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Mr. Carry-on and Family Go on Safari: A Porini Migration Adventure

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Aug 29th, 2010, 02:12 AM
  #61
 
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I wish I had thought of "If You're Happy and You Know It.." and the excuse for it. Did you consult with the Porini manager before or just go for it? Anyway, that's the spirit! You'll be part of Porini legend.
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Aug 29th, 2010, 05:01 AM
  #62
 
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atravelynn- I remeber Twaffle's childhood trip report. What a wonderful read that was. Better than a novel.
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Aug 29th, 2010, 04:54 PM
  #63
 
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Thank you L2T.
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Aug 31st, 2010, 04:05 PM
  #64
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Thanks, everyone, particularly to Sandi for making tardiness acceptable on this board. The new installment should be ready for publication shortly.

L2T, Hope you're not thinking of blowing off your trip report entirely. I will not be able to sleep until I find out how your shoe selection worked in Egypt.

patiricia - Can't wait to hear about Botswana. For the safari addicts around here, it's the new Tanzania. (and Zambia is the new Bostwana.)

anna - Lucky you, going with Gamewatchers. I hope you're practicing your song.

Leely - You didn't sing for the gorillas??

atravelynn, Proud to say we have never been to an Applebee's. But if we ever do go, we'll be sure to clap and sing.

moremiles & kimburu, Haven't consulted the Porini honchos about pasta or singing, but they do have "singing waiters" (not quite the three tenors, but with tribal dancing) at Lion Porini. BTW, Porini may sound Italian, but it means "In the Wild" in Swahili.

twaffle - That trip report has made you famous. In fact, my sources tell me that they are thinking of changing the name of the Nairobi suburb of Karen and calling it "Twaffle." Let's face it, you have a much more interesting nom de plume than Ms. Blixen.
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Aug 31st, 2010, 04:52 PM
  #65
 
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Crosscheck … you are too, too funny!
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Sep 1st, 2010, 03:26 PM
  #66
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THE HIKE:
As you know, I am now a huge Porini Camp fan. But I must disclose that I was a neurotic and indecisive client when planning our safari with Gamewatchers.

We originally booked three days in Amboseli and four in the Mara, skipping Rhino Porini so we could go on an all-day walk in Amboseli (and because we like to settle in and not move around too much). But at one point I began to worry that the extra day in Amboseli would cause us to miss a once-in-a-lifetime crossing opportunity in the Mara - Yikes! I wrote a desperate email to Gamewatchers. Within hours I had received a comprehensive reply from the owner of the Porini Camps, which included a link to a detailed description of our 14K hike (slightly edited here):


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Woken at dawn by the camp staff with tea or coffee. Set off from camp on foot at 0700 escorted by Maasai guides and warriors. Walk across the plains with views of Kilimanjaro in the early light towards the Endoinyo Ndare waterhole, where you will have breakfast and relax for half an hour. Then continue walking across the conservancy, reaching another waterhole and treehouse/viewing platform at Iltangoringori by midday, where you will have lunch. You have the option of being driven back to camp from there and doing a game drive in the conservancy or staying there and resting in the heat of the day before continuing to walk up to the top of Olosinkiran Hill, where you will have a sundowner with a 365 degree view of the surrounding area, including the Chylulu Hills at Tsavo and Kilimanjaro. Then drive back to camp for a shower and dinner.
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Obviously, we had to do this. And so do you. Here’s why:
1) Invigorating exercise, which you will need because most safaris include morning biscuits, three meals, two snacks, afternoon tea, plus sundowners.
2) Easy, flat terrain – fine for the old, the young and the Merrell-less
3) The mother of all bush breakfasts – delicious omelettes made to order in the middle of nowhere
4) How often while hiking can you spot ostrich, zebra and giraffe?
5) Swahili 101
6) Advanced dung identification lessons
7) Spear-throwing competition – Guides vs. Gringos
8) An opportunity to hear tales about the warriors’ multiple weddings, and how their first wives helped choose their second wives
9) Not the most challenging walk ever, but truly one of the most exotic. Peaceful, scenic, off the beaten track.
10) A chance to find out if there is really such a thing as a 365 degree view.

Next: Gnus-worthy Tales of the Migration
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Sep 1st, 2010, 03:33 PM
  #67
 
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You're so right! Walking in Africa is a totally different experience from just being in the vehicle even if all you see are dung and dung beetles but you were lucky to spot some bigger game.

The marital tales are quite enlightening too.

