Kenya/Tanzania Trip Report - 9/30-10/14

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Oct 25th, 2005, 03:51 PM
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Kenya/Tanzania Trip Report - 9/30-10/14

Well - I've gotten done most of our trip report, with the exception of our stay at Fundu Lagoon which will be forthcoming. Please view our photos at:

http://loriandgregsafricatrip.shutterfly.com/action/

We were celebrating our 10th anniversary on this trip and we traveled with Good Earth Tours & would highly recommend them to anyone traveling within Kenya & Tanzania. They provided an excellent price and the guides were great.


We flew out of NYC on a Friday evening flight to Heathrow, which was very delayed. We arrived in Heathrow, needing to switch terminals and had to sprint to make our flight. We were yelling ďwait, wait, donít close the doorsĒ as we ran to the gate. We made the flight, thankfully. We arrived 8 hours later in Nairobi, got our visas (took about 30-40 minutes) and then picked up our luggage.

A driver from Safari Line (the company that Good Earth Tours uses in Kenya) met us and drove us to the Nairobi Safari Club for the night. We had a nice room - it was a suite - and we showered and ate a late dinner in our room and then went to sleep for the night. We ate breakfast the following morning and then were greeted by a manager of Safari Line, Katherine, and our driver Edward. We thought that the greeting by Katherine was especially nice, since we did not expect it. We drove to Wilson Airport and caught our flight to Masai Mara. We were slightly concerned about the weight limit for our luggage, but our bags weighed in at 14Kg and 15Kg - so we were ok.

We arrived after the short flight at the Mara Serena airstrip - and had to stop the plane from departing again as they had not pulled off Gregís bag. This caused the propellers to be stopped, and Greg had to climb up into the cargo space to point out his bag!! We got his bag and were met at the airstrip by William, our Safari Line guide for the next 3 days. On the way to the lodge, he took us on a quick drive to see our first animals, some of the wildebeest and impala. Upon arrival at the hotel, we unpacked and headed for a quick rest poolside, before lunch and our 4pm game drive.

Prior to our drive, we greeted William, our guide, with a couple of gifts - a NY Yankees baseball cap and a digital Nike sports watch. Our first game drive was great. Our vehicle was a white Toyota van with the pop-up top. Greg and I were amazed at the landscape, and the great number of animals. During this drive, we saw Lions - both male and female, giraffe, hyenas, topi, zebras, tons of wildebeest, impala, vultures, and Egyptian geese. We realized how nice it was having a private guide after our first game drive. We could spread out our stuff in the van and ask William to stop wherever we wanted. I would highly recommend getting a private guide if you can. We had a few local beers (Tusker) for our sundowners and then headed to dinner, and then to sleep.

Day 2 in the Mara: We did 3 game drives this day - an early morning, mid-morning after breakfast, and afternoon drive. We were truly amazed at all of the animals we saw this day. I had my heart set on seeing some elephants, and we saw 2 groups of them in the afternoon. We saw hippos, eland, giraffe, cape buffalo, more lions, water bucks, a martial eagle, and the elephants. However, the big highlight of the day was watching a cheetah devour a baby gazelle. We watched the cheetah eat its catch for about 20 minutes, and then followed it for awhile in the van. And then, late in the afternoon on our return to the Serena, Greg spotted another cheetah just lounging about in the bush. What a great day! The afternoon drive was followed once again by sundowners and dinner. The staff at the Serena surprised us after dinner with some celebratory songs and a cake congratulating Greg & I on our 10th anniversary. The staff started singing and we thought it was for someone else for a birthday or something! It was a very nice surprise (and the cake was tasty too!).

Day 3 in the Mara: William suggested that we do our drive at 8am instead of early morning. We were out for over 3 hours, seeing a pack of 8 lions, a few crocodile and several birds, along with many of the animals we had seen the prior two days. We relaxed by the pool in between our game drives, and admired the view from the Serena. During our afternoon drive, we saw elephants fighting (see photos), heard a lionís roar and saw (and heard) lions mating. The lions mating was a sight - the male lion climbed on top of the female lion, did his business (with a loud roar) and then immediately flopped over and went to sleep!

