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Finally - My Trip Report - Tanzania & Kenya - May/June '05

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Hi Friends -

Finally, the Trip Report - it'll be in sections, so please bear with me.

The itinerary was:

Tanzania and Kenya – 2005

Thu, May 26 Lv. New York (JFK)
Fri, May 27 Arv. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (JRO)
- Ngurduto Lodge

Sat, May 28 Fly to Western Serengeti – Kirawira
Sun, May 29 Western Serengeti – Kirawira
Mon, May 30 Western Serengeti – Kirawira

Tue, May 31 Fly (via Arusha) to Zanzibar – Karafuu
Wed, Jun 1 Zanzibar – Karafuu
Thu, Jun 2 Stone Town, Zanzibar – Emerson & Green

Fri, Jun 3 Fly to Nairobi, Kenya - Intercontinental

Sat, Jun 4 Fly to Nanyuki, then Laikipia - Sabuk
Sun, Jun 5 Laikipia – Loisaba – Starbeds
Mon, Jun 6 Laikipia – Loisaba – Starbeds

Tue, Jun 7 Fly (via Nanyuki) to Masai Mara
- Cottars 1920s
Wed, Jun 8 Masai Mara – Cottars 1920s
Thu, Jun 9 Masai Mara – Elephant Pepper Camp
Fri, Jun 10 Masai Mara – Saruni Camp

Sat, Jun 11 Fly to NBO
Lv. NBO (via AMS)
Sun, Jun 12 Arv. New York (ERW)

Another year, another adventure. And what an adventure.

While earlier this year, I had planned this trip for both Henry and me… life happens, as does death. Just as I was getting prices for another trip to Africa – this time, East Africa – including Tanzania, which Henry hadn’t yet visited and some return time in Kenya – Henry passed.

Life takes a turn and things were hectic for all concerned. Once the necessary formalities of death were over, I made the decision to continue with these plans and asked Eileen if she’d like to join me. Eileen and I had traveled together to Egypt/Jordan and Southeast Asia… Thailand, Cambodia & Myanmar (Burma). She hadn’t been to Africa and had recently shown interest in doing so. So plans went forward.

The initial idea though wasn’t really mine. Susan had mentioned that Michael had surprised her with a ticket to Africa as a Christmas present. When telling me this, my mind starting contemplating “why not” – so why not? I wanted to visit the Southern route of Tanzania – Selous and Ruaha, Zanzibar and the Western Serengeti, hoping to get in on part of the Migration which often occurs here in late-May / June. And these were places Henry hadn’t seen on our previous trip to East Africa. I also wanted to experience the ranches in the Laikipia area which would have been new for both of us.

And with Susan having additional days in June, after Michael would return home from their Tanzania time, we figured she could then meet up with me in Kenya for time in the Masai Mara. In this instance, I would have told Henry he’d be heading home after our time in Laikipia, not join me in the Mara… he had previously been. It would be “just us girls.”.

The itinerary came together with flew glitches… in fact none. Without Henry whose schedule was open to whatever amount of time we would need… not so with Eileen. She didn’t have the liberty of three-full weeks. With the Selous and Ruaha still being closed at end-May (still the wet season)… Tanzania would be the Western Serengeti only and then off to Zanzibar, including a day in Stone Town. In Kenya, all the places in Laikipia were available, as were the camps in the Mara.

The only major difference from my other trips which were combine drive/fly – this time we’d be flying between major destinations. Even with flights, there would be plenty of road travel… I just wanted to reduce the amount of time on the roads, if not necessary. In total, we had seven (7) scheduled flights and two (2) charter flights. Interesting that the cost of all these flights amounted to more then our International air and on that we got a good price of $1,200 each.

So, here goes.

Day 1 - Thursday, May 26, 2005
Day 2 – Friday, May 27, 2005

Like old friends… again, the KLM flight to AMS, which I’ve taken often on previous trips to East Africa. This time, however, we’re flying into Tanzania first – to Kilimanjaro (JRO). Departing at 6:10pm (KL#642) we overnight into AMS arriving early the next morning 6:30am. Our layover is short as layovers go. At 9:45 we start boarding for our 10:30am continuing flight (KL#569) which got us into Kilimanjaro at 8:00pm.

Our flight out of JFK was on a Boeing 777 with a 3-3-3 configuration. We get two aisle seats (C&D) in the same row… no climbing over anyone and hopefully, no one climbing over us. The ongoing flight out of AMS was a Boeing 767 with 2-3-2 seating. Here we sat in A&B.

Between the two of us, we manage sleep on both legs of the trip. A vodka or two and a few pills do wonders for the sleep process. Surprisingly, the flights seemed rather quick… probably our anxiety to get to Africa. It’s the feeling one gets on the return, not wanting to go home, that makes that flight seem so much longer… and it’s not.

On arrival at JRO, we obtain our Visas on site. With application in hand, USD$50, we’re processed rather quickly… maybe 7-minutes, then out to baggage claim. Our driver is waiting outside – Adam, who whisks us off to the Ngurduto Lodge for our first night.

The Ngurduto Lodge is a few years old; the same owners as the Impala Hotel of Arusha. The lodge is on the outskirts of Arusha – a country club environment with golf course, large pool and conference/meeting facilities. Upon registering, we are taken to our room by golf cart right to the front door. The Chalet buildings are two-story, each containing about four suites. And the suites are more like a small apartment. There is a large bedroom with fireplace, comfy beds/mattresses and covers. There is a living room fairly large also with fireplace, sofa and chairs and a television. Between the two rooms is a sizeable bathroom with Jacuzzi tub and stall shower… hairdryer provided. Besides these “chalets” there is a regular hotel building.

We are exhausted, so we shower to remove the “eau de Boeing”… we’re in neverland none too soon. Tomorrow we have an early wakeup for our flight to the Western Serengeti.

Day 3 - Saturday, May 28, 2005

Early breakfast today, the sun is just over the horizon. Our pick-up is at 7am for an 8am flight from Arusha to Grumeti in the Western Serengeti – our first camp where we’ll be staying at the Serena Kirawira Camp.

We board a small plane with seating capacity for about 12… there is only half that number on board. On our way, we set down at Lake Manyara to pick up other passengers, then off to Grumeti. (from Grumeti the plane will head back to Seronera).

On arrival it is raining and I need the loo desperately… it was rather chilly aloft. I’m pointed to a hut across the field, which I have no intention of crossing/using… who knows what’s in that field/hut? So we hop into a Grumeti River Camp vehicle (this is strange as we’re staying at Kirawira and I know they have vehicles, but hey – “it’s got four wheels and hopefully going where I have to be”). We drive around a few bushes and there in the middle of nowhere is a hut with a full loo, running water, toilet paper and cloth towels – interesting. Then I realize this is the loo belonging to Grumeti River Camp. It’s right on the edge of their property… for clients who arrive here and “just can’t wait to get to the camp and their own tent facilities.”

That nature call taken care of, I’m back in the vehicle and assume we’re heading to Kirawira. However, we soon learn that the Grumeti River is running high and instead of crossing the river by vehicle, we come upon a suspension bridge that spans the river. Oh, No! This isn’t for me. I hate heights and didn’t do well on one of these years back. But what choice do I/we have? None, I guess.

To work up my own courage I suggest that Eileen cross first – hopefully once she’s over, I’ll be able to do so. Eileen sets her foot on the bridge and I’m behind her encouraging her to focus on the far shore… don’t look down, just take one step after the other. All of a sudden she exclaims that she’s stepping into “mushy” stuff. Hearing this comment, the guides mention that the baboons also use this bridge. She’s actually stepping into baboon poop! Oh, shit! Brave me, I still talk her thru and within no time she’s on the far side.

Now, I’m next. I suck it in and place my foot on the bridge, face forward, eyes on the far shore and place one foot after the next. Sure enough I’m stepping into the same poop! Dear Lord, “how dare you start my trip like this?” As I’m nearing the other shore, there’s Eileen taking a photo of the fear on my face. But I’m over and really proud of myself and Eileen as well. City Gals aren’t supposed to do this… but we did.

Good start.

Somehow, here we find a Kirawira vehicle with our guide and our luggage. How did the luggage get here? We didn’t see anyone carry our bags over the bridge. Damn them if they actually drove across the river. Time to rip into someone once we’re at the camp. But Eileen and I are hysterical with laughter, considering there were crocodiles in the muddy water below. We did it and survived, but our shoes have got to go right into the sink to be soaked, washed… and we have to shower off the muck!

We’re properly introduced to our guide, Eranst who drives us to Serena Kirawira Camp. We check in and are assigned Tent #10, “Swala-Impala,” – all tents have animal names. This tent is located down the hill from the public areas. As I remembered from a visit almost 8-years ago, the tent is a fair sized room with twin beds, plenty of closet and shelf space, a desk/dressing table, sufficient electrical outlets for hairdryer – though they provide one – charging batteries for cameras. There is a separate bathroom at the rear of the tent containing a shower and separate enclosed toilet, both little rooms are tiled.. There is one vanity containing a sink, another has a dressing table. There are lots of fluffy towels, including wash cloths, and, of course, bathrobes and slippers.

When checking in I had inquired about my friend Susan and her husband Michael who would be here for three-days having arrived a day earlier, and leaving a day before us. We were told that they were out for the full day. Ok, we’ll meet up tonight.

After tossing our shoes into the sink to clean off the baboon poop, freshening up, changing clothing, we head to the dining tent for lunch. Again, as I remember, the service was flawless with plenty of choices, but I can’t remember what I ate, except the best tomatoes ever… all was filling and hit the spot.

Finishing lunch I had a few minutes to speak with the resident manager especially about the adventure of crossing that suspension bridge and what we encountered. He was half smiling – making fun, or was it just plain funny – but he said we should just have everything we were wearing picked-up to be laundered. He said, they’d do all the laundry and have it back later in the afternoon.

My comment was – “and how will anything dry with so much rain still?” His response, “Sandi, just to remind you, Kirawira is a 5* Luxury camp… so we have a dryer.” What could I say to that? But I did ask, “and what kind of iron do you have? One of those that use hot coals?” To which he laughed and replied, “not that kind, but something called Rowenta and it spews steam.” Needless to say, I was in heaven. Eileen and I handed over every piece of clothing we wore and sure enough all was back later that evening, neatly ironed and folded. They even laundered a few pairs of “wears.”

Another thing we learned… Kirawira has their own gas pumps… located out back for the camp vehicles and those used by local outfitters. I remembered that on our first trip out across the Serengeti, we traveled with a few cans of petrol stored under the seats… It is a long drive and one wouldn’t want to get stuck out there with an empty tank.

On the way to the camp earlier, I had mentioned to Eranst that when last staying here we had our own guide, as we had driven here – his name was Carlos and at that time worked for Bushbucks Safaris. Sure enough, Eranst says that Carlos is here. And, sure enough, after lunch Carlos joins us in the public area… he’s not sure who I am, but does remember the women I had traveled with then – she was a tall 5’9” redhead… not easy to forget. But conversation ensues… I ask about his son, who is now in high school and we catch up on life these years since we last saw one another. It was rather nice renewing acquaintances.

The rain had stopped, but still cloudy and overcast. So out we go on an afternoon game drive. What surprises me is the high grass. Having previously only traveled in late November/early December the wildebeests, zebra and Tommies had eaten the grasses. So high grass was unusual and difficult to see animals that might be hidden in there. No problems seeing giraffe and we did see some.

Then I spot a female lion on the grass only about 5-ft from the road. She’s just sitting there, no reaction to us. We look about and see no sisters and wonder why she’s out there on her own. Eranst says that she’s probably got cubs nearby. I scan the area and the only place where I think cubs could be hidden seems to be a rather full bush across the road. But no, there’s a small clump of green weeds about 3-ft behind her… sure enough, two cubs. You could just about see their ears. We waited a bit to see if the mother would move or the cubs would become curious – no way.

So we were on our way. During our time out we did come upon vervet monkeys, baboons, impala.

We returned to camp by about 7pm.

After showering, washing and blowing my hair and dressing in clean clothing, we head to dinner. Arriving at the lounge, I see Susan and Michael and there are wonderful greetings all around. Susan and I have been email buddies for two- or more years and it was good to finally meet. Both of them were exactly how I expected. We all had a few drinks before heading into the dining tent. Dinner was excellent and as I had expected, the four of us were the last to leave… “closing the joint.”

A well deserved great sleep followed. I was in Africa and so far, Eileen seemed to be enjoying herself… even with having been introduced to the place by having to cross that bridge and the poop! As Carol Joyce Oats wrote “Play it as it lays!”

Day 4 – Sunday, May 29, 2005

Having learned from Eranst and Susan and Michael that the Wildebeest herds weren’t in the area, rather still in the Seronera, we chose not to go out on a “crack of dawn” game drive. In fact, Susan and Michael had spent yesterday in Seronera and said it was great. So our plan was to head that way for the day and also visit Mbalegati Camp which was on the way.

We had breakfast at 7am and departed camp by 8am. Mbalegati wasn’t too far from Kirawira, but where it’s only 6km from the road turn-off to Kirawira – once we got to the turn-off for Mbalegati, it’s 16km to the property. But trudge on we did. The roads were still wet as the rains hadn’t completely ended… quite a few muddy spots.

Arriving at Mbalegati, we immediately noticed that they have a lovely position overlooking the Serengeti plains. It kind of reminded me of the positioning of Ulasaba’s Rock Lodge at Sabi Sands in South Africa. Amazing views. The décor of the public space was lovely, with traditional African motif, swimming pool, lounge chairs – very warm and welcoming.

We were introduced to Charles, the Manager… a South African who is “breaking in” the place. Mbalegati had once been a semi-permanent camp, but no longer… certainly not with a permanent pool. There are 26 chalets, stone buildings. These are divided 12 each on the sunrise and sunset sides of the hill. There are also 2 suites (one a Presidential suite containing a flat screen TV and DVD player and other “toys.”) Not very African to me, but the premise here isn’t solely game drives.

Their registration area is a wide space and rather “cold.” There is also a lodge with individual rooms; while nicely furnished, they don’t compare to the individual chalets. The chalets themselves have hand embroidered cases on the bed/s, an adjacent separate sitting area and nice size bathroom. Let’s hope guests don’t steal the linens.

We spent about an hour here, thanked Charles for his time and headed on our way. On our way out of the property, Susan and Michael were arriving to do their “look see.”

Heading to Seronera we came across giraffe, baboons and lots of hippos in the Grumeti. The wildebeests were found in the woodlands around Seronera. We couldn’t tell the number, but we could sure hear them. The zebra we saw were few and not part of the thousands that should normally be moving with the wildebeests. All very strange… the animals seemed a bit confused with the wet grasses. But give them a week or two and I’m sure they’ll get it together and be on their way West and then into Kenya.

We later heard from Susan (when she met up with us in the Mara) that the majority of zebra and Tommies were actually in the open plains of the Southeastern Serengeti… duh! But we’re talking animals and I certainly can’t tell you what they’re thinking… why or why not what is expected isn’t.

Having taken a boxed lunch from Kirawira, we ate our lunch at the visitor’s center at Seronera. There were a number of other vehicles here, and I bumped into Carlos again. While Eileen went to the Open Air Museum the two of us were able to sit and chat… learned that he never did remarry – his wife, son’s mother had died in childbirth. So he’s a happy bachelor and a great guide doing what he does well and something he really enjoys. We exchanged email addresses and will try to keep in touch.

When Eileen returned, she mentioned that she couldn’t really get into the Open Air Museum as the area was roped off. A lion had some cubs up in the rocks and wasn’t too happy having people nearby. In fact, Eileen said that when she heard one growl from the lion, she couldn’t get back to the vehicle too soon.

It was a full day with stops on the way back – seeing a leopard in a tree (the photo is rather dark, but got one), stopped at the Grumeti River to watch the baboons, vultures and hoping to see some crocs… no luck on the latter. We were back to camp around 7pm.

Of course, the same routine… shower and change and up to the dining area. We meet Susan and Michael for cocktails and then sat down for another delicious meal. Not being a fish or seafood person, nor spicy foods… I stick with chicken and beef… but the beef wasn’t tender enough. Something I was to find all too often while in Tanzania. Other then the beef, everything else was excellent.

Again, it seems we’re going to close the joint… there are few guests remaining in the dining tent when all of a sudden we hear singing in Swahili.

Surprise, surprise! The chef and his assistants and the wait staff are bringing in a birthday cake. Now, who can this be for? Oh, it’s for Eileen who celebrated a birthday a few days before departing the States… I just didn’t have time to do anything special… so why not in Afree-kah!

Eileen is certainly surprised… and only two candles on the cake… how thoughtful. The cake was homemade, white cake with chocolate icing and red/white lettering. There was enough cake for everyone staying at the camp, but most had left… so we had it all to ourselves.

This was so much fun. And we’ll still have cake for dessert tomorrow night.

Day 5 – Monday, May 30, 2005

We have breakfast at 7:15am and then meet Susan and Michael to say our good-byes. They’re heading south for a stay at Nduto for two-nights, then to the Crater for one-night (at the Sopa). After, they’ll stop at the Farmhouse for one-night, ending at Tarangire Tree Tops for two-nights. That’s the plan. With the exception of being in the Western Serengeti, hoping to see the herds, they didn’t pick the stops based on best game viewing, or quality or property – rather, just to be in Afree-kah!

And it was later when we met up with Susan in the Mara that we learned about the herds of zebra and Tommies in the Southeastern Serengeti. Also, she had raves about Tree Tops.

We finally left the camp at 8:15am heading to Lake Victoria. Along the way we came across hyenas and vultures fighting over a kill. Who killed, I don’t know, but for a moment we thought the hyenas would give up, but they returned to take what they thought was theirs.

Right outside the Serengeti gate, we hit the loo… another of those hole-in-the-ground things – sorry, not for me; it’ll have to wait.

We drive about 10km to a local village along Speke Bay. The village is called JS’ Paradise and houses a community of Sukuma people. The Sukuma are the largest tribe in Tanzania, numbering about 4.5 million. Here, their primary source of income is fishing and offering visitors canoe trips on the lake and walk-thru of their community. The representative of the village was Joseph who was well spoken in English and handles these “cultural tours.”

The village is very poor, without electricity or running water. The housing is shoddy brick block homes… the bricks made by the occupants. The sand, straw and water bricks found throughout third-world communities. As expected, the children – lots of them, all ages – attached themselves to us. I had some bamboo bracelets that I had bought in Cambodia – maybe 20-40 of these and handled them out to the little girls. We gave party favors to the boys.

In the middle of the village we came across a group of women who were rather chatty… which was interesting and surprising. Between the two of us and Joseph, we all seemed to understand one another. Here I distributed some of the nail polish I had brought with the understanding that the women could share these amongst themselves. One woman was so excited she actually curtsied… I was taken aback, but that’s how they show appreciation.

Mostly we noticed the women did lots of the work… though the men may have been out fishing earlier in the morning. Now, most of the men were in a “bar” or playing cards. Many of the women plant their own gardens and sell vegetables to one another or at the market. Those tomatoes sure did look good.

What was evident is that this community and I’m sure others like this one, sorely need mosquito nets and insect repellent. Eileen and I left some money directly in Joseph’s hands to use for whatever purpose he felt best. Though I’m sure our small amount will make barely a dent.

Departing after a few hours, we head back toward the Western Serengeti gate. Along the road we see a nearby school with lots of children going to and fro, all in uniforms. This reminded me of the schools we saw on our very first safari – everywhere in Kenya with mostly boys attending, though I learned that girls had separate schools. But that was 10-years ago. Here we saw lots of girls at school. Glad to see this.

Arriving at the gate… this time I had to use the loo… there was no way I could hold out for 54km to Kirawira.

We’re back at Kirawira in about an hour, no animal sightings. We have a late lunch and Eileen schedules a massage. I plan to catch up on my journal notes and read and just relax for a few hours.

The masseuse brings the table soon after and is about to set up on the deck when the skies open. So indoors the table goes and on top Eileen gets. I had some entries for my journal and the light shower was nice and clean smelling so I stayed outside... when all of a sudden the skies go crazy and rain is pouring down in every which direction, there is no way I can remain out here. So inside I go, hit the bed and in no time I’m out cold.

Massage over and Eileen is feeling wonderful. “What hands she had!” is all Eileen could say… and just what she needed.

Earlier… while at lunch… we heard loud noises and saw more people then usual around the camp; we learned that a sizeable group had arrived when we were at Lake Victoria. When we arrived for cocktails, we could hear this group already in the rear dining tent… to themselves. It was strange just sitting at a table for two now that Susan and Michael were gone, but a table for two it was.

