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luv2globetrot's trip report - Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya

luv2globetrot's trip report - Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya

Old Oct 24th, 2008, 11:30 AM
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luv2globetrot's trip report - Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya

So, first, my utmost thanks to all of you on this forum that helped me so much during my planning. All the questions answered, tips and advice given, support offered when I hit some rough spots

I couldn't have done it without this forum!

We returned a couple of weeks ago and I am still relishing all the beautiful, amazing things we saw! It's even still getting me through my hum-drum days back at work!

I've been tirelessly working on my photos and getting them up on my website these last couple of weeks, so it's taken me awhile to get to this part.
I also posted detailed reviews of all the hotels we stayed at on tripadvisor.
I have a tendency to get long-winded, so in the interest of trying to keep this report to a reasonable length, I invite you to visit our travel website for our thoughts, photos, video and descriptions at:
www.luv2globetrot.com

I'll post the link to the tripadvisor page for each hotel below.
It would just be too much info to put here.

But we had an amazing trip and of course, learned some things along the way as to what we would've done differently.

Refresher:
We spent 5 night in Tanzania, 2 nights in Rwanda and 7 nights in Kenya.
Itinerary:
1 night Kia Lodge near JRO - http://tinyurl.com/5mr4a9
2 nights Tarangire Treetops - http://tinyurl.com/59x7ae
1 night Ngorongoro Serena - http://tinyurl.com/5pu8ct
1 night Kibo Palace Arusha - http://tinyurl.com/67m5en
1 night Kinigi Guesthouse Rwanda - http://tinyurl.com/6977gx
1 night Chez Lando Kigali - http://tinyurl.com/5o32et
1 night Fairview Nairobi - http://tinyurl.com/5enys6
2 nights Samburu Serena - http://tinyurl.com/5s6xpd
4 nights Mara Serena - http://tinyurl.com/6cdwug

We used Eastern & Southern to book our Tanzania & Kenya portion, however they contract out the Tanzania portion to Leopard Tours.
We were very pleased with both of these companies!

For Rwanda we used R&N Xplorer. You may already have read about some of my troubles with R&N, but in summary, we were not pleased with the way they conduct their business. I will also add that when we voiced to them our dissatisfaction, they responded by spewing out statements about their god and that "God knows and you will surely pay for it." I kid you not!
Also, after all the troubles we had with them before we left, when we got to Rwanda, we found out that they use another company (no problem with that), but they did not ever tell this company about our revised itinerary created by their mistake. So we spent our first hour in Rwanda having to go over the itinerary with this company and them having to rearrange what they had scheduled for us.
To their credit, they did so without any problems and after an hour or so we were back on track.

That was actually the only negative on the entire trip!!!
To this day I still can't believe how everything else worked out so wonderfully! We were so lucky! Every flight on time, every leg of the trip without any flat tires, or mishaps, no one got sick. The trip just went so smoothly and we are so grateful!!
So, we were able to forget our troubles with R&N and just focus on all the amazing things we were seeing!!

TANZANIA
We did a drive safari in Tanzania with Leopard Tours visiting Tarangire and Ngorongoro Crater.
We were very pleased and impressed with Leopard Tours and especially with our guide Leonce. He was great and was our best guide of the trip! We specially requested him based on recommendations from this forum.

---TARANGIRE
We stayed at Treetops in Tarangire and LOVED it!
We had the great luck of being moved from Kikoti Tented Camp at no cost to us!! I guess they were overbooked or something, but what a great surprise this was!
Can't say enough wonderful things about Treetops!

We really enjoyed this park! We saw more elephants here than any other place, and this is where we realized that elephants were one of our most favorite animals!
They are just so wonderfully smart and have such good personalities!
We had a great lion sighting at the river (10 lions!), then later 2 male lions and saw one cheetah...very exciting since cats were high on my list!
I also fell in love with dik-diks! My gosh, they are the cutest little things!
Some of what we saw:
Zebras, giraffes, gazelles, impalas, jackals, eland, ostrich, waterbuck, mongoose, kudu, and so many unique and beautiful birds (LOVE the lilac breasted roller)!!!
We loved this park and would go again!


---NGORONGORO
We liked the Ngorongoro Serena. Good location and great views!

