Kenya Trip Report

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Aug 23rd, 2003, 10:46 AM
  #1
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Kenya Trip Report

Hey everyone,
My wife and I got back from Kenya yesterday and had a wonderful trip. We went to Tiata Hills near Tsavo and to Masai Mara. Below is the report of the trip.

We flew to London and had a 12 hour layover there before going to Kenya. We took advantage of seeing Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey while we were there and then got to Nairobi in the morning. The British Airways flight to Nairobi had tighter security and you can't carry on more than 6Kg and you HAVE to run your film through the xray machine. We were exhausted so we took it easy and went to the Giraffe Center which was pretty cool feeding the giraffes. They even tell you to put a pellet between your lips and the giraffe will lick it off of your face which was funny. The next day we drove the long 6 hours over a very bumpy road to Taita Hills.

Taita Hills - We stayed at the Salt Lick Lodge which was very nice. It is on stilts above a water hole and the rooms face the lighted watering hole. They will wake you up if animals come by to drink in the middle of the night if you want them to. Animals were constantly coming by to get drinks while we were eating. The resort was unfortionately hurting and hardly had anyone there. We saw lots of elephants and a herd of over 200 cape buffalo. We were also lucky to see a pride of lions eating a recent kill of a cape buffalo as well as 2 cheetahs eating a gazelle. One thing of note at Taita Hills is they require all vehicles to stay on the roads in the park. You can't go close to the animals like as we would soon find out you can do in Masai Mara. We also went to a Masai Village while we were in Taita Hills and in hindsight we wish we hadn't done this there. It was $90 for the 2 of us to go and it is much less expensive to do this on one of the game drives in Masai Mara (we were quoted $20.) It was interesting to go to the village though and they let you take pictures of the dance and of their everyday life.

Masai Mara - After another night in Nairobi, we left the next morning on a flight to Masai Mara. We stayed at the Mara Safari Club which was very nice! We got a premium tent that was right next to where the hippos stay in the Mara River. We could hear the hippos periodically throughout our stay there (we could also hear tree hyraxes, who would have thought such a small animal made such a loud screech!) They had 3 different game drives and they would combine those into one full day game drive if you wish to go see the migration. The first game drive, we were within 10 feet of a lion pride which was one of the highlights of our trip. On the full day game drive we drove into the park (Mara Safari Club is outside of the reserve) to hopefully see a river crossing. We came across lots of wildebeest on the way to the river and then spotted a cheetah and her 3 cubs looking for food. We followed them for a bit hunting gazelle but she was unsuccessful. We again were within 10 feet of these cats. A couple cubs even got up on the other land cruiser there at the scene. When we got to the river, there wasn't a crossing that particular day. We had heard the first major crossing was the day before we got there but we were still very happy seeing the thousands of animals as far as the eye could see. The last morning in Masai Mara, we went on a hot air balloon ride. It was incredible. You float over the plains and yes the animals are scared of the noise of the balloon but you see them running across the plains. We were able to really see all of the animals for quite a distance. Also on the last day, we went to an area where rangers were protecting white rhinos. We were first unsure of going because we thought they'd be fenced in. It was quite the opposite. They walked us up a hill and right in front of us were three rhinos that we got again 10 feet away from. They were eating and napping and had gotten used to people being around by the rangers being there. It was incredible being so close to such powerful and large animals with nothing between us and them to protect us. We flew back to Nairobi that afternoon and then returned home.

We would do this trip again in a heartbeat. If you love seeing animals in their natural environment, you would love Kenya.

Miscellaneous Information: We felt safe the entire time we were there. The security at the airport is extremely tight. In fact, you have to put your luggage through 3 separate screenings (yes, including film) and get frisk searched each time. Everyone we met there were the nicest people. If your main goal is to see a crossing, stay at a lodge closer to the crossing. It took quite a while to get to the river crossing and if there was one that day, we might have missed it anyways. Everyone was right in Masai Mara people do wear casual safari clothes to dinner. However, at the Salt Lick Lodge, people were more dressed up in dressier casual clothing.

I'm sure I'm missing some information that people want to hear about from all the jetlag I still am experiencing (24 hours of travel getting back yesterday afternoon) so please reply back and I'll let you know anything that I can. I'm also planning on adding a link to my ofoto album in the next couple of days for people to see.

