Kenya and Tanzania Trip Completed

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Jan 24th, 2005, 12:33 PM
  #1
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Join Date: Oct 2004
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Kenya and Tanzania Trip Completed

Just wanted to thank all the fodorites who provided encouraging support in the past to go to East Africa and to comment that I just got back from a safari/camping 16 day tour of Kenya and Tanzania yesterday and it was fantastic. No major safety issues except the driving patterns in the countries tend to be aggressive (that would have to be the highest risk - automobile accident - and limited good blood supply, if needed). Other than that I felt really safe - no civil unrest, forget the travel warnings (not really a true representation of safety concerns there). NBO had 3 metal detectors and xray machines that I had to go through and a detailed hand inspection of my carry on before I boarded my plane. Hotels had security guards in every floor.

Barely any mosquitos. My only advice would include bring the right equipment to better enjoy the safaris - sun screen, binoculars, sun glasses, digital camera with 1 gb memory, insect repellent, hat and lots of energy!

We saw all the major large game species including the Big Five.

Cheers and thanks to all!

Ohio Boys
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Jan 24th, 2005, 12:54 PM
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sandi
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When you've had time to catch your breath, we would like to hear details, details, details. Thanks.
 
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Jan 27th, 2005, 03:45 PM
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East Africa Wildlife Safari Tour – January 2005 [Kenya/Tanzania]

Gosh -

Where do I start?

The flight from JFK to NBO was brutal including the 3 hour layover in London (14 hour flight time plus another 3 hours layover). I ended up arriving 5:50 am in the morning and had to find a seat in the airport LHR to sleep until my flight to NBO. The flight from LHR to NBO was about 7 hours and I landed at night in NBO. I flew British Airways and they have great service and movies to tie you over and occupy your time, so the trip seemed to go by faster. I noticed very quickly that this country, as poor as it is, is about paying and tipping for everything (when it comes to transactions and interactions – who can blame the system? I would too). At certain moments you almost feel that if you don’t tip or pay for the simplest service you are viewed negatively and may or may not have any impact on your safety. That’s how I felt. I guess I rather be “safe” than sorry because they already know by the way I look that I am a tourist. But please let me reiterate that the Kenyans are very friendly and wonderful and always wanting to learn more about where you are from and what you are about.

I ended up staying at The PanAfric Hotel in NBO and relaxed for the day and then the next evening met up with our tour leader. Interesting enough all the floors of the hotel had friendly Kenyan security guards in uniform and also cars coming into the hotel had to be checked for potential bombs and security threats. It was pretty peaceful and I felt safe despite the safety measures taken. Before you arrive to a new city, there is always an element of uncertainty that may put a little fear in you (not knowing the infrastructure or people or places or where to go or even hospitals and the communication systems – cell phones, as well as the local cultures – you don’t really know it until you are there.). But when you get there, you realize that it is no different than anywhere else. You get into your groove and just smile and realize that everything will be OK and that no matter where you go, there will always be some form of risk a traveler will have to assume unless they just stay in their house and die of boredom.

The next morning we took a minivan out to Samburu NR. Road conditions were horrible! It was like none stop bumping up and down and holding on to something in the van for 4 to 5 hours (I should note that we drove to all our destinations on the trip – so a good part of the trip was in transition, but a good first time experience – as oddly as it sounds, I know. Sometimes the best part of trips is the process of getting there). Samburu was my first safari park ever. Totally awesome! We saw various game species including African elephants, giraffes (reticulated), Grevy’s zebras and monkeys, baboons, oryx, and species not seen in the south of Kenya. We also met some local tribes and they did a welcoming dance for us and should us around their village. Remarkable.

Camping was a memorable and good experience. However if I had to do it again, I would have done the lodge (assuming I could afford it). I would have preferred the lodges just due to comfort and I wouldn't recommend the participatory camping where you cook your own food and set up camp yourself. After the game drives (that take place early morning and late afternoon), you are just glad there is dinner or lunch ready to go and the tents all set up. Trust me. If you can afford it, pay for the cook and set up crew. Besides, it gives you more time to view game.

We stayed in Samburu for two nights before heading out to Lake Nakuru and there I saw my first leopard. As we entered into the park I was pointing to the zebras because they looked different from the ones we saw in Samburu; however, the driver apparently didn’t stop and was in a rush flooring the minivan at great speed. He apparently had a quick chat with another driver as we entered into the park and he was waving me off and saying that don’t even bother with the zebras, we are on to something. We saw the leopard in the tree and what a sight! An endangered species right in front of us. What a beauty! We saw various birds and birds of prey and flamingos. This is where I saw my first white rhino in a safari and buffalos. Quite cool I must say! I have never seen so many flamingos clustered all over the lake! It was like the edges of the lake were pink. We also saw two black rhinos but they tend to be shy and are an endangered species as well. You start to see how awful humans can be at times with our greed and lust to hunt and kill until extinction. I don’t have a problem with hunting for population control but not to hunt endangered species.

The next day we went to Lake Naivasha and ended up taking a boat ride to see hippos really close. I was a bit concerned when one of the hippos went after our boat. The face popped up out of nowhere and the driver of the four passenger boat decided for kicks to circle a family of hippos. Damn those things can swim. We were on a small motorboat and I just kept saying, “Please God, don’t let the motor ever stop. And don’t ever let others know that I died by getting eaten by hippos.” The hippos were wonderful to see but very aggressive toward people. Who can blame them?