The day we arrived here we visited the Masai Village. I had read many differing opinions here about this and I now see why. On the one hand it was interesting to see, but it was also difficult to know how realistic it was. I mean I can imagine how I'd feel if groups of tourists came through my neighborhood to look at me.
But most difficult for me was seeing all the little children with flies all over their faces. I was quite depressed the rest of the evening, but on the other hand, it was a unique experience and an opportunity to see something I would otherwise not get the chance to see up close.
Think I'd skip it if I had it to do again.

We loved the 1/2 day drive in the crater!
We did see one black rhino from very far away! And we had a fun male lion sighting where he was blocking the main road into the crater for about 20 minutes!
Some of what we saw:
Zebras, hyenas, jackals, water buffalo, gazelle, warthogs, hartebeest, elephants, flamingos, falcon, kori bustards, vultures, hippos.
We had a great breakfast at a hippo pool...that was fun!

We had to get back to Arusha that day for our flight the next morning to Rwanda.
We stayed at Kibo Palace which was very nice!


RWANDA
We went to the Genocide Memorial. This was very sad and difficult, but something we feel is very important to see if you are visiting Rwanda.
Admission was free, but there is an audio tour that you can take for $20US for one. Two people can share it if you have an extra set of headphones.
This took about 2 hours.

Then it was on to Ruhengeri where we spent the night before the big day...gorilla trekking!
This was so amazing! The only negative thing I have to say about the whole experience is that we only did one!!!!!
So many people here told me, "Do two treks, you'll be sorry if you don't".
Boy, were they right!! But, we wanted to save a bit of money and we soooo wanted to go back the next day and do it again!
What fun this was! I'll never forget how hard my heart was pounding when they walked within 2 feet of us!!! Being in their presence and being accepted by them was such a thrill!
I go into more detail on my website about the hike, etc.
But it was AWESOME!
Looking back, we would have taken one day off of the Mara and added it to see the gorillas again, or maybe skipped Samburu.
But, I highly recommend to anyone considering it, DO 2 TREKS, please! You won't regret it! But I'm sure there will be others out there like me who have to learn the hard way


KENYA
We flew between parks in Kenya to save time. We flew Nairobi to Samburu - Samburu to Mara - then Mara back to Nairobi.
Eastern & Southern did a fine job and we were very pleased with them and our guides, George and Julius.

---NAIROBI
We had a 5am flight from Rwanda to Kenya so we arrived at 7am. We had a whole day on our own in Nairobi.
We had a lovely stay at the Fairview and highly recommend it!
My hotel review details our transportation.
We didn't go into the city center, but did go to the Daphne Sheldrick's Elephant Orphanage and the Giraffe Center.
We LOVED the Elephant Orphanage! Highly recommend this! And we are now the proud adoptive parents of a 6 month old boy named Kimana!!

---SAMBURU
We enjoyed the scenery here and especially the beautiful Reticulated giraffes and Grevy's Zebra unique to here. And we were utterly delighted by the gerenuks!!!
We also had some wonderful lion and elephant sightings.
Some of what we saw:
Monkeys, baboons, oryx, ostrich, buffalo, greater kudu, turtles, storks, herons, vultures, got a glimpse of a cheetah with 2 cubs.
It was significantly hotter here than any other place we'd been and dusty.

We liked the Samburu Serena, but not as much as the one in the Mara.

Our animal sightings were not near as good here as other parks (which was probably just a fluke). It is a beautiful place with interesting animals, but looking back, since we flew here and then flew to the Mara to save time, next time we'd probably skip it, as it was a bit out of the way.

---MASAI MARA
WOW! What an amazing place!
This was such a great way to end our dream vacation!
We absolutely loved our stay at the Mara Serena!
And the wildlife was incredible!
We saw so many wonderful things! Lions mating (I found this SOOO interesting to watch the ritual!), lions eating a fresh wildebeest kill, vultures and then a hyena eating a topi that had apparently died of natural causes, and we had some great cheetah sightings!!
Crocodiles, hippos, hundreds of wildebeest, zebras, warthogs, jackals, topi, giraffes, impala, gazelles, secretary birds, hyenas, mongoose, eland, ostrich!!!