Looking forward to the next installment!
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Sep 1st, 2010, 05:13 PM
  #68
 
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The walk sounds excellent. I'll leave tomorrow.

"Gnus-worthy." Ouch. But I love it.
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Sep 3rd, 2010, 03:50 AM
  #69
 
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crosscheck:
are you there?

I'm more than satisfied to take travel advice from someone who has eaten at El Bulli.

I am seriously considering doing a Porini package in lieu of this and that (cannot justify cost of this and that). This will be my third trip to Africa and as much as I enjoyed having a butler at Londolozi, I'm quite over it.

I know you enjoyed the Porini experience but how would you rate it on the exclusive-luxe-location-game-viewing scale?

Convince me please!
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Sep 3rd, 2010, 04:00 AM
  #70
 
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crosscheck: can you also recommend a travel agent?. I have a great girl in Cape Town but I'd like to gather a few quotes. Are you allowed to give me this info on Fodors? (I never read the legalese!)
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Sep 3rd, 2010, 08:19 AM
  #71
 
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What a great trip report....and now I know what to pack besides!!

I am going to print this off so I can enjoy the read again!
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Sep 3rd, 2010, 01:29 PM
  #72
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pepnjak, A word of warning: I just read that automatic faucets don't work if you're wearing black. Luckily, though, there aren't many of those in Africa.

Lionlove, Yes, I'm here...although I must admit that I got sidetracked by the posts about illegal Egyptian viagra and the artificial cow breakthrough.

The Porini camps are exclusive, but NOT luxe. They are, however, immaculate, bright, super comfortable and huge - about the size of most pied-a-terres in NY. But what they lack in cutting edge design, they make up in authenticity. They are the real deal.

We have friends who are safari addicts and use "famous" guides in Tanzania who offer private tours with mobile tents/pucci fabrics/chartered planes. These guys were totally out of our price range. But our friends said the most important part of a great safari were the guides, the vehicles and remote locations. We got all of that in spades at the Porini camps. Plus we felt good about giving our money to the community. And we loved our eco-minded fellow guests.

If you're on the fence, you might combine the Porini camps with an afro-chic place on an idyllic island. Then you can have it all. I would have loved to include Manda Bay in Lamu if we had had more time.

Sadly, I do not have a travel agent to recommend. Even though I am not a control freak in other areas of my life, I simply cannot bring myself to give up the hours and hours of ridiculous trip-planning minutia. I even procured the El Bulli res on my own.
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Sep 4th, 2010, 01:58 AM
  #73
 
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Sold!

I think Porini is the big winner. The Porini Wilderness package price is unbeatable and it includes flights to get you from one to the next. Although I won't miss having a butler, I am a bit of a sucker for velvet throw cushions and exotic tchokas...but I think I'll survive!

I will look at the beach destination you mentioned after I check out the post about Viagara in Egypt!

Thank you CC
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Sep 4th, 2010, 05:29 AM
  #74
 
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Manda Bay is lovely, but comes with a price!
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Sep 4th, 2010, 11:49 AM
  #75
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Lionlove, Great choice! Mr. C told me to make sure that you knew about the bucket showers - A giant 20-liter exotic tchocka.
sandi, Just checked the Manda Bay price. It does seem high for the beach, but not that much more than all the safari camps. But I defer to your expert opinion...It was a recommendation from a friend and we've yet to experience it firsthand.
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Sep 4th, 2010, 12:17 PM
  #76
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OUR FIRST DAY IN THE MARA:

A QUIET VICTORY FOR MR. CARRY-ON:
Short flight on Safarilink from Amboseli to Wilson, then another short flight from Wilson to the Mara. As mentioned before, no luggage weighing or measuring. All our careful carry-on efforts were unnecessary – we could have brought our one-inch-too-big wheeled rollaboards, the ones we use for normal vacations! But maybe we weren’t hassled because the baggage guys felt sorry for us. Here is a conversation I overheard:

HANDLER #1: Check out that family over there, the ones in khaki.
HANDLER #2: Where? Everybody is in khaki.
HANDLER #1: The ones with the tiny gym bags as luggage - they probably only have two outfits each for twelve days. But we could bust them for heavy binoculars.
HANDLER #2: Those guys must be pretty smelly by now, so we’d better stay far away and leave them alone.
----
WHERE AM I?
Our fellow passengers did not know the name of the camp where they were going. They had to look at their itineraries to find out. This was a theme that repeated itself over and over again throughout our trip: We met at least a dozen tourists who had completely trusted their travel agents to book their vacations. They dutifully traipsed from camp to camp, without having researched a thing. Not quite the Fodorite mentality, but these clueless safari-goers actually seemed very relaxed and content. I think the bottom line is that Kenya is so awesome that as long as you’re not in one of those claustrophobic pop-up vans, it’s all good.