Day 4 - Mara/Arusha: We awoke early to do a final game drive before departing the Serena for our flight to Nairobi & onto JRO. We saw many of the same animals that morning. We did see the hot air balloons from Governorís Camp cross through the Mara. Our flights to Nairobi and JRO went off fine, and we got our visas quite quickly upon arrival at JRO. We were greeted by a Good Earth Representative and drove to Arusha, and then onto Arusha Coffee Lodge. Arusha Coffee Lodge is a beautiful place to stay - we were very impressed. We had a suite sized room, with a canopied bed, large bathroom and nice sitting area. The little amenities in the room were noted - coffee, sherry, cookies, and a fireplace. We rested for awhile and then had a delicious dinner with wine. The menu was diverse, and the food was great. We slept wonderfully on the king size bed outfitted with a fluffy down comforter. I would highly recommend Arusha Coffee Lodge to anyone passing through Arusha for the night.

Day 5 - Arusha/Tarangire: We had breakfast at Arusha Coffee Lodge and then were met by our guide from Good Earth for the next 4-5 days, Raphael. We began our journey to Tarangire, with plans to drive up and do a game drive before arriving at Swala Camp. During our drive, Raphael told us about the different areas we passed through, Tanzanian history, and other local information. We arrived at the entrance to the park and took our first photos of the Baobab tree. I took one of Greg standing next to it and you realize how large the tree is with a person standing next to it! We drove through the park all day. We saw many animals and birds that we hadnít seen in the Mara. Our favorites during the day were the elephants bathing, the Dik Diks, and the various giraffes. We arrived at Swala late in the day, and were greeted by Reuben, the manager. Our tent was larger than we had expected, and very comfortable with a king size bed and a fluffy down comforter. After a nice hot shower, we met Raphael at the campfire for a drink and to discuss the plan for the next day. Our dinner at Swala was delicious. It was really amazing being that close to the animals at Swala, and while hearing the elephants and lions roar at all hours took some getting used to, it was really cool being in the bush.

Day 6 - Tarangire - Anniversary Day!: We woke up with the arrival of coffee & hot cocoa at our tent before breakfast. After a hot breakfast, we started out for the whole day in the park. We saw many great animals during our 2nd day in the park. Some of our favorites this day were the birds, especially the lilac breasted rollers and the little bee eater. The ostriches with the babies were a sight as well. We continued to be amazed with all of the elephants all over the park. We had a wonderful picnic lunch that was provided by Swala, in a nice wicker basket with wine, coffee, fresh bread and pastries for dessert. In the afternoon, Raphael took us to Poacherís Hide, an enormous Baobab tree with a hole in it where animals would take their kills to eat. We saw some animals that are rare in many parks, including the Kudu. We arrived back at Swala and Raphael asked us to meet him at 8am the next morning to do something before breakfast. We had a drink by the campfire and then our anniversary dinner. The chef at Swala prepared a special meal for us, with fish for me (even though it wasnít on the menu that night) and the staff sang to us and we had a special cake. Again - the food was delicious and the wine flowing.

Day 7 - Tarangire/Ngorongoro: We awoke and made our way to meet Raphael. He drove us to an area nearby Swala and we had a surprise bush breakfast! Swala had done this for us for our anniversary - complete with our own chef to make us hot breakfast, pastries, fruit, and juice. It was so nice of them. After breakfast, we departed Swala, and did a drive in the park as we made our way to the exit. We saw a bunch of female lions before exiting the park, a nice way to finish our time in Tarangire. Swala was amazing - we loved the secluded nature of the camp, and it was very romantic for us to celebrate our anniversary.

