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Trip Report Ann's Adventures in Africa

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Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) 'The Best of Kenya and Tanzania': Sweetwaters ' Amboseli ' Tarangire ' Ngorongoro Crater ' Serengeti ' Lake Manyara 19 days (16 plus travel).

A little bit about me: I'm a woman in my 40s from Long Island, NY. This was my first trip to Africa. I have to throw in a 'Thank you' to Jenn'I'm sure I enjoyed my whole trip more because of her, indirectly. I was so intent on trying to NOT be like Arielle, that I established a personal 'no whining' policy, which made it more fun for me, not to mention everyone else. I'm timid, especially about new experiences, so it was pretty unexpected to find myself in Africa, and loving it.

Rather than starting with a classic narrative, I thought I'd start with a list of what did and did not work for me, since that's most likely to be helpful to other safari beginners.

WHAT WORKED FOR ME (your mileage may vary, of course)
 Dove disposable face cloths. I don't use them at home, but it was great after a game drive.
 Buff kerchief. These are overpriced, but worth it. They are stretchy tubular kerchiefs that you can wear like a scarf, or a hat, or a kerchief. They are great to keep the dust off your hair.
 Binoculars. I've always had trouble using them in the past, but I finally found a kind that worked for me. One problem is that I wear glasses, and I learned that 'long eye relief' helps accommodate to the glasses. I used Bushnell Hemisphere binoculars. Obviously there are better (and more expensive) binoculars around, but I was looking for something that was compact, easy to focus, and under $100.
 Silk long johns. Usually I slept in a long T shirt, but the nights at the sweetwaters tented camp were chilly. Most people would probably have been fine without the long johns, but I appreciated having them.
 Sawyer controlled release bug repellent. Supposedly the formulation gives better results with a lower concentration, and less skin absorption. It seemed to work pretty well.
 Room-mate. I was a little nervous about being matched up with a stranger, but my roommate was terrific.
 Fanny Pack. I know these look really dorky, but it was so helpful to have key things handy.
 Bio Freeze. This is a lotion recommended by my chiropractor. It was very helpful when I was achy after some of the bumpy roads.
 Swahili. I make it a practice to try to learn 10 words in the local language whenever I travel. It's not intimidating like trying to actually learn the language itself, but it's amazing how far you can get with 10 words! I used the 'in flight swahili' CD, and really enjoyed being able to exchange a few little courtesies with the local people.
 Animal Book: Wildlife of East Africa by martin Withers and David Hosking. This was great ' it is relatively compact, and was handy and useful. While the guide had a huge bird book with more birds, my book was smaller, lighter and easier to use. It is half birds, half animals, and has just a couple of pages of trees too.
 Tea2go. I hate water. I know it sounds stupid, but I really hate drinking water. So I just poured a little iced tea or lemonade mix into my water bottles, and did better at remembering to drink some.
 OAT itinerary. We spent 2 nights in each camp, which worked fine.
 Inflatable cushion. Sometimes I sat on it, sometimes I leaned on it to cushion my back, and on the way home I used it to wrap my bottle of amarulo.
 Extra ziplock bags in various sizes.
 Eucalyptus bath gel. I wanted to avoid florals so as to not attract insects, but I love a nice scent, so I compromised on eucalyptus.
 Oil of Olay moisturizer with spf 30. I don't normally use anything on my face, not even moisturizer, so I really hate sunscreen. I put the moisturizer on every morning, and then didn't bother re-applying any sunscreen. It worked great, and didn't feel greasy.

 Daypack. Sometimes I never had the right size bag with me. Too big. Too small.
 Safari Companion book. It was simply too big and too heavy and too complicated to take on a game drive. Maybe it will be interesting to see now that I'm home.
 Socks and underwear. Mine didn't dry overnight, so I still need to find better travel options.
 Camera Bag. I used a bigger bag than I'm used to, to allow room for the zoom with the UV filter adaptor, along with extra batteries, etc, but it was more cumbersome than I'd like.
 Snacks. I packed too many, yet didn't have them available on the occasions when I wanted them.
 Books. I have to admit, I packed too many. Even on a normal ay at home, I never go out with fewer than 2 books (what if I finished one and didn't have another handy?). But I overdid it. I forgot that some of the time I would norally read was spent writing in my journal or organizing my photos.

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    What an interesting and helpful beginning of your trip report. We will be hearing more, won't we?! So glad that you had a trip that you loved. Im addition to all the things you saw and experienced, I'm looking forward to hearing all about that terrific room-mate. Thank goodness you didn't have a Jenn situation. I'm also interested in learning how you liked what OAT provided. I know that some of the more experienced travelers here on the boards prefer to design their own itineraries, feeling that groups such as OAT can't offer the more intimate Africa experiences, but while I do a lot of independent travel, I did have 2Afrika put together our Kenya/Tanzania trip a year and a half ago, and it was marvelous. There was the possiblity that this might have amounted to a group since they guarantee no more than six people to a vehicle. We were fortunate, though. We had our own driver/guide in Tanzania (amounted to a private safari), and we were with only two others in Kenya--great gals from Arizona. Getting back to OAT, though, I've had some really good trips with them--Peru, Vietnam and Cambodia, and Eastern Europe with their sister, Grand Circle--and this next September we've booked OAT's Ultimate Africa trip (Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Namibia). Once again, I know that there are those who have reservations about signing on with a group, even though the group is under 16 people, and maybe we'll regret it down the line.... That's why I'll be interested to hear about your OAT Africa experience. Most especially, though, I'm looking forward to hearing about all those Africa things which just blew you away. There were many, I'm sure. Thanks for posting, and looking forward to more.

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    About OAT -- I've travelled with them 3 times before, and obviously I've been happy with them. [I'm not affiliated with them, and am simply answering the post's questions, so please don't 'flame' me for tyring to answer].

    I think that a lot of the travelers on this board are quite experienced, and have very specific preferences, and thus choose to put together their own trips. For people with less experience, or with less time to plan, the package tour solution can work very well.
    We had 13 guests and one trip leader. We had two vehicles, each with a driver/guide. Let me say up front that on this one trip our trip leader was not as stellar as those I've had in the past. Some of the people in our group had actually travelled with OAT 9 times, and all unanimously felt that he wasn't as good as our other leaders, but we had enough accumulated experience among us to feel rather confident that we got a particular individual who didn't really measure up, (rather than being an indication of a systemic flaw with the firm).

    That being said, all the local arrangements in Africa worked flawlessly. I probably wouldn't even have appreciated this as much if I hadn't read other people's trip reports! Out of 17 days actually in Africa, every vehicle was ready on time, every reservation was ready for us, and everything seemed to work together seamlessly, as if by magic.

    When we arrived in Nairobi, the leader and vans were waiting. When we crossed the boarder into Tanzania, the new vans and drivers were waiting. When we took our charter flight back to Arusha, the plane showed up on time. The entire trip, we had one occasion when people came back late from a shopping expedition and we were delayed 1/2 hour, and we had a time when one of the vans was 5 minutes late. So in terms of the tour arrangements, the biggest delay was 5 minutes!!! I suspect that is an Africa record.

    We complained about little details, such as not liking a particular room selection, but the actual arrangements were rock solid.

    By the way, a couple of people on our trip had already done the OAT ultimate Africa trip, and all had extraordinary glowing tales to tell about it. They said it was even better than the Kenya/Tanzania trip I was on.

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    Nice change from the "classic narrative" start to your trip report, Ann. Bo2642 will be pleased to hear the positive feedback from your group about the OAT Ultimate Africa Trip.
    I'm looking forward to the rest of your report....keep it coming.

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    Thanks Ann,

    You're absolutely right about us newbies. The list of what did and did not work for you is like gold for me. Especially the Bio freeze. Reminded me to out some Bengay or equivalent on my packing list for those sore days. Keep it coming.

    Geatly appreciated,

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    Such helpful and insightful tips. Bio Freeze is something I never heard of but can see its value. Along those lines, when I first read your recomendation for Buff Kerchief, I took the pair of f's for 2 t's, quickly did a double take, and laughed outloud at myself. Never heard of the buff kerchief either but with recent requests about Magellan special seat cushions for bumpy rides, I thought you were on to something.

    How do you do those big and little squares? They are nice formatting.

    I think Arielle may become the standard that we all endeavor to avoid.

    Welcome home!

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    Great, thanks. A tip re. undies that didn't dry. LOSE the cotton and get the wicking kind. Polyester, thin but warm, and and they dry in a couple of hours. The camps we stayed at do laundry but many will not do underwear. But tell the ones that do, to avoid ironing.

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    I am looking forward to hearing about an OAT trip. I thought of sending my parents on this one years ago.

    By the way, the 'sleep by the door of the tent so the lion can eat you first' story just popped into my head and I laughed otu loud!

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    Hi Ann...Gary (my partner) and I are going on the OAT trip on Nov. 29th-Dec. 12th. (Not doing the pre or post trips). It is great to be reading your posts and all of the other folks' responses. I think we've been in touch in other "threads"...We're both so excited and at the same time, so happy for all of the travel hints. We did order sawyer's permethrin to spray out clothes with, and have deet. I still need to find a good pair of walking shoes,since I don't love sneakers...and I'll be ordering that buff scarf and probably the inflatable cushion. Not sure we want to invest in two of them...they list at about $50 each. Will look forward to any more of your reports...Elaine

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    Hi Elaine,
    I'm sure I didn't pay $50 for my cushion. I can't remember for sure, but I think it was around 25. I'm not sure what exact version it was (and I'm so disorganized right now I think I lost it!) but it might be one of the thermarest trail seat models.
    In general, I shopped most at Camp-mor and sierra trading post, and only used full-priced stores like Magellan's if I couldn't find my stuff elsewhere.

    p.s. I'll try to start my real trip report soon -- I'm still trying to upload all my pictures.

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    A note about my photos. I'm loading all my pictures up to winkflash.
    Unfortunately it is not quite as easy to use as some of the other online sites, but it is worth trying because the quality of the prints is very good, the price is low, and it lets you do high resolution downloads.
    For those who just want to see the highlights rather than wade through all the shots, you might prefer to look at the following highlights folders:
    „X Africa best Highlights (Top 43 pictures) or
    „X African Highlights -- some of everything (225 shots).
    Except for my mother, most of you will probably not be interested in looking at every single picture from the full set, but if you have a particular thing you are curious about looking up, the full set of pictures is organized by location: Nairobi, Sweetwaters, etc.

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    FLIGHT, NAIROBI, KIZURI BEAD FACTORY, KAREN BLIXEN HOUSE (skip this entry if you’re only interested in the game drives!)

    Photos in ‘Nairobi’ folder at:

    Day 1 NY en route to Amsterdam – Oct 10.
    They just turned off the seat belt sign, so now I really feel underway, even though the flight attendants are speaking Dutch, not Swahili. The flight was moved up 10 minutes without explanation, and they started boarding an hour ahead (which I’m not used to), but then we sat at the gate waiting for 2 no-show passengers whose baggage had to be offloaded, by which time we had lost our turn for take-off and hate to wait – an hour late after all. For some reason, they serve dinner late, and breakfast early, so there is less than 3 hours to try to sleep in between. The coach seats are a little better than I expected, and my inflatable ‘first class sleeper’ cushion does seem to help – marginally. I manage around 2 hours of sleep.
    I’m so glad I checked out seatguru online. I’m in seat 23F – it turns out that most of the aisle seats on a lot of KLM flights have restricted leg room due to the video equipment, so ‘F’ is the only good aisle seat. But I’m already wishing that my chiropractor were here. I’m a little worried about how I’ll manage a second flight, and then the bumpy roads.

    Day 2 Amsterdam to Nairobi. Oct 11
    I took advantage of the layover in Amsterdam to walk through the airport. I went from end to end, and up and down each terminal wing, for about 3-4 miles. It felt good to stretch my legs.
    On the second flight, I find myself sitting in the same row as Faye, another OAT traveler. I recognized her luggage tag and introduced myself. But just then a large gentleman sat in the middle seat between us. He was so large that he sort of spilled over into my seat. I kept cringing away, but that put me in a really uncomfortable scrunched-up position. At one point I had to wake him up and ask him to sit up, because I felt as if I were sitting under a tree that was falling…falling…falling.
    At the end of the flight, I met up with Faye and her sister Maxine, and we made our way through getting visas, baggage and customs, all very easy and smooth. Even before my luggage showed up, I saw our guide outside, holding the OAT sign. I felt like a little kid who was reassured they were going to be picked up after all! And right next to him was someone holding a World Vision sign. That interested me because I’ve been a World vision donor for years, and one always likes actual confirmation that there is more going on than a glossy brochure with pictures of starving children. As it turns out, I saw World Vision all over the place, so at least now I’m confident that they are really on the scene. This isn’t as off-topic as it may sound. My interest in visiting Africa had been casual, of the ‘some day I’d like to go’ sort, until I sponsored a child in Uganda. Suddenly I developed a passion to learn about Africa, and to understand what was going on. I found myself thinking, ‘I NEED to go to Africa’. And so here I am.

    We are driven to the New Stanley Hotel – a grand hotel complete with mini-bar in the bedroom, and a phone in the bathroom. I have a sneaking suspicion that will not be typical on this trip. At first the security guards are a bit disconcerting (not just in the lobby, but also on every floor), but they are friendly and charming and professional. Each time we get off the elevator they show us to our room, making it seem like an extra amenity that they recognize us and know where we belong, rather than letting on that its actually a security measure.

    Oct 12 Nairobi
    I wake up and realize that I’m here! I’m not sure what to expect, but I’m ready for new experiences. After a lovely breakfast at the Stanley (omelettes and fruit), we went for a walk. Along with Hoti, our leader, we also had Francis, his friend from the Hotel, resplendent in a red uniform. They explain to us that we shouldn’t take any pictures of police in uniform, or of official buildings, but we can freely take shots of anything else. I’m sighting along Kenyatta Ave, at the beautiful purple Jacaranda trees, when suddenly my arm is shoved down, and 2 guys in uniforms tell me to stop. I say ok, and they move on. My guide is appalled – apparently no one in his care has ever been treated like this before. I think he is more upset than I am. He says that they should not have done that, since I was not actually doing anything wrong. I explain that it is better to not argue with men with guns. I never found out what it was about. It wasn’t really a big deal, but it did make me a bit scared about taking pictures after that.
    We then visited the memorial to the victims of the U.S. embassy blast in 1998. The memorial is in a lovely small park, with a peaceful atmosphere. There are pictures of the carnage of the day, and that hit really close to home, since it brought back memories of 9/11. (I was in midtown at the time, and not in personal danger, but the sight of thousands of people escaping on the sidewalk, and the images from TV, and the continuing smoky smell for weeks are indelible).
    On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a grocery store to pick up water. Suddenly it seemed a complex purchase. We’re still trying to figure out the exchange rate. I buy an extra bottle, figuring that I’ll need it for teeth-brushing. I don’t realize at that point that all the lodges provide bottled water in the rooms daily.
    At lunch we meet the rest of our group. They took a pre-trip extension to the Masi Mara, and join us now for the main part of the trip.

    After lunch we get on the bus. After we leave the city proper we drive past the Kibera slums. This is heartbreaking and inconceivable. 700,000 people living in shacks side by side, with almost no electricity or plumbing. We’re told that many of the people are refugees from Sudan. I can’t help thinking of something I heard a World Vision representative say. When a community has no functional infrastructure, sometimes it takes outside resources to provide enough hope for the village to then help itself. The shacks lining the street are actually shops, selling clothes, bananas, soccer balls, corn, hardware, eggs, shoes. Raw sewage seeps in a ditch by the road. Interspersed with the shops are medical clinics, a Montessori nursery school, and numerous hair salons. We see ads selling everything under the sun, and a bravely hopeful school motto: “hard work pays”.
    After the slums we enter the district of Karen (named after Karen Blixen), an expensive area just 5 minutes from the slums, but an entire world away. Suddenly everything is named Karen. Karen plumbing. Karen electrician. Karen Country club.

    We arrive at the Kizuri Bead factory. Kizuri means small and beautiful. The factory was started to provide work for single mothers. We see women forming the clay, glazing it, and placing it in kilns. Then (of course!) they are for sale. It’s not really a style I normally wear, but I buy one just to support the factory. As the clerk is processing my order, another woman behind the counter asks her something in Swahili. ‘Mojo tu’ she replies. I think I can figure out what she said – ‘only one’. Oh well.