As we were enjoying birthday cake dessert, a couple from the large group passes us and I noticed the women had on a t-shirt, same as one I bought on one of my earlier trips. While I’m sure there are many like this shirt, this was the only other person on whom I ever saw it. The writing on it “dreaming and when I awoke I was in Africa” – so perfect. We learned this was a Tauck group from the States. It was an 8-day trip, staying at mostly Serena properties (except, I believe in Arusha… not sure where); traveling with a tour director. I wondered how much they paid for their tour and when I got home found out – too much! Believe it was almost $4K and that was without International air. Well, someone had to pay for the tour director… but why they needed one, is beyond me. Well, not the time to dwell on this, as it’s been discussed often here on Fodors.

Moving on… this group would also be leaving with us from the Grumeti airstrip. We said our good-nights.

Before heading to our tent – always with an askari escorting us (to/from with a torch and rifle), the camp manager advised us that the Grumeti was still flooded and we’d have to re-cross on “that suspension bridge” – not something either of us wanted to sleep on. But how else were we supposed to get out of there. Not that either of us wanted to leave, but our schedule was our schedule. My mind, however, went to the Tauck group and wondered whether they knew about this!! We’ll find out tomorrow morning.

... to be continued

  • Report Abuse

    Sandi, you beat Dick Snyder (barely!). I can't wait to get home from work tonight so that I can pore over both of these slooowwwly.

    I appreciate all the detail--feels like I'm there. And I'm eagerly waiting for the next installment.

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    It's so exciting when I log on and there are suddenly all these wonderful trip reports to pore over.

    Thanks Sandi - please don't make us wait too long for the next instalment.

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    What great reading! It's very much like being there! Especially since we were not that far away at the time!

    Sandi, I am perplexed by one thing - why did you have to cross a bridge to get to Seronera from Kirawira? Or were you using the CCAfrica vehicles and had to go to Grumeti for this?

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    Great report so far, can't wait to read the rest! :)

    How did you like putting Zanzibar in the middle of your trip rather than the beginning or end? I know most people usually choose one of the latter but I've been playing around with my itinerary and I like the idea of putting it in between the Mara and Serengeti for a little break.

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    safari274 -

    I put Zanzibar in the middle only because I have this "thing" about not backtracking. So since I was already in Tanzania - Zanzibar came before heading off to Kenya. Even if we had done Selous and/Ruaha (had they been open) we still would have done ZNZ before moving onto Kenya. Yes, of course, we could have done the coast (Mombasa or Zanzibar) at the conclusion... but zig-zagging isn't my idea of smooth transitions. Also, upon returning from ZNZ, we did a day in NBO before heading north. Both ZNZ and NBO were still hectic, but at least we had a few days of not bumping along the roads of these countries. It's just alternative routing.

    Climbhigh .....

    No, we didn't cross the Grumeti to get to Seronera (unless my writing/explanation was confusing... will check it again). As you know the Grumeti airstrip is on the Grumeti River Camp side of the river; Kirawira is on the other side. So we crossed the Grumeti on arrival, having been picked up by a Grumeti River vehicle and found the Kirawira vehicle on the other side. For our trip to Seronera, we drove on the roads from Kirawira - no river and... never to cross that bridge again - thankfully.

    RuthieC, nice to hear from you again.

    Everyone else - thanks for your comments. Will do my best to get the rest of this adventure to you as quickly as possible.

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    Part II

    Day 6 – Tuesday, May 31, 2005

    We finish our packing this morning before heading up to breakfast. I believe the two of us have accepted the fact that we have to cross that bridge again… and we’re prepared to do so. Not happy, but prepared.

    While eating breakfast, we learn from the manager that we won’t have to cross the bridge… that despite yesterday’s heavy rains, the river water had actually receded. With a deep sigh, we continue our breakfast.

    Saying our good-byes to everyone here, we’re in the vehicle at about 9am for a brief game drive on the way to the airstrip. The river water is indeed lower and we cross with no problem. The plane is already there, offloading crates/cartons of produce and other items for the camps in the area – Grumeti River, Kirawira and Mbalegeti. Another vehicle brought our luggage which the manager drove as he’d be transporting his crates back to the camp.

    We say more good-byes and board the plane. There is one other passenger onboard and I wonder where the Tauck group is. We’re ready to leave, but waiting for another passenger. Soon enough the last passenger arrives – and it’s Charles from Mbalegeti. He’s on his way to Arusha where there is a trade show taking place. We depart and land in Seronera to pick-up passengers. And here we see the Tauck folks waiting to board. Because of the high water level at the Grumeti and feeling this group wouldn’t all be able to manage crossing on the suspension bridge, they had a very early wake-up and breakfast and drove to Seronera. They boarded our plane and another that was brought in; our plane departed with a full load.

    Arriving in Arusha at about 11:45am, we are scheduled for a transfer to a Coastal Air flight departing at 12:30pm to Zanzibar. But first, I was to meet up with a friend who lives in Tanzania and had made our arrangement. Besides, she had a package for me to take back to the States and this was the only place we’d be able to connect.

    In the meantime, Eileen and I checked into Coastal Air and were told we’d be leaving in about 30-minutes. I go outside to look and/or wait for my friend, but she’s nowhere to be found… delayed, forgot? Before we know it, we’re asked to proceed through security which we do. We board our flight which is full. With a window seat, I’m checking to see if my friend has arrived, expecting her to come running on the runway yelling, “my friends are on the plane, I have to speak with them” – or whatever. But nothing!

    We taxi and are aloft at 12:15pm. So much for maintaining schedules. The flight to Zanzibar is about an hour – give or take… I wasn’t watching the time. Landing here – it’s sunny, hot and humid. There are but two luggage carts at Baggage Claim, so I leave the terminal to find our guide or driver; our guides comes in and takes our bags to the car. Traveling with duffle bags without wheels, we’re not about to carry these, even if they did weight in at just under 15Kg.

    Our guide is Tahib of Island Express and the first thing he mentions after the introductions all around – “Your friend missed you at the airport.” She arrived on time, as had been told by Coastal it was a 12:30pm departure. She arrived with a few minutes to spare… we knew it would be a brief meet…only to find out that “her” friends were already onboard and the plane was readying to take-off. She wasn’t a happy camper and I was rather disappointed. Oh, I’m sure it’ll all work out somehow.

    Though our vehicle was air conditioned, it is quite hot and humid in Zanzibar, so we did better with the windows open. The ride to get out onto the road that would take us to the northern tip of the Southeast coast took us through parts of town. Much as I had expected, not unlike many Caribbean islands. Depressed, but lots of people in the street, smiling faces… that’s all that matters. The scenery was rather interesting in some places once outside the town center – especially the ¾-miles of mango trees that cover (shade) the road. Passed thru Jozani Forest, but unless visiting you’re not permitted to stop. You can see Colobus monkeys in the nearby trees.

    The road was paved and pretty good until we got to the turn-off onto the road that takes you north along the Southeast coast. This was not paved and was rutted in many places. I have to guess this stretch was the longest in terms of time. Total time to get to Karafuu Resort was 1-1/2 hrs. Along this stretch of road, and the like, though in worse condition, the road along the Northeast coast – lots of hotels, resorts, cottages, bungalows – all for tourists. Some properties are exclusively for Italians (not unlike some places on the Seychelles). Along the way we passed Breezes, The Palms, Sultan’s Palace and more that we couldn’t see behind the greenery. But you could see the palm trees that line their beach all the way north.

    It was a relief to get out of the car at the hotel. What a sore bottom and ache in the back… thank goodness I brought plenty of “drugs” to get me through situations like this. We thanked Tahib and the driver… we’d see them again in two days for our return to Stone Town. For today and the next – R&R only.

    We check in and are taken to our cottage. Rather to the wrong cottage – one with a king size bed, when we specifically requested twins. A call to the desk gets this straightened out and we’re moved. At Karafuu, you find individual cottages. All seem to be the same, but depending on location – on the ocean (more expensive) or set a row or two behind, determines prices. These consist of a small house, about the size of a very large studio apartment in NYC. Each has a garden entry with a large wooden door that the area is known for. You enter a foyer where there is a built in luggage rack. To the left is a large walk-in closet with more then ample storage and hanging room. And adjacent to the closet a very large bathroom with two washbasins, large shower stall (can fit 4 people) plenty of floor space, a commode and a bidet…. and a hairdryer. But, surprisingly, bottled water is not provided. The lighting, however, could use some improvement.

    Walking right from the foyer down a hallway about 15’ you reach the sleeping area… another very large room containing a king or twin beds, also a daybed (for a child or third adult… there’s enough room for a second daybed, if needed.) The floor is made up of ”paver” stones with an area rug. Doors lead from this room to a small low-walled enclosure/terrace with chairs and table – not fancy, but functional.

    Probably because of the heat, the color scheme here is warm in browns, beige and white against light taupe walls… but is actually rather drab. I’d much prefer bright with blue, yellow and green against off-white walls. And the lighting can be improved. Whether it’s the wattage of the bulbs I can’t say. And even though I don’t like bright lights… some improvement in this area would be nice. But the best thing here – air conditioning and the ceiling fan. Surprisingly, not many properties on Zanzibar have air conditioning, especially the smaller properties – with “cottages” “bungalows” etc. in their names. While some people are fine with the ceiling fans, we knew we wouldn’t be sleeping well without the air conditioning. So if hot and humid is an issue – be sure to inquire about both fans and air conditioning.

    Eileen can’t wait to get to the beach and she’s out as soon as she' in her swimsuit... with towel in hand, she's gone. I hit the shower which is wonderful and while at it wash the hair and blow it dry. We had some bottles of wine (from KLM, our own supply), so I pour a drink and relax outside. When Eileen returns, she joins me for a drink and we realize this has been the first time we could actually relax. How wonderful. We almost don’t want to leave that terrace even if it is hot, but the mossies are attacking. No problem with mossies on the mainland, but here, it’s to be expected. My ankles must have been an entre to these criters.

    Inside we spray all exposed skin and head for dinner. Naturally, service is buffet… what I detest, but if I want to eat, gotta serve myself. Admittedly, I’m a snob when it comes to “eating out” – restaurants, hotels or resorts – if I want to serve myself, I could stay at home.

    What is immediately obvious is that there are mostly honeymooners… which I expected. And other guests of a “certain age” as well. No children that we could tell. But, we’re the only Americans. I knew that Karafuu catered to mostly Europeans… the reason I selected it. With few exception though, everyone spoke English – some fluently, others less so – but there were no communication problems. The staff had a pretty good command of English, so this was good.

    Dinner was okay – sufficing in the nourishment area, especially the salads and those tomatoes. The shrimp they were preparing looked beautiful to me (not a fish or seafood eater), but Eileen said they were overcooked. Pasta’s were pretty good, as were the desserts… what else does one need?

    Tomorrow we’re going to have a full day of sun and quiet.

    Day 7 – June 1, 2005

    It’s a pleasure to get up when your body tells you… and yet it’s still early… but no game drive. In fact, we don’t have to do anything or be anywhere (except for breakfast before 10:30am). And that’s where we’re off for – food.

    Breakfast is also buffet… but I deal better with this earlier in the day then for dinner. The eggs are fine, as are those tomatoes. The croissants and petite pasties were outstanding.

    Finished, we’re off to the pool. From what Eileen explained upon returning from the beach yesterday… at low-tide the beach is full of seaweed, so to get to the ocean the hotel has provided a boardwalk out as far as low-tide takes it. The infinity pool (with pool bar) is a better choice. But shortly after we get comfy on a lounge it starts to drizzle. No problem… we stay awhile until the drizzle becomes a shower. Off to the bar – hey, the yardarm is up somewhere in the world, so why not? But at that hour it was only a Coke Lite.

    The rain is over almost as soon as it started… one of those passing black clouds. So we’re back at the pool and set for the day. While hot and humid, the breeze here is just perfect. We have no problem spending the remainder of the day laying out like dead fish! The honeymooners are delightful and in the pool there’s conversation in every language – including broken English, Italian, French and whatever else; no one has any problem understanding one another, especially since everyone uses their hands… the international language!

    Later in the afternoon we have a conversation with a honeymoon couple from Amsterdam who had before arriving here had been on safari. They loved their safari experience… and why shouldn’t they have… now spending a week on Zanzibar

    When we return for dinner at about 8pm, we notice that there is no one at the restaurant – indoors where food was set last evening or at the outside dining area? What’s going on? Images of the Twilight Zone! The only people left on earth, at minimum at Karafuu! A plague? Who knows? So, we go to Reception and learn that the hotel is having a themed night –
    a Masai Village dinner; if we’d read the bulletin board, we would have known…. So told to follow the lanterns to this area. And sure enough, there are stone tables with seats set around a dance area… at the far end are buffet tables (again) with plenty of food. Naturally, Eileen goes to check the offerings – for a little person, I’m amazed at her affinity for food; a healthy appetite… tasting everything – good for her. At the buffet she finds a roasted whole baby lamb. Needless to say, she’s probably never going to eat lamp chops again. A chop is one thing, but the whole lamb… something else.

    The first food we devour are those tomatoes prepared with mozzarella slices and outstanding Balsamic vinegar. We do justice to everything else, except the baby lamb. While eating dessert, a large group of French folks arrive and are set up at tables on the far side of the dance area… and closer to the food. Seems like a full house tonight… but with only about 80 cottages, I’m sure there were still many not occupied.

    Since we didn’t read the notice on the bulletin board and didn’t know about the dancers, we were sorry hat we didn’t bring out cameras. But we did notice that the Dutch honeymooners had theirs… so asked if they’d be good enough to send us these pictures. Nicole and Patrick did and are included in our photo album.

    We stayed for most of the dancing, but having spent a full day in the sun and checking out tomorrow morning, we call it a night… back to repack and sleep.

    ... to be continued

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    Part III

    (tried posting Days 5 - 9 at one time, but Fodor's wouldn't accept... maybe file too large... so I'll post by day and see how that goes)

    Day 8 – June 2, 2005

    After breakfast we settle out hotel bill which doesn’t amount to but $30, including a few bottles of water.

    Tahib is at the hotel by 10am and we’re reading to drive into Stone Town for the day. With my drugs, I feel no pain. When we arrive in Stone Town, we immediately head to Emerson & Green to check-in and leave our luggage. The driver parks in a small lot near the outside wall of Stone Town. From here, it’s about a three-block walk to Emerson & Green. We do not take our own bags; the hotel sends their porters to pick them up from the car. Upon arrival we check-in, but our room isn’t ready. So we leave our bags and head out for a day of sightseeing.

    On our ride into Stone Town, Tahib mentions that my friend had sent the items she had for me on yesterday’s afternoon flight. They were already in the car… I could take them home with me. Nice of her, except this package is over the weight limit for internal flights… we’ll have to find a way to ship this back to the States.

    The first stop is the former Slave Market and the nearby Catholic Church. People have to remember that everyone participated in the slave trade and this occurred throughout Africa, by blacks selling blacks, whites buying from blacks and coloreds involved as well – from every coast to all areas of the world.

    It doesn’t take us long to realize that we need more water then we brought with us… and we pick up a few bottles of frozen water which we hope will last longer – they do, but not by much.

    Then off to the public market, where everyone shops. It was amazing to see green lemons, very tiny green limes, lots of different apples, bananas; interesting to see how oranges are peeled for sale with the rind left on so the fruit doesn’t dry out. The guys who do this are “fast fingers” – great performance and good juicy oranges. There were lots of spices to smell and packages to buy… we did. We passed on visiting the butcher where meat is displayed raw and not a piece of ice or refrigeration to be found… I’d become a vegetarian in a New York minute. The same for the fish monger – no ice. Oh, please people – someone has got to get ill! Tahib says that some might and probably do, but the blame likely goes to something other then the meat or fish. I don’t know and don’t want to find out.

    For those women who are not wearing the traditional kangas over their skirts – seen in Tanzania and Kenya, the other women (Muslim) are covered in black. It’s not called a “chador” but another name (I can’t recall) and wonder why in this heat they’re not covered in “white?” But on closer look, I notice that many of these coverings are very pretty… some with scalloped edges, eyelets, even pearls and dainty sequins. And underneath, the women are wearing western clothing. Many of the women cover their head, but not so the young woman. It’s amazing to see just how beautiful these women are. But customs are customs…

    And I want one of these cover-up. Well, not exactly, but I’d love to find a Panjab – those long tunic tops over pants – seen in India and/or Pakistan. Tahib promises he’ll find a shop where I can buy one. In the meantime, we’re on a side street where locals shop and there are lots of kangas with great designs and colors; also great pashmina-type scarves which are great gifts. I received one of the latter from a friend who
    recently returned from Libya and happened to be wearing it that day as a wrap-around belt. Eileen made a few purchases, but hesitated on the kangas as the “sayings” written on these in Swahili should have meaning for the wearer… and who would be the wearer. Besides, the fabrics shown were rather stiff, still with the sizing used in the manufacturing process. They wouldn’t be soft until the first washing.

    We now find ourselves at the Dhow Palace Hotel located on one of the inner streets of Stone Town; we ask to go inside and check out the place. Learning from the manager that they are still closed… to open mid-June, the rooms aren’t yet made up… but we’re allowed to see what we wish. The hotel is built around a center court with wide landings where the rooms are situated. Ceiling fans and great breezes circulate here and it’s quite comfortable. From what we could tell, the furnishings are similar to those at Emerson & Green (these we didn’t see until later in the day). Made from heavy dark wood, many from old dhow boats; antique chests, wardrobes. The rooms are air conditioned. There is a recent addition of a swimming pool. We thanked the manager and were on our way.

    Next, shopping - I wanted a Panjab, so Tahib walked us to a lovely store “Memories of Zanzibar” with A/C and I was in heaven. The saleswoman was very helpful and found a few items for consideration. Problem, I was so wet from the humidity, it was embarrassing to even think to try on anything. So I stood under the A/C till I was dry. I found just what I wanted for a top in the finest cotton and the price was right… but we couldn’t find matching pants. In the end… no sale, no Panjab. I guess when I get back to NYC, I'll just have to give in and get on the No.7 train which runs thru the borough of Queens - here each stop on this line is another Asian community - Korean, Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, etc. I'm sure to find a Panjab, a larger selection and even a better price.

    In the meantime, Eileen was at the jewelry display and found some amazing necklaces – unique and definitely won’t be seen elsewhere. Choices, choices… but decisions were made. I even found one for myself and again, it won’t be seen on anyone else. While paying for our items, I noticed that the owner had henna on her hand and I asked about having mine done. She immediately asked if we were visiting for the wedding taking place that evening? Wedding? Whose? Well, an American girl was getting married and she assumed we were guests. Henna is often done for weddings – on hands and feet. No we weren’t guests, but it was interesting to learn about the wedding.

    By this time, it was probably 1:30 or 2pm and time for lunch. We had a number of choices – fish at a shore restaurant – not! Others, but most were outdoor restaurants – not! But Emerson & Green did have a restaurant at the hotel with air conditioning, so that’s where we headed. We asked Tahib and the driver to join us, but they declined.

    The menu at Kidude Café was limited, but they did have pizza, hummus, pita and other Middle Eastern-type food. Eileen ordered the hummus and I the pizza… the hummus was terrible, but then we’re spoiled as Eileen’s brother-in-law makes the best hummus. So instead we dug into the Margarita Pizza which has some strange spices on top. Thought Margarita was just cheese and sauce… guess not so, here. But it was cool indoors, so we lingered over this and my Coke Lite. Once finished, we went into the hotel and got ourselves settled in our room – The Crystal Room. Very big. The porter was quite pleasant and gave us a tour of the buildings and we got to see many of the interiors of the rooms (and took photos). E&G is quite interesting, but not quite what I had expected. The décor was certainly different… but went with the atmosphere of Zanzibar and its’ history. The dark heavy wood didn’t sit well with me. However, it was nice to see what can be done when you have a good imagination. Besides, there were lots of antique pieces… this I liked. What didn’t thrill me… insufficient light in the bathroom or vanity table in order to put on make-up… and this light situation (or lack of) was at just about every place we stayed. I can well do without make-up, but give me sufficient light for a touch of shadow, lipstick and mascara without someone when looking at me, saying “didn’t the girl check the mirror before leaving home.” A mascara wand in the eyes is not the way I like to start my day.

