Trip Report Kenya and Tanzania Safari

Jul 24th, 2004, 06:47 PM
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Trip Report Kenya and Tanzania Safari

June 25th, 2004
We began our trip leaving home at 4:40pm on Friday afternoon. We departed on British Air to London. We landed in Nairobi about 10pm local on June 26th after a 7.5 hour flight. We got through the visa process very easily (with $150 cash) and we all had the visa forms already filled out (got them on the web from the Kenya web site). We then went to claim luggage, and after 45 minutes, we had everything except my bag. Vintage Africa was there to meet us, and were very patient with our luggage problems. After filling out the claim, we were finally on our way to the Nairobi Safari Club, our hotel for the first night. We arrived at about midnight, checked in, took a shower and fell down for the night. Note to self, (now that I'm wearing my husband's undies) always bring extra clothes in your carry on!

June 27th, 2004
5:45 am. Woke up early to try to get BA on the phone to figure out whether my bag had arrived from London. Had a conversation with the Bellman (who seemed happy to have a conversation with anyone that time of morning). He was very friendly, and when I told him we were from New York, he said "ahhh, the new home of Bill Clinton!" I laughed and said "yes." He asked who were were hoping would win the election and I told him John Kerry. He stated "yes, if that happens, we will probably have more peace in the world!" I said "yes, we agreed." At 6:45am I called BA and they had my bag. Little did I know that Simon and Paul had already gone to the airport and were about to pick it up! They arrived to pick us up at the hotel at about 7:15, my bag in hand! It was starting out to be a very good morning. At about 9am we left the Safari Club to begin our trip. We took an instant liking to our guide, Simon Kinyanjui. He was extremely friendly, talkative and well read. We were on our way to Aberdares. We stopped at a roadside store to use the bathroom and buy trinkets. We paid (we later found out) much too much for the carvings, but it was fun. Everything is a negotiation when you are purchasing anything, and the Kenyan's and Tanzanian's really enjoy the game. Later we arrived at The Ark. What a great place for kids. Forget about the food and basically forget about the accomodations, actually forget about the fact they leave the salt out to attract the animals and just enjoy the awesome view. Very cozy, very camp lodge feel. It was cold! Take warm clothes!! Hot water bottles in bed were very welcomed. You see elephants, bushbucks, warthogs, and hyenias (alas, no black rhinos).
Water bottles in bed were very welcomed.

July 28th - Lake Nakura- stayed at a new lodge called Mbweha Camp. Mbweha means jackal and we saw them there. Very nice lodge. Each "room" was actually a private hut. It was very quiet. Lake Nakura was exciting, as we saw our first zebra, flamigos, a black rhino (yeah!) and white rhinos. We came upon a small lake and saw Rothchild giraffe , cape buffalo, and zebra all drinking together. This was our first "drive".

Juy 29th - Two nights at Siana Intrepids Tented Camp outside the Maasi Mara. Maybe our favorite place, I'm not sure. The Mara was everything and more than we expected. Our guide could drive right up to the animals and it was incredibly exciting. A male lion brushed against my door. We saw too many lions to count. We came upon a pride in the grass and one pair we witnessed mating. Cheetah, giraffes, impala, thompson gazelles, etc. were all there. We saw cheetahs with their kill. My only complaint was that the camp was a half hour away from the park gate. It was a lot of driving to add onto the long game drives. I would stay in the park the next time, but loved tented camping. I wish I included more tented camps. This was our only one.

I promise I will make the rest of the report shorter and post it tomorrow.
Cronen is offline  
Jul 24th, 2004, 07:40 PM
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Not shorter--longer. I laughed as I read your report about the hotel staff and knew this would be good. Thanks for the detail. Lots of predators, rhinos and excitement. Good start. I'll wait with baited breath for tomorrows chapter. Thank you. Liz
Liz_Frazier is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 02:58 AM
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Cronen, we love detail - don't shorten it!
Sounds great so far - and yes, aren't tented camps lovely? You really can hear so much more and feel more connected to the environment with just canvas as your walls...

Sounds excellent so far!
Kavey is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 07:01 AM
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Thanks for the report. I agree. Don't skimp on the reports or try to make them shorter. We really do enjoy reading them.

Isn't the Mara wonderful? I wonder if you saw the same huge pride of lions which was about 23-25 strong when I saw them last year.
Looking forward to reading the rest of your report.
divewop is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 07:09 AM
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Cronen -
So glad to see the start of your report this morning. It does take a bit of time to get it together after arriving home and now it's here. Agree with the other - would like more detail, but tell it as you feel most comfortable.

