Part I - Kenya

Old May 26th, 2008, 11:08 AM
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Part I - Kenya

Somehow I can't add to the prior thread, so here is Part I - I hope!

Tuesday, September 4 & Wednesday, September 5 – We had a quick and smooth Checker Cab ride to Lindbergh station and MARTA trip to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. We checked in for our KLM flight, #622 using our Delta Frequent Flier miles for Business Class. It took only 25 minutes to clear security: G.’s spotting scope/camera was removed from its travel case and inspected. We had a pleasant wait in the lounge chatting with a couple from Jackson, MS, off to Slovenia to hike. At the gate, we saw the Moores on their way to Ireland, also for a walking trip. We waved to a couple of other friends as they boarded the plane to Amsterdam, on their way to Paris!
After champagne, dinner, and wine, I slept a little and G. more. After a full breakfast, we arrived in Amsterdam on schedule at 7:20 AM. We waited to speak again with Bill and Wendy, but somehow missed them. Though we had not exited the secured area of the international terminal, we passed through security again before entering the gate area for KLM flight 565. We were not asked to remove our shoes—nor anywhere else until we were back in Atlanta! The 747 was only partially filled when we departed rainy, cold Amsterdam at 10:30 AM. I wasn’t hungry for lunch, so napped instead. I awoke to glimpse the Sahara below: an oasis and perhaps a sand storm? In what appeared to be Sudan (per the projected flight map), there were large rectangular fields and cultivated red fields. I began reading Bror Blixen’s Africa Letters, slow going.
We landed at Jomo Kenyatta International, Nairobi, on scheduled at 7:15 PM. —a seven-hour time change from home. Economy passengers were actually not allowed to deplane until Business Class had done so—convenient, but not comfortable! Things appeared much more organized than when we were here in 1992. Of course, we weren’t so tired this time. Baggage took a while, but arrived in good order. We were met by Fiona of Abercrombie & Kent and a driver, Edwin, who drove us to the Norfolk in an A&K dark green Land Cruiser. Fiona seated us in the reception area and brought our hotel registration to complete. After reviewing our Nairobi itinerary, she collected our fees for the Mara balloon ride and charter flight from Tsavo West back to Nairobi. She then escorted us to our room, #312, across the garden and up and down various courtyard stairs. Fiona presented us with gifts: A&K safari hats, a wooden, carved rhino, and a beautiful wildlife book, Jonathan Scott’s Safari Guide to East African Animals, autographed. Though appreciative, we were surprised at these additions to our baggage, given the stringent weight restrictions!
After settling in our room, we returned to the Ibis Restaurant on the terrace for a glass of wine. The Norfolk looks much the same, though it is under renovation following its purchase by Fairmont. The reception area is open, with a terrace behind overlooking the garden, where the old rickshaw is still displayed. The Delamere Room and the front terrace restaurant are closed for renovation. In the evening, the garden was filled with a chorus of tree frogs. Our room had a small balcony overlooking the swimming pool. We left the windows open during the night. To ensure a good night’s rejuvenating sleep, we took Ambien and were frighteningly dead to the world!

Thursday, September 6 – I woke at 5:30 AM to a beautiful birdsong, which I believe was the black-headed oriole, later identified at Loldia House. We slept on until 8:00 AM and were a little late for our breakfast with Peter from A&K Kenya. Peter was gracious, interesting, and informative.
From our sources so far, Kenya is doing well. All say the economy is growing. There are about 1,000,000 tourists annually and about that many business and other visitors. President Kibaki is respected and acting in the interest of the country. Christianity is the dominant (largest number) religion. There are Muslims along the coast. Peter said he wishes Christians were as aggressive as Muslims. He said some Christians in the United States seem more aggressive.
The day was overcast with pleasant temperature. Fiona, when asked, had said we should not walk from the hotel grounds. This advice was reinforced by the razor wire atop the fencing. So we relaxed, split a club sandwich for lunch at the Ibis, where we saw some brilliant sunbirds. Black kites were flying overhead. The sun came out as Edwin picked us up for our afternoon tour. Edwin conducted a short city center tour, with commentary:
• The blue/purple flowering trees are jacarandas. We also saw eucalyptus and flame trees.
• Kenya is 65% Christian and about 25% Muslim.
• Unemployment is about 45%, but the “economy is doing well.” Many people sell various wares on the street, but are not considered “employed.”
• Nairobi province, which has only the one district, has about 2.5 million people.
• The Norfolk Hotel was built in 1904; the Stanley (no longer called “The New Stanley”), in 1913. The thorn tree which had stood before it since colonial times has been removed from the Stanley. Traditionally, notes were left tacked to the tree as a way of communication. I noted a wire, flat “replica” of a thorn tree on the terrace!
• The long rains come from March to May and the short, from October to December, but weather patterns are changing, making agriculture more difficult.
I mentioned that last time we were here, many of the taxis seemed to be small Mercedes. Edwin said those are mostly around certain large hotels, but we saw none on this trip. Kenatco Taxis is a well established company with an earned good reputation. There are City Hoppa buses. On the other extreme, there were hand–pulled carts near the market. Matatus are now limited to 14 passengers each, with a seat belt for everyone. As we watched one driven onto the sidewalk, severely cutting a corner, Edwin referred to the “matatu matata,” “the matatu problem”—poor driving. Edwin says cars are “very inexpensive,” as is parking, which brings too many cars into town. The police have gotten very strict on zebra-walk violations: violators are fined and given points, which can lead to suspension of one’s driving license. He says there are about 5,000 cars a year added to the roads!
We witnessed a disturbing incident of “mob justice”: a young man being beaten by other young men. Edwin said he had probably been caught stealing.
We talked about the troubles in Zimbabwe and the effect on other parts of Africa. Edwin said that Zimbabwean refugees are taking jobs from South Africans, because they’ll work for lower wages. This is one reason there is such pressure on South Africa to censure Mugabe. But because President Mbeki was a schoolmate of President Mugabe, he’s not inclined to oppose him.
Having seen virtually no white people on the street, I asked Edwin if there are many white Kenyans. He said they are more in other areas (Karen, etc.). Whites own many businesses. He says the whites blend in well and assimilate. Many speak Swahili as well as the predominant dialect of the district in which they live.
Uhuru Garden was built to commemorate the place where the Union Jack came down on December 12, 1963, and was replaced by the Kenyan flag. The park is a memorial to those who contributed to peace, who may be buried in the cemetery in the park.
We visited Bomas of Kenya, an outdoor museum. Olive baboons on the grounds were our first mammal siting of this safari! We saw only the last of the native dancing program and the Jambo Acrobats. The acrobatic show was fast-paced and amazing, much enjoyed by groups of uniformed school children—and their teachers, who laughed and clapped. The village included exhibits of bomas of ten different tribes, described by a guide. Edwin is from the Luo tribe. He still has a hut in his father’s boma—but it doesn’t hold up well while he’s away working and not there to maintain it. The Luhya tribe have bull fights, between two bulls. They’re now trying to promote this sport as a tourist attraction!
We arrived at the Sheldrick Trust, in the edge of Nairobi National Park, just in time for our 5:15 appointment to see our adopted elephant, two-year-old Lenana. Friendly warthogs milled around us adoptive parents and other supporters, including three young, blonde women, affectionately labeled “the Barbies” by G.. They were slender, wore blue jeans, had bare midriffs, and made photographs with their cell phones. [Do I sound envious?!] First we all watched a keeper give Maxwell his evening bottle. Max is a one-year nine-month-old, black rhino orphan. He was found in Nairobi National Park near the orphanage by keepers. They kept an eye on him for several days, but his mother did not return to care for him. When they tried to approach him, they realized he is blind, so they took him in. He has adjusted well to his keepers and bonded with some of the little elephants. He has had surgery on one eye, but without complete success. Further surgery is planned. The hope with all animals in the orphanage is that they can be released into the wild. A large number of elephants have been successfully released into Tsavo East.
We walked around the “barn,” to see the elephants and their keepers returning from their day in the bush—in the Park. There were about a dozen elephants varying from tiny ones only a few months old to those Lenana’s size. All trotted right into their stalls for their suppertime bottles. The tiniest ones lay down and fell asleep almost immediately, covered with blankets. A keeper is always with the elephants, one sleeping in each stall on a raised platform. While we were there, the keepers’ dinner was brought out as well: greens and some sort of mash—not very appetizing looking! Lenana is fed fifty liters of formula a day! When elephants reach about four years old, they are transported to Tsavo East, where, still accompanied by their keepers, they learn to live in the wild, mingling with wild elephants during the day and returning to their stockade at night—until they are assimilated into a wild family.
Just at the end of our visit, we were all herded around the corner of the barn—Magnum, a feisty, lone male rhino was coming in for the night! He’s not one to pet and fondle, but he visits Max regularly.
We owe thanks to the Bathursts, who insisted we adopt an elephant so we could have this special behind-the-scenes tour. Well worth it—in fact we may adopt more! They also highly recommended Giraffe Manor, where we stayed later in this trip.
As we were driving from the Park, Edwin spotted an antelope in the brush, which he identified as a bongo. I’m fairly sure it was a bushbuck.
We were back at the Norfolk about 7:00. We had a delightful dinner: after tomato bisque soup, G. had Indian ocean lobster and I ate Naro trout. All was accompanied by a good bottle of Forrester Petit Chinen Blanc from Stellenbach. The end of a great first day in Kenya!
[While I still believe the Norfolk Hotel is a good place to spend the first couple of nights in Kenya, I now believe that Giraffe Manor might be a better spot, doubtless pricier. It might be a shame, at that price, to arrive there at midnight the first night, missing drinks and dinner. But if one’s arrival schedule was earlier, . . . . See the description of Giraffe Manor on September 12.]

Friday, September 7 — After the expansive buffet breakfast in the dining room, Edwin collected us at 8:00 for the drive to Loldia House. Nairobi was bustling with crowds already moving toward the University for the graduation ceremony: dressed in gowns and academic stoles, dress clothes, tinsel and glitter. The ceremony wasn’t until sometime in the afternoon, but seats are hard to come by on the grass of Uhuru Park.
The drive (we had requested a land transfer) showed us the changing countryside. Near the city, there were very poor areas, the roads filled with matatus. There are some larger buses, which do not run on a schedule, but depart only when filled so the drivers won’t have to stop to pick up other passengers. Throughout the drive, there were police checks: the road was obstructed by pairs of spiked barricades, one in each lane, staggered so that vehicles had to slow and pass by one at a time. The checks are for licenses, speed governors, and the safety of tires. We were always waved through, having the proper stickers on the windshield.
Along the road, we passed:
• newly made furniture for sale
• vegetable stands
• plowed fields of rich soils
• areas of small farms where people appeared less poor
• burros/donkeys
• wooly sheep—and their wooly hides for sale
• geese and turkeys.
After a stop at an overlook for a view of the Great Rift Valley (and a couple of shops, which we resisted), we entered a higher, greener area with:
• cows
• pine trees
• cattle egrets
• pepper trees
• maribou storks
• yellow-barked acacias, “fever trees”
• cactus, introduced as ornamentals from Mexico
• women washing clothes in the river
• maise fields
• flat-topped acacias
• whistling-thorn acacias (ant nests with holes create the whistling sound in the wind)
• goats
• pairs of dik-diks
As we neared Loldia, we saw common drongo, cisticola, zebra, impala, tommies, waterbuck, Cape buffalo, and numerous other species of birds. Just inside the grounds, we saw a reed buck.

