Patty & Mark's 2006 Kenya Tanzania Report

Jan 6th, 2007, 06:02 AM
  #41  
 
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Patty, Wamu sounded so Swahili. Can you post your Namibia itinerary or put a link to it if you've already done so?

Safaridude, thanks for your elaboration on Meru and Samburu.
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Jan 6th, 2007, 09:15 AM
  #42  
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Lynn, you're right, that did sound Swahili! I posted my itinerary under the countdown thread (dated Jan 2). I'll try to get a few more installments up later today.
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Jan 6th, 2007, 11:24 AM
  #43  
 
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Patty,

I can look there. In fact I think I remember it now.

Your treasure hunt may become as popular as Kennedy and the Cheetah Kiss if you can market it.
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Jan 6th, 2007, 02:52 PM
  #44  
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Dec 10 – I woke up at dawn this morning and took some photos of Mt Kenya as the sun rose. Today we rode from Petra’s place through farm land and villages. Petra wanted to show us a plot of land she’s thinking of buying so we stopped there for a picnic. After lunch, Ray, Petra and Jim wanted to visit another property and we decided to tag along. We all hopped in the Land Rover and started driving along what was supposed to be a 45 minute short cut on back roads. 2 hours later after getting lost and nearly ending up in Rumuruti, we arrive at what was once a guest ranch but has been closed for many years, not far from the Aberdare NP Rhino gate. The ranch buildings have seen better days but driving through the property, we could see lots of zebra, gazelle and other plains game. I momentarily fantasized about living the non-politically correct lifestyle on a Kenyan ranch before snapping back into reality

On the way back to Olea Africana, a heavy rain shower started, turning what had been a relatively dry road to a slick mess. We made it back by driving along the ditch, occasionally scrapping along a barbed wire fence as we passed. It wasn’t pretty or elegant, but at least we weren’t stuck out there after dark.

At dinner we met Petra’s friend, Alexis, who is a pilot and was flying a client from one end of Kenya to the other. They had been to Kalacha, Desert Rose, and Samatian and were headed to Shompole in a couple of days. Alexis needed to fly back to Nairobi in the morning to change planes, so we’re given the option of hitching a ride with him if we want instead of driving back to Nairobi tomorrow. He’s quite a funny character and spends most of the evening entertaining Museka with his antics. We think he’d be great to go on a safari with.
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Jan 6th, 2007, 02:54 PM
  #45  
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Dec 11 – In the morning, we said our goodbyes as everyone came to see us off at the airstrip on a neighbor’s property. Museka is coming along for the ride and Alexis will bring him back when he returns in the afternoon. I half jokingly volunteered to be co-pilot and after reaching cruising altitude, Alexis has me take over the controls (mind you I’ve never piloted an aircraft before). OK, up, down, left, right, I think I got it. This ain’t so hard I got to fly for about 20 minutes and descended to 6500 ft before Alexis took over again and landed at Wilson – what I don’t get to land on my first flight?

What a thrill and unexpected surprise to be piloting a plane over Kenya with Mt Kenya on one side and the Aberdare range on the other! I thanked Alexis for the opportunity and we said goodbye to him and Museka. Now that we had the remainder of the day free in Nairobi we had to figure out what to do. We hadn’t expected to be back until later in the afternoon. While we were waiting for a taxi, I called Sheldrick to see if I could change tomorrow’s appointment to today. They said no problem, come at 5:00pm. That settled, we decided to head to the Junction first for some shopping and lunch.
I did some Christmas shopping and stocked up on sandals for myself, and Mark bought another beaded belt. We picked up some more Java House expresso roast and decided to give Dorman’s another try (conclusion – we’re sticking to Java House in the future). Lunch was at Mediterraneo, great Italian food. I had tuna tartare to start and a porcini mushroom risotto. Mark had the paparadelle with roasted duck and penne with prosciutto and mushrooms. Not knowing their portion sizes, we ordered way too much food but it was all so good.