As far as Siana Springs being outside of the Mara and the longer than expected drive to get into the Mara itself - many people prefer these camps as you are offered night drives (sometime included, at others for a small fee), whereas, you cannot to night drives inside the National Parks/Reserves.

We too stayed at a camp outside the Mara, but a little closer than Siana, and we saw many animals (elephants, giraffes and the beautiful chandelier cactus trees) on the back road of the reserve before even entering the Mara.

Waiting to read the rest.
Jul 25th, 2004, 09:42 AM
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Continuation of the trip ? As I said the Maasi Mara was awesome, felt like we were participants on the Discovery Channel, especially having to explain the mating process to our nine year old. Our guide was great and decided on a entire day drive, instead of a morning and afternoon drive because of the amount of time it took to get to places. He was a Kerry supporter and immediately asked us ?and so we are praying for John Kerry to win?. He informed us of all the Kenyan politics and the fact that on July 3rd there could be trouble, as the new constitution was suppose to be finished, and it didn?t seem likely. Back to the animals, went to the hippo pool, which was nice because you actually walk a bit (with an armed guard because of the crocs running around), instead of drive. Saw more lions, and wildebeest beginning the migration. We also went to visit a Maasia Village. Our guide needed to convince us it was worthwhile; as I felt watching and learning about other cultures could be like ?gawking? at them. He assured us that it would be a learning experience. Was he right, we spent the next two days discussing it! The girls marry at 12 or so, after they are usually circumcised. The men can marry as many women as they have cows (the dowry for a bride is a certain amount of cows). Having four American daughters, I couldn?t help but wonder?.
One thing to mention, at the park gate the people selling wares can be quite aggressive. We had women throwing their wares at us through our pop up roof (it worked as we bought several beaded bracelets).

July 1st ? Fly back to Nairobi from the Mara. Had lunch at The Carnivore Restaurant. Fun, and was part of the tour, but wouldn?t go out of my way to visit. We then went to Amboseli for two nights at the Ol Tukai Lodge. We love the place, and are realizing how incredibly hospitable everyone has been thus far. This place was all about elephants, up close and personal. We are now learning and remembering names of birds, animals, etc. The backdrop is Mt. Kilimanjaro and it is beautiful.

July 3rd ? Off to Tanzania were we must leave Simon and switch to another driver. We pay another $150 for visas, meet our new guide and Vintage Africa representatives and we?re off to Lake Manyara. This was our least favorite park. It was buggy and we didn?t see many animals. We were very tired however, and it was late. We stayed at a new Maasai run lodge called Eunoto Retreat Luxury Lodge. It was the fanciest place we stayed, and the rooms were beautiful (again each room was a hut). Found out it was owned by a guy from Texas who visited the area, and fell in love with it, so decided to build a lodge on the side of the mountain.

July 4th ? Two nights at the Ngorongoro Sopa. In many ways, this was our favorite stop. Really a breathtaking location, the lodge rests on the crater rim. You can have tea or cocktails overlooking the rim and the view is tremendous. Nice large rooms and once again, super friendly people. During dinner at night, the employees get together and sing and dance while you eat dinner. It was a lot of fun. We spend the entire next day down in the crater. It is like a terrarium with it?s own ecosystem. We saw cheetahs, Thomson gazelle, and a black rhino from afar.

July 6 ? Off to the Serengeti ? it is a long ride. I would consider flying if possible, but we did get to stop at Olduvai Gorge, to view our ancestors. We stayed at the Serengeti Serena Lodge for two nights. We spotted our first and only leopards. A mom and her two cubs by a tree. Awesome park, but unlike the Mara, you can?t go off road. I?m definitely glad we went to both parks. We saw hippos, lions, hyenas, giraffe, etc. but began to notice things more, like behaviors, coloring etc.