On our 2nd to last day we even thought we were going to witness a river crossing!
Hundreds of wildebeest were gathering on the other side of the river. Our guide told us that this was a sure sign that they'd be crossing. So, we sat and watched and waited, and waited. It was the evening game drive and we had been waiting 2 hours and 45 minutes. The sun was setting. It looked like they wouldn't be crossing. So, we went back to the lodge feeling like we gave it our best try.
We'd go back tomorrow.
The next day, we went right back at 7am. They were all still there on the other side of the river. We waited 2 more hours and there weren't giving us any signs that they'd be attempting the crossing any time soon.
So, we decided to press on. We could see some lions in the distance so we went to watch them for awhile, still having the wildebeest in our sights.
Then our guide heard that there was a leopard sighting much farther away!!!!!!!
2 weeks in Africa and we had not seen a leopard!
So, we head straight for it! And there it is, a little one, hidden way up high in a tree. We'd have never spotted it if there weren't other vehicles there. It was hidden pretty well up in the thick branches, but hey, it was a leopard, we could see that!!!!!
So, in our last hour of our last day of our 2 weeks in Africa we finally see a leopard!!
So, satisfied with our sighting, we head back for one last look at the river in hopes that those stubborn wildebeest would attempt the crossing soon.
And what do we find when we get there??????
You guessed it...they had crossed!!!!!!!!
While we were at the leopard sighting we missed them crossing!
They crossed about 11am.
We couldn't believe it. All that waiting we'd done and we missed it.
Of course we know how much luck has to do with any animal sightings and we gave it a good try.
But, hey, we were pretty excited that we finally got to see a leopard!

So, we felt that that was a pretty exciting way to end our trip!
So many emotions!
A safari is such an incredible adventure! I just loved how you never knew what you'd see from one moment to the next!
Things I thought I'd only ever see on television, right there in front of me!

As we flew over the Mara one last time on our way back to Nairobi, I marveled one last time at the beautiful creatures I could still see below.
And my heart actually ached. I missed them already!

When we got home and we went driving around leaf peeping, I kept finding myself looking for the lions or the zebras or the elephants.
That is what I miss the most...being able to be a part of their world, watching them roaming and free.
It is a very special thing that we got to experience, one that not many people get to do.
I feel so fortunate!
And I thank all of you for helping me to make this dream come true!

That's all for now. See, told you I have a tendency to get long winded
I'll add some practical tips later.
>-

www.luv2globetrot.com
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Old Oct 24th, 2008, 12:02 PM
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Reading your report reminded me of how I felt when I returned from my dream trip to Botswana. The feelings do stay with you and I had the same feelings when I returned from Tanzania this past March. I'm hoping to do another trip in 2010 and am torn between Kenya, Tanzania and now after reading your report seeing the gorillas!
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Old Oct 24th, 2008, 12:41 PM
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raelond,

Seeing the gorillas was definitely one of the coolest things we've ever done!!
I cannot recommend it highly enough!
It does take a bit of work getting there, which is why if you ever do it, try to do more than one trek.
If we did it again we'd do Tanzania (Tarangire, Ngorongoro and Serengeti) and Rwanda and skip Kenya.
3 countries was a lot to try to fit into one trip.
But we had a blast and enjoyed every minute of it!!

>-

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Old Oct 24th, 2008, 12:42 PM
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Great mini-report here. Next I'll be off to read your blog.

I am dying to see the gorillas too. Sounds amazing.
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Old Oct 24th, 2008, 01:41 PM
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Thanks for your report and photos! Nice to see a familiar face in your Kenya album. Glad the Rwanda mix up didn't spoil your trip!
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Old Oct 24th, 2008, 01:45 PM
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Thus far I've only made it through your wonderful Tanzania photos and look forward to coming back to see the rest.
Love the baby elephants and your videos.
Looks like a great trip and one I'd enjoy - can't wait to see the gorillas.
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Old Oct 24th, 2008, 02:49 PM
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Patty who did you recognize?
George or Julius? I guess you had one of them as a guide? Forgive me if you've mentioned this before. I have a terrible memory

Thanks to all who are reading my post and enjoying my photos!
I know there's a lot of photos on there but it's so hard to narrow it down.
I took over 3600 photos!! So, it's less than 1%!

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Old Oct 24th, 2008, 03:31 PM
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Julius has been our guide. How were the occupancy levels in Kenya? I hope things have picked up considerably.
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Old Oct 24th, 2008, 08:04 PM
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You gave a wonderful account of everything you experienced from not so good to wonderful. How nice you got to see a leopard in the last moments of the safari.

I know what you mean about continuing to try to spot animals once you are home. A guide once told me about jumping into the bushes at a city restaurant because he thought an elephant was charging and he reacted before he had a chance to think.

