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SAFARI 2006, Carolyn and Tom, So. Africa, Zambia, Kenya

SAFARI 2006, Carolyn and Tom, So. Africa, Zambia, Kenya

Oct 19th, 2006, 05:14 AM
  #41  
 
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Thanks Tom
The Tokina 12-24 is a good choice and has been getting some very good reviews, especially since it's almost half the Nikon's price!
Cheers
Marc
africaddict is offline  
Oct 19th, 2006, 10:02 AM
  #42  
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PART 5, end of trip report

Trip Report
SAFARI 2006, Carolyn and Tom, So. Africa, Zambia, Kenya
Little Governors Camp, Kenya, September 21, 22, 23, 24, 25th
Nairobi, September 26, 27th
A few photos at - http://www.kodakgallery.com/tdgraham...ttle_Governors

Morning of the 19th, after stopping at tribal textiles, we flew from Mfuwe airport to Lusaka, getting into Lusaka early afternoon. But this was too late to catch the Flight to Nairobi so it meant another night at the Holiday Inn. And more problems at the Holiday Inn. The best thing about the Holiday Inn was the buffet breakfast.
The flight from Lusaka to Nairobi is about four hours and we got into Nairobi late afternoon to experience the traffic jammed roads at that time of day on the way to the Norfolk Hotel.. Our Little Governors reservations were being handled by A&K and at the Norfolk their rep Patricia met us. She was wonderful in reviewing our itinerary (which of course we already knew), she gave us our Mara Park daily passes ($40 per day per person) and an A&K safari hat. Then the next morning she was at the Norfolk with an A&K driver to take us to Wilson Airport and got us through check-in quick and easy. They know her at Wilson. It was very nice having Patricia take care of those shuttle, hotel, airport details. She did the same for us coming back from Little Governors and again when we left the Norfolk to fly back home. Thanks Patricia, you and A&K are a class act.

The flight from Nairobi Wilson to the Mara was 40 minutes and we were vehicled over to Little Governors Camp (Lil Gov). The “main” Governors camp is on the airport side of the Mara river but Lil Gov camp is across the river. So from where the vehicles (game drive) stop, you walk down about 40 steps to the river into a small boat and a “boatman” pulls you across the river, maybe 30 meters, you get out and then climb back up those 40 steps. We were assigned tent number 12A. And it was very comfortable, all enclosed in netting, but no electricity. Light at night is by lantern. For charging camera and PC batteries there is a small room just off of the registration office with two large tables and several AC power strips. Electrical power is on 24 hours. Nice set up.

The days events begins with hot drinks and cookies delivered to your tent at 6am. Your game drive starts at 6:30am and last until about 9am. Back at camp a wonderful buffet breakfast is served with eggs/omelets cooked to order. Then another game drive from 10:30am until 12 noon. Lunch is at 1pm with another great buffet spread. Afternoon game drive is at 3:30pm and you come back to camp around 6pm. Dinner is at 8pm. Dinner is from a menu and it was always excellent. The meals at Lil Gov were the best we’ve had at any safari camp, ever. Even beats MalaMala, if you can believe that !!!! At every meal you had your own table and the same waiter. We were seated at our own (little) table. This was ok but I rather preferred the more communal kind at Mala and Nsefu/Tena. Of course I’m sure we could have joined other guest if we had asked. There was a reasonable charge for soft drinks, beer, wine, etc.

The game drives were very good, not up to Mala standards but better than Nsefu/Tena. The vehicle was totally open, driver, then two seat then two more seats. (Both sets of back seats at the same level). But unlike totally open back at Mala and Nsefu/Tena, there were large padded steel tubes up the sides and over the top. This worked out really good because we were allowed to stand up (yes, stand up) in the vehicle at a sighting for a perhaps clearer view and you could use the tubes for camera bracing. The Land Rover had a fixed glass wind shield. So it was next to impossible to shoot directly forward. This really wasn’t much of a problem, only a couple of times. Drives after dark are not permitted in the Mara. I did miss the sundowner ritual but especially missed following a lion pride as they hunt. (Did that at Mala Mala and Nsefu/Tena).

