Just back from amazing Tanzanian safari!

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Dec 16th, 2005, 01:30 AM
  #61
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Bat -- We are not morning people either! But it was worth it.

Yes there were upstairs and downstairs rooms at Serena. I can't speak to the downstairs rooms, but the upstairs one that we were in did have a private balcony.
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Dec 16th, 2005, 01:54 AM
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Day 14 -- Woke up at Swala and it was thrilling to look outside our tent in the morning. We had arranged for coffee and hot chocolate to be brought to us for our wake-up, and we sat out on our front porch overlooking the waterhole and watched the sun rise as a parade of elephants passed right by our tent one by one! There were monkeys and baboons in the trees next to our tent, and impala and waterbuck all around as well. It was one of the coolest experiences I've ever had -- waking up at Swala was better than dreaming!

Eventually we made our way over to the dining tent for breakfast and were met by Said for our all-day game drive. We drove to the huge baobab called Poacher's Hide and went inside it which was neat. During our drive we saw a large pride of at least 15 lions (resting) and a leopard in a bare tree which was quite close to us. I hadn't really expected to see leopard or lions in Tarangire so that was a nice surprise. The only new mammal we saw were some lesser kudu. We did see our first owl of the trip, which was really cool. And of course we saw so many elephants. One interesting behavior we noticed in Tarangire's elephants was that they regularly tend to rest their trunks on one or both of their huge tusks. We have occasionally seen this elsewhere but not nearly to the same extent. It was very funny to see groups of so many elephants all with their trunks curled around their tusks, as if the trunk was so heavy that it had to be rested on something...

The highlight of the day, without a doubt, was our picnic lunch. It was the most amazing picnic I can imagine. Swala had packed us a hamper with a tablecloth and a lovely bottle of wine and real glassware and cloth napkins and beautiful carved wooden bowls with delicious curried salads and rice, fruit, cookies and coffee and and all sorts of things. We ate it at a picnic table overlooking the river and watching the elephants and monkeys and birds. It was so delightful and yet a little bit bittersweet because we knew we were leaving the next day and we were already getting sad about it.

We covered a great deal of the park over the morning and afternoon and returned to camp at dusk. We were the only guests that night. We had some wine at the bar, and Mark sat by the fire and had hors d'oeuvres and shared some of his digital photos with the managers while I cleaned up. Dinner was another fantastic experience, and when we returned to our tent we had another poem on our pillows, plus a complimentary carafe of Amarula to enjoy before bed! I had never tried Amarula before, and it was delicious. What a treat. It was these little touches that made us love Swala so much.

New sightings, Day 14:
Pygmy kingfisher
Ashy starling
Goliath heron
Red-billed quelea
Lesser kudu
Black-chested snake eagle
African martial eagle
Verraux's Eagle Owl
African Orange-bellied Parrot
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Dec 16th, 2005, 03:42 AM
  #63
 
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Hi Lisa,

Thanks for such a vivid description of your safari. My son and I were in Kenya and Tanzania in June, but we didn't stay in tents at all for the whole two weeks. When we go back next June, we're rectifying that little problem by spending most of our time in tented camps. So, I just had to email him your description of waking up in your tent with elephants, baboons, etc, all around. As if he's not excited enough already!
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Dec 18th, 2005, 08:44 PM
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Lisa, thank you so much for your detailed report. I really appreciated the info on Good Earth. We booked with them for June. I'm thinking about asking for Saidi. Can you tell me more about why he made your trip so special. I know a good guide is crucial to a good safari experience.
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Dec 18th, 2005, 10:14 PM
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loveintravelin -- Saidi was very relaxed, comfortable, never nervous or uptight. It's hard to explain but you can imagine how important it is to feel at ease with someone you are sharing a vehicle with for up to 12 hours a day, for 15 consecutive days! To be honest, there are very few people on the face of the earth that I could spend that amount of time with and have no conflicts. It's not just that he was great at spotting game (which he was). It's also the fact that he knew intuitively what we were thinking about before we said anything. As we pulled up to a spot, he would ask us, is the light ok here, or would it be better over there? Sometimes we would take out our cameras, and he would say, no, wait a minute, and then he would point out a lion under a tree right in front of our noses when we had been looking far off on the horizen. It's like he knew what we were thinking before we could even articulate it. He was just a pleasure to be around. Good humor, laid-back, etc. In addition, he shared interesting aspects of Tanzanian culture (little things like showing us photos of his son's birthday party), he was interested in hearing about American culture, and he had the utmost respect for the wildlife that we were there to see. I can't even tell you how much he added to our trip. The only thing I would say is that if having a new vehicle is more important to you, you might want to ask for someone else. (Considering how good he is, they really should give him a new vehicle). There is nothing wrong with the vehicle he was driving when we were there -- in fact, it was nicer than most that we saw -- but it had clearly seen better days -- just wasn't the newest or cushiest. That said, we were perfectly comfortable and if someone offered me a new vehicle with some other guide or the oldest vehicle with Saidi, I'm sure I would choose Saidi.
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Dec 23rd, 2005, 05:35 PM
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Lisa,

I enjoyed your account very much. Steve and Maryna Bouwer of Swala are friends of mine and I'm going to send this url to them, I am sure they will be pleased to hear you enjoyed your visit. I am hoping to see them next fall when I am back in Africa and will be making use of your experiences when I am in that area. I also developed fondness for amarula and will be using the last of my reserve in hot chocolate this weekend (another good reason to get back to Africa in May).