Great idea on the accommodations and photos. I'll be looking at the website.
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Old Oct 24th, 2008, 10:51 PM
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I am intrigued by your 'leaf peeping' activities. I am not sure that we do that here in Australia!!
Congratulations on your new baby boy Kimana it is one of our joys having our adopted elephants, we have quite a few now.
I am off to look at your photos and trip advisor reports.
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Old Oct 25th, 2008, 07:02 AM
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Hi twaffle,
Leaf peeping is the term New Englanders use for going out and driving around to see the changing colors of the leaves.
New England in the fall is spectacular! The trees turn brilliant colors of red, orange and yellow and we have many tourists come to visit just to see this.
We've only lived here 8 years, but fall is our favorite time of year and we love to go out on a nice beautiful, crisp day with blue skies and "leaf peep"


Thanks lynn! Hope you enjoy the photos...there are lots of them!


Patty,
It seemed to us that the Mara Serena was pretty full. We asked for a late check out on our last day and they couldn't commit until the night before, so I don't think they had many empty rooms. The dining room and lounge areas always had plenty of people.
Samburu seemed much less crowded. The dining room was hardly ever more than 1/4 full.

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Old Oct 25th, 2008, 10:46 AM
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Wow... a lot of photos. But there are some really good ones in there and I'll make it through eventually
From the first few pages of the Mara, I also see a familiar face... and a familiar tree, familiar cheetahs, familiar landscapes. I'm sure I know one of those topis too! Some of the Mara landscapes are particularly nice, and the one with the zebra in the foreground is really striking.
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Old Oct 25th, 2008, 11:16 AM
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Lisa,
Glad to hear the Mara Serena was busy at least.

Paul,
Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock... (no, that's not the sound of me waiting impatiently ).
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Old Oct 25th, 2008, 11:28 AM
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Sounds like a wonderful trip!
We never saw a crossing either, though I don't mind a bit as we had such incredible sightings overall.
We saw a small group start to cross and then change their mind in the Mara.
In the NW Serengeti, at Sayari, we were unlucky. There had been crossings every day for the 3 days before us, including one the morning we arrived.
But none during our stay, not even ones we missed that other guests saw.
And on second day there was a huge huge huge rain storm and so much rain fell that grass was green on both sides so no need to cross!
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Old Oct 25th, 2008, 10:15 PM
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It's getting close Patty... getting close.
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Old Oct 26th, 2008, 10:45 AM
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I enjoyed all the galleries and left a few comments. Your website is great. I also really liked the inclusion of (edited!) videos, especially the gorillas. Thanks very much for sharing all this.

Where to next?
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Old Oct 27th, 2008, 04:16 AM
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Kavey,
I guess it really is all about luck on seeing a crossing.
But I sure know what you mean...how can you be disappointed when you've seen so many other amazing things?

Leely,
Thanks and glad you liked my website!
I think the videos really give a much better perspective of how close some of these animals are!! Most people on this forum already this know from experience, but it was great to be able to show friends and family!
As for where to next?
Well, we'll be going somewhere in February to celebrate our anniversary (our yearly tradition), but I just don't know where yet.
I had been thinking Egypt and Jordan, but all the planning for this trip kind of burnt me out, so I think we'll save that one for 2010, but that's high on the list!
We'll probably go somewhere easy, meaning doesn't require too much planning, or at least not as much planning as this trip did...maybe somewhere in Central America or the Caribbean (we've never been there yet).

Happy, safe travels! >-


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Old Oct 27th, 2008, 09:48 AM
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We'll probably go somewhere easy, meaning doesn't require too much planning, or at least not as much planning as this trip did...maybe somewhere in Central America or the Caribbean (we've never been there yet).

There's a big fare sale to Belize on AA right now. BOS-BZE RT is $334 in Feb. It was even cheaper from EWR (less than $150 RT) but that fare has already been pulled. Anyway the BOS fare is still good in case you were considering Belize. We're headed there in late Feb and several posters on the Latin America forum got in on the EWR deal.
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Old Oct 27th, 2008, 10:11 AM
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I too am a proud mama of Kimana! He had just arrived about 10 days before we were there. He is the cutest thing in the world! Great report.
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Old Oct 27th, 2008, 02:42 PM
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Your photo setup was great with the videos included. Watching the lions and then elephants in the water along with the sounds was just like being there.

I especially like the photos of the nursing vervet, the black backed jackal, the blue monkey, and the pride with its reflection in the water.

Where was the collared lioness and did your guide provide information on that?

You looked just like I thought. I hadn't thought about your husband's appearance before the trip. You make a nice couple. I was getting jealous when you showed photos of the stretch out plane seats.

I read about some plans for next time.
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