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

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Feb 18th, 2006, 02:07 PM
  #21
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Hi Sandi:

Good eye Sandi! Yes, the Reticulated Giraffe was photographed in Samburu. I agree, they have a beautiful look. I have a few other pics of a group of three but these came out a bit blury - and I cut the head off of another. First time with the camera but happy to say that my pics got better as the safari went on.
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Feb 18th, 2006, 04:15 PM
  #22
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Note: In my earlier posts I mixed up the number of days and dates. Since I am unable to edit my previous posts I have begun using the correct dates with this post.

Tarangire: “What to do when an elephant comes knocking”
Day 8 / Feb 3rd

We departed Arusha at 9:00 am and had a leisurely drive to Tarangire Park. We had heard that this was not the optimal time to visit but we just had to see the big Baobab trees that the park is famous for. We were not to be disappointed. Tarangire Park turned out to be one of our favorites through the trip! The drive through the park was spectacular and was the greenest and lushest park to date. After the recent rains all the trees and plants were in full bloom and it was a nice change from the grey and dusty environment of the other areas.


And the Baobab trees were absolutely fantastic! These huge trees dot the landscape and give the park a very unique look. This was the only place that we encountered the dreaded Tsetse flies. For about 45 minutes while in the heat of the afternoon these little guys made an appearance and really take a bite out of you! Some interesting history about the tsetse fly: Prior to 1950 the Park had little human settlement and was not used for livestock grazing due to the high concentration of tse tse flies. This one factor played a major role in protecting the area from human exploitation. It’s remarkable how such a little bug could have such an impact!


Game Sightings: We were amazed at the large number of the elephant herds - groups of 9, 10 and the largest at 16. I was in elephant heaven. We also saw a lot of birds, some ostrich; several bat eared fox, and a lion resting on the side of the road. I have to mention that Martin, our guide/driver, never ceased to amaze us with his ability to spot game and drive at the same time. A vehicle in front of us completely passed by the lion and yet Martin spotted it with no problem. He was so knowledgeable and gracious in answering all our questions about the wildlife and general culture. We felt very lucky to have his expertise during our safari.

Swala camp is really well concealed and it comes as quite a surprise as you come around the bend. We arrived at about 4:00 Pm and we were met by one of the camp managers, Maryna and a staff member; we were impressed by the warm personal greeting. Maryna gave us an orientation, and in a camp with no fences we were told that it can get pretty lively with game.

Swala is a small tented camp in the south west of the Park, in a remote area about 45 minutes inside the park, but well worth the drive. Our first impression of Swala camp was how peaceful and serene it felt – a little piece of paradise. The camp is positioned under a group of shady acacia trees. The camp has a watering hole in the centre and in the dry season sees lots of action. Right now there is plenty of water so we did not see much action but there were still plenty of animals around.

There are nine tents in the camp and we were shown to #3. Each tent is raised on a wooden deck above the ground and situated under a large tree for shade. The tent was very large and featured a large king-size bed with white linens and dark wood furniture. The attention to detail was most impressive, from the light cotton housecoats, to his and her flip-flops tied up with string.

Maryna invited us to join them at the open campfire for sundowners about 6:45 pm which gave us time to have a quick shower and sit on the veranda for a while. A herd of impalas walked right past us while we were sitting on the veranda and it was so wonderful to watch them scurry and ramble around. Just before we were about to leave for the camp fire a small herd of six elephants made an appearance to the right of the bush. As we watched them they moved in closer and closer and came within 20 feet or so of our veranda. This was the first time that I had been so close to an elephant without the security of the vehicle, and let me tell you my heart was beating so fast I thought it would jump out of my throat! At some point they must have caught our scent as they moved away fairly quickly but stayed within viewing range.

We had drinks around the fire with Maryna and her husband Steven and were joined by the only other couple in the camp. Steven mentioned that it was rutting season for the impalas and not to worry if we hear a lot of noise during the night.