We drove onward up to the Crater and had lunch after passing into the Park. Raphael recommended that we go to Oldupai Gorge and the Masaai Village instead of doing that the following day, and that we could spend the entire next day in the Crater. We drove to a Masaai Village right by Oldupai Gorge and were greeted by the leader of the village. The women began to dance for us, and motioned for me to join them. It was really fun to dance with them, and experience their happiness. The men danced in a group beside the female group - Greg was shooting pictures so he didnít dance with the men. Afterwards, the village leader took us into his hut and told us how the huts were made, how the village operates, gets food, etc. We walked around to look at the jewelry made by the Masaai women and I bought a few bracelets. We then went to the school within the village and Greg and I distributed pens to all of the children - they went wild for them! We made a contribution to the village as well. The visit was a definite highlight of our trip. Onto Oldupai Gorge - where we read about the history of the gorge, the findings there and viewed the landscape. We had a brief lesson from a ranger at the Gorge and took some photos. After, we headed back to the Crater and checked in at the Serena. We relaxed and cleaned up in our room and then met Raphael for a sundowner again before heading off to dinner.

Day 8 - Ngorongoro Crater: We departed around 8am for our first drive in the Crater. The prior day we were amazed with the size of the crater, and as we descended we felt the same. Given that we hadnít seen a rhino or leopard at this point - we were anxious and hopeful to see both. During the day in the crater - we were fortunate to see 2 rhinos, but the only leopard was in a tree and unfortunately none of our photos came out very good. Animals seen included flamingoes, many other birds, hyenas, hippos, a cheetah, and monkeys. We were surprised that we didnít see many elephants in the crater. We enjoyed our lunch at one of the lunch areas, with birds that kept trying to eat peopleís food. It was quite amusing! The temperature all day in the crater was nice and cool, although there was a lot of dust everywhere. We got back to the hotel, washed up and had drinks with Raphael again. Across the crater, there was a fire set by the Masaai people to burn the brush that looked to be out of control. Fortunately, there was a heavy rain shower that evening that doused the fire. Our dinner that night was nice and relaxing, and we slept fitfully.

Day 9 - Ngorongoro Crater and onto Pemba: We awoke early to meet Raphael for a game drive before departing for Arusha. We were one of the first trucks into the crater. We immediately saw hyenas with gnu remains, carrying the horns, and saw ostriches doing their mating dance. A highlight was watching an impala give birth to a baby - this was an unexpected bonus. The baby just popped out, and then the mother nudged the baby to get it to start moving. It was really touching. We ate breakfast by the hippo pool, and then we were on our way out of the crater and stopped to view some mature male lions before departing.

We drove onto Arusha and said our farewells to Raphael. He was an incredible guide - super knowledgeable about all of the animals, their mating habits, and just about Tanzania in general. His love of the animals and the wild was incredible. We would recommend that anyone using Good Earth specifically request Raphael as their guide.

Our flights to Zanzibar & Pemba went smoothly, and we were greeted by a driver for Fundu Lagoon. He drove us to the speedboat to take to Fundu, and pointed out various fruit & spice trees/plants along the way. We boarded the speedboat and arrived at Fundu Lagoon about 15-20 minutes later. Fundu is breathtaking - we arrived on the speedboat at the end of the pier and were greeted by Julia, the manager.

I'll post our time at Fundu in the coming days...
lorib1 is offline  
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Oct 25th, 2005, 04:19 PM
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Wow. Sounds like a dream trip, and I love you photos. That room at Fundu is incredible. I also love the ostrich babies.

And I have to say that if you just celebrated your 10-year anniversary, you two must have gotten married at age 11!

Thanks, lorib1. I hope you and Greg are able to return to Africa some day.
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Oct 25th, 2005, 04:52 PM
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Thanks Lori, that was incredible! I have only so far looked at the Ngorongoro folder, but coming back after supper to see the rest. Thank you so much for the report and the pictures, they are fabulous! What kind of camera did you guys take? And I agree with Leely, you guys must have been married at 11.
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Oct 25th, 2005, 07:09 PM
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Thanks for posting Lori. Yours photos are wonderful and delight to see. Don't really have favorite though as they're all great.
I noticed a bit a greenery in some of the backgrounds, was it wet and muddy?
Happy Late 10th - try topping that trip at the 20th;
Sherry
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Oct 26th, 2005, 03:40 AM
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Lori, yes thanks for the post and the pictures. Way a great way to begin my morning with the pictures. I appreciated seeing the orchids, the close up of the head of the topi, the hyena young, the ostrich chicks, the close up of the kori bustard and how lucky you were to see the kudu in Tarangire! Way to go on the choice of spots to celebrate the 10th! Dick
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Oct 26th, 2005, 07:56 AM
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We used a panasonic FZ30 for the pictures - usually on the 5MP setting b/c you could zoom a little closer. We also took our photos in TIFF format, and while we got less on each 1G card, we downloaded the photos to our laptop each evening. The printed out pictures (we bought a photo printer) in the TIFF mode are fantastic.

