Trip Report - July 07 Tanzinia


Jul 28th, 2007, 06:51 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 183
Trip Report - July 07 Tanzinia

I am not sure I can describe the trip. If you have gone on a Safari I do not need to describe it, you already know. If you have never been then there is nothing I can write that will make you understand. I would have never thought it could be like it was. I am not going as far as to say it as life changing, but it was along those lines. It is just what my wife and I needed. The combination of the Safari, being away from people for so long and spending a lot of time together and staying in awesome tented camps made for an amazing trip.

Since everyone was so much help with my trip planning I will try to answer a lot of the questions I had about electronics, camps, immunizations, money, etc.

Please note that there are some strange characters in this report. No not people, but actual characters in the posting. For some reason they appear when I post to the site. Anytime I used an apostrophe or a quote it throws some weird character in the paragraph. So please overlook them and enjoy the read.

This whole trip started because we had quite a few miles on Northwest Airlines and at the time they were going into (and eventually got out of) bankruptcy; I thought we better use our miles. We had enough for two Business Class tickets to anywhere in the world. We save our miles for trips like this and never use them for domestic tickets. When I priced out these tickets they would have cost $17,000. I know not too many people actually pay for business class but that was the published price. We narrowed the list down to Australia, Hong Kong (in conjunction with somewhere else), and a Safari. My wife picked the Safari. I would have thought she would have picked Australia. The Safari was my 3rd choice but it turned into the right one. The only instructions she gave me were we had to stay in places with a shower and bathroom facilities IN the room/tent. Now, you need to know my wife. She does her hair and full makeup, with heels to go to the mailbox. OK, that might be a bit extreme, but everyone she told she was going on a tented Safari had the same reaction, Do they have hairdryers?

Just a side note; my wife never participates in our trip planning. I do not mean this as bad thing, it is just she knows we are going somewhere and all the details will have been taken care of for her. If I ask her opinion, she will let me know, but overall she just trusts me to do the right thing. Now this works well for us because I love to research where we are going. I want to know what is there, where the best places to stay are, what to do, etc. She just knew we were going to Africa on Safari. I think she even knew we were going to the Serengeti and the Crater, but I am not sure. Our running joke is that one day she will surprise me with a trip, having done all the planning herself. Well we have been together a long time and it hasn’t happened yet. Actually when we were walking around Amsterdam (2nd half of the trip) I asked her where we were staying. She had no idea. If we got separated I would have never found her. After that, she kept a business card of the B&B.

So I got to work. About all I knew was I wanted to see the migration and wanted to go to Ngorongoro crater. So, that was the basis of our trip. My main source of information was the Fodors talk website. I did not even know what to ask yet, so I started reading all the posts and the prior trip reports. After reading for a week or so I now had enough information to start asking questions. With the answers I got I pretty much narrowed it down to the Northern circuit in Tanzania. I think I should say all the good folks on the Fodors board narrowed it down for me. From reading the posts and trip reports I kind of knew where we wanted to stay (all tents), how long we wanted to go, when we wanted to go and I knew what agents I wanted to contact. I also decided I wanted to fly into the Serengeti and work my way back. And; last but most important, we wanted a private safari.

Private versus Group Tour - I know some people like the larger groups and at times it would have been nice to have some table mates, but overall private was the way to go. Best decision we made. We decided when and where we would go. How long we would stop at a site, when to drive on, etc. But most of all we had the whole vehicle to ourselves. I had the whole back row and open top to myself and my wife and the one in front of me. We drove past many vehicles with 5 or 6 people in the truck jockeying for position at sightings. I could not do that. It may sound selfish, but we spent a lot of money on this trip so we kind of felt we wanted to be in control of what we did. We ran into larger group tours at most of our sites. Almost every time they sat down for dinner it was who is going to sit where, I want to sit next to… It was a major event just to sit down for dinner. Not for me but you know what, these people enjoyed it. Many of our friends would only think of going in a group and that is OK for them. We have never gone on a group tour anywhere and we almost always vacation alone. Love people and have some great friends, but we like to travel alone. The only reason I put this in is some people question which is right for them, a group or private tour. For us private was the way to go. If you are ever thinking of taking a private trip, a Safari is one trip to do it on. The benefits are well worth it. Just yesterday I was reading a post about someone that was worried that their tour would be at 16 people versus 13 that was published. I couldn’t imagine traveling with 11 other people for a safari.

With this information I sent email to 5 agents telling them my ideas and asked for prices/ideas. They all came back with information, some better than others. I was sure a couple didn’t even read my email as they came back with a “package” that wasn’t close to what I wanted. They were out. Out of the last 3 I decided on using Good Earth Tours for a couple of reasons. They responded not only with a great itinerary based on what I wanted, but they also have an office in Tampa and probably the most important item was that they do not source out. They have their own drivers and vehicles. That was important to me. Narry was great to work with and all the connections worked great. Everything was as promised. People met us when they were supposed to meet us – a big plus because we were in Kenya and Tanzania, not Kansas. I would not hesitate to book them again or suggest them to a friend. Together we built a luxury safari for a lot less than “canned” luxury safaris.

It is the little things they did that made a difference. A few weeks before we were scheduled to leave, Narry found out that the Nairobi Safari Club was under construction so he suggested the Fairview Hotel so we wouldn’t have to put up with the construction. Also, we were booked at the Kia lodge because our flight into the Serengeti was to leave from JRO because Arusha airport was under construction. Again, a few weeks before we were to leave he received confirmation that the flight would leave from Arusha airport so he suggested we get a hotel in Arusha instead of trying to drive all the way from JRO at 6:30 a.m. Our guide always had cold water in the cooler, as much as we wanted. It’s the attention to details like that, that make for a great trip. We didn’t have any issues because of them the whole trip.