    Then on to the Giraffe Center, where we feed the giraffes. Just for my friend April, I feed one from my mouth to get a picture of me ‘kissing’ the giraffe. The ranger keeps insisting that the saliva is ‘very antiseptic’, but I’m glad that ‘my’ giraffe is so delicate I don’t even feel him take the pellet. Some of the guys get totally slimed, with elastic saliva shooting out with eager abandon.

    Finally we reach the Karen Blixen house. Ironically, the house was considered to small and dark for the film ‘Out of Africa’, so the exteriors were filmed here, but the interiors were filmed a ways down the road. The combination of art and life is kind of peculiar. As the guide shows us around, half the time he explains what it was really like in Karen’s day, and the other half of the time he is pointing out a garment that Robert Redford wore in the movie. You can see the ngong hills out the window, familiar from the first line of the book: “I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the ngong hills”. Ngong is from the Maasai word for knuckles, because the hills look as if god punched them with his knuckles.

    For dinner, we feasted at Carnivore restaurant. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it all that much, since it’s such a tourist spot, but it was actually a lot of fun, and the food was much better than I expected. Chicken, chicken liver, ostrich meatballs, roast ostrich, crocodile, camel, lamb roast, lamb chops, roast port, spare ribs, turkey. Surprisingly enough, even the camel, and ostrich and crocodile were relatively tender, and nothing was excessively gamy tasting.

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    Keep it coming, Ann! Do you know who the OAT ground operator is in Kenya?

    When I was in Nairobi last year, I saw a sign for the World Vision headquarters and thought I'd drop by for a visit. It was much more complicated than I had thought. As with most places in Nairobi, it was fenced with a guard at the gate. Because I didn't have anyone's name to visit, it took a while, but they were kind enough to see me. I had sponsored a girl in Kenya, but the sponsorship of that area had ended and I wanted to chat with them about that.

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    Great report Ann. Regarding the undies question, has anyone tried using disposable undies? They are made out of paper/cotton and are surprisingly comfortable. I'm thinking of taking them for our trip to Africa, but I'm wondering about disposal. Do most camps/lodges have good disposal systems? I just want to be ecological and not add to garbage problems, if there are any.

    Sorry, strange question I know.

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    Photos in ‘Sweetwaters’ folder at:

    Day 4 Nairobi to Sweetwaters– Oct 13.
    After breakfast we check out of the Stanley Hotel. Our vehicles this morning are the minibuses we will use for the rest of our stay in Kenya. For some reason we need to change vehicles at the Tanzania border. We each have a window seat, and the hatch goes up for better viewing during the game drives.

    After we pass the suburbs we get into farmland. We pass the Del Monte pineapple farm – the 3rd largest in the world. And we also pass small farms with people working in the fields, bending from the waist. Backbreaking work. We have our first sight of what will be common: people riding bicycles by the side of the road, often carrying huge loads. It is hilly enough that they have to dismount and push on the ascents. Sometimes the loads are so big they can’t ride at all. I find myself wondering why they don’t get a cart instead – they’d still have to pull it, but at least they wouldn’t have to hold it up.

    We also pass papyrus, greenhouses filled with roses; coffee plantations, bananas, charcoal, papaya, and tea. Even though we haven’t seen any game yet, I’m continually reminded that I’m not at home.
    On the highway we are stopped frequently by roadblocks – heavy duty spikes on the road. Sometimes we are just waved on, and sometimes they examine all the paperwork of the vehicle and the driver. It’s all pretty low keyed and quick, nevertheless.

    In addition to the people with bikes, we also see people carrying odd loads – sometimes bulky bundles, and once we see two guys actually carrying what looks like the hood of a big truck. I don’t think I could even lift it, and I wonder where they are taking it, and why the truck can’t carry its own hood. On a totally undistinguished road we cross the equator. I was dozing, and the guide points it out, and I’m not sure where to look – I think I was expecting a big stripe on the ground, LOL.

    On the road in to the Sweetwaters Tented Camp, we see our first game. I was so excited to see a zebra – I didn’t know or care that they are seen all over the place, I was thrilled. We also saw defassa waterbuck, grants gazelles, olive baboons, and reticulated giraffe. We arrive at Sweetwaters, and are greeted with warm damp towels and fresh juice – I had one called tree tomato. It was kind of odd but not unpleasant – tart, thick, and mildly sweet.
    Porters carry our duffels to our tent. Esther carries my room-mates and mine – 2 duffels at once. I feel bad because I’m not used to women carrying loads like that. I feel stupid walking behind her while she carries the bags. Finally I say to her “you must be very strong”. She stopped to face me, and was proud to answer: “African women are VERY STRONG!” Her nose was beaded with sweat, and she was breathing heavily, but she was confident and proud and strong! Can you imagine the sob story you would likely get from an American women in that situation? When I saw the women working in the fields I was glad I was not an African woman, and when I saw Esther carrying the bags I was really glad (and there were other occasions later on that made me gladder still!). But I could really learn from her positive attitude.

    Our tent was raised up from the ground, sort of like a second floor. That would have been fine, but there was no view, which was disappointing, since the water hole is such a wonderful feature of this camp. Hoti said he’d switch us tomorrow.

    The tent [see picture] is tall enough to stand up in, and has 2 twin beds and a bathroom alcove, complete with sink, shower, and a semi-flushing toilet. I’m not sure if it was actually broken or if we just hadn’t learned the African pump technique yet. My roommate has a great idea – she suggests that we choose ‘sides’ for the rooms, instead of having to discuss each detail at each camp. So for now on, I get the bed on the right, and the towels on the right. This is simple and works beautifully. We automatically dump our day bags on our own bed at each new camp, and I know which towel is mine. Of course, we end up with a running joke, because I have told her the stories about Arielle. So whoever’s bed is near the entrance, we say “I guess the lion is going to eat you first tonight”. I threaten her that if she is not a good room-mate I’ll post stories about her, and she makes me promise that I’ll teach her how so she can have equal time if I’m a problem. As a result we are both on our best behavior, and fortunately (or unfortunately!) there are no juicy stories to relate.

    Lunch was nice – a buffet with an amazing view across the savannah. While eating we watch zebras, warthogs, and some impala. We also see a ‘superb warbler’ – iridescent blue with shades of green or purple depending on the light. I’m fascinated by the beautiful bird, and don’t realize that it is very common – we will see it again and again wherever we go. On the way to and from our tents we see marabou stork, rock hyrax, and guinea fowl.

    After lunch we go to a ‘cultural village’ [pictures] where 3 tribes live together: Turcana, Samburu, Pocat. (I’m not sure how you spell them). One of the men acted as our guide and interpreter. He had been educated by a missionary school, and spoke English quite well. There are 3 kinds of huts, different for each tribe. They are pastoral – they have to pick up and move when the drought is too bad. First we see the children sitting in the dirt. A woman is there with her baby and is asking the medicine man for a consultation. Apparently he decides the baby is ok. I can’t figure out if the ‘appointment’ is staged for our benefit or not. We also saw a warrior, who had 3 scars on his shoulder indicating that he had killed a hippo. If he had killed lion it would be 4 lines of scars. The men have both decorative scars and also medicinal scars, inflicted by the witchdoctor.

    Each tribe also danced for us, different dances for the different tribes. The men of the second tribe are playing a game together, but are not joined by the other tribes. The children, however, play all together. This strikes me as a sad worldwide principle – children start out accepting each other, but then segregate themselves when they become grownups. In this case, there is clearly respect and cooperation between the tribes, but the fact that they don’t play together still struck me. It also struck me that we do not see any games that women play.

    We visited inside each type of hut. The huts are dark, lit only by a tiny hole serving as a window. There is no furniture, and almost no belongings. For the second two tribes, the husband and wife don’t share a bed, but have separate sleeping platforms. I didn’t quite understand the explanation, it had something to do with the warrior not wanting the smell of children on him, which could attract wild animals – or something like that. In the third hut we are invited to note how smooth the mud on the walls is. The wife works hard on this, to keep her husband interested, otherwise he might move on to another of his wives. Meanwhile, the elaborate beaded necklaces on the wall are a sign that the wife is in residence. It sounds sort of like the flag flying over Buckingham palace to indicate that the Queen is there. If the wife returns to her parents, they will know the difference between a visit and a domestic upheaval by whether she brings all her necklaces with her.

    On the way to the village we saw game all around: buffalo, giraffes, impala, grant gazelles, zebra, warthogs, and waterbuck. At one point, the giraffe necks undulating in front of the trees look like something out of Jurassic park – but giraffes are exotic enough, I don’t need dinosaurs!

    The night game drive [pictures, but they are not too good, since it is dark, of course!] starts slowly at first, just some African hares and some zebra. It picks up a little interest with some cape buffalo – truly ominous looking in the dark. And suddenly a lion! No, it is two lions, no, it is three. What are they looking at? I’m transfixed – my first lions! They are standing, they are walking. No! They are stalking a white rhino. The lions separate and approach from different directions. The rhino is unaware at first. Just as he senses them, we realize there are a 4th and 5th lion approaching from behind. The circle tightens and we barely breathe. The rhino slowly backs up – we’re afraid he will actually back into one of the lions behind him, which he doesn’t seem to have noticed yet. The circle draws tighter and he backs some more. Suddenly the table is turned -- the rhino has had enough and trots forward at one of the lions, who turns tail and bounds away. The intricate dance continues back and forth, but we are not sure who is choreographing it, the lions or the rhino. Eventually we realize that the rhino is less worried than we are, as he lowers his head and starts to eat, not even deigning to pay attention any more. Meanwhile, the lions appear oblivious to easier prey – a Grants gazelle less than 50 yards away, on the other side of a small hill.

    We return to camp still thrilled with the dance of the lions and the rhino. My bed is peculiarly hard, but I don’t care, I’m just happy to be here. And even happier when I notice a wonderful surprise: someone has put a hot water bottle in my bed! I’m very chilly after the night game drive, and I’m happy both for my silk long johns and the hot water bottle.

    Day 5. Sweetwaters
    Today we visit the chimpanzee sanctuary [plictures], with game drives on the way there and back. They have 41 chimps there right now.. Most are orphans because their parents were killed for bush meat. These chimps were not taught by their parents, so they need supplemental feeding. We also learn that chimps are also susceptible to all human diseases except malaria.
    The sanctuary has room for 100, and is protected by an electric fence. One of the chimps runs back and forth in front of us, whacking the fence hard with a stick. Apparently, they’ve learned not to touch the electric wires, and instead they use the stick since it does not conduct electricity. That’s way more knowledge of physics than I expected a chimp to have!

    Suddenly we hear a great commotion – screeching and chattering. The ranger urgently shooed us back to the van – ‘hurry! Hurry!’ What is going on? The chimp Paco is loose. The rangers run into the bush calling his name. Meanwhile our own little drama was unfolding at the van, as Stephen, our driver, couldn’t find his keys. Good to know we’re not the only ones who get flustered, LOL. Faye left her pocketbook in the van last night, and lost her camera the night before. She explained that she didn’t mind buying a new camera, but she was really distressed to have lost the picture of herself kissing a giraffe! Anyway, Stephen finally found the keys (they were in his pocket after all), so we continued on a short game drive, where we see olive baboons, reticulated giraffe, defassa waterbuck, impala, sacred Ibis, saddle billed stork, grey heron, grants gazelle, Thompson gazelle, impala, and a distant hartebeest. We ask Stephen why the one impala is chasing the other and he tries to be delicate: “I think she has a headache.”. We’re disappointed that Mt Kenya is still shrouded in the clouds. I’m going to have to settle for a picture of a giraffe by the shoulder of the mountain instead of the classic pose.

    We visit a Spinning and Weaving factory [pictures], founded by the USA Presbyterian church. 107 women now work there. It supports them and their children. Primary school is free in Kenya, but secondary school you have to pay for. We watch them sinning and weaving by hand, and many in our group buy rugs. They are relatively small, but I still can’t figure out how they will fit them into their duffles. The woman who shows us around the factory is an excellent guide. Her accent is funny, but she is a great presenter. For some reason, she has trouble with the letter ‘W’, so it takes us a while to catch on to what ‘ool is. She keeps stressing that the ‘ool is washed in Ivory Soap, until it is pure white. White, it turns out, is a relative term.

    Back at camp, we find that our tent was indeed changed. This one is perfect, with a great view of the water hole! Lunch was another buffet. I kept jumping up from my seat to take pictures of the giraffes at the water hole [pictures]. We also see an oryx. After lunch I have a shower. It was waaaaaaaay too cold to take one this morning (although my brave roommate did). And now I’m sitting on the patio in front of the tent watching the giraffes. One has especially dark and defined markings. Beautiful!

    We visit a rescued black rhino [pictures]. They are even bigger close up. He is semi-tame, so we are told we can take pictures with him (while the sign warns we do it at our own risk). We are told to promptly move out of the way if he starts to move! On the way back to camp we see some black-backed jackals and hartebeest, but still no elephants (which are a favorite of my roommate, so we are on the lookout). We also see some oryx, with those peculiarly straight horns. Then dinner and bed. Hurrah for the hot water bottle!

    My overall reactions to the Sweetwaters tented camp: The tents are not as luxurious as mbuzi mawe, but have everything you need. The water is hot in the afternoon, but not the morning. The tents in the front row have a terrific view, but those in the back don’t have much view at all. But I would definitely go back there in a flash, because watching the animals at the water hole is an incredible treat. In addition to the view from the tents and the restaurant, there are benches where you can comfortably sit and watch the wonderful progression of animals unfold, like a never-ending movie. For safety’s sake there is a fence, but it is lowered in a ditch, so you don’t notice it when viewing the animals.

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    Great report and photos. Wonderful attention to detail. Your enthusiasm is infectious, and we're traveling right along with you. Keep it coming. Glad for you and your room-mate that all went well for the two of you. Wow! You got to see the women at the rug place "sinning and weaving by hand"! Now that's truly a rare sight. LOL.

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    I like your use of Fodors as a threat between roommates. A sort of cyber threat cold war. Glad you two got along.

    Those were some helpful observations about Sweetwaters. Lately it seems that questions about that place have cropped up a lot. Did you see the chimp on the loose? One poster stated that they felt the chimp sanctuary was very zoo-like and a disappointment. The other Jane Goodall chimp sanctuary that I've seen would not fit that description in my opinion. Can you elaborate on the chimp enclosure at Sweetwaters? I did see a couple of good chimp shots.

    You have some other striking photos. Lots of good sweeping landscapes and sky. I especially liked the rhino closeups, the ele eye, hyena in the den, and a variety of zebras. The pair of cheetahs is a great find.

    Before you are done, please tell me how to make the square dots that you placed between the parks in your 1st sentence. Also the square that serve as bullets.

    Are we going to Amboseli next?

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    Glad you like it. I know some people will get bored with the detail, but I figure they can just skip the boring parts.

    Bo2642: OOOPS, I didn't realize I was accusing the women of 'sinning and weaving'. I bet everyone really wants to check out those photos now.

    atravelynn: I really loved Sweetwaters, because I loved not having to go out on an excursion to see the animals, however the accomodations themselves were not as plush as some of the other camps.

    As far as the chimp sanctuary was concerned, it is true that the view of the chimps is sort of like being in a zoo, because the fence is very prominent. Most of the chimps hide in the woods, and you only get to see the ones that choose to come near the fence. The exhibit with all the chimp pictures and stories was quite interesting and touching, however. We didn't actually see the chimp on the loose -- they were definitely treating it as an emergency, yet I gather it is not that uncommon. We found it surprising because the fence is really high. Frankly, it looked sort of like a prison fence to me! Reading the stories of the chimps, it was clear that they had indeed been rescued, and that the place was doing a lot of good, but it is certainly not the same as seeing them in the wild.

    Yes, Amboseli is coming next -- hopefully tonight.

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    Oops, I forgot to answer the question about the formatting and the little boxes. I'm not actually doing anything clever, in fact I'm just being lazy!
    I typed stuff in Word, and pasted it into the Fodor's window, and that's how it came out all by itself.

