Tanzania Trip Report

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Mar 25th, 2010, 04:05 PM
  #21
 
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I'll check out the blogs and photos, but I'm glad for you and Richard that the crater came through.
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Mar 26th, 2010, 04:58 PM
  #22
 
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I still have not gotten to the crater, but your account of telling the truth to the supervisor (the truth?? what a concept!) is great. Whew!

I hope the poor dog with the quills did not suffer too much. At the moment you snapped the picture there was a whole continent and world of suffering going on, but it's the dog photo that made it into the blog. Poor thing.

There was that Manyara greeter that everyone runs into. I wonder if it is the same elephant since they live a long time. Great ele shots, especially that eyeball one. The baboons were out in force, as usual, in Manyara.
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Mar 26th, 2010, 10:47 PM
  #23
 
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Hello Elizabeth S

Sounds like a fantastic trip so far. A stupid question for you...what is a TA? Where can I find one for Tanzania (Serengeti; Ngorogoro Crater; and Singati Grumeti Reserves)?

Thanks a bunch and looking forward to your next installment!

Darryl
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Mar 27th, 2010, 07:31 AM
  #24
 
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Dmiclat,
Until Elizabeth gets back here, a TA is a travel agent.

"Find one" means you are looking for a trip? Any TA that specializes in Africa can put together a trip with those locations or others.
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Mar 28th, 2010, 10:52 AM
  #25
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SERENGETI SAFARI CAMP

I'm not going to stop until I finish the Tanzania portion!

We left Plantation Lodge at 8am for the drive to Nomad's Serengeti Safari Camp; with a planned stop at Olduvai Gorge on the way. This was a real highlight for Richard as he is a voracious reader of all things archaeological and remembers well the Leakeys 1959 discovery of the hominid fossils at Olduvai Gorge.

We sat through the short presentation and visited the museum there - but the highlight was when Felix turned off the main road and we drove through the gorge. From that point until we arrived at the Safari Camp we were well off the beaten track and virtually alone for 4 hours.

Felix drove us past the Shifting Sands - fascinating barkan dunes that move about 17 metres a year - and we spent a long time watching a hyena and vultures with a zebra kill - pics and video on these two blog links....

http://lizandrichardsa.typepad.com/a...serengeti.html

http://lizandrichardsa.typepad.com/a...i-safari-camp/

About 4pm we arrived at the Safari Camp (near Ndutu Lodge).
In my initial planning I had assumed we would stay at Ndutu Lodge - lots of good reviews. I discovered that it is very common to end up on a waiting list for Ndutu , and while you usually get a room (after the provisional group bookings are shed) I wasn't comfortable with that uncertainty. In addition, as I've said, our primary reason for choosing Nomad was the quality of their guides and so I looked at their accommodation at Ndutu (and outside of Serengeti at Loliondo).

We are not campers. Period. Full Stop. Serengeti Safari Camp is a mobile camp - it moves a few times during the migration to maximize the game experience so it is less luxurious than other tented camps. What does that mean? Well, the tents have canvas floors (not raised wood floors at permanent tented camps such as Kirawira) and no crystal chandeliers! But otherwise the accommodation was comfortable and fun.

There are lots of pics and a description on the blog - here

http://lizandrichardsa.typepad.com/a...-memories.html

The biggest nod to "camping" is the shower and toilet facilities. The tents are ensuite and quite cleverly designed with various sections that close off via zippered walls. The shower is a bucket shower (approx 20 litres of perfect temperature water) - there was enough water to wash and condition longish hair, as long as you turned the water off between actions. And the bucket toilet (my bete noire) was just fine. You'll see in the pic on the blog that it is a toilet seat on a large wooden box and below (quite a long way) is a large sand filled bucket. After use you toss a ladle full of sand into the bucket and close the lid - no odour or bugs. And the bucket was swapped out with great frequency (accomplished privately due to all the separate zippered compartments in the tent.

Otherwise the tent was large, with a double bed and turndown service, complete with hot water bottles! Light was solar powered although we were happy to have our itty bitty booklights for reading at night.

We were the only guests for the duration of our stay (3 nights) - this was the case for most of our African holiday. There was a Nomad consultant in camp (the food consultant) and we had a great time with her. (and later in Loliondo as she preceded us there by a day).

