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


Sep 26th, 2010, 06:15 PM
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sangeeta, ccipups & twaffle

Thanks for the incredibly kind words. And I hope you won't stop reading my trip report in protest if you don't approve of what we decided.

Sorry to drag on the suspense, but now must reveal two significant occurrences that influenced the final outcome:

1) For Mr. C, who is prone to acrophobia, the choice was a no-brainer. He announced that no matter what the rest of us did, he would not be lifted off the ground in a flimsy basket propelled by fire. He would go looking for a leopard.

2) The Mara Intrepids staff, who knew we were considering the balloons, said that because there were three of us and it was last minute, we would "only" be charged $425pp.

So now the suddenly-cheaper excursion would be a mother/son bonding opportunity. But our boys were also on the fence because they are both almost as frugal (cheap) as their dad. But one of our younger son's friends had told him that the balloon ride in Kenya was "SICK." (translation: crazy cool, awesome)

And I had received the following emails from friends:

EMAIL #1 (from a college friend who was headed on an A&K safari a few days after us): Are you booking the balloon adventure? I heard it was phenomenal.

EMAIL #2 (from a British friend who runs an orphanage in Aberdare): The balloon ride is fantastic if you can swing it. You have to get up really early but it is worth it.

EMAIL #3 (from a well-traveled mom at my kids' school): "The hot air balloon was interesting because it’s a hot air balloon. But, it’s really not that great. It’s really slow and once you get over the 'Woah, I’m in a hot air balloon' it can actually be boring."

The destination expect on TA said it was an unecological rip-off, but a Gamewatchers rep called seeing the migration from a balloon "the experience of a lifetime." And here on Fodors, when I posted the question about our dilemma, four people said it was a must-do, and four said it was overrated. And one (spassvogel) said it was BOTH a must-do AND overrated.

So, at the end of the day, my decision process boiled down to this:

Would I be MORE sorry if I didn't see a leopard....or if I didn't take my boys on a balloon ride in the Mara during the migration?

(Sorry about all the double negatives.)

Of course I realized there was no guarantee that we would see the leopard OR the migration from the balloon, but once I figured out which experience I would regret more, I was able to make up my mind....
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Sep 26th, 2010, 06:28 PM
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So not fair to leave us hanging.....I've definitely enjoyed reading your report, I only wish mine was half as entertaining! You better post the decision as we are all holding our breath!
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Sep 27th, 2010, 11:35 AM
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Okay, I will take you all out of your misery. But I must be brief because today is my birthday and I am spending the day reading my Facebook messages.

Mr. Crosscheck chose Door #1 and saw two leopards.

The boys and I chose Door #2 and took a hot air balloon ride over the Mara.

The BAD NEWS was:
- because we were standing behind the Tall Family from Denmark, our only unobstructed view was of a few dik diks... although in the distance there were a half a million little dots that were *probably* wildebeest
- the "banquet" tables and chafing dishes were so cheesy and incongruous in the pristine Mara that I might never do a tourist activity again.
- after spending $1275 for a 45-minute ride, they charged us another $30 to buy a CD with stock footage of animals and a few snapshots of us, which they burned right at the breakfast site, using a generator. So if we hadn't felt ripped off before, we now truly felt like suckers.

The GOOD NEWS was:
- although it was not a life-changing experience, it was a lot of fun.
- I gained enough dinner party material to use until we go on our next trip. We met the most bizarre collection of people, including: 1)Czech guys in head-to-toe camouflage; 2)a group of boys and girls-gone-wild from Macao who won the world record for the most vacation photos taken in the shortest amount of time; 3)an American social worker who had had an emergency root canal in the Mara the previous day and spent the whole breakfast showing off her (surprisingly professional) temporary cap.
- Mr. C loved being "right" and has been much nicer to me ever since.

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Sep 27th, 2010, 11:54 AM
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Looking forward to seeing the photos! In your wrapup, can you get some feedback from your boys - what they liked best, least, when were they bored (if ever!) that type of thing?

Thanks for the really fun report!

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Sep 27th, 2010, 11:55 AM
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Thanks Crosscheck and Happy Birthday (Facebook does make us feel very loved on our birthday)!

Well that does make me feel much better about our decision to skip the ballons. Besides, I have enough dinner party material with the riots in Nakuru and having to be towed out of a creek
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Sep 27th, 2010, 06:31 PM
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I've truly enjoyed reading every installment of your wonderful report. It's been especially fun to read for those of us that have recently returned from Kenya as we can relive some of our experiences but with your great sense of humor and adventure.

Sorry that the Balloon ride wasn't what you'd hoped. I stayed at both Kichwa Tembo and Porini Lion, and I took the balloon from Governors Camp on August 15th (my last morning at Kichwa Tembo and before heading to Lion Porini) and I have to admit that it was truly amazing. I was on the fence about it as I'd taken two balloon rides in Napa Valley and found it to be okay but nothing special. My decision to take the Balloon flight was solely due to fact that the Migration was to be in full swing mid August. I was fortunate as we saw many Wildebeest, Zebras, Gazelle, seven Lions, a few Elephants, Hippos and Buffalo as well as a very quick sighting of a Leopard heading into the bushes, it was everything I'd hoped it to be and more, and after all of your back and forth I wish you'd experienced the same during your flight with your sons. For breakfast, we didn't have Chafing dishes on a buffet, instead they had everything set on the tables family style, except Champagne was from special table. The Breakfast was okay, but nothing special, although I sat next to a few of the Pilots and they were very witty and a lot of fun. Everyone on our flight received a CD with our photo for free, however I think the Governors Camp is a little more expensive, especially since they've recently instituted a "landing" fee. Which is interesting, as what else can you do but land, maybe crash, so if you crash I guess you get your "landing" fee back? All in all it comes down to luck and possibly location, as I believe if you take the balloon from Lion camp you depart from Fig Tree Camp and from what I've read the Governors Balloon Safari supposedly (I have no comparison) flies over the most beautiful part of the river and Mara Triangle.

