Tanzanian Safari - Trip Report

Old Sep 17th, 2006, 04:45 PM
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Tanzanian Safari - Trip Report

I'm back, and wanting to share my experience with anyone who will listen!! The months of planning and uncertainty are over. The journey has been accomplished. I love Africa!!! I'm trying to organize my thoughts and cull through the hundreds and hundreds of pictures I took. Hopefully within the next day or so, I'll have some pictures well enough organized to share with you all. In the meantime...

Day 1 -- We finally got to the San Francisco Airport Hyatt after making some stops to bid farewell to family members, then turning around and going home to get my drivers license -- just in case I might need it. (I'm not sure what my thinking was -- maybe I'd be called upon to drive our safari jeep?) We ordered room service, watched T.V., and got a good night's sleep to ready us for the upcoming adventure.

Day 2 -- We caught the Hyatt's 5:30 a.m. shuttle for the 5 minute ride to the airport. We took American Airlines for a pleasant, uneventful flight to JFK. At JFK we passed a long 5+ hour layover before our KLM flight bound for Amsterdam boarded. After boarding we waited for 2 hours before taking off. Again, an uneventful flight. Not as pleasant as the flight from SFO to JFK, but at least KLM serves lots of food and free drinks...

Day 3 -- This time change thing is weird. How can it be Day 3 when we just left home? We arrived in Amsterdam about noon and went immediately to the airport Sheraton. My husband and I were tired and cranky and had decided that international travel isn't for us. Fortunately our room was ready, and we showered, napped, had dinner, decided that maybe international travel isn't so bad after all, then slept through the night. The Sheraton is right at the airport; even I, with my bad knee, can walk to it. We are so glad we had decided to spend the night and recharge the batteries before pushing on to Africa.

Day 4 -- Our morning was a little hectic, but we made our flight and got settled in for the 8+ hour flight to Arusha, finally arriving at Kilimanjaro International Airport. It was hot and humid inside the airport; not to mention how slowly everything went. There were only 3 or 4 people to hand check and stamp every passport/visa for 2 arriving international flights. Finally we were through the formalities and outside the airport. It was still warm, but the air was much fresher. We met our driver/guide, Godson, and were on our way. Even in the dark, the feel of Tanzania is of poverty. Something that was to be confirmed over and over during our stay. Despite the incredible poverty, however, we found a grace and dignity among many of the people that is admirable, and is part of what made our trip so wonderful, but I'm jumping ahead...

After driving for about 40 minutes we turned into a dusty, rutted lane. Of course I was terrified that we were being kidnapped and would be robbed and never heard from again. Obviously my fears were unfounded, and we arrived, instead at the Serena Mountain Village Lodge. It was once a coffee plantation, but is now lodging. We were served refreshing drinks and escorted to our rooms. Our room was lovely, and I was to discover the next morning that the grounds are lovely too.

I was exhausted, but too tired to sleep immediately. I was finally in Africa. The sounds of the first night were of insects. They would give way to other, more menacing sounds on future nights, but of course I didn't know that at the time. The night smells were musty, dusty, smokey, with random intense floral smells.

Finally, I was off to sleep to ready myself for the next day when the adventure would begin in earnest!
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Old Sep 17th, 2006, 07:33 PM
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I've managed to organize another installment of our adventure. It is fun for me to look through my journal and relive the experience.

Day 5 -- We awoke early, had a hearty breakfast, good coffee, and were on our way to Tarangire. We passed through Arusha. We saw many people going about their business; walking and riding bikes. The men seemed to be dressed in Western style clothing, but many women were dressed in kangas, which are brightly colored rectangular cloths they wrap around their bodies and heads. Many women also carried buckets or baskets balanced perfectly on their heads as they went about their business. Their bearing was regal and graceful. All this was so new, exciting, and exotic to us. I wanted pictures, but we had been warned to be respectful about taking photos, so we didn't get many.

We soon passed Arusha and were out in the country. We saw many herds of cattle or goats being tended by young boys, many of whom were dressed in cloths wrapped around their bodies and carrying staffs. The homes we passed were very small. Some were built of sticks and mud or dung. The more "modern" ones were small rectangles built of more modern construction; however none appeared to have glass windows or real doors. We saw no evidence of electricity or running water. Our driver confirmed this and said most people must fetch water every day for their daily needs. The residences tend to be family compounds with several small buildings standing close to one another serving different functions, or housing various family members. Many had "kraals" which are brushy fences build for protection from wild animals.

We finally reached Tarangire and turned off the reasonably good, paved highway onto a dusty road. We thought it was bad, but we didn't know that we'd come to appreciate what a good road it was - comparatively speaking!

