeest and zebra on this day, and a roadblock of 5 enormous bull elephants on our way back to camp in the evening.

Forgot to mention that Migration Camp itself was a highlight. An example of one dinner we had (which was so good that I wrote it down) was roasted onion tartlet, tomato & red pepper soup, roasted lamb with mashed potatoes & vegetables, and chocolate fondant with amarula ice cream (not to mention a lovely bottle of South African shiraz). Yum! The only thing we did not care for about Migration Camp was the substitute manager, a Zimbabwean who stood at our dinner table talking right-wing politics for far too long, and who was rude to the staff in our presence. He marred what would otherwise have been an impeccable experience. We had room 16 which was lovely. Every night and morning we heard hippos, cape buffalo, and lion, and every morning we watched the hippos walk back down to the river. Loved this place and only wish the regular managers, a South African couple, had been there during our stay instead of the other guy.

Forgot to mention that on our very first day, within the first two hours alone we say all of the Big Five except rhino.
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Dec 9th, 2005, 12:24 AM
  #31
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NEW ANIMALS & BIRDS SEEN ON DAY 3 (northern Serengeti around Migration Camp)

Rupell's robin chat
Hartlaub's bustard
Crowned plover
Coqui's francolin
Red-cheeked cordon bleu
Mosque swallow
Hippo
European bee-eater
Von der Decken's hornbill
Sooty chat
Capped wheatear
Grey-backed fiscal
Secretary bird
Ruppell's Griffon Vulture
Hooded vulture
Ground hornbill
Defassa waterbuck
Black-crowned night heron
Hadada Ibis
Golden-breasted bunting
Yellow-breasted canary
Black-shouldered kite
White-bellied bustard
Crested francolin

Saw lots more large herds this day. This was Thanksgiving Day for us and we felt very grateful indeed. As a special treat one of the waiters asked us at breakfast if there was anything special we would like for dinner and we told him that we would like to try some traditional Tanzanian food. Apparently the chef was thrilled at the request and that evening he made us a very special Tanzanian dinner: ugali (made of corn and kind of like grits only thicker and eaten with the hands), banana stew, spicy beef stew, grilled beef, and a sort of salad that was sweet and sour and spicy. It was all delicious. The only non-traditional Tanzanian dish was chocolate creme brulee for dessert (yum)!
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Dec 9th, 2005, 05:43 AM
  #32
 
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Magnificent trip! Thanks for the report.
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Dec 10th, 2005, 02:18 AM
  #33
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On Day 4 we left Migration Camp and drove south about an hour or so to Mbuzi Mawe, a small and relatively new tented camp which is owned by Serena. The location is in the middle of rocky outcrops called kopjes, not near any river or waterhole. There are 16 tents. These are less luxurious than the ones at Migration Camp but still very nice. The tents are not on raised platforms as they were at Migration Camp, and the floors at Migration Camp were gorgeous mininga hardwood whereas at Mbuzi Mawe they were tile. The only thing that really bothered us was that it was very windy and the tents made a lot of noise when the wind blew. In fact we had to be moved from the first tent they gave us (16) because the shaking and rattling of the tent in the wind were so loud that we would not have been able to sleep. One of the employees who helped move us remarked that the wind was a constant problem for the tents on that side and that it really was not a good location for placing tents. We were moved to tent 8 which had a nice large tree in front of it and was not so exposed to the wind -- much quieter. We sat on the porch in the mornings and had our wakeup coffee (as we had at Migration Camp too) and watched hornbills flying to and from the tree to feed their chicks. At night you could see klipspringers on the rocks which were very cute. There is no pool at Mbuzi Mawe (there was a small one at Migration but we never used it). The shower pressure was great at Mbuzi Mawe and they even had hair conditioner in the room unlike at Migration Camp. The service at Mbuzi Mawe was not nearly as good as at Migration Camp but we still liked it, although it wasn't so special that I would stay there again (whereas I would go back to Migration Camp in a heartbeat). The food at Mbuzi Mawe was fine but not outstanding. Mbuzi Mawe is about 45 minutes to an hour north and east of central Seronera which is an incredible area for game viewing.

NEW BIRDS AND ANIMALS SEEN DAY 4, FROM MIGRATION CAMP TO MBUZI MAWE AND CENTRAL SERENGETI:

Silver-backed jackal
white-browed coucal
Pale batis
Dwarf mongoose
Speckled mousebird
African pied wagtail
Serval
Eastern chanting goshawk
African green pigeon
Klipspringer
Red-billed oxpecker
African hoopoe
Eurasian roller
Two-banded courser
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Dec 10th, 2005, 11:27 AM
  #34
 