Our vehicle. This was also very important to my wife as she had seen pictures of some “less that new” vehicles on some websites and in some pictures people posted. Good Earth did us right. We had a brand new vehicle. It was a huge Land Cruiser with seating for nine counting the driver. As one of the other guides said, You could play soccer in there. It had the tops that come off versus the pop up tops. This was great for us as I spend most of the time standing up with the wind in my face (another reason for a private safari), the sun shining on me as I tried to spot animals. If I was here in the summer I would definitely want a pop up, but for us this vehicle was perfect. I liked the idea of being open and not having braces holding up the top. Many times while maneuvering I was thanking them for not having the pop up top. It looks like they can easily add a canvas the pop up and may be planning on doing so for the summer months.

While all this was going on I started working to get the airline tickets. I couldn’t book the safari until I booked the airline tickets. That was not easy as I wanted to use the lower mileage awards and as we know, they don’t issue many of those. But, with some finagling I got it booked. I couldn’t get tickets out of Ft Myers so we needed to drive 2 hours to Tampa. We also had to fly into and out of Nairobi even though I didn’t really want to. I didn’t mind on the way down as we needed a day to get used to the time and we used the time to see around Nairobi. On the way back it’s just a wasted vacation day since we arrived late at night and had to leave early the next day. Tip: If you have a choice, fly into Tanzania if that is where you are going. It was particularly tough on our last night as we sat at JRO waiting on our flight (90 minutes late) watching the KLM flight to Amsterdam take off before us. I so much wanted to be on that plane because that was where we were flying to the next day from Nairobi.
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Jul 28th, 2007, 06:53 PM
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After all was said and done, here is the itinerary we used.

Leave Tampa at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday July 3 arriving in Nairobi at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 4 with an overnight stay at the Fairview Hotel in Nairobi.
Thur July 5: Day trip to Giraffe Center and David Sheldrick shelter then to the airport for a 6:00 p.m. flight to Tanzania. Stayed the night at the New Arusha Hotel.
Fri July 6: Flight to Western Serengeti, leaving Arusha at 8:00am, arrival Serengeti at 10:20 am, overnight at Kirawira Camp.
Sat July 7: Western Serengeti - Kirawira Camp
Sun July 8: Northern Serengeti staying at the Migration Camp
Mon July 9: Northern Serengeti staying at the Migration Camp
Tue July 10: Central Serengeti staying at Mbuzi Mawe Tented Camp
Wed July 11:Ngorongoro Crater staying at Ngorongoro Serena Lodge
Thur July 12: Tarangire staying at Tarangire River Camp
Fri July 13: Tarangire staying at Tarangire River Camp
Sat July 14: To Kilimanjaro airport for a flight to Nairobi – overnight at Fairview Hotel
Sun Jul 15: Transfer to Nairobi airport for a 11:25 a.m. flight
Sun Jul 15 – Sun July 22 Drove to Germany and spent week with son and family
Sun Jul 22 – Wed Jul 25 Spent 3 nights in Amsterdam before returning home
Wed Jul 25 – 11:20 a.m. flight from Amsterdam to US arriving home at 10:00 p.m.

Monday – work ½ day then drive to Tampa. We stayed at a Hilton that allows you to park your car there for the trip. Heck parking even at the off airport parking area would cost more than the room alone. First win of the trip.

Tuesday – arrived at the airport at 6:30 a.m. As we were in the boarding area they announced that the flight from Tampa to Detroit was cancelled because of a backed up toilet. I had to go get all the luggage from baggage claim then return to counter and get rebooked (my wife went to the counter while I got the luggage). It was a bit of a panic but since we did have a 7 hour layover in Detroit we thought we’d be OK. They rebooked us through Indianapolis (originally booked on this flight 6 months ago) to get into Detroit with 90 minutes to spare. We had planned on using our 7 hour layover in Detroit to tour the city. But we didn’t get to tour Detroit so I lost the Priceline rental car fee. Small price to pay if it means we’ll make our flight. We made it on time, left out of Detroit on time. We were fortunate to fly Business Class in seats 1A and 1B. NWA has a very nice Business Class, much better than KLM I think. Although Kenya Air has a pretty nice set up.

Wednesday – landed in Amsterdam around 7:15 a.m. Went to WBC Lounge then strolled the airport a bit. Very busy airport with security checks at each gate instead of at one main entrance. The only drawback to this was you couldn’t bring on any water because they confiscate it right at the gate. The agent called us over because our luggage tags didn’t match what they had in the computer. They actually had 6 bags in the computer but they only found 3. That’s because we rebooked through Tampa so they had our bags twice. Very tight control over the bags. We had 2 exit row seats in the upstairs section of the plane in that little hump you see on some of the planes. It was kind of intimate with just us and 12 of our closest friends, although there was room for 24. Two flight attendants for 12 people made for some pretty personal service. Some pretty weird food was served on the plane though J

Arrived in Nairobi a little late around 7:30 p.m. It was a bit odd as they made them shut the plane down on a taxiway and then they towed them in. The attendant said this is only the second time they have done this. It delayed our arrival for about another 30 minutes. We didn’t have visas so we had to stand in the visa line. There were only about 5 people in front of us. We already had the visa forms filled out ahead of time so we didn’t have to go through that hassle (we did in Tanzania because the needed “their” form). Paid our $50 each and we were on our way. Luggage was on the conveyor belt when we got there, so no wait. We were met by the owner of Safari Line; they work with Good Earth in Kenya. It’s nice seeing a placard with your name on it in a foreign countryJ. They took us to the Fairview Hotel for the night (see description below). Nice hotel. I used their exercise room, which was very nice, better than most US hotels. Great breakfast buffet in the morning too. Between the excitement and jet lag, I didn’t sleep but 4 hours. They did have free wireless Internet that we used to do a final email check.