As for our ages, we got married at 24 (me) and 25(Greg). Fortunately, we both got good genes from our parents and don't look our age!

It wasn't muddy anywhere. The second night we were at the Crater there was a rain storm, but the following day wasn't muddy at all.

Should have my Fundu posting up tonight!

- Lori

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Oct 26th, 2005, 08:25 AM
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Thanks Lori! We leave for Tanzania in less than a month now and are going with Good Earth also, so I was glad to hear how much you enjoyed your trip and how well it went. We are staying at Swala too.
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Oct 26th, 2005, 08:37 AM
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Lisa - you should tell Narry at Good Earth that you want Raphael for your guide. I have a friend who also just got back, used GE and had Raphael as well (and was really happy with him too).
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Oct 26th, 2005, 09:08 AM
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Lorib, thanks for the trip report and the photos. I already knew that I had to return to the Mara and after seeing your pictures itís even more urgent. It looks like youíve got a photo of the same Tarangire python as Marynus and Tanzaniabound! I loved the go away bird, the wildebeest in Mara landscapes, my favourites the topis, the buffalo with birds, the baby hyena, the muddy baby elephant, the ostrich chicks and many others.
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Oct 26th, 2005, 09:27 AM
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Thanks for sharing your pics and trip report. Agree you guys look like you should've been celebrating your honeymoon, not your 10th. Congrats!
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Oct 26th, 2005, 12:34 PM
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Just kids!

Great report and fabulous photos. Waiting on the rest of the report; till then thanks for sharing.
 
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Oct 26th, 2005, 06:24 PM
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Here is the remainder of our report. Enjoy!

Upon arrival at Fundu, we were greeted with watermelon juice at the Jetty Bar and Julia went over the logistics of Fundu with us. After, we walked into the main area and made appointments for massages the following morning. Julia showed us to our room, the Jungle Suite with double story terrace and plunge pool. However, we had reserved a beachside room with plunge pool - so they would try to rectify this and move us for our next 2 nights. On our terrace, there was a welcome note and a bottle of champagne on ice. We settled into our room & cleaned up for dinner and enjoyed our champagne on our terrace. We proceeded to the bar area for a pre-dinner drink and then had a wonderful dinner - the best yet during our trip. After a post-dinner cocktail, we retired to our room and slept very well.

Day 11: I woke up first and went to get my massage with Lucy, the in-house spa technician. Greg had one as well, after me. It was a great way to start off our stay at Fundu. We missed breakfast, but I went by the dining area and was able to get some breakfast pastries for us to munch on. While Greg was at his massage, we were moved into the superior beachfront suite (see photos). We again had a 2-story terrace, a much larger plunge pool, bigger room, and very large bathroom with 2 sinks. The view of the beach was amazing, and we listened to the water all day & night. We relaxed on our terrace and went into the ocean for a bit & then ate lunch. After lunch, we went onto Mesali Island to do some snorkeling. The water was rough on the boat ride over, and the snorkeling wasn't very good, as the water was very cloudy and visibility wasn't that great. We relaxed on the beach at Mesali before heading back on the boat. We washed up and then went over to the Jetty bar to watch the sunset - which was spectacular. After our drinks, we had another delicious dinner, and after-dinner drinks. If you go to Fundu, beware of the Fundu Iced Tea - a delicious drink but highly potent!

