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Trip Report - Kenya & Tanzania - Jan 26 - Feb 14, 2006

Trip Report - Kenya & Tanzania - Jan 26 - Feb 14, 2006

Feb 16th, 2006, 07:43 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 62
Trip Report - Kenya & Tanzania - Jan 26 - Feb 14, 2006

We just arrived back from our Eastern Africa trip late Tuesday evening. It was our first Safari and all I can say is wow - what a trip! We had an amazing time and have already started planning our next safari. We saw some amazing game, stayed at some beautiful tented lodges, ate some great food but best of all we met some incredible people along the way. We booked with Tanzania Serengeti Adventure (TSA) and the trip was absolutely seamless.

We would like to thank those of you who took the time to answer our questions, and give us advice while we were in the planning stages of our safari. It is our turn to repay your kindness with our trip report.

Our itinerary and accommodations were as follows:

January 27 – Feb 12, 2006

Day 1 and 2) Arrive Nairobi Kenya overnight Norfolk Hotel
Day 3) Fly to Samburu overnight Samburu Intrepid
Day 4) Full day Samburu overnight Samburu Intrepid
Day 5) Fly to Nairobi, and drive to Amboseli National Park overnight Tortilis Tented Camp http://www.chelipeacock.com/camps/tortilis.htm
Day 6) Full day Amboseli overnight Tortilis Tented Camp
Day 7) Drive from Amboseli to Namanga for transfer into Tanzania.


Day 7 Continued) Drive to Arusha and stay at the Mt. Village Lodge overnight.
Day 8) Drive to Tarangire Park, overnight Swala Camp
Day 9) Depart for the Ngorongoro Crater, overnight Ngorongoro Crater Lodge http://www.ccafrica.com/reserve-1-id-2-12
Day 10) Full day Crater floor overnight Ngorongoro Crater Lodge
Day 11) Depart Ngorongoro for Ndutu overnight Ndutu Safari Lodge
Day 12) Full day Ndutu, overnight Ndutu Safari Lodge http://www.ndutu.com
Day 13) Full day Ndutu, overnight Ndutu Safari Lodge
Day 14) Fly from Sereona Airport to Dar Es Salaam and drive to Ras Kutani Beach Resort http://www.selous.com/coverpage.htm
Day 15) Overnight Ras Kutani
Day 16) Overnight Ras Kutani
Day 17) Drive from Ras Kutani to Dar es Saalam transfer to airport for out bound flight to Nairobi.

Planes, trains and automobiles
January 25-January 26th

We departed Calgary at 8:00 pm on Wednesday January 25th via Air Canada. We flew business class on aeroplan points and were treated to exceptional service for the nine hour flight to London. One of the great things about flying business class is being comfortable enough to get some sleep which makes the travel a little less wearing. We arrived at Heathrow airport in London and after getting fast tracked through customs (another bonus of flying business class) we grabbed our luggage and hopped onto the "Heathrow Express" subway for a short four minute train ride to terminal four where we checked into the Heathrow Hilton for the night.

The room at the Hilton reminded me of a cruise ship room, small and compact. We were fortunate to receive an upgrade to the executive level which included access to the business lounge. The lounge was a great place to have a snack and utilize the internet. We also accessed the web to check-in for our next flight to Nairobi on British Airways. We had an early night due to our jet lag and the fact that we had to be up for our morning flight to Nairobi.

The flight to Nairobi on British Airways was excellent. We flew economy, however the plane was almost empty which gave us a row of four seats to stretch out in. We were served two meals during the flight and we thought the service was great.

We arrived in Nairobi at 9:30 PM and it only took about 15 minutes to go through customs. We already had our entry Visas but we noticed that the line for passengers requiring Visas was moving just as fast as our line – so I would not hesitate to get my Visa upon arrival next time. We went through customs (a simple and painless process) we grabbed our luggage and we were out of the terminal in less than 45 minutes. A driver was waiting for us and soon we were off to The Norfolk Hotel for the next two nights.