Thursday - Matthew from Safari Line met us around 10:00 a.m., which was plenty early enough for us. I had to go to a camera shop to buy a cable to download my pictures. I have all other cables but this one J. The worst part is that I have 2 at home. $28 USD and we were on our way. We went to the David Sheldrick shelter to see the elephants. What a great time. They start at 11:00 and bring the smaller elephants out into a roped off area. You are pretty close to them and if they wander your way you can pet them. They are just like little kids. After about 30 minutes they bring out the older elephants. They are still small, but older than the others. Each elephant gets 3 bottles of formula, which looks like milk. They each know exactly where to go to get their milk. Well worth the 200Kenya currency, $3.12 USD). Make sure you get there by 10:45 at the latest. Otherwise you can’t get a spot at the rope.

We left there then went to the Giraffe Center. I can now say that I have been intimate with a giraffe. OK, just a kiss, but intimate none the less. I had to do it. No one else there was kissing the Giraffe including my wife. It is a bit pricey, but the money goes to a good cause. If I had to pay for it separately I might have passed. But since it was included I didn’t see it as a separate price J. It was worth the trip.

We were taken to a gift shop place that serves lunch, which turned out to be a big tourist trap. Food was way over priced as were the souvenirs. We asked our guide to eat with us and he declined twice. Come to find out, they serve a free meal to the guides when they bring people. If I remember the name, I’ll fill it in here. It starts with a T I think and is within ½ mile of the Giraffe Center. I don’t mind spending money; just hate the “lets get the tourist” attitude that some places have.

After that we were taken to the airport for the trip to Kilimanjaro. After waiting through a long line to go through security – with your bags – we get to check in. Then you have passport control. I swear it takes twice as long to leave Kenya than it does to enter it. When we get to the gate we had to go through security again. It makes you wonder; not once did I have to take off my shoes, watch, phone, belt, etc. Never set off the metal detector. They guy in Kenya was nodding off as we walked through J

The Precision Air plane was a prop job that held about 48 passengers although we only had about 20 on the plane. We arrived in Tanzania around 6:30 p.m. Just like in Kenya, we had our visa forms filled out. They wouldn’t accept them so we needed to fill in their forms, which were identical, just smaller. Our bags arrived right away and we and were met by Magnificent from Good Earth Tours. Nice guy, took us to the New Arusha Hotel. See description of Arusha Hotel below. There was not an ATM in the airport so don’t count on using one. Along the way to the hotel, which is a long way, we picked up someone else although I forget his name, from Good Earth Tours. He was the Good Earth rep that explained what was to come and gave us our plane tickets for the next day. Another nice guy.

We were originally booked at the Kia Lodge but once the flights started going out of Arusha again instead of JRO we switched hotels so the drive wouldn’t be as long in the morning. I asked to stop at an ATM on the way since there was none in the airport. OK, here I am standing there, not really knowing the exchange rate figuring they would ask how much I wanted in USD. Pretty stupid huh? Well this is the first time I have used an ATM outside the US as I usually bring enough cash and just exchange it. Anyway, I guessed at 30,000 Shillings only to find out later that that was about $26 USD. I wasn’t going far on that. Magnificent took me back the next day and I got 400,000 Shillings – a little over $300 USD. With that said, you do not have to exchange money. USD was accepted everywhere. Just bring a lot of one dollar bills and you’ll be fine. It was nice having a few 500 Shilling notes though.
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Jul 28th, 2007, 06:54 PM
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Friday – the first real day of Safari! Room service in the morning was included because we were leaving too early for the buffet. My wife took a cold shower because after literally 10 full minutes the water never even got warm. When she was finished we kept the water running and it finally got warm. Took about 20 minutes but at least I got a warm shower J It pays to be a gentleman and let the lady go first. Again, good sleep eluded me as I got 3 – 4 hours tops. Whenever I travel far, I struggle with the time change.

Off to the Arusha airport for our flight to the Grumeti Airstrip. Boarded Excel Airlines on time and made stops in Lobo and Klein’s Camp before getting to Grumeti Airstrip. Small plane that held about 12 people. The luggage – they did weigh our luggage, but weighed it together. I know we had 10 lbs to spare easily. I carried all my camera equipment in a backpack on the plane. Plenty of room to store the back pack in the cabin so I didn’t need to carry it on my lap, even when the plane was full. If interested, just ask and they might let you sit in the copilot’s seat. At this point I m so excited I can hardly stand it J Unfotunately this day was rather cloudy so we didn’t get to see the crater. We didn’t see much until we got close to Lobo.

We were picked up at Grumeti airstrip by our guide for the trip, Mr. Goodluck, who would become a friend over the next 9 days. Of course he wanted to be called just Goodluck or as he is called at home Baba Margaret. That means Margaret’s dad even though I am sure I got the spelling wrong. He said it is customary to call older people by the name of their oldest child. He called my wife Mama Stephen after our oldest boy. He was more comfortable with this than calling her Denise. Since we were older, we could call him whatever we pleased. But since he was younger, he wasn’t supposed to call her by her first name.

Once he picked us up we went right into a game drive. As many of you know, the first day you get excited over anything you see. We saw a lioness sleeping next to her partially eaten wildebeest, many wildebeests’ (less one mentioned above), monkeys, giraffes, zebra, and all sorts of birds, cape buffaloes, crocodiles and hippos. This was just from 10:30 until about 3:00 with an hour break for lunch.