The next day we crossed the Great Rift Valley and entered into Masai Mara and spend time viewing lions, gazelles, elephants, zebras and buffalos. I didn’t see my first cheetah until I was in the Serengeti in Tanzania. But by this time, the Big Five were all seen so I was quite content. We met up with several Masai tribes and I think the only thing I wasn’t really used to hearing was learning about their ceremonial processes of human circumcision (males and females!). I won’t go into details but it is definitely a different way of looking at things. And definitely an interesting topic to discuss over meals.

We spent two days in Masai Mara and then headed back to NBO and that was the end of the Kenya portion of the tour. We ended up meeting our Tanzania tour leader that afternoon and took a shuttle bus from NBO to Arusha. The border? Get this. They don’t even look at the pictures of your passport or care. What yello immunization cards? What a joke. U.S. Immigration didn’t even ask for those. Did they know I was coming from Africa? They just want to see that your visa is valid and paid for. Stamp. Stamp. Stamp. Done. Move on. (this is at Tanzania and Kenya borders of course) The road conditions were much better relative to Kenya (that isn’t saying much). We crossed the Great Rift Valley and went to Lake Manyara and saw lions, hippos, various birdlife and elephants where one charged our jeep (it was really scary at one moment I thought the elephant was going to take our jeep out). What an adrenaline rush! We didn’t provoke the elephant, we just made a wrong turn and was facing it out of nowhere.

The next couple days were spent in the Ngorongoro Crater and the vast Serengeti regions. Endless plains is a good description from the smallest animals to vast herds of large species. Here is where I finally saw my first cheetah, in the Serengeti. Ironically we saw several leopards and finally a lot of hyenas and various birds. We visited the Olduvai Gorge and did many game drives and I was so exhausted as most of these drives are mentally draining, that I started to notice that everything to me looked like an animal. You were so intense and attentive in looking for animal patterns on game drives that everything eventually over time begin to look like animals, including rocks, tree branches, etc. It was kind of funny actually. It was like the boy who cried “wolf”. Someone in the jeep would have the tour leader/driver stop abruptly (which became a little annoying actually) and 8 out of 10 times it was a false alarm. You just started not paying attention to the passengers anymore. But the sun, is your worst enemy between 9 am and 4 pm. You are just baking and roasting away. Sunscreen is good for the skin but you can still feel the heat and the dust at times is unbearable. I would say severe dust was only experienced on maybe 20% of the game drives. But that damn sun………

The next day we headed to Tarangire Park and saw more similar animals. We did stop by a snake farm on the way back to Arusha. Totally awesome as I learned of all the dangerous snakes in Africa (the Black Momba – yeeeesssss!) and watched a couple of them being fed with live chickens. Got to have respect for these animals along with all wildlife in general.

The last day we headed back to NBO and boarded our flights back home.

I left out other details but I think the general travel experiences have been discussed. I would need at least 50 pages to really express my experience.

Someone asked me on the plane on the way back – would I do it again? Yes. Absolutely. However, I wouldn’t go to the same region for at least another 10-15 years. I would hit Egypt, Morocco and West Africa first before doing this again. There are so many place I want to go visit and this past experience has to be another great chapter in my life of travels. I would recommend this trip to anyone.
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Jan 27th, 2005, 04:31 PM
  #4
 
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Loved your report! It sounds like you had a great trip.

When you said "But when you get there, you realize that it is no different than anywhere else. You get into your groove and just smile and realize that everything will be OK" - that's totally how I felt after my first trip. While planning the trip I had no idea what to expect and others (family/friends) were worried and all for nothing. Hopefully others will read what you said and lose some of the anxiety they have before they go.

It sounds like you saw nearly everything there was to see.. East Africa is still on my to-do-list and I hope when I go I see as much as you did. Thanks for the report.
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Jan 27th, 2005, 04:42 PM
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Great trip report. I could really feel your sense of excitement. I'll be in NBO by Saturday evening and your report has me looking forward to my first safari even more (if that's possible). Thanks for posting this.
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Jan 27th, 2005, 06:20 PM
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Thank you so very much for the report. Wow, you really did it all for a first trip. I'll bet you were tired of all the driving to places. Thats how my first safari was, for 26 days. Bump, bump, bump. I agree it is the way to go the first time as you really get a feel of the country and are able to feel a part of it all.
Thanks again. Liz
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Jan 28th, 2005, 12:48 AM
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Wonderful trip! Loved reading the report - as Liz said you definitely covered a lot on a first trip - fantastic!
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Jan 28th, 2005, 06:27 AM
  #8
sandi
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Great report. For me, who has done a few safaris in East Africa, I love reading from a "first-timer" - it sure brings back memories of my first adventure. Thanks.
 
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Jan 28th, 2005, 11:02 AM
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ohio_boys
Thanks for sharing your trip to East Africa with us. Sounds like you had a great time. It is a remarkable place!
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Jan 28th, 2005, 01:35 PM
  #10
 
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Thanks for the trip summary. It was a most successful outing from what you report. Thanks also for your assessment of the camping experience.
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