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    Photos in ‘Amboseli’ folder at:

    Day 6 – Oct 15
    On the way to Amboseli, we visit the A.I.C. Kajaido Boarding School [pictures]. The African Inland church started the school in 1959 with 20 girls. In 1964, after Kenya independence, the school was turned over to the government. It tries to address cultural problems. The biggest issue is that at around the age of 13, girls are subject to genital mutilation. The school is trying to help and educate girls who have run away to escape forced child marriages and genital mutilation, or who have faced other situations such as being raped, or being orphaned due to AIDS, or having physical disbilities. 90% of the girls are Maasai.

    The school philosophy is that if they educate the girls, they educate a nation. They also function as a rescue center, so girls who know their families have plans to ‘circumcise’ them, can have a place to run to. They have an award winning music program, and a drama program to encourage them to communicate.

    They teach English, Kiswahili, Science, Mathematics, and social studies. Some of the girls go on to high school and college. They need sponsors to pay for the higher education. “God always opens a door for us” the teacher says gratefully. The first grade could have children ranging from 6-16, depending on when they started their schooling. Some children need to walk 10k to get to school, so they need to be old enough to walk that far.

    Ellen asked who takes care of the children after school. The answer was that a matron and dispensary are available for medical care. Clearly they weren’t thinking of the kind of childcare we are used to.

    A sixth grade class sings for us. “I’m happy today so happy, in Jesus’ name I’m happy, because he has taken away my sins.” A couple of girls recite poems. They are eloquent, with intense voices and dramatic hand gestures. They are in the ‘speak-out’ drama club. The school motto is “determination and dedication to excellence.”

    Although it is Sunday, they show us to a schoolroom to talk to some of the children. I chat with Tabitha, who asks how old I am, and when I ask her to guess politely suggests ’20?’ We have been warned not to ask the girls specifics about their background, since so many are victims of abuse of one sort or another, so I try to ask something more neutral. “How long have you been coming to school?” “A LOOONG TIME” she replies, “20 weeks”. She is 12. Her favorite subjects are science and match.

    Then we are shown the dormitory – a long room with a row of bunks on each side. Each pair of bunks are abutted next to each other, and 2 girls share each bed, so in every 7’ by 6’ slot 8 girls are expected to sleep. It is abundantly clear why they need a new dormitory! If this were a prison, the inmates would sue for more space. Grand Circle (the parent company of OAT) is collecting money to build a dormitory. Many of us are glad to chip in.

    As we leave we hear sounds of singing from a building holding a church service. The spillover crowd in front plays, jumps rope, sings and claps. Off to the side Ray and Arlene start to dance and immediately the crowd runs eagerly to see this novelty. I think the children are so used to performing for visitors that they are delighted to see this role reversal.

    The children are all in uniforms, which seems standard practice in Kenya. Most of the children are Christian, but they have a handful of Muslims. As we leave the school, we pass a mosque, which Hoti explains is for the Somalian refugees in the neighborhood. He said that while the Maaasai who interact with the outer world often become Christian, they rarely become Muslim. In his words, they do not join ‘Islamology’.

    Now back into the vans for the trip to Amboseli. My backside now understands why the inflatable seat cushions were recommended, although it is probably good that I don’t realize it will get worse later! After a long day’s drive, I’m wondering why we bother to keep switching camps, but as we approach Amboseli, it is immediately apparent that we will see different varieties of animals. I guess that was supposed to be obvious, but as a safari novice, I didn’t really grasp it until now. We pass a gerenuk hidden in the bush, as well as an elephant, spotted hyena, ostrich, yellow baboon, zebra, Thompson’s gazelle, and wildebeest. Due to the drought, the lake is dry, and we are able to drive straight across. The rutted path across the lake is actually smoother than the road was, but it surely is dusty. I finally realize that this is what those buff kerchiefs are for. This is a great solution. I pull one over my head, then slide it back over my hair, and tuck the back ends in at the nape of my neck. I don’t care if it looks silly, it saves my hair from that amazing phenomenon where dust and wind together create instant dreadlocks.

    I had made the mistake of saving one of those little bananas from our boxed lunch. It was in the pocket of my cargo pants, and when I stood up in the van to spy the gerenuk, I didn’t realize I was mashing the banana until the pulp seeped thru the pocket, creating a wet slime. I asked Hoti what to do with the crushed banana, and his only idea was to hold it in my hand for the next 22k. That did not sound like a plan to me, so I emptied out some toiletries from a baggie in my carry-on, and used that as a garbage bag.

    We’re tired and dirty when we arrive at the Amboseli Serena. They greet us with welcome wet towels and passion fruit juice. I’m so tired and achy I leave my day pack on the ledge, but an attentive staff member hands it to me before I’m more than a couple of yards away. I need to stop making fun of people who forget things.

    We can tell we are in mosquito country – even just in the lobby we are being attacked. No one has any repellent on, since it wasn’t a problem before. I wish we could just move on to our rooms, but the registration process is taking some time. I’ve got my carryon, my daybag, my camera and binoculars, and I’m trying to slather on bug repellent, and just don’t’ have enough hands, but once I’m sticky with the repellent I don’t’ want to mess up my camera by even trying to put it away. Finally we’re given our keys and our room steward carries our duffles and leads us to our room. It is attractive and luxurious, only slightly marred by the black millipedes sprinkled all over the floor. Idelle steps on one and it crunches underfoot and breaks in half. The front half keeps slithering onward. The beds are shrouded in mosquito netting, which is white so it looks romantic rather than utilitarian. There are so many light switches we can’t figure them out. It is appealing to be back in the land of full-fledged electricity, after the 11 watt bulbs at Sweetwater’s.

    I don’t want to inadvertently research what kind of bugs are attracted by banana pulp, so I pull off my pants as soon as I’m in my room, so I can send them to the laundry. My roommate puts me on banana restriction. From now on when we get a boxed lunch and I’m tempted to save the banana she just gives me a look. Thanks to her watchful eye, I don’t end up with any more laundry emergencies. It is working so well rooming together. I think it actually helps that we don’t know each other, because we don’t have any ‘hot buttons’ to push. Since I’m not her daughter, I feel free to recognize it when she gives me good advice, and vice versa.

    Dinner at the Amboseli Serena was the best meal in Africa so far. I had a light cream of pea soup and a small steak. Dennis tells a funny story about the school. He asked a girl to read something for him, and she reads from the Bible, Romans 8:8. Then he asked her if she understood and she said not really, so he ended up having to try to explain it. While he doesn’t claim to be a believer, it sounds like his explanation was pretty good. He said that if another girl took something from her and she hurt her instead of forgiving her, it would not please God.

    The lodge employs Maasai as monkey chasers. They stand with sticks, and watch, and chase off the monkeys when they try to climb on the outside tables, or run into the dining room.
    [More about Amboseli in the next segment]

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    Thanks for including the details about the school, a real refuge for those girls.

    I've had similar banana problems.

    The Sweetwaters watering hole sounds wonderful.

    Usually the formatting in Word just disappears when transferred into Fodors. I guess that is not always the case.

    What happened to the woman who lost her camera? Was she able to replace it?

    Did you know you are a hot topic on the Fodor's home page.

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    Wayne, you'll have to make a return trip so you can visit the school.

    Great report, Ann. I'm really enjoying your writing style, and, of course, your enthusisasm for East Africa. I've viewed your "best of" galleries. Looks like an excellent trip.

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    This brings back great memories! Our very first African wildlife sighting was also a zebra at Sweetwaters and I remember us both literally screaming "ZEEEEEBRA!!!" :D

    Did they take you to the other chimp viewing section? There's a short walk and you come to a river front area. The chimps live on the other side of the river and there's no visible fence. It has a less zoo like feel, but you're viewing the chimps from a farther distance here.

    It looks like they've done some refurbishment to the tent interiors since our stay last year. It was even less plush before.

    I really enjoyed the waterhole viewing too (we had a tent in the front row) and we had very good luck on our night game drive there.

    Looking forward to more!

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    Photos in ‘Amboseli’ folder at:

    Day 7 – Oct 16
    In the shower this morning, I realize that I need to do a bit of attitude adjustment about those millipedes, or I’m at risk of turning into a whiner. After all, they aren’t hurting anything. I decide to channel my energy into writing a rhyme a la Dr Seuss.

    I do not want you on the floor.
    I do not want you by the door.
    I do not want you by my bed,
    Especially not by my head!
    I do not want you on the ceiling
    (It gives a creepy crawling feeling)
    I do not want you on the wall,
    I do not want you here at all!

    I share it with my group, and we all have a good laugh.

    I was fortunate that my roommate didn’t mind rising early, so I got to sleep ‘late’ until 5:45 – no wonder I was hallucinating about millipedes in the shower! The early start was so we could go on a morning game drive [pictures]. Within the first few minutes we see wildebeest, common waterbuck, zebras and warthogs. We enjoy learning the difference between the common and defassa waterbuck. I’m amazed at the variety of animals that are in view at one time: 4 lions, a herd of zebra and wildebeest, a few elephants, an ostrich in the distance, and a crowned plover.

    With that scene as a backdrop, we notice off on the side a lone Thompson gazelle, oblivious to a solitary lion nearby. The lion approaches. We are silently urging the gazelle away, but he actually moves nearer to the lion. “Go away!” we want to shout, although no one speaks out loud. We are aware that we are only observers, and are not intended to be participants in this drama. Suddenly the gazelle notices the lion, and bounds away. The lion gives chase. They arc back around, and we expect a kill. The lion gains on the gazelle--the handwriting is on the wall. Some of us are excited and expectant, and others are resigned. Suddenly the gazelle goes into hyperdrive and escapes effortlessly, outdistancing the lion within seconds. It reminds me of something from Star Wars. The show is over. We don’t understand what we’ve just seen. Stephen explains that the lion was slow, and seemed to be limping a little (not that I noticed), which enabled the gazelle to outdistance it. But even if the lion was slow, I don’t understand how the gazelle put on that sudden burst of speed.

    Then we watch a herd of elephants as they amble across the road. 5 adults and 3 children. It’s fun watching animals so large, because the relative ages are so apparent. A one year old is much smaller than a 5 year old. We also notice a tawny eagle, a vulture, and Maasai giraffe – at Sweetwaters we were seeing reticulated giraffe instead. I can’t tell them apart– I know the markings are different, but I just don’t ‘see’ it yet. Also warthogs, Thompson’s gazelles, guinea hens, Eland, black backed jackal, a pregnant wildebeest, and an olive baboon.

    We also visit a Maasai village [pictures]. We are greeted by Wilson, the chief’s son. Our group tries to greet him with Jambo, until he explains that we should say Sopa/epa in Maasai. We are surprised to see him wearing a blue and red plaid, instead of red.

    Then they do a traditional welcome dance, the men on one side, the women on the other. They invite us to dance with them, and I see where pogo dancing comes from. I bet that adolescent Americans think they invented it, but the Maasai are much better at it. The men jump higher and higher to show off their strength. Then they include us in a traditional prayer. We are asked to crouch, bow our heads, and respond ‘nai’ during the prayer. I’m wishing I knew what we were assenting to, but all is revealed shortly. “That was a traditional Maasai prayer”, Wilson explains. “We are Catholic. We asked a blessing for your journey.” I know these visits are somewhat staged, but I was still touched.

    Then we see hunks of goat roasting on a tripod of branches over a fire, and a pot of blood. One in our group asks about the different colors we see them wearing – lots of blue or black rather than purely red. He explains that they are wearing the true Maasai color, and that the people we see elsewhere wearing red are probably Kikuyu who are dressing up to look like Maasai, and don’t know how to do it properly. Ironically, the Masi Mara Maasai (who wear red), feel that these Maasai have sold out to civilization, and are not authentic.

    They offer us some of the roasted goat, and most of us try it, but not me. I’ve been eating the food at the lodges (except for the lettuce and fresh greens), but some of the meat looks not cooked well, and I’m not sure about the cleanliness of the guy’s hands who is cutting it, or the knife for that matter (even though we saw them rinse from some dubious containers of water). After all, at home I don’t even use the same spatula for cooked and raw hamburgers. The others try it, and seem to enjoy it. And I don’t hear about anyone getting sick afterwards, so I guess it was ok after all. Maybe next time I’ll try it. [Note to self – did you notice how casually I said ‘next time’, as if I’m already thinking of going again?]

    The village has 4 families, with 252 people. So far we’ve actually been outside of the village proper. Now we enter the village and see another welcome dance. The guys pogo – the higher they jump the more appealing they are to the women. The chief’s son says he has been married 3 days. He shows us his wife. She is beautiful, but does not look as happy as he does. We find out later that this village still practices genital mutilation, so we can’t help but wonder if this is part of her unhappiness.

    Wilson speaks excellent English. We ask where he learned it, and it turns out that he went to college in Tanzania. But he made it clear that his place is here, home with his tribe. Wilson explains some traditional medicines, including the one for men with many wives. As he speaks, I try photographing the tall man. For some reason I’m having trouble focusing – I’m not sure if it is just too backlit or what. The man is very patient and waits for me, posing until I get it. Finally a Maasai teen politely taps me on the elbow and suggests “lens cap”. Was I humiliated!

    Then they show us how they start fire, first spinning a stick, then adding dried grass when it smokes, then twigs. I’ve seen laborious Boy Scout attempts, but this is amazing. We can’t believe how fast the whole process was. The fire is made every morning, and then shared house to house. Wilson is curious at what I am writing in my journal, and asks to see my notebook, and reads aloud: “They show us how they start fire.”

    After the fire, we watch them playing mancala. Today they are gambling for goats. I notice again that it is just the men who play. The observers are very aware that we want to watch, and duck or fade away so we have a good view, but the players are quite serious. They don’t want to risk their goats! The women on the other hand are responsible for building the huts – they are framed with acacia wood and cisle, and smeared with cow dung, which ends up waterproof, and is also termite proof.

    After the tour of the village, we ‘shop’ at their open air market, with their wares spread on clothes on the ground. It is uncomfortable how they do it – we get separate escorts who take us from cloth to cloth – slowly – as the merchants reach out and wave items at us, trying to catch our attention. Then they split us up and take us out back to pay. I’m so uncomfortable I pay the asking price instead of bargaining. I think it’s probably about 3 times what the actual value should have been. At first I’m pleased to simply consider it a donation to support the village, but when I find later that they are still practicing the genital mutilation I wish I had bought at the Maasai school instead, even though I didn’t like their necklaces as much.

    Back at the lodge again, we see more vervet monkeys, of course. I had worried that we would be pestered by mosquitoes here, given our rude buggy welcome, but they aren’t a big deal. Yesterday, we must have arrived just at the worst time, at dusk, and they disappear during the day. We have a good lunch (in a curiously dark dining room), and then have an afternoon game drive.

    The afternoon game drive is our least interesting so far. We see the top half of a hippo, looking like a beached whale, and lots of birds. That was part of the problem – once ‘E’ started observing birds, we actually sat in one spot for 45 minutes while she tried to identify each one. For some reason, the guide didn’t have binoculars that day, so each bird had to be discussed at great length. The rest of us got bored. In any event, we saw African fish eagle, blacksmith plovers, Egyptian geese, white pelicans, white necked cormorant, African jacana, sacred ibis, glossy ibis, cattle egret, spur winged plover, little egret, crowned crane, kori bustard. The Kori bustard engendered one of the running jokes of the trip. For some reason, in an African accent it sounds like bastard. Although we didn’t see a lot of animals, we got a special treat at the end of the drive, when we saw a rainbow.

    Tonight they served us a 7 course bush dinner. It was fun eating outside, but with full amenities such a cloth tablecloths. After dinner we were treated to a Maasai dance. One of the Maasai came over beforehand, clapped his hand on my shoulder, and announced that he wanted to marry me, and this was a wedding or courtship dance. I replied by asking him how many cows he would give, and he said 10. I said it wasn’t enough.

    We knew from our morning Maasai visit that the pogo dancing was intended to impress. This time it was actually thrilling, because they each jumped in front of me in turn, higher and higher, then ran forward lunging at me and yelling. As the youngest female in our group, I was clearly being courted. It was rather startling, but all in good fun.