We did stop at another camp for lunch. It was Syrana or something like that (I am probably way off on the name). It was a tented camp that Kirawira uses for lunch if you cannot make it back to camp. Our first bush lunch. White linen, real silver wear, fresh cooked food. I’m going to like this, it was a great way to start the Safari. Around 3:00 we asked to go check in as we were becoming very tired. Hadn’t slept more than 5 hours at a time since Sunday and it was wearing on us. We checked into Kirawira Camp and all I can say is Wow! We were greeted with nice cold towels and fresh juice. The Manager of the camp sat with us and explained everything we were to expect. All the meals were great. Lunch and dinner were 4 courses and prepared great. Not always my favorite selection for meals, but pretty good. We were beat so we ended up in bed around 10:00 p.m.

Saturday – Wake up call at 6:30 – OK, not a call but a nice gentleman at our tent flap saying “Jambo” and bringing coffee, tea and muffins. I could get used to this. After breakfast we met Goodluck for our morning drive. I couldn’t tell you where we went but it was great. You can actually see the increase in the number of wildebeests. Every where you looked for as far as you can see there were wildebeests. For the most part they weren’t bunched up into the large massive herds, but were more spread out.

Highlights of the day was the small water crossing of the wildebeests, all the monkeys and baboons congregated in one area, and being surrounded by wildebeests. They were actually running circles around our jeep. We went back to the camp around 12:30, had lunched and relaxed a bit. My wife took a nap while I downloaded my pictures to my laptop. I also made CD backups just in case. I remember on our first cruise I downloaded all the pictures and the hard drive died the next day. We went back out around 3:30 for another game drive. Saw a lot of what we saw earlier. What fun!

Sunday was the day to leave Kirawira and head to the Migration Camp. We opted for the call instead of the guy coming by and waking us up. We left around 7:45 after breakfast. We spent a good part of the day exploring the Seronera area. We drove and drove and drove. The highlights were seeing a leopard and Cheetah. Of course we saw many Zebra, Wildebeest and Giraffes. Another highlight was a private viewing with about 25 elephants from toddler to one big one. We stayed with them for about 30 minutes as they played around the road. Way too cool. We made our way to Migration Camp which was quite a ways away. We pulled in around 6:00 p.m. See below for the description of the Migration Camp. Fabulous!

Monday was our earliest day so far. We meet Goodluck at 6:00 a.m. One of the other couples with Good Earth that posted on Fodor’s was leaving at the same time. We pretty much played follow the leader. This was not a good viewing day until around noon when we saw a lioness. She was sitting up on a rock not far from the road. There were 3 there until a jeep pulled off road and drove up to the rock. Well 2 ran away. There was no reason for this as they weren’t very far off the road. Anyway, from what others have said back in camp, it wasn’t a good day overall for game viewing.

Since we are approaching our halfway point and we are staying at an awesome camp, we decided to not go on an afternoon drive and to not get back together until after lunch on Tuesday. You should have heard our guide. We made him so happy. He had to radio the other Good Earth guides and of course brag to them that he was off for the next 24 hours J. We went back to the tent and took a nap, read a little and just hung out. What a relaxing afternoon. After another great dinner, we went back and watched Stargate SG1. Yep, my wife taped it and watched it on the laptop. It was kind of cozy lying together in a double bed…..

Tuesday - We ordered breakfast delivered to the tent the next day. I thought they were just going to bring it, but at 8:30 the waiter came by to take our order. Ate breakfast as we lay around a bit, my wife watched TV in bed and I sat outside to read until it was time to leave. Had a great hot lunch, the last of the trip and we were on our way. I know, some people might say this was a waste of a day, but believe me, it was a great time. It was nice not being on the go. It was cold in the mornings and it felt great not to have to get up. Just snuggle under the covers.

We checked out right before lunch. Actually there is no checking out as everything is included. We drove towards Mbuzi Mawe having a game drive along the way. I know we saw a lion and plenty of elephants, but nothing else that sticks out. Of course this probably means we saw lots zebra, giraffes and wildebeests. By this time we were getting kind of jaded seeing so many animals. We did stop by the Lobo Wilderness Lodge just to check it out. The lodge seemed nice enough but the rooms were kind of Motel 6 – early model. But the views form the rooms we checked out were awesome! If you were there during the migration it would be so cool. On the road up to the Lobo we saw a lion just off the side of the road. Pretty cool. We checked into Mbuzi Mawe around 5:30 I think it was. Quick shower and off to the lodge for dinner.

Wednesday – A nice little Jambo wake up call with coffee and tea. Went to breakfast around 7:00 and were out of there by 7:30 or so. This was pretty much a travel day to the crater and we were trying to make it to the gate by 10:00 a.m. No problem, we had 10 minutes to spare. The road out of the Serengeti is rough. I heard the stories but until you travel the road, you have no idea.

We entered the Crater around 12:15 and had our “delicious” box lunch. We saw a lot. We rounded one corner and ran into a troop of baboons coming down the road. There must have been over 100 of them, they just kept coming. A couple climbed up on the truck but didn’t come in. Awesome. Had a lion walking down the road right next to the truck. I could have touched her with no problem. Enjoyed the Wildebeests and Zebras getting a drink from the spring near the lake. Hundreds of them sloshing through their drinking supply. Overall it was a great day. The crater is quite unique.

Around 5:30 we headed up the infamous road. I thought the road from the Serengeti was bad. HAH! This was torture. But, we made it up. We checked into the Serena lodge and we asked for a top floor room. Nice place, see below for further description. We weren’t used to this many people in one place – kind of a culture shock from the small tented camps we were staying at.
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Jul 28th, 2007, 06:56 PM
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Thursday we were on our way to the Tarangire River Camp. The fog was really bad this morning and it was quite cold so we had the top closed. We stopped along the way at a few places to buy souvenirs. Not sure we got any good deals, but we paid less than half the asking price. They still made out and it made us happy. That’s all that counts. We bought a lot because everyone back home wanted something.