We arrived at our camp after making our first sightings of zebras, giraffes, ostriches, guinea hens, and wildebeest. Oh, our excitement!! At the lodge, we looked down over the valley and saw elephants down by the river, along with zebras, and wildebeest. It looked like something out of Jurassic Park!

Our tents were interesting. They are permanent tents, with front porches, beds, and bathrooms. It is a little more primitive than I'm accustomed to, but I enjoyed the two nights we spent there. It was all part of the adventure.

To be continued...
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Old Sep 17th, 2006, 07:44 PM
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Great start. I'm so glad that were able to go and enjoy your trip. And that you survived a tented camp.
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Old Sep 17th, 2006, 08:06 PM
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agree with Leely, Great start! Keep it coming!
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Old Sep 18th, 2006, 07:10 AM
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Day 5(continued) - After lunch we went back to our tent and found a warthog grazing in our "yard". I took a couple of pictures, the we just stood there and watched until suddenly it decided to charge at us. Yikes!! We didn't know what to do, and were terrified. We just stood there, stunned, (with my bum knee, I knew I couldn't get anywhere fast enough to escape anyway). My life flashed before my eyes. Killed by a warthog. My doctor had kidded me about being lion bait, but never mentioned warthogs... Fortunately it veered away, and we were safe. Somewhat shaken we went into our tent for a little rest before our afternoon game drive. As we rested, I heard a rustling sound and turned just in time to see a creature scurry out of our tent. They mean it when they say "zip up the zipper -- all the way".

At 4:00 we went for a game drive. Our first official one. We saw elephants, dik-dik, many birds, a monitor lizard, warthogs, zebras, giraffes, and even 2 lions (although these were at a great distance). We were so excited. As I mentioned earlier, it was just like being in Jurassic Park. Of special interest to me were the beautiful baobab trees. They are ancient trees, many being hundreds of years old, with huge, gnarled trunks, and wide spreading branches. Wow!! All these exotic animals and interesting vegetation as a bonus!

As we were leaving the park area, the sun was setting. I have never seen such beautiful sunsets as are to be found in Africa. Evening after evening we were treated to the most spectacular displays. We have lots of stunning sunset photos, but then, I suspect, so do most camera wielding visitors to this part of the world.

We had a sundowner reception on the patio, dinner, then were escorted to our tents. After a cold shower, we settled down to our first night in a tent in Africa, lulled by the rumbling of lions and other night sounds. I can't believe I'm doing this. I like fancy hotels, bed and breakfasts, luxury, and comfort. That being said, I'm having the time of my life. I love Africa!!!
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Old Sep 18th, 2006, 07:21 AM
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Great report! Thanks for writing and looking forward to more.
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Old Sep 18th, 2006, 08:54 AM
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There should be a law that states "Thou cannot post a trip report until you have it completely finished".

You just leave me hanging wanting more

Thanks for sharing,
Duane
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Old Sep 18th, 2006, 09:19 AM
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Great report! I look forward to hearing more also.

Cindy
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Old Sep 18th, 2006, 10:01 AM
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I understand that feeling of wanting to share your African experiences with anyone who will listen. This the right place.

The warthog tale of fright was a good one.

Great start to your report. Looking forward to the rest.
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Old Sep 18th, 2006, 01:33 PM
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Iím glad you and your knee had a great trip and Iím looking forward to reading more about it.
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Old Sep 18th, 2006, 02:34 PM
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Day 6 "Hello, good morning, jambo.." We are awaken at 6:00 a.m. by a young man bearing a pot of hot coffee. We were up and dressed in time to watch the beautiful sunrise just outside our tent door, while sipping a nice hot cup of coffee. I could get used to this!! By 6:30 we were off on another game drive. Sightings included cape buffalo, giraffes, warthogs, zebras, waterbuck, elephants, and dik-dik.

After breakfast our driver/guide talked to us about Tanzania. He was, at one time, a hunting guide but disliked the killing of animals just for bragging rights, so turned to guiding the type of safari we're on. He is an interesting man, and is very knowledgeable. He is an older man, 57 years, and seems somewhat introspective and thoughtful. He also has a wicked sense of humor! In addition to the animals and vegetation, we discussed the local people and their habits, which really pleases me as I am as interested in the culture of where I am as the wildlife. He told us that some families still ask for a bride price when their daughters marry, but that he felt it was like selling his daughter. Instead he followed in his father's footsteps and took a gift of sugar to each of the households of friends and relatives to announce the marriage plans of his daughter.

