Mar 28th, 2006, 11:47 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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It has been suggested that I condense my report into one thread. Being technologically challenged, I believe that means I should be doing like Rocco and running my report in one post. I don't know how to get parts 1 and 2 into this post, but I will now be posting my continuing report in this thread (thread does mean post does it not?). Hope this makes the reading easier.
Continuing on with part 3, the next stop on my safari was Arusha National Park via.......

SPIDER (oops, I mean Kigongoni) LODGE. We left Sinya and headed for our next stop KIGONGONI LODGE near Arusha National Park. This is a beautiful small lodge of 14 cottages located on a hilltop 70 acre coffee farm with lush gardens and great views of Mt. Meru and Kilimanjaro. In retrospect this is a funny story – although I wasn’t laughing at the time. I had inquired to Fodorites about what to expect spiderwise prior to the trip as I’m mildly arachnophobic. I was advised to have no worries. Keep this in mind when I tell you about Kigongoni Lodge. We were charmed when we arrived. What's not to love: the bungalow was huge with a wonderful tub for soaking and an immense separate shower area; the grounds are incredibly beautiful with the terraced gardens, gorgeous flowers and the mischievous monkeys trying to steal food from tables overlooking the countryside. I luxuriated with a soak in the tub - and a shower - to clean the dust from nooks and crannies. Then night fell (which, if you know anything about spiders, is when they are active).......we returned to the cottage where they had drawn the mosquito netting and turned down the bed (which had excellent linen and bedding). Much to my shock and dismay (make that horror), there must have been at least 6 spiders (albeit small) INSIDE my netting. I made DH kill them, which we normally don't do (at home, he "catches and releases"; we actually own a “spidercatcher” a tool I ordered from England so that they can be caught and released unharmed outside) Then (big mistake) I started looking around and there must have been a dozen more on the floor - one big one. I'm now starting to have a mild (no, make that moderate) panic attack, debating whether to spend the night sitting upright in the lodge lobby, eyes peeled vigilantly for spiders. But I’m very proud to state that I got control of myself, took a sleeping pill and slept wrapped mummy like in my high quality sheet. Thereafter, I started forcing myself to focus on places where it was impossible to spot a spider – like my knees. This was an eco-friendly lodge and I am just overly sensitive to the spider issue - a "normal" person probably wouldn't have noticed it. HAH!

ARUSH NAT’L PARK. After breakfast the next day we drove to Arusha National Park which was a welcome green and lush compared to Sinya. It’s famous for colobus (long haired black and white) monkeys. Thanks to Abraham, we saw dozens of them swinging closely overhead and dozens of other animals previously mentioned. In fact, our road was blocked twice – once by an elephant sauntering down the middle and then by a troop of about 20 baboons. This day we experienced our first “box lunch”. The box lunches are infamous among safari folk for how awful they are. However, our first box lunch prepared by my friends at Spider Lodge was delicious – fresh tomato and cheese on homemade roll, boiled egg, COLD chicken, yogurt, banana, apple, cake, cookie, Cadbury chocolate bar. We were thinking what big whiners all these people online were, complaining about this fabulous box lunch. HAH, again; more to come on box lunches.

Back to “Spider Lodge” for the night where I spent the evening staring at my knees to avoid seeing anything unpleasant and wrapped mummy like in my good quality bedding. Did I mention we sprayed a circle of insecticide around my bed. Since I was staring at my knees I only saw about 6 spiders that night. If you aren’t afraid of spiders, Kigongoni was physically a nice place to stay. Altho, the dining experience was uneven. We had a wonderful curry lunch, but both nights the dinners were subpar. We ordered a fish and a beef, both inedible to our palates. But the fresh vegies were yummy.

to be continued. i'm making yet another business call; then i'm taking a break from today's hectic work schedule (fodor posting/threading) to go to the gym. later.

Chiquita is offline  
Mar 28th, 2006, 01:46 PM
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Thanks for continuing. I'll add links to the first 2 parts of your report.