Andy
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Aug 23rd, 2003, 01:07 PM
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Welcome back Andy and thanks so much. Sounds like a wonderful trip! Remind me whether or not this was your first Africa safari? If so, did you get bitten by the Africa bug?
Can't wait to see your photos!
Kavey
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Aug 23rd, 2003, 01:55 PM
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sandi
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Kavey -

Whether their first or fifth - me thinks they've (andy certainly) been bitten!
 
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Aug 23rd, 2003, 03:20 PM
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As I write this, I look like the Jolly Green Giant, as I am so envious!!! Thank you for the report and your observations on security. I am sure those people leaving soon for their wonderful safaris will feel safer having read your report. Welcome back!
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Aug 23rd, 2003, 03:21 PM
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LizFrazier
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Thanks Andy-
You'll notice on my Wildies update thread that I thought about you many times while you were there.
We leave in a week and a half, so we are very excited. I'll look forward to your album postings. So you had to check all of your luggage? I'm not sure what 6Kg amounts to in lbs, but I'll check on it.
Would you recommend we have time for a tour with about 5 hours to kill in London? Any details appreciated.
Welcome back and in a while you will know more in depth the impact Kenya made on your heart. Liz
 
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Aug 24th, 2003, 03:31 AM
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Liz -

A Kg is equal to 2.2 lbs - so figure 12.6 lbs for your carryon bag. BA is very specific for the weights going into their overhead bins.

Unlike many US carriers who have enlarged the overhead bins and have limits up to 45-lbs which can accommodate a standard 20-22" carryon, no so wth BA.
 
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Aug 24th, 2003, 06:06 AM
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Thanks Sandi-
You sure seem to know a lot. How do you find out such details? Not complaining, believe me, I appreciate the thorough answers you give. So, if I'm not pushing my luck here, what about putting a carry on under the seat ahead of me. Don't they allow that? Liz
 
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Aug 24th, 2003, 09:06 AM
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Sandi-
Never mind the other questions I asked, I went to the BA website and found out everything. I didn't realize they covered carry on baggage to that depth. Same thing with American, only they are much more generous. The last time we went to Africa, we went Business Class and they have a much more generous allowance. Liz
 
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Aug 24th, 2003, 11:32 AM
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This was our first trip and although we probably won't be going back soon because of funds and all we will definitely be going back at some point. BA would not let us carry our luggage on board but we did carry a backpack and 2 camera bags. The overhead bins were practically empty on the BA flights. In Nairobi, they wouldn't even let us carry on a walking stick we had purchased so we had to have it wrapped at the airport (they'll do it for you for $5 per package.)

Liz, I did see you were thinking of us and that was very nice. Hopefully you'll have better luck at seeing a crossing but you'll be there longer than we were so I'm sure you will see one. Even if not, after being there, I know you'll still have a great time.

As promised, here is a link to the ofoto pictures. These were taken with a digital camera with 3x zoom with a 2x teleconverter. I also took some with 2x digital zoom and was surprised to find out that even after printing the pictures, they still turned out pretty good (at least to a novice eye.) Let me know if the link doesn't work.
http://www.ofoto.com/I.jsp?c=u3gpzwt...x&x=0&y=monrp2
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Aug 24th, 2003, 11:32 AM
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On the question of checked rather than carry on luggage limits it might be useful to know the following...

If you are flying from the US to Africa stopping in Europe for up to two weeks...the European airline is required to give you the US luggage allowance of two checked bags (I think they can be as much as 70 lbs each)which is far greater than the usual approx 23kg baggage allowance on airlines like BA.

I discover this when I was flying Harare to London on BA and then on to the US on United. BA gave me the US allowance even though I was travelling to the US 10 days later on another carrier!