The staff were terrific, food was very good - quite impressive offerings considering where we were, and at night we went to sleep to the sound of Zebra munching on the grass outside our tent.

We fell into a nice rhythm of an early start (left camp by 6:30am) and went where the game took us. A bush breakfast at 9:30 or so (complete with french press coffee - Liz was in heaven) and then more game viewing - following are 3 blog links - the elephants were stunning and the 90 minutes we spent under a lioness in a tree were incredibly memorable

http://lizandrichardsa.typepad.com/a...me-drives.html

http://lizandrichardsa.typepad.com/a...elephants.html

http://lizandrichardsa.typepad.com/a...-in-trees.html

Back to camp about 1pm for a 2pm lunch and then a siesta until 4:30 or 5:00 - back out for a shorter game drive...back to camp about 7:00 and then drinks around a fire and dinner. Yes, all we did was sit on our butts and eat!

One of the reasons we prefer to travel with a private guide is that Richard has a bad back and if we have our own vehicle then we can make changes if necessary (delay a departure time or come back early, etc). We were both concerned about how his back would hold up to the rough driving conditions and rougher suspension of the safari vehicles. To say we were traveling with a drugstore full of pain meds is an understatement and Felix was especially solicitous as I had contacted Nomad about this issue well in advance.

Day 2 at Serengeti Safari Camp, the first thing Richard said to me at 6:00am was

"I have no pain".

Not a manageable amount of pain...not the usual amount of pain...No pain.

This after 5 days in "the truck" (as we affectionately call it) - bouncing across the Serengeti and pulling ourselves up and down at frequent intervals. And his back was to remain that way for the rest of our 8 weeks in Africa, which offered up lots of other (ordinarily) challenging back issues such as trekking to see the gorillas, bouncing all across Namibia and changing a couple of tires (see, bouncing across Namibia). This is the most wonderful thing, because now we know it is possible for Richard to be pain free - we just have to figure out how to replicate it (sorry - digression there but it is just the best thing for him!)

We had a great time at Serengeti Safari Camp and highly recommend it. We returned to the area a few days later to fly to Arusha and stopped at Ndutu Lodge for a bathroom break - it did look very nice as well if you don't want the tented experience.
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Mar 28th, 2010, 12:32 PM
  #26
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OFF TO LOLIONDO

Loliondo is Nomad's camp northeast of Ndutu - outside the Serengeti National Park. The main reasons to go there is to do a bush walk, night drive and visit a Maasai Village - and we thought the yurts looked fun (and they were!). We stayed there 2 nights.

Really lovely drive from Ndutu - about 5 hours but we were taking our time. I think we saw 3 or 4 trucks that whole time.
Re the bush walk and night game drive - we enjoyed both of them very much - the latter more than the former due mainly to the pocked nature of the ground (you don't realize how many holes there are when you're driving in the truck). As it was we both had our eyes glued to the ground as we walked - we're both clumsy and didn't want a broken ankle! The night drive was fun (and the sundowner that preceded it) but makes for terrible pics.

http://lizandrichardsa.typepad.com/a...-loliondo.html

http://lizandrichardsa.typepad.com/a...sai-visit.html

The highlight of our stay at Loliondo was dinner with all of the staff - once again it was just Richard and I and Sarah, the food consultant, and we cooked up a plan to meet everyone (it involved us buying a goat - and graciously declining the honour of killing it)....

http://lizandrichardsa.typepad.com/a...he-crater.html

Up early the next morning for a 7:30am departure to get to the Ndutu airstrip for our noon flight to Arusha. When we got to the airport we realized we should have just planned to drive back to Arusha with Felix (he lives there) because we didn't want to leave him!

But it was a great flight over the crater - and we know we will keep in touch with him (after all he and I share the same birthday)

Picked up in Arusha by Nomad and taken to Rivertrees for one night (very short night as we had to leave at 4am for our flight to Kigali). Rivertrees was fine - nice big room, free wi-fi and very helpful staff (especially considering it was our waiter at dinner who had to get up to get us out at 4am!).

