Ken/Tanz. trip report - Part I

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Nov 10th, 2004, 11:10 AM
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Ken/Tanz. trip report - Part I

This report may not be as eloquent as others, but it comes from the heart. We left Boston 10/15 and arrived at Kilimanjaro International Airport, via Amsterdam, on schedule the evening of 10/16. The next day we went to Arusha National Park for a picnic, and it was there my friends who live in Arusha, my husband and I went atop a small hill and let the wind carry from our hands some of my Mom's ashes. It felt good and any doubts I had about whether I was doing the right thing were quickly squelched. That little part of her we let go blew down below to the Momela Lakes, which were filled with flamingoes. After a few days with our friends, my husband and I left the morning of 10/19 for my beloved Tarangire National Park. As I have said time and time again, this park is fantastic. A short ride (about two hours) on paved road from Arusha, it is just filled with wildlife. Enroute to our accommodation we saw numerous dik-dik, common zebra, two herds of elephants and four lions lazily sleeping along the shore of the Tarangire River - which was really nothing more than a trickle of water, yet a vital water source this time of year for the wildlife. We stayed at Kikoti Camp, which is very nice and reminds me in some ways of Tortilis in Amboseli. The tents have ensuite facilities, (flush toilet and piped water for the sink) with water being delivered for a hot shower on only 10 mins. notice! Tastefully decorated in muted colors, the tent had a lovely desk, two chairs and a coffee table inside. Simple but well done, even down to the giraffe pillows on the bed! The meals are well prepared, albeit a bit spicy for our taste buds, but neither of us went hungry. One thing I like so much about Kikoti is that your guide (whether a camp guide or an operator guide) dines with you. This is a great time to plan the next day's activities and just a good time to get to know each other. We went on a night game drive, which are conducted in camp vehicles on a shared basis. We saw giraffe, spotted hyena, jackals, wild cat, impala, etc. Anyone who has not done a night game drive should do so the next opportunity they have as it offers a very different perspective! The next day we stumbled upon a pride of lion resting under a tree no more than 20 feet from the road. Four glorious females and a young male, whose mane was just starting to come in. Toward noon time our guide took us back along the Tarangire River, where we came upon a small herd of elephants thoroughly enjoying a mud bath. Another mile or so down the road, we came upon another herd of elephants (10 or so), with a HUGE male standing guard over the sleeping babies. Most unusual and he definitely had his guard up as we watched them all. In Tarangire, there is a massive baobab tree that is known as Poacher's Tree, because poachers used to hide inside the hollowed-out trunk. It was here I decided to leave some of my Mom's ashes. Make something good out of something that had such a horrible history. Anyway, as my husband and I deposited some of the ashes, elephants began trumpeting off in the distance. "The elephants know Momma Irma is here. They are welcoming her," our guide said. I know it was a coincidence that the elephants trumpeted at that moment, but I like to think that they were welcoming her arrival. I declared the tree be renamed "Momma Irma's Tree" and in the distance more elephants trumpeted. "They know and they understand," our guide said. Upon our arrival back at camp very late that afternoon (early evening actually!), we were told that lions had just passed through the camp. Sure enough, we saw the spoors in the pathway as we were escorted to our tent. Our time in Tarangire was up, but that magnificent little park had one more gift for me - on our way to the park gate, we spotted a leopard in a tree, with a herd of elephant passing underneath! Is it any wonder I love Tarangire as much as I do???!!!! We left Oct. 21 for Lake Manyara National Park, where we stopped for a picnic lunch. The entrance to Manyara is lush and green, with lots of little rivers to sustain the wildlife. We saw baboons and vervet monkeys and a wide array of birds. Following our lunch, we went on a game drive toward the alkaline lake. We saw many elephants, but the one thing that particularly struck us were the five giraffe we spotted all sitting down near the lakeshore! I had not seen so many doing that before! A highlight of our Manyara visit was the impromptu golf lesson my husband gave our guide when we stopped to stretch our legs. Nearby wildebeest were startled when Michael used a stick and a small ball of elephant dung to show what a "drive" is! We drove from Manyara to Karatu, where we spent the night at Plantation Lodge. Beautifully appointed individual bungalows with very modern bathrooms and each has a sitting room with a working fireplace. Each bungalow has a small stone patio, and it is here they serve - at each bungalow - coffee and tea and biscuits in the late afternoon. Guests gather in the lounge before dinner and then are shown to their individual tables. The dining area is lovely and there is even an outdoor area, should you want to dine there. After a good night's rest, we left the next morning for the Crater. Michael was not feeling well at all, so upon our arrival at the Serena (which was quite fast thanks to the paved road!), we requested the doctor see Michael. Dr. Eric Mfininga was extremely professional and efficient. I wont go into details, but needless to say, Michael did not feel up to going on a game drive. He opted for bed rest. "Go to the Crater and find a rhino for me," Michael said as I walked out the door. "Easier said than done," I thought. Little did I know that the first animal our guide spotted on the way down to the Crater floor (as someone who wears glasses I continually marvel at their eyesight!) was a black rhino, which we were fortunate enough to get within 40 or so feet as it passed in front of our vehicle. My guide guessed where the rhino was heading off to, and, sure enough, it passed us again as we waited for it. I got Michael his rhino! Now lets just hope the pictures turn out! For lunch, our guide and I decided to eat near the Ngoitokitok Springs. We happily ate and talked while watching two bull elephants graze about 150 yards away. "Wouldn't it be cool if one of them came over to visit us," I said. A few minutes later, one of the bulls turned in our direction and began heading our way. At first we thought the elephant would stop as soon as it caught site of us, but it did not. Only when the elephant was within 30 or so feet of us still standing outside the vehicle did our guide tell me to "quietly" get inside the vehicle. I did and once inside I decided to try and take a picture. But I had my zoom lense on and the elephant was too close for the lense!!!! In addition to the rhino encounter, the other highlight was coming upon two sleeping (what else?) male lions, with two female lions sleeping about 50 feet away. And guess what was on the ground in the tall grass between the four lions? A leopard. Yeap, leopard #2 in two days time. For its predicament, the leopard actually looked very relaxed. It was lifting its face to the fading sun and flicking its tail. It was only when one of the male lions managed to lift its head up that the leopard bolted from the grass and up a nearby tree. Did he not know the lions were there? Did they catch him by surprise? Only the leopard knows for certain. It was a good day on the Crater floor, and thanks to Dr. Eric, Michael was feeling much better by dinner time. After a good night's sleep, he felt almost back to normal and it was time for us to leave the Crater and head to the Serengeti.
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Nov 10th, 2004, 11:25 AM
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SusanLynne-
Thank you for the report.