Part I

Part II

Just keep posting future installments on this thread (BTW a thread is a series of posts).

Arusha National Park sounds very interesting. I'm really enjoying your report!
Patty is offline  
Mar 28th, 2006, 05:19 PM
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I'm all caught up to part 3. Your knee gazing is hilarious! Has this experience allowed you to make strides with your arachnophobia or does it just reinforce your fears that the spiders are really out there?

I recall someone asking about spiders and Africa way back. So that must have been you. And we all reassured you. In retrospect, sorry.

If you took a poll, I bet there is nobody out there who had the number of spiders in their tent that you did. How unfortunate they all took refuge in your accommodations. Maybe it's like cats who always like to sit with the person who doesn't care for them.

Anyway, glad you saw so many colobus monkeys in Arusha. They are a rare treat, not seen in most of Kenya or Tanzania. So for colobus and spiders you are way over your quota.
atravelynn is offline  
Mar 28th, 2006, 10:05 PM
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Chiquita - I totally sympathize with your spideritis. I can't stand the little (or large) buggers either! I'm hoping they are few and far between in Zambia (or at least they stay out of sight!) I'm enjoying your reports - thanks for posting.
stamiya is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 07:42 AM
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The next day we headed for Tarangire National Park and reluctantly ( triple HAH!) said goodbye to Spider Lodge. When we drive between parks we’re viewing the countryside and rural village life. We were surprised at the beauty and geographic diversity of Tanzania. We started our safari in arid savannah and then traversed farmland, lakes, forest, lush mountainous coffee plantations and finally the vast plains of the Serengeti. And much of this “traversing” is without the benefit of paved roads. We spent the better part of our time in the vehicle bouncing over rutted, dusty or muddy terrain, which I must admit I enjoyed. My favorite activity has become standing with my head out the roof while we bounce around looking for animals. From the vehicle it appears, most of the people live in what we would describe as poverty – ramshackle shacks on dirt roads w/o running water and electricity – we rarely saw begging or malnourished people such as I saw in India. Most people appeared busy, carrying things to and from local markets. The women were elegant looking in colorful wraps, parading down the roads with goods balanced gracefully on their heads. The markets consisted of people selling their wares on blankets in a designated area. Everything from kitchen wares to bananas to shoes to handmade bricks to grains. Shoes were a popular selling item which perplexed us – as most people in the rural areas were either barefoot or wore sandals.

We arrived at Taranguire River Camp in time for a wonderful lunch with a lot of fresh vegetables. The community dining area was constructed under the canopy of an enormous old baobob tree overlooking the river, which would probably have water in it if there weren’t drought conditions. Our tent for the next two nights, like the last one, is big with a king size bed, a wooden floor, hot and cold water and shower, flush toilet and a veranda – and decent bedding.

Unfortunately, health nut, vitamin toting DH has come down with a cold and now travels with a family size box of tissue at this side. Being a man, he deals with this by giving me mournful looks and hourly reports on his cold. I advise him to “get over it” as 20 years from now he won’t remember his cold, but only the wonders he’s seen. I don’t have a history as a doting wife; I once left DH in a ski lodge with 2 broken ribs while I skied, but in my defense we had prepaid for the lift tickets and I did leave him with Demerol, food, water, and the tv remote. Perhaps it is becoming apparent why DH is not fond of travel with me.

We spent two days exploring Tarangire with morning and afternoon game drives: in addition to seeing the usual suspects, the highlights included watching an infant elephant mimic it’s mom scratching ears against a tree (sounds silly – guess you had to be there), having a family of elephants pass so close to the vehicle that we could touch them; watching a male antelope defend his harem from an intruder, observing a very large colony of mongoose scurrying and darting in and our of their holes, and seeing the famous Baobab trees firsthand. This was our least favorite park, but I had expected this as I knew this was not the best time of year. We were told that in August and September, there are thousands of elephants.