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You had a Thanksgiving dinner you won't forget! The tent info Mbuzi Mawe was helpful. The serval is one of my favorite. How nice you saw one and hope you got a nice look.
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Dec 11th, 2005, 02:15 AM
  #35
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On Day 5 we did a morning walk with the ranger and naturalist at Mbuzi Mawe -- just the two of us. We did not see much game, but they pointed out all the different animal tracks which was interesting. We learned a lot about the various plants in the area. The whistling thorn acacia is fascinating and since the wind was blowing we got to hear the noise it makes. We also saw lots of animal bones, and learned all about termites and termite mounds which are pretty fascinating too (and the naturalist claimed termites are delicious). We tasted a wild fruit called the sourplum which wasn't bad, but were warned not to try the similar-looking sodom's apple which has little yellow fruits that apparently taste so bad that virtually no animals will eat them. We also learned all about how the fig trees there pollinate internally via insects that live inside of it rather than externally by flowering. I think the walk was $20 per person for two hours. We enjoyed it and it was good to do some walking after riding in the vehicle so much.

After the walk we ate breakfast and then met Said for our all-day game drive down in the central Serengeti, which was amazing. I will have to look through our photos to remember everything we saw, but it was overwhelming. We went to a really cool hippo pool where you could get out and view the hippos really close up. We spent quite a bit of time there. One of the juvenile hippos was very annoyed by the Egyptian geese and storks standing on the banks of the river and kept getting out of the water to try to intimidate them, but the second they started to flap their wings and squawk he would run back into the water -- very funny to see such a huge animal afraid of birds! There were crocs there too and I was a bit worried they were going to go after one of the tiny baby hippos.

There were huge herds of wildebeest and zebra all over the Seronera area. The central Serengeti was much drier than the northern part around Migration Camp. We stopped the vehicle at an area where the large herds were coming down to drink at the river and watched them for a long time. There were lions we could see on the other side of the river. The wildebeest and zebras were quite nervous and kicked up lots of dust with their running to and from the water. Suddenly Mark and Said noticed that one of the female lions had crossed the river (the water was extremely low in many places) and was sitting under a tree near us -- and all at once she decided to go after one of the zebras, but she missed. I fired off a couple of shots with my camera but I don't know if they will come out. It was really exciting to see though. Afterwards she came and drank from the river right next to our vehicle.

We had a picnic lunch at the visitor's center which is very nice, and populated by all sorts of gorgeous birds, mongoose, hyraxes, mice, monkeys, etc. The lunch boxes from Mbuzi Mawe were fine but not as nice as the ones from Migration Camp. After lunch I walked around the visitor's center. If you walk to the rear of the back building on the ground level there is a very entertaining mural about all the different kinds of work it takes to maintain the park -- very educational! It was hard to tear ourselves away from taking photos of all the beautiful birds at the visitor's center. I especially loved the little red-cheeked cordon bleu and the lovebirds. Some of the weavers and barbets were very bold and would try to steal crumbs within a foot or so, and the mongoose and hyraxes played right at our feet.

Later in the afternoon we drove all along the river and saw a leopard plus more lions and some hyenas, in addition to lots of elephants, buffalo, etc.

NEW ANIMALS SEEN, DAY 5:

Violet-wood hoopoe
Red-necked spurfowl
Cattle egret
Sacred ibis
Crocodile
Yellow-billed stork
Blacksmith plover
Lesser masked weaver
Gecko
Grey-headed social weaver
Usambiro barbet
Slate-colored boubou
Egyptian (slender) mongoose
Kori bustard
African pied wagtail
Mouse (no idea what kind)
Spotted hyena
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Dec 11th, 2005, 03:56 AM
  #36
 
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Hi Lisa,

On our last trip, our guide went into great detail about how termite mounds are constructed, very interesting, but he didn't mention anything about eating the little critters. So, when my son and I go back to Tanzania in June, we'll have to see if we can have some termites at one of our meals, maybe some sourplums, too, unless they make you go to the bush.

At a stop near a termite mound, my grandson Andrew got out of our vehicle and went over to a mound which was about five feet high, and began tapping on it. It was really hard, he said. Our guide then mentioned that snakes also liked to go inside the mounds. Andrew suddenly decided that it was time to get back in the vehicle!

Great report, keep it up! Jack
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Dec 11th, 2005, 05:09 AM
  #37
 
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Great trip report, lisa! Looking forward to the next installment.

Jack,
You must also try the huge, white mushrooms that sprout from termite mounds after a rain. They're delicious! Our hosts in Tanzania harvested some while we were riding one morning after it had rained. I'll put a pic in my album so you can identify them
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Dec 11th, 2005, 05:40 AM
  #38
 
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Hi Lisa, great to know that u saw the migration and soo many animals, loved your report.
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Dec 11th, 2005, 05:57 AM
  #39
 
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OK, Patty, I'll try to remember to give termite mushrooms a try, as well as good old termites themselves, and also sourplums, and.... anything else I need to add to my "must eat" list?
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Dec 11th, 2005, 07:58 AM
  #40
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Lisa:
Great report. How were you able to keep such a detailed list of everything you saw--especially the birds? Any tips?
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