    We finally left the hotel and met Tahib to continue our adventures in Stone Town. I still had that package that I wanted to ship back to the States, so we went looking for the post office or a FedEx-type shipping company. First stop - the post office, but this local branch didn’t do International shipping, so we were directed to the main branch (which we were told was air conditioned - whoopie!). A short drive and inside the building which was empty except for us… and sure enough, though only 5.5Kg, the cost to ship was about $80. I don’t think so. So we drove to a DHL office… here it would cost about $110. Guess I’ll just have to pack it in my folding bag and take it with me as checked baggage on our homebound trip.

    Leaving the DHL office - across the street from the Serena Inn… next door was a relatively new hotel – Beit al Chai – or the Tea House. A non-descript building; you’d never know it was a hotel… I didn’t even see a sign. But we entered and asked to see the rooms. There are only six (6) rooms here and though the manager had no problem showing them to us… she did tell us we couldn’t take photos. Fine! The guests staying here were some of those attending “the wedding” and were all out and probably enjoying the nuptials.

    The rooms were of decent size, some fairly large and decorated very much like those at Emerson & Green – similar, but not as ornate. Color cement floors with area rugs, large beds, plenty of closet space… interesting bathrooms. All rooms were ample for a comfortable stay. As would be expected, luggage was askew everywhere and the rooms were far from made-up… you needed a good imagination. The hallways on each floor were wide; there was a sitting room on the main level which also serves as their breakfast room – the only meal they provide. This hotel is owned by the same guy who owns The Blue Bay on the Northeast coast, which I heard from a number of people, gets excellent reviews.

    Leaving Beit al Chai, we could have, but didn’t, go across to see the Serena Inn, which I believe is probably the most comfortable and western in style of the accommodations in Stone Town, with rates to match. Even though a small property with about 50 room, still the largest of the five well known hotels – Serena Inn, Emerson & Green, Dhow Palace, Tembo House and Beit al Chai.

    So we headed over to Tembo House which has a nice circular driveway which is amazing with such limited space in this "dolma" (stuffed - the Turkish term used for shared taxis in that country) of a town. Tembo House is located right on the beach… and was actually my favorite. Again, the rooms are decorated in a similar style as those at E&G, not as ornate, but perfect for a stay. All rooms are air conditioned. Again, no elevators, but only three floors; the hallways are easy to navigate. The hotel seemed to be pretty much occupied (remember, Dhow Palace hadn’t opened for the season) and is the sister property to the Dhow Palace. Neither of these hotels serves liquor in the Muslim tradition. A pool is a recent addition in the center of the property; also a new wing which brings the total number of rooms to about 36. The room we visited was for a “family” as the crib indicated.

    Leaving here, we remembered seeing an Internet Café on one of the hearby streets and asked to stop there – Eileen wanted to check her mail - I didn't care about mail or phone calls or anything to "connect me" as I was on vacation. We drove the few blocks and admit it would be hard to resist... the price was only 500Tsh (about $0.50) for 1-hour versus what most hotels were charging $5 for 10-minutes. We spent about 20-minutes and then met up with Tahib.

    The hour was getting late and there was more to see, but we had dinner reservations at E&G, the Tower Top Restaurant. It’s best to arrive as the sun is setting, so Tahib returned us to the hotel and we said our good-byes. He would not be driving us to the airport next morning… too early.

    After showering and dressing for dinner, we got ready to walk upstairs to the restaurant. The staircase happened to be right outside of our room (hadn’t noticed it earlier as it was blocked… breakfast and dinner the only meals served here)… and as in most old building, the stairs are very steep. I always wondered why at a time (even back to the Romans and the coliseums they built) when people were shorter then we are these days… the steps were so steep. But we made it upstairs and it was lovely.

    The sun was setting and the view over the town was amazing - TV antennas, satellite dishes, children being bathed, young woman washing their hair - life going on all around us. There were a few diners already seated and while we were about to take seats in one area (seemed one could sit wherever) one of the waiters directed us to another place. Apparently, the restaurant was expecting a large group from the Serena and the area was being held for them. This was fine with us and the young couple sitting on the cushions where we were directed welcomed us to join them. Yes, and why not - dining is on floor cushions with low tables… very informal. So we plopped down and hoped we’d be able to get up at the conclusion of the meal.

    This is where we, again, realized that the world is really a very small place. The young woman (Desiree) and ooung man (Sia) introduced themselves, and we did likewise. Also sitting at a regular table (there were two) right behind them in a small terrace around the main room – her parents – Terry and Jack from Austin, Texas. Hellos done with, we learned that Sia had just finished an internship with the UN working on the Rwanda Prosecution that is being held in Arusha. Hearing this, I mentioned that I knew of a young man who had just arrived to begin his internship… sure enough Sia knew Daniel. I had referred to him as Danny as that is what his mother Sharon calls him. Sharon who is “sharon815” that I met online at Fodor’s Africa/Middle East Board… and who I assisted with her plans to visit Kenya and Tanzania, at the end of July. This is when Danny would be finished with his internship and join his folks for 2-1/2 weeks of safari in Kenya & Tanzania and beach-time in Zanzibar. Sharon and I have tried, without success, to get together before they leave on their trip… and hope to do so before they eventually fly-off.

    Needless to say, this was the perfect place to be seated, with absolutely fun people. We all had so many things in common and there were lots of laughs and plenty of elbow bending.

    The meal – as a non-fish person, my choice was their beef dish, though everything else was brought out as hors d’ouvres and served family style. Wine flowed and was pretty good, not great. I stuck with the vodka, but they didn’t have Absolut; Smirnoff had to do. As expected the food was a bit spicy for my taste, but edible. However, the beef just wasn’t tender. For that matter, none of the beef in Tanzania was tender… even at Kirawira, and certainly not at Karafuu. But we were having such a good time… the food almost became an after-thought.

    By 10pm, aware that we had an early wake-up next morning; the others were also heading out for safari on the mainland – goodbyes were exchanged - we headed downstairs to pack and get to sleep. But first I went down to the desk to close out our bill. And I did mention that the beef was a disappointment and in need of improvement… like “did you folks ever hear of Texas, Argentina, Australia, Kobe?” I don’t know from where they buy their beef, but they’ve got to find another source. This didn’t, however, get me a free meal… which was only about $25, plus our drinks. Really a bargain for a great evening!

    Back up the stairs and entering our room – kind of reminded me of entering an ancient castle with the bolts, chain locks and raised door saddles – were we captives? White slavery came to mind which brought howls from Eileen when we thought abot the entrance to our room!

    A shower and off to bed… under a sheet only with the air conditioning on high as it was so humid even at this late hour.

    Tomorrow, we’re off to Nairobi, Kenya

    ... to be continued

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    Part IV

    Day 9 – June 3, 2005

    We had an early wake-up today, as our flight departs at 7:30am. Arrangements had been made for our breakfast to be delivered to our room – juice, coffee, croissants – and we were set for another day.

    Our pick-up was at 6:15am by a different driver then yesterday. We were at the airport within 15-minutes. Check-in was a non-event as was boarding. Because we were scheduled on an International flight, there was a departure fee, payable at Zanzibar in the amount of USD$25 (for internal Tanzania flights, it’s a USD$10 departure fee). All paid, we boarded a Precision Air plane with capacity for about 40, but only 25 passengers. We were airborne right on schedule.

    The flight was about 1-1/2 hours. The best part of this flight was flying directly over Kilimanjaro – amazing. Arriving in Nairobi, with completed Visa application in-hand and $50, we were second on line at the counter. As soon as this was done, we went to baggage claim and found our guide waiting for us.

    A guide/driver and vehicle had been provided for us for the day and this was John who met us. With him, was our friend Joyce who had arranged everything. After all the hellos, we were off to the Intercontinental Hotel… maybe a 25-minute drive with morning Nairobi traffic. At the hotel, all vehicles are checked with mirrors underneath, trunk open – before permitted to enter the property. While we checked-in and got settled in our room, John waited our return… we had a full day ahead of us.

    The Intercontinental is a westernstyle hotel and very much so a businessman’s hotel. Most guests, other then safari guests were in business clothing. Our room was standard, but large, with potable water (their own purification system), hairdryer, TV, internet connections, etc. On each floor you’re greeted by a security guard who watches the comings and goings and for anyone who doesn’t belong.

    Back downstairs, into the van and we’re off to the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. Joyce had gone back to work, but would meet us for lunch. Believe it or not, in all my visits to Nairobi, I’ve just never had time to visit here. And this being Eileen’s first trip to Africa, we were going all out. By 11am we were at Sheldrick, but I didn’t have Kenyan Shillings… never thought to convert money as we hadn't in Tanzania and I’ve never done so before when visting Kenya. However, seems, these days, Kenya Shillings are preferred for admittance fees. John was nice enough to lay out whatever we’d need… I’d straighten out with him at the end of the day.

    The Ellees and lone baby Rhino were great. The woman who gave the presentations “everything you ever wanted to know” about the Orphanage, the Ellees and Rhino – was outstanding and very knowledgeable. There was a sizeable crowd, about 50 people… a few tour groups (we saw their vehicles in the lot) otherwise, ones and twos and threes. Everyone was enjoying tremendously. There were also a few school groups visiting. This visit was the best and I was so glad I finally made the time. We took so many photos as my photo link shows.

    From here, at about 11:45 we headed to the Giraffe Center, also nearby in the Karen district, a suburb (high-end) of Nairobi… all homes/estates surrounded by high walls, gates, security systems… some even with guards. At Giraffe Center, like at Sheldrick, everyone has a great time. As many times as I’ve been, I’ve enjoyed. The upper viewing/feeding platform was closed, so everyone was on the ground level. Also, lots of school groups of all ages from 1st grade to teenagers. And, the tourists, naturally. It’s a hoot to see people’s faces as they feed the pellets to the giraffes and their long tongues reaching for your hand that hold “goodies.”

    Now coming upon 1pm, we called Joyce who said she’d meet us at The Carnivore and we headed over that way... also is in the Karen area - all of these close to the Wilson (domestic) airport. How Joyce got to the restaurant (from downtown NBO) before us, I don’t know… we were actually closer from the Giraffe Center. Anyway, we asked John to join us… and were escorted to a table in the garden, which is really nice. Even though a Friday, by the time we arrived, most diners (tour groups) were gone… except for another table, we were the only guests.

    We started with a drink… don’t know what it’s called, but combines vodka, honey and lime/lime juice… potent. Since Joyce had to return to work and John was driving and it didn’t appeal to Eileen, I was the guinea pig. Not bad… different.

    Then the food began to arrive… first were BBQ mini ribs – mouthwatering and outstanding; then wildebeest, camel, crocodile, impala – all tender and delicious; I lost track after each was presented, but did ask for more of the ribs… which were really really good. Tanzania should take a lesson as regards the quality of the meat; everything was perfect and so many offerings. To finish our meal, we had ice cream.

    Joyce had to return to work, but said she’d see us when we returned from the Mara the following week. Then we were off again with John. Next stop was the Karen Blixen Museum. I’ve been before, so waited while Eileen went in for the brief tour. This is such a peaceful property… quiet in the bustling city.

    From here we went to Utamandani, which I recalled from our very first trip and remembered I didn’t like it then – too expensive, so didn’t know why we were here again. We left almost immediately. Instead we went to Kazuri Beads and were in heaven. The variety and quality of beaded jewelry is excellent, as are the prices. There is so much to choose from, I was at a loss and walked out empty handed… but Eileen did buy two necklaces for her nieces. While she was doing this, I went next door to the factory and found this most interesting. From beginning to end you follow the process from design to how the beads are created, painted, heated, glazed, checked and double-checked for quality. The women who work here are welcoming and will tell you about what they do, how they do it… or any other questions you may have. Besides the regular pieces they work on, custom designed pieces were also being worked on. While we didn’t see anyone working on pottery pieces, Kazuri does sell pottery – dishes, cups, serving pieces, etc.

    Finally, it was time for some souvenir shopping, so we drive to the Collector’s Den at the Hilton Hotel. The shop has been here some 14+ years and I immediately recognized the same salespeople from my previous trips. I was only looking for a new/different designed pendent for a wire necklace I purchased years ago and get compliments whenever I wear it. But, no luck. The owner knew exactly what I wanted, but they no longer carried this item. So with nothing else on my list, I wasn’t spending any money. Besides, over the years I’ve brought back so many gifts for friends and family, I don’t think anyone was hoping for another “something” this time. Eileen, however, wanted some souvenirs and she went about buying all kinds of trinkets.

    In the meantime, John was outside and I wanted to settle up the money he laid out, so went to find him and take care of our finances. However, he was standing in the street and sorry to say, but “I do not conduct business in the street.” He laughed when I insisted we get into the vehicle so I didn’t have to delve into my bag for money. While doing this he got a call on his cell from this guy I wanted to meet up with and who wanted to meet with me. Taking the phone, I told this guy that I had some time untill Eileen finished and sure he could pick me up at the shop to return to the hotel for a drink. John would be able to return Eileen to the hotel whenever she was done improving the Kenyan economy.

    Within a few minutes my ride was at the shop and we drove back to the Intercontinental… practically around the corner from the Hilton (it’s only three-blocks). We took a table in the lobby bar – I ordered a Coke and he had tea. In a few minutes the hotel’s Marketing Manager stopped by… introductions made and the three of us were still at it when I saw Eileen walk into the Lobby and joined us. We learned that the hotel would be renovating rooms during the upcoming months, which was nice to hear, though our room was probably only recently refurbished. Sean also mentioned that there was a Casino at the hotel which I noticed immediately pleased Eileen… guess I know where she will be tonight.

    My new friend had a meeting to attend, the reason for the early and brief meet but that was okay. He was good enough to offer to pick-up dinner for us, but I declined… we had only finished lunch at 2pm… couldn’t even think food, though the smell of garlic from the hotel’s Italian restaurant was tempting. Saying all around good-byes, Eileen and I headed upstairs.

    There were a few messages for us… who would be calling, but apparently there was a package waiting for me downstairs which I went to pick-up. Sure enough, contained inside were the Waivers of Liability from Cheli & Peacock. We had to sign our lives away, but then I’ve done so with all other trips I’ve taken when booked by a tour operator/outfitter. Completing these, Eileen was definitely going to the casino and I was definitely doing my hair… who knew when I’d have another opportunity to plug in a hair blower. After - all that was on my agenda – a good night’s sleep.

    I must have dozed off a little after 10pm, CNN in the background, but heard Eileen return around 11pm. She had a great time in the Casino – didn’t loose, didn’t win. She was the only woman among lots of men, playing Blackjack… what more could a gal want?

    Back to my pillow… tomorrow is another early wake-up as we head north to Laikipia.

    ... to be continued (you're going to have to wait a few days for the remaining report - patience, please!)

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    Sandi, you girls sure know how to live!

    I told my friend/TC about you on the bridge at Grumeti--she thinks it's a conspiracy, "Why do they make everyone cross that bridge all the time???"

    Thanks for taking the time to write this. I'm really enjoying it.

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    Great trip report and so descriptive. Had to laugh out loud when I read about stepping in the baboon poop. Had a similar experience at our first camp in Botswana ( Kings Pool ) on the evening after our arrival. The guide came to our tent to escort us to dinner as it was dark out but didn't bother to turn on his flashlight along the first part of the walkway and of course I managed to step in a large pile of baboon sh##. Didn't know this was a favorite past time of the baboon population especially after dark, ha! ha!

    He then turned on his light to show me what I had managed to do to my brand new walking shoes and said that of all the poop to step in, baboon doo was just about the worst. I felt like saying " well thanks for not turning on the flashlight in the dark "

    Anyway my dear spouse found a stick and had the fun job of picking doo doo from all the crevices on the bottom of my shoes before we were able to continue along the walkway and on to dinner.

    Thanks again for a good laugh...

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    Part V

    Day 10 – June 4, 2005

    Up and out and down the elevator to breakfast. The room for breakfast was lovely with plenty of choices.

    While eating, a guy passed the table and recognizing Eileen from the Casino… they acknowledged one another and we asked him to join us. Eric was a sweet guy from Brussels… here in Nairobi trying to get his divorce, from a Kenyan woman, finalized. A really nice guy, that got himself into a situation I wouldn’t wish on an enemy. So nice, that he has the words “sucker” written across his chest… and boy was this situation a mess. But, I’m sure it’ll all work out… he just needed someone to talk with… and we were it, at 7am.

    Saying our good-byes, we checked out of the hotel and into our waiting van. Within 20-minutes we were at Wilson Airport for our flight up north. Here our luggage was weighed… all pieces and sure enough… overweight! The guy said we owed 4,000 KSh (about $50+) and there was no way I was about to pay this… also thinking we had three more flights – and $50+ for each… I don’t think so. So I just put on my best smile and told him “I don’t have any money… it’s all been spent on this trip, and what’s left has to be used as tips.” Ok, that was a big one… but it worked, even though the guy did give me a sideways glance and smiling. Ok lady…

    The waiting room fills with passengers for a few destinations. With time to spare we check out the souvenir shop, but Eileen did enough damage the day prior, so she’s “just looking.” I notice a young man (in late-20s with his father, a few small groups, a young family with two young daughters… one who is practicing a part she has in a play, and a beautiful young women – tall blond and slim – and play this head game of “where are they going, staying, etc.?” Sure enough, upon boarding, all of these people are on our flight – Nairobi to Nanyuki to Samburu. With no seat assignments, Eileen and I take window seats on the right side of the plane, me behind her. The young man and his dad are along the back seats, the family are somewhere up front and the “talk blond” takes the seat next to me.

    We’re right on time for departure and once airborne, the young man recalls seeing Eileen and I at Sheldrick the day before; he and his father are heading to Samburu. The blond woman is heading to Lewa. In conversation we learn that she is Kenyan born, works for the Conservancy specializing in Grevy’s zebra. She was returning from flying lessons in Nairobi – she’s tired of always being in the back of the plane when the team is aloft tracking animals. Good for her taking the initiative to improve her position and money at the Conservancy. Eileen out of curiosity asks her “what’s your social life like?” and the response is “not very good.”

    In less then an hour we’re landing in Nanyuki where we deplane for our connecting Private Charter to Laikipia. In doing so Belinda (this woman’s name) has to move so I can get out… and she actually steps off the plane to let the two of us off. All other passengers are continuing onward.

    Here we meet our pilot, Eston (young, about 30, good-looking – later to learn “all the girls love the bush pilots” – and no wonder) who walks us over to our Cessna 182 and has our bags loaded. Being overweight, our duffles go under the plane, our carryons on the rear seats. In fact Eston was expecting another passenger, so we’re in a 6-seater rather then the original 4-seater… the other passenger is nowhere to be found. Maybe she changed her mind. Boarding, I take the co-pilot seat and choose earplugs over a headset; Eileen in the seat behind Eston goes for the headset.

    It’s a beautiful day as we lift off and flying at maybe 10,000’ max. There are no mountains so we can cruise easily over the terrain. Below we can clearly see waterholes, animals, manyattas, farms, camels – it’s just lovely. The flight takes about 30-40 minutes and we’re landing at the Loisaba airstrip. While aloft we learned that while Eston and his sister are American born they arrived in Kenya as children when their father came over – as an Optomologist – to help in health care in Kenya. They’ve been living in Kenya since, though his sister had recently returned from the States where she had attended NYU in NYC. Where Eston received his education, we never learned, maybe w never asked.

    Upon arrival and deplaning – without previously speaking, Eileen and I, in unison asked “did you notice the tall blond who deplaned in Nanyuki to allow the two of us off the inbound flight?” Before he could answer, Eileen and I broke into laughter – great minds working together. Unfortunately, he said he hadn’t, so we said “you should have” and proceeded to fill him in on his “next date.” He was very interested and said he’d pursue this. Matchmakers just doing their jobs – that’s us!

    Here we’re met by Gabrielle, our driver – a Samburu in full regalia and quite handsome and a perfect command of English. We say our goodbyes to Eston and pile into our vehicle on our way to Sabuk. It’s about a 30-minute drive thru a desert-type environment… lots of brush, dry and beautiful; so unlike other areas in Kenya. Along the way we pass a number of small cattle groups with young men attending there animals.

    Arriving at Sabuk we immediately see camels and all the staff, in their colorful clothing, come out to welcome us. As does Tamsin, the Manager and a young man – a spitting image of Prince Harry of England – but his name is Nick, and helping out as Sabuk has a full-house. We’re offered cool cloths and cool drinks and escorted into the cool public area – that contains soft cushioned hand-made furniture, a fireplace (for cool evenings), the bar and at the other end, the dining area. Walking in we notice that the other side is completely open to the wilderness with a viewing platform, telescope and the Ewaso Nyiro River below.