After lunch, we were at a loss for what to do until our Sheldrick’s appointment. We didn’t want to head downtown only to fight traffic back down to the park later. I’d heard of a butterfly center somewhere in Karen and our driver, Martin, said he’d taken some people there a few years ago and knew about where it was. We drove around and around looking for the place, I tried calling the number in my Bradt guide but there was no answer, and we asked several people on the road who’d never heard of it until we finally came across someone who told us it had closed down

At this point, somewhat reluctantly we decided to go to the animal orphanage at Nairobi NP. Admission was free for children today so the place was very busy. It was nice to see so many kids here as it may be the first time they’ve seen a lion or cheetah. At the same time, I was very sad for the animals that were housed there due to the limited amount of space and somewhat neglected facilities. There were lots of people petting and having their picture taken with an ostrich. A keeper kept coming by and asking them not to touch the ostrich but as soon as he was gone, the ostrich petting resumed (although I must say the ostrich didn’t seem to mind).

We moved on to the safari walk which was equally busy but much more pleasant in contrast. At least here there was a somewhat natural setting and much larger areas for the animals. Raised wooden walkways take visitors through much of the facility. Being the only wazungu wandering around, I think Mark and I were as much of an attraction as anything else!

We got to Sheldrick just before 5:00pm. There was already a family with 4 kids waiting and after a short wait they let us all in. We were free to watch the eles come back in and walk around and visit with the 12 nursery babies and their keepers. We also got to see Shida, the rhino, again. A tiny 2 month old baby greeted Mark twice with her trunk. We stayed for about an hour before heading back to the Hilton.

Martin initially wouldn’t quote us a price for the day saying that he’d give us a good price at the end of the day. While I normally wouldn’t recommend setting off without agreeing to a price first, we thought it was OK since Alexis had called him for us. When we got to the Hilton, Martin asked for 5500 KES which I thought was a fair price for driving us around for 8 hours.

We checked in, I went to the internet café across to street to check email and we had a light dinner at the pub in the Hilton as neither of us really felt like going out.
Patty is online now  
Jan 6th, 2007, 03:16 PM
  #46  
 
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I found Namibia. I've wondered about the butterfly place too.

The 2-month old ele must have been adorable.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 6th, 2007, 06:57 PM
  #47  
 
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Oh Patty! Flying the plane over the Kenyan highlands. Things certainly happen in Kenya don't they? I have to admit I am SO jealous about that one, though.
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Jan 7th, 2007, 02:08 PM
  #48  
 
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Hi, Patty,

Thanks for the report - it makes great reading, especially as we are considering a safari in some of the same areas, with eastern and southern.

your time with them was clearly a good one, but i am a little concerned that their web-site talks about them using converted minivans, not land-rovers. What was your experience?

Are there any tips that you would like to pass on to 1st timers like us?

Thanks a lot,

Ann

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Jan 7th, 2007, 04:03 PM
  #49  
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Ann,
Eastern & Southern uses 4WD vans. Late July should be dry and you shouldn't have any trouble getting around the areas on your itinerary. Even with amount of rain this December, we made it everywhere. I'll post some more comments on your itinerary thread.
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Jan 8th, 2007, 10:49 AM
  #50  
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You might remember my comment about the drive to Elsa’s being “anticlimactic”. Be sure to read Paul’s recent account of their attempt to cross the same rivers getting out of Meru a few days later if you haven’t already (quite a difference a heavy rain makes) http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34921781

Also I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this already but one really nice thing about the rain, beside the green landscape, is the absence of any dust on this trip!

Back to the report…

Dec 12 – Joseph from Eastern & Southern picked us up this morning (originally this was our free day in Nairobi to go to Sheldrick, etc.). I really wanted to visit the National Museum, but it was still closed for renovations. We decided to do a little more shopping and headed to Village Market, an open air mall in the northern part of Nairobi. They have branches of some of the same stores you’ll see elsewhere like Kazuri, Kitengela Glass, that kikoy and t-shirt place that I forget the name of. There was a curio store called Blue Rhino that looked interesting but it was closed for Jamhuri day. Some of the stores are on the expensive side and we didn’t actually find anything new to buy, but they do have a pleasant open air food court which would’ve been a nicer place for breakfast than our hotel.

We left and went to Sarit Centre next as there was a curio/craft store there called Banana Box that I wanted to check out. They have a nice collection of items from different parts of Africa and I bought a few Christmas ornaments and some more gifts here. We went to Tamambo across the street at the Westlands Mall for lunch. I don’t how to describe the food exactly, perhaps African fusion? Anyway I tried the carpaccio (OK so nothing particularly African or fusion about this) and Mark had roast duck with green peppercorn sauce, both were quite good and this is another restaurant we can highly recommend.