When we drove up to the Norfolk Hotel we could not help but notice the historical feel to the place. The hotel was first opened in 1904 and it had a real colonial feel to it. Our room was a good size and faced onto a garden courtyard. The room had all amenities including a hairdryer and seemed a perfect start to our adventure.

NAIROBI – Day 1 & 2
January 27-28

We set our alarm to wake up about 7:00 AM, but due to jet lag and the change in time (a full ten hours difference) we were up very, very early. Fortunately, the Norfolk Hotel serves an early breakfast which is included in the rate. We were pleasantly surprised with the quantity and quality of the selection. Freshly squeezed juices, carrot, mango, orange, and passion fruit were available as well as fresh fruit and cereals, granola and breads. A hot buffet was also available and included pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausages (chicken and pork), French toast, bacon and fried potatoes. To top it off a chef was cooking omelets to order! It was a wonderful breakfast and we ate and ate and ate.

We decided that the best way to see Nairobi given that we only had one day, was to inquire about renting a car and driver for a few hours. The front desk was very helpful and soon we had booked a car for four hours for $5000 Ksh which is a little more than $US80.

Our first stop was at the Kenya Wildlife Animal Orphanage where we had an opportunity to visit animals that were rescued. Most of the animals were found abandoned as babies and were reared to full adulthood at the orphanage. Because these animals were raised by humans most could not survive in the wild and lived full and happy lives at the orphanage. Lions, Cheetahs, a variety of monkeys and even a crocodile and an Ostrich live in harmony at the sanctuary. The highlight was having the opportunity to have a close encounter with a Cheetah. At first I was terrified but the guide assured me that it would be safe to enter into the cage of the resident three Cheetahs at the Orphanage. Of course, I made my husband go in first and test the waters - but it turned out that the Cheetahs were indeed very friendly. In fact as I was scratching one under the chin it actually began to purr! It was a great time.

Our next stop was the Giraffe Center located in Langata and is the creation of the Kenyan Conservation Organization. The purpose of the Giraffe Center is to educate visitors both local and international by giving them the opportunity to come into close contact by feeding the world’s tallest species. It was a great experience. We spent our time with Daisy the Giraffe who happened to be expecting a baby in the near future. We learned that there are eight species of Giraffes and you can actually tell them apart by the patterns on their skin. It was very educational and we really enjoyed the experience. For more info see their website at: www.giraffecentre.org

Our final stop for the day was a craft centre operated by non-profit collective. UTAMANDUNI is located on Langata Road and consists of about 18 little craft shops in a converted mansion. Crafts included woodcarvings, antiques, jewellery, toys, leather crafts and other handcrafted items. There was also a wonderful garden restaurant that looked and smelled exquisite. For further information see their website at: www.utamadunicrafts.com

We finished off our first day in Nairobi with a light dinner and bed early. We were being picked up at 6:45 AM for the flight to Samburu and we were excited to experience our first tented camp and game drive!

SAMBURU – Day 3 & 4
January 29 – 30
Is it considered good luck when a monkey poops on you?

We arrived in Samburu via Air Kenya at 9:00 am. While flying over Samburu we could not help but notice how grey and dry the landscape was. We landed on a tiny little air strip in the middle of no where. Our flight was a little early so the vehicle from the lodge had not yet arrived, but we were picked up a few minutes later and we were driven to the Samburu Intrepid Lodge. On our way to the lodge we noticed that the Samburu landscape is very rugged and has an arid semi-desert feel to it. We arrived at Samburu Intrepid Tented Camp and were greeted with a fruit juice and cold towel. Our first impression of the lodge was that it felt rustic yet cozy and very comfortable. We were placed in tent #9 and it was on a raised platform with ensuite bathroom, and hot and cold running water and a shower. The tent was very comfortable. We had a view of the Uaso Nyiro River which was unfortunately, dry and completely void of any water. The staff told us that this is the first time in about five years that the river had completely dried up. Local people were volunteering to dig down to the water table to assist the animals with their search for water. We could just imagine how spectacular this area must be when the river is flowing and the wildlife utilizes it for their water source.