Peter Norge, the congenial manager, welcomed us on the veranda with juice and wet face cloths “for the dust”—and cared well for us throughout our visit. We were introduced to Ana, our room steward; William, the chief meal steward; and Sammy, Charles, and Josaphat, the guides. It happened that Peter Hopcraft was in the house this afternoon, and G. had a brief chat with him. He is a member of the family who still owns Loldia and operates the farm. The guest operation is part of Governors’ Camp group.
“Loldia Farm was established by a settler who came to Kenya in an ox-wagon after the Boer War and is still owned by the same family today. He was a renowned horseman who chose this beautiful corner of Kenya to enjoy all that was best of the early Kenyan Lifestyle. Nestling under the acacia and wild fig trees on the green western shore of Lake Naivasha, the present Loldia House was constructed by Italian prisoners of war of stone quarried on the farm. Built around a courtyard, its main archway frames a stunning view of the dormant Mount Longonot. . . Today’s guest can savor the taste of this early Lifestyle. . . . On the Farm’s 6500 acres, guests may walk or ride through herds of dairy and beef cattle or a flock of farmed ostriches, interspersed with impala, waterbuck and other plains game.”
Our room was one of four in the main house, opening onto the central courtyard, with a view over the Lake. It was a large room with high ceilings, comfortable chairs, and windows open over the lawn. There were twin beds, pushed together (and interestingly, positioned about 18 inches from the wall—and repositioned there when we shoved them back!). The furniture is comfortable and homey looking, not fancy. There was a large en suite bath. A large part of the edge of the lake (several hundred yards) was covered with water hyacinths (?) and reeds that look like papyrus, but we’re told are not. While this growth created the look of solid land, the vegetation moves with the wind. This part of the lake can clear overnight—and it did!
Lunch was served at a long table on the lawn. Superb starlings, ring-neck doves, white-rumped helmet shrikes, and crested francolin gathered on a rock beside us and hadada ibis and orioles chattered in the huge overhanging fig tree. The yard was lush with brilliantly colored flowers. Seated, we were served: rice balls with tomato sauce; fried fish fillets, roasted potatoes, and green beans; and a delicious apple tart with custard sauce. Vegetables were fresh from this or neighboring farms. The house was filled daily with bouquets of roses, also grown on a neighboring farm. This was the first of three weeks of delicious and bountiful meals, mostly served without our having to make decisions except as to our drinks! At lunch we met Marilyn and her daughter from California. Marilyn was a delightful character, a former probation officer. She and Alanna had come here from the Mara. Before that they had been at Lewa Downs Conservancy and had really liked that experience: quiet, no other vehicles on game drives, great game encounters. Suzanne had tried to send us there—maybe another time!
At 4:00, G. and I joined Charles for a bird walk through the fields. Peter drove the three of us from the house and idled in the background while we walked. We walked largely through plowed cabbage fields of rich, volcanic soil. The highlight birds were the Fischer’s lovebirds—like little parrots, sitting in a row all along a power line. This walk finally convinced me that I had made a serious mistake by not bringing a bird book! An interesting plant seen on this walk was devil’s horsewhip, a spiked purple plant that hurts if you hit against it. [Animal and bird lists follow each section.]
After a short break, we joined Marilyn and Alanna in a green Land Rover Defender for the evening game drive with Josaphat and a spotter, with a light. In addition to diurnal animals whose eyes we spotted, we saw hares, springhares, two spotted hyenas, eland and just at the end we found a leopard! He was lying under a tree. We watched him move off and into a ravine. Nearing the House, we saw hippos who had moved from the Lake to graze on the lawns and fields in the cool evening.
After drinks in the living room, we moved into the dining room and a candle-lit table for dinner. With Peter, in coat and tie, at the head of the table, the eleven of us carried on a rousing conversation. The guests over the period of our stay included Marilyn, her daughter Alanna, Muriel and David from northern England, an English family of four (college-age son and daughter) who live in Hong Kong (he heads Price Waterhouse there), honeymooners from London, and a widely traveled couple from Houston. Dinner included pasta with peas; barbecued chicken, cabbage, potatoes, zucchini; bread pudding. Peter arranged our next day’s activities and we went happy to bed with hot water bottles at our feet! Our first safari day—including a leopard!—had ended.

Saturday, September 8 – We breakfasted on the lawn at 8:00 with Marilyn and Alanna, with whom we were making the day trip to Lake Nakuru. The drive was more than two hours, over dusty, bumpy roads, through Saturday’s rush traffic in Nakuru, third largest city in Kenya. There was a lot of truck traffic on the “highway.” Sammy, our guide, said the neighboring countries send trucks through to the port at Mombasa. We were greeted at the Park gate by curious vervet monkeys, while Sammy went into the office to pay our fees. After Sammy opened the roof hatches, we drove straight to the Lake’s edge to see the flamingos: 100s of thousands of lesser flamingos! The sound of the whole pink sea was like the roar of a small airplane—the blending of their individual murmurings. Birds were constantly in motion, walking in every direction, very occasionally dipping their heads to eat. Courting groups marched in lock-step. Small groups flew off together, as other flocks settled onto the lake. There were young, gray chicks, but I noticed no nests. There was surprisingly little odor or poop—not like the penguins!
The flamingos themselves would have been worth the day’s drive, but there were so many other animals: hyenas, white rhino (we didn’t see any black rhinos, but they are in the Park), buffalo, Defassa waterbuck, tommies, impala, eland, Rothschild’s giraffes, olive baboons, zebra and numerous birds. We watched one hyena splashing through the shallows chasing flamingos—unsuccessfully.
We stopped for a late lunch in a picnic ground, which was being renovated. Because the tables were being repaired, we sat on a fallen tree trunk and a blanket on the ground and shared the space with the park workers, who blessedly were on their lunch break as well. Peter had sent abundant food: chicken pies, quiches, sausage, hard-boiled eggs, coffee and tea. Sammy had stopped at a market and bought bananas. Just as we left the park, rain came. Sammy quickly closed the roof hatches for the long drive home, finishing with two silver-backed jackals just before we reached the house.
Four new guests had arrived, replacing four who departed, with whom we expect to be reunited at Little Governors’ Camp.

Sunday, September 9 – After breakfast under the trees with the birds, Muriel, Marilyn, Alanna, and we embarked with Patrick to explore the Lake shore by boat. The hyacinths had cleared enough that Patrick had to push his way through only a small border to reach the open water. There were the usual three buffalo grazing shoulder-deep in the shallows, but we weren’t near them. We saw a great variety of birds. G. managed some shots of flying anhingas and geese.
As we ate lunch on the lawn, the hyacinths again closed off the Lake. It was another grand meal, started with yogurt/avocado aspic, surrounded by slices of tiny zucchini. Three employees of the rose producer who supplies the abundant flowers filling our rooms were luncheon guests. Raising flowers for export to Europe is big business in Kenya. We had seen a number of greenhouses on our drive, and saw more from the air. The rain came again just as we finished lunch. No, this is not the rainy season, as noted above, but as the days passed, we began to wonder!
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Old May 26th, 2008, 11:10 AM
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Kenya - Part II

Joseph drove us, Muriel, and David to the air strip for our 3:10 flight. David still wasn’t feeling well. G. had shared his Cipro with him. The first plane to arrive collected about ten passengers under umbrellas. Our SafariLink plane came shortly and we were off for the Mara! We landed first at Kichwa Tembo to collect four more passengers. The flight on to Governors’ Camp was about three more minutes! We four, the only passengers for Little Governors’, were collected by Samuel. Suzanne had requested that he be our guide. He is excellent, with over twenty years of experience.
During the 1 ½ hour game drive en route to Little Governors’ Camp, it seemed that we saw just about everything: six lions (just missed the mating pair!), elephants, and finally a leopard in a tree! Not to mention the wildebeest, tommies, baboons, zebra, etc. After Samuel negotiated the final morass of muddied roads, we reached the Mara River’s edge for the crossing. We climbed down wooden stairs, and were assisted into the small, fiberglass boat. A ferryman pulled the boat across the river (about 20 yards); a rope connected the boat to a rope stretched across the river. Climbing up the stairs on the other side, we met an armed askari, who accompanied us to the camp.
Governors’ looks just as we remembered, though we were in the main camp last time. There is a reception tent; a larger open bar area, where a cheery fire was burning in a brazier; and a large enclosed dining tent. The 17 tents are arranged along a portion of the Mara River. Our welcome here was less personal than at Loldia house (or any of the later camps), perhaps because this is a larger camp? Under umbrellas, we were shown to tent #1, the honeymoon tent, the last one toward the river crossing. We have a king size bed with a green hippo-patterned batik bedspread, a dressing table, couple of chairs, tiled bathroom, and kerosene lanterns! Hippos must be a symbol for the camp: on our final night, our tent steward left two tiny soapstone hippos on our pillows.
An askari escorted us back to the lounge, where we had drinks and chatted with a few other guest. We again saw Cheeky, his wife, and sister, a delightful group from Oregon. Cheeky had sat by me on the plane, but they must have deplaned at the other air strip. Cheeky also gave David some of his Cipro. We sat with Muriel and David at dinner, although tables were set for each couple to sit separately. Fish or vegetable soup; chicken, potato, broccoli, turnips; creme caramel. As we walked back to our tent with the askari, there were little frogs all over the walkway. It was hard not to step on them!

Monday, September 10 – Our 19th wedding anniversary—the third we have spent in Africa! We celebrated with the Mara Balloon Ride and champagne breakfast on the savanna—with 30 perfect strangers! Our tent steward waked us, bringing coffee, hot chocolate, and ginger biscuit and lighting our lantern. As soon as we were dressed, we flashed our torch outside to signal the askari that we were ready to head for the balloon field. We were there before 6:00 AM for a briefing, loading assignments (16 to a gondola, based somewhat on weight, visually assessed!), and a final pit stop. Just before 6:30, we climbed into our basket/gondola and were instructed on the landing position and procedures. We were unhooked and airborne at 6:30. Knowing what to expect, the noise of the burners didn’t seem so loud and overpowering this time. Our pilot was Neal Parry. As our balloon drifted over the savanna, the woodlands, and the Mara River, we saw a number of hippos, a few Masai giraffes, and one bush buck, frightened as it tried to escape the noise of the balloon. Also we spotted a black-and-white casqued hornbill. Mostly the balloon drifted just above the treetops, so we had good views of all we passed over. The overall impression was of peaceful floating—somewhat magical.
Both balloons landed near “Happy Tree,” where champagne awaited us—after we gracefully clamored heels over head from our gondola, which had fallen onto its side! After mimosa toasts, breakfast cooked over open fires was served. The chase crew had set up a long, low table around which we sat on short camp stools. Breakfast included fruit, rolls, French toast with maple syrup (a Kenya brand!), bacon, sausage, coffee, and tea. G. and I chatted with the pilots, Neal and Dave, and Dave’s wife, Lucy. They are working here on a 12-month contract, including two months’ leave. They fly every day that the weather permits—virtually all, even in the rainy season. They told us they felt an earth tremor last night at 3:00 AM. We hadn’t felt a thing!
Amos drove us (the only two from Little Governors’) and two folks from Governors’ Il Moran back to camp. It was a great game drive! We saw young lions, many hippos, and several large crocodiles, plus Coke’s hartebeest (no Pepsi in Africa?). We got in just before lunch served beside the river: gespachio and a buffet (cold and hot). Our Hong Kong friends were at lunch, too: Robert, Sue, Helen, and Alex, a really likeable family.
Our siesta was brief, as the afternoon game drive had been moved up to 3:00 by David and Muriel, because Samuel wanted to take us to a point on the Mara River, where wildebeest and zebra were massing and he thought they might be ready to cross. We did see about 30 or so wildebeests—going the wrong way! They joined a larger group congregating on the other bank, milling around, approaching the water as if trying to muster courage to plunge in. Rather than huge herds rushing up and pouring across, it appeared that crossing is a painfully slow and apparently difficult behavior, over a period of weeks. The zebra may be the real leaders, with the wildebeest following them!
On the way to the river, we saw a cheetah with two cubs, vultures on two or three kills (bones already licked clean, but still odoriferous!), and wildebeest everywhere.
Just as we got back to camp, the heavy rain came again—not the rainy season, remember. We had another tasty dinner: fish or pumpkin soup; beef, potatoes, broccoli, and green beans; and a thin apple tart, with fresh ginger in it! Then the chef, bearing a cake covered with lit candles, led six Masai morani dancers into the dining room, shouting and chanting. It turned out to be a celebration of our anniversary, thanks to Suzanne. The dancing—including stiff-legged high jumping—was quite good. Several of our Loldia friends were still there to share the cake.
G. and I exchanged cards and he gave me silver coyote earrings.
Lala Salama!