July8th ? We flew from Serengeti Park to Arusha and then to Zanzibar. Again, we were met by a Vintage Africa representative to ensure we had our tickets and that all was good. We are met at the airport at Zanzibar and driven to Breezes Beach Club. We realize when we arrive that everyone is looking at our daughter. It is 95% honeymooners! Luckily that evening at the bar we hook up with the only other people who have children. We are bonded with them for the next two days. They were a British family from outside London, and we had a great time with them. Zanzibar was nice, but having just taken a vacation in the spring to St. John?s US Virgin Island, I couldn?t help but compare. You couldn?t really swim as 1) it was cold 2) they recommended water shoes as there was coral..ouch.. and spiny sea urchins?yikes. Also, we were an hour out from Stone Town and somewhat isolated. I wanted to add that we had a bad diving experience. We did a discovery intro dive for our daughter and felt it was really rudimentary, basic and actually unsafe. As soon as we got into (after wading out to the boat in waste deep, (neck deep for kids,) water we arrived at the boat which was a rickety old wooden fishing boat with hooks and anchors and garbage laying all over it. They did not inform us to bring water or towels or anything, and being on the windward side of the island, it was very cold once you got out of the water. None of the dive equipment fit our 9 year old, though they told us it would. We felt like irresponsible parents, as we felt it was not well supervised, and at times unsafe. We never would have gotten on the boat had we known. We did live through the experience however, and will probably laugh about it at some point in the future.

July 11th ? last day and panic now has ensued. I have not done my souvenir shopping and haven?t gone into Stone Town. We arrange to leave early and shop before going to the airport. I power purchase at a great place ?Memories of Zanzibar? and we?re off. Again our driver ?Macho? asks if ?we are hoping for John Kerry to win the election?? I?m wondering if anyone ever says ?No? or can they just spot us Kerry supporters? Really, is it that obvious?

At the Nairobi airport we are once again met by a Vintage Africa representative who helps us to find out for sure that our bags were transferred (he also helped an Australian couple we befriended during our 6 hour wait).

What I learned:

We did drink and brush our teeth with bottled water. I definitely over packed. I packed way too many shorts as we was in pants most of the time. It was never that hot and was surprised how cold it was in the higher altitudes. A couple of pants that have a zip off to shorts options are perfect. I dressed in layers, because by the afternoon it did get warm. I never really dressed up. At all the lodges they requested that you not wear shorts and tee shirts at dinner, but at all other meals they were fine. We did not feel out of place in our safari shirts and pants during any dinner. Khakis and drawstring pants were fine. Any place we stayed more than one night, we did laundry. My clothes never looked better. By the way, we had heard that people were not sure that they dried the cloths when you did laundry. That was not the case everywhere we were. As a matter of fact, the cloths often came back ironed (including your tee shirts and underwear!) Bring Deet wipes and clean wipes for hands. Not all rooms had bug spray. Some asked if you wanted it sprayed at night. We brought a lot of $1.00 and $5.00 bills because it was suggested on other threads and was very good for small purchases and constant tipping. This was definitely a good suggestion. Bring Cipro or antibiotics with you if possible. We also brought a small first aid kit with anti -itch pain relieve spray. My daughter and I had buzz-off hats (with bug repellent in them) that really seemed to work. I?m also now a big advocate of the sleep aid, Ambien. Strange beds, strange places, strange noises equal bad and strange sleep, but when I took Ambien, I slept quite soundly. I didn?t bring dreamsacks, which I regretted. You want to feel comfortable and we stayed in most places a very short time. Dreamsacks might have made us feel more that we were sleeping in our own stuff. They are those silk sleeping bags that everyone was buying after a news story about all the nasty things that we?re found in hotel bedding was aired. They would have been nice on the plane and in a couple of beds. We used duffel bags and they were easy to get in and out of planes and vehicles. My cell phone worked almost everywhere. In fact, in many places, I had better signal than I do at home!

Some other things we learned:
We would have definitely ?flown? more and driven less. We were told that you should drive from place to place your first trip to get a feel for the area, and that?s probably true, but if we go back, we would spend more time flying from park to park to get more time doing things you wanted to do as opposed to spending it in a car traveling from place to place.

Bring lots of zip lock bags for storing all your stuff.

We would suggest doing less shopping in the beginning of a two week trip, as you have to haul it all around with you then. You also get much better at the bargaining process as time goes on, and you will get better pricing later as you become better at bartering. Our guide suggested that everyone loves cheap watches (even the Maasai warriors were wearing them!) and if you can bring those along with you, you will be able to use them to barter for carvings and trinkets. Take an adapter kit and be mindful of when the generators are on, so you can charge your camera equipment.

We took mefloquine for malaria and had no side effects (yet). Also, we got hep A and yellow fever shots, again no side effects. We really learned to ?relax? and just ?be? more during this vacation. It met and exceeded our expectations. We wanted to thank all our fellow fodorites who helped us during the months of planning. All the threads and questions posted really help with ?real? planning.