We checked into the park and had our lunch before we went on a game drive that afternoon. Honestly I can’t really remember what we saw. Buy this time we were pretty used to large herds of zebra, wildebeests, elephants, etc. But, I know it as a good day. We headed over to the River Camp around 6:00 to check in. I have added the description below. We didn’t think they had laundry service so we washed some socks and underwear in the sink. We used our trusty clothesline to hang them up to dry. After Dinner the camp manager told us that they do have laundry service so the next day we set our laundry out and it was back early afternoon. $2 an item.

We got our wake up Jambo around 6:00 a.m. so we could get breakfast at 6:30 and get going. One thing I need to say about the River Camp is that although they had just 1 time set for Dinner, you could get breakfast at anytime you wanted up through the afternoon. Off to see the park! We had a great day but again, I can’t really remember all we saw. We had lunch overlooking the swamp and had a nice long talk with Goodluck. Best box lunch all trip. Overall it was a great day. We headed back to camp around 5:00 after a full day out and about. On the way back we handed out lots of pens and other small gifts to the kids on the side of the road.

Saturday – Last day on Safari. We opted to sleep a bit then head back to Arusha. Woke up around 7:30 and had a leisurely breakfast before leaving. We stopped at a few more places to buy “stuff”. My wife did look at a nice Tanzanite piece at the Cultural Center but decided not to spend the money. It was an OK price, but not enough of a savings that we had to buy it.

We made it back to Arusha around 3:00 and went to the New Arusha hotel as they kept a bag for us when we left 9 days ago. We had to consolidate our stuff and this took a better part of an hour. We had also left a bag with a lot of stuff for our guide and his family. We were met by a representative from Good Earth checking in to see how our trip went. Nice touch.

They dropped us off at JRO with 90 minutes to spare before our flight. Unfortunately our flight was 90 minutes late and we didn’t leave until around 9:00 p.m. In Nairobi we were picked up by Peter from Safari Line and he took us to the Fairview Inn. We were hoping they were still there to pick us up. The second time we stayed here we liked it better, much nicer room.

Sunday – Peter picked us up at 9:00 so we could catch an 11:15 flight to Amsterdam. The Kenya airport was kind of a zoo, just like the first time though. But, we were on our way. We were going to Germany to spend a week with my son and his family and then we were going to spend 3 nights in Amsterdam before returning home. We flew Kenya Air and my wife was a bit worried based on our flight from Tanzania to Nairobi. Not to worry, this was a nice aircraft. There were only 6 people in business class. It seats 24. Guess they don’t believe in upgrades. Their business class rivals NWA.

We had an awesome time, but it was time to leave. By the last day we were done. This was the trip of a lifetime (so far) although I’m not sure we will do it again. Our best trip yet, and we’ve has some good ones.
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Jul 28th, 2007, 06:57 PM
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I have written a little bit about each camp below. Thought it was easier than including it in the trip report.

A little about the camps we stayed at. Other than in town, we stayed at tented camps except at the crater. All of them greeted you with cold towels (warm towels at the crater) and fresh juice. All provided an escort after dark (except the lodge). And all but the Tarangire River Camp had at least 2 choices for Dinner and plenty of hot water. They all had 24 hour electricity, a place to charge your batteries and laundry service.

None of the camps or hotels had a clock in the room. The hotels offered a wake up call but the camps had someone come to your tent each morning with coffee. So, you don’t need an alarm clock. At the River Camp we had just the wake up, no coffee. All of the staff everywhere we stayed was great. They genuinely seemed like they wanted to help you. I never felt that “I have to be friendly” attitude from anyone. They were a joy to be with.

I am not sure if we were just tired every day or the bedding was that good. But, every camp we stayed at had great beds and bedding. Every place was great, especially Migration Camp, probably because the mornings were so cold there.

I just want to make a note here about noise at the camps. I read that these places are so quiet. Not so. It seems a lot of people do not realize that their voices carry or in some cases do not care. These were some of he loudest places I have been to mainly because they do not have walls. I’m not talking about the kids (except at Migration Camp), but adults. Please be respectful that you are on a safari in a tent. Use your indoor voiceJ. The unfortunate thing is the people that read this are not the ones that will be making all the noise.

Kirawira – If we would have not stayed at the Migration Camp this one would be our all time favorite. We were greeted with nice cold towels and fresh juice. The Manager of the camp sat with us and explained everything we were to expect. They gave us a family tent because that is all they have. He apologized that the view wouldn’t be good and it wasn’t but he could move us the next day. The view was of some trees and the path. But the first afternoon we fell asleep on the porch until it was time to get ready for dinner and the next day we were not at the tent very long to enjoy a view if we had it. Our tent was at the far end of the camp, number 26. Unfortunately we were right next to the service entrance where a bunch of employees hung out which made it a bit noisy. Request a lower number tent if you go. I am almost embarrassed to say this but we did have satellite TVJ. Since this was a family tent it had an extra 10 ft tented area in the front that the other tents don’t have. This was great for when my wife wanted to nap and I wanted to download or play with our pictures. The room had a couple of nice double beds, nice bathroom with a separate water closet and shower. It was very old English style with very dark wood. It‘s a very proper place. Everything is done the way it is supposed to be done. Not stuffy by any means, but proper is he best way to describe it. My wife said it reminded her of how he English must have taken their safaris

The grounds were somewhat spread out although we needed the walk. There was a very nice swimming pool with a little water fall and some deck chairs over looking the plains. There were a couple of families there so all the chairs were taken. This place had everything you needed; full electricity, same day laundry, which we used, a gift shop and a beautiful lounge. They had all the bottled water you wanted for free, just ask. We had the same table for dinner every night which was set on the edge of the dinning room. The meals offered more choices here than anywhere else. The food was pretty good too. This is also the only place that had waffles for breakfast.

