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Tanzania Trip Report July 2006 - Live, Laugh, Love

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Jul 27th, 2006, 05:42 PM
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Tanzania Trip Report July 2006 - Live, Laugh, Love

Live, Laugh, Love

Life is funny. It was around this time last year when I first discovered this forum, and I read every trip report written from 2003 on up. Now here it is, a year later, and I’m writing one of my own.

My safari started as a suggestion some friends threw out about 2 years ago, when asked how DH and I could best celebrate our 25th anniversary. At that time, the safari suggestion seemed very farfetched to me, as I am known to be a major chicken when it comes to exploring the unknown. Flying and bugs (and flying bugs) do not sit well with me. When my DH was determined to pursue the idea, he presented me with the idea that we would sleep on the ground in a tiny tent out in the middle of the bush AND have to help with the cooking. No way Jose, not for 25 years of bliss. Uh-Uh! Time to do some Internet research!

Before I knew it, the safari which was to be in celebration of our 25th anniversary soon grew into a celebration of my soon-to-be half century mark as well as a celebration of "before the kids go off to college", as our 2 oldest both start college in the fall.

The budget grew along with the numbers. From "just us 2", we tried to make it a family affair, but our two teenagers would have nothing to do with being out in the wilderness, no internet or phone, stuck in a vehicle with the parental units for 2 weeks. This left us with our 12 year old son, who had no other choice.

We determined that this talkative 12 year old needed a friend to accompany him so that he wouldn’t drive us crazy. This then developed into the friend coming, along with the friend's whole family (we're all friends actually). Then my longest standing and best friend, who is also celebrating her half-century mark, joined in the fun, thus our motley crew grew to eight, all first time safari goers – (5 adults and three 11 to 15 year olds -2 boys, one girl) went on what I will call the Live, Laugh, Love safari.

Somehow, I became UGL - the Unofficial Group Leader. The women in the group wanted running hot water, flushing toilets, A/C and electricity. The men wanted liquor.

We chose an itinerary put together by Tracey at ATR, which included Moivaro Lodge, Tarangire Treetops, Gibbs Farm, Oldupai Camp, Migration Camp, Sand Rivers (my DH had to do some fishing) and the last night at the Holiday Inn in Dar before flying back. We also added 3 days in London prior to setting off to Dar so as to break up the flight and get over some of the jetlag.

We had a blast! I have never laughed so much and so hard in my life.
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Jul 27th, 2006, 05:44 PM
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Hamna Shida

We all booked our flights separately, thus the carriers and routing used to get to Dar, and then Arusha, were different. Our family was the last to arrive in Arusha, traveling from Nassau first on Delta, then Virgin Atlantic, the on South African Airways (which was great!) from London, with a connecting flight in Johannesburg to Dar, and then Air Excel from there.

I was not prepared for the mayhem at Dar airport. In fact, I am led to believe there is no such thing as a queue in Africa at all, as we met with similar mayhem when transferring in Johannesburg to go to international transfers. Everyone just crowds in a general area, and then you have to guess if you are supposed to be there too. At least in Johannesburg I had a hint because everyone was facing the same general direction. At Dar, there were just throngs of people all facing in different directions with various official-looking posts all over the place.

After standing in the middle of the crowd, we figured that there were actually two areas - one seemed to be where you go to get an immigration stamp and the other, we figured, must be the area for visas as there were larger throngs of agitated people standing and pushing their way to a number of windows. I, the UGL, had done my research and Bahamians do not need visas to enter Tanzania. However, observing the mayhem which now surrounded me, the question arose in my mind “did the immigration officials know that?”

Separate and conquer became the tactic. DH stood on the Immigration line, which he had found by now. I slid up to one of the windows to ask my question - did we need a visa? A blank stare. Go back, get one of the passports from my DH, slide through the people (who were very helpful, it's like they wanted to know the answer themselves) up to the window with the passport this time and ask again. This time it disappears into the hand of THE SUPERVISOR, who looks at it takes it over to another station and they look it up in the computer (my apologies to anyone who was waiting). Finally an answer comes back - no, a visa is not needed. Run back to DH who is now next in line.

The immigration man, who did not seem very happy to see so many visitors entering his country, looked in the passport and immediately asked, “Where are the visas?” When we explained that the people at those windows (pointing) said we did not need one, he shrugged and replied “Okay" then told me to go get the bags, but insisted that DH stay put - I assumed it was to deal with the formalities, and off I went, with my child, happy to have arrived!