Dinner was served and the tables were set up under the stars; we ate by candlelight. Dinner was a combination of pork and lamb with fresh potatoes, pumpkin and beans and dessert was a light chocolate mousse. Staff was attentive, and the food was well prepared. The wine is complimentary and is a nice touch to the overall experience. During dinner we could hear the sounds of impalas around the camp and when a flashlight was shone on the bush they all just froze in their place. It was quite comical to see all these impalas just stop in mid chew.

After dinner we were escorted to our tent by a Masai who ensured that we made our way safely. As a precautionary measure a radio was placed in our tent in case of emergency.

We only booked one night at the camp and we were really sad to leave. The managers Maryna and Steve were delightful and we really enjoyed their company. We give Swala Camp the highest marks and we promised ourselves that we would return to this special place in the future.

Coming up soon, Ngorongoro Crater.
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Feb 18th, 2006, 07:47 PM
  #23
 
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Great trip report so far! Can't wait for more.
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Feb 19th, 2006, 06:44 AM
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Was saving this to read over the weekend and what a pleasure! Can't wait to read more but Cocco, just wanted to thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with us!
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Feb 19th, 2006, 06:48 AM
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Wow, some nice photos! LOVE the cheetah yawn and the lion/ buffalo interaction and some great bird shots and how about that little brown baby zebra and oh the lion cubs! Wonderful!
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Feb 19th, 2006, 10:01 AM
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Hi Cocco-
Amazing pictures, and an incredible report - can't wait to read more! Can you give me some further info on the Kenya Wild;ife Animal Orphanage in Nairobi? I would love to see these animals up close, and we have a couple of free afternoons when we are in Nairobi in June. Is it easy to get to? I did a search on the internet but couldn't see anything, any info you can give me would be appreciated!
Lynda (in next province over from you)
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Feb 19th, 2006, 11:19 AM
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Lynda,
The Safari Walk & Animal Orphanage is located at Nairobi National Park (if I'm thinking of the same place that cocco visited). Nairobi NP is on the southern end of the city. I haven't been there but if you decide to go, you should try visit Daphne Sheldrick's Elephant Orphanage too which is also right at Nairobi NP. They're open to the public from 11 to noon (double check) for feeding and mudbath time. You'll get to see the baby orphan elephants and rhino.

Also in the same vicinity are the Giraffe Centre, Karen Blixen Museum, Kazuri Beads, and Utamaduni. Any of these places can be easily combined together though you may not have time to hit them all in one afternoon.
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Feb 19th, 2006, 12:13 PM
  #28
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LyndaS: The web site for the Kenya Wildlife Society is www.kws.org. Patty is correct on the location. Click the link to the education centres and it's under the Nairobi Educational Center. We also wanted to go to the Sheldrick's elephant Orphanage but ran out of time. Next time.

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Feb 19th, 2006, 12:17 PM
  #29
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Ngorongoro Crater
Days 9 & 10 / Feb 4 & 5th

The drive to the Crater from Tarangire took about three hours – a large portion of the road is newly paved and this made the ride smooth and dust free. Martin, our driver diverted our attention to the left side of the vehicle and then told us to turn to the right and there it was – the Ngorongoro Crater. Nothing quite prepares you for that first look, that first moment where you take in the beauty and the grandeur of the crater. Although we saw many pictures of it, seeing it with our own eyes is quite breathtaking. It became one of those ‘picture moments’ that will always be remembered.

We arrived at the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge (NCL) about 4:00 pm and I was giddy with anticipation. After a quick check in and orientation we were escorted to our room (#8). It was as glamorous as we imagined it to be and it didn’t disappoint. Our room was exactly as described on the website and offered a few little surprises such as the personalized welcome note, to the box filled with chocolates and the decanter of sherry sitting by the fireplace. The highlight for me was the beautiful bathtub that faces the crater and provides a view worth a million bucks. Suffice to say that I didn’t waste anytime in jumping in the bath and having a nice long soak.

We had a few hours before dinner and we spent some time organizing ourselves, since laundry was included in the rate it was one of the first things that we prepared. We walked around the grounds and took a look at the gift shop. The gift shop offered a few unique items that I hadn’t seen before such as really nice handmade soap and the line of toiletries featured in the rooms.