We shared the Land Rover with another couple from England. They are avid nature photographers having been to many wildlife places like the polar bears at Churchill and grizzly bears salmon feeding in Alaska. It was a joy sharing the vehicle with them, we all exactly agreed on what to see and where and when to go. I say “when” to go because when we followed Honey (cheetah) we wanted to see everything, from the start of the hunt to her chasing off vultures and leaving the kill. The lighting for photos over the several days was just ok, too “party cloudy” in general. For many shots I keep looking at the sky trying to cox the sun from behind the edge of a cloud. Late afternoon light suffered from more clouds.

Our first morning game drive we opted for a box breakfast to take with us so we could stay out on the drive from 6:30 until 12 noon. We wanted to go to the Mara to the main migration crossing areas and this requires skipping the camp breakfast. We went but no action at the river. Did see some zebra and wildebeest scattered about. Saw some dead blotted wildebeest in the river. In camp that evening I talked with a manager about finding the cheetah with three cubs. He said the cheetah named “Honey” and her three cubs were on the Lil Gov camp side of the river. But remember, when we go for game drives we boat across the river to the parked Land Rovers. So, it would be necessary to get our Land Rover to the other side and this he would arrange with our guide. I think there is a bridge about an hour or so up river. The next days game drives we say more zebra, wildebeest, a lion pride taking it easy.

The next day our Land Rover was on the camp side of the river (BTW, same side as where the hot air balloons take off) and with box lunch breakfasts we went off looking for Honey. She is no relation to Queen, Princess, Kike of BBC Big Cat Diary fame. After about an hour we found her and her cubs, mainly because there were about eight vehicles around her, including two from the BBC’s Big Cat Diary production. The BBC was there for the month of September. Honey was on a termite mound and her three cubs jostling about around it. Honey had birthed five cubs. If I understood correctly, one died shortly from being too small and one was killed by hyenas. The three cubs were about four months old. Anyway, Honey saw something and walked off, the cubs staying there. After a minute we saw her chasing an antelope about 200 meters away. The cubs started walking that way and we drove over. Honey had made kill but it was in grass just high enough so you couldn’t really see what it was nor a good view of them feeding. Of course we took lots of pictures anyway. After a while vultures started gathering perhaps 30 meters away. Honey and the cubs seemed to finish eating and began to wander about. The vultures started moving it and Honey showed us how she could scare them off. Honey and cubs wandered off so we left them and found a place to have our box breakfast. Everyone was smiling, we were so pleased having seen Honey and her cubs.

That afternoon Carolyn and I skipped the game drive and visited a Maasai village. We paid $20 each and a Maasai guide showed us a few traditional medicine plants, the inside tiny hut, two men made fire using two sticks, a group of about 20 women sang two songs. Then we went into an adjoining coral where the same women had their crafts on display and for sale. The women were from several villages. Carolyn picked out a few small pieces while I tried to find interesting photo subjects. Her chosen pieces were gathered and the school teacher added up the prices on a calculator, $175. Carolyn took away pieces until she had a necklace and bracelet for $35. What a sad contrast to Kawaza village in Zambia. I suppose this Maasai village was supposed to be authentic but why charge $20 to see it and with high prices for trinkets. For ME, it was not one of those “glad I did it once” things, it was “sorry I did it at all”. However, Carolyn says she would go back to the village to take more pictures and observe village life.

The next day we packed box breakfasts and headed again where there might be migration crossing of the Mara. On the way we stopped at a known hyena den and were lucky to find the youngsters outside just mostly waiting for the mom/adults to come back with some treats. We got to the river area and many zebra (100?) and wildebeest (200?) were gathering at the rivers edge. The zebras are the ones that start the crossing and it took them maybe an hour, and one false start, to decide exactly the spot they wanted. Our view of it was ok but because of the shape of the river and its bank at that point we had to be down stream maybe 80 meters. The first few zebras ventured out and crossed but about the seventh one out was taken by a huge crocodile. The wildebeest joined in a steady stream about four across plunging in for several minutes. Some wildebeest did their crazy thing of jumping way up to enter the water. We did not see any other crocs, just the one leisurely chomping on the zebra.

