TANZANIA TRIP REPORT

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Apr 21st, 2000, 10:27 AM
  #1
Bert
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TANZANIA TRIP REPORT

I experienced a wonderful and very productive familiarization trip with Kibo
Safaris in Northern Tanzania, in late March/early April 2000. I returned rather tired but filled with a lot of enthusiasm for the country, its tourism attractions and especially its people. They are remarkably friendly and gracious towards visitors.

There were many highlights. Here are a few (the full trip report is available on request, by e-mail).

* THE CLASSIC VIEW OF MT. KILIMANJARO
My first two nights were spent at Kibo Safaris’ private camp site at Isinya, an
area which is in the same ecosystem as Amboseli, which is just across the
border in Kenya. Very early on my first morning in Tanzania, I stumbled out of
my tent, all thoughts and actions focused on the pot of freshly brewed coffee
waiting for me on a small table to the left of the tent. Having poured myself a
cup, I sat down on a canvas safari chair, staring somewhat mindlessly at a dense
grove of fever trees, from the base of which the sunlight seemed to emerge.
Suddenly remembering where I was, I turned my head just slightly to the right
and looked up, and there it was - Kilimanjaro bigger than Dallas, perfectly lit by the morning sun. For a truly magical few minutes, Kilimanjaro loomed over the
sunrise in full view, snow-capped just like in the guide-books, until some pesky clouds took it away. I could have spent an entire morning just sitting there, watching Kili come and go, listening to the birds, and marveling at the giant acacia Tortilis trees which dominate the area. At Isinya, there is no mistaking the fact that you are in Africa.

* MASAI MARKET DAY AT ISINYA
Market day at Isinya was amazing. Andy Harris of Kibo and myself went up to the Masai community center a few miles from the campsite, ostensibly to experience a bit of the local culture, to observe the colorful Masai people and so on. The ‘cultural experience’ that one reads about in the travel brochures. Well, it didn’t quite work out like that. As we were walking in amongst the crowd of Masai people gathered under the trees, selling and buying everything from maize meal to traditional Masai knives, I realized that the tables were being turned on us. We had become the ‘cultural experience’, not the other way around! So there we were, dressed in what must have appeared to the Masai to be the most inappropriate gear considering the mild climate, being pointed at and smiled at
in what was obviously a good natured, yet nonetheless slightly disconcerting manner. Several of the women seemed to be giving us the once-over and deciding all too quickly - for reasons that will thankfully remain unknown to us forever - that we didn’t measure up! Perhaps my ear-lobes were not big
enough?

* WILDEBEEST MIGRATION ON THE SERENGETI
Yes, Virginia there is a wildebeest migration and it is showing right now,
somewhere in the theater of the vast Serengeti Plains. And what a picture it is.
My first thought upon gazing out over hundreds of thousands of wildebeest was
that in the face of a spectacle like that, all technology fails. There is no camera or
other device which can do justice to such a scene, all sound and fury in a 360
degree arc, non-stop movement and action as the wildebeest succumb to instinct
and follow the rain. Parting ahead of us like water around the prow of a boat, the
wildebeest in their hundreds practically engulfed our vehicle, splashing across
the muddy, wet shortgrass plains in the Ndutu area. Sounding like a bunch of
bullfrogs on steroids, grunting and carrying on something fierce, they bulldozed
ahead, seemingly mindless of the rogue hyenas and lions lurking all around.
Unbelievable, amazing.

* NGORONGORO CRATER.
It is probably a bit passé to describe Ngorongoro Crater as a Garden of Eden,
but it fits. Here, in an area of just about 10 miles square, you essentially have a
microcosm of practically all the natural habitats of East Africa: lakes, marshes,
rivers, grassy plains, woodland, forest and hills. For such a small area, the crater
(more correctly a caldera), is extremely productive and as a result it sustains
large numbers of an amazing variety of animals and birds. Ngorongoro Crater
was superb - and so few other people in low season!

Sunday, April 2, was a great morning to find oneself on the floor of the crater. In
the crisp, clear morning light the zebra, eland and buffalo which we saw on the
way down, appeared startlingly bright, as if someone had just given them a fresh
coat of paint. Then, in the distance, we noticed a female cheetah and her three
youngsters walking away from a male lion, which they had just spotted. At a
steady pace the four cheetah walked in our direction from our right to our left,
periodically peering over their right shoulders. We had a grandstand view, with
the mountain in the background providing a nice backdrop. The female cheetah
was interested in only one thing and that was to put as much distance as it could,
between itself and the lion. Food, as in hunting, was definitely not on its mind.
The other animals on the crater floor seemed to realize that too. The many Thomson’s and Grant’s Gazelles, zebras and wildebeest in the area were somewhat nervous but they didn’t take flight, letting the cheetah foursome walk right by them. I suppose this is what makes game-viewing on an African safari so much fun: even when nothing happens, it can be spectacular!