Cocktails were served in the lounge area and we enjoyed chatting with the other guests and sharing our experiences of the day. We enjoyed listening to their adventures in the crater, since we were going to the crater the next day.

We were shown to our table in front of the fireplace. It did seem a bit bizarre to have a fireplace in Africa – but there was a little in chill in the air and I appreciated the warmth. Dinner was an excellent four course meal and the service was exceptional. Upon returning to our room, our butler had turndown our bed and there was a lovely fire in the fireplace.

We were awoken the next morning and had our tea and hot chocolate on the deck of our room. The view was breathtaking and humbling at the same time. I thought about how perfect a place the crater is – its own little world – where the inhabitants are protected and can live (mostly) untouched from human harm.

We departed about 8:00 am for the crater floor and arrived about 8:45 am after winding down a steep zig zag road. This was one of those moments that I was glad we were in “the tank”. Once we made it down to the floor there was an impressive selection of thousands of inhabitants including wildebeest, zebra, impalas, gazelles, the older bull elephants and lots and lots of babies. The baby warthogs were so cute! Our highlights included: A fairly close viewing of a Rino – he was sleeping and then got up and moved which gave me enough time to snap some pics. We saw two lions contemplate bringing down a water buffalo, but they quickly changed their minds as the water buffalo turned and chased the lions. It was a great show and very humorous.

We had a lovely picnic lunch by the hippo pool and there were tons of birds around to keep us company. We ate in the vehicle and did not have any trouble with those meddlesome birds. We stayed in the crater until about 4:00 pm. Contrary to previous information you can stay in the crater all day. Instead of limiting the vehicles the park fees went up from $30.00 US to $50.00 per person. I think this is funny because people are not going to travel all this way to balk at paying an extra $20.00 to get into the crater, so I am not sure how this increase is going to decrease the number of vehicles going into the crater.

Upon returning to our room, we were very dusty and hot and we found that our butler had prepared a nice hot bath, with two pairs of slippers ready for our tired feet. It was a nice treat. We raided the gift store, had a great dinner, packed up our freshly laundered clothes and called it a day! Onto the Ndutu area tomorrow where we would spend the last three days on safari before heading to the coast and Ras Kutani.

The NCL is a beautiful place if not a little over the top. This level of luxury seems a little out of place here. Of all the places we stayed this was probably our least favorite. Not because it isn’t a fantastic place but because we prefer a more natural and rustic setting such as Swala or Intrepid. Were we happy we stayed there? You bet – it was fun. Would we stay there again? Probably not – but it was worth the experience.

Next Ndutu to see the migration or not….
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Feb 19th, 2006, 12:51 PM
  #30
 
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Thank you many times over for the wonderful pictures and the detailed trip report. I wait anxiously for each trip report set. We have booked a very similar trip for late September 2006, and this makes me eager for the time to pass. Waiting for the next entry.
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Feb 19th, 2006, 04:53 PM
  #31
 
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Thankyou Patty and Kimberley for the info - I found it as per your instructions and will for sure visit there in June! Micato is taking us to the Giraffe Center, as well Karen Blixen Center, but has made no mention of either the Wildlife Orphanage, or David Sheldrick's, so these would be two really good places to visit on our own. We arrive at 5:30 AM the morning before we are officially 'with the group', so this can be what we do on that day! Thanks again guys, I appreciate it.
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Feb 20th, 2006, 10:35 AM
  #32
 
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Kimberly,
Thanks for the current crater info. I agree I can't see how anyone would chose not to descend into the crater because of a $20 increase. Then again, I couldn't see how the originally announced time restriction would help either. It seemed like visitors would just opt for 2 half days vs one full day resulting in the same or even more congestion.