That happiness did not last too long as the bags we went in search of did not arrive with us. We were not to see them again until 2 days later. However, equipped with South African Airways amenity bags and sleepwear, we got by.

Two hours later, after receiving a tour at 5,000 feet from the Air Excel pilot, we landed in Arusha and met up with our friends. With a glass of wine and the first toast of many, we began our safari!
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Jul 27th, 2006, 05:57 PM
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Thanks! Just don't leave us in suspense (like some people do!). Please finish the report ASAP.
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Jul 27th, 2006, 06:15 PM
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Looks like fun - you are a good writer! Please do continue. Photos?
 
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Jul 27th, 2006, 06:15 PM
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I am already loving this. "The women wanted toilets, hot water, and electricity. The men wanted liquor."

!!!
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Jul 27th, 2006, 09:01 PM
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I am with Lisa--a truly memorable sentence. I love this report. So I am also with marija--more, please, may we have more?
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Jul 28th, 2006, 02:28 AM
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Thanks for your words of encouragement Maria, africnow, lisa and bat! I had so much advice from here, and learned so much reading others' reports that I just had to try to contribute something back to the board. I'm still working on the pictures...there are thousands!
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Jul 28th, 2006, 02:30 AM
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First Animals

It may not count in your book as the first animal sighting, but it does in mine. There was a one and a half inch multi-legged creature under my mosquito net at Moivaro. Never seen this type of critter before. It looked harmless enough, but in my book all insects in Africa were dangerous.

Moivaro was okay as a first stop. The grounds were lovely. I do not remember too much about the food. Sadly, the thing that stands out most in my mind are the bugs. They were everywhere. I remember thinking, that if there were this many bugs in a hotel-like setting, then I was in trouble.

Fortunately for me, there were no more close encounters of the creepy-crawler kind elsewhere.

We had 2 MKSC guides as we were traveling in two vehicles. One, an older more settled kind and sensitive guy, with a great sense of humour, who I will call P, and the other a younger, more "with it" guy who I will call S. P always wore his uniform proudly and played the senior role. After the first day P, became the guide for the ladies and S the guide for the men. It was a match made in heaven.

That morning we went into town to go shopping for some essentials. After our briefing by Petra, we realized it might be a couple of days before we saw our luggage again.

Our guide P took us to the supermarket in Arusha (which we found, surprisingly well stocked) and then across the street to the local market to find some shirts, and underwear for DH and son (I, the UGL had packed extras in my carry-on). The first stall was unsuccessful. When P asked, we assumed, for some men’s underwear, we were shown some shocking red panties for women. Obviously not the best selection of under garments, but it showed me an interesting side of Tanzanian culture.

At the second stall we hit pay dirt. We got some very nice safari shirts (at a cheaper price than the ones in our missing luggage) and some men’s briefs. $60 lighter, and now armed with men’s underwear and 5 new shirts, we were off to Tarangire Park!

On game drives, unless there was some sighting the ladies stayed nicely ensconced in their seats. All of the guys remained standing throughout.

Tarangire was my favourite park. Our first day out we saw a family of cheetahs, and elephants by the hundreds! I was in heaven.

Of course we saw more animals than that, but I was just fascinated by the landscape and the ability to watch the animals in their natural environments. I could now appreciate how photos always seemed to have giraffes staring you, looking like they are smiling down on you. They seemed to be as fascinated with us as we were with them. I also wondered how so many people were able to capture photos of buffaloes looking straight at the camera. Little did I know that a whole herd will turn and just stare back at you, keeping a careful watch on you until you drive off out of sight. Eerie!

I felt like Helen Keller with Anne Sullivan when the water pump came on. I wanted to know everything about what I was seeing. P answered and explained patiently and with full details only to have more questions shoot back at him. He repeated himself a number of times over the next couple of days. Sometimes we would forget a point he had made earlier about some animal's behavior. But he would patiently explain again, adding a bit of humour so as to make it easier to remember the next time. After a couple of days, he would jokingly quiz us.

I found myself reading the Safari Companion in the evenings to soak up as much knowledge as I could about the various animals, and to also better understand the behavior observed the next day.