Tuesday, September 11 – We had a 6:00 AM wake-up for 6:45 departure. We had decided to have take-out breakfast so we could stay all morning at the River. Samuel had collected a cooler (covered in olive drab cloth) of food. Since the guides stay at Main Camp, Samuel had had to come early, cross the river to collect the cooler, and take it back across to the Land Rover.
The roads are a muddy mess. Driving requires real skill—and physical strength to manhandle the truck. We watched the wildebeests and zebra milling about until almost 10:00, then Samuel selected a spot upriver for our breakfast feast: all sorts of fruit, boiled eggs, bacon, coffee, bread, and muffin. Way more than we could eat.
When we returned to the action spots, we saw several crossings by a good number of wildebeest. With us were ten to twelve other vehicles, mostly on our side of the River, a few across, which Samuel thought were interfering with the animals trying to cross. Finally, a group of maybe 10 zebras came across. There was a herd of perhaps 18 tommies trying to cross—but the crocodiles got three of them. It was amazing how swiftly the crocodiles swam against the current to reach the swimming gazelles. We watched the crocs fight over one carcass. The third tommie must have been injured and unable to climb the bank—apparently stranded just below us, out of sight. But a croc swam over and got him! What gruesome things we enthuse over on safari!
Back for lunch, which Muriel and David skipped, and we ate sparingly! Before 3:00, a heavy downpour began—but we put up our umbrellas, forded the river, and met Samuel at 3:35! We had a damp and chilly drive, but saw a seven-lion pride, who were scattered and well fed. Also saw Grants gazelles and nine elephants, including a tiny baby. Earlier, we saw a “hidden” baby tommie, lying perfectly still and very wet on a small mound.
Back to Camp around 6:30, where we were revived by a hot shower. Dinner at 8:00 with Muriel and David, who will leave early tomorrow for Governors’ camp at Lake Victoria. Fish or soup; pork loin with prune sauce (so tender), red cabbage, green beans, potato; passion fruit mouse. Good-by to Muriel and David. Wow, what great traveling companions.
On request, we had a hot water bottle tonight. We heard lions roaring before dinner! Loud crickets. Rain has stopped. Did we hear a leopard roar in the night? I don’t think they “roar”—more a cough. So, probably what we heard was noisy baboons?

Wednesday, September 12 – Up at 5:45 for our final Mara game drive with Samuel. The roads are again horrendous. A lioness had killed a wildebeest near the airport—one of the light-colored lionesses seen yesterday. As we left her, the rest of the pride were coming: three lions, three lionesses. Next we watched a jackal following them. He lagged, then chased a baby Thomson’s gazelles. The mother came to the rescue. The baby is so very fragile looking—even the adults are—yet able to run and leap well. Next we saw two hyena, then five together. At least six secretary birds.
We had a good breakfast in camp, as we watched two elephants across the marsh. Samuel took us to the airport, where we almost missed our flight because we didn’t know which carrier we were looking for! A pilot came calling our name. “We’d already marked you off as no-shows.” But we made it!
General comments: a large swatch of Mara has burned, resulting in short green grass, which wildebeest and gazelles prefer. Aardvark dig holes looking for termites (ants) in their mounds; then other animals inhabit them—mongooses, warthogs, hyenas. There are many volcanic rocks around. Though there were a fair number of other vehicles, our game viewing was not disturbed.
Throughout the trip, G. surveyed our drivers to determine whether Land Rovers or Land Cruisers were the best trucks for the African bush. We rode in both, and the drivers’ opinions seemed to be skewed according to their vehicles. But one recurring theme was that Land Rovers have an edge: though they may breakdown more often, when they do, they’re easier to fix. Mechanics don’t have to wait for parts from Japan.

Back in Nairobi, Edwin and Fiona collected us at Wilson Airport and delivered us to Giraffe Manor. Nadine Ballantine and Mack (a giraffe) and her dog greeted us. Instead of juice and face cloths, we were offered drinks! Bloody good English hospitality!
This is truly a manor: “Built in 1932 by David Duncan of the 'Macintosh Toffee' family, The Giraffe Manor is modeled on a Scottish hunting lodge with views of Mt. Kilimanjaro to the south and the Ngong Hills to the west. In 1974, the grandson of a Scots Earl, Jock Leslie Melville and his American wife Betty bought the Manor as their home.” There are stately high ceilings, family portraits on the wall (G. was particularly taken by Betty’s), silver-framed family photographs on the sitting room table. The furniture is liveable and comfortable. Visitors are entertained as though we were guests in a private home. Entering the spacious front hall, we were led up a gracious stairway to the second floor to our room, with large en suite bathroom. As we learned later, there wasn’t always hot water! Filtered water for drinking was provided in a flask.
Shortly, Deborah and Phyllis, her 80-year-old mother, arrived—also just in from the Mara. The four of us enjoyed a delightful lunch in the sunroom with our hostess Nadine. There were about six other guests already eating at the other table. The giraffes ambled across the lawn and put their heads through the open windows, peering over our shoulders into our plates. Staff brought out a bowl of giraffe snacks for us to feed them. The window sills have a little trough where food is left to tempt them in! Conveniently, the facing wall was mirrored, so that those of us with our backs to the yard could still watch the giraffes over our heads. We were told that they would be happy to slurp the wine (especially white) from our glasses as well! The menu included beet soup; quiche, broiled tomatoes, salad with avocados; rhubarb crumble with ice cream! The white china had a gold giraffe on the rim and the napkins had an embroidered giraffe. What would you expect!

After lunch, Nadine walked with seven of us across the grounds to the Giraffe Center, which was founded by Jock and Betty Leslie Melville, “so that Kenyan school children could learn conservation and ecology and feed giraffe eye to eyeball!” Our guide at the Center was Mike. “The Rothschild giraffe lost much of their natural habitat in western Kenya and faced extinction. In 1974, two highly endangered Rothschild’s giraffe were moved onto the estate where their future generations have thrived and live today. Jock and Betty founded the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW).” The Leslie Melvilles wrote the story on the first baby, Daisy, in a book published in the late 1970s, Raising Daisy Rothschild. There are three subspecies of giraffe in Kenya, plus two others in South Africa and in western Africa. There are now about 500 Rothschild’s giraffes. Mike led us through the Park, telling us about the uses of a number of plants and trees. We saw Jock, the breeding male, at a respectful distance. Of course, there was a gift shop; and of course, we shopped—for the benefit of the giraffe!!
After a tepid shower, all the guests gathered for drinks with David Ballantine, before a crackling fire on the hearth. We were an international group who blended well. We dined by candlelight, all seated around a beautifully set table in the dining room: zucchini with tomato sauce; beef, broccoli, carrots, potato; chocolate mouse with kiwi and strawberry. Coffee and drinks in the sitting room. A totally delightful evening.
We retired replete, to our huge bed shrouded in gauzy mosquito net.

Thursday, September 13 – We were waked early: 5:30! Breakfast at 6:00 with David and Howell & K. C. (California), and one of the giraffes joining us from the window. Fiona and a driver collected us at 6:30 and took us back to Wilson Airport. It was too bad we couldn’t have combined the trip with Howell and K. C., who ended up the same place. There had been rain during the early morning hours, as well as late the previous afternoon. I’m glad we had Fiona to guide us through Wilson—getting tickets and boarding passes at one stop, security and boarding at another. We were the only passengers on our small SafariLink airplane, with two pilots! Nairobi was cloudy.
We arrived at about 8:30 at the air strip for Finch Hattons Camp in Tsavo West National Park, home of Col. Patterson’s man-eating lions. Patterson was the construction engineer brought to Kenya to build the railroad bridge over the Tsavo River near Voi. During construction at least 135 Indian laborers were killed and eaten by a pair of male lions. Patterson eventually killed them and preserved their skins. Until recently, the two maneless lions (stuffed) were on display at the Field Museum in Chicago, where G. and I saw them. Research continues into why there are maneless lions in Tsavo, that are somewhat larger than the plains lions of higher altitudes. I was determined to see the Tsavo lions for myself.
Coleman met us and drove us to the camp, seeing all the usual animals on the way. No lions. The weather here at the lower elevation is quite warm and dry. We were met with face cloths and fruit juice. Jonathan, the Camp manager, welcomed us and checked us into tent 31—after some consternation on my part because I thought we had requested (and been confirmed in) tent 7. After looking at a number of available tents (including # 6), we concluded that Jonathan had put us in the best one. It had the advantage of being the furthest from the main area of camp (since tents 32–37 have been permanently closed and mostly dismantled—the stone walls of the bathrooms remain.). Only 13 tents were occupied that night, most of them being in the other areas of the camp. Jonathan said occupancy runs about 50%.
Finch Hattons is an elegant camp in every way. Suzanne had told us that it was the favorite camp of Dr. Terry Maple, former director of Zoo Atlanta. We can see why! The theme, as its name implies, is the safari experience of the 1920s. The architecture of the bar and dining room are reminiscent of Karen Blixen’s house in the Ngong Hills. There are long windows open to the outdoors, period furniture, chandeliers, high ceilings with dark beams. A wide veranda overlooks a pond where hippos play and antelope come to drink. The flowering trees are filled with colorful birds.
The tents are spread along several pathways, so that each faces a pond, illuminated by unobtrusive spotlights at night. Each tent is on a raised platform, covered by a thatched roof, and has a comfortable deck on the front. Except in the bathroom, all the walls are screen, with canvas flaps that can be lowered. The bath has a stone floor, stone shower, and half stone walls on the other sides. Furnishings continue the theme: the bath sink set into a dresser, a trunk as luggage stand, teak queen-sized bed, hardwood desk and canvas camp chairs; hardwood floor, oriental rugs—and the lamps are lanterns with fluorescent bulbs!
Just beside our tent, the pond spilled over a small dam into another pond, with a constant gurgle—an appealing spot for hippos, crocodiles, baboons, and various birds. G. set up his spotting scope on the deck and began photographing the birds as we relaxed, stretched on the lounges/cots on our deck until time for the game drive. At 4:30, we met Coleman and a young honeymoon couple, Vadim and Sophie from London, though she introduced herself, “I’m Sophie. I’m French.” And in the first few minutes conversation, we learned that both are of Russian heritage, which they are trying to reclaim. Our vehicle was a classy green Land Rover, modified—some teak trim was added around the window frames. The windows had been removed to avoid their vibrating. The top hatches were opened.
Coleman was a good guide, though it was sometimes a little difficult to communicate with him. Among other animals, we saw a family of at least 17 elephants. Interestingly, we had to watch them from a distance with the motor running, “They might charge us.” The zebra we saw seemed shy. For the first time, G. and I saw fringe-eared oryx and lesser kudu. The fringed ears really stand out.
On our return, we enjoyed a good hot shower. Incidentally, we’re told it is alright to drink the water, so we’re acting on trust! Our dinner escort, armed with bow and arrows (!), arrived at 7:45 as requested. I asked if he could shoot anything with his bow. He replied, “I could try.” G. ordered a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, which we sipped in the veranda bar. Jonathan stopped by to check on us. He told us this camp is owned by Peter Frank, formerly of Hilton Hotels. When we were ready for dinner, the butler seated us at a table for two, with a pink tablecloth covered by a crocheted lace cloth. The china, glassware, and silver glittered under the chandeliers. Pictures of Karen and Denis and other early settlers hung on the walls, with little lizards beside them near the lighted sconces. The staff were dressed in long white khanzus over white pants, with white shoes (mostly canvas Converse sneakers) and red fezzes. Service of the five-course (or was it six!) meal was perfect—and the food delicious: ravioli; celery soup; passion fruit sorbet; trout with mushrooms and broccoli; fruit cheesecake; cheese; coffee/tea—with the rest of our wine, of course.
It was a little warm in the night, but with no one in the tent next to ours, the flaps were left open. As it turned out, we were that private for all three nights.

