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Trip Report For those who had the patience to wait! Trip Report - Tanzania & Kenya, May/June '07 (Sandi)

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“Another bloody day in Paradise” – White Mischief

Seems I’ve been this way before. Sure I have, as I love these countries - people, culture and, of course, the game. This time, I’m traveling alone... no boyfriend, gal friend, business associate... just moi! It’ll be different, but there are so many friends to see once I’m in-country and this time, I’ve actually made appointments; hope to be able to keep all and everyone shows up.

I actually started planning in late-Nov/early-Dec ’06, but as usual things (work) get in the way. Final itinerary wasn’t confirmed until about one-month before leaving at which time I bought my airline ticket... rather late for me.

Having previously flown KLM from JFK (via AMS) to JRO or NBO, this time, I decided to go with Emirates as they were offering the best fare. When I first checked KLM fares into JRO (Tanzania was to be my first stop), the price was just ridiculously high, lots high. Even the KLM/NBO price was high and I wasn’t even traveling in peak-season. In years earlier I noticed that Emirates fare was about $100 higher than KLM to NBO... no more, it seems. When I first checked in March, Emirates was $1,387 to NBO; when I later checked, as itinerary was pretty much confirmed, the fare was down to $1,187 including taxes. I was surprised, shocked actually, but it didn’t take but a second for me to purchase the ticket. The $200 difference would cover for my flight to JRO. This would also be the first time that I'd be departing early in the day, arriving NBO mid-afternoon. Wondered how the body would handle this, especially with the first leg being 12-hours. Not since trips to Thailand or South Africa had I had that long a single flight segment.

With itinerary confirmed (kind of), air tickets purchased, it was now time to pack. This is usually a non-event as the same things go with me year-in/year-out... not much to change when it comes to tan, khaki or brown, whether pants, shirts or shoes. But, I had requests for goodies from the States, all of which would only add to my limited allowance. There was clothing for lots of children, magazines, cinnamon raisin bread, NY bagels/bialys, body gel/lotion, and other stuff, adding about 4-5/kgs, bringing me over. Oh, no big deal departing the States, and once in-country and having distributed everything, I’d be good to fly below the 15Kg limit! Or so I thought. Didn’t expect, that I’d have as much, if not more with which I returned home... between gifts and stuff! Can’t win! So my tales begin.......

Thursday, May 24, 2007

With an 11:30am departure from JFK on Emirates, I left for the airport at 8:30am, having been told that Emirates recommended 3/hrs prior departure for international check-in. I don’t think so, 2/hrs will be more than enough. There was no NYC rush hour traffic (even in reverse of traffic into the City) so I was at the airport in just short of half-hour. Check-in was quick, but almost fainted when I saw exactly how much my bag weighed - 20Kgs exactly! Oh well, I wouldn’t be carrying it. Boarding pass in hand, I headed to the gate, but was early so wasted time in one of the shops. Eventually headed to Security, which was a joke. It’s more make-busy work for the TSA agents, rather than serious evaluation of passengers - who they are, where they’re going, where they came from, if they have packages to take from others - as El Al does. Oh, guess we’ll never get it right, considering how many sharp objects – knives, saws, ice pics, even weapons still manage to get thru.

While the line wasn’t long, in wound around in so many directions, one got dizzy. It was all too funny watching everyone removing their little ziplock bags we all had to have to show those 100/ml (3.2/oz.) bottles of liquid... me included, though I never opened my zippy on either of the two flights. This took barely 40-minutes and onto the gate. Here, of course, the wait till your row is called for boarding, only to realize I was almost in Business Class; a row in the forward section of “last class.” How exciting!

I have to admit that this was the slowest boarding procedure I’ve experienced in all my years of flying. Emirates has a 15/lb limit for carryon... another joke. Travelers had bags as large as 26” all of which I can assure you were over the limit. When I finally reached my aisle seat, the flight attendant looked at me and asked, “are you ok?” Well, “of course, just wondering why this boarding was taking so long?” to which she replied (rather her eyes spoke) - looking at the overheads!!! I got it! And, there’s me with my small carryon that was underweight!

We pushed back 5-minutes late and airborne at exactly 12N, which is pretty darn good for JFK. In front of me was 12-hrs of flying. It had been years since I’ve flown East straight out that long – wondering what I’ll look and feel like on the other end. I’m fortunate though to be able to sleep and probably got 6-hrs of sleep on/off during the flight, between beverage service, lunch, snack and breakfast, I did good.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Landing in Dubai on time, deplaned and sure enough, a long, long walk (not a moving sidewalk to be found) to either Immigration for those heading into Dubai or for transiting passengers. The Dubai airport was rather disappointing, reminding me of Denver International, one long terminal. Hey, they didn’t ask me regarding the design; maybe I’m just spoiled often flying thru Schipol/Amsterdam, which is just so civilized.

There was no posting for the ongoing NBO flight, so had a cup of coffee, a sip of coffee actually. Starbucks was all that I could find, and I hate their coffee, tasting bitter and burnt. So tossed that cup and decided to see what the excitement was about these airport shops. Nothing to write home about; all pretty much the same as other airports and I certainly didn’t have to be adding more weight to my already bursting bags.

Still no posting of my flight, so while standing facing the direction of Gates #1-12, I asked at the Transit Desk agent from where the NBO flight would be departing. He checked and announced “Gate #42.” I stared at him and slowly did an about face and looked and looked and looked... finally turning back to the agent and asked, “is that gate still in Dubai?” He laughed and replied, “yes, madam it is.” Oh well, might as well start walking. And I walked and walked between three moving sidewalks to the farthest end of the terminal, where an arrow pointed left towards additional gates. I turned and thankfully, there were only three or four more gates before reaching #42. Handing the agent my boarding pass, I took a seat to wait for the boarding announcement.

Didn’t have to wait long, to head down a sloping walkway, much like at many new airports, however, at the end, instead of into a jetway, we boarded air-conditioned buses. Now, this isn’t new, but surprising for a new modern airport. It was obvious as I boarded the bus that it was really hot outside... kind of Las Vegas in the summer hot... over 110-degrees. A short ride and we arrive at our Airbus where the agent allowed a few people out at a time to climb the stairs, as no one in their right mind would want to be out in the hot air any longer than necessary.

Once on board, it’s a full plane with few empty seats. Take-off was on schedule and again I managed to sleep between beverage and meal services. We actually landed at NBO 20-minutes early and our gate (with jetway) was right at the ramp down to Immigration. I was the first at the “need to buy Visa” desk, which took less than a minute. Luggage though, did take 20-30/minutes before I exited to find my friend David with a big smile. Out i the parking lot Lawrence waited for my short drive to the Panari Hotel.

I selected the Panari, as I originally thought to make the connection to JRO that evening (maybe) more likely early the next morning and being only 10-minutes from the airport, would allow me to sleep a bit longer. Plans changed when I arranged to have dinner with a friend and catch up with a few people the next morning... wouldn’t be flying to JRO till 1pm. So I didn’t bother to change to a hotel in downtown NBO; all I needed was a decent sized room with clean linens, hot water, a tub and hair dryer. The Panari rates itself a 5-star hotel... believe me, it’s not! But, it is new, with decent sized rooms, a mini-bar, a more than ample bathroom, with commode, bidet, large tub and shower, plenty of towels; a queen sized bed with down comforter and air conditioning/heating unit that worked perfectly. I’m easy. It’s a 10-story hotel, with reception on the 3rd floor which is big and sparse, lots of marble, little furniture, but a bar, a few restaurants and that’s about it. The lower floors contain shops, the ice-skating rink, restaurants – the Pampas Restaurant, much like the Carnivore is on the first floor and where I later had dinner.

I did ask at Reception whether they had a nail salon and to my disappointment, the answer was no. Oh, I forgot to mention about the crisis… my right-hand thumb nail just kept popping off; I’d fix it, it would pop “what’s a gal to do, what price beauty?” Only to later learn that one of the private shops on the lower levels probably could have repaired my nail... next time, I’ll know.

There was a message waiting for me from Joyce saying she’d meet me for dinner at 7pm. Goodie, goodie, I can take a bath and a nap. Yup, I knew I needed a nap. Better than having my head fall into my plate during dinner. And so I did.

Met Joyce in the lobby at 7pm and almost didn’t recognize her... to my surprise she had a preggy bump. How wonderful. She looked great and is due in September. Note: It’s a girl, both doing well. We found our way to Pampas where we had so much to catch up with, we had to be reminded to eat. First on the menu was soup, which I usually forego, till the waiter said “pumpkin” (the magic word) and I said “yes, yes, yes” What is Africa without pumpkins and as soup, no less… it was delicious. Between jibber-jabber, we managed to eat. I then asked Joyce whether she drove herself or took a taxi, only to have her mention that Lawrence drove her and was waiting in the lot. Oh my goodness, it was after 9pm and they both she had work the next day. I paid the bill and with kiss-kiss, we bid each other “lala salama.”

... to be continued

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    Saturday, May 26, 2007

    Lawrence was due to pick me up at 9:30am, so was down for breakfast by 8:15am. Here to be greeted by one of the waiters who offered to arrange for me to have my nail fixed. Was it that obvious? Must have been. How thoughtful, but we both realized it was too early for any of the shops to be open. I’ll just have to live without “a thumb.” My thumbless manicure had not become a claw... a new fashion statement. :)

    Breakfast eaten, I checked out to meet Lawrence for the drive into Nairobi. Here, I again see David and Joyce and the boss man. He and I catch up with a cup of coffee downstairs at the Pavement Café. Then I excused myself to do a bit of shopping at the Kazuri store which had a branch right here. Knew this would be my only opportunity, and though these days I don’t do much souvenir shopping, there were a few gifts I needed. I’m still always stymied at Kazuri with so many choices, but purchases were made and paid for. I say my good-byes and back in the van with Lawrence for the drive to Wilson.

    Arriving at Wilson, my bags are weighed, and though I had removed those items I had for Joyce, I was still overweight. Well, a smile did it again and the guy waved me through. After a short wait, I board my flight to JRO and land 1/hr later. Here, too, I purchased my Visa... no line, as there were few passengers on the incoming flight; grabbed my bags and med Joshua outside. Joshua has such a lovely smile and it was so nice to see him again. Being a Saturday afternoon, with bright sunshine and kind of warm there was little traffic on the drive into Arusha for my overnight at the Kibo Palace Hotel.

    Have stayed at the Kibo Palace last year, which is right in town, only 2/yrs old with nicely decorated rooms, bathroom with shower, hair dryer; a pool, nice grounds, restaurant, so I’m set. Only thing Kibo doesn’t have is air conditioning, which isn’t all that unusual in Arusha. But, they do have free-standing cool-air units that do a pretty good job cooling the late afternoon sun shining into my room. What they do have though is screens on the windows, which I leave open for all that fresh African air which is perfect for a good nights sleep. There’s a message waiting that friends would pick me up for dinner at 7pm. Perfect! I can relax, which I did with a book out at the pool, where I remained till I realized I was sitting in the midst of a wedding reception. I graciously left after wishing everyone well. It was close to 5pm... time for a shower and change of clothing and maybe some CNN.