    Besides having been greeted by the Samburu staff, so too are we introduced to the children and dogs. Now this was going to be different. The children – one little girl (about 6/yrs) belongs to Tamsin, the other little girl and younger boy (about 4/yrs) to friends of Tamsin visiting from Nairobi – Sharon and Peter (both Kenyan born). And the dogs – three of them who belong to Simon Ball the owner of Sabuk – all muts… one a lab mix, the others, who knows – who have the run of the place.

    Tamsin has a full house of 13 guys from The Netherlands… fraternity brothers, here celebrating 25-years since graduating university, who besides getting together annually since, every 5-yrs schedule a destination vacation. This time it’s in Africa (the previous trip had been to Thailand). And they’ve taken up all the other bandas (Sabuk has six) except ours. So in many of the bandas the guys are doubled up; the lodge even having had beds made to accommodate all of them. So we’re escorted to our stone banda, the smallest, but more then sufficient for us. With two beds, and a skybed which hangs off the open edge of the banda (with mattress, pillows and mossie net) hanging over the river. The open side of the banda where the skybed is positioned has amazing views of the landscape just as seen from the platform in the public area. This is absolutely beautiful. Around back of the sleeping area is the bathroom, which contains a sink, combo tub/shower and the commode and completely opened to the sky. The banda itself is covered in makuti palm to protect from the sun and is very cool inside.

    Freshening up, we return for lunch which is served family-style. Here we meet Sharon and Pete and the children join us for the meal, as does Tamsin and Nick. Apparently the fraternity brothers are eating out in the wilderness somewhere – I believe they went out walking and fishing in the river. The meal is delicious and those tomatoes are a big hit with the two of us. This is so because the tomatoes are grown for home consumption and not for export, there are no chemicals used, organically grown, so we’re enjoying tomatoes as tomatoes should be – all natural.

    With little patience, the children leave the table – now adults only. We learn that Sharon is a jewelry designer – actually the designer for Kazuri Beads; it was her mother and another women who opened this business. Most interesting. All of a sudden we hear screaming and the kids are yelling “snake, snake” – except for us, the others go out to see what this is about and sure enough there is a snake hanging from a tree right over the head of where the little girls are playing on the walk. One of the Samburu comes over and identifies the snake as a small spitting cobra and promptly shoots it. One dead snake is fine with me.

    Lunch complete, we have some time to relax before our afternoon camel safari. This area is so comfortable, we could have just as easily stayed here – the quiet, the view, the telescope for spotting animals – perfect. But the frat brothers arrive and are raving about the wonderful morning they had – all sharing in camel and horse rides… some went fishing, some even swimming in the river. Though at first glance the river isn’t all that inviting – it’s brown; that’s just the silt but the water is perfectly clear. They’re having a great time, spending two days at Sabuk and tomorrow heading down to the Mara for two days… then home – in other words they were enjoying “a guys long weekend.” And, why not…women do these weekends all the time.

    Coming on about 4pm Eileen and I prepared for our Camel safari to “sundowners”… we walk out to the corral (boma) where the camels are saddled – heavily foam cushioned, covered with cotton cloth with wooden planks as steps to make climbing aboard easy; and wooden holds in the front for our hands. Under the cushioned seat is a compartment where the drinks and ice are kept, as well, blankets should it get cold out there. And we’re both provided walking sticks.
    The camels are on the ground and Eileen is the first to board with the assist of the camel handlers… but as she’s about to swing her second leg over the camel decides he wants to get up. Thankfully, the handlers were each able to grab her under each arm and there she is floating in the air, legs waving in from of her – nothing beneath her but air. It happens so quickly, I barely have time to take the photos… which as you’ve probably seen is fuzzy… everyone had a good laugh. A second try, the camel stays down and Eileen is aboard. Now, I’m next and I get up on the camel as if I’ve done this everyday of my life – not!

    Then the camel has to rise… this is the tricky part, so one holds on tight and hopes not to fall off as the camel make his jerky-kind of movement to get on all four. We’re both us none too damaged. Really, it was easy enough. And we’re set to go.

    We have our guide and two camel handlers who lead these ships of the desert… singing to them – a clicking kind of sound. After a few steps your bottom picks up the rhythm and you move along. At this height it’s interesting to view things from on high. We come across a herd of camels traveling towards us; “oh, it’s rush hour, it must be as it’s 5pm.”We walk past staff housing, then into the wilderness on a road taking us to a large kopje we see in a distance. All along, my handler keeps asking “momma, how are you doing” to which I reply “I’m doing just find up here” This is all rather fun. Eileen looks back to me complaining that my camel is spitting on her… hey, these are camels and I have no idea what habits they have – spitting apparently is one of them. It’s good that she’s wearing a light denim shirt, it’ll be easy enough to launder.

    After about 40-minutes we arrive at our “sundowner” Kopje, where we disembark… another experience, and I don’t break my finger nails as my Pakistan (my camels name – comes from the country where he was born… male camels only are used for these camel ride.) drop down to allow be to get off and on terra ferma. The guys gather all the goodies for our drinks and nibbles and pan for the camera while doing so. They’re so happy and really enjoy sharing this experience with their guests.

    We do a short trek, with our walking sticks and about to climb the kopje. Well, Eileen climbs to the top… I stop midway. Heights just aren’t for me – little chicken that I am. But that’s fine with the one handler who stays with me half-way up the kopje. We have our own party at this position… and Eileen’s on top with three of the Samburu.

    The scenery is lovely, it’s quiet and we’re enjoying ourselves. The young man who stays down below with me find a little mouse who loves our chips and periodically steals those we put out for him. The drinks just hit the spot. I learn that not too far, on a hill in a distance is a Catholic Church which many of the residents use, though this guy is actually a Seventh-Day Adventist. His actually home – manyatta – is nearby and he gets to see family regularly.

    Spending about an hour or more here, the sun is setting. Eileen comes down from the Kopje… I don’t have that far to go to get back to our camels who are quietly waiting for us. We go thru the boarding procedures again – without incident – and are on our return trip. Again, my handler asks “momma, how are you doing?” Hey, I’m no one’s “momma” – so the next time he asks, I’ll be off the camel and he gets atop and I ask him “how are you doing” As long as I’m still atop the camel, I’m doing fine. But “momma” is just a word used as a show of respect.

    Arriving back at Sabuk, Tamsin is waiting to see how we enjoyed. Well, I certainly did – quite interesting to have that camel hump under ones bottom – almost like being a passenger on the back of a cycle. Rather sexy! She rolled with laughter!

    Then we hear from the kids that they too had gone out on a short camel drive and loved it. Six-year olds and the little boy about 4-years… what a life and experience for them.

    One thing I did learn about these animals – “Camels are not a pet.”

    ... this Day 10 to be continued

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    Part VI

    Day 10 continued...

    When we arrive for dinner there is a long family table set for the fraternity brothers… nearby a smaller table for “family” in which we are included: Here are Tamsin and Nick, Sharon and Pete and the two of us. The children had eaten earlier.

    Needless to say we had another marvelous meal. Tamsin is in charge of preparing menus for the meals and this was outstanding… down to the kiwi pie. During dinner conversation we learn that Nick is Kenyan borne is in the camp/lodge hosting industry, but without a permanent home yet, so is available for helping out where his assistance is needed… for a day, a week or however long. He would be leaving for a new assignment the next day.

    The fraternity guys were having a great time at their table… lots of laughs come from where they were sitting. Just about when dessert was being served one of the guys rose to make a speech… for the staff. And Tamsin called the staff out to hear his comments. In general it was something like: “four days ago I wasn’t sure about traveling to Africa for our get together. But I did fly over and have to say the experience has been wonderful. Especially, here at Sabuk, where Tammy or Mamma Tam (both names that Tamsin hates); the staff and guides so helpful and friendly making our stay something I’ll remember for years to come. Thank you!” Short and to the point. All the guys rose to toast the staff.

    Needless to say the staff was touched and it didn’t take too much for them to start dancing… and they did.

    It was a wonderful evening… the guys left, as they had to be up early for breakfast and an ongoing flight t the Mara where they would be ending their “long guy’s weekend.”

    The rest of us finished with after dinner drinks. We said our goodnights… Nick escorted us back to our cabin. We too would be departing tomorrow, but not at the crack of dawn. We’d have time for breakfast and to say “so longs” to our new friends.

    Back at our cabin… even with a light that we left on – it was dark. Very dark. The beds had been turned-down, mossie nets were surrounding the beds… but dark. When we shut the light, it was way too black and for someone who still sleeps with a night-light… this wasn’t going to work. Especially, if either of us had to get up for the bathroom, we’d need a torch to find the walkway. So I left my Maglite set as a torch on the nightstand… this was perfect. Sure enough when I got up in the middle of the night the Maglite was out, so I grabbed the torch provided and found my way to the loo. On my way I could see a light in the dark night and realized it was coming from one of the cabins where the guys were sleeping. Guess I wasn’t the only grown-up who needed light… this brought a smile to me. Finished and ready to return to the sleeping area, I leave the bathroom light on.

    In the morning we’ll be leaving for Loisaba and The Starbeds.

    Day 11 – June 5, 2005

    Showered and finished packing we head up for Breakfast. The guys are gone… only family and friends remaining. Joining us are Simon’s wife and their little girl who is adorable. As the children started before us, they were out playing by the time we took our seats.

    This morning Sharon and Pete would be taking Tamsin’s little girl back to Nairobi, were she would be staying with them… starting school for the first time. So while they were getting together, Tamsin had time to show us the other cabins which were in the process of being put back together as they should be without all the extra beds provided to accommodate the big group. She was expecting only two for the coming day/night – photographers from a Netherland’s magazine – Residence.

    We took about an hour or so to walk-thru the various bandas… all different in size, design, though décor similar except for different color schemes. All had sunken tub/show combinations… most with views into the wilderness. Some bathrooms were on the upper level; others had twin beds or king and one even a loft bed for a child. All done very well. We took lots of photos.

    Finished with the tour of the place, we were given the choice of doing a camel ride to Loisaba – about 2-hours, or to drive. We chose the latter. The camel was fine for sundowners, but 2-hrs… we chose not. Before we left, we did gather the women who take care of the rooms – giving them nail polish which they were so appreciative of. Saying goodbye here is an experience… everyone comes out to wish you a pleasant journey. The cabin crew, the kitchen staff and waiters, the camel handlers and anyone else who wishes to do so… and everyone was there. This was so much fun. We must have shook hands with and said goodbye to about 25 people.

    Into the vehicle with Gabrielle and his buddy, we drive over to Loisaba. The trip was only about 35-minutes. Arriving here, we were greeted by Rachel and Chris, the Managers. And, of course, the obligatory cold towel and drink. Although we wouldn’t be staying here, rather at the Starbeds…we were taking through the property which is beautiful. We couldn’t, however, see the rooms as they had a full-house – a large multi-generational family. There was one room that wasn’t made up that gave us an idea of the kind of rooms here for guests. From what we could see, these rooms were a decent size; all look out onto the wilderness. We had to use our imagination for when the bedding, spreads, pillows were in place. We didn’t take any photos.

    We then walked past the pool – yes a big pool, not Olympic size, but perfect for the heat the area is known for. Most of the group were here and getting ready for lunch. The group was seated at a long family-style table. A separate table had been set up for Eileen and me… and Rachel and Chris would be joining us. Lunch was buffet and everything was beautifully presented and very tasty… especially those tomatoes in their salads. And Rachel had made a wonderful dressing for the salads… her own recipe – hit the spot. Dessert was lemon meringue pie

    Rachel and Chris are a professional lodge/camp management team, recently incorporating and providing their services where needed. It’s not unusual that a manager at some camp or lodge leaves without notice and someone has to be brought in on a temporary basis till a permanent person/team is hired; or permanently. Rachel is Kenya borne; Chris is from the UK… he takes care of the business/computer end of things, while Rachel handles are the scheduling of activities for guests. A lovely and very competent couple.

    Finishing lunch, we go sit on the deck that looks out on the Loisaba Wilderness… so beautiful. There’s a telescope for spotting animals and they are out there… not herds, but they’re there. And lots of beautiful birds abound.

    While sitting out here another group arrives… American’s from California – two couples. This group had driven from the Samburu area (their previous stop) and actually got lost once in the Loisaba area, so the delay in arriving. I can sure believe they got lost as there are no signs out there… even the sign for Loisaba had the arrow pointing in the wrong direction. These two couples would also be staying with us at Kioja Starbeds.

    At about 3:30pm we drive with Gabrielle to Starbeds… the others in their vehicle. Sure enough we come upon a suspension bridge over the Ewaso Nyire River. At least this one has straight planks and no baboon poop. No problem! Eileen and I are over this bridge as if we do this all the time. The others are right behind is.

    At Koija Starbeds - there are two double platforms with ensuite loo and safari shower for couples; one family platform which actually has two platforms and shared loo and safari shower between each platform. Each Starbed is at a distance from the others, providing plenty of privacy. These sleeing accommodations are certainly different, but the beds are amazing. These are rolled out onto the open platform/s with only the sky above. They are completely covered with mossie nets… open to the sky. Should the weather be wet, the bed can remain further back on the platform where it is covered by makuti palms. The balance of the décor is simple – a closet with shelves, a shelf to place your stuff and two wooden lounge chairs. The platforms, themselves sit about 5’ – 6’ off the ground… all face the river.

    We try getting into these beds… which are rather high off the ground, but are built with two pieces of wood that act as steps. Then it’s a matter of figuring out how to get in through the mossie nets, which are tucked in very tight under the well-made bed – down blanket covered with tradition Samburu blankets and plenty of pillows.

    We’re staying in the double platform which is the furthest from the fireplace and dining area. So as sundown is approaching we head that way. It’s lovely. The fire is lit, drinks are being offered. Introductions made again. The staff here is very accommodating and shortly it is time for dinner which is set family style. We take our seats and each course is delivered in turn. For dessert – meringue pie! Everything is excellent. We haven’t had a bad meal yet in Kenya. Drinks were flowing and we were all ready for partying. And that’s just what we had. J.W was first to get up with the Samburu to get into the rhythm, then Sheena and Mike, finally Eileen. I played photographer and got some great dancing photos using everyone’s cameras. This was so fun.

    Around 10pm we called it quits… everyone walked back to their platforms, but the guys did want to return for their cigars, which we presumed they did… we didn’t know for certain till the next morning.

    Getting ready for bed, Eileen commented “don’t be surprised if you find company in bed tonight… not too sure how I’ll feel out on that platform all by myself.” Well, she did quite well, and I slept all by myself counting the billions of stars and identifying the Southern Cross – it’s the southern sky one see here rather then the northern one. It tested my knowledge. Next I knew it was about 3am and I needed the loo, but there was no way I intended to get out of bed to walk to it. I almost wished they provided a potty pan … ha! ha! – but managed to get through the rest of the night without the trip to the loo. A bit before 6am you hear the birds… the perfect alarm clock… and a few minutes later the sun is up over the horizon. At this point I was out from under the mossie net and into the loo.

    ... to be continued

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    Sarvowinner -

    As mentioned when I did the photos I realized it was more Photo Journal, so thought I could avoid the text! No way, as I need the text for my personal journal... so now you can all read and I can enjoy for years to come. I'm glad that you're enjoying. More to come...

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    Part VII

    Day 12 – June 6, 2005

    Eileen was up and out for a game walk with JW, Mike and Sheena. Jane and I were apparently the party-poopers which I didn’t learn until I met up with her at breakfast. By the time I got to the dining area, the group was back from their walk… just waiting on the two of us. Sheena was writing in her journal, Mike was snoozing on the hammock; Eileen had come to get me and I returned with her; likewise JW went to retrieve Jane.

    Before JW and Jane got back, the four of us took our seats for breakfast, when all of a sudden Mike turned white and looked like he was going to faint. Quickly, Sheena took his head to be sure he didn’t hit the table, or otherwise fall over/down. Eileen and I went for the water and ice applying it to his face and neck… it took a few minutes, but he was okay. I surprise myself often when I seem to know what to do in an emergency, though if thinking on this before the fact, I’m in a panic… but I react and do well. On the other hand, both Eileen and Sheena work for physicians and come across such situations often. More often then either would like, but are more familiar with like situations.

    It seems that after returning to our Starbeds the previous night, JW and Mike did return to the fire for their cigars and chatting with our Samburu hosts. JW returned to sleep as soon as he finished his smoke, but Mike stayed on with the guys. All of a sudden he decided to walk a few yards to where the suspension bridge… didn’t walk over it, but he slipped and hit his head. Thankfully, he didn’t do this with no one around… the guys were with him and he seemed fine when they walked him back to his quarters. And he was fine when he went out on the game walk.

    Whether being on the hammock had anything to do with his almost fainting… who knows? But all was fine after he came to. And he was fine during breakfast.

    We were then able to eat our breakfast. These four would be heading out by road on their way to Lake Nakuru. Eileen and I were staying on at Loisaba/Starbeds for another day. After breakfast, we gathered our gear and headed across the bridge for whatever activities were in store for us for the day while the others got in their vehicle to head out. Here, we said our good-byes; taking pictures of one another taking pictures of the others… it was rather funny… and off we went – our separate ways.

    On our way to Loisaba, we stopped at the Cottage (or Captain’s Cottage) a separate and private cottage which had its own support team – chef, waiters, maids, etc. An ideal place for a family or two couples. And, as with most accommodations at Loisaba, and, I believe, most places in the Laikipia area… the client’s decide what they wish to do, for how long, on any day… no set schedules here.

    The Cottage actually consists of two buildings. The main building has the shared living room, dining room, bathroom and upstairs a bedroom and bathroom. Adjacent to this building is one that contains a bedroom and bathroom only. The grounds are beautifully manicured with lots of succulents and desert flowers. And so peaceful.

    There is also The House – another private space belonging to Loisaba. Unfortunately, we couldn’t visit here as one of the directors of the group who owns Loisaba was in residence. In fact these folks were the ones who suggested safari to the large group who were staying at the Lodge. They had all become friends, back in the States… both having yachts in Florida.

    From photos – The House is something else. Everything you can possibly want… also with its own staff and the addition of a pool. Apparently, The House is not available for bookings for the month of June to allow any of the directors to use.

    Leaving The Cottage we had a brief game drive on our way for lunch at Loisaba. Arriving about 11:30, we relaxed at the pool for about an hour. The rest of the Group of 14 was also hanging out, having been on game drives for some, while others were out on ATVs.

    Lunch was served at about 12:30 and unlike the day before when Eileen and I ate with the Rachel and Chris, we were asked to join the larger group.

    The food, of course, was just outstanding… eggplant lasagna. And, those tomatoes… and Rachel’s famous dressing which they keep hidden under the buffet so no one runs away with the bottle. I think everyone of us has our own recipe for dressing… but this was the best.

    Lunch conversation was most interesting. We learned that Laurie and Jim, the Directors had come to Kenya some years back… fell in love with the country and people and now return regularly. Eventually… and we didn’t ask how, but they got involved with the Loisaba Wilderness group. They, and The Group of 14, have supported the local Samburu community, especially the school… over the years improving the buildings, with new concrete replacements for the wooden ones. There is a pre-school group of students/kids and classes for boys and girls from age 6 to age 16, a few who have already gone onto higher learning in Nairobi. They’ve had one college graduate who is now a nurse. In addition, they also support one of the manyatta’s in the area… with emphasis on women’s issues.

    Very impressive, indeed. And we were going to be visiting the school and the manyatta this afternoon. Not that I hadn’t visited a manyatta or two, even a school on my many trips to Kenya and Tanzania, but this, I just knew, would be different!

    Lunch over and time to relax a bit. Then somewhere about 2pm Eileen and I got into our vehicle with Tom our guide and Kafu our tracker and head out. The rest of the group are pulling up the rear.

    The drive was about an hour. At one point we actually cross the Ewaso Nyiro River on a vehicle bridge. Here we notice women doing laundry and collecting water. Many are young woman and we notice eye-contact with our driver Tom. But Tom, we learn is married… we’re sure it’s just a friendly “hello” smile. What a long way to go for drinking water and we see no nearby manyatta or other semblance of life in the area. All brush and wilderness… and the ever-present Dik-dik pairs.

    We finally arrive at the pre-school/school complex. Here everyone visiting is introduced to the community elders, shaking hands all-around; then introductions to the school’s headmaster and some of the teachers. Surprisingly, there are only about six (6) teachers for about 600 students of all ages.

    We are warmly welcomed by all, especially the students when they see all the digital cameras. These aren’t new to them… but,they know they will be able to see themselves… so smiles all around. Most of the classrooms are barrack style wooden buildings. All the students are in maroon and white uniforms (shorts) and the warm weather doesn’t distract any to wear lighter weight clothing.

