Patty & Mark's 2006 Kenya Tanzania Report

Jan 1st, 2007, 10:00 PM
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Dec 7 – A couple of things I forgot to mention about the activities at Joy’s Camp. They’re still working on the program but at some point there will be visits to Magado crater which is located outside of the reserve (somewhat of a longish day from what I understand) and in the dry season guided walks can be taken along the river gorge. Right now it’s possible to stay out on game drives until 8:00pm but they’re negotiating with the Isiolo council to see if they can stay out later.

Back to Elsa’s… in the information packet in the cottage is a list of possible destinations for game drives and their approximate distances. We were somewhat limited in where we could go due to the rains but decided to try for the rhino sanctuary where no one had gone for the past 3 weeks. Joyce, Rod, Mark and I left camp at 6:30am with a packed breakfast. We made it there just fine and on the way saw zebra, hartebeest, giraffe, impala, gazelle, baboon, buffalo, a black bellied bustard and male Somali ostrich. After entering the fenced sanctuary, we came upon this beautiful valley littered with dozens of rhino! We picked up our binocs and oops, those aren’t rhino, they’re buffalo. Surely the ones over there are rhino, uh… no they’re not either. OK the ones to the left must be rhino. This went on until we realized every single one was a buffalo quot;>
John must have thought we were the most clueless bunch he’s ever taken on a game drive. Deflated we continued on. We saw many rhino tracks and finally did come upon 5 white rhino grazing in an area with very tall grass. We decided to stop for breakfast right there and John set out a picnic for us on the bonnet. I sat on top of the vehicle and designated myself the unofficial lookout. Species seen at breakfast – a hammerkop and a frog.

A rain shower started as we were leaving the sanctuary after breakfast. At one point it got heavier and John was very concerned about us getting wet and insisted on putting the top and side panels on. The roads were getting very wet and John decided to take a detour in the grass and this was where we got stuck. John got out and started putting brush and rocks under the tires each time saying “I’m sure this time it will work” Mark and Rod decided they would try to help. They have to climb out the front passenger side because the rear door won’t open with the side panel attached. Rod gets out of the vehicle and immediately slips and falls right into the mud. Mark already had one foot out of the vehicle when this happened and sat right down in the front seat and proclaimed “someone has to hold the low range in gear”. Rod is now coated in mud but otherwise fine and we all have a good laugh. Eventually we got unstuck. No one wanted mud caked Rod back in the vehicle so he had to put on his rain poncho and strip the rest of his clothes off, riding the rest of the way in only his rain poncho. It was the most hilarious game drive I’ve ever been on.

We continued driving around and come across a KWS truck. Joyce & Rod ask me what they’re trying to tell John. I reply that I think they saw cheetah between marker 10 & 11, explaining that kumi means ten and kumi na moja means eleven. Rod asks me what the Kiswahili word for cheetah is to which I reply duma. He then asks if that’s how I know it’s cheetah. I said oh no, I know because he said “cheetah”

We head over to try to find the cheetahs but no luck. We did however see a turtle, 3 bat eared foxes, eland, a grey duiker, spur-winged plover, water thick-knee and marabou stork before returning to camp. At one point a lesser kudu jumped across the road in front of our vehicle into the thick bush. Of these, I was only able to photograph the turtle and a few of the birds. Here in Meru, we also have our very first tsetse fly sightings. Luckily, there aren’t too many of them and they’re slow moving and easy to kill.

Back at camp, Rod goes to wash up and we all meet later for lunch. Lunch was quiche and another nice selection of salads. After this morning’s adventure, we all decided to stay put and relax at camp for the rest of the afternoon. Mark and I spent some of that time setting up a scavenger hunt for Paul (kimburu) and his wife who were arriving on the 9th. We’d tried to find a set of big 5 trinkets throughout the trip for this purpose but ended up having to settle for hippo in lieu of buffalo. We found out they would be occupying the same cottage as us so the first clue was easy.

Emma invited us to watch the Tsavo Story DVD in their cottage. As we were sitting there watching, rock hyraxes kept running past the entryway. Another rain shower started and we decided to wait it out in their cottage and do some more hyrax and vervet monkey watching. Emma also showed us a photo of the leopard cub that was in Ura cottage back in April.

I’d been wanting to go for a swim all afternoon but each time, it would start raining. It was getting late and I was determined to try out the pool and decided to brave the weather. I couldn’t convince anyone else to join me and Mark, Joyce and Rod all sat at the bar. The view from the edge of the pool is magnificent and if I sat quietly, the rock hyraxes would start coming around. I stayed in until I couldn’t stand the cold any longer.