He also pointed out that many people now have "modern" houses. They looked like shacks to us -- no electricity or running water, tin roofs, no real doors or windows (just openings). Generally people build a structure and partition it into a community space for eating and visiting and bedrooms, with separate areas for boys, girls, and parents. Later, more buildings may be added to the compound to house more relatives, visitors, and for cooking areas. Each building, however, is really small - no more than 400 square feet for a modern house, and far less for a traditional one. It really puts my life and expectations into perspective.

On our afternoon game drive we sighted impalas, mongooses, baboons (including some infants), and another lion. We are becoming somewhat blasé about "the usual" zebras, elephants, dik-diks, warthogs, giraffes, and wildebeest.

At dinner we are surprised when we are charged double the amount for wine as compared to last night. When we asked why, they just said "new prices". We're wondering if the new prices come into effect on one's last night. We've discovered that prices in Africa can be somewhat arbitrary and bargining is expected. This isn't so much true in the lodges. Oh well, no matter. We are having the time of our life.

We're soon off to another cold shower and bed. During the night I was awakened to tearing sounds, and looked out of my tent to see the silhouette of a large animal grazing just outside my window flap. Yikes! What could it be? At least I was comforted by the knowledge that it appeared to be a herbivore, so wouldn't be interested in me!!! I also assumed that the lions I had heard earlier that evening wouldn't be nearby, as the grazing animal seemed pretty relaxed! I would probably survive the night and live to see another game drive. This is the best trip of my life!!!
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Old Sep 18th, 2006, 06:05 PM
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I am really enjoying your trip report. We leave for Kenya-Tanzania in 8 days. I am so excited, (hubby is not too thrilled).
Where was your first tented stop? I love all of the details.
MORE PLEASE, Sandy
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Old Sep 18th, 2006, 07:57 PM
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Sandy, our first tented stop was the Tarangire Safari Lodge. It is a very nice "camp" beautifully located on a bluff overlooking the river where elephants and other game just casually hang out all day long. We really enjoyed it, despite the scary bathroom. The tent was fine, comfortable, and we felt safe. I was afraid to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, however, as it wasn't completely closed in (there was a gap between the wall and the "roof"). It was probably pretty silly of me, but it is amazing how imaginative one can be after dark!!. I strongly suspect that my husband was having some of the same imaginings, although he won't admit it.

I'm so excited for you. Where in Kenya & Tanzania will you be visiting? I'm sure you'll enjoy it, as will your husband. My husband went with the attitude that he was accomodating another one of my harebrained schemes, but ended up practically knocking me over to get a good vantage point every time we even thought we had a good game sighting.

Happy travels!
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Old Sep 18th, 2006, 08:26 PM
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I'm going to try to share some of the pictures I took on the safari. Hopefully I got this right!!

http://www.kodakgallery.com/Slidesho...y=-jtvi47&Ux=0
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Old Sep 18th, 2006, 08:32 PM
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nice pictures nevermind. nice to see the Swahili(?) name of them all. at first I thought you had named all the animals on your trip, then realized it must be the African name for them. DUH
Great report also! Thanks!
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Old Sep 19th, 2006, 05:00 AM
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Nevermind, Our trip is as follows--We overnight in Nairobi, Samburu Serena-2 nights, Mara Intrepids-3 nights, Arusha-1 night, Tarangire Swala-2 nights, Ngorongora Serena-2 nights, Serengeti Serena-1 night, Migration Camp-2 nights, Arusha-1 night, then South Africa for 10 days. DH is most concerned about tented camps. I think we will be ok once he sees they don't have too many snakes and large animals in them. (We are flying between some of the stops so we don't have real long drives most days.) I am saving air miles just in case he falls in love with Afica and wants to return.
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Old Sep 19th, 2006, 07:02 AM
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Sandy, we stayed at the Ngorongoro Serena and Serengeti Serena and were quite happy there. The only tented camp that we stayed at other than Tarangire was Kirawira, which we loved.

We drove in, then flew out. I loved both experiences.

You have quite an extensive trip planned. South Africa sounds interesting. I'll just bet DH will love the tent experience. I did, and I'm a bit of a whimp!!