    Right on time, Susan and Sanjay ring from downstairs, where I meet them and their little one who was having a difficult time keeping her eyes open. They did open just long enough to say “hello, aunt Sandi” then she was out again. We took a short drive out to the Serena Mountain Village for dinner, where we sat at a quiet table away from a half-full dining room.

    Dinner was a beautiful buffet, which again started with soup and again “pumpkin” – how lucky for me. Of course, as soon as the soup was served little eyes popped open to see what the fuss was about and managed to swallow a spoonful or two, then eyes closed again. It was fun to catch up, and surprised by a large piece of birthday cake compliments of one of the hotel guests celebrating.

    Back at the hotel, we say our good-byes, as I wouldn’t see them until I returned from Tarangire on Tuesday. Next morning Joshua would be meeting me and we’d be on our way.

    Sunday, May 27, 2007

    After breakfast, I met Joshua and off we went. Week-ends are nice in Arusha. No traffic and we’re through town in no time, heading south to Tarangire... no traffic on this road either. Barely 2-hours and we’re at the gate, but before entering the park, we drive a bit farther down the road to Maramboi Camp, a right turn off the main road.

    Arriving, the staff comes to greet us, wondering, who as they weren’t expecting guests, nor were there guests in residence. Not open for the season, but all the tents were ready. Introductions made, the manager was actually pleased to have us do a walk-thru. The tents are large with two double or one king-size bed. More than ample even for triples or quads, which is nice. The bathroom is ensuite with flush loo, single washbasin and shower. Outside is a large deck, with view of Lake Manyara in the distance to the west. The kitchen is large with fully stocked refrigerators and veggie bins. The camp is about a 15-minute drive from the Tarangire entrance.

    We thank the manager and head back towards the park, but again before entering a short drive past the entrance and a right turn down a non-descript road with no sign to Whistling Thorn Camp. Again, we’re not expected and few staff on-hand. This camp is very small with six (6) small tents. The camp is about 10-years old and basically does mobile camping, where you can spend time at this site or they pack up your tent, beds, linens, etc. onto a safari vehicle and head to the next area… Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro or the Serengeti. Only one tent was up, which was the smaller traditional safari tents, with twin or double beds, small ensuite bathroom with loo and bucket shower. The staff was most welcoming and the chef was anxious to have me taste the bread he had just pulled from the oven. It was delicious grained brown bread - only thing missing, butter! Here too, the kitchen was ready for guests.

    On our way again, we finally enter Tarangire, but before heading through the park, stopped to dig into my lunch box. For the first time, sitting under tree with the starlings enjoying a bath in a puddle of water, I realized I was back in Afree-kah. Lunch finished, we’re on our way... we still had a few stops to make.

    Coming out of the “long” rains, the grass was high and but for elephants and giraffes, it can be difficult to spot game, but there were plenty of birds and the beautiful baobab tree landscape.

    First stop is Tarangire River Camp which is outside the park, so I’m not sure how Joshua got us here, but we did cross the river where young boys were bathing and surprised to actually see visitors this early in the season. Traversing the river rocks/boulders and up a hill, we pull into the camp where we are greeted by the manager. As with the other camps, no guests and here they are still in the process of major repairs. During the period between November and April, with lots of rain that never seemed to end, they had major damage. Located on the cliffs overlooking a bend in the Tarangire River, when the high waters swooshed around, much of the cliff was lost including an ancient baobab and the manager’s cottage/tent, both of which went right into the drink. The tree could be seen from the edge. Nearby, they were rebuilding the public space - lounge, bar and dining room - scheduled to be completed within the week.

    The tents here are lovely, with twin or double/queen beds, ensuite bathroom with flush loo and shower. A really lovely site with great views and so peaceful.

    On our way again, next stop is the Tarangire Safari Lodge, which is a bit of a misnomer, as most accommodations are tents, all rather close to one another... real close. Size-wise, they are small, as those at Whistling Thorn... the traditional safari tents. There are a few stone cottages, at the far end past the tents, which are larger and best for families or triples. Kind of reminded me of living in row houses, garden homes, even an apartment house where your neighbors are right on the other side of the wall (canvas). The best thing here is the view from their terrace that wraps around the dining area. High over the river and as far as the eye can see; nocs are needed to see what’s doing out there and there’s plenty afoot... elephant herds, baboon troops, giraffe and other.

    By now, I have no idea what time it is, but know we have to get through the park and be on our way towards Treetops... my home for the night and following day. During our drive, it’s obvious the park took a beating during the wet. So many of the bridges have been washed away, the roads have been eaten up, yet Joshua was amazing navigating some treacherous spots. All of a sudden, we see a large troop of baboons around a fruit bearing tree - they’re up and down or just sitting beneath waiting for something to drop into their palms. They were different ages and sexes. We stop and must have watched their antics a good 30-minutes. For some reason, they were enthralled by our vehicle which half of them jumped on the bonnet with the little ones actually trying to eat the metal. As I was sitting in the front seat, with the exception of a few pics I could take out of the left window, all others were thru the windscreen which was very clean - thank you Joshua. For anyone who doesn’t believe in evolution, they haven’t taken the time to watch our relatives!

    Fun and laughs, it’s time to get moving as we head out of the park and drive to Treetops. It’s only 30/km, with expected drive time about 40-minutes. With the chopped up road though, it took 50-minutes through some beautiful scenery, but little game.

    Arriving at Treetops at 5pm, we’re welcomed with cool cloths and drink. Joshua sees to it that introductions are made and I’m checked in, before retiring to his quarters. We arrange to meet next morning at 9:30am for a game drive and visit to a few other camps.

    I’m being assigned to chalet #8, which the manager asked if I was okay with lots of stairs? Sure, why not, hakuna matata! But, as we walk in that direction, I notice we’re starting to head downhill! Mind working, means I then have to walk uphill. I don’t think so. I’m fussy this way. There’s a reason I don’t climb... I like things flat, whether souvenirs which are easy to pack, or ground so my feet are always firmly planted. And, as I realize this, notice the first chalet we pass #7 has a ramp at which point, I call “wait, wait” at which point everyone stops in their tracks and asks “what’s wrong?” “Nothing wrong!” But, “hey, is anyone staying in this chalet?” “No, would you like to stay here?” “Well, of course!” That was easy as someone runs for a different key. All the chalets are the same, some with ramps, some with a few stairs and others with higher winding stairs and trap door thru the deck.

    These chalets are large and true tree-houses. Those to the north #1-6, are built around the baobab trees, while those to the south #7-17, built around baobab and marulla trees, wrap around decks with rocking chairs. A small sitting area right inside the door with a carafe of brandy and glasses – “your aperitif, madam”; large twin or king beds, some rooms with a third bed for triples. En-suite bathroom at the far end, with flush loo, twin washbasins, twin head shower, hair dryer, desk and power outlets for charging electronic equipment. Even with 17 chalets, all are private from one another... you can’t see your neighbors. Well, not now after the wet, though I’m sure that during the dry season, this won’t be the case, but the chalets are at some distance from one another. Wow! I could get used to this. The public space is large with a sunken lounge area around a fire pit, bar, adjacent dining room with nice sized tables and views over their small pool. At the far side of the pool in the trees a waterhole where game retularly come to drink.

    At 8pm, an askari escorts me to dinner, down my ramp for the short rather flat walk to the dining room. Needless to say, the food was outstanding, with soup starter, salad, main and desert/coffee. I ate so much soup this visit, I surprised myself, but each and everyone, at every camp was delicious.

    Besides, Tarangire Safari Lodge which appeared to have the most guests, the other camps with none, here at Treetops were two honeymoon couples. That was it. After dinner we all enjoyed a drink and chit-chat. One couple from France who spoke English quite well, the other from South Africa.

    Back at my chalet and off to sleep by 11pm. What a great start.

    Monday, May 28, 2007

    I was up early, real early... 4am, awakened by light flickering and smelling smoke. Popped out of bed and looking around outside which was easy as I always have the staff leave the flaps open. I could see a flashlight, which I realized was the askaris doing a security check and the smell of smoke was the furnice being lighted for my morning shower. Ok, nothing major, back to sleep for a few hours.

    Needless to say, with a hairdryer calling me “wash your hair, you don’t know when you’ll see me again” I did just that after a wonderful shower. Then to breakfast, which was buffet, but hot food individually ordered and excellent coffee - no Starbuck's here, thankfully.

    Set to go, I met Joshua at 9:30am, where our first stop was to be Boundary Hill, located only a short drive from Treetops. Arriving here, we’re met by a guard and advised that no one was around - no manager, no staff, nayda. And, he was left with instructions not to allow anyone on the premises. Oh well, guess we miss this one. I couldn’t even get an idea of what the place looked like, a shame. However, as we drove out and headed off to Kikoti, I was able to see that the camp is located on a hill (thus their name) and obviously has great views.

    Kikoti Camp is also located outside the park boundary, not far from Treetops. Arriving here, we’re greeted by the camp ostrich, a young fellow about 1/yr old and quite frisky. Getting out of the vehicle and met by the manager, I simply exclaim “we were in the neighborhood and thought to stop in for tea.” She was hysterical laughing and welcomed us gladly. As with the other camps, they too were getting ready for the season and no guests were in residence.

    The camp was recently (believe 2/yrs ago) enlarged, by adding about five or six tents and moving them closer to one another. Still private, but personally prefer space between tents. Guess the demand is there, and if you’ve got the land, you build out. As with the other camps, twin or double/king bed, ensuite bathroom with flush loo and shower. The grounds are lovely with lighted pathways and nice public space for campfire and sundowners.

    Saying our good-byes, Joshua and I enjoy a game drive – little game, but lots of birds - we head back to Treetops. It’s almost time for lunch and I wanted to do a site inspection in the afternoon so decided to pass on late game drive. Game at this time of year is still dispersed and I would rather chill at the pool with a book. I told Joshua about my afternoon plans and gave him a reprive. I think he was a bit surprised, but hey, if I didn’t want a game drive, so be it. He had his accommodations to himself which he loved, though another guide, a buddy would be arriving later in the afternoon.

    Lunch was another fabulous meal. After which I met with the manager to walk the property. We headed to chalets #1-6, the ones built around the baobab trees and a bit uphill all the way. It was hot, very hot. Both of us were dropping sweat beads. We did this very leisurely. Even though I knew all the chalets were the same, it was nice to check out the view from each.

    Returning to the main area, I was asked if I wanted to check out the other section of rooms to which I replied “I don’t think so, way too hot”

    Leaving the manager, I walk past the dining area to be greeted by a few ellees at the waterhole, where I stopped and watched. I then return to my chalet, into my bikini and back to the pool with my book to simply relax and watch the ellees who didn’t give me a second glance! I only wondered whether having a whiff of me in the air they wouldn’t think the pool water might be more appealing? Nope. Believe me, the askaris were nearby should these big guys have had other ideas. They departed shortly after on their way to wherever ellees go. As the sun sets, the air chills, so I returned to the chalet where I changed into warmer attire... sundowners were delivered and I enjoyed the quiet of the wrap around deck until the askari arrived to walk me to dinner.

    Dinner was another delight, the presentation and the amazing tastes. Besides the two couples, there was another agent in-house at her own table, even though we both knew we’d be meeting up here. When I concluded my meal we shared desert and coffee and talked “business” and “gossip.” Gossip is so much fun, especially since we’re both thousands of miles away from where all the action is taking place. Believe me, the world gets smaller and smaller each day.