We were assigned a driver (Solomon) and a guide (Steven) from the lodge and we went on our first game drive at 4:00 PM. I’ll never forget the feeling of seeing my first elephant quietly gazing on a bush – just going about his business. There is nothing like observing these gentle giants as they live their lives in the wild. I admit that it was emotional and I could not speak for a few minutes. We saw a variety of animals such as giraffe, zebras, water buck, dik diks (who became one of my favorite of the trip) and Gerenuk also known as 'giraffe necked Antelope' who have very long necks and also can stand on their hind legs in order to feed from tall trees. The highlight was a lioness nursing her three cubs sitting beside a fresh zebra kill. We were also very impressed but the number of beautiful birds we saw as well.

Our first evening at Intrepid Camp was excellent. The lounge area was the main gathering place for the guests before dinner. The food at Samburu was very good and we had steak with lost of fresh vegetables, salad and for desert chocolate cake with bananas. We were accompanied back to our tent by security personnel and had an early night.

The following morning we were greeted with a tray of hot chocolate, coffee and cookies. We were warned to bring our tray into the tent right away or else it would be the monkeys that would enjoy the freshly baked cookies rather than us. Our morning game drive began at 7:00 am and we saw a lot of animals such as elephants, more zebra, lots and lots of dik diks, impalas, and many others. Being our first game drives we were a little ‘shell shocked’ by it all and had a hard time recalling all the animals that we saw. We were back at the lodge by 9:00 am for breakfast.

In the afternoon we went on a two hour nature walk. We were accompanied by our guide, Steven, and an armed guard (just in case of any trouble) but luckily there was none. About one hour into the walk our guide suggested that we take a rest under a large shaded tree on the bank of the river. All of a sudden I felt a large plop on my shoulder, and as I looked down I realized that we were not welcome under this tree, when one of the resident monkeys demonstrated his unhappiness by pooping on me. You can imagine my shock but I think that the guide was more shocked than I was! Luckily I had some handiwipes on me and I was cleaned up in no time. We all had a good laugh – even the armed guard had a good chuckle. I mentioned that it must be a lucky omen to have a monkey poop on you. For the next few days every time we saw something special we would remind ourselves that it was the luck of the pooping monkey!

Our final afternoon game drive was spent in the neighboring park called Buffalo Springs Park. It was amazing how different the terrain was here, rockier with larger plains – lots of volcanic rock as well. We saw for the first time an Oryx and we had our first leopard sighting as well. The leopard was sitting under the shade of tree however there were many other vehicles around but he didn’t really seem to mind. He was very beautiful and we enjoyed watching him for quite a while.

We really enjoyed our time at Samburu and the lodge was very comfortable and the staff exceptional and friendly. We would not hesitate to return to Samburu and hope that that the region will see some rain very soon. We bid goodbye to our guide Steven and driver Solomon and left on a flight to Nairobi.

Next Installment: Amboseli or “Hey there’s a monkey in my bed….no, it’s just an elephant”. And Arusha – “Don’t leave home without it…your PIN number that i
cocco1 is offline  
Feb 16th, 2006, 07:52 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
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Hi cocco, thanks for posting, keep the news flowing, Sonali.
sonali74 is offline  
Feb 16th, 2006, 08:50 PM
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Drought it aweful. I have seen the Uaso Nyiru dry. maybe it's good u came by flight, 'cause driving around could have been emotionally hard, seeing dead cows etc' & other drought consequences...

