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Returned from Tanzania and Kenya--2Afrika's Grand Combo Safari

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Aug 6th, 2005, 09:48 AM
  #1
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Returned from Tanzania and Kenya--2Afrika's Grand Combo Safari

Hi, Everybody--
My good travel partner Jeri and I returned three weeks ago from one of the most magical experiences we've had during our travels--the Grand Combo Safari to Tanzania and Kenya booked through 2Afrika. Our safari took place before the Great Migration began, but the animal sightings were incredible nonetheless.
If you would like to view photos, you may do so at ogan2642.shutterfly.com. If you have any questions which you would like answered off the boards, feel free to contact me at [email protected]. Many thanks to all of you who contribute to the boards, the regulars especially. It's my contention that the anticipation of a trip is almost as delicious as the trip itself, and reading though your input day by day in advance of our departure just drew me in and kept me focused on the marvels that we ourselves would soon be experiencing. Barbara
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Aug 6th, 2005, 10:16 AM
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WOW! Those are the most INCREDIBLE pictures I have ever seen! Now I have to go to East Africa next year! THANKS!! THANKS!! THANKS!!
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Aug 6th, 2005, 11:44 AM
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You have some very nice shots -- my favorites are the husband and wife saying goodbye to one another, and the ones of the rainbows in Kenya at the end -- just lovely. Did you do a trip report? One of the photo captions mentions a trip journal?
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Aug 6th, 2005, 11:54 AM
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Lovely pictures, thanks for sharing.

Particularly like the lions drinking at the edge of the water, the huge ele with tiny calf, the Nakuru flamingoes, the hippo aggression, the lioness with cub walking alongside her and the rainbow over the Mara!

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Aug 6th, 2005, 12:26 PM
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Great pictures! A dream trip. Lake Nakuru looks particularly wonderful. Did you have a favorite park or area?

Thank you for posting these.
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Aug 6th, 2005, 01:00 PM
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Incredible pictures! I especially enjoyed the rainbow. Thans for sharing!!!
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Aug 6th, 2005, 01:46 PM
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From the looks of your pictures it was indeed an exceptional trip.

You have such good people shots in addition to the animals.

I especially liked the lions getting a drink and on the kopjes, the cheetah, the crowned crane, and the two giraffes.
The hyrax was great, I love those things.

Please share any additional comments, favorites, or insights from your trip. Thanks.
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Aug 6th, 2005, 02:52 PM
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Fantastic photos. Loved the lions drinking, the rainbow, the couple saying good-byes... and, and. They're all so wonderful. Can't help but gather that this was a wonderful experience. Thanks for sharing!
 
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Aug 6th, 2005, 07:28 PM
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Great photos.
Question: Other than the photos from the vehicle & where you said you traded a bottle of water for taking the photo, were the various other locals (masai, etc) let you take their photos without some sort of payment?
I've read never take a photo without asking but if you do ask, they'll definitely expect some money.
 
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Aug 7th, 2005, 02:25 AM
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Barbara
Thanks for posting your photos. The shots of the lions are just amazing.

How did the they finally get the 4WD out from thhe mud at the crater. Were there that many vehicles travelling together all the time in the crater? What time did you go down?

We are going in January and our operator suggested if we get down in the crater early, it isn't as crowded - do you think this is realistic?
Ta
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Aug 7th, 2005, 05:19 AM
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Beautiful pics - Thank you for posting them. We'll need to go to East Africa one day. sigh.
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Aug 7th, 2005, 05:43 AM
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Enjoyed seeing your pictures. You have some really good ones- love the lions, cranes, cheetah . . . I'm glad you had such a wonderful trip!
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Aug 7th, 2005, 05:45 AM
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Wonderful photos, particularly the lions drinking and the Mara scenery.