We experienced our second box lunch here – the dreaded butter sandwich with a couple of sliced cukes. This became typical of the box lunches – butter sandwiches with sometimes a smattering of shredded cheese or a slice of mystery meat. They’d also include a piece of unrefrigerated chicken which we were afraid to eat. Luckily there was always a hard boiled egg, a couple of small bananas or apples and pound cake. We now were in accord with the online whiners. Strangely, the dinners were always first rate, but the box lunches were awful.

It has now rained every night since DH did his rain dance. One night at Tarangire, it poured rain and thundered and lightning; this was a turning point in the trip as the weather cooled off significantly even during the day. It also made the roads muddy which made up appreciate the 4 wheel drive.

LAKE MANYARA. We left Taranguire for Lake Manyara National Park, famous for flamingos and tree climbing lions. It was a beautiful drive – especially after the rain. People were starting to sow their fields – using oxen and plows, and then planting seeds by hand. Lake Manyara was very green and lush, and I imagine it was incredible years ago when the lake was full. We saw many hippos crowded together and probably thousands of flamingos in what is left of the lake, troops of baboons and dozens of those monkeys with the iridescent blue testicles.
But our mission was to see a tree climbing lion, and the highlight of this day was actually finding a few. We (Abraham) spotted a pride of nine with full bellies relaxing under a tree only about 20 feet from us; then 3 of them decided to climb up the tree and sleep in the upper branches. Mission completed and recorded on the video camera. Even DH forgot his cold and was excited. Abe claimed he had emailed ahead the night before to arrange this especially for us. We’re beginning to believe him.

We spent the night at Gibbs Farm, formerly a working coffee plantation set high in the hills with a breathtaking view. We stayed in a lovely cottage surrounded by gardens and birds 6,000 feet up in the mountains – only mediocre bedding tho. We had the absolute best dining of the trip here. They grow all their own fruits and vegetables and make all their breads and desserts on premises. The best news of the day was that our box lunch for tomorrow would be prepared by Gibbs, and we were finally headed for the Serengeti. Happy Day!

Chiquita is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 07:53 AM
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loved the paragraph about DH and his cold. Great that you saw tree climbing lions!
bat is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 12:03 PM
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Funny you should mention skiing because that's what your favorite activity (and mine) reminds me of. Since I no longer ski, I'll just have to rely on doing more safaris standing on the seats for that sensation.

I can just picture the baby elephant imitating its mom.

The lunch boxes! Welcome to the club. I've had good luck with requesting an avacado. I've never seen such giant avacados as ended up in my lunch in exchange for the chicken leg and the greasy sausage.

I might have more sympathy for your husband since I too experienced a cold on my last safari. Extreme congestion and excessive dust are a bad combo.

So glad that Gibb's continues it culinary excellence. I was there in 2001 when the current elderly chef (employed 50 years I think) was about to retire, so it is reassuring the food remains exceptional.

The 3 ladies I was with were far more conneseurs of fine cuisine than I and we all agreed we may have had the best meal of our lives! Those fruits and veggies from the local rich soil are indeed outstanding. It's nice you too dined so well.

atravelynn is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 01:10 PM
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This is such a funny, interesting report. Keep it up!

And atravelynn, good idea about the avocado. I never thought of that.
Leely is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 01:31 PM
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Laughing my tush off at your story re: DH being a baby when sick/injured - I can totally relate!

Sounds like you had such a great trip. However, there is NO WAY I'd be able to stay in Spider Lodge. eeek!
BostonGal is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 01:57 PM
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I'm loving your report Chiquita.
I can relate to your DH with his cold. My DH and guide both claimed to have such terrible, terrible colds, I personally do think however,that their symptoms were from the dust.
Couple of drama queens they were (

Hope to see more.
cybor is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 09:32 AM
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AT LAST, THE SERENGETI. We headed for the Serengeti via the Great Rift Valley and Oldupai Gorge. Incredible to read and see photos of Leaky’s work and ponder that mankind evolved and multiplied from this area (unless of course you’re a fundamentalist). After leaving the museum, Abraham spotted a “johnny” of giraffe, which was a herd of about 50. We sat in the midst of them watching big males posturing for dominance by pushing body to body against each. Then as tho they all realized that had an appointment somewhere, they galloped away. DH, who was thoroughly enjoying the spectacle, was able to capture the sound of their hooves on our video. Abraham was giddy with excitement – letting us know that he wasn’t exaggerating when he said this was a very exciting find.