The leopard u have seen MAY be the leopard waiting for the Samburu Lodge bait. The Lodge is on the other side of the river but the bait is on the Buffalo Springs side. Drivers like to come to the spot good chances of seeing the allured panther. minutes after tourist cars leave, it climbs the tree opposite the lodge's verandah.
(The Serena has its own leopard bait)

TO FEED OR NOT TO FEED ? This is the question ...

aby is offline  
Feb 16th, 2006, 09:19 PM
Join Date: Jan 2006
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This is great detail and lot's of good information cocco... Thanks for posting and keep it coming! Do you have pictures of the "monkey poop" tree so that we can avoid it? Is the river only dry in some places or all along? Are there more permanent water sources in Samburu? I always thought that was the main water source. Anyone know?

The animals at the orphanage are kept in cages all the time? Like a zoo, or a bit better than that?

You can answer these questions later cocco... next part of trip report now, please...
kimburu is offline  
Feb 17th, 2006, 05:15 AM
Join Date: Jan 2006
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That's a great introduction - I'll look foward to reading the rest - and thanks for the infor re what to see in Nairobi. Next time I'll drop by the animal orphanage.

And per chance photos?

Matt_from_England is offline  
Feb 17th, 2006, 05:31 AM
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Great trip report, Cocco. I look forward to hearing about the rest of your trip.
sundowner is offline  
Feb 17th, 2006, 05:35 AM
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Great report. I can't wait to hear about the rest of your trip....I don't think there have been any comments on Ras Kutani yet, so I'm curious.
cruisinred is offline  
Feb 17th, 2006, 06:36 AM
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Great read so far...

Those vervet monkeys at Samburu are real rascals. Poop is good. We know from stepping into lots of it in Tanzania. And a good idea to bring your morning biscuit into your tent immediately, though that doesn't mean much for these characters. I had the experience of one of the vervets actually opening the tent zipper and grabbing the biscuits I hadn't yet eaten (crashing the china into itty bitty pieces).

...waiting on the rest and don't forget the photos.
Feb 17th, 2006, 09:15 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 4,222
Cocco, great report. I really feel like I'm there with you--bet you're glad I wasn't.

Can't wait to read more. Welcome home.
Leely is offline  
Feb 17th, 2006, 09:57 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
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Welcome home and glad you had a good start to your trip. I find those little dik dik antelope adorable also. You had some good sightings and I know what you mean about your first animal sighting being so moving. Hope the luck of the monkey poop was felt throughout the trip.
atravelynn is offline  
Feb 17th, 2006, 07:05 PM
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Thanks everyone for the comments. Here is Part II:

AMBOSELI Day 4 & 5 Jan 31 – Feb 01
Day 4: Hey there’s a Monkey in my bed….no, it’s just an elephant.
We arrived back in Nairobi via Kenya Air, the flight was a short 50 minutes. We met our driver from TSA, Martin Matei. Martin has over 16 years experience as a driver and guide; we were in good hands right from the start. Martin picked us up at the Airport and drove us for lunch at the Carnivore before heading out to Amboseli. We had heard about the Carnivore and my husband could not resist the pull of the exotic menu. While I was not too keen on sampling camel or crocodile ( I want to take pictures of the animals not eat them ) the chicken and spare ribs was excellent. All in all it was an interesting dining experience. We were pleasantly surprised when we were told that TSA picked up the tab on our behalf which we thought was a nice touch.

After lunch we proceeded to drive to our next stop, Amboseli National Park where we would be staying at a tented camp known as Tortillis. The four hour plus drive was fairly uneventful. The change in the landscape is dramatic as you move from Nairobi to Amboseli. After reaching Namanga, the road becomes a narrow and dusty track.

On the drive in we saw Giraffe, elephants, antelope, wildebeest, and zebra all spread out over the expansive plain. The park is centered around a large hill, with fantastic views of the surrounding plains, often crossed by whirlwinds that send winding columns of dust into the sky. Our driver informed us that the word “Amboseli” means dust devil in Swahili.

When we pulled up to Tortillis we were greeted with a juice and cold towel. It was early evening and the lodge was lit with soft muted lighting. This is on purpose so the lodge does not disrupt the nocturnal animals in the park. During our general orientation we were informed that the property is enclosed with an electric fence and we would be perfectly safe.