What a touching story about your Mother's ashes. And the part with the elephants trumpeting in the background.

You know, I think the guide may be right. Look at it like this...we know they can communicate in frequencies we cannot hear. So maybe they did want you to hear them. Elephants are so very smart and they know when someone has passed on.

That's what I believe and I'm sticking to it.

Looking forward to reading the rest.


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Nov 10th, 2004, 11:31 AM
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SusanLynne:

Wonderful. Thank you so much.

Leely
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Nov 10th, 2004, 12:20 PM
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Thank you Susan. By the time you deposited the ashes in the Poacher's tree I was bawling. How wonderful. I hope we get to see pictures of this trip and the events. It is all going so quickly. You are very adept at creating your story, I just wish I could make it last longer. I am reading at breakneck speed to peer ahead and then 'poof' its over.
I agree with divewop, that the animals seemed to be waiting for your mother and I am so grateful that you noticed and related those details to us. Sigh! #39;( Liz
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Nov 10th, 2004, 12:40 PM
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I just knew that this trip would be a special one and that you'd find the right places to leave your mum's ashes. I know this isn't the trip you'd planned with her but I'm truly delighted that you were able to carry out this important wish of yours.
Reading about all your sightings has been very exciting though I'm sorry to hear that Michael missed the rhino! When we first went to East Africa when I was a teenager I was very ill for a number of days and completely missed the crater. Mum stayed with me and we sent my dad and sister off to enjoy it for the four of us.
Can't wait to read about the next segment of the trip.
Thanks Susan!
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Nov 10th, 2004, 12:44 PM
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Susan,
Beautiful report so far.

I too have fallen in love with Tarangire; I think it was my favourite couple of days from our recent holiday (we were there 6 days before you). We saw the big baobab, Poachers Tree and if I ever get back to Tarangire I will remember that it is now Momma Irma's tree.
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Nov 10th, 2004, 12:53 PM
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Susan

Great to read your report. We will be in Tarangire in Feb and I will definately remember you and your Mum at "Momma Irma's Tree".
Reading such great reports just makes that pre trip excitment grow grow grow!

Thanks. J
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Nov 10th, 2004, 01:21 PM
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Susan:

Such a heartwarming story. Thank you for sharing it. I agree with all who have responed that the elephants did indeed know what you were doing. I'll bet as soon as you left the tree they went to check it out.

I read a story not too long ago about a woman who was visiting the elephant orphanage in Voi talking with Simon Trevor. Eleanor, the elephant matriarch at the time, started heading their way. Simon suggested the woman take her ivory bracelet off her wrist and hide it. She took it off and held it behind her. As soon as Eleanor got close to them she put her trunk behind the woman and grabbed the bracelet and put her close to her eyes to check it out. Those elephants in Tanzania will know that you shared your Mom with them. They can discern human bones from elephant from other animals and I'm sure they will agree it is the perfect spot. Well done Susan!

I too can't wait for the second chapter of your story. Are you making plans for your return yet?

Jan
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Nov 10th, 2004, 05:09 PM
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SusanLynne - I loved your report. Very touching. My mother was too ill to travel to Africa but she really loved the elephants. I planned a trip for August of last year and the goal was to get some good close up pictures of elephants for my mom. She passed away before I could do that but that just meant she could be there with me after all. She was definitely with me when I saw the elephants.

If I ever make it to Tarangire I will say hello to Momma Irma.
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Nov 11th, 2004, 04:16 AM
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Hi Jan! Of course I am making plans for my return trip back! "Na penda" Tanzania & Kenya! Like you, as soon as I return from a trip, the planning starts all over again ...

No tears or bawling from anyone. I am at peace knowing my Mom is in Kenya and Tanzania. I left some of her ashes at our friends house in Arusha as well. My Mom loved flowers and they have a year-round garden, unlike the seasonal ones up here in the northeast.

On a funny note ... when in the Central Serengeti and leaving my Mom's ashes near a pride of lion's, the wind suddenly picked up and actually blew some of the ashes inside our safari vehicle!! "That's OK. Momma Irma will be with me always on safari," our guide said.

Mom always liked to travel ... and now she is will be permanently on safari! Good for her!!!

I know Parts 1,2 and 3 were relatively short on details as far as food, transfers, etc. so if anyone has any questions, feel free to ask and I will answer as best I can.

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Nov 11th, 2004, 04:50 AM
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It also sounds like you were very lucky to get such an understanding and sensitive guide... what a sweet thing for him to say.
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Nov 11th, 2004, 08:25 AM
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Kavey: We were so lucky to have Salvatore as our guide. He is one of those people you meet and you know you will never forget. He made difficult times easier for us on this trip, and he made the easy times all the more fun. Guides are such an important part of any safari, and we felt blessed that we had him.
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