Friday, September 14 – When we got up, two bushbuck were right by our steps—plus baboons and a noisy flock of helmeted guinea fowl. The bushbuck were camp residents, it seems, around all day. There were giraffe droppings on the walkway nearby—and blood! We were told that was from fighting hippos.
By arrangement, we didn’t meet Coleman until 8:00—he had suggested we have breakfast before a long drive to try to find lions: one and one-half hours, 45 kms. On the way, we saw a reed buck, a small herd of wildebeest, and ostrich, with red tails from the red clay soil. Finally, we reached our destination: the remains (mostly skin and bones) of a giraffe, which other guides had spotted the day before. There were three young lions on the carcass. Others were probably hiding in the brush nearby. So we’re still unable to conclude on size or manes of the Tsavo lions.
We drove a short distance to Roaring Rocks, seeing quite a number of rock hyrax all over a kopje. As we climbed to the top of the little hill, we had a panoramic view. Elephants were visible in the distance. Seeing a shed snake skin caught in a bush, I asked Coleman if he sees many snakes. He said that last week they saw a python killing an impala!
Our other destination for the morning was Mzima Springs, for which Zoo Atlanta’s elephant exhibit is named. Dr. Maple used to tell visitors that there were indeed red elephants in Kenya, so the name was not inappropriate for our exhibit. Tsavo’s red clay matches Georgia’s. Our guide was Helen, a Kenya Wildlife Services Ranger. An amazing amount of water gushes from the springs. About 7 kms away it joins the Tsavo River. Water from the springs is piped to Mombasa. In October, the Sheldrick Trust rescued a four-month-old elephant from a manhole in this pipeline, illegally opened by local people to water their livestock. In the ponds around the springs, were hippos, crocodiles, many fish—and quite a few tourists, some of whom had come on day trips from Mombasa. Helen pointed out one crocodile “fishing”: he was motionless, with his mouth open, where a stream of water rushed through a small crevice in the rocks. By the time a fish saw him, it was past the point of return.
On the drive back, we saw Grants gazelles, more elephants, and a large herd of giraffes, spread among the trees. With their long necks, they can disperse and see each other at a great distance. In the riverbed near camp, there was a troop of Sykes monkeys.
We were back in camp about 1:00, a long morning’s drive. We went right to lunch: creamy gespachio or cream of garden soup; chicken kabobs; Bavarian cream. We stretched out on the deck until time for a quick cup of tea before the 4:30 game drive. Sophie and Vadim had decided to take the afternoon off. Right away we saw a family of 27 or more elephants, including two large males! They were right in the road, so we had to change directions.
As we returned to our tent about 6:00, G. stopped by the bar to purchase a bottle of wine to take back to our tent. Philip offered to deliver it. G. has developed a friendly relationship with him. After our showers, the wine arrived, iced in a bucket, with crystal wine glasses. As we sipped, we enjoyed the wildlife in our pond: the baby hippo came up right beside us, visible in the spotlights. An askari arrived for us at 8:00 to collect us and the guests in tents 28 (Vadim & Sophie) and 29 (Paul & Jean Ingraham). We asked the Ingrahams to join us at dinner. They were from Connecticut, an interesting couple, going next to Zanzibar. Dinner was again delicious. I ate parrot fish, G. a fillet. We were back in our tent at 10:00.

Saturday, September 14 – Relaxing on the deck at Kambi ya Simba (lion camp) with my first Tusker beer. A yellow-billed stork greeted us on our return from the morning drive, 9:00 till 12:15. We were again alone with Coleman. We had a sunnier, warmer morning. Being alone, we stopped a lot to look at birds, which was satisfying. Coleman knew them well and could park properly for G. to photograph. G.’s becoming quite the birder! There were a lot of dik-diks, a lot of hippos out of the water, and some elephants. We also saw a monitor lizard and dwarf mongooses, more new wildlife for us. The lizard has 72 teeth and no tongue!
I believe we were at one point near a predator: two dik-diks went leaping across in the distance; nearer, there were two giraffes and three waterbuck, none of which were watching us: all were looking to the area where the dik-diks had fled. Even were there a predator, we’d not have seen it with no off-road driving.
The afternoon game drive was our last in Tsavo, and a good one. We saw several bustard. Coleman had snacks, so we stopped for a sort of sundowner: chips and water! We are departing Tsavo with no further lion observations, a disappointment to me.
There are more people in the camp tonight, weekend visitors. One group is here for a wedding. Before dinner, we finished last night’s bottle of wine on the deck. The water hyacinth move in the pond with the wind. Tonight they’re scattered over it. With the Ingrahams, we enjoyed another elegant, delicious dinner: I ate pork, the others trout. As the askari brought us back, he pointed out a bush baby in a tree. Cute little thing! Also, we watched a yellow moving light in the sky. It wasn’t an airplane and was too slow for a shooting star. Eventually, it disappeared. G. speculated it might be a satellite burning out. We’ll never know. As we settled in for the night, the hippos were snorting and splashing.

Sunday, September 16 – From here on, Sundays seem to be our travel days!
We slept late: 7:00. At 8:15 Coleman took us and an Ethiopian couple to the air strip. She’s an exotic-looking lady. He’s German, with Hilton Hotels. Our charter plane was waiting, Cessna Model 206H. James our pilot said we’d do an instrument flight into Nairobi, Jomo Kenyatta. The charter was necessary because shortly before we left the States, the flight on which we were booked from Nairobi to Dar was cancelled. This was the only way to be certain we could make an earlier flight out of Nairobi. In addition to leaving Tsavo earlier, we flew into the International airport rather than Wilson, which saved the transfer time. Thank goodness, Suzanne dealt with all of this for us!
Fiona met us—with our rhino, hats, and book! She turned us over to a man and woman with Airport Services, who shepherded us on through the airport. We were X-rayed before entering the International terminal. Somehow, our escorts moved us to the front of various long lines. No one grumbled! Our observations of this whole day’s airport adventure showed us that African passengers seem to be a lot calmer about delays—and people being moved to the front of the line!
Once inside, we found an Internet café and checked e-mail. Then went to our departure gate, passing through another X-ray. At 12:15 a Kenya Airways spokesman announced that our 12:45 flight 0482 would be delayed until 2:45, as we were awaiting the arrival of the pilot! BUT we would be given lunch in the Transit Restaurant. In an orderly fashion, we all trooped off to get meal vouchers, then filled the restaurant, where we were served a choice of fish and chips or chicken and rice, with a soup starter, roll and butter, soft drink. We chose fish, but G.’s turned out to be chicken and rice. We appeared to be the only safari travelers in the group: i.e., everyone else was black.
After eating, we returned to the departure gate. At 2:45 we paraded out the gangway, down the stairs, across the tarmac, and onto the beautifully painted Kenya Airways airplane. A tuna sandwich lunch was served on board, but we passed.

asante sana – thank you
Sawa sawa – O K
simama tafadale – slow, please
hakuna matata – no problem
“In Kenya, everyone has a uniform.” Unknown source

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Old May 26th, 2008, 05:12 PM
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Here is the Tanzania portion of the write up.

Leamington met us at the Dar es Salaam International Terminal. We were fortunate this time to have gotten our visa in advance, as the visa line was quite long. Those of us with visas, passed right through. Bags were waiting for us. Leamington delivered us to the Kilimanjaro Kempinski, a very modern, large, airy hotel—marble, water, and glass—with welcome air conditioning. Dar appears tropical, with palm trees, but not as many blooming trees and shrubs as Nairobi. This being Sunday, traffic was light. We’re in room 427. After an Internet check, we showered and went to the roof bar (glass enclosed) for a drink, with ice—though we’re sticking with bottled water. From the bar, there was a view of the working harbor. We went down to the Palm Restaurant for pizza and wine. Quickly to sleep.

Monday, September 17 – We were breakfasted and ready when Gerard arrived for us at 7:00. Traffic was still not bad, though this is a city of 3,000,000. Gerard turned us over to airport porters, who took us to Coastal Aviation. All was smoothly handled. Our 8:30 flight left at 8:20, we being the only passengers on the 12-seat Cessna Caravan. At 8:55, we landed on a broad gravel strip at Timera (in the Selous) for two more passengers. Twenty minutes later, we picked up two more at Beho Beho (also in the Selous) from a bumpy runway in the center of a grass strip. All four of these were young couples—kind of rich and yuppie! Attractive.
Only we deplaned at Jongomero in Ruaha National Park at 10:45. Ruaha is a National Park, while Selous is a Wildlife Reserve. We were told last night that one fourth of Tanzania is parks and reserves! Kimero met us, in an open, three-tiered Land Rover. The drive to the camp was quick, only three kilometers. It’s very dry, though rains aren’t due until mid-November and will last into April. The roads (and air strip) are dusty; the trees and shrubs are mostly leafless. We saw one leafed green tree, a mahogany. Along the river (totally dry), trees have more leaves. There are elephant tracks and dung in the riverbed.
Emiel, the camp manager, welcomed us—well, the full staff welcomed us with song as our vehicle rolled into the camp. All the staff are black, but they were joined by two very blond little girls. This welcome typified the convivial atmosphere that Emiel created in the camp. The “house staff” wore colorful print shirts; others wore khaki. Wet face cloths and orange juice were offered. We signed a few papers, including one accepting the risk of riding in a fully open vehicle. Emiel said the reason for this is that the Tanzanian authorities are lobbying for closed vehicles, and the camp operators are gathering signatures to convince them that visitors want open ones. There were two young families with children in the lounge, actually part of one larger family group of eleven. The two little blonde girls had joined in the welcome song. Emiel is so genial and welcoming that all participate and have fun.
The bar/lounge area is completely open, with a small shop in one corner. Off to the side is the separate dining room, a covered veranda. The swimming pool is somewhat removed. There are nine “tent suites,” two on our side (we’re in #2) and seven on the other side. The family group are over there.
Our tent is screened all around, very tent-looking, which we prefer. Though there are flaps which could be lowered and zipped, there are also white broadcloth curtains, which we can close for privacy. The beds, twins pushed together, are in the center of the room. A deck faces the riverbed, several feet above the ground on this side of the tent. Behind the bed is the completely open screened bath, which is huge: two stainless sinks in a long teak counter, an 8' by 8' shower, closet area, toilet (of course!). Tea and biscuit were brought to our tent, where we sipped on our veranda, and watched an agama on a tree stump just off the deck. We hear birds!
We’ll have electric power for certain hours and solar thereafter. Though the water is from a deep bore and “perfectly safe for drinking,” we’re provided with filtered water in a flask. As usual, we’ll follow the advice of the staff on the water! We’ll be escorted from and to our tent at night. A walk with a guide and a National Park Ranger as guard is possible in the riverbed—2 ½ hours.
When we returned for lunch, we brought passports and my neck pouch to be put in the safe. Emiel produced a little red fabric bag with our tent number on it to receive them. Lunch was served al fresco on the riverbank: we, Layle & Joe (thirty-ish, from DC), and Emiel. The family ate in the upstairs dining area. One of the considerate things Emiel did (for both parties) was to separate the family group from the rest of us, saying they had asked to eat alone. Lunch included a small vegetable quiche, slaw, vegetable salad; fresh fruit in a thin pastry shell. It was good to have a lighter lunch. Afterward, we tried to stretch out and nap, but it was too warm, not much breeze.
At 3:30, we met Kimero, Layle and Joe in the lounge. After asking our sundowner preferences, Kimero talked about the varied habitats in the park. The Ruaha River forms most of the southern boundary. Our dry river is the Jongomero, which runs into the Ruaha about three kilometers down. Because of its varied habitat, Ruaha NP has some of both Eastern and Southern species—like roan and sable antelope. [These are in the northern part of the Park, and we’ll not be able to see them.] South and north of the Park are game reserves, as buffers. However, hunting is allowed in the reserves. One morning we heard shots. Emiel thought the hunters were too close to the boundary.
We had a delightful and fruitful game drive along the Great Ruaha River. Kimero knows much about the wildlife and enjoys it—often chuckling softly about animal antics. Warthogs have very short memories. When running from a predator, they can quickly forget why they are running and just stop—obviously, a fatal lapse of memory! Male giraffe have larger, longer horns than females; and the tips are worn. We saw yellow orchids in a tree. Toothbrush trees have spiky, red flowers, that look like a toothbrush. After the blossoms, seed pods form, which are also pretty. While the shrub is blooming, there are no leaves, which protects the blooms from being eaten. The yellow blossoms on the cassia trees are beautiful in the evening light. Terrapin live in fresh water; turtles in salt; tortoises, on land.
By 5:30, there were fantastic clouds in the sky and a light sprinkle of rain. The resulting lighting was beautiful for our sundowners by the river. Yes, we’re finally in the land of sundowners—with pizzazz: Kimero set up a table and chairs and laid out snacks and our drinks. We did have to be back at camp by 7:00, which we were. Dinner, after a delightful shower, was at 8:00—again al fresco on the riverbank. We were nine as a Dutch couple and a Russian lady, now working in Tanzania, and her 12-year-old son were with us this time. We started with a green soup; followed by fish curry, rice, vegetables, and a delicious pudding, another of what G. calls “squiggly desserts.” We had heard that food in Tanzania would have an Indian flair. It was after 10:00 when we returned to our tents for the night. The temperature cooled enough to sleep comfortably. Since tent #1 was unoccupied, we opened the curtains on that side.