    As I lie in bed writing this, I can hear the frogs chirping. They sound like persistent birds.

    In the morning we again have those strange black millipedes in the room, on the walls, ceiling and the floor. I chant my Dr Seuss rhyme as I get dressed. They don’t seem to be harmful, but it is weird. The other rooms don’t appear to have as many as we do. Some people didn’t even know what we were talking about, so maybe it’s not the norm.

    My overall impressions of Amboseli Serena lodge: Very good to excellent food and service and amenities, but no view from the rooms. The main wildlife visible directly from the lodge are the vervet monkeys. We saw a good variety of game on our game drives.

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    Your rhyme a la Dr. Seuss is wonderful. Very fun. It spoke right to the grandma in me. For all your worrying about being a whiner, it sounds like you're a very laid back traveler and a low maintenance room-mate. So many of your experiences brought back great memories of my own trip a year and a half ago. Can't wait for more.

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    Great great post Ann, you actually made me long for Amboseli and that is saying something ;)

    I’m so uncomfortable I pay the asking price instead of bargaining.
    Aaaaaarrgggghhhh! OK, that makes me scream. I hope it was only 3 times as much as you should have paid.

    One of the Maasai came over ...announced that he wanted to marry me, ..I replied by asking him how many cows he would give, and he said 10. I said it wasn’t enough.


    The millipede ryhme was great. Of course now you obligate yourself to produce more of these.

    Yeah, it really angers me that the genital mutilation continues. The Masai have adjusted their tradition as needed for Western audience. I wish more pressure was put on them to end it once and for all.

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    Hi Bo,
    You're too kind. I have to admit that the whining picked up a little later in the trip. Keep reading for all the gory details! But I really was tremendously fortunate to have a wonderfully accomodating roommate, and a very professionally executed trip, so there wasn't really a lot of reason to whine!

    I'm glad you liked my rhyme -- we all had fun with it.

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    The rhyme was great. I'm glad Amboseli produced good game for you in addition to a poem.

    I can never hear Kori Bustard without thinking bastard. If I ever can banish that thought then I will have become a true birder. That's like the saying the mark of sophistication is hearing the William Tell Overture and not thinking of the Lone Ranger.

    I picked up on that "next time." By the end of your report I hope you can enlighten us on what the next time will encompass.

    I would have done the same thing with the goat offering. Why risk your good health that is so key to the enjoyment of the trip for a bite of authentic cuisine? That statement probably proves I am not a foodie, nor am I sophisticated based on my above definition.

    The lion and gazelle episode was quite exciting. As you described, it is hard to know which animal to wish the better outcome. Looking forward to more Amboseli.

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    Ann, Wow - your pics cover such a variety - people, places, so much wildlife, what a way to meet Africa. Question, just how many cheetahs did you see in a day? I lost count - there were cats galore! Your comment about being an observer, not a participant in the drama of the lion and the gazelle - what a lovely respect. Of course, the ending was my speed, the chase, am OK, the kill, not so much. Am looking forward to more.

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    I'm actually not sure how many cheetahs we saw, although most of the good cheetah pictures were actually from our day at ngorogoro, where we saw two cheetah brothers very close up, so I took lots of pictures of the same 2. All our other cheetah sightings were either obscured or at a distance.

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    Photos in ‘Tarangire’ folder at:

    Day 8 – Oct 17
    We leave Amboseli and drive to the border between Kenya and Tanzania. In the immigration office I see a funny sign on the wall: “No man can serve two masters at ago”. I think it was intended to be a Bible verse that was quoted in British English and then written down phonetically.

    We say goodbye to our drivers, and switch vehicles. As usual, everything works like clockwork. The new drivers and vehicles are waiting for us, and the luggage is transferred without our having to lift a finger (except for our carry-ons). Finally the road is blacktop, but that is almost worse, since we go a lot faster and thus the bumps are spine-cracking. By the time we disembark near Arusha I’m nearly crippled (which is a little embarrassing, considering that I’m almost the youngest on the trip). Meanwhile, our oldest traveler who is 89 shows off the fact that she can touch her toes. When my travel mates see what bad shape I’m in, they graciously switch places so I’m no longer in the back, which has the worst jolts. Other than that, the new vehicles are impressive. Instead of the minivans we had in Kenya, these are stretch land rovers with a pop top. The vehicles feel sturdy and reliable, and there is a decent amount of room, since it is arranged that we each have a window seat.

    We spend some time in Arusha so as to delay our arrival in Tarangire until the tse tse flies die down. We are a little intimidated to hear that they can bite through cloth, and aren’t really repelled by DEET. I now find the solution to how people will pack those rugs they bought. We drop all excess luggage off at the office of the ground operator, and we’ll pick it up on our last day.

    We finally arrive at Tarangire. The hotel lounge is open to the outside, with a beautiful vista. We’re eager to see our tents, complete with sink, shower, and toilet. Dinner is good, but not nearly as good as the Amboseli Serena. This camp is not fenced, so we get an escort from dinner back to our tent. The tents have electric light until 11pm, but are very dim even with the light on. We go to sleep early, and I sleep like a log.

    Day 9, Tarangire, Oct 18.
    Morning comes at 5:13 when I hear a cacophony of birds. I doze for a while, but get up to watch the sunrise. There doesn’t seem to be any hot water yet, so I’m not going to take a shower. In spite of the fact that I’m loving my Africa trip, a cold shower is a little too close to roughing it for me to enjoy it. ;) At 6:15 I get my gentle wake-up call – a visit from a room steward carrying a pot of hot chocolate. Heaven! I sit in front of the tent sipping hot chocolate, listening to the birds, and taking occasional pictures of the sunrise. [pictures].

    Breakfast is our least inspired meal so far, but the view from the lounge and front patio is marvelous, overlooking the Tarangire river, and with animals roaming within sight. During our stay here, we see both dik diks and elephants within a stone’s throw of the tent. At night we hear birds and jackals, but are a little disappointed to not hear anything larger.

    The morning game drive [pictures] starts at 8. We are told that the animals here are active a bit later. Who knows? We’ve heard so much buildup about the tse tse flies, but are blessed with a cloudy day, and literally only see one fly, which ‘H’ kills to show us. People were so afraid they were blasting the whole land cruiser with bug spray – not the kind you use on your body, but the kind you blast a room with and then leave the area. I’m afraid we will be poisoned so I stand up so my head sticks out the hatch and I get some fresh air.

    On the drive we see some dwarf mongoose, white backed vulture, ostrich, red billed weavers, yellow necked spurfowl, red billed quelea nests, yellow collared lovebirds, dik dik, white headed buffalo weaver, hamerkop nests, spotted hyena, lilac breasted roller (a beautiful bird even to those of us who are not particularly bird watchers), impala, zebra, vervet monkies, elephants, crested francolin, warthog, magpie shrike, hadada ibis, Maasai giraffe, cape buffalo, waterbuck, white bellied bustard, ground hornbill, tawny eagles, and of course baobab trees (I know they are not game, but for a newcomer they are an indelible part of seeing Africa).

    I thought breakfast was our least inspired meal, but lunch surpasses it in mediocrity. But it is edible.

    The best animal viewing from the lodge is actually in the early afternoon, when the wildebeest form a parade, crossing the Tarangire river and pacing north to better grazing land. The parade stretches on and on as far as the eye can see, with only small gaps, sometimes interspersed with zebras.

    The afternoon game drive is a little disappointing – we see lots of the common animals, but nothing new, and spend an inordinate amount of time in one place just looking at birds. I wouldn’t be so antsy, except I really want to see some cats. We see osprey, violet wood hoopoe, waterbuck, wildebeest, zebra, elephants, white browed coucal (or something like that!), rufous tailed weavers.

    If I thought lunch was disappointing, dinner was worse. Maybe it wasn’t really that bad, but it was truly cold. I wasn’t too happy about the safety of food that had been sitting on a buffet so long it was totally cold, so I just picked at mine. I would have been happier with a hot plate of ugali and goat stew.

    After dinner I ask where the ladies room is. I didn’t realize that I need to specifically say ‘toilet’ , and so they don’t understand me. I finally attempt to ask in Swahili and comprehension dawns. You see, my plan of learning 10 words works! This is my theory about learning languages when traveling. It is too intimidating to think of actually learning the language, so most people don’t bother to learn anything. But I set myself a goal to learn 10 words (and usually end up learning a bit more once I get interested). It’s amazing how much you can communicate with Hello, Goodby, Please, Thank You, Yes, No, Where is…, and maybe a few other chosen phrases.

    We hang around the bar waiting for our escorts to our tents, but no one appears. We finally ask at the reception desk and they seem bewildered. Finally the woman at the desk picks up a flashlight and says “come”. We feel a bit stupid – we’re both taller than she is, and she clearly does not have a weapon, so we feel as if a little girl is bravely leading us through the dark.

    I skip a shower again, since the water never seems to get hot (although some people in the other tents say theirs was warm). I’m glad I brought some damp wipes, which will have to do, for now. We leave the tent flaps open for the full experience, and hear some more animals in the night – probably jackals.

    The next morning I rise early enough to watch the sunrise, sitting on the front porch of the tent drinking my hot chocolate. Some of my traveling companions never got their wake-up call, or got it at the wrong time, but mine is just right, and the hot chocolate is a treat. I take a few pictures but don’t think they will capture the look.

    Leaving Tarangire we see a yellow collared love bird, elephants, wildebeest, guineafowl, warthogs, white bellied go away bird, zebras, and an amarula tree, which gives rise to a conversation about the liqueur, which we enjoy later in the trip!

    Overall impression of Tarangire: We have mixed feelings, and we’re not that sorry to leave. The view and park were wonderful, but the food and service were not as good as the other lodges. This time I wrote just a short jingle:

    The food was cold, the showers too,
    But boy oh boy, look at the view.

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    I am so disappointed in your experiences at Tarangire. I will just come out and say it straight:
    Shame on OAT, shame on Ranger Safaris (I think they were the operator) and Tarangire Safari Lodge (who should've learned a lesson with the tragic leopard incident). Especially when considering the costs of these group tours.

    The way I read it your guide made little effort to show you the park at its best. I think your guide was either lazy or inexperienced with Tarangire. And he conveniently cut down on the game drive time.

    "Let's delay your arrival until fewer tsetses", "animals are more active later in the day", etc. All nonsense.

    If you go at 8am and then return to the lodge for lunch, you cannot get even close to the best places for lion, leopard and other wildlife.

    I was there in mid-September and had the exact opposite experience!

    Anyway, I don't know why I even posted this - I know I will regret it afterwards.

    Do try to return to Tarangire in the future with a better guide, outfitter and accommodation and you will be most happy! It is a GREAT park especially in the dry season.

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    Hi ClimbHigh,
    Thanks for your response -- it is always interesting to hear everybody else's experiences. I admit that I was a little suspicious about the delay in Arusha, but didn't know if it was legit or not. Luckily it did not seem to be a pattern on the trip -- for example, our last day in the Serengeti which was originally scheduled for a morning and afternoon game drive, we ended up going on an all-day drive instead, so we could take a long drive north to catch part of the migration. So there was some appropriate flexibility shown.

    And just to clarify, my mixed response about Tarangire pertained only to the particular camp, not to the entire park. I'd love to take your advice and return sometime.

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    Hi ann:
    I just had a chance to read your report and I am really enjoying it (your rhymes as well). So funny that Arielle came in handy and how nice that you had a roommate so much the antithesis of her.

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    Glad the Tarangire view was good enough to rhyme about, or were you rapping?

    I can't get past the 89 year old woman touching her toes. She's 89 and in Africa. And she is touching her toes. What a beacon of hope to any of us who hope to enjoy Africa well into the golden years.

    Your remarks are educational and not just for Tarangire. It helps alert all of us to tricks that may reduce our game viewing.

    I'm still worried about the woman that lost her camera? What happened?

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    Lynn: she never found the camera (which unfortunately was a new one she had bought for the trip). She bought disposables, and then a cheap camera at a gift shop later in the trip, and we all promised to send her pictures. Thanks for reminding me, because I owe her some pictures!

    And yes, the Tarangire Safari Camp view is worth praising. Both the restaurnat and tents sit overlooking a steep ravine, so you can look down at the animals going back and forth. You tend to see the most common ones, of course, but it is a nice opportunity to see the natural interactions, and the daily ebb and flow as they move back and forth between the river and the grazing land.

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    Photos in ‘Lake Manyara’ folder and ‘Gibbs Farm’ folder at:

    Day 10 – Oct 19
    Lake Manyara! Suddenly we are in a lush jungle instead of the arid grassland. It’s hard to describe the difference in the air – less dusty, of course, but also with different subtle aromas. Subtle, that is, until we pass through a veritable dung collection. But I’m so happy to be here that even the dung smells good to me.

    We stop for a picnic lunch. While it was clearly put together with great care, the meat in the sandwich was curiously bi-colored, and the yogurt containers bulged suspiciously. I’m pleased to be traveling with a group that doesn’t whine about it. We variously comment, and then move on, packing the untouched items into a couple of the lunchboxes, which our driver hands out to some locals near the edge of the park.

    We are nearing the end of our Lake Manyara drive, when the driver calls out “Simba!” I was so excited I gave a little shriek (oops!) and jumped out of my seat like a jack in the box. They were sleeping under a tree, relatively close, yet in such dark shade you could barely see them, much less photograph them, although I tried, of course –it kind of worked to overexpose the shot. At first I saw just the one on the left, whose profiled head showed a recognizable silhouette. Then I saw the white stomach of the one on the right, and the stretching foot of the one in the center, curled around the tree trunk. Finally we realize that there are actually 2 in the middle and 2 on the right – 5 in all. An enduring memory from Lake Manyara.

    The flamingos were only seen from a distance, looking like shimmering pink quartz on the shore. The hippos lumbered in and out of the water. We got a good view even from the distance. Other game included blue monkeys, olive baboons, zebras, wildebeest, vervet monkeys, warthogs, spoonbills, great cormorants, impalas, lesser flamingos, pale chanting goshawk, joves thunderbolt, grey heron. And we also enjoyed seeing some of the various trees: mahogany, fig, tamarind, and wild bush mango.

    After we leave Lake Manyara, we ascend the ridge to get to the Ngorongoro region. We stop at more shops, of course, and I finally buy a pair of candlesticks and a salad knife and fork. Then on to the T shirt shop. While we are all amused by the ‘endangered feces’ shirt, we reluctantly leave it behind, realizing that we might not really wear it once we’re back home. I see a package of Maasai cloth for sale, and enjoy the irony of the washing instructions which warn not to dry it in the sun. I guess thousands of Maasai all over Africa never read the instructions, LOL ;)

    *** the rest of this segment has no game viewing – feel free to skip it if that is your main interest**

    We arrive at Gibbs farm in the afternoon, a veritable oasis [pictures]. The gardens are lush and colorful, and our room is spacious and comfortable, and even has a fire place, although it is not quite cool enough to use it. Information sheets in the room inform us that the electric power will be out an hour at a time for a couple of times a day, in order to divert the power to the water pump. The water in the pitcher is drinkable, from their own deep well, and filtered besides.

    I’m really looking forward to a hot shower, but can’t resist afternoon tea served on the lawn, surrounded by flowers, sitting under a jacaranda tree. The best cake and cookies we’ve had in Africa. The cookies are made with their own macadamia nuts. Yum!!!

    Dinner was outstanding. They grow most of their own vegetables, and even the non-vegetable lovers among us enjoy them. Carrot and ginger salad – unusually spicy, but delicious. Arugula soup – dark and creamy, but a bit too bitter for my taste – the only non-winner of the evening. Green salad with a lovely light dressing, with just a hint of sweetness. This is the first green salad I’ve dared in Africa. The manager here specifically discussed the vegetables, and insisted that since they grow their own and manage the entire process from field to table, they can control the hygiene. I decide to believe him. We’ll see. Let me not forget the spinach – the best version of creamed spinach I’ve ever eaten – tender with just a hint of nutmeg, and creamy without being too rich or gummy. Curried vegetables for the vegetarians, and a pork dish for the carnivores. Only the ugali has no taste, but I gather it is not supposed to. Finally a marvelous lemon meringue pie for dessert --- the best I’ve had in 30 years, tangy and creamy at the same time. We all cut ourselves polite small pieces, hoping to stretch it to the 14 seated around our table, but are pleased to savor seconds when we see a second pie appear.