Dinner this evening was back under thatch, a nice pumpkin soup, stuffed chicken and orange chocolate mousse for dessert. We’re leaving tomorrow which is much too soon. You know it’s a great place when you can’t bear to leave.
Patty is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2007, 05:45 AM
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I'm really enjoying your report, Patty. And your pictures are great also.

I'm off to Kenya in 16 days (meeting divewop there) and the rains sound a little worrisome. I hope I don't end up like Rod and fall in the mud.
sundowner is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2007, 06:24 AM
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Reading your account and Joyce's account of the same events gives an interesting perspective. Kind of like the Bible. I recalled that huge herd of rhino that turned out to be buffalo. And then, so that's where you both got those good bush baby photos.

I am impressed with your birding knowledge. Soon you'll be doing photo IDs of the unknown birds captured on memory card. Thanks for staking out the gerenuk hot spots too. Between the gerenuk and your humorous comments in the log, I may have to make a getaway soon and see for myself.

Visions of stampeding horses spooked by a dik dik are haunting me.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2007, 04:28 PM
Join Date: Jun 2006
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Hi Patty -- I'm really enjoying your trip report so far! What a nice way to get back to reading this board after a holiday break. Looking forward to more...
MyDogKyle is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2007, 06:12 PM
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Yummm, pumpkin soup - such memories that you're bringing back with this well done report. Appreciate the time your putting in. Look forward to more and concluding whether or not this trip was as spectacular as your last.
Thanks Patty;
cybor is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2007, 08:38 PM
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Thanks for all the info on your trips. Makes planning a lot easier.

We are planning trip for JUne 2007 and are considering Eastern & Southern Safaris for a private safari. You are evidently very satisfied with their service and price since you have gone on multiple trips with them. Are they good at solving any problems so your trip is not interupted? Who would you suggest for driver/guide for Kenya? Tanzania?

We are in 60s, first trip and are considering:
2 days Giraffe Manor
2 days at Chui Lodge(Lake Naivasha)
1 day Sweetwaters
2 days Elsa Kopje
2 days Elephant Watch or Larsens
(would we do better to spend longer at Elsas and forego Ele Watch/Larsens?
4 days Mara, [email protected] Moran/Little Governors and [email protected] Explorer
2 days Amboseli Tortilis
2 days Finch Hattons
1 day Tarangire (Swala,Treetops,or Olivers
1 Ng Crater Lodge
4 Serengeti, Mara Sayari Mobile tented

We want to see as much as possible since may never be able to go back. Some of this will be flying but any trip under 3 hours will be driven. Any other places we shouldn't miss as far as wildlife is concerned(this is our focus)
Did you book safaris with E&S from the US? Any problem with this? How was money transferred?

Any suggestions and comments you have would be greatly appreciated.

OCTraveler is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2007, 06:44 AM
Join Date: Jan 2006
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Ha ha Patty! Real fun in the rain. Glad you've got past Meru now so i can start posting my own report. ;-) I like your pictures by the way... you get better every year, but surely you've taken the S1 to the end of its useful life now?

OCTraveler... you should post your question on a new thread - Patty reads them all anyway! Your questions are a topic on their own and you're more likely to get some varied feedback. Eastern & Southern are very reliable in my experience, by the way. One thing you need to take into account is that even by air travelling between parks usually means lost game drives - or else a really punishing schedule. If gameviewing is your priority I would think about that and balance it with your desire to see so many different places.... but like I said, post your own thread - it's a nice looking itinerary and I'm sure people will have lots of interesting things to say.
kimburu is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2007, 07:14 AM
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Hey kimburu,
I can't wait to hear about your trip and the goodies that Patty/Mark left behind for you - so much fun and so amazing that 2 people from 2 sides of the world could do this.
Only from Fodor's.
Welcome back!
sorry for the hijack - Patty
cybor is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2007, 08:30 AM
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OC Traverler,
I really hope you do Elephant Watch Camp and post lots of details, for selfish reasons.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2007, 11:12 AM
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I agree with kimburu that you should start your own thread. You'll get more input this way and with the many difference places you want to visit, you'll want multiple heads working on this.

As for your specific questions, we haven't encountered any problems during our trips that needed solving. Our flights, transfers, accomodations, everything have always been exactly as I booked down to the specific tent locations whenever I've made such requests and fortunately for us, no unforeseen problems have ever occurred. In Kenya, we got on very well with Julius on our first trip and have requested him ever since. In Tanzania, I can't make any recommendations because we've had camp guides.