Tuesday, September 18 – Our wake-up call came at 6:00 AM: coffee and chocolate left outside our tent on a table on our small stoop. Coffee is made using a press. This morning it had not yet been pressed and I was uncertain what to do. I just pressed the handle down and the result was coffee! At 6:30 we were on the road with Kimero, following lion tracks in the sand. Success: two lions with dark manes, though not very long. They were lying in a grassy area. They rose, one then the other, and marked the spot, then ambled into thicker brush. They weren’t scarred, though one was missing the tuft at the tip of his tail: quite handsome fellows.
Shortly, we saw an elephant—and the whole family materialized out of the scrub. There were about ten. Kimero estimated the matriarch at about 30. There were no others of her size, so she was perhaps the founder of this family? The sunlight was behind them, reflecting off their backs. There were a lot of baobab trees in the area we were driving through.
About 8:30, we displaced a large troop of baboons by the river and Kimero laid out breakfast: juice, fruit, cereals (three kinds), yogurt, milk, coffee, tea, boiled eggs, muffins. The eggs were in darling egg cups, coiled wire, each with a ceramic animal on the end of the wire: hippo, zebra, rhino (two). As we moved on, we saw greater kudu, which are larger and have fewer stripes than lesser. Kimero helped us be aware of the many animal sounds: impala making a big display call; fish eagles calling; the squeak of the dik-dik; and baboons barking. Kimero thought there must be a lion or leopard nearby, so we drove back, but couldn’t spot anything in the thick vegetation. We saw several more troops of baboons, whose play we enjoyed watching.
When Kimero referred to the lilac-breasted roller as the LBR, Layle shared TDI’s for little birds: “too difficult to identify.” Kimero thought that was quite amusing. I like it, too!
We watched another elephant family of ten. There was one feisty young male, who trumpeted at us—and at an impala. There was a large, tuskless male following, as well.
Another good lunch, whose details escape me. There are eight new folks, six of them less than 40—more honeymooners, I think! We’re now on our deck, listening to elephants eating across the river—then seeing them climb down the bank. Great spot to sit and observe!
We met Kimero at 4:00 for the afternoon game drive. Joe and Layle had decided not to go, so we had four new people with us: Carol and Bob (Greenwich, CN) and Helen and Mark (honeymooners from London. This brave man had surprised her with this honeymoon trip!). So Kimero began with some basic info again. It was fun to be with people on their first-ever game drive!
Adult dik-diks have a low mortality rate: they are territorial (and monogamous, mating for life) and so know exactly where to hide when threatened. Also, they are so small, large predators aren’t very interested in pursuing them.
We saw a youngish waterbuck in a herd of impala. He was an orphan and has grown up with the impala.
Next we saw our first-ever oribi! It’s a more delicate antelope than the impala even, with a short black tail. Usually solitary.
The magpie shrike is called the “butcher bird.” He has a short bill, so kills insects by sticking them onto thorns! He’s a lovely bird: black and white with a long tail.
Next a huge impala herd—maybe 75. We drove across a river bed—after driving along another—then into an open green area, where we stopped for sundowners, with giraffes and zebra in the distance. The sun set behind the Ilembula hills in the distance.
We were back in camp at 7:00, as required. After our showers, the whole group ate al fresco by lantern light. Tuna mousse starters; chicken with coriander, mashed potato, greens, beets; tequila lime pie. We were taken back to our tent about 10:00. Little notebooks had been left on the pillows, each with a personal note to one of us on the front page.

Wednesday, September 19–We’re on our flight from Jongomero to Selous Safari Camp. I leave with some sadness: this was a good park and excellent camp. Our manager, Emiel, is going on this flight to Selous, where he will again be relief manager, so we’re not leaving him as well as the camp. Emiel has six-month old twins, a girl and a boy, that he seldom sees. He says his wife is struggling, but his good job will insure that the children eat and will be educated.
We’d had our final game drive with Kimero at 6:30, with Mark and Helen. There were three trucks of four each today. Our jackets felt good this morning, as it was quite brisk. Kimero had us listen to the bird songs: “Praying to God: ‘Thank you for waking me today. Thank you for feeding me.’” And we, too, are thankful.
We noticed quite damp spots in the river bed, where water is rising to the surface. At another spot, there actually was water—and a huge herd of buffalo. Suddenly, they all stampeded away in a cloud of dust. Immediately, scores of ring-necked doves settled into the area, drinking in the shallows, perching in the trees, flocking in—but in silence. Their call is to me the sound of Africa: “Work hard-er! Work hard-er!” And in the evening: “Drink la-ger! Drink la-ger!”
G. asked why elephants push over a tree then eat only a small portion. Kimero says that trees have defenses: they secrete chemicals that don’t taste good. So the elephants (or other browsers) stop eating. Elephants will return in a few days, though, and eat the rest. They are eating shrubs rather than grass now because of the higher sugar content. We sat and watched three young males. They seemed unconcerned about us, until we turned and pulled away. Then one gave a little charge.
We stopped for tea and biscuit. No one would go hungry on a safari! As we continued our drive back to camp, we saw more giraffes.
At breakfast, we ate cereal and fruit—each couple seated at a separate table! Greg, the permanent manager, had returned. We showered in tepid water; then repacked with tonight’s necessities in our backpack—for the fly camp.
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Old May 26th, 2008, 05:13 PM
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Rest of Tanzania:

About 10:00 we were hustled out and onto the plane! Our 11:45 AM flight departed at 10:45! Schedules depend on the number of stops. This plane was fairly full. We dropped some at another Ruaha camp, where eight more boarded. We arrived at Siwandu at about 1:00. Mohamed collected four guests and Emiel. Trucks from other camps were there to pick up guests as well.
The manager for Selous Safari Camp is Janie, a white south African. She welcomed us, provided us with camp information, and introduced us to our butler, Shadrack. He was our only constant during our stay here: he attended us in the dining room, coordinated with the room steward (theoretically), etc. We will drink filtered water provided in a flask. Bath water is heated with wood by our room steward—apparently, on request.
Since we are going to the fly camp tonight and not staying in this camp, we weren’t taken to a tent, but to the dining area, leaving our luggage at reception. The dining room and bar are raised, fully open. Stairs go up between them, branching at an intermediate platform. Both overlook the lake with a wide area of “bush” between. There were bird feeders and bird baths nearby, so there was an abundance of birds, mostly various weavers. During lunch (tomato salad, prawns with bulgur wheat, cheesecake), Molly (a.k.a., Andrew) talked to us about our upcoming fly-camping experience. There’s more walking involved than we thought—more than G. would have agreed to! But we’re committed now. Molly approved of my bush clothing: “Spot on!” After our really chilly morning at Jongomero, it’s quite warm here. We changed (in the pool house) into shorts and packed the backpack again, removing sweater and jacket. All set: backpack, my binoculars, and G.’s camera. Our valuables have been stored in the safe, in a zipped pouch with our name on it.
At 3:30 we, Kathryn, and Ross (London honeymooners, lawyers) met Molly. We surrendered our backpacks to be driven to the fly camp. Each of us was given a water bottle in a canvas pouch to wear around our neck. “We have five more bottles for each of you. Drink a lot.” We boarded the covered john boat and rode across the lake. Makunda, our tracker and rear guard (who also carried a backpack with the extra water!) met us on the shore. The boat returned to the main camp. Molly, armed with a rifle, reviewed our walking instructions: we will walk single file, because it’s easier to keep track of us that way. If he stops, we stop. If we are near an animal, we follow his instructions explicitly and immediately. And we were off.
The Selous Game Reserve has lots of water: lakes, rivers, swamps, so is quite different from Ruaha. It was a brilliant afternoon—actually got quite warm before cooling as the sun set. Selous is the largest protected wildlife area in Africa and a World Heritage Site. Molly had information and a story about every animal, insect, and plant we saw. From the boat we had seen hippos and crocodiles. Molly said that if God laughs, his laugh would sound like the hippo’s snort. That’s not a bad thought! More on the crocodiles later. On the water’s edge were beautiful blue damsel flies, somewhat like dragon flies, which followed us for a short distance. As we walked into areas of more brush, Molly pointed out the wait-a-bit thorn, saying it was important we learn what it looked like. We did not want to brush against its fishhook thorns! G. said, “Like Br’er Rabbit and the tar baby: the more you move the more ensnarled you become!” Another curiosity he showed us some hyena poop, which was white because of the amount of calcium hyenas eat in bones.
I was amazed at how many animals we saw on foot, about like on a game drive! Almost immediately, we saw impala—and continued to see herds of them, generally at a distance. We also saw zebra, brindled (or blue) wildebeest, giraffes, and greater kudu. Buffalo weavers usually build their nests on the north (or northwest) side of trees, “So don’t use them as your only compass if you lose your way.” We saw vultures in a tree near the carcass of a recently killed (and mostly eaten) young impala, probably killed by baboons, Molly said. The Nubian (or lappet-faced) vulture is “the opener”: in a natural death, he’s the one which has a strong enough beak to open up the belly. Various vultures prefer various parts of the carcass.
Molly told a strange tale about the African jacana. The female pursues males to breed with. As soon as she lays eggs, she leaves the male to incubate them and seeks another mate. If she finds a male already on a nest and the eggs aren’t hers, she punctures them all and forces him to breed with her!
We arrived at the fly camp on the shore of the lake about 6:30. Molly explained the layout. The tents are domes of netting, with a fly sheet in case of rain. “If it rains, and you see some large animal on your tent, don’t be alarmed. That’ll be me putting the fly over it,” he said. Our beds were thick foam pads on the floor, made up like a bed with sheets and pillows. Outside on a sisal mat, were two camp chairs, a small table, a towel rack with towels, a stainless steel basin on a wooden stand, with an attached stainless soap dish. Beneath was a stainless pitcher of water for washing. There was a lighted lantern on the mat outside the tent—with more along the pathways. Off to the side of the camp, are a shower tent and a drop loo, in its own little tent.
After freshening up, we gathered under the dining fly for drinks and a further chat. The table was covered in a green batik cloth with animal motif around the edge. [We bought one like it before leaving the Selous.] Then Molly asked if we were ready for showers. Yes, we were! So he notified the staff to bring a bucket of heated water for the shower. “Each bucket holds enough water for about a five-minute shower. If you don’t use it all, let the rest run out so warm water can be brought for the next person.” We decided the honeymooners would go first—and together. Not to be outdone, G. and I also had our showers together in our turn—water conservation! The shower was in a canvas enclosure. There was a small area, with table for towels and clothes. Under the shower was a wooden mat. We had a great shower, with water left over! After his shower, Molly returned with a kikoi cloth wrapped around like a skirt. He was a delightful character—becoming more so as the evening progressed—and wine was poured freely and free! He reminded me of the roommate in Notting Hill. He is a white Kenyan, raised there. He gave us some suggestions for future trips to Kenya!
Dinner was served by Juma: soup; barbecued chicken and skewered beef, mashed potatoes, carrots; and a crepe for dessert. The camp provided sparkling wine in honor of Kathryn and Ross’s marriage and our anniversary. Emiel’s doing? Our conversation was interesting and far-reaching, fueled by flowing wine! One topic was tuskless elephants. We’d thought they were lucky to not be a target for poachers. Molly says it’s definitely not a good thing. Yes, poaching has left a disproportionate number of them—but a tuskless elephant can’t survive alone: he can’t strip bark from trees. Because females stay in their families, a tuckless cow can get bark another strips off. But a male alone is in a bad way. Molly put forward the crocodile as his favorite animal. It has been around ever since the dinosaurs, and is “perfectly” adapted. In bad times, a croc can go a year and a half without eating! He’ll do a type of hibernation: everything slows—heart to one beat per minute, breath to one per hour, I believe he said. He also said that crocodiles keep the water they live in clean by not eliminating in it. He showed us some solid urine on the shore. This truly sounds a remarkable reptile!
Finally, we retired to our tents. The sky was beautiful—and visible through the top of the tent. During the night we heard the hippos snorting and tooting in the lake, hyenas whooping, and lions roaring in the distance. And during the night, I had to make a trip to the loo. Molly had said not to go alone, but to call him. So I went out and called, but he didn’t hear. One of the other staff did, and I could hear him calling, “Molly. Molly.” Molly appeared with his flashlight and escorted me the loo, stopping a respectful distance away.