Day 12: We decided to just stay by Fundu for the day, enjoying our plunge pool, terrace, and the beach. After breakfast, we swam in the Ocean and in our pool, and enjoyed the beautiful weather. The weather during our whole stay at Fundu was excellent. It was a bit cloudy each morning, but the clouds gave you a break from the strong sun. Going into the water was great way to keep cool as well. After another great lunch, we relaxed by the room again, and then both had another round of massages. After my massage, I got a bottle of wine from the bar and brought it back to our room, where we watched the sunset once again while enjoying our wine. There was a barbecue dinner on the beach. The dinner was great - with steak, langoustines, and other fish. We had drinks afterward at the bar once again.

Day 13: We awoke early to have breakfast so that we could enjoy the morning before checking out and having lunch. We relaxed by our room in the morning, and then headed up to the main area to hang out by the jetty before having lunch. After lunch, we departed around 2:30pm to go to the Pemba airport for our flight to Dar Es Salaam. We would have liked to have another night at Fundu if our schedule had permitted it, but unfortunately it did not. The flights to Dar were uneventful, and we were met at the airport by a driver who took us to the Holiday Inn in Dar. Once at the hotel, we almost felt shell-shocked with how Americanized the hotel was! We had gotten very used to having no TV, elevators, newspapers, internet, etc. It was strange at first, and we realized how nice it was to be completely detached from everything given our busy lives here in NYC. We ate dinner at the hotel restaurant and watched a movie before going to sleep.

Day 14 - Traveling home: Our BA flight from Dar to Heathrow was smooth and on time - we watched several movies on the flight. We had a couple of hours in Heathrow for dinner, shopping, and walking around, so there was no sprinting to the gate this time! Our American airlines flight departed a bit late from Heathrow and we got home at 12:30am.

It took us a few days to get our sleeping back on track. As I think I've indicated from the trip report, we LOVED Africa, and the trip was better than either Greg or I had imagined it would be. As indicated above, Good Earth did a great job with all of the logistics of our trip and our guides were fantastic. We are talking about returning to Africa in a few years already (have a couple of other places to hit before a repeat trip) and would be excited to return to the same countries, or visit other areas as well.

Many thanks to everyone on this website - for the trip, camera, and overall advice (we used a Panasonic FZ30). You've all been great!
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Oct 26th, 2005, 06:46 PM
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lorib1,

Will check pictures later.

Thanks for the report and Good Earth Recommendation and Happy 10th!

You had some fortunate cheetah viewing and rhinos in the crater. A kudu at Swala!

I know William is a common first name. Was the last name of your guide by any chance Amunga?
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Oct 27th, 2005, 03:12 AM
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Am just replying so I can find this easily by clicking on my name when i have more time to sit down and enjoy it properly!
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Oct 27th, 2005, 06:24 AM
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Enjoyed your trip report and was able to get onto the site for your fabulous pictures. We leave on Monday for Kenya and Tanzania.
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Oct 27th, 2005, 04:25 PM
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Now I have seen the photos. Lovely, especially the variety of elephant shots. You had some good closeups of antelope that are hard to get. The python in the tree was marvelous. Hope no one who has posted about their fear of seeing a snake reads this--or looks at that picture. Also good ostrich shots which are not easy to get. Looks like you had a great trip after a rocky start of racing for your international flight.
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Oct 28th, 2005, 03:23 AM
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Made time to read the report - sounds like such a lovely trip! We too went to Africa to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary last year and have wonderful memories.

Not sure we can wait till the 20th one to do a similar trip again but finances suggest we may have to!

Thanks for sharing the trip and photos!
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Oct 30th, 2005, 04:13 PM
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atravelynn - we didn't get William's last name - so unsure if he is the same person you are speaking about. There is a photo of us with him in our Masai Mara album.

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Oct 30th, 2005, 11:44 PM
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Thank you for the nice trip report!

I can't believe you have taken a picture of the same python as Tanzaniabound and I did...

We loved Fundu Lagoon, but I was a bit jealous when I saw the picture of your room!
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Nov 1st, 2005, 04:40 PM
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Thanks for directing me to the William photo-nope not the same guy.

But I scanned through your Mara shots again. I appreciated the antelope more this time through.

Happy 10th!
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