    In recent years, from contributions, a number of the wooden classrooms have been replaced with concrete buildings with solid roofs. Hopefully, additional contributions will enable the construction of more new buildings. There is also a new kitchen… from which the students are fed daily. The last building we visited, from a contribution to be solely used to build a girls dormitory… with indoor bathrooms (hole-in-the- ground) and shower stalls and double-deck beds.

    There is a brief ceremony by the community to thank the family for their contributions which is very poignant… and the elder patriarch addresses many of the students in their individual classrooms to continue their educations.

    Leaving here, we head to the manyatta. Eileen and I are the first to arrive and are surprised to find all the women in their colorful clothing waiting to greet us. But greet us was not all they had in mind. As we stepped from our vehicle, some of the elder women came towards us and brought us into the group to participate in the dancing to welcome the others who were right behind us. Admittedly, we would have looked more authentic if we had Masai beaded necklaces around our necks… but that would have to wait till later. At this point I move out of the dancing group to take a photo of this wonderful group of women – local, visitors, black, white, young and older – amazing. This was going to be fun.

    The remaining time spent here we could take unlimited numbers of photos without someone having a hand out for a tip. The children posed graciously and follow behind… they were so adorable. We are welcomed into their homes. Many women are working on bead items they make for sale… at the manyatta, for market days and/or in Nairobi. The work is beautifully displayed on the ground… and again, no one is pushing one to make a purchase.

    If the dancing by the welcoming women was unexpected and exciting… the men now started their dancing. And it was interesting to watch the eligible and maybe not so eligible women watching them. Whether the women or the men, all were in their traditional clothing and painted markings on their bodies. And don’t think we are there to watch only. Everyone was pulled in to join especially when the men and women were dancing together… and now they gave us necklaces so we were adorned properly.

    Since we were free to walk wherever… ask questions… dance or whatever… it was a pleasure to see Kafu, our tracker holding a little baby. It was his son… and such a lovely picture, but I didn’t want to intrude. I’m sure that the staff at the lodges/camps/starbeds look forward to time when they have “days-off” or “breaks” from work and spend time with their families and this was such an afternoon.

    It was getting on towards 6pm, so we decided to leave to return to the Starbeds. We said our good-byes and thanked our hosts, especially Rachel who included us in this very interesting afternoon. It was a lovely break from a game drive.

    In the vehicle with Tom and Kafu, a friend of theirs hitched a ride to “somewhere.” As we left, Tom did point to his wife who had walked over from her manyatta to enjoy the festivities. A nice young women in her early 20s… no children yet.

    Eileen and I found it amazing how these guys knew one bush from another, one tree from another and not be lost out there. But it’s probably not much different then back home in our own neighborhoods wherever we live. Every bush isn’t the same as the next… though to us city gals they sure did look so. All of a sudden our passenger asked Tom to stop as this was where he wished to get out to meet up with his friend! Duh! We looked at one another and wondered ‘where?’ There wasn’t a building, hut or tent as far as the eye could see… maybe under a tree? We had to chuckle.

    Before we knew it we were pulling up to the Starbeds, but this time… no bridge crossing. We came in from the other side of the river, at the rear of the camp. This certainly was different.

    With no other guests expected to be staying here for the night… we would be here by ourselves with these six young men. Interesting! We freshened up then back to the camp fire for sundowners. Once it got dark we sat down for dinner which was again wonderful, though rather quiet compared to the previous night.

    This was our 10th night in Africa and the first that we retired rather early. I believe we deserved an early bedtime for a change. We did, however, inquire of the staff whether they patrolled the grounds after dark and were assured that they do… every hour. Why we never thought to ask this for the night before… who knows, but we didn’t. And we had one more question, rather a request… that they please leave lanterns lit through the night along/around our Starbed. Just for our reassurance… we were really out there all alone.

    And tonight when I woke for a potty-call… I just got out of bed, grabbed my lantern and walked to the loo… and there on the grounds around our platform were lanterns lighting the area and providing the assurance we needed to be walking in what is otherwise totally black. Back in bed, I look towards the sky… the stars… in total awe… such an amazing experience… finally falling off to sleep.

    Tomorrow we leave this peaceful area and fly down to the Masai Mara. Being in Laikipia has been an amazing experience… the warm welcome from the managers, staff, easy schedules… laid-back; beautiful scenery, beautiful people-to-people connections. A place to return to – already contemplating when?

    ... to be continued

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    So starting off a trip by stepping in baboon poop is not a bad omen.

    Your descriptions of Laikipia make it very inviting.

    From camel rides to massages--what an adventure. Your narrative makes it come to life.

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    Starbeds: wow.

    Anxiously awaiting the next installment. Thank you for this wonderfully descriptive report. I feel like I'm transported there (and I say this from my office!).

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    Part VIII

    Day 13 – June 7, 2005

    We’re up early, packed and say good-bye to our Starbed platform which has been an unbelievable experience. Everyone should try to spend at least one-night up here… combine it with a stay at Sabuk for a few days.

    Our table is set, our breakfast is served. At least no “excitement” as we had yesterday’s morning. No body is fainting this morning. We extend our thank-yous to the guys who were wonderful and attentive to your needs… those lanterns placed around our Starbed last night were much appreciated.

    We head across the suspension bridge, for the last time and meet Tom and Kafu at our vehicle which has been loaded with our belongings. We have a 9am flight from Loisaba airstrip to Nanyuki, before connecting to our flight to the Mara.

    Arriving at the airstrip, Eston is already waiting. We’re only waiting for Jim (one of the directors at Loisaba) to land his ultra-light. What else would one do at this early hour but lift off to view the area from up high. Besides the ultra-flight, Jim also keeps a midnight blue Hummer and a helicopter here. The latter is available to clients (at an average of $1,200/hr) for trips up north – Lake Turkana, the Chalbi Desert – again whatever the client wishes and just how deep their pockets. This works well, if you’ve good a group, as the heli holds 6-passengers which is an economical way to see this area.

    Jim lands and comes over to say his goodbye and mentions that he and Laurie would be flying down to Cottar’s the next day… staying for one-nite as there wasn’t sufficient tent space with the Group of 14; they’d see us again. Interesting to know, and interesting to see where the heli lands at/near Cottars. Our bags are loaded into the plane. Tom Silverster, the Manager/Owner of Loisaba has also come to see us off… very thoughtful of him… everyone we met up in this area was wonderful and genuinely glad to have us as guests. Before leaving we remind him about Belinda at Lewa as a possible connection for Eston. Tom knows Belinda as they are both taking flying lessons in Nairobi. He gave me a thumbs-up, saying he’d definitely follow-thru on this.

    In the plane, I take the rear seat behind Eston, Eileen is in the co-pilot seat. The flight is uneventful… the air is clear and the sights below are beautiful. Landing at Nanyuki, we have time to wait for our connecting flight.

    The Nanyuki airport is being totally upgraded with new buildings, restaurant, shops… they actually have clean flush toilets. There are lots of “bush pilots” hanging around here… each better looking then the next – no wonder “the girls are crazy for bush pilots.”

    There is one plane, much larger then the rest, on the ground with the Loisaba insignia. This plane will be flying up to Loisaba to pick-up the Group of 14 for their flight to the Mara, where they will be continuing their safari with mobile camping in an area not far from where we’ll be at Cottar’s.

    While waiting, we notice that Eston keeps a cycle and a dog here (the brother dog of the sister dog we saw at Loisaba). What more does a bush pilot need, other then these two essentials? Maybe a lady-friend, girlfriend, wife… we’ve got someone working on this for him if he doesn’t take the initiative himself. But, then, maybe not!

    Right on time, our plane arrives… bags are loaded, good-byes said and we’re on our way to the Mara. The flight is just about an hour, but there are a number of stops which the pilot clearly mentioned when we boarded. First stop is at the Mara River Camp airstrip where two passengers deplane. We take off again and next stop is the Governor’s airstrip where we pick up passengers. Another take off and a short hop to the Keekorok airstrip where we deplane as do a few other passengers, but more board to take our places.

    At the airstrip there were at least 15 vehicles waiting for guests and our transport wasn’t one of them. OK, there is a Duty Free Shop here (photo in our album) which we couldn’t help but chuckle over when we saw the sign. Why not shop till………! Don’t think so.

    Eileen desperately needed the loo, but before I could say anything to her… she was too far away for me to yell to her “I don’t think you want that loo.” It didn’t take too long for me to see her enter the tin shack and immediately exit. This wasn’t the loo for her.

    There was a small waiting area with benches under makuti palm, so we made ourselves comfy for our driver. About 10-minutes later, we see the large plane that had been sitting at Nanyuki land and right behind it a smaller plan. The Group of 14 had arrived… and their vehicles were ready to take them on their way. Even their big plane, which probably had lux seats didn’t have enough room for the entire group, so the smaller plane for two of the younger guys.

    There is a reason “the gals like the bush pilots.” There I am, minding my own business and who walks right over to me… the pilot from the Loisaba plane. Sure I saw him up at Nanyuki, but one wonders what impression you make on another. Maybe none, maybe just being courteous. And that was all. He had a few minutes before taking off again… saw a familiar face, and came over to say hello. We talked a few minutes until our driver pulled up. Besides, this guy was married!!!

    Well, well, here’s Daryl our guide. He apologized for the delay, but it is at least 1.5 hours drive from Cottar’s to Keekorok airstrip. Such information doesn’t sit well with Eileen who would like to get to a loo sooner, but says she’ll manage. So we pack up the vehicle and off we go. However, Daryl was expecting three people… not realizing until we told him that Susan would be arriving on the afternoon flight.

    As we leave we notice the former Keekorok Lodge, which just a few weeks earlier had a major fire. Mainly in the kitchen, but learn that the entire camp was being refurbished and should be open later in June. Keekorok is the oldest lodge in the Mara and was still maintained well. I’m sure the new camp will be lovely.

    Also leaving with us is the Group of 14 in about six vehicles and they’re all set with their ice chests and plenty of wine and Heinekin…. and their party had already begun. We’re all going in the same direction, so it’s like a convoy heading out.

    The grasses are high, some areas are actually closed off for land regeneration. Not many animals, but for ostrich and some elephants in the distance. As we pass thru the Sand River gate which is right on the Tanzania border, we notice the other vehicles heading off into Tanzania… word out that there were lions sighted earlier. So I guess you can kind of sneak across the border… but not too far. There are actually mountains on the Tanzania side not far from the border. We followed for awhile, but it didn’t seem anyone was fortunate enough to spot the lions. At this point we backtrack and continue on our way. The road to Cottars runs adjacent to the Tanzania board, so we drove on and on and on. At one point we actually passed the sign that says “Welcome to Tanzania” on our right… meaning we were supposed to stay on the left.

    There were areas of road that were pretty wet, so new tracks were made as we went along. There weren’t many animals to be seen, though occasionally there were hares and a topi or two; all we wanted to do was get to camp. During our ride we learned that there is a private airstrip only 15-minutes from Cottar’s camp, but not for scheduled flights. If I had known, we may have splurged for another private charter. As often as Daryl pointed to the hill where Cottar’s was located… instead of getting closer, it seemed to be farther away.

    We came to a small forest area which Daryl indicated the Group of 14 would be setting up camp. I believe it was, either, right inside the Mara border or immediately outside the border. Whatever, we were getting closer to Cottar’s. Once outside the Mara border, on private conservation land we came across many Masai herding their cattle… little groups here, little groups there… but we were getting closer to camp and it was now over 2-hrs since we left Keekorok.

    Finally, at just about 3-hrs we arrived at Cottar’s Camp and were welcomed by Nick and Betsy, who manage Bush Tops House not too far away… but helping out here in the absence of the Cottar’s manager who was in Nairobi for a few days. Here we thank Daryl and remind him that he has to turn around for the drive back to Keekorok to pick-up Susan. She’s due in on the 3pm flight from Nairobi, so arriving about 4pm. Daryl is apparently the transfer person this day and he’s got at minimum a 1.5-hrs drive (no stops this time).

    Our bags were unloaded from the vehicle – Daryl is on his way… and we’re taken to our tent which is entered thru a private wall and gate of palms, with steps leading up to the tent situated on an itty-bitty hill.

    All white canvas, only the rear containing the loo and shower are permanent. The tents are large and in our case with twin beds. The furnishings are very “safari-like” with animal designed carpets, antique pieces mixed with modern comforts. There is ample closet and shelf space, separate large shower and a separate pull-chain loo. Two wash basins and plenty of towels and bottled water. There are electric lanterns for lighting in the tent itself, but currently gas lanterns over the mirrors in the bathroom (soon to be electrified). For me personally, give me electric or why bother having mirrors.

    After freshening up, we walk to the public area for lunch. Here we find Nick, Betsy and their 13-yr old daughter… all Kenyan borne. A pretty young lady, but a tad shy. There is also an older brother, but he is in school in Nairobi; sister will be leaving in a few days, also for boarding school in Nairobi. We learn there are four other guests here – a family from NYC… mother, father and two grown children… presently out on a game drive, whom we’ll meet at dinner. Lunch was light, as it was late… but certainly enough to nourish us.

    Now, here I go again – I’ve got to wash my hair and somehow get a hairdryer to work. Well, no problem… Cottar’s doesn’t provide hair dryers, nor have sufficient power in the tents to run one… but they will provide a generator for me so I can plug in my own device. How accommodating. Eileen, on the other hand can simply wash her hair and how it dries it dries and she looks just fine. My hair is short, though growing like weeds these past 12-days and I’m getting ratty looking. A shampoo and air dry, just doesn’t work. And even though short, I wish it were longer so I could just pull it back and that would be that. But I also like clean hair.

    Put it this way – I’d make a terrible hostage. I’d be constantly fussing… the terrorists would just want to get rid of me. Let me go or shoot the bitch! You do realize that the hostage takers most often let the women and children go as “we’re a pain in the ass.”

    So while Eileen decides to go out on a game drive… Nick will be her guide (Daryl is on his way to pick-up Susan), I opt for intimate time with a generator. Abdul, or tent butler is there in a few minutes with the generator (a small thing) that he sets up about 30-ft outside my tent, with a long extension cord and multi-plug strip that reaches thru the tent to the counter where the washbasins are located… perfect!

    After all my beauty things are done with, I wrap myself in the comfy terry lined velour robe and take a seat outside the tent to admire the scene in front of me. You have a view right into Tanzania where I understand during the Migration you can see the herds as they move into Kenya. It must be an amazing site. I catch up on my journal and Abdul brings me a cold drink – I asked for a Heinekin and it hits the spot

    Sitting here, I notice that a distance from the tent some antelope in the bushes, only to later learn there is a “salt-lick” back there… so I’m sure there must be predators nearby… interesting. There are no fences here at Cottar’s. With the sun setting I get some beautiful photos as the sun cycles below the horizon.

    As soon as it’s dark, I go inside to dress for dinner and Eileen to return. I actually take a little nap. Eileen in back at about 7pm, showers, dresses and with the Masai askari leading us, walk up for dinner. Susan was already at the camp fire, having arrived a few minutes earlier (her plane arrived about 4:30 and they were back at camp by 7:30 – so much for a 1.5 hr trip, though their drive was mainly in the dark)… checked into her tent (next to ours) and already had a glass wine in her hand. We got our sundowners and were introduced to the other guests – the family from NYC. A husband and wife and grown children who actually live nearby where we too live in NYC. Calvin Cottar is also here and introductions made all around.

    Susan fills me in on the balance of her time in Tanzania after leaving us and when we headed to Zanzibar. She and Michael had planned to visit Tarangire, staying at Tree Tops, but Michael wasn’t feeling well – maybe something he ate, so they returned to Arusha and spent the time there getting his tummy back to travel condition as he was departing the next day. Once Michael was on his way, Susan headed to Tarangire with a guide/driver for a one-night stay… she loves Tarangire and this time was no different. Yes, the grasses were high, but the ellees were there, as the Baobab trees… she enjoyed her stay. In turn, I filled her in on what Eileen and I did on Zanzibar and our wonderful days up in Laikipia.

    Finally, we all adjourned into the dining tent which was like a scene from “Out of Africa” – with fine china, sterling utensils and candle lit candelabras. The meal was outstanding as was the conversation. The New York family would be departing the next morning, but the father arranged for a last game drive for 4:30am and, I believe, he was accommodated. Saying our goodbyes and wishing them a good journey… it’s was just us last “hanger-ons” left in the dining tent.

    All of a sudden the Masai come running into the tent, yelling, “the lions, the lions are here.” Not hesitating a minute, five supposedly intelligent adults push back their chairs and all run outside to see “the lions.” Well, they weren’t immediately outside on the lawn around the campfire, but back in the bushes somewhere near where our tent was located. With a powerful spot Calvin is focused on the bushes and we manage to count about seven lions. Whatever they’re doing in the bushes, the light doesn’t bother them and they have no interest in us humans. We spend a few minutes watching to see what they may do next… but apparently, “it’s just lion stuff.”

    The three of us return to the dining tent, grab our things and the askari walk us back to our respective tents. Once inside, it took Eileen and I a minute to realize that the lions were right outside our tent… probably near the salt-lick having their own dinner of sorts.

    On this pleasant note… our first day at Cottar’s ends.

    .... to be continued (only four more days... the end is coming!)

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    That's so funny that they brought a generator to your tent so you could plug in your hair dryer! :D

    How far into Tanzania did you go? I read somewhere that there's 12 km between the two border posts, so maybe they just drive around in this area?

    Thanks for continuing. It'll be a race to see if you or JazzDrew finishes first ;)

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    Patty -

    You make me laugh. Well, you know how noisy a generator is... so they left it out on the lawn; besides there was no one in camp but moi. But it was considerate of them not to place the thing right next to me. They probably do this often for whomever asks, as they had the whole thing set up in a flash. When I was finished I just walked out onto the lawn and turned it off. Otherwise, the power at the camp comes from solar panels.

    Into Tanzania... not too far. Nor do I know how far one can drive into/across the border. You have to remember we had a passenger who was in need of the loo - more important then a lion! And we had a long way to get till reaching our destination.

    Me or JazzDrew? Contest? Nah! But we'll see.

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    Sandi, I'm enjoying this so much - thank you thank you thank you.

    Our very first trip and the one that got us hooked was to Kenya on a typical minibus package tour. I've not really thought about going back because I didn't think we could get the remoteness we want - but after reading this it's definitely on the list.

    Oh Lord, when will I win the lottery [-o< (maybe I should start buying tickets!)

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    Oh ya... I keep reminding myself that if I want to be able to dream about all the places I'd go if I won I've gotta actually have a ticket!

    Gotta be in it to win it, as they say!

    Marvellous report, keep going, Sandi!

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    Part 9 (sorry folks, I just went dumb on Roman numerals... is it IX?)

    Day 14 – June 8, 2005

    For those who have forgotten… I don’t do morning game drives… nothing wrong with morning drives, or that I’m not up early or want to be woken early while on vacation… I just prefer not to… so I stayed under the covers while Eileen dressed and was out to meet up with Susan and Daryl. But first she left a pile of items that she wanted laundered… and I added a few items to give to Abdul when he returned to make up our tent.

    With our coffee and tea having been delivered, I was quite comfortable where I was.

    Before going on… something I forgot – when we arrived yesterday, the beds in our tent were covered with flower blossoms – a nice touch and reminded me of the frangipani blossoms that had been placed on our beds when we visited the Seychelles a few years back. But I don’t recall what kind of blossoms these at Cottar’s were.

    Eventually I crawled out from under the covers, showered and then sat outside the tent with my pot of java. It’s just so beautiful and peaceful, who needs a game drive; that is until I heard a “growl” – yup, a growl… that kind of growl! No sissy girly am I, instead of panic, I listen to be certain that is what I heard, while at the same time scanning the area for a cat! I remember the salt-lick directly in front of our tent a few hundred feet… so maybe the sound was coming from there. Sure enough, I hear another growl and then another. Even though seeing nothing, I figure it’s time to get back inside the tent.

    I finish dressing and walk – by myself – up to the dining tent. Either, I’m crazy (probably) or just hungry, but I don’t even look back as I continued on my way. There’s not a soul around, though I can hear noises up near the kitchen. As I reach the area, the only person around is a Masai woman who is creating beaded jewelry. At the dining table I find Betsy and her daughter and join them.

    It’s a grey and overcast day and looks like rain… but who knows what will be. Breakfast eaten, on my way back to the tent, I see a number of the staff and Calvin removing a tree from the great lawn and with a machetti cutting parts of the high grass. This is when I recall that Jim and Laurie are scheduled to be flying in on their heli… guess there had better be sufficient room, with no objects in the way, for a smooth landing.