You photos are fantastic BTW including some wonderful shots of birds. Makes me want to ugrade my equipment though I'm sure it has much more to do with one's photo skills
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Feb 20th, 2006, 10:42 AM
  #33
 
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Hello "cocco",

Thanks so much for your trip report! The photos are just fabulous. We're from Winnipeg! and are in the midst of planning/booking our safari in February 2007. Our agent has recommended Tortilis and I see where you had a marvellous time there! Could I please ask you: did your tent view out onto Kilimanjaro? I didn't see any photos of the mountain in your collection!
Are there hairdryers at Tortilis? Or do you have to supply your own (assuming there is a plug/electricity for using one.)

Do you think two nights at Tortilis were enough, or would you recommend staying an extra night there? We will also be visting the Mara, the Crater, Serengeti and possibly the Selous.

Your "Adam" story is priceless! What an adventure! I can only hope we have stories like that to tell after our own adventure next year!
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Feb 20th, 2006, 10:46 AM
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cocco,
I'm waiting with bated breath for your next installment.

Very interesting about the Ngorongoro visits. And although the NCL is way beyond my budget, now that I've read about the chocolates, the hot chocolate...hmm! Maybe I'll have to investigate further.
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Feb 20th, 2006, 07:01 PM
  #35
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Thanks for all your kind comments. Taking pictures was fun - and I am a beginner so if I can do it so can you!

Carolines: Winnipeg is my home town - Born and raised. There is a couple that manages Tortillis, and the woman is from Calgary! It is a small world.

Re: Tortillis, it is a lovely, lovely area and you will not be sorry. No, our tent did not face Kilimanjaro , it was cloudy and so the only view we had was on the drive in to Amboseli. There are no hairdryers in Tortillis and no plugs for this in the tents. There is a plug located in the change areas by the pool and I used that one evening. Before I left Canada I purchased one of those mini-travel hairdryers just in case. While most places had hairdryers it was hit and miss. I used my little dryer a handful of times and it worked really great. I would say that for us, two nights was a good amount of time and gave us plenty of time to go out on game drives. But it will really depend on the pace you set for your safari. We did two nights at most places with the exception of Ndutu where we spent three nights because of the migration and the serengeti which is about an hour away. Best of luck with your trip - I'm am sure you will love it.

Leely: NCL is a once in a lifetime experience. I will always remember the butler showing us our room and even the look on my husbands face was like "wow" - it is an experience for sure.
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Feb 20th, 2006, 07:09 PM
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Ndutu
February 6,7,8
Days 11, 12, 13

On our way to Ndutu we stopped by the Olduvi gorge and museum. As has been mentioned before there is not a whole lot to see here but it is worth a quick look. Martin took us down to the gorge to see the shifting sands. Basically, it consists of a volcanic ash dune of shifting sands located near the Gorge. Discovered in 1966, it has been steadily moving northwest as fast as 56 feet per year, retaining its shape due to the magnetic properties of the sand grains. The Masai revere the site as sacred and use it as a place to pray or sacrifice cattle. Who would have thought that sand could be so interesting?

Driving into the Ndutu area we couldn’t help but notice how dry the area was. The rainfall has been a fraction of what they normally get at this time of year. We also noticed the absence of a lot of animals, no elephants anywhere, and only a few impala and smaller animals. We were initially disappointed that the migration had not yet arrived, but felt worse for the animals that were suffering through the drought and hoped for their sake that the rains would come soon.

The accommodation at Ndutu Lodge, while basic, is very clean and private. Each little cottage has its own bathroom and either twin, or queen size beds. There is little veranda in front that is nice for an afternoon or evening rest. The only note that we would like to pass along is the water quality. The water has high soda content and therefore feels soapy. You always feel like you have soap on you while washing but this is more of an inconvenience than anything. We did laundry and our clothes came out just fine. We would save some of the fresh drinking water that was placed in our room and I would use this for a final rinse on my hair. There are no electrical plugs in the room – so no blow dryers or curling irons. The good news – everyone is in the same situation. There are plugs in the bar/lounge area for battery charging.

