Trip Report - Tanzania and Kenya

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Oct 2nd, 2003, 05:22 AM
  #1
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Trip Report - Tanzania and Kenya

Just returned from Tanzania and Kenya. I took the Grand Combo Safari from 2Afrika, which included Tarangire, the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Mt. Kenya Forest, Lake Nakuru, and the Masai Mara. The ground operator was Vintage Africa.

In the Tanzanian parks, I stayed at the Sopa Lodges, except for one night at Serena Serengeti (due to an overbooking at Sopa). The Serena Lodge was lovely in terms of the room and the common areas, but the view over the Serengeti from the balconies of the Sopa Lodge was incredible.

In Kenya, I stayed at the Serena Mountain Lodge, Lake Nakuru Lodge and Siana Springs Intrepids Tented Camp, outside of the Masai Mara. The only lodge that was not up to the standard of the others was Lake Nakuru Lodge - it wasn't terrible, just not as comfortable as the others. The tented camp was great fun - bushbucks foraging in the brush behind my tent!

The food was fine - not gourmet, but good and lots of it.

The Vintage Africa people were great. A representative met with me the first morning in Tanzania to review the program and then met with me before I left. When I got off the shuttle bus at the hotel in Nairobi, the Vintage Africa representative was waiting for me, met me at the hotel when I came back to Nairobi for a day before departure, and then escorted me to the airport. I was traveling alone and wound up being a tour group of one, so it was important to me to know that I would be met at the airport, hotel, etc. and that people would be where they said they'd be.

Best ideas that I got from this forum:

- Taking lots of $1 bills for tips.
- Convertible pants -these were great and so light, that except for a couple of warm days, I didn't unzip them to shorts to protect my legs from the sun. Also, I did find my photographer's vest convenient for stashing film, notebook, wipes, etc.
- Not overpacking on clothes - getting laundry done was inexpensive and the lodges did launder undergarments. As someone pointed out, at most places, you don?t' need to dress for dinner - I was happy just to shower and wear the next day's clothes for dinner, as were most people.
- Taking baby wipes, waterless hand cleaner and toilet paper.
- Using plastic bags to protect packed clothing from dust - I used gallon-sized Ziploc bags.
- Taking my film out of the canisters and taking it through airport security in a lead-lined bag. I split my film into three batches and put each batch into a small Ziploc bag and then put those bags into the lead-lined bag.
- Using a sock as a temporary lens cap while on game drives! I find it difficult to get the cap on and off quickly. An anklet style sock was perfect to put on and off to protect the lens as we drove from one group of animals to another.

Things I wish I'd done:
- Taken an extra duffel bag for gifts and souvenirs.
- Taken packs of pencils - every child I met in Tanzania asked me for a pencil. I took packs of pencils and colored pens, art and construction paper and paperback books as a gift for a village school, but could have handed out pencils at petrol stops, picnic areas, etc.
- Taken more cash into Tanzania - I don't like traveling with a lot of cash, but it wasn't that easy or cheap to cash traveler's cheques, especially when I wanted US dollars.

Re: film specifically, I took 30 rolls and used 28! (I'll be taking out a bank loan to get them developed!) I took 200, 400 and 800 speeds, with more 400 than the other speeds. I found 400 to be the most versatile for different lighting and when using my zoom. I used 24-exposure rolls, which allowed me to switch speeds, but a couple of times, had to change film at an inopportune time. Next time, might take a mix of 24 and 36 exposure rolls.

Each day, I put that day's rolls of new film into a Ziploc bag, along with small labels that I had numbered. As I removed each roll from my camera, I labeled it with the sequential number. I tried each day to note which rolls of film belonged to that day.

What I'll remember most:

In Tarangire, seeing the elephants going into the forest at dusk and coming out again the next morning.

In the Serengeti, seeing a lioness with three cubs nursing, giraffes feeding and 'necking', African lovebirds in a swirl of green, a pride of lions sleeping in a tangle under a tree; stepping out on my balcony at night and seeing the stars more brilliant than any place other than the Australian outback; the sound of the wind over the plain when I woke up in the morning; elephants at a pool, with a lone elephant in the distance.

In Ngorongoro, the smell of woodsmoke; seeing a black rhino in the distance; a wildebeest traffic jam (they had taken over the road!); zebras rolling in the dust; the feeling that even in the dry season, life was holding on.

At Serena Mountain Lodge, taking a nature walk into the forest and having tea in the bush; the sweet spicy smell of the air as we drove out of the Mt. Kenya foothills.