Tarangire Treetops was fantastic! The food - excellent! And the visiting elephant - adrenaline inducing!
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Jul 28th, 2006, 03:24 AM
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Great trip report! Can't wait to hear the rest of it.
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Jul 28th, 2006, 04:55 AM
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This is fun.

Waiting for more, but I gather the gals didn't get the a/c till the Holiday Inn in DAR ... and everyone survived!
 
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Jul 28th, 2006, 05:05 AM
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Oh, I'm gonna really like this report. So far so good. Please keep it coming!
Sherry
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Jul 28th, 2006, 07:44 AM
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London to Johannesburg to Dar to Arusha! Wow, that's some route.

If I ever feel the urge to complain again about the non-stop flight from Amsterdam to Arusha I will remember your route and shut up

Great report, keep it coming ...

Bill


Our family was the last to arrive in Arusha, traveling from Nassau first on Delta, then Virgin Atlantic, the on South African Airways (which was great!) from London, with a connecting flight in Johannesburg to Dar, and then Air Excel from there.
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Jul 28th, 2006, 08:49 AM
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Yeah, Bill it was pretty rough! Couldn't complain too much, though, as we used miles to get from Nassau to Dar. Pretty much flew in the upper cabins all the way, so that "softened" the hassle.

SAA was great! We had flat beds (and good wine) so we were able to sleep for most of the journey. Virgin wasn't too bad either and my son LOVED their LHR lounge.

But, if I had to do it all again, I would definately go for the quick and easy route, even if it has to be in economy. I figure for the time we spent in aiports and in the air, I could have had at least 2 more days in the bush.
J
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Jul 28th, 2006, 09:54 AM
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BahamaBreeze:
I totally understand your statement about the airport in Johannesburg - "Everyone just crowds in a general area, and then you have to guess if you are supposed to be there too" - I remember standing in that crowd, wondering...

And on the wall in my kitchen is a quote: "live well, laugh often, love much". Feels like I've found a kindred spirit!

Great start- looking forward to more!

Cyn
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Jul 28th, 2006, 09:56 AM
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Live, laugh, Love.

A great motto and a great report so far. Would love to see some cheetah pictures.

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Jul 28th, 2006, 10:26 AM
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I'm loving your trip report so far! Please keep the next installments coming and quick

Sorry about your luggage delay but it sounds like it made for an interesting shopping experience.
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Jul 28th, 2006, 10:35 AM
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What a fun report. Eight people, wow: I raise my glass to you, UGL!
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Jul 28th, 2006, 02:55 PM
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Thanks for all your words of encouragement! I'll try to keep them coming faster over the weekend.

John

They had a name for him. When an elephant is given a name at a camp that must mean something. The legend is that after John has eaten his full of the Marula fruit, he likes to wreak havoc with the tourists.

When we returned from our second day of game drives in Tarangire, it was twilight and we were met by the Treetops staff in the parking area. They informed us that we would have to be escorted to our tents and then back for dinner that evening as there were 2 elephants in the area.

Dinner, as all our meals at Treetops, was excellent. Our box lunch from them was the best on the trip. They packed Tupperware containers full of delicious vegetables, bean, lettuce, and pasta salads, along with some grilled chicken in some kind of sauce. Fresh bread, dessert, coffee & tea came along with it. P spread it out at a picnic table in one of the picnic areas in Tarangire Park, where we were the only tourists. It was a beautiful sight, overlooking a marshy area.

After dinner, we were met again by the guards armed with flashlights. This time I noticed our escorts were a bit more nervous and they talked a lot with each other on the walkie-talkies. Instead of going the direct route back to our rooms, we were instead directed along what I gathered was the staff route. We had not walked more than 10 yards from the main lodge when we heard some loud crunching and breaking of branches, right outside my DF (friend)’s room. It was at that point that I noticed we had at least 4 guards armed with flashlights and one that was carrying a canvas bag which I guessed (more like hoped) had a more dangerous weapon. We dropped off another 2 people from our party before we got to our room, which was actually just up the hill from DF.

It was another 45 minutes before John made an appearance. We heard him making his way towards us and DH, excitedly grabbed his video camera and we all went out on the front deck to watch John make his approach. At the same time one of the flashlight guards came up, keeping a safe distance.