Thursday, September 20--Our wake-up call was at 5:45. Unfortunately, I’d been awake since my bathroom foray at 3:30. Warm water had been brought for our washbasin. We washed our faces and put on the rest of our clothes. Breakfast was juice, papaya, eggs, sausage, beans, toast, coffee or tea. By 7:00, we set off for a morning walk, which lasted till nearly 12:00! G. and I were pretty beat, but it was wonderful. We had an amazing encounter with two young elephant bulls. We crept to within 100 feet and for some time watched them tussle with each other. They never became aware of us. In spite of their bulk, their tussling was so quiet, that all we could hear was the occasional click of their tusks—ivory on ivory.
We also came amazingly close to a herd of eland, which are very skittish, even of the trucks on game drives. We walked through one area of very uneven footing. It’s called “black cotton soil”—when it’s wet, elephants walk through and leave their deep footprints. It dries with the deep holes, and eventually cracks as well. Kathryn spotted a snake, a puff adder, crawling into one of the cracks! Luckily, she saw it before one of us stepped on it. We also saw waterbuck, squirrels, mongooses, open-billed storks, yellow-billed storks, spoonbills, a malachite kingfisher, the goliath heron, fish eagles, and the bateleur (an eagle).
We saw a “kindergarten” of yellow-billed storks. Red-billed ox-peckers are helpful to animals, eating ticks and other pests from their hides. But they also require hair from giraffes manes as material for their nests. In areas where there are fewer giraffes, the ox-peckers really irritate them, sometimes even leaving them with bloody necks.
The palm nut vulture is a vegetarian, not a scavenger. Molly spotted a line of
siafu (army ants, safari ants, or driver ants) crossing our pathway. The main body marched in one directions, with soldiers moving along the edges to protect them. These are the ants that can strip the flesh from an animal in hours!
Just before 11:00 we walked into an abandoned safari camp. About four or five years ago, the operators were thrown out for not paying their park fees. And they just walked away from the camp, leaving tents, furniture, a safari jeep, a collection of skulls and bones, and an activities log! We took a short break here, sitting cautiously on termite-eaten chairs on the lake’s edge.
We returned to the fly camp, where we relaxed a few minutes before taking the boat back to the main camp. The fly camping excursion was one of the major highlights of the trip for me, giving a taste of what a safari must have been like in the olden days!
Emiel met us when we disembarked. Our bags were in tent #2. We came in and showered in barely tepid water—we’d not been there to request that it be heated! The “tent suite” was luxurious. The cement floor (these tents were not on raised platforms) was covered with a Kilim rug and several straw mats. Walls were screened, but with flaps and curtains to cover them at night. The beds were in the center, pushed together. Before them was the large veranda facing the lake, several hundred yards away. On the veranda were a desk and chair, sofa, side chairs, lamps, and a coffee table. The bath had two brass sinks set into a long counter, wardrobes, and a large shower outside the tent flap, surrounded by a tall bamboo fence. This set up was really a bit over the top!
After lunch (tomato and mozzarella salad, pork in a pancake with feta cheese, pumpkin custard), we rested, read, and wrote till our tea arrived at 3:30. At 4:00, we and another couple departed on a boat ride with Bakari. Scenery from the lake is beautiful. Many hippo, crocodiles, and birds: primarily white-fronted bee eaters nesting in a cliff—scores of them! And a pair of malachite kingfishers. A highlight of this ride was seeing 26 elephants cross the river right in front of us. I was afraid Bakari was taking us too close to them, but all was well.
We chatted in the bar with a group of nine from the U. S. traveling with Richard Salmon. Since Emiel knows we prefer not to be seated at a table alone, he included us with some of the camp management, which was quite interesting: Charles Dobie, one of the principals in Selous Safari Company, had just attended a meeting on tourism with the Minister of Tourism. The government is setting goals for increasing tourism revenue by increasing the number of beds—drastically. The only number I remember was 40 bed for this camp, which now has 18 (nine tents). Charles tried to impress the officials that doubling beds doesn’t necessarily double revenue, because the experience is so changed. Park fees in Tanzania have been significantly increased already. We had heard before leaving home that we might be asked to pay additional fees on site, but were not asked for that. Also at the table was a man (black Zimbabwean) being interviewed/interviewing for a job with the Selous company. We ran into him in the Johannesburg airport at the end of our trip and he said he was joining them.
A treat here was waking in the night to see a large silhouette against the tent wall. One night it was an elephant, another a large giraffe, slowly and silently moving past—with the occasional sound of a munch.

Friday, September 21 – After breakfast, we had our first game drive with Mashaka—and the couple from yesterday’s boat ride: Kevin and Iqwen (not sure, a Welsh name). Her legs showed the ravages of tsetse flies in Zambia. Will we suffer the same? I’m not sure we saw any more animals than on foot, but it was a good drive and long: 8:00 until 12:30. Here and in Ruaha, we saw tsetse fly traps, that looked by blue and blue flags.
We began along the lake shore, going west. As we saw flat trees, I recalled Molly’s saying yesterday that there are several reasons: by spreading, more leaves are exposed to sunlight and rain; more importantly, the branches also shade a shallow, widespread root system, which can draw in more water—and the shade slows evaporation. So, they aren’t simply the result of giraffes’ browsing.
Another Molly moment: there is little real fighting among rival males of all species. Even the winner may be injured; and an injured animal becomes a dead animal. Most of what we see is posturing, so both avoid injury. Aren’t these wild creatures intelligent?
We saw many giraffes, including a nursery of three very young—one still had its umbilical cord. attached. There’ll be a female within sight to protect them. Even so, two thirds don’t live through their first year!
The black heron uses its wing to shade the water so that he can see fish to catch.
We saw a blossoming baobab. The large white flowers, somewhat like camellias, last only 24 hours. The flowers have only a slight scent and are pollinated by a specific bat! The baobab fruit is the source of cream of tartar. In this tree and others, we saw large honey bee combs.
Our afternoon game drive was with Justin (white, recent “refugee” from Zimbabwe), Roy and Brenda from East Anglia (who are in their 80s!), and another London honeymoon couple. This was the first ever trip to Africa, and the first game drive for Roy and Brenda. What a special thing to share their experiences!
Right away we saw two hyenas hunting. One gave half-hearted chase to a young zebra. We watched a huge herd of zebra come to drink at the lake near the air strip—70 to 100 of them. We spent quite a while observing them and their extreme caution in approaching the water. One foal in particular may never have summoned the courage to drink.
Then Justin drove off-road and around a small thicket, and, lo and behold, we were at a hyena den—two mothers, two pups. One was still dark, two to three weeks old. The other was perhaps two to three months. The latter was a curious fellow, boldly exploring his world. He wandered around, tumbling over his mother, stalking—and catching—a twig. A couple of times, he trotted right toward the Land Rover, looking directly into our eyes. Too cute. Eventually with urging growls from his mom, he went into the den and mom loped off to hunt—we thought; but we spotted her a short distance away, asleep in the road. Did she just need a break from her active youngster?
We ate dinner with Brenda and Roy, with whom we had shared lunch. Tonight we had cheese ravioli and Moroccan lamb.

Saturday, September 22 – We began with a long, morning game drive with Mashaka, Roy , and Brenda. The African harrier hawk has double-jointed legs, which allow it to prey on chicks of other birds. His flexibility allows him to reach into nests and cavities easily.
At 11:30 Mashaka received a radio message that a lion and four lionesses had been spotted “a long way away.” We all agreed to make the trek. Luckily, we’d already had our tea and potty break! At one point, we slowed to let a large zebra herd gallop across the road. Mashaka drove directly to the lions, having recognized the specific bush described by his radio contact. We found only the four lionesses, panting under a tree. The story was that a tourist from Dar had approached the group on foot, frightening the lion away! We had a beautiful view of the girls, looking with composure and dignity right into our eyes. G. and I both got good pictures.
We returned to camp for a latish lunch: gespachio, chicken with fettuccine, coconut custard—yet another squiggly dessert!
At 4:00 we were on the boat, again with Bakari, going along the river. We saw one elephant crossing the river, many hippos—with one of which we collided below the surface. We saw various birds with fish in their beaks: malachite kingfisher, giant kingfisher, and fish eagle. Good fishing, apparently. Since we were alone, G. spent a lot of time photographing the white-fronted bee eaters, with great results, it turned out!
We made a few purchases in the camp store before dinner. During drinks in the bar, Roy and Brenda told us they had seen a leopard on their afternoon game drive/walk with Molly! Roy spotted it while they were walking. Even though we saw no leopards here, we were thrilled that they had seen it. I’m so glad Molly arranged a special walk for them. Roy has e-mailed us his picture of the leopard—really quite amazing. They will have wonderful safari memories—don’t we all?! At dinner we were by request with Brenda and Roy, at a private table set up on the intermediate deck. One honeymoon couple dined below “in the bush,” as Emiel called it, with flaming torches at the corners of their table. The other three couples were in the dining room. Though this was a buffet, Shadrack served and brought plates to us: shrimp cocktail; chicken, beef kabob, pork rib, potato, various salads; fruit trifle—unusual, mostly water melon!

Sunday, September 23–If it’s Sunday, we must be traveling! Because of our departure, we slept a little later today, but were breakfasted and on the plane at 9:10. Molly was on the plane with us, going on a week’s leave, with his cute girlfriend, who boarded on our intermediate stop in Beho Beho. Our lengthy layover at the Julius Nyerere International airport in Dar es Salaam was in a large room with four seats, of which we had possession of two! There were also no vending services. And this time we had not asked for a lunch from camp! At 2:00, we were able to check bags and enter the departure area, where there were shops. We ate cheese sandwiches, cleared final security, and went to our gate area. Joe and Layle were there, en route to Jo’burg and home. Our Zambian Airlines flight left the runway at 16:00, precisely on schedule!
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Old May 26th, 2008, 06:13 PM
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samcat - This has to be the most extensive trip report that I have every read on Fodor's and I mean that to be complimentary. Your details of the camps, dining experiences, the diversity of people that you encountered at the camps, your sightings and the knowledge you gleened from your Guides certainly was captured very, very well. I have been going to Kenya off and on since l994 and I learned things about some of the animals/surroundings that I hadn't heard of before. Did you have time to write in a journal every day? Either that or you have a wonderful memory gt;)

Thank you for taking the time to write and post this. I hope you will be able to post some photos of your fabulous trip.
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Old May 27th, 2008, 04:23 AM
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What a wonderful trip report! Thank you!
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Old May 27th, 2008, 06:22 AM
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Thanks for your kind comments on this report. Do enjoy it!!

This is Zambia portion, the final section of our wonderful trip. My brother and his family are going to South Africa and Botswana next week, so I'm living it with them.

With the time change (gained one hour), we were in Lusaka International at 5:00 PM. Robin Pope representatives met us, helped us past the visa point (fees waived for fourteen days), collected our bags, and put us on the Intercontinental Hotel shuttle.
Lusaka looked relatively prosperous. There was very little trash on the roadsides. We passed strip malls with Safeway supermarkets; service stations. Of course, traffic was light on Sunday evening. Some lovely lavender trees blossomed against the crimson sunset. We passed the CCC, the Campus Crusade for Christ Zambia complex.
The Intercontinental, where we were on the Club Level, was lovely. Unfortunately, our stay was brief—we had to be on the 5:30 AM shuttle! We visited our floor’s lounge for a couple of drinks and to read a newspaper, the first of the safari! Campus Crusade for Christ was in a front page picture: they made a large food donation. The President’s wife offered thanks and praise. There was also a reference to Christian Children’s Fund, being thanked by one of the young women who had benefitted from one of their projects. We enjoyed a pasta dinner in the hotel’s outdoor restaurant.
G. went to check e-mail; I to shower and bed!