    When Eileen and Susan return, they told me that because game viewing was rather sparse, Daryl drove them to a nearby waterfall which they enjoyed tremendously. From the photos (in the album) this is a strange looking area, especially the rock formations. Probably over years and years of water falling and collecting here, the rocks look like what one might expect to find on the moon (if that is what the moon looks like). They walked and hiked around the area and truly enjoyed this break… different.

    After completing their breakfasts, I walked back with Susan to see her tent which was the next one over, containing a king-sized bed, set right in the center. What was really beautiful coming upon the tent – all three sides were rolled up – great curb appeal, as the photos show.

    After our lunch we had all planned on going out on an afternoon game drive. But by 3:30pm the skies finally opened – not unusual for this time of year – so figured we'd wait till it ended. However, it was past 4pm and Daryl wanted to get going. Eileen and Susan were game for game, but I didn’t feel like being out in the rain, slipping and sliding on the roads; and it was rather raw! In this type of weather, instead of the open vehicle of the private camps, the closed 4WD with pop-tops are a much better choice. Ok, call me a party-pooper… but I was just so content to sit with a good book outside my tent and simply take in the quiet and beauty that surrounded me.

    Naturally, Abdul showed up asking if there was anything he could do for me, so I asked for some wine which he was only to glad to bring. When he returned he also had our laundry which was properly placed at the foot of each bed.

    Surprisingly, the rain (more a constant light shower and quite misty) kept up for some time, probably ending near 5:30pm… so I was content to be where I am versus being in an open vehicle. From where I was seated, I didn’t hear any more growls, but could see impala and waterbuck moving back and forth from the salt-lick (and without nocs… good eyesight, I must say); and the Tanzanian plains were just waiting out there for the herds that would be arriving in less than two months. To me, this was pure heaven!

    Once it got dark, I went inside to change for dinner… nothing special, just different. We would be a small group tonight and it was apparent that Jim and Laurie hadn’t arrived… maybe they would tomorrow, but we’d be gone by then.

    Eileen was back by 7pm and rushed in to shower and change. When she checked her laundry she noticed that the “wears” weren’t hers! Well, they weren’t mine, so to whom did they belong? Since there were only four women here, and two had been eliminated – we figured they were Betsy’s. When we left the tent, we wrapped these in tissue to return to the righful owner. When arriving at the campfire, we discretely inquired of Betsy if our little package was hers? At this moment Susan arrived with a small package wrapped in tissues containing, what else “wears.” What was funny to watch was the men watching us and wondering what “us gals” were discussing… “girl things” naturally. Betsy finally called Abdul over to take both packages and get them back to their owners. That’s what happens when your belongings don’t have, either, “camp labels” or a “chop” on them. Another reason not to bring tattered undies when traveling!

    Then enjoying our sundowners around the campfire, Calvin had some interesting stories to tell, especially when you consider his family has been in Kenya since the early 1900s. Stories about his dad and his friends and the original safari goers, bringing with them all the comforts of home from the States or the Continent… with hundreds of porters or large mule trains to do so… all in order to set up camps for the “Great White Hunters”. Besides personal items, would be the tents, the cooking pots and utensils, china, silverware, candelabras, food, bathtubs, and whatever else one could imagine. Not anywhere as convenient as safari in the late 20th or now 21st Centuries. If dinner weren’t ready to be served, we could sat around the fire listening to Calvin for hours; we did once seated at the table - a wonderful host in every way.

    Looking around the dining tent surroundings - the china, silverware, glassware, candleabra and candles... would have been perfect for black tie rather then safari khaki. The kind of photos that appear in brochures though rarely in real life!

    After another wonderful evening, Betsy and her daughter excused themselves and the three of us along with Calvin, Nick and Daryl kept at the wine and telling of tales, all around... some fascinating safari stories.

    Realization his that we were leaving tomorrow after breakfast, so we finished our drinks… returned to our tents, finish packing and off to dreamland. All I know is that this was the first of many safaris that I didn’t go out on even one game drive to which I have to say… “it’s perfectly fine to just enjoy being” - afterall, we were in Afree-kah!

    ... to be continued

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    Thanks, Sandi, for my daily fix.

    I think I'll print this out for my mom; I have a feeling that if she ever decides to haul herself over to East Africa, she's going to want to go in high style. And to skip morning game drives!

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    Part X -

    Day 15 – June 9, 2005

    To be honest, I don’t recall that Eileen and Susan went out on a game drive this morning. In fact, I don’t think so, as we would be leaving after breakfast for the Talek Gate… game drive all along the way. Here we would transfer for our continuing drive to our next camp.

    After breakfast the vehicle was packed with all our luggage plus one additional item. A “potty seat” – yes, indeed! Susan had made a comment at dinner that I wasn’t all that keen on bush stops for nature calls and even if I needed to would hold out till we got to wherever we were going. Sure, it sounds funny, but I believe I’ve only used the bush twice in too many years on safari. I’m definitely prepared if need be, but I avoid doing so, if at all possible.

    Well, this wooden potty was a hoot… but there is was right between our luggage on the seat behind where Eileen and I sat. Susan was sitting next to Daryl up front and the tracker was on the very rear seat.

    Saying our good-byes with hugs and kisses all around we got into our chariot and were on our way. This first leg would be a good three-hours, so we were prepared not only with the potty, but were given blankets that were rubber/plastic coated on the reverse to protect from mud that was likely to kick-back… and there was mud at many of places along our route. These were perfect for Eileen and I, but Susan was okay without one as she sitting up front… besides the car engine which also provided warmth.

    Animal sightings were few, but sufficient to keep our cameras clicking away. Shortly after passing thru the Sand River Gate, we took a left turn heading West across the Mara to a point where we turned North. I don’t believe we saw another camp vehicle the entire way, but then most safari goers are usually back at camp from their morning game drives during the time we were traveling. Surprisingly, the three-hours went pretty fast and before we knew it, there in front of us was the Talek Gate. This Gate, like the Sand River Gate, takes you outside the Mara itself, onto private conservation land surrounding the Mara.

    Upon reaching our transfer point, Daryl noticed that our ongoing guide/driver hadn’t arrived. But, he actually had arrived, but was stuck on the far side of a large truck bogged down in the very muddy road on the other side of the gate. Being the gentleman he was, Daryl removed the potty seat from the vehicle and walked it over to the loo, located off the side of the road. There he left it for us to do with as we saw fit.

    Nature taken care of, as we walked back to the Cottar’s vehicle we noticed some crazy driver navigating his way at right angle around the truck. An idiot we thought, but those Land Rovers are amazing machines. Right past the truck, the vehicle righted itself and stopped at the gate. This was our driver… Mischak. Introductions made, the guys transferred our luggage, we said our good-byes and off we went.

    Sure enough, Mischak repeated his idiotic move to get past the truck… and at right angles in the ditch with us hanging on for fear or tumbling out… got around the truck and were out of there. Mischak was a delight, a Masai, an only son and proud that he and his family owned nine head of cattle. He had been a guide for a number of years and loved his work. We later learned that he’s been voted one of the best of the Mara camp guides.

    We had about a two-hour drive ahead of us and here on the conservation lands found the grasses lower and saw more game. There were topi, zebra, wildebeest, elephants, Tommies, impala, Grant’s gazelles, eland. For me, it was especially nice to see so many Tommies which are one of my favorites.

    Climbing a hill we came upon a mating pair of lions… just “resting” in the grass along the road. The male was magnificent… looked well fed and healthy; the female was a beauty and also in excellent health. We were able to get real close and completely ignored by these two who couldn’t care less. So we kept clicking away with our cameras… and spent some time hoping to see a mating. During a mating period which goes on for about a week, the pair will “do the nasty” every ten to fifteen minutes, then rest… then go at it again. In no rush, we waited. At one point the female got up and nudged (teased) the male, but he showed little interest… until he decided to get up and stroll down the road. She followed, he followed… and just when we thought something would happen… they decided this particular patch of grass looked good and just collapsed to nap again.

    Micshak’s take… this was probably due it being towards the end of the mating cycle… they were just tuckered out! Who wouldn’t be, doing “the nasty” every ten to fifteen minutes… even the best of us!!!

    Heading off, within the next thirty minutes we could see a small forest in the distance. This is where our camp was located. And as happened, at each and every camp, before you arrive, the guide radios that guests are on their way so the Welcome Committee is there to for you. The same here at Elephant Pepper Camp.

    We are welcomed by Paul and Gillian Wood, the managers and some staff. It was nice to finally stretch our legs. A wet towel to refresh ourselves and a cool drink hit the spot. We were shown to our tents, luggage brought in… but lunch was waiting, so we walked back to the dining tent. Here we met Lou and Christine, honeymooners from the States. The introductions were made around as we sat for another delicious meal. Take my word, every meal we had in Kenya was outstanding… the reason I don’t go into detail is because nothing was bad. Everything agreed with us… especially those tomatoes and all fresh vegetables in both countries. This is one thing I can repeat over and over – great tomatoes and other veggies!

    The honeymooners we learned lived in the Los Angeles area, but had a place in NYC; would be spending five days here at Elephant Pepper before continuing their itinerary. In most places they’d be spending 3 or 4- days each, but I can’t remember all the stops they had scheduled. In total, they’d be spending three-weeks in Africa.

    With Lunch over, we returned to our tent to get a good look at our home for the day and next morning. This was the most basic or rustic of the camps we’ve stayed and it’s not all that rustic. There are comfy real beds with mattresses, lovely bedspreads, towels, wash cloths. A flush toilet (a chemical long-drop); a typical bladder shower… hot water provided as needed; two wash basins, one on either side in the rear of the tent which is separately zippered – in other words, while right there at the tent, it’s not technically “en-suite” as you have to unzip the rear of tent to access the area. But you don’t have to leave the tent and walk a distance. We learned that Elephant Pepper would be remodeling the tents so guests won’t have to go thru the unzipping (probably for next season). For light, they provide a battery powered lantern. Barely sufficient for night reading, so those clip-on book lights should be considered for those who enjoy a read before retiring.

    There is a small dressing/make-up table with mirror, though the lighting is limited. It’s probably better to put on make-up (a bit of color on the lids, masscara and cheek and lip color) outside the tent where there is plenty of light and something I’ve seen many women doing over the years. I’ve also seen women curling their hair with butane curling irons sitting outside their tents; now that butane is no longer allowed by airport security, there aren’t many of these devices being packed for safari.

    Sitting outside the tent, there is nothing out there but the Mara. Though Elephant Pepper is located in a small forest area, immediately outside these trees are the open Mara plains. No fences, no wires… but the askari do monitor the surroundings constantly for inquisitive visitors. However, while here we didn’t even find the rascal vervet monkeys coming around to steal our dinner rolls or whatever they could get their grimy paws on!

    Before leaving on our afternoon game drive, we stopped into the library tent, where we met up with Gillian and Elliot, their 2-year old… so typically English in his Wellies… she was reading a story to him. A bit shy, but expected as we were strangers. We all commented on what an amazing it must be to be growing up here in Africa… little of which he’ll probably remember as a grown-up (the very early years, that is). Soon enough, Mischak came to collect us for our afternoon game drive.

    In the vehicle, we head out onto the plains and almost immediately come across a pride of sisters under a lone tree. It was rather cute watching them constantly moving to keep under the shade of the tree staying out of the direct sun. Hey, it was nap time. A few of these lions would periodically look up to see who their visitors were, but otherwise, their nap was most important and they kept moving into that shade. Some of their sleeping positions were funny, especially when they’d fall into deep sleep, on their backs, with legs up in the air. It’s real easy to spend extended periods of time just watching these cats. But we had more ahead of us.

    We must have been out over an hour finding zebra, Tommies, impala, topi and giraffes in the distance, when all of a sudden the radio crackled “Duma, Duma” – and off we went. It happened so quickly, Eileen had this inquisitive look wondering where we were heading. Well, Susan and I certainly didn’t know specifics, but we’d be pleasantly surprised once we got to wherever it was. It probably took 20-minutes and there in front of us were three vehicles spaced a good distance from one another… but on the bonnet of one was this magnificent cheetah. She was just sitting there scanning the horizon. We stopped the vehicle right where we were, in awe. She was a beauty.

    But within about a minute of arriving, the cheetah jumped off the bonnet and started stalking… not really, but she seemed to have a destination. Mischak started our vehicle and maneuvered us kind of in the path of where this gal was heading and stopped. She kept coming our way and all of a sudden our vehicle looked as appealing as the one she just left. And there she was sitting on the bonnet of ours.

    I’ve seen plenty of these photos – brochures and on film, but this was a first for me, for real… as it was for Susan and certainly for Eileen. Though the cat could definitely see us popping our heads out from the top and thru the windscreen… it didn’t seem to phase here. Apparently, “bonnet sitting” isn’t that unusual in the Mara. Unlike other cats that have the advantage of their powerful jaws to bring down prey, cheetahs don’t. So with their known speed, they chase down their prey and with their smaller jaws smother their prey to death. The ideal way of finding their next meal is from high ground… scanning for what’s out there. Termite mounds are a perfect high place from which to do this, however, in the Mara there are few, if any, termite mounds more then a 1-ft high… so the vehicles are an ideal alternative.

    Needless to say, all of our cameras were clicking away. After taking a dozen photos and Susan doing likewise, the two of us were so caught up with this sight, we actually had tears rolling down our cheeks. This gal was in good health, relatively young (Mischak said about 3-4 yrs old) and she was beautiful. While Susan and I were emotionally caught up, Eileen was switching between her two digitals and one APS… getting so flustered that at one point she exclaimed “my goodness, this is so amazing, I don’t know what else to do.” At this point I just broke out laughing.

    The other vehicles kept their distance… though you could hear the cameras clicking away. With the sun setting, even with all the excitement… it was time for sundowners. Of course, we had no intention of leaving the vehicle, though Mischak said it was unlikely the cat would even move or be a danger to us… but why break her concentration. So Mischak just opened the cool box, removing the wine, sodas, chips and other nibbles and we toasted this fine lady right where we were.

    This bit of excitement lasted at minimum for 45-minutes, when all of a sudden the cheetah was up and off into the plains. It happened so quickly, but in the almost dark, it was difficult to see what she might have seen. Once she was gone all the occupants of the three vehicles got out to stretch their legs… comments all around were pure excitement. With the Mara in full darkness (we were actually on private conservation land… or would had to have been off the reserve by 6:30pm) it was time to get back to camp which was clear over the other end from where we were.

    Pulling off the plain and into the road our headlights hit on another cheetah. Was it her? No! It was a male. It was her consort, sort of! Mischak said he was out of his territory but had often been seen in the same area with the lady… “is something going on here, maybe?” Making this turn and almost running of the male happened so quickly that Eileen took a photo of the ditch he had climbed out of. But she got him on the next click. We tracked him for a minute or so and then continued back to camp… but not so quick, there was more.

    Not a minute later… right in front of us, were four young lions – two male, two female – (maybe 2-to 3-yrs old) looking for dinner. They just kept walking, not turning towards our lights or even the sound of the vehicle… just walking and looking. To our right and left we could see “eyes” – very alert, but not scurrying away. And these four kept walking down the road. Susan and Eileen managed to get some photos… but I couldn’t get focus on anything in the dark. I tried every mode on my camera with no luck. It didn’t even help when Mischak put on the spotlight. Eileen couldn’t see anything in her screen or viewfinder, so she just pointed in the direction of the cats and clicked. Susan seemed to have better luck with her old standby 35mm. The few photos that came out can be seen in our album.

    Whew… well, if this wasn’t one unbelievable game drive! We were jabbering away all the way back to camp. By the time we arrived back at camp, one would have thought they’d be sending out the rescue team… but no. They knew we’d be back and the delay had to be due to something unusual… and it was.

    We quickly cleaned up and were back at the camp fire to tell our tales. Christine and Lou were already set with their drinks, as was Gillian. Paul saw to it that we got our drinks, while the waiter passed around hors d’ouevres. We were all finally able to take a breath and realize just how exciting our afternoon had been.

    We eventually adjourned to the dining tent for dinner. The table was beautifully set… quite elegant for a rustic camp. Little details were evident in the flower arrangements… the china, silver and glassware. Can’t say this enough, but we enjoyed another outstanding meal. The beef was so tender (like buttr!)…as were the veggies and wonderful potatoes, all served. No buffet here, except for breakfast and lunch… dinner (all courses) was always served. In fact, besides cold foods at breakfast or lunch, hot foods were always served… at all the camps where we stayed.

    Dinner was a hit all around and Paul is a marvelous story teller with a wonderful sense of humor. He kept all of us in stitches. Surprisingly, unlike the managers I’ve met throughout my stays in Kenya or Tanzania, where managers are mostly African by birth or long-time resident aliens, Gillian and Paul have only been in Africa for five-years… originally from the UK. You’d never know they were newcomers.

    Finishing up, we were served our after dinner drinks out at the camp fire and we were all star gazing… very easy to do. For all of us familiar with the Northern sky, it was interesting to spend time acclimating ourselves with the Southern Cross… though we had our first lesson up at Sabuk.

    Well, tomorrow is going to be our last full day on safari. How time flies… sadly it’s going to have to end. So off we go to our tents and dreamtime and what wonderful dreams after a dream-come-true afternoon.

    ... to be continued

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    Wow, I held my breath the whole time I was reading that last section - you really brought it to life for us. Thanks Sandi.

    Also loved the idea of the potty - never seen one of those but then I'm more than happy to use the nearest bush!

    Thanks and keep going gal, you've got us sitting on the edge of our seats waiting for each instalment.

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    Part XI -

    Day 16 – June 10, 2005

    This is it… our last safari day. It seems like only yesterday that we arrived in Tanzania and here we are… it's coming to the end. It’s just not fair.

    As usual, Eileen and Susan went out on the morning game drive while I took my time getting out of bed and ready for breakfast. It was about 8:30am while I was sitting outside the tent and simply enjoying the quiet and breathing the fresh air… when Gillian and Paul walked over to the tent. To my surprise then informed me that this morning we were going to have a Bush Breakfast, but this was supposed to be a surprise of sorts and they were informing me ahead of time.

    Both Lou and Christine has gone out on their morning drive expecting a bush breakfast, but when they’d be arriving at the area where their supposed breakfast would take place, they’d find that the hamper was void of food. And for the girls, when they arrived wherever (the same as Lou and Christine or another… I didn’t know)… they’d find that the table and chairs were missing. Therefore, both groups would have to return to somewhere… and that is where the breakfast would be set-up. Well, of course, I was game as apparently Gillian and Paul had everything set-up.

    I grabbed my bag and with the two of them and little Elliot and Mischak driving, we headed out onto the Mara. It was a short drive, but a good distance from the camp. On the way, Paul kept repeating that we had to be looking for squared shaped markings (like chair or table legs) to see where whomever had “stolen” the furniture could have taken these. Naturally, I played along with this, though no body could hear this conversation but the three of us.

    We finally pulled up to an open field that had actually been mowed… finding two tables set up. One was a long table at which all of us could sit… with table cloth, china, glassware, silverware, chairs, coffee and juice thermoses, etc. The second table… smaller, contained the cold cereals, milk and next to this a washing stand. Leaving the vehicle, we could hear growls which were obviously not “real lions” but to which we said to Elliot “hear those growls, go look to see where the lions are!” Shame on us adults, but it was actually his parents who were saying this to him. Off Elliot went, in his little Wellies. in the direction of the sounds. “Elliot, go find the lions.” Traversing thru the high grasses and then the mowed area and tables he continued to some bushes from where the cook and waiter popped out their heads to Elliot’s surprise, but he did laugh and thought it all very funny.

    Needless to say, I was impressed with the setup and what must have gone into just mowing the plains. In fact, Gillian said that when they came out here two days earlier, they hoped no one would see them and wonder “what are these folks up to?” The rest of the setup was brought out to the area earlier this morning.

    Arriving when we did, we had to wait for the others and before long Susan and Eileen arrived quite hysterical in finding this surprise… having been looking for “square” leg markings in the Mara plains, when advised that the furniture for the breakfast setup must have been stolen!!!

    Elliot had been placed on a booster cushion in one of the chairs around the table while the rest of us… especially Paul and Mischak with their binoculars scanned the horizon for Lou and Christine’s vehicle. While waiting we enjoyed Mimosas.

    Before long, Lou and Christine arrived and were surprised by the setup having wondered how their “breakfast” hamper could have been forgotten. They were pleased with this surprise.