After lunch, we stopped by the Norfolk for a look and a drink and headed back to the Hilton for a swim. Swimming didn’t turn out to be such a great idea as the afternoon sun was completely blocked by the British Airways building across the street. I sat for a little while by the pool with a towel wrapped around me and watched a few brave guests venture in. Joyce called in the late afternoon and said they were back from Naivasha and invited us to Pam and Hank’s house for pizza. We took a cab to Runda and found their house easily thanks to Pam’s excellent directions (our cab driver would’ve never found it with just the address). We got caught up on everything since Elsa’s and enjoyed our last evening in Kenya with new friends.
Patty is online now  
Jan 8th, 2007, 11:50 AM
  #51  
 
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A great read, Patty. Flying the plane(!!!), and it sounds like Kenya is a kind of second home to you and Mark now.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts about Selous.
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Jan 8th, 2007, 11:53 AM
  #52  
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It's been a great read. Waited till the end, but it's not yet the end. Also waiting to read the Selous portion. Whenever, you're still faster than I am with my reports.
 
Jan 8th, 2007, 06:19 PM
  #53  
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Dec 13 – We had a 7:50am flight to DAR this morning so Joseph picked us up at 5:30am. I woke up feeling slightly queasy but didn’t give it much thought as I assumed it was just because I got up so early. No traffic at this hour and it was even too early for the “porters” who usually hang around outside the terminal. There was a longish queue for the baggage x-ray to enter the terminal as there are several intra-Africa flights departing in the morning, but it wasn’t too long before they opened up the second x-ray machine.

We got checked in, went through passport control, Mark grabbed a coffee at Java House and we waited at the one empty table we could find at the snack bar next to gate 4. I was starting to feel a bit worse by this point, so we waited until the last possible moment before going through security to enter the gate area. We boarded a very full flight and took off just a few minutes late. We arrived in DAR just after 9:00am and went straight to the visa counter. They required both landing cards and application forms here. There’s one guy who collects each passenger’s documentation, passport, payment and after reviewing it, passes it onto one of the immigration officers behind glass. Then each party waits in a small seating area until their names are called.

While I was waiting for our visas to be processed, I saw a sign that stated transit visas were $30. I asked the “collector” guy how long they were good for. He replied 7 days. I asked if we could change our application from a single to a transit visa only to get a response of “no, no, no, very dangerous”. The whole process took about 10-15 minutes.

We picked up our bags and were met by Joseph from Leopard Tours outside. We immediately noticed how much warmer and more humid it is in Dar. I changed most of my remaining Kenyan shillings into Tanzanian shillings. We looked for an ATM and found 2 but both were Visa network so weren’t compatible with my card. I’d brought enough USD just in case and it turned out that we could easily get by with that for what we needed to pay on this trip. I was surprised to find even the taxi drivers took USD.

Joseph gave us our DAR-Selous tickets and drove us to the Coastal terminal which is in another part of the same airport just a 2 minute drive away. There were Coastal baggage handlers outside the terminal who took our bags from that point on. We checked-in, paid our $5pp departure tax and waited for our charter. When the flight to Zanzibar was called, everybody but us cleared out of the waiting area.

When I was planning the trip, I had contemplated how best to get to Selous. Neither of the Kenya Airways NBO-DAR flights that day connected well to the scheduled flights to Selous. We could’ve taken the afternoon Coastal flight to Selous leaving us with a 5+ hour layover in DAR but decided to splurge for a charter instead. This turned out to be an excellent decision because 1) I was feeling much worse by that afternoon and 2) I got my second flying lesson

We take off shortly after 10:00am with Thomas as our pilot. I asked if I could co-pilot mentioning that I already had prior experience on the same type of aircraft I flew for about half an hour this time, we reached a max altitude of 6500 ft and descended to 2000 ft before Thomas took over for the landing at Kiba airstrip. Another wonderful experience flying over the Rufji and lakes of Selous, priceless!