George
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Dec 25th, 2005, 03:41 PM
  #67
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George -- Please do tell them how much we enjoyed Swala and how special our experience there was. They were fantastic hosts. You could really tell how much they loved the place and what a wonderful time they wanted their guests to have. It is a special camp.

It occurred to me today while we were eating Christmas dinner and telling our families about our trip that I never really "finished" this trip report. It is only missing the last day, the day we departed. Maybe I don't want to finish it because then it will be like closing the book...

I have edited our photos down from 2900 to 390 or so, but we have not looked at any of our video yet!

Happy holidays to everyone. I appreciate the sense of community and sharing here, and hope all of you have a great new year.
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Dec 26th, 2005, 07:31 PM
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Lisa, thanks for your reply about Saidi. I wish you a very prosperous 2006
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Dec 29th, 2005, 10:06 AM
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Day 15 -- We were very sad to leave Swala. Maryna and Steve walked us to our vehicle and waved goodbye. We enjoyed a game drive on our way out of Tarangire and made our way to Arusha, with a couple of stops for souvenir shopping on the way. I bargained HARD for a beautiful photo album bound in sueded buffalo hide, hand-sewn and dyed, with hand-beading on the front. We also got a few small carved wooden animals. In Arusha we stopped at the Good Earth office and then Saidi drove us to Kia Lodge, where we cleaned up and enjoyed a quick dinner before our flight home.

New Sightings, Day 15 Tarangire-Arusha:

Yellow-throated sandgrouse
Black-faced sandgrouse

Well, that's it! I hope to post a link to some of our photos soon -- I have currently edited them down to 350 of my favorites & still need to pare them down a little more. Thanks again to everybody here for all of your advice -- I learned so much from so many of you -- and for your positive feedback.
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Dec 29th, 2005, 10:16 AM
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Amazing is the right word for your trip. Thanks for sharing. Im looking forward to the photos
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Dec 31st, 2005, 06:31 PM
  #71
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You can see a few of my photos at the following link:
http://homepage.mac.com/lisaandmarkt...otoAlbum1.html
Hope this works -- I'm a total newbie at this! Let me know what you think. I hope to get more up soon. Happy New Year everybody!
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Jan 1st, 2006, 07:40 AM
  #72
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I've posted photos from two more portions of our trip, at http://homepage.mac.com/lisaandmarkt...otoAlbum2.html and
http://homepage.mac.com/lisaandmarkt...otoAlbum3.html
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Jan 2nd, 2006, 05:57 PM
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Wow---really lovely report & photos Lisa. I once spent 6 months working my way up the east coast of Africa---(25 years ago!) I'm looking for places to revisit and your report makes Tanzania a definite possibility.
Thanks for taking the time to share.
Regards,
Pete
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Jan 3rd, 2006, 05:47 AM
  #74
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Thanks Pete! Wow, 6 months in Africa -- must have been amazing! You should post a thread about it -- I'd love to hear about it, and I bet you'd get lots of suggestions for places to "revisit"!
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Jan 3rd, 2006, 06:18 AM
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Just checked out the last two pages of photos, thanks so much for sharing!
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Jan 3rd, 2006, 07:15 AM
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Yeah, well every day was certainly an adventure. The Good & The (very) Bad. In Africa everything is magnified, naturally. I met some extremely gracious people and then, quite candidly, some individuales who personify evil. I realize that type of axiom is true anywhere; but somehow in Africa it was startlingly and starkly true. To cross Africa alone was to be completely vulnerable.
I'm not too sure that a thread like that would be appropriate here.

I mean Africa is huge in both size and political complexity. Even today I do not pretend to fully comprehend all that I witnessed in the time that it took me to cross her. It was so extreme...
One day you are surrounded, inundated really, by sheer beauty. And the next you are passing through villages where orphans are the lucky ones.
One day everyone is smiling and laughing. The next day you are traversing a war zone.

I'd like to go back and just be a tourist. Climb "The mountain" perhaps. Who knows, maybe I'll tell the story of how I spent a day in a Zambian jail. Or how I got stuck in the Serengeti bush, at night, by a river with very hungry and very loud lions.
You know how there are no atheists in foxholes? That was me: Fearfully Praying for shelter. I swear to you that I prayed outloud and actually walked into a round hut that was manned by a "game warden" who let me sleep on a dirt floor under his table.
I slept like a baby while he fiddled with the shortwave radio speaking with someone in "Ni-robi".
Cheers,
Pete



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Jan 3rd, 2006, 07:56 AM
  #77
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oh...my...I think you have the makings of an incredible book there, Pete, if you ever decide to write one.
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Jan 3rd, 2006, 07:56 AM
  #78
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P.S. Thanks Kavey!!
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Jan 5th, 2006, 07:25 AM
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Four albums of Mark's Tanzania photos are up on our homepage now:

http://homepage.mac.com/lisaandmarkt...toAlbum15.html (northern & central Serengeti, lion prides, birds, etc.)

http://homepage.mac.com/lisaandmarkt...toAlbum16.html (more Serengeti, hippo pool, Mbuzi Mawe, etc.)

http://homepage.mac.com/lisaandmarkt...toAlbum17.html (Maasai village, Ngorongoro & more)

http://homepage.mac.com/lisaandmarkt...toAlbum18.html (Gibbs, Manyara, Tarangire, Swala, hamerkop & monitor lizard playing tug of war with a frog, & more)
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Jan 8th, 2006, 09:16 PM
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Hi Lisa,

Great photos. I heard back from Swala and Maryna said hi. She said you were a fun group. Steve is off filling in at Kusini till the end of the month so she is holding down the fort at Swala. Hope I get to visit them this fall.

George
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