Cronen is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 09:55 AM
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Sorry about all those question marks. I did it in word, but then edited them out when I pasted the document here. It looked fine after editing and previewing, but when I hit post my reply, the question marks were reborn!
Cronen is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 12:37 PM
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Thanks Cronen, very useful report...
Kavey is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 04:08 PM
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I am making plans for a 28-day OAT safari to Kenya & Tanzania with pre and post extensions including Victoria Falls. Enjoy reading about your trip and your travel tips. Has anyone out there been on the OAT adventure? Got any tips? Maureen
MaureenQ is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 12:55 AM
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Great report Cronen. Guess we did pretty much the same trip - camping in the Mara and lodges elsewhere. Our camp in the Mara was just about 5 minutes outside the park gate, so that was quite convenient.

Forgot to mention the Sopa song and dance show during dinnertime in my trip report - we heard them at Ngorongoro and Serengeti - reading about it in your report made me smile!

The pants with zip off to shorts suggestion is a good one - I saw a couple of people use that and wished I had brought some with me. Sometimes, it was just a bit too cold in the early morning for shorts, and I knew it would be too hot the rest of the day for full length pants, so I ended up wearing shorts and huddling against my day pack in the mornings!
freddy123 is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 09:21 AM
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Loved your report. Thanks for the detail. Lets hope we have a bunch more coming back to continue this tradition. I go back over them many times and each time I see something different. Goooood reading! liz
Liz_Frazier is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 02:51 PM
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Cronen - Loved your report. Interesting to hear that the new lodge at Lake Manyara was the most luxurious of all despite the fact that the Lake Manyara area "didn't do it for you." Personally, I wasn't all impressed either, but waould like to hear more about the Eunoto Retreat for general knowledge.

Regarding the Carnivore - what in particular did you not like? The food? Too many tourists? Admittedly, the first time we ate there, it was at lunchtime and many tour groups came in, but fortunately we sat away from them and just had fun watching the whole show that is put on with the food presentation and how people react knowing they can eat as much as they wish. The second time, was also lunch, but at the tale end and ate in the garden, which was quiet and much more relaxed - most of the tour groups were gone by then.

Sometimes one has to do touristy things just for the fun of it - I mean, we are tourists. Not unlike how tourists do touristy stuff anywhere. You take it for what it is and laugh afterwards.

We also thought the visit to the Masai Manyatta would be touristy, but we were the only "tourists" when we stopped on our way to the Mara and we loved it. Though it was strange to be sitting on what is a "bed" in one of the huts and realizing there was a live body sleeping right behind where I sat - scared the heck out of me. The comment from the Masai whose hut it was said "she's not feeling well" to which I responded, "don't you think she should be out in the fresh air" (rather that in that closed-in, stuffy area)!

Sorry I forgot to mention about the vendors being "pushy" with their wares to sell, especially at park/reserve entrances. And also not to buy at the beginning of the trip, but wait till mid-way once you have an idea of what's available for purchase and prices.

I was curious about why you went with mefloquine (Lariam generic) rather than Malarone? Since you mentioned mefloquine, I gather you did get the generic - did the pharmacy give you the entire script at one time (all 7-8 tabs) and what did the generics cost verus the brand named Lariam. Certainly glad to hear no one had any reactions to these - we had weird dreams and restless sleep. But something for you to remember about mefloquine is that it has a long "half-life" and remains in the system for sometime (the reason these are only taken once a week) - you certainly won't be able to donate blood (if you do) for at least a year.

As to having your laundry done and whether the clothing is dried! Something I learned here at home about my sheets which I have done by the local hand laundry - they actually press the sheets right from the washing machine. It's very possible since everything was returned ironed, this is, in fact, how they do the laundry at the lodges. They iron them dry!

Well, from everything I read, I do believe you had a pretty good time - some bumps along the way, but nothing that couldn't be fixed. And don't forget to tell Vintage Africa about the boat situation at Breezes. Bye the way, what were your daughters overall feelings about the trip? So few posters here travel with youngsters, it would be interesting to know here impressions.

Welcome home and thanks for a great trip report.
Jul 26th, 2004, 03:17 PM
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Thanks so much for the wonderful trip report. Sounds as though you had a wonderful time.