    Now that all were present we were able to take our seats and enjoy this lovely setting. And before getting started, Paul had a small surprise for Eileen… a birthday cupcake with candle to celebrate in Kenya (besides the surprise we had for her while in Tanzania). Maybe is wasn’t a cake, but just as thoughtful and appreciated. Of course, I had arranged for both of these when originally planning the trip, though I had no idea at which camp in Kenya we’d celebrate her birthday.

    Here we were in the middle of the Mara, on a lawn mowed, tables set and a kitchen staff to prepare our meal… and not a care about wild animals. Though there was a tracker keeping an eye out that there would be no animals to upset our meal.

    Not unlike, if we had been at camp, whatever we wished was prepared… as mentioned, cold cereals, cheeses, yogurt, cooked eggs (any style) toast, bacon, ham… a regular breakfast meal. No scrimping even out here.

    Conversation was lively, and Paul’s sense of humor was a hoot. We learned that Lou and Christine had a loft in Manhattan which they had sublet while in California. And, of course, the question, “what are you doing in California?” It took a bit of prying, but it finally came out that they “were in the business” (in other words… TV or movies). She an actress and he a producer of a well know TV program about politics!

    Of course, we wanted to know details… but that would give away the upcoming season, and Lou wasn’t telling. As it turns out Eileen and I knew some of the other principals of this very successful TV program – producers, to be exact – so it then became easy to discuss the subject at hand. It turned out to be a great time for all and the meal was perfect with great people and here we all were in the middle of the Mara! Who could have imagined!

    All of a sudden there was a crackle on the radio. Apparently, our host at our next stop wanted to have an idea of when the three of us would be arriving. Since it would take about an hour or so to get there, we knew we’d have to be finishing up, returning to camp, gathering our stuff and be heading out. We finished our meal… the packing up was left to the cook and waiter while the three of us returned to camp.

    Lou and Christine arranged with Paul to head off to the local market for a few hours. They were interested in get a “real” rather then “touristy” encounter with the local Masai and the Friday market fit the bill. Goodbyes and exchange of emails… the three of us returned to camp with Gillian and Elliot with Mischak.

    Back at camp our luggage was loaded in the vehicle (no potty needed for this stretch) and we had the opportunity to meet the entire staff – other guides, trackers, askari, kitchen and housekeeping staff… not unlike our goodbye at Sabuk. It’s really nice to meet the people who make your stay at any of these small camps as wonderful as they are.

    Before we left, Gillian asked us to sign their guest book… which entries were the first for the 2005 season. It was our pleasure to do so. Then off we went.

    The trip to our last camp, also on private conservation lands was a little over an hour long… traversing much of the area we were on last evening. I actually recognized landmarks along the way, especially an antenna (the real world does show up in strange ways even in the Mara… which we learned wasn’t for cell phones, but for radios). Along the way there were zebra, tummies, a few wildies, topi and impala.

    The area we finally came upon had a small Masai community living in mostly cinderblock houses… not many typical mud/stick/hide manyatta-type huts. There was one such building marked as a church, even a hotel called The New Hotel! We wondered what the “old” hotel looked like, as this wasn’t but the size of a single room. There were a number of local Masai walking to/from wherever the weekly market was setup… we couldn’t see any gathering of people along our way. The scenery changed from open plains to forest and at a distance we could just make out some permanent dwellings.

    This was Saruni Camp – which is located off a road that comes from/goes to Nairobi in a Northeast direction, but situated on the West side of the Mara that doesn’t see visitors traveling in minibuses. Here, you need 4WD if driving… but most guests fly-in to camp. There is a private airstrip 15-minutes from camp and the airstrip used by Mara River Camp a bit further, with scheduled flights in and out.

    Making a turn off the main road, this one is bumpy and loaded with small rocks, which naturally doesn’t invite visitors unless planning on staying for a few days. As we approach closer, the view of the camp appears more like cottages on the side of a hill in the Alps… not one in Kenya. This should be interesting!

    And then we arrived at Saruni. The staff is there to welcome us, as is Riccardo Orizio, the owner/host. Wow! And women here to welcome us also! How lovely and refreshing! Of course, there have been women at every other camp we stayed, but for some reason this was different… they were in the forefront, not behind the men. We were introduced to William the head Masai guide and Cecelia the “top gal.” She’s actually in charge of the Masai Wellbeing spa! Of course, the first thought from the three of us was the “Cecelia” song which by now she’s gotten used to people singing and which she knew well even before coming to Saruni. A lovely young woman!

    ... Day 16 - to be continued

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    Everyone - Here this JazzDrew - Hope to have the balance of our last safari day done early next week. Then there's our final day in Nairobi.

    When I look at the calendar I can't believe that today is 2-months since we arrived home... and I've been ready to return ever since.

    Glad you're all enjoying. And, now that I've finally found a Journal for this report... that's my next project. But I'm not rewriting (not in this life!), rather printing on half-sheet 8-1/2"x11" paper and gluing to the journal pages. There's still the decision in figuring which of the photos to enlarge, but bought lots of frames last week. This may all be completed just in time for my next trip.

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    Leely - where have you been these past days?

    Thanks for your feedback. I know I promised the finale early this week, but have been caught up with friends from out of town, "work" (blah) and general stuff... but it's on the agenda. And, yes, this was by far my best trip in so many ways. Just hang in there all, I promise to finish this saga!

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    Oh good. Something excellent to look forward to. Thanks for taking the time to craft a report that's just like being there.

    I'm going to have to dig deep and gently nudge JazzDrew too--I don't think he's finished yet, or has he and I somehow missed it?

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    hi sandi!!!
    I just ask for Cottars information last week because patty advised me at other forum that you can tell me some information about it.
    wow Sandi, what nice report have you write from your trip. I've really enjoyed and get lot of details and information about all.

    Thank you very much to share your experience!!! and my congratulations for your incredible wonderful way to explain!!!

    the only thing I'm very sorry is not to understand very well some expresions, I need to learn more english for it, so it has been also a tryining for me.


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    voramar -

    Thanks for your kind comments. You did quite well explaining yourself. I'm glad that I was able to help.

    Continue your reading on Fodor's and I'm sure you'll understand more of the expressions.

    To everyone else - I haven't forgotten the rest of this report. I seriously hope to get to it this week-end... but don't hate me if I don't!

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    Day 16 - continued

    First, let me say - thank you all for waiting on the balance of our trip report. I know it's taken a long time to get to this point... but what follows should be the last sections.

    At Saruni -
    Before being shown to our rooms, we say good-bye to Mischak who has been such a wonderful guide and thanked him for the amazing experience the day before. We later learned that Mischak has been voted "the best Mara guide." How many “best” there are, who knows, but he certainly was.

    Luggage unloaded from the vehicle, Riccardo escorts us to our rooms. There are three cabins/tents to the left, practically hanging off the side of the mountain – here Susan is shown to hers. Further on is the public area with welcoming fireplace, seating indoors and out; also the dining area which is family-style – one long table.

    This is also where you’ll find the library – separate room - which is probably the most extensive I’ve seen at any lodge/camp anywhere in Africa… neatly labeled by language (many) and, it seemed, contained every issue of National Geographic. Guess you couldn't expect anything from a journalist! If one chose to visit during rainy season, you could easily spend months in here.

    Walking thru this area, further on are three more cabins/tents, also on the side of the mountain. Ours is the next to the last. The portion of the room set on the mountain is permanent, while the other side is canvas with wide screened windows with roll-down flaps. The room is very large with a large separate bathroom containing two washbasins, large open shower stall with views into the Mara… amazing, also loo and a bidet. Bathrobes and water provided. Power is solar, but sadly don’t support a hair blower and none are provided. Have to talk to Ric about this!

    Off the main sleeping area are doors that fold open to a deck… which we are reminded to close whenever we leave the room as the baboons just love getting into trouble inside, if we don't.

    Saruni is a small camp for only 12 guests. In addition, Riccardo has built his own house a short distance from the main camp – would we have loved to have had the opportunity to see inside… sadly, we didn’t, but understandable. However, we did learn that there are extra rooms in his house should there be heavy demand in the main camp – like being overbooked during the Migration.

    After a quick freshening-up, we walk back for lunch and meet the other guests who were gathered on the outside deck. Surprisingly, I notice some familiar faces… two or four of whom had been in another vehicle the previous evening during our experience with the cheetah. They were only too glad to mention that after the cheetah departed and they were returning to camp, came upon her on the prowl and while she was focused on a larger Tommy, caught a little one that got in the way. Boy, what I would have given to see that kill… (not really - poor Tommy!)

    Nearing 1pm, we adjourned to the dining area, where Riccardo, being the perfect host was assigning seats for guests to get to know one another, but one couple didn’t want to be separated… so be it. Riccardo, naturally, was seated at the head of the table, Susan to his right, Eileen to his left. To Eileen’s left, was William the head Masai guide. To Susan’s right I sat… next to me, Davide who is a friend of Riccardo’s visiting from Italy… also his accountant. The money man, sort of. The rest of the guests further down the table with two of the other guides interspersed amongst them.

    Of course, there was wine and the salad was outstanding…those delicious tomatoes, and finally, Italian food! There was soup, which I passed on, then risotto and mini-pizza, all of which was better then great! Looking around the table and gazing out on the landscape, for a moment I was in Tuscany – only better, as it was “Tuscany in Afree-kah!”

    Conversation was interesting, leisurely and mixed. Then from some corner of my ear I heard a subject being talked about on the other side of the table between Eileen and William and almost dropped my silverware. FSM - Female sexual mutilazation! WOW! Not necessarily what one would expect to hear during a meal… I knew Eileen certainly didn't broach the subject. Interested in what was being said, nosey me… I rudely interrupted my conversation with my luncheon companion - an intelligent and handsome may, to listen.

    Surprisingly, William (I learned later) had brought up the subject along with other issues as they relate to women in Masai and/or African culture. Susan had also joined in the listening – I believe Riccardo who was right there, either, just ignored it, or somehow disappeared – I really don’t remember where he was. I too listened and from all indication William indicated that the younger generation, men specifically, were completely against these rituals, though it seemed to be taking the women longer to come to a new mindset. While I was tempted to ask lots of questions, as I’m sure were Eileen and Susan, we treaded lightly and just listened.

    William was well spoken and educated and knew what he knew and how he felt and conveyed that there were many young men that felt as he did; were doing their utmost not to bring this abuse upon the current and new generations of women.

    What I found quite refreshing was that all of the young men we had met during our trip, were well educated (and if I haven’t mentioned this previously) waited to marry… most in their mid- to late-20s, their wives weren’t teenagers, rather young women in their early 20s and none yet had families and weren’t in a rush to do so.

    Needless to say, coming in on the end of Eileen and William’s conversation and only hearing a few of William’s thoughts on the subject… further discussion would have to be for another time, even if tempted not to leave this much talked about subject of interest to women worldwide. We graciously thanked our host – Riccardo somehow reappeared… though he was probably there the entire time, but I had re-focused. And poor charming, Davide, I had to apologize for ignoring him. Sandi, shame on you, bad girl!

    Before leaving the table, Cecilia came to sit with us to let us know what services were available at the Masai Wellness Spa at Saruni. I know Eileen’s eyes were wide-open when she heard the word “massage,” but we really didn’t have that much time. Though it was delightful just to listen to her speak, her enthusiasm and the sparkle in her eyes… a real gem.

    So we returned to our room and both of us immediately checked the prices for the Spa services which were competitive – sort of, though always at a premium while on holiday – but were blown away by the price of a manicure – USD$40… are they crazy? Back home in NYC, we can get both a manicure and pedicure for USD$19-$22 – Monday to Wednesday and USD$25 the balance of the week. Spoiled, we may be, with a nail salon on almost every street in Manhattan, but that costly “just for a manicure?” Truth be told, I admit that I spent USD$25 at the Mt. Kenya Safari Club a few years earlier… but I was desperate. In fact, our stop at MKSC then was for this reason only - I knew after a week of safari, I would need to have my nails done. Fru-fru gal that I am. I’m going to have to have a serious discussion about this with Riccardo? Though I’m sure there are plenty of female guests who probably go for the “big bucks.”

    Ok, back to serious stuff…

    We had some time before our afternoon game drive, so from our deck enjoyed watching the waterbuck that came to the salt-lick not far from our sight. Also the baboons treading across the high grass in front of us… so sneaky, looking our way and sneaking up the hill towards us, then looking back ignoring us, but sneaking up behind the bushes and trees. It was a hoot watching them. Unfortunately, they were so quick that whatever pictures we took were just not focused – blurry!

    At about 3:30pm we returned for tea and then readied ourselves for our game drive. Other vehicles had left or were leaving and with only one vehicle waiting, figured this was ours. Unlike at the other camps where we also had opened vehicles, those had doors that opened for easy access… these were truly like those in South Africa – the ones you climb into. I was up and in my seat in a snap being familiar with the machinations of where your feet go in order not to get your legs twisted while attempting this feat. That’s when I noticed that Saruni graciously provides steps which make access easier. Will remember these for the next time, but the steps weren’t really necessary.

    And guess who we were going to have as our guide? Riccardo! Alongside him was our Masai tracker. Eileen and I were in the first seats, Susan and Davide behind us. And off we went. It was rather nice driving through the forest to get down into the plains and once out there we came across topi, eland, Tommies and zebra. Then Riccardo surprised us by sneaking up on a hyena den where he knew there were young pups. From a distance we could see the little ones right outside the den and you’d think they’d run inside… but no. We slowly crept up in the vehicle, stopping a few times until the pups realized we meant no harm. And there they were… two of them. Really cute as pups; not the ugly animal they turn into once grown, most with tails that look like a washed out mop. One of these pups was more curious then the other staying out there… the other hiding behind or moving in/out of the den. They were about 3-months old and Riccardo noticed that their color was changing from the dark color when born, slowly lightening over the months… but a ways to go till they were truly lighter in color.

    We stayed awhile watching then left for greener pastures. Across the plains we spotted only two other vehicles at a distance. These could have been other Saruni vehicles or from other camps… couldn’t tell. Continuing on, all of a sudden – there she was again “the cheetah.” The same girl… I could tell! It sure was the same cheetah and up to her old tricks… sitting on the bonnet of another safari vehicle. We moved into position to watch her and noticed the people in the vehicle – rather interesting. Four young woman, two young men (late teens, early 20s, maybe)… dressed in conservative clothing… the girls wearing white kerchiefs. Mennonites!

    Previously, I always seem to forget their sect… often thinking first Amish (the clothing is distinctly different… but the Mennonite name always seems to escape me) and there I was… the name just popped out of my mouth. How lucky, they being in the same position we had been the night before. There were only three vehicles here.

    Again, the cheetah sat their regally scanning the horizon, totally ignoring anything other then where her next meal might be. She was very aware that there was a Masai man walking the plains some distance away. But otherwise she was gorgeous and oblivious of us humans. And, of course, we had to get more photos. Then we just sat and watched and watched… the sky changed, the sun beginning to set… as we continued to watch. All of a sudden she was off the bonnet and on the prowl. Though most of the grass in this overall area was rather short, this particular spot was higher, so the others took out their nocs to see where she was heading. Not liking nocs myself, I focused on her and watched her moving in the direction of an impala, easily a mile or more in the distance. The impala with eyes focused in the opposite direction… had no idea she was out there. And we waited and watched as she crept up slowly, but surely. We must have sat there watching and waiting… ready to start the motor as soon as she’d take off… but nothing happened for 30-minutes. Finally, actually getting dark that even with the nocs, the others lost her, though I could see that the impala had not moved at all.

    So, time for “sundowners” – and off we went. It was rather cold as the wind picked up and out came the Masai blankets. Finally we arrived at an area under a few desert date trees… that look like acacia but aren’t. It was a pleasure to get out of the vehicle, stretch our legs and partake. Eileen, Susan, Davide and Riccardo did, I passed, though did nibble on the chips. No worry out here about anyone doing breathalyzer tests.

    From where we were parked, we could actually see a building with bright lights and wondered where this was, what it was…
    Welcome to Little Tokyo! That’s what everyone calls this lodge (don’t recall the exact name). It’s geared towards Japanese guests with such amenities to satisfy. Well, why not… though very strange to see this in the Mara.

    We learned that Riccardo is married to a Pediatrician, British, with a practice in the UK, though they have established a children’s care center in the Mara area.

    Well, packing up the beverages, back in the vehicle… it’s real dark now, we start heading back to camp. The tracker has the spot light out to brighten the “road” or whatever we were driving on… some plains, some roads. Ric was doing quite well. At one point we did stop for a Bush Baby that the tracker spotted in a tree. We could certainly hear it, but not see.

    Before we knew it, having no idea myself which direction we were traveling, we were on the road leading back to the camp – there was The New Hotel on our left. Arriving back at camp, we were greeted by staff and this time provided the steps to remove ourselves from the vehicle. Admittedly, in the dark it is easier to use the steps. We were the last vehicle to return, the others arriving right ahead of us. I wonder whether there is a contest between guide/drivers as to who returns last?

    Most of the guests were at the fireplace enjoying drinks while we returned to our room to freshen up. But I was absolutely exhausted… finally, at the end of our safari time and actually decided to pass on dinner. I wasn’t even hungry, was tired – even though I knew I’d be missing a great meal. While Eileen showered and changed clothing, I got ready to shower next and get under the covers. I tell Eileen express my disappointment in not joining the others for dinner… that I was not ill (I wasn’t, just really tired and didn’t need anyone hovering over me), but I’d love dessert, whatever it might be.

    Once Eileen was out, I was into the shower then made myself comfy on these really firm mattresses. I had time to write in my journal, read a little of the book I had with me, but hadn’t turned more then 10-pages throughout the trip. With a knock on the door, came someone to roll down the window flaps… and about half-hour later, my dessert – a mousse. Can’t go wrong with “eat dessert first, life is short.” It was just what I needed… had only a taste, very good, but that was enough. Then I was off to neverland. I never heard Eileen return.

    Here I must mention – that food was plentiful, tasty and beautifully presented at just about every hotel/lodge/camp. Some better then others, but never bad. Dessert, of course, always the best. Sure the beef in Tanzania could have been more tender, but, I lost 6-lbs and Susan lost 7-lbs… don’t know about Eileen as she’s yet to say. Considering we had little exercise I was right on target as on all other vacations – on average I loose between 6-10-lbs. How or why it returns not long after arriving home – a mystery or is it black magic??? So, in the end… it’s better to be on vacation.

    ... to be continued

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    Day 17 – June 11, 2005

    Ok, so I was a party pooper last evening, but I was really tired and slept so well. Up with the sun, we finished packing, showered, dressed and went to breakfast. Though it was going to be another full day for Susan (she wasn’t leaving until tomorrow's afternoon flight to NBO) we were told we’d have our game drive on the way to the airport… so no need to be up at the crack of dawn. I certainly had no intention to be out early and it was fine with Eileen. Surprisingly, when we arrived at the dining area, we were the only guests. Everyone else must have been out on their morning drives… probably doing bush breakfasts, as if not they would have returned by this hour.

    Riccardo joined the three of us for breakfast and when we finished we’d be off to the airstrip. Before leaving, we poked our heads into the gift shop/(Ric’s office) to see what was available… but found nothing to purchase, though there were some interesting clothing items.

    Saying our goodbyes to Davide who wasn’t joining us for this last game drive and others from the camp, we were in our vehicle sometime between 9 to 9:30am… along with Riccardo our guide/driver, again, and a Masai tracker.

    Instead of driving downhill from the camp, as we did yesterday afternoon, we headed higher into the forested hills which brought us to an amazing point onto which to lookout at the Mara in all it’s glory. We sat here for a few minutes… probably each in our own “special place” saying our own goodbyes to what nature and beauty had afforded us. It was very poignant for me!

    For those who come to Saruni by private charter instead of scheduled flights, there is an airstrip in this area… 15-minutes from the camp.

    From up here we were able to enjoy different landscapes - trees, bushes and even some animals just going about being animals. Now descending onto the Mara flats we came across zebra, Tommies and real big warthogs. And further along the way, even a few elephants walking along right next to our vehicle. Riccardo was taking his time getting us to the airstrip, passing the Mara River before arriving to wait for our flight.

    Riccardo checked us in for our flight and advised that we’d be back in time for take-off. … We then reversed direction as there was one more stop to make – to the Mara River. Quite perceptive of Riccardo.

    Eileen and I had started our trip at the Grumeti in Tanzania, so it only made sense that we end at the Mara River. Both are the lifeblood of these major eco-systems – the Serengeti and the Mara. The waters were at mid level… and not a suspension bridge in sight! The hippos here were being hippos; our tracker even spotted a small croc hiding on one of the river outcrops… though it was difficult for our untrained eyed to actually make this out as a croc. The river was flowing, muddy… with high banks on both sides.