Tortillis is in a beautiful setting with the main buildings, the dining and lounge areas up on a hill. The dining area has a view of a small watering hole where birds and other animals can be seen all day long. The tents are down a meandering path that in the evening are lit by gas lamps and gives a romantic feel to the place. Our tent #8 faced an open area and looked out onto the bush. The tent consisted of a large patio area with chairs and a lounging couch, inside the tent there was a large king size bed, full bath with shower. Laundry detergent was available in the bathroom, along with some lovely toiletries.

The food at Tortillis is simply outstanding. Italian cuisine so wonderful that it was reminiscent of a five star restaurant.

We turned in about 10:00 PM, tired after the long day. An hour later we were awoken by a commotion outside the tent. The security guards were talking very loudly, but we could not make out what was going on. To encourage the breeze we had not closed the front flaps on the tent, so I sat up in bed and looked outside just as the guard shone his flashlight, what did I see? Picture this – the head of a huge bull elephant several feet from our tent, ears flapping and trunk raised, trying to get at the juicy bushes beside our tent. So much for the electric fence around the lodge! The guards must have registered our surprise at the sight of this large intruder, because now they were yelling that everything was “alright” and that we “are perfectly safe”. The guards were successful in chasing away the elephant and no harm was done. About an hour after that my husband woke up and said “There’s a monkey in the bed”! I wake up and think – Geez first I have to deal with an elephant and now a monkey in the bed! However, I quickly realized that he was talking in his sleep. So, I chuckled to myself and went back to sleep. However, about 2:30 am we awoke to a loud crunching of the bushes and we knew our elephant friend was back for another snack.

Our morning wake up call was for 6:00 am and we were up before that time. We decided to go outside and see if our friend was still around. There is nothing more exciting than sneaking out of the tent to look for elephants! Margaret, our room attendant was on time and we sat and enjoyed our hot beverages on our veranda. Two giraffes meandered in front of the fence to greet us and say good morning.

Both game drives that day were really excellent and the morning game drive started off with a bang. Within ten minutes of starting out we were fortunate to see one male and two female Lions. Our driver thought they might be mating and sure enough…love was in the air.

After another wonderful meal at Tortillis we turned in for the night. There was to be no more visits from the resident elephant who we found out is named “Adam”. It seems that Adam has learned how to walk over the electric fence and sometimes gets caught in the act. When this happens he slowly retreats to the bush.

Day 5: A visit to the Masi Village or who needs a watch anyway?

Our driver arranged for us to visit a Masi village near the camp; we were very pleased to have the opportunity to meet with the local Masi. The Masi started out with a welcome dance, and prayer. We joined in for the prayer and they walked us through the appropriate responses. We were then invited into the village which consisted of about 18 huts and housed 155 people. They spent a lot of time describing their way of life and answering our questions. Recently they had just completed a small school house so that children could attend school without having to leave the community.

The men had a jumping contest and my husband joined in. The women also performed a little dance and I gave it my best shot. I must have been doing something very funny because we all broke out into giggles.

After that we looked at some of the arts and crafts that the village had for sale and we picked up many items that we were interested in. We were escorted to a large tree and our goods were spread out on a blanket. Here is where the ‘negotiations’ took place. We knew we were in trouble when their staring bid was $600.00 US – we had a lot of fun haggling over the price - and the final number agreed to was much, much lower. At some point one of the men pointed to my husband’s watch and asked him how much… now my husband has an ebony club, and we left Julius the Masi warrior with the Timex Expedition watch. We bid farewell to our new friends and left for the evening game drive.

Tomorrow we head out to Arusha. We really enjoyed Amboseli as the area is rich with wildlife and the terrain is really beautiful. Tortillis is a beautiful tented camp – I would consider it to be on the high end in terms of service, accommodation and food.

February 5th / “Don’t leave home without it…your PIN number that is.