At Lake Nakuru, being close enough to the white rhinos to hear them munching the grass; seeing flamingos flying in formation over hundreds of other flamingos.

In the Masai Mara, a bull elephant coming within 15 feet of the van and then walking around it; seeing a baby elephant rolling in the dust; sailing over the plain in a hot air balloon at sunrise; seeing two lions with their kill; seeing a wildebeest crossing (!!!).

As much as seeing beautiful places and animals, I'll remember the warmth and friendliness of the people, the greetings of 'Karibu' when I arrived at a new place and 'Jambo' every morning, and most of all, my guides, John in Tanzania and David in Kenya. They were great. I felt that both of them really tried to make my safari a memorable experience.

It was an incredible, fantastic, wonderful experience and I'm going back as soon as I can. I was planning my next visit with my guides before I left!
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Oct 2nd, 2003, 07:00 AM
  #2
LizFrazier
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Star-
What a wonderful report. Thank you. I remember before you left. There are some single ladies here now looking for tips. I have recommended 2afrika many times as have others, so happy to know know you have recent experience with them and it was so wonderful. I believe they are perfect for the first time Africa traveller. Now you know exactly what you want next time, but you wouldn't if you hadn't "done it all" this time. I hope you share some of your pictures on ofoto.com as some of us have done here. Welcome back to the fold. I'm sure we'll all become fast friends with another Africaphile as Kavey calls us. Liz
 
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Oct 2nd, 2003, 08:56 AM
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Thanks for the fantastic report, Star. Your list of things you will not forget stirred up my memory bank. Ah, the sites, sounds and smells of Africa. So glad to hear that you want to go back ...
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Oct 2nd, 2003, 10:39 AM
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I loved your trip report, Thanks.How long where you there? I am glad to hear that traveling alone went well for you.If my daughter hadn't agreed to go with me this time,I was considering going alone also. We just got back from our first trip to Africa.We went to South Africa and loved it. Now that I have read your report, I think that will be where I go the next time. I have been bitten by the African bug to.
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Oct 2nd, 2003, 11:12 AM
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sandi
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star -

Ditto here - great report. Brings back so many memories. And yes, those pencils are always a hit. I have pictures of school children each with one of "my" pencils in their hands.

Re the film - I always keep a waterproof marker in my pocket, and as I remove a roll (that has a number on it, of course, having started w/ #1) I just mark the next number on the new roll - and on and on. I don't bother dating them or any more detail, as I have my itinerary so know where I've been. And each roll goes into an individual photo envelop for development and the envelop gets the same number. When developed, each photo from bag #1, gets a number 1.1, 1.2, from bag #2, number 2.1, 2.2, etc. This way have no problem locating a negative for enlargement or duplicates.

Sorry folk, but not into digital yet. Love my 35mm and I've got a great system working for me.

I remember my travel buddy on Tanzania trip had dropped her (500+) photos, all in disarray and had no idea where each was from. I actually surprised myself in that I was able to put hers in almost perfect order - she wondered how, to which I replied "the color of the grasses or earth". Each area was very distinct to my eyes.

Glad to hear the "bring lots of $1" worked out well. Welcome back! Now, where to next?
 
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Oct 2nd, 2003, 11:50 AM
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Dottie, trip total was 15 days, but with travel days, was actually 11 days. I was in Tanzania Tuesday night until Monday afternoon, went to Nairobi on Monday and set off on the Kenya circuit on Tuesday morning, back to Nairobi on Saturday and then flew out on Sunday night.

I took the optional excursion that 2Afrika offered on Sunday to Macushla House for lunch, the Giraffe House and Karen Blixen Museum, plus asked Vintage to add a visit to the Sheldrick Trust so I could see the elephant orphans (my guides probably never want to see an elephant again!).

As to where to next, want to go back and spend more time in the Serengeti, and then perhaps to Tsavo West and East and Samburu. The trip to Africa that I promised my nephew years ago and that he is now old enough to collect on will be my excuse!
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Oct 2nd, 2003, 01:57 PM
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good trip report. i am travelling to tanzania on the 6th of this month
and i booked through 2afrika.

what kind of camera were you using?




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Oct 2nd, 2003, 02:30 PM
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What a wonderful report - I really enjoyed it - especially your special memories at the end.