Thank you for sharing your adventures, I look forward to hearing more about your incredible trip and then planning my return to somewhere in Africa in the next year or two.
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Sep 27th, 2010, 06:41 PM
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Happy Birthday!!

Well the balloon ride actually turned out to be a good value, I think. You can't underestimate the value of good dinner party material.
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Sep 27th, 2010, 07:27 PM
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Happy birthday--and I agree with ccipups about the return on investment of the balloon ride.

Can't wait to see some blurry photos!
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Sep 27th, 2010, 07:31 PM
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Happy Birthday, great reading and lots of fun.

Nothing worse than a husband who got it right!!
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Sep 27th, 2010, 07:34 PM
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Have finally caught up with your adventures and am glad the balloon ride wasn't a total wash-out! I also have gone back and forth about whether to splurge on one while there.

Mara Intrepids will now stand out for me in the future as I will recall their impressive laundry service and their lovely tents.
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Sep 28th, 2010, 05:26 AM
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Hi crosscheck, happy birthday,

I must write that porini camps have one of the best guides,used the porini guides for 6 days and they were fantastic..... maybe exxpensive, but worth it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, have lot of news about the mara, the gamedrive routes, private areas, off roading, night gamedrives, location etc, will write about what I saw experienced and realised, and I saw everything, just everything.........just spending my last day of safari at saruni.There was a change in my trip plan. Sara blackburn, who is doing the predator research project dealing with lions of the mara north conservancy, went out with me for game drives, she has fantastic knowledge about the lions and it's fun to meet someone as lion crazy as me ..........am having a great time

Cheers, Sonali
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Sep 29th, 2010, 04:35 AM
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Happy Birthday, Crosscheck!

I have thoroughly enjoyed your humorous trip report so tell us more.
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Sep 29th, 2010, 11:27 AM
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Happy birthday from me too, Crosscheck.

For our balloon ride, the pilot wouldn't stop talking so we had noise from both him & the balloon!

Loved reading your report & looking forward to seeing your blurry pics and reading the new reports from Sonali, Lynn & everyone else who's just gotten back.
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Sep 29th, 2010, 01:18 PM
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Love the report, crosscheck, thanks so much for the detail and the laughs. It's making me think we should consider a safari for our next Big Trip (after the impending Oz and NZ.) When we've saved up some $$, of course.

And happy birthday! My turn tomorrow, on the 30th. And the day after that, I retire -- woohoo!
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Sep 29th, 2010, 04:07 PM
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Happy Birthday wishes from MoneyBurns; your trip report lifted my spirits before we left on our own Magic Carpet Ride to Kenya as I was sick and afraid I'd not make it; so party on - and begin plans for another family expedition full of fun and adventure!
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Oct 2nd, 2010, 12:21 AM
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Thanks for the birthday wishes, everyone.

Cyn, Good question about the boys. The short answer is that they loved just about everything, especially the opportunities for underage drinking. But, seriously, this was one of our best family trips ever. I will go into more detail in my wrap up.

sundowner, Love your screen name. And so would my sons.

renoduck - Whoa - riots and cars in creeks...that beats my sprained ankle. I'm heading right over to your report.

nycjv - Wish we had your balloon karma. Hilarious about a landing fee. Maybe airlines should adopt that. We did leave from Fig Tree (booked at Mara Intrepids). Could have used Governors, but it would have been $75 more and a 4:30 wake up, instead of 5:45. There was a balloon off in the distance, floating over the migration the entire time...If we had only coughed up the extra $25pp we could have had the experience of a lifetime AND a free CD. But at least we had the chance to hear every detail about an African root canal.

twaffle, leely, cyn, Your photographic talent is so intimidating that I have dragged this on for months so I could delay posting my pictures.

sangeeta, moneyburns, sonali, can't wait for your trip reports.

SB - Happy Birthday and MAJOR congrats on your retirement!

Stay tuned for the next installment. Still trying to figure out the difference between a "set" and a "collection" on flickr.
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Oct 2nd, 2010, 06:12 AM
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Hi crosscheck,

I've been away from Fodors for awhile and just logged onto your wonderful report - really enjoying it!

Not to worry about the giraffe spittle. I just played a little game in Botswana that had me sweating bullets for a few days. During a walking safari with Dicks, from the Mapula Lodge, he asked for volunteers to play a game. I, of course, blindly offered. He then handed all us morons an impala pellet. oookay, I thought, we get to see who can throw it the farthest. nope. We got to play the native game of who can spit it the farthest out of the circle drawn in the sand. I kid you not. I put this dried impala poo, (tastes like chicken), between my lips and gave it my best shot. I came in 7th out of 8 who played. When I got home and told my kids, my daughter said she'd never again kiss me and my boys said I was their new hero. I was just glad that I hadn't died from some rare and exotic intestinal disease...
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Oct 2nd, 2010, 06:05 PM
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Wow, You are my hero as well. Are you sure you were on vacation and not on the Amazing Race?
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Oct 2nd, 2010, 06:18 PM
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hahaha, really! considering that I actually did it, I think the Mapula Lodge should have at least paid for one free night...
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Oct 4th, 2010, 01:30 AM
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Hi crosscheck i am thinking of booking my trip to the Mara next June with Gamewatchers Safari. What did u think of them. any tips Thanks
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