    With camp management, a few more rounds of drinks, we closed the place that night. Next day she was heading out through Tanzania, while I was heading back to Arusha and JRO for flight to Kenya. I slept like a baby... no sleeping pill needed.

    ... to be continued

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    You must have one heckuva smile, Sandi. Is it like this ;) ? Or like this :) ? Or like this :D ? Or like this >:) ? Or like...I can't think of another.

    Very much enjoying the slightly belated report. And will see you at a bistro on the UES in November.

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    Tuesday, May 29, 2007

    Bags packed, I went for breakfast. At 9am, Joshua and I head out using a back road instead of driving through the park. This road takes you to the main north/south road, where we head north to Arusha. Arriving at 11am, I met up with Susan and Sanjay for lunch. Surprise, surprise… we had Chinese food which was pretty good, though I didn’t eat much.

    Back at the office I say my good-byes all around. It’s already late as we drive to JRO for my 1:45pm flight. Normally, this flight departs from Arusha, but the airport was under repair and not due for completion till mid-June... it’s a 1/hr drive. Believe me, we were hauling up that road, arriving only 15/min before scheduled departure. The desk was actually closed, but the agent returned when I came running in like a harried wild woman. Bags weighed (yup, overweight even dropping off stuff, I was bringing back almost as much), boarding pass in hand, I go through Security and waited for flight to be called.

    Sure enough, departure is late, but we arrived at Wilson on time. Here I’m met by Solomon for the short drive to House of Waine. I was expecting some friends at 4pm, and with just a glance at the room... a beauty with an Indian motif; the same very large room as last year, though this one on the direct opposite end of the floor.

    With barely time to wash my hands, reception rang telling me that one of my guests was waiting in the lobby. Out the door without locking it (I've never locked the door here), though I did hear other guests in residence, a few of which were children, guessing between 10-13/yrs; down the stairs, only to realize the person waiting (talking on her mobile) wasn’t who I was expecting. I was supposed to be meeting Emma from Desert Rose and Terri from Shompole and sitting there was Ava from Shompole. Was Terri not coming, I wondered? Yes she was, but Ava had just returned from her own vacation and before returning to Shompole, Terri mentioned I’d be in town... hey, join us. Funny, as while Ava and I had hugs all around, she hadn’t connected "Sandi" with the face till we saw one another. More people, more fun.

    We headed out to the pool cabana and barely had the waiter left with our drink order than Terri arrived. We hadn’t met before, but had been in correspondence for months planning a wedding for clients at Shompole in September. A few minutes later, Emma arrived... it was so good to see her. Needless to say, get a few women together and it’s jibber-jabber as we had much in common and things about which to catch-up.

    Getting towards dark, Terri and Ava took their leave; Emma’s boy friend arrived and we retired indoors for another round of drinks. Having his own plane and licensed to fly in Kenya, they’ve put together some interesting and quite reasonable flying packages to Desert Rose, which I was glad to hear. Though off the beaten track with little game, Desert Rose is a paradise offering lovely private cottages, great food, beautiful landscapes, a pool – an ideal place for walks and an option for relaxing pre- or post-safari for those who aren’t into sand-‘n-sun.

    By 7pm, we said our good-byes. I was now able to chat with Eric, owner of House of Waine, spending the next hour or so having good laughs. Before I knew it was almost 9, when I could have had dinner, but with an early start next morning, decided to enjoy my beautiful suite. This would be the last night for about a week, that a tub and especially a hair dryer, would be as my disposal, so I had things to do before retiring.

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    Wednesday, May 30, 2007

    I took breakfast in the garden room and then met Solomon for transfer to Wilson airport. Before weighing my bags, which contents (about 5kg worth) I left in Tanzania, I also returned with about 5kg that I didn’t need to take, so left a small bag with Solomon to hold till I returned in about 10/days.

    Waiting for my flight, I noticed the children and adults who had been at House of Waine the day before and sure enough they board the same flight to the Masai Mara. The flight is uneventful - takes off and lands. The scenery below is beautifully green, when we land at the airstrip. Deplaning, I’m welcomed by, what seemed, to be all the guides from Saruni. All for me? No, the others on the plane were also deplaning for their stay at Saruni, so the other guides/vehicles were for them, two families from the UK.

    I have my own vehicle and Philip to head into the hills. First thing I notice is how badly the roads are torn up, I can only imagine what the place looked like when the rains were falling between November thru April. I heard about it, now see the remnants.

    Arriving at camp, I meet Gio, the camp manager, who’s covering while Riccardo and Maryanne are in Europe (expected to return tomorrow after I leave)… boo-hoo-hoo! Not a surprise, though Ric knew I was specifically making this stop... my annual visit, but the trip to Europe was last minute, before the season began. Gio and are in conversation as I realize we’re walking up the hill towards chalets #4-6, when I stop and ask why I’m not in #1-3, which I had requested. To which Gio replies… “but the view is so much nicer up that way; “yes I know, I’ve been there before, wanted the lower ones.” Oh well, seems he decided to put the families who would be occupying four of the six, closer together. So up the hill we climb and admittedly, the view is outstanding as we come to chalet #5.

    I’m in heaven, though do comment as I remember that #4 is a king, #5 is a twin, #6 is a king, etc. etc. Did I prefer a king than a twin (these are the large ¾ twins)... oh, no matter; only to find when I returned later that night, that I had a king. It’s so easy to just swap out the twins for a thick king mattress. So accommodating... it’s wonderful.

    Lunch was family style and delicious, especially the fresh salad and yummy tomatoes. Conversation was fun and interesting to listen to the youngsters go on about what they wanted to see and knew they’d get all they hoped for.

    After lunch I retired to the library, which is such a peaceful spot, with probably every issue of National Geographic; also noticed the laptop which is where they’ve set up for WiFi, though when I heard Ric was planning this, he got a thumbs down from me. Hey, for those who absolutely, positively have to be connected, it’s a lovely spot to do so and away from others. Next time I visit, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a sign-in sheet on the door, in 15-minute increments. Ha! Ha!

    At 3:30, I met Philip for our afternoon game drive. Philip is wonderful (though has since left; he’s got so many things going for him, even had a stint in the States working for Disney in setting up their Africa environment in Florida). We were heading to the Rhino Sanctuary on this beautiful afternoon, with perfect temperature, plenty of sunshine... though dark clouds in the distance. Just as we arrived at the sanctuary, were there are three (3) rhinos - two male, one female who happens to be preggy - protected by guards, the skies open. Philip got a rain slicker for me, which was made for a very very tall person, so dragged behind reminding me of Mickey the Sorcerer from "Fantasia." I was a fright and trying to take photos at the same time which came out blurry.

    But, as soon as it started, the rain ended and presented us with a lovely rainbow. Game was scattered, but there were plenty of topi, giraffe, jackals, Tommies, even an elephant or two. Sadly, on the way back to camp we came upon two “kills” of Tommies taken down by jackals; one was still alive and yelping as the jackals dove into the innards. This upset me, even though I’ve seen and heard lions chomping on bones of their take downs. I just love those Tommies and find it sad to see them injured. Guess even though “they’re born to run” for this little one, it wasn’t fast enough, but it was two-against-one when dealing with the jackals on a hunt.

    Back at camp by 7pm, we have more guests, a couple from Spain who came in on the afternoon flight. Unfortunately, their luggage didn’t arrive at JKIA and they had to do some quick shopping in Nairobi before boarding flight to the Mara. They were only flying from Madrid, via London... and no bag! And to learn they planned to be in Africa only six-days for a quick getaway. Everyone was enjoying sundowners (soft drinks for the youngsters) at the fireplace, when we were escorted to the outside fire, where the Masai dancers performed and which the kids really enjoyed.

    Dinner was again an outstanding meal, then after dinner drinks and off to bed. Tomorrow, I’m outta here and heading farther into the Mara.

    ... to be continued

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    Sandi, was out of town and just catching up but loved your report and cannot wait for more! You've been so very helpful to me on my upcoming travel plans and I now see how you know so much - lots of great places you've chosen to "visit". Look forward to pictures too. Where are you off to next? (by the way, I kept Saruni in my itinerary!) Cc

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    Dear Sandi, greta to read about your trip after all. I satued in Chalet 6 in Saruni and teh view was amazing, thanks for all your feedback and trips. I have just post some pictures including Chalet nr 6. bye bye

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    I'm back !

    Thursday, May 31, 2007

    This morning over breakfast, I had time to talk with the couple from Spain who weren’t very happy campers not having heard if or when their luggage would arrive. Though they did look cute in the few safari tan items purchased. So much for transiting thru London and flying British Air. The other families were out on game drives and bush breakfasts.

    All packed and ready to set off, Philip collected me and we’re on our way to Serian Camp. Another beautiful morning with game scattered about. But the strangest unfamiliar sounds were coming from motor bikes that many of the Masai are using to get around... putt, putt, putt... too funny to hear and see these things coming up on you! With not a sign or arrow anywhere, I’m still amazed how these guides know where they’re going... up this road, down that road! It took us about 1.5/hrs before we pulled into Serian Camp. Here, I said my good-bye to Philip... it was so good to see him again and spend time together.

    I was greeted by Mike and Josie, friends of Alex Walker, owner, who had left that morning for a Rhino charge film shoot, camera equipment and all... something he told me about a few months back. Mike, in fact, had just returned from a photo shoot for the History Channel, documenting the route of John Thompson, probably the only white man who came to Africa and brought nothing but his mapping tools (between Mombasa and Lake Victoria) - no disease and killed no one. Mike and Josie have filled in for Alex previously and had some interesting friends occupying the other tents, including relatives of John Thompson. Also here, were the guys who were building the new tents across the river and pulling the suspension bridge. With the exception of one other guest, a gal from Palm Beach who was concluding her visit after lunch, it was a small intimate group of friends. Most relaxing and such fun.

    The sun was shining, the air was warm to hot at such a lovely site on the Mara River. The camp is rustic and unfenced, with traditional safari tents, all with river views, each very private, many with wrap around decks - the loos, though are a few steps outside the main sleeping area, but are so cute. No light to speak of, but twin wash basins in most, flush loos, interesting bathtubs and separate showers. Having just come from Saruni with probably the largest canvas chalets, I had forgotten what the traditional tent size was. But mine and most other tents had at minimum a double bed (if not twin) and some even queen size beds, so more than ample.

    Returning to the deck for lunch I pass a small pen surrounded by chicken wire and a tiny doggy-type house. Well, who can this be for? … oh, a baby antelope - a Bambi. The gate is ajar with the mom not too far away, to come and go as they both wish during daylight, but locked up at night along with a baby Tommy. The little ones are bottle fed by staff.

    Lunch was light... green salad and tomato (my favorite), pasta with a great red sauce. While enjoying my meal, Josie notices my missing right-hand thumb nail and offers to replace it for me. Wow! Here I had resigned myself to forego repair, when out in the middle of the bush, another gal with her own lovely manicured hands has her kit in case of emergency. And, here I was – Ms. Emergency. I thanked her, but declined. I was going to do without from here on out.