Beautiful!
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Oct 2nd, 2003, 06:42 PM
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Thanks everyone for the nice recaps etc...we leave on the 7th for botswana,zimbabwe, namibia, (3 nights in each) 2 @ vic falls & 4 in cape town. anyone take the heli ride of plane ride over the falls.....or the elephant ride...??? worth the money?? whats the most important thing to do in cape town. we're using overseas adventure travel..which uses wilderness safari's.
as for film...i just bought 50 rolls!!! .. fuji superia...heard its good....its' a switch from by usual kodak....any thoughts about that? also have lead bags. any special thing i need to do beside plastic bags to protect the "exposed film"? I"ll be coming back everynight til i go...i'm so excited I can hardy stand myself ...not to mention not sleeping lt;\ joan
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Oct 2nd, 2003, 07:43 PM
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To Sassyrn:
My wife and I took a helicopter ride over Victoria Falls last November. The Falls were at only 20% of full flood. The ride would have been more spectacular with more water. However, we still really enjoyed it, and are glad we did it. Part of that may have to do with the fact that we had never been in a helicopter before though.
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Oct 2nd, 2003, 09:40 PM
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Star, beautiful trip report, enjoyed your memories very much. SASS - I did the elephant ride at vic falls (the ride is about 1 hours drive away and you ride alongside the Zambezi river). It was wonderful - it's hard to stop smiling. An hour and 15 min of actual riding time, a short educational talk beforehand and then breakfast after. I highly recommend it but it helps if you are fit enough - at least doing thigh machines at the gym. At Cape Town, top things - drive around Cape Point, see Boulders beach with the penquins. Robbins Island if you have a nice day , walk around V and A, and shop. Some have liked the cheetah preserve but we ran out of time. Have a great trip!
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Oct 3rd, 2003, 04:51 AM
  #12
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Vthalakola, was using a Nikon N80 body and Tamrom 28-300 lens. I have to be honest - I bought the camera for the trip and spent the summer learning how to use it. I can only hope that my pictures are half as good as some that I've seen from the fodorites. That said, I like the camera very much - very easy to handle and I enjoyed taking the pictures.

To all, thank you for your positive reactions to my report. I read so many interesting reports on this forum, and got so much helpful information, that I figured it was payback time.

I'm physically back at home and work, but mind and heart are still in Africa.
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Oct 3rd, 2003, 07:27 AM
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Welcome back star!! So happy you had a great time, and thanks for all the tips. One more question (that I've not been able to find posted here or online)...

Did you need a transit visa to travel from Tanzania into Kenya? If so, how did you obtain it?
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Oct 3rd, 2003, 08:22 AM
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hlphillips2, I'm not sure what a transit visa is, but US citizens need a visa to enter Kenya. I went from Arusha to Nairobi by bus and at the border, I got an exit stamp from Tanzania, walked across the border and got a visa to enter Kenya. You can fill out the form at the Immigration desk and you will need $50 in cash in US currency.

Hope this helps.
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Oct 3rd, 2003, 10:46 AM
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Thanks Star. I'll actually be going the reverse direction, flying from Nairobi into Arusha and was told by our operator to obtain a Tanzania transit visa ahead of time. But was hoping there was a similar situation for you so that I could learn from your experience!
Thanks to the advice here, we'll be getting our Kenya visa when we arrive.
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Oct 3rd, 2003, 12:18 PM
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hlphillips2, it's the same situation for Tanzania. My tour operator told me that I didn't need to obtain the visa ahead of time and this was true. Filled out the form at the desk, gave the official $50 and it was done. Given that I arrived late at night, I was impressed with how fast it was!
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Oct 3rd, 2003, 02:49 PM
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sandi
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hlphillips2 -

Have no idea where you lives, but here in NYC was able to get both VISAs (K&T) one after the other.

Dropped passport at Kenya office day 1, picked up day 2, dropped at Tanzania right after, picked up day 3.

If you're in midtown it's easy enough - but would verify locations of both offices (they all moved around this town regularly).

If this doesn't work for you, you simply get the VISAs as you enter each country.
 
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Oct 4th, 2003, 04:58 AM
  #18
 
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Hello,
I am planning to go to Siana springs for 2days at the end of the month.Did you try the night game drive and was it worth?Any other suggestions about things to do there and also around Lake Nakuru where I will stay also?thanks
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Oct 5th, 2003, 01:21 PM
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Thanks for this excellent report -- we are researching for a trip in 2004, not sure if we'll try for March or wait until September, and are leaning towards visiting Kenya, and 2Africa is one of the companies we've gotten itineraries from to consider. I like the idea of a couple nights in a tented camp...
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Oct 6th, 2003, 04:54 AM
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sandi
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One must spend at least a few nights "under canvas" - as Africa isn't Africa unless you get some time in a tent.
 
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