Migration Camp – This place is awesome. Not sure how to describe it, you have to see it to believe it. Contemporary rustic maybe? Is there such a style? It has hardwood floors, high ceilings, and overstuffed leather chairs. You need to look at my pictures. Since it sits on the side of a hill everything opens up to nature. All the lodge areas have an open side facing the view. You feel like you are outside no matter where you go. When you stand on the top deck at the lodge you can see the Hippos lying by the river. Probably 50 of them. They come up by the tents to feed at night and are very noisy. The food was the best we had on the trip. Four Course meals and we always had 2 choices for the entrée and desert, but only one for soup, salad. I know you are now feeling sorry for me. The one morning we wanted to sleep in and have breakfast in the tent, they didn’t hesitate at all. One thing I didn’t know or probably did know and forgot was that everything is included, laundry, alcohol drinks, sodas, water. everything. I would have saved my laundry if I had remembered.

The tent had 3 twin beds with great bedding, a desk and an overstuffed leather chair. It also had a wrap around deck which was great. At the lodge they had a top deck with a fire every night before dinner. They also had a small swimming pool that only one family of kids used when we were there. Full electricity and hot showers. This place was elegant but laid back at the same time. We felt very comfortable here and wish we would have stayed for an extra night. Best place we stayed at.

When we got to the tent it the last tent (19). It was surrounded by large bushes so there wasn’t any view at all and it was next to the employee village which translated into very noisy late into the night (they had TV). See a theme here. At least the manager at Kirawira had the guts to tell me there was no view and he was sorry. If you go, put a request in for tent number 16, you won’t be sorry.

Mbuzi Mawe – Unfortunately we stayed here after Kirawira and Migration Camp. It was a nice place just not at the same level as the other 2. The tent had 2 nice beds with netting and a decent bathroom. We had hot water for almost 2 showers, unfortunately I usually go second. They had a small lodge with a gift shop. We were in the last tent but were not next to the staff quarters. Getting better on location J. We didn’t have much of a view but the other side of the camp has a great view. Request a lower tent number. They had internet access and offered massages for $40 an hour although I didn’t get one. I think the other places also offered massages too, but I’m not sure. During the evening we heard a lion roar not to far from camp. This had everyone talking. The food was pretty good too.

Serena Ngorongoro Lodge – Not bad for a lodge. Nice room with 2 small beds. We did request a top floor room but the view we had was obscured by trees. Request a top floor room as most of the views are much better. At this time we have given up on any views J. We had a decent bathroom with a hot shower. Overall a nice room. Dinner was in the main lodge which was preceded by Maasai music and then Maasai acrobats. They were good! Dinner is upstairs and is part buffet and part menu. The salads, pasta dishes and deserts were on the buffet but you ordered soup and entrée from the menu. The meal was pretty good as was breakfast the next morning. We didn’t see much more as we didn’t get there until 6:00 p.m. and left the next day at 8:30 a.m. I would stay here again.

Tarangire River Camp – this is a tough one to write about. I mean it was OK, but we were used to so much more by this time. If we would have come here first we would have thought it was great (with the exception of the cold showers). We had, you guessed it, tent number 1 all the way at the end. This time it was a good thing as the view was OK and we didn’t have a tent on one side of us which was nice. The tent had a very nice bed with netting, but no chairs or anything to sit on in the tent. The bathroom was very dark and opened to the main room with no way to close it off. You can’t use hair dryers or any appliances that draw lot of current. As mentioned, the showers were an issue with no hot water and there were only 2 towels, no hand towel or wash cloth. No big deal, just not like the other places. Wake up was just a wake up, no coffee or tea. The porch was awesome! It as built around a Baobab tree and had 2 chairs and a little lounger to sit in. Dinners were served at 7:30. Everyone was served together and there were no choices. The food was decent, nothing to write home about. We were kidding about desert that it would be a little square of cake like in a cafeteria. Both nights that’s what we had. Again, not bad, just not what were are used to. The first night someone had a birthday and he Masai came and sang and danced for us. This was very cool. This was the only place that had Maasai, dressed as Maasai lead you back to your tent. Very cool.

I don’t mean to be negative because the place itself is nice. The tent was nice, just lacked a few things. The grounds were great and the lodge/dining area was great. The location, although not in the park was very nice with great views. I thought it was much closer to the entrance of the park that it was. Overall it was a nice place and the staff and management were great. I would stay there again if needed just set my expectations lower. The odd part is that this is what I probably thought about when I started looking at Safari camps. But because of the places we stayed prior, it was a little disappointment.

When I booked, Good Earth wanted me to stay at the Tarangire Safari Camp but I said no because they couldn’t guarantee a tent (they have hotel rooms also). I should have listened to Narry. At least I would have been in the park and didn’t have to commute each day. We got what we got and it was part of the experience.

Arusha Hotel - The Arusha Hotel was great. We had a newly refurbished room that was up to any standard in the US. Dinner was pretty good and very reasonably priced. Dinner for 2 with water and dessert was $22 US. I would stay her again in a heartbeat. Up to date fitness center although we got in too late to use it. They all close at 9:00 or 9:30 p.m.