I'll be anxiously anticipating your trip report upon your return!!
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Old Sep 19th, 2006, 08:24 AM
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Hi nevermind: I am really enjoying the report and am so glad you added pics. They're fantastic. Really like the one looking down on elephants and zebra at the Tarangire watering hole. It's a neat perspective.
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Old Sep 19th, 2006, 08:58 AM
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Maybe a group of us women could get together for a trip to Africa without our husbands-even though mine enjoyed most of the trip, he got very ill 2nd day at the camp and is a bit wary of going to the "bush" again!
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Old Sep 19th, 2006, 09:05 AM
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Day 6 - the drive to Lake Manyara & the Ngorongoro Crater

We left Tarangire at 7:30 a.m., after breakfast. The road was a good paved one, a fact that we didn't fully appreciate until later on that day. We saw a few giraffes along the way. Although it hadn't felt unusual to see them on a game drive, seeing them browsing away along a paved road was somewhat surreal. Along the way we also saw many people out and about along the road. The countryside was very rural, dusty, and flat. The main industry seems to be herding cattle and goats, and this was mostly done by young boys. Men were walking or riding bikes to get from one place to another. Where they were going remains a mystery. It seemed to us that there was really no place to go... Many men were dressed in red or blue cloaks, and the women wore colorful kangas. I wish my friends could see all this. It is so colorful and interesting. Many women walked along the roadway with pails on their heads. Godson said they were fetching water and food for the day. He told us that the day begins at dawn, when the men go out to make the living. The women tend the homes and children. Sometimes it can take the better part of a morning just to get water for the household. Godson said that the roles are pretty clearly defined in African culture. The woman is responsible for all things involving the home -- in some areas (including the Maasai culture) that includes building the home. He told us that he considers himself to have modern attitudes, but would be humilitated if any of his friends caught him helping out in the kitchen!

As we approached Lake Manyara, we passed through a little town called Mto Wa Mbu, meaning Mosquito River. It is a bustling, colorful town. The people all seem busy and industrious. One thing I have noticed is that Africans seem very communal. There appears to be a lot of visiting and interacting that occurs, and they are all friendly to us.

We didn't spend much time at Lake Manyara; however we were there long enough to see hippos, cormorants, storks, pelicans, baboons, elephants, giraffes, monkeys, cape buffalo, and wildebeest.

The road remained good, and we climbed a steep hill which gave us a panoramic view of the area we had passed through. There was was only one paved road - the one we were on - but many dusty trails leading to who knows where.

The vegetation became lush. This was obviously a more agricultural area, and very pretty. We had a nice lunch on the patio at Gibb's Farm, which was once a coffee plantation. The food was good, the weather beautiful, and the view stunning. I managed to get lost at the farm, which was pretty embarrassing. I was wandering off by myself and soon realized I had no clue as to where I was. I tried asking a couple of workers how to get back to the main area, but no one spoke English and my Swahili is limited to a couple of polite phrases. "Jambo", "Habari yako?", or "Asante" weren't goint to get me far. Perhaps "Wapi choo?" would elicit the response I needed, but I wouldn't understand unless it was given in English. I was doomed. My husband would continue on without me, and I'd miss out on the safari. Why do I do things like this? My first time of wandering off was when I was about 11 and I took my 2 year old brother on a sunset walk around Sequoia National Park. We were soon lost. Fortunately we were found just as darkness fell. I still remember the fear in my heart and the weight of responsibility for my little brother. My mom said to never wander off again. Obviously I wasn't a good listener.

Fortunately, this time, I saved myself. As I wandered, things began to look familiar and I heard my husband's voice. As I came limping up to him, I expected concern, even worry, as to where I'd been. Instead he said "Are you ready to go?". I guess I hadn't been missing as long as I thought. Still, I think maybe I should heed my mother's warning.

Along the way we stopped at an area that overlooked the crater. It was a beautiful day and the crater floor, ringed by mountains, was a perfectly flat patchwork of yellow grassland dotted with greener areas where there is water and trees. At our lay-by was a plaque commemorating those who had lost their lives in the conservation of wildlife. Among the causes of death were rhino attack, shot by poachers, and road & air accidents. There was also a plaque that read "It is our obligation to save rhinos". Where else in the world can such sentiments be found?

We soon had our first taste of rough, dusty, scary roads. Still nothing compared with what was to come! Nevertheless, enough to wake us up. We arrived at the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge in the late afternoon, The lodge is nice and we had a comfortable room with hot water for the shower! Our room opened onto a stunning view of the crater.

We immediately checked into having our clothes laundered. They were, after all, pretty dusty after that ride. (We were still new at this safari thing. It didn't take long, however, for us to figure out that wearing dusty clothes is o.k.) Someone came to our room and fetched our laundry, then after cleaning up and resting for a while, we went to the lounge where we enjoyed some local entertainment. After dinner it was off to bed, as we had another big day coming up. As we walked into our room, the phone was ringing. It was the laundry asking if it would be convenient for them to bring us our clean clothes. I think we are getting spoiled.
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