It would be great if you could post a few comments on your trip, particularly about the places you stayed as this will be of help and interest to future travellers (and feed the appetite of the rest of us!!!)
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Aug 7th, 2005, 03:35 PM
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Barbara, thanks for posting the pictures.We just finished a great meal (steak, corn on the cob, salad and fresh bread)! Even thru I had ice cream with the fixins' your pictures were a super dessert! I am curious as to local company for the Tanzania portion of the trip. From picture #28 (with Mathias)of the vehicle it would seem Predators Safari Club was not involved. Given problems another poster had with the local company I wonder if 2Afrika has made a change? I would very much like to return to northern Tanzania and would certainly give Ken at 2Afrika a call regardless. Again, thanks for making this Sunday evening an enjoyable one.
Dick
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Aug 7th, 2005, 08:02 PM
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Hi,
It's Barbara again--
I just spent tried to post a long response, and something happened in the transmission and all was lost. Can't do the whole thing over again tonight. No more energy left. Let me just try in small segments, though. Just in case nothing gets through again.
First, I'd like to thank Susanna for supply the identificaton for the birds in my photos. Jeri and I actually were with birders, Miko and Eden, in Kenya, and they gave me the names, but in life's shuffle, the list got misplaced. Also, thank you, Sandi, for setting me straight on the termite mound. Will try to post this much to see if this gets through.
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Aug 8th, 2005, 02:40 AM
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Hi Barbara -

Sorry to hear that you lost a good part/or all of the thread of your trip report. I'm also in the process (still) of posting my report from trip taken at the beginning of June. It can be found under the title of "Finally, My Trip Report....."

I've created mine in a Word document and then cut/paste each section here on Fodor's under the same thread title, as it's completed - as Part I, II, etc. Try doing your report in this manner and if one part goes to "fodor's heaven" at least the original is stored as a document... all won't be lost.

Hope this helps.
 
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Aug 8th, 2005, 06:08 AM
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Thanks for the suggestion, Sandi. From the looks of all the typos in my last post, it appears that, indeed, I had just had it. I'll try to send this through the regular way, and then I'll do the cut and paste thing for the longer response.
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Aug 8th, 2005, 08:33 AM
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Answers to specific questions:

TOUGHPIXEL: Mathias let it be known from the beginning that taking photos of individuals is frowned upon. Throughout my travels, people photos have been just as important to me in trying to capture the culture of a country as photos of buildings and terrain, etc. have been. I have never gotten into someone’s face and clicked away. I’ve always asked, and if the answer was “no” I honored that. Also, there have been times when I really wanted a particular close shot and had no problem paying a little something to get it. So, I was frustrated about not being able to record people in their native dress going about their everyday business. I think that Mathias’s concern, and from what I gather, the concern of many others, is not so much that taking people photos could be considered an invasion of privacy. Instead, I think they feel that it contributes to the erosion of the traditional way of life, especially among the young, by teaching them that’s it’s easier to “beg” than it is to take care of work that needs to be done, and also by encouraging them to “put on a show” for the camera. Maybe there is something to that, but I don’t know....
The photos taken at the Masai village are another thing entirely. Jeri and I made a hefty “donation” to gain entre, and because of that we were given carte blanche regarding photos. As for the 3 young Masai at the rim of the crater–Mathias had parked our vehicle at the side of the road by the entrance gate to the crater and had gotten out to take care of the paperwork needed for us to make our descent. The young men approached us, and I don’t know what came over me, a little spirit of rebellion perhaps, but I got out and spoke with them. Well, it’s true. They offered a photo op in exchange for money. I told them that I didn’t have any money available for photos at the moment. One of them asked then if I would trade some water, which I did. Mathias saw the whole thing when he was returning, and I don’t think he was too happy with me, but he didn’t say anything.

SARVOWINNER: I don’t know what finally happened with the vehicle which was stuck in the mud. We had passed by about noon, and it appeared that there was enough manpower on site to get it out and moving again. Later in the day, though, when we passed by again, it was still there. Mathias had a heavy chain and tried to use our vehicle to pull it out. But it didn’t budge. We left when a truckload of workers appeared to help with the situation. This had to have been a terribly frustrating day for the individuals in that vehicle who had been hoping to have a wonderful “crater” experience. There was no sign of any back up vehicle being brought down for them, so they spent precious hours by their vehicle instead of experiencing the amazing animal sightings the crater has to offer.
I’ve read postings stating that one day in the crater is enough, but Jeri and I enjoyed a day and a half (one afternoon and one full day) down there. If you do just have one day, my suggestion is yes, yes, do go down early. That way you can at least have a full day. Crowded? Sometimes we felt as if we were the only ones down there, and other times, at particularly good animal sightings, we were among many other vehicles. The guides communicate with each other regarding those sightings so that everybody in the vicinity can have an opportunity to get to the sighting if they wish. These guides have tremendous driving skills, and noone, no matter how crowded, gets in the sight line of anybody else.