Rem, our guide from Sand Rivers, met us on arrival for the half hour drive to camp (he drove very, very slowly). On the way to camp we saw a very lush and green landscape with lots of vegetation (no surprise!) and some impala. Rem asked what we’d like to do this afternoon and I said “let’s see how lunch settles” as I hadn’t tried eating anything yet. I also need to mention that it’s very hot in Selous in December! I asked Rem if it cooled off much at night and he replied that it did. Later we came to realize that Rem’s idea of “cooling off” must be very different from ours

On arrival at camp, we were greeted by Antonia, Antonia (no, that’s not a typo) and Squack. I’m not sure if they always have 3 managers there or if someone was just temporary but they were the hosts during our stay. We were shown to cottage 1 which is the one closest to the lounge. I’d requested a cottage near the lounge based on comments by Eben and others that these had better views of the river, and cottage 1 had been confirmed to us back in July. I was very happy with this choice not only for the view but also because I don’t think I could’ve made the walk to a farther cottage over the course of the next few days. Despite its close proximity to the lounge and dining area, this cottage is still very private and you couldn’t hear the other guests (well, not until the 7 kids showed up!).

While showing us the various features of our cottage, Antonia gave us a “How to Deal with Bugs in Selous in the Rainy Season 101” course. Particular emphasis was placed when we came to the box of assorted insect paraphernalia in our cottage. We were advised to use its contents liberally and that our mosquito netting would be Doomed at turndown but that we should Doom it again before going to bed. We were also told about the blister beetles and that if one should land on us, we should quickly flick but not brush it off as brushing might lead to its secretions getting on our skin causing red welts (hence the beetle’s name). Another guest had fallen asleep in the lounge last night only to wake up with welts on his chest. What have I gotten myself into was the first thought that came to mind?!

This day is getting so long winded I’m going to have to do 2 installments.
Patty is online now  
Jan 8th, 2007, 10:13 PM
  #54  
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We heeded Antonia’s warnings, doused ourselves with repellent and headed to lunch where we met the two other couples at camp, Judith & Allen and Miranda & David, both from the UK. Lunch was a buffet of pork ribs, rice with cashews and raisins, avocado salad and breadsticks. The ribs looked delicious and tempting but I didn’t dare touch them instead settling for some rice and a breadstick. I got steadily worse after lunch so skipped the afternoon activity. Mark didn’t feel like going out either and stayed at camp with me.

I went back to the cottage and took a nap in front of the fan. Thank God for 24 hour electricity. That and the pool are the only things keeping the afternoon temps tolerable and the fan also helps to keep the bugs at bay. Everyone was very concerned about my well being and worried that I’d get dehydrated. Squack even mixed up a pitcher of rehydration salts for me which I can only describe as awful, nasty stuff. We went for a late afternoon swim and stayed past sunset watching the hippos, storks, herons and other birds in the river. The camp is perfectly placed on a bend in the Rufiji and the sunsets over the river are spectacular.

I wasn’t up for dinner and went to bed early. Mark dined with the other guests and reports a bush baby in the lounge attempting to sneak food before being chased away. Game viewing reports from other guests are that they’re seeing sparse game though someone at camp did spot wild dogs about 6 days ago. We slept with the fan on all night.
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Jan 8th, 2007, 10:21 PM
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Dec 14 – We awoke to the loud thuds of monkeys jumping on our thatch roof and the grunting of hippos. The cottages here are all open air and apparently we had company sometime during the night as we found the pitcher knocked over in the morning. I don’t think it liked the rehydration salts either. More cottage visitors included two large millipedes mating and there was a resident frog in our shower which we were very careful not to step on.

At breakfast I was feeling a little more energized and ate a bit of granola. As far as doing anything, that still wasn’t going to happen. This would be another day of napping in the cottage and lounging by the pool. Lunch was in our cottage. Mark had pizza, beet salad and cole slaw and I asked them to make some plain crepes for me. Unfortunately, I hadn’t even gotten much of it down before everything came back up. Antonia found some anti-nausea pills for me but I promptly threw that up too (you didn’t want me to leave out any details, right? ).

Everyone felt really bad for me, but I assured them that I couldn’t think of a better place to be sick. We spent the afternoon at the pool and saw some waterbuck on the opposite bank of the river and rain and lightening in the distance. We met a newly arrived family with 3 girls who had just come from the Serengeti and stayed for another beautiful sunset before going back to our cottage.