    As we finish lunch, the sky turns grey and the rain begins with light showers. Everyone heads back to their tents to return at 3:30pm for tea and afternoon activity. Though raining, there was sufficient canvas overhang at my tent to protect me while sitting on the deck and watching the Mara River rollin’ on by! Rain didn’t last too long and soon the sun was shining. Then, when I returned to the lounge, I learned that plans were to walk to the river to watch the hippos and other game that might show.

    Walk “down” - not a long way, mind you, but that means having to return “up” – they’ve got the wrong person. If it ain’t flat, I’m not climbing one way or another. Ok, yes I did at Tarangire… otherwise, “c’est la princess.” I thank Mike and bid the rest of the group an enjoyable time, and retire to the lounge with my book. There was a fire, the sofa was real comfy, so I’m plenty content. Then, out of nowhere, the sun was gone, and the skies opened again; so glad I was indoors and dry though the air was raw and nasty. When the group returned, 1-1/2 hrs later, they had to admit I made the right choice as they had no protection and huddled beneath a tree. However, beverages had been brought down to the river, so they were fine; happier though to be back inside and somewhat drier. The rain now was more shower, so I returned to my tent to change into warmer clothing for dinner and then back to the lounge for the official “sundowners.”

    By this time, two more guests had joined us - a couple from Nairobi, he a resident, she a South African who was working in Nairobi as a wine specialist for South African wines. This should make for interesting dinner conversation. As at Saruni, dinner was served family style at one long table with appetizer, salad, main and desert and lots of wine flowing. Only problem was that the main course was a tilapia casserole, and I don’t eat fish. Though Serian had this information, I can only assume with Alex leaving and Mike taking over, this was overlooked. Hakuna matata! I'm easy and simply asked for pasta, much as we had at lunch which had been excellent.

    As I said, conversation would be interesting and it was. Everything one could imagine, from the filming of the John Thomson story, wine, safari, game, camps, and on and on till almost 11pm, when it was time for most to retire as they planned on heading out early the next morning, except for me, of course. I was escorted back to my tent, where lanterns had been left on the deck outside the tent, on the short walkway to the loo and one inside. I normally don’t like a lantern inside with closed flaps (I have mine left open), but for some reason, I kept this lit and was off with the sandman in no time. Unlike many lux camps that have down comforters, Serian was, probably for cool/cold nights, using woolen blankets and wool is not only heavy, but when damp my sensitive nose rejects this, so I threw them off and I slept with a sheet only; pretty hardy for me, but it wasn’t cold or even cool, actually quite comfy nighttime temps. I did, however, need the loo sometime near 4am, so I slipped into my moccasins, unzipped the tent and between the raindrops made it to the facility and back... laughing all the way. Those lanterns were positioned in just the right places; I didn’t slip on my butt.

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    Friday, June 1, 2007

    I was already up listening to the river (no birds, as it was drizzling) when coffee was delivered at 7am. Just what I needed, but as I tried opening the thermos, I couldn’t... it was too tightly closed, I just had no strength in either of my hands. I’d have to wait for my morning jolt when I got to breakfast.

    A quick shower, though couldn’t wait for the real hot water; dressed and finished repacking those few items I had taken out of my duffle, I walked to breakfast. Surprise, surprise - either everyone had gone out, already eaten or I was early… and it was already 9am. Well, I was early, as those who had planned to go out early didn’t (raining too hard); they must have stayed long after I had retired the night before, soon to learn the others would be enjoying breakfast in, and then going out on a game drive.

    After breakfast, I checked out a few of the other tents, the photo-center tent, as Alex does put emphasis on photography. I was now set to depart with a guide/driver to Olonana Camp. Farewells, business cards exchanged, on my way at about 10:30am.

    The roads were wet - some slippin’ and sliddin’ – a good driver; still some light showers and little game on our way, but I could see the skies clearing and knew the day would eventually be lovely. The drive-time was a bit over 1/hr over some nasty roads, one being the road that comes in from Nairobi on the west side of the Mara and badly chopped up. The sun was shining by the time I arrived at Olonana, where I was greeted by the camp manager, Tom.

    I had been looking forward to meeting Tom, specifically to thank him for the wonderful wedding vow renewal ceremony he coordinated for clients last August. All these formalities over, I received the same welcome overview as other guests which took place in the library/game room off the main lounge/dining room. Then a walk to my tent (#6) along a tree shaded stone path, past a lovely small pool with lounges. All 12-tents are Mara River facing with hippos frolicking all hours of the day; when not, they’re feeding on the banks, so the camp is fenced. Personally, a fence doesn’t bother me and aren’t noticeable from some of the tents, besides the flowers hanging like ivy were such a nice welcome when arriving at or sitting on the deck.

    Lovely wide wooden decks welcome you to the tents which are double size – rectangular, that accommodate two queen-sized beds, desk/chair, full length mirror, storage for clothing, plenty of moving around space (no bumping into another) - hair dryer, ensuite bathroom with twin wash basins, flush loos and shower and lots of fluffy towels, robes and slippers.

    Settled in, I returned for lunch which I took inside, though the deck was most tempting, maybe next time. Again, not many guests at this time of year, most were local Kenyans, white and black, taking advantage of space at this low season with resident rates. Besides myself this first day, an American, there was a couple from Italy who were working in Nairobi.

    Lunch finished and reading a few chapters, I went to find my guide/driver and fellow guests for the afternoon game drive. Here I was introduced to Julius who is Samburu and has been with Olonana for quite a number of years. The other passengers where the young (30s/40s) Italian and Kenyan (guess in their early-60s) couples with whom I enjoyed my dinners at their invitation. The husband grew up down the road from the actual little girl in “Nowhere in Africa.” Like the story/movie, his father arrived from Europe to Kenya during WWII, a most interesting couple.

    Taking my favorite seat next to the guide/driver, we were in a 3-seat row vehicle, but with only 4/passengers, an empty row. Driving on the very bumpy ridge past Kichwa Tembo/Bateleur Camps (Bateleur, now with both North and South Camps, 9/tents each, ain’t all that small and intimate anymore, I’d say) thru the Oloololo Gate. Amazing, not a wildebeest in sight - oh, that’s in 6/weeks or so; best though, only a few vehicles at first. We did come upon a pair of lions, but with high grass in this area, difficult to see. There were the big guys, easy to see: ellees (lots of them heading for their daily drink), giraffe, buffalo, impala, Tommies, topi and lots of birds (I don’t know names, but beautiful colors, big and small). It was so delightful to be able to enjoy the quiet, until we came over a ridge and there saw vehicles coming from all directions heading to one spot (oh, those radios... ugh), at which we all laughed and figured “not for us.” But we were curious as to what they might be watching - it would have to wait.

    Instead we headed in the opposite direction going toward the Serena (but not really, as from here that lodge is a good 20/miles) and sure enough – cheetah! Three cheetah, just taking their afternoon siesta and it was just us, where we sat a watched for about 20/minutes. Then in the side mirror I see another vehicle closing in on us, but he’s a friend, a vehicle from Bateleur with 4/paxs. Noticed this was a new vehicle, right out of the factory; also that one of the guys seems uncomfortable... not much room between rows as his legs are touching the back of the row in front of him, but they were individual bucket-type seats(3) in each row. I had seen one of the older Bateleur vehicles which seemed to have more space between seat rows, so the new config was suprising. We certainly didn’t have this problem in our vehicle with two tall guys (well over 6’ tall). Ok, time to go see what all the hoopla is where all those vehicles were congregating.

    Thankfully, by the time we arrive, most vehicles have left. And while we were expecting lion, instead it was this massive Marshal Eagle (the largest bird in Kenya) on the ground. It didn’t seem hurt, rather was clutching a kill of some kind. Boy, was he big and rather ugly, yet looks so beautiful when in flight. Not too far away, a few more vehicles who again seem to be departing is where we found Simba! At first we thought there were only one or two, but they were in the bush so it was difficult to actually figure out how many. With less vehicles around, we start counting and find there are 7, both female and young males. Probably a mother/s, but no dominate male. All of a sudden two lions come running out of the bush playing with something, which appeared to be a small animals, but it wasn’t. It was a piece of hard rubber, which I’d guess might have fallen off a vehicle. This item kept them busy for sometime.

    We stayed out for another hour or so spotting a leopard kill up a tree... an antelope, but no leopard about. Driving into the sunset, we came onto beautiful skies and a lovely date tree on the landscape. It was so beautiful, all that was missing was a Masai with spear standing next to it, which I asked Julius to go pose. No way... as he too was so impressed with the view, out came his mobile so he could capture the beauty of the scene along with the rest of us.

    Arriving back at camp, as we drive to the entrance we notice the chef standing at one of the fence-posts talking on his mobile, which Julius mentions is the camp’s “phone booth.” Why? Because this spot happens to offer the best reception and from where the chef (and many others) contact the outside world!

    Unlike Saruni or Serian who serve meals family style, at Olonana there are individual tables. Seemed to me that about half of the 12/tents were occupied, offering guests the option to eat outside on the terrace or indoors and that’s what they chose. Needless to say, another excellent meal (didn’t have a bad meal anywhere) with choice of fish or meat (I passed on the fish) for main course, veggies were fresh and perfectly prepared. Soup served as starter, of course, and beautifully presented deserts. I enjoyed this meal with the Kenyan couple, with great conversation and lots of laughs. As elsewhere, we were the last to finish, after enjoying drinks with Tom and one of the other managers. Then off to sleep with images of that sunset to loll me to dreamland.

    ... to be continued

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    Saturday, June 2, 2007

    Coffee arrives at 7am and this time it’s easy to open the thermos and enjoy their sugar cookies. There’s plenty of hot water, so the hair gets washed because I have a hair dryer... whoopee! But you know, I first checked that it worked before I wet the head.

    Arriving for breakfast, I left a set of batteries to be recharged. In their office is an entire set-up to charge as many electrical devices as needed and told I could pick up by lunch for the afternoon.

    Then, after breakfast, where it appeared everyone else was out on game drives, I spent time with Tom walking the camp which is really lovely. The only negative (not really major) is that all of tents are in one direction from the public space… so Tent #12, is the farthest and quite a walk. I would have thought they could have built 6-tents each either side of the public area and they’d still be private.

    I left a few dollars in their gift shop for small items and then settled on the terrace to read and watch the hippos. When I next looked around, lunch was being served and there were new faces, in fact, the guy who had been in that Bateleur vehicle the afternoon before. From Bateleur to Olonana, both in the same area, about 1/mile apart. Strange choices, but hey, I didn’t suggest this! Also, a couple from San Francisco who had before arriving here had been at Campi ya Kanzi, where I’d be heading in a few days.

    For the afternoon game drive, I had another guide, but also joined by the Kenyan couple (not the Italians), and this couple who had earlier been at Bateleur, who were visiting from South Africa. Our guide this afternoon was Joseph who like Julius was excellent.

    Game viewing was good - same cast of characters, but more topi wherever we drove. Lots of birds, another small pride of lions, elephant and buffalo herds, giraffe and zebra, baboons and vervet monkeys. The weather was lovely, though for about half-hour the skies did look threatening, but no water from above.