At this point in our journey, DH, having had a full day on safari, now thought he was Sir David Attenborough and was determined, despite the darkness, to get this moment on tape. From his perch on the porch he instructed the guard (who is standing about 5 feet from us, and about 20 feet from John) to shine his flashlight at the monstrous elephant below us so he can get a better shot. The guard stared blankly back as if he did not understand a word DH said.

Frustrated, but perhaps now realizing it was not too smart to be outside on the porch we walked/ran inside and peered through the screen window. A couple of minutes later John came right up under the window where we stood transfixed, and extended his trunk eye level just outside of it, sniffing. I was too terrified to move. Thankfully, John decided to move on.
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Jul 28th, 2006, 02:57 PM
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“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

So far in our journey, I, the UGL, had scored major brownie points for the places we stayed. We had all the “must haves” on the list. Nature provided the A/C, as the weather was delightfully cool in the evenings and mornings. Now it was time to prepare the group for a minor shift.

The previous day, Petra had located our luggage and arranged for it to be delivered to the Sopa Lodge in Tarangire. In the evening, prior to our return to Treetops, we made a stop there. As the luggage had not yet arrived, we had a tour of the lodge and sat outside on the terrace to have some pre-sundowners.

The service was painfully slow. The lodge was exceedingly big. We all agreed that thankfully, we managed to avoid impersonal places like this. Now, the following day, we were on our way to Gibbs Farm and Oldupai Camp.

Once you get off the main roads, the roads to and from Treetops are nightmares. The road to Gibbs Farm was just as bad.

Along the way little children ran up to us yelling “hello, hello” in sing-song voices. We saw little children with babies in their backs, no adult in sight. Happily, they waved as we passed. Occasionally, they would yell something else, which P told us meant they wanted money or candy or pencils. He did not slow down.

Gibbs Farm was lovely. The view was fantastic and the food extremely good. Dinner was served family style and we felt at home. For the first time we had access to the internet which the adults used for 2 minutes, just to send e-mails that we were safe. The 15 year old used it for about an hour. The only inconvenience that we suffered was that the electricity was turned off at 11pm and the rooms were pitch black until morning.

Prior to dinner we all chose to hear a talk given by a Maasai traditional healer on the use of natural herbs and plants. We arrived in a small but pleasant outdoor alcove to be greeted by the healer and a table with china, set up for tea. So far so good. Our Maasai traditional healer then pulled out his notes and proceeded to give us his talk.

We learned not only about the trees and shrubs used and their purposes, but also how he helped guests and staff alike with whatever may ail them. He further explained a bit about the Maasai and the differences between a traditional healer and spiritual healer. In the event that you do not know, a spiritual healer is one who will identify your problem, tell you how to fix it, and then convince you that you need to come back with chickens, coins, cows, goats or whatever in order to be healed. Each additional visit would only partially heal you, so you would have to keep coming back with more chickens, coins, cows or goats.

He had a captive audience of 10, us along with 2 other tourists who by this time must have become too relaxed by the tea as they were sleeping.

There was more to learn. The Maasai tending goats and cows wear red clothing as well as rubber shoes made from old car tires. We were informed of the reasons why. At this point I noticed he was no longer using his notes.
Red, we were told, hides dirt more readily than any other colour. Tires are used for shoes because they are not only water proof, but the material is basically free. Pausing for effect our Maasai traditional healer and now teacher proceeded to inform us that there were other uses for these shoes, besides the shielding of feet.

“We are out in the field all day long and sometimes we get thirsty. We can drink water like this”, cupping his hands and pretending to scoop up a handful of water to drink, “or we can just do it like this” at which point he took off his shoe and pretended to scoop up water using the upper side.

I give our kids utmost credit. Not one made a sound. I think we were all in too much shock to say anything. The eyes however, told it all.

He was not finished though. “When we need to go to the bathroom, sometimes we need to wipe”. Proudly showing that no two parts of the shoe were used for the same thing he showed us how the underside nearest the dirt was used for wiping purposes.

After the talk concluded we sat in the Gibbs Farm library with some drinks and had ourselves a good giggle. Being the great UGL that I am, I figured this would be as good a time as any to remind everyone that our next night would be spent at Oldupai Tented Camp, which is completely run by Maasai.
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Jul 28th, 2006, 03:28 PM
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BahamaBreeze.
Your teenagers must be kicking themselves. Very entertaining report. More please
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