Glad you loved Ol Tukai. I am leaving in three days and can't wait until I get there.

JanGoss is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 03:42 PM
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Bon Voyage Jan!
Kavey is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 04:22 PM
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Thanks for everyone comments.
Sandi: The Eunoto Retreat was maybe a couple of years old. It had a beautiful pool and rooms which were very private. The food was quite good and fancy compared to the other lodges. Here is the link to see some pictures and get info. Let me clarify about "The Carnivore". It was a very nice restaurant and fun. However, my daughter is vegetarian and I stay low on the food chain when traveling. They do have a good vegetarian menu, but the fun of the place is eating all the exotic meats, etc. We liked the dawa drinks. It is a local drink of vodka (I think) honey and lime. We choose taking the Mefloquine because it was sooo much cheaper than the Malrone. We did get it covered by insurance as well. I was concerned in general about an 18 day trip, being in the constant company of my spouse after reports suggested that mefloquine might have been resonsible for inducing spousal homicidal rage in some soldiers returning from Gulf War I. We however both survived and my doctor dismissed the reports. I might have had weird dreams except most nights I took an ambien. Now that you mention it, one night I didn't and I had horrible dreams, and a really bad sleep. My daughter absoloutely loved the trip, She is voting for South Africa for vacation soon, but I think Italy is next. She loved the animals (her favorite part) but didn't like all the drive time (least favorite part). She was always entertained at night. The tented camp had a show with Maasai warriors one night and a very information slide show the next night. The Serena Serengeti had an awesome acrobatic show. She compared it to Cirque de Soliel. Also, I have to stay that it seems to be a culture that really loves kids. Several times we were asked if we could leave her there to stay but we chose to keep her. Everyone always went out of their way to speak to her and joke around. She got very attached to some people! I left the others at home as they are much older and have jobs, school, etc. She is lucky as she is the youngest and gets to travel with us.
Cronen is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 04:57 PM
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Cronen: I know I am a bit late with this, but I was thrilled to read your report and happy that you had such a good time. So, when are you going to start planning your next trip to Africa?

Liz: So good to see your postings again. You have a plethora of knowledge, please make sure you continue to share it with all of us here. It has been too long since your last postings!

SusanLynne is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 07:55 PM
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Thank you Susan. Its been a long road to hoe but hopefully thats all behind me and I'm hoping to have one more 'last trip to Africa' at some future date.
Liz_Frazier is offline  
Jul 27th, 2004, 06:03 AM
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Cronen - Thanks for answering my curious questions? Will definitely look further into the lodge at Lake Manyara.

Now that they've listed the mefloquine (as generic) as the preferred malaria med on my insurance plan versus Lariam, I had hoped the price would decreased, and this you confirmed. But those weird dreams we had just didn't justify going that route again once the Malarone became available.

As far as the murders by soldiers returning from war in the desert and having taken Lariam - while Lariam can bring on psychotic episodes I believe these guys had other "issues" in their lives and relationships to have committed the atrociities they did. But as I started reading your intro to the subject, knew where you were going and didn't know whether to start laughing or taking it serious. But you have to take "any and every thing" into consideration. I'm sure your DH appreciated your questioning and planning as regards this rather toxic med.

The best though is that your daughter really enjoyed her time. And yes, East Africa is very welcoming of children, especially the fact that they can go out on game drives, unlike most (not all) camps in Southern Africa. East Africans go out of their way to see that kids enjoy the time in their country and culture.

By the way have you seen Worlds Apart, run on the National Geographic channel where families from the US travel to different parts of the world and live with families/communities for about a week to ten-days? If you can catch the one of a NJ family who spent time with the Rendile people (cousins of the Masai, but more westernized) in the northern frontier area of Kenya - most interesting to see the interplay between families and cultures.

Again, welcome back and thanks for a great report.
Jul 27th, 2004, 06:27 AM
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Hey Cronen, thanks for the trip report. East Africa is still on my "to do list" and it's been great reading about your trip.
sundowner is offline  
Jul 27th, 2004, 01:12 PM
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I glad you brought up not knowing whether to laugh or take my concerns over doing my spouse in on an 18 day long journey (could happen regardless of medication) or not (are you still wondering? smile). Sometimes it is hard to tell, especially if you don't know people, whether they are trying to be funny or not. I would love to know how to post those smiles / emotician (am I spelling that right)? I'm sure there have been other threads on this but I can't find them. Anybody know?
Cronen is offline  

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