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Trip Report luv2globetrot's trip report - Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya

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So, first, my utmost thanks to all of you on this forum that helped me so much during my planning. All the questions answered, tips and advice given, support offered when I hit some rough spots:)

I couldn't have done it without this forum!

We returned a couple of weeks ago and I am still relishing all the beautiful, amazing things we saw! It's even still getting me through my hum-drum days back at work!

I've been tirelessly working on my photos and getting them up on my website these last couple of weeks, so it's taken me awhile to get to this part.
I also posted detailed reviews of all the hotels we stayed at on tripadvisor.
I have a tendency to get long-winded, so in the interest of trying to keep this report to a reasonable length, I invite you to visit our travel website for our thoughts, photos, video and descriptions at:

I'll post the link to the tripadvisor page for each hotel below.
It would just be too much info to put here.

But we had an amazing trip and of course, learned some things along the way as to what we would've done differently.

We spent 5 night in Tanzania, 2 nights in Rwanda and 7 nights in Kenya.
1 night Kia Lodge near JRO -
2 nights Tarangire Treetops -
1 night Ngorongoro Serena -
1 night Kibo Palace Arusha -
1 night Kinigi Guesthouse Rwanda -
1 night Chez Lando Kigali -
1 night Fairview Nairobi -
2 nights Samburu Serena -
4 nights Mara Serena -

We used Eastern & Southern to book our Tanzania & Kenya portion, however they contract out the Tanzania portion to Leopard Tours.
We were very pleased with both of these companies!

For Rwanda we used R&N Xplorer. You may already have read about some of my troubles with R&N, but in summary, we were not pleased with the way they conduct their business. I will also add that when we voiced to them our dissatisfaction, they responded by spewing out statements about their god and that "God knows and you will surely pay for it." I kid you not!
Also, after all the troubles we had with them before we left, when we got to Rwanda, we found out that they use another company (no problem with that), but they did not ever tell this company about our revised itinerary created by their mistake. So we spent our first hour in Rwanda having to go over the itinerary with this company and them having to rearrange what they had scheduled for us.
To their credit, they did so without any problems and after an hour or so we were back on track.

That was actually the only negative on the entire trip!!!
To this day I still can't believe how everything else worked out so wonderfully! We were so lucky! Every flight on time, every leg of the trip without any flat tires, or mishaps, no one got sick. The trip just went so smoothly and we are so grateful!!
So, we were able to forget our troubles with R&N and just focus on all the amazing things we were seeing!!

We did a drive safari in Tanzania with Leopard Tours visiting Tarangire and Ngorongoro Crater.
We were very pleased and impressed with Leopard Tours and especially with our guide Leonce. He was great and was our best guide of the trip! We specially requested him based on recommendations from this forum.

We stayed at Treetops in Tarangire and LOVED it!
We had the great luck of being moved from Kikoti Tented Camp at no cost to us!! I guess they were overbooked or something, but what a great surprise this was!
Can't say enough wonderful things about Treetops!

We really enjoyed this park! We saw more elephants here than any other place, and this is where we realized that elephants were one of our most favorite animals!
They are just so wonderfully smart and have such good personalities!
We had a great lion sighting at the river (10 lions!), then later 2 male lions and saw one cheetah...very exciting since cats were high on my list!
I also fell in love with dik-diks! My gosh, they are the cutest little things!
Some of what we saw:
Zebras, giraffes, gazelles, impalas, jackals, eland, ostrich, waterbuck, mongoose, kudu, and so many unique and beautiful birds (LOVE the lilac breasted roller)!!!
We loved this park and would go again!

We liked the Ngorongoro Serena. Good location and great views!

The day we arrived here we visited the Masai Village. I had read many differing opinions here about this and I now see why. On the one hand it was interesting to see, but it was also difficult to know how realistic it was. I mean I can imagine how I'd feel if groups of tourists came through my neighborhood to look at me.
But most difficult for me was seeing all the little children with flies all over their faces. I was quite depressed the rest of the evening, but on the other hand, it was a unique experience and an opportunity to see something I would otherwise not get the chance to see up close.
Think I'd skip it if I had it to do again.

We loved the 1/2 day drive in the crater!
We did see one black rhino from very far away! And we had a fun male lion sighting where he was blocking the main road into the crater for about 20 minutes!
Some of what we saw:
Zebras, hyenas, jackals, water buffalo, gazelle, warthogs, hartebeest, elephants, flamingos, falcon, kori bustards, vultures, hippos.
We had a great breakfast at a hippo pool...that was fun!

We had to get back to Arusha that day for our flight the next morning to Rwanda.
We stayed at Kibo Palace which was very nice!

We went to the Genocide Memorial. This was very sad and difficult, but something we feel is very important to see if you are visiting Rwanda.
Admission was free, but there is an audio tour that you can take for $20US for one. Two people can share it if you have an extra set of headphones.
This took about 2 hours.