We left for Arusha after a morning game drive. It took about three hours to reach the Namanga border from Amboseli. It took us about 45 minutes to clear both the Kenya and Tanzania immigration and customs as we already had our Visa entry for Tanzania.

Once we cleared customs we went to the office of TSA (located in Arusha) for a briefing and to drop off our hard sided luggage for the rest of the trip. It was at this time that we faced our only glitch of the trip. We discovered that we could not get a cash advance on our Visa and could only have access to the ATM machine. The problem with this of course, was that we had just received a new VISA card and did not yet have a PIN number which meant that it could not be used in the ATM. In all our planning we did not even think about getting a PIN for the credit card as we usually don’t need nor use one. After a few tries with our other cards we found that one of them worked in the ATM, but the limit was only $200,000 T. Shs per day. It all worked out as we used our VISA where we could and kept the cash for incidentals. Please ensure that you have your PIN numbers and you won’t have any problems. We were glad that we brought all our tip money with us in the form of US dollars so at least we did not have to worry about that.

Once we got that all sorted out we were driven to our hotel for the night – The Serena Mountain Village Lodge.

The Mountain Village Lodge is a full service hotel and has all the amenities that you would expect to find at a larger hotel. The room was spacious and clean and had a TV, phone and lots of hot water. It was a good chance to get caught up on some necessary chores like laundry and email. Laundry was very reasonable (3 pairs of pants, 4 shirts, and one pair of shorts for a total of $9.00 US). The laundry went out at 3:30 pm and it was returned that evening by 8:00 pm. The cost to access the internet was 30 minutes for $5.00 US.

We had only a Bed and Breakfast option so dinner was extra. For dinner, we had salad, soup, entrée, dessert and coffee and the total came to $24US for the two of us. The food was good and we thought at that price to be an excellent value.

The next morning we had a full breakfast, and left Arusha at 9:00 am for our next destination, Tarangire and Swala Camp.

Next installment, Tarangire Park and Ngorongoro Crater

cocco1 is offline  
Feb 17th, 2006, 07:07 PM
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Here is the link to some of my pictures. I hope that the link works:

http://www.kodakgallery.com/ShareLandin Signin.jsp?Uc=zv068ge.b5eef7y&Uy=-rpdb99&Upost_signin=Slideshow.jsp%3Fmode%3Dfromsha re&Ux=0

cocco1 is offline  
Feb 17th, 2006, 10:21 PM
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Wonderful trip report ...but the photo link isn't working.
safari274 is offline  
Feb 17th, 2006, 11:31 PM
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Send an invite to your own email address through the Share Photos feature of Kodak Gallery. Scroll down to the bottom of the email you receive to where it says "If you can't see the link, copy and paste the following directly into your browserquot; and copy and paste the link directly under that here. That should work.
Patty is offline  
Feb 18th, 2006, 06:47 AM
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Thanks Patty:

Here is the new link to our pics:

cocco1 is offline  
Feb 18th, 2006, 07:09 AM
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It seemed to me that you had a fantastic safari and I really enjoyed you wonderful pictures!



Feb 18th, 2006, 07:48 AM
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Posts: 618
hey, a lot of these are really cool!
thx, d
tuskerdave is offline  
Feb 18th, 2006, 10:14 AM
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Great pictures--lots of good "head shots" as well as an impressive eye for composition. Camera info?
Leely is offline  
Feb 18th, 2006, 11:14 AM
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Thanks Leely,

This was my first time taking pics of landscape and wildlife. I took over 1,000 pics and I am happy with the results of these 'top pics'.

Camera info: Canon 300D (i.e., Rebel) with Canon 70-300 IS USM. We carried two 1GB compact flash cards and downloaded files each day to a 40GB X-Drive. We were able to download the compact flash card every evening and start fresh every morning. I was free to take as many pics as I wanted to.

cocco1 is offline  
Feb 18th, 2006, 01:27 PM
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Great pics, especially the close-up head shots. The dust devil is really good. Presume the reticulated giraffe was in Samburu, but only one? I love this species.

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