So we had two great game drive days, seeing Honey and her cubs, then the hyenas and the crossing. We saw no leopard. We did see two other cheetahs but not for very long. Lions were mostly sleeping or a couple times feasting on a kill from the previous night. One night we were woken by a scream and pounding hoofs next to our tent. The next day we learned that a buffalo had charged a night guard, the guard screamed and the buffalo turned away. I have heard (saw) that the Mara camp guards and vehicle drivers are not allowed to carry firearms, rifles. Wonder if just a shot in the air could have saved the fellow killed at Richards’s Camp earlier this month?

One more morning game drive, we went back to the hyena den, two cubs came out for a very few minutes, went back in and then nothing for an hour. We caught the plane to Nairobi. Patricia met us at Wilson and had our two duffels taken care of quickly, thanks again Patricia. Back to the Norfolk Hotel for two nights then home.

The Next morning we hired a cab for the day to take us to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Giraffe Manor, and Karen Blixen’s estate. We went to Sheldricks for the 11am mud elephant mud bathing and it was great. First the little rhino came in by himself, looked everybody over and took a mud wallow. He was led away and then the nine little orphan eles came in and had a grand time sharing the mud bath. Next was to Giraffe Manor where Carolyn just couldn’t stop feeding the giraffes by hand or twice by mouth. Great fun. Nearby Karen Blixens estate for a nice lunch. We went to the Karen Blixen museum but decided not to bother with going in, so went back to the restaurant bar for a cocktail to relax until about 4:30. At 4:30 we taxied back to Sheldricks to watch the eles come in and go to bed. We had adopted Zurura and Makena and they were happy to meet us. They each have a little open stall and a keeper stays with them all night. I tipped their keepers to be sure the eles had enough to eat and the keepers were most grateful. The next day we went to the Carnivore restaurant and for me it was just an “ok to do it once” experience. That evening Patricia and an A&K van took us to the big airport to catch a KLM flight for home (beautiful southern sunny California).


Safari Summary, September 2006
A day by day itinerary was –

Kruger National Park 3 nights, Mala Mala 4 nights, Nsefu 4 nights, Tena Tena 2 nights, and Little Governors 5 nights.
(And in a format I hope Fodor’s posting will accept-)

Saturday 2-Sep-06
Fly leave LAX 10:38a

Sunday 3-Sep-06
arrive Joburg 9:00p Doves Nest B&B

Monday 4-Sep-06
drive So. Africa Idle & Wilde B&B

Tuesday 5-Sep-06 Kruger
Wednesday 6-Sep-06 Kruger
Thursday 7-Sep-06 Kruger

Friday 8-Sep-06 Kruger-Mala Mala
Drive to MalaMala
Saturday 9-Sep-06 Mala Mala
Sunday 10-Sep-06 Mala Mala
Monday 11-Sep-06 Mala Mala

Tuesday 12-Sep-06 Mala Mala-Jo'burg
Fly 12:30p-1:35p
Fly Jo'burg-Lusaka 6:10p-8:10p Holiday Inn Lusaka

Wednesday 13-Sep-06 Lusaka- Nsefu
Fly 11:30a-12:0p Lusaka -Mfuwe
Thursday 14-Sep-06 Nsefu
Friday 15-Sep-06 Nsefu
Saturday 16-Sep-06 Nsefu
Sunday 17-Sep-06 Tena Tena
Monday 18-Sep-06 Tena Tena

Tuesday 19-Sep-06 Mfuwe-Lusaka
Fly 9:45a-10:55a Holiday Inn
Wednesday 20-Sep-06 Lusak-Nairobi
Fly 12:50a-4:30p Norfolk Hotel

Thursday 21-Sep-06 Nairobi- Mara
Fly 10:00a-10:45a Lit. Gov. Camp
Friday 22-Sep-06 Lit. Gov. Camp
Saturday 23-Sep-06 Lit. Gov. Camp
Sunday 24-Sep-06 Lit. Gov. Camp
Monday 25-Sep-06 Lit. Gov .Camp