Then it was on to Ruhengeri where we spent the night before the big day...gorilla trekking!
This was so amazing! The only negative thing I have to say about the whole experience is that we only did one!!!!!
So many people here told me, "Do two treks, you'll be sorry if you don't".
Boy, were they right!! But, we wanted to save a bit of money and we soooo wanted to go back the next day and do it again!
What fun this was! I'll never forget how hard my heart was pounding when they walked within 2 feet of us!!! Being in their presence and being accepted by them was such a thrill!
I go into more detail on my website about the hike, etc.
But it was AWESOME!
Looking back, we would have taken one day off of the Mara and added it to see the gorillas again, or maybe skipped Samburu.
But, I highly recommend to anyone considering it, DO 2 TREKS, please! You won't regret it! But I'm sure there will be others out there like me who have to learn the hard way :)

We flew between parks in Kenya to save time. We flew Nairobi to Samburu - Samburu to Mara - then Mara back to Nairobi.
Eastern & Southern did a fine job and we were very pleased with them and our guides, George and Julius.

We had a 5am flight from Rwanda to Kenya so we arrived at 7am. We had a whole day on our own in Nairobi.
We had a lovely stay at the Fairview and highly recommend it!
My hotel review details our transportation.
We didn't go into the city center, but did go to the Daphne Sheldrick's Elephant Orphanage and the Giraffe Center.
We LOVED the Elephant Orphanage! Highly recommend this! And we are now the proud adoptive parents of a 6 month old boy named Kimana!! :)

We enjoyed the scenery here and especially the beautiful Reticulated giraffes and Grevy's Zebra unique to here. And we were utterly delighted by the gerenuks!!!
We also had some wonderful lion and elephant sightings.
Some of what we saw:
Monkeys, baboons, oryx, ostrich, buffalo, greater kudu, turtles, storks, herons, vultures, got a glimpse of a cheetah with 2 cubs.
It was significantly hotter here than any other place we'd been and dusty.

We liked the Samburu Serena, but not as much as the one in the Mara.

Our animal sightings were not near as good here as other parks (which was probably just a fluke). It is a beautiful place with interesting animals, but looking back, since we flew here and then flew to the Mara to save time, next time we'd probably skip it, as it was a bit out of the way.

WOW! What an amazing place!
This was such a great way to end our dream vacation!
We absolutely loved our stay at the Mara Serena!
And the wildlife was incredible!
We saw so many wonderful things! Lions mating (I found this SOOO interesting to watch the ritual!), lions eating a fresh wildebeest kill, vultures and then a hyena eating a topi that had apparently died of natural causes, and we had some great cheetah sightings!!
Crocodiles, hippos, hundreds of wildebeest, zebras, warthogs, jackals, topi, giraffes, impala, gazelles, secretary birds, hyenas, mongoose, eland, ostrich!!!

On our 2nd to last day we even thought we were going to witness a river crossing!
Hundreds of wildebeest were gathering on the other side of the river. Our guide told us that this was a sure sign that they'd be crossing. So, we sat and watched and waited, and waited. It was the evening game drive and we had been waiting 2 hours and 45 minutes. The sun was setting. It looked like they wouldn't be crossing. So, we went back to the lodge feeling like we gave it our best try.
We'd go back tomorrow.
The next day, we went right back at 7am. They were all still there on the other side of the river. We waited 2 more hours and there weren't giving us any signs that they'd be attempting the crossing any time soon.
So, we decided to press on. We could see some lions in the distance so we went to watch them for awhile, still having the wildebeest in our sights.
Then our guide heard that there was a leopard sighting much farther away!!!!!!!
2 weeks in Africa and we had not seen a leopard!
So, we head straight for it! And there it is, a little one, hidden way up high in a tree. We'd have never spotted it if there weren't other vehicles there. It was hidden pretty well up in the thick branches, but hey, it was a leopard, we could see that!!!!!
So, in our last hour of our last day of our 2 weeks in Africa we finally see a leopard!!
So, satisfied with our sighting, we head back for one last look at the river in hopes that those stubborn wildebeest would attempt the crossing soon.
And what do we find when we get there??????
You guessed it...they had crossed!!!!!!!!
While we were at the leopard sighting we missed them crossing!
They crossed about 11am.
We couldn't believe it. All that waiting we'd done and we missed it.
Of course we know how much luck has to do with any animal sightings and we gave it a good try.
But, hey, we were pretty excited that we finally got to see a leopard!

So, we felt that that was a pretty exciting way to end our trip!
So many emotions!
A safari is such an incredible adventure! I just loved how you never knew what you'd see from one moment to the next!
Things I thought I'd only ever see on television, right there in front of me!

As we flew over the Mara one last time on our way back to Nairobi, I marveled one last time at the beautiful creatures I could still see below.
And my heart actually ached. I missed them already!

When we got home and we went driving around leaf peeping, I kept finding myself looking for the lions or the zebras or the elephants.
That is what I miss the most...being able to be a part of their world, watching them roaming and free.
It is a very special thing that we got to experience, one that not many people get to do.
I feel so fortunate!
And I thank all of you for helping me to make this dream come true!

That's all for now. See, told you I have a tendency to get long winded :)
I'll add some practical tips later.

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