I'll finish this portion of our trip report slightly out of order - we went on to Rwanda to trek to see the gorillas and I'll do a separate trip report for that.

Ultimately we ended the East Africa portion of our holiday back at the Holiday Inn in Nairobi (the "bubble") reunited with the luggage we had checked two weeks earlier. An even nicer room the second visit (overlooking the fish pond and with air conditioning - we didn't need it but can imagine there are times you would - the air conditioning, not the fish pond!). As mentioned we met up with our Trip Advisor friend which was very interesting and enjoyed the dinner buffet. The service was really excellent at the hotel - as soon as we asked for an early wake up call (4:30am) they offered to bring a continental breakfast to the room as the restaurant didn't open until 5:00am.

Obviously we didn't spend any real time in Nairobi so can't really comment on it - but we did find it tense. There had been a major demonstration the day before we arrived with several deaths, and the security at the Holiday Inn was very high - Richard walked out the front door during the middle of the day to have a look around and the doorman and security guard followed an inch behind him.

We had a 7am flight to South Africa so had to be at the airport early (after almost missing the flight to Tanzania at the same airport 2 weeks earlier you can imagine how we over compensated!) so we left the hotel at 5am with our lovely cab driver Mutua. I had read in many places that one should not drive at night in some of the cities we were visiting - Nairobi being one - but had overlooked the fact that our 7am flight meant leaving the hotel in darkness. Mutua took a main road near the Holiday Inn and within about 200 metres there was a major traffic jam, with dozens of people spilling out of what looked to be a nightclub. Within another few metres we would have been stuck in a crowd that wasn't looking very happy. Mutua did a masterful 3 point turn with his Corolla and booted down a side street. It wasn't a lot better - but a short run to a much larger street. We could tell he was very concerned.

Arrived with plenty of time to spare - Mutua was terrific and we're happy to provide his contact information. We were back onto our Delta points tickets for the flight to Jo-Berg so we crammed ourselves into Kenya Airways Biz Class lounge for an hour or so and then had a really nice flight to Jo-Berg and connected onto Cape Town for 3 weeks in a rental house in Simon's Town (to be the subject of a separate trip report).

SUMMARY OF THE TANZANIA PORTION OF OUR TRIP REPORT

We had a spectacular time - for two primary reasons:

• we understood our own weird way of traveling and spent 4 nights in one place at the beginning, contrary to many standard itineraries and some advice we received. These first 4 days really grounded us for the trip and made the whole experience comfortable and relaxing

• we had a wonderful guide, who made the whole trip for us

Early on in my research I posted a question on Fodors:

"How many game drives is enough?"

I had some great responses to that - people really worked hard to understand us and how we travel and what would be of interest to us.
In the end the answer for us is - never enough.

We had 9 days of game drives in/around the Serengeti - many of them very long ... 5/6+ hours. And then later in the trip we drove for 16 days through Namibia (much of that being just one big game drive) and then spent 4 days in Botswana (Chobe) with a combination of driving and boat cruises.

I found the game drives to be incredibly relaxing (a description I had not read)....especially the Tanzania portion. We'd just drive along, find something interesting (big or small) and just enjoy life. We didn't have a list of animals we were desperate to see - big, small, whatever - we were happy (and we really loved the birds).

We preferred the Tanzania/Serengeti safari drive to the Botswana one (this is only a slight preference, though) - we found the Serengeti was just more.....random....if that's the right word. Few obvious roads, few other vehicles - just the 3 of us, having fun. The Chobe/Botswana portion had more of an organized feel to it (even though we were in a private vehicle) - obvious roads/routes that all follow. (Don't misunderstand me - we loved Chobe - saw a million elephants!) .... but the Serengeti stole our hearts.

How much of that was due to Felix? - a great deal, we believe. For those planning a trip with Nomad Tanzania we recommend you request him as your guide. If you are not using Nomad Tanzania, Felix can work with you directly to plan and book an Arusha/Crater/Serengeti trip using all of the local lodges, and he can handle financial transactions electronically.

If you would like Felix's contact information, please email me at

eseibertca AT yahoo DOT ca

Once again thanks to everyone here who helped us with our planning - we would not have had this trip without you.