DICK: Thank you for your kind words, and thank you, too, for all the input and photos you yourself have posted over the months. I’ve followed them and have enjoyed them very much. They also influenced our choosing 2Afrika as our tour company, and we couldn’t have been happier with the trip.
Regarding Predators, I don’t know what happened. About a week before our departure, we received an email from 2Afrika letting us know that our local tour in Tanzania would be with Wildlife Safaris (although the logo on the vehicle said Leopard Safaris or Leopard Tours). We wouldn’t have thought much about it except that 2 young women, Miko and Eden, from Arizona who were on the same itinerary, were placed with Robert from Predators while Jeri and I were put with Mathias from Wildlife. That didn’t make financial sense on the part of 2Afrika, that is, to provide a private safari in Tanzania for Jeri and me and also one for Miko and Eden. We were all four together in Kenya. When I emailed Ken a note of thanks upon our return, I raised the question, but so far, no response. So I don’t know what was going on.

TO ALL WHO’VE ASKED ABOUT A TRIP REPORT: I do have one in progress. Have finished with Tanzania and am into Kenya. It’s more of a personal journal than a report, however. Lot’s of peripheral stuff which wouldn’t necessarily be of general interest or value. What I will do, though, for those who might be interested, is post an edited version of the Serengeti segment:

Part 5–Tanzania and Kenya

June 30 (evening)–July 1 – Serengeti

.
Meanwhile.... when we left the Masai village, we still had a pretty long drive ahead of us, and except for passing by little herds of animals and their boy shepherds, there was not a lot which was of interest along the way. Mainly there were long stretches of road cutting through a dry plains area, the grass short and already yellow although it was only the beginning of the dry season. And dust! Was there ever dust. We had the windows of the vehicle down for the most part, but whenever an oncoming vehicle would pass us, we’d quickly roll them up because even more dust would be kicked up. The windows were manual, not electric–we were on safari with 2Afrika, not Abercrombie and Kent, after all-- and Jeri and I got pretty fast at rolling them up. We both agreed, though, that we had never seen a faster window roller upper than Mathias.
Much has been made of the dust situation on the message boards. Some have even suggested placing a bandana over one’s mouth in order to breathe better. We didn’t find it too much of a problem except for what settled on the cameras. We had to be really careful to keep the lens caps on, and then, before cleaning, blow everything off the lenses before using a lens cloth. Other than that, for us the dust was just part of the experience.
It was not quite dusk when we entered Serengeti National Park where our lodge, the Serengeti Sopa, was situated. I can’t describe the lodge and its approach from the main road better than what is stated in the itinerary, so I’ll borrow:

Constructed in the intriguing style of the Masai “Manyatta”, with rounded corners
and flat roofs, each building of the Serengeti Sopa Lodge is superbly situated in an area
of intense natural beauty. The acacia woodland on the lower slopes of the hills and the
all-year-round springs have created an ideal habitat for many species of game living in
the area. The elevated position of the lodge provides guests with a cooling breeze above
the sun-baked plains and sweeping panoramic views of timeless Africa.

Beautiful description, isn’t it? And we found that the reality of the location completely matched it. Even before we arrived at the lodge, we knew we would be in for a treat when the turn off took us from the main road up an incline away from the dry grass and through a wooded area full of trees and bushes—and animals! This wasn’t a formal game drive, but the viewing couldn’t have been better. Among the greenery we saw wildebeest, zebra, topi, warthogs, and of course the ubiquitous gazelles.
.
Our room was pretty basic, but comfortable. There were those beds with the mosquito nets again, those nets which add so much charm but are a pain in the neck to work with if you’re getting in and out of bed. Well, actually I wasn’t getting in and out of bed so much as I was trying to reach the night stand where my battery charger was. I had to wake up a couple of times at night to take a charged battery out and put in another in order to have the cameras ready for the next day. I was using not only my digital still but also a mini video, and although I had with me a total of five batteries for the still and three for the video, I didn’t want to take a chance on not having fully loaded batteries just in case something would go wrong with the lodge’s power generator. That is, I always wanted to have something in reserve.