    When returning to the camp, we again found the chef at the phone booth, and another guy nearby who appeared to be waiting for the fence post to become available. Too funny!

    Had sundowners with the Kenyan couple, then adjourned to the dining room. Here, I noticed new faces... they come and they go. And, my guess was that nine of the 12/tents were occupied.

    We again closed up the dining room. We were both departing the next day, they on the 10am flight, and I’d be heading off by road to Explorer Camp.

    ... to be continued

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    Sunday, June 3, 2007

    There’s simply nothing as wonderful as waking up in Africa. The smell is clean, the sounds are fascinating. Guess, you can take the city out of the gal. Certainly, this one.

    Showered, dressed and packed, my pick-up was scheduled for 10am with a guide/driver from Explorer Camp. With sufficient time after breakfast, Tom advises me that the driver would be late. Apparently, there was flooding at one of the bridge crossings and he'd have to wait till the water receded. Well, I’m glad I have my book... can’t recall when I’ve been able to get in as much time to do so on previous trips. But this is good, as when I’m home, time just gets away from me.

    It’s somewhere between 11am-12N, the driver from Explorer appears. I say my good-byes, thank everyone for a wonderful stay and we’re out of there. The drive to Explorer Camp takes a little over 1/hr. On arrival, I’m met by Marianna, the manager. For those who might remember, when Explorer Camp initially opened they were the first camp to have a Masai woman as manager. Sadly, I learned about a year ago that she passed due to AIDS. What a shame. Marianna, not Masai, is from the coast and has been at the camp since.

    I’m assigned Tent #9, which is on a separate path from other tents, but then all the tents are pretty much private... just a matter of how you get to each. All of the tents are river facing, at a bend in the Talek River. A traditional tent, but quite large with a king-sized bed, antique/safari chair, desk. Lamps set on tree stumps; a lovely large bath to the rear with en-suite loo, shower (with lots of fluffy towels), twin washbasins. On the outside deck to the side, there is a Victorian-style tub, hidden for privacy. Each tent equipped with two-way radios at night.

    As is customary with Heritage property camps – Intrepid’s and Explorers – there are three (3) game drives scheduled daily… two in the morning, 6:30 & 10:30am and afternoon at 3:30pm. Well, you know, I’m not going out at 6:30am and at 10:30am, I’m just finishing breakfast. So, I’m back to my afternoon game drive schedule.

    Having arrived when I did, I had lunch immediately in the dining area that has a great view of the river and hippos sunning on the banks. Still enjoying their lunch was a family group – parents, three children, believe 10/yrs (a boy) and two girls, about 13 & 15/yrs – they were traveling with their safari planner. How nice, something I should consider... if I ever had the time!

    Ready for afternoon game drive, I’m paired with a Spanish couple on their honeymoon. She had a better handle on English, but when it comes to animals language didn’t seem to matter much. We had lots of fun coming on cheetah (3), lions (6) in the woodlands, hyena w/collar, elephants, topi, Tommies, giraffe and one lone wildie! Poor fellow, just waiting for his buddies to arrive in a few weeks.

    With the sun setting we return to camp via Intrepid’s. It was strange to see we were on the opposite side of the river where our guide parked and walked us to a suspension bridge. Oh no! Not one of those bridges. But, I’ve become a champ on these and crossed without any hesitation to find the Intrepid’s open air dining area. Here we all headed for the loo, and then outside the camp’s main entrance got into another vehicle for the short 10/min drive to Explorer Camp in time for sundowners at the open fire pit.

    The pit is actually hidden during daylight hours on the public space deck/lounge area that hangs over the Talek, then opened at night. Here, we were introduced to a new group of guests, two from the UK (a gal and guy), friends of another guy who happened to be the manager from Ulasaba at Sabi Sands/Kruger in South Africa. His first visit to East Africa which he was enjoying tremendously.

    After a few rounds of drinks, with camp manager, and lots of stories, we adjoined to dinner. All meals here are served. No buffets, not even breakfast. Tell them what you want off the menu and it’s prepared to perfection.

    After another long day, with my askari escort to my tent, I’m off to dreamland the minute my head hits the pillow.

    ... to be continued

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    The 3 outing game drive option is appealing to some of us, thanks for mentioning it.

    I can imagine your nervousness leading up to becoming the harried wild woman when you thought you might miss your flight.

    Interesting aside on Philip. I've seen his work. Disney's Animal Kingdom is the closest I'll get to going on safari with most of my family members.

    How fascinating, if a bit sad, you saw jackals on the attack of Thomson's Gazelles. You mentioned two jackals against one gazelle. I would think it would take even more jackals than that for an aggressive move.

    Very brave of you to forego the nail assistance and then sleep with just a sleep. Maybe wild woman is indeed appropriate.

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    Monday, June 4, 2007

    After breakfast, I took the short drive to Mara Intrepid’s Camp, the sister camp of Explorer. I wanted to see the recently refurbished tent which Heritage Hotels had been undertaking at most of their properties.

    As it was dusk when we left Intrepids the day before, I didn’t notice the entry to the camp. I must say, the driveway to the camp is quite impressive with lovely fully grown acacia trees. Here I was met by an Assistant Manager to walk the property. With the exception of the last few tents still being worked on, most of the new ones were now set on concrete base (formerly all were on raised wood platforms, though I did see a few refurbished tents still on platforms at the farthest end of the camp). With a total of about 30/tents, they are in three sections. Each section has a Family Tent which consists of two tents joined by a screened airway with chairs/tables. Each section also has a “honeymooners” tent with access from the side (rather than the front) and river facing offering more privacy.

    The furnishings are all new with warm safari colors, twin or queen-sized beds, new bathrooms with separate commode and shower stalls, modern twin wash basins. Though I didn’t see provided hair blowers, there were plenty of outlets, so assume visitors can use their own. But one must always check or burn down the place! Lighting over the sinks was very good. There are a few dining venues on the property, a pool, large duka (shop).

    From the number of visitors coming/going, whether game drives or other activities at this mid-morning hour, I figured about half the camp was occupied, which is quite impressive for early-June. Also, noticed quite a number of families, some even with infants. The Intrepids Camps are known for their Children’s Adventure Program for the young-uns; the Rangers Program for young teens. Both are very well received. Like Explorer, the Intrepids Camps do three game drives daily. I finished this hectic part of my visit, bending elbows and exchanging “tales of Afree-kah” with the manager.

    Returning to Explorer Camp, I was met by Marianna and as we strolled to the deck where we were about to have an early “sundowner” – hey it was 12N and the flag must have been up over the yardarm somewhere, a little frog jumped in our path. Well, you would have though it was a snake or a lion. I had never seen a grown women panic so! Of all things, Marianna is scared to death of frogs. I didn’t know whether to get her a wet cloth, a fan or provide a tranquilizer… it was so unexpected. Once she calmed down we both laughed. Hey, you just never know.

    After lunch, another game drive, again with the Spanish honeymooners. And, we were going to look for cats. Well, we drove and drove, and the cats weren’t favoring us. We saw lots of zebra, elephants, topi, antelope and birds… but no cats, till late afternoon. The grass here was quite high, so it was difficult to spot them, but found them we did eventually, when I spotted a tail. It was their nap time, so they were down deep in the grass. It was a small pride of four - two each male and female, where we were joined by a vehicle from Ilkeliani Camp.

    It was so nice to be out here in quiet solitude. We didn’t stay long as the skies started to turn dark and looked as the rains would come any minute. But they didn’t… just threatening. Time to head back to camp.

    Returning to camp, there were new guests, two women from the UK whom we joined for sundowners. Surprisingly, while the fire was roaring, I noticed that the dining area was dark and didn’t see anyone preparing the tables for dinner. Stored this in the back of my mind and let it pass. The threesome from the UK and SA returned from their game drive, new introductions made, we then caught up on the day’s sightings. Soon after, one of the askaris arrived to tell us there was a leopard nearby, if we wanted to have a look-see? Antenna up! This sounded strange, hoping the camp wasn’t baiting the animal. Apparently now, but this group wanted to take showers and return later and went their way, jokingly one of them said, "I'll return with my spear"! Little did he know.

    The rest of us followed the askari back thru the entry path – in the dark – towards an area where I saw lanterns positioned. Ok, jigs up, I immediately realized they had set up for a bush dinner and I was right.

    At a long table there was soup, salad, veggies, breads, deserts; a separate station with BBQ meats on the spits – beef, chicken, lamb, ribs – a chef to carve and which we all dug in to enjoy.

    While I was enjoying my meal, I noticed (even in the dark) an unfamiliar, but very tall man walking towards me. As I focused on the figure, what I saw was the most amazingly beautiful smile, attached a very very handsome man that took my breath away. I put down my utensils and stared at the voice that introduced himself as the Manager from Intrepids. He apologized for not being at the camp when I visited earlier, but did want to meet. Be still my heart! I don’t believe I said anything but my name. That smile lit up the night... what a wonderful way to end my day!

    But, neither the day nor night was yet over, as we watched the Masai perform with some of the guests joining the dancing and jumping. The guy who returned with his spear was having one heck of a good time. Believe the Tusker he was drinking was also having its effect. It was really lots of fun.

    By about 10pm we were all escorted back to our tents. Tomorrow I’ll be leaving the Mara... six days goes so quickly.

    ... to be continued

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    Tuesday, June 5, 2007

    It’s 7am; did I know where I was? Absolutely, sitting in bed, propped up by pillows, listening to the river and birds, enjoying my morning java, when I heard footsteps on the path. Rather quick steps, kind of running up the path. What could be happening? As my tent flaps are always open, I immediately realized it wasn’t one of the askari, but the husband of the Spanish couple... totally engrossed in getting to “his” tent. He pops up the one step, grabs the zipper pull and opens the tent and is caught completely off guard when I greeted him with a big smile and “buenos dias” - holding back a laugh. Embarrassed and apologizing profusely, I told him hakuna matata, as he backed out, re- zipped the tent and went to find “his” tent.

    Guess, it’s easy enough to walk down the wrong path, to the wrong tent. Oh well, a fun way to stay the day. Showered, dressed and packed, I headed to breakfast, where on taking my seat, my morning visitor again apologized. I reassured him, it was nothing.

    With an 11am flight to Nairobi, we’re off to the airstrip to find some others waiting (not all heading to NBO... believe others to Mombasa). The plane was a few minutes late, but boarded, myself only and one stop at the Serena for another pick-up, arriving Wilson 12:30pm, where Solomon was waiting for me. Bags retrieved and into the van, we’re off to Ngong House, but first a stop at the office. Had things to drop off (they were holding a bag for me with items I had to take home), get final information for my next few days... and to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in some months.

    Finished here, Solomon hands me over to the driver from Ngong House for the 20-minute drive to this lovely property in Karen. Here, I’m met by the manager from whom I request a cool “real” drink... no fruity one, regardless how delicious and refreshing they are. As I enjoy my vodka, I notice there are a few guests finishing their lunch on the lawn. The property is lovely, with tables set out for meals a nearby pool and lounge chairs.