This day finally had us in the wildebeest migration areas and it was indescribable. I wasn’t prepared for the vastness of the land and the multitude of animals. Thousands of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle dotting the horizon as far as the eye can see in all directions – with hyena, jackal and carrion eating birds feasting on remains of unlucky, slow, weak or dim-witted animals – Darwinism in action. We were able to offroad until we reached the borders of Serengeti Park and drove in the middle of the herd stopping to quietly listen to the sounds of grunting wildebeest. Abraham would amuse us by grunting back at them.

We spent the next 3 nights in a Kibo mobile tent camp in the central Serengeti and had been advised that this will be our most primitive tenting experience. The tent is solar powered, very dim when the sun is down and sits on the ground, rather than a raised platform like the luxury permanent tents. There is only cold running water in the sink which is slightly above DH’s knees and to shave, he must kneel in front of the sink. We are introduced to “bush” showers here. A bush shower means when you want to shower you advise the camp attendants and they heat water over a campfire, lug it in big buckets to the back of your tent, where they raise it via a pulley. Then while you are inside the shower they ask from outside if you are ready and when you are they start the water flow. We had a lever in the shower for flow on or flow off. It’s similar to being on a boat.

We arrived at the mobile camp late in the day in a cold drizzle with no sunlight - so inside the tent was cold, damp and gloomy. Needless to say, this was not DH’s favorite camp, and when we arrived he was dirty, tired and still suffering from his cold; he was ready to pay Abe whatever it took to get him to the nearest airport. Pondering 3 nights here, he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Lucky for me he burst out laughing (a bit hysterically, but laughing). But after dinner, a couple of glasses of wine and some sympathy for his cold from fellow campers, he adapted (very darwinesque of him) and all was well again. Amazingly, we had some of our best meals here with all meals being prepared using only a campfire. We even had laundry service – hand washed in a pot over the campfire and line dried.

We spent the next 3 days up before dawn and after a great breakfast of eggs, breads and fresh fruit, we took a dreaded box lunch and spent the days game driving in the Serengeti. Awesome – as more than 2 million animals take part in the migration, and the large predators – lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas are drawn to the area cuz of the abundance of food.

Highlights: 2 separate leopard sightings. From what I’d read prior to the trip, seeing a leopard up close was rare. First we (Abe) spotted a dead animal in the branches of a tree that a leopard had killed and dragged up to eat later. Then, astonishingly, two mornings in a row, we (Abe) spotted a leopard very close to the vehicle. We watched one stalk and unsuccessfully chase down a reedbuck. It was like Animal Planet. The leopard flushed one buck from a stand of thick brush, but it refused to flee and kept barking a warning while keeping its distance while the leopard prowled close to the bush. Then another deer burst out from the bush and managed to escape being plat du jour for the leopard. With the leopard hunting in the area, all the wildlife went on alert. We could hear the monkeys and birds screaming warnings and all the hoofstock was wary and observant. Abraham was ecstatic about seeing leopards this close.

We also watched dozens of hippos fighting to stay in place in a raging river, and a big, fat croc on the bank – we’d been having heavy rainstorms at night. We came across a male and female lion lounging in the grass, and Abraham advised that if we waited they’d probably mate shortly. Sure enough, we watched two seconds of X rated feline passion, heard an impressive roar from the male and then it was cigarette time. They mate every 15 minutes (Abraham very seriously said, “very big job”) but if you look away for a second, they’re done and you miss the action! Several prides of lions with cubs put on Disney like displays of cuteness for us. The migration was quite spectacular as many of the wildebeest, zebra and gazelle also had babies. The saddest sight was seeing lone lost wildebeest crying for its mom. The herds of gazelle appeared choreographed with their white backsides bouncing in unison over the plains. We often saw hyena, the name always preceded with “dirty”, as they were usually skulking about covered in mud, or sitting in mud puddles.