You'll actually be using camp guides and vehicles the majority of your time as your trip looks to be mostly flying. They're are only a few legs of your trip which might be 3 hours or less. On game drives conducted by the camp, you may be sharing with other guests depending on the occupancy level of the camp and size of your party unless you choose to pay for a private vehicle. If the camp occupancy is low or there more than 2 of you, it's very likely that you'll have your own guide and vehicle anyway but this isn't guaranteed.

I'd choose more time at Elsa's in lieu of Samburu (sorry Lynn!) but if you have a specific interest in elephants, maybe you should keep Elephant Watch in your itinerary and cut some place else. Also I don't know if what you listed is the order you plan to visit these destinations, but you may need to adjust that based on flight schedules. For example, I believe the flights to Amboseli depart in the early morning. Therefore you wouldn't be able to fly back from the Mara and then fly to Amboseli (unless you chartered) and driving to Amboseli would be more than 3 hours. You may also need to make adjustments based on availability as June isn't too far away. You'll want to confirm availability soon.

I booked our trips from the US entirely via email. For our first trip, I paid our initial deposit by credit card (there's a surcharge for this but I felt more comfortable doing so for our first trip) and our balance on arrival in travelers checks. For subsequent trips, I've just wired both our deposits and balances in advance. BTW Wamu offers free wire transfers with their free checking account.

Hope this helps.
Patty is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2007, 11:30 AM
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Forgot to say, thanks, Paul! And yes I have been thinking about upgrading the ole S1.
Patty is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2007, 02:58 PM
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Dec 8 – A very sad morning as we finish packing up our stuff and get ready to leave. I will miss the screeching of the rock hyraxes and everything else about this place! We said our goodbyes to Joyce and Rod for now. They’re flying out later this morning and we talked of possibly meeting up later in the trip. As we were leaving, Anthony and Emma asked about the Taylors and that’s when we revealed that we’ve never actually met them before. I could tell they thought we were a bit odd.

This morning’s agenda was to try to find Offbeat camp before leaving the park. On our way we also stopped at Leopard Rock Lodge for a quick tour. An assistant manager at the lodge wanted to see if he could get a lift to Nairobi and said that he knew the way to Offbeat, so off the 4 of us go. The road to Offbeat is very overgrown and wet and it doesn’t look like too many vehicles have traveled this way recently. “It’s a miracle we made it here” is how Julius described our journey The camp was still being prepared for the season when we visited, but it looked like a nice, traditional bush camp with 6 tents set along the Bisanadi river.

We left the park around 10:30am and didn’t travel too far before our vehicle started to overheat. Nothing fatal, just all the debris that had accumulated on the radiator from driving to Offbeat. A brief stop to clean it all off and we were back on the road again. We’re treated to a clear view of Mt Kenya today. We stopped at Kentrout Grill near Timau for lunch where they had picnic tables set up under the trees by a river. The food was OK, we think Trout Tree near Nanyuki has a bit better food with nicer atmosphere. It was very chilly and windy at this elevation.

After lunch, we tried the Barclay’s ATM in Nanyuki again and this time I was in luck with no one waiting. At Naro Moru we take a short cut to Olea Africana. Last year we’d decided against taking this road as it was a bit wet and made a detour through Nyeri. Surprisingly, this year it was totally dry! We drove along the edge of Solio and spotted a few rhino and some plains game. With the help of our GPS, we knew exactly which turn to take off this road arriving at Olea Africana about 4:30pm.

We say goodbye to Julius as he’s driving back to Nairobi tonight. He’ll be heading back to Meru in a few days to pick up Paul and Nam Wan from Elsa’s to continue with the rest of their safari. Paul booked his trip before me so I had to do a little creative planning around their schedule

Petra isn’t back from Nairobi yet (I’d let her know not to expect us until late) but we made ourselves at home. It’s a beautiful day today, the first without a cloud or hint of rain. Petra returns shortly along with Ray, an 80 year old cowboy transplanted from Wyoming, and Ray’s semi-adopted son, Museka. Museka is a deaf Maasai boy who has been living with Ray for 3 years. No one really knows how old he is but we guess he’s around 10. His mother had 7 children and could no longer care for all of them after his father left. They’re currently looking for a new tutor for him who can teach sign but it’s not easy to find someone out here. He’s a really bright, bubbly kid and is totally spoiled by Ray, Petra and their guests.

We catch up over tea and sundowners, pausing to watch the bush babies jump from the trees to the roof and back into the trees, and discuss the next few days riding over dinner. We missed Petra’s daughter, Tessa, this time as she’s in Lamu with her stepmom. And sadly, we found out that Pia, the yellow lab, died shortly after giving birth earlier this year but Tak and Nusu as well as Mr. Elliott, the cat (looking just as battle scarred as he did last year) are still around.
Patty is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2007, 03:23 PM
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Patty, What is Wamu? Does Eastern & Southern use their own vehicles or do they have a specific ground operator?