    I’m then escorted to my room, with two of the women taking my bags on their heads. Don’t know how they do it, and then have to climb a narrow winding stairway to one of the four tree-houses. These are set about 15’ above the ground with a small outside sitting area, where meals can be taken. Inside, it’s lovely, with a queen-sized bed. There’s also a ladder leading to a small sleep loft, ideal for a child or third person. Adjacent to the main sleeping area, is a sofa and chair and table with lots of reading material. The bathroom in this particular tree-house is down a long hallway where I come upon a tub. But, no ordinary bathtub, rather one set in a mokoro (dug-out canoe)... how wonderful, just what I need after six days in the bush. Showers really don’t do it for me... there’s nothing like a bath. Here in the rear are also the twin wash basins, commode and separate large shower stall. And, on the wall is hanging - guess what? Yup, a hair dryer. Can’t wipe the smile off my face.

    The balance of the afternoon, I simply relaxed, read some, even fell into a deep sleep with book on my lap; probably needed it. Next thing I realized, it was dark and the hour was coming on 6:30pm. With dinner scheduled for 7:30, I figured it was time for sundowners and though I had been told someone would escort me, I didn’t wait. I heard voices not too far from my room, so with my handy Maglite, I followed the voices that were already at the fire.

    Here I met Paul, the owner and the other guests, Martha and Dick from Charleston, SC with their agent, David. David is a member of the Kent family (of A&K fame) who as many of the family, since A&K has been sold, is providing services independently. With drink in hand, we caught up with stuff before Paul and David took their leave and left the three of us for dinner. We were escorted to an enclosed boma (it had a roof... grass as do the tree-houses) with fireplace, where we found set a lovely table for the three of us.

    Needless to say, true to everything I had heard, this was probably the best meal I’ve eaten anywhere – in Africa, New York, California, even France. The chef is a genius. After the second appetizer, none of us thought we could eat another morsel, but that didn’t stop us. My main course was beef, theirs was fish. And, dessert... well, just the right amount of chocolate to carry the taste to bed, but not keep you from sleeping! We left lots of “dead soldiers” at our table... between, reds and whites and dessert wines.

    Martha and Dick were heading off on safari very early next morning, so we said our good-byes and all managed to return to our rooms with no assistance (though provided). I even managed that spiral staircase without falling on my face.

    ... to be continued

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    Wednesday, June 6, 2007

    Since I didn’t have to be at Wilson till about noon for a 12:30pm flight, but still up at 7am, I had coffee in my room, ran the tub and enjoyed a leisurely soak. Hair washed and giving the hair dryer time to do its thing, I ventured to the lawn, where a lovely table was set for my breakfast. Seemed, I was the only guest in residence, though Paul and the dog did join me for a few minutes. The air was cool, warming by the minute; breakfast was perfect.

    Breakfast finished, Paul and I walked the property. Surprisingly, one other room was occupied, the others being cleaned and set for guests that were actually late arriving from the airport. All rooms are similar in size, slightly different design, each very private from the others... you really don’t know anyone else is on the grounds. For those who may have issues with the spiral stairs, there are two rooms on ground-level... one attached to the main public space. The other, a short walk away is actually a private house perfect for families or a group. With beautiful floor-to-ceiling glass walls, two bedrooms each with private bathroom, a living and bar area with fire-pit, pool table which converts to a dining table and small kitchen. There’s additional sleeping space in a sofa area, easily converted to beds. Like the tree-houses, set in these lovely gardens.

    I spent a bit of time at the atelier of Penny Winters, Paul’s wife who has her own line of custom designed clothing and unique jewelry. No, website, folks... I asked. It’s was so refreshing to watch her place patterns, pin to lovely silk fabrics, cut with a scissor and know, it’s hand sewn. There are items for men and women, with all kinds of fabrics... cotton, linen, silk, leather, at nice prices... expensive, but not ridiculously so. The jewelry items are mostly one-of-a-kind with unique and semi-precious stones. Taking my leave, and knowing I was going onto Campi ya Kanzi, she gave me a package for Antonella... a baby gift. Lucky little boy, I had gifts also.

    With a few minutes till my drive to Wilson, I met the other guest here who had just seen his wife off for her airport transfer and homebound flight. He was on R&R from his military duties in Afghanistan. This was a perfect place to meet, though from Canada, his wife was hesitant about traveling to Africa and all kinds of (untrue) tales from people who had never been. What else is new? Needless to say, she didn’t want to leave, it had been so wonderful. And, surprise, surprise, they had just spent a few days at Ndolwa House, where I would be in two days. As I listened to him tick off all the game they had seen in Tsavo West South and on the private conservation lands, was looking forward to my own stay at Ndolwa. You just never know, who you’ll meet where. A place few have heard of and here was someone who had just been.

    Well, it’s time for my transfer, so with adieus and double-cheek kisses, 20/minute later, I’m at Wilson. While visitors to Campi ya Kanzi can fly on the scheduled flight early morning to Finch Hatton’s airstrip, it’s then a road (1+/hrs) transfer to CYK and this was how I was initially routed. However, there’s also a CYK plane, which lands only a 10-15/minutes drive from the camp. Though there’s a minimum of 2/pax for this flight and since I’m only one person, at last minute (why I stopped in the office yesterday), there was a honeymoon couple flying to CYK, so I flew with them.

    Waiting for the pilot to load the plane with all our bags, we make our introductions and guess what? A Spanish couple... this must be Spanish Month. Third couple. With me in the co-pilot seat, we take off for the 1/hr flight. It’s fairly clear and so green below. As we get closer to the Chyulu Hills, even greener because of the volcanic ground. On landing, we’re met by Stefano, for the short drive to camp. Stefano is a longtime friend of Luca and has been with him in Kenya almost as long as the camp has been open. Arriving at camp, we’re greeted by the staff and welcomed by Luca and Antonella and Lulu (their 5/year old daughter). The other guests (a couple from San Francisco) are just finishing lunch, though the table has been reset for us.

    Introductions made, the newcomers are escorted to their tents. The honeymooners were taken to one of the suites, while I went to a twin tent.

    Here are traditional safari tents, mine with twin beds, with ample walking space; bathroom to the rear with commode and bidet, shower stall and single wash basin, good lighting. Towels and bathrobes are waffle-weave, of which I have a few sets at home, and wonderful to find here. A lovely wide deck outside with chairs and small table... view of the waterhole and if it were a clearer day... Kili is out there.

    Sitting down for lunch, Stefano joins us. Luca spends some time discussing the camp, the history, the community, the various projects, then leaves us to enjoy our meal. The dining area is under the same roof as the public space, open floor plan, with lots of soft sofas and chairs and a large library – this is Tembo House.

    Though Stefano, naturally, is fluent in Italian, it was interesting how our conversations went. The wife had a better handle on English, so what Stefano said to me in English, he then conveyed to the wife in Italian, who translated for her husband into Spanish. Believe me... after two days, we all seemed to be speaking the same language. And the husband’s English was greatly improved by the next day!

    For the afternoon activity, it was to be a walking safari, but not me. Though safe enough, I prefer to be in a vehicle and Barbara (wife of SFO couple) felt likewise. We would go with Stefano by vehicle to the mountain, while her husband (Jim) and the honeymooners (Paulo and Sandra) would walk and meet us here. Barbara and I met Stefano at about 4pm, for the short drive to the 850’ “mini-Kili” we were to climb! The others had started out at about 3:30 with a tracker with rifle. Surprise of surprises, the climb wasn’t all that bad, following the track made by many animals who proceeded us sometime during the previous 24/hrs, as the animal droppings indicated. We’re almost to the top, when we hear a yell from below... the others had caught up and made it from the bottom to where we were a whole lot faster than we did initially.

    Once on top, the view was amazing. And, I was so proud of myself, I couldn’t resist a “Rocky” photo. We had our sundowners, took pictures, chatted and told stories. But, as those who know, the sky begins to turn dark real fast once the sun drops down below the horizon, so we started down. It’s easier going down than dragging the butt up! We’re all in the vehicle and get maybe 100’, when we stop dead. The hood comes up, some fiddling, but the engine isn’t turning over. With a call to camp, we wait for another vehicle to come and retrieve us.

    Back at camp, we had time to wash up, make pit stops and then have cocktails before sitting down for dinner. The other vehicle, is back soon after... whatever it was, was repaired.

    Dinner and conversation were wonderful. When we were finished and about to be escorted to our tents, we had to wait. The askaris had scanned the area and there were “eyes” everywhere... buffalo eyes. So we waited, had another round of after dinner drinks and finally, with the area cleared... the buffalo had continued to a nearby waterhole. We then returned to our tents and a well deserved good night to sleep.

    ... to be continued

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    Sandi, great details in your report for those of us trying to choose locations, lodges, etc. Though most trip reports concentrate on game viewing, I believe reports such as yours provide much needed advice on the "secondary aspects" of a safari - where one goes and stays.
    And it is most refreshing to get back to what I love most about this forum...reading intersting trip reports. Thank you! Cc

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    Sandi, the next time I'm having a drink and about to head off for bed, I dearly hope someone says, "Oh, we have to have another--too many Cape buffalo out there."

    Still enjoying all the details.

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    Thursday, June 7, 2007

    Another morning to sleep-in, if being wide awake by 7am is considered “sleeping-in?” After shower, I walk up for breakfast between 8:30-9am where I meet Barbara. Jim had gone out with one of the guides/trackers while Paulo and Sandra were out with another. The two of us enjoyed our coffee leisurely and chatting, about where they had already been (Borana) and would be going (Saruni at Masai Mara, Crater Lodge at Ngorongoro and Sasakwa at Grumeti Reserves), then about the bed linens... asking whether mine were soft or rough. Strange, as when I hit the bed after all that fresh air, was off to dreamland so fast, I barely had time to notice. Seems, the ones in their tent were rough, appearing to be linen rather than cotton. Well, well – I’d have to check mine when I returned to my tent. Barbara also mentioned that when we first arrived, she thought I was the mother of one of the couple! Excuse me? I believe the days of sending a chaperone with a couple (married or not), is way over. Guess, having given up the bottle and letting the lovely silver sprinkle my hair is a give-away; I could probably be the mother of one of the honeymooners, but for the fact “no habla espanol.” Anyway, a good laugh is always welcome to start the day!

    Somewhere around 10am, Barbara and I headed to the dining area for breakfast with Jim, Paulo and Sandra not far behind; Antonella, Luca, Lulu and Stefano also joined us. With a new baby (born in April), Antonella, for these first few months has only been joining guests for breakfast and lunch. Lulu and Luca were discussing a surprise for us for dinner and wanted to know our favorite flavor. For whatever the surprise, we voted on chocolate, but we'd have to wait till evening for whatever was being planned. Lulu was then off to school, where a young women teaches both Lulu and young girl from the local village.

    For me, it was going to be a leisurely day. The others went off to do something, somewhere... maybe the local village; I was back to reading. I get so little time at home to read or just relax, I treasure my time in Africa to do as much or as little as I choose. We had something planned for the afternoon, so that was sufficient activity for a day.

    Back at my tent, I did check my bedding and realized the sheets were linen, not cotton; mine though were soft. I had to wonder whether those in the other tent were new, maybe not laundered before being put on the bed? Sure enough, when Barbara and I met up for lunch, that was it, the sheets hadn’t been laundered. But the staff took care of this immediately, removing those on the bed and replacing with a set having a softer hand. No further questions, problem handled.