KIBERA:
As we took off, my younger son and I got a mind-blowing five-minute aerial tour of Kibera, the largest slum in the world. By far, the most sobering moment of our trip.

BETTER THAN SIXTY MINUTES:
As we were landing, I saw 75,000 wildebeest galloping across the savanna. Perhaps it was only 74,000, but the image will stay with me forever.

THE MARA:
Not overrated. One of the best spots on the planet. Even if you don’t like animals, it’s worth going just to feel the vastness and see the endless blue sky.

LION PORINI:
Our guides were at the airstrip to meet us in our migration-friendly vehicle (similar to the one we had in Amboseli, but opened on top as well). This time we had a team of two brilliant Maasai warriors, Big John and Jared, assigned to us for our entire stay. One was a spotter, the other a driver/guide. (In Amboseli we had Wilson, a silver-rated spotter/guide, plus an incredible driver.)

The short journey to the Olare Orok conservancy was a gorgeous off-road game drive. We followed a lush river where the buffalo don’t roam, but do stand still and pose for photos. We did not see another vehicle. As you turn into Lion Porini, there’s a herd of friendly giraffe(s) to greet you, plus the entire staff. The set-up is very similar to Amboseli Porini, but with even larger tents right on a river, home to some very noisy hippos. Nice salads for lunch, then we treated ourselves to a siesta before heading off at 4:45pm for our first game drive in Olare Orok.

THE MOTHER OF ALL GAME DRIVES:
By 4:55pm we had seen lions mating from about two inches away. And by 5:10pm we had (clearly) seen a cheetah mom chase a Thompson gazelle at 75 mph, finally taking down the gazelle after chasing it for a mile. We stayed at the site of the kill and had sundowners in our vehicle (from about three inches away) while the cheetah shared her feast with her two cubs.

Joining us for cocktails were three other vehicles – two from the Kicheche camps and one from Mara Plains, the two other camps in the conservancy. It turned out that we knew the Kicheche guests from Amboseli, so we whispered back and forth as we drank our Tuskers. Our friends, a couple from London who were celebrating their first anniversary, told us that they had seen a crossing of 20,000 that day. The event had been fabulous until the last 200 wildebeest slipped off a precarious cliff back into the river, where they all had drowned. The young woman said she had been in tears, and hours later was still upset about the animals that didn’t make it, particularly the babies.

DINNER/EXISTENTIAL MOMENT:
Back at Lion Porini, we had a campfire before dinner, with a second round of sundowners. At dinner, it was the birthday of another guest. The staff who worked at the camp performed a powerful a cappella Maasai song poem/dance, the quality of a performance you would pay to see live at a UCLA ethnographic concert series.

As I listened to their haunting harmonies, I pondered the cheetah dinner we had witnessed. I was thrilled that my boys got to see a chase and kill in the first half hour of our first game drive, but I must admit that watching animals obliterate each other is just not my thing, circle of life notwithstanding. I announced to the boys that I prefer run-of-the-mill cool-patterned vegan beasts like zebra(s) and giraffe(s). (My boys said that my taste in animals was “girly.”). And at this point, I was not even sure I was still looking forward to seeing a crossing. Why would I want to see hundreds of animals drown in a river? This was the “experience of a lifetime” I had longingly anticipated?

NEXT: CROSSING DRAMA
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Sep 4th, 2010, 12:38 PM
  #77
 
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Way to go! This is fabulous! What are Tuskers?
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Sep 4th, 2010, 12:41 PM
  #78
 
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Glad to see you back here and off that Egypt thread(I know, it's too easy) and I can't wait to hear about your experience with a crossing!
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Sep 4th, 2010, 01:51 PM
  #79
 
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"checked the Manda Bay price. It does seem high for the beach, but not that much more than all the safari camps."

... the magic word in there is "more"
At 2010 rack rates of $635/ppnt in peak season; $570/ppnt in mid season that do not include drinks and many of the activities. But it's beautiful and remote.
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Sep 4th, 2010, 06:22 PM
  #80
 
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CC, I'm sure many of us have been unwittingly the recipients of similar conversations at Wilson's Airport! Very funny

I understand absolutely your feelings about hunts and drowning animals in the Mara.
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