Now - onto the South Africa Trip Report - not posting it until I've fully written it!

Thanks

Liz
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Mar 28th, 2010, 09:46 PM
  #27
 
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Aloha Liz, I don't know what I enjoy most about your trip report--the pictures or your wonderful sense of humor and dialogue. Thanks so much for sharing--what a fantastic experience you had!
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Mar 31st, 2010, 06:32 AM
  #28
 
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Now I saw the crater. Adorable lion cubs and good job on the rhino! The mud spa looked attractive, especially if you are a hyena.
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Mar 31st, 2010, 01:44 PM
  #29
 
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Thanks for your post. I finally had a chance to start reading your report, and I'm really enjoying it. We had a nice stay at Plantation Lodge too, when we were visiting the Crater. Nice to see such pretty pictures of it.

Looking forward to reading about your adventures in South Africa...
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Apr 1st, 2010, 04:12 PM
  #30
 
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A good guide such as Felix will turn those stones into cheetah cubs, just like magic.

Saw your honey badger and African Wildcat in the Serengeti. Great finds! The wild cat is such a rarity, but looks so much like the common housecat. I never get over that.
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Apr 1st, 2010, 06:41 PM
  #31
 
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Liz

Thanks for the fantastic trip reports. We just left you an email re: Felix's contact information. We are planning our mid-August 2011 Tanzanian Safari. We would welcome any and all additional guidance you can provide. Please let us know how the SA trip goes - we are considering visiting Cape Town for 2-3 nights after our safari before we depart for the home.

Thanks!
dmiclat
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Apr 2nd, 2010, 04:35 PM
  #32
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dmiclat - just replied to your email.

Lynn - the honey badger and wildcat were real highlights for us....and Felix. I guess you can tell when something is rare when the guide also takes a picture!
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May 22nd, 2010, 11:09 AM
  #33
 
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Coming in a bit late to your report, but wanted to add my 2 pennies to your husband's "no back pain" comment. We were in TZ last year in August - a trip planned a year in advance, and then what happens to me in Feb? A rather bad disc herniation! The trip involved trekking (in Mahale)+ the usual rough roads elsewhere. I had been hobbling for months & praying daily that the chimps would come to camp instead of us having to climb the mountains. I even did my back exercises during the Swiss flight to Dar, much to the astonishment of the stewards and passengers. Anyway, to cut a long story short, on about our 4th day in country, the pain vanished - just like that. Ended up hiking and bumping over rutted roads with nary a twinge! I thought I was a strange one, but was amazed to read about your husband.

Moral of the story for people with back problems - just plan a trip to Africa.
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May 22nd, 2010, 12:07 PM
  #34
 
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Sangeeta, I second your advice! I was in southern and western Tanzania last September and left the US with a frozen shoulder. Several months of physical therapy hadn't made much of a difference. When I returned from the safari, the therapist was amazed to discover that my shoulder was perfectly fine! I attribute that to all those bumpy game drives... works wonders on shoulder adhesions.

BTW, where did you stay at Mahale? We were at Kungwe. August should have been a perfect time to be there.
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May 22nd, 2010, 01:29 PM
  #35
 
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We used Flycatcher for that trip, ShayTay. We "floated" past Kungwe on the Flycatcher dhow and waved to some people on shore - perhaps it was you?
And that makes three cures so far! How amazing is that?
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May 22nd, 2010, 02:30 PM
  #36
 
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We saw the Flycatcher camps at Mahale and Katavi. Our group was probably there after you were (mid/late September.)Great places! We were also at Ruaha and Mikumi.
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May 23rd, 2010, 04:14 AM
  #37
 
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Great report!I really enjoy it and hopefully i will go there soon.Thanks!
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May 23rd, 2010, 04:38 PM
  #38
 
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Liz - Great report! May I ask you how many P-M's you brought with you? One use only?
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May 23rd, 2010, 06:52 PM
  #39
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tinydancer - thanks - there are 5 P-Ms to the pack. While they are billed as single use they are slightly plasticized so I did re-use (whoa - way too much information!)
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May 24th, 2010, 03:47 AM
  #40
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sangeeta - well there is something to this! Maybe we can get a "prescription" for Africa
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