    As breakfast was rather late, so too was lunch... we probably didn’t gather till well after 1pm and enjoyed a very leisurely meal; so very continental. In fact, by the time we concluded, we had maybe 30/minutes to get ready for the afternoon drive.

    With all of us guests in one vehicle with Stefano driving and a tracker, we’re off for a forest walk. The sun was hanging in the sky offering a lovely warm afternoon and amazing colors everywhere, whether on the ground or in the sky. Climbing way up into the Chyulu Hills, we did pass scattered game, mostly antelope and quite a number of giraffe. The higher up, the better the views looking down on the plains.

    We finally stopped and proceeded to follow Stefano. The tracker remained with the vehicle, only to later realize he drove it to the end of the forest walk, then backtracked and met up with us. And, you never hear them! Never!

    The grass was high, with lots of vines, but no one got caught up in the undergrowth. Once inside the forest, the trees were large and quite magnificent, lots of great moss covered root systems and blanketing the forest floor. This reminded me of a camp experience when I was about 12/yrs old, where we got lost in an environment so quiet and yet surprising around every bend. As kids we were somewhat scared, but not this time. It was simply so peaceful and different. And, safe - not an animal around, but we could hear birds in the trees, yet difficult to see.

    The walk took about 45/minutes, coming out on the other end, to find our chariot waiting. On the way down, we stopped at a great viewpoint for sundowners where we stayed to see the sun drop below the horizon. We could see giraffe on the slopes and down on the plains.

    Returning to camp about 7pm, I freshened up in the loo adjacent to the dining area, then curled up on one of the sofas, with sundowner in front of me and a choice of reading material. The others headed to their tents, returning about half-hour later for dinner.

    As was expected, the meal and conversation were great, joined by Stefano and Luca. Oh, and Paulo’s English was improving by the hour. Finishing our main course, Lulu joined us and announced the “surprise.” She and Luca had earlier, prepared homemade ice cream. And, boy was this good. Very good and so decadently chocolate, the back of my teeth hurt. Needless to say, thumbs up all around.

    No buffalos tonight to delay the return to our tents. The herds probably made their way to the waterhole earlier.

    Tomorrow, I’m off to my last stop on this, so far, really great visit.

    ... to be continued

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    Hi Sandi-

    Just loading this wonderful report into the index - I was trying to locate the thread with your pictures this year (I'm sure I remember one, yes?) and I fell asleep at my desk looking through all of the posts so I must have missed it! Can you add the link into this post for me?


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    Been caught up with "stuff" as you can imagine, so if Lynda askes, I provide :)

    My photo link,

    There are still a few more days - at Ndolwa. If I can get out from under, will try to have report completed this weekend. Thanks for being patient.

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    Friday, June 8, 2007

    Dressed and packed, and as I’ll be leaving camp before 10am, I head for an earlier than usual breakfast. The others were probably out early, so I’m alone for a few minutes when they return. Both couples would be staying another day, so with goodbyes, cards exchanged and thank-you all around, I’m off with a driver and guide to Finch Hatton’s Camp.

    Here, I’m to meet up with Marcus Russell and Shikha for the drive to Ndolwa House. Drive time from Campi ya Kanzi to Finch Hatton’s is exactly 1-1/2 hours, over the rocky volcanic grounds, with game sightings along the way, then crossing the main road that goes west to Amboseli and soon at my drop-off point.

    Right on time, I’m met by my new hosts and Marcus’ 10-year old son Blaide who is visiting for a few weeks, along with one their guides. As I’m out of one vehicle, thanking my guide/driver, I then meet up with the Manager of Finch Hatton’s, who was my lifesaver last year with a great anti-itch cream which I desperately needed after my ankles had been attacked by pepper ants. We exchanged pleasantries, I hit the loo and then we were on our way south.

    After the rocky roads in Chyulu, it was a pleasant surprise to be driving on excellent roads. Dirt, yes, but there were no ruts and we were able to move at a good speed. This area is often referred to as the Serengeti of Kenya, with wide open plains, game often at a distance. On Blaide’s suggestion, a game where we would all get points for the species each could spot before the others. Blaide was real good, as he was sitting atop the vehicle, but I was doing pretty good myself... one after the other. It was fun and my points were adding up. Would there be a prize at the end? Probably not, but fun!

    Blaide also kept saying he had surprises for me once we got to camp, and seemed to want to tell me what it would be, but Shikha told him “then it wouldn’t be a surprise.” Kids! Too cute.

    All of a sudden, Marcus comes to a dead stop, gets out of the vehicle and returns with a chameleon; a pretty (subjective) yellow thing that if he wasn’t a great guide with amazing sight would have rode right over - one dead chameleon! Having a small box on the front seat just for such findings, in it went with a reminder to all in/on the vehicle that we remove the critter when back at camp. I could only surmise, they’ve on occasion forgotten, only to find a dead something, when they did!

    Blaide also wanted to see the Lions of Tsavo… those big guys, some of which they saw on their way to pick me up, so off we went in search. Sure enough, Marcus remembered where these guys had been and there they were. Well, kind of. The brush was very thick, but we could see the two mane-less, really, really large lions. That’s right, no manes, which is common for the lions here. Supposedly because of the thick brush and thus to avoid getting caught on twigs and branches, this no-mane has been bred into the species. These were big lions... the largest I’ve ever seen; one more skittish than the other. And as soon as the skittish one moved, so too did the other. Guess they don’t see visitors often!

    On our way again, the next stop Blaide wanted to make was at the Tsavorite mine! Tsavorite, as with Tanzanite, are only found in certain areas. Tsavorite, named after where first found – Tsavo (naturally), is a green stone, often referred to as green garnet which is used as an alternative to emeralds, even by jewelers as Cartier and Tiffany’s. The emerald is a very soft stone and is almost always set surrounded by diamonds (hard) for protection. Tsavorite, on the other hand, is a very strong stone. The stone was originally unearthed sometime in the 1920s, about the same as was Tanzanite. There are a number of legitimate mines in the park, that unearth the stones for market. But also some smaller mines that few know about. Don’t ask, as I won’t tell, if I could even find my way if left out there on my own. Believe me though, if KWS could cordon off a 10/mile radius secured area, to mine and sell stones, they’d have sufficient funds for their work, salary, vehicles, communications… for years to come.

    Well, Marcus found the track and in we drove and there was this big hole, rather a few big holes that it seemed some trouble-makers have found and must have been mining on their own, obvious from the trash left behind - soda cans, water bottles, cold fires, etc. This was quite interesting and rough stones were everywhere, but whether they’d be worth anything, I couldn’t say. However, it was fun to run about the place with our apparent lack of concern for wild animals. I amaze myself sometimes.

    Getting on 1pm, we were at Ndolwa, a lovely small camp. Located on a private concession, right outside the Tsavo boundary and not far from the Maktau Gate, are three (3) lovely large cottages, a public covered area with lounge and dining with two (2) single rooms to the rear. Though rough, natural surroundings, this was lovely.

    I dropped my bags, washed my hands and gladly accepted the cool drink offered. Not two minutes later, Blaide appeared with a mongoose and a small cage which contained a tiny tiny stripped mongoose. Well, this was the surprise and it didn’t take me a second to play with the little one (as seen in my photos). At Ndolwa, there are all kinds of orphaned animals that are either picked up from the roads, while out on safari or they just find their way here. They’re cared for, nursed back to health, fed by bottle if needed, and eventually set into the wild. Besides the mongeesesessssss, there were three (3) almost 1/yr old ostriches that arrived as babies. All were still brown, as the male colors don’t show till sometime around 1/yr... so soon. Also, there were a few genet cats, small and large; the little one in the rafters and curious about the new guest. Sure enough, he eventually came down and sniffed about.

    All of a sudden, I remembered. The chameleon which Blaide retrieved and brought to me. A cute critter, though it did nip at my pinky, but didn’t draw blood. Probably, not keen on being handled, so we placed him in a nearby tree, to live out his life in “chameleon heaven” and hopefully safe from larger predators.

    Lunch was being prepared, so I had a few minutes to be taken to my cottage, unpack a few items and catch my breath. It had already been a full morning into afternoon. The cottage was large, about 16’ x 20’ with an outside porch about 8’ deep. Inside, I was welcomed with a king-sized bed, surrounded by mossie net on a track, though tied back during the daylight hours, two large closets, a small sitting area; separate bathroom with commode, single washbasin and vanity, and shower stall. The walls are hand painted and individual colored stones set in the concrete in great designs. This cottage was the size of my living room at home... very nice, indeed.

    Returning to the lounge, lunch was being served family style. As the only guest, it was like having your own African home in the bush, spending time with friends for good food, plenty of drink and great conversation. We finished lunch around 3:30pm and could have gone out on game drive, but I really just wanted to sit on that porch and enjoy the quiet, but for the sounds of Afree-kah, and the view as the day came to an end, knowing the sunset would be outstanding. So it was agreed we’d meet at the campfire at dusk.

    Back at my cottage, with book in hand, I settled in on the porch sofa for what I enjoy most about these trips, sorry folks... not always the game, but rather... “me time.” No work, no phones, no computer, no cars honking, no people! The waiter arrived with a cold beer and I was one happy camper.

    The sunset was beautiful, so after taking a few photos, changed into a warmer sweater and off for “sundowners.” The closer I got to the campfire, I could hear an engine, only to see Blaide rolling over the hills in a small ATV. Does kind of upset the balance, but he was having so much fun, who could object. I was amazed he could see where he was going as it got darker, but he managed.

    Settling down at the roaring fire, on stone couches, with colorful cushions, Marcus and Shikha soon joined me, as we nibbled on munchies... little meat patties, chips, dip and more beverages.

    At 8pm we adjourned inside for dinner, which Marcus carefully carved and served to perfection. Each course eaten leisurely, with conversation about everything... we solved all the world’s problems! Finishing with an excellent dessert and after-dinner drinks, it was decided next day we’d head to Lake Jipe for a picnic.

    Shikha and I walked back to my cottage and on entering noticed they had pulled the mossie net around the bed and closed the window curtains, which we both immediately turned back and opened. Hey, I’m in Afree-kah, I not only want to hear it, but also see it when I wake up! We laughed as she commented “you’re so African!”

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    Saturday, June 9, 2007

    As usual, I asked for my coffee by 7am, and though I was up before then, I didn’t even hear my coffee delivered, placed on the table outside along with a plate cookies. I walked outside, wrapped in blanket to see the mist rising above the plains... directly across from me was the road, with Tsavo on the other side. Sitting and enjoying a cuppa, I could only think of America in the early 1800’s when pioneers were crossing the country, with every day about to be an adventure, yet the beauty and quiet and peacefulness of the land. Sadly, every morning while in Tsavo, whether here in the south or up at Chyulu, the sky wasn’t clear enough to see Kili. I knew the mountain was due west from my little piece of heaven, but no luck. Drat! My only visit in this area, when I’ve been disappointed. Well, all the more reason, to return.

    Ndolwa doesn’t have 24/7 electric, so when the power came on at about 8am, I went in for a shower; plenty of hot water, dressed and went for breakfast. It was the four of us again, one happy family. The usual buffet items and freshly made eggs, bacon, pancakes or whatever and more coffee.