    I’ve also treated myself to a Tangawizi twist – a drink made with ginger beer, tequila, fresh ginger, lime, and who knows what. It is served with a salt rimmed glass and tastes like a fresh ginger margarita. Yum. It’s so good I have the same thing the next night.

    After dinner my roommate reminds me that we were going to try the amarulo (remember that tree we passed?). We adjourn to the lounge with our drinks. It tastes like a combination of Harvey’s Bristol cream and frangelico – nutty, creamy, and slightly sweet. I would definitely try it again.

    I give myself the treat of just lazily falling into bed without bothering to set out my clothes for the next day, since I’ve decided to skip the 6:30 birdwalk.

    Oct 20 – Gibbs Farm
    Today is sort of a vacation from our vacation. The day starts with the sound of buzzing bees outside our room. I’m still half asleep, and can’t figure out what the sound is at first. It’s not one or two bees, it is a convention, but they don’t bother anyone—they’re just busy sipping the nectar from the flowers. I luxuriate in a truly hot shower, and give my hair a good lathering. Then on to a delicious breakfast.

    I’ve already had passion-fruit, pineapple, tree tomato juices at other camps, but this morning there is a new option: rhubarb! It was pretty good, although actually a bit too sweet. I also have my usual one-egg omelet, and a bowl of fruit and a muffin. Not only the vegetables but also the baked goods are better than usual here.

    After breakfast we watch a coffee roasting demonstration, and then have a chance for a hike. ‘H’ describes it in a way that sounds excessively strenuous, so I say I want to go just half way. The lodge manager is totally accommodating, and offers to supply an extra guide so I can turn back when I want to. On hearing this option, Faye and Idelle ask if they can join, so we have a party of 4. We set off with Esau – he pronounced his name ‘Eh-SOW’, so it took a minute to get it, and then I said: ‘from the Bible?’ and he said yes.

    We went slowly, to accommodate Idelle’s knee, and the adjustment to the altitude (5,700 ft). Esau attentively gave a hand at any steep parts, and pointed out footprints of dik dik, buffalo, and elephant. I politely responded to his overtures by trying out my few Swahili words, and he was delighted every time I came up with something appropriate. Whenever I tried a new word, he got so excited he gave me a high five. With that kind of encouragement, one could really improve at this language thing! We stopped frequently so Idelle could catch her breath, and he taught us to say ‘twende’ (let’s go) when we were ready to move on. We plan to try that on our next game drive if we stop for too long looking at birds.

    Esau showed us a plant he called Maasai toilet paper. It has surprisingly soft leaves. Later on he took pains to identify a nettle, and tell us not to touch it. I couldn’t help but comment that it was important to not confuse it with the toilet paper plant. He really liked that. I think he doesn’t usually understand American jokes, but he definitely got that one.
    We actually turn around shortly before reaching the waterfall. As it turns out, I think I could easily have made it all the way (unless the very last section is dramatically harder), but we got to a steep part and didn’t want to overtax Idelle’s knee. We were close enough to hear the waterfall. It did somehow take the gloss off of ‘H’s self-aggrandizing story about having to carry a tourist on his back for 4-1//2 hours back to the lodge (considering that a 77 year old recovering from a broken knee-cap did the return trip in just over an hour).

    On the way back Esau teaches me the Jambo song. Luckily I had already downloaded it onto my ipod before the trip, so I had the sound in my head. We stride down the hill singing together, with him directing so that I’d do the proper antiphonal echo on the ‘hakuna matata’ part at the end. He takes great pains to make sure that I remember to insert ‘Gibbs Farms’ in the right place (instead of ‘Kenya yetu’).

    Lunch is a buffet, but much fresher and more appetizing than we have had anywhere else. The salad has fresh avocado (from their own tree, of course), and I enjoy the pumpkin soup and the beef salad served with their own home-made chutney. I went up for seconds, but was diverted by the desserts: a perfect rhubarb crisp, a creamy rice pudding, a chocolate pudding/cake, and that’s not all, but it is all I’ll admit to trying! Definitely the best desserts we’ve had in Africa, including at the Stanley Hotel in Nairobi.

    After lunch, I have trouble getting details from ‘H’ about our itinerary. I’m trying to figure out how to fit in a garden tour and medicinal plant walk as well as the school trip and home visit. I finally get frustrated. When I ask him if it is possible to do the trip and also the garden walk he says “if there is time”, but that is exactly the problem, I don’t know if there is time. Finally I realize that I need a break from him regardless of the itinerary, and I decide to stay back. I gave ‘E’ the colored pencils I brought for the school, and went to the reception desk to ask about the medicinal plant tour and the garden tour, only to find that the ‘doctor’ is off today, so the medicinal plant option is out anyway. Actually, I overhear that he is actually out sick, which doesn’t bode well for the efficacy of the medicinal plants anyway.

    The staff here is so accommodating. They were apologetic that it took them a whole 5 minutes to arrange someone to take me on the garden walk. I was expecting to have to make an appointment, and they basically asked a gardener to drop what he was doing to serve me. I think his name might be Lazarus, but with the pronunciation from Swahili, I’m not sure. I have a wonderful time with him. He is friendly, and is amazed that I know many of the vegetables. He started quizzing me on each one – ‘do you know what this is?’ and was truly thrilled every time he could show me something new. At one point I thought he was showing me something quite unusual when he pointed out ‘rose berries’ but he finally explained it was like a strawberry and all of a sudden I got it – raspberry!

    He was excited if I could answer anything in Swahili. He stopped at one point to take a brief phone call, and profusely apologized. When I answered ‘hakuna matata’ he gripped my hand with fervor, and forgot to let it go. And his ecstasy knew no bounds when I got the verb right when he asked where I was from. Unatoka wapi? Ninatoka New York! But then I over-reached myself by trying to echo back ‘two children’ in Swahili when he told me about his family. I did ok saying I had no children, but didn’t get the agreement prefixes right when I tried to say two children. He seemed eager to explain, but I’m not sure I’ve got it – I think it turns to watoto wili. I was trying to say mtoto mbili. ( Swahili has this really complex grammar, which I was basically able to ignore, but it is much more highly inflected even than Latin. In preparing for my trip, I had bought an introductory Swahili book and tape, of which I reviewed the first chapter before I gave up and settled for the “In flight Swahili” CD, which was much more my speed, since it just teaches you a few simple things to say right away. )

    And now I’m sitting on a lounge chair in the garden writing my journal, and listening to the various birds. I’m looking forward to afternoon tea. This break is great. Gibbs farm is a wonderful place, and I’ve truly enjoyed my day of respite. The gardens are lush and green, with colorful flowers and abundant birds. It feels like a different planet compared to the dusty roads.

    Although I’ve appreciated NOT thinking about work, or being in touch with anyone from home, I decide to send one group email to my friends and relatives, just so they know that I’m safe and happy. I assumed the computer would be in an office, or something, but actually it is a laptop with a wireless connection, so they ask me where I want to use it, and I end up in the garden, typing while overlooking the coffee plantation, and listening to the birds. It all feels sort of unreal. Africa is a different world from being at home, but Gibbs farm is yet a different world from everything else we’ve seen, sort of like a really good dream.

    Today, tea includes fresh peanut butter cookies and pound cake. It appears as if by magic. Again, we eat in the garden, serenaded by birds. We see a red bird with a long, long tail. We are interrupted by a shower, so I grab our tea tray and run up to the patio which has large sun umbrellas which will also work as rain shields. The staff is busy running around and rescuing all the seat cushions, and are almost amazed that I figured out how to carry the little tea tray all by myself. ;)

    After the tea, you wouldn’t think that I would have an appetite for dinner, but you would be wrong, because dinner is again delicious. The waiters have an unusual and appealing serving style. Each waiter carries two large bowls of food, and offers you each bowl in turn, while holding the bowl in the opposite hand up at head height. It is sort of a combination of a dance and lifting weights. Again, each dish is excellent.

    All night long we hear rain pounding on the roof, interspersed with the sound of animals running back and forth. It sounds like a convention overhead. Running footsteps, growls, squeals, and chatters. Later we are told that it was probably bushbabies on the roof (we had seen one near the reception desk).

    My overall impression of Gibbs farm: This is a wonderful oasis, and a refreshing break from all the dusty roads. However, I wouldn’t go there if your only priority is game viewing. I have to admit that the contrast made it one of my favorite memories from the trip, and I would eagerly go back again. They are just getting a new manager, so time will tell if the ambiance remains the same. In addition to the excellent food, one of the enjoyable things was that the staff went beyond courteous, and was truly friendly. They seemed to delight in interacting, and were really eager to make sure we were having a good time. In my book, this place was definitely a winner.

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    Ann, I'm enjoying your trip report so much. It brings back memories.

    Our experience at Tarangire was similar to yours; cold showers, mediocre food. Since Tarangire was our first stop, we had nothing to compare with, so just wallowed in the experience of "roughing it" and hearing the rumble of lions in the night.

    We were also charged double for our wine on the last night of our stay - the explanation being "New prices." We never did figure that one out. That being said, we were escorted back to our tents each evening and our morning coffee arrived right on time. We really did enjoy our stay there.

    Climbhighsleeplow -- my curiosity has been piqued. What is the leopard incident you mention?

    Ann, I'm looking forward to more. I loved my trip to Africa -- there isn't a day that passes that I don't think of it. I think I'm obsessed. Thank you for helping me relive it!!!

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    Photos in ‘Ngorogoro’ folder at:

    Day 12 – Oct 21
    After pouring all night, the rain does not let up this morning. I’ve totally misjudged the weather on this trip. It hasn’t been as hot as I expected (although I will find that the Serengeti is hotter), and while I expected a couple of showers, I didn’t expect this pounding unceasing rain – isn’t this the dry season? We ask about the rain, and they happily confirm that it has not rained in 3 months, until now.

    We leave Gibbs farm and go to Karatu, the nearby town. The original plan was to see the market, but the rain washes that out, so instead we travel around doing a couple of errands for people. Faye is looking for a disposable camera (to replace the one she lost in Nairobi), and Idelle is looking for Amarulo liqueur. We are clearly in a local part of the little town now – suddenly the signs on the shops are all in Swahili rather than English, and when we find a liquor store it won’t accept dollars (and while we had gotten Kenya shillings, we didn’t get any Tanzania shillings). Roman, our driver/guide offers to pay for us, which is nice of him, and then purchases Viceroy for himself. We drive around some more and end up at a nearby lodge, hoping to find a camera for Faye. While we are there, we are treated to yet another welcome dance [pictures], this time by the Iraqw tribe (no, not the same as Iraq!)

    We get back on the road and stop briefly at the little museum at the entrance to Ngorongoro, however after killing all that time in the village, now we are in a hurry. Because of all the rain, the big trucks have been forced to wait at the entrance (so as to not block the way) but now they are being allowed to proceed.
    We want to go ahead of them rather than behind, in case they get stuck, so we jump back in the land rover and set off. I can feel the tires slipping. It is scary enough here on the rim, and I’m more and more anxious about the road down into the crater tomorrow.

    When we arrive at the hotel, ‘H’ hands us our keys. I ask him if he has given me one with a good view. He assures me ‘yes, the best’. We go to our room and find that while the room is beautiful, it is clearly not ‘the best’. It’s on the lower level, and the grass and brush obstruct the view, so you can look out across the crater, but you can’t look down, while the second level has grand vistas. I’m a bit annoyed. I’ve had specific talks with him explaining that my priority is a good view, and he keeps yessing me, but ignoring my request. I totally understand that everyone cannot get the best room all the time, but it bugs me that he looks me in the face and tells me my room is the best when it is clearly not. At lunch, he asks how our room is, and I tell him I would prefer one with a better view, on the second floor. He says he will try, and after lunch appears with a new key. I can’t help confirming:
    “Does this room have a better view?”.
    “Yes”, he replies.
    “Is it on the second floor?”.
    “Then why are you saying it is better?”
    “I thought you just didn’t like your room and wanted a different one.”
    So then we say we want to keep the old room, because it is not worth the hassle to move if the view will not be improved. So now he thinks I am irrational and hard to please. Sigh. I’m not sure whether I’m just paranoid, or whether there is really a pattern that single women get the worst rooms.

    On the other hand, none of the rooms here are bad. The room is beautiful; with every amenity you could ask for, so I get over my snit and decide to have a good time. Everything is really working out perfectly, time after time. It’s just that this one detail about a view has rubbed me the wrong way.

    I find the observation porch, and am enthralled looking through the telescope. I see zebras, wildebeest, elephants, and a rhino. Occasionally someone else stops by and I step back and invite them to take a look. They always seem surprised that I’m relinquishing my spot, but I don’t understand why anyone would refuse to take turns. As it is getting chilly, I run back to my room to get my fleece, only to find that the briefly clearing weather was just temporary, and the rain and clouds are back with a vengeance. I’m worried that even if it clears tomorrow, the road with be too muddy to traverse safely.

    Most of our group seems to spend the afternoon either napping or in the gift shop. I’m glad I at least spent some time looking into the crater. If it doesn’t clear up that might be my only view of it! I realize that I was so worried about my unknown roommate before the trip, that I spent my energy praying about her rather than the weather. I have to admit I got a good deal out of it, because she has been a terrific roommate, so I can’t complain.

    This evening we were supposed to have a walk by a naturalist at the hotel. As it turns out, the naturalist was not there, but a guide took us. It was chilly and damp and muddy, and I was surprised that our whole group went. Our guide was Maasai, and explained the tribal custom that had knocked out his bottom front teeth. In the past, there were so many cases of tetanus that they developed this idea to prepare for lockjaw, so a patient could be fed through a cow-hide straw. I asked him whether they would accept vaccinations if they were made available, and he said yes. I though it was heartbreaking that children’s teeth are being knocked out by their loving parents in an effort to protect them, when a safe vaccine exists.

    After the walk, our feet had a huge build-up of mud (probably mixed with various dung). I scraped and rubbed my sneakers, and was amazed that the layer was still almost an inch thick! I’ve never had to work so hard to clean off my shoes, in fact, I was sort of getting foot claustrophobia! After scuffing through gravel and abrading it against cement steps, and shuffling through puddles, finally it was just messy in the treads. Now I grasp how it works when the Maasai build their houses and smear them with mud and dung. This stuff just refuses to wash away or to disintegrate. Our leader arranged for the hotel to wash all of our shoes for us overnight. I couldn’t believe when I saw my skeakers in the morning. I had intentionally brought ones that weren’t clean and new, and miraculously they ended up much cleaner than when I had started my trip.

    Dinner is very good, and the service is too – very professional. We go to sleep hoping that the weather will cooperate for

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    Photos in ‘Ngorongoro’ folder at:

    Day 13 – Oct 22
    We wake up to find that it is totally clouded-in, and still drizzing. I hope we will see some game, and not skid of the cliff! As it turns out the road down is steep, but not as scary as I feared – there was always a little bit of earth between the edge of the road and the abyss, so even I with my fear of heights didn’t think we were going to fall off the edge after all. I was certainly glad when we made it down, however!

    Once down on the crater floor, it’s not as cloudy as it was above, and the drizzle has stopped. We see a couple of lions in the grass, but it’s really a tease – they are so camouflaged that we can barely make them out. I hope we’ll get a better view later. We stop to view some birds. I’m impatient – I have cats to see! Roman says that morning is the best time to see cats, and I really don’t want to waste time on yet another weaver or bustard. So I get sneaky and say “let’s go” in Swahili: “twende tafadhali” [sp?], and it works! Roman starts the engine and we move on. That was even better than learning how to say ‘where is the bathroom?’

    We see a cluster of vehicles ahead, and head toward them. It’s the modern equivalent of watching for vultures circling. And indeed, we see 2 lions eating at a kill, with jackals waiting at a distance. A couple more lions are nearby, and finally we notice the big male off on the right. As we focus on the scene, we realize there are more and more lions: 5,6,7,8! And then off to the left, another female guarding a second kill. Every once in a while she looks over at the rest of the pride, as if to say: “dinner’s ready!” The other lions slowly start walking that way, so we shift our position to the second kill. [pictures].

