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Tanzania August 2005 Trip Report - Safari portion

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General Comments:
DH worked two jobs and actually planned this trip as a surprise for me after graduating law school and taking the Bar exam. I am so lucky! So that’s the real planner but I joined in later so I refer to “we” because it’s easier. We used Fodor’s for a lot of planning and appreciate all the help we received.

Tour Company:
Our trip was with Roy Safaris, based in Tanzania. I cannot sing their praises loud enough. They treated us like we were their only customers. It was unbelievable service and the whole trip went so smoothly. The owner personally met with us twice and carefully went through a briefing session with us. He was excellent.

We chose Roy’s because after emailing five operators in January about getting an itinerary planned, they were the ONLY ones to email us back (and some of the other outfitters are regularly recommended on these boards). I think eventually (as in 3 months later) Predators safaris emailed us a generic group itinerary which was not at all what we wanted. We did the planning through Roy’s U.S. contact and she was unbelievably responsive via email, which was so convenient.

Our guide (I will refer to as N) was excellent. He was totally knowledgeable and spouted off tons of facts about each animal we saw. He was also a really excellent spotter and we felt like because of him, we saw just about everything there is to see!

We loved our trip from start to finish. We were astounded at how easy it is to see and photograph wildlife. We live in Virginia and thought it might be like seeing wildlife here—a fairly rare treat that requires a lot of looking. But instead wildlife was so abundant that every day was amazing!

Ethiopian from Washington, D.C. to Kilimanjaro. More on them later (I want to see how they resolve some serious complaints before I post about them). However, all their flights stop in the Addis Ababa airport, where smoking is allowed everywhere—there is no escape and it’s bad for a nonsmoker.

Parks Visited: Tarangire, Ngorongoro Crater, Central Serengeti, Northern Serengeti

I am a vegetarian, which proved to be no problem throughout the trip. I was always accommodated. Actually, DH had more problems with food choices because there were a lot of meats he doesn’t usually eat like lamb and pork. But there was usually beef or chicken so no problems. We ate lettuce/salad everywhere (risky, we know) with no problems. Bottled water was always readily available or provided.

We took our photos with an Olympus C-765 Ultra Zoom (10x) zoom and an Olympus C-8080 with a Raynox Lens attachment. We’re novices so this was sufficient for us. We brought 3 batteries for each camera so we never had a dead one. We could charge them at every place we went with just a converter.

We took about 1500 photos. We had three 1GB cards. This allowed me (on the 765) 2000 photos per card and DH (on the 8080) about 800. He filled one card, I didn’t. We also brought a 40GB Woverine portable photo storage device as a backup. It worked great when I practiced with it but I bought a new 1 GB xD card before we left and it didn’t work when I tried to use it in the Wolverine. It worked fine with the CompactFlash cards and the smaller capacity xD cards, though.

We brought 2 pairs of binocs but only used one. Usually one of us wanted a break from them and offered them to the other. Plus, DH has exceedingly good eyesight so rarely used them. The pair we used were some Meade’s I got free from a promotion and they worked fine—I never had problems finding animals in them. They don’t say what their specs are but they aren’t anything that would have cost over $50.

We packed very light and were glad. We each brought 3 T-shirts, 2 pairs pants, 2 button down cotton shirts, 4 pairs socks, and 4 pairs underwear, a fleece jacket, a pair long underwear (used as PJs), a Tilley had (so worth it!), and six bandanas. All were in neutral colors (it looked like we never changed!). We did laundry as needed (usually spending about $7) as it was available everywhere, though I sometimes washed in the sink with my travel bottle of Tide for the smaller items. We never wore anything fancy to dinner and never felt uncomfortable—very very few people were not wearing safari gear at meals.

We had typhoid, Diphtheria/Tetanus, Yellow Fever, and Hep A vaccinations (we already had Hep B from before). There were no side effects from these vaccinations. We brought Malarone on the trip and have been taking it with no side effects. Also had a just-in-case prescription of Cipro filled; luckily we didn’t need it but it was nice insurance. We also joined Flying Doctors for the duration of the safari so we would have that to reassure us as well.

Travel Insurance:
We used STA because it was incredibly cheap. Non-students can use it and I have heard good things about them from people who have made claims. Luckily, we didn’t need to.

Places Stayed:
Generally, we were in Serena lodges, which we liked very much.

Mt. Village, Arusha – Nice place to stop for a night. We liked the garden and the hut style rooms. Even for a lodge, there isn’t really any privacy from your roommate when using the bathroom so be warned!

Kikoti Camp, Tarangire – Tented camp with tents on platforms. Food was delicious. First night was a barbecue outdoors in a fenced area. Maasai teens performed some songs for us (and there was some audience participation). I liked this Maasai experience more than the performance we later saw at Ngorongoro Serena. The second dinner was in the dining room and quite tasty. The room was nice with flush toilet and running water. You have to ask 20 minutes in advance if you want hot water but if you requested it the night before it was ready when they came and gave your wake-up call. I never quite figured out the shower though—it had a removable nozzle that I couldn’t get to stay upright and the water was scalding or freezing, no middle.

Ngorongoro Serena – A really pretty layout and style of hotel. Nice cozy room with a heater and extra blankets to keep warm with. We liked the lodge very much except that buffet dinner felt like a cattle call (and seemed understaffed) and even though there was no smoking in the dining room, the smell wafted up from the bar and permeated the area. Lunches were nice and quiet, though. I celebrated my birthday here and they sang and brought a cake with my name on it the morning after because I had left dinner too quickly the night before (trying to escape smoke). They had a Maasai dance and singing that included many more boys and some children. It was different from Kikoti and I enjoyed it a lot.

Ngorongoro Serengeti – This was a more intimate experience than at Ngorongoro. The staff here was so friendly and eager to chat, which was fun. We were only here one night and wouldn’t have minded a second night. They have a nice pool (though it was too cook for us to venture in). The food here was good and dinner time was relaxing. They had an acrobatic performance while we were there that was really amazingly good. We also had a friendly gecko on our room ceiling when we returned from dinner. It’s so fun to be so close to nature.

Migration Camp – Paradise. Absolutely. Here our drinks and laundry were included. We spent evenings on one of the huge leather sofas in their lobby tent, enjoying drinks and snacks before dinner. The room could hardly be called a tent—it was luxurious, with a huge bed, nice wood floors, a desk, permanent walls up to head level and a nice separate bathroom area with his and hers sinks. There’s 24 hour electricity and running water. Welcome sherry was always waiting for us in the room after our game drives. There is a resident hippo pod that lives in the river and noisily lets you know of their presence—it’s so fun to sit an listen to them! The dining room has a beautiful view and most mornings we saw game in the distance (baboons, elephants, hippos, antelope). Dinners were better than I could get in our hometown—elegant and delicious. The vegetarian meals were outstanding and varied. The best thing about dinner was that a bat flies in each night to collect all the bugs off the tent ceiling. It flies around, eats, and leaves. DH and I cheered for it to get the really visible insects.

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