The best thing about our room was that our balcony looked down from our location to the greenery of the hills below and then out over the distant plains. All was peaceful. There were a couple of Marabou storks roosting in tree branches close to us , and we gave them a lot of attention before we went to the dining area for dinner. We were to see many of these big birds before the trip was over, but these were the first we had seen close at hand, and they were fascinating to watch.
We were on our way to becoming proficient (yeah, right) in Swahili by this time. We already knew the greeting “Jambo” and were using it right and left. (That took me back to those old jungle movies we watched when we were kids where they threw in “Jambo” to add local color.) And by the time we got to the Serengeti Sopa, Mathias had helped us increase our vocabulary by 100% in teaching us Thank you–“Asante”. Or maybe even more than 100% because we also knew “sana”. Asante sana–Thank you very much. When we got to the dining room, we found our waiter to be a very personable young man. After we had Jamboed and gotten seated with our Asante sana , he taught us a record breaking fourth expression: Karibu sana–You’re very welcome. That was about the extent of the Swahili I was to acquire. Well, add “pole pole”–slowly. And “simba”–lion. Also “tembo”–elephant. The next dozen words will have to wait for another trip.
Returning to the dining room and our waiter. He was one of several young people on duty, and he was evidently assigned to us or we to him because we always had the same table and he was there to greet us by name and serve us for every meal we took at the lodge. That was a nice touch. A good PR thing because it gave us a little sense of connection. We found this sort of situation to be the norm at all the other lodges we stayed at throughout both Tanzania and Kenya.
I referred to this earlier when I was outlining the way we approached the question of tipping, but I do think that those fortunate enough to obtain lodge work, even the porters, do as well as or better than the majority of workers in both Kenya and Tanzania. With tourism being steady, there are the daily tips to look forward to. And remembering that the average annual per capita income is $260 in Tanzania ($280 in Kenya, but more about that later), tips alone would certainly put them beyond the average. Hopefully, there is also a base salary.
The dinners at the Serengeti Sopa bordered on the gourmet. Two or more selections each for appetizers, main course, and dessert with much attention being given to the presentation. Breakfasts consisted of the usual buffet fare. No complaints on that. We didn’t have lunch there; they packed us a box lunch on day one of our stay to take on our all day game drive and on day 2 to eat along the way as we drove to the Ngorongoro crater area.
Many itineraries, and in fact our published itinerary, call for two half day game drives. One in the morning. Return to the lodge for a few hours. Then go out again in the afternoon. Not a bad thing if one needs or wants that mid-day break. But Mathias preferred to just stay out on the drive all day. We were glad about that. Otherwise there would be wasted time backtracking to the lodge for lunch and then retracing the way to the area of the game drives. Mathias planned the game drive so that for a noon break we would be by a rest area where there were restrooms and picnic tables, and after lunch we would be right back out looking for animals again. Actually, there was plenty of animal activity at the rest area. Lots of birds, for sure, but also hyrax and mongoose. Oh, yes, and vervet monkeys. At the Serengeti rest area, there was one vervet monkey which was quite aggressive in trying to snatch people’s food. Jeri and I enjoyed watching his antics trough Jeri certainly doesn’t trust monkeys after two of them reached through their cage and whipped off her glasses while she was watching them during our trip to Vietnam last December. It took an attendant to get them back. At any rate, she had to leave her stuff on the bench, her camera and her box lunch, while she went to the restroom, and she asked me to watch everything. I watched everything all right. I watched while that monkey zoomed in at warp speed and stole the bag of peanuts which had been included with the lunch. For a moment my heart stopped. Thank goodness the little thief hadn’t taken her camera.