Tuesday 26-Sep-06 Mara-Nairobi
Fly 11:00a-12:15p Norfolk Hotel
Wednesday 27-Sep-06 Norfolk

Thursday 28-Sep-06 leave Nairobi
Fly 10:00p
Friday 29-Sep-06 arrive LAX
2:10p Home

Total of 18 nights in five safari camps

We were on 14 (fourteen) different airplanes. Six just going and returning from Africa and then eight inside Africa.
Just for the record, for reference, I’m not bragging nor complaining, the above safari cost $9,600 per person. This cost includes the cost of care hire and Kruger camps. And the cost of tips for camp staff. But does not include the cost of flying to and from Africa.

In 2005 we had 12 nights of safari camp and this year planned for 15 nights. But then added 3 nights at Kruger, so 18 total. Eighteen camp nights were a little bit too many. We both agree that 13 or 14, would have been good. It’s just that when you fly for so long and so costly to get there, you really want to do a lot.

Our favorite safari camp – Mala Mala. Like I said before, if Mala is one of the camps you are going to, go to it last. All three countries were beautiful. Mala’s Sabi River, the bush and varied terrain and bush is wonderful. Nsefu/Tena’s location on the Luangwa river and the surrounding open fields with tree lines and the old flat river bed with antelope grazing is wonderful. The flat vast grassy open plain of the Mara is wonderful. I’ll take any of it anytime.
Regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Oct 19th, 2006, 11:10 PM
  #43  
santharamhari
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Tom,

Nice report from Little Governors'. Lots of luck with "Honey" and her cubs and the kill.....

From memory, from my visit in 2002....i did the boxed breakfasts also instead of returning to breakfast and heading out again for another short mid-morning drive. But during that time, the prime areas for gameviewing was very close to camp, including the herds......

Thanks for sharing.......

Hari
 
Oct 19th, 2006, 11:28 PM
  #44  
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Thanks Hari,
It took us maybe 2 hours to find Honey so we were very excited just to see her and her cubs. But then, she took off hunting, made the kill and we could not believe our luck. Got to have some occasionally I guess. Of course I kept wanting better light, it was mostly cloudy as you can tell from the flat photos. But you know me and lighting, I gotta have it all
regards - tom
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Oct 20th, 2006, 03:16 PM
  #45  
 
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Great report and photos, Tom. Thanks for sharing!
ShayTay is offline  
Oct 20th, 2006, 04:50 PM
  #46  
 
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cary999

For all you did, I think you should be bragging about the cost.
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Oct 20th, 2006, 05:13 PM
  #47  
 
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nice report tom, really enjoyed it! I'll have to look into Kruger for an economical way to extend time in Africa. Sounds like you enjoyed it all!
Thanks,
Dennis
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Oct 20th, 2006, 05:45 PM
  #48  
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Thanks all.
Yes we enjoyed Kruger for what it is. And like you say (I said) for $100 per person per day sharing (remember a hut for two is only $70 day) it is good way to start the trip. In fact that is what I'm trying now to work up for 2007. Starting again at Kruger and then up to a Sabi Sand private camp and that's all. No flying to Kenya or whatever. Looking at other camps around Kruger, for less $$$$ than Mala. Any recommendations? Anyone know about Kings Camp? I'm searching Fodor archives but any short cuts to reports appreciated.
regards - tom
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Oct 20th, 2006, 06:31 PM
  #49  
 
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Re: Kings Camp. Never been but I had a travel agent tell me this about Kings Camp in Timbavati. Every guest that comes back just raves about the camp and the experience even more so than other places.
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Oct 20th, 2006, 07:22 PM
  #50  
santharamhari
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Yes, there was a recent trip report from Kings Camp, where the poster had visited for a second time. I can't remember who.....but, just do a search for Kings camp.....

Hari
 
Oct 22nd, 2006, 01:56 PM
  #51  
 
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Well done Tom! What an adventure, 14 flights ...you covered major territory. I must say you and Carolyn are THE "cub magnets", love those little lion, cheetah and hyenas cubs. Can't wait to see the videos of the Nsefu lion cubs. Carolyn was a brave soul walking to Tena Tena.