    As more and more lions amble over, they crowd in until there is a veritable pile of lions obscuring the kill. They are not that hungry, having already feasted at the previous kill. Two quickly go in search of an after-dinner drink – a small mud puddle right in front of the vehicle ahead of us. From our angle, all we can see is 2 tails stretching out from the side of the land rover. There are still a few lions at the kill, and suddenly the male appears from the rear – we get a great view of him. He approaches too fast for me to un-zoom my camera, so my last shot is an extreme close-up (which has been very satisfactory at scaring my friends at home :o ). Then he proceeds to wend his confident way up the line of vehicles, spraying the tires as he goes. He makes it clear who is boss.

    Another lion starts to cross the road, then lies down right in the middle, effectively blocking traffic. We can’t help but think he is disdainfully amused. More and more vehicles congregate. The scene rays out from the lions in the road, surrounded by the various land rovers, with the kill slightly off to the side. Then I suddenly notice that the other lions have now circled around us --we are surrounded by lions! It’s a good thing they are not hungry. My face keeps alternating between open-mouthed awe and sheer happiness. My roommate calls that my happy cat face. She gets that way when she sees elephants.

    Eventually the lions disperse and we do too. After seeing more wildebeest (a darker color than we have seen before) we also see a zebra parade, and a handful of warthogs.

    We head over to a curve in the road where a few vehicles have assembled, and try to figure out what they are staring at. Their heads are pointing in the direction of a trio of warthogs, but we can’t imagine what is so fascinating. Roman is the first to spy the cheetah hidden in the tall grass. At first I can’t see it at all, but it raises its head, which helps. Once I get a fix on the position, I see the spots faintly through the grass, even when his head disappears again. But then I stare so hard I’m not even sure I’m seeing anything.

    Luckily we get a better chance later, as Roman spies a cheetah seated in the grass. I couldn’t see it at first, so he told us to look for the stick. Then I saw it – it really did look like a stick, or a long neck poking up from the grass. I couldn’t figure out how that shape could be a cheetah. I wasn’t familiar with those narrow shoulders and long lean body. Finally I got a closer view through my binoculars and realized I was looking at his whole torso. It’s funny how much you have to train your eyes to see the animals.

    We go to the picnic area for lunch and bathrooms, eating in the land rover because the kites are attracted to food, and can actually be dangerous. I’m getting antsy again as time passes – we don’t need to spend so long eating a dry little sandwich and cold chicken leg. We could be seeing animals and instead we are just milling about. But that’s just my NYC impatience talking – I’m very task oriented, and right now my agenda is to see game. We get going again and all is fine. I’m just imagining the feedback this passage will get by people saying that is the problem with group tours. Yet frankly, I’d be having exactly the same problem if I was with my very best friends or with my family – sometimes people’s sense of pacing is simply different, and its not really anybody’s fault.

    Later in the afternoon we get a real treat, with an exquisite performance by two cheetah brothers.[pictures] They walk up the road, approaching us with casual unconcern. We watch with delight, and whisper our desires – “oh, I wish the back one would hurry up so I could get them both in frame (done). I wish they would cross over there so we could see their profiles (done). I wish they would turn their head so I could see their face (done). I wish they’d walk to the top of the hill so I could get a silhouette (done). Never has a subject posed more obligingly. They watched some distant gazelles, but unfortunately we had more interest in a chase than they did, so nothing happened.

    After the delicious tension of the cheetahs, we turned to comic relief at the hippo pool. The hippos are crowded side by side, with a couple further away at each end. We are amused by the splashing, which happens via no visible cause. The hippos off by themselves at the end have a tendency to roll instead of splash. I take a picture of one with a foot sticking up in the air, and realize that when I get the picture back I’ll have no idea what it is.

    As we approach the exit and wind through the forest area, we are all looking for an elephant for Idelle – it is her favorite animal (other than gerenuk) and it is funny that we have seen a single one in the crater (except for one far in the distance, which doesn’t really count.) Just as it is almost too late we pass one under a tree, about 20 yards from the road. His tusks are huge, as long as his trunk, and the guide figures he’s about 60 years old, and probably on his last set of teeth, with only a short lifespan left to go. We stare soberly as he says that, realizing that there is no way to delay the normal process of nature.

    The full list of animals we saw included golden jackal, wildebeest, lions (including a pride of 9 at 2 different kills), greater flamingo, lesser flamingo, Thompson’s gazelles, Egyptian geese, cheetahs, kori bustard, hartebeest, rufous tailed weaver, ostrich, black rhino (in the distance), warthogs, spotted hyena, grants gazelle, silver backed jackal, cape buffalo, sacred ibis, hadada ibis, hippopotamus, grey heron, crested crane, secretary bird, elephant, olive baboons.

    The trip back up to the rim is steep and bumpy, but again not as bad as I was afraid of. But the cumulative effect of these bumps has taken a toll on my back, and I’m in some pain after we get to the hotel. I stop by reception on the way in and schedule a massage. It was well worth the price -- $23 for ½ hour. I really need to do something or I won’t be in shape to go tomorrow. So after the excellent massage I take a hot shower, and pop some aleve, and apply some bio-freeze, and then join the group for cocktails. 5 muscle relaxants in a row has to be a record, and it works. I’m ok in the morning.

    Overall impressions of the Ngorongoro Serena: This was the most polished and professional of the lodges we stayed in. And the view is incredible (although it is better from the upper level). The food was quite good and the service was excellent. (There was one meal I didn’t especially care for, and when the waitress saw my almost untouched plate, she immediately offered to bring me something else. I found plenty of delicious selections at the buffet, anyway.) The entire lodge is decorated with artistic touches, such as engraved wildebeest on the doors, or etched animals on the hall lamps. I had no complaints at all. It’s a marvelous place, but be aware that there are a lot of steps – it is 40 steps to get from the road or reception area down to the bar, and more steps to get to the restaurant or the rooms.

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    The teeth situation is very sad indeed. Thanks for sharing that interesting information.

    Sorry about the unfortunate timing of the rains. Maybe just a little early. Let's see if that makes the crater a bit greener and more lush for you.

    Tell me again where you stayed in the crater. Was it Serena (as it was in Amboseli, sticking like properties)? Someone else mentioned the exact problem with the view or lack there of on the first floor at Serena.

    Solo women and least desirable rooms are often matched up, as I can attest to, so are restaurant tables nearest the toilet. Fortunately, the room is not usually a big deal to me. The only solution I've found to deter this practice is to be up front about it when initially booking. Also having a good relationship with the agent as a repeat client can overcome this slight, and as a result a few times I've gotten the best room or an even an upgrade in Africa.

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    Yes, it was the Serena. A wonderful, artistically designed, professionally staffed lodge. Frankly, even the lower level rooms have a fine view, looking across to the far rim of the crater, but the upper rooms have incredible views, actually looking down into the crater. I would definitely love to go back there any time (and in any room!).

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    Photos in ‘Serengeti – central’ folder at:

    (The first half of the day is in the Ngorongoro folder)

    Day 14 – Oct 23
    Leaving Ngorongoro we get a few more views into the crater. It’s really amazing. I can’t imagine that the Maasai walk up and down to graze their cattle. I also can’t imagine the female elephants walking up and down. I’m beginning to see an Africa pattern here: the Maasai women carry the water and build the huts; the lionesses kill the prey; the female elephants lead the herd. Women in Africa seem to work extremely hard, regardless of the species!. On the rim, we see impala, grants gazelles, secretary birds and zebras. The road is extremely bumpy, and we pass broken down trucks frequently – luckily they have managed to pull to the side enough to not obstruct traffic. I wonder what they will do to fix their trucks.

    We stop at Oldupai gorge. We all thought that it was Olduvai, but the guide corrects us. It is named after the oldupai plant, a member of the sisal family. We see the different strata in the gorge. The varying colors of the alternating red and gray help pick out the layers. In the first layer the ‘nutcracker man’ was found, with a massive jaw to grind hard seeds. The formal name was something like australopificus boise, but I have no idea how to spell it. That is dated at 1.8 million years ago. It’s hard for me to take these dates seriously – are they sure it wasn’t 1.9 or 1.7 million? They talk us through each layer, and also give us a great piece of trivia. ‘Lucy’ (found elsewhere, I believe), was actually named after the Beatles song ‘Lucy in the sky with diamonds’. The little museum is quite interesting.

    Now on to the Serengeti. It truly is an endless plain. The dust is unbelievable. Every time a vehicle passes us we have to close the windows. But this is our hottest day so far, so we really need the air. So we get really good at sliding the windows open and shut again and again. In the wake of another vehicle, the dust is so thick it is actually like a white-out, with severely obscured visibility. In broad daylight, the wise drivers put their headlights on, to make it easier for the other vehicles to see them. My buff kerchief is working great! All my travel companions start asking me about it.

    ‘H’ had promised us great bathrooms at the entrance to the Serengeti, and I wonder what planet he is coming from; they are Turkish style ‘squatters’ with broken flushers, and are stopped up with an accumulation of toilet paper and bodily waste. After trying in vain to flush by pulling the cord, I notice a water handle on the wall. I hopefully turn it only to find out that it was a SHOWER! Not what I was hoping for. I walk out sprinkled with water, and realize that I now look as if I’ve somehow got driblets of pee all over. This trip is good at getting rid of any false pride.

    We are all sick of those Serena boxed lunches – a dry sandwich of mystery meat (ugh), a piece of roast chicken (usually pretty good), a slice of pound cake (ok), an orange drink (ok) , a bottle of water (ok), a container of yogurt (suspiciously foaming and bulging), and a little piece of fruit. We are getting really expert at separating what we don’t want so it can be given away (rather than nibbling at everything and then throwing it out). The picnic area features large, colorful lizards. Not my normal eating companions, but they don’t actually approach us, and don’t bother anyone.

    Finally we get going again, and have a game drive on the way to the lodge. The highlight was watching a crocodile trying to eat an impala. It was sort of a tease to watch it, since most of the action happened underwater. Occasionally the croc would rear up with a portion of the impala in its jaws, but it wasn’t managing to tear it apart so it could eat it.

    I was still anxious to see a leopard so I looked carefully in every shady spot (since it was now the heat of the day). I had one false alarm which was actually a reebuck hiding in some grass under a bush, and another animal which was in deep shadow a distance from the road – too far and dark to tell what it was. Then I saw a head sticking out from behind the trunk of a tree – I had high hopes, but it was actually a hyena. What a letdown! I think it was my third hyena spotting. The crew in my vehicle was split over whether I should get spotting credit, or a demerit. ;)

    All of a sudden we see a big male lion, close to the road. [pictures]. He is lined up so his body is exactly aligned with the shade cast by the trunk of the tree. He lies with his head up, but his eyes closed, breathing heavily. Then he flops over like a baby who has decided to sleep. We see his ribs go in and out when he breathes. Then he sits up again and this time he looks around, but his eyes are so heavy that they keep closing. It makes us tired to even look at him! Something about those drooping eyelids is contagious. Meanwhile, a giraffe grazes on the other side of the road. She hasn’t seen him yet. The lion is so tired he can barely be bothered to look. When the giraffe finally notices him, we see her ears flare out immediately. It looks like a cartoon depiction of surprise. She wheels around to walk off briskly – not panicked, but clearly wary.

    We finally reach the hotel – Serengeti Serena. We are so glad for those damp washcloths at the entrance. I can’t believe how dirty I am. We are all tired and achy and hot and dusty and cranky. The hotel is an appealing design, with individual huts. [pictures].

    There is another minor annoyance with our room. ‘H’ makes a point of telling us he is giving us a special 2nd floor room with a great view, but it is actually on the first floor looking into the brush. I’m not so offended by the room itself (most of our group has a similar room), but I just can’t figure out why he keeps making a point of telling me he is giving me the best room. The room itself is appealing but hot and stuffy. It makes it hard to sleep. At 4:30am I hear people rolling their luggage past our door. Maybe they are on their way to the balloon ride.

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    Photos in ‘Serengeti – central’ folder at:

    Day 15 – Oct 24

    We weren’t planning on asking for a room change – it is fine as it is (even though it is not the ‘best’), but ‘H’ wants to be helpful, and told us at breakfast that we are being moved, so we have to rush back to our cabin to repack so they can move us while we are on the game drive.

    The morning game drive starts slowly. For some reason, there is very little game near the lodge – you have to travel about 45 minutes until it gets interesting. Finally we start seeing a wonderful variety: dik diks, water buck, Maasai giraffe, impala, vervet monkey, warthogs, zebra, white backed vultures. We see a lion with what appears to be a broken leg. About 50 yards away vultures are eating something. We can’t tell if the lion already ate, or if he is hoping for vulture leftovers. We don’t see how in the world he can hunt with that leg.

    We see a maribou stork, and then silver-backed jackals chasing vultures off of a different kill. And another maribou stork, this one flying, looking for all the world like a hang glider. A banded mongoose, Topi, rock hyrax.

    Every morning, I tell Roman that I want to see a leopard, and every day he says “maybe – we’ll try”. I finally decide that the problem is that I’ve been asking in English, and perhaps the leopards only speak Swahili, so I practice my request until I can say “I’d really like to see a leopard” in Swahili. Half an hour later we come upon a gathering of vehicles, and see a tail dangling from a tree. Then we see a couple of legs also dangling down. Because of the many branches in the tree, it is really hard to see anything, even though it is close. I try looking out the side window, and standing up looking out the top, but a branch is always in the way. Finally I figure out a better angle crawling on the floor, so I can look under the branch instead. My travel companions ask what in the world I’m doing, but when I exclaim that I’m willing to crawl to see a leopard they all want to crawl too! I manage to see a bit of the rump and an ear. I’m wondering at what point it counts as a sighting! As the vehicles jockey for position on the road, sometimes the view is better, and sometimes worse. One of our party is impatient and wants to leave, but now we are hemmed in. I’m glad, because I just want to stay and watch. She fumes, and I keep my eyes trained on that dangling tail. Finally he stands up on the branch. [pictures] He is much bigger than I thought. I’m so glad we were ‘stuck’ here and couldn’t move! Suddenly the leopard leaps across to another branch. I try to photo him, but he is too quick – I succeed only in getting the landing shot: a rump and tail flying in the breeze, silhouetted against the sky. It’s amazing to see something that big jump that fast.

    Finally we move off, and continue viewing other game. We enjoy a large herd of elephants – 20 in one family. Then a cheetah hiding under a tree, followed by 4 cheetahs sitting under another tree. The tree is a little ways away, with tall grass in front, and we joke that our photo captions would have to be very specific: “This is the grass that is hiding the cheetahs”. Then we see two lions (a male and a female) under a tree. The lion has a rich red-gold mane. He gets up and walks over to another tree, grandly looks around and returns to the first tree, where the female is sprawled in an ungainly heap. Then another herd of elephants, ‘only’ 9 this time, including a 6 month old baby.

    We find a watering hole with oodles of zebras – about 30 are in the water, with others continuously walking in and out. At one point the approach and exit are so orderly it looks like people lining up to receive communion. The water is incredibly muddy. The zebras in the water are churning up the water and making lots of noise just by wading back and forth. Meanwhile some of the zebras on land are ‘barking’, and one is sort of hee-hawing, like a donkey.

    Then a family of elephants approaches, and the zebras fly in a panic [pictures], only to turn right around and go back into the water. The elephants drink at one end and the zebras at the other, as if there is a line drawn, separating them. Then we hear trumpeting and the zebras rush out again, with mad splashing and flailing and excitement. There is a second herd of elephants on the other bank. The zebras don’t want to be caught up in an elephant fight. One of the elephant herds backs off a little, and the zebras return. Every minute or two, one of the zebras panics and starts a stampede, and then they turn right around and come back. They don’t actually seem very smart. Often the ones galloping out pass the others already lined up to go back in. When the 2nd family of elephants finally enters the water, then all the zebras gallop off, in a flurry of muddy splashes.

    The second elephant family decides to eat the vegetation on the far side of the pond, and now they won’t let the first family out of the water. There is clearly some one-upsmanship going on. By the way, I’ve been calling this a pond, but apparently it is actually part of the Seronera River. The interplay between the zebras and the two elephant families continues.