We returned to find the laundry we’d left yesterday clean and neatly pressed. Sand Rivers wins the award for best bush laundry. I didn’t think I should chance eating anything so stayed back at the cottage while Mark dined with Miranda, David and our hosts. I fell asleep on the sofa only to be awoken by a lizard crawling across my leg. I decided it was best to move under the mosquito netting, not because I minded the lizard but I was deathly afraid of those blister beetles.
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Jan 9th, 2007, 03:14 PM
  #56  
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Dec 15 – I was feeling much better this morning and we went out for an early morning boat ride and headed upstream. We saw lots and lots of hippo, crocs, giraffe and waterbuck along the banks and too many birds to name. Just a partial list of the birds we saw consists of goliath heron, black-headed heron, fish eagle, green-backed heron, pied kingfisher, black-headed plover, yellow-billed stork, hooded vulture and white-backed vulture. Being on the river is so peaceful and relaxing. Of the limited activities we were able to sample here, the boat ride was definitely my favorite. I wasn’t up for a long morning out so we turned around about halfway to Stiegler’s gorge. I hear that’s a very nice 4-5 hour trip.

I was famished when we arrived back at camp and ate a little bit of everything at breakfast which all seemed to settle well. We watched a monitor lizard on the bank by the dining area and I went back to the cottage for a nap. Just before lunch, another family with 4 kids arrived bringing the camp to full occupancy.

Lunch also seemed to settle well which I think was as much of a relief to our hosts as it was to me. After another swim, we went out on a game drive at 4:30pm. As with the boat ride, it was just the two of us with no other guests and each party had their own guide. We drove a circuit around the lakes near Sand Rivers and back along the river front. In addition to what we saw on this morning’s boat ride, we saw impala, zebra, eland, buffalo, baboon, one adolescent ele and the silhouette of many marabou stork perched in the trees as it was getting dark.

We returned to camp at 7:30pm. I was feeling tired from the day’s activities, so we had dinner in our cottage. There was more lightening in the distance across the river, but no rain so far on this side during our 3 days here. We made sure to put our leftover dessert in a box before going to bed.
Patty is online now  
Jan 9th, 2007, 05:20 PM
  #57  
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Dec 16 – It was muggy and overcast this morning with rain on its way. We had breakfast, packed, and went on a game drive before heading to the airstrip. We found a very not shy warthog and a herd of buffalo. Rem said we should come back in the dry season when there’s much more game around. Our plane back to Dar was a big 12 seater Caravan. Unfortunately, they already had a co-pilot on this one The only other passengers were two women on their way to Sable Mountain Lodge, so we made a quick stop at Matambwe airstrip to drop them off before proceeding to Dar.

You’re probably wondering what I thought of Sand Rivers and Selous in general. As for the camp itself, I can wholeheartedly recommend it. They do every little thing right and really take care of you. Having our own private game activities even if we could only take limited advantage of it was a real plus. Would I recommend Selous at this time of year? Only if you like heat and humidity 24/7 The air was also very still so there was nothing to mitigate the heat. Would I recommend a stay at Sand Rivers in the green season? Not if game viewing is a priority, but if you simply want a really nice place to relax and unwind in a beautiful setting with some game thrown in, you can have a very enjoyable stay.

Back in Dar, we took a taxi to the Holiday Inn where I had booked a day room. Our driver, Jackson, asked if we needed a ride back to the airport so we arranged a pick up time with him this evening. We spent the afternoon by the pool, rearranged our packing for the long trip home and had dinner and a nice long shower. We left the hotel at 9:15pm and arrived at the airport 15 minutes later, Jackson would make a good matatu driver

Security, check-in and passport control were very quick and we waited for our flight in the Tanzanite lounge. Our flight to AMS was slightly delayed and departed around 12:30am. I slept most of the way and woke up just before breakfast was served. Two more flights and 30 hours after we left Dar, we were back home.

Next up for us is a trip to Capetown and Namibia in September, but I find my thoughts drifting back to East Africa. Don’t know when we’ll return yet but I already have a few favorite spots picked.
Patty is online now  
Jan 9th, 2007, 05:31 PM
  #58  
bat
 
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patty:
I have not yet given your report a close read--looking forward to doing that--but Doom and blister beetles caught my eye. Yikes.
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Jan 9th, 2007, 06:02 PM
  #59  
 
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Patty, sorry you were so very sick, but I'm a little disappointed you weren't more graphic in your descriptions of your illness. I didn't even see the word VOMIT. Next time try to do better.

Thank you for another terrific report. I appreciate your insights, your humor, and your willingness to really get out there in the field and do good Fodor's research.

Watch out Cape Town! Watch out Namibia!
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Jan 10th, 2007, 07:19 PM
  #60  
bat
 
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leely:
but if it is not PROJECTILE vomiting--is it really worth reporting
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