Monday, September 24–Somehow, our alarm went off at 3:30 AM. I reset it for 4:30. After that, all went smoothly. Coffee and pastries were available in the lobby. We added a banana from our room. We and one other man were on the shuttle when it departed at 5:30, putting us at the airport before 6:00 AM. Anne had said she’d meet us at 7:00, but we didn’t see her. We paid our departure tax and were ready for a gate announcement. After we were in the departure lounge, the young man who had been with Anne the evening before, poked his head in to see that we had made it alright. Among other passengers in the lounge, were a number of hunters with their guide. That was disturbing to me—though I’m sure they had paid some exorbitant fee for the chance to slaughter beautiful creatures. Hopefully, the money will go to conservation and the parks.
We arrived at Mfuwe at 9:30. Julius and Julius met us. One Julius drove us to Nsefu, fully on display, in a totally open, roofless, tiered Land Cruiser. For the first 30 minutes, we cruised along a paved road, passing through areas that looked relatively prosperous. Many people were riding bicycles; women were walking carrying wood and other loads on their heads. In one yard, a boy was pushing a wire toy car with some sort of wheels.
After turning onto a dirt road, we passed through some villages, farmsteads, wooded areas. We saw carmine bee eaters. At 10:40 we passed through the Milyoti gate to the South Luangwa National Park. The gate keeper and his family appeared to live in a little house by the gate. A small girl came out to see us, speaking very little English. The first areas of the Park we passed through were mopani woodlands. When we reached a lagoon, we spotted various wildlife, including eland, impala, elephants, and puku (our first). Puku are a stockier antelope than the impala. In the Nsefu Sector, they were numerous, sometimes in herds with impala. We stopped by the lagoon for a tea break, actually soft drinks.
At 11:45 we reached Nsefu Camp. Daudi, camp manager, and Becky, the hostess (a young English woman), greeted us with face cloths and juice. Though we were offered anything else from the bar. There were six stuccoed rondavels with thatched roofs. Reception and the bar/lounge were on one end and the dining “tent” on the other, entirely open. Our bags were delivered to rondavel #3. The rondavels had open, barred windows, curtained for privacy. The bed was, as usual, in the center, with no other furniture—nor room for any! The bath was attached behind the bed, with two rounded steps to the lower level: shower, sink, toilet. Power was available until 10:00 at night. A lighted lantern was left on each veranda at night and another on the bathroom floor. Though I liked this park and camp very well, these were my least favorite accommodations, largely because they didn’t allow air circulation and the weather was warm— actually hot!
Lunch was served in the dining tent. Afterward, we tried to nap a while, but it was just too hot. The best plan, suggested by Becky, was to wet a kikoi and spread it over your body! That did help.
Just before 4:00, we all gathered for tea in the lounge. Our sundowner preferences were determined. A one-liter water bottle, labeled with our name, was available for each guest. These were refilled and refrigerated after each game drive, to be used the next time. We approved this resource-saving procedure. At 4:00 G. and I joined our guide Braston, Juliette, and Parry, and English couple, for the evening game drive. Juliette told us that Braston is known as “Leopard Man.” He chuckled at that! Juliette was quite a birder, so we learned and enjoyed many birds, including an amazing colony of carmine bee eaters! Initially, we saw eight or ten lined up on an arched branch of a bush over the riverbank. Then there were large flocks of them, brilliantly carmine in the sunlight.
We saw seven of a pride of 10 lions—five lionesses and two young lions. The flies were giving them a fit. We were told that one mating couple had gone off by themselves. All three vehicles from Nsefu Camp watched them for several minutes, as the sun set. Near the lions on the river, there was a hooded vulture, the smallest. They feed on lion droppings! We did not have our sundowners with them, but moved to another location, while the sky was still pink. As Braston and Moses, our spotter, packed away the drinks, Juliette said, “Now for leopard!” Just as the lights were switched on and we drove forward, Braston said, “It’s a leopard,” referring to reflecting green eyes in the distance. And sure enough, he was right! As we approached, Hazel Eyes, as she’s called, descended into a ravine and was joined by her cub! He was two or three months old. She had a second cub, who wasn’t with them. As she walked along, the mother chirped quietly, calling for the lost cub. We followed these two for some time, eventually joined by the other two vehicles. This was a beautiful and emotional experience, beyond description.
We left them to relocate the lions and see if they were hunting. They were on the move—moving toward the same area as the leopards. At the approach of danger, the cub hid in a thicket and reappeared only after the lions had moved on, giving chase to a hyena.
Before leaving the cats, we spotted the other leopard cub, still some distance from his mother. We hoped he would soon be reunited with his family. We saw another hyena and two spotted genets.
As we thought we were headed back to camp, we saw lights in the distance, not in the direction of camp. The camp staff had encircled an area with hanging lanterns, and were preparing a bush dinner! After drinks and hors d’oeuvres (stuffed mushrooms, I believe), we each chose raw beef and/or chicken, vegetables, rice. Our selections were individually cooked in woks on two small fires. The meal was topped off with bananas Foster. What a surprise and treat this outing was.
On the drive back we saw a giant eagle owl!
We were back for a shower and bed—in our still quite warm rondavel. Tonight the camp was filled to capacity: twelve guests.

Tuesday, September 25–Our wake-up call came at 5:30, followed by breakfast on the riverbank: juice, fruit, cereal, porridge cooked in an iron pot on a camp fire, toast on the brazier, coffee, and tea. G. woke this morning with a very sore foot—a result of our long bush walk at Selous? He is limping pretty badly.
We set off around 6:30. In addition to the usual, we saw six of the pride of lions by the river. As the three others came running to join them, two became very interested in a tree. They circled it and stared into it from all sides. One actually made a lunge as though to climb up. We thought perhaps a leopard had left a kill in the tree, but when the lions left, we could see no reason for their interest.
It was interesting that herds of antelope and baboons grazed together. We saw interesting flora, too. The Mexican poppy is a thorny plant with a yellow flower. We continued to identify birds, well, Braston did. Many names are in the process of being changed, as part of a process to standardize nomenclature among Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Some of the birds have such exotic names, matching their exotic appearance: black-eyed boubou, water dikkop (soon to be thick-knee), red-billed mousebird, Lilian’s lovebird, blue waxbill, red-billed firefinch, green shank, laughing dove, and white-bowed coucal, for example.
The afternoon/evening game drive was again overwhelming. Finally, we got a close look at the Thornicroft giraffe, a large male. The markings on the Thornicroft’s neck aren’t as distinct as on the rest of the body; and below the knees, there are no markings. On this male, the bottom of his legs were solid blond.
At 5:45 we saw the first leopard of the evening, Hazel Eyes’ elder daughter. After sundowners, we joined Simon’s group at a tree where Hazel Eyes had a kill (impala) in the branches. Just as we glimpsed her, she came down and moved away.
We saw a genet, a porcupine, and the flap-neck chameleon—an amazing spot by Moses: this green chameleon, among the green leaves, up over our heads in a tree, in the dark, looking like another leaf! But we all saw it.
And then, the third leopard, Hazel Eyes’ mother. She was quite small, not at all afraid of us! In fact, she used our vehicle as cover to move closer to a herd of impala! She was right below my seat, no more than three feet from me! What a feeling. We did not linger long, because we feared we might be interfering with her hunt. Leopard Man had proved his powers.
We were back in camp and allowed time for a shower before dinner: French onion soup; beef, cauliflower gratiné, beans and baby corn, potato; delicious custard. It seemed a little cooler than the previous night.

Wednesday, September 26—We responded to the early wake-up in order to tell folks good-by, but almost everyone else had elected to sleep in! We dressed, packed, and had a relaxed morning reading, writing, and visiting. Unfortunately, no credit cards were accepted here. We pooled our cash and managed to cover the tips we wanted to leave and still buy a shirt for me! G.’s ankle was a little better.
About 9:00, we left for Mfuwe with Braston. He was also ferrying two workers into town. Just as we left, we were confronted with elephants in the road. We waited, Braston driving slowly toward the large ones. As we went by, all three trumpeted. Saying good-by?
It was a long, slow drive. There was a little brush with a lorry, which refused to give way on the road as we passed. On this return drive, I was more aware than two days before of the poverty of the people. They are eking out a living in harsh conditions. Digging in the dry riverbed for drinking water and to wash clothes; carrying everything on their heads or on bicycles: ten bricks, a large basket, a long piece of lumber. No domestic animals were visible except a few chickens. Are we helping at all by visiting?
We were at the Mfuwe International (flights to Malawi) Airport before 11:00. Julius met us, took our bags, and said our 12:00 flight had been changed to 1:00. We sat with Braston in a garden to eat the sandwiches Becky had sent along. Braston went off to handle some business. We checked the one shop, but, of course, had no money to buy anything! Braston took us into the terminal where we went through a casual security check. This departure was a bit more like those in Botswana: “Wait here. A pilot will come for you.” And two appeared. We were two of four passengers on our flight of a little over an hour to Royal. Only we deplaned. We were met in the same type Land Cruiser, but maroon, rather than green.
Although we were near both the Chongwe and Zambezi Rivers, the land was quite dry and desolate-looking. We were greeted at the camp by Duncan, chief guide and activity organizer. Gary is camp manger, but we hardly saw him. Both were white South Africans. We were again in a real tent, which we prefer. Even for the night, the curtains on only one side were closed— consistently for all tents to preserve privacy. This allowed a breeze and kept us cooler than at Nsefu. There were eight tents on our side of reception (2 through 9): #1 and two newly constructed “suites” were on the other side. We’re in #3, which is convenient, due to G.’s lame foot.
Shortly, we all gathered for tea, including a delicious chocolate cake! At 4:00, we and a young Dutch couple, Judith and Bram, departed for the evening game drive with George and a spotter. George was experienced and easier to understand that some of our guides. He pointed out the winterthorn tree (another species of acacia!) which was fully leafed—and doesn’t have leaves in the rainy season. The trees here had a kudu “browse line,” kudu being the tallest browser in the Lower Zambezi National Park. The long-pod acacia has yellow blossoms. Warthogs are among the first to perish in a period of drought, as they don’t browse at all.
Our camp was actually just outside the Park, so we had to stop at a gate for George to pay our entry fee.
There are three types of termites:
• wood termites, which coat the trees in “mud” from the bottom up, and eat from inside this covering.
• harvest termites, which inhabit small ant hills. In some areas they eat 85% of the grass.
• fungus termites, which build the tall mounds as cooling towers over their underground nests.
Some of the really desolate-looking areas were the sites of old villages, where all trees were cut and the ground swept daily. The village dwellers were relocated in the 1940s due to an epidemic of sleeping sickness. There were areas of severe erosion, which looked like miniature Badlands or Grand Canyons! White-fronted bee eaters were feeding on the ground in some of these swept areas.
Douglas, a handsome lion, was lounging near the remains of a buffalo carcass, which we were told he had stolen from a leopard! He’s being pressured by three young lions who have crossed from Zimbabwe. A leopard had been spotted nearby, but George couldn’t locate it.
Word came on the radio that wild dogs had crossed the Chongwe River! Would we see them? As it turned out, we didn’t, so there were none on this trip. We’ll have the great memories of our encounters at King’s Pool and Mombo.
The evening air was filled with wonderful smells: mahogany flowers, jasmine, wild basil, seemingly intensified by gathering dusk. We enjoyed sundowners a meadow by the river as the sun set behind the Zambezi Escarpment.
Afterward, George found a leopard! She climbed a tree and settled on a branch, waiting for prey to come nearer—or for us to get out of her way! With the full moon, hunting becomes more difficult.
We were back in camp in time for a quick, but not hot, shower. There was a brisk wind which had blown out the pilot light in our water heater, a peril of open-air bathrooms.
All guests were seated at one table for dinner, with Caroline (reservations manager) and George as our hosts. Our meal: salad, chicken stroganoff, potato, beans, squash; cake. Though we have electricity all the time, a lantern was left burning at night outside each tent and in the bathroom. This was a delightfully cool night for sleeping with hippos cavorting in the river nearby and hyenas whooping in the distance. We used a blanket!

Thursday, September 27–We were waked early by an elephant rubbing against one of our tent posts! Our 5:15 wake-up call followed shortly. After a cold breakfast, we departed about 6:00 with Richmond, a spotter, and four other guests. Our objective was a large pride of eleven lions.
First, we came across an elephant cow with a tiny baby—it actually walked beneath her chest. Sadly, the cow had a bad leg, swollen at the ankle. She appeared hardly able to walk, though she could move pretty quickly if we approached her calf too closely. No other elephants were near. Why weren’t some of her family there to help her? She did not at all like our being near, so we turned and went another route. [I’ve tried unsuccessfully to find out what became of this pair.]
What was identified as burning-bush vine looked very like the toothbrush tree seen earlier.
On a cliff overlooking a marsh, were a lioness and two small cubs. The cubs were gnawing on the rear end of a small buffalo carcass. Apparently, the lioness had killed it alone. She was panting heavily. Across the marsh, baboons carried on as usual, with no alarm calls.
We returned to camp without finding the large pride of lion. A buffet lunch consisted of chicken curry, with a selection of salads: carrot/pineapple/raisin, bean, and green. Russell, the cook/chef/food manager ate with us. All management at Chongwe were white, mostly South Africans. We never quite figured out who was in charge. There were new staff appearing daily!
After a refreshing siesta, we set off at 4:00 on a canoe safari down the Zambezi and into a side channel. Bram and Judith were in the second canoe. Our guide, Levy, paddled their canoe, and Collins, a guide-in-training, paddled ours. It was a quiet and beautiful experience, one of the highlights of Chongwe. While gliding along, we saw almost all the animals we had seen before and many birds. The green-backed heron sometimes fishes with bait, catching insects and dropping them into the water to attract fish!
Two elephants with calves crossed the river ahead of us. One calf lagged behind—we did not approach until it was reunited with its mother! We watched a cattle egret eating a frog. Along came a gray-headed gull which tried to steal it—but failed.
A Land Cruiser and driver met us for the evening game drive as we disembarked. Our sundowners were in the same spot as the day before. Levy tried so hard to find “exciting” animals on the return drive, but there was little activity. As he was making a final check along the Chongwe outside the Park, a leopard was spotted in a tree across the river. All groups returned late to camp. At dinner, we visited with Boet (Henry) Liebenberg, whose son (and he before) owns this camp, or at least the land. We had thought it was a Robin Pope camp, but obviously not! Our arrangements were just made through RPS. Among other topics, we discussed Mark and Delia Owens experiences in Zambia.
We weren’t back in our tent for the night until 10:00. The hyenas and baboons caused quite a racket for hours. We decided to relax around camp the following morning.