Fairview Hotel – Nairobi. We stayed at the Fairview twice, once on our way to Tanzania and again on our way home. It is a beautiful older hotel. The grounds are gorgeous! Lovely gardens, great stonework on the walls and meandering paths through the grounds. It was just a very pretty place. The first room was a little dumpy, but the second was great. Nice big bed and a decent bathroom. The breakfast (included) is pretty good and includes a made to order omelet station. On the last night we got there just a bit before 11:00 p.m. and everything was closed so we had to order room service since we hadn’t eaten since our box lunch around 12:30. Small Pizza and a salad with a bottle of water was $37 US. That’s even high for the US. But, that’s all there was. We would stay here again. But, if I was only going to spend a quick night here (like our last night) and leave the next morning I might try something closer to the airport. I think the Panini or something like that was close to the airport and looked pretty good from outside.
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Jul 28th, 2007, 06:59 PM
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Both of our bags were 7 -9 pounds under weight. We used most of what we brought, and did laundry at the 3 places we stayed at. You do not need to buy a lot of new stuff. I did buy a couple of those fishing shirts with all the pockets (on sale for $24) and 2 pair of zip off pants ($9.99 on sale at Bass Pro Shops). I have to admit that they are pretty comfortable. That’s about all I bought. I took running shoes so I could run at the hotels and some slip on deck shoes which I wore all the time on game drives. We also only brought a light weight jacket. With a T shirt and another shirt underneath this was all we needed, even at the Crater. Remember, I stood up almost the entire time. I also took earmuffs and gloves and yes I did use them quite a bit, especially in the early mornings while hanging out of the truck. We wore jeans to dinner every night. It felt pretty good putting them on each day actually.

I did take a backpack for all our electronic goods. It was heavy because I also included my laptop. Every night I downloaded my pictures. We also needed the laptop for the rest of our vacation.

I didn’t want to buy new binoculars so I just took a pair of 7X35 that I had. They worked just fine. Nothing we saw would have really justified buying a new pair. As for the camera, that is a different story. After weighing the pros and cons of the point and shoot cameras, the Cannon S3 won out. The price was right, it felt good and I could use the cables and memory cards from my other Cannon. I also liked the idea that it used AA batteries. This camera turned out to be great. I also liked that you can take video, pretty decent video, and snapshots at the same time. I took 2 sets of rechargeable batteries and 1 regular set. Also brought three 2 gig cards. Only once did I use up an entire card during the day and it was when I took a lot of video. I downloaded the pictures every night but kept the data on the cards for about 2 days until I had enough to burn the pictures to disk. Once I had them on the computer and a disk then I would format the cards to use again.

We bought an all country electrical adapter. We did not need to buy a transformer because everything we brought was dual voltage (we thought). We bought Energizer rechargeable batteries. The kit we bought would charge both AA and AAA and came with a cigarette lighter adapter. We used it at home for a few weeks before we went with no problems. First night in Tanzania I wanted to charge up everything and guess what, it isn’t dual voltage. Yes, the brand new rechargeable batteries. I never even looked as I assumed anything you buy now would be dual voltage. Heck, my older Ipod is dual voltage. Thank goodness it came with a cigarette lighter charger as we could charge the batteries each morning. I switched them out each day and never ran out of battery power.

We also took our laptop not just for downloading pictures but we needed it for business once we finished the Safari. We still had 10 days on vacation before we went home so we needed to keep in contact. I also needed it to start writing my trip report.

I worried or at least thought about a lot of stuff before going. Visa, money, what to pack, etc. here are a few thoughts after experiencing Africa.

Friendly place. Almost everyone we met was nice and sincerely wanted to please you, or at least they made it seem that way.

There is no need to change money. Everything can be bought with Dollars. But, it was nice giving 500 Shillings here and there (something like forty cents). We took a lot of gum to give to the people that walked us to our tents. Chicklets (gum) were well received J Take a lot of 1’s as getting change for 10’s and 20’s is tough.

We also took a lot of inexpensive toys, pens, pencils, etc. We handed these out as we passed the kids, mainly around the entrance to Tarangire Park. Take lots of little stuff it comes in handy.

Buying souvenirs – depending on where you go, bargaining is expected. At some of the stores we paid less than half the asking price and probably paid too much. Just ask your guide.

Immunizations – we got the basics, Hepatitis and Tetanus, nothing more. Actually I didn’t need anything as I had my shots a few years before when I went to India. For Malaria we took Malarone with no side effects. I also got a prescription for Cipro just in case. Both were covered by my health plan.

Insurance – My health insurance would cover most of my expenses in Africa. I did buy trip/medical insurance from STA as the price was a lot more reasonable than other plans. It was around $250 total for the 2 of us for the entire 24 days. I also purchased a membership in Flying Doctors just in case we needed to get flown out.

Eating – I ate everything, lettuce, apples, raw vegetables and pretty much everything they served as did my wife. Bu we only drank bottled water. In some places we brushed our teeth with the tap water, other places we didn’t. They will tell you if it is OK. One day my wife took and antacid and that was it. No upset stomach or anything bad. I eat often and thought it might be a problem. But, you can always pick up an apple or banana and take it with you.

We never used our pre packaged wipes, but used Purell a lot. We kept a small bottle attached to the bag so it was easily accessible. My wife did use some of the Kleenex when we made rest stops. Or as our guide says, go to the “Happy Place”. That meant they had an actually toilet, not just a hole in the ground.

We used very little bug spray. Actually just used it 2 days. Sunscreen is a must though. I have a decent tan and didn’t apply any the first 2 days and my face got burnt. We had to borrow a little bit from another Fodor’s poster that got me through. A small bottle was $29 USD at Mbuzi Mawe.