I would love to visit Mala Mala (maybe for 5 days) and also try a permanent tented camp (for my first time) for 3-4 days, but would save MM for last per your suggestion. My last trip was a total of 10 flights which was too many for my liking.

I forgot you were going to Sheldrick, how wonderful! Makena...what a doll!

You are going to have a great DVD with the photos, sounds and videos. Great trip, will be anxious to hear what you have in the works.

CarlaM is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2006, 03:42 PM
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Tom,

What's up next? Will you return to Africa?
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Oct 22nd, 2006, 04:14 PM
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Tom,
Forgot to mention that my dental hygienist will be staying at Kings Camp in Mar 07, will be anxious to hear her thoughts.
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Oct 22nd, 2006, 04:46 PM
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If you want to see the cutest little leopard cub photo, click here...

http://www.kingscamp.com/frame_profile.htm
CarlaM is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2006, 06:22 PM
  #55  
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Thanks Carla, flattery will get you anything
Will I return to Africa? Well, even now after just getting back, the only travel that interests me is Africa. (This doesn't count local trips to Las Vegas and Yosemite ). At this moment we are looking at toning it down a bit next year. My sister is very interested in going (first time Africa). Am looking at us (three) going to Kruger for 5 nights then to Kings Camp for 5 nights. Carolyn and my sister would then fly home but I just have to go to Mala so I would go over to Mala (short hop) for 5 more nights then fly home. The Kruger and Kings Camp parts and air to/from Joburg would be $4,000 or so per person. Half of that is air.
Going to start on the DVD tomorrow, got lots of photos and video clips to wade through. Don't want it any longer than 30-40 minutes. I won't use any, not one, photo from last year so it will be interesting to see how different it is.
regards - tom
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Oct 22nd, 2006, 06:40 PM
  #56  
 
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Tom, a copy of your DVD will suffice, thanks!

Your tentative plans for SA next year sound terrific.

Glad you mentioned Yosemite, I am interested in planning a long weekend trip there. What time of year is best and what's the best lodge IYO?
CarlaM is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2006, 07:04 PM
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Tom - that is some itineary!!! Your photographs are outstanding. My favorites being the Eagle Owl, Carmine Bee Eaters in flight, the night shot of the porcupine and the baby hyenas.

I just returned from Zambia a few days ago and got a fair shot of an Eagle Owl, but I could not coax him out of the shadows. Mine (which I will post)looks like a cartoon compared to your crystal clear photo.
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Oct 22nd, 2006, 08:47 PM
  #58  
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Thanks GD,
The Eagle Owl shot was a surprise to me, grabbed it on the go. When I finally saw it on PC, looked real good. BTW, was not taken with my wonderful new Nikon D200 but with my "old" Canon S2!! If you get bored, go back and look at the photo next to it I just put up. (Nsefu Tena camp album). Tweaked that owl some, hope it doesn't mind .
That porcupine was amazing, paid us no attention. Usually they run and hide. Wish I could have got a shot of baby hyenas out on their den entry.
regards - tom
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Oct 22nd, 2006, 08:57 PM
  #59  
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Carla,
I'm not much of an expert on Yosemite. Only have gone up about once every four years. Yet it is an easy drive for us, about 6 hours mostly on interstate. But after last May I decided gotta go a lot more often. I'd go anytime except for the summer, family vacations. The fall colors are gone by now I'd think. Winter can be great but it has its own challenges. I guess next spring. As for lodging, boy, they have everything and anything as you know. My choice is "Yosemite Lodge at the Falls". It has all the comforts I'm used to.
regards - tom
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Oct 23rd, 2006, 05:00 AM
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Tom,
You must be a very patient or extremely lucky and quick man to catch so many birds in flight - outstanding!

Although I loved all your pictures, the ones that really caught my eye were the cubs - you saw so many. I like that you included the best of the best and do hope you'll add more.
Thanks for posting your great report with your killer itinerary - most envious!
Sherry
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