Friday, September 28–This was our final safari day! We slept and lazed until late—6:30! We showered, dressed, and had a leisurely breakfast with those doing the boat activities and Bram and Judith, who were departing for Mfuwe. Kudu and impalas came down to the opposite bank to drink. We saw a man walk through the camp with a queen-size mattress on his head. Earlier, I’d seen one carrying two twin mattresses. Apparently, they just switch mattresses to convert from queen to twin beds, or vice versa.
At about 9:30, Boet, as he had suggested last night, drove us over to Conservation Lower Zambezi. Boet was among its founders in 1995. Now it is largely supported by the Danish Embassy. CLZ’s focus is on Conservation, Environment Education, and Safari Guide Training. Several of the guides at Chongwe are graduates (George, Levy) or trainees (Collins). An explanatory leaflet of CLZ in included.
There was a rescued elephant, Zamma, about six months old, being hand-reared. She was a darling little creature. As do the elephants at the Sheldrick Center, from whom CLZ has sought advice, Zamma has a keeper with her all the time. She is allowed to wander around during the day. We, of course, could pat her. The rough hairs which cover elephants’ skin are always a jolt to me, though I’m well aware they are mammals. Zamma needs the company of other elephants.
Boet gave us a thorough tour: classrooms (where a teacher education class was in progress), computer area (situated in an open shelter), and dormitories. Afterward, he drove us the Chongwe House. After determining that the current guests were out for the morning, he took us through this fantastic (literally) house! Jo Pope is a partner is the venture—the Robin Pope connection. The house has four suites, each unique. The baths feature outdoor pools and showers that mimic waterfalls; bedrooms are fully open to the outdoors, with views of the river. It is constructed totally of local materials—lots of tree trunks, etc. The house is rented out to one group at a time. The package includes a separate chef, guides, etc.
When we returned to camp, Boet also showed us through the two suites, which are on a slightly lower scale than Chongwe House, but still quite spiffy! They, too, have a separate bar, kitchen staff, etc.
After a drink, we had another “light” lunch: beef lasagna, salad, bean salad, squash and carrots. The same group had been in camp for several days, so we had become fairly comfortable with each other. We heard that thirteen South African fishermen were to arrive that afternoon. “Compulsory nap time” followed lunch. The habitual one-tusked elephant, who frequented the camp, was around all day: rubbing against tents, shaking acacias to shake loose the fruit. There was a delightful breeze. G. photographed the elephants in camp and hippos in the river.
At 4:00 Collin took G. and me out into the Zambezi on the platform boat. The ride was very peaceful. Mana (four) Pools, Zimbabwe, is just across the river. Eland were grazing there as we watched. Again we were saddened to think of what’s become of that beautiful country. The sunset was fittingly beautiful to be our last—on this trip! A large Zimbabwean elephant bull, munching in the marsh, watched us as we watched the sunset, which G. filmed in its entirety.
Another management person had returned from leave: Collins, a young white Zimbabwean lady, greeted us with face cloths on our return to camp. She told us the fishermen had arrived and that the other six of us would be having dinner in the suites! One couple had been moved over there: they had been scheduled for fly-camping, which had been cancelled. Drought conditions had stressed the animals to such an extent that Park authorities had suspended walking in the bush. I guess since they had been scheduled out, there wasn’t a regular tent available for them!
When the other four returned from their game drive, we were all escorted to the suites. The setting was elegant: drinks were served as we sat on comfortable tan leather sofas, and we watched the full moon rising over the Zambezi. It was reflected orange in the blue water of the small infinity pool. Frogs provided dinner music. Dinner was perhaps too spicy, but exotically tasty. Starters were mushrooms in sauce over toast, which were very good. Followed by beef and various spicy vegetables, rice; banana tart. It was nearly 10:00 when we were escorted back to our tent. The hyenas were calling in the distance—and the hippo chorus was, as always, there.
Lala Salama!

Saturday, September 29–We slept until 7:00. I thought we were the last to come to breakfast, but Boet and Collins joined us. After our final packing, we were ready to depart at 9:00. There was a fair amount of purple hyacinth floating in the water. Is this the same plant that some days covered our edge of Lake Naivasha?
We left without seeing any of the management staff, which was a bit of a letdown after the personal good-bys at the other camps, but OK. When I asked, Collins did see that we had a lunch to take along—I was never sure we would be able to find food en route! Richmond drove us to the airstrip.
At 11:00 we were airborne with Graham, the Pro Flight Islander pilot. We were the only two passengers, though he had expected to pick up some others. A call to their camp revealed a Sunday departure date.
At 11:45 we landed in Lusaka, where the airport was wet from recent rain. Pro Flight staff took us to our international departure area. Immigration was smooth. Flight 063 left on time for Johannesburg. Our bags had been checked straight through from Lusaka to Atlanta! We were not required to go through customs, but ran into a snag at the Delta counter, where we were to get our boarding passes: the computer was down, which entailed, for us and all other passengers, an hour plus wait while tickets and passports were couriered upstairs and returned with boarding passes. We were then allowed through security again and into the departure area. I didn’t wait well! We talked with a couple who’d just come from the Victoria Falls Hotel. Though they had felt safe, there were various problems, mostly lack of supplies—only one or two items on the dinner menu were actually available, for example. So sad.
We made a quick grab for a few African tourist items in Duty Free—basically our only shopping of the trip, since we were hardly in a town after Nairobi and had been so worried about our baggage weight! As it turned out, our carry-ons were never weighed. Since Suzanne had promised that the shopping in the Jo’burg airport was great, we hadn’t worried about purchases. And not shopping was fine!
Delta flight 35 departed on schedule at 6:45 PM from Johannesburg to Atlanta, via Dakar, Senegal. The first glass of champagne was most welcome! About eight hours later, in Dakar, seven passengers deplaned. The plane was cleaned, catering refreshed, and security thoroughly searched the aircraft: each passenger was asked to stand, the seat cushions were removed, seat pockets were searched, and we each were asked to identify our carry-on bags. After about an hour and forty-five minutes on the ground, we were on our way to Atlanta. We both slept several hours on this leg. Our Atlanta arrival was smooth, and slightly after 9:30 AM we were at our house!
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Old May 27th, 2008, 03:23 PM
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I read through Kenya so far. A leopard on the first day. No fair! I peeked ahead to know you had leopard luck this trip. Interesting observations and facts in Nairobi including the mob justice beating.
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Old May 27th, 2008, 03:36 PM
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thank you very much for your really detailled report - highly appreciated! not only for the description of camps etc. but also in view to your wildlife encounters and educational parts on animal behaviour which is wonderful!

thanks also for a kind of deja vû you surprised me with:

i stayed at chongwe river camp in june last year and that was when the tiny elephant calv just had arrived. lonely in front of camp with no other elephant around - that's what we were told.
i have tried to get information on the elephant's well being afterwards but never got a report. so this seems to be part of the company's policy ;-)

as i love all animals but particularly elephants we foster 5 elis at the sheldrick foundation and therefore i pointed out to the camp manager this foundation and obviously daphe sheldrick's advise was well received.
i am really glad to learn that the zamma made it at least to sep last year! and i hope they will take care of her further!
the problem is that young eli don't die only of physical problems but formemost because of lack of love from other elis.

when we stayed there there were also 2 male lions which obviously crossed the river from mana pools. one was collared but the collar was far to tight. they both were not yet fully grown - would estimate sub-adults.
have you got some information on them?
again: i did not get information from the camp despite i sent several mails.

what i particularly disliked at chongwe: when we left the driver waited until we boarded the aircraft and left immediately with the new guests.
was puzzling as we have never had that before. always they wait until the guest is airborn.

thanks a lot for your report!
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Old May 27th, 2008, 06:37 PM
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Dana, I did write in my journal every day. I had a small notebook on game drives, then tried to write more detail in the afternoon or at night. At home, I added more from memory and photos. Thanks for your comments.

Divine54, Interesting to read your comments on no comment from Chongwe River Camp. I guess we'll never hear. I don't know anything about the two male lions. It's fun sharing comments with someone else whose been there!

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Old May 27th, 2008, 07:41 PM
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Very interesting observations while in Nairobi. And I echo Lynn's comment about leopard on first day. Lucky!

I feel as if I'm gaining weight just reading your report.
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Old May 28th, 2008, 05:03 PM
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Now I am through Tanzania. I always enjoy the sounds of hippos through the night when I am near water. The observation that their snorts are what God's laugh sounds like now explains that to me.

A year and a half without eating in hard times! Now that's an incredible characteristic of the croc. I have trouble skipping a meal.

Glad you Selous fly camp experience was a good one. How wonderful to have your own ele parade through the river.

A hyena den with pups is a favorite, how fortunate to see such little ones.

That tourist from Dar who approached the lion on foot is lucky to still have both of his.
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Old May 29th, 2008, 05:21 PM
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The leopard luck continued in Zambia with Leopard Man and the Hazel Eye family. Thanks for the termite lesson. An elephant crossing while you were in the canoe had to be great.

Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia. What a marvelous cross section of African bush. Glad your trip was so successful.
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Old May 29th, 2008, 06:44 PM
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Very well written and informative report. I enjoyed reading it and thank you for posting it.

One question about Ruaha... you said there were almost no leaves on the trees, but later descriptions of the flora seem to contradict that to some extent. I'm not being picky, just interested.... I realise the original statement was a general or first impression kind of thing, but I wonder if you really found it that parched - that the trees had all shed?
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Old May 30th, 2008, 08:23 AM
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Thanks to all for reading and for your comments.

Kimburu, Ruaha was parched. There were more greenish trees along the river, but away from it, leafless for the most part.

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Old May 30th, 2008, 08:07 PM
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What a great detailed report, Samcat. I am enjoying all of factual tidbits of information. Kenya was good to you. You had wonderful sightings almost everywhere, but particularly at Little Governors. I do hope you have an opportunity to go to Lewa Downs on your next trip. I had an excellent time there several years ago.

You also had good sightings in Tanzania. Ruaha was quite productive for you, as was Selous. I’m surprised you saw as much on foot as you did.

How fitting that you were teamed with the “leopard man” at Nsefu. You also had great sightings at Chongwe, including more leopard. What a wonderful trip you had.

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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 07:42 PM
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Dear Samcat:

We are four also from Atlanta who will be making our second trip to Africa in October/November--Kenya and Rwanda. Would love to visit Sheldrick Trust and Giraffe Center and would like your opinion/advice as to whether it is worth carving out time to visit one or both. We will adopt an elle before we leave.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2008, 01:37 PM
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EnthusedElaine, If you like elephants, you'll love the visit to the Sheldrick Trust. So, yes, for that.
As to Giraffe Manor, if you're not going to spend a night there, I'd say you could skip: although you do get to pet and feed the giraffes (which you can do at some zoos). IF you are visiting Karen Blixen's house, it's in the same area and would be worth making a stop.
Hope this helps. Did Suzanne by any chance arrange your trip? I know she does a lot to Rwanda.
Have a wonderful time!
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Old Jun 7th, 2008, 08:35 PM
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Many thanks, samcat, for your reply. Our "gut feeling" was what you validated in your email to me.
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Old Apr 26th, 2009, 10:35 AM
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Many thanks, Samcat. Getting ready to do nearly the same trip in Jan 2010. Your report is a great help.
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