    I paused to think that in about six-weeks this area would be covered with millions of wildebeest, zebra, Tommies and other antelope – and the ever-present predators – and so the “cycle of life” would continue. And we’d be – well, not here!

    Feeling tears welling up in my eyes, I took a deep breath, said a small prayer – to return sooner then later… gathered myself and asked Riccardo to take a last photo of us. What a great back-drop – certainly better then the fear on our faces when we arrived at Grumeti – our first steps into baboon poop, which turned out to be a good omen.

    Back in the vehicle, returning to the airstrip we could see our plane circling for a landing. We were at the Mara River Camp airstrip where we had just enough time to visit the loo that flushed and was clean. No tiny plane this time… rather one for about 45. There were quite a number of vehicles waiting for arriving passengers and a number of small groups getting ready to depart.

    With kisses all around and wishing we were staying another day along with Susan… we boarded for the short flight to Nairobi.

    Once airborne and being the last pick-up of passengers we flew direct to Nairobi arriving in an hour. Off the plane and there waiting for us was our driver who had picked us up a week earlier when we first flew north to Laikipia. How fast the time flies. He gathered our bags and drove to the Intercontinental Hotel for the day till our departure that evening.

    Arriving here, we were welcomed as old friends… considering we had only been here so short a time the week earlier. Our driver said that he’d return for us at 8pm. We checked into our room, freshened up and were out in a few minutes. We had some shopping to do.

    Yes, we were going walking and shopping in Nairobi… the city “where nobody walks in Nairobi” – the “nobody” meaning the tourists. Unlike the “nobody walks in LA” … everybody walks in Nairobi and so were we - going to walk. Of course, we left anything of value in our room – cameras, cash, jewelry – we had heard the tales… and so down to the Concierge Desk.

    Here we inquired as to where the Hilton Hotel was in relation to the Intercontinental – well, “it’s right down the block, two traffic circles.” “Do you want us to get you a taxi?” “Why? No, we’re walking.” Needless to say, we got both a smile and a curious look. And off we went.

    It was a beautiful Saturday… sun shining, temps in the low 70s. The city actually looked lovely – clean and fresh, flowers growing. The area has many government buildings including city hall… a business district. It took us a block or two before we familiarized ourselves with the drivers coming from the other side of the road and the traffic circles; New Yorkers aren’t all that used to anything but traffic lights… but we got the hang of it. We walked along minding our own business, as were locals going about whatever they were. Nobody even gave us a glance. And there at the second traffic circle was the Hilton and our destination – The Collector’s Den.

    Though Eileen had spent time here the week before, we had some more souvenirs to buy… as I hadn’t bought a thing and did need a few gifts. Here too we were welcomed as old friends (well, I should be since I’ve been shopping here often during the past 10-years)… and the only ones in the shop at this time. This was good as we had all the attention we needed, especially in the back room where they do have some interesting pieces of jewelry. Not being rushed, I managed to go through the entire shop which had been expanded since my last serious stop here. Eileen did some damage in the jewelry department and I found the few items I needed. That’s when a group arrived - I recognized faces that we had seen on our flight from the Mara, and a group traveling with Micato Tours. At this point, I just took a seat out of the way knowing that they wouldn’t be too long… then we could finish and pay up.

    It was about 4pm when we left with our purchases and walked back to the hotel. Again, it was a lovely walk and we felt perfectly safe. Granted, I might be uneasy walking the streets at night, but this area was full of shops and restaurants and seemed busy at all hours.

    Back at the hotel, the Concierge was all smiles when we walked through the doors. He almost gave us a high-five for showing faith in his city.

    Dropped off our goodies in the room and decided to end our stay with “sundowners” at The Norfolk Hotel. Inasmuch as we had already spent over two-weeks in Africa and hadn’t exchanged any USD to local currency, we did so at the currency desk. The rep said that it would cost 300Ksh each way to The Norfolk - I handed over USD$10 and received 740Ksh… not the best rate of exchange which would have been closer to 760Ksh, but the difference only amounted to pennies.

    With money in our pockets, we were into a taxi. We asked the driver how much it would cost and was told 200Ksh… a bargain. It probably took 10-minutes to get to The Norfolk, where we paid the drive 300Ksh and he immediately offered to wait for us. We thanked him, but told him we’d be a few hours and would get another taxi for the return.

    Once here, we walked up to the Delamere Terrace where we were seated and ordered our drinks. What a lovely way to finally wind-down and relax before our long flight home. It was a lovely afternoon, the sun soon setting and in my mind I was already wondering how soon before I’d be planning a return trip. After a few rounds of drinks, we decided to also have dinner here. So many choices, but the one thing I hadn’t eaten in the past two-weeks had been a good hamburger… I was easy to please. Likewise, Eileen ordered something quite ordinary (don’t recall). Food arrived and was just perfect… again the beef in Kenya was outstanding. To finish off our meal, we decided to share a few scoops of ice cream, but which flavors - that was easy - one each of vanilla, chocolate & strawberry.

    Before leaving and being a few years since I had been at this hotel, we took a look around inside the lobby. And WOW, they certainly changed things… opened up the lobby, better lighting, an open-area bar to the left. She was looking pretty good for an old lady. Eileen, liked what she saw. Well, enough of that… maybe I’ll stay here on my next visit in Nairobi.

    Outside, we got into a taxi and returned to the Intercontinental to pack our last-minute purchases and have our bags brought down to the lobby. Right on time, our driver was there to take us to the airport. The ride was about 20-minutes. Unloading our bags and placing them on luggage carts we waited on a long line to enter the terminal. Everyone had to have their bags xrayed and bodies scanned before even getting to the check-in desk. Check-in went quickly and our bags weren’t all that much heavier then when we departed New York… that is unless you consider the one extra bag I had. So be it… but nowhere near being overweight.

    From here we cleared Immigration/Customs, went through another security check and body scan… took the escalator upstairs to the departure terminal/gates. When we had arrived a little over a week earlier, I didn’t take the time to notice the terminal… and though it still doesn’t compare to many modern terminals around the world… the place looked much better – more lights, shops – then I remembered.

    Once at our gate, again another que waiting for carryon bags to be xrayed and bodies scanned… then inside the waiting area where we found seats and waited for boarding. From the number of people in the area, I knew this was going to be a full load and it was… not an empty seat.

    Right on schedule we were airborne and on our way to AMS; arriving here on schedule…

    ... to be continued
    ... to be continued

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    Day 18 – June 12, 2005

    …..we had about three-hours before boarding of our next flight. Fortunately, we found an area on the second level with lounge chairs which were great for a nap. For us “steerage” passengers if not a member of one of the airlines clubs there isn’t the luxury of comfortably sleep, even if I can sleep on flights. Most European/International airports now have these lounge chairs… time for these to appear in the States. I haven’t seen them anywhere yet. If someone has, do tell!

    Having taken the pillows from the first flight, these were perfect for a good nap and nap I did… as did Eileen. By 8:15am we headed to the gate for our ongoing flight.

    Here, we again had to go through carryon luggage xray and body scans… and noticed for the first time “no cigarette lighters permitted” – which appears to be a US rule only and sure enough I had two lighters in my backpack. Surprisingly, the alarm never went off for these. Who really cares, as we were homeward bound.

    On board, I’m sitting in the B seat, Eileen across the aisle in the C seat… I’ve got an empty seat next to me – a treat. Finally, airborne, we’re out about an hour when the guy seating next to Eileen calls over the attendant complaining that something is leaking from overhead. Opening the compartment there is an apparent leak from a package stored and which doesn’t belong to seat holder below. It’s determined to belong to a passenger seated further back.

    Disgusting as this sounds – there were maggots surrounding the package and in the compartment. It was amazing that the owner of the package seemed so upset when the attendant removed his package and packed it in a plastic bag for inspection once we landed in the States. The attendant was wearing plastic gloves and cleaning out the compartment – brave girl… and this is part of her job description? You wouldn’t get me to do this. It was also noticeable from where Eileen was seated that some of these creepy-crawlies were on the floor and seats. It didn’t take Eileen but a second to offer her seat to the guy next to her (he and his wife were returning from their honeymoon) and took the once empty seat next to me. Needless to say, during the entire trip you could see lots of eyes focused on that overhead bin to see if anything was dropping or creeping about.

    If the plane had more empty seats, I’m sure all of us in that row would have moved as far away as possible. What in the world could have been in the owner’s bag to cause maggots – food or a “dead body?” This was probably the most disgusting thing that I’ve ever experienced while in the air.

    The remainder of the flight was uneventful. Arriving at Newark’s Liberty Airport, we cleared Immigration quickly and went to retrieve our luggage. And, of course, here in the good old USofA is the only place where arriving international passengers have to pay for a luggage cart! This pisses me off and for $3 no less… what ever happened to the 50-cent fee and 25-cent refund on returning the cart? How many years ago was that??? Thinking about it I haven’t used a cart in more then 25-years… bags-with-wheels. But this time we had soft-sided duffle bags so had no choice.

    Not a pleasant “welcome” to foreigners arriving in the States.

    It didn’t take much time for the luggage to arrive except that ours didn’t. How interesting. We’ve been around the world and our bags were always there… and here in our own backyard – no bags. I immediately inquired about the location of Customer Service and headed in that direction, but not before I asked the attendant at the luggage carts to return my $3. Hey, no bags, no need for a cart… I want my money back. Surprisingly, she sheepishly took $3 from her pocket (the actual money is in the machine and not accessible) It wasn’t a matter of being cheap… which I’m not, rather the principle! I thanked her and off to find out where were or when we’d see our bags.

    We arrived at Customer Service and luckily were second in que. In front of us a honeymoon couple who happened to have been sitting right in front of us on the plane. Here in NY for their honeymoon and no bags – not too happy. There was only one rep behind the counter and I just knew this would take forever. When we turned around there must have been 20+ other passengers also wondering where their bags were - they'd be here at least another hour.

    The honeymooners put in their claim and were provided a claim check for about $100 each for necessities they’d need till their bags arrived. Though based on how they were dressed, we told them they were attired properly for the area they’d be visiting - the hotel they were staying at in Soho.

    We then put in our respective claims and were only given an 800# to call (this was our final home destination) so no money for us. The agent told us our bags would be on the next day’s flight, though I had hoped they would be on the next flight to New York which arrived at JFK about 4pm that afternoon… but no, on the same flight that we arrived on into EWR – so next day.

    No need to get excited – it’s only dirty laundry, so we left for outside to find our limo and driver whom we had called to advise of our delay. Outside, the temps were easily in the 90s and we were a bit overdressed. Within five-minutes our limo arrived and into the air-conditioning and on our way into Manhattan. Delayed baggage on a return flight wasn’t something new for me… can’t do much about it, besides, the airline does deliver your bags right to your front door.

    We were home in less then an hour, encountering some traffic arriving into mid-town Manhattan in the middle of the day on Sunday. My preference is to arrive at JFK which is a faster ride and comes into Manhattan on the eastside where we both live; but then we would have had a 8-hr layover in AMS – no thank you! From mid-town we were home rather quickly.

    I did, however, have my carryon, so had all my important stuff; Eileen, however, didn’t… all the more reason to always have important items with you.

    Home! Good, but sad. It did look good, as did my own bed. Now I was ready to start thinking about my next trip to Africa - after doing my photos and even trip report.

    As many of you know, this was a special trip for me. Having planned to travel with my long-time partner, his passing did change things. However, he was with me in Africa, more then he could know… though maybe he did. There were so many times that I could feel he was either laughing with me, at me or we were fussing with one another about something ridiculous. That was good and sustaining. And it was good to know that I have friends to whom I can count on to make up for the absence – Eileen did just that, as did Susan and Michael. And though the people we met along the way weren’t aware of my loss… they too made this a special and wonderful visit to the countries I love so much.

    P.S. At 9:30pm that evening my phone rang. The voice on the other end asked specifically where my house was located as he had my bag for delivery… so much for delivery the next day. But it wasn’t until about 12:30am (actually the next day) that my phone rang and the guy asked that I come down to collect my bag. Sorry, but I don’t think so… I was in my nightshirt. He’d have to bring it up to my apartment… about which he complained saying he couldn’t double-park his van on the chance of getting a ticket. I told him that at that hour the “ticket police” were sleeping and he’d just have to put on his directional (there’s a coffee shop right there and it would appear that he went in to get a cup). He wasn’t too pleased, but rang the doorbell and was up with the bag in a “New York-minute” where I met him and quickly signed for my property.

    The next morning Eileen called rather perturbed. First thing upon waking she had called the airline inquiring about her bag and was advised that it had been delivered. She was annoyed with her doorman for not advising her of this, but hey, it was the middle of the night and he probably felt that the morning was soon enough. He knew she had arrived from an overseas flight and it made sense to him not to wake her – the bags were safe. She finally calmed down… she had her bags.

    Interesting though - Eileen had learned from the airline that our bags had indeed been on our arriving flight from AMS, but the ramp personnel simply forgot to unload two containers of luggage to be put on the carousel.

    So “all’s well that ends well!” What a Welcome Home!

    THE END!

    If anyone has questions, ask. If not, I hope you enjoyed our adventure with us.

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    jasher -

    You actually got in there between these last three sections - you devil.

    Yes, the Starbeds were wonderful - do check the photo album for the pictures. Definitely worth a visit to the Laikipia area to visit Sabuk (our favorite stop) for a few days and at least 1-nt at Loisaba's Starbeds. A beautiful area that many don't visit, but should. The Samburu are wonderful and so colorful. Just go for it.

    Very glad we included this in our trip and do plan a return to visit other ranches in the area.

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    So sorry to read about the maggots. My medical training gave me a high gross-ness threshold, but maggots dropping from above go right past it. Ugh! I would have asked to be bumped to first class. Did you ever find out what was in the bag?

    I've read a bit about the Laikipia area, which seems to fall off the radar on many people's trips to Kenya -- it's definitely on my list! The Lewa reserve also sounds wonderful. BTW, I heard back from Joyce at Wildtrek (I think you were the one who recommended her). The pricing is still pretty scary, though!

    I'm so glad to read that you had a wonderful trip, even without your partner.


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    Sandi, thanks for sharing this long and detailed trip report. You give some information that’s not that easy to come by – like bathroom light and the marital status of bush pilots.

    I hope your next trip will be just as wonderful.

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    jasher -

    If anyone deserved to be bumped up to FC it would have been the honeymooners who were sitting right under that overhead compartment. Unfortunately, there weren't even seats there or in BC. And, no, we never did find out what was in that package - nor do I want to know.

    As to your itinerary - I don't recall your earlier post and where exactly you were interested in staying. Please refresh me on this. But if it's the high-end properties in high-season - expect high numbers, though Joyce's numbers are better then most others - certainly less then those in SA or Botswana.

    Nyamera -

    Glad I was able to provide information normally not included in trip reports, but I was (always am) aware of my surroundings, so notice things that others might not, or not care much about. Though I have to admit that sometime it's not so terrible not to have good lighting - especially "the morning after the night before." Though this wasn't the case while we were on safari.

    Leely -

    What can I say - we experienced just about everything, but those maggots were - ugh! Totally disgusting! Even thinking about it now, almost three months later, makes me skirm. And you wonder why most every country prohibits the import of food products (that not prepared in a factory and so sealed). It had to be something that was "alive" at one time - animal or human. OK, enough of that.

    Thanks all for your comments.

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    Hi Sandi,

    I'm looking at a week (or less) in the Mara in early September 2006. I've requested 3 days Rekero and 3 days Little Governor's or KT Bateleur, and so far I've received quotes from two different operators. Wildtrek's was the highest by far -- over $800 more than the next highest (Southern Cross). The per-night rates Wildtrek quoted me are higher than the rack rates (!). I'm still waiting for quotes from two more operators, Eco-Resorts and CCA.


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    Jasher -

    Surprising to hear an $800 difference, which is lots of money. Does the difference also include your flights and transfers between camps and in/out of Nairobi. I'm sure you're comparing apples-to-apples, but to be higher then rack is very strange indeed. If anything I've always found WTs numbers to be not much higher then what outfitters are offered at 'net'.

    Hey, it's your safari and your pocket - go with whomever offers the best deal.

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    Falling maggots....eeeeewwwwwwwww!!!

    So I'm not the only one who loses weight on vacation, eh? I was jumping up and down with joy when I returned from Kenya at 117 lbs! Haven't weighed that since high school. Now I'm back up to, well nevermind, though it did take me 6 months to gain it all back. Could it be my steady diet of chocolate at home? ;) I need to go on vacation again! :D

    I too found Wildtrek's pricing to be the highest of 4 in-country tour operators that I contacted, but I'm sure it's also dependent on the specific camps you chose and each operator's contract rates with those camps. Another tour operator you can contact if you haven't already is Eastern & Southern Safaris. They were neither the highest nor the lowest in my case, but a good combination of reasonable prices and responsiveness to my requests/questions. My lowest quote actually came from Suntrek Safaris, but I didn't feel like we were really communicating well. Good luck with your plans!

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    yeh, Patty - maggots!

    I even have a problem typing those letters. Well, that was then. Can't imagine what other things flight attendents have to deal with. Well, I do kind of as I have many friends who have been and the tales they tell - you wouldn't want to know. Thankfully, they're all happily removed the cabin and have their feet firmly planted on the ground - retired with good pensions.

    Yes, I do find vacations very good for the weight and it's not like I don't eat (except for the 1 meals I skipped at Saruni) regardless where I'm vacationing. It's just that the lbs come off. So, vacation is better. Gotta buy those lottery tickets and keep the fingers crossed with the hope of a win. Even a small win! I won't be piggy about it - a million or less is just fine for me. LOL!

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    Hi Sandi,

    Both quotes include transfers from Nairobi and between the camps. I'm not sure why Wildtrek comes out at so much more, but maybe they dom't send a lot of business to these particular camps and therefore can't get the same rates as Southern Cross.


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    jasher -

    Since few, if any, outfitters send an unbundled itinerary (separate air, lodge/camp, transfers, etc.), how did you determine that the individual rates were over rack? You should have gotten a total price with supplements + or - for one camp over another. Do tell!

    I doubt it has anything with the number of client they send to these camps or whether they have contract rates or not (they do and have) - my question is - "over rack" That's the strange part.

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    Hi Sandi,

    Wildtrek sent me a 'first night + additional night' quote for each of the camps I was interested in. For example, Kichwa Tembo Bateleur was $900 for the first night and $725 for each additional night (rack rate for KTB is $630 on CCA's website). Rekero was $800 for the first night and $625 for each additional night (rack rate is $500). The first night price includes return flights from WIlson Airport, but NOT transfers to/from Wilson (Southern Cross includes these). Transfers between camps are $300 per vehicle (Southern Cross includes a transfer in its quote).


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    I am new to this site. Just joined today, but in skimming the posts, you seem to be VERY knowledgeable. My husband and our 11-year old son year old and 14 year old daughter and I are flying to Dar es salaam in early June to vist friends there.

    After staying a few days with our friends we plan on flying to Aruhsa on June 9 to begin a 5 night/6 day safari. I have been overwhlemed with reviewing operators and accomodations. DO you have any suggestions? Our budget for the safari portion, inlcuding airfare from Dar to Arusha is around $7,000 tp 8,000. We might be able to go a little higher if necessary.

    We like the looks of the semi-permanent tented camps or the smaller lodges. We do not want to stay at the larger lodges. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


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    janejean -

    The beginning of June '06 is pretty much fully booked at permanent and seasonal camps (the Central and/or Western Serengeti) in the Northern Tanzania Circuit... the area reached from Arusha.

    Since you will already be in DAR, I would suggest you visit the Selous or Ruaha Parks which are a short distance from DAR by air. It's more likely to find space here for the short time you have available.

    If this is something you'd like to consider check out and use the contact page.

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    I just topped Dick's southern Tanzania photos thread asking him to update his Kodak Gallery link as it seems to no longer work. I just tried it and got the 'no album found' message - is it working for anyone else?

    BTW I got the same message when I tried your album link. Would you mind doing the same (sending yourself an invite through Share Photos and pasting the url here)? I'd love to look through your photos again. Thanks!

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    Patty, just finished the effort with Kodak as per your thoughts. You, Sandi, and others are really super with help to numersous persons on this board. Happy Holidays! Dick

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    Patty -

    Thanks for the reminder!

    It seems when Kodak updated their photo upload program (a few months ago) they changed all the original links. Both Jack and LyndaS brought this to my attention and while I (as the owner) can get into the original with no problem, below is the current new link:

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