Which reminds me, buy a wide brim hat with a chin strap. Wish I had one as I only used a ball cap. Also need one with a chin strap. I only lost my cap twice, once from the wind and another time a tree stole it off my head.

Jet lag killed me. I have tried all sorts of “tricks” and haven’t found anything that works yet. I tried to sleep through the DTW – AMS flight with little luck. Even with basically no sleep, I still didn’t sleep much our first 2 nights.

Birds- I never realized how awesome looking the birds in Africa were. We didn’t actually turn into Birders, but I did take quite a few pictures.

Laundry service was available in every place we stayed. You really need to stay 2 nights to get it done though. We had laundry done 3 times while we were there.

The weather was fabulous! Mid 70’s to low 80’s everyday. Just a hint of rain one evening. We couldn’t have had better weather. It was only when we got to Amsterdam did we experience a significant amount of rain.

Generators – I would have thought that we would hear the generators as they must be pretty big to supply power to the entire camp. We never heard any of the generators the entire trip. I found that amazing.

Thanks for reading. The trip was fantastic and there were absolutely no bad moments! Many thanks to Narry, Good Earth and Mr. Goodluck. Also, a sincere appreciation to my wife as I would have never expected her to go through this. I mean tents and no make up for 9 days. AMAZING!

Any specific questions feel free to email me at riced at comcast dot net
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Jul 28th, 2007, 08:52 PM
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Great trip report, Duane. On the issue of hearing noise from neighboring tents, we did not have this problem in Tanzania so I'm sorry you did (we stayed at different camps though so I'm not sure if it was the closeness or just bad luck). Your posting was great, no odd characters.

Nice to discover that your wife found her "inner safari self!" I have a feeling you two will be returning to Africa someday.
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Jul 28th, 2007, 09:13 PM
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Loved your report. Not only interesting but good advise and tips. I have the Canon S3 as well. Did you take any extra lenses? I am a novice and not much of a photographer. Simple is best. I am going to take a class pretty soon on operating the various features on the camera.
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Jul 29th, 2007, 02:59 AM
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This was a great report and most helpful with a lot of practical tips and information especially for our upcoming Sept '07 for the first time. Glad you and your wife had such a wonderful experience. Thanks for sharing!
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Jul 29th, 2007, 05:33 AM
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I loved the Cannon. What a great little camera. Just a tip, turn off all the sounds because when you take a picture while taking video, you'll hear the sounds the camera makes. Once I muted all sounds it was fine. And no, I didn't take any lenses, just kept it simple.

I envy you going in September. The excitement leading up to this trip was amazing. It was that first time "I don't know what to expect" feeling that was so great. Even if we go back, the feeling won't be the same.

Once everyone retired for the evening it was as quiet as a mouse. But, a few people acted like they were at the local Holiday Inn. And all it takes is a few.

We loved the trip and have been encouraging everyone we know to go. I am sure they are tired of hearing about it by now and it has been less than a week since we have been back.
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Jul 29th, 2007, 05:41 AM
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Very informative report and I particulary liked your explanation of private vs group and unique vs canned luxury. Re-enforced that I made some correct decisions for our trip this October (I'm the planner in this family) though we are traveling with 2 like-minded friends. We can always kick them out of the Land Cruiser if they get too annoying.
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Jul 29th, 2007, 08:22 AM
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Welcome back, Duane!

"I am not sure I can describe the trip".

You've done a great job describing the trip. Thank you for your informative easy, fun read along with practical tips.

"If you have gone on a safari I do not need to describe it, you already know".

Ah, but we always love reading about the experiences of helps us relive our own!

"If you have never been then there is nothing I can write that will make you understand".

It's true. One has to experience a safari to understand all that it is. But reading trip reports such as yours is very helpful.
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Jul 29th, 2007, 08:55 AM
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Duane, thanks, this is a very informative and helpful trip report. Hopefully it will convince some that its easier, and not necessarily more expensive, to go on a custom, private safari instead of a mass, large, convoy.

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Jul 29th, 2007, 09:26 AM
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Great report and am happy you had a good experience with your new S3 since that is what I've bought for our trip also.
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Jul 29th, 2007, 10:58 AM
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Thanks for the report. I am glad that you and your wife had a good time and that you were so pleased with your safari company.
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Jul 30th, 2007, 01:30 PM
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Thanks for your report, Duane!
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Jul 30th, 2007, 10:03 PM
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wow duane... bravo on the detailed and very timely report. we did a trip with good earth back in april and i still havent managed to pull together a report. you've just motivated me to get my butt moving. glad to hear you had such a good time.
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Aug 4th, 2007, 04:06 PM
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I´ve read up to seeing the sleeping lioness. Was that the first sighting? If so, a lion to start is huge.

If you do all the planning of a trip, then it is only fair that your wife should warm the shower up for you.

I liked your explanation of how you ended up with Good Earth and their helpfulness pre-trip.

I´m looking forward to more of your interesting report.
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Aug 4th, 2007, 04:22 PM
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Thought I had to leave the computer, but no, so I read the rest of your report.

Since you left from Tampa, did you get to meet Narry, who I believe has an office in Tampa?

I didn´t see any strange characters in your report.

I think there is a Murphy´s law about having all the cables except the one you need.

The name usage was interesting. They called your wife by the name of your oldest son, plus Mama. The mama is common, but I had not heard about the oldest son part, very interesting.

Glad the wildebeests cooperated in big herds for you.

Your comments and miscellaneous are very helpful to anyone on the pre-trip stage.

Not only do you have to plan the trip, it appears it is your duty to write it up. Great job!
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Aug 4th, 2007, 04:25 PM
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One last thing, when do we see the pics?
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