It’s remarkable the way the animals observed us while we’re observed them. The herbivores, especially giraffe, would look at us with what we perceived as harmless curiosity and would go about their business once they’d established that we were not a threat. The lions and leopards eyes seemed to be coldly (and boldly) assessing us – threat or no threat? Prey? Edible? Looking into their eyes was sometimes chilling, probably a distant survival memory from our pre-evolutionary days on the savannahs of Africa.

After 3 days we reluctantly left the Serengeti and headed for Ngorongoro Crater. Even driving from one place to another there’s adventure. While driving 30 mph on a bumpy muddy road, Abraham exclaims, I see cheetah on the rocks. Meanwhile, we can barely see the rocks a half mile away. He drives over and sure enuf, there are 3 very fat male cheetahs, who had obviously just fed as their fur was still pink with blood. We watched them for a while and they decided to climb down and parade around the vehicle. Then, if that’s not enuf for one day, while again offroading amidst the migration, Abe spots a segment of the migration crossing a distant stream. We drive over and just like in a discovery channel special, hundreds of animals are running top speed down a gorge, across a stream and up the other side – with us 50 feet away!

We end this spectacular day at the Serena Lodge, which was aesthetically pleasing with dramatic stone architecture on the edge of the crater, but basically Holiday Inn type lodging with large groups predominating and a buffet with mediocre food. Our room had a fabulous view into the caldera of the crater, hot and cold running water, electricity and a real bar in the lounge! And no spiders. DH is in a celebratory mood as he knows there are no more tents in his future.

The next day we descend 2,000 feet down the curvy torturous road into the crater, which spreads for 102 miles and is a virtual “Noahs’Ark” inhabited by almost every species of wildlife indigenous to the area. It contains a river, several swamps, a lake, open plains and a little forest. However, much to Abe’s dismay, DH and I are suffering from “Safari Fatigue”, a common ailment of people who have been to the Serengeti. The symptoms consist of yawning at small herds of zebra – ho hum, haven’t you got anything new to show us today, and complaining because there are other vehicles visible during OUR game drive. It appeared this was going to be an anti-climatic end to our safari; however, Abraham once again pulled a rabbit out of his hat – RHINO – the only one of the big 5 we hadn’t seen yet! Then as a grand finale, a pride of lions with cubs came right over to the vehicle and posed for pictures.

With our game viewing behind us, we drove to the Ngorongoro Farm House for our last night in Tanzania. Our most luxurious lodge - our cottage was as big as a small house with floor to ceiling windows, a fabulous view and a fireplace, set in the middle of a garden with a huge swimming pool.

The next day we bid farewell to Abraham and started our journey home. I loved Tanzania and will never forget the sights, the sounds, the smells, even the bumpy roads. I’m already dreaming of Africa, lurking on the Fodors’s board and mentally planning a second visit.

Chiquita is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 09:53 AM
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What a great report, thank you! Glad to hear your DH decided to tough it out at the at the mobile camp and didn't fly back to Arusha Sounds like you're going to be joining the rest of us safariholics.
Patty is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 12:01 PM
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Thanks for your extremely funny report. I think I’m beginning to understand what the abbreviation “DH” stands for. I’m not sure I’d like to have one of those. When will you return to Africa?
Nyamera is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 02:02 PM
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For someone who claimed she couldn't write as well as others, you were a shining success and funny too. Now, we'd like to see some photos. Thanks again for sharing your safari experience with us.
Mar 31st, 2006, 05:46 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 183
I have loved reading your report Chiquita - especially because we are also staying at Kigongoni and I haven't seen too many other reports about it on this Forum. We are only about 2.5 months from our departure now - got our Kneyan Visas today - and I am just drooling over your report.

THanks so much.

csuss is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 06:12 PM
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A pleasure to read from beginning to end. Thank you!
Leely is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 06:46 PM
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very well written.


stakerk is offline  

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