They explained that it's a requirement written into some sort of charter they all adhere to. This was about 5 years ago but I assume it's still relevant.
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Aug 24th, 2003, 12:19 PM
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Andy-
Max and I just enjoyed each and every picture in your album. I think they are excellent! What a handsome couple you and Laura are. So you really let the giraffe lick your face? Ugh!
I wish you'd have posted more on the migration and from the hot air balloon. How wonderful it all was. I enjoyed the open spaces, the new grasses, all the zebras, everything! You saw so many cats. Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us and your album. I do love the digital pictures. Hope mine turn out as good as your did. Loved the dust and fog and all of it in such detail.
I really do have a hundred questions, but I'll just wait. I will soon be there. I almost felt I was with your album. Liz
 
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Aug 24th, 2003, 01:14 PM
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Liz -

I amaze myself with the amount of minutea in the grey matter up top. Surprisingly for one who lived thru 60s/70s can remember anything - but people knew the weight of a Kilo! LOL!

Andy - the photos are great!
 
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Aug 24th, 2003, 01:32 PM
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Andy -

Did you notice that in photo #43, you've got a "preggy ellee"?
 
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Aug 24th, 2003, 01:34 PM
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Wow, your pictures are awesome! Africa is our dream destination, and we're hopeful that the summer of 2004 we'll be able to go. Thanks for sharing your photos!
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Aug 24th, 2003, 05:43 PM
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Andy - wonderful photos!

It looks like you guys had an awesome trip! I already wanted to go the the Masai Mara and now I want to go even more. I can't believe sleeping with the hippos outside your tent!
Cindy

Cindy

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Aug 24th, 2003, 10:04 PM
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Andy, *great* photos! Which brand of digital camera did you use? Just wonderful. And were most of these taken on game drives or were many of the early ones taken from your camp?
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Aug 25th, 2003, 03:03 AM
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That was an absolutely lovely experience -thanks for sharing the album!

: o )
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Aug 25th, 2003, 07:20 AM
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What a wonderful trip! And your photos are marvelous -- gives me hope that if our education on the SLR camera doesn't work out, our digital camera backup might suffice LOL!

A few questions for you, and I'm sure I'll have more after thinking about it...

Did you find that a trip to the Salt Lick Lodge was worthwhile? I've read various opinions on this board about the watering hole treetop hotels, so we're debating whether we want to spend an extra day just for that.

What about packing? Did you find you were able to get away with 2-3 outfits and wash & wear frequently, or did you need more variety for changing temperatures?

Thanks!

Heather
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Aug 25th, 2003, 07:25 AM
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Hi Andy,

I am so glad you had a wonderful time and I really enjoyed your pictures.

Ditto what Clematis asked: Would you mind telling me what camera you used? What lens you had? I was under the impression that digitals had limitations with lens so have been slow to get on the bandwagon. I just went on safari in Tanzania this past June and was using my friend's SLR camera with a 300 lens but I really love the digital format slideshow..

Thanks in advance.
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Aug 25th, 2003, 08:31 AM
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Thanks for the compliments on the pictures. We found that you really don't have to be a good photographer in Africa to get good pictures. The animals do all the work . We used a Canon G1 with a Tiffen 2x teleconverter. At the Salt Lick Lodge, you had to stay on the paths so some of the animals were too far away for this camera. I did use the 2x digital zoom (4x makes it look fuzzy) and even with printed pictures, it doesn't appear to be really different from without it. Some of the serious amatuer or professional photographers will probably disagree with me. We did bring a SLR with a 300mm lens and are still waiting on them to be developed.

The Salt Lick Lodge was nice and I would stay there for a night or two but as mentioned before you just don't get as close to the animals as you do at Masai Mara unless they cross the paths or are next to them. Having the water hole there and being able to take pictures from your room, the bar, and the tunnel next to the water hole was really cool though. We thought it was good going to the Salt Lick Lodge first and then to Masai Mara. We would have been more dissapointed with Salt Lick if we did it the other way. Another selling point for the lodge was the number of elephants and cape buffalo there though. Those were rare at Masai Mara when we were there.

We packed 3 to 4 sets of safari clothes with a long sleeve shirt and a wind breaker. We did laundry at the lodge and it was about $35 for everything being washed for the 2 of us. We washed our own underwear. I found it really didn't get cold enough to pack too much in terms of warm clothing. I was comfortable in a tee shirt and windbreaker and my wife wore a light jacket and tee shirt in the early morning.

I think I answered all of the questions. If anyone has any others, ask away and I'll try to answer them.

Andy
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