    Afterwards, we see vervet monkeys, another lion under a tree on the left, and yet another under a tree on the right. I can’t believe that I’ve lost count of how many lions we’ve seen. I’m sleepy, achy, dusty, hungry, and am dealing with a sinus infection and a bit of a sore throat, but I definitely have my happy face on!

    We get back to the lodge for lunch. When we get our new key, we find out that our bags have not been moved, so I go back to reception again and ask them to have the bags moved, as well as the laundry hanging in the bathroom, while we’re at lunch. We’ve packed everything else, but I didn’t want to pack the laundry since it was wet. After lunch I ask at the desk if they’ve moved the bags – I’m not even sure which key I need at this point. They aren’t sure which key I need either. I start getting impatient – we still haven’t washed up after the game drive. They finally send a porter with us, and we find that the bags are in one room and the laundry is in the other room. So I collect the laundry and the porter leaves, and I think we are set. But then I find we have no hot water. I don’t mean it is lukewarm, I mean that nothing comes out of the tap at all. So I go back to reception. They explain that it is a generalized problem in the camp, not our room, and it will be fixed by dinner.

    The afternoon game drive is not as exciting. We see a yellow throated sandgrouse, Maasai giraffe, dik diks, Thompson’s gazelles, zebras, fiscal shrike, impala, and a hippo pool with a crocodile.

    We return from our afternoon game drive, only to find that we still have no hot water. We go to dinner grubby and sweaty and dirty, only to find that everyone else has showered – in hot water. So I guess it wasn’t a camp-wide problem after all. Our leader assures us he’ll speak to the management and have it fixed while we are at dinner. After dinner we are escorted to our cabin. I enter the bathroom and find no hot water still. I figure that my roommate (as patient as she is), will kill me if this isn’t fixed soon, since she has to rise at 4:15 for the balloon ride, and this is sort of my fault, since I commented on the room. Luckily I suddenly realize that the room has a phone (what a novelty!) so I call reception. Finally the guy comes and works on it and fixes it at around 10:30 at night. At last we are ready for our showers, however now we see that we are missing a washcloth, and have no hand towels at all. At home that would not be an issue, but here you really need something to wipe the dirt off with!

    I let my roommate shower first, and then I take mine. I’m hot and dusty and dirty and sweaty and smelly and cranky. But while I’m taking my wonderful hot shower I remember what a marvelous day we had. Who cares about these minor glitches when we had an incredible game drive!

    4:15 in the morning comes too soon. My roommate is really, really quiet getting up, but I still hear her alarm clock and the wakeup call. But I figure that it all comes out even, since she has treated me to an extra half hour sleep each morning. I fall back asleep, and then I get up at 6:15 to see the sunrise, since this room finally does have a nice view.

    This lodge is a bit inconsistent. The staff have the trademark Serena courtesy, but they are not very competent. I know that things can break even in the best run establishments, but it really shouldn’t take 3 separate requests to get something as basic as hot water fixed. Even in the dining room, a request for tea might take ½ hour, or might never happen at all. We did have our best game drive here, but it takes about 40-45 minutes to even get to the good game viewing area. Meanwhile, the huts are appealing, but are also stiflingly hot. I’m not sure what the other options are in this section of the Serengeti, but I would look into them.

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    You had a banner day for spotted cats in the Serengeti. To see a leopard, I'd lie on the floor too. I can't believe at least one of the people in the vehicle was getting impatient at the leopard sighting. I'm glad you got to see the whole body and not just the tail.

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    Ann, I’ve registered at Winkflash to see your pictures, but I can’t find the Amboseli, Ngorongoro and Serengeti folders. From what I’ve seen and read it looks like you had a really wonderful trip – only the delay in Arusha before Tarangire sounds a bit irritating. Thanks for sharing.
    Do you think you would have behaved a lot differently if you hadn’t read about Arielle? I’d say you’re genuinely un-Ariellelike.

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    Nyamera, thanks for pointing out that I forgot to share some of the photo folders. I've fixed that now. There are some really nice cheetah pictures in Ngorongoro, if I do say so myself!

    Yes, I've had a wonderful trip. I really do owe some of my enjoyment to Jenn/Arielle. One really does have to make a decision to enjoy the experience, instead of being distracted and upset by details that are not the same as at home. By nature I'm a worrier, so I really had to choose to not let little things get in the way. I'm ecstatic you don't think I sound like a problem! And I'm pleased to report that my roommate and I have been emailing each other since our trip, and have both been pleased with the experience.

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    Yes, the Ngorongoro cheetahs were really nice. I especially liked the pictures where they were up on the hill. Best of all were the topis in the Serengeti, but also the zebras interacting with elephants at the waterhole and the pictures were they panic. It’s interesting to see the Kajiado school and the dancing Maasai in Amboseli. There should be gerenuks in Amboseli, but I think your report is the first that have mentioned them. I’ll have to post something asking Fodorites where they’ve seen gerenuks.
    I’m looking forward to reading about the northern Serengeti.

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    I can't say that enough. Ann, your trip sounds like mine. The Ngorongoro Serena was a great hotel. My wife got a massage there also.

    I thught I was going to get attacked by those black kites.

    Now if they can just fix that road to enter and leave.

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    Well doggone it Ann, I am looking at some of your Serengeti lion pictures and wanting to yell out "That's him! That's him! Same male lion, same tree"

    waynehazle DOT com/eastafrica/serengeti/index.htm

    OK, I know the Serengeti is a big place with many lions and MANY trees ((a))

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    Nyamera, we actually saw the gerenuks just outside the gate, when entering Amboseli. One we are sure of, and the second one we were pretty sure but not positive (we didn't stop, so we couldn't get a good look. But there was a looong neck sticking out of a bush!).

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    Wayne, I just looked at some of your pictures. They are gorgeous. I love the leopard staring at you from the tree, as well as that dignified lion. By the way, imagestation has a great sale on huge prints. 16x20" for 7.49, and 20x30" for 9.99. I just got myself a BIG lion picture, and plan to scare all my friends. ;)

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    Photos in ‘Serengeti – north’ folder at:

    Day 17 – Oct 26

    Today the plan is to drive north as far as we can, to try to catch the edge of the migration. Normally we would go on a morning and afternoon game drive, but the plan changes so we stay out for the day, to cover more territory, and drive north towards the border.

    It is heartbreaking seeing the dry river bed. I know there has been a drought, and that this is the dry season, but somehow the dry river bed brings it home.

    A vulture catches Roman’s attention, and we take anther look. And hidden in the grass in the shadowed depths of the dry river lurk the lions, waiting for an unwary visitor to come naively looking for a drink. We can’t decide if we want to see this happen or not, but the situation doesn’t come up, so it’s not up to us anyway. So the vulture is waiting for the lion, and the lion is waiting for the wildebeest, and meanwhile we see the monkeys running away. At the beginning of my trip, I was surprised by how little the various animals seemed to interact with each other, but now I’m learning different things to look for, and there is more interplay than I noticed at first.

    We see zebras, wildebeest, Thompson’s gazelles, hartebeest, topi, grants gazelles. Then some male and female lions under a tree, with another male on a rock, all dozing and raising their heads occasionally to look around, and then falling back asleep, with sinking heads and drooping eyelids.

    Our boxed lunch today is an improvement from the previous ones. Thank you mbuzi mawe!

    After lunch the van ahead stops by a candelabra tree. We can’t figure out why they stopped – we’ve seen those trees before. But we have not seen a lion in a candelabra tree before. [pictures] I still can’t believe that the guide saw this –Even when I take a picture with the camera zoomed all the way (12x), there is a tiny patch of brown, but that’s it. How in the world he saw this while driving on those rough roads is a mystery.

    Finally we reach the edge of the migration, crossing the Grumeti river. We are at a distance, but can see the wildebeest climbing up the bank, and can hear their grunts. In addition, we also see dik dik, bushbucks, cape buffalo, giraffe, elands, warthogs, elephants, steinbuck, klipspringer, ostrich, hartebeest, and guinea fowl.
    As we approach the northern border between Kenya and Tanzania, the size and density of the herds increases – massive, endless herds of wildebeest, interrupted by zebras and buffalo herds. We continue until we get to the gate 10k from the border.

    As we turn back from the border we are surrounded by wildebeest. There are processions on either side of the road, and another parade up the hill, interspersed with zebra again. In any direction you look, you can see more and more. They seem endless. Earlier in the day they were clustered under the trees or just milling about. Now they are moving purposefully along, near the Golongonja River.

    The road here is not nearly as bumpy as the one in the Ngorogoro crater area, but we are traveling faster because of the distance, so the dust is impressive. One of our ladies politely confides that the advantage of having a mastectomy is that you only bounce on one side, and she wishes her sister were here, because as a double mastectomy survivor she wouldn’t bounce at all, so she could sit in the back seat all the time! She definitely wins the ‘when life gives you lemons make lemonade’ award.

    When we get back to camp, most people gravitate to showers, naps, drinks (or all three). A few of us eagerly try another walk. This time we end up with a woman whose private guide courteously includes us. I’m not used to having such an entourage, since we also have the camp staff and the guard. The guide (working for Roy’s) is a Maasai, who shares his personal experiences in a vivid and appealing way. We stop by a sodom’s apple bush, and he relates a story from his childhood. The children had to walk 10k to school, and one day one of the girls was complaining of a stomach ache. It got worse and worse until she couldn’t walk. They tried to carry her, but they were too little and it was too far.

    “She was crying, and we were crying too, because we didn’t know what to do. Then we encountered a group of warriors. They asked us what was wrong, and suddenly they disappeared. But they weren’t going away, they were looking for this plant--sodom’s apple. They pulled it up and took the outer layer from the root and forced her to eat it. In a little while, maybe 20 minutes, she was better. This I know, because I saw it.”

    We are all a little wistful over dinner – it is our last dinner together in Africa. I’m not ready for my trip to be over. In fact, most of us admit that we would enjoy staying on if our schedules (and money) permitted. A couple of people are clearly ready to go home, however. They are the ones who weren’t that interested in the trip themselves, but were accompanying someone else. I keep thinking: our last dinner; Our last night in a tent; Our last lion.

    Overall impressions of mbuzi mawe: this is a wonderful camp. The staff is excellent, the accommodations are terrific, and the food was very good. And of course the night sounds are amazing. ;)

    There were no more animals on my trip, but I’ll follow up with one more episode describing what a contrast it is to be in Arusha, and some final thoughts.

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    Sandi: yes! how did you know! I didn't totally catch the guide's name, but it sounded like what you wrote, and the woman's was definitely Elizabeth. She was willed with praise for Claiman, and we totally enjoyed our walk with him. Did you happen to help her plan her trip? She was ecstatic with the whole thing - absolutely glowing.

    Lynn: yes, I do have to admit that I may be one of those people who think I am going on my 'one and only' trip to Africa, who ends up returning. For time and money reasons, it won't be for quite a while, but I keep having thoughts pop up that begin "next time...". I'm even thinking about maybe possibly considering the concept of a trip that requires flying on a small plane. Since I'm afraid of flying even on a nice big jumbo jet, and I drag myself onto the plane mumbling the fine jet safety statistics under my breath, the very idea of a small plane has been inconceivable so far. But I did survive the 14 seater back to Arusha, as you will hear in my final post, so who knows what the future might bring.

    And yes, I can definitely imagine travelling with my roommate again. I don't remember whether I reported back to you guys that her tse tse fly bites did finally heal when she got home.

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    Hi Wayne, yes Mbuzi Mawe is a wonderful camp, and I'm glad you liked the sunset pictures -- I think I left off the whole story about our amazing sunset walk our first night in mbuzi mawe (the night before the 'sodoms apple' walk).

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    ann -

    Yes, I helped plan Elizabeth's trip. As soon as you mentioned a solo woman traveling with Roy's, just figured - same person, great guide. I Believe "purple" who posted back about a month ago, also had raves about Claiman.

    ... and bye the way, I'm enjoying your trip report very much. I find it so refreshing to read first-timers experiences in Africa. Haven't gotten to the photos yet, but will.

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    Oops -- I seem to have omitted the second-to-last day in my trip report. So here is our introduction to Mbuzi Mawe.


    Photos in ‘Serengeti – north’ folder at:

    Day 16 – Oct 25
    We go on a short game drive on the way to pick up the ballooners. Wildebeest, impala, warthogs, thompson’s gazelles, vervet monkey, maribou stork, olive baboons, and lions. A male and female wait under a tree while a second female investigates the vehicles. I can’t help but laugh as I realize that she’s too close to get a good picture. I lean way out of the hatch to try to get a better angle, and don’t realize until later that maybe it wasn’t too smart.

    We pick up the ballooners at the wilderness lodge. They are bubbling over with enthusiasm over their experience. I’m glad they had a great time, but I don’t regret not going – it would be too scary for me. At the lodge, the rocks are dramatic, and there is a comical sight because a rock hyrax has positioned himself at the base of a huge rock, and it looks as if he is holding the whole thing up [pictures]. We also stop at the little museum that has the wildebeest walk – a self-guided tour that explains the migration. There is also an opportunity to stay and watch a movie about the Serengeti, but as one of the guys says “I can watch movies after dark – now I want to see animals!

    And then on to another game drive on the way to our next camp. We go back to the Seronera river. The zebras are there again, still running in and out. Now we see hippos at the same time, but they don’t seem to bother the zebras. But a huge herd of buffalo approaches and the zebras run out and wait on the far bank. As we drive through the herd, we revise our estimate upward, from 500 to 1000. We see lots of topi, as well as elephants.

    We end up at the wonderful mbuzi mawe tented camp. Dennis asks if we can take a walk and I’m excited to join – I didn’t even know it was an option. The camp arranges it for us. We set out with Ivan and an armed guard. Ivan is actually a physician’s assistant, but does a fine job for us describing the trees and wildlife signs that we pass.

    He is deceptively casual when he points out the lion up on the rock. We’ve seen lions much closer, but now we are on foot, with nothing in between us, and it feels totally different. The lion is just a flash of tawny brown against the rock. “Are we ok here?” we ask. Both guard and guide are alert but unconcerned. But then the stakes mount – there are three little cubs! You can barely see them without binoculars. I’m torn between wishing we were much closer, and thinking we should be much farther away. The lion disappears, and I have visions of her circling around us. Ivan tries to be comforting. The last security guard who died was killed by a buffalo, not a lion. I’m not quite as reassured as I’m supposed to be. In actuality, we’re really very far away, but I just don’t have the experience to know what a safe distance is.

    In the middle of all this, we are experiencing a glorious sunset. I keep pivoting around to watch the sunset, and then back to see if I can still see the cubs. What an amazing walk!!!

    The tents are wonderful. Other than the fact that they have canvas walls, it seems quite a misnomer to call them a tent. Imagine two four poster beds (to hold the mosquito netting), 2 nightstands and lamps by each bed, a ceiling fan, desk, coffee table and 2 chairs. Let’s not forget the bathroom, accessible via a canvas zippered opening in the back: flush toilet, 2 sinks, and a solar heated shower, that was not just warm but truly hot.

    The food is very good, and is also nicely served. Luckily they got the baboon out of the dining room before we came to eat.

    My bed was comfortable, with a really warm blanket and lots of pillows. But I was roused several times by my roommate loudly snoring. She didn’t do this before. I wonder if she’s sick. It sounds quite odd and uncomfortable. At 6:15 I get my wake-up call – a friendly good morning, with a delivery of hot chocolate. I sti in my 4 poster bed, drinking hot chocolate, and think that I could get used to this.

    Day 17 – Oct 26
    Over breakfast everyone excitedly comments on the lions that roared all night. I suddenly realize that my poor roommate was innocent of those noises! Good thing I didn’t accuse her! And how amazing that a simple shift in perspective changes the situation from annoying to appealing and exciting. I’m pretty sure there is a philosophical principle to learn here, but I’m eager to get going on our game drive, so I defer philosophy until later.

