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Finally! My Trip Report Begins...Tanzania, March

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After several subtle hints from fellow Fodorites, finally I will attempt to put into words the most fabulous experience of my life. I a 47 year old mother of three who grew up watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kindgom, Hatari, Born Free, etc. I have felt drawn to Africa from as far back as I can remember, yet never allowed myself to truly consider going until one day I finally verbalized my intense desire to my sister (who lives in the Midwest), I am on the SE coast. After talking with her and hearing her say..."Let's go", I was off and searching the web for as much information as I could possibly absorb about safaris. I kept coming back to one website, that being Thomson's Safaris and realized I could research this thing to death and never get anything done, or I could take a leap of faith, make a decision and book a safari. I booked in April of 2005 for a March 2006 safari in Tanzania. By the way, I didn't become a Fodor's addict until the fall of 2005.
Classic Camping Safari:
Mountain Village Lodge, Arusha (one nite)
Tarangire Classic Camp (2 nights)
Gibb's Farm (one night)
Ngoronforo Classic Camp (2 nights)
Serengeti Lodge (1 night)
Serengeti Wildlife Camp (2 nights)
Mt. Meru Hotel (day room)

I could write volumes about the wonderful anticipation leading up to March 17, but will begin that morning. I remember opening my eyes, heart thundering in my chest and thinking ....I AM GOING TO AFRICA TODAY!!! Well, that was almost true! My sister and I met up in Logan airport only to discover our flight on NW to Amsterdam was delayed 24 hours, yes 24 HOURS! AUGH....we were SO disappointed, yet the excitement was afresh the next morning. I was worried about flying coach all that way, but must say we lucked out and were able to find enough empty seats so we could both stretch out. Our luck held with the flight from AMS to Kilimanjaro as well. Truly, it seemed like we were there in the blink of an eye. We were met at the airport around 9:30 p.m. by Willie, our guide. We loved our room and surroundings at Mountain Village Lodge, but it was a bit blurry as we were indeed very tired.
Now, to the safari. Let me preface this by saying part of my hesitation in writing this report is wondering how in the world I can put into words all that I had experienced. Understand this report will not do it justice, there just aren't words adequate, but I will give it my best shot.
We drove through Arusha the next morning on our way to Tarangire. Oops, need to back up just a bit here. I emailed Thomson's a few days before we left to see how many would be joining us, and when she told me it would just be me and my sister I couldn't believe it. We had booked a group safari, but were getting a private one!!!! Okay, back to Tarangire. First off, this park was beautiful. I will show my stupitidy here, I thought Africa would be one giant flat dust bowl! The beauty of the country would continue to astound me. Just inside the park gates I fly up out of my seat and exclaim "Elephants!" I knew I was going to Africa, and knew I would see animals, yet that first sighting was thrilling. To see these animals in their natural surroundings is such a treat. Impala and gazelles were never high on my list at zoo visits, yet seeing these beautiful creatures running, leaping, playing was fantastic. We also saw our first giraffe in Tarangire. We especially loved the giraffe. We would come around a bend and there they would be. Each and every one of them would stop (in mid chew)..and look at us as if to say "Hey, whatcha doing"? We continued thru the park making our way to camp and spotted baboons, warthogs, and one female lion in the distance. We were met in camp by our 8 attendants! This was a bit daunting, and were relieved when a family of 5 showed up a little while later. I never expected the amount of care we were to receive.
We slept on thick mattresses with luxurious linens, lulled to sleep by the sounds of Africa! I slept like a rock and missed all the goings on during the night. Apparently the vervet monkeys were playing a bit noisly near camp. The next night was to bring a bit more excitement that even I couldn't sleep thru, but I'll get to that in a minute.
We spent the entire next day on a game drive in the park , all the while enjoying the wonders around each bend in the road. I honestly didn't feel like I was in Africa yet, just not how I picuted it and I also think my senses were bombarded and only able to absorb so much. Around 4 p.m we arrive back in camp, met with warm, wet towels and juice. We adjourned to our tent to sit on the veranda. Our tent was placed next to a very dry, large riverbed. Sitting, relaxing we begin to hear thunder in the distance and we spot an elephant on the hill, just on the other side of the riverbed. The thunderstorm builds and we are forced inside the tent for about an hour. After the storm we venture back out on the veranda. Suddenly we notice the same elephant has now moved much closer to camp, but still remains on the other side of the riverbed. We watch, he saunters over to his side of the edge of the bed, he walks down into the bed and starts heading across. We get up out of our seats, as does the family in the next tent, to observe the elephant. As we are gathered together, watching him we look over our shoulders to see our staff of 8 quickly approaching from down the road. We quickly realize they have a much more serious attitude about the approaching elephant than the American tourists do! Even though this elephant is walking very slowly across the riverbed right for us, he is covering ground very quickly. He then walks up our side of the bed, just down the road, crosses the road and walks into the trees. We can't believe how close he is and contiune to crouch behind tents, vehicles, etc., to observe. In the blink of an eye, he turns, heads down the road heading straight into camp, ears out and begins thundering toward us! I found out something about myself, yes indeed I still can run fast, if needed. We all piled into the vehicles as waited to see what would happen. Luckily we had a park ranger in camp with us, he fired a shot in the air and away the elephant went. This was such a bonding experience between campers and staff, we took a "post elephant incident" picture! What fun!
That night we fall into bed again, we laughed many times about how tired we were at the end of the day after doing absolutely nothing but being driven around all day. My sister said "I almost don't want to fall asleep, it is so much fun just listening to the sounds of Africa at night." Another storm came thru and the dry riverbed was filled with rushing water. Around 2 a.m. I am sound asleep one moment and eyes wide open, awake, heart pounding, and paralyzed the next. I literally couldn't move a muscle, afraid even to speak. My sister whispers..."Did you hear THAT?" It took me a moment, but finally in the quietest of whispers I say "YES." There was a hyena right, and I do mean right outside our tent. He had just announced himself vocally, and we could now hear him walking around. This is what I came for, I absolutely loved it!
That's all for today, more to follow....

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