You are doing Namibia next, am I right? Do you mind stating what company you used for Namibia?
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2007, 03:53 PM
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Wamu is Washington Mutual. I had to convert my old free checking account into their new free checking account in order to get free wire transfers but I think any new account you open comes with it. Eastern & Southern is a small tour operator in Kenya with their own vehicle and guides. Serah and her husband are the owners and they currently employ 10 guides. In Tanzania, they use Leopard Tours as the ground operator.

For Namibia/SA, I've booked my accomodations directly with the camps and lodges where we'll be staying. All of the ones we picked took direct bookings and I have a rental car reserved through Hertz.
Patty is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2007, 03:58 PM
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The only downside is they don't offer online transfers so you have to go into a branch to send one.
Patty is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2007, 06:29 PM
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Dec 9 – I slept in until 7:30am, the latest on this whole trip. After breakfast, we set off for Sandai, Petra’s ex’s place, about 45 minutes away where we’ll be riding from today. Museka comes along and immediately proceeds to put on Mark’s hat, chaps and gloves.

We started from Sandai and rode toward Sangare Ranch. Shortly into the ride, I hear the James Bond theme playing. All I could think of is where on earth is that coming from? I’d forgotten I was carrying Mark’s phone. It was Joyce calling and they’d just arrived at Aberdare Country Club. Even though we were very close by, they were leaving right after lunch for the Ark and we’d just started our ride, so we decided to try to do something back in Nairobi later.

We rode through beautiful rolling hills, crossed a stream and onto an area of open plains. We saw Thomson’s gazelle, Defassa waterbuck, impala, zebra, eland, bushbuck, buffalo, giraffe, a hamerkop and widow bird. At one point, my horse’s bridle came off as we were riding past the herd of buffalo. Ray thought it was OK to dismount near the herd and really there wasn’t much of a choice anyway. It was a slightly unnerving, although looking through my pictures now, I guess we weren’t really that close, it just felt like we were.

We also rode to the small lake in front of the tented camp at Sangare, a lovely spot. I asked but no one really knew what the status of the camp was. I’m still trying to find out so if anyone knows, please post.

After the ride, we had a nice picnic on the verandah in the afternoon. It’s another sunny day with clear views of Mt Kenya. I wasn’t quite prepared for this and got a pretty bad sunburn on my arms and hands. It’s a long sleeve shirt and maybe even gloves for me tomorrow! At dinner tonight, we met Petra’s boyfriend, Jim, who had driven up from Nairobi for the weekend.
Patty is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2007, 06:33 PM
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OC Traveler, I agree with patty that Meru is preferrable to Samburu. In June, you should see plenty of elephants there as they will come back into the park.

Patty, welcome back. I was a bit worried about Meru because the game tends to disperse toward higher ground (Bisanadi) during the rains, but it sounds like you saw a lot. Awesome trip...
safaridude is offline  
Jan 4th, 2007, 03:41 PM
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Do you think Meru is preferable to Samburu all year round? Do you prefer it for the amount or type of game? The remoteness? The accommodations? You can see I want you to expand your comments.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 5th, 2007, 05:57 PM
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I have been to Samburu three times and Meru once -- all during the dry season. Although I have not been around during the "green" season, I do know that the game tends to disperse at both places.

I do have a clear preference for Meru (at least during the dry season). The game is similar -- most the northern species are represented in both parks (gerenuk, beisa oryx, Grevy's zebra, somali ostrich, etc.). At Meru, you have a brilliant chance of seeing lesser kudu -- but only 7-8 Grevy's zebras left from a translocation. At Samburu, lesser kudus are only occasional vagrants, but you get greater kudu -- and a brilliant chance of seeing Grevy's. Samburu is better for leopards and cheetahs. Lions are well represented in both parks. Meru has translocated white rhinos.

Most of all, I think Samburu is a more condensed experience (you can see everything in a day and half). Meru is much bigger, so you have to cover more ground to see everything -- but the roads are very good for getting around. The scenery is more diverse and interesting at Meru. The best of all there are no throngs of mini-buses at Meru. You can have the whole park to yourself. I am going back to Meru in August.
safaridude is offline  
Jan 5th, 2007, 09:21 PM
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Great report Patty - I am enjoying this so much. Excellent information rgarding Petra's, Samburu and Meru.

I'm looking foward to the Selous 'chapter' as the Southern Circuit is also on our itinerary.


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