    Today is our last game drive. I don’t feel as if I’m ‘done’ at all. I still have animals to see. I still have skies to appreciate. I’m even ready to breathe more dust and swat more flies, and eat more boxed lunches. Oh, and on the topic of flies, it’s been rather odd. I’ve had a few bites, but I’m basically not getting stung. What’s especially strange is that for my whole life I’m ALWAYS the one who gets stung. Whether it is mosquitoes, or black flies, or no—see-ums, or yellow-jackets, or wasps, they all make a bee-line (no pun intended) to me and bite, even when no one nearby is bothered. And this time it’s reversed. While it is true that I’m taking precautions, I’m still not sure why the bugs suddenly don’t like me. For 30 years I’ve refused to join my family in the Adirondacks because of the bugs and the long car drive, and yet here I am in Africa. This doesn’t make ANY sense to my friends or family, and I can’t really blame them.

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    You saw a lion and cubs on foot! That is amazing. You can certainly tackle the Adirondacks, insects and all, after that!

    You are so right about perspective with your comment on snoring vs. roaring.

    I know that "I'm not done yet" feeling. It surfaces at the end of each safari for me, even on the longer ones.

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    Photos in ‘Arusha’ folder at:

    Day 18 – Oct 27

    We meet in the parking lot to get in the land rovers for the last time. Ali, the other driver, gives a very simple but eloquent speech, thanking us for visiting, and reminding us that everything we spend helps the economy, and that most of the staff are supporting families who also benefit from our trip. It is somehow very honest and appealing.

    We arrive at the airport. YIKES! I don’t do small planes. That’s why I didn’t choose a trip with flights between camps. And yet here I am. Instead of tarmac, I see a dirt road, which is apparently the runway. What if a zebra wanders across at the wrong time? If a couple of geese can bring down a jet, what would a wildebeest do to a Cessna?

    There is actually not room for our trip leader with us on the plane, so he departs on a scheduled flight at 9, and the rest of us take the charter a little later. I need the gap in between to find a restroom, because I’ve finally ended up with a bit of a GI upset, and I’m needing hourly bathroom runs. Our plane arrives, and we wedge ourselves on it. There isn’t even a proper aisle between the seats, just a little slot. I find myself wondering what happens if someone tries to get on whose hips are too wide. Do they have to sit on the duffle bags in the back? I see a zipper above my head, and am momentarily disconcerted to think that the plane zips together, but then I realize it is only the lining. Once we take off, I stare at the instrument panel as if my concentration is somehow keeping the plane aloft. We pass ngorongoro and everyone leans over to look out the window. I try to look without leaning too close, subconsciously afraid I’ll tip the plane over. Luckily the plane and the pilot are oblivious to my silly fears.

    We land uneventfully, and find vans and drivers ready to take us to our day room at the Arusha hotel. The hotel has a lovely peaceful garden, but most people are eager to spend every last minute (and dollar) shopping. I prefer to stretch my legs and see a bit of the city, so our trip leader arranges for a hotel staff member to take me on a walk. Emanuel suggests going to the market, which sounds great to me, so we set off. I’m curious about his name, and ask him if it is from the Bible. “Yes”, he says. He is a Lutheran, it turns out.

    We stride down the street at a good pace. I’m so glad to have a chance to get my blood moving before the long flights home. When we arrive at the market it is hard to see how big it is, because there are multiple sections, and it is sort of like a maze within a maze. At first I wonder why I’m instantly recognizable as a foreigner, and then I realize that my white skin is immediately eye catching.

    Even though most of the vendors don’t really speak any English, they greet me with ‘hello, hello’. The excitement wanes as I murmur a ‘tafadhali’ as I squeeze by, or an ‘asante’ as they move aside. I would love to photograph it all, but I prefer to blend in (as much as I can with my white skin), rather than causing a commotion. Occasionally Emanuel tells me I can take a picture. I’m not sure why he stops at those particular spots, but it gives me a chance to take a few shots. I try to be quick and inconspicuous, and we move on, stepping over people and occasionally crossing ditches that are spanned by uneven wooden slabs.

    Some of the people are eagerly desperate. Some are hopelessly apathetic. Both are depressing, and make me feel vaguely guilty, simply for living in a situation with more privileges.

    The market has close packed rows, with vendors sitting in the narrow aisles. Boys rush up offering plastic bags to induce me to buy. Vegetables are piled high: tomatoes, carrots, bananas, beans, pineapples, coconuts, cassava. We turn a corner and are in the butcher section, where I see hunks of mysterious meat hanging in the dark, covered with flies. Emanuel identifies hunks of goat for me, and then something dark and shapeless, which is the stomach, which people buy because it is cheaper. I notice a faintly rotten scent and I’m glad when we move on to the next section: rows of plastic jugs of cooking oil; woven baskets in all sizes and shapes, some four or more feet across; containers of cheap colored plastic; huge flat wooden spoons (nothing like the intricate carvings in the curio shops). Then we are back in foodstuffs: grains, some identifiable like rice, some indistinguishable. Some of the grain is piled in huge pyramids – I wonder how you take any without causing a collapse of the structure. One pile is called millet, but it doesn’t look like the millet I’m familiar with – there are lots of little hairy fibrous tendrils. I wonder if that is the source of the awful bitter hot cereal I tried at one of the lodges. I see piles of herbs and spices, which intrigue me, but I don’t quite dare to buy any – it is clear that Western concepts of hygiene are non-existent here, and I don’t really want to bring home a souvenir that keeps giving in the wrong way.

    The odors change in each aisle – piles of tiny dried fish are less stinky than I expect, but still make their presence known. The fruit aisles are warmly aromatic, and the baskets and bowls have a clean woody scent.

    This is yet another face of Africa. We’ve seen luxury hotels, innumerable curio shops, dusty game reserves, and exotic native villages, but I suspect that the market represents the people who are not supported by the tourism industry. There are way more vendors than there are purchasers, so I wonder who ends up buying the products, or whether they simply sit there day after day.

    And finally it is time for a quick dinner, and our trip to the Kilimanjaro Airport. I re-pack, rolling my bottle amarulo in my inflatable seat cushion in the hopes that it will survive the trip in my duffle bag. Our group finds seats together and waits in the heat. Every time there is an announcement, we hope it will be time to board, but it is hard to understand what is being said. I’m amused that the chimes that sound to get people’s attention are tuned to the notes of an old western song, so I teach it to my travel mates:
    I’m going to leave old Texas now,
    They’ve got no use for the long horned cow.

    Finally we embark, and take off for our flight home. My mind keeps recalling miscellaneous thoughts of Africa: the schoolchildren with the brightly colored uniforms – but why do they wear those comical zebra socks? The intersections in Nairobi without stoplights – how does anyone know when it is their turn to go? The incontinent woman in the Maasai village – was this a complication of FGM? Is there any chance she’ll get surgery? Esau (my delightful guide at Gibb’s Farm), teaching me the Jambo song as we hiked; The lame zebra – will it’s leg heal before it turns into someone’s dinner? The lame lion – who has a better chance because apparently the rangers may actually arrange for veterinarian help for him; The crocodile who was so frustrated trying to eat that impala – did he finally manage to dismember it? Esther (my porter at Sweetwaters) saying “African women are STRONG!” And a small boy who was begging alongside the road – his sad face and pleading gesture haunts my thoughts.

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    Wonderful lingering thoughts of Africa. May they remain with you always. Glad you had a contrasting market experience to end your trip.

    Quite the unexpected final leg of your transportation! "I see a zipper above my head, and am momentarily disconcerted to think that the plane zips together..." :D

    I understand your concern about geese, but fortunately the wildebeest don't fly. Seriously, the geese thing hit (literally) a little too close to home for me on this last trip. In the first small plane we hit a bird on the upper section of the windshield. BAM!

    This is a great report and will be especially helpful for anyone planning an OAT Best of Kenya and Tanzania Trip.

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    The Thanksgiving holiday got in the way of my finishing your report, but now I have, and I wanted to thank you again for such a beautiful read. Adventures indeed! I hope you are able to return as soon as you like.

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    Hi, Ann - from another Ann newbie to this forum.
    I haven't got time to read it in full now, but am bookmarking for later.

    we are just thinking about a trip to South Africa next July - can u tell me why u picked East Africa above the South?

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    Leely, Patty, thanks for your kind words. I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

    Ann -- regarding why I picked East Africa rather than South Africa, my reasons may sound kind of silly, and might not make sense to someone else.

    I'm quite a timid person, and find that travel works best for me when I go on an organized tour. The highest ranked tour agencies are exorbitantly expensive, and I was too scared to try a firm I hadn't heard of, so I decided to travel with OAT since I had used them in the past, and they have a great value. As a single, it seemed way too complicated and/or expensive to construct my own tour.

    That being said, I probably would have chosen OAT's 'Ultimate Africa Tour', rather than Kenya and Tanzania, except I was too scared to take a trip with all those little planes. I will say that after experiencing the one small plane that my trip included, I was impressed by the simplicity of it -- no passports, no tickets, no check-in, no waiting.

    So basically, rather than having any sophisticated reasoning, it was mainly the least scary option for me! Now my secret is out.

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    I am just jumping in on this post today for the first time. Really enjoying your tales. We just went to Tanzania November 17-27th and had an amazing time. Just my husband and I with our guide from Sunny Safaris - wonderful.
    What is the tragic leopard story to which the one guy refers in response to your comments on Tarangire?
    Also, looked at some of your photos really quickly - you had in the some of the birds ones - what am I. You had a Sacred Ibis in Ngorongoro - white bird with black neck and long black curved bill; you also had a kori bustard there; at Taragire your one bird looked like a white headed buffalo weaver. Enjoying your blog - we would already love to be back there so I understand your "next time". Africa gets into the blood very quickly...

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    Have you given us any info about your trip? We are going to Tanzania with Sunny Safaris in a couple of months, and I would love to correspond with you about your experiences, and I'm sure the rest of the Fodorites would love to hear about your trip as well. If you are willing to discuss your trip with me off-board, please e-mail me at hguy47 at aol dot com. Thanks.

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    Hi Melanie,
    Thanks for the bird identifications. I have to admit I was kind of hoping someone would respond to my "who am I" titles, so I'm pleased it worked!

    I'm glad you enjoyed your trip!

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    Nyamera - thanks for the articles on the leopard killing - what a tradegy that the leopard had to die. I am not familiar with that lodge - we stayed at Tarangire Sopa which seemed to always have guards/askari around. I can't imagine why a six year old boy is walking alone when none of the lodges are enclosed in any way. What a sad thing for the parents, the lodges and the leopard.
    hguy47 - I sent you an e-mail with a quick overview of our trip with Sunny - loved everything about the whole trip and the lodges etc. all exceeded our expectations. The box lunches do get a bit rough but we had learned from a post before we left that other people might really appreciate that food so we packed everything we were not going to eat and it was always handed out. We did not really care because we were eating so much great food at breakfast that we were rarely hungry for lunch and it made us enjoy the dinner more.

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    Ann..... can't tell you how much I am enjoying your travel adventures...the hints were so helpful to me because, as I mentioned, we are totally new at this. But, I am determined to "go for it." Not too sure "my honey of 43 years" is as excited as I am..... we hope to do the Ultimate Africa Trip . with OAT.... still not sure what month would be the best.... thanks again... we have been out of town so I haven't been able to read the entire thing...but, I will be soon..... I will definitely be back in touch....

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    Hey Ann....

    This is Nancy...(ChaChi) and I have one question. You mentioned that your roomate had taken the Ultimate African Safari and loved it.... would it be possible for me to get her/his email address? I would love to talk to someone that has done that trip....

    thanks alot!!

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    bbm, we encountered some mosquitos, but actually there were fewer than I expected. The only time they were really annoying was when we arrived at the Amboseli Serena -- I think it just happened to be the exact time of day, at dusk. The lodges in mosquito areas all had mosquito netting around the beds, and I was never bothered by mosquitos when I slept. However, my travel was at the end of the dry season, so I probably was there at the time with the least mosquitos.

    Nancy, I'll forward your email to my roommate, and ask her to reply.

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    Ann.... this will show you how new I am with Fodors site... I wanted to ask Bo2642 a question but don't know how to get this to him/her. they said they were going to take the OAT Ultimate African Safari in you know, we are planning to go in 2008 and I'm trying hard to do my homework since this is all new to us. could you tell me how to get this message to Bo2642?
    thanks so much,

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    Welcome to the board! Being unfamiliar with Fodors is not why you can't figure out how to get ahold of Bo2642. You can't reach Bo because there is not a direct email. You could post a new message with Bo2624 in the title and hope s/he sees it and responds.

    I copied and pasted something from the past on OAT. Since Phernska has included her email, you could contact her directly.

    Author: phernska ([email protected])
    Date: 07/16/2004, 10:54 pm
    Hello Cherubuns....I am now a 50 year old solo traveler and your post caught my eye. In 2001 I went on the OAT Ultimate Africa trip to Botswana and Zimbabwe and had the time of my life. I am now planning a trip for 2005 and keep looking at the OAT trip you'll be going on this Fall. Would love to hear about it when you return. I'm considering a few other trips, but OAT's seems to be the most reasonably priced.

    Here is a thread that discusses OAT.

    You can read about many Southern Africa trips on StefR’s Index
    When you wish to post future questions, just start a new thread and keep all of your questions on that same thread.

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    Welcome to the board. Being unfamiliar with Fodors is not why you can't figure out how to get ahold of Bo2642. You can't reach Bo because there is not direct email. You could post a new message directed to Bo2624 and hope s/he sees it and responds.

    I copied and pasted something from the past on OAT. Since Phernska has included her email, you could contact her directly.
    Author: phernska ([email protected])
    Date: 07/16/2004, 10:54 pm
    Hello Cherubuns....I am now a 50 year old solo traveler and your post caught my eye. In 2001 I went on the OAT Ultimate Africa trip to Botswana and Zimbabwe and had the time of my life. I am now planning a trip for 2005 and keep looking at the OAT trip you'll be going on this Fall. Would love to hear about it when you return. I'm considering a few other trips, but OAT's seems to be the most reasonably priced.

    Here is a thread that discusses OAT.

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    Hi Ann,

    interested to hear that the Serengeti Serena was uncomfortably hot and sticky. We are planning to visit Tanzania in June. Do you know whether the time you went is the hot time of year or will the Serengeti Serena be a little hot and sticky all year round. Really enjoyed your trip report, very informative for first timers

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    Hi Seleucus,

    I believe that June will be a bit cooler (maybe about 10 degrees?), so being hot at night probably won't be such an issue for you. Since it's near the equator, there isn't a big difference between Summer and winter, but June is technically Winter. You might get a better answer from others who are more experienced than I am, who can tell you from experience how much cooler June is in Tanzania.

    I'm sure you will have a great trip in any event.

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    to avoid having to dry underwear (which, b/c of the humidity, didn't dry and nylon is "sticky") I bought disposable underwear. Wore and tossed for 11 days. What a great thing to have.

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    heck, you coulda worn them for another 11 days. Just turn them inside out and put'em back on !!!!
    regards - tom
    ps - one pair for 11 days, and I thought I was doing good to get 5 days on each side!!!

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    Kinda of reminds me, I went to my Doctor the other day and the nurse said she needed a urine and stool sample from me. So I took off and gave her my underwear.
    regards - tom
    ps -then I said "Doctor, watch my left arm, it hurts when I do that." He said, "Well, then don't do that".

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    Let's get back to Ann's Adventure in Africa, zip up planes

    So, Ann are you ready to do that Ultimate Africa trip now?

    Have so enjoyed your trip report,as prev. mentioned Ann.


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    Hi Thembi,

    So glad you enjoyed my trip report. I do have to admit that while I'm still awfully scared of small planes, at least I can now comprehend the idea of taking a trip that requires them. I'm not ready to go yet, but it could happen!

    And the zipper really did look as if it was zipping the plane together!

    I'm toying with Thailand for my next trip -- partially just because it's such a darn good value! It will be quite a while before I can save up enough to go to Africa again, but I'm sure I will at some point.

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    Hi Ann, although we are going on a different OAT trip (Safari Serengeti)-I have read your full and facinating report and the interesting comments on this thread with great excitement. We leave TOMORROW!! I cannot believe it is finally here. I share your feelings of being a timid person, hence choosing a "safer" trip with OAT. However, people tell me, and I can surely tell you--you are totally brave. Africa is not an easy trip and one does have to overcome a certain amount of sanity to willingly put oneself so close to wild animals-especially on foot! You've given me more courage to just go and enjoy-thanks. Sue

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