On day one, when we first descended the hill from the lodge and moved out into the plains of the Serengeti , we were on the threshold of what would be one of the most exciting game drives one could hope to have. The gazelle were always with us, hundreds and hundreds of them, and they were always in motion. Even if I were looking straight ahead, there was still the awareness of their constant movement on all sides. This served as a busy backdrop for all the other activity that we would see as we moved along the track. And we saw some amazing things. I had to pinch myself at the wonder of it all. Beauty just unfolded before us as we drove along. Elephants, wildebeest, zebras, giraffe, warthogs-- one surprising sight right after another. It was the stuff one dreams of seeing and it brought back to me the special feelings I had as a kid when I was immersed in my animal story books. The plains were beginning to turn yellow since it was the beginning of the dry season, and that made for a special kind of beauty in contrast with the green umbrella acacias which dotted the terrain. There was also the occasional rock outcropping. These, called kopjes, were usually pretty large and craggy with trees and bushes growing on them, and they just rose up out of the plains in a way that added a lot of drama to the landscape.
That first Serengeti game drive gave us experiences many people might never have. We saw a pride of lions take down prey, devour it, and then walk to a water hole for a drink before moving to a hill a short distance away for an after dinner nap. We also saw at close range a cheetah who was just finishing up his kill. And we saw vultures, the Serengeti clean-up crew, move in on some leftovers. Later in the afternoon, we saw a leopard. That leopard was sleeping in a tree and was some distance away from the track, but this was a sighting nonetheless. Whoa! We had already seen 4 or the big 5 –elephant, lion, buffalo, and leopard. The only one left was a rhino.
It was on this particular drive that we began to truly appreciate Mathias’ skill as a driver, as a spotter, and as a rich source of information. It’s not easy to drive along those game tracks which are often likened to washboards. It’s even harder to keep the vehicle on the road while spotting game. Mathias had the keenest eyes. How he could see what he did–animals absolutely hidden in the grass or in trees-- and then point them out to us was amazing. He was very patient with us, and he didn’t hurry us to move along as long as we were focused on whatever action or animal had captured our attention.
There were long stretches of track when we seemed alone on the plains, or nearly so, but when there were major animal sightings, the guides would communicate the information to each other by means of the bush radios each vehicle was required to have. It was common to have many vehicles hurry to the site for the viewing. Sometimes a dozen or more. And it was absolutely incredible how the drivers handled the situation. There had to be some sort of protocol because each was careful not to get in the sight lines of other vehicles/viewers, but the maneuvering had to have been very difficult, especially when the animals moved and the vehicles were all on the move with them.
When we arrived back at the lodge very late in the afternoon, Mathias had us sit down and help him plan the activities for the next day. The published itinerary plan was for a morning game drive with lunch back at the lodge before leaving for the Ngorongoro Conservation Area via the Olduvai Gorge. This would put us at the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge in time for dinner. He said that he would like to give us a choice, though. We could keep to the published plan, or we could have a very early morning Serengeti game drive (6 am – 9am), return to the lodge for breakfast and check out, head out to the Ngorongoro area via the Olduvai Gorge, and THEN spend the afternoon in the crater before checking in to the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge. That way, we would have a whole day and a half in the crater instead of just the one day that had been planned for. Jeri and I said sure. That sounded great, and we were o.k. with the extra $75 it would cost each of us to have the additional time down there.
But we still had one last night at the Serengeti Sopa. As evening approached, we had our cameras at the ready. We were hoping for one of those African sunsets you see in books–blood red sky with a tree in silhouette against it (and throw in an elephant or a giraffe by the tree while we’re at it), but that sunset didn’t happen. Not that night or any of the nights we were in Africa.














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Aug 8th, 2005, 09:49 AM
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Please don't keep this to yourself - it's captivating! I would love to read more.

Cindy
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Aug 8th, 2005, 12:42 PM
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Barbara,

Fantastic pictures.

Your report has been wonderful to read so far. I am curious how you lucked out with your own private safari but we'll just have to see if 2Afrika ever offers and explanation. Regardless, lucky you!

Thanks!
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