Animal sightings: For the first hour of our afternoon game drive, we were surprised by the lack of animals. Only a couple of giraffe, and few impalas. And then, we heard it. A loud lion roar followed by a small cloud of dust. Martin quickly moved the vehicle in the direction of all the noise and we found ourselves right in the middle of a fight over territory. Because you are allowed to go off road we were able to get a little closer than we had in previous areas. It was quite exciting to hear the lions roar as they attempted to communicate with each together. For those of you who have seen the pictures – the young male with the blood in his mouth was from a fight with another male. We counted about 21 lions from two prides squaring off. Even Martin said that he had never seen so many lions in one place. There were eight cubs and the females were quite distraught. It was a sight to see and we watched and listened to the commotion for over an hour. That is the beauty of Africa, just when you think all is quiet - it will surprise you.

After our exciting game drive, we returned to the lodge for dinner. One of the best things about the Ndutu lodge is the fact that they serve some local dishes. Although we enjoyed all the food during our safari we were a bit disappointed that very few local dishes were served. So we were very glad to have the opportunity to try a few different meals while at Ndutu. We had ‘ugali’ which is a traditional stew, and it was excellent. As well, alcohol and soft drinks were very inexpensive; a glass of wine was $2.50 US and a pop was about $1.00 and a fresh juice $1.50. After dinner we enjoyed sitting around the fire pit and star gazing.

Day 12

We enjoyed two game drives on our second day and saw some peaceful lions sleeping under a tree. We saw another lion sitting close by his fresh wildebeest kill. Also saw a cheetah sleeping under a tree. We were also fortunate enough to see some eland. Eland are very very shy and run away anytime a vehicle attempts to get near. We also saw a group of baby ostrich, about 20 – 25 of them. They were so cute because they were running as fast as they could, while staying in one big group. The poor adult ostriches were having a heck of a time trying to keep up with them! When we drove past the flock the adult male became alarmed and pretended to have a broken wing…he started flapping and limping, trying to get us away from the babies. It was priceless. We drove away and let him think that he was successful in protecting his babies from harm.

Day 13
Today featured an all day trip into the Serengeti. This area is so vast and large that our eyes cannot see the end. It was so impressive just by its size. The Masai appley named this place “endless plain’ which means…you guessed it, Serengeti. The trip from Ndutu took about one hour and this was one of the dustiest and roughest roads in the whole trip. We noticed how skittish the animals were in the Serengeti; they run away from any vehicle that comes near. Very different from our experience in the Ngorongoro Crater where the animals are laying all over the road! Once at the Seronera Valley we noticed a large number of wildebeest just walking around aimlessly. There were a few lines, but mostly they were just standing around under the shade of trees. They are very confused because without the rains they are in a dilemma as to where to go.

Animal highlights: There were a lot of animals in Seronera area – probably since there is water most animals have moved away from the Ndutu area. We saw a leopard and a lion sleeping in a tree (not the same tree). On our way back to the Ndutu area, Martin spotted a cheetah sitting under a soliditary tree.

It was our final night at the lodge and the weight of having to leave the animals was upon us. One more night and this closed the chapter on our safari. Our next location, Ras Kutani Beach Resort for some much needed R & R.

Up next - the final installment - Ras Kutani or Burn baby burn.
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Feb 20th, 2006, 07:14 PM
  #37
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Carolines: I forgot to mention that I posted a few pics of our tent at Tortillis on the kodak site. Here is the link. http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=...a&x=1&y=6o9ehu


Unfortunately, we did'nt take picutures of the grounds. But the pics will give you an idea of the accomodation.
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Feb 21st, 2006, 10:02 AM
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Cocco,
The detail in your pictures is stunning. Thanks for letting me relive my trip through you!
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Feb 21st, 2006, 10:27 AM
  #39
 
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Kimberly & Caroline-
There is a lot of Winnipegers on this thread! I wasn't born there, nor raised there but I did spend my teenage years in Lac du Bonnet and the start of my married life in Winnipeg, before we decided to move to Vancouver.
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Feb 21st, 2006, 11:15 AM
  #40
 
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Cocco1 - I am anxious to start reading your very detailed report. In the meantime I took a peek at your photos. Very nice! Thanks in advance for such a great report. It looks like a good one!
Sharon
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