* THE QUALITY OF THE GUIDING
The guides were all fantastic. During my stay in Tanzania I was fortunate to be
shown around by three different guides, namely Julius Mollel, Arnold Makinda
and Haggai Kissila. Guides of their caliber are not easy to find, anywhere in
Africa. A really good guide has to exude confidence, as safari participants take
their confidence from the guide’s. When a group finds itself in a tricky situation,
whether it is something as mundane as dealing with a flat tire or as potentially
dangerous as a hippo popping up close to a canoe, the group has to be confident of the guide’s ability to handle the situation. With the Kibo guides I always felt very safe, they were always totally in control of the situation, and minor problems were smoothed over without involving me, which is the way it should be. All three my guides were extremely knowledgeable, articulate and
very enthusiastic - I think they would have kept me going around the clock, had I
shown the inclination! As it was, I learnt a great deal not only about the wildlife
of Tanzania, but about the plants and trees, history, peoples, foods, geology
and much more. A real bonus was the fact that my guides could speak the Masai language in addition to Swahili and English.

* OLJORO ROAD, ARUSHA
I just have to say something about my several trips up and down Arusha’s Oljoro
(Sombatini) Road, which I believe has to be the epicenter of the Third World. It is
an incredible stretch of road, with an astounding number of hair salons, bars,
small shops and butcheries scattered along a roadway that is ‘under construction’, to put it mildly. With piles of dirt on either side restricting the width of the road to the point where two vehicles can barely squeeze by each other, Arushans nevertheless treat it like a 6-lane highway... As a result, Oljoro Road seems to be in a perpetual state of utter chaos, with minibuses, trucks, cars, bicycles, chickens, front-end loaders, children, jeeps, goats, pushcarts, landrovers, assorted pedestrians and cattle jockeying for position in helter-skelter fashion. I cannot even begin to imagine what market day will be like over there. Perhaps I will time my next visit so that I can find out.

What to expect in Tanzania? Very warm hospitality, for one thing. Without
exception, the people I met seemed genuinely happy to have me as a visitor in
their country. You can also expect to see wonderful and abundant wildlife,
magnificent scenery and great accommodations. Culturally and
socio-economically, Tanzania is very diverse. While you may see late model
BMW’s running around Arusha, in the outlying areas it quickly becomes clear that Tanzania is not a rich country where people have a lot of ‘stuff’, like in the United States. Life is simple, luxuries are few and there is little that goes wasted. Sometimes things don’t work, the electricity may go off unexpectedly, and ‘road network’ is definitely an oxymoron. But there is no reason to be apprehensive, as long as you are armed with a bit of patience and good humor. I have found that people who are enthusiastic about their first visit to Africa always have a wonderful time, despite the occasional little glitches which sometimes affect a trip in a continent where telephone service and other means of communications are woefully inadequate, in the remote areas.

My best advice is to leave the watch at home, relax and expect the unexpected!
In Tanzania I am sure you will quickly hear the expression ‘Karibu Tanzania’
when things do not go exactly 100% as planned or anticipated. In other words,
‘Welcome to Tanzania...’ Yet I think the vast majority of visitors’ lasting memory
of Tanzania is bound to be one of smiling faces and young hands held aloft in a
friendly wave. Asanté Sana!
 
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Apr 21st, 2000, 06:18 PM
  #2
April
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Thanks for the report and for bringing back some fond memories.
 
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May 2nd, 2000, 02:25 PM
  #3
No name
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So.... if this was a familiarization trip, you must be a travel professional. The definition of a familiarization is a trip for free or at a greatly reduced rate offered by the supplier so that the traveler (you) will return home and SELL "first hand" on behalf of the supplier (Kibo Safaris). Isn't that the deal? I'll bet it WAS "wonderful and productive". What's not to like? How can you be objective when you're essentially being paid NOT to be objective? Dear readers my advice is to take this info "with a grain" and "consider the source" then read other posts from unbiased traveler before making a decision.
 
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May 3rd, 2000, 03:50 AM
  #4
Bert
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The previous anonymous respondent needs to get a life.

Sure I am a travel professional but the trip was bought and paid for by myself, including the airfare from Houston to Johannesburg & roundtrip to Nairobi. I have canceled checks to prove it.

FYI I have done many similar familiarization trips to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, and will be visiting Kenya (with Savannah Camps & Lodges) and Madagascar (with Unusual Destinations) in July/August. My credibility as an informed African traveler who visits the area twice every year is any time the equal of a so-called 'unbiased' traveler who may visit the area once or twice over many years.

So by all means do consider the source - someone who knows what he is talking about, which is more than can be said about 'no name'...



 
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May 3rd, 2000, 08:24 AM
  #5
Louise
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Firstly, in regards to "no name", I can never understand why someone feels the need to post anonymously unless hiding from something. Secondly, Bert has posted on many forums with wonderful, detailed, helpful information and never once given the name of his company. His love of Africa is so apparent and it is such a pleasure to read of his travels and in some cases advice. Yes, I have travelled with his company and I can tell you every tour he has experienced himself first and will give an honest assessment which I am sure is not the case with many travel "professionals". His newsletters which I receive periodically describing his recent trips are a joy to read. I am happy to realize that he is possibly expanding his territories to give many more the wonderful opportunity of dealing with his expertise.
 
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