Kenya and Zanzibar - March 2008

Apr 12th, 2008, 03:55 PM
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Kenya and Zanzibar - March 2008

Thanks to all of you for the suggestions for our trip to Kenya and Zanzibar. Following your recommendations, we first decided on the parameters of our trip - where did we want to go, when did we want to go, how long, did we want our own driver/guide, and what was our budget?

I then emailed four companies that were recommended here. After getting responses, I decided to go with Sandi at Africa Serendipity. She seemd the most in tune with what we wanted to do, and she worked within our budget. From then on, I worked with her to get exactly the trip we wanted; three days each in Amboseli, Sweetwaters, and the Masai Mara, and four days in Zanzibar. She provided me with information on accommodations in each place - one of our priorities was to be able to watch animals from our deck or balcony in each location. We wanted our own driver/guide so we could chose when to go out and what to see.

I then booked our Washington/Nairobi air on Virgin Atlantic.
lilla is offline  
Apr 12th, 2008, 04:07 PM
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We arrived in Nairobi at 5:30 a.m. and were met at the airport by Michael and our guide, Suji. Every tranfer on the entire trip went like clockwork, and we were always glad to see Michael's smiling face in the airport. We drove to Amboseli and were there by lunchtime.

We had been in Amboseli in 2001, and I loved it so much I wanted to go back. This time, we stayed at Ol Tukai Lodge, which suited us perfectly. I could sit on our porch and see hundreds of animal, elles, zebras, buffalo, warthogs, baboons and so on. Here it was noon our first day, and we were already in heaven.

For the three days at Ol Tukai, we went on both morning and afternoon game drives. It was so nice to be able to spend the time to watch what the animals were doing, rather than move on at the wishes of others in the vehicle.

There was a very nice pool at Ol Tukai, and the food was better than the other places we stayed. The staff was very friendly and accommodating, and we couldn't have been more pleased with our time there.
lilla is offline  
Apr 12th, 2008, 04:19 PM
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On to Sweetwaters - we knew that we wanted spend a minimum of time on the road, so Sandi arranged for us to fly from Amboseli to Nairobi. Suji drove our vehicle and met us at the airport. Then it was on to the Sheldrick Elephant Orphange, one of the high points of our trip. Of course, I adopted a baby elephant for my grandchildren.

We had the obligatory lunch at Carnivore and then it was on the road to Sweetwaters. It was a very interesting trip, and I wouldn't have wanted to miss it by flying. Even though it was Easter weekend, there were not a lot of people at Sweetwaters yet. We had tent 7, in a great location looking over the waterhole.

We did want one tented camp experience, and this was a great one to have. As Easter Sunday got closer, more people arrived, and it seemed like they were mainly Kenyans spending the holidays with their families at Sweetwaters. That was an added bonus, as we had the opportunity to visit with Kenyans and hear their feelings about the problems there.

In addition to our game drives, I got to feed the tame rhino, Morani, and we went to the Chimp Sanctuary. The high point of our night drive was seeing a mother and baby rhino. There was lots to see at Sweetwaters, and we enjoyed our trip there.
lilla is offline  
Apr 12th, 2008, 04:31 PM
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Now it was on to the Mara. We said goodbye to Suji at the airport, and were met at the airstrip in the Mara by our guide, John. We stayed at the Mara Simba Lodge. I made the decision based on information that we might be able to see hippos in the river from our balcony. Sandi had warned me that the animals didn't always cooperate (and they didn't), but we liked the room itself better than any of our other accommodations despite the fact that we couldn't watch animals from our balcony.

On our way to the lodge from the airstrip, we watched some lions lunch on a buffalo they had killed the previous day. That set the tone for the next few days, with lots of different animals, especially lions. I loved looking our over the plains from our vehicle and seeing hundreds of different animals. It was an amazing experience.

As Easter was over, the rainy season was beginning, and tourists were avoiding Kenya, there weren't very many people there by the end of our stay. However, we had excellent service, even though there wasn't a lot of staff.

But we were ready to embark on the last part of our trip, four days in Zanzibar.
lilla is offline  
Apr 12th, 2008, 04:56 PM
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We had expected to see Michael when we arrived at the airport in Nairobi and were happily surprised that Suji was there also to get us from the local airport to the international one. Riding through Nairobi at rush hour was quite an experience.

Zanzibar was quite a contrast. It was much hotter and more humid, and Zanzibar is primarily Muslim, so the architecture and culture were very different from Kenya. We stayed at Tembo House, and Sandi got us the best room in the hotel. It was on a corner with a balcony overlooking the Indian Ocean. What an amazing view, and there was always something happening on the beach in front of the hotel. The furnishings were unique, and we had our own large sitting area.

We had a full three days in Stonetown with a city tour, a spice tour, and Safari Blue, which involved snokeling and a beach experience on a private island. We spent lots of time walking around Stonetown. While very few places serve alcohol, the food was excellent. We had some great dinners at Tembo House.
lilla is offline  
Apr 12th, 2008, 05:04 PM
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Here are some of the impressions we had about this trip: In Kenya, everyone wanted to know whether Obama would be the next US president. We were amazed at how much people knew about politics in the US.

We never felt unsafe or saw any evidence of unrest. Our guides and people we met at Sweetwaters shared their impressions of the causes of the problems and their optimism that they could be worked through. At one point, we had considered cancelling our trip, but we were certainly glad we didn't.

And last, I got so much valuable information from those of you on this forum that helped to make this trip an unforgettable one. Thank you!
lilla is offline  
May 21st, 2008, 03:45 PM
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Comments, anyone?
lilla is offline  
May 22nd, 2008, 11:58 AM
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Hello Lilla,
I hadnít seen this trip report. It sounds like you had a wonderful trip. I thought there were always hippos visible from Mara Simba, but you say thatís not the case. Approximately how far from the lodge did you start having good wildlife sightings? Thanks for the report!
Nyamera is offline  
May 22nd, 2008, 01:19 PM
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Thanks for the report. The only places I'm going in common to you are the Mara in Kenya and Zanzibar.

Oh I'm visiting Sheldrick as well. Which baby did you adopt for your grandkids?

Hopefully one day I can explore more of Kenya.

Glad you had an amazing time! 4 more months before I can post my trip report.
jmartmd is offline  
May 22nd, 2008, 03:26 PM
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We adopted the baby elephant, Dida. My grandchildren love receiving the monthly updates on her. As for the Mara Simba, we had good wildlife sightings within 10 or 15 minutes. And while there were two hippos in the river, we couldn't see them from our balcony.
lilla is offline  
May 22nd, 2008, 05:46 PM
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Glad you had such a good trip with Africa Serendipty. Hope you got some nice photos too.
atravelynn is offline  
May 22nd, 2008, 08:23 PM
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I also missed this first time around lilla. Thanks for posting. You had a nice trip. It's nice to hear yet another poster who had no misgivings about Kenya. The mother and baby rhino during the night drive at Sweetwaters certainly was a treat.

Dana_M is offline  
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