    Shikha asked my preference for sandwiches and drink, soda or stronger, and agreed we’d meet by 10:30 for the drive to Lake Jipe. The Lake is about 20/miles away, on the border with Tanzania. We drove out of the camp, across the railroad tracks (yup, a train, though not sure if it’s regular service and didn’t ask), waited at the Maktau Gate for the KWS guard to open one gate, then the other to let us continue south.

    Again, the Serengeti of Kenya, with lots of game out there at some distance and there’s no off-roading; we played the game of who spots what. Most interesting, close to the roads were the giraffes. Yes, my favorite animal, but here I saw, for the first time, mixed-breeds, Masai and reticulated giraffe patterns in one animal. Unlike the Grevy’s (more ass than zebra) and Burchell zebras that do not mate, apparently the giraffe aren’t as selective. Some were Masai in the front and reticulated in the rear, others, the reverse. Also, quite a number of very dark colored giraffe, which ordinarily indicates an older animal, but these were young-uns! Specific to the area, Tsavo was presenting some interesting differences.

    Then, dead stop... Marcus, did it again; this time, for a tortoise in the middle of the road. Blaide ran out and picked it up, handed it to Marcus, who was smart enough to hold it outside the window... they tend to panic when held and pee immediately. And, it did. It was a male, with the concave underbelly for mounting a female. He was then placed in the bush. Off we went, and then in the middle of the road – a dead Tommy! Obviously hit by a vehicle. We stopped, so Marcus and Blaide could move it into the bush.

    We then turned south towards the Tanzanian border and Lake Jipe. Here the terrain changed and we came upon small herds of elephants, all covered in red dust which reminds me of Gone with the Wind... the “red earth of Tara.” A few minutes later we arrived at the Lake, driving along the edge to find a nice spot under protective trees. The sun was very strong. It was nice to get out of the vehicle, stretch our legs. And, for those who needed, found a bush to take care of nature.

    Don’t know how wide the lake, but you could see the opposite shore in Tanzania, where there is some industry and villages... obvious by pockets of smoke rising; unlike the Kenyan side which is strictly a nature (birdlife) reserve. At the west end of the Lake is the Taveta border, another official border crossing, best used from Tsavo, rather than driving thru Amboseli to the Namanga border. A few people were walking about which is fine, but not those who were on bicycle, who appeared to have come from Tanzania. This is not allowed and Marcus let the folks know that doing so was illegal.

    Ok, official business over, out came the picnic basket which we set up on the bonnet – sandwiches, munchies and cold drinks from the cooler. Sorry to say, but the chips weren’t Lay’s or Wise and didn’t quite cut it, but the sandwiches were great and cold beverages just what we needed.

    From the various droppings on the ground, game, of all sizes, do come down to the water, so none of us wandered off on our own... rather some good conversation and tales of Afree-kah. After an hour or so, we packed up and started back and came across many herds of elephants, lots of little ones that the mommas and aunties protected. A few bulls were at a distance. We stopped to watch their antics, and could tell they weren’t all that pleased with the sound & sight of vehicles and humans.

    With no dead animals barring our way, the return drive took a little over an hour, arriving back at Ndolwa after 2pm. Marcus asked whether I wanted to go out in the afternoon, but I was so relaxed and found the peace and quiet and scenery so magnificent, was content to simply chill, till it was time for sundowners.

    There were a few workmen on the grounds, building a waterhole some distance from the main lounge area and I knew Marcus wanted to monitor the progress,so off he went to do so, Shikha to wash her hair and Blaide on his ATV. All such normal things, just like at home! Visiting here was much like the year before when we visited up north, near Lake Turkana at the Desert Rose.

    I settled down to finish my book, with a cold drink; next I knew, I was waking up to the sound of a bird, a very loud bird in a nearby tree. Looking at the sky with the beautiful colors, I realized I must have slept almost two-hours. Wow, amazing what fresh air will do for this City gal.

    Off with the t-shirt, into a warmer sweater, grabbing my pashmina (the nights were never really cold) and bag with camera, I was ready for sundowners, arriving as the waiters were setting the table. The workmen were gone for the day... didn’t hear them while sleeping; they’’d be back next morning. The fire was burning, my drink was before me and I was taking in the last sunset on this my last night in Kenya. It seemed like only yesterday I had arrived with three-weeks in front of me, and now time had gone too fast. If only I could stay forever? One of these years, maybe!

    We went in for dinner, where a wonderful roast beef had been prepared, left to Marcus to carve, with veggies and great potatoes. Jibber, jabber – all of us, when we noticed the genet in the rafters. Paka spends most of his time up there, occasionally coming down to walk about. And, tonight when he did so, he found my lap appealing and, seemed perfectly at ease, as I was. I had my camera over in the lounge, which Marcus retrieved and took the photo. Shikha then said “Paka is a lover, so don’t be surprised if he follows you home tonight and sleeps with you.” “Excuse me?” “Yup, that’s what he likes, warm female bodies, even human bodies”. Well, we’ll just have to see.

    Desert and coffee finished, I returned to my cottage. Tomorrow I have a 10am flight to Wilson. Originally, I was scheduled to leave from Finch Hatton’s where Safari Link picks up, but at the last minute, a change - there were new guests flying direct to the Ndolwa airstrip at Maktau, so I had a seat dead-heading to Nairobi. Lucky! Instead of a very early wake-up and breakfast, to be on the road for the almost 2/hr drive to Finch Hatton’s, only 7/minutes to Maktau.

    Once back at the cottage, the drapes open, mossie net not surrounding the bed, while brushing my teeth, something caught my eye... something behind me, high in the rafters over the screened windows. I went to see what and sure enough, there was Paka. He was so cute, but it was a long drop to the floor. So, I closed the drapes, which forced him to the outside rafter where he jumped down to the porch sofa, I opened the door and in he walked. So there he was - a man, a man, a tiny beautifully patterned furry man. How exciting! I’ll be lucky tonight! He was as curious as I, so while he sniffed around, I returned to brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed. When I returned to my bed, there he was sitting in the middle of the comforter. Lucky! Lucky!

    In bed, I propped up some pillows (there were lots) next to me, where Paka settled in. I got under the covers, turned out the lights and a few minutes later, found Paka took his place on the top of the pillow on which I had my head. Oh well, this should be interesting, much like my little dog (now gone many years) used to do. Thinking only “hope he knows to go outside to pee?” That was my last thought till about 3am, when I woke for the potty. Grabbed my torch and as I walked to the loo turned the light to the bed and saw that Paka was gone. I’ll have to have a serious discussion with him tomorrow “it’s not nice to leave a lady’s bed, like a thief in the night.”

    ... to be continued

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    Sunday, June 10, 2007

    Up from a deep sleep, I had my coffee outside and noticed a heavy layer of fog hanging over the plains. Not the dew as yesterday, but a thick layer which hung in there till after my shower, dressing and heading up for breakfast.

    Today is my very last day in Kenya and I wasn’t happy to be leaving. I’m never happy to be leaving Africa, but leave I must... lots waiting for me at home.

    After breakfast, good-bye to the staff and kisses for Shikha, Marcus, Blaide and I are off to the airstrip. A short 7-minute drive, thru the Maktau gate, we can see the plane descending for its landing. Deplaning is a family of five, husband, wife and three teens (probably late teens), along with their private guide who is a friend of Marcus’. Introductions made all around, and of course, the Boskees pilots, one of whom had flown me privately last year to the Mara. More kisses, exchanging phone numbers and regards to friends, the new arrivals left with Marcus and I boarded my (again) private flight to Wilson.

    There was still some fog, which cleared half-way to Nairobi. The views were lovely and oh so green flying over the Chyulu Hills, landing right on time at 11am. Again, I was met by Solomon, for the short drive to Macushla House, located in Karen. Macushla House is a small B&B-type property, with six (6) charming en-suite rooms, lovely public space decorated with many items of the owners travels from around the world. A great pool and in the gardens are lovely free-standing pieces of artwork, a walkway to a viewing area where sundowners can be taken. With one of the rooms being refurbished, from the guests coming/going, it appeared all the other rooms were occupied.

    Having a late afternoon flight for home, I only had time to meet with the owner, do a walk-thru and have lunch which was very, very good. Though breakfast is included in the rate, lunch and dinner, many vegetarian, are also available.

    Solomon was back by 2:30pm, for the drive to JKIA and my Emirates flight to New York. Being Sunday, there was little traffic and we were at the airport in less than 30/minutes. I was also sad having to say good-bye to Solomon, who was there with a big smile every time I landed at the airport or had to get somewhere.

    With my luggage on the cart and into the terminal, check-in was very quick. Departure cards completed, thru Immigration and up the elevator to the departure gates. Picked up a few gifts (coffee and tea) for myself and friends and then waited.

    It was most obvious that the air conditioning was not working well, as I saw everyone fanning themselves, myself included and by the time we entered the departure gate where the sun was blazing thru the windows, even the Emirates flight crew appeared wiped out and we had yet to boarded. But, board we did right on time and it was wonderful on the plane with air-conditioning working full force. Everyone was relieved.

    We took-off on time and I was fortunate to have a center row to myself which I took full advantage. Five hours later, we landed in Dubai for a short layover. Even arriving at 11pm, the terminal was busy, but nowhere like during daytime. I managed to find a lounge chair and caught about 1.5/hrs sleep before the boarding call. Thankfully, I didn’t have to walk through the entire terminal to my departure gate, though we all had to have our bags searched a second time.

    This flight was full, but with an aisle seat, I was fine. Next to me two guys who with another friend seated in Business had been in Dubai for a “guys week-end” and some business; now returning to NYC and going right to work when we arrived Monday morning. The flight was uneventful, it took off and landed 12/hrs later. Cleared Immigration, collected my bag and out to my waiting car.

    At 8am, in the midst of morning rush-hour, it took less than 30/min and I was at my apartment. As I was walking in, my friend who had been picking up the mail, was just leaving and invited me to her place for coffee. Since I didn’t have any milk for a cup of my own, I dropped my bags and walked down the street to sit quietly in her garden to catch up. Surprisingly, though I didn’t hear a car horn or other street noise, just the peacefulness of birds chirping, I knew it wasn’t Afree-kah! I was back in the Big City till my next trip. FINIS!

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    Sandi, you finished the report! Asante sana. Trip reports alost always make me jealous, but your night with Paka must be the worst thing I’ve ever read in this regard!

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    lynn -

    Tsavo was the one and only time I've seen the mixed Masai/Reticulated giraffe and it was quite obvious. Whether this only happens here, I can't say. If anyone has seen this elsewhere, chime in.

    My guess, if a willing parnter, the giraffe isn't as discerning as other species in the animal world. :)

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    I am jealous of you getting to spend (most of) the night with Paka and getting the whole middle row to get some shut eye in.

    Another great report, Sandi. Thanks for completing it! Off in May again?

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    Tanzania, Kenya? Kenya, Tanzania? I like Tanzania very much, but I absolutely love Kenya. Hard to pinpoint, but Kenya touches my soul differently. Though, in no way takes away from Tanzania. I have friends in both and have had outstanding experiences and good times in both. It just is what it is.

    Yup, end-May again, hopefully. Working on it. Will let you know when I get it figured out.

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